Thursday, December 31, 2009

Chapter Fifteen, 'Scorch'

Alicea cut through the first warrior. The man they were attacking was the first Nielda she'd ever seen, she wasn't about to let him die without answering a few questions.

"Get back yeh redheaded lass! These pups be mine."

The man swung his staff upward. He brought it down against the ground and a wave of fire issued from it. Then he thrust his hand outward and a stream of fire balls demolished the pair of warriors before him.

Three more charged towards him from behind. Nond stepped out of the trees and grabbed two by the heads. "Nallion bornain, blich stoun." Nond's dry lifeless voice incanted the familiar spell. The warriors' blood froze in their veins and their death was silent and painful. The third warrior froze of panic, and his death was heralded by the crunch of bone as the sages foot connected with his skull.

Alicea's surviving opponent fled. She did not give chase.

"So then young lady, what be yer business here?"
Nond replied first, "Your staff is known to me; you are the grandson of the flamewarden."
"Golem, can ya not see that real people be talkin?"
"The day your father prepared you for has come flamewalker. This child shall succeed my task; phase two is in effect."
"I ain't me father. The old man spent his life tendin the shrines; I ain't wastin me time with your 'task'."
"The shrines are accounted for. The days of wandering are concluded. Phase two is in effect."

"Excuse me, if guarding me is phase two; what was phase one?"
"Phase one was to maintain the balance; phase two is to establish hierarchy."
"Does the steely coot always speak like this?"
"As best as I can tell. I'm Alicea, I'm looking for the Nielda."
"Names Mcraw, but yeh can call me scorch. Wish I could help ya more lass, but I've not seen another one of us in fifteen years. All that's left is a few outposts in the mountain valleys, and they don't take kindly to my sort of artistic preference."
"You mean pyromancy? Never really thought of it as artistic. For now at least I plan to end a warlock's reign of terror in the tower near sickle ear lake."
"Well lass, I don't normally travel with companions, but I don't feel right leavin you alone following that golem... is he absorbin their armor?"

Nond had taken a few scratches and a nasty ding sometime during the fight. Apparently he had the ability to repair himself. It was kind of creepy watching the flow of iron from the warriors to the sage, the fact that the bodies were still fully upright and paralyzed wasn't helping. She could have sworn she could still see them twitch occasionally. She made a personal note to only crystallize blood like that after it was bled; everything about that death looked cruel.

"Yea, is that normal for a, Golem was it?"
"It seems likely lass. A golem's a magicians creation; single mindedness and failure to communicate intelligently be one of their main traits. I figure that explains why he be such a blunt bunch of armor. And no, that not be normal. If we meet a mage or a witch somewhere I'll get her to check it's enchantments. I'd do it meself but my strong suit be more attuned to fightin then to drawin circles and muckin about with herbs and the like."

"They are returning, and in far greater numbers. Strike true, battle shall be joined."
"Looks like the furry devils want a little more of us lass."
"Why exactly do they want you dead so badly?"
"Decree of their whats-his-fur; says to kill Nielda. He's offering money for complete skeletons. It be makin travel even more dangerous."
"Why isn't the empire at war yet?"
"Lass, only about a couple thousand people in the whole empire have even been to war. The pups have been fighting while we've had peace, I don't think most people even think it's an option."
"Really? You'll have to explain this to me if we pull through."
"Sure lass, just be sure to pull your weight in this fight. I'll not be carryin you against yon horde."

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Chapter Fourteen, "Journey Renewed"

"Where are you taking me?"
"Down the mountain."
"No kidding. Where then?"
"You lead then. The light will guide our path."

Nond was following her then. She had expected to be shown an ancient prophesy or something. For a poorly defined quest she had expected a little more guidance or at least something mystical.

"Might work better if I knew where we are."
"Can't say really, Golem creation has a few uncontrollable factors."
"This body. Did you believe an body like this was natural?"
"With the whole sprite thing, yes I did. Figured you were some kind of guardian."
"I am in a way. I have been here as long as the sprites have. Perhaps one day I will explain what a sage is, or where I come from."

Alicea looked into the forest. They were standing next to a small stream. It was a lovely view, but She couldn't enjoy it there was work to be done.

"Maybe you can explain while we walk?"
"No. I think we should help that man over there being attacked by the warriors in the middle of a fire."

Alicea drew her axes and charged off into the fire.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Chapter Thirteen, "The Iron Sage"

"What are you?"

Alicea stood on the rock panting. Even if she could slip a blow past her adversary's defenses it was deflected painlessly by his iron skin. He hadn't even produced a weapon yet; he dodged her axes with inhuman skill.

"I am Nond, the sage."
"Why do you insist on fighting me? Surely the defeat of Kron can not be a bad thing."
"It's not about Kron. The sprites must be attended. The Ga-Vok have failed and the Nielda are not there to commit the task."
"How is that my problem?"
"The demons oppose you. That was reason enough for me to bring you here."
"The what now?"

Nond reached to his side. The iron from his side flowed out to meet his hand, and as he drew it away it formed a sword.
"You must be prepared. The demons oppose you."

She parried his blow. His onslaught was furious, it took all of her skill in both magic and combat to defend herself.
He relented after several hours.
"Why did you stop?"
"You are not unprepared."
"Then can I go now?"
"You are not prepared."
"But you just said..."
"Not being unprepared and being prepared are not the same thing."
"Yes they are, you can either be ready for something or not. There's no middle ground in that status."
"Perhaps I should explain further that you are prepared for the battles, but you are unprepared for the task."
"I didn't volunteer myself for a task. I already have a quest; it's a very good quest."
"They're not exclusive, killing Kron will be a part of the task."
"That's not actually my quest. Killing Kron is more just a vengeance, justice-y thing I plan on doing."
"The spirit mentioned that. It's a long term task, so I'll be escorting you over the course of phase two."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Chapter Twelve, 'Retreat of the Winds

Alicea awoke to the wind. Clouds flowed about her on a gentle breeze, the rock beneath her was bare and grey, and there was silence. Her only companion in this desolate place was an iron statue sitting between her and the path down the rock. She rose and saw only one choice, to go down the rock and seek for a return to the tower. All else could be set aside, her quest for the Nielda was not urgent but the longer she was away from the island the worse the region would grow. And Vel would need to be protected.

"It is futile." A metallic voice came from the statue as she neared it.
"Am I dead, or is this an illusion?"
"This place is true. This is the retreat of the winds. You are their guest."
"Then why can't I leave?"
"You are not ready."
"I must not let down the ones who need me. Let me go so I can defeat Kron!"

The statue took hold of her as she attempted to pass. Its grip was tight.
"I said to let me go!"
She attempted to force it as she passed, but it flipped her and pinned her to the ground.
"The blade must be honed. A warrior like their weapon must be tempered to reach its potential."

It stood before her. The statue was nearly nine feet tall; almost twice the size of the average Ga-Vok, and an easy three feet taller than herself. It was iron, or something similar, and it seemed to be animated not by an enchantment but by some deep magic.
She still had her axes, and magic was again in her grasp. She chose to force her way past.
"If you will not let me past, I will destroy you and continue myself."

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Chapter Eleven, 'Shadow'

Vel had stayed on the island to mourn her sisters. The young nymph would have been little help in a fight anyways.

Alicea was at the base of the warlock's tower. She'd done everything she could to avoid being involved in his demise, and the price had been great. Now she would end this.

"Kron! Come out and answer for your crimes."
"Behind you, bareskin."

Alicea feinted to the right before dodging left. She rolled as she recovered in order to face him. It was a trick, her own reflexes had betrayed her and the bolt of dark fire caught her across the back.

"You think you are the first adventurer to challenge me? I am lord here, the shadow consumes all that does not flee it."
"The light is supreme." Alicea pulled herself from the ground; it was all she could do not to let the feral spirit consume her as the pain weakened her will.
"Perhaps, but it does not seem to have saved you. The dark ones warned me one of your kind would come. They told me you would not be strong enough to beat me this time, and I will not permit you a second one."

He motioned sharply and shadowy flame poured forth across the ramp to the tower's entrance. Alicea tried to block it but she found magic blocked, and when she tried to move that to was prevented; the bolt that had caught her off-guard earlier had paralyzed her. She howled as the feral spirit began to surge into control, but even as she felt it pulling to the lead of her mind the world darkened and she fell into it. Then, nothingness as sleep.

"Worthless. Guards, hang the body from the mountain and keep watch on it. If she still lives then gut her and let the carrion feed."

Friday, December 25, 2009

Special Holiday Short, 'the pearls of Anatolia', and related note.

"Happy Junsrew Daniel."
It had been fifteen years since the Ga-Vok invasion. Kiera and Daniel had stuck together since that first date and were celebrating yet another Junsrew, the Nieldic new year and commemoration of the establishment of the empire. It was the most important holiday of the year and even as important a noble as Kiera made sure to take the day off to spend it with those close to her.

"Any day with you is a happy one milady."
Enge would have been making fun of him for that one. The old salt had been right to call him a romantic, but Kiera didn't mind and they'd gotten along pretty well so far. He hoped his present this year wouldn't be overdoing it, even he thought it might be a bit much.

"This seems like a good time for presents wouldn't you say?"
It was the traditional way to celebrate Junsrew. It had never been explicitly stated when the holiday was established but within a few years even the poorest Nielda had adopted the practice of buying family and friends gifts to celebrate the holiday. The military had all of the recruits scheduled to enter boot camp a month after Junsrew and training cycles completed a month before it. More of the country would be home at this point in the year than at any other time. And all those soldiers bringing their kids back trinkets from distant parts of the empire had probably started the tradition.

"Alright Daniel, but you go first; My present is pretty big."
"I didn't bring them all," He presented a small chest, and a thin box. She opened it to find a necklace of silver with dozens of pale green pearls, and the chest was full of pearls the same hue as those on the necklace.
"I spent the last year gathering every single pearl on the planet, There are some fourteen-hundred thousand of them all told."

Kiera just stared vacantly at the wall in shock. After a few minutes she looked over at him.
"You realize you probably could have bought a planet with that much money?"
"I like you better." He gave her a roguish grin. He was just glad she had recovered so quickly. He was equally glad she hadn't gone ballistic on him for being so indulgent.

"Well it hardly sounds as big compared to a million and a half pearls but I think I still have the better present. Daniel, you're going to be a father."


Although it was purely unintentional, Daniel actually wiped out the Anatolian oyster. As a pirate, thief, and head of the Ukown guild he knew the value of a good security system; the one placed on these pearls could actually be considered extravagant even for a treasure of this size. The enchanters of the Daniellandish empire were individually employed for as many as ten-twenty pearls apiece to set a curse that would rot anyone who took these and did not have the legal right to their possession.

The particular value of the pearl to magicians would actually make this gift quite valuable to later generations of Anatolian nobility, and several of these pearls would be used by the most prominent Nieldic magic-user of the first empire.
No other pearls of this hue have been discovered in nearly ten and a half milenia since they were given to her as a gift.

Happy Junsrew and Merry Christmas to all.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Chapter Ten, 'Wrath of Kron'


Alicea returned to the island. It was a quiet morning, and a heavy fog had settled on the lake. She hated fog, a cloud might undo the transformation for a while but fog would simply prolong it. She was achy and tired, there had been a family of squirrels she hadn't managed to avoid chasing, and the deer she had hunted kicked her in the nose. Normally she would have spent the day sleeping it off, but fog was the sort of omen that warned against letting your guard down.

It wasn't until she reached the middle of the lake that she realized something was amiss. The water, which had been bright and clear since Endiel's shrine had been purified nearly a month ago, was dark and the fish were biting her. It couldn't be to bad, had Endiel herself been corrupted she'd probably be trying to fight off the advances of a nix by now.

Then she started thinking about the fog. Cavel only allowed fog when he and his wife were... and if that had been the case the water would hardly have been dark and murky; more likely it would have had the dirt stirred up. The forest creatures had been odd as well, no birds were singing and the trees drooped where they should have been outstretched.
Something was wrong, she suspected it had been to late to help when she had regained this form.

Sprites leave no corpses, but The signs of battle were evident on the island. Stones where shattered on the ground, root and branches lay twisted and broken, and little pools of water were scattered about the ruined shrines. On the stairs to Cavel's shrine she could see Ikal's body, or what remained of it any ways. This was an act of magic, the shadow had come and the sprites had been fallen before it.

"Bonesteel, we could not stop him."
One of the nymphs drew herself from beneath the pools around Svalia's shattered altar. "He shattered your wards and blasted away my parent's shrines. When they tried to defend Ikal he destroyed them too." The nymph began crying.

"Then it was the warlock. Kron is the only other one who knew of this place. I see now why the Sickle Ears fear him. What is your name?"
"Vel" the nymph managed through her tears.
"Well, Vel, Your parents will not have died in vain. If he is truly as powerful as it would seem then may the light give me power with which to best him. Come with me, show me the way to the dark tower and I will show you to defend yourself. You must be strong, for it would seem that now you are the last sprite of Sickle Ear lake."

Axes of Alicea.

This is a sketch of Alicea's axe(one of them, they are identical). It's a typical Howling Axe clan stye, and motif. The motif being that of a howling wolf, thus the clan's name. They are named 'Onkai(fury)' and 'Welvae(wind)'; Which one is left and which is right never could be told as most Nielda are somewhat ambidexterous.

Alicea crafted her axes from the finest available materials, Ga-Vok steel and imported wood. It's one of the few weapons in the Daniellandish collction at the imperial reliquary not made of Kraj. It is also one of the few examples of Traditional Ga-Vok blacksmithing still surviving today.

The Axes are not of exceedingly high quality, Alicea forged them herself and she was not an experenced blacksmith. The enchantments however are on par with those of the seven black blades of Anatolia. They enhance the speed, strength, and reflexes of their wielder to levels not normally possible even by magic, this in part due to their being a pair. To wield one would make you quite formidable in and of itself, but with both in hand a properly trained warrior can easily reach heroic levels.

Alicea wielded these axes for the entirety of her life, and they were never far from her side. No other warrior would wield them again. She left them, along with several hundred other artifacts and ten king's ransoms in silver(A king's ransom having been established in 853BU as about five times the GDP), to the empire with instructions to establish a pubic reliquary. That reliquary would become known as the Imperial Reliquary, and most of the Nielda's greatest treasures have been displayed there at some point. The Gascan branch of the Reliquary is named in her honor.

Chapter Nine, 'Full moon'

"Child, are you sure about this?"
"Every full moon Endiel, for as long as I can remember. That's why I'm going ashore for the night."
"Without your clothes?"
"They're such nice clothes, and I hardly wish to get them destroyed. I'll be fine, just help Cavel with the pup. The future of the Sickle Ear clan rests on his survival and training."

Alicea swam out across the lake, She'd left the cloak with the rest of her goods. Hidden, some of the nymphs could be quite mischievous when given the opportunity. Tonight was the full moon, and the feral spirit would rule her body. She could maintain reason, or at least calm, when she was alone. But speech, and the scent of blood, would overwhelm her. If she lost control upon the island she would almost certainly kill Ikal, the apprentice shaman. The sprites would likely fair little better against her. It was a dangerous and unstoppable power, she could not be slain, healing quickly from her wounds; nor could spells harm her, deflecting from her fur.

It was a cloudless night, that would make it easier. The transformation came swiftly as the first moonbeams caught her on the lake's shore. It was painful, but she had become accustomed to it. At home with her father they had built a sub-cellar with a trapdoor; when the full moon rose she would go there and the town would be spared her bloodlust.
Aurou had found a Nieldic account of the curse, or something similar anyways. They spoke of it as a blessing, a power that could let one survive armies. The 'silver-slain', as they were known, were faster and stronger than other warriors of equal skill. As the name implied they had only silver to fear in battle or life, though the death of time would reach them as it did others. Danielland, she had learned, had no moon; so the feral spirit could not grow strong enough to gain mastery over the bodies of its hosts. Aurou had also told her of the night they first captured her. She had slain three men at the age of four, without control she was dangerous. She had spent years honing her mind to keep control on nights like this one, but even then if she was threatened or tempted it would be a challenge to maintain control. It was easier at times like this to be alone; where she could not harm others.

She passed the night in silence, save for the wind. It was her companion. She had always been closest to the wind nymphs and the Wisps, In many ways, she found that Cavel reminded her of her father. Watching him teach Ikal was like watching her father teach her. To manipulate the air, its movements, its power; it brought her peace. So as the feral spirit howled from within her, the winds howled about her. For the night, she was at peace; the feral spirit would not be responsible for the blood of her friends.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Chapter Eight, 'Sprites of Sickle Ear lake; conclusion'

"This was Cavel's shrine. Kron cursed it to corrupt him."

Alicea rose and turned to Endiel. The Naiad was concerned about her spouse. Aurou had explained a great deal about the connection between Nix and Naiads; they were not simply the greatest water sprites, they were also an embodiment of beauty and sex. It was uncommon to find Naiads that were unattached, but it was quite rare for a wisp to have any attachment. On a world of this size there may only be a few dozen Wisps, so to have one bound to this place was a matter of some significance.

Alicea readied her axes, and placed blessings and runes about the shrine before she even began the ritual to cleanse it. A Wisp would be more powerful than any other sprite she'd encountered. If Cavel could not be soothed than she would likely be forced to destroy him. She had no doubt that if the curse had been laid as long ago as Endiel had suggested, some five or six years prior, than he would likely have fallen to Wraithhood by now. And what was worse was that should she destroy him it would almost certainly enrage Endiel to the point of Nixhood, so she to would have to be destroyed. The fate of the whole region would likely rest on her ability to complete this task.

{calm servant, the oil must be filled and the fire lit. Incant the rhyme, and all shall be well, in due time.}
Alicea had heard the voice before. The spirit of the light had always seemed to favor her. Its guidance, as her father had told her many times, was never false; though its meanings were not always clear.

She stepped up to the shrine and cast a cleansing spell on the basin in its center to remove the tainted oils. She then produced a small flask of oil; Svalia had produced it from the roots of a fallen oak deep in the forest. She began to recite the hymn of pure skies that had been taught to her when she was four. It was beautiful, she preferred to sing it but the occasion called for recitation. Alicea poured the oil into the basin and placed the now empty bowl outside of the shrine. Then she brought her hands together before herself and cast a spark of flame above the basin. A small fire began to burn, hovering above the oil, consuming only the vapors but its strength never weakening.

A rush of wind came from the north. A storm cloud now settled over the little island in the lake. The sprite of the air had returned to his shrine.
"Feral whelp, why do you summon the mighty Cavel, ruler of the Gascan sky?"
"To remind you of your duties, and your freedom."
"To whom are you answerable, sprite of storm?"
"The great one, he who was, is, and has yet to come."
"Then why do you betray his trust and aid the warlock of the shadowed tower?"
"He has bound me, I must serve."

Alicea struck the bowl with a bolt of light, "You are the air, the wind knows no binding. Who has need of you?"
"None, the wind is a passing fancy."
"Yet it returns ever to that which takes delight in it. You have a wife and children who have sought your safe return. Why does the wind howl?"
"Because it is alone."
"Be not alone, for wind's companion is the earth. Your wife's sister wandered alone for loss of you. Abandon not your friends for they have not abandoned you. Be at peace, Wisp of Gasca, for the darkness of your heart is the passing fancy. The light is your master; and it never forsakes its servants."

The storm faded, Alicea could see Cavel as he was. No less powerful than the storm, yet calm and graceful. She could see wisdom in his eyes, and his heart was full of sorrow for his folly.
"Fogive me Endiel, I have not been as I ought."
"Cavel, your task is not yet over," Alicea had seen what must be done. The light did not forsake its servants, nor did it neglect their needs. "The Sickle Ear clan is without a shaman. You have not been called back to idly wait a later task; it is upon you now. Wisdom has returned to you that you, who Kron trusted with his secrets most, might train his successor. Svalia will find a willing student, Endiel shall bear him to this isle, but it is you who must teach him to lead his people. I have seen them; they are like a herd unguided. They will not raise a paw to help themselves until someone shows them the way."

Cavel gazed across the lake, into the forest about it. He pondered her words, and she could see that the darkness had scared him. "If the light has indeed guided you to redeem me, then It may also have spoken to you. I shall heed your words bonesteel of the Howling Axe clan."

Endiel stepped up beside her husband, "Stay as long as you wish child. When you part you shall go with the blessing of the sprites."
So Alicea stayed awhile, and listened to tales of the happenings of the region from Cavel, the Wisp. She rested under the starlight of Sickle Moon lake. For she saw that soon the moonlight would grow strong, and her nights would be restless.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Chapter Eight, 'Sprites of Sickle Ear Lake, part two'

The nymphs led her to a lake. She found that the 'Endiel' the nymphs had been referring to as they led her was the lake's Naiad. She looked disheveled and weary; sane though.
"You are the Magic-wielder. Swim with me before it is to late to save her."

Alicea had learned not to question sprites. The more of a hurry they were in the more urgent the situation was. Especially Naiads, who took a great deal of time to do anything and rarely interjected themselves on matters beyond their own homes.

As she swam through the lake, a swim lasting well into the afternoon despite Endiel's blessing, Alicea considered what she'd seen. Endiel was ragged, worried, and the water of the lake was dark for this time of year. The Dryad, Svalia, was growing ethereal and had apparently fainted. Admittedly Dryads were naturally somewhat on the dozy side, but to lose consciousness altogether was a bad sign. The Ga-Vok in town had mentioned the hunt was growing bad as well. All these pointed to one thing; the Sickle Ear clan had failed to replace their shaman when he became a warlock. The shrines, which she could now see on the island Endiel was bringing her to, had been neglected and the sprites where fading, or more likely becoming corrupted.

"This is her shrine. Do you know the way to cleanse it?"
"My father insisted upon it. I don't know how much I can do for yours though."
"Mine can wait, I'll show you to tend it when Svalia is safe."

Alicea turned to the nymphs, who had skittered across the water and gathered along the shore. She listed a series of herbs and where to find them. Then she began clearing the overgrowth on the shrine, restoring it to its proper level of herbage.

A quick glance around the clearing showed that there were in fact three shrines. The local sprites were likely as close of friends as they were in hearth. This might explain why Endiel had taken such concern for Svalia. The question remained however where the Wisp was during all this.

"We've brought the herbs."
Alicea ordered the sprigs of the various plants upon the small altar in Svalia's shrine. A brief recitation made active the offering.

"Children, tend to your aunt. See to it that she returns in safety."
"Your shrine is in need of repair itself Naiad."
"You did not question our need; are you a shaman?"
"My father is Aurou of the Howling Axe. He taught me to tend to the world where it is needed."
"I know of him. My brethren told me that the shaman nearest Faolow's pond has been working to restore him. When next you speak with him, tell him that Fao's shrine is in the cave beneath the waterfall along the Jeneng river. Fao was Jeneng's favorite before he fell."

A pool at the base of Svalia's shrine began sprouting lilys. Alicea cupped one in her hand and carried it over to Endiel's algae ridden shrine. She placed it within the basin there, incanting a blessing as she did. The algae receded and the fountain began to run again. Endiel began to brighten and her clothes mended themselves as ALicea watched.

"You said you did not know how to care for a Naiad's shrine?"
"I just thought it would look nice. And some part of me insisted that it would be more beautiful if blessed."
"You of the bone-steel never cease to amaze me. A Ga-Vok shaman like Kron can study for his whole life and still fumble over the ceremony and an inexperienced young wanderer like you can perform it perfectly without even knowing you do it."

Alicea blushed. She hated that little voice for its refusal to let her simply do things, yet not once had it led her wrong. The fact that Endiel associated it with Nielda was worthy of attention; she'd have to ask when she met one.
"What of your brother, the wisp?"
"Cavel was my spouse, not my brother. He has been lead away to serve Kron at the dark tower upon the hill."
"Then he is...?"
"Kron was once the shaman here. He tended our shrines clumsily, but he was always seeking our knowledge and favors. He read often, and he sought continuously after greater power. A few months ago he came and bound Cavel to his service. Now he uses my poor husband to fuel the storm about the tower."

"I'll bring your husband back. But you must promise to never tell the people of the Sickle Ear clan that they received aid from me. I refused to vanquish the warlock before, and I am a woman of my word. You have need and cannot yourself fill it; so I shall fill it for you."

Chapter Eight, 'The sprites of Sickle Ear lake'

"Of course we'll let you in traveller. Our inn is welcome to all who pass through these lands, Fireblood or Ga-Vok makes no difference to us."

Alicea found the welcome suspicious. It was one thing to have a town greet you cautiously, especially considering the penalties if they were reported for doing so. The Sickle Ear clan, however, seemed to have no concern for the edicts of the Alpha. That alone indicated to her that they were either criminals already, planning something, or needed something; possibly all of them. Hospitality was not a Ga-Vok custom, as a rule the race was not prone to warming up to newcomers over even a single visit. Perhaps after several months they would acknowledge you as an ally, but it was rare that they would simply invite a stranger with open arms.

"On second thought, I don't think I should stay here. It's too risky."
"It is indeed traveller. The warlock's raiders prey upon those wandering alone such as yourself."
"I sympathize with your struggles, but a few raiders are hardly my problem."
"Then you think you could defeat him? It is impossible, none of us are able to defeat him."
"Maybe you should look to the other towns for aid, has your shaman consulted the spirits about the warlock?"
"The warlock was our shaman. Traveller, if you are strong enough you need not fear him surely you can defeat him. We will reward you greatly."

Of course, It was a fairly large town. If enough of them had read they may have gotten the idea into their heads that every wandering traveller was looking for a villain to slay, a fortune to obtain, and a quest upon which to embark. The fact that She more or less was that sort of traveller made her feel disappointed to reply as she did.

"No? But we need you traveller. Our hunt is fruitless, our people starve, and those who do not perish in his raids. Would you turn down a begging village?"
"Yes. If you have not taken the steps to accomplish the task as a clan; consulting the spirits, beseeching the powers that be, and seeking aid from your neighbors. How can my aid truly help your clan? You must learn to defend yourselves, if you truly need help than help yourselves."
"Then we have no need of you fireblood. Get out of our town before we arrest you and turn you over to the Alpha's men."

Alicea shook the dirt from her boots and walked out of the town. She made it nearly a mile up the road before she noticed a distant plea for help. She made her way into the forest and was met by a band of nymphs surrounding a weak dryad.
"What happened?"
"She vanished. Endiel sensed that there was a magic-wielder nearby who could help her. When we went to the road to lead her back we found Svalia here collapsed in the forest. Quickly, We'll take you to Endiel; she'll know what to do."

To be continued...

Chapter Seven, 'Escort; part three'

She rolled to dodge yet another blow. The atrocity had been possessed by the Shaman as a last ditch attempt to save himself. While it was clear he had sacrificed his ability to use magic; it had improved his reaction times. She was trying to get behind it but for something so large and poorly sewn together the atrocity moved quickly.

"Be still fireblooded whelp. Let death take you. I shall make your mangled body my temple and through you the world shall be mine."

"I'll stop moving when you do, creepy codger."

The banter of battle was always more fun between friends, when a enemy yelled at you you knew he meant it. She'd had enough experience with the two to know the difference. Still, it was not so desperate a fight as to make her truly angered. At worst she'd end up getting knocked out and he'd discover just how hard it was to kill the bearer of the feral spirit. If she could get a little more distance she'd use magic, but he was keeping the gap slight.

"If you will not come to death; then death shall bring you to itself!"
The javelin flew forth once again. She sidestepped it easily and it embedded itself in the base of a tree. This was her chance.

Alicea charged the atrocity, running up the javelin's retraction chain towards its head. She hacked the contraption from its shoulder with her right axe, and lodged her left in its head. As the Shaman's spirit began howling in pain from its bond, she charged her right axe with lightning. She pulled herself atop the fearsome construct and leapt behind it. Then as she rolled she loosed the charged bolt into the exposed engine. She managed to shield herself from the rain of debris, and when the dust settled she found that no piece of the Shaman's creation was large enough to contain his howling spirit. It faded into the air, and peace returned to the long gravel road.

The truck and warriors of the Searing Heart clan had already left. She chose not to follow them; she had no need for reward or for glory. She strode back to wear the battle had began and retrieved her belongings. They were a little dirty, and a stray cut had put a ding in her skillet, but they were still functional.
The task at hand was complete, the scourge of the road had been defeated. So Alicea raised her hood, shouldered her pack, and continued her own quest; to find the place where towns grew wealthy from silver.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Chapter Seven, 'Escort; Part Two'

"So you guys are Searing Ear clan. What's that like?"

More silence, the first three seemed really downtroden and sullen; criminals, all condemmed to this task. The fourth was a young warrior, his tail was beneath his legs except for his frequent trips to the nearest tree; Poor kid had the crap literally scared out of him. What ever was on this road had better be as bad as he imagined or it would seem really silly on their parts.

She heard a cracking noise beneath her feet. Not the normal, dry leaves on gravel cracking noise; this was a very loud sort of cracking noise. It was like the sound of stepping on a large branch, only if it were a rock instead of a branch. She'd never quite heard it, but she had heard the sound muffled beneath fur and flesh. Poor kid thought he was scared now, if hee looked down now he'd probably faint.

Another footstep met with another cracking noise, then she heard a rustling in the forest around them. She drew her axes. "Keep that truck going, and don't stop till you get to town."
"Like he..GRAGH!"
A blade lifted the guard from the ground. The other two whipped their Katars from their sides and began hacking away at their asailants. The last one leaped into the truck as it began gaining speed away from the melee. Alicea knew better than to waste her time with this fight, thereal enemy would be waiting ahead of them. A few rotten corpse warriors wouldn't last long against the frantic slashing of these two. There'd be a main force up ahead.

She couldn't find a word for exactly what was in front of her, it was an atrocity against ethics, magic, and life itself. It was like a warrior, only twice as large and with a hide sewn together with what she suspected were the armor of the previous guards sent down this road, the flesh of those guards, and the oddly shaped limb growing from its back appeared to be a device constituting a set of the Nieldic spring bows popular among older hunters joined to what may have a some point been sections of some unfortunate beings frontal lobe and left eye. It was grotesque, and the understatement of the century came from the hapless Ga-Vok in the driver's seat.
"That's not natural!"
"What did I say about driving?"

Alicea vaulted over the stopped truck, casting several spells to enhance her reflexes and strength as she did. The contraption on it's back hurled a large javelin on a chain into a tree behind her as she moved towards it. As it retracted the javelin, tearing a large section of the tree onto the road in the process, it swung with a large spiked club. She could see that sprouting from it's back was an engine that was being used to retract the javelin, and The spikes on it's club were the Katar's belonging to the warriors back down the road.

"You cannot hope to defeat my creation fool! I am the master of this road. All those who dare oppose the great Unai shall perish!"
She knew it couldn't be engineered. There was a crazed litle old Shaman about five yards away from the atrocity. She hadn't been born a fool, a creation of necromancy that size would be unsustainable after the destruction of its master.

She flung a bolt of lightning toward the engine, the loon blocked it with a spell. As he did so she spun and hurled an axe into his shoulder, flinging him to the ground.

He choked out blood as she charged to finish him.
"My..Creation..cannot be.."
She brought her other axe through his cranium. Then rolled to the side drawing both axes from his body as the javelin impaled the shaman's corpse.
"Fool, I warned you before. My creation will destroy all who oppose me!"

Behind her, still very much sustained by the life of its master, the atrocity was readying its club for another blow.

To be continued...

Chapter Seven, Escort; part one

Alicea approached the gates of the town before her. The sign five miles back had indicated that this town belonged to the searing heart clan. It meant nothing to her, but she suspected at some point in time they had an ancestor who was a pyromancer.
Her thought was cut short as a quarrel was loosed from the gatehouse. She slowed it and caught it, it was somewhat of a novelty, she could have dodged it without magic but the arrow-catch trick always made a good first impression. She held it up over her head and called out to the guards, "Excuse me sir. You seem to have dropped this." It was a classic trick, but it usually worked.
Not as much today.
"Are you the one who's been attacking merchants?"
"No, have you been having problems with bandits?"
"Why would you think we meant bandits? Don't come any closer."
"Please, if I meant to harm you I'd not have spent magic catching an arrow that I could just as easily spent it killing you and your three friends in there."

It wasn't as much foresight as it was a keen eye and the ability to see color. While the Ga-Vok could make out color they couldn't make out more than three shades of each one. Their idea of camouflage, a combination of dark brown, light green and black, actually conflicted with the solid grey stone behind them; the fire light didn't help them either, shadows cast at odd angles just made them more obvious.

"Fireblood witch, you'll pay for our brothers!"
A pair of additional quarrels closed the gap between her and the gatehouse. She didn't even bother with these two, a simple motion and they deflected off one another.
"If it will bring you to your senses assemble a convoy with as many of your warriors and merchants as you see fit and I shall guide them safely to the next town."
She had dropped her normal courtesy and subtly combed their thoughts for information. A quick glance showed that they really didn't want to either try and fight her, or to let her stay. So a slight mental nudge and she could get supplies for the next week, and at the same time help to resolve their difficulties also.
Her suggestion was as well taken as it could be without causing suspicion.
"We don't want you here, but if it will get rid of you we'll send a wagon and four of our warriors out to the next town with you. But you'll stay in front of them or our men will spill that cursed blood of yours upon the road and return here at once."

She wasn't entirely disappointed. While they seemed quite desperate, it was unlikely they'd be offering her any recompense for her work. Just as well, she was a traveller, not a mercenary. Perhaps if she ever returned this way they'd remember her better and there'd be a space for her in a stable or shed somewhere. She waited patiently for the promised wagon to arrive.

To be continued...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Chapter Six, 'journey'

Not the whole clan, not even the whole town, was gathered to see her off. She had brought back word that the herds were returning from their winter grounds. With the hunt resuming the season had changed, and the time she had chosen for her departure had come. It was not a public event, most of the town wouldn't even miss her anyways. But there were a few who were glad to see her go, and they had come to see it for themselves.

The ones who cared about her were waiting beyond the gate in the forest. Her father and the sprites would not allow her to leave without every blessing or gift they could afford. The blacksmith and some of the elder hunters were there also, they remembered the time before the war and how the Nielda had come in peace; how so much of what the younger generation took for granted as a part of their culture had been given freely by the hairless giants from the sky. And they knew that Alicea was a more important part of their clan than her peers would ever acknowledge.

"What few of us our here would like to offer you what we can to aid you in your quest."
The blacksmith, Onai, stepped forward holding a wide box. He opened it and pulled the cloth away from the gift within it.
"Traveller, For your services to our clan we grant you these axes. They were forged by our strongest warrior, and the enchantments upon them were set by our most noble Shaman. May they serve you as well as they did their last bearer."
Alicea could barely restrain herself. She had forged and enchanted these axes under the prompting of her father. She'd been told that they were for the chieftain, but she had grown attached to them after the last three months of working on them. She'd been reluctant to let them go.

The chief weaver, Sieri, steeped forward. She handed a long brown travellers cloak to Alicea. "My sisters and I wove this for you. The dryad and your father have enchanted it so that even in the morning of the full moon you need not go unclothed. And while he could not be here to present it to you himself; Norr the leather worker made you this pack so that you can carry your supplies. It should keep them dry even under water."
Several of the other elders stepped forward, bearing pots, pans, and the instruments of cooking, cleaning, and general care for oneself. She received several fine sets of clothing, and plentiful supplies for repairing them. The effect of her feral spirit upon her clothes was no secret, and the mending of clothes had been one of the first skills she had learned.

Finally her father stepped forward.
"I have already offered all I can in my aid to the others, or by the lessons I have taught you. So I can grant now only a blessing and a fathers love for his daughter. May your journeys be not a hardship but a time of growth, and may the spirits guide your way. Go in peace, and know that my heart and thought is with you always."

"And may the spirit of the light watch over this place. May you find profit in every activity. Be not saddened, for your daughter will not forget your lessons nor shall she neglect you." Alicea had spent last night crying just so she could stay level headed today. If she could have stayed here the rest of her life she would have, but fate had seen it fit to guide her away and she would heed its call.

Shouldering her pack, raising her hood; Alicea strode on down the road in search of the place where towns grew rich from silver.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Chapter Five, 'midwinters, journeys, and the nature of nix'

It was late, and the party was slowing down. Midwinter's was always a good festival in the company of the Howling Axe clan. She'd heard from Some of the merchants that other clans celebrated the holiday with an exchange of gifts and decoration of houses, but Aurou had managed to keep the traditional manifestation of the holiday alive with the last hunt of the winter and a great bonfire with feasting and a dance. She loved the dance, and this year it was a new moon so she'd actually be able to remember most of it. She'd heard some pretty weird stories about the years where it had been a full moon. She denied most of them, but there weren't exactly a whole lot of spirits taking the forms of wolves in the area so the whole clan knew who was responsible for drinking all the punch three years ago.

It also happened to be her birthday.
She'd waited up so that she could tell her father without all the crowds and revelers to distract him. It was a very personal matter, and it was only fair to tell him. She'd wait till spring, winter was a terrible time to travel abroad.

"Father, I..Can I talk to you for a moment?"
"What is it child?"
"I'm going to leave this spring."
Aurou sat upright.
"But child, Why? Are the warriors teasing you again?"
"No, they stopped doing that after I bit Aolif's ear. I've been reading the signs, and communing with the spirits; both seem to believe that if this is not my last midwinter's here there will be dire consequences."
Her father sighed, then rose and began walking towards the hut. He motioned for her to follow.
"I had hoped you would chose to do so on your own, without the prompting of omens. It would be better that you undertake this journey by your own will than with reluctance."
"Why would I ever wish to leave here father? I have everything I could ever dream of."
"You have everything you have yet to dream of. But I suppose now that you are older these things will begin to be known to you. I know you've met our local nix, surely you've wondered why others do not return from him."
"He kills them of course, drowns them. It's what nix do, everyone knows that."
"What do you see when you look at him, and that statement alone says much of the nix."
"A man, one of the firebloods. He's tall and muscular, with dark hair and a kind voice."
"The nature of the nix is to appear attractive to it's prey. When I look at the same nix I see a young woman with pale fur and a long well kept tail. They lure their prey by manipulating its lust and convincing them to enter its pool. Then, as you said, they drown them. A child, or one of pure heart, will not even know the nix is there until it kills them; that is why I have not dissuaded you from knowing of such things altogether.
But the fact that you see it as you do confirms to me that while you shall always be welcome amongst our clan; you have desires that will never be met amongst the Ga-Vok."
"Is this one of those things I'll understand when I'm older?"
"No child, it's one of those things you shall understand when you are ready. You are old enough now, it's just a matter of when. I'll explain what I know between now and when you leave, but this isn't the appropriate place for that topic."
"Now I'm far more concerned with your being prepared to leave. I've been conducting some research over the past year or two so that when you decided to leave I might be able to at least send you off with some idea of where you are heading. I've managed to determine that most of the remaining Nielda on the planet are in mountain valleys and fortresses. When you find towns wealthy from silver, ascend the mountains and you will find them."
"Thank you father."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Chapter Four, 'lessons'

Eleven years later.

"How was the hunt child?"
"The others are envious of my hunt father. I caught two stag."
"Excellent, are you ready for your lessons?"
"Yes father, and I considered what you said about power. I think I can answer the question now."
"Go ahead."
"Strength in the context of our society can be defined as the ability to defeat you enemies in single combat. Power is simply the ability to defeat your adversaries, whether in the context of battle, politics, or even socially."
"And what is the critical difference between the two?"

She pondered the question for a while.
"I think the difference is experienced. Even if you are strong you can be outmaneuvered by a better trained or experienced opponent. And what is training but the passing down of experience?"
"Well answered child. Can you remember the hierarchy of the Nieldic Empire?"
"Propaganda or practical?"

Aurou laughed, he was glad to have accepted the council's ruling. Not only had the spirits blessed him with such a noble and fateful task, but they had also blessed him with a dutiful and studious daughter. Still, he knew it would not be long now. He was the foremost scholar of his people when it came to the Nielda, and he knew that Alicea would be turning sixteen. Her mind would turn to more worldly matters, ones that would lead her back to her own people.

"Propaganda, though few truly believe them it is expected of the lower class to answer with it if asked by an official of their emperor."
"The Emperor works continuously towards the best interests of his people, and the nobles are the agents of his majesty to his people."
"And practical?"
"The Emperor, like our Alpha, is supreme. His laws are absolute and punishments are dealt based on the power of the one convicted, The severity of the punishment is inverse to the felon's power, a noble can commit many crimes without suffering so long as they do not become habit. The people are expected to be, above all else, loyal to their emperor and respectful towards his officers."
"Not unlike our Alpha."
"The Alpha is supreme"
"His decrees are just and true, no one dares defy them."
"Really father?"
"You doubt his authority?"
"No, as I said 'the Alpha is supreme'. I simply know better than to believe no one denies them."
"Have you witnessed a crime and remained silent child? If so you can share it with your father. I will not hold it against you."
"I am a crime father. I know his decree concerning the firebloods."
"Such a harsh term towards your own people."
"Did they raise me? Did they show me to enchant my axes or to wield them in battle? When I return from the hunt do they rejoice for my fortune? These are my people as you are my father."
"Child, You have the heart of a Ga-Vok. I fear that the Nieldic Blood within you shall one day devour it and you shall be left broken, with only you mind to guide you. That is a sad and unfullfilling life to lead."
"Father, have I ever been one to back down from such a challenge?"
"No, your heart and body may be divided but your spirit is yours alone. Cherish it, for it is the light's blessing upon you."

"So, what's today's lesson?"
"What would you like to learn?"
"The other warriors were talking about finding hot wenches, I was hoping you might have a recipe."
Aurou was stunned for several minutes, As clever a child as she was he often forgot that Nielda matured mentally far faster than they did physically. Thankful for it at times, he was never-the-less surprised at how often such things would manage to go completely over her head.
"Maybe after your birthday. The birds and the bees are not a topic for one as young of body as yourself."
"Oh. It's one of those things. I'm sorry to have brought it up, I know how delicate a topic it is for you."
"Perhaps in another time when wisdom rather than strength was revered I would have been considered quite the catch. In these days an old wolf like me would have gone lonely to the grave had you not been left in my care. The spirit of the light has been most kind to this shaman."

Alicea was already in the kitchen. She knew that when Aurou started getting touchy-feely over this sort of thing he inevitably got hungry also. So she just made it a habit to start dinner whenever it came up. She knew that he took no greater pleasure than that he took in a good meal with his daughter, save perhaps a good meal by his daughter. The Ga-Vok may have been proud warriors but the dog-like loyalty and affection they possessed had never faltered through the years.

Nothing saddened her more than the thought of one day leaving him alone here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Chapter Three, 'Oracle'

"Aurou, shaman of the disgraced howling axe clan; why have you summoned us?"
"Council, I apologise for not awaiting an appointment. I believe this matter to be of considerable importance, it's already cost us three of our number; one was our chieftain."
"Have you searched the archives for precedent? Or called upon the spirits for guidance?"
"I have; it is without precedent or record, and the omens speak in riddles I can not discern."
"Let us hear of this matter and perhaps the spirits will grant us perception where you were not."
"On our last raid on the Nielda we brought back a child. But that night she transformed into a great wolf and attacked her captor. The chieftain and one of our other warriors were slain in the attempt to subdue her. That morning however, the child returned to her Nieldic form. I have kept her under watch for some months now and have been able to determine that the transformation only occurs under two conditions; extended adrenaline presence in the blood stream, and the light of the full moon. Only the full moon causes a full transformation, and since we left arrived on Gasca she seems to have more control under the effects of the full moon."

"You understand of course the Alpha's policies concerning the taking of Nieldic prisoners?"
"I did warn them of the potential consequences."
"Under what tradition did Nayoo deem it acceptable?"
"Nayoo did not respect the traditions, And his purposes were revealed to none."

"And what did the omens show?"
"The spirit, the fire, the wolf, and the bone were joined as one. The thief, war, and fate were chained beside it. The spirits have also made profitable our hunt since the child was brought into town."
"The hunt is a good omen so late in the year."

The oracles were silent for a while. Aurou remained silent reverently awaiting their decision.

"The council has decided. What is spoken here must not become known to the Alpha or it shall place all our race in peril."
"You have my word."
"The spirit, fire, wolf, and bone may represent the child, this is our decision. Her presence, as the hunt suggests, shall benefit our people. Fate shows that her role shall be ongoing. The chained omens are doubtless the point of your confusion. We can shed a unique light on the first one, and by it the rest are clear. On Anatolia, the resistance is being lead in part by a man who also leads the Nielda's thieves guild. The Alpha believes that his effort to slay this man has been successful; our scrying has recently revealed that he was resurrected soon afterwards. Elder Kur with the fleet recently received a prophecy of this thief-king bringing destruction to our fleets, and scourging Decidua with a great armada.
War is obvious. It is the child then that is the hinge pin of our future."

The council leaned inward towards Aurou. The tone of the room became less mystical and the weight of their words grew more apparent.
"Raise the child, treat her as a member of your tribe. She must be prepared to withhold the thief when he brings war, or all our race may be destroyed. Teach her our customs, but do not neglect those of the Nielda. This is why the child has been brought to you of all our order."
"I am honored that you should think so highly of me elder."
"Nonsense. Your studies in Nieldic culture have been most informative to not only the younger members of the order as you intended but indeed to this council. Were it not for the exile your clan is bound by you would be on the short list to succeed Elder Grie. The exile has been a matter of ongoing debate between this council and the Alpha."
"I'm flattered your honors."
"Perhaps the spirits allowed your exile so that you could raise this child. All the circumstances point to this conclusion. May the spirits of earth guide you in this journey."
"And the light protect you also."

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Chapter Two, 'Blood Fur'

"Shaman, come quickly."
"The sun is not yet fully ascended in the sky Raola, I assume this is about the beast."
"Yes, but I can not explain it. You must see this through your own eyes."

Aurou grabbed his staff as he exited the hut. It was a large town, but few buildings had been finished. They had not been here long, the Alpha had only pronounced their exile about a year ago now.

He looked into the cage. The girl had returned it seemed, but the beast had gone.
"We have watched the cage without sleep since you commanded us."
"Then you can explain the beast's absence?"
"We swear upon our father's souls that we have touched neither herb nor ale this night."
"Where is the beast."
"In the cage shaman. There is either no girl or no beast, for as the sun rose its fur and fangs receded and in its place only the girl remained."
"Sneffu, did you also witness this?"
"Yes shaman, although my brother neglected to mention that the light of the sun revealed to us that the beast and the child have fur of the same color, and it's appearance was like that of a great wolf. What manner of omen is this shaman?"

"A powerful one. If the others inquire as to what has happened tell them that you took it upon yourselves to find the child and banish the beast. I will set an illusion upon the cage that the others will see only the girl by the sun or moon."
Aurou turned and began walking back to his hut.
"Shaman, what do you plan to do about this?"
"I shall observe the child and present my findings to the oracles. They shall decide the child's fate. In the mean time keep the child warm and fed, she is in our care now and we would do best not to anger the feral spirit residing within her."
"Yes shaman."

Chapter One; 'what is due us'

"Nayoo, you can not allow this."
"Silence shaman, My needs must be fulfilled. The fireblood's killed my livestock and without them to fulfill my needs I demand that I be allowed the captive with which to fulfill them."
"It is perverse. Your father would never have allowed this."

The young chieftain rose angrily.
"You will not tell me what my father would or would not have allowed. Haown may have what is due him, what the firebloods have denied him he make take from them." Nayoo turned to the clan gathered before him, dividing the spoils of their last raid. "As shall we all have what is due us. The firebloods have slaughtered our kin and denied us the pleasure of the hunt and land in which to dwell."
"Thank you chieftain, truly you shall return our people to the glory your brother lost us." The warrior walked off towards the small cage and its frightened inhabitant.
"And you, shaman Aurou, will do best not to challenge my authority."
"Your father Traonih was twice the leader you are. I entreat the spirits daily that they might grant you his wisdom."

A scream emerged from the cage. Aurou tried to ignore it, to challenge the chieftain was futile. He spoke often of 'what is due us' and 'the destiny before us'. Aurou could remember the days when all a warrior was entitled to was that which he could make, win, or gather and was not needed by the clan as a whole. This younger generation's sense of entitlement was leading them down a dark path.

A very different scream rose from the cage suddenly. The whole clan rushed to the clearing where the cage was hidden. Inside was not the perversion they had all wished to press from their mind, but Haown's mangled corpse and over it a ginger furred beast, his blood and flesh hanging from it's fangs.

"The child has conjured a beast, kill it at once."
One of the clan's archers stepped up to the cage and set a shaft to his string. He loosed the iron bolt at the beast, but it turned and caught the bolt in its fangs and snapped it before them.
"Slay it, Haown's share of the spoils to the one who brings me its hide."

Another warrior readied his axe and flung open the cage. The beast lept at him and h cut it from the air. Without flinching it rose to its feet and pounced upon him. It's weight bore him to the ground and its fangs crushed his mail and tore into his throat. Before the others could react the beast had slain the warrior.
It wheeled to attack the others, baying and barking at them. A fiery bolt struck it across the side and flung it into a nearby stone where it lay motionless.
"Fools," Nayoo yelled as he stepped over it brandishing his staff. "Must I do everything myself?"

As he rebuked the undeserving onlookers the beast rose behind him. The warriors winced as the beast bit into his most vulnerable parts, and they moved slowly back as it began devouring him.
"Shaman Aurou, what can we do? We cannot allow this beast to simply walk unopposed in our camp."
"We cannot destroy it, that much is clear. Let us instead reason with it."
He knelt before the beast and conjured some meat. He placed it before the beast, slipping some sleeping powder into it as he did so. The beast approached it cautiously, but it ate the meat quickly. Powerful and indestructible as it was, the sleeping powder worked quickly.
"Return the beast to the cage. Raola, Sneffu stand watch and alert me as soon as the beast awakens. The rest of you return to your business."

Peace returned to the camp, though an air of fear had settled upon it. Aurou may not have liked Nayoo or even respected him, but in the end he'd proved right; He and Haown had received what they had been due them.

Book Two; Of fury, fire, and the full moon. Prologue

A pair of cloaked figures, an older man with a gnarled wooden staff, and an impatient young woman, sat in the port awaiting their shuttle to the transit station above Anatolia.
"Father, where are we going?"
"The count recognized the banner of the Ga-Vok who kidnapped your young cousin. My uncle was able to tell us that the last sighting of this banner was on the frontier world Gasca. We're going there to search for her."
"Could I see the mark?"

The elder showed his daughter a small image. She held it up, examining it carefully.
"I remember it from Marcheton. The shaman and many of the other slain were bearing some variation of it."
"I took this charm from the body of a raider on Tara about a year ago. It's my only lead on their identity."
"And the child?"
"She is clever and powerful for her age, much like yourself."
"Can we hope to find her alive after so long?"

"She is dear to her uncle, and to me. Even if she is not alive, and I believe she is, at least we may bring word of her demise to the king. Perhaps his experience and wisdom wiould be enough to sway the young emperor to action before it is to late to prevent another war."
"And Daniel; won't he need our help with that project of his?"
"No need to worry about your brother Tress; Her ladyship is a controlling influence on him."

"Shuttle three now boarding. Shuttle three now boarding."
"That's our flight Tress. We best be heading out."

Saturday, December 12, 2009


I do not know how my internet access will be over the next couple weeks, but I anticipate that at least 50% of the time I will be able to get up new chapters. I'm rather looking forward to this next section, the heroine is much less morally ambiguous than Kiera or Daniel, and much more religous.

On the note of religion I should point out that the Nielda are not normally a very religous race. In general characters like Gar or Tressa, at least in this last chapter, would be considered religous fanatics just for having any beliefs at all. During the time of the Junlaerd the priesthood of the light was purged(one of the downsides of being ruled by those in league with demons) and his reign was long enough that he managed to keep religion fairly well squashed until most people forgot about it. A minor revival took place during the Ga-Vok war as people started reading, and wondering about what would happen after they died.
The closest parallel to human christianity within the Nielda prior to their actual discovery of christianity was the belief that in the afterlife there would be some being who might have mercy on those who had been good. Wherein good was not decided by the deeds themselves, but by the motivation behind them. It should also be noted that the Great Ga-Vok war happened in and about 9-6 hundred BC, christianity did not actually exsist in any form at this point in time.

Also of note is Gar's weapon. He did not take it back from his daughter after she had slain the shade. Instead he taught her to use it and adopted the path of the scholarly mage for himself. The two of them did not remain on Anatolia, as we will see in the next installment.

Chapter Thirty-Five

"Onward men, they flee us in the streets. Burn their living along with their dead. Show them the mercy they showed the inhabitants of this city."
Kiera was on the palace steps. They had managed to ovewhelm the Ga-Vok defenders all across the city and she, Daniel, and Enge had fought through the chaotic melee and were entering the palace. She just hadn't been willing to pass up one last morale raising battlecry before entering.
"We should head to the throne room. Their commander will likely be there, if we kill him we can seal their fate."

They found little opposition within, the Ga-Vok had front loaded their defense and what few remained within the palace were weak or infirm. Enge sheathed his knives, Daniel only killed that which challenged him, but Kiera cut down every Ga-Vok that she could reach without straying off her chosen route to the throne of her father.

When they reached the throne room they were met by an unexpected sight.
"Mom! You're still alive."
"Yes son, I'm here." Callin was standing beside the throne in full armor. Before her was the corpse of a large Ga-Vok warrior and his massive axe.
As mother and son moved to embrace, a small green dart flew past Daniels shoulder, embedding itself within her eye.
Kiera watched with horror as Daniel spun to slay his mother's assailant. And Enge did not attempt to resist as Daniel's blade sunk into his chest.
"Why Enge? What did she ever do to you to deserve this?"
"Captain," Blood now filling his mouth, "Thats.."
Enge grabbed Daniel and spun them, switching positions with his captain and then grunting in pain as a shadowy bolt pierced his being. "Not...mother."
We pity him." Callin's form began to fade away, all color purged from her form. She grew ethereal and her features melted as the shadow brought down it's facade.
"We would have offered him an eternity with his mother." The shade's voice had sunk to a moist crackle, all trace of individuality lost.
"What devilry is this? Kiera, be on your guard." Daniel brandished his sword at the circling demon.
"The masters tell us that you must die. If you will not accept the shadow, then we shall consume you." A flurry of dark spikes cut through the air towards him. He and Kiera managed to dodge and parry the onslaught, and Daniel hurled himself across the room at the foe. His blow was clean, to a mortal it would have been fatal.
It whisked across the room, then charged down it's center, raking the corpse with its claw.
"Rise Arkha Shadesworn. The masters desire that you serve on in death."
The Ga-Vok body rose, drawn upward as if by threads of air. The ghoul assaulted Kiera with his axe. It's movements were slow and lacked finesse, but it was unrelenting in it's assault. As they fought she impaled it upon her blade, only to find the corpse grab her outreached arm and prepare to deliver the blow. She defelcted it with magic, and the two began to engage in this sort of dance of blocking, beating, and attempting to extract themselves from the other.

Daniel remained focused on the shade. Though his blade drew no blood and caused no harm, his blows were many and his resolve unending. He noticed his father laying leaned against the wall, His breath was harsh and the wound in his side was great; his weapon must have been lost in the fight for Daniel could see it nowhere.
"Your people are right to claim strength alone as ancestor, for wisdom would be disgraced to have borne such foolish children as your kind. Listen to wisdom, it tells you that we can not be beaten. Subnit to us mortal, and join us in eternity."
"Go to hell demon." A bolt of light flew from the far corner of the room, missing the shade entirely.
"That would have been so much cooler if it had hit. How do you aim this thing?"
Tressa was badly bruised, but still walking. She seemed to have aquired Gar's blades and was using the enchantment upon it to try and fight the demon.
"Get out of here kid, this situation is out of your hands!"
"I don't see your plan working. Last succsesfull thing you did was kill your bodyguard."
Another bolt flew across the room, this time glancing the shade's shoulder.
"It burns us! The masters ordained victory, you shall not deny us."
A dart of shadow hurtled towards Tressa, but Daniel cut it from the air.
"Fine, just remember I warned you. Now demon, face the wrath of the Stones!"

This could have been a very epic and memorable moment, but the sad truth of the matter was that Daniel and Tressa simply did not work well together. His parrying of the shade's attacks all to often blocked Tressa's attacks as well. Her attampts at attack were severly inhibited by her poor aim and lack of combat training or experience. Ultimately the shade simply began ignoring Daniel and forcing Tressa to defend herself with a combination of counter shots and magical shields. All the while Kiera remained exhaustedly attempting to extarct herself from the risen Arkha.

"Tressa, don't aim. Let the enemy come to you." Gar may have been to wounded to fight himself, but he wasn't quite out.
"And throw myself on the demon's mercy?"
"Do you trust me child?"

Tressa stopped dodging, and as the shade lept to impale her upon its spikes she cut across its chest instinctively.
"Who's mercy were you being thrown to again?"
"But I can't just so without thinking? How can I ever hope to defeat a demon on instinct?"
"Your instincts were crafted with more thought, and have the bebefit of experience that you can not hope to possess at so young an age. Now, upon who's mercy are you thrown?"
Tressa lashed out at the shade as it charged oonce more.
"The practitioners of the light differ from those of the shadow in one critical way. While the shadow priest believes that this world must be enjoyed to it's fullest because there is no way to control ones future in death; the priest of the light has faith that in the next life their might be a power who extends mercy to it's followers."
The shade began to grow darker, "We'll teach you about mercy as you beg it of us!"
As it brought its spike-sprouting fist downward towards Tressa a light burst through its chest.

The shade recoiled. A low howl began courseing through the room. Arkha's body collapsed motionless, and as Kiera pulled herself from under it she saw that the shade had hardened to stone. Tressa withdrew the wepon from the shade's husk, and as she did so it crumbled and not even dust remained of it.

"That would have been a good time for a one-liner. If anyone asks in the future, could we all say I said the whole 'go to hell demon' thing then instead of when I actually did say it?"
Gar chuckled before turning to his son. "Daniel, I hadn't told you then because it was to soon to be certain. Your mother didn't divorce me; she went to prison for being an acomplice to murder. They let her out twice, once so she could serve as bodyguard to here on Anatolia. The other time was so she could deliver our daughter to a more suitable caretaker. Unfortunately the caretaker she chose was under the influence of the Shaditha, and I suspect that is when this shade took on her identity."
"And Tressa's my sister. Enge, bless his memory, noticed how simmilar she looked to you."
"I figured it out when you came to talk to me that night."
"It's a good thing Palace guards weren't as clever as you two, it would have made my job a lot harder."

Kiera just looked between them, confused and mildly surprised. She had what she'd come for, the palace was hers. It bothered her that she could have been trained to fight by a shade, but all of this 'higher planes and powers' just seemed silly to her.
"Miss Kiera, I think you owe my brother something for his services."
Daniel looked at her, "It was a joke really, I would never exect the lady of Anatolia to actually go on a date with a mercenary like.."
"Tressa didn't feel that way about it. Ressurections don't come cheap you know."
She wiped the blood off of her sword.
"And you know, I could use a nice dinner after all this. Once we get the infrastructure back up and running; you sir, are taking me out to dinner and a movie."

Gar walked over to his daughter.
"You know, if you want to fight better in the future I might know an old adventurer who'd be willing to offer some tips."
"Only if you show me how to do that teleporting thing of yours, Dad."

And the tides of war receded for a time. There was peace on Anatolia, but elsewhere in the empire; fate worked it's spider's web. Other lives, and other tales were drawn together and the balance of the walking-wolves and the children of strength lay in the hands of a child. A child who would know both worlds, and the curse of silver that lay upon her.

To be continued in 'of fury, fire, and the full moon'

Friday, December 11, 2009

Chapter Thirty-Four

"So this is where it ends?"
"I certainly hope so Enge. With any luck we'll be able to penetrate their jamming frequency and request assistance from the rest of the empire."
"They won't make this easy you know."
"I don't want it to be easy. I want to bleed every last ounce of blood from their bodies while they watch for what they've done to my people."
"Soon milady, soon."

The Anatolian resistance had massed in the plains about the capitol city, Ankra. Tens of thousands of warriors, magic-users, and siege weapons were positioned about the city in preperation for the siege. This was the last stronghold of the Ga-Vok invaders, and the blood of its slain inhabitants weighed heavy on the hearts of those about it. For all the rich trappings and stability of the empire, the Nielda of Anatolia were driven by the same primal urge that had ruled in the past age. A bloodlust had fallen on them, and the Ga-Vok were frantic in their preparation to defend the city. They saw in the eyes of their enemy a passion far more dangerous than that they had themselves brought to this world.

"Tressa, locate the enemy spell-weavers and relay their identities across the battle lines. Let them know true fear."Tressa surveyed the city. The death of her aunt seemed to be burdensome to her. She had been withdrawn since that night; more so than usual.
"This battle is forgone Miss Kiera. They don't have enough magic-users to defend their troops if we were to attack them directly. There are no wards, no traps."
"They are still a threat to my men; where are they, who are they, and how fast can we kill them?"
"Five, in the palace," A flash of images, faces and banners, flew through Kiera's open mind, "Let me take care of them Miss; it's the least I can do."
"It's dangerous to go alone, take them." Kiera motioned to a group of Daniel's mercenaries.
"She'll be safe milady. I shall watch over her."
Gar stepped out from behind Tressa. Kiera suppressed the urge to consider the physics of a 6'7" man being able to stand behind a 5'3" girl without being noticed. Daniel had mentioned that his father was an assasain, she assumed it must be some combination of magic and skill and brushed the thought aside.
"Seems like if I was sending you I wouldn't need to send her."
"I am not so young as I once was. I may have need of a more nimble assistant to defeat so many adveraries."
"Very well, but if you get yourselves into trouble there will be no one to bail you out."
"Understood Miss Kiera. We'll be careful."
"Stay with Daniel milady. The two of you will be safer if you stay together, and happier I imagine."
Kiera gave the elder assasain a look of shock.
"No? Ah well, an old fool can have his fantasies."

Daniel arrived as his father and Tressa strode off towards the city.
"What did the old man want?"
"He and Tressa will be eliminating the enemy mages in the palace. We'll meet up with them once we've fought past the enemy in the city proper."
"Old fool, I'm afraid we'll have to step up the pace then."
"Why, are you concerned he might be in over his head?"
"Milady, I am rarely concerned about this sort of thing; I am certain of them. Enge, tell the men to begin the attack. We must reach the palace."
"Yes Captain."
"I was right, things are more interesting now that you're back. You can explain it when this is over, I have a battle to fight now thanks to you."
As Kiera jogged off toward the command pavilion Daniel called out, "Your welcome" and watched her growing smile with satisfaction.

Chapter Thirty-Three

"Alright, you want me to bring them through one at a time, or all at once?"
"All at once Aelan. I don't want to give her the time to escape."
"Alright then, just try not to damage anything. Lille, would you send them out now."
"She's a good child. A father should be proud to have such an able daughter."
"That's what this is about, isn't it Gar? You want to know what happened after you were imprisoned."
"I know. My cousins are quite skilled in that regard. Say what you will about our choices, we're good at what we do."
"No one in my family has ever denyed your family was good at what they did. We've known each other for years Gar; I probably have more confidence in your wisdom than you do."

"Shall I turn on the lights father?"
"No need, that's the woman I'm looking for. You can take the others inside now."
"Whatever you say. Just remember..."
"I'll avoid all property damage where possible."
Count Marche and his daughter escorted all but one of the witches back into the castle.

"I'll give you credit Dame; you may be an evil, despicable wretch of a woman, but you raised her well."
"It was an accident. The masters willed it, I had to obey."
Dame Allistari plead with the assasain for her life. The quiver in her voice and the tear on her cheek betrayed her fear.
"No Dame. We always have a choice. Even if that choice is to die futily in the defense of those who would die regardless. You were her sister. And you not only killed her, but you helped the Shaditha to abuse her memory."
"They would have killed me Gar. I wasn't ready to die. And what about the child? Where would she have gone if I had died?"
"She's stronger than she looks. She would have survived somehow. You wouldn't die for your sister then; so I hope you are ready to die for her now."

Gar triggered the mechanism in his right bracer. The weapon concealed within sprung to action. The crystal placed upon it glowed bright with furious light, filling the space between the blades with a warm yellow glow.

"I know that magic."
"I've only made two right choices in my life. The first was to marry the love of my life. The second was to tell my daughter the truth."

Dame Allistari lept to action, seeing her attempts at diplomacy failed. A flurry of shadowy darts crossed the open courtyard, riddling the decorative pillars behind The location Gar had been standing not a moment before. As she spun about to find his new location, she gased as she felt a sharp pain from her breast.

"Tell your masters that I expect better from their servant in the palace."

Gar stepped back, returning his weapon to it's concealed state. Dame Allistari remained standing in shock for several seconds before collapsing lifeless upon the cobbled courtyard.

When Count Marche returned to the courtyard for his morning walk, he found the courtyard in perfect condition.
"Dad, The guards say that Dame Allistari didn't return to her chambers last night. Should I begin a search?"
"Lille, You may as well command the birds not to have beaks and feathers. Order the guards to seal her chambers until Tressa can be bothered to go through her things. And I reccomend you avoid the chamber yourself, there's no telling what sort of dark magic is hidden in there."
"Who was that man?"
"An old friend. One who's goals we are fortuitous to have ours coincide with."
"Does Mom know about him?"
"Lille Spielgan, If I pretended to know your mother knew half of the things she knows, I'd be the boldest liar in all Anatolia. I don't know how well she knows him, but I expect she knows more than I do."
The two continued walking for a while.
"Lille, you will be far more contented in marriage if you do not marry a seer. Marry a guard, at least that way you can be sure of their loyalty."
She laughed, and they went on with their walk.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Chapter Thirty-Two

Count Marche was taking his nightly stroll. He'd invested in a nice estate for a reason, It would have been wasteful to just horde his money and leave it to children who didn't know where it came from. Far better that they be required to make their own money, and inherit a nice home that could be passed on to their children.

"Hello Aelan."
"Gar! What are you doing here? Last time I saw you was the trial."
"His majesty was merciful as well as just. I hope that one day his son will be as good a ruler as he was."
"So you were the lucky one who aquired his majesties goodwill? And how is..."
Gar grasped his right foreamr tightly.
"By the light, Whatever I did to anger you I deny any knowledge."
"Why would you? Just because I was an assasain doesn't mean I'm here to kill someone."
"Sorry Gar, It's just. Well, the guild contributed rather heavily to the palace's construction and I thought your son might have wanted that debt settled."
"I'm not with the guild anymore Aelan. I should have left long ago."
He glanced out across the courtyard.
"I wish I'd left long ago. I neglected my family for a chance at adventure and some easy money. She was right to stop me."
"Easy friend, If she still loves you she'll forgive you."
"It's to late for that."
"I'm sorry Gar."
"You know; I'll admit it. You were right to assume I was here to kill someone. Call out the witches."
"At this time of night? You couldn't even tell half of them are witches, most of them are surprisingly young. That whole 'decrepit' thing is just an act."
"This one won't be."
"Gar Stone, I'll not have you murdering people in the middle of my castle."
"Aelan Marche, My wife's memory demands justice for murder. Will you stand between us?"
"I'll call the witches."

Chapter Thirty-One; Act Three

Sorry for the delay, It's finals week and I've been studying.

Daniel opened his eyes. This wasn't where he'd been when...
Oh right, the arrow.
"He's awake!"
"Where am I? Is this a dream?"
"No, it's the master bedroom at Castle Marche. The count was kind enough to lend it to you while you recovered."
"Looks like I got lucky then."
Kiera looked away nervously.
"Wait, I'm dead aren't I? My parents told me that something like this might happen."
"No, but you were. Dead that is."
"Oh crap! I'm in some kind of otherworldly torture chamber. Back demon! You shall not have my soul."
"Hello son."
"Dad? But you're in prison."
"Full pardon, how are you?"
"I suspect I may be dead, but I feel fine."
"You're not dead. This lovely young lady took care of that."
Tressa waved from the doorway.
"This just keeps getting worse. Now I owe the twerp my life. And who was irresponsible enough to let an eleven year old girl holding my life in her hands?"
"Your lucky Tressa was willing to help at all. We've recruited hundreds of magic users since you died, and not a single one of them even believed it could be done. Several mages presented very well constructed arguements against it, and almost all of the witches had horror stories of the terrible things that have happened to those who have attempted it."
"So you let a crazy Eleven year old girl in control of my future?"
"I'm Fourteen, you've been out for a little over a year."
"You mean I lost a year of my life?"
Tressa glared at him fiercly, "You aren't the only one who lost a year of your life, and I lost mine a lot faster. Ressurections shouldn't be taken lightly."
"Tress, why don't you go get started on that assignment I gave you?"
Tressa looked at Daniel's father, "Ok sir, and Miss Kiera, the council is waiting for you downstairs."
"Tell them I'll be right down," Kiera called to Tressa as she left. "I'm glad to have you back captain. This war hasn't been the same without you."
Kiera stepped out, closing the door behind her.
"Alright old man, what do you want?"
"I need to get to your mother. There's something I need to take care of."
"Then you came to the right place, She was stationed up at the palace when the attack took place. How come I never heard about this pardon?"
"I'll have no further buisness with the guild. I was staying with Uncle Thule on Tara."
"I'd have heard about it then. My contacts in the palace would have informed me."
"What kind of assasin would I be if I let people know where I was? I'm not interested in discussing what I've been doing with you, I'm here for two reasons, one of them I'll be taking care of tonight here at the castle, the other..."
He gripped his right forearm.
"If you're going after Mom you'll need my men. The Ga-Vok had the palace locked down last time I heard."
"That hasn't changed. But they aren't your men anymore. While you were gone Enge assumed your responsibilities. They fight for Kiera now."
"Nervey old salt."
"He's done a good job of it too. Your men are the Anatolian army's vanguard."
"I can't imagine there are many left."
"When you feel up to it, look outside. We aren't losing this war, and with you back victory will come all the swifter."
"If you don't need my help; what do you want?"
"My son was in trouble. I came to help him."
"Enough of that old man. I needed you a year ago; Now I'm fine. Why are you still here?"
He turned and stepped out. He stopped in the doorway for a moment.
"Son. Whatever happens, your mother and I have always, and will always, loved you."
"For all the good that's done me."
And he was gone again; vanished into the approaching night.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Chapter Thirty

Kiera woke up in the mansion. The last thing she could remember was the attack. There were so many of them, and they'd come out of nowhere. She'd wanted to fight but Daniel had..

Daniel. He'd been injured; she had to help him. He'd need a doctor.
She threw open the door, "I need a medic!"
"Calm down Milady. Miss Tressa said to take you upstairs when you woke up."
"But Daniel, the captain. He needs help."
"That's what Miss Tressa wanted to talk to you about. She said you should come up there as soon as you woke up. It's this way."
"It's my fault. If I hadn't tried to fight."
The nurse opened the door to the master bedroom. He was on the bed, there weren't any doctors in the room. They couldn't be neglecting him like this unless.

"How badly do you want him back?"
Tressa was standing next to the window.
"Why isn't there a doctor? He was hit! If he doesn't get a doctor he'll die."
"To late for that actually, the doctor declared him DOA."
"No." Kiera collapsed next to the bed, her eyes begining to water. "This is all my fault. I should have listened to him."
"How badly do you want him back?"
Tressa was standing on the other side of the bed now.
"What good would wanting do? He's dead, you said it yourself."
"For a mage you have a very limited grasp of magic. Have you even studied anything beyond the usual imperial curriculum?"
Kiera looked up, "What do you mean?"
"I mean there's more than the arcane to work in."
"Can you help him?"
"Yes, but what kind of Witch would I be if I passed up a good oppurtunity to teach those around me about what was around them?"
"Help him first. How cruel can you be to leave someone dead when you could bring him back?"
"If I fix him now you wouldn't listen. There are very strict rules about this sort of thing, and the cost of returning him is not going to grow significantly greater if I wait another hour or two."
"Bring him back, NOW!"
"Setienlie! This is an opprutunity to learn. Frankly, I'm pretty annoyed that I, the apprentince, am teaching you, the master. I assumed when you came and rescued us that you'd blown through the warriors. I'm begining to question that."
Kiera tried to object, but found her voice unwilling to obey.
"You asked about what I did in battle, the will-binding. I told you I learned it at Aunt Allistari's. I didn't lie, it really was a required skill; she really does have a deep and undying hatred for squirels, rabbits, moles, and anything else that gets into her garden. However, it also serves as a balance. There are seven fields of magic, one of them can be subdivided..."
Kiera, still rather distraught, tuned most of this conversation out. There was something about personalities, iris paterns, elements, all of which probably made up somebodies life's work. (See note)
"...Now, I'm going to ask you one more time. How badly do you want him back?"
"It would mean the world to me Tressa."
"Good, I'm going to hold you to that. First thing you do when this is all over is go on that date with him."
"Thank yo.. wait what? How do you know about that?"
"While you two were away, Enge and I got to talking. But we can discuss that later. Now, I'm going to need you to leave, this is a delicate procedure. I'd hoped you knew enough to help, but since you don't you'd only get in the way. Run along, there are more useful things you could be doing right now."
Tressa shooed her out of the room, and sealed the door behind her. Kiera slept outside the door. There might be better things she could be doing, but for some reason she couldn't pull herself away.

Chapter Twenty-Nine

They were late. Enge was surveying the surroundings from the master bedroom in the mansion. He'd arrived as scheduled two days prior, as had the survivors from two of the other towns, along with their escorts.

He'd sent a company of men on to search for the Captain. They hadn't returned yet, and he was growing worried. The kid, Tressa, wasn't showing it as much but he could tell she was worried too.
She warmed up nicely. He'd had a talk with the Captain before they'd left town. Once he'd mentioned it to Tressa she'd been much nicer. The whole witch thing was mostly just an act. Deep down, she was just a frightened kid who'd been through some pretty wierd stuff and wanted to feel safe.
She read a lot, and not just school type stuff. Enge had never been much of a reader; his parents had been in prison and he'd never really recieved much of an upbringing. He might not have the same intrests or abilities that she did, but he could sympathize with her experiences. He got the impression that she felt the same way. Their relationship made him wonder how any of his own children were right now. He knew he had them; with the number of women he'd known in his life it was inevitable that at least one of them would be raising one. Maybe they were cursing him for leaving, he hoped at least one of them would want him back one day. With the payoff the captain was promising he might be able to look them up, settle down somewhere.

He'd never thought this far ahead. He'd always asumed he'd die fighting, eventually everyone did. He'd seen all his friends and comrades die at some point; the fact that he'd survived so long is why the captain had bothered to befriend him. It had become mutual, but it would never be quite the same as a friendship between equals. The captain was the captain, and in the end they both knew which relationship was more important. If it hadn't been for Tress coming along, he probably never would have thought further than the next job.

There. Dust on the road, the captain would be returning now. But there wasn't as much as there should have been.
Enge rushed down into the courtyard.
"I need medics. You men come with me."
"Aye sir."

Kiera hopped off of the lead truck.
"I need medical personel now!"
"Right here milady."
"Enge, is there a medical facility set up yet?"
"It's in an outbuilding, servants quarters. This way."
They brought the trucks around to the servants quarters and started unloading the wounded. Enge gasped when he saw the captain among them.
"What happened? Is he going to be ok?"
Kiera was practically screaming orders to the nurses now. Enge realized that whatever had happened, he wasn't going to learn anything from her.
"Enge, what happened?"
Tressa was standing next to Enge, looking startled.
"I wish I knew kid. The captains been injured, and her ladyship is getting hysterical."
"Oh, I'll handle this then." She glanced over at Kiera, "Seithe"
Kiera yawned, and walked of toward the mansion after prompting by one of the nurses.
"All right people! Guards, go fetch the cots, tents, and tarps and set them up here. Nurses get inside and set up the medical equipment; doctors start prioritizing patient status. Get those in critical condition inside for imediate attention."
"What about the captain?"
"Take him upstairs, I'll take care of him. Then start organizing the men to defend the mansion if we have to."
"You'll take care of him? When did you become a doctor?"
Tressa started running back up to the mansion, "When I started living with a witch."

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Tressa was bored. It had been nearly a week now since everyone else had left. She'd been left in charge of what she susspected the military would call 'supplies aquisition and relocation'. It was essentially just figuring out which houses no longer had owners and then ransacking them for anything that could be useful; then putting that stuff in neat little piles in the mansion's various open areas. Their was a cellar underneath of the gymnasium facilities that had been refrigerated. Tressa couldn't imagine why any one would want a large floor made of ice, but it made food storage much easier. The gymnasium itself was now occupied by several hundred large boxes of clothing. It had held several hundred and one boxes, but there were a few rather attractive dresses that she expected would fit her rather nicely when this was all over.

She would have felt worse about it, but she'd already noticed quite a bit of carefully hidden loot in various parts of the mansion. She had even put a few things off to the side for her aunt and Miss Kiera.
After all, it's not like this war would last forever, might as well be ready for when things improved.

The market was host to a few score of new recruits, mostly younger men and a couple of the rowdier women. They spent the day training with the variety of axes, spears, and swords that had been gathered from across town. There weren't enough to defend the town, even with the defenses that she'd helped set up around the mansion. There were barely enough people to fill all of it's rooms. She hoped that Miss Kiera would bring back more survivors. If the other towns had as few survivors as this one then none of them would stand a chance on their own.

"Miss. We found some bedding and more arrows in the Hoskins' place out on the edge of town. Where should we put them?"
"Put the arrows in the gallery. The bedding you can take over to the bath house for processing."
"Thank you miss."

It felt good to be in charge. All those years being at the bottom rung of the household were over. Now she could give the orders. It was a lot of responsibility, but a sharp glance and a hint of a curse and nobody would challenge her. It didn't even have to be a real curse; the locals had never actually had a witch. She could see now how Aunt Allistari had never had any problems arbitrating; a witches word was final for the arguement or a witches word would be final for the arguer.
It was little wonder there were so many stories about magic users going bad; this kind of power was amazing. She could really see how easy it would be to just, take over the whole town. Only thing holding her back was the knowledge that there were more important things to be done.
It didn't hurt that she knew how quickly Daniel would have lept at the oppurtunity to put her down either. It was one thing to be a magic user in a town of suspicous and frighten people; it was a whole 'nother one to challenge the most powerful Nielda on the planet. Although he'd never do anything unless either it made him happy, or he stood to gain from it. She couldn't imagine what Miss Kiera must have had to offer him to get him so zealous about following her orders.
She suspected it was one of those things Aunt Allistari insisted she'd understand when she was older.