Ulthuan

Ulthuan, Home of the Asur
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 27, 2014 5:13 pm 
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Ultimate End Times Chronicler

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Part 1 –


She ran as hard as she could. Her feet pounding into earth, hard as mortar with frost. She ran, and her lungs felt afire, each breath a straining, rattling, burning thing.

The trees around her loomed stark black and grey in the fading winter sun. The forest was cast in one shadow under swollen skies. Tiny crystals of ice and snow drifted past her face. She felt the quick sting as they struck her cheek and throat.

She ran, her feet guiding her along familiar paths through gulley and past patches of white snow. The burn in her lungs made her eyes water. She tried not to think; not to feel. But the throbbing ache in her thighs and knees kept bludgeoning her consciousness with sharp pricks of agony. She stumbled. The frozen earth battered her. She lay there upon the ground, feeling warm blood on her lip. Tasting the salt of it in her mouth.

She had to get up; to keep running. But the muscles in her back were tangled into knots. She lay there, feeling the burn of her breathing, eyes flittering about. Earth. Sky. Bark. Fallen leaves. A twist of a root.

…. A sheen of icicles. They hung from the lowest branch, each one dagger tipped and long, like the northern winter. Her breath fogged the air before her with painful gulps, and she continued to stare at the ice. They glistened under the grey sky, gleaming, and hanging almost as if a wreath. She thought of crystal and lanterns and candles upon chandeliers. She thought of anywhere but here. A play of light, a reflection, a burning tallow….



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PostPosted: Tue Oct 28, 2014 10:22 am 
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Young Eataini Prince
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Sounds like she needs to exercise more often! :lol:

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 30, 2014 5:52 pm 
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Ultimate End Times Chronicler

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Part 1 cont.


The light blazed so bright night was turned into day. Thousands of candles and lanterns – both enchanted and mundane – added to the glow of the heavy crystal chandeliers overhead (which were so broad as to sweep across the hall like the bellies of great ships cresting over waves), and the roaring fires that filled the numerous, massive hearths. The light, warm and yellow, drenched the hall and the surrounding balconies, alcoves, atria and courtyard with the most brilliant of golden glows, shimmering off the burnished columns and floor tiles until the very palace seemed to be molten.

He stood upon the balcony three floors up. The balcony ran the length of the hall, some three Lothern city blocks, and then some: not ending until it jutted out into a stargazing minaret far inside the palace gardens. And it was crowded with people – elves from all the corners of the Ever Empire. From distant Tiranoc, to majestic Lothern; from the sun dappled glens of Avelorn, to the warm shores of the enchanted Sea of Dreams. Hundreds of elves filled the palace, standing, murmuring, watching.

For once, Tor Yvresse did not seem empty. It was at last a city filled with life.

“Look there,” Lysyl whispered beside him. He followed her outstretched hand. Dozens of feet below lay the main hall of the palace. It too was positively festooned with elves, except there the crowd had been contained to the perimeters of the hall, leaving a broad walkway clear to the courtyard and palace gates beyond. Once more he marveled at the gilded patterns upon the floor, suns and stars etched delicately in gold upon marble, clashing with stylized peaks and stands of pine from which griffons soared forth. But that wasn’t what the girl was indicating: her finger stretched to the oaken table that ran parallel to the walkway on one side. There, other than a single sculpture made of blue ice depicting a swan and griffon somehow nestled upon a single imaginary bough, the table was bare of lights or decorations. Instead it was covered with parcels – small wrapped parcels, complete with bows and ribbons, done in all the colors of the rainbow.

“That one,” Lysyl said, indicating one of the parcels, “is from my Lord Elithmar. An enchanted amulet of ancient lineage.”

“What does it do?” Alvan asked from behind them, his voice straining to overcome the din of the surrounding crowds.

Lysyl hesitated. “It glows when the wine before one is spoiled.”

The other elves in their little group stared at the girl in bemusement. She flushed. “It is one of my lord’s most prized possessions,” the girl protested. “Parting with it was quite dear to him!”

He softly shook his head. He was from the west of Eataine, close to Caledor and the mountains, and not from the east like Lysyl was. Eastern Eataine was a land of rich vineyards and guild towns, and had always seemed a trifle silly to him. But then, he had heard that the eastern Eataini said that living in the shadow of the mountains of Caledor did something to the brains of their western brethren. He shrugged. Maybe it was true. All he knew was that those on the other side of the channel – the other side of glorious Lothern – often seemed a completely different people.

“Wait. Something is happening,” Alvan said jostling forward with his elbows to the balcony rail.

Indeed something was. He could hear it now, the clatter of hooves on cobblestones accompanied by the rattle of wheels. A carriage, massive and tall with minarets carved in the shapes of dragons at each corner, was pulling into the courtyard. There were nearly a half-dozen attendants holding onto the running rails outside the carriage, and he marveled when he saw more in the minarets above. It was truly massive! A small castle on wheels! Decorated in gold and silver, with windows heavy in red velvet curtains. And the steeds before it: white destriers, glistening with silver manes. They were heavy of shoulder and haunch, and taller than the steeds one usually sees.

“Those do not appear to be Ellyrion,” Alvan commented.

“Oh no,” he started to answer, but just then the carriage came to a halt directly before the walkway. The attendants sprung into action, half leaping to control steed, the other half forming something of an honor guard before the carriage door.

The door swung open, and an elf emerged.

“Oh my,” Lysyl said, one hand half covering her mouth. “Is that…a diamond encrusted…. codpiece??”

The elf that had emerged from the carriage was tall and broad of shoulder, narrow of waist. He was garbed from throat to toe in the most brilliant of armors, each piece of it polished to such a high sheen that it cast back the palace’s light like mirrors. Upon the arching pauldrons and greaves, diamonds and sapphires gleamed from their emplacements. And more were affixed to breastplate and gauntlet. A red cape of velvet matching the carriage’s interior hung from the shoulders. All that was missing from the knightly garb was the helm: the warrior’s head was bare, and all could see the long platinum hair hanging loosely about the throat and shoulders. The face within was such a one as to find on a tapestry in the courts of the Queen herself, handsome and high-browed, with a strong chin and sharp cheekbones.

Except for one thing: the beautiful visage was marred by a single scar that began above one brow and ended at the cheek below, running across the eye between. The eye was hidden from view, covered by a patch of plain, unadorned black leather.

A steward came forth and bellowed out the name of the new arrival, sending a ripple of surprise through the waiting crowds.

“High Lord Malossar,” Alvan said with appreciation. “All the way from Caledor! Here. For this!”

“A Caledorian Dragon Lord,” Justine said from his other shoulder, her voice filled with a honeyed appreciation. “He certainly seems an impressive sight.” Their small group watched as the Caledorian prince clambered down the steps of his carriage and strode across the courtyard. “So odd that he keeps the scar,” the girl murmured as the object of her attention reached the walkway. “The Jade magic can fix most things. Why not an eye?”

She was from Saphery and had a practical view towards all things magical. But Alvan responded with a shake of his head. “It is a warrior’s mark! A badge of honor! Or a reminder of a grievance! You Sapheri wouldn’t understand!” he said with a waive of his hand, with turned the girl’s face a darker shade. Unaware of her reaction the young elf continued, “I heard he received it in combat in the north.” Then in a whisper, “In single combat against the dreaded With King himself!”

An involuntary shuddered passed through him at that. The Witch King, the ancient, seeming undying evil from a bygone age! That such a creature could exist in some distant place, upon a throne of ice and bone… that seemed impossibly alien to the warm, festive environs. He pushed the thought out of his head. Alvan was continuing: “And I heard that he keeps the scar as a reminder. Until the day when he slays the Witch King in a glorious duel himself!”

“Well he certainly seems impressive,” Kayt, the other member of their little group, commented as he leaned out over the rail.

“Everyone knows that the Knights of Caledor are the mightiest warriors in all of Ulthuan! And Malassor is among their best! He hasn’t been unseated at a tourney in some score years!!” Alvan boasted.

“Don’t be silly,” Lysyl responded with a snort. “Everyone knows the mightiest warriors of Ulthuan are the Chosen Guardians of Asuryan’s temples! They are blessed by the Creator himself!”

“Yes, but a Caledorian knight fights with a skill and fury bonded to his steed, be it dragon or equine!” Alvan protested.

“Or,” Kayt jumped in. “The mightiest warriors could be the Lions of Chrace. Every noble vies for an honor guard to rival that of the Throne.”

“Not in Caledor,” Alvan grumbled.

Kayt scratched his chin and continued as if not hearing, “Though I feel honor bound to put forward the Reavers of my own homeland in this contest. None strike more swiftly, or with more courage and foresight than the Riders of the Wind.” He finished and absentmindedly fingered the long forelock braid he wore.

“Bah,” Alvan scoffed. “The Knights of Caledor are few in number, but their charge can break any ranks of our foes.”

“And the charge of our foes is shattered upon the ranks of the White Lions,” Kayt responded with another shrug. “Who is to say which is more valuable?”

“Well, I say our foes tremble at the sound of the steeds of Caledor! And that means something! It means they are the greatest warriors of Ulthuan! And everyone knows it!!”

Just then, Justine let out a mirthful chuckle. “It is best if you do not let Benn’s lady friend hear you saying such a thing.”

Alvan’s frown lessened into confusion as the young elf turned to him. “Why is that, Benn?”

He scowled internally and wished that Justine would learn to keep her tongue. Involuntarily his head turned as he sought her out: finding her a few paces away, past Justine, past the others, alone at the rail…as was her wont. She stood there, face impassive, the warm light dancing in shimmers upon her short gold curls. Her eyes lost in…something.

“Benn?” Alvan prompted again.

He cleared his throat. “She served her practical in the north,” he said as way of an answer.

Kayt looked over one shoulder. “In Chrace?” he asked with eyebrow raised.

“No.” He paused and glanced about, wishing Justine hadn’t put him in this spot.

“In the Shadowlands,” he finished.

The others just looked at him. Then at her standing apart. Finally, Kayt said, “The Shadowlands? Oh my…. Spooky.”

He flushed and tried to find something else to speak about. Fortunately, Lysyl interrupted:

“Quiet! He is almost there!”

His attention shifted once more to the walkway below. The Caledorian prince had crossed the length of the hall and was coming to a halt before the raised dais at its end. There, at the apex of the dais, waited a pair of ornate thrones carved out of the finest boddhi wood, white and vibrant. Seated atop them the Prince Elessehta, dressed in royals blues, his face handsome and aglow with joy. Next to him a dark haired beauty in pale rose and saffron, her eyes bright as she watched the Caledorian stop before them.

“Congratulations on the engagement,” Prince Malossar said a bit gruffly. He hefted a large wrapped parcel in his hands. “I brought you this. It’s a shield,” he added rather unnecessarily as the ribbons and wrapping paper did scarce to conceal the object’s shape. “It belonged to my great uncle, in the Demon Wars. It protects against black curses and the Evil Eye. And it can stop a long shaft at twenty paces. I tested it myself,” he said seeming rather satisfied. “It is for you to defend yourself and yours.” He finished with a slight inclination of his head to the dais.

Prince Elessehta smiled and returned the nod. “Thank you Malossar, for the princely gift. And thank you for coming so far for the engagement festival.” He glanced to the elf maiden at his side. “We had feared that you would not make it.”

“I am here,” Malossar said grimly. “No damn raiders or winter storms would keep me away!” He finished with a broad wink at the maiden above.

“Thank you again,” the woman spoke, now with a slight flush to her cheeks. “Please take your refreshment among our honored guests, while the stewards see to your accommodations.”

“So exciting!” Lysyl said as the Dragon Lord disappeared among his guard and courtiers below. “All these high lords and ladies gathered together in once place! And we common folk are able to see them!”

“From a dignified distance of course,” Kayt commented dryly.

“But the dances are open to all,” Lysyl protested. “And some of the lords may even come up here to the galleries! It’s happened before!”

“And he is single now, isn’t he. A widow, I heard,” Justine said with a slight smile. “Perhaps I might find him later and ask for a dance.” There was a calculated hunger in the girl’s eyes.

“Oh yes, the engagement dance,” Alvan mused. “Which high born lady are you going to ask for the honor, Benn?” he asked teasingly.

Benn scowled and flushed and glanced over to the girl standing and watching on her own. “I’m…excuse me,” he said and drifted over to join her.

He came up beside her at the rail, once more admiring the delicate curve of her neck and shoulders, exposed by the formal robes she wore, and the way the rings of her hair played with the light. She acknowledged him with a nod and a small smile as he took hold of the rail, his hand almost touching hers. “Is it hard for you to be here?” he asked, delicately.

She smiled a bit ruefully and sent him a brief glance, melting his knees with a glimpse of those pale blue eyes. So like a bird’s….

“No, it is just...,” she spoke, breaking his reverie. “I miss my books.”

“I understand,” he soothed. “But as Alvan would say, this is the event of the season. The decade. It is good for you to get out now and then.”

“Debatable.” She grimaced. “You can’t tell me that you don’t miss our studies at Hoeth? The work we were doing?” Her eyes suddenly took a sly turn. “Or should I ask which high born lady you were planning on asking to dance?”

He felt his cheeks turn bright crimson. “You heard that? I….”

She laughed with a shake of her head. “Boys,” she muttered.

There wasn’t much to say to that, so he just focused on his grip, and trying to get the color out of his cheeks. “Look another carriage approaches,” he diverted. In the courtyard he could see the lithe vehicle pull up before the Yvressi attendants. It was decorated with a cascade of colored veils about its pale white construction. The steeds pulling it were similarly garbed in scintillating floral wreathes and silk scarves. “I wonder who it could be.” But the crowd was closing in about them, blocking his view. He leaned a little forward trying to catch a glimpse around the burly shoulder obstructing him. Finally he saw a woman, tall with raven hair, and dressed in brilliant emerald green that shimmered as she moved, standing at the front of the walkway.

The steward stepped forward. “Lords and Ladies, may I present….”

“….the Princess Aicanor of Irian!”

There was much murmuring and gasps as the elf lady inclined her head to the crowd and then began slowly walking towards the waiting dais. Despite himself Benn couldn’t help but feel the appreciation as his eyes ran over the elven lady, her figure and face…so graceful…as she moved. He wondered about the dance later….

The flush returned to his cheeks.

Suddenly there was more movement at the head of the walkway. Another figure had dismounted from the carriage. All he could see was a swirl of crimson robes.

But then the steward cleared his throat. Benn could see him studying a folded parchment in his hands.

“And the Princess of Irian’s, ummmm, companion!”

The steward scowled.

“Ahem. The….errr…. Administrator….of a colony of Spires!!”


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 30, 2014 6:48 pm 
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It's great to have you back! Looking forward to the rest of the story.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 31, 2014 9:31 am 
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Auctor Aeternitatum
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<-- Before you ask. Yes, I did indeed change my name. :)

Nice to see the end and the Nagarathi have dragged you back here (I'm guessing there may have been some kicking and screaming involved). :) How's life?

Interesting starting point. Curious to see where it's heading. Of course, great to see Spires put in an appearance again (though being called an administrator? Tsss, standards are slipping in the ever empire, that's what I say).

In some way your writing style does seem to have evolved a bit (not in a bad way by the way). I can't completely put my finger on what it is exactly.

Anyway, bring on the next parts.

Rod

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 31, 2014 5:23 pm 
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Prince of Spires wrote:
Yes, I did indeed change my name.


Ah, and here I was hoping it was someone new! :) Perhaps some young apprentice of rdg, and -after a bloody bodkin - had managed to assume the mantle of the Cunning One! :twisted:

Prince of Spires wrote:
I'm guessing there may have been some kicking and screaming involved


Bit surprised myself, to be honest. Every time I think I am done with these 'silly elves', a group of black masked, heavily armed pointy ears, show up in my boudoir late at night, and carry me off, gagged and bound!

Well at least this time I stood up rather well under their 'enhanced interrogation techniques' and only committed myself to a short prelude to the finale. Otherwise I think my Everqueen might be filing papers in court…. #-o

Prince of Spires wrote:
In some way your writing style does seem to have evolved


I can't speak to that. Other than to say that I have done so much chronicling of the elves this past year (500 pages of alternate reality Tim and company over on kindle books somewhere) that perhaps all those nights hunched over a keyboard have been transformative somehow? I would like to think that they have given me new 'chronicler' muscle mass; some sort of bronzed, adonis shoulders to wow the ladies. But in all likelihood, it is probably just scoliosis.

And the aforementioned very perturbed Ever Queen. :cry:



PS Happy Halloween everyone! :D

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 31, 2014 5:51 pm 
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Headshot wrote:
I can't speak to that. Other than to say that I have done so much chronicling of the elves this past year (500 pages of alternate reality Tim and company over on kindle books somewhere) that perhaps all those nights hunched over a keyboard have been transformative somehow? I would like to think that they have given me new 'chronicler' muscle mass; some sort of bronzed, adonis shoulders to wow the ladies. But in all likelihood, it is probably just scoliosis.

Sounds great. Linky? Not sure if I can get a kindle book downloaded, since I don't actually own a kindle or perhaps live in the correct part of the world. But I'd love to get more Tim tales. It does explain what I noticed in your writing perhaps. Maybe it's a bit more mature in a way. Congrats on getting it out there. I can imagine a bit the labor that goes into in.

Do keep the everqueen happy of course. Definitely more important then black-clad elves. Besides, they'll listen to the everqueen too.

Rod

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Please try to remember that, no matter how 'official' the source seems, rumours are basically just a dictionary combined with a random number generator

For Nagarythe: Come to the dark side.
PS: Bring cookies!

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 01, 2014 4:11 pm 
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Sorry Rod, you'll need to find someone more techno savvy for links. Supposedly you just head over to amazon and run a search either under the title - the apt, if unimaginative, 'the Shadow Prince' - or my pecuniary nom de guerre, 'Headshot, Inc.', and it should show up.

And I was assured that it is available worldwide, from Oslo to Osaka. That with a free kindle app (program? why don't they call them programs anymore?!) you can download it to the tablet, phone, pc of your choice. (I checked it out on my iPad).

Prince of Spires wrote:
I'd love to get more Tim tales


Hehe! A whole new world of adventures awaits! With Tim, Rufus, Lili, Tarabeth and so many more, in new roles. :D

There may even be a certain sly colonial lord, plotting with his kitty. :wink:


Headshot


PS I was going to publish it as a paperback, but was told that the young-uns were about as familiar with that format as the practice of counting nipples to find witches…. They loves them their electronic devices. :roll:

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2014 8:48 pm 
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Part 2 -



She continued to run. The forest had grown steeper, and uneven. The pines now jutted forth from the hard earth at strange, jumbled angles, thrusting bough into face and arm as she pushed through. Boulders lay askew among the trunks; large granite slabs that had tumbled down from the mountains above in winters past. The flakes of snowfall were coming steadily now, a furious flurry that coated her hair and clothing in white crystals.

The trail followed the curve of the mountain, up and up. Trying to push her legs up it, one knee jolt after another, sent the burn in her thighs down her joints and into her calves. Every step felt as if needles were jabbing into her. The blood on her mouth had dried to a crusty discomfort on her chin, but she could still taste it. Taste the salt and sting of the wound in her mouth. But she had to push onwards. There was no time.

A slight gap in the trees lay ahead, and through it she could see the path turn and level out parallel to the steep hill. She breathed a sigh of relief for her legs and back, and willed her feet to push just a little longer.

Then she saw the figure in the trail.

A lone shadow, dressed in armor and full helm. She saw it seated in the center of the path, a hunched thing. A spear and sword sat on the earth nearby.

With no more than a glimpse her hands reached to the web of belts across her vest, freeing a pair of the Shakri fastened there. The inward curved knives – half cutting tool, half hatchet - were descended from the throwing blades of the ancient knights of Tiranoc, who could wield the blades with deadly purpose from the backs of speeding chariots. And each sat comfortably in the grooves and calluses of the palms of her hands. Pain forgotten, or forced into the dark, reptilian corners of her mind, she made herself approach the figure slowly and carefully.

The distance closed to a dozen feet; she could see the white lacquer of the armor. A tall kite shield sat at the back blazoned with the heraldry of the rearing ram. A warm relief built in her stomach. She returned the knives to their sheathes and moved closer.

“Citizen!” she greeted. “What brings you here? Are you with the town garrison? Where are the fellows of your patrol?” Questions fell from her tongue.

The head turned revealing a youthful face, with alabaster skin unmarred by sun or weather. The dark eyes stared at her blankly. “Gone. All gone,” the young elf said quietly.

“Gone?” she said sharply. “Gone where?” A fear filled with knowing trickled down her spine even as she uttered the question.

The blank stare continued. Then the boy elf spoke:

“Gone. Dead. Screaming. The blood! The blood upon the brambles!! The screams!! Oh, Isha the screams as they died!!!”

“Where? How?” she challenged as she stood over him.

“Oh, gods!!! And I hid in the bushes. Hid under the log. Oh gods!! I watched as they were held down and cut into, over and over. Heads stacked at the roadside, eyes twitching with sight!! Oh gods, please make me not see!!! Please Isha take this sight away from me!”

She closed her eyes in pain and weariness. “The Druchii,” she muttered to herself, and winced at the word. The raiders she had been following for a day and a half. She had feared…. But to attack a full patrol?

She shook her head. “This is no raid. This is a war party!” She looked around at the forest, half expecting to see leering white faces waiting in the trees. Nothing. There was nothing there, but snow and shadow. She shook her head again. “If they have landed in force we must warn the town! Send word to the castle garrison!”

A day’s ride to the south, but the closest force of any size in these desolate mountains. But if the Dark Elves had come in force…it was their only hope.

She looked down. The young soldier still hadn’t moved. “Get up. We have to hurry.”

“Oh gods….” The boy whispered. “The blood. The eyes. The eyes staring. Moving!! Oh gods!”

He continued to mumble to himself. She stared down. She couldn’t just leave him here to freeze in the coming night’s snow. And she may need the help to reach the village in time. Two may bring word should one fall. She made a decision. Quickly she balled her right hand into a fist, and sent a sharp jab across the boy’s face. Not hard, but not soft either. The youth’s head snapped backwards, and a sliver of blood spilt from his nose. He blinked at her.

“The White Doves?” the boy croaked, staring at her cloak pin. A light of comprehension was coming to his eyes.

“Warden?” he tried again, voice hesitant, now though for the first time meeting her look.

“Yes,” she answered. “Now stand. Soldiers of Ulthuan do not sit in the dirt! Stand tall citizen. You made vows to Tiranoc and the Phoenix throne! And today,” she said calmly, once more her eyes scanning the forest about the trail, “today you will have the chance to make good those vows….”


***


Last edited by Headshot on Tue Nov 04, 2014 3:27 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2014 10:00 pm 
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Tracking Druchii raiders on her own with naught but a pair of knives.. And a jab with her right... I think I like this south paw maiden already lol

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 04, 2014 9:55 am 
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Agreed, it's shaping to be a great story. With again a lovely female lead character in it.

@Headshot: Your information was enough to find it. It was indeed a bit an unimaginative title, given that "the Shadow Prince" return 1600+ results ;) Only one headshot around though. And you are on the first page of the list of results. :)

Of course, I would have preferred a real paperback book instead of this new digital stuff. A book is something you should be able to put on a shelf somewhere. But the possible appearance of a certain colonial lord sold it for me. I'll definitely be getting myself a copy. Of course, if you are interested, I could even let you know what I think of it. You were a bit cautious with your page estimate (if such a thing as a page actually still exists). At least according to Amazon, you've put out around 750 of them...

Rod

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Eirik wrote:
Please try to remember that, no matter how 'official' the source seems, rumours are basically just a dictionary combined with a random number generator

For Nagarythe: Come to the dark side.
PS: Bring cookies!

Check out my plog
Painting progress, done/in progress/in box: 167/33/91


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 04, 2014 5:20 pm 
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@Larose

Yes, we all know the type of lady you fancy! Word is around here that Master Larose doesn't call it a 'good date'... until he is spitting teeth. :P

Good to see you, old scribe! :)

@Rod

Oops! Yeah, even after subdividing the story into parts things got a little out of control. :oops: Thats one of the reasons why I didn't just post the thing here gratis.

That and the Everqueen wants new shoes….

@Avarael

Thanks for the welcome! And it is good to be back. :D


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 04, 2014 8:04 pm 
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So you are back... great news! I am a bit late to the party, it would seem, but it is common occurrence these days. Welcome back. I'll see about Everqueen's 'new shoes' tax fee. ;)

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 05, 2014 1:22 pm 
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Headshot wrote:
@Larose

Yes, we all know the type of lady you fancy! Word is around here that Master Larose doesn't call it a 'good date'... until he is spitting teeth. :P

headshot



Hahah I've never been the same since I was kidnapped in the dead of night by your shadow friends . Though this new title of 'master' is news to me lol 8)

Glad to see you writing again.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2014 5:38 pm 
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@Aicanor

Good to see the Princess of Irian is still around to keep the boys in line. :D

Speaking of which….


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2014 5:39 pm 
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Part 2 continued –


“Is that who I think it is?!”

Alvan was once again behind him. The youth’s eyes were fixed on the courtyard below and the red robed figure standing there. Benn shifted his own gaze that way, taking in the sight and spectacle as more honor guard formed up around the arriving dignitaries and the Yvressi minstrels began a new air.

To his surprise though, she answered before he could. “Yes, that is the Prince of Spires…. Our newest provost.”

Alvan made a whistle of appreciation.

“Strange, isn’t it,” Kayt commented from his position relaxedly leaning over the rail.

“What is?” Benn asked.

Kayt made an equally relaxed gesture with his shoulders. (The youth oozed calm and control. Benn felt a stab of jealousy and wondered what it would have been like to grow up in the silken tent cities of Ellyrion, learning to ride before he walked, and hunting game with falcons on the wrist….) Then turning to look at them, Kayt said, “Just that some lord - a colonial one at that - of no great magical talent…should be elected to serve among the elder Twenty-Three of Hoeth, as a Loremaster of the Tower…. I call that strange.”

Benn frowned as he watched the topic of conversation enter the main hall. Beneath the high-necked scarlet mantle, the elf lord wore mail of glimmering silver, and upon his breast hung many rich chains of gold and other precious metals, most of which carried the emblems of various societies and orders. However, upon the elf’s brow sat only a simple band of lustrous red metal. As Benn leaned over to take a closer look, what at first he thought to be copper or lacquered bronze, turned out to be the rarest of minerals – ithilmar! Crimson ithilmar sat upon the elf’s brow! And slight though it may be, that few grams of metal was worth a fortune, so rare it was! Why maybe enough to buy a palace rivaling the one they now stood within….

“I heard that it was the influence of Tor Irian that secured the position,” Lysyl said in a husky whisper, nodding towards where the Sapheri princess walked some few paces ahead of the colonial lord. The high-born lady’s back was straight, and her head held high and regally, as she nodded to acquaintances and well-wishers alike.

“And isn’t it strange how much Irian has benefited since entering trade agreements with the City of Spires,” Kayt commented dryly. “Supposedly the coffers of the Rainbow Palace are full to bursting with silver thanks to a new trade in ithilmar. My father tells me that the stonemason’s hammer swings day and night in Tor Irian these days, adding new wings and grand halls to the great keeps there. And many of our own steeds, white as the snow on the Annulis, have boarded ship to cross the Dusk and Dreams to wind up supping in Sapheri meadows.”

With a glance at the blonde beauty beside him, Benn hastened to say, “There are worse things than living in Saphery.”

“Indeed there are. Like spending one’s practical in the Shadowlands,” Kayt answered with a smirk and a twinkle in his eye. “Among savages and cannibals! Which you will have to tell us about sometime, fairest of senior students.” A bawdy wink followed in the direction of the girl standing next to Benn.

Benn flushed and scowled and his brain went into a fever as he tried to conjure the most appropriate response. She never talked about her practical. Not even to him. He had to steer the conversation away….

“I heard tell otherwise,” Justine mused aloud, her voice rich like amber. Benn looked over and could see the girl’s calculating gaze upon the colonial lord below. “I heard that certain….substances…were provided to the lords of the Tower.” Her voice lowered. “Rare spices and herbs from the jungles of Ind. The kind much sought after by the devotees of Pleasure.” Her voice lowered even further. “The kind forbidden by the Crown.”

Benn swallowed at that and visions of smoke-filled subterranean rooms filled with exotic foreign hookah pipes, gurgling with water in glass bellies, and an acrid taste to the air, swam into his mind. Pleasure cultists performing their carnal sacrifices before the new moon, masked and robed, writhing in positions of ecstasy. Such, at least was the legend among the pupils at the Tower; their stories of the old days, when the Cult of Pleasure was widespread throughout the Ten Kingdoms. But everyone knows that those days are passed, and Ulthuan was a more virtuous – and chaste! – place now.

At least, he thought so.

“Hmmmm… I met him once, you know,” the girl at his side said thoughtfully. “The Prince of Spires.”

Ben was surprised; as were the others. Lysyl didn’t even attempt to hide the skepticism in her voice. “Truly?” she asked.

“Yes,” the girl nodded. “Long ago. Though I did not speak to him in person. I saw him from a distance. Shaking the hand of…someone.” She finished vaguely.

“Well, I still don’t understand why you lot won’t admit the knights of Caledor are the finest warriors among the Asur!” Alvan was at it again. He was like a Cothique terrier – once he seized on something he would gnaw and shake it and refuse to let it go. The others in the little group were already moaning and rolling eyes.

“Isha’s Tears, Alvan!” Kayt said with a laugh. “Have you seen a Chracian hillsman up close? They are mountains! Mountains, I say!! I certainly wouldn’t want to meet one in a darkened corner of the library some night.”

“Asuryan’s Chosen.” Lysyl said with a grimace. “Or the Guards of the Tower. Their skill with the blade is unmatched….”

Benn’s attention was drifting already as his comrades argued. He could see that the Sapheri girl next to him as well was disinterested in a pointed debate of the merits of the warriors of Ulthuan. She was pushing her way through the crowd and along the balcony, to get a better vantage of the thrones below. He moved to follow, and soon heard the bickering behind him doing likewise. The girl had stopped and he could see that the two high-borns, lord and lady, had arrived before the thrones below and were exchanging pleasantries with their hosts. There was a polite, if distant feel to much of the exchange, and at its conclusion, Benn noticed, that the Princess Aicanor went one way, while the Prince of Spires another, both surrounded by their personal attendants.

I wonder what that means…?

But Prince Elessehta was standing now, and the minstrels had abruptly ceased their play. The murmur among the thronging crowds died down.

“Lords!! Ladies!! NO…. Friends!!!” the Yvressi prince called out to those assembled. His eyes warm, and a relaxed smile on his face. “For that is what we all are this Eve! I…We… thank you for coming so far to share in our joyous news. Truly, and most heartfelt, I thank you. And it moves me deeply to know that Yvresse still has so many friends among our distant kin.” He smiled at the dark haired maiden seated beside him, who beamed back. “And now, as the last of our honored guests have arrived, and, as is the custom, you will appreciate that I lay off the courtly words…” A welcome laughter spread through the hall and galleries. “And ask that you all partake of the fruits that Tor Yvresse has to offer, and break your fasts with us this evening, to celebrate the pending union between my House and that of Lady Nevernili.”

A roaring sound of applause rang out among the onlookers. Benn joined in, so infectious was the Prince’s obvious happiness. The Prince below looked surprised and then moved, and bowed deeply to the onlookers. It may have been a trick of the light, but he thought that the Prince even bowed to the galleries above. Servants, with platters filled to the rim with wineglasses, appeared throughout the hall and galleries. Benn accepted two glasses; passing one to the maiden beside him.

As the applause died down, the Lady Nevernili stood up and laid a gentle hand upon the arm of her fiancé.

“My lord perhaps forgets the solitary obligation we have before the feasting commences. As is custom,” she said with a smile.

“No, though I had hoped that you might have,” he answered with a smile and a laugh. Looking to the crowds around, he shouted, “But first, the Betrothal Dance!!”

More applause and the minstrels began to play a slow melody from Avelorn many millennia before. Hand extended to the lady at this side, who took it, the Prince proceeded down the steps of the dais to the clear marble floor and the two began a solitary dance while the onlookers – all the many hundreds of them – watched and admired.

“I am glad things worked out for them,” the Sapheri girl beside him whispered. “I knew Nevernili too. Before. She has the sweetest of hearts.”

More surprises! Benn looked to the elf maiden that he had been thinking of as ‘his’ for the better part of the year, with more questions forming on his lips.

But Alvan was at it again. In a gruff whisper, “I am just saying that there is no more terrifying sight then….”

The youth’s words were slowing as he spoke them, gradually coming out in a broken staccato, one word at a time. Benn turned to find out why, and saw that a commotion had broken out in the courtyard at the end of the hall. Pikes and halberds were being waved above the milling attendants and guardsmen that filled the outer yard. There was a rustle and exchange of raised voices. Something was afoot!

And then there was a cry, and one of the guards outside went sprawling. The music abruptly stopped, and Prince Elessehta and his bride to be froze their eyes turned towards the courtyard.

“Peace!!” the Prince called. “There is to be no bickering on this, most blessed of nights! All who come here are welcome in friendship and open arms! If they bring friendship in their hearts…. Let whomever pass!”

The guards withdrew, though Benn could see the pikes and bladed hafts were still raised at the ready. And an alley was formed between the armored warriors.

And out of it…a figure was emerging.

“By all the gods!” Alvan gasped.

Benn could just make out the figure as it passed among the guards, out of the courtyard and into the hallway below. He saw a tall lanky figure dressed in faded wools of black and brown. A cloak, long and tattered, was wrapped about narrow shoulders, that were hunched forward as the elf – creature? – strode purposefully down the hall, head ducked and eyes on the ground as if pushing its way through a tide. The face of whatever the newcomer was was concealed from view: completely covered in a mask of wrought metal, with only eye-slits open to the world. And under the cloak, Benn could see the ends of a white longbow protruding. Knives and blades of all sizes and description were affixed to the thing’s chest, back and legs. Including a pair of long swords that crossed its back. Even the rugged boots the figure wore sprouted the pommels of knives from their worn collars. The very cloak at the creature’s back seemed to twist and gleam as it walked. Benn leaned forward to get a better view as the figure passed below. There was something…wrong… about the cloak. A rustling to it, like the scales of a lizard. And then he saw: along the back of the cloak lay long rows of the scales of some sea beast. Each scale individual and unique, stitched into the material with a single thick leather thread…as if affixed there as trophies. And along the front of the cloak, another line of glistening points. Curved white fangs, as long as his hand, glistened in the firelight. A half dozen or more ran down the leather strap across the newcomer’s chest.

“By the gods! Are those…hydra’s fangs?” Lysyl whispered.

And then the figure had stopped before the couple beneath the dais. Benn could see that dozens of Yvressi guards had followed the newcomer and spread out around and behind it. Each guard’s eyes fixed upon the ragged creature… with a hand upon spear haft or sword hilt.

The figure reached up slowly and removed the helm from about its head. From his vantage point near directly overhead, all Benn could see was a narrow strip of braided black hair ending in a long dangling queue.

And a bit of ear. It was long and delicately pointed as all the children of Isha’s were. Except this one was deformed, somehow. Then he realized: the ear was missing its tip.

The figure cleared its throat. And then announced to the hall:

“I am Narrin’Tim, Shadow Warrior of the Host of Nagarythe!”

The sound of shattering glass jolted the silence of the balcony. Benn started and turned to his side. The girl next to him had dropped her wineglass. It lay in fragments upon the stone floor at her feet. Her face was as white as if she had just seen a ghost.

He frowned, the strange newcomer all but forgotten. Turning to the girl, he took her arm, and said:

“What is it? What’s wrong Annalyth??!”

She didn’t look at him, and just moaned:

“Oh no!”


***


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 1:38 am 
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Oh snap! It's going down now.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 7:50 am 
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There may be some discussion over who are the finest warriors in Ulthuan. But as far as being the best at making an entrance, there is no discussion over who makes the most impressive.

Rod

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 08, 2014 10:54 pm 
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Prince of Spires wrote:
There may be some discussion over who are the finest warriors in Ulthuan. But as far as being the best at making an entrance, there is no discussion over who makes the most impressive.

Rod

Most impressive or most intriquing? You know, that diamond encrusted ... codpiece... #-o:lol:
But did I see well, Malossar is selling his army as we speak? :shock:

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2014 3:28 am 
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I'm still around! Was at a tournament all weekend and missed the star.

Great start to the story it's good to have you back. UB game before you vanish again?

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2014 5:16 pm 
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Part 3 –


Night had fallen and the snow flurries were continuing unabated. The twin moons shone silver and lavender through a thick curtain of clouds, giving the wood a somber hazy gloom between the long pools of black shadows.

A perfect night for an ambush.

She stopped. Immediately the burn in her legs and lower back swelled and made her body throb with the ache of it. She tried her best to ignore the needles that seemed to be stabbing into the base of her spine and scanned the darkened forest before her.

“Why do we stop?” the young soldier asked, already winded from the run, even though it had been less than half an hour. (Of course he wore the armor and carried the shield and spear of the Citizen Levy of Ulthuan, so perhaps she shouldn’t be so harsh in her judgment.)

“I’m trying to decide our course,” she said evenly, one hand gripping and releasing the handle of a Shakri on her vest: a nervous twitch, but the tightening muscles helped to focus her. After a moment:

“This trail bends down and joins with the Low Road, correct? And is the shortest route to town,” she said.

“Yes, Warden,” he nodded, now standing beside her, his eyes as well probing the gloomy tunnel of a well-worn game trail before them. “If we can get to the Low Road it will only be a few minutes run to the outskirts of the village. Maybe twenty or thirty minutes from here. At our pace.”

That was specific, she thought. The boy must be local – a citizen soldier drafted by Lord Fellanon to protect his dominion of the north. And not a levy from one of Tiranoc’s merchant cities of the temperate plains to the south. Local knowledge was always useful, and despite her experience and training, she would be foolish to ignore it.

And yet….

“Where was your patrol attacked?”

The boy swallowed, and his face turned a sickly green in the moonlight. “In the forests near the Low Road,” he managed to answer.

They were watching the Low Road then. That could be the only conclusion. Which meant that a large party of Druchii lay in ambush somewhere between where she now stood and the town that was her goal. But how large a party? Large enough to annihilate an entire patrol of Asur warriors. But, were they still there? Perhaps they had moved on to join with the rest of their force? But could she be sure of that? Perhaps they had been placed there to watch the road while the rest of the force attacked the town, making sure no reinforcements arrived, and no fleeing villagers escaped the slaver’s collar. If that were the case, they would not move until it was too late, and the village was in ashes!

She swore and spit on the ground and suddenly felt all of her five centuries in the marrow of her bones. Tired and brittle.

But there was no time for that. “We will have to leave the trail, cut across the forest, and move as stealthily as possible,” she considered aloud.

The boy looked at her and blinked, and shook his head. “It wouldn’t matter, Warden. Even if we go through the forest, we still would need to make for the Low Road,” he said, his face drawn and fearful. “The Thaenulli Rapids run through this forest. She is fierce white water for a league or more until passing into the sea below! The Low Road has a bridge….”

Of course! She grimaced to herself. She was stupid to forget! She had passed the Rapids not a fortnight ago. These mountains were not a customary part of her patrol – she had been sent here at a Seeker’s whim – and yet she knew the maps, and had visited the region more than once in her long life. She put a hand to her face, and pinched the bridge of her nose. She had to admit it: the exhaustion was beginning to affect her judgment. Asuryan be praised that she had found the boy! Otherwise she would be floundering along the edge of the Rapids right now. Or worse - running headlong and oblivious into a Druchii ambush….

She took a deep breath and tried to discipline her thinking. She reached inside for the training she had received so many centuries before, steadying her heart and her lungs. Willing the air to pass slowly down her throat and then back out her mouth again. Letting the pain of her exhausted muscles not distract her, but remind her of the life that was Asuryan’s gift…. The pain tells us that we yet live, her old instructor had once said. And while we yet live, there is hope.

Her eyes snapped open. “The Lattice,” she said.

“The Moon Lattice?” the boy said in surprise. “But it’s up the mountain! Further from the town!”

“Yes, but it bridges the Thaenulli.”

The young soldier nodded thoughtfully. “There is a trail on the other side too. A little known one. It leads to the back part of the town, and the old ward gate. Only young lovers use that,” the boy murmured and then suddenly blushed. He hurried to finish, “To make secret rendezvous at the Lattice outside of parent’s vision.”

A little used trail and a lovers’ gate. But an approach to the town well away from the main road, and the Druchii ambush. It would have to do.

“How far?” she asked.

The boy sucked on his teeth and looked up at the moon-glow in the clouds overhead. “We have to cut east through the trees and join up with the old Stone Trail above us to get there from here. Maybe…. Thirty minutes,” he answered after a moment.

So much time lost! But there seemed to be no other choice. Without another word she turned aside into the forest and began climbing again, every ounce of her body shrieking in exhaustion.

Yet all she could think about was the quiet little town, with its tree-lined avenues and high peaked little houses. She hoped that it remained the same rustic hamlet she remembered passing through a fortnight ago.

And hadn’t yet been transformed by the fires of war….


***


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Part 3 continued –


The Yvressi prince quickly regained his composure.

“You are well met, Shadow Warrior…. Narrin’Tim, you said?” Elessehta said, a relaxed smile on his face. He glanced to his bride to be. “Frankly,” he continued, “We had wondered if our missive had reached Nagarythe….”

Benn tried to shift his attention between the drama that unfolded below and that at his shoulder. Annalyth was standing frozen still, not speaking, eyes fixed on the proceedings, oblivious to the people nearby muttering and looking at the mess she had made on the marble floor. Yet suddenly there was a cry of delight, and with a rapidity the Prince’s betrothed moved from her position next to her fiancé and swept the strange newcomer into an embrace.

“Tim! Oh Tim! It has been so long!”

The Yvressi noblewoman stepped back from the strange warrior and held his shoulders.

“You…. Oh Tim, the years have not been kind….”

Her face was not unkind as she said this and stared into the warrior’s face; there was sadness and concern in her eyes. As the strange warrior turned his head Benn could see something of what the maiden meant: it wasn’t just the cleft ear - the warrior’s face was a mishmash of scars. The very nose at the center of his visage was twisted crooked and the eyebrows and cheeks were crisscrossed with fine white scars. Across his chin was a gash, still pink and fresh and bristling with stitches.

But under all that the warrior still possessed something of a youthful face. He returned the Yvressi lady’s words with a small, sad smile.

“I am sorry, Nevernili. I have been…busy. In the north,” he said in a quiet voice that just reached Benn’s ears.

Prince Elessheta came forward. “This is the one you told me about? Then truly are you welcome in my home, Narrin’Tim. You protected that which is most precious to me, and that is not something that I will ever forget,” the Prince said soberly.

He gripped the newcomer’s hand. “But come, what is the word from the North? What becomes of the missive we sent those months past? I take it by your presence that the eagle reached fair Nagarythe?”

‘Fair Nagarythe’? Benn thought and was surprised. He had never heard anyone say such a thing. The ‘Shadowlands’ was what it was called, when it was spoken of at all. And everyone agreed that it was a desolate place, broken and filled with haunted ruins, populated by monsters and elves turned feral. Of course, he had never been there himself – having grown up in a place as far away from the Shadowlands and still be called Ulthuan - but still, all the tales agreed…there was no such thing as ‘fair Nagarythe’.

There was a commotion in the crowd of onlookers below and Prince Malossar of Caledor had once more pushed his way to the fore.

“Yes, I would know this too. Is he coming?” the Caledorian lord barked. “I would have words with that sallow-skinned bastard.”

Benn could see a wince upon Prince Elessehta’s face, quickly smoothed over and placid once more.

“What Lord Malossar is trying to say, is that we have long wondered at the silence to our invitation. We had hoped for some word from the north….”

The strange newcomer stepped back and straightened his appearance. “Yes, I come bearing a message from my prince,” he began earnestly. Clearing his throat,

“The Shadow Prince said,” the young warrior spoke, and his face scrunched up under a furrowed brow like a first year at the Tower doing their recitations. “He said, ummmm, to congratulate you on your….ummm…pending nupp-chills, Prince Elessehta and Lady Nevernili.”

Amused chuckles rang out through the hall as the newcomer struggled with his words. The furrow in the brow deepened, and the newcomer rushed to continue, “But that he regrets that…ummm….matters in Nagarythe…do not allow him to attend.”

“WHAT?!!” Malossar roared, and looked ready to shout a whole lot more, his face was so red and filled with fury. But without another word the Caledorian lord turn and stomp off into the crowed; the people nearest giving the scowling elf a wide berth.

“Of course,” Prince Elessehta said smoothly, “we are saddened by this news. But you are welcome in our halls Narrin’Tim. And we hope that you will share in our revels and break your fast among us.” Turning, he called, “Minstrels! Please take up your airs once more. Let us be merry this eve!” And after a stunned second or two, the hall was once more filled with gay tunes from flute and harp.


***


“Well, well… A Shadowlander as I live and breathe,” Kayt said from beside him. “That is something not seen every day.”

“He looks cruel….” Alvan commented from his shoulder. “Almost like a…. well, almost like a Dark Elf,” he finished with a shudder.

“Look at that hair!” Justine added with mirth, pointing to the warrior’s shaved scalp below. “By all the Gods, should the Asur shear themselves like the wild things of the forests of the colonies!”

“More like sheep before the wool market,” Kayt added with a smirk.

Lysyl stamped her foot upon the ground. “Well I just think it is awful! Awful! Awfully rude that this northern prince….”

“He called him the ‘Shadow Prince’,” Kayt said, still with a smirk on his face. “Bit ostentatious that.”

“The Shadow Prince of the Shadowlands. More intimidating really,” Alvan commented. “What a strange title.”

Justine laughed. “Perhaps they cannot afford proper titles in Nagarythe.”

Lysyl was stamping her foot again. She was a small elf and did not like being ignored. “I was saying that I think it immensely rude of this…northern princeling…to send some…underling!...to Prince Elessehta’s betrothal party! Why, this is the event of the season. Maybe the century! All the lord’s are gathered here! Even from the Phoenix court! What could be so important in the north as to preclude attendance! And give such offense! I am certain that Prince Elessehta is acting more graciously than he should!”

“Maybe it is tuber harvesting season in the caves of Nagarythe,” Kayt said and Justine laughed. “Perhaps that is the pressing matter beyond the Annulis.”

“I don’t know,” Alvan said slowly. “What do you think, Annalyth? You’ve been there. Hey, where is Annalyth?”

Benn turned to the place she had stood just a minute ago, to find only a servant sweeping up the glass.

She was gone!


***


The Moon Lattice. Built over a thousand years before in the reign of Aethis, the Poet King, the lattice fronted the Falls of the Thaenulli, from the raging cataracts at its base to the precipitous drop from the mountain plateau a near thousand feet above. Designed by Orillian, Star Seer and Light Craftsmen extraordinaire, the Lattice was built of carefully shaped living wood, flaxen and twine, and moonlight wrought silver, through some lost craft of Vaul. The many ropeways and supports, paths and threaded columns, crisscrossed across the face of the Falls, in such a way that the entire mountain seemed to be covered by a single giant spider’s web. Locals had hung glowlamps upon the Lattice, and from a distance they gave the appearance of tiny glistening green dewdrops upon a massive silver web.

It was one of the miracles of Tiranoc: called a Wonder of the North, proudly held by the people of the Tirani as a monument to beauty. And, on any other eve, would be a sight to admire and contemplate; perhaps with a glass of mulled wine, or a warm cup of the eastern herbal drinks, in hand, and a thick blanket of fox fur wrapped about the shoulders.

But tonight her eyes only sought the pathway across the Lattice.

The silver moon had slipped into a gap among the snow-spitting clouds, filling the night with its luminosity. The Lattice positively gleamed in the light, sparkling and shimmering like the faerie work it surely was. But the boy beside her only grunted and said, “There it is. Just there. Up that walkway.” He was curt and near breathless, panting as he sweated and struggled under the weight of his armor.

She reached the walkway, fronted by a pair of the glowlamps. Emerald light surrounded her, turning the night into an unearthly witchfire as the moon once again disappeared behind the clouds. She could hear the rumble of the cataracts far below; feel their violence in her toes as she stepped out upon the wooden path. And yet, the night somehow managed to remain oddly still and quiet.

She moved forward carefully, but at a ground-eating lope, thoughts drifting to the helpless village below. Soon she was among the ropes and beams of shimmering light that was the Lattice, everything sunken into an almost dream vision of dark and light. The supports of the Lattice were in the shadows, a phosphorescent presence that somehow lingered just out of normal vision, punctuated every score of paces by a pool of the green witchlight. Her hand and the face of her companion would appear out of a dark reverie at those moments, looking pallid and distant. And the mist from the cataracts filled the spaces in between; a gloomy, thick stew of dark fog, swirling, and spraying cold water across face and cloak. At such times her other senses strained to speak to her: she heard the creak of the wood and rope. The rushing sound of the water crashing down the mountain face in the gloom to her left. The distant call of the night owls in the pines beyond….

She passed into another pool of emerald light. The mists were shifting before her. Grey shadows, merging and breaking apart in the eerie light. Until… . One of the shadows began to come together in the heart of the mist. An outline in black…of a steed and rider!

The boy saw it too. “A rider! Must be from the town. Or another patrol! They can carry our message for us!” Relief and joy filled his voice.

“Wait!” she hissed, her arm reaching to her side and pushing the boy back. There it was! That sound! Not the clip-clop of shod hooves upon the wooden path, but a harsh click and scratch. Click and scratch, as something was dragged across the wood….

“Oh no,” she gasped. She pushed at the boy and whispered hoarsely, “Run!” He only stared back blankly.

Click-scratch. Click-scratch. And the rider was taking form from out of the mist. She saw the lipless grin first. The jaws filled with reptilian fangs, bristling and grinning like a saw-toothed skull. Above them the snorting nostrils and scaled jowls. To be followed by two pairs of small, almost piggish black eyes. A snort of hot mist, and the click-scratch as a foot, with a hideously extended claw, reached forward out of the mist setting down upon the pathway before it. The wood groaned at the weight, and the long killing-claw set down next tearing into the planks with a rasping scratching sound.

“Run!” she whispered again, shoving.

The rider was now in view. Curved shoulders bent over the neck of the massive reptile. She saw the helm, adorned with a tall horse-hair crest, a plume that hung down and low across the armored pauldrons. And along the edge of the helm, a series of bladed horns ran up the sides, ending in a pair of flanged sabre-like crescents that jutted out and upwards from just above the eye slits. Below that she saw the wearer’s visage – a T section of eyes and mouth – just enough to see a cadaverous countenance, drawn and tired, with cheekbones high and angular, stretching the face tight. The eyes within the helm were upon her, watching her blankly.

“Warden,” the rider greeted. The voice was dead of all emotion.

Her hands leapt to the Shakri upon her vest. The rider did not seem concerned. Her eyes darted about. More figures were emerging from the mist behind the rider spreading out across the walkway. Warriors on foot. She saw the curved sabers in their hands, the hooded capes covering their masked heads. There was a creak above her. She looked up: shadowy figures moved among the pathways in the darkness overhead. One stopped and leaned forward into the light: she saw a woman’s face. A beautiful elf maiden with fine brows, and long lustrous hair. The eyes were almond shaped and clear, set among a visage that would be admired in the paintings of Sapheri….

Then the woman smiled. Teeth, each one filed to dagger points, shone out of that curvaceous mouth. A tongue, red and blood gorged, gently protruded running along the edge of the fangs until red crimson flowed out and over lips and jaw.

More shadows were crawling upon the rafters below. They were surrounded! Her heart beat in her chest like a caged bird. She pushed back against the boy behind her. “Run! Back the way we came!” She felt the boy’s kite shield jam up and under her hip, bringing her to an abrupt halt.

The rider was bringing forth a repeater crossbow.

Her arm lashed out and the Shakri flew forward in a horizontal curve out and towards the knight’s throat. Her teeth bared she readied the next.

She saw the blade twirling, true, in the green light. The weight of its broad head bringing it about and around in a deadly spinning circle of razor edges.

Only to stop with a metallic clang on the rider’s raised shield. The blade fell to the walkway and lay still.

The crossbow was leveled now. She could see the black tipped barb set in its groove, pointed straight towards her eyes. She saw the finger press upon the weapon’s release.

And thoughts flashed through her mind like lightning. She could drop and roll to the side. The walkway was just barely wide enough for four to walk abreast, and there was the deadly plummet waiting at its edges. But if she time it just right, then the barb would pass overhead, and…

Bury itself into the boy standing behind her, frozen in fear and shock. And he would die. The hardened steel of the Druchii tip would pass through his mail like a needle through cloth….

And at that moment a decision was made. Strange….she had spoken to the boy of fulfilling vows to Ulthuan. To Tiranoc…. But it looks like she spoke wrong.

Today was hers. Her chance to finally fulfill the vow she had made centuries before.

“Run!” she whispered one last time, with forlorn hope.

She saw the finger finish compressing the trigger mechanism. Saw the curved crossbars release with a snap and wrench of metal on wood. Saw the barb leap out from the weapon like a viper’s strike. Looming large in her vision….

Her eyes squeezed shut.

The walkway shook. Or perhaps it was the earth?

And…

Nothing. She felt nothing.

Her eyes flickered open.

She saw the black steel barb, hanging there in space, just a few finger-breaths from the bridge of her nose. The deadly tip, unmoving, as if set in stone.

She blinked and her gaze widened. There was someone beside her. A tall figure, dressed in a tattered black cloak, drifting lazily in the breeze.

And an arm was extended out to its side…ending in a gloved hand…. Wrapped about the center of the crossbow bolt!

And upon the arm she saw armored rings of blackened steel, banded by a circlet of gold….



***






Hehe…. :D


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 13, 2014 12:03 am 
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This is getting quite dark my old friend.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 13, 2014 7:43 am 
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As said, they certainly know how to make an entrance...

I see a couple of dead dark elves in the near future

Rod

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 13, 2014 8:54 am 
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Wild things of the forests of the colonies? I think I preferred when the Asrai were referred to as deliciously tribal.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 13, 2014 4:43 pm 
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Boy Get yourself together!! Rookies! #-o almost getting my maiden slain at the hands of the Druchii! [-X but I must say that was an excellent entrance by the shadow prince... :D

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 13, 2014 5:06 pm 
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Larose wrote:
Boy Get yourself together!! Rookies! #-o almost getting my maiden slain at the hands of the Druchii! [-X but I must say that was an excellent entrance by the shadow prince... :D



He had mine commit suicide.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 13, 2014 6:49 pm 
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Malossar wrote:
This is getting quite dark my old friend.


Hey! They don't call 'em the 'chipper elves of cozy fluorescence'!

That and its the 'prelude to an end'. I've been putting off telling this tale for some time now. Not looking forward to it. :(

Incidentally, thanks for loaning me your 'special dice'. Its great to be able to roll a 6 whenever the Shadow Prince needs one…. :D

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they certainly know how to make an entrance


Tada!!

(Gift of dramatic timing. A distinctly Nagarathi virtue. :wink: )


@Vali

"The primary thing when you take a sword in your hands is your intention to cut the enemy, whatever the means. Whenever you parry, hit, spring, strike or touch the enemy's cutting sword, you must cut the enemy in the same movement. It is essential to attain this. If you think only of hitting, springing, striking or touching the enemy, you will not be able actually to cut him."

Larose wrote:
Rookies!


Damn rooks….

Malossar wrote:
He had mine commit suicide.


In the words of my dear old dad:

'Suck it up.'

(And I poisoned you and cut out your eye! Trying to steal Annalyth away!! Grrrr…. That'll learn ya!)



Love ya, Cal! :D

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2014 9:11 pm 
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Part 4 –


“It all depends on the meaning of being noble,” Lysyl declared. “I mean,” she added after a moment’s reflection, “what makes a noble a noble?”

Alvan scratched his chin absentmindedly. “Dunno. I always just assumed it was because they had the silver. Those with the silver get to lord it over us poor common folk. You count the coin and that’s the difference between lord and commoner,” he finished with a shrug.

“Not in Ellyrion,” Kayt corrected with a chuckle. “There you count the horses. Stallions to be specific. There’s even a ceremony held every five years just for that purpose.” The others looked at him curiously. “Yes, it’s all quite mathematical. An elf that holds a pasture with a hundred stallions is declare ‘hetmyn’…it’s like a Sapheri ‘Baron’, the lowest of the ruling houses. And from there it is marked in multiples in ten. All the way up to a holder of ten thousand stallions being declared ‘Aylith’Khann’, a Grand Prince,” he explained with a smile and a spread of the fingers. “And during the Counting there is much concern if your herd is going to increase to just beyond that magical multiple of ten, and grant one a new title, or decrease, and lower your standing. It’s like an anxiety attack every five years!” He laughed. “My father has passed from hetmyn and back again more times than I can count! All at the proclivities of our stallions.” He shook his head and wiped at his eyes. “But such is our way.”

“So odd,” Alvan said with a shake of his head. “Still it proves my point: those with more silver – or horses – are declared ‘noble’ because of their wealth and influence. And they get to rule over the rest.”

“That is sounding awfully seditious,” Justine commented with a sweet smile but probing eyes. “You aren’t a member of one of those ‘reformist factions’ in Hoeth, are you Alvan. Those have been declared illegal by the Phoenix, you know.”

“No, of course not!” Alvan quickly protested, a bit of sweat now on his brow. “I’m just saying that it is a natural situation. Like the tides or the seasons.” He wrung his hands and huffed. “Look at all of the benefits of having wealth. Silver can guarantee one’s children the best education, and tutors when they need them. They can provide for a larger, safer, healthier home. Defended against attack. Better food and crops in trade, so a more healthy nurturing for the young. Why is it any wonder that over the generations the families of the nobles become more powerful of body and mind than the commoners? They are cultivated, like a prized orchard – nurtured in the best soil and loam – but in our case that of being upbringing and education!”

“They certainly seem to be quite…well endowed,” Justine remarked appreciatively, her eyes lingering on the face of the Caledorian dragon lord below. (At least Benn hoped it was his face.)

“Yes, and silver can get one all of that. Education, experience through travel, the best opportunities in guild and apprenticeship…. And horses can get that too!” Alvan said eyeing Kayt. Then brow furrowed, “Ok, forget the horses.”

Kayt gave a melodramatic sigh. “Sometimes, my friend, I wish I could.”

“What about ability? Not all that come to the Tower are from Great Houses,” Benn interjected.

Truth be told, he was only listening with half an ear. Mostly he was busily craning his neck about trying to find the missing Saphery girl. There was still no sign of her. And he had already been to the entrance of the Maiden’s Lounge twice. (He worried if he loitered there any further that people would begin to think he was some kind of Pleasure deviant!)

“I’m talking about life opportunities!” Alvan replied huffily. “Ability is all well and good, but the wealthy have more opportunities to both cultivate ability, and to express it! Look, if a first year student is struggling at the Tower, they are supposed to study harder. Maybe seek out a senior student tutor. But the senior students are all busy and so they can’t help everyone that needs it. But if Lord So-and-So’s son comes to a senior student then nine times out of ten, they’ll get help. Why? Because the senior student knows that after graduation Lord So-and-So might help to find employ, or trade with one’s own house, etcetera. All because of silver.”

“And that’s assuming that they don’t bring their own tutors with them, provided by their Houses,” Kayt pointed out. “Like Lord Ectheirion. He brought two tutors when he came to the Tower.”

“Now you are joining in?” Justine said, eyebrows raised. “Aren’t you the son of a noble?”

“When the stallions number more than a hundred, my lady,” Kayt replied with a flourish and a bow.

“No. No. No!” Lysyl declaimed with a stamping of the foot. “It’s not about the wealth. Otherwise every Lothern merchant would be a prince! And they are not! Being noble is about something else entirely!” She glared at them all. And then after a couple of angry breaths declared: “I should know. I’ve spent the past ten years working on my thesis of noble bloodlines!”

“And?” Kayt said with a congenial smile.

After a huff and a glare, the small elf maiden continued:

“Nobility is about more than wealth. Or ability. To be noble is, by definition, to be elevated,” she explained in the pedantic lecture tone she used in her seminars. “It is an elevation of the base into the refined. As ithilmar is made from base star ore. The metal is refined from its impure, heavy form, to the light, infinitely strong expression of its truest essence. But only through the diligent application of skill in the refining.”

“Huh?” Alvan said frowning.

Lysyl glowered, obviously wondering if the boy was mocking her. But at Alvan’s blank confusion, she continued. “All of us… All of the elder race, are the children of Asuryan are we not? That is why we are called the Asur - to remember the most ancient of lineages and the founding compact. That is we at our base. But it is not a guaranteed expression of who we are. We must work at it, to express our true nature. Like star ore becoming ithilmar. If we do not work at it than we cannot become better. We can even regress into something black and tainted….like the Druchii,” she finished with a shudder.

Alvan was scratching his face again. “I still don’t follow.”

“I am saying that the application…the elevation of base to noble…is a gift and power of Asuryan. It was He that chose and blessed the Asur people to begin with, and it was he that chose the best among us to lead us into his Design. Asuryan created the noble houses and gifted them with the refinements of body and mind, so that they could be shepherds to the flock of the Asur.”

“Yeah, but I thought all the noble houses could just trace their lineage to those who agreed to fight alongside Aenarion in the Founding,” Alvan said shaking his head.

“Yes, but you think that this selection was not guided by Asuryan himself. Acting through Aenarion? As his spiritual descendants, the Phoenix Kings, are made Asuryan’s representative on this world, the nobles are those imparted most with his gifts, and charged with the purpose of seeing his vision done! They are the best of us! In body and mind and wisdom!”

Benn frowned at that. Lysyl was finishing her speech with almost a rapturous glow on her face. And yet he knew enough history to wonder about her conclusions. Why some of the stories he had read about the events of the Princes’ Conclaves had made the entire event sound like a village schoolyard. With the hair pulling and rock throwing to match! And if these were the best of the Asur….?

Apparently Kayt was thinking something similar, because he added dryly, “As long as the stallion count adds up.”

Lysyl glared.

A thought occurred to Benn. “A terrible burden,” he muttered.

“What was that, Benn my lad?” Kayt asked good-naturedly.

“A terrible burden,” he repeated. “It is just something that Loremaster Tiralya once said to me. He said the nobles that he had known – at least the ones deserving of the title – were the ‘Shields of the Asur’. ‘First in attack; last in retreat’ he had said. That they were the ‘guardians of the rest of us’. And that it is ‘a terrible burden’,” Benn finished with a shrug.

There were a few seconds of silence as the others digested what he had said. Finally, Kayt replied:

“Well, that is all well and good…. As long as there are more than a hundred stallions.”


***


The hand opened and the crossbow bolt fell, hitting the wooden walkway with a clatter.

It was as if a signal had gone off. The Dark Elves reached inside their cloaks and a dozen more repeater crossbows came out. The knight on his monster threw the lever on his repeater dropping another shaft into the firing groove. The crossbows were all swinging frantically and pointing to her right…and the new figure standing there.

But he wasn’t there! She saw the cloaked figure leaping up, a foot upon the rope guard that bordered the edge of the walkway….

The crossbows leapt to life. The shrill crack-hiss of the repeaters spitting death through the night. She could hear the shrieking whistle of the bolts leaping through the air….

All towards the figure sprinting down the rope guard! Only a thumb’s thickness of fiber under foot and the figure was running full tilt, his rag cloak whipping like madness behind him! The bolts shrieked and whistled and passed along the figure on either side; some popping through the remnants of the cloak, making new tears in the fabric.

There was a woman’s shriek. She looked up and saw one of the fanged witch elves leaping from the platform above, one hand held out like a claw, the other held a long curved knife.

The black clad figure reached to his throat, and the cloak came loose from his shoulders just as the Dark Elf collided with it. The witch elf plummeted towards the cataracts below, shrieking madness, with the black cloak in hand!

Now she saw a figure whippet thin, with long black hair streaming behind it, dressed in an ill-fitting armor, ragged and of baroque design. A flash of metal – once and then twice. A sparkle in the night air surrounded by a chaos of flying bolts and Druchii war cries….

And then the figure was falling.

No! Not falling. Leaping across the platform!! She could see its body held straight as a spear…and spinning! Spinning wildly about like an acrobat, or a whirling dervish of the desert acolytes! The body spinning with such speed that it was a blur – just shimmering bands of black and gold, with the hair whipping about…. And a blade! A blade six feet long of glimmering silver-steel!! Held across the chest, the massive blade cut through the air with the spinning of the body like a whirling scythe!! There was the sickening thud of a heavy cleaver cutting through meat and bone, and she saw the head of the massive reptile steed fall to the platform in a geyser of black gore as the body behind fell down and thrashed, clawing and bashing its tail about in the hysterics of death.

There was a creaking sound! She glanced over and saw the wooden supports of the walkway above…shifting! Shifting along a cut made straight through the columns! An entire section of the walkway above was sliding from its posts carrying more screaming witch elves with it! The platform swept down and over the one she stood on, forcing her to cover her head. And when she looked up again, she saw the massive wooden debris colliding with a group of Dark Elves below, carrying them all into the chasm beyond in a tangle of bloody splinters and flailing limbs!

…And there was the strange figure, just beyond the new gap created in the Lattice. Feet spread wide and low. Long blade held in one hand, swept out behind it, and dripping crimson along its length.

The Druchii knight, unseated from its mount, was backpedalling on all fours from the newcomer.

***

“Who is that?! Is it another Dark Elf?!!! Are they fighting each other??!!” the boy shouted in her ear, giving her a an ear splitting pain and setting her teeth to grit.

“I don’t think so!” she answered, surprised that she was shouting as well. The battle was louder than she thought! “I…!”

But just then a woman’s voice called from the cliffs on the other side of the lattice. Her eyes leapt up, and she saw a tall figure with long silver hair tied in a triplet of braids at the back.

“SHADOW PRINCE!!” the woman called, and her beautiful face was filled with pride and malice. “You are too late!! Do you hear me?!! You cannot stop us now!!”

The new figure was standing now, massive blade held loosely in one hand as it strode down the walkway towards the waiting woman. The woman’s smile broadened into something truly feral, and green witch-flame leapt to her fingers. She whipped her arm forward and the flame spat from her fingers, growing into a raging cauldron of emerald heat as it sped through the night.

…and towards the lone figure.

The figure made a batting motion across its chest, as if shooing away a fly, and the green ball of flame disappeared.

The witch blinked in surprise, and her smile turned cruel. But then it once more slipped into a satisfied malice as a cunning light filled her eyes. Green flame leapt into both hands. She flung her hands forward, over and over again, sending a cascade of roaring witch fire out into the night! But not at the newcomer: the balls of flame collided with the wooden supports of the Lattice, shattering into great gouts of light and fire with thundering booms! Quickly the green flames roared crimson as they spread throughout the platforms above and below, turning the night into a raging spectacle of scarlet and wood-smoke!

“The Moon Lattice!!” the boy beside her cried, his face shocked and in duress. “NO!!”

There were more explosions and the platform they were standing on began to shake. Flames had spread throughout the supports above them, and she could see only raging fire.

“BACK!! Back the way we came!! Hurry!!” She shouted, and shoved the boy for good measure.

Explosions rocketed around them as they ran. Great trails of flame and wood splinters shot through the air, cutting face and hand as they ran. She could feel the blood on her brow and ears. But see little through the billowing white smoke.

“Gods, no!!!” the boy came to a halt. The platform before them had collapsed, and its belly of crisscrossing supports had turned into a raging inferno. The heat that leapt up to them was punishing and palpable, scorching skin and hair.

There was another explosion and the platform they stood on twisted and buckled sending them from their feet. She screamed as the world spun about her. She could feel the platform turning! Turning and shifting, leaning out towards the chasm!!

“Warden!!” the boy screamed as he slid past her and to the edge. Her hand flailed out and seized the boy’s; the other hand slipped and slid, clawing for any purchase as they both dropped towards the abyss. She was screaming now, hoarse throated and panicked. Until her fingers found a gap in the planks, and with a jerk, her motion came to a halt. Then the boy’s as well. His sudden stop sent a sharp pain through her back and shoulders. She looked down: she could see him below, eyes looking up desperately at her, suspended over a black drop into the frothing waters of the cataract below!!

The boy’s weight was so great it felt like it would tear her arm from its socket. She cried out in pain. He was heavy – too heavy! She looked down and saw past the dangling boy, that his other hand still held the heavy kite shield of the Citizen Levy!

“DROP THE SHIELD, IDIOT!” she shouted through gritted teeth. “You are too heavy! Drop it, or….”

She felt her fingers slip. She screamed then as her body slipped from its purchase. Her fingers were slick with blood and trying desperately to find another hold.

Her eyes shot about. Looking for anything. A pillar. A support. A rope.

A rope….

She saw one high above and to her right. It was a long piece of what was once a support strand. Dangling free now. Except it wasn’t dangling. It was pulled taught, down into the roaring inferno of the bridge below.

And it was moving! Slowly swinging this way!

She looked down into the blinding flames…. And saw a shadowy figure in between the shimmering blaze. A figure in black and gold. One hand upon the rope – running sideways along the burning ruin of the Lattice! The figure was sprinting from column to column, swinging along the rope, eyes blazing as hot as the inferno around it, teeth bared.

Her fingers slipped. She slid towards the edge. She could hear the boy’s screams over her own.

And then a hand seized her shoulder and she was torn and buffeted from the burning wreck, swinging through black space. Her throat still echoing with her screams, she felt herself released and falling! A patch of earth and soft snow struck her as she went sprawling, coming to a halt at the base of a tree. Her teeth were rattling inside her skull, and the world seemed to be spinning about her, but somehow she managed to lift her head. She saw the fool boy, lying nearby, still clutching his shield. And behind him, standing at the edge of the precipice, the tall lean figure in black and gold.

And behind it, the Moon Lattice, the great wonder of the north….

A skeleton wreathed in flame and smoke.



***


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2014 4:40 am 
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Gah!! Haven't the Druchii destroyed enough of Tiranoc and Nagarythe !! They are like angry children, if they can't have it no one can! Lol I feel we will be seeing more of this silver haired witch :mrgreen: =D>

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