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Falling: An Epic Fantasy

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posted on Apr, 4 2017 @ 11:58 AM
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43 - Kaena's Mistake

The next night she came to his chambers again, but arrived before he did. She let herself in and prepared the room.

When he arrived, she was wearing only a short silk shift, a necklace of pearls, and a pair of silver bracelets on one arm. She met him at the door with gingered julafruit wine and led him to the fireplace, blazing with warmth to take the chill off the early autumn evening.

“I didn’t expect you tonight,” he said surprised.

“Eilana took my last class of cadets. It was just ro-ti anyway, she can handle it.”

Gaalen gave her a suspicious look. “What are you up to?”

“Oh hush,” she said, slowly taking his coat and shirt off, running her fingertips on his bare skin. Then she began kissing him.

Later, they lay in a sea of blankets by the fire, drinking wine and reminiscing. Julafruit wine had the usual effects of alcohol, lowering inhibitions and encouraging relaxation. But unlike regular wine julafruit made one’s senses sharper, clearer, even making memories easier to remember and more vivid.

With Gaalen relaxed and smiling more than he had since she’d been back, she took her opportunity.

“Yesterday, you gave me strange look.”

“I did?”

“When I teased you about giving you a Command. I swear you flinched.”

“I did not flinch. Why would I flinch?” The tips of his ears grew red and he didn’t look her in the eye, instead studying his wineglass.

“You flinched, Gaalen Braeghe. I know you, you tried to hide it. Why? What’s going on?”

“Nothing.”

“That means ‘something’,” she said. “What is it?”

“I can’t.”

“I know you’re hiding something.”

“I can’t,” he said slowly. She could see he was being very careful, and alarm bells went off in her head. She looked at him intently.

“You can’t, or you won’t? I need to know. Tell me what you’re hiding, Gaalen.” It was a Command, and immediately she regretted it. She had wanted to be more subtle than that, but for Aomm’s sake he was so bloody stubborn!

For a flickered moment his eyes registered irritation, but then his face went blank, he began to grow red and his pulse quickened. The alarm bells rang louder now, something was not right. What is going on?

He growled wordlessly, shaking his head as if to clear it, and his hand began trembling violently. She lifted his wineglass out of his hand and set it aside. “What in Aomm’s Garden? Why --” suddenly it clicked into place for her.

Gaalen’s heart was racing, the muscles in his jaw and temple were locked, and his breathing was shallow. His whole body was starting to shake. “It’s alright love, I release you,” she said quickly, “I rescind my last Command. Shh.” She rained kisses on his face, silently berating herself for her carelessness. Gradually, his breathing relaxed and his pulse slowed.

When he had recovered, she said, “You’ve been Commanded not to reveal something. Something that includes the Command itself, haven’t you? Of course you can’t say. Pethcataaka!” she swore. “It started while I was gone, didn’t it? One of the nights during the training maneuvers? Can you tell me that much?” He shook his head.

She took a different approach. Maybe if he talked through the few nights they were apart a clue would arise. “Tell me what happened the first night I was gone.” Not a Command, yet. She would have to tread very carefully there.

“A Bearer came to deliver a package, then left.” His words were mechanical. Kaena’s mind raced, and she tried to read his face. It was blank. Gaalen's face was never blank, not to her. That had to be it – something with the package.

“The package? The cipher? It’s from the Temple, isn’t it?” He nodded.

“Why did the Temple send you a cipher template?” Gaalen looked at her solemnly, then sighed.

“Poliara wants me to report on what my men see in the city while they follow Seeress Meron. She’s worried about something but won’t tell me what it is, only that it involves the Temple, Bastion, and the court, and swore me to secrecy. I think she might be chasing smoke, but I didn’t see the harm in having her indebted to me. Are you through?”

“Is it her? Did Poliara Command you?”

His brow furrowed, then he said deliberately, “Poliara has not given me any Commands.”

Kaena considered that response. If that were true, there was only one other she could think of, associated to the Temple, who would Command him to secrecy, though she couldn’t think what it might be about. This changed things. He wasn’t protecting her, but someone was making him keep a secret. Unpleasant questions arose. What if he had been Commanded in other ways? No, I love him, I know him. He would die before he betrayed me. She had to get to the bottom of it to understand how he was being used. She had what she needed now. But first she needed to distract him, to get him to forget about the conversation.

“Alright, I will let it go. I’m sorry, I should have trusted you,” she said. She looked directly in his eyes. “I do trust you, Gaalen. With my life, you know that.”

Slowly, gently, she began kissing him again.




posted on Apr, 4 2017 @ 05:53 PM
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How does this have only nine flags??



posted on Apr, 4 2017 @ 05:57 PM
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a reply to: LucidWarrior

I'm flattered, Lucid, but I think I've scared folks away with the sheer size of it.



posted on Apr, 4 2017 @ 07:29 PM
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Granted, I'm still halfway back on the first page. But still



posted on Apr, 5 2017 @ 09:39 AM
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a reply to: LucidWarrior

LOL - I think you illustrated my point.


It's alright - stars & flags weren't the point when I decided to do the thread. They're nice because they let me know people like what I've written, but otherwise, it's not a big deal.

I can take it!
*sniff*

(just kidding!)



posted on Apr, 5 2017 @ 09:43 AM
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44 - A Command Performance

Gaalen clasped his dress cloak over his formal Bastion uniform. The Ladies and Lords Captain attending were all in dress uniform for the command performance this evening. Vrak Boklanak, a master Hundal Water Drummer, had traveled into Aavelae from Elamar, beyond Mons Ros. Water Drummers were rare in Aavelae - the last one to come to Avaanse was, according to Taarvaes, some twenty years ago.

Gaalen and Joen approached the Shield Hall doors. Gaalen’s limp was gone, the wound on his thigh healed enough that it wouldn’t break open anymore. Joen veered off to stand with the rest of the squires and pages, who would remain ready to attend their masters and mistresses on demand. There was a mixture of young men and young women, as quite a few of the Ladyguard and Lanceguard both were in attendance. Gaalen noticed Elder Poliara speaking with a couple Seers he did not know. She glanced his way and he quickly averted his gaze, which fell on Seer Lowaeren, who was leaning in close to prim Lady Devoroc. Their conversation was animated and they both had intense looks on their faces.

Kaena was with the Iniveran ambassador, Lady Captain Rivercross, Lady Eilana Itaericae, and a knot of other attendees over to the opposite side. The anteroom hummed with polite conversation as the court ladies and lords mixed with foreign ambassadors and the Bastion personnel while servants weaved to and fro with trays of appetizers and drinks.

Gaalen found Bryn and Taarvaes talking quietly with a third man Gaalen did not know. His two friends each held a small glass of amber liquor. The handsome man next to them was almost as tall as Taarvaes, dark hair and eyes, with a tanned complexion and a ready smile. He wore dark blue, with a finely cut jacket and a shining golden cord around one shoulder. Several pins adorned his lapels – medals of some kind.

“Gaalen,” Taarvaes greeted him with his infectious smile, clapping a hand on his arm. Bryn raised his glass with a grin.

“Prince, Bryn,” Gaalen nodded to them. A servant brought a tray and Gaalen grabbed a crystal globe of brandy.

Taarvaes gestured to the third man. “Gaalen, this is Ambassador Tevas Ralan, of Mons Ros. Ambassador, this is Lord Captain Gaalen Braeghe, Shieldbearer of the Bastion, and High Defender of Avalae.”

Inwardly, Gaalen grimaced. The Mons Rosian rivalry with Aavelae was older than any could remember, and the tensions were highest right in the Eastholds, where Seeress Meron was from. Darkly, he thought Perhaps that’s why she is so cross.

Outwardly, however, Gaalen clasped the man’s hand. “Welcome to Aavelae, Ambassador. I hope you enjoy your stay.” Ralan’s grin only made him seem more dashing as he shook Gaalen’s hand. The stretch of shaking the man’s hand pulled on Gaalen’s scars, and he began to feel ugly and self-conscious in the presence of the urbane Ralan.

“Lord Captain Braeghe, your reputation goes before you. We have heard of your valor even in Mons Ros.”

Just as he finished speaking, the Princess arrived. “Taarvy, who is this?” she asked, gently laying one hand her brother’s shoulder, the other on his forearm. She was radiant this evening in green silk, a massive diamond set in silver and pearls hanging just above her low neckline. Her long hair was intricately pulled up, and something sparkled in it as she moved.

“Your Highness, may I present Ambassador Tevas Ralan of Mons Ros. Ambassador, her Royal Highness Princess Anna Kire Daecullon.” Ralan took a step back and bowed deeply, then raised the Princess’s right hand to kiss it. His execution was flawless.

“Your Highness, never have I beheld such beauty in all my travels,” he said with a noticeable Mons Rosian accent.

The Princess’ smile was delighted and her eyes twinkled as she laughed delicately, “Thank you, Ambassador. On behalf of the Queen of Aavelae, I bid you welcome to Avaanse.”

Taarvaes’s usually warm smile took on a sickly cast, and Bryn, standing slightly behind the pair, actually rolled his eyes. He quickly covered for himself by drinking deeply from his shalt. Gaalen tried not to laugh.



posted on Apr, 5 2017 @ 09:44 AM
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45 - A Cautious Offer

They chatted more pleasantries until a deep chime sounded, and the Herald rapped his steel-tipped staff on the flagstones three times. The great oak doors of the Shield Hall opened. The Shield Hall – so named for the crests of all of the High Defending Houses in Aavelae’s history mounted on the walls – was a large room – one of the largest in the Palace. The floor was a dark stained wood, polished to a dull shine. One side of the room was all huge windows, facing out over one of the inner courtyards twenty feet below. Chairs had been brought in and set in neat rows, and a crimson carpet had been rolled down the center of the chamber to create an aisle.

The doors opened and a steady beat of drums began. The Queen and the two princesses – Anna and her younger sister Teryn – were escorted in first, then the Queen’s female relatives and their families. Taarvaes, as Prince, was free to sit where he wished. He chose to stay with Bryn and Gaalen as the rest of the court, Temple, and Bastion leadership was admitted to the Shield Hall.

Drummers were lining the sides of the hall as the nobles and dignitaries filed in toward chairs set up in precise rows of twenty – ten on either side of a wide aisle down the middle. Kaena had maneuvered through the press of bodies to walk right in front of Gaalen, who was already trailing behind Taarvaes and Bryn. Kaena deliberately removed her formal dress shawl, revealing white breeches that hugged her figure alluringly. She threw him a covert, smoldering glance. As the chairs filled up on that row, however, Kaena ended up in the last chair on the aisle. Gaalen found himself without a seat next to her, Bryn or Taarvaes, and was directed by the footman to the next row. Kaena fumed as she sat. Gaalen caught Taarvaes’ eyes and knew he’d seen the whole thing also. He shook his head slightly, then turned his attention on Lord Alastan to his right.

Gaalen proceeded down the row, tucking his sword back to avoid banging it on each chair. No soldier in Aavelae went unarmed, even in the presence of the Queen. Attacks – human and otherwise – could happen at any time, and even if someone foolishly decided to try to take advantage of the custom to threaten the royal family, three dozen swords and longknives would immediately be at their throats.

To his surprise, when he sat down he found Seeress Meron taking the chair next to him. She was austere and elegant in pristine white silk Temple robes, wearing a long, white silk shawl trimmed with a narrow strip of white fur, clasped at her delicate neck with a silver ring, the symbol of Aomm the One. Her straight, dark chestnut hair had been intricately braided and lay over her shoulder to one side – not a hair out of place. Upon her forehead was a simple silver circlet and clear diadem, signifying her rank as Seeress. In sheer elegance, she rivaled the Princess.

Gaalen’s dry throat made his voice crack as he acknowledged her with, “Your Grace,” trying not to stare.

“Lord Braeghe,” she responded.

“Do Seeresses not bring escorts to a command performance?”

“Most do, my Lord. I do not,” she said evenly. Gaalen by now recognized the tone as a danger flag.

“Of course, Seeress,” he said, tearing his gaze away.

The hum of conversation, punctuated by the steady, solemn beat of the drums, emphasized the moment where their conversation faltered. Gaalen cleared his throat.

“My Lady, if you do find yourself in need of an escort this evening, I offer myself,” he said cautiously. He and Kaena could not be seen as a pair together in public, and if he were to act as the Seeress’s escort it would help disguise his relationship with Kaena. It made sense anyway, considering Braeghe Color’s assignment to protect her. Somehow the offer still made him feel guilty, though.

She looked at him, her eyes narrowing slightly, but before she could reply the drummers each grabbed the torch nearest to them and quenched its flame, plunging the Hall into near-darkness.



posted on Apr, 5 2017 @ 09:46 AM
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a reply to: PrairieShepherd
Morning Shep! Loving that the story is moving right along!



posted on Apr, 5 2017 @ 09:46 AM
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46 - The Water Drummer

The only lights came from the end where Master Boklanak stood, an array of different drums in front of him. The drums were each suspended above a large vessel – apparently filled with differing levels of water, giving each drum a different tone – hanging from a metal frame and attached with leather thongs.

Master Boklanak began pounding the drums with heavy wooden mallets as thick as a woman’s wrist. The piece built in volume and two other performers walked ritually up to either side of the master, their movements choreographed to match the rhythm of Master Boklanak’s performance.

The first piece was majestic and loud, incorporating just the three drummers. The big water drums resonated at different levels, reverberating from the walls and seemed to surround them all with sound. For a time, Gaalen lost himself in the music, closing his eyes and concentrating on his hearing.

After a brief pause, the second piece began with two additional performers using an assortment of other percussive instruments – cymbals large and small, different wood instruments that produced varying tones, and an instrument that looked like a row of polished bone which actually produced distinct pitches. This second piece was extremely complex, and the choreography of the performers equally intricate and with astounding precision.

The third piece was quiet and delicate, just the Master with one conservatively costumed dancer flitting around him as he played several of the instruments with a virtuoso skill.

The fourth piece started fast, with a driving rhythm and seven drummers. Dancers flowed in from both sides, and a shocked murmur rose from the edges of the audience. The dancers wore next to nothing – the women a diaphanous shawl and nothing else, and the men, just a loin cloth. Gaalen looked around, trying not to gawk. He caught Seeress Meron, who was sitting stock still, her mouth slightly open and a flush rising in her cheeks. She looked over at him, and when their eyes connected, the one corner of her mouth twitched. Gaalen fought the sudden urge to laugh out loud, and he could see a grin blooming on Seeress Meron’s lips. She raised a white-gloved hand to her mouth to cover it, but the twinkle in her eyes betrayed her. Time stretched as they shared silent laughter.

They finally turned their attention back to the performers, each smiling ever so slightly. There were horns now, dissonant braying calls that clashed with the piece.

Gaalen frowned – those horns were not inside the Shield Hall, they were outside. He looked over toward the far end of the row where Bryn, Taarvaes, and Kaena sat. They had heard it too – they were alarm horns. Gaalen started to stand, and Seeress Meron gave him a surprised look. Then the room exploded in chaos.



posted on Apr, 5 2017 @ 09:48 AM
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a reply to: Martin75

Hello Admin! Yes, I figured when I decided to make the thread I would push the posts from the Shed through quickly. People can read at their own pace, but I suspect there are a few Shed participants who would like the next new episode.

I'll slow things down after tomorrow when I am caught up to where it was in the Shed. Friday should be the first completely new post.



posted on Apr, 5 2017 @ 09:49 AM
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47 - Regret

A window shattered inward, spraying glass everywhere, then another, and another. A heavy, winged shape crashed into one of the performers lining the room, and he shrieked as the creature ripped him open and began to feed. The room echoed with the screams of the dying, roars of the beasts, and shouts of the soldiers present. Gaalen could hear Kaena calling out, “To arms! Protect the Queen! Rally to the Queen!”

Gaalen was up, sword out and swinging. The creatures were gith-gesaarm, winged, feathered reptilian creatures, each with three long claws on their forelimbs, vicious barbs on the tips and joints of their wings, and rows of serrated teeth they used for tearing meat. Gaalen went for the closest one, the first to crash through the glass, still feeding on the corpse of the drummer. It hissed at him as he approached, and lunged forward. Gaalen dodged and sliced it along its neck and forelimb, causing it to howl in pain. It whirled around to swing its barbed tail. Gaalen leaped of the way and the creature’s tail swept instead through the chairs, scattering some and destroying others. The room began to clear, a swarm of Royal Guard, nobles, and Bastion personnel surrounding the Queen and ushering her out an interior door on the far side away from the windows and the attacking gith-gesaarm.

The sounds of fighting echoed through the dim hall. A Royal Guardsman had joined him brandishing a long-bladed spear, and they backed the creature up into a more open area behind the chairs, circling around each other, trying to get the upper hand.

“Watch its tail, Guardsman, they are venomous,” Gaalen warned the man, as they continued their dance.

It hissed and snapped, and then lunged at Gaalen again who pivoted and ducked. The creature swiped hard with its tail and Gaalen dropped to the floor, bringing the sword up just in time to deflect the barb. He rolled and scrambled out from under it as it slashed with its other forelimb and eviscerated the Guardsman. Gaalen tried to crawl backward to get on his feet as the creature reared to its full height, but his hand slipped in blood pooled on the floor and he fell back. The creature closed in and he saw his death above him.

Suddenly Seeress Meron knelt next to him, eyes fixed intently on the creature. It reared, hissed and dove down toward them, claws and teeth seeking to rip them both apart.

The creature smashed into something just above them, then staggered back, stunned. Gaalen’s instincts took control and he sprang up, swinging his sword with a ferocious yell and opening the creature’s neck to its spine. Dark blood sprayed over both of them as the beast thrashed and died.

The Hall fell quiet, and Gaalen took stock. Empty spaces dotted the walls where shields had fallen. The floor was littered with smashed chairs, feathers, bodies and blood. Gaalen counted seven heaped forms of the gith-gesaarm, and fifteen bodies of the people attending the performance.

Gaalen looked at Seeress Meron, her white robes now splattered in dark red blood. “Thank you, Seeress. You saved my life tonight,” he said, somewhat gruffly.

Seeress Meron hesitated, a strange expression on her face that almost looked like regret. Finally, she nodded curtly, then moved off. Gaalen’s eyes followed her as she headed toward the nearest body, checking for signs of life. The woman was absolutely incomprehensible. Was she regretting saving his life?



posted on Apr, 5 2017 @ 09:50 AM
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48 - A Limit of the Gift

Elder Poliara walked determinedly toward the Seeress Meron, her face stern. They spoke briefly in low voices, with Poliara wagging a finger at her emphatically. When the short conversation was over, the slender woman looked crestfallen. She turned and began moving from body to body, laying two fingers on the necks of those who were possibly still alive, but each time shaking her head. Her robes were now more red than white, but she still kept on, seeming to take no notice of the blood she knelt in next to each body.

He went to her as she knelt down by another – one of the male performers, still alive, though not for long. Gaalen was certain he would bleed out from a deep gash that, judging by the blood, had opened an artery.

“Izak maz ketak, alis? Izak maz atha? Tekan, tekan! Ketak alis!”

“Jen keoluto, udi. Ketak man gessa,” the Seeress replied to Gaalen’s shock. She placed a hand on his head and closed her eyes for a moment. The man relaxed and closed his eyes, then she stood.

“What did you do, Seeress?”

“I reassured him and numbed his pain. He will die shortly, and there is nothing I can do to stop it.” Her tone had an edge to it, an icy anger. Gaalen thought he understood.

“How do you know Hundali?”

“I spent time there, once, as an Aomman missionary before I was conferred. They are a beautiful people,” she said, then stopped. “I almost –“

She was interrupted as a cry rose from the end of the room. She turned abruptly and hurried over to a knot of Ladyguard and Lanceguard, Gaalen close behind.

“Please let me through,” the Seeress said before kneeling by a wounded Ladysguard – Lady Eilana Itaericae. She had been stabbed in the belly with its tail spike, but she didn’t appear to be bleeding heavily like the performer. The venom would keep her alive, lingering on in excruciating pain for hours yet, only to die screaming. The gith-gesaarm preferred their prey alive when they fed. Gaalen's cousin Uwen had told him it appeared to be something about the body's reaction to the pain from their venom that they enjoyed. He had a particular hatred for gith-gesaarm.

Kaena knelt on the other side, holding Eilana’s hand. When she glanced at the Seeress a thundercloud passed over her face, but it was quickly gone.

“My Lady,” Eilana said weakly to Kaena, blood oozing down her cheek. “It hurts,” she gasped, gripping Kaena’s hand. “Send me home,” she pleaded in between her cries of pain.

Gaalen knelt next to her, then looked up at Seeress Meron. “Seeress?” He asked quietly. Seeress Meron’s eyes flicked up to Elder Poliara, standing severe and unforgiving off to the side. Grimly, she gave the slightest shake to her head.

Gaalen’s heart sank, and he turned to Kaena. “There’s nothing you can do, Kae --“, he stopped. “Lady Commander,” he finished. Slowly, reluctantly Kaena drew her belt knife.

Lady Eilana looked pleadingly at Kaena and tried to pull the knife close. “Please!” Kaena’s arm shook.

Gaalen looked into Kaena’s eyes, into her heart.

"Give me the knife, Lady Commander, I will do it." He knew he was breaking custom. Only the woman's superior officer should handle a situation like this, and if not her at least another woman. But he knew what it would do to Kaena if she had to end Eilana's suffering herself.

"Are you ready?" The dying woman nodded. “May Aomm take you to his house, Lady Eilana Itaericae.”

Gaalen took a deep breath and steadied himself. In an instant it was done.

Gaalen pulled her cloak over her, and one by one they bowed their heads in respect. Kaena’s hand, shaking, gripped Gaalen’s forearm, though her face had gone flat. He knew she was trying to stifle her emotions, but that was not who she was. She was passionate, fiery, and fiercely loyal. She could not help but be affected, no matter how hard she fought it. He would let her grieve, in private. It would be all she was allowed.

As he stood up he saw Elder Poliara watching him with what looked like disapproval on her face. He felt a sense of indignation; she should know better. Irritated, Gaalen dismissed her from his mind.



posted on Apr, 5 2017 @ 09:52 AM
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49 - The Ambassador

The gith-gesaarm had raided all over the south end of the city. The attack had been one of the largest in recent memory, and the worst Gaalen had lived through: over fifty dead, including eight of the nobility and three Bastion Lords and Ladies. Over one hundred more were missing, but less than ten wounded.

The Queen, thank Aomm the One, was unharmed, as was all of the royal family. He had had to leave Kaena for now, they both knew that. Instead, he and Seeress Meron exited the Shield Hall and encountered Bryn and Taarvaes talking quietly.

“Good to see you two in one piece,” Gaalen said.

“You too,” Bryn rumbled back. “We heard about Lady Eilana. You’ll tell Kaena we’re here if she needs anything, won’t you?”

“Of course. Thank you, Bryn.” Bryn nodded.

“And you, Seeress. I noticed you tending the wounded. You have a healer’s heart, your Grace,” Taarvaes said smoothly.

“Thank you, your Highness. I fear there was little I could do tonight,” she said somberly, dipping her head in deference to the Prince.

A chattering reached Gaalen’s ear from off to the side. Several of the noblewomen were speaking with Ralan, the Mons Rosian ambassador. Fawning over him, more like. He seemed somewhat less urbane than he had before – a rip in his jacket and a cut on the side of his face indicating he had not come out completely unscathed. But he was clearly eating up the attention he was receiving.

“What’s going on there?” Gaalen jerked his head toward the knot of women.

Bryn grunted in disgust.

Taarvaes, however, replied, “He defended my sister from one of them and single-handedly killed it. I watched him fight – he’s actually quite a swordsman even if he is a pompous ass. He knows gith-gesaarm as well. First chance he got he severed its tail barb, then went for the kill from behind to avoid the foreclaws.”

Gaalen watched a moment longer, then dismissed the scene. Turning back to the group, he caught Seeress Meron looking intently at the ambassador, her porcelain jaw set and lips pursed. The blood splatters on her face gave her a dark, almost sinister countenance, and unless he was mistaken, she looked absolutely furious.

“Seeress,” he said softly, “are you alright?”

The woman’s brow softened and her mask returned. “Of course, Lord Captain, I am fine. If you gentlemen will forgive me, I must retire.”

The slender woman turned sharply and departed.

Bryn arched an eyebrow. “She’s, ah, mysterious,” he said. “I thought she might head over there and rip out the fool’s throat. Remind me not to cross her, will you?”

“Perhaps she just dislikes Mons Rosians,” the Prince offered. “Lithelwaite Maarke is right on the border, and I know the Mons Rosians raid from time to time. Seems there are points of the border that have historically been in dispute.”

Bryn just grunted.

They stood for a few moments longer, but soon their duties in the aftermath of the attack took precedence. Gaalen, Joen, Kaena, and Bryn, along with the other Bastion personnel present, made their way to the hardest hit areas to help with the casualties and the cleanup.

~-*-~


The only light in Gaalen’s chambers came from the fire. He had just turned the oil lantern out a few minutes ago, and was starting to doze when the latch on his door opened. Alert instantly, he gripped the knife on his bedside table, eyes wide and searching the dark. A feminine shadow emerged into the dim light from the fire.

“Kaena?”

“May I stay?”

“Of course, here,” he pulled aside his blankets.

She stripped to her shift and climbed in with him, laying her head on his chest. Gaalen stroked her hair in the dark and the quiet. She inhaled sharply, and he felt her tears on his skin.

“You couldn’t save her, Kaena, you know that. You can’t blame yourself.”

“I don’t. It’s just...I feel,” she paused. Gaalen waited.

She took a shuddering breath. “I feel nothing, Gaalen. It’s just empty inside. What does that make me? Am I so cold now that I can’t even feel it when friends die? What if all that’s left inside me is a killer?”

“Shh, Kaena,” he said gently, “there is far more to you than a killer, love.” He drank in the scent of her hair, and kissed her forehead softly. She raised her head to look at him and in the dim light he could see her eyes, sparkling with tears.

“It could have been you, Gaalen,” she said, stifling sobs. “Any day I could lose you too. What if," her voice finally broke. "Gaalen, what if I feel nothing then?” She moved close, one hand on his cheek. “If I can’t feel anything anymore, I may as well be dead. I want to feel.” She began kissing him.



posted on Apr, 6 2017 @ 04:04 PM
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50 - The Seeress' Secret, part 1

The following sunrise seemed far too early. Gaalen was sore from the combat with the gith-gesaarm and the extra work of cleanup. His eyes felt as though someone had poured sand in them, and it seemed as though the floor was not entirely stable. He had only been able to sleep about three hours before rising to meet the Seeress for ro-ti instruction in the training yards.

Afterward, he escorted her to the Temple. They had just reached the Seeress’s apartments in the Water Quarter when they were stopped by a young male Bearer.

“Seeress Meron,” the gangly acolyte bobbed, sweat sheening his forehead. “Seer Ethenral has asked for you in the Sunrise Quarter,” motioning back the way they had come.

“I will attend him shortly, thank you.”

Siere turned back to Gaalen, but the acolyte stayed, wringing his hands and bouncing on his toes nervously. Siere must have noticed Gaalen still looking at the young man, for she turned to him again.

“I will attend Seer Ethenral as soon as I am ready, child. Was there something else?”

“I’m sorry, your Grace, but I am to bring you immediately.”

“I see. Very well, shall we then, Lord Captain?” Gaalen noticed a tightness around her eyes and the corners of her mouth.

The Temple was a simple design – a ring, of course. The central hall – the Ringhall – was where people gathered for services. Running outside the Ringhall was a hallway of arches with rooms on the outside, called the Inner Ring – generally Seers’ apartments and audience halls mostly, although it also contained the occasional memorial or small worship hall. The Outer Ring contained the rooms needed for the daily activities – servants’ quarters, kitchens, and the like. Between the two was a mostly open space of gardens and courtyards. The acolyte led them to a small room with an oak door. Outside stood a thin, balding Seer in white robes, attended by a few Bearers – all boys.

“Ah yes, thank you for coming, Seeress. My Lord…?”

“Seer Ethenral, this is Lord Captain Gaalen Braeghe.”

“Of course, Seeress Meron’s guardian angel,” he smiled patronizingly.

“Nothing quite so divine, I fear. I am just a soldier, your Grace.”

“Yes. Well. We are thankful for your protection of our precious Seeress, Lord Captain,” he said, a bit more brusquely now. Addressing Siere, he continued, “I wonder if you would consider a petitioner for me, given your,” he glanced at Gaalen, “particular expertise. Would you please?” He gestured to the closed door.

“Of course, Seer, after you.”

“Oh, please call me Daryc, your Grace,” he said with a simpering smile. Gaalen fought to keep from rolling his eyes at this Seer Ethenral.

“That would not be appropriate, Seer.” Gaalen tried unsuccessfully not to smile, instead turning to scan the Bearers and acolytes busily scurrying from place to place.

“Of course, Seeress,” Ethenral bobbed his head, a flush rising in his cheeks.

They approached the small room. Ethenral motioned to the acolytes as Seeress Meron disappeared inside, followed by Seer Ethenral, who turned to Gaalen. “Ah, I’m sorry, my Lord, but if you would please wait,” he held a hand up and began to close the door.

“Let him in please, Seer Ethenral,” came Siere’s velvety voice.

The Seer’s brow furrowed, but he reluctantly stepped aside, allowing Gaalen in. Siere did not even glance at him, her eyes fixed on a ragged figure curled knees-to-chest in a corner. It was a girl, Gaalen guessed she was about fifteen, in a well-tailored but torn and dirtied light blue dress. Arms bruised purple clutched her knees tightly, and she rocked back and forth, whimpering. Disheveled brown hair fell over her face.

“Lord Braeghe,” Siere said, still not looking at him, “Please leave your weapons outside.”

“My Lady, I --”

“I insist, Lord Braeghe.”

Pursing his lips, Gaalen complied.



posted on Apr, 6 2017 @ 04:05 PM
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51 - The Seeress' Secret, part 2

“Tell me what happened to her, Seer Ethenral,” she said quietly.

“We are not certain, Seeress. She refuses to talk. I believe she was, ah, assaulted, but of course we don’t know any of the circumstances.”

Siere approached the girl slowly, and began speaking too softly for Gaalen to hear, nodding to herself. He surveyed the sparse room quickly – a simple cot, two chairs, a small table, an iron brazier, and one window – open to one of the courtyards – that let in a fair amount of light. Across from the window was a small closet. He brought his attention back to Siere and the girl.

“Seer Ethenral, how did you get her in here?” Gaalen inquired.

“She was unconscious when we found her. When she woke up here in the room she gave Melann his black eye, there, and kicked Jystanaean in the, ah,” he glanced at Siere.

“Understood, Seer,” Gaalen bailed the Seer out with a sympathetic wince for the boy.

Still speaking quietly, Siere had knelt down next to the girl, who shrank from her. It seemed she was trying to melt into the corner of the room. Siere reached an arm up to place it on her shoulder and the girl shrieked. In a flash she had the slender Seeress knocked to the flagstones and pinned, where she swiped and pummeled at Siere’s face.

Gaalen flew across the room and pulled the girl off of Siere. She twisted and turned her attack on him, snarling at him in rage and defiance. She scrabbled on the floor, kicking at his shins and trying to twist away. He got a good look at her face now, despite her unbound hair flying everywhere with her thrashing. She had been beaten, one eye swollen shut, cuts on cheeks, temple, and lips that were still bleeding, and everywhere purple. He wrestled her into a hold designed to keep her still, and felt a twinge in his kir. The girl had tried to Compel him! His temper rose.

“Do not hurt her, Lord Braeghe!” Siere commanded, climbing to her feet.

Irritated and unsure exactly what to do, Gaalen, released his hold on the girl, who retreated into the corner and once again curled into a ball, rocking.

A red welt and several scratches now decorated Siere’s face and neck. She gave them no notice, and approached the girl cautiously again. She pulled the hood of her cloak up and knelt, then folded her hands in her lap, facing the scraggly young woman. Gaalen remained ready to intercept if she attacked again.

“Seer, please have your acolytes wait just outside. We will need them shortly.”

The boys left and a hush descended on the room. Gaalen suspected she was using her power. It gave him the chills, being in the same room with it. Slowly the girl began to relax, not looking quite so wild. Siere’s breathing became faster and shallow, and her head sank forward slightly. At first he thought it was a trick of the light, that the girl looked better. But as the minutes wore on, he became certain of it – the bruises on her arms were fading, her breathing became slower, more relaxed, and she stopped rocking.

After a time, she let her knees down, and just sat in the corner. It appeared to Gaalen that the girl’s eyelids became heavy, and sure enough she eventually rested her head back into the corner. Gaalen could see her chest rise and fall in the slow, deep breaths of sleep. The bruises, cuts, and welts were all but gone.

Siere’s breathing had become labored as if with exertion though, and her hair was falling out of her hood, obscuring her face. Eventually she gasped, and swayed forward, catching herself with her hands on the floor. For a moment she remained that way, her chest heaving; then she knelt back and pulled her hood farther down. Gaalen moved over toward her.

“I have done what I can. Lord Braeghe, would you help me up please?” she asked him, her voice low and thick with exhaustion. He offered his arm to her, but as she slowly rose he realized he was doing most of the lifting. He slipped his arm around her to support her better.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

He had no idea it took so much out of a person. It seemed she flinched when he all but carried her to the corner of the cot.

“Seer, please have your acolytes take her home. She will recover better in her own bed. See she is given as much food and water as she wishes when she wakes, for at least three days. Instruct her family not to speak of this to her until I can visit them.”

Ethenral hesitated, fidgeting. “Seeress, the girl is a,” he hesitated, “a child of the street.”

“You do not know where she is from?”

“No, Seeress, the lad Aertan found her east of the Temple, while returning from an errand. It is believed she is an urchin.”

“Her dress is too fine for that. If she is an urchin, she hasn’t been one for long. Perhaps she is a runaway,” Gaalen offered.

“She is neither a runaway, nor an urchin. But that can wait. She must be given a safe place to rest.”

“Here,” Gaalen said, surprising himself. He moved to the table a scrawled a quick note, folded it and sealed it with some white wax from the candle. Then he pressed his signet into it, and handed it to one of the acolytes. “Take her and this note to the Bastion. Tell the guards at each gate you have a message for Squire Joen from Lord Braeghe, and show them that seal. Tell Joen the girl is under my protection and is to be taken to Lady Commander Kaena Milaener. I will call upon the Lady Commander this evening. Do you understand?” The acolyte bobbed his head nervously, taking the parchment.

“Very well,” Siere said hoarsely. “The rest of you, please give me some privacy. I must rest.” Her head hung low, dark hair hiding her face.

The acolytes transferred the sleeping girl onto a litter and headed out of the room.



posted on Apr, 6 2017 @ 04:06 PM
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52 - The Seeress' Secret, part 3

“Seeress,” began Seer Ethenral, “let me see to --”

“No, Seer,” she interrupted gently, “I only require rest and solitude.”

“Of course, Seeress,” he said reluctantly, turning to go.

“Seer Ethenral,” she said. He turned. “Please ensure your acolytes speak of this to no one. None at all. It is very important. If they require a Command I will see to it when I am recovered.”

“As you wish, Seeress.”

Gaalen stayed behind for a moment, unsure what to do. Erring on the side of caution, he said, “I will be just outside the door, my Lady, should you need anything.” Gaalen hesitated a moment, then turned to go.

“Stay, Lord Braeghe.”

“Seeress?”

“Would you help me lay down?”

Confused, he walked over to the bed behind her. He supported her as she brought her legs onto the bed and lay back. Gaalen was not prepared for the shock of seeing her face when her hair fell back away.

“Father of mercy, Seeress!”

Siere’s face now resembled the girl’s from before; bruises, cuts, a split lip, purple welts. “Is it so awful?”

“I am surprised you are conscious, as I was of the girl.”

“I’ve endured worse.”

“What -- what is, I mean to say,” Gaalen fumbled.

“What happened? Isn’t it plain?”

“Somehow you transferred the girl’s wounds to yourself,” he blurted. “I thought you had just made them disappear.”

“Somehow?” she tried to smile, but her swollen lip and cheek made it look odd instead. “Yes, I Took her wounds. In truth, I Took the entire experience – the wounds in her mind, also. But not even tamborae can make the consequences of such violence disappear entirely, Lord Braeghe. They can be transferred, expedited, even diminished, but in the end they must be borne, one way or another.” She spoke deliberately, as if she was straining under a great weight.

Gaalen stared, putting it together. The girl had been beaten and violated, that much was clear. Was she saying…?

“Yes, you see now, don’t you?” A spasm wracked her, and she cried out quietly, clutching her belly.

“Sweet Aomm.”

“We can speak further of it later. Now I must ask a favor of you, Lord Braeghe. Please bar the door so we are not interrupted.” Gaalen did as told. “There should be restraints in the closet, please retrieve them.” She gasped again, her voice becoming tight. “Please hurry, I do not have much time.”

Gaalen found several straps of leather of varying sizes, resembling pieces of a horse’s bridle. He brought them over.

“Bind my hands and feet to the bed, please. There, and there, both sides. You will find rings to use under the frame.”

“My Lady, I don’t understand.”

“Please obey, Lord Braeghe.”

Against his better judgment, he complied, gently binding her wrists and feet to slots cut into the frame of the simple cot as quickly as he could.

“You must make them tighter, please. I am not made of glass.” Her teeth were gritted now, and she had begun to shake.

Gaalen shook his head, but did as she instructed, only hesitating when another spasm caused her to cry out once more.

“Seeress, please tell me what this is about.”



posted on Apr, 6 2017 @ 04:07 PM
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53 - What Must Be Borne

“I Took the girl’s wounds, her pain, all the damage. It’s inside me, now,” she said, and stopped a moment to catch her breath. “I must now Expel it, or it will become part of me. The longer I wait, though, the less I am able to get rid of. I must act quickly, or it becomes mine. When I Expel it, I will relive her assault – at least, I will experience it in my head and body as she did. I will likely struggle, and I do not wish you harm. The girl put up a terrific fight.”

“How do you know that?”

“To heal someone completely of violence you must Take all of it, even the memory.”

“You know who did this then? Who she is?”

She looked at him, pain burning in those dark pools. “After, Lord Braeghe, I promise. I need your help here, now. He is not going anywhere.”

“As you wish, Seeress. What do I do?”

“Just wait, and watch. Keep me from harming myself, or you. I only ask one thing of you: if I begin to use tamborae, you must render me unconscious. I trust you know how without doing serious harm.”

This was too much. He could be executed for such an act. “Seeress!”

“You must! There's no telling what I might do. I could bring the Temple down around us. You must do this!” she said with gritted teeth. Between worsening spasms, she panted, “I need your help, Lord Braeghe,” she pleaded desperately, “Please do not make me Compel you.”

Gaalen was horrified. “Seeress, I do not think I am right for this task.”

“You are exactly the kind of man I need for this,” she said softly. “Shall we begin? You may as well get comfortable, this will take some time.”

Without waiting for assent she closed her eyes and seemed to relax.

As dangerous as it had sounded when she explained it, Gaalen became quite bored for a time while he waited. It seemed the woman was actually just sleeping, but given her condition, he did not begrudge her a little rest. At times she stirred, or seemed to be talking to herself, and once he thought she began humming or singing. Occasionally her arm or leg would twitch, but by and large the minutes passed uneventfully.

As the sun and Greatmoon began to sink down from their high point in the sky, she became more agitated. Gentle tugs against the restraints became insistent, then she pulled at them hard. Gaalen left the window and came back around to the side of the cot. She grimaced, baring her teeth, and her brow – swollen as it was – furrowed. She started thrashing in truth then, throwing her body from side to side on the bed, crying out and sobbing. “Let go of me!” “No!” “Help me!” Her body tensed, tighter and tighter, the cords on her neck standing out, dark hair tossed over her face. Gaalen started to get a nervous tingling in his gut.

Suddenly she screamed, arching her back, and the restraints flew off of her wrists and ankles. Gaalen could feel the room crackle with power, and knew he had to act. Was he too late? As he moved in – trying to choose which method to use to “render her unconscious” as she had so clinically put it – she sat up suddenly, eyes open and dark with rage. Her hand shot out to take him around the neck. His arms felt pinned to his sides, and he could not move his feet.

“Seeress!” he choked out.

“How dare you! I want you to die!



posted on Apr, 6 2017 @ 04:09 PM
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54 - A Woman of Unspeakable Power

“Seeress, remember,” he strained for breath. “Who you are!” he gasped. She stood up off the bed and somehow lifted him off the floor.

“I hate you! Die! DIE!” Colorful spots swam in grayness at the edges of his vision, and it closed in. The room roared in his ears, the crashing thunder of an ocean wave. He was out of time.

Her power infused everything, he could feel it, pulsing from her, pulsing through him. So vast…

“Siere Meron! Remember! You – ARE – SIERE!”

Light flooded into his vision, and his body burned from the inside out. The bands had released. Dazed, he found himself on his back on the floor, broken wood around him and the room whirling, pain in his back. Unsteadily, he rose, shedding splinters from his clothes, to find Siere attempting to pick herself up off the floor, weeping. He touched the side of his abdomen and felt wetness. He found the center of pain and pulled out a sharp stake from the smashed table that was as long as his hand. Cautiously he made his way over to her and hesitantly touched her shoulder. She flinched, but when she did not attack, he knelt next to her, placing one arm around her shoulders and the other under her elbow to try to help her up.

“Seeress,” he said, as she turned to him. He caught her eyes. The woman of unspeakable power was gone, and in those eyes Gaalen saw a hopeless, terrified girl. He lifted her slender body up to the bed. As he gently laid her down and started to straighten up, she clutched at his tunic and wept uncontrollably. “Don’t leave me!” she wailed, sobbing. He hesitated, unsure what to do at first, but after a moment he sat on the bed next to her, and she pressed into him, still gripping his shirt. The sobs eventually slowed, then stopped, and she seemed to fall into a deep, still sleep, her head on his chest.

He found himself, nearly two hours later, humming a Giladian lullaby over and over again, dozing from time to time himself as she slept. The sun was waning, bathing the room with golden light as dust motes lazily floated in the warm air.

Siere started, and pushed up slowly from his chest. Once again, her face was palely exquisite, the bruises, cuts and swelling gone. There was weariness there, but the rage and terror from before were gone, and the woman was back, guarded and mysterious.

“How do you feel?”

“I,” she trailed off. “How long have I slept?”

“About two hours. I expected you to rest longer with – with what you went through.”

She sat up next to him, looking around the room and eyeing the smashed table and chairs. For a time, they sat together quietly, then Gaalen spoke.

“Seeress?”

“Yes, Lord Braeghe?”

“Surely one of your Temple brethren would have been better suited for this task, yet, you chose me.”

Siere sighed quietly. “I don’t like you, Lord Braeghe, I think you know that. You are rigid, cold, and infuriating in many ways, and there is much about you I disapprove of. However,” she continued softly, choosing her words carefully, “I chose you because I do believe you are a man of honor. I knew despite your reservations, you would do the duty I asked of you. And, to be honest, of all the men in the room, you were the only one I could be reasonably certain would be able to knock me out without killing me.” She paused. “And now I must place one more burden on you,” she said, still staring at the broken furniture.

Softly, he said, “I am at your service, my Lady.”

She turned to him, their faces close. Gaalen’s heart skipped, then raced, and his stomach tightened. He ignored it. She did just say she didn’t like him. And yet, as he looked at her, Siere hesitated, her lips slightly apart. Time slowed and the sounds of the room faded until he could only hear her breathing. She looked away, and the moment was gone.

“No one can know what went on in this room.”

Gaalen considered a moment. “As you wish, Seeress.”

“Not even Lady Commander Milaener, Lord Braeghe.”

Gaalen hesitated. He did not willingly hide anything from Kaena. “May I ask why, Seeress?”

She nodded lightly. “I apologize if this sounds selfish, but it is the best I can offer. Healing in this manner comes at great personal cost. I am willing to pay that price, even up to my life if Aomm wills it, but there is a limit to the capability. I trust you remember the performer from last night. Had I Taken his wounds, I would have died before I could Expel them. I am willing to do that if necessary, but Aomm has not released me from my service yet. Many will not understand that distinction.”



posted on Apr, 6 2017 @ 04:09 PM
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55 - The Servant

Gaalen pondered her words. “What about Lady Itaericae? She had hours yet.”

“Yes, you are correct, she was not in immediate danger, though her suffering was great. But the wounds of a gith-gesaarm are not natural. They are of Ngak the Deceiver. I could have healed her puncture wound in minutes, yes, but their venom cannot be extracted, not even with tamborae. At least, if it can, I don’t know how to do it. Other animals’ venom can be removed, but some creatures are different. I am sorry, Lord Braeghe. Please know I would have saved her if I could have.”

He winced as he rose to go to the low bureau, poured a glass of water – fortunately set out on the bureau and not the now-destroyed table - and offered it to her. She took it and sipped delicately. The wound in his side ached and he pressed a hand to it. He felt wetness and guessed it had broken open again.

“Seeress, may I…? That is,” he stumbled, trying to find the words to frame his question.

“Ask freely, Lord Braeghe.”

“You knew what you were in for, didn’t you?” It was more of a statement.

“Not entirely,” she said simply. “I knew roughly what I was dealing with when I saw her, but I didn’t know quite how bad this was until I Took it. By the time I asked for your help, however, I knew the Expelling would be difficult, yes.”

“Do you remember it?”

She just gazed at him. Her eyes told him the truth. “All of them?” he asked, incredulous. “How many?”

She continued to stare at him. “Many, Lord Braeghe,” her voice was soft and he sensed bone-deep weariness.

“Why, then? What is that girl to you? This kind of thing happens almost every day. They can’t fight back because the girls can’t control a kir yet. And the boys are beaten until they comply unless their captors are women. They are sold for slaves, or killed when they don’t cooperate. Why her, why put yourself through it?”

Siere considered for a moment. “Why did you interrogate me so harshly after Corporal Baeler was killed?”

“I apologize for that, your Grace. Baeler was my responsibility. If I couldn’t keep him safe, at the very least I could exact justice on the one who took his life.”

“You can do better than that. Don’t patronize me, I’m too weary for it, my Lord,” she added sarcastically.

Gaalen raised an eyebrow. She stared at him flatly, expecting – demanding an answer. Suddenly uncomfortable, he got up and went to the small window, studying the intricate color pattern in the glass idly.

“He was much like I was, once. Scared, but determined not to show it. He was so clumsy – he’d crash right into a chair or a table in the mess hall because he was so wrapped up in what he was going to do next he couldn’t think about what was right in front of him,” Gaalen chuckled, then sobered. “But when he was working his sword, you could see a light in his eyes. Not madness, not the rage that takes some men. It was as if he was a master craftsman. He tried to make the perfect swordfight, the perfect counter to each attack, the perfect attack for each defense. He could become one with the sword. It was magnificent." He paused and looked down. "He deserved better than to bleed out in a market alleyway.”

Gaalen brought himself back from his reverie. How does she do that? I can’t be sentimental for a soldier!

“That is exactly why, Lord Braeghe. Every person is somehow special, every person is magnificent in their own way. What if Corporal Baeler had been killed before you ever met him? Knowing what you know now, would that be a tragedy? Everyone deserves a chance to live, to be free and become what they were meant to be. I can’t always give that chance, but sometimes I can.”

“But you can’t protect everyone. Especially soldiers. We die.”

“So I should protect no one instead?”

Gaalen was silent.

“Do you know how the ancient translations of the Book of Voices refer to Seeresses and Seers?”

Gaalen shook his head.

“The word is Maeiosha’i. It translates to the Graytongue as ‘Servant.’ Lord Braeghe, I healed that girl because I could. Because Aomm has given me a rare talent above the Gift, beyond that of other Seers. I don’t know why he did that, but I trust him. Baeler did his duty, though it cost him his life. My duty is to use my talent to help others, and if I must pay a price of suffering then so be it. Should a servant be less than a soldier?”



posted on Apr, 6 2017 @ 04:11 PM
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Just found this. Very nice writing.
On page 1, but will catch up to you OP



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