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Falling: An Epic Fantasy

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posted on Mar, 30 2017 @ 11:26 AM
Hello ATSers!

For a time now, I have been a part of a unique community within ATS called The Shed. It is a mixture of storytelling and general conversation, all are welcome and many have found their way there.

One of my hobbies for many years has been writing. It has taken the form of a large story in what could be termed the epic fantasy genre. I would like to think I write in the vein of the Lord of the Rings or The Wheel of Time, however I cannot claim to be anywhere near as talented as those masters. However, I do my best and most importantly, I enjoy telling the story that has grown over the last several years.

The Shed gave me the opportunity to share a part of that story I've been writing. It has grown surprisingly large, and thus, to facilitate ease of reading and management I have chosen to put this story into it's own thread.

The story does not have an official title, but the best title I can come up with at the moment is simply Falling. Note that as my ultimate desire is to publish this as a novel, what follows in this thread is only the primary story arc. There are other story arcs that I am not including. As mentioned, the story is an epic fantasy, set on another world. Humans on this world refer to it as Geaomm, which translates to English as "The Garden of Aomm". It is a dangerous world, and despite many centuries of existence, humanity is fading away.

On Pronunciation
I use several words from the native tongue of the humans, which is called the Modern Graytongue. Some words contain an apostrophe (e.g. ges'etaaken). This mark is a consonant - it is a hard "g" sound, but made a bit deeper in the throat. Therefore, a word such as ges'etaaken would be pronounced "gess geh TALK en."

As a general rule, all vowels are pronounced, as in Spanish or other Romantic languages. The pronunciation of them is as follows, using American English as a basis:
a = "ah" as in part, large, arc
e = "eh" as in bet, them
i = "ee" as in sweet, beet, or keep
o = "oh" as in story, boat, or goat
u = In the middle of a word, "oo" as in soon; at the beginning of a word, "yoo". The point upon which the fortress called the Bastion sits is called Tullon Head (pronounced "TOO-lohn"), while the son of the Master Librarian is Uwen ("YOO-wen").

Multiple vowels are each pronounced, although native speakers would glide some of them together. In particular, two diphthongs occur regularly: "aa" and "ae".
The city where much of the plot takes place is called Avaanse, which is pronounced "ah-VAH-ahn-seh." Native speakers would slur the two "ah" sounds together, to make it sound roughly like "ah-VAHN-seh."
The family name of one of the main protagonists is Braeghe, which is formally pronounced "BRAH-eh-geh." Native speakers, depending upon their region, would slur the "ah" and "eh" together to produce either "BRAY-eh-geh" or more commonly, "BREYE-geh."

A Note to the Mods
Finally, I am posting this in the Short Stories forum as I did not see a forum for longer ATS-member works. This doesn't quite make the "novel" length of 120000 words, but it would fit the definition of a "novella." If this is not the right forum for such a work, please move the thread as appropriate.

Additional Author's Notes
This work is a work of fiction. No similarity to any real person is intended, nor have I deliberately borrowed source material from other authors. That said, I believe we are all products of our own experiences and circumstances which influence us, so I'm certain there are turns of phrase, mood, feel, setting, or other minor items that may reflect those authors whose words and workds I have treasured in my life. If such is the case, please take any such parallels as homage to those who came before.

This work is not yet complete. That said, there are over 30 scenes totaling tens of thousands of words already written and proofread for you to read. In my source MS Word document for this arc, there are over 50,000 words alone and 122 single-spaced pages. I am actively continuing writing, and it is my hope to complete this arc as this summer progresses, with additional arcs to be fleshed out afterward.

As of this moment, there are 60 "episodes" formatted and ready to go. The bulk of these have already been posted in Sheds 11-14. I will repost them here for convenience of the reader. I will repost them by their story scene. Each episode does have a title which I will include, as I've tried to choose titles with some significance. Sometimes, it is up to the reader to tease out what that significance is.

I will put the story episodes in purple writing to distinguish it from any other posts in the thread. There will be no "table of contents" post with links to each episode, as the limit for editing a post does not permit me to add to it after 4 hours.

Most of this story is roughly PG-13/TV-14. I have endeavored to keep things within the Terms and Conditions of ATS. To that end, there is one scene that will not be posted, because it exceeds the PG-13/TV-14 rating and (IMO) clearly violates the T&Cs. It will be noted where it would appear, and if readers so choose, we can make arrangements for them to read the unposted scene outside of ATS. I have great respect for ATS's T&Cs and I believe I understand the reasoning behind them. I would rather keep certain content off the site than countenance any risk to such a unique community as ATS.

A final disclaimer: I am not an author. I am not trained in writing, nor have I ever published anything. Thus, I accept and even welcome constructive criticism. (Gulp! Yikes!) The largest group of people who has read my writing is right here on AboveTopSecret, in Sheds 11-14. To that end, my eternal gratitude to the denizens of The Shed who have been so supportive thus far. I cannot thank you enough.

Thank you for reading, and I pray that you might enjoy this vision.

posted on Mar, 30 2017 @ 11:27 AM
1 - Gaalen

The great walls of the Bastion loomed above him some time later as he trekked away from the Port District. The Bastion itself sat on Tullon Head, the rocky peninsula that formed the eastern wall of the Avaanse harbor. The wind off Greygate Bay blew his brown hair around his head as he ascended the crushed stone path up to the gates of the Bastion. High up the path, a rider on a lean roan made his way to the open gate.

The Bastion was a stark monstrosity. The wide walls that surrounded it appeared white, although up close they were slightly gray, and Gaalen could not tell what kind of stone they were made from. Square towers rose from the outer wall at irregular intervals. There were no entrances at ground level aside from the huge gates that faced the city, and a single sally port on the leeward wall that only the Ladies and Lords Captain were informed of. The top of the wall was wide enough for siege engines to operate from, including the new style trebuchets the Bastion engineers had recently designed. The Bastion’s Outer Gate was on the western edge of the south facing city-side wall, near the harbor. An attacking force that managed to breach the Outer Gate would be required to maneuver eastward between the walls to get to the Inner Gate, which was situated on the eastward side of the inner wall. A single bridge and several underground passageways linked the two walls, allowing for the deployment of defensive forces on both walls even if the Outer Gate had been breached. Only two armies had ever breached the outer wall, and neither of those had made it far enough through the killing gauntlet between the walls to even attempt an attack on the Inner Gate.

Inside the Inner Gate rose the two keeps – the Tulvar and the Elver. Each tower stood grim and mountainous, watching over the city. The various outbuildings and facilities were scattered around the yard, but the heart of the Bastion was in those two towers. Most of the military knowledge in the realm was contained in the volumes sitting upon mahogany shelves in the Bastion’s library, a huge room three stories tall on the first floor of the Elver. Lady High Commander Macosai could see the entire Bastion yard – the gates, the killing zone, Greygate Bay, and the sea to the east – from her apartments, which were in both the Tulvar and the Elver, connected by a narrow bridge high above the yard. The Bastion held a small temple as well, in the Elver, although its Ringhall was nowhere near the scale of the Temple of Avaanse. The rest of the keeps were taken up by barracks for the Ladysguard and Lanceguard, various receiving halls, and cavernous training rooms where Gaalen and Bryn spent hours sparring.

The Outer Gate stood open today, and Gaalen walked through uncontested. He knew that would change at the Inner Gate, and he was not disappointed.

“Lord Captain Gaalen Braeghe to see Lady High Commander Macosai,” he said to the masked Lanceguard holding crossed halberds in front of him. It wasn’t until he pulled his windblown brown hair away from his face that the guards released the block.

It was Bastion rule that no one may enter the inner grounds with their face hidden, even if it was due to simple wind. In contrast, the guards at the gate always wore masked helms. None were granted entry without verification, and concealing the identity of the guards prevented reprisal from any powerful visitors who were offended at being treated no better than anyone else. Lord Gaalen Braeghe, however, was a well-known enough figure that he was almost always admitted immediately, and was only detained in the event two new Lanceguards had drawn gate duty.

As he strode past the stables he noticed the same rider he had seen entering the gate when he ascended the pathway. Dark hair was drawn back and tied with a leather thong, and slender arms reached from under a dark green traveling cloak to rummage through a saddlepack. The rider straightened and turned, then gave a start at seeing Gaalen walking by. It was a woman, travelworn and disheveled, but quite attractive. Gaalen’s eyes widened in surprise, surely matching the large dark eyes that stared unblinking back at him. His mouth dropped open slightly, and his steps hitched for a moment. The woman recovered quicker than he did, flat eyes and pursed lips replacing the surprise that had been evident a moment ago. She purposefully turned back to her mount to dig once again in her packs.

posted on Mar, 30 2017 @ 11:27 AM
2 - Disappointment

Gaalen dismissed thought of the woman upon entering the Tulvar; she had to have gotten past the same guards he did. Perhaps she was a new recruit to be part of the Ladysguard. A formidable group, they were. Every one of the women under Kaena’s command was as deadly a killer as any of the brutes in his Color, and many of them in far different – and more subtle – arenas. Kaena, a childhood playmate of Gaalen’s, ensured every single one was lettered and instructed in a wide variety of political and clandestine arts, as well as rigorous training in kala ratoen, the basis for all martial arts at the Bastion. Dangerous women, they were – equally capable of seduction as they were of open warfare. Some were masters of disguise, and could melt into any social situation so well not even Lady Macosai could tell if one was part of the Ladysguard or just some noblewoman. Gaalen did not begrudge Kaena her methods, but more than once Gaalen had considered the ramifications of the Ladysguard abusing their power. As long as Kaena led them, his fears were allayed, but if someday someone else took over, an entire fortress of highly skilled women with the ability to Command or Compel a man at will was a force to be reckoned with. Aavelae – indeed all countries – needed to be wary of unlimited power in anyone’s hands, even with the world the way it was. Humanity was losing its fight with the natural world; they could ill-afford a ruthless dictator.

While Lady Macosai’s apartments were near the top of the two keeps, her audience chamber for daily business was only on the third floor. The entrance chamber to the Tulvar was a massive circular room, the ceiling two floors up. Wide staircases around the outside led to walkways ringing the room on the second level. Frescoes along the balcony depicted some of the more famous battles in Aavelae history, but they hid a darker purpose. Behind the frescoes ran a passageway dotted with murder holes that could be used to defend the entrance to the keep if necessary.

Gaalen ascended the staircase on the left, then strode along the walkway to the second flight of stairs opposite the Tulvar’s entrance. Once on the third floor he made his way to the Lord Captain Commander’s audience chambers and was greeted by Sir Pathon, the graying Seneschal of the Bastion.

Pathon had been teaching strategy at the Bastion when Gaalen first arrived as a timid and clumsy adolescent boy, and the grizzled soldier had not changed much in that time. His thick hair, a mixture of black, white, and gray, was cropped short. Bushy eyebrows gave his serious blue eyes even more weight, and his neatly trimmed beard hinted at the thorough, particular way he approached anything Gaalen had ever seen him do.

“Good morning to you Lord Braeghe. She is expecting you.”

The Lady High Commander’s audience chamber was surprisingly well lit for being in the lower floors of the Tulvar, the late morning sunlight streaming in the tall east-facing windows. Lady Macosai sat in a tall, straight-backed chair, poring over the parchments and scrolls that littered the plain table she sat behind. A great tapestry hung behind her, depicting the Sword and Shield, the Crest of the Bastion. She looked up quickly when Gaalen entered.

“Ah, Lord Gaalen. That was prompt.”

“Yes, my Lady. Joen indicated that you wished to see me as soon as possible.”

“I do. Please, sit,” she said indicating one of the chairs that faced the table. Gaalen could tell Lady Macosai meant business this morning – she always reserved the comfortable chairs ringing the fireplace for less formal occasions, choosing the hard wooden chairs facing the desk for the times she was about to give orders or about administer discipline. Gaalen had received plenty of both.

“You have done well recently, Lord Gaalen.”

“Thank you, Lady Macosai.”

“It is no secret that you had me quite worried for a time, young man. I am pleased to see you back where you belong.”

“Yes my Lady, I admit I was nearly lost. I have since found my path.”

“Good. The Bastion needs you. You will be going to the Ash River. Should hostilities ensue, Braeghe Color will have the center, but Lord Elerac will lead the operation and oversee the cavalry. You are all subject to the command of Lady Captain Rivercross, of course. There is no better swordsman in the Bastion than you right now save Lord Robaer, but his place is with his scouts. Besides, I could split a hair with the difference between you two,” she said, waving her hand dismissively.

“I understand, Lady Macosai.”

“You are disappointed.”

“No, Lady. I trust your judgment. To hold the center is an honorable charge. Braeghe Color will not falter.”

She looked a Gaalen for a moment, and he attempted to keep his face as relaxed as possible. He was disappointed – it would have been quite an achievement to command an operation this size at his age, but he was willing to wait. He could not deny that Elerac was the better choice, despite Bryn’s opinion.

“Very well. There is something else I need of you.”

“Yes, my Lady.”

“One of the Ladies of the Eastholds, Lady Eveleta Meron, Amaerke i'Lithelwait - is sending her youngest daughter to study at the Temple, or something of that nature. She has asked me to ensure her safety while she stays in Avaanse. The details were not entirely clear, for the message had been damaged during travel. Apparently the messenger had some difficulty. Regardless, I would have you assign a few of your best men to safeguard her person. I do not think more than one at a time is necessary. This is Avaanse, after all, not some Mons Rosian pit. Choose men of integrity, Lord Gaalen. I will hold you to account if anything untoward should happen to her.”

“I see, my Lady.” This did not please Gaalen in the slightest. Such duty was for the Royal Guard, or even a paid sword. In addition, several of the other lords – including Lord Elerac – had served in the Royal Guard and had experience in this sort of thing. Gaalen hadn’t the faintest idea where to begin. Not to mention he had no desire to become some child’s nanny, or to force any of his men to do so.

“Now, truly, you are disappointed.”

“With respect, my Lady, it is not my place to judge the orders I am given,” he responded stiffly. “My men and I will perform such as the Lady High Commander deems necessary. We are the Sword and Shield, be that holding the center against the Makata dogs or keeping watch over girl-children.”
He struggled to keep irritation off his face, but he was not certain he had been successful. As Lady Macosai eyed him for a moment, the muscle on his jaw popped out.

Abruptly, she spoke again. “The girl’s name is Siere. She should be…”

There was a heavy knock on the door, and Sir Pathon poked his head in. “My Lady, there is a young Lady Siere Meron to see you.”

“Thank you, Merkum. Please send her in.” She turned to Gaalen with a faint smile. “As I was saying, she should be arriving soon.”

Despite his irritation, Gaalen chuckled quietly.

posted on Mar, 30 2017 @ 11:28 AM
3 - Siere

He was taken quite by surprise when the woman from the stable glided through the door. Of course, it made sense in retrospect, and he was slightly ashamed he did not draw the logical conclusion as soon as Macosai had given him the order.

Nevertheless, the woman who walked through the door made the nightmare of watching a child at play absurd. Lady Siere Meron must have been nearly his age, although beyond “adult” he had a hard time putting an age to her. Her face was delicate, with porcelain skin and the darkest eyes Gaalen had ever seen, framed by straight chestnut-brown hair that, now freed from its leather binder, fell softly past her shoulders. She had a serious, business-like expression on her face, much as she had in the stable, and carried herself confidently, even regally. However, unlike before she did not appear at all disheveled or tired, and her clothes bore no travel wear. He wondered when she possibly had time to freshen up – he hadn’t been here that long.

Lady Macosai and Gaalen both stood and touched two fingers to their foreheads in respect. Gaalen waited for Lady Macosai to take the lead.

“Lady Meron, it is my pleasure.”

“Lady Macosai,” she replied, offering her hand, “My mother sends her well wishes, and has asked me to convey that you are always welcome at Maarke Lithelwait. It has been too long,” she smiled warmly at her, lighting up her face.

“My duties here keep me in this very room most of my days, but I admit it would be good to see Maarke Lithelwait again. You, my dear girl, are the very image of your mother. I daresay if you stood next to her portrait I would not be able to tell you apart.” She shook her head slightly, then motioned to Gaalen. “May I present Lord Captain Braeghe?”

“Lord Gaalen Braeghe? Of Braeghe Maarke?” she inquired, turning steady eyes on Gaalen. She did not even glance at his kir.

“The very same, my Lady,” he answered, lowering his head to her. The youngest daughter of even a powerful Easthold Lady was not his equal – at least, not unless she inherited her mother’s Hold – but the woman had an air of authority and elegance about her, and Gaalen did not see the harm in being cordial. Nevertheless, when he raised his head she had arched one eyebrow at him, and a corner of her mouth had turned up in a small, quirky smile.

“It is an honor, my lord,” she said, much to Gaalen’s surprise. “Your father was a great man, Lord Captain,” she continued seriously, “House Meron was grieved to hear of his passing.”

Gaalen was stunned into silence. He recovered quickly, pulling his jaw back up. “I, ah,” he stammered, “Thank you, my Lady.” Gaalen lowered his eyes, embarrassed. Who is this woman? How does she know Father?

“Lord Hyn Braeghe was a man of uncommon virtue,” intervened Lady Macosai, “Fortunately for Avalae, Lord Gaalen shares both his father’s mettle and his mother’s wit,” she finished with a smile.

“You give me too much honor, my Lady,” Gaalen said softly. He did not like to be compared to his father. Lord Hyn’s legacy was...complicated.

“Not at all,” Lady Macosai countered, “but that is a discussion for another time. Please, my Lady, Lord Captain, let us take our ease.”

“Thank you, Lady High Commander,” Lady Meron responded.

The grace with which Lady Meron moved as she took one of the other seats in front of Lady Macosai’s table surprised Gaalen. He found himself comparing her movements to the Princess. The Princess has more elegance and grace than any two women you know.

“I understand you are to study at the Temple, my Lady,” Lady Macosai began. “Do you hope to become a Seeress of Aavelae, then?”

It seemed to Gaalen that ice filled Lady Meron’s dark eyes, but her face remained as unreadable as when she walked in. It was gone as fast as it came, leaving Gaalen to wonder if he was imagining things.

“I fear you have been misinformed, Lady Macosai,” she began slowly, “I already hold the rank of Seeress.”

posted on Mar, 30 2017 @ 11:28 AM
4 - The Real Assignment

There was an uncomfortable moment of silence in the room. Macosai was clearly surprised, and Gaalen knew enough of the Lady High Commander to guess she was trying to come up with a suitable response. It was not without justification. No Seer or Seeress Gaalen had ever heard of was anywhere near as young as this slip of a woman.

“What then brings you to Avaanse, my Lady?” he jumped in, not entirely sure it was a wise course of action.

She turned to Gaalen, pinning him with that emotionless gaze. He began to regret his decision.

“Seer Lowaeren has summoned me to the Temple. I have not been informed why, but I imagine it is my particular skills with tamborae that he is interested in.”

Seer Lowaeren was second only to the High Seer Meic Caerdi, the most powerful figure in the Temple of Aavelae. Gaalen had only met the man once, but he remembered it vividly. Lowaeren’s fierce green eyes held raw zeal, and he seemed to look inside Gaalen, picking apart his very thoughts. He shivered at the thought of ever having the Seer upset with him.

Gaalen caught Macosai shifting in her chair at the mention of tamborae. Not a thing lightly spoken about, Aomm’s Gift as it was sometimes called made more people uncomfortable than it did not. No one outside those in Temple service seemed to know much of anything about it, other than the tales told by storytellers and entertainers. Those stories were enough to make most steer clear of it, and anyone who could wield its power. It was rumored that all Seers in the Temple could use it to some extent, although the temple Seer Gaalen grew up with in Maarke Braeghe claimed that was not true.

Lady Macosai recovered and jumped back into the conversation smoothly. “May I inquire as to what your expertise in tamborae is then, Seeress?” she said, switching to Lady Meron’s Temple honorific. That should redeem her a bit, Gaalen thought. As a Seeress and the daughter of an Eastern Hold, she would outrank Gaalen. If she someday gained the title of Amaerke i'Lithelwait, she would likely receive deference even from Lady Macosai.

“I mostly work with those afflicted by illnesses of the mind, Lady High Commander." Gaalen noted the Seeress returned Lady Macosai's gesture in kind, using Lady Macosai's full Bastion title. "It has been my mission these last five years, along with various forms of healing,” she replied, her face softening a bit as she turned back to Lady Macosai. "I imagine I will be working quite closely with the Bastion physicians."

“Indeed,” murmured Macosai, beginning to look quite as uneasy as Gaalen had ever seen her. She was probably thinking what Gaalen was thinking – how far was it from curing illnesses of the mind to reading a woman’s thoughts? Of course, through the kir, a man’s thoughts were an open book to any woman who wished to look. But women could not read other women. At least, not usually.

“Well, I shall not keep you long,” Macosai continued, “Lord Braeghe here has been charged with your safety, Seeress. He will be providing an escort for you at all times during your stay in Avaanse.”

“I have little need of a bodyguard, my Lady,” she responded flatly, “I am not a helpless girl.” The corners of her mouth tightened slightly as she looked from Macosai to Gaalen.

“Oh I have no doubt of that, Seeress. However, this was the personal request of Lady Eveleta, and I am not one who will refuse your mother in a matter of prudence. I assure you, Lord Gaalen’s men are among the best the Bastion has in her Towers. He will make certain they are discreet.”

“Quite right, we will be of no trouble to you, my Lady.”

“It appears I have no choice.”

They spoke for a short time longer, straightening out the details of the guarding of Seeress Meron’s person. Gaalen’s men would rotate at midday, evening, and before dawn. Gaalen assured her they would not hinder her, and would respect her privacy. It was a bit difficult to determine what to do when she entered restricted areas of the Temple. In the end, they decided that Gaalen would meet with Seer Lowaeren to discuss the matter. Before long, the young Seeress had left Lady Macosai’s office, heading toward the Temple to let Seer Lowaeren know she had arrived, and Lady Macosai had given Gaalen leave. As he approached the door, a thought occurred to him.

“My Lady, why didn’t you ask Lord Elerac to perform this duty? He is more skilled in these matters than I, certainly, with all his years heading the Royal Guard.”

Macosai pursed her lips and did not respond immediately.

“She is a beautiful woman, isn’t she?”

Gaalen hesitated. “My Lady?”

“Speak your mind, Lord Braeghe.”

“Thank you, Lady Macosai. She is stunning, my Lady.”

Lady Macosai looked solemnly at Gaalen.

“Elerac is the logical choice that is true. However, Lady Eveleta is an old friend. I promised her that I would keep her daughter safe. To my mind, that means keeping her alive as well as seeing she does not end up with a tarnished reputation from getting seduced by an arrogant ass of a nobleman. For all the good Lord Elerac’s skill on a battlefield, when it comes to women he has all the restraint of a feral dog. Of course with his kir he cannot harm or force any woman, but nevertheless he has somehow managed put several noble ladies in quite compromising positions, to say the least. You however," she paused, "in thirteen years, I have never seen your integrity waver in the slightest, despite that business after your father died. And to be perfectly frank, I trust your loyalty to Lady Commander Milaener.” She paused, a slight smile turning the corners of her lips up. Gaalen blushed. “Do I make myself understood?”

"Clearly, my Lady. Your…confidence honors me.” Gaalen turned back to the door.

“Lord Braeghe,” Macosai caught him.

“Yes, my Lady?”

“Do not make me regret my decision.”

“Of course, Lady Macosai.”

posted on Mar, 30 2017 @ 11:29 AM
5 - An Invasion

Dawn broke clear over the waves of Greygate Bay, pink and orange rays bathing the very tops of the walls of the Tulvar. He was in the Gull’s Roost, a little-used area off of the Water Wall and under Sea Tower. On one side the bay stretched forever, and on the other, the Water Bailey lay quiet in early morning shadow. Sunlight on the Tulvar made the stones glow orange, the fiery guardian of Avaanse.

Stripped to his waist in morning air that was already warm, he spun and cut, stepped and blocked. Over and over he performed the third drill of a'karana. The Gull’s Roost was open, with nothing to impede the procession of stance or movement. A sheen of sweat covered his shoulders and chest, and drops fell from his hair and chin, flying away when he spun.

By the fifth drill his heart thumped and his breath came quick but steady. He knew this routine, he performed it every morning before the herald sounded Manae.

Joen, who sometimes accompanied him here, was still sleeping. That was a bit unusual, but not unheard of. A boy of fifteen still grew, and sometimes Joen did not rouse when Gaalen woke. Remembering his own teenage years, he let the boy sleep this morning. He would wake him at Manae for morning sparring if Joen was not up by then.

He was into the fourth iteration of the sixth drill when he realized he was not alone. The sun was high enough now that when he stepped into the light the shadows beneath the wall were almost impenetrable from the glare in his eyes. He squinted but could not make out any details about the figure, other than the person sat, back against the Sea Tower wall, on top of a crenellation. He thought it was wearing white.

As he passed into the shadows again, he caught a clearer glimpse. It was Seeress Meron, sitting cross-legged on the crenellation, hands on her knees, eyes closed. She was completely motionless.

Surprised, he stopped for water from a leather skin, then restarted the last iteration of the sixth. The a'karana exercise was nine repetitions of nine drills, and for the entirety of the seventh, eighth, and ninth drills, Gaalen did not detect any motion out of her except her dark hair blown slightly by a gentle breeze off the water. Shaking his head slightly, he gathered his shirt, waterskin, and maar staff, then headed back into the Sea Tower door.

posted on Mar, 30 2017 @ 11:29 AM
6 - Life is Good Tonight

Gold and white tapestries lined the long walls of one of the palace dining halls, hanging from wrought iron bars at regular intervals. In between each rose a tall, narrow window set back in the tiled stone wall. Huge candelabras hung from the beams in the vaulted ceiling, each on a chain that could be raised or lowered as necessary. Gaalen and Bryn sat with several of the other members of court at the only one of the long tables being used this evening. Lady Commander Kaena Milaener sat at another table, occasionally making eye contact with him, but otherwise she was outwardly indifferent.

The Princess Anna Kire Daecullon sat to Queen Tirina’s right, as appropriate, next to her younger sister Teryn. Lord Noall, husband of Anna’s late elder sister Peraena, sat with Anna’s young niece Kerala. Taarvaes had been seated to the left of the Queen during the meal, but shortly after aedelsa – the final course of the meal – he excused himself from his seat and came to join Bryn and Gaalen further down. The rest of the court had begun to break up as well, either headed for their beds or mingling with others. The game never stops, Gaalen supposed.

The tall, dark-haired Taarvaes was an image of his father. Gaalen supposed he was handsome as those things go. Certainly the court ladies seemed to chitter and giggle when he passed by, although Gaalen suspected at least some of that had to do with his royal rank. He had an easy nature about him, always ready with an infectious grin and a twinkle in his eye. He seemed to take no day for granted, as if he felt he might fall over dead any moment and was determined to have more enjoyment today than he did yesterday. Gaalen admired the Prince as much as he did Bryn.

“You know, Lord Captain,” said Taarvaes as he approached them, “if your betrothal to my sister was finally official, I would not have to get up and walk all the way down here to speak with you.”

Gaalen shifted in his seat, but smiled back at the Prince warmly. He knew the Prince’s intentions were sincere – they always were with Taarvaes – but his relationship with the Princess and his potential betrothal to her was somewhat complicated. He looked over to where Anna Kire sat engaged in conversation with Teryn. Today her long hair was pulled into an intricate braid and studded with something that sparkled faintly in the light of the hall. As if she could sense him looking at her, she raised her head to him and her smile lit up her face.

“Ah but then, my Prince, we would both need to walk down here to talk to poor, lowly Lord Robaer. I am frightfully lazy, after all,” he said, finally taking his eyes off Anna.

“The two of you nattering on somewhere else would suit me just fine. It would allow me to concentrate on more important matters.” Bryn finished staring wistfully at the departing form of the particularly lovely serving woman who had just walked by. She bent forward to fill Lord Noall’s goblet, Bryn’s eyes locked on her. Gaalen and Taarvaes both chuckled at him.

“Lord Robaer, I do believe you need more shalt.” Taarvaes motioned to the servant standing closest to them, then turned to Gaalen. “And you, Lord Braeghe, are you a child? Drink that wine! Tomorrow could be your first day in the Hall of the Father! How can you possibly celebrate life so sober?”

“My Prince, truly I am trying. I am just full from dinner, and--”

“You are a waif, is what you are. Lord Captain Gaalen yi-Waif, and you cannot hold your drink.” Taarvaes had timed the joke perfectly, just as Bryn had taken a sip of his shalt. He snorted with laughter, nearly spitting the harsh spirit out. Soon, they were all laughing, the courtiers nearest to them turning to see what the amusement was. Gaalen caught eyes with Kaena again, who had turned up a corner of her mouth and arched an eyebrow at him quizzically. He mouthed “later” to her and turned back to Taarvaes and Bryn.

“Life is good tonight. Aroeste!” Taarvaes raised his goblet. Gaalen and Bryn raised their vessels, intoning the traditional cheer with the Prince.

posted on Mar, 30 2017 @ 11:30 AM
7 - The First Spark

“Very well then, Lord of Braeghe. Tell me, did you get the order?”

Gaalen hesitated a moment. “Braeghe Color is to hold the center, my Prince,” he said evenly.

“Indeed,” Taarvaes said in a striking imitation of Lady Macosai, which sent the three of them into another short bout of laughter.

“Yes, indeed, my Prince. Lord Artan Elerac is to have the command and lead the cavalry.”

Bryn grunted sourly. Taarvaes was unreadable.

“She must have had her reasons,” Gaalen continued, somewhat defensively. He felt particularly loyal to Lady Macosai, in return for her showing more faith in Gaalen than he knew he had any right to.

Bryn just pursed his lips and looked for the serving girl again. Taarvaes sighed.

“You are right, Gaalen,” he said cautiously, “I am certain Lady Macosai did not take the decision lightly.”

“Bah,” Bryn blurted, “you have been spending too much time with Lord Waif here, Taarvaes. You sound just like him. You know just as well as I do what Elerac is good for.”

“Lord Elerac has a broad experience in both the Guard and the Bastion. He is a sound choice for this task.”

They all knew Taarvaes was trying to remain impartial. Gaalen was sure he would like nothing better than to go to Macosai and demand the Lady High Commander give him the command for this, but that was exactly why Aavelae’s Bastion remained independent of the Royal Guard.

“Gaalen is the right choice for this command. He has been the right choice for two years,” Bryn growled. Although there was no longer anyone seated right near them, he still kept his voice low.

“Right choice or not, Bryn, Elerac is to have the command. I have to respect that,” Gaalen replied. “It matters not. There will be other commands, yes? Tell me, have either of you met Lord Alaniten Meron?”

“The husband of Amaerke i'Lithelwait?” Asked Taarvaes immediately.

“Yes, that’s him.”

“Of course, he is one of the strongest of the Eastern Holdlands’ generals. Meron Color alone could keep the Mons Rosians at bay. A fearsome man, Lord Alaniten, eyes like a hawk, and he never raises his voice. And, as I understand it, Lady Eveleta is even more fearsome. Still, she is one of my mother’s most loyal liegewomen. Why?”

“I am to ensure the safety of their youngest daughter, Lady Siere. She claims to be a Seeress, but she is younger than I am. The only Seers I know of have gray in their hair.”

Bryn shrugged, but Taarvaes spoke. “Lady Meron is the youngest Seeress in the Temple, that much I know is true. She is reputed to be one of the strongest Workers ever to attain the rank in Aavelae. I do not know much, other than the rank of Seeress was conferred upon her in Iniver, I believe, but she immediately sailed back to Maarke Lithelwait to serve at the Temple there. Why, I have never been told. What is she like?”

Taarvaes was fascinated by tamborae, the supernatural power called the Gift of Aomm. The Temple Canon maintained it had been bestowed upon humankind in The First Covenant with the Father – the Covenant of The Gift – many thousands of years ago. Every child learned about its existence, but for most it remained just another story of Aomm. Anything more was strictly the province of the Seers of the Temple. Just speaking about it made most uncomfortable, including Gaalen. Much like Lady Macosai had earlier, Bryn shifted in his seat. He began looking around the hall again.

“She is,” he paused, searching for the right words, “ah, direct. And carries herself well. Quite a lovely woman,” Gaalen said, glancing at Bryn, “but too skinny for your tastes, Robaer.” He finished with a chuckle.

“Wouldn’t catch me alone with a Worker anyway. Women are enough trouble as it is,” the big man grumped.

“You are in a fine mood this evening, aren’t you? What has your breeches twisted?”

“Haven’t you heard? Our esteemed Lord Bryn was put in his place today.” Bryn’s mouth twisted in a grimace, but Taarvaes wore a broad, mischievous grin. He was enjoying something immensely.

“What happened?”

“Well,” Taarvaes began conspiratorially, “apparently he went just a bit too far with one of the courtiers. Some minor Lady’s daughter -- what was her name? Ah, doesn’t matter. Anyway, she slapped him. In front of half the court. I thought Teryn was going to wet herself trying not to laugh.”

By now Gaalen was sure his own grin was almost as wide as Taarvaes’s, imagining the scene. Bryn’s face had turned red and he took a long draught of his shalt. Gaalen thought he heard him hiss, “Women!” under his breath. “I will stick with the serving women. They at least appreciate being with a noble.”

“Never mind that, Bryn,” said Taarvaes. “When you are Lord Captain of the Royal Guard, Gaalen is Lord High Captain at the Bastion, and I am Prince Consort to Queen Ylaen of Iniver, we shall have all of the noblewomen in the country pounding on our bedchamber doors. Well, except Lord Waif here, I will of course demand he remain faithful to my sister. You and I, though, Lord of Robaer, we will have much more fun.”

posted on Mar, 30 2017 @ 11:30 AM
8 - A Late Night

The halls of the Bastion were cold at night, reminding Siere Meron of the ancestral estate in her mother’s maarke, Lithelwait. She privately admitted to herself she already missed the rolling hills of the maarke, the sheep and the wind rustling the groves of oak. It had only been a few days.

Lowaeren had begun her duties almost immediately upon learning she had arrived. A driven man, she thought. Her mind was preoccupied with the soldier she had seen that day. It was a difficult situation. His body was healthy, there was nothing physically wrong with him. But his mind, she thought. Perhaps he had just seen too much horror and death, trapped within a nightmare inside his head, seeing threats everywhere. Lowaeren had told her she was the only one he allowed close enough to work with. The three other Meioshi who had attempted treatment he had nearly killed with his bare hands.

She was abruptly torn from her dazed reverie as she turned a corner.

“O, lee-o lee-o, lee-o lee-hi, lee-hi lee-ay
We drink in the night, for we bleed in the day!
Ah, lee-ah lee-ah, lee-hoo lee-hee, lee-hee lee-hi
Dance with the pretty girls, for tomorrow we die!”

Siere blinked as the three raucously singing men came into view. She recognized one of them immediately – Lord Gaalen Braeghe. She did not know the taller, lanky and handsome man to his right, or the thick, heavily muscled man with sandy blond hair and bright blue eyes to his left. She grimaced in distaste. Men. Most of the time she held the kir in disdain, but other times, well, these men could use a good Correction. Too bad they would not likely remember it in the morning.

She locked eyes with Lord Braeghe. He actually seemed sober.

“Ah! Bryn, Taarvaes, this is who I was telling you about. This is the Seeress Lady Siere Meron.”

Bloody Abyss! She swore silently. She wanted nothing more than to sleep. The day had been exhausting. So, Lord Braeghe’s drinking companions appeared to be Lord Bryn Robaer – he fit the descriptions of him – and the Prince of Aavelae himself. With years of training as a daughter of House Meron, she retained her composure and kept her face perfectly calm. Even drunk, the Prince of Aavelae was still royalty and deserved as much deference as she could muster. She executed her most graceful curtsy.

“Your Highness, it is an honor to be in your presence.” It was a very formal greeting, but she would rather err on the side of safety and caution. Who knew what details could be mis-remembered in the morning after such drinking. “I am surprised to see anyone at all up at such an hour.”

“Lady Seeress Meron,” Taarvaes replied formally, “it is I who am honored. Lady Eveleta Meron is a loyal and dedicated Amaerke who I know is dear to the Queen’s heart, and Lord Alaniten is a fierce and noble man, to whom our realm owes much gratitude. He saved my father’s life at Besh-Hasshar. Please, accept my humble welcome to Avaanse.”

The Prince’s training was excellent. Judging by the unfocused gaze, it was a miracle he was standing, much less capable of delivering such a greeting. He hadn’t slurred his words at all.

"Thank you, your Highness. You are most kind.” She turned to Lord Robaer. “My Lord, I am pleased to meet you also. I have heard much of the valor of Robaer Color. We owe gratitude to those who keep our realm safe.”

Robaer was not as graceful, but she got the impression that was generally the case compared to Taarvaes.

“Thank you, my Lady. I too have served with Lord Alaniten. I would be hard pressed to point to a more courageous man.” Robaer’s words slurred just a touch; he did not have quite the control of the Prince.

Siere inclined her head. Robaer had no sisters, only a younger brother. Unless he were to be married and have a daughter, his estate would fall to his oldest cousin, the young Lady Shael Robaer. In the end, his noble stature would rely on his Bastion rank as a Lord Captain.

“It is good to see you again, Seeress Meron. I trust you have been well taken care of?” As she looked closer, Lord Braeghe expressed almost no hint of drunkenness. Of course, it was obvious all three of them had been into the wine regardless.

“My accommodations are more than adequate, Lord Captain,” she said, somewhat more tersely than she wished.

“Excellent. I have an audience with Seer Lowaeren tomorrow to discuss your protection detail,” he said brightly. Siere felt her lips purse involuntarily and a moment of anger flashed through her. She immediately regretted it – the man was just trying to carry out his orders. But he’s so bloody cheerful I could smack him! She needed sleep.

“It has been a very long day, my Lords, my Prince,” she said to each of them. “Would you excuse me? I really should retire.”

“Of course, Seeress,” said Prince Taarvaes magnanimously. “May Aomm give you rest tonight. Gentlemen, shall we?”

She watched them move off for a moment before turning on her heel and heading toward her quarters, desperately hoping she did not run into anyone else.

posted on Mar, 30 2017 @ 11:47 AM
That was magnificent! I love the way you world build. The only piece of criticism I could come up with is to wonder: what's with the frescoes hiding the murder slits? Wouldn't they still be visible from the outside?

That aside I really enjoyed this. Makes me wonder what happened in the world to make men literally wear their emotions on their sleeve.
edit on 30-3-2017 by LucidWarrior because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 30 2017 @ 11:52 AM
I think you have made a good choice to spread your wings and share.

I hope that when you decide to publish this story, I can get a signed copy.

posted on Mar, 30 2017 @ 11:55 AM
a reply to: PrairieShepherd

You don't mind if I reference Geaomm in my story?

In my story it will be mentioned.

I'll credit you.

posted on Mar, 30 2017 @ 11:59 AM
a reply to: LucidWarrior
Hi LucidWarrior! Good question! LOL

Actually, I'm pretty sure I wrote that line around 12 years ago - that section is one of the oldest pieces of the story. That said, I write what I see in my head, and I think I could have described it better. Everything in the Bastion is designed around defense - it is to be the last thing standing even if the rest of Avaanse is laid waste. As such, the idea its builders had was that it would be deadly to invaders every step of the way. My idea was that the slits were narrow enough and decorated to be perceived at a glance as just a border between the scenes of the frescoes.

That said, I'm not sure I thought particularly hard about that detail when I wrote it!
Since writing that line, I've visited a few castles in the UK and now have a better idea (though still limited, being a not-particularly-well-traveled American from the Midwest) of what murder holes look like. The ones at Caernarvon were fascinating to look through.

a reply to: crappiekat
Hey there sweet Lady Kat! So glad you found your way here!

ETA: And absolutely, I will send you a signed copy.
(You read it here folks.) I sort of have to finish the complete work, though...

edit on 3-30-2017 by PrairieShepherd because: formatting

edit on 3-30-2017 by PrairieShepherd because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 30 2017 @ 12:00 PM
a reply to: starwarsisreal

I'd be honored, starwarsisreal.

posted on Mar, 30 2017 @ 12:04 PM
a reply to: LucidWarrior

Also, regarding the kir, all I can say is it gets explored. The full backstory of how humanity ended up on Geaomm is long and part of the mythology.

Although I do not remember the exact quote, Tolkien wrote once about how certain things - I believe he was referring to magic - are like a tower in the distance, shrouded in mists. From a distance, it is mysterious, magical, and it draws you ever forward. But to actually go to the tower is to destroy that magic. So, all I will say is that some things will be explained, others, perhaps not. Still others will be left up to the reader to decide.

posted on Mar, 30 2017 @ 03:30 PM
a reply to: PrairieShepherd

Ah, such a wonderful tale. I would be honored to read more, it just drew me in and I could see all in my mind's eye. Wonderfully described and beautifully tailored.


posted on Mar, 30 2017 @ 03:37 PM
a reply to: PrairieShepherd

Found it!
Just marking my spot so I can find my way back.
Will be catching up later when I can concentrate.


posted on Mar, 30 2017 @ 03:47 PM
a reply to: AlienLifeform

Thanks AlienLifeform! Those are kind words - I hope you enjoy the rest of the story as well. I will be posting some each day here until I catch up to where I was in the Shed. I'm hoping to not overwhelm people who have not read any of it yet.

a reply to: jacygirl

Welcome, jacygirl! Finding this thread is really easy. Just follow the donut crumbs, coffee drips, and bacon grease.

posted on Mar, 30 2017 @ 06:10 PM
You will now get more attention for your great works my friend! The Shed is limited and not everyone goes there or cares to. I shall continue to follow this story here. Hugs!

posted on Mar, 30 2017 @ 06:18 PM
a reply to: Night Star
Hello Lady Night Star! I will of course continue to link in the Shed when I post new chapters. Thanks for stopping by!

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