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Falling: An Epic Fantasy

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posted on Jun, 14 2017 @ 11:11 AM
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94 - Critical Instruction
The following morning he led Seeress Meron into the training chamber. Kaena stood in the center of the padded floor, tall, beautiful, and commanding, bathed in the early morning light streaming in from the eastern windows.

“Good morning Lord Captain, Seeress,” she nodded to each of them.

“Lady Commander,” Gaalen inclined his head.

“Lady Commander,” Siere said. There was no bow, no inclination of her head.

“Now, I realize the two of you have had some differences, but Lady Commander Milaener is the best instructor the Bastion has in the use of dual longknives. In addition, she is an expert in women’s weaponless combat. Some of the a'karana is better suited to men, and some is better suited to women. The Lady Commander will focus on the latter. Shall we begin? We will warm up with the first, second, and fifth drills of the a'karana after setting our focus. Everyone, assume lussa siertoen and prepare for the a'karana.”

Much of the instruction from Kaena proceeded without incident. Kaena seemed surprised at the Seeress’s aptitude in hand-to-hand combat, as well as her conditioning. Gaalen secretly prided himself on arranging this session. He had come to admire the Seeress, and knew in his heart that if Kaena got to know her she would like her as well.

He admitted to himself there was clearly an edge to both women’s voices when they spoke, but he was sure it would work itself out.

“No, that’s not correct,” Kaena was saying critically as she demonstrated a combination of ro-ti moves designed to bring a larger opponent to the ground. “Back stance, front stance, pivot, hook!”

“That is what I am doing.”

“Your weight and balance is not correct.”

“Then tell me what I’m doing wrong!”

“I’m showing you,” Kaena snapped, demonstrating again. “Back stance kick, front stance punch, pivot, hook!”

“Lady Commander, if I may,” Gaalen began.

“No!” they both said.

And so it progressed for much of the session, limping along while the two women sparred verbally back and forth as much as they sparred physically. A small part of him began to question his decision to involve Kaena, perhaps even regret that decision, but she was the best instructor at these particular subjects.

The women had moved into the longknives, and completing several exercises before beginning controlled sparring, while Gaalen sat off to the side, observing. Before taking his seat, he had whispered to Kaena, “Take it easy on her in the sparring, please.” Kaena had looked at him with an unreadable expression then.

They began a sparring exercise with specific guidelines. Kaena called out harsh commands to the Seeress, chastising her when she failed. Of course, Siere was a good student and did not make the same mistake more than once or twice. However, once Kaena found a weakness, she harped on it mercilessly.

Then it happened. Siere was actually performing quite well within the parameters of the exercise. Kaena broke with the scenario, performing a combination that went outside of the guidelines she had given Siere. For a moment, Siere’s eyes registered anger, but suddenly she dropped to her knees screaming and rocking back and forth, her hands on the sides of her head.

“Kaena, stop!” he called, hurrying in to kneel before the Seeress.

“What in the bloody Abyss is wrong with her? Seeress, get up!” she said with obvious disgust.

“Just leave her be for a moment,” Gaalen said, a note of irritation in his voice that he couldn’t hide. “Look at me, Seeress,” he said, in a calm but urgent voice, placing a hand on her arm and the other gently on her cheek.

Her eyes were squeezed shut and she was whimpering.

“Seeress, look at me.” She opened her eyes, and he saw panic. “That’s it, you keep your eyes right here. You’re Siere Meron. Remember?”

She closed her eyes again, and tears started to fall. “No, I can’t, they’re all dead, she killed them, oh God help me!” she gibbered.

“What is she talking about?” Kaena hissed, jabbing her finger toward the Seeress.

Gaalen ignored her and focused on the terrified woman in front of him. “No, come back to me, Seeress. You’re Siere. You’re safe. I won’t let anything happen to you. You’re safe now.”

He felt her lean into the hand he had on her cheek. Her trembling seemed to slow, and he could see her control returning. Her tears stopped, and she took a deep breath. When she opened her eyes again, her gaze was clear and focused. He stood up and offered his hand to her, which she took and he helped her to her feet.

“We are nearly at the end of our time, Seeress. I think that’s probably enough for one morning. I will escort you back to the Temple. Lady Commander, thank you.”

Kaena looked at Gaalen flatly, then without a word or a backward glance, turned and left.

“I’m sorry, Lord Captain, I fear I have been the cause of strife. Perhaps it is not wise to involve Lady Commander Milaener in these sessions.”

“She’ll come around. She can teach you things I cannot, Seeress, and despite her manner today, she really is an excellent instructor. I will speak to her.”

posted on Jun, 15 2017 @ 01:07 AM
a reply to: PrairieShepherd
Oh I didn't even think of that. Its like a DUH.

I got to say that WoW as in World of Warcraft came to mind for a second, but you know, it was missing that T, at the end.

I was like "what the hell is this purple people writer talking about, WoT? Is that a new trend or something weird cosplay kids do now a days, or a new acronym for wot-wot, what a weirdo".

And no my moniker on this site was not taken from that, the whole Galad thing is just a quinkidence, which is just an advanced form of a thing called coincidence. But now that I think about it, there are a few parallels to that character in that book but not really.

And ya, hit the nail on the head, shifting skirts and arms folded under bosoms, I mean there are a few more emoticons I can think of that could have been added in those instances, you know to keep it from getting annoying. Its a shame Jordan did not think of them as well.

And as for middle plodding parts of the books, really you should ask yourself should there never be a slow part of any story? even if it is annoying? Cant always be one big giant action filled constant run from book one to book 15 now can it? It would get old, not only that? But people would then start complaining that there is to much action and there should be more slow parts.

But anyways I think that was more or less Robert Jordans style or tick or whatever you want to call it. And ya I suppose you can call me a fan of the Wheel of Time series.

posted on Jun, 15 2017 @ 12:00 PM
Caught up again. Whew! Think I'll keep my running shoes on.

posted on Jun, 15 2017 @ 12:10 PM
a reply to: Night Star

LOL - Ready for another one? Everything is about to change...

posted on Jun, 15 2017 @ 12:32 PM
a reply to: PrairieShepherd
OK, the hoarding of your story did not go as planned. So now I am behind and have some major catching up to do! I got the new John Wick movie, so that is on tonight's todo list but I hope to get caught up over the weekend....just in time for the new section!

posted on Jun, 15 2017 @ 01:55 PM
a reply to: Martin75

Hi Admin! Well, then let's add one more for your hoard.

posted on Jun, 15 2017 @ 01:55 PM
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95 - Isaraleisen
Isara’s heart beat quickly. She had not seen Tirina in a very long time, and their last parting had not been pleasant. Still, she cared deeply for the woman, and hoped something of their friendship still held. She would need every advantage she could get.

The Princess had blossomed into a striking woman in the time since Isara had last been at the Royal Palace. She had always been intelligent and well-read, while maintaining an easy manner that endeared her to anyone she spoke with. Still, most women her age had been married four, sometimes five years since. Isara could not help but wonder why. Was she a hag under all that beauty? Was she so particular that no man could possibly please? And yet, Isara knew that Tirina would have Anna under extreme pressure to marry and strengthen her claim to the throne of Aavelae. Tirina would be forty-four this year. Her chances of seeing fifty were just as slim as anyone else’s. Anyone - even a Queen - could die a hundred different deaths each week in Geaomm, and the succession of the throne had to be unquestioned.

Isara smoothed the front her scarlet and gold dress, the colors of House Braeghe. She considered wearing gold and black - the colors of the Queen’s house - but dismissed it. Tirina had always had contempt for sycophants, and such a move might be taken as such. Life at court was all a chess game, and she felt rusty. Still, the old anticipation in her belly was there, she felt the tingling excitement of a move about to be played in a game where the stakes were the things that really mattered - power and influence, the ability to control your destiny and the destiny of your family.

“You may go in, Amaerke,” the guard finally said.

Amaerke Lady Isara Braeghe, of House Braeghe,” intoned the herald as she passed through the entrance to the Queen’s Parlor. This was a private audience, so the rest of the court was not present. Thank Aomm, she thought. The maneuvering vultures cannot interfere now. She would have this.

The Queen and the Princess both sat on chairs near the fireplace. Autumn was upon them, and soon, they would enter Shadow Night for several days also. The Greatmoon was waning in the sky, and eventually it would turn dark and there would be no sunlight for nearly a week, only the light of the stars and the two smaller moons would light the sky. It was a time for fires and company, when the people of the world huddled together and stayed inside. This year would be difficult, however, as the Shadow Night was coming hard on the heels of the harvest. Many would fall trying to get their fields readied for the winter this year.

The Queen did not stand, but Princess Anna did. Isara curtsied to the Queen first, deep and formal. “Your Majesty, I am your humble servant,” she said. Queen Tirina arched an eyebrow at her, her green eyes studying Isara carefully.

“It is good to see you, my friend,” she said finally, a small smile lighting up her face. The Queen had never been as lovely as her daughters Anna and Teryn. Peraena had been the one who had favored the Queen most; the younger daughters took after her late husband Eimestar.

Isara turned to curtsy to the Princess, “Your Highness, you have flowered into a peerless beauty,” she said, eyes to the floor.

The Princess smiled broadly and stepped forward to take both of Isara’s hands in hers.

Isaraleisen,” she said, referring back to the name she had called Isara by as a child; it was a sobriquet that meant roughly, ‘Auntie Isara.’ “I have missed your presence in our lives. I’m glad you have returned.”

“Well, your Highness, it is not my intent to stay permanently in Avaanse. Since my beloved husband died,” she said with a note of sadness, “I have needed to spend all of my efforts managing the Maarke. My daughter makes things easier, of course, but she has her own family to manage as well.”

“Our heart was broken when Gesaert was killed, and doubly so when Hyn was taken, Amaerke,” the Queen said kindly.

“Thank you, your Majesty, I am honored,” Isara replied.

“Surely you find comfort in Lord Gaalen’s successes at the Bastion, yes? I understand he is quite well-respected, and in fact commands as much or more loyalty than any leader there perhaps save the Lady High Commander herself.”

“It is in fact my surviving son about which I requested this audience, your Majesty. I wonder if you would honor me by speaking of his future.” She resisted glancing at the Princess, who was studying her intently.

“I see. You never were one for extended sentimentality, Isara, this much I remember,” the Queen said with a knowing, gentle smile.

Isara bowed her head. “I fear, my Queen, I am usually of a single mind and a clear purpose. It is difficult for me to set it aside,” she smiled in self-deprecation.

“Then by all means, Amaerke, please sit, take your ease, and tell us what is it you wished to speak to us about.”

“Very well, your Majesty,” her moment was upon her. She sat and took the goblet of wine offered by Jassam at a subtle gesture from the Princess. Her heart beat quickly, and her palms were moist. There were many ways she could approach this. She chose brute force.

“I’ve returned to Avaanse to offer my son as a husband for your Highness."

posted on Jun, 16 2017 @ 01:33 PM
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96 - The Amaerke's Gambit

"I am prepared to offer a marital tribute of gold, wine, and olive oil, our finest. The union of Braeghe and Daecullon will create an alliance to secure both our families for generations to come,” she said pointedly, “and stabilize Aavelae for the foreseeable future. I request only that Gaalen be made Amaerke Uenvinala.”

The Queen’s face was blank, but the Princess was studying Isara intently. Uenvinala was fertile, productive land, but there had been no noble Lady or Lord there for nearly twenty years. The previous occupants had all been killed by alkasanni, and no one had been given the title since. There was a small village already there, and something else, she was sure of it.

Finally, the Queen spoke. “Your request is peculiar, Amaerke Braeghe. I am not in the habit of giving out noble titles to men,” she said flatly. “However, your proposal is intriguing. You are correct, an alliance of our two houses would form a coalition that could change the destiny of Aavelae. I’m willing to consider your offer only if it meets with my daughter’s approval. It will be her throne someday, and she who would need to deal with a husband who is a noble Lord in truth.” She looked up at the Princess, who still stood, considering Isara and running a slender thumb along the rim of her goblet.

At length, the Princess spoke. “Yes, an intriguing offer indeed. I wonder,” she said, “about the rumors surrounding Lord Gaalen which connect him to the deaths of several Lanceguard. I understand it was poor judgment that caused the situation. How can I be certain he will make a reliable and trustworthy Prince Consort to me, much less a noble Lord ?”

“Your Highness, Gaalen’s performance at the Bastion is well-known and a matter of record. Would you put established fact up against mere rumors? I assure you, if he had a lapse in judgment, it was truly an anomaly. Gaalen is careful and intelligent, he always has been. Regardless of what may or may not have happened, the men of Braeghe Color trust him completely and obey him because he merits their loyalty. They would not follow a fool.”

“I see. And his relationship with Lady Milaener ?”

Isara was taken aback. She scrambled to rearrange her moves on the board. He can’t have married that Milaener girl, the Bastion won’t allow it. They must just be sleeping together. She kept her face as blank as she could, but the Princess had arched an eyebrow at her hesitation. Dear Aomm, she has grown up.

“I assure you, Princess, any dalliance Gaalen may have with Lady Kaena Milaener will be ended without delay. I beg you to consider that Gaalen’s kir is clean. He has always been a compliant and obedient man, and will be easy for your Highness to control. Like his father, like other men, he is a trained wolf. You give them a target and remove their restraints, and they are magnificent and dogged in their power. He will serve your Highness well, for that is what he has been brought up to do.”
She held her head proudly, gazing into the Princess’s glittering eyes. She had done her duty with Gaalen, brought him to heel when he strayed, molded and shaped him as needed. It had been difficult at times, she did not like being harsh with him. But it had been necessary, it had been for his own good.

She hoped her gamble would work. The Princess had always been a practical, efficient girl, not given to flights of fancy or foolish dreams. Pursuing this on the grounds that it made sense, would strengthen both Houses, and would secure her future rule was the safe path. But only if the Princess had not changed. If she had found love since Isara was in Avaanse last - real, life-changing love - this may not work. But, if she had been hurt, wounded in her heart, and had lost faith that real love was a myth, the girl Isara had known would jump at this chance for stability and safety.

“Very well, for consideration of this offer I will trust your word on that,” she said, looking down at her wine. Anna then looked up and focused her gaze on Isara, and she was no longer the bookish girl Isara had known. She was royalty, the future Queen, oozing authority and power. Isara knew her eyes goggled, and she didn’t care. This woman would make a true, commanding Queen, and in that moment, Isara knew she would follow her.

“Is he virile, Amaerke? This discussion is moot if he cannot give me a daughter.”

“He was subjected to several examinations, your M—“ Isara caught herself. “Highness,” she stumbled, “and found to be healthy and capable of conceiving a child.” Isara was shaken, and struggled to retain her mask. The Queen looked mildly bemused, and Isara avoided the Princess’s eyes.
After a moment, the Princess continued.

“An Amaerke must be skilled in many things, Lady Braeghe. Clearly he is a capable leader and skilled militarily, but a noble must also excel in more subtle areas, and have adequate acumen in bookkeeping and estate management, negotiation with merchants, familiarity with agriculture, as I’m certain you well know.” She turned to face Isara straight on. “Is he qualified?” she asked flatly.

“Gaalen’s education is comprehensive. His father and I felt it best to prepare all of our children for the potential that any of them may have to one day run Braeghe Maarke. Of course, my daughter Lura received the best instruction, but Gaalen is knowledgeable about the wine and olive trade, and to be honest, he has a better aptitude for accounting and numbers than his sibliings. However, where he truly shined was negotiating with the merchants. He has an unconventional method – he is not a haggler, but instead relates to them, gets them to trust him. His instincts are quite good, and with additional training, your Highness, I suspect he could sell Maarke Avaanse to you.”

“That’s quite a claim, Amaerke,” the Princess said with a smile. Isara felt a cold stab of fear. Had she overplayed it?

“Her Highness and I shall consider your offer, Amaerke. I must admit to certain reservations, particularly with regard to deliberately giving a man lands and title. However, I have not forgotten how well you served me, nor the loyalty of your family throughout the years. Please attend dinner this evening. As it was before, we meet at Saen in the Second Hall. I trust you can still find your way?”

Isara curtsied deeply. “I can, your Majesty. Thank you.” It was all she could do. That was as clear a dismissal as she had ever been given, so she turned and headed out of the hall to her waiting attendants.

posted on Jun, 21 2017 @ 09:23 AM
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97 - A Humbled Visitor

Gaalen stoked the fire, and then sat down in one of the chairs. It had been a long, wet, and cold day today out in the training yards of the Bastion. He had overseen a new class of cadets, girls about eleven or twelve years old. Some were frightened, some were eager, all were huddled and shivering in the rain and mud of the yard as he explained to them what their lives were about to become. He was not harsh and blunt like Lady Thorowen was, but he was not about to sugarcoat what they were going to face. Life in the Bastion was difficult, and many did not survive. He was not about to tell the cadets that they were in for soft beds and custards for dessert. Still, he felt they needed hope, so he tried to keep a hopeful, gentle tone in his lessons. You could tell the children who needed hope, and the ones who needed to be reined in with a bit of sobering reality.

He unlaced his boots and slowly pulled them off, setting them by the fire to dry them out for tomorrow’s classes. His stockings followed, hung over the protective grate before the fireplace. After removing his damp outerwear and weapons, he changed into clean, loose-fitting trousers and a warm shirt and poured a goblet of brandy. Kaena would probably be along in an hour or so, but for the time being, he would sip and read alone in the quiet warmth of the fire.

Gaalen only had a few books of his own. He kept a copy of the Book of Voices of course, as most officers of the Bastion did. He also had a copy of The Fundamentals of Tactics and Strategy, written by the ancient military historian Ghar den Ma’an, and one fictional text, Feda’ai Eisalctus yu Kei’arai, a novel about a man caught up in a contest between ancient immortal gods. The text originated from the lands across the narrow sea to the north of Greygate Bay - referred to as Norvi’zaag - and the story was quite old. His copy had been handed down from his father, and was well worn. A historian of the Temple had translated it to the modern Graytongue from Old Norviuki. The people there were a hardy, stout breed with tanned skin and dark hair. He had visited one of the coastal towns many years ago on a trade mission with his father, and remembered the thick beards and ready smiles of the men, and the bustling efficiency of their culture. They wasted little movement, and seemed to share duties equally. They also bore no kir, and yet, seemed to thrive in the cold, hard environment of the northlands.

He had just begun the second chapter, where the main character - Loake - loses his family to two hungry isbayarn] when there was a knock on the door. The brandy was just taking effect, and he had finally warmed up and dried off. With a small smile he got up to let Kaena in.

To his surprise, when he opened the door, Seeress Meron stood outside.

“Good evening, Seeress, I didn’t expect you,” Gaalen said, quickly lacing his shirt.

“I apologize, I should have mentioned I would call tonight. May we come in?”

Gaalen stood aside and gestured an invitation, as he said curiously, “We?”

Behind Seeress Meron, a downcast looking woman in conservative Temple robes followed her in. It was the Bearer who had delivered the cipher.

posted on Jun, 22 2017 @ 12:52 PM
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98 - A Battle He Couldn't Win

“What are you doing, Seeress,” he said tensely. “What is she doing here?”

“Casera?” The Seeress prompted the girl.

“Lord Captain Gaalen Braeghe,” she said quietly, “I release you from my Command.”

Siere nodded, then added, “And?”

“And,” the girl - Casera, apparently - knelt and bowed her head, “I -- I’m sorry and I beg for your forgiveness.”

Gaalen hesitated, and looked at Seeress Meron, who nodded encouragingly to him. So I’m supposed to just forgive her? His temper rose. This was not what he had in mind for this evening. He had wanted to put this episode behind him. His leg was healed, and the flashbacks while he was with Kaena had at least become less frequent.

“Fine. I forgive you, girl,” he said. He knew he had not kept his anger out of his voice, but he really did not care.

“Casera, you are dismissed. Return to your duties. I expect to see you tomorrow, understood?”

“Yes, your Grace,” she curtsied, then left. Gaalen watched the petite woman leave, then turned to go get his brandy. He took a long sip, letting the liquor burn in his mouth before swallowing and turning back to the Seeress.

“Lord Captain,” the Seeress began.

“We are done, then?” Gaalen interrupted.

“Yes, I suppose.“

“Then goodnight, Seeress,” he said, turning his back to her and facing the fireplace and taking another long sip of the brandy. He watched the flames dance and flicker above the heavy hiran logs, the coals underneath glowing in gentle, orange-purple waves. All he could see was the tip of his own knife, glowing red hot as Casera pulled it out of the fire.

“Have I offended you somehow, Lord Captain?” There was puzzlement, and an edge to her voice.

Gaalen ignored her. The memory of Casera’s control over him boiled up into a rage inside.

“Lord Captain?” she pressed.

“Why did you bring that woman here?”

“To release you, of course,” she began. “I also asked her to apologize, but asking for forgiveness was her idea, not mine.”

“What makes you think I need you to fight for me?”

“Fight for you?” she asked, clearly taken aback. “Whatever do you mean?”

“I didn’t ask you to take care of me, Seeress. I can fight my own battles!”

“That was a battle you couldn’t win! You were under her Command!”

“I can handle myself. Did you even consider your actions first? Did you stop to think maybe I didn’t want to see her ever again?”

“Lord Captain, I didn’t mean to upset you. I just thought,” she started, but Gaalen interrupted her.

“I know what you thought. You thought you would take care of the helpless man, because he’s too stupid to take care of himself. Because left alone, men become savages, right? Isn’t that what your bloody Temple doctrine says? You’re no better than she is.”

“I am nothing like that foolish girl!”

“Get out.”

“Lord Captain,” she seemed stunned.

“Get out! Don’t you get it? I don’t need you to protect me! Get OUT!”

“Oh, that’s rich. I seem to recall telling you the same thing the first bloody week I arrived this blasted city! Goodbye, Lord Captain.” She turned and left, storming out angrily.

For some reason, the slamming door startled him, and an empty pit formed in his chest.

“Damn!” Gaalen threw the crystal glass of brandy in the fireplace where it shattered, the liquid making the fire sizzle and steam.

posted on Jun, 26 2017 @ 11:07 AM
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99 - Apology

“Of course it would be you,” Gaalen said sourly.

“May I come in, Lord Captain?”

He made an indifferent gesture and left her to close the door herself. He was not feeling particularly charitable to the Elder Seeress this evening.

“How did you know I’d be here,” he said when she had taken a seat. He took a long sip of brandy.

“I have many resources at my disposal, Lord Captain.”

He frowned, and knew it was cynical. “None of which are my business, I’m certain.”

Her minute smile did not reach her unblinking eyes.

Gaalen shrugged.

“What do you want? Are my reports not sufficient for you? Would you like me to just send my men to you for interviews instead?” His anger at Seeress Meron’s actions earlier that evening still burned. Kaena had not showed up as he expected and an irrational worry over her had taken hold. He was simmering, a pot on a flame ready to boil over.

“Have I wronged you somehow, Lord Captain?”

“I’m not sure, Seeress. You never respond to me, you never tell me anything. I have been feeding you reports for weeks. Are you ever going to let me in on what you have found out?”

“I’m not at liberty to divulge that kind of information to you.” In disgust, Gaalen turned away from her and threw up his hands.

“Of course you aren’t. Then why are you here?” He leaned on the back of a chair facing away from her.

“I wished to apologize for my Bearer’s behavior.”

Gaalen froze. “What behavior?” he asked quietly.

“I know she took control of your kir, and forced you to,” she cleared her throat primly, “satisfy her appetites.”

“How do you know about that?” he asked, still not looking directly at her.

There was no response. He straightened and turned toward her. “Only two people know about that. How did you find out?”

“Do you really think Seeress Meron would divulge that kind of confidence to me? There is nothing that goes on in my Bearer’s lives that I do not know about.”

“You knew about her behavior beforehand? And you allowed it to continue?”

She just stared at him, expressionless. His rage smoldered at her, at Casera, at his kir, and he wanted to hit something.

“Not everything is black and white, Lord Captain. She had to be allowed to continue in her proclivities for a time to serve a higher purpose . That purpose has been fulfilled, and she is has been corralled now. No additional men will suffer her whims.”

“And what higher purpose was that, Seeress?” he snapped. “What higher purpose requires slavery and domination?”

“You are not ready for that truth, I think,” she said flatly.

“Is this some kind of Temple requirement? Do they teach you women to assume men can’t deal with anything that doesn’t involve a weapon?”

“I understand a weapon was involved, Lord Captain,” she arched a placid eyebrow at him.

“Our dealings are through. Please leave my chambers,” he grated.

She did not move, but instead studied him intently.


posted on Jun, 27 2017 @ 01:19 PM
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100 - Disclosure

The moment stretched, the room silent except for the crackle of the fire. Gaalen’s senses were all triggered, the hair on his arms and the back of his neck standing up. He could feel the stone beneath his feet, the connection to the ground, the world, and the sky. If felt as though the Greatmoon itself pressed down upon him as he stared defiantly at the Elder Seeress.

“The gith-gesaarm attack was planned,” she said abruptly. “Someone has gained the ability to either summon or actually control gith-gesaarm, and likely other creatures as well. There is an element within the Palace that assisted with setting up a kind of beacon that draws those foul beasts. I had a trusted agent infiltrate the circle that I believe to be responsible. She was mortally injured during the attack, and Bastion personnel ended her suffering,” she looked directly at him, pausing a moment and letting her words sink in. “The attack was a distraction, but as of this moment I am not sure why . It may have been to eliminate Lady Eilana, and maybe someone else. Someone who has been asking too many questions.”

He thought back. “Eilana’s wounds weren’t consistent. There was so little bleeding,” he mused. “Was she stabbed instead?”

“It’s possible. There are ways to stab a victim and keep the bleeding internal, some of them more disturbing than others. I was unable to gain access to the body before it was burned. Still, she may not have been the target.”

“Then who?”

“Think, boy. Who else has had their life threatened recently?”

“You think it might have been aimed at Seeress Meron? Why?”

“She is chasing something, though I can’t determine what. The girl is admirably secretive.”

Gaalen grunted. “There was a vial,” he offered, “in the belongings of the murdered undervalet in the Palace. It’s similar to vials I saw at an apothecary off of Archangel Street - one that Seeress Meron discovered makes poisons. However, the markings are different and I have not been able to determine if the vial in fact came from that shop, so it could just be a simple oil or potion from another apothecary.”

She nodded, “Pursue it, Lord Captain. It could be important. Lady Eilana was unable to convey much information to me. We were going to speak at the reception following the Water Drummer’s performance. All that I have is that this conspiracy involves the Palace, the Bastion, and the Temple. There is also evidence of correspondence with someone in the Eastholds - I do not know which Maarke. It’s possible it is actually across the border into Mons Ros.”

Gaalen considered this. “You’re no longer talking coup,” he said ominously. “If you are correct, it could be the prelude to an invasion by Mons Ros.”

She nodded again. “Something does not fit the puzzle, though. Not many know it, but Queen Rach has been ill for years. She has a degenerative disease that inhibits her cognitive abilities and her reasoning. She might become quietly oblivious, trapped in a dreamworld inside her own head, or she could go violently mad and lash out, starting a war. Either way, this kind of subtlety is not consistent with what I know of her condition. That tells me if this really originates from Mons Ros, there is another actor at play we are not aware of.”

“Bloody Abyss, Elder,” he shook his head. “Is this why we are sending an ambassador to the Eastholds?”

“That decision was made by Amaerke Avaanse, not me, Lord Captain,” she said wryly.

“The Princess made that call?”

“As best I can tell, yes, the Queen deferred on it. However, I’m not sure what Anna’s motivations are. I’m still working on that.”

“You give me more questions than answers.”

She stood and smoothed her gray dress. “Keep vigilant, Lord Captain. Events are afoot that are of great import and may shape the fate of more than just Aavelae. Do not trust anyone, boy. This may reach very, very high.”

posted on Jun, 29 2017 @ 09:34 AM
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101 - A Cold Dread

She excused herself and exited his chambers. He refilled his brandy and sat in a chair in front of the fire. The hardwood logs burned long and steady, and gave off a fragrant woodsmoke that reminded him of home. During the grape harvest in the fall they would always have bonfires in the evening after the day’s work was done. There would be roasted hakar, spiced tubers, fresh garden vegetables, and fruit pies with whipped cream. The commoners would bring slifoet, a brandy made from the julafruit. The distillation removed its unusual effects, but slifoet was smooth and sweet, with oak, vanilla, and cocoa highlights. The young men would have contests in singing, or playing the guitar or the flute. The young, unmarried women would dance and sing also, sometimes to a particular man if they were ready to make a courtship public.

At the end of the harvest would be the Feast of Sheaves, two full days of celebration for hard work accomplished. There would be races, archery contests, and wrestling matches for the men, and the women would have contests of all kinds of production - baking, art, jewelry, wines, brandies, and beer. The village would gather in the green for the largest bonfire of the season, and a large animal would be roasted - usually an antlered aramae or two, or a tra’elopei from one of the local herds. Sometimes a hunt would take ges’etaaken, or hillcats. There would be stories and sometimes plays or skits acted out, or groups of villagers might form musical ensembles of various kinds. In Braeghianis Village, there was a rock-filled moat around the village green, and fires would be built all around it to keep land predators at bay. The large bonfire in the middle served to keep the flying predators away. It was one time the people felt safe from the horrors that lay waiting in the forests and hills of Geaomm.

The Feast of Sheaves this year was coming up. Just a few more days, and the entire city would celebrate. It was different in the capitol, much more formal and more rigid. The feast dinner at the palace would be spectacular, of course, and the Queen would be expected to declare the harvest a success again this year, and proclaim the hope of an easy winter. Shadow Night would follow soon after the harvest - nearly a week with no sunlight, even the Greatmoon waning to darkness. Only Firstmoon, Secondmoon, and the stars would provide any light.

The Feast of Dawn - Geiveleodsier in the Modern Graytongue - would start the moment the sun broke after Shadow Night.

There were only two or three Shadow Nights each year, and they always took their toll in lives lost. This year would be no exception, especially coming right after the harvest. It would be bloody.

And if what the Elder had told him was true, it was about to get worse. Aavelae could not afford a war. The gold wasn’t a problem, it was the lives it would cost.

A cold dread surged through him. If I wanted to start a war, and had a way of controlling the beasts of Geaomm, Shadow Night is when I would attack.

posted on Jun, 30 2017 @ 11:18 AM
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102 - A Small Favor

Kaena lifted the bottle again and drank, turning the small parchment over and over in her hand. She had shed so many tears, and had pushed all of it down. A Lady Commander could not be emotional. Could not grieve for the dead. The living still needed leaders.

The living are the dead. They just don’t believe it yet.

She was losing Gaalen. Losing what mattered most to her. It had been days since he asked her to work with Seeress Meron in the yard that morning. She felt as though everything was coming apart all of a sudden, as if the threads that had held her life together were now unraveling before her.

It was his hand, that was what gnawed at her. The way he put his hand on her cheek. That’s for me! For me alone! If he had only just held the woman’s shoulders! And then to make it worse, she leaned in to his hand, as if she found peace and comfort there.

She drank again. The slifoet burned her throat on the way down, warming her belly. The room seemed to waft lazily if she moved her head too quickly. She had already had enough, but she wanted more. Maybe then she could forget. She gripped the parchment in her hand, fighting back tears and trying to push the memory away, but it came, over and over again.

“Thank you for coming, Lady Captain,” the Seer said. His hair was thinning on top, and he had a pinched appearance, thin lips and intense green eyes. There was something in his gaze, though, a fervor that she normally saw in over-zealous cadets on their first real mission. They would be eager for battle, as if they were going to tame the entire world on their own. It usually lasted until the first time they saw someone ripped apart by an alkasanni or stabbed to death by aiyuun. There were usually two results - either they broke, or they began to truly hate. Lowaeren’s eyes seemed to favor the latter.

She took in the rest of the chamber. They had met in the Temple, a quiet room off of one of the courtyards on the west end of the Ringhall. They had descended stairs and proceeded down a long corridor. She thought she might no longer be under the Temple itself, but out beneath the city. The room was worked stone, and smelled of a place that had been damp and dark for a long time. Torches burned in sconces on the walls, and the chamber only had one entrance. There were few decorations, just an old tapestry on one side. A long table, lined with chairs, stood in the center.

There were two other people in the room, both hooded. One was tall, and had a strange shape, though it was hard to tell as it stood in the shadow of the torches that lit the room. Something about that figure made her uneasy, and she had to consciously resist fingering the handle of one of her longknives. Another was slightly shorter than Lowaeren, but also hooded and concealed. She could not tell if they were a man or a woman. All of it made the hair on the back of her neck stand up.

Gaalen was still recovering. He had been kept in the Bastion infirmary for days, trying to control an infection that had likely come from the lacerations he received during the
rochfendre incident. The Bastion physicians were still not certain he would survive, and were consulting with Temple Seeresses. His fever was high, he was not eating, and they were having trouble keeping enough water in him. He only woke for short periods, and was always delirious and rambling.

“Why have you brought me down here, Seer?” she asked.

“We wish to ask for your assistance,” Lowaeren said. “There is a cadet in the Bastion we require to be placed in a certain position, and you have the influence to do it.”

“Bastion positions are assigned based on need and merit, not favoritism.”

“Oh, I assure you, she is highly qualified. You will receive a transfer order sometime in the next week. All we ask is that you sign it,” he spread his hands, smiling.

“And why should I do that?”

“Why, to save Lord Braeghe’s life, of course.”

posted on Jul, 3 2017 @ 03:20 PM
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103 - To Call a Bluff

Her heart skipped. “Can you heal his infection?” she asked.

“Even if Gaalen Braeghe survives his current illness, he will be tried for gross dereliction of duty, the penalty for which is death. For a man, at least,” he said with sardonic smile.

The words sank in. “I don’t believe you,” she said flatly.

“That is your choice of course. However, the evidence is strong. Several Lanceguard under his command can testify that he was not operating on sufficient rest, that he had been drinking the night before and may have still been under the influence of alcohol, and that he ignored a scouting report which would have prevented the ambush that resulted in the capture of an entire Bastion patrol. If he is tried, Lady Captain, I assure you he
will be convicted and executed.”

She fought to relax, to breathe. She could kill them all, but that might not save Gaalen. It might actually seal his fate. The Seer was a consummate dramatist; he let his words sink in before continuing.

“I can stop it, Lady Captain," he leaned toward her, "I can save Braeghe’s life and see that it never goes before a magistrate. I can even ensure he survives his current battle with illness. But I require something in return - your cooperation. All I ask is that you sign the order, allow a competent, fully qualified candidate to transfer, and Gaalen will be safe.”

“I will not violate my oath, Seer, not even for Gaalen’s life. He would not want me to and you know it.”

“Oh, I do know he wouldn’t want you to, yes. But I know you are bluffing, Lady Captain. You would do
anything for Gaalen Braeghe, and you know I speak truth.”

There had been dozens of transfer orders that week. It was the week of graduation, so all the cadets were being assigned to different Colors or internal units. She served at the time as Lady Captain Chamberlain, the personnel officer on the Council of Ladies Captain. It was one of the lowest of the ranks on the Council, but she was a full member and took her duties seriously.

She had in fact denied some transfers that week. A few of the requests were highly inappropriate for the cadet’s skillset, and one commissioned Lanceguard’s request was denied on a history of disciplinary issues. However, she had approved of all of the transfers for qualified candidates that week. She remembered poring over the transfer orders late into the night, trying to tease out which one was the one Lowaeren wanted. She never did figure it out. They all seemed perfectly legitimate, at least, the ones that involved a “competent, fully qualified candidate.”

And that had been it. She had not had any further communication from Lowaeren until several weeks ago. There had been instructions, and a threat of reviving the charges against Gaalen. All they wanted this time was a certain unit assigned to guard duty at a particular time.

She opened the note again and read it.

On Shadow’s Eve.
Or he dies.

Angrily, she crumpled it and threw it into the fire, where it writhed in the flames as it smoldered and burned. She took another drink of the slifoet.

Maybe we can escape. Leave, just leave. Who cares what happens here? We’re all dead anyway.

We’re all dead anyway.

posted on Jul, 5 2017 @ 11:55 AM
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104 - Broken

Siere closed her door slowly. She had sworn no man would ever hurt her again, yet it seemed somehow she always hurt them.

Dully, she started to fix the image of the room in her mind using tamborae, just in case. But the effort overwhelmed her, and she only completed half of the room. Banshee voices screamed in her head, nightmares coming upon her in her waking hours. Sometimes.

She was empty, cold inside. Every thought she had turned black as True Night. No joy, no warmth, just a haze of pain, rage, and sadness. She had hidden the real truth from Lord Braeghe that day with the assaulted girl. You could never Expel all of the violence – even violence by an animal, even a miniscule parasite. You could Take all of it from someone and heal them completely, but someone still had to bear the scar. It was as if violence damaged the very fabric of a person’s being, or perhaps even Creation itself, and could not be completely undone. So to heal others, she collected their scars. But she couldn’t take any more. She just wasn’t strong enough. Her heart had too many of its own.

She took her belt knife off, unsheathed it, and set it on the vanity table. She undressed, catching her reflection in the large mirror. Her constant work with tamborae kept her lean and toned, but the lack of both sleep and appetite was taking its toll. Her ribs showed, her skin was pale, the veins were visible in her arms, her chest, her legs. You are wasting away. Soon, there will be nothing left, inside or out. She sat down and started to brush her hair. The eyes that looked back were empty. As if they were already dead.

In those eyes she saw a haggard, worn out woman. Her youthful face belied the years of torment she had relived in all of the Expellings she had done. It seemed she had experienced a lifetime’s worth of other people’s trauma, taken away so they could live free. She simply lived with scars she couldn’t get rid of.

The Bearer, Casera, had told her to go burn in the Abyss, the pit of torture Aomm had reserved for Ngak the Darkness. Ignorant girl. I’m already there. Every night filled with horror relived, every day memories of rapes, beatings, animal attacks, murder attempts, suicide attempts, all haunting her and pushing unbidden into her conscious. She had lived through them all, over and over again.

Setting the brush down, she gripped the hilt of the knife, laid her arm on the table, and set the edge of the blade on her wrist, her breathing shallow and quick. Just one cut, all it would take. It’s like going to sleep. She pushed the blade down slightly and a small bead of blood welled up from her skin.

Gaalen’s voice intruded in her thoughts. “Some things are best left in the dark, Seeress.” Tears sprang up in her eyes, running down her cheeks. Me. I am best left in the dark. It’s where I belong. Growling in impotent fury, she pressed harder, warm drops of blood now falling off her forearm. Voices cried, screamed, pleaded for their lives, and shrieked in terror in her head.

His voice came to her head again then, cutting through the cacophony of other people’s horror. This time, though, he was humming. A soft lullaby in his smooth baritone. She had not revealed she was awake right away. Why had she lay there, listening to him? She had lied to him. And now she had upset him and hurt him more. Why had she done that?

No! They always go! His face drew close to hers and her heart raced. NO! Not for anyone! Why did his scars hurt her so much? He can NEVER be yours! He belongs to Kaena! To the Bastion! You swore, never again! Not for anyone! So much death, it was all she could see now. Oh it’s all so twisted up!

With a scream she threw the knife, shattering the mirror, then she swept her few jewelry boxes and bottles of fragrance onto the floor before burying her face in her hands, heaving great, desperate gasping sobs.

Naked and bleeding, she curled up in a ball on her bed and wept until the nightmares started.

She prayed for it to end. She prayed Aomm would take her soon. She was not strong enough to do it herself.

posted on Jul, 13 2017 @ 01:34 PM
Just a quick note for anyone reading, caught up, and waiting for the next segment - I recently changed the order of several segments of this story. The scene that comes next was one of them - I originally had it later in the story line. As such, there are some continuity problems with it - the character reflects on things they would not quite know about yet. Thus, I have to rewrite parts of it. That is what is taking so long.

I will try to get the revisions done today or tomorrow and hopefully post it sometime tomorrow or this weekend.

posted on Jul, 18 2017 @ 10:38 AM
Hi folks! I've got a new episode ready, but there are a LOT of Aavalean terms in this one. Here's a quick run-down to refer to for the upcoming post:
A'karana: An extended series of martial arts drills taught at the Bastion.
Kala ratoen: The name of the martial arts discipline taught at the Bastion.
Ro-ti: Literally, "strength of self." Fundamental martial arts moves resembling a combination of modern karate and ju jitsu.
Lussa siertoen: Literally, "beginning dawn," but referred to as "ready stance." A stationary position from which many kala ratoen moves begin.
Tao e'euisaad: Literally, "strong balance", but usually translated "For proper balance." The first set of drills in the a'karana.
Tao geleidra: Literally, "strong speed", but usually translated "For correct speed." The second set of drills in the a'karana.
Safiad keffeil: "Stance of horse's back." A position where the trainee spreads their feet and lowers into a semi-squat. It is very taxing to hold for extended periods.
Minit rustro: "Mountain wall." A blocking maneuver where the fingertips touch, elbows apart forming a triangle or "mountain." The trainee pushes up and splits, used to break a front choke hold or grapple.
Aati maak: Literally, "with much force", but usually translated "For power." The third set of drills in the a'karana.

posted on Jul, 18 2017 @ 11:16 AM
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105 - A New Chapter

Gaalen dozed in the chair. He would wake occasionally and sip from the cup of gingered water he had poured. His stomach rumbled and he decided to stop by the kitchens on the way to the training yards with the Seeress this morning.

But Seeress Meron was uncharacteristically late. After their confrontation over Casera, perhaps she had decided enough was enough. Gaalen was still annoyed with her, but the heat had cooled. That was typical for his temper. Yes, he would get angry at times, but then, with a few exceptions, it was done and he moved on. Guilt, on the other hand, you like to hold onto, he thought cynically. He realized he had assumed the worst and not given her the benefit of the doubt. He knew he needed to apologize to her, and resolved to do so as soon as she arrived.

After another quarter hour, however, he decided it was at least possible she had gone straight to the yard instead, so he grabbed his training equipment and headed out the door, stopping by the kitchen for a hunk of sweetbread, some milk, and some tra’elopei sausage. He ate on the way, juggling the hot sausages until they cooled enough to handle without burning his fingertips.

When he reached the training yards, though, Seeress Meron was nowhere to be found. So, perhaps that chapter is indeed already over. He felt a certain emptiness over it, a hollow he could not exactly identify.

He set his gear aside, and began the preparatory exercises for the a’karana, assuming the lussa siertoen ready stance, and slowing his breathing into measured, smooth inhalations and exhalations. The a’karana had a rhythm to it, an ebb and flow as sure and regular as the waves on a beach. There was building tension, and release, over and over and over. Breathing properly was essential to focusing strength and power into each movement. If you could not control your breathing, your thoughts and concentration would scatter. He saw it constantly with the cadets. Their minds were all over, flitting around like insects from flower to flower. Cadets in general were energetic, limber, and sponge-like in their ability to learn new things. But their mental discipline was almost universally immature, and that was the main difference between a first year cadet and a fourth year.

He launched into the a’karana, but his heart was not in it. Sensing the irony in ruminating on the lack of mental discipline in cadets while half-heartedly performing training maneuvers himself, he chided himself, then stopped and assumed lussa siertoen to start over. He breathed in deeply, closing his eyes he focused on his kir, imagining it as a vacuum where all the air he breathed in was funneled, all the sounds, the light, and the feel of his environment was drawn in. His mind floated, up into the sky, above the mountains, above the Blackhawks, until he felt he could look down upon Avaanse from above.

A’karana, first drill, tao e’euisaad.

Gaalen lifted one foot off the ground, bringing his knee up so his thigh was parallel to the ground. He formed a triangle with his hands - fingertips to fingertips, thumbs to thumbs. Slowly, he extended the lower half of his lifted leg. Centering himself again, he inhaled as he lowered himself down on his standing leg to a slow count of ten until his supporting thigh was parallel to the ground, then he pushed himself back up. Deliberately, he switched sides, performing the same exercise in the other leg. The cycle repeated nine times, and he was beginning to perspire when it was over.

His mind was more focused now, although worry over Kaena intruded on his thoughts. She would not engage with him in conversation and seemed perpetually preoccupied. She had not spent the night with him in days, and every time he encountered her she seemed to have to run off to yet another critical appointment.

Second drill, tao geleidra.

He lowered himself into safiad keffeil, or horseback stance, feet apart and thighs low as if riding in a saddle. One hand upturned and tucked by his ribs, the other out in front in a punch. He alternated punches, keeping his thighs immobile and trying to hit the same spot of air in front of him as fast as he could, nine pair of punches nine times. After that were high and low double punches, elbow smashes, throat strikes, and groin strikes, all as quick as possible. Next were side blocks, then minit rustro, or mountain blocks, then low blocks, high blocks. Tae geleidra took the warrior through many of the building blocks of the kala ratoen. They were fundamentals, but Gaalen had always felt that returning regularly to fundamentals was crucial for mastery of any skill.

Third drill, aati maak.

He focused on his breathing. The third drill was all about concentrating force. It involved executing basic combinations of moves with perfection, exactly as far as your body allowed, with as much power as possible. The trainee would perform each move three times – very slow at first, then faster and smoother, and finally as fast and as powerful as possible. It continued through nine different combinations of kicks, punches, and blocks, then repeated itself.

He pondered the sudden appearance of his mother back at the Feast of Commencement. He himself had not yet spoken with her, nor had he been summoned. Their last parting had been in anger, and if he was honest with himself, he had no wish to speak with her any time soon. Still, he knew he would have to meet with her at some point.

His thoughts turned back to Kaena, to the Seeress, swirling around and disrupting his concentration. He growled in frustration and stood erect. Why couldn’t he get his mind straight this morning?

The sun was beginning to stream over the eastern walls of the Bastion now. He closed his eyes and felt the warmth on his face, taking deep breaths, feeling the tension drain out of his body. Once again he focused on his kir, this time imagining himself melting, falling through his boots to become one with the ground, with Geaomm. He felt peace, an unshakable calm; he felt power, as if it coursed through him, in his blood, making the hair on his arms stand up and his body hum with energy.

Now, you are ready.

Able to concentrate again, he performed the remainder of the a’karana, and the technique drills for ro-ti and hala mokaeto before packing back up and going to get Joen.

posted on Jul, 21 2017 @ 01:25 PM
Just a short one today. More tomorrow!

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106 - Summoned

“Lord Captain Braeghe,” the Ladyguard bowed slightly.

Gaalen acknowledged the dark-skinned, light-haired woman. “Simi, isn’t it?” he asked, and Gaalen could tell she suppressed a smile.

“Yes, Lord Captain. Simi Asdenhael of Aelbeir Maarke.”

“What brings you to me?”

“I was sent to summon you to the Ancillary. Lady Isara Braeghe requests your presence immediately.”

The Ancillary was a large hall off the side of the Hall of the Bastion in the Elver, or what most just referred to as Guardshall. The Ancillary had a few benches and a table, but really was a museum of sorts. It had every generation of the Ladyguard armor, every livery, and every Bastion issue lance, as well as artifacts of the history of the Bastion. In the middle stood a massive obelisk on a stout stone plinth, bearing the inscription of every soldier to die in service to the Bastion, illuminated by a small window that focused the morning sunlight directly on the monument.

Gaalen hated the Ancillary. He grimaced unconsciously, then controlled his expression. “Thank you, Simi Asdenhael of Aelbeir Maarke,” he said tightly. As he stood from the mess table, he noticed she looked crestfallen, so he leaned toward her and added softly, “Ill news, Simi, not an ill messenger.”

He nodded to Bryn and instructed Joen to meet him in the yards later, then headed out of the men’s mess in the Tulvar across the yard to the Elver. Likely his mother could see him – the Ancillary had windows on two sides, and he knew she would be watching and waiting impatiently.

Passing the women’s mess, he saw Ladyguard eating their midday meal, some quietly, some raucously, but all with the smooth efficiency of those who had seen the field. He entered the Guardshall from the side, and crossed through it to the heavy oak door on the far side.

Some of the Ladyguard waved greetings from across the room, and Gaalen responded silently before grimly pushing the door to the Ancillary open.

“Took you long enough,” Isara Braeghe grumbled. “It has been a quarter hour.”

“I came straightaway when I was informed you wanted to see me, Mother. I apologize if my lack of ability to instantaneously travel has inconvenienced you.”

Sir Kivioen, his mother’s master-at-arms – and, Gaalen was sure, her current lover – grunted to himself. Gaalen had never liked Kivioen, he was a lap dog. But like a dog, the man could fight, and he was loyal. Gaalen privately admitted he should probably grant him a bit more charity, but he simply could not muster it. He is no Hyn Braeghe.

“We have business. Come here, boy.”

“Yes, Mother. What is it you wish to discuss?”

“I’ve made an arrangement for you. You are to be wed.”

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