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Falling: An Epic Fantasy

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posted on Feb, 16 2018 @ 11:08 AM
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136 - Hunter

The stout, ruddy man fell in beside him, and Gaalen lowered his voice.

“That ‘demonslayer’ business needs to be nipped, Grond. I can’t have men thinking they can disrespect the chain of command like Renegar did.”

“Lord Captain, the men, well, they’d follow you anywhere now. They think you’re blessed by Aomm! Wouldn’t it do to use that? Or at least let it be?”

“I’m not a demonslayer! I,” he stopped, Seeress Meron’s words ringing in his head. Lord Braeghe, the demon was banished, not destroyed. But regardless, I did not do it. You did. And her other revelation, There is no longer any doubt in my mind, Lord Captain Braeghe. You are a Worker.

“I’m not!” he bit off. I’m not a Worker!

After a moment, Grond inquired, “My Lord? Not what?”

“I’m not what they think I am,” he finished lamely.

Grond studied him. “Lad, I’ve known you a long time. You like to face things on your own, I know. But if there’s ever anything you need, maybe just an opinion or an ear, you have but to ask.”

“I know, Grond. Thank you,” he said, knowing he would not take Grond up on his offer. What would the grizzled old soldier do if he found out Gaalen could work tamborae? He bid the old soldier good night, then completed his walk through the camp.

As he approached his tent, Joen was waiting for him.

Amaerke Lord Captain,” he began, and Gaalen grimaced unconsciously. “Lady Commander Milaener and Seeress Lady Meron have requested your presence in the Lady Commander’s tent as soon as you are able,” the boy said smoothly. Gaalen decided to try a new tactic.

“Thank you, Squire Joen of Tingueil Maarke,” he said seriously, then turned to walk across the clearing to Kaena’s tent. He heard voices as he approached.

“…don’t think you fully grasp what is happening here. Someone is working with demons, Seeress!” came Kaena’s voice. Gaalen slowed his approach to the tent.

“Lady Commander, believe me, I understand the gravity of the situation, perhaps even better than you,” he heard Siere say.

“I doubt that,” as Kaena cut in with a mutter.

“But I do not feel that is the right course of action,” the Seeress continued doggedly. She sounded weary, more exhausted than Gaalen had ever seen her.

“There is a traitor among us!” Kaena whispered urgently, “I must find out who it is!”

Gaalen entered the tent cautiously, clearing his throat. “I apologize if I am interrupting,” he said.

“It’s fine,” Kaena said tersely. “Sit down,” she commanded. Seeress Meron arched an eyebrow at her, and he caught just a slight thinning of her rosebud lips.

As he took a chair across from them, she began again. “There is clearly a traitor among us. Someone is working with demons, which means they serve Ngak. I want them dead, and I will find them. I intend to conduct interviews to determine who it is.”

“I don’t disagree we need to find the murderer, but I think conducting interrogations will only drive them underground,” the Seeress said. Her voice was soft, and there was no heat in her response.

“I will find them,” Kaena replied stubbornly.

“If it makes a difference, I suspect the Bearer Naadi Aldaahala was the intended target. This was likely an assassination.”

“And how do you know that, Amaerke Lord Captain?” asked the Seeress politely.

“Elder Poliara sent her along. To assist me.” Both women turned their gazes on him.

“I received a note from Poliara shortly before we departed Avaanse. She informed me there would be an agent of hers on the delegation. Naadi herself made contact with me the first night out of Avaanse.”

“And why in the bloody Abyss didn’t you tell me, Gaalen?” Kaena snapped. Gaalen thought she seemed quite on edge this evening.

“It didn’t seem important.”

“Not important? Gaalen!”

“She had no information of any use, and gave me some ridiculous story of how she would somehow know if I needed help. With all due respect to the dead,” he touched two fingers of his right hand to his forehead, “I think she and Poliara both acted foolishly, or they really do not know what we are dealing with. She would hardly tell me anything, and what she did was ludicrous.”

“What did she tell you?” Kaena demanded.

“Nothing important, like I said.”

“I know when you’re hiding something, Gaalen. What did she tell you?”

edit on 2-16-2018 by PrairieShepherd because: (no reason given)

posted on Feb, 21 2018 @ 10:30 AM
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137 - Prey

Gaalen considered Kaena. There was a fire and intensity to her eyes, and he could not tell if it was zeal or something else.

“She accused you of being a traitor,” he said evenly. “As I said, ludicrous.” Kaena’s eyes widened slightly in what Gaalen assumed was ire. Kaena would be furious if someone called her a traitor.

She swallowed, and Gaalen guessed she was trying to control her temper in front of the Seeress.

“How,” she cleared her throat. “How exactly did she say I was committing treason?” Her voice was soft, but the vein pulsed quickly under the smooth skin of her neck.

“She said you were working with agents hostile to Aavelae, or something like that. Typical cryptic Temple nonsense, if you ask me. Present company excluded, Seeress,” he finished with a quick glance over at Siere. Siere might be reticent, but at least when she spoke she said what she meant. Mostly.

For her part, the Seeress was eyeing the two of them, a completely blank expression on her face, waiting and studying.

“Of course it’s nonsense,” Kaena said firmly. “Now, I want to interview everyone, even your men, Gaalen.”

“I would expect nothing less, and I will cooperate fully, but Kaena, I don’t understand how you came to such a certain conviction that a traitor exists among us. I know these men, and I would vouch for every one of the Braeghe Colormen. Seeress Idrasyl was out there with us when the demon attacked. About the only people I am unsure of are the drivers.”

“It could be anyone,” she hissed.

“My point is that just because the demon attacked doesn’t mean there’s a traitor among our company, does it? That doesn’t follow logically,” he said calmly.

“I know there is, Gaalen, I can feel it. Someone in this camp summoned that damned thing, I’m sure of it. Seeress? Don’t you agree?”

“I cannot be certain, Lady Commander. It is possible I felt its summoning and that’s what alerted me to its presence. It’s also possible its presence was strong enough for me to feel when it entered the camp. I simply don’t know. I will say I agree with the Lord Captain to an extent – just because the demon attacked doesn’t necessarily indicate there is a traitor with us, although it could,” she nodded toward Kaena.

“That’s all I am saying as well,” Gaalen offered.

“So the two of you are in agreement. Why am I not surprised?” The Seeress arched an eyebrow at Kaena, but she continued without acknowledging it. “I will begin the interviews while we are on the road tomorrow. I’m confident I can tease out who is lying and who isn’t. Most importantly, we need to figure out what these people want. What warrants working with the devil?”

“I think that is what we are all wondering, Kaena,” Gaalen said quietly, hoping to soothe her obvious agitation. Gaalen had no idea that the demon attacks had upset her so much.

They spoke further of more mundane things, primarily the logistics of the path ahead as the terrain got rougher.

“We leave the Gennet Valley tomorrow. The road goes through the Kina Ridge of the Thel-Manegh Mountains. To get out of the valley, we have to cross through Freina’s Pass. It’s not much more than a narrow canyon. The men will be fine, but the wagons will be a challenge to get through. They will make it as long as we don’t break an axle, but the going will be slow and the animals will need rest when the climb is done. If we get an early enough start tomorrow we can make it through in a day, otherwise we are camping in the canyon, and I’m not interested in making ourselves bait for whatever might live in those foothills.”

“I think we can make it through in one day if we keep breaks short. The road has been well maintained so far, and I don’t see why it would change. It will be a question of the pace – not too hard, not too light. Nothing you don’t already know, Kaena.”

They continued to discuss details of the next few days - the terrain upcoming, the condition of the road, the weather and how it might affect their journey. Underpinning all of it was Kaena’s obvious anxiety over the incident with the demon. Gaalen resolved to speak with her privately, but their consultation with the Seeress went late into the night, and he did not have the opportunity.

posted on Feb, 22 2018 @ 10:29 AM
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138 - Freina's Pass

The following day began early, well before the sun actually rose. First and Second Moons lingered in the sky in the west as they broke camp, starting off in the purplish light of the false dawn. The two small but bright moons would likely set about the time they arrived at Freina’s Pass. Luckily, the sun would rise shortly thereafter, so it should already be dawn by the time they began their climb.

The road continued to be well-maintained as they approached the pass. The path was wide and grassy, and easy to find in the fading light of the Greatmoon. Gaalen rode at the head of the column, Joen and Grond by his side.

Renegar rode just behind him, next to Etruesdan, who was serving as herald. A cleverly designed bracket held the small standard pole behind Etruesdan’s shoulder – what they referred to as a traveling standard. Narrow, long banners fluttered behind him. The highest was the Crown’s herald - the crest of Daecullon, quartered with the chevron of the Defenders, the Ring of the Temple, and the Sword and Shield of the Bastion, all on a field of gold. Second was the Milaener crest – a stalking black ges’etaaken on a field of light blue. Third was the Braeghe crest – crossed swords and shield of red on a field of white. The standard would easily identify the convoy, but wasn’t so large as to interfere with Etruesdan’s duties.

The road became a bit rougher as they approached the mouth of the valley, where the stream they had been traveling by flowed out of Freina’s Pass. The foothills of the Kina Ridge loomed ever closer as they traveled, and the air was crisp this morning.

The roadway began its ascent into the pass – as Gaalen had suspected – right around the time the two moons set. The glow of the dawn was in the east as they climbed though, and their pace remained steady despite the incline.

By the time the sun had climbed above the peaks in the east they were halfway up the hill to the top of the pass. The valley narrowed on both sides, the wide, grassy slopes of the lower valley giving way to rockier shoulders and outcrops, with trees and shrubs clinging to the steep sides of the hills. The bright sun took the chill off and warmed their fingers even as it raised their spirits.

They had nearly crested the pass when Kaena called a halt in a slightly wider area of the canyon. They broke rank and began to set up. It was daytime, so Kaena allowed cooking fires, but admonished everyone to remain close to the wagons. There were ridgecats in the surrounding area, and there could easily be rochfendre or aiyuun. Heavy-clawed alkasanni liked the rocks and could leap upon them from above. Not to mention bandits or even advance scouts of the Makatan army might be this far east.

Several made the walk back down the path to where the path diverted away from the river in order to get water, while others checked their mounts and supplies. The wagon drivers saw to their teams and double-checked their wagons, making sure pins were secure, strap knots were tight, and wheels were not damaged.

Gaalen circled through his men, checking for signs of fatigue, injury, or illness. They were all healthy and in good spirits, though, and he returned to the head of the column thinking perhaps things would go largely as he hoped for the remainder of the journey.

He sent Joen out to scout ahead for a bit, then set about his own meal. He stayed near Kaena and the two Seeresses, speaking mainly of the route from their position to the Hold at Lithelwaite.

As Kaena was about to call for the convoy to prepare for departure, Joen came back, riding hard and breathing heavily. The nimble young man leaped from his mount and ran to Gaalen and Kaena.

Amaerke Lord Captain!” his said breathlessly as he sketched a bow, “Lady Commander. There are raiders! They look like Mon Rosians.”

posted on Feb, 26 2018 @ 09:27 AM
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139 - A Horrified Look

“Raiders this far west?” Kaena mused.

“Not entirely unheard of, though unusual. They’ll be after the supplies, and the gold,” Seeress Meron added grimly. Seeress Idrasyl’s eyes were wide and she kept very still.

“How many?” Gaalen asked Joen.

“I saw a double dozen.”

“How long do we have, boy?” Kaena demanded.

“They should be here well before Taar, Lady Commander,” the boy said nervously. Taar, the halfway point between noon and the beginning of evening, was only a short time away. Perhaps the length of a meal, or the duration of the a’karana.

“You’ve done well. Go tell Grond. Quickly. And keep it quiet. We want them to attack us, not some unsuspecting village.”

Kaena nodded approvingly, then turned to the Seeresses. “Both of you stay near me. You will be safest where I can see you.” She turned back to Gaalen. “Who are your best scouts?”

“Renegar, Merotoen, Askiel, and Ami Banagabar. What do you have in mind?”

“Send for them.”

When the four Braeghe Colormen arrived, Kaena addressed them quietly. They left with determined looks on their faces, two heading for each end of the canyon at a brisk trot, armed with a bow & crossbow each.

“Lady Commander,” Seeress Meron spoke up, “how can I help?”

“Unless I miss my guess, Seeress, your power is no use in battle. Gaalen told me you cannot harm people. I suggest you stay near the wagon drivers. The raiders will not be interested in the drivers themselves, just the wagons.”

“Lord Braeghe trained me for combat, Lady Commander,” she protested.

“You haven’t been trained for combat, Seeress, you’ve been trained for self-defense. You are not ready for this. I would consider it a failure of duty if anything happened to either of you,” Kaena countered.

“Please, Lady Commander, I can fight!”

Seeress Idrasyl shot her a horrified look.

Kaena considered Siere for a moment, then replied, “Take one of the bows and a quiver of arrows from the armory wagon. Keep it hidden until the fighting starts, then you stay at a distance and shoot only at isolated targets. I’ll not have you missing and hitting one of our men.”

The Seeress gave her a withering look, then turned to retrieve a bow.

As the camp quietly prepared for an attack, Gaalen made rounds through his men, discreetly verifying each of them was prepared for a fight. The Colormen seemed to be in good spirits, actually, with the eager anticipation of an easy victory.

Gaalen was not so confident. Raiders were usually ruthless and brutally efficient. Sometimes they were simply fortune hunters, paid swords out to loot and pillage the rich Aavelaean Eastholds. But sometimes they were actually trained by the Mons Rosian crown, and sent on specific missions such as assassinations or to create tension in the hope of sparking a war. In the numbers that Joen was reporting, it was not likely that these were simple bandits, in Gaalen’s estimation. He began to have an uneasy feeling.

The wide area where they had stopped was the crest of a small hill dotted with boulders, drying grasses, and a few short trees with leaves in varying autumnal colors. Gaalen’s gut tingled in anticipation, and he fought the urge to pace and fidget. He could not allow his anxiety to give away their surprise. As the news spread, the camp had a low buzz, a tension Gaalen could feel in his being as if the very air hummed and buzzed with energy. He sat near a squad of Braeghe Colormen and said little, instead rehearsing commands and strategies in his head. The minutes ticked by in the clicking of the insects and chirping of mountain birds.

Just when Gaalen began to question whether Joen had actually seen what he thought he had, the man across from him choked and clutched his throat where a black-fletched arrow buried itself in his neck.

posted on Feb, 26 2018 @ 01:03 PM

originally posted by: PrairieShepherd
Hi folks - I really do apologize for the long break. However, there is some good news. I've been working on the next scenes in my spare time and have a few written. Again, these are cutting-edge, PrairieShepherd-just-wrote-this-and-maybe-proofread-it-once scenes. You've been warned.

Without further ado...

Yeah Shep! I have fallen behind but will be working on that! So glad to see the story taking off again!
Oh and HEY Shep!
*waves frantically *

posted on Feb, 26 2018 @ 01:12 PM
a reply to: Martin75

OMG - Hi Admin!!

I have missed you! Good to see you on here again too! Yes, things should ease up for me in a couple months and I hope to finish this story over the summer. Wouldn't that be cool?

And Chirp, I know you're out there hiding the trees. *waves*

posted on Feb, 27 2018 @ 09:24 AM
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140 - Trap

Gaalen sprang to his feet and scanned the canyon as another arrow barely missed his head. He heard rustling from the far end of the canyon, and a group of eight men broke cover, a motley assortment of weapons drawn. They attacked the squad Gaalen was with, screaming in Mons Rosian – or at least, what Gaalen assumed was Mons Rosian.

The fight was brief but intense, and Gaalen’s well-trained men got the upper hand quickly. Three of the raiders fell, and the other five broke away and ran, Braeghe Color right on their heels. The men dashed back into the trees that lined the canyon path farther down. Gaalen held back and called to his men.

“Hold pursuit! Hold, by Aomm!”

But several of his men continued to disappear down the path. “Damn!” Gaalen swore.

He looked around. The birds and insects had stopped their chittering, and for a few moments it was quiet. In the distance, he heard shouts, and a clash of metal.

Grond stood near him, and Gaalen looked over at the old sergeant. “It’s a trap. Have the men spread out.”

“Aye,” Grond nodded and turned.

“And tell them to look for cover. I want archers there, and there,” he said, pointing to fallen boulders on the sides of the passage, where one or two archers could hide and shoot down the trail. Grond nodded grimly, then trotted off.

As he began to speak to the archers about setting up posts, the camp exploded in chaos. Arrows began flying in all around them. Grond shouted and ducked up against the canyon wall, but there was almost no cover. An arrow whizzed past Gaalen’s shoulder, and he swore.

“Cover! Everyone spread out and find cover! Grond! Get over here!”

Grond trotted back over as Kaena’s voice came to him, shouting commands to the women under her. Gaalen caught a flash of white as the Seeress ducked into a crevice near the wall.

Two men and one of Kaena’s Ladyguard were down with arrows in heart or neck. The shots were aimed to kill, not disable. It didn’t add up. Mercenaries out for a raid didn’t fight if they didn’t have to, and they didn’t kill without reason. A simple robbery of the gold they carried would not require slaughter. This was something different.

He heard shouting from behind him, back down the way they came, and from the pathway ahead. More arrows shot past him. He turned to see what he guessed was twenty men coming up the path. Returning to the other side, he saw another similar sized party. All of them with shields, armor, and weapons.

“Braeghe Color! Rally to me!” he shouted, drawing his sword. Soldiers responded and in short order he stood among a dozen of his men, forming a defensive circle. He saw no sign of Kaena but he could hear the shouts of women from back down the path. He had no more time to worry about her, as the marauders were upon them.

posted on Feb, 28 2018 @ 10:03 AM
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141 - Battle in the Canyon

Siere hid in the crevice, trying to pick out where the archers on the ridges were. There was little cover up there, so she figured she should be able to pinpoint the locations.

Scanning intently, she caught a flash of movement from behind a rock next to a tree. Slowly, she aimed the bow and calmed herself, focusing on the far side of the canyon. Her arm held the bow taut, but her conditioning prevented her from shaking.

A hooded head slowly peeked over the rock, searching the canyon. The figure selected a target and pulled a crossbow out, already cocked. She judged the distance and compensated for wind and travel, then took a deep breath and loosed. The arrow clattered harmlessly too low. The figure looked down at the dust her shot had kicked up, then swung his head and crossbow toward her. She ducked and scrambled down along the crevice.

Panic set in as a memory took hold of her conscious.


Kaena seethed. How dare these brutes attack her convoy? She buried a knife into one man’s side, spinning and slashing at another. The raiders seemed to harass her in particular – she fought in a knot of four attackers, and earlier she had seen a pair point directly at her before their assault. Somehow they must know she was commanding the delegation.

These men were well-trained, maybe even military. Nothing about this made sense. Why were they attacking? They didn’t carry enough gold to make it worth killing so many people. And to split what they did carry among so many attackers? Each man would only get a pittance – certainly not enough to risk dying for.

The senselessness of it only served to infuriate her further. With a primal roar she set about seeing that none of them survived to spend whatever loot they might think they were getting.


Renegar slipped silently along the ridge. He was indifferent to the Lady Commander, but he saw any assignment he was given as a duty to his Lord Captain. Now that Gaalen Demonslayer was the first male Amaerke that Renegar had ever heard of, he was even more determined to serve him well.

Through the trees he caught movement. The man was well hidden, but hidden from the path in the pass, not hidden from Renegar’s position. Quietly he drew a bow. He could use the crossbow to ensure he would pierce the man’s backplate and kill him; it would be an easier shot. But the crossbow was noisy, and if there was one archer positioned up here, there would be others.

Renegar swore silently as he buried an arrow into the man’s neck. This was an ambush, a planned attack. Someone knew they were coming. What he didn’t know was whether it was merely a crime of opportunity by simple bandits or something more sinister. If it was more, someone in the Bastion, or maybe the palace, was a traitor. Renegar hated traitors. Anyone who betrayed their country or comrades deserved to have their skin gnawed off by askenaat, in his opinion.

Grimly, he melted into the undergrowth to continue his search for more raiders stationed up here.

edit on 2-28-2018 by PrairieShepherd because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 7 2018 @ 10:00 AM
Hi all - I've decided not to post the next episode, 142- Figaaso. I will post a short summary and then the following episode, 143 - First Blood. The reason is that it contains content that may be too much for some readers. I may be acting over-cautious, but better that than not cautious enough.

If you would like to read the episode as written, please send me a PM and we'll arrange for you to read it.

posted on Mar, 7 2018 @ 10:09 AM
As I mentioned above, I have chosen not to post episode 142. Here is the summary:
Siere hears a woman's scream and investigates from her hiding place in the crevice. She sees Seeress Idrasyl being dragged into the few trees by one of the raiders. It's clear what's about to happen. She wrestles with herself over committing an act of violence to stop the assault because of her commitment to preserving life. She finally comes to the conclusion that she doesn't have to kill the raider to save Idrasyl. She shoots the raider in the leg to disable him, then runs to help Idrasyl escape. While she is helping a disoriented Idrasyl back up the path, the raider knocks her down, breaks Idrasyl's neck, and grabs Siere by the throat.

Again, if you would like to read the episode, let me know by PM and I'll send it to you.

On to the aftermath:

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143 - First Blood

The fight at the top of the path was ending. The remainder of the Colormen – several men from back down the path, and the four scouts Kaena had sent out earlier – had all arrived, as had Kaena and the remaining Ladyguard. Two more raiders were left, and the Bastion personnel put them to flight.

Gaalen heard a woman’s scream that was suddenly cut off from down the path ahead of them. He looked at Kaena.

“Where are the Seeresses?”

She shook her head. The woman screamed again, and he also heard a man’s voice cry out. He and Kaena dashed down the pathway, weapons at the ready.

Just as they came around some boulders forming a crevice to one side, Gaalen saw Seeress Meron, kneeling on the ground over the corpse of a raider. She held her belt knife, her hands covered in blood up to her forearms. She wept, staring at her hands and sobbing. Nearby lay another body in white – Seeress Idrasyl.

“Oh Aomm,” Kaena breathed.

Gaalen sheathed his sword and approached Siere cautiously, his hands open. Kaena was right behind him.

“Seeress,” he said softly, reaching to put his hand on her shoulder. “Why don’t,” he began.

She roared and swiped at him, standing drunkenly up to a crouch as if fending off an attacker. Her eyes were wide, the front of her robes were ripped open and splattered in blood, and her breath came in heaving pants. She continued to whimper and gasp as she eyed them wildly.

“Gaalen, step back. Let me handle this. All of you get out of here.”

Kaena moved slowly toward the Seeress. “Seeress? It’s going to be alright, you’re safe. Nothing will hurt you now,” she said quietly, slowly moving toward the slender woman. Siere shook her head, squeezing her eyes shut and seeming to fight with herself.

“Kaena she just needs to come back from it,” Gaalen started.

“This isn’t an episode,” Kaena shook her head. “Just go. Please. Go see to the fallen.” She continued to approach the Seeress.

“Siere, it’s over. They’re gone. Look at me. You know me. Give me the knife,” she said, gently touching the back of the woman’s hand. The touch seemed to melt the Seeress, and she let go of the knife, letting it fall to the ground as she collapsed into Kaena’s waiting arms.

Kaena held her for a time as Siere sobbed, her face buried against Kaena’s shoulder. Then she wrapped her cloak around Siere’s shoulders and led her up the path and toward the wagons.

Confused, Gaalen instructed the men to bury the dead soldiers and burn the bodies of the raiders. He picked up the slight form of Seeress Idrasyl himself, carrying her body back up the pathway.
edit on 3-7-2018 by PrairieShepherd because: Sent, not send

posted on Mar, 9 2018 @ 09:46 AM
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144 - Aftermath

In all, they were now only about half of what they were when they started. With Idrasyl dead, Siere was the only representative of the Temple remaining. Eight of his Colormen and four of the Ladyguard lay still, wrapped in their own cloaks under piles of stones. Of the wagon drivers, only two remained.

After the burials – Gaalen performed the ceremony in place of Seeress Meron, who stayed curled in the corner of a supply wagon’s bed not looking at or speaking to anyone – Kaena summoned him. The leadership of the delegation was down to himself, Kaena, Seeress Meron, Sir Grond, and Lady Uen-Avachek, a Lieutenant with the Ladyguard. It was mid-afternoon, and all were present except Seeress Meron, who stayed in the wagon bed, staring at the floor.

“I intend to press forward,” Kaena began without preamble. “The scouts informed me there’s a meadow just beyond the mouth of the pass, with some shelter we can take advantage of. I want everyone ready to move in about a quarter hour. We will have to leave some things behind. Take what we can reasonably bring and leave the rest, with priority to food and weapons.”

They decided to leave the remaining details until they pitched camp. As they broke up, Grond and Uen-Avachek heading in different directions to instruct the soldiers, Gaalen turned to Kaena.

“How is she?”

“As well as can be expected, I suppose. I don’t know,” she paused, arranging her words. “I don’t know yet what she endured before she killed him. But I suspect it is killing him that is eating away at her. She has never done so before, clearly.”

Gaalen nodded. “I suspect she has memories of killing, but actually doing it yourself would be something much different. My suspicion is that she’s never even drawn blood. Not intentionally, at least.”

“I think you should keep your distance for a while, Gaalen. A day or two, at least. I will take care of her,” Kaena said.

Gaalen nodded. “Alright, I’ll trust your judgment on this.”

They talked for quite some time, but in the end, they all decided there really was no choice, they had to continue on. The consequences of failure were too great. The Eastholds had to be rallied to the cause, rallied and brought back to the north to meet Ixitzaalok in the field. You can’t weep for the dead until the mission is accomplished, Lady Thorowen would say to the cadets at the Bastion.

Grond went to oversee the redistribution of the supplies, and Lady Uen-Avachek went to give instructions to the remaining few Ladyguard.

“Gaalen,” Kaena said after a few moments of quiet. “You know that no matter what, this delegation needs to make it to Lithelwaite. We cannot afford to fail,” she said seriously.

“We won’t fail,” he responded.

“Even if I fall, you have to keep going.”

“Don’t talk like that, Kaena.”

She let the matter drop, but her words gnawed at him. How could he continue to coldly do his duty if Kaena died?

He shook the idea off. Kaena was more skilled in many ways than he was. It was far more likely that he would fall in battle before she would, so it was a moot point. Besides, he intended to do anything he had to in order to see this mission succeed. The Makatan warlord had to die.

They shared a quiet, simple meal of bread, cheese, olives, and wine together, then headed out to check on the surviving members of the convoy.

posted on Mar, 13 2018 @ 10:44 AM
Just a note on these next few episodes: these are cutting-edge new, basically rough drafts. Please excuse any technical issues like typos or caps/punctuation. In essence, pretend I know English.

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145 - Warning

The parcel was a cleverly folded bundle, carefully sealed with wax so no one could see inside without breaking the seal or tearing the parchment. She turned the message over in her hands, ensuring it had not been tampered with. She felt uneasy. Something felt wrong about the message, though she could not put her finger on it.

Hesitantly, she broke the seal and unfolded the message.

The sender had used a covering sheet of parchment – an expensive touch – to wrap the actual message in. The wrapping had been written all over, covered from edge to edge, top to bottom in scripture from the Book Of Voices. It had been taken from the 38th chapter of the Innae Geitlecorol – the account of the visions of the prophet Farnan. Farnan claimed to have seen the birth and life of one of the manifestations of Kei’arai, the Archangel whose likeness stood outside the Temple in the Gerat Kuhjinoe, the massive two-story statue overlooking the plaza. How apropos, Poliara thought.

Inside the cover sheet was the message, plus two additional individually folded messages. What is she about, she mused to herself.

She had been at this game for over one-hundred fifty trips around the sun. Her work with tamborae had heightened her sensitivity to Ngak’s influence in the world, and she could sense darkness now. Working tamborae on parchment, she quickly she scanned the glowing words that appeared on the page. The message was encoded, written in the form of an abstract poem about stars. She had designed the system herself, so she decoded it in her head as she read.

“Found in Palace, lower levels.

Script unfamiliar, assume encrypted.

Must talk, no longer safe.

Stay away from the Palace.”

Of the two folded parchments that had fallen out, one was clearly written on, the other not. She opened the one with writing first. Sure enough, the script was nothing she had ever seen before. Angular, with jagged characters and a form that looked harsh. The writing was laid out in a grid pattern, and she could not tell if it should be read side to side or up and down.

It seemed to ooze darkness, and the characters almost began to writhe as she studied them, drawing her closer, drawing her in. She felt light-headed, and had the urge to lay down to sleep. Her mind fought like a swimmer struggling to the surface of a deep, murky swamp, panic rising inside.

Something is wrong! Fight! You must fight!

The words snapped her back. She flipped the parchment over and slammed it down onto the desk, gasping for breath. Whatever that script was, it was clearly evil. She rubbed her eyes, catching her breath. She needed to talk to her informant. She had many questions.

Tucking the message – including the unopened envelope – into a drawer and locking it, she stood and left her office, heading down the corridor to the Temple entrance. Along the way she stopped one of the many Bearers milling through the hallway.

“Run ahead and get me a coach, child,” she said sternly. Wide-eyed, the young woman dashed off obediently, nimbly dodging the traffic ahead of her.

The Bearers and acolytes curtsied or bowed as she passed with murmurs of, “Your Grace” or “Good day, Elder Seeress.” She ignored all of them, marching purposefully out the main entrance to the Temple and down the wide, stone steps to the coach waiting in the Gerat Kuhjinoe.

posted on Mar, 14 2018 @ 08:41 AM
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146 - A Cup of Tea

Poliara waited impatiently for the driver to open the coach’s door. She knew her mouth was set in a prim frown when the driver held his hand out to help her down, ducking his head as she descended. Why doesn’t anyone seem to move with alacrity these days?

She entered the door of The Gold Crown, a upper-echelon inn in the Palace Quarter of Avaanse. The innkeeper, a tidy, amiable woman by the name of Belna, smiled when she saw Poliara.

“Ah, Seeress, what can I do for you today?”

“I am just here to meet an acquaintance for tea, Mistress Belna. Perhaps you could seat us in the Garden Room? I do so enjoy the scents.”

“Of course, Seeress, right this way.”

Belna led her through the common room to one of the private chambers beyond, standing aside to allow Poliara to enter first. She followed, then closed the door behind her.

Poliara wasted no time.

“I need to see her. Immediately.”

“She hasn’t come in yet today, Elder. I’m very concerned. She seemed very nervous yesterday, worried about something and jumping like her feet were on fire.”

“Which room does she stay in?”

“The Round Room, but I’ve already checked. She didn’t sleep in her bed last night.”

“Does she keep a man?”

Belna nodded. “She does. His name is Maerteil, he’s a blacksmith over toward the Market off of the Bastion road. It’s the only smithy in that area.”

“If you see her before I do, tell her to come to the Temple, ask for Bearer Iriei, and wait for me. She is in danger.”

Belna nodded her assent, frowning and rubbing her hands together.

“Very well, bring me one cup of tea. Elamaran Royal if you have it, otherwise Clearjack will do. I will leave afterward. My acquaintance did not show up. Understood?”

The innkeeper nodded again, then departed, returning a short time later with the requested Elamaran Royal tea.

Poliara paced as she sipped the fragrant, slightly floral liquid. She was still missing something, but could not put her finger on what it was. She hated when problems eluded her. Defining the problem was the first step in solving it.

That was really the issue here. She was chasing something she could not even clearly define. Someone was working for Ngak, that much was clear. The attack of the gith-gesaarm, the attack on Seeress Meron, even perhaps the attack on Lady Commander Milaener, they all seemed to be related, all part of this hidden web. She even knew who some of the involved parties were. But for all her work, for the lives this had already claimed, she still didn’t even know what they after.

In her many years, she had seen people taken by wild fantasies, the ones who were really far-gone saw conspiracy everywhere. After a time, everything became part of the conspiracy. It became a self-perpetuating delusion, full of tenuous connections and some great, dark, secret truth that always seemed to remain just out of reach. Was she one of them now? Was this all in her head?

She hoped Naadi was able to find something useful out in the Eastholds. She needed something concrete to hold on to.

The teacup empty, she left the Garden Room and headed back to her waiting coach, instructing the driver to head north and east, toward the Bastion road.

posted on Mar, 14 2018 @ 01:57 PM
Just came in to say keep up the good work Hun!

posted on Mar, 14 2018 @ 02:12 PM
a reply to: Night Star

Hi Night Star! Good to see you in my corner of ATS.
I'll swing by the Shed later & say "HI"

posted on Mar, 16 2018 @ 01:53 PM
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147 - A Rare Smile

The corridors beneath the Temple were humid, and smelled of earth and wet stone. He disliked them immensely, but they were the best method for travelling between the Temple and the Palace unseen. Very few knew about the network of tunnels beneath Avaanse – originally caves cut by the combined flows of the Crystal and Ash Rivers as they pushed northeastward toward Greygate Bay. There were still places in the tunnels where, without care, you could end up in a pool that would suck you under as the tide came in or retreated. There were strange sounds echoing through the tunnels at times that reminded him of ghosts or shades calling for his soul. Someday he would have to answer that call, but not today.

The corridor came to an end at a stout wooden door. It was not secured – locks and latches made noise. Instead, it had a simple bar, well-constructed to fit without catching, padded with leather, and kept well oiled. It allowed virtually silent operation.

He slipped into the next chamber – an old interrogation room dating from a long forgotten minor dynasty that reigned in Aavalae six centuries ago. It had been walled up and left to crumble until he had discovered its existence in the Temple archives.

Entering the hallway outside, he proceeded past the old cells and various other rooms. He had no need of artificial light, of course. The power he had access to allowed him to navigate the pitch-black tunnels as easily as if they were in full daylight. He saw them in a dim grayish-red, but of course each person would be different. Those like him, at least.

He could hear the sounds of the workers now, as he rounded a corner and slipped behind some tumbled stones into a natural cleft. The break opened up into a large, natural undergrown chamber. The fires of the workers glowed around the far side of a mirror-smooth underground pool. He released the effect on his vision – the fires of the workers were enough to see by now – and made his way along the worn pathway to the site.

As he arrived, the director broke away to meet him. The simpering woman knelt, her face pressed to the ground, waiting for his assent before rising.

“Up,” he said with a note of command. It never hurt to reinforce who was in charge, especially in this fallen and degraded society.

She stood with alacrity, falling in beside him as he continued up the path toward the diggers.

“What do you have for me?”

She smiled, barely able to contain herself. Fool woman! He thought in irritation.

“Master, they have reached the Old Wall! It will not be long now!”

He looked at her, nearly bouncing on her toes in her excitement. She was like a cat, twining around its master’s legs demanding attention and validation. It was disgusting.

“Show me,” he commanded her.

Eagerly, she led him through the supply area and other infrastructure areas to where the workers were actually excavating. They parted to let him through, but he paid them no mind. They were of no consequence – means to an end. What was it to him if they lived or died? They would all come to the same end when he succeeded anyway. They would be pressed into service, or they would become food for worms and beetles. Either way, they would serve.

The tall overseers stood unnaturally motionless and silent in the shadows, almost blending into the rock of the cavern. Occasionally he could hear the click of one of them moving their talons on the stone surface, but it was rare. They were perfect taskmasters – diligent, unquestioning, and utterly merciless in the enforcement of their duty. The workers worked, or they paid the price. But that is how mnghani always were – single of purpose and completely unfeeling. It was not in their nature to pity. If only humans were so efficient, he lamented. If he succeeded, they would be. He would see to that.

The director – she went by the pretentious name Vesenganakh, “Princess of the Master” in Graytongue – bore the insignia of the Royal Guard. She was not anyone important in human society. But human station mattered little in his Master’s economy. Here, at least, she had some authority.

She led him to the end of the excavation. The workers stood aside, one gang leader stepping forward to babble in his savage language.

“Azak elemzuk! Mehak ketaahka ino mibunga dwani! Genna chassem khanala Avaanse tograithok om-dongla muttu. Eshem! Eshem!”

He looked at Vesenganakh, arching an eyebrow. She ducked her head obsequiously.

“Master, he says that they have reached the foundations of the old wall. These stones date back to before the founding of Avaanse by over a thousand years.”

He stepped forward to touch the stones that made up the foundation. Some kind of mortar had been placed between them, but it had crumbled. He could feel the breath of air through the cracks – cool, and old, smelling of ancient earth. Closing his eyes, he opened his mind to the Master, subjugating his mind to feed the Master. It was a risk every time, opening himself in that way. The Master might decide he was done with you, and consume your mind and soul to satiate his appetites. You might end up a shell of yourself, a hollow bag of flesh on bone, with no control or consciousness of your own. But if he did not, the opportunities that opened to you were almost limitless. It was the latter in this case, the Master chose to let him live and retain his mind. He reached out in power, feeling his way through the gaps into the void beyond the wall.

He heard gasps and excited murmurs behind him. Opening his eyes, he saw thin beams of light escaping from between the stones along the entirety of the old wall they had uncovered.

For the first time in a long time, Jenathal Lowaeren smiled sincerely. He had found it.

posted on Mar, 29 2018 @ 10:46 AM
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148 - Acceptable Sacrifice

“I’m afraid he’s not here, my Lady,” the man shook his head, and Poliara struggled to keep her face smooth despite the irritation. The hulking woman who stood before her had black hair that curled around her head, soot and small burns covering her arms, face, and the heavy leather apron she wore. Poliara glanced around the smithy with distaste, as if she could spot where the missing apprentice was hiding.

“If you find him, you can tell him he can find another mistress to apprentice under. I don’t take kindly to apprentices who don’t bother to show without any notice at all.”

Poliara grimaced. She was not a messenger. “I understand he lives near here. Do you know where?”

“Up above Aune’s. Ah, the cobbler down the street. She rents out that crawlspace she calls a room for a pittance – about the only thing a boy like Maerteil could afford, I imagine.” She snapped her mouth shut, looking a bit sheepish, as if she had surmised – accurately, in fact – that Poliara really did not care about the finer details of his accommodations.

“Of course,” she murmured. “Thank you for your time.”

She pulled up the hem of her Temple robes, trying to avoid the grimy coating of soot that covered everything in the establishment. She knew she was being fastidious, but really, had the woman never heard of a pail and water?

As she exited the smithy the driver – already reprimanded once for his sloth – virtually leaped to assist her into the coach. She shook her head tightly at him.

“I will walk. My next stop is just down the street. Meet me at the cobblers, just there,” she pointed to a painted wooden sign of a boot and hammer.

The driver ducked his head in deference, two fingers to his forehead, as she turned up the side of the cobblestone street.

She turned to the side just before the shop where a narrow, muddy alleyway ran between the cobbler and the tailor next to it. A narrow, wooden staircase rose to a non-descript door on the second story of the building, if it could be called that. Neither looked particularly sturdy, but there was nothing for it. After picking her way carefully across the alley, she climbed the staircase and knocked impatiently on the door. After no response on the third attempt, she tested the door latch. It was unlocked.

The smell of death assaulted her nostrils as she opened the door and entered the one-room apartment, and immediately she Gathered tamborae. Rough-hewn floorboards strewn with straw met unfinished beams and rafters on short walls. The angled ceiling was low, and there were clearly areas of the roof that leaked when it rained. In one corner a straw pallet was laid with cheap wool bedding stained with sweat. A table with a crude bench stood along a wall near the one window. The one comfort was a stone fireplace built into the chimney at the far end. A wrought-iron stand with an overhead rod for cookpots and teakettles stood inside, the fire beneath it long dead.

The bodies of her informant and her smith’s apprentice companion Maerteil lay dead, slumped over the table. Various injuries in strategic places indicated Maerteil had been tortured, likely to force her informant into giving up information.

Heili, for Aomm’s sake you can use her real name now. Poliara had made a habit of never referring to her informants by their names, not even in her own thoughts. Thoughts were a rehearsal for the spoken word, like a musician’s rehearsal for performance. Under stress, humans resorted to habit more than anything. If, out of habit, she never thought of them with their real names, she had a greater chance of protecting them under duress.

But now, she wanted to remember, and found it difficult. In truth, she found it difficult to muster up true feelings of sorrow. She had lost sympathy a long time ago. So many people had died in her service, so many lives lost, given up, or ruined for the cause of preserving life and upholding what is good. If this is the price, what is the point? Is it worth the sacrifice?

She knew the answer, though she hated it. Her calling for well over a century, ever since she was a young woman, a newly conferred Seeress of the Temple of Aomm, had been to battle Ngak. All sacrifice was on the table when the battle was against evil itself.

posted on Mar, 29 2018 @ 11:56 PM
Wonderfully written pieces!

posted on Mar, 30 2018 @ 10:43 AM
a reply to: Night Star

Hi Night Star!
Thanks - I've been having fun with some of these "interlude" scenes that break out from the main line of the delegation going to the Eastholds. About 3 more of them then we return to the delegation.

How about I get the next one up?

posted on Mar, 30 2018 @ 10:53 AM
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149 - Cryptic Prophecy

She sighed, drawing closer to Heili’s now-pale body. She had been executed, a slim blade pushed into the back of her neck to sever her spinal cord. It would have been quick. Of course, she had been tortured, after a fashion. She had obviously been made to watch her lover suffer, with the knowledge that she was not suffering, and she could stop it if she only gave up what she knew. The likely question was who she reported to. Poliara could assume that Heili and Maerteil had died protecting her. She could also assume that whoever it was now knew of her involvement.

She brushed curled hair away from Heili’s face. She had been a sweet, quiet woman with remarkable powers of observation, placed in a key position. Heili was – rather, had been – one of Poliara’s most valuable assets.

She shook her head. There was nothing for it anymore. And she could waste no time on sentimentality. She needed information, not useless emotions.

Suddenly angry – as angry as she got, which by the standards of the rest of the world was not very – she pulled up Heili’s right sleeve. Working ashu, she wrapped it around the dead woman’s bare forearm. Script appeared on the woman’s skin, shimmering purple and white in the dim light of the apartment.

Two competing factions – in palace and in Temple. Something under palace. Location unknown. Gith-gesaarm was cover, not an assassination. Tengonan 38, Refniki 3, Farnan 12

Tengonan, Refniki, Farnan – all prophets. Farnan spoke of Kei’Arai, the Archangel of Aomm, and one of his human manifestations. In the twelfth chapter, Kei’Arai defeats a mighty demon and throws it down into a volcano. Tengonan was a prophetess who had claimed to have seen Seiua Laes, the “White Light” of Aomm. Seiua Laes was to be a person – of what race, none knew – but one who would bring peace to humanity. They would be a temporal focus for the power of God. There were rumors that Seiua Laes had been born already, that – man or woman – they walked Geaomm this very day. She was skeptical; prophecy never lent itself to certainty until after the fact.

Scholars generally accepted both the Tengonan and Farnan passages as referring to future events. Perhaps not eschatological events, but certainly future. Refniki was the passage that did not fit. It was a listing of the instructions given to the first of the Faithful of Aomm on how to build the original Temple. Refniki claimed to have seen the building of the First Temple in a vision, “in the Spirit of Aomm”, which felt to her “as real as the wind and the solid ground.” There were some that claimed Refniki was no prophet at all, but had merely and ancient historian who wrote down oral tradition. Others believed in her writings as prophetic so strongly that they formed their own a branch of the Aomman faith – the Kinodoreiasi. Their name came from two ancient words that meaning “knowledge” and “teaching.”

It didn’t make any sense. Not at first. Heili was not prone to flights of fancy. She was an intelligent, down to earth girl who knew what she was about. She would not have put those scriptures together without purpose. But what could possibly have to do with both Kei’Arai and Seiua Laes? And how could the original Temple factor in?

She stifled an exasperated sigh, then decisively turned and left the macabre tomb of Maerteil’s apartment. She would send someone to arrange for their final rites later. Right now, she need to visit the palace library.

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