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Falling: An Epic Fantasy

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posted on Mar, 30 2017 @ 06:18 PM
Argh. Double Post!
edit on 3-30-2017 by PrairieShepherd because: Double Post! Moo! MOOOOOO!!!

posted on Mar, 31 2017 @ 01:14 AM

originally posted by: PrairieShepherd
a reply to: Night Star
Hello Lady Night Star! I will of course continue to link in the Shed when I post new chapters. Thanks for stopping by!

I'll just sit in the big comfy chair in the corner by the fireplace until you return.

posted on Mar, 31 2017 @ 09:30 AM
9 - An Early Morning

Gaalen lay awake, staring at the ceiling as dim shadows moved across the beams above. A lantern burned low and the fire in the hearth glowed with orange embers. His mind spun and raced, turning over the impending departure of the Bastion guard. Reports claimed the Makata leader – he styled himself Emperor – had raised an army and was headed toward southern Aavelae. If he crossed the Ash River the Bastion would be there to meet him. Forces were being assembled just outside of Avaanse even as Gaalen lay there, but it took weeks to prepare an army for marching. Dozens of details swam in his head.

Seeress Meron also dominated his thoughts. In the days since she arrived, rumors of her viperish tongue had flown through court and even the Lords and Ladies Captain at the Bastion. She seemed to have little respect for anyone’s rank or authority when it came to voicing her opinion, only giving proper deference to the royal family. To make matters worse, she evaded the men he sent to protect her. They came to him flustered and upset because she had simply disappeared, or never met them at the appointed time and place to begin with. He was failing in his orders and was unsure how to rectify it, and her deliberate obstruction frustrated him to no end. He had finally told Sir Paralan to simply camp outside her apartment doors in the small hours of the morning in order to follow her the moment she left her quarters.

He hoped for just a bit more sleep. All the moons were down now, and the sun would not rise for another hour. True night fascinated him, with its complete darkness. You could see so many stars it boggled the mind. He wondered what they were like, if you were close. Were they all just suns like theirs? Were there other worlds Aomm had created like Geaomm? Spinning, spinning, further down, he felt his eyelids finally get heavy.

The knocking was persistent and loud. Gaalen toyed with the idea of ignoring it, but with his luck it would be Lady Commander Macosai. He pulled breeches on and slowly made his way to the door. His head was only slightly fuzzy this morning, despite a rather late night with Kaena. She seemed to be able to make an immeasurable quantity of wine disappear. He glanced over at her as he passed the end of the bed. The sheet clung to her graceful hips, and she remained completely still, unaffected by his departure or the pounding on the door. He grabbed a shirt but didn’t bother lacing it, so it hung loosely from his shoulders.

The room was still and cool, the sky outside still dark. He turned up the oil lamp to brighten the sitting area better. The curtains separating the sleeping area would keep the extra light from waking Kaena. Reaching the door, he opened it with indifference. To his surprise, there stood Seeress Meron.

posted on Mar, 31 2017 @ 09:31 AM
10 - The Prisoner

Tension robbed her features of their youthful appearance. She reminded him of a ridgecat – beautiful and deadly. A decidedly sheepish looking Sir Paralan stood behind her.

“You have no right!” She pushed her way into the room.

“Most men in Aavelae don’t, my Lady,” he responded blithely, motioning Paralan in and closing the door.

“Very clever. Your head is not so full of wine this morning, then?”

“What can I do for you, Seeress?” A touch of exasperation entered his voice.

“You can recall your guard. This man was outside my door waiting for me. My own apartments! I am not your prisoner!”

“Of course you aren’t. Paralan? Don’t treat Seeress Meron like a prisoner.”

“Yes, Lord Captain.”

“Excellent. Is there anything else, Seeress?”

Despite his apathy, a spike of insolence crept into his heart this morning, and the fury on her face only deepened it.

“You are uncouth, Lord Braeghe,” she grated, glancing over his bare torso. Her eye lingered a moment on the kir embedded above his heart, glittering in the light of the lamp. If she noticed the cross-shaped scar on his belly she gave no sign. “If you are going to hold me under arrest the least you can do is pretend to be respectful. Instead you send me one man who would rather be dicing in a tavern than performing his duty. You may as well not bother.” She eyed him. “I expected better of a Braeghe. Clearly I expected too much.”

Gaalen ignored the barb. “Lady Commander Macosai herself assigned me the responsibility of protecting you. ‘Not bothering’ is not an option for me.”

“I don’t need protection. There is nothing you or your -- your men can do for me, Braeghe, and plenty that you can ruin.”

“I will do as I am ordered, Seeress Meron. I am not allowed the luxury of deciding which orders are suitable and which are not. If you wish to countermand the orders of the Lady High Commander of the Bastion, I suggest you take it up with her. Until then,” he stopped as she cut in.

“There are things I must accomplish, Braeghe, and I don’t need some wine-besotted bedroom prince or one of his arrogant sword-swinging oafs getting in my way!”

“Take care, Seeress,” he growled, “my men have bled and died for Aavelae. I do not take kindly to those who insult them with ignorant quips. Now, if there is nothing else?”

“There is something else! We are not through with this!”

“Yes, you are, Lady Meron.” Kaena said, sauntering into the anteroom and pulling a silk robe around her shoulders. She poured herself a goblet of gingered water from the pitcher on the table and turned to face Seeress Meron, not bothering to tie off the robe. “Your titles might make those fluttering birds at court cater to your temper, but this is the Bastion, and neither the Crown nor the Temple has authority to countermand an order given by the Lady High Commander without specific decrees by the Queen and the Council of Ladies Captain.”

“Then I will petition. This is ridiculous! Who is the presiding officer of the Council?” she demanded.

Kaena grinned wickedly. “Why, I am, your Grace. Consider your petition noted.”

Siere’s eyes seemed to bulge, and the faintest flush rose in her cheeks. Her face became absolutely still.

“Yes, I thought that might clear matters up for you.” Kaena’s manner sharpened and she took a step toward the slender Seeress. Siere had brought out the Lady Commander now, an imposing, fierce and commanding presence when she asserted her authority. “You will be protected by men of Braeghe Color while you are in Avaanse, as we have been ordered to do by authority that exceeds your own, Lady Meron. This discussion is over.” Gaalen winced inside as Kaena deliberately used the Seeress's lesser title.

Siere glared sharp ice at her. “Very well. See to it that your…pet…does not interfere in my affairs. I am never completely without recourse, Lady Milaener.” With a contemptuous scowl for Gaalen, she turned abruptly and stalked from the room.

posted on Mar, 31 2017 @ 09:33 AM
11 - Scars

Kaena watched Siere and Paralan go without expression, then turned to face Gaalen. “You handled yourself well, Gaalen. If she had insulted me as deeply, she may not have walked out of here under her own power.”

“Men do not have the option of defending our honor against a Lady, much less a Seeress, Kaena. Besides…” he paused. Besides, she’s right. You are a bedroom prince. Anger welled inside him again.

Kaena’s steady blue eyes bored into him. “Don’t you dare,” she hissed.

He turned away from her. “She has a point, Kaena.”

“No she doesn’t. She is a spoiled child who needed to be put in her place. Do you honestly believe that nonsense?”

“I was born to a noblewoman. Other than that, what have I done to merit my position at the Bastion? There is nothing to separate me from any other Bastion Lanceguard. Or will you tell me now that you didn’t have anything to do with me getting named Lord Captain?”

“The only part I was involved in was to allow the motion to nominate you when Betta Saemoll brought it forward. It was Rivercross and Haasen who stood for you first. If you must know, I abstained, but the decision was otherwise unanimous.”

Gaalen remained silent, and the moment stretched. She approached him from behind and eased his shirt off his shoulders. Her fingertips traced the criss-crossing lines of scars. “I remember how you got these, Gaalen. Everyone remembers. That is what you have done to merit your title. You would have been a Lord Captain even if I had never been born.”

“You know we are the worst kept secret in the Bastion,” he said finally. “Everyone at court will know now also, Kaena.”

She entwined her arms around his chest, and breathed in his ear. “I don’t care. I have you. The rest of the kingdom can burn. Come back to bed, love.”

“Kaena, don’t.”

“But I want to.” Her fingers ran over his torso, and she kissed his neck.


“Come to bed. We don’t have to be in audience until Daesa. Don’t make me give you an order, Lord Captain,” she whispered in his ear. “Come. I promise you will not regret it.”

posted on Mar, 31 2017 @ 09:33 AM
12 - Sparring

His head throbbed. Why did you let Bryn talk you into that last shalt? You know you can’t keep up with him when it comes to drink. Trying not to disturb Kaena, he disentangled himself from her and slowly got out of bed. The floor was not entirely steady this morning, but the cold stone helped to shake off the grogginess and eased some of the uncertainty in his stomach.

A nasty dream had awakened him. So much blood and death he had seen, did it have to invade his dreams also? You will have rest someday, he thought. It was much earlier than his normal waking time, but he knew that to go back to bed would turn a nuisance headache into a debilitating one. He needed to get water, and to move. Sweat always seemed to draw out whatever remained of Bryn’s bloody shalt.

He pulled on breeches and soft boots, grabbed his practice sword and maar staff, and slipped out the door quietly. First to the kitchen for some juice and full skin of water, then to Gull’s Roost. Sunrise was some time away yet, and the last faint glow of the Greatmoon was fading into the west behind the mountains. The air had a crisp edge as he opened the door to the Roost. He stopped short.

In the near-dark of the setting Greatmoon, a slender figure in white sat cross-legged right in the center of Gull’s Roost. Seeress Meron, motionless, right in the middle of his area. During his drill time! He looked around – sure enough, Sir Ruaen leaned casually against the wall of the Sea Tower some distance away, a flat and bored expression on his face. At the sight of Gaalen, he stood straight and saluted without any particular enthusiasm, and Gaalen returned the same, giving him a silent at-ease signal.

Irritated, Gaalen set his belongings down and began the initial exercises off to the side, near the Water Wall. Not actually one of the iteration drills of the a’karana, the initial exercises served to focus the mind and prepare the body for work. It helped. The throbbing in his temple eased slightly and focus started to return, and soon he was deep into the drills themselves, although he studiously ignored Seeress Meron.

Since she had first invaded his drill time several days ago, he had taken to wearing a close-fitting tunic to hide his scars. He was drenched in sweat now, and the shirt was sticking to his skin. He was into the fourth drill when she spoke.

“Do you ever eat?”

His focus flickered for a moment before he regained it and ignored her.

“It’s not polite to ignore a woman’s question, Lord Braeghe. Do you eat? There is nothing to you but muscle and bone. It is not seemly for a man to have no substance to him.”

His focus broke, and he stopped to face her.

“Neither is it seemly to interrupt the a’karana, Seeress Meron. Focus is part of the exercise. Do you ever sleep?” he retorted stiffly.

She smiled slightly at him, but it did not reach her eyes.

“You look pale, Lord Braeghe. Late night?” she asked sweetly.

Gaalen grunted, then suppressed a wince as his head started throbbing again.

posted on Mar, 31 2017 @ 09:34 AM
13 - Blood

Bile rose in Gaalen's stomach. He had seen the heights of violence and savagery during his time in the Lanceguard. Men cut down and killed in all sorts of ghastly ways by the creatures of the world outside the walls of Avaanse. But he still felt unprepared for the horror he saw right now.

The man – it must have been a man since the corpse bore a kir – was bound to a sturdy wooden chair in his own quarters. The quarters had belonged to an under-valet – one who substituted in for other valets as needed, or was used to serve as valet for visiting noblemen or sometimes noblewomen if they preferred a male servant. The kir allowed such choice without concern for safety.

Of course, no one in the room could tell if the body tied to the chair was in fact the under-valet in question.

It was unusual to involve Bastion personnel in a palace criminal situation like this. However, he had been with the Captain of the Royal Guard, Ronil Wesaden discussing aspects of the Feast of the Bells and how the Lanceguard and Ladiesguard could assist the Royal Guard during the festival when the messenger arrived and he had offered to help.

Gaalen surveyed the austere room. A small desk with a quill, an inkpot, a few sheets of parchment, and a single book – the Aomman Book of Voices. A candle still burned low on the desk. The room contained one window and a pallet of straw. A chest of the man’s personal belongings stood open, his livery hung neatly on one side, now spattered with blood. Strips of what looked like cloth – the man’s nightshirt, Gaalen assumed - lay scattered about the room.

Gaalen’s stomach heaved again, but he fought it down. It wasn’t even the corpse that bothered him. It was the blood. Blood was everywhere. The strips of nightshirt were soaked in it. It had covered the pages on the desk and obscured whatever was written. Light trying to stream in the window glowed a dull scarlet-black. There were even splashes on the ceiling, some still dripping. One man could not bleed this much, Gaalen thought. Who on Geaomm would do such a thing?

Captain Wesaden cleared his throat. “You see there, Lord Captain?”

Gaalen looked where he pointed. The flesh was black closest to the kir, then it faded to gray. It looked like charred steak. Gaalen swallowed hard.

“I see it. Bloody Abyss,” he swore, and Wesaden nodded in agreement.

“Joen!” Gaalen called.

“Yes, Lord Captain?” Joen said unsteadily.

“Go get me Sir Grond.”

“Yes, Lord Captain!” He sped off.

Wesaden nodded. “Grond’s a good idea. He’ll have some idea where to start, I’ve no doubt. Got a good head on his shoulders, that one.”

Gaalen grunted his assent. None of it fit. Why kill an under-valet? In the palace? Who could get into the palace, take a man’s skin off and splatter blood everywhere, then get out without being seen and without leaving footprints? With this much blood, the woman who did this – it had to be a woman, no man could make a kir do anything, much less burn hot enough to char the man’s chest – would have been soaked in blood herself. But there was nothing – no prints outside the door, no witnesses. No one even heard anything. The lack of prints made no sense – the blood was all over the wooden floor, there was nowhere to step to avoid it.

Gaalen shook his head. This would strike terror in the city. The attacks by aiyuun and gelm were bad enough, but a woman on the loose who could torture and murder any man in the realm? And neither the Royal Guard nor the Bastion had any idea where to start.

Gaalen made his way gingerly to the man’s chest of belongings and began looking at the personal items. Nothing really stood out. Belts, boots, stockings, smallclothes. A few small apothecary items in blue and green glass vials. He noticed a bulge in the pocket of a hanging coat. Reaching in, he pulled out a small, leather-bound book, tied with a leather thong.

“Lord Braeghe,” Wesaden said. Gaalen looked over to him, and the Captain held up a strip of the man’s nightshirt.

Gaalen looked closer at it, then looked around. Some of the strips were not from his nightshirt, they were skin. The hair on the back of Gaalen’s neck stood up.

“I must go, Wesaden. When Grond comes tell him to find me at mess.”

“Yes, my Lord.”

Gaalen left the servants’ wing and headed toward the palace library.

posted on Mar, 31 2017 @ 09:36 AM
14 - Like Angels Singing

Gaalen was silently annoyed with himself. The Seeress kept intruding on his thoughts. She might be beautiful, but he really could not stand the woman. She was cold and heartless, she thought of nothing but herself. She didn’t care that he and his men were actually trying to help her. She couldn’t have the faintest idea how rough parts of Avaanse could be, but she insisted on trying to block his efforts at every turn. It would be just his luck to find out his men had been killed and she was lying in an alley way with a knife in her gut.

Such rebellious thoughts seemed to make his kir burn, and distracted him from what he should be about.

He made his way to the palace library, hoping to catch Uwen there. It was a good bet – Uwen was usually at the library. Aside from his insatiable appetite for books, Uwen’s father was the Master Librarian, the husband of Gaalen’s aunt, the Lady Cathis Braeghe. His uncle Ithan Gorulyver yi-Braeghe was a rotund man with a round face and bright eyes who always seemed to be thinking of many things at once. He would abruptly change the subject of your conversation, then just as abruptly change it back. A difficult man to follow, but Gaalen had seen his vast knowledge of history demonstrated.

The heavy oak door to the library creaked slightly as Gaalen breached it. In the center was a depression, four steps down from the walkway, tiled in bluish slate and white marble, and filled with a jumble of tables, chairs of all kinds, and small bookcases. Above him the great glass dome – an engineering feat Gaalen could simply not understand – brought light from the clear blue sky outside. Shelves of redheart wood lined walls, packed with tomes of all shapes, sizes, and colors and marked now and again with stairs to the two additional catwalks that circled the room, allowing the librarians access to the tallest shelves. To the left and right, and on the far side were additional doorways, going to other sections of the library.

Uwen was there as expected sitting at one of the many reading tables in the center depression, but he was not alone. Sir Turinen stood on the walkway that circled the edge of the round room. To Gaalen’s great surprise, Seeress Meron sat across the table from Uwen. At the sound of the door Uwen looked up at him and smiled.

“Gaalen! Dei tae vinó ae yántoe Maeóshai Misitrae Siere Meron?” he said deliberately, gesturing toward the Seeress.

“What is this, Uwen?”

“Have you met the Seeress Lady Meron? She is from the Caimrée,” he said gleefully, referring to the ancient lineage of the Eastern Holds. “I love Caimrée, it is such a musical language. Didn’t you have to study it at the Bastion?”

“I fear not, cousin. Perhaps you can instruct me sometime.”

“Oh, by the House of Mercy you would not want that! I am terrible at it. Seeress Meron would be a much better instructor for you. She makes it sound like angels singing.”

“Angels,” said Gaalen flatly. He pursed his lips unconsciously.

Uwen looked from Gaalen to Siere, then back to Gaalen, clearly confused.

“You flatter me, Master Uwen. An angel, I certainly am not, but Caimrée is my native language, yes. To answer your question,” she continued, “Lord Captain Braeghe and I have already met. Tanthalsa étwe gresdé, Tsuran d'Braeghe.” She inclined her head the slightest fraction to Gaalen.

Gaalen bowed stiffly. “Seeress.”

He executed the absolute minimum expected. She arched an eyebrow at him.

Uwen blinked, obviously sensing a sudden chill in the air, and barked a laugh that sounded just a bit forced. “But of course, how daft of me. There stands one of my cousin’s men keeping you safe from us dastardly denizens of the library.” He chuckled again and bowed before sitting down. Gaalen had to smile at his awkward cousin in spite of his irritation at finding the Seeress here. He had wanted to speak to Uwen alone.

posted on Mar, 31 2017 @ 09:37 AM
15 - Hauerdred

“So, cousin, what was it you wanted to see me about?”

“I do not wish to interrupt.”

“Please Lord Braeghe,” the Seeress said, “pay me no mind. I am eager to hear what brings you to the library.” Her smile was sweet, but Gaalen caught a devilish twinkle in her eye.

His lips tightened seemingly of their own accord, and he forced his face to relax.

“Very well. I assume you heard of the murder in the palace, yes?”’

Siere’s brow furrowed, but excitement lit up Uwen’s face. “Oh yes! Terrible thing, and right under the Queen’s blessed nose! Oooh, I bet the Royal Guard got a stern talking to for allowing that to happen!”

“Perhaps, that I don’t know. What I am about to tell you, you are not to divulge to anyone.” When they nodded assent, he said, “The person killed was an under-valet – a man. Not much is known about him, he was relatively new. He was killed in his own room. It was quite gruesome – he had been flayed alive. There was blood absolutely everywhere, even on the ceiling. His kir was pitch black, and the flesh around it had been, well, cooked.”

Siere grimaced.

“Flayed alive in his room. Interesting. Was the skin found?” asked Uwen, matter-of-factly. Siere gave him a shocked look, but Gaalen was used to his cousin.

“Yes. It was in the room also.”

“In strips, I assume?” Gaalen nodded.

“You should check his neck for a small wound. Were his lungs hemorrhaged?”

“We found no wound on his neck, but now that you mention it, there seemed to be blood coming from his mouth. I assume that could have been from bleeding in his lungs. How did you know that?”

“Sendal Clane’s Hauerdred. The main character – Hauerdred – is pursued by a demon of Ngak that takes the form of a bleeding apparition. The creature kills several people – first it immobilizes them with a poisoned thorn – that’s the wound in the neck – then it flays their skin in strips while they still live, and finally it kills them by suffocation. It keeps them alive during the flaying by dark power from Ngak – that is why it probably seemed as if there was more blood than should be possible. Now, you found no puncture from any thorn, you claim. However, Hauerdred was written in ancient Ultar. They were a barbaric patriarchal society, and did not use kir. I wonder if perhaps our victim’s kir was used in place of the poison in the thorn. Although, it would have to be an incredibly strong Command to keep a man immobile while you took off his skin.”

Gaalen was horrified, and unconsciously he lifted his hand to his own kir. “That is just a story, though. This is real – this happened, I saw the body myself. Are you saying Clane’s story was real then?”

“Of course not. Hauerdred flies to the Greatmoon in a magical mountain. Ridiculous. But that part of it may have some truth to it. It’s too close not to be, don’t you think? Rather makes one wonder about how Clane acquired such dark knowledge, yes?”
edit on 3-31-2017 by PrairieShepherd because: formatting - unclosed tag

posted on Mar, 31 2017 @ 09:39 AM
16 - Queen of the Jamael, part 1

“But Uwen, isn’t it more likely someone also read Hauerdred and copied the murders? If you are right that would mean there is a demon of Ngak in the palace! How can that be? Ngak is supposedly chained in the Nethers.”

“Mm, to be honest I’ve often wondered, Gaalen. But that is probably a much longer discussion, and we should include my father for any authoritative analysis. However, there are many things from our ancient past that may or may not be true, or may have some nugget of truth underneath embellishment and translation. Take the ancient legend of Queen Saelevea of the Jamael forest-people. Some don’t believe the Jamael even existed, that they were myths themselves, quite aside from their Warrior Queen. I have heard or read no less than a half-dozen versions of her battle with the savage king Thaalak.”

Uwen launched into an exposition on the generally accepted evidence for the existence of the Jamael and their supposed ally, ancient Tyrwyl. The sunlight seemed to warm the library. Lazy dust motes floated through beams of light that seemed to take on solid form, as if Gaalen could reach out and touch their straight, glowing lines. He tried to listen carefully to Uwen, but his cousin tended to lose him in his long-winded explanations. As Uwen droned on, Gaalen’s eyelids started to grow heavy.

Fighting to stay awake, he stole a glance at the Seeress, who was staring straight ahead at Uwen, as if in a trance. She swayed slightly. Gaalen held up his hand to Uwen.

“Seeress, are you alright?”

After a pause, she spoke, barely above a whisper, “I am fine. Please continue.”

“Yes, of course. Well, in all of them, Thaalak is said to be all but invincible – protected by some dark power. He kills the queen’s Prince Consort Lojin, who bathes an arrow in his own blood while dying, giving it the power to kill Thaalak. In Aela Markuus’s history On the Ancient Peoples, the Queen stabs him in the shoulder with it. But in Archseeress Jubulata’s account in Chronicles of the Aomman Temple, though, she stabs him with a dagger bathed in Lojin’s blood, and in the Idraelaanit it’s again an arrow but bathed in the kara’ha’s blood not Lojin’s. You see the ancient word rashtha is translated differently – sometimes it is rendered as ‘arrow’ and sometimes as ‘dagger’ or ‘knife’, but I’ve seen it…”

Gaalen glanced at Siere again as Uwen rambled on about the inadequacy of modern Graytongue. Gaalen’s alertness had returned, but her eyelids were heavy, and she was clearly unsteady now. He thought he caught a flash of the whites in her dark eyes. Uwen did not seem to notice, and continued his discourse while searching through a tome for some forgotten detail.

“Still another tale – Lady Talasa’s Maadrasanol I believe – yes, here! – this says she seduces him first, then kills him with the dagger or the arrow while he sleeps. In my favorite version, however, Saelevea calls the creatures of the forest to defeat the Thaalak’s army, and she puts an arrow through his heart while flying on the back of a winged,” he stopped, finally noticing Siere. “Seeress? Are you…?” he trailed off.

Gaalen looked again at Siere, whose breathing had become shallow and her eyes unfocused. She swayed toward him and hesitantly, he started to stand up, reaching a hand toward her shoulder to steady her. “Seeress Meron, you are not well.”

posted on Mar, 31 2017 @ 09:39 AM
17 - Queen of the Jamael, part 2

Siere shot bolt upright suddenly, eyes flashing dark fire. She gripped his wrist, digging sharp fingernails into his flesh. His kir lanced pain through his body and he was unable to move. With her other hand she drew the knife she kept on her belt.

“Iro uthu hecta lissaeni ma non richta,” she snarled, standing as she spoke and raising the knife toward his throat. “Iro kilethi hectan baasoni ma non ngakkloth! Ngak lovea hecta et, Thaalak ust Mogoth!”

“What did you say? That was Old Tyrwyllan!” Uwen burst out. “Seeress!? What are you doing?”

Gaalen was suddenly free. Siere seemed to collapse inward, gasping, and Gaalen, head thrumming and icicles stabbing at his hands and feet, barely caught her in his arms as she tumbled toward him. Gaalen eased her gently down to the floor. Her breathing was shallow, her face was pale, covered with a thin sheen of cold sweat, and he could see her heart raced by the pulse on the side of her graceful neck. Her dark hair spilled behind her and her slender body shook.

Uwen stood at the table, dumbfounded. Sir Turinen had leaped down the short stairway and took a knee across Siere’s body from Gaalen. “My lord,” he said.

“We should get her to the Temple. Go secure a coach for her to ride in. Quickly, now.”

Gaalen picked her up in his arms and cradled her head against his shoulder. He still reeled from the Correction she had given him – it could only have been that – but he thought he was steady enough to carry her. By the time he reached the outer hall he could see Sir Turinen approaching from the front doors. The tall knight fell into step beside Gaalen, and Uwen trailed behind them. They reached the outer doors and found the coach waiting. Turinen is a man you can count on.

With Turinen’s help, he set her gently in the seat of the coach.

“Gaalen, may I accompany her?”

“Climb in, cousin. Turinen! Get to the Temple and let someone know we are coming.” Turinen sprinted away, and Uwen obliged Gaalen to take the seat across from him.
Gaalen rapped the side of the coach twice to signal the driver as Turinen galloped across the library’s plaza, shouting “Make way for the Lanceguard!” Shortly they were trundling through the city.

posted on Mar, 31 2017 @ 10:37 AM
More! More!

posted on Mar, 31 2017 @ 11:48 AM
a reply to: Night Star

Haha! Well, I am trying not to overwhelm folks who aren't already familiar with the story. I think I'm buried on page 2 of the Short Stories forum though because of all the YJA2017 contest entries. Might be that I should just post all 59-60 entries that I have formatted out.

posted on Mar, 31 2017 @ 12:03 PM
Shep I am so proud of your work and as much as I will miss the entries in The Shed I believe it is only far to share. This allows everyone to enjoy your amazing writing. I cannot wait to see your name in print, it will happen. Your writing is so good. When I read your stories I can feel the emotions of your characters and they honestly come to life for me! Sorry, I'm rambling.

posted on Apr, 1 2017 @ 01:19 PM
18 - Elder Poliara

They arrived at the Temple in the Gerat Kuhjinoe, the Plaza of the Archangel. The Temple was shaped in a ring, as appropriate for Aomm the One. It was divided in to four quarters, each facing a cardinal direction and given an official name in Old Aavelaean, a predecessor of the modern Graytongue. The eastern quarter was referred to as the Sunrise Quarter, even if its proper name translated literally into “Quarter of the Sun” in the Graytongue. The coach pulled to a halt in front of the Sunrise Quarter as a severe, gray-haired Seeress and two young Bearers came down the wide stone steps leading to the Temple entrance. Turinen followed a respectful two steps behind the trio. The Bearers hurried, bustling about to open the door of the coach and stand aside for the Seeress.

“Seeress,” Gaalen greeted her respectfully.

“Braeghe Color, I see. Your name, young man?”

“Gaalen Braeghe, your Grace.”

“I did not realize you were also part of Seeress Meron’s protection detail. Help me up, Lord Captain.” She had a no-nonsense, clipped way of speaking that while unhurried, seemed to expect alacrity from everyone else.

Gaalen assisted the Seeress into the coach.

“And you, boy, who are you?” The Seeress looked directly at Uwen.

“Uwen Gorulyver yi-Braeghe, your Grace,” stammered Uwen.

“Ah, son of the Master Librarian. A good man, your father,” she said. She began tending to Siere. She placed a slender, pale hand on Siere’s forehead, then her chest above her heart, and touched her neck momentarily. Gaalen suddenly felt dizzy, and shook his head, putting a hand to his temples.

“What is it, Lord Captain?” demanded the Seeress brusquely.

“Just a moment of vertigo, your Grace,” he said hesitantly, “It seems to happen to me sometimes. Nothing to worry over, I am fine.”

She arched an eyebrow at him. “Why is it young men always insist others don’t worry or fret? Don’t you know I was born to Aomm’s Garden a century before your parents were even conceived? I’ll keep my own counsel on what to worry about, young man.”

“Yes, your Grace. Of course. I apologize.”

She grunted lightly.

“Bring the girl. She should be able to walk in a moment or two.”

posted on Apr, 1 2017 @ 01:21 PM
19 - Attending the Elder

Indeed, Siere was stirring. Her eyes opened, unfocused at first, but quickly regained their usual sharpness as the elder Seeress departed the coach’s cabin.

“Seeress, let me assist you.”

He took her hand and helped her sit with support behind her shoulders. She looked out the window, taking in the Gerat Kuhjinoe, and the departing form of the grey-haired Seeress. She began to stand.

Gaalen quickly exited the coach ahead of her to stand at the bottom of the steps and offer his hand to Siere as she descended.

“Lord Captain Braeghe, please escort Seeress Meron. Let us retire to my study,” Commanded the elder Seeress. Siere grimaced.

Gaalen offered her his arm, and with only a slight hesitation she took hold of it, leaning on him as they proceeded slowly up the steps.

“Lord Braeghe, what happened?” she asked him quietly.

“I’m not certain. You began speaking in another language, and you,” he faltered.

“What is it?” she demanded.

“You drew your knife. At me.”

She studied him.

“Then you collapsed. We got you into the coach and brought you here.”

“What has Elder Poliara said?”

“Is that who that was? She said nothing of consequence. Just asked our names, called us boys, and told us to bring you.”

“She’s very abrupt,” piped Uwen from behind them.

“That she is, Master Uwen. Listen to me, both of you. Let me do the talking, and do not speak unless spoken to.” Control, always more bloody control, Gaalen thought with annoyance.

“Come,” came the perfunctory voice from the other side of the entrance. The gray-haired Seeress sat at a nondescript table, attended by the two Bearers from before. One was writing furiously in a book, the other holding a silver pitcher of something cold, Gaalen judged by the condensation.

“Elder Poliara,” Siere murmured upon entering the room.

“Seeress Meron, Lord Braeghe. Ah, and Master Uwen.”

“Seeress,” said Gaalen.

“What happened, Seeress?” Poliara asked.

“I’m not entirely certain, Elder. I was discussing translations of ancient languages into the Graytongue with Master Uwen and Lord Braeghe. I remember feeling a bit flushed, and then,” she spread her hands. “The next thing I remember is waking up in the coach.”

“Which language?”

“Jamael, your Grace,” Uwen blurted. “The legend of Queen Saelevea. It’s a fascinating…” he trailed off at a withering look from Siere.

“Jamael? Not many examples of ancient Jamael exist, do they? Versions of Idraelaanit and the epic poem Fresyanatara Kidaalenamara. I believe Markuus’s history also has one or two reproductions of documents she claimed possession of, yes?” She looked past Siere, directly at Uwen.

“You are well-versed in ancient literature, Seeress Poliara,” Uwen bowed deeply.

She considered the three of them briefly, and Gaalen had the disturbing feeling she knew much that she did not let on.

“Seeress Meron, Master Uwen, would you excuse us?”

Uwen turned to go, but Siere looked thunderstruck. Her mouth was open slightly, eyes wide. It only lasted a moment, though, and she snapped back into the cool mask she normally wore. Spinning smartly, she departed the room, lips pursed in a thin line, leaving Gaalen alone with Elder Poliara and the two Bearers.

posted on Apr, 1 2017 @ 01:23 PM
20 - Shame

Gaalen stared straight ahead.

“Lord Captain Gaalen Braeghe, commander of Braeghe Color since the death of your father, Lord Captain Hyn Cabel yi-Braeghe. Your mother is the Lady Isara Braeghe, High Seat of House Braeghe, who once served as counselor to Queen Tirina upon her succession, but retired after the death of your brother, Gesaert Gillan Braeghe during a skirmish in the Salt Rebellion. You were raised on Braeghe Estate, on the eastern shores of Lake Naonn, primarily by your nursemaid, your mother’s cousin Lady Lia Silnae. You showed strategic prowess at an early age, with a distinct aptitude for mounting a formidable defense. You are the only cadet in Bastion history to have still held the Western Gate at the end of the Cadet’s War, leading to victory for the cadets in the exercise and a special commendation by Lady High Commander Macosai at your graduation. After graduation, you distinguished yourself repeatedly. You held the ridge pass in the Second Battle of Crystal River against overwhelming odds, for which you earned recognition by Queen Tirina and the title of Shieldbearer of Aavelae, and you were presented with the Council of Ladies Captain Medal of Valor for your actions in the Burn Forest campaign.”

She paused.

“About four years ago, though, such accolades stopped. I have wondered why. Rumor connected you with the death of several Lanceguard, possibly during a retaliatory raid on a rochfendre village. Records of the event, if it indeed happened, do not seem to exist. Since then, your career has been plagued by disciplinary instances, primarily involving several of the Ladysguard and in particular, Lady Commander Kaena Quae Milaener, a childhood friend of yours whose bed you currently share. Four times the Lady High Commander has issued you private penance for disorderly conduct, and once for conduct unbecoming an officer. All five instances have been somehow connected to Lord Captain Bryn Robaer, another close friend of yours since the beginning of your Bastion years.”

Gaalen’s heart pounded, and he knew his face was red. This woman knew everything. Well, near enough.

“Have I missed anything?” She asked. Gaalen gritted his teeth and stared at the wall. “Strip to your waist, Lord Captain.”

“Your Grace?” Even one of the Bearers furtively glanced at the Elder Seeress, then snapped her mouth shut.

Poliara did not repeat herself, but instead looked at him expectantly. Growing more uncomfortable by the moment, Gaalen complied. What choice did he have? As he turned to set the pile of shirt and cloak on the nearest chair, he heard a stifled gasp from one of the Bearers. He should have known.

He turned back around and Poliara’s eyes finally dropped to the kir above his heart.

“Yes, it makes sense,” Poliara murmured when he had finished. “She Corrected you, didn’t she?”

Shame burned his skin to the tops of his ears.

“You needn’t answer that, it is quite clear.”

“Your Grace, I don’t think that Seeress --”

“No one told you to think, boy,” she interrupted.

Anger crashed through him in a slow, grinding wave. He fought to retain his composure, clenching fists and jaw repeatedly.

“So you do have some discipline. Perhaps that is what Lady Commander Milaener sees in you. How did you come by those scars?”

“Soldiers get hurt, your Grace,” he said through gritted teeth.

“You get flogged on the battlefield? I think not. Tell me the truth, boy, or I’ll have it out of you another way.”

“What does it matter how I got them?” he snapped. He could see shock and anger rising in the faces of the Bearers, but Poliara remained placid. She gave him a brutal Correction.

“Don’t make me ask you again, Lord Captain.”

As he pushed up from his knees, Gaalen’s thoughts cleared, and he put a piece into place. “You already know the answer, your Grace.”

A tiny smile curved on her lips, just at the corner of her mouth.

“And the others?”

“Most rumors have a nugget of truth buried deep within, your Grace.” His anger was subsiding, and he felt tired, alone. He thought of Kaena.

“I see.” She stared at him thoughtfully, and Gaalen dropped his eyes to his black kir. Two Corrections in one day. He shook his head. No corrections for years, and now two in one day.

An insistent knock interrupted them. “Come!” Poliara barked.

A thin, balding man in white Seer’s robes entered. “Your Grace,” he said, with a distasteful look at Gaalen, “there is a situation that requires your attention. In the Moon Quarter.”

“The acolytes? What is it?”

“Yes, your Grace. It is a,” he hesitated, “delicate situation,” he said, with a glance at Gaalen and a pleading look at the Elder Seeress. She arched an eyebrow at him. The man seemed like a simpering weasel to Gaalen, and he took an instant dislike to him.

“We are through, Lord Captain. You may go, but do not be surprised if I call on you sometime. Soon.”

posted on Apr, 1 2017 @ 01:24 PM
21 - In the Plaza

“What did she want with you?” Siere demanded.

They were walking back to the coach, Gaalen making sure his dark green cloak hid his kir. He looked away from her. “Nothing important.”

“You are a horrible liar. She must have said something. Tell me!”

Gaalen turned on her angrily. “Why? Are you going to Correct me again?” he hissed.

“What? I didn’t…” She stopped, grabbed his arm, and pushed his cloak aside. Her hand stopped halfway to her mouth, and her eyes were wide as she locked eyes with him.

Gaalen shook his head. “First you, then her. I’ve done nothing to be treated like this! I was trying to help you! I’ve had enough of you and your bloody Temple for one day.” With renewed fury, he snapped his cloak back around his shoulder and pushed his way out of the main doors of the Temple, back into Gerat Kuhjinoe. Turinen stood by the coach and his mount, reins in hand. He was talking quietly to the horse, gently running his hand down the animal’s neck. It nudged him affectionately and Gaalen caught the formal man grin. A moment later, though, Turinen caught sight of Gaalen and stood at attention, pink rising in his cheeks.

“Lord Captain. Seeress.”

“Take her where she wants to go, Turinen. Expect relief around Taen. Send word of where to meet your replacement detail one hour beforehand.”

“Yes, Lord Captain.”

Gaalen stalked off on foot down Port Road, toward the Bastion.

posted on Apr, 1 2017 @ 01:26 PM
22 - From the Top of the Tulvar

Kaena was furious, her face twisted with anger.

“I will string both of them up from the top of the Tulvar! How dare they!”

“This Poliara knew about us, too, Kaena. This is likely not the end of it for me.” He felt dirty, and wanted a bath.

“I will make an end to it! Neither of them have any right to Correct you!”

“I’m not bonded to you, Kaena. Any woman can Correct me.”

“I want you for myself. I want you Bonded to me. Today!”

“Kaena, I -- we’ve talked about this. You could lose everything, and me,” he turned away, “they’d simply,” he didn’t finish the sentence. They’d simply kill me, he thought. A certain level of fraternization was expected, and for the most part the Council of Ladies Captain turned a blind eye to it. With status came privileges, and if a woman preferred a man’s entertainment, that was generally her business, especially if she was as powerful as Kaena. But a Bonding? To attune your kir to one woman, for life? That would earn him banishment from the Bastion, if it didn’t get him outright killed for treason. Lanceguard had to be able to be controlled, and Lord Captain or cadet made no difference. Lives depended upon them following orders without question, without resistance, from any of the Ladies Captain, even the Ladysguard. A squad leader in the Ladysguard may find herself suddenly ascended in the Bastion chain of command on the field if her superiors were killed, and she would be expected to take charge of the men, to Command and Compel them as necessary. Without command, or without the ability to be Commanded and Compelled, men would lapse into brutish, uncontrolled savages on a battlefield. Men had to be controlled, everyone knew that. No Lanceguard could have their kir Bonded, ever.

“I don’t fear them. Which of them will challenge me? I deserve to have you to myself! I have earned it! They can all burn for all I care!”

“Kaena,” he touched her shoulder gently. “You’re not thinking this through. I’m angry too, but --”

Her eyes still blazing her fury, she kissed him suddenly, hard, pushing him backward and shoving him down on the bed, then climbing on top of him. She was intense, unrelenting. Gaalen was reluctant at first, but gave in to what his body ached for too.

Later, they lay entwined. Gaalen marveled at her soft, smooth skin, and she ran fingers along the ragged scar on his belly.

“You are mine, Gaalen Braeghe. I may not be allowed to have you in the eyes of the law, but you are mine, and that woman will never Correct you again, I promise you.”

posted on Apr, 1 2017 @ 01:27 PM
23 - Alone

Siere, her Braeghe Color shadow in tow, made her way disconsolately to her quarters in the Temple without engaging the soldier at all. Turninen had been replaced at Taen just as Braeghe had instructed, and the fresh-faced young Lanceguard that relieved him was mostly silent except for, “Yes, Seeress,” or “No, Seeress.”

The soldier – she had not even asked his name, she realized with a pang of guilt – stayed outside her door as she went in. She had had a chair brought for them days ago, and instructed the servants to see to the guards as necessary, but for the most part how they operated was no concern of hers.

When she had changed to a silk nightgown and robe, she readied herself for bed. She brushed her hair listlessly in front of the mirror, feeling numb with the repetitive motion. What had happened today? How could she have Corrected Lord Braeghe? She despised the kir. Privately she had vowed never to use its power unless her life was in imminent danger.

She felt no cheer from the warm fire, and quiet lay heavy in the air. The woman in the mirror that stared back at her had old, tired eyes. Gone was the idealistic, hopeful girl that had been granted the Seeress’s circlet and diadem. And there was nothing for it but to go on, no end, no relief.

Siere had been drilled mercilessly by her mother. A daughter of Meron showed no weakness, no vulnerability. Ever. Merons were strong, they were loyal, they were proud. Merons took the lead, they were not led, and to lead you needed strength.

It had happened too often of late. Some nights she could fight it off, but tonight she was weak.

Slowly she climbed onto the bed and curled up on top of the blankets because pulling them over her body required too much effort. She tried to pray that Aomm would bless her with rest tonight, but she could not focus the words in her mind, and anyway deep down she knew it was not to be. There would be no sleep, no rest, not really. There never was. Every night was the same.

She wept silently into her pillow until the nightmares started.

Every night was the same.

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