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Falling: An Epic Fantasy

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posted on Sep, 19 2018 @ 09:41 AM
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165 - Hunger

They were five days among the noblethorns. The ground which had been mostly flat on the plateau had begun to roll gently on the third day, the undergrowth growing thicker, especially in the valleys and draws between the hills. The East Road cut through though, and they kept a steady pace. They pulled off the highway each evening, lighting small fires for cooking while remaining vigilant for any dangers.

Slowly, his anger began to subside. He had seen her endure terrible suffering in order to heal someone. Rationally, he knew she would have healed Kaena if she could have. He could not reasonably expect her to have sacrificed herself to save Kaena. At least, the logical, thinking part of him could not expect that. The animal that Kaena’s death had awakened in him could, though. No matter how he worked it out in his mind, a part of him still stubbornly refused to believe Kaena had given up, and that there was nothing the Seeress could have done to save her. He went around and around in his head, gnawing at it even as it gnawed at him. His attitude may have softened a bit, but their journey was still tense and somber. They spoke only when necessary, and only as much as necessary.

On the fourth evening, Gaalen managed to bring down two rabbits for dinner and had them roasting and sizzling on a makeshift spit over a fire while he sliced hard cheese and peeled tanerroot he had noticed just off the road. Taking some cuttings from an herb he had found at the edge of the clearing, he deftly stripped the small leaves from the woody stems right into a tin cup. A quick search of the forest floor yielded a rounded stone, which he used to crush the leaves. Spearing the tanerroot on skewers he made from twigs, he rubbed the crushed leaves on, sprinkled them with salt, and propped them over the fire also.

Siere had returned from a short foray with additional dry wood in a bundle and a pail of water. As she worked, Gaalen seemed to feel her eyes on him, but every time he glanced her way she was intent on some camp task.

After eating they spent a quiet and somber time sitting by the fire. Gaalen allowed the fire to get a bit bigger than he had recently due to the chill in the air. Siere seemed absorbed in her own thoughts, and after a time opened a book to read. Gaalen got up to practice his sword in the lengthening shadows. The next time he looked over at Siere, she was laid out on her blanketroll, unmoving except the soft slow breaths of sleep.

Setting himself the duty of watch, he decided he needed to get away from the fire a bit and get his eyes adjusted to the dark. There were skellir and gith-gesaarm in this part of the realm. The gith-gesaarm could fly in and be upon them in no time, and he needed to be prepared to see in the dark. Fire-blindness could get them both violently killed, or worse, captured and used. His sword was in its scabbard, but eased. He moved silently through the forest in a circular pattern around the camp, keeping his gaze away from the fire. Around the camp once, then he let himself sit for a time, repeating the cycle as needed.

Second Moon had risen a third of the way into the night sky when he heard noises coming from the forest off to the northwest. The sound was strange – almost frenetic at times, but intermittent. And it was something large. Gaalen immediately sensed danger.

Silently, he went to the Seeress and tried to wake her.

“Seeress, you must get up,” he whispered urgently. “Seeress!”

She still didn’t respond. Whatever it was, it was getting closer. The forest had grown quiet. Gaalen understood the sound now, if not what made it. He dared to lay a hand on her shoulder and shake her gently, but with a firm grip.

“Seeress! Awake, now!” Her eyes shot open and flashed dark fire, but she seemed to sense his distress and began to rise.

“What is it?”

“Something in the forest. It’s big. Get up and get ready. We may need to move quickly.”

Siere’s eyes widened, and she quickly put on her belt, pulled her small pack and boots on, then reached for the bow she had taken from the supply wagons as Gaalen quietly slung on his daypack and retrieved his boar spear. He was otherwise already armed with dagger, sword, and bow slung on his back. The boar spear was not quite as good as a Bastion ironlance, but it would have to do, and unless the creature was truly immense, the spear should do enough harm to make it go away.

Gaalen could feel the familiar anticipation of action. His skin tingled to the ends of his fingers and up his back, he felt hot and cold in alternating waves, and his gut tightened. The creature’s noises seemed to echo through the forest, making it hard to determine exactly where it was coming from. The horses stamped and pawed constantly, frightened, pulling at their halters. Gaalen fought indecision – break camp, or just retrieve the horses and run for it.

For a moment, Siere stood stock-still, almost as if she were dead standing up. Her eyes stared dully into the black. Then it seemed life returned to her, and she glanced at him, shaking her head slightly.

“Something is indeed out there. But there is no emotion, no thought. Just one primal feeling, more like an instinct,” she glanced at him. “It is hungry.” She looked shaken.

posted on Sep, 21 2018 @ 05:46 PM
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166 - Flight

That made sense. Whatever it was, the intermittent sound made him think it was hunting. He decided that they would have a better chance at surviving if they were mounted. The saddlebags were basically packed, they could be ready in just a few minutes. There was a clear, smooth trail back to the highway, and once on the wide path of the East Road they could likely outrun anything as large as this beast sounded, even on burdened horses. He made the decision to get their mounts and flee.

“Seeress, we are leaving. I’ll get the horses. We’ll lead them back to the East Road and outrun it.” He didn’t say the thought in his heart: I will not risk a complete failure of this mission.

Siere began to gather her things. Gaalen had just turned to head toward the horses when one of the horses screamed and reared. A cruel barb thrust its way out of the horse’s shoulder, and Gaalen realized in horror the animal wasn’t rearing, it was being lifted. Its rear hooves left the forest floor as a giant shape flowed into sight. Another huge barb wrapped around its back and pinched shut, severing the horse’s body completely. The pieces fell heavily to the ground, splattering blood and flesh. Their other mounts shrieked and pulled at their halters frantically, one ripping it loose and dashing off into the trees. In the dimness, could make out dozens of jointed legs, each ending in a sharp talon, and a massive body that seemed to have sliding plates of armored carapace. The beast began to feed methodically on the still twitching pieces of horse. Gaalen’s stomach heaved, but realized that at least for the moment, it seemed the horrific creature didn’t notice them. His skin tingled and he felt warm, despite the chill in the night air.

Siere was breathing fast and shallow, wide-eyed and shaking, on the verge of a panic that would get them both killed. Not that I am not far behind, he thought, his heart pounding also. “Stay with me,” he said as calmly and softly as he could. “Slowly back toward the forest. Do not run. Keep the fire between us and it.”

They lowered themselves and crept as quietly as they could to the edge of the clearing, Siere’s hand on his shoulder as they moved carefully. As he backed toward the trees his boot thudded against a stone low in the ground. The massive creature’s head whipped up and around toward them. They froze. Antennae two paces long flickered back and forth in their direction, and the monster emitted an ominous hiss, but it did not attack. Gaalen could scarcely breathe, but he realized it must not be able to sense them unless they moved. After what seemed an eternity, the thing went back to its gruesome feast.

Gaalen slowly, deliberately turned to her. Being careful not to strike another rock, he picked his way into the trees. Tears streamed down Siere’s face, and he could tell she was fighting to retain her composure with tooth and nail. Strangely, this lent him calm and strength; he gained confidence as they painstakingly worked their way away from their camp. Despite this, Gaalen had to be careful with the longspear, careful leading Siere, careful not to step on anything that could make noise. The intense concentration was exhausting, but they had no choice.

Deeper in the forest, they heard other noises. Once, Gaalen swore he heard one of the other horses whinny, and another time, they both froze stock-still at something rustling in the dark, but no huge terror materialized out of the night.

They made slow progress, eventually coming to a small draw. Hoping to find water – a stream or pool maybe – at the bottom, Gaalen led the still-wide-eyed Siere down. Indeed, at the bottom, a small but swift stream formed a pool as it bent away from the rocks on either side, which formed a kind of natural wall. He brought her to the water and cupped some with his hand, not wanting to risk the potential noise of a tin cup.

“Drink. You must keep water in your body.”

She closed her eyes and drank unsteadily, her soft lips caressing his hand. Her eyes darted, scanning the dim and jumping at every tiny sound. Her hands clutched around her torso, and she rocked back and forth slightly.

Siere’s panic didn’t make sense to Gaalen. She was strong and confident - certainly she had her moments when a memory took hold, but outside of those times, Seeress Meron was usually in tight control of her emotions and did not seem to scare easily.

“I will get you home, Seeress,” he said, putting a gentle hand on her shoulder. She stared at him then, dark eyes unreadable, but she didn’t respond.

They had rested for a few minutes when Gaalen picked up his boar spear again.

“We must press on. We cannot rest here.”

She seemed a bit calmer. She didn’t speak, but she did stand up when he offered his hand. Still, she clutched it desperately as they turned to go.

Gaalen heard the hiss before he actually saw the creature, and he felt a small jab of fear plunging into his heart. Across the miniature pond, the monster flowed into the bowl from the far side. Siere screamed.

posted on Oct, 1 2018 @ 09:11 PM
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167 - Last Stand

“Get into the trees and hide! Run!” he shouted.

Gaalen hefted the boar spear as the beast darted forward, surprisingly fast for its bulk. The thick ash seemed like a twig in the face of the immense beast, but it was all he had. He set the butt of the spear and prayed to Aomm. His skin prickled with the anticipation of battle, and his head floated, making everything in the night sharper. Behind him Siere whimpered. He could feel her backing away, but she didn’t run.

The impact knocked Gaalen down, but in shock he realized the spear had held. The creature hissed again, whether in rage or pain Gaalen could not tell. It slithered to the side slightly and lunged again, but Gaalen brought the spear to bear just in time to pierce what he only could imagine was part of its mouth. He eyed the huge serrated pincers that had sheared the horse’s body in two with awe as they narrowly missed him. The broad headed spear caught in the creature’s mouthparts and was ripped from his hands as it reared back, hissing and shaking its head. It backed away for a moment, trying to dislodge the weapon.

Gaalen took the opportunity glace back at Siere and moved toward his bow. “Go! I cannot hold it off for long. Get away while you can!”

Sobbing, she shook her head slightly.

“It will kill both of us! Get OUT of here!” He grabbed her arm and tried to push her toward the draw, but she batted his hand away harshly.

“Won’t!” she growled through clenched teeth.

Then her eyes flicked up and she screamed again. Gaalen turned to see it coming back. His sword whipped out and around as the massive head lashed forward. Gaalen wordlessly yelled and swung his sword wildly has he dove away, rolled and regained his feet. The monster had misjudged and smashed its head into the rock wall behind them and for a moment swayed, as if stunned.

The impact snapped the spear; its haft lay on the ground, now useless.

He pulled off his bow and began loosing arrows as fast as he could nock them, targeting eyes, joints, anything that looked like it might not be as hard as steel. The thing advanced again, arrows sticking out like pins, and yellow-orange fluid leaking from one eye. He dropped the bow, picking up his sword and dagger.

Siere still cowered against the rocks, shaking her head, sobbing and mumbling to herself. He turned back to face the monster one last time.

Gaalen moved as fast as he ever had. He dodged, searching, hoping for an opening. Miraculously, a violent swing caught one of the great pincers and sliced it clean through as he dodged yet again. Something warm and wet splashed on his arm and back as he rolled on the rough ground, regaining his feet.

Quickly hot coals burned his arm and back. Movement brought sharp knives of pain, and his clothing felt as though it was ripping the skin right off of his body. Each motion a storm of agony, he fought on desperately, hoping Siere would wake up and run, hoping he could buy her life with his.

But it would not be enough, he knew now. The creature had been slowed by arrows and its collision with the rock wall, but it was still fast, and his strength ebbed. He knew he was losing blood; he had managed to avoid the instant death of the giant pincers, but he suffered from a dozen slashes by the creature’s thin foreclaws. Breath came in rapid, ragged gasps, and his vision began to swim between the creature’s attacks. Finally, one of the creature’s forelegs caught him full in the abdomen on a backswing, thankfully hitting him with the smooth top instead of eviscerating him with its talon or simply impaling him through his spine. Its pincers also missed him as he flew, but his impact with the ground knocked the wind out of him. He felt a sickening crunch in his back and side as he came down. His vision blurred as his head hit the ground hard. So this is where I die, he thought. It was over now. In his final moments, the tingle of battle rage left him. He felt cold, small, and frightened. Dimly, he heard Siere scream – a roar, really, of rage and pain and fear. The creature hissed and reared up for the kill. Still, he tried to swim to the surface of his thoughts, to rise and escape, to move at all. His fingers groped for his sword, just out of reach, as Kaena’s face swam hazily into his mind. I will see you soon, he thought.

posted on Oct, 2 2018 @ 05:34 PM
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168 - Fallen

Gaalen bled from a dozen cuts and scratches, but he had continued to fight. To defend her. He had not been Compelled or even Commanded. Just given an order to protect her, so many weeks ago. It went beyond what she knew. How could a man fight so desperately, so valiantly, without being Commanded to do so? It was amazing, but it would not be enough. She had believed in him, somehow thought he could defeat the monstrosity that threatened them, but now it was up to her. She had waited too long and now they would both pay a terrible price. Gaalen would likely die no matter what she did, and she would lose what gave meaning to her life forever.

She watched Gaalen get knocked to the ground, and in a moment the horrific thing would rip him in two just like the horse, or impale him with a talon as long as a man’s arm. She had no choice. No choice. You will lose everything. Why, Father? Why do you make me choose?

The Taking she had been constantly holding since the camp – siphoning off Gaalen’s fear and panic, concentrating it within herself – had exacted a terrible toll on her. She was spent, and could barely fumble through with tamborae, but she knew she could not rest yet. She let go of her Taking and felt his fear wash back into him even as calm suffused her body and mind. Is this the peace of death? If I fail we both die. Gaalen would die in terror if she did not succeed, but she would not let that happen, he deserved better. You will lose everything.

Aomm, forgive me. I am Fallen.

She Gathered every scrap of tamborae she could with what strength she had left, and in a rage sent it roaring into the monster’s head, screaming in defiance. The creature hissed and great convulsions wracked its huge body as she liquefied its brain. It collapsed into a heap on the ground, twitched, then was still. Tamborae winked out. Exhaustion buried her, her head swam, and she fell, weeping for what she had lost.

posted on Oct, 30 2018 @ 05:48 PM
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169 - A Bath

Poliara dismissed her Bearers and prepared to head back to her apartments for the evening. She was very much looking forward to the hot bath she had directed Daemi - the new Bearer she had chosen after Livna’s untimely demise - to draw for her upon dismissing the two young women from her audience chamber.

Daemi had proven to be quite capable thus far, obedient, humble, and willing to serve. Of the En’anoran, she had a formal demeanor, and spoke with respect. In short, she was exactly what Poliara felt a Bearer should be.

She left her private office, proceeding through the audience chamber, then the anteroom, and finally to the entrance to her private apartments on the far side of the entrance chamber. Entering the bath room, she caught the scent of ursaat berry and intumiaan, a slightly floral herb. The chamber was lit with candles, and incense burned a relaxing, heady smoke in a small decorative pot. Crimsonthorn blossoms floated in the water of the heavy-footed copper tub, while several other items - a cake of soap, a cloth and two brushes, one soft, one firm, a couple palm-sized stones, and a tray with an assortment of aromatic oils - stood on a small table positioned next to the tub. Daemi herself stood demurely in a corner, her head bowed.

“Elder,” she greeted Poliara quietly, stepping forward and bowing. “May I assist you?”

Poliara was taken aback, and more than a little uncomfortable. “Assist me with what, child?”

“With your robes, of course, Elder,” the girl inclined her head, still looking down toward the floor.

A small voice in her head reminded her of what she had read about the En’anoran, that they stood by formality and had different notions of modesty than Aavelaeans. Women and men, for example, were never in even a slight state of undress in view of anyone except their spouse. Bathing and grooming, however, was often undertaken with the assistance of a servant of the same gender. The tradition dated back before the advent of the a’akirjutama, yet still the tradition held among the tribes.

Despite her reservations, she did not wish to offend the girl. Curtly, she nodded and stepped forward toward the steaming tub. It did look quite inviting, after all, and the girl had clearly put considerable effort into the task.

Daemi assisted Poliara up the step to the tub, removing her robes just before she stepped into the water, then folded the robes carefully and set them aside. Next, she moved behind Poliara, and gently unbound her silver hair from the tight bun she normally wore.

Finally, the girl presented her with the tray of aromatic oils, waiting patiently while she reviewed them, her light eyes steadily gazing at Poliara.

“What do you recommend, Daemi?”

“Elder?” she asked, a hint of confusion in her voice.

“I asked you what you recommend. Do you not have an opinion?”

“I,” the girl stammered, clearly flustered.”

“Child, what do you normally use yourself?”

“Your Grace, I am not allowed. I have never used them myself.” Her voice carried what seemed to Poliara to be deep shame. “I truly apologize,” the girl said softly, and Poliara realized she was nearly in tears. Why?

Poliara studied her for a moment. “Have you performed this duty for others, Daemi? Your mother, or grandmother, perhaps?”

The girl nodded, seemingly quite relieved, and yet, a slight edge entered her tone, almost defensive. “My mother and grandmother both taught me, as someday I hope to teach my daughter our ways.”

“There is nothing wrong with tradition, Daemi, as long as it doesn’t hinder your reason or your humanity. Tell me, what was your mother’s favorite blend?”

The girl blushed, her rich brown cheeks flushing with a tinge of pink.

“She preferred greater bluerose, iyaang-iyaang, and sweet koli berry. She said it cleared her mind, relaxed her, and, ah,” she hesitated.

“Yes? Go on girl, I do not embarrass easily.”

“Yes, Elder. She also believed it prepared her for my father’s affections,” she said in a rush.

“Well, I have no need of that, but I would like to relax and think more clearly. Please use your mother’s favorite, child.”

“As you wish, Elder,” she said, deftly blending three oils in a small porcelain dish, then drizzling the blend in the hot water, reserving a small amount. She added another oil from a larger jar than the aromatics and blended it again. Daemi moved behind Poliara, and she felt her hair being loosely caught up in a snood. The girl’s warm fingers spread the diluted oils on Poliara’s neck and shoulders, slowly working them into her skin.

The effect was surprising in its speed and intensity. Her body relaxed, muscles loosening that she had not even realized were tense. The incense and the oil blend seemed to make her body feel warm, as if all of her worries were draining out of her skin into the water. At the same time her body was relaxing, her mind seemed to sharpen, her thoughts proceeding in logical pathways without the noise of unrelated concerns bombarding her constantly, as so often happened during the day.

After a time - Poliara was uncharacteristically unsure of how long - Daemi added more hot water, then silently retreated. The only sound for a time was her own breathing.

Daemi attended her throughout the bath and afterward, helping her get dressed, brushing her hair, setting the fire, and turning down her bed.

“Daemi, I would like to tell you something, but I do not wish to offend you. I have great respect for the En’anoran.”

“Nothing you can say will offend me,” she replied.

“Very well, I will take you at your word.” She leveled a matter-of-fact gaze at Daemi. “I want to be clear with you. I do not expect this level of service from of my Bearers. What you have done is far above the call of duty.”

“I was taught to respect those who have attained wisdom, Elder,” she said, with another inclination of her head.

“I see. Well, wisdom is something that is never truly attained, child, remember that. It is a journey, not a destination. Now, another thing must be made perfectly clear: your assignment to my service is no different from any other Bearer’s assignment. You are not a slave, you are not even a servant. You are a person, who matters and who has value. If this is your tradition, I will respect that, but I do not require it. Do I make myself understood?”

“Yes, Elder, I understand.”

“Then off to bed with you, girl. I expect you back in my chambers to prepare for petitioners one hour before Daesa, is that clear? See that you get some rest.”

“Yes, Elder.”

“And Daemi,” she called as the girl reached the door.

“Yes, Elder?”

“Thank you,” she said.

“Yes, Elder,” and the girl inclined her head more deeply this time.

posted on Nov, 2 2018 @ 07:10 PM
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170 - A Scrap of Prophecy

After her Bearer had left, Poliara sat before the fire, sipping on a glass of wine and reading one of her favorite books, The Creek at Ustenroed Hollow. Oense Den-beringaat, the author, had been an Iniveran Seeress whose seminal writings on faith and theology were precious to Poliara. Ustenroed Hollow was a more personal book though, a memoir, really, of her time in the northwest Blackhawk Mountains. There was a maenaaklo there - a cloister of Seeresses and Seers living in austere, spartan conditions. Den-beringaat was an enigma, someone who shunned tradition, challenged the ideas and mores of the day, and deliberately broke with custom, seemingly out of spite. Many avoided Den-beringaat, thinking her theological views bordered on heresy. But Poliara saw a kindred spirit, one whose radical way of seeing the world ran completely counter to the way the rest of the world seemed to operate. In a way, she envied Den-beringaat’s courage to stand alone.

Her eyelids heavy, she was about to turn down the oil lamp and retire contentedly for the evening when a soft but insistent knock came from her door. With a sigh and a pursing of her lips, she left her sitting room, crossed the ante-chamber, pulling her outer robe tighter and tying it off in the process. In the dim light of the deserted corridor, Master Uwen Braeghe stood nervously, clutching a scroll and several pieces of parchment.

“Your Grace,” he bowed awkwardly, “I have found something!” The trepidation in his voice and the sparkle in his eyes both intrigued her. Silently, she bade him to enter.

When she had offered him some of her tea, they took seats in her sitting room, she on a low couch and he in a finely worked, tall-backed chair of Elamaran origin.

“Very well, Master Uwen, what have you to show me?”

“Your Grace, I beg you to have a look at this. It is a copy of one of the Prophecies of the Seeress.”

She took the parchment from him, scanning it quickly. It was not familiar to her, and that did not add up.

Kei’Arai, the Holy Champion of the Army of Heaven
The land like new wine, like the green of spring
I see the fierce visage, the countenance of a warrior
I see the bearer of Light, the shining star that is the hope, the coming of dawn
Then out of the pit, the deep Abyss
The dark army issues forth, up from the depths, out of the ground they come
Aomm be blessed! Aomm be worshipped!
For the Lord of All Things sends the Champion to defend
To protect One Who Bears the Daylight, the Servant of Light
To stop the Great Demon,
To save, to redeem, to sanctify!
But the price of sin must be paid, the terrible toll of our iniquity,
Borne by God’s Servant, borne by God’s Champion, borne by us all!
Weep not for what is lost, for Aomm the One redeems the righteous in glory!

“I know those prophecies intimately. This writing is not one of them.”

“Yes, Elder, I thought that at first as well. However, I believe it is, in fact.”

She paused for a moment. It did seem to line up with the others in tone and syntax, but she had never, in all her decades of study, seen this prophecy.

“Where did you find this, Master Uwen?”

“It was in one of the unauthenticated versions, your Grace. The original is in Middle Iniverani.”

“You translated it to Graytongue?”

He bowed his head. “Yes, your Grace.”

The boy was intelligent, there was no denying that. Modern Iniveran was a ridiculous language, full of contradictions and exceptions, seemingly following no real rules of pronunciation or grammar. Middle Iniverani was even worse, throwing archaic syntax on top of the pile of linguistic nastiness. Translating even the smallest bit of text from Middle Iniverani was an achievement.

“What makes you certain this is authentic, then?”

“I found a reference to it in another work!” The boy was practically bouncing on his toes with excitement. “I found a fragment of it in Gennes Intaliarum! She writes that the prophecy, when viewed in the light of Farnan 12, casts doubt upon the traditional interpretation of the scripture, that Farnan 12 is allegorical. This prophecy suggests Kei’arai is not only not an allegory for the power of Aomm, but is in fact a person. Of course we have had this view for over a hundred years, but for her to write about it back then is quite astonishing!”

Gennes Intaliarum? But that was written by,” she paused, the pieces coming together.

“By Junuus Nosardaas, the author of Prophecies of the Seeress!

Her mind raced. Quickly she ran her eyes over the words again. “’I see the bearer of light’, she writes. What do you think that means? Do you think it is a reference to Kei’arai?”

“I don’t, your Grace. The translation used a feminine article for that phrase. Kei’arai, in every work and translation I have ever read, is always rendered with a masculine article. Always. And in fact, even in this prophecy ‘The Holy Champion’ is a masculine article. I think this, ‘Bearer of Light’ is in fact female, your Grace, a woman or heavenly female being who will appear with Kei’Arai.” he concluded.

She nodded. “That has been my reasoning as well, any time I have come across the phrase. I think it is possible, in fact, that,” she hesitated. Deciding against sharing her suspicions with the young man, she changed what she was going to say. “I think it is possible she may appear here, or in one of the five realms.”

“You do not think she will be Tyrwyllan or Jamael, then Elder?”

“No, I do not. I think both Kei’Arai and this Bearer of Light are to be human. As I believe Seuia Laes.” She paused, thinking through the possibilities. She needed answers, and fast. Events were happening that seemed to have been prophesied centuries past. But the time they portended was momentous. And terrifying.

“Do you agree, Seeress, that it seems from this prophecy to be that they will have contact with each other? It seems they will even know each other. She seems to predict that Kei’Arai will protect this Bearer of Light.”

She nodded. “Yes, I think they will know each other well.”

“What I wouldn’t give to live during their appearance! To see them, maybe even meet them!”

Such youth, she thought. “Meeting a figure of prophecy would be quite remarkable, yes. However, history would suggest that we would never recognize them. There is a legend - older than any other legend I have heard - that claims Aomm himself once appeared to humans, and they not only failed to recognize him, but tortured and killed his incarnation. It is so very like our nature, is it not?” So very much, indeed. We abuse that which we should treasure.

He seemed to consider her words, but did not respond. Perhaps her years had jaded her more than she cared to admit.

“Very well, thank you for bringing this to my attention. I am certain we will discuss it further at another time. Continue your research, Master Uwen.”

It was as clear a dismissal as she could give him without a Command. Luckily, he took the hint and bowed clumsily before leaving her apartments.

She had been relaxed and nearly ready for bed. This had jolted her conscious into action, however, and she found her thoughts racing

posted on Nov, 3 2018 @ 01:08 PM
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171 - The Bearer of Light

Her mind raced. Quickly she ran her eyes over the words again. “’I see the bearer of light’, she writes. What do you think that means? Do you think it is a reference to Kei’arai?”

“I don’t, your Grace. The translation used a feminine article for that phrase. Kei’arai, in every work and translation I have ever read, is always rendered with a masculine article. Always. And in fact, even in this prophecy ‘The Holy Champion’ is a masculine article. I think this ‘Bearer of Light’ is in fact female, your Grace, a woman or heavenly female being who will appear with Kei’Arai.” he concluded.

She nodded. “That has been my reasoning as well, any time I have come across the phrase. I think it is possible, in fact, that,” she hesitated. Deciding against sharing her suspicions with the young man, she changed what she was going to say. “I think it is possible she may appear here, or in one of the five realms.”

“You do not think she will be Tyrwyllan or Jamael, then Elder?”

“No, I do not. I think both Kei’Arai and this Bearer of Light are to be human. As I believe Seuia Laes.” She paused, thinking through the possibilities. She needed answers, and fast. Events were happening that seemed to have been prophesied centuries past. But the time they portended was momentous. And terrifying.

“Do you agree, Seeress, that it seems from this prophecy to be that they will have contact with each other? It seems they will even know each other. She seems to predict that Kei’Arai will protect this Bearer of Light.”

She nodded. “Yes, I think they will know each other well.”

“What I wouldn’t give to live during their appearance! To see them, maybe even meet them!”

Such youth, she thought. “Meeting a figure of prophecy would be quite remarkable, yes. However, history would suggest that we would never recognize them. There is a legend - older than any other legend I have heard - that claims Aomm himself once appeared to humans, and they not only failed to recognize him, but tortured and killed his incarnation. It is so very like our nature, is it not?” So very much, indeed. We abuse that which we should treasure.

He seemed to consider her words, but did not respond. Perhaps her years had jaded her more than she cared to admit.

“Very well, thank you for bringing this to my attention. I am certain we will discuss it further at another time. Continue your research, Master Uwen.”

It was as clear a dismissal as she could give him without a Command. Luckily, he took the hint and bowed clumsily before leaving her apartments.

She had been relaxed and nearly ready for bed. This had jolted her conscious into action, however, and she found her thoughts racing purposefully forward. The Bearer of Light, she mused. Seuia Laes is the White Light, the Light of Aomm. Could the Bearer be a woman who gives birth to the child who becomes Seuia Laes? The child who will redeem humanity in Geaomm? If that is the case, it couldn’t be the one she had identified. It would have to be one of the others, but neither made as much sense, neither fit the rest of the prophecies. How could the Bringer of Dawn bear Seuia Laes if she was unable to conceive? Unless she was completely mistaken, of course, and their relationship was one of brother and sister, not one of lover to lover. Could it be the Bearer of Light was the Princess, destined to bear the child, and Kei’Arai was the Prince, destined to protect her? It had a ring of truth to it, especially now that the Princess was engaged. But not all of it fit, and there was the other.

Sighing quietly, she looked longingly from her fire and her book to the parchment the boy had brought her. She had so wished for an evening without care. There was nothing for it, though. Determinedly, she headed back into her office and her personal library of prophecy. There was much she needed to research, and it would have to be tonight.

posted on Nov, 5 2018 @ 04:50 PM
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172 - What Was Lost

Gaalen woke to the scent of damp earth in his nostrils, the sound of a gentle breeze sighing through the noblethorns, and his body screaming at him.

I am not dead. Why am I not dead? A moment of panic. He tried to sit up and paid for it. Broken ribs? The pain was deep in his side and belly. Dimly he remembered a terrific kick to the torso. Broken ribs then, and perhaps an injury inside, he thought clinically. Second Moon was nearly down, and First Moon had just risen; it was still night, but with both moons up there was enough light to see clearly. The Greatmoon would be up soon, starting the false day. He smelled death. Twisting his head, he looked around.

The giant creature – which looked much like an immense centipede – lay in a heap on the ground, unmoving. The Seeress was on the ground also, pressed up against the rock wall. In agony, he used his good arm to push himself over to all fours, then up on his feet to stagger to her, dreading what he would find.

Then he saw her chest move as he approached. He blew out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding, relieved that she was still with him. Unconscious, but safe, for the moment. How did we possibly survive? How did she kill it? She did not appear harmed at all, so he let her rest.

With Siere seen to, he evaluated himself. He would not make it far in his state. They still had days to Lithelwaite – at least two of which were over hard terrain. His arm and back burned. He was lacerated in a number of places, but they were mostly shallow and had stopped bleeding. The gash on his thigh needed tending, though, as it was still slowly oozing blood, and he was easily dizzied. He would need water, rest, and meat if he could get it, but it was more likely he would only be able to manage one of the three.

He went upstream of the creature’s corpse and knelt by the water. Washing the cuts was a torturous process, and more than once he gritted his teeth at the pain while the world seemed to tilt crazily. Still he kept at it. If he left his elbow bent, and arm pinned to his body, the pain there was not quite so severe. In time, his leg was bandaged with a length of his own tunic.

He knew he needed to tend to his arm and somehow his back, but a part of him feared what he would find when he removed his tunic. He delayed the inevitable by setting off around the vicinity in search of a’calahom root to crush, which was good for burns. He surmised the monster must have had some kind of venom that had sprayed when he severed its pincer, so he also kept an eye out for fenet bushes, which he knew to be good for easing stings or bites. He thought it would be like trying to stop a flood with twigs and leaves, but what choice did he have?

He was in luck - he found both. It seemed to take hours to harvest piles of each, but he the venom had hit a large area, so he kept at it doggedly.

When he returned, he screwed up his courage to approach the creature’s corpse. The blasted thing gave him chills. Such raw brutality. He had no bowl to crush the roots and leaves in. Using his sword, he butchered one of its leg talons and pried off the outer shell. An acrid stink filled his nostrils, and he realized that before he had cut it, the thing had had no discernible smell. He made a bowl out of the leg, scraping tissue off the inside and washing it in the stream as best he could with one useful arm. After peeling and crushing the roots, he tore the leaves. Even these small efforts made sweat drip down his temples, and his heart thumped, blood pounding in his head.

He added a small amount of water to the plant mixture and started crushing them in the shell with a rounded stone about the size of his fist. What he really needed was heat, though.

He formed a ring of small stones next to a boulder at the side of the pool. He stripped a dry, fallen pine branch and shaved it into tinder with his knife. There were enough rocks that he could use the iron pommel of his dagger to create sparks. In short order a fire was burning inside the ring, but the effort cost him, and he rested.

With a few choice stones he propped the shell over the small flame, heating the mixture. In due course the mixture was ready – the creature’s shell made a workable kettle – and he lifted it off the fire to begin mashing it further with the stone. After a time, he had ground it into a thick paste.

Now for the hard part, he thought, getting your tunic off. Briefly he considered just cutting it off instead, but the chill in the air stopped that line of thought. He would need it. He eventually decided there was nothing for it but to try.

It was torture. It felt as though his skin split, and the pain forced him to proceed with excruciating slowness. He had only managed to free his good arm when a warm hand touched the bare skin on his shoulder, startling him. Siere was there, watching him.

Gently, silently, she worked his shirt off from behind. He heard her breath catch, and he turned to her. A tear dropped down her cheek, and her face was taut.

“Thank you,” she said.

“For what?”

“Not leaving me.”

Gaalen searched her eyes. “I gave my word, Seeress.” She dropped her gaze.

She applied the paste carefully, trying not to break the blistered, cracked skin. When she had finished, she closed her eyes for a moment. “I’m sorry.”

He looked at her, confused. It seemed she wouldn’t meet his gaze.

“I should have trusted you more. I waited too long to,” she trailed off, her voice breaking. “I could have stopped it sooner.”

“How did you kill it?”

Her chest heaved, and her hands worked against one another. She was disheveled, hair in her face, dirt on her cheeks, clothes torn from their flight. She just glanced at him.

“Foolish question, I’m sorry. Of course you used,” he hesitated, “that. There isn’t a mark on you. Why,” he fumbled. Why didn’t you do it sooner?

She seemed to read his unspoken question.

“Aomm’s Gift cannot be used that way”, she started slowly. “We may not destroy or kill with it. I have violated the precepts of the Temple. I am Fallen - never allowed to use tamborae again. That is the penalty.”

Gaalen said nothing, and she continued. “If I could still Work, I would Take your pain, but I can’t anymore,” she said desperately. “If I had acted sooner, you wouldn’t be hurt so badly.”

“Seeress, please, I would not,” he began.

“I nearly killed you,” she whispered, cutting him off.

“No, Seeress, this is not your,” he started but she interrupted him again.

“Don’t call me that.”

She got up and moved off, alone.

Gaalen sat, unsure of what to do. Siere huddled against the rocks weeping quietly, her back to him. He sat for a moment, glad for the sun’s warmth.

posted on Nov, 7 2018 @ 07:10 PM
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173 - Delirium

They spent a quiet, tense morning there in the bowl near the pool. He surmised the creature’s scent would scare off other predators, although he had some concern over the larger scavengers. He washed his tunic in the pool and set it to dry on a sunlit rock.

After they had eaten a grim meal of tubers, some edible leaves, and several nuts they found, roasted over the fire and treasured, Gaalen felt restless and decided they should resume their journey. The paste seemed to adhere well to his burns, and the pain from them had been lessened somewhat. He put his tunic back on and prepared to leave.

He had two water skins, one of which he filled and gave to Siere. He gave the arrows they retrieved from the creature’s carcass to Siere. He couldn’t hope draw his bow with his arm in the condition it was. They tried to trace their steps back to the camp of the night before, but lost the trail after a while. As the afternoon waned, he decided they should press on eastward.

By nightfall, he realized the flush he had been feeling was fever. Some of his wounds were likely infected. He insisted they press on past sundown, as long as there was enough light to see by, feeling he should spend what energy he had while he could. He finally called a rest just as Second Moon rose and they found another small brook. Sheltered in a thicket of evergreens, they collapsed of exhaustion. Gaalen told Siere he would watch first, and she was asleep in moments.

He let her sleep until First Moon rose, and then a bit longer. His eyes burned and he fought chills when he finally woke her for a turn at the watch.

He slept restlessly and woke in damp clothes. The forest seemed to hum, and jumped when he moved his eyes or turned his head. He alternately burned and froze, sometimes it seemed only moments apart.

He refused the breakfast she had gathered, only taking water. Siere looked at him with growing concern throughout the day as they pushed on. The land began to roll gently, then more pronounced, and at times his footing was unsteady. At midday, he located a straight branch fallen on the humus. He stripped it clean of bark and twigs, even cutting some of the knobs off, and when they set out again he used it as a walking stick. They broke through thinning trees to a hillside that looked out over a wide valley. On a hill off to the side rested a farmhouse, sheep grazing the grass on the slope. The bright sun burned Gaalen’s eyes, and he fought to remain on his feet, even leaning heavily on his makeshift staff.

“We should seek help,” Siere said. “You must have shelter and rest.”

“My Lady,” his voice was low and raspy, “we must keep moving.” Because if I stop I may not continue. “There is still much of the evening left with light.” He took a deep breath, trying to cover the fact that his head spun and his heart pounded while he talked. “I promised to see you safely to Lithelhold. I intend to do just that. How far out are we?”

She pursed her lips in clear annoyance and looked at him sternly. “By my estimate, we are about two or three days from the Hold. That farm likely belongs to the village of Rashellim, in the Aframis Hills two days west of Lithelwaite. That makes this,” she pointed to the trees, “the eastern finger of the Besh-Harat forest, and those,” she pointed to peaks off to the left, “the Thel-Manegh Mountains.”

“Which direction is Rashellim?”

“Likely a half-day’s walk east of here, if I am correct. And it is all hill country like this. Lord Captain, you need rest before then!”

To avoid a scolding he started walking east. He could feel his burns still oozing. Dimly he heard her “Hmph!” in exasperation, but she followed him, easily catching and keeping pace with him. She faced forward stubbornly, her delicate jaw set in irritation when she was not muttering about the foolishness of men.

Time seemed to slow, and on occasion he would look around, confused just for a moment as to where he was, though he managed to keep moving. It would come back to him eventually, but daydreams began merge with his reality.

He and Suen snuck up the hill, peering out behind the trees, hoping to catch the estate maidens bathing in the lake. The sun was warm, and the summer heat weighed heavy on the forest around Braeghe estate. With the balance of rain and sun they’d had, the harvest of grapes and olives would be good. Perhaps Father would let him have wine this year at the Feast of Sheaves. His shirt stuck to his back and arm where he had slipped into some mud crawling under the old estate wall, and it was now starting to dry and crack. It made him itch, and he absently picked at it. Oh how Suen had laughed at him for that.

“Lord Braeghe!”

“Suen, don’t be ridiculous, call me Gaalen, cousin.” He tried to flake some more mud off.

“It is Siere, not Suen. Lord Braeghe? I am not your cousin.”

He stared at Suen for a moment, but something wasn’t right. Suen – Siere? – had placed a hand on his arm.

“You must stop scratching the burns. You will do more damage.”

Suddenly the burns, the pain, his exhaustion came crashing over and into him and he swayed, clutching desperately to the staff. He fell to his knees and fought back a wave of nausea.

“You need rest.” She knelt beside him. “You can barely stand.”

Gaalen looked down at the ground. He was only barely sweating from the walking, not because he wasn’t tired but because he was fighting an infection, he was sure. She was right, he knew that.

But he refused to give in. He would not fail. What are you doing? What is she to you? Kaena’s dead, you don’t have to finish it. Angry at feeling powerless and weak, he forced himself to his feet, and began walking.

“You stubborn, bull-headed man.”

posted on Nov, 9 2018 @ 04:45 PM
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174 - Hope

He continued that way for two more days. It seemed the village of Rashellim was not in fact a day’s walk east. They never saw a village, and only a few other farmsteads. Gaalen progressively worsened, and his pace slowed.

By late afternoon, his hands were shaking, either from fever or lack of food. Siere managed to find something each day, but they only ate about once a day. Luckily, this region was rife with clear, cold streams, so they did not lack for water.

They crested yet another ridge, and the land opened to a wide grassy plain. The day had grown grey, a thick blanket of clouds hiding the sun. A river flowed out of the hills to the south of them. Situated on the far bank and nestled up against a wood of ash, oak, and elm, stood a small town. Not much more than a village, but he could tell it had a pair of two-story buildings behind the log palisade. Likely one was an inn, and another would be the town hall. What had to be the hall flew two banners, one a white and red standard with a black emblem, the other white with a red vinerose, the eight thorns visible even at this distance. The Color of lithelwaite, and the sigil of the House of Meron.

Siere stopped. “Father!” she breathed in excitement. “We have found help, Lord Braeghe. Father will have Meioshi Caran with him. Lord Braeghe?”

Gaalen was only vaguely able to comprehend what Siere had said. His head spun and a crushing wave of nausea hit him, bringing him to his knees. He emptied his stomach on the hillside where it made a red stain on the ground.

Siere was next to him then, kneeling, tearing a strip off her own tunic and deftly, tenderly wiping his face. The world tilted crazily for a moment. He could not make out what she was saying. He let her guide him to the bole of a massive lithel tree, where he sat and laid his head back in a depression in the trunk and blacked out. He woke to Siere lifting water to his mouth.

“You must drink now.”

He drank, and leaned back again. Worry creased her brow, and he searched her eyes. He was dying, he could see it in her face.

“Can you walk?”

After a hesitation, he nodded. She helped him up, and this time he leaned on her as much as the staff. The wound in his leg was throbbing and hot to the touch, and waves of pain ebbed and flowed through his burns.

“I don’t know why he would be, but I think my father is in that village. That is his standard. Can you walk that far?”

Gaalen squinted. Even the grey light of the cloudy day seemed to burn his eyes, and the world lurched if he changed the direction of his gaze too quickly. Again, he nodded to her. “I will,” he grated.

posted on Nov, 10 2018 @ 08:24 AM
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175 - The Daughter of Meron

Gaalen was heavier than he looked. Siere did her best to support him, but his steps faltered regularly and he dragged his feet. She thought he might be drifting in and out of consciousness. The descent to the flood plain was torturous, but they eventually reached the valley floor, and started across through the tall grasses where they came across a wagon track leading to the village’s bridge. As they approached under a gray sky, riders emerged and crossed the small bridge leading into the village proper. A patrol squad – another indication at least someone important was visiting, if not Lord Alaniten himself – rode out from the main gate of the palisade. As they drew near Gaalen’s strength failed, and he went down, taking her with him.

She tried to extricate herself and tend to him, but she was unable to move him even a pace. His breath was faint. It rattled in his chest and he started to choke. Desperately, she tried to roll him on to his side, but her exhaustion and his weight was getting the better of her. If he was bleeding internally, he might drown in his own blood. As if to confirm her thought, he coughed and blood flew. That explained much, if one of his likely-broken ribs had punctured his lung. Panic started to set in, and she angrily redoubled her efforts. He needed her, and she was useless!

The riders approached and flanked them. “Help me!” she demanded. One of the men – she didn’t bother checking which – dismounted and assisted her, rolling Gaalen on his side. He coughed more red spittle, enough to clear his airway, making his breathing slightly easier. She sat on the ground then, resting Gaalen’s head in her lap. She fought back tears. He didn’t deserve this, not now, not after everything else. Aomm, why?

“Nothing for it now, I’m afraid. Best thing you can do is stay with him until the end comes. I’m sorry, lass,” said the rider in a rough, but not unkindly voice.

The remark snapped her back. She looked up, anger sharpening her tone. “He will not die while I have anything to say about it, Sergeant.” The lead rider was the one who had jumped down to help her. He bore a red cord on the cowl of his cloak. He stared at her for a moment, evaluating. She glanced at his house insignia. “Three feathers. You must be the second son of Lady Aswall. Callum, I believe? Get Meioshi Caran from the village, Callum Aswall.”

The sergeant’s eyes narrowed. “What makes you think there is a Meioshi here? And who are you to order me around, girl?”

In answer, she angrily untied the bodice at her neck, then reached up to the top of her sleeve and yanked it downward, baring her shoulder and exposing the tattooed crest of House Lithelwaite. The Sergeant’s eyes widened and he went to one knee. After a startled moment, the rest of the patrol dismounted followed suit. “My Lady,” he said quickly, “What are you doing out here?”

She ignored him. “Father never goes outside the hold without Caran. Get a message to Lord Meron at once and tell him this, Callum Aswall: Lord Captain Braeghe is critically injured and needs Caran’s attention immediately. If he challenges you, tell him ‘An Kettangir anyan i’Tegre.’” She waited a moment for her words to sink in, and the Sergeant’s eyes flicked to Gaalen, falling to the crossed sword and starburst on his cloak.

“Send your man, Sergeant,” she said quietly. “Now.”

“Jehonan!” he barked. A fit young man leaped into his saddle, kicked his mount and sped away, clattering across the bridge and shouting. “Jehonan is my fastest rider, Seeress. I apologize for not recognizing you straight away.”

The remaining soldiers brought water and food to her. Gaalen was no longer responsive, but he still breathed. She managed to get some water into his mouth.

When the return party came, six riders led a spare mount and a coach along the wagon track they had been following through the grasses of the field. A tall rider sped ahead as soon as the bridge was crossed, followed by two others. Brushing his brown hair back one last time, Siere bundled her cloak and gently laid Gaalen’s head on it as she stood, and he stirred. When the riders arrived the tall man jumped off his mount and engulfed Siere in his long arms.

“What is this? You look like a feral kitten. I thought this Lord Braeghe gave his duty due care,” he grumped in Caimree.

“Do not speak of what you do not know, i'Tegre. If not for him I would be dead twice over,” she replied in the same tongue.

Lord Alaniten harrumphed. “Well, where is he?” he said gruffly.

Siere turned toward the Lord of Braeghe, then gasped. Agonizingly, he was trying to stand.

posted on Nov, 11 2018 @ 09:46 AM
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176 - Bar-shellom

Lord Alaniten shot an alarmed glance at Siere, then stepped forward. “Lord Captain, Light of Aomm, son, you do not have to,” he began, switching back into the Modern Graytongue.

Gritting his teeth, Gaalen pulled himself up on his walking stick and hobbled forward as Lord Alaniten approached. He tossed the stick and drew his sword, ramming it into the earth point down. Painfully, he lowered himself to one knee to perform the Etielien. Siere saw the wound on his thigh ooze fresh blood. “My Lord, I ask your forbearance for not escorting the Seeress Lady Meron all the way to Lithelhold. I fear I may not complete the journey, but I request that you grant her your protection,” he rasped, bowing his head and swaying slightly.

“Bloody Abyss,” Gaalen heard one of the soldiers breathe.

Quietly, Alaniten declared, “My daughter has come home to me. We rejoice in Aomm. Lord Captain Gaalen Braeghe, you have done your duty faithfully; I discharge you from this task.”

Gaalen felt his body sag. It was done, he could die now, he could be with Kaena. A shadow fell over him, and he felt a strong hand on his shoulder. “Take rest now, son,” he said. Then, “Meioshi, aiyec aangen aruenwaith!” he bellowed in Caimree.

The coach had finally arrived, trundling through the thigh-high grasses. A stout, balding man in his middle years clambered ungracefully down from the coach.

“My Lord,” he began, then caught sight of Gaalen. Glancing at Lord Alaniten, who curtly nodded, he rushed to Gaalen’s side, immediately placing a hand on his forehead.

“Rest now, lad, that’s it. Just lay back. Seeress, would you join me please?”

Siere hesitated. Reluctantly she approached and knelt next to the Meioshi. “Why didn’t you at least stop the bleeding, child?” he whispered fiercely. “He would have bled out if we had not been here. There’s infection, and he is poisoning his own blood. His body is nearly overcome, and you have done nothing for him! I taught you better than this!” His rebuke was stern, but quiet and for her ears alone. “Join me, girl, I will need your strength for this,” he said.

Her face pleaded with Caran, and though his eyes fought to close, Gaalen saw tears well in hers.

“I couldn’t, Bar-shellom,” she whispered, then leaned in close to the pudgy man. “I have no strength left. I could do nothing.”

Gaalen let his eyes close briefly. What could he do for her?

“No str-,“ he began, “what in Aomm’s--” his tone was harsh, but he seemed to sense her distress. Caran searched her face for a long moment. “Right. Well,” he said slowly, “We will speak further of this later. At least tell me how this happened. And what are these burns?”

Gaalen only dimly heard them, but he tried to stay awake.

“It was a sokolops, Bar-shellom. It spat venom at him as he fought it. I believe he is bleeding inside - he was kicked, and thrown hard, and he has vomited blood. I suspect broken ribs and perhaps damage to his liver. He may have a puncture in his lung, and the wound on his leg is infected.” Meioshi Caran looked at Gaalen.

“He should be dead.”

She made a sound of assent. “He does not give up easily.”

“I cannot Take from him here, you know that,” he said and she nodded. “I can stop the bleeding, and halt the progress of the infection, but he will need to recover mostly on his own. He will be scarred.”

She nodded sadly, her eyes downcast. “He already bears scars.”

Caran studied her intently, then looked down at Gaalen. “Rest easy, Lord Braeghe,” and he placed his hand on Gaalen’s chest.

Warmth and peace washed over him, and the edge of pain from his wounds began to fade with his consciousness. A delicate hand slipped into his. The last thing he saw was Siere’s dark eyes, as his own became heavier until he gave in to sleep.

posted on Apr, 4 2019 @ 02:49 PM
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177 - Tae Richit

Joen struggled to put one foot in front of the other. The fever made the land seem to lurch and tilt while he walked the seemingly endless path the girl Maerei led him on. After they had rounded a quarter of the lake, she struck out diagonally away from the shoreline onto a well-trodden forest path, moving quickly and chiding him constantly to keep up. The path climbed, though, and at times was little more than rocks and roots with small patches of dirt in between. He forced himself to continue, stopping only for water and, at one point, to throw up everything he had ever eaten, it seemed.

“I thought they trained you Bastion folk up. Aren’t you supposed to be the best soldiers in the land? Come on, keep up!” she was saying as they broke through the trees out onto a wide wagon trail, with a rock fence on the far side. “Chin up, squire boy, we’re almost there. These are my father’s fields.”

She headed for the gate a dozen paces down the trail, then let herself in, standing next to the waist-high, dry grain. Joen followed, somewhat slower, but now buoyed by the promise of an end to this trek.

As he reached the gate, suddenly her eyes grew wide and she growled in a low voice.

“Run! Now! Run to the tae richit!” she said, grabbing his arm and pulling him violently forward. He hesitated, and she said it again.

Run to the tae richit!” It was a Command. The familiar pull on his mind took hold, and without much thought his legs began to move. He focused completely on the small stone and mortar building at the corner of the field where it met the rock fences of three other fields. A small, stout noblethorn door beckoned them onward. She was right next to him, alternating between pushing and pulling him faster and faster as harsh shrieks and calls rang out behind them. Joen chanced a glance back and saw ugly grayish and purple heads with sharp, serrated beaks bobbing through the grain, crushing straight lines toward them.

“Don’t look back!” she shouted at him. “Just run! Faster!”

The tae richit drew closer, as the shrieks and calls grew louder and closer. Joen could almost feel sharp claws and those cruel beaks tearing into his flesh, certain he would die any moment. He denied the pain and exhaustion and forced more speed from exhausted legs that burned and cried for rest.

Twenty paces.

“Do not stop!”

Fifteen paces.

“Go, go, go! Faster!”

Ten paces. Five. The creatures were right on top of them.

They reached the shelter at last. Maerei threw open the door and shoved him inside, following him in and kicking the door shut.

“Hold it while I bar it. Now, squire boy!”

Joen threw his weight against the door as heavy shapes pounded into the other side. Maerei slammed the heavy bar down on the bracket and rammed it through the other one on the frame. Hoots and cackling screams of frustration and rage echoed outside the walls of the shelter, but the sounds were deeply muffled and told him they were safe now. Whatever they were, they would not get through those walls.

The darkness was almost complete inside the tae richit, except for a few small cracks under the door. It let in just enough light for him to see a shadow crouching down into a corner.

“What are you doing?” he said just as a spark flew, then another. Soon a small fire was kindled in a small ring of stones set into the corner. She reached into her satchel, pulled out a tallow candle, and lit it from the fire.

Now with light, they could see the interior of their shelter. It was plain but not completely bare. A knife, an axe, and a staff stood in one corner. In another, a scrip hung from a peg driven into the mortar. Above the ring of stones where Maerei had lit the fire was an iron stand with a hook where a pot could be hung.

Maerei reached toward the wall and pulled a torch off a narrow shelf, then lit it from her candle, snuffing the latter out afterward.

“Down there,” she pointed to a set of wooden planks in the dirt floor. “Open that door. There should be a rope to grab hold of.”

Joen obliged, pulling up the trap door in the floor of the tae richit. If he had not been feeling quite so miserable he would have been amazed at this very well-outfitted shelter. She shined the torch down, sweeping it from side to side to burn away old cobwebs that had collected beneath the door. Joen could now see a set of wooden steps that led to a tunnel. Without hesitation, Maerei proceeded down the steps. When Joen did not immediately follow, she turned her delicate face up to him.

“Well, are you coming?”

Snapping back to his senses, Joen followed her departing form down into the earth. The run seemed to catch up to him, or perhaps it was the closeness of the tunnel walls and ceiling. They had to stoop to make progress, and Joen began to feel lightheaded. As they approached a wooden door, Joen’s strength gave out and his vision narrowed down to points.

“Stay with me, squire boy. Not now, we’re here,” a girl’s voice said, but Joen felt his knees hit dirt, then his shoulder as he could no longer support his own weight.

posted on Apr, 28 2019 @ 05:27 PM
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178 - The Shepherdess' Cottage

“He lives,” a light female voice said.

“So he does, so he does,” said a man’s voice. “Maerei, go get some water and bread for the young man. He’s going to be hungry.”

Joen slowly opened his eyes. It registered that he was in a room, on a pallet, in a house of some kind. The last thing he remembered was passing out in a dirt tunnel.

“Where am I?”

“You’re in my house, squire boy,” said the female voice.

“I’m Tolaan, Maerei’s father,” said the man, looking down upon Joen with bluff, craggy features. He had deep furrows and pockmarks in his tan, wind-weathered face, and was not a particularly handsome man, but he was clearly where Maerei got her deep green eyes and fiery red hair.

Joen struggled to sit up, but a sharp stab in his side reminded him of the wound the aiyuun gave him.

“Not so fast there, son, you’re still weak as a day-old lamb, you are.”

“What happened?”

“You passed out in the tunnel, and Pa and I had to drag you in here. You’re not light, squire-boy.”

“How,” he started, but his dry throat refused to make any sound for a moment. He swallowed, and tried again. “How long have I been sleeping?”

“Two days. Thought we would lose you until the fever broke last night,” Maerei replied, coming with a tray with some sliced dark bread, a bowl of broth that made his mouth water, and a mug of some malty, yeasty liquid.

“You eat all that now, and drink the small beer too, it’s good for you,” said Tolaan. “You’ll recover just fine, you will. Got some strength in you, I can see that.”

“Sir, I cannot pay you for,” but Tolaan waved his hand.

“Don’t be ridiculous,”

“But sir,” Joen tried protesting, but the man shook his head.

“She said your name is Joen of Tingueil. That’s the En’anoran maarke, yes?”

Joen nodded. The light hair, light eyes, and deep brown skin were known all across the realm. There was nowhere he could go where he did not stick out. Secretly, he hated it. He wished sometimes he was light-skinned and dark-haired, like most of the rest of the country. Or that he lived with his people, though, there were no other En’anoran tribes that he knew of anywhere near Aavelae, and he could no longer go back where he grew up.

“Son, I know you folk set store in doing right by your honor code. I respect that. But here in the hills, we share what we have. No room for misers or the selfish out here. We look out for each other, and for any young, wounded, En’anoran tribesmen who might cross our paths. You honor us if you let us bless you with food and care until you’re strong enough to go your own way. Or stay as long as you like and work with us here. No one’ll turn you away.”

Joen relaxed a touch, unsure if what he was seeing was real.

“Eat, squire boy,” said Maerei with a smile.

He tucked in to the meal as she brought more for herself and her father. It was hearty fare, the bread dense, slightly sweet, and permeated through with seeds, and the broth hid chunks of meat and vegetables beneath the surface. The small beer had a tangy, sweet, and sharp taste that warmed his insides and made him feel content.

“Maerei tells me you’re from the Bastion, son. Whose Color are you?”

“I said he said he’s from the Bastion, Papa. Personally, I’m not convinced.”

“I’m Braeghe Color, sir,” Joen said, ignoring Maerei’s remark. “I’m Amaerke Lord Captain Braeghe’s squire.”

“Gaalen Braeghe, eh? I heard he’s engaged to the Princess. What is he like?”

“Yes, sir, he is engaged to be wed. If,” he began, but couldn’t bring himself to finish. If he survived. What had happened to them? Were they all dead? Was he the only one left? Joen swallowed.

“Take a deep breath, son. Makes it easier,” said Tolaan kindly.

“If he survived the aiyuun attack, and made it to Lithelwaite. We are supposed to rally the Eastern Holdladies, and Lord Alaniten and Meron Color.”

“Rally? Why?”

Joen hesitated at first, but Tolaan persisted.

“Joen? What’s happened?”

“The Makata have invaded, sir. They have been burning their way up from the border. Lord Gaalen tells me they razed South Market to the ground.”

Maerei gasped, and Tolaan whispered “Mellis ya Aomm”.

posted on Apr, 28 2019 @ 05:27 PM
Well, that didn't work. Double Post!! I guess I should post the next episode then!

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179 - A Bowl of Shells

“That’s why I have to find them,” he continued quietly. “I need to know if they made it to Lithelwaite. If they didn’t, then it’s up to me.”

“You would still try to go to Lithelwaite, by yourself? Have you ever been there before? Do you even know where you’re going?” demanded Maerei, incredulous. The pale skin of her brow drew down in consternation.

Joen felt confused.

“Of course I would continue on. Why wouldn’t I?”

“Because your friends are dead. If what you say is true, they didn’t survive, and it’s a miracle you did. Because if you keep serving this Lord Gaalen, or the Bastion, or the Queen or whoever you’ll end up just like them!”

“Maerei,” Tolaan said, his tone a warning.

But her cheeks were flushed a delicate pink, and her lips wore a pursed frown.

“Tell me I’m wrong, Father! Go on, then! You know what happens. People die in war. You of all people should know that!”

“That’s not fair. And this is neither the place nor the time. You are upsetting our guest, and he is still recovering. Why don’t you go to the cellar and get some of the cider? I’ll mull it and we can all have a mug. Does that sound good, Master Joen?”

“Please sir, just Joen. Yes, the cider sounds wonderful.”

Maerei shook her fiery mane and stalked off toward the cellar doors.

Tolaan watched her go for moment, then turned to Joen. “It’s just Maerei and I. My wife, my Tisa was killed ten years ago, now. Maerei was just five. I’ve done my best, but, well, I’m just an old farmer. Raising a girl to womanhood isn’t what I was cut out for. She’s got too much of me in her, I fear.”

He shook his head wistfully, smiling small and tender.

“Well, you don’t need to hear an old man’s regrets. I’m sorry, please forgive me. It’s so rare we have visitors, I fear I have forgotten my manners. You are probably tired yet. Here comes Maerei with the cider. I’ll get the spices ready and leave you alone for a bit.”

Joen turned to see Maerei hauling a barrel up out of the cellar doors. She set the barrel down, closed the doors behind her, then easily lifted it up and brought it to her father. In short order he had it tapped, and the sweet scent of fruit mingled with yeast, the spices Tolaan was grinding, and the smoke of the fire flooded the small cabin. Joen’s side ached, and blood seemed to pound in his ears. But the soft linen sheets and finely woven wool blanket were keeping him warm, and despite their harrowing race to shelter, he felt safe, even content. It reminded him of home - his family home, not his Squire’s apartment in the Bastion.

The casual interaction between Tolaan and Maerei was strange, but refreshing to Joen. The Bastion was a place where rules governed conduct, and Joen wouldn’t get away with talking back to Lord Captain Braeghe like Maerei had done to her father. Of course, she was a girl, and nearly a woman now at what Joen guessed was about fifteen Rings. Girls typically seemed to have a bit more leeway than boys did, especially when it came to that kind of challenge to authority. In a teenage girl, it was seen as asserting her budding independence, something that would serve her well in the adult world. In a boy, it was willful disobedience, that had to be stamped out lest the boy become a bad seed, a malcontent, a troublemaker destined for the stocks, or worse. There was a different feeling in this place, with these people. In a way it made Joen quite uncomfortable, but in another it drew his curiosity. He found himself wanting to know more about these people, these inhabitants of the Maarke Seeress Meron was from.

Maerei chattered at her father endlessly as they prepared the cider and set to tasks around the cabin. Joen began to feel guilty at them working all around him, and tried at one point to get up and help Maerei crack nut shells. She laughed at him, light and melodious.

“Sit down, squire-boy. You just rest up,” she said, a sparkle in her eyes.

“There must be something I can do, some way I can help.”

She fell silent for a moment, then crossed the room and sat on the bedside.

“You don’t need to pay us, Joen, with coin or labor. We mean that,” she said seriously.

“I believe you. I don’t like being idle,” he said, looking down. “It is not honorable.”

She considered him for a time, then seemed to make up her mind. “Alright, you crack these. I’ll get you a separate bowl for the shells,” she said, as she had been throwing them directly in the fire.

Soon they were both cracking itsaaconi nuts and trading stories of the dangers of going outside. Maerei had seen much, shepherding her father’s sheep, minnisc, and mituuraan. She had fought ges’etaaken, and even seen a torpae up close. Still, the stories he told her of his adventures with Lord Captain Braeghe brought gasps and amazement.

“How did you ever get out of that mess? Sixty of them?” she asked, as he related the details of a time when he, Lord Braeghe, and a small squad of Braeghe Color were pinned down by gitulaani just outside of the garrison in Besh-Samarr.

“It was Lord Gaalen. He got us up into an old ruin on a hill before the gitulaani reached us and directed us how to fortify the position. He found three perches for our best archers, got five men to make pikes out of small trees from the far side of the hill, and took four others down to circle behind. Before he left told us up on the hill to make enough noise to wake a stone, and light six different campfires so it would seem like there were dozens of us.

“They took the bait and tried to attack the hill while Lord Braeghe and the best swordsmen we had with us picked them off from behind. We didn’t lose a single soldier, and left thirty-five gitulaani lifeless on that hill. It wasn’t anything unheard of that he did, but Lord Gaalen says many times the people in command forget the fundamentals and over-think the problem.”

She shook her head. “You really admire him, don’t you?”

Joen grew uncomfortable again. It was hard to put his loyalty to Gaalen Braeghe into words.

“He, well,” he began, then looked into her green eyes. “He helped me once. If not for him I would surely be worse than dead. He saved me, and taught me. There’s nothing I wouldn’t go through for him, because I owe him a debt.”

She looked seriously at him for a moment. “Debts like that can’t always be repaid, squire-boy. Be careful you don’t become a slave.”
He found her intense eyes hard to look away from as his gut tingled and tightened. Suddenly her face broke into a grin and she launched into another story about her and a cousin who hid a duae mitaac in her aunt’s bed.

The evening passed uneventfully as they traded more stories, sipped cider splashed with brandy, and slowly drifted off to Tolaan playing a reed flute softly in the firelight.

edit on 4-28-2019 by PrairieShepherd because: Double post turned into the next episode.

posted on Apr, 29 2019 @ 11:11 AM
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180 - Waking Up

Gaalen woke, his head on a soft pillow. He was on a wide bed with soft, smooth sheets and a warm blanket of fine linen. He could feel the sun’s warmth and a gentle breeze on his face. Outside, birds chirped and insects hummed and buzzed, while other creatures croaked, hooted, and called occasionally. There were bandages around his chest, back, and arm, and around his thigh, snug and secure but not uncomfortable. The air smelled of flowers and woodsmoke.

Slowly, he opened his eyes, and that felt like an achievement. He looked around the bright room. The floor, such as he could see from his bed, was redheart and light-colored lithel wood. Dark brown noblethorn millwork decorated the room, from baseboard to chair rail. It was furnished exquisitely, with a highly polished white marble fireplace, crystal oil candles, gold and silver gilding in places. Fine paintings and tapestries decorated the walls, and the window glass was so clear it seemed almost as if it was not there.

A low couch sat as part of a ring of seating in front of the fireplace, down two steps from where the bed was set. A slender feminine figure slept, a light linen blanket over her, dark hair spilling out around a pale face. Siere looked to be at peace.

One side of the gilded redheart doors opened silently, and a serving woman in a light blue dress and apron bearing the red vinerose sigil of House Meron entered, pushing a wooden cart with large, spoked wheels. Felt had been cleverly inlaid into the wheels, and they rolled almost silently across the smooth wooden floor.

He pushed himself up on his good elbow, looking over at the serving woman. She smiled at him, which lit up her plain, lined face.

“You are awake, this is good,” she said softly with a thick Caimree accent. “You are strong man. Will recover well, I think.”

Quickly and without noise she set a silver plate of pastries on the dark table near where Siere still slept soundly. She poured a goblet of pale yellow juice, then set a covered mug over a clever device that suspended the mug above a single flame in a low, flat candle.

“She loves the oneiesi tea with ginger and honey. Ever since she was a wee girl,” the woman said as she approached Gaalen’s bedside with the cart.

She looked over at Siere with care and deep fondness on her face for a moment, then turned to Gaalen.

“She has not left this room, Amaerke Lord Captain. She would not be parted from you.”

His emotions were a confused, hazy jumble, and his thoughts were scattered.

“I - “ he began, but his voice would not sound, and it just came out as a breathy croak.

“Here, Amaerke, sip of this first. The honey will help. You have not spoken in many days.”

He obliged her, sipping from the steaming mug she proffered. The tea had a bite of ginger and spices, and the honey had an almost malty character. It was as though he had never had tea before.

He closed his eyes, trying to focus his scattered mind, and after a moment, he looked up at her again.

“I am in Lithelwaite?”

“Yes, Amaerke. In Lithelhold, house of Amaerke and Lord High Captain Meron.”

“How did I get here?”

“You do not remember? She brought you,” she nodded toward the sleeping figure on the couch.

“I remember the field. Lord Alaniten, the Meioshi.” He put his hand to his head. “But nothing after.”

“You were asleep when you arrived. You have slept many days now.”

He sat up a bit further and looked around again.

“There is another tray on your cart.”

She nodded. “Yes, I bring it to the Amaerke. She will not eat it though. She has not eaten, lately.” Her voice was heavy, and her eyes downcast.

He noticed other things on the cart as well. A pitcher and a kettle he assumed for tea; other vessels, some cold with condensation, some hot and steaming; a plate of meats, a plate of fruit; condiments, sugar, cream, and some small glass bottles.

Deftly she prepared a plate on a tray for him, filling a small mug with juice, buttering toast, and slicing sausages and a roasted purple root vegetable he was not familiar with. Finishing with a pastry, she placed the tray - a clever design that fit over his legs allowing him to stay in bed - and offered him a napkin. The aroma of the toast and smoked sausages, combined with sweet smell of the pastry made his stomach rumble, despite the queasy feeling he had.

“May I get anything else for you, Amaerke?”

“No thank you, ah,” he stopped, realizing he did not know her name.

“Kuuvreith, my Lord,” she supplied.

“Thank you, Kuuvreith,” he said, and she smiled. Wheeling her cart about, she left the room as silently as she came, closing the door behind her.

Unsure of his stomach, he took a bite of his toast and a sip of the juice, then waited. After a minute or two, it seemed to open the floodgates of hunger, and in a ravenous fit he devoured half of his meal before, it seemed, taking a breath.

When the plate was virtually spotless, and both mugs – the tea and the juice – were empty, a profound exhaustion seemed to come over him. The mid-morning sun shone on his face, and he was suddenly sleepy again, his eyelids heavy. He closed his eyes, feeling the warmth of the sun and the comfort of the soft bed, slowly drifting off to sleep again.

posted on May, 2 2019 @ 05:54 PM
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181 - Four Days

He woke again some time later, his head facing the small table next to the bed. The tray was gone, replaced by a goblet of gingered water and a small plate of tarts and biscuits. The light coming through the windows had changed direction significantly.

As he stirred, pushing himself back up, Siere stood up from one of the chairs by the fireplace, a book in her hand.

“You’re awake,” she said, the corners of her rosebud lips turning up just the slightest. Her face was haggard, though, taut and drawn, making her look almost as if she was ill. Her dark eyes were ringed with red, as if she had been crying, and there were dark patches underneath them as well.

“Good morning, Seeress,” he said with a scratchy voice. “It is good to see you.”

Her lips turned up a tiny fraction, and she said, “I fear it is the afternoon, Amaerke Lord Captain. You have been sleeping all day. Kuuvreith mentioned you were awake early this morning. I am sorry I was sleeping.”

“Don’t apologize, Seeress.”

Her lips tightened and her brow furrowed, and she gave a small shake of her head. He felt something was wrong, but he did not know what. He knew he should thank her for saving his life, for surely it was her actions that were responsible. But the weight of the desperate trail after the attacks by the aiyuun and the monstrous centipede-like creature bore down upon him, and he had trouble mustering any lightness in his being, not even gratitude. He had been so close. So close to seeing Kaena again.

He looked away from her, around the room again.

“What day is it?”

“Hallows, the fourteenth day of Benneskalvo.”

“Bloody Abyss, I’ve slept for four days?”

She nodded. “You were gravely ill, and I,” she stopped and cleared her throat. Gaalen through he saw something glisten in her eye before she turned away. “What do you remember?”

Gaalen thought back. His memories were a hazy jumble, mostly flashes.

“We were attacked by a creature. It was immense. You wouldn’t leave when I told you to. It had killed me. I thought it had killed me. But you killed it.”

He paused, thinking. “I became sick. Wounds infected. We kept trying to make it to Lithelwaite. Then you said you found your father. I remember falling. Falling to the ground. Everything after that is just bits and pieces.”

“Meioshi Caran was with my father. He performed some healing to keep you alive, then we brought you here.”

“Where is ‘here’?”

“My mother’s estate. It is on the southern reaches of Lithelhold. I had believed we would be approaching from the northwest, but we had veered far south sometime during our flight from the sokolops.”


“The giant insect-creature. It was a sokolops. We are both quite lucky to be alive.”

He nodded, unsure how to respond. He did not feel lucky in the slightest.

“The town we were near was Maakhethella,” she continued, “nearly two days south of where I believed we were. Had we continued we would have completely missed Lithelhold.”

“Aomm was watching us then?” He said with a wry twist to his mouth. Aomm is a myth, he thought. Ngak is a myth, none of this matters at all.

She looked at him seriously. ”It was luck. A coincidence, nothing more.”

posted on May, 2 2019 @ 05:57 PM
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182 - Visitors

There was a soft knock on the door, which opened to reveal a stout, middle-aged man in what Meioshi’s robes of gray and white. He had an easygoing, yet bustling nature about him, sharp eyes behind round spectacles taking in the entire room seemingly at a glance.

“Excellent, you are awake,” he said in Aavelaean. His accent was of the capitol, not the Eastholds.

“Yes, Seer, just for a few minutes. This morning as well.”

“Oh, I’m not a Seer, lad, that’s her,” he gestured to Siere with his thumb, who shot him a dark look. “Just a humble Meioshi. How do you feel?”

“Weak. I doubt I could walk across the room.”


“None to speak of, sir,” he said respectfully.

“You are a formal one, aren’t you. Call me Caran, please.” Gaalen nodded at him. “Have you eaten?”

He nodded again. “I was done with breakfast almost before I had begun,” he said, his stomach beginning to rumble at the mere mention of food. He reached for one of the tarts and began taking small bites.

“Excellent!” beamed the Meioshi. “Hunger is always a good sign. Unless you have a urtis worm, then, not so much.”

What is an urtis worm? Gaalen wondered. He was about to ask when two more people arrived, a man and a woman. The man was tall, a fierce look in his dark eyes. His face was structured like Siere’s, but where hers was delicate and feminine, his was chiseled and cut, as if from the very mountains of the Eastlands, lines and furrows cutting through brow and cheek. The woman was different – light of hair and eye, and where the man seemed implacable, the woman was softer, gliding elegantly across the floor toward the three of them.

Siere stood and gestured to the man. “This is my father, Lord Alaniten Meron. And this is my eldest sister, Lady Baelina Meron.” She turned to the two of them and gestured toward him. “This is Amaerke Lord Captain Gaalen Braeghe.”

It was the woman – Baelina – who spoke first. “Welcome to Lithelwaite, Amaerke. We are honored to have you in our Hold.”

“Thank you, Lady Meron. My Lord, my father spoke of you often. I regret that our first meeting was under such circumstances.”

The big man grinned. “Not to worry, son. I too add my welcome. I’m certain my wife regrets not being able to greet you in person, but when you are both stronger you shall meet. She was looking forward to your arrival when we heard you were to be on the delegation.”

“I’m flattered, my Lord.”

Baelina grew serious. “I was grieved to hear about your companions, Amaerke Braeghe. I understand a number of Braeghe Color were along, including your squire and Sir Grond, who is known to us here in Lithelwaite. Are you certain there are no other survivors?”

“As certain as I can be, my Lady. Aiyuun are not forgiving creatures.” The energy he had had before was waning, and he was now finding it hard to concentrate.

“No, they are not,” added Alaniten.

“Your trip is not in vain, despite the loss of Lady Commander Milaener,” she said, with a kind tone in her voice. “Upon hearing of your mission, I sent duae mitaac to request the Holdladies to assemble here in Lithelhold. The first began arriving two days ago, and I expect the rest by the end of the week. We will honor the memory of those who have fallen, Amaerke Lord Captain.”

“Thank you, Lady Meron,” Gaalen responded, trying to stifle a yawn. He was becoming tired again, his eyes fighting to focus, the lids wanting to close.

Siere noticed at once, and took command.

“I think that will be enough for now. Everyone out. Our guest is still quite exhausted from his ordeal, and needs more rest,” she said, turning to the visitors.

Meioshi Caran nodded in approval, and taking his cue from Siere began gesturing - politely of course - to the door. Alaniten wore a slightly grumpy face, and Baelina stepped forward to take Gaalen’s hand.

“It is truly a privilege to host you, Amaerke. Please, if there is anything you need, you have but to ask.” Alaniten murmured his agreement before they both turned to leave.

Gaalen watched as everyone but Siere left, gently closing the doors.

“Seeress, I want to apologize,” he began, but she cut him off.

“Don’t,” she closed her eyes and held up a hand to forestall him, then added, “Please.”

Gaalen had no energy to argue, so he let it drop.

“You need rest. Sleep again now, I will wait over there if you need anything.”

“You don’t need to stay.”

“I know.”

And with that, she turned back to her chair, sat down, and began to read as Gaalen’s eyelids closed yet again.

posted on May, 6 2019 @ 12:50 PM
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183 - The Other Patient

Over the last two days, Gaalen had been getting stronger and more active. He now spent most of his time awake and sitting up. At her urging, he had gone out in the grounds today, taking a walk through the garden, insisting he was feeling fine and just needed to get back to his daily routine of ro-ti drills and the a’karana.

Her father, in most irritating fashion, nodded encouragingly every time Gaalen mentioned anything of the kind, punctuating his agreement with pithy wisdom such as, “A man needs to move to heal”, and “A woman heals with a tea and talk, but a man heals with a sword in his hand.” As much as she adored her father, at times she wanted to muzzle him.

Siere knew he needed to take it one step at a time. Pushing himself too far too fast could inhibit his healing, and even cause reinjury. Although, she had to admit the wound on his thigh, and the burns from the venom of the sokolops were healing with remarkable speed. Even now she could see there would be little scarring if any from either.

With Gaalen on the mend, she had been splitting her time between his room and her mother’s, where she sat now, reading silently from Healing Herbs of the Eastern Lands. She knew the book well, as it had been one of the first books assigned to her for study by Meioshi Caran when he had become her bar-shellom, the Caimree word for ‘instructor.’

The afternoon sun shone with no particular intensity today outside, but through the thick glass of the windows it warmed her face and lap. Beside her in the large, canopied bed, her mother lay sleeping. Her breathing was slow and seemed labored, and her skin had a pallor to it that set Siere’s teeth on edge. It was the same pale, almost blue color she saw in those who were bleeding out.

Kuuvreith entered with her mother’s afternoon tray. She wiped Eveleta’s brow tenderly, then gently woke her.

“My Lady, it is time to wake up.”

Eveleta’s eyes fluttered open, and she mumbled something incomprehensible. Kuuvreith took it in stride. “Of course, my Lady, I’ve brought your favorite hakar soup. You need to keep up your strength. You will be victorious over this in no time.”

She spoke in Caimree the entire time, keeping up a steady stream of encouraging words for Siere’s mother. She mixed a tonic in a glass using a clear substance from a small vial, then coaxed Eveleta to drink it. “It will help your appetite, my Lady. Yes, that’s it, drink it all down.”

“What are you giving her?”

“Tincture of Sheira’s Balm. It is said to settle the stomach and spur the appetite. She has not been eating well. This should be working but it has not been effective,” Kuuvreith said sadly.

“How long have you been giving it to her?”

“Just two days, my Lady,” she said smoothly.

“And where did you obtain it?” Siere pressed intently.

“From Ejolavah’s apothecary in the village.”

“Ejolavah is married to a Mons Rosian, you know that,” Siere said. The woman glanced sidelong at her.

“I was directed there by Meioshi Caran when your mother first took ill,” she said calmly.

Grudgingly, Siere admitted to herself that Tincture of Sheira’s Balm was the right herb for the job, and Kuuvreith was right, it should be working. But something was not adding up about her mother’s condition. Even with an illness such as red fever, Sheira’s Balm had proved effective for stimulating appetite. It was odd that it should not be working.

And the little voice in her head kept nagging at her that if she had been here when Mother took ill, somehow, some way, she could have healed her by now. There must be something that Kuuvreith was doing wrong, something she had missed that Siere could have noticed.

You know it’s not her fault, another, more reasonable voice in her head said.

No, I don’t know that! She snarled silently. She admitted to herself she was angry, and her attitude toward Kuuvreith may not be entirely fair, but the fact remained that her mother had been sick for weeks, and neither Caran’s treatment nor Kuuvreith’s had done anything.

“I will be monitoring her progress, Kuuvreith. I may give you new instructions based on my findings,” she said, and it sounded a bit more terse than she really intended it to be.

“Of course, my Lady, as you wish,” she said, continuing her ministrations.

posted on May, 6 2019 @ 12:51 PM
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184 - Amaerke Lithelwaite

The door opened quietly and Caran entered.

“Good afternoon Seeress, Mistress Hanaa. How is our patient?”

“She’s not eating, Bar-Shellom,” Siere said bluntly.

“Mm, loss of appetite is one of the symptoms of red fever.”

“She’s too weak not to be eating,” she pressed, and Caran arched eyebrow at her.

“Indeed, she is,” he said slowly, “I agree with your assessment. What do you suggest?”

“Red fever is supposed to manifest with high fevers, severe abdominal cramping, and blood blossoms on her feet and palms. I see no marks on her feet, and her fever is moderate but not high.”

“I see. You think she maybe does not have red fever?”

“She’s been sick for weeks. If it was red fever, she should be,” she stopped, unable to say it.

Caran nodded as Kuuvreith, finished with her tasks, curtsied and exited the room.

“Not all cases are identical, Muvriir. Some symptoms do not always present, you know this.”

“But where are her,” she started, but Caran held up a hand.

“Her skin was hot to the touch for nearly ten days. The blisters on her lips from it have only recently healed. You can clearly see how frail she is becoming from lack of appetite, and if you look more closely, with proper light, you can see the remnants of bruising on her feet, palms, and under the outer two fingers of her right hand. Now, I realize you have seen much, but I have as well. I have seen red fever before, Muvriir, and this case is fairly clear, despite its chronic nature.”

“Must I kick you both out?” a faint voice said.

“Mama!” Siere rushed over to sit by her mother.

“Dear one, I have missed you,” Eveleta whispered, taking her daughter’s hand.

“I’ve missed you,” she replied.

“You are back where you belong,” she patted her hand. “Now, stop bickering with Caran and tell me of the capitol.”

Siere hesitantly began talking, relating the details of her work in Avaanse. The soldiers of the Bastion, the Temple and the people she had met there and at the Palace. She found herself holding back details, not intentionally deceiving her mother, but some things she just avoided mentioning. Mistress Thannen; the gith-gesaarm attacking the command performance; the Bearer Casera and her abuses, even her remorse and repentance; and Gaalen, and Kaena, and Taarvaes’s story about them. And then the doomed delegation trip. Her words trailed off, and slowly she became aware of her mother, despite her frailty, eyeing her intently.

“You have nothing to say about the man you arrived home with?”

“Oh, forgive me, Mother, Lord Captain Braeghe, yes,” she began.

“Isn’t his name Gaalen, dear?”

“Yes, quite right,” she nodded. “He has been very kind to me, his men have been accompanying me throughout the city. He has taught me some of the martial arts of the Bastion, to try to keep me safe should I ever,” and once again, she trailed off. Should I ever be unable to use tamborae.

Her mother squeezed her hand gently, and suddenly Siere’s chest felt tight and her eyes watered.

“I should let you rest, Mama, please excuse me,” she said faintly, while both Caran and her mother studied her. Flustered now, she curtsied and headed for the door.

Caran followed her and caught her in the hallway.

“Seeress,” he began.

“Don’t call me that,” she snapped at him, her voice low.

“Why ever not?”

“What is it, Bar-Shellom?

“I merely wished to invite you to services this Hallows. Your presence would give joy to many in the congregation.”

She stared at him, unable to express the storm inside. Seeing no other option, she turned and walked away.

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