RPG #9 - The Five Dragons

Discussion in 'RPG #9 - The Five Dragons' started by Nienor, Apr 8, 2005.

  1. Senekha

    Senekha <a href="http://photobucket.com" target="_blank"><

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    Rho’stri shifted smoothly into her favoured form and took to the sky, her powerful wings cutting through the air. She rose high, and finding a desired current, soared. She had followed Casano’or for several days, and when her old friend had taken Cy’dath’s wounds unto herself, Rho’stri had observed other events of interest. The citizens of Ravasdes were in turmoil, though they had elected a new king – though, of course, they called him regent, as they wished to remain far from Casano’or’s wrath. The Elves in the North were restless, and the Sentinels were wary as ever, and preparing for battle. The death of the Sentinel in Ravasdes by Casano’or had not gone unnoticed – rather, it had alerted the other Sentinels of her presence, and they now were mustering in Caroma, a country with both Elven and Human borders.

    Several times she had changed into Human or Elven form and mingled with the peoples of various countries. Nearly a sennight before, she had taken on the form of an Azah and walked among that shapeshifting culture for some while. There was great dissent among the Azah, between the elders and the younger, who sought to take arms against Casano’or and Cy’dath.

    Her recent travels had convinced her of one thing only: no longer could she play from the sidelines, quietly encouraging peace – she must take a more active part. She must defend the Well, for the Well was life, and it was for life she stood. Without the Well acting as it would with nature, the world would fall into disarray.

    She knew she could not dissuade Casano’or – she had tried many times in her life, to no avail. Rho’stri dismayed her friend’s course of destruction.

    As she flew, she thought of her plan. She would not come to the Azah as one of them, but in her true form, one alien and strange even to the new race of shapeshifters. The elders among the Azah would undoubtedly shun her, though their new leader, Irawyn, might accept her. Rho’stri had watched Irawyn grow in power throughout the last few years, and saw great potential within the young woman.

    As the grasslands gave way to the waterless waste of Saile Hasrin, Rho’stri espied a motionless falcon upon the sand. Flying down for a closer look, Rho’stri immediately recognized the bird as an Azah, in a trance of some sort. She spiraled down, landed, and shifted into her natural form.

    As Rho’stri held out a hand to inspect the Azah, the falcon suddenly snapped open her eyes and changed into her true form, crouching in a defensive position.

    “Peace,” Rho’stri said, holding her hand up. Her search had come to an end, for it was Irawyn who stood before her. “Fortune would be mine, for it is you I seek, Irawyn.”
     
  2. Crusader

    Crusader Disturber of the Peace

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    Smacking the heel of his boot brought forth a spray of tiny sand grains, there was more in there, no matter how hard he tried his boots always ended up as sand-filled as this dingy desert. Jak resumed his contemplation of how to kill that fool woman who put him here, he had spent only one night with these people, a night filled with howling winds that buried him within the small tent he as given, one night was enough for anyone.

    It was mid-afternoon now and they long procession of people, carts, and animals stretched on into the sand, Jak quickly put his boot back on as Maesa walked towards him from the caravan.

    Catching the last glimpse of his re-fitting his boot, the edges of her lips curled in a tiny smile. “Problem?”

    He grumbled back angrily and remounted Rum. Maesa seemed to find his hardships amusing, and out of the hundreds in the camp she had taken an interest in him the most. “When do we get to this damned river of yours?” she said they would get here today, but every hour travelling in the heat seemed like four. He had occupied his time, speaking to Maesa about the lands, trying to find out how much more of his precious time was wasted here, it seemed to him it would be long after winter before he would get anywhere cold.

    “An hour at most, the ridge valley lies less than a league away and the Mighty Evra flows at its centre.” A river would be cold enough, Jak had already decided to jump in as soon as he got there, maybe it wouldn’t be cold but it would be better than this. He quirked his lip into a smile and saw Maesa cringe.

    “Problem?” he said mockingly.

    Catching his tone she put her own smile on. “Not mine”

    Jak stopped himself cursing and booted Rum into a fast walk gaining on the head of the caravan of people. It was an odd sign, wagons of tents and supplies lead by huge oxen, children leading flocks of goats here and there, but for the most part the group were soldiers. Obviously not professional, but by and large most men and women carried mismatched weapons and bits of armour, and walked with a purpose, scanning the surroundings as if danger lurked everywhere. Maesa claimed that the desert was infested with demons, but apart from the small group he had met on his arrival he had seen no more and refused to believe anything could infest somewhere so dry. Her reply was simple and well made, death thrives in the desert.

    After a while of slow riding through sandy hills the front of the caravan finally topped a rise and the foremost riders cried out that they had reached the river. Oddly that seemed to bring them to a halt, but Jak would have no such thing, he booted Rum as hard as he cared to push the feeble horse and made him gallop over the rise.

    Upon his descent he saw the mighty Evra, it seemed miles away, a thing blue line drawn across the low sand, and far past a huge pitted rocky wall. Before he continued he notices the same rocky cliffs here too, he remembered Maesa mention the ridge valley and needed no more. He found his way down through the cliffs in sandbank, making sure not to break Rum’s legs in the descent, the ridges were filled with cracks and caves, which oddly seemed smooth like river rocks, he didn’t care, he wanted the river not its rocks. It wasn’t too long a ride, but the gap between the ridge and the waters edge must have been near a mile, but when he saw river he was filled with disappointment.

    A thin trickle of water flowed in a runnel in the hard packed dirt of the valley, he could no more dive in this than he could dive in a puddle, and the puddle would likely be the deeper. Thin trees and clumps of vegetation surrounded the course of the Evra, none looked to bear fruit let alone seem healthy. He almost didn’t hear the riders approaching.

    Maesa hastily dismounted and cupped her hands to drink, the few men and women that followed did the same. Once she was done she stood back up and looked at Jak’s sour face.

    He blamed her for this. “I’ve seen bigger streams” he said, none to kindly, putting his right foot on the other bank to demonstrate his point.

    Maesa regarded him for a moment before speaking. “As have I, but this river was once the widest in all of Liandrah, its waters feeding the lands around and bestowing them with life. It is the same water, and it is still the Mighty Evra of old, but it is in mourning.” Before he could make a comment about weeping widows spilling more water he threw a few rags at him. “Put these on”

    Jak looked at the two bits of light brown cloth she threw, one seemed to be a long robe like coat, the other just a long rag, he had seen the like on those in the camp, wrapped round heads to shield from the heat, but Jak had managed without. “No”

    She sighed. “The others are making camp beyond the ridge, yet I have business in Lohridea, which is where I have promised to take you, we will go now, it is a long ride and I am anxious to be rid of you.” She smiled a knowing smile “And it would do good to shield your face, if not from the sun than from those you wish not to see it.”

    Mumbling, Jak put on the dirty clothing and hastily filled his waterskins and the empty wine bottle in his saddlebags. Making sure everything was ready he mounted and began to follow the others. It was funny, Neither Maesa nor her companions had used the scarves to shield their faces before now, very funny, Jak felt like smiling if he didn’t have dirty cloth up to his eyes.

    It took little over a day of following the river downstream, they kept wary though, this was the only water for a long way and the denizens of the desert would come to drink sometimes, or a predator lay In wait. Jak saw a shaggy brown lion eying them but aside from that he felt as safe as a baby.

    As the sun began to turn red in the west on the day after their arrival at the Evra they first saw Lohridea. A large wooden palisade ran for most the length of the valley, the large logs sharpened to spikes around low stone houses the colour of sand. Past the low building rose another wall, this one made of looming grey stone surrounding a hill at the centre of the city, its sides covered in large towered buildings. It wasn’t really a city, no more than the Evra was a river, it was a large town but after days in the desert the sudden roar of crowds almost made him think it a city. As they approached the gates Jak laughed so Maesa could hear and turned to her. “I’ve seen bigger streams.”
     
  3. Liadan

    Liadan Insert Title Here

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    “Well met, Maradi,” she said, mirroring the Maradi’s gesture. “I thought I felt your presence among the Azah just a few weeks ago. You are very skilled at concealing yourself, I must say, for I was the only one to know that you weren’t quite what you seemed. I think Saryn knew as well.”

    “Saryn?”

    “My grandmother.” The shadow of grief flickered across Irawyn’s face, and she saw that this Maradi was curious. But she did not answer the unspoken question. “She was from the time of the Chaos War, and she knew of the Maradi. But it seems rather impolite that you know my name while I do not know yours.”

    “Rho’stri,” the Maradi replied after a moment’s hesitation.

    “Will you sit, Rho’stri?” The woman was much taller than she was, and she disliked looking up at her. If they were at a somewhat equal height, Irawyn would feel better. Normally, such a foolish thing would have never bothered her, but she was rattled.

    Oh, grandmother…

    To be sure, Rho’stri was odd-looking indeed, with her white hair and eyes, and skin so pale that it almost reminded her of the dead. She had black fingernails like Lendoril’s, and a scar just below her neck. She also had many strange markings and tattoos, but that didn’t particularly bother her.

    All this Irawyn saw in an instant.

    Rho’stri seated herself with fluid grace, long limbs simply folding underneath her. “Irawyn Winterheart, I would not approach you lightly, but you know the darkness that stalks Liandrah.”

    Yes, I do, for it struck first at Saryn…

    “I am here to try and stop it, and to do that, we must make allies where we can. I am here to ask if the Azah will be my ally.”

    “I will say yes, Maradi, as will Arizia… but there are many that will resent you. Yet I will do my best.”

    “Then know this – Casano’or will strike at the Sentinels soon. Very soon. Although she hasn’t told me herself, I can guess this.”

    It seemed as if the very air grew chilly, and Irawyn’s face hardened. “What do you mean, that Casano’or hasn’t told you?”

    “Casano’or is my friend.”

    “Her friend. I see.” For an instant, she lost control over her powers and she wore a cloak of black raven’s feathers, draped over her arms and back, part of her yet separate. Eyes became burnished gold and burned. “And you ask me to trust you?”

    The Maradi shifted uncomfortably. “She is not a bad person, Irawyn. You do not know her as I do.”

    “ ‘She is not a bad person. You do not know her as I do,’ ” Irawyn mimicked, this time purposely keeping her cloak of feathers, half-human and half-raven.

    She knew that what she did next was wrong, but she did it anyway. If she could not punish Casano’or, then she could harm this Rho’stri.

    With a savage, efficient twist of her mind, she held Rho’stri’s mind captive as she began to feed her the memories of Saryn’s death. The feathers fluttered in the wind as Irawyn screamed, a harsh raven’s cry that spoke of death and despair

    When it was finished, there was a single tear on the Maradi’s face. “I’m sorry,” Irawyn said dully as she released Rho’stri. “I should not have done that.” The grief was too new, too raw, for Irawyn to see the memories without weeping. She wiped her face as she gathered her composure to her once more. But her golden eyes were harder than steel as that black raven’s shroud settled about her, reminding her that ravens were birds of battles and death. “But if you ever to stand in my way, Maradi witch, I will kill you. And I will enjoy it.”
     
  4. Crusader

    Crusader Disturber of the Peace

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    "So, it seems our business is at an end" Jak said without a hint of gratitude. Maesa seemed to be watching the streets, but she heard none the less.

    "I think not master Jaeric, although I would like to avoid you, I think we shall meet again. and Soon."

    shaking his head Jak mumbled "So are you an oracle? or do you intend to start following me?" He didnt let her answer, quickly ducking his hand under the rags he was wearing and into his coat, he pulled out a small leather purse of gold and handed it to her. "For your hospitality" and then he shrank back into the crowd.

    first things first, drink. Lohridea may have been small, but the harsh climate and the bustling streets brought the buildings together tightly, often with haphazardly placed overhanging balconies, Jak didnt see why they just didnt build them taller, it would make more sense. Somewhere in the throng of people a sign caught his eye, the familiar painted picture, different every time but meaning the same thing, an inn.

    This picture on the sign showed a large lion, the lettering beneith was ominous, the lion's den. Jak took no notice and stepped through the door of rough panels, inside smoke and dust filled the air. The common room was less than packed, but full neough for him to avoid notice. He went and found a seat at a long wooden table. When the innkeeper came Jak pushed a fat gold coin into his hand and asked for anything good before settling back down and streching is arms. When the innkeeper returned with a large mug of what looked like brandy he smiled and took a few sips. At last a chance to relax.

    "Trouble" a familiar voice said, and Jak turned his head to catch sign of a green silk dress. Damn her. "There is trouble in Liandrah, the unexpected has occured"

    Jak pulled down the top of the rag covering his face to shield his eyes a little, almost as if intending to take a nap. "Finally learned that things dont go as you want them to?"

    "This is serious Jak, the Arahín Symbols have been invoked, few alive know of the dire consequences that this will cause." She spoke without pause, her tone as stern as steel and twice as sharp. She was serious, it was never wise to mock the executioner.

    "And?... last i checked someone decided it was a good idea to strand me in the middle of nowhere. Besides that, from the way you sound it doesnt seem like I'd have much of a chance against these symbol things anyway, so whats the point in coming here and telling me?" it was never wise to mock the executioner, but Jak did anyway, it made things more interesting.

    She was still as a statue for a moment, her eyes fixed on him, burning a hole in his head. "Because Jak, I have chosen you"

    His brow creased in annoyance. "Chosen? bloody chosen. Ever heard of doing something yourself for once?" He hefted his mug in one hand, the liquid sloshing over his knuckles. This time he spoke with anger plainly on his voice "Ive had it up to here with your choosing and your damned meddling. just leave me Alone!" He hurled the mug at her and as he opened his eyes from his rage and she was gone.

    He looked across the room and saw a large bald man with arms like other men's legs standing up, his shirt was wet and he held his hand against his head, red soaked under his fingered. There was silence.

    The bald man looked around and then examined the blood on his palm, the sight seemd to fuel his confusion and anger. his gaze swept the room and focused on Jak. Damn her! He begun to walk over, cracking his knuckles. Jak quickly got to his feet and fished a couple of gold coins out of his pocket. He flicked one at the man. "For the clothes." And then another "For the head" a third, "And that one says sorry"

    he coins quickly disappeared into the mans hands but did not stop or slow him. When he reached Jak he ground to a halt and looked down. "Sorry costs more outlander, more gold or more blood, yours." did the fool think that sounded threatening? He'd heard wittier comments from people ogling barmaids. Jak but on the guise of fear and reached into his rags again, this time his hand when to the hilt on his sabre.

    The drunken bald man barely had time to move as the tip of the blade met his neck, stopping just shy of drawing blood. "You've had your compensation, if your greedy for more you can have the whole length of this blade? no? thats good, greedy men come to a sticky end." Jak stepped back with the blade still drawn untill he was at the door, then sheathed it with a slam. He pulled down the cloth covering his face and grinned straight at the man but it caught the whole room. "Besdes, youve had the honour of meeting the legendary Cheerful Jak, that should be rewarding enough." He slipped out into the crown, recovering his face. He always made an exit, and it was about time this town had a hero like himself to inspire people.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2005
  5. Arawn

    Arawn The Avenger

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    What Avaenonn lacked in population it made up in spirit. The most part of the people of Avaenonn lived in the capital, and those who did not lived on isolated plantations. The people were hardened from years of toiling to recreate homes and lives after all had been destroyed. These elves were not like those of the forest; their skin was darkened by the sun reflecting from the white sand of the grasslands-turned-desert, and any traces of fat had been seemingly boiled from their bones. What greenery and gardens now existed had been hard fought for, and the white desert was a fierce adversary.

    All this Tavius saw in his first day in the city. Great walls of sun-bleached granite encompassed a city built for defense. All buildings were one-storied, save the royal grounds, and the streets were narrow and wound about, with room for a mere three riders abreast. Most were windowless; if any enemy ever did take the city, he would be hard-pressed to keep it, with scant cover.

    The exception to these low, squat buildings was located on the northernmost section of the wall. Here the wall rose three hundred feet, and on the inside of the wall was built a citadel, with perfectly straight walls that rose high and menacing. The fortress was lined with slots for archers, and the narrow, curved causeway rose fifty feet before the great door. Stores of grain and other foods were kept in large granaries within the fortress. Even if the city were taken, the citadel would never fall.

    The city was clearly meant to protect the few survivors of the Chaos Wars. At present, no more than ten thousand elves resided in Avaenonn, a mere shadow of the nation Avaenonn once was.

    Arikha had begun instructing Tavius about the ways of her people, and had immediately placed him among her army’s officers. These officers, Tavius found, were some of the most hardened soldiers he had even come across. The soldiers, too, were intense, and all shared one single dream: vengeance.

    They knew they were too few to challenge Casano’or and Cy’dath, whom they referred to simply as the Enemy, without much help. Yet, the still had a fire like that of the desert within them, some ardent motivation to take at least a small portion of revenge.

    Tavius could not help but smile at the irony. Casano’or lived only for Cy’dath and to avenge her people. The army he now worked with lived with the single thought of vengeance against Casano’or, though their own kind had been the annihilators of Casano’or’s own race.

    It was a twisted world he lived in.

    Arikha herself was much the same as when he had first met her. Given, she seemed grimmer, more resolved and focused than her impulsive self. Her rage seemed to have been refined and tempered, a rough piece of steel forged into a blade sharp enough to pierce through all armour.

    His sudden shift of allegiance had been so swift it seemed he had been caught in an unstoppable whirlwind. He did not know whether to be fearful of Casano’or, or sympathetic. He knew that if Casano’or had truly wanted to kill him, she would have done so when she had appeared before Arikha, Sharana, and himself. When Casano’or was near, he felt an overwhelming sensation, as if her feelings were his own. Something deep within himself, perhaps that scrap of the Ancients Casano’or had claimed was in his blood, seemed to connect him with the woman.

    Whatever it was, it unnerved him. For what he felt from Casano’or was devastating sorrow, mixed with a toxic stream of fury.
     
  6. Liadan

    Liadan Insert Title Here

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    Lendoril blinked. “You’re saying that the Game is a way to gather more power, simply from following the steps? And it can take any form?”

    The Game can be a Dance, a Song, a Battle, a Sacrifice – anything, Liliana confirmed. But there must be two players.

    “And they have to meet the Ring of Five Dragons, be approved and blessed, right?”

    Not precisely. Sometimes, the Well can take the Ring’s place. It will examine, judge, and approve, and then the players are free to move onto the next step.

    “Which would be…?”

    It’s generally advised that you master your magic by this time, because if the Game goes on too long, it can go out of control or even pass into another’s control. But you have to work with the other player, learning how to bind your power together and then invoke the final stage of the Game.

    “What do you mean, ‘you’?” Liliana refused to answer, and Lendoril sighed. Trying to shake answers from Liliana when she didn’t want to give them, he had found, was futile. “Fine, then. How do you invoke the first stage of the Game? And what does the final stage consist of?”

    To invoke the first stage, you must announce your intention to play the Game with your partner, and present yourself to either the Ring or the Well. The final stage is what is needed to release the power… and what determines your survival. Three tests, three choices, each test followed by a choice.

    “What, like choosing between good and evil?”

    Not as simple as that. Evil can use the Game, too, you know. It has nothing to do with morality. But you must state your intent at the beginning of the Game, and what you intend to use the power for. Be very truthful, because those answers will formulate the nature of your choice. If you choose correctly, you will be choosing what your intent should be. Liliana sounded frustrated. It’s difficult to explain, so I’ll use an example. Say that your intent is to save the world from Cy’dath. If you pass the first test, you will be given the choice. If you choose correctly, you will be choosing the option that will help save the world from Cy’dath. If you choose incorrectly, you will be helping to hand the world to him on a plate.

    “That sounds simple enough – ”

    Oh, but it isn’t. The choices are never starkly black and white, and you have to rely on instinct as much as intellect. And the tests are difficult too.

    “Can’t you explain?”

    No. I cannot. I have played the Game, as have Yanae and Kynon. Players are not permitted to give away the secrets.

    Lendoril was confused. “You said that there were two Players. You and Yanae and Kynon make three.”

    Don’t be so literal. It’s not precisely in numbers. The three of us were locked in one purpose, and so we counted as one Player. The Well stood as the other Player. The Ring was our judge that time.

    He nodded absently, remembering something else she had said before. “You said something about passing the tests and choices determining the Player’s survival. What do you mean?”

    Exactly that. If you choose wrongly, you will die, and more importantly, part of your cause will die along with it. If you do not pass the test, you will die, leaving someone else to take up your place within the Game.

    “So if one of you had fallen in a test, someone else could have replaced you?”

    Yes.

    “And if you had failed in a choice, the Well might still be stationary?”

    Very probably.

    Lendoril rode on, pondering what he had learned. “How long can a Game last?”

    As long as it takes. The shortest record was a day. The longest… several centuries.

    “Kasalin said that I needed to learn of the Game because it’s probably the only thing that can counter those Arahín Symbols. Why?”

    I will not disturb the Pattern by telling you what they are… but heed my words. Liliana sounded almost frightened. Remember that even the Game extracts its price, Lendoril, and so do the Arahín Symbols.

    “Why can’t you tell me what they are?”

    Casano’or has put them into play, and by doing so, they have entered the Pattern. To disturb the Pattern can mean death and worse than death. If you are going to find out more, you must do so on your own. Ask the Well. You can do it.

    “You’re mad,” he said flatly. “I need Sentinel Sharana to help me with that. I’m not even a Sentinel. Sharana told me about what happens to those who fail the test. I’m not prepared, haven’t even trained.”

    You’re babbling, Liliana observed.

    “I’m terrified out of my wits. Trained Sentinels failed, and what do I have? A few talks with Sharana, that’s what.” He found himself recalling their conversation against his own will.

    “And some who failed came back.”

    “What happened to them?”

    “The Well of Stars… sucked their power out, but it also sucked something… else out. We don’t quite know what, but they always wished they had died or that they had not come back. Death would have been a kindness for them.

    “But they’re not allowed to die. Not now, not ever. They have been given the true curse of immortality.”


    He said it aloud, letting Liliana hear, but it was unnecessary. She was a Sentinel; how could she not know? And some of her companion ghosts were those who had failed.

    Plenty passed the test, she said. And the Game’s tests are a good deal more deadly.

    “Just as well I’m not playing it, then.”

    A long, long, silence, and he finally realized what Liliana had been trying to tell him all along. “You mean for me to play the Game, don’t you.”

    Yes.

    Are you out of your nut-sized mind?” he exploded. Birds flew out of the branches in alarm, but Liliana did not even flinch.

    Not really. Do calm down. You want to get rid of Cy’dath, don’t you?

    “Of course I do.”

    Well, there you go. The Game can get rid of Cy’dath.

    She makes it sound so simple, he thought sourly. Play the Game and be rid of Cy’dath.

    You have the amulet, she continued. Sharana has the Starwolf. Two Players, united in their purpose to overthrow Cy’dath.

    Sharana might be willing to go to any lengths to protect the Well and be rid of Cy’dath. I, too, want to protect my people, but by blades, not magic. I want to be a Sentinel, but I don’t want to learn magic…

    Liliana seemed to be able to read his thoughts. Whether you play the Game or not, you must gain control of your magic. That is necessary for your own survival.

    “Liliana… is there a way I can give this amulet to someone else?”

    Are you afraid of dying? Is this why you try to avoid the Game?

    “I would willingly give my life in defense of my people, but with a blade, not with magic. Now answer the question.”

    I’m not sure, she said, sounding very troubled. You’ll have to talk to the Well.

    It all comes down to the Well, eventually, he thought. Always to the Well. And Cy’dath; don’t forget him.

    Lendoril did not say anything, but only took a deep breath as he recalled what little Sharana had taught him, reaching for the Well of Stars.
     
  7. Senekha

    Senekha <a href="http://photobucket.com" target="_blank"><

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    “You are recovering quickly, my love.”

    Casano’or stood with Cy’dath on the top of the knoll around which the army was camped. Cy’dath’s power was increasing with every new day, and Casano’or’s strength was nearly fully recovered. She would not need to use the Symbols again, though she thought to keep that power within reach, should she wish to use it once more.

    “As do you, Casan.” He lifted an elegant hand into the air, snatching a floating leaf. “It is good to feel alive once more.” He looked at her fondly, smiling. “Just think of our power when we control the Well. Nothing in the universe shall be denied us.”

    Casano’or’s lips curled in a brief smile. “There remains yet a few of the Ancient blood. If they were gathered together, with time, we could create a kingdom like none ever seen. Even Rho would come back. There are others, too, who have some Ancient blood. Tavius, and the elf Lendoril. Many others with some scrap of my blood yet remain to be found.”

    They stood and watched the wind in silence. Black clouds roiled, though neither rain nor snow had fallen; the sky was still recovering from the use of the Symbols.

    “I shall go to Lohridea on the morrow,” Casano’or said at last.

    Cy’dath smirked malevolently. “I hear that there is quite a gathering there.”

    Casano’or remained gloomy. “Yes.”

    Cy’dath looked at Casano’or questioningly. “You fear them?”

    “You know I don’t.”

    “Why the long face, then? You have been looking forward to that event.” When she gave no reply, he said, “What is it you want?”

    Casano’or turned her head and gazed at the high mountain peaks, whispering, “I do not know what it is I want, anymore.”

    Cy’dath put a hand on her shoulder and gently turned her back. “Think of our dream. Think of the future.” Then he whispered, “Think of your father.”

    Casano’or’s eyes flared a bright white, and she disappeared, transporting herself to Lohridea.


    The Sentinels met in the basement of an abandoned library. Casano’or thought it ironical that every gathering she had lately attended had been in one abandoned library or another.

    The guard at the door had not so much as noticed Casano'or as she ghosted past him. No one was allowed through without pronouncing his name and connections with other Sentinels, though it did no good to stop the one person that should have been kept out.

    She sat near the center of the room, contrary to her normal habit of occupying the rearmost corner. Better to throw the bombshell in the midst of the enemy than aim for the frontlines.

    She wore her long black cloak, the same which she had worn during her latest stay in Ravasdes. It brushed the floor as she walked, the sleeves covered well her taloned hands, and the hood hung well over her face, leaving visible only a shadowed, tattooed jawbone.

    The brazier at the end of the long hall blazed brightly, and nearly 200 Sentinels either sat or milled around. Though throughout the hall, no more than several hushed conversations buzzed. The mood was sombre, and no traces of merriment were to be found anywhere. They had gathered for one chief reason: to discuss the attack they knew would soon come.

    After Casano'or had waited in her seat for nigh onto two hours, the doorman barred the door and took a seat. Now some 300-odd Sentinels sat in the large room, all situated 'round several long, rectangular tables. Casano'or had no idea exactly how many Sentinels existed at present, though she suspected that this was a good part of them.

    At one end of the room a winged elf paced, his wings ruffling agressively. He was tall, by winged elf standards, and powerful. He was older than many in the room, and must have been the leader of this gathering. Casano'or thought she recognized him, but then, she had never spent much time with the Sentinels.

    "Brothers," he began, then added with a warm smile, "and sisters. A Gathering of this size has not occured since the time of the Chaos Wars, but it is for no less of a threat that now impedes." He paused, scanning the group, then continued. "Rumours of the return of the Lord of Untamed Fire and his Avatar have been spreading of wildfire, and I am afraid that they are true. However, I myself have not seen them, but if any of you have seen them or their work, please, share it now."

    A small woman stood. "I was in Ravasdes within a fortnight of its capture, and can vouch for the obvious presense of the Avatar. The country is in turmoil, its rulers slain and its army taken. They have secretly elected a new leader, who poses as the mayor. Those who remain are rallying for a revolt, and seek help from my country, and others."

    Ah,, Casano'or thought with a wry smirk. I had expected as much.

    Another stood up, a young forest elf. "I was passing near the wastelands, and felt an incredible amount of energy being used. I saw a funnel cloud form in the distance, and the elements seemed to shudder. The sky went black for several minutes, then cleared."

    "The Arahín symbols," someone whispered. A murmur went through the hall.

    "Yes," another elf spoke up, "I, too, saw the same, just beyond the mountains that border Ravasdes. The weather and forests there still have not recovered, and I don't know that they ever will."

    The hall became alive with worried conversation, growing in volume until the leader called for silence.

    "Not all who should be present are here. Several fortnights ago, Tarlamen Strongbow was killed in Alavon, by the Avatar herself. Rumour has it that she entered a gathering of mercenaries at the Twisted Branch Inn as Siobhann Klaire, a mercenary and assassin of high renown, and revealed that Siobhann was merely a facade that she used after the Chaos Wars. She gave an impressive show, ending with the majority of the mercenaries' guild following her from the city on the morn. She went to Ravasdes, commandeered the army, and marched through the mountains. However, something must have happened on that journey, for the army set up camp on the foothills, and remain there still. The may mean to march on Alena, though if that were so, it would have been wise to do so a fortnight ago, before the forces of Alenion mustered. There is something of a stand-off between the two armies now. The Alenion army is nearly as large as that of Ravasdes, though they dare not attack for fear of the Avatar."

    He is well informed, Casano'or thought. I wonder who his source is. She meant to find that out upon her return to the army.

    "Perhaps we should muster the armies of all the surounding human countries, and march on the Avatar's army." This came from another young Sentinel, a human man.

    An older elf replied tartly, "And have our armies wiped out by a single blow from the Avatar? Your great-grandparents had not yet been concieved when the Chaos War raged."

    "Surely we could counter her with all or powers combined."

    The elf snorted. "You think that we, who are few and insignificant compared to the gods, could defeat the power of the greatest of the gods? You are young and foolish."

    The human was about to throw a reply when the leader held up his hand. "Marloran has the right of it, Joran. We must seek a solution elsewhere."

    "But where?" The question came from somewhere near the back of the room.

    "The Azah have grown in strength since the War. They have old lore and magic, as do the elves. Perhaps among them we shall find our champion."

    Casano'or leaned forward, wondering just how much this elf knew, and if he had some knowledge that was hidden to her. He spoke of Azah and elves, yet did not mention Sharana, one of his own order. It was unlikely that he knew anything of Sharana's situation.

    "You think to find one person whose power excedes our own?" This came from the elf Marloran.

    The leader gave a secretive smile. "There is one among the Azah who has great potential. If the Well were to choose a bearer, it could likely be her."

    So, he didn't know about Sharana. All the better. But who is this Azah? she thought. Perhaps the elf did not know of Saryn's demise.

    The leader's gaze swept the room again, taking in the reactions of the Sentinels. When his eyes passed over Casano'or, his gaze lingered, but he looked away as soon as she noticed his gaze.

    For the better part of the next hour, the Sentinels discussed what should or could be done to counter the present 'situation'. Casano'or listed intentively to that which could aid her, and ignored the mindless prattle of the youngest generation of Sentinels. It was, for the most part, only the elders who seemed to hold any common sense.

    Casano'or attention was snapped from one interesting conversation concerning her links with Cy'dath when the leader, whose name she found to be Jhanerys, singled her out by saying, "There is one here who has not commented whatsoever." Nearly all conversation ceased, in respect for Jhanerys.

    The elf who had admitted all into the hall chanced to be sitting near Casano'or, and said, "I do not recall admitting you. What is you name, again?" His tone was surprised.

    Casano'or stood, but did not yet uncloak her face. She ignored the last question, instead answering Jhanerys.

    "A wise course of action, my good sir, would be to consider that not only does the Avatar roam freely, but also that Cy'dath himself has taken on a mortal form. His power grows with every passing day. To attack him would be folly, and since you seem intent on opposing him in some manner, I would suggest arming yourselves for defense, rather than attack." The room erupted in gasped and shouts of surprise.

    "For he will attack, and he will destroy all who opposed him."

    Jhanerys' face was a mask of controlled anger, though he did not look terribly surprised. "Uncloak yourself, stranger, and show us who it is that seems to be allied with the dark lord."

    Nearly all in the room were now standing, holding weapons at the ready. One bowman raised his bow, keeping his sights on Casano'or.

    Casano'or held her hand up, letting the sleave fall back to reveal her taloned hand. The room became hushed, and those nearest to her backed away. Somehow, Casano'or was reminded of the scene at Ravasdes. She noted with some humour that she was beginning to make a habit of masquerading.

    When she pushed back her hood, the hush turned to frightened mutterings. Jhanerys struggled to keep a calm demeanor, and almost succeeded.

    "So you have come to murder us, Avatar? Well, then, we shall hinder you, as we may." On his last word, he reached behind his back and pulled twin scimitars from their scabbards. They shone with magical light, and all parted to make a clear path between the Sentinel leader and the Ancient. Casano'or remained unmoving, waiting for the first strike.

    One other called out, begging Jhanerys to wait, but the old elf advanced grimly, knowing his fate. He didn't know how much of the Avatar's strength had returned, but had to hope that he could harm her in any way.
     
  8. Senekha

    Senekha <a href="http://photobucket.com" target="_blank"><

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    When Jhaherys was but a pace away, Casano'or flicked up a finger, and the elf froze in mid-stride.

    "Jhanerys, have you ever done a small evil, so that a greater good may come of it?"

    The elf simply stared at her, but it was clear that he was startled by the question. Casano'or went on. "Have you ever wondered what is truly evil, and truly good? Is it not all a matter of perspective?"

    "If you mean to claim that you are your god are anything but evil, than I must strongly disagree. It is not a matter of perspective; it is a matter of the welfare of the world."

    Casano'or studied him. "So you say that you protect the well-being of this world? Do you think yourself a god?"

    "I do not, especially if we have Cy'dath as a model."

    Casano'or stepped forward, running a talon along Jhaherys's jaw. He strained at his bonds of air, but could not move save for his head. "Do you ever wonder why I do what I do? Why I so fervently hope to succeed in my journey in gaining control of the Well?"

    "Lust. You lust for power, and nothing more. The Well is where is was meant to be; it sustains life, and acts as it will. You were not meant to have, nor will you ever hold the Well of Stars."

    "You are sadly mistaken, elf. What know you of the Ancients?"

    "The Ancients? They were the first two races of this world. They dwindled out into extinction as the younger races began to thrive."

    "Dwindled?" Casano'or's eyes blazed the bright white of annoyance. "That is gross underexageration. Your races hunted them down like vermin. We were not nearly so scientifically advanced as you, and you sent a plague like which we could not repel. Those who did not die of the plague were hunted down - exterminated, if you will - by your people, and given no quarter. Every man, woman, and child found was murdered." She dug her talon in deeper, hitting bone. "Do you call that right? Do you call it fair, good, not evil? Do these younger, blood-thirsty races deserve the Well more than I, or Cy'dath?"

    For a moment Jhaherys gave no answer, but finally said, "The sins of our forefathers have long been forgotten. Their actions say nothing of us today."

    "Yet you judge Cy'dath and me by our actions in the Chaos War? You claim so ardently that you were the good side, that you were fighting evil, and your killing was more justified than ours? Don't deny it - you were there. I recall you, now: Jhaherys Windstorm, one of the young, yet powerful Sentinels, who followed Kynon, Yanae, and Liliana into battle and made your prowess. Those elemental blades of yours killed many I knew."

    "I think I begin to see your motive for ruthless murder. You think to punish the elves and men for eternity, as revenge for you long forgotten race. Scarcely anyone alive now remembers anything of the Ancients; the history books seem to skip over them, or mention them as two inconsequential races of primeval times that died out when their resources failed them. You would have to-"

    Casano'or cut him off with a savage blow to his ribs, sending the air rushing out of him. "Insolent weakling," she hissed. "You dare lecture me?" She rose into the air and hovered near the ceiling. "I am tired of playing with you."

    She could feel all the Sentinel gathering whatever sort of energy or power each possossed. She sensed one, the strongest in power after Jhaherys, binding them together, to create one funnel through which their energies could be directed at her.

    With a toss of her hand, Casano'or sent the top part of the building crashing, as if a tornado had ripped it from its foundations. The elf who had gathered the energies spoke a series of ancient words, and sent a stream of fatal energies at the Avatar that coursed a myriad a colours. With a single word, Casano'or sent out her own trap, and when the two energies met, hers enveloped that of the Sentinels and absorbed it. Casano'or cringed at the grating of the forces, but held on, and with a shout, flung it back at the Sentinels as she shot into the sky. On a sudden impulse she sent a small ward to cover Jhaherys, and all 'round him a blue-green shock wave spread.

    Before the dust had settled, Casano'or dove down, singling out the survivors. As she neared, she saw that the blast had killed some and those who had survived were wounded, their sheilds insufficient to properly block the energies they themselves had sent.

    Casano'or plunged into the thick of the chaos, long talons flashing as she whirled amongst them. One human managed to raise his sword as she advanced, but she cut through it with her razor-sharp hands and pressed on to give him four red slashes on his chest that cut through bone and sinew. He staggered back, coughing up blood, ignored by the Avenger as she continued on.

    What remained of walls and tables had caught fire, and the room was filled with whorling dust and smoke. Casano'or appeared and disapeared throughout the mist, dealing out death wherever she went.

    When suddenly she came face-to-face with Jhaherys, she stopped, her robes billowing about her in the maelstrom. The Sentinel looked frustrated, for he was still bound hin his bonds of air. Blood trickled down his face where Casano'or's taloned finger had bitten, and his dark eyes reflected confusion. Casano'or lifted his bonds, looking him straight in the eye.

    Without a word or spell, Casano'or lifted herself above groundlevel, hovering for a moment, then vanished.
     
  9. Liadan

    Liadan Insert Title Here

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    When she had felt a wave of power towards the east, she had sent her magic that way, towards Lohridea. Irawyn linked mind-to-mind with one of her brethren, a Guardian whose name she did not know. He had been one of those born with the elf-magic, and sent on to become a Sentinel. The Sentinel-Guardian had allowed her to watch through his eyes and hear through his ears as Irawyn beheld the woman who had killed her grandmother. Now, she screamed as she felt the Sentinel’s death from Casano’or’s power.

    Sister, link with me, she felt someone say, his mind reaching out to cushion hers from the shock of the death. I am Jhaherys, the Star Dancer of the Sentinels, second only to the Star Singer, and a Guardian of the Azah. Who are you?

    She reached out and linked to Jhaherys, pulling away from the dead remains of the unknown Guardian. Irawyn Winterheart the Silent, Saryn’s granddaughter, and a fellow Guardian.

    Praise the gods you’re here, Irawyn, he said. Casano’or has attacked the Sentinels.

    I have worse news, she said bleakly. Lady Saryn is dead, victim to Casano’or’s power. But her knowledge is now mine.

    I sorrow with you, he said, his mind-voice sincere. But it is also well, for now the Azah have a champion. You must come here, to be named Star Singer. Although the others do not know, I have heard that the Star Singer lies dead. If that is so, we need a strong leader, and if the Azah and the Sentinels unite against Cy’dath, we have a chance for success. The Well of Stars may choose you as its own champion.

    The Well already has a champion, a conduit. Not a mere champion to defend it, but a true conduit who has access to all the Well’s power.

    Who? he asked, shocked.

    Sharana Wingheart. Saryn passed on her knowledge to Sharana as well. I was linked with the conduit for several moments while Saryn shared her memories, and that brief contact was enough to let me know that Sharana will be one of our main leaders against Casano’or and Cy’dath.

    Sharana Wingheart? I knew she showed potential, mastering the Starwolf, but to be named conduit… he trailed off. But that is neither here nor there. Lady Irawyn, I am afraid that Casano’or is still around, and in any case I need your help. I am not as powerful as you. Please come.

    Stay in link with me, she said by way of reply, and she pulled on his presence to cross the distance separating them in the blink of an eye. This was not spell-jumping, but another working of magic; Irawyn herself was uncertain how she did it.

    Death surrounded her as she straightened up, and she was reminded of Saryn’s memories as her grandmother had stood in the ruins of her kingdom, her people lying shattered about her. Irawyn did not take much notice of the room, but she saw who Jhaherys was almost immediately. He was tall, and though he had adopted the form of a Winged Elf, he was still clearly Azah by his color-changing eyes.

    How many are dead? she asked. He had been wounded by Casano’or, and it took Irawyn a brief moment of concentration to heal him.

    We have lost at least a third to the initial attack, and may lose half if these injured are not cared for properly. We had about three hundred Sentinels here, all that could be gathered in the south. And although the Star Singer had spread news that we have only five hundred of us, she and I know that there are perhaps eight hundred.

    What? Surely that is not possible.

    There are roughly three hundred Sentinels in hiding for various purposes, all of them of the long-lived races. Those that showed the most potential were persuaded to become our hidden daggers, to be used when the need arose. Star Singer Marwyl was a wise woman, he said sadly. She guessed that Cy’dath would arise soon, and in preparation, she hid three hundred of the most powerful Elf and Azah Sentinels for the final battle. The others became their shields.

    Good. Jhaherys, if you’re going to speak any important information, continue to do it by mind-speaking. I think I sense an… alien presence.

    Jhaherys was a master at controlling his expression. Casano’or?

    Perhaps. She wove a quick spell of confusion and mind-shadowing. It was not blunt, forcing an idea upon those within the spell radius, but subtle. When Casano’or saw her, she would think that Irawyn was naught but a Sentinel she had missed seeing.

    I am not eager to force a confrontation on Casano’or, she admitted. She killed Saryn with no difficulty at all. She had to force down a lump in her throat. Steady, Winterheart, she told herself. Be what you named yourself after.

    But you are much, much stronger than Saryn was, Jhaherys reminded her, apparently unaware of her private thoughts. I doubt that you could actually kill Casano’or, but you should be able to hold your own against her.

    I suppose. Most of her mind was occupied with tracing the presence around the room, and she closed her eyes the better to concentrate. And she could feel that slightly bitter sense of power, and knew it was Casano’or. Jhaherys, if I fall, you must go to Saile Hasrin with the remainder of the Sentinels here. Our people will shelter them. And… Here Irawyn bowed her head. Tell them of Lady Saryn’s death.

    Then she gathered her power to her and prepared for her battle.
     
  10. Morgan_of_Salerone

    Morgan_of_Salerone New Member

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    "That is not good enough!" Arikha shouted, her fist slamming down onto the table. "I will not stand by and let Casano'or win without a fight!"

    "It is not that simple, Your Grace," replied Nohdirahn, Arikha's general."Avaenonn does not have the resources to make a full-scale attack on Casano'or without the aid of another nation. We would be annihilated!"

    "That is also aside from the fact the fact that Casano'or has invoked the Arahín Symbols." Prince Arion said quietly. "If she was poweful before, there is no way we can think to stand up to her now."

    "Don't forget the army she has either. Both you and I were there, Arikha. You know she has enough men to crush us easily." A few of the elves, especially Arikha's son, glanced up with dissaproval of Tavius' casual use of their queen's name, but said nothing. Arikha ground her teeth, seeming to ignore her councilmen's arguements as she studied the map laid out on the table.

    "Your Grace, we have but three-hundred men!" Nohdirahn began, trying once again to sway the sorceress.

    "If we bring in the men from the outlying settlements and employ the women without families, we can have up to five-hundred soldiers." she mumbled, still not looking up.

    "Women!" the general cried, a hopeless look on his face. "You mean to have the women fight?"

    "I am a woman, and I am just as good a fighter as any in this room. Or would you like to place that under dispute as well?" The sorceress said, locking her dark eyes with the general's. He paled, and looked away.

    "N-no, Your Grace."

    Prince Arion sighed.

    "Mother, you cannot lead us against Casano'or in this condition." he argued. "Let us join with another nation. I know the forests elves would be honoured to have our alliance, and we would more certain of victory if we had larger numbers. To strike at Casano'or alone, without help, is folly, mother. It would be the same as suicide."

    "We left the forest elves for a reason, Arion, or have you forgotten that part of our history? I will not join with the forest elves and undo all that my father has done."

    "Yet you seemed to have no hesitation killing him in the last war. Or is that not considered undoing his work?"

    The room went silent. Arikha gazed at her son, hard. Tension filled the room with unease. The queen's councilmen glanced at each with worry.

    "You will never mention that again." she said quietly, venom hidden in her words. "Or you may find yourself sharing that fate."

    The prince stiffened, his jaw tightening. Arikha turned back the map.

    "We will take our forces to the Sentinels." She said tersely. "Tavius and Nohdirahn will command the armies in my absence; Arion will keep watch of the city. He will have a hundred men, the rest will go with the army."

    "But - " Prince Arion began.

    "This council is over." The sorceress said with finality, rolling up the map. "If any one should need I shall be in my quarters preparing. I leave for Lohridea in the morning."
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2005
  11. Senekha

    Senekha <a href="http://photobucket.com" target="_blank"><

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    As Casano’or left the scene of the execution, she sensed a powerful sorceress of some kind detect her presence. She shrugged it off, but as she arrived near her tent amidst her army, some lingering feeling of being watched remained with her.

    Night had arrived, and purposing to confide in Cy’dath, she gave that feeling little thought, she strode towards the tent flap, and was startled by a slam of power that hit her in the back. She was shoved forward onto her knees, and once she regained her footing, she turned to see a young Azah, her shifting cloaks swirling about her.

    More angry than surprised, Casano’or erected shields of power and of the Symbols about her, then walked towards the Azah.

    When she stood mere paces from the Azah, she said, “You must be Irawyn.”

    The Azah was startled, then said suspiciously, “How could you know?”

    “I know a great deal. You must be as powerful as he said, to have followed me so.”

    “Yes.” As she spoke the word, Irawyn gathered her energy about her and shifted into a strange looking form, similar to that of Casano’or. She grew slightly taller, her eyes brighter, and an aura of energy resounded from her being. She was young, and though she could not possibly know all of her power, she was learning swiftly.

    “You killed my grandmother.”

    “No,” Casano’or said with a vicious smirk, “The Sentinel killed your grandmother. I left her in a condition that could have been remedied, had the Sentinel so wished. Apparently she didn’t.”

    Irawyn didn’t reply, but chanted some words and threw her arm at Casano’or. A beam of dark energy spiraled towards the Ancient, and dented her shields. Casano’or was impressed that she could achieve even that, but gave it no acknowledgement.

    Instead, she cast her own powers, channeling from Cy’dath, and sent an invisible blast that threw the Azah from her feet. Rather than fall, however, Irawyn sprouted wings of a raven and flew upwards, hovering far above Casano’or. Casano’or, knowing the challenge, leapt into the air, though her flight was without wings. When she hovered at a level equal to that of the Azah’s, she threw her a mocking grin.

    Casano’or held up a hand, the four-inch talons gleaming in the moonlight.

    “What cause have you against me? What purpose drives you to attack me?” She would have some information before she was finished with the girl. She was powerful, and may hold her own for some while, but she would eventually fail, as all others before her.

    “What cause?” The shapeshifter’s face was incredulous. “You, above all others, ask what cause I would have against you?”

    “Obviously.”

    “I won’t even dignify that with an answer.” She flew at Casano’or, a spear of energy driving on before her. While her powers were abruptly stopped by Casano’or’s shields, she flew on, a long knife appearing in her hand. Casano’or, somewhat surprised by the move, scarcely moved in time, and received for her laxness a gash that ran along her left arm and chest.

    Angry now, both at the Azah and at her own carelessness, rose several paces and dove down at the girl. Irawyn moved, circling around Casano’or, and they danced thus until Casano’or leapt forward with unearthly speed and scored four deep slashes along the Azah’s body. Irawyn screeched the scream of a raven, and dove downwards, to the ground.
     
  12. Liadan

    Liadan Insert Title Here

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    Irawyn hissed with pain as she streamed towards the ground, her black raven’s wings furled closed. They snapped open at the last moment and she landed lightly. We’re both wounded now, she thought as she spared a brief moment to stop the worst of the bleeding and numb the searing pain. She dared not expend her energy for a full healing; that would have to wait until after the battle. If she survived.

    She saw Casano’or above her, and wondered what the woman would try next. But I am a Guardian and a Seer. In the blink of an eye, she Saw what would happen in a few moments.

    Casano’or partially heals her own wound, and now she begins to invoke the power of her Arahín Symbols, perhaps determined to end this now before Irawyn could wound her again. Lightning and wind play about her as fire crackles around her to form a scarlet halo on her head. Irawyn can hear the elements screaming in the distance; Casano’or plainly does not know that the spirits of the elements have their own kind of sentience. She gathers the deadly, deadly power to her, preparing to kill Irawyn in one swift strike –

    And the vision ended there. Only a moment had passed. Irawyn smiled grimly. Whatever else you may be, Casano’or, it’s plain that you know nothing of the Azah.

    The next few moments played out exactly as she had foreseen it. Irawyn did nothing, save to craft a thin, needlelike magical probe that was seemingly fragile. Casano’or, lost in her own battle to master and direct the Arahín Symbols, did not notice.

    When the expected strike came at last, Irawyn dropped every single one of her shields and defenses. Instead, she let fall a single drop of blood onto the dusty earth and held tight to her probe. The flood of sheer, destructive magic began rolling over towards her, implacable as an avalanche –and it broke as the drop of blood shimmered in every shade of red that existed, then impossibly expanded into a blood-red shield that held against the flood. She saw Casano’or’s eyes widen as the magic of the Arahín Symbols coalesced with the blood shield.

    Irawyn was panting now. That magic, simple as it had seemed, had taken the best part of her energy with her. She would not be able to do it again for at least a day, or work any large spells, but at least she was not dead. And at least Casano’or would not be able to invoke the Symbols again for a while; her opponent, too, had lost a great deal of energy.

    Our other secret, Irawyn thought with a faint smile of satisfaction. Shapeshifting and blood magic are our strongest talents. Blood willingly shed can hold off almost anything, even if most of the Azah don’t favor it except in times of catastrophe. A pity Casano’or never learned that.

    Her feathers began sinking into her skin, pouring through her flesh until none of her black raven’s wings remained. While Casano’or was still gaping, unable to believe that she had managed to hold off the Arahín Symbols, she cast the probe she had been holding in reserve directly at Casano’or mind.

    Irawyn was not certain who screamed first, she or Casano’or. All she knew was that she was screaming with the pain of holding that probe within Casano’or’s tortured, wounded mind, and Casano’or was screaming in pain at Irawyn’s invasion.

    Memories began flooding through her, memories from Casano’or life. They were, mercifully, too fast for her to comprehend fully, but she understood the thread of anguish and rage that underlay each one.

    She did not know how long that probe remained until it finally died out, too weak to sustain the contact with Casano’or’s mind any longer. She knew that her face was a mirror of Casano’or’s, a haggard mask of blood and tears, haunted eyes meeting each other’s. And both of them were far too weak, emotionally and physically, to continue their battle any longer.

    She felt a drop of moisture sliding down her cheeks, and hated herself for pitying her grandmother’s murderer. More drops fell, until she finally realized that it could not be tears alone. Tilting her head to look at the sky, she saw rain falling towards her.

    But there were no clouds.

    Exhausted as she was, Irawyn still felt a stirring of fear as a memory of Saryn’s voice echoed inside her. “You do not understand the hideous price the Arahín Symbols extract. Once, twice, maybe even thrice, you will be able to withstand it. But you have invoked it too often and too widely. Fear, Kortiri witch.”

    Kortiri witch and murderer, she thought, yet one to be pitied as well. But does it excuse all of her actions?

    “I’m sorry,” she managed to whisper. Irawyn did not know whether it was for the probe that had made Casano’or relive all her hideous memories, her anguished past, or even for what the Arahín Symbols would eventually demand of her.

    “I need no pity,” Casano’or said. “I will have no pity, least of all from you.” The woman – the Avenger, she called herself – was staggering on her feet, but she still exuded a sense of disdain mingled with surprise. Surprise at what Irawyn had done, perhaps, but it was still there.

    Without a word, Irawyn turned on her heel and left Casano’or standing there in the impossible rain. The price begins, she realized with a chill, and it will effect not only you but everyone.

    She dredged up her last reserves of strength to pull herself back to Lohridea. Searching for Jhaherys’ mind, she used his presence as an anchor to pull herself away from this place of death and sorrow.

    She arrived into chaos. The injured and dying were lying on rough cots, and others were ministering to them. The whole place reeked of blood. The Sentinels were screaming at one another, the wounded for mercy and the more-or-less whole ones in argument. Jhaherys was futilely trying to restore order, but he broke off almost at once when he saw Irawyn.

    “Gods, sister, what have you done?” he asked.

    “I fought Casano’or.” Her voice was as weak as a limp reed wavering in the wind. “Neither of us won.”

    Something in her tone must have communicated itself to Jhaherys, for he looked at her with sympathy. “Here, let me help you. I’m not near so powerful as you are, but I have enough to heal you, at least a little.”

    Irawyn sighed in relief as the dull, persistent ache she had ignored faded completely. Her drained reserves began restoring itself, if slowly. It would take several days of rest for her energy to fully return, but for now, it would be enough.

    “We must walk to Saile Hasrin,” she said. She even sounded stronger. “We cannot Gate there; although that spell permits hundreds to pass, I dare not use it here. Not with hundreds wounded by magic itself. I don’t know how they’ll react in the presence of a purely magical construction.”

    “We may need to take the risk,” Jhaherys said. “Casano’or might return any moment.”

    She nodded. “Very well. Give me a day or so to recover, and I might be able to do it. But I will need someone to anchor me on the other side.”

    “I’ll mind-speak with some Guardians in Saile Hasrin. If several of them link their strength together, they’ll be able to support their end.”

    “And… I’ll need your help as well.” Those words were hard to say; Irawyn had always been able to do things by herself without any help. “Get every single mage to stabilize the wounded when I begin constructing the Gate. It might help them.” Conflicting magic could kill, sometimes, and she did not know how badly the Gate and wounds inflicted by Casano’or’s black magic would clash.

    “You will have it,” Jhaherys promised as he led her to an unoccupied cot. “Now go to sleep.”

    But she couldn’t, not quite yet. The Sentinel killed your grandmother, Casano’or had said, but how could the woman know that Irawyn had remained linked to Saryn until her death? She had heard every word that passed between the two of them.

    But unlike the Sentinel – Sharana, that was her name – Irawyn had sensed Saryn constructing one final spell with her blood. Blood magic. Most of the Azah shunned it; blood magic sounded too dark to them. And it did walk on the borderlines of the dark magics, and it was dark when the mage shed unwilling blood for his own purpose. But Saryn used her own blood. Heart’s blood, which is the most powerful of all. Blood shed from a mortal wound.

    What has Saryn wrought? she wondered.

    The next morning, she constructed her Gate, lines of power and magic weaving together to create a door-like working of magic. It would traverse miles of land, depending on the strength of the worker. This particular Gate would be enough to take them to Saile Hasrin.

    It takes more energy than spell-jumping, but it is safer as well. She could spare no more thoughts as she bent the Gate to her will, fighting against the urge to release it. It was so tiring. But if she released the construction, everyone would die.

    Jhaherys and the other Sentinels were stabilizing the wounded, and at Irawyn’s nod, they began carrying the injured through. She had made the Gate large enough to allow five men to walk abreast. The Sentinels were orderly in their exodus, bearing only the basic necessities. The Azah would provide the rest.

    At last, only she was left. She spared a brief moment to set the place afire, to give the dead Sentinels a funeral pyre. Then she stepped through the Gate and allowed it to unravel behind her.

    Azah were already swarming over the Sentinels, taking them to various buildings. The injured were going to the Healer-Guardians, who were expert enough to save most of them.

    Irawyn herself leaned on a convenient wall, shaking with exhaustion. She hadn’t allowed Jhaherys to see her condition, worried that he might not allow her to Gate them here, but she felt as if she had been thrown of a cliff into a sea, almost drowned, then wrung dry of every bit of strength.

    But Jhaherys was busy with his Sentinels. Instead, Irawyn watched a group of Guardians led by Lady Arizia approach her, holding something with reverential care.

    Arizia herself no longer had a silver coronet upon her head, and Irawyn understood her grandmother’s words at last. She must lead, the stronger, the younger.

    She felt someone pouring strength into her, and she stood up a little straighter. Following the line of magic connecting the two of them, she traced it back to the Senior Guardian, who only nodded at her. And there was something odd about the brooch upon his cloak, but Irawyn was too tense to examine it further.

    No one said anything as they held up the cushion. The intricate crown of the Lady of the Azah lay upon it. It was a more a thin band of metal, really, seemingly made of braided wires of silver. Irawyn could not find where each thread ended, no matter how hard she tried. Irawyn knelt before Arizia as she placed the silver band upon her head.

    Then she rose to face her people, who now knelt before her. Even the Senior had bent his knees, and only she and Arizia remained standing.

    “Azah! Behold your Queen!” Arizia cried, and then she, too, knelt in front of Irawyn.

    “Queen Irawyn!” She did not know where the shout had come from, but then every Azah was taking up the cry, song-like voices raised in unison to acclaim her crowning. “Irawyn Winterheart! Lady of the Azah! Raven Queen!

    And she finally realized what was wrong with the Senior’s brooch.

    Every single Guardian proudly displayed a crowned silver raven with its wings spread in flight.
     
  13. doleniel

    doleniel Elven High Priestess

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    Amid the cheers of the Azah, Ayakier rose and dropped the disguise she had woven to appear as one of them. She was unveiled, and she wore not her usual plain robes but the glittering night sky robes of a devotee of Zahndariel. Her long silver hair blew in the breeze and the harsh sun caused an eerie sheen to glint off the charcoal skin of her high, delicate cheekbones. Picking her way between the people kneeling around her, she sedately walked towards Irawyn, Arizia, and the other Guardians with her palms raised, Seer's mandalas clearly visible. Though the mandalas were no longer used as a symbol by anyone but the Lodiath, they were one thing that any seer would instantly recognise. They marked any who bore them as one with the gift of Sight. As Zahn's representative on the Council of Eld, Ayakier bore them on both palms, whereas lesser seers would bear only one.

    "Chaerno, Youchadaengo" Greetings, song voiced she said in the most ancient dialect of the old tongue. "I am an emissary of those thought to be long lost. I would have council with you. My journey has been long, and I have much to say."

    Her journey had indeed been long. In the months since the council at the Lost Library, Ayakier had had little rest. She had Seen the death of a dragon and a cleric and, as the council came to an abrupt end, she left to investigate.

    The courtyard of the Chapter House bore only a single scorch mark on the flags as a remnant of what had happened, but Ayakier could see the events that had occurred, and more. Powerful thoughts and emotions can leave an imprint on the places they occur, though they are imperceptable to all but the most powerful Seers and mages. Ayakier could see the histories of the two. She could see the confusion and terror of the cleric, and the uncharacteristic fury of the dragon, and her reason for that fury. That was what worried her, as dragons were calm and balanced beasts, uncorruptable by magic or otherwise. She left as she had come, silent and unseen.

    From there, Ayakier had returned to the Crystal Deserts of the deep south and spoke with both the Circle of Five and the Council of Eld. It was decided that it was time for the Treechildren to take action and break their isolation.
     
  14. Crusader

    Crusader Disturber of the Peace

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    From his vantagepoint on a small balcony above the narrow street, Jak could see most of what went on below. hidden my canvas covering, the small balcony served as part of another inn's common room, the shaded open air providing a cool spot aswell as fresh air, fresh dust Jak thought as he coughed, this desert was no good for him.

    As he finsished and readjucted his headscarf he caught sight of two armed members of the city watch pass through the alley. Just two? I'm worth far more than that His initial getaway had been nice and clean, some commotion further into the city had diverted most attentions away from his scene, they were only now catching up to him. Better to lay low a while.

    He sat back down, so he could just see over the edge and not be seen to be watching the street. Taking a sip of wine he relaxed again, they spiced the wine here so it had a pleasant tang, he could get used to it. A few more days laying low and having fun, then maybe rob the palaces up the hill and he could blow this fleabitten town and be back to real civilisation. He downed the rest of his cup in salute to the plan and ordered another.

    "Having fun?" A familiar female voice echoed from behind him. He was close to outrage when he turned and was taken aback.

    "Maesa?" He didnt bother hiding his relief, he'd had enough encounters with that other woman to last him a lifetime before she started showing up again, maybe she wasnt coming back this time. "Reconsidered stalking me I see."

    She smiled lightly before sitting down next to him, when the serving girl came with his drink she took it first, drinking, then pausing a moment to study him. "I am remarkably undecided about my next course of action" She said in a measured tone. "I have witnessed rather odd occurances today that combined with others do not bode well. You for one, a man lost in the desert without provisions, a man a thousand leagues from where he should be. Part of me thinks that links you to this, and i should entrust what i know to you so as to understand it better, another part does not trust a face Ive seen on the watchwall." she sipped again.

    "Watchwall?"

    "Perhaps you have not ventured past the inner wall of the city, to where the grander buildings stand, among the first is the house of the city watch, and our front is a stretch of wall lined with posters, the kind offering rewards." she smiled at him openly. "There are only a few kinds of people who follow the gold trail to lohridea and beyond, those after wealth, through honest means or not, and those who wish to hide. It makes for a good bit of profit for the watch to bring them in and pass them on to those in the west offering more, just one mroe way the magistrates keep the a city with no produce running."

    "Oh" Jak couldnt help wonder "How much am I up for?"

    Maesa gave him another smile and took a sip of wine. "Perhaps you should go and look for yourself. Anyway, despite your portrait, I think I should speak of these odd occurances to you. A few weeks ago I was payed to provide transport to lohridea, I have several thousand armed men and women in bands across the desert, with at least twice as many civilians, and we were given the task of this transporting in secret..."

    Jak cut her off "Your a smuggler?" The cheeky woman, barating him over being wanted by the authorities when she was no much better.

    she only shook her head. "No, By trade I only use these bands to protect the people with them, those driven out of safeholds like lohridea to make way for merchants and the like on the gold trail, left to defend themselves against the climate and the swarms of demons in the wilderness. Of late the demons have been multiplying, it is barely safe enough for us to defend ourself, so when we were asked to provide transport I would have declined, but this was different." She looked around, the nearest people were talking at tables across the room, and the serving girl had just left another cup of wine for Jak and return to the kitchen. Jak took a long draw at the cup as she continued. "We were asked to provide safe passage for groups of sentinels, spit up between my bands and taken across the desert to this very city. The last few came with us as we entered the city." She frowned. "But it begs the question, why? sentinels are highly respected here, if they had followed the trail they would have been feasted at the cities, perhaps not all of the, i am aware there were quite a few, but they would have been honoured, their leaders would have been guests at the magistrates palace itself. So why did they take the risk of traversing the demon filled wastes?"

    Jak drained his cup as she finished. "I'm not too fond of rhetoric, but its obvious they wanted to come in secret, wouldnt you say."

    Maesa only nodded before continuing. "When I had gotten them all to the city, I was asked to provide protection on the route back, but none have shown themselves since. And when that commotion happened up in the city i feared the worst. Whatever they hide from, it is clear it found them. I went to investigate but only found the building aflame, and charred corpses speak less than whole ones." She took a ong look into his eyes and frowned. "So, i ask you, as an outlander, what do you know of this? i have heard rumours of war in liandrah, is it true?"

    Taking a long sigh to show he was not interested in the affairs of sentinels, and when he noticed Maesa still wanted him to answer he spoke. "Some such trouble, I had the unfortunate luck to run into a very irritating sentinel, theyre all up in a bother, something to do with Cy'dath gaining power and Casano'or being a frumpy bitch again, you know, trouble" From her expression, she was not amused. "Screw them, screw them all, if they needed help killing eachother I'm sure they would have asked, Ive had about enough drama to last me till the end of my days. You know what, I thhink i'll reconsider my plans, Lohridea sounds nice and fine, away from all that mess, where a man can get a drink." He stood up ready to leave, the chair falling away ehind him.

    "Always been so avoidant master Jaeric?" Jak thought a moment, why did she reuse that name if she'd seen his wanted poster, unless she knew......no, that was impossible. "Whose to say we are free of troubles, and whose to say the troubles of the world do not concern you?"

    Jak barked a laugh. "Because I dont care."

    "Is that so?" As he turned, Maesa still sat there, sippig the wine slowly and watching him from the balcony. "for a man who cares for nothing, you seem to have awefully bad luck; ending up meeting irritating sentinels, and knowing a great deal of the happenings of the world, i doubt an ordinary man would believe if he heard Cy'dath was reemerging, or that Casano'or retunrs after centuries of hiding, you seem linked to ti somehow."

    This was beginning to grow more annoying by the moment. "And what about you hmmn? what do you care? little miss desert army, you got your gold from ferry sentinels and now you think you have the right to harass me. well you know what? I've had enough of it, just stay away from me okay?" He walked away from the balcony and descended the stairs down to the street. Why is every woman I meet irritating, overbearing and only after something from me?

    he began to Walk the streets lost in thought, stay here? with maesa to both you, or leave and end up back in that boiling pot liandrah? Still that casano'or didnt seem to bothered with JAk when he last ran into her, and along with the green woman and the sentine, the rest didnt seem to angry at him anyway. hopefully theyd leave him alone if he didnt get invovled in their little war.

    Jak didnt realise he'd forgotten to refit his headscarft when he bumped shoulders with a pair of guardsmen. As one tunred to face him Jak became ominously aware of his uncovered face, scar smiling at the man. Just as the watchman opened his mouth to shout, Jak swung his balled fist into it, there was a crunch and a few reddened teeth ploped from his mouth. As Jak turned to run something heavy hit the back of his head. He'd forgotten the second guardsman, jak realised as the world turned black.
     
  15. Liadan

    Liadan Insert Title Here

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    Lendoril was cradled in song.

    He could hear the song running through him, threading his very being as complex melodies and harmonies wove about him. Wove into him.

    And he understood.

    He knew that later, he would not recall everything that he had learned from the Well – no mortal ever could, unless perhaps Sharana was able to – but he would remember enough. Enough to recognize the woman who would come to him soon. Rho’stri, who would take the burden from him. But it would be his duty to instruct her in the Game. For all that he had never been meant to play the Game, the Well of Stars had marked him out to learn the Game and teach the Players.

    Old races must arise, the Well had whispered. The shapeshifting Azah return, and so do their cousins the Maradi. But the Azah’s true gifts lie in blood magic, and it is to them you must go…

    He had been given other instructions not in words but in memories. But they would not surface in his mind until he had need of them. Only one message was seared in his mind, and that was to teach the Game. All of his understanding and knowledge must pass to Sharana and Rho’stri.

    Why can’t you teach this Rho’stri? he had asked. My people will have need of me.

    Rho’stri has only Maradi blood. It would be difficult, if not outright impossible, for me to reach her. But you have the training, and the amulet as well. Both you must pass to Rho’stri. You will serve your people best this way, believe me.

    But if I acted as a link to you and Rho’stri, wouldn’t that be better?

    I cannot afford to expend so much power any longer, the Well had explained to him. I must conserve the rest of my strength for the final battle. Only Sharana will have the ability to speak with me… and you as well. You belong to me, now, and I have marked you as mine… It was then that Lendoril felt a white-hot burning upon his brow, but it was gone so quickly that he did not register pain. And much pain will you know before the end, it had said with sorrow.

    And Lendoril had acceded. How could he not have? He wanted to be a Sentinel, and his primary allegiance was to the Well now.

    So he let the Song wash over him, cleansing him, healing him, preparing him for the final battle. He would have to return to the mortal world soon enough.

    Lendoril opened his eyes, and noted how drab the world seemed compared to the blue-and-silver world of the Well. He could not sense any of the ghosts around him, now, and knew they were waiting for him to finish his communion with the stars.

    But before they could return, a shadow crossed the sun as a golden eagle screeched and dove down towards him. Lendoril waited, all fear banished by the touch of the Well, and the magnificent bird landed before him to transform into a woman whose face he knew. She looked like a witch, with her dead-white hair and skin, her oddly pale eyes, and esoteric markings covering her everywhere. But the single characteristic he found his eyes drawn to were her black fingernails. That, and the song of her blood as it called to his in a way he did not understand.

    “Who are you?” the strange woman demanded, majestic in her power. “Who are you, stranger, that you bear my blood? Why are you here, and heading south towards the desert?”

    And then he knew what the song was. Before answering her, he undid the amulet of Dhelian from around his neck and placed it in the palm of his hand.

    “I go south, that I might serve the Well of Stars,” he replied calmly, and drew ancient ritual about him. Where this dignity came from, he didn’t know, but suspected that the Well had something to do with it. “I go south, to wake anew old races. I go south, to call them to a war against Cy’dath and Casano’or. Let the Maradi and Azah fight against the darkness once more. And so I ask you, will you join the Alliance of the Stars?”

    Who are you?” she asked, clearly shaken. “Who are you to know what I am?

    “I am Sentinel Lendoril, Rho’stri,” he said, ignoring her start of surprise. He did not feel guilt or shame at claiming the title of a Sentinel. For all that he had never received training or taken the test, he knew with every fiber of his soul that he was a Sentinel, and indeed more of a Sentinel than all save Sharana. Only the Conduit could claim a closer relation to the Well of the Stars. You belong to me, now, and I have marked you as mine… The words echoed in his mind as he held out the amulet. “This is yours, now, Rho’stri.” She took it when Lendoril dropped it in her hand. Then, to her obvious shock, he bowed to her. “Player of the Game.”
     
  16. Morgan_of_Salerone

    Morgan_of_Salerone New Member

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    Arikha was in her room, packing the last of her things, arguing with her son.

    "Why must I stay?" Arion asked, anger darkening his words. "Can you not have Nohdirahn, or another official serve in our absence? Why must it be me?"

    "Who would you have? Tavius? He is not of our kind, nor can he rule. And Nohdirahn? Nohdirahn is a general; he will serve us better doing what was trained to do. Use your head. If Avaenonn comes under attack - which may occur with Casano'or on the loose - do you think one of the councilmen will be able to hold it? No, Arion, you must stay here. You have ruled in my stead for many years, and you have been trained for times of war. I trust no other. You should be honoured by the task I have given you."

    Arion opened his mouth to say something, the paused, listening. Arikha stiffened, listening too. Her eyes widened and she glanced out the window. Big, fat raindrops ran down the panes; the steady 'drip drip' of rain grew louder and louder.

    It hadn't rained inside the Avaenonn border for years.

    Arikha dashed outside, ignoring the looks of surprise of the other elves as she flung the door open and stood in the rain. Others came out. Peasants, nobles, everyone. The children laughed, marvelling at this new miracle. Arikha looked up at the sky, expecting to see clouds. There were none.

    Cheers turned to wails of terror. Women clutched their children, people screamed, and panic began to take hold.

    The Arahín Symbols. Arikha thought as water dribbled down her face. It has begun. She looked back at her son, who stood wide-eyed in doorway.

    "I'm trusting you to keep things in order. Do not fail me, Arion."

    Leaving him to wonder at the puzzle of the cloudless rain, Arikha returned to her room, grabbing her weapons and the pack she had readied for herself. She quickly scrawled a note explaining her absence and leaving last instructions, then closed her eyes pulled her magic around her and began her spell-jump to Lohridea.

    The landscape whirled around her, an eternity within itself yet passing within an instant. She had last felt Casano'or's presence near Lohridea; that was where she must go, and with great haste. The fool woman did not seem to realize what price the Symbols would extract, both from her and from the world. She must be stopped before the damage she did became irreversible.

    A hiccough in the flow of magic around her pulled Arikha from her thoughts. The winds about her began to scream, and she felt every fibre in her body snapped in every direction. Through her tear-filled eyes she glanced a magic-made gate, with many battle worn and wounded passing though, and then she was swept away by the currents of magic.

    Rough earth flew up to meet her, and darkness claimed her.
    ---------
    Her eyes fluttered open painfully. It was night. Her body ached. She did not know where she was. Something moved behind her, something large...

    Arikha rolled to the side as something came crashing down beside her. A club, wielded by the ugliest demon she had ever seen, lay on the shattered ground where she had been only a few moments earlier. The demon howled, raising its club to smash her again. With a quick move, Arikha drew her sword and stabbed it, just below the ribs. As it staggered back other shadows formed, lunging for her with sharp teeth and lethal claws. One wrapped its hand around her cloak, pulling her off balance. Another grazed her cheek with filthy claws. She was helpless. She could not think. Her magic would not come.

    Arikha slashed at the demon holding her cloak, her teeth bared and eyes flashing. One slipped past her guard, leaving bloody marks across her thigh, another across her ribs. They were playing with her, enjoying the sport while it lasted.

    Rage burned in Arikha's eyes. She refused to be anything's toy. Not now, not when she was finally free.

    A demon danced in close and Arikha reached out and caught its face in her pale hands. Dark magic twisted out beneath her fingers and its face melted away, leaving nothing but bare bone. She rounded on the remaining, blue lightning dancing from her fingertips. The one holding her torn cloak slashed at her once more, and she burned him to a cinder.

    The sorceress glanced around. All were dead.

    The world began to spin; strength left her. Arikha put a hand to her stomach, knotted in pain, and felt a terrifying wet warmth there. She stumbled away from the corpses where the pain found her, withdrawing a cry of agony and forcing her to her knees. She felt to her side and lay there moaning, her life's blood leaking away. A gentle breeze, soft as a mother's kiss, blew over her.

    Dear, little Arikha. My poor little queen. How is it you have let the demons harm you? You, who were once the demon queen.

    "K-ki'dasva..." the sorceress gasped, pain thickening her words.

    How long has it been?
    the goddess asked, ignoring Arikha's whimpers of pain.

    "...hundred years...more..."

    And you have turned on my brother...

    "I serve no god now." she managed to snarl, her face contorted with pain and rage. "I am finally free." There was silence from Ki'dasva.

    How has my brother become so strong? she finally asked. How is it he takes mortal form?

    "I am dying, woman, leave me be!" the sorceress snapped.

    You shall live and die as I see fit! Ki'dasva thundered. And if you desire life than you will show me respect! the ground beneath Arikha shook with the goddess' fury, then slowly calmed. The gentle breeze caressed Arikha once more. Tell me what I wish to know and I shall heal you.

    "Heal me and I shall consider it." she retorted. Pain shot through the sorceress, and she screamed like a child, holding her wounded belly.

    You shall show me respect, or I will give you worse than death. the goddess threatened. Arikha nodded weakly.

    "I will... I will tell you what you wish to know." The breezed blew encouragingly. Arikha sighed as her wounds healed, strength returning to her.

    Answer my first question: How is it my brother takes mortal form?

    "He draws upon the strength of another," said the elven queen sitting up. "A being called Casano'or. You remember her, do you not? His avatar, and lover." Ki'dasva was silent for a moment.

    So he has cheated me again, she said quietly.

    "He has cheated us all." Arikha replied, rising to her feet. "It seems you will just have to wait to make your claim on this world. That is, if you are strong enough to hold your own against him by the time you can walk among the mortals."

    Let me have your strength. Ki'dasva asked. I shall defeat him, and will reward you handsomely for your aid.

    "He said something similar to me when I pledged myself to him. No Ki'dasva. I am through with dealing with gods." Arikha began to walk away.

    I will give you power.

    "I have power enough."

    I will give you the power to defeat Casano'or.

    Arikha paused.

    Lend me some of your strength, and I will give you power. Serve me, and I shall make you my avatar, powerful enough to destroy Casano'or.

    The sorceress stood silent for a moment, thinking.

    "What do you wish of me, Lady of Unbroken Night."
     
  17. Liadan

    Liadan Insert Title Here

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    Sharana curled up on the ground, wrapping herself in her wings as the chilly desert wind began to sweep over her. It had been several days since she had left Arikha and her companion, Tavius, and Sharana knew from Saryn’s gifts that she would be in Saile Hasrin soon. One of the Azah Guardians would escort her to their town, and there she would see Saryn’s granddaughter face to face.

    The song of the Well was dimmed to a mute hum in the back of her head as she drifted towards sleep, when an unfamiliar mind brushed across hers. Sharana, expecting the stranger to be one of the Azah, did not bother to rise. So it startled her when a physical voice came from nowhere.

    “Awake, awake, Sentinel of the Stars,” she heard an oddly smoky voice whisper. “I would speak with you.”

    Bolting upright, she had a knife in both hands ready to throw, but the stranger only laughed. Sharana found herself returning the blades to her belt as the woman facing her made a gesture with her graceful hands. She was inhumanly beautiful, taller than Sharana but as slender. Despite her delicate bone structure, there was an underlying strength to her that Sharana could only envy. Her hair seemed to be made of utter blackness, far darker than any she had ever seen before, while her pale skin seemed almost translucent. But her brilliant eyes brimmed with magic. Where Cy’dath’s eyes had burned with fire and waves of power, her eyes shimmered with finely controlled magic, dancing with faint sparks of power.

    “Speak my name,” the goddess said.

    Sharana spoke as if in a trance, mesmerized by those bewitching eyes. “You are Ki’dasva,” she said, and with those words, awoke to her peril.

    Ki’dasva watched her with a patronizing smile as Sharana reached for the Well, making no move to prepare her own defenses. “Little sister, I could have killed you easily – and still could – if that was my intention. But I have a… proposal for you.”

    “I would have to be mad to consider a ‘proposal’ from you, demon goddess,” she snarled, but she released her magic.

    Ki’dasva shrugged. “So are we all mad in these days. I assure you, little sister, that even a thousand years ago I wouldn’t have considered this… madness.” Ki’dasva’s voice was exquisitely balanced to needle her, and it succeeded in doing so. “However, one of my priestesses, for lack of a better word, has convinced me to at least speak with you.”

    “To what purpose?”

    “I’m assuming you’re not stupid, so see if you can come up with the answers.”

    Sharana flushed, but thought for a moment. “I suppose that you aren’t too happy with Cy’dath and Casano’or.”

    “One point to you. I don’t particularly care about their relationship, but that insolent upstart’s been trying to supplant me.” Ki’dasva snorted. “If Casano’or had limited her ambitions to remaining an avatar, I wouldn’t have minded, but my power is mine. Give me another reason.”

    Sharana bit her lip as something floated from her given memories. “Saryn mentioned something connected to this…”

    “You know Saryn?” the goddess asked with some surprise. “She was a worthy opponent. I’m rather surprised that she hasn’t resurfaced yet.”

    “She is dead.”

    Those three simple words shocked Ki’dasva, it seemed. “Dead? Saryn… she can’t be dead.” There seemed to be genuine regret and sorrow in the goddess’ voice, and Sharana was puzzled. According to Saryn’s memories, she had always hated Ki’dasva. “May she be judged justly, and her murder be avenged.”

    Of course, the fact that I’m having a conversation with the Lady of Unbroken Night is more than a bit puzzling than Ki’dasva’s apparent grief, she thought dryly. “She said something about the Arahín Symbols.”

    Ki’dasva nodded. “Very good. Do you know what it does?”

    “It’s destroying the balance of the elements.”

    “It’s also going to destroy the balance of magic.”

    Now it was Sharana’s turn to be shocked. “You can’t be serious.”

    “Of course I can. Why else do you think I would ally myself with a Sentinel?” Ki’dasva’s eyes were sparking with anger. “The Arahín Symbols should never have been used, and Casano’or is meddling with things beyond her ken. I think Arikha is going to attempt to put things to rights, and she has enough power to return the balance of the elements. But the balance of magic…”

    Sharana was appalled. It didn’t even bear thinking about. “Then what can we do?” It sounded like a piteous wail more than a question.

    “Alliance,” Ki’dasva offered. “If we join forces, we may have enough power to defeat Cy’dath, Casano’or, and those damned Symbols. There are other works of the Ancients that Casano’or might pull out of her pocket, and neither of us can counter them alone. Who knows, if we manage to survive, we might be able to work together to restore the balance.”

    “So what you’re saying is that united we stand, divided we fall?”

    Ki’dasva’s mouth curved into a mocking smile. “Oh no, not precisely, little sister.” The goddess’ superior air and calling her ‘little sister’ was definitely getting on Sharana’s nerves, but her aid might be invaluable. “If we make an alliance, we still might fall anyway. But it’s certain that if we stand alone, we most assuredly will fall victim to Casano’or.”

    That settled it for Sharana. Anything to protect the Well, she had told herself once, but she had never known to what depths she would sink. An alliance with Ki’dasva…!

    “There are some things we need to decide from the beginning,” Sharana said. “One is that you will give up all designs on the Well.”

    The goddess did not seem surprised at all. “Unlike my dear brother, I have gathered some information over the years. One is of the Well’s sentience. If I agree to that, you will agree to three conditions of mine.”

    “Which are?”

    “If Cy’dath is destroyed, his control of the demons will go with it. Frankly, I’ve never had much to do with demons, and if we manage to defeat Cy’dath, demons are going to start swarming out of whatever portals my brother’s created. I require your aid in purging Liandrah of them.”

    “That seems reasonable,” she said cautiously. “The other two?”

    “You will not try to destroy me or mine. My priestesses are under my protection, and will be under yours. We won’t flaunt ourselves within Liandrah – we may even sail from here to the Isles – but the moment you try to destroy us, we will destroy you. And we can do it.” Sharana, looking into stormy eyes, could well believe it.

    “I agree to that as well, as long as you stop trying to invade and destroy the people of Liandrah.” She waited for Ki’dasva’s assent before continuing on. “The third?”

    “The third is that my First Priestess accompany you everywhere you go. This is so that I can know that you are not breaking the bargain, and in return, you will have her not-inconsiderable aid. But be warned – any attempt to harm her will result in the breaking of the bargain. I consider her to be my daughter, and I consider any harm to her done to me.”

    “Very well. Who is she?”

    “Riahanna.”

    At that name, Sharana felt as if her knees would buckle. Ki’dasva correctly interpreted her trembling hands, and white teeth flashed in a grin. “Surely you know the legends of the Dark Huntress. Riahanna, the Dark Huntress, lieutenant of the Lady of Unbroken Night.”

    Sharana knew her history well enough to know who she was. “Riahanna, who was responsible for a great deal many of our losses in the Chaos War. Riahanna, who was almost as powerful as Casano’or but much more cunning and dexterous.” Her history teachers had told her that where Casano’or preferred to simply massacre her opponents, Riahanna would begin by undermining their support and using clever tricks to wear her enemies down. “Riahanna, who is dead.”

    “You might know her under other names,” Ki’dasva said. “Riahanna is a very good actor. She’s faked a dozen deaths by now. Vadra the Star Dancer, the ‘Trai tor Sentinel,’ who betrayed the Sentinels to some of Cy’dath’s secret followers shortly after the Chaos War. Adrenn, who defeated the second Alliance of the Stars when they tried to move against the Children of the Night, my order of Priestesses. Nehiar, who was responsible for assassinating six Star Singers over the space of ten years. Riona, who almost succeeded three thousand years ago in wiping out the Sentinels.”

    Sharana knew all of them, of course. Although they had lived only a few decades at most, they were known as the most dangerous adversaries in the Sentinels’ history. Very few people knew their names now, and most of those few belonged to the Sentinels. And of them all, Riahanna was the most dangerous. Riahanna, who many considered a second Casano’or.

    She realized that she had spoken aloud when Ki’dasva laughed at that last comment.

    “Oh, didn’t you know? Riahanna is Casano’or’s sister.” That casual remark was the greatest surprise of her day yet, Sharana decided through a tumult of thoughts.

    “Her sister?” she managed to croak.

    “Half-sister, although Casano’or’s been trying her best to forget her existence.” Ki’dasva frowned, then. “And if you didn’t know that, I guess you wouldn’t know that Saryn is Riahanna’s daughter.”

    All Sharana could do was stare.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2005
  18. Senekha

    Senekha <a href="http://photobucket.com" target="_blank"><

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    This shall be the last time, Casano’or vowed to herself. She knew nature could not survive should she use the Symbols much more. She could use the power she drew from Cy’dath, but it was still growing and would be swifter in its return should she not tax it.

    As she gathered the winds for the last time, a flash of pain shot through her, and she saw nothing but white for the next few moments. She released the powers swiftly, blindly shooting them at the Azah, and the pain slowly receded, and she fell, though Cy’dath sent a burst of power that softened her landing.

    But as her vision cleared, she saw that the Azah still stood. Ripples of the Symbols’ effects shimmered in the air. Casano’or’s entire body throbbed, and her vision began to waver. The Symbols were taking their toll.

    Casano’or gasped as a probe from the Azah shot through her badly weakened defenses, and as she divined her purposed, she shot the same memories through Irawyn as she had Saryn, and more.

    “I’m sorry,” Irawyn finally whispered.

    “I need no pity,” Casano’or said. “I will have no pity, least of all from you.”

    Blood was trickling through her teeth, and she spat a mouthful out contemptuously, the regained her feet.

    “You are fortunate the Symbols have their price, wench,” she snarled as the Azah turned and walked through a small portal.

    Then her vision began to waver, and Cy’dath appeared and brought her back to their tent amidst the standing army.




    “I told you not to use the Symbols. Yet you did, and when I cautioned you about overusing them, you ignored me again.”

    Cy’dath paced angrily, and Casano’or watched him from her place on the bed. Cy’dath had healed the worst of the internal wounds caused by the Symbols, but he left some, to remind Casano’or of his disapproval.

    “I did not ignore you, my lord,” she whispered. “I hoped to speed the return of you power by not taxing it.”

    “Phah.” Cy’dath stopped, and looked at Casano’or. “We do not lack in time, love. But if you had used the Symbols but a hair more, you would have been lost.” He paused, and his face lost its severity, looking almost haggard. “I could not bear that.”

    “You need not worry. I have disengaged the Symbols, and they shall never be used again. By anyone.”

    “That is good. Ki’dasva was mad when she created them Ages ago.”

    “Ki’dasva has always lacked a certain sanity.” Casano’or scowled. “You are positive she remains immobile?”

    “Positive.” Cy’dath gave her a teasing grin. “You need not be worried.”

    “I am not worried,” she grumbled back.

    “Speaking of Ki’dasva, there is a rumour that a certain high priestess has returned.” Cy’dath waited for whatever reaction that idea would cause in his avatar.

    Casano’or’s breath caught. “Her?” she hissed. “She is the only one of the ancient blood that I would see destroyed.”

    Cy’dath gave her a strange look. “I have always wondered what it is you hold against your own blood sister.”

    Half-sister, Cy’dath. How my noble mother managed to produce such a perverse daughter is beyond me. She fled when the first of the plagues struck, hiding herself with the rest of her race and refusing to come to my father’s aid. Mother was murdered, and Riahanna never knew when or how.” Casano’or’s voice threatened to choke with grief, then hardened. “Ki’dasva should never have granted such a coward the longevity of the gods. The world would be better had she died when it was her time.

    “I will kill her, Cy’dath.”

    Cy’dath put a strong hand on Casano’or’s shoulder. “We are stronger than they will ever be, love. Ki’dasva refuses to aid us in our cause, and rallies others against us.”

    “I thought you said she was immobile.”

    Cy’dath shrugged. “She can’t hurt us, Casan. Let her send your sister – half sister, then – against us. You will get that which you desire.”

    An eagle’s piercing cry broke their conversation. The flap to their tent flew open, and in a rush of beating wings, Rho’stri soon stood before them.

    “Greetings, old friends.” She bowed at the waist in the ancient manner. Cy’dath returned the bow, and Casano’or nodded her head. Looking at Casano’or, she said, “I see that I am late in warning you of the Azah’s intentions.”

    “I needed no warning,” Casano’or growled. “She could never hurt me.”

    “The Symbols?” Rho’stri’s look was filled with sadness; she abhorred the Symbols and the havoc they created throughout nature.

    “Aye. I was rash in using them that last time, and I have paid for it.”

    “You have paid in part, but the effects will still tax you. The very balance of magic itself is upset.”

    “Only sorceresses like Arikha use magic. Our power comes from something larger than that.”

    “Aye, and sorceresses like Riahanna.”

    Casano’or growled and slid off the bed. She ignored the pain that stabbed through her side as she straightened. “How does this affect Riahanna?”

    “I can not say, and we will not know until she shows herself to us.”

    “You say ‘we’. Are you with us?” This came from Cy’dath, who had remained silent throughout the exchange so far.

    “I am with the good of the world. Ki’dasva plans a great war against you, old friends. Only destruction can come from any result.”

    “Well then, my mistress of Lore, how should we proceed?”

    Rho’stri was silent a moment, then spoke only in a soft voice. “I do not know,” she confessed, “but I would not see you stay to confront Ki’dasva.”

    “You would have us flee, Rho’stri?” Cy’dath sounded scandalized. “A confrontation is inevitable.”

    Rho’stri sighed. “It seems there is little I can do to prevent bloodshed.” She paused, then said, “I think I shall stay with you, though my conscience forbids it. This world shall suffer no matter who emerges as victor from this war, so I will stay with my only friends until the end.”

    Casano’or smiled, and Cy’dath surprised them both as he lifted Rho’stri off the floor in a very uncharacteristic bear hug. Rho’stri’s eyes shot wide, and Casano’or chuckled at the look of astonishment on the small Maradi’s face.

    “With the two most formidable women this world knows at my side, how can I fail?”



    The following morning Casano’or flew Krian ahead of her army as they marched on the tall gates of Alena. She flattened the great white walls of the city, and the city was swiftly won. Casano’or left the army to take its pay in plunder, and flew back to her camp. Rho’stri struggled to overcome her mourning the results of battle, as always, and hardened her heart. She almost whispered to the gods to forgive her when she realized how it would ring with irony.

    A terrible plan was being set in motion. Cy’dath and Casano’or had begun it long ago, and now Rho’stri would help finish it.

    After a brief council with Casano’or upon her return from the army, Rho’stri set out to find the Azah once more.

    Nearly a day later, Rho’stri flew above the Azah encampment in which Irawyn resided. She spiraled for nearly an hour, discovering that the Azah were reeling from a series of major events. It seemed Irawyn had become the youngest queen the Azah had ever seen.

    Unsure of how she would be received, Rho’stri hovered a moment more, then plunged downward, towards the young Azah. As she heard the rush of powerful wings above her, Irawyn turned as Rho’stri landed and changed her form.

    “You are not hard to find, young queen, yet it is an entirely different story concerning how to stay with you.” Rho’stri smiled. “You disappeared so abruptly, and I could not hope to follow, as I have not the power to transport.”

    The Azah woman looked tired, yet it seemed she bore the weight of queenship well.
     
  19. Liadan

    Liadan Insert Title Here

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    She was sitting on the west coast of Idaryn, watching the waves lap over the rocks. The sea had always comforted to her, and now, she needed the solace it brought her. All she was doing was waiting for news that she already knew.

    So it was that she was not surprised when they told her. Not long after Ki’dasva had left to gather information on her own, she had felt a surge of power and heard a faint cry echoing across leagues to resound in her soul. Perhaps the word had been ‘mother,’ and although she did not think it was, she still hoped so.

    “Saryn of the Azah is dead at Casano’or’s hand,” the messenger had said, never knowing that Saryn was her daughter and that Casano’or was her sister.

    Riahanna did not waste time in useless denials. Instead, she waved the courier away and continued to listen to the roaring of the sea, her face perfectly composed. Not a single glimmer of a tear betrayed her as she sat in silence, one thought overruling the tumult in her mind.

    I am Riahanna Anísedran Tar’kyaman, Spellweaver and Dark Huntress, First Priestess of Ki’dasva, and can boast divine blood, and yet all my power has come to naught for my daughter lies dead by my sister’s hand.


    * * * * * * * * *


    At sunset, Riahanna left her sanctuary and walked the two leagues to Dhorin, a city in Idaryn. Along the way, Ki’dasva mind-spoke to her to inform her of their new alliance, but the goddess did not linger long, perhaps sensing her grief.

    It was nearing midnight by the time she got there, for she had not hurried in her journey. She did not enter the city itself, but rather made her way to a shrine devoted to Aldrien, a minor forest-and-sea deity – and because of that, he had survived the Chaos War.

    The rest of the sisters were there already, and she waved greetings to everyone she saw. Most seemed to take some kind of comfort from her, so she made certain to speak a word here and there to the younger Priestesses.

    But she was surprised when Giara, one of her oldest companions, came to her. She was almost as old as Riahanna herself was, and had fought in the first Chaos War – but on the Alliance of the Stars’ side. Yet when the Pelerin, a long-gone human kingdom, had discovered that she had used magic to aid them, they banished her.

    But first they had tortured her.

    Riahanna remembered the state in which Giara had first arrived, and wished she didn’t. It was not just the extent of her physical wounds, which had been bad enough, but her emotional state had thrown everyone into turmoil. Anyone who came within half a mile of her was consumed by the storm of her emotions, an ugly mixture of hatred, despair, grief, and agony. Only Riahanna herself had dared to try and treat Giara, and after long years of work, had finally succeeded.

    Riahanna often wondered why the Pelerin had been so stupidly stubborn. Oh, they hated Cy’dath and Ki’dasva, but they regarded magic as anathema. Anyone who was born with any magical gift was put to death immediately. At first, they hadn’t been able to kill Giara, as she had been a hero in the Chaos War, rescuing their king from captivity, but they had hurt her in every way they could.

    Yet when the common people who had praised her two weeks past learned that Giara had strong magical gifts, her own family had been the first to drag her to the stake for burning.

    Untrained, Giara had destroyed the land surrounding her for five miles in every direction.

    Then she had escaped, hoping for refuge with the Elves – but the haughty Elves, who held humans in contempt, were reluctant to offer her refuge. When they found out that she had killed her kin, they, too, banished her, ignoring the horrifying circumstances that had led her to her actions. Every other kingdom had been the same, and eventually, in despair, she had come to Ki’dasva, hoping the goddess would kill her, or that her followers would.

    Yet Ki’dasva, weakened as she had been and hungry for vengeance, had commanded Riahanna to begin the long task of healing her, and after four years, she had succeeded. Giara had been the first Priestess to be initiated after Ki’dasva’s defeat in the Chaos War, and one of the most devoted. And though she had begun as a human, her lifespan had been lengthened by her magical gifts and Ki’dasva’s power.

    Celise, a little to her left, was a young Forest Elf who had come to them three centuries or so ago. Beaten by her brutal husband, sold by her family into a marriage she did not want, she had decided to leave her homeland. She, too, had made her way into Ki’dasva’s service, knowing that no one would ever force her to return to her family.

    All of the women in Ki’dasva’s service were outcasts like these, forsaken by the rest of society. And the goddess had accepted every one of them, ignoring their pasts so that they could begin a new life. There were some men as well, but fewer of those; men often became mercenaries or drunks.

    Giara was waiting patiently for her to speak, and Riahanna said, “Giara. You had something to tell me?”

    “I am sorry, Eldest,” she said. “I grieve with you for your loss.”

    If anyone else had said that, Riahanna would have snapped that they could not understand. But Giara could; she had, after all, been Riahanna’s sister for seven thousand years. For all that they were not related by blood, the Children of the Night were all bound together in the service of Ki’dasva.

    “I am Riahanna or ‘sister’ to you, Giara. Not ‘Eldest.’ And… thank you.”

    Giara nodded. “But here, in the midst of the rest of our sisters, there is need for decorum,” she pointed out. “Eldest.”

    Riahanna sighed, knowing that she had a point. “Very well. Was there anything else?”

    “No, Eldest. Not now, anyway.”

    She sang a series of minor notes, drawing everyone’s attention to her. They gathered around her, eager to learn what the First Priestess had decided.

    When she had told them of her plan, she could see them turning it over in their minds. Contemplating that they are going to betray their former allies and join with our former enemies, Riahanna reminded herself.

    As she expected, the protest came from the younger ones. “First Priestess,” Celise said, a troubled frown on her face, “What you suggest is murder. It is despicable and without honor.”

    Riahanna fixed the young Elf with cool blue eyes, watching her squirm. Elves and their damn honor. “Celise, we are the Children of the Night, the order of Ki’dasva the Outcast. Honorless, in the eyes of all others.” She paused. “Do you flinch in the service of your goddess?” There was naked menace in her voice, and Celise stiffened in affront.

    “I will do as you command,” Celise said. And although she had just sworn to continue to obey Riahanna, there was no surrender or weakness in her tone. Not for the first time, Riahanna thought that these women were stronger than steel. “But I still say that there is no honor in murder.”

    “Honor,” Riahanna said softly, “is for those who can afford it.” That got a curt nod from them all, but Riahanna was not yet finished. “We are honorless. Forsaken. But above all,” and here her voice dropped to a whisper, “unbroken.
     
  20. Liadan

    Liadan Insert Title Here

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    She could hear a high, young voice chanting it with delight. Faine and Nairi, Riahanna and Casano’or… Ria, are you here yet?

    No one except Giara called her “Ria” these days, but she remembered when Nairi had. Only Cléodri had ever called her Faine, and that rarely; everyone had called her Ria.

    Peace and Hope, Summer and Winter’s Song…

    With a sigh, Riahanna put aside the book she had been reading, massaging her temples. But it was her heart, not her head, that ached from long-lost memories, long-lost sorrow. Ria, read to me! she heard the voice of her memories demand.

    And she had done it, of course, her heart given over to this small child. At night, she would brush out Nairi’s white hair and put her to bed, all the while singing to her in a low, crooning voice. Will you be here for me in the night when I need you? Riahanna heard her ask.

    Of course, my Nairi, my dearest, my sweet sister. I will always be here for you.

    But one day, I wasn’t there for you.

    Riahanna knew when Casano’or had began hating her. First, when I failed to be there for you. Second, when I told you to stop using the Works of the Ancients. Third, when I entered Ki’dasva’s service. Fourth, when I said that we should try to make peace with the Lastborn races.

    And for all of them, I had reasons. For the fourth, we of the Elder races were also at fault. For the third, Ki’dasva offered healing that Cy’dath did not. For the second, the Works of the Ancients are dangerous to use. And for the first…

    Riahanna could still remember a younger Nairi, a small girl who had once laughed in delight to see her older sister. Ria, Ria, she would call, come see what I found! Or, Ria, can I come with you someday to see our mother’s people?

    The high, childish voice echoed in her thoughts, mingling with another voice, deeper, angrier, and sadder. Ria, why didn’t you come in time to save me? Why did you let mother die?

    And, You cowardly bitch, someday I’ll kill you.

    The three voices brought back only memories that should have been left buried. Against her will, Riahanna found herself pitying Casano’or again. I’m sorry, Nairi. I should have done something to help you and your father, but someone else had need of me. But even in her mind, the image of Casano’or turned away, only hatred and accusation in her golden eyes. And Riahanna knew that she had failed Nairi, that it was all her fault.

    And now, you have murdered my only daughter. Although Riahanna doubted that Casano’or even knew that Saryn was her daughter, her sister had managed to tear Riahanna’s heart in two anyway. Ki’dasva was right. I have too many weak points in my heart: Saryn, Ki’dasva, Giara, and the rest of my sisters… and Nairi. Nairi most of all.

    “Ria?” Giara was standing at her side again, a frown upon her face. “Are you all right?”

    Riahanna nodded, not trusting herself to speak.

    “Our sisters are making their plans. In a week or so, they’ll attack Casano’or’s army commanders and kill as many as they can. Casano’or is also on that list, although I doubt that any of our people can kill her.”

    Closing her eyes, she tried to stop the tears. Oh, Nairi…!

    “Your sister has been using the Arahín symbols again. And there’s no doubt now that Casano’or is walking as Cy’dath’s avatar again.”

    Her mouth twisted bitterly as she remembered the mockery her sister and her master were making of the godbond. Mortals are not meant to be gods, little sister, she thought. What are you planning? What are you thinking?

    “What are you going to do about it?” Giara was asking.

    I’m going to wish all this had never happened. “I’m going to see my sister.”

    “Ria… are you sure?”

    “No. But I’m going anyway.”

    “Why?”

    “If both of us survive what is coming, we are going to fight, and one of us is going to die. I… want to say goodbye before the end.”

    And before she could think better of this rash idea, Riahanna wove a spell-matrix and carried herself to where she could sense Cy’dath’s presence.


    * * * * * * * * * * *


    Riahanna didn’t know what they called this place in these times, but she remembered it. Oh yes, she remembered it.

    The stench of blood and piss and fear strong in her nostrils. Men screaming for help, for mother, for mercy, for death –

    Riahanna shook off the memory before she could drown in it. Here, where the Sentinels almost defeated us. She wondered at Casano’or’s arrogance to base an army here.

    She knew that Casano’or and Cy’dath both would have sensed her spell-matrix; Riahanna had not bothered to conceal it. On the other hand, they shouldn’t recognize her magical “signature,” which suited her. It’s not like Casano’or and I have even met for the last thousand years.

    Walking the final distance to Cy’dath, she heard voices from inside the tent, debating on what to do with her. Casano’or seemed to be arguing for attack while Cy’dath counseled waiting.

    “We don’t know who she is, my love,” Cy’dath was saying.

    “If we don’t know who she is, she can’t be dangerous. Rho is one of the few people left living in Liandrah whose power even approaches mine, now that Saryn is dead. Sharana’s does as well, but I know her power signature. Anyway, I am dangerous myself.”

    “You didn’t know of this Irawyn either,” the god replied, an edge to his voice. “And she almost killed you.”

    “One mistake. It won’t happen again.”

    “So you say. Casano’or, my love, be careful. I could not bear it if I lost you. I’ll go outside to look for this intruder.”

    Perfect. She changed shape to resemble another guard, and hid her own magical talents as Cy’dath strode by without a second glance. Drawing a deep breath, Riahanna walked to the tent and entered.

    Casano’or whirled around, her voice made harsh with anger. “How dare you come in here? Get out!” She punctuated her command with a sharp sting of power that would have left her whimpering for days, but Riahanna caught it with a spellnet, leaving Casano’or gaping.

    Then she shed her disguise, assuming her natural form. Long white hair and a slender, tall form only highlighted her strong resemblance to Casano’or, although her amber eyes held sorrow rather than challenge. “Nairi, I’m here,” Riahanna said softly.

    “Mother?” Casano’or whispered, and Riahanna heard an echo of Nairi in her voice. “Mother?”
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2005
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