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Sylvenna and Kasei
Hi everyone! Been a while.
3.0 is coming soon, and LK shortly afterwards, so expect this page to start moving again! In the meantime, I present for your entertainment a short story written by our very own Tom (Gary (Katala)).
This isn't WoW related (though it is fantasy), but it's super cool just the same. Give it a read!
[Note: Added some random/silly WoW pics, just to break up the wall o' text]
Sylvenna enjoyed these times to herself when she could sit quietly and read. With everything going on she rarely had a chance to relax, to forget the struggle for power. To simply sit quietly in one of the gazebos that were scattered around her manor’s expansive gardens and enjoy the beauty that surrounded her. Others, humans, dwarves, Trith, think that elves spend most of their lives sitting around admiring beautiful things, even at the expense of the present. If only it was true. It had been months since she had been able to think on anything but the grand schemes for the crown. The quest to place the crown on her brother’s head had consumed her life.
That is finished now. By now Kerwel and his men should already have defeated the Silverglade’s army a hundred miles to the east and secured the crown for the family. Of course, next came the long play to secure her brother’s position on the thrown. To ensure that Lightfeathers sat on the thrown for several generations. Sylvenna pushed the schemes and webs of deceit out of her mind. Today she would relax, read a book, and enjoy her garden.
She looked up as she heard someone approach. She saw one of her servants walking quickly across the garden towards her from the direction of the ancient spired manor. Her pastel green dress was held up in her hands to keep it out of the scattered puddles that had accumulated during the late spring showers. The rains made things tough on travelers, like her brother’s army, but did wonders for the forests and gardens that covered most of her vast estate.
“I’m sorry to bother you.”
“It’s alright, what has you in such a hurry?”
“A Trith Scout is here to see you, he said it was urgent. That he had to speak to you right away.”
Probably news from her brother. She closed the book she had been trying to read, “good, I will meet him in the sitting room. Bring tea, he is probably tired from his trip here.” The Trith were an odd race. They looked disturbingly like humans, the only thing that set them apart was the Trith’s three tails. One of the tails was in the proper place, right at the very base of the spine. The other two however were attached were most people’s shoulder blades were. It made for an odd looking person, but allowed unparalleled movement in the jungles of their homeland.
“Ma’am, he’s awaiting you on the upper patio. Toren is with him. He arrived injured.”
“Really? Did he say what happened?”
“No Ma’am, all he wanted was to see you, but he seems to have been shot.”
“Well, we shouldn’t keep him waiting then.” Shot, very odd. To attack a Trith Scout is a crime of the highest order. Only humans or another savage race would do something so…, so…, Wrong. Sylvenna rose from her chair and smoothed her dress. The Trith had ancient treaties with all of the major races, except humans. The treaties ensured that the Trith would be remain neutral observes to all conflicts. The only role they could play was that of record keepers and messengers. The messengers, known as Scouts, were allowed safe passage anywhere under the sky.
“Let’s go see what is so important.” Sylvenna pulled up the sides of her blue dress just enough to keep it out of the mud and started walking across the garden to the manor. The manor was an ancient building built so long ago that no one was sure who built it. It’s sat atop a high hill that overlooked Clearwater Lake, named for it’s unusually clear water. The back and sides of the wood and stone manor were against the cliffs that bordered one side of the lake.
The thought of having an attacked Trith Scout eager to deliver a message was troubling. He should be in a hurry to get healed and on the trail of his assailant. Unless the scum that attacked him is already dead.
After ten minutes of walking along the twisted paths that crossed her gardens Sylvenna arrived at the staircase that climbed up the cliffs to the back of her manor. She started the long ascent up the marble steps that wound up the side of the broken cliffs that surrounded most of her manor house. Each step intricately carved with scene after scene of Elven history. Every major event, from the creation of the Elven people by Mythago, to the coronation of Sandoria, the first Elven Queen, was carved upon the steps. It’s said that the stairs predate the ancient manor that now resides at the top of the cliff. No one really knows who carved the stairs, but it is believed that it is dwarven craftsmanship.
Sylvenna walked from patio to patio until she arrived at the upper most terrace. As she turned the last bend she saw a rather large Trith sitting down on a stone bench, his shoulder tails trying to push Toren’s old, bent form away. Toren had a needle and thread in one hand, and was trying to hold the Trith’s lower tail in the other. The two halves of a bloody, white and black fletched arrow rested on the bench next to the Trith.
“Stop that young man. I haven’t finished sewing the exit wound closed,” Toren yelled in frustration.
“What are you talking about old man, the arrow barely went through,”
“Your very perceptive, but if you remember arrows only go one way. I had to pull the arrow the rest of the way through. Or should I check you for a head wound also?” The Trith suddenly stood up, all but knocking Toren to the ground.
“Archduchess Lightfeather, I am Scout Kasei. I have a very important message for you.”
“So I hear, please.” Sylvenna motioned with one hand for Kasei to continue. She started to walk towards the center of the upper patio.
“You must flee, right away. A full company of the Crowns Defenders is only a short distance away. They are on their way to arrest you.”
Sylvenna looked at Kasei confused. “I have not broken any of the Traditions, why would the Defenders want to arrest me.” Not any recently, anyway.
“They act on the orders of Lor.., King Geldon Silverglade.”
Sylvenna dropped the book she carried. The leather bound epic of Younti landed in a small puddle at her feet. “Excuse me?”
“That is the rest of the message I am here to deliver. Lord Lightfeather is dead.”
Sylvenna’s legs failed her. She fell to the cold hard stone of the terrace, the epic scene of the Battle for Survival stretched out before her. She looked at the Trith Scout in disbelief.
“But… how… who…” Toren and Ophelia moving quickly to Sylvenna’s side. Each taking a hand and helping her rise. Tears already flowed down her cheeks.
“We were ambushed.” Kasei sat down heavily on the stone bunch. “We arrived at Twin plains, the battle site your brother had chosen, several hours before the Silverglade’s army. We had almost completed preparations before they showed up. Your brother decided that we would not attack immediately because he wanted to make sure his fast cavalry was in position behind them. Lord Lightfeather had decided that this would be the last battle, no one was to escape. He gave orders that anyone who didn’t surrender was to be killed.”
“He hated that part, but we both agreed that the conflict for the Ivory Seat was getting out of hand and needed to end quickly.” Sylvenna set down on an oak chair near Kasei.
“Both sides arranged their troops,” Kasei continued. “The battle ensued. We were starting to get the upper hand when a black death fell upon us. Magic so horrific I will have nightmares until I join my ancestors. A cloud of darkness started spewing forth from the Silverglade’s mage coven. It spread out across the battlefield. As it enclosed each of our men it would peel away his flesh until only bones were left. It not only spared the Silverglade’s men but it healed the fallen, bringing man back from heavens’ threshold.”
“Couldn’t our coven do anything? Our coven is, was, much larger and better trained.”
“I think they tried, but as the darkness first started to arise from the other side of the battlefield our mages started to scream as if burned by a hot poker and started to collapse. Any that didn’t die from whatever horror they found in the weaves, died when that evil flowed over their motionless bodies. Enough of this, I will tell you everything you want to know when you are on the road out of here.”
Sylvenna rose, “of course.” Sylvenna turned and started towards the large wooden doors that lead into the manor. Just as she was about to push the door open and walk through, the door flew open. A maid came running through the door and slammed right into Sylvenna, both falling to the ground in a pile of flailing arms and legs. Toren, Kasei, and Ophelia hurried over to the to fallen women. Toren and Kasei each grabbed one of Sylvenna’s arms and helped her up.
“Ma’am, a whole legion of Defenders are here,” the young maid said as Ophelia tried to help her from the ground. “They are arresting everyone.”
Sylvenna looked at Toren, Ophelia, and the young maid whose name she didn’t know. “Go, use the wine cellar exit. I will meet you at Dargen Pass.” Sylvenna looked at them standing on the carved stone terrace motionless. “Go!”
The Ophelia pointed through the open door, ”they are already in the manor!”
“Run. Head down the stairs.” Sylvenna pointed down the stairs she had used to get to the terrace.”
“Yes ma’am,” Ophelia said as she grabbed Toren’s arm and started to pull him down the stairs, the young maid following closely behind.
Kasei looked at Sylvenna, “And where will you run?”
Sylvenna looked around the terrace. With one side facing the manor, and the other three hanging out over the cliffs, there weren’t that many other places to go. Sylvenna quickly walked over to the edge of the balcony and looked over. She could see her three fleeing servants running down the winding stairs.
“The next terrace down is only twenty feet, and it has access to the lake.” Sylvenna climbed onto the bloody bench that Kasei had been sitting on and started to hoist herself over the railing when a sharp pain lanced through her right leg. She fell backwards onto the cold stone terrace as she saw Kasei hop over the railing, a look of surprise on his face at seeing her falling in the wrong direction.
Sylvenna rolled onto her back and looked at her leg, her vision swimming from the unexpected pain. The shaft of a gold, blood covered arrow penetrated through her blue dress. She reached for the arrow and tried to break the head off. She quickly let go of the arrow as small black dots threatened to overwhelm her vision.
“Very good Defender, see me later, I will have a reward for you.”
Sylvenna looked up at the source of the vaguely familiar voice. Two armored Defenders, polished silver armor glistening in the early afternoon sun, stood on the terrace near the door, their long thin swords drawn. A middle-aged elf wearing a white robe with a long rune covered black panel down the front was walking through the door.
“Cishess, how dare you have me shot? “
Cishess looked down at her, his lips curling up in a smile. “Ma’am, you are hereby informed that you have been stripped of title and land. You have been sentenced to death for treason.” Cishess kneeled down beside Sylvenna, one hand reaching for the arrow that protruded from her dress. “There are two reasons I had you shot. One, you are dead anyway so it really didn’t matter,” he grabbed the arrowhead and twisted it. Sylvenna screamed as bolts of pain shot through her leg, almost blacking out. Cishess stopped the twisting motion and waited for her screams to die down to ragged breathing. “And two; I enjoyed it.” He grabbed the arrow again and stood up. He placed one foot on her wounded leg, and pulled.
The last thing she heard before she completely lost consciousness was Cishess’ laughter.
“No, I want her awake when she is hung.”
Pain shot through the darkness, shattering it’s comforting embrace. Light slowly filtered back into Sylvenna’s world. A blurry world slowly came into focus. Many images slowly coalescing into one, unwanted image.
She lay on her back in the middle of a gazebo. One of the two dozen or more that were scattered around her gardens. What used to be her gardens anyway. She turned her head to the side to see exactly how bad her situation was. She could see two defenders standing in the gazebo, both watching her. Between them she saw an almost completed gallows. She could hear Cishess’ voice, his form hidden by the vines that clung to the side of the gazebo.
“I want her to know what is happening. I want her to feel it when her neck breaks,” Cishess said angrily.
“I don’t care what you want. My orders are that the Lady die…,” an unfamiliar voice said.
“She has been stripped of title, you will refer to her as the peasant that she is.”
“She may have been stripped of all Elven titles, but Dwarven titles remain. Or did you forget Karsalar?”
“You will watch your tongue Lord Defender, or you will be hanging beside her.”
The Lord Defender replied angrily, “You must have an overestimation of your authority if you think you could order that.”
“One word to the King and it would happen,” Cishess yelled.
“However, it is not beyond my authority to have you join her,” the Lord Defender shouted back. His face was inches from Cishess’
“Are you threatening me?”
“No, I am not Lord sage.” The Lord Defender paused a moment, ”now if you are done, my orders are that she is to be executed as quickly as possible. Awake or asleep isn’t specified,” he said suddenly calm.
“If that were the case she should already be dead. You have one hundred swords and a couple dozen axes within one hundred feet. Her head should already be separated from her shoulders. What are you waiting for,” Cishess yelled.
“My orders are that she dies by hanging.” The Lord Defenders face had taken on the calm appearance of someone struggling to maintain their composure.
Sylvenna lay quietly listening to the conversation. So many regrets, so many Wrongs. Fear crept into her thoughts. Not of death, but of what lay beyond. Debts were still owed; some to forces more powerful then death. Death cannot come, not yet.
Sylvenna looked back at the arguing figures. Their argument had become so serious that the two Defenders guarding her had turned to watch their leader. Now was her chance. If she could make it to the Western Garden she would be able to loose them in the hedge mazes. Then to the forest. She made her move.
She quickly sprung up, intent on jumping over the low wall that was furthest from the arguing men. The Defenders were completely surprised by the sudden move and were slow to react. Then her weight came down on her injured right leg. She screamed as she fell against the wall she intended to jump over. The Defenders turned and jumped to grab her. She rolled over the wall, falling to the muddy ground below. She started to scramble away but couldn’t, her dress was caught on something. She glanced up to the wall that she had rolled over and saw both Defenders holding onto the bottom of her dress. Their shouts for help undoubtedly bringing more men. She started to tear at her dress, trying to get loose before reinforcements arrived.
Cishess’ booted foot slammed down on her leg wound. The dress was suddenly forgotten as the familiar black spots started to fill her vision and a scream escaped her lips. Cishess silently smiled as he ground his booted foot back and forth, each time tearing the wound a little more.
“Stop that! Now!” The Lord Defender yelled.
“Stop what?” Cishess asked innocently as he continued to grind his boot against the wound.
“You will stop now, or I will have you removed.”
“Very well, have it your way.” Cishess put his full weight onto the leg as he stepped over her, twisting his foot one last time. “Have it your way, she’ll be dead in a few minutes anyway.” He pointed at the gallows. “It appears they are done.”
He turned to look at the gallows; “It appears for once today you are right about something. Sergeant, take her over and get her ready.”
“Yes, sir,” the sergeant snapped. He pointed at two Defenders, “You, you, take her over and get her set to hang.”
Sylvenna’s thoughts cleared as the two Defenders lifted her off the muddy ground. She looked at the finished gallows, knowing what waited for her in the afterlife; she started to struggle the best she could. The Defenders dragged her towards the gallows. She couldn’t die yet! She panicked and started to jerk her arms and thrash about with her legs. Her panic blinded mind shutting out the pain of her injured leg.
The two Defenders were joined by two more, each grabbing a leg and picking her up. She continued to thrash about until a metal clad hand slammed into her stomach, knocking the wind from her lungs.
She gasped for air as they carried her towards the gallows. Slowly she refocused. She couldn’t die! Not yet! She needed more time, lots of it!
“Wait, not yet, wait.” She yelled in a panicky voice. I can’t die yet. “Absolution….”
Everyone stopped, disbelieving what she had just said. The sergeant that was busy berating the two defenders that had just nearly let her escape even stopped. Everyone turned and looked at her.
The Lord Defender walked towards her. “What did you say?”
Sylvenna took a deep breath, “I want to be Absolved.”
“Oh, now this is an unexpected surprise, delightful, but unexpected,” Cishess said in a low voice.
“My Lady, are you sure? If you are trying to stall, this is the wrong way.”
“She’s obviously made up her mind. Just do it,” Cishess cut in.
“My Lady, are you sure this is what you want. I doubt you have broken enough Traditions to warrant Absolution.”
“Yes, I request Absolution as is my right,” she said with her voice trembling on the verge of panic.
“Very well,” the Lord Defender sighed. “Sergeant, tie her to the gallows and see me in my tent in twenty minutes for instructions. I need to do some reading, I think.”
“Yes sir,” the sergeant snapped.
“My Lady you have the evening to pray for forgiveness. I will come for you at dawn.”
Sylvenna nodded, “thank you Lord Defender.”
The Defenders that held Sylvenna started to half carry, half walk her towards the gallows.
“Oh, and the Lord Sage is not to get within ten feet of her,” the lord Defender said, staring at Cishess. The Defenders nodded and continued towards the gallows.
The Lord Defender and Cishess quietly watched as Sylvenna was lead to the gallows. When she was almost there the Lord Defender sighed and started to walk towards his tent.
“Jussan? Will you still be joining me for dinner? I’m having my staff at my manor prepare golden bass and bear as a celebration feast.”
“Lord Defender Jussan, or just Lord Defender.”
“Very well, Lord Defender,” Cishess’ voice swam with patronism. “Shall you be joining me tonight?”
No doubt he knew the answer, but etiquette demanded he extend the offer, Sylvenna thought.
“Even if I didn’t need to spend the evening praying for guidance and studying the books I wouldn’t join you. I would much rather cut off my own toes with a dinner plate then be near you when you feed.” He struggled to maintain composure.
Cishess shrugged, “Have it your way. Just make sure that I am awakened two hours before the Absolution takes place.”
“Have to do your makeup for the show?” the Lord Defender said as he walked away from Cishess?
“No, it will take the servants some time to carry my new lounge chair out here.”
The Lord Defender stopped and turned towards the Sage. “If I were you I would consider Absolution for yourself. I have not met someone with as black a heart in a very long time.” He then turned and continued walking towards the cluster of tents.
“Your problem is you don’t understand how much of a blessing the end of the Lightfeathers really is.” Cishess yelled at the Lord Defender as he continued to walk away.
Jussan sat quietly in his large tent reading through the ancient texts. Trying to memorize his part in the Absolution wasn’t as tough as he thought it would be. Most of the punishments were pretty basic, break every bone, peel the skin off the limbs. All quite gruesome, but basic concepts of torture and punishment. He just wished a torturer instead of him was doing it. But they didn’t have a torturer, the Defenders only interaction with prisoners was turning them over to the Kings Dungeon.
He was to drop bits of the Absolutionees blood into the bowl of holy water and the gods would form symbols to indicate what to do next. The hardest part would be remembering what symbols meant what. He should bring the text with him for reference, which appeared to be allowed.
No, the hardest part would be doing it at all. I really wish someone else could do this, but who? Cishess? That would be some sort of perverse reward for him, and besides, he wasn’t ordained. No, he was the one to do it. Maybe it could wait until they got back to the palace, let them figure out who has to do it.
Jussan’s thoughts were disturbed by a knock on his tents entrance pole. He sighed, “Enter.”
Sergeant Yennall pushed the tent flaps aside and entered the large tent.
“Lord Defender, I am here as you requested.”
“Of course,” Jussan reached over and grabbed a piece of paper from another table. He handed the sheet of paper to the Sergeant, “here is the design of the Absolution rack.”
“Thank you sir,” Yennall started to turn.
“One moment Sergeant.”
Jussan handed the large elf two sheets of paper, one folded. “Give the letter to Visone, and tell him he has twenty minutes to prepare the brew and be in my tent. The other is a list of things I will need tomorrow.”
“Yes sir, “ Yennall paused a moment. “Sir?”
“I know that Absolution is a way for mortals to force forgiveness of all sins and debts, but other then that I don’t have the slightest idea what it is.”
Jussan took a deep breath, “What you said is true. It is a series of tortures and punishments picked by the gods. The gods work their magic to guarantee that the person stays alive until they are satisfied that the person has earned forgiveness.”
“No, I don’t think you do. The gods can become very angry when you force them to do anything, this is no exception. Even someone with minor sins can take a very long time to die, as punishment for forcing the gods forgiveness.”
“On second thought, prepare a horse for La…Sylvenna to travel on. We will let the kings torturers handle her absolution.”
“Cishess will be furious. We may not like it, but he is, for the moment, in a position of extreme power and does have the King’s ear."
“I don’t much care. I am not performing an Absolution. Get the men ready, we leave at dawn.”
Yennall nodded and stepped out of the tent.
Sylvenna sat on the ground with her back against one of the legs of the gallows. Her good leg folded up under her injured leg, which was stretched out in front of her. Her arms tied to the wood log about a foot above her head. Her arms were starting to cramp up, and the arrow wound through her leg was throbbing, the smell of infection already perceptible.
Sylvenna looked around, half hoping that someone would come and save her. It became immediately apparent that that was unlikely. The Defenders encampment was stretched out in front of her. There were four large tents in the center of a clearing in her garden. Around those four tents was about one hundred other tents arranged in perfect circles. The perfect circles were only broken where large pieces of her garden interfered. Anything smaller then a hedge row or statue had been trampled and had a tent placed over it. It would take months for all of the flowers and bushes to be replaced.
She had spent the last four hours praying to the gods for forgiveness for asking to be Absolved. It was doubtful that it would do any good. She had spent a lot of time ignoring the Gods, or outright defying them. She was also sure that the gods she owed debts to, some very serious, would not be pleased that she had found a way to clear those debts. There was no doubt that the days following sunrise would be long, very long.
A tall man wearing robes of blue and gold walked towards her, carrying a flask in one hand. He walked across the muddy ground, nodding and smiling at Defenders as he passed them. He walked past the Defenders guarding her, pulled his robes up some and kneeled down in front of her. He looked her up and down. “Good evening.”
She stared into his eyes, “I disagree.”
He nodded, “You may be right at that. At least for you.” He met her gaze, looking into her dark green eyes.
“Have you come to receive my confession, or is this a social call?”
“Neither. I am not a priest.”
“Then I guess the conversation is over. Have a good life,” she snapped.
The robed man raised the flask in his hand. “I have come to offer you some comfort.”
She looked at it, “thank you but I don’t think I will have any use of perfume. Besides, I prefer flowers.” She stretched her good leg out in front of her.
“It will help you get some sleep.”
“Does it really matter how well rested I am?”
“No, but I figured I would be nice. If you don’t want it, I could take it myself.”
“No,” she paused a moment, “thank you. I’ll take it.”
He uncorked the flask, a little of the clear liquid spilled down the side of the glass flask. “This will take effect almost immediately.”
Sylvenna nodded, “thank you again.” He lifted the flask to her lips and poured the liquid into her mouth. The sour liquid numbed her throat as she drank it.
“I’m not sure what you have done that makes you think you need to be Absolved but I will pray that the gods show mercy.”
“Thank you, but I don’t think I deserve your prayers.”
“Everyone deserves to be prayed for, no matter how evil.”
“Yes but the gods are green in the forest,” her thoughts were suddenly hard to organize. “I mean daggers jump through colored loops,” she could barely keep her eyes open. She struggled for words to express her fear, “I feel jungle.”
“Good night Lady Sylvenna,” he watched as her eyes closed, then turned and walked back to his tent. “May the gods forgive you of whatever it is you fear so much.”
A low fog drifted two feet off the forest floor. The trees grew so thick here that no sunlight touched the ground. Ivy vines clung to everything, so thick that several age-old trees had been pulled down. The darkness that surrounded her was unnaturally close, like it was trying to force it’s way past her glow rock’s aura, to swallow her entirely.
Sylvenna looked around the dark forest, she was lost. She knew every trail, tree, and river of the forests, but this place was unfamiliar. The darkness pushed closer, threatening to overwhelm the rocks glow. It was almost as though the darkness was alive, trying to devour her. She had to move or the darkness would swallow her completely.
She started walking towards a large tree, the glow rock in hand. The darkness resisted the light. She moved closer and it slowly parted, allowing escape. She quickly walked through the narrow tunnel that her glowing rock created for her. After what seemed an eternity she broke free from the darkness.
She stopped and looked around, the darkness was behind her. It still pushed towards her, still chasing it’s prey. She started walking quickly down what appeared to be a small animal trail, the darkness close behind her, slowly gaining ground. She began to jog, but the darkness still closed. She ran, fear filling her mind. She ran down the trail as fast as she could but it still closed the distance.
She glanced over her shoulder to see how close it was and it was gone. She slowly stopped and looked around. She was now in the middle of vine covered ruins. Large pastel purple flowers covered the ground. She looked around for something to use as a weapon even though she knew weapons would not harm the darkness.
Sylvenna turned and looked across the small clearing she now stood in. Her brother stood in the doorway of a ruined house.
“Brother,” she ran towards him, “your alive. Thank the gods.” She jumped up a little to hug him, and passed straight through, crashing to the ground inside the building. An old table splintered as she landed on it’s already crumbling top. She pushed herself up and turned to face the doorway were her brother had been. He looked at her, happiness and sadness mingling on his face.
“You are in the Dream sister.”
She looked around, confused.
“I am serving out my debt to Mi’ Kazar.” Mi’ Kazar, the God of Dreams, was the holder of the largest of her and her brothers debts.
“You… is he treating you well.”
“Yes, but he has left no doubt that I am his slave.”
Tears started to well up in her eye. She looked at her brother’s dark green eyes. “I will be here soon… I think. Maybe I can use a favor to…”
“No sister, you don’t have enough favors to cover my debts. I will serve my time and then we will be together.” He watched as the tears ran down her face. He reached up and tried to wipe them away. He withdrew his hand as it just passed through the tear and cheek.
“Oh brother what have we done to deserve this?”
“I think we both know the answers to that question. We have been foolish with our lives. Always assuming there would be time to fix our wrongs.”
Sylvenna sat down heavily on a nearby rock.
“And sometimes not caring if what we did was wrong.” She placed her face in her hands and cried.
“It is to late for me, but not for you.”
She looked up. “I will be Absolved soon. Even when I finally die I will have one last punishment to face. I can’t stand the thought of you as Mi’ Kazar’s eternal slave.”
“I will eventually serve my time.”
“How long will you serve, you must owe him eons.”
“And you even longer.”
Her face dropped back into her hands and she began to sob.
“Sylvenna, I wish I could talk longer, but I’m here on business. The Gods have decided that it is not your time to die. They sent me to tell you to follow your feelings, that if you choose to be Absolved , they will not let you die.”
“What! Are they insane? What else am I supposed to do?”
“Do not confuse insanity with genius. I’m afraid we are done talking for now.”
“Can’t you stay a little longer?”
“I can stay all day, this is the Dream, you’re actually the one leaving.”
“No, I’m not going anywhere,” her eyes started to get heavy. “No,” she cried. “I’m not ready to leave.” Tears started flowing from her dark green eyes.
“Sister, when Silverglade stripped you of your family name, he freed you from Ty’ Na Dar’s curse. Use this blessing for all it’s worth. I will not be able to see you for a long time.”
She could no longer keep her eyes open. “Please! No! Not Yet!” She screamed as the Dream melted to wakefulness.
“I love you sister,” his last words before he completely disappeared.
“I love you brother.”
She slowly opened her tear filled eyes, the dim light of the waking worlds moon bringing back the horror that she faced. She could feel cold tears running down her face but could not reach them with her tied hands.
Ty’ Na Dar, the Demigod that controlled magic energy, had long ago cursed the Lightfeather family. ‘The Lightfeather’s and those of their household shall never again know the touch of magic.’ I bet if Silverglade had been aware of the curse, he would never have stripped her of her name. The arrogant idiot never did his research.
Now that Ty’ Na Dar’s curse was lift she could once again feel the weaves. But as long as her hands were bound she couldn’t weave a thing. Her brother told her to use this unexpected blessing for all it was worth. Perhaps they would untie her hands on the way to the Absolution poles.
She looked around to determine her best path for escape should the opportunity arrive. The guards had changed while she had slept. Also, much to her surprise most of the camp was gone, leaving only a trampled garden. Only one large tent and four small ones remained. Five horses stood tied to trees thirty paces away quietly grazing on her… what used to be her Daffodils. The sun would soon rise above the Pain Spires to the north. The tall rocky peaks of the Spires already back lit by the yellow halo of Helios.
Soon she would be dead, or on her way to Death anyway, if she didn’t find a way to escape. She’d seen the Gates before, of course, just never as a dead person. The intricately carved ivory Listing Wall where every dead souls name is written. Mi’ Kazar once told her that the list started as part of a truce between the Gods of Life and Death. He wouldn’t give any details why a truce was needed, but these were the Gods after all, they rarely needed a reason to fight. Sylvenna’s thoughts were interrupted by a voice.
“I am a Scout and wish to speak with the prisoner.”
Sylvenna looked up and saw Kasei standing in front of the Defenders that guarded her. He had changed into a suit of Trithian chain armor and now carried two long Trith daggers in addition to his sword. The two Defenders looked at each other and then back at Kasei. Kasei looked at the two heavily armored Elves.
“Are you denying a Scout access?”
“Sorry Scout, but our orders are that no one passes.”
“Your orders are that Cishess does not pass.” The two elves looked at each other briefly. “You do remember the Oath of Garnering, don’t you? The one that states a Scout may go anywhere under the sky without interference. Since she is very clearly not indoors I will see her.” He then stepped past the Defenders and towards Sylvenna.
“Hello Kasei. I didn’t expect to see you today. Or ever actually.”
Kasei kneeled next to her, looking her up and down. Men looking her over was really starting to annoy her. Especially since she was currently wearing a very beautiful, mud covered, torn, blue dress, with a rats nest for hair. Kasei reached over and lifted her dress off the ground exposing most of her blood and mud covered legs.
“Excuse me,” she pulled at the ropes that bound her hands. “What do you think your doing?” She lashed out at him with her good leg. The Defenders turned and looked at the Trith.
Her kick barely phased the large Trith. “Hold still, I am inspecting your wound.” The Defenders, realizing he wasn’t acting inappropriately, went back to surveying the surroundings for trouble.
Kasei pulled a small bag off his belt and opened it. He pulled out a small flask of red liquid. “This will hurt a bit.” He uncorked the flask.
“I’m getting used to that,” she replied and braced for the pain.
He poured the red liquid into the hole in her leg. She could feel the liquid fizzling it’s way into her leg. Then it started to become very hot as it reached the middle of her leg. As though a small fire had been lit inside her bone. Then it was suddenly gone.
“That wasn’t so bad, I expected much worse.”
“I said it would hurt a bit. It’s not my fault that is what elves say when it’s going to hurt like hell. If it was going to hurt like hell I would have said so,” He nodded his head.
“Thank you. It feels better. I can’t see it, what did the potion do.”
“It burnt off your lower leg.” Her mouth dropped open. “I plan on using it as a sacrifice to Yercar.”
“No, seriously, it is not exactly the time for jokes?” She kicked at him with both her feet. Then suddenly stopped as a lance of pain shot from the wound.
“Got you to smile, didn’t I.”
“Yes I suppose you did.”
Kasei leaned forward and started to inspect her forehead.
“What are you doing? My head is fine.”
“Your right. Do you wish to be Absolved,” He suddenly whispered?
She sat stunned for a moment. “If I must die today then yes. But it is not what I want,” she whispered
“Your leg is still injured, the potion only destroyed the infection. Can you make it to the horses.”
“Yes, if my hands are free.”
“Good, there are two saddled horses. Once I cut your hands free get to one and head into the woods. I will stall them and catch up once you have a head start.”
“Right, sounds like a plan.” She watched as he slowly pulled a long dagger from his waist.
“Why are you doing this? How can you do this? Doesn’t the Scout Oath prevent you from helping me?”
The knife neatly cut through the ropes binding her wrists. “I was Death bonded to your brother. I will explain the rest later.” He stood and walked past the guards, stopping ten feet from them, then turned around. “It’s a pity that she’s going to die so terribly,” he said to the guards.
“I agree,” one responded, “but she requested it herself.”
Sylvenna slowly rose, being careful not to make a sound. She slowly crept under the gallows and towards the horses. The horses were in plain view of the guards, but the closer she could get to the horses before being caught the better Kasei would fair. She could, of course, just burn them to a cinder, but it had been so long since she had touched the weaves she might not do it right. Besides, killing Defenders was frowned upon. So, she was going to sneak instead.
“Defenders, the prisoner is escaping,” Jussan’s voice wrung out! Sylvenna looked towards the voice and saw the Lord Defender emerging from the largest of the tents. He had a stack of books under each arm that he was trying to carefully place on the ground.
Sylvenna hobbled as fast as she could towards the horses, bolts of pain slicing through her leg. There was only one small tent between her and the horses. Its flaps were closed but someone was moving around inside. The sounds of sword play started behind her, no doubt Kasei trying to buy her some time. It was almost pointless to try, he was fighting two Defenders, some of the best warriors in the world. Then again he was a Scout. Sylvenna’s thoughts refocused on the matter at hand as the tent flap opened and a half armored Defender emerged from the opening carrying a longbow.
“Stop where you are,” he yelled as he placed an arrow on the bows silver string.
She continued to run, but as she did so she reached for the long unused threads. The world dimmed as the threads became visible. It had been nearly two centuries since she last touched the threads power. She didn’t have time to practice right now though. She twisted the threads to form a barricade in front of her as she ran. The effect she received wasn’t quite what she had in mind.
She created a shield of air all right, but it was moving much, much faster then she was. She stumbled and fell, tumbling, as the shield flew away from her at a tremendous speed, heading straight for the Defender. It left a path of torn ground and shredded flowers as it tore through the garden. Hedgerows were split in half, sending green branches in every direction. The shield hit a small stone fountain of several fairies playing around a tree, the delicately carved fairies shattered to pieces as the wall of air smashed through, and around the fountain. All that remained was a battered stone tree. The wall of air continued straight at the Defender. The Defender loosed his arrow straight at Sylvenna’s tumbling form, then jumped to the side out of the way of the spell. The arrow made it twenty feet before it was splintered into a thousand pieces by the wall. The wall tore through the Defender’s tent like it wasn’t there, pieces flying in every direction. The wall continued to tear through the garden and towards the forest.
Sylvenna rose and continued to limb towards the horses, which were now only ten yards away. She looked to the Defender that had tumbled out of the way of her errant spell. He had risen and was pulling his sword as he headed towards her, his bow lay broken on the ground behind him. Behind her she could still hear swords clang against each other, but the clanging strikes were less common. In her experience that meant less combatants. Kasei must have eliminated one. She heard the Lord Defenders voice asking for a bow.
She arrived at the horse just moments before the Defender, who had only had time to put on his leg plates. She reached for the saddle horn and started to pull herself up onto the horse. As she rose above the horse’s back she had just enough time to duck before the Defenders sword swing would have cut her head off. The horse reared at the unexpected attack, throwing Sylvenna to the ground. The Defender hurried around the rearing horse as Sylvenna scrambled to her feet. She managed to get up and balance on her good leg before the Defender got around the still spooked horse.
“My Lady, I have you cornered. Surrender please. You cannot possibly escape with your leg injured.” He stood before her, sword ready, tensed to attack if necessary.
“Sorry, not to…,” the Defender attacked the moment it was clear she had no intention of giving up. Sylvenna ducked under his swing and lashed out at his legs with a kick. She realized that this was a mistake as her already injured leg collided with his metal armor. She screamed as the Defender fell to the ground. She rolled over, the pain still intense, but the familiar black dots never appeared.
She pushed herself up as the Defender, who had already risen swung his sword for her chest. She rolled to the right, under another horse and rolled smoothly to her feet, the once familiar moves returned to her. She turned to face the Defender. The world quickly dimmed as she reaching for the weaves. She had just started pulling threads when her concentration was suddenly broken by an arrow hitting the horse she was standing next to.
The surprise combined with the sudden rearing of the horse caused her to lose the threads she had just started weaving. She instinctively dropped to the ground in the fetal position as the threads, suddenly freed from the unnatural pull, lashed back to their natural location. She felt the splatter of warm blood on her face as the horse in front of her slid apart along the perfect slices created by the threads. She opened her eyes and quickly looked around. The horse lay dead in three pieces, the Defender lay on the ground holding his arm, his hand still twitching where it lay in the mud. She turned to face the source of the arrow.
The Lord Defender still stood next to his tent nocking another arrow. She watched as he took aim at Kasei, who had just incapacitated the other guard. Kasei screamed at Sylvenna, and pointed at her. The Lord Defender let loose the arrow. Kasei ducked and the arrow continued straight into a post supporting the gallows.
Sylvenna heard a sound behind her as she saw Kasei rise, a throwing dagger flying from his hand straight towards the Lord Defender. She turned around just in time to get hit in the head by a log, knocking her to the ground. The pain from the impact washed over her head like hot oil. A Defender stood over her, a bucket of water in one hand, and a log in the other. He had a towel over one shoulder and his hair was wet.
He looked down at her, realizing she was still conscious and raised the makeshift log for another swing. She kicked straight up into his groin, this time remembering to use her good leg. The Defender doubled over in pain. She kicked him in the head, knocking him backward to the horse trampled ground. She rose as quickly as she could and looked to Kasei.
He was fighting the Lord Defender. She could see that Kasei was performing a fighting withdrawal towards the forest. The Lord Defender with only one sword and a dagger was pushing the Trith back. Kasei could barely stay alive using a shield he had gotten from somewhere, wielded by one of his shoulder tails, and two swords. She looked at the one remaining saddled horse, then back to Kasei.
Stick with the plan, Kasei knew what he was doing when he instructed her to flee without him. Grabbing the horse’s reins from the post she reached up and grabbed the saddle’s horn and pulled herself up, tossing her throbbing injured leg over the horse. She spurred the horse with one leg and rode as quickly as she could into the forest.
It’s amazing how your life travels in circles. Places you thought you would never see again, situations thought long resolved, people you thought would never be seen again. Sylvenna thought on the irony of the situation. Almost four hundred years ago banished by a Silverglade, forced to travel the world away from the beautiful Elven culture. Sent out to live with humans, centaurs, dwarfs, where she would be trapped living a miserable life of squalor. Doomed to walk down a dark path, to fall to the lowest pits that any society has to offer. But also to fall in love, to travel the world and see it’s greatest sites, to play a role in world shaping events.
She wasn’t actually banished this time, so she didn’t really have to leave the Elven lands. She wasn’t going to try to fool herself though, the moment she walked into any village, town, or city the message arrows would fly. There would soon be a bounty for her capture. The Priest council may not place one on her head, however. The gods did tell her to escape. Hopefully they will tell the High Priests, but when it comes to the gods who knows what they are going to do.
Sadly, this wasn’t her first time fleeing from a bad situation. The first thing to do is to get equipment and supplies. There are only two sources of supplies within a day’s travel. The town of Willowbrush was only two hours ride, four hours actually, since she can’t risk taking the trail. The problem was; the moment she entered town someone would recognize her, and there might even be Defenders in Willowbrush. The second source of supplies is her manor. She knew where everything was stored and if the servants caught her they probably wouldn’t turn her over to the new guards. Besides, the manor was where her old gear was stored. The manor was the better choice.
The second part of a good escape plan was figuring out where to go. She could assume anything local would only be safe for a short time. She could hide in a local village, she had treated them well during her time as their Duchess. Rewards had a tendency to loosen tongues though, and it would take only one loose tongue. Perhaps one of the allied houses would hide her, but then what? Wait until a servant decided to collect the reward? Or until the house decided to turn her over to the King as a gift to ease his anger at their support of the Lightfeathers? That left hiding in the wilderness. Certainly doable, but then what? Live as a hermit until the king dies and hope the new king is friendlier? That only left the Dwarves. She would have to eat crow, make apologizes for her absence, and maybe even loose her title, but they would have to welcome her. Deeprock was the closest fortress. If she headed that way she could be there in a week.
Another problem was the thirty Defenders that were at her manor until she woke up this morning. The disappearance of most of the Defenders still baffled her. They may have been sent on some urgent mission, or just told to go home. If it was the former they could return at any time. If the latter they would be quickly available to look for her. They may already be on her trail. Either way she had to stick to her quickly formed plan: get supplies and head for Deeprock.
Traveling through the forest, off a trail, was always rough. She hated it when she was adventuring, she hated it when she hunted, and she hated it now. She hated the constant bushes that scratched you, the tree limbs that tried to dismount you, and the bugs that tried to eat you. The bugs were especially bad because of the blood on her leg and head. Her head still throbbed, but her vision had finally cleared up. Her leg was starting to go numb below the bandage that Kasei had applied. The wound was probably swelling, causing the bandage to act as a tourniquet. It was late afternoon, and the lake was only another half mile away. Once near it’s shore she would take care of her leg and head.
Near sunset Sylvenna arrived at the lakes edge. She tied her horse to a small tree and took off his bit and bridle, letting him graze on the lush grasses and drink from the small puddles of water that formed a short distance from the lake’s shore. She carefully looked around to make sure this was where she wanted to stop. She had picked a small inlet in the lakes east shore. She was only about a half mile south of the manor’s cliffs, but completely concealed by the trees that surrounded the inlet.
She slowly walked towards the lake’s edge. The lake was crystal clear with only the faintest hint of blue at the greater depths. She carefully took off the remainder of her tattered dress and set it down on a large rock leaving her covered only in her dirty and torn silk slip. Watching her step she waded out into the lake and sat down on a rock that just barely broke the water’s surface. She sat a moment letting the cool water slowly flow around her legs.
She reached down, pulled up her slip and untied the bandage. She got her first look at the wound through her leg. The arrow had entered through the rear of her thigh and exited through the front of her thigh. The combination of the arrows incorrect removal and the grinding under foot that it had received, both at Cishess’s hands, had torn the wound way beyond what would be expected. An area the size of a man’s hand was torn and red. It had stopped bleeding but would require careful care for it to heal properly. Infection was also a potential problem.
Sylvenna tore a piece off the bottom of her slip and dipped it in the water. She then proceeded to gingerly wipe the caked blood off her leg. She grimaced in pain as she gently washed the wound itself. She looked down at the now clean wound, it looked a little better but it had started to bleed slightly in a half dozen spots. She rose and carefully hobbled back to the shore where her dress lay. She grabbed her dress and held it up in front of her. The once beautiful dress was torn, covered in mud, and blood stained. She limped back to the rock and tossed the dress in a heap onto it.
She dunked the dress under the water and shook it back and forth, trying to get most of the mud off. She held it up in front of her to inspect the dress. Unhappy with the results she resubmerged it and continued washing. A short time later she pulled it back out of the water and inspected it, the dress was still stained with blood but all of the mud was gone. She tossed the dress on the rock and stood up.
She fought back a shiver as the cool air rose goose bumps on her wet skin. Grabbing the bottom hem of the dress she easily tore off a strip of cloth. She carefully tied the cloth around her leg to protect the wound. She limped out of the water and hung her dress from a tree, taking care that it wasn’t visible from the lake. Her horse was quietly grazing on the tall grasses near the tree he was tied to. She set about collecting medium length sticks.
“You know, I would advise against a fire,” a voice said from above her.
Sylvenna jumped and quickly looked above her, wielding a piece of wood as though it were a sword. Kasei hung from a branch by one tail about twenty feet above her. “May your mothers milk sour, Gods, you scared me Kasei.”
“If you had been paying attention instead of relaxing in the lake you would have seen me coming.”
“I needed to wash my injuries.”
“Yeah, but you still need to be careful while doing it.”
“Don’t you have something to do, like watch for trackers or something?”
“No, they’re off tearing apart Willowbrook. Setting the false trail to Willowbrook is part of the reason I took so long to catch up.”
“I hate to ask, but what is the other reason?”
“Someone cut my horse into three pieces,” he looked straight into Sylvenna’s eyes. “Your brother never told me you were a sorceress.”
“Elementalist actually. Bet he never mentioned that he was a Warlock, huh.”
Kasei hung perfectly still, “no, he never mentioned it.”
“Now that that is done, you mind helping me collect wood.”
“I will if you want me to, but I still recommend against a fire this close to the manor.”
“It’s for a raft, not a fire.”
He nodded, “good plan, we’ll just float across the lake to the mouth of the Kalindor. Then float down that into human lands. I like it, especially since we are both injured.”
“Actually I plan on heading to Deeprock, I have friends their.”
“Then what is the raft for.”
“I need it to carry supplies from the manor.”
“Excuse me,” Kasei’s eyes opened wide, a look of surprise on his face.
“I have equipment in the manor that I can not let Cishess find. Also I plan on taking the rest of the supplies I will need from the manor’s stores.”
“I don’t think this is a good idea.”
“I don’t care what you think,” Sylvenna said.
“Fine, get yourself killed.” Kasei pulled himself higher into the tree.
“Kasei, I have no intention of getting hurt.” She looked up into the tree.
Kasei spoke down to her, “If you go near that manor and I can’t guarantee your safety.” Sylvenna looked at Kasei. If we head to Deeprock we can get food and supplies on the way. No need to risk your life killing Cishess.”
“What? That is not my intention. Although, since I will be in the manor anyway.”
“Don’t give me that. Your intention was to kill Cishess first, then get what supplies you could grab during some sort of harrowing escape that involves stupid risks.” Kasei lowered himself from tree branch to tree branch.
“I have no such intention.”
Kasei raised an eyebrow. “Oh, that’s how your brother would have done it. And I don’t see a whole lot of difference between you two.”
Sylvenna turned to look at Kasei, “so what, what if I did decide to kill Cishess while I’m there. He deserves it. He is a vile little pathetic man. His death would make the world a much better place.” She dropped the wood she had been gathering and walked towards a mass of vines growing up the side of a tree.
“What’s up between you two. I can understand why you want to hurt him, after the way he treated you. But he seemed to arrive at the manor with a grudge.” Kasei dropped to the ground near the pile of wood.
“I killed his son.” She started ripping vines off the tree.
“Didn’t Halimear die at Karsalar Pass?”
“Yes.” Sylvenna limped back to the pile of wood and dropped the vines next to it.
Kasei looked at Sylvenna as she carefully sat down. She pushed some of the wood out of her way as she extended her injured leg in front of her. Kasei slowly mulled over the information he had just received. “According to your brother you two were still banished at that time, so you weren’t fighting for the Talimars or the Silverglades.” He paused a moment to think about the ridiculous statement he was about to say. “Then you were fighting for the Dwarves?”
“I have a question for you. You have said you were a Trith Scout. Isn’t the role of the Scout to only observe, to never interfere?”
“That’s what the Gods have decreed.”
“Then how were you able to save me? Shouldn’t your own oath prevent you from interfering, even if you wanted to?”
“Yes, except that I swore a Death Oath to Lord Lightfeather. A death oath takes precedent over any other oath taken.”
“Kerwel never mentioned that to me.”
“He wasn’t very happy about what I did, he forbade it, and I swore the oath anyway.”
“But you said my brother is…” Sylvenna closed her eyes and paused a moment to allow the sorrow to pass. “If that is true, aren’t you released from the oath? Shouldn’t you be on your way back to become a Scout again?”
“I still have to perform his last request.”
“Wha… what was that?” She asked, fearing the answer.
“To keep you safe. To protect you until one of us dies.”
She choked back sobs as tears flowed down her cheeks.
“So, what do you think?" Sylvenna stood over the raft that she had been working on.
“It looks like a basket with drift wood for a lid.”
“Then it’s perfect.”
“You do realize that neither of us could possibly fit in that basket, even if it could support us.”
“I could, but that’s not what’s it for. Once I have my stuff, it will be too heavy to swim in. We will put our equipment in the basket and just push it as we swim.”
“So the lid is actually camouflage, good idea.”
Kasei put his backpack, armor, and swords into the basket. “So what is so important that you are going to risk reentering the manor?”
“Besides food, my armor, and bow are hidden in the catacombs under the manor.” Sylvenna grabbed one side of the basket and dragged it to the lakes edge.
“Catacombs huh, is it dangerous?” He grabbed the other side of the basket and helped drag it to the lake.
“Only if you go to deep. But that won’t be a problem, my stuff is hidden on the highest level and is easy to get to.” She removed her shoes and tossed them in the basket.
“That’s good.” Kasei shuddered slightly as he entered the cold water.
“It also means that Cishess could easily find it. The armor could make him even more dangerous then he already is. There is also my bow. He may not be able to use my bow, but I hope to be able to someday” She shuddered as she stepped into the icy lake.
“Why would the armor make him dangerous?” Kasei waded in deeper. A small gasp escaped his lips as the wound on his lower tail entered the frigid water.
“The armor is enchanted with very powerful magic. Both offensive and defensive.” She shuddered as she stepped in deeper dragging the basket behind her.
Kasei dunked his head under the water. He pushed his hair out of his eyes as he broke the surface. “This water is cold.”
“It’s melt water from the Pain Spires.” Now that the sun had set the water was much colder.
“Why can’t he use the bow?” Kasei wait patiently for Sylvenna.
“Magic on the bow makes the draw to powerful for anyone to pull.” Only her head was above water now.
“That’s kind of worthless.”
“There is a pair of magic gauntlets that when worn give you the strength needed to draw the bow.” She pulled her dress off and tossed it into the basket. “My brother had them last, I’m hoping that the Silverglades army didn’t strip his body.”
Kasei looked at her, then at the basket. “They did strip his body,” Kasei swam towards the basket. “But, that reminds me,” He opened the basket and reached in for his backpack. “Hey the inside is dry, but this thing has more holes then me and you put together.”
Kasei looked at Sylvenna for a moment then reached into his backpack and pulled out a pair of large silver gauntlets. “Lord Lightfeather wanted me to give these to you.”
Sylvenna grabbed the gauntlets. “They look right, but this can’t be them. I placed additional magic on the gauntlets.” She slid one gauntlet on. As she did so the gauntlet slowly shrunk to fit her hand. She stared at the gauntlet. “This is them, alright.” She slid the gauntlet off. She placed the two mismatched gauntlets into the basket. “Thank you Kasei.”
Kasei nodded, “shall we.” He pointed out to the main part of the lake. Then watched as she disappeared under water.
She surfaced with a pair of rocks. She placed the rocks into the basket until only the lid was above water. “Now we’re ready.” She started swimming out of the inlet and into the main part of the lake.
They took turns pushing the basket as they swam. The lake’s water got colder as they neared the manor. Sylvenna thanked the gods that the Pain Spires hid both moons. As they neared the cliff that the manor was built atop they saw that some sort of celebration was taking place.
“Looks like Cishess is celebrating.” Kasei said as they neared the dock.
“Yes, and it also looks like he is expecting company. Look at all the guards.”
Kasei scanned the stairs that meandered up the cliff from the docks. He saw a dozen guards. They wore white tunics over black armor. They were all close enough to be able to see each other, and all had bows in addition to swords and shields. “Those are Silverglade’s men,” he whispered.
Sylvenna’s heart soared, that meant that the new King was here to be killed.
“They’re not his royal guard though, they are probably under Cishess control.” Her hopes crumbled.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, Geldon doesn’t go anywhere without his personal guard. They would be all over the place.”
“Paranoid, is he?”
“Yes, Lord Lightfeather’s work. Geldon’s personal guard is five thousand men.”
“Good Gods, that’s a lot of men.”
“Shh.” He pointed to a nearby guard. “Keep it down, or I’ll be released form my oath quicker then either of us would like.”
Sylvenna scanned the cliff. “Well the back door isn’t an option anymore. Guess we use the basement entrance.” Sylvenna pushed the basket under the dock and tied it to a pylon. She reached into the basket and pulled out the gauntlets and her dress. She pulled the gauntlets onto her hands and slung the dress over her shoulder.
Kasei pulled out his swords, shield, and started to pull out his armor.
“The armor will have to stay. The entrance is under water.” Kasei glared at Sylvenna then gently put the armor back into the basket. He watched Sylvenna disappear underwater then dove down as well.
She started kicking hard towards the barred entrance to the catacombs. She quickly stopped as lances of pain shot through her injured leg. Sylvenna willed the gauntlets to form webbing between the fingers. She then swam as hard as she could, using only her arms. She was amazed at how fast she was going. It had been a long time since she had worn the gauntlets.
She arrived at the bars much quicker then she had expected. She grabbed a bar in each hand and pull. She was surprised to find the bars not only bending easily but one bar actually broke. Once the way was open she swam in. She swam through the lightless cave. Only her elven eyes allowed her to see at all. As she exited the cave into a lake it suddenly occurred to her that Trith didn’t have darksight like elves. She headed for the surface. She broke the surface of the water and took a deep breath. She coughed as her lungs filled with the old musty air.
Sylvenna quickly grabbed the threads of magic and created a small ball of fire above the lake. She watched as the chamber she was in lit up. The clear water lit up as well, she saw Kasei’s form exit the underwater entrance and quickly head for the surface. He broke the surface and gasped for air. She swam over to him and grabbed him from behind. She slowly pulled him to the edge of the underwater pond.
Kasei caught his breath much faster then she had. He appeared to be unaffected by the moldy air. By the time he was pulling himself up onto the stone floor of the catacombs he was completely recovered. Sylvenna climbed out of the water and pulled on her abused dress. She pondered how much longer the dress would last.
Sylvenna looked around the room. It had two exits, both in the same wall, and both heading away from the cliff. It looked much the same as the one other time she was here. The entire catacombs were carved out of the granite cliff. Every wall of every room and hallway had burial niches carved. Each Niche was large enough for a body. These niches were stacked three high and each stack was separated by about a pace. Every niche had a body in it. The bodies appeared to be elven, which contradicted the belief that the site was dwarven made.
Kasei looked around assessing the situation while Sylvenna shrunk the ball of fire down to fist size and anchored it just above her left hand. “I expected there to be spider webs, or rats. Even bats maybe. But this place is clean, for catacombs anyway.”
“There might have been once, long ago. But all the flesh on all of the bodies has decayed completely. I will bet that we are the only sources of flesh down here. Without flesh, all the bugs and rats had to leave or starve to death.”
“Um, you mentioned that the catacombs were only dangerous if you went to deep. I suppose we are too deep, aren’t we.”
“You did travel with my brother, didn’t you.” She said flatly.
“Yes, and…” Kasei stopped talking as he heard a noise. “Something’s coming.”
“Come on, this way.” She headed for one of the hallways.
“But that is the way the it’s coming from.”
“It’s is also the way we have to go.” Kasei grabbed a sword in each hand and his shield with his one uninjured tail.
“Let me go first.” Kasei walked past Sylvenna and looked down the hallway. He could see a form walking towards him. “Something’s coming.”
“Yes, you said that. Now let’s go kill it. Or rather destroy it.”
Kasei slowly walked forward until he could clearly see his opponent. “It’s a walking skeleton carrying a sword.”
“Attack the head. It’s the best way to destroy it.”
Kasei quickly moved forward and swung at its head. It nimbly ducked and swung the sword at Kasei’s exposed ribs. Kasei was barely able to block the attack and stumbled backwards from the impact on his shield. The skeleton pressed the attack with a flurry of well-placed swings. Kasei staggered back under the assault.
A flash of fire lashed past Kasei’s head and the left side of the skeleton’s head disappeared. The skeleton fell apart at every joint and clattered to the ground in a pile of broken bones.
Kasei regained his balance. “What was that?”
“A walking skeleton.” Sylvenna pointed for him to continue down the hallway.
“I’ve fought skeletons before. They are slow and clumsy. That thing was a better fighter then me.”
“Whoever created the undead down here was very powerful. As far as I can tell they are as good as they were when they were alive.” She reached down and grabbed the skeleton’s sword.
Kasei stopped, “don’t touch it, it could be cursed.”
She pointed down the hallway, “Keep walking. Did that skeleton fight like it was cursed?"
“It’s a skeleton, I don’t think that it works that way.”
“Well I know it does. The idea that a creature wouldn’t be affected by the curse of an item is silly.” She hoped.
“But it was undead, evil”
“Not all undead are evil. In fact most undead aren’t evil.”
“Then all those reports of undead massacres are?”
“Some are controlled by their creator, others are just reacting to the hatred that they receive from mortals.”
“What?” He stopped at a four-way intersection.
“Let’s say you are a newly formed free minded skeleton. Turn left.”
“Okay.” He turned the corner and scanned the hall for movement. Then started walking.
“Stop a moment.” She turned and faced the intersection.
“You hear something?”
“No, just want to place a ward for anyone coming up behind us.” Her eyes glazed over as she reached out and grabbed threads of fire and earth. She slowly wove the threads of fire and earth together into a nasty surprise.
Kasei looked at the runes floating in mid air as they slowly faded. “Where’d they go?”
“I hid them, they are there. Only I can see them.”
Kasei nodded and continued walking.
“You enter town to help defend it against the brigands that are attacking it.”
“What do you think the towns reaction is going to be?”
“They try to kill me. The brigands may even help them.”
“Most undead have been undead for a while. How long could you handle it before becoming bitter and striking back.”
“I see your point. Where are we going any way?”
“To the stairs. They lead to all of the levels above and below us.”
Suddenly the sound of a large explosion echoed down the hall. It was quickly followed by a wave of heat.
“Damn, I didn’t mean to make it that powerful.” She looked at Kasei. “I’m st…” She caught herself before she said anything else. A second explosion echoed towards them, followed by a wave of heat. “Well, there was more then one of them, or one really powerful, probably upset, …”
A third explosion and heat wave came down the hallway towards them. “I suggest we go, I only set it up for four uses.”
“Don’t have to tell me twice.” Kasei started walking quickly down the hallway. Sylvenna stayed close behind him. She heard a fourth explosion as they past another intersection.
“Well, here they come.” Kasei said.
“We have a good head start, it will take a while for them to catch us. We should be at the stairs by then.”
“No, I mean here they come.” He pointed in the direction he was walking.
Sylvenna turned and looked down the hallway in front of them. She saw several skeletons, two in full armor, walking towards them. She turned to check a noise behind her and saw four more skeletal warriors turn the corner they had just past.
“Damn, we have more back here.”
“Do you have a plan?”
“Push forward for the stairs, and stay together.” She ducked and spun under a sword swing and lashed out with a low kick at the skeletons feet. She grunted at the impact of her wounded leg against the armored leg of the skeleton. As she rolled towards Kasei she saw the skeleton fall to the ground. She glanced at Kasei and saw that he was slowly pushing forward. If she remembered right, the stairs shouldn’t be much further.
She turned back to face her attackers in time to see one take a downward swing for her head. She pivoted, dodging the blade and striking for his head with the sword. The skeleton’s skull disintegrated as the blow struck.
As it’s body crumbled she grabbed a hold of the earth threads in the walls. She quickly yanked the threads and watched as rock bars suddenly sprung from the walls and blocked the hallway. The bars slammed against the far wall, cracking it in several spots.
She turned and faced Kasei. He had several piles of bones scattered around his feet. His shield was torn and battered; he was trying to fight two skeletons. She grabbed air and quickly thrust it at the skeletons. All four skeletons flew down the hallway twenty feet. One disintegrated as it landed headfirst.
“You’re an Elementalist, why don’t you throw fire balls at them or something.” He turned started walking quickly down the hall towards the fallen skeletons.
“Stop, don’t get any closer.” She pulled the threads of earth in the floor open and watched as the ground under the rising skeletons opened and they all fell through. Sylvenna hobbled up to Kasei. “Hurry, it shouldn’t be much further.”
They hopped over the newly formed hole in the floor. As Sylvenna did, she saw that the hallway below them was full of water. She saw the skeletons starting to climb up each other’s backs to reach the hole. She started to seal the hole but suddenly heard one of the stone bars that blocked the hallway behind her break.
Sylvenna turned around to see the hallway on the other side of the bars full of skeletons. Near the back she could barely make out the top of a gold and green staff. The sight of the staff nearly made her panic. She hobbled as quickly as possible after Kasei.
As she heard the second bar break they arrived at the stairs. They quickly entered the stair well. The stairs lead both up and down. The stairs leading down only descended three steps before they disappeared under water.
“Up, right?” Kasei sounded as though he already knew the answer, and that it wasn’t the one he wanted to hear.
Kasei sighed in relief, thank gods."
Sylvenna reached for the threads in the walls drawing the entrance to the stairwell closed.
“Will that stop them?”
“No, it’s only an inch thick. Once they realize that they should be through pretty fast.” She started limping up the steps. Kasei took up a defensive position behind her. As they reached the first landing she heard the wall start to crumble.
“What’s to keep them from following us all the way to the top and into the manor.”
“There is an ancient enchantment on the catacombs that allows only the living to leave.” At least that’s what the books say. And to be honest, she never had a skeleton problem in the manor, so it was probably true.
As they reached the second landing the sounds of the first skeleton entering the stairwell drifted up. “When I am done we are going to have to move very quickly but I will be weak, so you will need to help me.” Sylvenna stopped, her eyes glazed over, and she started to frantically grab threads.
Sylvenna’s hands stopped moving and she nearly collapsed. Kasei quickly grabbed her and slung one of her arms over his neck. Remembering her advice he quickly walk-dragged her up the stairs. As they arrived on the third landing Sylvenna was able to help in the walking process. She clearly heard the sound of skeletons running up the steps.
“Quicker, we have to get another flight up.” She put all of her effort into limping up the stairs. As they arrived on the fourth and highest landing the ground rocked with an explosion. She half pushed Kasei, half fell into the hallway adjacent to the landing. As she hit the ground a wall of force and debris hit them, sending them tumbling further down the hallway.
When she had finally caught her breath she looked around her. She lay on the floor of a medium sized room. The standard catacomb décor was still evident, but the air was a little fresher. She stood up and looked for Kasei. He walking towards her from the hallway she must have tumbled out of.
“You all right,” he asked as he entered the room?
“Yes, how about you?”
“I’ll live. What did you do?”
“Back there?” She pointed to the stairs.
“Of course back there, where else.”
“I destroyed the stairs. It will take them a long time to get to us now, assuming anything lived.”
“Oh, something lived, I could hear it yelling. Or was it howling.”
Sylvenna couldn’t suppress a shiver. “We should get going. The stuff is just around the corner.”
Kasei lead the way. They walked down a long hall and turned right at a four-way intersection. They finally entered a large room with several large sarcoughigus.
“This is it.” Sylvenna walked across the room to one of the intricately carved sarcoughigus. She started to push the stone lid open, when a howl emitted from below its lid. “Oops, wrong one.” She quickly limped around the sarcoughigus and pushed the lid closed.
“Sorry about that.” She walked over to another sarcoughigus and tapped on the lid. She listened for a moment and then pushed the lid open. Once the lid was open two feet she reached in and pulled out a large, worn bag. She reached back in and pulled out a long bundle of old dirty rags. She placed the bag and bundle of rags down and closed the lid on the sarcoughigus.
Sylvenna reached into the bag and pulled out a small wood box. She placed the box on the sarcoughigus. Next she pulled out a small bag. She placed it next to the wood box; the sound of rattling coins came from the bag as she did so. Next she reached into the bag and pulled out suit of elven chain armor.
The suit was made by some of the finest elven smiths for a long dead hero. When he had given it to her the metal plates that know covered the shoulders, chest, elbows, knees, and thighs hadn’t been attached yet. She had slowly added those pieces while she had been in exile. It was still technically a work in progress, but the new work was all with magic. She reached out to the hundreds of runes that she had placed on the suit only to find nothing. The runes weren’t there.
Sylvenna pondered this for a moment. Perhaps it had something to do with the curse she had only recently had lifted. She let her magic sense flow over the armor. She could feel the residue of magic, but nothing more. It appeared that the runes had faded while she had been cursed. That would also explain the gloves. That was a lot of work, decades in fact. Damn! The fact that the armor hadn’t rusted as the runes faded spoke volumes about the craftsman’s skill and quality of the materials.
Sylvenna reached into the bag and pulled out a chain coif. She pulled the coif over her head. She closed a faceplate that was hinged on a small metal band that circled her head like a crown. She grabbed the wood box and turned it to face away from her. She held her breath and looked away as she opened the box.
Nothing happened. She turned the box around and looked inside. She lifted her faceplate and revealed a smile. She pulled off the coif and reached into the box and pulled out two small glass flasks that were filled with a red liquid. She walked over and handed one to Kasei. “Drink up, it’s good for you.”
Kasei took the flask and looked at it. “It has the skull and crossbones drawn on the cork.”
She pulled the cork from her flask. “Yeah, I ran out of corks when I was bottling these, so I used ones from something else. Cheers.” She drained the flask in one swallow. “Now this is going to hurt like hell.”
Sylvenna quickly laid down and placed the wood handle of the sword she had taken from the skeleton between her teeth. No sooner then her teeth had closed down on the wood the potion took affect. The flesh of her leg wound felt like someone was pulling it together and twisting it into a knot. She always thought that it felt as though someone was using cross-stitch needles to stitch her flesh together. She wished she would just pass out from the pain, but that relief never came.
She heard Kasei scream, briefly before passing out, as he drank his healing potion.
Sylvenna bent down next to Kasei’s unconscious body and removed one of her gloves. She gently slapped his face.
“Kasei, wake up, we have to go.” She looked down the passageway they had come through and thought she saw movement. She didn’t know of any other staircases, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t any. These catacombs are very extensive and she’d only explored a tiny fraction of them.
“Kasei, wake up.” She knew she saw movement that time. She pulled on her glove and grabbed Kasei’s arm. She bent over and hoisted him over her shoulder. She struggled to rise and staggered several steps before she was upright. She wished the gloves increased her entire body’s strength, not just her arms. She staggered down a hallway towards the entrance to the manor. After traveling only thirty feet down the hall she heard the noises of clanking armor behind her.
“Damn it! Come on Kasei, wake up!” She considered stopping and casting some sort of delaying spell, but she wasn’t sure she had enough energy to do anything useful. That was the one weakness of mages. It took your own natural magic energy to start casting, and any spells you cast sucked some of that from you. Once your own natural magic was exhausted you were out of luck. She debated using some of her body’s life force to get a spell started, but that was a greater risk then she was willing to take. If she over did it she might end up killing herself for the catacombs guardians.
Sylvenna heard a sword whoosh through the air right behind her. She jumped forward into a diving roll. Kasei’s body fell from her shoulder as she rolled. As she rolled to her feet she spun around and lashed out with her sword. The swing narrowly missed the skeletons out stretched sword arm and smashed through his skull. She staggered into the wall next to her as the skeleton crumbled to the ground. She quickly grabbed Kasei’s stirring body and dragged him down the hall and around a corner.
Sylvenna was so intent on the dual task of dragging Kasei and watching the approaching skeletons that she actually dragged Kasei passed the entrance to the manor. Realizing her mistake she quickly ran to the other end of Kasei and grabbed his leg. She dragged him by the legs into the stairwell that lead up to the manor just before the skeletons arrived at the doorway.
She slumped onto the stairs, gasping for air. She looked at the skeletons on the other side of the doorframe and smiled weakly. “That’s twice bastards.” They pounded on the invisible wall that kept them from exiting the catacombs. Frustration evident, even without facial features, they stormed down the hall and into the darkness.
“Twice what?” Kasei grunted as he stood up.
“Twice that I escaped.”
“Are you injured?” Kasei asked, obviously concerned.
Sylvenna flexed her leg, “no, my leg feels perfect. And your tails?”
Kasei brought his tails around in front of him and examined them. “Perfect as well.”
After sitting a moment to catch their breathe they started up the stairs. The stairs lead to a secret door behind a wine rack in the cellar. After peering through a small hole in the wall Sylvenna slid the door open and walked in.
The basement was kept in good order, as she had instructed. No rats scurried in the corners and the only spider webs that existed were tiny webs in the corners behind barrels or crates. She had had enough filth and squalor when she lived amongst the humans. The first thing she did when her family had been given this manor was to hire a huge work force to clean and restore it. The work had taken nearly five years, but resulted in an immaculate home. She had insisted that it stay that way.
“You keep a clean household.”
“Yes I do,” Sylvenna responded quietly.
“So what’s the plan?”
“We grab all the food and supplies that we can carry and make a run for it.”
“Sounds simple enough, but…”
“I got it figured out. Just trust me, and stay close.”
“I suddenly don’t like this plan.”
Sylvenna walked over to a barrel and used her sword to pry it open. She reached in and started transferring the small loaves of bread into the bag that her armor had been in. Kasei pried open another barrel and looked inside. He quickly put the lid back on and pried another barrel open. He started to fill a small pouch with dried meat.
“Kasei, put the food in this bag, it is water proof,” she whispered.
After they had loaded up as much food as they could carry Sylvenna slung the bag over her shoulder and walked up a set of stairs to a door.
“This leads into the kitchen, there should only be a handful of servants up at this time of night.” Sylvenna cracked the door open and looked inside. The kitchen was completely abandoned. She pushed the door the rest of the way open and walked in. She looked around; the complete lack of servants concerned her. There should be some; something was continually being served to someone all day and all night. The large number of guards she saw would require that an army of servants be busy cooking all the time.
Sylvenna used a hand signal that indicated that it was probably a trap. Kasei’s expression told her that Kerwel had taught him the hand language that they had created while adventuring. Kasei drew his swords and quietly walked into the kitchen. Sylvenna pulled her bow off her shoulder and held it in one hand.
They silently walked across the kitchen to a servants’ entrance and cracked the door open. Kasei peered down the hall and then opened the door slowly the rest of the way. The hall ran straight away from the kitchen towards the servants’ quarters. Kasei stepped into the hall and started walking towards the far end. Sylvenna stepped into the hallway ten feet behind him and gently placed her fingers over her bow’s taught string. They walked down the hall until Kasei could look into the servants’ hall.
Unless there was an ambush waiting there should be two rows of beds with servants happily sleeping. Kasei entered the room and waved for her to follow. As she walked down the hall and into the servants’ quarters she could faintly hear someone talking in the distance but couldn’t make out what they were saying.
The servants’ quarters were empty. The beds were all unused, although personal belongings were still present. She quickly rolled up several blankets and handed them to Kasei’s upper tails to carry. Kasei motioned towards a window and slowly walked over to it. Kasei looked through the window and waved her over.
Sylvenna walked over and looked out. “It appears they do have an ambush set up, but they think we are going to come out of the wood shed.” She whispered.
“Why would they think we would cone through the wood shed?” He sounded doubtful.
“Several of the servants children dug a tunnel from the woodshed to the hedge maze. They use it to sneak away and play while they are supposed to be working. They think the adults don’t know about it.”
“Alright, so what now.”
“Originally I planned on using the tunnel in the woodshed to leave but know we have to go with plan B.”
“What is plan B?”
“A harrowing escape involving a series of stupid risks.”
Sylvenna could see Kasei’s face turn red with anger. Sylvenna turned away before she lost control and let a smile touch her face.
Kasei walked back towards the kitchen. “Were do you think the servants are?”
“My guess is that they are being held somewhere so they can’t possibly help me should I decide to return.”
“Which you did.”
“Cishess must know me better than I thought.”
Kasei nodded as he entered the kitchen. “Yup.”
Sylvenna lead them through the house and into the sitting area that exited onto the balcony where this had all started just two days before. She stopped in her tracks as she turned the corner. Sitting quietly in her favorite chair reading a book was Cishess.
“Anything ye…,” Cishess looked up from his book and realized that he wasn’t talking to the Captain of the Guard.
Sylvenna drew her bow, an arrow of pure fire formed as she did so. Flickering shadows cast by the fire arrow played on the walls.
“So now you come for me. Are you going to kill me like you did Halimear? Strike me down while I am defenseless?”
Sylvenna had not breathed, she didn’t even see Cishess anymore. Instead she saw Halimear’s face.
“Come on, kill him and let’s go,” Kasei said urgently. He looked back into the hall on watch for guards.
Images of blood and insanity from an age ago played out before her eyes, Cishess was completely forgotten.
“Fine, I’ll do it.” Kasei lifted his sword and walked towards Cishess.
“I didn’t know,” Sylvenna murmured silently. She released the bowstring. The arrow of pure fire knocked the sword from Kasei’s hand as he was about to behead Cishess. The arrow burned through the chair and door behind him. Kasei’s melted sword splattered to the ground several feet away.
“I’m sorry,” she said silently to Cishess as he sat shocked. A tear rolled down her cheek. Kasei seemed even more shocked.
The door behind her suddenly opened. “What’s going on in…,” the Captain of the Guard stopped as he realized what was happening. “To Arms, to arms!” He yelled loudly as he rushed in, drawing his sword.
Sylvenna bolted towards the doors that lead to the terrace, Kasei followed closely behind. She slammed through the doors, knocking two white and black clad guards down as she ran on to the dark terrace. She ran full speed across the terrace and jumped over the railing. Just as she did she pushed off the railing with both feet, sending her well clear of the dock below.
This time the arrows missed and she crashed into the lake.
|09 Oct 2008 by carwin|