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Book Three Pt 1 - The Reckoning

Written by - Aethelwulf Page 21 Book 3

Alaric walked briskly back to the Citadel, and into his chamber. Throwing his pack onto a chair, he moved to place a few bits of kindling into the rooms small fire pit. As he lit the pile and slowly fanned the embers, images flashed in his mind, images triggered by something that Kaya had said; a name she had mentioned. Beridane.

Suddenly very tired, Alaric slumped into a chair next to his desk. He poured himself a bit of brandy as the fire flickered before him. Staring into the flames as they danced about, a memory long forgotten came slowly into view.

The boar could be heard crashing through the thick underbrush, not far ahead. The hounds braying took on a strident tone as the dogs sensed that their prey was near.

"Alaric! Take the left flank! I will take the right, and the mutts can take the middle! Lets try to back the beast up against those rocks over to the east!"

Pallanon rode his charger with grace and steel. A commanding presence always, on days like today his normally stern features were lit with joy, and his eyes flashed with laughter. Pallanon dearly loved to hunt.

"Come Alaric, to the chase!"

Alaric guided his steed down a slight slope, and plunged into the thicket to the left of where the boar could be heard thrashing about. Suddenly the creature burst from out under a hedge, and charged right at Alaric's horse. His battle trained mount wheeled about and kicked at the huge beast, just as its tusks grazed Alaric's lower right calf.

Alaric leapt from his saddle and drew his sword. The boar had recovered from its charge, and was about to to turn on Alaric when a loud cry came from behind the beast.

Pallanon had dismounted as well, and had moved up behind the pig. Leaping onto its back, he grabbed the creatures snout with his left hand, as his right flashed across the pigs neck. The sharp glint of his dagger was quickly followed by the crimson life blood of the boar.

Later that evening, as they sat around the campfire, full of roasted pig, they shared a jug a wine. Pallanon clapped his friend on the shoulder, and raiseing a toast, said, "Today, was a good day my friend. A great day!"

Pallanon, his friend, his King. Dead at the hands of a murderous assassin. Dead at the request of Beridane.

Suddenly he recalled the image of Kaya, stepping from out of her bath, her lithe form nicked with scars from old wounds, her muscles supple and sure as she moved. Kaya the warrior.

Yes, this journey with her was going to be an interesting one indeed.

Written by - Tempyst

The city was in ruins. If a building was not on fire, then it was battered and crumbled into rubble and dust. Bodies lay everywhere; most were soldiers, but othere were of innocent men, women and children. Kaya inhaled the scent of blood and fire and smiled. She knew it had gone well for the commander and that she would be pleased. Then she turned upon her heels quickly for a noise was heard from the rubble of one building off to her right. She walked over, unafraid of what she would find and kicked aside a few stones. There, admist the debris was the one they had been searching for. "OVER HERE!" she yelled, making sure her commander heard her call. Soon the sounds of footsteps could be heard behind her, but she stayed still, keeping a sharp eye over the man and his family. The eyes of those found were filled with fear and begged for mercy. But Kaya knew no mercy would be given by the commander.

"Thank you Kaya, you have done well, just like I knew you would." Kaya looked at the commander, the child standing out admist the destruction. Her frilly white dress was unsoiled, her deep, red hair so striking, looking a lot like the flames that devoured other parts of Westgale. "Now, Kaya," the commander slipped her tiny hand into Kaya's own, "please, continue and I will watch." Kaya nodded.

One by one she took the children, screaming from the man they had cornered and she killed them, in horrible, horrible ways. She could hear the childlike laughter of the commander, as she watched, giggling with glee as Kaya performed her duties. Then last, was he. As she moved forward to pull him from the rubble, she felt a tug on her pants. She turned to see the commander, bright eyed and smiling. "He is for me Kaya, after all, he killed my family, so I want to kill him myself." Kaya watched as the child devoured the man in front of her eyes. When the commander was done, her white dress was no longer pristine, but covered in gore. The child's eyes shone brightly as she reached for Kaya. "Now it is time for desert." the child commander grabbed Kaya, her mouth opening beyond anything normal, rows and rows of dagger like teeth waiting ...

Kaya sat up, body covered in sweat, panting hard. Then, as the first shock of the nightmare wore off, she layed back down and sobbed herself to sleep...hoping the nightmares were done for the night.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

While the carnage continued outside, life inside the city continued as normal.

A young woman in her late twenties sat in the darkness of the old keep's library. She was reading an ancient book on the formation of the first kingdoms of man. Another girl entered the library, clearly disturbing the reading woman: "Sister, you must come quickly! There's been fighting out in the wheat fields." "Yes, yes, Nayse I'll be along shortly," the woman responded offhandly.

"Lady Dolce, please come now. This will have serious repercussions for us all," a young guard standing at the library door said.

"You, too, huh Gustave," she said closing the book, "well, let's go then."

Owen went back to his harvesting as the other farmers went about the revelry that had come from their overwhelming the guards. He tried to ignore the searing pain in his right hand, but eventually he was forced to give in to it and sat down again, doubled over in pain.

"Are you alright Owen?" He looked up, but the speaker was silhouetted by the sun. It didn't matter, as he could recognize that voice anywhere.

"Nayse! Oh, um... I'm fine. You know me, just down here hiding from the fighting."

"Somehow I doubt that," she said offering him her hand to help him up. He didn't take it, but quickly stood up as the pain in his own hand faded. "I heard what happened from the others... sister knows, too."

Owen yawned again. "Well... let's go get... this over then."

Written by - Aethelwulf

Alaric loved the silent stillness of the pre-dawn morning. There was something about the sense of peace that permeated the land, as the night fogs blanket slowly melted into the dawns soft light. Moving quickly through the city, and with the silent padding of a practiced stealthier, he soon found himself at the black walnut door of the Druidic Temple.

Knocking softly, he waited quietly for a priest to come open the door. Around him the city was slowly coming to life, its sounds muted still as its people slowly shook off their slumber. Nodding slightly to the sleepy acolyte as he entered, Alaric started to cross the Temple's outer courtyard, when something to his left caught his eye.

There, to the side, in the grassy middle of a garden, was Kaya. Clothed in loose, white cotton, Kaya worked slowly through some manner of exercise, moving from one form to another with catlike grace. Her eyes were closed in tight concentration, as her hands and feet moved. Alaric had seen his servant Lao practice this very same art, and had seen its deadly use in more then one scrape.

Moving softly to a garden bench, Alaric smiled as he noticed a slight frown furrow Kaya's brow. Even tho he had been stealthy, she knew he was there. Alaric smiled even more.

As the morning sun slowly warmed the day, Kaya practiced. Small beads of sweat formed on her forehead as she worked, and the white cotton shirt that she wore was soon almost transparent. After a bit, she ended her practice. Her eyes still closed, she bowed deeply to the north, and then turned to each compass point and did the same. She ended with her back to Alaric, her face to the west.

Softly, almost in a whisper, she spoke. "So warrior, you have come."

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya awoke feeling the stiffness in her underused body. Time to wake up Mistress, you need to see Ithramir this day.

"Yes, yes I know, but it is early yet, I have time. I must get first get back into a routine to keep my body and mine honed and ready for our fight."

Do not be concerned of your dream Mistress, it was just that, only a dream.

Kaya turned toA'lanthear, then picked up the sword. "How did you? Nevermind, I am sure you know much more than you ever let on don't you? Well, my dreams are my business, when I wish to share them with you I will, okay?" Kaya set the sword back down and dressed in an outfit of soft white fabric, then picked up A'lanthear again and made her way to the grove, then began her excersises. Cuiv'fea'quenat* is what they were called and the sword singers of the desert practied them whenever they could. It was not practical on the battlefield, but here, in the peacefulness of the grove, it was a perfect time to get herself focused.

She did not know how long she had been there, when she felt the presence of another. He was quiet, very quiet and she was impressed. [iIf i had not been so quiet myself, i would never had heard him. She knew it was the warrior Alaric, who had come to see her the night before. He had seemed very anxious to be leaving and it seemed a night of rest had not squelched that eagerness. But she kept on with her slow movments until she finished with her excersies.

She finished by bowing to each compass point, giving thanks to the spirits for helping her calm hermind and work out the kinks in her body. then, back to Alaric, she smiled, then spoke softly, almost in a whisper, "So warrior, you have come." She then turned to face the man, a big smile upon her face. "Are you ready?" Kaya swiftly dashed to the side and picked up A"lanthear, unsheathing the handsome sword. She then charged the warrior and hoped he would prove to be a good partner in this sparing match. Alaric did not dissappoint. He drew hiw own weapon quickly and silently and faced off with Kaya.

The two of them danced about the grove, twisting, lunging parrying. After a good workout, the two declared it a draw. both were sweating and a bit out of breath, but it felt good to Kaya. "Good work out my friend, I am impressed." And indeed she was, for this man did not use any tricks or magics, just his mind and training, she was impressed; more than impressed, the man intrigued her. Kaya stood and held out her hand. When Alaric took it and shook, she felt heself stir, but quickly suppressed it. Now is not the time, you have work to do. She swallowed hard then let go of his hand. "I have not heard anything of our guide yet, but am told she will be here around noon. As for now, I must go bath, then ready myself to see Ithramir. You are welcomed to wait around here if you like."

****

*To awaken spirit and body

Written by - Sycon

Ardwen hoisted himself up onto the dragon's back. The weight did not seem to shift the silver dragon at all. She merely rose up to her full height, Sycon still balancing himself as Ardwen did the same behind him.

Before Sycon could take another breath, her wings were spread as she pushed off the ground with her powerful hind legs and let her wings come down, pushing large gusts of wind to the ground, throwing dust into the air. Her wings beat harder and harder as they slowly rose, Sycon gripping on to her for what seemed dear life as he body jerked with each thrust of her wings.

They rose slowly until they were a good bit above the tree line. Her wings tilted mid-air moving them forward. She spiraled into the air, catching the wind under her wings as they beat against it, raising them farther into the sky. They rose higher and higher until they were above the clouds when the goddess of travel appeared before them, moving in sync with the dragon and her passengers.

Without a word, the goddess's hands came together and her eyes closed as a bright spark of light shone, blinding Sycon momentarily. After he regained his sight, the goddess was gone, but a bubble had formed around them. They moved through the sky, towards what he knew to be Westgale. How long would this journey take, he did not know, but considerably shorter than on foot. They passed birds in the sky, that seemed not to be moving at all. He could see them seemingly suspended in the air, not a breath entering or leaving their small bodies. Sycon bunkered himself close to his lady, turned and flashed a smile at Ardwen...

They were on their way.

Written by - Ardwen

Ardwen practically sunk his mail-clad fingers into the dragon’s hide as it rose from the ground. Each thrust of its immeasurably powerful wings carried them further aloft. They continued to rise, the dragon adjusting its wings and going into an ascending spiral that carried them above the trees, and finally above the clouds themselves.

There some deity appeared before them, moving parallel to the dragon on which Ardwen and Sycon now rode. Ardwen had never seen this goddess before, doubtless it was one that Sycon or the dragon had concluded a previous arrangement. The goddess spoke not a word, but merely brought her hands together and created a blinding flash of light. When it cleared Ardwen noticed the goddess had vanished, and that they were in a bubble of some sort though it was amazingly transparent.

The air through which they rode softly rippled as if one were to look through the clear, rising, heat of a fire. It was not a constant rippling, but seemed to shift, grow, and diminish as the dragon continued tirelessly through the air, carrying the two warriors to their long awaited destination of Westgale. Sycon reclined and even managed to turn and smile at Ardwen.

For his part Ardwen finally relaxed, allowing himself to shift into a kneeling position and truly take in the surrounding scenery. He recognized they were above the clouds, and to the ancient Elf that meant one thing: stars. Casting a glance up to the celestial heavens Ardwen was greeted with a shimmering array of starlight, it appeared as if the entire vaulted roof of the sky were but one colossal mosaic on which primal forces had painted a breathtaking display of light and splendor.

For Ardwen, it meant many things other than sublime beauty. For him, it had been the first time he had beheld a sky so unclouded in over a hundred years, not since before the Turning had he seen anything to rival it. Twilight, and by extension the stars themselves, were always held in special reverence by his people. They were viewed as the heralds of the Elves, reminders of their past dominion and a promise that glory would come again one day. For Ardwen though, the stars evoked mainly memories, old memories.

“Sycon,” Ardwen began slowly, “I can barely believe where we are going, and what’s more, what we hope to do. Rescue Ariana!” There was a pause as Ardwen struggled to put his feelings into words, “Absurd, don’t you think?”

Ardwen let out a long sigh and fixed his gaze on the night sky, “Amazing. The stars I mean. We even fought over that. The Elves say one thing about the stars and the humans say another, who made them, what they mean; things like that. Do you think the stars look down on us in turn? Do you think they remember our struggles, our triumphs, and our failures?”

Suddenly, as if painfully aware of how he was speaking Ardwen shifted his tone, “Look, I’m not losing my nerve, but it just seems all so unreal. Who am I to rescue Ariana? What do you think she’ll say to me? Once she knows . . .”

Ardwen let the rest of the passage past unspoken, but he muttered out one final elusive thought, “I’ve killed for many things. Gold, power, prestige, honor, religion, I’ve killed because I was ordered to; I’ve killed for sheer pleasure. And when the killing starts in Westgale, for what reason will it be then? Will it be for Ariana? Or will it be because I just don’t want to die?” As soon as the word “die” had escaped his lips Ardwen took his black cloak and tossed it around to his front, the wind caught it and drew it flapping to his left; his gaze never left the stars.

Written by - Aethelwulf

Alaric smiled as he removed his shirt, and leather jerkin. Sweat poured over his lean form, and he was even breathing a bit harder then he would have thought. Yes indeed, this Kaya was quite the woman. He watched her walk away. As she left the grove Her lithe form moved gracefully, sublimely. He smiled even more as he noticed how her sweat drenched cotton clothing clung tightly to her body. revealing much about the lass.

An interesting woman indeed.

Alaric then wandered off, seeking his own bath.

Here ends Book 3 Part 1 of the House Ancora saga, which is continued in Book Three - The Reckoning Pt 2.

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