Amaranth Games Forum Index > The Plaza > Hungry Boar Tavern (Tell Stories) > The Changeling (Updated(!) -- 1/7/2011)
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|Re: The Changeling (Reposting... 24 / 31 )||#61|
@Dis: You know, everyone was giving Alaya such a hard time last time around, but I feel for her. I'd of done the same thing too!
@kaz: Yes, yes! I'm really looking forward to a certain someone discovering one of those powerful friends, too. Soon... Meanwhile, we're back to the demon realm for the moment.
“Ah, my pet,” sighs Eithera. “I have missed you.”
Dameon does not respond. He pushes himself up from the ground, and walks a few feet away, disgusted with himself. Eithera’s words float back through his mind, I do not believe that Darius would be pleased with you, Sauvra, if you damaged his son. “I should kill you,” he mutters darkly to Eithera.
“Why, Dameon, you’re not angry with me are you?” replies Eithera, voice dripping with mock dismay. “You certainly seemed happy enough a moment ago.”
Dameon turns to glare at her. “How long have you known?”
“Oh, I’ve known I missed you ever since I moved back to Stronghold,” says Eithera, coyly, “but I don’t think I knew just how much I missed you until…”
“Silence!” Dameon hisses, enraged. It feels as though a towering inferno is devouring him from the inside. His lynx tattoo hisses angrily, claws digging painfully into the top of his scalp. “You know very well that that is not what I am talking about. How long have you known that my father is alive?”
“Oh, well, as to that,” shrugs Eithera, “I don’t know that you could really say that he is alive. Demons are really neither alive nor dead, after all.”
“How… long… have… you… known?” repeats Dameon softly, dangerously. But he is spared the indignity of listening to any more of Eithera’s evasive replies by the arrival of Sauvra accompanied by a massive black wyvern.
Sauvra glares at the humans and gestures wordlessly towards the hissing and arching wyvern. Dameon looks nervously at the beast. Wyverns are vicious, merciless and utterly loyal to their master. Ahriman had used them as guards, beasts of burden and… executioners. He wonders whose orders this wyvern is following – which is a good deal more comfortable than wondering exactly what its orders are. Eithera appears to have no such worries. She looks expectantly towards Dameon, gesturing for him to mount first. He shrugs inwardly. If the wyvern wants to kill him, there is precious little that he can do to prevent it.
Gingerly, Dameon climbs onto the wyvern’s bony back. Eithera mounts gracefully behind him. Almost before the two are settled, the wyvern is leaping into the sky, nearly dumping its riders to the quickly retreating ground. Dameon curses loudly and clasps desperately at the creature’s neck. Eithera wraps her arms tightly around his waist, leaning forward to rest her head against his back. With the wind howling past his ears, he feels, rather than hears, her laughter. Briefly, he considers letting go, letting himself fall to the ground, dragging Eithera with him. Such thoughts, however, are quickly driven from his mind by the sheer exhiliration of flying through the tempestous skies of the Demon Realm astride this powerful creature, Eithera’s body pressed against his own. He feels a deep laugh rising in his own chest to answer Eithera’s.
All too soon, he feels the wyvern descending towards a cave opening in one of the mountains below them. The creature lands gracefully, and Eithera slides smoothly off. Dameon hesitates, wishing the ride would last forever. How glorious it would feel to ride such a creature into battle, he thinks, and for a moment he is lost to the image of himself astride the wyvern as it opens its mouth to rain death and destruction on the undeserving. The wyvern cranes its head around to glare balefully at Dameon, and he hurries to slide down the creature’s neck, joining Eithera and Suavra on the ground.
Sauvra gestures toward the cave in front of them. “Darius is waiting,” he says with a smirk. “The wise do not keep him waiting long.” And with that, Sauvra and the wyvern fly off, leaving Eithera and Dameon alone at the mouth of the cave in the heights of the Demon Range.
Posted on: 2008/4/30 18:17
|Re: The Changeling (Reposting... 25 / 31 )||#62|
“She won’t listen to reason.”
“She has dishonored us.”
“She owes a blood debt.”
Danny listens to the voices of his brothers, his head hanging in shame. He should not have lied to Elini.
“If she will not uphold our honor, then we must do it ourselves.”
Elini had called the blood debt on herself, rather than branding Danny a liar. By all rights it is his life that should be forfeit. If things don’t turn around soon, however, it is Elini who will find herself being cast from the Criminals’ Cliff.
“She has brought shame to our household.”
“She owes a blood debt. If she will not pay it willingly, then we must show her the way.”
Danny cannot bring himself to say anything. He loves his brothers, but he loves Elini more. He does not want to live in shame, but this culture is not really his. He doesn’t see how killing Elini will help matters any. Besides, he has the children to think of. Alaya needs Elini. He should not have lied.
“And now the woman she has wronged has come to our house to die.”
“We shall be cursed! She will bring down a curse on us.”
“Our name will be reviled for a thousand times a thousand years!”
“Enough!” snaps Pirate John, speaking for the first time since the brothers’ council started. “You are getting overly dramatic. Rhen did not come here to die and she did not call blood debt on Elini.”
“Whether she came to die or not, you cannot deny that she is dying!”
“We will be cursed!”
“Whether or not the blood debt was called, it is still owed.”
“We must protect our honor if she will not protect it for us.”
“Stop! I will be no part of this. Think you that Rhen will be grateful if you murder her old friend and companion? Think you, fools, that Rhen will take you on as husbands after you murder her children’s surrogate mother?” Pirate John stops for a moment to catch his breath. He waits until all of their eyes are upon him and he glares at each in turn. “Rhen is many things, but she is not a Southerner. She will not take on five husbands. Particularly not one that she has already cast aside,” and he throws a particularly withering look at Danny, who hangs his head still further.
“It is very well for you, brother, to cast our honor away so lightly. You are a pirate. You have no honor to protect.”
John rolls his eyes. “Very well. Let me state this clearly. Rhen came here for aid not vengenance. She has not and will not call blood debt on Elini. There is no blood debt.”
“But she is dying! If she dies here, the debt still unpaid, her ghost will curse our household. We shall never know peace again.”
John does not answer right away. He is lost in thought. He does not believe in thousand-year curses. Still, his brothers’ superstitions open all sorts of possibilities. He grows weary of Veldt. He grows weary of Danny. John looks sideways at the other man. He is stilling quietly, as if trying to make himself invisible. As well he should. He has created a world of trouble for them all – and even his slow-witted, superstitious louts of brother-husbands should be able to put the pieces together. If they don’t get blood debts out of their minds, they just may decide that Danny’s blood will settle the debt as well as – or better than – Elini’s.
Ah, Elini. John is not much of a sharing man, but Elini is worth certain compromises. He supposes that he should be grateful to his new brother. Danny was able to give Elini the one thing that none of them had ever been able to – children. He should be happy for Elini. He knows that Elini will get over her infatuation with the man, and that he, John, will regain his rightful place as favorite.
Still, John is not a paitent man. It would not hurt to hurry the natural course along. After all, Elini does it all the time. Of course, he has long since forgiven her for slipping him a dose of love potion, and he doubts Danny will hold any grudges for himself. Still, he wonders how Rhen would feel if she knew. No doubt Elini’s conscience is giving her some qualms now that she is faced with the messy consequences of her meddling. All the more reason to get things settled out quickly. The last thing any of them want is for Elini to decide she really does owe a blood debt to Rhen.
“We have children, now, to think about.”
“We must restore our honor. We must protect the children.”
“If she will not…”
“I said enough!" roars John. He had last track of the conversation, and they are starting to get carried away again. It is time to end this. “There is no blood debt. There is no dishonor. But if Elini were to save Rhen’s life, then even you idiots should feel the matter has been settled fairly, right?”
His brothers look at him uncertainly. He hopes that confidence will cover the flaws in his logic. That and the fact that his brothers – despite appearances at the moment – are not truly blood-thirsty brutes. He is offering them an out, and he hopes they will take it.
Slowly, uncertainly they begin to nod.
“But how can Elini save her?”
“She is the walking dead. It is only a matter of time before her body catches up with her spirit.”
John nods absently. Walking dead. The phrase stirs something. A distant memory. Old sea lore. The walking dead. The three realms of the underworld. “That’s it!” says John, surprised to find that he has spoken aloud. The plan has risen – complete and perfect – in his mind. It has everything. An adventure for his restless bones. A chance to help an old friend – maybe even save her life. And best of all, time with Elini away from the destraction of her new husband.
Posted on: 2008/5/2 22:53
|Re: The Changeling (Reposting... 25 / 31 )||#63|
If things don’t turn around soon, however, it is Elini who will find herself being cast from the Criminals’ Cliff.
Criminals' Cliff? XD I like that. lol I wonder what's the male to female ratio that get thrown down there. I imagine it's the men.
Anyhoo, yay! 6 more chaps to go! Can't wait, Cherry!
Posted on: 2008/5/5 0:51
Bankai! <3 Bleach ;D
|Re: The Changeling (Reposting... 25 / 31 )||#64|
will you pls hurry up? you're torturing me
Posted on: 2008/5/6 6:13
I don't care if you hate me, I'll always be here for you.
|Re: The Changeling (Reposting... 25 / 31 )||#65|
hey, you can't hurry authors, unless you want quantity by sacrificing quality. (believe me when i say i'm speaking as one who knows )
Posted on: 2008/5/6 6:16
|Re: The Changeling (Reposting... 25 / 31 )||#66|
yay! almost new stuff!
i like john. leave it to the pirate to take charge of the situation. i always had to wonder just how stupid the men of veldt had to be...
(and in re the previous chapter... *shakes head* bad eithera. XD)
Posted on: 2008/5/6 17:49
If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats.
|Re: The Changeling (Reposting... 26 / 32 )||#67|
@destinyluck: Welcome! I'm glad you are enjoying the story.
@aislingyngaio: Awww... Thanks for defending my honor.
@kaz: I like John, too. Actually, I kind of like all of the guys. They're sweet... sort of. As for Eithera... I love Eithera.
@all: Sorry this is taking so long. I've been kind of dragging my feet because there are bits that I feel need a re-write and sections that need to be moved around... It's hard to find the time. That's why you may notice the end number changing from time to time (like this time -- I just split one chapter into two. Sorry!)
The good news is that I think I finally managed to write a scene that I've been struggling with for MONTHS! Thanks for bearing with me!
Rhen turns slowly taking in the purple grasses, the pink leaves, the eerie light of glowberries. Strange. Something about this place is familiar, but Rhen does not recognize her surroundings at all. Ah well. She shrugs slightly to herself, and heads off between the trees. She is looking for something. Surely she will recognize it when she sees it.
Suddenly the stillness of the night is split by a piercing scream, startling Rhen and waking the baby sleeping strapped to her back. For one split second, Rhen is utterly confused. Baby? Why does she have a baby? Why can she not remember it's birth? What is happening to her? But the thoughts barely register as they flash through her mind. And soon, the logic of the Dream takes over, and she knows without knowing.
Rhen grunts in frustration. The baby’s cries will surely attract whatever made the noise in the first place, but she dare not unstrap her. The beast could be upon them any moment, and Rhen would not be able to defend them if she were holding the child. The baby’s crying cuts through her like a knife, a physical pain in her chest that she cannot ease.
She hears a large shape crashing through the underbrush, and her sword appears as if by magic in her hands as the fierce bird-like shape of a shiven erupts out of the trees in front of her. The shiven shrieks again in rage, drawing its head back in preparation for a powerful strike, but Rhen’s sword is already slicing across its bared neck. Rhen’s sword passes straight through the creature’s neck, a perfectly aimed blow without contact. The lack of resistance throws Rhen’s balance off completely and she is tumbling, spinning down to the ground, trying desparately to protect the baby from her sword, from the ground, from the shiven. The shiven is shrieking again, its head a blur as it strikes toward her, aiming straight for her neck, but somehow, miraculously missing her completely. She sees the shiven’s beak burried in the ground beside her, the beast thrashing in rage. Again, she thrusts her sword into the creature, and again the complete lack of resistance throws off her balance. She stumbles, very nearly falling against the neck of the creature before she manages to regain her footing. She stares at her sword, wonder and horror filling her mind. She cannot fight this beast. Hastily she sheathes her sword and backs away from the creature until she backs into a shrub, the poking branches bringing forth a new chorus of wails from the baby.
She turns and runs blindly down the path. She runs until her breath comes only in deep gasping pants. She runs until her legs tremble from exertion.
And finally, in a quiet clearing, near a lake shining with stars, she sits on a rock to catch her breath, to suckle her baby, to figure out what she is looking for.
It is not until the baby is once again safely strapped to her back that Rhen sees the boat approaching from across the starry lake. It is an oddly shaped boat – the high prow, unlike any that she has ever seen, carries a lantern shining in the darkness like a moon. A lonely figure standing in the boat propels it forward by the use of a long pole. It glides silently, swiftly across the water, leaving no ripple, no wake.
Rhen smiles. At last. She has found it.
Dameon watches the quickly retreating figures of Sauvra and the wyvern, his face an unreadable mask. He is troubled. The echo of the pure, almost primal, joy of the flight on the wyvern resonates oddly within him, an uneasy counterpoint to his ever-present anger. Out of the corner of his eye he sees Eithera approaching him. He turns away quickly, before she can interrupt his thoughts with her questions or her caressesses or her kisses. She is not the person that he wants with him.
Dameon starts down the passage without waiting to see whether or not Eithera is following. He is not so eager to see the demon that apparently his father has become, but his emotions are so tangled and tormented that he craves the solitude of the dark cavern. Ever since Eithera pulled him into the Demon Realm he has been consumed by the ancient angers of his past, devouring any happiness or simple joy that he has managed to find in his life since. But the pure exhiliration of the flight on Wyvern-back has evoked, if only dimly, the possibility of… something else.
The passage to Darius’ chamber is not long, and Dameon is still fighting his unease as he emerges into the light and sees his father for the first time in nearly fifteen years. The shock is like a physical blow, and Dameon is overwhelmed by images of his lonely childhood – the hours, days, weeks spent wandering the lonely grassy hillsides of Aveyond… always hoping for even a few minutes attention from his ever-distant, always busy father. He is very nearly brought to his knees by the intense desire for his father’s love. He staggers slightly from the emtional onslaught, casting his eyes around desperately for some source of support. As his knees start to buckle, Eithera glides up to him, slipping herself under his arm, keeping him upright. Dameon stares wildly at Eithera. This is all wrong, but he lacks the strength at the moment to support himself.
Darius stands in the center of the room, almost painfully handsome, his long hair falling smoothly past his shoulders, black with an artful touch of white at the temples. He beams at the couple holding his arms wide as if expecting Dameon to rush like a child into his embrace. “Ah, my son,” his rich voice fills the chamber, “it is so good to see you again. You cannot imagine how happy it makes me to see you here, to know you have come back to me.”
Darius pauses, waiting expectantly, but Dameon netiher rushes into his arms nor starts spouting his undying love. Darius drops his arms with a sigh, “Well, I suppose I can understand your anger, Dameon. You blame me. And perhaps you should. A father should not be so long separated from his son." Darius pauses for a moment to guage the effect of his words.
Dameon stares at his father, aghast. Darius had been many things in his life, but understanding and compassionate had not been among them. Darius had demanded absolute devotion. And Dameon had given it to him. And then some.
"Talia drove us apart. She feared my power, Dameon. And yours. She held you back. She kept me from teaching you. She was terrified of how powerful we would become together, of the great things that we would be able to accomplish together. She did not want to be outshone by us, Dameon. She and that cursed Oracle conspired to keep you away from me."
Dameon’s face darkens at the mention of his mother, at the mention of the Oracle. His absent mother, visiting him only in his dreams, prying into the one part of his life that should have been wholly his own, while leaving him to wander through his days alone. The Oracle acting as her surrogate. He remembers the wretched old lady watching over his childhood from afar, treating him always like some venemous bug – a distasteful and probably dangerous task that someone had to deal with.
Darius, sensing his advantage, pushes on, “Oh yes, she she was terrifed of what of what we would be able to do together. That’s why she tried to murder me on your Coming of Age day. She knew she wouldn’t be able to keep you away from me any more.”
“My mother,” says Dameon darkly, “should pay for her endless meddling.”
Darius smiles warmly at his son, “Dameon, my son, now is your chance.”
Posted on: 2008/5/13 0:04
|Re: The Changeling (Reposting... 27 / 32 )||#68|
Alaya tries to look confident as she walks through Veldt, her backpack bulging with supplies for a journey through the desert. According to the laws of Veldt, she is a woman now. Her monthly cycles have started, although she has not yet had her public Naming Ceremony. She is completely free to make a journey outside of the city. She doesn’t need to ask anyone’s permission. It is her right to make her own choices. Still, she can’t help feeling a bit like a disobedient child trying to dodge the notice of her elders. She keeps her eyes straight ahead and moves quickly through the city, trying not to let the others get too far ahead.
She had overheard their planning. She knows that John has decided to take them by dragon. Take them where? she asks herself for the hundredth time, but she has never been able to find out. Despite all the time she has spent with him, accompanying him on dozens of errands criss-crossing the city, Talver has provided her relatively little information about the plans. And as the preparations for the trip had begun to wind down, he had become close-mouthed and somber, even seeming to avoid her at times.
She frowns slightly to herself. Talver confuses her. He is certainly handsome, and she enjoys spending time with him. Enjoys the looks on her cousins’ faces when they see her walking with him: a mysterious older man, an adventurer. She had begun spending time with him to spite her mother, and then she had continued in a hope that she might learn more about what John was planning. But now she is not so sure. Once, when they were walking through a quiet garden, she had thought that he might kiss her. She wishes that she had been brave enough to kiss him, but she is not used, yet, to the ways of the women of Veldt. She blushes remembering a dream from the night before where she had been brave enough.
She shakes her head in a vain effort to clear her mind and hurries to keep Elini in sight. She is fairly certain that they will leave town by the main gate, but she does not know what direction they will take from there. John is the only one who knows the secret paths that lead to the dragon’s caves. If she loses sight of them in the desert, she will never find her way. But if they catch sight of her too soon, they will send her back home. It’s not fair, she thinks to herself. They shouldn’t be able to send me home. I’m a woman, now. I have every right to go with them! After all, she’s…she’s… but her thought trails off. Even now, Alaya is not sure why she is following them… is not sure who it is that she cannot let leave…
From behind the safety of a brightly colored tent, she watches as they pass through the main gates and into the open desert: John leading Rhen and Talver, Elini trailing slightly behind. “Now comes the hard part,” she mutters to herself, drawing a sharp look from a burly man standing guard at the doorway of the merchant’s tent. Alaya grimaces nervously at the man and hurries away from the tent, trying to look as unlike a thief as possible as she makes her way toward the city gates.
Talver finds himself surprisingly reluctant to be leaving Veldt. Elini’s house had been comfortable. He enjoys sleeping indoors. He enjoys having meals prepared for him and eating at a table. Perhaps he is not as much of an adventurer as he liked to imagine himself. Perhaps he is not as much of an adventurer as Alaya like to imagine him.
Ah, Alaya. Absently he raises his hand up to feel the locket hidden under his shirt. He glances sideways at Rhen – or rather, Rhen’s body – walking along beside him. He is not sure how she would feel about the time he had been spending with Alaya. For that matter he is not sure how he feels about it. The girl was charming… when she wanted to be. Her transparent efforts to ingratiate herself with him would have been amusing, flattering even, if she weren’t such a hellcat. And yet, he cannot dismiss her easily from his mind. She is very nearly the same age as he was when… unconsciously, his grip on the locket under his shirt tightens, his knuckles turning white. She is the same age that Ra’ana had been…
For a moment, Talver closes his eyes tightly, trying to shut out the painful memories. He forces himself to let go of the locket, wishing he had been able to leave it behind with the rest of his life when he had left Sedona. Opening his eyes again, he scans the desert, looking and listening for signs of monsters. The hyenas move fast. He must stay focused.
Despite his intentions, however, the monotony of the desert begins to take its toll on Talver. Unnoticed, his hand creeps up to his neck, absently rubbing the chain of his locket. The desert fades, replaced in his mind’s eye by cool woods and quiet gardens. Glimpses of long silver hair intermingle in his mind with pale lavender hair until even in his imagination he is not certain who walks beside him.
Suddenly, the quiet bliss of his daydream is interrupted by the shrieking laughter of a pack of hyenas descending upon them from the steep walls of the canyon. The fiendish brutes are coming from the side, having waited for John to pass before attacking. By some unimaginable stroke of bad luck, they are coming straight towards Rhen. Talver curses and tries to push Rhen behind him, but she has already drawn her sword and is advancing toward the hyenas. Rhen closes with the leader of the pack as Talver draws his own sword. He holds his breath. Rhen has not responded to anyone or anything for days. He is terrified that she will be killed, but instead he sees her drop smoothly to one knee as the hyena leaps for her neck. Her upraised sword slices neatly through the beast as it passes over the spot where her neck had been. She pushes the carcass disdainfully to one side as she rises, freeing her sword to face the next one, death written on her face.
A flash out of the corner of his eye pulls Talver’s attention back to his own predicament. He is stepping to the side before he even sees the hyena leaping towards him. He manages to bat the creature down with his sword. It turns and bares its teeth at him, its low growl rattling his bones. They circle each other warily, each looking for an opening. Talver sees the rest of the battle in flashes. Elini sketching rough drawings in the sand as she mutters incantations. John deftly pinning a hyena with his rapier. And Rhen... Rhen marching straight into the heart of the pack, an angel of death, unconcerned with her own survival. The hyena takes advantage of Talver’s broken concentration, landing a painful bite on his leg. Talver stumbles back, bringing his sword down sharply on the creature’s neck, a mortal wound. The hyena howls in rage until Talver stabs it through the chest, ending its agony. But the screams seem to echo endlessly against the walls of the canyon. Talver looks around in confusion. A swarm of monstrous red creatures has erupted from mid-air around Elini and launched a counter-attack against the hyenas. John has fought his way towards Rhen and is trying to disengage her from the attack. And still the screams carry on, and Talver realizes that they are not the enraged screams of a wounded hyena. They are not the screams of a beast at all. They are the piercing screams of a terrified young woman.
Talver turns and runs as fast as he can. He knows without knowing how he knows. He knows without question who is screaming. He only hopes he can get there in time.
Posted on: 2008/5/14 23:45
|Re: The Changeling (Reposting... 27 / 32 )||#69|
Posted on: 2008/5/15 9:12
I don't care if you hate me, I'll always be here for you.
|Re: The Changeling (Reposting... 27 / 32 )||#70|
i always did like that battle scene.
and we're almost at the part i've been waiting for...yay!
Posted on: 2008/5/15 18:56
If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats.
|Re: The Changeling (Reposting... 27 / 32 )||#71|
Aw, I missed two. Well, caught up and the chapters are getting juicier. If I recall someone must attempt to kill someone else soon because daddy says so. *cough*
I do wonder what is up with Talver's past, though...Seems sad and complicated.
Well, 4? more chapters to go! (Yep, I'm counting down!)
Posted on: 2008/5/17 16:16
Bankai! <3 Bleach ;D
|Re: The Changeling (Reposting... 28 / 32 )||#72|
@kaz: Thanks! I'm fond of that battle scene, too. I think it's only the second one that I've written (Rhen's dream one appeared before the hyenas this time,but it was originally written second). And this chapter, I think, is one that you've been waiting for. (me too, for that matter)
@Dis: Thanks! Yes, someone is going to be busy on a mission to kill... but, well, before that we've got some other business to take care of!
Talver runs as quickly as he is able back down the canyon, but the screams are becoming fainter. Soon they fade all together, and he hears only the echo of faint whimpers. He tries to run faster, but he feels as though he is trapped in a nightmare moving ever more slowly the harder he tries to run.
Suddenly, he is flying through the air, and he realizes that he has tripped over something on the desert floor. He scrambles to his feet, turning back to look as he does so. A hoarse shout escapes his throat as he sees a giant scorpion within striking distance. He nearly draws his sword as he braces himself for the blow, but the scorpion does not strike. It takes Talver a moment to realize that the scorpion is already dead. The whimpers have now ceased entirely, and Talver curses himself for his carelessness. He has given up the element of surprise.
He turns his back on the dead scorpion, looking for some sign of its killer. Listening for any sound at all. They must be close. The screamer and the scorpion’s killer. They cannot be the same person, for why would the screamer have been screaming if she had already killed the scorpion? But why would the killer have killed the scorpion if he had intended to harm the screamer? Why not let the scorpion do the dirty work?
He sees a trail of disturbed sand leading away from the scorpion’s corpse, and he follows it towards a large cluster of boulders. His heart is pounding so hard in his chest, he is sure that they must be able to hear it. He grips his sword more tightly, and heads into the boulders. He hears someone talking, a low quiet voice, but he cannot understand the words. The tone is soothing, sounding almost like a caress. The reply is even fainter, frightened and uncertain. Again he cannot understand the words, but he recognizes the voice. Alaya’s voice.
He suppresses the urge to call out to her, and instead he walks farther into the boulders, trying to track the voice despite the stange echos. As he steps around a large boulder he sees a handsome man in a dark cloak supporting Alaya, murmuring soothingly into her ear. Alaya appears to have slipped into a near-trance, a strange blissful expression on her face.
“Release her, now,” commands Talver, drawing his sword and extending it towards the man in one smooth motion.
The man straightens, looking Talver in the eye. A snarl flashes across his face so quickly that Talver is not certain whether or not he imagined it. The man’s face returns quickly to a serene mask. “Of course,” he says smoothly. “You may have her. I was merely soothing her nerves.”
Talver steps forward cautiously. He does not trust this man.
“Put away your sword. You will not need it,” the man continues. “I think you will find that you need both arms to support her.”
Talver’s eyes never leave the man’s face as he slowly sheathes his sword, but he sees no change in the man’s calm face. No sign of treachery. It is not until Talver has pulled Alaya towards him, his attention diverted, that the man’s eyes narrow. As quickly as a snake striking, the man throws his arms wide, chanting in a strange language that Talver has never heard. Talver senses the sky darkening as power gathers around the stranger, but with both arms needed to steady Alaya, there is nothing that he can do.
“Ah, Alaya," moans Talver in despair. "I am sorry. I have failed you, Alaya.” He is looking down into her dazed face as he speaks, and so he does not see the flash of surprise and triumph in the stranger’s eyes.
“Nanghaithya,” calls out a new voice from behind Talver, “you do not belong here. Begone!”
Talver turns in grateful surprise to see that Elini had followed not far behind him. She stands with her arms upraised, a look of intense concentration on her face as she mutters darkly in the same language the stranger had been using. Suddenly he sees a ball of pure energy form between her hands, growing larger as she pushes it away from herself. Talver dives to the side, pulling Alaya with him. The ball crackles as it flies through the air towards Nanghaithya whose chanting has taken on a desperate air. Talver expects to see some sort of explosion as the ball touches the stranger, but instead it passes through him until he is engulfed. Elini’s chant becomes louder and quicker now, her voice rising in pitch and intensity. Then, with a final shout, she brings her hands together with a clap and the ball of energy disappears along with Nanghaithya.
For a moment, there is no sound, no movement. Then Elini lets her hands fall to her sides with a sigh. “Come,” she says tiredly, “we must rejoin the others. We should not be separated here.”
They build a campfire that evening in a secluded cave. John fears the light from the fire will draw the desert creatures down upon them, but Elini insists. “We have much to talk about,” she says, “and these topics are better discussed in the light.”
John turns his back on the fire that Elini starts, as if pretending that it is not there can somehow make it disappear. Disapproving or not, he does use its flickering light to tend a wicked gash on Rhen's leg. Rhen says nothing at all, neither about the fire nor her wounds, having slipped back into her near catatonic state once the battle with the hyenas had ended.
Elini watches Alaya, a mixture of irritation and admiration playing across her face. “I was right, my dear child,” says Elini finally. “I sensed the gift in you.”
“Wh-what gift?” stammers Alaya. “What are you t-talking about?”
“You are a demon summoner, my child. You can learn – must learn – the most powerful magic that mortals can wield. You will start tonight.”
“D-demons? Tonight?” murmers Alaya faintly. “I-I… I don’t think I’m ready.”
“You are ready,” says Elini firmly before continuing in a more pedagogical tone, “Have you ever wondered why there are so few demon summoners in the world? It is not so hard to summon a demon. Demons, for the most part, are eager to leave the demon realm and rain down death and destruction in the human realm. There is nothing they like better. No, it is not hard to summon a demon. You did it today without meaning to, Alaya. The hard part is controlling the demon once you’ve got it here. Most demon summoners don’t survive the awakening of their gift.”
"Your gift is strong," continues Elini, speaking more normally. "Untrained you summoned a full-fledged daeva..." Elini's voice trails off and her eyes lose focus for a moment, concern furrowing her brows.
"A daeva?" asks Alaya nervously, when it becomes apparent that Elini is not about to say any more. "What is a daeva? I thought you said I was a demon summoner."
Elini shakes her head, bringing herself back to the present. "A daeva, my child, is a leader of demons... a king, if you will. The daevas are not necessarily the strongest of the demons -- and luckily for you, Nanghaithya is generally reckoned the weakest of the daevas -- but they are far more powerful in other ways. They are much smarter, and therefore much more difficult to control. Nanghaithya..." and here, Elini's voice wavers for a moment before she steels herself to continue, "Nanghaithya may well be the most clever of the daevas -- he is cunning and, therefore, quite a bit more dangerous than the daevas who rely on brute strength."
"What did you do to him... to Nanghaithya? How did you make him go away?"
"Nanghaithya is bound to me, and so I was able to send him back to the demon realm. If you had summoned a demon that was not bound to me already, we would have had to fight it for control. Still, it leaves you in a rather delicate spot. You have not bound Nanghaithya yet, but he is now atuned to you. He is likely to be back if you lose control again."
Alaya shudders at the thought of seeing the demon again. The thought sends thrills of terror through her... and maybe thrills of something else as well.
"Wh-what... what would he do to me if... if he came back?" stammers Alaya.
"Nothing!" Elini answers sharply. "He will not come back before you are ready. You will learn to control your gift. You will learn to bind him to you. You will learn to control him. He will come only when you summon him."
Alaya senses the fear underlying Elini's words, but she does not press the issue further. Still her mind begins to wander as Elini begins teaching her the complicated incatations required to control a demon. Over and over she sees the handsome stranger appear as if by magic to kill the scorpion that threatened her. When he turned to face her, she was overcome… Even now she does not know what happened next. All she knows is that he, the demon she knows now, awoke feelings in her that she has never known before, feelings that she does not understand. Anger and lust wrapped together in a heady mix. The promise of power and eternal bliss.
"Alaya, You must concentrate! The symbols you draw are your only shield. Even a weak demon that is bound to you can easily tear you limb from limb if you should lose focus." Elini's voice cracks like a whip through Alaya's daydreams. She looks down at the symbols she has been copying from Elini and sees that the last set bear only the most cursory similarity to the originals. She sighs. She is not sure how she will ever remember all of the complicated incantations, let alone these terribly intricate designs.
"Peace, Elini," calls out John tiredly. "Surely you have put her through enough for one night. We all must sleep some tonight. Surely the demons can hold off until tomorrow."
Elini glares at John for a moment before nodding slowly. "Yes, I suppose we should all try to get some sleep," she says finally. "We will continue in the morning," she says to Alaya before making her way over to John to rest her head on his shoulder.
Alaya is exhausted. She crawls off to make her bed in a quiet corner. She craves the peacefulness of sleep, but it does not come. She cannot get the image of Nanghaithya out of her mind. His exquisitely beautiful face fills her mind. She cannot shake the feelings that he rasied in her. She can almost hear his voice in her head. What had he been whispering in her ear? She can almost feel his strong arms around her. Her body aches to be held, to be touched, to be caressed. She tosses and turns, trying to clear her mind. She cannot sleep. She waits until all is quiet, and then slowly, silently she rises from her bed. She creeps toward the opening of the cave where Talver sits on guard.
“Tavler?” she whispers his name. “Can I sit with you? I can’t sleep.”
“Of course, Alaya,” he answers quitely, his voice catching slightly on her name.
This time, she promises herself, she will not be too shy to kiss him first.
Much later, when Alaya crawls back to her bed, she pulls her blankets tightly around herself and falls asleep nearly in the instant that she closes her eyes. In her dreams, she is kissing Talver again as they sit together at the mouth of the cave. She feels a wild passion rising up in her, unlike anything she has ever felt before. His hands are stroking her face, her hair. “Alaya,” he murmurs in her ear, and Alaya sits back, startled, for it is not Talver’s voice who speaks. She sees the handsome stranger, the demon from the desert sitting in place of Talver, his eyes shining in the moonlight. He smiles at her, raising his hand to gently stroke her cheek. “Alaya,” he says again.
She should run away. She knows she should not be talking with the demon, should certainly not be kissing him. She should run away. But she does not. His voice, as smooth as warm honey, holds her as securely as the arm wrapped around her back. His hand, brushing the hair from her face, promises pleasures she has never known. “Nanghaithya,” she replies, and she is surprised to hear the desire in her voice. His smile widens as he pulls her back towards him.
When she wakes in the morning, Alaya feels feverish and wild. It feels almost as though pure power pumps through her veins now instead of blood. She watches Talver, desperate to find a moment alone with him, but Elini is watching her too closely and John is hurrying all of them along. She sighs. Night feels an eternity away.
Posted on: 2008/5/19 0:10
there was nothing in the world that I ever wanted more than to never feel the breaking apart all my pictures of you...
|Re: The Changeling (Reposting... 28 / 32 )||#73|
er... what????? o.O
OMG Rhen didn't appear once in this chapter... what happened?
Posted on: 2008/5/19 2:57
|Re: The Changeling (Reposting... 28 / 32 )||#74|
i love nanghaithya.
i can't imagine why. XD
He does not trust this man.
and i know i quoted this line last time, but--
Demons, for the most part, are eager to leave the demon realm and rain down death and destruction in the human realm.
too right they do. they told me.
have i mentioned that i love nanghaithya?...
Posted on: 2008/5/19 19:21
If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats.
|Re: The Changeling (Reposting... 29 / 32 )||#75|
@aislingyngaio: Ah, Rhen... pfft. Her mind is off wandering, her body doesn't have anything to do during talky chapters.
No, no. You're right. I should mention her in the chapter, shouldn't I? So, I added a paragraph, right after Elini insists on the fire. Does that help?
@kaz: I thought that would make you happy. And here's more demon realm for you.
“Come, Dameon,” say Darius, his voice resonating richly through the cavern, “we have much to talk about.” He gestures towards a small sitting area in a far corner of the cavern.
The words come to dimly to Dameon, as if through a fog. He is lost in overpowering waves of long-buried memory. He is a child again, wandering the lonely hills of Aveyond, desperate for recognition… recognition from anyone, but most particularly from his deeply cherished, always busy father. The pressure of Eithera’s arm against his back, directing him towards a comfortable arm chair, brings Dameon’s awareness back just enough for him to notice the warm smile on Darius’s face. The child-inside-Dameon nearly swoons from the unexpected joy. If not for Eithera’s strong arms supporting him, he would surely be crawling across the floor. He smiles gratefully at her as she pushes him gently into the chair, seating herself delicately on his lap. She defly slips one hand under his robe to rest against the skin of his chest while resting her head against his shoulder. Pride swells inside his chest. He is seen. He is loved. This is where he belongs. Finally, all of his years of waiting for his father have paid off.
“Dameon, my child, it has pained me to be absent from your life for so long,” says Darius. “Your mother… ah, your mother feared your power. The Oracle poisoned her against me… and against you. She was, they both were, afraid of what we would be able to accomplish together. But I jump ahead of myself, let me tell you a story that they never told you... the story I was going to tell you on your Coming of Age day.” He pauses, eyes fixed closely on Dameon, guaging the effect of his words.
Even through the distance of the years, Dameon feels his rage rising anew. The cat tattoo hisses in reflected anger, claws kneading his skull in a pain so excruciatingly intense it is almost pleasurable. He feels Eithera’s breath quicken, her nails digging into his chest. “My Coming of Age day,” says Dameon, his voice cold with anger. “I was finally to join you in your work.” It is not a question.
"Yes, Dameon." Again he waits, letting silence give voice to the demons of Dameon's past. "Did Talia ever tell you of how we met?"
Dameon stares uncertainly at his father. "No, not really," he says at last.
"We met shortly after her battle with Ahriman. Everyone thought that he had been destroyed, and she was... beautiful. The world felt lighter and happier in those days. Anything at all seemed possible. We fell in love at first sight." Darius allows himself a small smile at the memory.
After a moment Darius continues, "Then things started happening very quickly. Ahriman... came back. It killed the Dreamer, but none save myself understood what was happening. Talia was raised to be the next Dreamer, and none of us knew that she already carried you. She would never have been raised if they had known. Druids do not have children. You are the only one. Did you never wonder why there were no other children to play with? Did you never wonder why the Oracle treated you with such distaste?"
"I... I... Yes, I wondered," says Dameon slowly, as the pieces of his life drop slowly into place.
"Talia could not keep you in Dream. It is not a safe place for children. So the Oracle decided you must live in Aveyond. It should have been a happy time, but the Oracle kept you away from me. She made sure my duties as Sun Priest left me with but little time for you. She was afraid of your power -- you, the child of two druids. She was angry with me, thinking that I had hid Talia's pregnancy from her."
"And Ahriman?" asks Dameon, slightly dazed.
"Yes, Ahriman kept me busy as well. It fell to me -- the only Druid who could understand how important he was to us, how he could safeguard our land for all time -- it fell to me to nurse him slowly back to health. When you were old enough..." Darius' voice trails off.
Dameon sees it now – understands it all, at last. "You were going to let me help you in your work with Ahriman?" Unexpectedly, pride surges through Dameon.
“Yes,” says Darius eagerly. “Talia knew that she would not be able to control you any longer. She would not be able to keep you away from me any longer. So she killed me… or tried to.” Darius chuckles softly. “Poor Talia. She did not know that I had already begun the transformation to become a demon. My soul slipped free before my body died, and I made my way here… to begin the long, painful process of regrowing my body.” Darius’s eyes lose focus for a moment, and he shudders unconsciously as he remembers the years of his half-life. “Dameon, it is time for Talia to pay for her meddling.”
Deep inside, Dameon feels a faint tingle of alarm. Something is missing. The unease, however, is quickly overwhelmed by the fear and anger of the memory of that most terrible day of his life, as he watched his father bleed to death in front of his eyes.
“I know that you have longed to kill her, Dameon,” whispers Eithera, lips tickling his ear, as her hand slips lower. “Now is your chance.” She leans forward to kiss him passionately on the lips, but stands before Dameon has a chance to catch her in his arms. Dameon’s mind and body are reeling from the combined onslaught of anger, lust and filial love. He feels drunk. It is hard to breathe.
“I have managed to open a secret passage, a portal, directly into the Tear Shrine,” says Eithera aloud. “You can enter the Dream – physcially – without the Dreamer’s knowledge. The demons have weakened her, she will be no match for you.”
Dameon’s brows wrinkle as he struggles to put together a coherent thought. Something is not right. “But why me? Why have not the demons finished her off through this portal of yours?”
“They are… constrained,” says Darius crossly. “They cannot enter the Dream. The Dreamer’s protections still hold… for now.”
“She has no such constraints against druids, however,” says Eithera with wicked smile.
“Still, the question remains. Why me?” asks Dameon.
“She has grown… distrustful,” says Eithera after a brief pause. “She will not let any druid near her. She turns the dream against them. Casts them out. You, however, she trusts. She will let you near enough to use… this.” Eithera raises one foot and places it on the chair between Darmeon’s legs, toes resting dangerously on his lap. She leans forward enticingly, never taking her eyes off Dameon’s face, and pulls out a dagger, black as midnight, from a sheath hidden inside her boot.
The dagger seems to absorb all the light in the room. A black diamond set in its ebony handle twinkles feverishly in the firelight of the cavern. Dameon lets out a low whistle. “Talia’s Nightmare Dagger,” he says softly. “How did you get this?”
Eithera leans forward to kiss Dameon again, but does not answer his question.
“Any wound from the dagger will weaken the Dreamer greatly, pulling a part of her soul into Nightmare. But if it pierces her heart, it will destroy her completely. It will absorb the Dreamer’s soul, leaving her lost and powerless in The Dream forever. She will become one with the Nightmares that she has set herself against,” says Darius when Eithera has released him. “There can be no more fitting punishment.”
Dameon takes the dagger somewhat reluctantly from Eithera. He knows it is his imagination, but he feels as if the dagger is searching his mind for his deepest, most hidden fears. He shoves it quickly into the sheath that Eithera hands him, trying to shake the sense of forboding that is rising in his chest.
Darius claps his hands, smiling delightedly. “And when the Dreamer is gone, my son,” he says, “our work together will truly begin.” Darius rises from his seat, and claps Dameon warmly on the shoulder. Any further discussion, however, is forestalled by a loud chime that rings through the air. Darius sighs. “Forgive me, Dameon,” he says regretfully. “Business calls. Eithera will take you to the portal. Dameon, we will talk more when you have finished with Talia.” Darius gives Dameon’s shoulder a final squeeze and sweeps away from them towards the entrace to the cavern. Daemon is just able to make out the form a demon – Nanghaithya by the looks of him, looking as pleased as the proverbial cat that has just eaten a canary – entering the room.
“My lord,” says the newcomer eagerly as Darius approaches, “the fool did indeed give me her true name. I believe she will be… ammenable… to our desires.”
Dameon hears nothing futher as Eithera brings his attention back to her with a not-so-subtle shift of her foot. “Come, my pet,” she says, “it is time for us to go.” Grabbing his collar, she pulls him from his seat and leads him towards a dark passageway set further into the cavern. Eithera’s snake tattoo wraps itself around her neck, watching Dameon with hooded eyes.
The gloom of the passageway quickly swallows them up. Dameon finds himself longing for the rancid air and fierce winds of the surface. He feels as if he is suffocating, as if he is drowing. Everything is happening too fast, and he feels as though he is constantly struggling to find his balance. Eithera stops without warning, and Dameon walks nearly into her. She stops him with a hand on his chest and places a finger to his lips. A faintly brighter patch on the wall ahead illuminates Eithera’s face slightly. “The portal is just ahead,” she says gesturing towards the softly glowing wall. “You will be in a store room of the Tear Shrine. Be silent. Be quick. Talia must not have time to wonder how you got there without her knowledge.” Eithera regards him for a moment silently. “Hurry, my pet,” she says finally. “I will be waiting for you in Stronghold Temple.”
Then she kisses him deeply on the mouth. She pulls away and pushes him towards the portal.
Dameon feels the tingle as his body passes through the portal before he has even had a chance to catch his breath. He turns to face Eithera, but she is gone. Swallowed up by the gloom on the other side of the portal. He does not understand the alarm that Eithera’s parting words have caused him. Stronghold Temple… The words make him deeply uneasy, but the weight of the dagger pulls at him, pulls at his soul. He turns away from the portal and begins his search for Talia.
Posted on: 2008/5/20 23:53
|Re: The Changeling (Reposting... 29 / 32 )||#76|
Whee! Finally caught up! Great, Cherry! I really love Elini's descriptions of demon summoning and demons. Couldn't be explained better!
Man, I don't think I've said this but your former sun priest is truly evil in comparison to mine...at least not yet...who knows though?
Deep inside, Dameon feels a faint tingle of alarm. Something is missing.
Yep, something is missing. Not sure I believed everything Darius said either. And where did Devin go in all of this, eh? XD Guess we'll eventually find out...
Well, now we're really getting back into the heavy stuff. I really want to know if *cough* dies.
Yays! 3 more to go!
Posted on: 2008/5/22 3:01
Bankai! <3 Bleach ;D
|Re: The Changeling (Reposting... 30 / 32 )||#77|
@Dis: Aww... Thanks! You know, I had a tough time writing Darius. I really like your Aydan. I wanted to name mine Aydan because what else could his name possible be? But yours is so much nicer than I needed mine to be. I had to come up with a new name.
Not sure I believed everything Darius said either.
Ah good (*evil cackle, rubs hands*) Then I'm doing my job. As far as *cough* goes, well... I can't (or rather, won't) say just yet. Sorry!
Elini watches Alaya closely as they make their way through the gloom of the Halloween Hills, but her mind is elsewhere. The journey had gone smoothly enough. They had made their way to the cavern where John's dragon hid without further conflict. The dragon had glared somewhat uneasily at Alaya, but really, that was to be expected. Demon summoners all walked rather closer to evil than dragons preferred. Still, she had consented to carry the entire party.
The flight had been glorious. There was nothing to compare to the wonder of travelling on dragon-back. It had been far too long since Elini had flown. And it was far too quickly that John brought her down at the entrance to the Halloween Hills. Elini had known to where they were bound, but they had held the secret close, she and John. She saw with some relief that Talver had not suspected. He and Alaya shared a nervous glance as she had inserted a skull into the keyhole, allowing them entrance into this strange world where neither moon nor stars ever shone, and yet it was always night.
She couldn't really say that she blamed them either. The Halloween Hills made her uncomfortable. She liked to feel the sun. Foolish though she knew the thought to be, she always felt the demon realm loomed closer in the dark. She had no wish to deal with any of their ilk right now. She did not like to admit it, not even to herself, but she was quite concerned about Alaya's encounter with Nanghaithya. It just didn't feel right. Why Nanghaithya? Why Alaya? And why, oh most important of all whys, why right now?
Elini sighs as her thoughts turned once again -- inevitably -- to Alaya. She would have expected to be happier with the awakening of Alaya's gift. She had sensed a great potential in Alaya from the day that Danny had shown up so unexpectedly on her doorstep. It had seemed so perfect. A ready-made family. Children. And one of them with great potential as a demon summoner. Elini shakes her head in frustration. Nothing has gone right since then. Nothing.
Danny had told her that Rhen was dead. He had seemed upset enough, but his words did not sit well with her. He had been hiding something. Still, she had let herself get carried away by Alaya’s potential. And her desire for children. She sighs heavily. She couldn’t let Danny go. He was not used to their ways, in Veldt. His prudish upbringing on the Western Isle made it too hard for him to see. He would have left Elini’s household rather than act on his feelings for another man’s wife. She sighs again, loudly enough that John turns to give her a concerned look. She smiles weakly at him and gestures vaguely that they should continue their march.
She knows that John is frustrated. Of all her husbands, he is the only one who was less than welcoming of Danny. She did not tell anyone about the love potion, but she is sure that John must have guessed the truth. He is the only other one who had experienced it himself. He would have recognized the signs in Danny. She stifles another sigh. John is her favorite husband. A woman is not supposed to have favorites, but there it is. He is dashing and dangerous. A skilled swordsman and a dragon-rider, to boot. He is the only one of her husbands who has shared adventures with her. And what adventures! They saved the world together. Not even Danny, with his delightful children, can hold a candle to that. But, Danny is her new husband. A new husband needs time and attention to settle in to the family right. John is just spoiled because he was the new husband for so very long. Frustrated, she kicks at a rock which skitters across the path and tumbles loudly through the fallen leaves of the forest. John turns to glare at her. They are trying not to attract attention on their way to Ghed’ahre. She gives him a small, apologetic smile, but he will have none of it. He motions for the others to keep walking, allowing them to pass while he waits for Elini, who is bringing up the rear.
“What is your problem, woman?” he asks harshly as she approaches him. “It is like walking with a thunderstorm on my tail.”
She glances up at the others. Talver has given up his usual position walking alonside Rhen. He now trails a pace or two behind, dividing his attention between her and Alaya, who is glued to his side. Elini frowns slightly, “I am concerned about Alaya,” she says quietly.
John scowls at the young woman’s back, and Elini sighs inwardly. The unexpected emergence of Alaya’s gift has meant that Elini has had to devote a great deal of time and energy towards training the new demon summoner. Elini rather suspects that John had been hoping for more time alone with her on this journey. And, despite her guilt and misgivings about the last couple of months, she has to admit that she would have enjoyed more time with John, too.
“She cannot control a full-fledged daeva,” continues Elini, “and yet she summoned one. She does not recognize the danger that she is in.” Elini watches Alaya for a moment as she clings to Talver for support after stumbling on a tree root. “She does not focus on her lessons. She is too… distracted.”
John glances dismissively at the pair. “They are young,” he snorts. “Let them enjoy themselves.” He looks at Elini with puppy dog eyes, “And perhaps, we might enjoy ourselves as well.”
Elini laughs in spite of herself. She gives John a quick kiss and then pushes him away. Perhaps he is right. Perhaps she is worrying at nothing. “Go,” she says with a warm smile, gesturing towards the front of the party. “I do not trust any of those three to keep us out of trouble.”
Alaya wants to cry. Her feet hurt. Really hurt. She glances at Talver out of the corner of her eye. He is so strong and brave. He doesn’t seem tired at all. How can he not be tired. She is sure it must be well past nightfall. Of course, in the Halloween Hills it is always night. She wants to cry. She just wants to stop walking. She wants to sleep. She wants to dream…
“Just a little farther,” she hears Elini encouraging them. “We are very nearly to the village now. Everyone make sure you have your garlic…”
Suddenly, an eerie howl pierces the night, cutting off Elini’s words. The ghosts seem to materialize out of thin air, flanked by vampire bats with wicked glowing eyes. Terror rises in Alaya’s throat, making it hard to breathe. She feels the world growing darker, if that were possible in this light-forsaken place. She feels as if she is falling, the world tumbling away from her. She feels that she will fall forever. And then she feels herself caught in strong arms, and she rests her head against the powerful chest. “Do not fear, Alaya,” says the voice in her ear. “I will always be here for you.”
She opens her eyes and finds that she has fallen to her knees. The others have drawn their weapons and begun to advance on the creatures. Elini, seeming to sense something, lets her whip fall to her side and turns towards Alaya, eyes widening as they come to rest on a spot nearby. Alaya follows her glance and sees him standing there, near enough to touch. Fear and excitement tingle through her body. She looks at him, breathless with anticipation. Elini drops her whip and begins chanting.
“Quick!” says Nanghaitha, in a low voice that only Alaya can hear, “I am yours to command. Tell me what to do.”
Alaya sees the ball of energy begin to form between Elini’s hands. She does not want Elini to banish Nanghaithya. She, Alaya, summoned him. She Summoned him. She feels giddy. “Kill them,” she says pointing to the ghosts. “Protect us.”
Nanghaithya smiles at Alaya, bowing his head slightly. “As you command,” he murmurs. He approaches the ghosts, chanting, his arms outspread in front of him. Suddenly, a bolt of lightening arcs from each hand, connecting him briefly first to each ghost and then the vampire bats. Alaya’s eyes water from the sudden stabs of light. When her vision clears, the monsters are gone, only patches of scorched earth to show that they had ever existed. Nanghaithya is gone as well, leaving Alaya feeling oddly alone. Elini is staring at her, arms still upheld, although the ball of energy has disappeared. Talver and John are rubbing their eyes. Only Rhen seems unaffected.
Realization bubbles up inside Alaya. “I did it! I did it, didn’t I?” she is so happy she can barely speak. “I controlled him! I told him what to do and he did it!” She feels as though she is floating. She has never felt so powerful, so strong.
“It certainly seemed that way,” says Elini cautiously, but Alaya is so happy that she does not hear the hesitation in Elini’s voice.
The Druid Rashnu carefully examines Rhen’s face. He looks deeply into her eyes, and then placing his hands on either side of her face, he closes his eyes and becomes utterly still. The seconds tick slowly by, turning into minutes and still Rashnu does not move. Alaya shfits iritably on the window seat. She has come down, now, from the high of Summoning Nanghaithya. She had hardly been aware of the short walk into Ghed’ahre, the stares of the hungry vampires or the wonders of the dark cathedral. But now she is achingly aware of every muscle in her body. She is tired. She is bored. She tries to catch Talver’s eye to see if he would walk with her back into the main part of the cathedral, but he does not take his eyes of the Druid’s face. She sighs and slumps lower in her seat. Will they never sleep again? She settles further into the corner, resting her head against the stone wall and curling her feet under her. Her lids grow heavier and heavier as she waits for Rashnu – for anyone – to say something.
Out of the corner of her eye, Elini sees Alaya drift peacefully into sleep. She sighs softly. Only her noble upbringing, the harsh training of her youth keeps her upright and still. Her mind, far from finding peace in the quiet stillnes of the cathedral, spins even more rapidly than during their trek through the forest.
If only she hadn’t used that love potion, perhaps things would be different now. Danny would have left her, she is sure of it. The idea pierces her heart with surprising force. Danny may not seem like much of an adventurer compared to the people of Veldt with whom she grew up, but Danny did not grow up in Veldt. He grew up in a sleepy village of the highlands of the Western Isle – the furthest place from adventure that she can imagine. In living memory, not a single one of the villagers had set forth to face the dangers of the wide world… nor to see its wonders. Danny was a true gem, braver by far than most she knew in Veldt to do so much coming from so little.
Still, if Danny had left, unwilling as he had been to act on his feelings for another man’s wife, perhaps Rhen would not have been shocked into her living death. Perhaps Rhen would be with them in spirit as well as body. And Alaya… What would have happened to Alaya when she came into her powers with no demon summoner to guide her? Elini suppresses a shudder. Alaya would likely be dead now, or worse. Her powers were strong. To summon a daeva with no training… What had happened out there in the woods… what had happened with Nanghaithya?
“She is not – yet – in the Realm of the Dead.” Rashnu’s voice startles Elini out of her musing. “Beyond that, I cannot say for certain.”
John breathes a sigh of relief. “There is hope then?” he asks cautiously.
Rashnu shrugs irritably. “One can always hope, I suppose. She is, as you so poetically put it, the Walking Dead. Her soul has left her body to roam the Underworld, searching for Death. She has not found it yet, but, as I said, beyond that I cannot say for certain. There are worse things, by far, than Death to find in the Underworld.”
“What do you mean, Druid,” says Elini when it becomes apparent that Rashnu has finished speaking. “What could happen to her?”
The Druid fixes Elini with a piercing glare, “You of all people should know that, Demon Summoner. Have you forgotten all of your lessons of the Underworld?”
“Lessons? Underworld?” asks Elini, confused. “I have never had any lessons on the Underworld.”
Rashnu stares at Elini for a moment in disbelief. Slowly he shakes his head, “Ah, I forget myself sometimes. The world has changed greatly since I was a child,” he murmurs softly. He shakes his head again, “Well, better late than never. Pay attention. A demon summoner should understand the Underworld.”
Elini suppresses a surge of irritation. She does not like being treated like a child. Still, she must seem a child compared to the immense age of an immortal druid.
“The Underworld,” begins Rashnu , “reflects the human condition. Our hopes, our fears and, if we are brave enough, peace at last. The Underworld contains three realms: the Dreamworld, the Demon Realm and the Realm of the Dead. Closest to the Human Realm, and easiest – and safest to enter – is the Dream. We enter the Dream every time we go to sleep, a little death for us every night,” says Rashnu with a small smile.
“Hardest to find – is the Realm of the Dead. When the time comes for us to leave the Human Realm, those of us who are very lucky or are brave enough to accept our fate can find true peace in the Realm of the Dead.” Rashnu pauses, eyes losing focus. He closes his eyes for a moment, and begins speaking more rapidly, “And in between lies the Demon Realm.” Rashnu opens his eyes, looking straight at Elini, “For those who are powerful enough, the Demon Realm is an escape from death, a route to immortality.”
Elini gasps. “You are saying that demons are just humans who are afraid to die?”
Rashnu snorts, “Not human. Not just. A soul that is afraid to die, a soul that cuts it’s natural ties to the Human Realm and to its body is a very dangerous thing. What do you think are the ghosts who haunt our dark woods? What do you think are the undead – the vampires of our local village.” Rashnu sighs again, “These are my children. I watch over them. Occasionally I can help them find peace… but I digress. Some magic users are powerful enough to rip their soul out of the natural order completely. Their soul comes to reside in the Demon Realm, coming back always to the Demon Realm. They cannot die, for their souls do not travel the road to Death.”
“Are you saying, then,” cuts in John harshly, “that Rhen has become a demon?”
“I do not know. I think not – not yet, anyway. But I cannot say for certain. I watch over the Realm of the Dead, not the Demon Realm. The Walking Dead always start their journey in Dream. Some never leave Dream. Some eventually come back to their bodies of their own accord. Still others – those who are very brave or very determined – may sometimes find the dark paths to the other realms. Rhen is, certainly, capable of both great bravery and great determination.”
Elini is shaken by Rashnu’s words. “She cannot die. She must not become a demon. We must get her back, Druid. Tell us what to do.”
Rashnu looks wryly at Elini. “Cannot? Must not? Her soul, I believe, will make its own decisions. Still, if you are determined, you may try to… intervene. You must find her soul, somewhere in the Underworld. But even should you find her, only a very powerful healer would be strong enough to re-join her soul to her body.”
Posted on: 2008/5/24 23:25
|Re: The Changeling (Reposting... 30 / 32 )||#78|
Never say so... Is this where Dameon and Rhen meets each other again???
Posted on: 2008/5/25 5:39
|Re: The Changeling (Reposting... 30 / 32 )||#79|
i love nanghaithya. he's such a sneak. though i'm sure we'll see more of him - and i think i told you this last time - i'd be very interested to see your take on the other daevas.
and boy, i don't remember rashnu being that irritable. how much more of him will we have to put up with? XD XD
But even should you find her, only a very powerful healer would be strong enough to re-join her soul to her body
Posted on: 2008/5/28 20:04
If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats.
|Re: The Changeling (Reposting... 31 / 33 )||#80|
@kaz: I adore Nanghaithya. He's more than sneaky, he's also... oops! Better wait on that! Thanks! It means a lot to me that you like my daeva. I may well write some more of them, if they decide to pop in my story.
Dameon creeps through the pitch black of a deep storeroom in the Tear Shrine. The Nightmare Dagger is a dead weight in his hand, heavier than its size, pulling him down… pushing him on. His foot catches on some forgotten chest and suddenly he is falling, hands thrown up to protect his face. The dagger skitters across the stone floor, echoing loundly in the silence.
For a heartbeat, it seems as though time has stopped. Nothing moves… there is no sound. The terror of falling in the darkness has pushed out thoughts of Eithera… Darius… the Demon Realm. His heart beats painfully in his chest and his breath comes as ragged pants.
He is a child again. The Oracle used to bring him to The Dream from time to time when she had business with Talia that must be discussed in person. While the Oracle and the Dreamer talked, Dameon would play. He used to search endlessly through these rooms rummaging through old chests for shells and pebbles to add to his collections. Once he had found, in an ancient crate, a child-sized shield and rusty sword. He could not imagine for whom they had ever been made, nor why they had ever found their way here. Still, they had been perfect for his imaginary dragon hunts. Never sure how his mother might react to his scavenging, he had hidden them away in one of his secret hiding places, only to come out when he was safely alone, ready to save yet another damsel in distress.
Dameon smiles ruefully before sighing deeply. He had been happy in those years before he knew better. He had been too young, then, to question the circumstances of his life.
Slowly he climbs to his feet, his movements masking the muffled sounds of footsteps on a distant stair. He mutters a soft spell and a gentle light begins to glow from between his cupped hands. Slowly he begins to search for the cursed dagger, though his mind is lost to a very different time.
It has been fifteen years since he has been in the Dream in body. Then – as now – he had been on a dark quest, seeking always to aid his father’s hand against Talia. But then he had not been alone. Although the faces of his other companions have grown dim, he sees Rhen in his mind’s eye as clear as day – her purple hair, the shy smile she reserved for only him, the rosy flush that colored her cheeks when he focused his attention on her. She had charmed him utterly, and despite his intentions he had soon lost track of whether his attraction to her was an act or a desperate, earnest truth.
His eyes fall on the dull gleam of the Nightmare Dagger, and he reaches for it with a low groan.
By the time they had reached Mysten Far, Rhen had grown close to him… and he to her. The Dream had cast its strange magic on him then, and he had found himself caught in its unpredictable logic. The anger that lay always coiled around his heart like a snake – or a lover – had awoken and struck out at the smug face of the daeva Agas. It had made no sense. Even as his rational mind had called out to him to be cautious, he had found himself shouting in his mother’s defense. Always before, he had kept silent when they met the daevas. Always before, he had kept himself to the background, afraid of giving himself away… afraid of being exposed. Indeed, Agas had tried to betray him to his companions. But in the end, it had worked to Dameon’s advantage: driving another wedge between Rhen and that cursed, green-haired necromancer. He should have realized then that his feelings for Rhen had grown too strong. It was only the faulty logic of dreams that had allowed him to believe that somehow he could reconcile his allegiance to Ahriman with his love for the young sword singer.
He groans again, extinguishing the faint light from his spell. It is more fitting for his mood. He is a creature of darkness.
“Who is there?” calls a voice softly in the distance, but lost to the agony of his memories, Dameon does not hear it.
He had fallen in love with the Sword Singer. In the end, he had cast aside everything for her, and she had left him. Left him to suffer alone for eternity while she tried to re-create the life that he had stolen from her when that idiotic slave trader had mistaken her for the Dreamer. How perfectly cruel his fate had seemed then.
And now…. Now…. He sees her, older and more beautiful than ever, standing weakly in the manor in Sedona. Do you not realize that I have thrown in my lot with you utterly? I am past the point of no return. There is no going back to Clearwater for me anymore.
Awareness strikes with the ferocity of a serpent. He left her... He sees her, standing in Stronghold Temple, shock and anguish etched across her face... across his heart.
He howls in rage and despair as he falls to his knees. The fog that had settled over his mind in the Demon Realm has finally cleared. Eithera had played him well. She had gambled, and she had won. She had guessed that the intoxication of being cast so suddenly back in the Demon Realm would overwhelm the tenuous happiness he had found in Rhen's arms. She had used her every wile to keep his mind and his heart from turning back to Rhen.
He very nearly laughs, but the anguished sound that comes out of his throat has more than a trace of madness to it. He finally understands.
He knows now why Eithera’s parting words made him so uneasy. He left Rhen – and his unborn child – in Stronghold Temple. And even now Eithera is on her way back to them. With that light forsaken love potion. Icy fingers of fear grip his heart. He will do anything to protect Rhen and his unborn child. Anything.
“Who is there? Show yourself!” calls Talia, her angry and frightened voice only feet from him now. She mutters hastily under her breath and suddenly a piercing light splits the darkness, falling on Dameon and shocking him to silence. “Dameon? Is that you?” confusion touches her voice now, but the fear and anger remain. “Why are you here?” Talia’s eyes dart from his madness-tinged eyes to fall on the Nightmare Dagger clutched in his hand. Her eyes narrow in anger. She draws a sharp breath and Dameon can feel the air around him tingling in anticipation of the spell she is surely about to cast on him. The Dreamer has many powers in the the Dream.
“Stop, Mother!” his voice is cold and hard. “I would not say a word if I were you.” His arm raises as if of its own accord, the dagger pointing unerringly towards the base of her throat. He will not allow anyone -- his mother least of all -- to jeopardize the life of his unborn child. “I cannot allow you to cast a spell just now.”
Posted on: 2008/5/30 0:39
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