View Full Version : My sister's book.
12-11-2008, 07:15 AM
By Kasi Skal
The mountains spread below her as the sun began to sink in the western sky. This was her favorite time of day, when the sun left the sky to the dominion of the moon, for she was a creature of the night. She was able to slip between the shadows by way of her stealth and her features. Her hair was so dark; it looked to be made of onyx, woven with shadows. Her eyes were pools of midnight so black, no one could tell where iris ended and pupil began. Her skin was the color of moonlight, pale and haunting, giving her an unearthly glow. Her shapely form was perfectly curved and every muscle honed to near perfection because of her nighttime training. She had learned to carry herself in a way that even her plentiful bosom was not a burden. The only slight that was given her was a dash of freckles across her face, sprinkled with loving care to soften the cruel beauty the rest of her body presented. If it were not for those light marks and the roundness of her ears and eyes, she could have been mistaken for one of the fair folk, as an elf.
As the sun set upon her, she turned in place to locate the harvest moon in all it’s splendor and bask in its glorious light.
“Khrys will be going to sleep about now,” she muttered to no one but herself. “Fool boy can’t even keep awake to watch the moon rise.”
12-11-2008, 07:16 AM
Khrystian Syren walked through the halls in desperate need of his bed and the warm comfortable solitude his pillow would provide him. He longed for sleep and yet again tried to fathom the reason his silly sister would squander a good night’s rest.
“Her and her stars, I swear,” he grumbled between yawns, “Ky has truly gone daft if she thinks I’m going to go traipsing up that cliff just to watch the moon rise. Though it is the perfect spot to watch the dawn caress Acuestria.”
Khrystian spoke of his twin sister Kylara with love, even if he believed her daft. He understood her attraction to the night no more than she understood his affinity with day.
And just as day and night were opposites, so were they. They both had the perfectness of feature, but where her hair was woven shadow, his was captured sunlight. Where her eyes were midnight black, his were sparkling gold. Where her skin was pale as the moon, his was brazen, tanned by the sun of many, many days out-of-doors. Where she was the perfect, soft shape of feminity, he was the strong, hard form of masculinity. Even in attitude they were opposite. Her emotions ranged from outgoing and friendly, to calm and collected, to scathing and sarcastic. He, on the other hand, was often withdrawn and forlorn, manic and impatient, or furious and vengeful. They annoyed each other so much they could not dare spend too many waking hours together for fear of tearing each other apart, but the love they shared kept them as the closest pair one could ever see. The fact they lived under one roof in one wing of castle helped, but the phenomenon they had termed the Bond was the most influential.
The Bond was a dash of psychic magic the pair shared. He and his twin sister sometimes felt what the other felt and ‘saw’ some of what the other had seen. They discovered their talent one evening when they were young children of only seven winters and had gone walking near the base of North Mountain without their mother’s permission. Khrys had gone to look at a beautiful wildflower that he intended to bring to his mother as a gift so she would not be too cross with them for leaving. He traveled off of the path and looked around at all the beautiful colors surrounding that autumn evening, on the brink of dusk. He looked down and discovered a brown rabbit at his feet. He followed the rabbit to its hole and waved as it disappeared in to the darkness. He stood and turned a slow circle only to realize he didn’t know where he was or how to go back the way he had come.
12-11-2008, 07:17 AM
He was lost.
He started to cry but realized that that would be useless, he was too far out and darkness was closing fast. He had to sit still and hope that his sister would find him. He sat in the failing light listening to things move in the shadows of twilight and thought of his sister and that stupid rabbit until the sun had all but disappeared when he heard a noise ruffle the bushes behind him. He jumped to his feet and was immediately thrown off of his feet by his sister. After the initial shock had worn off, Khrys asked Ky how, exactly, she had found him.
“I don't know,” Ky replied, puzzled by the question herself, “Something inside told me you were lost and where to find you. And I kept seeing pictures of this little rabbit in my head.”
As Khrystian opened the door to the chamber of the guard tower that housed himself, his mother, and Kylara, he felt the sensations of home rush through the crack. The smell of baked bread, cooked meat, a warm hickory fire, and the sound of his mother singing in her untrained contralto washed over him like a cleansing spring in the middle of the hot day. He drank deeply the smell of home, savoring every small scent and wishing to hold that breath forever. After a moment, he stepped forward into the common room.
“Hey, Mom. What’s that you're making?” he said as he heard the bustle of his mother in the kitchen die down and the tune she had been singing end on a soft note.
“Well, I was cooking some sausage and rice for you to eat when you got home, but it’s done now. I was thinking that maybe we could spend a dinner together as a family, but I suppose your sister has gone and run off so it’ll just be the two of us.”
Their mother was a slight woman, shorter than both her children by a small margin, at five and a quarter feet tall and 120 pounds. She had reached the age of forty-four, which was neither young, nor old by Acuestrian standards. The wrinkles she had acquired made her seem wise rather than old and the youthful glint of her eyes was never lost. Though her hair was naturally more gray than blond, she kept it one color by soaking it with lemon juice from the trees outside and along the road. She had her number of physical flaws not represented in her children, except the freckles that marked them all as kin. Rozelyn, surrogate mother and housekeeper of all the guards, was pretty, witty, and intelligent. Though she never lost a childish gleam to her eyes, she still looked as though the golden orbs, intensified in her son, were smarter than they seemed. In all
12-11-2008, 07:17 AM
matters her opinion was sought and she was regarded the final law in and around the tower.
“How ever could you start a meal without me, Mother, dearest?” Kylara asked as she strode in to the common room with a mock hurt look on her face, “I haven’t eaten yet, either.”
Rozelyn turned to her daughter and said “I figured that if you had wanted to eat with us, you would have stuck around for a bit and eaten; dinner was almost done when you left. You two make yourselves plates and we’ll all sit down to a family meal.”
“Sounds like a good idea to me,” Ky replied, shrugging.
Despite their slim figures, Ky and Khrys heaped generous helpings on to their respective plates from the large black kettle above the fire. Ky stole a bite of the spicy sausage her mother had prepared and groaned with pleasure. Sausage and rice was one of her favorite things to eat, especially when Mother made it. She had tried to make it a few times on her nighttime wanderings, but had never succeeded at matching her mother’s level of prowess.
“This is really good, Mom,” she said between stuffing forkfuls of the rice in her mouth on the way to the family table.
When they had all taken their seats around the table, Rozelyn gave Kylara a chastising look for not giving thanks to the Unity before eating. Ky set her fork down and gave an apologetic shrug. She, then, clasped her hands and muttered a prayer of thanksgiving. Khrys, meanwhile, had remembered his prayer and started to tuck in to his food; he was savoring every bite, yet still managing to eat several bites a minute.
“So, Khrys, how was your day?” Rozelyn asked.
“It was okay. That girl, Celia, talked to me today,” he replied between bites. Celia was the first girl to truly capture his interest romantically.
“Well that’s good. What did you two talk about?”
“Not much, really. She saw me working on the garden outside and asked me to walk with her to the butcher’s shop," he said. “I saw Lyonel there, Ky.” Lyonel was a friend of hers that she had met at one of her afternoon swordplay lessons. He was two years her senior, half a foot taller, broader, fifty pounds heavier and very much the strong silent type
“That’s nice,” Ky replied, eagerly shoveling another forkful of rice into her mouth. After she had chewed and swallowed, Rozelyn asked after her day.
“Since I slept peacefully most of the day, it's been rather pleasant. I hope to have the same kind of night. The only thing that didn‘t lend itself was that Cyndi is having some troubles and I’m trying to help her. It’s almost like I’m her protector,” Kylara said.
“Ah, yes. Kylara the Lion-hearted. Imagine,” Khrys quipped.
“Your sarcasm is refreshing, dear brother,” Ky said dryly. “You want to try me?”
“Shall we step outside?” Khrys shot back.
“Do you really want your friends to watch you get beat up by your sister?” Ky challenged.
Khrys visibly deflated. "Not really, no." he pouted. The whole table fell in to a fit of laughter.
“You two are too much. I hope the Council can handle you," Rozelyn remarked between bouts of laughter.
12-11-2008, 07:18 AM
“The Council? Why would they have to 'handle' us?” Ky queried, immediately sobering up. The Council was the ruling body of the land of Lyssa, under the Grand Council, and was made up of the King, his two advisors, and one advocate from each of the major cities. The Chosen also attended. The Chosen were humans and elves that resided within each of the territories in Acuestria and served as a kind of standing army and law enforcement. They rode and formed close partnerships with dragons that hatched from eggs that hatched by some unknown magic at the touch of their hand. There were five different kinds of dragons: red, blue, white, black and gold. The color of the eggshell was the color of the dragon inside, so the hatchers knew what to expect from their hatchling in the days of its life. Each dragon was gifted with a personality to match its color: red had a temper, blue was calm, white was benevolent, black was devious, and gold was proud. Every year, a new batch of teenage courtiers from all over the continent and of both human and elvish background was summoned by the Grand Council to petition to lay hands on the eggs. Usually, the count came out even between the two races, by the grace of the Unity, and those that were lucky enough to have an egg hatch at their touch became the life-long partner, companion and ally of the dragon inside.
The attitude around the table had grown somber. Khrys didn’t like the feeling at all, not at the table where they had shared so many laughs. He squirmed in his seat, causing the uneven wooden legs to thump against the stone floor.
“I was going to tell you later, but I guess now is as good a time as ever. You two have been summoned by the Council to an appearance in the Council Hall in Zellenie three days from now. I don’t know what they want, besides the both of you together. You would tell me if you were in trouble, right?” Rozelyn said.
“Of course we would, Mom,” Ky said softly, already puzzling over the strange request to see the children of a servant. Normally, the Council would only call upon the highborn, which made the request not only a mystery as to its cause, but highly irregular. An enigma if ever there was one.
“Yeah. I haven’t left the tower grounds all day, except when Celia asked me to walk her out. What could they want with us, Ky? The last hatching was in the spring, and we’re not invited to that, anyway,” Khrys remarked.
“I really have no idea, honey. All I know is there’s some big to-do over at the Hall and they want to see you guys. Both of you together. They were very emphatic on that point. Anyway, let’s get off that topic. You know that new girl, Carolyn, which I’ve been telling you about? Well, she’s a really hard worker and all, but she’s just a little bit strange. Although, I know I’m one to talk…” Rozelyn chatted.
Kylara had lost interest in what Khrystian and her mother were discussing and busied herself with trying to satisfy her curiosity. Why did the Council want to see her? Why her and Khrys together? What had they done to attract the Council’s attention and why didn’t they want to see Mother? The questions running through her mind came at such a rapid pace they threatened to swallow her up.
“…Lyonel?” Rozelyn finished. Ky tuned in at the mention of his name, especially since it was mentioned as a question obviously addressed to her.
“Huh?” Ky chimed. Rozelyn smiled good-naturedly.
12-11-2008, 07:19 AM
“I didn’t think you were paying attention. Anyway, I asked if you were going to see if Lyonel would let you ride in his cart to the Council Hall. It would be a really good idea and I would feel better about it. You know it’s a ways away and, before you even open your mouth, I know you would be fine on your own. It’s only a suggestion to make your dear, old mother feel better,” Rozelyn said.
“You’re not old, Mom,” Ky said, “And, yes, actually, I was thinking about asking Lyonel for a ride to Zellenie. I might be amazing, but I'm still human and I want all my strength for the upcoming events. Especially if the Council is planning on springing something on us. I’ll go ask him after we finish eating, as a matter of fact, and then I’ll go on my nighttime excursion. I think I’m just going to go up to Drawl’s Cliff to camp and do my exercises. You’re both welcome to come with, if you think you can keep up.”
“I think I’m going to bed. You go ahead,” he said.
“Darling, you know I can’t keep up with you, curse your youthfulness. But I’d come if I could. You want me to pack some of this sausage and rice for you while you round up your other things?” Rozelyn offered.
“Sure, Mom. I really wish you’d come with me. Then I’d at least have a sparring partner. But oh well. I do like the solitude up there. Gives me time to think. Maybe I’ll crack the riddle of the Council,” Ky proposed.
“First, she’s a great protector, now she’s a great thinker? C’mon Ky, let’s stick to one fantasy here,” Khrys quipped.
“Right, and in which one do you have the brains of an orc? Oh that’s right, that's reality,” Ky shot back and ran out of the kitchen, heading for the refuge of her room behind her heavy oak door. She heard the latch click in place just as her brother hit it squarely with his shoulders, all of his considerable weight and strength giving force to the blow. Ky held fast with her feet digging in against cracks in the uneven stone floor and her body braced against the door. Not to mention the extra weight of solid oak on brass hinges. Since her door had no way to lock from the inside, she had to hold fast until Rozelyn called Khrys off. Ky peaked out of her door, to make sure he had listened to mother, and discovering he wasn’t by her door, closed it and started to make her pack.
12-11-2008, 07:19 AM
She knew she’d be gone all night, so she brought her “tent,” which was really a heavy piece of cloth about eight feet by eight feet, her sleeping roll, a pot, her flint and tinder box, an extra shirt and breeches, and her practice gear. Her practice gear consisted of the sword she had asked Lyonel’s father, the blacksmith, to make for her, a pair of sais she had inherited from her great grandmother, an elven bow and arrows, her wooden buckler, and her padded leather armor. She always wore the armor when she went to practice, just in case she had the good fortune to find a partner to spar.
Once she had her gear all packed she called to her mother through her door to find out if the food was packed and ready to go. Her mother told her that everything was in order and that, if she got a chance, could she bring home some more meat for the smokehouse.
“I don’t know, Mom. If I see something, I’ll bring it down, but I was planning on spending the night practicing. I’ll bring my rod and before I go to sleep I’ll do a little light fishing. Maybe,” Ky offered.
“It doesn’t much matter. I’ll get Khrys to do some fishing and hunting tomorrow. He can make a day of it. It won’t take you kids all that long to get to Zellenie. Especially with Lyonel’s help. Tell him thank you for me, please, Ky,” Rozelyn stated matter-of-factly.
“I will, Mama. I love you. Goodnight, Khrys! I love you, too!” Ky yelled over her shoulder as she grabbed her bags and walked out.
12-11-2008, 07:20 AM
As she took her first step off of the castle grounds, she sucked in a deep breath of the night air and held it, expanding her lungs with the scents of the night. She let it go in a sigh and headed towards Lyonel’s house. Since Lyonel’s father, Danie Craft, was the blacksmith, the house that he and his family lived in was directly behind the smithy. Danie could be found by his forge at all times of the day except for the occasional meal--most of which he skipped--and at a few times during the night. Lyonel’s mother, Eliza, ran the household and kept the peace between the three children, Lyonel and his two younger sisters, Whytney and Dania.
Kylara walked up to the house and knocked on the door. Eliza answered and she asked if she could see Lyonel.
“Why, of course, dear. He’s always happy to see you. I’ll fetch him right away. In the meantime, would you like to come in and sit in the kitchen?” Eliza said.
“No, thank you, lady Craft. I’m on my way up to Drawl’s Cliff and I just wanted to ask him one quick question,” Ky replied.
“Drawl’s Cliff? That’s as far as you’re going this evening?” Eliza asked.
“I’m hoping that by shortening my climb, I can lengthen my training session. Even without a sparring partner, it’s good practice.” Ky explained.
“Well, I hope that goes well for you. And you know, if you really need a sparring partner, you could ask Lyonel to join you. Or one of the girls. They need to start their training, too. Anyway, let me go get Lyonel for you. I’ll be right back,” Eliza said.
It had actually never occurred to Ky to ask Lyonel along. He would be an excellent partner. He was bigger than her, stronger, but not as fast because of his bulk. He was also trained by his father, very possibly the best swordsman in the town. When he showed up at the door, she had made up her mind to ask him along.
12-11-2008, 07:21 AM
“Hello, Kylara,” Lyonel said. He was one of the two people that called her by her full name. The other was her father, who lived in the northern territory of Acuestria, Kyria.
“Hey, Lyonel. I came here to ask you if you would do me a really big favor,” Ky said.
“What’s that?” he asked in his nearly emotionless voice.
“Would you drive me and my brother to Zellenie?”
“Because we have to go there.”
“Why do you have to go there?”
“Because we were summoned.”
“Why were you summoned?”
“Who summoned you?”
“I don’t believe you,” he finished.
“I promise they did! Honest! And I was wondering if you’d give us a ride. It’s in three days, so you have a little while to decide, but I would really appreciate a speedy answer,” Ky said.
“Alright,” Lyonel said.
“Alright what?” Ky replied.
“Alright I’ll take you,” Lyonel clarified. “Is that all you wanted to know?”
“Thanks," she flashed a quick smile,” and no that’s not all. I’m heading up to Drawl’s Cliff and I need a sparring partner. You want to come?”
“I guess, but I can’t drive you up there and it’ll take me a minute to get my gear packed.”
“I’ll wait out by the road in front of your dad’s shop. See you in a bit,” Ky said, and walked off.
* * * *
Khrys had watched his sister leave, wondering, yet again, at the insanity plaguing her mind. As he heard the guards yelling to open the gate, he turned to his mother and shook his head.
“You know something, every night she asks us if we want to come and every time we both say ‘no.’ I wonder what she would do if we said ‘yes.’” Khrys said, fully intrigued by the question. “Do you think she would welcome us into her nightly routine? I mean, she’s been out doing stuff at night since she was twelve. That’s four years of routine strategically interrupted by one word. I’m going to try that tomorrow night, just to see what happens.”
“Now, now Khrys, there's no reason to tease your sister like that. Only say you’ll go if you are really going to go spar with her. And then you both have to promise me that you will be extra careful and won’t try to kill each other. For real, anyway,” Rozelyn admonished.
“It doesn’t matter, I’m not going tonight. I’ll probably forget all about this in the morning. Hey, I thought I heard you tell Ky that I was going somewhere tomorrow. Did you?” Khrys said.
“Well, I thought maybe you wouldn’t mind going hunting or fishing for some meat for the smokehouse tomorrow. We’re getting low on a few things and it’s getting close to winter. I just want to make sure we’ll have enough for a while if the trails get blocked off by snow,” Rozelyn explained.
“Sure, Mom. I’ll go. Just pack me some breakfast. Right now, though, I’m off to bed. I’m really tired. Goodnight, Mom. Love you,” Khrys said, and he kissed his mom on top of her head and went to his room, and to the pillow that had been calling his name since before he had walked in the house.
“Goodnight, Khrys. I love you, too.”
12-11-2008, 07:21 AM
“All ready, Lyonel?” Kylara called from the smithy when she saw him coming down the path from his house.
She saw him nod, almost imperceptibly, to her in the dark, and started to walk toward him. She met him at the intersection of the lane to his house and the main road. He had a full pack on his back, a lantern in his hand, and she could smell the fresh baked traveler’s bread that Eliza had no doubt made him wait to get.
“Sorry it took so long, my mom wanted to pack some food for me,” Lyonel apologized as he reached her on the road.
“It’s alright. My mom packed some sausage and rice for me. I figure that and some good traveler’s bread will be a delightful dinner. What do you think?” Ky replied.
“How’d you know that that’s what’s in my pack?” Lyonel asked.
“’Cause I’m good like that,” Kylara said, as if that were the one and only reason that anything could happen, and everybody knew it.
“Ah, right. I forgot,” he said, playing along with her joke.
“That better not happen again, or else,” she said, teasingly.
“Or else what? What could you do?” Lyonel challenged, laughing.
“This!” Ky yelled, and ran as fast as she could, shedding her pack as she went. She found the nearest tree and barreled towards it. Lyonel called out, wanting to know what she intended, and started to run after her. Just as he started to catch up, though, she hit the tree…and ran straight up it!
She reached the first branch, which was ten feet off of the ground and executed a perfect back flip, landing right behind him, sais out and poised to strike. He turned around as fast as humanly possible but was caught completely off-guard, with the sharp point of a sai inches from his nose.
“That’s what I could do about it,” Ky said. She smiled and turned her sais in circles on the palm of each hand and sheathed them back on her belt. Then, she turned a circle and went back to retrieve her pack. Lyonel just watched her, wonderingly.
When she had picked up her pack and rejoined Lyonel, the sense of wonder and awe was gone, replaced by the same old indifference he showed everything.
“So, how’d you do that?” Lyonel asked.
“Magic,” Ky answered, sounding completely serious.
“Really? You can do magic, too?” Lyonel asked, seeming marginally interested.
“Not really. I learned it from a squirrel. You have to get the right kind of balance and boots and everything, but it looks really awesome. And it works great,” she confessed. “What did you mean by ‘I can do magic, too?’ You of all people, with your rational approach to everything, should realize that most magic is illusion, and what of it wasn’t has obviously died out.”
12-11-2008, 07:22 AM
“You think so?” Lyonel asked, sounding slightly dismayed.
“Of course not! Any half-wit can see that magic exists. How else would the Chosen hatch their eggs and form such powerful bonds? How else are the barriers of our cities fortified against the wilds, even on the very brink of oblivion? How else could we have survived the Cataclysm? And kept peace with the elves and half-humans? Everyone knows that magic exists, powerful magic, but we peasants aren't supposed to know about it, for some inexplicable reason," Ky sighed. "Why do you ask?”
“Oh, no reason,” he said.
“I don’t believe you. You wouldn’t have asked if you didn’t have a reason to ask.”
“Well, I can’t tell you right now. Maybe later.”
“Alright. You can tell me when you’re ready,” Ky said. It was possibly the hardest sentence she had ever spoken. In reality, her curiosity was piqued. One of Kylara’s greatest downfalls was her curiosity. She knew that not knowing was going to eat her alive, but she didn’t want to push Lyonel into confessing something he didn’t want to tell her. She knew, in her heart, that she would resist temptation as long as possible because Lyonel was such a good friend.
“Anyway, tonight will be fun. It’s been so long since I’ve had someone to practice with. Khrys and Mom never come, but that’s okay. I like the solitude. Lets me think about things like the future and alternate realities where I’m Empress and I rule all of Acuestria. Or even a Chosen. But that’s impossible, I’m nowhere near courtier status and I’m a girl. Two things that work against me. Everybody knows that girls next to never become Chosen; there has only been two in the history of Acuestria,” Ky chattered.
“If anyone can do it, you can,” Lyonel said quietly.
“I believe I can, and I think I’d do an awesome job, too, but that has nothing to do with whether or not it’s possible. And anyway, I don't know if I could go through the initial six months of training by myself. They say that it's horribly rigorous. Now, if Khrys came with me, I could do anything. We make an amazing team. But there I go on my alternate reality again. The point is that, unfortunately, my becoming a Chosen is no more probable than you being a wizard,” Ky said.
Luckily, she was so absorbed in her thoughts that she didn’t see Lyonel miss a step. That, in fact, was the secret that was eating Kylara alive at that very moment. Lyonel’s father carried the bloodline of one of the more powerful lineages, from just after the Cataclysm during that forgotten age when magic roamed free to everyone, and Lyonel had inherited his magic. Danie had covertly trained him in the use of his magic for little things and had him memorize spell books that had been passed down through the generations and hidden. Lyonel was talented at his use of magic. His father had told him once or twice that he must be a stronger wizard than himself, because of the ease with which he performed complicated feats of magic that had taken Danie years to master. In any case, Lyonel was well versed in his talent, and had the capability to use it in a wizarding duel, or any other kind of fight.
The hard-packed dirt path began to rise and their steps became laborious.
“Next willow tree you see, take a right. There’s no road there, but trust me, it’s the fastest way to get to Drawl’s Cliff. And watch out for fallen trees, they’re all over through there. And that lantern in your hand there,” Ky said, and gestured to the item.
12-11-2008, 07:24 AM
“What about it?” Lyonel asked.
“Well, you won’t need it. It’s more of a fire hazard on that trail than any help. The light gives only the partial truth of the landscape. Our willow is about a quarter mile up the road so you better blow out the lantern and get your eyes accustomed to the dark,” Ky instructed. “There’s a full moon out tonight so it won’t be that bad without it.” Lyonel obliged her and blew out the lantern. At first, he was plunged into near blindness, but the full harvest moon gave him light to see his next step. Then, his vision became clearer and he could see the holes and bumps in the dirt road. He saw Ky deftly dodge out of the way of something small and furry that had decided to take a short cut across the road.
“What was that?” Lyonel asked.
“One of our little woodland friends, although I don’t know what kind. Khrys is good at telling animals. It’s almost like he can talk to them. Remember when lady Opal’s goat, Greta, was sick? Well, all Khrys had to do was touch Greta and he knew exactly what was wrong with her. Lady Opal was so happy, she gave him free pastries for weeks!” Ky said, and laughed at the mental image of the elderly lady Opal crying tears of joy on Khrystian’s shoulder, Khrys looking as awkward as ever.
They walked a while in comfortable silence, just enjoying each other’s company and the serenity of the night.
“Is it that the willow that we turn at?” Lyonel asked, finally breaking the silence.
“Yep, that’s her. My Woeful Willamina. I tell her everything. In fact, I was going to tell her the odd happenings of the day. If, of course, you don’t mind the delay. I’ll probably be just a few minutes. In fact, there’s a stream over that little knoll. You can fill our water skins. I know mine is empty," Kylara told him. "As long as that's alright with you.”
“Sure. Just take as much time as you want,” Lyonel replied.
“Thanks, Lyonel. Be right back!” she called, and ran off smiling. Woeful Willamina was one of the many humanoid races that had formed symbiotic relationships with other elements of nature. The mers, centaurs, and dryads, like Willa, were the descendents of full humans that had chosen to mesh their lives with other elements of nature prior to the Cataclysm. Usually, the half-humans kept to themselves and created their own civilizations. The long-dead wizards that first settled the outpost that created the province of Velon to keep records and secrets of their profession for the later generations asked Willa’s great-grandmother and father. Some time during the passing of the human heirs, the secret of Willa’s family was lost to them, squirreled away in a book in the Grand Tower Library. Kylara had an aptitude for finding long-forgotten things in books in the tower’s ancient library, where she spent very nearly all of the time she didn't spend training. One of the extraordinary things she discovered was the key to Willamina’s tree, a song mixed with a call of power:
12-11-2008, 07:25 AM
Sing to me, O willow tree
And give me all your secrets,
For my father has left me
And left with no regrets.
Sing to me, O willow tree
And let me sing to you,
For your knowledge is for me
And from those who you knew.
Sing to me, O willow tree
And let me see your form.
For your words I will plea
And give you from my storm.
Sing to me, O willow tree
And let me sing to you.
Let me hear words from thee
And give thanks for all you do.
Sing to me, O willow tree
And leave your branch and vine
Have me hear your words flow sweet
And beg you to hear mine.
Kylara learned the notes above the lyrics and one night, she started to sing it on the path to Drawl’s Cliff. After the first few notes, Willamina heard her and, not caring that there was no call of power, came out of her willow and scared Kylara half out of her wits. At first Ky had been wary of Willamina, but they had cultivated a friendship borne of listening and learning, and now, there was not a night that Kylara didn’t spend time at the base of Willa’s tree recanting the day’s events and discussing with her what they could mean. Willa, in turn, gave Ky wizarding lessons and taught her basic spells that used the little innate magical aptitude she had.
As she neared Willamina’s willow, she started to sing. Called forth from the depths of her slumber, Willamina emerged from the tree. Her body was pushed from the heart of the tree like a new branch, growing and forming. She had pale skin, tinged green, and her dark green hair fell in waves the length of her body, which was a full head shorter than Ky's five and a half foot frame. She was clad in a light brown shift that fell to her feet and left nothing of her full figure to the imagination.
“Good evening, Willa,” Ky said in greeting. “Sorry it took so long for me to get here.”
“It’s alright, Ky. Dryads don’t measure time the same as you do. You have to remember that I’ve lived a few centuries already, a few moments or a day are nothing to me,” Willa responded waving away Ky’s apology.
“Well, I’m still late and I apologize,” Ky insisted, as she took her favorite perch and folded one knee to her chest. “But to make up for it I have a puzzle for us. Listen to this…”
12-11-2008, 07:26 AM
* * *
Khrys lay in his bed, tossing and turning, but most of all dreaming, for hours. Suddenly, he sat bolt upright. Sweat trickled from his brow and rolled down his cheek. It was the same dream over and over. He didn’t understand what it meant; all he knew was that it was terrifying. He got up out of bed and went to his desk in the corner of his room; pulled out some ink, a quill, and the record book he had been keeping and wrote his nightmare down.
I’m sitting in the forest, beside this pretty brook and at first all I am aware of is the colors of spring and the smell of earth. Then I hear a voice and it sounds a little like Ky, but I know she couldn’t be anywhere near me, it’s daytime. I hear her call me again, but her voice sounds like it’s coming from under the water. I look into the brook and, instead of seeing my reflection, I see her, exactly where my reflection should have been. I reach into the brook to pull her out, but all my hand touches is bottom. She starts to scream my name and the words “help me” but I can’t. I’m transfixed by my sister’s face staring back at me, screaming at me and I open my mouth to scream back that I can’t help her and I realize that I have no mouth. She has it. Now I hear my own voice calling out to me from my sister’s face. Suddenly, she stops screaming and starts singing in some strange language. It sounds like she's calling to me to come to her, so slowly I dip my head into the water and it seems like my face melds with my sister’s in the water, and just as I feel I’m about to drown, I wake up.
“Tonight makes the fifth night in a row,” he muttered darkly. “I wonder why it keeps coming back…”
He stared in to space, focusing his eyes on one point in the stone wall, and thought about the meaning of his cryptic dream, wondering, testing, fiddling with ideas. It had to mean something or it wouldn’t keep coming back. He pondered upon the answers to his questions until he felt his eyelids droop and his consciousness once again slipping away from him. Then, slowly, and careful not to bump into the desk and spill the inkwell, he dragged his exhausted body, and restless mind back into his bed.
12-11-2008, 07:26 AM
* * *
“Kylara,” Lyonel called from outside of the willow. “Kylara, I’ve filled both of the water skins, are you ready to go?”
“I’ll be out in a second!” she called back over her shoulder.
“You can let him in,” Willa whispered, “He sounds harmless.” She glanced to the boundaries of the dome of her willow and shrugged.
“Are you sure, Willa?” Ky asked. “He’d be the first person to see you besides me.”
“That’s not true,” Willa accosted, “There were many, many wizards and sorcerers that came to me in my day. And there’s something about his voice that seems familiar.”
“Alright, then, if you’re sure, I’ll call him in,” Ky said. Willa nodded her head resolutely and Ky called through the screen of vines, “Lyonel, come in here, there’s someone I want you to meet.”
Lyonel parted the vines and she could see him silhouetted against the nighttime sky, a solid patch of darkness. As he stepped into the shade of the willow’s enclave, he kept his eyes to the ground, watching for roots and holes that might trip, or trap, him. When he had traversed the treacherous ground, he looked up and saw Willamina for the first time.
“Hello,” he said, calm as could be.
“Good evening,” Willa replied, just as calmly. “My name is Willamina, but my friends call me Willa. Welcome, new friend, to my humble home.”
“My thanks, lady Willa,” he replied.
Ky looked at Lyonel for a while, waiting for him to say something else, or ask a question. Finally, after the silence became more than she could bear, she violently shifted on her branch to face him and blurted out the questions she expected him to ask. “Well, aren’t you going to ask her why it’s her home? Or why her home isn’t a house? Or even why she’s slightly green, or why her hair is green? And her dress is the color of the tree she says is her home?”
“I figured she’d get to that eventually. Curiosity doesn’t plague me as it does you, Kylara. But yes, answers to those questions would be appreciated,” he replied, unruffled.
“Well,” Willa began, “I’m a dryad. I live inside this tree and have a symbiotic relationship with it. My grandparents were asked by the first wizard to live in this village you call home to their family Keeper of Knowledge. True wizards very rarely write in spell books, they are too easy to steal and get misplaced and destroyed. Instead, a new wizarding family will impart their knowledge to a less mortal being, usually a dryad or mer or some such, and when a suitable heir has come along, the secret to the dryad’s tree or the mer’s loch is revealed and the Keeper passes down the spells and tricks shown to us over the years. Now, somewhere along the line, the key to my tree was misplaced and I was forgotten, until Ky found it squirreled away in a book somewhere and brought me out of my tree. You are the only person besides Ky that knows that I exist, and until I desire to make known my presence, I would like to keep it that way, understood?“ “I’ll not breathe a word to another soul,” Lyonel promised.
“Good boy,” Willa said. “Now on to a lighter topic, where are you kids going?”
“Drawl’s Cliff,” Ky answered. “I asked him to come along and be my sparring partner.”
“Ah. So you’re good with a sword?” Willa asked him.
“I do believe so!” Ky answered for him. “His father is the blacksmith, the best swordsman in or outside the barracks, and the talent and training has been passed down.”
“I’m not all that great,” Lyonel protested, looking slightly uncomfortable.
“Yes, you are. Trust me, I wouldn’t have brought you if I didn’t think you would present a worthy challenge.”
“Fine, if you say so. But I think that move that you pulled with the tree was better than anything I can do.”
“That goes without saying, silly boy, but, with your size and strength matched up against my obvious skill and speed, tonight should make for an interesting match-up,” Ky said.
“You sound rather sure of yourself, Ky,” Willa teased. “I’m not so sure that ‘obvious skill’ is as impressive as you seem to think.”
“Oh ye of little faith. I guess you’ll just have to wait until dawn to find out, then,” Ky said as she slapped her thighs and jumped off of her seat. “But I’m ready to get going again. While we’re sitting here talking, the moonlight is just flying away from us!” she exclaimed, hands flailing, sarcasm abounding.
“Yes, absolutely flying. You kids mustn’t waste one move moment with poor, little, lonely me,” Willa whined.
Kylara clicked her tongue at Willa’s melodramatics. “Now don’t be like that. You know very well that I would love nothing more than to take you, but you don’t want to leave your precious tree. I can understand that, but that doesn’t give you license to whine when we leave,” she finished, placing hands on her hips.
“Oh, you know I don’t mean it. If it really bothered me that much, I’d come with you. But, like you said, I don’t feel right leaving my willow alone. You kids go and have fun beating each other up. I’ll stay here and sleep.”
“Alright, Willa,” Ky chuckled. “We’ll see you in the morning. Sweet dreams, honey.”
“Good night, Ky. Good-bye Lyonel. Happy hunting,” Willa said, and she leaned back against the trunk of the tree and closed her eyes. Her dress melded to the bark and became one seamless image. Her body dissolved into the core until the only evidence of her existence was her face slowly falling into the rippling bark. Like a woman quietly drowning, the tree swallowed her whole and washed over her face, leaving no trace of entry or exit.
12-11-2008, 07:27 AM
“That always gives me the creeps,” Ky said, as a shudder ran through her.
“She is an interesting character, to be sure,” Lyonel said, nonchalant as always.
“She is an odd one, but she’s one of my best friends. Let’s get going, we have a nice hike ahead of us, and I want to get to the cliff before midnight.” Ky turned and headed towards the hangings and the path to Drawl’s Cliff. The full moon had gone one-quarter of the way through its path and hung just above the tree line, illuminating the landscape splendidly. Ky closed her eyes and breathed deep the refreshing night air, cool, but not quite cold, and stood for a moment listening to the night.
“It’s so peaceful out here, truly peaceful,” she sighed. “Not a care in the world.” She opened her eyes and headed straight across the road to a small animal trail through the forest brush.
12-11-2008, 07:27 AM
“Fallen tree, watch your step,” Kylara called ahead, assuring herself that Lyonel saw it.
“Yes, there is. Almost didn’t catch that,” he said, and stumbled over a root in the middle of the small path.
“Lyonel, are you alright?” Ky asked as she jogged towards him.
“Ow,” he said, unemphatically.
“Always the power of understatement,” Ky mumbled under her breath as she offered him a hand up. “Can you see at all under the tree coverage?”
“Not really,” he confessed.
“Well why didn’t you say so! I could have taken point from the beginning. It’s not a problem, I’ve walked these trails too many times to count,” she said as she slipped forward. “Just keep close, and I’ll tell you where the sticks and holes are.”
“Alright,” he conceded, with just the slightest undertone of malcontent. They started off again, Kylara in front calling back hazards, when suddenly, she heard a thump from behind her. She turned around and saw Lyonel rubbing his shoulder. He had run into a tree that Ky was small enough to miss.
‘This is going to take all night,’ she thought. ‘Unless, of course, I help him.’ “Help” for Kylara referred to a simple spell that had the ability to increase sensitivity to light and improve vision at night. It was one of the most simple incantations Willa had taught her that used very little energy. Ky’s only problem was that she wasn’t sure if she wanted Lyonel to know about her ability to perform magic. She decided on a combination of slight of hand and misleading information.
“Come here, Lyonel. I want to try something,” she called. “Careful not to bump into that tree, again.” He followed the sound of her voice, unable to see even his own feet. “Okay, stop,” she instructed. “Kneel down, you’re too tall.” He carefully leaned over and put his hands on the ground, to steady himself. Then he bent his knees to the ground and sat up straight in front of Kylara. “Alright, I’m going to put my hand over your eyes, and maybe it’ll accustom them to the darkness and you’ll be able to see. Just close your eyes and stay still.”
“Alright,” he said, suspicion creeping into his frigid voice. Nonetheless, he closed his eyes and held still as she covered them with her right hand. As she muttered the incantation under her breath, she turned inward to her magic. She felt the warmth of the energy flow from the center of her body down to her feet, out to her hands, and up through her chest and head and recenter itself stronger. She forced that stronger energy down the length of her arm into her hand and through her hand into Lyonel’s eyes and body.
Lyonel felt her energy and recognized her trick for what it was. He marveled at the level of control she had and puzzled as to whom she had learned from. At first, he suspected his father, but knew that that could not be true. All of a sudden, Willa’s name came back to mind and the pieces fit perfectly.
‘So,’ he thought, ‘She’s got a little magic to her as well. Maybe I’m not so alone as I thought.’
Unbeknownst to her, Lyonel performed his own spell, one of identification, on the energy she was controlling, first to find out what kind of magic she dabbled in, and second to find out how much power she had. It surprised him to find many different types of energy flowing through her, she was a regular jack-of-all-trades, plying a little of every type of magic, but only little spells, nothing on par with himself, except one type he couldn’t identify that seemed to be linked to something else. That bit of energy seemed wild and uncontrolled, but potentially immeasurably powerful. It smacked of a bridge or connector between two immense powers that hadn’t learned to control it yet.
She pulled her hand back and told him to open his eyes and see if it was any better. He obeyed and found he could see every detail around him. Leaves on the trees in front of him and above him were moving in such explicit detail, it was breathtaking. He took the time to make a mental note to ask her about this little trick of hers. But, he figured, since she hadn’t revealed her magic to him, he wasn’t supposed to know, so he kept his mouth shut, considering discretion the better part of valor.
“Wow,” he remarked, truly impressed. “I can see everything. Your little trick worked.”
“I knew it would. I’ve used it on myself a million times,” she replied coolly. “Ready to go?”
“Yeah, let’s go. Now that I can see, I think I’ll take point, again,” he said.
“Fine, but let’s hurry, we’re burning moonlight,” she said, her growing impatience showing. Lyonel being able to see allowed them to pick up speed through the underbrush following the trail. From that point on, they made excellent time and arrived at Drawl’s Cliff only a short while later. The moon hadn’t yet reached it zenith and Kylara seemed to relax. They began to unpack and set up camp for the night.
Kylara unrolled her tent from her pack and threw it over a thick branch. She pinned the four corners and strategic points on the sides with heavy rocks she had stashed in a small cave to the south of the campsite.
“There’s another set of rocks around the other side of that little enclave over there, if you need something to pin your tent down,” she called over her shoulder. “And the fire pit is right inside this ring of trees. Don’t worry, it’s been dug out and I put a ring of rocks around it. But I think we’re going to need more firewood if we plan on leaving it burning all night, like I usually do.”
She turned away from her tent, back toward Lyonel and her pack and saw him nod in acknowledgement. She pulled her sais from her sides and pulled out the oil to clean and prepare them for their sparring match.
12-11-2008, 07:28 AM
Lyonel unsheathed his long sword and began to examine its edge. He ran the blade across the trunk of a tree ever so gently and it left a gash so deep that the tree started pouring sap. He nodded satisfactorily and wiped the sap off with his cleaning cloth, already prepped with oil. After his sword was flawlessly gleaming once again, he put it away and began to buckle on his padded leather armor. Kylara finished with her sais, pricking a finger to ensure their point, and went to assist him with all the buckling and the straps that he couldn’t reach himself. Then, he returned the favor and helped her into her light armor. All this they did in a solemn silence, respecting each other’s concentration and not daring to break their own, two well-trained warriors on the verge of battle. Just before they began, Kylara broke the silence.
“Wait,” she said. “I know we both have armor on, and I know we are both excellently trained, but what if something happens and one of us gets seriously hurt? I mean, I know how to bind minor wounds, but what about that nice sharp sword of yours taking out my entire stomach?” She paused and thought for a moment. “How do you and your father do this? I know you both use real steel and I’ve seen you both strike skin, but nobody ever bleeds.”
‘What should I say?’ Lyonel thought, his face still blank. ‘If I tell her about the spell, then she’ll know what I am. But if I don’t tell her, then one of us could really get hurt.’ Lyonel’s internal struggle was hidden behind his emotionless face as Kylara waited patiently for her answer.
“Well, Kylara,” Lyonel began, “Truth is… You see… It’s… Well, it’s magic.”
Lyonel watched her face change from semi-eager anticipation to a fierce scowl. He was fully taken aback. He had expected an extreme reaction, but that expression threw him for a loop.
“If you aren’t allowed to tell me, you should have said so. I can understand if it’s a family secret. You don’t have to lie to me,” she spat at him. Lyonel’s usually expressionless face broke into a look of disbelief and betrayal, his jaw dropping and eyes bulging.
“What do you mean ‘lie to you?’” he asked incredulously. “I’m not lying. I’m serious. I’m a wizard and so is my father.”
“Oh, now you’re just making fun of me,” she pouted.
“No, seriously,” he pleaded with her. “I’m a wizard. I can do magic. That’s how I know that what you did to my eyes was a spell. I felt your energy, and may I add I was rather impressed with what I-“ He stopped and watched a series of rather confused expressions cross Ky’s face: righteous indignation, mild disbelief, pure incredulity, slight curiosity, and ending with open wonderment.
“You’re really serious aren’t you?” she asked.
“Yes.” He nodded solemnly. “I’m really a wizard. My father’s ancestors were wizards of the highest caliber and some of the most powerful in that time, truly something to be proud of. Some time during the persecution that almost weeded out all of magic from the lower classes, my ancestors went into hiding. Their abilities were passed down through the generations, finally to me. As for how we practice, there is a spell my father taught me that puts a temporary blunt on steel, so we don’t cut each other. It puts a force around the steel itself, about a quarter of an inch thick, so that it never contacts with anything, it just leaves a bruise from the solid impact.”
“So, magic-man, work your magic and let’s get down to business,” Ky said with an eager gleam in her eye.
12-11-2008, 07:30 AM
“As my lady requests,” Lyonel said, stunned by the sudden switch in attitude.
He pulled a stone, smooth and round, from his pocket and closed his eyes. He felt of the stone’s energy and its power to augment and direct his own. He visualized the barrier surrounding his sword and willed it into existence with the force of his energy. The cold steel pulsed blue once and went quiet. Kylara closed her eyes and looked for that signature color with her own energy. A sky blue flare of light was centered in her vision, exactly the length and position of Lyonel’s sword and just as tangible.
“Go ahead, touch it. It is safe,” he assured her. She reached out and ran one finger along the blade. Or tried to. Her finger never touched the cold, hard metal. The only thing she felt was a warm pressure that caused friction on her skin.
“Lyonel…” she said with wonder. “That’s amazing. You have to teach me that one.”
“Maybe one day we can trade spells, the blunt for the eyes. But I thought you were looking for a fight tonight.”
“Oh, I am, but that is one little spell that will definitely come in handy,” Ky said.
Lyonel placed the same spell on Ky’s sais and they squared off against each other, Lyonel’s sword out front, low and centered, Ky’s sais separated, left in front with the arm half-extended, right sai just at chest level. They waited, stares locked as if for some unimaginable signal, and then, as if a whistle was blown, they both flew into a flurry of vicious attacks. Ky went low as Lyonel went high in an over-head whirl to bring his long sword crashing down on her. Ky thrust her left hand up in an effort to catch his weapon in between two of the tines and swept both her right foot and her right sai to try and hamstring him. Lyonel saw the crippling blow coming and turned his right hand over in an attempt to spin his sword into her and throw her wide. Her left hand twisted the sai upside down and she thrust it towards where she predicted his sword would be aimed. The clang of steel on steel resounded throughout the forest, echoing endlessly. The hit cost Ky her balance and she had to use the momentum in her left hand to pivot all the way around and reset herself before she could strike again. By that time, Lyonel had completed one full rotation of his sword and had begun a downward diagonal slash to the left. Ky was all of a sudden backpedaling, fending off chop after slash, looking for an opening. Finally, she saw her opportunity, a left-handed slash that she easily picked off with her right sai catching his blade, and spun into him, twisting the blade in her left hand to effectively disembowel him.
“I think I got you,” she panted.
“I think so, too,” he replied, breathing heavily.
“You want to go again?” she asked.
“Yes,” he answered.
She spun away, putting distance between them, and again the warriors clashed in a cacophony of ringing steel. He feinted, she dodged, they both would strike left, then change tactics and strike right, a beautiful dance of sweat and steel. Ky twisted her left sai upside down and spun counter-clockwise around Lyonel’s back, but he had seen this move before in training with his father, and he spun clockwise to meet her with her back turned toward him. He grabbed her in the middle of her spin and placed his sword across her neck.
“I think I got you,” he huffed.
“I think so, too,” she replied, breathless.
12-11-2008, 07:30 AM
“Call it a draw?” he asked.
“Agreed,” she answered.
He released her and they both collapsed to the ground, exhausted
As soon as Kylara had gotten her breath back, and the incessant pounding in her ears had stopped, she rolled to her feet, but remained crouching, not quite trusting them to support her.
“So,” she said, “About that fire.” Lyonel chuckled lightly.
“I will get the extra wood in a minute if you will get it started,” he said. “I need another moment for my heart to calm down.”
“No problem. I’ll get the kindling.” She stood shakily, but her strength rapidly built. By the time she had walked the six feet to the ring of pine trees, she was back to her normal, confident self, only a slight growling in her stomach and a fading red line on her neck to bear witness to the furious battle moments before.
Ky gathered pine straw, twigs, and a few pieces of bark and tossed them into the pit she had made. As she walked past Lyonel to retrieve her flint, she watched him roll to his right and gain his feet. He stood for a moment, holding his abdomen.
“Are you alright? I didn’t hurt you, did I?” Ky asked, all sympathy and concern.
“Not really. It will only be a bruise in the morning. I have taken worse from my father,” he answered, nonchalant as ever. “Are you alright? I put a little more pressure on that last stroke than I meant.”
“I’m fine. I’m a resilient girl,” she assured him. She knelt down and rummaged through the pockets of her pack, finally coming up with her flint box. “There was a gale blowing a few days ago, and I remember seeing a fallen tree over there, beyond the little copse behind you. The wood should be perfect for burning, now.”
“I will bring back as much as I am able.” Lyonel turned and headed through the underbrush, making noise enough so that the entire wood would know exactly where he was. Kylara smiled at the big man walking between the trees. She struck her flint to create a spark and set fire to the tinder in the center of the ring. In a few minutes, she had a small, delicate fire. She added a few pine boughs that still had the needles attached and by the time Lyonel returned, the fire had grown to a respectable size.
“So, I was thinking about reheating the sausage and rice Mother packed for me and having something of a midnight snack. How’s that sound to you?” she proposed.
“That sounds like a good idea to me. And I will even add a loaf of bread to your offer,” he said as he threw the wood down.
“Seems we are putting together a spectacular feast,” she said. She looked up at him and smiled in the firelight and it seemed to Lyonel that her face lit up. He felt warmed and comforted by her presence and, for a moment, he forgot to breathe. She looked away and his heart returned to beating. “Hand me that pot your father made, the cast iron one. And my water skin. I’ll put in a bit of water from the skin so the rice can soak it up, and in just a bit we’ll have ourselves a worthy snack.”
He handed over the desired implements and chose an extraordinarily flat rock as a comfortable seat beside the steady, crackling fire. They sat in silence for a while, Ky stirring occasionally and tasting frequently. Around them, the night was alive. Insects,
12-11-2008, 07:31 AM
frogs, and birds called to each other, creating a sweet harmony to the sharp staccato of the popping wood. They sat, mesmerized by the fire, drowning in the serenity and peace as a doe and her fawn lay down for the night, just outside of the light of the fire.
“I think it’s done.” Ky’s simple statement served to break the spell over their minds and bring them back to conscious thought. But still they retained that sense of peace and said little while they ate. When both stomachs were sufficiently full and the dishes packed away, they retired to their separate corners for sleep. Lyonel had banked the fire so it would burn all night, and neither felt the need to set a watch.
Ky didn’t notice when her eyelids fell, nor when she fell into the dark blanket of sleep, but the next thing she was aware of was waking in the dark for an imperceptible reason. It was as if something just beyond her perception had awakened her, like a touch she couldn’t remember feeling or a sound she couldn’t remember hearing. She lay still and stared up into the darkness, all of her senses heightened by fear, waiting to hear again, or feel again, the thing that woke her.
Nothing but silence assaulted her ears.
She waited for the incongruency to resurface in her mind and listened to Lyonel’s deep breathing across the low fire. Then she realized what awoke her. It wasn’t a noise in the dark; it was the lack thereof. Not a sound, save the pop of fire disturbed the night.
Silently, mastering all of her training, she started to rise. She crept to the edge of her tent, peaking around the corner into the inky blackness. Stars winked and twinkled above her, but the full moon was blocked out by the treetops, leaving everything in eerie shadow. The flickering flames inhibited her superb night-vision, making her no better than Lyonel stumbling around in the dark on the trip in. She stood and used her feet and her familiarity as a guide continuing her useless scan of the area. Out of the corner of her eye, she got a sense of something in the background moving. She felt, rather than saw, eyes turn in her direction and kept her pace steady all the way to the dying fire. She stretched her left hand out towards the light as if nothing had disturbed her, but with her right, she felt for the water skin hanging on the tree limb next to her. All her shadows would see would be her reaching a hand out to steady herself while she stifled a yawn. She pulled the skin off of the tree branch upon which it hung and untied the thong that kept it closed, seemingly to take a drink.
Violently, she lashed the water over the fire and as the sudden darkness hit, she used the few moments of confusion she had garnered to leap over the pit, falling into a roll to draw her sais. Unfortunately, Lyonel had laid his bedroll in almost the exact spot she had planned to land her feet. The back of her heels hit him in his stomach, giving him a very rude awakening that immediately set him on his guard. He jumped up, quick as his frame would allow, and drew his long sword free in one fluid motion.
Ky stifled the gasp in her throat. She scrambled back to her feet, all of her moment gone, and made a quick scan to see if her shadows had made a move.
“Lyonel,” she whispered softly. “We have some friends. I’ll fix your eyes.” Not knowing if he heard, she began to cast, focusing her energy to throw. She felt the warmth leave her fingertips and saw Lyonel’s eyes widen as sight and understanding came to him. She looked into the trees beyond the extinguished fire, she saw something almost human looking back at her.
12-11-2008, 07:32 AM
Its skin was black as midnight, pulled taut over its frame, and blended perfectly into the darkness. It’s eyes were huge black saucers rimmed in white, taking up most of its face. The nose and ears were bat-like and, crouching, it was two feet tall. If it had hair at all, it was negligible, the bald scalp making the head look like a cast-iron cauldron. The creature had its own version of armor, made of moss and mushroom, that covered it head to toe, making it seem furry. It sat there, arms rested on its knees, gazing towards them, looking innocent and unintelligent. Then its eyes shifted and pointed teeth grinned wickedly. There was no mistakeing the malevolence in that face and Ky readied herself for a fight. From the behind it, the small arms plucked a battle-axe, crudely handled and rusted. The body uncoiled and put Ky staring directly into the creature’s massive eyes. She fell into the quiet inside herself, heightening her senses and stilling her body.
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