[Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby Chimpman » Mon Nov 14, 2011 6:30 pm

Whatever happened to the dwarf brother (the one who survived)? I can't seem to remember.

Oh and by the way, as always I'm enthralled by the story. Can't wait to see what happens next!
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Mon Nov 14, 2011 6:48 pm

Chimpman wrote:Whatever happened to the dwarf brother (the one who survived)? I can't seem to remember.

Oh and by the way, as always I'm enthralled by the story. Can't wait to see what happens next!

Durin should still be held in Fort Doom. More than likely, the Black Eagle has found a use for him :twisted:
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Mon Nov 14, 2011 6:54 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


The crowd’s chant ebbed, dying out as the flames grew higher.

Surely, Silva had a plan. As Aurora said, she could not have allowed herself into this position if she did not have a way out.

She did not struggle, but seemed relaxed, at peace, staring up at the sky. I followed an ember, curling upwards on the rapidly heating air. There was a brilliant yellow streak across the sky.

The Chimerids were beginning their fiery race across the sky.

Aurora tugged at my sleeve.

“Thorn,” she hissed. “The date. What day is it?”

I told her, but she frowned and shook her head.

“Your Thyatian calendar makes little sense. How many days past the solstice is that?”

“Year’s Long Night would have been the fifteenth, some nine days ago.”

“We must stop it,” she said. “We have to get her out of there!”

“See here, missy, you gave your word to the Baron that you would not interfere with his justice.” I’d nearly forgotten about the black cloaked guard. He stood less than a spear’s length away from us.

Aurora ignored the guardsman. “She cannot die here! She must not!” She gripped the hem of her dress, made to shoulder her way past the few people who stood before us.

Varis and I both made to grab her, but her figure wavered and she blinked from view.

“Ah, ah, my dear,” came an oily voice just ahead of us. Aurora stumbled backwards, visible, her arm in a firm black-gloved grip. “You made a promise to my liege the Baron, and I intend to see that you keep it.

“I find a little fire to be just the thing on a cold winter’s night like this. Just sort of… warms the soul, doesn’t it?” Bargle asked with a warm, wide smile.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby Chimpman » Tue Nov 15, 2011 7:02 pm

We knew he had to show up sooner or later :twisted:
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Wed Nov 16, 2011 9:06 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


Aurora tore her arm free from the man’s grip, and turned to go, only to find her way blocked by crossed spears and drawn swords.

“You shall not interfere,” Bargle said, the warmth gone from his voice.

“My promise to your baron is void,” she said. “That is not my sister.”

Bargle stood up straighter, a pained look on his face. “Oh, she would be so upset to hear you say that. After all, you share the same blood.”

Aurora pointed again. “That is not Silva!”

The man glanced over towards the fire. It was creeping slowly up the pile, snapping and popping. His eyes narrowed as he looked back at Aurora.

“How? How did you know?”

“Her vibration is very strong. Stronger than that of my sister.”

From the boundary of the fire, I caught a glimmering of silver. Then another, and another. They came from six other positions, cascading one to another. Some sort of message in the flashes of light from their medallions?

“Does your baron know you’ve swapped my sister for that… thing?”

“Jaelle would be hurt, to hear you speak of her so.”

Gilliam gave a snort.

“Guards,” Ana said. “You will take this scoundrel into custody. We will take this up with the baron himself.”

“No,” Bargle said. “We won’t. These men are loyal to me.”

One of the guards adjusted his grip on the longspear. Firelight reflected off the thick band of silver on his finger, studded with three small bloodstones. The plain silver clasp on another’s cloak had been replaced with a starflower sporting four bloodstones at its center.

Ana wrinkled her nose. “So they are still men?”

Stars streaked overhead, in singly, in pairs. Below, a few flashes of silver, but their numbers were fewer, the positions changed.

“Be ready,” Evelina whispered.

The flames on the pyre licked at the hem of Silva’s gown— no, it was the other one, Jaelle, Bargle had named her. Smoke and embers danced around the girl, but it was not enough to hide the smile as it curled across her lips.



“I do not understand,” Varis said. “If she — it — is as bad as you say, then shouldn’t we just let her burn? It seems to me that this problem rights itself.”

Aurora shook her head. “No! The death of the shell, the body, frees her… dala’tma to journey to the nearest Collector.”

“The demon would ride or follow,” Ana said.

The shrike nodded. “The entire system will be corrupted. Every secret laid bare to our enemies. Every one of my sisters’ locations made known to their kind. Every ksthra….”

“Surely they foresaw the possibility of this happening.” Ana said.

Again, Aurora nodded. “It has happened before, but we had Reapers. Containment pools. But she means to strike the heart of the system, the First Tower.”

“There is one of these ‘Collectors’ closer than the Valley?” Varis asked.

“Much closer,” the shrike said, looking up. Another handful of stars streaked across the sky, yellow and orange.

“At your command, sister,” Evelina whispered.

“We cannot wait another moment.”

“Do we have a plan?” Varis asked, somewhat bewildered.

“Let Silva’s little sisters handle the guards,” Aurora said. “You and Gilliam must keep the tall man busy.”

“I cannot let those girls—“ Varis started.

“Remember the Black Woods,” Gilliam said. “They’re a lot tougher than they look.”



At Aurora’s shouted signal, everything seemed to happen at once:

Varis and Gilliam leapt at the bard’s back, taking the man down as his gaze was intent upon the fire. The Black Eagle’s guards had time to shift their stances, perhaps raise a sword, and then each stiffened, voicing a grating cry of agony and rage. Silva’s army materialized from the crowd beyond us, and they leapt on the backs of the men, their silver medallions pressed firmly to the back of the soldiers’ necks. Several of them went immediately to their knees, while others turned and thrashed, attempting to throw the girls away.

I took the opening, charging through the crowd into the plaza, Ana and the weavers at my left.

We fanned out around the pyre, and the girl Bargle had named Jaelle glared down at us, through the sheets of flame. Her eyes were bright silver points, flecked with embers that were not from the fire around her.

“You are too late,” she said. Her voice crackled, but it was the sound like ice, not fire. “I will soon be free to ascend to the Throne of Stars. How fitting that I should be able to bring about the fall of your precious seals on the very eve of the anniversary of the Great Sundering.”

“You want to burn so badly, let us help you,” Ana said. She flung two fists full of glittering silverburn into the flames.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby Chimpman » Thu Nov 17, 2011 7:07 pm

Nice! I should have guessed that old Bargle was acting on his own... or at least that his "master" didn't know the full extent of his plans. The Black Eagle might be a madman, but he's not that crazy.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Thu Nov 17, 2011 9:18 pm

Bargle is such a fun villain. :twisted:
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Fri Nov 18, 2011 1:44 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


A sprinkle was enough to cause a candle flame to take on the silvery light for nearly an hour. A few pinches could turn a campfire brilliant and silver for the same amount of time.

The pyre did not so much roar as give a deep rumble as it flared, bright as the sun. The flames, which barely reached the tip of the high post at the center of the conflagration, soared to the height of a fire giant’s brow.

Ana threw her arms wide, began the sealing chant in a voice like thunder, overshadowing even the brittle icy screams of the demon trapped within the column of silver flame.

I could feel the wood, being gobbled hungrily by the white-hot flames. It would not last but several moments. I planted my feet, staff held out before me. The crowd was transfixed, some with awe, some with terror. I reached out, to their fear, their terror, pulling the heat of those emotions into myself, twining them into a thread that I channeled out through my staff into the fire before me.

The tingling shock of the two weavers’ magic came as a distant prickling on my skin, and the air stirred about me. They were creating a wall of air and wind, pulling the intense heat from the flames away from us, and also feeding the fire, which consumed so much air, it was creating its own draft.

I saw flashes of silver on the far side of the white-hot fire. The girls were making their way through the crowd, over to the wood-seller’s wagons.

A shadow writhed within the column of fire, a dark stain, features limned with a bloody red, mouth opened in a roar that was devoured by that of the silver flame.


The emotions of the crowd surged, and I had to shift my balance against the sudden torrent of energy that flooded through my spell. I felt it strain, fray, and bent my focus towards holding the magic together for just a few moments longer.

The emotional wave ebbed, but another rolled in after it. But it was not more fear, or terror, but rage. It coursed around me, through me, the energy using me as a conduit. It poured into the silver flames, and the column of fire gave a great flare, widening, driving the four of us back several steps, the wash of heat bleeding through the weavers’ wall of wind.

Movement at the corner of my eye caused me to turn, and my magic very nearly buckled.

The crowd at our backs watched us with eyes rimmed deep red. Some hefted makeshift clubs, others had taken swords or spears from guards lying along the plaza’s edge, several of whom lay in steaming pools of blood.

“Surely you did not think I only gave one merchant those pretty baubles?” the demon hissed from within the flames, the voice like a handful of shaved ice down my back.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Sat Nov 19, 2011 7:18 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


The shadow within the silver flames lashed, back and forth, and Ana’s voice broke. It wavered, but she did not cease chanting.

Over the roar of the fire, I heard a voice, one of the girls. She chanted a counterpoint to Ana’s spell. Another voice joined in, and the prayer, frayed, began reweaving itself as voice after voice took up the chant at a different point along the cadence.

The demon roared, flinging itself against the wall of flame, but instead of reddish-black scoring, bursts of silvery-blue flared, causing the demon’s cries to twist, writing from anger into genuine pain.

“This was not the plan!” Aurora shouted, staring at the flames.

“Yojanra’sti tava sarvadh bayaghari, anjuah,” came a sleepy voice from the far side of the pyre.

The shrike’s eyes widened, then narrowed, even as color rushed to her cheeks. “I would like to see you do better, given what I had to work with!”

Silva’s laugh trailed into a thick cough, accented by the heavy jangle of iron.

Aurora ran to her sister’s side, crossing the dozen steps’ distance in what seemed more like three strides. The air between them seemed to ripple, and there was a sudden, sharp smell of rain and lightning. The fragment of silence at their meeting was interrupted by the bell-like ringing of irons falling away and a sharp, wheezing intake of breath. The five white dragonstones Aurora wore burst into light, a warm, candle-like glow offsetting the quietly roaring silver fame beside the two sisters.

“Rodama na karoti, Lea,” Silva murmured, patting Aurora’s longer golden hair.

Aurora brought a hand up over her sister’s shoulder, wiping at her eye. She did not seem to even see the blazing golden light spilling from the crystal adorning her gauntlet. “Who’s crying?” she asked.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Mon Nov 21, 2011 1:52 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


Had I not watched the transformation, I would not have thought that the silver-eyed girl who stepped away from the long embrace was the same person. Her hair, lank and tangled, tossed and rippled as if caught in a summer’s breeze, the waves and ringlets regaining their body and luster. The blackened skin about the girl’s wrists and neck fell away under the glare of the stones, revealing pale, unmarred skin. The ugly greenish tarnish vanished as golden light danced along the swirls and curves of Silva’s bracers.

Her face, thin and hollowed by weeks of captivity, lost its grayish pallor, the dark smudges beneath her eyes gone even as she blinked, as if simply brushed away by her long lashes. The rattling in her lungs lessened with each breath, and she straightened.

She patted her sister’s long hair again. “Alam,” she murmured. “Itara karomi.”

Silva stepped away from her twin, a finger on her chin as she glanced around the plaza, her brow furrowed in thought. The gleam of the clear dragonstone at her neck shone through the ragged remains of her sleeve, flashes of the silvery metal catching the light as the material billowed in the wind. She glanced at the boundary of winds the two weavers created, giving it an odd, appraising look. After a moment’s consideration, she nodded to herself.

She looked up, and two pairs of silvery eyes locked, through the curtain of white fire.

“Anjuah,” she said. “Pratiyudyate etah asura! Niriyasti! Krta’tini. Krta’ti pratiijna’te.”

“Surrounded by a mob of demons, just waiting for their master’s command to pounce, and she’s trying to reason with it?” Gilliam asked.

“Not with it,” Aurora said. “With the part of it which is… ours. Hers.”

“Do you really think that will work?”

“It’s kept the demons from attacking thus far,” the shrike said.

“Pratiyudyate, anjuah’mi!” Silva called.

The demon roared, but it’s answer was joined with another voice, raised in a clear, sweet note.

I’d heard it sung before, in Koriszegy’s tower, and upon the walls of Threshold.

Seven more voices rose, and a complex web of melodies rose into the deepening evening.

The column of white fire flickered, without the other girls’ chanting to bolster it. Ana’s voice broke again, and amidst her coughing, the flames died down to their natural level, though still flashing silvery-white. The other siren stood against the central post, shoulders hunched, eyes gleaming reddish-silver through the tangled mass of her hair. The manacles, blackened by fire, hung loosely on her wrists, a few lengths of charred chain dangling, swinging as the girl’s arms spasmed.

Around us, as one, the first ring of red-eyed festival-goers stirred. They straightened, eyes going past us, towards the figure amidst the flames.

Jaelle’s note choked off in a gurgling chuckle.

“You will not banish me that easily,” she hissed.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Mon Nov 21, 2011 6:51 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


“What have you done?”

Were I not a chronicler, I would have been pleased to hear the tremor in the voice of the Baron of Halag.

“Prevented another Rain of Fire,” Aurora said.

The baron stared, wide eyed. His slack expression curled into a sneer. “Preposterous,” he said. “You will release these people at once from… whatever curse you have laid on them.”

Aurora and Silva stared at each other, their own expressions shocked mirrors of each other.

“Matiska’ziin akarot zagka etani vayam rahati’i?” Silva asked, gesturing with her hand to encompass the crowd around us.

Aurora planted her hands on her hips, frowning at her sister. “He is a baron. You must address him with respect.”

Silva pointed back towards the Black Eagle. “Sah varta’te utsikta ziin —“

“What did Father teach us about speaking of others?”

“Vadati na, ce zathayati,” Silva mumbled.

Aurora nodded.

The baron cleared his throat. “You will release them or I will fill the lot of you with bolts.”

“How many have you got?” Gilliam asked.

Von Hendricks blinked. “What?”

“Boltmen. Bolts. How many?” Gilliam repeated.

“Shall I have them target you last so that you may count?”

“The zzonga sap,” I said, seeing where Gilliam was going. “Your Lordship, your men need to use the green-fletched arrows on as many of those with reddened eyes as possible.”

The look on the baron’s face was… priceless. It would have been more enjoyable, had not several in the crowd nearest me straightened up, hefting makeshift clubs and staves.

“Open fire on… townfolk and farmers? You begin to sound like that madman Bargle!”

“Your Lordship,” said one of the baron’s personal guard, “we haven’t the manpower to put this many down if they should —“

“I will not be threatened by a peasants and rabble. This little display will not stay the course of justice. Captain, you will clap all of these conspirators in irons and remove them from this plaza until justice is done!”
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Tue Nov 22, 2011 2:30 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


We, all of us, readied weapons, but Aurora withdrew her hand from the hilt of her dagger. The stones adorning her wrists were glowing, pulsing. The central, larger of the three dragonstones on her circlet shone with a pale, moon-like radiance.

Within the flames, Jaelle chuckled.

I do not think it was the stone’s gleam that washed the color from the shrike’s face.

“Go,” she bid us. “Go with them now, all of you.”

“But we cannot—“

“You cannot stay here!”

The girls’ voices stopped, and they blinked, glancing around the circle they’d formed, looking slightly dazed.

“Dráva,” Silva said to them, the same haunted expression on her face. She made gentle but urgent shoo-ing motions with her hands. She glanced at her sister, and they both looked to the sky.

Aurora’s dragonstones were pulsing, cycling, the pattern growing faster. I felt my heartbeat increasing as I watched the stones. Something in the air felt… different. Not like the demons’ cold, nor the prickling energies that bled away from a weaver’s magic.

We filed away from the plaza by twos, each of us holding a small, trembling hand of one of Silva’s army. Small as she was, I had to catch my steps to keep up with young Petra, who only looked back to glance up at me. Her face was pale as the twins, her eyes shining with some fragment of knowledge gleaned from her connection to Silva, perhaps?

Her lips moved, and I bent all my effort towards listening to her beneath the clatter of armored steps beside us, the cold crackling of the flames behind us, the babbling of the crowd.

I shivered, and not with the cold when I finally was able to make out just what it was she was saying.

I did not recognize the words, but by the sound and inflection, she was speaking High Thonian.

From what little I’d learned from Silva, the second syllables were numbers, decreasing with every iteration.

She — and probably each of the other girls — counted backwards.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Wed Nov 23, 2011 1:12 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


We huddled in the baron’s pavilion. Aurora had invoked my status as Lawspeaker again, and we were left unbound but sworn to remain under guard until such time as von Hendricks returned. Ana, the weavers, and the twins were sworn to use no magics to aid in any kind of escape. Aurora had sworn that she and her sister would raise no magics against any of the baron’s men.

Half a dozen guards lounged around us, at first wary, but then quickly growing bored when none of us tried to make any sort of escape attempt.

Silva and Aurora sat, knees together, heads bowed so close their foreheads touched. They spoke quietly, urgently, in the High Thonian, so quickly I could not make out more than a word here or there.

Ana fidgeted, continually casting a glance towards the flap in the canvas that had been knotted shut when the baron left.

One of the guards saw her looks, and he gestured menacingly with a hand at the hilt of his sword — at least, until Varis and Gilliam made similar gestures.

Macha’s and the blonde weaver sat shoulder to shoulder, seemingly asleep. But I saw a glimmer through their lashes, and felt the itch of their power, held at but the slightest of trickles.

I bent my head towards them.

“Ladies, you know I cannot allow you to raise your magic to do harm here. We are all bound—”

“We did not speak those vows,” the blonde weaver said, her voice low, nearly a breath. It did not keep the ferocity of her words from coming through, soft as her voice was.

“We are—“

“We are defenseless without the Power of the Spheres. We have no shepherd for protection, you saw to that. Your oaths have no power over us. Your traditions do not bind us. These do,” she said, sliding her thumb behind the collar and giving it a shake with what little play there was in the band around her throat.

“The collar precludes the swearing of oaths?” I asked.

“They bind us to the other wearer.”

“Completely,” Macha’s added.

“So you would never feel the touch of a demon’s presence?”

The blonde weaver smiled. “Felt? Yes. But they are unable to attain any hold, no matter what promises they whisper. They scatter as leaves before a strong wind when we are one with the Powers.”

“You have given us the greatest measure of freedom since we were collared,” Macha’s said, laying a delicate hand on my arm. “You cannot take back that gift.”

A guard prodded me with the butt of his spear.

“Is there a problem here, Lawspeaker?”

I rose, slowly, shaking my head. “They are frightened, that is all.”

His lip curled. “Don’t know how you can stand it, being surrounded by all that weakness. Look how they tremble. And these whelps.” He nudged one of the girls with his foot. She sat at the periphery of the group, evenly spaced around us. They had all refused to be sheltered in the center of the group like Varis had wanted.

“Can’t you stop that muttering of theirs?” the guard asked. “It’s giving me the—“ He cleared his throat. “A headache.”

“They were not bound to silence, and will speak as freely as they like,” I said. I should not have, but I smiled at the man.

He snarled, glaring at the girl as he lifted the haft of his spear.

I set a hand on the metal greave, pulling fire from the braziers and sending a trickle of it into the metal— just enough that he felt it through the leathers.

“If you raise so much as a finger against your charges, I will burn it and the rest of you to a cinder.”
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Fri Nov 25, 2011 11:28 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


The guard snatched his arm away, backed away, his face pale, but his eyes narrowed.

I deliberately turned my back on the man, kneeling before the girl he’d been about to strike. Her eyes were distant, as if she were looking straight through me. Her lips moved, her words barely even a breath.

“Zat’sethya astasasti,” she whispered.

“It’s Magda, yes?” I asked her.

She nodded, the slightest dip of her chin. She kept counting. “Zat’Sethya septhasasti.”

“You are well? He did not hurt you?”

The slightest of shakes of her head.

“What is it that you count?”

She whispered the next number in the sequence, her gaze rising towards one of the peaks in the roof of the pavilion.

I patted her shoulder, stepping past her to the twins, kneeling down beside them.

“I need to know what is happening out there,” I told them. “Why are we not out there trying to save those people?”

Aurora looked up from a scintillating reddish glow. Her and Silva’s red dragonstones projected some sort of wavering image upon the air. I recognized the swirling, spidery script of their native language, even though I could not make any sense of it.

“You needn’t worry about them. We have a problem.”

“Those people—“

“Are possessed, yes. As I told you, they will be fine. We will not.” She pointed at the red-tinged runes shimmering between her and Silva. The silver-eyed twin was still poking at different rows, dragging lines of symbols here and there, and frowning.

“I cannot read your script,” I reminded the girl.

She sighed, and waved her fingers. Her half of the image… slid, and the brightly glowing lettering seemed to melt, becoming lines of a representation of the hilltop fortress. A red-orange circle grew over the hilltop, covering the area about where we sat, as well as the plaza outside. A quarter of the temple and ruins of the palace were also encompassed by the circle.

Silva made a surprised noise, and prodded a few more columns of the runes. The orange circle widened.

“You’re sure?” Aurora asked her. The siren gave her sister a flat stare.

“From bad to worse,” the shrike muttered.
Rob
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Fri Dec 02, 2011 12:16 am

I've posted a Poll/Question over on the Thorn's Chronicle Facebook page. Thought I'd give that a try rather than cluttering up the board with an extra thread/poll. I'm trying to get groundwork set for the third arc, but don't really have anything as concrete in mind as I did for the "Wake." Options and my mind are pretty wide open for ideas on what/where to go next, so please let me know what you'd like to see!
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Fri Dec 02, 2011 4:26 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


“I’m guessing we do not want —“

“Vatu!” Silva said, moving a finger away from the runes to point towards Aurora. The shrike’s eyes had gone distant, her features slack, as if she were daydreaming.

“If we’re in as big a pot of soup as she seems to think, is now really the time for daydreams?” Gilliam asked.

“Eshaa cintyati,” Silva said, giving us a stern ‘shushing’ gesture.

After perhaps a minute, Auora stood. Every guard in the pavilion leapt to his feet, weapons readily at hand, their eyes on the girl.

“The cisterns,” she said. She blinked, as if suddenly awakening from a dream, glancing around.

“Up, all of you!”

“Here, now, you can’t just —“ one of the guards began.

Silva glared at the man. The red stone at her wrist glimmered, and the sword he’d readied in his hand crashed to the ground, forming a deep dent in the piled carpets.

The guard bent to retrieve it, and his face went red with the effort of his tugging at the hilt.

“What have you done?” he sputtered.

“Hinder us, and you will all die of the Wasting. Stay here, follow us if you like if you wish to survive.”

“Zatapajka,” the girls whispered.

“Less than half a Turning,” Aurora said.

“You can’t order us—“ another of the guards spat.

“They offer you a chance to survive,” Varis said. “You get no such guarantee if you get in their way.”

The guard’s slack expression twisted into a sneer. “You won’t escape.” He turned, and yanked at the knots of the pavilion’s entrance.

Aurora didn’t even give the man a second glance. The ceremonial knife was already in her hand, and with and underhanded sweep, she slashed through the western wall of the tent.

Silva ducked through, and Aurora motioned for us to follow.

“Go. She knows the way. Quickly!”

The dark stone on Silva’s wrist begain to shine with a purplish-blue light, and her form began to waver. One by one, the girls stepped through the opening, joining hands, and their forms, too, began to shimmer and dance, as if being viewed on the surface of a lake.

I took Ana’s hand, the last of our group to file through.

I was brought up short when a guard’s gloved hand closed over mine.
Rob
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Fri Dec 02, 2011 7:27 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


“They said to guard you, but not where exactly to do it, right?” the man asked with a wild-eyed grin. He shrugged. “And can’t do much guarding as a dead man. Let the sergeant go and run for his reinforcements. The rest of us’ll take our chances with the witches.”

For having been ill, Silva set a grueling pace. The crowds seemed distant, watery shadows against the deepening darkness of the night. She led us along the fringe of the crowds, down the sloping hill, to the ruins of the base of the citadel’s walls.

It was about at that point that the shouts and alarms began to go up from the hilltop pavilion. It did not slow Silva’s pace, nor did it quicken it. To go too quickly across the uneven snow-covered grounds, in the deepening twilight, with the added obscurity of her Veiling would have doomed is to tangling each other up with turned or broken ankles.

Torches bobbed in the distance behind us. It was one thing to Veil us from sight, but the same could not be done with our trail through the snow.

The sharp crack-whistle of loosing crossbow bolts broke the muted quiet of our flight. A bolt sparked and shattered against the stone wall less than a stone’s throw behind us.

“They fire blind, keep going!” Aurora hissed. She was a brighter blur in the night on the wall above us, keeping pace with us, hopping lightly between the gaps in the stones as if skipping through a meadow on a sunny spring afternoon.

A quiet tingling surge of power washed down my spine and the snows behind us suddenly burst upwards, a wall of whiteness and icy winds skirling away towards our pursuers. The mens’ howls joined those of the wind conjured by the weavers.

Another minute’s dashing, and Silva suddenly slowed. Broken walls jutted from the snows ahead, and she led us carefully through a series of what could have once been homes or workshops of some sort, clustered along a bend in the fortifications. We came to a sheltered hollow, and I was surprised to find that it was a darkened opening, not shadows.

The weavers directed another short burst of wind through the opening, clearing snow from ancient, well-worn steps leading down into the hillside. The stone was cold around us as we made our way down the cramped stairs, around a turn, and into a long, low-ceilinged chamber. A number of large stone-lined wells dotted the floor, one wide enough that it could have been another of the strange pools like we’d seen in the lost valley.

“Into the water!” Aurora shouted. “Be ready to dive.”

The guards glanced at each other. Varis and Gilliam were already struggling out of their cloaks and boots, unbuckling weapons.

“It’s the middle of winter,” one of the guards said. “We could catch our deaths from the cold in that.” He pointed to the nearest of the wells.

“If you wish to live long enough for the chills to claim you, then dive!” Aurora shouted. “The Throne aligns.”
Rob
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Sat Dec 03, 2011 6:17 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


I sucked in a deep breath, and plunged into one of the pools. The crippling shock from the intense cold was about the only thing that kept the air from rushing out of my lungs. It was colder even than the waters of Windrush Lake.

The fluid silence was broken by a roar that was felt more than heard, and fell like the hard slap of a dragon’s tail upon the water. It pressed against me from all sides, causing my ears to scream with a sudden painful roar as the water seemed to want to rush into my head. The darkness of my closed eyes was suddenly bright with streaks of yellow and gold, white and silver, as if the starshower above had decided to join me in the freezing depths.

A sharp jolt, heard as a harsh bubbling in the waters, snapped my awareness back from the brink upon which it teetered.

My lungs burned for air, and I made slow, clumsy kicks. It seemed to take an age to reach the surface. But the surface met me like a cold slap in the face, and I thought for a moment I had been transported back to the rain-tossed waters of the lake.

The surface of the pool heaved and tossed. I realized it was the entire chamber that heaved and tossed.

It was pure instinct that had me reach out to the bones of the hill, to call up its strength around the chamber, shoring up the faults in the stonework around us.

The white light spilling from the doorway was swallowed as that opening collapsed. I felt the stones buckling around me, as if my own bones were straining, about to break. My own shout was lost as I took in a mouthful of water. Through my coughing and retching, I could hear the cries of the girls and my companions. I bent my will to the cold around me, pushing it into the stones, reinforcing them with bonds of ice.

The quaking settled, and we were left in darkness, the sounds of coughing, sobbing, and the lapping of the icy pools the only sounds in the sudden silence.



I made to reach for fire, but a small hand on my wrist stopped me.

“No, let me.”

A bright golden light sprang from the stones on Aurora’s wrists. I looked around to see my companions helping each other from the pools. Several of the guards lay in gasping heaps on the floor, coughing heavily.

At the far end of the chamber, I saw Silva, bent low over the girls, looking over each of them for injuries, her face lit from below by the gleaming pendant about her neck.

“Is everyone all right?” Varis’ voice managed to make it from between chattering teeth.

“If you call being half-drowned and deafened all right, then yes,” Gilliam said, his voice ringing through the chamber. Or perhaps it was just in my ears.

“I think Hamdal does not look so good,” one of the guards said.

“Back away from him,” Aurora said.

“But he—“

“Step away!”

The soldier reacted to the tone of the order with an almost instinctive jolt.

The light from Aurora’s gauntlets shone on heavily tarnished armor. The man wheezed and gasped within it, but the rattling of his lungs had nothing to do with his having swallowed any water. His skin shone with a yellowish waxy pallor, and his eyes glittered feverishly from sunken, darkened sockets. The man turned his head to cough, and dark blood flecked the stones.

The shrike shook her head. She knelt, adjusting the guard’s cloak, folding his arms over his chest.

“But you said not to—“ the other guard began.

Aurora turned to him, held her hands out. They were badly reddened, blistering where the folds of the cloak had gathered between her fingers. But beneath the candle-like gleam of the two white dragonstones, the blisters withered, the flesh peeling away to reveal healthy skin beneath.

“My kind can recover from this. Yours cannot.” She glanced over at the guard, who’s rattling breath was coming in shorter and shorter gasps.

Ana, shivering, still wringing out her hair, huddled nearby. “Is there nothing to be done?” she asked.

Aurora shook her head. “I have made him as comfortable as I can. He is too far gone for the help of your Flame. Perhaps prayers, to aid him on his way to become one with Ferros.”



“We need to get out of these wet clothes, some warmth,” Varis said.

“What would we burn, down here?” Aurora asked. “Between the smoke and the fire gobbling up the breathable air, how much longer do you think we would live?”

“Allow us,” the darker-haired weaver said. She closed her eyes, and the icy tingle of her handling one of the Powers of the Spheres added to my shivering. She made a delicate, dismissive gesture with her left hand, and was suddenly standing in a puddle of water, her hair, gown, and skin completely dry.

“Sign me up for some of that,” Gilliam said, nearly biting his tongue. Another gesture from the girl, and the warrior stood in a similar state, staring down at his hands and arms in amazement, grinning. “Bit of a tickle, but even better than standing under Ixion’s glare in the Alaysian summertime.”

The weaver, Macha’s, bobbed a slight curtsey, the slimmest of smiles on her lips. Within moments, all of us were at least dry, and pulling cloaks tighter around ourselves.

While the others dried, Varis and Gilliam and I looked over the collapsed stonework blocking the steps up to the citadel. The stones and blocks were wedged in tight, and a probing of the surrounding stonework indicated to me that any attempt to move them would bring even more of the chamber down around us.

“So we survive their Throne of Stars only to die of cold or starvation or a lack of air?” Gilliam asked. “Not exactly the way I wish to go.”

“You’d rather go like that?” Varis asked, pointing to the dark bundle laid out by one of the pools.


“Why don’t we just go through here?” one of the girls asked. Petra crouched by the far corner of the chamber, and was staring upwards at a crack that ran halfway up towards the ceiling. The gap at the base was perhaps half as wide as the girl’s shoulders.

“I felt a cold draft when we climbed out of the pool,” she said. “You can still feel air moving about.” She wiggled her fingers before the dark cleft in the rocks.

I laid a hand on the stone. This fold in the rocks was older, more stable. It had flexed rather than breaking, had sent the brunt of the power from above further down into the bones of the hillside, where the anchoring stone could consume the energies.

“It is sound, and I feel wider spaces beyond. Dead stone, the work of Men.”

“Idam kim?” Silva asked, her hands on her hips, leaning slightly towards her sister. Aurora was staring at the break in the stonework with a slightly sickened expression, but coupled with a questioning confusion.

“There is… something there. A memory, but… I cannot reach it. It keeps slipping away. Something interferes with the thoughtshare matrix.”

“Will it lead back to the surface?” Varis asked.

Aurora thought a moment. “Now, perhaps, with the shifting of the land. But an age ago, the places beyond were sealed, and what was below consigned to the darkness.”

“What was left?”

Aurora squeezed her eyes shut, her hands going to her temples. A trickle of blood seeped slowly from her nose. The shrike’s eyes fluttered open and she dabbed at her upper lip.

“Alam,” Silva said.

“No matter how I align my thoughts, the memories just will not come into focus.”

“Well, whatever lurks in there couldn’t be worse than the fate that awaits us if we simply sit here staring at the walls,” Gilliam said.
Rob
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Mon Dec 05, 2011 7:28 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


Aurora and Silva were able to widen and reinforce the opening with the combined magic of their red dragonstones, leading us into what had once been some sort of tomb. Stone slabs lay across the floor, huge solid slabs different from the stone of the flooring itself. If there was any sort of decoration on them, dust and cobwebs obscured any such designs. A sharp glance and word from Ana kept one of the solders from running his gloved hand through the dust.

An arched opening led to a cramped corridor, the walls lined with niches, nearly every one of those obscured by drapes of webbing and more dust.

The blonde weaver had called forth one of the watery balls of light. With the thickness of the cobwebs and dust, there is little doubt we would have smothered ourselves had we used torches, even if we’d had them.

I had heard there were catacombs beneath the ruins, but had no idea just how extensive they were. After several turns and the passing of a number of larger burial chambers, I was thoroughly lost. The wandering, pausing at intersections while Aurora glanced back and forth was eerily reminiscent of the warren of tunnels beneath the lost valley.

Fortunately, we were not pursued by some gibbering monstrosity, though to see Ana’s complexion and watch her nervous glances behind the group, one would not think this the case at all.

Far from being frightened of the maze-like confines beneath Krakatos, the other girls stared in wide-eyed wonder. Every now and then, one or another would trail her hand along the wall, careful to avoid the resting nooks. Beneath the echoing clatter of armor and the creak of our leathers, I could hear the girls murmuring old Traladaran prayers. Some of them sang snippets of the Song of Halav. Though they did not seem to discuss it amongst themselves, some would sing the same verses, their voices twining, and the stones around us seemed at times to vibrate in harmony, as if the webbing dangling above us were the strings of some ancient instrument, the girls’ voices some sort of invisible bow. Unfortunately, the girls could sing no more than a verse or two before the cascading dust had us sneezing and coughing.

One of the soldiers made a cutting remark when Evelina sang the first of the verses. The chuckle of the other two guards was cut short as the report of a slap echoed down the corridor. The rest of us stopped and turned.

“These are our ancestors,” Katarin snapped. “Spit on the graves of your own dead if that is your way. If you cannot look upon the dead with respect and honors, then do not raise your eyes from the floor.”

“It’s just a story,” one of the guards said, the chuckle still in his voice. “A fairy’s tale—“

Another slap rang down the hall, and this time, it was delivered by Aurora. She’d made her way back towards the men when our pace had slowed. She pointed to the niche to the right of the guard’s head, three rows up from the floor.

“Nikolev,” she said. “He died holding off three beast men while his family fled up this very hill, their village burning around them.” She pointed behind the soldier. “Three rows down, his son Richev, who was killed two days later when boulders hurled by the beast men collapsed the section of wall he was defending. You stand upon the bones of Balichorius, who was chieftain of his tribe but refused burial among the clan-chiefs.”

The soldier practically jumped away from what I’d thought was a decorative flooring stone.

Another of the guards, though, narrowed his eyes. “You can’t know that. You’re just making it up,” he said.

“How well do you know the Song of Halav?” Aurora asked him.

“Well, we don’t exactly sing it in the Baron’s halls,” he sputtered. “I’ve heard a few verses.”

“The fifty-seventh,” Katarin said.

One voice in seven parts lifted, the girls’ reciting the verse, passed down, they say, from Zirchev himself:

On Petra’s walls we stand. We fight
Shields high against the Beast Men’s might
Her maidens aid us, with Fire and Song,
Silver and gold lend strength to our bronze.


Varis scratched his head. “I always thought that verse silly. Such soft metals would do nothing to strengthen bronze.”

“You hear that, dear sister?” Aurora said over her shoulder. “He calls us soft and silly.”

Next to me, Silva lifted her nose and sniffed, turning away from the warrior.

“I didn’t—“ he started.

“Three flights of sirens and two platoons of shrikes perished in the forty years of war against the beast men,” Aurora said. “I hold every one of those deaths here.” She pointed to her head. “Just as I can recall every death on the walls on that last day.”

“I have seen what you and your sister are capable of,” Varis said.

“Aye, and so have we.” The tone of the guard who spoke was nowhere near as apologetic as Varis.
Rob
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Thu Dec 08, 2011 2:23 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


“Vartamhe nasth.” Silva muttered, after nearly an hour’s trekking down corridors and crossing through several larger burial vaults.

“We are not lost,” Aurora said, frowning at her sister. But she took longer in glancing back and forth between the left and right-hand corridors that branched just ahead of us.

“Perhaps we could toss a coin,” one of the guards said.

“Or play ‘odds and evens,’” another of the guards said, holding out a clenched fist.

“Or we could blunder into places that were sealed two thousand years ago for very good reasons.” Aurora snapped.

The guard folded his arms. “What is sealed up down here other than some moldering old bones?”

Aurora opened her mouth to reply, but whatever she was going to say stuck in her throat. She clamped her jaw shut with a frustrated growl, turned towards the crossed passages.

“We must go this way,” she said, pointing ahead.

“It seems to me like you’ve been avoiding the lefthand passages,” the guard said, his ams sill crossed. “Which means we keep going the long way ‘round.”

“I take the safest route,” the shrike said.

“The witch is right. We are lost,” said the other guard.

“We are not lost,” Aurora said, again. “The stairs up lie below the temple, which is half a mile that way.” She pointed down the lefthand passage.

“And we’ve been snaking through side passage after side passage?” the guard asked.

“I take the safest route. The most direct path is also the most dangerous.”

“If you know where the dangers are, surely you can bypass them.”

“And reveal them to those they were meant to keep here in the dark? Yes, that makes perfect sense.”

“There is nothing down here but the dead!”

Aurora nodded. “Yes, now you begin to see. You cannot fight the dead, not with your weapons. You cannot kill that which does not live. You cannot defeat it. But if you do not awaken it, you do not have to fight it.”
Rob
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Fri Dec 09, 2011 4:20 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


“Shh!”

This, from Jasna, at close to the center of the group. Those of us before her took a few more steps before turning as the clanking of the guardsmen came to a halt.

The girl stood, poised on her toes, eyes closed, head cocked slightly to one side. She took a few swift silent steps, coming even with the twins. She cupped her hands behind her ears, frowning with concentration.

“I don’t—“ Gilliam began, but was shushed by about half the group without Jasna having to do it.

I closed my eyes, set my feet firmer against the paving tiles, willing my senses to ease into the rock.

Vibrations, somewhere ahead of us. Footsteps, two pair, one quick and anxious, as a caged animal might pace, the other lighter, but more relaxed. I could even feel the stirring of the air against the stone, but was not able to make out what the two voices might have been saying.

Another pair of vibrations smashed through my senses, as if I were standing before a Khantes war drummer. I snapped my senses away from the stone, blinking just in time to see the twins waver and wink out of sight as they dashed silently up the corridor.

There was a clattering of armor behind me. I turned, to see Gilliam and Varis restraining the guardsmen.

“Unhand us this instant or face the baron’s justice,” the bigger of the guards snarled. “I knew all along this was just some ploy to let those two witches escape! You won’t—”

His shout was brought up short as Varis smashed his fist against the center of the guard’s breastplate.

The three guards’ struggling ceased as I felt the shivering rush of the weavers’ power play against the nape of my neck.

“Shall we gag them, as well?” the blonde weaver asked, her voice somewhat distant, her eyes glittering under the wavering bubble of light.

“If they shout again, yes,” Varis said. “But the damage is already done. Whoever else is down here knows they are not alone.”
-----------------------------------------------
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Sat Dec 10, 2011 3:47 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


“Five hundred,” Gilliam said, looking down the corridor. There was no sign of the twins. I could feel their presence, faintly, upon the stones, but the tingling itch of the weavers’ power made the stonedelving difficult, more painful the further away I tried to reach.

“Do we wait longer, or follow?” Varis asked.

“I say we—“

Ana’s words were cut off by a sudden sharp tremor rippling through the corridor, followed by a fierce wind howling up the corridor, shrieking through the way we’d come.

“Duck!” she finished, pushing the girls to either side of her to the floor as she sprang for the front of our group.

I flung myself into one of the corners, curling about one of the girls cowering there.

I had but a few beats of my wildly hammering heart warning before a hot wind roared back at us, followed by a billowing wall of red-orange fire.
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Tue Dec 13, 2011 9:22 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


Hard silver light rimmed and danced among the tongues of flame as they snaked and coiled around Ana’s position, slightly ahead of me. She staggered, her outspread hands curling into fists, hiding her face in the crook of her arms as the flames shattered the hasty barrier she’d erected against the blast.

I caught the flames along the length of my staff as they whipped past the girl. I held one end braced against the stone floor, trying to draw as much heat from away and channel it deeper into the hillside. Unlike the fires of Verge, there was nowhere else for the flames to go. It was as if we stood in the very jaws of the dragon as it loosed its fiery breath.

The ironwood went from deep red to a brilliant orange, and there were thankfully only a few moments of pain before my hand went numb against the wash of heat.

“You cannot do this alone!”

I turned, to see the flames, billowing in the reflection of a pair of wide, brown eyes. Auburn hair, lit with red and orange as it tossed in the scorching wind of the fireball’s advance.

The tingling surge of Macha’s Power drowned out the inferno that was nearly upon us. I felt as if I would burn from the inside out, and the flames would be made of impossibly flickering shards of ice. The shiver was a hard spike of barbed ice rushing down the nape of my neck, down my spine, blossoming upward into my skull, racing down my arm.

And just as suddenly, it reversed itself, melted as the fireball washed over us, flowing down my arm in a tingling, stinging rush, to circle about my wrist, just above my free hand…..
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Sun Dec 18, 2011 3:48 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...



Up. And over. Let it flow over and around us.

Macha’s voice seemed to whisper at my shoulder, just behind my ear, though she was a good two arm’s lengths away.

Flow? Fire raged, it did not flow. Water flowed.

There is no difference. Part the threads around us, weave them between us, over us. Merge them with my sister’s threads of Air. Do not look. See.

Lashing, writing in the billow of the flames were… threads. Hundreds of them, thousands, whipping every which way. They tangled over the length of my ironwood staff.

Gleaming, bright sky-blue, were bands of cool, refreshing wind, bending and swirling around us. Channels, as if we were clumps of land amidst some great delta.

I touched my staff to the nearest band of wind, an the threads flared, from red to orange, feeding hungrily on the air….

… but also being pulled away, as threads of flax are spun and wound up on a spindle.

I called the flames to me, and they fairly leapt towards my hands. I felt Macha’s hand behind mine, her fingers twined with mine, felt the threads of her power burning through my fingers. I drew the flames, but she tugged at those lashing threads.

My heart hammered in my chest. Working with fire was always a delicate balancing act, for it was a temperamental beast, fickle and prone to fits and starts. To lose focus for a fraction of a second could cause a spark to bloom into a wildfire.

Macha’s had no fear. Her heartbeat was slow and steady, as if she slept amidst the most pleasant of dreams. I felt her focus, sharp as a the edge of a finely cut crystal. I felt her fingers twitch, saw the red-orange stands bend to her ministrations, watched the chaos flow into order, winding amidst her sister’s blue-white weaves of air.

The flames diminished, channeled away from us, around us, roaring in a twisting column of fire low to the floor, bound well away from the webbing lining the ceiling.


The moment ended, snapped like a tailor’s thread, and I found myself blinking, gasping for breath, my throat painfully dry, eyes stinging.

I scrambled over to Ana.

I tried to, at any rate. A sudden rush of exhaustion flowed through me, surging up my arm, settling like leaden weights over my shoulders and in my feet. It was suddenly all I could do to draw my next breath. Blackness hovered around the edges of my vision, and even blinking was an effort.

“I am sorry,” I heard Macha’s say. “It was the only way.” This time it was her true voice, spoken from some ways away, from the other end of a long silver cord that bound her to the bracelet she’d slipped over my left wrist.
Rob
Thorn's Chronicle: The Thread Index|Thorn's Chronicle Blog
My articles at the Vaults of Pandius; My W.O.I.N. adventure in ENWorld's EONS Patreon #56.
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RobJN
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Re: [Thorn's Chronicle]: Wake of the White Witch's Wrath

Postby RobJN » Tue Dec 20, 2011 2:53 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


“Ana—“ I managed.

“The foolish girl is singed, but otherwise unharmed,” the blonde weaver said. “I managed to wrap her in a shell of air before she fell.

I pushed myself up against the wall, my legs still trembling. The scrape of metal against stone caused me to glance down at my left wrist. Despite the superheated air around us, the bracelet was cool and slick against my wrist.

My breath caught, and a shadow of feeling fluttered about my stomach. I glanced down at Macha’s, and her blush deepened as the feeling slithered away. She bent further, to place her forehead against the stones at my feet.

“No!”

The weaver jerked to a halt, and one would think I’d hauled on the length of cord that joined us, wrist-to-neck.

Surprise and confusion swirled in her eyes, as her traditions met with my refusal.

I’d barely thought to tell her to simply rise, and she was making her way to her feet, leaning heavily against the wall. Her exhaustion pressed against me, though not as heavily as before.

“Thorn, we need to move.”

I looked up from the girl’s brown eyes, blinking.

Voices, harsh, sharp, echoed up the corridor, accompanied by the clashing of metal upon metal.
Rob
Thorn's Chronicle: The Thread Index|Thorn's Chronicle Blog
My articles at the Vaults of Pandius; My W.O.I.N. adventure in ENWorld's EONS Patreon #56.
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RobJN
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Joined: Sun May 25, 2008 10:33 pm
Location: Texas, USA

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