Page 2 of 7

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

Posted: Fri Jul 15, 2011 2:02 pm
by RobJN
Apologies for the lack of updates. New boss, new work schedule, and the blazing heat of Texas in the summer are taking their toll.

I'll be getting back to the narrative soon, but right now I'm taking some time to catch up on a few other projects, watch some backlogged anime, as I adjust to new work hours.

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

Posted: Mon Jul 18, 2011 6:39 pm
by RobJN
Thorn's Chronicle continues...

I didn’t think that I gave her away — I certainly did not blink, and intentionally kept my gaze locked on the dark eyes of the Darine. His eyes shifted, though, his gaze darting to my left and then to my right, tracking along the stretch of rocky shore. His smile did not waver in the least, and he chuckled.

“Come now, machika, Shandor means you no harm, if you can promise the same. It is bad manners, hiding behind your mother’s veil. Let us speak eye to eye.”

The air wavered, then folded away from where Aurora stood. She balanced forward, the ceremonial knife held low, the point of the blade between her and the stranger. The deep purple veins within the knife’s black dragonstone pulsed a quick rhythm — no doubt in time with the girl’s heartbeat.

The Darine’s eyes widened, as did his smile. He raised his hands. “Now, now, machika, there is no need for claws.”

“Men should not be able to see through a Veiling,” Aurora said, her golden eyes narrowed.

“It is… a gift, of sorts. My mother could see those that would be. Her mother could see those who were. I see those who… how to say it? ‘Should be.’”

“Your blood,” the girl said. Her tone was still thick with caution. “Swear your peace by your blood.”

The Darine man lowered his hand, leaned down from the padded bench. He kept his other hand in plain view, his dark eyes on the shrike.

When he made no further move, she glanced down at her knife, reversing her grip on it, holding it by the blade. She held the hilt out to me, and prodded me with it when I did not immediately take it.

“You do not have to use it,” she said. “Just hand it to him.”

I turned to give the knife to the Darine, and Aurora clutched at my sleeve.

“That way,” she said, motioning further to my left.

“But he is—“

“You do not want to be between us,” she said.

“He is harmless. He has already pledged that he will not harm me.”

“I would see the color of his blood, first. A demon speaking with his voice is not bound by any such oath.”

“You think he is possessed?”

“I think everybody is possessed. Countless lives have taught me that.”

I could not argue against her logic.

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

Posted: Thu Aug 11, 2011 2:03 pm
by RobJN
Thorn's Chronicle continues...

“You see? It is red, just as is yours.”

Some of the tension trickled from the girl’s posture. Which is to say that she lowered her hands to her sides, and the glimmers of golden light faded from the red stones adorning her wrists.

“As strange a blade as is she who bears it,” the Darine murmurred. He carefully wiped the blade on a deep violet handkerchief, and then wound the cloth about the gash he’d made across the back of his hand. He raised the knife towards the sky, and Aurora brought her arms up, shifting her stance to turn her profile towards the wanderer.

“Such a flighty one, your little machika,” he said, turning his attention to me. He lowered the blade — slowly — and offered me the the pommel. “I was merely examining this exquisite opal. I have never seen one like it. Please, tell Shandor where it is you found such a marvelous stone.”

“Stones such as these have been in my family for… generations,” Aurora said, taking the knife from me and tucking it into the strips of cloth wound about her waist.

The Darine — Shandor, he’d called himself — nodded, though his eyes had narrowed slightly at the girl’s careful choice of wording.

“So it is by my blood that I swear to you the peace of the roads. This is satisfactory, yes?”

The shrike nodded. “It is.” Her fingers drifted over the worn black leather of the dagger’s hilt. “I shall only draw this again in our defense.”

Shandor’s brows rose, and he threw back his head and laughed. “If Shandor needs to depend on a knife in the hands of a child, then times are indeed troubled.”

Aurora’s cheeks flushed.

“She is hardly—“ I began, but the girl’s heel came down sharply on my foot.

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

Posted: Fri Aug 12, 2011 1:49 pm
by RobJN
Thorn's Chronicle continues...

The Darine man seemed not to notice. “Now you must tell to me how a druid and his pretty krisanthe come to sit by the waters of the Wulfwolde along this same road as Shandor.”

“There will be time enough for that along the road,” came the Hierarch’s voice from the other side of the path.

Shandor turned, his back straightening, and he bowed his head, bringing his fingertips up to his forehead. “A greeting to you, Father of the woods, and my thanks for easing the hardships of the roads this season.”

The Hierarch nodded in acknowledgement. “Blessings of the forest folk upon you and yours, wanderer. May you know safety and swift travel under my boughs. I see you have already met your guide, Thorn. I also present to you his traveling companions, Varis of Bywater, Gilliam of the eastland borders, and Ana, Child of the Flame.”

The Hierarch had suited the two warriors in the leather-and-steel of Callarii wildrunners. Cloaks of mottled greens and grays draped their shoulders, hanging nearly to their ankles. Gilliam wore two wildrunner longknives across his hips, each nearly as long as the dual shortswords he’d wielded in the Valley. A pommel crafted after leaves and trailing vines showed from over Varis’ shoulder.

As surprised as I was by Varis and Gilliam’s outfitting, Ana’s simply stole my breath away for several moments. The elves had garbed her in the pale white robes of their moon priestesses. Beneath the pearlescent tabard and mantle, I could see plates of platinum-enameled armor. Sleeves of white-gold mail disappeared into long gloves of supple white calfskin. Her boots, too, were of the same material, banded with more enameled steel. The Callarii had swept her hair back as well, weaving it up and away from her face, held in place by a circlet of platinum and steel.

“I told you he’d stare,” Gilliam said to Varis.

The Hierarch cleared his throat, beckoning Aurora and I to his side. “The elves have gifts for you two, as well,” he said, and I found myself being led into the trees by a trio of wildrunners I hadn’t even noticed.

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

Posted: Fri Aug 12, 2011 4:43 pm
by Chimpman
Well, it's taken me longer than I would have liked, but I'm finally all caught up. This tale is promising to be just as enthralling as the last Rob.

Something that I couldn't quite make out from the other druid's tale though - are both dwarf brothers dead, or just the one?

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

Posted: Fri Aug 12, 2011 4:45 pm
by RobJN
Chimpman wrote:Well, it's taken me longer than I would have liked, but I'm finally all caught up. This tale is promising to be just as enthralling as the last Rob.

Something that I couldn't quite make out from the other druid's tale though - are both dwarf brothers dead, or just the one?
One, the other wounded. :(

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

Posted: Fri Aug 12, 2011 5:19 pm
by Chimpman
RobJN wrote:
Chimpman wrote:Well, it's taken me longer than I would have liked, but I'm finally all caught up. This tale is promising to be just as enthralling as the last Rob.

Something that I couldn't quite make out from the other druid's tale though - are both dwarf brothers dead, or just the one?
One, the other wounded. :(
Ok, that's what I got after reading that particular post :(. And both (the dwarf and Silva) are being held by the Black Eagle. I'm also assuming that it was Bargle that killed one of the brothers.

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

Posted: Fri Aug 12, 2011 5:33 pm
by RobJN
Chimpman wrote:
RobJN wrote:
Chimpman wrote:Well, it's taken me longer than I would have liked, but I'm finally all caught up. This tale is promising to be just as enthralling as the last Rob.

Something that I couldn't quite make out from the other druid's tale though - are both dwarf brothers dead, or just the one?
One, the other wounded. :(
Ok, that's what I got after reading that particular post :(. And both (the dwarf and Silva) are being held by the Black Eagle. I'm also assuming that it was Bargle that killed one of the brothers.
Gilliam would bet heavily in favor of your guess. ;)

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

Posted: Fri Aug 12, 2011 8:42 pm
by RobJN
Thorn's Chronicle continues....

“I can not repay you for this gift,” I told the eldest of the elves.

He tugged at a buckle, then trimmed the strap's excess leather.

“There is no expectation of return on this gift, forest-brother,” he said. “It is we who are still indebted to you.” His gray eyes settled on the scars at my throat.

I shifted my shoulders. The elven leathers were much lighter than those crafted by my fellow druids. Still, I’d been out of armor for so long that it would take some getting used to. I wondered how Varis and Gilliam could do it, with the added weight of the steel.

“Another gift,” the second eldest of the elves said, and held out to me a long straight staff of gray wood. It was heavier than it looked, but worn smooth, and comfortable in my hands. I stepped back and gave the staff a turn, finding it to be wondrously balanced.

“Ironwood,” the elf said. “May it serve you well in your journeys, both in support and defense.”

“There is something more to this,” I said. Despite the chill of the season, the wood held a subtle warmth.

The elf smiled. “You will know its secrets in time.”

The last gift from the elves was a cloak identical to those given to Varis and Gilliam. A fine, sturdy weave, treated with several different types of tree saps. Not only did they serve as dyes, but they also made the cloaks resistant to water and weather.

I stepped from the small clearing back to the trail just moments before Aurora emerged from the trees on the far side of the group.

Like Ana, she was clad in a flowing tabard and cloak of grayish-white cloth that seemed to trade shades of moonlight as it stirred with her motion. She wore a plain white gown beneath, with no sign of any armor, save the golden vambraces peeking from the wide bottoms of the sleeves. The ceremonial knife rode low on her right hip, hanging from the braided leather belt in a slightly too-large scabbard.

“Such visions,” Shandor breathed. He scooted towards the center of the driver’s bench. “Come, come, you will share this perch with me.”

The two girls glanced at each other, and then at the padded bench.

“I would not want to take the seat of your trailguide,” Ana said, taking a step backwards and setting a hand on my shoulder.

“Nonsense,” the Darine sniffed. “There is the road, I am pointed the direction I wish to travel, what is there to guide? He will ride within, with his friends.”

Gilliam turned to the Hierarch. “We would make better time on those elven steeds,” he said. “Two horses, and I could—“

“The forest has provided,” the Hierarch said. He glanced up through the trees. “If it grows much later, you will lose too much light.”

“Surely, this is some sort of illusion,” Gilliam said. He poked his head out the top half of the vardo’s rear door, glancing to his left and right. Around him, we saw the Hierarch, dwindling as the road trundled away behind us, lift a hand in farewell.

I’d expected to be pinched and folded to get into the back of the Darine’s traveling hovel, and was surprised to find the interior only slightly cramped by the three of us. There was enough room for even Varis to stand, and between the bunk towards the rear and a long bench along one side, there was room for all of us to find seats.

Still, there were boxes, several small chests, and bales and bundles tucked into every available nook and crevice. Shelves ran at eye level, just above the top trim of the stained glass windows, packed with stacks of leather folios, several books, and roll upon roll of parchment. I kept expecting it to shift and tumble down upon us, but rather than a rattling jumpy ride, the vardo seemed to simply sway and bob, more like a riverboat than a wagon.

We did not speak much, each sitting, huddled with our own thoughts. I found the vardo’s motion relaxing, and caught myself dozing more than once.

A hard jangling of the wind chimes and creak of the door’s hinges snapped me from one such doze, and I found myself blinking at the stark gray light spilling through the doorway.

“Come, come my friends! It is time for a meal. Come and share the fire and the bread.”

I was not the only one to stretch and stifle a yawn.

“Do we really have time for a cook fire and….” Varis’ musings died as he stepped down the short folding ladder. Gilliam and I both nearly sent him tumbling as we piled into each other’s backs.

The tall warrior stepped aside, glancing around, a bewildered expression on his face. Gilliam was turning a circle as well, looking up and down the roadway.

It was the Grand Duke’s road, certainly. Evenly paved, wide enough for three vardos. Two long ruts through a small snow drift and a clotting of the snow between them indicated where Shandor had turned the wagon from the roadway.

The trees of Radlebb were barely visible past the gentle curve of the road.


I glanced up the road. Smoke, several plumes, drifted from an irregular rise along the horizon. “Those are…” I began.

“Cook fires,” said Shandor, clapping us on the shoulders. “We shall reach the camps with the sundown. Plenty of time to enjoy the festivities.”

“You were sitting next to him, surely you saw how it was accomplished,” Gilliam said. At least, that is what I thought he said, around a mouthful of still-warm, thick-crusted bread.

Ana shook her head. “I must have drifted off for a moment or two.” To Shandor, she said “I apologize. I missed the end of that wonderful tale.”

The dusky wanderer shrugged. “There are plenty more tales to be told. The ending, it is not so important. Come back over here, little kristanthe, and take of my repast, or you will wither away before Shandor can present you to the rest of his cousins and brothers.”

Aurora stood atop one of the large stone pylons erected along the banks of the Volaga, peering south. She held her arms outstretched, fingers and thumbs touching to form a little window. Gold shone bright from the depths of the clear stones over her wrists.

“It does not look so very different from their memories of it,” she said to me as I approached.

I squinted. At best, the rise upon which the ruins of Krakatos huddled was a lump along the horizon.

Aurora crouched, and held her little window of fingers out for me to look through. I blinked and rubbed my eyes, nearly dropping the bread Shandor insisted she eat.

The air shimmered, like it did when she moved within one of her Veilings, but only in the space bordered by her fingers and thumbs. It was as though she had cut a window in the air, and I was peering at the ruins from a much closer vantage. I glanced around her hands, and saw the fuzzy blur leap back into place to each side of her slender fingers.

“With the tents and banners, it almost looks as it did on market days,” she said. She sighed, and lowered her hands. There was a brief glimmer within the red dragonstones as her small hands clenched into fists. The cords in her neck stood out as she swallowed several times. It was several deep breaths before the tension eased from her shoulders and she reopened her golden eyes. She folded her legs beneath her, still sitting atop the stone mile marker with room to spare, and finally took the bread from me.

“My sister is to die, and they make a festival of it.”

She tore at the bread, her brow furrowed more with anger than worry. After several bites, she turned to me.

“Thorn, do you still have those strange knotted lines which tell the druidess’ tale?”

I fished about in my belt pouch, and produced the skeins.

“Read it to me again, please.”

I began to run the knots through my fingers, reciting the account they recorded. Aurora closed her eyes, listening.

We returned to the fireside to find Varis and Gilliam arguing over a diagram of the ruined citadel scratched in a spot of snow-cleared ground.

“The Manticore gate is the way to go,” Gilliam said. “Straight shot, in and then out.”

“With all those merchant’s stalls along that walk, we’ll have to carve our way through the crowds,” Varis said. “The guardsmen—“

“The guardsmen will have to fight their way through the crowds as well,” Gilliam said, stabbing a long twig at the open space near one of the lines representing a wall. “We just—“

“You will do nothing,” Aurora said.

The warriors looked up.

“You will do nothing,” the girl repeated.

“But we want to help—“ Varis started.

“I will not allow it.”

“She is our friend, too,” Gilliam said. “Let us at least—“

“I will not allow it!” Aurora brought her foot down on the map of the citadel at Krakatos. “I will not have you throw away everything you did in the colony to become enemies of this land that you just saved.”

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

Posted: Sat Aug 20, 2011 11:31 pm
by RobJN
Thorn's Chronicle continues...

Shandor glanced from face to face around the fire. “You do not travel to Krakatos for the Festival of Falling Stars.” It was not a question.

“Of course we—“ Gilliam started.

“No, we do not,” Ana said, her blue eyes level with those of the Darine.

The man grunted, nodding his head ever so slightly. “You go there to cause mischief?”

“Yes!” Gilliam said, a fierce grin quirking his lips.

“No!” Ana said at the same time, glowering at the warrior.

Shandor glanced between them. “Which is it to be?”

“There is a girl in trouble. We mean to save her from it,” Varis said, crossing his arms.

“A worthy goal,” the Darine said, with a sharp nod. “These fairs, there is much wine and coin to be had. Many girls, chavi and raklii alike, they do not make such good decisions when there is too much of either. They fall in with wrong people.”

Gilliam nodded. “Precisely,” he said. “We have word that she is in a bad place, with some bad people.”

It is a wonder that the air still plumed before Gilliam’s lips, with the heat in the glare that Ana directed his way. “It is true, is it not?” he asked, arching an eyebrow.

“Yes,” she said, biting through the word as if it were the tough crust of bread she held in one hand.

Shandor smiled, clapped his hands. “Wonderful! There is nothing more pleasing than a riddle to ponder on the road. So. We have eaten, yes? We are refreshed? A few moments more to stretch our legs, to tend to other businesses, and then we are back to our journey.”

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

Posted: Sun Aug 21, 2011 10:29 am
by mister c
Chavi?? there are chavs in Mystara?????


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

Posted: Mon Aug 22, 2011 4:41 pm
by Chimpman
mister c wrote:Chavi?? there are chavs in Mystara?????

:lol: Sure, why not? Those in the Karameikos region are also probably prime recruits for something like the Veiled Society, or the Iron Ring, or even enforcers for the Black Eagle. Most probably just end up picking your pockets though ;)

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

Posted: Mon Aug 22, 2011 9:54 pm
by RobJN
Oi :roll:

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

Posted: Sun Aug 28, 2011 4:53 pm
by RobJN
Thorn's Chronicle continues...

“In Ylaruam, they stay indoors, and cover their heads if they must venture out during the night. And Immortals help you if you should look up,” Gilliam said.

“You speak as if you do not share their belief,” Shandor said. He’d opened the small doorway between the vardo’s interior and the comfortable bench which he still shared with Ana and Aurora.

“Well, I think it’s all just superstitious nonsense.” Gilliam waved a hand at nothing in particular. “The fact that it happens year after year at the same time? It just… is. Like the sun and the moon and stars.”

“Do not think that they are fixed and constant,” Aurora said, her voice barely heard above the creak and jingle of the vardo. “These Ylari are right to be wary on the coming nights. Why the Traldar—“

“Traladarans,” Varis corrected.

“Why they should celebrate is beyond me.”

“A falling star is a good omen,” Varis said. “For so many to appear in the skies?”

“My mother called these coming nights the Harvest of Dreams,” I said.

“Falling stars represent hope for my people,” Ana said.

Aurora glanced at all of us. I saw disbelief there, in her expression. For a moment, pity fluttered at the corners of her mouth, like a bird’s shadow across the sun.

“You do not know,” she whispered. Her voice had again gone quiet, nearly breathless. She shook her head once, the disbelief flickering again to pity, and then to dread as she absently bit at her thumbnail.

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

Posted: Mon Aug 29, 2011 4:42 pm
by Chimpman
Ohhh... I love it. I wonder what falling stars really are then, for Aurora to be so gloomy about them? It sounds like they are talking of a recurring event - a time when many shooting stars can be seen in the heavens. I wonder if this could be related to Blackmoor and the Great Rain of Fire. Perhaps it is some remnant of that disastrous event. Perhaps there is still something hanging in space over Mystara that continues to break up and it crosses Mystara's path once a year (causing the display of shooting stars). Very cool ideas!

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

Posted: Mon Aug 29, 2011 7:23 pm
by RobJN
Chimpman wrote:Ohhh... I love it. I wonder what falling stars really are then, for Aurora to be so gloomy about them? It sounds like they are talking of a recurring event - a time when many shooting stars can be seen in the heavens. I wonder if this could be related to Blackmoor and the Great Rain of Fire. Perhaps it is some remnant of that disastrous event. Perhaps there is still something hanging in space over Mystara that continues to break up and it crosses Mystara's path once a year (causing the display of shooting stars). Very cool ideas!
The calendar for Kaldmont lists three nights of shooting stars just before the end of the Thyatian year. This was too good a bit of fluff not to dig into. (Especially given what could happen on the following two days) :twisted:

In looking over RW recurring stellar events, I noticed that we have the Geminid meteor showers around mid December. These occur around generally the same time every year, and are the result of the planet passing through cometary debris fields. While unintentional, this fits in nicely with the whole "wake" theme I stumbled into while piecing together the plot stepping stones for this arc.

Extrapolating what I could from Mystara's version of the Zodiac, it seemed that that part of the year would plant those falling stars as originating from roughly around the constellation of the Chimera, and so I've named the shower the "Chimerids" in Milenian/Traladaran fashion.

Aurora has only the roughest of grasps on what the star shower portents. While Ana and Varis (and their respective cultures) view the falling stars as omens of good fortune, Aurora only remembers bad things happening when things fell from the skies.

Stay tuned for her interpretation of events, as well as (eventual) input from her sister ("the smarter of the two")

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

Posted: Wed Aug 31, 2011 8:54 pm
by RobJN
Thorn's Chronicle continues...

“You do not know,” she whispered. Her voice had again gone quiet, nearly breathless. She shook her head once, the disbelief flickering again to pity, and then to dread as she absently bit at her thumbnail. “Nothing good has ever come from a falling star.” She huddled into her cloak, pulling the hood further down, and could not be persuaded to say anything more on the subject.

Her mood settled into the rest of us, as well, and I was not alone in a long space of silent pondering.

The vardo continued to sway, the chimes jangling in time to the horses’ steps. Shandor was content to leave us to our own thoughts, humming softly to himself.

I glanced up as the rhythm of the chimes changed. Below the chimes, a distant cacophony of dozens of songs, singers, and instruments wafted through the small hatchway.

Night air….

I rubbed at my eyes. Surely, I hadn’t slept more than a few moments.

A dim reddish lamp hung from the far side of the vardo driver’s bench, just bright enough to illuminate the paving stones of the Grand Duke’s Road. The dim red glow was answered in the distance, dotting either side of the road.

Campfires. Dozens of them. And above them…

“Impossible!” breathed Varis. “It might be done at a messenger’s pace, in the high summer, but to make it from Rifflian to Krakatos in less than a day?”

Shandor merely shrugged. “I merely follow the road. This old vardo, she goes with much more haste without the snows and ices, yes?”

“Yes…” Gilliam said, absently. He looked to be working sums on his fingers.

“She is not for sale,” Shandor said, when Gilliam finished his calculations.

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

Posted: Fri Sep 02, 2011 10:09 pm
by RobJN
Thorn's Chronicle continues...

“Magic, obviously,” Aurora said, when Gilliam prodded her for an explanation. “Perhaps, after we rescue my sister, she could explain it in more detail.”

“This sister of yours must be remarkable,” Shandor said. He clucked at the horses, and the vardo rolled to a stop close to a cluster of others well away from the ruined walls of Krakatos. He leapt from the bench, and lifted Aurora down.

“This sister, she is older? Unmarried, yes?”

I only wish she hadn’t been draped in the shifting shadows cast from the firelight among the other wagons. I heard her laughter, heard her cover it, too late, with a cough.

Shandor gave an exaggerated sigh, crossing his hands over his heart. “Alas, we are forbidden to take wives from among the raklii.”

Aurora stood very still as he spun away from her, to secure the step and release the locks on the rear door of the vardo.

It felt good to be out in the cold night air.

“Please, wait here while I make the introductions to the clan and my family. And, perhaps you could be making your weapons a little less….” He smiled, teeth gleaming, as Gilliam and Varis shifted their weapon belts, turning the hilts in such a way to make drawing them still possible, but difficult.

“Yes, this is good. Shandor will return momentarily. Perhaps, if you are having any business…?”

He turned, tugging his dark leather vest into place, smoothing the billowing sleeves of his shirt.

The music drifting from the campfire faltered and then stopped, to be replaced by a babbling of many different voices, male and female, old and young. I could make out perhaps one in every five or six words, so different and obscure was the dialect of Traladaran that they spoke. There were many more harsh consonants, an odd counterpoint to the sibilance that lent a very distinct flow to their language.

My dealings with the Darine up until that point had been swapping of few stories by merchant caravan campfires. Those had been single families, of perhaps half a dozen, traveling in one or two vardos amidst the long string of merchant’s wagons. They had been amiable enough, but once they left the main camp cook fires, it was made readily apparent that outsiders were not welcome to share their own private campfires.

We waited for nearly half an hour. There was no moon, but more and more stars became visible, peeking from gaps in the clouds above. If it the sky kept clearing at this rate, by sundown tomorrow, there would be but a few wisps left.

“I never thought I would see them again,” Ana said. “It was almost as bad as being cooped up underground, with all those clouds piled up there.”

“It will be nice indeed not to have to shovel our way out of a lean-to,” Varis said.

“What do you see?” I asked Aurora, noticing that she studied the night sky with some interest.

“It is the same… but not the same. As if remembering two different dreams.” She sighed, rubbing at her head with her fingertips. The white stones on her circlet flashed with a few motes of golden light.

“Are you well?”

“This happens when we try to force the memories. It will pass in a moment.”

Shandor approached, leading a trio of other Darine dressed nearly as garishly as he was. The older woman who leaned on his arm was garbed in a thick red woolen dress and half-tunic of brilliant yellow. A fleece-lined vest of indigo leather, covered in pockets as was Shandor’s completed her ensemble. Gold and copper bracelets clattered at her wrists, and large gold hoop earrings dangled among a mane of thick, dark hair streaked with just a hint of gray at the temples. Her orange and red-checked headscarf was unwound, and she wore it about her neck and shoulders more as a shawl.

Behind her, two men of the same muscular-but-wiry build as Shandor stood, arms folded. They were dressed in colors similar to the woman, crimson breeches tucked into dark boots, yellow tunics checked across the bottom with orange and purple. Each man wore a crimson sash, into which was tucked a knife nearly long enough to pass for a gladius. The mens’ stern faces and scarred hands left little doubt as to their purpose at this meeting.

“My friends, I present to you Vadoma Ludja. She is my mother’s sister, and our Way-Seeker for this season. Vadoma, I present to you the friends of which we spoke, who have come with me from the Treesingers in Radlebb.”

The woman, Ludja, stepped forward, reaching out a thin, care-worn hand. Several different rings sparkled on her fingers, some plain, some adorned with gemstones.

Varis was the first to take her hand, placing both of his palm-up beneath her fingertips. He spoke his name, and made the pledge of peace between fellow travelers. He looked her in the eye, and she returned his pledge, nodding once.

She turned slightly, and Gilliam stepped up next, repeating the same ceremonial greeting as had Varis. The woman’s dark eyes flashed, her brow furrowing slightly. The man behind her clutched at the knife in his sash, but the woman glanced back. She did not say a word, but the burly Darine slipped his hand from the hilt, again clasping his hands before him and looking somewhat abashed.

The woman turned her eyes back to Gilliam, her gaze drifting towards his shoulder. She nodded, almost to herself, then patted his hand in an almost grandmotherly fashion.

She turned to Ana, and rather than allowing the girl to do as the two warriors had, the old woman pressed her hands together at about the level of her chin, inclining her head before the young cleric.

Ana held her hands out, glancing at me in sudden confusion. I mimicked the woman’s response, ushering her to return the gesture, which the girl did.

“We welcome your flame among us, child,” the Vadoma said quietly.

The woman turned towards Aurora and a look of puzzlement flickered across her features. She leaned slightly closer to the shrike, peering intently into the shadows beneath the girl’s hood, before straightening with a sharp intake of breath. Her hands clutched at her dress, and she pulled at the fabric.

Aurora’s hand on the woman’s arm and a shake of her hooded head stopped the old woman from dropping into a curtsey.

“But it is proper!” the woman’s tone was one of deep offense.

“No man or woman will kneel before me in their own house.” the shrike said. “This is your soil. I place myself in your care.”

The expressions on the faces of the three Darine men, I think, were just as puzzled as those of my companions and I.

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

Posted: Sun Sep 04, 2011 4:15 pm
by RobJN
Thorns' Chronicle continues...

The rest of the night was a bit of a blur, after we joined Shandor’s clan by their fires. There was wine, a thick spicy vintage that very nearly toppled into the range of brandy. There were stories told, but the fog of the wine kept me from being able to keep sense of the many threads. There was dancing, and I remember that it was not the red in the firelight that colored Ana’s cheeks before she turned her face away. I lost track of how many times Gilliam or Varis rose from their places by the fire to join one or another group of chavii — the unmarried women and girls among the families of of the clan.

Gradually, the music and laughter faded with the firelight, and blankets and cushions and pillows of garish colors and weaves were brought forth. I remember a passing thought that the silk beneath my cheek held its warmth remarkably well, and I shut my eyes to the cloud-tattered shining of the stars, but not before I saw three gleaming streaks flash across the greater darkness above, precursors of the hundreds yet to show in the coming nights….

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

Posted: Sun Sep 04, 2011 8:59 pm
by RobJN
Thorn's Chronicle continues...

First night of the Chimerids (on or about Kaldmont 24, 997AC)

The dawn seemed to come after mere moments, and Ixion brought hammers and pincers with him, and seemed intent mostly upon my brow, but did not spare much of an inch of me.

I double-knotted the message to myself in the skein: Tend to armor, drink but half of what is offered, and be sure to awaken facing west.

Twice a year, in the winter and summer, Krakatos lives, even if for a few weeks’ time. Rather than stone and timber, the city blooms with tents and pavilions. Commoner browns and grays mingle among the Colors of the Traladaran families and Thyatian Lords. Trade once again graces the cracked and overgrown stones of the market squares. Empty streets fill with foot traffic. The steps of the Temple of Khoronus see pair after pair blessed in marriage, for it is said to be of good luck speak the same pledges on the same stones as did Halav and Petra.

The Fairgrounds, once the last mustering place of bronze-clad armies nearly two thousand years past play host to festival stalls, where games of skill and chance are played by young and old alike. In more recent years, the Grand Duke has held tourneys in the springtime, inviting a friendly rivalry between the various Lords and Lord Commanders of the far-flung keeps.

Watching over the festivities, welcomed as old family friends, at least while the banners rise from the crumbling walls of Minas’ Citadel are the various clans of the Darine, the so-called Lost Tribe of Traldar. For them, this is a time of gathering, of trading news and gossip amongst the far reaching families. Old oaths and vows are renewed in the shadowed boughs of Zirchev’s Wood, a dense growth some leagues to the south. The vardos are left behind as the groups make their way there and back on foot, young and old carried as need be. They go without adornment of any kind, and always wear their most travel-worn of garb. Each bears with them but a single kopec which they give to a stranger as they make their way through the ruined and meandering streets of Krakatos, a tradition that even they are at a loss to fully explain, other than to say “it has always been done so.”

As a boy, I remember the parade always brought a brief gloom to the merrymaking, as a cloud dims the sun in passing. My father would sternly rebuke my brothers when they would snicker at the “Beggar’s Parade.” The grim solemnity of the Darine never seemed, to me, to be anything to poke fun at.

I tried rolling over, tried burying my face in the silken pillow beneath me to drive off some of the scalding of the sunlight behind my eyes, only to have the material buck and writhe away from me with a mirthful shriek.

“Such shame, Karos, in front of all your companions and without our speaking the pledges beneath Zirchev’s Tree!”

The voice, sweet and spicy as the wine I’d drunk last night, chased the tatters of fog from my mind. A mass of dark ringlets tumbled around dark, flashing eyes. Long, thick lashes fluttered and full lips spread in a smile that outshone Ixion’s dawn. Her fine brows drew together as her smile dissolved into a pout.

“I will be late for the pilgrimage if you do not move. Up with you, now!”

She gave a mighty tug at my cloak, and sent me tumbling away from her lap and nearly into the fire.

Varis tugged me to my feet, steadying me as the ground pitched and heaved. Gilliam pressed a warm, steaming mug into my hands, and I breathed in a woody, slightly bitter scent, touched with honey.

“Finally, a people who can brew a decent cup of kafa,” Gilliam said, sipping from a mug of his own. “Second best thing to cure the ills of a long night’s drinking.”

“Dare I even ask about the first?” Ana inquired.

Gilliam glanced at the departing figure over the rim of his mug.

“Friend of yours?” Varis asked.

I pulled at one of the leather cords about my neck. One of the Old Traldar kopecs, with the square hole in the center, was threaded through it. I closed my hand around the coin, given to me by a rag-clad Darine girl perhaps a year older than I. Would this be the fifteenth winter since? Sixteenth? With the trials and terrors of the past few months, I found it difficult to believe that I’d forgotten about Demarra.

“More than a friend, I think,” Gilliam said, giving me a clap on the back, nearly causing me to spill the steaming kafa all over myself.

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

Posted: Wed Sep 07, 2011 6:46 pm
by RobJN
Thorn's Chronicle continues...

“I don’t understand how they can just…. Leave everything.” Gilliam stared about the double ring of vardos. The Darine had departed without so much as a second glance at us. Up the slope, travelers from the north were still arriving, and traffic coming from Specularum and Marilenev in the south would be even heavier.

“Not even a stone’s throw from the Grand Duke’s road,” Gilliam said. “All of them just gone. I bet there’s a Baron’s ransom in gold in these rolling houses. Why, an enterprising member of any number of guilds could—“

“Just what sorts of circles does your mind run in?” Ana asked, a frown wrinkling her pale forehead.

“By all means, go ahead and try to take something,” Varis said. “See how you like black fingers and boils. And that’s what you might get away with if you aren’t spotted by any of the Darine. Then they’ll just give you their Evil Eye, one after another of them. You’ll never be able to roll a decent pair of dice again. Happened to a cousin of a fellow soldier when I was in the Grand Duke’s army. Because of a handful of silver.”

“Thorn, surely he—“

I shook my head. “Varis has the right of it. Even the Iron Ring avoids these folk. I don’t think even Bargle would be fool enough to take so much as a kopec from any of them. It just isn’t done.”

“Shame on you for even considering robbing our hosts,” Ana said.

“I wasn’t going to… I was simply… making an observation.”

“Perhaps we could make observations of Minas’ Citadel,” Aurora said, her eyes on the hilltop ruins. Black and silver pennants could be seen flying from the barely-visible tops of similarly colored pavilions.

“You were supposed to’ve been around back then. Can’t you remember—“

“My sisters were the ones assigned to Petra’s aid. My kind deployed along the walls.”

“Daylight is wasting,” Varis said.

We rose, gathered our gear, and made our way into the city of tents.

The bustle grew heavier and heavier the closer we got to the marketplace and fairgrounds. Farmers and merchants vied for attention, calling out to the crowds to draw an eye to their wares. We had to detour around pockets of onlookers to minstrels, jugglers. Several men on stilts worked life-size puppets of soldiers in black and silver, and the crowd cried out at a clap of thunder as blue-tinged smoke billowed from the pot dashed to the ground by the black-clad man manipulating a white-garbed puppet. The puppet threw back its head as the man cackled a wicked — if theatrical— laugh.

We quickly ushered Aurora away as the crowd began to chant for a fiery justice for the White Witch.

The closer we got to the broad curving approach to the Manticore Gate, the harder it became to avoid such displays. Bards sang of fallen heroes of the Black Eagle, or of the foulest sorceries conjured by the White Witch.

“Three cronas!” baked one man, at a long, narrow stall. At the end of the red-curtained length of the booth stood a straw dummy draped in a shabby white robe. The hawker held up a child’s toy bow and three arrows, the tips capped by small cheesecloth sacks dyed red.

“Three cronas for a chance to slay the White Witch!” the man cried.

Aurora’s hand slipped from mine, as if she’d turned her grip to water.

“Aurora, no!” Ana called, and pushed her way through the crowd after the girl. Varis, Gilliam and I were not but a step behind.

I made to grab Aurora’s shoulder as she waited behind the crowd of boys lined up to try their hand at the game. She blurred to one side with a muted pulse of purplish light. We all stopped short, at the slight murmur that rippled through the crowd of onlookers. It was quickly swallowed by groans of dismay. The boy at the front of the line shook his head, and the man at the booth held out another of the oddly-tipped arrows.

The boy drew, sticking his tongue out as he aimed a bit higher than his last shot. He released, and the curtains billowed as his arrow flew wide. Several of the boys behind him jeered.

“We have to do something!” Ana hissed. There was a cheer from the boys and a flash of stage-flame as the last arrow found its mark, bouncing off the straw dummy, leaving barely a smudge of soot on the gown.

“Ten cronas! I’ll bet you ten cronas my niece hits it on her first try,” Gilliam said, his voice carrying over the murmur of the crowd.

“Are you mad?” Ana’s eyes grew wide as her voice climbed.

“Fifteen!” Varis called. Many of the surrounding adults began to call or match the wager.

The barker at the booth paled, then smiled apologetically to the boy as he took back the bow and arrows.

“You there, girl, you are this man’s niece?”

“Do you see any other girls lined up?” Aurora snapped. She’d drawn her hood back just far enough that her hair tumbled forth, but not far enough to reveal any more of her features.

“Don’t know of any boy who’d wish to be caught in a dress such as that,” Gilliam said.

“Unless he was from eastern Thyatis,” one of the men in the crowd quipped.

“Twenty cronas!” Gilliam shouted.

“Well, come forth, girl, if you’ll be trying your luck,” the barker said, holding up the bow and arrows.

Some grumbling, some snickering, the boys begrudgingly parted and Aurora stepped up to the edge of the booth. The barker looked over to Gilliam then glanced down at the metal coin box.

Aurora reached out from beneath her cloak, and laid three coins along the counter beside the box.

The buzz of the crowd as side wagers were made grew silent.

The coins gleamed golden in the early morning sun.

“M’lady,” the barker said, his voice shaking. “It’s a mere three crona.” He made to push the coins back towards her, but Aurora held out her hand.

“Consider it payment for these young men, who my uncle had you push so rudely to the side,” Aurora said. “And let them take as many arrows as they need.”

“O-of course, m’lady!” the man stammered, bowing. He handed her the bow, and she took it, turning it this way and that, as if she’d never even seen one before.

“No, m’lady, you hold it like this,” one of the boys said, turning the instrument over in Aurora’s hand, and placing her fingers in the proper place along the grip.

She smiled, and the boy turned nearly as red as the stone that glimmered ever so briefly on the girl’s wrist.

She took the offered arrow, and drew the bow much too quickly. She loosed even before she’d made a full draw, and the arrow sailed up and over the booth, into the thickets lining the curve in the roadway.

Men and boys alike guffawed, and Gilliam glared at the girl as he passed coins to various men in the crowd.

“Oops,” Aurora said in a small, absent-minded voice.

“Quite all right, quite all right,” the man at the booth said. “Have a dozen more arrows, just for such an occasion. Not to worry, m’lady.” He handed her another arrow.

Aurora drew again, and there was a brief scuffle as she turned at the waist. Men ducked and boys dove to one side or another.

The second arrow bounced along the length of the stall after skipping off the dirt flooring.

“Doing well, m’lady. Need three to work the charm, as they say. Let that White Witch have it with this one.”

Aurora snatched the arrow from the man’s hand, and drew the garishly colored fletchings to her cheek. Her shoulders rose with the indrawn breath, her back stiffening as she solidified her aim.

“Thorn, is that—“ Ana started, clutching at my arm.

A pinpoint of red-orange light gleamed at the tip of the arrow, answering the steady light from the stone on the girl’s gauntlet.

She released her breath, the arrow streaking into the straw-filled target without so much as a wobble. There was a flash of orange light, but the arrow continued through the dummy and into the bales of hay piled along the back of the booth. A few wisps of smoke curled from the bale, and then flames began to lick from there as well.

In the time it took the crowd to gasp in wonder and then began to scramble back in panic, the dummy was fully ablaze, the last of the gown curling and blackening.

“Oops,” Aurora said, lowering the bow.

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

Posted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 8:18 am
by RobJN
Thorn's Chronicle continues...

I raised a hand to reign in the flames before they became too wild to tame.

She set her hand on mine, shaking her head. The veins within the red dragonstone pulsed once, twice, and the flames died to nothing more than trailers of smoke.

“How could you?” Ana snapped, as we rounded the next bend in the broad avenue climbing towards the temple and citadel ruins. “People could have been hurt!”

“You missed those first two shots on purpose!” Gilliam sulked.

“He made a game of it,” Aurora said. “I will not have him or anyone else profitting from this!”

“Do you plan to do that to every attraction here? In case you hadn’t noticed, this place is swarming with guards.” Varis very nearly hit one of them as he flung his arm out to make his point.

The scarlet-cloaked soldier gave our group a long look, but turned and continued his rounds.

Aurora said nothing, but stalked away, her small hands balled into fists.

Several ranks of tents and pavilions had been set up on the broad grassy hillock between the ragged remains of a paradeway and the remains of Krakatos’ palace and temple complex. The pavilions were of argent and sable cloth, and those smaller tents not of the colors flew matching banners.

The crowds were thickest here, crowded shoulder to shoulder, lining the steps, standing on the broken walls. Some of the people simply looked out of curiosity. The closer we got to the plaza, the louder the mutterings grew.

“What if she does it again?”

“Not to worry. See, they’ve bound her in irons.”

“Is that really her? She’s so tiny! They said she was ten feet tall.”

“Not too close, or she’ll grab you and eat you!”

An iron cage hung from a crude but sturdy gibbet, and the crowd milled about it, kept at pike’s length by a ring of guardsmen in gleaming plate. Their cloaks were the deepest of black, edged in shining thread-of-silver.

The Black Eagle’s personal guard.

A stone’s throw from the cage, a thick wooden post had been driven into the flagstones, and passers-by threw branches down along its base. The stack was already knee-height.

“One at a time. No pushing. There is plenty to go ‘round. Just a few coppers.”

I could not say which angered me more: that someone had brought cart after cart of dry wood to the plaza, that the men were taking coin after coin, or that the lines were growing.

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

Posted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 10:47 am
by RobJN
Thorn's Chronicle continues...

Silva huddled on what little of the straw they’d left in the cage, knees drawn up to her chest. Thick irons banded her ankles, and the hem of the dress that she’d pulled tight around her was dark with scorch marks and dried blood. Her hair hung lank and tangled, hiding her features, as she rested her forehead upon her knees. A squared-off ridge of clamp-and-pin of a slave’s collar rose from the back of her neck. The blackened skin ringing the collar left little doubt that it, too, was of iron. Her wrists were red, raw and blistered, the silvery metal of her bracers tarnished a green so deep as to nearly be black where the iron touched them. Only the rise of her shoulders, the clanking of the chains joining the heavy iron manacles gave any indication that she still drew breath.

“Her skin…” Gilliam whispered. His voice was choked with equal measures anger and heartbreak. “Did they leave those irons in the forge overnight?”

“They may as well have,” I said. “She and Aurora must be part fey.”

“Part,” Gilliam spat. “So it won’t kill her outright. It’ll just drive her mad with the pain.” His hands clenched on the pommels of the longknives.

“It also hampers her magic,” Ana said.

I well remembered how faint and distant my own magic had been while clapped in irons in the tower at Byxata.

“So the Black Eagle overwhelms her healing ability,” Varis said, frowning as he thought his way through the logic. “If she has any magic left, it is spent to keep herself alive. One thing the Black Eagle is not, is a simpleton.”

In the cage, Silva gave a shudder, lifted her head. Her pale skin was pallid, waxy. Her eyes glittered feverishly, yet at the same time were dull, distant.

“Zzonga,” Gilliam murmured. “The Black Eagle dims her mind as well as her magic.”

“Abominable,” Ana hissed. “Where can this baron be found?”
Varis grabbed the girl’s arm. “Patience.”

“This is barbaric!”

“This is standard when dealing with a user of magic,” Varis said. His voice was tight, but calm. “Do you wish to share the same fate? If you so much as raise a hand here, they will not hesitate to fill you with arrows laced with zzonga sap.”

“They wouldn’t!”

“What did you think those green-fletched arrows in the archer’s quivers were for?”

Ana looked over at me, her eyes wide, pleading.

I shook my head. “There is nothing we can do. We must wait for Aurora’s plan to unfold.”

As the sun reached its zenith, the flaps of the largest pavilion stirred, and a tall, wiry man stepped forth. His hair and goatee were as black as the tunic, breeches and cloak that he wore. Sunlight gleamed from several rings on his fingers, and from the circlet upon his brow. The deep garnet clasped in the silver pommel of the sword at his side flashed as he strode across the lawn, guards to either side of him seeing that the crowds parted.

He stopped within the circle of soldiers surrounding Silva’s cage. He waited for the girl to lift her head, and when she did, their eyes were level.

“My dear girl, I will ask once more. You stand accused of murder by necromancy. Have you anything to say in your own defense, or do you wish to voice an appeal before the people of the Grand Duchy?”

He glanced around at the crowd, a smile twisting at his lips, showing his teeth. See how fair I am? it seemed to say.

“I will speak!”

“As will I!”

“Me too!”

A flicker of surprise passed over the Black Eagle’s face, quickly covered up by a carefully crafted mask of concerned interest.

The crowd’s murmur increased to a babbling. Von Hendricks let it go on for another moment, and then lifted a finger from the pommel of his sword, motioning one of the guards forward.

The people hustled aside as the guard made his way into the crowd to where the voices had sprung.

He struggled back through the throng, herding three girls before him. Each had blonde hair of varying length, from barely brushing the shoulders of their cloaks to spilling in waves nearly half the way down the back.

They stood straight-backed before the baron, and bobbed curtseys, the shortest of them only after the girl next to her dug an elbow into her side. More silver caught the noontime sunlight. Medallions gleamed from about each girl’s neck.

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

Posted: Sun Sep 18, 2011 9:11 pm
by RobJN
Thorn's Chronicle continues...

The Black Eagle stared down at the girls, his smile still in place.

“Well,” the baron said, “and who might you be?” He squatted down, levering his sword from his hip and sliding it slightly behind him as he drew level with the tallest of the girls.

“I am Evelina,” she said.

“I am Jasna,” the second girl said, with another curtsey.

“I am Petra,” the third girl said. “Mama named me for Halav’s queen, and this is her very palace. Or… what’s left of it.”

The baron inclined his chin ever so slightly to each of the girls, his smile brightening at Petra’s elaboration. He reached out and mussed her hair.

“So it is,” he said. “And you no doubt know the importance of this place?”

The girls nodded.

“This is the Great Plaza,” Petra continued, and then pointed to her left. “Petra’s palace was there, and over there.” She turned, pointing behind them, “that is where the temple stood. It used to belong to Khoronus but now we pray to Petra there, too.” She frowned. “Do you think Khoronus minds that we do that?”

The Black Eagle laughed as he regarded the five cracked steps and jagged remains of walls and pillars.

“You can only speak the truth upon these stones,” Evelina said, glancing down at her feet. “‘Queen who cried o’er Hero who died, tears and blood bind our words to only be true.’”

The baron nodded, bringing his fist up to his circlet, down to his chin, and then resting it over his heart, as did everyone present, as has been the custom… well, since the earliest years after Halav. Something about the baron’s stance, though, indicated that he performed the motion only from careful training, rather than any kind of belief.

He stood, slowly, and then gestured. “You wish to speak. You will do so, with Khoronus and Petra and Halav’s blessings.” It did not seem so much as he smiled as forced the corners of his lips upward.

“We would have spoken sooner, but it’s a dreadfully long way to Fort D—“ Jasna’s words cut off as Evelina elbowed the girl in the ribs.

“Halag,” Jasna wheezed.

The corner of the baron’s eye twitched, but he nodded. “The winter has been very harsh,” he said. He glanced up at the cloud-spotted sky. “But how the weather has changed since we captured the White Witch. What do you think of that?”

Jasna scowled. “She didn’t do it.”

The baron stood up straight, his eyes wide in shock. Were he not a baron, I might have suspected him of being amongst the many dramatists who performed here and there about the citadel.

“You know this for certain? Beyond a doubt’s glimmer?”

“She wouldn’t,” the girl said, her own back straightening.

“You have seen her work magic, have you not?”

Jasna’s level gaze up at the baron dropped to her feet. Her hands, which had gone to her hips, slid to clasp themselves before her.

“Come now, speak, girl. But know that you cannot speak falsely on this sacred ground.”

“I know,” she muttered.

“We saw.” It was Evelina who spoke, her voice faint.

“Ah,” von Hendricks said, leaning forward. He smiled again, and there was something predatory in the way he showed his teeth. “Let us hear of what you saw.”

Evelina glanced at the other two girls, who scowled at her, and then she swallowed, glancing up at the iron cage.

“She saved us,” Evelina said. “She got us away from the kobolds. She stopped the ogres from eating us. She got the tall man to let us go home. She put the trees back to sleep. She kept my village from burning down, kept the beastmen from butchering us.”

Gilliam nudged my side with his elbow.

“Ho, ho, Thorn, I think that was the girl’s finest hour.”

I swallowed the lump I felt growing in my throat. Fine though it may have been, I feared it would only add to the burden of what she’d done at Tarnskeep.

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

Posted: Mon Sep 19, 2011 8:09 pm
by RobJN
Thorn's Chronicle continues...

“Please, do go on,” the Black Eagle said, waving his fingers at the girl before going back to stroking his goatee. “Tell me of the magic you saw the witch work.”

“She’s not a witch!” Petra said, stamping her foot.

Several of the guards shifted their stance, adjusting the grip on their pikes.

“Yeah, get all riled up at a little girl,” Varis muttered, his hand making its way to the hilt of his new sword. Ana rested her fingertips across his hand, and his grip relaxed, but I still saw the muscles work along the man’s jaw.

“I am eager to hear of how such a tiny girl could be capable of keeping an ogre from its next meal,” the baron said, a genuine smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.

“She—“ Evelina started, but Jasna tread on girl’s boot, shaking her head. Evidently, she had the same sinking feeling as I.

“You are bound to the truth, and bid to speak by a baron of the Duchy, who also speaks for the Grand Duke’s law,” said one of the guards.

The law. Of course! This was what the Hierarch was hinting at while we sat by the fireside. I began to push my way through the crowd.

There came a rippling in the air beneath the cage, and Aurora stepped from the shadows with an irritated shake of her cloak.

The Black Eagle’s guards voiced several oaths that were not suitable for the ears of the young ladies present, pike heads snapping level with the shrike’s throat.

She gave the blades no more than a cursory glance, her hood turning towards the girls.

“You three,” she said. “Do not speak another word, and go back to your families.”

“But we—“ Petra started.

“You may go now, or keep talking and heap more wood upon that pyre.”

The girls grew silent, staring at their boots.

“You will identify yourself at once,” the Black Eagle said, his back straight, hand on the hilt of his sword.

“Move along, now,” Aurora said to the girls. “If that man is fool enough to draw steel, I do not wish to risk any of you getting hurt. I do not think my sister would very much like that idea, either.”

“What is she playing at?” Gilliam asked. He’d followed me in my rush through the crowd, and made to push past me into the square, but I gripped his shoulder.

“Let us see how this plays out,” I said.

“Are you mad? She’ll be—“

“She’ll be fine,” I told him. “We had little chat about the finer points of the Grand Duke’s laws.”

The Black Eagle made a show of removing his hand from his sword, crossing his arms so as to get the most flutter from his silver-edged black cloak.

“I know all about this witch’s little following,” the baron said, “and I have had just about enough of the meddling. These are not affairs for little girls to trifle with. This is not a game, we will not be serving tea, we are here to see justice is done. And you will remain where you are,” von Hendricks said, stopping the girls as they turned. “I have not given you your leave.

“So,” he said, turning back to Aurora, “which one are you, hmm? Brenna? Katarin? Fiala, maybe? I know all of your names. Halaran listed each of you in his missives to my cousin. I should have all of you clapped in irons for conspiring with that traitor of the realm.”