The Kitten, the Witches and the Bad Wardrobe - Willow & Tara Forever

General Chat  || Kitten  || WaV  || Pens  || Mi2  || GMP  || TiE  || FAQ  || Feed - The Kitten, the Witches and the Bad Wardrobe

All times are UTC - 8 hours



Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 223 posts ]  Go to page Previous  1 ... 4, 5, 6, 7, 8  Next
Author Message
 Post subject: Re: Raven (updated October 21st)
PostPosted: Thu Nov 20, 2008 9:53 am 
Offline
3. Flaming O
User avatar

Joined: Sun Mar 23, 2008 7:07 pm
Posts: 149
Location: Seattle, WA
Chapter 32





Her body felt different. It was not because she was flying, not because her magic grew with every breath. It was more simple than that. Somehow, the world was shifting, and Willow was shifting with it. Flames engulfed her skin, and the tingle of heat had spread into her blood. She finally understood Hepsebah’s warnings. The strength of her magic was heady, addictive, and she didn’t want to slow the speed with which it pounded through her veins.

“It will tempt you,” Hepsebah warned. She handed another bunch of dried feverfew to the little girl. “It will speak to you in your mind and tell you everything you want to hear.”

Willow heard its voice clearly now. It called to her. It beckoned her. Let go, it said. Let go and feel true freedom.

“But you must learn control,” the old woman went on with the lesson. “That is what I will teach you.”

“Sippa,” Willow whined, “when will I learn how to use it?”

The old woman smiled. “Ah, little one,” she patted the girl on the head and handed her more dried herbs, “no one needs to teach you that. You have a gift with spells, you see,” she lied. “You will learn to use your gifts in due time.”


“I have learned so much, Hepsebah,” Willow whispered. “I am beyond what you could teach now.” A sadness gripped her heart as the Drylands castle emerged from within the thick clouds. “Forgive me for what I must do.”


__________________________________________________________________



Calla crept more silently than the warm breeze, her hands feeling along the walls of the cavern. It should be cold this close to the water, she thought as a faint light appeared on the path below. She followed it quickly, wary and nervous that she might not be alone. Her eyes darted from one side of the broken cave to the edge of the rocky sea at its mouth, but she appeared to be alone. Her feet sank into the wet sand as she emerged onto the beach.

“Don’t even think about arguing with me,” Ulhetha had pulled her aside shortly before, making certain that no one in what remained of the encampment overheard them. “This is dark magic at work,” she had warned the younger woman. “We must do our part to set it right again.”

“How?” Calla whispered. “Those things,” her eyes wandered to the shadows of the Ancients. They were walking to the Drylands castle, and every man from the battle was following. Those who stayed to tend the wounded and bury the dead were somehow immune to the hypnotic speech of the giants. “Those Ancients are far more powerful than any earth magic we could contrive.”

“We will not be fighting them. That is not our place.” The old woman busied herself with an assortment of herbs and pastes from her baskets, crushing leaves and powders in her hands before dusting them off into tiny glass vials. “Epic battles are often won by the littlest of people at the furthest edges of the fray,” she eyed Calla in a meaningful way, her hands still working with the expertise of decades of knowledge.

Breathing deeply, Calla took the vials as they were handed to her, listening to the order in which they would be used. Ulhetha’s recipe was a bit like the stonebread her mother had taught her as a child. She smiled for a moment, remembering the warmth of the kitchen and her mother’s soft voice, but the knowledge of her mission grounded her once more. This deed was grim, indeed. “Do you understand?” Ulhetha asked once she had finished the details of her instructions. Calla nodded. “You will be alone, Calla. The rest of us must follow the Ancients.”

“How will I find you?”

Ulhetha grinned, but for the slightest of moments, the younger woman thought it seemed more of a grimace than a smile. “Grab hold of his mane. You’re going through the Underworld to your destination.”

Gritting her teeth, Calla began the hideous rite Ulhetha had commanded her to perform. Her stomach lurched as the knife bit through the horse’s flesh and coat, spilling dark, red blood onto her cloak. The sand under her knees was soon thick with the sticky, crimson liquid. Her hands shook as she carved open Darkwood’s chest, and her eyes frequently strayed to his glassy eye, now clouded with death. His demise had been gruesome, but Ulhetha’s spell was worse. Hands covered in blood, Calla took out the vials of potions the old woman had mixed. One by one, she tipped their contents into the gaping wounds she had ripped open. Green liquid poured from one onto his exposed, white ribs, staining the taut muscles in between. Another coated his tongue in red grit. Calla wiped the sweat from her brow with the back of her hand, spreading blood and herbs across her own skin. Her stomach lurched with each breath, the scent of death and decay invading her nostrils and throat. She coughed, barely holding back the urge to wretch. “Finish it,” she whispered, hoping her own voice would endow her with the strength for the final cut. Her right hand gripped the knife, its handle slippery with blood, and plunged it deep into the heart of the mighty warhorse. With her left, she took hold of his mane. “Take me with you. Take me to the other side.” The body below her hands twitched with a great convulsion, strong legs kicked out against the heavy sand, and the immense head of the giant horse lifted itself from where it had fallen with its last breath. His clouded eyes took in the form of the girl draped over his back, and an unearthly scream escaped his foamy lips. Faster than she could find her own legs, the horse leapt up from the beach, dragging her with it. Calla never had time to breathe. In an instant, Darkwood plunged them into the sea. She wanted to struggle, to let go as the world was taken from her vision by the icy, black water, but her hand was now firmly caught up in the tangled mane of the horse. She tried to scream, and what little air was still in her lungs floated to the surface as they descended deeper and deeper.


__________________________________________________________________



“I thought it was me calling to you,” Reza blinked slowly as he took in the changed form of his old friend. “It wasn’t, though. It was you all along.” His body relaxed in her presence, and his gaze was glassy and dull.

“I need you, Reza,” the voice within the red cloud of flame whispered as it ruffled his hair. “Not to tell the story this time,” she went on, “no, not for a story.”

“You want me to find her.” His head nodded gently, obediently.

“You have magic even I do not possess.”

Furrowing his brow in concentration, he fought to drive the fog from his mind. “I see what you will not.” She was in his thoughts. She was everywhere. He breathed and took her into his lungs. “I see those who will die for the love you have lost.”

As though the very sun had fallen from the sky, a great heat pressed Reza down onto the stone floor of the high castle turret. He held an arm over his face, but there was no escape from the scorching wind. She was angry. “Enough have died!” Willow screamed, her voice slowly thickening into lips, a mouth, a face in the black smoke of her pain. Reza rubbed his eyes and withdrew his arm. A cool breeze swept away the heat, leaving him alone with the slim figure of a gypsy girl at his feet. In her face was a resolve he had not the heart to fight. “You think you know what I will do next?” she challenged. “Do you think I will bring about the end of this world?” Reza stared at her, unable to speak. “Do you?” she demanded, her voice making him jump.

When he answered, his voice was so thin, he wondered if the words had left his own mouth. “What is left in it to save?”

Willow’s eyes softened, and she brushed her tangled hair from her face. He gaze drifted over their tattered clothing, noticing cuts, dried blood, and singed fabric, and finally coming to rest on a pair of kind, brown eyes. She remembered the first time she had seen him, before his name was known, before the world had become what they now sat above. “Everything,” she replied. “I don’t know if my life will be part of the price which must be paid to free this world, but if it is, then I will gladly give it.”

“We are all prepared to pay that price, Willow.”

“All?” she sat up.

Reza smiled. “Did you think we would leave you to raise an Animarus on your own?” He reached out a bandaged hand and took her own firmly. “I simply needed to know that you hadn’t let your magic get the better of you.”

Allowing herself to grin in return, the young woman helped him to his feet. “Then you knew all along what I would come here for.” Together, they began to walk to the stairs.

He squeezed her fingers gently, encouraging her to turn and face him once more. Though she now knew who she was not, Willow still felt a kinship to him as a gypsy. Her heart ached for the simplicity of life before all of this had begun. “I know what she meant to you, Willow.” He cocked his head to one side and gazed at her softly.

“How can you? I don’t even know what she meant to me.” She wanted to cry. She wanted to scream. Did he know how much it hurt to breathe?

“Yes, you do,” he stepped closer, letting her fall to his chest. She sighed heavily, and Reza felt the tension in her body build once more. There had been no time for grief, no time for anger. He closed his eyes and rested his lips on her forehead. “You’ve been through so much, and no one has dared to ask if there is strength left in you for the rest.” Willow pressed herself closer into his embrace. Reza was different. He understood. He had seen it all, and her grief flowed through him like Tara’s blood had flowed through the sand under her lifeless body.

“Perhaps she was right,” Willow’s voice hitched as she tried to calm her fluttering heart. Sobs crept up into he throat and then were numbed by the realization that Tara might never come back. A dull ache spread across her chest, calming her with its nothingness. “Perhaps this world isn’t ready for us.”

Tenderly, he lifted her chin with his hand. “It was by the hand of your ancestors that this world was shaped, and it shall be by your hand that it is reformed.” Willow held her hands up to her face and watched them tremble. “You fear that side of yourself,” he calmly took her hands in his own. “Hepsebah wanted you to respect it.”

“Is it wrong to wish it was not mine?”

“No,” her friend smiled. “You are human, Willow.” Her bright, green eyes locked onto him at those words, as though she had not considered such a simple concept. “You’re just a girl from the woods, and I am just a boy from the sand.” He brushed a stray lock of hair from her face and marveled at her simple beauty. “Perhaps whoever chose us as heroes thought this was a brilliant joke!”

Willow’s eyes smiled back at him. “At least someone is laughing,” she quipped. “I doubt everyone else will be so pleased when they see what I must do.”

“I think you’ll find that more will rejoice than you expect.” Reza swung his arm with her hand in his as though they had been best friends since childhood. Together they walked toward the darkness of the castle below. “They won’t understand at first, but no one understood the Great Floods either.”

“It’s too late to turn back,” the red-haired Ancient mused aloud. “Their magic was here before me, and they will follow before we are ready.”

“I only hoped you wouldn’t be too late,” Reza joked, instantly regretting his words. The castle beneath their feet rumbled and lurched, sending the crumbled stone to tumble over the edge. They braced themselves against the doorway into darkness, but nothing was solid anymore, and the tremors failed to lessen. “Run!” he pushed her into the blackness. “Don’t look back!” Together they ran and stumbled down the narrow stairs, afraid of the destruction behind them, and terrified of the deeds before them.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Raven (updated October 21st)
PostPosted: Thu Nov 20, 2008 10:19 am 
Offline
19. Yummy Face
User avatar

Joined: Fri Jun 15, 2007 4:19 pm
Posts: 2943
Location: Kaskinen, Finland, citizen of Kitopia
Yay for great update-y goodness... I hope Willow doesn't go all "Darth Rosenberg"...

_________________
We few, we happy few. We band of buggered.

Posting While Nude Improves Your Mood.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Raven (updated November 20th)
PostPosted: Sat Nov 22, 2008 6:00 am 
Offline
12. Recently Gay
User avatar

Joined: Tue Nov 13, 2007 3:11 pm
Posts: 1666
Topics: 1
Location: Belfast
You've certainly hit the right note between Willow's reluctance and acceptance dichotomy.

I can't help but think of the cliche about great power and great responsibilty, but as cliched as it is, it's true.

This was a short chapter, by your standards, but it was beautifully written. Calla's ritual was so interesting and detailed, and Willow's interaction with Reza was heavy with emotion. It sets up the next chapter well, leaving me as it does with so many questions, again.

Happy holidays to you!

_________________
People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built. Eleanor Roosevelt


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Raven (updated November 20th)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2008 5:34 am 
Offline
6. Sassy Eggs
User avatar

Joined: Sat Dec 23, 2006 2:54 am
Posts: 465
Hey this is a great complex and intriguing story. Please keep the updates coming as I'm really enjoying your tale! :D

_________________
Patience is a virtue I have yet to acquire
-- me


I am my beloved and my beloved is mine
-- King Solomon's Song of Songs


Only reality can escape the limits of our imagination
-- Rivka Galchen, Atmospheric Disturbances


Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself
-- Jean-Paul Sartre


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Raven (updated November 20th)
PostPosted: Thu Dec 04, 2008 10:52 am 
Offline
32. Kisses and Gay Love
User avatar

Joined: Sun Dec 03, 2006 10:36 am
Posts: 6222
Topics: 1
Location: Kitopia
Hello,

Sorry I didn't write a feedback earlier, I'm still watching this thread don't worry. I love how you describe Willow's feelings about her changes. :)

Hope to read more soon. :)

Friendly,

Julia

_________________
Broken Dolls |The Stadium's Goddesses | Seeds Of Beauty

"Joie est mon caractère, C'est la faute à Voltaire; Misère est mon trousseau, C'est la faute à Rousseau." Gavroche. Victor Hugo, Les Misérables (chap. XV)


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Raven (updated November 20th)
PostPosted: Wed Dec 10, 2008 2:37 pm 
Offline
3. Flaming O
User avatar

Joined: Sun Mar 23, 2008 7:07 pm
Posts: 149
Location: Seattle, WA
Much thanks to everyone for all the wonderful feedback! I'm sure you've all been busy with the holidays, and hopefully they're joyful for each one of you. The next chapter is done and ready for posting, so I won't waste time with any responses to feedback for now. I'm sure there'll be plenty of time for that later. The end is beginning! Enjoy!

_________________
There, but for the grace of her, go I.


http://citychickenfarm.blogspot.com/


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Raven (updated November 20th)
PostPosted: Wed Dec 10, 2008 2:41 pm 
Offline
3. Flaming O
User avatar

Joined: Sun Mar 23, 2008 7:07 pm
Posts: 149
Location: Seattle, WA
Chapter 33




“Tinari spoke of this moment. I will follow through with his wishes.”

“Then you are a fool, old woman,” Kousa spat at the Queen. “Your judgement is clouded by your desire of power.”

The Queen lunged at her enemy and screamed, “And your judgement, Mistress? You believe it will lead us to prosperity! You fraternize with devils and plot against your own royalty.”

Kousa smiled with a look of pure venom. “No, My Lady, I simply humble myself to a higher royalty.” She backed away from the Queen and stood near the last intricate window. Blue and green light streamed through the glass and tinted her pale cheeks to match. “They walk this way even now, as we stand in this sacred place.” Her fingers traced the outline of two bodies, their forms made of pure light. “The Great Battle has begun.”

“And my part in this?” the Queen inquired. “Why exactly is it that you have a stolen me away from my guards and brought me here?”

“Gods like sacrifices, Majesty,” Kousa turned an evil eye toward the other woman. “After all these years, they must be famished.” She licked her lips. “While my offering may not be as selfless as it should, it will serve the needs of many.”

The Queen, usually calm and commanding, now trembled in her satin gown. Kousa had laid to waste the twelve royal guardsmen whose sole purpose was to protect the Queen, and no weapon had been seen during the massacre. Strong magic throbbed in the air around them. She had tried to warn Tinari that Mistress Kousa was capable of such things, that she had kept her close all those years for a reason, but the Prince paid no heed. Everything was falling apart around her. Tinari had left in a rage after the escape of the Black Knight, River was missing, and the castle, her home, was falling apart one stone at a time. Desperate to escape, she plotted in her mind as Kousa mused aloud at her own intelligence. I should have killed her when I had the chance, the Queen grumbled under her breath. Tinari didn’t need her. Had he known of her allegiance with the Ancients, he would have slit her throat himself. The stone floor beneath their feet lurched and rocked as the castle was swayed by another crunching twist of magic. The Queen sank to her knees. Her mind spun with fear. This castle would claim her life, and she would never live to see her daughter married to the Prince of Avinash. Her hopes of a union between their lands faded as the light through the windows diminished.

“My Queen,” Kousa bent low to whisper in the woman’s ear, “they have arrived. Let us greet them with joyful hearts.” The Queen felt a commanding grip on her arm, and she glanced up to see two figures enter the room.

“Joyful already?” a familiar voice cut through the dust and noise of another collapse within the castle. Willow stepped from the shadows with Reza by her side. “I could not have expected a better reception,” she smiled down at the kneeling Queen.

“Willow?” Kousa stepped backwards, loosening her grip on the Queen. “How did you-”

The gypsy girl crossed the room in three steps, bringing herself face to face with Mistress Kousa. “I’ve come to make a deal with you.” Her words shook the elder woman to her core. “I want to raise the beast.”

“Then you raise the death of us all,” the Queen warned quietly from her resting place on the floor. She stood and faced them. “He was imprisoned for a reason. Anyone so blinded by stupidity as to release him deserves whatever fate rests upon their shoulders.”

“Ignore her,” Kousa smiled. “She has no more power in this place. It rests in your hands now, Willow. I will take you to the door.”

“Wait,” Willow spoke, “there’s more. Things are going to change, and not in the way you expect.” Kousa regarded the girl in a new light. She had changed since the day Merl had pointed her out in the slave galley. No more was this a scared girl in chains, terrified of her own power. Before Kousa stood an Ancient, a young woman in control of a stronger magic than anyone had ever seen. “I will give my power to the beast. This is the end of my journey. The rest of you will have to leave. The castle won’t stand through this battle.” Willow took a deep breath. Never before had she spoken aloud that which she knew to be true. This really was the end. “Tell me where the door is. I must do the rest alone.”

“You trust her,” the Queen laughed, her display of hysterics enough to shock the others. “Do you know where her power comes from, girl?” Her steps were more like a slither as she wound her way between Kousa and Willow. “This woman entwined herself with dark magic, then abandoned her own twisted little children when they bore the brunt of her misdeeds! Do you truly think that she will give you what you need?”

Willow looked to Kousa, then back to the Queen. “Are you so much better, Your Highness? You have given River’s hand to a man who loved only power, a wolf who would gladly kill anyone in his way, including you.” Her green eyes squinted at the woman. “Your laws had my people killed. The blood of my family is on your hands.” She looked the Queen up and down, and she momentarily pondered what her death would look like. “Pray that you die before I do, Majesty.”

Kousa took the redhead’s words as a signal to lead on. She made for the door as she explained the location of the mysterious door Willow needed to find. “Follow the lowest tunnels. You will come to a pathway of five choices. Go north. The rest will become apparent.”

Kousa opened the door, and the floor shook again, this time violently. Stone crumbled around them, and the Queen took her opportunity to launch herself at the girl. In her hand was a knife that no one had seen. Willow fell to the ground in the confusion, and Reza stumbled after her, desperate to protect her from the crazed woman. His eyes met Willow’s as the windows above them shattered, and shock flowed between them both. “Reza!” Willow shouted. He gasped but could not answer her. Above him was the Queen, her hand over his back, the knife between his ribs.

Beyond the confusion, hidden in shadow, Trace peered through the dust at the robed figure in the doorway. It was time for them to move. “That’s our signal, kids.” She lifted the girls by their shirts and pulled them into the hallway. “Run back to the meeting point. I’ll be right behind you.” Trace pushed them behind her and ran for the doorway. Something had happened inside, and she knew she had to get in. Kousa gave her no resistance, diving out of the fray and running down the nearest flight of stairs. Trace considered following the woman, but a cry of anguish pulled her into the Mistress’ chambers. A pile of bodies by the shattered windows caught her attention.

The Queen was the first to recover from her mistaken maneuver. She pushed Reza aside and lunged at Willow once more, this time stopped by the strong arms of the woman behind her. “Not today,” Trace warned. “You’ll have to go through me first.”

“You,” Willow began, hefting herself up onto her elbows and staring at her savior. She rolled over toward Reza and examined the wound that was now covered in blood. “Stay with me, Reza. I can fix this.”

“No,” he insisted, cringing at the pain as he spoke. “There is no time. Go with Trace.”

Still holding the Queen by her dress, Trace caught sight of her wounded friend. “What did you do?” she turned the Queen to face her, wrenching the bloodied knife from the woman’s hand. “What did you do to him?” she screamed.

“Reza!” another voice cried from the doorway. They all turned to see the littlest girl staring at them. Mara ran to his side and took him in her tiny arms. “No, Reza!” She turned her reddened face up to Trace and pleaded with her. “Save him,” she begged.

“I’ll do better than that,” Trace answered through a clenched jaw. The hand with the bloodied knife drove itself into the back of the Queen, and she twisted the blade expertly as the woman fell to her knees. “River said you were horrid. I couldn’t agree more.” She let the woman fall from her grip, then dropped the knife. “Reza’s right, Willow. We have to go. There isn’t time for this.”

Willow turned to her, a flame in her eyes. “No one else is dying today,” she whispered, her hands already covering his wound. Heat filled the room, stones fell from the walls, but no one dared to move. Mara held Reza’s hand, and Trace watched as the blood soaked into the floor. Willow closed her eyes and pushed her magic into his body, healing him from within. Something below them gripped her and pulled her down on top of him. A low growl escaped her lips as Willow fought the magic countering her own.

“Red?” Trace yelled. “What’s happening?” She knelt beside Mara and pulled the little girl away.

Reza stared up at her with renewed vigor. “She can’t stop it this time. It’s too late. Nothing can stop it.”

The fire in Willow’s stomach churned and burnt her from inside, and the heat grew to an intensity that singed their skin as the air boiled and stung. Smoke curled at her lips as her fingers sank into the stone below Reza’s body. It was consuming her. In a move of daring, Trace grabbed Willow’s shoulder, hoping to shake her from the spell. A strong arm shot up at her, taking her own shoulder in Willow’s grasp. The two beheld one another for a breath as the smoke thickened around them, then Willow spoke her last words before the beginning of the end. “Get out now. Get everyone out.”

Trace reared back as flames consumed the gypsy. The floor gave way and collapsed, claiming Willow and pulling her into darkness. Reza rolled away from the crumbling edge at the last second, reaching for Trace’s outstretched hand as he kicked at the falling stones. Breathing hard and shaking from the near tumble into an abyss of smoke and dust, Reza took Mara into his arms and glanced at Trace. “She meant it.”


__________________________________________________________________


Cold air whipped Penna’s hair wildly around her face, and she gripped tightly to the small boy in front of her as he whooped with joy. Again, though her stomach was still somewhere behind the last hill they had glided over, Phidi insisted on diving and swooping through the air in a dramatic fashion. His wyvern had fallen with the rest, but it bore no injury from the incident. A low whistle had summoned it to the boy’s side. “It’s the fastest way, Penn,” he had convinced her. She still hadn’t forgiven him for keeping the animal a secret all the time they had hidden in the woods. “Grimm can find his way.” They had seen others as they soared over the landscape. Everyone was moving towards the Drylands Castle.

Now, alone above the clouds, Penna let her mind stray. It had been so long since she had seen Trace. They had fought. She had said words she regretted. She had cried, Trace had laughed, and they had both turned and walked away from the fire, not realizing that they would never return. Penna had been in love from the moment Trace had saved Phidi. They had run for days, faster than she thought possible with such a small child. Trace carried him when Penna grew tired. They became a family, and their family grew with each new refugee who joined them. Before Phidi’s seventh birthday, they had formed into a clan of their own. There had never been time for anything else between them. Trace led them, made the rules, and kept them all safe. When things were quiet, Trace would look at Penna, and the need in her was rekindled. Nothing ever came of it, though, despite Penna’s desire. She closed her eyes and let the wind cool her eyelids.

“You want her to be in charge around here?” Trace spat. She stood by the fire, tense, ready for a fight. “That girl is unstable, Penn. She’s a risk.”

“She’s my friend,” Penna tried to reason. “I never said-”

“You’ve said enough!” Trace drove toward her with an accusing finger, stopping mere inches from the girl’s chest. “This place runs the way it does because of my rules.”

“Your rules?” Penna stood, fighting the urge to shrink and hide until the fight was over. She looked the elder girl in the eye and walked forward into the outstretched finger. “The only reason anyone follows you is because they’re scared of you.” Trace slowly dropped her hand, and her chest heaved with her rapid breath. Penna was so close, her skin, her lips, right there before her. She had never known the girl to be so upset, so bold. “Willow is kind,” Penna’s tone softened, “she listens.”

The sting of the other girl’s name made Trace wince, and she lashed out with harsh words before she could contain them. “Does she keep your tent warm as well?”

Tears slipped from her eyes as she stared at the woman she loved but could never have. “Whatever it is that keeps you from me,” she hesitated, knowing better than to speak of Trace’s past, of the girl she had been before she, too, ran for her life so many years before. “I can’t fix it. I cannot mend it for you. Nor can I wait for you to ignore it until you grow tired of your own loneliness.” Penna backed up a step, and she ran her fingers through her hair as the words sank in. The fur down the back of her neck stood on end. “I cannot be alone, Trace. Not even for you.”


The fire had come soon after. Penna knew that Trace had made it out alive, but that had been the last they had seen of one another since Willow was taken, since so many of the cirque had been killed in cold blood. They had scattered, just as Trace had planned. It was a brilliant escape for the survivors of the attack. Still, Penna often wondered where Trace had gone and why she had not returned.

“There,” Phidi pointed with an outstretched arm, bringing his sister out of her thoughts. She followed the line of his arm to a castle below the clouds. It was smaller than she had remembered from childhood, but their viewpoint so high in the atmosphere afforded them the chance to see what those on the ground could have only imagined and contrived into the tales that survived beyond that day. The castle, stone, glass, mortar and all, was moving. It had broken free from the bonds of its foundation, and it now writhed like an animal in pain. Towers had become horns, windows had turned into immense eyes, and a gaping mouth took the place of the courtyard entrance, shards of stone serving as the teeth of a snarling beast. It roared and fought, tearing its feet from the earth, demolishing everything near it. What had once been the north wall of the training yards for the Royal Guard had now been claimed as a tail, its terrible rocky spine crushing the orchards around the castle with each destructive pass.

“Gods above and below,” Penna exclaimed, her voice hoarse and thick in the howling wind. “How are we to help Willow now?”

“Not Willow, but the others!” Phidi shouted, his arm still pointing at the ground. Four small bodies could be seen fleeing the destruction, but their path was not clear. Phidi guided the wyvern into a plummeting descent, risking everything for speed. Though they could not see what lay ahead, those escaping from the castle were running directly into the two Ancients from the sea. A battle of immensity was beginning, and they were caught in the center of it.

“We’ll crash!” Penna screamed, gripping Phidi so tight that he strained to breathe. Her arms were loosened by a sudden flexing of his shoulders, and Penna realized that her little brother had grown more than she had given him credit for over the last few years. His eyes found her and looked into her reassuringly. Praying that her trust in him was well-placed, Penna closed her eyes and held on as the ground rushed up at them.


__________________________________________________________________



“Reza’s plan doesn’t seem so bright all of a sudden,” Aelish held River by the shoulders as they pressed themselves up against a stone wall. Four enormous feet passed, crushing thatched roofs and wooden stalls into splinters. “There won’t be anything left of this city once they’re through.” He stared up at the gods, awe and terror in his eyes.

“Perhaps that is for the best,” the Princess whispered. She, too, was impressed by the size and grandeur of the gods walking through her kingdom. Reaching for his hand, she stepped forward, leading them both out of shadow and onto the street that had once sold slaves and prisoners into lives of torture and brutality. The castle, a building which had once been her home, groaned and leaned to the side before raising itself into a standing position. It was alive, and it moved like an animal that had been caged for centuries. River had heard its whispers all through her childhood. She knew of its power, and she knew of the danger involved in releasing it. “Does not the legend speak of the end of one age and the beginning of another?” Aelish looked at her pale face, his own the very image of fear. “Let us fulfill it. We have our part.”

He nodded, regaining the stoicism of a warrior in battle. Squeezing her tiny hand in his, he set off at a run, knowing that the Princess could easily match his pace. Great voices overhead spoke in a tongue long forgotten, but Aelish ran on, pressing toward the graveyard at the edge of the city. Reza’s directions had been very specific, as had his instructions for everyone’s role in the battle. His was a game of strategy, not strength, and every man and woman involved was necessary for the pieces to unite and bring success. Fires blazed in abandoned cottages, shop windows were broken, doors sagged on broken hinges, and those few who still remained in the city were either frozen in fear or running for their lives.

“Trace,” Reza had explained in a calm voice, “you will go into the castle itself.”

“I like your plan already,” she smiled.

“Mara and Jinna will go with you.”

“What?” she stood suddenly, facing the young man with all of the defiance she could muster. “We’re going into battle and you want me to be a mother hen?”

Reza sighed heavily, impatience settling into his brow. “They know the inside of that castle. You do not. You need them.” Jinna nodded approvingly at his words, but shrank when Trace stared her down. “Find Mistress Kousa. Willow will need her. Aelish?” The warrior faced him and awaited his instructions. “You and River must go to the graveyard.”

“Why?” River stood, placing herself beside the handsome soldier.

Reza looked away for a moment, as if considering the answer, then replied, “An old friend is coming, and his path will not be clear. You will know what to do when he arrives.” River and Aelish exchanged glances, but both knew better than to enquire further.

“And where will you be?” Trace asked accusingly.

Reza looked to the highest point on what had remained of the castle before they departed. “I’m going to find Willow.”


__________________________________________________________________



Calla opened her eyes again, this time anticipating the blur of darkness and light which had nearly blinded her the first time. She could hear wind, but no sensation touched her skin. She knew it was cold, but she could not feel the sting of it. She couldn’t feel anything. Her eyes searched in the darkness for anything familiar, and she struggled to stand, but her limbs were heavy and clumsy. Calla couldn’t remember how she had come to such a place, nor did she know how long she had been there. Perhaps she had always been there. The whinny of a horse far away shook her from her stagnant thoughts, and she turned her head toward the sound.

“You can’t stay,” a soft voice whispered beside her.

“I know,” she answered, though she did not truly know.

“You came here the wrong way.”

“I came the only way I knew.”

“And you must go back. You won’t find anything here that you can take with you.” The voice was so convincing, so encouraging that Calla found the strength to stand. Lights flashed again, and she saw the harsh landscape of a sandy valley. Far away was a grove of trees. “She told you the words. Say them now.”

Calla scrunched up her forehead at the suggestion. She could say the words. Ulhetha had made her memorize them. It would be so easy. “No,” she barely managed to say in return. This wasn’t right. “I came here for something.”

“Was it me?” The voice had changed. Its pitch was higher now, and it resonated in Calla’s chest and throat. “You won’t find me here, sweet child. This isn’t the place you thought it would be.”

“Mother?” Calla turned. A dark silhouette faced her several paces away. “Is it truly you?”

“You let me go so long ago, little one. Don’t search for me now,” the voice soothed. “This is not where souls depart to.”

Calla tried to walk closer, but the soft sand held her feet steady. She reached a hand out to the figure, and the lights flashed again. She gasped as the face of a beast was revealed where her mother had been. “What are you?”

“I am a prisoner here, like all the rest.”

“Where is my mother?” the young woman screamed. “What have you done to her?”

The beast crept around her, keeping her always three paces from it. “She is not here. There is nothing here for you. If you are caught.....” Calla heard the warning in its voice, but she could not fathom why such a creature would try to help her. Fear rose in her chest with every breath. “You must go.”

Closer this time, the horse whinnied again. “That’s how I came.”

“You imprisoned him here with us.”

“Ulhetha said it would lead us to a way out. She said to find another, to bring her with me.”

“He cannot leave. He belongs to this world now. We all belong to this world.”

Calla shook her head, wishing that her mind would focus. She lifted one foot, placing it ahead of her in the soft sand, then did the same with the other foot. Slowly, deliberately, she made her way across the valley toward the trees. The creature followed her. “How did you come to this place?” she asked. Fear in an underworld seemed irrelevant somehow, and Calla accepted the beast as a companion on her journey.

“There was a war long ago. My people were condemned to this world, as were some of our enemies. I was the first.” She heard the creature hiss, and for the briefest moment, she thought it might be crying. “Only the darkest of magic opens the door to this world.”

“Or the lightest,” Calla responded before she realized what her words meant. “That’s what Ulhetha wanted me to do,” she remembered. “She wanted me to free her, to bring her back. For Willow.”

“Willow?” the voice growled, changing from a benevolent companion into an unpredictable animal with one word. “You ally yourself with the one who would upset the balance between these worlds?” A snarl sounded behind her, and growls surrounded her on both sides. “You come to this place for an Ancient?”

“I came-”

“Silence!” the voice bellowed, stopping the shuffling of many feet. Calla could not see them, but she could sense a mass of bodies near her. “This human speaks of freeing an Ancient. She has condemned our brother to an eternity in this world as a means to claim the desires of her gods.” All around her, growls and panting breaths agreed. Something snorted hot air on the back of her neck, and Calla began to wonder if Ulhetha had chosen the right person for such an important task. “I tried to tell her to go back.”

“She came,” a new voice spoke, “entangled with our brother.” It was smaller and less commanding, but the voice held its ground around the others. “Even now he calls to her.”

“He calls out of anger!” the first voice yelled back, generating cheers and grunts from the crowd. A dim yellow light flashed behind her, and Calla saw for the first time that the valley was filled with beasts of every shape and description. There was no way out.

“Bring him and ask him yourself,” the small voice answered boldly. “Call to him now. Let him tell us how she came to walk in the world of the imprisoned.”

Hooves pounded through the sand as they waited, all holding their breath in anticipation. Calla still could not see in the absence of the flashing lights, but she could hear the mighty warhorse approach. His heavy gallop did not slow as he drew near, and the panicked snorts and grunts of her captors warned Calla that he would not stop. Praying and trusting that her instincts were right, the young woman reached out with both hands and took hold of the body that leapt into the sand beside her. It jerked her from her feet and dragged her through the confused mass of creatures, her legs flailing and spraying sand in every direction as the horse turned and charged for the grove of trees. He slowed long enough for her to pull herself partly over his back, and she managed to work her way into a sitting position in the absence of a saddle. Calla silently thanked him and buried her head in his mane. When she looked up, they were standing still amongst the trees. A presence there shed a low, green light over everything, but no beasts surrounded them. “How did she know?” Calla mumbled.

“We gave some humans our gifts,” a sweet voice answered. Calla and the horse eyed their surroundings, but there was no one else in the wood. “Hepsebah saw the future. Ulhetha saw the past. Both gifts had their place.”

“What did you give?” Calla slipped quietly from the horse’s back and felt the springy earth beneath her bare feet.

“I gave a child,” the voice said, thick with emotion.

“She needs your help. So do I.”

The trees shook gently, dropping aspen and oak leaves onto the forest floor. “What you ask is beyond my abilities.”

“But it is not beyond the power of your gifts when they are combined,” the girl eyed the horse, and he gazed into her.

“What you suggest is an alliance,” the trees whispered back. “It was tried before, and it failed. That was why Willow was so important.”

“She lost something, Rowan,” Calla turned back to the trees. “And with it, we all lost hope that our world could be saved. This is the only way. Everything will be lost if you don’t help her now.”

“No one can raise the dead, child. Death is death, even to us.” The horse nodded, nickering softly.

Calla smiled. Ulhetha had been right. So consumed were they with the past, none of them could imagine a new future. “This is not about death. It is about theft.” Darkwood dug his hoof into the soft earth and raised his head. “Tara was taken. Her life beats in the breast of another. Willow will have him killed before the sun rises, but the body...” Her voice darkened as she thought back on the scene of the beach covered in blood. Of all those who had died fighting for peace in her world, the resurrection of only one could be afforded. “She is the missing link between your worlds. If you let her die, all hope of peace dies with her.”

“You speak of a descendant of the Animari?” The trees shook with excitement. “A human?” Calla nodded. “How did this come to pass?”

Calla sat and crossed her legs, surprised at how comfortable the forest floor could be. “The horse people of the South have their own legend,” she began. “They speak of the one who was born with the power and bravery of the finest warhorse ever known in their land. Exiled from his home for deceit and treachery, this rider took with him the last link to the world of the Animari, the same horse from whom all of their mighty warhorses was descended.” She looked up at Darkwood and smiled. “Together, they set right the imbalances in the world of mankind, or at least they tried.” Her eyes dropped, and she laced her fingers together in her lap. “But the Southlanders looked to their men for this hero, only to miss the very one they had sought for so many generations. Her birth is a mystery, but her destiny is clear.” The trees sighed and swayed as they listened. “Willow loves her, Rowan. She loves her with a power you cannot imagine.”

“And you believe that their love will change your world?”

“It already has.”


__________________________________________________________________


Last edited by taylorgirl6 on Sun Jan 18, 2009 8:54 am, edited 1 time in total.

Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Raven (updated December 10th!)
PostPosted: Wed Dec 10, 2008 11:35 pm 
Offline
19. Yummy Face
User avatar

Joined: Fri Jun 15, 2007 4:19 pm
Posts: 2943
Location: Kaskinen, Finland, citizen of Kitopia
Yay for great update-y goodness... I really hope Tara very soon returns to her Willow...

_________________
We few, we happy few. We band of buggered.

Posting While Nude Improves Your Mood.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Raven (updated December 10th!)
PostPosted: Sun Dec 14, 2008 2:41 pm 
Offline
12. Recently Gay
User avatar

Joined: Tue Nov 13, 2007 3:11 pm
Posts: 1666
Topics: 1
Location: Belfast
Willow the Ancient and Tara the Animari - interesting.

Does Willow know this part?

Excellent update - I was just pulled along with it, the changes in scenes adding to the frenetic pace you're now setting.

What the hell is Kousa up to? She still wants the Animarus raised, but seemed to be rooting for the Ancients, given her comments to the Queen. Perhaps she thinks that Willow can only raise the beast but it will take the Ancients to destroy it.

Where is Calla, exactly? Has she been sent to insure that Tinari stays there?

Quote:
“You imprisoned him here with us.”


That does refer to Tinari, yes?

This fic stills leaves me with so many questions despite being almost at an end :)

_________________
People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built. Eleanor Roosevelt


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Raven (updated December 10th!)
PostPosted: Wed Jan 07, 2009 2:21 am 
Offline
3. Flaming O
User avatar

Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2007 5:36 pm
Posts: 94
Location: Canada
I just started reading this story...it's awesome! I'm only on chapter 6 but it's 2 in the morning and I don't want to stop reading. Thanks for the great writing, Tara as well-trained warrior, and Willow as a true leader.

Keep it up! Can't wait for the next update!

Shiraz


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Raven (updated December 10th!)
PostPosted: Sun Jan 18, 2009 9:25 am 
Offline
3. Flaming O
User avatar

Joined: Sun Mar 23, 2008 7:07 pm
Posts: 149
Location: Seattle, WA
Much thanks to everyone for sticking around. Work kept me far too busy over the holidays, but now things are settling down nicely. Chapter 34 is in the works, and I hope to have it posted soon.


PTS-

I figured the Ancient/Animari angle was a little cliche but important nonetheless, so what the heck. How else do you explain everything? And no, Willow has no idea. Neither does Tara. It'll be a good shock factor later on.

Kousa is quite the enigma. She's been working her own angle from the inside for a long time, but it might come back to bite her. I find it hard to believe that she's Merl's sister sometimes, but not everyone in a family behaves the same way. You're going to learn some very undesireable things about her soon, so I'll let you re-evaluate your opinion of her when all the facts are clear.

And poor Calla. She always gets the rough jobs. While I was writing that scene, I kept imagining some freakish landscape by Dali or something like that. Melting forms, strange shadows, twisted faces and gnarled trees... It's not exactly the after-life. It's a prison for Animari. But they aren't the only ones trapped there. As it should be obvious, Calla went back for Rowan, though not to release her. You'll see what comes of her brave adventure very soon. And the one who was trapped there was not Tinari, though we'll see him again soon as well.

I'm hopeful that the end of this tale will come as smoothly on the page as it does in my mind. Thanks again for all your wonderful feedback.


Shiraz-

Welcome! While there's a lot for you to read, hopefully it won't take you too long. Thanks so much for the kind words.

_________________
There, but for the grace of her, go I.


http://citychickenfarm.blogspot.com/


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Mar 11, 2009 7:27 am 
Offline
3. Flaming O
User avatar

Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2007 5:36 pm
Posts: 94
Location: Canada
It's a bump! Please update soon :)

Shiraz


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Raven (updated December 10th!)
PostPosted: Wed Mar 11, 2009 11:23 pm 
Offline
19. Yummy Face
User avatar

Joined: Fri Jun 15, 2007 4:19 pm
Posts: 2943
Location: Kaskinen, Finland, citizen of Kitopia
This great story is in a serious need of some update-y goodness...

_________________
We few, we happy few. We band of buggered.

Posting While Nude Improves Your Mood.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Raven (updated December 10th!)
PostPosted: Tue Mar 17, 2009 2:22 pm 
Offline
3. Flaming O

Joined: Tue Mar 17, 2009 10:09 am
Posts: 78
Have de-lurked in order to leave feedback on a few fics and this is right at the top of my list. I am loving it. It's probably the most accomplished I've ever read, and there's a fair bit of competition on this board. It's incredibly rich and well written. It honestly feels more like reading a novel.

I look forward to more.

Thanks for sharing.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Raven (updated December 10th!)
PostPosted: Thu Jul 09, 2009 8:42 am 
Offline
3. Flaming O
User avatar

Joined: Sun Mar 23, 2008 7:07 pm
Posts: 149
Location: Seattle, WA
Chapter 34




“Our home has changed,” a tear emerged in the corner of the god-queen’s beautiful eye. “How long has it been?”

A firm hand gripped hers. “Too long, my love.” Together they walked gracefully through the streets of a dying city. “But our time has returned. This is our land once more.”

“This,” growled a low voice, “was never your land, and never your time.” The earth shook with power, with anger. What few walls remained in the Drylands City crumbled as the beast rounded on his enemies. Its feet came to rest in the place where slaves had been traded two days before.

Smiling with benevolence, the god-king extended his free hand. “My Brother,” he crooned, “we are no longer bound to the earth or to the sea. It is mankind who has wronged us.”

The face of the beast, framed in stone and marble, twisted into agony. Its eyes went dark, and it bent low, tail swishing violently side to side. “You blame men,” it whispered. “Perhaps you blame the gypsies as well,” the voice changed. “Perhaps,” its face suddenly turned up to look into the eyes of the Ancients, “perhaps you blame me.” Sharp teeth glistened in the last light of evening.

“Why would we blame you, Brother?” asked the woman from the depths of the sea. “Our fate has not been so different as your own. Can we not forget old quarrels? Can we not move forward as stewards of this world once more?”

“Stewards!” the beast growled, its speech in one half words and in the other half the snarls and grunts of an animal. “Your posture is grand indeed!” The woman shrank at his words, stung by the undercurrent of magic, of pure hatred. “Tell me, pretty one,” the beast went on, “in all the years of your confinement below the waves, how often did you think of kind acts you would share with the humans? I will tell you!” The outburst and volume rattled the panes of glass in the beast’s own eyes. “Anger,” it then whispered, “I slumbered and dreamt of anger. My dreams were foul, they were horrid. It was not a restful sleep. I dreamt the dreams of man, and by my act, I was condemned and they were saved.”

A hand reached out and graced the top of a stone turret. The beast looked into the eyes of the god-queen, unsure of what it would find there. “Where are they now, Brother?” she asked. “Where are the men you spared from their own evil? Look around you,” she extended her hand, and they all observed the destruction of humans. “Was this the awakening you wished for?”

Inside its chest, somewhere near the Princess’ chambers, Willow lay on her back, tears resting in her opened eyes. She could not move, she could not speak, but she could feel, and the sensation of pain and betrayal which coursed through the castle was crippling. She was only vaguely aware of her own body, of broken bones and bruises yet to surface. Her magic was all but spent, and what little power trickled through her veins was now nothing compared to the immense creature that had become her captor, her home, her body. She heard its every word, she felt its pain, and she could do nothing. Her arms and legs twitched with the beast’s movements, and her breath matched his own. She was becoming him, and he was returning to his own form. Draining her energy like the roots of a tree which draw water from underground, the beast slowly transformed his body from stone into scaly flesh, from castle turrets into horns, from glass into eyes.


___________________________________________________________________________



River gazed at the headstones of those dead long before her own birth. She felt at peace in the graveyard, though her companion twitched nervously. For a warrior, she thought, he is strangely afraid of death. Aelish paced the dirt road at the perimeter of the burial ground. His eyes darted from the low gate at the south end to the carved temple at the north. No one came to sing to the dead anymore. The people of this age were consumed with the effort of preserving their own lives. “Where is your family buried?” the Princess asked.

Aelish halted his hurried steps and turned toward her, but his eyes fell to the ground. “My family,” he smiled, but his lips, too, fell after his breath escaped them. His eyes lifted. “They could not be buried. They were burnt by the flames of the Royal Guard.” River swallowed, but her eyes never left his. “I saw things that day,” he slowly began to walk closer to her, “things that would bring an ordinary man to his knees. But it was neither magic nor wyverns which stole the lives of my brothers and my father from me.” His steps ceased in front of the girl, and he took hold of her hands. “It was men.”

“You placed your faith in a man,” her words encouraged.

“Raven is no man,” he whispered. “He is more than you or I could ever be. He is an idea. He is promise.” The sun began to set over Hillmarch behind them.

River smiled and brushed the hair from her warrior’s eyes. “We are all more than we can be in these times, and yet we are also human. We love,” her eyes held his firmly, “we fight, we struggle, and we die.” Aelish glanced at the graves around them. “Raven may very well be something you and I will never understand, something we could never be. To the people he is a warning, a dream, hope, terror… He is many things. The idea,” her soft fingers brushed the chin under his trimmed beard, “is you as well.”

The earth below their feet trembled with the footsteps of the Ancients and the beast, but another vibration, lower, more primal, made its way to the surface. River felt it in her skin and bones, and she reached out to Aelish, letting him take her into his arms. In unison, they turned their heads to see the ground around the headstones lurch and sink, only to be replaced by a gaping hole. The rumbling only increased, though the earth held firm after the upheaval of stone and dirt, until the warrior realized what was coming. Possessing the strength of a true warrior, he lifted the Princess and tossed her to safety just as an enormous war-horse charged through the opening in the ground. It whinnied and bucked wildly, throwing its rider aside like a saddle blanket.

Grunting from the impact, Calla landed squarely beside River. She lifted her head and breathed in the night air, grateful to have survived the journey back from the underworld. The horse, equally bursting with life, beat the ground with his hooves and snorted into the night sky.

“Darkwood?” Aelish spoke. The horse calmed itself and tossed its mane at the tall man.

“Where did you come from?” the Princess helped the other woman stand.

“I’ve been through hell,” Calla answered.

Aelish turned on his heel and chastised her. “Mind your tongue. You’re speaking to royalty.”

Calla laughed, for what felt like the first time in her life. The air in her lungs was cool, and her muscles ached from the effort. It was the most glorious sensation she could imagine. “I was in the Underworld,” she managed to say between gasps. “I brought him back for Raven. And I’ve brought back something else.”


___________________________________________________________________________



Trace had the children in her arms as she ran. The street was a blur under her feet, but the dust in her lungs burned and threatened to make her cough. She hadn’t looked back. She hadn’t the extra hand to grab hold of Reza. She could only hope he was still following. Every street she ran down was littered with dead bodies and crumbled buildings. She lifted her right leg high to leap over a cracked beam from the roof of a shattered building, clearing it just barely with the other leg. Behind her the beast kept coming, its every stride a whole city block. She dared not spare a glance, though her mind fought the idea that a castle could tear itself from its own foundations and walk freely. She ran with every ounce of strength in her body and all the willpower she could muster in her spirit. She ran like the day she saved Phidi from the Royal Guard.



They had run for hours. It would have been impossible to convince anyone after that day that a body could truly exert itself for so long, but they had indeed run from noon until sunset, from the edge of the city to the beginning of the forests of the north. When they stopped, they collapsed. Penna woke her much later, perhaps a full day after their escape. A cool, damp rag swept the dirt from her face and soothed the bruises and cuts she had departed with. Trace opened her eyes to see the young girl she had just helped for the first time. Sincere, brown eyes stared diligently at every wound, deciding how each should be treated. Trace wanted to push her away, wanted to tell her that she didn’t need anything, but the words wouldn’t come.

“Are you hungry?” the girl asked. Trace sat up, bracing herself against the trunk of a tree, and nodded. Her stomach had been empty for more days than she could count. She was handed a chunk of dry bread, which she ate slowly. “I was able to get a little food before…” The girl stopped, unable to speak of their terrifying flight from the edge of death. “Thank you for saving him.”

“You’re too young,” Trace mentioned between bites.

The girl just stared at her. “Too young for what?”

“To be a mother.”

“Oh,” she nearly laughed, though laughter wasn’t in her, “he’s my little brother.” Trace nodded, finishing off the bread in two more bites. “His name is Phidi.” She watched the older girl search for crumbs to devour. The bread had been all she’d been able to scavenge in days herself, and she and Phidi were both starving. It was worth it, she told herself, though her mouth continued to salivate. Words weren’t enough for her little brother’s life. “I’m Penna,” she said, though her voice was too quiet.

“Faith.”




Trace grimaced at the memory, but nothing could slow her pace. She carved a sharp corner around the wreckage of a broken horse cart and dove down a narrow alley. She had been running all her life, and now, near what could very easily be the end, she ran with everything she had. Not far ahead, the rumbling of the Ancients’ footsteps rocked the foundations of those few buildings which still stood.



“She loves you.”

“What do you know about love? You ran from it. I see it in your face.”

“I ran from death,” Willow tried to answer with defiance, but fell short.

“Love, death… Is there a difference?” Trace stared into her. “Penna thinks you mean well.” She glanced at the redhead suspiciously. “But you and I know the truth. You’re running, and you’ll sacrifice anyone in your path to flee your demons.” Willow found her mind drifting to thoughts of the Circle, of the death she watched all around her. “They’ll follow you here. They’ll find you wherever you hide.”

“No. They’ll never come here.”

“When did you last go to the city, Red? That training camp is bursting with recruits from the bread lines. The Queen is the only employer left with food for her men. They can’t afford not to hunt you.”

“Me?” Willow stood, boldly facing her opponent. “How is all of this about me? I’m no one. I’m no one, Trace.”

“You’re a fugitive. A murderer.” Trace withdrew the edge of her long cloak and pulled out a tattered parchment. She unrolled it and handed it to Willow. “You’re the Red Sorceress.”

The color drained from her lips as she read each line. “The Red Sorceress is wanted for crimes against Her Majesty, the Queen of the Drylands, and for offenses against Her Royal Guard, including witchcraft, murder, arson, and conspiracy. A sum of 1000 gold will be paid to whomever brings her to the Royal Court alive.” She glanced up from the page to the face of the Cirque’s leader. “How long have you had this?”

“I could have turned you in weeks ago.” Trace took the poster and promptly tore it down the center. “Not that the money wouldn’t help, but we’re not exactly welcome in the city either. They’d arrest me, too.” Willow relaxed slightly, her eyes still on the torn page. “I still don’t trust you. But she does. And I… She and I…” Trace searched for the right words. “The others don’t need to know.”

Both turned as they heard the sound of footsteps in the dry leaves. Penna reached into their midst and grabbed the torn pieces of parchment. She read slowly, the forbidden text weaving its way into her mind as panic grabbed her chest. “Willow. It’s you,” she stared up at her friend. “The description…. It’s you. Gods above and below. You’ve got to run. You should be further away.”

Before Penna could react, before Willow could speak, Trace halted everything. “She stays.” Everyone was silent. “She’s part of the Cirque. She stays.”




Trace would never forget the look of love and gratitude on Penna’s face that day. It was as close as they had ever come in that last year to being together. It was the closest Trace had ever come to love. The memory set her legs shaking and brought her to a stop in the center of the city. Before her was the slave stockyard. Behind her was the beast. Without warning, four giant feet crashed through the walls of the old prison barracks. Trace froze in place, wary of being crushed by the Ancients.

“Out of one hell and into another,” whispered Jinna from the strong grip of Trace’s right arm. She felt the other girl tense at the words.

“Not for long, kid,” she answered, spying the wyvern swooping low between the giants. “Don’t let go.”

_________________
There, but for the grace of her, go I.


http://citychickenfarm.blogspot.com/


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Raven (updated December 10th!)
PostPosted: Thu Jul 09, 2009 8:47 am 
Offline
3. Flaming O
User avatar

Joined: Sun Mar 23, 2008 7:07 pm
Posts: 149
Location: Seattle, WA
This is a big thanks to everyone who's left feedback and toughed out the long winter and spring. I'm sorry the updates have been non-existent, so perhaps this most recent chapter will help. More is on the way.


restlessminds - Thank you ever so much for the complements.


Zampsa1975 - Glad to know you're keeping a wary eye out!


Shiraz - What a bump! Thank you for waking me up!


PTS - I hope you find this chapter as enjoyable as the rest. And thank you for the PM.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Raven (updated July 9th... where did the time go?!)
PostPosted: Thu Jul 09, 2009 10:51 am 
Offline
19. Yummy Face
User avatar

Joined: Fri Jun 15, 2007 4:19 pm
Posts: 2943
Location: Kaskinen, Finland, citizen of Kitopia
Yay for good update-y goodness... I really really hope that Willow very soon gets her Tara back...

_________________
We few, we happy few. We band of buggered.

Posting While Nude Improves Your Mood.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Raven (updated July 9th... where did the time go?!)
PostPosted: Thu Jul 09, 2009 10:56 am 
Offline
3. Flaming O

Joined: Tue Mar 17, 2009 10:09 am
Posts: 78
Lumme, what a wonderful surprise an update to this most glorious of fics is.

Yet another heart-stopping chapter, full of all the spectacular imagery and bone-deep feeling I, and I'm sure many others, have come to expect from it.

I am verily salivating at the thought of more to come. You know, it's so good, I almost don't want it to end.

Thanks so much for getting back to it and sharing your quite incredible, fanastical world with us.
restlessminds.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Raven (updated July 9th... where did the time go?!)
PostPosted: Thu Jul 09, 2009 1:25 pm 
Offline
4. Extra Flamey
User avatar

Joined: Wed Apr 29, 2009 8:04 pm
Posts: 168
Location: New Zealand
Hi! Wow, yay. I haven't got time to read right now but it's the first thing I'll do when I get home tonight. I just re-read this story last week and I can't tell you how unbelievably happy I am that you've updated. Thank you.

_________________
Blogness


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Raven (updated July 9th... where did the time go?!)
PostPosted: Thu Jul 09, 2009 4:06 pm 
Offline
2. Floating Rose

Joined: Wed Mar 05, 2008 9:38 pm
Posts: 22
Hooray! So good to see this updated. I love how you are able to keep so many threads going at once. Please keep it coming. :)


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Raven (updated July 9th... where did the time go?!)
PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2009 6:21 am 
Offline
12. Recently Gay
User avatar

Joined: Tue Nov 13, 2007 3:11 pm
Posts: 1666
Topics: 1
Location: Belfast
Fantastic to see you updated :)

I never expected this outcome when Willow made her mind up to raise the beast - it may have been a touch of arrogance on her part, mmm, you sow the wind, you reap the whirlwind. With her magic dwindling how will she control and then escape the confines of the Animari?

Your imagination knows no bounds and it's a pleasure to partake in it as an avid reader.

I, too, am salivating for the next update - as usual my mind is racing as to what will happen next. Who has Calla brought back? Will the wyvern reach Trace and Jinna in time? can the Willow/Beast defeat two Ancients?

It's as exciting as the cliff hangers in the Saturday morning serials:)

There should be a voice over saying "Tune in next week to see if our intrepid heroes can survive ..."

Thanks for the update, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

_________________
People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built. Eleanor Roosevelt


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Raven (updated July 9th... where did the time go?!)
PostPosted: Thu Jul 30, 2009 1:25 pm 
Offline
3. Flaming O
User avatar

Joined: Wed Nov 14, 2007 4:22 am
Posts: 110
Location: The Netherlands
Damn i have been so busy i have missed the past couple of updates.. i'll have to catch up soon.

_________________
***I will make me a cabin at your gate and call upon my soul within the house... I rush into the secret house. Rage More***


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Raven (updated July 9th... where did the time go?!)
PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2009 9:51 pm 
Offline
3. Flaming O
User avatar

Joined: Sun Apr 22, 2007 4:50 pm
Posts: 98
Location: Colorado Springs, Co
Sooo... I know your busy with the new fic, which I love, but do you think you might have an update on here soon? :pray

I love this story, and just reread the whole thing over the past 2 days... Now I need more! please?!?!?! :pray :pray

_________________
"Love is like a piano, dropped from a four story window. And you were in the wrong place at the wrong time." ~ Ani


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Raven (updated July 9th... where did the time go?!)
PostPosted: Tue Sep 22, 2009 4:20 am 
Offline
19. Yummy Face
User avatar

Joined: Fri Jun 15, 2007 4:19 pm
Posts: 2943
Location: Kaskinen, Finland, citizen of Kitopia
:pray Update-y goodness soonish pleeeease!

_________________
We few, we happy few. We band of buggered.

Posting While Nude Improves Your Mood.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Raven (updated July 9th... where did the time go?!)
PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 2009 5:04 pm 
Offline
3. Flaming O
User avatar

Joined: Sun Mar 23, 2008 7:07 pm
Posts: 149
Location: Seattle, WA
Many apologies for keeping everyone waiting. I hope the following chapter helps.


Zampsa1975-

Willow knows exactly what she needs to do to get Tara back, but nothing is ever easy in this world.


restlessminds-

Please don't stop salivating on my account! While the end does, indeed, draw nigh, there is much ground to cover along the way. I took great pleasure in writing the next chapter, but it gave me fits. I hope it pays off. Enjoy.


Owl-

There's always time to read. It takes me a while to put chapters together these days.


mishki-

It is the very threads which make this story so full of detail that also make it incredibly tough to put together! I really hope I haven't forgotten someone along the way, so I frequently go back and re-read previous chapters to remember where they all are, what time of day it is, etc. I just know I'm missing something, but I can always edit later.


PTS-

I really enjoy the parallels of Willow and the beast. It's impossible to see them able to coexist at first, but I think your impressions will change soon enough.

I'm so glad to see that my cliffhangers bring both frustration and joy. The best stories are the ones we can't wait to finish but ultimately love being caught up in.


Renatecs-

Have you caught up?


Bewitchedyke-

You asked, so here is your update. This chapter has been in the making for almost three months now. Indulge in the fruits of my labor.

_________________
There, but for the grace of her, go I.


http://citychickenfarm.blogspot.com/


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Raven (updated September 25th)
PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 2009 5:13 pm 
Offline
3. Flaming O
User avatar

Joined: Sun Mar 23, 2008 7:07 pm
Posts: 149
Location: Seattle, WA
Chapter 35




Merl trudged through the tall grass, his feet heavy with thought and memory. Every dozen paces he glanced up at the darkened horizon, then back down at the faint trail of dust and stone. I have found and lost her in the same breath, he mused.

Behind him, a slow migration of people had gathered. Their eyes were glazed and dull, their steps methodical. “Something has bewitched them,” Ren had whispered when they first caught sight of the crowd. “The air is thick with this new evil.”

“It is the Ancients,” Merl answered distractedly. “They made this place, and now they toy with it.” What little remained of the ice and snow crunched under his heavy boots. Buttercups sprang forth in the shallow footsteps behind him.

As one, the mass of bodies made its way toward the Drylands City. Merl looked up, then let his eyes fall once more. What is it that made you different? Why did you not desire the power and domination of your kind? His heart beat in thundering bursts as he thought of Rowan, the woman he had loved with every grain of his being. He looked left and imagined Willow, her hair, her face, her lithe body the mirror image of her mother. Something of me is inside of you. His heart twisted as his mind played over the events of the night and the inexorable morning to come. I pray that you possess the strength which I do not. Merl closed his eyes and breathed deeply of the unnatural spring air. He wished for a way to see her, to know the outcome of her brave attempt at balancing the heady power that was barely contained within her flesh. His feet felt vibration, and his eyebrows lifted. Could there be a connection? Merl’s eyelids dropped. He focused on Willow, her determined face, her unfailing loyalty to set things right. Was that her he felt? The rumbling grew, and with it joined a rhythm. Merl opened his eyes and swung round, gripping Ren and Wake with his massive hands. Two-dozen warhorses charged directly at the trio and skidded to a halt.

“It will take you all day at that pace, old man,” Ulhetha’s voice strained above the clatter of hooves. Beside her, the other horses were brought up, and the remainder of the gypsy clan and the rebellion dismounted. “Let us waste no more time!” the old woman shouted. “The true battle has begun.” Ren and Wake were given a horse to share, and Merl climbed astride Ulhetha’s steed, settling her in behind him. He kicked the horse into action and brought himself into the lead of the small group. “Let go of your thoughts of her, old man,” the woman chastised. The barkeep simply grunted. Fire and smoke took to the sky far in the horizon. She was right. The battle was being waged in the city. “This has been brewing for longer than your part in all of it.”

“You wish me not to take this to heart. You think I am not to blame.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Merl. Of course you’re to blame!” she laughed. Merl raised one eyebrow at her humor and let it fall without words. “None of this could have happened if you hadn’t loved Rowan. You must know that much.”

Merl picked up the pace and drove the small pack of rebels on into the darkness. “Is it in your gypsy upbringing that you are taught to try the patience of men?” he mumbled through gritted teeth.

“It is my lot in life to say those things which no one wishes to hear,” Ulhetha answered with a serious tone. “Horrible things transpired to bring us all to this moment, into a war which is not ours to fight, and I am one of the few who knows the whole tale. You,” she went on with firmness, “have a part in it, just like all of us. So does Willow. So did Rowan. And as much as you strive to pull them to you, their destiny is their own. I would change it if I could,” her voice suddenly cracked, and her eyes wandered over the bobbing heads of her weary friends as they rode down the damp trail. “But that is not my part in things.”

“If this is not our war,” intruded Ren, “then why do we travel to the Drylands City? Have we not risked enough already?” He glanced at the small frame of the boy resting against him in the saddle.

“The Ancients have risen,” Merl growled. “If Willow has succeeded, and I’ll bet my right arm she has, then the Animarus within the castle is also awake. When they fight, and they will fight,” his lips trembled with the words, “they will tear this land to shreds, and they will not spare anything above or below.” He waited for a moment and saw the logic sink into the younger man’s mind. “Not all have fled the kingdom.”

“How can we possibly help anyone if their power is as you claim?”

“We have allies you do not yet know,” Ulhetha spoke, her words laced with mystery. Wake turned his head and smiled at the old woman, his face full of hope.




______________________________________________________________________________________





Aelish spoke soft words to the powerful horse, its wild eyes following his every move. He slowly reached out and touched its neck gently, hoping the beast remembered him. His fingers sank into the thick, soft fur. Darkwood nickered and relaxed, pushing the warrior with his muzzle. “To the Underworld and back,” he mused. “You will be the most feared warhorse in all the Known Lands after this day, my friend.”

“There is no time, Aelish,” Calla called out from the safety of a large gravestone where she had hidden with the Princess. “You must lead them to the battle.” All three glanced about at the strange congregation of beasts small and large which had emerged from the gouge in the earth. Darkwood whinnied and shook his mane, calling to them to follow. “This is the only way we can get her back.”

“Who is it that is lost?” Aelish stepped forward with concern clear on his brow. Calla’s face darkened. She had spoken in error. Aelish was not aware of all that had transpired in the battle at the edge of the sea. Ulhetha had warned her to guard her tongue. How did the old woman know such things of the future? Suspicion grew in the warrior’s fine features. “Your words are laced with mystery, maiden,” he stopped in front of her, his eyes taking in every inch of her face. “Yet you have come from the belly of Hell upon my comrade’s steed. I will place trust in you if you can see fit to do the same.”

Mustering her courage, Calla explained what she knew of the battle that had been waged in Torrent. Aelish and River gaped at the details, the death, the destruction, the sheer chaos of many versus few. She smiled when she spoke of the members of the Cirque who had bravely divided the enemy ranks, and her face went sallow upon the tale of the wyvern’s descent over the rocky edge to the sea below. “Raven fell with them all.” She bit her lip and nearly drew blood. She could not bring herself to speak of Raven’s true identity, and she prayed that the warrior, distraught with emotion before her, would not question her further.

Aelish could not bring himself to speak. In his mind, a picture of Raven’s last moment in this world played over and over. Had they not saved one another from far more perilous affairs a hundred times over? “I am surely not immortal,” he recited from the prayers his mother had taught him when he was little. “I am surely frail. I am but man, and my heart beats for this world.” River gazed at him, struck by his trace-like state. She, too, had learned the verses when she was a child. “When my place in this world is offered to the Ancients, I will heed their call.” His eyes slowly found River’s and he woke from his reverie. “Then we are truly all in her hands.”

“Death is no boundary for an Ancient,” River stepped forward, her eyes shining. Their minds had both found the same path. “Nor for an Animarus.”

As one, they turned to Darkwood. He stood proudly, his great neck arched slightly as he regarded them. Aelish went to the horse, placing his ungloved hand on the mane of the immense beast. For the first time, he saw the animal for what he truly was. “All these years…”

“He and the others have their place in this battle,” Calla intruded. “So do we.” She waited for them to reconcile all that had been presented before she gave them the last piece of the puzzle they needed. “Raven is not truly dead.” Aelish’s head turned quickly, and he reached for her hand in desperation. “The Ancients have risen from City Lost,” she continued. “One of them holds Raven captive.”

“Then we must save him!” the Princess demanded.

“That you cannot do,” Calla struggled to keep her voice calm. “But Willow and Darkwood can. She will need his strength.” She looked at Aelish. “And they will all need your loytalty.”

“And you are certain it will work?” River questioned. A huge lion on the far side of the cemetery roared and stretched, as though he had been caged for a lifetime. She stared nervously at the powerful animal, one among many, some recognizable, others foreign to her. “Battles and fighting,” her brow creased. “Ancients, Animari, man… Can we not find peace?”

In silent adoration, the warrior held out a hand to the Princess. “Have faith. And if your faith in others wanes, then place it in me.” She put her hand in his and wondered for a moment what would happen if she did not let go. Looking into his soft, brown eyes, she saw the answer. Renewed with a sudden thought, the Princess dropped her warrior’s hand and rushed to Calla’s side.

“Remember,” Calla shouted over the din of roars and bellows, “this is not your war.” Aelish nodded as he galloped off into the darkness with an army a thousand Animari strong on his heels.

“I have need for your confidence in one final task,” River whispered as they gazed at the dust of a thousand hooves and paws.

Calla breathed heavily and turned to face the new ruler of the Drylands. “Do you ask this of me as a Princess?” Her own defiance surprised her.

“Quite the contrary,” the dark haired girl smiled suddenly. “I ask you as one free person to another.”




________________________________________________________________________




Penna gritted her teeth and held Phidi tight as they swung low between the arms and wildly swinging tail of the Ancients. The wyvern arched its back and extended its long talons, knocking the breath out of the three small figures it extracted from the open slave market. Sick with the pull of gravity, brother and sister fought to keep their heads upright as the agile beast rose sharply, the tips of its wings lightly grazing the remnants of semi-collapsed homes and storefronts in the narrow city street. Sky and stars spun around them in wild patterns of light and dark until Penna finally regained her balance. “Did we get them?” she screamed into the wind. Phidi nodded rapidly, his green eyes already mapping out their next maneuver. “We must get them down!” Penna’s order was quickly ignored by the little boy.

“Look behind,” he jerked his thumb over their shoulders. Glancing back, Penna saw the problem. Though the moonlight was strong and bright against the dark blue of sky all around, the earth was all but choked out by the blackness of wings. They were surrounded by creatures in flight. As one they had risen from underground, they had flown from the highest peaks of the Southern Mountains, they had traveled across the barren deserts and humid marshlands, and here they met, prepared for battle. “The Animari have called them.” Phidi checked left and right, taking in the dragons, wyverns, owls, birds of prey, and all the beasts he did not recognize, and he adjusted himself on his friend’s back. He leaned forward carefully and whispered to the wyvern, simultaneously gripping Penna’s hand with his own. That was her only warning before everything fell from beneath them. Ahead of the flock, Phidi turned them as one. His actions now governed their every move.

Not too far below, clutching the two small girls in her fierce grip, Trace did her best to keep her eyes open in the torrent of wind. The talons of the wyvern had cut through her leather and bit into her flesh, but it was the most welcome embrace she had felt in longer than she could recall. Though terrifying, the flight was elating. The earth spun below them as they turned, and Trace felt her lips part in a smile. I know why I ran, she told herself, but up here it’s all so far away. Her feet came within inches of thatched rooftops, still smoldering as night enveloped the kingdom, but the Cirque leader felt no fear of death. This is the freedom River spoke of. This is what she would give everything for. More a shout than a whisper, Trace called out to the girls clutched against her. “Don’t be afraid! Open your eyes and remember everything you see tonight. Someday you’ll tell your grandchildren what happened here. Nothing will be the same after this day.”

The wyvern dropped its left wing and dove in a sharp circle back the way it had come. Like a tail of smoke the other creatures followed, screeching, howling, calling out to one another. Before them were the Ancients and the living castle.

“You broke the earth,” echoed the voice of the beast. It shook its head, and stone broke free and fell into clouds of dust in the city square. “In anger you swallowed them,” it took a step toward the god-queen. “They were not yours to destroy.”

“All is mine!” she howled, her voice loud and commanding over the growing crowd of animals. “We tamed this land, we breathed life into it, we bled into its rivers. We are the earth and the water, and it is ours to reclaim.”

The beast grinned maliciously, his form becoming more like that of an immense dragon than a castle. “So quickly you forget. You were never clear when we spoke of possessions in the old days, Bardria.” The name drained the color from the Ancient’s flesh, and she shook as though fear was all she had ever known. “I remember,” he taunted. “I remember everything.”

“Then you will remember this!” bellowed the god-king. He raised his hand to the sky, and the clouds gathered, lightning flashing violently among them. His eyes strained with the effort, and suddenly a mighty bolt pierced the sky and bore down on the beast. The force of it tore through its body and rattled its bones, bringing it to its knees in the dusty square. Its tail swept to the left, crushing what remained of the houses and shops in an immense arc around them all. “You will not speak her name again, dog.”

Willow gasped and arched her back, straining against the bonds of magic which tied her to stone and bones within the beast. Her eyes darkened as the power flowed through them both, and she realized that all she had been told of the history of this world was wrong. “You’re not gods,” she whispered. “You’re children.” The Ancients straightened at the odd words coming from the mouth of their enemy. Willow relaxed, and she felt the earth beneath the claws of the beast. She tasted the air, scorched with smoke. She blinked and saw the wyverns and birds, the gathering of Animari far below. She saw through the eyes of the beast. His nostrils flared, and she growled pleasingly. I have mistaken you, she apologized. Together, united, they stood and faced the Ancients.

The beast lifted itself with renewed strength, and then drew itself up onto its hind legs. It towered over the Ancients. Quickly, with more physical power than it had ever possessed, the beast brought one of its mighty, clawed hands down into the chest of the god-king. He was thrust back beyond the southern gates of the city, leaving a scar in the earth from the sheer force of the blow. Willow smiled, and the beast roared.

As one, the flock of winged beasts and animals descended upon Bardria. She held her hands before her face in terror at the sight of a thousand claws and talons drawing in on her, but she could not fight them off. Like a wave of water, they crashed over her, Phidi’s wyvern at the lead. She crumpled into a heap on the dusty ground with unearthly screams of pain, but their attack was relentless. The wyvern dove and rose, guiding the others at first, then returning to the atmosphere with his heavy load of humans. They sailed high over the city square, watching as an immense pack of Animari on hoof and paw flooded the empty spaces around the Ancient. Penna cringed as she watched them bite and scratch and tear at the woman, but she knew that the Ancient had brought this upon herself. “We must get away from all of this,” she shouted above the wind. Phidi turned his head slightly and nodded, silently guiding the small dragon south, over the city gates, over the slowly recovering body of the other Ancient, and further south until they came to the first stand of trees beyond the abandoned fields and villages outside of the Drylands City. They descended into the cover of a grove of maples, the wyvern gently depositing the three in his talons onto the soft grass.

Trace landed on her feet and instantly grabbed for Jinna and Mara until they found their balance. She checked them over from head to toe to verify that they were uninjured, then breathed a sigh of relief only to feel pain shoot through her core. Her hand went to the gash in her side, and she grimaced at the depth of the wound. She wanted to scowl at the wyvern for her injury, but instead she found herself smiling.

Penna slid from the beast’s back and stumbled when she hit the ground. She shook off the dizzying sensation of flying and looked around for those they had rescued. Her eyes picked out three figures in the dim light, and she moved toward them with purpose. “Are you alright?” she called out. The tallest figure in the center straightened in a familiar way, and Penna instantly felt drawn forward, though she could not see a face. Her eyes narrowed, and her steps slowed, and the shape became more familiar. “Trace?” she whispered.

Trace limped forward at the sound of her name. She knew it was Penna. Her heart pounded painfully in her chest. Inches from one another they stopped, both women gazing at one another under the starlight. For the first time since the smoke and fire in the camp a year before, they had found each other. Years had passed between them from the days when Penna and Phidi had fled the city with Trace in the lead, but all that time had not revealed what only absence could show them. Forgetting her wound, abandoning all thoughts of battles and Ancients and leadership, Trace closed the gap between them and took Penna into her strong arms. She held the girl so tight that Penna wondered if she would ever breath right again, but her own heart had cried out for that very embrace so hard that she clung fiercely back, unwilling to let Trace go. Their breathing was ragged with sobs, and they shivered at the cold of night around them, but neither let go.

Less than a league to the north, the beast loomed large over the frame of the god-king. Willow closed her eyes and relished the strength of the body she now resided in. The beast, in turn, silently thanked her for giving him the composure his madness had stolen from him so many years before. “I had fallen into darkness,” he explained. His mighty claws grasped the robe of the Ancient below him, and he began to drag him southward. He walked on two hind legs and one in front, his tail swishing side to side as they strode through abandoned farmlands. “Bardria,” he continued, “will tell you that I deserved my fate.” Willow felt him sneer, and anger coursed through them both. “I will only say that mankind did not deserve that fate which she delivered.”

“Double Gap,” Willow muttered, connecting the truths in the stories Jesse had told her when she was a child. “It wasn’t the river at all.”

“She was a Queen,” the beast went on. As they walked, the din of the battle in the city behind them receded into the background. An eerie quiet thrummed in Willow’s mind as she listened. “When men forgot to bow, she became angered. The rivers rose, the earth trembled, and many were lost.” He growled low, and the sound reverberated through the earth below them.

Defiant hands clasped around the claws of the beast, and the god-king spat with anger. “My Queen gave everything to this world.” He struggled under the terrifying grip of the Animarus, but he could not free himself.

Enraged at his acts and words, Willow felt a rush of power surge down their arm, and into the body straining in their grasp. She pressed him into the soil with the massive weight of the beast and glowered at him with eyes of flame. “There is no place for you in this world,” she whispered. Sparks of magic danced on the tips of the beast’s claws. Her memory rushed sharply back from the seaside. Willow inhaled and closed her eyes, seeing Tara before her, pale and at the edge of death. This world isn’t ready for us, her lips had formed the words with what breath remained in her. Willow recalled the pain in her chest, and the arm of the beast relaxed. She glanced at him, and she hated him. But somewhere inside him, flowing through his veins, feeding him the power to live again, was Tara. Setting her anger aside, she and the beast continued their journey south.

“You believe there is magic in the trees,” the beast spoke again. “You will need more than magic to find her.”




____________________________________________________________________





Aelish hid his eyes as dust swirled around him. The beasts were everywhere. They were mad with vengeance. They were hungry for the blood of the Ancient. Darkwood whinnied and beat the ground with his hooves as they unleashed their fury upon the bellowing woman. Fearing that he would be drawn into a battle which was not his to fight, Aelish bent low over the warhorse’s neck and shouted to be heard. “Leave me if you must, friend, but do not sacrifice your true companion for revenge.” Darkwood shook his mane and reared up, kicking his legs in a dramatic fashion. Well-trained in horsemanship, Aelish clung to the saddle and leaned forward in response. It is no wonder Raven would have given his life for this animal, he mused. The power of the horse below him was immeasurable. Darkwood turned abruptly and trotted off down a side street, moving south with flaring nostrils. The wind did not blow in their favor, but the horse had more than scent on his side. With a swish of his long, black tail, he took off at a hard gallop, following the smell of magic and the scar of battle which drew a jagged line to the south. Aelish spared one last glance at the city as the warhorse leapt the broken beams of the city gate.




_____________________________________________________________________





Merl and his diminished pack of rebels rounded on the city square only moments after Aelish and Darkwood had left. The destruction around them was devastating. Gasps of shock and fear sounded in their throats. Merl held up a hand at the sight of the Animari. Everyone stopped and gaped. They had torn the flesh from the Ancient’s bones, a mortal death to an immortal. Lips stained with blood, they howled, cackled, sang, and bellowed the last of their rage into the unending night. “So that is how you kill a god,” Merl mumbled in admiration. Ulhetha brought her horse up beside him and scowled at his words. “Split up into pairs and search the city for survivors!” he shouted at the others. “Do not interfere with the Animari,” he warned as they dispersed. No one was tempted to betray his advice.

“This is not over,” the old woman spoke quietly after the others had left. Merl glared at her, tired of her foreboding. “You see the death of an Ancient before you,” she nodded at the remains of Bardria. “You have forgotten her rebirth.”

Suddenly aware of her meaning, the barkeep turned his head and watched the bones and scraps of flesh twitch, roll, and rise. Where skin and hair had once graced her head, Bardria now stared with blood-filled eyes and shards of bone. Her jaw hung limply, torn and useless. All around her the beasts stepped back, awed at the sight of the dead rising. “Damn you for never being wrong, woman,” Merl cursed, though he could not take his eyes off the hideous creature the Ancient had become. It lunged and swayed, as though death would reclaim it, but then the creature did something they did not expect. From within it emanated an unearthly howl, primal and ear-splitting. Merl’s hand flew to his ears. Its body stretched and began to shake, and chunks of flesh and bone spun madly through the air. It shook itself like a wet dog, each roll of its back more violent, more pronounced, and Merl realized with a sickening feeling that it was shedding itself like the skin of a snake. The shaking intensified, and blood soaked fur began to show through. Bit by bit, the creature grew legs and claws, ears and a tail. When it ceased its movements, Merl dropped his hands and swore with words that Ulhetha would have chastised had she, too, not been awe-struck at the sight of the immense wolf crouching in the city square. Only one word mattered, and Merl felt it on his tongue before he could keep himself from speaking. “Tinari.”


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Raven (updated July 9th... where did the time go?!)
PostPosted: Sat Sep 26, 2009 12:47 am 
Offline
19. Yummy Face
User avatar

Joined: Fri Jun 15, 2007 4:19 pm
Posts: 2943
Location: Kaskinen, Finland, citizen of Kitopia
Yay for good update-y goodness... The bastard Tinari is back :smash ... I truly hope that Willow very very soon is able to go on her Tara saving mission... And that there is lots and lots of :wtkiss later...

_________________
We few, we happy few. We band of buggered.

Posting While Nude Improves Your Mood.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Raven (updated September 25th)
PostPosted: Sat Sep 26, 2009 6:14 pm 
Offline
3. Flaming O
User avatar

Joined: Sun Apr 22, 2007 4:50 pm
Posts: 98
Location: Colorado Springs, Co
This was amazing!!! Thank you!

I will gladly wait for more :-D

_________________
"Love is like a piano, dropped from a four story window. And you were in the wrong place at the wrong time." ~ Ani


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Raven (updated September 25th)
PostPosted: Tue Oct 06, 2009 5:34 pm 
Offline
4. Extra Flamey
User avatar

Joined: Wed Apr 29, 2009 8:04 pm
Posts: 168
Location: New Zealand
I love the way you've got characters all over the place here and the reader gets a chance to see a bit of each of them in every update. It really adds to the absolute epicness of what is happening, especially in the last few chapters following the rise of the ancients. Your writing gives just enough to avoid confusion with all the moving around but also not too much in a way is overwhelming, as could easily happen when you've got so many things happening at once. It's just perfect and all I can think when I get to the end of each chapter is more! now! Thank you so much for updating.

_________________
Blogness


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Raven (updated September 25th)
PostPosted: Wed Nov 25, 2009 5:26 pm 
Offline
3. Flaming O
User avatar

Joined: Sun Mar 23, 2008 7:07 pm
Posts: 149
Location: Seattle, WA
Chapter 36




Calla knew that her feet would eventually stumble, bringing the Princess’ inhuman pace to a crashing halt. They had run for longer than the blonde knew she was capable of, and her breath was hot and ragged in her lungs. River glanced at her and tightened her grip on the girl’s hand, urging her on. They dodged piles of broken stone and mortar from where the beast had risen, darting around splintered beams and shattered trees, until they came to the edge of the orchards just beyond where the castle had once stood. River stared at the ruins in slight shock. Her home had been destroyed. Her mother was dead. This kingdom, broken and bleeding, was now her own.

“There is a crypt below the orchard,” she explained as they walked to the stone wall at the border of the trees. Though darkness made them stumble over the uneven ground, River knew her way from years of playing on these same grounds as a child. She pushed aside an overgrown blackberry vine, ignoring the scrapes her skin received, and stooped low to find the half door hidden below the capstone of the wall. She felt for the key which had lain hidden in her bodice, then unlocked the little door and ducked into the stagnant air of the hidden chamber.

Following the Princess’ lead, Calla walked with careful steps and felt the damp stone walls with her bare hands. “How many mysteries lie beneath the earth,” she muttered, remembering her terrifying walk through the Underworld, the forced prison of the Animari. “We go through life believing that we will rise after our death, that the gods will pull us up through the clouds.” River stopped and turned to face her. “We have known nothing but lies.”

“The history of mankind will turn tonight,” River placed a confident hand on Calla’s shoulder. She went back to her search, feeling her way through dusty shelves and tables. The room they found themselves in was not large. Calla took four steps and had walked the width of the chamber. Another seven steps brought her to the end of its length. “Where are they?” The Princess’ voice was growing impatient as she searched through piles of scrolls she could not read in the darkness. Her fingers traced the seals on them, knowing that the Queen’s symbol would not be upon that which she sought. Her fingers worked quickly, and she tossed that which she did not need into a heap on the floor.

Calla picked several of the scrolls up and walked to the doorway, holding them under the moonlight. “These are proclamations.”

“They are laws which allow us to punish and murder,” River responded without slowing in her task. She felt Calla stiffen. “My mother,” she let the scrolls lay still, “trusted in her closest advisor.” The Princess closed her eyes and tried to fight off the image of Tinari, but his black eyes were all she could see in the darkness. “He was the reason for the laws prohibiting magic in the kingdom.”

“It was those very laws which were the death of my mother,” Calla took a step nearer the Princess, her body blocking the only way in, the only way out. Her heart pounded loudly, and she hoped River could feel the rage boiling just below her flesh. “She was killed by your army. I held her in my arms as she breathed her last breath.” Tears welled up in Calla’s eyes as she thought back to the fires and screams of that night, the last night her home, her family, her village existed.

River knew immediately what must have happened. She had heard the tales in the gardens and in the city square. She had seen the glares from villagers displaced by the terror of the wyverns, even though everyone knew it was, in fact, the Royal Guard. Her mother had been the one to order the death of the gypsies, the destruction of magic in the whole of the Known Lands. The mission she had set herself upon was given renewed vigor, and she dug deep through the remaining parchment on the high shelf. Her thumb felt over the wax seal on the last roll, bringing a sudden smile to her lips. “This,” she held it out in the dim light toward Calla, “will right those wrongs.”

Barely able to hear words, let alone the tongue of royalty, Calla lunged forward and struck the Princess with both hands. They careened backwards into a heavy table, falling over one another in confusion. “Nothing can bring her back!” Calla screamed, still desperately trying to hit or scratch the girl she was tangled with. “She’s gone! She’s gone forever!”

Keeping the scroll in one hand, River reached out and grabbed hold of the other girl. Calla fought and thrashed, but the Princess held her firmly. “Shh,” she whispered, over and over, praying that her unwillingness to fight would overpower Calla’s anger.

“You can’t fix this!” Calla finally shouted, pushing herself away from the dark-haired girl. They stood facing one another, both panting from their actions. “You cannot raise the dead, and you cannot right the wrongs that have been done.”

“If you wanted her back so badly,” River howled at her, “then you should have found her in the Underworld.” She felt her own anger rising. “It is not my name on those scrolls,” she pointed, her hand still trembling and holding the scroll she had searched so long for. “But this,” she changed the angle she held it at, “this can truly right those wrongs.” She waited a moment for Calla to hear her words as she intended them. “It is the declaration my father signed into being upon my birth.”

Calla tried to relax. She fought her emotions and strained to quell her desire to cry and scream at the pain in her chest. “What good is that when this kingdom has been broken by battle? Step out into the light and look at what is left.”

“I need not step into the light to see,” River spoke with even words. She took a step forward and placed the scroll in Calla’s reluctant hand. “This kingdom is not buildings and walls. It is the people who remain. It is you,” she released her grasp on the scroll, “It is Aelish, it is Willow, it is Merl. It is everyone who has fought and died, everyone whose life was taken, and all of those who now hide in its ruins. But it is no longer mine. It never was.” Calla glanced at the scroll and back into the Princess’ face. “Every proclamation of royal birth contains the same clause at the end.”

Unable to see in the crypt, Calla stepped backwards through the door and out into the orchard. Her fingers trembled as she tore through the wax seal on the parchment and unrolled it to its full length. Neatly written at the bottom was this:


As power has come from the Ancients, so shall it be returned. It is the duty of the Highest of Mankind, the Ruler of the Drylands and all in its possession, to yield this crown upon the rise of the Gods. Royalty is, above all else, the Right Hand of the Creators. We humbly submit ourselves to the divine will of the Ancients.


Calla read and reread the passage, its meaning too simple for her to comprehend. Her mind spun with the message, and she stared up blankly at the Princess as she emerged from the underground room. “You intend…”

“I intend,” River placed a gentle hand on the other woman’s wrist, “to submit to the Gods.”

Her brow creased, and the blonde let the scroll fall. “You cannot do this, Princess. You cannot forsake your people to the very gods that would kill us all.”

“But I can place the freedom of this land in the hands of a true leader,” she smiled with great satisfaction. “The directive does not state which Ancient I must yield to.”




________________________________________________________________________





The beast’s eyes reflected green, and it blinked peacefully at the surrounding trees. Home was near. The evergreens waved their arms in the slight breeze, but the rest of the forest was still, silent in the night. “How my heart has cried out for the scent of pines,” he whispered, his words belonging to her. “Many have been the nights that I have dreamt of home, of the campfires we used to light. I knew that a world existed apart from it, but I never desired it.”

Until she came, the beast spoke to her. You learned about desire. Your world was changed in that moment.

Willow’s eyes surveyed the outline of Double Gap below the trees. Everything looked different through the eyes of the beast. She could see the world as it had been, she could see the changes which had marred the stone and earth, and she could smell the taint of magic in the air. The trees resisted it, but even they could not hold back the tide of change that Bardria had begun. The aspens were the first to give way to the need to bud in the spring warmth. The new companions reached a heavy claw up to one branch and held it aloft on a long talon. “Is it truly the place of Ancients and Animari to mold this world to their desires?” she asked aloud.

Bardria has always placed herself at the center of things, the beast explained. I was no better. The mountains to the south were my home, my resting place. I desired peace. I desired the cool touch of stone and ice. The noise of men drove me higher. I took to the sky for so very long, passing seasons aloft in the icy clouds, but even I could not remain in isolation forever. I returned to find they had covered the earth like a plague of grass.

“You cast a spell,” Willow finished for him, feeling the story within her own memory now. Their connection had grown strong. “You covered their world in ice, hoping to drive them north. But they were stronger than you could conceive. They remained.”

I made my peace with men that day. I created for them a gift, one which would be truly unique. It lay beneath the ice for a hundred years, waiting. Though they may never see her for the champion she was born to be, the change she has brought about in this world cannot be reversed. The beast gazed down at his captive, his enemy from centuries before, and he sneered. The weary Ancient glared back in defiance. “My brothers and sisters have been wrongly imprisoned for your deeds,” he spoke aloud. His voice settled into a low growl. “Now that they are free, you are relieved of your debt.” He slowly released the giant of a man and watched him rise to his feet.

The Ancient flexed his arms and looked about himself, pleased that his own freedom had been restored. He then turned on the beast with newfound anger. “Your time in this world has ended, old friend.” Preparing to summon a powerful spell, he spread his arms wide and tipped his head back to the sky.

“Perhaps,” a new voice interrupted the Ancient’s movements, bringing his focus back to the beast before him, “you are too hasty, friend.” The last word was spoken with such malice that the man turned his head quizzically and stared into the green eyes of the beast. Though the grizzled face and bits of stone which clung to his scarred flesh could be mistaken for no other, the Ancient clearly saw that this was not the same Animarus, neither inside nor out. The beast closed its eyes, and a swirling wind picked up around their feet. The trees swayed and bowed, tossed around like blades of grass in a thunderstorm, and the rush of water far below where they stood pounded in their ears.




________________________________________________________________________





Aelish had followed the giant scar carved into the earth for what felt like an eternity. He pressed the powerful horse on in the darkness without the light of the moon to guide them, and he could now gauge their progress by a stand of trees to the south. Darkwood whinnied as they neared the edge of the maples, tossing his mane wildly. Lacking reigns to guide the warhorse, Aelish surrendered control of their path to the horse, desperately hoping there was a good reason to divert their course. He stared into the murky woods, initially seeing movement and thinking it was nocturnal beasts. The forms grew taller, then ran forward into the clearing, gathering around horse and warrior.

“Aelish!” one of the smaller figures called up to him, startling him.

“Jinna?” He leapt from the saddle, taking the skinny girl into his hands and holding her out to examine her well-being in the darkness. “How in the name of the gods did you come to be out here?”

She pointed in an excited way, and his eyes followed her arm to the shape of a crouching wyvern by the trees. “We flew.” The others gathered around, squinting to see the face of the man Jinna had grabbed hold of. “Did you see the Ancients?” she gasped, hoping to tell him something he would scarcely believe.

“I did,” he answered gravely. “I was on their trail when Darkwood led us to you. Much has happened.”

“Am I the only one who can’t see a damned thing in this darkness?” a husky voice called out from the edge of where they had gathered. “I’ll provide the light if you tell us what in the name of the Underworld is going on, warrior.” A steady glow of light grew from a small circle on the ground, and the field in which they stood was suddenly filled with a golden hue. Trace’s cloak hung oddly from her shoulders. It was badly torn, as was her flesh, but light poured from within its folds. Penna cocked her head to the side in wonder as she stared at the dark woman. Trace rolled her eyes in exasperation. “Darkness isn’t my only talent,” she answered the silent question.

“The battle in Torrent went awry,” Aelish could not wait for them to hear his words.

“We know,” Penna turned back to him. “Phidi and I watched it happen.” She reached behind herself and found Trace’s fingers waiting to entwine with her own. “Raven fell…”

Aelish drove forward, hope in his brown eyes. “He is not lost. His death brought life to the God-king Ancient,” he pointed in the direction the beast had dragged its quarry. “I must get Darkwood to him.” The mighty horse whinnied and stomped the ground with his hooves.

“And what do you know of Willow?” Penna asked.

Jinna and Trace lowered their eyes. “She was in the castle,” Trace explained. Everyone fell silent.

“Then she and the Beast are one,” Aelish finished. “Both of our warriors are lost.” He straightened, pulling himself up to his full height. “The Princess spoke of such a time,” he gazed off in the direction of the city. “Now is the time for mankind to command itself. We have learned the truth of what the Ancients are and what they have done. They may be the rulers of our past, but we shall determine our destiny.” As if waiting for them to come to just such a conclusion, Darkwood reared up in the darkness, kicking out with his front hooves. He whinnied loudly, his voice carrying far off into the trees, and he bolted south, heading for the path he had originally followed with Aelish. “Then this must be the will of the Animari,” the warrior whispered. They listened to the echo of hoof beats until they faded. “Come,” he turned to the gathering of rebels. “We must return to the city at once. River will have need for us.”

“That Princess only has need for you,” Trace pointed accusingly at Aelish. “We just escaped that damned city,” she glanced at Penna, a silent understanding passing between them. This was not the first time they had run from the Drylands city gates. “If the Black Knight is dead and Willow was swallowed up by the Beast, then she’s got no allies out there, assuming there’s even a way to separate her from that thing.” She parted from Penna and drove a finger forward into the warrior’s chest, pushing him back half a step. “Would you abandon Raven like that?” Aelish let his head drop in shame. His only thoughts had been of the Princess. “Didn’t think so,” Trace let her hand fall. “We’re following the horse. We’re going south.”

“The wyvern can’t carry us all,” Phidi spoke up.

“He doesn’t need to,” Trace looked at the boy, suddenly struck by how much he had grown since she’d seen him last. “But I need you to do something very special.” Phidi’s green eyes lit up, and his forked tongue darted in and out of his mouth. “Jinna and Mara are too little to be involved in this.” She ignored the indignant huff that sounded from Jinna’s direction. “Will you watch over them until we return?”

Penna shot her a warning glance, filled with dread. They both knew that the Ancients and Animari were a dangerous force to be near, but they also acknowledged the risk of leaving the children alone. Penna slipped a protective arm around her little brother’s shoulders. He was doing his best to stand tall and straight. “I will,” he responded. Trace reached into her cloak and pulled out a sharp dagger, handing it to the boy without need for words. He held the knife reverently. Penna hugged the girls tightly, then stood and followed the others into the dark.

Once they were gone, Mara tugged on Phidi’s shirtsleeve. He looked down at her, feeling very tall and full of authority. “Reza didn’t come with us,” she said. “We need to go back.”

“They just told us to stay here,” Jinna argued.

Mara looked at her with a very menacing glare for such a little child. “We’re going back for Reza.”

Standing nearly as tall as Phidi, Jinna reached forward and pushed Mara’s shoulder to indicate who was really in charge. “No, we’re not.”

Phidi felt his authority slipping away at a dangerous speed. He decided he needed to reinforce his leadership. “Stop it,” he separated the girls, then glared at them as best he could. “They left me in charge so you two wouldn’t get hurt.” Jinna tried not to laugh. “But we clearly know more than they think we do,” he went on, soliciting a curious stare from the other two, “and we know how to take care of ourselves.”

“Are you seriously suggesting we go back to that awful place?” Jinna challenged. “Didn’t you see all those Animari? They’ll tear us to pieces!”

Phidi glanced at the wyvern, its hunched form clearly visible in the faint glow of light from the moon behind the clouds. “I think they’ll realize we’re on their side.”




________________________________________________________________________





“You speak devilry, old woman,” Merl spat. He glanced protectively over the shrouded body. “I will do no such thing.”

Ulhetha placed her hand delicately on the shoulder of the barkeep. “I understand your reluctance, Merl, but this is not a matter to argue. You must do as I say. Her body must be burnt.”

They had carried her from Torrent. Merl had held her in his arms for much of the journey. He recalled how Willow had held her cold hand, how she had gazed at the fallen warrior with such love, such affection that it nearly broke his heart in two. He pulled the cloth back and looked at Tara’s pale face. “Even now, Willow is searching for a way to bring her back,” he pleaded.

“And we will give her that way,” Ulhetha pulled the shroud back over Tara’s face. She took Merl’s hands in her own. “Magic is not what most believe it to be. At times it is dark and vile, for it is a balance between the world that you see and another world you cannot imagine. There are laws to this union, and they must be obeyed.” She walked to the wall of the ancient tunnel in which they stood, one of the last remnants of the passage between the cities, and took the flaming torch which had awaited their arrival. The clouds slowly parted, allowing bright moonlight to seep through the gaps in the ceiling above them. The castle had once stood in this very spot, and the stone cavern bore the damage of the Beast’s departure. Ulhetha stood over Tara’s body and closed her eyes. Merl could not understand her words, but he shuddered at their unearthly sound. She dropped the torch, and the shroud erupted in flames.



________________________________________________________________________





The God-king tried to stand on the trembling ground, but it pitched him left and right. He glanced up at the Beast with malice. “You,” he simply said. He knew how this had come to be. The half-breed from the shores of Torrent, he mused. The Beast seethed at him, heat shimmering from its gaping mouth. It did not move like the Animarus he recalled from centuries before. Its eyes were green. “What is to be gained from this?” he shouted at her. “You cannot bring her back.”

Willow smiled, and the Beast laughed low and deep. “You are a fool, Drogan.” The name shook the God-king to his core. He had never heard it spoken in this world, and it stole his breath. “We have power you cannot imagine.”

Drogan reached out a hand to steady himself and crouched low to the ground. His eyes caught movement far away on the darkened horizon. The Beast had its back to the city, and the God-king intended to use this to his advantage. “Power you may possess,” he taunted, “but you will not risk the chance that you would kill the warrior within me with your magic.” The form on the horizon drew nearer. It was moving fast.

The Beast pawed at the ground and snorted. “You do not know what risks I may take.”

“I know that you will not get the chance!” he shouted in victory as he leapt sideways to escape the impact of the giant wolf.

Willow turned just in time to see the outstretched paws close in on them. She landed hard on her back, the earth below giving way as the full weight of the Beast fell upon it. Blood red eyes stared at them from above. Tinari had been released. The wolf snarled and lunged, and Willow felt the power of the Beast take over. It lashed out with a powerful arm, its claws sinking into the bloody fur and flesh of the wolf. The Beast tossed it aside like it was no more than a common dog. It rolled to its feet and towered over the pathetic creature. “You wanted power,” it spoke as it reached for the neck of the wolf. “You wanted domination.” Tinari jumped back onto all four paws, deftly avoiding the grasp of the Beast. He snapped and growled and bent low before he leapt forward again. There was much strength in the giant wolf, but it could not compare to the immense beast, which merely swatted it to the right with a sweeping blow. “But your power is meaningless next to our union.”

Drogan stepped left, then right, each time attempting to stay clear of the fight between the Beast and the giant wolf. Behind him, stones crumbled into the depths of Double Gap. He glanced nervously at the edge, and then grinned with malice at the idea which came to mind. Gathering what remained of his strength, he stood and began to look for the right moment to lunge at the Beast. The wolf was thrown again, and the Beast stood on its hind legs in victory. Drogan leapt forward, but an immense pain swept through his body. He tripped on the ragged earth and fell, gasping for breath as agony rippled through his flesh and bones. Deep inside him, something awoke. He coughed and rolled onto his side, and his eyes blinked rapidly. The pain was nearly too much for him to bear. His right hand slipped up to his face against his will, and it traced the line of his jaw, marveling at the soft beard which descended from ear to chin. His chest inflated, and he exhaled. Drogan was not in control.

The wolf reared back and howled into the night. Its bloody fur stood on end at the sound of its own voice echoing out across the gap. Willow felt the anger in the Beast begin to boil. He had had enough of this foe. It was time to end the fight. The Beast crouched low, preparing to strike where the animal was weakest. His belly was exposed as he howled at the moonlit sky.

Drogan fought to regain control of himself. His mind was clouded, and his vision blurred when he attempted to focus. Without warning, a new voice from within his own chest spoke. “I am not myself,” it whispered. You are nothing! He closed his eyes and focused his mind on the battle within. “I breathe. I feel.” Drogan strained and pulled and fought with all his strength, until his feet obeyed him. He stood and gazed at the Beast once more. “I remember this place,” the voice whispered again, weaker this time. He ignored it.

Tinari lunged, and the Beast met the attack. It sank its claws into the unprotected belly of the animal, flipping its back onto the ground. Together they rolled close to the edge of the gap. The wolf bit the Beast’s shoulder, calling from it a cry of pain. It responded by sinking its teeth into Tinari’s neck. Willow tasted the tainted blood of her enemy, and it made her feel ill. Unaware of the God-king a few paces from them, they did not see him approach. His steps were light and sure, and his plan was carried out with such perfect timing that Willow had only just realized what had occurred as the water of Double Gap rushed up at them. Her eyes met Drogan’s as she, the Beast, and Tinari fell from the cliff’s edge as one.


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 223 posts ]  Go to page Previous  1 ... 4, 5, 6, 7, 8  Next

All times are UTC - 8 hours


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  

W/T Love 24/7 since July 2000
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group