Rules      FAQ       Register        Login
It is currently December 11th, 2017, 8:59 pm

All times are UTC - 5 hours [ DST ]




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 2363 posts ]  Go to page Previous  1 ... 143, 144, 145, 146, 147, 148  Next
Author Message
 Post subject:
PostPosted: April 9th, 2009, 12:41 am 
Tolkien Scholar
Tolkien Scholar
User avatar

Joined: 01 June 2006
Posts: 8449
Location: Adragonback

Offline
A great sigh escaped her, and the ache in Merrin's head evaporated to a faint drumming throb. "Thank you," she said, opening her eyes.

There was stirring among the raggedly liveried guards. Two wore Renegade sunbursts, emblazoned on their overtunics, and the third was nondescript. His fingers still curled loosely about a flask.

Merrin tore her gaze away. She'd had a sunburst; the clasp of her cloak. "The Renegade nobles are all corrupt," she said, keeping to a whisper. "I didn't know either. Not until I came to Vryngard. Je'id...Je'id wants power. That's all. He's never cared for the gods, not since I've known him." Her cloak was failing to warm her against the deep-rooted chill of the stone. Merrin shivered and went on, even quieter. "Before we met you, at the siege of Vryngard - before it fell - I was in the Meiltha camp. I saw him there. He's no more a true Renegade than Ironlegs himself. Hardly any are. I don't think -"

A sound. Merrin turned.

One of the guards in livery froze in the act of getting to his feet. His gaze stuttered to a halt and fixed on hers. A second - two - of silence. Then he whirled to leap the first three steps and disappear.

"I don't think he cares," finished Merrin, subdued. "Not as long as he gets what he wants."

_________________
Image


Top
 Profile       WWW            
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: April 10th, 2009, 1:15 pm 
A-U's Official Tolkien Scholar
A-U's Official Tolkien Scholar
User avatar

Joined: 03 June 2005
Posts: 5928

Offline
Adeila said nothing, drawing her cloak tighter against the early morning chill. She still felt utterly lost. She was a village healer - she had no place among ambitious lords, false accusations, stone prisons. Every new development seemed to push them further and further away from what she knew. It was in her nature to try to fix things, but how could she when she scarcely even knew how it was supposed to be?

She found herself wishing Svit were still with them at the moment. He'd escaped in the commotion of the previous night, which was fortunate, but she needed him. He wasn't merely a pet, as most people tended to think. He was her closest friend, her only familiar source of comfort since leaving home. She needed someone who did not expect her to always be the serene, self-assured healer.

"Do you know where they might be keeping the others?" she asked softly after checking to see if the guards were listening. "I've heard nothing about Garthag, but Je'id implied that they have Kendath somewhere."

_________________
<center><><
Image</center>


Top
 Profile       WWW     YIM        
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: April 10th, 2009, 9:23 pm 
Tolkien Scholar
Tolkien Scholar
User avatar

Joined: 01 June 2006
Posts: 8449
Location: Adragonback

Offline
"Ah!" said Je'id when the soldier sidled into the hollow bowels of the citadel's hall to stand at a loose attention. Then, to the cook, "just a moment. Yes?"

This one was tipsy. His attempt at attention was several degrees off. "Uh," he started, blinking. "The girl. Aye, my lord, an' you asked us to tell you when -"

"Excellent. Dismissed." Je'id swiveled and brought his hands together. The clap echoed. "I'm afraid you'll have to excuse me. I want every delicacy in the stores on my table tonight, hmm?"

The man wore spectacles, and was forever removing them to rub at the glass with a corner of his apron. At this, he jammed them back on and his already magnified eyes grew wider. "Ah, ah, yes, my lord, but if I may ask after the occasion -?"

Je'id was already gone.

His morning had proceeded delightfully. "Yes, my lord," this and "certainly, my lord," that. The banners were nearly hung; the food would be exquisite or heads by the dozen would roll; altogether, every festivity Rival Falls could muster was, by his decree, to present itself at its most brilliant.

None of this, however, mattered.

What mattered...and after a moment or two of darting through streets and a glance at the half-hung banners of crimson shot through with gold adorning the citadel, he faced again the grate barring the dim recesses of dungeon. Everything was prepared for his illustrious guest of honor. Including the lock and key.

What mattered was this. Her. He grinned and descended.

---

Merrin didn't know anything. She could not have told where Kendath was; imprisoned, injured, dead. Her stomach roiled. Where are you? she demanded of that void where the fire should have been. I don't know what to do!

How long had it been since Adeila had spoken? Merrin mutely shook her head. She was lost, blind.

It was the stirring of the two men remaining, and footsteps on the narrow stair, that snapped her to her feet. This time, this time she would not be treated like a criminal, this time she would make him listen -

"Ah, she wakes!" Je'id approached the bars languidly, flashing a grin that was white in the dimness. "Can you manage civility now, perhaps?" he purred. "You have not much in the way of manners, Merrin Dragonrider. Magic unleashed before hostilities have half begun!" He clicked his tongue. "Tsk, tsk."

Merrin raised her chin. "I am as civil as you," she said, and she would have dearly loved to fling fire. "Civility is not a dungeon. We are not criminals."

"Quite right," he agreed unexpectedly, nodding. "I am come, in fact, to escort you to more - suitable - quarters." He held up a key between thumb and forefinger, and again that languid smile curled. "Then shall we, perhaps, be on more favorable terms?"

Merrin looked from the key to his face, back still to the wall, one palm pressed flat on the stone. The other was sweaty. "What about - my companions?" she said.

A sigh. "Well," said Je'id, "after your little demonstration with the fire, I consider it not unreasonable collateral that they remain here."

"How do I know they are safe?" demanded Merrin.

His eyebrows lifted. "Rein in the fire, and I promise you nothing will harm them."

There was silence. They measured each other. "I don't trust you," said Merrin finally, softly.

He inclined his head. "Nor I you, little Chosen."

She glanced at Adeila, biting her lip. No, Je'id, I won't. I won't go with you. Then what? Then huddling indefinitely in a stone prison like the criminal they called her?

"All right," she said. "I'll go."

When the bars closed again, this time only on Adeila, Je'id offered his arm with a grace that had once disarmed her. Merrin had to scrub a sweaty palm on her breeches.

"Why so nervous?" he bent to murmur in her ear, when they climbed into sunlight. It was beginning to cleanse the sky of its veil of clouds.

Merrin stiffened. "Why don't you guess," she said, looking anywhere but at him. Now they were walking through the courtyard to the doors of the citadel. Hangings, red and gold, softened the hard contours of the stone. She twisted to look behind them. The same, on the walls. There was a frenzied undercurrent to the people, rushing into the hall, rushing down the steps, half running through the streets.

"That business with the ten thousand gold, perhaps?" he said.

Merrin jerked out a nod. "Perceptive," she flung at him.

"Now, now."

In the hall, too, she watched a cloth - white - flutter over a single long table. "Why?" she said. "I'm a dragonrider. You know that as well as any. I've done nothing!"

"Then a trial will prove it, no? And here we are."

Up in the corridors above the vaulted ceilings of the hall, he pushed open double doors and flourished a gesture. "My lady dragonrider."

On entering Merrin had an impression of crimson and velvet and silver. At one end of the chamber, an ornate screen half-hid a steaming basin of bathwater. On a low table, there was a tray covered by a cloth, and Merrin's stomach made a complaint. Her feet ached for the plush carpet. There was a bed, canopied, pillows strewn half over it...

Je'id laughed. "I leave you to it."

"What about Kendath - and Adeila?" said Merrin. Her mouth was watering horribly. "Please, Je'id, we've been traveling and we're tired and I promise -"

The lock clicked. She whirled.

"Je'id?" Footsteps outside. Merrin seized the handle of the door. "Je'id!" She wrenched on it; nothing gave. "Wait! Where are you going? What about -"

A low chuckle from outside. Merrin listened, quivering.

"Still so naive?" he said. "Played like a fiddle, little Chosen. Remember. No white fire, or they die."

Her breath caught in her throat. His footsteps receded. Her heart fluttered wildly. "No! Ah, gods, you *beep*!" She flung herself on the solid oak, beat at it with her fists until they hurt, yelled and shouted into the echoing silence. It gave no answer.

When she ached with the futility, Merrin crumpled to a pile on the floor, back to the door. Her hands were shaking. All over, she was shaking. She curled her knees to her chest.

"Where are you?" she whispered. Not to Je'id. "I don't know what to do."

_________________
Image


Top
 Profile       WWW            
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: April 11th, 2009, 11:29 pm 
Mageling
Mageling
User avatar

Joined: 03 July 2005
Posts: 9846
Location: city that never sleeps

Offline
That morning, she was wearing a lavender gown with a frilly bodice and a girdle of fresh daisies. Both bodice and girdle protested her lips, which were painted a crimson several shades darker than blood. Those lips were now puckered in a very pretty pout.

"To the right - the right, you twit! Gods above and below, are you blind?"

The servant was perched atop a precarious ladder at the far end of the cubby that called itself the dining hall. Balanced between his hands was a larger-than-life portrait of Je'id Regaelian. He was attempting to hang it on the wall behind the throne exclusively reserved for the Lord of Rival Falls, lest the identity of aforementioned Lord ever slip anyone's mind.

"No, too far!" Zenaida shrieked. "Left now - left - before I rip your head from your shoulders!"

He lunged to the left and nearly toppled off the ladder. The light dripped through the squinting windows and onto his scowl. He was so skinny that he could have entangled himself in the top rungs, so dirty that dust dribbled into his wrinkles and resided there. What delight! Zenaida thought, and twirled a lock of ebony hair around her finger as she watched. More laborers had arrived now to steady the ladder. Like skeletons they were, slowly decaying from within, scarcely better sights than rotting corpses. At least rotting corpses didn't pule, and rotting corpses didn't reek of sweat and unwashed filth. Exile did not become the Renegades well. Ironlegs would have an easy time here.

"My lord!" she said, turning to see Je'id swagger through the giant portals. Like a duck he was, with that overblown cape and doublet of his. Swagger, swagger, swagger. She swept him a low - quite low - bow. "For what illustrious guest of honor do we prepare?"

_________________
Image


Top
 Profile       WWW            
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: April 12th, 2009, 6:06 pm 
Tolkien Scholar
Tolkien Scholar
User avatar

Joined: 01 June 2006
Posts: 8449
Location: Adragonback

Offline
"Guests. They are twofold," said the living version of the portrait, wasting no time in insinuating an arm around the perfect hourglass of her waist. Together they regarded the sweating labourers, looking down from lofty heights upon the common scum, as went the tradition of centuries. "My scouts tell me the venerated High General will approach with the dusk; and the Chosen of the Gods will grace us with her presence, despite, I think, her wishes to the contrary."

He smiled, not seeing his own garish face, nor the innards of the hall, but another vision entirely. "And may I ask that you ensure she is properly dressed for such an occasion?"

_________________
Image


Top
 Profile       WWW            
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: April 12th, 2009, 11:32 pm 
Mageling
Mageling
User avatar

Joined: 03 July 2005
Posts: 9846
Location: city that never sleeps

Offline
"Of course," Zenaida replied. "But ah, my dear... what have you told them?" And by them she meant the irritable them, the imbecilic them, the them that'd been a stitch in her side ever since she'd showed up on that stormy night, meting out her damsel in distress by the smiles. The Renegade Council.

_________________
Image


Top
 Profile       WWW            
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: April 13th, 2009, 6:59 pm 
Tolkien Scholar
Tolkien Scholar
User avatar

Joined: 01 June 2006
Posts: 8449
Location: Adragonback

Offline
"I meet with them this afternoon," said Je'id, his smirk not slipping an inch. "They will be irritable, I imagine," he continued, gesturing with his free hand as though sweeping away an insect. "But how can they object? If we do not make peace, the Meiltha hosts will trample Rival Falls into the ground. I will offer them peace - an alliance - at a trifling cost. Even the most naive still fear for their lives."

_________________
Image


Top
 Profile       WWW            
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: April 14th, 2009, 8:29 pm 
Mageling
Mageling
User avatar

Joined: 03 July 2005
Posts: 9846
Location: city that never sleeps

Offline
Zenaida nodded, then spun around at a crash from the opposite end of the hall. Someone had dropped the candle chandelier.

There was a storm of curses. A flurry of movement as the servants scuttled to cut their fingers on the broken glass. Another orgy of darting to and fro, to and fro, a frenzy of burlap robes as the servants stole glances over their shoulders. Someone caught sight of Je'id.

"You must attend to them, my lord," Zenaida sighed. She snaked her hands up Je'id's chest and, tilting her head so that her hair tumbled down her back in an ebony cascade, kissed him ever so sweetly on the mouth. For a calculated moment she nibbled on his lower lip before stroking her own lips along his cheek, to his ear. She stood on tiptoes. "The High General comes before sundown. Ready yourself."

She pushed herself away abruptly, scornfully. Prior to departing the hall, she commanded the larger-than-life portrait of Je'id Regaelian moved. You twit. A little bit more to the right.

-----

Much later (much, much later), she was wearing a black gown and circlet of silver. Her hair cascaded in a study of elaborate braids down her back. Jasmine - heavenly love - brushed her steps. The strange gem hung from her neck. Glittering. Mesmerizing. Like a crystalline teardrop.

Zenaida glided to a stop in the guest wing of Rival Falls. She knocked - three knocks, soft and elegant. "Merrin?"

_________________
Image


Top
 Profile       WWW            
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: April 15th, 2009, 6:41 pm 
Tolkien Scholar
Tolkien Scholar
User avatar

Joined: 01 June 2006
Posts: 8449
Location: Adragonback

Offline
It wasn't working.

Merrin pressed her palms flat against her temples. Her hands were hot and slick with sweat and a storm was roiling in her skull. One more try. Just one more try. She screwed her eyes closed. Please. Please.

Oblivion dripped through her fingers. The black exploded into fireworks that seared the insides of Merrin's eyelids and made lightning spear into the maelstrom in her skull. White! she pleaded. I know it's there - I KNOW -

A thunderclap stunned her.

Merrin opened her eyes and found tears rolling steadily down her cheeks, dripping into her lap unchecked. She gulped a breath, dashed a sleeve across her eyes, gathered together the broken pieces of her concentration from every corner of the void, but the iron bands tightening around her head defied another try. Instead she curled into a ball in the middle of the vast bed, a drab bird nesting among purple silk and thread-of-gold and sumptuous cushions in all the hues of the rainbow.

She'd bathed. She'd eaten. She'd clung to the windowsill and felt her heart hammer out every footstep of every soldier in the impossible host marching over the flatlands. Then she had seated herself, cross-legged, bare-footed, damp hair loose down her back, and she had called the fire.

And still there was no answer, and she was alone, utterly alone.

Merrin dragged herself to the window and leaned her forehead against cool stone while she looked out on the sunset-bathed panorama. She tried to count the innumerable glitters of the sun on the points of spears, arrayed below Rival Falls. She refused to let the name sound even in her consciousness.

Ironlegs.

She didn't move when she heard the knock. She listened to her name, a hand tightening to bloodless fingertips on the sill, and then turned. "It's locked," she said. Then, tongue tangling the words, "Who is it?"

_________________
Image


Top
 Profile       WWW            
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: April 15th, 2009, 8:22 pm 
Mageling
Mageling
User avatar

Joined: 03 July 2005
Posts: 9846
Location: city that never sleeps

Offline
"Zenaida," said she of that name. She cocked her head to the door. Dreary sulkiness answered her ears. She twirled on a finger the room's key, and sighed. "The High General will be here soon, Merrin. We must make you presentable. May I come in?"

_________________
Image


Top
 Profile       WWW            
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: April 16th, 2009, 1:06 am 
Tolkien Scholar
Tolkien Scholar
User avatar

Joined: 01 June 2006
Posts: 8449
Location: Adragonback

Offline
The sun flamed on Merrin's back. She imagined the spearpoints, the helmets, the shields. When she closed her eyes, the starless darkness chilled.

"Yes," she whispered. She opened her eyes and drew her sleeve across them. Repeated it, louder. "Yes. You may."

_________________
Image


Top
 Profile       WWW            
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: April 16th, 2009, 5:51 pm 
Mageling
Mageling
User avatar

Joined: 03 July 2005
Posts: 9846
Location: city that never sleeps

Offline
The door opened, and Zenaida the harlot sashayed into the room, attended by two servants who bore a chest between them. At a gesture, the pair lowered the chest to the floor. At another gesture, they made themselves scarce. Zenaida shut the door. She and Merrin were alone.

Zenaida let her gaze drift to the stale bath, the unkempt bed, the mashed bread crumbs on the table. She let her lip curl just enough, she knew, to accentuate the crimson contours of her mouth. Her gaze slid over the window without break. She cared nothing for the Meiltha hordes stomping across the valley. At last she allowed her eyes to settle upon the Chosen.

You're it?

The words hung smirking in the air. Zenaida appraised the girl a moment longer, then bent to open the chest at her feet. It was oak with gold filigree. Inside was a veritable mountain of gowns. Silk and pearls and lace, the last memory of smooth ladies seated before sparkling mirrors. Their twitters were woven into the thread, their perfume dusted upon the fabric. The fires of Vryngard still lived in the shimmering brocade.

"Take your pick," Zenaida said. "Peasants die by the dozen in the streets, but you, Merrin, shall wear the finest that Rival Falls has to offer."

_________________
Image


Top
 Profile       WWW            
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: April 19th, 2009, 11:25 pm 
Tolkien Scholar
Tolkien Scholar
User avatar

Joined: 01 June 2006
Posts: 8449
Location: Adragonback

Offline
Transfixed, Merrin bent, and cold silk drifted through her fingers like clouds. It breathed the worn scents of perfume and candlelight. She looked up.

Immutable violet eyes, like nothing so much as iron, ripped away defiance and crushed it.

"Why?" asked Merrin, kneeling, feeling fabric swirl around her hands, brushing seed pearls and embroidery with her fingertips. Goosebumps prickled on her arms and a shiver like cold rain trickled down her spine. The scent would not rub off on her breeches. Merrin wanted to get up, stand and back away.

But she knelt there, hands entangled, and for it she hated herself. Without looking up, "What is he going to do to me?"

_________________
Image


Top
 Profile       WWW            
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: April 20th, 2009, 5:05 pm 
Mageling
Mageling
User avatar

Joined: 03 July 2005
Posts: 9846
Location: city that never sleeps

Offline
Zenaida shrugged, as if it mattered to her not at all. "How does this one become you?" She lifted a gown in a swirl of satin. Appraised it. "Regal red. The color of blood. Yes, it becomes you quite well. Do you like it?"

As if Merrin had a choice.

It took exactly two hours and thirteen minutes to transform the girl into something that would fail, even remotely, to curdle the eyes. First, she had to be rebathed. Zenaida snatched a pair of serving wenches to draw up a hot bath, into which the Chosen was promptly dunked in the company of cosmic quantities of soap. A bowl of bath oil later, the serving wenches plopped her before the dresser to tackle the dead squirrel upon her head. Two combs sacrificed their lives before Zenaida declared the job done.

Next came the niceties. Kohl on the eyes for mystery, rouge on the lips for seduction. Rubies to enflame the heart, and lavender to soothe the mind. When all was finished, Merrin was guided to the mirror. Her reflection painted her a goddess in a crimson cascade, august in stature and perfect in every way.

And Zenaida, a harlot of the Nelpha Isles which specialized in beautiful women, was satisfied.

She smiled as she threaded one last embellishment into the copper hair. A silver headdress, upon which hung a needle encased in a fiery ruby. Flame and Thorn. But even the headdress, so bright in the mirror, found itself surpassed by the glittering star on Zenaida's neck. The Celestial Shard.

"The gods have abandoned you," she said softly.

_________________
Image


Top
 Profile       WWW            
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: April 20th, 2009, 7:50 pm 
Tolkien Scholar
Tolkien Scholar
User avatar

Joined: 01 June 2006
Posts: 8449
Location: Adragonback

Offline
Merrin flinched away. "No," she said, but it sounded hollow. It sounded as though she were drowning in the foreigner in the mirror. All that was left was to meet her own eyes, looking out from the face of a painted doll that was not Merrin, meet her own eyes and cling to the last shred of her soul. "Why?" she asked again, turning her back to the mockery of herself. "Oh, gods, please, only tell me -"

A sparkle in the hollow of the other woman's throat froze her tongue. A glitter.

The flat of her hand met the mirror's cold surface and she pressed against it, fighting for breath like one drowning. "That's mine," she gasped, unable to tear her eyes away. "Mine - how dare you -"

Something about the dark-skinned woman was like a hawk over a field mouse. Merrin struck away the instinct to quail under that gaze. She'd died. Died. "Give it back!"

And in desperation she flung herself forward, fingers grasping.

_________________
Image


Top
 Profile       WWW            
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: April 20th, 2009, 8:57 pm 
Mageling
Mageling
User avatar

Joined: 03 July 2005
Posts: 9846
Location: city that never sleeps

Offline
"Veritably," Zenaida said, "it was given to the healer, before which it was taken by the mage, in succession to its severance from the Celestial Eye, but if you really must be a twit, it belongs to the gods."

She stepped back with unnatural ease, and Merrin, thrown off-balance by her gown, stumbled right past her. She flicked a glance at the serving wenches. "Summon the guards. She must be escorted to the dining hall. It is almost time."

_________________
Image


Top
 Profile       WWW            
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 2363 posts ]  Go to page Previous  1 ... 143, 144, 145, 146, 147, 148  Next

All times are UTC - 5 hours [ DST ]




Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 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

Jump to:  
cron




Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group
Boyz theme by Zarron Media 2003