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PostPosted: April 4th, 2009, 11:19 pm 
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"Then a trial is indubitably out of the question," returned Je'id, and rose. "There is nothing else I should know? She spits daggers, perhaps, or sprouts dragonwings?" His eyes drifted to the indistinct bulk looming behind Kendath, and he smiled. "Or am I reduced to waiting in suspense?"

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PostPosted: April 4th, 2009, 11:23 pm 
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"I think not." Kendath sighed. His gaze followed Je'id as the noble climbed to his feet. "You are reduced, as I've said before, to a fool. All that power. And you'd hand it over to Ironlegs, just like that." He shook his head. "And here I thought you cunning."

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PostPosted: April 4th, 2009, 11:30 pm 
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"So sorry," said Je'id, "to disappoint." He flourished a bow. "I take my leave; perhaps your dearly beloved has awakened to provide me with her answer." He paused. "And shall I give her any message? A token of undying devotion, perhaps?"

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PostPosted: April 4th, 2009, 11:35 pm 
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"The pain in my head is now a pain in my a.rse," Kendath replied. "Get out."

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PostPosted: April 4th, 2009, 11:48 pm 
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Je'id laughed. Then he left, taking with him his torch and every mirage of grandeur that hovered just beyond its circle.

On his way out, he stopped. The guard had been tripled. The girl was limp, as before. He leaned against the bars and addressed the healer. "Tell her, when she wakes, that I will kill the assassin if there is white fire. Be sure to tell her."

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PostPosted: April 5th, 2009, 12:17 am 
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Kendath watched Je'id go, watched the circle of torchlight recede to blessed blackness. He waited a beat. Two beats.

Silence.

Kendath collapsed.

He fell, without ceremony, slumping against the wall, not bothering to peel himself from the slime that seeped through his shirt. The damp raked gasping talons down his throat. Water, water, what he'd give for one cup of that pure, sweet thing... The anvil in his head had become a roar, full of hammers and steel.

Merrin.

Gods! Kendath clawed at the stone. What had he said? What had he spoken in blind fury, blind impulse, blind stupidity? It'd been Je'id. Yes. Je'id, the fool, was smiling. He was laughing. He was reaching through the bars, flourishing that wretched torch, and Kendath was seizing his ring-studded fingers and breaking them one by one, snapping them in half, tearing off that smirk and replacing it with a howl of agony...

Merrin at the mercy of the Meiltha.

"Right, you bloody *beep*," Kendath grunted, and heard the shuffling of rags as the inmates stirred to look at him. "Eat me."

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PostPosted: April 5th, 2009, 5:53 pm 
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He was alone, lengthening stride eating up the long, deserted streets, and there was a light high in the windows of the citadel.

A wind blew off the Seiren. White caps foamed in the rapids. Spray drifted up.

On the bridge, he stopped. He did not need to cross the river to return to his chambers in the tower. Warm, candlelit...and there, too, was the enchantress...once again, his fingers were twitching. He stilled them. Here, paths were not mired in the mist of desire.

And yet that thread of melody was not drowned by the rush of waves.

The Seiren dipped and then swelled, exiting the end of the valley with a great explosion over falls and down into empty plains. A map would show it. Weaving the plains and the forest together, ending in the sea. Power. This was nothing, this place jammed in between the foothills, as sorely unwelcome as a broken tooth. And as impotent.

Was Merrin Dragonrider the key?

The assassin had opened doors. Led his mind down untraveled ways, tantalized him with possibilities. He could use the peasant Chosen. Her death closed and locked doors that should stay open. But which?

It was too much. He left the river and climbed the steps to the citadel two by two.

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PostPosted: April 6th, 2009, 12:12 am 
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"You know of its power."

"I know nothing." The statement was truth. Deception was futile, Lord Yulhe had long realized. The artisans of The Sooth could detect falsity in the mere cadence of one's breath. This pseudo-harlot knew not the way, but she knew... much. Too much for a petty sorceress. Uncannily much.

"Ah, so you are but an opportunist." A smile curved her fluted lips. She brushed her hand toward the door, and that gesture was all at once invitation and sensuality and innocence. She lifted an eyebrow. "You see what it is that you might want, might need. You take it."

It was true that Lord Yulhe had detected the Shard's power as soon as he'd lain eyes on it. He'd salvaged it, a gem, from the pile of excrement commonly known as equipment. Such strange people, these travelers, to be carelessly tossing this artifact into their packs. Such yokels. Well, Lord Yulhe had cradled it, hidden it from unworthy eyes, and carried it up to his study. Beautiful it was, and deadly. His intuition had never before failed him.

Until now.

The darkness beyond the door was complete. Lord Yulhe never left any candles burning, lest some imbecilic turn of events topple it and send his life's work up in flames. Indeed, what a life's work it was, for as soon as Lord Yulhe struck a match, the study was illuminated in all its glory - a treasure-trove of knowledge, books upon books upon books soaring to a ceiling high above. They were paper-bound, leather-bound, unbound; tomes and scrolls and mountains of parchment in neat little towers by the walls. His life. His pride.

The woman passed them by with hardly a glance.

Lord Yulhe followed her to his desk, where a single object glittered in the warm candlelight. Her lips parted, her eyes shone as she beheld it. She stared as though her gaze could swallow its glassy surface, could bathe in the smiles of its tempestuous facets. It seemed to wink at them - white one instant, black the next. It was no larger than the palm of Lord Yulhe's hand, yet its crystalline depths could have contained a world.

"Such beauty," Yulhe breathed.

"Such power," the woman amended, and slowly, very slowly, drew her hands together, cupping them over the Shard. She dropped her head. Her hair cascaded over her cheeks, a veil of ebony.

When she pulled away, the Shard was bound by a chain like a thread of moonlight.

"My Ayden," she whispered. "Once more I sacrifice for you." She raised her head. "Place the Shard upon my neck."

Yulhe withdrew. "Why?"

"Because it is sacred. Because the gods hold me in jealousy. Because I cannot touch it. Not yet."

"Why - "

"Obey."

No more would be said. Yulhe grasped the chain, which slid through his fingers like liquid silver. The Shard spun at its end, hypnotic and terrible. With an exhalation that resembled an afflicted man's last breath, he stood on his tiptoes. Slowly, very slowly, he lowered the chain over the woman's head and around her neck.

The Shard descended between the curves of her mahogany breasts. There it rested. There it waited.

Suddenly it flared. White hot, the color of a fallen sun.

The woman screamed.

Yulhe stumbled back. The candle toppled, and in the eruption of flames he could see her, not harlot but hag, bent, her face shriveled in a rictus of agony sublime. Fire licked her silken robes. She clawed at them, tearing them from her shoulders and baring a body that was drier than a sun-wrinkled prune. Again she screamed.

And Yulhe watched her. And Yulhe sensed the cold fingers of his own mortality with curious detachment. And Yulhe knew that his study was burning, that the tomes and scrolls and parchment were dying, that his life was crumbling to ashes before his eyes. And above all, Yulhe realized that none of it mattered anymore - none of it, nothing, ichi achi yanni, the way of The Sooth. All dead. All ashes.

An end to the fear. An end to the cold and the hunger and the fatigue. Now Yulhe was the one laughing, eternally laughing. Haha, dear Master. Haha.

So Yulhe watched her, and he felt a wild lust for her. He desired her, she who was ancient and wise beyond imagining. She who was - and Yulhe knew this as a dying man knows the life flashing before his eyes - irrevocably, irrefutably, a goddess. She would bring him salvation.

She screamed again. This time, a scream of triumph.

It was the last sound Lord Yulhe would ever hear.

-----

That night, as the door opened, Zenaida was especially lovely in her triumph. As before, she was curled on the settee opposite the fireplace. She had changed into a gown of deepest red satin. A single chain encircled her neck, upon which hung a gem undoubtedly unlike any Je'id had ever beheld.

"My lord," she murmured. "Would anything please you?"

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Last edited by Lady Dark Moon on April 6th, 2009, 10:37 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: April 6th, 2009, 12:35 am 
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Warm it was, and inviting, and the candles and the fire made her skin gleam. Je'id closed the door, and his fingers wanted to linger at the cold metal of the latch. Essaying across the room felt like wildly searching for port in a storm.

The parchment was stiff with spilled wine. Blotchy red half-obscured the face. He rescued it, held it to the light.

"I have it," he said, and he turned, and a mere lapse of concentration found him upon the chaise opposite her, leaning forward, heresy, blasphemy, treason beneath his splayed fingers on the table. "I have her. What should I demand for a price? From the High General, from the Meiltha? What can I demand? Or...is it folly to throw away power...what power? White fire? If I knew!" He pounded a fist upon the parchment. His eyes moved up, along the lines of the crimson gown, up to where it plunged down...what would please him?

No! "Where is Yulhe? I want his counsel."

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PostPosted: April 6th, 2009, 10:46 am 
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"Is it my duty to keep up with the likes of that mind-bender?" Zenaida snapped.

An instant later she was calm, purring. She stretched herself on the settee. "If I were you," she said, with silken languor, "I would demand everything. Anything you like. What wouldn't the High General give for the Chosen of the Gods?" Her hand wandered down to the cut of her gown, where the Shard rested upon her dusky skin. "He's coming, you know. Soon. Very soon. I would set a high price. Although," she added, suddenly inspired, "suppose she were a charlatan. From where do you think she draws her power?"

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PostPosted: April 6th, 2009, 2:33 pm 
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"She claims it is the gods, as you know," said Je'id slowly. "This is not the work of a petty magician. I saw the white fire; no pretender could have done it, and not one so young. The power, I think, is real." And if it were truly the gods? The impotent gods?

"It hardly matters," he said, thinking aloud. "She dies here, by my hand, for treason and heresy, or the High General likely kills her with some method of his own devising. She is human; whatever the gods may have done, they have not granted her invulnerability."

And yet...what was it the assassin had said? All that power. "And why would Ironlegs pay so much?" he asked. "He is coming? When?"

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PostPosted: April 6th, 2009, 8:53 pm 
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"Before nightfall tomorrow," Zenaida replied, then leaned forward. "You must give him a show, my lord, a show worthy of not only the High General, but also the Bloodstone Court and all the masses of Rival Falls. For Merrin Dragonrider is the gods. You must march her through the streets, humiliate her, grind her beneath your heel. Only then will the gods die, and only then will the Renegades truly be yours."

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PostPosted: April 7th, 2009, 3:03 pm 
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"Mine," breathed Je'id. Lord of Vryngard? He would be Supreme Lord, and down the Seiren to the sea all would know the name Je'id Regaelian...

And the cost was nothing but a peasant dragonrider.

He laughed. "Yes. They will all be mine." He held victory. He tasted it, he saw it in the vermilion glow of the the firelit chamber, he smelled it...more, as she bent towards him, and she was right. Of course she was right. It was perfect.

So, too, was she; and Je'id found that it was impossible to keep his fingers from drifting down the plunge of her neckline. He thought the jewel on its chain seared his fingertips.

By then he had already forgotten.

---

When Merrin woke up, dawn had broken. She knew because of the way the pale light, crosshatched by lines, turned a lone square of damp stone floor a faint milky color. It was overcast outside. There had been torches, she thought, but they had died. The same light glittered on old armor.

Because of that, she sat up very slowly, watching for signs of the guards' wakefulness, and moved to sit against the back wall and wrap her arms around her knees. Merrin took a long, deep breath.

"Adeila," she whispered, "are you awake?"

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PostPosted: April 7th, 2009, 10:27 pm 
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Adeila silently nodded in confirmation. Yes, she was awake. She'd scarcely slept since they'd been thrown into this miserable cell, partly due to discomfort and partly due to her mind refusing to rest. She was not so naive as to think that everything was as simple as white and black, good and evil, but she'd thought she supported the Renegades. She'd heard tales of their cause since she was a girl. Those she had met seemed decent enough, certainly better than the smaller sampling of Meiltha. The Renegades, if anyone, should have been able to identify a servant of the gods.

And they'd drugged her, then thrown her in a cell to await trial for heresy.

"They will not be asleep for much longer," she said quietly, indicating the guards with a nod of her head. "I was beginning to wonder when you might wake up. How are you feeling?"

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PostPosted: April 8th, 2009, 12:01 pm 
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Merrin pressed her fingertips - and their coldness against her skin shocked her - to her temples. Her head and heartbeat pounded nearly in unison. Her cheekbone was tender to the touch, and she wondered if there was a bruise.

"I - I don't know," she said. "My head..." Her hands were scraped. She stared at them. She'd fallen, yes, fallen to the cobblestones, and then the storm of white had turned black. Her mind brushed the white fire. Merrin nearly lost what little was in her stomach. "Hungry. Thirsty," she said, tipping her head back against the wall, closing her eyes. "And my head hurts. What will happen when they wake?"

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PostPosted: April 8th, 2009, 6:45 pm 
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"I know little more than you do," Adeila admitted, joining Merrin against the back wall. "The young lord - Je'id? - did ask to be informed once you awoke, but I've no idea what his intentions were. They can sleep a little longer, if you wish."

Falling silent, she examined the scrapes on Merrin's hands. That wasn't so bad, but even the echo of the throbbing in the young woman's head was nearly unbearable. Almost all of her supplies had been confiscated with her pack, regrettably, but it was a very small task. Closing her eyes, she focused on the throbbing, tried to reduce it to a dull ache. As far as she could tell, she was at least partly successful.

"Who is this...Je'id? If he is a leader of the Renegades, shouldn't he of all people should be listening to you?"

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