Book III: Foreword

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For all the futures left behind,
in the name of one we chase.

New Readers Consider: The Story So Far: Book II

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There is a saying, that blood buys time.  Not an overly kind sentiment, but true, by most historic record.  An enemy beaten bloody, will lay down, and stop fighting.  One way or another.  A conqueror successfully defied, will give pause.  Insure victory in the next contest.  Millions dead.  Well, that might just buy generations of tentative peace.

The blood of a forsaken heir, decades.  That of innocents and malcontents.  A few years.  The blood of a wedding night, and a child, a few more.  The death of twelve souls; a Queen, a Council Mage, and an adorned knight, slow the inevitable crawl of bureaucracy.  Slow, but not stop.

Prophecy has divided twins.  Changed them into women of night and day.  Worry and disquiet driven a further wedge, and distance between them.  Fate still spirals around the Ashtons, but blood, has bought time.  Even if all the world feels a gnawing call.  An urgency, like time is running out.

Five years have passed.  Tiny Avrale remains isolated from the wider world.  No direct communication with Mordove.  Limited trade as caravan masters think twice before intruding on uncertain grounds.  A Court Mage, still stands in the long and now mysterious absence of her mentor.  The center cannot hold.  The world itches to move on.

In such perilous times, it would be far too easy to declare Avrale in violation of treaty.  Sacrifice her in appeasement of Osyrae’s hunger for conquest.  The Council, is after all, dedicated to peace, not war.  No one is sure what kind of escalation would finally cross an ever rising threshold for intervention.  For in truth, if one discounts the unproven, they have not openly broken the treaty.

Forces are shifting.  Bandits plague lands that have always been quiet.  An Archdruid moves like a dignitary.  The Storm Queen has closed her borders, as an impossible tree can be seen to rises above southern horizons.  Nohlend denies being under siege by Sylvan forces.  The free cities have fallen.  Refugees from the north, perilously cross deep ocean lanes to seek, shelter in Carth, and spill over into Wesrook.

Yet life, indifferent to the shadows of a war that never quite comes, carries on.  What can three gifted souls do, in the face of armies, dragons, and prophecies that offer no answers.  Only beg terrifying questions.

Chapter III:1

Her name was Katrisha –
daughter of the moonlight and the winter frost,
Court Mage of Avrale, and a woman of Lycian faith.

In but a few scarce years of her youth,
she fought a dragon, and nearly won,
knew true love, and most plainly lost.
No less than twice stood at death’s door,
yet these things, were only her beginning.

– The Mage of Avrale, Mercu Peregrine

The Turning of Pages

Vhalun 22nd, 655 E.R.

An unseasonable spring snow fell that morning. A thick blanket that washed color from the valley, and topped the parapets of Broken Hill in caps of white. It was the sort of morning that invited a leisurely pace. Stirred a sense of calm. A desire to linger near hearth, and other warm refuge. High in the westward tower of the castle. Above steep stone cliffs and shimmering waters. A woman of great and terrible power worked subtle magic, to profound effect. She bore the snow little mind. Though it was often among her favorite things. Other wonders had her full and rapt attention.

Continue reading “Chapter III:1”

Chapter III:2

The gift endures in soul-ward order,
the material marches on toward decay,
the flesh a fickle beastly carnivore,
the path endures if we do not stray,

great spells give way to entropy,
even suns before it cannot endure,
yet the aether burns above eternal,
to temporary desires become inured.

– The Clarion Call, Saint Darius, circa 130 B.E.

Artifacts

Vhalun 23rd, 655 E.R.

Katrisha opened her study door, and considered the overly tall bundle the man outside held. She gestured in, and Xander carried the package taller than him to the central table. He set it before Kiannae, and barely spared a curious glance to the massive orrery overhead. It was not an easy sight to look way from on first sight.

Continue reading “Chapter III:2”

Chapter III:3

Oh proud ‘n fertile North,
in times of war ‘n strife,
oh those of plow ‘n soil,
did turn to steel ‘n fire,

there defend a noble land,
unbreakable wills did show,
yet pains of life left behind,
can be hard as war to know.

– Writings of Sir Ashton, circa 160 E.R.

Weathered Stones

Vhalun 39th, 655 E.R.

Katrisha sat in her window seat, peering out over the snow dusted valley below. The spring continued to languish in winter, and the next caravan east would be delayed at least another week. Giving her time to doubt. Avrale had always been her home. Be it castle, cloister, or a farm she could barely recall. She wiped away a tear as a knock at her chamber door startled her from endless regressions. Continue reading “Chapter III:3”

Chapter III:4

Oh watch your words wisely,
oh do stay your offered hand,
don’t shake till it’s quite settled,
in bargains there are no friends,

watch the eyes they tell tales,
watch the lips they always lie,
those clever like to think they are,
restrained smirks seeming shy.

oh some deals you cannot lose,
oh often this is the earnest sale,
don’t give up the upper hand,
you could get more, do not fail.

– The Haggle, Alexander Durandal, circa 390 E.R.

Bargains

Coria 12th, 655 E.R.

In the Grey Lamb tavern, on the eastern end of the village of Brokhal. No eyes were upon a woman with deep red hair, and striking bronze skin. She resided by herself at a small table, in a quiet corner. Her only company a few scattered tankards of ale. It was a busy night, and every table was full, save hers. Surely this striking Osyraen woman, sitting alone, should have drawn some attention. If only for a place to sit, if not suspicion. Yet the patrons seemed oblivious to her presence.

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Chapter III:5

A line which is straight and doth not cross,
masters claim may touch a circle but once,
such minds enlightened by Aclaedian reason,
presume the fallacy of domains flat and even,

oh march unerring ahead, ‘pon a worldly globe,
let not ocean nor mountain force thy to roam,
walk straight and narrow this true noble path,
there come again to thy beginning at last,

oh look out there from whence you did start,
imagine straight lines from the surface to part,
see the paradox is not but faulty perspective,
the tangent, the circle, all together connected.

– The Circadian Path, 113 E.R.

Archtangent

There was still melting snow in the high pass, miles above Brokhal. Not an expected stop, and yet the wagon rolled to a halt. Kiannae sat up, and pulled back the curtains on a side window. Cries echoed down the pass, and as she strained to hear the repetitions grew closer. “Broken axle,” the driver called from the front, and the calls continued down the line.

“Three miles.” Katrisha sighed.

Continue reading “Chapter III:5”

Chapter III:6

Of the company of merchants,
much could right ‘n truly be said,
half contrary ‘n misleading,
the rests destitute or dead,

no better the company they keep,
sell swords oft of lowest caliber,
yet without it the wheels would stop,
and every fortune would be poorer.

– Councilman Ashander I, circa 450 E.R.

The East Road

“So, how was the old farm?” Samantha asked with reservation as a silver haired woman tried to storm past her.

“Oh, the usual,” Katrisha spun, and glared at her. “Ancient ghosts. Fulfillment of millennia old prophecy. Love conquers all. Except for me of course. I die alone at the end of the world,” She turned on her heal again, marched past, and slammed a wagon door behind her.

Continue reading “Chapter III:6”

Chapter III:7

The wolf is the pack,
the pack is the blood,
blood skillfully taken,
to feed their young.

The ram is the heard,
the horn and the hoof,
every lamb she defends,
each honored and good.

The serpent is lurking,
the smallest his pray,
the largest he fears,
by hoof kept at bay.

The mother is watching,
with crook tends her flock,
the child she is growing,
with lamb head doth knock.

Take what is yours,
take all that you can,
stay not the young sheep,
grow proud as the ram.

The Flock, circa 600 B.E.

Order Midst Chaos

The caravan started to move. Katrisha had enchanted each wagon, providing a barrier that would slow incoming arrows, hopefully to harmless speeds, and likely short of their mark. She was regretting it. The effort had left a weariness in her bones, even with her staff aiding her. Kiannae had tried to help, but her skills were not as sharp with conventional magic anymore, and her methods too intensive. Her own reserves taxed form healing.

It wasn’t good. None of it was good, and the caravan was moving much faster than it could sustain. Trying to make a town before nightfall. Wren was curled up to Katrisha’s shoulder seeking comfort. She was taking easily as much from his presence. Kiannae sat across from them, reserved, eyes closed, reaching out with her senses in every direction. Continue reading “Chapter III:7”

Chapter III:8

Watch your gait,
keep your stride,
move with the pack,
stay alive.

Watch your gait,
keep your stride,
circle the heard,
stay alive.

Watch your gait,
keep your stride,
scatter the pack,
feed tonight.

– Common Osyraen military training chant, circa 20 E.R.

Honor Among Wolves

It gave Mercu little comfort that he seemed to be fairing marginally better than his pursuers. An accomplishment given his injuries. Though faster in a sprint the men seemed less agile, and even light armor was clearly fatiguing them compared to light traveling clothes. Except the scrawny one, he was a problem.

Continue reading “Chapter III:8”

Chapter III:9

We strike such bargains,
twixt great lords ‘n kin,
uphold unspoken oaths,
our every failure a sin,

oh the bonds we hold,
their number unknown,
the chains that bind us,
become hearth ‘n home,

least free of all are these,
lords and ladies enshrined,
laws on page or implied,
these prisons built by time.

– Prince Marcus, circa 120 E.R.

The Bonds We Keep

Coria 34th, 655 E.R.

A wagon triple hitched for speed rolled, creaked, and rocked along a forest road in the dead of night. A guard of five on horseback, and three wolves kept pace with the dangerous cargo. Two mages stood in shifts within. It had been the same tense silence since leaving most of the caravan behind. A brief stop at Ashford had lasted only long enough to change out the horses, and ride on. Common prisoners the constable could have handled, but Cadith. There was only one thing for it, speed. With the hope they could reach the capital before he could break free.

Continue reading “Chapter III:9”