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Chapter 8
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Ravenwing



Joined: 18 May 2004
Posts: 3750
Location: Virginia

Posted: Mon Jan 09, 2006 6:47 pm    Post subject: Chapter 8  

Story so far: Desmond has traveled far since leaving his home village. Found by Lord Renef, Desmond traveled to the Capital in hopes of preparing himself for his revenge against his brother Icrius, who had raided the village. But murder and false accusations forces Desmond to flee the Capital into the forest. What was meant to be a rescue turns into a revealing of what could be the true origin of Sanae. A strange woman, who is the perfect lookalike to Sanae, appears revealing to Desmond that he may have deceivers among his acquaintance, two of them being men had had met earlier. Before she leaves, the woman gives Desmond a challenge and a ring, telling him if he wants, he could find the answers to his questions if he follows the directions.

Last Decision: Follow the woman's instructions.



The setting sun found Desmond and Sanae deep within the western part of the forest. They would have to find shelter soon, Desmond knew, but where they stood only trees surrounded them. The instructions the woman had given were vague and had mentioned no direction as to hint where he would find his destination. To make things worse, Sanae kept asking him what had happened in the field. But Desmond always made up some excuse to buy him some time.

Desmond’s mind was in chaos. Instinctively, he wanted to reveal everything that had happened, but that would be unwise if the person before him was not who they were. The person with him on Pontius’s back felt like it was the Sanae he knew back in the Capital. Doubt still pooled within him though. Who was the real Sanae? Was it the girl he knew back in the Capital with her brass attitude now sitting with him? Or was it the cold woman, who had murdered the emperor and his heir as a way to relieve her frustration?

“Desmond.” Desmond kept his eyes forward, ignoring the light hand Sanae had put on his upper arm. She repeated his name again, this time a little more pleadingly.

He ignored her again, and tried to shake her hand off, but her grip tightened. Exasperated with her, he broke his silence. “What? You want to know what happened? Because that’s what you been asking about for the last several hours.”

“No, I wanted to tell you that you were about to crash into a tree several miles back, but we were saved because only I told your old nag to move right,” Sanae replied, her voice dripping with sarcasm.

Desmond looked back behind him at her with an amused eye. Although he was uncertain of whom she was exactly, Sanae was still interesting company.

She glared at him, and snapped, “Of course that is what I want to know about, or else I wouldn’t be asking about it.”

With a slight pulling back of the reins, Desmond halted Pontius, and then jumped off to land on the hard ground. “I don’t need to listen to this,” he bit out with frustration. The urge to tell her all that he saw was great, but gradually Desmond was able to collect himself.

After several calming breaths, he said quietly, “I don’t know what happened, but right now, you don’t need to know. I could take you back to the forest’s edge if you would like. I don’t know where I am going,” and here he pulled out the ring from the saddlebag he had placed it in. He stared at it contemplatively. “You need to complete your training, war is upon this place soon,” Desmond said with finality in his voice.

“Where are you going?” The question was said so softly, Desmond had to strain his ears to make sure he heard her correctly. The deathly calm of her voice alerted him to there being something amiss. The Sanae at Court would have refused to go back immediately after he gave her such a suggestion. She would have demanded to know what had happened hours before in the field. And then she would have ordered him that she would go with him no matter what his destination was.

“Who are you?” Desmond countered with a question of his own. “You’re neither the same person I met in the field, nor are you the girl I met at court several months ago.”

Sanae ignored his question, and said accusingly, “You’re going to follow those instructions, aren’t you? Fall into that woman’s trap like a curious dog that you are.”

Taken aback for a moment, Desmond muttered something incoherent as his mind raced over what Sanae had just said. How did she know about there being a woman, and she had given him directions to find his answers?

“I am following no directions,” Desmond finally answered. Even to him, his voice sounded shaky. “I am looking for shelter. Look the sun has set already. I am tired, you’re tired, why don’t we just stop this needless bickering, and find some place to rest our heads?”

“And then you’re going to take me back,” Sanae finished quietly. It felt pointless to say anything further, so Desmond silently mounted back on to Pontius.

The horse raised its head from the tender grass it had been feasting upon when it felt the weight on its back changed.

**********

The next morning brought little excitement for Desmond and Sanae. Desmond kept his distance from the girl because he was still wary of who she was or could be. Sanae, on the other hand, was still persistent in her argument that she should not return to the palace. But Desmond was resolved in his decision. Whether or not Sanae was posing as someone else, Desmond did not care because he was not taking any chances.

They journeyed in the direction of the palace soon after a light morning meal. Since neither had a map, Desmond and Sanae followed in the direction of where the sun blazed blindingly to the north. They saw few creatures of the forest as they traveled. Clouds moving fast across the sky blocked the sun’s rays for short periods of time thus casting shadows on the forest floor at times.
Desmond fingered the ring in his hand allow Pontius to take charge of the pace.

The ring was of simple design. In fact it could have probably been mistaken as being of peasant origin; the ring was that plain. He knew nothing of jewelry to be able to infer anything more than that for a simple ring, it held a lot of power, and obviously someone has tried to hide that power with minimal attempt at its design. Whether it was of evil origin, Desmond could not determine.

Behind him, Sanae sat stoically, preferring to look straight ahead of her over his shoulder than at his back. Desmond felt her move forward, her chest pressed against his back when he saw something had caught her eye. He squirmed under the contact a bit, but kept a cool expression in his face.

“Desmond, look at that flower!” Sanae said eagerly, totally ignoring the fact that she was pressed against Desmond.

Desmond dropped the ring into his breeches pocket and allowed his eyes to follow the direction of her hand to only see a innocent looking flower. “It’s only a flower,” he brushed off. “Besides in these woods, thousands of flowers grow here.”

“Not in the transitional season between summer into fall,” Sanae retorted knowingly. “Besides I like the way the petals are clustered. I think I will take one.” She jumped off Pontius with ease, and gracefully landed on the ground.

As Sanae walked toward the base of the large tree, where the flower swayed with light breeze. Desmond took another look at the flower. It was white, the petals in star shape arrangement, and was held by a woody stem. Seeing the single leaf straining in the wind, held in place by a weak bond to the stem brought his memory of healer Aarn’s words: “Only a second away from death.”

“Sanae!” Desmond called out.

In his haste he fell out of the saddle landing near his horse’s hooves and startling Pontius, who reared back on his hind legs. The thundering of the front hooves falling back on the ground cracked his eardrum as he just barely rolled away from the danger.

“Desmond. Why are you on the ground?” Sanae’s voice broke through his conscience. He opened his eyes to find himself lying on his back, and his whole body feeling like he had decided to lie in the middle of the pasture as the horses stampeded by him. He turned his head to see Sanae holding the white flower in one hand and peering at him intently. “Are you okay?”

Desmond scrambled into a sitting position and scuttled quickly away from her. “What is with that face, Desmond? You look dead.” Sanae took a step toward him.

Desmond threw a hand forward halting her a moment. “Keep away,” he panted. “Don’t move a step forward. You’re not Sanae.”

“You’re being silly, Desmond. Of course I am Sanae, that is what my parents named me,” Sanae answered with a laugh. She leaned forward to take a hold of his outstretched arm, but he jerked it back.

Desmond kept his eyes on her as he slowly got up from the ground. “No one should be able to pick up that flower,” he said shakily as he pointed a steady finger at the blossom in Sanae’s other hand.

“This?” Sanae brought the flower closer into sight. “Desmond, you’re being silly. This isn’t venisura like the one you found in your room a few weeks ago.”

Desmond was taken aback. “How do you know about that flower? I didn’t mention anything to you about it.”

“I overheard,” Sanae said with a shrug. “Who cares about this flower though, you got to see what I found before you interrupted.” She placed the flower behind her ear and ran off.

Desmond watched her disappear into a break in the bushes still absorbing the fact that Sanae knew of the flower he had received. He would have liked to leave her to her own amusement, and go off on his own, but she seemed to know too much about what had happened to him. That was why he needed to keep on an eye on her, while at the same be wary of her. He stepped through the break and stopped and stared at the sight before him.

Sanae strode back to him, her face sparkling with glee. “Don’t you like this place?” She exclaimed as she twirled in the center of the glen.

Desmond scanned the area, his suspicion of Sanae growing increasingly. To him, this place did not seem just right. There were barely any trees taller than a tall person’s height (6 feet) within a hundred paces of him from all directions. As he walked around, his shoes sunk deep into the ground. On closer inspection, he found that the grass was not damp enough to allow for the soil below to soften that easily. In the darkest part of the area, Desmond stopped and stared at the two ash trees, the only ones that were closer to the glen than all the others. In between the bases of the trees, shot up a bamboo shoot, bent suspiciously like a finger beckoning to him.

“Ride through the forest, and when you see two trees with a shoot growing out between them, stop. Use this ring, and knock it against the shoot.” The emotionless words of the woman he had met repeated through Desmond’s head as he looked intently ahead of him. He took the ring out and stared at it for a moment before he leaned forward to knock it against the beckoning shoot.

“What did you find?” Desmond swerved his head around to find Sanae had crept upon him. He retracted the ring back into his hand, and closed his fingers over it to hide it from Sanae.

“A strange bud, that is all,” Desmond stammered. He kept his clenched fist behind his back.

Sanae eyed the “strange bud” curiously, ignoring the rest of his words completely. “You know,” she began, “this bud closely resembles a finger,” she finished with an amused smile. “It is as if it awaits a ring to complete it.”

“What do you mean by that?” Desmond asked shakily. They were said as if she knew what he was about to do before she interrupted him.

Sanae stepped up closer to him, so that her breath touched his ear like a gentle breeze. “Why don’t you just put that ring that is in your hand onto the shoot? I am sure, it would look quite nice on it.”

Neither noticed the darkening of sky as the clouds flew across it to block the beautiful rays of the sun. The angry winds blew around them, making their loose clothing cling to their bodies. It was a chilly wind, and although both Sanae and Desmond shivered at the change in temperature, neither did anything to protect themselves from the cold. Thunder rolled in announcing its presence with its rumble, but also hinting of something more dangerous to come.

The few minutes of silence Desmond had allowed to pass gave him the opportunity to gather his thoughts. “I was told just to knock.”
Sanae moved away from him, her light hair blowing around her face. “Then knock, but I tell you, the ring fits the finger.”

Desmond glared at her, and then knocked the ring against the shoot as he had planned before. Nothing happened. He tried again, and a third time. But each attempt brought nothing. The clouds still swirled around them like angry dragons in search of something lost.

He did not bother turning to see the expression on Sanae’s face because he already knew it would be a smile of smugness. Frustrated with himself, and angry at the deception on the part of Sanae, he shoved the ring onto the shoot. This time he turned to look at Sanae right in the eye. “Who are you?” He demanded.

She smiled prettily at him. “No need to take out your anger on me,” she said soothingly. The tip of a fingernail skimmed the side of his face. “You look as beautiful as he. Now I do believe it is time for you to enter.”

Desmond looked back to where the two ash trees and the bamboo shoot had stood and saw a stairwell leading to somewhere deep below the ground. “Then shall you have your answers.” Desmond walked determinedly down the stairs, but when he reached the bottom, he noticed that Sanae did not follow him. “Are you not coming?” He asked Sanae despite his conscience telling him to leave her where she was. He reminded himself, it was just to keep an eye on her.

“Why, of course,” she replied with a sly smile. “To miss all the fun would be daft.” She bound down the stairs and sprinted through the passageway disappearing deep into the dark depths.

********

Desmond had kept up with Sanae most of the way through the narrow passageway. Torchlight lit their way; the light from the little flames danced as Desmond and Sanae passed by in their hurried manner. Along the way, Desmond and Sanae split because she had decided that she no longer wanted to go at what she considered a slow pace. She gave a little wave before she took off and called out, “First intersection we meet!”

Seeing her disappear into darkness made him Desmond glad that the corridor they were in had not yet hit an intersection. Their earlier rushed pace left little opportunity to observe the surroundings of what he had determined to be an underground cavern. The stonewalls dimly lit by the torches gave him an ominous feeling that he was heading into a creature’s lair without having any previous knowledge of it.

Desmond remembered exploring the caves back in his home village near Calio with their jagged walls, and damp feel. But the place he was in was different. It looked as if someone had made this place into his or her living space. There were no sounds of water trickling through the rockbed from the surface above. The stones making up the walls had smooth faces, and were evenly aligned on top of each other that were no gapping cracks between them. The torches with their dancing flame-spirits was another hint of the cavern having a resident residing within.

The sound of rushing water could be heard in the distance as Desmond traveled further down the corridor. Light shone through a natural skylight made in the roof of the cavern Desmond entered. Compared to the constricting walls of the passageway he had just exited, the cavern was large and the walls here made a rounded shape. The source of the rushing was a spring that spouted from one of far walls. Someone had made a rock pond below it to collect water. On closer inspection, Desmond saw that the water drained through a hole in the center of the pond answering his question of why none of the excess water spilled onto the floor.

Turning his attention away from the pond, he saw three different passageways that would lead him further into the network of caves. He walked toward the entrance of each of them, looking for clues as to way he should go. Taking one of the torches from the wall, Desmond peered into the cave closet to the pond. Vines dangled from the ceiling, and covered the walls. He heard the scampering of rats as they ran across the rocky terrain within. The green moss covering some of the rock faces was another sign that the cave had seen little use.

A hand touched his shoulder from behind making Desmond jump a bit. “Don’t worry, it’s me,” a soft voice said soothingly. Sanae appeared in front of him, a grin covered her face. “Since it took you so long to come here, I explored all the choices. Safest route to where we’re going is the middle one. I mean, look at it.” She took the torch from Desmond’s hand and shoved it in front of the entrance of the middle way lighting it.

Like the entrance the stones had the sign of residency. Torches lighting the way, and the rocks had smooth faces and were evenly aligned. No dripping water from the ceiling made the place damp. It was almost too clean that it made him suspicious.

Sanae’s behavior was becoming stranger and stranger. It felt like she already knew this place and was faking the face that she had probably explored the place multiple times. The tone in her voice when she told him they should travel down the center passage sounded too eager as if she anticipated something at the end.

He reclaimed the torch from Sanae, and held it in front of the last cavern. A bloodied handprint on the wall appeared in the light. Before he could even take further note of the cave’s interior, a bloodcurdling scream echoed through the cavern. It was hard to trace the source since sound waves bounced easily against the rock walls thus amplifying it when heard. The hand that held the torch shook slightly. The light from the torch bounced along the walls of the last cavern to reveal similar handprints covering the walls.



The story may done, but that does not keep you from clicking on the Reply button below. Welcome to anybody, give a suggestion as to Desmond's next action. Suggestions may be based on his personality, what would be the best course of action to take that would be best for him, or just in general what you think is a good idea. I encourage you to comment on others' suggestions, but keep in mind that everyone is open to their own opinions.

A/N: This came out to be a bit longer than I had hoped, but I think you all will like it. Other than giving a suggestion for Desmond, you can give me feedback on my writing. Every writer needs it, so they know where they rank in the audience's opinion.

I am also planning to set a time limit for myself. Like Key's story The Machine's Daughter, I am going to try and set myself a time limit for each of my chapters and when they will come out, and the length of time for the polls.

So a week or so of discussion, then I think I will have the polls open for about three or four days, and then I will start the next chapter. I am just trying to get back in gear when I did Nano Wrimo last November where I spent about 2 hours a day writing nearly 2000 words at a time to try and reach the 50,000 word limit.

But what are you doing reading my rant? Go on, give Desmond some suggestions, and me, some feedback! :cool:
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ethereal_fauna



Joined: 16 Feb 2005
Posts: 2567
Location: USA

Posted: Wed Jan 11, 2006 9:42 am    Post subject:  

He followed the instructions of the woman blindly, and he’s kept Sanae around despite his misgivings. So far he’s allowed others to call the shots, to determine his actions, following almost without question and simply weathering the consequences. In a dark, damp underground maze filled with screaming echoes, I doubt that he’d do anything unique and prudent, like taking off for the exit. Might as well go down the center passage and get it over with.
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Muaddib



Joined: 31 Dec 2004
Posts: 1765

Posted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 3:11 am    Post subject:  

I agree with Fauna.I had read the chapter earlier but couldn't think of anything to say ::blush::, I think I should have atleast mentioned that I thought it was well written.
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Smee



Joined: 16 Oct 2004
Posts: 5215
Location: UK

Posted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 3:50 am    Post subject:  

Hey Rave,

Good writing, and good news that we are going to see more regular chapters and visits from you. :)

A fairly busy chapter that has finally got me caught up abit. The previous couple of chapters left me a little confused as I seemed to miss the whole leaving the capital bit. But now things are beginning to make sense again.

I think Sanea will get him where she wants eventually, so might as well get it over and done with, and hopefully some answers as well. Take the dry, well lit tunnel and see what all the fuss is about.

Happy Writing. :)
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Chinaren



Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 8809
Location: http://www.NeilHartleyBooks.com

Posted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 4:46 am    Post subject:  

You just have to go and find the source of the scream. It could be a potential ally.

I think your writing is technically very good, but the chapter seems to be a little confused in some ways, like the writer (you!) can't make up his (wait, sorry, are you a her? I am always doing that.) mind. Of course, this could well be on purpose! It certainly causes doubts in the reader. Well, me anyway, but then I am easily confused.

Mind you, I have only come into this story in the last few chapters, so that isn't helping I guess. :? :?

And. You aren't in Good vs Evil vs Money yet are you? Mmmm..
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Suneila
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Posted: Mon Jan 16, 2006 11:45 am    Post subject:  

Desmond is looking for answers, and better answers are always found down the scarier tunnel. Aside from that though, anyone (okay, almost anyone) would be warned away from the passage by the bloody handprints. How does he know it's blood? It's probably just paint that looks like blood to scare people away. I think that his relunctance to follow Sanae combined with a curiosity about what 'they' are trying to warn him about would lead him to follow the scary passage. Of course, he might get halfway down it, hear another scream and change his mind.

~sunny
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Ravenwing
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Posted: Wed Jan 18, 2006 2:11 pm    Post subject:  

Alright I am putting a poll up tonight. Any last suggestions are welcome till then. :cool:

Nevermind that last message. The poll is up!! You have 5 days to cast your votes for what may be and probaby will be the last chapter. :cool:
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Muaddib
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Joined: 31 Dec 2004
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Posted: Thu Jan 19, 2006 8:46 pm    Post subject:  

I chose to stay in one place. If you're not sure about your surroundings then you should first wait and get your bearings and then move somewhere else.
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Chinaren
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Posted: Fri Jan 20, 2006 12:43 am    Post subject:  

'ted. Sorry, thought I had done this already actually. :?
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Mother Goose
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Joined: 09 May 2004
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Posted: Fri Jan 20, 2006 2:14 pm    Post subject:  

I'll go for the bloody handprint. I don't trust Sanae.
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Lebrenth
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Joined: 29 Dec 2005
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Location: Utah

Posted: Sat Jan 21, 2006 7:58 am    Post subject:  

Let's find out who's pulling the strings behind that curtain of secrecy and go down the middle path. The distant scream might just be ambience. Some scary caves and mansions actually hire people to scream in sheer terror every time someone enters, just to make sure the visitor knows what kind of place they're in.

But seriously, screams mean trouble. Could be a trap, could be a monster, could be anything. We've already got enough people we don't know if we can trust. A questionable ally is not really what we need now. Let's follow Sanae.
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Lebrenth
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Posted: Sat Jan 21, 2006 8:02 am    Post subject:  

And, we're not even sure which direction the scream is really coming from, are we?
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Ravenwing
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Joined: 18 May 2004
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Posted: Sat Jan 21, 2006 8:20 am    Post subject:  

It sounds like it coming from the bloody handprinted one, but Desmond is not certain if that is true exactly.
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Ravenwing
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Posted: Mon Jan 23, 2006 5:45 am    Post subject:  

Okay, I think this is the last day for voting, peeps. If you haven't done so, cast your vote!
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Tazgirl180992
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Posted: Mon Jan 23, 2006 11:17 am    Post subject:  

good story! Can't wait untill next chapter! When abouts do you think it will be up-just out of curiosity?
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Ravenwing
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Posted: Mon Jan 23, 2006 2:53 pm    Post subject:  

Next month. Maybe in two or three weeks. Right now, the load of schoolwork I have is on overload. I will have to see. This will be a difficult chapter since I have to tie all the loose ends together.
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Ravenwing
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Posted: Tue Jan 24, 2006 10:41 am    Post subject:  

Okay, obviously the poll is closed. Look for a new chapter within the next few weeks. :cool:
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