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Chapter Twenty-Three Part One: Rise of the Storm King
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Kalanna Rai

Joined: 21 Jan 2006
Posts: 3075
Location: The Frozen North

Posted: Thu Feb 28, 2013 1:59 am    Post subject: Chapter Twenty-Three Part One: Rise of the Storm King  

And so the end beings, with a rising thunder. Enjoy.

Chapter Twenty-Three Part One: Rise of the Storm King

He had to say one thing for the mages of Haga'Dir. Nobody could do a transportation spell like they could. His regalia had been fetched from his Keep in the north and even now it lay on the bed, waiting for him to don it. He'd rather have either taken the portal home or fetched Kyrie and Aaern here, but those were not options. Something told him that his son and wife were far safer in the northern stronghold than anywhere else.

He turned to the bed, eyes wandering over the articles laid out there awaiting him. The massive two handed blade with it's double dragon-head hilt guards and runic etching. The heavy leathers and worked plate, burnished till it shined, the runes in the old language shimmering with power of an age gone by. The heavy fur mantle and trim. And the crown, more like a helm than anything, a stylized dragon who's wings swept down alongside his cheeks like guards. Honestly he found it a little...ostentatious for his tastes. He'd have shown up in his simple black leathers if that wouldn't have been seen as insulting.

Instead he slowly dressed, waving away the few servants that tried to come and help. "What kind of warrior would I be if I can't even dress myself?" The men and women of Rhimefaust had long ago done away with armor that couldn't be donned quickly by oneself. If you needed others to help you into it...then you had no place on the battlefield. At least not as anything more than a target...or a mount.

He'd just finished settling the crown/helm on his head when there was a subtle knock at his door. "Enter please." He shifted his shoulders, settling the heavy cape of fur as the slender figure of Tessa walked in, looking every inch a noblewoman. She hadn't dressed so resplendently even in Eresinne. Her mahogany hair was swept up into an exquisite style that must have taken half the day, charmed rose petals and small rubies so artfully scattered through it that the placement of each must have been a decision agonized over. Her gown was of crushed velvet in the same scarlet hue as the rose petals, gold and ruby gems sparkling at neck and dangling from each earlobe.

"Alasdair have I taken your breath away?" Her painted lips curved in a soft smile, dark eyes sparkling with hidden mirth.

"No. You do look lovely though." He offered her an arm, noting that the emblem of the high house of Falverald was cunningly worked into the fabric. Dyed into the panels of the dress with a hue only a few shades darker, clever. Nothing overt like the Dragonseal clasp that held his cloak in place or the crown that weighed him down. He spared a moment to pity his grandfather, who wore even more formal garb on formal occasions, before returning his attention to his half sister. "What brings you to my rooms?"

Her smile faded away, dark eyes going somber. "Can't you feel it? I thought if anyone else did, you would. There's something coming, something brewing out there. I can't put my finger on it but it's the charge in the air before a storm."

He knew exactly what she was talking about. "No visions yet then I take it?" His expression hardened at the shake of her head. "Then we'll just have to do things the old fashioned way and be prepared. I take it you're armed?" Just because she was wearing a gown did not mean that he expected her to be helpless. His mother was a good example of a woman who could turn heads in high fashion and cut throats with a dagger she'd hidden in her sleeve.

Tessa grinned. "I can hardly hide a bow in this but yes, I'm not helpless. I'm not going to be a damsel in distress. Well, unless the unhappy coincidence is that I have a vision at the moment of danger. But I can't control that." Her grin turned into a frown and Alasdair patted her hand as the two of them exited the room.

"I don't think you need to worry. Kevrem won't let anything happen to you. He'd die first." Alasdair watched a momentary flush color Tessa's cheeks and continued speaking in a low tone of voice before she could cut him off. "It is not uncommon for first cousins to be wed in noble houses. And as I doubt that your mother's letter is true that is exactly what you and Kevrem would be."

"You're calling my mother a liar and encouraging me at the same time...Alasdair I'm not sure if I should hug you or slap you."

"Your mother likely had her reasons. Think about it Tessa, your first action when you believed yourself the legitimate daughter of the younger son was to propose that one of us marry you and thus completely negate any claim either of the others might have. Yet the moment you believed yourself our half sibling you never again attempted anything even remotely amorous with any of us. The fact that something amorous has spontaneously bloomed is a different story. What I'm trying to say Tessa, is that you'd never have given any of us a chance had you been certain that we were bastards and you were not. Can you tell me this isn't true?"

They walked in silence for a long while before Tessa swore softly. "The old woman outfoxed me at the cost of some personal shame. That's one I'll have to remember."

He smiled. "Nobody ever expects a noble, or anyone of the court, to show a weakness and provide an opening. A feint, every bit as dangerous as leaving a false opening in combat. We've all figured it out Tessa, we all thought that you had too. Kevrem is discreet with you because he's a gentleman at heart. You're discreet because you believed it was illicit. Perhaps when things are calmer you should see about brokering a marriage with him. That was your initial intention was it not? I'm already married, Lukan is too young...Kevrem is your best match. You have the diplomacy, the knowledge of the courts and how they work. You know how to run a kingdom. He knows how to play the game. Perhaps the last true master of it."

She was smiling brightly now, her color still high but easily mistaken for excitement rather than the emotions it truly was. "Thank you Alasdair. You're...a good cousin." He laughed at that, turning the topic to pleasant nonsense as they entered the Hall.

Torches burned in every sconce, the smell of food floating in from the nearby banquet that was waiting for after the ceremony. Hundreds of candles and glimmering mage-crystals illuminated the high ceilinged chamber, almost large enough to house Alasdair in his dragon form. The nobles of Haga'Dir, the Clan Heads and First Families, all bedecked in gems and ruffles and finery that no noble of Rhimefaust would be caught dead wearing. Impossible outfits that were highly impractical but beautiful none the less.

Amid all this colorful plumage, Kevrem's somber black and silver stood out almost as much as Alasdair's black and gold. The tailors had worked overtime to make something suitable for the Heir-Apparent of Leyond. A silver circlet held back his long black hair, his black leather accented with silver plate, almost mirroring Alasdair's black on black. The design was so similar, in fact, that when Alasdair stopped near the other and eyed it, Kevrem laughed.

"Remarkable how similar it is. I said I wanted some armor I could dance in and this is what I got. I wonder if the smith was from Rhimefaust?"

Alasdair shook his head. "Unlikely. Haga'Dirians adopted this armor style from us ages ago. In Rhimefaust, we use it to ride on the backs of our beast brothers and the spirit-touched. In Haga'Dir, it works just as well to ride a gryphon or hippogriff into combat."

Kevrem nodded, smiling at Tessa, offering her his arm in place of Alasdair's which suited the dragon just fine. He liked seeing them happy, even if it was just a brief and stolen moment like this. Slowly he turned his attention to Lukan who looked far less happy. Sitting on the throne, the Storm Spear shimmering on wall brackets above his head. In a few moments the ceremony would commence and he would take that spear down to either rule, or to abdicate.

It was no challenge to spot the Peak Lords, huddled together and proudly displaying their colors of green and brown. Here and there were other splashes of clan color. White and Silver for the Frost Clans. Blue and White for the Sky Clans. Lukan stood out, the only one in the room to wear the colors of the Storm Clans, the Gold and Silver of thunder and blizzard. Even the guards were without color, readying to serve whoever took the throne. The banners had been struck, all signs that here the Storm Lords had ruled since the days of old.

Music played though none were dancing. Instead everyone was huddled together, muttering, shooting glances. Alasdair noted that he, Tessa, and Kevrem were all given wide berths. People came and spoke simple greetings, inquired about the weather, then abruptly found someone else to talk to. The smell of fear was heavy about them and Alasdair couldn't fathom why for a moment. Then he realized it. Despite the fact the four of them were here without entourage, it was clear that the fact they were here meant that they represented their respective nations. Everyone was worried that if Lukan didn't take the spear then there would be trouble. In some sense they were right, but Alasdair and the others weren't going to be starting it. They'd fight to keep Lukan safe, to give him a chance to leave Haga'Dir and go where he would after that.

And the feeling of the oncoming storm hadn't faded either. It wasn't just the weather. A storm had rolled in early last night, clouding the skies and turning them dark with the threat of rain. The wind had picked up, grounding most flights. But so far the weather was holding, the storm having yet to break. It would provide cover if Lukan had to flee.

The sound of a trumpet echoed across the room, getting the attention of all as Lukan stood from the throne, walking forward a step to stand at the edge of the top stair of the dais. He cleared his throat, surprisingly loud in the now hushed room, and gave a wan smile.

"We have gathered for the first time since my Uncle's coronation. But a gathering such as this has not been seen for many ages. Demons prowl the shadows and claw at our defenses. They devour the lands to the south and pound the lands to the east. Jhadir is gone, a waste in which bones bleach. Falverald stands, a living shield, against wave after wave of the hungry dead. Even Leyond has felt the clutches of their bony grasp. I was there when Eresinne fell. I watched brave men and women throw themselves against an impossible enemy. I have fought the demons on our own soil. In our towns. I have waited out the night with frightened villagers, praying the the roof tiles held. I have stood on those walls and watched as horrors fell from the sky to slaughter us. And I tell you now I cannot rest easy while this happens.

In the last age my ancestors were given the Storm Spear from the hands of the Gods themselves. To take it and make war against the Darkness. We were the lightning. We were the thunder. And now the enemy still fears the Spear, still fears the people of Haga'Dir enough that they sought to destroy it. To destroy us with needless civil unrest. I will not let that happen. I am still here. I still have two good hands to hold a spear and two good legs to grip the sides of my hippogriff with. I still have two good eyes to see my foe and as long as I draw breath, I will not let them rest!"

People were responding to Lukan, to his passion, to his fire. The Peak Lords were glaring, obviously realizing that the 'whelp' had no intention of giving up his right to rule and passing the throne to them. The other clans were beginning to nod, some in agreement, some simply hearing the words. But Lukan had their attention and it made Alasdair smile. His smile faded though as he noticed something curious. With those in the room distracted by the speech, the doors had slowly been closed, cutting them off from the world beyond. He could hear it now, the sound of heavy bars thudding into place on the outside of the doors instead of the inside as they should have. Glancing over he saw that Tessa and Kevrem had noticed it too.

Slowly the three of them moved forward, edging gently through the crowd, seeking to get as close to Lukan as they could. Alasdair could feel it now, the dark presence gathering. "They're among us."

"I know. I can sense them. They must have slipped in shortly after we arrived. Now they're making themselves known." Kevrem's eyes were dark, his pupil bleeding into his iris a bit, blackening his eyes. A sure sign that something was afoot. "Can you see them?"

"There's too many people, we'll have to wait until they act." He didn't like that. Didn't like being a sitting target. On the dias above, Lukan was finishing his speech.

"Today we go forward, as a people, as a nation. We will take to the skies and reclaim them!" He turned, moving back to the throne and reaching upward for the Storm Spear where it glimmered in the wall bracket.

Just before his fingers touched it, the first bloodcurdling scream was heard.

Stay tuned for part two, coming in the next few days!
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Joined: 25 Oct 2012
Posts: 503
Location: Penna, having a hot cup of tea

Posted: Thu Feb 28, 2013 5:01 pm    Post subject:  

*is on pins and needles waiting for part two*
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Joined: 10 Jan 2012
Posts: 7

Posted: Mon Mar 04, 2013 11:33 pm    Post subject:  

Wow, this is an amazing chapter, thank you for it!
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