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Chapter Six: Black and Gold
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Kalanna Rai



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

Posted: Sun Sep 18, 2011 3:33 pm    Post subject:  

And here we go. Enjoy!
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Chapter Six: Black and Gold

Khafi sat in his rooms, his lips resting on his fist, his dark eyes focused on nothing as his agile mind tumbled through possibilities like water over a dam of pebbles constructed by children. He hadn't meant to snoop, well, alright so he'd been curious. Why would beloved big brother need a private audience with the King? How had that red headed woman, obviously Alasdair's mistress, so swiftly joined the ranks of the Northerners, or had she simply been well hidden this whole time? Khafi didn't believe for a minute they'd actually managed to keep a secret from him...so he'd just arranged for his people to get him to an advantageous point to overhear what Alasdair and the woman had had to say.

And now Khafi worried. All his life he'd known that at least one of the Gates was not an old tale. For the past three years there had been...'things' at the southern court. Things that wore the skin of men and women Khafi had known all his life. They had devoured their souls, their insides, and had worn the remaining skin like a fleshy costume using the consumed memories to step into their lives. Without Jer'eeb's unique gift, Khafi would long long ago hae perished.

Those were creatures of the southern gate, the Demon Gate according to old legends. A Gate that had been buried in the ever shifting sands and lost to the world. But like anything else in the desert, it can be uncovered at a moment's notice. Jer'eeb had once told Khafi that his tribe had seen these creatures for years, that the Guardians of the Gate had long ago fallen to darkness and now it was the nomad tribes that took it upon themselves to stop the creatures from leaving the deep desert and to stop travelers from entering it.

Jer'eeb was a special kind of Beguiler. He didn't just see the emotions of a person...he saw the true person themselves. It was perhaps a touch of healing gift that allowed this, but he'd never yet been wrong. And ever since coming here Jer'eeb had been uncomfortable. When pressed he'd admitted that the court of Leyond was free of these creatures...but that not a single member of the Northerners was fully human. And he'd say nothing more, no matter how hard Khafi pressed him.

But now, now Khafi knew that Alasdair knew of the Gates, that he believed in them. And he and the red-headed woman had woven a chilling tale that turned Khafi's southern bones to ice. The dead were walking out of the sea. The Gate of the Way, or in the south better known as the Gate of the Dead, had opened. If the Demon Gate and the Gate of the Dead were open...it meant that the old tales were coming true again. That war from beyond would come across all the lands of the world. And his heart had dropped from his chest when Astor had laughed in Alasdair's face.

The King of Leyond was a wise man, a cold man, a hard and iron-fisted man who did whatever it took for his kingdom to remain safe and secure...from real and legitimate threats. Astor of Leyond was a practical man, he didn't have time for alarmist fears about fantastic threats. No matter what argument Alasdair and his red-headed woman laid down, it was shot down and laughed at. Dismissed as Astor grew angrier and angrier that Alasdair was wasting his time while Alasdair grew angrier and angrier that Astor was so hidebound and blind that he couldn't take even the slimmest precaution to protect his people. Astor had asked for proof and Alasdair had been about to do something when the woman had restrained him. The meeting had ended there.

Khafi toyed with the ring he'd had made for him, the working that had exploaded the heart of the elderly court mage. A ring that made him, for a time, invisible to even magical detection. He'd used it three nights ago to ensure that the portly court mage, the one who'd done all the talking fast as he could, had stumbled down a flight of stone steps on his way to the chamberpot. And of course that his neck had been broken first...one less threat.

Now he glanced at Jer'eeb. [b]Tell everyone to work with the house servents, I'd like a nice meal waiting when my brother and his woman join us for some..personal talks. I'll go fetch him now, you'll have plenty of time to get everything set up, afterall...you know how slow I am when I walk and talk."

And he rose, slipping the ring on and heading for the rooms in which the Northerners stayed. Empty, deserted, the belongings there but all of the people themselves out elsewhere. He found most of Alasdair's companions in the Guard barracks. It seemed that the Northerner's had made themselves at home here...and Lukan, little Lukan was sitting in the corner, laughing right along with these hard bitten men. Khafi made a note to check up on the littlest brother more often.

The other two companions he found in the kennels, feeding a group of young hounds that had been brought with them. Despite being barely out of their puppyhood, these creatures were already larger than King Astor's prized hunting hounds. A thought both reassuring and terrifying. Then again, considering what was coming, perhaps these hounds would be useful.

He finally found Alasdair and his woman in one of the gardens. She was sitting on the edge of a fountain, her words covered by the musical sound of the water running from the upper pools into the lower ones. Alasdair himself was standing a few feet away, his face a mask of bitter helplessness and shackled rage. Was she comforting him? Giving him council? Whatever she was doing, Khafi realized something a moment too late. The moment he took a step out of the castle and into the garden proper, both of their heads raised and looked right at him.

No, they couldn't be. He was invisible to even the dogs in the kennels. He thought that right up until Alasdair's massive hand pushed him against a wall. "I detest and loath spies little brother. If you want to know something, just ask and be done with it. I am tired of these games and these high bred idiots. They laugh and dance while their people starve and turn a blind eye to threats that decimated their ancestors."

Quietly Khafi reached up, pulling his ring off his finger and tucking it safely into the sash around his waist. "Actually, those threats were exactly what I wanted to discuss with you. In the south, the skins of men are worn by creatures that stink of charred flesh and old blood. Their lives usurped by these perfect pretenders. Now you say the dead walk from the waves...how long before the other Gates open? Is your Gate in the north sealed? Is it protected."

Alasdair glanced at his woman who'd come to stand on his shoulder, tall and proud and beautiful. "It is not as secure as it was before Astor began this folly. Without Kyrie and I, the last line of defense is gone. Although...if the Gate in the north should open...it wouldn't be a bad thing if a messenger went through first."

Khafi nodded. "You know more about these than I do it seems...come back to my chambers. There's a meal waiting there and I would plan with you. Even if King Astor isn't worried, I am. I've seen what has happened at my uncles court, I know what these creatures can do. Were it not for the people of the deep desert, likely the South would be overrun."

"If they're taking the shapes and lives of nobles then it already has been." The words of the red-headed woman, Kyrie, were musical and chillling. "Come love, your brother seems sensible, we should keep his council."

He led them back through the halls, walking far enough ahead of them that it did not appear he was with them, but never too far for them to lose sight of him. They, in turn, kept up a steady and light banter, as if they were concerned with nobody beyond themselves. He kept half an ear on this banter, raising an eyebrow at the word 'husband'. So Alasdair was married, and soon to be a father...that stability made him more appropriate for the throne. But Kyrie...if she wasn't noble...then she actually became an anchor that could keep him from inheriting. Either way, interesting.

He smiled at the smells that greeted him entering his room. It smelled like his people had taken it into their own hands to make the meal themselves, or had at least added spices to whatever had been brought up from the kitchens. With a grateful smile he settled into a chair and waited to be served, Alasdair and his wife entering shortly after and being shown their places. As soon as everyone had a plate in front of them, Khafi got down to business.

"Here is what I know. There are four of these great gates. One, called the Demon Gate, was buried under the sands of the Shim'shaar Desert ages past. I believe it's also known as The Gate of the Damned correct? It's from this gate that these...life stealers come. And no doubt other things. In the west, in an ocean chasm off the coast of Falverald, is the Gate of the Way, or as I know it the Gate of the Dead. But there are reports of the dead walking out of the sea...so possibly it is open too. You both say that the Northern Gate, The Gate of Darkened Skies, or the Gate of Dragons is secure. And in the east, on the highest peak in Haga'Dir, is the Deity Gate or the Gate of the Gods. All that is said of it in the South is that if that gate should ever open, the eye of God would obliterate us all."

Alasdair finished a mouthful of rice and meat, carefully setting aside his plate. "The Demon Gate is a problem. I had no idea that that one was open, or that it's Guardians were gone. But it explains certain things. The creatures behind that Gate...the come from a realm that is as close to Hell as man can imagine it. They come from a world of all consuming fire and pain. Where every resource is consumed and destroyed until the only thing left in that world is themselves. When that happens, they consume each other, offering up lives and memory and essence to open a path to another world. They sweep into that world like a plague and begin the process anew. But when last they tried to enter our world, they were stopped."

He glanced toward his woman, which Kahfi found interesting, before continuing to explain. "It is said that the Gate of the Gods was originally a decorative entry way to an ancient palace. That a group of warriors had made their way to the peak of that mountain to make a stand against the demons. They'd fought many battles, their numbers slowly dwindling while the space before the gate became more and more a scene of desperation. And that finally one man cried out to the Gods, seeking their aid, and they answered. Light blazed forth, washing over the lands, blowing the demon masses off the mountain. The people that the light touched were suddenly imbued with power, the magics that we enjoy today." With these powers some went off to fight the demons...others, however, decided that the best way to fight was to bring help from elsewhere."

He took another bite, then a sip of the mild wine that had been set out to accompany the meal. "In the north they hewed through a glacier to reach the tallest peak of that frozen range. And in the heart of that mountain they forged a gate from the metals of the mountain, a gate far more massive than the Gate of the Gods. A Gate set with gems and worked with ornate carvings. And when they finally called through that Gate...they were answered by beasts of massive size. Creatures with an intelligence greater than that of men and hearts as varied as our own. Some came and helped us fight, others came to enslave us. The eldest dragons were creatures of world-breaking power, the youngest engines of destruction only the bravest could face. Thankfully, the good and bad were mixed and the good, or at least the indifferent, far outweighed the evil. It was decided, by both man and Dragon, that the gate would be sealed except in dire need. To ensure it's protection, three of their Eldest sacrificed themselves, their bodies forming an impassible barrier, their spirits remaining to be called upon for guidance and protection and...other things should it be deemed necessary." He touched the dragon emblem of his house that was quietly stitched in dark thread on the shoulder of his jacket.

"The other group went West, on one of those scattered islands, and there they built a Gate from the bones of the fallen. They sought to make a tribute to their dead warriors and lost loved ones. Instead, they made a portal of unquiet spirits. When it was open the dead poured out. Corpses that shambled and walked and died only if burned to ashes or mashed into pulp. And army that never tired, never slowed, and that craved the lives of the living. Craved what had been left behind forever, craved revenge for their rest being disturbed. So distressing was this that when the gate was finally sealed, the island was sunk to the depths of the oceans so that it might never be opened again...and yet...it has been"

Khafi had been listening, absorbing the information quietly. Now, setting aside his mostly empty bowl, he looked at both of them. "You said these dragon spirits can help...how? If the Demon Gate and the Gate of the Dead are open...would this not be the time to call upon them?"

"They already have been...Nearly twenty-six years ago at the Festival of the High Fire they made their presence known. The people of Rhimefaust have been ever watchful since. Two of the spirits have touched the flesh, the third awaits the dire moment to unlock the way to the Gate should the hour grow dire."

"Wait...touched the flesh? You mean there are live dragons in this world again?" Khafi looked between the two of them, gazing back and forth, his dark eyes narrowing. "Suddenly I begin to see why you don't want the Throne of Leyond. Tell me then...if I can get you out of the city, what would you do? Would you go south and see how bad it is, see if the Demon Gate can be shut before war comes? Would you do that?"

Alasdair glanced at his wife, then back to Khafi. "I could, but there are other forces in play. I have to be here for the birth of my child, I would not have risked bringing Kyrie all this way were there not a good reason. I could make it South and back, I could scout the Gate and return in plenty of time...but only if I were to throw all secrecy away. You are the only person outside a select few to have guessed at the truth Khafi...and I'm not even sure I can trust you with it. Of course, spreading it around is likely to get you labeled a madman and I suppose that alone is incentive enough to keep you silent. Plus, you do not strike me as the scorpion other people see you as. Have you another idea?"

Khafi closed his eyes, pressing his fingers against his temples. He'd been thinking all morning, but this information had dashed all those tentative plans. Still, the dark eyed man was rarely at a disadvantage for long. Of course he had another idea.
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What is this other idea that Khafi has?
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And the storm builds out of sight over the horizon. I hope you liked.
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Shillelagh



Joined: 11 Mar 2010
Posts: 398
Location: Kansas

Posted: Sun Sep 18, 2011 4:38 pm    Post subject:  

Umm... wow. I no longer regret having a Khafi option win the poll. This is all very interesting, and the North now fascinates me even more now that some of them could be empty vessels for dragon spirits, but I'm not quite sure what to do for a DP.

Perhaps some of Alasdair's trusted companions could go along with some of Khafi's companions to investigate the South gate together? Their two unique regional talents combined could accomplish things that, separated, they could not. That would also let Khafi stick around and spy on Tessa/Lukan in the wake of this new threat.
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Muaddib



Joined: 31 Dec 2004
Posts: 1765

Posted: Sun Sep 18, 2011 7:01 pm    Post subject:  

Khafi brings Lukan into the fold. They need more help and Lukan seems reliable if a little inexperienced.
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Andolyn



Joined: 18 Apr 2011
Posts: 852
Location: sitting barefoot in a tree in the beautiful land of Ardara, writing my tales...

Posted: Sun Sep 18, 2011 7:53 pm    Post subject:  

AMAZING as usual...i love Khafi more and more as we go along. =D

hmm...what to do...i'd say see if Khafi has other ways of getting information...Alasdair is stuck due to the secrecy issue. Khafi himself couldnt go back without risking instant death...yeah...do some scouting with whatever means Khafi has...
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Kalanna Rai



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

Posted: Wed Sep 21, 2011 11:47 pm    Post subject:  

Last call for suggestions. Poll goes up tomorrow night.
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Lilith



Joined: 10 Feb 2007
Posts: 1597
Location: Happily curled up in a Daemon's lap

Posted: Thu Sep 22, 2011 4:54 am    Post subject:  

.....
....
..
You just *HAD* do it, didn't you? Now I'm not even going to worry about advancing the plot, I'm going obsess over the dragons that are 'already touching flesh'. I think Kyrie is one of them. It's just this.. gut feeling I've got. In all honesty, I *DON'T* think Alasdair is one of them... another gut feeling.

Okay, dragging ADD of Dragons back to focus of DP...

I honestly don't know if we can trust Lukan/Tessa YET. They just come across as so.. young/inexperienced... and as they say.. ignorance is bliss...

And the King just laughs at them, so what can they do.. hrm... well..

Maybe Khafi and Alasdair should BOTH grab a small, trustworthy, contingent of their entourages and send them out of the city, in their places, to scout the Gate and send information back, working together of course.
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Kalanna Rai



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

Posted: Thu Sep 22, 2011 10:56 pm    Post subject:  

The poll...it's arrived.
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Muaddib



Joined: 31 Dec 2004
Posts: 1765

Posted: Fri Sep 23, 2011 12:28 am    Post subject:  

I'd like some mysterious fourth option please.
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Andolyn



Joined: 18 Apr 2011
Posts: 852
Location: sitting barefoot in a tree in the beautiful land of Ardara, writing my tales...

Posted: Fri Sep 23, 2011 8:54 am    Post subject:  

i have to say...i'm with Mauddib...i'm rather intrigued by this "mysterious fourth option". XD
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Lilith



Joined: 10 Feb 2007
Posts: 1597
Location: Happily curled up in a Daemon's lap

Posted: Fri Sep 23, 2011 5:14 pm    Post subject:  

Awwcrap *facepalms* Tied, I'm sorry.
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Thunderbird



Joined: 13 Sep 2009
Posts: 2139
Location: Rising from the ashes

Posted: Sat Sep 24, 2011 12:25 pm    Post subject:  

The concept of adding a mystery option on the poll is an interesting one... something of a "The author has a concept in mind... do you trust her enough to vote for it blindly?"... its hard NOT to pick it out of abject curiosity.

That said, I thought immediately that Lukan and his Gryphon could make the flight quickly and efficiently enough to return in time before much in the way of trouble could be derived from it. And that would bring the boy, one of MY favorite characters, into the tale a bit more thickly.

But alas, most have expressed opinions already.

You have one of the few stories to be really caught onto by the majority of readers on the site and its easy to see why. This just keeps being just amazingly good. I don't think I've ever seen such incredible consistency in quality. And you're pushing the plot forward in such intriguing ways every time. I just can't say enough good stuff here! (I could niggle at a few points but I'm sure they'd be easily caught in another edit round.)
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Kalanna Rai



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

Posted: Sun Sep 25, 2011 12:32 pm    Post subject:  

Still tied, rather saddened by this.
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Kalanna Rai



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

Posted: Wed Oct 05, 2011 11:17 pm    Post subject:  

Real life jumped up and bit me. Luckily for you, the new chapter is almost finished. I just needed to chew on the DP for another day to ensure it was properly agonizing...and it is. Stay tuned.
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Lilith



Joined: 10 Feb 2007
Posts: 1597
Location: Happily curled up in a Daemon's lap

Posted: Thu Oct 06, 2011 3:58 pm    Post subject:  

*beats your Real Life down with a two-by-four that has rusty nails on the end*

There, all better Rai. ^_^

(I hate double posting, so I figured I'd stick this in here because I'm sure you do too.)
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