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Chapter Nine: Golden Claw
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Kalanna Rai



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

Posted: Fri Nov 04, 2011 4:34 pm    Post subject: Chapter Nine: Golden Claw  

Due to the fact that this chapter has to go up fast, Nano will soon completely eat my free time, I had to make an executive decision. Thus...I have bundled the options, or well as many of them as would logically fit. Enjoy!

Chapter Nine: Golden Claw

They'd come to him in his sleep, speaking to him in voices sepulchral and grim, faded with time. They'd shown him the armies of the Ridden, hollow shells of men and women who's souls had been devoured and replaced with the black slag of the creatures from beyond the demon gate. How they massed in the desert sands, how their agents lurked in every land behind those perfect masks of the lives they'd devoured. They were in the north now, making little headway, but the fact they were there at all meant it was only a matter of time before one of them reached the keep. And the dead, the dead were a growing problem. They massed on the shores now and the northern Lords were diverting more and more attention to stopping them from going beyond there. It was only a matter of time before those marching, unnoticed in the depths of the larger rivers, reached Leyond and the lands beyond.

Now was the time, the time to rise and fight. If he wanted a world where his offspring could grow in peace, if he wanted a world at all, then he couldn't sit idle anymore. It wasn't his place to play politics with the others, he could rule a kingdom of men later...if a kingdom still existed for him to rule. His army was waiting, buried deep in the stone and earth, under the tranquil fields of farmers and in the hearts of volcanic mountains. He needed to wake them. His Generals were waiting, each uniquely talented, each in unique peril.

Images had flashed before his eyes then. Of Khafi in dark armor in a crowded room, speaking quickly and clearly to a gathering of people from every nation. Chieftains from the north, Marshals from the west, Merchant-Princes from the south, and Lords from the east. All followed his gestures as he pointed to a well marked map, gesturing emphatically at circled points. A master strategist addressing the commanders that would carry out his plan.

Of Tessa at a desk piled high with papers, a map behind her set with pins and strings to show highways controlled by opposing forces. Her hair pinned up in a neat bun, her clothing an unadorned uniform, serviceable and still stylish. She would pick up a paper and glance at the map, weighing her decision before marking it in either red or blue and shoving it into the hands of a waiting page. The lynchpin of the war, making sure that bread got to the troops as well as bandages and weapons of war.

Of Lukan in gleaming gold, face spattered with blood and shining with triumph as he held aloft a gore-stained sword as Beak circled in the dawn skies. Below him, a sea of humanity echoed back in an answering roar as a tide of blackness slunk back over the horizon. A great victory won and the hearts of people lifted as a young commander used the unwavering loyalty of his troops to lead them out of the darkness.

And then suddenly everything shifted to a forest glade where Lukan crouched over a wounded Beak, sword drawn as he stared into the woods and waited for the archer who'd shot them down to come forward. The sense of danger, of urgency...it pressed on him. As did the familiarity of the scene...he'd been in that place...he knew where this vision was from. And that was when he woke, sweating, chest heaving.

Kyrie was awake as well, vivid eyes boring into him as delicate fingers brushed the sweat damp locks from his face. "Go Alasdair...go now or the boy dies."

Lukan had been gone three weeks now. The palace had been ablaze with the gossip of the altercation that had taken place between him and King Astor. The boy had requested an exercise flight for his hippogrif and been turned down...he'd reacted poorly, his youthful temper reaching it's breaking point. Nobody knew exactly what he'd said though his shouting had echoed through many of the stone hallways...but it had impressed the King enough that Astor had reconsidered. He'd instead handed Lukan a bag of dispatches, things that would normally have been sent via courier and told the boy that if he could deliver them, maybe he could be trusted enough to take long flights more often.

Lukan had packed for a two day journey and had set off in the early morning. The mages who'd been watching him had confirmed that he'd flown West and dropped off the dispatches for the Falveraldian consulate on time, although he'd flown low over the rivers. Obviously the boy had been looking for something, or so the court gossip had said. Then he'd picked up more supplies and headed north for Rhimefaust to drop off the rest of his messages. The mages had lost sight of him just over the boarder. The dispatches had arrived, the consulate had indeed seen Lukan, he'd had to stay with them for nearly a week while a blizzard turned the northern skies savage. But he'd taken off at the earliest opportunity...and he should have been back by now.

Alasdair knew now what was keeping his little brother. It wasn't more weather...someone had shot Lukan out of the sky. And the more he thought about it, Alasdair was sure that the grove he'd seen in the dream calling was Howling Fang Grove. An old holy site to the Wolf Spirit and sacred to the Wolf clan...it was likely why whoever had shot him down hadn't managed to kill him yet. But they would unless Alasdair got there.

He threw open the door to the room where his companions, members of the four great clans, drowsed off the remnants of the previous evening. "Wake up, wake up! Listen to me all of you. There's been a Sending, I have to go. The shadows in the south are past the northern boarders, the dead from the west will soon rise out of the waters here in Leyond and already press the norther clans back home. The time has come for me to go. Now I need your oath, upon your lives, that you'll not let Kyrie come to harm. Swear to me!"

One by one the warriors, now rather wide awake, moved from their beds to kneel on the stone floor. Each stretched forward a hand, placing it flat on the stones before them. One by one the limbs changed, into the paws of bears and wolves and the great snowcats, the wings of a storm eagle. One by one the warriors gave their silent oath that they would do as he had bid them.

"But what of Astor and his commands? You will defy them? By that very act we are put in danger."

Alasdair paused a moment, clasping Ranaulf in a tight hug. "Ask Khafi and Tessa for aid...they are not as ill as they seem though I would not trust them overmuch. They are only human after all and are prone to human weaknesses. Still...I do not think that Astor will be much inclined to move against us soon." He lingered a moment more, staring at their silent faces, then he left.

He didn't hurry through the corridors, instead he took his time and walked with purpose. As if he were not about to break the commands the King had laid down for him, as if he weren't to break a code of secrecy he'd held to all his life. But once he reached the barred door to the courtyard...the time for it all had come to an end. Two guards tried to restrain him and he tossed them aside like broomsticks, unbarring the door in a swift motion and pushing out into the night.

They shouted after him raising the alarm as he barreled down the stairs, his breath a plume of steam in the cold night. Silhouetted by the light pouring from inside the castle, Alasdair was a fine target for the archers on the walls. And then...he was gone. Or well, not precisely.

He jumped for the air, human form split asunder as the beast within emerged. Soft pale skin giving way to ebon scale, to horns and spines and talons of gold. Leathery wings struggled for purchase in the air and crashed against the stone of the battlements, sending blocks tumbling as he struggled free of the confining courtyard and into the air. With a crack like thunder, he managed a full downbeat, bone and sinew working to drive the great sails of flesh as his massive frame darkened the moon. There were screams from below, shouts, and arrows danced off his thick hide before he was out of their range.

He flashed forward, a knife through the air, forelegs tucked up against his chest while his back legs streamed out behind him. His long tail was a rudder in the air, curling neatly as he propelled himself forward. The hours of night passed and soon the dawn light was throwing his shadow for miles...the shadow of a monster. Eyes keener than any eagle surveyed his path and a prickling sensation along his hide told him that somewhere out there, mages were looking for him, their sight blocked by his very nature.

The journey that had taken months by horseback rewound itself in a matter of hours as the black and gold dragon he'd become lunged across the skies. He could smell death in the air, rising from the rivers in a palpable miasma. Too many dead were marching. Too many evils were polluting the land already. It wasn't until he crossed the northern border that he felt something resembling health. he could feel the spirits of the land here, burning brightly with fury and anger, repelling the unnatural with vibrant ferocity. It was also how he found Lukan in Howling Fang Grove.

It was just as his vision, Beak on the ground with one wing bandaged and wrapped, the remains of many meals neatly cleaned and stacked to the side, Lukan with drawn sword over him. And in the forest...three of them, Ridden, kept at bay by the holy ground and the spirit that dwelled in it. So intent were they on the boy they did not notice the death that came from above until it was too late. He landed on them with a bellow, golden talons crushing them into the soil, sparks of golden fire searing the inky blots of darkness before they could escape.

Only when he was certain that he had incinerated the creatures and that no fraction of them remained from which they might rise again, only then did he turn and face his half brother. Lukan was still standing there, sword clasped in both hands, the point shaking and wavering. The color had drained from his skin making his hair seem ridiculously bright and his eyes dark, bruised spots. But he wasn't budging an inch from his injured mount.

Slowly Alasdair turned his form, condensing as he did so. It...hurt, in a spiritual way. The freedom that had come with his true nature couldn't be denied and he was strangely glad the time for hiding was over. "Lukan...little brother...it's alright. I'm here to help."

For a few moments Alasdair thought that the youth might skewer him anyway as he walked forward, both hands raised. Instead the other just stood there, trembling, until Alasdair took the sword from his hands and set it on the ground. Then he simply hugged him...tightly as he shook like a storm tossed leaf. "Alasdair...I thought I was going to die out here. I was running out of arrows and they kept getting closer every night and Beak...oh poor Beak."

"Don't worry. I can take care of Beak and then we can get you home. Sit down little brother and relax...this place will take care of you. Or didn't you notice you found the one patch of summer woods in a land of northern winter?" He smiled a little as Lukan really looked around for the first time, a sheepish grin on his face.

"I-I suppose I didn't...but Alasdair...you were...I mean...I can't believe...are you really-"

"In the north there are many spirits the strongest of which watch over Clans. Bear, Wolf, Snow Cat, Sea Eagle, those are the great clans. Otter, Fox, Hawk, Lynx, Swan, Boar, Rat...those are the lesser clans. And Dragon, the high clan who watches over all. These spirits are real, they are part of our world and our lives, a source of strength as surely as our lungs fill with air each breath. Those who are truly chosen by the spirit of their clan...they are the sons and daughters of their line. Wulfson, Eggelson, Beardottar, or in my case...Dhakkonson." He gathered a few twigs together in a pile, coughing a golden spark on them to set them aflame.

"And you...you knew that I was here. In trouble. You came for me....you broke Astor's commands for me. You gave up the throne...for me..."

Alasdair chuckled. "I kept saying I didn't want the damn thing didn't I? A dragon as a king of men...that's a mistake of history that shouldn't repeat. Still, I can see our Grandfather being spiteful enough to choose me anyway as soon as he's done trying to kill me."

"Why didn't you just tell him, right off the bat? Why didn't you just throw your power around and...I don't know...make him respect you?"

"You mean make him fear me? Lukan I was born for one purpose and one purpose only. I'm a Guardian, a protector. I'm not a king nor a kingmaker. I'm not a noble, I'm not a merchant, I'm not a master. I want people to respect me for my honest work...not because of what I am. Not because of what I could do. But because of what I have done...does that make sense? I want people to respect me because I can heal...not because I can breath fire or turn a stone into a cat. I want them to respect me because I respect them."

He could tell that he hadn't explained it well from the look on Lukan's face, sighing as he poked the fire and added a few larger bits of wood. "Give me a few moments and I'll work on Beak's wing...I'm anxious to get home."

"Good, I have news from the west that I think everyone should hear...of course I'm fairly certain that when we get home what I have to say will be the last thing on everyone's mind. One thing is for sure...there's going to be a hell of a greeting for us."
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What kind of 'greeting' might Alasdair and Lukan expect when they return to the castle in Eresinne and what news from the west did Lukan pick up on his flyby?
----------------------------

I hope you enjoyed.
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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: Tue Nov 08, 2011 7:55 pm    Post subject:  

well, as usual, i loved this chapter!! Alasdair's reveal was epic!!

gimme a little time to process the DP and i'll get back to you on it. =)
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Muaddib



Joined: 31 Dec 2004
Posts: 1765

Posted: Tue Nov 08, 2011 8:58 pm    Post subject:  

Excellent storytelling!

I think we can expect Astor to react badly, he comes across as an arrogant royal and would not brook the breaking of his rules.

I think the common people and soldiers would be terrified of Alisdair after having seen him as a dragon.
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Thunderbird



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

Posted: Sat Nov 19, 2011 1:17 pm    Post subject:  

Quote: They'd come to him in his sleep, speaking to him in voices sepulchral and grim, faded with time. They'd shown him the armies of the Ridden, hollow shells of men and women who's souls had been devoured and replaced with the black slag of the creatures from beyond the demon gate.

I mean now, cummon! This is just liquid gold poetic prose happening here! I've been thinking about this line ever since I read it, over and over, trying to pick it to bits and figure out how to adopt some of the thinking that went into this line. Its coming from a place far beyond my skills and I'm desperate to figure out how to capture the essence here.

Just astounding... truly. Especially given the material I started reading from you originally on IF... This is better stuff than most published authors I've read.

And yeah, the dragon reveal was amazing, and the color scheme you blasted us with in his descriptions were so provocative it was just tantalizing. I actually resented having to see this with my own limited imagination rather than being there in the flesh to see it all taking place.

I'm going to hold off on making any suggestions about the news from the west... I don't feel qualified to offer anything there.

But the greeting... there I can see the King approaching with a surprising degree of real concern showing. His men would be instructed to say little to nothing but to inform him of their arrival immediately and to, if they arrive healthy, direct them to his chambers at once. Most importantly, he would want to address the public revelation of Alasdair's true nature and to sort out not only how this would impact his own motivations, but how it came to be and what the implications of that really are from a political point of view.

I'm thinking Astor considers them all far more important to his plans than he has allowed to show and this moment where he feared one or two of them may have gone missing or dead for good would've shaken him a bit and cracks begin to show in his true agendas.

The people would be vastly divided and the only thoughts they would have on the matter would be regarding Alasdair's transformation. Some would think Alasdair to be a heroic and divine being here to save them from the encroaching darkness while others would see him as corruption carried all the way to the core of the court. This schism could grow very deep among the people, even possibly threaten a civil war, though all would be loath to such violent infighting - more that some would demand Alasdair's head.
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Lilith



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

Posted: Thu Nov 24, 2011 8:34 pm    Post subject:  

:off:

*hip-bumps thread to remind the author we're eagerly awaiting a chappy to drink in*
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Kalanna Rai



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

Posted: Tue Nov 29, 2011 4:14 pm    Post subject:  

*scowls at Lilith* You bump me for a new chapter but I see only two suggestions for a dp. Shame on you rushing me. Anyway, the poll is up and voting can commence.
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Lilith



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

Posted: Thu Dec 01, 2011 2:54 am    Post subject:  

Hate to have to say it sweetheart, but you better get used to it. Two seems to be the limit of suggestions for DPs nowadays. I wouldn't bump you for a chapter if I didn't want to read. :(
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LordoftheNight



Joined: 11 Aug 2005
Posts: 5262
Location: Hell

Posted: Thu Dec 01, 2011 3:00 am    Post subject:  

Thunderbird wrote: Quote: They'd come to him in his sleep, speaking to him in voices sepulchral and grim, faded with time. They'd shown him the armies of the Ridden, hollow shells of men and women who's souls had been devoured and replaced with the black slag of the creatures from beyond the demon gate.

I mean now, cummon! This is just liquid gold poetic prose happening here! I've been thinking about this line ever since I read it, over and over, trying to pick it to bits and figure out how to adopt some of the thinking that went into this line. Its coming from a place far beyond my skills and I'm desperate to figure out how to capture the essence here.

I wasn't going to mention it, and I normally don't go around trying to pick out spelling/grammar mistakes but since Thunder highlighted it in his quote I can't unsee it now - should be whose, not who's.
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PopeAlessandrosXVIII



Joined: 10 Oct 2010
Posts: 1858
Location: Surrounded by many beautiful naked men

Posted: Mon Dec 05, 2011 6:38 am    Post subject: Voted  

I voted, yay!

I really like the way this shifts so quickly from one place to another. The dream Mr. Dragon had was particularly facinating. I can't wai to see time catch up with them! I agree with Thunder-kun, your writing is very poetic, and you have a nack for saying a lot in few words. Bravo!

I can't wait to se more from you. This tale is developing into a fine work!
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Kalanna Rai



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

Posted: Wed Dec 07, 2011 2:33 am    Post subject:  

Poll is closed, votes are in. New chapter tomorrow.
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