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Chapter Eleven: Cry The Grave
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Kalanna Rai



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

Posted: Mon Dec 26, 2011 1:41 am    Post subject: Chapter Eleven: Cry The Grave  

Happy Holidays All
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Chapter Eleven: Cry the Grave

So many things were happening around him, his mind was bouncing between them all, trying to keep track. There was Astor, walking from the great doors and standing at the top of the stairs, shouting to be heard over the confusion. There were the horns, wildly blowing, calling for aid and growing ever louder. There were the barbarians, taking advantage of the confusion of king and horns to force a way through the ring of guards and array themselves to protect their Lord. Then there were his own people, quietly slipping up alongside him and awaiting his orders. And, of course, there were the words Tessa had spoken. Now his half-sister was slumped against him, unconscious for the moment.

That was a weight he didn't need right now. A few discreet gestures and he handed her off to his people to be spirited away. He would speak to her later, plumb the depths of her power a little more thoroughly. He stood for a moment, hands rising to his temples as he waited for his brain to stop whirling. The dead, the dead had made it from Falverald and were here now, in Leyond. That's what the horns were, they'd risen from the lake just beyond the King's Woods. The garrison at the Western Watch was lightly staffed, according to the intelligence he'd gathered, and from the sound of it they were overwhelmed.

Khafi was no warrior, the way of the Southern court was casual cruelty, clever politics, and quiet poisons. However, he knew mental warfare, and had he been looking to route troops...using dead men would break their resolve with unimaginable swiftness. Thus...he had no way of estimating the size that had come upon the Western Watch. It could be only a few, it could be an army. He glanced up at the creaking of the gates, dark eyes flicking toward the figure that stumbled through them. A runner from the Western Watch...his answers wrapped in frail and shaking flesh.

He edged closer to the bottom of the steps where his Grandfather stood, turning a sharp ear toward the man as the courtyard went mostly silent. Alasdair and Lukan were still in the center of a ring of steel, the barbarians still guarding their lord and lady, but Lukan was concerned mostly with the irritated Beak and Alasdair had only eyes for his red-headed wife. Khafi shook his head at them, perhaps they already knew...but he wanted more answers. And the stumbling runner had them.

He had the look of a man that had faced true horror, landing on his knees as his legs gave out at the bottom of the steps. From where he was standing, Khafi could see his pale skin, the way his eyes rolled like a skittish horse and his breath rasped in his chest. He leaned against the wall, keeping an eye on everything and an ear on the conversation as Astor descended the steps to speak with the man.

"The Dead my liege. They came out of the lake. Hundreds of them, shrieking....I've never heard anything like it. They were on us in seconds, ripping at us with their fingers, biting with their teeth. A couple of men patrolling near the edge of the lake went first and the dead tore them to pieces. They stopped and...tried to wear them. Not just the armor and weapons...but the pieces of flesh as well. But only a couple, the rest just sprinted for the tower. My captain...he told me to run, to warn you, because there are just too many... oh gods..."

Khafi watched Astor carefully, watching his eyes flick from the western wall, to Alasdair and Lukan, and back again. Watched as his Grandfather caught and locked eyes with his blond half-brother. Something must have passed between them, some unspoken communication, or perhaps Astor had done what Khafi would have in his place. He'd picked the greater of two evils. Whatever it was, his attention returned to the western wall. "Captains, gather your men and go grind them into bonemeal. I don't want those things getting into my city. Men of Leyond, no doubt some foul magic is at work here! Some southern hired magician has over-reached and sought to attack us in a way least expected! But they have done things like this before and this attack is no different! They surprised us, but we are always stronger! Go now, and make your country proud!"

Of course that would work. Khafi's uncle had been warring with Leyond off and on for the past sixty years. It was his favorite pastime. And the hatred in the north for the southern lands grew with each new generation born into the propaganda. So of course calling it a southern attack, even despite the fact no magic user anywhere in Khafi's knowledge, could have raised an army of the dead to march, had the Guards of the palace garrison fired up. It was also rather amusing to see how quickly they forgot their 'prisoners' in their haste to muster.

He was almost trampled several times, dodging men that scurried here and there as their officers bellowed orders, slipping up next to, and then past, the ring of northern barbarians. "Well...that certainly was a stirring speech. Give it a few hours and they'll be accusing me of being that 'southern magician'. After all...your little stunt and Tessa's have set wonderful precedents for us. Anything you want to share Lukan...such as the ability to drop the stars themselves on our skulls or conjure fabulous weapons at the snap of your fingers?"

The red-haired youth snorted, pausing from where he'd started to lead Beak to the stables. "If I could do that do you think I'd have sat around and waited for us to get attacked?"

"Sarcasm isn't going to help Khafi. We need a plan."

Khafi looked at Alasdair, staring at his older half-brother for a long moment. He could see little changes in him, or perhaps things that had been cleverly hidden by magic before. The strange hue of his eyes, the way the pupils seemed just a little misshapen, the way certain teeth were sharper and more fang-like. Little things that only someone quick with observation would notice. "I'm sorry, the past few days have been full of unbelievable events. And brother mine I don't notice that you're winging off to save them...is that something specially reserved for family members only? Or have you over-taxed yourself?"

"Men must get used to fighting the dead themselves. The rivers are choked with them, their stench fouls the air, and the entire land screams at the pain of their arrival. Leyond is seething and she is a sleepy land. She is not Rhimefaust, where every river, rock, and stream is awake and aware with spirits. She is a land fertile, bountiful...but stupid. I cannot feel her spirits, just a weak and sleepy energy. But now, I feel pain, raw and ragged. As if a bone has poked through the skin and is now being scraped with a blade." A pulse of gold flickered behind his eyes and Khafi watched as his wife put a comforting, or perhaps restraining, hand on his.

Lukan rejoined them cautiously, running his hands through his disheveled and dirty hair. "This isn't the army, this isn't even the vanguard. These are the odds and ends of the scouting parties that weren't destroyed in Falverald. Tossed back into the river and marching ever onwards. Come, before Grandfather sends for us all, we need to convene our own council. Or do you think that now he'll listen to us and what we have to say?"

Khafi shook his head. "Possible, but doubtful. His wrath against Alasdair alone poisons any chances we have with him. His pride and his ego both have been dealt heavy blows...and trust my southern upbringing on this. A prideful man does not take such injuries well. He will cut off his own nose to spite his face."

"But he's not stupid Khafi! He can't-"

Khafi held up a hand. "Lukan...he's ruled Leyond powerfully and well for many many years. Whatever grievances we have with him, you cannot deny his achievements. He is a shrewd politician, a cunning statesman, a silver-tongue to the people, and a wise general. I have my suspicions about why we are seeing a more petty side of him...but they are just that...suspicions. However, your news is something I'm keen to hear. Perhaps...in an hour...shall we meet in Tessa's rooms?"

He broke away from them without waiting for a response, there was too much he needed to think about before he sat down with them. Such as the fact there was an army of dead on the way. If Lukan could see them from the air...there had to be many. And what were Alasdair's true capabilities? He'd tried to bait his elder brother a little but Alasdair had neatly avoided it neatly. Could a dragon take an army of the dead? Khafi hoped not for if a dragon could destroy an army what hope did anyone have against withstanding any demands Alasdair might make...power would corrupt eventually.

Reaching his rooms, he settled down in his chair, fingertips tapping together gently as his people fussed around him. He let them, feeling their tension, and small tasks he normally dissuaded them from were welcome at this moment. And he admitted there was a certain pleasure to having his hair unbound and combed with soothing oils. It helped him think and relaxed him, as well as got him ready to face the private counsel of siblings. Perhaps they could come up with something, some way to make Astor see the light. But something in his soul told him that would never happen. He'd seen the signs of age-sickness in Astor...perhaps the death of Prince Caur had only hastened what age had begun. Astor was an old man, powerful and vital still, but his mind...his mind was beginning to rot.

And if that were the case...how long before he needed to stop working with his siblings and start working for the throne in earnest? How long before the old man became incapable of making a rational choice? If he was a gibbering fool...how much weight would his choice of heir carry? In the south, Khafi knew it would be as if the gods had spoken...and if the heir was a fool, assassins would quickly eliminate him. But here in the north, if Astor's word were questioned right away, the chosen heir might well be cast into suspicion.

A decision loomed before him. He had to plan with his siblings, this was a foregone conclusion, but perhaps it was time to nudge them as well? To begin to sound out their true intentions to rule or not. Alasdair had declared for some time he didn't want the throne and now everyone could see why. But what of Tessa and Lukan...how badly did they wish to rule? He had no other place to go in this world for going back south was as good as death, for better or ill his lot was cast with Leyond. So now he needed to make his choice. Would he settle for less than the throne, for any life he could lead? Or was it the throne, or nothing?
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Though there are bigger things to worry about, Khafi hasn't lost sight of the original goal. Is he going to pursue the throne with single-minded intensity, or is he going to divert his efforts elsewhere and hope that he is chosen anyway? Only you know his choice, only I know the consequences it has.
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A little something I hope you liked.
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Thunderbird



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

Posted: Mon Dec 26, 2011 1:29 pm    Post subject:  

Shiny new forum and a great new chapter to read soon. Cool! :D I'll return with comment over the next few days.
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Lilith



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

Posted: Fri Dec 30, 2011 8:12 pm    Post subject:  

Well done K-Rai! And may I congratulate you on the shiny new forum and Spotlight Storygame! :)

Now, as you've tried to make clear, Khafi has no qualms about killing someone who gets in his way or deserves it, but I've got this feeling that he's not just going to start snarling and chomping at the bit for the throne single-mindedly without finding out more information from his siblings. He needs to meet with them, he needs to find out what their true intentions are for being in Leyond besides being ordered there by Astor.

I hope this helps with the next chapter!
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Shillelagh



Joined: 11 Mar 2010
Posts: 398
Location: Kansas

Posted: Sat Dec 31, 2011 4:51 am    Post subject:  

Oh, what to say, what to say...

I'd say that he's going to do both, but if it's one or the other, I think he'll focus more on diverting his efforts. After all, Alastair doesn't want it, and Lucan is just a kid. His only real threat for the throne is Tessa, and it's unclear if she wants it. And, even if she does, it's hard to see how Astor could see her as being anything other than a spoiled princess. ...and even if these things aren't true, Khafi has enough ego to believe them. After all, none of the other siblings have even mentioned the throne. And if he focuses solely on the throne, he's likely to lose the support of, oh... pretty much everyone around him, save Astor.
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Masterweaver



Joined: 21 Nov 2006
Posts: 1463
Location: Look around

Posted: Tue Jan 03, 2012 2:24 pm    Post subject:  

Khafi is a cunning beast, and he knows the value of every person. He has seen Tessa; she does not want the throne to be queen, but to become an instrument of change. Here is his chance to convince her that he could be that instrument: A hated southerner becoming prince, while in secret she maneuvers the law and the people. But he is intelligent enough to put that aside for now; he will make the offer later, when he thinks she feels as though they are safe. Let's not forget that the land of Leylond is overrun with not only the dead, but skinwalkers....
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Kalanna Rai



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

Posted: Fri Jan 13, 2012 2:26 am    Post subject:  

Alright all you special people...voting time.
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