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Chapter Fourteen: Life and Death
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Kalanna Rai

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

Posted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 5:21 am    Post subject: Chapter Fourteen: Life and Death  

A little delayed but a chapter for you all. I hope you find this a most informative battle. Enjoy!

Chapter Fourteen: Life and Death

She woke gingerly, her head in such pain that it was unbearable. At first she thought she'd gone blind again and her heart raced with a sudden burst of panic. Then she realized that a light cloth had been bound over her eyes and presently became aware of a nearby candle flame.

"Good, you're awake. Alasdair mended the wound on your head but warned that you'd likely be in a good deal of pain when you woke. We've been sitting with you, I just sent your serving maid to her bed. She's been up all hours worrying over you and I said I'd watch you for a time."

It took Tessa a few minutes to place the voice, lying still so as not to jar her pounding skull. "Kyrie? That's very kind of you but shouldn't you be resting? I can't imagine you're comfortable, or that Alasdair is approving of you missing sleep." The soft laughter that greeted her words made Tessa smile, it was such a joyful and relaxing noise.

"He worries far too much and right now I need to be the least of those worries. As for missing sleep it's just past noon, so I'm afraid you've missed lunch but otherwise there's no harm done."

Tessa's smile lasted a brief moment more, then her mind remembered what it had seen in the last few moments before the vision had sent her tumbling down a flight of steps. "Worries...Kyrie the dead! I need to warn them about the-"

"The first of the dead were sighted an hour ago. The men have already moved to meet them. Lukan and Khafi were just here to inquire about you and I'm sure Alasdair will be along shortly to fuss and make sure that I'm well. Just relax Tessa, talk if you need to. Khafi assured me he'll be checking in from time to time and while I'm no mage, I've seen magical things. And if he wasn't wearing an amulet of Farspeak then I'll take up needlepoint."

The image of the energetic Kyrie sitting in a gown and attempting to demurely stitch something beautiful but worthless brought forth an abrupt laugh and Tessa gently reached up and tugged free her bandage, wincing slightly. After a few moments of adjustment she was able to open her eyes and gaze around at her familiar room, the curtains drawn to keep it dark. Kyrie sat near her, hair tied in a neat braid, hands resting on her overlarge belly.

Slowly Tessa sat up, raising a hand to touch her head, breathing a sigh of relief to feel it the same as it ever was. "I suppose I owe Alasdair a large dose of thanks. All I remember are fragments of vision and then darkness. I suppose that was my head hitting the stones though. I need to get this under control Kyrie or one of these will kill me." She shivered at the thought, abruptly wishing that she had a nice strong drink at hand. "All my life I've always had control. If I spoke a command it was done. But this...I can't grasp this. I can't use logic on it, I can't make it obey me. It's...terrifying. The way it can just end everything....I can't describe it. You've no idea-"

"No idea? To suddenly find that you cannot control your own body? To be terrified of something so sudden and so instant that it's over before you realize it's began? Tessa if I were the type of woman to fear that I would have spent these last few months in absolute horror." She ran a hand gently over her belly again, glancing at it before looking back up. Abruptly Tessa was ashamed, wishing she could take back those last hastily spoken words as she reflected on Kyrie's situation.

"I'm sorry. I-I didn't think. I can't honestly imagine what you're going through. A baby is a change that I don't think I'm ready for. Considering Alasdair, you're right. You do understand. Speaking of which, you look ready to be done with this. When do you think the little one will arrive?" This was something Tessa was keenly interested in. This was the woman that had captured the attention of not just a man, but a dragon. This was a woman willing to chance an unfathomable risk that the child she bore him would kill her. A woman who knew with unwavering certainty that her child was inhuman...and who loved both it and it's father all the same. Tessa was no stranger to strong women, but the gentle Kyrie was a force unknown in her world.

"You're the Oracle Tessa, you tell me." That soft laugh echoed in the air again, Kyrie's green eyes sparkling with mirth. "In all honesty soon. We both knew this one would arrive around midwinter, that passed a week ago. But...I'd much rather I was home. My husband goes to a battle he may not win. People I care about stand only a moment away from the cessation of their existence. How can I feel any joy about bringing a little one into that?"

Tessa knew what people thought about her. The horrible names they called her when they thought she wasn't listening. Her will, her opinions, her personality, and the unwavering conviction that being born a woman did not make her inferior to any man...that had earned her hatred and enemies. Men feared her. And so they slandered her. They sabotaged her. They put every obstacle they could in front of her. And she made it easy for them sometimes, acting before thinking. Saying words meant to shock and acting the part people assumed she would. But that wasn't always the truth and she'd lost so many things because of it. She'd lost the respect of her brothers, something she'd spent months slowly earning back.

Now she was called Oracle, her visions as powerful and terrifying as they were infrequent, fragmented, and vague. And this woman sitting next to her didn't care about any of it. They were sisters of a sort, and not simply because Kyrie had married the man Tessa called brother. They shared a common bond of being at the mercy of things neither of them had any control over. They were both strong, both driven, and now they were both here. Kept out of the way and 'safe' by men who didn't think the battlefield was any place for them. And, for various reasons, Tessa had to admit that it wasn't.

She reached out, taking one of Kyrie's hands and smiling at her. "Thank you, for coming here and sitting with me. Thank you for understanding. I wish...I wish I could go back to that moment, when I met my siblings, and take back the horrible things I said. I wish I could have done things differently. But it has always been my habit to speak first and think later. I'm so good with papers, with things. With numbers and cold logic...I am not very good with people at all. I care, I do, it's just-"

Kyrie patted her hand gently, nodding at her words. "People are fickle things. It's easier to do things for them than with them. It's easier to take a wagon of grain from one village and give it to another when it's places on a map. When you're staring at the faces of villagers outraged by the loss of that wagon it's harder to tell them about the starving children elsewhere. They're not going to care about something they can't see and don't know. I understand what you're saying. Thankfully that will never be my burden to bare."

"You will if Astor chooses Alasdair to rule. He will be king then and no man will have the balls to force him to set you aside for another. Even if he does not rule here in Leyond, will he not rule your homeland? Will you not be his consort? His Queen?"

Any response Kyrie would have made was suddenly washed away by a vision that came as swiftly as the strike of a serpent, washing through her senses and stealing them away for a moment. She could see the surface of the river, rippling as if tossed by the winds of a storm as wave upon wave of skulls broke through. Their ever grinning visages marched ever forward, crystalline droplets sliding away from bones as brown as oak bark. Caught here and there, in sockets and joints and hanging from ribs, debris and weeds from the long march in the river. They charged forward soundlessly, mouths agape, bone fingers crooked into wicked claws. The flesh of living men was before them and they were famished for it.

Abruptly the skull of one splintered into pieces, an arrow shattering the brittle, waterlogged bone. The skeleton crumbled into pieces, whatever magic that animated it fleeing with the destructing of the horrible grin. The battle was joined, archers raining arrows from the safety of their trees, aiming for the skulls as more living dead ground the bones of their fallen into meal and dust.

A sudden swirl of feathers and sky brought her vision shifting away to Lukan, high above on Beak's back. The hippogriff was armored in leather and metal plates, specially made and brought from Haga'Dir just for this purpose. Lukan's leathers were different as well, not the light protection he usually wore. These were bolted with plates of steel and links of protective chain and Beak flew heavy in the sky under the load. The hippogriff dove with a shriek, the long spear in Lukan's hand stabbing downward as he charged the dead from the sky.

And then it was Khafi and Astor on the wall, standing straight as they surveyed the forest from afar. The gleam of light that had been on the head of Lukan's spear danced on the contours of the amulet around Khafi's neck and his dark southern eyes were narrowed in perfect concentration. A soft glow lit the amulet's stone and Tessa knew he was speaking with someone, although whom that someone might be was unknown.

And then the vision shattered, leaving the truth of what was and decaying into a mad spiral of might have beens, never would bes, and might yet comes. By the time she returned to her own head, she was covered in sweat and breathless with the pain in her skull, grasping at fragments of the future, the past, or hallucination. She didn't know which they were, turning toward Kyrie with a face full of fear.

The red-headed woman looked back at her, a tight smile on her pained face. The hand that was holding Tessa's had become a grip of iron, her knuckles standing white in the same manner of Tessa's own. Her other arm was wrapped tight around her belly, fluids soaking her legs and chair.

"No. Oh not now." Tessa's voice was a harsh croak, words lost as Kyrie screamed in wordless agony. But it was now. The child that had seemed so content to wait moments before was now demanding it's place in the world. Tessa had seen, had known, and terror filled her over it. That fragment of vision was still red hot in Tessa's mind, branding her with shards that could connect to it. And one terrifying image that would not leave. A dark shape curled around a ruined tower, the grief stricken bellow of wordless loss that filled the sky while Eresinne burned.

For a moment more she lay there, holding Kyrie's hand numbly, unsure of what she needed to do next. And then light fell across them both, the curtains spilling open as the window was thrown wide. For a moment a shadow, too impossibly large to be real, blocked all view. Then Tessa was moved aside as Alasdair broke her hold on Kyrie.

For a moment she could only watch as her brother lifted his struggling wife, holding her close to him, his forehead pressed against hers as he murmured something soft to her. Could only watch the way the other woman clung to him, digging her fingers into his skin with every wave of pain she felt. And then she was transfixed by an inhuman stare, the eyes of a monster in the face of a man. "Move! And if you will not aid me then be silent."

Tessa moved, her stomach threatening to rebel as her head screamed in pain. It was as if she'd had too much drink, yet she hadn't touched a drop since dinner the night before last. In nothing but her sleeping gown she scuttled out of Alasdair's way as he shoved the bedclothes aside and laid Kyrie down. A rake of his hand cut the clothes from her and he tossed them away, eyes fixed on her face.

Tessa was rather abruptly embarrassed, although she wasn't sure why. Perhaps it was an old-fashioned sense of propriety. That this man had no place in what was shortly to become a birthing room. That this was the domain of women and women alone. Perhaps it was embarrassment for Kyrie, for the fact she was nude in front of a woman who was nearly a total stranger. Whatever it was, Tessa pushed it away and took a moment to steel herself.

Rolling up her sleeves she moved to the side of the bed, glancing up at Alasdair. "What can I do to help? What do you need?" This was important, she understood better than perhaps anyone. She'd seen that vision, she knew full well that should anything go amiss in these next few moments, should any harm come to Kyrie and the soon to be born child, Alasdair would go mad with grief.

And then Leyond would burn.

"Water, hot. Clean linens and blankets. Cellewyrn to help with bleeding. Mother's Leaf to restore her energy." His answers were direct but his attention never wavered, one hand tight with Kyrie's own, the other resting lightly on the flesh of her stomach. There was a hum of power in the air and Tessa could feel it creeping along her skin, toying with the ends of her hair.

She moved then, stopping to wake her maidservent, sending her to fetch the herbs that Alasdair had spoken of. She herself pressed through the halls, ignoring the glances that came. Ignoring the voices raised in panic, demanding answers of the battle that raged in the forest and across the fields. She paused a moment as a wave of dizziness overcame her, holding tightly to the wall and closing her eyes. Very nearly her stomach turned over and she swallowed with a grimace to force the bile back down. Khafi, Khafi if you can hear me know this, you fight alone. Kyrie is in labor, Alasdair won't take the field. If you cannot stand without the dragon then retreat and hold the walls. Until the child is born you fight alone...

And with that thought sped on it's way she opened her eyes and pressed forward again.

Alright folks, here is where you take over. The dead are attacking, the baby is coming, and everything hangs in the balance. You've got plenty of choices to make here and the possibility of people to kill. Do Kyrie and her baby make it, does Alasdair take the field in the fight against the dead? Or are they lost and with them does the dragon become the next worry for the besieged kingdom. And there's always the possibility that all is well with mother and child, but the dead still bring the city to it's knees.

Well there you are, a decision to chew over, the next twist of the knife. I hope you liked.
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Joined: 10 Jan 2012
Posts: 7

Posted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 7:44 am    Post subject:  

Love the story so far.:)

I would see it that it all ends well for the mother+child and the dead do not reach the walls.. But the father is tired from this and also the dead are able to bring in place a sort of shortcut to the portal, thus allowing them to get reinforcements much sooner.
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Joined: 11 Mar 2010
Posts: 398
Location: Kansas

Posted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 3:21 pm    Post subject:  

I... hmm. I'm torn between wanting everything to be sunshine and rainbows because I like these characters, and having everything be terrible for the sake of a good read.

I'm going to say that, thanks to Tessa's help, both mother and baby are fine. But... it's a long birth, and it takes quite a few hours. Alasdair is too late to arrive at the battle to do anything but assist in a full retreat. Astor and Khafi have an easier time retreating, since they're towards the rear. Lukan, as scout, is probably in the most danger.
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Lost Omega

Joined: 18 Dec 2010
Posts: 88
Location: West Haven, CT

Posted: Mon Mar 26, 2012 8:48 am    Post subject:  

This DP really tears me up inside... As much as I don't want anything bad to happen to any of these characters. However, I shall attempt a give-and-take thing here.

I suggest that the battle to repel the dead fails and the dead reach the city walls. By this time, Kyrie has the baby but Leyond is no longer safe so our heroes must flee and regroup so they can try to retake the city later.

I'm loving this story Rai! Keep it up! :D
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Joined: 10 Feb 2007
Posts: 1597
Location: Happily curled up in a Daemon's lap

Posted: Mon Mar 26, 2012 1:07 pm    Post subject:  

This is... not only a ...controversial DP... but one I find difficult as well.

Unfortunately, to me it seems that the only way the characters I like is for Tessa and her maidservant and WHOEVER the heck is the best mid-wifey person to shove Alasdair out the window. He has to take to the skies and help Khafi, Lukan and the armies fight the dead off the city. If he doesn't, the city is lost and his wife and child will die in the upset anyway, as will everyone else that may or may not be important to him.

As for mother and child... I think I'll leave that bag of controversy alone. I know how I'd like it to end.. but I won't discuss that here. ;)
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Kalanna Rai

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

Posted: Sun Apr 01, 2012 12:20 pm    Post subject:  

And here it is the poll you've been waiting for, or not. Vote and let us see which path we walk down.
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Joined: 10 Feb 2007
Posts: 1597
Location: Happily curled up in a Daemon's lap

Posted: Sun Apr 01, 2012 1:31 pm    Post subject:  

Voted. Please don't make me cry. :(
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Kalanna Rai

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

Posted: Tue Apr 03, 2012 12:37 pm    Post subject:  

Tie-breaker needed.
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