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Chapter Seventeen: Kingdom of the Air
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Kalanna Rai



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

Posted: Tue Jun 19, 2012 2:25 am    Post subject: Chapter Seventeen: Kingdom of the Air  

I thrive on your indecision...Enjoy!
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Chapter Seventeen: Kingdom of the Air

He leaned on the battlements with his eyes on the sky, breathing deeply of the air that was heavily scented with a coming storm. He wanted to be up there, circling the valley, getting a feel for the wind that howled down off these eldrich peaks. He wanted to know the skies of Malvang as well as he was coming to know the fortress itself. But that wasn't possible, not with Beak gone. He punched the stone, a futile gesture that left his hand aching but expelled some of his pent up anger.

"Little brother that's a good way to break your knuckles."

He turned at the sound of Khafi's voice, staring at the southerner for a few moments. Aside from the rich gold of his skin...there wasn't much to mark Khafi's origins anymore. His hair had grown long and the neat court beard he wore would have been commonplace anywhere but Rhimefaust. His brother was changing...they all were. It had just become more noticeable in the long weeks since Eresinne fell. In the month and a half since he'd lost Beak and become shackled to the earth.

"I didn't hit it hard enough for that. I'm not an idiot you know? I'm just...frustrated. I don't like sitting here and waiting for trouble to come to us. And I know trouble is coming, just as sure as I know there's a storm rolling in from the north."

Khafi laughed at Lukan's dire words, clapping him on the back. "So now you're seeing the future too? Two Oracles in the family."

"Knock it off Khafi, I'm being serious. These mountains, this place...it's not natural. It doesn't just keep out invaders...it keeps out anyone. A month and a half with an army of the dead chewing the bones of the capital and not one messenger? Are they still chewing over Eresinne? Have they retreated? Are they marching eastward, northward, southward? What's going on out there?"

He stared at the other, knowing full well that Khafi's mind was too restless not to have already turned over these questions often enough himself. And for a long time there was silence, punctuated only but the sound of archery practice in the courtyard below.

"I don't know Lukan. Astor hasn't confided in anyone, Tessa hasn't seen anything, and have you seen Alasdair recently? He's skeletal. Little brother you're not the only one worried, but worrying alone isn't going to help. You're just going to pluck yourself bald pulling your hair in frustration." Khafi moved alongside him, eyes focused on the valley that spread at the foot of the mountain the fortress was built into. "People are trickling in, the survivors of Eresinne. Astor must have intended all the long to come here but I don't think even Yevard could have set up a mass portal into this valley. Even I can feel the magic in the air here. So he sent them somewhere nearby and they're making their way here as best they can. No doubt they'll bring news with them."

Lukan nodded slowly, returning to his leaning position. "I've tried contacting home a few times. But nobody answers my mirror. All I see is smoke in it. I suppose it could be this place...but if it was being blocked it wouldn't fog over like it does. It's more like...there's nobody to answer. Which is impossible. Even if my mother's personal mirror was broken the mirrors at Storm Hall and Highkeep would connect. And you'd think someone would want to know I was alive."

"Could be they're busy themselves. Just because all was quiet in the East before doesn't mean it remained so. Think about it Lukan. There was trouble in Rhimefaust, Falverald, plenty in Jhadir when I left...and of course now Leyond. Why would Haga'Dir be immune to the blight that seems to be wrapping fingers around the world?"

Lukan stared at Khafi with a droll look on his face. "Thank you brother mine for pointing out the obvious. That's exactly what I'm worried about. While I've been dragged out here to play prince, who knows what could be happening back home. Honestly Khafi...I don't care anymore. About being King that is. In the beginning I thought it would be wonderful...to bring my mother honor. Her bastard son, a king. But after giving blood and sweat for this land...I still don't feel any connection to it. It's not home. Home is a place in the sky."

"Lukan, if you keep your head up there in the clouds you're going to walk off a cliff. Listen little brother, we're all worried about the families we've got elsewhere. Except maybe Kyrie. Alasdair hasn't been lucid enough to ask but Kyrie seems certain that Rhimefaust is giving as good as it gets." Tessa's voice was high and light, the bow and quiver of arrows still over her shoulder from her practice. Her hug was even more welcome than the sound of her words.

He returned her hug then scooted over to make room for her at the battlement as well, Khafi mirroring his action on the other side. Her skin was still flushed, glowing with energy and her brow damp with sweat. Lukan had seen many fine shots in his day but Tessa was a master. If they'd had a dozen more archers like her in the woods around Eresinne perhaps they could have bought more time in a few desperate places. In response to his silent admiration she elbowed him in the ribs with a laugh and a smile.

"Quit staring Lukan. Your eyes might fall out of your head. And before you ask I've seen nothing. Not a whisper, blink, or snippet of even the most wild might-be. It's been blissful really. No headaches, nausea, disorientation...I've been able to be my old self for the first time in ages. But I know that's disappointing to hear. I'd try actually looking but without Yevard to lead me back..."

Her voice trailed off into a silence that settled over them all like a comfortable blanket. They'd become close in the past few weeks while each had recuperated from their own hurts. Tessa from the strange affliction her visions always left behind, Lukan and Khafi from the wounds they'd received fighting the dead on the wall. As for Alasdair...seeing him simply laying in bed, slowly growing more wasted...it took a lot of the splendor out of him. Suddenly he'd become a bit more...mortal in their eyes. All the things he'd done, could do, and he was wasting in bed as any man gripped by an illness might.

They'd explored the Keep, or at least most of it. Malvang's secret passages had, to date, defeated their efforts at locating them. Then again, to be fair, they'd found the library and stopped looking for much of anything else. Lukan had never been much a reader but the sheer amount of books and knowledge had been overwhelming. Including a volume on ancient drake hunting that he'd found particularly informative...if he ever went home again. Tessa had been chagrined to find that here, in Malvang, were the true ledgers that she'd been missing back in Eresinne. Ledgers clearly showing troop and crop movements to supply and arm Malvang, Astor having foreseen the day when it would be needed again. And for Khafi, an old set of books said to chronicle the age past when the dead had walked the land and dragons filled the sky. However, whatever script it was written in had as of yet defeated all attempts to read it.

Tessa had just opened her mouth to speak when the telltale sounds of a guard duty echoed up the stairway behind them. With the slow pace at which they were moving it could only be Astor's private guard. Sure enough, within minutes the aged king was making his way toward them, breath rasping slightly. Astor had lost much of his vitality in the past few months and now, more than ever before, he looked like a king in desperate need for an heir. He looked like a tired old man, ready to lay down and sleep, but his work not quite yet finished.

"It pleases me to find you all in one place, although I admit, I tried the library first but the watch captain mentioned I could find you all up here." He stopped, catching his breath perhaps, or maybe choosing his words carefully, Lukan couldn't tell which. "I am afraid the time has come for me to begin making my choice. Coming here has set in motion a chain of events that cannot be stopped. The Kings of Leyond have always had duties to complete and responsibilities to uphold...and I will not be capable of doing so much longer. In three days I must make my decision and so...I ask that you ready yourselves. This is no time for a nation, nations, to be divided. You must be ready to support my choice and decision, no matter what."

Silence greeted his words and Lukan very nearly raised his hands to hold his head, it felt like it was spinning. Now. Astor was making his choice now? Or well, in three days but still...this was no time to put any of them in charge of the nation. Three inexperienced people...alright so Tessa had experience managing an estate and Khaif had experience dealing with intrigue and squabbling nobles. But Lukan wasn't sure any of his own talents put him forward for kingship. He could talk to people, settle debates...alright that was good...but what did he know about leading a nation at war?!

He'd opened his mouth to protest when an all too familiar shriek cut across the valley and he pivoted, eyes instantly riveted to the sky. There, diving from the mists between two peaks, was a familiar buff colored form. Within minutes they were all squinting as Beak's massive wings caught them all in the draft of every stroke, ruffling clothes and hair and throwing up dust and small pebbles tracked up onto the battlements by careless feet. Lukan couldn't have been happier.

It took them some time to get down into the courtyard, the hippogriff never leaving his side for an instant, absorbing all his attention. The men who'd come with the hippogriff did indeed arouse his curiosity, but they were second in his mind to the wonder that was his companion returned. True, there was a scar along his side that Beak would carry for the rest of his days, but other than that he seemed no worse for the ware. Leaning against him, stroking the curve of that sharp beak, he waited until everyone was present before begrudgingly giving his attention to the riders garbed in the royal colors. "So, tell me, what brings my Uncle's personal guards out here to return one wayward hippogriff to it's grateful owner?"

Slowly the captain of the small squad advanced, his helm under one arm, head bowed respectfully. "Your Highness, I wish the task of bearing this news was not mine...I wish this news did not exist at all. But it is my sad duty to inform you that two weeks past an attack was made on Storm Hall during the annual Highmeet. Creatures, the like of which exist only in tales to frighten the most unruly of children, burst from the sky. We...were inexcusably unprepared for such an assault. With the rumors and reports from the west we should have been, we should have known some kind of strange assault was possible...but never this. We regret to inform you that Storm Hall...is no more."

By all rights he should have collapsed right then and there. But his knees locked, keeping him upright, and Beak's warm bulk was a welcome support on which he leaned all of his weight. "No more. Do you mean to tell me it's gone completely?"

"The buildings can be rebuilt, possibly, in time. But the razing was quite thorough. They didn't want to leave many survivors. We were dispatched from Highkeep as soon as we got word of the attack, but arrived too late to do anything but begin the process of burying the dead. It was, by the looks of it, a hell of a battle...you can be proud of your kin Highness. They made a good accounting of themselves."

"I thank you for this news. It explains why I was unable to reach anyone by the mirror...there was no one to reach. And no doubt my Uncle is much concerned with other things to answer the mirror in Highkeep -"

"Highness, forgive the interruption...the Court was in full attendance for the Highmeet. With the exception of yourself and some of the further flung relatives...the Storm Clans are gone. We've been sent from Highkeep to fetch you home, Sire." As one the small guard unit knelt. "Hail Stormrunner."

For a moment there was total silence and then Astor's dry chuckle cut through the air. "Well this certainly complicates things."
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Evil has struck the first blow, decimating the court of Haga'Dir and exterminating Lukan's family. But now Lukan has a choice. With the Storm Clans nearly gone he can either take the throne and do what he can to rebuild and solidify his power, or he can pass the crown to another set of Clans and seal the doom of the Storm Clans forever. Either way there's still the question of Astor's choice. Even if Lukan passes ruling in his homeland there is still the chance that Astor may choose him to rule Leyond. There is no easy way out for our youngest Prince. Only difficult choices.
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I'm eager to hear your opinions on this one. What is Lukan going to do? The description of the things that attacked his family don't match anything we've seen yet. What other new evils might be out there. I hope you liked.
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Lilith



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

Posted: Wed Jun 20, 2012 6:30 pm    Post subject:  

Lukan should go home after the guard of his homeland rest so they can return home with him.. and any who wish to attempt the journey and to rebuild. Hopefully this will leave him in good terms with Astor and whomever succeeds the old King, creating a strong bond that will allow both kingdoms to flourish in the future and wrest control of the dark forces that threaten to overwhelm the world.
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Shillelagh



Joined: 11 Mar 2010
Posts: 398
Location: Kansas

Posted: Fri Jun 22, 2012 9:44 pm    Post subject:  

The same reasons that Lukan is nervous to be King of Leyond apply to Haga'Dir as well. If they won't let him be king, but temporarily move his people to the safety of Malvang... then for the sake of his homeland he should probably allow the crown to pass to another.

I really don't think Lukan is the type to abandon Tessa and Khafi, whatever the reason might be. And that's before we break open the fourth wall and resist splitting the four heirs at all costs, to keep story cohesion.
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PopeAlessandrosXVIII



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

Posted: Sun Jun 24, 2012 8:05 am    Post subject: I Think. . . . .  

Another brilliant chapter. I love it, and can not bring forth the words to express how much. This is indeed a story I can't wait to see hit the bookselves ;) I just got done reading the last 4 chapters in a row, and the imagry is so fluid and vivid that I never lost a beat. I also admire your vocabulary. I feel that I myself needs to head back to the dictionary to expand my own :P


Khafi is still my favorite character and I pray to the spirits of the land he isn't the one leaning towards evil. OH! And the evil dragon is awesome. :P I want one! I could keep it under my house. *Grin* I mean, who doesn't want a zombie dragon? The scene was so sickening and messy it put me off my snack, and that's a complement! My veins are still humming with the happy I got from him.


As for the DP. . . . . .I know this sounds all Captain Planet, but I must agree about keeping all the kiddies together. . . . .I may be a little lost, but I can't tell if there is more then just Beak there, 'cause if not one of the ment would have to stay behind anyways if Lukan left. I'd say, Astor has given them three days to mul over who he's going to choose, so I'd have Lukan waiting those three days to make any decission on what to do, and after Astor's choice, then mking his own. I'd have his haveing a heart-to-heart with his eldest brother somewhere between here and there. Have him give Lukan some good advice :P


I can't wait to see what comes next, and I still love your style :P Keep'em comin'!
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Kalanna Rai



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

Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2012 2:15 am    Post subject:  

Now polling.
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