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Chapter Nineteen Part One: The Rise of Kings
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Kalanna Rai



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

Posted: Wed Aug 08, 2012 2:17 am    Post subject: Chapter Nineteen Part One: The Rise of Kings  

And here is the outcome of coinflip for king...dear lord I think one of the souls I keep in jars died a little watching me do that. Still, Enjoy!
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Chapter Nineteen Part One: The Rise of Kings

He stood for a time, leaning on the window ledge, eyes sweeping out and across the valley. Mist rose from the folds of the mountains where the sun struck it, burning off the dampness left behind by the storm. It was done, finally. The choice was made. All his planning, all his plotting, all his manipulating...it had meant nothing in the end. In the end Astor had made his choice based not on the advice of any council of lords, nor the whims of the people. It hadn't even been made on their own merits. In the end, it had been as simple as a droplet of blood rolling down the left side of a dagger.

A soft sound behind him drew his attention and he turned quickly, the heavy fabric of his cloak twisting with him. He'd half expected one of the guards coming to tell him it was time but the telltale sound of armor had been missing. Alasdair had been and gone with a few words of encouragement. Lukan had stopped by, wringing out a promise that Khafi would accompany him home and help him with the situation there. Still, after the look of horrified anger he'd seen on her face, Khafi hadn't expected to see Tessa standing at the top of the stairs.

"They said I could find you here."

"They meaning Lukan and Alasdair I presume? It would appear that they haven't steered you wrong."

She was dressed simply in a long linen dress, a vest of leather binding the bodice tight against her. Moving up alongside him, he caught glimpses of the soft breeches she wore under the gown through the long splits in the side as she came to rest her arms on the ledge next to him. "When I was little, my sister and I would take turns pretending to be Queen. She was the youngest and I hated letting her take a turn...I'd always tell her that she'd get married off to some lord before she became Queen. And Mother would always scold me and tell me that wasn't the way a Queen should behave."

He watched her for a few moments, the wind toying with the dangling curls that framed her face. "My mother died birthing me. Not that she would have appreciated my presence anyway. A northern bastard, even the bastard of a Prince, is less than worthless in Jhadir. A khafi."

"You shall make them eat their words then. If there are any of them left to eat them. You've seen the reports out of the south-"

He snorted, a flair of emotion passing over his face. "Let them burn in the fires of their own making. The court has been full of demons wearing human skins for years. I'm no Beguiler to see the emotions of others...but I'd simply know. They'd do nothing to give themselves away but there would be a...taste...in the air around them." It took him a few minutes to find the right word but taste fit quite nicely. The air was practically rancid on his tongue around those who were only fleshly masks for the soul eaters.

She stared at him with a sad smile, tucking an errant curl behind her ear. Opening her mouth to speak, her body suddenly went rigid, the pupils of her eyes turning white as her fingers clutched the stone of the ledge hard enough to leave marks. "In the chamber the heir to the Black Throne shall rise. He shall stand to thwart the No Life King and reclaim that which is his by right. But should the Golden Fire betray the Heart of Light, then all will come to naught.

His is the choice, to take what his heart desires, or to take what is desired of him. Either choice shall cost a life dear to him and leave him alone, seeking the blind, as did his Ancestor."

Khafi stared at her, holding her gently as her body shook, eyes closed as she hung limply in his grasp. He was about to shift her, to carry her to her room, when one hand gripped him hard enough to bruise, her face turning upward till closed eyes were fixed on his own. "Don't Open It!" Her hissed words seemed to take the last of her energy, her head lolling to the side, leaving his brain falling over itself to solve the riddle.

The No Life King? The one behind the skeletons obviously. But by the Chamber did she mean the chamber where he was to undergo his Ordeal to become king? Where was the Black Throne? Obviously the Golden Fire was Alasdair...right? And if so who was the Heart Of Light he would betray? Too many riddles, like food to a starving man, his brain seized upon them and wouldn't let go as he carried her down the stairs and toward her room.

He'd just laid her on her bed when she stirred, pressing hands to her head before looking up at him. "Khafi...I saw the most terrible thing. I-I think it was a Gate. And a man standing before it, being ripped apart by bonds of light. Some cavern somewhere...a big room..." She swallowed, turning squinted eyes to him. "Before you go...I need to tell you something. What I came up there to tell you in the first place. I know you've been looking for details on the Ordeal and the 'evil' that haunts Malvang since we came here. I don't know if you found anything but...when I was little, I remember listening to my parents argue. My uncle Caur had been to visit and my mother was pleading my father not to let him back again. She said that he wasn't safe to be around, that the Ordeal had caused his Madness...that he wasn't the brother my father remembered... Khafi...don't let that happen to you. No matter what, don't let it change you like that."

He stared at her a moment, carefully patting her hand before smoothing her stray curl behind her head. "Don't worry about me. Save it for Lukan. He's young, he needs people worrying about him. All my life I've gotten by on my wits, that's not about to change now. The Ordeal doesn't frighten me, merely has me curious. There are far more terrible things I've encountered in my life, including watching the soul of a small child die. Do you know what a khafi is? In the old language of the south is it short for khafiri'to or worthless meat. It is commonly used to refer to unsellable slaves of less than no value. If this ordeal starts with something of no value...it cannot possibly make it worse. Rest now. I'll see you in the morning."

He turned, leaving her no time to protest as he strode back out into the hall. The No Life King...the Heart of Light...cryptic riddles. He liked it better when she stuttered out what she saw instead of speaking in these half-hashed prophetic tones that any bazaar huckster. There was also the little matter of her eyes. He'd picked her up from many vision spells...but nothing like that had ever happened that he'd witnessed. They were getting stronger. Perhaps that is why Astor had chosen him over her. Tessa was more than qualified...although her ability as a diplomat lacked tact. But if her visions left her crippled and unable to rule...

He was still musing when an escort of guards dropped in around him, the Captain saluting him respectfully. "King Astor has ordered us to escort you to him."

He still wasn't used to that either. Respect. He straightened his posture, surveying the man's expression with feigned disinterest. "Very well then, lead the way." He would have to be on his toes in the next few weeks, as the noble lords of the land gathered at Malvang to see him confirmed as Heir. Astor meant to hold court here, as had been done in the old days, and to set up his council of war. No doubt there would be plenty wondering why Khafi, the southern bastard, had been chosen over Tessa...who's true parentage was still unrevealed and thus, a clear heir, without the taint of southern blood.

Idly he wondered how many people would try to kill him within the first week, privately lamenting again the loss of his servants. Oh there was still one and make no mistake, that one man was worth his weight in gold. But his ebony skin was easy to pick out in any crowd. Still, the finest bodyguard Khafi could hope for.

The guards escorted him down to a dismal little cellar where Astor waited with a torch. The old king stared for a moment before waving them off, waiting a few moments to see if they'd gone. Then, without a word, he turned and lifted his hand, pressing his signet against a flat stone. The stone yielded in the exact shape of the signet and the bricks folded themselves away, revealing a floating stair into the darkness. "Keep close behind me and keep your eyes on the stair. Look anywhere but the stair and you will fall."

Khafi waited for Astor to get a few steps ahead of him before following the elder down the stairs. There was a grinding sound and the light snapped off, the bricks having folded themselves back up once he passed. The urge to look up and look around was strong, Khafi had always been curious, but he did as he was told. Carefully his booted feet felt out the surface of each step, faintly reflecting the torch-light as though damp. Then, suddenly, his foot touched a step and light flared all around them, a rush of air blowing out the flame on the torch and leaving Astor holding a smoking brand. "You may look up now Grandson. Look and see the secret our family has guarded for an Age."

The sight was not one he was prepared for. The cavern was part natural, part carved by hand. In the center, on a cloth-draped rise, was a loop of rock...and wood, woven with ribbons and draped with bangles. They fluttered, as if in a soft breeze, and a faint song came from the jangling charms. They were like ornate versions of the paper wishes he'd seen other children toss to the sky on festival nights. Still, there was no question about what this was. A Gate. The Fifth Gate.

"The Dreamers Gate. Half complete when the war ended, it should never have been finished. But once started, construction could not be stopped. That would be like building half a door and never finishing, always open, never shutting. Vengivedion himself didn't know what would come through this, so he bound it with his blood. As long as the Gate exists, so will we. As long as we exist, the Gate answers our command. We are the Lords of Dreams...it is not a duty that is undertaken lightly. The test, the Ordeal, is not one I will administer. It is one the Gate will administer. Take your sword and cut yourself. Offer your blood as your ancestors have and you shall either be judged worthy or consumed."

"Before I do...a question. Why was Malvang abandoned?"

Astor grimaced, as if knowing the question was coming, looking ten years older in the light of the gate. A powerless and feeble old man. "The Eater of Dreams. That is what it has come to be called. It came into being centuries ago, came to haunt this place. It killed Kings, interfering with Ordeals, twisting the power of the Gate when we were at our weakest in it's thrall. It was eventually trapped, caged by the dying wish of one of it's victims. A noble desire to save his younger brother from the same fate. In the time of the Iron Queen something let it loose. It was too weak to stop me from succeeding in my Ordeal but by the time Caur tried his...it snapped his mind. Unable to kill him, it did what damage it could. I fear the strength it may have by now. Which is why when you undergo your Ordeal, I will face it. Hopefully I can distract it long enough for the Gate to recognize the danger and release you."

Khafi stared at his Grandfather for a moment, giving the old king a nod of appreciation. "This is why you didn't choose Tessa. Because her visions already made her unstable."

"And Alasdair because I fear what would happen if the Gate were given a dragon. I'm not even sure that any Vengivedion blood flows through his veins. Whatever forces created him may very well have simply used my son and that northern woman as proxies for themselves. And Lukan has a kingdom that needs him. I would not make him a Lord of Dreams if it meant leaving the Gate of the gods themselves open to attack. Yes. You are the simplest choice in this matter. Your mind is strong, your body hale, and you've no abilities I've noticed that could possibly cause anything to go awry. Now hurry. Likely the beast already knows we are here. Delaying gives it more time to prepare."

Quietly Khafi walked forward toward the thing, the breeze lifting the hem of his cloak and toying with his hair as he stepped up on the rise it rested upon. Drawing the curved blade he'd carried out of the south, he cut his palm upon it's edge and pressed his bleeding hand to a patch of clear stone. For a moment there was nothing...then light exploded around him.

Voices...whispering...fragments of laughter and screams of panic. The sea of them, young and old, all speaking like guests at a surprise party. Hushed and rushed, trying not to let the guest of honor know what was behind the closed doors.

Icy. Burning. His very body afire. Limned in silver light.

My son. You have come at last. A figure. Not a man. A thing. A vast shape in the mist, pulling him from the voices.

"Who are you?"

Your Ancestor. The one who's blood sleeps in your veins. Wake my son, the battle is at hand!

"Caur? No. Older. Vengivedion?"

The vast shape laughed, coalescing as it did so. It was no man that shielded Khafi from the rest of the misty mass. A finer human I have not known but no. You know who I am, my son. For an Age my blood has slept until it could be brought to power again. Now the time has come. Rise up. Awaken! Avenge the wrongs done this house, this line. My line. The power is in your hands. Start now by disciplining your servant who has caused so much havok in the house of our ally! Do this and perhaps you will please Vengivedion's Folly.

The mist around them pulsed. Burning hot. Icy fire. Wreaths and figures. Broken dreams crunching underfoot. The Gate. The Gate was Vengivedion's Folly.

"Ilarious." The name was but a breath and yet the mist seemed to fracture on it while the shape laughed in affirmation. "But wait, why now. Why not before-"

A blade must be tempered before it is sent to battle. The edge must be honed before it is used in war. Awaken my son! Take my blessings and do battle as we were meant to do! Let them remember the fury of the Black Lands!

The mist shrank. Confining. To small. The sound of tearing. Pain. Exploding in freezing heat. Darkness.

And suddenly light again. He shook his head, feeling uneasy, as sick to his stomach as the first time he'd been sent up in one of those flying contraptions the court sorcerer had been trying to convince his uncle were safe. A roar, followed by a curse, drew his attention. There, halfway across the room, Astor was battling a thing of smoke and shadow with only the unlit torch. Waving and jabbing at it, grunting with the effort. The creature seemed more amused than afraid, as if it were humoring the old king. Then, suddenly, it looked up.

With a snarl Khafi moved forward, lifting the southern blade that was still in his hand. His movement was different, a part of his brain recognized this, the rest didn't care. The rest only knew that the shadow creature was out of line. There was an echoing sound as he moved across the stone floor and that drew Astor's attention, freezing the old king on the spot.

"You fool. You attack our allies even in a time of war!? Would not your efforts be better spent harrying our true foes?"

The shadow creature recoiled, moving quickly across the floor to encase his lower body in it's vapors, like a grovelling man might catch the hem of a magistrate's robe and plead his case. My master! You are returned at last! No, wait...not my master. Son of the master. But recently touched by him. We waited for you. We waited for you until our bodies crumbled to dust. Until our minds were gone and our spirits wandered restless. But I know where we are. I know where we've gone. I shall go and collect the Legion at once! Forgive me my master. I had to come here, to this place. I was summoned. I was given a purpose. Without a purpose I would be as lost as the others. As scattered. And then you would never have found the Legion again.

Khafi spat in the creature's direction, hefting his sword menacingly, although what it could have done against semi-solid smoke and mist none could say. But the creature recoiled again, as if truly fearing the blade's bite. "Do not apologize to me. It is House Vengivedion you have wronged. Assemble the Legion but you shall not march with it. You shall serve as protector of this House and all who claim it's name for double the span that you worked for it's ruin...do I make myself clear?"

The thing twisted around him like an affection it cat, a pleased hiss filling the air. You are most kind and generous master...by what name shall I call you? What name shall I whisper in the Legion's ear and bid them obey?

He opened his mouth to speak the name he'd worn for all his twenty-two years and stopped. In the back of his mind the voice of his ancestor whispered, giving him a new name, a name he should always have had. "Kevrem. I am Kevrem."

The creature gave another hiss and then, with a swift twist, it flowed outward and vanished in the darker shadows of the chamber. Khafi remained wary for a few moments, sword held ready, and then he slowly relaxed. Running a hand through his dark hair, he turned to look at Astor. Look down at Astor. Just in time to see the brand coming up toward him and strike him square in the chest. He grunted, more in surprise than pain, as the wood splentered and sent charred bits flying everywhere. "Demon be gone!"

"Astor. It's me. Khafi...or well, formerly Khafi. I like the other name better, I hardly think that a name meaning worthless fits a man who may become king."

"You expect me to believe that. You might hold his sword but you're just another trick. You will not interfere with his-"

A low hum echoed from the center of the room, a soft pinging as a ring pulled free of the gate and rolled across the floor landing. The creature formerly known as Khafi turned, his eyes following it until it rolled to a stop at his...hooves? Suddenly that little nagging part of his brain, the rational part, pointed out all the things he'd noticed and ignored. He was taller, his entire method of motion had altered, his center of gravity was different, there was a lot of weight on his back, his senses had altered. He wasn't a man anymore. With a trembling, taloned hand, he reached down and scooped up the ring.

It was a plain band, silver and onyx, with a seal much like the one Astor wore in the center of it. A signet ring, glowing softly with the same misty silver light he'd seen inside the gate. He turned quietly toward Astor, the ring in the palm of his hand.

The old king looked up at him, shaking his head. "Then you are Khafi..." He said nothing else for a long moment before walking toward the stairs. "I chose the demon I didn't know over the dragon I did...what have I done?" Still shaking his head, Astor climbed the staircase that led upward and vanished into the darkness beyond the light of the Gate.


Left alone in the chamber, the demon that had been Khafi stared at the signet ring before slipping it on one of his fingers. Instantly there was a sensation, like someone had poured a bucket of lukewarm water over him, and the dimensions of the world became familiar again. He ran a hand up to touch his face, feeling it the same as it had always been.

And sinking to his knees the man who was the next king of Leyond wept.
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So Khafi's Ordeal has left him a new man...or should I say demon? And he's decided to take on a whole new name to boot. Kevrem. But is Kevrem just a shiny new name...or is it a whole new demonic personality?

Tune in soon for Part Two where we see all the fun that Lukan has dealing with the problems back home! 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: Fri Aug 10, 2012 1:58 am    Post subject:  

Oh holy crap. Oh holy CRAP! Are any of these four people NORMAL?! Khafi/Kevrem is part-demon now? Or was he always part-demon? Whether or not that Khafi/Kevrem was always part demon or whether it's a temporary solution to Leyond's problem, what's done is done now, and at least that ring is an Illusionist's best tool ever (aha, I picked up on that). First thing he needs to do is get up and go explain to King Astor what happened, or Astor might denounce him and send Lukan down there in a misunderstood attempt to replace Khafi/Kevrem. Obviously, the gate responded like this for a reason and now Khafi/Kevrem can command the Eater of Dreams like any Lord of Dream's should so he was supposed to be there.

Lots to chew, a bit fast moving, but still, lots of bits & bobs falling into place, while still more are thrown up in the air, K-Rai.
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Astaar



Joined: 10 Jan 2012
Posts: 7

Posted: Mon Aug 13, 2012 4:46 am    Post subject:  

Great chapter!
Maybe with dreamers he can help Tessa make more sense of her visions?
Anyway, what of the others, maybe at least the dragon family should see him as he is (and also be recovered enough to make an entrance of the child's abilities.
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