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Chapter Nineteen Part Two: Good Intentions
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Kalanna Rai



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

Posted: Wed Aug 15, 2012 1:27 am    Post subject: Chapter Nineteen Part Two: Good Intentions  

And now that I've sold the sizzle, here's the steak. Enjoy!
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Chapter Nineteen Pt 2: Good Intentions

His heart had never beat louder, echoing like the drums of war in his ear, nor had it ever been higher in his throat. Nearly choking him. He swallowed hard, wiping his palms against the sides of his breeches before taking a deep breath and reciting the mental litany that had helped him survive all those years in Jhadir. Collect. Correct. Compose. Control. As he breathed out all of the tension and anxiety bled out of him...to the naked eye at least. As he raised a hand and knocked on the wooden door before him, Kevrem looked cool and slightly dispassionate. It would take someone who knew him very well to spot the signs of his nerves and, fortunately for him, no such person existed. Not now. Not ever.

"Enter." Astor's voice betrayed a hint of weariness under it's usual strength and Kevrem entered to find the aging king sitting with his feet to a cozy fire, a cup of wine in one hand. The white-haired King of Leyond looked pensive, lost far away in thought, the guards on either side of the inner door bored as they stood at rest.

"Grandfather...I'd like to talk."

That got Astor's attention. The old king closed his eyes, wrinkled face grimacing slightly as his free hand rose and waved at the guards. "Outside. Give our counsel some privacy."

Kevrem breathed an internal sigh of relief as the two men moved past him, shutting the heavy door on their way out. He'd known logically that Astor would talk to him, rationally it was the only sane thing to do. Kevrem would be king now, there were obviously things Astor needed to tell him. Not so much for Kevrem's benefit, but for Leyond's. No matter how little Astor cared for his demonic grandson, he loved his land. He wouldn't let her suffer any more than he had to.

At Astor's tired gesture Kevrem took the open seat on the other side of the desk, watching as the old king half turned to face him. For a time that was all. Astor continued to drink, to stare at the fire, and Kevrem continued to wait patiently. Both men lost completely to their own thoughts. At length Astor put the empty wine cup down and turned his face fully toward Kevrem, his voice breaking the long silence.

"I suppose I have only my own hubris to blame for this. I am used to getting my own way in things, used to being right. But as my mother always used to say, one cannot be right all the time...only most of it. In your case, I hope that means that all the reasons I chose you for are still the right one and that your...other abilities will only aid you in the defense and upkeep of this land. I do not expect you to make Leyond into the next home for the Dark Throne. I expect you to win this war and do the best for this land."


Kevrem's brow furrowed. "Leyond was the total sum of my ambitions in this endeavor. I never meant this as a stepping stone to greater conquest. All my life I have been worthless for anything save to amuse the 'better born' with my suffering. I have been a toy, a plaything, and a goad for war. This was my chance to chart my own course, to stand on my own merits...all my merits. My mind is sound, strong, as it ever was. There is no demon's madness lurking in the attic of my thoughts. No devil's jest hiding behind my actions. My goal is achieved, a place to belong. A place to earn respect. You think I'm going to let that slip away? To be taken from me over anything short of my dead body? No Astor of Leyond, you listen to me well. I am never again going to be some puppet. I will never again let someone use me. And if in order to do so I must become the most terrifying puppet-master that the Grand Game has ever known, I will do so. Spectacularly. But this nation will remain safe. It will remain strong. It will remain whole. You have not made the wrong choice but no impassioned speech will ever make you believe that. As I showed you that day in the throne room of Eresinne when you asked me to stand on my merits and deliver, so will I do it again. Only this time it is no hasty battle plan, but the future of this land I will show you. When you go to your grave, you will do so knowing that all you love is in capable hands."

Astor chuckled lightly, an amused grin creasing his features. "Ah to be young again. So sure of oneself. Alright then, I accept your challenge. Before I die, prove to me that my land will be safe. Be king in all but name, make all the decisions. I shall do nothing. Nothing to hinder, nothing to help. But if I am not satisfied, I will haunt you. If I must I shall lead the skeletons that topple you from your throne. Do not doubt me on this, others have sought the way back from death, I would not be the first."

There was a chilling quality to Astor's words that Kevrem took to heart, nodding to the other. "Can I not consult you then? Your wisdom is a powerful tool that I would not lose so early in the game."

"Ah but that is the nature of the game. Sometimes in order to make the next move, you must give away something vital. Leave a weak point. You've already promised Lukan that you'll go with him when he returns home? Then when you return from that venture shall you fully assume your new role. Because that decision was a wise one. If he does take the throne you are his supportive brother, there for him when he needs it. If he gives it away, you are the asylum that will shelter him, give him succor and kindness...and possibly hand him back over to his people should the necessity arise."

Now that was an icy statement worthy of the courts of Jhadir. Kevrem shook his head. "I won't betray my own flesh and blood like that. Betrayal begets betrayal. And while Lukan's ire alone does not yet trouble me I cannot see Alasdair or Tessa taking such an action in a kind light. Tessa knows enough of this land and it's people to make things...difficult should I cross her. Alasdair...well Alasdair..."

"Tessa would do more than make things difficult. Cross her and she'll very likely lead the coup that leaves you alone in an empty Keep, staving out your loyalists...if you have any by that time. Alasdair will be far more matter of fact. He'll simply rip your head off. Or bury you under a thousand pounds of ice somewhere." Astor shook his head, taking another sip of wine. "Go. Speak to the others. Do not distance yourself from them. Another piece of wisdom. Those that would be your friends when you have no power at all are those you wish to keep your friends when you have all the power in the world. You know then that they are attracted to your true assets and not any you may gain."

He stood, bowing to the other. "I shall do that. I vow to you you shall not regret this choice."

But as he exited, his fears were far from quelled. Shutting the door softly, he made his way through the corridor, rubbing the signet ring on his finger with his thumb. The ring the Gate had given him, marking him as a Lord of Dreams. The ring that hid his true self from the world. Unconsciously he made his way to the library, hoping to pour over a few old books and see what history on his ancestors he could dredge up. His demon ancestor specifically.

He found Alasdair and Kyrie already in the library, Alasdair reading aloud to Aaern fro a large book of nursery rhymes while Kyrie enjoyed a book in the nearby window seat. Aaern gurgled happily, chubby hands patting every picture that Alasdair pointed out to him. As Alasdair turned another page, a small puff of dust went up, causing the infant to sneeze. Sparks shot from Aaern's nose, scuttling across the pages but doing no harm, bringing a full out laugh from the infant. Kevrem watched as the two older dragons shared a look, Alasdair laughing. "You were right, thunder seems to be his element."

"And you doubted me dear husband. Ah Khafi...no Kevrem, correct? Astor said you were taking on a new name to celebrate your new station in life." The statuesque woman put aside her book, crossing the floor to embrace him. He stood awkwardly, in Jhadir cheek kisses and such embraces were common, but not for an unwanted such as he had been. No, Kevrem was unused to human contact like this. Still...he could envy Alasdair in this moment, with this woman pressed against him. He extracted himself from the situation before it became dangerous.

"Ah, yes...my old name is nothing more than a southern slur. That's hardly good for diplomatic relations with them. So I've changed it. It's more northern...but with a little southern flair. Pay my respects to my roots."

He crossed the floor to his usual table, relaxing in his usual chair. "You're looking well Alasdair. Some day you must tell me how you manage such a speedy recovery."

Alasdair chuckled, handing Aaern to Kyrie as she extended her arms for the babe. "It's naught to do with my draconic nature if you were inclined to think that. Good cooking, rest, and exercise are proving rewarding. And yes, a little help from the spirits...their way of apologizing for their overzealous display." The northerner shook his blond head, stretching as he got to his feet. Turning to face Kevrem fully, the future king of Leyond was suddenly struck by the way his elder half-brother's eyes narrowed. "There's something very different about you. Something...new. And yet old. A part of you that was always hidden just out of view now revealed...brother I think we need to talk. Outside perhaps, I could do with fresh air."

Slowly Kevrem stood, watching Alasdair carefully. Was the dragon suspicious? Why only Alasdair...why not Kyrie? She'd gotten closer to him, was she blind? No...of course. He should have known Alasdair would be the dangerous one. Alasdair the Healer, the one who could see things exactly for what they were. How they connected to the world around them and how those connections could be manipulated. Of course...Kevrem should have been far more careful around him. But it was too late now and Kevrem cursed himself mentally as he rose. He could never afford a slip like this ever again. He'd have to take extra pains and precautions to hide this part of his nature away again.

There was long silence as the two of them made their way through the halls and into the courtyard, then through the courtyard and into the fruiting orchard nearby. Spring was coming, the budding leaves and flowers on the trees soon to open, the soft fragrance of green, growing things in the air. It would have been soothing save for the tension between the two. Finally, Alasdair spoke.

"So the line of Ilarious has made an appearance...I wondered. Although I expected it to be Lukan honestly. Ilarious is described as a creature of action, making decisive moves no matter what the cost. As a force of energy. Much like Lukan. Rarely weighing fully the consequences before committing his full strength...yet often lucky enough to escape unscathed. There are many similarities. But instead it's you. The thoughtful one. The planner. Were you going to try and hide this from us?"

"Yes. Can you blame me? It's not as though demons have ever been in favor. Astor shuns me and thinks his choice a folly now. No doubt your wife will guard her child closer about me. Lukan...It's doubtful he'll ever speak to me again after what 'demons' did to his family. And Tessa..."

"And Tessa no doubt already knows. She came to us after they took you away for your Ordeal and told us of a vision. She said she'd shared it with you but that you hadn't seemed to take her words to heart. Perhaps you should. She remembered only fragments so the whole of it lies with you."

Kevrem shrugged, sighing. "She mentioned the Heir to the Black Throne rising to thwart the No Life King. So me, standing against whoever is out there controlling the undead. But she said that I'd fail if the Golden Fire betrayed the Heart of Light. She also said I'd have a choice to make..." But that vision seemed wholly a different one and far more personal to him. He'd keep that close for now.

"Humm, No Life King...where have I heard that before...no matter, I'll remember sooner or later. As for the rest...no doubt they will reveal themselves in time."

"Yes. No doubt." Kevrem's eyes flicked sideways. If Alasdair was the Golden Fire...then who was he to betray? Did he already know and was simply not telling Kevrem should Kevrem be inclined to stop him? The dragon was being surprisingly closed lipped today.

"May I see it?"

Startled out of his thoughts, Kevrem realized he hadn't been paying full attention. Damn, he needed to get himself back together. Letting things slip, not paying attention...he'd be dead thrice over if he was back home. "Pardon?"

"Your other self...may I see it?"

He stared at the dragon for a moment. "Have you suddenly become delirious? Why yes I'm just going to go and reveal myself to every-"

"There's nobody but me here. Not fore miles Kevrem. Trust me, I checked."

Kevrem stared at Alasdair for a moment before recalling Astor's words. He knew all about the dragon's dirty little secret. Alasdair didn't seem inclined to kill him now, hopefully he wouldn't in a moment. "Alright, but turn while I undress."

That got an amused chuckle from the dragon. "Remind me to have you a suit of clothes made especially for moments like these. They come in handy. Or haven't you noticed that I'm not normally nude after my changes."

"No actually, I don't make a habit of studying your figure and checking to see if you're nude or not." Kevrem's tone was curt. He had, actually, noticed the fact that Alasdair's clothing was usually on him, or at least his pants and boots, whereas Kevrem's had been quite shredded after the ordeal. He stripped everything off, folding it all up and setting it on his cloak before removing the ring. It was like breaking the surface of a lake, the sensation of suddenly being free of confinement was intense. "Alright...you can look."

Slowly Alasdair turned, tilting his head upward slightly. That was most certainly a first for Kevrem, who normally only came to Alasdair's chin...along with the rest of the population. To have the northern giant suddenly looking up to him was...empowering. For all of two seconds before Alasdair's form seemed to grow and uncoil into that strange half human half dragon he'd seen the other use during their escape from Eresinne. Suddenly the moment was gone and Kevrem was, once again, the shorter.

"Better eyes to see you with." Alasdair said by way of explaination before striding around him in a slow circle...like a slavemaster might another at auction. But there was none of that leering menace from Alasdair...only frank curiosity. "You're very little like the woodcuts and illustrations we have of Ilarious. And very little like...slender. You're far more slender for one. Built for speed and endurance instead of brute force and bone-shattering power. Your wings are larger, you'll stay aloft far longer than he ever could. It's the comparison of a draft and one of your desert bred horses really. One will pull down a stone wall, the other will run a ring around you."

"Not a warhorse though?"

"Do your people not ride those fleet little horses to war? I was always under the impression they did. My own mare has a thin thread of southern blood in her and I'd hardly call her an unfit creature?"

Kevrem's ears flicked in assent to the other's words, shuffling his hooves restlessly, the silken strands of his tail catching in the air. Truth be told, he hadn't really scrutinized himself at all. He knew he had hooves, and a tail, wings...horns...talons. But suddenly there was the urge to find a mirror, a pond. He turned his head to suggest it to Alasdair and noted that the other seem to have already thought of that. A small reflecting pool lay not three yards distant. With careful steps Kevrem made his way over to it, staring into it and getting a look at himself for the first time.

"I thought you might want a look. I didn't get a look at myself the first time I changed either. I took off flying and didn't stop until I grew thirsty. My first glimpse of a live dragon was my own reflection, staring back at me from the surface of a mountain lake...I was sixteen." Alasdair's hand clapped him on the back, just as would have happened had they both been men. "It's still you in the water brother. Still your reflection. I'm sure that mind of yours will figure out swiftly how to use this new weapon you've been given."

Kevrem had to admit, he looked nothing like he'd imagined. Nothing like the night-terror demons of his childhood. His face was virtually unchanged save for the silver shot grey color it had suddenly become. His ears rose through his dark black hair, pointed and peaked like the deep desert jackals he'd seen. Two horns rose in the traditional demon curve above his skull, their attatchment to his head starting on his forehead and running back along the top until they rose out of his hair a few inches back from his hairline.

His shoulders were more muscled than they had been before, but still slender in appearance, most of the bulk coming from the large wings that now folded about them. They were strange things, like great sheets of black and grey silk stretched taut between where they connected to his back, rump, and the very uppermost part of the back of his thighs, and the great long thin bones that stretched out. Bones like a bird's wing, massive and hollow along the leading edge, not ribbed like a bat or a typical dragon like Alasdair. His lower body was very much like that of a horse, the powerful jointed legs ending in strong, solid hooves. There was even a feathering of black hair there. His tail was exactly like that of a horse. Over all he was a slightly freakish assembly of parts...but he wasn't ugly. He wasn't terrifying. He just...was. From the talons on his hands, to the slick coating of body hair that blended into skin the same color.

"I'm hardly an impressive figure."

Alasdair chuckled. "I don't know. When you've got space and time alone, I recommend posing in a mirror. You can bet I practiced all my important poses in front of that lake. Here...try this one. Bring your elbows against your sides, turn your forearms out with your palms up. Now curve your fingers like you've got heavy weights in them, that's right...flex out your talons. Spread your legs a little, like you're about to catch and throw a charging man. Lash your tail a bit, spread your wings like an angry hawk...no, in your case life them straight up until the membrane is taut...yes. Now flatten those ears of yours and give a good nasty look into that water."

Kevrem felt foolish doing it but a sideways glance at Alasdair showed that his half brother looked...well like he was going to rip some foolish creature in two. Turning his reflection to the water, he blinked. He looked evil. Just quite frankly evil. He quickly dropped the pose, arms coming to rest at his sides as his wings looped around him like a cloak, ears drooping a little. "That...is probably not my style."

Alasdair chuckled. "Not unless you're attempting to physically scare the piss out of a troop of soldiers. Then I'd suggest it. Although if you lift your ears up, point them forward yes...that look. It's you, only a demon. Also, I know how hard you work to school your features...it would be good to spend some time in this form schooling it to. Those ears...anyone who knows animals is going to be able to read absolutely everything from the way you hold them."

Collecting his clothes, Kevrem stepped behind a tree. Putting the ring back on and dressing, by the time he'd emerged from behind it Alasdair was normal again. "Brother...thank you..."

Alasdair only laughed, clapping him on the back. "Don't thank me until after I've taught you to fly. I doubt that's going to come natural to you at all. Also, we'd best get back. Lukan is antsy about going and I doubt we'll dissuade him to stay longer than breakfast tomorrow."

"You're right...and I did promise to accompany him. But unless you're carrying Tessa , myself, and our luggage...how are we getting there?"

Alasdair shrugged. "Astor mentioned something about a gift to speed us along the way."
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What might be this gift? It could be as spectacular as a chariot hippogriffs can pull or as simple as horse-shoes that allow average animals to walk on the clouds. Only you all know.
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Thus ends chapter nineteen. The king is crowned and you can see how awkwardly he's adjusting to the changes in his personality. But he's got a little help...for now. Hope you liked!
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PaperSwan



Joined: 21 Jul 2012
Posts: 34

Posted: Wed Aug 15, 2012 6:20 pm    Post subject:  

Okay, finally caught up.

I have to say, I really like this scene between Alasdair and (now) Kevrim. It's very...brotherly. I like that the relationships between the characters continue to be complex and important even after the crown is decided. A lot of stories like this reserve coronation for an end-game; personally, I think it's an excellent choice to set in the larger context of this world.
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PopeAlessandrosXVIII



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

Posted: Sun Aug 19, 2012 8:45 am    Post subject: I Love It!  

*Dies of overly excited fan boy joy* Yaaaaaaaaaaays!!!!!!! Love love LOVE it! *Dances* I was clapping and whooping on and off the whole while of reading the two-parter. I actually went three days without reading them due to nervousness over just WHO won the coin toss. I kept looking at it, then fleeing to another room from nerves :P A very well put together set, and as for my favorite man, nothing but love! His demon form is well put together, and I could tell you put some hard thought into it. The scene between brothers was definitely one that had me "Awwwwwww"ing. *Grins* I always knew K had something special about him, but the reveal and the spirit behind it takes my breath away. Simply, amazing.


Now, on to the DP! I'd say a Light Weight potion. SO that all the humans(Haha) would be able to reduce their weight significantly so those flying have very little burden.


Again, wonderful chapter, keep'em comin'!
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Lilith



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

Posted: Sun Aug 19, 2012 4:12 pm    Post subject:  

A rare but particular breed of speedy creatures that the King of Leyond keeps a herd of for only himself: Pegasi. Don't laugh people! They really are awesome. XD

And if you don't like them as a choice, I guess charioted hippogriffs work too. But a gift of speed that a mere human can provide? I would guess a weight-bearing creature that can make a speedy journey.

Also, are we going to get a random encounter on this journey? Tessa should have a vision of warning about it if they are... just a suggestion! You don't have to do it! XD
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Shillelagh



Joined: 11 Mar 2010
Posts: 398
Location: Kansas

Posted: Sun Aug 19, 2012 7:24 pm    Post subject:  

Impressive as always. I wonder what the Gate would have done to Tessa- throw her past the breaking point, or stabilize her? Well, this reveal definitely makes the overall story stronger in the long run, as far as I'm concerned. Although I wish the nature of Khafi's name had been mentioned earlier, so that it didn't have to come as a "Oh and by the way this has always been true" fact before he changed it.

The scene at the gate is perhaps stronger in your head than it is on the paper- the dialogue overpowers the details, and the bit about the ring coming from the gate threw me off- I thought Astor had somehow dropped his. And if the exchange between Kevrem('s ancestor?) and the evil(?) at the gate wasn't supposed to be vague and mysterious, then it means much of it was lost on me.

I'm not sure why Kevrem seems to be so hell-bent on secrecy. It seems to me like the best thing to do would be having a completely open and honest share of information with his siblings. Secrecy is the route that Astor chose, and all it got him was a lot of stress, a lot of hatred, and a whole lot of burden he could never share with anyone else. Then again, secrecy and the tendency to withhold information are both traits that Khafi had, so it's not like we can expect Kevrem to be any different. At least he has a very good cover story for his new name. I look forward to seeing if his ancestor is hanging in the back of his mind, trying to influence his actions.

The scene between Alastair and Kevrem, though... that was amazing. I appreciate the realism that is going on here. Concern over clothes, not taking the time to fully look at his new form, the idea that being a half-breed would affect his demonic heritage, the fact that his posture is not going to spontaneously adjust to his new form, nor is he going to spontaneously learn how to fly... It's a fantastic scene.

So. The DP. I'm thinking this gift is going to be useful not only to get everyone over to Lukan's kingdom, but useful for the entire rest of the story. And since Astor is the one who is giving it, he's going to have put a lot of paranoid thought into it. I'm thinking some form of teleportation spell that only works if everyone is in human form. Or maybe a carriage that is secretly lethal to Kevrem if he enters it when he's in his demonic form.
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Kalanna Rai



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

Posted: Thu Aug 23, 2012 5:01 am    Post subject:  

Poll going up later today.
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Kalanna Rai



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

Posted: Tue Aug 28, 2012 2:34 am    Post subject:  

Sorry, I had a bad case of the rl. Poll is up with many interesting choices for you to vote on. Let's be about it.
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PopeAlessandrosXVIII



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

Posted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 11:11 pm    Post subject: Damn  

Crap, missed the voting. Sorry. We got a new roommate and chores and other things had to get shifted and worked out. . . . ..*Dies* RL sucks. . . . .
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