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Gathering of The Guardians - Chapter 2 & 3
Gathering of The Guardians - Chapter 2
The Gathering of The Guardians
The Flame Haired Princess
It’s early; the Old One sits at the low table in the center of the cave and rechecks the supplies for our departure while I cook the last of the food that has not already been dried and put away. This will be our last meal inside the mountain I’ve called home since I was rescued from the nest of a Crested Death Raven by a hunter many years ago.
After dinner I busied myself loading the cart I’d brought back from the market place three days ago while the Old One talked quietly to the small Carrier beast that had pulled it. Then she hobbled towards the entrance of the cave.
“Finish up what you’re doing and change into the clothing on the bed, they will feel strange at first but you’ll soon get used to them. I will have no need of your help for the next hour or so.”
“Oh, you might want to light the lanterns” she adds as she moves out of site mumbling to herself.
Mother of the Earth it is time. Please seal our home from prying eyes until such time as we return or other of your followers have need of it. As Crone and Rememberer I ask this of Thee, As I Will So Mote It Be
(“Mother of the Earth it is time. Please seal our home from prying eyes until such time as we return or other of your followers have need of it. As Crone and Rememberer I ask this of Thee, As I Will So Mote It Be)
I can hear her chanting from the entrance in an ancient tongue.
Suddenly the space around me fills with a noise like metal scraping slowly across stone; the air fills with dust and the room becomes dark. The Old One follows an orb of deep amethyst light into the room; she is no longer leaning on her cane.
“We leave.” She said catching hold of the animal’s bridle and leading it to the cart.
When everything is ready she climbs up and points to a stone about half way up in the back wall.
“Turn that stone clockwise repeating the words ‘Open by the will of Bridget’ three times as you turn.”
“Put the lanterns out, we will not be taking them with us.”
Once through the wall I repeated the action, this time turning the stone Widdershan and saying “Close by the will of Bridget.”
All traces of our home vanished behind seemingly solid rock as we follow the glowing orb into the darkness of the mountain.
We walk the circular path inside the cavern, stopping only to rest and eat and I listen to the Old One while we walk. She never seems to tire as she tells her stories. I on the other hand, fall exhausted onto my mat and dream strange dreams whenever we stop to rest.
After what seems like weeks we reach a large open area on the path where a small pool of cold clear water has accumulated.
“We will make camp here, “the Old One says.
She halts the beast and unhooks it from the cart while I lay out a simple meal. After dinner she hands me a quill, some ink, and a blank leather bound book that looks to be handmade.
“You should begin writing down or drawing whatever you see, hear, and think from this point on. It is the appointed time for you to begin the remembering of who you are and were; you need to rediscover where your destiny lies.”
Later while I am drawing one of the pictures that are in my head she hands me a cup of tea.
“Drink it while it’s hot then lay down, the ‘Threads of Time’ are quickly beginning to untangle.”
My companions and I ride through the wastelands of Terra Prime, the land I was born in. Kardanis rides point; Manioc and I follow riding side by side about fifteen hundred yards behind him while we talk quietly. The others are a short distance behind us.
There’s A-Naku and Thaddious, Elfin Swordsmen from the White Brotherhood of The Deep Ravine, Mantra, Crone Witch of the Spellweaver Clan and Dee-anna-nu, a Shape Shifter who can speak one hundred and eighty seven languages (Terraian and animal) and pick off a Flutterfly from twenty five hundred feet away with an arrow. Xanderay, a fellow Terranite and mate to Kardanis, is somewhere above on the back of a Crested Night Wing Swallow.
I am Dawnreaper, mate to Manioc and of the same bloodline as the slain Royal Family of Terra: the flame colored streaks in my hair which are kept well hidden by scarf and glamour spell attest to this fact. We are scouts for the Resistance in the Gaian Wars against The Duke of Chaos and his Dark Master.
Kardanis reigns in his Were Beast and waits for us to catch up.
“Xanderay has messaged me; there are four mounted Rhinoroachs, maybe more, hiding approximately eight kilometers up the trail just inside the shadows of the forest. She doesn’t think they’re waiting for us though since they seem to be watching the other direction. What are your orders Commander?”
“Message her back and see if she can get ahead of them and figure out what they’re up to without being noticed. Then we’ll have a better idea how to handle the situation, in the meanwhile we’ll make camp and give the rest of the battalion a chance to catch up.” Said Manioc dismounting from the silver horned leeper he calls Luma.
A short time later Kardanis confirms that Xanderay has spotted a large caravan of Gypsies from the Eastern Highlands maybe a day out and moving into the line of ambush.
“She reports they ‘seem well armed and on the alert for trouble’. She is staying in the vicinity to see what she can glean, ‘perhaps landing amongst them to offer our help’.”
“Dee-anna-nu, fly back to the main battalion and apprize them of everything; tell them they are ordered to push through to catch up to us by morning. Scout out any trouble spots on the route there and back, but be careful,” Manioc ordered; then turning to me he bows.
“You are in charge here, my husband, not I. The Crone and I will cast the stones and survey the Mirror of Destiny to see what we can divine,” I said walking away.
The Swordsmen are gone when we return from our conjuring and Manioc and Kardanis are talking quietly off to the far side of the camp. Xanderay and Dee-anna-nu arrive soon after.
Dee-anna-nu reports that the main body of warriors will arrive before dawn and that they had encountered a small group of archers shortly before she’d arrived. A woman was shot from the cover of a fallen tree. The enemy was pursued and killed but before the last one died he muttered something about killing every bitch to get the right one.
Xanderay added that the Gypsies had told her they had intercepted a message from The Dark Lord to The Duke telling him to find the last flame and extinguish it once and forever.
Mantra had insisted on reinforcing the glamour that had been placed on me to conceal the markings of my royal bloodline after she had finished casting the stones. I didn’t have to ask why; my mirror had already told me everything.
We marched in force towards the ambush site. According to Xanderay it is a large group. The four mounted Rhinoroachs near the road are backed up by several groups of two to three enemy soldiers each scattered above in the rocks at strategic points and perhaps fifty or more soldiers hidden deeper inside the tree line.
With warriors in the sky and Guardian Wolfs combing the woods we plan to attack from all fronts at once on a prearranged signal, the Gypsies have also been included in the battle plan. A wolf’s howl is our signal to attack.
Arrows and spears fly from above, at first like rain then slacking as the enemy are cut down by Dee-anna-nu and her squad of mounted sky archers. Screams and growls interspersed by the sounds of a yelp here and there tell of the toll being taken by our allies in the deep woods.
Two Rhinoroachs, are dead from our iron tipped arrows and swords, one is now rider less and running amok. Many lives are being lost trying to kill the other two before they can make a meal of all of us.
I fight on foot beside Manioc who had been dismounted by a troll that had bashed Luma’s leg with a club to bring her down. The creature was rewarded for this action by being pinned to the ground under the weight of her body and quickly beheaded by Manioc as I leaped from the saddle of my Gargantuan Mantis to help him. The Mantis immediately rose up on two legs and took off to attack the last remaining Rhinoroach. A warrior off to my left screamed my name as she falls. I turn just enough to see a creature jump for my throat; I swing my sword.
The battle is finished; we gather the bodies for burial and begin noticing something strange. Of the twenty seven dead nineteen of them are women and three of these have been scalped – all three were redheads. Add this to the statement of a woman named Sojornia from the Island of Tasmeene who swears the last thing she remembers before passing out from blood lose and shock after she went down was a scaly looking reptile thing grabbing her by the hair and putting a knife to her forehead and the reason for the raid becomes clear. She is a redhead too.
When the Guardian Wolfs return to camp they bring news that at least two of the enemy escaped; a lizard like creature with green skin that just seemed to disappear into the deep woods and an old man dressed in wizard garb that was scooped up by a Bat Winged Mongrel and carried off.
Word has leaked back to the High Council about the anomalies of our last battle and they are meeting to discuss the merits of ordering me and those I travel with as companions to the rear for safety sake. We joined them even though we weren’t summoned.
“I refuse to be dictated to or to hide from The Dark Lord and his ….his Puppet. In fact, why don’t I just order the glamour removed from myself to make it easier for him to find me? That way he won’t have to keep performing all these unnecessary mutilations; perhaps the hunted can become the hunter and the rest of you can concentrate on continuing to undermine their forces.” I scream as we are escorted out.
I walk quickly towards the tents trying not to attract attention and start throwing things into my saddle bags.
“Where do you think you’re going?” yells Manioc grabbing my arm.
“I’m leaving before they can stop me with their magic, the rest of you can stay or go with me as you choose.”
“There is no choice to make My Queen; I’ll tell the others to get packed,” he said throwing some things in his bags and leaving.
The six of them are waiting when I reach the outskirts of the camp, they mount and we ride. The others do not mention the obvious fact that my hair has taken on a noticeably more reddish tint.
Gathering of The Guardians - Chapter 3
The Gathering of The Guardians
Chamber of Destinies
The Old One handed me a cup of tea when I woke up and insisted from now on I write down everything I dream during the night – before I do anything else – then she walked to the far side of the open area and began mumbling to herself. When I put down the quill and closed my journal she handed me a plate of hot food.
“I need to go on ahead a short distance and prepare things; when you have finished eating you should bathe and wash your hair in the pool. Put on the clothes that are laying beside it then wait. A Glowing Salamander will come to lead the way when it is time for you to follow. Do not bring anything with you except your writing materials and these saddlebags. Do you understand?’
I nodded, not trusting my voice as she turned to leave.
“Good,” she said catching the reins of the Carrier beast that was packed and waiting.
She walked away and I was alone.
I examined the contents of the saddlebags while I waited. Besides three totally different and unique outfits there was a shoulder pouch filled with herbs and bottles of perfumes, a brush and mirror of silver, a bag that contained what I knew was makeup and an assortment of dried foods. There was also a beautiful old leather bound book with ‘Record of The Guardians’ burnt into the cover and two beautifully matched knives with silver and mahogany carved handles. I put the knives into my belt and placed my journal in the bag with the other things leaving the makeup and brush out to use.
The Salamander lit the passageway ahead of me as I carefully followed it along a narrow ledge. After about an hour it stopped and waited for me to catch up before turning to the left and disappearing into the wall leaving me in total darkness for a few minutes while I waited for my eyes to adjust.
I noticed a faint light coming from a small crack that ran up the wall. Feeling around until my hands found a leaver I pulled it out; the wall opened. Just as I stepped through the passageway disappeared behind me. I am in a large room like chamber with strange writings carved everywhere.
A round table with benches sits in the center of the room and holds plates of wonderful smelling foods, bottles of wine, water and juice. Against one wall is a huge bed and on the opposite side of the chamber is a small bubbling pool partially hidden by an outcropping of rock. There are shelves carved into the rock that hold manuscripts, books, and everything I could need; all the comforts of home. The only thing missing is a way out. I explore for a while then eat and drink some of the tea that had been left on the table – it is still hot and very delicious. Exhausted I climb into the soft bed and dream.
We have set up camp at the very edge of the Dukes territory inside a small cave. From here we can intercept any outgoing enemy patrols and get away quickly before attracting attention. We figure we have maybe a week at the most before we need to relocate so we don’t get comfortable. We sleep in shifts; four of us are always on patrol (two on the ground and two in the air) while two sleep and one stands guard at the entrance to the cave
Xanderay and I are in the air flying low above the forest when we see movement off to the left. Doubling back we confirm seven or eight snipers creeping towards the cave. Manioc and A-Naku who are hunting from the ground are directly in their path. She telepathically relays a message to those in the cave before we land silently in the trees above our companions and shimmy down to join them. We move towards the enemy and intercept them, the battle is fierce as we fight to hold our ground until the others arrive.
When they arrived Dee-anna-nu took position behind a fallen tree and began sending arrows at anything that moved while the rest of us fight hand to hand.
Manioc pulled his sword from the stomach of a soldier and with one swing took its head just as an arrows fly from a nearby tree. He falls; Dee-anna-nu seeing a movement out of the corner of her eye turned and loosed an arrow followed quickly by another; we heard a scream as something unseen fell to the ground.
Mantra finished stitching and bandaging Manioc’s wounds, he has lost a lot of blood and is very weak and delirious. Thaddious took a spear in his shoulder and has lost the use of his sword arm but the rest of us seem to be okay.
Kardanis and Dee-anna-nu have returned with the animals. They’d followed the blood trail that started at the point where we’d heard something fall and led into the trees to end in a blood pool under a huge oak, there they discovered a body leaning against its trunk.
We ride as quickly as possible towards The Deep Ravine with our wounded companions and the body of the strange creature Kardanis and Dee-anna-nu found.
“So, are you telling me they’re like some kind of chameleons or something; they can just fade into a background so they’re virtually invisible?”
“No, I don’t think they can change their outer appearance back and forth. It’s more like a camouflage they’ve learned to exploit by remaining perfectly still for long periods of time. In a wooded setting they’d be unnoticeable unless you were actually looking for them and even then it would take a sharp eye,” replied Mantra looking at the covered body draped over the animal she was leading then back to Kardanis.
“Maybe, but I’ll sure feel better when we reach home and turn that thing over to the Magi and Alchemists,” he answered spurring his Leeper to gallop on ahead.
“Yes, we definitely could use a live one to study though,” Mantra mumbled to herself as he rode off.
When we stop to rest the mounts I check my husband’s wounds.
“Perhaps this will help ease his breathing” said a voice behind me as a puff of grey smoke materializes and Nambra steps out.
When we reached The Fortress the Magi examined Manioc and Thaddious while the rest of us waited.
“I’m sorry Princess but your husband’s fate is in the hands of the Goddess.” Said Sarcaucis handing me a cup of strong liquor when they’d finished their work.
“The poison the arrows were soaked in is unknown to us and we have no antidote; his wounds were so extensive that it spread through his entire body in a matter of mere minutes. I’m afraid he was probably beyond our means of saving him by the time you were able to remove the arrows. The fact that Mantra recognized the symptoms of poisoning and used magic to stabilize and keep him immobile is probably the only reason he is still alive,” added Zoa.
She grabbed me as I swooned and collapsed.
When I come to I am in our room and Mantra is sitting in a rocker beside my bed.
“Welcome back, My Lady. We were beginning to fear you would not wake in time to see your husband before he crosses over.”
“Take me to him” I said rising quickly and managing maybe two steps before my legs buckled under me.
I have been at Manioc’s side since yesterday when they wheeled me into his room and now the time has come. The others have been called and are there too, even Thaddious who suffers from total paralysis in his sword arm as well as other health problems – all contributable directly to the poison according to The Magi.
“Take care of her” Manic says taking my hand as he struggles to speak to those who stand around me.
His final words to me are “I’ll find you wherever you are.”
I sip some tea while I finish re-reading what I’d written that morning before turning my attention to the food that has again magically appeared on the silver trays sometime during the night.
Time is irrelevant here; if it were not for the hour glass in the center of the table beside the bowl of pebbles I wouldn’t have any idea how long I’d been here. I spend most of my time eating, sleeping, or writing; sometimes I try to decipher the ‘Book of Records’ the Old One left or read one of the books from a shelf on the wall. Only the fact that the glass will soon need turning again tells me another day is almost over and that I have been here in this chamber almost fourteen days. I bathe in the pool and lie down to sleep some more.
I am very ill; the Alchemists and the Magi say I have been poisoned from extended exposure to my husband’s blood and other fluids while caring for him. The others who came in contact with the poison are also affected to various degrees; Kardanis and Dee-anna-nu who were in direct contact with the dead body, A-Naku who pulled the spear from Thaddeus’s shoulder and applied pressure to the wound until Mantra could care for him, and Mantra herself who tended their wounds. Only Xanderay did not become ill.
Using the blood of the dead creature the Alchemists managed to concoct an antidote the others have almost totally recovered already. Even Thaddeus seems much better though the Magi say he will probably never regain the full use of his arm. Only I remain ill. The last thing I remember before sinking back into oblivion is someone saying I should recover too – ‘This time’.
After nearly a month the Council of the Wise has deemed me well enough to accept the duties of a Ruler. They have again forbidden me to return to the fight and I’ve disobeyed once again.
We travel disguised as part of a small Gypsy caravan camped outside the gates of Woodworm, the capital and largest city of Megalothia waiting for sunrise when the gates open. A large part of the population here bares some sort of allegiance to the Duke or even the Dark Lord himself and to be discovered would mean a slow and painful death for all of us.
Once inside we blend in with the crowd in the market area and scout the city. Our objective is to gather information and carry it back to those planning an attack on the city in the upcoming weeks. We all know the dangers and are ready to give up our own lives to avoid being captured.
We regroup at sundown and leave the city with the Gypsies, returning to the encampment only long enough to gather our things and depart but before we get more than three kilometers away the encampment is attacked. All are slain. We spur our mounts to a dead run without looking back, the Duke’s men hard at our heels.
When the attack comes it’s from in front of us not behind– we have been driven into an ambush, Mantra grabs the reins of my mount and gallops fast towards the cover of the forest as the others try to buy us time to get away but she is hit. By the time we are hidden I can feel the glamour she’d put on me slipping; she is dying and with her the spell.
“Go quickly,” she gasps pointing a finger weakly to an area between two trees; I see an opening appear and I run.
“There she is, Get her.” I hear someone shout. I feel a burning pain in my side as I dive through. The opening closes behind me.