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The Mansion

Welcome to Mansion Stories! If you are new to the mansion, read this post first, then go to the archives page at the top of the screen. You will find all the past stories categorized there. If you are confused about characters or places, visit the dictionary page next to the archives. Previous readers will find the most recent story just below this one. As you keep reading, what will you dare to discover?


Every time you slip in, you make sure to close the gate and put the vines around the latch as though no one had been here in the hundred years since the place was closed up. You couldn’t explain why exactly. If anything, it was out of respect for this place.

You walk down a garden path, stopping every now and then to admire a flower or a tree. Though no one cares for it, this garden is far from lifeless, but neither is it entirely vibrant. Even so, this garden still surpasses all others you have seen. As you walk, the quiet crunch of your shoes on old leaves is the only noise to be heard. There is a patient silence in this garden that even the birds respect.

The path leads you to the back door. You never go in the front. Like the vines on the gate, it is an unwritten rule. The back door opens easily, though no one oils its hinges. The entire house is like this. No dust coats the furniture, and no cobwebs hang in the corners. The law of decay does not apply here.

The back door opens right into the spacious kitchen. A lingering scent of freshly baked bread excites your taste buds. You walk over to the sink and push the pump handle down. Water comes out and you wash off some sap from a pine tree you touched. This kitchen has no food in its pantry, but pots, spoons, and the wood stove stand ready to resume sustaining the daily life of the house. Wooden counters, clean and smooth, complete the impression.

You leave the kitchen reluctantly and move through the dining hall to a sitting room. The paintings, furniture, and other décor suggest wealth, but they do not make you uncomfortable. The room invites you to relax, in spite of your faded jeans and sneakers. You would linger, but your favorite room is further on.

A brass knob and a solid oak door lead to the library. It quite surprised you when you first discovered it. Though a decent size, this library did not hold as many volumes as you had expected of a house so grand. Once you started reading at the books, however, you instantly fell in love. Every volume was a treasure carefully chosen.

In a corner of the library there is a sturdy wooden desk. Like everything else in the mansion, it was probably worth a lot of money, but the desk did not flaunt that fact. You open one of the drawers, picking up the notebook inside.

It was the only part of the house that changed. The notebook itself stayed the same. The third page was creased, and the second had a brown stain in the top right corner. The story written in it, now, that was another matter. Every week these pages had something new to say, though they opened with the same warning. Will you read on, or would it be wiser to let the truth stay forgotten?

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2015 in Other Stories

 

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Ice Palace: Echoes of the Past

By Nathan Steen

Edited by Alicia Steen

 

Several hours before nightfall, the Stranger decides it is time to make camp. Once that is done, the Stranger draws his sword and announces that they will begin training immediately. “You will not fare well in these mountains if you neglect to sharpen your skills,” he says. “We will do this every evening for as long as we are here.” Thus, Ecalai’s training begins.

Ecalai had always considered himself proficient with a blade, but he is nothing compared to the Stranger. The Stranger is a master with the sword. Ecalai wonders where he acquired such skill. Also, what is a master swordsman like him doing secluded in the mountains? There are clearly many mysteries surrounding this Stranger that Ecalai shall have to look into. For the moment, however, he requires all his concentration just attempting to hold off the Stranger’s blade.

The training is brutal. The Stranger is an excellent teacher, so much to that he knows exactly how to push Ecalai in the way that will tax his skills and energy to the limit. If this is how every evening training session will go, then Ecalai is in for a world of hurt. It is not all bad, though. Somehow, the Stranger also seems to know when Ecalai needs a break the most, and mercifully lets him catch his breath every now and again. Ecalai certainly appreciates this about him.

Eventually night falls and the Stranger ends the training for the day. He prepares their meal while Ecalai sits and recovers his strength. “You have a rather unique sword fighting style, Ecalai,” the Stranger begins. “I have not met many men that could handle its kind. Where did you learn it?”

“In my home planet of Nagaster,” Ecalai answers.

“I have been here myself. It is quite a ways from Jeshrun. What brought you here?” the Stranger inquires.

“I came to Jeshrun because I heard of the great threat of shadow here. That is really only half the story, though. In truth, I left my home planet many years ago because I felt that I could not stay there any longer. Shadow had invaded and, despite my best efforts, had destroyed over half the planet. There was not anything left for me there.”

“Ah, I see. I sensed you had a history with shadow. Not many have such a first-hand knowledge of it as you do.”

“It was a lot like what happened recently in Dark Moon. Unlike Dark Moon, though no one in Nagaster believed that the shadow was coming. I tried to warn them of the danger, but they would not listen. It was like some sort of nightmare…”

 

Nagaster. Six years prior. Midnight.

All is quiet in the capital city of Nagaster. Not a sound can be heard from the streets that will turn busy com the first rays of dawn. Even the royal palace at the center of the city seems quiet tonight. Only the night watchmen are awake at this hour, as they patrol the streets of the city, its walls, and the palace. Tonight, however, Ecalai is also awake keeping watch over the sleeping city. He isn’t really sure why, but he feels apprehensive of late as if something were approaching.

It isn’t just his own sense of unease that causes Ecalai’s apprehension. Reports had come in from all over the region telling of signs that shadow might have recently crossed over the borders into the kingdom. No one else had taken these reports seriously, save for him. The kingdom and the capital city are thought to be so far away from any hints of civilization and so well protected that shadow would never bother coming here, or, if it did, would never pass the borders undetected. Still, Ecalai is not convinced. Something, he knows what, is not right.

A sudden movement in the city streets catches Ecalai’s eye. Is it just an night watchman on patrol? Ecalai looks again but nothing is there. Had he just imagined it? Maybe he is more tired that he thought.

The Ecalai realizes that he cannot see the lights from the watchtowers by the main gate. It is as if a large black cloud is blocking his view. The cloud has already engulfed the main gate and is moving toward the palace. Ecalai cannot believe his eyes. How had he missed it? He draws his twin blades. Incredibly, shadow is already in the city.

 

Jeshrun. Present. Nightfall.

Ecalai warms his back by the campfire as he sits and stares up at the stars. With a little bit of searching he locates the star around which his home planet of Nagaster orbits. Looking at it like this, it feels so far away and out of reach. “All of those years I spent wandering through magic portals that took me from planet to planet I wondered if there was something I could have done to save Nagaster that day. In hindsight, I probably spent too much time living in the past. I suppose I still do. It is hard to move past it, though, after going through such an experience. Scars left by shadow are hard to forget.”

“You have spent a lot of time living in shadow, my friend,” the Stranger replies. “You have lived with it for so long that you have started to believe the things it has whispered to you in the dark.”

“It is not that simple,” Ecalai retorts. “I have spent my whole life fighting against shadow. I am no stranger to resisting its allure.”

“It is simpler that you think,” responds the Stranger. “Shadow has a much more subtle way of worming itself into you if the direct approach does not work. It starts with a small, unnoticeable whisper and slowly eat away at you until you question your very reason for existing. Being swallowed by shadow in this way is truly one of the most painful for your soul to die long before the body is laid to rest. Men who die in this way will, in the end, become the very shadow they once fought against.”

“You mean it is possible for a man to become shadow?” Ecalai asks, horrified.

“Yes. Anyone who has dwelt in shadow for too long will inevitably become a slave of it.”

“How does one resist such a thing?”

“Only the Ancient of Days can rescue a man or a nation from the darkness. Without Him, men are truly without hope. Hopelessness is in essence what the shadow embodies.”

“I can relate to that.”

 

Nagaster. Six years prior. First hour.

Death, fire, and darkness are all that Ecalai sees. The capital city of Nagaster is burning with flames that will not be quenched. The shadows have come and the city has fallen. There is no more time to think of fleeing – there is nowhere to go and no way out. The city has been surrounded by shadow and, even though wat brief battle there was has long been over, shadows continue to pour into the city. Nothing remains here but death.

Ecalai looks toward the royal palace at the center of the city. All of its banners that normally hang proud and majestic have been slashed diagonally down the center as a symbol of shadow’s conquest. The palace itself, covered completely in shadow, is in ruins with all its splendor gone. It is a fitting image for the destruction of the nation.

Sharp screams and desperate cries fill the city streets all around and echo into the night as if to complete the utter ruin all around. Ecalai knows that there will be no help coming to answer those cries tonight. Any last shred of hope faded when the Nightbringers came to complete the destruction.

No, there will be no hope tonight, nor is there likely to be ever again in the kingdom of Nagaster.

 

Jeshrun. Present.

“I have spent a lot of time fighting shadow here in Jeshrun,” Ecalai continues, “but I was never able to succeed in driving it out. I have been told all my life that the Ancient of Days is the only one that can make the shadows tremble, but I have never truly witnessed this for myself. Tell me, if it is true the He has such power, why does He not give it to those of us who really need it?”

“Unless you are changed from within you will never be able to wield the power of the Ancient of Days. Even more than that, unless you are made new you cannot escape from the shadow. Those who live in this world will forever be trapped by the inevitabilities of the ruler of this world, but those who live for the world to come will never fall into shadow,” answers the Stranger.

“You speak of the world that will come when the Ancient of Days shall eradicate all that is evil from the world, right?”

“Yes.”

“But what do you mean by I need to be ‘changed from within’ or that I need to be ‘made new’?” Ecalai questions. “I have believed in the Ancient of Days and served him all my life. Am I not already changed?”

“Believing in your head and believing in your heart are two different matters. You have called on the Ancient of Days and have pledged your service to Him and that is good. Nevertheless, you must go further. Unless you relinquish all rights to your life and your heart and are made new, the Ancient of Days will not be able to use you.”

“I still do not understand. Have I not already done these things?”

“Consider this. On the day that the Ancient of Days separates what is good from what is evil and destroys all wickedness, will He judge based on appearances or will He judge based on truth? I tell you, He will judge based on the truth of what a man really is and not what he claims to be.

“This is why you must be changed from within and not just on the outside. Men judge based on outward appearances, and by consequence think that outward appearance is all that matters. The Ancient of Days judges on the heart,” the Stranger concludes.

“If this is what it takes to defeat shadow then the world is doomed. Any who meet those standards must surely be a champion among men, and I have not met anyone like that. How can there be enough men in the universe who meet those standards to drive back shadow?” Ecalai asks.

“You would be surprised how many of them there are. You have even met some of them. Even if you cannot see it, the Ancient of Days will always have a remnant who are His champions. Even in the darkest of places the Ancient of Days has champions willing to stand against shadow and rescue the helpless from its grasp.”

Ecalai thinks back to that day in Nagaster. “Now that you mention it I have met someone like that…”

 

Nagaster. Six years prior. Halfway through the second hour.

Ecalai is on his knees looking directly into the merciless eyes of a Nightbringer. Ordinarily he would rise to his feet and fight for his life, or at least attempt to flee and live another day; however, he is completely exhausted and knows he lacks the strength for either. It had taken everything he had to survive to this point, but now all his energy has been spent. There is nothing left now but to accept the inevitable.

The Nightbringer, sensing that Ecalai is incapable of fighting back, inches forward with deliberate slowness as he revels in his apparent victory. It is as if the Nightbringer wants to savor the despair of his victim before dispatching him. “It was pointless to even think of resisting, human,” the Nightbringer taunts. His words and tone of voice sound different from that of a man. It sounds more like the growlings of a beast than that of an intelligent being. The Nightbringer continues, “We are the Nephilim of old. We are the first and the strongest of all the creatures of shadow. No matter what you try, there is no hope for victory against us.” The Nightbringer stops directly in front of Ecalai and raises a massive claw. “Die now in despair, human.”

“That is far enough, Ramuel,” calls a man’s voice from behind Ecalai. “This one you shall not touch.”

The Nightbringer throws his gaze in the direction of the voice. He is clearly very angry at the interruption. “What are you doing here? We have claimed this world as ours. You have no right to interfere!”

“This one is mine,” the man’s voice says, coming closer to Ecalai and the Nightbringer. “You shall not touch him.”

The Nightbringer takes several steps back as the man approaches. Ecalai can see his absolute hatred for this strange man clearly visible in his eyes. There is also something else in the Nightbringer’s gaze – fear.

The man steps in front of Ecalai and looks directly and the Nightbringer. “Go back to the shadow of your own realm,” the man commands. The Nightbringer growls but he cannot resist the authority in the man’s voice. He slinks back into the shadows and is gone.

Ecalai cannot believe what he just saw. Who is this strange man who can command even shadows? Look at the man, Ecalai can see the absolute authority the he holds There is something about this fearless stranger that makes even the shadows tremble.

Turning back to Ecalai, the man says, “Come, let’s get you out of here.”

 

Jeshrun. Present.

Ecalai thinks hard on what the Stranger has said. It does make sense in its own way, but Ecalai knows that it means he has a long way to go before he can become the champion the Ancient of Days has called him to be. He will need a lot more training before he is ready to fight shadow again.

Ecalai sighs as he lays down on his back to gaze up at the stars once more. He wonders where Erianna and Mykai are, and what they are doing. He has not seen them since Dark Moon. They are probably wondering where his is as well. They probably could use his help, but he knows that, at the moment, he is incapable of helping himself, much less anyone else.

His magic still has not returned. Because Mykl used a magic breaking technique in their fight, Ecalai knows that his magic might not ever return. He can still wield a sword, but is not proficient enough to be useful in a fight without his magic. The simple fact is that he is now powerless and helpless on his own.

If the Stranger can indeed show Ecalai his purpose like he said, or at least train Ecalai in the use of the sword, then maybe he could get by well enough to return to Dark Moon and find Erianna and Mykai. It is a long shot but it is all he has. The two would have to be able to survive on their own until then.

“Hang on Erianna and Mykai,” Ecalai whispers to himself. “It may take me a while but I will come find you just like I promised.”

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2017 in Ecalai, High Wilderness

 

Ice Palace: The Stranger of the Mountains

By Nathan Steen

Edited by Alicia Steen

 

Far from the western seas of Blue Soul and the bordering shores of Dark Moon, great mountains rise in eastern Jeshrun, separating the cities and strongholds from the frontier lands. The mountains are much more untamed and far more dangerous than the cultivated western lands.

Borders are never permanently fixed here as many of the darker clans of Jeshrun are always competing with the clans loyal to the Ancient of Days, desiring to expand territory and influence. Any traveler who wishes to pass through here must always be on their guard, lest he be caught unawares in an ambush laid by the dark clans.

In spite of the ever-present conflict, there is one place completely avoided by nearly all warring clans. Deep and high within these mountains lies a barren ice-filled wilderness nearly devoid of life. Between the fierce storms that rage and the almost impenetrable landscape, most clans find it easier to avoid the place altogether. All that is known if this desolate country is the name passed down since ancient times: the High Wilderness.

From a distance, all that can be seen of the High Wilderness is the clouds that continuously, or perhaps deliberately, block the mountain peaks from view. According to legend, those clouds hid many secrets left abandoned by the ancient clans of Jeshrun in the tallest peaks of all the land.

Some say these secrets are powerful weapons forged in dragon fire that have been sealed away until the Ancient of Days calls forth those who will wield them. Others say the secrets are the keys to mastering a great ancient magic left behind by the twelve Lords of old. Still others whisper that the secrets reveal a darker mystery behind the dark clans of Jeshrun that must never come to light.

Whatever the truth might be, all the legends agree on one detail: the High Wilderness is guarded by merciless guardians known as clan Twilight. More than the violent storms, they are the reason no one seeks the secrets hidden in the mountains. Even the naysayers who proclaim that clan Twilight either died out centuries ago or never existed, even they will not tread there for fear of them. Thus the High Wilderness remains desolate, and the secrets still a legend.

All this changed, however, the day the legends became real.

 

 

Ecalai stumbles and falls to one knee. He is breathing hard from continuous travel without rest. He cares little about that, though. Ignoring his fatigue, Ecalai picks himself up and continues moving forward. All he wants is just to get away – away from Dark Moon, away from Mykl, away from the Guide, and away from the torment of his failure. In this way he keeps wandering aimlessly as he ventures deeper and deeper into the mountains. Yes, here is where he would rather be. These mountains do not need protection, nor do they demand anything from him. Here there is only silence, cold, and ice… calm, quiet, and deadly ice.

Ecalai wants the silence the mountains have to offer more than anything else. Unfortunately, there is no place he could go nor anything he could do to silence the accusatory voices that plague his thoughts. One sounds like Mykl’s voice still repeating what he had said in Dark Moon, “Everything you have ever done has been for the sake of vengeance. You can no longer see the truth of what you have become.”

Another voice, this one belonging to the Guide, also rails against him, “What a pathetic fool you have become. Did I not warn you this would happen? You are nothing but a hopeless cause. You belong to the Shadow now.”

Ecalai tries to ignore all the voices. He does not wish to hear anything they have to say, but the voices only laugh at his attempts to silence them. Truthfully, Ecalai feels clearly that the voices are right. He tried to save Jeshrun from the Shadow, but he only made the situation worse He failed to kill even a single Nightbringer, and, in a crucial moment, he lost to Mykl. Now he has been forced to abandon Dark Moon as well as leave Erianna and Mykai behind to face the Shadow alone.

He had tried to be the hero, but everything had gone wrong. He has failed completely and utterly.

Suddenly, a new voice, this one not in his thoughts but coming from a person standing behind him, interrupts Ecalai. “It is dangerous to wander alone,” the person says. “These mountains are home to many things that you had best no meet unprepared.”

The voices of accusation immediately go silent. Startled, Ecalai looks behind him and sees a rather peculiar man standing there. He is one of the strangest looking men Ecalai has ever met. His clothes are of a manner Ecalai has never seen before, nor by looking can Ecalai tell where the man is from. He is well equipped for travel in these mountains, and from the look of things he comes here often.

“You appear to be lost. Perhaps I could be of some assistance to you,” the man continues.

“Thank you for the offer,” Ecalai responds, “but I am beyond what aid you may be able to give me.”

“Still,” says the man, “I cannot leave a poor soul like you to wander in these mountains alone. Come, where are you headed? I know these mountains well and can guide you anywhere you wish to go.”

“I do not have a destination. I guess you could say that I am a mere wanderer who has lost his purpose.”

“Would you like to discover your purpose?”

Ecalai is caught off guard by the direct question. “What do you mean? How would you show me my purpose?”

“You are not the first despairing soul to find your way here. Many others just like you have come to these mountains seeking help that they know not where to find. I come offering them help out of their desperate situation. I suppose you could say I am in the business of offering hope to those who have none. However, I can only give my help to those who want it. Tell me, would you like to discover your purpose?”

Ecalai is skeptical of this strange man and the help he offers. “What kind of ‘help’ are you intending to give me?”

“Well, for starters, you are going to freeze to death or worse if you continue to wander these mountains alone. Should you get lost you will find nothing but a most unfortunate death awaiting you. You will need my help if you wish to leave these mountains alive.

“Secondly, you mentioned that you have lost your purpose. That being the case, you will easily be swallowed by the shadow even if you do manage to find your way. If you come with me I may be able to help you with that.”

“That sounds almost too good to be true,” says Ecalai, still skeptical. “No one I have ever met would offer that kind of help for free. What do you want in return?”

“Well, if you insist on repaying me, then you can accompany me on a little errand of mine. Shadows have stirred up dark forces that are active even here in these secluded mountains. For the present, I have been charged with protecting these mountains by hunting down any dark forces that lurk here. An extra hand would always be welcome.”

Ecalai considers ignoring this stranger’s offer to help. It is true, though, that he does not know much about these mountains and that he could easily run into trouble if he were alone. He still does not know what to make of this man, but he is not in the situation or mood to care if the man ends up betraying him. “Well, I guess it couldn’t hurt,” Ecalai shrugs. “Where are we off to?”

“First we must head deeper into the mountains. I have a friend there that we must meet up with,” says the man as he points toward the higher mountain peaks.

“Fine,” Ecalai replies.

“You will be needing this.” The man tosses Ecalai a sheathed sword.

“What is this for?”

“I told you these mountains are dangerous. Seeing as you lack a sword of your own, you can borrow one of mine.”

“If you insist,” Ecalai shrugs again. “By the way, I almost forgot to ask you your name.”

The man smiles. “I have many names, but those who know me around here call me the Stranger.”

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2017 in Ecalai, High Wilderness

 

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On the Footsteps of a Dragon’s Roar: the Cleansing pt 5

The Battle for Camlon

In the darkness before dawn, Vytria flies high above Camlon. The city is deceptively quiet, as Vytria feels movement through the air in the streets and the castle. All are moving into position, for today everything will be determined. Today they fight for Camlon.

As the faintest lights of dawn push back the night, a small rescue party moves silently through the castle. Certan ordered all the defecting knights locked up in the dungeons that still stand. Most of those knights are young, as they owe great loyalty to Dnovan, their captain. Now Morcant, with two from Tarik’s household, move in to free them.

The stealth of the two with him, Rydn and Jyrn, amazes him. Many times he himself loses track of their presence as they penetrate further into the castle. Even so, this is too easy. Certan is not one to take any opponent lightly.
“Relax,” the one called Rydn whispers. “Whatever is here, we’ll deal with it.”

A soft breeze swirls around Morcant. Vytria is reminding him she too is watching. Morcant lets his tension ebb somewhat. Presently they are within sight of the imprisoned knights, but a snap of wind pushes him back. “Certan’s trap is just ahead.”

Jyrn and Rydn nod and disappear. Around the corner sounds of clanging metal and shouts ring through the dungeon. Morcant hears footsteps behind him, and turns to find himself engaged by several knights at once.

“Only three of you?” Certan asks as he faces Jyrn. “I expected more of an effort.”

“Four,” Morcant replies. “And that is all we need.” A rising gale confirms Morcant’s count. The knights attacking them find it hard to move, making them easy opponents. Morcant, Jyrn, and Rydn fight their way to the cell doors and release the imprisoned knights. As the group moves toward the gaping hole Vytria had created with her own earlier escape, the gale stops suddenly. Certan’s knights close in from all sides. “What did you do?” Morcant demands.

“There are other powers besides that of the Queen of Chaos,” Certan replies.

“It is true, then. You have allied yourself with Lady Ashrah.”

Vytria’s wind picks up, as if responding to Morcant’s turmoil, and explodes, removing all Morcant’s obstacles on every side. Before the dust settles, Morcant leads his party away from the castle.

 

Vytria catches her breath. Not many could have interfered with her winds like that, and certainly none that were present in the dungeons. No, whoever challenged her wielded their power from much farther away. Until she found them, they had the advantage over her. By now the undercity would have become a battlefield. Perhaps down there… Vytria stirs the air and focuses on the fighting down below. Just as Dnovan expected, the undercity is crawling with Nirad, and the mages are finding themselves at a disadvantage. But none of them, so far, are the one she seeks.

Vytria catches a sense of a strong power. Before she confirms its location, it surges toward her, too fast for her to withdraw her focus and counter it. The full force slams into her, knocking her from the tower. Vytria lets herself fall, guiding her momentum into one of the openings to the undercity.

As Vytria nears the castle, she sees Certan pursuing Morcant. Anger rises within her. “You shall not turn away from us. Witness the slaughter you yourself have ordered.” Vytria knocks him underground with her winds.

As they both fall beneath the ground, sounds of one battle are replaced by the desperate shouts of another. Nirad are attacking the undercity from three sides. But for the valor of the Laine brothers the undercity would be overrun, and the darkness favors the Nirad. As it stands, the Laine brothers can only hold back the Nirad, and their strength will not last forever.

Vytria guides her fall so she lands near Dnovan, while Certan lands behind the Nirad.

“What happened?” Dnovan asks her.

“Morcant successfully rescued our knights. A Nirad down here interfered with my winds and knocked me down here. Oh, and I pulled Certan down here too.”

“Can you locate the one who attacked you?”

“I know the general direction. He shouldn’t be hard spot.”

“Then let’s accept his challenge. These men could use something to cheer about.”

“Gladly.” Vytria and Dnovan charge through ranks of Nirad. While Vytria controls the air, the advantage Nirad gain in the darkness is greatly lessened. That, combined with the experience the Laine family has in fighting Nirad, begins to turn the tide.

Then Vytria’s wind abruptly falters. “Dnovan, it’s happening again.”

“I see it. It’s him.” Dnovan gestures to a tall, muscular Nirad striding toward them. His power seems to wrap itself around him in pitch black cloak. “That has to be Kaisen. You ready for this?”

“Does it matter?” Vytria and Dnovan attack Kaisen together, but Kaisen is clear a top-ranking Nirad. He is in no hurry either. He blocks and parries all their combined attacks, while he himself strikes only occasionally. Kaisen seems content with sealing Vytria’s winds and letting the pair exhaust themselves.

After yet another failed offensive, Dnovan speaks up. “Vytria, you’re not focusing.”

“I’m trying to ignore his interference, but that’s proving difficult.”

“Then do what you want. What’s necessary will take care of itself.”

Vytria smiles slowly. “Hang on to your helmet.” She begins to move the air throughout the battlefield, but Kaisen quells it.

“Nice sentiment, but not going to happen. This battle is ours,” Kaisen declares. He sends a killing blow toward Dnovan, which Dnovan just manages to dodge. Kaisen laughs. “Mere wind will never defeat me or defend your comrades.”

“Mere wind?” Vytria echoes. “I think mere wind is just what we need. Sometimes, strength lies in stillness, in smallness, and in a whisper.” The battlefield changes subtly. Nirad begin to falter. “You cannot sense it, can you. After all, you’ve spent so much time seeking power that the small things are lost to you.”

Kaisen’s fury rises in tangible waves. “I think you’ve made him mad,” Dnovan comments.

“That makes two of us,” Vytria says. “Let’s see him block this one.” Black grapples with Vytria’s winds, and Dnovan charges. Red joins black.

Kaisen’s blood greets Dnovan’s blade.

 

On the battlefront opposite Kaisen, Certan bests another mage. He swings his sword to strike down another, but a clang of metal blocks it. Certan looks over at his challenger, and sees and angry Morcant.

“Certan!” Morcant shouts. “How could you have fallen so far?”

“That is my question for you. I am defending my people.”

“You are killing them! I have looked into Camlon’s history, Certan, that history which your house has willfully neglected. These mages have been citizens of Camlon longer than we have!”

“Mages are the reason Camlon weakens.”

“Their deaths are what weakens Camlon. Lady Ashrah has not the good of Camlon in mind or heart.”

“I do what is necessary as King. You are weak, Morcant, too weak to make the hard choices.”

“I would rather be weak than a fool.”

Certan does not reply, but swings his sword at Morcant furiously. Morcant responds in kind, until the sound of wingbeats and soft cries penetrates their vision. Certan senses something his periphery, and slashes at it.

Then he stops cold.

A silver gryphn. The symbol of Camlon. He has slain a silver gryphn.

The ground beneath him rattles. Something large is approaching. The very air trembles before it. But Certan has no chance to discern what comes, for in the next moment all is fire.

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2017 in Camlon, Vytria

 

On the Footsteps of a Dragon’s Roar: the Cleansing pt 4

By Alicia Steen

Day 5

“Mernan! Saddle my horse,” King Certan calls.

“Where are we going?”

“To Certainna. She can tell me where the Lady Ashrah is.” Mernan stops cold, but Certan continues. “I just received word that Elhren and the Dragon Lord will join Dnovan and Morcant. If we are to crush this rebellion, we will need help from someone with power to match theirs.” Certan finally notices Mernan staring at him. “Well, get to it.”

“Yes sire.” Mernan moves toward the kitchen first, to gather supplies, then heads for the stable. His mind refuses to process what Certan had just said. There are stories about Lady Ashrah, each one worse than the last. She is said to never age, and holds power in one hand and death in the other.

With the hour Mernan stands at the castle gate with two horses, ready for the quick journey. The look on Certan’s face as he mounts up says he was planning to ride through the night. Certan gives quick orders to his most trusted knights, and rides off with Mernan following close behind.

Mernan watches the streets as he rides by. Signs of the recent satyr invasion still remain, but even so the markets are as lively as ever. With the promise of internal strife in the near future, many have left the memory of the invasion far behind. This revolt seems to have happened in an instant, but it has been a long time in coming. Violent change is on the horizon. Now that Certan has decided to ally himself with Lady Ashrah, will the Camlon Mernan had come to love even exist when all is over?

Mernan and Certan ride through the west gate into the forest covering much of Camlon. When they leave the main road and reach a crossroads, Mernan stops his horse.

Certan also pulls up. “What is it, Mernan?”

“This is as far as I go.” Mernan lifts a tear-scarred face. “I can follow you no further than this.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I will not fight against you, Certan, but I know about Lady Ashrah, perhaps more than you do. If you forge an alliance with her, you will have crossed beyond the point of return. She is more than dangerous.”

“Lady Ashrah is Camlon’s only hope. I don’t like this any more than you do, but as king I have to make the hard decisions. The blood of those who join this revolt will be on their own heads.”

“Will it? If you die, will they truly be held accountable? Even once, have you ever thought that you and your father might be wrong?” Mernan shakes his head. “No, Certan. None have forced you on this road; you take it by your own choice.” Mernan turns his horse aside.

“Mernan!”

“Farewell, Certan. Even if your future does not see you blest, I will forever remember the times I knew you best.”

With these last words, Mernan urges his horse down the opposite path. Certan watches him leave in silence before continuing down his road alone in the waning sun.

 

The Lady Certainna lives with her few servants in an old tower just outside Camlon’s border. She does not often receive guests, but when King Certan, her brother, rides up to her door, she does not refuse.

“Certan, king of Camlon. To what do I owe the surprise.”

“I wish to speak with the Lady,” Certan replies.

Lady Certainna looks at him sharply. “You’re serious,” she says with false laughter. “Be careful, Certan. Once you meet with her, there is no going back.”

“I already have but one course open to me. She may be able to change that.”

“I should refuse,” Lady Certainna says, “but somehow I do not think that would do much good. Very well, follow the mountain until you arrive at an emerald lake. She doesn’t like unnecessary visitors, so have something of worth to say when she addresses you.”

Certan bows. “Thank you, Lady Certainna. I will not forget this.”

Lady Certainna gives a mirthless laugh. “Do not thank me. Believe me, Certan, pointing you to the Lady is no favor.”

Lady Certainna watches as King Certan rides away from the tower. When he is out of sight, she calls for a servant. “Bring me the swiftest falcon. Morcant must know to be wary.”

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2017 in Camlon, Vytria

 

On the Footsteps of a Dragon’s Roar: the Cleansing pt 3

By Alicia Steen

Arlan Laine walks quietly through the dungeon. Delia’s cell is empty, just as Dnovan said it would be. “Delia,” Arlan calls quietly.

“Here, Arlan.” Delia lands softly in front of him. “So? How does Dnovan wish to play this?”

“He wants you to blow this dungeon to the netherworld,” Arlan replies.

Delia grins. “Can do.”

 

Dwain and Devin climb through Morcant’s window. “Well, that was fun. Remind me never to do it again,” Dwain comments.

“You know this room has a door,” Morcant says.

“Really? I thought only smart people used those,” Dwain answers. Devin elbows him.

“We had need to come here unseen by the guards,” Devin explains. “House arrest and all. We bear a message from Dnovan. He bid us give you this.”

Dwain hands Morcant the sword Delia found in Jeshrun. Morcant accepts the blade. As he examines it, his eyes grow wide. “This is a magical blade, yet the silver gryphn of Camlon is prominent upon its hilt.”

“Our sister Delia discovered it in Jeshrun,” Dwain tells him.

“Camlon was not always a country who fought against mages,” Devin speaks. “Camlon fought with them. King Uthyr twisted our laws for his own ends, and his son King Certan has chosen to follow in his path.”

“This is what Dnovan would know: as a member of the royal family, what is your choice?” Dwain asks.

Morcant stares at the aged sword. “Sir Dnovan is moving, then.”

“He is,” Devin confirms.

“I spoke with Certan myself, and he would not listen. I could never wish to raise my hand against my uncle, but he is wrong. The claim of the mages is just. I know just how much the untainted mages still do for Camlon, as this last battle should have proven. It is time they were allowed their rightful place in Camlon.” Morcant straightens. “I will stand with Dnovan.”

A female voice speaks from the window. “It is heartening to know we are still accepted here.” The words are punctuated by a loud explosion, followed by the crumbling of stone. Morcant hurries to the window. There, where the former dungeon stood, is nothing but a pile of rubble. Floating not far from the window is Delia, accompanied by Arlan.

“You and Dnovan do not mess around, do you?” Morcant says.

Delia smiles. “There is a reason the Laine family has a reputation, even now. Part of that is we do not fear making ourselves heard when the time is right.”

Dwain speaks up. “Dnovan said to meet at Gail’s place.”

“Okay see you there.” Delia and Arlan fly off.

“Wait!” Dwain calls, but Delia is out of earshot. “We have to climb back down the hard way, don’t we.”

“We have to climb back down,” Devin confirms.

Dwain and Devin sigh loudly.

“I will meet you at the servant Gail’s house. I have some preparations of my own to make,” Morcant tells the brothers as they begin to climb down.”

Dwain nods. “No hurry. After this, it’s Certan’s move anyway.”

 

“What was that!” Certan shouts.

“The dungeon where Delia was held has been destroyed!” a knight tells him.

“What?!”

“This is Dnovan’s declaration of war,” Khad tells him. “There can be no doubt now. His hand is against you.”

“Then he has already sealed his fate,” King Certan replies.

“Many of the people may side with Sir Dnovan, but most of the knights will remain loyal to you. If you act quickly, you will have them outnumbered before they can gather strength,” Sir Khad advises.

A different voice disagrees. “They will not need numbers.” All look to the door as Sir Elhren steps into the room. “Prince Alexandr Parkr will side with them. Numbers mean nothing to the dragon riders of Gathyra. You saw his prowess with the sword in the tournament. If you meet him in battle he will not withhold his magic as he did then.”

“Indeed, it takes a special warrior to take on a dragon,” Sir Khad agrees.

King Certan considers Sir Khad carefully. “What are you getting at?”

Sir Khad continues, “My king, you know I am from a kingdom that knows neither shadow nor magic. Our warriors are trained to combat both with deadly force. However, to enlist their strength you must first speak with the Lady, and she has not granted me knowledge of her whereabouts.”

King Certan nods. “Have Mernan ready my horse; I ride within the hour. Certainna will know where the Lady Ashrah is.”

Sir Khad leaves, but Sir Elhren remains. “King Certan, are you determined to follow this path?”

“Sir Morcant has committed treason. I must uphold the laws of Camlon.” Seeing Sir Elhren’s grim expression, King Certan adds, “What is it, Elhren?”

“Sire, I served you because I believed you to be a just king, but justice and wisdom have left your house. If you side with Khad and his kind, I will not stand with you.”

King Certan nods slowly. “That is your right.”

“I also bear a message from Morcant. ‘If you pursue this path, you will destroy not only yourself but Camlon as well. Therefore, for both your sake and Camlon’s, I will stand with Dnovan.’”

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2017 in Camlon, Vytria

 

On the Footsteps of a Dragon’s Roar: the Cleansing pt 2

By Alicia Steen

Dnovan paces the dining area of the family house restlessly. The room is quite spacious when the six brothers are not all occupying it at once, but as it is Dnovan’s pacing makes it feel quite small. Devin and Arlan sit at opposite ends of the long wood table trying to get in Dnovan’s way when he changes direction. Nearest Devin, Dwaine leans in the kitchen doorway engaged in silent communication while on the other side Druce stands staring out one of two windows, his back to Aedn who stares at the floor next to the front door of the humble house.

None have spoken words since King Certan confined them to the house. The family motto, which all have lived by since their parent’s death, is Live Together, Fight Together. To allow their sister to die for anything less than a serious criminal act grates against everything they stand for, yet so does acting against the king to save Delia’s life.

A knock on the door breaks contemplation. Aedn opens it, and in steps a well-known maker of trouble, Drest the maker of nails.

Dwaine greets Drest first. “Look who’s come to share his intimate knowledge of jail cells and the king’s justice.”

Dnovan quits pacing, but Druce doesn’t turn from the window. “State your business,” Druce tells Drest curtly. Drest starts to speak with sweeping hand motions, but Devin interrupts.

“Before we change our minds,” Devin cautions. All the brothers have had experience extracting Drest from whatever trouble he’s stirred up and escorting him to the dungeon. Knights cast lots to determine who gets to unravel Drest’s next scheme.

Drest nods and puts his hands on the sturdy table. “All this has happened before. It will happen again. Not even the Lady Certainna was safe from our previous king’s wrath, and it seems our current monarch has inherited his vengeance.”

“Stick to the facts,” Druce says, still without moving.

Drest continues. “The people of Camlon agree with you. The king will never overturn the ban on magic; to ensure the safety of our loved ones we must change the law ourselves.”

“Never!”

Dnovan’s deep voice resounds off the walls. “We stay true to the royal family and our own.”

Drest shakes his head, which creates an odd rhythm with his hands and his knees. Only his voice stays steady from long practice in sticky situations. “Fate has not given you such an enviable third option. We are entitled to rights, Sir Dnovan, and we must fight for them.”

Dnovan stands tall and approaches Drest until he stands not a foot away. Drest straightens, but at full height he does not come even to Dnovan’s shoulders. Dnovan speaks.

“I know what ‘rights’ you speak of, Drest. The right to act lawlessly, the right to shirk your duties, the right to drift where your whims take you. A man does have rights: the right to be ruled justly under fair law, the right to build a livelihood in safety, the right to enjoy the fruits of his labor. Your ‘rights’ are anarchy, Drest, and when you your days are utterly spent you will return to our king and ask for a place in his household.”

Devin rises from his seat. “You heard the man, Drest. Take your words elsewhere.”

As Devin escorts Drest from the house, Drest leaves a parting thought. “Your ideals still won’t save your sister, Dnovan! You will join me if you ever want to see her alive; fate has decreed it!”

Aedn shuts the door firmly. “What a loudmouth. Doesn’t he ever shut up?”

Dnovan leans on the table. “I’ve decided. Here’s what we’re going to do.”

 

While the Laine brothers hold conference, King Certan confides to his trusted servant and friend Mernan in the king’s chambers.

“I do not have a choice, Mernan. The Lady Delia herself confessed to using magic, and the law is clear.”

“Yet it remains, sire, that Lady Delia used magic to protect Camlon. She saved many lives by her actions.”

“Magic is power, and power corrupts. If wizards are allowed to use magic feely all of Camlon will dissolve into chaos like it had before my father’s time.”

“I have used magic before in your presence; at times powerful magic.”

“Yes, Mernan, but you use it only in great need and never in such a public manner. I wish more than anyone this were not necessary, but I have a duty to protect my people.”

Mernan bows his head regretfully. “Yes, sire.” At that time Sir Morcant enters desiring to speak. Mernan leaves the room so trusted nephew and respected uncle can speak in private.

King Certan speaks first. “If this is about the Lady Delia, my decision is final.”

“The law is wrong, uncle. Not every wielder of magic is bent on destroying Camlon, as Lady Delia proved mere hours ago.”

“And how long will it be before her power goes to her head, and she betrays us as Lady Certainna did?”

“You cannot compare Delia’s situation to your sister’s. My mother was scared, she acted in fear of what would surely happen if your father should discover her abilities. If you show Delia mercy instead of trying to kill her the same will not happen.

King Certan shakes his head sadly. “I cannot take that chance, Morcant. The lives of my people are at stake.”

Sir Morcant does not want to believe what his ears tell him. “And what of those in Camlon who use magic? Are they not your citizens as well?” Morcant shakes his head in disbelief. “You do not even believe your judgment is just. You say you have no choice, but in my eyes you have already made it.” Morcant moves to the door of the king’s chambers. “You have told yourself that magic is evil for so long you no longer see people, only monsters.” Morcant shuts the door behind him firmly.

“You have made the right choice, sire,” Sir Khad says. “Magic was even able to corrupt your father in his last moments. You cannot spare any of them.”

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2017 in Camlon, Vytria

 

On the Footsteps of a Dragon’s Roar: the Cleansing pt 1

Day 4

Before the sunlight came to claim the day, Vytria walks alone on a long wall. She had given up on sleep and decided to discover the source of her unease. Two others also walk along this wall. Due to their leather armor, Vytria recognizes them at once. “Parkr! Sir Elhren!”

“Lady Delia,” Elhren bows.

“Vytria. It’s been a while,” Parkr greets her.

“It has. I was surprised to see you in the tournament.”

“I didn’t have much choice. Apparently the knights were desperate for a strong new opponent.”

“They certainly received more than they bargained for, then. Are you here for the same reason I am?”

“Yes. There is unease in the air tonight. We were just about to scout ahead,” Parkr answers.

“Let me come with you, then. You are, of course, going by air?”

“Naturally.”

Once Elhren confirms that no guards are watching, the three take to the air, Parkr on his magnificent white dragon, Elhren on a red phoenix, and Vytria flies behind them with her winds. They pick up speed, surveying the landscape carefully for any signs of disturbance. All too soon they discover the reason for their search.

“Satyr! Thousands of them,” Elhren points out. “At that speed they will arrive at Camlon within three hours.”

“We must warn the king.”

“I will alert Dnovan,” Vytria says. The three make all haste back to Camlon, and soon the city is awake and rushing about to prepare for the sudden onslaught. Galen, the castle physician, with Mernan’s help hurries to make more draughts for the scores of hungover knights. Three hours later they are as ready as they shall be.

“Listen, Elhren,” Parkr says. “If I’m going to fight at all, I’m going to use my full strength. Dragons and all.”

“I expect nothing less,” Elhren agrees. “What do you have in mind?”

“This horde of satyr is running scared. If we can divert them away from the city, they will keep on running.”

“You mean to wedge ourselves between stampeding satyr and Camlon.”

“Problem?”

“I am the younger brother of Synrn. I’ve heard worse plans.”

With Shem, the white dragon, and Mystery, the black dragon, blocking the way, Parkr and Elhren are able to divert much of the oncoming satyr away from the city, but not all. Many thousands assault the walls, climbing or jumping over them. Camlon’s knights are valiant, but it has been long since any defended a city from satyr. It is not long before the city is overrun.

“Dnovan! I’m calling in reinforcements,” Vytria calls. “If we do not fight now, we are truly the second-class citizens the king believes us to be.”

Dnovan nods. “Do it.”

Vytria concentrates, and uses her winds to open all the doorways to the undercity. The mages below receive the message, and pour out from below to charge the satyr. They prove very effective. Camlon’s knights are surprised, but with a common enemy before them are in no position to protest. Knight and mage fight side by side, ushering citizens to safety and slaying all satyrs who come near.

But another horde flies in to trouble Camlon, a horde of gargoyles. Their screeches cause the brave fighters to clench their hands to their ears.

“Dnovan, we’re going higher!” Vytria shouts. Without waiting for Dnovan’s reply, Vytria launches herself into the air, hauling Dnovan with her. She lands on the highest tower. Gargoyles instantly attack, but Dnovan fends them off.  “There’s no going back after this,” Vytria says.

“There never was.”

Vytria smiles, and turns her concentration to claiming the skies of Camlon. Not much happens at first, but presently a gargoyle careens through the air and crashes down on a knot of satyrs. Then three more fall, and soon the gargoyles retreat from the airspace around the tower. The ones that can, anyway. In threes and fours some find themselves diving for the tower, their wings no longer granting them power over the air. Dnovan slays them all, and the winds around the tower increase in strength.

Sir Morcant arrives to find Camlon entirely overrun but for the castle in the center. Yells and shouts from the breached city reach their ears, confirming that Camlon’s knights still fight, but they are almost drowned out by the far louder guttural screams from hundreds of stone-grey gargoyles flying overhead.

Sir Morcant turns to his men. “These satyrs are running scared; they are not here to fight. If we stand we can divert the main force from the city, but our line must hold. For King and Camlon!”

“For King and Camlon!” his men return the battle cry, and with Sir Morcant leading them they charge for the gates. Another knight in royal blue joins them, and from seemingly nowhere two more follow fill the ranks. When Sir Morcant’s charge reaches the satyr horde, his charge is three hundred strong. Not many in comparison to thousands, but enough.

As the momentum from the charge fades, the knights are pushed back. “Hold the line!” Sir Morcant shouts. “Their numbers are not limitless. Hold the line!”

“Their numbers may have an end, but so does our strength. We cannot hold them here long; there are too many.” A knight grunts. Sir Morcant grabs him.

“Do not dare give up until your sword drops from your hand on its own,” Sir Morcant growls; then releases the knight. “This is our city.”

“That may happen sooner than you’d like,” an old knight says. “The cries of those gargoyles sap a man’s will.”

“Then we must gain it back,” Sir Morcant replies. “Prince James said one of their own is in the city. He may be able to deal with them; where is he?”

As if in answer a great roar resounds through the ground, drowning our all sound but its own. A pillar of white-hot flame appears some distance away. As all pause in wonder as it takes on the form of a fiery sword.

“That’s it! The fire from the prophecy!”

“Those gargoyles don’t seem to like it. They’re beating a hasty retreat.”

“Wish these satyrs would do the same.”

“They are; they’re just retreating in our direction.”

As vigor returns to embattled knights, some chant loudly the forbidden song.

 

Gleaming flames of silver-white

Darken day and brighten night

Give hope to those whose fate they fight

And claim our justice with your light

 

In front of the city where the white gleaming sword casts its flame, another far different line holds out against the satyrs. They have been diverting as many as possible from the city since the satyrs first arrived, and to prove it all around them are dead and charred bodies of the same.

One of two men fighting here is Sir Elhren, the knight from distant lines. He takes a breath between strikes to speak to his partner, the strange visitor Alexandr Parkr Gathriel of Gathyra.

“I didn’t know you had the flaming sword of distant legend in your arsenal,” Sir Elhren shouts.

“I didn’t either,” Parkr shouts back as he works to both wield his own black metal blade and keep the flames stable.

Between them the dragon Mystery responds in proud tones, “We knew something would happen; isn’t that enough?” The light from the flame glints away from her black scales, making her look like a void with glowing eyes to oncoming satyrs, most of which steer sharply away from her straight into Elhren’s sword.

“This isn’t exactly easy you know. Anytime you’d like to jump in is fine with me,” Elhren grunts.

Mystery snaps her tail at a satyr that stumbles too close. “You’re doing a fine job,” is her reply.

Elhren shakes his head in a momentary lack of opponents. “And I thought Synrn was impossible.”

“At least she’s doing something,” Parkr says, glaring at the much larger dragon Shem, who actively engages in a yawn.

“They do know this is serious, right?”

Parkr stops fighting and turns to Elhren, the answered question clear in his expression. Elhren snorts and shakes his head. “Forget I asked.”

Parkr raises his gaze to the sky. “Ah, reinforcements have arrived.”

Sure enough, distinctive silhouettes flash by, and from the city comes the shout of “Dragons!” The shout is echoed, causing all to stop and stare upward. Faster than possibility the dragons crash into the gargoyle horde above and the satyrs below. Some knights cheer and others watch in awed silence as their enemies melt away. Quite literally. In moments the only evidence of any fighting is exhausted knights and some smoldering embers.

The dragons leave as soon as they came. The flaming sword vanishes with them, leaving an unnatural silence throughout the city. All streets are empty, no guards are found at the gates, and the damage wrought is lit by a fading twilight. As King Certan gazes upon his city, verses unbidden rise from memory.

 

Darkened day, greying night,

Empty walls, forsaken gate,

Waning fire, broken sword

No warning heard, for none will sound

From a people within whom no wisdom is found

 

Silence breaks when Sir Morcant enters the city. The blue and silver of Camlon’s knights convince the people to trickle out of deep hiding, slowly at first, then in more numbers as excited chatter grows. It turns out the wizards came out of anonymity to lead the citizens of Camlon to safety in the undercity catacombs lit only by occasional torches and warm hearts.

The satyrs, like every creature of shadow, fear to tread underground, and knights with wizards worked so well together that not one life is found to be lost. Amidst cheering and celebration, when asked who suggested such a thing, every man has one name on their lips.

“Delia Laine has been arrested!” a palace servant cries through the streets. Most turn shocked faces to his tale. “Delia Laine has been arrested for use of magic and conspiracy! The Laine knights have been confined to quarters!”

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2017 in Camlon