Started by Brokkr, July 22, 2021, 11:03:32 AM

July 22, 2021, 11:03:32 AM Last Edit: July 22, 2021, 11:05:47 AM by Brokkr
All the caveats about OOC vs IC knowledge mentioned at the start of "Daughter" apply.  If anything, it will be even more challenging here.

The stories are meant to portray events that happened "offscreen" and give context to what was happening that players did see and respond to, and incorporate the general backstory a few of us developed between us to be able to respond to PC actions and think up events for the plot arc.

Year 67

   The human female, of an age where some would view her an old child and others as a young adult, looked over her mother's wounded and exhausted people as they toiled to remove the contents of the wagon.  The wagon, one of the most powerful and valuable symbols of their heritage as Kuraci, would soon be abandoned. The contents, however, must not be abandoned. Just as the act of abandonment bound them together, the contents had for generations had set them apart from the other Kuraci and led to a group with its own purposes.

   The contents must not be abandoned, because they were the key to their future survival, after their betrayal.  Shared experiences and actions, in the past and in the future, that made them her people.  And her people were hurt and tired and not unloading the wagon near fast enough.

   She slipped into the wagon, moving with purpose and purposefully ignoring the uncertain looks the others gave her. It was to be expected. None stopped her as she made her way to one of the cargo nets, filled with baubles confiscated over generations of Kuraci.  Looking for a particular small blue bag, it took her only a moment to find it. There was no need to think about the actions she would take next, or the multiple objectives met through them. Such thoughts were the consideration and decision of an instant, and her thoughts were turned to more complex things.

   Five words, one of them rarely used, spoken in a steady and firm voice, unleashed a power that instantly eased the concern and worry and fear from the minds of those around her.  And would prevent panic.  She held forth one of the objects from the bag, focused on it a moment to allow the power to flow out of her and into it.  The object fed on the power, using it to open paths to the nature of its creation that allowed it to assume its true form for a time.

   "Have him hold this close, until the wounds are gone.  Then move it to another, " she said to a blonde-haired woman near hysterical only moments before that she would lose the only man ever loved. She moved on, powering a couple more of the things in the bag, similar in origin and function but wildly different in form. Not weary, but drained, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath for what was coming.

   The pain was immense, a cramping in her lower abdomen, far beyond anything she had experienced before, as the power she drew in the single attempt was far beyond anything she had tried before.  Eyes closed, sensation limited to the pain itself, she was in a timeless void that slowly faded, other senses faintly feeding her information that grew and grew as the pain faded. All in a few breaths.

   Slowly straightening, her eyes again feeding her the image of her people, calmer, with the means to heal, yet still exhausted.  Too exhausted to unload the wagon in time, or the journeys that would come after.  Another deep breath, posture straightening, hands extending.  Five words, one used for the second time that day, spoken in a steady and firm voice with the strains of pain only barely perceptible, unleashed a crackling of unseen energy, vibrancy and power.  The same five words, again.  And a third time.

   The exhaustion in the way those around her moved, stared dully at what was around them, or lay slack on the ground bereft of energy to go further was gone.  As was the uncertainty in their eyes, replaced by something else.  The wagon would get unloaded on time, and they would disappear, riding to various places with the history that bound them together and separated them from their erstwhile brethren.

   Pain still cramping her abdomen, drained, she nonetheless closed her eyes once again and took a deep breath. The pain was just as bad as the last time, if not worse, the muscles inside the bottom of her stomach clenching together, tighter than she knew they could, bringing her a pain she did not know she could endure.  It was longer, this time, to open her eyes, to sense the world around her.  And this time, there was a new sensation, something she had never felt before. She craned her neck to look down, to understand this feeling of wetness dripping down her thighs.

   If she must bleed for her people, she thought, so be it, she would.

July 23, 2021, 11:13:30 AM #2 Last Edit: July 24, 2021, 11:58:41 AM by Brokkr
   The barest hint of curves beginning to grace her fourteen-year-old frame, she was as unthinking of it as the scar-slashed man with leathery skin like tight, tanned hides emerging from the crude shelter amidst the forest was. She knew those eyes, constantly alert after years of violence, belonged to someone far more intelligent and cunning than the sorcerer who thought of himself as her Master, yet the greed for power and knowledge was the same. He had been with them for only two weeks, negotiating with mother, but she had decided she had his measure.

   Her mother strode beside Papolaos, and behind her, the grim man who nearly never left her side these days. The fourth to leave the shelter was Trever, his body a mismatch with his head, and yet both fitting the easy charm and multi-layered levels of cunning the man possessed. He was one who had found them the sorcerer from the Salt Flats and would soon be leaving again, to track down and win over more to their cause.

   "Bring the others, for Papolaos to have a look at," said Yaraya, the slight emphasis on the third word enough to know to whom she referred. A bop of the head, up and down, a simple gesture of acknowledgement, and the young woman was on her way, twisting through trees and others in the Archives until she reached a clearing.  Three logs served as seats, the teens sitting at them slowly ceasing their chatter as she arrived.

   "Yaraya wants us, it is time to meet him," the young woman said simply, no more necessary as everyone here knew what was to come already. As she backtracked the path to her mother, they followed along behind, the ones she knew so, so well.

   Hiiral, the shy girl who rarely spoke if she could avoid it, was kind and caring at her core. The years had been hard on her, having to constrain this part of her to the other members of the Archives, distrusting any other.  The grey-eyed young woman doubted she would ever be hardened, but she was loyal to the group she loved so much, and could be trusted.

   Mira, attractive and fully blossomed despite being the same age as the young woman, had already started to use these newly acquired charms to influence those interested in them, almost in equal measure to the growing casual cruelty towards others she had formerly been close to.

   Bendito, said to have Muarki blood in his line somewhere, was carefree and uncaring.  Attractive since he was a toddler and only growing more so, everything in his life had come easy to him, and she supposed he did not see a future where it would not. Not above a lie here and there, to smooth the way.

   Caul, tall, stout and muscular, with a slightly lopsided face that marred his looks, was even more simply deceptive. Those who saw him would assume him a simpleton, and most who knew him thought of him as simple. There was a depth to his intellect that few ever got to know, observable only in deep, long conversations that belied the simple, loyalty induced reasoning of his actions that most knew him through.

   Vook, lash scars still visible on his sun-baked skin, was not born to parents in the Archives, or even in Kurac. A child of the south, willing to die in the desert rather than live in slavery, found near death by Trever. She knew his devotion to the Archives was stronger than any of the manacles that left the scars around his wrists and ankles, likely stronger than most of the children with them born into it.  His chains were created from his own choice and freedom.

   Amos, their flamboyant garb overshadowed by their flamboyant manner. Extremely short, dark black hair, a slender frame and a youthful face meant those that met them often took them for what they fancied.  And Amos was more than happy to flirt, tease and perhaps do more, all in the name of the moment. Everything about them so forcefully unique, except their name. And the deep wells of emotional pain, self doubt and uncertainty that plagued them.

   Markel, who would have excelled at leading Fist or Outriders, his natural charisma and nature to want to control everything, including those around him, making him a natural for such martial structures. The young woman knew he resented her at the same time he gloried in his unspoken position as second in command of the group.

   The young woman returned to the spot she had been before, under the gazes of Papolaos, her mother, the grim man and Trever. The others lined up beside her, creating eight in a single line.

   Looking somewhat surprised, Papolaos turned to Yaraya, "With only eight, there is a high chance that none of them will be suitable to learn my arts."

   With the look of an izdari player one step ahead, Yaraya said, "We have already taken that step.  They all know the basics of sorcery, at least four spells each, I am told.  Due to a previous sorcerer that met a rather nasty end trying to obtain some of the hidden knowledge in Luirs."

   With newly appraising eyes, the sorcerer turned back to the teens, looking them over, "Eight defilers.  I've not ever heard of a group so large."

   "Four defilers.  Bendito, Amos, Mira with Markel over them.  Hiiral, Caul and Vook will join me in using the preserver methods," corrected the slender young woman.

   The words evoked surprise from both Markel and Papolaos, positive from the former and quite the opposite from the later.  Forestalling the sorcerer, Yaraya said, "My daughter leads this group," with a nod of her head towards the slender young woman.  "And this is my plan.  I am told eight defilers would need to consume much, which would be harder to hide than four.  And it is good to be able to have different sources we can pull on, yes?"

   Mollified by the correction coming from someone of authority, Papolaos nodded his head, calculatingly, "I am not as familiar with the other method, but this makes some sense." With a smile towards the daughter which almost hid his thoughts of superiority, "Although those that learn the preserving methods will obviously be the weaker."

   "Shall we look at the things we discussed earlier?" her mother said, deflecting with a gesture back towards a shelter in the distance.  The younger woman knew Yaraya meant bits and pieces of the Tree, as well as other tidbits and objects from the Outpost.  Traded to this man for their instruction and helping the Archives. As the slender young woman turned to the other teens to dismiss them, she missed the man's nod of assent to her mother accompanied by a predatory greed, the emotion quickly hidden.  She would not have cared though, after all, she had carefully curated what would be shown to him.

The beauty of this sixteen-year-old woman, slender with slight yet alluring curves, would captivate most, if it were not for the sheer intensity of her grey-eyed gaze known to hold others so enthralled they didn't even notice her body except as an afterthought. Still, thought Caul, it would be difficult to hold anyone entranced with the sounds, and smells, of the chalton in the small pen in the enclosed space of the cavern so disturbingly pervasive.

The docile creatures were mostly motionless, their eyes a strange sap-green hue in the light of the gray sphere orbiting his head.  Orbiting the forms of many in the complete dark of the cavern, carved from a natural depression far underground, linking to a vast cave network.  It seemed to be all he did now, for several weeks, was provide light.  If only he could make it the exact shade of her eyes.

"This one I named Sappy Eyes," he said to the beautiful young woman, gesturing to a chalton with, he thought, slightly larger eyes than the others.

"They all have sappy eyes.  Sappy Eyes Chalton!" Markel said derisively, from his position standing on the other side of her.

"Are they always like this?  He hasn't figured out how to direct them?" said the beauty, not acknowledging the banter.  Both men nodded in reply. "He thinks he is close.  No point getting something more useful until he can," said Markel.

Looking across the cavern, the woman with grey eyes said, "It looks like mother is done meeting with him.  Time for me to take her back." Nodding to each of them, she glided away. Both men turned to watch her, each thinking their thoughts, Caul's of her backside.

Markel breathed an internal sign of relief, though nothing showed on his face or in his breathing. Things would be back to normal, as soon as they left. He would again be second in command, after Papolaos, assisting in the turning of these beasts and in command of the other Archive sorcerers' efforts.

It was always disconcerting to have her around. Somehow, everyone started to look to her, instead of to him. Even he did it. Few seemed immune to it:  her mother, Papolaos, Trever, and a handful of other adults. They did not treat what she said as commands, but he wondered if they noticed that she did not treat what they said as commands either.

"We're here for a bit. I'm always where the action is at, and things are heating up. Not just with the tree of us either!" Markel overheard Amos tell a couple of attractive guards known to be a couple, on the other side of the pen. Their words working the familiar magick on the two lovers, the enchantment of flirting more powerful than any spell, raising desire and flaming passion and bad choices. Although Markel wished Amos, the sorcerer assigned to helping Trever carry out his missions, was working the travel spells he knew, rather than working towards a magickal night.  Damn.  Third in command.

They smiled wider as they saw the group enter the portal. It was always better to be the only wonderful, magnificent, different one at the party. But the odd girl had grown into an even odder woman, and while her stupendous brilliance at magick seemed to have slowed with Papolaos's arrival, she was still a very unique person. And being the unique one was something Amos jealously guarded.

They were going to enjoy the night, damn the duties that had been assigned.  These two lovers were such pretty things.  Amos was aflame with thoughts of just how far they could be pushed. Could the man be persuaded to experience a pain like he never had, abetted by the pleasure of his lover's thighs before him?  Could she be persuaded to be degraded by their effluence, put in her place and humiliated?  Or maybe it should be the other way around?  Oh how they were looking forward to tonight!

"Oh! Vook!  Vook Dear!", Amos called out, waving a hand to draw attention. "We need to get more chalton and I can't.  I just can't!" they said, the last nearly a squeal. "You will, for me? For," holding their hands out to encompass everyone in the cavern, but especially the couple, one of them to either side,"all of us?" The silent nod they received was all they expected, replying with, "Wonderful! Positively orgasmic!" as both hands simultaneously landed in slaps, one on each rear of their two companions. No odd woman was going to ruin their good time, not tonight!

Vook was always given the basest of tasks, things a slave would do if the Archives had any, and this included tending to the ensorcelled chalton. His mind was already in contact with the woman that trusted him as he stepped into the pen. Stooping, he pulled back the eyelids of Sappy Eyes, with the pretense of examining the green-tainted orbs.

"He hasn't gotten very far with how he is doing it," the thoughts that were the woman he trusted formed in his head, communicated like words but without them, a sense of the grey eyes and slender form without an actual image accompanying them, "and the chalton are merely docile, not directed.  I will give it some thought and let you know how to influence his undertaking." He knew that with only the few hours long visit that day she would figure out what to do.  She was still the most brilliant sorcerer he knew of, even if she hid it from the others, and most especially Papolaos.  Certainly, her abilities were strong in all the Paths in ways the rest of them were not, and everyone knew she was powerful. But she was far, far more than that.

"Good, I think he is eager to move on.  To spiders, raptors, even braxat.  He has us making plans for how we can subdue them long enough for the process," he thought, in that peculiar manner which would find a way to her. "And the sooner we can get all that ready, the sooner all the rest comes."

Vook had already decided Sappy Eyes would be a poor choice.  It wasn't even a choice, really, he simply would not hurt his comrade Caul like that.  And so he led a different chalton from the pen, to be butchered for tomorrow's meals. After, he made ready to travel to a trio of scouts in the wastes, to gather more chalton.  It was only when the contact for such needed to be made that he remembered his mind was still linked to the woman that trusted him.  He let go of that familiar presence and reached his mind out for another.

"The spiders are ready and with you?" the seventeen-year-old woman with the weight of the survival of so many on her shoulders thought, sending it to Vook's mind, nearly a year later.  "Yes, we are ready," was the reply that appeared in response.

She carefully drifted over debris and along broken masonry, heading towards one of the walls of the ancient place.  Drifting along it, feet not touching the ground, the woman could have been easily visible to the few sentries.  Indeed, she would have literally glowed with magick, given all the protective measures in place upon her. But she was only partly in the world, and that allowed her to drift by unseen, unheard, unknowable.  The protective magicks were a precaution, against the one person in the place that might be a threat, that might be able to even see her.

If her timing was right.  Timing was everything, in walking outside the world. She did not hurry, did not run, confident in her sense of time and knowledge of her magicks.  She arrived in the place, north of the keep itself, but not so far as the garden, that she had determined would be the best.  The beasts would come out headed towards the keep itself, where most of the defenders would be.  Archives folk could deal with the few sentries in the direction of the garden.

She waited.  Was lucky.  No one saw her as she came back into the world, quickly chanting the words that would open the portal.  The first through were the beasts, terrible spiders and raptors and even a couple of braxat, followed by Papolaos. Then her mother, the grim man, and Bendito, aggressively protective magick crackling across his form, followed closely by the more mundane rank and file of the Archives.

Bendito gave the taskmaster a wink and a nod as he passed, and as ever, she seemed completely immune to the swooning, or at least flushed, pink cheeks, that should have been the response. He should have his feet up really, having a drink, letting this all pass. Still, maybe that would come soon, if the taskmaster wasn't uppity afterwards with a list of demands on them.  The Northies lived here, so his mind was instantly wondering what kind of wine he would be able to unearth.  They were warned that even one of the Faithful made this their home.  While elderly and frail and obviously of no threat to him, old people sometimes had good taste.  He wondered if the old bastard had any of the legendary Reynolte dry hidden away somewhere.

As the beasts in front of the humans engaged with the few defenders outside the Keep, Bendito saw one start to run, back towards the ancient fortress.  A few words and a fireball leapt from his hands, incinerating the fleeing man into a burned husk, and singeing a couple of the nearby sap beasts, earning him a brief look of irritation from Papaleos.  This was going to be easy.

His mind reached out to Mira, thoughts that were words and yet not, forming, "I've already killed five," he lied, "and three of them died screaming in the same fireball.  This is going to be easy.  You should come share the furs tonight when we celebrate the victory." Followed by a sensation, borrowed from his memories of their last coupling, a month ago. "I'm sure she'll go easy on us tonight, won't be anything to do with us winning. No little errands or crap to get in the way of," and here, the same sensation again, "things."

Mira rolled her eyes. He was always going on about the bitch, complaining about her in a way that made clear he wanted to kank her.  Mira bent over as she sat on the side of the bed, lacing her boots.  Behind her, unheeded, a naked militia man soaked the other side of the bed with his blood, due to the copious number of holes Mira had poked into him minutes before.

If Bendito was at the Keep, that meant the attack on the Ranch would be well underway. Whatever magickal means of detecting them the Robes had would likely be pointed there, to their own interests, well away from the true objective. The man behind her had been mediocre in bed at best, but great at whispering a number of secrets to her that helped in planning the attacks. In a place nowhere near as nice as this room, there was a woman who looked very similar to this man. Stabbed.  Many, many times. A Kasix employee, one who would likely not be missed in the confusion and chaos and death Mira expected would be in full swing at the Ranch.

On the floor, one of the constraining linen dresses lie in a pile.  She hadn't needed to kank him, but it was so much better to be atop him naked, and see the confusion and fear the first time her dagger sank into his chest, followed by the panic as it did so again and again. She wouldn't be needing the dress again, while it was well fitted, she preferred to show off her cleavage. But not now, now she was dressed for the desert, ready to ride out when she could and meet in an arranged spot, for quick transport to the new home.

Her finger hurt like a damn mek had bit it though.  One of the problems with stabbing someone with abandon was that you were likely to cut yourself, because you obviously weren't being careful.  She would need to go to someone gullible, willing to spend their own energy to heal her.  As long as that one wasn't too busy swooning over the bitch.

Hiiral stepped away from Mira later that night, exhausted and drained.  Mira was the last to need healing, and while it was trivial, really, and Hiiral was not as good as the duo of Vivaduans who had seen to most of the healing, she could do a small amount, certainly enough to take care of a couple of cuts on a finger. And, importantly, Mira was the last one she would treat, before she would seek out the woman she loved.

It was a game, wandering as she was wondering if she could find her heart's desire without asking.  Did she know her well enough?  The third place looked yielded what was sought.  Hiiral smiled, she had known it would be a private place, but she should have guessed it would have a view of the massive tree in the distance.  If it wasn't night and was actually visible.  But she knew that didn't matter to the grey-eyed woman.

While she was tired, she knew the other was even more so. "Lay down, I will work the kinks from your back," she said, and the other complied, slipping out of her shirt first.  Hiiral put her palms to the bare flesh, kneading it. "This will be a lovely view, in the morning," she said. A low murmur was the only reply, but she knew it was a concurrence. She continued, minutes and minutes that increased her own exhaustion, all to lessen the affects on the other's tired body of the same.

When Hiiral was done, the woman she loved sat up, not bothering to put her shirt back on. "I love. I love what you have done, for all of us. This new home," Hiiral said, stumbling over what she wanted to say and what she could say. Her companion regarded her for a few moments, perhaps with a hint of tenderness? "I cannot love you back, the way you love me, Hiiral," the grey-eyed young woman spoke, in the most tender and caring tone Hiiral had ever heard from her.

"It would be selfish of me to ask you to, we love someone because we love them, and will keep on loving them, however they feel" she replied, following with, softly, "Or at least I do."

In a moment that was to be the bravest in this shy girl's life, she crooked a grin and said, "But the least you could do is make love to me, the way I make love to you."

Eyes met, gazes locked, two hesitant movements of heads towards each other, lips locked, passion.  And she did, this woman she loved.

The twenty-two year old woman sat silently, invisibly, on one of the great branches of the massive tree, regarding it as she often did since the Archives had taken over the Keep. It was truly wondrous, putting the stunted, dark tree in Luirs to shame.  This was a glorious thing, both to the eye and to the senses.

She knew that she was at the point where further study would not change the risks here.  But the other risks facing the Archives were growing.  And so she must do what she must do. Stepping off the branch, she did not fall, but rather flew upwards, stopping twenty cords above a stone ledge.  Drifting towards the tree, she extended one hand to its bark. Concentration, focus, and the fight to link with the massive tree had begun.

The magicks keeping her unseen were nearly spent by the time the battle was over, her hand withdrawing.  She could hear uncertainties and hopes in the Thryzn voices raised in song, as they surrounded huge bonfires on the ledge as they did once every month, as they too were linked to the Tree, and they could feel something had happened.

She spoke five words, protecting herself, then flew away from the tree.  Into the heart of one of the bonfires.  Willing her concealment magick away, she appeared, in the heart of the flames. And called to them, both in the language they sang, now banned to all except for the servants of the truly ancient in "civilized" lands, and through the link they shared. This, this was the truly dangerous part, not the linking.

She did not think the others who had attempted similar things would ever have contemplated this. This had real danger. And sacrifice. So easy to destroy with cruelty, in complete abandon, than to destroy in this way, where the ashes would still feed and nourish further Life, rather than be a reminder of Life destroyed forever.

This would require her to pull from her own body, as she powered all her magicks, combined with the full pulling of energy from an individual Thryzn and an amount from the Tree. At the same time. If they came too fast, they would destroy her.

And come they did.  Jumping into a bonfire whose that had never hurt them, not in their entire lives, to embrace this woman in the flames. Nor did it hurt them now, but it burned them away to nothing, leaving only their energy, infusing the orange-reddish flames which rose higher, and higher. As if ensorcelled, compelled by the shared link, they came, throwing children and babies into the sacred flame before jumping in themselves.

Some of the ones wielding power over fire came.  Great, massive bursts of energy, again and again.  The massively charged flames formed a column that rose up, the width of the bonfire but with an unnatural intensity, an incalculable distance, lighting an entire region. Fully a thousand jumped into the flames over the course of half a night, crying out in exultation.

She drew the power that surrounded her, the flames of a thousand lives and the energy they had contained and their link to the Tree, into her.  All at once. With intent and purpose. Permanently changing her form and so much more. She was standing in the still hot ashes of the burnt out bonfire.

"Some must die, that we may live," she thought, by way of a eulogy for the thousand that had sacrificed their lives. She could feel through her newly forged and strengthened link to the Tree those of this twisted, mutated race that still lived.  Her own form remained beautiful, but changed in a way to be similar to some of them, worthy of the dawning awe and reverence the remaining ones had for this woman of fire and flame.

Papolaos glanced up from his reading, annoyance etching his features.  He had ignored all the other messengers, intent on his task, why did they think he would answer this one? He had been engrossed in his studies, ever since the massive flames had risen into the sky one night, half a month ago. Over a third of the fire loving Thryzn had not been seen since! Did they find a way to depart, to Suk-Krath itself?  Had they forged some sort of weapon, to be used at the old Faithful's behest?  Looking for a clue, some clue, into what it was.

It was at precisely the wrong time.  Allanak would no doubt be marching on the Keep soon, and the buffer that had stood between them was obviously weakened.

The knocking increased, and he stood, now truly irritated. Not only at his lack of progress, but also at Yaraya's prohibition on him going to the site of the fire. He had thought it was clear they were now equals in this endeavor, but it was apparent she had not realized that.

He opened the door, ready to vent his frustration on whoever was outside, but swallowed it instead.  The grim man was there, and he was not ever sent away from Yaraya's side unless she was deadly serious.  The man might have grey hair, but he had a well deserved reputation, and he was only an arm's length away. "Yaraya requires your presence in the Courtyard.  Now," the grim man said, his tone as foreboding as it always was.

The wooden trinkets that adorned Papolaos increased his power several fold over what it had been. He was a massively powerful sorcerer. But he had been studying, and was not overlaid with as many protective spells as he would have liked. And this man was close. So close.

Papolaos bobbed his head, muttering, "Of course." He followed behind, as the grim man led the way to a courtyard brimming with people of the Archives. The two made their way through them, until they reached Yaraya's side.

"What's all this?" the sorcerer asked of the older woman with grey eyes.  He knew he was out of touch, but there seemed no reason for nearly all the Archives to be in this place.

"I don't know," was the simple reply. With a wry smirk that belied a reckoning to come for a certain young woman, "My daughter told me it was imperative. That I would not see her again without the gathering." Now that Papolaos thought about it, he had not seen the girl since before the fire himself.  Of course, several of the sorcerers had gone missing, on this mission or that, since Allanak had positioned themselves near Luirs, preparing to attack. When one fails to find the mind for an appreciable amount of time, either they have used magicks to keep their minds hidden and don't want to be found, or they are dead. His bet was always on dead, so he was a little surprised the daughter of the Archives leader was alive.  And even more surprised her mother had agreed to this.

The whirr of great wings filled the air, light threw shadows in strange ways, as if the fire were above them. Sudden fear gripped his heart, as Papolaos thought of the Allanak force, and what was behind it. A trap, this was all a trap!

The red-serpentine-scaled woman flew over the walls of the keep, her four great wings of fire, extending out from her back like an X, keeping her aloft easily. She descended, movement frozen in the courtyard below by awe and maybe just a hint of her magick, landing beside her mother. The wings extinguished instantly, on her will, the cessation of their whirring leaving only silence.

Though tiny, flexible scales of a fiery hue covered her body, her features were intact, and easily recognizable. Still, there was a look of shock in her mother's face. So the odd girl, the odd woman, now even more of an oddity, gave her mother a smile, and turned to the crowd.

"The Allanaki forces have been defeated. Your Queen has protected you today, and always will," the twenty-two-year old woman said, in her own voice, only now amplified by form, confidence, magick and power. And the people suddenly knew they had a queen, who would rule them from now on, and it was not the one whose orders they normally followed. The coup had not been bloodless, but none of it had been theirs.

The new ruler of the Archives turned to her mother. A new ruler, twenty-two, as another new ruler had been, Ages ago, when he took over from his father. The grey-eyed, newly-scaled woman, however, walked a different path.

"My home shall be the Tree, and those that may visit with safe passage through the Thryzn will be told so," the vastly changed young woman said privately to those immediately around her, before turning back to her people, her gaze having taken in the shock and anxiety written across her mother's features. "Yaraya will continue to rule here, over all of you, even the Three, in my name as the Queen's Regent."

"Come," she said, stepping into a portal that suddenly opened without the requisite five words and meaning those standing next to her, Yaraya and Papolaos.

"The Three?" asked Papolaos, stepping out of the portal onto a small ledge, far above the one the Thryzn themselves occupied.

"Caul, Vook and Hiiral," replied the young woman, the portal closing behind this different three.

"Ahhh, the ones that are still with us," said the defiler, in his mind the rest of the sorcerers of the cohort already lost in the struggle, no longer able to be found with the Way.

Gesturing towards the back of the ledge, the red-serpentine-scaled woman said, "The others are with us still," indicating four small, stunted saplings.  Larger than the two saplings in the Garden Papolaos fed with elemental power so that they might be harvested for the trinkets he wore.

Seeing the trees caused a rush of excitement in Papolaos, followed an instant later by understanding. He jerked back as he turned towards her. But whatever this new form was, it was quick and it was strong, unnaturally so although he had detected nothing of those magicks about her. The piece of wood in her hand, the largest of the root pieces from Luir's, one he had no idea even existed, plunged into his chest.

He fell back, unable to do anything, the thing in his chest sprouting roots that coursed through his lungs and then the rest of his body, causing excruciating pain as it drank in his life and his power. He saw it growing, growing into one of the trees. Until awareness and life fled and he saw no more.

"Only a quarter of the size and power of the original tree in the Outpost, despite all the things we gave him to hold more power," said the daughter, as the twisted, stunted tree stopped growing, bereft of what it needed to continue. With a gesture towards the four other trees on the ledge, "Significantly larger than Bendito, Mira, Markel and Amos though."

Yaraya could only stare in mute shock at her daughter, at her Queen. She had known. None. Of. This.

The daughter's response to her mother's shock was simple, "If I must bleed, or any other, for my people, so be it," as the last of the defiler's blood was absorbed by the new Tree.

Currently in development now by all of us, be sure to read the trilogy's epic final story, "Queen" coming in a decade or two!