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One Who Masters Magic (End of First Draft)


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I got a little carried away with this part, but I had no choice. It is so pivotal in setting up the relationship between two of the most key characters and showing some more of Syler's own character. I am quite proud of this piece as showing interpersonal dialogue and interaction is hard for me. I hope that this manages to come across as realistic and not fluff.





Chapter 5b


Syler was surprised to only hear cries of protest coming from his fellow Sei. The Kuti were mysteriously quiet as though they had known this was coming. The Angvardi were quick to drop their hands to weapons and kept a vigilant eye on the crowd.


It wasn't necessary for as soon as the protests started, Ravest stepped forward and raised his hands. The tips of them seemed to glow and sparkle with energy before there was a loud pop. Then, there was nothing but silence filling the square. Some of the men were still protesting, but though their mouths were moving, there was no sound that came from them. Syler tried to say, "Well, isn't that something," but he couldn't even hear himself. It was as though all sound had been banished from the area.


All sound except the booming voice of the governor. "Enough!" he shouted. "I will forgive this disruption this one time, but any future outbursts will result in punishment."


One by one, the Sei stopped protesting and kept their mouths shut. There was a fury in many of their eyes that matched that of the Kuti who continued to glare at them. The Angvardi guards relaxed and returned their focus on their leader.


Ravest, seeing that the Sei had calmed down, lowered his hands and allowed the energy he had been unleashing to fade. "There," he said in a calm, satisfied voice, "those who were once Kuti may depart. Return to your dwellings and wait for the arrival of your new husbands."


As one, the Kuti rose and filed out of the square in silence. It was clear that they were used to such orders because they did so in an orderly fashion and without protest. A few of the Angvardi went with them, but most stayed in the square.


For the next three hours, the priests sorted the Sei into groups of a dozen or so and sent them out into the town with an Angvardi escort. Syler saw Havert being led off with others and resigned himself to waiting for his inevitable fate. There was nothing more he could do now, the Elements had spoken. He was now to be bound to a woman who was of a people who had been enemies of his people for centuries. Things had gone from bad to worse and it was all he could do to keep going. He was glad that he had nothing to do at this moment because he would not have been able to do much in the near stupor he was in.


He was hardly alone. Around him, some of the Sei who were not quietly fuming were also in shock. Nobody knew what their future would hold for them. From what little they knew, they would be expected to contribute toward building this town into a mighty city. The Angvardi wanted a strong base between Lake Kart and Kasas Sei that would serve as a stopping point in their campaigns in the Deep West. From what Syler could gather, many of the nomadic Kuti were being herded into this town to populate it. He didn't know for sure, but he suspected that as more territories were conquered, more men would come to receive wives from the Kuti.


"Syler Penion," a voice called out. "Step forward."


Syler looked up at the Easterner who had addressed him and nodded numbly. He took a few steps forward and was corralled into a group of a dozen others. Two Angvardi escorted them out of the square and into the streets.


One by one, they stopped at seemingly random houses along the street. At each, a man was sent in to his new wife. Nobody seemed overly happy or comfortable, but at least the Angvardi were nice about it. They didn't rush things and even tried to make some small talk. One of them, a young man who introduced himself as Lamastus, allowed them to stop at a well and get some water.


Lamastus talked about the town and where things were as though they were visiting dignitaries rather than men on their way into a forced wedding with their enemies. Syler wasn't too encouraged by the gesture, but he did appreciate the effort. A few of the others seemed to relax, though, so he figured the soldier's actions didn't go entirely to waste.


After they had stopped at yet another house, Lamastus put a gloved hand on Syler's shoulder. "This is yours, son."


Syler swallowed and took a deep breath. It was a simple house like most here, but it seemed to go back a little farther than the rest. The walls were made of the same mud bricks as everything else, but this had a different roof. Instead of a thatched roof, this had a tile one. Syler also noticed a second, larger chimney that the others didn't. There was no smoke coming from it, but Syler knew what it was for because he had lived in a similarly designed house for the last few years. The Angvardi had set him up in a blacksmith's house.


Lamastus let him get a good look before saying softly, "I know the woman and she is a good one. She is pleasing to the eye, but she is strong willed. Her father was what passed for a smith before he was killed. Her mother was so taken by grief that she threw herself into his pyre and was consumed. Be good to her for she has suffered enough in recent times and deserves a good man."


He pulled Syler until he was in front of him and looked into his eyes. "Are you a good man, Syler Penion?"


Syler considered that question. He had tried to do right by all, but had failed. He was an breaker of oaths and was an exile from his home. If he was a good man, the Elements were punishing him as one who was evil.


"Yes sir, I try to be," he replied.


Lamastus looked at him for a little longer before nodding and gently pushing him toward the door. "Go on, her name is Bronwyn."


With another deep breath, Syler stepped forward and knocked on the door. After several long moments, it was opened by a rather young woman whose grim expression managed to only slightly sour her beauty. Like all of the Kuti he had seen, she had blonde hair, though it was on the darker side of the normal range. She moderately tall and had a slim figure that managed not to look frail or delicate. As Lamastus had said, she was indeed very pleasing to the eyes.


"I am Syler," he said as an introduction. He got no reaction as she stepped aside to let him in. Syler took one last glance at the men in the street before following her in.


Once inside, it took his eyes a few moments to adjust to the lack of bright sunlight. When they did, he studied what he saw. The house featured a central room with two other rooms branching out. He suspected that the one on the side was a bedroom while a doorway in the back led to whatever forge the house had.


In the main room was a fireplace with a chimney, a few shelves with jars of food or dried vegetables hanging on strings, a small stool with a water basin on it, a table with three chairs, and a cushioned chair off to the side. The floors, to his surprise, were not dirt, but rather were smoothed stone with a concrete filling between stones. There were two windows with a sand worn glass to offer light without the expense of privacy. The house was surprisingly clean and tidy, clearly Bronwyn was keen on cleanliness.


Bronwyn went to the fireplace where she had a pot of what he assumed was supper, but made sure to position herself where she could keep an eye on him. While he had been looking at the room, she had been studying him. Syler realized what he must have looked like was somewhat ashamed at his appearance. He had been on the march for days with only a quick dip in a nearby creek for a bath. He was still in the same worn shirt that he had left Sandrin in and had several days of stubble on his face.


"I am sorry for my appearance," Syler stumbled. "We have been marching for some time."


She didn't say anything, but bent down to stir the pot. Syler didn't know what to do or even where he should put his pack and sleeping roll. Bronwyn still hadn't said a single word to him or given him any direction as to what he should do. For a few moments, he considered investigating the other rooms, but it felt like too much a violation of this woman's””he couldn't think of her as his wife””home to do so without being invited.


"Ummm, do you mind if I sit down?" he asked after a few long minutes of silence.


Bronwyn considered for a moment before giving him a small nod. Syler picked one of the wooden chairs at the table and pulled it out a little so he could sit. Once he sat, he put his pack down beside him and pondered his next move. Bronwyn was no longer looking at him, but seemed intently focused on the soup.


Silence was fine with Syler now. He had a lot to consider from the day. It all seemed so unreal to him even now. If this was to be his new home, he guessed that the Angvardi meant for him to resume his blacksmithing. It was too much a coincidence that he was put into a house with a forge for it to be anything else. The work didn't bother him, it was what he did in Sandrin, but he was bothered by the fact that he didn't know what was happening to his sister.


Then there was this woman, apparently now his wife. He didn't know her nor love her and felt pretty confident in believing that she returned that sentiment. He didn't really know how much she believed the Angvardi's religion or if she was simply a convert of opportunity. The Kuti had been under Angvardi control for months now, there was no telling what sort of things happened here or how they felt. Plus, if they didn't find some way to have a child within a year, they would both be sold to slavery.


Bronwyn's abrupt departure through the back door interrupted Syler's thoughts. He didn't know where she went, but decided it would be best not to take this opportunity to snoop around her home and remained where he was. He hoped that she hadn't decided to run off, he was pretty sure that both of them would get in some pretty bad trouble if she did.


His fears were unfounded as she returned ten minutes later with a headless and skinless chicken in hand. From behind one of the sets of shelves, she pulled out a wide board and laid it flat against two of the shelves forming a cutting board. For the next several minutes, he watched as she cut the chicken into pieces and fed them into the pot. When she finished, she went back to her stirring routine.


At last, after several more minutes of staring each other down, Syler could stand it no more. "Look, miss, I don't like this situation any more than you seem to!" he sputtered out a little louder than he intended. He let out a breath and continued in a calm tone, "I didn't exactly come here by my own choice. If I had my way, I would be back in Sandrin right now trying to wipe the memory of the last few weeks from my mind."


She said nothing, but continued to stare at him with a blank expression. For the first time, Syler began to wonder if she was mute. "I am sorry for this, I really am. I had nothing to do with picking you or coming here, the Angvardi did that for me. I wish things could be different, but they aren't."


He waited for a reply before sighing at the silence he received. She wasn't deaf because she responded to his question about sitting. "Okay, I know I am not exactly at my best. Is there a place where I might wash up and wash out my clothes? Then at least I won't look like a half crazed Sua."


Bronwyn considered for a few moments before gesturing to the side room. He slowly got up, grabbed his pack, and walked into the room. To his surprise, it was larger than he had thought and had another room leading toward the back of the house. Inside the room was a bed, a cabinet, a small chest with a few trinkets on it, and a small cot along the front wall. Light came in from another window, though it was blocked by crude brown curtains.


He didn't see anything here and assumed that he should go into the next room. When he opened the door, he was greeted with the sight of a large washbasin and a towel. He had not expected an indoor bath, but was beginning to realize that most of his expectations of this town were not exactly coming to fruition.


There was some water in the basin already and it looked clean. Syler figured that Bronwyn was planning on using this water for herself and vowed to drain it out when he was finished and get her some fresh water. The water wasn't heated, but neither was it cold. Either way, it felt good to wash off the dirt and grime of his travels.


There was, among other things, a small razor in a box sitting on the floor next to the washbasin. He used that to shave and was impressed with its quality. He didn't recognize its craftsmanship, but wherever it was from, the razor was of the highest quality. The next thing to do was to wash out his clothes. He still had one somewhat clean shirt and pants in his pack, so he donned them and washed everything else out as best as he could and left them hanging on the edge of the washbasin to dry.


When he emerged, he felt significantly better. The cold water had refreshed him, as did the fact that he wasn't covered in filth. He emerged into the main room to find Bronwyn missing. Not knowing what else to do, he returned to his familiar chair and waited.


He woke to the smell of food and the image of Bronwyn sitting across the table from him. There was a clay bowl with a spoon in it in front of both of them, though neither had been touched. As soon as she saw he was awake, she calmly gestured to his bowl and began eating from her own, something that struck Syler as odd. She was clearly waiting for him to wake up before eating, but he had no idea how long she had been sitting there silently or how long he had been napping. Judging by the dim light coming in from the windows and the numerous candles she had lit, it had to have been several hours. He didn't know if that was a Kuti tradition or if she was simply being polite.


Not knowing what else to do and encouraged by the rumbling of his stomach, Syler picked up the spoon and started eating. The soup was actually very good, though with a pang of embarrassment, he noted that it wasn't nearly as hot as it should be. Clearly, his napping had cost Bronwyn a hot meal.


"This is very good," he said between bites, "thank you for making it." As he had expected, that got nothing more than a small nod of acknowledgement. They finished the rest of the meal in silence. Bronwyn finished first, but waited for him to finish before getting up to fill their bowls once more. Syler was glad for that because he was starving but didn't want to be rude by asking for more when he didn't know how poor she was. For all he knew, this was an absolute feast for her. He thanked her again as she placed the much warmer bowl in front of him and waited for her to sit down before digging in.


When they had finished the bowl, she got up to retrieve more, but Syler stopped her, "No, that is enough, thank you."


She nodded and rinsed both bowls out in the washbasin before returning them to a shelf. He watched as she placed a lid over the remaining soup and left it to simmer over the fire. When she had finished and had cleaned up whatever remained, she sat down at the table across from him and stared.


The awkwardness of the situation grew until at last, Syler was forced to laugh aloud. At this point, he didn't know what else to do. The situation he found himself in was so hopeless, so overwhelming, and so strange, he found that he could either laugh or cry and in this case, he chose to laugh.

And laugh he did, until the tears began to flow.


Bronwyn stared at him in her usual silence, but Syler thought he detected a look of confusion and bewilderment with perhaps a little fear on her face. "I am sorry," he said when the laughter finally died down. "You must think I am mad, and you might be right. After all that has happened, I wouldn't be surprised if I was. What with the battle, the fall of my kingdom, our exile here, and being put into this arrangement, I am glad I can even think straight."


She didn't say anything, but the fear left her face.


"Perhaps I should start from the beginning. I am Syler Penion of the village of Sandrin. I used to help my father gathering herbs and minerals for his apothecary until he died. My sister's husband died shortly after they were married, so in order to take care of the two of us, I moved in with the village blacksmith and became his apprentice. It wasn't glamorous and it was a lot of hard work, but I did what I had to.


"Then, the Angvardi invaded and there was a battle and we were defeated. I lost a lot of friends that day. Those of us who survived were rounded up and marched, I assume, to various parts of the Angvardi's conquests to serve as husbands for their little unification scheme. That is how I ended up here."


Syler gave a shrug as he reviewed what had happened to him in recent times. It sounded so simple to hear it said in such a short manner, almost like he was talking about someone else. "It looks like we are stuck with each other. I hope we can make the best of it. You seem to be a fine cook and the house is very clean, so that is a good start. I am pretty decent at the forge, so I don't think we will starve."


He lowered his voice a little and allowed and edge of seriousness to creep in, "Do not fear me. We may have to live here, but I have no intention of having my way with you. I don't believe in forced marriages and won't have any part in them. I don't know what we will do in a year, but we can figure that out as we have time. Until then, you may sleep soundly knowing I will not touch you."


If he wasn't mistaken, he saw a hint of relief on Bronwyn's face, but he wasn't exactly sure. She kept her expression mostly neutral as she sat and simply stared at him. Not knowing what more to do””a feeling he was feeling quite often of late””Syler just started talking about himself and his life. He kept going and going well into the night with Bronwyn just sitting there paying close attention to every word he spoke.


At last, he could go on no more. They had been marching since first light and he was exhausted. With a long yawn, he got up and started trying to figure out where he would sleep for the night.


"Did you kill any of my people?" asked Bronwyn. Syler nearly tripped over his own feet when he heard her voice. It was the first thing she had said to him all day, and just when he was getting used to the idea of her being mute.


"W-what?" he stammered.


"You were a warrior," she replied in a clear voice with little trace of any sort of strange accent. "Your people often fight mine, attack us, and raid our camps. Did you ever kill any of my people?"


After blinking several times while trying to sort through the shock of not just her speaking, but of what she asked. "Umm, no, I wasn't a warrior. I was conscripted to help defend my people when the Angvardi attacked. I was in a battle and did fight, but I don't believe any of my blows were lethal. I haven't killed anyone."


A smile graced Bronwyn's face and she visibly relaxed. "You are a good man, I am glad you were chosen for me. I had great fear that the Sei I was paired with would be a monster. We are told stories of how crass and violent the Sei are and I was afraid what would happen to me. When I first saw you standing in the door, I feared for my future. You were ragged, unkempt, and covered in filth. Despite my fears, you have shown yourself to have some decency and after you bathed and shaved your face, I realize that you are not a monster. Hearing you speak all this time has let me learn of you and helped me realize that you are not a barbarian. My last concern was that you had killed my people in battle. I do not know if I could abide living in a house with one who had killed my kin."


While she was speaking, Syler could not help himself but stare in near shock. Her voice was pure, crisp, and totally unlike what he was expecting. She sounded like she could have been from See Sei, not all the way in the wilds of the Kuti's lands. Her voice wasn't the only thing that surprised him, what she said was equally unexpected. He had come into this town fearing the Kuti, and yet, she said that the Kuti feared the Sei. It was an odd world, one that he didn't know if he could ever get used to.


"I am glad that I have helped put a rest to your fears," he said at last. "We have much to talk about, especially since you know so much about me and I almost nothing about you. I feared for a time that you were mute and that I would never get to hear your voice." That at elicited a small giggle from her and the ice between them seemed broken.


"I am not mute, I was just afraid to say anything that might offend you," Bronwyn replied. "I am sorry for causing you to think that."


"Do not trouble yourself," Syler assured her. "We can talk tomorrow, but now, I would like to go to bed."


The look of concern and even fear began to creep back into Bronwyn's eyes. The very sight of it and his guess of what caused it sent a chill up Syler's back. "No, not like that. I told you, I do not believe in forced marriages and would never take advantage of you in that manner. I noticed that there is a cot in the corner, I will sleep there."


"No," said Bronwyn, "that is where I sleep."


She hesitated, but looked like she wanted to say something. That pause gave Syler the time to wonder why she would sleep on a cot when there was a comfortable looking bed available. He didn't try to push things, but simply waited for her to continue. After a few moments, she said, "You should take the bed. Its sheets are clean and nobody has slept there in months. I will be fine on the cot."


"I couldn't come into your house and sleep in a place of comfort while a woman slept on a simple cot," protested Syler. He was fine sleeping just about anywhere that was warm. Sometimes, he slept on the floor if there were guests at Fitno's house. Just as long as his sister was able to sleep in a bed he was happy.


"Please, I cannot sleep in the bed," Bronwyn said in a pleading voice. "I am fine on the cot, it is where I have slept for many months."


Seeing her like this was enough to persuade Syler. He didn't like the notion, but clearly Bronwyn had no desire to sleep in the bed so he wouldn't force her. He knew almost nothing about her, perhaps he would find out why tomorrow when they could speak.


"Very well then," he assented. He wanted nothing to anger her, not at this fragile point in their relationship. The last thing he wanted to do was to have to live with a woman who hated him.


He went into the other room, stripped off his shirt, and got into the bed. It was a very comfortable bed, to tell the truth. At any rate, it was better than sleeping on the ground like he had been doing for days on end. As soon as his head hit the soft pillow, he found he couldn't keep his eyes open.

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Very nice. You have good reason to be proud of this scene. I'm sure it was difficult to write, and yet you pulled it off really well. I think her silence says as much about her as her few words. It'll be very interesting to see how their relationship grows.


There goes Ami's reputation of being a peaceful, nice person.
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I'm sure it was difficult to write, and yet you pulled it off really well.

Honestly, I wrote the bulk of this scene late at night when I didn't have the time (or motivation) to work on a research paper. I finished it up two nights ago after finishing the second of those papers because I didn't want to get into Skyrim at 3 in the morning (so I wrote from 3-4 in the morning). It was one of the easiest parts to write, to tell the truth. I have been waiting and planning and preparing for this (and some of the upcoming) scene for quite some time and knew how I wanted it to go down.


This was also the first time that I felt that I "got into the characters." I have found it frustrating that I can sit down and crank out 1500 word RP posts and absolutely love it, yet have difficulty coming up with stuff for this story. I figure that it is because I haven't yet completely "gotten into" the story or characters but will as time goes on. This was the first time that writing here felt natural and like my RP writing.


The only critique I could offer is that Bronwyn's dialogue feels a bit stilted and forced.

I will have to look into that. As I flesh out the character a bit more, I may go back and edit things here. I will note though: she is a much more formal character than others and has an odd way of speaking. There are reasons for that that will be explored later, but a small part of your feelings may be from intentional writing. Still, I will definitely keep that in mind as I write more of her dialogue.

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The only critique I could offer is that Bronwyn's dialogue feels a bit stilted and forced.

I will have to look into that. As I flesh out the character a bit more, I may go back and edit things here. I will note though: she is a much more formal character than others and has an odd way of speaking. There are reasons for that that will be explored later, but a small part of your feelings may be from intentional writing. Still, I will definitely keep that in mind as I write more of her dialogue.


I was actually thinking about this last night, and the thought did cross my mind that the 'stilted feel' could be a deliberate part of it, her own nature, but also the nervousness of meeting someone new, who is going to be her husband. So while I will still put that comment forward, I will say that I can see how it could be deliberately done.

Member of Jnet Addict Club 12/05

Order of the Nocturnal


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This was a well-written post, there was a lot more depth to each character - not only Syler and Bronwyn, but Lamastus as well (by the way, I like him as a character as well... is he going to be sticking around?). I can tell you are "hitting that groove".


I like Bronwyn so far, and can already tell that I will like the further development that will undoubtedly come between her and Syler. I'm up for a little romance ... even if it takes a little while to get there! There will definitely be a lot to work through - not only from the cultural difference sbut Bronwyn's own emotional baggage. You've created an interesting character with a lot of depth.


I also like how you've revealed what it's like being in the other's cultural shoes. How often it ends up that both sides really felt the same way! Granted, Kuti started some of the raiding parties but there is no saying that the Sei's return attacks could be directly correlated in timing or even back to the right group - it could have seemed just as terrorizing to the other side!


I'm really interested to see how this will continue to develop.

"It's always these little worlds that get you in trouble. Like Tatooine. I'm still living that one down." - Han Solo

Your barnacle has carnivorous salamanders the size of whales.

"Let us hold unswervingly to the faith we profess, for he who promised is faithful." -Heb. 10:23

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So while I will still put that comment forward, I will say that I can see how it could be deliberately done.

I still am glad you mentioned it because now I will be on the lookout for it.



Lamastus is going to be around for a bit. I have some fun plans for him.


I'm up for a little romance ... even if it takes a little while to get there!

Normally, I try to keep a few secrets, but I am going to give this one away: Syler and Bronwyn never sleep together (at least, not in a sexual way). There will be plenty of romance and various people hooking up (like good ole Havert in the next chapter), but not those two. The reasons for that will be made abundantly clear in the next chapter.


Bronwyn's own emotional baggage.

Oh, you have no idea . . . . I have some fun stuff planned for her.


I am glad you noticed how each side perceived each other in the same light and neither were exactly correct. While yes, there are some in both camps who fit the preconceptions (otherwise the preconceptions wouldn't have developed), most don't.

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Lamastus is going to be around for a bit. I have some fun plans for him.
oh no, am I still going to be happy about this?


I'm up for a little romance ... even if it takes a little while to get there!

Normally, I try to keep a few secrets, but I am going to give this one away: Syler and Bronwyn never sleep together (at least, not in a sexual way). There will be plenty of romance and various people hooking up (like good ole Havert in the next chapter), but not those two. The reasons for that will be made abundantly clear in the next chapter.


I'm not a fan of sexual scenes in stories anyway - I try to avoid stories like that. I was thinking of good ole-fashioned romance with real friendship and courtship from deep caring. Sounds like you have a lot of plans, whatever the case!

"It's always these little worlds that get you in trouble. Like Tatooine. I'm still living that one down." - Han Solo

Your barnacle has carnivorous salamanders the size of whales.

"Let us hold unswervingly to the faith we profess, for he who promised is faithful." -Heb. 10:23

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oh no, am I still going to be happy about this?

Not sure, to be honest. While I have some definite things that will involve him, I have not fully decided his fate. He is not as major a character, so I don't have his life planned out.


I'm not a fan of sexual scenes in stories anyway

Neither am I. Should there be any such scenes, they would be implied or in the background, no details beyond perhaps kissing. This is rated PG-13, not R, and I am not turning this into a corny romance novel.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Warning: there is a scene of mild torture at the start. It is not there pointlessly and will pay a significant part in the plot otherwise I might not have included it.


This is the second day that Syler and Bronwyn are together. I start building things up with her (the chapter is from her perspective) and start just having a little fun with cultural differences. This chapter will very likely be expanded in the near future, but for now, it works. Next chapter will jump ahead a few weeks, but I wanted to get a few key (very key) points in here.


Anyway, Brendo, you noted that Bronwyn's dialogue was a little stilted, see if this isn't a bit better.




Chapter 6


Not all who can see the future are within the ranks of the Order of Prophets. The unfortunate few who slip through the cracks are plagued by things they do not understand because they receive no guidance or explanation. Most of these individuals are driven insane by the things they see but cannot explain and therefore die tragic deaths.


”” Master Prophet Shruden Xalent



Providence of Kut


Voices screaming in pain and anguish woke her with a start. Her eyes, though open, could not see anything in the blackness, but her ears did not need light to hear. She would claw her own ears off if it meant that she didn't have to hear what she was hearing. People nearby were suffering and crying out. Some begged for mercy that would not be granted, others pled for intervention from various deities. The most pitiful were the ones who called for their mothers or fathers to save them from their anguish.


She tried to move, but she could not. She was half kneeling on the grounds with her arms bound above her head and holding her up. Her legs were shackled as well, and something was constricting her neck making it difficult to breathe or swallow. Save her bonds, she was naked, dirty, and cold. Fear caused her to cry out, but she could only muster a mere whimper because her throat had already been worn raw from screaming.


This wasn't the first time she had been here and she knew that it wouldn't be the last.


She knew what would happen next and her stomach revolted in terror. Just a few more seconds and the worst part would begin again. Just a few more moments of waiting for her doom in this hellish nightmare and she could get it over with.


At least until next time.


A small click of metal on metal cut through the cries of the damned like a sword piercing her very soul. She hated this part the most, but she was powerless to stop it. A torch was brought in and her eyes were assaulted by light they were not used to seeing. By the time they adjusted to where she could open them without pain, a figure was standing before her just as he always was.


The world of sight was murky as though she was looking at everything through a swirl of mist. That was how it always was and she hated it. She wanted to close her eyes shut and wait for the inevitable, but she couldn't. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't force herself to look away.


The man was carrying a sharp instrument of torture and she knew that it would be used on her. Soon, her voice would be added to the cacophony of misery that permeated this place. She struggled against her bonds, though she knew it was useless. The man began to move toward her with a cold smile on his face. His hands and shirt were already black with blood and the knife in his hand gleamed as it came closer to her exposed chest.


This was the part she hated the most. She could only watch helplessly as the cruel knife pierced the skin just below her throat and drew blood. A scream erupted from her as he drew the blade from her throat down between her breasts and towards her stomach. The cut wasn't deep, but that didn't diminish the pain.


She began to thrash around in pain which only caused the man's cut to become jagged and hurt even more. Her skin felt like it was on fire and her raw throat hurt even more as she screamed. The man merely smiled at his work and pulled the knife back. With nothing but pure evil in his eyes, he raised his hand up to cut her again.


This is where she normally escaped into reality.


But it didn't. The man grabbed her left forearm with his free hand and started his second cut. He began just below where she was chained to the wall and slowly dragged the knife down to her shoulder. Her screams changed from mere pain to sheer shock as she realized that the torture wasn't ending like it always did.


This had never happened before, why was it happening now?


There was but a glint of metal and something warm sprayed across her face. She gasped in shock when she saw that the torturer staring at the stump of his arm in shock. He didn't have long to grasp that his hand had been severed before a sword appeared out of his chest. The only sound he made was that of air leaving his lungs before those cruel eyes rolled back into his head and he collapsed.


Standing behind the man was another carrying a bloody sword. She blinked the blood out of her eyes and looked up at him and nearly passed out. It was him. She recognized his face now and the shock of it overwhelmed all of her other senses. He was saying something, but she couldn't understand any of it.


He reached down and wiped her face with soft cloth. She still couldn't understand him, but she could clearly see his face in the light. He reached up and did something out of her sight, then her arms were free. He gently lowered her body and cradled her head in his arms. Tears flowed down her eyes as she felt a sense of security. He kept speaking with a sense of urgency, but she still couldn't comprehend him.


Then, she felt him tense. His eyes widened in shock he began to turn around as he reached for his sword. She turned her head to see what it was that was””


"Are you okay?" a voice asked.


Bronwyn's eyes opened with a start and she took a deep breath. She felt a hand softly shaking her shoulder and realized she was in her bed. As soon as her eyes adjusted to the dim light of early dawn, they fixated on a face hovering just inches from hers.


It was the same one she had just been looking at, the one she recognized.


She let out a startled cry and pulled back against the wall. Syler quickly backed away with his hands held up in a non-threatening manner, but didn't stand up. He remained crouched a few feet from her bed wearing just his pants and looking like he had just woken up. "I am sorry for waking you, but you were tossing around and moaning in your sleep. You must have been having quite the nightmare for you to wake me up after how tired I was."


Her mind was racing at the implications of this latest vision. She had never gotten that far before, it had always stopped just after the first cut. She didn't understand why it had kept going beyond what she had seen many times before. Even more curious was the fact that she had recognized someone. She had never recognized anyone in any of her visions before, especially not that one. And why was it that he had appeared in her vision, especially on the first night after meeting him? It made no sense, but it there were too many new factors for it to be a mere coincidence. Three new things had happened to her tonight: her vision had extended itself, she recognized someone within it, and that person just happened to come into her life just hours before she slept. As she thought about it, she could add a fourth first to that list. Nobody had ever interrupted her visions before. They had always faded out on their own, but not tonight.


"I am sorry for startling you, but you sounded like you were having a pretty bad time," Syler said. He was misinterpreting her silence as anger against him. Either that or he was expecting her to be silent as she had been most of yesterday.


"No," she said in a weak voice. Her body was still half asleep still, even though her mind was racing. "You did nothing wrong. I am just a little shaken."


"Well," he replied with a bit of relief, "I will let you get back to sleep. Sorry again for waking you."


There was no way she was going to be able to sleep now. "No," she said, "it is nearly dawn, I will go and start preparing something for breakfast. The priests have decreed today to be a day of rest as we adjust to our new husbands, so there is to be no labor."


"Really?" Syler responded with a look of confusion. "I don't remember them saying that."


"Our quarter was summoned while you were asleep," replied Brownyn. "I was afraid to wake you and returned before you woke."


She had indeed been afraid of him. She, like all Kuti children, grew up hearing the stories of the brutal Seinari soldiers who burned and pillaged Kuti villages. When she had heard that they would be forced to marry captured Sei soldiers, she had despaired. The thought of having to live with one of those brutes was almost too much to bear. She had even considered murdering him in his sleep before attempting to flee into the wilderness, but was not sure she could have gone through with it. It was a cowardly way to kill someone and was highly dishonorable.


She dreaded not just the idea of having to live with one and feed one and care for one, but she most feared having to lie with one. She had received offers of marriage before, but had turned them down out of fear of her secrets being revealed. Her father had allowed her to do so and made appropriate excuses, but she knew he hadn't wanted her to remain alone forever. Still, she didn't want to be married off like this.


Then she had seen Syler and was relieved that he was not an ugly, burly man. Instead of immediately taking advantage of her and abusing her, he had been courteous and even kind. He didn't make demands and was respectful towards her. As he spoke about himself over dinner, she realized that he wasn't as horrible as she had feared. He even insisted on not laying with her and promised he would never do so without her consent. He was, as she said last night, a good man. While she had been afraid of waking him while he slept, after yesterday she no longer feared him.


"Oh," said Syler. "Well, I guess that if you are going to be awake, the least I can do is get out of bed and help you make breakfast."


"No, I will handle it," she said a little too abruptly. At his slightly hurt expression, she added in a less hostile voice, "Besides, I know where everything is and you would only get in my way." It wasn't that she didn't want his help, she just wanted time alone to think through what had just happened.


He seemed to accept that, but didn't go back to bed. Instead, he asked, "Where do you get fresh water?"


"The city is divided into oddly shaped sections," she explained. "I know not why they planned them this way, but the Haresu ordered the roads and major buildings built in a very strange pattern. There are major roads running through the city, one of which is in front of my””our”” house. There is a well at every major intersection of these roads. Normally there is no so much water in these lands, but I believe that this city was planted here by the Haresu on purpose."


"Okay, where is the nearest intersection?"


Bronwyn pointed to the nearest well and said, "It is that direction about a quarter mile." She paused for a moment and added, "If you need some water, I will get some for you."


Syler shook his head, "No, I meant to get some yesterday after I used all of your wash water, but I fell asleep. I will get some now and refill it while you are making breakfast."


That made little sense. Men did not get the water, that was the task of the women. "Men do not do such things. I will do it for you."


His face hardened in a way that almost frightened her and he said in a cold voice, "Where I come from, a man does not take things without paying for them or replacing them. I took your water, I will replace it. That is what is proper."


She wasn't going to argue with him while he had that look. It wasn't as disturbing now that she had gotten used to it, but it was still powerful in a way most men would never be able to muster. A brief image flashed in her mind of him standing over the body of her unnamed torturer with fire in his eyes and a bloody sword in his hand. "O-okay," she said in a quiet voice, "you can get the water."


His eyes softened and he unclenched his jaw. "In Sandrin, men do not force women to do anything that they wouldn't do themselves. You are not my slave and I will not treat you as one. I will carry my weight around here and shoulder my own burdens. I don't know what the Angvardi would have me do, but I assume it will involve smithing as that was my trade back in Sandrin."


He had mentioned as much last night and she could tell by the fact that his hands were rough and his forearms bulged with muscle most men didn't have. Her father had also been a blacksmith so she knew what they looked like. The Haresu had said that they would be pairing them with husbands suitable for them, it appeared that they had been right.


"My father was a blacksmith."


"I figured as much with the forge in the back."


She had no response to that. The memory of her father and how he died came back to her and grieved her soul. It hadn't been very long and the pain of his loss was still very strong. He wouldn't know that, so she didn't fault him.


Syler must have sensed her hesitation because he got up and walked over to her parent's bed to collect his shirt. "I guess I will be off then," he said quietly, in an almost subdued tone.


Once he pulled his shirt over his head, he went to the washroom and used the empty bucket at the edge of the washbasin to gather a full bucket of water. She remained in her bed while he proceeded to empty the water outside one bucket at a time. It took four trips to empty the water that she had painstakingly drawn in preparation for her husband's arrival. Despite their constant patrols, this was the Kuti's land and a large group of over four hundred men could not come upon this city without them knowing.


As soon as he began his first trip to the well, she got out of bed and changed out of her nightclothes and into her normal work clothes. After that, she went into the neighbor's house to collect some eggs. As usual, Matryl gave her eggs without complaint or demand for payment, even when she asked for double the normal amount. Her next stop was to the butcher down the road in the opposite direction of the well. He already had her package of fresh pork waiting for her and had even added extra now that there were two of them. She thanked him as she usually did and returned home.


Bronwyn got back home in time to catch Syler on his way back to the well for the second time. It took only a little time to get a fire started and begin frying the pork. By his third trip, the pork was well on its way and she had already put a second pan out for the eggs. She had debated getting some of the plains potatoes and adding them to the mix, but decided to hold off on those until supper.


Syler came back from his fourth trip to find breakfast on the table and her waiting patiently for him to arrive. She continued to wait while he poured the last bucket into the washbasin saving enough to wash his own hands and face off before coming to the table. As soon as he started eating, she began to eat her own. It was only proper for the man to eat first and she would not disrespect her new husband by beginning before him.


He complimented the food as he ate all that was in front of him. There were a few more small pieces of pork left over, but no eggs. She made note of that and vowed to ask for more eggs tomorrow. Syler ate all but one of the remaining pieces of pork and insisted that she take it when he saw that she had finished her meal. She was grateful for that because she was still hungry. She had not gotten as much as she had wanted out of fear that he would finish his plate and still want more.


When he was finished, she got up to begin cleaning the dishes but he stopped her with a word, "No." She looked at him in confusion as he got up and took her plate and cup from the table. "You cooked the meal, I will clean it."


"But””" she protested.


"No arguments," he said in a stern, but not harsh voice. "I said that I will contribute my share and since I won't be working at the forge today, that share will be helping around the house. I am a perfectly capable cook and will be making lunch."


"Lunch?" she asked in confusion. She was unfamiliar with that word.


He looked back at her and searched her face to see if she was having him on. When he saw she wasn't, he said, "Yes, lunch. Surely the Kuti eat lunch."


"We don't have any lunch here, the plains are usually too barren for many animals to live it. Mainly just goats and pigs, but a few villages have cows as well."


He openly gaped at her and shook his head. "No, lunch isn't a type of animal, it is a meal. We usually eat it around noon when the sun is at its peak."


"That is so early," commented Bronwyn.


"Well, we eat supper in the evening, too."


"Three meals a day?" she said in bewilderment. She had no idea that the Sei lands were so bountiful. No wonder the warriors favored spending time there. "How do you not grow fat from all that food?"


"You only eat two meals?" Syler said with a look of confusion on his own face. "That is interesting."


"Why would we need any more than that?" she asked.


"Well, I guess with how much you fed me, I might not need lunch."


"You don't normally eat as much?"


Syler chuckled, "No, I don't. I have eaten far more than I normally do because I was so hungry from the trip. I hadn't had good food like that soup you served since I left home almost two weeks ago."


She beamed at the compliment, but was still confused at the idea of eating three meals in a day. She supposed that the Sei had their own customs and would view some of hers in just the same manner she viewed his. "At least I know now that you aren't normally going to eat that much. I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to get enough food if you kept at that pace."


Another chuckle and he added, "Not so quick, you will be making another meal, even if you don't eat it. Don't worry about it though, once I start working, we should have plenty of money to pay for the food I eat. How you managed to survive here on your own this far shows that you know how to handle money and not waste it. That is very good because though we will have plenty for food, blacksmiths are never rich."


She smiled and was debating whether she should tell him one of her secrets when his eyes brightened as though he just remembered something. "I meant to ask you something," he said, "while you were asleep, you were muttering something, but I couldn't understand it. What was it you were saying?"


Bronwyn was suddenly nervous. She hadn't had a vision powerful enough to cause her to speak in her sleep in many years. She didn't know what to say and struggled to find something that would satisfy him. The differences between their cultures was fresh on her mind, so she just built off of it when she replied, "You don't believe that this tongue is our native one, do you?"


That seemed to satisfy him because he nodded, "I guess not. I know that almost everyone knows the Common Tongue, but I suppose that various people still might have their own native languages. Is it spoken often here?"


"No," said Bronwyn a little quickly, "few people even know it. Most only know the Common Tongue."


"That makes sense, I don't even know any of our native tongue, if we even have one." He smiled and said, "Well, that is one more thing I know about you, why don't you start telling me more about yourself. If we are to live together, I think we should at least know a little about each other. I told you a lot about me last night, it is your turn."


Bronwyn was only too happy to move on to other subjects. He seemed nice, but she didn't know him well enough to tell him everything about her. He might not understand or worse, he might turn on her. She knew that her life was in a fragile balance with the Haresu on one hand and the Sei on the other, she didn't need another enemy in Syler.

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Nicely done. The intro was quite intriguing...I wonder if it will come true.


Her dialogue seemed much more natural this time around. Very natural feeling interactions between them, normal domestic stuff.


I liked this post. It felt normal, real and very believable.

Member of Jnet Addict Club 12/05

Order of the Nocturnal


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I agree with Brendo--I liked this post. Natural, flowing, and a good balance. You've made me intrigued as to the nature of these visions of Bronwyn's. Your quote at the beginning of the chapter made it seem like she is seeing the future, and Syler's being in it reinforces that. But if that's the future, then it's certainly not a happy one! Which is after all a good thing for the story, because without more bad times, we'd never get to see Syler become the hero he is destined to be.


Anyway, I did think it a little strange how rapidly Bronwyn's attitude towards Syler has improved. I mean, last night, she was so closed off, so silent, that it was like she hated his very guts. After one night, she's suddenly much more willing to try to get to know him. I'm curious as to what to attribute that to...*shrugs* Maybe I just don't have a solid grasp on her character yet. But it's something to think through as you rework this section in the future.


Can't wait for more!


There goes Ami's reputation of being a peaceful, nice person.
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Her dialogue seemed much more natural this time around. Very natural feeling interactions between them, normal domestic stuff.

I am glad about that. As mentioned, dialogue is my most difficult area and the one in which I want to grow the most in.


Ami, not sure where you were getting that she didn't want to know things about him on their first night. She sat attentively for a good amount of time as he rambled on about his life. There was reluctance there, but that was because she thought that Syler had killed a bunch of her people (as the Sei soldiers and Kuti warriors often clashed and she thought he was a career soldier like all Kuti men are). Once she found out that he wasn't, she was more accepting of him, to the point where I said "A smile graced Bronwyn's face and she visibly relaxed" and said she was glad he had been chosen for him (this was their last night).


Still, if you thought it was odd, perhaps I need to go in and edit some stuff to help clarify that. I think a paragraph or so explaining that from her perspective would not hurt anything.


As for the vision itself, well, I will say that I don't add those quotes at the beginning of the chapters just because it looks cool.

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I have added three paragraphs to the previous chapter in response to Ami's question regarding Bronwyn's seemingly inexplicable change of heard toward Syler. They have been colored in red for now so you can see them without having to read the entire chapter again.


This is a very small part, but I wanted to get it up just to do so. It will only constitute about a third of the chapter. We finally get out into the (presently) mundane world of Syler and into the larger world where things are moving and shaking. Three new characters are introduced in this tiny piece, all will play important parts overall. Plus more is explained and hinted on regarding the nature of magic and the magical colleges. Very soon (within a few paragraphs after this), the Terulan King will also be introduced, so that will be fun.








Chapter 7


Keep a vigilant eye on your charges, Governor Uthas. We cannot allow the first foreign implication of the Unity to fail. Quickly and quietly remove all disruptions using whatever excuse you deem necessary to placate the people and turn aside questions. Failure is not an option.


”” High Priest of the Way Bealit


Terula City,

Kingdom of Terula


Deep within the bowels of the fortress tower of Escargro where prophecy was made, a particular prophet was in the middle of a powerful prophetic session. He was a young man, but was considered a prodigy among his peers. Even older, more experienced prophets heeded his interpretation and commentary on prophecy.


Prophets were among the most prized and protected of all wielders of magic, and for good reason. Many battles had been won or lost because of a failure to heed prophecy or an inaccurate interpretation of it. Prophets and seers, when they were discovered, were quickly rushed to the Order of Prophets where they would be watched over and tended to for the rest of their lives. As long as they didn't try to escape, they were treated well enough in their isolated communities. Those who did try to escape or refuse to cooperate and share their prophecies were brutally punished. If they continued to resist, they were executed.


Three weeks after the Battle of Fazei Crossing and the defeat of the Kingdom of the Sei, life was going on as normal within the Halls of the Prophets in Terula City until Prophet Aitin fell into a trance. This in and of itself was not abnormal as prophets did not always control when they received their prophecies, but what happened next was highly abnormal. Within seconds, the entire Order was aware of what was happening because they too went into a spontaneous prophetic trance. Even the women of the Cloister of Seers were affected.


Aitin was in the library reading up on prophetic interpretation when a vision struck him. Instead of collapsing into a comatose state as was normal, he began to writhe back and forth as though he was having a seizure. His fellow prophets quickly came to his aid, but within seconds they too were simultaneously struck by a vision. Though it was far less powerful than what struck Aitin, it was enough to attract the notice of their guards and the Wizard Order.


The vision was short and within minutes the prophets awoke and began telling of a horrific prophecy. Even as their guards tried to restore order, the prophets were in a near frenzy as they tried to explain what they had all seen. Grandmaster Wizard Setpinius himself arrived with a dozen fellow wizards and scores of mages to assist in restoring order and calming down the prophets. It had been decades since such an uproar had been seen among the normally quiet halls of the prophets or their seer sisters, so news of what happened spread throughout the city like a wildfire.


Grandmaster Setpinius personally received a report on what the prophecy foretold from Master Prophet Xalent while sitting in the prophet's office. Upon reading the parchment whereon the prophecy was written, Setptinius paled and swallowed hard. "Are you sure this is what the prophecy said?" he asked.


Xalent frowned and replied tartly, "Of course I am! I saw it myself. For Tantis' sake, we all saw it!"


"I meant no offense, Master Prophet, but I must be sure before I tell the king," said Setpinius in a placating tone. Even one as powerful as the Grandmaster Wizard took care when it came to offending the prophets. Though they might not wield traditional magical powers, prophets had knowledge of the future and were often able to use that knowledge to humble those who crossed them. Those that survived that humbling were few and fortunate indeed.


Xalent let out a grunt and dismissed it. He thought things over for a few moments before saying in a reflective tone, "It all started when Prophet Aitin fell into the Trance and then we all experienced it at once. According to those witnesses I have spoken to, Prophet Aitin was frenzied, not like the normal visions. That in and of itself is odd as prophets don't have violent visions, we fall into a deep, peaceful trance. Only seers might have violent visions if their Sight Dreams are of unpleasant things. From what they said, this was unlike anything they have seen even from seers."


"Well," Setpinius said, "where is Aitin?"


"Prophet Aitin," Xalent corrected. "He earned that title three years ago."


"Yes, yes, where is Prophet Aitin?" the wizard asked with growing impatience in his voice.


"I don't rightly know," said Xalent in a distant voice. "He seemed to have disappeared."




The prophet didn't show any concern, but his mind was furiously trying to discover how the young man could have gotten out of the tightly secured chambers the prophets were cordoned off in. "Just as I said. Prophet Aitin seems to have evaded the guards and the magical barriers and has escaped. I have had the prophets and guards sweep the tower and all surrounding grounds twice now and they are still out doing so for the third time. He cannot be found anywhere."


Setpinius sprang to his feet and threw his arms up into the air, "That is unacceptable! How can someone who was the center of a prophecy of such magnificent importance be simply missing?"


With a shrug, Xalent said, "We don't know. None of the perimeter alarms went off and none of the guards remember seeing him. Though, that doesn't surprise me as all of us were in an uproar and things were chaotic. Perhaps some of the magical barriers were lowered by reinforcements arriving to help calm things down."


"How did such a thing happen? There are supposed to be safeguards for this. A prophet hasn't escaped Escargro since I was a boy."


"Yes," Xalent said in a calm voice, "it is most curious indeed. One would wonder if this weren't some sort of. . ."


When he didn't finish his thought, Setpinius pressed him, "Some sort of what?"


He received a cold stare for his query. "Some sort of prophet business. Leave me, I need to convene the Council and ponder upon what all of this means."


Master Prophet or no, only the King could dismiss the Grandmaster Wizard and Setpinius was in no mood to be pushed around at this point. "No, you will answer me now and tell me what you think this could be!"


"Or what?" The calmly voiced challenge hang in the air.


"Don't push me, Xalent. This is too important for you to keep to yourself. I don't care about collegiate sovereignty right now, not for this. Tell me what you know."


"You still haven't answered my question: or what? What is it that you are going to do should I not reveal my thoughts?"


The wizard's eyes grew dark with anger and he brought his fists up to strike out. A bolt of lightning arced between his fists for a fraction of a second before shooting out at the prophet. It didn't reach its target, but instead hit an invisible shield and reversed itself back upon its caster. Setpinius yelped in pain as his own lightning burned through his robes and left a red blister on his chest.


"Surely you don't think you can surprise a master prophet, do you Setpinius?" Xalent said in a condescending tone. "Do you forget that I see the future just as you see the sun rise every morning or the birds flying over the White Spires? Go ahead, try another spell, the results will remain the same. Do not cross me on this day, I am in no mood to deal with your superiority complex."


If Setpinius' eyes had darkened before, they were darker than the pits of Chaos now. He was angry at himself for not seeing the simple reversal charm sitting on Xalent's desk. The charm was specifically attuned to repelling lightning and wouldn't have worked on other elemental attacks. He didn't need to ask how the prophet knew he would use lightning and believed him when he said that future attacks would suffer the same fate. Clearly Xalent had been prepared for this encounter. That was the worst part about dealing with prophets: they almost always seemed to know what was coming and were prepared for it.


Without another word, the wizard grabbed the parchment with the prophecy written on it and stormed out of the Master Prophet's office.

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Hmm...interesting little bit! I wonder what is so horrible about this prophecy...and I wonder what made this one different from the others. That it affected everyone like that is seriously interesting.


You played the dynamics between the wizard and the prophet well. I see that this setting is one where there is infighting amongst the magic users, each not liking the other.


Question--are the Terulans under the Angvardi Empire too? I think I'm getting a bit confused about how many factions there are and who is against who.


I guess another interesting rumination would be if all the seers in the land had this prophecy vision, or just the ones in this tower. Which I lol'ed at, by the way, given it's name. I think in my mind it will now forever be the Snail Tower. It's like the punchline of a joke..."What do you call a snail that's rapidly increasing in size?" "Escargro!"


Okay, okay, I'm done.


I like the addition to the last chapter too. That makes it Bronwyn's reactions a bit more believable.


There goes Ami's reputation of being a peaceful, nice person.
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I didn't say the prophecy was horrible, just that it was unexpected and shocking. I will reveal it shortly. And yes, I mentioned that one reason this is so odd and why the prophets were in an uproar was because it was a shared vision by all, not something that happens very often.


Infighting is definitely going to happen between various colleges of magic. Lots of fun there.


Regarding the Terulans and Angvardi, they are united, but they are still somewhat separate. The Terulans and Angvardi were blood enemies (think England and France in the 1700's) for quite some time until the Angvardi Empress and Terulan king got married (it was a marriage of love, not just political) and declared an end to the fighting. They emphasized the shared religion (the Way) and pointed to various prophecies warning of the Coming Darkness as being a cause to put aside differences and unify the continent. There were a few other, secret things that helped motivate this, but I don't want to get ahead of myself.


So, while both are united under one common purpose, they are separate entities. They are extremely close allies, much like the Allies of WWII (at least, America, England, and Free France), except even closer. Despite that public display of friendship, many on each side do not like or trust the other, so there are rivalries there that will also come into play.


One more note, prophets and seers are not the same. Prophets are males only and receive prophecies through coma like trances that occur while they are awake. Seers are females only who see glimpses of the future (but not prophecies) while they are dreaming. There is a difference and I will go as far as to say that Bronwyn is a seer (it was heavily hinted, but will be spelled out fairly shortly).


As for the name of the tower, I am glad you picked up on that. The name is intentional, but not for some joke, but rather based on how the tower is designed. It wider on the bottom and winds up slowly to the top where it is smaller. All throughout are various magical traps and wards and protections, so it is very much like a giant snail shell.

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Oh, the prophecy wasn't terrible? I got the impression it was from:


...the prophets awoke and began telling of a horrific prophecy.


Upon reading the parchment whereon the prophecy was written, Setptinius paled and swallowed hard.


Thanks for the info on the political structure. That fills in the gaps for me.


There goes Ami's reputation of being a peaceful, nice person.
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Finishing up Chapter 7 now. You get to meet a lot of people and a good deal is explained. I apologize for the length of this post, but I had a lot to get in.


You may want to consult the map of Teladia as I mention a TON of names and places in this part. The updated map (with borders) can be found here.





The Royal Palace

Terula City,

Kingdom of Terula


The great bronze doors that led into the royal hall of King Gevas Rael opened silently on their hinges, but the subtle change in the air was enough to alert those inside of the arrival of the Grandmaster Wizard. The king of Terula was holding court with various nobles and did not like to be interrupted even by Setpinius. He fixed the wizard with a glare as the intruder walked the length of his hall to where the throne was seated. The other nobles looked at him with a mixture of disdain and trepidation. Few of these non-magic born were fond of beings who could wield the arcane powers. They preferred to think themselves as having greater power because they held command over lands and armies and did not like to be reminded that wizards and mages were capable of taking all of that away with the wave of a hand. That very fact was enough to inspire some fear among them as nobody in their right mind crossed a mage, much less a wizard who was far more powerful.


"I trust there is a good reason for this interruption, Grandmaster Wizard," the king said in a cold tone. He did not share his noble's fear of magic, but was not pleased at being interrupted. While the days of summary executions for attempting to appear before the king uninvited were long over, that didn't mean he was happy to see Setpinius.


"Yes, my king," Setpinius said after a deep bow. "A prophecy has been delivered that your majesty would be most interested in."


"Would I now?" There was a bit of bemusement in King Rael's voice. The prophets often tried to convince him to see one of their prophecies even if they often proved to be insignificant or a false branch. That Setpinius was delivering it in person indicated something was out of the ordinary. He wondered if perhaps the prophets had decided to use the wizards as errand boys to help deflect his anger. If so, this might prove amusing because he took great pleasure in keeping the various magical colleges in check by playing their rivalries against each other.


"Yes, my king," repeated Setpinius, "you gave express instructions to be informed immediately if a prophecy concerning the Master of Magic were to surface." He presented the rolled parchment to the king as he continued, "One has been delivered."


The nobles were silent as they awaited the king's response. Everyone who was anyone in the kingdom knew that any prophecies or visions of the Master of Magic were of the utmost importance. The diviners had decreed that the Coming Darkness of Chaos was nigh and the priests had concurred. Everyone in the hall shared the king's belief that if all of Teladia was not brought under the control of the Way and its Unity, there was no hope.


Even if all of the continent could be set against the Chaos as one, they needed a leader, one who was prophesied about long ago, one who was the Master of Magic. The earliest prophecies regarding this Master of Magic dated back over fifteen hundred years to year 847 of the First Age when Prophet Jganad mentioned that magic would be brought under control by some force that had never been seen before. Though it was not known at the time what various prophecy tangents were referring to, prophets by the early second century of the First Age had come to realize that these prophecies were referring to a single individual.


The largest breakthrough came in 429 of the Second Age when Master Prophet Terrand of Malorez received a prophecy giving clear instructions regarding who this One would be. News of this prophecy had caused Emperor Caterin of Angvard to try to take the prophet by force so he could discover that information. That action, as well as the prophet's self destruction and subsequent loss of the prophecy, started one of the largest wars between the two feuding nations. Since then, any piece of information regarding the One was shared between the Angvardi and Terulan Orders of Prophets to help avoid a repeat of those terrible years.


"Leave us," Rael said to the various nobles. They were not pleased at being dismissed and made it known by their frowns and looks of hatred aimed at the wizard. Still, they were not willing to disobey the king when prophecy of this nature was at stake and filed out in an acceptable amount of time. When the last had left and the bronze doors were sealed leaving just the king and master wizard within, Rael spoke again, "Now, tell me what this new prophecy has said."


"It might be best if you read it yourself. It was inscribed by the Master Prophet himself from a vision he and all of his prophets saw."


"All of his prophets?" echoed Rael with skepticism in his voice.


"Yes, my king, all of them. It is rare for more than two prophets to receive a prophecy at the same time, but it is not unheard of. Xalent himself said that all of the prophets fell into their trance at the same time and received the same prophecy."


"Let me read it."


The king took the offered parchment and read what it said without giving away his emotions.


Beware, sons and daughters of Teladia,

For the time of great Darkness is at hand.

The one who sits upon the Southern throne with his bride of the North

Shall not see death before the Age shall end.


For good or for ill, the Chaos shall come

And with it bring change the world has never seen.

For Teladia to survive, the tangents of prophecy must be united

And a true Master of Magic must come forward.


All other endeavors shall fail if not under his banner,

For without him hope does not exist.

The rivers of blood that taint the lands have summoned him

And the destruction that has been wrought stirs his heart.


Mourn, men of the East, for your efforts were in vain,

Weep, women of the East, for your sacrifices were for naught.

The sun has shone upon your lands for an age,

But the time for it to set is here.


Out of the West, hope is born.

One who will Master Magic will arise.

Behind him shall be the strength of many nations.

Before him shall all who oppose him fall into Chaos.


And he shall be known by the following:

He will be a stranger in many lands, but be welcomed by all.

War will not be his choice, but it will dominate his life.

He seeks not to lead, but men will follow him.


Woe unto the nation of the North,

For you have been found wanting.

The blood of the prophet of Malorez coats the throne

And it shall be answered for with fresh blood.


Woe unto the nation of the South,

For the heresy that sprang up from within.

Your lies shall doom many who believe them,

And when they are exposed, you will be humbled.


Woe unto the nation of the Sada,

For you have taken in false prophets.

Your schemes and greed have brought danger to all,

And the worst of the Coming Darkness shall befall you.


Blessings be upon you, people of the Sei,

For you have been tried and found true.

Long have you toiled, beset on all sides,

But never have you broken and you now stand proud.


For from the sons of the Sei shall the One be born.

He is blind to his purpose, but marches ever toward it.

No man shall know his name until he breaks the veil

And does that which cannot be undone.


Blessings be upon you, people of Subeleth,

For you are strong and glorious.

Long have you guarded the secrets all have sought,

Your reward shall soon be made evident.


For from the daughters of Subeleth shall the Guide be found.

And she shall lead the One on his path.

For without her, the One shall stray,

And all hope for the children of Teladia shall vanish.


Days of Darkness are near,

And Chaos shall be unleashed.

Teladia's fate hangs by a thread,

Stray too far and it shall break.


The king was silent for many long minutes after finishing without reaction. Setpinius remained standing without interrupting him for to do so would result in the king's wrath. After a while, Rael reread the prophecy several times before rolling it back up and handing it to the wizard.


"I want the prophets' full interpretation before me before the ink even dries," he said at last.


"My king, rarely are prophecies so explicit." He was rewarded with an icy stare and didn't say anything further.


"I have spoken," the king said with the wave of his hand. It was a clear dismissal, but Setpinius couldn't leave just yet.


"My king," he said hesitantly, "there is more."


The icy glare quickly turned into one of molten fury. "It had better be good."


"I told you that all the prophets received this prophecy at once, but there was something else. One prophet apparently fell into a violent trance seconds before the others. Xalent feels that he experienced something abnormal, something that was either caused by whatever caused this mass prophecy or perhaps even was the cause."


"Where is he?" said Rael loudly, "Bring him before me!"


"I would, my king, except he is missing."


"Define 'missing,'" Rael said in a deadly voice.


"He is no longer in the Tower. He somehow got around all of the magical wards and the guards did not see him. There is no trace of him anywhere, not since the prophecy was delivered."


Rael now knew why Xalent sent a wizard, the old man was wise enough to know that he wouldn't take such news well. It was better for the prophets if the bearer of such news was not one of their number. For a few moments, the king considered lashing out at the hapless wizard, but decided against it. The wizard was not the one who made the prophecy or caused the prophet to go missing.


"Offer a thousand pieces of gold for the one who finds his location. Five thousand if they bring them before me of their own accord," the king decreed. "See that the dispatches are sent out personally, Grandmaster Wizard."


Setpinius beat a hasty retreat and went to where the dispatch riders were stationed to send out the bounty letters. As humiliating as it was, it was better than facing the king's wrath. Even as he did such a menial task, he plotted his revenge against Xalent and the prophets.


Thirty minutes later, King Rael looked over his advisors and generals with a keen eye as they read the prophecy he had first seen half an hour ago. Their reaction was similar to his, and for good measure. It didn't take a prophet to interpret that Terula was not kindly looked upon in it, nor was their Angvardi allies to the north. He had summoned them to come up with their reaction to this revelation so they could help avoid this prophecy coming to pass.


"General Whaetis, how many of the new recruits are ready to be deployed?" he asked after he had let them digest the news for a few minutes.


"You have three full battalions at your disposal, my king, six thousand men," the general answered with only a short hesitation.


Rael nodded, "Send them north to Kasas Sei and have them begin searching for the One. I want him found and brought here."


"Those men are needed to reinforce General Saliss in his campaign against the Ceate," objected Amberis.


Rael looked at his cousin with a hard stare and replied, "Nothing is more important than finding the Master of Magic. Everything depends upon him and I will not allow him to fall into the hands of another. The Ceate can wait a season to be conquered, if we miss our opportunity now, all will be lost." His eyes scanned the room, "Is that clear?" There was a chorus of agreeing murmurs.


"What shall we tell the Angvardi?" General Whaetis asked. "They will want to know why we are sending men into their conquests when the agreement was that we would focus on the south."


It was a valid question and Rael acknowledged it with a nod. "I will send a letter to my wife explaining the situation. She will understand and will value the extra men in that volatile region. From what I hear, the Sua and the Kosh are putting up quite the resistance and the northern regions of the Sei are not yet under her control. Three battalions would be a welcome relief so her generals can rest assured that their backs are safe while they fight the Westerners."


"This action will delay our ability to bring the Ceate into Unity, the priests won't like that," said Ianara Rael, the only woman in the hall. As the king's younger sister, she was given access to meetings no woman could have part of.


"That may be, but the priests will be even more angry if the Master of Magic were to slip from our grasp," countered the mage Teaqe, Chief of the Battlemages. "As the king said, the most important thing is to find the One."


"And what if the gods were waiting for us to bring more into the Way as a sign of our devotion to them?" Ianara countered. She had always been a deeply religious woman.


"Then why would the gods send the prophecy if it was not meant to warn us about the need to find the One?" retorted Teaqe. Several of the other men grumbled. Teaqe, as a mage, believed that magic was a gift of the gods, particularly Tantis the Founder who created magic. He believed that all prophecy came directly from Tantis through his special link to those who could wield magic. Tantis sent prophecy as a means to guide his children and lead them along the correct path and to ignore it would be to ignore the direct will of the gods. Since not all prophecy actually came true, they argued that those false branches were instances where man heeded the words of other prophecy and avoided those fates. Sometimes, the false prophecies were of terrible things and avoiding those fates meant that man did what was right in the eyes of the gods. If those prophecies that became false were of good things, it was believed that man was not following the will of the gods and needed to change.


Not all agreed with that reasoning. Ianara was of the school of thought that believed that prophecy only indirectly came from the gods and was rather a series of after effects of creation. They believed that while prophecy might come true, it was not destined to do so if it ran contrary to the will of the Tetrarchy of gods. It was a series of possibilities of which some might possibly be insights into the future, but could also simply be false branches. Since much prophecy was part of the false branches and didn't come true, they argued that to act solely upon prophecy at the expense of the direction of the gods was folly and would only stir the anger of the Tetrarchy. To them, prophecy that went against the will of the gods should be ignored because it was the gods that truly controlled the future, not prophecy.


"Perhaps this was sent by Chaos to lead us astray," Ianara shot back, "It would be just like him to try to distract us from the path of Unity by dangling a new prophecy of doom before us."


She had managed to push Teaqe's buttons properly because to charge that prophecy came from anywhere but Tantis himself was considered blasphemy to him. "All prophecy comes from Tantis, the creator of magic! To ignore his warning about the One will only lead us to disaster."


"If the prophecy came from Tantis, then it must be a warning, right?"


Teaqe sensed a trap in his rival's words, but couldn't deny what she said without violating his own beliefs. "Yes, it is a warning that the Coming Darkness is close indeed and that we need to focus on finding the Master of Magic."


"Then if it is a warning, we must be doing something wrong as a nation. The prophecy clearly pronounces woes upon us and the Angvardi, but how can this be if we are following the Way and bringing Unity to more people than ever? Surely Tantis cannot be angry with us if we are doing his bidding, so then why would a prophecy of doom come from him?"


Teaqe had to be careful in how he answered. If his beliefs were true, then for Tantis to send such a prophecy meant that he was angry with Terula. He had to be very careful in suggesting a reason for that anger that would not make it seem as though following the Way and bringing Unity to other nations was that cause. "Perhaps bringing Unity to others is not enough," he suggested. "Perhaps Tantis is warning us that if we focus solely upon Unity, we will miss our opportunity to find the Master of Magic."


"Without Unity, we are doomed anyway," she said angrily. "The priests have said so many times. Even your prophecy has said that all of Teladia must be united if victory against the Coming Darkness is to be had."


"Yes, but Unity can only be had with the Master of Magic to foster it."


"So you are saying that the gods cannot save us without help?" charged Ianara.


"Enough," the king interjected before Teaqe could form a reply. "I believe that both goals must be carried out." He looked at his sister, "Yes, we must bring Unity to all of Teladia." He shifted his eyes to look at his battlemage, "We must also find the Master of Magic. We can do each without compromising the other. Six thousand men will delay the Unity of the Ceate, but not by much. It will still happen, even if it is delayed a month. Their armies were defeated handily at Terrasee and will not quickly recover. We might not be able to take their city without extra men, but at least we have more that can come. They have none. No, my sister, it is far more important to send those extra men to help find the One."


"And what of the Krue?" Amberis asked. "Subeloth was mentioned prominently in the prophecy, something about a 'Guide.' We have never heard prophecy regarding that individual before."


Rael had considered what to do about this Guide that had been mentioned. The plan had been for Angvard to conquer both the Sua and Kosh while his men finished off the Ceate and the Pusti before they both attacked the Gope from two sides. Once that was done and the important lands were secure, they would join forces and attack the Krue which lived in the Subeloth Woods. The Krue were by far the most dangerous of the Western Peoples and neither the Angvardi or the Terulans wanted to face them. A campaign in that dark forest would be very costly and could open their flanks up to attacks, that is why it was so important to make sure there were none elsewhere that could oppose them.


"We may have to delay that for now," he replied. "There is no way to directly deal with the Guide at this point. We needn't bother with the Guide if we can get the One. The prophecy says that she will guide him, so it is entirely possible that if we can get the One, the Guide will come to him."


"The prophecy also says that without the Guide, the One will stray," a new voice added. Rael turned his gaze to the old man who had spoken up. "King Rael," said Va of the Sages, "I urge you not to be hasty. Consider my council before you take action."


"Speak, old friend."


"The Sages have always known that the Master of Magic's fate was not certain," said Va. "Prophecy has supported this, as have our own meditations. You must be very careful when dealing with the One, careful that you do not interfere. The prophecy itself says 'Teladia's fate hangs by a thread, stray too far and it will break.' Nothing is guaranteed in life, not even the existence of our world. Many terrible things have happened because men decided to meddle in prophecy or worse, to force it to come true. Do not be so quick to rush to interfere in what might come that you end up cutting that thread."


Rael had grown up learning from Va and respected his opinion greatly, possibly more than he did anyone else in the hall. To hear such words from his old mentor were not comforting. "What would you have me to, Va?"


Va let out an exasperated sigh that ended in a painful sounding wheeze. It took a few moments for him to recover before he was able to respond, "The Sages do not yet know the proper course."


"So then you know nothing?" Amberis said.


Va raised a single bony finger and said in a firm voice, "No, I did not say that. I said that the Sages do not know the proper course just yet. That does not mean we do not know who might."


"Who might know?" the king asked.


"Prophecy can come true, or it can be a false branch. We have always known this. Much of prophecy centers around discovering which prophecies are of false branches and which could still come true. That being said, prophecy is the art of what might come true, not necessarily what will come true."


"But prophecy has guided many to the right choice," said Teaqe.


"True," replied Va, "it has indeed. Prophecy that is on the true branches will always come true. The trick is finding out which branches are true branches and which are false."


"And how do we know which branches involving the Master of Magic are true?" asked Rael.


"Why, my boy, all of them are."


This drew sounds of confusion from the group. "But you just said that prophecy has false branches," said Captain Pondj of the Royal Guard.


"It does," answered Va, "but not when it comes to the Master of Magic. There has not ever been found a single prophecy among the false branches that concerns the One. Therefore, it has been believed by the Sages for centuries that all of them are true." He raised his hand to forestall any questions until he could finish. "It is a sure thing that there will rise a Master of Magic. We know for certain that he is a male and that he will be key to defeating the Coming Darkness. There are things tied to him that we believe are set and cannot be changed. They will happen no matter what we try to do.


"What can be changed, however, is what is dangerous. The prophecies never say that he will have victory over Chaos. They may say that without him, victory is impossible, but they never say that he will be victorious. He may be the key, but that merely means that without him, failure is certain. Prophecy says there is a way to avert the Coming Darkness, but it never guarantees success.


"It is possible that things were put in place to happen according to how they were meant to happen, but our meddling will disrupt those things and give victory to the Coming Darkness. Our very actions may run contrary to how they were meant to go and thus, by our attempts to bring about prophecy, we may in fact bring our doom upon us."


"Again, what would you have me do?" Rael asked.


"I have not gotten to the part that matters yet, my boy. You have always been impatient, always wanted to get to the destination without taking the journey."


Rael bowed his head and said in a penitent voice, "Forgive me, Sage, but I need your wisdom."


"There is a way to see the future that cannot be altered," Va continued. "The Sages have long worked with them to gain further glimpses of what will come. Their vision is limited, but it is always accurate if properly interpreted."


"The Seers!" Teaqe exclaimed. "You are talking about the Seers."


"Yes, I am. Women who are seers receive visions in their sleep. Those visions are always accurate from a certain perspective. They may be vague or they may be exact, but there are no false visions. What they see is limited and they cannot often see far into the future, but when they do see things, it is always wise to heed them."


"So the Seers are able to see who the One is?" asked Rael.


"Not necessarily, but it is possible. Be careful, though. Many things that the Seers see are not directly what comes true. They may be allegorical or are from a different perspective. Many have dismissed seers because what they said didn't come true, but that was not because the visions were false. The Seers see what will come to pass, but they may not interpret it correctly and thus, what is true appears to be false."


"Have the Seers ever seen anything pertaining to the Master of Magic?" asked Ianara.


Va shook his head, "To my knowledge, they have not. That doesn't mean they haven't, just that they have not ever interpreted what they saw as having been related to the One. Remember, prophecy often deals with far off events, but the visions of seers is almost always quick to come about. The longest reach of any seer's vision I am aware of is only nine months."


"So we need to inquire of the Seers," stated Rael.


Before he could summon the Mistress of the Seers, Va stopped him. "Do not waste your time, my boy. The Seers here know nothing that would help you. I have asked them repeatedly and the answer is always no."


"They could have received a vision in conjunction with this recent prophecy," suggested Amberin.


"They had not for I was with them when I was summoned to come here," Va replied. "But I urge you to consider something else. There is an old prophecy, one that is often overlooked due to its short nature. It says: 'Through the dreams of one from Zazasp shall the salvation of all be found.' I personally believe it refers to the Master of Magic, and the dreams could refer to a seer's dreams."


Amberin stood up, "Then we need to speak with the Seers after all."


"No, because we have no seers from Zazasp living here," said Va with a hint of exasperation.


"Where is Zazasp, I have never heard of it before," said General Whaetis.


"That is because the name is no longer in use. Before the First Age, the kingdom of Zazasp was a powerful one centered north of the Terul Mountains but encasing a great deal of land. By the end of the ancient era, the kingdom fell and was nearly destroyed by an unknown invader. From what we can tell, Zazasp's capital lay somewhere in the Eascand Desert."


"Why would a great kingdom be centered in a desert?" asked Ianara.


"My dear, because it wasn't a desert at that time. There are some ancient tablets that have been found that indicate that the battle to defeat the Zazasp Kingdom was so large and devastating that it turned the surrounding region into a wasteland."


Rael had a frown on his face when he said, "But nobody lives in the Eascand Desert now."


"That is only somewhat true, my boy. The Krue venture there sometimes, but they are not the ones you seek. No, the survivors of Zazasp were forced south into slightly better lands. I believe their descendants are known as the Kuti. I suggest that instead of searching in vain for the One, you should instead search for a seer among the Kuti who might be able to provide you an exact answer as to who the Master of Magic might be."

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Ooh...good chapter!! Finally we know a bit more about what Syler will become (and Bronwyn for that matter). The prophecy is excellently written, and I love the debate surrounding it, especially the things that Va pointed out at the end there. Prophecy is always tricky...and it's always possible that by trying to avoid it, you bring it to pass.


Definitely food for thought!


A few grammatical things I noticed:


nobody in their right mind crossed a mage, much less a wizard which was far more powerful.


It should be who, not which, because wizards are people, not objects.


"Yes, my king," repeated Setpinius, "you gave express instructions..."


These are two separate sentences, so it should be "Setpinius. 'You'".


He presented the rolled parchment to the king as he continued, "One has been delivered."


Again, you should put a period after continued, not a comma.


I think there was something else too, but looking back, I can't find it. It was minor anyway, just like these.


Good stuff, and I'm eager for more!


There goes Ami's reputation of being a peaceful, nice person.
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It should be who, not which, because wizards are people, not objects.

Good catch, it is fixed.


"Yes, my king," repeated Setpinius, "you gave express instructions..."

These are two separate sentences, so it should be "Setpinius. 'You'".

Thanks, you gave me some ideas.

Thanks, Ami, you gave me some ideas.


Hmmm, both of those can be a single sentence, especially since "my king" is essentially a phrase substituting his name.


Again, you should put a period after continued, not a comma.

Should I? If I had put "said" instead of "continued" would you still say that? I am not sure on that one.

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Hey Travis,


Sorry RL has been hectic of late. Just wanted to drop in and say I haven't forgotten about this. I've just read the second to last post...chaos in the tower. Very nicely done. I loved the tension between Setpinius and Xalent. Very nicely written.

Member of Jnet Addict Club 12/05

Order of the Nocturnal


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Maybe I'm just reading it wrong. If it's "Yes, my king. You gave express instructions"--acknowledgement, then proceeding on to the topic--then it should be a period. It it's "Yes you gave instructions" then it's fine how you have it. It depends on what the acknowledgement is referring to. Is he acknowledging the king or the fact that he gave instructions?


Does that make sense? It's hard to put into text...


As for the other thing, my answer is yes. If you had put "said" I still would say put a period.


There goes Ami's reputation of being a peaceful, nice person.
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It depends on what the acknowledgement is referring to. Is he acknowledging the king or the fact that he gave instructions?

It was acknowledgement that he had given instructions.


As for the other thing, my answer is yes. If you had put "said" I still would say put a period.

I will keep that in consideration. I still don't think it needs one as it is a buildup for the quote, not an entirely separate thought. Perhaps someone like Geki who does grammar for a living can give us the final rule. I may PM him sometime if I see him chilling out.

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Chapter 8a is up. I am not exactly happy with this one and may rework it tomorrow. Perhaps some feedback will help me figure out how to change it up (or if it needs any changes). A little time has passed and people have settled in a bit. I have a few more of these development chapters before things go all pear shaped. I want to be able to establish the characters (namely Brownyn, Havert, Alltis, Growald, and Lamastus) and their interactions with each other so there is a little more than "and they were good friends."


And before anyone says "Bronwyn's reaction is a little odd" I know. Fear not, in the very next part I will switch perspectives from Syler to her and I believe it will become far more clear (and logical) as to why she might make the decision she voiced. This was just a natural breaking point that keep me from dumping a huge 5000 word post on my (two) loyal readers.




Chapter 8


And he shall be born innocent, unknowing of the future he will lead.

His path shall take him to the darkest of places, but he will not give up.

With loyal friends at his side, he shall overcome all in his path.

But should one who is treacherous join him, his fate will be uncertain.


”” Prophecy of Panil of Enhorpe regarding the Master of Magic, 290 of the Second Age


Village of Kubei,

Angvardi Province of Kut


Syler had been in Kubei for a month and was astonished at the speed in which it grew. When he had arrived, there were only around three thousand inhabitants including the four hundred Sei and their Angvardi guards. Now, there were over five thousand and growing. Almost every day, more people streamed in. Most were Kuti, but there were Sei, Gope, Susug, Angvardi, and even a few Terulans.


Craftsmen of all sorts were in high demand, so Syler was never without work. Despite being only an apprentice back in Sandrin, he knew enough to get by. Occasionally, he had to turn down a particularly difficult job, but most of the more routine things were well within his capacities. He was one of only twelve blacksmiths in the town and there was always work needed for gates, support braces, rivets, horseshoes, nails, and a broad assortment of tools. Bronwyn helped him where she could with hauling in ore and water or holding things when he needed it. She proved to be strong and capable, and working together allowed him to see her often.


While things may have started awkwardly between them, they had resolved themselves. They got along well and learned to rely on each other to keep the forge running and to avoid unwanted attention from the priests. They were respectful of each other's privacy and still slept in separate beds. There were things both kept to themselves and they respected that.


Life was a compromise between them. On their first full day together, they had agreed that neither should completely abandon their cultures. Syler tolerated Bronwyn's Kuti traditions while she tolerated his Sei heritage. Where their cultures conflicted, they agreed on a compromise wherever possible. In some cases, they even agreed to try each other's culture. Bronwyn got Syler to begin growing out his beard like all Kuti men and he had gotten her to start eating a small lunch, though she complained that it kept her from eating supper.


Syler began to learn how to deal with Bronwyn's oddities. There were times when she was happy and easy to talk with, but there were also times when she said little and seemed to resent prying. She woke him up twice in that month with nightmares he attributed to being the after affects of losing both of her parents in such a short time. Despite that, beneath her typically serious demeanor, Syler found that Bronwyn had a sense of humor and appreciated a good joke from Havert.


Havert had shown up at their doorstep three days after they arrived with a sloppy grin on his face and a beautiful Kuti woman on his arm. He explained that he had overheard one of the Angvardi mentioning Syler's name on a delivery schedule and, as a man well accustomed to handling horses and carts, he had volunteered to start delivering wood and ore for the forge. He introduced his new wife, Alltis, and it was clear that they were getting along just fine. She, like he, was a genuine convert to the Way and while she might not like the Easterners, she accepted their presence as part of Unity.


Syler saw Havert almost every day when he made deliveries, but not much else. The other man lived across town and had integrated himself into his wife's circle of friends as well as a new group of former Seinari whom Syler did not like. True to his word, Havert remained defiant and treaded dangerously close to sedition in many of his conversations. Syler had no doubt that many of his Seinari friends shared his views and would likely get themselves killed sooner or later, but he dared not say as much to Havert for fear of turning him against him.


Despite being known by almost every one of the Kuti, Bronwyn had few friends. Before Syler had arrived, she lived a solitary life and kept mostly to herself. He didn't understand why she was like this, but she politely indicated that she didn't want to talk about it. Every morning and afternoon, she went out to get food, but Syler didn't notice their meager savings dwindling as result. He didn't think on it much, but it was a mystery to him.


About the only other person they saw regularly outside of business was the friendly Angvardi Lamastus. It started with him checking up on them as part of his duties, then developed to a sort of friendship. The Easterner seemed genuinely interested in their wellbeing and was a decent man, despite being an Angvardi. Syler viewed the friendship with caution, but accepted it because it meant having someone whom they could call upon that had a small measure of influence among the Angvardi.


Syler was busy hammering out a stubborn piece of steel when a breathless Havert burst into his shop. "Syler, you won't believe it!"


Without pausing in his work, Syler glanced over his shoulder and replied, "Believe what? Aren't you supposed to be making deliveries?"


"What? Oh, deliveries, that can wait. I'm going to be a father!"


What had been a steady beat of his hammer faltered as Syler lost his grip on the steel. He put the hammer down and turned around to appraise his friend, "What?"


Havert was still panting for breath when he slapped Syler's shoulder. "Who could have ever imagined that, eh?"


Syler was nearly in shock. He agreed with Havert's last comment because he couldn't have imagined the carefree man being a father. "Umm, that's good, right?"


"Of course it is good, what is wrong with you?" Havert said while looking at his friend with a look of suspicion. "I thought you would be happy for me."

"I am happy, it is just, well, a surprise."


The suspicion didn't leave his eyes entirely, but Havert seemed placated. "Alltis is such a amazing woman, the gods picked well for me. She is thrilled 'bout this, and not just because it means we get the Haresu off our backs. Her parents are also happy and are throwing a feast in celebration. There will be food and plenty of strong drink. I definitely hope to see you 'n Bronwyn there."


"When is it?"


"Tomorrow night, at our house, just after sundown. It will be great, I promise. We will get ya so drunk that they'll have to carry you home."

Now that some of the shock had worn off, Syler was able to smile. It was good to see his friend so happy. "I don't know about that, but the two of us will definitely be there."


"Be where?" Bronwyn's voice came from the doorway to the house.


"I'm gonna be a father," Havert said with a huge smile on his face.


Bronwyn blinked several times before smiling and saying, "Congratulations, Havert. Maybe the blessings of the, um, gods be upon you and your wife."


"Thanks," he said, obviously missing her hesitation in his exuberance. "I gotta tell a few others, but I will see ya tomorrow night!" Before anyone else could add another word, he dashed off at a full sprint back down the road.


Syler shook his head and mumbled, "That boy is going to wear himself out." In a joking tone, he said, "I don't think I have seen him that excited since he discovered that Old Man Hoggis accidentally left an entire crate of ale in his cart."


Bronwyn didn't laugh or even chuckle, so he turned around to make sure she was still there. She was, but the look on her face was one of concern and worry. "What is wrong?"


She took a few moments to reply so she could think through her response. "Does it worry you? We both know that the Haresu are going to demand that we produce a child before the year is over."


Syler let the air out of his lungs when he heard her. They had danced around this subject a few times, but never addressed it directly. He had made it quite clear to her that he did not consider their marriage valid. She knew that he was not a true believer and didn't say anything about it to anyone else. While she hadn't said as much, he had noticed that she didn't seem to be completely in step with the Way. Since neither of them believed in the religion that declared their marriage to be, he didn't think it was a valid marriage.


To add to that, he didn't love Bronwyn and he didn't think she loved him. When his father had still been alive, he taught his son that he should never allow himself to be forced into an arranged marriage as was common among the rich families. Tarneis Penion had been criticized by a few when he refused to allow a noble's son to marry Karusa after she said she didn't even like him. It would have meant that their entire family would have been able to enjoy a higher station and financial security, but Tarneis believed strongly that his children should not marry someone they didn't love. Instead, she married the simple farmer Jarem and had a wonderful life until he died in the accident.


"I know," he said quietly.


Bronwyn looked down and asked, "What are you going to do when it starts getting to the time when I should be with child and am not? I can only escape notice for five or six more months before it is clear that we will not be meeting their deadline."


"I don't know exactly what we will do, but I hope we don't have to find out."


She looked back up at him with curiosity in her eyes. "What do you mean?"


"Not here," Syler said. He made sure the metal plate he was working on was secure on the bench before putting his hammer up and gesturing to the door that led into the house. Bronwyn didn't object, but followed him in without a word. When they were in and the door was closed, he began to explain. "You know I have a sister back in Sandrin, yes?" She nodded. "I don't plan on leaving her alone for much longer. Elements know what the Angvardi have done there, for all I know they have done the exact same thing they did here and married her off to some strange man they picked up from among the Sua drivel. I would not see my sister suffer at the hands of a brute who didn't love her or care for her except as a way to escape enslavement and appease his new masters."


He paused to let Bronwyn respond, but she said nothing. "You also know that I do not believe in the Easterner's religion. I did what I felt I had to in order to protect my sister by making a false oath regarding my conversion. Perhaps the Elements have punished me for this by sending me even farther away from her, but I will not give up hope that I can one day return to my sister and watch over her.


"So with that said, I do not intend on remaining here for long. At some point, I plan on leaving this place and making my way back to Sandrin to track down my sister, wherever she may be. The reason why I haven't left now is because I need money if I am to travel. Plus, the guards keep too close an eye on all of us, I wouldn't make it right now until they let their guard down."


Several long minutes passed where no noise was made in the house except the slight whistling of the wind outside and the crackling of the kitchen fire. Syler hoped he had not said too much and exposed his plans too early. He knew Bronwyn by now, but there were still times when he wondered just how much of her he really knew. She kept many secrets and would often retreat into silence when certain things came up. He had gotten to where he could spot such problem areas and tried to avoid them, but there was no avoiding this.


"What will you do with me?" she asked at last.


"With you? Nothing. I don't own you and never will. You can stay here, go somewhere else, or do whatever you choose."


A familiar look of panic crossed over her face for a brief moment. Though she normally had excellent control of her emotions, Syler had learned that there were times where something tried to surface for the briefest of moments. She was good at concealing what she was feeling, but not perfect and Syler often wondered what it was that caused her such concern.


"Don't worry, I am not just going to take everything and all of the savings and run away. I would only take my half of the money, the things I came with, and a few days worth of food then leave you with everything else. I do not want to harm you in any way. If you want, I can even leave a letter saying that everything was my choice and that you knew nothing."


Another long pause and Syler wondered what she was thinking now. When she spoke, she surprised him with what she said. "What if I choose to go with you?"


He blinked a few times before answering, "Why would you want to come with me?"


She didn't answer immediately, but took a few seconds before responding. "If you leave, even if they don't punish me, they will likely just hand me over to another man. If it was someone like you, I might not mind, but I don't want to risk it being a brute who will abuse me."


It made a great deal of sense and Syler kicked himself for not considering that. The Easterners were nearly obsessed in making sure every possible woman was producing more soldiers for their future armies so they could fight this "Coming Darkness" of theirs. If he left her and was either caught and killed or managed to escape, they very well could marry her off to another man, one who might not be so kind as he had been. There were a lot of men in the world who would take advantage of the situation to have their way with a woman as beautiful as Bronwyn was without any thought to her feelings or wellbeing.


"Well, umm, I guess that does make sense," mumbled Syler. "Are you sure you want to give up a stable, safe life here for one of an outlaw constantly on the run? I may be able to blend in with the people of Sandrin, but you would stick out like a sore thumb with your features."


She gulped, but set her jaw in determination. "I know, but I would rather face uncertainty with you than go through the anguish I suffered waiting for my husband to arrive and not knowing what I would be treated like. I could be suffering greatly here if things had turned out differently. Several of the women I know are suffering, but can't say anything about it for fear that the Haresu would punish them and make things worse."


"I really hope you know what you are getting into. Think about it. I don't plan on leaving for some time yet. I promise that I will tell you before I leave, you can come up with a final answer then."


She nodded, but didn't look very happy. "Very well, Syler." She lowered her head in submission and went into the kitchen area to make herself busy. Syler, sensing that the conversation was over, even if he didn't want it to be, went silently back out to the forge to continue his work.

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I didn't see anything wrong with that part. It was a little choppy at times, but that's normal for something that spans a period of time versus one moment. I don't think you have anything to worry about.


And I didn't find Bronwyn's decision surprising or out of character. Perhaps because we know so much more about her from the prophecy and the one scene from her POV, but I expected her to go with Syler when he said what he was going to do. Her excuse was valid too, although I can't help but think she has other reasons for leaving, especially if she's somewhat of an outcast.


It was good to get back to Havert too, at least for a little bit. It'll be interesting to see what happens to him.


There goes Ami's reputation of being a peaceful, nice person.
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Well, I am glad that it isn't horrible. I will still probably go through it and fix a few things, add a few others.


Perhaps because we know so much more about her from the prophecy

Go back and read the prophecy that I wrote out. Try to find something regarding the Kuti there (hint, there is nothing). Bronwyn is not the Guide that was mentioned. So far, I have not revealed any prophecy regarding her.



Back onto the next part. I must say, I am on a roll. I not only have this (pretty long) part finished, but have finished the entire next chapter (a shorter one I can post in one piece). I must say, I really like how this part and the next chapter turned out. Maybe it is just me, but I think that I am doing decent enough with dialogue. This part is very dialogue heavy with two different conversations both full of emotion and drama. Fun stuff, and a good deal of revelations regarding Bronwyn and Syler, as well as a different perspective on the life of the occupied Kuti.


One note: there is a LOT of italicized stuff here. I underestimated how annoying it would be to go through and add the italics code (I don't need them in Word). There were 40 words that needed them here, mostly from the Kuti language.


Oh, another note, I would like to clarify that the word "Haresu" doesn't mean "Angvardi," it is a more general term that is a combination of easterner (remember, those in the west don't like those from the east), foreigner, invader, and occupier. Its usage is in no way friendly or a compliment.




Bronwyn watched Syler go back outside and let out a breath she didn't know she had been holding in. She had known that this subject would come up sooner or later, but had not expected it to arise so soon or in this manner. Havert's announcement had caught her off guard.


She had known from the start that if she didn't conceive, she and her husband would be thrown into slavery. She had dreaded that aspect if the man chosen for her turned out to be a brute, but Syler hadn't been. In truth, had things been different, she might have even hoped that he would pursue her, but they weren't. Syler was very strong willed on some things, and not being forced into a marriage appeared to be one of them. By now, she would have willingly given herself to him, but he didn't want her, not like that.


He had surprised her when he mentioned planning on leaving and returning to his hometown. She had not seen that coming and it shocked her. Because of that, she had panicked and made a hasty offer to go with him. He was right in saying that it was not something she could decide quickly.


Her excuse to him had only been partially the truth. Yes, she did dread punishment at the hands of the Haresu, but that wasn't all. Her visions were growing more frequent and more disturbing with him around. The most terrifying one, the one that involved her being tortured, had him saving her. She had never had a vision that clear and defined before and it scared her. It had happened twice more since that first night which also concerned her. Her visions tended to repeat themselves more frequently when the event itself was growing near and she was terrified of this vision. Not even her dreams of the Haresu invasion were this terrifying.


If he left, then it could mean that he wouldn't be there to save her from that horror. The very thought sent an icy sensation deep in her stomach and had caused her to offer to leave with him. It was a foolish offer, but one born of desperation and panic. She really didn't know if she wanted to leave her people and live a life on the run. The Haresu had proven to be too powerful for anyone to resist. The priests joyfully delivered the news that major victories had been won against the Kosh and Sua and that new brothers and sisters would soon be joining them. If she left with Syler, they would both be on the run from these powerful people and she didn't know how long they could last without being recaptured or even killed.


A knock on the front door interrupted her thoughts. When she answered it, she saw that it was only Halldis, a friend from her old village. "Hello Halldis, come in." she said with as much cheer as she could muster.


Her friend didn't return the cheer, but looked a little glum. "Thank you, do you have a moment to talk?"


"Of course. Syler is working at the forge and won't mind." Bronwyn assured her. "I was just doing some thinking on a few things I need to sort out."


Halldis' eyes widened a bit and she leaned in to say, "Do you mean, about the kvastat?"


"Somewhat, but I can't really talk about it." It was, at least, partially the truth. As much as she may like and trust her friend, she wouldn't break Syler's trust by telling her about his plans to leave.

"Does it involve the Haresu?"


Bronwyn really didn't want to discuss it at all, but she had to be careful so as not to pique her friend's interest even more. Among those of her former village, Halldis was one of the few whom she confided in. They all knew of her kvastat, or visions, but most were afraid of her. They feared her for the visions she had that were less than optimistic and offered her and her family gifts as tribute in the belief that if she were happy with them, she wouldn't receive any bad visions about them. Brownyn only wished it worked that way, but she didn't control what she saw. Eventually, she grew reclusive and afraid to form any friendships because most of her people shunned her or were simply polite to her out of fear.


But Halldis was not concerned about any of that. She accepted that Bronwyn was a caetos kvastal, or receiver of visions and didn't let it bother her. Sometimes when Bronwyn had a particularly bad or confusing vision, she would talk with Halldis about it. Though she was six years older and had a husband and children of her own, she always made time for Bronwyn. Even when Bronwyn foresaw the devastation the Haresu would bring upon their people, including Halldis' husband, Gyrd, the older woman never blamed her for what she saw.


"In a way, it does, but I am not sure," Bronwyn responded, grateful that her friend was focusing on them rather than Syler.


"Tell me of it, maybe I can help you figure it out. I really need something to distract me right now."


Bronwyn shook her head as she replied, "No, I don't want to. I am sorry, Halldis, but this is something I need to bear on my own."


Halldis swallowed hard and asked in a calm, almost distant voice, "Does it involve me? Is that it? Do I finally get to be reunited with Gyrd in the afterlife and escape this waking nightmare and the Haresu?"


Bronwyn placed her hands gently on her friend's shoulders and said firmly, "No, it does not involve you, not this time. Don't say things like that, please, it scares me."


"You know I cannot stand to live this way," Halldis said with tears beginning to form in her eyes. "My 'husband' is a lout who can barely manage to keep work as a common laborer. How he was ever able to call himself a warrior enough to get captured by the Haresu is beyond me. He cares nothing for Engli or Lowrib, but at least he doesn't abuse us. He is too busy drinking ale with his Sei countrymen to bother with that."


When she stopped for a breath, Bronwyn tried to interject, but Halldis continued before she could. "The Sei are bad enough to deal with, but the Haresu are vile. Their blasphemous religion will be the death of us all. All of the men are nothing better than laborers to build their new cities while us women are nothing but breeding stock for future warriors to go out and spread their lies. The way they look down upon us is unbearable and makes me long for my beloved Gyrd even more."


Bronwyn didn't know how to react. She knew her friend had been suffering ever since the Haresu had invaded. Bronwyn had lost her parents, but Halldis lost her husband and father at once, and her husband was nowhere as kind and hard working as Syler. Bronwyn didn't have to contend with caring for two little children, either. "I am sorry, but you must be strong if for nobody else but your two little ones."


"If not for them, I don't know if I would be able to continue," said Halldis in a voice that was full of despair. "When they were born, I had such hopes for them. I had dreamed that Engli would become a strong warrior like his father and go out hunting. He would protect our people from the Sei or the Angvardi Haresu. I hoped that little Lowri would grow into a beautiful young woman and find a strong husband to care for her and make her happy. She could raise my grandchildren to be strong Kuti just like her father. Now, I only weep at their stolen future. All they have to look forward to is a life of slavery under the boots of the Haresu and their pagan gods."


"The last two seasons have been hard on all of us," Bronwyn said soothingly. "You have suffered more than most, but you must hold your head high. You are a Kuti and we are a proud people. We may be under the domination of the Haresu for now, but one day we will defeat them and restore our pride. You just need to hold on until then and be strong for your children."


"Is that from one of your kvastat?" she asked with hope slowly creeping back into her voice.


Bronwyn only wished that it was, but she had seen nothing of the sort. "Yes, it is," she lied.


Halldis looked her in the eyes for a long moment then smiled, "I believe you. Then there is hope for our people." She began wiping tears off of her face and favoring Bronwyn with a small smile. "I hope that knowledge will be enough for me. I know you sometimes feel that your kvastat are a curse, but I don't agree. They are a blessing to you, one that should be treasured and held on to. One day, you will be glad that you are a caetos kvastal."


Bronwyn doubted it. Her visions had only given her heartaches and loneliness. Nothing good had come from them as far as she was concerned. Now wasn't the time for regrets, she had to figure out what she was going to do when Syler left.


"Thank you, Bronwyn, it isn't much, but your kvastat gives me hope. I should get back to Engli and Lowri. I left them with Aldyth, but I don't want to make her watch them for long."


"I am glad I could help," said Bronwyn, "I only wish I could do more so I could repay you just a little for all that you have done for me."


"Think nothing of it, you were our caetos kvastal, that is important. I hope day that you will learn to use your gift to help our people." Halldis smiled one more time and left.


Bronwyn went back to the kitchen and began making supper. It was getting late and the meal was nowhere near completion. She quickly kneaded some dough and placed it in their small stone oven and made sure the chicken was boiling properly over the open fire. When it was time, she added the potatoes and leeks to garnish the meat. It wasn't the best meal, but it would suffice.


Syler came in from the forge at dark and washed up like he normally did before coming to the table. She served supper and both started eating. She was glad that he didn't seem to have a problem with the meal, but he wasn't saying much and that wasn't like him. She wondered if there was something wrong, or if he was still focused on Havert or his plans for leaving. She figured that it might be best if she were to simply ask him and see if he would open up.


"Is there anything wrong?" she asked between bites.


He didn't immediately answer, but when he did, he put down his spoon first and looked at her intently. "What is a caetos kvastal and what are kvastat?"


Syler's question surprised and petrified Bronwyn so much that she dropped her fork and stared at him in shock. He saw the look and elaborated. "I heard you talking with someone while I was working and wanted to make sure things were okay. I am sorry, but I did overhear the last of your conversation just before she left. She mentioned that you were a caetos kvastal and I wanted to know what that was."


Bronwyn looked more panicked than he had ever seen her and that concerned him. "What has gotten into you? All I asked was what those Kuti words meant."


She briefly considered trying to deflect his inquiry, but the fear of him going and asking someone else or even just using those terms in passing caused her to reject that notion. She had hoped that he wouldn't find out her secret, but he had and there was no going back. She knew him well enough to know that if she dodged his inquiry now, he would be even more interested and though he wouldn't press her, he might ask someone else. The wrong words by him could bring unwanted attention from other Kuti clans or worse, the Haresu.


She took a deep breath and began her explanation. "The title 'caetos kvastal' would best translate to 'receiver of visions' in the traditional tongue. It means that I am the one gifted””or cursed””with the ability to dream kvastat, or visions. They only come to me on occasion and I don't control when I have them or what I see."


Syler looked at her in shock of his own and said incredulously, "You are a seer."


Bronwyn nodded, "I believe that is what your people call it, yes."


"Why didn't you tell me?" There was hurt in his voice.


"Because it is dangerous for people to know and I didn't know if I could trust you," she said defensively. "If the Haresu find out, they may take me away to their vile Cloister. That is, they would if they don't kill me outright. When they conquered our people, they went through and purged all of those who were our wise men and spiritual guides. Some they spared so they could be taken off as trophies, slaves, or worse, but most were killed where they were found. As a caetos kvastal, I am revered by some, feared by others of my clan, so they didn't turn me in out of either respect or fear. Plus, as much as they may dislike or fear me, they hate the Haresu even more."


"I understand that, Bronwyn, I really do, but you should have told me," replied Syler with a little edge of anger in his voice that she rarely saw.


"I couldn't risk it," she said with urgency in her voice. He had to understand that she didn't have a choice. If he told the Haresu, then they would kill her. She didn't want to hurt him by not telling him and she feared now how he would react now that the truth was out. "Please understand, my whole life these last few months has been focused on hiding this fact. If the Haresu find out, my life will be over."


His voice went cold as he said, "And you don't think that I might be in danger if they found you? They may assume I knew and hid you, so I would be punished as well."


"No! I didn't want that to happen," Bronwyn pleaded. "I didn't want you to know and put yourself at risk or to have to bear my secret."


"Well, now I know and now I must deal with you holding something back that could put us both at risk and with concealing this information from everyone else."


"I am sorry, I didn't want any of this."


"You say that your people respect and fear you? How far does that extend?"


Bronwyn shrugged, "Some of them avoid me, sometimes they will even shield their children as though my seeing them would cause me to have a bad kvastat about them. Others try to give me offerings to curry favor with me or the Spirits. Very few, like Halldis, treat me like a person."


"So is that why I never see you take any money when you go out for food?" asked Syler.


She nodded, "There are many who provide me food without charge. Some of it may be out of sympathy for what happened to my parents, but most of it is probably because I am a caetos kvastal. That is the only way I was able to survive in the months after my parents died."


"Well," declared Syler, "I am here to provide for us, you will no longer accept their foods without paying for them. I will not be taking other people's food without just recompense, not as long as I am able to work. Neither will you."


Bronwyn gaped at him, "What business is it of yours if people wish to give us food? It is a sign of respect for them."


"No, it is a sign of fear and an attempt to bribe you," said Syler with a bit more anger. "We are not invalids, nor are we beggars. I am perfectly capable of providing for both of us with the work I do, I will not have you going around accepting charity as though I was incapable of caring for us."


"You have no right to say that, it is how my people have always treated the caestos kvastal!"


"That is now how the Sei conduct themselves," countered Syler. "As I have told you countless times, we care for ourselves and take nothing without just recompense. Only the ill, the old, the widowed, and the orphaned accept charity. We are none of those."


Bronwyn let out a snort of disgust, but didn't continue the fight. She would continue as she had, there was little he could do to stop her.


Perhaps sensing a victory, Syler remained silent for a minute or two and poked at his dinner. Then, he looked up as though something just came to him. "Were you having one of these visions the first night I was here? Is that why you were so disturbed?"


She looked down at the rest of her dinner which was left to grow cold. "Yes," she mumbled. "It was not a pleasant vision and was extremely powerful."


"What was it about?" The tone of his voice made it clear that it was not really a question, but a command.


Bronwyn didn't want to tell him, but she feared lying to him and only compounding the problem. He had clearly grown agitated at her concealing her kvastat from him, hiding this would only make it worse. She wasn't really thrilled to explain this vision to anyone as she had never told anyone of it. "It is a vision I have had many times, one of the few that actually includes me. I am locked away in a dark cell where I can hear screams of torture and pain coming from others. A man comes in and begins to cut my flesh with a knife. My visions usually ended there, but that night, it didn't. Instead, the man continues to cut me until he is run through with a sword from behind."


She paused and gulped before continuing. "You are the one who kills him, but before you could free me, something from behind distracts you. I don't know what as that is when you woke me and I can no longer see past that point."


Syler was livid and she could tell he didn't take what she said very well. There was a long, tense time where she didn't know what he would do or say next. At last, he exploded in an anger she had not seen him display before, "So let me get this clear, you see visions and are at risk of being captured or killed because of that. All those around you whom the Angvardi might think knew and said nothing are at danger because of that. You are having visions that have me killing someone with a sword. I have lived with you for a month now, and you neglected to tell me any of this? Why did you not think that I wouldn't need to know this?"


Bronwyn's own anger was beginning to cut through her fright. "Oh, and the fact that you swore a false oath and are not a believer doesn't mean you are in any danger yourself? And do you not think that I might also be exposed to punishment for not reporting you, or that an investigation into what exactly I knew about you might lead to discovering that I am a caetos kvastal? Did you ever think that your own actions might put me in danger, too?"


In her anger, she added, "You say you did what you had to in order to protect your sister, well, I had to do what I had to do in order to protect myself. You are angry at me for not telling you my deepest secret, yet you are a breaker of vows yourself who conceals things just as dangerous."


As soon as she said it, she knew she would regret it. Syler's face went from a furious red to an aghast pale and his powerful fists were clenched. The sound of the wooden spoon he was holding snapping in two was the only one in the house while he took in what she said. She braced herself for a blow from him, but none came.


Syler got up from the table in silence, but she could see his jaw clenched in fury. Without a word, he opened the front door and vanished into the evening darkness. As soon as he was out of sight, Bronwyn could no longer hold back the tears and let them flow.

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I've caught up now. Finally. I like where you're going with this. The interactions in this last chapter especially, feel very natural, and work well.


Not much else to add, except a question...how far into the 12 months are we? it feels like only a few months?

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Order of the Nocturnal


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Well, as of now, the novel is at 55,400 words and I am planning on writing another few thousand tonight!


Twelve months? Did I ever limit myself to twelve months? Hmm, I may have, but I am not sure where you got that number. Still, to answer your question, it has been about one and a half months since the very first chapter (the Prologue was set hundreds of years earlier). There will be a little bit more time passing in Kubei, then we hit the road and much of the traveling will take up time.


Well, I have been visited by the Muses recently. Not only do I have the entire Chapter 9 done (it is fairly short), but I have Chapter 10 (and it is a long one). Last night (Christmas), I wrote over 5500 words in three hours (from two to five in the morning) and was on fire. Big things happening. This chapter and the next start building to the first crescendo and end Act 1.


I am going to post Chapter 9 now and Chapter 10 after you or Ami can read it. It feels so good to be not just writing, but really liking it. I get to reintroduce Lamastus (major character) as well as bring the Shalktra (essentially, the Terulan version of the SS) into play. I am greatly excited at how this chapter and the next worked out and the direction that this is going. I have been waiting to type up these next few chapters since before I started this novel.


Oh, and a note: I am probably going to stop italicizing foreign words, at least the common ones. It is growing to be a hassle in submitting them to Jnet (the last chapter took me fifteen minutes to submit) so just heads up on that. They are italicized in the Word document, just not here.




Chapter 9


My most beloved Celienna, recent prophecy has been delivered that tells of a possible threat to you and your throne. I urge you, dearest, increase your guard and take all precautions pertaining to your safety and to the safety of our daughter. My heart would break if word were to reach me that any ill had befallen you. I will attempt to join you next month as soon as the southern campaigns are settled.


”” Letter from King Raul of Terula to his wife, Empress Celienna of Angvard


Village of Kubei,

Angvardi Province of Kut


Syler was rarely a man prone to anger. It took a great deal to rouse him and push him over the edge to where he couldn't control himself. What Bronwyn said was enough to do that so instead of doing something he would later regret, he decided to leave the house and roam the streets. He knew that it wasn't wise to be out on the streets at this hour, but he couldn't stay in the house.


His anger didn't come entirely from the fact that she concealed that she was a seer from him. Though it would have been nice for her to tell him, he had always known that she had secrets. The way some people reacted to her told him that something was off with her and now it made sense as to why. Her being a seer didn't really anger him nor did it scare him off. He knew an old woman who was a seer, though her connection to magic was weak. She was a kind woman who saved a Sandrin a great deal of trouble by forewarning of an early frost thus causing the village to harvest their crops earlier than normal. Because of her vision, only a small portion of the crops were lost and a potential famine was avoided. All visions of the future were gifts from the Elements. Among the Sei, seers and prophets were not shunned nor feared, but were respected for the help they could bring and because of their connection with the Elements.


No, what angered him was that she was right when it came to her accusations. He had grown angry because she held back something that put him in danger, but that was mostly out of a sense of betrayal. When she had turned his own actions upon him, it had stung deeply. He may have deserved it, but it didn't help the darts sting any less. He was a breaker of oaths. No matter the reasons for it, that would forever hang over him. To be reminded of it hurt and he knew it. That she would turn on him and use his most embarrassing secret against him also hurt.


As his anger slowly passed, he began to see how much he had probably hurt Bronwyn. She had let him in on a secret that was probably just as painful as the one he bore, and he had turned it on her. Now that he was thinking without the adrenaline of anger inhibiting his judgment, he regretted how he had talked to her.


He didn't really know how to proceed. He knew he needed to apologize, but wasn't sure how he could do that without making things worse. If he went back, she may still be angry and it could all blow up in his face and cause permanent harm to their relationship. For all he knew, she was furious at him and terrified that he would tell her secret.


He went another hundred paces before he came to a conclusion. He was a man of the Sei, he had a responsibility to admit when he was wrong. He had made a mistake and while he might not be the only one who lost their temper in that house, he needed to make his part of it right. He needed to go back and apologize and accept the repercussions. If she was still angry at him, he deserved it. If she choose to punish him for what he said, then he would accept whatever punishment she deemed appropriate.


By now, his wanderings had taken him to the outskirts of town. It wasn't a cold night, but neither was it warm. Summer was beginning to fade and autumn was approaching. Now that he was away from most of the smoke from the fires in each house, he could see the clear black sky much better. There wasn't a cloud to be seen so the stars shone brightly like glittering diamonds. Syler took several minutes to just stare at them in their beauty and take in the peace they offered him in return.


Some lights on the horizon caught his attention. They were nothing like the lights that flashed and arced in the sky during the battle at Fazei Crossing. They were like a stream of fire heading toward the town at a fairly rapid pace. As they got closer, he saw mounted figures on swift horses at full gallop. At first, Syler was struck at how much of a risk that these men were taking for going so fast at night, then he saw that they were not merely torches lighting the way for them. There seemed to be more torches than there were men and, when they got even closer, he realized that the entire group of horsemen were surrounded in orbs of self sustaining fire. They were using magic to light a far greater area around them than what a simple torch could show.


There were only around two dozen men, but they were moving at great speed and urgency that puzzled Syler. As they approached the town, they changed their course slightly to connect with one of the roads that went out of the town a half mile or so in various directions. He saw with a little alarm that they were heading his way, so he began to back up.


A hand reached out, grabbed his shoulder, and pulled him into an alleyway before he had a chance to react. He nearly cried out at the suddenness of it all, but another hand clamped over his mouth before he could say anything. "Shhhh," someone hissed into his ear. "You shouldn't be on the streets, Syler, especially not tonight."


The voice sounded familiar so he stopped resisting. Seeing that he wasn't going to yell, whoever was holding him let go. Syler turned around to see that his guess was not wrong. "Lamastus, what are you doing?" he said as quietly as he could despite his surprise.


"Saving your hide, probably," the Angvardi guard said. Despite his normally cheerful demeanor, there was no smile on his face tonight. "Don't you know who those are?" Syler shook his head. "Those are Terulan Shalktra from Sasevurg. You do not want to cross them."


"What are Terulans doing this far north? I thought the Angvardi had control over these lands," asked Syler.


"Shhh, I will explain in a moment," Lamastus said. He put a gloved finger over his mouth and gestured for Syler to look around the corner with caution. Syler was able to get a look just as the horsemen passed. He didn't have the best view, but from what he could tell, there were only around two dozen of them all riding on black steeds of a breed he had never seen before. He couldn't tell what color their armor was, but he did think he see a few blurs of blood red flash by. Even though the entire group passed in just a few seconds, something about them sent chills up his back.


Once they were well past them, Syler looked back at his friend and asked, "What are they?"


"You don't know what the Shalktra are?" Lamastus said incredulously. He paused shook his head, "No, of course not, you are not Angvardi. The Shalktra are the most feared of all Terulans. During the great wars, they went throughout any Angvardi lands that had been captured and brutalized any they believed might be helping our forces. They had unlimited authority to do whatever they felt was necessary in the name of their king, including the torture of women and children. Many, many Angvardi died horrible deaths at their hands.


"But their worst atrocities were during peacetime. Even when we weren't at war, they would infiltrate our lands and terrorize isolated villages or assassinate officials and leaders. At least two emperors were thought to have been assassinated by Shalktra operatives. They were always careful to cover their tracks, so it was hard to find proof that they were behind the terror, but we knew who it was."


"What are they doing here?" asked Syler.


"We weren't told," Lamastus admitted. "That doesn't mean that there aren't rumors. Word is that there was some sort of prophecy that got the Terulan king's dander up and now he is reacting to it. Only he could have sent the Shalktra here."


"But why would Governor Uthas allow it if the Angvardi hate the Shalktra so much?"


Lamastus shook his head in disgust as he replied, "Because our own Empress allowed it. She would do anything her husband asked, even if it meant allowing those vile creatures into our lands. I know we are supposed to be Unified under the Way, but I remember fearing the Shalktra when I was young. I lived in fear because I grew up along the border just south of Casato. I was blessed enough to never have encountered them, but I remember having to stay inside at night and my father barring our door just in case one of them tried to attack. Even when we were at peace, we feared them."


"Do you know what they are after?"


"No, but as soon as I find out, I will give you a heads up just like I always do. Speaking of which, what are you doing out on the streets tonight? If I hadn't of pulled you out of the way, they may have killed you as they passed just for fun."


Syler didn't feel like going into it, but Lamastus was a friend and he had just pulled him out of a potentially dangerous situation. "Well, Bronwyn and I had a fight. I just needed to get out and clear my head."


A look of genuine concern passed over Lamastus' face. "What happened? I thought you two got along well. You haven't been treating her poorly, have you?"


Syler shook his head. Lamastus was always protective over her and was extremely courteous whenever she was around. Syler hadn't yet figured out why he took such an interest in the two of them, though he did know that Lamastus had a few other friends among the Kuti and Sei. Unlike most of the Angvardi who viewed being here as nothing more than an assignment to be endured, Lamastus seemed to take a genuine interest in the people who lived here. "No, I haven't. It was a stupid thing, honestly. I overreacted to something and said a few things I shouldn't have. She got angry and said some things too and I left before I said or did anything that would make it worse."


"What were you fighting about?"


Syler grimaced and said, "I really don't want to go into it. I made a mistake and was actually on my way back to apologize when I saw the Shalktra."


For a moment, the Angvardi looked as though he wanted to press him further, but then he shrugged and smiled, "At least you are man enough to admit when you were wrong. That is one of the things I like about you, Syler. Too many men here try to blame everyone else and pretend they weren't ever at fault. Come on, I will escort you back home so you don't get into any more trouble."


They started back towards Bronwyn's house and got to talking. "So," Lamastus asked, "what is new in your life? Did you finish those orders for the new stables?"


"Almost, I was working on the braces all of today and got five of them finished. I will have to get the last one done tomorrow."


"That is good, we are finally getting additional mules from Fort Stup to help with the harvest and we want them to have a warm, safe place to spend the night so they can remain healthy."


"Well, I would have had the last one finished except Havert stopped by with some news."


"Really? What news was that?" Lamastus didn't know Havert very well, but he knew that he was Syler's best friend so he made it a point to keep up with what was going on in the redhead's life.


Syler smiled and said, "Apparently he is going to be a father."


"That is wonderful news!" exclaimed Lamastus. "One more soul to help battle the Coming Darkness. Please pass along my congratulations next time you see him. If he needs anything that I can help with, please let me know."


"I will do that. He is having a party at Alltis' parent's house tomorrow night, it should be a fun gathering."


"What are you doing on the roads!" a harsh voice called out from a cross street.


Both Syler and Lamastus jerked toward the new voice and saw that it was an Angvardi in the uniform of a sergeant. Syler knew better than to say something, but merely bowed his head and let Lamastus handle the situation. Lamastus stepped forward and saluted. "Sergeant Dael, I am merely escorting this man back to his home."


"Guardsman Lamastus? By the gods, what are you doing? This is no time to be dawdling on the streets."


"I am scheduled for patrol in this quarter, sir," Lamastus said in his defense.


The officer harrumphed and said, "Well, you had best get this man back to his house and get yourself to the Temple Square. Those damned Shalktra are here and everyone is on edge. I hope a fight doesn't break out, but if it does, I want all of our men ready just in case."


"Sir, you think they would start a fight despite being so outnumbered? There couldn't have been more than a dozen of them ride by."


"A dozen? Good gods man, there are at least five score of them in the city! They came from all sides at once and encircled the Temple Square. It may have been just to rattle us a bit, but Captain Sosar is not impressed. He ordered those guards in the barracks to muster and sent me out to gather those on patrol just in case this turns bloody."


Lamastus cursed and said, "I will do so on the double, sergeant."


"Get going then."


Lamastus saluted once more and led Syler back through the streets at a rapid pace while Sergeant Dael went to find more guards. "See what I mean?" Lamastus said as soon as they were out of earshot. "The Shalktra are never good news. I really hope this doesn't turn into a fight, a lot of good men will get killed and I fear for the townspeople if it spreads outside the square."


Syler nodded and hoped the same. Violence would only bring more troops to the area and more troops meant more people to watch out for. Not all the Angvardi were as kind and compassionate as Lamastus.


There were no more words passed between them on the rest of the journey. The normally cheerful Lamastus was now as grim as Syler had ever seen him. He was the picture of a guard now that there was danger afoot and he had official tasks to perform. When they arrived at Bronwyn's door, all Lamastus gave him was a brief nod before he raced off at a brisk trot toward the center of town.


Syler took a deep breath before knocking on the door. He didn't feel that he had the right to enter Bronwyn's home after how he had left it an hour ago. The next minute felt like an eternity, but the door eventually opened cautiously.


He saw Bronwyn's green eyes peeking through and said in a repentant voice, "Bronwyn, I am sorry for how I reacted earlier. If you would have me, I would like to come back."


The door started to close for the briefest of moments, then it flung open and Bronwyn sprang into his arms. He was shocked by her reaction and nearly fell backwards onto the street before catching himself.


"Yes, Syler Penion, I would have you back," she whispered into his ear.


When she released him, she grabbed his hands and pulled him back into the house before closing the door. Now that he was in the light of a few candles and the kitchen fireplace, he was able to see her more clearly. She was in her night robes and had probably been in bed. He could see trails where tears had dried on her cheeks and her eyes were red from crying. That sight and her initial reaction only served to further shame him for his actions. "I am sorry, I should not have gotten angry at you like I did. You were right to try to protect your secret," he said.


"It doesn't matter, I forgive you," she said with gratitude all but oozing from her. "Please though, accept my apology. I shouldn't have attacked you like I did, and I shouldn't have withheld that from you."


Syler hadn't expected an apology from her and didn't think she needed to tender one, but he wasn't going to risk further confrontation by rejecting her offer. "I do accept," he said quietly.


They stayed up for a little longer talking about Bronwyn's visions and some of the aspects of her life they hadn't touched upon before. Only then did he realize just how much terror she must have been in when he had stormed out. She thought that he was going to either abandon her and head for his sister that night or even report her to the Angvardi. She debated for a time whether to flee herself, but then decided that she would accept her fate, whatever it may be. She had answered the door expecting Angvardi soldiers and had been overwhelmed with joy when it had only been Syler.


After their conversation died down, Syler told her of the arrival of the Shalktra and what they were. She shrugged and muttered "Haresu" in a tone that expressed her distaste for the Easterners in general. It was another concern that they both had to watch for. The last thing either of them wanted was to get in the crosshairs of the Terulans.


Throughout the rest of the evening, there seemed to be a peace and understanding between the two of them. They had both been dealing with secrets that had built up a wall of separation, now it was gone. There was little else to hide and the stress of keeping those secrets was gone. Syler thought that their relationship had gone through the fires of his forge and had come out stronger and purer for it.


At last, it was time to retire for the night. Syler was exhausted still from the day's work and Bronwyn's eyes were drooping. They had heard no sounds of violence so Syler figured that the Angvardi and the Terulans had managed to keep the peace between them. It was late and they were both tired.


Syler peeled off his shirt and shoes and got into the bed as usual, but Bronwyn didn't go to her cot. She stood in front of it clearly torn, until she took a deep breath and took the few steps needed to cross the room. "May I sleep with you tonight?" she asked meekly.


Syler looked up at her in confusion, but saw that she was still shaken and had no ulterior motives. He rolled over onto his back and allowed her to join him. She curled up beside him with her head resting on his shoulder and his arm wrapped around her shoulders. That night, Syler stayed up late as he contemplated what the future would hold for them. Though she didn't move, he knew that she didn't get much sleep because, periodically, he would feel wetness on his shoulder from her tears.


As he held her and stared at the ceiling, he realized that, in a way, he had done what the Angvardi had wanted from the start: he had come to love her. It wasn't a romantic love, but one of friendship borne through shared suffering and a reliance on each other for survival. He cared what happened to her just as he cared what happened to Havert, but they shared a stronger bond than the one he had with his energetic friend.


Something in his gut told him that the events of today would change everything in their lives. Havert had discovered his wife was pregnant, he had told Bronwyn of his plans to leave, he had discovered her secret, and the Shalktra had arrived. He couldn't place it, but something was different. He had always been wary of such feelings as he believed they were signs from the Elements of important events to come. He wanted to ponder it more, but exhaustion from working in the forge and the evening's emotional hardships took their toll. He gently kissed the crown of Bronwyn's head and drifted off to sleep.

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Wow! Talk about a lot to catch up on! There has not been much time lately, and it literally took me a few days to read through all of the new chapters. I'm still reading, but from what you said about your prolific writing in this last chapter I seriously doubt that I will be able to post more than every few chapters. I don't have time to be on here frequently enough, especially if I ever hope to get my own writing done.


You've had a lot of good development. I like the pace and the growing relationships and cast of characters, as well as how you jumped out to show what is going on across the kingdoms as well as in Kubei. In particular, the portions with the prophets and King of Terula gave us a wonderful glimpse at how the politics, religion, decisions, etc of the kingdom is made...as well as more insight as to the relationship between the magic factions, Angvardi, and Terulans. I'm looking forward to seeing how the balance between the magic factions continues to influence the story, and I think you've done an amazing job capturing the breadth and depth of detail you are including to make this a story of all levels - international, national, political, religious, personal, etc...


Like Ami, I also thought that Bronwyn was the Guide mentioned in the prophecy - the fact that she is a seer, mostly undiscovered, and as the King's cabinet noted the remaining people of that country (sorry, not going to bother to search through 4 chapters of posts to find it at this point) ended up in the Kuti region. Clearly you've stated she's not, so I guess we'll have to wait to see who that new characters ends up being - someone she and Syler meet in their travels, most likely.


It's also interesting to see how Havert is almost quietly seditious and yet has fully adopted his wife and child. Lol, like Syler I'm wondering how he will be as a father, being a bit flighty. Still, if there were ever a situation to make someone grow up... I'll be interested to see whether they end up traveling on together, or whether Havert's story diverges for a different perspective for a while.


These chapters have really been strong in writing style, level of detail, etc. I noticed the rare grammatical error every once in a while, but with this kind of catching up to do didn't bother to list it, and granted you should catch all of those easily enough for your next draft. There were a few things that I noticed that you might want to look at more particularly when you go back to revise.


Wouldn't seeing Setpinius' attack be more of a vision of the future than a prophecy, on the part of Xalent? From how I understood the description of prophet vs seer, this is not something Xalent should see, unless the distinction between prophecy and future is much less distinct than I realized.


Let me preface one comment - I always struggle with naming towns, cities, planets (whatever the case may be) in my own work, and I've been a little bit jealous with the distinct and realistic sounding names you have. However...the "Escargro" also made me think of snail - like Ami, and honestly, I think I'm going to chuckle whenever I see that name. You said that you did that on purpose because of the way the tower looks, but that is something you told us, here on JN, on the side. Are you planning on explaining that in the text itself, or with a picture somewhere? Do the Terulans also have a snail delicacy called almost the same thing that we do?


I thought your dialogue has overall been much stronger in these chapters. There are two areas I would encourage looking at, however:


I thought the Bronwyn/Syler scenes have been good, detailed, and the actual dialogue itself was excellent. However, you usually used the same descriptions repeatedly, and used them only to describe the voice tone (cold, more anger, in anger, edge of anger, etc) rather than showing us. Contrast that to this, which was absolutely excellent:


As soon as she said it, she knew she would regret it. Syler's face went from a furious red to an aghast pale and his powerful fists were clenched. The sound of the wooden spoon he was holding snapping in two was the only one in the house while he took in what she said. She braced herself for a blow from him, but none came.

Wow! That really makes me shiver! I would suggest trying to convert some of those "coldly," or "an edge of anger" a little farther back in the fight to more diverse descriptions. Are you trying to make a point that Syler's face doesn't give away emotion for a long time, and it is only evident in his voice? Perhaps add a sentence that Bronwyn is almost more afraid because his face is quietly tense, his eyes empty, but his voice so cold. Or, instead of adding just anger, mention specifics - a clenched jaw, a vein pulsing at the temple, etc. Now overall, you've done a pretty good job with this. With some writers, it wouldn't be worth even mentioning if there were other things they needed to work on more. We definitely feel the hurt and anger. I do think that you can do better and do it by showing rather than just saying, though. Obviously you don't want them all as shocking as that section I quoted since it is the climax of the argument, but you can show us that gradual rise a little more.


My last suggestion - Lamastus and Syler's conversation about the stable braces seemed really stilted.


Wow - sounds like there are some crazy things about to happen! I liked the way you introduced the Shalktra. It does not sound good at all to have so many there - searching for the Guide, perhaps?

"It's always these little worlds that get you in trouble. Like Tatooine. I'm still living that one down." - Han Solo

Your barnacle has carnivorous salamanders the size of whales.

"Let us hold unswervingly to the faith we profess, for he who promised is faithful." -Heb. 10:23

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