The Rise and Fall of Glamorfell

changes in form and style
maybe canon.

Changes in form and style.

Yelenya was in a mood. In her case it had a lot to do with the lack of prospects. The occasional snuggle session with a barmaid was fine, if lacking in the physical. She hadn’t inquired towards the two new women in her life, but she doubted that there was a chance there. Annika would probably be amenable to a bit of romance, and Yelenya would make it a point to tell anyone courting her that, but there were a lot of issues there that Yelenya was pretty sure she wasn’t going to be able to help with. Humanity was not her strong suit. Ilmadia was a different set of problems. Yelenya had no particulat issues with intelligent undead, her father was one, but Urgathoa was a no-go. So was lack of physical intimacy. The similar lifespans was a plus, if there weren’t a restriction on elves in the city then that might be something to keep an eye on. Mostly what it amounted to was that Yelenya was lonely. She was almost two hundred years old, it might be time to start thinking about settling down with someone. And the pickings were slim. It was enough to put anybody in a mood, a sober Dhampir was not excluded. Yelenya however, had a few tricks up her sleeve. The things we do to keep ourselves entertained. Besides, education was always useful.

Sayd and Akilina walked the hall in their new castle, considering the short span of time that it was under construction it was pretty impressive. More could be added on when time and money allowed, but the building went far in cementing his rule. Jumped up clodhoppers didn’t have castles. There were, however, some drawbacks. Yelenya had, for the most part, left his home alone, now it seemed like she was amusing herself by breaking into any part of the castle she felt the urge to. He had awoken the other day to find a wooden plaque attached to the wall at the end of his bed that read: “Rule first, Deify later, or Legacy never.” in Varesian. That was not even close to the worst of it. Guards had been posted as a matter of course, an none of them had seen her at play. Last week she had somehow gotten a cow, alive, up one of the towers and out onto the battlements. She had also been terrorizing more or less everybody at the bars, the bathhouse, and the waterfront. In a week. Babysitting Yellie and the hag babies clearly wasn’t enough to soak up her free time. Sayd opened the door in front of him and held it for Akilina. He didn’t even have time to get it closed before something slammed into him and he crashed to the ground.
“That’s how you do that.”
Sayd realized that Yelenya had crashed into him. There was a dagger pressed flat against his chest. The woman herself was sitting next to him on the floor. For the first time in a while she was out without wearing her armor, or most of her weapons. He sat up and opened his mouth to yell at her when he caught sight of four little girls sitting calmly against the wall. They were watching, although the paper and sticks of charcoal indicated that they had been drawing before that. The sight brought him up short for a moment, which was when Yelenya rose to her feet, seemingly without any effort at all. She looked a little taller, and her muscles, the ones visible, looked more defined. Her eyes were a bit brighter, and surrounded by what appeared to be kohl, lips and nails on her hands and feet were a dark red. She’s using the hairpin to change the way she looks. Yelenya smiled down at him, and her fangs looked even longer than they originally did. Small changes, very small, but the effect was notable. Inky black shapes formed on her skin surrounding her eyes, evoking something animalistic, ferel, and yet very definitely female.
“Ok, class is over for now. Pack it up. If you’re good girls, we’ll go find some cookies.”
The children collected their things and lined up at the door. The whole thing, from ambush to clean-up had taken maybe a minute and a half, most of the time was spent untangling himself from his cloak. Sayd pushed himself to his feet and reviewed the spells that he had on hand, surely there was something that could be used on the accursed redhead. As Yelenya marched her troop of future miscreants out the door she looked back with a smile:
“I put a few bottles of wine in your room, and this place needs more kids.” She waved airly at Sayd while looking at Akilina. “So, get on that, would you?”
Flabbergasted, Sayd watched the devil walk out and close the door behind her. Husband and wife stared at each other for a few moments before he shrugged. She grabbed him by the shirt and started pulling him, with quite a bit of vigor, towards their rooms.
Svetlana was feeding the kids tonight. Yelenya wanted the changeling girls to have as normal a life as they could. She was working on the theory that if they were provided good role models, and occasionally she counted herself among them, then they might turn out ok. It would take a long time, decades perhaps, for her to know how her experiment would turn out. That was ok, she had time. Yelenya stood in the shadows by the big stone wall. Supposedly it was to keep people safe. Yelenya had killed many people hiding behind big stone walls. As darkness crept in her ears caught the sound of something moving beside her. Tolerance for others was one of her stronger suits. Jurin, however, was starting to irritate her. He opened his mouth to say something stupid again and she cut him off.
“You ever hear the story of the scorpion and the frog? Froggy swimming along, see scorpion by the riverbank. Scorpion asks for a ride across. Frog says: ‘how do I know you won’t sting me?’ Scorpion replies, ‘because then I’ll drown and die too.’ Halfway across the river the scorpion stings the frog. As they sink the frog asks ‘Why?’ the scorpion replies ’i’m a scorpion, it’s in my nature.’ All those people out there, they’re our frog. Make sure you don’t sting them.” And walked off. He’d be a good boy, if he tried. Only time would tell. Namdrin slid out of the shadows and the two walked in companionable silence, enjoying the dark.
“And you, Lady Scorpion? Will you sting the frog?”
Yelenya smiled, fangs catching the moonlight.
“No, but then again, I can swim.”

Grasp of Droskar
Kaede faces a dark path

As she slipped the black iron gauntlet on, her left hand first curled into a tight fist. The pain was excruciating, but it never showed on Kaede’s face; she held up her fist and turned it from side to side, observing as it slowly turned into stone.

“How remarkable”, she said.

From atop her shoulder, Yukimura scoffed: “This is what you get for toying with the implements of evil, girl. Perhaps that flightless, featherless friend of yours can call upon his sun-god to grant you respite from that hideous thing.”

Kaede grinned without turning to look at the bird. “Yes master, I am sure that Imro would gladly free me from this bondage, but I am not altogether convinced that I require it”. She casually flipped a stone from the ground into the air with her foot, and backhanded it with her left fist, smashing it instantly into a cloud of dust and debris. “Indeed, I must say that I feel stronger than ever”.

Yukimura shook his head almost imperceptibly, “I doubt that Irori would look favorably upon it. You wield the implement of Droskar. What cruel irony, for the champion of Goka to wear the mark of the dwarven god of slavery. What would the elders in the Wall of Heaven have to say about that?”

Kaede frowned, glancing at the tattoo on her left arm. “Iro-Shu is practical, master… but your point is well taken. I shall strive to use this curse for the purpose of freeing souls from the toil of bondage. Droskar will rue the day that one of his boons fell into my hands”.

“See that you do, girl, and take care that it is you who grasps the gauntlet, and not the other way around. I’ll not suffer you to become a mockery of yourself.

Kaede sighed, and nodded.

Calm Before the Storm

Sayd reclined languidly in his chair, face impassive, eyes a pale and heartless gray to match his mood. The Dominar, Vespus, was perched on the table in front of him, talking in hushed tones as Akalina listened with a disciple’s innocence, lending purity to her adorable features. The hour was late. His magick eyes drifted to the window, the silhouette of Olaf looming in the rain on the other side of the glass. A spectre of casual madness.

“I was once bequeathed a string of seventy seven pure white xatlabraks, each one more akin to Acanthurak the Unjustly Fair than the last,” Vespus was explaining. “Such grand gestures are clearly beyond the purview of your current servents—sadly. I’ve done some cursory investigations after prying into the treasurer’s office. The taxes you could levy and choose not to, such a curious strategy—”

“Oh yes,” Akalina cut in with an affectionate squeeze to Sayd’s thigh. “The Dominar has so many opinions about the role of the masses. He speaks of all the great houses of his homeworld, how the house of Kyr Thranoch would rate amongst them in influence and vanity. Vanity is an important concept on—” but she let out a surprised giggle as Sayd pulled her from her seat and into his lap, rocking her.

He swept her hair back from her neck, bouncing her momentarily before whispering closely in her ear with malicious nonchalance: “Has he regaled you with the tale of how he ended up corked in a bottle like an impotent fool, waiting for rescue that he might desperately ply his way in my esteem with tales of his own inflated magnificence…?”

She laughed, saying in hushed tones back to him, “How wicked you are, but he’s our friend.”

“I am the measure of my own greatness,” he whispered softly in her ear. She turned in his arms to wrap her own around his neck. The wine had soaked into them. Dominar Vespus leaned closer, discoursing upon the lack of finesse in human romance.

“And the Orlovsky, are they not also great…?” she teased, quirking her brow with a faint tremble as he slid his hands absently up her sides.

“Mm, perhaps…” he whispered very softly, in her ear, “…but you, you I just demanded after looking you over and they—” he kissed her throat, saying into it, “—they acquiesced to my wants, oh so readily… so obsequiously…”

She fixed her bedroom eyes on him under lowered lashes, a soft blush blooming on her cheeks, saying nothing.

He stood up, hefting her in his arms. “Come. Perhaps tall-blond-and-apocalyptic won’t notice if we slip out the back. Don’t forget your cake, Dominar.”

Woodrow slid into the room well after midnight. Lady Vellara stood by the window casement, peeking out at the stars. As he closed the door, he noticed Sayd sitting in the shadows, one leg characteristically thrown over the other. The pale fire of his eyes faintly visible in the gloom.

“My Lord, my Lady,” Woodrow said softly.

Lady Vellara turned and glanced at him, the ample moonlight accenting her beautiful elven features. Woodrow took a seat across from Sayd following the Prince’s dismissive hand gesture of an invitation to do so.

“How can I serve you, My Lor—” Woodrow began, before hacking a cough into his elbow. They were in the future royal apartments of the castle. All the workers were long since in bed in their own homes.

“I require an augury,” Sayd said softly. “I just lay with Princess Akalina. I wish to know if she is with child.”

Woodrow nodded immediately, understandingly. “Of course, Prince Ciel,” he said. “I know with your constant calls from the capital since the wedding the moons have not aligned.”

Sayd nodded along with a touch of impatient melancholy, if such an emotion is possible. “But they align tonight,” he said. Woodrow smiled his attentive lawyer’s smile, opening the dark grimoire in front of him.

“Your hand, my Lord,” he asked. Sayd gave it over; the priest separated the fingers, then turned the Prince’s hand palm up and began tracing an inverted pentagram on his palm with red ink, as full of the ecstasy of creation with that brush as one of Shelyn’s artists might be. As he spoke the ritual words, the ink trembled on the Prince’s hand and then evaporated into a vanishing mist. Woodrow looked up in the dark room and smiled weakly.

He said: “The seed of Kyr Thranoch will grow under the seed of Iadara. So say the servants of Hell, my Lord. Princess Akalina is with your child. They will grow in the light and shade of the mythal.”

Sayd leaned back, a finger rising to his lips, considering, saying nothing. Then he lit a candle with the tip of his finger. A map was spread on the table between him and Woodrow.

“Look, both of you,” he said softly, tracing the paper with his finger. “The Kingdom of Glamorfel, bounded to the east by the Sootscale Empire, to the west by the Narlmarch Forest.”

“I’m familiar with it,” Vellara laughed. She sat on the edge of Sayd’s armrest.

Sayd rolled his dimly lit eyes. “Are you?” he said. “I worry none of us are. This town has expanded a hundred-fold since we began. How often do you walk among the people, what do you know of them? None of us know anything.”

Woodrow arched a brow, remaining silent.

“The three of us,” Sayd said softly, “deal in statecraft and maneuvering. We understand the communities around us better than we understand our own. I spend my days receiving intelligence and diplomatic briefings from Drow and Yelenya, receiving briefings on phenomena and portents from Jubilost and Kaede. I have shockingly little understanding—or love—for those I purport to rule.”

Vellara waved a hand. “Things are moving so rapidly that I’m not sure anyone has a solid understanding, Ciel.”

Sayd sniffed. “I will not cede the power of my office any longer. I’ve held back in the interest of agreeableness but the situation we’re in is too fraught now. I wish to take a much more active role in council affairs.”

“It will be as you wish, my Lord,” Woodrow said. “Just tell me what statement you wish to draft.”

Sayd shook his head softly. “No statement,” he said. “I wish to revise our laws to make evident a greater authority. We are about to enter a war unlike anything any of us has ever seen. I will not do so without true command. This is what I wish you to draft—” he paused to let the Asmodean attorney prepare.

“I, Ciel, being hereditary monarch and lord of Glamorfel, do issue this edict: the council of Thanes described in our constitution will be superseded by a council of Archons. The previous Thanes were Lady Yelenya Novak, Lady Kaede Fatebreaker, Lord Walorin Silverkin and Lord Teret Feron. The council of Archons will be as follows:

“Lady Yelenya Novak, Archon of Shadows. Lady Kaede Fatebreaker, Archon of Knowledge. Lord Walorin Silverkin, Archon of Wolves. Lord Imro Bellringer, Archon of Dawn. Lord Baylin Ironheart, Archon of Stone.

“Each Archon will head a department of government and preside over a committee of the Black Council. These committees will present information and counsel to the Prince and Princess of the topics relevant to their assignment.”

He paused, saying to Woodrow, "Make a note of this, that this is how I want the assignments handed out. We’ll put Baylin in charge of the guard and the army and especially with the defense of Foundling’s Reach. Any lawbreakers, dissidents, strange characters, I want him investigating them. And getting our army ready to fight, with Akiros. Torag is the god of strategy.

“Wally… I want you to put Jubilost under him, they balance each others strengths and weaknesses. Their committee is going to be responsible for all the wilderness and all the settlements, farms, outlying areas, the woods. Anything going on outside the town.

“Drow, I want you to work under Yelenya, with Ilmadia as well, on my intelligence committee. You’ll provide the diplomatic information gathering side, Yelenya will provide domestic intelligence, spying, rumors.

“We’ll keep Kaede in charge of planning and developing the town and kingdom, she’s our best strategist. Oleg can provide the funds to make it all happen. I also want them in charge of research and funding for sages and luminaries.

“Then, for Imro, he has the most important job of all. Dealing with the people. Have him work with Edgrin. I want to know who all these people are, how they live, what they need, what they dream. He should be their ultimate resource for a listening ear and moral steering.

“We’ll give them each assignments to work on.”

Woodrow cleared his throat. “So this is just a reorganization—?” but Sayd waved his hand.

“It’s not merely a reorganization,” he said. “The edict will continue to outline that their role is one of advisement. That will allow me to source intelligence and information from the relevant council members and provide us a direction to move in without getting bogged down. Set it so there’s a review period at six months and again at a year. A majority vote of the Archons at those intervals can abrogate the edict and I’ll be forced to submit a new plan that they then approve for a new time period, to assuage concerns of accountability.”

Vellara pursed her lips. “So you’ll be giving everyone on the counsel their own area of expertise, but standing ready to judge on the merits to keep endless squabbles from breaking out.”

Sayd nodded. “That’s the role of a sovereign anyway. Everyone will have their specialty and my role will be to provide oversight, direction, organization and decision making.” He settled back in his chair.

“I also wish for Lady Vellara to be my seneschal in my absence. I know we’ve discussed that before but we can issue it in the edict. A very dark time is coming. Isn’t that right, Olaf?”

The massive barbarian shambled from the shadows behind Sayd’s chair, the glint of fervor in his pale eyes. “Indeed, my Prince. The stones you lay today will be dust tomorrow.”

Sayd laughed, gracefully rising and raking a hand through his dark blonde hair. “Then I shall rule over dust. Come, let’s leave this place before some candy-head kobold stumbles in here to get his fix.”

Spy Stories
or Mob Boss?

Cookies. It always came back to cookies. The hunt for them, striving, searching, occasionally failing, but cookies were the motivation. Yelenya wandered the streets, such as they were, of Foundlings Reach with dread purpose. Rose walked a little bit faster than what was comfortable considering the length of her legs. As they walked she nattered on. Observers would have ignored the two women, the chatty halfling and the quiet redhead. The more keen observer would note the halfling stuck to social topics. A really keen observer would note that the redhead was not only steering the conversation, but that the halfling woman was briefing her beneath the chatter. A really, really keen observer would note that the redhead was staring straight at them and probably run for their lives. Fortunately they were few and far between. The topics of conversation were mostly limited to the halflings and the dwarves with scarce mention of the new arrivals. Very specific scarce mention of the new arrivals. The Mivonese, more to the point followers of Droskar, were lately the main focus of Yelenya’s musings. Anybody who raised the undead, and mindless undead at that, had a permanent place on her list. It tended to be a short list, people kept falling off it like flies. How they interacted with others was a pretty good example of what they intended. Sixty skeletons was not a huge amount, but applied thoughtfully they could take the city and put a serious damper on future plans. Which did not suit. So far they were behaving themselves. So far. Yelenya wouldn’t count on it. Harris was up ahead. Evening coming on they wandered towards the barracks. He rarely stayed there, wandering to and fro. He delivered the mail to Oleg’s fort. From there it was brought to the main road. Which explained why she had the opportunity to either read or copy every letter that went out that way. It was good that Baylin’s wife had arrived. She approved of love and romance, most emphatically, but he was rather mushy in his letters. And she was rather… graphic. Nothing wrong with it, she just didn’t particularly like snooping. Harris and Yelenya strolled on, ghosts passing in the night, and he reported on things happening outside the city. Fey seemed to be on the move north, kobolds skirmishing with mites to the east. A few mites seen on giant bees. Yelenya considered the news. He was best left to his own devices, with no overall tasking. Her last stop of the night was to see Rug. There was business to conduct. She found it irritating that some people couldn’t leave well enough alone. The irony wasn’t lost on her. Recently there had been settlers, refugees perhaps, coming in from here and there. As per protocol they had been left alone as long as they behaved themselves. There had been a few tense moments, droskar and his twits were anything but neighborly, but she was willing to tolerate them. To a point. Religion, she mused, was occasionally good and often bad. Like laws, it almost seemed most religions were designed with the sole purpose of abusing others. At any rate, it was above her pay-grade. Not that she got paid much. Ever. Tonights work was of the dwarven persuasion. A Droskar follower. And, she suspected, Clotilde’s opening gambit. Yelenya had debated just sinking the fool to the bottom of the lake, but that would be rude. And the lake was still frozen. The problem was that he had broken the rules. And she believed the smuggler that had reportedly given him a copy. And explained it to him. One of the easiest rules to remember was: no drugs sold on credit. No cash, no sale. This twit had broken her rule, and as a consequence was causing disharmony in a town just struggling to get up and running. There wasn’t even a steady supply of cookies for goddess’ sake. Which is why Yelenya and Rug had broken into his office and sat waiting for him. Fortunately it didn’t take long, only an hour. The urge to sever his gonads had passed quickly. Ish. The look on his face when Rug latched the door behind him was amusing. The pallor that suffused his ruddy features as Yelenya dropped her “alive act” was even more so. Bluster, evade, b.s., the fool tried it all. In a calm, collected, controlled rasp Yelenya reminded him of the consequences of braking the rules. And collected the debt owed. He’d heal eventually.

Walking in the shadows, Yelenya hummed a tune she had learned from her mother a century ago. She felt a little full, almost like her belly was sloshing about. Dwarven red, just the thing on a cold winter’s night.

Healing Injustice

Imro inhaled deeply, savoring the vapors wafting up from his early morning tea. He had always relished the use of his senses – most notably the taste of fine food and drink, resulting in a large and healthy silhouette. But in the case of the tea, his enjoyment of it had become a numinous ritual, one which replaced his preferred one of basking in the light of the rising sun.

It was not Imro’s preference to alter his routine, especially while at home. Usually he would stand at the highest convenient point, relaxed, eyes closed. He would feel the first rays of the sun, like gentle fingers, or the brush strokes of a cosmic artist, who for whatever unfathomably whimsical reason chose to paint him on life’s canvas starting with his gnarled dwarf toes, ending at the top of his scarred head.

A wise cleric knew when to make concessions to circumstance. Glamorfell was in the icy grip of an unnaturally prolonged and fierce winter. Today, Imro would contemplate the tea, discern the lilac and the lemongrass, how they mixed to create a pleasant synthesis, and marvel at the sheer detail of life’s intricate balance. He would be grateful for the warmth he was shown by the universe, which held at bay the forces of cold and crunchy foot-freezing snow lurking outside.

Toward the end of his meditation, he heard a stirring in the next room. Imro calmly stretched out his hands, and felt the power flow between them … just a little bit! … it warmed his cup, and the second one he had prepared for Lyrehawk … and they steamed perfectly. Imro had once been scolded harshly by some ascete nun, who had informed him that the powers of the gods must never be wielded impulsively. But it seemed to Imro that at times Sarenrae placed an urge or desire in his heart, and at times she left matters up to him. Sarenrae had never appeared and said “Imro, your powers are never to be used for mere convenience. So if you or others are uncomfortable, don’t use your gifts – be uncomfortable!” Where was the sense in that?

Besides, Imro had travelled extensively; he had seen that sometimes a small use of power could have a huge effect, and at other times a use of great power might come to no effect. How could one know which to use, when even the gods themselves (at least in stories) were known to fail in the judgement of this? So Imro had decided long ago to not worry overmuch about it.

Wielding the powers of gods was enjoyable, as Lyrehawk had guessed after they had spent some nights together. Healing friends and smiting foes – both felt … different, but good. Truth to be told, Imro found it hard to refrain from either. If his friends found out what Imro experienced during a healing burst, well! They might all die of embarrassment, Imro included.

Imro was unpleasantly shaken from his reverie when a realization dawned that something was amiss. He looked up to see Lyrehawk peering out of the window over the garden area. She motioned to him to keep quiet. “I heard something,” she said in hushed tones.

Lyrehawk and Imro had often exchanged stories of numerous and varied dangers they had met in the surrounding lands. It was unlikely, though not impossible, that a malevolent person or force had come within the bounds of Foundling’s Reach. But not every danger was malevolent, some were just natural. This being still a frontier town, it was not uncommon for some wild creature to wander in. The house seemed secure enough, but it was best not to take chances.

Imro and Lyrehawk crouched and made their way out the side door. The air was silent, all sounds dampened by a blanket of snow that covered everything. In the garden area were columns of loose stones and wood that had been delivered where Imro planned to construct a shrine, whenever a thaw should occur. They sat still for a few moments, waiting, their breaths freezing and drifting in the air. Imro felt exposed in tunic, pants, and a warm robe, Lyrehawk in leathers, though not armored. They strained to see and hear anything in the stillness. Imro heard something – voices? Lyrehawk nodded – she heard them, too. Imro whispered a word, a silent flame appeared, flickering above his open palm. He could throw it if the need arose, and another would take its place. Both armed now, Lyrehawk started forward and Imro followed a step behind. A strange howling, moaning, sound now came from behind one of the columns. It’s quality was strange and unnatural to Imro’s ears.

Several things happened in the next confused moments, nearly all at once. Lyrehawk, hearing the moan, stopped moving forward and stood up from her crouch. Just then, a shape – large, formless and black – appeared with a kind of flopping motion at the top of the column, and emitted a piercing, throaty screech. Imro, unnerved, threw his flame at it. Lyrehawk stretched her arm out to signal Imro to hold back, too late. The black shape fluttered and Imro heard the sound of rocks tumbling and striking one another. There was a piercing, high scream, and a lower gruff yell. Imro heard a familiar voice yell, “I’m outta here!” Lyrehawk looked dismayed as she rushed to get to the other side of the column.

“Damn you, Tig Larson!” she called. Imro rushed forward. He saw footprints. There was Tig, making tracks. Imro yelled after him, “What mischief are you up to now, Tig, you little ingrate!” Tig’s form turned to look back, but he did not slow down. How did he manage to be dirt-streaked in this freezing cold, Imro mused. Tig’s form shrank into the distance.

Imro turned back to see a wide-eyed little halfling girl. She stood up and her face grimaced. She looked down and her forearm was bent at an odd angle, broken. She winced, cradled it in her other hand. Then her mouth opened wide and emitted an hysterical wail of pain. Tears streamed from her face and she looked from Lyrehawk to Imro in horror. She continued wailing and ran, in a different direction from Tig, toward a farmhouse on the other side of a neighboring field. Imro could see that the girl was retracing tracks from where the pair of halfling kids had come.

“Wait,” Imro called. “Daisy! That’s Daisy Fleetfoot, one of my neighbors, he said to Lyrehawk. “We’re not going to hurt you! Daisy” But if the girl could hear him, she made no sign. Imro watched helplessly as her little furry halfling feet pumped up and down steadily. The wailing grew fainter as she drew further away.

“Huh. It was the night chuff,” said Lyrehawk absently. Imro looked at her. “On the rocks,” she elaborated. “It could be the same bird I’ve seen at the barracks. I’m glad you missed it. Did you know that some of them can learn simple words and phrases? Um, you can put that away now,” she added pointedly, with a little irritation in her voice. Imro looked. He was holding his arm out absently, where the flame he had thrown had naturally reappeared. He sheepishly closed his palm, extinguishing it.

“Yes, Daisy. I told you once,” said the girl’s imperious aunt. She’s my brother’s girl. You’ll find her at Tu-An’s. My Jak hitched up his cart and took her to tend to SERIOUS physical injuries!. Do you know she’s terrified, from what you done to her? I suppose you want to help, and not finish the job,” she snorted. Imro and Lyrehawk stood outside the door of the farmhouse.

“Quite right, quite right,” said Imro, normally full of careless bluster, now deflated. He gave her a vague warning that she should take care whom Daisy associated with, but the woman was already shutting the door.

Imro stamped his feet and huffed out a few nervous, misty breaths. He rubbed at frost forming on his robes. Tu-An. She was beautiful, fervent, and a bit unhinged. He tried not to think about it.

“Better and better,” said Lyrehawk. “This ought to be fun. Maybe I shouldn’t have left the crossbow.”

Trudging on foot, it was well into the work day when the pair made it into town. Folk were staying indoors as much as possible, so the streets were quiet. They stopped several times to make inquiries, as Tu’An was not always in the same place. Eventually, they rounded a corner and there she was, in front of the hostel – it was a low and wide building, which some of the volunteers and more long-term residents had decorated with mosaics on the walls and floor.

In accordance with Tu-An’s style and the season, she wore a robe of heavy worsted yellow cloth, which draped all the way to the ground, and was intricately embroidered in white with an ornate design of holy symbols. Brown fur lining was visible at the cuffs and collar, above which was her red face, horns, and tightly bound, ever immaculately tended blonde hair. She saw the pair approaching, and without acknowledgment, turned and went inside.

“Nice,” said Lyrehawk.

Imro, though he was a relatively new resident in town and frequently travelled, had nevertheless been here many times at Tu’An’s invitation; but their relationship had recently and suddenly soured.

While Imro had thoughts that this visit was a bad idea, his desire to see Daisy and make amends was enough to overcome his unease. They had come all this way. And the whole thing was silly, Imro thought, because he had other friends here. Tu’An didn’t actually own the place, or at least he didn’t think she did.

“We can ask Torvic,” Imro said to Lyrehawk.

“Sounds good,” said Lyrehawk. “Anyway, I’m freezing.”

They were grateful for the warmth inside. The atrium was empty, so they went straight in.

Torvic met Lyrehawk with a warm smile and enthusiasm, then turned to Imro with a frown, and disappointment in his eyes.

“What have you done, Imro,” said Torvic.

“Torvic my friend, tell me what you have heard.”

“Daybreak,” said Torvic. “They say you killed him, or may as well have. Tell me this is not true.”

Imro did his best to explain: Daybreak was not who we thought. He was a man named Jesur, from Mendev, who had forgotten who he was. Jesur was a criminal, and quite possibly a very dangerous man. It would have been wrong to send Daybreak to Mendev, but to send Jesur, that was justice.

Torvic seemed confused. “Daybreak took care of me, and many others here. I am an old man. Who am I to understand these things. You should go, leave me be!”

Imro grabbed Torvic by the arms. “No, Torvic, old friend. Please understand! Daybreak suffered the same as you and I. He forgot because of what was done to him, like us!” Imro pointed toward his scar.

“Selfish,” said Torvic, weakly. “You are selfish, Imro.” He turned and shuffled into his room.

Imro’s eyes followed Torvic’s back. He stood silently in the hallway.

“This is great,” Lyrehawk said to Imro. She followed Torvic through the doorway. Stunned into silence, Imro waited. He stared at a mosaic of mirrored tiles.

“Chin up,” said Lyrehawk. Torvic says the girl came in a while ago. Tig and Daisy were both holed up in the farmhouse with her aunt. Who knows how these halfling families work things out, the whole family raises the kids and they swap them around all the time. Anyway, he dared her to go with him to our place to catch a glimpse of the great Imro, one of the heroes of the Glee Gutting, and not far from her house. When they got there, he tried to set a fire, and she tried to stop him. You know the rest.”

They found Daisy in a common area where a large group of people, mostly vagrants and itinerant beggars, were taking refuge from the cold. Some were socializing. Imro was well known here, and he was greeted by some. Although as with Torvic, Imro felt less than the expected enthusiasm.

Daisy’s bone was set, her arm in a splint. She had been fed and given healing herbs. She was resting on a mattress on the floor, playing a game of tiles and colored stones, chatting in animated fashion with her opponents. When she saw Lyrehawk and Imro, she cried. Imro got down on one knee and took up her hand and explained that he was overjoyed to see her well. Upon which many words were exchanged. Imro told her to visit him at his house whenever she liked, but not to sneak. By the end of the conversation, they hugged, and Imro and Daisy were both tearful.

Tu’An entered the area at some point during the conversation. Although she busied herself distributing clean blankets and collecting dirty ones, she listened, as did many others present, although she would not look toward Imro.

Imro stood. Under normal circumstances, he would walk through the crowd, offer comfort and at some point invite all present, or at least the worst-off ones, to receive an invigorating burst of positive energy. But he was hesitant. He turned to Tu-An.

She spoke before he could find any words. “Imro, do not speak, to me” she said. “I … have long admired you. Your closeness to She of the Guiding Light. Bearer of the Sword of Light. You have such … power, Imro. And so little …. Oh, just do what you can for these people!” She turned and ran through the door.

Imro sighed. Unaccountably, he wished Wally were here right now.

“I’m sorry,” he said to the gathering, he gestured with his arms at his sides, palms out. “You all knew Daybreak, and you all know I … I am responsible. It was the Council that decided, but I, I convinced them, it’s true. You don’t have Daybreak any more, and that’s because of me. I did what I thought was best to protect everyone here. And I would do it again. Because he was a danger, and because honestly, we were all fooled, even Daybreak himself. I can’t replace him, and I wouldn’t want to. Because Daybreak wasn’t actually Daybreak. He was someone … really not nice. But you lost him, someone you love, and I am so, so sorry.”

At this, some in the gathering drew close. Some embraced Imro, or patted him on the shoulder, or shook his hand. “Thank you,” he said to each one. “Thank you. Everyone, I offer healing, but truth be told, today it is I who am healed by you. Thank you,” he said.

At the end, Imro recited a prayer to all the gods, and asked for Sarenrae’s blessing. The burst flowed forth. He always imagined the invisible healing force to be red. He didn’t know how something could be invisible and red at the same time, but that’s how he felt it was. At the instant of release, he felt and heard a sharp intake of breath, and saw Tu-An’s eyes on him from the doorway. Her shoulders shook – with still-fresh grief or rage, Imro could not tell.

“Is it time to go yet,” said Lyrehawk. “This place is giving me the creeps.”

A barren field.
You done goofed.

Shocked would be the appropriate word, Yelenya decided. Meeting the Old Witch had gone swimmingly. Kaede might get a friend out of it. Rescuing the babies stolen from their mothers by the Hags was, in all ways, a win. Those two events weren’t what was making everybody else stand there with that “i can’t believe i’m such an idiot” look on their faces. The urge to tell them, Sayd in particular, that she had told them so was almost unbearably strong. Because the level of stupidity catching up to them was pretty close to unsurvivable at the moment. The sheer, almost unbelievable, stupidity of their choices was finally catching up. Of course, maybe she was just cranky. She hadn’t gotten laid once since before they set out from Restov so long ago. She hadn’t met the right person. There was a difference between getting laid and being raped. No means no when you’re sober, when you’re drunk, and when you’re passed out. Consequently she also hadn’t had anything but water and tea since that night. Not that anyone else cared at all. Killing that sack of shit Falchos was justified. Keeping him around at all was stupid, but she had let him live as long as he stayed in the woods. The truce was more important than what she wanted. She hadn’t killed him when those morons had invited him to town to screw up there. Again, the truce. She had tolerated his existence even after the fey attacked, because there might actually be a use for him later. Not anymore. Stupidity should not be rewarded. Not from anyone. And Yelenya was getting tired cleaning up messes.

“There’s a story, goes something like this:

A human prince, a dwarven cleric, a saytr, and a human woman walk into an inn. They ask for something to eat. The innkeeper tells them the lady with the baby in the corner got the last bowl. The group walk over and ask the lady for her food.

The prince says he’s the prince, so he should have the stew. The lady counters that she paid her taxes so he can piss off.

The cleric asks for the stew, promising that he’ll do great things when he’s done eating. She asks him where he was when it was time to harvest the crop, and her husband was sick. They lost half their crop because she was alone.

The human woman shrugs and says that the prince and the cleric can split the stew, she just wants to torture the baby for a while.

The fey, at this point, is busy raping the lady and doesn’t care why the rest of the people in the inn seem to be angry about it.”

“People asking for things they haven’t earned are dangerous enough, but worse than that is forgetting what exactly is following you around. In case you were wondering exhibit B is right over there.”

Sayd looked at her like a poleaxed cow. Yelenya turned and walked further into the woods. Stupidity had always been painful to her. Maybe that was where she had made a mistake all those years ago.

A snide aside?

“What are you reading?”

“A book on duegar.”



Yelenya regarded the elf woman for a moment. Kaede’s cheeks looked a tint redder than usual, and her pupils were slightly larger. Kaede was fast, about as fast as Yelenya, but she was behind the action curve. The dhampir hopped atop the table, and then onto a bookshelf. She read a few paragraphs, then glanced at the cover.

“50 Shades of Grey Dwarf?”

She tossed the book back to the mildly embarassed looking elf and hopped down from the shelf.

“I have a book you can read, it’s a bit of a doorstopper, at home. Leather cover, with a briar rose engraved on it. I think you’ll like it far better than that.”

Fiery lust (or maybe just booze)
Melt that hard pack.

The noon sun stretched high overhead of the newly christened Glittergate Way a few miles outside of Glamorfell. The way, already a somewhat popular trade route, even in the winter, free of the worst of hard-packed snow because of the amount of traffic.

Wally clicked his tongue and tugged the reigns, the barrel-laden wagon slowly rolled to a stop.

‘What, uh… whats up?’ Hollin asked, pulling back the hood of his thick winter cloak to look around.

‘Lookee like boar prints in yon snow. Look like a big ol’ lot of em too… After we hadda kill that giant razorback hog, Tuskgutter, I like to keep an eye on them pigs, you know, jest in case I kin get me a prize winner afore it goes berzerk. You stay here with the cart and unhook Waistrel. I’ll be back within the hour!’

With that, Wally bounded off following the tracks in the snow.

To himself: ‘Oh sure thing, boss, just leave me out here in the middle of nowhere in the freezing cold. He’ll probably get fucking drunk an have to sleep it off till morning. I’m sure we won’t freeze to death tonight, out on the open road! Mebbe I do the same myself.’

Hollin grabbed Waistrel’s feed bucket, filled it with beer from the ‘travel keg’, and put it down to the delight of the horse. Sitting on the cold ground leaning his back against the wagon wheel, he sunk deep into his cloak.

After some time, a piercing whistle jolted him out of his reverie. Popping up to look around, he could make out a lone figure approaching. Gripping his crossbow, ‘Who goes??’

‘Well you don’t sound like him, but it looks like his stuff… are we selling it or what?’ came a small little voice, followed quickly by Gilelle Ambergold also removing her hood.

‘Oh, hey’, Hollin swallowed hard and blushed a little, as Gilelle strutted up to him with a very full backpack, strapped very tightly to her slender form, the straps squeezing through her thick winter clothing hinting at the curves beneath.

‘What are you doing out here all alone?’ She thrust a gloved finger up into his chest.

‘Uh… We’re heading to Vellara’s to trade her some ale for wine, the wine is….<shrugs> but Wally uses it in a pickling broth for some of the food at the Brewery, and uh, sometimes ‘Alchemical components’ hand motioning drinking….’

‘…well anyway, he just ran off to find some pigs. <shrugs> So…. what are you doing out here?’

‘I just came from there, I check in with the Folk there every so often. It’s also the best place around to get some comforts of home. I picked up this HUGE wheel of cheese! <eyes> Plus its free rent. Old Lady V doesn’t know the difference between folk that work for her or… if its past 2pm “tea” much else at all, so I just hang out and stay out of sight, picking up rumors and… you know. <winks,>’

Irritated yet titillated, Hollin reaches into his pocket for his flask… ‘You uh… you want a drink?’

Baylin Wants You..To join the militia

This flyer and its copies are posted throughout the town of Foundling’s Reach by the order of Baylin Ironheart, Warden of Glamorfell:

By Order of His Grace Sayd Krynn the Prince of the Glamorfell


“When the challenges we face seem insurmountable
And great peril looms before you,
Do not falter,
Do not retreat,
Do not despair…

Draw forth your blade,
Grip tight your shield,
Remember who and what you are
and march forth onto the field!"

We are now at WAR with Rhoswyn the Unwarmed, Duchess of Hoarfrost and her winter fey army. Don’t be caught unprepared!

Never Again!

Every able bodied citizen of Foundling’s Reach is invited to join the Volunteer Defense Militia

“Learn how to fight! Learn how to defend your home! And live to celebrate afterwards!”

Meetings are on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 8 am (rain or shine)

Fan fic
Because Jay nagged me.

Fanfic 1:

Yelenya floated in the, admittedly, large tub. If she was smaller she might be able to swim a little bit, as it was it was merely swimming on her. The dhampir had an arrangement with the staff: she used the bathhouse whenever the mood struck her, and nobody bothered her. Everybody benefited, she was a good tipper too. The young lady getting set up for the day had only been working there for a few years, but the flame-haired woman’s presence was familiar. Janine knew the woman worked for the prince doing… something. Occasionally she could be seen standing on a roof at night shooting arrows at a hay target down the end of the street. She also made stuffed animals for kids, and helped people find jobs. Maybe not the best jobs, but paying work was always good. The human woman started a bit when the typically silent woman started speaking to her. This was almost unheard (literally) of. The red-haired woman’s voice was rough, like it was unused, and had an almost feline purr to it. The voice said she was amused, but those mismatched eyes said something else. Something burned within those jewel tone orbs and Janine didn’t know what it was. So focused on the eyes she didn’t notice as the dhampir crept closer. Suddenly on her back, on the floor, staring into the abyss, the human woman realized what was behind those eyes. The voice matched the eyes, and as it snarled in anger she saw the fangs and realized there was nothing human whatsoever about the red-haired woman. As she begged and cried one thought: maybe this wasn’t such a good job.

Baylin knocked on the door. He’d never been to this house, probably by design. A whispered “it’s open” floated to him, so he opened the door and walked through the curtain behind it. And ran nose first into the door just behind that. He heard a giggle. He was not amused. “The knob is on the other side.” The two doors opened in different directions and from different sides. Once inside he looked at the doors and realized they could be barred individually, making the entrance nearly as strong as any on the walls. Yelenya wasn’t smirking, but her eyes looked calmly amused as she regarded him from up near the ceiling. There were ropes run across the house above head level, and he watched her walk from one end to the other. He saw a rope running from the door and realized it was probably for the latch. Yelenya was wearing less than normal, substantially less. She was still clothed, but there was more of her on display. She wasn’t weak, he knew that having seen how much equipment she carried, but she actually showed off very little skin despite her reputation when out and about. It was, in a word, odd. She dropped to the floor gracefully and turned down a short hall and into another room. There was a pile of cushions on the floor, but what drew Baylin’s eye was the hammock strung from the rafters. When she came back out of the room Yelenya was wearing her more regular attire: boots, skirt, leather jacket, and had her travel pack over one shoulder. Baylin prided himself on being prepared and ready for most things, but the dhampir looked ready to walk away from the city right then and there.

The new Warden was a bit of an unknown. Well, he was a dwarf, distrustful, a paladin, decent in a fight, loud, unnecessarily grumpy, married, was a miner, and smoked. Not that unknown, then. Plus, she was reading his mail. Not that that was that unusual, she read everybody’s mail. Nothing personal about it. Yelenya put herself in a work mindset, personal stuff could wait. She had time. Lots of time. After a few yards she decided to simply quash any doubts he might have. “Did you do as i asked?” The dwarf didn’t seem to understand what was going on. That was ok, she played an entirely different game than anybody else. But there were rules, and not following the rules led down a path nobody wanted to tread. After listening to his arguments she simply grabbed his nose in one hand and beard in the other and, firmly, moved his mouth like he was a puppet while supplying the words he was struggling with. She was unconcerned with making friends at the moment. If he did the job he was hired for that would be more than sufficient. She sighed mentally. It was going to be a long day. She wandered into the “castle”, it wasn’t finished yet, someday though it’d be nicely mediocre. She looked forward to not setting foot in it unless absolutely necessary. Still, Sayd was there, so in she went.

After acquiring royal permission to borrow Wally, which consisted of walking up to Sayd and saying: “I’m borrowing Wally for a week or two. Work related.” And leaving before he could ask a question, windows were good like that. Yelenya acquired a cookie for herself and another half a dozen for the trip to Wallys’ house. After a few minutes she let herself into the kitchen, put a plate down, and set five of the cookies on it. She tapped her foot on the floor for a minute and then set the cookie next to the trapdoor before slouching into one of the kitchen chairs. She could hear people moving around in the house. It’d be nice if somebody came in to greet her. It wasn’t nice to leave company waiting. Wally and Ralla came in from the workshop/brewery/greenhouse/laboratory area and saw her at more or less the same instant. The hullabaloo was everything she could have hoped for. With an expression of complete innocence she pointed at the plate of pastries. “Cookie?”

After answering far too many questions, and offering a few guarantees that Wally would be returned unharmed (which she had no way of keeping), and more argument, and more questions, and more wasted time (all of it was actually wasted, it would have been easier to just go along with her). They finally got on the road.

“Drelev huh?”
“You sure?”
“Pretty sure. Not like she was in any condition to make something up. And i had Woodrow cast zone of truth, so unless he was lying, I’m pretty sure she was being honest.”
“Huh. What if she was lying?”
“I’ll feed her to Woodrow. If he was lying then he knows what to expect from me.”
“Kind of a long trip.”
“Which is why we’re in such a hurry.”

Wally was right. It was a long trip. Most of it spent riding the horses to almost exhaustion and then walking them. There were a few guard checkpoints, which weren’t expecting to have two of the lesser known Horse-persons of the Apocalypse (chaos and confusion) blitzing through them. The outskirts of the capital were fruitful, they swiped a wagon from the guard. Yelenya’s questioning had been rather specific on several points. She knew the right house down to the number of rocks in the front yard. Wally simply tore the door out of it’s frame, Yelenya stuffed a bag over her head, and they were gone at a run for the horses and wagon before the neighbors had gotten out of bed.

They took it a little slower on the trip back. They had to, little old (in human terms, which made one of them) ladies were not designed for 20 hours on the move at a time. Even if she was sitting in the wagon. Yelenya was getting tired of listening to the begging. Her explanation of why she had been kidnapped was a bit abrupt. Sorli hadn’t taken it well at all. She kept trying to save Janine, despite repeated assurances that she’d: “been tried, sentenced, and is awaiting resolution.” So on the third day Yelenya gagged her. And they picked up the pace. With four horses, a wagon, and three people they fairly flew. Yelenya wished they were actually flying. Still, they’d be in their home territory soon.

They spent the night, or at least part of it, in what used to be a barn. There was plenty of kindling to get a fire going. Yelenya was pretty positive that she had seen someone peeking out of the decrepit structure. The person in the shadows inside was pretty conclusive proof. Wally brought the horses in and fed them from the grain that had been part of their stolen cargo. Wally was still pissed at her, he’d get over it eventually, in fact she imagined he’d get over it about 10 minutes after they got their cargo to it’s destination. Or maybe he’d hate her for the rest of his life. Could go either way. Of more immediate interest was the person wrapped around the eyes currently in front of her. Those rather intoxicating eyes. Hoogirl, this was gonna be bad. Or maybe really, really, really good. Maybe.

Walorin made a habit of speaking his mind, which made the fact he was mentally cursing the heavens, hells, abyss, and everything else he could think of for the existance of the blasted woman who got him into this kinda strange. He just didn’t have the energy to rant. He was tired. The horses were exhausted. The wagon was going to fall apart any day now. Their kidnapping victim (this was a sore spot) was looking about done in. Yelenya herself was looking even more dead than she usually did. And they had a long ways to go. So when he turned around and saw the lady Yelenya was staring at he didn’t have the energy to be surprised. Black hair, tannish skin, funny brownish eyes, dressed kinda like Yelenya to be honest. Weird.

The eyes were definitely her most striking feature. The golden cast to her skin, the ravens-wing sheen to her hair, the easy grace in her movements, all paled before those glorious eyes. They were very nearly gold, amber. Deep enough to drown in. Yelenya abruptly shook her head. Wow, that didn’t happen often. Just to be on the safe side she stretched out with the dead side of herself. Nope, not a vampire. She was still doomed though. She hoped, prayed it wouldn’t hurt.

The damned dead girl and the strange girl stared at each other for a few minutes then got a fire started and got on with cooking dinner. Yelenya had a tendency to cook food that, with salt, was practically palatable. With pepper almost edible. It was nourishing, but not something you really wanted to eat. She was better with meat, but both of them ate it nearly raw anyway. The other lady seemed to know her way around travel rations. Yelenya was oddly direct when answering her questions. “Her daughter got caught spying, so we’re bring her back for one last visit.” “I caught her, Waloran is the… I think of him as the head thug of the kingdom.” Asking them she was more… evasive. It was almost like she didn’t want to ruffle the other woman’s feathers. Which was both weird, and unlike her. Whatever. Soon enough they’d be home. He had been tempted to let the old woman go, but even in her strung out shape Yelenya was a really good shot. And fast enough to avoid him. The new girl heard it first. It was kinda embarrassing, really. Her head snapped up and she looked into the gloom. It was almost full dark, but obviously she could see something. Yelenya stood up with a barely audible sigh and picked up her bow. “Wally, protect Mrs. Sorli please.” It turned out they were a Drelev patrol. Sorli, of course, made a ruckus and said that they were kidnappers. Technically it was true, but Yelenya sighed a bit louder and shot one of the patrol in the head, then turned and drilled another one. Wally felt really bad about it, but he smacked one of them in the head with a piece of handy firewood and he fell down. The last guy came running in and Yelenya appeared out of nowhere, he had forgotten she could do that, jumped on his back, and sank her teeth into his throat. Every once in a while it was possible to forget the polite, usually kinda relaxed, cookie munching, dancing woman was in fact a blood sucking monster. One arm around the troopers chest and the other yanking his head back, her teeth tearing at his throat, her legs wrapped around his waist, she rode him to the ground. She didn’t look happy. She didn’t look anything, she was too far gone. The screaming was kinda getting on his nerves. The weird girl looked shocked for a minute before she walked over. She wrapped herself around Yelenya and the struggling trooper, his movements getting weaker, and leaned in. Yelenya pulled her head away for a moment, blood sprayed a surprising distance, and snarled and snapped at the black haired girl before clamping down on the dying man. The new girl opened her mouth and a pair of long fangs slid out. She bit the guard and after a moment he stopped moving or making noise. She pulled her head back and Waloran saw the fangs slide back into her upper jaw. They were barely noticeable. Wally shook his head and looked at Mrs. Sorli. “Wonderful. Now there are two of them. Just what the world needs.”

It took Yelenya a while to start to come back. She was just plain run out. Almost delirious she was so tired. She remembered seeing fangs. Snarling at the other woman. Wanting to protect her food. Her kill. He tasted wonderful. It had been a very long time since she drained anyone. She wasn’t inclined to share with another predator. Even one with beautiful eyes. Those eyes were so close. Yelenya clambered over the corpse and kept going, swarming over and onto the raven-haired woman. Atop her she stopped, out of her mind she carefully licked the blood off the other woman’s face. Not her finest moment, no matter how many of the 130 or so years she’d been sort of alive. Not even close. The other woman was utterly relaxed, those beautiful eyes calm and clear. Perfect.

“What the…” the question trailed off as the black haired woman rolled and trapped Yelenya beneath her. Their lips almost touching the black haired woman was whispering something. Yelenya went entirely limp, letting the other woman pin her hands by her head. Wally hadn’t seen anything like that, ever. Yelenya never did anything without a fight unless she was unconscious. Even if all she could do was bite, which could be fatal enough, she would. Pinned by a strange woman she had surrendered totally. Yeah, this was weird. He could hear them both now, it sounded like they were speaking Varesian, but a weird version of it. Different than what Svetlana spoke. He took a step closer and they both turned their heads to look at him. Yep, weird. Spooky too. Oh well, time to try and save dinner. Mrs Sorli took some convincing, but a nice cup of tea appeared to be just the thing for her. Weird women and kidnap victims. Sheesh.

Soon enough it was time to go. Perhaps past time. Yelenya didn’t want to go. She didn’t want to get up. She didn’t want to get on her horse. She didn’t want to ride back to the city. She didn’t want to do her goddess’ damned job. But she would. Always. Until someone else could shoulder the weight. So she got up. Anika got up with her. So graceful. Beautiful. Perfect. Leaving was difficult. Leaving Kaer Maga was easier. Being a lone Varesian was easier. Yelenya cried silently as they got on the road.

Foundling’s Reach was right where they left it. Yelenya directed them to a small house, size-wise barely more than a shack, just inside the wall. She was back to being all business now. It helped a little. She helped Sorli out of the wagon. The old woman was crying. There was a guard at the door.

“She’s still in there.”
“Yes Ma’am.”
“Nobody in or out?”
“No Ma’am.”
“Any problems?”
“A lot of crying. Ma’am.”

The guard was scornful. He didn’t know her. She didn’t care. She opened the door. Janine started crying even louder when she saw the red haired woman. Yelenya had never laid a hand on her, but she did now when she sharply slapped the woman.

“Get ahold of yourself. You have been caught, tried, convicted. This is the sentence: if you travel more than one day’s ride from Foundling’s Reach without permission from either myself of the captain of the guard then I will kill you. It will be fast, sudden, and i will not show mercy. Do you understand?”

The former bath attendant was in a state of shock. So was her mother. Wally wasn’t much better. The guard was confused. She didn’t care.

“Take care of your bloody horses.”

Yelenya spun on her heel and stormed out of the house.

They had to go by Wally’s and Ralla’s to get to her house so they rode there first.

“What the hells was that all about?”

“A series of lessons. Janine and her mother learned it’s not nice to misbehave. And that i am cruel beyond belief. And that i can, sometimes, talk a friend who is a far nicer person than i into helping me. And that i can forgive. And that i am generous. But never to break my rules.”

Wally chewed that over as they ended up at his front door. Ralla poked her head out and he grinned, his exhaustion blown away by the happy look on her face. Yelenya laughed.

“I returned him safe and sound. And the horse he ride in on!”

She went home alone. It was dark inside. She didn’t mind. She stripped off her clothes and climbed into her hammock. Piling the blankets up in a little nest she lay her head down and tried to go to sleep. She finally did, to the memory of perfect beautiful amber eyes. And the sounds of her own sobs.

She wasn’t afraid of the dark. She reached into one of her pouches and pulled out a map. She knew where she was and what lay in each direction. She sighed and pulled out one of her metal stars and rubbed some dirt on one point of the little trinket. The star balanced nicely on her fingernail and she spun it. When it stopped moving she checked the direction against the map. And smiled. She put her things away and closed her eyes. She thought of glowing jewels. Anika walked down the road with her head up. Might as well see where this road leads. Who knows maybe home.


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