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Ok heres what Im working on

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  • Starscream
    Denizen of Moo Uria
    • Feb 2004
    • 189

    Ok heres what Im working on

    Heres some of what Im working on at present.

    The true beginning of this story is still being fleshed out. Its hard to explain why that is since Ive moved onward with the story. You guys are just going to have to go with me on this one.

    It still needs editing and clean up and thats an ongoing thing with me when I write. I've never been able to write something first draft and have it quality enough to leave as is. :oops:

    This is also not something that can be finished as a short story. This will be a [at least one] novel length story when its done. The main character in this was my main AD&D character. I drew him up before I knew about the Elric of Melnibone series and as I mentioned once in passing on another thread, he was scary close to Elric in some ways. And it was because of that and my DM knowing the Elric series (and loaning me his books) that I became familiar with the works of Mr Moorcock. After I read the series my DM and I made a connection between my charcter and the Elric series. This below are the ideas refined, embelished and put to text. Im really afraid no one will like it or be mad at me cause its actually a direct spin off from the Elric series. Im so sorry if I offend anyone with it. I hope its at least mildly entertaining . . .


    (A Prolog entitled 'Ariochs Epiphany' precedes this as well as several pages of opening text before this part)

    <..............Standing on the platform I could only stare, dumbfounded, at what lay before me. It was a throne made from the largest single ruby I never thought possible. Painfully detailed in workmanship, this gem’s cerise was like blood trapped under glass. It effected a presence that was almost tangible and its entire surface was elaborately worked into the most obscure and fantastical images conceivable. Studies of dragons in flight, hideous monsters in all positions of love, death, battle, decay, birth. Runes and symbols, profiles of things I could not understand, nor describe, all intertwined in a madman’s idea of harmony. Where it started and where it ended was impossible to determine, and it all seemed to focus toward the center of the stone, where an impression had been carefully smoothed out.

    Framed on either side with elegantly rising edges, the ruby had been coaxed into arms cradling the seat and deeply carved into thousands of overlapping scales. The scales formed dragon arms that narrowed into claws ending in talons that gripped the top of a sharply pointed arrow. One arrow exploding upward from a circle of arrows near the front Dragon-claw leg of the chair. Other arrows splayed out from the same circle to disappear, helter-skelter into other nightmarish expressions of form. The inner prominent arrows, complimentary to one identical on either side, met in the center, tips touching, just below the seat as if to cradle and hold a god. Within the arrows' silhouette were more images, sublime, provoking, explicate, tantalizing, terrifying.

    I was admiring the images so mysteriously worked into the gem when it dawned on me that none of this was covered in centuries of dust. I wondered why the same ravages of time and stale air that blanketed the rest of the ruins had not effected this throne. And why was I still so hesitant to sit on it? This was the moment where all my longing for this older time could take some tangible shape. Feeling the cold stone underneath me could make everything more then just fanciful daydreams. The daydreams created in books I read to keep me even mildly preoccupied through what was for the most part, a childhood spent on a deathbed. Letting my mind escape into those books was all that kept me strong, focused, determined to see what was ahead for me, instead of fading out of a world that didn’t seem to want me to begin with. It was fitting that I would be so drawn to a place that this world didn’t seem to want either.

    I turned around then and felt my cloak fan out, brushing the bottom of the throne. I looked down into the ruined ballroom unconsciously resting my hand on the hilt of a slender sword sheathed at my waist. I looked at the massive pair of doors half torn down at the entrance. I looked at the tiniest wisps of colorless fabric still somehow above the windows, to the paint crumbled away long ago exposing bare stone walls. Empty, destroyed. That is why I was uncertain to take what I knew my only place in this chamber could be. I did not, and would not, sit over ruins. I wanted command over what I read, what I had envisioned. I knew then, this is what my destiny would be and drawing my cloak around myself . . . I sat down.

    I’m not sure what happened next, when I passed out, or how long I was unconscious. When I opened my eyes, it was not at the ruined throne room ceiling I looked, but into ornately carved deep ebony ceiling tiles instead. The embellishments were very much like those I knew from the old throne room’s ceiling, but these were fresh and well kept. Carrying my gaze down, I saw a dark marble and granite wall across from me draped with several rich silken tapestries. Brightly colored and painfully detailed scenes of dragons were the theme of what I viewed and I was instantly captured by the perfection of the images. They seemed like real dragons laid out for display. It reminded me of the objects of fine art Eldren artisans worked the large butterflies and other creatures that were found numerous along the edges of the Forbidden Forest into.

    That was the name given to a patch of treacherous woods on the new island that faced this one. Animals and insects of stunning mutations were known to be in that forest. Dragons were thought to be in there also. Our legends claimed these Dragons were from an ancient breed found no where else in the world. But the constant mist that clung to every rock, every trunk, every branch, and every leaf in that mysterious forest denied any confirmation of this rumor. The legends were largely thought to be fairy tales anyway, and with the sounds the wind poured out almost constantly from that woodland, no one seemed enthusiastic enough to try and validate myth. As the insects were preserved and framed for artistic display, perhaps too these were some of those fabled dragons pinned in similar fashion against the silk. The unexpected touch of a gentle hand brushing down the side of my face abruptly drew my mind back from these thought-provoking aesthetics.

    “You have the look of my most succulent morsel,” a voice, smooth, sophisticated, dripping with sublime evil whispered close to my ear. The hand gripped my hair but I did not move. “My prized sweetmeat in one of the best feasts of drama I dared to evoke.” The hand relaxed and fondled the hair it embraced. “You are indeed the fitting appetizer for the second helping.”

    Whoever was behind that voice had strange panache for my hair, and food, and my first thought was that I had been abducted to be the main course by a group of obscure hair-infatuated cannibals. The island was supposed to be deserted. There was nothing left but ruined and forgotten wealth slowly being reclaimed by nature. Yet, could some lingering madmen, descendents of what was left after the Black Storm, be living in those ruins? Surly my ancestors were not cannibals? Where was the romanticism in that? I had obviously lost consciousness through their manipulation and been abducted. Or perhaps the dust had affected me more then I first thought and I was hallucinating in a fever dream. I dreaded those.

    But this felt too real. I was laying on something firm yet supple, a bed. It was too solid to be from a fever and unrestrained, I could easily sit up. I did so and looked toward the voice guardedly. I asked who the man was and followed that by wanting to know where I was. It was disconcerting that I had been plucked out of a place that I thought was uninhabited, of no interest, and under the watch of no one. Yet, I wasn’t afraid, more curious.

    A tall, slender man of angelic beauty let my hair fall from his fingers and straightened up from the stoop over my bed. With high cheekbones, gentle upswept ears, upswept eyes, and angled jaw line, he had the same elegant features that I had, but more antediluvian. Most of my kin didn’t have features as strong as this person or myself anymore. I was disgustedly considered a ‘throw-back’. Perhaps this one was too. Or could he be that old? I dismissed that thought. He looked to be in his mid-thirtie’s at best. His lips were full and dangerous, his head topped with an unruly coif of yellow golden hair. His face was cupped in the tall stiff frame of a starched yellow velvet collar. His robe was yellow; his doeskin knee-high boots were yellow. The suede belt that secured the robe was yellow, the suede tunic underneath was yellow; everything about him was . . . yellow. But his eyes were as black as obsidian and glinted with the fires of hell.

    The Yellow man leered, “I am known by many names luscious Alaric, thirty-second Eldren Prince of the New Mysts.” He appreciated the look of astonishment that set across my features. Apprehension was starting to color my curiosity. My identity was not something widely known. Yet, he knew it. Something caught his attention. “Not the color of demons' eyes . . . “ Surprise turned into a smile that savored each syllable like sweet nectar, “The color . . . of royalty.” The Yellow man’s gaze traveled from my blanched violet eyes down my solid black leathers, acquiescent to its contrast against the bleached alabaster of my complexion. His grin broadened. “You bear your Albinism in taste my seductive young, Prince of Swords.”

    I swung my legs off the bed and stood to face this yellow clad Eldren. “Interesting choice of titles.” I reflected at once wondering if I would ever be competent enough to earn the reputation a title like that hinted at. Academically, I was far beyond my peers; physically I was well behind most of them. While my brother was learning the art of iron and steel, horse and siege, the power of knowledge and history were the only things I could manage. I was now at a disadvantage because it had only been in the past few years that I had been strong enough to train. I had serious doubts about my ability at this point. Would I ever catch up? The thought of the ruined throne room, and of what I had waiting upon my accession to the throne on the other island came to me then. Would it even matter?

    “Shouldn’t that be more like the Prince of Ruins?” I suggested rather sardonically.

    The Yellow man tossed his head back and laughed. “Ahh my sweet new delicacy. You are your father’s son. The scrumptious climax to my epiphany.” The mirth faded to an echo as his attention turned to a nearby table. It was then that I realized I had been relieved of my sword.

    Maybe I should have been scared. Maybe I should have been trying to fight my way out of there, any way that I could. But it was at that moment, I discovered that I didn’t have the temperament to flee from a mystery. Even if it all pointed to ill will toward my person. Common sense was screaming to get away yet I just stood there. Choosing to ignore his provocative, culinary embellished rambling, I glanced around looking for any clue that could indicate where I was, or how I got here. All I saw was the lavish abundance of obsidian, dark silk, dusky marble and exquisite taste. It felt like a home Id never been in but a home that was somehow befitting me. ‘My questions?” I reminded.

    Turning back to face me the Yellow man now held a sword in each hand. One was mine and the other was one almost identical to it, a simple Eldren longsword. He tossed my weapon to me, his eyes sparkled and he licked his lips, “Such delectable arrogance . . . “

    “Consider it one of my virtues . . . “ I adjusted my hold on the blade and had barely shifted my weight to the balls of my feet when the Yellow man was on me. Immediately set on the defensive, I stumbled over the bed, into a chair, and toward the wall. Now to be honest, though I felt otherwise, I really wasn’t that bad of a swordsman. I had advanced quite well in three short years and knew I was capable of being far better. My instructor felt I could become the best swordsman of The New Mysts. My skills were sound yet they seemed far short for what I’d need here now. Perhaps the Yellow man knew this. He was obviously far better then I and seemed to just be playing with me, testing me. In the furious sounds of metal biting metal, he carried the attack so fast I was now firmly pinned against the wall. I knew I had to find a way out of this as fast as possible.

    I squatted down suddenly scarcely getting my sword up to meet a powerful swing that narrowly missed cleaving my head. The Yellow man swung again and gripping my sword along the blade with one hand, the other still on the hilt, I pushed up on my blade trying to stop the swing from coming down, and push him back. He was larger and stronger then I, but I had determination, adrenaline and the quick dexterity of a light frame in my favor. I think by sheer will, I kept his blade from biting flesh. The friction caused by both of our swords trying to physically stop the other coerced a shower of sparks to rain down on us both. Turing my head to the side and throwing my bodyweight forward, I just managed to carry the Yellow mans sword and momentum to my left. It sent him off balance enough, giving me the break to scramble away from him, and the wall. If I stood any chance, I felt it would be in the middle of the room.

    Quickly spinning back around, I prepared for his counter attack and almost missed his return swing. He was fast. The tip of his sword caught the top of my left shoulder, bit deep, but my parry held the rest in check, only just. The pain in my shoulder only furthered my growing annoyance. What was he trying to prove? If he knew who I was, had the power to pull me from where I had been to wherever I was now, then it stood to reason he’d know I was no match for him.

    In a blur of speed, the Yellow man came at me again, and again, I was forced to take the defensive and back up. Again, the flash of sparks with the melody of steel singing against steel, I noticed once more that he seemed to be pulling his swings. I should not have blocked his last attack, yet the stroke never hit me. His aggression was conflicting. One blow was real, and the next seemed a subtle feint. I was getting tired and it was showing in my slower and slower blocks and parries. He had to have seen this yet he was still attacking me. He was wearing me down by the force and speed of his assault, but why wasn’t he moving in for the kill? What did this Yellow-clad Eldren want with me?

    The Yellow man made several serpentine capture movements, bringing his sword tip against the base of the hilt on my blade. Instantly he pushed my arm and weapon away. One part of me was angry from being bested and another part of me could only watch in fascination. I had managed to keep the grip on my sword but he kept his sword pressed against my blade’s hilt, keeping my arm back. Had he a second sword, I would surely be dead. Abruptly, the tip of his sword moved to rest on the base of my throat.

    Panting, I looked down at the Yellow Eldren’s poised blade. There was little chance I could bring my weapon up in time to block his impending thrust. My temperament would not retreat from mystery but it was temperament tainted with a reckless, fatalistic, impatience. If I had to accept that I was about to die, I wasn’t in the mood to drag it out. I glared at him from the tops of my eyes. “What are you waiting for?”

    The Yellow Eldren studied me for a moment. “The bane that will be yours to bear, to bond, to loathe, to cherish, to hate and to love must have a strong hand to do . . . when it will not.” He said slowly.

    I was tired of this and loathed being sport for anyone. He knew something that concerned me – my potential. That told me I wouldn’t die today, but it was a poor excuse to be played with like this. Reaching up with my injured arm, I wrapped my gloved hand around the blade and brought the tip just into my flesh. “How badly do you want me to have that . . . bane?”

    This surprised him and for a split second, the Yellow mans composure faltered. He tugged slightly on his sword, as if trying to test my grip and validity of my action. I tightened my hold on the sword and pressed the tip further into my skin. Death did not scare me. As young I was, I had already faced it enough at the mercy of cursed blood and the hands of royal healers whom, to me, were nothing more then sadists with the blessing of false compassion. Enduring what I had, had left me with a lingering distaste toward healers and total apathy toward the prospect of dying. Yet, to experience it from the hands of this Eldren infuriated me. I tested the weight of the sword still in my hand bringing it up slightly.

    It seemed now to be a stand off.

    If he tried to pull his sword back, he had no reason to believe that I wouldn’t plunge myself onto it. If he dropped his blade, mine would be at his throat in turn. But if he thrust the blade true to its intentions? I didn’t think he wanted that, and was quite willing to find out how badly.

    The Eldren’s black eyes flared with dark humor. “You play a splendid game, Prince Alaric. But do you truly know the stakes? You will never be able to bring that island and your people back from the ashes if you fling yourself into my blade . . . As your life goes, so goes the Eldren race.” His lips curled dangerously, “Your move my little morsel.”

    And there it was. Just enough information to make me rethink this stand off, though not enough to answer a thing. Something he had said suddenly made me laugh, “They are timid, they turn their backs on their power, their souls . . .“

    He smiled, “And you are nothing like them.”

    “They fear me.” I replied through clenched teeth.

    “ . . . What you represent.”

    “The Black Storm . . . “

    “The White Wolf.” He corrected evenly.

    The name hit me like a brick wall and sucked the breath out of me. It was a name that I had heard from the time I was able to understand our language. A name cursed as I fought for life as a child. The name murmured in hushed accusations as I grew older. It was my misfortune and it marked my destiny. That much the soothsayers were certain and it garnered their hatred for what they felt sure all would suffer because of it. And it was a name I knew nothing about.

    But this Yellow-clad Eldren knew. It was starting to make some sense now. I was the White Wolfs Shadow and he called me his ‘second helping’. Was the White Wolf his ‘prized sweetmeat’? I longed so badly to know as much as he could tell me. The sword fell from my hand and I released my grip on the blade at my throat, “You knew him . . . “ I couldn’t mask the shock in my voice, the tone of eagerness to learn any history behind that name. What it could mean to me. I was sure he heard it too and part of me grew even more irritated by that fact.

    The Yellow man lowered his sword and stepped up to me. “He was the last rightful heir to the Ruby Throne.” His obsidian eyes held a steady gaze on mine. “And Ive watched you for three years come to that island – to that room and stare at that throne. Ive waited for you to claim your birthright to it, even if symbolically . . . to begin your destiny . . . “

    My thirst for what he knew was growing stronger by the moment. So was my exasperation. I was not used to such insolence from anyone in the royal court. Even as feared and to some, hated, as I was on the New Mysts, I was still treated with the respect and obedience the first Prince was entitled too. If I had to throttle the knowledge out of him to get the answers of my past – my future – so be it. I was also sure there was more to this then my end of it and was blunt about it. “What’s in it for you?”

    The Yellow man smiled while his eyes seemed to grow cold “You are a smart one, juicy Alaric.” He noticed my shoulder suddenly. I followed his look only now realizing how badly it hurt. I had completely forgotten about it in the duel. His sword had gone deep enough into my flesh so that the front left side of my jerkin was soaked in blood and blood was now trickling down to my hand from under the sleeve. The Eldren frowned slightly noticing the blood on my hand. Then his eyes gleamed, “You and the blade will bond well . . . “ He stepped around me and headed for the door. “This is but one room of your new quarters. Servants will attend you shortly. I do not want you to suffer for anything . . . beneath your status.” He could barely contain some personal joy in that remark. “And I will have a Healer see to your shoulder.”

    I spun toward him. “Heale . . . quarters? You’re keeping me here?”

    The Yellow man looked back at me. “You are free to go at any time, my tender sweetmeat. But understand that if you choose to do so, you walk away from your destiny -- walk away from your dream.” With an oddly narcissistic chuckle, he shut the door behind him.

    In a fit of rage I snatched the closest sword off the floor and flung it at the door. With a loud thwang its point speared the solid black wood and hung quivering back and forth. He wouldn’t keep me bound physically. No. He would keep me there with the promise of everything I sought to find out about . . . myself. And I was sure he’d feed me just enough to keep me there, for as long as he wanted me. Throwing the sword into the door only aggravated my wound and grabbing my shoulder, I sat on the edge of the bed. If this saffron-obsessed Eldren wasn’t bad enough, now I had to face a Healer.

    Servants and a Healer did indeed come to tend to me. The Healer was beautiful and Eldren, but that still didn’t excuse what she was. I withstood her stitching my wound in irritated silence and then was striped by two beautiful female servants and led to a bath of herbed and perfumed water. Warm and soothing the fragrance of the water relaxed me, eased the pain in my shoulder somewhat but as two pairs of delicate hands washed me, it could not wash away the curiosity and apprehension that filled my head. I still didn’t know where I was. I had no idea how much time had passed from when I was abducted to now. When I went on my sojourns, I was never gone more then two weeks at a time. If I failed to return to my castle within that period, and my seneschal searched for me, would he be forced to betray his loyalty to me, revealing that I had gone to the old island?

    I wondered if my stepmother would label me a traitor if she found out. No, I knew she would. And then she would forbid the crowns men from searching for me, title my brother First Prince, and get what she always wanted. She openly despised me, made no secret her desires of having my brother the future King, grooming him from childhood for a position he would never have while I lived. My father had been so protective of me I think because of that yet could never subdue her intentions for my fraternal twin. Consequently, allegiances had become split in the kingdom between my brother and me. Most were still loyal to the King but some were starting to lean toward the Queen and my brother. Would those loyal in my father’s court and me blame her for my sudden disappearance and turn against her? My race was long-lived and there was no way I was going to stay around the castle for decades waiting to ascend to the throne. I claimed the territory before the Forbidden Forest, the surrounding lands and ruled as a royal Count. I was also building strong relationships with the surrounding castles, cultivating the loyalty I would need as King. The day I walked out of the royal castle, and went to my own would come back to haunt the Queen eventually. That thought brought a devious smile to my lips. But, I surmised the Queen would suspect that and if it came to it, rally all those sworn to her against all those loyal to my banner.

    Civil war.

    As I had so many times before asked myself, why had King Elros let this develop into what it had become? Didn’t he realize what it would more then likely result in? He loved me, loved his country, I assumed he loved my mother’s sister. So, why hadn’t he stopped her when he had the chance? It surely couldn’t be for that love. Even as sentimental as my father was, he was smart and wise enough to not put an emotion such as love before the crown. And what could this Yellow Eldren possibly offer me to deal with this, or was keeping me away long enough to allow this to possibly happen part of his plan?

    My thoughts continued to run rampant on this and it was several minutes before I noticed my bath was done. I stepped from the huge marble tub and let my servants dry me. My shoulder length hair, clean and wet, was expertly brushed and left loose. Clothes had been brought for me while my armor was removed for repair and cleaning. I allowed myself to be dressed in snug fitting black doeskin pants and a splendid white silk shirt. The sleeves were full with pleats drawing into cuffs and a stiff open collar. The shirt was the same shade as my skin and fit perfectly. Knee high low-heeled boots of black leather and a slim black leather belt completed this rather subdued outfit. I noticed this yellow Eldren didn’t try to impose his color preference on me. That would have been too much. I found it unsettling enough that he seemed to know my taste in style and color.

    When they were finished, I was escorted out into the yellow hall. After several turns and a small flight of stairs I was taken through another hall and finally into a large study. As with almost everything I had seen along the way, most of the dأ©cor was of some shade of saffron. The walls were lined in deep ivory-yellow bookcases that went from floor to ceiling and each shelf was full of every shape and color book one could imagine. The furnishings were lavish and comfortable. A large hearth with a low fire crackled on the wall to my left while set in the center of the room was a large table. Eight chairs were circling the deep red wood, one of the few things not yellow in here, and the chairs were of black wood and red leather. Various sitting chairs and end tables were scattered tastefully throughout the room exemplifying this chamber’s purpose, a private library.

    Led to one of the eight chairs I was politely motioned to sit down and, without a word, the servants left. I looked around for several moments taking in everything and then rested my eyes on the far wall and to the heavily curtained window. The thick yellow and black velvet curtains were closed loosely and I could barely make out the sun’s rays from beyond the window. That made me feel I was still on my world but it was where that disturbed me. I strained my ears to hear anything from outside and focusing all around me, all I heard was my slightly rasped breathing. That was normal in itself, a permanent result of my childhood, and normally I wasn’t even aware of it. But at times like this, it was annoying. I thought I heard something and caught my breath for a moment. It was the door latch. Glancing over, the door swung open and in walked the Yellow clad Eldren. With grace and a look of some inner humor on his face he took the seat across from me in silence and for a moment just stared. Then he glanced to my shoulder, ‘The Healer was satisfactory?”

    “Now what type of question is that?” I snapped without thinking. “Slow and sadistic – as they all are – if that’s what you wanted to know.”

    “She is one of my best.” The Yellow man reflected casually.

    “Its obvious.” My sarcasm was obvious and holding my aching left arm, I glanced at the window, “I’m going to ask you again . . . where am I?”

    The Yellow man smiled, “Closer then you think my Prince.”

    The more he answered with hints, the madder I was becoming. Barely containing myself, I started to reply when the door opened again, and attendants entered carrying numerous trays of food. Setting each platter and bowl down they bowed to the Yellow Eldren and some left while others backed into the shadows of the room. I looked to a table now laden with a fabulously obsessive assortment of . . . yellow food. There were plates of various cheddar cheeses, decorative yellow cakes, tiny frosted sweetbreads, lemons, bowls of lemon drops. Platters of muffins made from ground corn, plates of whipped butter, yellow meringue pies, strips of fish coated with ground corn and fried golden yellow, tureens of corn, corn on the cob, yellow squash. Pitchers of lemon scented water and pitchers of yellow wine, dishes piled with mounds of scrambled egg yolks, bowls of yellow rice. This strange Eldren really had a hang up for the color yellow and seemed to want to experience it inside, and out. My mind just touching on that thought made my stomach flop and glancing at my host, the look on my face must have been priceless because he started laughing. “You have no sense of humor my little morsel. Lighten up.”

    “Forgive me if I’m not in that humorous of a mood . . . sir . . .“ I made a rather impatient gesture with my hand not appreciating the disadvantage of still didn’t know my captor’s name.

    “I think . . . ” the Yellow man mused choosing a particular dish of something, “I think I shall have you call me, Lord Jagged.” He helped himself to what was in the dish then pushed the serving bowl in front of me. “I’m sure you must be hungry my Prince . . . “

    I glared down my nose at what was in the bowl. Small, hollow tubes of something soaked in what smelled like a cheese sauce sat in a viscous sticky clump in the bowl. I had never seen anything like it and it had the appearance of a casserole of some exotic kind of larva. Maybe the profusion of cheddar was to kill the taste of the larva, or kill the larva. I shifted my gaze back at him and saw that he was happily munching them. I shook my head slightly. I was hungry but I was also tired, on edge, and frankly didn’t feel like the effort to subject my pallet to something new. But I was thirsty. I politely suggested something to drink, and looked back toward the window. Jagged studied me a moment then waved toward the shadows. A servant stepped forward, took my glass and filled it from a pitcher of wine sitting by the scented water. Setting the glass in front of me, she backed up soundlessly.

    Jagged resumed his meal. I gingerly took the amber glass and sipped the sweet, thick wine. “You are quite conflicting . . . Lord Jagged.” I didn’t believe that was his name for an instant but I knew that was as close I was going to get for now. I nursed my wine goblet and continued. “You treat me as a guest yet I am at your mercy, you either do not answer my questions or respond with vague rhetoric . . . You know who I am yet, I’ve never heard of you. If I am as important as you have tantalized, I think I deserve some answers.”

    Lord Jagged set his fork down on his plate and wiped his mouth delicately. “I suppose that you do.” His attention suddenly caught by a large platter, he stalked out just the right small lemon-scented sweetbread and stood. Holding his prize, he walked to one of the book-laden walls, pulled a large ancient looking tome from its shelf and returned to his seat. “You figured out enough of the High Speech to decipher a safe course though the harbor maze, but,” He slid the book toward me, leaned back and casually examined his cake. “Can you read that?”

    I ask for answers, he hands me a book then goes back to coveting a yellow sweetbread. Looking down I saw an ancient skin (I didn’t want to know from what) bound tome and emblazoned on the cover was the same exploding circle of arrows that were carved twice on the front of the throne. They were painted in a deep crimson with a mustiness about them that smelled like old blood. I hesitated and watched him intently devouring his dessert. It was as if he didn’t care if I opened the book or not. But I knew he wanted me to. He knew I wanted to. With nothing else to do, I laid a slender, long fingered hand on the cover, lifted it up and gazed inside.

    I peered into ancient and horrific handwritten runes. I recognized the style and texture of them from what I had read on the parchment that mapped out the tunnel paths through the harbor, but these runes were far more convoluted, obscene, dangerous. Some seemed to waver in and out from the pages of this reality into another. I found myself, instinctively, trying to follow where the runes went and in my mind I caught a glimpse of blinding darkness, fetid seduction, burning cold, frigid heat, structured entropy, painful oblivion, agonized pleasure.


    I didn’t know how I was able to follow where the runes went, but the deeper I went the more it attracted me, repulsed me, hungered me. Overloading every part of my consciousness, my mind had touched on something that awakened an element deep inside me. I caught the fragrance of old blood in the strokes of the runes again and now the smell was almost intoxicating. It made me think of the chains hanging from the ceiling in the crumbled throne room. I could almost hear the screams, the expectation of death throes offered with the finesse of ballot, the style of fine poetry. The satisfaction of a death well met to send it straight to the oblivion I could now see and taste. The wineglass crashed to the floor from my hand, I heard a half gasp, half laugh, escape my throat and my body trembled. A voice close to me murmured. ‘What do you see with your Witches’ Sight, Alaric?”

    The scent of lemons in my face brought the room back into view and lifting my eyes up, I could barely focus into the face inches from mine. I heard the snap of great leathery wings, saw the icy fear of hell, the arrogance in the ability to control it all and it scared me. It enthralled me. “Wh-what have you done to me?” I managed to whisper.

    Lord Jagged replied dangerously. “Awakened the ancient blood that burns in your veins. The blood the rest who hide in that Myst deny, refuse, and condemn. You may not be able to read it my sweet Eldren, my enticing Melnibonean, but your mind can see it Your soul recognizes it.”

    I couldn’t understand what he was saying. My mind reeled and every fiber of my body seemed to scatter apart. I think I tried to pull my hand from the book but it wouldn’t move as more and more images of this other reality flooded into my head, flooded my being with what it longed for, what it missed. My body was completely numb. I heard a rapid thumping sound and realized it was my heart pounding against my chest, threatening to burst at any moment. A panic was slowly rising in me. I couldn’t control this, I couldn’t pull away from it, I was loosing myself in it and I couldn’t make it stop. It terrified me and I tried to speak again. I don’t know what, if anything, came from my throat. Jagged pulled the book out from under my hand swiftly and pursed his lips, “No eddy of time in this realm can give me the, time, to teach you the discipline to control what you should have learned as a child, how you should have learned it. There is only one way . . .” Jagged chuckled then, “And if it kills you, there is always the tender Vadhagh.”

    I barely heard him, could barely understand him. I felt something strike my forehead suddenly, felt myself fall back and then I was sitting on the floor looking up at a tall astute Eldren. His hair was long and raven, his eyes were dark and his features were angular and severe. He was speaking to me in the runes I could not read and I heard myself repeating what he was saying with the knowledge of how to speak them. But my voice was small, a child’s. My mind was forming the runes, my arms were tracing them through the air, casting them out into other realms, other dimensions. My mind could see these places, see the very essence of it shifting as the runes twisted from my throat. Experiencing it now, I was not scared, not overwhelmed. I knew the disciplines to merge with it, use it, not be destroyed by it. My mind used the energy of my body, the runes singing from my throat, to awaken something in the substance. Something covered in short tan fur. Wings formed high on shoulders, a face that was a lion, a beak thrust from where a muzzle should be, claws where there should have been paws. And my child’s eyes saw the air around the older Eldren twist and warp and what my mind saw was now towering over my teacher.

    The Eldren started another rune and I repeated it, sending this creature back to the realm my mind was still on. The runes changed again and now my Witches’ Sight thrust me into another realm, a colder more dangerous one but I was still not afraid. More runes, more substance shifting. Things appeared terrifying and grotesque, things that gibbered, wailed, growled, slobbered, drooled, oozed. Things that stank, smoldered, belched acid and laughed venom. I had made these things and my teacher smiled. I knew these things. They were what I played with as human children played with simple wooden building blocks. Now my throat burned, my mind was not in my skull but stretched out beyond what the eye could see. My small body shook with exhaustion. But I would not stop. There was no fear. Only the desire for more. Certain mental disciplines taught from the time I first walked were ingrained into my mind. I knew how to be part of this substance, not oppose it. I knew the subtle shifts of perception to keep me sane, keep my identity, in my playground. For hours it seem this lesson went on and on till my small throat was bleeding and I could not utter another sound and I fell back onto the floor. The Teacher walked up, looked down at me and in a blur of color I was looking at a tome not unlike the one Jagged handed me. I was reading the runes out loud, in another voice. It was barely older then the one I just left but its mind was more disciplined, somber, powerful. My hand reached for the page and it was white like my own hand. I could read and understand these runes and knew them well. Each rune voiced the raw potential of pacts with creatures and forces, bargains with beings in other realms, the substance of power. I understood these pacts even in my child’s mind. I knew what they meant and what was needed to keep them valid. And I automatically exercised the subtle disciplines of self, of respect learned even younger. The same techniques I had just learned from the other mind. The image blurred again and now it was another page of runes, another mind, another time. Another blur, another mind, another set of runes. I was learning everything I should know through a thousand Eldren before me, their knowledge burning into the recesses of my mind as firmly as if I had learned them from the beginning. Faster and faster I was thrust into these minds and runes. Faster and faster images of the stuff of madness bombarded me, stuff made from these runes, images on the throne. Faster and faster this knowledge, written and verbal seared into my mind. Consciously I could no longer absorb it, I couldn’t breath, I couldn’t think and it was getting faster still. I think I screamed, I think I fell, and then everything slammed to an abrupt halt.

    Barely noticing the dry blood-washed stone floor under me, I felt my own body around me again. I was coughing for air, my head was killing me and I couldn’t begin to describe how my throat felt. A sinister and bitter chuckle erupted suddenly as the sharp click of shoes resonated on the floor. Lifting myself up to my hands and knees, I saw a pair of black leather-clad feet stop in front of me. I slowly looked from the feet, up the legs, the body, to the face and saw acerbic Eldren features dripping with pure hatred glaring back at me. Who was this other Eldren? Where was Jagged? How did I end up here? The mocking chuckle erupted again from full, healthy lips and thick, wavy-black, oiled hair shook slightly around his broad shoulders. This Eldren suddenly squatted down to face me. His mirth vanished, fierce black eyes glowered and his upper lip twisted furiously, “The blood of my house mixing with his to make you . . . NEVER!”

    I didn’t see his backhand coming and was abruptly tumbled back against the wall. Footsteps drew closer and I felt blood running down the side of my face. I had to get up, try to move, but nothing responded and I couldn’t stop this Eldren when he snatched me by the throat, and yanked me to my feet. “And you have to go through me to get the blade.” He slammed me against the wall. “I don’t think I want you to do that, Little Wolf.” I reached up and tried to pry his hand from my throat but it was like the grip of an eagle on its prey that he held me. His skin was cold and hard, like a dead thing, which is what I’d be soon if I couldn’t get him off me. Laughing again, triumphantly, his grip tightened and within seconds, my hands fell limp, my vision blurred as my body began shutting down from lack of breathe. It seemed then that he glanced over his shoulder, but I never saw why because I lost consciousness.

    I heard voices, soft, quiet. I smelled jasmine, wisteria, I felt cool air, a softness underneath me. Was I dead? I tried to move and the voices paused. A hand swept under my head, lifting it and the cool of metal touched my lips. I struggled to open my eyes as liquid was forced into my mouth. It tasted horribly familiar and even as I swallowed it, I tried to cough it back out. I blinked and the room came into focus. I was in my apartments at Lord Jagged’s castle. The same Healer I had encountered before was gently holding my head forcing another draft of the potion into me while Jagged stood at the foot of my bed.

    His arms were folded and he was studying me closely. “It seems you have survived, Alaric.” His tone was odd and preoccupied. I figured it was his trepidation concerning how much of that whirlwind of knowledge had settled into my mind.

    I sat up and reached a hand to my face suddenly. There, paralleling the contour of my left cheekbone my fingers touched a thin cut. My mouth dropped open in astonishment. My looks were remarkable and charismatic. I thought very highly of them, was not afraid to hide my vanity about them. And now they were flawed.

    “Do not fear my tender morsel,” Jagged quipped with a hint of his usual arrogant sarcasm. “You are as scrumptious now as you were before.”

    “I’ll be the judge of that . . . What happened?” My voice was now thicker, more resonant. I found that quite interesting. It seemed what was burned into my mind had also effected me physically and my vocal chords were now stretched to sing the runes. I wasn’t sure how that extraordinary journey had effected this change but my enlightenment on the multiple layers of reality, time, my new understanding of ‘magic’, compelled me to accepted it without question.

    “You . . . fell out of the chair and caught the edge of the table . . .” Jagged said as if he didn’t believe it although he witnessed it. I shot him a look and started to get out of bed but he motioned me to remain. “Did anything unusual happen in your training?” he asked quietly.

    I remembered the other Eldren and wondered why Jagged questioned me so. Isn’t that what he wanted? Unless . . . That’s what preoccupied him. Something out of his control had intercepted my ‘training’, he had detected something but wasn’t sure what. Perhaps forces were trying to stop what he was doing with me. I heard one of my many unanswered questions in my mind again.

    What’s in it for you?

    Thoughtfully I traced the mark from being backhanded. “Depends on what you consider ‘unusual’.” I said, “That whole affair was ‘unusual’ was it not?”

    “It was the fastest way to teach you the language, certain mindsets, considering there are more physical things I must instruct you on and time must be measured carefully. Even eddies of it can change abruptly.” Jagged said and peered at me expecting the answer to his earlier question.

    You mean time is of the essence, I thought. He was being too elusive for my taste, my safety. Now I would carry a scar the rest of my life because of it and that black-haired Eldren. I heard the dark Eldren’s words again. He had mentioned a blade, Jagged had mentioned a bane. Something I read about a sword referred to as a bane came to mind. I read it in one of the few history books that survived the Black Storm. Books forbidden to all eyes stored away in huge vaults in the bottom of the castle. Yet, my father somehow got them and other forbidden documents for me to read when I was a child (it was how I learned of the old island and the map of the Harbor). Our little secret, he would say, treat it like a game, but looking back in retrospect, he could never hide a certain uneasiness about it. I shook my head “No,” I lied, “Nothing more happened then going from mind to mind, plane to plane, Lord Jagged." Then I added truthfully, "I now know the disciplines and can read, speak and write the High Speech.”

    Lord Jagged’s eyes darkened suddenly. I suspected he knew I was hiding something, but I wasn’t about to admit anything. If he could have his secrets, so could I. “Very well . . .” He said at length and turned toward the door. “Contracts must be reestablished, new ones made, items located, spells learned. Your sword skills perfected. We start on that immediately, most of the rest . . . “ What he said next came out in pure High Speech, “Will be from your dreams.” He shut the door behind him leaving the servants to prepare me for the first of many long days ahead . . .

    EDIT I found some really embarrassing mistakes *grammer and punctation* in this and promptly corrected them. :oops: Ive since done a good bit more work on it. A draft was sent to a beta reader but what they have and what Ive edited is now somewhat different. Im also having to rethink a LOT of this and Im really having my doubts here. This is something I want as tight as possible. . . oh well if I can and if anyone is interested I will post some more as soon as I get my PC straightened out AGAIN.
    Ultra Magnus to Sandstorm. \"I\'ve never seen anything this beautiful in the entire galaxy. . . Alright, give me the bomb.\"