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The Agas Saga

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Chapter 24 - The First Trials

 

We decided to take Aesma’s advice, and begin the trials as soon as we had dismissed the council. We brought Hajetus to the Demon Realm, as it really was the best place to conduct the tests he would have to perform. He had the same nervous yet determined air he had displayed when we first told him we would make him a daeva. As we stood around him in a wide circle, in an isolated stretch of landscape, devoid of structures and demon life, Tawrich said solemnly, “Hajetus, we have determined that you are ready to begin the Daeva Trials. Your instructions are simple: you must face each one of us in turn, in a battle to the death.” He did not appear to know how to respond, so he simply nodded. “Is there nothing you would like to know before we begin?” Tawrich prompted.

“Perhaps it should be explained,” Nanghaithya offered, “that there is nothing you can do to any of us that will actually kill us—-if this concerns you—-and so you would be better served to fight as though your life depends upon it.”

“Which, ultimately, it will,” Aesma added, barely concealing a wicked grin.

Hajetus nodded again, and Tawrich said, “Very well. Zarich, why don’t we have you be the first?”

“With pleasure,” said Zarich evilly as he stepped forward.

As Zarich and Hajetus began firing spells at one another, Indra drew near me. “I do hope you are as gentle with him as you were with me when I was in his place,” she muttered sarcastically.

I grinned. “He will not know what’s hit him, I promise you. And for the record, I was as hard on you as I was on everyone else I tested.”

“Somehow I don’t believe that,” she replied.

“Solar Shock!” Hajetus bellowed. The spell’s power had increased dramatically since he had discovered it, knocking Zarich off his feet and causing him to wince with pain. Zarich, still on his back, conjured a mudslide, which sent Hajetus flying to the ground as well, and while the boy was down, Zarich attempted to Shock him. Zarich’s was one of the strongest Shock spells I had ever seen; but in the brief moment before he had cast it, Hajetus must have put up a Shield, because it had nearly no effect on him. Evidently, not only did Hajetus still retain the powers of the Druid of Light, he was also beginning to remember how to use them.

“Sun Spot!” Hajetus shouted. Eerie, purple-black orbs began to fill the space immediately surrounding Zarich, and began spinning around him very fast. It was dizzying just to watch. The time it took Zarich to recover himself to cast a spell gave Hajetus an opportunity to cast one more spell, which he called “Sunstroke”. Zarich howled and writhed in pain as his flesh turned redder and redder, and started to shrivel and peel. Light magic is, overall, the most effective to use against a demon, and it seemed Hajetus’s last spell had been too much for Zarich. He gave in, and stopped moving altogether. Hajetus, who was still breathing hard from the apparent effort of the spell, took a few tentative steps toward Zarich’s prone figure.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you, boy,” Saurva said haughtily. “That was only your first test.”

“That must mean you’re the second,” I said. Saurva sneered at me and said, “Indeed.”

Fûthat,” Tawrich murmured. Zarich opened his eyes and sat up quickly. As he rose to his feet, he rubbed his head, muttering darkly, and stumbled back to the circle, while Saurva took his place.

“Well done, Zarich,” I said. Nanghaithya and Tawrich agreed, and Zarich nodded, but did not reply.

Saurva shouted, “Scorch!” hardly leaving Zarich time to clear the area, and at once Hajetus was engulfed in a blazing fire. Indra took a few steps back from the intensity of the flame, and it was some time before the fire died down. Saurva was smirking, but as the flames dissipated, the smirk was wiped from his face as he saw Hajetus standing perfectly calm and still, not a mark on him. So he had a Fire Shield in his arsenal as well.

Before Saurva could recover from his hateful surprise, Hajetus cast Shock; it was not terribly powerful, but enough of a distraction to allow him to use Sunstroke again, which Saurva certainly would have seen coming otherwise. Saurva shook off the spell, then hit Hajetus with a Thermal Storm.

The battle lasted considerably longer than did Zarich’s; but in the end, Hajetus came out the victor, with Saurva grumbling and swearing and shooting nasty looks at me, as though it was my fault he had been defeated.

Nanghaithya opted to be next, and immediately as he stepped forward, he placed his Charm spell on Hajetus. Hajetus had a terrible time throwing it off, and Nanghaithya was able to hit him with a violent thunderstorm and a powerful tornado before the boy could recover. Once he did, he yelled, “Sunstroke!” but Nanghaithya stepped nimbly out of the spell’s path, as did Zarich, who was a distance directly behind him. It was just enough of a distraction for Hajetus to put up a Shield—-which was coming in very handy for him—-and when Nanghaithya shouted, “Burn!” the spell was blocked. Hajetus attempted Solar Shock at the very same moment that Nanghaithya conjured another thunderstorm, and the combination of the two spells had a very interesting effect.

Nanghaithya’s storm cloud flashed and rumbled furiously, and then with a wild intensity burst into an explosive white flame, almost the way Indra’s Fury did. It showered the two duelists, and the rest of us, with thousands of blazing white fireballs, not at all a pleasant sensation. When the fire storm ended, we all were more than a little burnt, Nanghaithya and Hajetus worst of all. “Weevil!” said Nanghaithya, and as a swarm of the nasty little creatures flew at his opponent, Hajetus cried, “Eclipse!” The world around us went entirely dark. This clearly confused the weevils, which I could feel buzzing around me, and hear zooming off in all other directions besides. Then came Hajetus’s voice: “Solar Shock!” The light returned, and the spell had grazed Nanghaithya’s shoulder. It was some time before the battle ended. It did so when Nanghaithya decided that he had to concede defeat to the boy, who was, as we were beginning to see, far more powerful than any of us had realized.

“You’ve played with the boys,” Indra addressed Hajetus in a soft, sultry voice. “Now let us see what you are really made of. Wind Whip!” The spell had an immediate effect, sending Hajetus flying back toward Saurva, who leapt out of his way as though the boy were on fire. Hajetus landed, and Saurva muttered something to him with a nasty grin on his face. Hajetus glared at him, then hollered, “Sunstroke!” before he even stood up. Indra spun out of the spell’s way and laughed, and then conjured an ice storm as Hajetus returned to the circle. Hajetus cowered under the force of the storm, but eventually managed to say, “Sunshine!” and force the storm cloud into oblivion.

Indra growled, her rage clearly creeping to the surface, and she hissed, “Absolute Zero!” but the spell did nothing, thanks to another of Hajetus’s shield spells. If he thought that would settle matters, he was very wrong. Without another word, Indra glowered at him and held her hands out in front of her; her arms, followed by the rest of her body, began to tremble. A violent wind rose up all about her, and she started to glow with a blinding white light, which soon concentrated itself in her hands. She released her Fury—-which, admittedly, was not as powerful as the one with which she had struck Ahriman—-and Hajetus shrieked and hit the ground, his whole body consumed with her spell. She stood very still, both waiting for the spell to lift and to regain her own composure. When it was done, Hajetus looked very much the way Ahriman had when he had tasted Indra’s Fury; the difference now, however, was that, burned and injured though he was, Hajetus managed to lift himself delicately off the ground and mumble, “Solar Shock.”

Whatever Indra had been expecting, it was not this. She took the spell in full force, and she reacted to it much the way Zarich had, but worse, since her Fury spell had drained much of her energy. She collapsed to the ground. Saurva and Zarich darted forward, and Aesma ran at Hajetus; but Tawrich revived Indra, and she sat up before anyone reached her. I called Aesma off Hajetus, telling him he would have his turn, and Indra rose in a dignified manner and returned to the outer circle, refusing to make eye contact with any of the rest of us.

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Chapter 25 - The Next Trials

 

Tawrich approached the boy slowly. Hajetus was beginning to show a great deal of “wear and tear,” as it were, but still retained that determined gleam in his eye. Tawrich was a master at illnesses and afflictions; and as Hajetus was now a demon, I expected to see Tawrich’s Poison spell in full force. So naturally, I and the other daevas were surprised to hear him say, calm as could be, “Plague.”

At first, it did not appear that anything was happening, except that Hajetus had a vaguely nauseous expression on his face. Then, quite suddenly, the spectacular angry boils and blue-black skin discoloration that Tawrich did so well sprang up on every part of Hajetus’s skin that was visible, and presumably those that weren’t. He was too bewildered to do anything at first, except gaze in shock at the undoubtedly painful symptoms on his hands and arms. Just at the point when he dropped to his knees with whatever dreadful thing the Plague caused humans next, he muttered something, and the boils slowly disappeared, and his skin began to clear. He stood up again and cast Sun Spot, but not before Tawrich had had his say. As the spots enveloped Tawrich, he murmured, “Virus.”

Tawrich rarely used this spell, as the results were often too terrible to describe. And sure enough, the spell hit Hajetus before he could conjure a shield, and at once, he screamed as the spell began to dissolve his flesh, the way rust eats away at iron. He moaned, “Healing...Extora!” and as his skin repaired itself—-painfully, by the look of it—-he cast a shield spell before Tawrich had recovered from the sun spots. Tawrich attempted to Poison him then, but the Shield deflected it.

“Very good,” said Tawrich, drawing his long, curved sword. “Now let us see how you fare with this.”

At first, Hajetus attempted a blinding spell, but Tawrich blocked it easily. It then occurred to me that Hajetus did not carry a weapon; even his druid’s staff had long since been discarded. I groaned, drew my sword, and threw it to him, saying, “Any harm comes to that sword, and you die.” He nodded, and then began a rather clumsy but nonetheless effective swordmatch with Tawrich. It was clear—-to me, at any rate—-that Tawrich could have easily defeated the boy, but no one else seemed to notice this, and as he dropped his sword, I would have sworn that Tawrich winked at me, as though signaling me not to say anything.

“I believe I shall yield the floor,” said Tawrich with a long sigh. “I am afraid I am getting too old for this sort of thing.”

“Forgive me, Agas,” said Aesma at once, “but I should sincerely like to destroy him now.”

“Have at it, Aesma,” I said. He bounded forward and faced Hajetus, a murderous gleam in his eye. He wrenched my sword from Hajetus’s hands and offered it back to me, and then quickly turned his attention once again to the boy. As they began a fierce duel, I had to ask Tawrich, “How did you know Plague would work? And for that matter, why did it work?”

“My answer to both questions is the same,” he replied. “Yes, the boy is demon, but only half so. He is still half-human. So while my spells may not have looked too entirely impressive, I was at least able to take advantage of that piece of humanity he retains.”

“I’ll say,” I agreed. “I did think your Virus was not up to your usual standards.”

He grinned. “Were he still fully human...ah, but you have seen the rest. And for the record, I have used Virus on demons, as well, with similar results.”

In that short matter of moments, Hajetus was barely keeping up with Aesma. His shields were helping to some degree, but the devastating force of Aesma’s magic tore them down easily, so that much of the battle thus far had consisted of Hajetus Shielding or Healing himself against a massive earthquake or deadly tsunami. In what appeared to be a moment of indecision or panic, Hajetus, instead of creating a shield, croaked, “Eclipse!” Utter darkness descended once again. There was a long, silent pause, and then came Hajetus’s voice through the gloom: “Solar Shock!” Evidently, this was his preferred spell, and he was becoming quite good at it. The spell found Aesma and blasted him off his feet—-a remarkable feat, I must say, as I had never known anyone capable of doing such a thing—-and though it did not appear to hurt him, it diverted his attention, and Hajetus used Solar Shock on him again while he was down. This time it gave Aesma some discomfort at the very least. Hajetus paused; it looked as though he was gathering strength for his next spell. Aesma slowly got up, but just as Hajetus began, “Sun—-” Aesma shouted, “Annihilate!”

A thunderous explosion ripped through the ground beneath their feet, and Hajetus was thrown through the air, outside the circle, and landed in a beaten heap nearly fifty yards away. Aesma stumbled a bit, still feeling the effects of the Solar Shock, no doubt, but an evil smile was on his face. Tawrich and Nanghaithya went to retrieve Hajetus, who stood up, but with great difficulty, and Aesma turned to me and said, “So sorry, Agas. Perhaps I should have let you go first.”

“Ha, ha,” I replied sarcastically. “And what exactly do you plan to do if he comes back here and curses you into oblivion?”

He scowled, but still retained his wicked grin. “Congratulate him heartily. And then hope against hope for your safety should you not destroy him.”

Hajetus was returned to his place, and Aesma called to him, “Sure you want to continue, boy? I don’t believe they make a Shield for what’s next.”

Hajetus said nothing. He was markedly worse for wear, but his eyes were blazing. He muttered something, and Aesma cried, “Winds of Hell!”

The chasm that the Annihilate spell had opened now issued forth the vilest gusts of wind imaginable. They were so violent that the rest of us had to back away; the strangest thing about this Wind, however, was the fact that it was hot enough to set trees to flame and cold enough to freeze water upon contact at the same time. I could just barely hear Aesma’s cold laughter over the howling of the Winds; but his laughter quickly turned to what sounded like panic, which was unusual for Aesma. I spared a glance against the furious gale, and saw that Aesma had been cursed with Sunstroke, just the way Zarich had. Aesma bellowed furiously and cleared the Wind, opting to charge at Hajetus and mangle him with his bare hands. Just before Aesma tore off his arm, Hajetus said, “Solar Shock!” Aesma hit the ground once again, and did not get up for a few seconds. Hajetus landed on top of him, but quickly scrambled as far away as possible.

Aesma sat up as though he’d been lying on a bed of hot coals. He shook his head, scanned the area around him, spotted Hajetus, and dove at him like a hungry fox who has just seen a rabbit. It took Zarich, Nanghaithya, Tawrich and myself to restrain Aesma, while Indra, who looked positively stunned, went over to help the boy to his feet.

“I—-warned—-you!” I said with difficulty, still attempting to restrain Aesma with even more difficulty.

“Aesma—-enough––of this!” Tawrich said loudly, which startled Aesma into stopping his fight, as Tawrich never said anything loudly or with such force. Over on the opposite side, Indra was actually speaking to Hajetus, and it did not appear to be in tones of sarcasm or condescension. Hajetus’s face was very red, but I don’t believe it had anything to do with having just survived a horrific battle. A short distance away, Saurva was watching the pair of them with obvious malcontent.

Aesma swore under pain of death that he was all right, and that he would not try to kill Hajetus again, then shook us off and got to his feet. He nodded stiffly at Hajetus, then resumed his place in the outer circle, as did the rest of the daevas. Without even asking, Tawrich offered his sword to Hajetus, saying, “Just in case.”

“So,” I addressed Hajetus slowly as I moved to the place where Aesma had stood, “it is down to you, and it is down to me.”

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Rhen and Lars stopped just outside the entrance to the city of Veldarah. The place where it all began, really, thought Lars as they stood looking through the archway at the now smoldering, crumbled ruins that had once been the fine manors and upscale shopping district Lars had seen so often as a child. He squinted in the direction of the palace, where his cousin the empress resided, or once had, at any rate. He wondered where she was now, since the daeva Nanghaithya had taken the place over, and he vaguely wondered if the other rumor he had heard was true...

“Are you sure about this, Lars?” Rhen asked him, pulling him back to the issue at hand.

He sighed. “I haven’t been sure of much of anything lately. But you insisted that we ‘come back to the surface,’ so here we are.”

“Why do you have to make every decision I make sound like a bad one?” she shot back at him.

He glared at her, contemplating one of a dozen responses, but thought better of it and held his tongue. Tensions had been high this last leg of their journey, and he knew anything he said would be in anger, and would be taken in the worst possible way.

After the battle in Clearwater, Rhen and Lars had found themselves outside the village of Thornkeep on the Northern Isle. They fought biting winds, fierce snows, and evil creatures to reach Aveyond, but found it not much better there. The land was becoming barren and desolate; the demons had not remained, but had made their presence felt. The bini village of Teacup Town, the last hope they had had of civilization, was entirely deserted. Their luck only changed when they found the Memory Caves, wherein dwelt the fairies. The fairies had managed to seal their little world off from the demons, and had been more than happy to give room and board to the “Chosen One”.

For two years, Rhen and Lars accepted the gracious hospitality of the fairies, mainly at Lars’s urgings. He was still afraid that the daevas might be looking to destroy Rhen; and he was not about to let that happen, whatever the cost. A deeper reason was that he wanted Rhen to forget Dameon, and he hoped that by keeping the two of them isolated, he could make her let go the desire to find the sun priest.

Little did he know, Rhen had not forgotten. She was still determined to find and rescue Dameon, whatever she told Lars. And after all this time waiting, she had finally convinced him that they should stop taking advantage of the fairies’ generosity, and find a human village in which to reside.

“I’m sorry,” he said very quietly, after an extremely long, tense pause. “I just...I am just trying to keep you safe.”

She groaned impatiently, but smiled all the same. “I think it is a bit late for that, Lars. Besides, I don’t need to be kept safe.”

“Well, you will be safe, as long as I am around,” he told her.

“Lars, eventually I am going to have to go out into the open. I need to find—-my parents.” The pause just before these last two words lasted a fraction of a second, imperceptible to the listener, but very noticeable to Rhen herself. She had stopped very short of speaking his name, knowing how much it annoyed Lars when she did so; but try as she might, she could not stop thinking of Dameon, no matter what rumors might reach her ears. She continued as though none of this was going on in her head. “I need to know that they’re safe. For heaven’s sake, Lars, it’s been two years. I can’t imagine what they think has happened to me.”

He mumbled, “You’re right,” and as she peered around the corner of the archway into the city, he became lost in his thoughts again.

He watched her for a long time. She had grown up so much in those last two years—-really, they both had. Not only in those two years, either, but ever since the quest to destroy Ahriman had begun. He had the briefest trace of a thought about the demon—what had become of him after the Sword of Shadows was shattered—and then Rhen turned and smiled at him, and the thought vanished instantly.

“You are so quiet lately,” she said at last as she returned to his side. “It is not like you.” He laughed gloomily, but could not think of a sufficient answer. Rhen watched him sadly for a moment, then said, with an air of melancholy resolve, “Perhaps you ought to go home, Lars.”

He looked up at her, and for the first time that she could remember, there were tears in his eyes. “You do not mean that,” he whispered.

She looked away. “It isn’t doing you any good, me dragging you all over the world like this.” It was hurting her just as much as, if not more so than, it was hurting him to do what she was trying to do; but she had been so selfish these past two years, thinking only of her own suffering and doubt. She tried to convince herself that this was the best thing for him. “I am sure your mother is worried sick about you. I don’t—-I mean, you don’t—-why are you doing this, anyway?” she blurted out.

He stared at her, blinking incredulously. “You cannot be serious,” he said finally, his tone taking on a familiar, almost condescending quality that she recognized immediately and did not appreciate. “Do you honestly mean to tell me that—after all this time—-after all that we have been through together—-you really don’t have any idea? The others certainly never missed an opportunity to let me know how obvious I was being.” She flinched slightly at the mention of their friends, as it still hurt her that it had been so long since she knew anything of them, but Lars did not notice this; he only saw how uncomfortable she now looked at his sudden mood change. He sighed heavily and took both her hands in his, realizing that now, more than ever, he needed to tell her, that he needed her to know. He gazed deep into her eyes and said softly, “Rhen...I love you.”

A surprised and troubled look came into her eyes. Speech did not find her for several moments, and when it did, it was hoarse and choked. “How...how long...?”

“I don’t know,” he laughed miserably. “A long time. Too long, by the look of it. You have really never suspected it?”

She had, perhaps, once or twice; but she always dismissed it as her imagination. How could the boy who had treated her so badly for so long possibly be the man now standing before her, telling her with deepest sincerity that he loved her? “Why...didn’t you ever tell me this?”

“Why, Rhen?” he repeated, now beginning to wonder if she was being cruel on purpose. He let go of her hands and took a few steps away from her. “Dameon,” he said painfully. “I didn’t tell you...because of Dameon.” She appeared to want to say something, but now he had begun, he did not want to let her interrupt. “I mean, you were so...What chance did I have? Even before, it was marginal...And then he showed up. And then you said—-you said you loved him. And you know what? I was actually sorry to see him go. I was, because of what it was doing to you. And that was why I offered to go and find him for you. But you weren’t supposed to come with me. You were supposed to go to Thais, where everyone kept saying you belonged, and when I came back in a year or so, having failed—-like I always knew I would—-you would have been grateful that at least I had tried.” He paused. “I just...I just wanted you...just once...to look at me the way you looked at him.”

Words eluded Rhen yet again, and she could not speak until Lars said, “Maybe I should go,” and began to walk away into the jungle. Finally she called, “Don’t!” He stopped, and she said, more quietly, “Don’t go. I—-I didn’t really want you to, I just thought...I’m—-I’m really sorry, Lars. For––for everything.”

Overwhelming guilt consumed them both, each for their own reasons, and they were both quiet for some time. Finally, as though reaching a silent agreement to forgive and to be forgiven, they looked at one another, and Lars said, “So did you...still want to proceed as planned?”

She nodded, and as they entered the city together, she asked him, “You are certain there is someone here who will be willing to help us?”

“As long as humans are still, you know, ‘safe’ here, then there is at least one person,” he said with another look at the palace.

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daeva_agas: boy, are YOU a tough customer. XD hopefully this next one will tide you over; after that there won't be a whole lot of battles for a while. :roll:

 

phoenixalia: thank you! and thanks for reading! :)

 

 

Chapter 26 - The Last Trial

 

“I must admit, you have done very well so far,” I continued. “Surviving a duel with Aesma is no small feat; thought I daresay he has been far easier on you than he has ever been on me.” I glanced over at Aesma, who grinned and waved a dismissive hand at me, and then I turned back to Hajetus. “Now, since Tawrich clearly wishes to see some swordplay—-” Tawrich laughed at this. “—-let us begin there.”

Hajetus held the sword out in front of him, and I told him, “Go on. Let’s see what you’ve got.”

He raised the sword over his head and brought it down swiftly in my direction. I blocked his attack easily, and it was immediately evident that Tawrich’s sword was giving him far more trouble than mine had. Next he tried an attack from the side, which I also prevented him from landing. Frustrated, he jabbed at my stomach; a sidestep stopped him there.

“Well,” I sighed, “you do seem to have the mechanics down. Perhaps with a lighter sword...Now, let us see if you can defend yourself.”

I aimed a few simple attacks, which he did, surprisingly, manage to ward off. He parried each of my first few blows effectively. “Good,” I told him as my blade glanced off his. But as I quickened the pace, he began to have trouble keeping up with me. I attempted a straight vertical strike, which he parried with the sword above his head, but when I came back with a side strike, he was not fast enough to block it, and my blade pierced his right arm. He hissed furiously—-though whether it was out of pain or irritation, it was difficult to tell—-and glanced at his injury for a fraction of a second.

“Not as good,” I said before he began taking a few angry but well-placed swipes at me. His weapon was far too heavy for him, and he was losing momentum rapidly. A few more defensive moves would have been more than enough to send him to his knees; instead, I maneuvered my sword to catch his near the hilt and remove it from his hands. I pointed my sword at his chest, and he put his hands up in defeat.

“You need work,” I told him at last. “A lot of work. Against a lesser opponent, you may fare better...but that is beside the point.” I resheathed my sword, and Tawrich went and collected his. “Now, let us see what else you have learned.”

Hajetus’s first inclination, apparently, was to prevent me from doing him any harm. He cast Sun Spot, but I easily dodged the spell. Taking a hint from Tawrich, I said, “Time Storm!” Little, if anything, came of it, except that Hajetus looked a touch on the disturbed side. I turned to Tawrich and shrugged, saying, “It was worth a try.”

“Indeed it was,” Tawrich chuckled.

Still bewildered, Hajetus shouted, “Sunstroke!” with a small degree of uncertainty. I immediately said, “Time Reverse!” and his spell not only went sailing back at him, but struck him as well, giving him the same painful red blistering that he had caused his other opponents.

“Where is your focus, boy?” I said as he removed the curse. “Was that not the very first thing I taught you—-keep your focus?”

He glared at me, mumbled something, and then attempted Sun Spot again. He was marginally more successful this time, in that the spell actually reached me, but I managed to throw it off before any damage was done. I quickly shot a fireball at him, but it broke around him like water on rock. The “something” he had mumbled had obviously been a fire shield.

“Much better,” I said, and gave him two more fireballs. The first did the same as the previous one; but the second broke through the weakened fire shield, and Hajetus’s robes caught fire with surprising speed. I stood waiting for him to extinguish the blaze, which proved to be a mistake; I had underestimated him, and he shouted, “Solar Shock!” before even putting out the fire. The spell was much more powerful now than it was the first few times he had used it on me, and his aim was better, as well. The spell hit me in the chest, and the best way for me to describe it would be like the bite of an enormous and extremely venomous animal. I managed to stay on my feet, even through the blinding pain, and fortunately the spell wore off rather quickly. I supposed Hajetus must be getting very tired by now; he certainly appeared to be, in addition to the fresh burns and visible pain. I said, “Gate Extura!” and behind him opened a wide, dark void, rather like a black hole, which threatened to pull him into another dimension within seconds.

Hajetus instinctively dove out of the reach of the irresistible force of the Gate and yelled, “Eclipse!” We were plunged once again into utter darkness—-well, nearly utter darkness. The interdimensional gate I had conjured gave off trace amounts of dark light, just enough for me to find Hajetus on his feet again, not far from the yawning void. I cast Soul Song and then removed the Gate. The Eclipse ended, and Hajetus stood frozen, a lifeless statue of a druid, looking very much like his mother.

“Impossible!” hissed Saurva. “He has no soul!”

“Or...does he?” Indra said, bewildered.

“He is still half-human,” Tawrich explained, yet again.

“Which means he still retains a portion of his human soul,” I finished for him.

“I can’t believe I didn’t think of that!” said Zarich incredulously.

“Nor I,” laughed Nanghaithya, shaking his head.

I heard Aesma sigh loudly from behind me. “Well, I suppose I must concede victory to you...again...” he groaned.

“Oh, come now, Aesma,” I said with a smirk, “you must realize that I cannot finish it like this. I haven’t even used my best spell.”

I returned what was left of Hajetus’s soul to him, and his reaction upon reviving was to cast Firefly. A swarm of the angry little insects flew at me at breakneck speed. I fought to keep a straight face as I destroyed them with Time Storm; evidently Hajetus’s weariness and frustration were getting the better of him. It was this that gave me pause for the slightest moment before I said, “Reality Shift.”

Hajetus collapsed to the ground and howled in what I knew to be excruciating pain. He looked very much like a rag doll over which two unseen children were fighting, and rather violently at that. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Indra look away. After a minute or two watching the spell take its toll on the boy, I had to suppress a shudder as I was reminded of my own distant past. I released the spell, and Hajetus stopped moving altogether. No one moved or spoke. I approached him slowly, lying there now shaking and breathing rapidly, and told him, “You did very well, considering the surrounding circumstances; though I do have to admit that I had had a bit more faith in your abilities. You’ve got this far; it is a shame you were not able to—-”

He silenced me by sitting up on his elbow, fixing me with a deadly glare, and panting, “Sun...Fury...”

At first, nothing happened, except that Hajetus fell back to the ground. Then, opposite the effect of Eclipse, all my vision was filled with blinding white light. I involuntarily fell to my knees as the full force of the spell took effect. It was as though a fire had been kindled in my abdomen, and was spreading throughout my body and intensifying at an alarming rate. The spell was vastly more forceful than Indra’s Fury, and many times more painful than Reality Shift. It was by far the worst pain I had ever experienced. I did not know how long I sustained it, only that after the longest moments of my entire existence, everything suddenly went very dark.

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Chapter 27 - The Past and the Present

 

A small boy, no more than five, sat alone in a dark corner. There were terrible burns over most of his skin that was exposed, and over much of that which was hidden beneath his clothes. He had been sitting there, not moving, for some time, and had not spoken for even longer. Finally, a woman with long dark hair and a kind face came to him in his corner, smiling, but with a sad and worried look in her eyes.

“I wondered where you’d disappeared to,” she said gently. A second’s look showed her the marks on his arms and face, and she knelt down and said with a deep, concerned breath, “He has been at it again.”

She reached forward to caress the boy’s injured face, but he drew away from her. She sighed. “He has been so careful that I not see it now,” she said sadly. She peered into the boy’s eyes and asked him, “You haven’t even been crying, have you?” He shook his head vigorously, and she replied, “You never do. You are so brave...But you shouldn’t have to be.” The boy still said nothing.

The woman sighed again, and crawled over to sit beside the child in his corner. “I wish I knew why he was like this,” she began in a defeated tone. “They say it is his nature. But I do not believe it. Because you are nothing like him, and you never will be.” She looked down at the boy, who was staring vacantly at the floor, his arms wrapped around his knees, just the way she had found him. “I wish I was stronger,” she continued, tears beginning to well in her eyes. “I wish...I suppose I wish a lot of things. I only hope one day you can forgive me.”

The boy finally looked up, turned to her, and said, “Forgive you for what, Mother?”

She smiled, and silent tears slid down her cheeks. “Not like him,” she said again. “Never like him.” She gently put her arm around the child; he winced slightly, but allowed her to hold him, leaning his head against her.

“Why does he hate me, Mother?” he asked her after a long pause.

She had a fleeting desire to tell him that he was wrong, but she knew it would do no good. Instead, she resigned herself to answering him, “I wish I understood it myself.” There was another silence, and then her tears began to flow more freely as she leaned down and kissed her son’s head, and he told her, “Don’t cry, Mother. It isn’t your fault. I’ll be okay.”

She drew a great, shuddering breath and released it, and said, “Yes you will, Agas. Even if it kills me.”

 

I shook my head. I remembered the scene, as though out of another lifetime, with stark clarity, as if it was happening again at that very moment. I opened my eyes and sat up slowly. I could only have been down a few seconds, since Hajetus was still on the ground himself, and half the other daevas were coming to my side. I waved them off and rose to my feet, just as Tawrich was reviving Hajetus. After a few moments allowing the boy to recover, I asked slyly, “Saving that one for me, were you?”

He grinned sheepishly and shrugged his shoulders. “Actually, I tried to use it on Aesma first, but he Annihilated me before I could finish the spell. And it takes an awful lot of energy. There was no way I could attempt it again...until...well, you know...”

I looked around at all the others, whose expressions showed varying degrees of shock. None of them even seemed to be able to speak. Finally I roused them with, “Well, I must say...I am convinced.”

Saurva was the first to recover. “Indeed, that was good enough for me,” he said with a nasty smile. “In fact, I should very much like to see it again.”

“I hate to admit it,” said Aesma, shaking his head. “But I am...impressed. I’d like to see it again, as well.” I shot him a sarcastic, “Ha, ha,” and he added, “Well, not on you.” He glanced in Saurva’s direction, who bared his teeth but said nothing further.

Indra was looking at me with both curiosity and concern. For the briefest moment, I had the strangest feeling that she knew what I had seen after I had taken Hajetus’s Sun Fury, and it was very disconcerting. I shook my head again and looked away, though I could still feel her gaze upon me. As the other daevas also began to leave behind their surprise, Indra took the opportunity to catch me on my own; she approached me in an almost timid manner and gently took hold of my arm. I looked down at her, raised my eyebrows, and said, “What?”

“I know what it is you saw,” she said softly.

“And?” I replied defensively.

“I never realized...” Tears were beginning to form in her eyes.

“And did you not consider the possibility that there was a reason for that?” I muttered.

“Agas...” she began in a whisper; but before she said anything further, my attention was diverted, and I shouted, “Aesma!” scoldingly, as I could see that he was clearly requesting Hajetus to perform Sun Fury again, though this time on Saurva. I had felt Indra jump when I yelled, but she still hadn’t let go of my arm. Aesma shot me a guilty look, which quickly turned to an incredulous one when he noted Indra’s clinging to me. I glanced down at her again and gave her an admonishing look, at which she released me and stepped away, her face slightly flushed.

“Daevas,” announced Tawrich, “perhaps we can convene for a moment?”

We reformed the circle, leaving Hajetus well outside of it, and Tawrich continued, “The boy has proven himself to my mind. He has performed the Trials far better than I ever would have expected. I, for one, believe he has earned the right to become a daeva.”

The rest of us were silent, rendered so by the shock of what Tawrich had said. Tawrich had, as far as I could remember, never voiced an opinion before he had heard those of the other daevas. He looked around at us imperiously. Zarich was next to speak.

“Well, I would say he’s earned it by mere virtue of the fact that he has mastered Sun Fury,” he said decisively.

“And I would say—-” Saurva began with a smirk in my direction.

“Yes, we all know what you would say,” I interrupted dismissively. “But I do agree with Tawrich. The boy has shown resilience that I would not have thought possible, especially for a human.”

“I suppose I must admit,” said Aesma grudgingly, “that he has shown strength and determination that even many demons lack.”

Nanghaithya nodded. “I myself am surprised. And if nothing else, he would be a formidable foe.”

Indra murmured that she agreed with the rest of us, but did not comment any further or look at anyone directly, though I did think she shot a furtive glance or two my way. It was the first time I could recall the seven of us ever coming to a unanimous decision, apart from the overthrow of Ahriman. We turned to Hajetus, who was very worn and beaten and appeared to be on his feet only through sheer force of will, and bade him join us.

“Hajetus,” Tawrich said gravely, “you have completed the trials required to be considered for daeva status. We have discussed your performance, and have come to a rare unanimous decision.” Tawrich paused, and Hajetus looked around at the rest of us, as though trying to read our expressions. Finally Tawrich told him, “We have reached the conclusion that you have earned the right to become a daeva.”

It was difficult to read Hajetus’s face; he looked pleased, but at the same time relieved, as though if we had told him he had failed, he would have been put to death. He nodded silently. Tawrich began to speak again, but I said, “If I may?” Tawrich yielded me the floor, and I told Hajetus, “Be advised that you do still have a lot to learn, and that ‘daeva’ is much more than a mere title.”

“Maintaining order amongst demons is far more difficult than it is with humans,” Nanghaithya added.

“And if you are not living up to our expectations,” said Aesma darkly, “we have ways of dealing with you.”

Hajetus nodded slowly. Even Aesma’s words did not appear to phase him. Only when we told him that there was another spell to be performed did he become uncomfortable.

“Is it...anything like the one that made me a demon?” he asked warily.

“No, nothing so drastic.” Tawrich told him. “It is merely to make you ‘stand out,’ as it were, amongst other demons. It is a far better system of establishing who is in authority than the old method, which...suffice it to say, involved more of a display of one’s power.”

Tawrich said nothing more on the subject, for which at least a few of the other daevas were grateful, as more than one of us had been “introduced” to a daeva of old. It was true, the spell was really unnecessary, more of a small degree of extra convenience for us than anything else; but demons, unlike humans, do not recognize authority by sight, and require a bit more...convincing.

“Shall I, then?” Tawrich asked, looking around at the rest of us.

“Be our guest, Tawrich,” Aesma answered for the group.

Tawrich placed a bony hand on the boy’s head and murmured, “Grat dagalur-ob, larguluk iist ta.” A brief flash of blue light passed from Tawrich’s hand, and it was done. Hajetus seemed surprised.

“Your demonic aura shall now be recognized by lesser demons as that of a daeva,” Nanghaithya explained to him. “Nothing terribly epic about it.”

Hajetus nodded. “So...what happens now?” he wondered.

“Eventually you shall be given a kingdom to rule,” I said. “But again, you still have much to learn.”

“And to prove,” Saurva muttered.

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Sorry for being so quiet lately. I skimmed the rest--Wow! you have a long way to go, kaz... o.o

 

Aw, poor Agas. :cry: I think that part made me all teary last time. The demonic aura is cool too. Once more--Stupid Dameon! >.< (Sorry, he was so evil and was dumb as a human. Good Lars got Rhen. Good! And I say Dameon (not Balaak or Hajetus) because it was Dameon who decided this--he's so stupid!) XD hehe. lol, Been wanting to get that out for a while. :D

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dis: i know, i know. *sigh* and that's just what you've already seen...i've got a LOT longer to go than that.

insulting my dameon...was that payback for me insulting your pathetic blue-haired king?... :evil:

 

daeva_agas: :laughing: yeah, good thing. XD

 

 

Chapter 28 - The End of All That Was Good

 

Hajetus would spend the months that followed in each different kingdom, carrying out the duties assigned to him, beginning with Zarich in Mysten Far and the Dreamland, which we left in Zarich’s capable hands for the time being. Hajetus protested at first, stating that what little he could remember of the Dreamland he did not care for the least—-and I did have to sympathize with him there—-but, of course, he really had no say in the matter.

There came a day when I decided to travel the Western Isle to make sure things were progressing as planned. Upon leaving the palace, I took note of several dragons circling over Sedona, which I found very odd; but otherwise the city and surrounding countryside were just the way they should be. As I journeyed through the kingdom, I had to marvel at how quickly the race of men had fallen; evidently we had attributed to them strength of which they were not possessed. It was a wondrous thing to see, how barren and desolate the land had become, how dark and joyless were the skies, how black the waters, how magnificently ruined the structures of men...

And then, on a hillside far to the south, I stopped. Before me lay the Oldwoods, as golden and pristine as they had ever been.

I shook my head, and for a moment I had to wonder why it surprised me. And then I began to wonder why, when I was finally free of Ahriman and any reservations otherwise, I had not been there before this. I turned aside to survey the ruined landscape around me, unable to answer my own question; and it was not long before I sensed the presence of another.

“Agas,” said a voice from behind me, one that I knew all too well.

“Liya,” I said as I turned to face her. She hadn’t changed at all; but this was not unusual with the Elves.

She came and stood beside me at the edge of the hill, staring out across the vast sea of nothingness and despair. “You have not been here for a long time,” she said. “I was beginning to wonder...” She trailed off, but I could guess what she was thinking. I didn’t answer; somehow, it was easier not to say anything.

“So much death...” she continued quietly, and I knew that she referred not necessarily to loss of lives, but of the forests and grasslands and growing things that Elves loved so dearly. “Did the world of men deserve this?”

I looked at her. “You tell me what the world of men deserves.”

She smiled sadly. “We do not deal out judgement. You above all should know this.”

“And you should know that this is not about what anyone deserves,” I replied. “We are demons. This is our nature. We have no use for things that are green and growing...just as you do not abide things that are dark and evil.”

She put her arms around me. “That is true,” she said with a warm smile. We embraced silently for several moments, and then she whispered in Elvish, “You are not dark and evil.”

I pulled away from her slightly and looked into her eyes. I knew she was being sincere, but something in what she said or the way she had said it had made me painfully aware of why I was there. She seemed to know my thoughts—-or perhaps she had known all along—-because she stopped smiling, pulled away gently, and took my hands in hers.

“We are sailing into the West,” she told me. There was a land, far across the sea, from which the first Elves had come, thousands of years before. Often when the Elves of Ylisfar had spent all the long years of their lives, they would sail across the sea to the home of their ancestors, never to return. “Father believes there is nothing for us here.”

I squeezed my eyes shut and shook my head slowly. Then I looked at her again. “Go,” I told her. “Your king is right. This place no longer holds anything that is good. Do not protest,” I added quickly, as she seemed to want to interrupt. “Go with your people. There is...nothing...for you here.”

She looked down, perhaps not to show me the tears forming in her eyes. “Why could you not have been happy with the way things were?” she whispered.

I put my hand under her chin and gently tilted her head so I could look into her eyes, and I wondered, “Were you?”

She laughed bitterly, but did not argue. A tear rolled down her cheek. I brushed it away, and she said, “It was never meant to be.”

“It was a dream,” I concurred. “Nothing more.”

“But it was a wonderful dream,” she said softly, her smile returning for a moment.

I smiled too. “How soon?”

“Too,” she sighed. “As soon as the ships can be made ready.”

“I will ensure your way is unhindered.”

She nodded. “Do not come to the harbor,” she said anxiously, looking away. “I—-”

”I won’t,” I promised. I looked over her shoulder toward the east. The Oldwoods, untouched by the destruction of the demons, reflected nothing of the world around them, and through the thick gray clouds a patch of sun could be seen shining over it. She looked there as well.

“That accursed sun always seems to find that place,” I said with a grin.

She laughed. “And I am sure it always will. The Elves will not be forgotten in these lands.”

“No,” I said seriously, “they won’t.”

She looked at me sadly. We stood there for a long time, but there were no more words to be said. She took her leave, looking back only once as she departed. I stood watching after her, long after she had vanished into the forest.

The Elven ships departed for the West that very sunset. I saw to it that they would have no interference from demon or human on their way to the western shore. I did go to the harbor, but it was long after they had already gone.

As I stared into that dark water, an emptiness like I had never known came over me. Daevas do not feel love, I told myself; but the words did not fill the void. I knew I would never see her again—and that was best for both of us. This world was no longer fit for Elves. And I had many things to do.

 

THE END...

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...of Part One.

 

hehehe...

 

let's call this the 'prologue' to Part Two. red text means...well...you'll see...eventually...

 

 

Across a barren wasteland, a lone, stooping figure hobbled. He was weak, disoriented, and filled with malice. He sought only aid, comfort in his time of need, but could find none. There were many to blame, he thought, for his misfortune; but one stood out in his mind, far clearer than all the others. And it was this one upon whom all his darkest desires were bent.

In his journey, the old man came across all manner of beings, but he knew that even those who were willing to assist him could not. What he sought was someone of great power, someone who could help him exact his revenge and claim what was rightfully his. And after years of searching, he came across such a one.

In an isolated place, a far corner of the world, deep within a hidden cavern, he sensed the presence of another, one who had once been possessed of tremendous power. He approached the being with caution, and a sinister voice rang through the gloom of the chamber.

“Who are you to have entered this place?” said the voice. “What fever has taken your mind that you would seek out one such as me?”

The old man was not daunted; on the contrary, the tone of the voice intrigued him. “I once was one of vast power and influence,” he spoke to the darkness. “I ruled over many. But I was betrayed. And now I have nothing.”

The sinister voice laughed, a cold, harsh laugh. “That is a curious thing. I once had power unrivaled, and I too was betrayed. Now I dwell within this abysmal place, seething in my spite. And the one who put me here wanders free, as though no wrongs have been committed.”

“Name the one who betrayed you,” offered the old man, seizing an opportunity he had never thought possible. The voice growled the name of the betrayer, and the man laughed in his delight. “How very strange,” he said quietly. “That is the name of my traitor, as well.”

“Is it, now?” said the sinister voice with interest. “Hmm. Been busy.”

“Indeed, for I know of others who have also had this trouble,” the old man told him.

“And still the creature walks free,” said the voice angrily.

“But not for long,” the old man replied. “Join me. Together we can regain our former strength and powers. The traitor will be destroyed. And we can make things right once more.”

The sinister voice murmured approval. “As they should be.”

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indeed they will...as long as they still live...:evil:

 

 

The Agas Saga, Part II

 

 

Chapter 1 - Unexpected Trouble

 

The reign of Men had ended. The Age of Demons had begun. It had been little less than three years since the destruction of the Sword of Shadow, when demons had finally returned to the surface world after eons in the Demon Realm, and men had ceded their self-declared superiority with far less resistance than I, or any of the other daevas, would ever have expected. The race of men had finally accepted defeat.

Or so it seemed.

Shortly after visiting the palace dungeons of Sedona, where I kept some of the more troublesome humans I had come across, I was visited by an imp, who brought me some unexpected, and rather discomforting, news.

“An urgent message to the Lord Agas from the Lord Hajetus,” said the imp obsequiously, “regarding the Lady Indra.”

I always hated the way imps delivered messages—-as though the fate of all things rested in their words—-but as it really was the most effective method of communicating over long distances, I merely rolled my eyes and said, “Out with it.”

“The Lady has been attacked,” he continued dramatically. “And the filthy human responsible is still at large.”

“Attacked?” I repeated. “Where? When? By whom?”

He bowed low in apology. “I was not given that information, save that the perpetrator was a pirate.”

“Then I have no further use for you. Dismissed.” He grumbled something about not being appreciated, and I said, “On second thought, take a message to Gubash that I shall be away for a short while.” He scowled, but nodded and then vanished with quite a bit more ceremony than was necessary. Based upon the scant information I had, I went to the Northern Isle, to the palace of ice that the former queen of that kingdom had inhabited, and where Indra now took up residence.

I was greeted at the entrance by one of the Angels of Death that Indra liked to keep as palace guards. After a brief delay in which I had to threaten her life to keep her hands off of me, she led me through the narrow, icy corridors to a room outside which stood another Angel. The two women spoke briefly in hushed tones, and the second permitted me to enter the room, which I discovered was a large master bedroom containing ornate stone and crystal furniture and large frosted windows. Indra was sitting up in bed, though she did appear to be in a great deal of pain, with a third Angel seated at her bedside. In a chair on the opposite side was a harassed-looking Hajetus, with another Angel beside him. When he saw me, he leapt out of his chair as though it had just electrocuted him.

“I did not want to leave her alone, but—-” he said quickly, rolling his eyes in an exasperated sort of way at the two Angels. “Nanghaithya’s already been and gone—-”

”He wouldn’t stay, either?” I laughed.

He shook his head. “Why won’t they take ‘no’ for an answer?” he asked quietly.

“Because they are women,” I replied. “Why should they?”

He rolled his eyes again. “Would you mind...?”

Nearly before I had time to respond, he fled the room with incredible haste. I took Hajetus’s seat beside Indra, who was wearing an amused expression, and said, “I cannot say I think much of your choice of guards, either.”

“Then they are doing their job,” she said with a smile.

“I would make a comment about gigantic poisonous reptiles, but...really, what’s the difference?” She laughed, and I asked her, in a more serious tone, “What happened?”

“I was in Thornkeep,” she began. “Never, even before we took back the world, have I had need to be concerned for my own safety there. Perhaps that is why he was able to take me by surprise.”

“Who was?”

She gave me a cold, accusatory look. “That worthless pirate. I had thought the pirates fell under your jurisdiction.”

“Only the ones who make port in Sedona,” I retorted. “Incidentally, you wouldn’t be accusing me of sending a worthless pirate to Thornkeep, on the outside chance you would be there, to have him attack you?”

“Of course not,” she muttered, slightly redder than she had been a moment before. “Anyway, it was not just any pirate. It was the same one who traveled with Hajetus and the sword singer before Ahriman was defeated.”

“You...remember him?”

“I remember his Elvish blade,” she said bitterly. “Which he still carries, by the way.”

Now it began to make sense. I could not imagine Indra sustaining anything close to a serious injury after a run-in with a mere pirate. There seemed to be something else she wished to say, but she did not say it. Finally I asked, “Where is he now?”

She sighed. “I do not know. He had slipped off before I was able to do anything.”

“Who found you?”

“One of the Angels. She sent for Hajetus straightaway. I suppose...it is not such a bad thing that he is close by,” she finished grudgingly.

By “close by,” she had meant Aveyond; since none of the rest of us really cared to go near it, we had given it to Hajetus to “rule,” as it were. And aside from his deadly Sun Fury, his mastery of healing spells had proven more useful than we had assumed it would. All in all, he was going above and beyond the call of duty to prove himself worthy of the daeva status we had granted him.

“I should like to point out,” Indra added after a pause, “that this was no random attack, either.”

“Well, obviously.”

“I meant, inebriated though he was, he was possessed of enough clarity to ‘warn’ me that the sword singer still lives, and is—-how did he put it?—-‘plotting our downfall’.”

“A terrifying prospect,” I said sardonically.

“Yes, well, just because she has not destroyed us yet does not mean that she has lost the ability.”

I resisted the urge to ask what one human girl with a sword could possibly do to us at this point, and instead turned the conversation to the Angels in the room, who kept creeping nearer and nearer to me. “I do have to wonder why Hajetus did not ask you to leave,” I said to the nearer one.

“He did,” Indra said slyly.

“And did he threaten to set either of them on fire?” I asked her.

“You wouldn’t.”

I conjured a fireball and said, “Wouldn’t I?”

She nodded dismissal at each of the Angels, who pouted but did as they were instructed. I vanished the fireball, and after a long pause, the thing Indra had stopped herself from saying escaped her at last.

“They say the Elves have gone,” she said stiffly.

“One less obstacle, I suppose,” I said with a shrug.

“There is no need to be so stoic,” she said testily. There was another pause, and finally she said, “I am sorry.”

“Are you?” I returned before I could stop myself.

I could see that there were many more things she wanted to say, but after an angry glare at me, she turned away and said nothing. I looked down and sighed, wishing, as I had for the past three thousand years, that she would not get upset so easily; but before I was able to say anything, there came a knock at the door. Indra hastily wiped her eyes and then said, “Enter.”

Hajetus reappeared, looking thoroughly relieved that the Angels were gone. “We still have not found the pirate,” he reported. “And I sent a few demons to the Memory Caves, but they were empty.”

“Memory Caves?” I repeated curiously.

“The pirate said the sword singer lived in hiding with the fairies,” Indra explained, though she would not look in my direction. Sensing by her tone that I had overstayed my welcome, I left the room, and Hajetus did the same.

“I am curious,” I said to him once we were out in the hall, “had you found the pirate or the sword singer, what did you plan to do with them?”

“I don’t know,” he said with a sigh. “I had not gotten that far.”

“You do realize that you once claimed these people to be your friends?”

He shook his head. “And I am certain that there was a time when that would have meant something to me. But I am no longer that person.”

“Nor, after all the trouble we have gone to, should you be,” I said.

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maybe the old man , Rhen , sword singer , Lars , the sorcerer , Te'ijal can also act to save the world , Pirate John , FAIRIES, ELVES AND Druid of Strength , Eithera is a threat for the daevas

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oh come now, this isn't the story of how the daevas took over the world and rhen took it back...where's the fun in that? XD

 

...besides, you mentioned tei'jal...wait, have we gotten to that part yet? XD

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I'm going to have to keep better track of all the mysterious characters this time around. :) I would really like to figure out who they are! :D

 

We embraced silently for several moments, and then she whispered in Elvish, “You are not dark and evil.”

 

See, I'm not the only one who says terrible things about your daevas!

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thanks, all! you're the best! :)

 

(btw, cherry, while that may be true, i don't have a 'West' to escape to...XD)

 

speak of the devil, tei...

 

 

Chapter 2 - Doubt

 

We continued to search for the pirate that had attacked Indra, mostly for the sake of making him suffer, but he proved to be far less stupid than the appearance he gave. I personally had not put any stock in what he had told Indra about the sword singer; but Indra was bound and determined to find the girl and destroy her before any “harm” could be done. She insisted a council be called to warn the other daevas, which was ironic, as she was still recovering, and not able to attend it herself; and so I summoned the others to the Western Isle. Hajetus made sure to explain to everyone what Indra had told him; but apart from outrage at the attack itself, no one had an outwardly aggrieved reaction to the news.

As it happened, the only other daeva who showed any interest at all in the pirate’s “warning,” if it was one, was Tawrich. After traveling the Isles for a year, he had decided at last to settle in the Lowlands of the Western Isle, taking up residence in a large empty manor house east of the town of Brumwich, and spent a lot of time alone and thinking. He said that what puzzled him was why the pirate would even bother mentioning this, especially to a daeva: if it was true, then giving up the sword singer’s plan was nothing short of treason; but if it was a lie, then to what purpose would he have created such a ridiculous tale? Tawrich often did this, though; that is, searched for meaning in even the most blatantly meaningless words. Of course, he often turned out to be right, but I still felt that he and Indra were making far too much of this.

As I say, the other daevas were far less concerned with pirates and old prophecies. Zarich claimed to be busy with what he called a “secret project,” on which he would not elaborate; and Aesma was enjoying every moment of his freedom from the Demon Realm, and was not about to let some foolish girl who would not even show herself spoil his fun. Saurva, as usual, had little to contribute that did not end a scathing remark for me, and so I had to assume that he was no more bothered by the sword singer than anyone else. Nanghaithya seemed distracted, more so than usual, but he managed to keep up with the conversation long enough to agree that the Chosen One was the last thing on his mind.

When all was said and done, and the other daevas began to depart for their own kingdoms, Tawrich asked me, “Does Nanghaithya seem...not quite himself to you?”

“Stranger than usual,” I agreed, “which is saying a lot.”

“I heard that.” Nanghaithya came up behind us, giving me the merest hint of an annoyed expression.

“Prepared to do something about it?” I challenged.

He sighed, but would not take the bait. Finally Tawrich asked him, “Are you not going to tell us the problem, then?”

“There is no—-problem,” Nanghaithya said at once, slightly abashed.

“Which would indicate that your behavior is due to lack of problem, then,” I said. “Would you care for one?”

He glared at me. “How very amusing.” Then, evidently sensing defeat, he looked about him to make sure no one else had stayed behind. “It’s...um...it’s Tei’jal,” he said at last, as though it was giving him a great deal of difficulty.

“Has something happened to her?” Tawrich wondered.

“No—-well...” He rolled his eyes. “She may have lost her mind, but otherwise, no. She...she wants—-she wants—-”

He stopped, and Tawrich prompted, “What does she want?”

Nanghaithya shut his eyes. “To get—-married.”

Tawrich and I looked at each other, and then I turned to Nanghaithya again. “To whom?”

He gave me an impatient look that indicated that he did not find my question the least bit humorous. But I could see why he thought the vampire had been deprived of her senses. Demons did not get married; it was as simple as that. Marriage was a pitiful display of humans’ mortality, a needless ceremony to bind themselves to one another until their lives ended. I had to assume Nanghaithya had already explained all of this to Tei’jal, thus the reason for his dilemma.

“Well, Nanghaithya,” said Tawrich sagely, “it is a bit...unusual; but I suppose we’ve all done some unusual things.” He shot a meaningful look at me.

“You have no idea,” I said. “But honestly, Nanghaithya, what is the problem? Afraid of how we all were going to react? It is strange, but what difference does that make? There is no Ahriman to punish you for it.”

He grinned. “One cannot help but appreciate the jokes you make at your own expense, Agas. But I suppose you are right.” Then he laughed. “How did you put it?...‘Whatever the vampire wants, the vampire gets.’”

 

Shortly after our council, I traveled south, accompanying Tawrich on his journey home, to pay a visit to the humans’ school building, not far from the manor house. I had had several reports from orcs out of the south that there were strange things happening at the school; it sounded as though they had turned the place into a school of magic, training young humans to fight and defend themselves against demons. Tawrich and I speculated the many reasons for this, but all led us to the same conclusion: that the humans were making a feeble attempt to prepare themselves for some sort of futile and laughable revolution.

“Humans are weak,” I told Tawrich, “and so easily turned against each other. They have not the strength of their ancestors, nor, I think, will they ever again.”

“Still,” Tawrich said, “if they did manage all to band together, they could be a formidable, if not entirely effective, threat.”

“Hence the reason I am going to squash their little hopes.” I personally did not believe that the humans of this age could stand against us, but it never paid not to listen to Tawrich’s wisdom. I was about to comment further, when out of the corner of my eye I caught a sight that stopped me in my tracks.

“What is it?” Tawrich asked. I didn’t answer, instead scanning the patch of woods where I had seen movement, where I would have sworn I had seen...I supposed it was not outside the realm of possibility, but after what had become of him, for him to be roaming the woods as though nothing had happened seemed highly unlikely. I moved a few feet closer, but the figure was gone—-if indeed it had been there at all. Finally I turned to Tawrich, who wore a mildly curious expression.

“It was—-nothing,” I lied, though why I did so I was not certain.

Tawrich gave me a suspicious look, as though he knew what I was thinking, but he did not press the issue. Instead, we parted company, he toward his home, and I in the direction of the school. I had not gone far when I had the unsettling feeling that someone sinister was watching me, someone far more sinister than I. I stopped, and turned and headed back to the place that had caught my eye the first time. The dark, ruined trees, which were very near the border of the Oldwoods, betrayed little of what lie behind them; all I could see were ghostly shadows that may or may not have indicated shapes or movement.

I ventured into the wood, entirely aware of everything around me, and it was several minutes before I saw a finite shape: a figure cloaked in black. I gave chase, but the figure darted off like a rabbit. I attempted to keep to its left, hoping to chase it into the Oldwoods; if the figure belonged to whom I thought it did, then he would not get far going that way.

I pursued my quarry for several minutes, always only near enough to keep him in sight. Then, as the darkness began to clear to reveal the Oldwoods just ahead, the figure shot a spell at me without stopping or turning around. The spell missed me by about two feet, but it had been enough of a distraction for me to lose the cloaked figure to the darkness. I continued forward as quickly as I could, but too late, and at last I had to concede defeat. I sighed heavily, and resigned myself to retreat from the wood and continue on my errand, though with a greater sense of awareness, and with the feeling that complacency would not be an option.

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Derez jumped when he heard the tapping at his front door. He didn’t know why; he was perfectly safe, even more so than most other humans. Still, all demons were not equal, and there was always the possibility that one might not agree with the rules.

He went to the door and asked quietly, “Who’s there?”

There was an impatient sigh, and a female voice said, “It’s me.” He opened the door to reveal a red-haired vampire, scowling at him with her arms crossed.

“Honestly, Derez,” she continued in the same tone, “you act as though you are expecting Death to come to call.”

He shrugged sheepishly. “Old habits, I guess.”

He stepped back to allow her to enter, and she said, “Well, I would grant you that excuse if you hadn’t known I was coming. In fact, I do believe it was you who sent for me.”

He opened his mouth to retaliate, then realized that she was right and grumbled, “Whatever,” as he shut and locked the door.

She laughed and asked him, “So where are they?”

“Tei’jal!” shrieked a female voice from a doorway in the wall behind her. Tei’jal turned just in time to avoid being knocked to the ground by the purple-haired girl who flew at her and embraced her tightly.

“Nice to see you too, Rhen,” said Tei’jal.

When Rhen finally let go, she said, “I can’t tell you how glad I am to see you. So many bad things have been happening to my friends...” She trailed off, shaking her head sadly, and it was several moments before she recovered. “But you seem to be doing well.”

Derez snickered, and Rhen would have sworn he had muttered something about choosing sides. Tei’jal shot him a dirty look and hissed, “Quiet, you.” She ignored the mystified look on Rhen’s face and asked, “So where is Lars?”

“He’s here,” Rhen told her. “He wanders a lot, though.”

Derez laughed. He did not appear to be listening to the conversation, which told Tei’jal exactly what he found so funny, and gave him a menacing look. “Lars?” she prompted furiously.

“I’ll, uh...I’ll just go and collect him, shall I?” he said with a smirk.

“Yes, do,” Tei’jal said icily. As he left the room, Rhen wondered, “What’s wrong with him?”

Tei’jal sighed. “If we had an eternity, I could not begin to tell you. But...well, there is something I suppose you should know.” Now, she thought, how to put it...

Rhen watched her curiously, hoping desperately that this was not more bad news. Finally Tei’jal settled on, “I am...um...getting married.”

“But that is wonderful news!” Rhen said, relieved. But she did have to wonder what made Tei’jal so apprehensive about telling her. “Um, isn’t it?”

“It’s just...I would hate for you to think of me as a traitor,” Tei’jal said quickly.

“I would never think that,” Rhen assured her; though now that she thought of it, she began to have an idea of who he might be, and she understood what would have made Tei’jal say that. “Is it...?”

“Nanghaithya,” Tei’jal finished.

Rhen realized then that she was not the least bit surprised, and that far from being upset or angry, she found a small glimmer of hope in the news. “I am very happy for you. I truly am. Um...can I ask you something?”

Tei’jal knew exactly what it was; she had expected it, of course. She wondered sadly how much she ought to tell Rhen, and decided at last to give her just the basic facts, unless she asked for more.

“He seems to be doing well,” she began. “As well as a druid-turned-demon can be, at any rate. They’ve, um...they’ve made him a daeva.”

Rhen didn’t know how to react. Based on what little she knew of the daevas, she supposed becoming one was a good thing for a demon, and far better than a hundred other things that could have happened to him. She had a fleeting urge to inquire further, but suddenly decided that there was nothing further she wished to hear. Her heart was finally on the mend; the last thing she needed was for him to break it again, especially when he wasn’t even there. He was alive. He was safe. That was all she needed to know.

A moment or two went by, and Derez returned with Lars, who was also glad to see Tei’jal. She knew Derez must have told him her news, because the first thing he said to her, a smirk on his face, was, “So, Tei’jal, when’s the big day?”

“Ha, ha,” she said sarcastically as he approached and hugged her, too. “I’d forgotten your charming sense of humor. Still, I am glad to know that you and Rhen are all right.”

Lars exchanged a meaningful look with Derez and said, “Yes. We’ll see for how long.”

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XD

 

perfect timing.

 

i can just see the look of shock on bryan's face...

 

(can i take credit for giving you the idea in my own round about way that i still don't quite see how i influenced it? XD)

 

this is one of my favorite parts. i love this chapter.

 

“Honestly, Derez,” she continued in the same tone, “you act as though you are expecting Death to come to call.”

He shrugged sheepishly. “Old habits, I guess.”

He stepped back to allow her to enter, and she said, “Well, I would grant you that excuse if you hadn’t known I was coming. In fact, I do believe it was you who sent for me.”

He opened his mouth to retaliate, then realized that she was right and grumbled, “Whatever,” as he shut and locked the door.

 

Derez laughed. He did not appear to be listening to the conversation, which told Tei’jal exactly what he found so funny, and gave him a menacing look. “Lars?” she prompted furiously.

“I’ll, uh...I’ll just go and collect him, shall I?” he said with a smirk.

“Yes, do,” Tei’jal said icily. As he left the room, Rhen wondered, “What’s wrong with him?”

Tei’jal sighed. “If we had an eternity, I could not begin to tell you. But...well, there is something I suppose you should know.”

 

i'd quote the whole chapter, but...XD

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bryan_pasa: almost...:)

 

tei: seemed like a natural choice. need i remind you of all the times you visited a certain someone's 'grave'?... :lol:

 

 

Daena knew she would come. It was only a matter of time. Daena had Seen it, and knew that she would have Seen it too; it always seemed to be that way. But this time, Daena was fairly certain that there were no mysteries in it that she could unravel, no answers she could give.

A chilly breeze blew through the temple, and Daena knew that her sister had arrived. Her mother had often told her tales of her father, the father she and Indra shared, and from her mother’s words she took the impression that Indra was very much like him: bold, quick-tempered, and rash. But there was something in her demeanor now that Daena did not often see, and did not attribute to the average demon; an apprehension was present, a trace of anxiety that was somehow uncharacteristic and yet not so at the same time.

“You’ve been expecting me,” said Indra impatiently as Daena approached her. “You needn’t tell me every time I come here.”

“Which is not nearly often enough for you to be so testy about it,” Daena said serenely.

Indra’s eyes narrowed, but she waved off the comment with, “Have you Seen it, too?”

Daena sighed and said, “I have seen many things. But if you have come seeking answers, I am not altogether certain I can give them.”

“That miserable girl,” Indra muttered, ignoring her sister again. “I assume you saw that much.” Daena nodded, and Indra said, “Once again, far more trouble than a human should be. If only I had—-”

”But you did not,” Daena interjected. “And if you had, you would have stopped the chain of events that has led us here. You, at least, should be satisfied with that.”

Indra smirked. “Why, are you not, Daena?”

This time it was Daena who did the ignoring. “Surely you haven’t come to discuss the girl alone.”

Indra slowly shook her head. “Him,” she said darkly. “I did not think it possible.”

“I had hoped it wasn’t,” Daena agreed.

Indra laughed resentfully. “It is ironic, though.” After a short, tense pause, she asked her sister, “What of the child? What have you Seen?”

“No more than you, I am afraid. And we may not know even after the child is born, especially if it is not the only one.”

“Only one?” Indra repeated curiously. “Do you mean if there are twins?”

Daena shrugged, not exactly thinking along the same lines. Indra watched her for a moment, but Daena did not speak.

“Either way, it is maddening,” said Indra furiously. Then she gave her sister a knowing look. “Are you certain you have Seen no more?”

“Indra, what have I to gain at this point by lying? Besides, if these things come to pass, the fate of not only demons, but all creatures, will hang in the balance.”

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Chapter 3 - The New Prophecy

 

The school seemed to be highly organized and very well-run. That is, until I made my presence known; and then, chaos reigned. As soon as I entered the school, children fled from classrooms to the upper floors of the building, while the adults stayed behind, preparing for what they evidently assumed to be the start of a horrific battle.

“Come now, people,” I said with a laugh as I surveyed the dozen or so humans crowding the front hall, blocking the stairwell that led to the upper floors. “You far outnumber me; hardly a fair fight, is it? Besides, what have you to gain by destroying me?”

“Everything!” hissed someone near the back. At first there was silence, and then a murmur of agreement as the humans’ defensive stances slowly became offensive.

“I see. Well, I suppose, then, that Motion Freeze—-” The spell caught the lot of them off-guard; all were suspended in time, as models for a rather ridiculous painting. “—-holds no meaning for you. Ah, you are speechless. Very good. Now, I could go up those stairs behind you there, and find each and everyone one of your precious children, and think of a dozen places to leave them where you would not find them again. But this I will not do; not this time.

“But let me make this perfectly clear. I shall return to this building—-this school—-and I shall not expect to see this or anything like it happening again.

“This spell shall wear off...eventually. And when it does, you all would do well to remember that today, you have been rendered powerless, yet escaped with your lives. I shall not be so generous next time.”

My point made, I looked quickly over the malice, frustration, or sheer terror in each pair of eyes before me. Then I took my leave, and just as I did so, I could hear the sounds of the children returning to the ground floor. For the briefest moment, I contemplated releasing the spell, but quickly thought better of it.

The moment I had returned to Sedona, a squat, filthy goblin came hurtling toward me, clutching at a stitch in his side and breathing heavily. “My...lord...” he panted. “Lord...Aesma... here...to see you.”

I raised my eybrows, as this did not seem the sort of news that required such obvious physical exersion on the part of a goblin. “Frightens you, does he?”

The goblin barely nodded, and then collapsed to the ground where he stood, catching his breath. I rolled my eyes, and then set off for the castle, where I found Aesma pacing the length of the courtyard in an apparent temper. Of course, this was his usual manner, so I was not terribly concerned by it.

“What brings you so far west?” I asked once we had entered the throne room.

“Miserable, mutinous humans,” he muttered. “Evidently, there is a building in Thais that was once used as a school of magic, and I caught the wretched creatures sneaking there to teach their children magic to use against demons. That is why I came: is there not a ‘children’s school’ south of here?”

I had to laugh at his timing. “I’ve only just returned from there. The humans there were doing precisely the same thing.”

He shook his head and sighed. “While it is little more than irksome to have to flush them out, what bothers me is the ideas these humans are getting into their heads. Something must be done about this. I wonder if Nanghaithya is having this same difficulty.”

“Most likely. But for now, I believe keeping them segregated may be the best method. There is little we can do at the moment about magic-wielding humans, save prevent them from using it.”

He sighed again, and nodded. “I suppose. Though I do like to instill the Fear of Darkness in them. Speaking of which, how are your prisoners holding up? Mine have all but given up hope, especially that pathetic blue-haired king.”

“Ah, yes. After all, what good is a palace dungeon if not to keep the king who put so many there before him?”

“You still have your king in the dungeon as well, then?”

I nodded. “Though he does not complain nearly as much as he used to do.”

We were rudely interrupted then by a highly affronted Gubash, who burst into the throne room, followed very closely by Indra, who said to him, “No need to announce me,” in an irritated tone. I nodded at him, and he left in haste, shooting suspicious glances at her over his shoulder.

“You always did know how to make an entrance, Indra,” Aesma said sardonically.

You’re one to talk,” she retorted. She then fixed me with a determined stare and said, “There is something I need to tell you.”

“Tell me?” I repeated, non-plussed, catching Aesma’s eye.

She looked at him, too, and said, “Well, not just you. All the daevas, really.”

“Council?” Aesma offered.

“This cannot wait,” she said curtly. “I have had a Vision.”

“Off you go, then,” I said.

“The End is coming,” she began, rather dramatically, if you asked me. “The sword singer—-the Chosen One—-still lives. She will give birth to a child, more powerful than any before her.”

“Shall we...congratulate her?” I wondered.

“Perhaps send her a gift,” Aesma added.

“Poisonous reptiles?” I offered.

“Swarm of locusts,” he said after a second’s pondering.

“Idiots!” Indra hissed, and what she said next came so rapidly that she did not need to take a breath. “The girl will grow into the most powerful sword singer the world has ever known. She will rally the humans, begin a revolution, and the world will fall.”

“So we find the sword singer and kill her,” said Aesma, as though it were all too obvious.

Indra gave him a warning glare and muttered, “There is more.”

“More than a revolution?” I said incredulously.

“Ahriman,” she continued, ignoring my comment. “He lives, as well.”

“But we’ve looked for him,” Aesma told her. “Everywhere.”

The mention of his name gave me pause, especially after what I had seen in near the Oldwoods, but I did not voice this concern. “Besides, he does not have the strength to do much of anything, much less any damage to us,” I agreed.

“Yet he lives,” she repeated forcefully. “And he regains his former power, however slowly. A faithful servant will come to his aid. And once the humans have taken back the world, he will destroy them, the world and everything in it.”

I shook my head. “A human rebellion. Ahriman destroying the world. Any more good news?”

She once again chose to ignore me. “Our hope lies in a child, the child—-of a daeva. This child is the only one who can stop the rebellion and Ahriman.”

“Whose child?” asked Aesma.

She looked away. “I do not know.”

Aesma and I looked at each other, eyebrows raised. “Would you like to say it, or shall I?” he said.

Neither of us got the chance to say anything, however, because it was very clear that Indra’s Fury was rising to the surface. “I had toyed with the idea of going to Nanghaithya first. I had hoped,” she said with a dangerous stress on each word, “that at least one of you would take this seriously.”

I sighed. “All right, Indra, we will take it seriously. We will find the sword singer. We will find Ahriman. And we will stop this ‘prophecy’ before it can be fulfilled.”

“And for the record, you probably should have gone to Nanghaithya first,” Aesma told her. “After all, he is the most likely candidate at this point for the ‘child of a daeva’ portion of it.”

I snickered, and it was difficult to tell with whom Indra was more furious. Finally she spun around and went to the door, then muttered something and left the room, leaving Aesma and me a violent icestorm with which to contend.

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