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kaz

The Agas Saga

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agas: you know what you're talking about ;) i love it!! let the daevas rule!! *wicked smirk*

 

(answering for kaz from what i know: yeah, more or less XD)

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yeah, prophecies can be bad news...i hope they figure something out...:D

 

 

This was it. He was out of rum. He was out of money. He was out of places to hide. And worst of all, he was out of rum. He had to go and find her.

John’s pirating days were all but over; he’d been a marked man every since he went with those kids to fight that blasted demon. And then he ran into someone, someone who was to effect a devastating change in the order of things; someone who was desperate enough to hire a disgraced pirate to carry out her potentially earth-shattering plans. It had all sounded so ludicrous, but who was he to argue, especially with someone as powerful as she was? Besides, she was paying him for it. He didn’t know how, but those aren’t the kinds of questions a pirate asks.

But he hadn’t seen her in a while, and now he was starting to become desperate himself. He somehow managed to get back to the Veniara Isles, which were still fairly isolated from the demons, and thus a good place for her to bide her time while she sent him all over to do her dirty work. She could do it herself, he thought bitterly as he made his way to the inn where she stayed most often, “It’s too soon to be so obvious,” she said. Right. That’s what it is.

Still, it was difficult for him to turn down a paycheck, however dangerous the job might be, and so he sought her out once again. He did not have long to search, however, since she had evidently been seeking him.

“Where have you been?” she demanded from the doorway the moment she saw him approaching the inn.

“Hiding,” he returned, “like you told me to.”

Her eyes narrowed dangerously. “Hiding,” she repeated. “Tell me, pirate, after you completed the task to which I set you, did you happen to make quite certain that the job was done?”

He had no idea what she was talking about. He’d done everything she told him to do, just the way she had explained it. Except for the rum. That was his idea.

“You have failed!” she said angrily, halting whatever explanation he was about to give. “The daeva is not dead. Worse, now they shall all be even more alert, and still at their full strength.”

If truth be told, he couldn’t remember exactly what had happened. He knew he’d found the daeva. He knew he’d stabbed her, and she had fallen. Perhaps...perhaps he’d only assumed she was dead. At first he felt ashamed for having failed. And then he realized something.

“You sent me after a daeva!” he shouted back. “I could have been killed!”

“Are you questioning me, pirate?” she said imperiously.

“As a matter of fact, I am. Why aren’t you out there doing this? You know magic! For crying out loud, you’re a—-”

She shushed him quickly, looking around to make sure no one was listening. “Enough!” she hissed. “I cannot risk being discovered yet. I need to recover my strength. I am not as powerful as I once was, not yet, anyway.” She sighed. “But perhaps you are right. It was a dangerous task to which I set you. Next time I shall give you better protection.”

Next time?” John said incredulously. There were a thousand reasons why he was ready to tell her to find herself another lackey; but none was as powerful as the reason he stayed. She covertly handed him a small pouch filled with gold, and he sighed resignedly and said, “All right. So what’s next?”

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Chapter 4 - Behold the Night Mare

 

Some months went by with little further incident. The humans had indeed given up the idea of the magic school; the pirate had not shown hide nor hair of himself since the attack; and the figure in the Oldwoods, who I would have wagered my life was Ahriman, gave me no further trouble since that day. Indra’s prophecy had been relayed to the other daevas, and they all agreed that so long as we found either Ahriman or the sword singer (or, preferably, both), we should have nothing about which to be concerned.

We were proven wrong on one of these accounts when Zarich summoned Aesma and me to Mysten Far, stating that he had something very important to show us.

“So, any idea what this is all about?” Aesma asked me when I arrived. I shrugged, and he continued, “I wonder why he’s only summoned the two of us?”

As long as I had known Zarich, it seemed to me that he had sought the approval of Aesma and myself above any of the others—-though for what reasons I did not know—-and so this seemed the most likely reason for the choice. I decided against mentioning this to Aesma, however, and merely shook my head. We stood outside the former priestess temple, once pure white but now having the appearance of tarnished silver, discussing Zarich’s “project” for several more minutes before Zarich himself came, not from inside the temple, but from around the back of it.

“Come with me,” he told us, his tone both excited and apprehensive, and disappeared back behind the building again. I looked at Aesma, who rolled his eyes, and then we followed Zarich into the hills surrounding the temple. We wound our way down the twisting path Zarich was following, none of us speaking, until finally we came to a wide cliff overlooking the sea far below. At the point at which we had stopped was a narrow strip of land jutting from the side of the cliff, almost like a pier, at the end of which sat a broken marble goddess. Just behind the detritus of the statue, where before there was nothing, now was something I had never seen before.

At first glance, it gave the appearance of an interdimensional gate: it was a wide, gaping void, a fifteen-foot hole in the fabric of space and time. There was a churning, deep purple glow coming from within it, but oddly, there was no sound, no wind, and no compelling force surrounding the void; it simply hung there, like a bizarre swirling painting with no wall to support it. Aesma stood staring at it as though it was speaking rapidly to him in a foreign language. Finally I turned to Zarich and asked, “What is it?”

As if in answer to the question, a great roaring noise, like the sound of wild horses and rushing water, came from the void. A second later, a creature burst through it, the like of which I had only seen in one other place. It most closely resembled a great horse; but it was the largest, most horrifically monstrous horse one could imagine. Its hairless, shiny skin was a deep bloodred, its teeth pointed and razor sharp, and its hooves were of black stone. Its head was more dragonish than horse-like, with horns on either side and smoke streaming from its nostrils, and its mane and tail were of blue-white flame. It roared again and charged through the gate and straight at us, and we only just made it out of the creature’s way.

“What is Darkness was that?” Aesma demanded.

“A Nightmare,” I said, more to myself than to Aesma. Then I turned to Zarich. “Is this—-”

”The Dream Portal,” he answered with a nod and a barely-concealed grin.

“The Dream Portal?” Aesma repeated, bemused. “Do you mean to tell us, Zarich, that you’ve opened the portal between the Dream World and the waking world?”

“No, I think he meant to show us that,” I said, while Zarich chuckled almost fiendishly.

“How—-” Aesma began, but Zarich shook his head.

“A magician never reveals his secrets,” he said gleefully.

I turned to Aesma again. “You do realize what this means.”

“That you will be able to visit your old haunt with considerable ease?” he offered with a wicked grin.

That,” I said with a smirk, “and the Nightmares will be able to come and go as they please.”

“Well, I am impressed so far,” said Aesma. “I’m not sure what Nightmares can do in the waking world, but it looked to be spectacular.”

“Indeed,” I told him. “Nightmares are, of course, created by one who is sleeping, and come into being in that form in the Dream World, where they remain unless the Dreamer destroys them. But if a Nightmare does make it to the waking world, it seeks out the one who created it, and makes his dream become reality.”

Aesma’s grin became broader and broader as I spoke, until he was all but laughing with delight. “Zarich, you are a genius!” he shouted. “Honestly, tell me, how did you do it?”

Zarich began to protest again, but something entered the edge of my range of vision then, and the other two stopped and looked also. About fifty yards away stood a human, a drawn sword in his hand, and an expression of utter shock on his face.

“It’s the filthy pirate!” said Aesma angrily.

“What does he think he’s doing here?” said Zarich.

“Let’s find out,” I said, but just as I began to approach, I heard Aesma bellow, “Annihilate!” The ground trembled violently for half a second before the explosion rent the side of the cliff, sending bits of it and the petrified pirate over the edge and into the ocean below. When the chaos subsided, I rounded on Aesma.

“You are too ready with that spell,” I said scoldingly.

“Well...I like it,” he replied with a casual shrug. “Besides, that’s the pirate done, isn’t it?”

“Perhaps.”

“But what was he doing here in the first place?” wondered Zarich.

“Looking for you, I’d wager,” I said. “And judging from his expression, the last thing he was expecting was to see Aesma and me here. But now—-” I glared at Aesma. “—-we shall never know his purpose.”

“Who cares what his purpose was?” said Aesma hotly. “He can’t carry it out now, can he? The attack on Indra is avenged; now we can move on.”

I shook my head. “That’s just it, Aesma. I might have given the attack on Indra over as a random one, had the assailant not just presented himself here, apparently to try his luck on another daeva.”

“As if he could have,” Zarich muttered.

“Again, not the point,” I said. “I am beginning to think that Tawrich was right, and that these incidents were not only related, but orchestrated.”

“In other words, the pirate was acting on someone else’s orders,” Aesma reasoned.

“But...whose?” said Zarich.

I shot an admonishing look at Aesma, who growled, “All right, all right, I apologize. If the rat survived the fall—-which I doubt—-I promise not to kill him again until we learn the truth.”

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ooh, behold the nightmare!!

 

good song, excellent chapter XD (yes, kaz, i finally got around to listening to it ;) )

 

one of my other favorite chapters coming up *smirk*

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I LOVE Indra's prophecy:

 

“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...

 

I quoted it last time too, I think. :laughing:

 

I'm still hoping that the daeva's child is Dameon's child with Rhen! :lol:

 

Anyway, great stuff, kaz. I love these chapters. Sorry I've been so quiet lately.

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XD

 

wouldn't that combine the two prophecies and screw things up a bit...? although it would be interesting...

 

cherry: that's what i meant to quote last time. i just didn't bother cuz everyone knows that it's the best quote out there ;)

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bryan: yes, talia is still at the priestess temple. as a statue. (like the druids in the game before you return their souls.)

 

cherry and tei: yeah, that prophecy is just vague enough to allow for anything at this point... :D i love keeping you two guessing. hehehe....

 

 

“What is that dreadful sound?”

Lars and Derez both looked up toward the window as Rhen asked the question, Lars wondering the same thing, Derez hoping that it was not what he imagined it to be. The sound, a horrible, rending screech, as though fire had been given voice, was close to the house, and cut through the relative stillness of the night like a demon sword. Derez told them, “Stay here,” and then got up and headed out the door.

He made his way stealthily down the dark, deserted street until he began to hear screaming, and see eerie flashes of light coming from the village square. He peered from around a shop, and his fears were confirmed: enormous, bloodred horses with fiery manes and fell dragons’ heads were terrorizing the townspeople, some even changing shape into more terrifying creatures.

“What are they?” a voice whispered. Derez started, and spun around to see Rhen and Lars a few feet behind him, ready for battle.

“Nightmares,” Lars whispered in answer to Rhen’s query; and then he addressed Derez, “You didn’t really expect us to stay there, did you?”

“I don’t understand,” said Rhen, still keeping her voice hushed. “I thought Nightmares were confined to the Dreamland.”

“They should be,” Derez explained, sighing resignedly. “When a person has a nightmare, one of these creatures is born into the Dream World. There it can only torment the one who dreamed it while they sleep, unless there is a Druid of Dreams to destroy it.”

“So...what happens when they...um...get out?”

“The nightmare comes true,” Lars murmured, watching one of the fell beasts transform before his eyes into an enormous three-headed dragon with scales of steel and razor-sharp spines down its back.

“Someone’s opened the portal,” Derez said, more to himself than to the others. “I didn’t think it was possible anymore—-the druids were supposed to have—-”

”Okay, it’s all well and good for us to be standing here talking to ourselves,” said Rhen at last, “but don’t you boys think we ought to go out there and help those people?”

The two necromancers exchanged sheepish looks, and then Derez said hurriedly, “This will not be easy. These creatures are, after all, products of humans’ darkest imaginations. Light magic would be most effective...”

“And absent that?” said Lars.

Rhen drew her enchanted Sword of Light. “Don’t worry. Just keep them busy.”

The three of them rushed into the fray, Derez and Lars conjuring thunderstorms or tornadoes to keep the creatures from attacking defenseless villagers, while Rhen used her sword magic to desirable, if messy, results. The Light from Rhen’s sword, when she could get near enough to the monsters to hit them squarely, caused them to burst into thousands of dark red sparks, which ignited anything upon which they landed. Derez was quickly forced to shift from helping Lars in the distraction to extinguishing burning villagers or edifices. When at last Rhen had sent the last of the Nightmares shrieking into the night, she stepped back to survey the damage. The surrounding shops and houses, which had already sustained much damage at the hands of demons, were at the least still standing. Derez was caring for a few villagers who had not been able to escape the Nightmares’ wrath. Rhen scanned the scene several times, her panic becoming more and more pronounced each time: Lars was nowhere to be seen.

She became frantic, running and calling his name, praying to whomever might still be watching over them that he was all right. She ran into and out of buildings, ignoring Derez’s shouts to her, ignoring townspeople’s questions and stares, ignoring everything but her own blind panic. Finally, after a third time around the square, in a narrow alleyway hidden in shadow, Rhen saw the prone, motionless figure of a young green-haired man in necromancer’s robes.

“No!” she cried, running to him and dropping to her knees beside his lifeless form. Tears began to flow as she felt for a pulse or breath, or any sign that he might still be alive. “No, no, no!” she wept, lifting him up into her arms. “No, Lars, you have to be okay. You can’t leave me. I love you.” She gasped in surprise at the words she had just spoken; but now it had been said, she knew it was real. “Oh, Lars, I do. I love you so much. I’m so sorry it took so long for me to realize it—-and now—-it might be—-too—-late—-” She broke off into a fit of sobbing, and could not stop, even after Derez arrived and brought Lars back to the house, even after he swore up and down that Lars would be fine, even after Lars finally, miraculously, recovered.

Rhen sat at Lars’s bedside, still unable to stop the tears, until Lars stirred and finally woke. After a few moments taking in his surroundings, he spotted Rhen and asked her, “What’s wrong?” It was less than a second before she responded, not with words, but with the kiss for which he had waited for so long.

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Chapter 5 - The Feminine Mystique

 

Aesma, Zarich and I decided that since Tawrich had been so keen on formulating a theory regarding Indra’s attack, we ought to pay him a visit to see if he could put the pirate’s recent appearance into perspective, and as soon as possible, in case the pirate had, by some wild chance, actually survived his five-hundred-foot fall.

“It certainly sounds to me as though this pirate had some sort of agenda,” Tawrich said thoughtfully after we had described to him what had happened. “And I cannot imagine that it was his own.”

“But then, whose could it be?” wondered Zarich.

Tawrich was silent for a few moments before he responded. “Well...it would have to be someone devious...willing to send his followers—-or hired help, as is likely in this case—-off to an uncertain doom with little or no regard for their safety or well-being...Someone who is either too weak or too cowardly to confront us himself...”

“I can think of one who fits that description,” growled Aesma, looking to Zarich and me for confirmation. Zarich nodded, but I shook my head.

“You are absolutely correct description-wise, Aesma,” I told him, “but I must disagree, because he would never lower himself to sending a useless human to do his bidding.”

“Um...Sun Priest?” said Zarich, as though he thought I had forgotten.

“I said useless,” I reminded him. “I daresay that despite our opinions, Ahriman considered the Druid of Light far from useless.”

“Indeed,” agreed Tawrich. “And I also believe that this is beneath Ahriman. The question is, who else wishes to destroy the daevas, and is cunning enough to keep himself hidden while others take the fall, as it were?”

We were all silent for a few minutes. Then finally Zarich said, “Well...who else would want to destroy us?”

“Only every human alive,” laughed Aesma.

“Human...” Tawrich said pensively.

“If it is a human, it would have to be someone with a significant amount of power,” I said. “Or money.”

“The rulers of the kingdoms are locked in our dungeons,” argued Aesma. “And I will be damned if I am going to let any human gather that sort of power in my kingdom.”

Something in what Aesma said struck me familiar; Zarich began speaking his agreement, but I did not hear it, as I had become absorbed in my own thoughts. It was several moments before I heard someone say my name loudly. I looked at Aesma, who was staring at me curiously, and said, “Eithera.”

“What about her?” Zarich wondered.

“Eithera wants to destroy us. Eithera has the power to command, and the cunning to send someone else to do her dirty work.”

“But why would she?” Zarich interrupted. “She is plenty powerful enough to come at us as the pirate has, and with much more effect.”

“Perhaps not,” I replied. “Perhaps she is testing the waters, as it were. She no longer has the benefit of the strength of the other druids behind her. She sends a worthless human, who will not be missed, to find out how prepared we are for such a thing, saving her time and energy for something much larger. By now she will know that we can at the very least be taken by surprise.”

“Provided it is Eithera,” said Zarich uncertainly.

“You don’t believe a word of it, do you?” I addressed Aesma, who had continued to stare at me incredulously throughout the entire conversation. Finally he shook his head.

“Eithera?” he said in a tone that indicated that he was trying to make me see reason.

“Why not? She is the only druid who has been openly opposed to the daevas’ rule since the Sword of Shadows was destroyed. She is the only one who has attempted to inflict bodily harm upon any of us. And she is the only druid for whose whereabouts we cannot account.”

“All valid points,” began Tawrich, but something in his tone told me that he did not agree with me either.

“Not you as well, Tawrich,” I nearly groaned. “If anyone would see some validity in my theory, I would have thought it would be you.”

“And I have not discounted it,” he said in a let-me-explain sort of way.

“But?” I prompted him when he hesitated, but he seemed to be choosing his words very carefully.

“We could ask Hajetus,” Zarich said with a shrug. “He would know if she was capable of this sort of thing, I should think.”

No one answered, because just as he said it, the entire room began to tremble violently, sending paintings flying from the walls and upturning furniture, including the table at which we sat. After a few moments the tremor stopped, quite as suddenly as it had started. Aesma spoke first.

“I did not realize the Western Isle was susceptible to such strong earthquakes,” he said casually.

“It isn’t,” I replied darkly.

“Well,” said Tawrich with a sigh, “I suppose we had better speak with Hajetus. And perhaps we ought to do so in the presence of all the daevas.” He looked around the room and shook his head wearily. “But perhaps not today. Obviously I have rather a mess to which to attend.”

We agreed to leave the council until at least the following day; the tremor, though admittedly unusual, was not bothersome enough to force the issue immediately. I returned to Sedona, looking forward to at least a few hours of solitude to think my theory through. The city had felt a few mild effects of the earthquake, but none lasting or particularly spectacular; I did find, however, that solitude was not to be had: as I arrived at the palace, Gubash informed me that Indra was waiting for me in the throne room.

I found her, not in the throne room itself, but in a small study off to the side. There was a large, ornate desk near the window, and Indra was seated in a chair in front of it, with her back to the door. It looked as though she had been there for quite some time.

“Haven’t been waiting too long, I hope,” I said sardonically from the doorway.

“I’m sure it would bother you if I have,” she replied in kind, still facing the window.

I rolled my eyes, and took a seat behind the desk. “So what brings you this way?”

“The prophecy,” she said. “I believe I may have misinterpreted parts of it.”

“You don’t really expect me to believe that, do you?” I interjected. She scowled at me, and I finished, “When, in your entire existence, have you ever ‘misinterpreted’ a vision? Obviously you have another agenda.”

She continued to glower at me, saying, “Can you never take me at my word?”

“What is it you want from me, Indra?” I groaned.

She looked down at her hands, conceding that her lie had been undone. “You know what I want, Agas,” she said quietly.

I rolled my eyes again and sighed. She looked up at me, and her demeanor changed almost instantly. A mysterious smile crept onto her face, and she said, “However, for the time being, I have...shifted my priorities.”

“Meaning?” I asked wearily.

She rose from the chair and came slowly to the opposite side of the desk, her eyes narrowing seductively. Indra, while deadly with her skills in magic, also knew how to use her femininity like a weapon, usually to great effect; though in all the years I had known her, I had always thought I was immune to her cunning. She poised herself on the edge of the desk, crossing her legs slowly and deliberately. “Meaning that at this point, I shall take whatever I can get.”

“I see,” I replied as impassively as I was able. “And I suppose you think, just because you come in here and look at me that way, that you shall have me at your beck and call?”

“Oh, no,” she said softly, as she leaned forward, drew me toward her, and engaged me in a long, passionate kiss. “I know much better ways of doing that.”

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Chapter 6 - Dragons Again

 

I stood on the balcony, which faced the east, the next morning, looking over the ruined places where trees and other green things used to be. The black, distant mountains loomed ominously against the canopy of gray that shielded dark creatures from the sun. All would have been right just as it was, if not for that one mildly troubling dark spot against the sky.

“Dragons again,” I muttered.

Three of them, two blue and a larger red one, were circling above the palace. It had become rather a regular occurrence, the dragons patrolling the skies over the kingdom, though each day there were different ones. I knew someone must be behind it, and I knew precisely who the someone must be, but what his purpose was, I was infuriatingly uncertain.

Still fuming, I leaned forward on the railing and looked down across what used to be flourishing royal gardens, now gloriously dead and broken beyond repair. It was several minutes before I realized that I suddenly had company.

“Lost something, have you?” said Indra’s voice from my right. I looked over and saw that she too was leaning on the balcony railing, looking slowly from me to the garden below and back.

“You’re still here?” I shot back with an eyebrow raised.

“I think I made an adequate case for myself,” she returned with a smirk.

“You are persuasive, I’ll give you that,” I said, and then we were silent. The dragons began circling lower and lower, and then the two blue ones took off in separate directions, one south and the other west. The red dragon continued to fly over the castle in a slow, almost hypnotizing figure-eight.

“Dragons?” said Indra, bemused.

“Always,” I replied. “Every day.” Then after a pause I added, mostly to myself, “What does he want?”

“You believe Saurva has something to do with this,” she deduced.

“I know he does.” The dragon circled a bit lower, and let out a low-pitched wail. “What is he looking for?”

We stood silently watching the dragon hover overhead for a few minutes. Then, quite suddenly, Indra let out a nearly inaudible gasp, and fled back indoors as though Death was on her heels. After a moment of bewilderment, I followed her back into the bedroom, but by then, she had already gone.

I barely had time to wonder what had sent her off so quickly when there came a loud knock at the door. On the opposite side stood a disgruntled-looking imp, scowling up at me, his arm folded across his chest.

“The Lord Tawrich requests your presence for a council in Aveyond,” he said sourly. It seemed to be costing him a great deal of restraint not to say anything further.

I grinned. “You hate us, don’t you?”

“Of course not, my lord,” he replied with a low bow; but such was the contempt in his tone that I half-expected the floor beneath me to give way from the acid flowing from his words. He glared up at me again, and the phrase “workers united” flashed across my mind. I shook it off and dismissed him, though I vaguely wondered just how many imps there truly were in the world.

Aveyond had certainly taken a turn for worse since last I had seen it, which for all intents and purposes was from a distance when Hajetus had broken the Sword of Shadows. The demons who had fled the scene then had apparently returned, and the green pastures and clear waters that had once marred the countryside had now taken on a dead, shriveled look that was far more suitable. Within the Sun Shrine, which by now only barely resembled one, Tawrich was speaking quietly to Hajetus, and Aesma and Nanghaithya were seated at a large round table beside one another, the latter looking rather cross.

“Yes, thank you, Aesma,” he was saying as I entered the room. He looked up and glared at me, as though whatever had just transpired had been my doing.

Aesma looked at me too, and said with an evil grin, “What? I was merely...congratulating him.”

I rolled my eyes, and walked around the table to take a seat beside Aesma. “Ah, Aesma,” I sighed, patting him on the back in a resigned sort of way. “Even for a demon, you have no couth.”

Zarich arrived next, looking as though he had been in a terrible battle; he described to us a nasty encounter with a Nightmare, which of course was to be expected sooner or later, while we waited for the missing daevas to arrive. Once they had, Tawrich said, “Let us get right to business.” I explained, for the benefit of those not present at the time, the events that had occurred at Mysten Far, and we then discussed the idea that the pirate had acted on the orders of another party. At this point Tawrich turned to Hajetus.

“What are your thoughts regarding Eithera?” he asked the boy, glancing over at me as he did so. “Is it possible that she could be orchestrating these attacks?”

He sat silent for a few moments, deep in thought, as though seeking memories long since lost. Finally, he nodded slowly and said, “Eithera is––” He stopped, and appeared to shudder slightly, then looked at us. “Eithera is more than capable of willing others to do her bidding.”

An impatient noise came from Saurva’s side of the table, and when we turned to him, he said, “Honestly. Eithera? A druid?” He looked directly at me as he finished, “How much sense does that make?”

“Why, have you a better theory?” I wondered. “Perhaps you are closer to the source, then?”

Excuse me?”

“What are the dragons for, Saurva?” I asked him point-blank.

“Dragons?” he repeated with a snotty sort of bemusement.

“The dragons circling like carrion fowl over my castle every single day,” I said with a vain attempt to keep my anger in check.

There was a fraction of a second of what I was certain to be panic on Saurva’s part before he said, quite evenly, “I’m sure I don’t know.”

I resolved myself not to allow his attitude to get the better of me, difficult though it was. Before I could respond, however, Aesma said, “Unusual for dragons to be touring the countryside of the Western Isle, though. I thought dragons preferred the heat?” He looked questioningly at Saurva, who refused to take the bait.

“Indeed,” added Zarich, “I don’t believe any of the rest of us are experiencing such a phenomenon...perhaps Tawrich, being also on the Western Isle?”

Indra stood up quickly, scowled at me, then turned on her heel and left the room; evidently she was disgusted in the direction the conversation had taken. Tawrich put up his hands.

“This is not the reason we are here,” he said patiently.

“Perhaps it should be.” I watched Saurva for a while, waiting for some sign of weakening, but he did not. “As I see it, there are two reasons there would be dragons flying over the Western Kingdom. Either you are entirely too interested in what I am doing at any given moment...or you are looking for something. Or someone.”

“Of what, precisely, are you accusing me?” Saurva said in a low, dangerous voice.

“I think you already know the answer to that,” I said, also keeping my voice low, “sneak.”

His eyes widened, his face livid. “How dare you—-”

”How dare I?” I returned furiously.

“Enough!” shouted Nanghaithya, getting up and slamming his hands on the table. “We are doing ourselves no service by fighting amongst each other.”

“Too right,” said Tawrich. “We are here to discuss Eithera. Ahriman has not shown himself as yet; when he does, we shall make it our priority to find him.”

“And I’ve an idea who to ask,” I muttered, glaring at Saurva. I was about to point out to Tawrich that Ahriman may indeed have shown himself, but he shot me a warning look and continued. “I believe I would be remiss if I did not say that perhaps, unusual though it seems, we ought to at least keep an eye out for Eithera. The pirate may be defeated, but if his actions were not his own, then there is nothing to say that others will not come in his place.”

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XD XD XD

 

I love it, Agas!! *thinks of Sauvra and Erithea comic* (you mean like that? :lol: )

 

Kaz: still love the derez and nightmares chapter.

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:roll: all right, settle down, people. i already have plans for eithera. whether they involve saurva or not...i suppose you shall see...:evil:

 

(btw, daeva_agas, the comic was very cute. XD)

 

 

Chapter 7 - The Pirate Imprisoned

 

Though none of the other daevas seemed to think that Eithera was much of a threat, let alone behind the pirate’s attacks, it was agreed that she ought at least to be located. Weeks passed, and the druid was nowhere to be found; the earthquakes became more frequent, and other violent natural disasters—-hurricanes and tornadoes and the like—-began to occur as well. They were more of a nuisance than anything else, really; it was their sudden appearance that gave me pause. Nightmares also had begun to make their way to Western Kingdom; and impressive though they were, the chaos they brought did begin to get tiresome after a while. On top of all this, Indra had taken to spending far more time in Sedona than, I felt, was necessary; and so when the imp came, I briefly considered throttling him to death, simply for being the messenger.

“Who is it and what now?” I groaned.

“The Lord Nanghaithya,” he replied in a surly voice. “I was given only this message to relay: you may have been right.”

Right? I must admit that’s got my attention,” I said, mainly to myself. I dismissed the imp and went directly to the palace of Veldarah, outside which I found Nanghaithya, Tei’jal, and the druid Rashnu, the former two looking rather annoyed. It only took me a second to realize what was going on, and as Nanghaithya approached me, I said, “Please tell me this isn’t why you called me here.”

He looked puzzled. I nodded at the other two and said, “Today’s the day, is it?”

He glanced back briefly before saying, “Oh. That. Yes, well, it was.” He rolled his eyes. “And that is why you are here. I’ve caught the pirate. And...” He looked up. “That.”

I followed his gaze, and flying in a lazy circle over the city was a pair of large red dragons. I looked back at Nanghaithya, my eyebrows raised. “Here on holiday, are they?”

“Yes, all right,” he said impatiently.

“Then let the record show that this one time, I was right and you were not.”

“Yes, fine,” he groaned. “The question is, will it be possible to watch him while he is watching us?” I didn’t have an answer, but it did not seem to matter, because he went on, “As for the pirate: he refuses to speak. And Tei’jal will not let anyone harm him.”

“Why not?”

“Because it does not seem right,” said Tei’jal, who had approached without either of us noticing, looking mildly uncomfortable.

“I see. And if—-” I had to stop, checking the laugh that had nearly escaped me. The idea, of course, was ludicrous, but the point had to be made, so I continued, “Wait, let me see if I can do this with a straight face. If the pirate had managed to kill Nanghaithya, would that have been all right?”

She rolled her eyes impatiently. Nanghaithya, barely concealing a grin, gave her a shrewd look and said, “Well, would it?”

“As of this moment? Yes,” she said, her eyes narrowed, and she stormed off toward Rashnu again.

“Wait!” I called after her. She half-turned and folded her arms.

“Choose your next words very carefully,” she told me, “as they could well be your last.”

“You say the pirate won’t speak,” I said to Nanghaithya. He nodded, and I asked Tei’jal, “Will he not even tell you what he’s up to?”

Her expression softened slightly. “No. And I cannot understand it. Why would he be protecting someone who is sending him off on these dangerous and potentially life-threatening missions?”

“Is there anyone he would tell?” I wondered.

She looked down, her eyes unfocused for a moment. Then she said, “No one I can think of.”

“Well, then he really is no use to us,” I said reasonably. “And if he’s going to continue following this person’s orders, then—-”

”It still isn’t right,” she said bluntly, evidently guessing what I was about to say.

“Perhaps I may be of some assistance,” said Rashnu, and I was surprised at the sound of his voice; he had been silent up to then, and I had nearly forgotten he was there.

“Well, I don’t suppose it would hurt to ask at this point,” said Nanghaithya. “Rashnu, what’s become of Eithera?”

Rashnu shook his head. “I am afraid I don’t know. It has been several years since last I saw her.” He looked at Tei’jal, who was facing him now, for a long time, and then he added with a sigh, “It should probably be pointed out that she is bound and determined to destroy the lot of you. Or she was, at any rate.”

Really,” I said sarcastically.

“And what is the likelihood that she would send someone else to do it for her?” Nanghaithya asked the druid.

“The pirate, you mean? Hmm...I suppose anything is possible at this point...”

“Perhaps you ought to ask him, Rashnu,” I suggested, “as a concerned fellow druid.”

“You know, Agas, that is just crazy enough to work,” said Nanghaithya.

“Isn’t that what I’m here for?”

Tei’jal rolled her eyes at me, then told Rashnu, “I’ll take you to him.”

“You know,” Nanghaithya said as they vanished into the palace, “he did not come alone this time.” He glanced up again and finished, “He had a dragon with him.”

“One of Saurva’s?”

“I don’t believe so. For one thing, the moment it saw me, it took flight and didn’t look back.”

I considered this; a dragon acting for Saurva would have welcomed a fight rather than fled from it. “Eithera used to have dragons protecting her temple. She must have exerted some sort of control over them. Perhaps she still does.”

Nearly a quarter of an hour passed before Tei’jal and Rashnu reappeared. Tei’jal was nodding anxiously, and Rashnu looked grim.

“I take it my suspicions were correct, then?” I said.

“It was Eithera,” Rashnu sighed. “Though where she is now, he would not say. I must admit, her behavior did concern me the last time I saw her; but having another carry out such a task...It suggests a serious lack in judgement on the part of a druid, and is beyond what I, at least, would have believed of her.”

I glanced at Nanghaithya, and I could tell he was thinking the same thing that I was: that Hajetus would have disagreed. And if Eithera had no difficulty in keeping secrets from the other druids, it occurred to me that perhaps she was even more dangerous than I had given her credit for.

“So I suppose I keep the pirate for now,” Nanghaithya said resignedly. “Perhaps it will flush Eithera out of hiding.”

“Somehow, I doubt that,” I said. “I do wonder, though, if—-” I sighed heavily. “—-Saurva has seen her at all.”

“Someone ought to go and ask him,” Nanghaithya proffered with a casual air. “I’d do it myself, but, well...”

“Of course you would,” I replied cynically. He laughed when I added, “On your head be it if I don’t survive this.”

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The old man meandered through the desolate landscape purposefully. He was regaining some of his former strength and power, especially with his new ally, but there was always room for more aid. And it would not be long before such a one would cross his path.

There was something familiar about him; he looked a young man, and yet not so. The old man could sense a great deal of power, and if his hunch was correct, this was just the person he had been seeking. He stopped the young man in his tracks, commanding his presence as he once did, and the young man was clearly stunned.

“Can it be?” the young man whispered in something like fear, doubt, and awe.

“Ah...then you do remember me,” said the old man with a slight drawl. “I had so hoped to come across you again.”

“But—-but I thought—-I thought you were—-”

”Destroyed?” the old man offered, interrupting the younger one’s stammering. “Nearly. But I have risen from the ashes. I have found a new ally, and together we are rebuilding the power we once knew. But there is still much to be done. And I have sought you out, who have proven a loyal friend for many years, to assist us in realizing our ambitions.”

The term “friend” appeared to have struck the young man, as though he had never heard it used with respect to himself, or did not consider himself so. “I do not understand. If you are regaining power, what use can I be? And who is this ‘ally’ of whom you speak?”

The old man smiled. “Use? It is not about ‘use’. But you are the key to it all, my dear boy. Join me once again, and all shall become clear. In fact, I daresay we share at least once common interest: the name of one who has betrayed us.”

The young man’s eyes narrowed. “Indeed,” he said darkly. “That much I am certain is true.”

The old man nodded slowly. “Then come. Hear my tale. And we shall destroy this one, and make things as they should be.”

The young man nodded, his mind elsewhere, but his will bent on vengeance.

 

She should never have gone.

She knew it the moment they had departed, but she tried to tell herself that this was the way it should be. Try though she might, however, she simply could not convince herself that it was the right thing to do. She knew the others would be saddened by her leaving, but she had to go. She had to return, before it was too late.

As her small vessel reached the darkened shore, she got the sense that someone was already there, but whether friend or foe, she could not tell. She stepped ashore warily, a trace of doubt making its way to the front of her mind; but she had made her choice, and there would be no turning back now. She took a few careful steps inland, and the presence she had sensed stepped out in front of her, as though out of thin air.

“Who are you?” she asked of the shadowy figure before her. It was much larger than she, and there was something distinctly sinister about it, from its shape to the growling voice that issued from it.

“Well, well,” drawled the sinister voice of the figure, whose features remained hidden in shadow, “what have we here? A human woman-—” The words came as though they were an insult. “—-oughtn’t to be wandering around in the dark this way.”

The figure stepped closer to her, and its features became a bit clearer. There was something oddly familiar about them; not, perhaps, that she had seen them before, but that they had been described to her. And then she saw the eyes: eyes that were familiar, unmistakable, eyes that she knew very well. She put the picture together in her mind, and shook her head slowly and whispered, “How can it be?”

The sinister figure seemed to guess what she was thinking, what she had discovered, and the wicked delight in the voice was almost obscene. “Well...looks like I’ve struck it rich. It seems you and I have much to discuss, woman.”

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