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The Agas Saga

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thanks! :)

 

 

Chapter 8 - The Southern Isle

 

I did not go directly to the Southern Isle after leaving Veldarah; visiting Saurva was the kind of unpleasant thing I always put off for as long as I possibly could, the kind of thing for which I had to prepare myself. It was only grudgingly that I made the journey the next day, expecting mostly obstruction and spite from Saurva, but relatively little else.

The Southern Desert was barren, gray, and still. There was no sun, but the air shimmered with heat which came from an unknown source. The deserts normally crawled with giant scorpions and other creatures that preferred the torrid climate, but now there were none. There were no demons, either; it was as though the entire kingdom had been deserted. I had the strangest sense of a long-forgotten graveyard, but one where the dead were stirring, preparing to rise.

I continued on my way with no incident for a long while. Then, as if from nowhere, the largest red dragon I had ever seen swooped down and landed directly in my path. It snapped its jaws menacingly, shifting its weight from one hind leg to the other and folding and unfurling its massive wings in what I probably would have thought an impressive display, had I not the overwhelming suspicion that it was not prepared to let me pass.

“Any chance this is the way all visitors to the kingdom are welcomed?” I asked the dragon.

“Visitor?” the dragon returned, “or intruder? Either way, we have our orders.”

“We?...”

As soon as I said it, I found myself surrounded by at least a dozen more dragons of various colors, some snarling and shrieking, others blasting flames into the air. “I don’t suppose there is anything I can say at this point to dissuade you,” I said casually. Most of the dragons looked bewildered, the rest belligerent. I drew my sword and sighed. “I thought not. Well, then, consider yourselves warned.”

The dragon who had spoken, the apparent leader, laughed off my words and raised his short forelegs as high as they would go. The two silver dragons flanking him roared, and then spat fire in my direction. I parried both blasts easily with my sword. There was more noise behind me; I leapt out of the way just as four more dragons also attempted to incinerate me. The Leader shrieked something in their strange tongue, and a green dragon on either side of me rose into the air, circling and making ghastly sounds something like a battle cry. Fearing a diving aerial attack, I looked up, and as I did so, I was taken off my feet in considerable pain. The circle around me had loosened, and one of the silver dragons had swung its spiked tail at me, knocking me to the ground and leaving a deep hole in my abdomen. The Leader sneered down at me.

“Not bad for a start,” I breathed. I raised my sword, which had not left my hand even after the fall, and took off the head of the blue dragon beside whom I had landed, one of those who had tried to spray me with its deadly breath. Outrage threw the others into disarray for a second or two, until the Leader shouted something Dragonish, and they fell silent and still once again.

I had gotten to my feet. The green dragons landed just outside the circle, and began to pace watchfully. The Leader said something else, and two blue dragons took flight at once and did not return.

“Not calling for reinforcements already, are you?” I scoffed.

“Your arrogance will be your downfall, intruder,” the Leader replied, and the silver dragon to his right fell down on all fours and charged at me, teeth bared and smoking nostrils flaring. I cast Motion Freeze, which merely set the dragon into a slow-motion trot, but it gave me enough time to get out of the way. I lifted the spell as it lumbered past me, and it collided at full speed with the blue dragon now in its path. There was a thunderous crash, and a great deal of confused thrashing and crashing from the pair. A few of the others tried to intervene, or else to remove themselves from the vicinity; the Leader and the other silver dragon, however, had not been distracted.

The silver whipped its tail at me, and though I would not be caught off-guard a second time, my avoidance maneuver would not put me out of harm’s way: the Leader blasted me with his fiery breath, charring my entire right side. I fell to my knees, but as the Leader laughed and the silver dragon lunged toward me, I swiftly drew up my sword and plunged it deep into the Leader’s heart. He shrieked and writhed as I withdrew my sword and staggered to my feet, and then he fell forward and lay still.

The silver dragon let out an ear-splitting scream; the two green ones replied, then rushed to the side of their fallen commander. They wriggled sideways beneath his lifeless body, then slowly took off into the air carrying it with them on their backs. The other dragons, even the two that were still fighting, all followed suit, trailing behind the green pair in a bizarre sort of funeral procession. I was left with the silver dragon, who snapped its jaws at me and then flew off in the opposite direction of the others, toward Veldt.

I followed quickly, assuming the dragon was headed for the palace to report to its true master, but it merely circled for a few turns and then alit atop one of the towers, calling something in its eerie language before settling to a silent vigil. The palace doors flew open, and the two blue dragons from the battle appeared from within. They glared at me, but allowed me to enter, though I could feel their vengeful gaze upon me all the way down the corridor and into the throne room.

Saurva was within, seated comfortably in the throne with a haughty expression on his face. It occurred to me that his chalk-white skin and the horns on his head were really the only difference between him and every human king or emperor I had come across in my lifetime. The sneer faded slightly from his face as I approached: even with him seated on his high throne upon the dais, I was still taller than he was.

He didn’t see fit to say anything to me, so I began with, “I can’t say I think much of your security system, Saurva.”

He looked me up and down and replied, “And considering you’ve gotten through, neither do I.”

“Ah, so it was for me, then.”

He avoided the question with a roll of his eyes and said, “What do you want from me?”

“Respect, Saurva,” I sighed. “Every once in a while.”

“Res—-” He began angrily, but bit back whatever was coming next. He glared at me, tight-lipped, for several moments, then finally said, in as hateful a tone as I had ever heard, “The only respect that you shall ever receive from me, is Respect for the Dead.”

I sighed again. “I’m glad we’ve finally gotten that out of the way.”

“Anything else?” he said impatiently.

“Eithera.”

“Sorry,” he said with a smirk, “I haven’t got her.”

“Well, that’s that mystery solved, then,” I returned sardonically. “Have you seen her?”

He pondered for a minute, then said, “No.” He actually sounded sincere.

“What about Ahriman?” I asked.

“What about him?”

I rolled my eyes. “Have—-you—-seen—-him?” I said, slowly and forcefully, as though speaking to a simpleton.

“No,” he repeated, a little too quickly.

“Nanghaithya’s seen the dragons, too,” I told him. “Care to shed some light on that one?” He looked slightly uncomfortable, but did not reply. “As I thought. If you would, just once, cooperate, I might be easier on you later.”

He leaned back in his throne and crossed his arms. “If we’re through, then,” he said. He looked me over again, then added with a sneer, “You’re bleeding on my carpet.”

I shook my head. “Honestly, Saurva, apart from my demise, what is it going to take?”

He glared at me, as though determined not to understand the question, but he responded at last, “I think you know the answer to that.”

“Well, then I am hardly the one upon whom you ought to be taking out your frustrations, am I?” He seemed to be stricken, unable to give a retort angry or hateful enough. I turned to go, but before I did, I said with a smirk, “And I don’t see what you are complaining about; I should think that my blood on your floor ought to stand as a monument that you nearly defeated me.”

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Chapter 9 - Angels and Demons

 

When I returned to the Western Isle, I decided to stop and pay a visit to Tawrich, who immediately told me that I looked nothing short of terrible. I explained what had transpired the previous day, and he conceded that I had been right to suspect Eithera after all. When I told him of Saurva and the dragons, however, he merely shook his head and sighed, as though he thought the two of us no more than a pair of feuding schoolboys.

After I took my leave and began to make my way home, I found myself passing through the Oldwoods, even though the way did not really necessitate it. It still hadn’t changed; demons would not go there, and the orcs and goblins had even taken to avoiding it if they could help it. I moved very slowly, now beginning to feel the pain of my injuries...or perhaps it was something else.

As difficult as it had been for me to go through this place in the past, it was that way now, only to leave it. I tried to pretend to myself that I could not understand it, but it did not last long. And I knew it was my own fault; I had told her to go. But would she have stayed, had I simply asked her to? I didn’t suppose I would ever know the answer to that, and I told myself that it was best that way.

Once I was quite through feeling sorry for myself, I remembered that I did, in fact, have injuries to which to attend, and so I shook myself mentally and set off again toward home. When I arrived, I was vexed to find Indra there waiting for me, because it was precisely one of those moments when she was the last demon I wished to see.

Hoping to rid myself of her as soon as possible, I remained standing in the doorway to the study to which Indra had evidently taken a liking, even when she turned to face me with an almost scolding expression. The moment she saw me, however, a worried look came across her face, and whatever sarcastic remark she was going to throw at me was stifled. “What’s happened to you?” she breathed, shaking her head in apparent disbelief.

“Saurva happened,” I replied. “What are you doing here?”

“I, um...” She continued to stare at me as though I was about to fall dead to the floor at any moment. “I’ve been to see Nanghaithya. He, uh, he married the vampire.”

“Thank you for that exhilarating news,” I said wearily. “Is that all?”

“No. He said you were going to speak to Saurva about the dragons. Did, um...What did he tell you?”

I crossed my arms and surveyed her through narrowed eyes for a few moments. “What were you expecting him to tell me?” I wondered. She did not reply, but rather looked down and away in a sheepish sort of way; and then it made sense. “Ah. I see. You actually thought the dragons were—-”

”Yes, all right,” she interjected resentfully, flushing furiously. “I thought that. Can you not spare me and just tell me if it is true?”

“It is not,” I sighed. “He all but admitted that he was looking for Ahriman, by which I was terribly surprised, of course.”

She relaxed slightly, but still looked embarrassed. After a moment, she took note of my wounds again and sighed. “You know, this sort of thing wouldn’t happen if you could just...”

“Just what? Get along with him?”

“...Fix it.”

I shook my head incredulously. “Fix it. Let’s be honest, Indra: I think we both know who needs to ‘fix it’, if, indeed, there is anything to be fixed.”

She looked away again. Then after a long pause, she turned back and said, “We really ought to tend to those wounds.”

“And I will. As soon as you are gone.” She began to protest, but I stopped her. “I have a feeling our definitions of ‘tend to’ are not the same at the moment. But correct me if I am wrong.”

She did not. She stood up and came to the door. “I shall return,” she said coyly as she brushed past me.

“I don’t doubt it,” I replied.

 

With the pirate out of the way, there were no further blatant attempts on any daeva’s life (save, of course, that between Saurva and me), but none of us expected it to end at that. And we would not be disappointed, either. The earthquakes, tidal waves, and violent storms continued and intensified; and then, mountains became volcanoes, cracking and issuing forth torrents of molten lava over the already ruined countryside. If, as I guessed, this was Eithera’s doing, then I had to wonder what she hoped to gain by destroying the world she had been hoping to save.

It soon became apparent what her plans were, or at least, what they appeared to be. The humans that continued to resist, though their numbers were decreasing, were far more disturbed with what was happening than we demons were, and were further under the impression that we were the cause of it. They tried getting their point across through violent riots and attacks on lesser demons; and though it was a noble effort, their sheer lack of numbers was more than enough to defeat them in the end. It seemed Eithera was essentially rallying the humans against us by attempting to destroy the Isles completely: while it was not an entirely fallible plan, it was also the plan of someone entirely too desperate to be making plans on her own.

The only other immediate problem was the increasing aggressiveness of the Nightmares. Their rampaging through the cities and across the countryside, terrorizing the humans and wreaking general havoc was all well and good; the problem came when one came charging at me as I left the palace one day. Nightmares do not go down easily—-and time-altering spells are disappointingly ineffective against them—-so in the end, I only managed to deter the creature long enough to travel to Mysten Far to discuss the issue with Zarich.

When I arrived, I was surprised, and a bit unnerved, to see the Angel of Nightmares there, taking visible pleasure in bullying a pair of priestesses outside the temple. My appearance distracted her, and the priestesses fled in distress the moment she looked away. I had a brief inclination to ask her about the Nightmares’ behavior, but the manner in which she approached me drove the question from my mind, instead putting me on the defensive.

“Agas...” she drawled. She looked me up and down, a ravenous look in her eye. “How very...nice to see you again,” she said with that lurid smile she always wore.

Dare I ask why you are here?” I sighed.

She shook her head, still smiling. “I am afraid you’ve missed your chance, Agas.”

I was afraid to ask exactly what I had missed my chance to do, but I was spared a reply when Zarich appeared, emerging from the temple. He spotted Uzga, and shook his head in a resigned and embarrassed sort of way.

“That will do, Uzga,” he told her as he approached us. She nodded at him, winked at me, then slunk away like an overlarge serpent. I gave Zarich an incredulous look, and he said, “Well, she is good for one thing.”

I rolled my eyes. “I see. Well, be that as it may, it is not the reason I am here.”

“It is about the Nightmares, isn’t it?” he said before I could finish. Then he sighed. “Unfortunately, you are not the first to come to me. Aesma’s had a similar problem.”

“And?”

“I am afraid I cannot explain it, except to say that perhaps bringing them to the waking world was a bit too much freedom to give them.”

I nodded in the direction in which Uzga had disappeared. “What about her?”

He shook his head. “She has surprisingly little control over the Nightmares. Nature of the beast, I suppose. Either way, I am working on the problem. I am certain it is nothing I cannot handle.”

“I do hope so,” I said. “Eithera is causing enough grief as it is.”

He tilted his head curiously to one side. “How so?” I explained what had been happening with the natural disasters and the human resistance, and he said, “I have not had any of that here. I wonder why?”

I shrugged. “Perhaps she does not wish to harm the priestesses.”

“Or perhaps she does not consider me a threat,” he growled. “She did send that miserable pirate after me.”

“And Nanghaithya. And Indra,” I pointed out. “Anyway, you ought not to be offended. I would not say I consider it an honor to be at the top of Eithera’s list.”

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(i should point out, to those who have read this before, that i changed a couple paragraphs in this chapter. i don't know if anyone will notice, but if you do, i did it for a reason. if you don't notice it, then...please disregard my pointless explanation. XD)

 

 

Chapter 10 - The Prophecy Begins

 

Over the next year, neither Eithera nor Ahriman showed hide or hair of themselves. It was almost unnerving, really; which, of course, was most likely the point: Ahriman was always far more threatening when his motives and intentions were unclear. Eithera, on the other hand, continued to make her presence felt, even if she proved herself to be as elusive as Ahriman was. All in all, it seemed that Indra’s prophecy—-of which she repeatedly like to remind me, since we had not yet found Ahriman—-had lost a bit of its momentum. At least, it did, until that one day.

Tawrich had come to tell me of a large group of humans, mostly paladins, who had taken up residence in the Sandstone Caves near his manor, and who were giving him a fair amount of grief. No sooner had I dispatched a small unit of orc soldiers to exterminate, when I received another visitor, in the form of an anxious-looking Nanghaithya.

“Ah. Good. You’re both here,” he said tersely as he entered the throne room and spotted Tawrich and me. “Saves me a trip.” There was something mildly discomforted about his manner; I was reminded strongly of a day, over a year previously, when he displayed a similar air. On that day, however, he had announced that he was getting married, and I doubted, somehow, that this was the case again.

“Everything all right, Nanghaithya?” asked Tawrich.

He nodded, but all the while he surveyed me through narrowed eyes, as if he did not trust me being present when he made his announcement. I rolled my eyes.

“How long have you known me, Nanghaithya?” I said with a sigh.

“Entirely too long,” he said shrewdly.

“Well, whatever it is, it cannot possibly be more unnerving than you getting married,” I said.

He seemed to be considering this. “Perhaps,” he said after a while. He was silent again for a few more moments, and then finally added, “Yes. Perhaps you are right. So here it is, then: Tei’jal is going to have a baby.”

Tawrich nodded in a congratulatory sort of way. I said, “Whose?”

I was surprised I hadn’t burst into flames from the look Nanghaithya was giving me. “Sorry,” I laughed, “couldn’t resist.”

“As usual,” Nanghaithya sighed after another moment of glaring at me with murderous intent. “Honestly I expected far worse.”

“So when is this going to take place?” Tawrich wondered.

“She’s still got a long way to go. She only just discovered it herself, not too long ago.”

“Congratulations, Nanghaithya.”

We all turned toward the door to see who had spoken, and found Indra standing in the doorway, looking not unlike Nanghaithya had when he had arrived.

“How long have you been standing there?” I asked her.

“About three seconds,” she replied as she swept across the floor toward us. Then, with an irritable roll of her eyes, she said, “There are drawbacks to keeping company with Angels of Death; the fact that they are insufferable gossips, for one.”

“Thank you all the same, Indra,” said Nanghaithya with a nod.

She nodded in return. “Forgive me,” she told him and Tawrich, then to me she said, “I need a word with you.”

The other two did not hesitate in the slightest in their departure; either they knew what was coming, or they assumed I had done something that warranted punishment. Without even asking, Indra made her way to the study she haunted, and was already seated by the time I had gotten there a few steps behind her. I took a seat behind the desk and asked her, “What have I done now?”

There was something strange about her demeanor, though I could not place exactly what it was. She was fidgeting a bit, wringing her hands as though they were cold. She didn’t say anything right away, so I had to assume she wasn’t about to destroy me.

“So...we have an answer, then,” I offered after a while.

“An answer to what?” she asked tersely.

“Your vision...the ‘prophecy’,” I replied. “‘Child of a daeva’ and all that.”

She gave me a look of cold surprise, one that clearly said, “How can you possibly know that?”

“Nanghaithya,” I added hesitantly, wondering why in Darkness she was glaring at me like that, and how she could have forgotten so quickly.

“Oh. Of course.” Her expression softened, but it was replaced by one of mild apprehension.

“You haven’t come to discuss the prophecy, have you?” I said at length.

“Um...no. Well, in a manner of speaking, I suppose...” She trailed off and was silent again.

“And...this has nothing to do with the fact that Nanghaithya is going to be a father?”

“Only that—-” She bit her lip. “He’s—-he’s not the only one.”

I raised my eyebrows. I wasn’t sure what she was getting at, until she rolled her eyes and leaned back in her chair, folding her arms in frustration.

“Oh,” I said finally, not really sure what else to say.

“Caught on, have you?” she said sarcastically.

I supposed I should have expected it to happen eventually. I wondered how she had expected me to react to the news, anxious as she was; I thought of my own father, and I could imagine that he and my mother had most likely had a similar conversation. And I hoped that Indra did not think it changed anything between us, because as far as I was concerned, it changed nothing.

Then I wondered how I was supposed to feel about it. I could not say I was terribly disturbed by it. It was then that, unexpectedly, a memory of the very distant past, one that I had all but forgotten, drifted toward the surface of my mind; I shook my head to send it away, recognizing at once that this was completely different, and attempted to keep my focus on the present. In truth, there was a time...no. That is not a tale I wish to repeat.

“Agas?” Indra said softly, the apprehension having returned to her voice and expression.

I looked at her for a while, then said, “You aren’t going to make me marry you, are you?”

The look on her face was the same one that always meant she was about to unleash her Fury, and so I quickly said, “Oh, for Darkness’ sake, Indra, I was joking!” hoping to keep the violence to a bare minimum. Once she appeared to have calmed down a bit, I asked, “Incidentally, how long have you been keeping this from me?”

She looked away, and there was a guilty look on her face when she said, “What makes you think I was keeping it from you?”

“I find it a very strange coincidence that you and Tei’jal both discovered that you were pregnant at the same time,” I returned. Then I thought of Nanghaithya and Tawrich’s exit, and had to wonder if perhaps my assumption hadn’t been far off the mark. “And am I the only one you’ve kept it from?”

She looked up at me again. “No one else knows. And—-I have know for a while,” she sighed in defeat. “Perhaps a month or so.”

“So, what, were you afraid of how I was going to react?”

She stared at me for a long time before she said, “No.”

That was when I realized what had stopped her telling me. “I see,” I said coldly. “Like father, like son.”

“I never said that.”

“You didn’t have to. You know, Indra, I’m almost flattered you think me capable.”

“No,” she said quietly, her eyes wide. “I never—-I would never—-”

”Save it,” I interrupted. “Do not deny it has entered your mind.”

“All right, it has, then,” she blurted out, angry tears in her eyes. Her focus then went to the window behind me, and she began to shake her head slowly. “My mother. I am too much like her.”

“And...so you automatically assume that we are all like our parents?”

She looked back at me, and the tears left her eyes. “Forgive me,” she whispered, and she stood up and fled the room, Relocating the moment she hit the throne room. I leaned back in my chair and sighed, exasperated, wondering if such severe irrationality was a family trait, or something with which all women were cursed.

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I leaned back in my chair and sighed, exasperated, wondering if such severe irrationality was a family trait, or something with which all women were cursed.

 

:lol: Pregnant women are hard to understand.

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trust me, daeva_agas, i know. i was one of them a while back. XD

 

 

As Rhen made her way to her new home, she had to marvel at how happy she was. In a world where everything should have felt so completely wrong, Rhen was as content now as she had been, years ago, in her little village of Clearwater, with no cares, no thoughts of her future or of the outside world. She suspected that a lot of her mood could be contributed to her new husband, and to the child she now carried, and it still perplexed her that it had taken her so long to realize that it was Lars who would give her all she needed.

What would truly astonish her, however, was how quickly doubt would find its way back and settle into her heart.

That afternoon, as she wandered through the dismal marketplace of Veldarah, still making an attempt at keeping a low profile, like Lars continued to ask of her, a sight crossed her path that nearly stopped her heart. There was no mistaking him; he hadn’t changed at all.

It was Dameon.

All at once, memories inundated her at a dizzying pace: all that he had done, all that they had been through together, all the feelings she had bottled up and hidden away for so long. And as she stood, stock-still, staring at the former sun priest, a slow, painful realization crept over her, like a dark storm cloud in her otherwise sunny sky.

She still loved him.

Despite everything that had happened; despite the fact that he was a demon, and most likely didn’t remember her; despite her affection for Lars and the fact that she was now a married woman and mother-to-be...she was still hopelessly in love with Dameon. She hated herself for it, but what could she do? She had already suppressed the desire upon sight to run to him and throw her arms around him, to make everything else go away and go back to the way it was before. There were so many things that she wanted to say, that she wanted to know; but what good would any of it do? Besides, he hadn’t even glanced her way, even at such a short distance.

Rhen took a deep breath, tears in her eyes, and set off in the direction of home, hoping never to see him again, and that he hadn’t seen her.

 

But he had seen her.

He had been on his way to the palace when he first spotted her. At first, he wasn’t entirely certain of who she was, why she was so familiar. And even when her name came to his mind, he still had his doubts. Rhen...the name stirred something of a memory, but so many of his memories proved to be either terrible or false, that he wasn’t certain he wanted to remember her. And then he heard a voice, from the deepest recesses of his mind; her voice...

“I don’t care if he’s done wrong...I love him.”

She loved him. He tried not to catch her eye as bits and pieces of the time they had spent together began to show themselves to him. His recollections were vague and disjointed, but those words kept coming back to him. And he wondered: Did he love her? Had he ever? Did it even matter?

He didn’t know. He didn’t think he would ever know. But he did know that he could not think of a single thing to say to her. And as she hurried out of sight, he felt relieved, and a bit saddened that someone had cared so much about him, and he had barely remembered her name.

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Chapter 11 - Love and Hate

 

It was not long before word got round to the other daevas about Indra’s...situation, which I assumed had a great deal to do with her gossiping Angels. Zarich had been surprised; Tawrich, on the other hand, merely shook his head at me, as he usually did whenever I did anything...well, anything. Nanghaithya laughed long and hard at me, which was far less than I had expected.

Aesma, as was his usual way, had decided to make a production out of it. He came to Sedona with Hajetus in tow, his explanation being that he was providing the boy an example of what not to do as a daeva.

“Aesma,” I said incredulously after he had stated this, “was this really the best you could do?”

He grinned fiendishly. “No. But it was the kindest.”

“There is something seriously wrong with a world where the daeva Aesma is making an attempt at kindness,” I replied with a roll of my eyes. “Besides, you hate children.”

“Nonsense! I love children!” he retorted. “Preferably medium-rare.”

“Somehow I doubt you had any of these things to say to Nanghaithya.”

He shrugged. “The vampire scares me,” he said sarcastically.

Finally Hajetus, who had been watching the conversation with silent curiosity, said to me, “I didn’t realize you and Indra...um...felt that way about each other.”

Aesma snorted. “We don’t,” I sighed. “Well, I don’t.” Before I could elaborate, however, we were interrupted by the arrival of the daeva I had been expecting all along. There was a sense of urgency, if not of barely-controlled fury, in Saurva’s manner as he swept into the throne room and stopped about a foot before me.

“A word, if you please,” he said in quiet, clipped tones. Aesma started, but I waved him off, and bowed Saurva toward Indra’s favorite study.

He scowled at me silently for a long while, as though he was trying to decide what spiteful comment was the best with which to begin. “Well, this is an interesting turn of events, isn’t it?” he said shortly. “You know, I’m a bit surprised. I would have imagined that in all those years with that Elf—-”

”Stop, Saurva,” I interrupted, laughing. “You’ll only embarrass yourself.”

“It never ends, does it?” he said at last, a malicious glint in his eye. Then, before I could speak, he added, “You must always have everything.”

“Oh, honestly, Saurva,” I groaned, rolling my eyes, “you act as though everything I do is a knock at you.”

“Isn’t it?” he challenged.

“When are you going to let this go?”

“When you are dead,” he replied hatefully.

“And yet you refuse to put me out of my misery,” I said sardonically. “Just do it, Saurva. If you’ve got the nerve, then destroy me already, so I don’t have to hear it anymore.”

He glared at me as though it would bore a hole through my head. “You will sorely regret your arrogance one day.”

“So I’ve been told. Saurva, if all you’ve come for is not to kill me, then I believe we are finished here.”

He marched out past me with a nasty look, stopping just in front of me before he left and saying, “Mark my words, Agas: I will make you sorry one day.”

“I look forward to it,” I said with a smile.

As he stormed out into the throne room, Aesma swiftly approached him and said, almost derisively, “I’d like a word as well, Saurva, my friend.” Before Saurva could react, Aesma grabbed hold of his arm and removed his forcibly from the room, leaving me with a bewildered Hajetus.

“What was that about?” he wondered, nodding after them.

I shrugged. “Knowing Aesma, it is just an opportunity to bully Saurva. It is a hobby of his.”

“I see...And...what did Saurva have to say to you, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“Oh, the usual: death threats and you’ll-be-sorry’s.” I sighed. Then I had to laugh. “Believe it or not, there was a time when Saurva and I got on rather well.”

“I do find that hard to believe,” he chuckled.

“Well...it has been a very long time since then...nearly three thousand years...

“Nanghaithya and I had only been daevas a very short time when Saurva came to us, wanting to become one as well. This was at a time when many of the older, more experienced daevas were being killed in battle with the humans or with other demons; thus the need had become greater, because even in the demon world, there is need for order, and for those who can establish and keep it. Subsequently, it had become far easier to gain daeva status than in the days when Tawrich, Aesma, Nanghaithya and I had done it.

“Indra had come not long after, and she and Saurva were in training at the same time. All during their training, I had gotten along famously with Saurva, who reminded me a bit of myself, while Indra was a touch on the withdrawn side. Saurva had a certain disdain for his parents, who were aristocratic and had little patience for their son; it gave him a desire to prove that he was better than they were. I did not learn much about Indra at the time, except that she was one of the more gifted demons I had ever seen.

“I can quite clearly remember a day, after the pair of them had passed the trials and become daevas, when Saurva was decidedly cold towards me, bordering on belligerent. He would never tell me why, but after a while he began to threaten my life. It soon became a regular occurrence. Not that I’ve ever feared him, of course. But it was quite maddening not knowing the reason behind it.”

“And did you ever find out?”

I nodded. “Though not from him. It was actually Indra who told me what had done it. Evidently, not long after the two of them had met, Saurva had taken a bit of an interest in Indra. Well, more than a bit, I suppose. She continually turned him down, she said, but she would never tell him why; which, of course, didn’t stop him pursuing her. Finally she did tell him the reason—-which was that she’d ‘had her eye on’ someone else—-and apparently he did not take it well.

“Of course, it was an extremely long time before I learned any of this, and by then it seemed the damage had been done. And if I thought telling Saurva that I was not interested in Indra would help, I was sorely mistaken. He somehow took it as a personal insult.”

“If you’re not interested in Indra...” he began, and I knew what the rest of the question was.

“Well, she can be persuasive.”

He laughed, but there was something hollow in it, as if my words had returned to him an unpleasant memory. After a short pause, he shook his head slightly and said, “So essentially, Saurva hates you because he loves Indra, but Indra loves you?”

“That sounds about right. Yes, it is a tangled web,” I said sarcastically. I glanced toward the door and said, “I do have to wonder where Aesma’s got to.”

No sooner had I said it than Aesma returned to the throne room, Saurva-less and wearing an unconvincingly innocent expression. I raised my eyebrows at him.

“You didn’t eat him, did you?” I asked.

“Oh, Darkness, no!” he replied. “I should think he’d be terribly sour, or bitter, anyway. Actually we were...’discussing’ his dragons. I’ve seen a few too many near Thais of late.”

Hajetus nodded. “Aveyond, too.” He looked at me.

“Yet he continues to deny that he is seeking Ahriman,” Aesma continued. “He could well be lying; but if he isn’t, then I am left to wonder, what is he seeking?”

“What indeed?” I said.

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Chapter 12 - Saurva’s Alibi

 

Over the months that followed, Indra had evidently opted to go into hiding; and, I presumed, with good reason, because any time I did see her, she was completely miserable. Every once in a while I thought I ought to check on her, though on the whole I decided it was probably best just to stay out of her way most of the time, since she did deal out a fair amount of abuse. I did have to wonder, though, if Nanghaithya was dealing with the same sort of thing.

On one of the occasions when I did go to see her, I found (after a brush with an over-eager Angel of Death) that I was not the only one who had done so. Daena and Hajetus were both in the throne room, speaking like old friends, and Indra appeared to be giving orders to a pair of Angels in her usual irritable fashion. The moment she caught sight of me, she appeared to have something derisive to say; but by then Daena had seen me also, and gone to the throne to speak to Indra, or possibly to distract her. Hajetus walked over to me and said, “You’re probably better off—-”

”I know,” I interrupted. “So what madness brought you here?”

He laughed. “Daena asked me, actually. Indra has requested her...help, I suppose, and Daena said she’d like me nearby in case she needs assistance.”

“Say no more. But I didn’t realize the time had drawn so near.”

“It is not so near as she might have you think,” said a voice behind us with a touch of resigned amusement. Daena inclined her head slightly as she walked by me; then she grinned and shook her head. I rolled my eyes.

“Yes, I know,” I groaned. “What have I done this time?”

She sighed, still grinning. “What haven’t you done?” She told Hajetus she would return shortly, and then departed for parts unknown. I glanced back at Indra, who was watching me intently, but I decided against addressing her: another thing I had quickly learned was not to say anything, at all if possible.

“Agas, I am...sorry for the way I’ve been lately,” she said finally, and with a small degree of resignation. I nodded, surprised and a bit bewildered, and I had to ask her, “Feeling...all right? You don’t seem yourself.”

She laughed, and then turned her attention back to the Angels at her side. I rolled my eyes again, and Hajetus, clearly looking for a change of subject, said, “Agas...I’ve been meaning to ask you...A while back we were talking about our fathers...and I wondered...what happened to yours?”

I did,” I said at last. He looked at me, bemused, and I continued, “In a manner of speaking. You remember I told you how...‘well’ we got along? You would think that the moment he learned that I could finally defend myself, he would have given up his quest to annihilate me; but such was not the case. It became worse, in fact. He was ashamed of me, you see, and he was determined to ‘make something’ out of me, as I heard thousands of time. We’d gotten into many ferocious battles after that time—-as bad as, if not worse than, the Daeva Trials—-but none like the last one. It all but destroyed him—-nearly destroyed me.

“The difference was, I stood up. I had to make certain that he was finished, and if I perished then, I would never know. It was quite a long time before I left the scene, but eventually I did, when I was sure he would not get up again.

“I found Tawrich and Aesma not long after, and when they learned what had happened, they decided it was time for Nanghaithya to be made a daeva, and they tested him right away. They would not allow me to participate, weakened as I was.” I shook my head. “But it didn’t matter. I was free.”

Hajetus looked up over my shoulder. I turned around too, and we saw that Indra had risen from the throne, and was looking at me as though I had just said something both shocking and indecent. I watched her for a few moments, and when she didn’t speak, I prompted her with, “You look surprised, Indra. Have I said something amiss?”

She seemed to regain her composure, if only briefly. “You—-you killed him? Your—-your father?”

“You’ve heard what I said. And had you known him, I do believe your reaction might look different.” I glanced at Hajetus, then back at Indra as I said, “Remember Sun Fury? Remember what you saw? That was nothing.”

“But...your own father...” she said faintly.

“So, what, Indra, would you like me to feel remorse?” I demanded, losing all pretense of the careful politeness I had adopted in her presence. “I don’t. Nothing will ever make me sorry for it. Now stop pretending as though you’ve been mortally wounded.”

She shook her head, still looking mildly affronted, and then fled the throne room without another word. Hajetus looked at me, bewildered.

“Honestly, has she always been...like this?” he asked me.

I sighed. “Honestly, as long as I have known her.”

A few minutes later Indra returned, very pale and frightened. We asked her what was wrong, and her voice shook when she spoke. “It’s—-Saurva,” she said, looking mainly at Hajetus, and then disappeared again. Hajetus shot a puzzled look at me, but by the time he’d recovered, Indra had returned, leading a strange procession.

A large golden dragon, who filled nearly half the throne room, trotted in behind her carrying something on its back. A much smaller red dragon came last, looking morose and slightly guilty. The golden dragon stopped before the throne, and the red gently lifted the something from its back and placed it on the floor. Hajetus knelt down beside what I could now see was a humanish figure. Indra came and stood beside me, and buried her face into my shoulder.

And I supposed I could see why. The figure on the floor belonged to Saurva, or at least, it was most likely Saurva. His face was cut and burned so badly that it was difficult to make out his features. He was bleeding profusely from wide gashes across his chest and stomach, and there were shiny black burns covering his arms and legs. He was not moving, and appeared just barely to be breathing. Hajetus began muttering incantations over him, but Saurva did not stir, nor did his injuries seem to be healing.

“Who did this?” I asked the red dragon.

She shook her head slowly. “An old man,” she hissed, “in a black cloak. He must have been a great sorcerer.” She turned and gazed at me imploringly with large amber eyes. “I saw it. But I could not stop him.”

“Ahriman?” I wondered, but she did not seem to know. I drew Indra away from me slightly and asked her, “Have you heard this?”

She nodded. “Who else can it be?”

“What made you bring him here?” I said, turning to the dragon again.

“We were seeking a healer,” the dragon replied. “I had hoped to find the druid Daena; but the former sun priest is just as good, if not better.”

I nodded. “Any luck there, Hajetus?” I asked him.

He sighed heavily. “He is alive. But these injuries...Clearly very powerful dark magic. I may be at this a while; and even then...he may not be the same again.”

I fought back the impulse to say that that may not be such a bad thing.

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okay, this is the last thing i'm going to post before we go to disney. :D :D yes, i'm excited. anyway, it'll be at least a week before i'm back on here, so hopefully these last few chapters will have tided you over. XD

and if it's any consolation, i'm very near to the end of the stuff that was on here before the site went down, and then there will be a new chapter. (yay!)

see you next week! ;)

 

 

Rhen was growing anxious. Lars had been gone nearly two months now, seeking what he’d called “help”, and she was nothing short of terrified. What if something had happened to him? She stifled a sob thinking about it. And if he was all right, what if he didn’t make it back in time? He couldn’t miss the birth of their child...but might he?

And then there was the prophecy: the prophecy he’d never mentioned, the one he must know about, somehow, or else he wouldn’t be going to so much trouble. Tei’jal had felt it her duty as a friend to tell Rhen as much as she knew, which was admittedly very little. Indra had had a Vision that involved Rhen’s daughter—-her daughter. She was having a little girl. She wondered if the child would have her sword singing abilities, or take after her father; and she wondered if her baby would look like her, or Lars, or both...and she giggled, wondering what color the girl’s hair would be.

And then her thoughts returned to the prophecy. What had Indra seen? Would she ever know? She supposed, from a demon standpoint, it made sense that Nanghaithya hadn’t told Tei’jal more than he had—-after all, she was still friends with Rhen. Rhen sighed, wishing there were some way to learn more that did not involve simply walking up to a daeva and asking.

In the midst of her ponderings, Rhen heard the front door open and close. She rose from the chair by the window in the room that was to be the nursery, and hurried out to the main room, throwing herself into Lars’s arms and kissing him passionately the moment she saw him. “I was so worried about you,” she said at last, embracing him as tightly as she could.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered into her hair, and it was really all she needed to hear. She kissed him again, and it was several moments before she realized that he had not come alone, and she leapt back, her face very red, when she noticed a familiar middle-aged priestess smiling at them from the door.

Lars cleared his throat, also a touch on the embarrassed side, and said, “Um, Rhen, you remember Priestess Oyane?”

Rhen bowed her head, and the priestess did the same, still smiling. “No need to be embarrassed,” she said gently. “I can only imagine how difficult all this time apart must have been for you.”

“I thought she would be able to help us,” Lars told Rhen, trying to prevent her from blushing any further. “With...well, the baby.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” she said suddenly, catching Lars off-guard.

“Well—-I wasn’t sure I would be able to—-”

”About the prophecy,” she stopped him. “Our child, Lars. Tei’jal told me; why didn’t you?”

“Oh.” He glanced at Oyane, who nodded. “I—-I didn’t want you to worry, Rhen. Besides, I think I may have a solution.”

She was still angry, and very confused, but her curiosity won out in the end. “Solution?”

“Well, I thought,” he pressed on quickly, “that if we could keep out of sight—-you know, go someplace safe—-”

She laughed bitterly. “What place is safe anymore?”

“There is one,” said Oyane. “One place demons will not look for you. Lars suggested it to me on the return trip, and I agree completely with him. I believe your baby will be perfectly safe there.”

Rhen looked back and forth between the two of them. “Okay...so what’s the catch?”

Lars smiled. “No catch. Except...well, it will be a bit of a journey.”

Rhen looked down, and placed her hands over her belly. “We’re up for it.”

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Ah, great stuff kaz! So much going on right now. I think I know who the woman is that our dark and mysterious old man found... and I am really curious to see how that works out.

 

And, of course, my favorite line:

 

And as she hurried out of sight, he felt relieved, and a bit saddened that someone had cared so much about him, and he had barely remembered her name.

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i'll bet you do know who she is, cherry. ;) but just so we're clear, the 'sinister one' who found her is not the 'old man', it's a different character entirely: the same sinister entity the old man met in the prologue. hope that clears things up a bit...

 

thanks for waiting, everyone!

 

 

Chapter 13 - A Mother Dragon

 

The attack on Saurva, as far as the other daevas were concerned, cleared him of being in league with Ahriman; provided, said Aesma, that Ahriman was the one who had attacked him. Saurva began to recover, very slowly, but Hajetus said he would always carry the scars of dark magic, scars like the many I myself bore. But something about the entire situation still did not sit right with me. I supposed perhaps I ought not to jump to conclusions, but I did find it awfully difficult not to at that point.

Of course, it all became virtually irrelevant the night the imp came from Daena.

At first, I was surprised by the source. Then I remembered that she was, in fact, half-demon, and therefore capable of summoning an imp, as all demons are. Well, all demons except the imps, that is; but I suppose creatures being able to summon each other would defeat the purpose. In any case, after a moment of bemusement, I realized the only reason Daena might be sending me a message, even before the words had left the imp’s mouth.

“The druid Daena has requested me to inform you that you have a son.”

I hesitated; Indra had not exactly been pleased to see me over the course of the pregnancy, and I was fairly certain that childbirth was not likely to have improved her mood. Still, I couldn’t simply not go and see my son, so I left for the Northern Kingdom just after the imp vanished, prepared to take whatever Indra decided to throw at me.

When I arrived at Indra’s palace, I found an unusually large number of Angels of Death milling about the entrance and the corridors, and though I received a few lascivious glances, none of them approached or even spoke to me. It was almost as if they were standing guard; it was a bit puzzling, but at least I was able to move through the palace unhindered.

Daena was just exiting Indra’s bedroom when I arrived. We nodded in greeting, and I asked her, “Is it...safe to go in there?”

She laughed. “Indeed. They are both doing well. And if I may say so, he looks just like you.”

“Well, that is unfortunate,” I replied. She grinned, then opened the door to allow me to enter.

Indra was sitting up in bed, cradling the sleeping child so tightly that it appeared as though she thought he might escape. I supposed when Daena had said that he looked like me that she was referring to the fact that he had a human appearance; but then, I never put much stock in the idea of an infant “looking like” someone, since most infants, especially the human and human-looking ones, all looked more or less the same, as far as I was concerned. Indra barely glanced up when I entered the room, and when she spoke, her tone was terse and business-like.

“I thought you might come,” she said shortly, her tone indicating that she wasn’t terribly thrilled about it.

I managed to refrain from being defensive and asked her, “How are you feeling?”

“As if you care,” she muttered.

I rolled my eyes. As is probably apparent by now, Indra was not always easy to get along with; but this was difficult even by Indra’s standards. I continued to hold my tongue and ventured further into the room. She glowered at me, but did not curse me, so I assumed I was still safe, at least for the moment.

“His name is Aravis,” she shot at me, daring me to challenge her.

“Whatever makes you happy, Indra,” I replied, trying my hardest not to roll my eyes a second time. “May I sit down, at least?”

She considered me for a few seconds, then nodded at the chair beside the bed. I sat down while she continued to eye me suspiciously. I wondered what it was about my presence that she didn’t trust; she behaved as though she thought me a threat to either her or the child, or both. I entertained the notion that she was still concerned about me becoming like my father, but something told me there was more to it than that. Whatever it was, however, she was apparently not going to tell me of her own accord, and there was a long, tense silence between us.

At a small noise from Aravis, she turned away from me and gazed down at him, smiling dreamily. The change was quite dramatic; I couldn’t remember ever seeing her so content. Then she looked up at me again, the smile still on her face, but she appeared to catch herself immediately, and suddenly she was looking at me as if I was intruding.

“Well, you’ve seen him,” she snapped. “You can go now.”

I sighed in exasperation. “Indra, why exactly do you think I’ve come here? He is my son. And contrary to your conventional wisdom, I do want to see him.”

She sighed too, but there was something slightly guilty about it. “I’m sorry,” she said quietly. “It isn’t even...that.”

“Then what is it?”

“You will think it unbearably foolish.”

“Considering the fact that you are behaving like a mother dragon, I sincerely doubt that.”

She grinned sheepishly, and then became very solemn, bordering on anxious. She looked down at Aravis again, and took his tiny hand in hers. “It is the Prophecy,” she said at last. “Ahriman is still out there, more dangerous than ever by all appearances. What if he knows?”

“And...you believe I would be the one who told him?”

“Of course not you. Saurva,” she replied after a pause. “You saw what Ahriman did to him. What if Ahriman...tortured it out of him? And what if he is not working alone? He certainly can have manipulated others to do his bidding—-he did us. How can we know who they are, and what they are capable of, and what Ahriman’s plans are? What if—-” She stopped, evidently unable to go on. She squeezed her eyes shut, and when she opened them again, a tear ran down her cheek.

“Indra,” I said, but she did not respond. I moved to the bed beside her and said, “Indra, look at me.” She did, and I promised her, “I will not let anyone hurt our son.”

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Chapter 14 - An Unwelcome Guest

 

Once Indra had established that I was not a threat, she decided to go to the other extreme and not allow me to leave, citing a fear of being alone. Daena stopped in from time to time, but for most of the rest of the evening, I sat watching Aravis and Indra sleep, because any time I tried to leave, Indra would wake and ask me not to go. It was not until just before dawn that I managed to slip out undetected, but even then, something told me not to go too far.

Daena was sitting just outside the room, directly across from the door on one of the low cushioned benches that lined the hallway. I sat on the one nearly opposite her, with the bedroom door to my left, and said, “You haven’t been out here all this time, have you?”

“Most of it,” she said with a weary shrug. “She’s acted...peculiar. I mean, for Indra. I was worried.”

“The prophecy,” I told her. “That is what was bothering her. At least, that is what she told me.”

“I see. And how are you doing?” Her tone was one of mild concern.

I shrugged. “Well enough, I suppose.”

“You’ve been in there all night.”

“She would not let me leave,” I replied. “Incidentally, can it be that your opinion of me has softened a bit?”

She laughed. “I have never held any animosity toward you, Agas. Well, none that was not required of me as a druid.” She paused, then said, “Can I ask you something?”

“Ask away.”

She hesitated for a moment. “How is Dameon—-er, Hajetus? How does he seem to be... dealing with all of this? Being a demon and all that?”

“Fine,” I said, bemused, after a moment or two of thought. “I mean, as far as a druid-turned-daeva goes. But why not ask him yourself?”

She sighed. “I have. I fear he does not express everything that is on his mind. Anyway, I have not seen in him some time.”

“You mean he didn’t come last night?”

“Indra is...resilient,” she said with a small grin. “I did not exactly have dire need of his services, so I did not summon him.”

Just after she had said this, I noticed out of the corner of my eye a figure hobbling slowly down the hall toward us. I turned, and honestly was not terribly surprised to see Saurva, whose visage was still rather marred and who now walked with a polished ebony cane and a pronounced limp. There was a sour look on his face as he approached.

“Saurva,” I said with a slight bow of my head. “You’re looking...” There really was no word, either comforting or flattering, that I could think to add, so I finished with, “...upright.”

“I suppose I should have guessed you would be here,” he muttered, narrowing his eyes at me.

“Why is everyone acting like I wasn’t supposed to have come?” I returned, losing my patience once again. “And how did you even know?”

“One of her Angels is going around telling all the daevas, apparently,” he said smugly. He glanced at the door, which I had left slightly ajar, and then turned to Daena. “How is she?”

“Fine,” said Daena with a nod, but before she could elaborate, we all heard Indra call her name irritably from within.

“She’s awake, then,” I said with a roll of my eyes.

“Am I permitted to enter, then?” Saurva asked me, his tone dripping with disdain.

“As if it was up to me. Though I should probably ask you...have you ever dealt with a mother dragon?” He nodded slowly, bewilderedly, and I said, “Then you have had your warning.” I nodded toward the door. “Off you go.”

I was surprised he could still see through the infinitesimal spaces now between his eyelids, but he swept off through the door without another word. He did not trouble himself to shut it again. Daena and I both rolled our eyes this time.

“Saurva,” came Indra’s mistrustful voice from the bedroom.

When Saurva spoke, it was with a great deal of trepidation. “Forgive me if I have intruded. I only wished to see how you were.”

Indra sighed. “No, forgive me, Saurva. The past twenty-four hours have been...difficult. You are looking well.”

He chuckled in a miserable, disbelieving sort of way. There was a silence, and then Saurva said, “He is...” Another silence, much longer this time. “I am very happy for you.”

Neither of them spoke for several minutes. Finally Indra said, “Can I ask you something?” She sounded exactly the way Daena had not long before that. Saurva did not respond, or speak, in any case, but Indra continued, “About...about Ahriman.”

“What about him?” was Saurva’s stiff reply.

More silence. “Did he...did he say anything to you?” said Indra at last.

“No,” sighed Saurva. “Nothing.”

“Did you...tell him anything?” she asked nervously.

“Not a thing.” A pause. “Ah. I understand. Indra, I swear, I told him nothing. If he has learned any of this, it will not have been from me, I promise you. Please believe me: I would not do that to you, Indra.”

Not long after this, they bade each other farewell, and Saurva exited the room. He shot me a dirty look, and when I raised my eyebrows at him, he hissed, “What?

“Not a thing,” I replied, feigning innocence. Saurva rounded on Daena, who had dropped her gaze to the floor, and then stormed off limping down the hall and out of sight. Daena merely sighed. I stood up and reentered Indra’s room; she was sitting up in bed, and Aravis was still sleeping in the cradle beside her. She still looked worried.

“Didn’t buy it, did you?” I asked her.

She sighed heavily. “I want to believe him, but...I just don’t know what to believe anymore. I just...I just wish we knew where he was, and what he was doing. Why can we not find him?”

“Well, he always has been slippery. He managed to disappear from the Demon Realm to the surface without telling us, didn’t he? But sooner or later he will have to show himself, whatever his plans are.”

“That does not make me feel better about it,” she said sourly.

“Indra,” I said, “we will be ready for him.”

She glanced over at the cradle and sighed again. “I sincerely hope so. Because he will not want to face me again.”

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hi kaz!!!

 

has the snow in new york melted yet? was it nice in flordia?

 

ANYWAYS...

 

new avvie XD and no, i'm not going to say question mark because i REALIZE that that's an elf. or i hope i do anyways. signiture XD XD XD

 

XD this is the one with the mother dragon line. i love that line.

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daeva_agas: yeah, me too. now where did he go?...XD

 

tei: yes. heck yeah. and no, sorry, this one's NOT an elf. it's emma frost, better known as the white queen from the x-men. (i still can't believe you don't know the x-men. :roll: ) signature = the spongebob squarepants movie. scary, i know. XD

 

 

Chapter 15 - Information Withheld

 

A month or so went by, and despite my promise to her and the fact that she was, in fact, a daeva and one of the most powerful demons alive, Indra continued to act as though everyone and everything in existence was a terrifying threat to our son. She became a woman possessed, keeping herself and Aravis locked in her palace and surrounding it with heavily-armed demons and other vicious creatures. And even though most of us did not Relocate into each other’s dwellings anyway, she placed a spell over the palace which made it impossible. She even went so far as to place a dragon—-the very same gold one who had brought Saurva there after the attack—-at the front gate.

The day I discovered the dragon, I found Daena outside the palace attempting to gain entry, and she appeared to be having a disagreement with the vast creature. When I approached, the dragon turned its baleful gaze upon me and unfurled its wings in a threatening sort of way, causing Daena to step back a few feet.

“What’s all this, then?” I demanded of the pair of them.

“The lady Indra has commanded that no one may enter the palace,” the dragon said in a low, gravelly voice.

I turned to Daena, who had a sour look on her face. “So she’s hired an over-grown lizard to keep out the rabble?”

Daena shrugged. “It does appear that way. And apparently we are ‘the rabble’.”

“Is that so?”

“The dragon appears to be under the impression that it is protecting Indra’s child by preventing anyone and everyone from seeing them,” Daena replied to me, but her slightly narrowed eyes were on the guard at the entrance.

I rolled my eyes. “Even the boy’s father?” I asked of the dragon.

The creature looked me up and down disdainfully, and said in a smug, superior tone that so reminded me of Saurva, “The lady said no one.”

“Enough of this.” I moved closer to the dragon, but once I had gotten within a few feet of it, it spat fire at me, and refused to stop until I had retreated to my original position. I drew my sword and pointed it at the dragon; if it was not going to move of its own accord, then I was going to make it do so.

“Agas, no!” cried Daena, grabbing hold of my right arm. “This creature is only doing what it has been ordered. Do not harm it.”

I sighed, and resheathed my sword. “Your compassion is infuriating, Daena. I suppose this is why they made you a druid.”

“Among other things,” she said with a smirk. Then she sighed. “Well, I suppose Indra will come to her senses eventually.”

I raised an eyebrow. “You don’t know Indra very well, do you?”

“What in Darkness’ name is that?

Daena and I both turned and saw Nanghaithya approaching, gazing at the dragon and looking non-plussed. I shook my head.

“It is called a dragon, Nanghaithya,” I said slowly. “A large, reptilian creature with—-”

”Yes, thank you,” he interrupted, rolling his eyes. “You know, Agas, you have not changed in nearly four thousand years, and mounting evidence suggests that it is not likely to happen, either.”

“An unfortunate turn of events, I know,” I replied. “In any case, if you have come to see Indra, I’m afraid you have wasted your time.”

Daena sighed resignedly. “I do not suppose there is any point in my staying.” She bowed her head to each of us in turn, then murmured something to Nanghaithya, at which he nodded, before departing in the direction of her temple.

“So it would seem,” Nanghaithya replied to me once she had gone. “But as a matter of fact, I was looking for you as well.” There was a loud hissing from behind me; Nanghaithya glanced suspiciously over my shoulder at the dragon behind me, which I told him to ignore, and then he continued, “I have a daughter.”

“Congratulations,” I said with a slight bow of my head. I don’t suppose you were expecting me to have said something derisive or sarcastic, were you?

He nodded in return and added, “We have named her Zirna.”

“‘We’? Meaning you had a say in the matter?”

He smirked. “More of one than you did, I take it.”

“But not much more,” I returned. “Isn’t ‘Zirna’ Vampiric? By the way, would you say your daughter ‘looks like’ either you or her mother?”

“She is an infant,” he said dubiously. “How should I know?”

“Yes, I didn’t believe I was the only one who thought that. Incidentally, I hope your wife does not decide to behave as...deranged as Indra is doing.”

“How so?” he wondered. “Other, of course, than the dragon.”

I sighed. “The prophecy. Apparently the best way to prevent Ahriman from finding out about it is to keep the boy hidden from the entire world, including me.”

“Ah. Hence the dragon.”

I nodded. “So I sincerely hope you do not have the same trouble.”

“Ah. Yes. Well, I...I would hope the same thing.”

There was something apprehensive about his manner, something that told me that when he had said he would only tell Tei’jal parts of the prophecy, there was one rather important part he neglected. “You haven’t told her, have you?”

He shifted uncomfortably. “Well, not...No. No I haven’t.”

I rolled my eyes in stark disbelief. “I shall not envy you, my friend, when she finds out.”

He sighed. “I suppose I ought to tell her.”

“Coming from you, it might soften the blow. That is, the blow you are going to receive for not telling her in the first place.”

He winced, as though imagining it. “She is going to be angry.”

“I have a hard time believing you haven’t seen her angry before.”

“Not nearly as angry as she is going to be when I tell her this.” I couldn’t help laughing, and he said, “Have you ever seen an angry vampire?”

“No, thank you. But really, Nanghaithya, you are a daeva. How bad can it possibly be?”

“You have seen Indra’s Fury.”

“That bad?”

“Worse. Much worse.”

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indeed. :D

 

She paced the room furiously, her hands balled into fists so tight she could feel her fingernails digging into her palms. As she paced, she stopped each time she drew near the cradle to gaze down at her sleeping daughter. Raven-haired like her grandfather...ears like her mother’s...eyes just like her father’s...

Her father’s.

Tei’jal walked briskly away from the cradle. How could he not have told her? What had he been thinking? Perhaps he never expected her to find out...She slammed her fist into the opposite wall, leaving a large indentation.

“Tei’jal!” hissed Rashnu from his chair beside the cradle. “You are going to wake the baby. And I still do not think you should be out of bed.”

She rounded on him with an evil glare, and he quailed, but neither of them spoke. She supposed she was angry with him, as well; after all, he knew, and had never bothered to mention it. Of course, he had thought she already knew...or at least, that was what he had told her...The image of his terrified face as spoke of the prophecy came back, and she laughed to herself. She could even frighten her own father.

Finally Rashnu found his voice again and said quietly, “I am sure he had a very good reason for not...mentioning it...”

She was quick to note that he did not sound the least bit convinced. She supposed her husband would come up with a very good reason for keeping this part of the prophecy—-the part that involved their daughter—-from her. But she realized immediately that short of the deaths of everyone who knew of the prophecy, no reason would be good enough.

“I think perhaps you ought to go,” she said evenly, looking past Rashnu as if speaking to someone behind him. “You will not want to be here when he returns.”

Though she spoke calmly and casually, Rashnu sensed a storm coming; and whatever parental authority he had ever exercised over her, he knew better than to oppose her wishes when she was in this rare yet dangerous state. He rose from the chair, cleared his throat, and muttered, “I shall not be far, if you need me.” Then he hurried out of the room with only half a glance back.

Tei’jal sighed and sat down in the chair beside the cradle, and began absently rocking the infant as she attempted to regain her composure; but the longer it took him to return, the angrier she became. Finally, after what seemed like hours of tense silence, her delicate ears picked up the sound of someone entering the palace. She hurried to the fireplace and withdrew the poker from its stand, then raced out into the hall; but here she hesitated, desiring not to be too far from her child. She closed the bedroom door and moved slightly down the corridor, knowing he would have to come this way eventually.

When Nanghaithya appeared at the opposite end of the corridor, the weapon-wielding vampire blocking his path gave him pause, and he did not move for several seconds. When he finally did, Tei’jal still did not. He stopped about ten feet from her, his expression unreadable.

“Tei’jal,” he said in a tone that indicated he was choosing his words very carefully. “You have only just given birth yesterday. What are you doing out of bed?”

She drew nearer to him, narrowing her eyes. “I think you know very well what I am doing out of bed. Darling.”

He appeared to be at a loss for words. Her eyes, normally red, went completely black, and before he could react she had pinned him against the wall, holding the fireplace poker across his chest. “How could you not tell me?” she said in a soft, deadly voice.

“Unhand me, woman!” he said as he fought to free himself from her grasp; but a vampire, especially an angry one, is far stronger than even some of the strongest demons. She tightened her grip and shoved him hard against the wall again, allowing the poker to slip upward.

How could you not tell me?” she hissed, almost maniacally, pressing her weapon firmly against his throat.

He struggled again, but she was too strong, and was also rapidly depriving him of oxygen. He hated to do it—-he wished he didn’t have to—-but he did not see what choice he had. With his last breath, he croaked, “Shock!” Not expecting the spell, she yelped in pain and fell backward, still grasping the iron poker. As he gasped for air, doubled over with his hands on his knees, she glared up at him with malice afresh, but no longer found words necessary. Her primal vampire instincts took over her mind entirely.

She leapt to her feet before he recovered, let out a feral growl, and swung her weapon violently at him. He slid sideways out of the way, but the poker caught his left arm, leaving a deep puncture wound just below his shoulder. He aimed a bolt of lightning at the poker; she moved, and the lightning struck her wrist, but she still did not release her weapon. She glanced down at the burn on her wrist, then switched the weapon to the opposite hand and quickly swiped at him again. He was no match for her speed, and the poker made contact again, leaving a wide gash across his abdomen. “Tei’jal!” he gasped, but at the moment found himself unable to say more.

She stopped. The sound of her own name brought her back to the present, and she stared, as if in a daze. She gazed in disbelief at her husband, now sitting on the floor with his back against the wall, his arms wrapped around his stomach, his robes soaked with blood in the places where he had been wounded. She looked at the poker, still grasped tightly in her left hand, and dropped it in horror as though it had burned her. Then she sank to her knees and buried her face in her hands. There was a long silence.

“What have I done?” she murmured finally through her hands. She looked up at him again and said tonelessly, “I—-I lost control.”

“Is that what you call it?” he replied sardonically, wincing slightly.

She crawled over to sit beside him, but said nothing, now at a loss for words herself. She was so ashamed of herself that she could not bring herself to look him in the eye. He turned and watched her for a moment, then said, “I don’t suppose it would have helped for me to have said that I was sorry.”

She chuckled morosely. “I overreacted.”

“I thought you might.”

“You still should have told me,” she returned sourly, punching him in his injured arm.

He gasped in pain. “Open wound!” he reminded her. Then he sighed. “But you are right. And I am sorry. I, uh...” He laughed. “I did not want you to worry.”

She turned to him, her eyebrow raised. “Well it’s a good thing you didn’t tell me, then,” she said sarcastically.

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It was a gamble, but the old man had to be sure. The young man with whom he had formed an alliance had been so certain, and so many things were taking a strange turn; it seemed likely that his ally was correct, but still, he had to know for himself. He was gaining power, but not nearly enough to keep his enemies at bay—-not yet—-so he drew his hood closer about his face, just in case.

The building in which he now found himself was dark, dingy, and practically deserted, the last semblance of a human meeting place that remained in the world. Some small part of him wondered if his ally had not been mistaken: the man had spoken of another whose goals mirrored his own, another who also once had great power, and sought to rebuild it at the expense of the very same traitors that he himself was seeking; and this hardly seemed the sort of place that such a one might inhabit. He was on the verge of leaving when a hissing voice came to him across the virtually empty room.

You!” said the voice maliciously.

“I?” the old man said, amused, and turned slowly to face the person now approaching him, who he recognized at once. So this was the other, then...

“How dare you show your miserable face,” the other continued. “What business do you have—-”

”As a matter of fact,” the old man interrupted, “my business is with you.”

“Do not tempt me, filth,” spat the other, and the floor beneath their feet began to tremble. “You cannot hope to defeat me.”

“Defeat you?” he repeated, laughing. “I have no intention of fighting you; on the contrary, I have come seeking an alliance.”

Now the other laughed. “And why would I even consider such a thing?”

“Because you and I desire the very same thing,” replied the old man. The other stood staring at him for a long time, going over memories of the tales that had been told, and soon realizing that, perhaps, the old man was right...in a way.

“Very well,” said the other at last. “Let us talk.”

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you know me too well. :evil:

would it help to know that i've got a 'red' chapter coming (eventually) that, as far as i'm concerned, makes his identity glaringly apparent?...or would that just make you more nuts? XD XD

 

 

Chapter 16 - Fresh Hell

 

I gave up trying to reason with the dragon outside Indra’s palace and returned to Sedona, where I spent most of the night punishing a group of paladins who had apparently decided it a good idea to kidnap and torture random demons. It amazed me that no matter how much time went by, humans would never change. At least, not enough for their own good.

The next day, I received an imp from Aesma; not in itself an unusual thing, except that he was summoning me to Veldt. I decided to go immediately, assuming that something had happened to Saurva, and not wanting to miss it.

When I arrived at the large stone Amazons that marked the entrance to the city, I found not only Aesma but also Zarich there. Zarich was speaking, and Aesma frowning.

“But I thought we’d had all that business straightened out,” Zarich was saying as I approached them.

“What business is that?” I wondered.

“Dragons,” Zarich told me. “I had—-well, I suppose we had—-” He gestured at Aesma. “—-thought that we had sorted out all that nonsense with Saurva and the dragons. Yet just the other day, I found two prowling around Mysten Far; made an awful mess of some Nightmares, too. And then I went to see Aesma about it, and—-”

“A dozen,” Aesma interjected. “A solid dozen, snooping around my kingdom like sniveling human children. Dragons used to be respectable creatures, didn’t they? But not so since Saurva got hold of them.”

“And I assume you’ve asked him about it,” I said.

“Well...that’s just it,” Zarich replied, shaking his head slowly. “After Aesma and I discussed it, we came here to do just that, so he might give us some sort of explanation. But he hasn’t had the chance.”

“He’s gone,” added Aesma.

“Missing,” Zarich continued as I looked curiously back and forth between the two of them. “We went up to the palace, and his dragons said he has been missing for several days now. He does not appear to have told anyone where or why he was going, when he was leaving, or when he would be back.” He paused. “What do you make of it?”

“I think we all know what Agas makes of it,” Aesma chuckled before I could answer. “That is why we have called everyone here.”

“You will not get Indra,” I told them. “Or, perhaps, Nanghaithya.” I explained to them both how Indra was suddenly taking the prophecy entirely too literally, and that Nanghaithya could very well have been brutally murdered the night before. Aesma roared with laughter at the prospect of a daeva being destroyed by a vampire (though I was fairly certain he had never been acquainted with an angry vampire, either). Zarich crossed his arms and grimaced in an “I told you so” sort of way.

“I knew it,” he said, shaking his head, almost solemnly. “I even told Nanghaithya, I should have killed her when I had the chance.”

Aesma and I laughed; and as if on cue, Nanghaithya arrived, looking as if he had had an even longer night than I had.

“Nanghaithya,” Zarich joked, “you’re alive!”

Aesma was still laughing. Nanghaithya smirked and raised his eyebrow at me; I merely shrugged. “Barely,” he said sarcastically.

“Was she very angry?” I asked him, which brought a snicker from Zarich.

“Why am I here?” he asked Aesma resignedly, ignoring my question.

Before Aesma could reply, the earth beneath our feet began to tremble violently, sending the two huge statues behind us crashing to the ground. Zarich and I looked at each other, then at Aesma and Nanghaithya, the only two present who could have cast the spell. Both denied responsibility. As we stood there, the ground beneath what was left of the statues gave way, swallowing them and large quantities of sand and leaving a large chasm in their place; and from the chasm issued forth several dozen of the strangest creatures I had yet seen.

They crawled from beneath the ground on all fours, but once on the surface, they rose and stood on two legs. They were large—-about seven feet tall—-and sinewy, with mottled brown skin and disproportionately long arms and legs. Their heads seemed too large for their bodies as well, though it appeared this was to accommodate massive jaws filled with long, razor-sharp teeth. Wide, flat noses and small beady eyes gave them an almost snakelike appearance—-if not, of course, for the teeth. They stood as a menacing wall before us, as though waiting for orders from an unseen commander. Nanghaithya broke the silence.

“You cannot be serious,” Nanghaithya groaned.

“Why don’t you sit this one out, Nanghaithya?” I said with a grin. “I think we can handle them.”

A creature rushed forward and took a swipe at me with what I could now see were long, sharp claws. I said, “Motion Freeze,” and the greater portion of the monsters stopped moving. Aesma shook his head incredulously and said, quite casually, “Earthquake.” The creatures were knocked off their feet and back into the chasm from whence they had come.

But it never pays to let down one’s guard.

Just as we had assumed the “battle” over, the ground began to shake again, and soon scores of the strange beasts came bounding from the hole in the earth. I cast Motion Freeze again, but to little, if any, effect. A pair of the creatures leapt at me and pinned me to the ground; the same happened to Zarich about ten feet to my right. Sharp claws wrapped around my neck and began to dig their way through, and a shot of pain at my left elbow told me that the other creature had sunk its teeth into my arm and was attempting to remove it from its socket. “Time Storm!” I said with some difficulty. Both the clawing and the biting stopped as my assailants’ flesh wrinkled and cracked, and then turned to dust, leaving me surrounded by two piles of long, brittle bones.

I got up quickly, cast Time Storm again—-this time taking out the next dozen or so creatures that were advancing—-and went to Zarich’s aid. Zarich, evidently taking my hint, shouted, “Decompose!” The two monsters blackened and decayed at an alarming rate, until they were no more than a mass of rotten flesh. I helped him to his feet, and he cried, “Lightning Strike!” The creatures nearest him were blasted backward by the spell.

“Move!” Aesma yelled to us from some fifty feet away. He was surrounded, and even his Winds of Hell, which were issuing from the chasm in the ground, had no effect on the creatures. Zarich and I moved as far back of the chasm as possible, and Aesma bellowed, “Tsunami!” A tidal wave from nowhere crashed down upon the creatures, sweeping many of them back into the void. Aesma had taken quite a beating: there was a long, nasty-looking wound above his right eye, and more across his chest; and one of the creatures appeared to have taken a bite out of his left arm as well. He nodded at me briefly, and I knew what he meant by it; I could feel blood dripping down my neck from the deep puncture wounds left by the creature’s claws. I turned to Zarich, who did not appear to have sustained any damage, but just then Nanghaithya, who was some distance behind us, called, “Tornado!”

As the massive funnel cloud swept by us, we found that the creatures had not been stopped by Aesma’s spell, only infuriated. The ones not caught in the storm leapt after us like hungry panthers, snarling and gnashing their long teeth. Zarich was on the ground again. Nanghaithya ran forward and shouted, “Thunderstorm!” and as the clouds formed and the glaring lighting struck our foes, I conjured as many fireballs as I was able and shot them in rapid succession at the creatures. Aesma had taken to bull-rushing the monsters back until they slipped back into the hole.

Watching this for half a second put my at my second disadvantage. At least ten of the creatures leapt from behind those at the front, soared through the air, and landed in a tight knot around me. I endured quite a bit of painful scraping and tearing as I struggled to free my sword; when I finally had, I jabbed at the beast directly in front of me and ran it through. Before any of the others had time to react, I pulled my sword swiftly to the right, and it exited through the creature’s side and made its way through the rest of the circle in this fashion. The monsters halted in their attack and collapsed to the ground, near-perfectly halved and soaking the sand with their blood.

“Enough!” roared Aesma. I looked up just in time to see him toss a few monsters angrily to the side, and to recognize the danger the rest of us were in if we did not move immediately. I called to the others, and we all hurried out of Aesma’s way without a moment to spare.

“ANNIHILATE!”

The explosion ripped through the desert with such force that it filled all my senses and sent me hurtling to the ground. For several minutes, all there was, was blinding light and a deafening rumble from the very core of the earth. When it finally ended, I rolled over and sat up, and found that the creatures were gone. Nanghaithya was also sitting on the ground, shaking his head vigorously. Zarich had stumbled drunkenly to his feet and mumbled, “Mudslide.” The spell sent a wave of mud and stones pouring into the massive hole, until it was filled in completely. An eerie silence followed.

“So...” Aesma said slowly, wiping the blood from his forehead. “Any guesses as to what in Hell those things were, where they came from, or how they knew we were all here at this particular moment?”

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i love that chapter XD "well, it's a good thing you didn't tell me then"

 

priceless! XD

 

i love the rashnu-scared-of-tei'jal bit too. and i still request more rashnu-nanghaithya scenes. but take your time...

 

not trying the guilty thing or anything like that XD

 

(PS: did i ever reply to that last PM?)

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