Thursday, January 31, 2013

Quest for the Keys of Avalon

My poor blog is still being neglected as it ought not to be. I'm sure I've made all sorts of promises and expectations which are now crumbling like a dry sandcastle. Something I'm sorry for, because I quite like this blog. I wanted it to be more interesting and instructive, really. Helpful.

But alas, it is not so. I'm hoping that warmer weather will help improve things, since I'll be doing things that are much more interesting and far less chilly than I have been lately. This isn't a blog where I write out particulars about my life, either, so blog material has been scarce. The next parts of FtGG will have to be sorted via skype with Dana at some point, because we've run out of finished transcript to copy over. So that will take a short while to do. Then, of course, there have been no Imagination Games due to the weather. And what with writing and all (I've quite the workload, at present) there hasn't been time for research to write a Legend Post.

On the bright side, I'm on my way to publishing a short story of mine. I'll toss a link up here when I do.

So, in the meantime, my long suffering readers will just have to put up with me rambling about Lore. It's the topic that's most on my mind as every chilly day whets my anticipation for warmer weather. My imagination has been considering and scheming, longing to take part in the epic journeys that keep flititng through my mind, and the sheer enjoyment of living those magical adventures alongside the people I love the most.

Morganna Le Fay.
My hair is much shorter,
and I tend to smirk a bit
but I like this picture anyway.
Not too long ago, TSFH released a new album called Skyworld. I listened to it the other day (actually, I bought the whole album. TSFH rocks.) and ran across a song called El Dorado. At that moment I'd been considering one of my villain personas in Lore, Morganna Le Fay, the alchemist half sister to King Arthur, and all the sudden the music and Morganna's persona as I had imagined it meshed. The song continued to play, growing more intense, and images of other villains -- Fafnir, The Red Rider, The Halflings -- coiled into the mix, filled with schemes and edged with danger...

And then..... something else approached. The darkness cursed, as the form of the surpassingly noble hearted St. George lifted his gaze to the scene, and with him came heroes of legend, seared with determination to battle these rogues for not just a treasure, as I'd thought before, but the good of the Lands of Lore themselves.

The song continues, outlining the rapid exchange of fight and scheme, light and dark locked in a grapple for victory, a struggle of greater complexity than imagined as more and more lives are caught into the current of this desperate race.

And so 'El Dorado' has become to me the song that describes The Quest for the Keys of Avalon.

 By way of explanation, Avalon, in Lore, is a place that's hidden in another dimension that can only be reached through portals called the Gates of Avalon. These portals are unlocked/created by special devices, known as the Keys of Avalon. The Keys are kept by various Nimues, who are the race of continuous regenerates, most of whom have been alive for quite a long time and are considered somewhat mythological. Also, the Keys are made to look like another object. For example, the Key placed in the posession of The Lady of the Lake is better known as Excalibur, the magificent sword. And again, the mirror owned by Amaterasu is another such Key, and in fact the reciperocating Key that links with Excalibur to unlock the Gates of Avalon.
Avalon is considered such a special place because it is where the very best in all trades are taken to build the most majestic and beautiful things their trade can possibly produce. It's a land of incredible wealth, breathtaking beauty, and untold secrets, much like its underwater sister, Atlantis, which is another story all together.
Being such an amazing place, it's no surprise that villains of all kinds have sought to secure passage into Avalon. And also no surprise that heroes have risen to stop them. 

Once upon a time, there lived a valiant knight named George. This knight had slain a dragon and gained the hand of a beautiful princess, but alas his promise to serve six years as knight of the Fairy Queen, his foster mother, called him away until his dues were honorably paid.
  It came to pass that one day his patroness called him to her throne. Word had reached her that a dear friend of hers, a woman only known as the Lady of the Lake, had been driven from her watery home by an evil dragon named Fafnir, who pursued her capture. Though the queen knew not this dragon’s reasons, she bade George go forth, find the Lady, protect her, and slay the dragon. Undaunted, George sallied forth to do as he was instructed.
  Thus George crossed into the Land of Lore, a place where legends meet. At length, he located The Lady and her trusted handmaiden, Azula, and gave them refuge from their flight. Upon inquiry, George was told of this terrible dragon that sought the Lady so zealously. He was Fafnir, the Dragon King, and terrible in body and heart, worse than any dragon George alone had every set out to slay. Intelligent as a fox and black hearted with greed, he protected a treasure beyond all save the treasure of Avalon. The treasure of Avalon, so, was the one he desired so strongly, and The Lady alone was said to have the key to entering that glorious city.
  Hearing this, George began to doubt. He alone could not withstand this king, a king who commanded all his offspring and followers, an army of dragons and dragon halflings, each almost as black as he. It would be a futile quest.
Furthermore, Fafnir vowed revenge on any who would attempt such a feat on him, and should he succeed in slaying one who sought his blood, he would ravage the kingdom from whence the fool came.
  Now George, being in no way arrogant, came to the conclusion that he would require powerful assistance in order to be successful in his bestowed mission.
Many a time had he heard tales of a warrior king named Beowulf, who resided in Scotland and had so far been known to have killed three dragons with the aid of only his sword and famous shield. In that, George knew he would gain a great ally, so protecting The Lady and Azula, George came to the land of Lore in which this king resided.
  When his plight was explained, Beowulf, having long since wanted to test his mettle against such a famous dragon, agreed to assist. However, the one thing that had restrained him from going against such a foe thus far had been a thing that had halted many a slayer before him; he knew not where Fafnir dwelled. In this, they looked to The Lady, who informed them that only two knew the whereabouts of the Dragon King. Merlin, and King Arthur himself alone posessed such knowledge.
  Confident that their chances of success had been multiplied in the alliance between George and Beowulf, the two dragon slayers set out for Camelot.
  Along the way they met with two women -- a noble and a gypsy -- who hailed them. One named herself as Vivian, ward of Morganna Le Fay, who now sought out her end for helping Merlin steal half of a key to the Gates of Avalon from Le Fay and attempting to escape with him to the city. Alas, she had been thwarted, and while she escaped Morganna's wrath, she was unable to reach the portal in time before it vanished.
  Now she came to find The Lady, who was known to posess the only other key to the Gates of Avalon, that she may follow and be rejoined with Merlin in Avalon before Morganna kills her. The key, however, had been hidden at The Lady's home in the lake, and could nto be reached until Fafnir's end had been obtained.
  Therefore, Vivian, and the gypsy, who proved herself to be a mere storyteller with a mischevious air but a kind disposition, joined the band. She gave no name. She was a Brownie, and as such her name could not be pronounced in the human tongue. She allowed those who wished to name her for their convenience. Now George and Beowulf willingly accepted the task of protecting all four women, as their swords alone bore skill, and did so easily as they continued on towards Camelot.
  Their path drew them through a section of forest, along a well trodden path.
Suddenly from the treetops there dropped a man clad in lincoln green and a hood covering his head. His longbow drawn back and his arrow nocked, his keen eye sighting down it with effortlessness belonging to an expert marksman, this man informed them that were currently being held up, and that any who wished to oppose this action would be shot by him or his men.
  Brownie associate quickly informed them that the man with Beowulf's heart in his sights was known as Robin Hood, and he was every bit as good a shot as the legends said (though not quite as tall as was told), and also had a band of men who would assist him as he said they would.
  However, Beowulf liked not such insolence, and refused to offer forth his weapon in surrender. Before an eruction could begin, another figure appeared from the forest; tall, with a warrior's build and carriage, and wrath in his countenance. He raised a gleaming sword and called out a challenge to the two dragon slayers, calling them kidnappers of The Lady they now had under their protection. Upon this accusation, the archer appeared to withdraw his jovial daring and drew taut his bowstring. But in the moment that he had been distracted by the arrival of the newcomer, Beowulf had charged him. Too close to shoot, the archer dodged within an instant, escaping the slayer's blade.
The other warrior came for The Lady, and George, fired with a noble anger, rushed to the conflict to protect his charge from harm.
  The man fought with skill George could not have attributed to an outlaw, famous or no, and did his best to withstand. Beowulf found a match in his own opponent, who had lived in the greenwood far long enough to have learned to use it to his advantage in a fight.
All at once the Lady's cries fell upon the ears of the fighters. She called for them to cease immediately, and gave a name to the man George had engaged: Arthur. At the sound of it, the tall man paused, and George caught his breath, ready to fight again should this be a false alarm.
  The Lady came up behind George, and to the tall warrior. The man's countenance of anger faded, and his sword abated its ready position. He called to Robin, shouting for him to stay his own blade. The Lady hastily told George that the man before them was none other than King Arthur, and George gave urgent cry to his fellow dragon slayer to keep from decapitating the outlaw.
 At the pause in the conflict, The Lady placed herself in a peaceful position between the two opposing lines, and gave an account of what had transpired up to the present time. As the tale progressed, both lines relaxed, and George dropped to one knee and apologized profusely to the legendary king.
  When she concluded, Robin Hood invited them to dinner, and the group proceeded to a camp that had been previously set up by both the outlaw and the king. In their company around the fire there were two more women to add to the enterouge, who were introduced as a young woman named Belle, and another named Scarlet, who wore a cape and hood to match her name. Scarlet was related as a Wulver, a shape shifter who could assume the form of a wolf. The other, a princess from a nearby land who had learned the art of dragon taming. This, obviously, the dragon slayers regarded dubiously.
  Once around the fire and being informed that Robin was, in fact, alone, and had successfully halted the band single handedly -- something he took great amusement in -- The Lady asked Arthur to relate to them the tale of how he and his company had come to join.
  Robin answered, at the king's bidding, and informed them that Fafnir had recently come and wreaked havoc over his lands, especially Locksley. Although he had retired as an outlaw since King Richard had been restored to the throne, he donned his old uniform and set out to teach this dragon a lesson. He learned soon enough what a daunting task he'd undertaken, and sought out King Arthur for advice, as he knew also the location of the dreaded beast.
  Arthur took up the tale at this point, and from Robin, who has a habit of talking to the lowly in rank and learning local gossip, as that had been a tool for survival in his outlaw days, learned that The Lady had been captured. Assuming she was taken by Fafnir, he enlisted Robin to help him rescue the maid from the Dragon, if she were indeed his captive. Along the way, they aquired a guide, the Wulver, Reeve, and a dragon tamer, who would serve well in securing their safe passage to Fafnir's cave itself through all the Dragon King's minions.
Now, however, that The Lady was safe, they willingly retasked. Together with those present, they would seek out, reach, and slay Fafnir once and for all, risking life and limb and safety of kingdom to rid Lore of its worst blight. It was also agreed that along the way, The Lady would meet with her cousin, Amatarasu, who bore the other half to the key The Lady owned that would open the Gates of Avalon.
 Thus the band set out, their talents together more than legend can do justice.
As you now know, the simple, if difficult, task of slaying Fafnir and saving Avalon once and for all isn't going to turn out to be as simple as they thought. With other villains such as the vengence bent Morganna, and the mysterious Red Rider, and conflicts even with their own band, the adventure is going to become one of far greater magnitude, and their quest  one of far greater importance.
Dia duit,

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Schemes for Summer

A few weekends ago I had Wynter Croix over to our house to spend a few days. I won't go into detail about the shopping trips and inside jokes that arose over the course of those three days, as that's not what this blog is for and it would probably bore most of you. (Keep a lookout for a new fashion blog we might be starting soon, though!)

More to the point, while Wynni was here we chatted about LARP stuff. I've been having a spurt of desire to LARP in the Lore world lately, so together Wynnie and I created a persona for her that she could use in Lore when summer finally comes back around.

I think I've talked briefly about Lore in a couple posts, though come to think of it that was quite some time ago. I keep forgetting I've had this blog for so many months.

In short, Lore is a land where an edge of all fairytales, legends, and myths meet together. So each of the different realms there are a piece of a legend/fairytale sticking into Lore. There's the fairytale kingdom, there's the Ice Kingdom, there's Fafnir's Lair, there's a section of Sherwood Forest, and the prominent province of Camelot, plus many others including Oriental and Middle Eastern tales.

Of course, all these stories are reinvented and retold in our own unique way, as we do with pretty much everything. But I won't go into lengthy detail about that just now. Now I'm going to tell you about the new addition to Lore, Wynni's persona: The Red Rider's Daughter.

For the more squeamish of my readers, I will note that there is dragon blood in this discourse I'm about to give. I'm not one to be bloody and gory and all that sort of dark stuff, but dragon blood, scales, breath, horns, claws, etc. are often a prominent feature in fairytales, so I decided not to chuck it out like I have with the purely magical stuff. Just sayin'.

So, once upon a time there lived a man named Samil. He was a huntsman, who lived in a small village on the outskirts of the Dragonwood, beyond which lay the mountain that housed Fafnir's Lair. It so happened that Samil fell in love with the daughter of a neighboring farmer, and married her shortly after. They lived happily for some time, but Samil began to drift. He became increasingly interested in tales of magic and power and alchemy, dicontent with his current living situation as a mere huntsman.

As this transformation went on, Samil's wife gave birth to a beautiful little girl, who they named Lahava, which meant "Darkness", after a white flower that only opened on moonless nights. Samil loved her very much, and for a time lived once again with contentment in the little house. He taught her many things, including how to pluck flowers and suck the little pocket of sweet nectar from the base.

Then one day, three year old Lahava discovered the flower of a Red Rider plant. This plant, named after a villainous horseman who always wore a red cloak in old stories told around the fire, is the rarest in Lore, except in the Dragonwood. It is known to contain the deadliest poison in every part of it from the roots to the crimson petals. Even the nectar.

Thrown into the pit of desperation, Samil ran not for the doctor, but into the Dragonwood, in spite of his wife's pleadings. In his exploration of alchemy, he learned that one sure cure for Red Rider poison was dragon blood. The strong chemical properties mix to nuetralize the fatal effects of poison.

So to Fafnir Samil ran for aid, the evil dragon that controlled the Dragonwood and the dark mountainous area beyond it. Fafnir's servants, the Halflings, took the distraught man to see the dragon lord, where Samil explained his plight. Fafnir listened with his yellow eyes watching and his mind scheming.

What Samil did not know was that when the dragon blood is mixed with the Red Rider plant, what results is a neurological drug that irrepairably leaves the brain in a submissive, robot-like state. This state is most commonly known as Halfling.

However, Fafnir explained with a sly rumble in his voice, if Samil's daughter wore a necklace with the dragon blood hidden inside it and never took it off, the chemical reaction would be enough to keep the poison from reaching her heart and killing her, without doing any damage to her mind.

But there was a condition. Drawing Samil near with his taloned paw, Fafnir told him that he would only do this for him if Samil agreed to work for him as his personal servant for the rest of his life.

In his grief and troubled spirit, Samil agreed, pledging his life. He returned to his home with the special necklace Fafnir had given him long enough to present it to his daughter, saving her life, tell his wife to never let Lahava take it off, and kiss them both goodbye. Amidst the tears of both mother and daughter, Samil returned to the Fafnir's Lair, and from that night on, Samil became the Red Rider, chief of Fafnir's Halfings, and assassin dreaded by all. No longer did he remember his former life. He worked for Fafnir, keeping the wicked dragon's army of Halfings at an adequate number and snuffing out the more annoying of Fafnir's enemies.

Lahava grew to be a conflicted lass. Her mother became sickly as the girl grew older, always telling her never to remove the necklace, and finally died when Lahava was twelve, much to the girl's sadness. Believing her father dead and herself an orphan, Lahava became a roaming gypsy girl. She became fast friends with a brownie named Jynnx, and as she grew she felt torn,  struggling to define and choose between good and evil. Now at sixteen, Lahava will be tested, as she is thrown into the company of true heroes, sly theives, vengeful alchemists, and even Fafnir himself, where sooner or later, she will have to choose a side.

So that is Lahava, daughter of the Red Rider, and Wynni's Lore LARP character. Can you tell that I can't wait until spring?

Dia duit,

Saturday, January 19, 2013

For The Greatest Good -- Part XIV (Penny)

Part XV -- Account by Penny Kearney

  Every inch of me trembled. Fury, but more than that, panic. Cold fear. Each time I tried to think, my thoughts flew to my brothers.
  One of them would die. If Ross’s promise could be trusted, painfully.
  And there was nothing left for me to do about it. I tried to force myself to let go, to consider escape so I could at least rescue my other brother. But every fiber of me wanted to scream. I wanted to let loose everything I had been containing inside for the past eight hours. I wanted to stop pretending I was strong enough for this.
  But I couldn’t even do that. So I sat in the corner of my cell, thankful for the shadows that hid my distress, and the presence of the guards to prevent Dana from breaking my concentration. Right now the sound of his voice would only crack the barriers I was trying to construct for myself. It would be a time before the intensity of the emotions numbed me. I needed that time to myself.
  Minute upon minute slipped by. The shaking in my muscles ceased except for the occasional one due to the chill in the dank air. Slowly, I began to come out of my own thoughts, aware of my surroundings once more. My breath evened, and the throb from Set’s complimentary bruise on my jaw eased somewhat as I focused my gaze, flicking it towards Dana’s cell.
  He stood pacing in front of the bars of his cell, back and forth like a caged panther. I wondered how long he’d been doing that, feeling my senses return fully to the present reality, and the door click shut on my emotions. How long they would remain as such, I did not know, but I would take as much time as I could get.
  As I contemplated how to begin a conversation on the topic of escape, Dana halted his footsteps, tense. A breath of a moment passed, then he moved to the back of the cell and sat down as casually as ever. His gaze caught mine.
  “Talk.” He mouthed silently.
  I narrowed my eyes briefly, conjuring back the connection to his thoughts. “Out loud?”
  “No, like this.” He kept a blank expression, gaze wandering aimlessly. “I can sense a way. You have to be ready.”
  It took several moments for his words to sink in so soon after accepting a fate supremely less miraculous. He would not tell me of a way, though, unless he was sure of it. That much I trusted.
  “Just wait for it.” His gaze flitted across my corner once more, then suddenly he frowned, clutching his stomach with a groan, and doubled against the floor.
  I started.  The echoes of his cry bounced down the hall, followed by others. The guards glanced towards him.
  I stood. “You had better be faking that…”
  “Well, I can’t say I enjoyed my breakfast after that punch.”
  How he could still think of jokes, considering our situation, I could not fathom, but for some unaccountable reason it gave me an unbidden spark of hope.
  The sound of marching steps drowned out the last of the echoes of Dana’s distress, catching my attention. A man I recognized as Ross’s captain came into view leading six soldiers in formation behind him, halting by our cells. The guards straightened in attention.
  I knew what they were here for. My muscles stiffened.
  “Ross intends to torture me until I tell the truth. Give me the name of a location – any location – so I can tell them that’s where I heard the rest of our army is.”
  Lying limp, shaking, and whimpering a muffled moan at intervals, Dana opened his eyes and flashed me a smile. “Who said that was the way?”
  I blinked, now completely thrown, and unable to think of a response.
   Trust him.
  “I don’t like taking chances.”
  “If you don’t trust me, I understand, but this is the only chance we’ll have.”
  “Unlock the door,” The lieutenant ordered one of the guards. “We’re here to transport the girl to another cell.” He nodded sharply towards Dana. “What’s wrong with him? Sick?”
  Rolling onto his back, Dana gave a cry of ‘agony’, that incited the lieutenant to bang the bars. “Silence, prisoner!”
  The guard inserted the keys into the lock on my cell door. My insides coiled tighter and tighter.
  Unable to see Dana, I whispered my thoughts in his direction.  “Alright. I trust you.”
  The hinges on the door creaked dolefully as two soldiers entered. I stepped into my place between them without need of their physical assistance, and walked out into the hall as bidden. My heartbeat fluttered in my ears.
  Trust him.
  Two more soldiers took up their positions in front of me, and the lieutenant let out a sigh.
  “You might as well take the other with us while there’s enough of us to manage them both. Lord Set wouldn’t want anything happening to him.” He muttered.
  “Aye, sir.” Along with the remaining two soldiers, the guards moved to Dana’s cell.
  My pulse jumped. The guards entered, dragged Dana to his feet, and shoved him roughly out into the hall.
  His gaze met mine for no more than a second. “Now.”
  With the speed of speed and force of an unbridled stallion, Dana tore free from the grip of his captors, and charged through the gathering of warriors into the freedom of the hall beyond. Cries erupted from those present. Two soldiers immediately grasped my arms, pulling me back in spite of my struggles, while the lieutenant ordered his other men into a line, weapons drawing with a symphony of metal blades ringing on metal scabbards. Dana stood weaponless mere yards away, daring them to advance upon him.
  I took my cue. Amidst the confused hesitation, I let every muscle go limp, causing my own captors to lose their secure hold. With a twist, I slipped free. The lieutenant shouted. I burst through the line holding its attention on Dana, stumbling, knocking one of them into his companion, and made it into the freedom Dana had already acquired.
  He caught my arm, helping me regain my balance, and pulling me alongside him until I adjusted my momentum to his as we both took off down the hall.
  “Either we’re both getting whipped for this, or you have a plan.” I glanced behind us, speaking above the lieutenant’s fury.
  Dana motioned down a side passage. “Call it a hunch.”
  At the moment, that was good enough for me. I followed him without hesitation.

Friday, January 18, 2013

And So Life Goes On

Shockingly enough, I still exist. I very much miss spending time posting things on my blog, but life has been a bit consuming as of late, what with unpacking and all. I'm actually sitting in the disaster area that is my bedroom at the moment, taking a break from sifting through rather disorganized boxes.

This winter weather has made me desperate for an Imagination Game. It's far too cold outside at the moment to play one, but my head is practically spinning with ideas!

More recently I've been considering our Lore world, and the difficulties that arise from trying to re-weave fairytales and legends in a magic free, more Conservative way. This has been a task I've performed so many times in the past. Though I write fantasy, I do not 'do' magic, which has opened up endless possibilities in finding plausible scientific ways of allowing special powers and non-human races to exist. I enjoy doing this very much, even though it can be a chore sometimes, but I'm also trying to find out where even the scientifically explained powers become just a little to magical in spite of my efforts. In short, I'm finding that not all powers are created equal. One of the things I attempt to avoid is having the characters'/world's powers not end up being too weird, even if they can be explained through biological or chemical means. Because then it's more like magic by another name rather than, say, a biological ability of a certain race.

We have turned wizards and witches into alchemists and healers, given limited biological abilities to fairies, pixies, sprites, and brownies, and turned some ancient gods and goddesses into humans with regeneration abilities and vast knowledge of history called Nimues. So you see, we've rewoven and toned down things I personally would find objectionable in a story or Imagination Game.

But what about a Nimue who resides in a stretched timestream, so that a portion of herself is in the future, giving her glimpses of what could be? How far can one go? When does even the scientific become too alike to the supernatural? I want to be different. I want the middle ground, the perfect mixture of fantasy and reality. I don't want to give up the fantastic for the realistic, but I also don't want to use reality as an excuse for the fantastic rather than an explanation. I want all the pieces to work together; to balance.

It is an interesting labyrinth to try and navigate, and I'm certain I don't get it right all the time, but I do, at least, try my best. That's what counts the most in anything anyone does, I think.

Dia duit,

And if you're wondering why I'm not posting pictures anymore, it's because silly blogger has a glitch and won't let me upload my own photos. Meh.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

For The Greatest Good -- Part XIII (Dana)

Part XIII -- Account by Dana MacDonald

    The cell doors shut with a clang, the escorting guard’s footsteps fading down the hallway. Four of their company remained with Kearney and I. Two stood in front of my cell, two across in front of Kearney’s cell, holding spears in hand. One glance gave me the indication that these were of the smarter variety of guards, and would brook no outburst from their captives. I let my gaze drift down from the cell guards to the cell’s occupant. Kearney sat against the wall, her knees drawn up and her head bent forward, eyes closed. I lowered my own head, racking my head for any idea of escape. Nothing came to mind, even with the soft reassurance of my gift.
    We’ll get out of this somehow. We’ve been through worse. Though at the moment, I can’t think of when…
    A single set of footsteps interrupted my thoughts, and I looked up. The guards snapped to attention at the figure’s approach; at Set’s approach. I bit back a curse that rose in my throat and looked down once more, forcing my expression to remain clear. I watched the floor of the passageway through the bars of my cell. Set’s boots came into view as he paced by and stopped opposite of where I was. For a moment silence reigned.
    “So, Dana. Your little plan failed, hm? Looks as if it’s going to be another long rot in prison for you. As for the rest of your precious order, well… I expect they’ll all be ticked off, one by one.”
I ground my teeth together in an attempt to bite back any reaction, even as he continued to speak.
    “I am rather glad you were able to join them. Having you out who knows where would be so annoying to track down again.”
    “Do you ever shut up?”
    Kearney’s murmur came loud enough for both Set and I to hear it. I glanced up sharply, meeting Set’s gaze for a moment. His face twitched in a smile, and he turned away, toward Kearney’s cell.
    Blast it! It’s bad enough with his attention on me.
I watched, helpless, as Set stalked forward toward Kearney’s cell. The guards shied away from his advance, visibly blanching when he drew closer.
   “The pious Lady Kearney deems us worthy of her speech. How touching. I do hope you’re thinking of the many ways your brothers could die. Lord Ross is… skilled, in the art of dispatching his enemies slowly.”
   Following his comment, Set stepped forward and snatched the keys from the guard’s belt. He turned to the cell door and opened it, stepping into the cell. Kearney’s head rose, her eyes open, and she glared up at Set’s entrance. Set took another step toward her, and with no prior warning, struck her across the face with a clenched fist. I stood in an instant, even as Kearney was knocked on her side. Her face was tight in a restrained cry, and her gaze wandered, dazed at the blow. Set stepped out of the cell, locked the door and handed the keys back to the guard, who merely accepted them without saying a word. He turned back to face me, and smiled.
   “Now that we’ve removed any interruptions, shall we go on?”
    I stared back into Set’s eyes, allowing my fury to show plain in my expression. Had the bars not been made of cast iron, I felt they would have been riven from the ground, so fiercely did I grip them. Set stared back for a moment before his eyes narrowed. His voice lowered, taunting.
   “Go on; do it. Whatever you do to me, she receives twice-fold. "
    It took all the restraint I had not to reach for his throat, but I managed it. With a sudden intensity, Set punched my stomach with a rounded fist. I nearly doubled over at the blow, but he followed up with a back-handed strike to me chin, knocking me back onto the cell floor with such force that any breath remaining in my lungs was knocked out. I lay for several seconds attempting to recover. Set gave a short laugh before he said,
   “Rest there awhile. You, too, can try to imagine what wonderful things will happen to your companions. And I’ll be right there to keep you company. Lovely, hm?”
I managed to lift my head to catch a grin from Set’s face before he turned and walked down the passageway. When his footsteps faded, the guards relaxed somewhat, though they kept their eyes forward. With a groan, I slid back against the wall to prop my back up. I held my midsection gently and grimaced. “Wasn’t expecting that…”
   “Silence, prisoner!”
    One of my cell guards glared at me from his position before resuming his stance. I glanced at Kearney, trying to gauge her situation. She had sat up, and at my notice, gave me a long look before scooting to the shrouded corner of her cell, limply propping herself up against it. Taking the cue, I leaned back against the wall behind me and closed my eyes. As much as I felt like it, sleep was the last thing on my mind.
   “What else haven’t you told us?”  She said, her voice clearer than it had been the first time she’d contacted this way.
   “What do you mean?”
   “You didn’t tell us about you and Set. What else is there?”
A whole lot more than you’d think…
   “Nothing I can think of at the moment, though I could ask you the same question.”
   I groaned and shifted my position. The ache in my midsection was getting better gradually, but it was still an ache nonetheless.
   “What happened between you and Ross?” I asked. When her reply came, it was laced with anger.
   “Nothing happened between me and Ross. Seph and Percy were away, I needed help dealing ith a gang of outlaws that had banded together in our realm. Ross’s brother agreed to assist me, we burst into the camp, took down some of the leaders, sabotaged some of their larger weapons and called the order to fall back. Ross’s brother never showed up at the rendezvous point.”
   “And I take it Ross didn’t handle the news well.”
   “No, he didn’t. The body turned up a few days later. Ross blamed us, but not because he loved his brother.”
    The answer seemed obvious, but I stated it anyways. “He wanted a reason to strike us.”
   “He wanted a reason to strike at anyone. Ross is a greedy, vindictive man, and a born conqueror. He’s not happy unless he’s suppressing and stealing.” Her tone was still tense.
   “I’m sorry I asked the question the way I did. I didn’t mean it that way.”
   “I know how it must have looked.”
    I smiled slightly from my position. “Well, I was a touch surprised. I had thought he’d been fighting us for no reason. Now he almost has one.”
   “He only uses that excuse to keep his followers from knowing what he really is.”
    I waited a few moments before asking the next question.
   “Are you angry I hadn’t mentioned Set to you all?”
    For nearly a full minute, and indeed maybe longer, Kearney did not reply. When she did, a measure of tension had drained from her tone.
   “I just don’t want you dead, Dana. That’s all.”
    Her comment, despite my intentions, flared up my previous thoughts on her interference.
   “At what cost? If he was gone, none of us would be in the position we’re in.”
    A trace of bitterness entered my voice. “Our warriors wouldn’t be dead either. It’s because I was gone you were all ambushed, waiting for me to get back.”
    “I will not condemn you!”
    Kearney’s last statement was audible, and quite loud for the current situation. The guards glanced at Kearney in confusion. One of her guards spoke up. “Uh… quiet, prisoner!”
She did not follow her statement, and the shadows of her cell concealed her face from my gaze. I let the silence spread for some time before speaking again, albeit with a gentler tone.
   “I’m not asking you to. It’s just… being a leader. If Set is gone, any leverage on me is lost, and Set can’t predict your movements. You can’t deny the fact so many have died already because of Set. And he’s only here because of me.”
    After a short moment, Kearney answered. Her voice was shaky, detectable even over this connection.
   “Either Percy or Seph is as good as dead. You’re asking me to kill you too.”
   “No, you’re not going to. I choose to. Something has to change in this, Ross constantly has the advantage.”
    She did not reply. I pursued the topic, attempting to get my reasoning across.
   “You exchanged your life for mine not a day ago, why can’t I do the same for you all?”
    Again, no reply came. I fought back frustration as I said,
   “I have to do something, aside from continuing to do more harm than good by merely assisting you all.”
    Even as I finished the last phrase, I felt the connection cut off. I sighed, and slumped against the wall. My gift still urged patience. That, I had no desire for, but I had little choice, for what else could I do?