Vol 3: Chapter 10, Part 2: The Calm Before The Storm

It took all night and a good chunk of the morning before they arrived in the City of Light. There was a direct carriage route connecting the major cities throughout the Empire and Haven that Beddigan and his companions had missed on their journey north, due to them having angled towards the Bintack Oceania in an effort to gain some respite from the burning heat of the sun. The trip was much faster this way, especially by carriage, but they were still all very glad to be dine travelling and in the City of Light for a couple of days rest.

Their royal coach had approached the city centre, and the palace that squatted down low in the centre of the valley, and they were met by Torin and his brothers. The left the coach behind and followed the Deer down into the basin where the lush gardens overtook carved stone to be the centre healing spot of Haven. And when they walked through the courtyards, Beddigan felt a rush of excitement as he recognized that they were being led directly to the intricately carved marble patio that served as throne room for Karrinah. His breath caught in his throat as they approached her, nestled among the dangling bunches of pink and purple flowers, draped over her simple stone chair, a thick, leather-bound book in her lap. She looked up and he saw sparkling light in the deep pools of her black eyes as she met his own and a smile spread across her face. Her great antlers were decorated with spun golden strands, with tiny glinting shards of green jewels woven into them, and her robes were a spinning, intricate pattern of earthly metal tones; gold, copper, silver.

He stopped near to her, completely oblivious to his companions and bowed deeply. She held out a hoof for him and he took it, bringing it to his mouth and kissing it softly.

“My lady.” He murmured. She grinned as he stepped back and she stepped forward to greet them all.

“It is wonderful to see you all again. And you Serina!” she said pulling the Panther into a close hug. “It has been far too long, my dear friend.” Serina returned the hug,

“It has been too long, indeed, Karrinah.” Serina stepped aside to let Karrinah greet the rest of their group, coming at last to Shianne who she had not yet met. Beddigan moved to the Fox’s side.

“This is my dear friend, Shianne, a Fox of Reene. She joined us not long ago from back home.” He said, introducing the two females. Karrinah nodded to Shianne who nodded back, both eying each other curiously.

Karrinah clasped her hooves together and smiled at them all, and Beddigan felt his heart jump again at the warmth of her smile.

“Come! Let us eat and catch up. There is much I wish to know of how your quest has fared.” She looped her arm in Beddigan’s and he felt another rush of excitement at her touch.

The Queen of the Deer folk led them to the familiar dining room and they took seats around the marble table. Serving girls brought dish after dish of food and jug after jug of juice and wine; boiling water and little sachets of herbs for tea. The group was hungry after their lengthy journey and ate and drank deeply before any conversation began. Beddigan was the one to break the silence, meeting Karrinah’s eyes over the table. They had taken seats directly opposite one another, each at a head end of the table.

“I’ve done it, Karrinah. I’ve convinced the Lions and the Rams to help us. We are going to stop the Wolves from their cruelty once and for all.” He said with a fierce smile. Karrinah’s eyes went wide, as she sipped from her steaming, fragrant cup of tea.

“The Empire has agreed? I won’t lie to you Beddigan. I’m shocked.”

Serina cocked her head to the side and spoke,

“And why is that?” The Panther purred, setting her spoon down. Karrinah turned to her friend.

“I meant no offense, I just didn’t think the Empire had desires of getting involved in war again after such a long history of it prior to this blessed era of peace.” The Queen of the Deer paused a moment. “And if I am being entirely truthful, it worries me a bit about awakening some desire in the Felines, and Lions especially, that could lead to an upset of our peaceful way of life here.” Beddigan felt a twist in his gut.

“My lady, I’m sorry to have worried you with this, but it is of the utmost importance that we have the help of the Empire.” He said softly. She nodded her head to him,

“Yes, of course, Beddigan. Merely a worry of mine is all.” She said dismissively. Serina spoke then, looking at the Queen of the Deer over the rim of her own steaming cup of tea.

“If it helps, I can assure you that the Empire values what Haven brings to the balance of our lands, and has shown no desire to upset that balance.”

Beddigan thought then of the Lions desire to conquer outside of its lands; and its true reason for assisting them. It was something he should tell Karrinah, despite the anxiety it would cause her, for it was knowledge that a ruler should have. But that was something for a private moment between them, so he made a mental note to address her with it later that evening, when they were alone. The conversation shifted then, and Karrinah asked,

“And you have found a way to breach the barrier formed by the oath?” Beddigan smiled at her, chewing a delicious, spicy tart of some type before answering.

“We have, by way of the Dragons.” Karrinah’s fork fell from her hoof, clattering down onto her plate.

“The Dragons…?” she murmured. “You’ve seen them?” she asked breathlessly. Beddigan nodded.

“I went in search of them just a few days ago, and managed to find my way to them, high up into the Olgrinn peaks. Part was luck of course, and I found myself in a most precarious situation before I even knew it!” he began. He told the story then of finding himself in the Dragon’s nest, surrounded by yearlings and babies, and being nearly eaten by the young Prince Lisenfer. And then he told of his illuminating conversation with the King of the Dragons. Despite having heard the story already, his companions listened with interest and Karrinah sat breathlessly enraptured with the tale.

“And how then do you break the barrier?” she asked. Serina spoke then.

“I’ve been given knowledge from the King of the Dragons of how to create a counter-spell binding talisman, that will allow anyone wearing it to breach the barrier. He will not bring it down fully, which is to the benefit of our lands and those south of us.” Karrinah nodded and let out a carefully measured breath.

“I am most glad to hear that. With what I have heard of these Wolves you have to contend with, I should not like them to find their way north once you have put a stop to their tyranny in your homelands.” Beddigan nodded.

“I was relieved as well at the King of the Dragons suggestion. I made it very clear that I did not want to put these lands in danger. I think that was what appealed to him most and persuaded him to help us. For if the Wolves were allowed to continue their domination back home, they would surely look north eventually.”

The table sat silently, picking at their food until they were finished and the serving maids came to clear the table.

“You must all be very tired,” Karrinah said, standing from the table. “Please allow Torin to show you to your guest rooms and rest. We will come together again for the evening meal.” They all nodded to her and she drifted away down a corridor. Beddigan felt an urge to follow her but sensed she needed some time to digest all that had just been revealed. So, he went to a guest room and laid down with the intent to sleep. But his mind was stuck; trapped on the lovely creature who was Queen of the Deer.

Beddigan had not rested well at all, despite their long journey through the night to reach Haven. He was preoccupied and anxious about the what was to come. They had come so far, and reached their goal, but now came the hard part. Many would die in the coming weeks and months of war. And then he had only the shaky promise of providing crystals and knowledge of magic to the people of these lands, with only the base belief that they would not use it against him or his people somewhere down the line. He had tossed and turned and slept little snippets of time until it was close to dinner and he had left his guest room in search of a private moment with Karrinah.

He found her just as she was making her way to the dining room, and his breath caught in his throat at the flowing aquamarine robe she had draped over her tall, graceful frame. She looped her delicate arm through his while he was still awestruck by her beauty and lead him to the table, where his friends already sat.

Even now, as he chewed a bite of vegetable tart with a tangy herb sauce, his eyes lingered on the Queen of the Deer. Talk around the table was lively and everyone else looked fairly rested; none seemed to notice his quiet until a lull brought Karrinah’s eyes to his own.

“What is bothering you, dear Beddigan?” she asked, sipping warm, spiced cider from a long-stemmed glass. Momentarily snapped out of his reverie he set his fork down.

“My apologies, I’m not much of a dinner guest tonight, my lady.” He said softly. Blowing out a deep sigh, he leaned back in his chair. “I am simply lost in thought of what the next few weeks will be like. We achieved our goal, we have the troops we need to fight off the Wolves, but this battle… it won’t be pretty. Many will lose their lives.” The table sat silent for a few moments, with only the sounds of eating and drinking, before Ragnon spoke up,

“Come now, Beddigan. I understand your feelings but we all knew what we were getting into when we started this whole lofty quest. Some will have to die so’s that the many can be free. That be the nature of war.” Beddigan nodded to the Wolf.

“I know that, Ragnon, I really do. I just struggle to reconcile these truths within myself at times like these. Really everyone, it is none of your concern. We should be focusing on more pressing matters.” He said, turning to Shianne. “Like how soon your paw will be lost if we don’t get you and Ragnon to Commander Rollstad.” He felt Karinnah’s eyes linger on him for a moment longer, but focused his attention on Shianne.

“We don’t have long, I’m afraid. Unless we can find a way to get back in just a day or two, I think the paw is all but lost.” She said softly. “I’m really going to miss holding two daggers.” She added with a sardonic laugh. Beddigan chuckled, though everyone else remained uncomfortably silent.

“I wouldn’t get so attached to that idea just yet, Shianne. I’ve been thinking and I have a plan that just might save your paw.” The Fox met his eyes and he saw a glimmer of hope in them.

“Do tell, Beddy, do tell.” She murmured. Reaching into his pocket his fished out the necklace with the contact gem that Lady Lisanne had given him right before they had left for the Snowcap Mountains; before this journey had begun. He looked to Serina, who sat just across and to the left of the Queen from him.

“This gem allows me to contact my sister. It’s a one-shot deal so we have been saving it. But if we can get in touch with her, perhaps she can make another portal, like the one Shianne came through, and then Shianne can take Ragnon with her to allow them some time to resolve this cuff situation.” Serina clapped her paws together excitedly.

“That is brilliant, just brilliant, Beddigan! Yes, I can see it working already.” The Panther crooned excitedly. Beddigan held up a paw in an effort to stop and calm the Feline.

“It is only an idea, I don’t know if it will work as it did before. But it is our only option as I see it, so I suggest we try it, and the sooner the better. Perhaps as soon as we all finish eating.” He punctuated the last bit by picking up his fork and taking a few more bites off of his still half full plate.

They ate quietly for the next bit and when everyone was finished with the savory and sweet courses, they adjourned to Karrinah’s library. Serina spent a great deal of time inspecting the large black gem as they all took seats around the low stone table that sat in the centre of the room. When she was finished with her preliminary exam, she handed the necklace back to Beddigan.

“So, you just smash it?” she asked. Beddigan shrugged.

“So I was told. I have never seen or used anything quite like this before.” Picking up the gem, he looked around at his friends. “Ready?” he asked, gripping it by the back and holding it above the stone table. A chorus of nods was all the acknowledgment that he needed, and he slammed the gem face-down against the table. He had expected a shattering sound, like that of glass, and for shards of gemstone to scatter out from the explosive force, but instead the gem vanished, leaving the empty gold setting behind.

A heartbeat of time passed and then a shimmering oval, similar to that of a portal but much smaller appeared a few feet in front of Beddigan’s face. In it, Lady Lisanne’s face appeared.

“I wondered how long after Shianne left it would take you to use the gem.” She said, a half smile adorning her mouth. Beddigan was momentarily irritated, but ignored the feeling.

“We have much to report and a request to make, but I have no idea how long this type of communication lasts so I’ll be brief.” He said, taking a steadying breath. “We’ve done it. We have secured the forces we need to fight back the Wolves and save our lands. We will be heading out, marching south into Illensdar in just a few days.” He paused to give the sorceress time to react, but all her got was a firm nod in response, so he continued on. “Shianne though, I fear, is nearly out of time to save her paw. We are wondering if it’s possible to do as you did before with Clottie, and have the Mage here contact you by mind so that you may get a picture of this place to open a portal to. We can send Shianne and Ragnon threw now and they can try and make it to Rollstad before the term is up on the cuff.”

Lady Lisanne smiled in response,

“Step aside and there will be no need for mind contact, for I will be able to see the room your are in.” Beddigan stepped aside hastily so that the sorceress could see Karrinah’s library. “Gather your things, Shianne, Ragnon, and say your goodbyes. I will open the portal in ten minutes time, and will only be able to hold it for a few moments.” And with that the oval of light snapped shut leaving a momentary shimmering distortion in the air before fading away completely.

“Well, that is that then. I will send a maid to fetch your things.” Karrinah said with a gentle clasp of her hooves, before she slipped out of the room to give the group a few moments alone together to say goodbye.

“Can’t say I’m looking forward to seeing dear old dad again, but to save your paw, it’ll be worth it.” Ragnon said with a scowl that morphed into a half smile. Shianne looped her arm around the Wolf’s shoulders and tucked him close with a brilliant laugh.

“Don’t worry, my friend. I won’t let him have you any longer than is necessary.” Beddigan smiled at his friends.

“Best of luck to you, and we’ll see you soon then.” He murmured. Shianne pushed away from Ragnon and threw her arms around him.

“We don’t need luck, Beddy. And neither do you.” She breathed into his ear, giving him a firm squeeze. She stepped back and Ragnon stepped forward. They embraced quickly and Beddigan offered the Wolf another reassuring smile,

“I have no doubt in Shianne’s ability… but if you somehow find yourself trapped with the Wolves, rest assured you have myself and William ready to extract you as soon as we get back.” It was then that Beddigan noticed William was nowhere to be seen. He had been quiet all through dinner. “Now where did that Bear get off to?” he said, and his companions shrugged in response.

The door to the library opened and Karrinah entered, followed by two maids carrying Shianne and Ragnon’s bags. His friends stepped forward to take them, thanking the Deer who bowed quickly and left. Karrinah embraced each of them with a few quiet words, but Beddigan was too distracted by William’s absence to pay attention to what was being said.

Serina held up a time piece,

“Should be any minute now.” The Panther said brightly. Beddigan felt William’s presence before the Bear even entered the room. His eyes lingered on the bags he carried. A pang of dismay clenched in his gut as the Bear approached him, with worry and sadness in his eyes.

“Beddigan…” his friend started. Beddigan held up a paw and forced a smile, nodding.

“No need to explain, my friend. You must go, and in fact, we must have you go, for we need to know where Sinerrah stands in this war. The sooner the better.” He quickly embraced his friend. “No need to worry about me. I’ll be fine.” He added with a smile, just as the shimmering portal appeared in the centre of the room.

Shianne stepped forward first, flashing them all a quick grin.

“Ta-ta now folks!” she said brightly, before stepping through the portal. Ragnon gave them all a nod and toothy grin,

“Don’t have too much fun without me!” he said before disappearing into the shimmering oval. William gave them all one last look, a curt nod, and then disappeared with the portal snapping shut immediately behind him.

The three of them stood there quietly for a moment as the weight of the day settled down upon them.

“Marvelous, just marvelous.” Serina murmured, inspecting the air where the portal had been. Karrinah approached him and slipped her graceful arm into the crook of his own.

“Come now, Beddigan. Let us adjourn to the patio for a bit of fresh air before sleep. Tomorrow will be a big day and you need rest.” Beddigan nodded absentmindedly and allowed himself to be lead away, his mind far away with his friends in the Losley Deadwoods.

To be continued…

© Copyright 2016. All Rights Reserved.

**Volume 1 eBook now available on Amazon!**


Vol 3: Chapter 10, Part 1: Time Is Running Out…

Beddigan stomped around his room in the Great Palace in Coronam and looked again out the unshuttered window at how low the sun had gotten. It had taken him two days to make his way down from the Olgrinn Peaks after his encounter with the Dragons, and another two to cross the Bintack Oceania, and then make his way by carriage to the Capital. And now another two had passed, as he had been kept waiting, while the Lord Regent was on business out of the Capital city.

“This infernal waiting cannot continue!” He snarled to Ragnon who lounged in a chair with his feet up on the edge of the bed. “We must start preparing! We must get back to our lands and stop the Wolves!” Ragnon waited a few beats and then shrugged.

“You know those royalty types. Different priorities and all that.” Beddigan scrubbed his paws over his face and made a frustrated sound before crossing the room and flinging the door open. Ragnon jumped up to follow him out in to the Palace corridor. Following the familiar route to the courtyard nearest the guest suites, they found William, Shianne and Serina sitting on carved white stone benches, watching the sun set over the sprawling city. Continue reading

Vol 3: Chapter 9, Part 3: Our Last Hope

And then he saw it, a faint red-orange glow coming from one of the large corridors that lead away from the cavern. Beddigan’s mind raced, his fight or flight instinct kicking in. Do I try and get down and out, or should I hide, he thought, mind scrambling for a solution as the rumbling and light got closer to the cavern.

The lack of time available made up his mind and he stayed low on his stomach, creeping back into the shadows of the smaller cave. He watched as the Dragon lumbered into the cavern, and felt his heart clench at the sight of it. He drew his gaze from its giant feet with deadly claws, up its body and up its long neck to its scaly face, eyes burning amber in the dark. And then he saw the flicker of gold on its back and felt his stomach roll with fear. A much smaller Dragon was riding atop the larger one’s back, with scales the colour of the ones a few feet behind him.

“Come now little one, back to bed.” The Dragon’s voice was a rumble that rolled and echoed through the chamber. The little golden Dragon hopped up and off the larger Dragon, floating down to the cavern floor on its leathery wings. Continue reading

Vol 3: Chapter 9, Part 2: A Dangerous Path

Breathing in the chilly morning air, Beddigan ran his paw over the mare’s cheek and clucked softly to the horse.

“That’s a good girl.” He murmured as he placed his foot in the stirrup of the worn, leather saddle, and mounted up. Once he had found his seat and was settled comfortably, he reached back to check the saddlebags one last time; to ensure he hadn’t forgotten any of the supplies he may need for the journey. He hadn’t ridden since his time with Her Majesty’s Royal Sapphire Brigade, but one never really forgot how to sit proper and control a horse, once they’d learned it.

It hadn’t been an easy sell to his companions, but the Lord Regent had at least been on his side; after he had met with the Lion and given him the sealed letter from the Rams, noting their agreement and terms to assist in the war efforts. They had clearly hit a wall in trying to decipher this oath and magical barrier that currently held them from ever getting home. Even so, it had taken much convincing for his friends to let him go; especially since he insisted on going alone. It had come down to him pleading that he could not put any of them in such danger, and reminding them that he had the most experience with Dragons. It could all be a fool’s errand anyways, as no one had seen a Dragon in these lands for generations. They didn’t even know if they still inhabited the peaks and valleys of their old piece of the world to the northwest. Few ventured there in fear of what they may find. Continue reading

Vol 3: Chapter 9, Part 1: A Rock In A Hard Place

Beddigan felt a wave of relief when the carriage rolled up in front of the palace, in Coronam, the Capital city of the Empire of the Lions; an already familiar sight in an unfamiliar world. He shook Ragnon awake,

“We’re back at the palace.” He said to the bleary-eyed Wolf. It had been a long-feeling and stressful trip, bot to and from Ehl-Indrah, crammed into a very short time, and they were both exhausted. This entire Adventure had been wearying in a way he had scarcely felt before. He was eager to see if William had found any success in contacting anyone back home. News of how Katheyra fared in their absence was desperately needed; it was beginning to gnaw at him as much as it did the Bear. Even Ragnon was showing concern for what the Wolves had been able to accomplish in their absence, and he feared for Clottie’s safety, despite her being in the Losley Deadwoods. He also hoped the Bear had found some luck in finding a way to break this oath with the Dragons.

They made their way up the wide, brilliantly white flagstone steps, flanked by two Lion guards in their red regalia. When Serina met them just inside the main palace doors, Beddigan felt a bit of relief. He had been certain he would be brought before the Lord Regent straight away, and he was too tired to think straight enough for that conversation. The sun was dipping low on the horizon, and he needed a solid meal and a night of rest before he tackled whatever new issues had arisen.

“Welcome home, gentleman, welcome home!” the Panther said, clasping her paws together excitedly. “How did you fair on your journey?” she asked, falling into step beside Beddigan, and looping an arm through his.

“We got what we needed.” He told Serina and she grinned, a flash of sharp White teeth against silken black fur.

“Wonderful! Well, you may meet with the Lord Regent in the morning, but for now, why not get cleaned up in your rooms and come to the great hall for a bit of supper with dear William and I. You two look exhausted!” Beddigan offered her a wry smile as two Pages appeared to escort he and Ragnon to their rooms.

“You read my mind.” He said flippantly, and saw amusement in her eyes. She patted his cheek,

“Why, no I did not, my dear Mouse. I read your face.” She laughed then. “Ta! See you soon!” she called to them as she flounced away down the corridor.

“Sir.” The young Lion Page said, clearing his throat to get Beddigan’s attention. Beddigan turned to the Page and let him lead him to his rooms. He sat quietly on the edge of his bed while the Page brought a basin of warm water and set it on a table in the dark room. “Sir,” the young Lion said hesitantly, “Shall I light a lamp for you?” Beddigan looked up and smiled and shook his head.

“No, thank you. I can do that. I just want to enjoy the dark a moment. Thank you very much.” The Page nodded and left, shutting the heavy wood door behind him. Beddigan flopped back on the bed with a groan. Riding in a small carriage for so many hours was never easy on the body, but he was definitely starting to feel his age these days.

“Why don’t I get that lamp for you.” The voice startled him, as light bloomed in the lamp closest to the door. Beddigan rolled off the bed, unsheathing his sword.

“What trick of magic is this?” he snarled, as a figure clad all in black stepped from the shadows of the corner of the room, into the flickering amber of the lamplight. His sword dropped with a clatter to the stone floor as he caught sight of the shock of coppery fur. “Shianne?” he whispered. “How?” She grinned at him then and stepped forward, picking up his sword and handing it to him.

“That bit is quite a long story, Beddy.” She replied with a small smile. Sheathing his sword, he took a step back and squinted at her.

“Is it really you?” he asked again, unable to keep the hint of anger from his voice. He didn’t trust the Mages of this land any more than he would trust a Lynx sorcerer. She laughed then,

“Yes, you paranoid Mouse! What have these Felines done to my trusting friend?” she cackled. Beddigan felt the tension ease off as she pulled him into a hug.

“Annalose and Ardra, Shianne! How is it you find yourself here? What’s happened back home? Is Clottie okay?” Shianne chuckled again, squeezing him before letting go.

“So many questions. Aye, I understand that. I have fair few of them for you as well, though I have learned quite a lot from the Bear.” She turned and opened the door.

“Quick, wash up now and let’s get down to supper. I would rather not repeat myself any more than I have already. I swear, between the Bear and that Panther, I have damn near talked my tongue off in the last day.” Beddigan nodded in agreement, and took to quickly washing with the soft towel and now barely warm water the Page had brought.

He met Shianne in the hallway and they made their way to the Great Hall, collecting a fairly stunned Ragnon along the way. The Wolf was just as surprised as he had been to see Shianne, and along with his exhaustion, had fallen back to his silent, watchful nature. Beddigan made a mental note to take him aside and talk to him later, to make sure that he was okay.

As they walked into the Great Hall, they were met with the usual roar of soldiers and palace folk eating at the great, long tables. The Lord Regent’s table was nearly empty this time though, less a few Mages. Must be away from the city, Beddigan thought as they wound their way to a far table that had a mostly free end, near the roaring fireplace. Beddigan grinned as he met William’s eyes and the Bear stood, offering him a curt node in return. The Bear stood and stepped towards him and they shared a quick embrace.

“Welcome back, old friend.” William said, before taking his seat. Beddigan nodded to him and took a seat on the opposite side of the table. Shianne sat next to him, and Ragnon next to William, with Serina at the end of the table. He nodded his head towards Shianne while looking at the Panther,

“I can only think that you played some part in this, unless she somehow followed us through the mountains.” He said with a grin. Shianne snorted,

“Your instincts are correct, Beddy. I wouldn’t be caught dead trying to traverse that mountain range, even with Lady Lisanne’s tricks.” Serina smiled,

“That reminds me, I am dying to know of these tricks. Though that matter can wait for another time. Please, tell us how things went in Ehl-Indrah.” Beddigan hesitated a moment, but then decided that Serina could be trusted enough to give her this information before the Lord Regent himself heard it. He launched into a recap of his and Ragnbon’s then, as servers brought trays of food and mugs of ale to the table. When he was finished, he added,

“At some point, I would love to pick your brain about the Rams, Serina. They seem to have some odd customs.” He said with a sip of ale. Serina chuckled wryly.

“That’s putting in lightly. All in good time, Beddigan.”

Shianne set her ale mug down, turning to face Beddigan.

“So, we have the support of the Empire and the Rams then. What’s left before we can assemble our army and head home? Things are not good back in Katheyra, Beddigan. It won’t be long before we have another subjugation like that of Reene on our hands. Without us, there will be no war, only domination.” Beddigan picked at the food on his plate for a moment, before meeting William’s eyes across the table.

“Any luck with the Dagon’s oath?” he asked, though he was pretty sure he knew the answer was no. Had William or Serina found a way around the oath, he was sure they would have lead with that exciting news. But perhaps they had at least an inkling. William shook his head, casting his eyes down to the table.

“I tried — and failed — to find anything at all in their histories of magic and of the lands that could help us. There is nothing but a vague mention that an oath was made that erected a barrier of magic. There are no details about what the oath was, is, or what kind of magic the barrier is made of.” Beddigan made a frustrated sound, but then nodded sympathetically to William.

“It was not an easy thing we asked of you, my friend.” Serina chimed in then,

“Especially since all that time ago when the oath was actually made, we had only an oral tradition of history. We didn’t start writing our history down for much time after that, and surely some was lost along the way.” Beddigan sighed and took a bite from a hunk of nutty, brown bread, chewing it thoughtfully. He looked to Serina,

“And the Arch Mage wouldn’t have any information on this that maybe isn’t privy to the rest of the Mages?” he asked. Serina frowned.

“I don’t think so.” She said uncertainly. “I don’t know what he would gain from hiding that information from us.” Ragnon snorted then and everyone looked to him, as it was pretty much the first sound he had made since they sat down at the table. Beddigan noted he looked much more like himself now that he had eaten some, and drunk a great deal of ale.

“I don’t trust that Arch Mage as far as I could shove him.” He said sourly. Serina shot him an annoyed look.

“Hold your tongue, Wolf. He is very powerful and has eyes and ears everywhere.” Ragnon shrugged and drunk more of his ale. “Besides,” Serina continued, “He has never done anything to test my trust of him.” Beddigan nodded to her but thought that maybe she just didn’t know that he had. He got the same feeling about the Arch Mage as Ragnon did. Shianne spoke then, derailing that train of thought.

“What of the Lord Regent? Perhaps there is some royal history that is unavailable to the public because of the sensitive nature of the information? Surely to keep his lands united he would not want this barrier broken by one of the allied nations.” Beddigan frowned, thinking of the Lord Regent’s desire to head east into the Trelill Sea, to find more nations to add to the alliance.

“What makes you say that?” he asked and Shianne snorted, reclining in her chair and crossing her arms over her chest.

“To stay unified, the Lions have to stay in power. To give those allied lands the opportunity to head to another land and resettle their sovereign nations and claim full rule of their own? It may be a tempting offer to some.” She held up a paw, sensing that Serina was about to protest. “Now, I understand that this is a peaceful unification. But you can’t pretend to believe that there are no dissenters in any of the other Feline lands. If the barrier were able to be broken, or circumvented, it could invite a new war into these lands, which is not something the Lord Regent would want.” Beddigan considered Shianne’s words. Serina was already shaking her head again.

“No. I mean, I get your train of thought, Shianne, but I am certain that the Lord Regent does not know how to break the barrier.” Beddigan nodded,

“I have to agree with her, Shianne, as the Lord Regent wishes to help us with this war, and if he knew how to break the oath he wouldn’t have made that a condition we needed to satisfy for their assistance.” Shianne narrowed her eyes at him.

“And that doesn’t bother you? That a very powerful nation with a history of conquering wants access to our piece of the world, that they currently do not have?” Beddigan shook his head.

“William and I, and likely Ragnon too, all had the same thought at the beginning, but once you meet the Lord Regent, I think your perception of him will change. He is nothing like the rulers we have come across before. The reason the Empire works so well at allying these lands peacefully, is that the Lion at its helm is truly in search of unification and peace.” Shianne stared at him for a moment and Beddigan knew she didn’t believe a word of what he was saying. But she nodded anyways.

“Besides,” Ragnon interjected, his speech a little slurred from all the ale he had drunk. “They don’t be coming to help us against the Wolves out of complete altruism, which would be entirely untrustworthy.” The Wolf said, setting his ale mug down so hard that the contents sloshed over the rim, staining the wood of the table a darker brown in the flickering light of the hearth. “They want crystals and Beddigan has agreed to give them access to them. The Rams too!” Shianne rounded so sharply on Beddigan, he nearly dropped his mug.

“You what?” she hissed. Beddigan shrugged,

“We had to offer something as compensation for their assistance, and it was something they were greatly intrigued by upon seeing. They have no access to such things here and the magic veins run shallowly in this land. It could be a great help to the people here, to their daily lives.” He said, trying to justify something he knew Shianne would never agree was a good idea. William made a sound.

“That is not all. You must tell her the whole truth, Beddigan.” The Bear growled and Beddigan groaned, hesitating.

“We also offered… to help them breach the mists. They search a way of travelling east, into the Trelill Sea, in search of other nations.” Shianne exploded up from the table, upsetting her chair so much so that it fell to the floor with a clatter.

“You would do this, after everything that happened in our lands with the Wolves? To my people?” she hissed. “You are a fool, Beddigan T. Mouze. A fool.” Beddigan leapt up from his chair, slamming his paws town on the table hard enough to make the silverware jump.

“What was I to do, Shianne? I was sent here to bring an army home, and by Annalose and Ardra, I will bring that army home. You can’t get something for nothing. You of all people should know that.” Shianne made a disgusted sound.

“And what of these nations that lie across the Trelill Sea that you so easily condemn? How will you live with that choice, Beddigan?” He made a frustrated sound, in response.

“I don’t know and I don’t care, Shianne. I have one purpose right now. One goal. And I will see that goal to the end and deal with the consequences after.” Serina stood then, and gently lifted Shianne’s chair back to its rightful place.

“Now, now let us all calm down just a bit. There is still much to discuss, but let us just set this topic aside for a later date. We still have a huge problem to solve before we can do anything with armies or crystals.” Both Beddigan and Shianne reluctantly took their seats. “Now then,” Serina continued, “How do we go about figuring a way through or around this oath and barrier?” she asked the table. Everyone was silent in response.

Finally, Beddigan spoke,

“Well, since we can rule out finding any information of it here, we’ve really only one option.” He said softly. William grunted,

“You can’t mean…” the Bear said. And Ragnon groaned.

“Beddigan, no…” Shianne looked puzzled at her companions remarks.

“What? What is this option?” she asked. Serina sighed and grossed her graceful arms over her chest.

“The Mouse has decided to go see the Dragons.”

To be continued…

© Copyright 2016. All Rights Reserved.


Vol 3: Chapter 8, Part 3: Worlds Collide

William settled into the same small, uncomfortable chair in Serina’s workroom and thought briefly of calling the whole thing off and just going to bed for the night. He was exhausted, and very full. They had ate well at the midday meal, and followed with a long walk through the palace gardens to stretch their legs. But he still felt weary; weary of heart, weary of soul. He needed a deep rest that he knew he would not get until this war was over. And it had yet to begin.

Serina flitted and mused around the room, despite having left everything exactly as it had been before the meal, when they had tried to contact his wife Elenya.

Finally, she dragged her chair over to sit in front of him.

“Now then, tell me about this sister of Beddigan’s before we do the mind-share. What do you know of her and her skills with sorcery?” Serina asked. William took a breath and thought a moment.

“I do not know Clottie well, and from what I do know she is very new to sorcery — having only just begun apprenticing with Lady Lisanne earlier this turning.” He began. “She had shown no predilection for magic prior to meeting the great sorceress. But so far, she can do a few basic things, like make portals and the like.” He said dismissively. Serina’s brow furrowed,

“Portals?” she asked, looking puzzled. William realized then that he didn’t know if that type magic existed in these lands. He cleared his throat,

“Ah, yes. A way of transferring a long distance with only a step. Creating a… doorway between places? We have crystals that can do this as well, but they are rare and very expensive. Sorcerers can do it at will.” Serina looked dumbstruck for a moment. Then her eyes were glittering with curiosity,

“The wonders of your part of the world! The things I could learn there…” she breathed. William just sat quietly while the Mage turned over the possibilities in her mind. Eventually, she shook free of her reverie and refocused. “Yes, alright then. So, do as you did before with Elenya and create as complete a picture of Clottie as you can.”

William took a steadying breath and closed his eyes. This was going to be a lot more difficult, as he had only met Clottie a couple of times and had spent little time with her. He focused on the features of her youthful face, and the tenderness of her heart. He tried to hone in on her true nature: that of kindness, warmth, and a little fire; just enough to be of use in a fight. And her fierce love for her brother, his oldest and best friend. The way she had embraced this roll as apprentice to a master sorceress, all to help Beddigan save him from the prison camps in Fort Alline. The altruism in her was not false or feigned. She had the heart of a warrior, surrounded by the warmth of a loving young Mouse.

He felt Serina’s paws near the sides of his face and he waited, holding that image of who Clottie was firmly in his mind, until he felt her arms drop down. He opened his eyes to see her grinning at him.

“You know you’re quite good that that.” She said as she put her chair back and walked over to her work table. William stood and followed her,

“Am I?” he asked. She nodded. “I feel like I have known this Mouse as long as I’ve known my best friend.” William snorted.

“I haven’t known her that long.” The Panther shrugged and continued to flip through her book, double-checking the last few details. William waited as she moved a safe distance from him and the table and nodded as she gave him a reassuring smile.

“Positive thoughts now. We need this to work!” Her arms swooped through the air and William was caught again in the beauty of the ritual; the little sparks of magic in the air. Annalose and Ardra, please let this work, he thought, as the Panther’s eyes began to glow.

Shianne leapt up from her chair, paws flying to her daggers at the shriek that came from the sorceress’ work room. She raced through the cottage and threw the door open to the small room to see Clottie sagging against Lady Lisanne.

“What have you done to her?” Shianne growled, noticing the eerie way Clottie’s eyes were glowing and her blank stare. The sorceress shot her a sharp look,

“I did nothing. She screamed and collapsed in the middle of reading a book about transfer spells.” Shianne made do move to apologize, but did move further into the room to lift Clottie’s slacken form from the sorceress’ grasp. She moved the stricken Mouse to a short couch and laid her down gently, looking curiously into her blank, staring, glowing eyes.

“Clottie? You still in there, honey?” Shianne said, patting the Mouse’s cheek softly. When Clottie didn’t move, or speak, Shianne rounded on the sorceress again.

“Help her! Do something!” she snarled. The Fox met Shianne’s furious eyes with nothing but a placid stare.

“I can do nothing for her. Somehow, she has gotten ensnared in some magic, and it will be up to her to either fight or accept this magic and come back to herself.” Shianne made a frustrated sound.

“This is why I loathe sorcery!” she hissed, turning back to sit at Clottie’s side. Lady Lisanne said nothing, and Shianne returned to patting Clottie’s cheek. “Annalose and Ardra, don’t die. Please don’t die.” She whispered to the Mouse.

The force with which Clottie snapped out of the spell nearly tipped the couch over, and sent Shianne flailing to the floor. She caught herself easily and rolled, missing the hard legs of the work table. She rushed back to the Clottie’s side, the Mouse now sitting and gasping for breath on the edge of the couch, her eyes back to their normal blue. Lady Lisanne appeared next to her with a glass of water which Clottie drank haltingly. When she was mostly back to breathing normally Shianne sat down next to her,

“What in this Warbler’s Cursed world was that about?” she breathed, pulling the Mouse into a quick side-hug. Clottie was beaming now, and vibrating with barely restrained excitement,

“A sorceress of some type… I’ve never seen anything like her before! Some magic… strong magic, from the lands where Beddigan is! Where our Friends are!” she began, halting and babbling, tripping over her words in her haste to get them out. Shianne gripped Clottie’s forearm to rein in the excited Mouse’s attention.

“Woah, woah, Clottie. Calm down. Start at the beginning.” Clottie nodded eagerly and then took a steadying breath.

“I was standing at the work table reading about transfer spells, and how to maybe get you to the far side of the Snowcap Mountains, despite having never been there myself, when I felt this intense stab of… something. I can’t explain it.” She said, stopping to think for a minute. “Almost like… recognition.” She added. “And then,” she continued, “I was pulled away… away from here? Away from my body maybe? And I saw this… creature. Sort of like a Wolf but sleeker. Fur as dark as the darkest night! And she knew me.” Shianne listened, quite literally on the edge of her seat.

“She knew you?” she asked and Clottie nodded emphatically,

“Yes, William had told her of me! They were trying to find a way to contact us and this is a way that sorceress — they call themselves Mages there — communicate. Mind to mind!” Lady Lisanne made a small sound that momentarily drew Shianne’s attention away.

“You know of this?” she asked the Sorcerer. Lady Lisanne nodded slowly,

“Only in theory and history, not in practice.” She said stiffly. Clottie nodded.

“It’s very peculiar, but it worked! She said she wasn’t sure it would work because there is some barrier between our lands. But it did work! And she was able to show me where she and William are right this moment.” Shianne felt a burst of hope.

“Show you… as in you have seen it clearly enough for a portal?” Lady Lisanne jumped in then before Clottie could answer.

“No, it is far too dangerous! You have no idea what you would be walking into, or if the portal would even put you in the right place. We have no idea how this barrier will affect out magic here. You could end up stuck in the wall of a house!” Clottie stood up from her seat.

“No, no my lady. I think it will work, and so does this Mage, from what I was able to explain to her about how the portals work.” Lady Lisanne made a frustrated sound.

“Thinking it will work doesn’t mean anything. We simply do not have enough information to know how this barrier will affect the spell!” Shianne butted into the conversation then.

“With all due respect ladies, it’s my choice if I wish to try this, and I will try anything to avoid losing my paw.” She said simply. Clottie beamed at her. Lady Lisanne met her eyes and Shianne felt a spark of fear. If the sorceress decided not to let this happen, there is little she or Clottie could do. It was easy to forget the depths of power they were dealing with on a day to day basis.

“You could lose your life, Shianne. Is that really worth it?” Shianne thought a moment and weighed the sorceress’ words carefully.

“Yes. I will take this risk… should you allow it.” She said, looking directly into the other Fox’s eyes. After a beat of silence, Lady Lisanne nodded slowly.

“Collect your things while we prepare.” was all she said, which Shianne took as a sign to leave the two sorceresses alone for a few minutes.

A short while later after collecting her things, she was summoned back to the room. Clottie beamed at her when she stepped through the doorway.

“Are you ready?” the Mouse asked, crossing the room to embrace her. She hugged her friend closely and blew out a deep breath.

“As ready as I’ll ever be.” She muttered with a half-smile. Clottie returned to her place in the open part of the room, and Shianne turned her attention to Lady Lisanne.

“My lady,” she began, “Thank you for all you have done for me. I will repay this debt.” She said solemnly. The sorceress merely inclined her head in acknowledgment.

“Safe travels.” The Fox said softly, and Clottie began to focus her energy to draw the portal circle.

Once the shimmering oval appeared Shianne peered inside, and felt a bolt of relief when she saw beyond the Mage, who indeed was quite foreign looking, a Bear she recognized quite well.

“Thank you. We’ll be in touch.” Shianne said and Clottie nodded with a smile and tears in her eyes.

“Give Beddigan a hug for me!” was the last thing Shianne heard before she stepped through the portal and found herself in a sunny, airy room, made of white stone. The portal oval snapped shut behind her with an audible pop and Shianne felt dazed for a moment. The Mage was grinning and stepped aside to let William pass her.

“It is good to see you, Shianne.” The Bear said softly. In a moment of purely sappy indulgence, Shianne pulled the Bear into a hug, blinking back tears.

“I didn’t know that I’d ever see you lot again.” She released him and stepped back. “Where are your companions? I have pressing business with them.” William nodded and the Mage spoke up,

“Clottie implied as much, though the details, I do not have. As for your friends, they will be returning from a diplomatic mission tomorrow. Come now, we have much to discuss, just the three of us!” Shianne eyed the Mage curiously.

“And you are?” she asked. William looked momentarily embarrasse,.

“Forgive me. This is Serina, Mage to the Pantherlands. Serina, this is a close friend of Beddigan’s, Shianne.” Serina stepped forward and took her paw, shaking it vigorously.

“So nice to meet you!” the feline purred. Shianne saw the glint of sunlight off of the cuff and saw Serina’s eyes drawn to it. “My, what a lovely bracelet.”

© Copyright 2016. All Rights Reserved.


Vol 3: Chapter 8, Part 2: To Save A Paw

Shianne was exhausted, both from the journey, and the hours of talk that followed, most of which had been dominated by Beddigan’s sister Clottie. It had taken all of Shianne’s might to keep the conversation on track enough that they were actually able to discuss more than what the young Mouse had been learning in the arts of sorcery.

Shianne had told them both of what she had witnessed in Katheyra; with the Wolves moving in, taking over trade routes, working with a corrupt Council to install themselves as city guards in both San Vincent’s Port and other major cities throughout the country. It was not unexpected news, but the rate with which the Wolves were making headway in getting their claws into the land, seemingly undeterred by any of the peoples that lived there, was alarming. And Clottie had reported that they had heard nothing from Beddigan, William, or Ragnon. They had not been expecting a lot of communication though, as they had only had one emergency communication crystal to give to the group for their journey. But they had hoped, Lady Lisanne especially, that Beddigan could find some way to report their progress, or at least confirm whether or not they had survived their journey through the Snowcap mountains. Continue reading

Vol 3: Chapter 8, Part 1: A Walk With Wysp

Standing in a clearing on the Illensdar side of the border, Shianne absentmindedly rubbed the cuff around her wrist. It wasn’t too snug. It didn’t itch or burn. But it was an ever-present reminder that she was only a couple of weeks away from losing her paw forever, unless she could figure a way around its magic.

Though very near the Mormant border, she was not concerned, knowing the Wolves feared nothing as much as they feared the Losley Deadwoods. The breeze ruffled the coppery fur of her face and as she started to make her way towards the forest’s edge. The feeling of the air thickening around her that always came with breaching the Losley Deadwoods borders, and the hazy fog that amassed between the trees, made her feel as if she were walking into a vat of taffy. Continue reading

Vol 3: Chapter 7, Part 2: Love & Magic

He had been sitting in an uncomfortably small wooden chair for quite some time while Serina flitted around her work room, pulling books and sheaves of paper from drawers and cabinets. She muttered to herself as she read a sentence or two from one book, and then consulted a chart, and then came back to the book again. Finally, he groaned loudly to get her attention,

“Annalose and Ardra, Serina! If you weren’t ready for me, I could have been doing something – anything else until you were.” William complained. Serina looked up at him, a cross look on her face faded away and was replaced by one of curiosity.

“Annalose and Ardra?” she said, “What in the Creator’s name is that?” William’s eyebrows shot up. He hadn’t considered that these Felines, separated from his own land, would have gods and religions all their own. And his religious epithets would have no bearing here. Continue reading

Vol 3: Chapter 7, Part 1: An Unlikely Partnership

William slammed his fist down on the small table in the library, causing the book he had been reading to jump up into the air. He snarled and slammed the tome shut, shoving it aside to rest with the other books that had provided no answers. He had been unsuccessful in trying to find information about the oath that had been made with the Dragons. He needed to know the contents of the oath, and how the binding magic worked. What was this barrier? What was it made of, how did it function? He needed to know all these things before he could even try to figure out a way to break it. And reading endless books about ancient magics was leading him no closer to the answers.

Much rested on his shoulders and figuring out how to break the barrier was highest on the list from nearly everyone’s perspective. Though personally, he ached to get in touch with his homelands – not just because he yearned to know of the well-being of his family, but because he needed to get word to Sinnerah’s leaders to see if they would stand with them against the Wolves. It was obvious that the Mice would stand against their most hated enemy, but the Bears had a long professional relationship with the Wolves. Much of their trade was dependent on that relationship with Mormant. Continue reading