Vol 4: Chapter 1, Part 3: Best Laid Plans

William leaned against the exterior of the shuttered general store in Doucent and waited as the hazy dusk sky darkened to night. Slowly, Bears began to trickle into the village from the industrial park, covered in soot, looking exhausted. They paid him no mind as they made their way to their homes, or to the one lit up building in the shopping square — the Ale House.

Finally, Dorwan approached, offering him a barely perceptible nod of his head, before opening the door and leading him inside. William helped gather some food and ale from the small kitchen. They settled in at the table with roughly made sandwiches, and began to eat.

Once Dorwan had finished a full glass of ale and enough sandwiches to take the edge off, he leaned back in his chair and met William’s eyes. Continue reading

Vol 4: Chapter 1, Part 2: Reunited

“You! Get off the test-field!” a gruff voice shook William from his reverie as he continued to stare up and the giant mechanical Bear. Gleans of the silvery light from within the structure caught his eye through the haze of smoke as he hurried out of the path of the lumbering giant.

Standing on the sidelines, he watched as the mech moved forward with its ground-shaking, staccato steps. His eyes lingered upon the long, hooked claws, sharped into sword points, retracted into the steel framework of the mech.

“What in the name of Annalose and Ardra…” he whispered, staring out at the see of glimmering orange and silver in the haze.

“You will not find Annalose and Ardra here, friend.” The gruff voice that had shaken him enough to get him out of the way of the mech said, and for the first time he noticed he was not alone on the edge of the testing field. He turned to look at the older Bear, who was dressed in protective leathers over his simple clothing. A familiar voice… a familiar face even.

“Dorwan!” William breathed, putting together the voice and the well-worn face with Doucent’s long-time general store owner. They had never been quite friends, but acquaintances, and neighbours.

The Bear narrowed his eyes a moment, scrutinizing his face, before the sparkle of recognition made the older Bear suck in a deep breath.

“William,” he said softly. William couldn’t help feeling a rush of happiness to see a friendly face, even amongst such a hellish background. Clasping the Bear’s paw, he beamed.

“It is good to see you, old friend.”

Dorwan nodded gruffly,

“First an enemy of Sinerrah, then you were dead, and then you were an even bigger enemy of Sinerrah. And now you are here… I’m not sure what to think.” The older Bear said, a ghost of a smile passing over his mouth before it set in a grim line, looking over William’s shoulder at the smoky industrial space. “Though, nothing seems to be right around here anymore.”

William turned to stand beside Dorwan and look out at the giant, shadowy figures that stretched out for a great distance in the hazy clearing.

“Yes, what in this Warbler’s Cursed world is going on here?” he asked.

Dorwan was silent a moment and then he placed a paw on William’s arm.

“Come along. Let’s get somewhere a bit quieter so that we can have this conversation.” The older Bear lead him through the smoky hazy towards the Arch that lead to his home village of Doucent.

William took huge gulps of air as it became fresher, the further they moved from the industrial area. It was a much lighter haze in the village, he noted, though still present, disrupting the simple beauty of the place he had chosen to live after leaving the remote area he grew up in, on the western island of the country.

As they walked through what should have been the bustling shopping district of the small village, he asked Dorwan,

“It’s midday. Where is everyone? Where is the stall market?” he looked around at the near empty square, noticing then that few lights were on in any of the surrounding buildings. As they approached Dorwan’s general store, he noticed most of the buildings were, in fact, completely shuttered.

Dorwan didn’t answer him as he fumbled to unlock the door to the general store. William had never seen the door locked in all his turnings spent in the village.

The Bears’ justice system was strict, and its punishments severe. They had all but done away with petty crime, meaning there had been no reason to lock a store’s door when it was closed. Dorwan saw his astonishment and gave him a grim look.

“Some of those Wolves have sticky fingers.”

William growled as he followed the older Bear into the store.

“And what do the constables have to say about those Wolves?” he asked, peering around the dim, dusty shop, with its nearly bare shelves. Dorwan snorted and walked over to the small table that sat in the corner by the stairs that lead up to his living quarters, taking a moment to touch the light crystal on the wall until the room was lit properly.

“They say nothing.” William swallowed a snarl in response, and followed his host over to the table, pulling out and sitting on a dusty chair.

“You closed the shop?” he asked, his mind flashing back to Elenya and the kids. He needed to get home, but he also needed to figure out what was going on. He had waited well over a turning to see his family… he could wait a little longer to gather some important information about what was happening to his people.

“I was ordered to close the shop, just like everyone else in the village.” Dorwan snarled, his fisted paw slamming down on the table nearly hard enough to crack the dusty wood. “Ever since the Monarch decided to bow to Mormant… everything has changed here, William. Surely Elenya has told you some of it…” William felt a clutch in his stomach.

“I have just arrived in Sinerrah. I was on my way home when I stumbled into that… whatever you can call it. Beast factory.” Dorwan’s eyes held something then that made William’s heart ache in his chest.

“You must go home. Immediately.” Before William could protest, Dorwan held up a paw. “Your family needs you, and I will be back here after nightfall. We can talk about the war machines and Sinerrah’s new laws then.”

William nodded hastily and hurried out of the shop. He took the familiar path leading out of the village to the east. He could see through the sparse trees the smoke-filled industrial area. So close to the homestead, he thought with a grimace as he approached the marker holding the Bearhelm crest — the one that marked his land, and the short route to his home — to his family.

As he approached the cottage, he noted that the air was thick with the acrid smells of the industrial park not far away, but the smoke was thinner. Tendrils of wood smoke rose from the red-brick chimney that he had built himself all those turnings ago. The shutters were drawn, which was odd for midday. Maybe to keep the smell out? He thought as he approached the door. He tried to turn the front door handle and was surprised to find it locked. The door hadn’t even had a locking mechanism when he had built it.

A fierce snarl, muffled by the closed door caught his ear.

“I’ve already paid my tithe and you are sadly mistaken if you think you can shake me down for more like you do the rest of the villagers.” His heart warmed at the ferocity lacing his wife’s voice.

The thunk and click of the door unlocking made him step back a bit from the threshold. The door swung open and Elenya stood there, crouched into a fighting stance, a heavy looking club brandished. She looked as if she was about to continue snarling until recognition washed over her face and the club dropped from her paw. She flung herself at him, and he caught her, effortlessly, pulling her as close as he could, into a crushing hug. His wife, the mother of his children… the thing he had missed most in his long absence.

“William.” She breathed, pressing her face into the soft crook of his neck, nuzzling him. She broke the hug and took a step back, a grin transforming her stern face into an echo of the young cub she had been when they had first met — when he had first come to Doucent. He hadn’t been looking for a wife, but she had set her sights on him as a mate and it hadn’t taken him long at all to come around to the idea of sharing his life with such a smart, strong woman. She had only gotten stronger as she aged, though there was an edge of hardness to her now that made his heart ache.

It hadn’t been an easy several turnings for the Bearhelm clan. When their youngest son Erikkson had first fallen ill, William had returned home from Katheyra to tend to his family. But the money he had saved ran out very quickly and the healers became more and more expensive as the mystery of Erikkson’s illness continued to be investigated. Elenya had taken the responsibility of the family and their son’s health onto her shoulders when he decided to go off to Mormant for some lucrative work as a mercenary. It had gone against both their moral compasses for him to do such work, but the times were desperate and he was willing to do anything for his son.

Things had gone south with the Wolves and suddenly he was being pinned with faults that were not his doing, and hunted by Wolves. He was declared a rogue and enemy of the state, and he had fled into hiding in Katheyra. With his dear friend Beddigan’s help, and the help of a new friend, Shianne, he had faked his death and sent Beddigan home with his family heirlooms — his last ties to his family name. He had not seen Elenya since his friend had delivered the message to his wife that he was not dead, and he had continued to send money home in secret. But it had been a long time that Elenya had been alone, taking care of the family.

He watched as the smile faded from her face and a haunting look crept into her eyes. For a moment, he expected to be on the receiving end of a tirade — one that he greatly deserved. He would have preferred that to the sorrow that now filled his wife’s eyes.

“Elenya?” he asked as she gently pulled the door shut behind her. He looked at the door for a moment, puzzled. And then it hit him — Erikkson. She must have caught the recognition in his eyes because she choked back a sob and turned her gaze away, trying to hide her tears.

“A few months ago. Nothing anyone could do.” She said quietly, pain roughening her voice. William felt the world dip and bow beneath his feet. His son was gone.

He was mildly aware that Elenya was leading him into the cottage and settling him into his favourite stuffed chair. The daze started to lift as he looked around the open living area of the house he had built, but had not become a home until Elenya joined him in it and birthed his children.

His wife joined him, sitting stiffly on the edge of the adjacent couch, setting a steaming cup of ambleberry tea on the low table in front of him. William tried to meet her eyes but her gaze was fixed on a point across the room — the doorway to the children’s bedroom.

“Elenya… I’m sorry that I was not here.” He choked out, emotion catching in his throat as he felt the waves of despair and anger radiating from the proud, beautiful Sow next to him.

Her eyes flickered over to him and he saw in their depths the same steadfast, resolute strength that they had always held.

“You were away. It could not be helped.” Was her only answer. This is a much longer conversation, he thought, but he let her words close the door on it for now. He took a sip of his tea, enjoying the tart berry burst against his tongue for a mere moment, before the hollow ache returned. He swallowed a sob that burned in his chest.

“When do the children return home from school?” he asked, feeling a desperate need to hold his two remaining children.

The lingering traces of pain evaporated from Elenya’s face, and he nearly leapt from his seat at the anger that replaced it. She was the one to stand though, pacing angrily around the room, fussing with a blanket on the back of the couch, picking up a book and moving it from one table to another just to have something to do while she moved.

“The children no longer go to school. They are old enough to work now, in the eyes of the Monarch. You passed Billy’s workplace on the way here, that polluted festering war machine factory. And Ellie is out on one of the new community farms helping with the planting and harvesting.”

William exploded up from his chair, unsettling his teacup, causing the pink liquid to slosh over the rim.

What?” he roared, “How has this been allowed?!” Elenya rounded on him, nearly crashing into him.

“We weren’t exactly given a choice, William.” She snarled. “The Wolves came in, new laws were formed, and enough dissenters disappeared for us to prudently agree to everything that’s been thrown at us.”

William sucked in a breath in an effort to calm himself. It didn’t work.

What in this Warbler’s Cursed world has happened to my home?” he raged.

She snarled softly in response, turning away from him. Picking up his tea cup and moving it into the kitchen, she sighed, bracing her paws on the countertop.

“Our leaders have failed us, and our society is breaking and changing in ways I never thought I would see.” She said, her back to him as she rinsed the cup. “We have bent to the Wolves and the Monarch no longer places his people first. And enough people have been corrupted to make that will law.”

William stalked over to the door and flung it open, looking out at his land with changed eyes. Everything was different now. The war had come to Sinerrah in a way he had never imagined.

Leaving the door open he turned back to Elenya who was leaning against the washing basin with her arms crossed over her chest.

“This cannot stand.” William said quietly. A flash of fear crossed Elenya’s face, but was gone in an instant.

“No, it cannot.” She agreed.

William crossed the room and pulled his wife into a firm embrace, feeling her soften in his arms.

“I’ll fix this, Elenya. Somehow, I’ll fix this.” She said nothing, but he swore he felt her agree with him.

To be continued…

© Copyright 2016. All Rights Reserved.
https://beddigan.com

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Vol 4: Chapter 1, Part 1: Through Smoke & Haze

The voyage home had been a long one for William. It wasn’t that the distance was so great — it took about the same length of time sailing to San Vincent’s Port from Mormant as it did from Mormant to Sinerrah. Getting through the thick forest of the Losley Deadwoods though, even with the help of Lady Lisanne and her creatures, had taken some time. And then picking his way through the wild parts of Mormant to rendezvous with Captain Linley at the Royal Port near Strille had been a tedious task. Ordinarily he would have arranged to meet Linley at one of the smaller Port towns along Mormant’s coast, but upon stepping through the portal back to Lady Lisanne’s cottage, he had been informed that the Wolves had tightened up their grip on their own people as the war effort raged on, and all other Port’s had been closed.

That wasn’t the only thing that had changed in his absence. To his horror, and incidentally his luck, he had entered the Wolves’ country to find a great deal more Bears than normal. This allowed him to blend in and find his way to the Royal Port more easily, but the shock and disappointment that his people had joined the Wolves in their quest for dominance over the lands settled over him like a black cloud. He had been tempted to ask around so that he may suss out more information about how this had come to be, but had in the end kept his curiosities to himself in an effort to avoid any confrontation. He needed to get home to Elenya and his kids. That had to be his priority, despite the state of world around him. Continue reading

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Update: Between Volumes 3 & 4

Hello to all of you beautiful, wonderful — resplendent, even! — readers.

My humblest apologies for the radio-silence these last couple of months, but so much has been happening here at Beddigan’s Headquarters. (I just work here, the mouse runs the show).

If you’re new here, and would like to start reading from the beginning, you can purchase the eBook Kindle edition of Volume 1 here, or the paperback edition here. You can also purchase Volume 1 in either eBook or print form if you aren’t new here, and just want to support the story (and the author!), and it would be greatly appreciated.

**If you would like a FREE PDF eBook copy of Volume 1, please sign up for our mailing list here to instantly receive your free copy**

By signing up to the mailing list you will also receive occasional updates from us with news, information about contests & giveaways, and weekly story updates once the new Volume begins. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Now, on to the fun bits! Volume 4 has a beginning date of: January 2nd, 2018!

After Volume 3 completed at the end of September, we began outlining, crafting, and writing half of Volume 4. We then took a break for November, for NaNoWriMo, because the author had a different project in mind (Beddigan was not pleased by this, but let it slide as a one time offence). You can follow @DoctorAuthor on Twitter to keep tabs on the author and her shenanigans unrelated to Beddigan, and visit her personal website here.

We are also deep in the process of revising and formatting Volume 2 for its eBook and Print release, which is on schedule for Spring 2018! 

Other cool things to come in the new year:

  • More original character and alternate art!
  • A new/updated map.
  • A short story collection entitled: The Misadventures of Captain Linley.
  • More contests and giveaways including signed and unsigned books, & a chance to be written into the story!

And lastly, dear reader, whether you have purchased Volume 1 of Beddigan, received the FREE PDF, or simply read it as it was published all those years ago (or any time since then!), I implore you to please, please, PLEASE leave an honest review on Amazon and/or Goodreads.

Reviews are basically gold in this business and our author is a dragon so it’s really super important to her. (Please don’t tell her that I revealed her secret, dragon-fire is very hot and I don’t want to experience it… again).

Until next time!

Signed,

The Help on behalf of Beddigan T. Mouze

 

 

Vol 3: Chapter 10, Part 3: War On The Horizon

Stretching out on the softly cushioned bench, Beddigan tried to focus on the warmth of the sun on his fur, the soft gurgling of the nearby fountain, the gentle rustle of the breeze winding its way through the potted plants surrounding him on the terrace. But try as he might, his mind kept returning to the matter so close at hand: war with the Wolves.

After his companions had left Haven through the portal in Karrinah’s library the day before, he had been in a daze, unable to rest or relax, despite the Queen of the Deer’s best efforts. They had spent a short time on a covered patio together, quietly watching the sun set. But his mind had been elsewhere and Karrinah had picked up on that quickly, and had adjourned for her private rooms shortly after the sun dipped below the horizon.

After spending another hour or two lost in thought, watching as the twilight faded into night and the stars began to blink into existence, Beddigan had adjourned to his own room for another fitful night of sleep.

Karrinah had been curiously absent when he had gone down to the dining room for breakfast. He had asked the maid who poured him his morning tea where their leader was, and the maid had simply mumbled ‘busy’ and scurried off. He had taken his time eating, savoring the sweet tarts and rich roasted vegetables.

After he had finished eating, he had taken a walk, wandering through the City of Light, and then around the palace grounds before settling in on the sun-drenched bench, in hopes of catching a bit of a nap.

Sitting up he yawned and stretched, turning his face up to the warm sun and breathing out a deep breath. He was anxious to get underway — to get home to his friends. Knowing he would be leaving aboard the Mage-run ship to Ehl-Indrah the next morning, made sitting around alone for an entire day seem impossible. He felt a small pang of annoyance that Serina has insisted on leaving shortly after Shianne, Ragnon, and William had stepped through the portal. At least she would have been able to keep him company if she had agreed to travel with him to Ehl-Indrah.

He couldn’t blame Karrinah for busying herself with other things either though, both because as a ruler she would obviously have things to do that did not involve him, but also because he had been so preoccupied — and if he was being honest with himself a bit cold and distant — the night before.

“Enjoying your morning, dear Beddigan?” the soft, harmonic voice startled him, and his eyes popped open to find Karrinah leaning against a pillar at the edge of the terrace, one long, graceful white leg crossed over the other. Her robes today were a shimmering iridescent blue that deepened to aquamarine, and shimmered periwinkle in the light when she moved. Her antlers were wound with silver and blue cloth, and long, dangling silver earrings hung past her shoulders.

Standing hastily Beddigan smoothed his doublet, feeling woefully underdressed.

“Ahh, my Queen. You look even lovelier today than you usually do.” She smiled at him and strode across the terrace to meet him. Paw and hoof met and for a moment and they were both struck by the intensity of being so close. After a beat of heady silence, Karrinah took a small step backward and he released her hooves.

“Thank you.” She murmured, and Beddigan felt as if he could stare into the deep, dark pools of her eyes forever. She cleared her throat and turned away to pluck a dead leaf from a nearby plant and Beddigan took a couple of deep breaths to clear his head. “You seem to be feeling a bit better today…” she murmured, her back still to him.

“Yes, though I didn’t sleep as well as I had hoped, I do feel more rested today.” He said as she turned back to him and moved to sit on the bench. He sat down beside her. “I apologize for being… distant last night. It was such a long journey to get here, I can hardly believe I have succeeded and will be headed back with an army tomorrow. I’m afraid I’m a bit caught up in it.”

Karrinah laughed then and he felt his heart thunder in his chest at the sweet, melodic sound.

“Do not worry yourself with it, dear Beddigan. I understand that you have much on your mind. I took no offence.” Beddigan smiled at her.

“So then you weren’t avoiding me this morning?” Karrinah laughed again and for a moment, he forgot everything that was to come, and was truly happy in that moment, sitting on that bench with the beautiful leader of the Deer.

Karrinah swatted him playfully,

“Of course not, you silly Mouse!” she chuckled. They sat together for a few moments in comfortable silence. “All right,” Karrinah said, standing and smoothing her robes, “You have only the rest of today left here in Haven. How would you like to spend it?” she asked. Beddigan stood, standing very close to her and gently tucked one of her slender arms in to the crook of his own.

“With you.” He said simply.

Morning came too quickly, once again, and Beddigan groaned when the knock at the door to signal the morning meal was prepared and waiting, woke him.

“Thank you.” He called before slumping back in the bed, staring up at the polished white stone ceiling of his room. His mind, still hazy with sleep, drifted back to the day before, and the wonderful time he had spent with Karrinah. They had spent much of the day in her library, discussing the history of each of their lands. They had dined together at a restaurant in the City, and took a leisurely walk around the palace gardens before they had parted ways for the night.

His eyes drifted around the room and settled on his full pack, and the neatly folded clothing stacked atop it. And reality came rushing back.

He went about preparing for the day with brisk efficiency, washing lightly with the crystal warmed water in the small adjoining bathing room, and dressing in his thickest, sturdiest clothing. He slipped into his freshly polished boots and carried his bag with him down to the dining room.

It was still quite early, but he knew he would be leaving very soon. The carriage ride to the coast would take a couple of hours, and then the trip across the Bintack Oceania a couple more.

Karrinah sat at one end of the table, draped in white and silver robes, sipping tea from a delicate china cup. He took a seat next to her and nodded his thanks to the serving maid who set a plate before him, along with flatware and his own steaming cup of tea.

“Did you sleep well?” Karrinah asked him over the rim of her cup. Beddigan smiled and nodded.

“After such a wonderful day, how could I not?” he replied, eyes sparkling as he met hers. She grinned,

“I enjoyed myself as well. Though I fear I did not sleep very well at all.” She said, as she began selecting food from the dishes and trays. Beddigan followed suit and began to fill his plate.

“No?” he asked, before devouring a minced fruit tart. She shook her head and he felt his heart sink at the sadness that was now reflected in the deep, black pools of her eyes.

“I am worried for your safety. For the safety of everyone, truly, but especially your own.” She cast her eyes down to her plate. “I have grown quite fond of you, Beddigan. I cannot bear the thought of losing you now.” Beddigan set down his fork and reached a paw up to cup Karrinah’s cheek.

“Now, now, none of that.” He tutted softly. “I have faced worse and lived to tell the tale, my dearest Karrinah.” She met his eyes and he watched as they softened, a hint of a smile dancing across the line of her mouth.

They ate in mostly silence, and before long, Torin entered the dining room, bowing deeply.

“The carriage is here, my Queen.” He said, addressing Karrinah directly. Beddigan stood from the table, snagging one last bite of fruit, and then gathered his pack from where he had set it by the entrance arch.

“I guess it’s time to leave then.” He said with a reassuring smile at Karrinah, whose somber expression had returned.

Torin lead them through the terrace gardens to the front of the palace where a carriage awaited him. The driver took his pack and stowed it, before opening the door for him. Torin gave him a curt nod, and left him there with just Karrinah. A moment passed with them just staring at one another, before she stepped forward and clasped his paws with her hooves.

“Go with light, my dear Beddigan.” She murmured softly. Gently, he separated his paws from her hooves and pulled her into an embrace, something they had not done before. She clasped him close for a long moment, before he pushed back gently cupping her face with his paws.

“You have not seen the last of me, my Queen.” He said softly, leaning up to nuzzle her cheek. And with that he turned and climbed into the carriage. The driver shut the door and mounted up. He craned his neck as the carriage climbed out of the shallow valley, so that he could watch Karrinah until the very last moment, when she slipped out of sight.

The trip across the Bintack Oceania on the Mage-run ship to Ehl-Indrah had been just as pleasant the last one. It has also gone quickly, with his mind ping-ponging from Karrinah, to the war that was to come, to his friends back home, wondering how they were faring. He had no shortage of things to keep his mind busy. When they had docked in K’naall, he had immediately been ushered to the Keep by a couple of gruff, mostly silent Ram soldiers.

He had only been waiting in the small antechamber for a few moments when Serina breezed in, her dark purple Mage robes shimmering in the flickering candlelight of the dimly lit room.

“Ahh, there you are! We are nearly ready to go. The other Mages and I have made all the amulets — no small feat, I’ll add — and the troops are assembling at the western road. We’ll find the Lord Regent there as well.” She said excitedly, tugging him out into the palace corridors.

“That’s great.” Beddigan said, allowing himself to be lead. “Will the King of the Rams be joining us on the front as well?” he asked. Serina waved her hand dismissively.

“No, no. They’ve agreed it will be best if he remains here and works with the Arch-Mage to coordinate governance of the Allied lands while the Lord Regent is away.” Beddigan nodded again as they made their way out of the Keep and began winding their way through the small city.

“Ahh yes, before I forget.” Serina said suddenly, dropping his arm and rustling through the deep pockets of her robe. She pulled out a simple grey stone in a gold setting. “This is your amulet. I set it as a pin, with a magical clasp so that it can be removed from clothing and not dangle on a chain which could be a hazard in war.” She leaned forward and slipped the sharp pin through his doublet. A small flash of blue light solidified its connection to the material. She patted it gently. “There! It won’t come off now unless you say Demen li miccum.” Another flash of blue light followed her words and she showed him how to unclasp the amulet, before she reattached it to his doublet.

“Demen li miccum.” Beddigan said, and watched as the blue light flashed. “Remarkable.” He breathed, as he unclasped and reattached the amulet once again. Serina flashed him a grin,

“I know, I’m brilliant!”

Beddigan was about to make a sarcastic reply when his eyes travelled up the stretch of rough dirt road to the veritable sea of soldiers at its end, and he forgot all about it. Standing in ranks, both Rams and Felines of all types, Beddigan was awestruck by how many soldiers there were crowded around the edge of the city.

He spotted the Lord Regent perched atop a handsome, white horse, to the right of the amassed soldiers. He noticed then that handful military in different, more opulent regalia than the foot soldiers, both Rams and Felines, also sat atop horses just behind the Lord Regent. A pair of saddled and bridled horses, both with deep chestnut colouring, were waiting next to the Lion.

“Ahh, there they are!” the Lord Regent bellowed with a brilliant grin, his dark red mane rustling in the wind. Beddigan and Serina continued winding their way through the troops until they were directly in front of the leader of the Allied lands.

“My liege, this is…” Beddigan said, turning to look back at the mass of soldiers. He cleared his throat. “I cannot begin to thank you enough for your assistance.” The Lord Regent’s laugh boomed,

“Save thanking me for when we squash these Wolves down and make it so they will never be a threat in your lands again.” Beddigan felt an uneasy shift in his gut but nodded and left the statement alone. Serina mounted up on one of the chestnut horses and beckoned at him.

“Come along Beddigan, we can’t have you plodding along behind us.” She tittered, gesturing at the other horse. Beddigan nodded, hurrying to mount up and secure his pack to the saddle.

The Lord Regent took the lead and kicked his horse into a walk, starting down the rough road through the forest. Serina and Beddigan took up behind him and the rest of the mounted and foot soldiers fell in behind them.

They rode in silence for hours, until the sun started its descent towards the horizon. The Lord Regent pulled up when they reached the sign for caution that the Rams had placed at the barrier.

Serina murmured softly, “I can’t see anything at all. Without the sign…” her voice trailed off. The Lord Regent lifted an arm in the air, a signal to someone behind them, and a young, Tiger foot soldier approached them.

“Thank you for your service.” Was all the Lord Regent said to the youth before he stepped up to the invisible line on the road, and then strode through. Beddigan barely had time to hold his breath before he could happily see the flash of blue light, and the Tiger standing among the trees a short distance down the road, a look of deep relief plastered across his face.

“You’ve done well.” The Lion murmured to Serina, before kicking his horse through the barrier. Another flash of blue light, and then it was done. “Come now, move out!” The Lord Regent called back to them, and Beddigan urged his horse forward. The flash of blue light as he crested the invisible border was paired with the familiar sensation of pushing through warm taffy that he had felt each time he had breached the borders of the Losley Deadwoods.

As they rode through the forest, the sky above grew dimmer, fading into twilight. Beddigan began to recognize the flora native to Illensdar, and knew they were now in his home country. He knew of the rough road that lead northwest of the capital, Yroebrage, into the woods where many had disappeared in search of the rest of the land mass. He was not surprised as the road grew rough and more overgrown beneath this horse’s hooves.

The trees grew more sparsely as they approached the edge of the woods. An eerie orange light on the horizon met them as they worked out of the trees and up a gentle slope.

“But the sun…” Serina murmured, looking back over her shoulder at the last touches of the sunset. A gasp from the Lord Regent who had stopped his horse atop the hill made Beddigan urge his horse forward.

And there, from the top of the gentle slope he could see the source of the orange glow: Yroebrage burned in the distance.

A moment of being awestruck was followed swiftly with rage as Beddigan swore beneath his breath.

“The Wolves have done that which they have struggled to achieve for many turnings; they have breached our borders. My capital burns.” His voice was choked, his eyes wet from anger and sorrow. The Lord Regent turned to him with angry eyes.

“I’m sorry, Beddigan. We will meet them in battle and drive them home. And then burn their capital to the ground!” the Lion roared. Serina made a frustrated sound, and both he and the Lion turned to look at her.

“Listen.” She hissed. “Look.” It was then that Beddigan noticed an unnerving sound. A sort of groaning echo that rolled across the fields, accompanied by thumps that made the ground shake. Their horses whinnied nervously.

There, in the distance, something moved; huge, towering half as high as the city walls, it moved with staccato, heavy steps, tearing a chunk of the stone wall down as if it were paper.

“What in the gods name is that?” The Lord Regent breathed. The machine climbed up the wall, leaving crumbling stone in its wake and Beddigan felt his heart plummet.

“That is… well it’s shaped like a Bear. The Bears are great builders, crafters. Little is known of the extent — aside from the massive bridges connecting the three islands of their homeland…” his voice trailed off as he watched awestruck and terrified. With a gulp he said sadly, “Sinerrah has joined the war against us.”

© Copyright 2016. All Rights Reserved.
https://beddigan.com

Beddigan no mark

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…

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