Gender: Male Age: 53 Location: Las Vegas, Nv
|Introduction: The Black Woods|
We stayed for another week but my uncle didn’t return and his supporters quickly found another to follow. I spent each day watching Lachlan and Crystal flying or Wynn stalking rats in the stables or hunting with Georgia who had appeared suddenly with Emily. There was something secretive about that and her.
I saddled the packhorse and glanced at the others. Farrell hadn’t said anything when Edwin started joining us in our daily practice. He had smiled when Emily appeared and joined us and pushed me hard with sword, dagger or bow. The last night was supposed to be a quiet dinner but it turned into something else as the room filled with nobles.
Emily was sitting at the table with me and grandfather and another tall slim woman. My grandfather finally sighed and looked at me, “the council has removed my brother as heir. There was a condition.”
I looked at him and he looked past me and at Emily, “The lady Starchild.”
I looked at her as she turned from speaking to the woman. I looked at grandfather, “what about her?”
He looked at me and she touched my arm, “he is embarrassed. I was asked by the council if I would agree to wed you.”
I looked at her and then at my grandfather, “you agreed to this?”
He smiled slightly, “with reservations. First that Emily would have to agree. Second was that after a suitable period of time you would agree.”
I looked at Emily, “you agreed?”
The room had gone quiet as she touched my cheek, “you aren’t to bad looking. You need to work on your dagger work more. You are a little over confident but your abilities aren’t to bad. You have a nice disposition and are easy to get along with.”
She smiled, “besides I am attracted to you.”
I blushed and then grinned, “my dagger work is fine, I just like it when you get close.”
I sighed and looked at my grandfather before nodding, “I’ll think on it.”
Now we were getting ready to leave. Emily had two horses, one for Georgia to ride if needed. I had even bought two horses, one for Wynn who had started to grow large and faster and one for a packhorse. I swung into Kern’s saddle and looked at Wynn on his ridding pad. I headed towards the stable door with the others following.
I found grandfather and duke Ashley waiting. They nodded as I headed around beside the lake. I glanced up as Crystal and Lachlan screamed while seeming to float on the morning breeze. They had finally learned that trick after I had made them sit in a branch quietly and watch another hawk. It was a couple of hours before I stopped and turned to face my grandfather.
I smiled, “after I get Farrell home I have a side trip to Kalmar before returning.”
He nodded and looked back at the duke saying goodbye to his son, “take care Kevin. You are all I have left.”
I nodded before glancing ahead, “stay fit grandfather, I have no wish to replace you anytime soon.”
He smiled and I turned to head toward the trail back to the port. We set up camp beside a stream and I let Wynn hunt. Lachlan and Crystal had both caught several rabbits so we had dinner. This time I moved around the camp and murmured as I wove magic around in a web to trap anyone trying to attack us.
I grinned as Wynn came back dragging a small rabbit and moved to take it. He growled and I thumped his head, “you are not making a mess on my bed.”
He looked at me and dropped the rabbit as he sat. I took it and moved to the side of the camp to skin it and clean it. Crystal and Lachlan looked smug since I had already fed them. I set the rabbit beside the tree the two eagles were in and moved his pad up into a fork in the branches beside Crystal.
Emily chuckled as she joined me, “Georgia chased the rabbit straight to him.”
I looked across the camp where her snow cat was laying out on her bed. I smiled, “tell her thanks.”
She looked around, “sometimes it is nice here but tame.”
I looked at her and she grinned, “I travel a lot now because I always knew who and where I would be later.”
I sighed, “you know more than me.”
She put her hand on my arm, “I have watched you for awhile. When they couldn’t find you I always could. As soon as I woke from the fever I knew you and where you were. My gift let me send uncle Ambert to you when you were sick with the mage fever.”
I smiled and nodded and she walked to the small fire with me. When we rode into the port town I was watching and thinking of my uncle. The people nodded and bowed which I thought strange until Emily reminded me most of the people here had magic and my image as heir had been sent out.
We stopped at a large tavern beside the docks and Emily went in to get us rooms. I glanced up as Crystal and Lachlan screamed and dove. They dropped and people stopped to watch as I smiled and held out both arms. Their wings snapped open and they tilted them back and then beat them a few times and reached out with their feet.
They settled one at a time and closed their wings primly as they shifted and side stepped up my arms. A little boy by the stable came closer, “they are really nice mister.”
I glanced at Wynn as he grumped, “see the young snow cat?”
The boy nodded and I gestured as the eagles stood on my shoulders, “he is very good at hunting. Do you think there might be anything for him to find in the stables?”
The boy’s eyes widened and he nodded, “rats... big mean rats.”
Wynn perked up at the big mean rats and looked towards the stables. I looked at him, “you going to need help?”
He stood and ignored me as he started for the stable. I grinned at the boy, “keep an eye on him.”
I walked to the door carefully and bent my knees after opening it to go in. Emily turned, “they only have two rooms.”
I shrugged, “Farrell, Edwin and I...”
She shook her head, “no.”
I looked at her and she sighed, “you and I will share.”
I opened my mouth before closing it, “as you command.”
She smiled and turned to nod to the innkeeper before coming to me and reaching up to Crystal, “I’ll carry one.”
I thought at Crystal and she stepped forward and onto Emily’s wrist. She shifted her weight as Emily turned to walk towards the stairs. I shook my head and held my arm out so Lachlan could move down. I carried him up and into the room Emily was in. Crystal was standing on the window ledge and Lachlan chirped as if asking what she saw.
I grinned as I crossed the room with the sight of a large sea bird in my mind. I let Lachlan step off and reached for Wynn and grinned at the image he sent of two huge dead rats. I turned, “we need to find a ship captain.”
Emily grinned, “the ones in port will be eating in the common room later.”
I nodded and headed towards the door, “I’ll go help Farrell and Edwin.”
She laughed as I walked out blushing and went back downstairs. I glanced at Georgia in the stable doorway watching the inside and knew she was watching Wynn. I called him as we grabbed the packs and headed for the inn door. The stable boy was grinning as Wynn trotted out and caught us at the door.
I knocked before opening the door to my room. Emily was gone and I had a feeling she was probably in a warm bath. I bent and lifted Wynn to the window sill before looking for clean clothes. I went in search of the bathing room and smiled at the huge tubes when I passed Emily. When I return from my bath she was sitting on the bed brushing her hair.
Georgia sprawled out on the bed behind her. I smiled as I checked on the eagles and Wynn who were absorbed in watch fish leaping beyond the dock. I set my things aside and moved to the bed and took the brush from Emily. I sat behind her and started brushing her hair, “how long do you think it will take to find a ship?”
She sighed as she looked out the window, “it depends on the type of captains in port.”
I nodded as I got an image from Wynn and grinned, “it seems the stable hand is skinning some ones rats and feeding them to the fish.”
Emily giggled, “Georgia showed me him hunting.”
I finished her hair and caressed her shoulder before moving off the bed, “I should dress so we can meet Farrell and Edwin and eat.”
She grinned as she stood and caressed my face, “later we can talk of other things.”
Georgia coughed and I looked at her to see her looking at the door. I was thinking of assassins as I reached for my sword and crossed the room. When I opened the door it was to see the stable boy, “yes?”
He looked at the sword and I turned it away. He cleared his throat, “momma has a nice tender piece of lamb for your Cat.”
I grinned, “we will be down in a minute.”
I finished dressing and set Wynn down before glancing at Emily as she lifted Crystal on her wrist. I let Lachlan step onto mine and we left and went down. Edwin and Farrell were sitting with another Kaire and a man dressed as a sailor. We left the eagles by the front window where there was a wide ledge.
Wynn and Georgia had several small boys and a few girls petting them and offering food. I sat beside Farrell and he smiled, “this is Ash and his captain. They are headed west to the Green Heart but are willing to take us north to the Black Woods first.”
I nodded, “have you been there before?”
The captain grinned, “the Kaire have a small town upriver in the pass. They sometimes come down to trade.”
I turned as Emily ordered our food and grinned, “add a little raw meat for the eagles.”
The maid grinned back, “yes sir.”
It wasn’t long before the small boys and girls were feeding the eagles as Georgia and Wynn laid together by the fire. We talked about the ocean and what to expect on the trip before leaving. I held Emily in my arms that night and her smell brought back memories. I woke to Wynn kneading on my side and glanced at him as Emily giggled.
I looked at her before twisting to catch Wynn and rolling him onto his back to tickle his tummy. He caught my hand with all four feet and mock bit as the eagles laughed in our minds. I rubbed his cheek before moving off the bed to get dressed. We moved our things onto the ship while Georgia and Wynn hunted the mean rats.
The eagles took to the air to frighten the sea birds as the few children watched from the dock. Edwin and Farrell helped load the horses and the captain and the crew loaded hay and feed. It was late morning before we left and I started to relax. Wynn and Georgia sat to watch the shore behind us while Crystal and Lachlan landed on the top of the mast and a crosspiece.
Somehow the ocean felt different to me and I sat in the prow and tried to relax. I listened and tried to feel with my magic and could almost sense the creatures beneath us. A week later I was sleeping and jerked up before rolling out of the narrow bed and grabbing my boots. I ran out as Farrell, Edwin and Emily sat up.
I ran to the prow just as the huge dragon slowly emerged from the sea. I could feel her as she turned her head to look at the ship beside her. I nodded, “welcome great one.”
She moved closer, “Elder.”
I smiled, “is all well with you?”
She blew a fountain of water into the air before sighing, “I am seeking my mate.”
I looked around, “do you need help?”
She laughed, “no. He comes so I only need to wait.”
I nodded, “may your flight be long and high.”
She turned her head, “thank you.”
I looked back to see another dragon emerge and she turned back. I tried to keep watch with the entire crew but the dragons slipped into darkness. A moment later I heard the male roar as he leaped into the air to follow the female for their mating flight. I grinned at Emily when she stopped beside me, “a mating flight of sea dragons.”
She smiled as she looked into the night and then pointed, “there!”
I saw the two high above as they blocked the moon. I put my arm around Emily, “people don’t see dragons anymore.”
She shook her head, “humans fear and hunt them so many have left this world.”
I nodded but continued to watch the night sky. It was a long time before Emily pulled me back to our cabin and bed. It was several weeks before we sighted land and a couple of days before we turned to head for a river mouth. We didn’t go up the river very far before coming to a stone dock jutting out into the river.
A couple of dozen Kaire warriors were waiting and I saw bales of fur. While the captain went to speak with the Kaire we started to unload our horses and equipment. Crystal and Lachlan had already flown to the trees and sat waiting as Wynn and Georgia sat between us and the warriors.
Farrell’s eyes were bright as he looked at them and after the horses were saddled he took the lead and nodded to them. We walked the horses because they would need time to regain their legs after being on the ship. While the two eagles flew over and around us Wynn and Georgia scouted ahead.
It was nice and peaceful once we entered the forest. We stayed back but followed the river towards the mountains and the pass. When we stopped that night we didn’t have to hunt since Crystal, Lachlan, Wynn and Georgia had all caught rabbits. They had even eaten and sat or lay around the camp to watch us.
We made a small fire to cook on and then Georgia lifted and turned her head. Wynn followed her look and I stood to grab my bow and move back to a tree. Emily did the same thing on the other side of camp. Farrell stood as Edwin faded into the shadows and waited and a few moments later two Kaire warriors walked out.
He nodded to them and one glanced towards me, “human’s are not welcome.”
Farrell smiled, “your smell is off. My companions are not human.”
The warrior stiffened, “an Elder?”
Emily stepped out, “yes.”
They looked at her and I almost heard a growl. I stepped out, “you would do well to control yourselves.”
They looked at me as their eyes narrowed, “an Elder came through not long ago and killed several of our people.”
I looked at Farrell and Edwin as my uncle came to mind, “Cameron.”
Farrell nodded and turned to describe my uncle and the two listened and nodded, “that was him.”
I walked towards the fire, “if you ever get the chance, kill him. I know I will.”
They looked at each other before coming to the fire and squatting, “an enemy?”
I checked our dinner as I nodded, “and an enemy of the Elder.”
They grinned and looked at each other as Wynn bumped one and he turned. He froze and I smiled, “he wants a pet.”
They looked at Georgia as she padded out and then Crystal and Lachlan shifted and squawked. Emily shook her head, “you two are up to high for them reach you.”
The two had looked up and then laughed as they looked at Farrell, “you travel with strange companions.”
He smiled, “but good ones.”
It was late before we slept, the two warriors had told us about the way ahead. We were up early and headed out with the eagles riding while Wynn and Georgia scouted the way. It was several days before we rode into the Kaire town beside the stream rushing out of the pass. Tall peaks were on each side with a thick forest of tall pine.
I let Farrell deal with the single tavern keeper while Edwin and I tended to the packs and horses. I grinned as Wynn chased a rat out of the shelter for the horses and Lachlan snatched it off the ground and flew up to a branch. Wynn looked after him as Crystal called down. He turned to look at her before going back into the shelter.
I grinned at Emily and Edwin, “he wanted the rat but when Crystal asked him to chase another out so she could catch it he was more than willing.”
She laughed and turned to watch as he chased another out and Crystal was already diving and snatched it before flying up. Wynn looked up as she turned on a wingtip and flew back before dropping it. It landed right in front of him and he snatched it with a growl that made us laugh. The few Kaire watching laughed and before we knew it they were talking to us.
We were able to get information about the forest ahead and the small trail between the town and the Kaire city of Black Wood. Farrell spent time with several Kaire warriors heading towards the city. He slipped into our room later as I was standing at the open window with Crystal and Lachlan.
He sighed as he stood looking out, “the war between Golan and Sudan is drawing men in. We are now patrolling the edge of the Black Woods.”
I nodded as I caressed Crystal’s head, “wars tend to spread discord.”
Emily snorted as she rubbed Georgia’s belly on the wide sleeping platform, “it is stupid. They are both acting like children.”
Farrell sat on the edge of the platform and reached out to pet Wynn, “true and other people must protect themselves or join the madness.”
I nodded and gave attention to Lachlan by rubbing his chest. I had an uncomfortable feeling and whispered a trapping spell on the walls, floor and ceiling. It was just before dawn that the traps were sprung and I jerked up. I could hear a scream but whoever had attempted to slip a spell into the room had managed to escape.
He hadn’t done it unscathed though and I slipped out of bed to move to the window and Crystal and Lachlan. I looked out into the darkness and knew my uncle had tried once more. I touched the wall beside the window and focused before thinking of a shield. I sent it into the walls and through out the whole building.
I made it so it would leach any magic that struck. I was barely finished when Emily put an arm around my waist and touched the wall. She whispered a spell before pulling me back. I hesitated to leave Crystal and Lachlan on the sill but Emily pulled me to the sleeping platform, “they will be safe.”
I had just laid back when the shield was struck. To me it felt like a huge hammer that shook the building but it didn’t move. I growled as I moved out of bed and back to the window. This time the distant scream of rage and pillar of fire told me where my uncle was. He must have learned and shielded himself because the pillar of fire died quickly.
I absently caressed Crystal as she slept and kept looking out. It was an hour before I returned to bed and Edwin shifted, “he will have others attack us next.”
I laid back and slowly relaxed and woke to Wynn on my chest purring as he looked at my face. Emily giggled from across the room as she went through her pack, “just wait until he is as big as Georgia.”
I pet and hugged Wynn before shifting him off me. Farrell and Edwin were gone and Emily grinned, “they said they have a bathing room.”
I nodded and moved Wynn before removing the shield and traps around the room. It was a couple of hours before we started off again. Crystal and Lachlan were soaring high above and I had Wynn on his horse. Georgia slipped into the brush as soon as we left the town. There were a few Kaire watching as we followed an old trail.
I held my bow as we rode and had the feeling we were being followed. I shifted uncomfortably, “Farrell?”
He glanced back and I turned to look behind us, “hold up a minute.”
I focused like I had been taught and thought of ways to cover our tracks. I murmured what I wanted and let the magic go. I turned back and nodded and he started moving as Emily grinned, “that was slippery magic.”
I looked at her, “what do you mean?”
She glanced back, “I tried to follow it but it was like it slipped away while covering up behind itself.”
I glanced back, “I wanted to remove any trace we left.”
She grinned and then laughed as we started moving. The forest seemed peaceful as we moved through it. The trail beside the river was old and well traveled and each evening we found where others had made camp. Each evening Edwin, Emily and I set wards and traps but my uncle didn’t try anything.
We hunted small game during the day so each evening we cleaned the skins and tanned them. A week later we rode into the edge of the Kaire city. We had met a few Kaire along the way but this was a large city with wooden bridges that spanned the river. We turned south towards the mountains and two days later rode up to a large lodge.
Farrell had been looking around bright eyed since we had began at dawn. He slipped off his horse as the door opened and several children ran out and then an older Kaire female. She stopped to stared as Farrell strode towards her. She cried out and leaped to hug and cling to him. The children kept looking at us until Wynn slipped out of a bush near them.
They spun and several pulled knives as I swung down, “NO!”
They froze as Crystal and Lachlan screamed from above and Wynn stopped. Farrell cleared his throat, “he is a bond cat.”
The children looked at him as Wynn turned to walk to me. I knelt and rubbed his face when he reached me. Emily slipped out of her saddle as more Kaire appeared and Georgia walked out and headed towards her.
Edwin held the pack horses and shifted as Farrell turned, “this is Kevin sen Dangul. I was sick and others captured me and put me in a cage. He released me and gave me weapons so that I could return.”
They looked at me as I stood, “now that you are home I need to go.”
Farrell frowned, “you won’t stay?”
I smiled, “someone hunts me and it would put your family at risk.”
He nodded and looked around before looking at me again, “if you ever have need...”
I nodded as I bent to lift Wynn, “I know and you know where I will be.”
He smiled, “yes in the kitchen hiding.”
I grinned and turned to the horse to put Wynn up on his pad before I climbed up on mine. I waited for Emily and looked at Farrell and his family, “stay safe and hunt well.”
He nodded and they watched as we turned to the southwest and rode into the forest. I was thinking ahead and used a map. We were going to skirt the northern edge of the black wood mountains and then the edge of the plains. Once we reached the Sudaness mountains we would turn south and take the north pass and then... well that was weeks away.
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