Aalen was walking home. Tired, hungry, and cold, she looked forward to a warm fire and hot stew, but that was still far off. She came across a lone wolf cub.
“Where’s your mother?” she asked. She saw blood on it’s fur and knew there’d been some tragedy. She rummaged through her bag and fed the cub strips of dried meat and whatever else she could find. After it had eaten the last of her food, she picked the cub up to keep it warm and continued to her village. Aalen hoped her Elder would let her keep it.
The crystal had shown terrible things. The Elder came out her dwelling. She clapped her hands and the entire village looked up at her.
“Humans are coming with axes to destroy our forest. We must protect it! All remaining archers need to go to our northern border. Falnek, take the children to the sacred Bloodwood.” There was sudden activity in the village. “Aalen, when the humans are defeated come back to us.” Aalen nodded and left with her wolf bounding in front of her.
The Elder looked over the village and her people. The crystal had shown terrible things.
Caelynn put the silver tiara on her head and looked at herself admiringly in the looking glass. She wore a green silk dress that sparkled whenever she moved, along with silver slippers that arced minute tendrils of lightning.
“I never thought I’d ever become a princess.” Caelynn said as she gazed at her reflection.
“Now you’re going to be more insufferable than ever.” remarked Meela, who was sitting on her bed examining the former Queen’s white crystal wand that Caelynn had found on the beach after the Queen had vanished.
They were both now in Caelynn’s new bedchamber in the Sun Palace of Larantel. After the Queen had disappeared and discoveries become known of every thing she had done, the nobles of the realm elected a new monarch from one among them. They chose Caelynn’s father, Alcarin, to be the new King of Larantel, despite the scandal he had been involved in. He was chosen because he had been one of the few who had actually stood up to the Queen and tried to inform the other nobles of things she was doing in their names. Once he was elected King, Alcarin had chosen the Sun Palace as his seat of residence. So for the last few weeks they had all been busy moving their many possessions from their family residence to their new Royal Palace. Even Meela had helped ferry their belongings in her new airship.
Tonight was the Coronation, and Caelynn was getting dressed to attend it. Even her older brothers were going to be there. Meela had been invited to attend, and so she uncharacteristically had decided to go. Not that she had fine clothes to wear to it. She always figured she could borrow some of Caelynn’s clothes, so long as they weren’t too girly…
“So my father told me he’s offered you the position of Royal Adviser.” Caelynn stated.
“And I’m going to turn it down.” Meela stated.
“But if you accept it, we can stay here together.” Caelynn said in a disappointed tone.
“It’s not my thing. I like being in command of my own ship sailing through the clouds. I just wouldn’t enjoy it here.” Meela informed her. “I would get bored eventually, and come to resent it.”
“That means we’re going to be apart!”
“If you ever need me, I’ll always come back to you.” Meela replied.
“But it’s not the same!” Caelynn pouted at Meela’s words.
She hadn’t told Meela that she had died on the day of the Battle of Durn, though she knew Meela strongly suspected it. She also hadn’t told her that it had been Lafalin, or Bran as Meela called him, who had brought her back to life, and she would only survive for a few more years. She didn’t know how to tell Meela any of that, so she had kept it a secret. She wanted Meela to be with her, for however much time she had left. As she was now a princess of the realm, it wouldn’t be done for her to sail off with pirates. It would be a huge scandal in the Court, and for her father. But if Meela didn’t stay with her here, then they wouldn’t have much time left together.
Many things had happened in the weeks following the Battle of Durn. Justinian was crowned the new Emperor of Tigreralat. He promised reforms and instantly called a truce with Yastell. He also recognised Loro-Don as a free city. Meela, however, was still a fugitive and blamed for the Emperor’s death. Meela quite happily took this blame, as it gave her notoriety as a pirate an even greater boost. The Arch-Wizard was reinstated to his position, and one night when the Seer was looking into the flames he called out his assistant’s name. Ana found him lying dead on the floor, and following tradition, she became the new Seer.
Everything seemed to be coming right, which made Meela feel even more suspicious that maybe they had all missed something, and there was about to be some terrible cataclysm, but she didn’t voice these fears and kept them to herself. Whatever may happen in the future, she hoped they would all be up to the challenge.
That evening Meela attended the Coronation of King Alcarin, and after spending the night with Caelynn, she took leave of her and sailed away with the rest of her crew in her new flagship. Caelynn cried, and then went silent for a few days.
Some time later, Alcarin went looking for his daughter who hadn’t turned up to an event she had been expected to attend. He looked for her everywhere. She wasn’t in the stables, or the gardens, and so he went up to her bedchamber. He found she wasn’t there either, but the window was open, and in the far distance he could see an airship sailing away…
Omnia vincit amor: et nos cedamus amori
That’s the last of my ongoing serials for the year. I hope you enjoyed both Durn, and My Life In Darkness.
There are several ideas, such as the Shadow World (or Shadow-realm as the Elves call it), the Queen’s ultimate fate, and Caelynn’s short life expectancy, that all point to an eventual sequel.
Next year I plan to start a new story beginning in the second week of January, all going well. It will be called Journey of the Sorcerer, and is set in the same world as Sky-Pirates of Durn, but set around a thousand years before. So it’s a sort of prequel, I guess.
Caelynn was in a dark tunnel. She walked along it and saw a figure before her.
“Where am I?” she asked them.
“You’re in the space between the Land of the Living and the Land of the Dead.” he replied.
“What if I keep going forwards?’ she asked.
“Then you join your ancestors and the affairs of the Land of the Living will no longer concern you.”
“Can I turn back?” she asked.
“No.” he replied. “But there is a way back.”
Caelynn looked at the figure. She could see him more clearly now. He had long blond hair and green eyes, and reminded her of Meela, in a way. She then came to the realisation of who he was.
“So it’s true you’re dead? No one was really sure.”
“Maybe I am, maybe I’m not.” he winked at her. “My great niece has already lost one lover. It will destroy her, if she loses you too. It was brave, but foolish what you did. You had the best intentions I know, but if you had waited just a few minutes it wouldn’t have been necessary. Meela needs you. The Queen is coming.”
“You said there was a way back?” she asked him.
“I can send you back, but there is a caveat.” he declared. Caelynn rolled her eyes.
“There always is.”
“The magic I use will eventually run out. You may have a few years, but one day you will die for real, and there will be no bringing you back after that.” he told her. Caelynn nodded at his words.
“Asden was my fight. The Queen is yours, and Meela’s.” he stated.
“But how do we defeat her? She is more powerful than anyone.” Caelynn wondered aloud. The figure smiled at her.
“You’ll figure it out.”
Caelynn awoke in Meela’s arms. Meela was holding her tightly and weeping loudly. They were on the beach.
“You’re crushing me!” Caelynn complained. Meela let go of her in surprise.
“I thought you were dead!” exclaimed Meela.
“I must have been unconscious.” Caelynn lied. Meela looked as though she didn’t really believe her, but then she suddenly grabbed Caelynn in her arms again.
“I’m so glad you’re alive. I thought I had lost you!”
“Yes I know.” Caelynn replied as she looked behind them. “Meela, we have a problem.”
“What?” Meela asked. She looked around and saw what Caelynn was referring to.
Behind them stood the Emperor and a number of guards, all of them with their weapons drawn.
“Well well! If it isn’t Meela Starblazer, the feared pirate herself! We meet at last! You were foolish to come here on your own. And now you’re my prisoner too.” Meela grabbed her staff and stood up confronting him.
“I don’t think so!” she waved her arms and a wall of force hit all the Emperor’s guards before her. They were thrown backwards into the sea, leaving the Emperor standing there alone. “Your move?” she raised an eyebrow at the Emperor. He suddenly looked around terrified.
“If you harm me, you place yourself in grave danger!’ he threatened. Meela laughed.
“There is no threat behind your words. Your armies have been defeated in Yastell. You are the one in grave danger.” Meela informed him.
“Lies! I would have been told if my forces in Yastell were in peril.” he said backing away, looking unsure.
Meela could see the other airships approaching. She moved forward and smacked the Emperor in the head with her staff. He fell over into the sand. Caelynn finally stood up and joined Meela.
“Is he dead?” she asked.
“No. Just unconscious. I don’t think he deserves to die quickly.” Meela responded. She looked up. “Oh look I’ve got a brand new airship!” She climbed up the rope ladder and Caelynn followed her.
“He’s only part of the problem. It’s the Queen of Larantel that’s behind it all. She trained Asden, and was preparing to have the Emperor become undead so he would rule the Empire forever with her pulling the strings. She’s also the one that enabled the Shadow-realm to send their shadow monsters to Yastell.” Caelynn told her.
“Ugh, I was wondering who was behind it all. I didn’t realise it was the Queen. I wouldn’t have left you at Larantel if I had known.” Meela replied looking down at her.
“I realise that, but we will have to work out how to deal with her at some point.”
They came aboard the Emperor’s airship. A startled crew looked at them both.
“Who are you?” asked the Captain, once he saw Meela.
“My name is Meela Starblazer, and I’m commandeering this airship.” Meela stated.
The captain was a tall man with dark hair and a full beard. He wore a dark blue and gold uniform. Upon hearing Meela’s words he unsheathed his cutlass and strode towards Meela and Caelynn.
“Over my dead body!” he said. Meela unsheathed her rapier.
“That’s the idea!” she replied.
The captain drove forwards with his blade and Meela deflected his thrust and counterattacked slashing at his body with her rapier. He dodged out of the way of her attack and then lunged forwards. Meela managed to deftly step aside and then thrust her rapier into his sword arm. He let out a short grunt and then wildly stabbed at Meela, missing her by quite a margin.
“First blood to me!” Meela exclaimed.
“No girl is going to beat me in a sword fight!” the captain roared.
He moved so the main mast was between them. He lunged towards her and Meela dodged out of the way and then thrust her rapier towards him from the other side of the mast, only narrowly missing him. She pushed forward making him move away. He slashed his cutlass and Meela was unable to fully get out of the way of it and the blade bit into her side just below her chest. The captain smiled grimly at her. Meela responded by lunging forwards and impaling her rapier into his leg. He let out a short scream and tried pulling his leg away, but Meela was too quick and pulled her rapier out before it was yanked out of her grasp. Meela could feel blood trickling down her shirt. She jumped on top of the capstan. The captain drove his cutlass at her, but she dodged it and then her rapier slashed his face. He dropped to the ground screaming. His face had a long deep cut down it from forehead to chin that was gushing out blood. He dropped his sword and covered his face with his hands. One of the crew quickly came over to him and applied some cloth to the wound.
Meela, still on top of the capstan, looked at the crew who had been watching the sword fight. They all looked startled.
“My name is Meela Starblazer and I’m taking over this ship. I want you to help me fly this to the gate. Once we are finished with everything here, we can sail to a port and any of you will be free to go and rejoin the Empire’s fleet, if you so wish. However, if you wish to still crew this ship afterwards, you are welcome to stay. I’m a fair captain and I know I need you all to fly this airship. so you will find me quite reasonable to work for. If you don’t wish to take part then I will lock you in the hold and release you once we get to port. Please make your decision now!” Meela said to them all.
The crew looked at each other for a moment and most of them resumed their duties. A few went ended up in the hold, along with the captain.
“Set sail to the gate!’ Meela commanded. The crew got everything ready and the rope ladder was hoisted up. Then they resumed sailing towards the gate. Meela took the wheel and noted the other Imperial airships had almost caught up with them and were now following closely behind. Caelynn and the Arch-Wizard, still with his hands restrained, came up to her.
“You’re wounded!” Caelynn observed. Meela’s white shirt was now distinctly growing red on her left side.
“It’s just a scrape along the ribs. I’ve had worse.” Meela stated nonchalantly.
“Be that as it may, we need to bandage it.” Caelynn insisted.
“Okay!” Meela replied. She removed her shirt and the top under it. She stood there topless while Meela wove a bandage around her chest. Some of the crew sneaked a look at Meela while she was being attended to. “Stick to your duties! No lollygagging!” Meela then noticed Caelynn’s hand as she bandaged her. “What happened to your hand?”
“I ended in the dungeons of the Emperor’s palace. The torturer tried to get me to talk, by removing my nails. It was incredibly painful.” Caelynn responded. Meela softly took hold of her hand.
“Had I known, I would have done anything to free you. Now I wish I really had killed the Emperor!” Meela stated.
“Luckily the Arch-Wizard found me in time, and managed to free me, though we still got caught in the end. I didn’t tell them anything.” Caelynn told her. Meela nodded at the the Arch-Wizard, who smiled back at her.
“Good thing I’ve got him on my side! If you’re ever in that position again I would understand if you told them everything. I would rather have you alive and in one piece than mutilated or dead. No information you have is worth risking your life, even if it means you’re giving me up.” Meela stated.
“At least in the end, I didn’t tell them anything. I wanted you to know that.” Caelynn responded. Meela hugged her again.
They sailed towards the gate still being chased by the remaining Imperial ships. After fixing-up Meela as best she could, Caelynn then tried to pick the locks of the Arch-Wizard’s restraints. Having done it before, she now found it easier to unlock them. She then stared uneasily at the oncoming magical gate.
“Do you think the enchantment is still holding?” Caelynn asked Meela.
“I don’t know.” Meela replied. “Take my hand!” Caelynn held onto Meela’s left hand. Wincing slightly. Again, she could feel the familiar pulsing they felt whenever they touched.
They sailed up to the gate and the air began shimmering around them, and then they were through. Before them lay the fleet of airships from Loro-Don, Meela’s ship, and behind them all, the dragon who was hovering with them. Caelynn’s mouth gaped open. She pointed at the dragon.
“There’s a dragon there!” she stated.
“I know. I’ll introduce you sometime.” Meela responded. “Bring her round!”
Meela signaled Bronwyn on the Crimson Vengeance to follow her. The ship turned and then began going through the gate again. This time the fleet and the dragon followed them through into Durn.
The Imperial fleet that was still travelling towards the gate were surprised to see their former flagship, which they had been chasing, come back through the gate towards them, but this time with many other airships following in its wake, along with a dragon.
“To starboard!” the captain on the leading Imperial ship commanded his crew. “Fire all cannons!”
A broadside was fired at all the advancing airships.The other Imperial ships followed suit and also fired their cannons at the airships. The prows of the oncoming ships took a lot of damage from the cannon fire, along with several foremasts lost. They continued moving forwards.
“Over to port!” ordered Bronwyn on board the Crimson Vengeance. The airship went to the left until all it’s guns on the port side faced the enemy ships. The other airships began doing the same. “Fire!”
Broadsides were fired this time at the Imperial ships which were facing them. Cannon fire ripped through the starboard side of their ships taking out cannons and masts. The Imperial ships returned fire, though they were now heavily outnumbered. The dragon breathed fire on one of the Imperial ships incinerating it in an explosion of fire. After a few salvos from both sides, the Imperial ships suffering the greater damage began to disengage, trying to flee.
While this battle occurred, Meela got the crew to get their ship away from the cannon fire. They sailed down underneath the ships until they were safely out of the battle zone and heading towards Durn. As they got nearer both Meela and Caelynn could still see the body of the Emperor lying on the beach.
“None of the other ships bothered collecting him.” Caelynn observed.
“I know. Maybe they thought he was dead, or were too focused on chasing us instead. We should pick him up. He would make a useful prisoner.” Meela stated.
The airship sailed back to the beach. When they had arrived where the Emperor still lay, Meela got the airship to hover. Caelynn and her went down the rope ladder leaving the Arch-Wizard in command of the ship. Caelynn examined the body and looked surprised.
“But he’s dead! I thought you had only knocked him out.” Caelynn stated as she knelt by the body.
“Yeah I didn’t think I had killed him.” Meela agreed. She walked over to Caelynn.
“That’s because I killed him you silly girl!” said a voice.
Meela and Caelynn both looked up. There standing on a sand dune was the Lynarin, the Queen of Larantel. She wore a long black dress detailed with threads of silver and gold. She was smiling.
“Why did you kill him?” Caelynn asked.
“I had to start the process some time. Now seemed as good as ever.” the Queen revealed.
“You mean so he can be turned into a revenant?” Caelynn asked angrily.
“Yes.” she confirmed. “Now how come every time I send you to Salané, you always wind up being somewhere else?”
“This had nothing to do with me. The Emperor brought me here against my will.” Caelynn told her.
“How did you get here?” Meela asked the Queen.
“Why if it isn’t the half-human pirate girl? Nice to meet you at last, Meela. Like you, I teleported here.” the Queen informed her. “I’m very impressed you managed to do that by the way.”
“Are you now?” replied Meela, unimpressed with her manner. “The Empire has been defeated, along with all your plans. I suggest you surrender to us.” As soon as Meela said that, the Queen looked at her with surprise, and then laughed out loud.
“You may have won the battle, but the war isn’t over. There is still plenty I can do.” She replied. “Indeed the best thing for me to do right now is to get rid of both of you.”
The Queen raised her hands and fired a bolt of dark energy at the two of them. Meela, remembering her dream when she was injured in Yastell, instinctively grabbed hold of Caelynn’s hand. The bolt seemed to hit some force field around them and it’s energy dissipated. Surprised and confused, the Queen fired another bolt at them, this time it was with sonic energy and the air rippled around it. Again it met the same result hitting the shield protecting Meela and Caelynn.
“On my mark, now!” said Meela, and both of them fired a lightning bolt together at the Queen. The lightning bolt hit her and she was thrown back over the sand dune. She stood up looking shaken. She pulled out a white crystal wand.
“If I can’t touch you with my magic, then I’ll just summon some shadow monsters to eat you both!” she threatened. She flicked her wand and a portal began opening up.
“Can you open a portal in a pocket dimension?” Caelynn asked Meela.
“I don’t know, but it does seem to be happening.” Meela replied, preparing to deal with whatever came through the portal.
The portal opened and large tentacles began coming out of it. The Queen laughed loudly. To everyone’s surprise the thick black tentacles suddenly wrapped themselves around the Queen and pulled her into the portal with it. The last thing they heard was the Queen suddenly screaming, and then the portal closing with a loud snap. The Queen was gone, and Meela and Caelynn were left alone on the beach.
“That was like watching a trapdoor spider catch some prey.’ Meela mused.
“What just happened?” Caelynn asked confused. Meela breathed inwards.
“Well, my guess is the Queen promised all sorts of jewels, precious metals, and gems from Yastell to the Lord of the Shadow World for his help, and when he didn’t get it, he decided on another form of payment.” Meela surmised.
“So that’s it? She’s gone?” Caelynn asked.
“I would say so.”
“The Emperor’s dead and the Queen is now a prisoner in the Shadow-realm. It’s all over. We won.” Caelynn said disbelievingly.
“I would say so!” she said. “And I’ve got a new flagship!”
Meela looked up admiringly at the gleaming new airship she had taken. Above they could see the remaining Imperial airships being chased down by their own fleet.
A large bronze dragon flew overhead and then landed not far from them. The dragon then transformed into a man and walked towards them both.
“That’s Rhaeldur. He calls me granddaughter, but I think he’s really an ancestor.” Meela informed Caelynn.
Rhaeldur strode up and smiled. He looked Caelynn over.
“It looks like everything has worked out for the better.” he said.
“Yes it does. This is Caelynn my girlfriend. Caelynn, this is Rhaeldur.” Rhaeldur nodded his head at Caelynn, while Caelynn found herself bowing to him.
“I’ll leave you two females alone. Just remember, should you ever need my help in the future, just call out.” He told them smiling.
“I will.” Meela replied. And then he was gone. Both Meela and Caelynn looked around, but he was no longer there. “How strange.”
“Well I guess it’s just us two now.” Caelynn said.
Meela wrapped her arms around Caelynn and they kissed for a long time.
Caelynn was walking through a forest. She could hear birds singing and there was a breeze in the branches making the sunlight flicker in her eyes. Meela was standing there. She looked serious and concerned. “You have to wake up.” Meela said. “Caelynn, this is a dream. Wake up, you’re in danger!” Caelynn opened her eyes. She was chained to a wall deep below the Emperor’s palace. It was cold, dank, dark, and stank of sweat, smoke, and misery.
She was unaware how long it had taken to travel to Salané, but it had been many days. They had traveled in a carriage and she was in cold iron manacles all the way, unable to focus on anything due to the pain. Around her had sat the Emperor’s Guard in their armor and red cloaks. They all stared at her stonily. They barely talked and only stopped for food and rest, not that she was able to rest properly with the manacles constantly burning her wrists and ankles. All the time she had fretted about Meela, needing to warn her, but unable to do anything about it. It was driving her crazy. She knew about the shadow monsters and what they could do, and she was deadly worried that Meela and her associates were all going to be slaughtered, or even eaten by those things. She needed to get a warning out to her somehow, otherwise all could be lost.
Once they had arrived at Salané, she was dragged into the throne room still in manacles. The Emperor looked down on her coldly as he sat on his throne of obsidian. She lay there while the entire Tigreralatean Court stared at her unpityingly. Around her stood many nobles. Beside the dais steps were two Priestesses, one of the Sun and one of the Stars. They looked at her coldly.
“This is what a traitor looks like! She was sent here as an ambassador for Larantel, but she was actually working as a spy for the criminal Meela Starblazer, and was in league with her and other vagrants who defy our laws.” the Emperor proclaimed.
After being pronounced a traitor in front of the entire Imperial Court, she was taken to the dungeons and now she waited for whatever they had planned. It was only a short time until a tall man wearing a dark cloak walked into her cell. He was bald with a goatee of dark hair. Caelynn could see scars and pock marks on his face. He looked Caelynn over, rather dismissively.
“You must be Caelynn of Larantel. My name is Voss, and I am one of the Imperial Inquisitors. I understand the Emperor wishes to know certain information that you are unwilling to give. So I am here to persuade you to tell me what he wants to know. I look forward to working with you. I hope we can have a constructive relationship.” He stated. Caelynn spat at him. Voss wiped it off his face. “You have good aim, but I am going to make you regret that.”
“Bite me!” Caelynn screamed back at him.
“Not something I’m into. The Head Inquisitor might be interested in doing that, however.” He replied. “Eventually that defiant streak in you will be broken. I’ve seen it happen many times before.”
Voss brought out a box and opened it on the table before him. Caelynn could see it was full of implements, such as pliers, small metal picks, chisels, hammers, nails, and other similar items. He picked up a pair of pliers, and then faced Caelynn.
“All the Emperor really wishes to know is the location of Durn. Just tell me that and we won’t have to go through any of this.” he informed her.
“It doesn’t exist.” Caelynn replied.
“Come now, we know that it does. You won’t get off that easy.” He took a step forward.
“It’s up the Emperor’s arse!” Voss laughed when Caelynn said this.
“That’s funny! Obviously being around pirates had made you rather coarse. I understand you once were a lady of the Court. How the mighty have fallen.” He shook his head sadly. “Guards! Move this prisoner to the chair!” He ordered.
Two guards appeared. One placed a metal brace around her neck. Instantly she could feel the skin of her neck burning. It was cold iron again. The two guards unlocked the chains and then moved her towards a chair that looked to be made out of iron. They sat her down on it. To her bewilderment she found that it had small sharp spikes along the chairs entire surface that bit into her skin, wherever she was in contact with it. She squirmed with the pain. They strapped her forearms and wrists to the arms of the chair, and then left her there. One of them removed the neck brace, but it seemed to make little difference.
Caelynn tried not to show she was in pain, and remained determined not to say anything. She couldn’t betray Meela. Once she gave up one piece of information, she knew they would then press her for more. Even if it killed her, she resolved to stay silent. Her will was set. She gave her torturer a fixed stare. He smiled darkly at her. Maybe if she waited long enough Meela would find her…
“And now we get down to business!” he declared. He set down the pliers and produced a small rough wedge of wood and a hammer. “We once had a problem with a group of knights that rebelled. This torture managed to make, what was a very obstinate knight, talk to us and tell us everything we wanted to hear, and more besides. Just remember, this does not need to happen. All you need to do is tell me what I want to know, and this will all end. The pain will end. Just talk. That’s all you need to do.”
He placed a wedge of wood under the nail of her right index finger. He then hammered the wedge of wood under the nail. The pain was unbelievable. Once he was finished, he grabbed the pliers and forcibly ripped the nail off her finger. He looked at her. Her body was shaking with pain.
“You ready to talk yet? Or shall I do another finger?” he asked her. Caelynn slowly shook her head. “You’re a very brave girl, you know. No one would blame you now if you began to talk. Even Meela would understand. You’ve shown us how brave and staunch you are. It would understandable if you talked now. Your honour would still be intact.”
Caelynn did not reply, but instead looked at the far wall and thought about Meela. She thought about the moments they had spent together, and she wondered if Meela was still alive. For if Meela had been killed by a shadow monster, there would be no point in living anyway…
“No.” she finally replied with great difficulty. “I will never talk to you.” Voss looked displeased.
“I guess we will do another finger then. And if you keep insisting not to talk, then I will keep doing your fingers, and then your toes, and when I have run out of nails to extract, I will then turn to something else.” he threatened.
Caelynn looked away and imagined she was walking in the forest with Meela again. She could see the sunlight in the leaves and hear the birds singing while Meela walked beside her holding her hand. Voss took the wooden wedge and then placed it under the next finger along. Again there came an incredible feeling of pain…
“She passed out on me. I’ve done one hand and there’s been no sign of her willing to talk.”
She awoke. She was still strapped to the chair. Looking at her right hand she saw her fingers were all bloodied stumps. There was talking before her. Voss had his back turned and was talking to another person. It was a slighter figure. A woman in a red cloak. She had red hair and pale skin.
“Let me look at her.” said the woman. She walked up to Caelynn and examined her. Her fingers were cold as they touched Caelynn’s face.
“Who… are… you?” Caelynn asked her slowly. The woman got very close to her and whispered in Caelynn’s ear.
“Hello my sweet. My name is Malla. You’re very pretty. You don’t belong down here. Just tell me what I want to know, and I will release you. It’s as simple as that.” Caelynn felt a cold wet tongue slide down her cheek. “I bet you’re very tasty.”
“I know what you are.” Caelynn said to her. She feel Malla’s cold breath on her face.
“Your eyes are such a vibrant green. I would love to take them with me.” Malla whispered again. The she laughed a very cold laugh. She turned to Voss. “You should work on the other hand now. She’s regained consciousness.” Voss nodded and approached them.
The door to the room suddenly opened. The tall figure of the Arch-Wizard stood there. He walked in and gave Caelynn a brief look.
“My lord.” Voss bowed.
“We don’t usually see you down here, my lord Arch-Wizard.” Malla said bowing her head briefly. “How can we help you?”
“Lady Malla. It has been a while. How is the prisoner? Has she talked yet?” the Arch-Wizard asked in his deep voice.
“No. I was about to get Voss to begin on her other hand.” Malla conceded.
“The Emperor wants results. I have some experience, and knowledge of magic that may help me extract the information we need from her. As we already know each other, it may also help.” the Arch-Wizard stated. Malla laughed.
“So the Arch-Wizard thinks he is more able to extract information from a prisoner than the Emperor’s top inquisitors?” she asked pointedly.
“That’s not what I said. Caelynn is a wizard like myself. We have several points of familiarity I can utilise. At least let me try. So far you have nothing to show for it. Elves can be harder to break than humans.” the Arch-Wizard explained. Malla raised her eyebrows.
“Okay, go ahead.” she replied sweeping her right arm elaborately in Caelynn’s direction. The Arch-Wizard sat down beside Caelynn.
“How are you?” He asked Caelynn softly.
“Not so good.” Caelynn replied weakly. The Arch-Wizard turned and faced the other two.
“It would be better if I did this alone. Your presence won’t help her talk to me.” He insisted. “I’m sure you can amuse yourselves torturing some other unfortunate in another cell while you wait.”
“Okay we will leave, but let us know if she says anything. I’ll give you a couple of hours.” Malla replied as her and Voss departed the cell, leaving the Arch-Wizard and Caelynn alone.
The Arch-Wizard sat there a few minutes. He then stood up and checked the door. When he came back, he began undoing the straps that tied Caelynn’s arms to the chair.
“What are you doing?” Caelynn asked him drowsily.
“I’m getting you out of here. A torture chamber is no place for someone like you.” He said as he untied her legs.
“Why are you helping me?” She asked confused.
“Because I promised Meela I would keep an eye on you.” he stated.
“What? You’re in league with Meela?” she asked bewildered.
“Yes I have been for some time.” he revealed. He slowly brought her to her feet. She instantly fell into him almost falling over. There was no strength in her legs. He quickly grabbed hold of her. “We’re going to have to get out of here. Are you able to walk at all?”
“I think I can lean on you and walk, or try.” Caelynn replied.
In truth she felt like collapsing, but she desperately wanted to get away from this cell and her two interrogators. Leaning on the Arch-Wizard as they walked and being supported by his right arm allowed them both to move, though at a very slow pace. They walked out of the cell and then along a poorly lit stone corridor. At the end was a portcullis blocking their way. A guard stood on the other side.
“Where are you going with the prisoner?” the guard asked.
“I’m taking her to the Emperor, as she is now willing to tell him what she knows.” The Arch-Wizard replied.
The guard looked doubtful, but then raised the portcullis and they continued through another corridor and finally came to stone steps that led upwards. They took them one step at a time, and then there was a short corridor that led to yet another portcullis. Once they were through that, the Arch-Wizard led her along the seldom used passageways.
“Where are you taking me?” Caelynn asked.
“I’m taking you to my quarters. There you can get cleaned up and maybe rest as I work out how to get you out of the palace. I’m trying to use corridors that are out of the way, so we are going in a very roundabout way to my chambers, but we will get there eventually.”
After walking for what seemed an eternity to Caelynn, they came to a doorway and went up some stairs again.
“We are now just below my tower. A few more flights of stairs and we will be there. So keep moving!” the Arch-Wizard encouraged her.
He led her through a large doorway. They came into a large circular room with chairs and a table. The window was stained glass depicting a wizard with their arms outstretched and holding a staff. There was another door to her left. The floor was covered in a large rug patterned with many colours. The Arch-Wizard led her to a chair. Caelynn sat back and relaxed as best she could. Her body was covered in small cuts, and her right hand was useless.
“I use this room to meet people and have discussions. You can rest here for a moment, and then I will take you up the stairs to where I have a spare bed. You can rest up there for a time, and I will clean your wounds the best I can. I am not a healer though, and know little healing magic. Priests are better at doing that.”
“Won’t they know you took me away and come looking for you?” Caelynn asked him.
“Eventually, but we should still have a couple of hours before they come, and hopefully we will be away by then.” he informed her.
“But this means you won’t be able to return?”
“Yes. I’m going to have to desert my post. Things are taking a dark turn here, and there seems little I can do to stop it.” he revealed.
“The Emperor is in league with the Queen of Larantel. She originally instructed Asden, and plans on making the Emperor a revenant, so he can live forever. She’s also given the Shadow-realm access to this plane.” Caelynn informed him. The Arch-Wizard visibly shuddered.
“I knew things were bad, but I didn’t know they were that bad. I know of the intervention of the Shadow World in Yastell. I was against that. I told the Emperor not to have any part of it, but he chose not to listen. Now I know why.” He admitted.
He picked up Caelynn again and took her through the door. They went up a narrow flight of stairs, which was more awkward for Caelynn as there wasn’t room for both of them. When they got to the next level, there was a door to a small room with a bed. Caelynn collapsed onto it. The Arch-Wizard came back with some water, and made her drink some. He went out again and came back this time with a larger bowl full of water, and a cloth. He said some words over the bowl and began to clean Caelynn’s right hand. The water was warm, but any pressure put on the hand was extremely painful. He got her to turn over and inspected the wounds all down her back to her thighs. He cleaned those as best he could.
“Are you able to eat anything?” he asked.
“I’m not sure.” Caelynn replied.
“I’ll see if I can find anything easy to chew.” he replied.
Just as he left there was a heavy knocking down below, after that sounds of a door being forced open. Then came the sounds of heavy footfalls, like the sound of armoured soldiers. The Arch-Wizard came quickly back into the room.
“They’ve found out much sooner than I expected. We have to go!” he exclaimed.
He picked her up off the bed and they went through the doorway. Just as they did, suddenly at least a dozen soldiers appeared and blocked their way. Their swords were drawn.
“They are up here!” one of them called down.
Up the steps came the Emperor, flanked by another man in black robes Caelynn had never seen before. The Emperor looked at the Arch-Wizard.
“So it turns out you’re a traitor too.” the Emperor stated.
“I was just trying to use a different technique to get the information out of her, my lord.” the Arch-Wizard replied. The Emperor laughed at him.
“Do you take me for a fool Elcaroth? You are a traitor to the Crown. Your position as Arch-Wizard is revoked. Now hand the girl over to my men.” the Emperor ordered. The Arch-Wizard stood in front of Caelynn.
“If you want her, you will have to go through me first.” he declared. The Emperor raised his eyebrows.
“Fine.” was all he said. He was about to issue an order, when a voice from down below suddenly piped up.
“Excuse me! I think I can help!” Caelynn recognised it as the Seer. He slowly came up the steps puffing and clutching a book. The Emperor looked annoyed.
“What do you want Seer?” he asked.
“If you want to find Durn, I can show you where it is.” the Seer revealed.
“But you promised you wouldn’t tell anyone!” interjected Caelynn.
“I’m sorry my lady, but if I don’t do this they will kill you. I have seen it.” the Seer replied. The Emperor shook his head with his eyes looking upwards. Obviously the Seer was a traitor too…
“Okay Seer, show me where to find Durn!” the Emperor demanded.
The Seer walked up to the Emperor and opened the book to show the map that had Durn repeatedly appearing and disappearing on it.
“There is Durn my lord.”
“So how do we get to it?” the Emperor asked.
“Durn is now in a pocket dimension that was created by Asden. There is a gate you have to go through to access the dimension. You will need to have Caelynn with you to get through the gate. She will have to be alive as well.” the Seer informed him. Caelynn shook her head sadly. She felt like she was being betrayed by someone she had trusted.
“Thank you Seer. Good work! I’ll overlook that you hid the truth from me until now.” the Emperor replied. “Guard!”
“Yes your majesty?”
“Tell them to ready my airship, and any others we have left here.” he ordered.
“Right away your majesty.” the guard replied and then quickly left. The Emperor looked at them all.