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Old 02-17-2009, 01:19 AM   #1
Jae Onasi
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The Dragonfighters

I'm hoping to have some kind of title for this soon. I have to write a novella for my creative writing class, so I thought I'd share the chapters here, too, as I get them done. I had to write a scene for this week's class, and so here it is.

-----------------------------

The Elani reinforcements didn't arrive in time to save her brother. When the waves of the feral Fest'ari poured over the top of the mountain in numbers so great that their gray fur darkened the Ilinrael pass, Daerved had leaped from the back of his white dragon and unsheathed has sword, the vanguard of calm in the middle of the village chaos. He nodded at Ta'lith'ra, and the gleaming dragon took wing with a powerful downstroke, creating a mini-windstorm of dust. She flew off in the direction of the Elani fort, where the elite dragon-fighters trained, to call for help.

“Jailyn!” Daerved called out to his sister as she ran to him. “Good—you're armored properly. Get as many of the rest of the militia armored and ready. Have anyone else who's able block up the streets with wagons here and here.” Her brother pointed down two of the small village streets, more dirt paths than anything else. “We'll funnel the rats down this route and stack them up so they can't all come at us at once. Now run and get that done, or we'll lose the entire village before the Elani can make it to us!”

Jailyn rushed back with the militia, heart sinking as she heard the clanging of swords and howls, both human and Fest'ari. “Oh, no, they came too fast! Daerved's only got a couple men with him!” The men glanced at Jailyn, mouths set in grim lines, and pressed forward, readying weapons.

Daerved stood in the balanced stance drilled into him by his years in the Elani, sword flashing in compact fluid motions, making deadly slices into the packs of the large, rat-like enemies. Piles of dead or wounded Fest'ari lay on the ground in front of him, their dark red blood matting their fur and making the ground muddy. The two men who had been with Daerved lay still on the ground, their blood and pieces of their bodies strewn about in the piles of rodents. The Fest'ari swarmed on Daerved. Jailyn couldn't tell if it was the tenth or twentieth that made the mortal sword thrust--it didn't matter once he fell. The militia and she met the swarm of snarling creatures. She settled into the same balanced stance her brother had taught her, forcing the tears back so she could hit her targets clean—her brother would have hounded her if she let her guard down to cry, even if it was his death. Her sword sang through the air, slicing through two Fest'ari and dropping a third when she brought her blade up and around. The giant rats pressed forward in relentless waves, heedless of the swinging blades and flailing warhammers, forcing the militia back step by step.

“Daerved says we have to hold this roadblock until the Elani arrive!” Jailyn yelled over the battle-din.

“There's too many of them!! We can't keep up!” one of the young men shouted.

Jailyn took a deep breath and called the order that her brother should have been giving. “Hold the line. Unless you want your families eaten by these godforsaken rats, hold the line!!”

The militia swung their emboldened weapons in furious patterns. Jailyn couldn't see some of them, they moved so fast. Fest'ari fell at their feet, screaming curses or gurgling death throes. A militiaman fell and some of the Fest'ari swarmed on him, shredding him. Two more fell. “Fill in those gaps in the line!” Jailyn ordered. The rest of the men pulled closer, forming a shield wall to hold the waves of fur, claws, and weapons back from the defenseless little town.

Jailyn could feel her shoulders aching as the battle raged on, and her arms burned from the effort of cutting through the rats. She glanced at the men on either side of her—their fatigue showed in the weariness in their eyes, or the gasping breaths of their efforts. A swarm of rats broke through the blockade on one of the streets, and advanced towards Jailyn and her men, surrounding them. Three more of the fighters fell, and the tattered remains of the village's forces turned back to back to fend off the attacks now coming from all sides. I don't think we'll be apart long, my brother, Jailyn thought. Just pray my ending is quick. The claws and curved Fest'ari blades pressed in, and the small group was surrounded. Jailyn had no room to swing her sword, and could only stab at the rats who lunged and bit at her. Her heart raced as she heard the man behind her scream.

The wing of different colored dragons dropped out of the sky, roaring. Swathes of fire burned through the Fest'ari as the huge flying beasts flew over in a deadly precise pattern. The Fest'ari that didn't fall over in flames ran howling towards the pass, away from the large dragons. The Elani fighters dropped off their mounts and ran for Jailyn's group, slicing through the remaining rodents with greatswords taller than they were. They pushed back the routed Fest'ari with military efficiency as the dragons continued to course walls of flames through them. The smell of singed fur and rat flesh made Jailyn gag. She lifted her sword with numb arms to fight just so she wouldn't throw up, but the only enemies left were the dying. Jailyn put them out of their misery with deft merciful strokes—mercy they didn't deserve, but mercy she gave anyway as tears for her brother poured down her face.

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Old 02-17-2009, 08:01 AM   #2
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I really need to start reading the stuff here more...

I'm no critic, so I can't see any obvious problems with it - but then again, Jae, your stuff is always of such quality.

I realyl liked the descriptions of battle - hectic, loud and bloody. And Jailyn's struggle to keep herself from suffering her brother's fate.

I look forward to seeing the next few chapters!







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Old 02-17-2009, 09:40 PM   #3
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Wow. That was...SO SAD!!!! I love the description of the battle; not disgusting, but still getting across the level of carnage caused by a sword battle. And her brother was an elite warrior, but he wasn't uber-powerful. He only took down 10-20 enemies before he was mown down, as opposed to the expected hundreds of slavering orcs portrayed in many stories. And there was a pleasant blend of action and sorrow, accented by the dread of knowing he would die by the first sentence.

I love it! We must have more!


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Old 02-18-2009, 12:49 PM   #4
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Jae, as always you do outstanding work. This particular scene is really smooth and crisp. You really grip the audience with this forboding sense of doom. Few people can pull that off successfully and here you did so. The lead in to the battle with the blood and carnage is very descriptive and I can see the action of swords swinging and dragons breathing fire.
The briefness of Jailyn's grief over her brother is fitting with the pace of the chapter. In battle you only have a moment to mourn before you must snap back to attention. That was played out very well. This story has a lot of potential and I hope you consider writing more as you go.

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Old 02-19-2009, 11:45 AM   #5
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The scene was well-written, as previous posters have said It's well polished and is very traditional fantasy--not a bad thing in itself, but it;s too early to say as we haven't seen much of the plot yet The fight descriptions are smooth and detailed, while the Fest'ari sound interestingly sentient--if so, why attack in swarms that would surely see heavy losses? Hopefully there will be more on the different factions and prcisely why Jailyn's village was attacked!

P.S. I like Daerved's name :3



The sun goes down and the sky reddens, pain grows sharp.
light dwindles. Then is evening
when jasmine flowers open, the deluded say.
But evening is the great brightening dawn
when crested cocks crow all through the tall city
and evening is the whole day
for those without their lovers

-Kuruntokai 234, translated by A.K. Ramanujan

[Fic] Shreds of a Dying Belief
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Old 02-19-2009, 12:46 PM   #6
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'To argue with those who have renounced the use and authority of reason is as futile as to administer medicine to the dead.' Now who said that?

From the one who brought you;
What we die for...
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Old 02-19-2009, 02:10 PM   #7
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The anticipation, the feeling of impending doom approach and recede. Amazing stuff all in all, though I must say the whole typical "saved from the jaws of certain defeat" was expected. Nonetheless a epic tale 9/10--No one is perfect so you may as well view this as the full ten under these conditions.


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Old 02-19-2009, 09:41 PM   #8
Jae Onasi
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I have a rough outline for the rest of the story, so hopefully I can get something done on another chapter this weekend. Thanks for the critiques, folks. This is actually getting submitted in my creative writing course and will be a major part of my grade, so I need to work on enhancing the good parts and smoothing out the rough edges.


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Old 02-22-2009, 02:03 AM   #9
Jae Onasi
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Chapter 2

Ta'lith'ra circled the carnage searching for enemies with the rest of the wing of dragons, her fully spread white wings nearly transparent against the sky. She dove suddenly, shrieking. Jailyn knew she was flying to her rider, and ran towards Daerved. Ta'lith'ra landed next to him and flipped her wings closed. She picked up his body, howling her anguish as she clutched him to her. Jailyn winced when her ears popped as she ran to them. The other dragons descended, searching for places to land to comfort their kin.

Jailyn reached the pair first. She stroked Daerved's soft hair, still damp from battle-sweat, as her tears mixed in with the dragon's over her brother's body. She laid a hand gently on the dragon's forearm. “Ta'lith'ra, I'm sorry. We tried to reach him in time. We failed.” Jailynn lowered her head. “I failed,” she whispered.

Sharp dragon talons gripped Jailyn's upper arm, biting through the hardened leather. Jailyn sucked in her breath in pain and trembled, fearing what would happen if the dragon grasped her with her full power. “Look at me,” Ta'lith'ra growled in her dragon-contralto. Jailyn forced her green eyes up to Ta'lith'ra's pale opalescent-blue ones, streaked with angry orange and yellow lines. She swallowed hard as the white dragon glared down at her, but held the dragon's gaze. “You dare to tell me you failed?”

“You're my brother's dragon. You're Elani. I can't lie to you. If I'd made it to my brother in time, he'd be alive.”

Ta'lith'ra snorted, and hot air blew across Jailyn's face. She looked around on the ground before addressing Jailyn again. “Thirty-eight against three. The Fest'ari succeeded. You did not fail. You will acknowledge the difference.” The young woman nodded finally, acknowledging the truth. “Good. You have your brother's honesty, and perhaps with time his wisdom. I would take you as my airinu. It would do honor to your brother's memory.”

Jailyn blinked as the dragon released her hold. “You're Elani. I don't have the skill or power to be your fighter-partner, your airinu.” She stroked her brother's hair again.

“Of course you don't have the skill yet. Yet I need an airinu to have full strength, and your power glows around you like it did with your brother. We will train. We will find the Fest'ari who ordered this, we will kill them, and I will eat their young. We will do this together for Daerved.”

The girl looked at the dead Fest'ari on the ground, at the limp body of her brother, and back at the white dragon. “I will do it. Tell me what I have to do.”

“Trust me with your life. I will give you my soul-essence as you give me yours, and we will be life-bound then.”

“I am your airinu.”

Ta'lith'ra set Daerved down gently and covered him with a cloak. She looked back at Jailyn. Her eyes blazed, and her life essence crackled around her, growing outward. It reached Jailyn, slamming into her, sucking away her own essence. Jailyn opened her mouth to scream at the agony of her soul tearing from her, but she couldn't breath. The ground hit her knees only a fraction of a moment before it hit her face. Her heart was racing, then abruptly stopped. Far away she heard one of the Elani call out. Ta'lith'ra! Stop! You'll kill her trying to bind!”

I am your Dragon. Take my essence.

Jailyn found the thin thread of power in the middle of the dark and took hold. She drew more of the essence to her, pulling it closer, taking it in, and then she was in the middle of the bright world again. Her heart took a beat, and air found its way into her lungs again, enough for her to gasp. She opened her eyes and stared up at the large dragon looming over her. Their thoughts, their minds, their hearts, together....

We are One.

“I almost joined Daerved twice in one day,” Jailyn rasped. The white dragon rumbled a short laugh.

“What have you done, Ta'lith'ra?” Ta'lith'ra and Jailyn both turned their heads towards the black-haired Elani who strode towards them. His blue eyes were lit with anger.

“I took Jailyn as my airinu. She will be Elani. We will hunt Fest'ari.”

“You shouldn't have done that before the Elani council agreed, and certainly not before she was prepared. I thought for a moment you killed her” He knelt down and placed a hand on the young woman's forehead. “You'll be fine in a few moments, Jailyn.”

Ta'lith'ra looked pained. “Her essence is stronger than her brother's. I knew she would not die.”

The man gave the dragon a look that would have made anyone else shrink away in humiliation. “You were lucky. The council will deal with this.”

“The council may say what it wants, Tirius, but we are One. The link cannot be broken.”

He shook his head and turned his attention back to Jailyn, surveying her. Her heart rate slowed to normal and the pounding headache disappeared. “Better?” She nodded as he helped her to her feet. “I'm Tirius Aldamar with the Elani. I'll escort you both back to the Elani headquarters when things are settled here.” He motioned to his jade-green dragon and mounted to finish his patrol. “You may have taken Jailyn as your airinu, Ta'lith'ra. However, the elders will decide who will be Elani.” His dragon snapped a downstroke of the wings, and they took off into the sky.

Jailyn didn't know of any dragons that weren't Elani, except perhaps the evil black dragons. She hoped they wouldn't be turned out. Ta'lith'ra was not an evil dragon—her essence was without the slightest taint.

“Think the council will take me?”

“You already are Elani.”


*****

Jailyn felt dwarfed in the center of the sparse Elani council chambers, even with Ta'lith'ra's large frame filling much of the space next to her. Amphitheater would have been a better description for the room, she thought. Its wide doors and high ceilings were designed to hold not only the human fighters, but also their dragons. Large windows let in huge shafts of light. Some of the dragons slept curled in tight balls, letting the sun warm their hides.

A door to a side room opened, and several Elani came in—2 men and a woman, dressed all in dark leather pants and practical heavy fabric long-sleeved tunics. All 3 bowed their heads respectfully to Ta'lith'ra and nodded politely to Jailyn before they sat down in the half-circle of tall-backed chairs in the middle of the room.

“Let's get right to business, please,” the man in the center chair said. His graying brown hair was crew-cut short. His serious brown eyes were set deep in his weather-creased face, but there was a warmth to those eyes as well. “Welcome, Jailyn. I am Cirrid, Mai'oth'ra's fighter and leader of the council.” He pointed to the woman on his right, her blond hair bound in a tight knot in back, hazel eyes looking not only at her but into her as if Jailyn's kae might be found wanting. “This is Maedleigh. She is Fel'eth'la's airinu. She is our expert on Fest'ari and chief strategist. Our training leader is Seann, who is bonded with Anel'ith'ra.” The man on the left smiled at her, large deep green eyes contrasting with the waves of his bright red hair. “We have two issues before the council. The bonding and the Fest'ari attack. Jailyn, the healers pronounced you well and the bond sound. It's important for you to be absolutely honest about how you feel, however.”

Ta'lith'ra lifted a pale eyebrow and rotate her ears back. “I am a white dragon. I would not bond with someone who could not be absolutely honest,” she sniffed.

Cirrid's face creased in a smile, and he made a peace gesture with his hands. “I know, I know. I wanted to hear what Jailyn has to say, please.”

Jailyn tilted her head and thought a moment. “I'm not absolutely sure how the bond should or shouldn't feel, but the connection I have feels solid.”

“A truthful answer indeed--something you should always give us. I feel the bond is very strong,” Maedleigh nodded. “I understand you've studied some fighting with your brother.”

“He wanted me to be able to protect our home when he was gone.”

Cirrid said, “The rest of the Elani and I reviewed the actions in the village. The reports of your skill go well beyond simple training to protect your home. Your bonding did not conform to our customs.” He cast a long look at Ta'lith'ra, who decided to preen a wing at that moment. “However, you're bonded appropriately, and you're a fighter with a great deal of promise. We're naming you as Elani-initiate.”

Jailyn breathed out quietly and leaned back against her dragon in relief. I knew they would not send us away, Ta'lith'ra said to her.

“We need to decide who to assign her training to--” Seann was cut off as a tall dark haired woman in heavily embroidered russet velvet robes strode in, 2 guards in full armor marching behind her. All 3 bore the black baldric of House Dy'udh. Cirrid stood, and Jailyn moved out of the way to make room for the entourage. The woman stopped alone, and the 2 guards moved forward to address Cirrid.

“Ambassador Nourin Dy'udh requests an audience with the Elani,” announced one of the guards.

Cirrid nodded his greeting to her and smiled, “Ambassador Nourin is always welcome with the Elani.”

“I'm afraid you may not feel this way after the news I bring. While the Elani were fighting one group of Fest'ari in Cordinarre lands, my niece, the Princess of Dy'udh, was abducted by another group of them.” She waited until the murmurs of surprise and dismay died down before continuing. “We have evidence that House Aldamar orchestrated her kidnapping.” Her dark eyes slid over to Tirius. “We also have evidence that the Elani themselves may be involved.”


From MST3K's spoof of "Hercules Unchained"--heard as Roman medic soldiers carry off an unconscious Greek Hercules on a 1950's Army green canvas stretcher: "Hi, we're IX-I-I. Did somebody dial IX-I-I?"

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Last edited by Jae Onasi; 02-22-2009 at 06:08 PM.
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Old 02-28-2009, 11:49 PM   #10
Jae Onasi
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All right, I did not like the original version of chapter 2 one bit. After the chapter in our textbook on energy, I understood why--it was flat, it didn't move, and it was rather dull in some spots. So, here's the new version.

--------------------


Chapter 2

Jailyn looked up from her brother when she heard the agonized dragon shriek. Ta'lith'ra flew overhead, her fully-spread white wings translucent against the blue sky. She furled her wings back and dove straight down. The ground thumped as she landed hard next to the young fighter. The dragon pulled Daerved's lifeless body from Jailyn, howling her anguish as she cradled him to her. Jailyn winced and clapped her hands over her ears to block the sound. She stood and reached out to stroke Daerved's short soft hair, still damp with battle-sweat.

“Daerved's gone. His kae left me,” the white dragon wailed. She closed her eyes, lifted her head, lifted her head, and howled her pain. Her tail whipped around, and she held Daerved so tight that Jailyn heard one of his ribs snap.

“Get back! Get back from the dragon!” Jailyn whirled to see who was yelling. It was a tall, black-haired warrior in scale mail. She noticed he carried an Elani greatsword. He grabbed her by an arm and pulled her back behind him and out of the way. “She's going into a death-fury. She'll tear everything apart when she does.”

Jailyn had never seen a death-fury, but Daerved had, and had described how the dragon and destroyed everything in his path until a few Elani had calmed him enough to bring him to the fort to bond with another fighter. She quickly surveyed the battlefield and said to the Elani, “We can't let her do that. There are medics running all over tending the wounded. She'll trample them to death.”

“I know that,” he replied. “I'll handle it. You stay back, move everyone to safety that you can. She's going to try to bond with anyone not already bound to another dragon. If she tries to take anyone's kae, they'll die.”

Daerved had described the bonding to her as having his life essence sucked from him as he reached out for Ta'lith'ra's kae. If he hadn't found her kae in time, he would have died then. Only those fighters with the strongest kae could survive that, and they had to spend months preparing physically and mentally for the ordeal.

“I've called for some more Elani to help me—just stay out of her sight.” The dragon fighter walked up to the thrashing, keening dragon. He grabbed her battle harness and mounted her back, leaning forward to speak into her ears, stroking her neck. She calmed down for a moment, but then reared up and howled into the sky. The dragon fighter grabbed the reins and seat horn to stay mounted. She dropped Daerved's body and picked up one of the dead Fest'ari. She ripped it apart, blood and fur scattering all around. Jailyn ran to help some of her shield mates who were trying to hobble off the field. She threw one of their arms over her shoulders and half-carried him off the field. Jailyn darted back and forth on the field and grabbed two other soldiers to bring them to safety. Ta'lith'ra shredded five more Fest'ari before she stopped, panting, the Elani still speaking softly in her ear and patting her neck. She dropped her head, huge crystal tears dropping from her eyes and falling at her feet.

Jailyn blew out a breath in relief. The battlefield was silent. The medics moved soundlessly, and the injured grit their teeth to hold back any cries that would attract Ta'lith'ra's attention.

“Da-da!! Da-da!!” Jailyn searched for the baby's voice. A little blond girl toddled over to a man lying on the ground. The father gathered up his daughter, cuddling her against him and covering her from dragon eyes. She babbled on happily as he tried to muffle her voice against his chest.

Ta'lith'ra heard the noise and swung her head around. She screeched and bounded toward the man. The Elani yelled to regain the dragon's attention. She broke into a gallop, and he gripped the seat horn.

There have been enough orphans made today, Jailyn thought. She ran to put herself in the path between the dragon and the wounded father. She held up her arms, waving wildly. “Ta'lith'ra! Stop! He's hurt! You'll kill him trying to bond!” The dragon halted abruptly, making dirt clods fly in the air. Ta'lith'ra stared down at her, red lines streaking through her pale opalescent-blue eyes. She snorted, and hot air blew across Jailyn's face. “Please, Ta'lith'ra. Daerved would never want someone to die because of him.”

The white dragon closed her eyes. A tear escaped. “I can't stop it, Jailyn,” she whispered. “His kae was torn from me.” She opened her eyes again and pointed a talon around the battlefield. “The kae of every single person on this field screams to me, calling me to bond with them. If I can't bond soon, I'll die.”

“Shh, Ta'lith'ra,” the Elani soothed. “You won't die. We'll get you to the fort quickly. There are at least three people there prepared to bond with you.”

“I won't make it, Tirius,” her dragon-contralto cracking. “I took an injury in battle, and Daerved's loss has weakened my essence. I won't survive the flight.”

“We'll fly them here, then.”

“There's not enough time,” Ta'lith'ra cried.

Jailyn's tears spilled out. “We've lost Daerved already today. We're not losing you, too.” She reached out to touch her, stroking the dragon's cheek, wiping the tear crystals away.

Tirius shouted, “Jailyn, don't....” He leaped off Ta'lith'ra.

Ta'lith'ra's eyes blazed. Her life essence crackled around her, growing outward. It reached Jailyn, slamming into her, sucking away her own essence. Jailyn opened her mouth to scream at the agony of her soul tearing from her, but she couldn't breath. Her vision grayed out. The ground hit her knees a fraction of a moment before it hit her face. Her heart raced, then abruptly stopped. Far away she heard Tirius call out.

"Ta'lith'ra! You can't bond with her!”

I am your Dragon. Take my essence.

Jailyn thought she saw her brother standing near, glowing. He handed her the fine cord of energy that lit the utter blackness around her. Take hold of the kae, don't let go, he said. Jailyn took the thread from him, and he smiled and disappeared. She drew the thread of the dragon's essence to her. It grew as she pulled it closer, taking it in, and then she was in the middle of the bright world again. Her heart took a beat, and air found its way into her lungs. She gasped and coughed. She rolled over, opened her eyes, and stared up at the large dragon looming over her. Their thoughts, their minds, their hearts, together....

We are One.

“I almost joined Daerved twice in one day,” Jailyn rasped, chest heaving as she tried to catch her breath. Her head hurt. She reached up and felt the wetness. It took her eyes a few moments to focus for her to realize there was blood on her hand.

The white dragon rumbled a short laugh. “I knew you had the strength to survive.”

“What have you done, Ta'lith'ra?” Ta'lith'ra and Jailyn both turned their heads towards Tirius. His blue eyes were lit with anger.

“I took Jailyn as my airinu, my fighter. She will be Elani. We will hunt Fest'ari.”

“You shouldn't have done that before the Elani council agreed, and certainly not before she was prepared. I thought for a moment you killed her” He knelt down, gently brushed the disheveled auburn hair off her face, and placed a hand on the young woman's forehead. “You'll be fine in a few moments, Jailyn.”

Ta'lith'ra drew up her full height and sniffed loudly. “Her kae is stronger than her brother's. I knew she would not die.”

The man gave the dragon a look that could wither an entire forest. “You were lucky, and you know why we don't allow unplanned bindings. The council will deal with this.”

“The council may say what it wants, Tirius, but we are One. The link cannot be broken.”

He shook his head and turned his attention back to Jailyn, surveying her from head to toe, one hand still on her forehead. With the other, he pulled a clean cloth from a small pack on his belt to wipe blood and dirt away from where her face had hit the ground. “Doesn't look like you'll need sutures for that cut,” he said, after appraising it for a few moments. Her heart rate slowed to normal and the pounding headache disappeared. He cleaned and bandaged the cut. “Better?” She nodded as he helped her to her feet. “I'm Tirius Aldamar.”

“Jailyn. Jailyn Cordray.”

“Let's get you back to Elani headquarters to have the healers take care of you. My flight will have the honor of bringing our brother home so we can bury him with the reverence he deserves.”

* * * * *

Jailyn was dwarfed in the center of the sparse Elani council chambers, even with Ta'lith'ra's large frame filling much of the space next to her. Its wide doors and high ceilings were designed to hold not only the human fighters, but also their dragons. Large windows let in huge shafts of light. Some of the dragons slept curled in tight balls, letting the sun warm their hides. She leaned against her dragon. Ta'lith'ra, what if they don't take us?

The egg's already hatched. It can't be undone. You worry too much, just like your brother.

A door to a side room opened, and several Elani came in—2 men and a woman, dressed all in dark leather pants and practical heavy fabric long-sleeved tunics. All 3 bowed their heads respectfully to Ta'lith'ra and nodded politely to Jailyn before they sat down in the half-circle of tall-backed chairs in the middle of the room.

“Let's get right to business, please,” the man in the center chair said. His graying brown hair was crew-cut short. His serious brown eyes were set deep in his weather-creased face, but there was a warmth to those eyes as well. “Welcome, Jailyn. I am Cirrid, Mai'oth'ra's fighter and leader of the council.” He pointed to the woman on his right, her blond hair bound in a tight knot in back, hazel eyes looking not only at her but into her as if Jailyn's kae might be found wanting. “This is Maedleigh. She is Fel'eth'la's airinu. She is our expert on Fest'ari and chief strategist. Our training leader is Seann, who is bonded with Anel'ith'ra.” The man on the left smiled at her, large deep green eyes contrasting with the waves of his bright red hair.

Jailyn bowed to each in turn.

Cirrid said, “We have two issues before the council. The bonding and the Fest'ari attack. Jailyn, the healers pronounced you well and the bond sound. The rest of the Elani and I reviewed the actions in the village. The reports of your skill go well beyond simple training to protect your home. Your bonding did not conform to our customs.” He cast a long look at Ta'lith'ra, who decided to preen a wing at that moment. “However, you're bonded appropriately, and you're a fighter with a great deal of promise. We're naming you as Elani-initiate.”

Jailyn breathed out quietly and leaned back against her dragon in relief. I knew they would not send us away, Ta'lith'ra said to her.

“We need to decide who to assign her training to--” Seann was cut off as a tall dark haired woman in heavily embroidered russet velvet robes strode in, 2 guards in full armor marching behind her. All 3 bore the black baldric of House Dy'udh. Cirrid stood, and Jailyn moved out of the way to make room for the entourage. The woman stopped alone, and the 2 guards moved forward to address Cirrid.

“Ambassador Nourin Dy'udh requests an audience with the Elani,” announced one of the guards.

Cirrid nodded his greeting to her and smiled, “Ambassador Nourin is always welcome with the Elani.”

“I'm afraid you may not feel this way after the news I bring. While the Elani were fighting one group of Fest'ari in Cordinarre lands, my niece, the Princess of Dy'udh, was abducted by another group of them.” She waited until the murmurs of surprise and dismay died down before continuing. “We have evidence that House Aldamar orchestrated her kidnapping.” Her dark eyes slid over to Tirius. “We also have evidence that the Elani themselves may be involved.”


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Old 03-02-2009, 03:40 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jae
and the injured grit their teeth to hold back any cries
*gritted

It is an improvement, although it's a shame that the part where Ta'lith'ra comforts Jailyn has been removed. There's also a part when Tirius refers to Jailyn by name, and then they introduce themselves later Are the dragon's tears crystals or do they just evaporate really, really fast?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jae
Jailyn was dwarfed in the center of the sparse Elani council chambers, even with Ta'lith'ra's large frame filling much of the space next to her.
Standing next to a dragon would make me feel very small :P On the other hand, one could argue that as they are bonded, Ta'lith'ra is a kind of extension of her, so if the dragon feels small, so would she:P

Over all, still not a lot of plot exposition, but I expect some delicious politicking in the next chapter!



The sun goes down and the sky reddens, pain grows sharp.
light dwindles. Then is evening
when jasmine flowers open, the deluded say.
But evening is the great brightening dawn
when crested cocks crow all through the tall city
and evening is the whole day
for those without their lovers

-Kuruntokai 234, translated by A.K. Ramanujan

[Fic] Shreds of a Dying Belief
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Old 03-02-2009, 11:04 AM   #12
Jae Onasi
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OK, here's chapter 3 for you all. Politicking you shall have, Bee. I haven't decided yet how the tear crystals work--it just seemed a little more dragon-like not to have watery human-like tears. I couldn't tell you why, though--haven't figured that one out yet.

------------------------------------

Chapter 3

Cirrid's brown eyes glittered in anger. “Ambassador, I would strongly advise you not to make rash accusations. Houses that have made it clear that they do not wish to be a friend of the Elani have experienced what it means not to have our protection against the Fest'ari. I will not have my fighters falsely accused of something this heinous.”

“My dear Elan'or Cirrid, what are we supposed to think, when your forces are called to help an obscure mountain village being attacked at the exact same time the army was on maneuvers, and at the exact same time my niece is kidnapped by Fest'ari?” She waved a broad questioning hand across the room. The amber gems in her large rings sparkled in the light.

“We were called to help by Daerved and Ta'lith'ra, Ambassador.”

She arched an eyebrow. “Perhaps more evidence of Elani involvement? I'd like to speak with Daerved.”

Cirrid's jaw tightened. “Daerved was killed by the Fest'ari, Nourin. That should be proof enough that he wasn't involved in any plot.”

“Oh my dear Lord. May his soul be cradled in the arms of our God.” The ambassador quickly traced a sign of a triangle on her forehead, then bowed her head a moment over clasped hands before looking back up at Cirrid. She placed a hand over her heart. “Forgive me for my hasty assumption, Cirrid. I mean no disrespect to the dead, of course.”

Cirrid nodded once. “Of course.”

“You must have lost his dragon as well, being so far from the fort for bonding.”

“We were fortunate that Ta'lith'ra bonded a new airinu. Daerved's sister, Jailyn, gave her kae.” Cirrid made a motion towards the two.

Nourin turned to the bonded pair, eyes widening. A flattering smile crept up her lips. “Congratulations to both of you. I've only heard of one other person who bonded in that way without dying. Your kae must be unusually powerful. My condolences on the tragic loss of your brother, too.”

Jailyn bowed her head to acknowledge the sympathy, but held the woman's eyes. “I had no choice but to bond with Ta'lith'ra. She was in a death fury and was about to take the kae of a wounded soldier. He would have died if she had, and a little girl would have been without her father then.”

Nourin tipped her head in sympathy, eyes glistening. “It is a beautiful act of courage, Jailyn. You bring honor to your brother's memory, and I know the Queen would send her personal thanks for such a sacrifice.” She turned back to Cirrid, tears gone. “It pains me even more to bring this note to you, then. We found it on one of the Fest'ari we killed during the kidnapping. It says one of the the Elani would arrange to keep a squadron 'busy' in Cordinarre fighting a contingent of Fest'ari,” Nourin held the letter up for the entire room to see. “It's signed by Tirius, and sealed with the Aldamar signet.” Cries of disbelief erupted in the amphitheater.

“That's a lie!” Tirius jumped up, clenching his fists. He took stairs two at a time as he strode straight to Cirrid.

Cirrid held up one hand for Tirius' silence, then held it out to Nourin for the letter. She took a step away from Tirius as she handed it to Cirrid. He scanned the paper. “The seal looks real enough, but this isn't Tirius' writing.”

Nourin frowned. “If the seal is authentic, someone in House Aldamar is still involved,” she insisted. “My sister is interested in pursuing all diplomatic efforts, but if Her Highness is not returned to us safely, we would view this action as an act of war, and protect ourselves accordingly.”

Cirrid searched the ambassador's face for several moments. “Nourin, I don't have to remind you that House Aldamar would never stand for such a hostile posture. Your Houses would be at war in a single beat of a dragon's wing. I propose you allow the Elani to mount a rescue mission. We will do this only under the condition that both Houses will maintain peace while we search for the Princess and find the people responsible for this crime.”

Nourin thought for a few moments, one finger absently stroking her jawline. “If you can convince House Aldamar to agree to this, House Dy'udh will consider this an acceptable compromise, so long as Her Highness is returned to us safely.”

Tirius stood military-straight, chin lifted high. “I will speak for House Aldamar as one of its sons. We will agree to those terms. We are not guilty. We will clear our name, and find the ones who are truly responsible. If the Princess is harmed, the Fest'ari will pay with ten thousand lives.”

The ambassador narrowed her eyes and stepped closer to Tirius. With quiet menace she said, “If the Princess is harmed, it will be the Aldamars who pay with all their lives.” She turned back to Cirrid, her face a politician-neutral mask once more. “Elan'or, I will convey our agreement to Her Majesty. You have one month to return our Aelina to us.”

“Nourin, that is not nearly enough time to research the situation, infiltrate the Fest'ari, and mount a rescue operation, and you know it,” Cirrid said.

“The Elani are more than talented enough to accomplish just that. I will see you in one month at the latest, Cirrid, but hopefully sooner with good news.” Nourin's robes swirled and swept the floor as she turned and walked out of the amphitheater, guards in tow. The door echoed shut through the meeting chamber. Angry conversation erupted in the room.

Tirius turned to Cirrid. “Elan'or, I request assignment to the rescue mission. I must clear the Aldamar name before this erupts into war.”

“Granted, though that may play into whatever Nourin is scheming.” Cirrid looked at his training leader. “Seann, who are you assigning as Jailyn's mentor?”

Seann rubbed his chin. “I was thinking of Andris, but in view of Ambassador Nourin's visit, I think someone with more familiarity with the Dy'udh...mindset might be more appropriate.”

“Jory doesn't have a kor-inu currently, does he?” Cirrid asked.

Seann grinned. “No, he doesn't. I think it's time he took on another one, don't you?”

“Oh, it's definitely time.”

“What if he sends her back like he's done with twelve other kor-inu?” Maedleigh asked.

“He won't. Anyone who can bond a dragon with no preparation will have no problem being his kor-inu,” Cirrid smiled, satisfied.

The Elani leader searched through the crowd of warriors that was milling around, then pointed to one and waved him over once he got the man's attention. The dark gray-haired man pointed to himself with a questioning look on his face. Cirrid nodded, and the short fighter made his way down the stairs with a hint of a limp. His wind-weathered face was a dark tan from the sun. The bright gleam in his deep brown eyes escaped from under unruly gray eyebrows.

“You wanted me, Elan'or?” the older man asked.

“I need you for a little project, Jory,” Cirrid said.

Jory's eyes lit up, and his face creased into a wide smile. “If it's anything remotely related to giving Nourin what she deserves, I'm in.”

“I'm assigning you as Jailyn's raik-inu. She needs a good mentor.”

“Well, thank God you're wise enough not to assign her a bad mentor. We hardly need any more idiot kor-inus flying around and getting themselves killed.”

Jailyn coughed back her laugh. I think I like him already, Ta'lith'ra.

He is sassy, just like his dragon, Ta'lith'ra said.

Jory continued, “So, do I get to do something constructive, or are we stuck doing kiddie stuff?”

Cirrid said, “I'm sending several teams out to search for Aelina. I'm assigning Tirius and Jailyn to your team.”

“Oh, good. Let me get this straight. You're sending me into Rat-land with a hot-head and a new-bond, you want me to rescue a princess, and then make it back here with all of us in one piece.”

“Preferably unharmed, too.”

Jory rolled his eyes. “A beer-addled bard couldn't make this stuff up. This is going to be impossible”

Cirrid clasped Jory's shoulder. “Why do you think I'm assigning you to the job, my old friend?”

“Because I'm too crazy to say no to you, Cirrid, and you know it,” Jory said. He waved for Jailyn and Tirius to join him. “Get your gear together. We're heading out. Jailyn, I'm your raik-inu, you're my kor-inu, I'm not into flowery speeches and ceremonies about this like some of the other Elani are. You're going to get training on the fly rather than here at the fort. We'll see just how much you managed to learn from your brother. Listen to me and you'll be just fine. If you don't do what I say, I'll send you flying right back to Cirrid, here.”

Jailyn nodded once in agreement.

“Good, you're making an excellent start,” Jory said. He looked up at Tirius. “Boy, you've got a lot to learn. Should have kept your mouth shut when Nourin was speaking. You need to learn that throwing flames at a forest fire doesn't do squat except make it burn hotter. I was waiting for her to say a kernel of something useful in the middle of all that pseudo-diplomatic dragon-doo. You played right into her hands. I suppose if you're going to get used, though, at least you can console yourself with the fact that you got used by a master manipulator.”

Tirius flushed bright red, but said nothing.

They rushed to get travel packs ready, and Jory double checked to make sure Jailyn properly placed Ta'lith'ra's battle-harness. He pronounced it adequate, and showed her a few adjustments to make the fit perfect.

When they had all mounted their dragons, Jory said, “All right, my young friends, we're going to Shigallin.”

Tirius said, “Shigallin isn't in Fest'ari lands.”

“Tirius, I'm old, but I'm not senile. I know Shigallin isn't in Fest'ari lands. We're going there to meet up with a friend of mine who has information that we can't get through more...regular channels, one might say. Plus he has the finest radabeast steaks.” Jory closed his eyes, licked his lips, and rubbed his belly. He opened his eyes up. “Well, what are you waiting for?”

“Your signal, Jory,” Jailyn said.

“Oh, right. Let's go!”

Tirius' blue and Jailyn's white followed Jory's amethyst dragon into the cloudless sky. They banked on wingtips, then arrowed north.


From MST3K's spoof of "Hercules Unchained"--heard as Roman medic soldiers carry off an unconscious Greek Hercules on a 1950's Army green canvas stretcher: "Hi, we're IX-I-I. Did somebody dial IX-I-I?"

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Old 03-06-2009, 01:22 AM   #13
Jae Onasi
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Note--this is an edited version of ch. 4--I made a few changes.

---------------------------


Chapter 4

“Ah, come in, come in my friends! Welcome to the Dragonfire Inn! Always good to have the Elani visit my humble .” Mykos, the owner, stepped out from behind the long bar that lined the far wall, gesturing broadly as Jory lead Jailyn and Tirius into the main room. He wound his way through the crowd to greet them. Windows lined the other three walls, filling the main room of the inn with bright light. Loud, happy conversation filled the room, with laughter erupting frequently from the patrons that sat on the sturdy bar stools and and filled the solid oak tables covered with colorful tablecloths.

“I think you shrunk another inch, Mykos,” Jory declared as he embraced the innkeeper, smacking him on the back several times before releasing him.

“You're still just as short as I am, so you must be shrinking with me. At least I'm not balding like you are,” Mykos made a show of fluffing his wavy silver fullness while smiling broadly.

“You and your hair,” Jory shook his head. He looked the man up and down. “Did you get the memo that innkeepers are supposed to dress shabby? You've got enough gold on your fingers and embroidered into that sapphire tunic to kill a dragon.”

“These are my work clothes. I left the fancy holy day tunic in the closet and toned down the jewelry to no more than five rings.” He held out his hands and inspected the jewelry. “Plain rings at that.” He look at the two fighters on either side. “Who are your cohorts, here?”

“This is Jailyn Cordray and Tirius Aldamar.” Jory pointed to each in turn.

Mykos shook hands with Tirius. “Mykos Ti'lek. Friends of Jory are especially welcome here,” he turned to Jailyn, “particularly one as lovely as you are, my dear.” He gave her a welcoming kiss on the cheek.

Jailyn smiled, cheeks flushing pink. “I'm pleased to meet you.”

“Now look what you've done, Mykos. You've embarrassed my kor-inu. As her raik-inu, I demand justice,” Jory grinned, wicked gleam lighting his eyes.

“I'm stunned that Cirrid managed to get you to take a kor-inu. I'm even more stunned she's stayed with you longer than a day.”

“It must be my boyish charm.”

“Oh, please, like I'd ever believe that. Well, if I must pay penance, only radabeast steaks will do. Come with my to my private dining room,” He led them to a small room, richly appointed with dark red leather booths and polished dark wood tables. Heavy brocade draperies dimmed the light and dampened sound to discreet levels. Mykos pointed to some gold-plated hooks. “Hang your coats here. I'll get us some dinner. I suspect you're here for something besides just steak.”

“You read my mind.” Jory slipped off his coat, hung it up, then sat down. Jailyn took the seat opposite him.

Tirius looked back at Mykos, who was walking away to the kitchen, then slid into the seat next to Jailyn when the door shut. “He seems...overly friendly with his female patrons.”

“For heaven's sake, I've been kissed hello before, Tirius,” Jailyn said.

“It's wrong for someone to take liberties with an Elani woman.” He frowned down at her.

“It was only a peck on the cheek, and one man who tried to 'take liberties' found himself suddenly kissing the ground instead of me.” Jailyn stuck her chin up. “My older brother taught me how to protect myself, thank you.”

Jory looked up from the Nourin letter he'd unfolded and spread across the table. “You two sound like squabbling children. Save it for the sparring practices.” He turned the paper around to them. “Look that over. I want to know what you see. If you tell me 'brown ink on white paper with an Aldamar seal', I'll make you run 500 laps around the inn after dinner. Truth isn't that obvious all the time.”

The two pored over the document until Mykos and his wife brought 4 plates of sizzling steak, roasted white yams, and steamed greens.

“Ah, my favorite,” Jory beamed, digging into his dinner. “Now tell me what you two found.”

Mykos sat down next to Jory and ate quickly.

Jailyn said, “There's a watermark in the paper, but it's not Aldamar's. It looks like a Fest'ari mark.”

Tirius added, “The seal isn't authentic. There's a tiny burr on ours that creates what looks like a natural crack in the wax near the bottom of the image. Also, the ink isn't the same shade of brown. It's very close, but it's not the same.”

“Let me take a look. I want you to write out a few paragraphs on what you did the last couple days for me, too.” the innkeeper said, setting aside his dinner. Tirius handed the letter to him and took paper and pen from the innkeeper. Mykos turned the document over and back, held it up to the light, inspected the seal with a small magnifying glass, and then held the paper to his nose and inhaled deeply. He tipped his head in thought and sniffed again. He brushed a finger over one of the words and then put it to his mouth, tasting it. He wrinkled his nose. “Ick. Tastes like vinegar. Now, let me take a look at what you wrote there, young man.” He used the magnifier on both samples of writing, looking back and forth between each before finally setting everything down, satisfied. “Well, that certainly decides it.”

“So it's a Fest'ari forgery, then?” Tirius said.

Mykos shook his head as he handed the document back to Jory. “No. It's not a Fest'ari forgery.”

Tirius' eyes widened. “What? There's no way that can be authentic! No Aldamar would do this!”

Mykos pulled his plate back over. “I didn't say it was authentic. I said it wasn't a Fest'ari forgery.” He took a bite of his steak, closing his eyes and sighing in pleasure. “Oh, I'm in heaven. My wife, Hanneh, knows how to cook that just perfectly.”

“If the Fest'ari didn't forge it, who did?” Jory asked.

The innkeeper swallowed. “It looks like Dy'udh work.”

“I knew it!” Tirius narrowed his eyes, face flushing red..

Jory waved a calming hand “Let Mykos finish what he has to say before you go fly off to attack their Queen, please. Our job is to find the Princess, not fuel a war that's been festering for decades.”

Tirius nodded once, jaw muscles still tight.

“Someone had to have access to your writing to copy it as well as they did, Tirius,” Mykos said.

“That's not too hard, with the letters I send to my family. We do a fair amount of writing to each other for business as well as family news.”

“It's easy enough to intercept those anywhere on the route from the fort to the castle. The paper on its own is a good forgery. The watermark had me fooled for a moment there—it's a very well done copy of the Fest'ari watermark. It's the same shade and weight as Fest'ari paper. What the paper maker doesn't know is that the Fest'ari don't add nican to their pulp mix when they make their paper, and nican has a fruity scent. Smell it.”

Jory sniffed it and passed the paper over to Jailyn and Tirius.

“It smells vaguely like lemons,” she agreed.

Mykos nodded. “The Dy'udhs use nican in their paper, but no one else does. The seal is a nice fake—probably copied from many diplomatic letters over the years, but it's missing that tiny flaw in the metal that creates the pseudo-crack. The ink isn't from Fest'arin umber. That pigment is found in just one place in the world, and that's deep in Fest'ari lands in the Fa'tanta mountains. The ink used here is a mix of purple and yellow inks to look brown, with a bit of dirt thrown in to make it thicker, like Fest'ari ink. The yellow ink is made with saffron, and it's quite acidic. Umber tastes like cinnamon.”

“No one can use saffron ink except Dy'udh royalty, though,” Tirius frowned.

“Well that narrows it from the entire Dy'udh country down to about 15. That makes our job a little easier. Unfortunately, it just happens to be the 15 most powerful people in that region, with an entire army at their disposal, no less,” Jory said.

“The Princess could be anywhere in Dy'udh,” Jailyn sighed.

Mykos shook his head. “She's not in Dy'udh territory.”

“They don't want to risk their plot being discovered," Jory agreed. "I'm sure she's holed up in Fest'arin lands. Hopefully she hasn't been killed by them yet.”

“They won't kill her,” Jailyn said. Jory cocked an eyebrow, then waved for her to explain. “They need us to see her get killed, or they need to kill us and rescue her themselves in order to have proof that she was in Fest'ari. They need some bodies for evidence—fresh ones.”

“Hmm, it also means there's likely to be a contingent of Dy'udh troops around Ac'tin,” Tirius mused.

Jory nodded his head in agreement with the two other fighters. “A trap within a trap—very sneaky.”

“It's just the kind of thing you'd do, Jory,” Mykos chuckled.

“I know—I might fall in love with Nourin if she's the one who cooked up this plan,” Jory grinned.

Mykos rolled his eyes. “Oh, God save us all from that witch.” He traced a quick triangle on his forehead.

Jailyn cocked an amused eyebrow at Jory, while Tirius shot him a foul look.

“I'm joking, Tirius. I'm not in the habit of dating snakes,” said Jory. “Our plan is simple. Sneak into Ac'tin, warn the other Elani of the trap, find the Princess, and get out of there.”

“We'll have to find some maps of the area to plan a proper attack,” Jailyn said.

“I believe I have what you'll need, if you'd like,” said Mykos.

“'Like'? Of course we'd 'like',” Jolee snorted. “That's as bad as saying 'I have radabeast steaks if you'd like.”

Mykos laughed as left the room to retrieve the maps for the dragon fighters.

The sound of glass shattering and chairs crashing to the ground in the main room brought all three to their feet. Screams erupted from the bar. The three Elani unsheathed their swords.

“Jailyn, follow me,” Jory ordered. “Tirius, pull the door open just enough for us to get through. I'll take point and you follow Jailyn. Watch our backsides. Jailyn, stay with me. The timing on this is a little too convenient for a simple bar fight.”

Tirius took hold of the door knob as Jory raised his sword in front of him. Jory nodded, and he pulled open the heavy wood door.


From MST3K's spoof of "Hercules Unchained"--heard as Roman medic soldiers carry off an unconscious Greek Hercules on a 1950's Army green canvas stretcher: "Hi, we're IX-I-I. Did somebody dial IX-I-I?"

Read The Adventures of Jolee Bindo and see the amazing Peep Surgery
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Last edited by Jae Onasi; 03-07-2009 at 06:48 PM.
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Old 05-07-2009, 12:35 PM   #14
Jae Onasi
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Well, it only took me, what, 2 months to get the next chapter done.... However, I wrote a short story (which, due to content, I can't post on LF), 7 or 8 poems and worked on this, along with various exercises for my creative writing class, so in the last two months I've created or revised something like 200 pages of material. Whew.

This version will likely be revised, so if it sounds a bit rough, please forgive me, but I wanted you to enjoy anyway without further ado.

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Chapter 5

Jory slipped silently down the hall with a fluid grace attained from years of practice. Jailyn followed his footsteps, stepping as quietly as she could. They edged up to the entrance of the main room. Shrieks pierced the din of the cracking wood of breaking chairs and battle-cries. Metal weapons clanged, ringing across the large room. Jory's eyes swept the room. Four Fest'ari fighters in heavy leather armor and the gray fur mantles swung curved swords at scattering patrons. One of the men picked up daggers and stabbed at an invader. He was cut down with a single ruthless hack. A long-gowned woman tripped, and a muscled warrior plunged his blade through her back. Blood sprayed up in a death-fountain. He turned and slashed at a buxom server. She dodged, screaming as she ran.

Jory pointed at the largest of the four men, one with a scar running across his eye, signaling who to attack first. Then he signaled them forward, taking the middle position. They moved quickly into the room, stepping over the dead and broken chairs.

The man with the scar saw the three Elani and called out to his squad mates. One of them pushed the woman he had by the hair roughly. She fell and slid across the floor into the wall, groaning as she slammed into it. The other two Fest'ari let go of the people they held in death grips. The victims ran for the door. The man with the scar swung his blade around and grinned. He charged at Jory. Jory's sword wove a deadly pattern through the air. The Fest'ari leader stepped back several times, dodging. He howled as he brought his sword up, thick biceps bulging as he drove the blade down towards the head of the wiry older Elani. Jory saw the split-second commitment to action in the subtle ripples of his opponent's shoulders. He jumped to the side as the sword cleaved the air a fraction of an inch from his head. Jory brought his blade around, slicing the man through his middle. The man's one good eye widened. He looked down at his insides spilling out, grunted his last breath, and collapsed.

Jailyn brought her sword up and set her feet in the battle stance her brother taught her.

Balance, Jailyn, balance. Take hold of my kae now. We fight as One.

She reached out for Talithra's kae. The magic infused her, and she shook her head a moment at the sudden double vision, seeing the room through her eyes and her dragon's perceptions. She took a deep breath to steady the whirling feeling. She saw not just the fighter, but every tiny movement and muscle twitch. She could hear his heartbeat, the growl of hunger in his gut, the crackle of cartilage in his bad left knee. She felt the air eddies from the people moving, the open door, the broken windows. The smells were a mix of reeking battle stench and burnt bread forgotten in the oven in the heat of the fight, magnified a thousand times. She saw him bring his sword to bear, the movement of his arms, his shoulders, his eyes. She moved her sword just enough to parry, their blades clanging together. She slid her sword down the length of his. Her hilt locked against his weapon. She twisted it around, then pulled up sharply. It flew out of his hands. She raised her sword high and drove it down, splitting his head. Blood and fragments of skull exploded.

Jailyn whirled around to find the other dangers. Jory and Tirius fought against the other two brutes, swords flashing bright arcs in the air. She ran behind the fighter attacking Tirius. He turned as she sliced sideways through his gut. His hand went to the deep wound. Bright red blood poured around his hand and through his fingers. He raised his curved weapon as he looked at her, hatred seething in his eyes. He slashed at her side, then abruptly brought his sword up. Jailyn jumped back, arching away from the deadly steel. The sharp tip cut through her vanbrace and into her forearm. She jerked her hand back, then slammed her sword into his chest. He crumpled to the floor. The death pallor spread across his face.

She scanned the room, danger still making her hair raise on the back of her neck. Tirius and Jory were battling the last fighter. The enemy tried to back away. Tirius swung at his head. The fighter lifted his blade to parry. Jory snapped his blade around, slicing into the man's chest. He dropped to the ground. Jory bent down, pressing his fingers against the man's neck to feel for a pulse, then nodded satisfaction.

She relaxed and blew a breath out as her sense of danger drained away. The pain in her arm throbbed for attention. Jailyn turned her arm over. The broken vanbrace hung in pieces, and the gash bled freely. She set her sword down within easy reach and covered the wound with her other hand. She looked around for something to cover it.

You're hurt, Talithra said, worry coloring their telepathic link.

Not bad. It might need some stitches.

A moment later, Jory and Tirius looked over at her as one. Tirius bounded across the room in three long strides and grabbed her arm. “Patrinthra said you're injured.”

“I'm fine, Tirius,” she said. “Dragons are terrible gossips, you know.” She smiled weakly.

Jory joined them as Tirius gently removed the shredded remains of the armor. Both studied the gash with practiced eyes.

“It'll take you all night to bleed to death,” Jory grunted. He looked her up and down as she chuckled. “You weren't hurt anywhere else?”

“No, just that gash. I should have seen the feint coming.”

Tirius frowned. “I noticed. Your technique needs work if you want to stay alive.”

Jory waggled a finger at him. “Criticize later, Tirius, when none of us are still riding our battle anger. Get that wound dressed so that the two of you can help me work with the wounded.” He pulled first aid supplies from a small pouch on his belt and handed them to Tirius.

Mykos stumbled from behind the bar, holding his unconscious wife in his arms. Her arm hung limply and her head lolled. His face was ashen, and worry lines creased deeply into his face. “Jory,” he croaked.

The Elani ran to his friends and quickly assessed Hanneh. He took her gently out of Mykos' arms. “I'll fly her to the healer, my friend. We'll do what we can. Tirius, Jailyn—stay here and help Mykos and the injured. I'll be back in a couple hours.” He moved swiftly to the door, Mykos following to help them mount his dragon. Jailyn watched the gleaming purple dragon lift off with the two on his back.

Tirius cleared his throat. “I'm, well...I should have...um,” His eyes were locked on the wound he cleaned and bandaged.

“Should have what?” She tipped her head, trying to catch his eye.

He made the final tie in the dressing before he looked at her. “I'm sorry if I was hard on you. It wasn't very fair, after you cut down the one soldier who had me in his sights, and did it so skillfully. I just don't want the Elani to lose any other good people.”

“You were right, though.” She looked down at the floor and rubbed at an imaginary spot with her boot. “If I'm ever going to be as good as my brother, I have a lot to learn if I ever want to be more than an initiate.”

“Jailyn, look at me.” He waited until her eyes met his. A small smile lifted the corners of his lips, softening the sharp edges into firm, handsome features. “You're every bit as good as he is, and the way Talithra and you used your kae in the fight was better than Daerved could, and I considered him an excellent fighter. You have better instincts with your kae than he could ever have. It'll take time to polish the rough edges, but I think you'll be a great Elani.” His hand gently squeezed hers.

Both of them looked down at their joined hands. They abruptly separated, as if their hands had suddenly caught fire. A red flush spread across both fighters' cheeks.

“I think we should check on the wounded,” Jailyn said.

Tirius nodded vigorous agreement. “I think you're right.”

They had rounded the room, triaging the worst of the injured, when both dragons howled. Jailyn clapped her hands to her ears, but the sound pierced through her head.

“Jory's in trouble!” Jailyn yelled out to Tirius, as she ran to the the door.

He followed on her footsteps out the door, then passed her as he sprinted to his dragon. Both fighters mounted and strapped themselves into the riding gear as the two dragons sprang up and snapped their wings for the liftoff.

It took only a few minutes to reach the old Elani and the four creatures that were attacking Nayanthra, boxing them as if the dragon were in the center of a pyramid. He was flanked if he flew up, down, or straight. The creatures had leathery black wings and small arms with long, sharp talons at the end of their three-fingered hands. Long teeth jutted from their long snouts that angled up to glittering black eyes. Their pointed ears were bent back in the wind, and their long tails whipped the air behind them. The violet dragon dove up and down, dodging the streams of bile-green fluid they spat at them. Jory clutched Hanneh tightly in his arms even though she was strapped to him to keep her from falling off.

Patrinthra said we need to break their formation. We are to attack the eastern-most creature. Tirius will attack the top one, Talithra said.

Acknowledged, Jailyn said.

Tirius held his forearm up in a ready signal as they approached, and then pointed forward to signal for them to attack.

Talithra dove for their enemy as it spewed another stream of the vile fluid at Nayanthra and Jory. The green liquid hit the edge of Nayanthra's wing. He howled in pain and spun to breathe a cone of purple haze. The black beast flapped its wings and flew up as the haze skimmed under its belly.

Jailyn felt a low rumbling in Talithra's chest. The vibration shook her as it built in strength. The creature dodges up, Talithra. Attack just above him.

It will not dodge much longer, Talithra growled. She took a deep breath, then roared out a blast of pure white light. Jailyn felt the pull on her kae as Talithra drew energy from her as well.

The inky dark monstrosity flew up again as it saw Talithra exhale, straight into the light energy. It screamed as pure white streaked all around it like bright lightning, then imploded as if the light crushed the dark creature. A clap of thunder exploded out from it as it disappeared into nothingness. The concussion shook both of them and knocked the breath out of Jailyn. She pressed a hand against her chest and forced herself to inhale.

What just happened, Talithra?

I don't know. This has never happened before. They always explode into fire.

We need to take out the others. You have enough energy?

More than enough, especially when I link to you.


Nayanthra is attacking the western enemy and Patrinthra has taken the top one. We take the northern one.

Talithra's chest rumbled as her energy built up again, pulling on Jailyn's kae again. Jailyn braced herself for the concussion. Pure white exploded from her. The black creature howled as the bright light snaked around it. It disappeared into nothingness, and thunder blasted around them.


The white dragon wheeled around to attack one of the other two enemies. Jailyn saw one of them splayed on the ground dead, wings iced over. Tirius' blue dragon joined Jory's violet one to kill the final foe.

Hold, Talithra—Patrinthra's already taken out his enemy and he's helping Nayanthra now. Hanneh can't take the concussion.

Agreed
, Talithra said, disappointed.

Patrinthra exhaled a glassy stream of liquid that expanded into glittering sheets of ice. The beast ducked under it, right into purple waves that Nayanthra had expelled. The creature's muscles went slack. Its wings fluttered uselessly and its head lolled as it plummeted to the ground.

We fly together to the healer then fly back here to investigate, Talithra relayed to Jailyn.

Jailyn scanned the ground and air for more of the black creatures before and after delivering the unconscious woman to the infirmary for the healers to care for her.

The three fighters slid down the sides of their dragons to examine the dead enemies.

“Tell me what happened, Jailyn,” Jory said as he bent down to lift a wing and then looked over its sharp-toothed snout.

“I'm not sure. Talithra drew on my kae so we'd have longer range with our attack. She breathed her attack, and the creatures imploded. They just disappeared in the thunder.”

Tirius' eyes widened. “You're sure that's how it happened?”

“Yes. I don't know what happened to them after that. Is that unusual?”

Jory grunted as he stood up. “It's almost unheard of. I only saw that happen when I was a young buck and Jamie rode the mother of Talithra, who was also a white dragon. She attacked a thisnauer just like this one here. It disappeared the same way. The Elan'or thought it was from the mixing of the positive light energy that white dragons create and the black energy that all thisnauers wield.”

“What's a thisnauer?” Jailyn asked.

“It's an evil creature—one of the underworld servants. These must have been how the Fest'ari at the inn traveled. Nayanthra said they had no horses.”

Jailyn blanched. “Who would be calling evil forth from the underworld?”

“I don't know, but we need to find out before there are so many called here that we can't stop them,” Jory said.


From MST3K's spoof of "Hercules Unchained"--heard as Roman medic soldiers carry off an unconscious Greek Hercules on a 1950's Army green canvas stretcher: "Hi, we're IX-I-I. Did somebody dial IX-I-I?"

Read The Adventures of Jolee Bindo and see the amazing Peep Surgery
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