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arashkan şehri dungeons and dragons groups modül savaş serenity The Great Arashkan the plot thickens Whispers; A Cabal

“Mother, why?”

“Mother, why?”

Timeline:

It is the lost hours of the night and three figures slink silently among the devastated remains of the once glorious city of Arashkan, deep in the dirty-gray snow.

Young Udoorin Shieldheart, the beautiful Princess Alor’Nadien ne Feymist, and her regal cousin, High Lady Angrellen Sunsear ghost through the dead streets of the city, heading in a particular location; the old hideout of the Thieves Guild in search of a curse..

There are Orken warriors, scouts, hunters, and raiders everywhere, roaming the streets in platoons, seeking possible survivors. It is possible, there are more dangerous places in the world. From a ‘versus’ point of view, however, it is unlikely this place, at this moment, will fall short of the Citadel of Gullem the Damned!

 

Fate, it would seem, indeed has its own plans..

And an odd, dry sense of humor.

One might even call it ‘backhanded’..

 

For at this very moment, two Sunsear’s roam the carnage of this dead city; Mother and daughter, each working for quite opposite ends.

 

This story takes place on the evening of
The Malediction of ‘Rellen.. (Part 3/3)
“Three Dog Curse..”

and shortly after
We Are Not Your Dogs
We Are Not Your Servants
We Are Your Masters!

 

 

Here..”, said the large man as quietly as he could, though it mattered little. His ‘quiet’ was like a rumble at best, as he handed a not-so-clean, heavy fur cloak to the slim girl ghosting behind him. “..put this on, if you will, please.”

The slim girl, Princess Alor’Nadien ne stared at the filthy fur cloak questioningly.

“To cover your scent.”, Udoorin Shieldheart rumbled again.

Lorna Feymist arched her eyebrows in amusement.

“Do I smell, Sir Udoorin?”, she asked, the signs of mirth playing around her small, cherry-red mouth.

“I..”, stumbled the young man.

“I sense a nostalgic ‘Deja Vu, here.”, she smiled at him.

“You smell beautiful, my lady..”, he said with a flushed face, recalling his first, not conversation, per se, but interaction with the pretty princess, many months ago, in the depths of the ruins of Themalsar. “..which is the problem.”

“Do dig your own grave, young Udoorin.”, smirked High Lady Angrellen from somewhere in the darkness. “I have heard tell of how you destroyed our princess here, with a similar remark.”

“Please, Auntie H. I haven’t gotten over that particular blunder, yet. Princess Lorna smells wonderful. And anyone who gainsays that will do so only once. But the Orken have a keen sense of smell, unlike the dogs they are. Should they pick up her scent, there will be no getting rid of them.”, he tried to explain.

“Ahhh..”, said Angrellen with comprehension. “Though, for future reference, you should work on giving your reasons early on, preferably before telling us what to do —to fend off misunderstandings, yes?”

“Duly noted.”, Udoorin replied honestly. “Look. I am not good at.. interacting with ladies. I can’t claim any knowledge, nor experience in that area. A bit of understanding my way would be greatly appreciated.”

“Not good at interacting with ladies? I couldn’t disagree with a single sentiment more. You have garnered the affection, and the life-long bond of the heart of High Woods, young man. Suffice to say, ‘Not good with ladies’, is quite the understatement.”, she said with her own, stinging amusement.

 

Udoorin blushed.

So did the princess.

 

“So, where is my fur cloak, then? Or do I not smell wonderful, too?”, continued the high lady, causing the young man to squirm.

“I.. wouldn’t know, ma’am. You.. will have to find someone else to confirm that!”, Udoorin said with a cough.

“Cousin.”, said Lorna reprovingly, but with a small, quiet laugh. “Why don’t you take mine. I am sure we can find another from a dead Orken, as uncouth as that sounds.”

“No, no.. Young Udoorin here has selected that one specifically for you. We wouldn’t want to find any personal notes in it somewhere. That would really make us all blush, now, wouldn’t it?”, Angrellen teased in a tone, not at all like her usual self.

“I would not put any such notes that would embarrass Lady Lorna’s nor her reputation”, Udoorin said indignantly.

“Ow?”, asked Lorna a bit.. disappointed?

“I would tell it to her.”, mumbled the young man with a horribly failed straight face.

“Ow..”, Lorna said, with a failed straight face of her own.

 

Anglenna sighed in despair, turned around..

 

..and a sleety, frigid ray of frost stabbed out of her forefinger and something grunted in the dark. The high lady did not wait for a reaction. She sent a second beam..

..followed by a third, and a fourth!

And a large Orken stumbled out of the night and fell, face down, into the dirty-gray, slushy snow, with a burning-cold hole pierced right through its heart, its stomach, its forehead, and in one of its lungs..

 

Lorna dashed past her cousin and in black, swirling smoke, a glaive, nearly three yards long and ending in a thirty-inch blade with burning greenish chemical fire appeared in her hands, just as Udoorin rammed into another Orken and hacked it with his two, great battle-axes with unsuppressed fury.

 

“It would seem, the idea of covering our scents was a good one..”, said Angrellen as she sent a fist-sized bolt of fire flying right over Lorna’s shoulder and struck the Orken trying to come at the princess from her side. “..albeit a tad too late. The dogs are upon us.”

“Sir Udoorin..”, hissed Lorna as she swung her brutal glaive and struck the great Orken facing her, splitting it from groin to hairline, spun around as she ducked under the swing of the Orken that was trying to flank her, and jabbed it, belly first, then pushed the butt end of deadly glaive’s enchanted blade up and through its throat as it stumbled back. “..we had better finish this batch with haste. We lack the time to entertain ourselves with such frivolities.”

“Agreed.”, growled the huge young man, struck one Orken on its shoulder with one of his axes, opening a horrible, diagonal gash, as he head-butted the next, and brought down his other axe when it dropped on the ground. The creature had a bare moment to scream before it fell silent.

By the time they were done, Udoorin was holding Lorna’s hand and rushing down a long, dark alley, followed closely by Angrellen.

 

“I think we lost them.”, said Udoorin as he breathed harshly. It didn’t matter how strong you were. If you were not born in the wild Northern Tundras, running in full armor and through icy snow wore you down. Then he looked down at the slim girl, who was nursing her hand and wrist. “I am sorry if I was a bit abrupt with your person, Lady Lorna. We just had to get out of there and fast, before more of them arrived.”

“It is alright Dorin. It only hurt a little and only because I was taken by surprise when you grabbed my hand and started running.

“..and nearly dislocated her shoulder.”, added Anglenna with a clearly disapproving tone. “You are aware that the princess can run faster than you, right? Considering she is wearing lighter armor than you are, and because she is a feymist..”

“Uhhmm.. Yes.. She’s better than me in everything she does.. But I like to hold her hand when we run. We can’t get separated that way and it makes me feel she is safer that way. It’s a guy thing!”, said Udoorin a bit flustered.

“A guy thing? Young man, you can’t do your guy things around a princess. And you really should be a bit more gentle with her. The fact that you and she are now bonded and plan a life together, should not diminish that capacity in you, but enhance it, hmm?”

“It really is alright, cousin.”, Lorna tried to object.

“No, dear. It is not. Our young man here is strong. Neither of us has any doubts about that. But uncontrolled strength is harmful.. to your wrists if not to your dignity. One day this war will end, hopefully in our favor. We will then return to High Woods, replant our trees, and rebuild Bari Na-ammen. And young Udoorin here will be sitting next to you in his own throne as Ri.. or King.. I would hazard a guess, it would be rather disgraceful of him, if not awkward, should he manhandle you in public the way he just did, don’t you think?”

“The war is long from over, Anglenna.”, Lorna said quietly. “And we can think of such tender details when their appointed time arrives.”

“No, dear.”, repeated Angrellen and not unlike a harsh matron, who was dismantling a particularly pigheaded and foolish child. Or perhaps, quite like her own mother had done to her, when she, herself, had been particularly dimwitted. “Somethings must be put to practice as early as possible, hence they take hold and such embarrassing accidents are avoided because they never occur. You know what my mother thinks of humans, dear. You certainly know what your father felt about them despite his wife —your mother, and we both know their view was not all that uncommon among the elves of High Woods. Do not give your people any excuse to let your future husband and king besmirch himself, and you, by proxy.”

 

There was a moment of awkward silence.

 

“Auntie H. is right.”, came Udoorin’s voice from the darkness. “Personally, I do not care what anybody but you would think of me, one way or the other. But since you have your mind all set on making me a Ri.. or a king.. certain protocols must be observed, for your benefit, if nothing else. Like I said. I do not care what anybody thinks of me, other than you, but I will not have you accused of having a stupid Mox for husband, either.”

 

Angrellen stared at the large young man who favored big, brutal axes over longswords and rapiers, and whom she would have kindly described using words like ‘lump’, ‘oaf’, or even ‘boorish’.

Lorna also stared at him, but with elation.

 

“I could handle a bit of rough.”, she said with a small voice.

Udoorin coughed.

“In private, perhaps. And only if you want to. But you shouldn’t have to handle any ‘rough’ in public. You are what you are, love. And you shouldn’t be less than that to make me appear more. I should raise above, and make you more. When your people look at us, they should say, ‘They go well together and complete one another..'”

“Well.”, said Angrellen, with a voice that sounded surprised and a bit perplexed. “Very good, young man. It is decent of you to see what is right and proper for our princess and act accordingly.”

 

Young Udoorin grinned.

 

“But of course, Auntie H.. Henceforth, I shall grab the princess by the waist and carry her off whole! Less chance of wrist injuries that way.”

✱ ✱ ✱

The three stood still and silent as another platoon of heavily armed Orken trampled by. For the past near-six hours, they had made their way from High Spires to what was left of the Lights Temple where they had witnessed hundreds upon hundreds of civilians —men, women, and children— guards, priests, and temple guardians slaughtered and stacked into horrible and ghastly heaps. They had given a wide berth to the shattered and broken First Lord’s Palace where it seemed, some people had remained and were still willing to fight to the inevitable end. Though very much burned down and still smoking, they had traveled through Heaven Park, ran, snuck and cut their way past the totally destroyed Officers District, scathed through the looted Merchants District, and had just dashed past the collapsed Alls Temple where a very large boulder, possibly from an Orken mangonel had landed.

They had ended up backtracking their steps many times to find negotiable paths due to collapsed or still burning walls, homes, and towers, or because there were just too many of the savage Orken troops blocking their way.

The comparison to the many times they had wandered around in this city during their earlier stay as opposed to now was heartbreaking. For Udoorin, the besieging, and consequently, the capturing of a city was understandable and there was bound to be extensive damage to the city walls and some damage to the structures near the city walls due to stray catapult boulders. No one really blamed a catapult operator for being overtly accurate, after all, and when one spoke of mangonels, the word accuracy sort of became moot, as a boulder fired from a house-sized contraption not only crushed its mark but also leveled the block as well, which, by definition, was what ‘collateral damage’ pretty much meant.

This city, however, hadn’t been besieged. Not with the intention of subduing it for political, economical, or even some malignant ideological reasons, nor had there been any punitive intent behind it..

At all..

 

It had been utterly destroyed.

And with her people.

 

There were indeed no political, economical, and/or ideological reasons —or excuses— behind this destruction. The populace here had never discriminated, suppressed, or exploited the Orken, nor had they, in any way, tried to assimilate them —seeing as their whole existence had hardly even been known to the general populace, and those that did know about them were an extremely small and specific percentage of the said populace.

 

The Orken had come.

And the Orken had taken..

..the LAND!

 

Yes.

They had taken the land.

Not Arashkan, not High Woods, nor Bari Na-ammen.

Just the land.

The fact that over a million lives were already living there, and that they had families, homes, and fields had not even been of a moment’s shrug for the Orken.

 

The Orken had merely cleared the weeds..

..to phrase it in the most brutally inhumane and crude way!

 

Udoorin’s face turned black at the comprehension of that sinister attitude. And yes. That is exactly what it was. A purely sinister attitude.

Historically speaking, people with low self-esteem did have a tendency to claim a certain superiority in their existence by arrogantly attaching ideologies that always seemed to involve some form of divine favor on their part that, interestingly, never entailed honest, hard work, and then went ahead and tried to justify the whole debacle by way of buffing it further with some form of convoluted philosophies.

However the whole thing was laid out or phrased in a politically correct manner, and at the end of the day, it was a farce; a matter of not high ideals, but a matter of low self-esteems and attitude disorders.

 

The nuanced difference here was, although the Orken did what they did, and with very bloody and nearly impartial savagery, they hadn’t done it to elevate any such petty existential reasons as ‘low self-esteems’ on their part.

They had done it all with a certain attitude, sure. Just not for low self-esteem.

Udoorin found it quite difficult to correctly describe the difference mainly because it was just too inhuman. Had it been humans who had done this atrocity, he could have easily called it cruel and ‘inhumane’, but that was it, wasn’t it? The Orken was not human in any way to find a common, relatable point.

Which was why, he surmised, they looked upon humans —along with elves, dwarves, gnomes, and other races— as weeds..

 

True, that young Udoorin himself had entertained every encounter he faced with loosely controlled fury. And also true that he did have a tendency to cut down his opponents to quite a number of unnecessary pieces. But he never went as far as mindlessly chopping any and everyone down to indiscernible parts with such indiscriminate savagery.

For Udoorin, the defining line was clear; if anyone, or anything, came at him or his friends with drawn weapons, claws, or started shooting arrows, bolts, spells, and/or any other bodily or non-bodily parts, or they just needed to be stopped from causing harm to others, namely civilians, he butchered them..

..down to indiscernible parts.

And for the young man, that was quite a philosophical distinction; there was, after all, and obviously, a conflict of interest there, as he strongly believed that he was protecting humanity, and not limited to said race, per se, and that he also represented the law, as loosely as that actually was true.

Hence;

“Let said blades, claws, or great axes, in his case, decide!”

 

For the Orken, however, none of such distinctions or definitions existed. They came, they swept the lands of its occupants by way of total and brutal economy and moved on!

Young Udoorin remembered their first true encounter, or rather, their first time being at the recipient end of an ambush by the Orken several months ago somewhere in Two Day Woods. He recalled what the last remaining Orken had said —spat, really— even though he’d been captured, disarmed, and bound by a spell Maser Gnine had cast. He had shown absolutely no fear whatsoever, but rabidly frothed at the mouth as he had cast his spiteful madness at them with pure, unadulterated hatred;

 

I shall rip out your arms, and shall I watch the face of your pain. Whilst I see, you have thus suffered enough, shall I tear off your legs and gnaw upon them even as you watch. And unto the day I have broken your will and your spirit, thus shall I cut the flesh off your bones! When you have witnessed how thoroughly we have risen above you and yours, shall I know, you are now truly broken. Then, and only then, shall I burn what remains of you, alive, and shall I allow you to die!

 

And he also remembered, subsequently, how the otherworldly girl, Merisoul Xyrotwu, had stabbed the creature where it lay on the ground with cold and deliberate precision, right through its heart, and very, very slowly.. as she’d explained, in succinct detail, just how these creatures, the Orken, perceived the world; not in black and white, but ONLY IN BLACK!

 

Their black!

 

Udoorin scowled and tried not to show any of his findings on his face. The ladies were troubled enough as they were. Also, the finer points of it all were sort of moot at the moment anyway and the night was almost over. Either they would need to find a very secluded place to hide come dawn, which seemed unlikely, or they really needed to get to the old Thieves Guild’s entrance before said dawn.

Udoorin had never been much of a tracker, nor a pathfinder as he’d never had any such training. He had, however, visited many of the inns in the past months, while he had gone incognito, a bit on Aager’s ‘polite’ orders, trying to learn the whereabouts of the infamous rebellion, Gar Thalot. In the end, they had found the half-orc insurgent.. and played right into his bloody hands..

Pushing Gar Thalot aside, the young man did recognize the area even though it had been leveled downed and into the ground; they were very close to the inn they had stayed in, at The Rundown!

And the area was crawling with Orken..

..or rather trampling.. or even stampeding!

And in the dark, where he and the two ladies stood, silent and still, he rumbled to himself.

“Perhaps Gar Thalot need not be pushed aside..”

“Hmmm?”, asked Lorna whispered from right behind him.

“Gar Thalot.”, Udoorin whispered back. “Just saw him sulking off into that big tent where there is a lot of Orken.”

Both the princess and Anglenna looked at one another with grim, one-thousand-yard stares.

“Bad idea, love.”, inserted Udoorin hastily, showing unexpected wisdom, quite above his usual self. “I would like to hack at him with an axe or three myself, but I do not think it is practical, nor feasible. Not at the moment anyway.”

“If we can kill that murdering bastard..”, hissed Anglenna with vehement heat. “..we could avenge a whole city of people.”

“I very much agree with my cousin.”, added Lorna, her green eyes burning with an uncanny fire of her own.

“Or we could get butchered and neither avenge anyone nor be able to do what we came here to do.”, said Udoorin carefully.

“I think we should ambush him the moment he comes out of the tent.”, said Anglenna, her long, elegant fingers fidgeting with the urge to set something ablaze

“Sir Udoorin could charge him while I could feymist right behind him and skewer him like a stuck pig and cousin Anglenna can burn him where he stands, quite unmoving!”, hissed Lorna, as she summoned her great hexblade!

“Uhhhmm..”, the young man said somewhat taken aback by the vehemence of the two ladies.

“Yes.”, agreed, Anglenna looking eagerly at Lorna. “If you drop everything you got on him—”

“—I can. I am not one hundred percent at the moment but what I do have should suffice.”, said Lorna eagerly.

“Ladies..”, Udoorin said weakly as he scratched his head.

“Once you do skewer him, I can immolate the pig.”

“Nice.. While he burns, I can also curse him. He will be much more susceptible to attacks then!”

“If he still manages to live through that, I could always banish him. When he returns, we can rinse-repeat!”

“I can’t believe this!”, said Udoorin in a slightly freaked tone. “I, of all people, am calling both the ladies here to see reason! Really, now. There is no way we can catch him unawares and bring him down in time before anyone else notices us or he calls for backup. Girls, please!”

“I am slightly put out with you, young man.”, Anglenna said with pursed lips and frowned at him, slightly disappointed.

“As am I, dear Dorin. I would have thought you would shown a bit more brevity on your part.”, Lorna said, clearly heartbroken.

 

Udoorin’s face went red.

 

“That.. was very much uncalled for, Lorna. When have you ever seen the lack of courage or brevity on my part?”, he fumed angrily. “We are here to make sure this city becomes uninhabitable by the Orken, not to entertain ourselves by getting sidetracked. And you, Lady Anglenna, of all people, are supposed to be the voice of reason. I know you dislike being made a fool of, but Thalot did not deceive just you, he tricked everyone. Now. I am going to go and look for the entrance to the old Thieves Guild. I would much rather have the two of you come with me, and before dawn, which should happen in less than forty minutes by my estimation because I can’t get to, nor release that ‘Three Dog Curse’ without either of you. And we have yet to find the entrance!”

 

There was a moment of shameful silence as the two ladies stared at their own feet.

 

“I apologize, young man.”, Anglenna said after a while. “You are right and admirably task-oriented. We do have a job to do.”

With that, she turned around and silently started towards the alleged entrance to the old Thieves Guild.

“I have shamed myself by shaming you, my Rin. I will make up to you in whatever way I may.”, said Lorna softly and in a barely audible voice.

“Stay focused and stay alive, my Alor’Nadien ne. That is all I wish of you.”, said Udoorin.

Then, with an unexpected show of ‘brevity’, he reached down at the slim girl, and carefully bear-hugged her, and landed a kiss on her surprised, cherry-red mouth.

“And that..”, he said with a flushed face. “..was for questioning my courage!”

✱ ✱ ✱

You are not picking up your calls, daughter. You really shouldn’t ignore your mother..”, came the voice of High Lady Angrellen.

“I am not picking up your calls because you have shamed me, mother. You have shamed us all..”, fumed the high elf girl in silent wrath. “No. You have DAMNED us all, mother!”

“A fine, noblewoman such as yourself, does not get to talk to her mother like that, my daughter. Not after all the trouble, I went through in giving birth to you, raising you, and training you into becoming the strong woman that you are now..”, replied Angrellen with a slightly petulant tone.

“I am shunned and looked upon with spite, and a whole horde of people want me dead wherever I go at the best of times. You think you have given me a life to live for? No, mother. You have ruined everyone against me.”, Anglenna seethed.

“Don’t be naive, my daughter. You are a sorceress by birth because it was I, who chose the correct bloodline for you. You are what you are, because of my blood and because of the father I chose for you. I have made you independent and free of all yokes. You answer to no one, and that is my doing. You have an affinity to fire and that is because of my contacts and my contracts to the Lords of Hell. You blaze like the sun when you bring down your wrath, and that wrath is also my doing. I gave you my own profound knowledge of the arcane arts and made sure you received the best education Bari Na-ammen had to offer, and that too was my doing. You are barely a mature elf girl and look how far you have thus come. Tell me, my daughter, which of those were truly your own doing?”, the voice of Angrellen hissed in her daughter’s mind.

 

A long pause ensued after that, where Anglenna thought about a suitable answer.

Then it all came to her.

This was what her mother had done all her life.

She had made her feel like she owed everything she had done, every accomplishment and achievement she had attained to her. And she had made her feel like she was nothing, and would stay nothing had it not been for her.

 

Anglenna let go of her mother’s hook and line, for she woke up to the fact that she had made up her mind, and her choice and she was done with her mother and her machinations..

 

“Tell me, mother.”, she sent her thought quietly and calmly. “Did you kill my father?”

 

Apparently, this was not something the former high lady of Bari Na-ammen had expected to be confronted with.

 

“Let’s not go there, dear.”, replied Angrellen.

“We are there, mother. Did you kill my father?”, repeated Anglenna.

Angrellen sighed.

“Your father was a decent man, as men seldom are, my daughter. I think we should leave it at that, why don’t we?”

“No, mother. Let’s not leave it at that. Did you kill my father, or did you not?”

“You are not mature enough to face certain facts of life yet, dear girl. Suffice to say, he did his job giving me a progeny. Beyond that, he was quite useless, and would surely have become an obstacle for my plans..”, sniffed Angrellen.

“To which facts of life are you referring to, that I am not mature enough to face, mother? That you spent your last thousand years plotting and scheming against your own father, then against Alor’Nadien ne’s father —your King, and seeing as how you would refuse to answer a simple question and talk about him as an obstacle, I could safely assume you murdered my father as well because everyone knows what High Lady Angrellen does to things that get in her way.. You, mother, caused the ultimate ruination of High Woods and Bari Na-ammen, the sacred lands of the first high elves since Year One. You, mother, caused the destruction of our homes and our lives. You, mother, annihilated everything that which was sacred and holy and that mattered to us. You, mother, have forever damned the elf race with your selfish machinations. And thanks to you, mother, no one shall ever trust an elf ever again. We shall always be looked upon with mistrust and be forced to seclusion.. and die out alone in this world. You, mother, are a disgrace and an unholy traitor.”, Anglenna burned with hate.

“I would rather you did not talk to me in that tone, my daughter. Come far, you have, but you do not want me seeking you out and reminding you your manners.”, said her mother lightly, though she could not hide the ominous tone in her voice.

 

Angrellen was angry.

 

“No, mother. This is the only kind of manners you shall ever receive from me. You have destroyed and murdered everything I valued. From this day forth, my soul purpose shall be making sure the one person you wanted ‘gone’ the most, even more than Grandaleren, is alive, well, and happy. Should the day come and she faces you, I shall be there —between you and her!”

“Should that day come, you too shall die then, my daughter.”, Angrellen’s resigned voice came.

“Then it shall be a good death, for once I am dead, you truly will be alone, and in every sense possible, for whatever promises your demon lords gave, they shall not keep, because you are you and you will make a mistake that will bring their rebuke upon you..”, Anglenna said, trying very hard to stay calm but she couldn’t hide her own smoldering hate either.

 

Another pause ensued and for a moment, Anglenna thought her mother had cut the connection.

 

“This can all be fixed, you know?”, said Angrellen unexpectedly. “All you have to do is kill that pretty little creature for me.. You don’t even have to do it yourself. Accidents do happen, after all.”

“You are despicable, mother. That ‘pretty little creature’ saved my life knowing full well that it would end hers. That ‘pretty little creature’ has been the only person that has ever shown me honest and genuine affection, kindness, and friendship. People who would have killed me do not, because of that ‘pretty little creature’ demeaned herself and pleaded them not to.. I shall never betray her.”

“You misunderstand your relation with that half-elf mongrel, my daughter.”, Angrellen said. “The sheep serve. That is their sole purpose in life. And the lion does not owe to the sheep.”

“You are not a lion, mother.”, hissed her daughter.

“I beg to differ, my dear..”

“You, mother, are a jackal, and the last of the Sunsears shall die with you, for I have ceased to be a Sunsear. From this day forth, I shall be known as a Brightleaf, like my father before me.. You, and the line of Sunsears shall be abhorred wherever you go, but the line of Brightleaf shall be honored as the guardians of Rise Alor’Nadien ne Feymist and her line for as long as I live, and through me, for as long as my father’s line shall live..”

 

The silence that followed was vicious and Anglenna thought she heard her mother breathing harshly as if seething and couldn’t help but feel a certain, child-like elation. She would have given quite a bit to see her mother’s face just then, preferably from a far and safe distance.

 

“You really want me to come and find you, don’t you, dear?”, said Angrellen finally and it was very clear she was very, very angry now.

“Mother, why?”, asked Anglenna.

“To teach you some manners. Being away from the refined has apparently made you coarse. You really should be a bit pickier about the company you keep.”

“You misunderstand my question, mother.”, Anglenna said, reflecting her mother’s choice in words. “Why? Why have you done, what you have done? What was lacking in your life that you went thus far to destroy everything and everyone around you to achieve? You had a daughter who loved you. You had a husband who adored you. You had wealth and you had status par to Grandaleren.. What was it that was worth more than all of that?”

 

The high lady did not immediately give her answer. It seemed she weighed it against some possible weakness she might inadvertently reveal.

Then, as if giving an uncaring shrug, she spoke with calm and distant deliberation.

 

“Immortality.”

 

“Found it!”, came Udoorin’s rumbling voice from just ahead, and in the shallow, pre-dawn light.

 


 

 

dungeons and dragons groups modül savaş serenity the plot thickens Whispers; A Cabal

We Are Not Your Dogs.
We Are Not Your Servants.
We Are Your Masters!

We Are Not Your Dogs.
We Are Not Your Servants.
We Are Your Masters!

Timeline:

War comes as we speak.

The folk of Serenity Home, along with the refugees of the deceased Arashkan city and burned Bari Na-ammen work day and night, and desperately, through winter to prepare for what’s coming.

Where the enemy is, and what they are doing, however, remains a mystery..

 

..to those who do not know!

 

Rumour has it, a large chunk of it has..

 

..disappeared!

 

This story takes place sometime between
Promise To Be Stupid Together
and
Deep in Silence.

 

 

The man in the deep, dark, hooded robes stared at the smoking ruins around him with mild disinterest. There wasn’t a foot’s length of flat, clear space to be seen anywhere. Mass rubble; broken bricks, shattered tiles, splintered and charred wood, glass shards of thousands of broken windows, bent and deformed metal shafts, and upheaved cobblestones littered the ground —all that once used to be houses and homes or public buildings and temples, inns, schools, restaurants, merchant stalls and artisan workshops, hospitals, and mansions —the things that made a great city, turned it all into something that was now sad and indiscernible, making it impossible for a foot to find any flat and clear landing.

The man in his deep, dark hood, raised the guttering torch in his hand, but not to much effect. Even the torch seems unable to breathe at the ghastly sight that went in every direction.. It would have been, he surmised, quite better had the Orken not done such a mess as they had. The brutes, he thought, did nothing without leaving a bloody carnage behind them. And they were despairingly independent and lacked base discipline.

The hooded man also thought perhaps he should count his blessings that they had all moved in the same general direction and that Arashkan just happened to get in the way of their general direction!..

..And that it was night ..and winter ..where slushy, filthy-gray snow covered everything and the darkness hid what the snow couldn’t, and the air was still filled with choking smoke, hiding the sight of thousands of butchered, mutilated, seared and bloated corpses that lay everywhere, and smothered their scent of rotting meat!

Had this been a regular army, he surmised, the city would have been intact, more or less, and they would have had many, many more live and able prisoners put to work fixing the city walls and made some of the buildings habitable again..

But then, had this been a regular army, in all likeliness, the once-great Arashkan would still be here, standing..

..and defending.

 

The brutality of the Orken was something one just couldn’t dismiss.

When horded together in tens of thousands, it would seem, their brutality was bested only by their savagely..

 

The hooded man held his steps as another platoon of the beasts trampled past him in harsh grunts, holding tall glaring torches of their own in one hand, jagged-edged axes, frightfully curving arakhs or seemingly similar, but hooked khopeshs in the other..

..and without so much as a cursory glance in his direction.. nor anything that resembled any form of a military salute.

 

The man in his deep, dark, hooded robes felt.. casually dismissed..

 

He had no doubt they had recognized him. Those they did not, were all dead, after all..

Not that he cared, but the city, this city had fallen due to his planning, his foresight, his machinations, and his secret, behind-the-scene political maneuvering, hence, being deliberately and so impudently ignored.. not so much bothered, but irritated him.

“Savage brutes..”, he fumed.

“Yes. They are.”, said a cold, imperious feminine voice from somewhere down a dark side-alley. “It would seem your planning has a lot of glaring holes in it.”

The hooded man held his breath for a still second, then breathed.

“High Lady Angrellen Sunsear..”, he said with unveiled disdain..

..and in long, dark blue velvet dress embroidered at its fringes with silver threads of curving and swirling designs, came out the very tall high elf woman, her white-blond hair braided and done up and into an intricate bun, behind and on top of her long, somewhat delicate face. A face that spoke many words varying from hunger that had little to do with nurturing, to lust that had nothing to do with passion.

Perhaps, once, some very, very long time ago, this tall, beautiful, regal woman might have been pretty, in terms of a soul. That soul, however, was long gone. Only said hungers and lusts etched the face of the very beautiful woman now..

 

“..Or should I just call you Angrellen the Betrayer? That is what you are, after all, aren’t you?”

“No more than you are.”, replied High Lady Angrellen as she strode out of the alley. “Or should I call you—?”

“—You are damned as it is, woman. Should you name me, you shall be dead as well!”, cut in the man in the deep hooded robe.

 

High Lady Angrellen paused.

But not for long.

As an evil and infuriating smile stretched across her, otherwise coldly beautiful face.

 

“I do not fear you, mortal.”, she hissed at the man.

“And I care that you do or don’t?”, replied the man with a barely veiled sneer. “Perhaps, by having sold out your own, causing thousands upon thousands of your kin to die and being the architect of the ruination of Bari Na-ammen and High Woods has gained you some small favor in the eyes of my Master, and quite unrestrained airs, apparently.. Should I remind you, however, a betrayer is, and always be just that; a betrayer. Never trusted, never reliable, and always loathed.”

“I have gained my immortality. Hence your petty remarks are just that; petty!”, retorted the high lady viciously.

“No, girl. You have merely gained longevity, not immortality. You can and will still die.. The outcome of your damned soul is sealed.. Do not despair, though. Your long centuries to come will, I am sure, give you much time to contemplate on your long line of betrayals.. I was against the idea of letting you live, and I still believe you should be summarily beheaded and everything about you should be burned with scourging Hell-Fire. I detest harlots!”

“I would have a care to what you say if I were you.”, said High Lady Angrellen ominously. “You are not indispensable.”

“And neither are you. I am ready to face my Master’s wrath. Are you?”, replied the hooded man, and not so diffidently. “Oh wait, you don’t have a master. You, my dear girl, are an ephemeral and glorified tool!

“No, boy, we serve the same master!”, very nearly spat the high lady.

I serve.. and as His High Priest, I might add. You, on the other hand, serve only yourself.”, said the man calmly and in a matter-of-fact voice.

Angrellen tried for a shrug, but it was apparent she was much taken by the man’s disgust.

“I can serve me more, should you test my tolerance any further. The Master has many priests, high or otherwise. He has, but only one of me.”, she fumed.

“With nothing more than the Orken —beasts one could hardly do anything that requires surgical precision, I have managed to orchestrate the downfall of the greatest city in the Kingdom of Isles, and in less than fifty years of effort. It was I, who created the whole Gar Thalot concept, his rebellion, and the civil unrest. It was I, who played the political animals of this city with my machinations to make sure the Arashkan army stayed in their own base instead of defending the city walls even though their ARIS had serious suspicions of the potential of an imminent attack. The destruction of their mangonels, the murdering of the First Lord Kaladin, his son and his daughters, and much more that I care to list here, were all my doing. You, on the other hand, had more than a thousand years to work with and unlimited personal funding at your disposal.. One would think you would have made yourself the Rise of Bari Na-ammen by then. But no.. You couldn’t rid your lands off a human strumpet that your Ri took for a wife. Not only did you fail to rid us of Grandaleren in time to be of any significance, but you also allowed his human whore to escape along with his daughter and her daughter’s companions.. You failed to even take High Spires under your command, resulting in thousands of Arashkan civilians and military assets to take refuge there and consequently escape the city via ships. No, wait, allow me to reiterate that for you; you had High Spires under your command, yet you let it get bested out of your hands by your niece —an eighteen-year-old girl! Dammit, woman, you were given a curse to lay waste this entire city, and you let that get stolen. You were supposed to have come to us with your own daughter, yet rumor has it she was sighted in the city —this city— in the company of a large, brute of a man and a certain Princess of Bari Na-ammen, no less, fighting the Orken! Not to mention, you had the one job here and that was to find the last surviving heir to Arashkan, an eight-year-old boy, Prince Korodin, and you botched that job as well, while he escaped right under your nose. I am trying very hard to come up with a polite way to phrase your consecutive, cumulative, and conclusive incompetence, but it just isn’t coming! So do tell me, high lady, to which unique aspect of yourself are you referring to? Other than being a monumental failure, I mean..”, said the man with his calm voice. Yet the loathe in that calm was so palpable, one could almost reach out and hold it.. Then, under his deep hood, he smiled. “Do not despair, though. Your long centuries to come will, I am sure, give you much time to contemplate on your long line of failures, also..”

 

The face of the once high lady turned dark and ugly. Her slender hands clenched into fists and dark shadows gathered around them.

 

“By all means, girl, try your ‘hands’ on me.. Succeed to slay me, and you shall fail when you face my Master while you try and explain why you slew His High Priest. Fail to slay me and you shall add ‘A Failure’ to your tombstone, right next to ‘The Betrayer Of Her Own Kin’.. And trust me when I say, I shall end up having to explain nothing to my Master should I smite you down and bring your broken corpse to him for display.. or your ashes.. To be honest, I don’t really care, which. Either will do fine. Or perhaps I shall keep you alive and take you to him barely breathing. I know for a fact, He does enjoy mortal wenches screaming bloody in his bed as he rips their legs apart!”, the man said, with barely contained mirth.

 

For a long, wrathful moment, High Lady Angrellen contemplated murder, High Priest or not.

Then, just like that, she calmed down.

 

“Your attempts to rile me shall have its consequences, High Priest. But I shall decide when and where.”, she said with an almost pleasant smile.

The hooded man grunted with open disgust.

“Coward.”, he spat.

“You are confusing planning ahead with cowardice.”, she replied with a shrug.

“No. I am not. You. Are. A. Coward..”, he seethed. “Something I truly wished you weren’t and actually did try your hand on me.. But I guess you are just another stupid elf bitch.”

“You really shouldn’t try so hard. You will strain something.. Now, if you are done, perhaps we can go and talk to the Orken Mother and tell her to stop butchering everything they find in this bloody city. We will need many mortal’s souls to summon some demons should we want to conquer the east coast of the kingdom, come spring, and that tends to work better when they are still alive before being sacrificed for the summoning rituals! It’s fine with me though. I gave the Master what he wished of me; High Woods and Bari Na-ammen, even though it took me a thousand years, as you say. My further contributions here are purely voluntary..”, Angrellen said, not reserving her infuriating smile.

“You never do anything that isn’t self-serving, Angrellen. So you can skip with the ‘voluntary’ nonsense.”, growled the man with the deep hood.

The high lady shrugged.

“Perhaps. But I guess you will never know, seeing as you will die of old age, if not in some stinking ditch, slain by your enemies.”, she sneered at him.

“I disliked elves before. I loath them just by knowing you, wench! But I know what you are truly after.. You want Gullem’s spot..”

“That information, I am afraid, is quite above your pay grade, priest. Now, you will either come with me and explain to the Orken Mother why she had better stop the butchery, or you can explain to your Master why we still haven’t started summoning his Infernal Troops into this world yet.”, she replied disdainfully.

“Why don’t you talk to her?”, asked the high priest, and not without spite. “I am sure that conversation will go perfectly well. I can just about imagine the Greater Orken Mother being extremely cordial with the former high lady of Bari Na-ammen.”

“Don’t be senile. I doubt she knows who I am, and I hardly think she will listen to me. You, on the other hand, she knows, and very much dislikes.”, said Angrellen viscously.

“And I need you why, then?”

“I am here merely as your.. how do you humans say? Wingman? Or was it back up?”, she said with an evil smile.

“You? You are going to back me?”, scoffed the hooded man.

“But, of course.. Not! I am here to watch you humiliate yourself!”, she said with lazy laughter.

✱ ✱ ✱

The human with the long talks, the demands, and the machinations is here, again, Mother.”, growled the huge Orken warrior with the many scars on his hands, arms, shoulders, and face. His one eye glared with an unholy light while his other eye, a milky, slashed, and dried mess, stared ahead, quite unmoving and petrified.

“Has he brought us any gifts?”, came the grating voice of the Greater Orken Mother, from the dim canopy of her tribal pavilion, set amongst the ruins of what was once an inn, and behind the shattered Alls Temple, in the slums of the decimated Arashkan city. The pavilion itself was quite large and wide, with many brazers burning fitfully here and there and thick, rich carpets that probably belonged to some fateless noble once, were rolled out on the cleared debris of the inn, and several divans and many colorful cushions gave the ‘tent’ a somewhat ‘deliberately’ over-done appearance.

“It is possible, Mother..”, replied the scared Orken. “..He does have a skinny elf loshka with him.”

“Huh.. Perhaps he thinks my appetites go that way.”, rumbled the voice of the Orken Mother. “Let him in. I tire of his demands and his machinations. But he has proven his mettle and has helped us conquer this great city.”

“You are hoping he will have outlived his ‘mettle’, Mother..”, grinned the milky-eyed Orken.

“Yes. Yes, I do..”, growled the Orken Mother from the dimness of her pavilion.

The scared Orken grinned again and left.

“Humans..”, snorted the Greater Orken Mother in disgust. “..And their endless demands like we owe them something.”

 

A few moments later, the scared Orken returned, pushing the pavilion’s heavy flaps aside with his large, powerful hands but did not hold them open for the ‘guests’.

The heavy leather flaps swung back and closed..

..right into the the hooded man’s ‘face’ and the former high lady of Bari Na-ammen just stared at the whole thing.

 

“The lack of base courtesy in your beasts is astounding.”, murmured Angrellen with the slightest sign of irritation.

 

The hooded man shrugged and pulled the flaps open..

..and let them drop right into the high lady’s face!

 

“Really? You will go that low?”, fumed Angrellen and pushed the flaps herself and entered the pavilion, seething at the clear disrespect. “This is intolerable.”

“And who gave this runt of an elf loshka, the leave to speak, I wonder?”, said the deep, rumbling voice from the depts of the tent. “I did not. Did you, Kadar’ka?”

“I did not either, Mother. Perhaps, a bit like the human, it too believes we owe it something.”, replied the scared Orken, staring at Angrellen with one glaring and one, milky-white, eye.

“Shall we ask it, then?”, said the Greater Orken Mother..

..and rose from her divan, pushing the lush cushions aside.

 

What came out of the dim end of the pavilion was..

..HUGE!

 

A hugeness not merely in size, nor in the depth and breadth of her massive arms, shoulders, torso, and legs.

Her hugeness was in her eyes and what they telegraphed;

Unrefined brutality and primeval savagery untouched by anything remotely soft, nor civilized.

This was not a creature that took by the strength of her arms and will.

This was a creature that took.

 

Period.

 

And when she looked upon those around her with the uncanny intensity of her eyes, she told them, clearly as if by words, should they stand in her way, they would only contribute to ‘collateral damage’ and nothing bloody less.

Seeing as what she had done to Arashkan, a city that had stood for over a thousand years, and in under a week or two, she was probably right.

 

Angrellen Sunsear arched her brows and cooly gazed at the massive creature..

..and shut up!

 

The man in the deep, hooded robes coughed.

“Orken Mother. I have come to ask you to seize the butchering of civilians. We need them—”, he began.

“—Your needs are not mine, human.”, cut in the Orken Mother, showing little to no emotion on her brutish face. “We killed and we died to conquer this land. The lives of everything in it are now ours to do as we please. Thus we were promised. And thus shall we reap. Until then, you may either watch the slaughter or be part of it.”

“My Master has His orders given, Orken. Do not get above yourself. You conquered these lands because I willed it so. You won this city because I planed it so. Had you not been given the device to hide you and yours, and the city’s defenses downed, I doubt your victory would have been thus great. Must I remind you just who is in charge, here?”, gritted the man from inside his deep hood.

And do you feel in charge? Perhaps you are under the misguided impression that because you did what you did, you own us?“, stared the Orken Mother balefully at him.

Then she rose to her full height and gave him, and the skinny elf loshka, her uncanny gaze.

A gaze that said, your lives shall depend on how well you listen..

“You must understand, human, for these are the words of I, Guntha’Shar, the Orken Mother;

We are not your dogs.

We are not your servants.

We are your Masters, now!

Should you want to test us, by all means, do.

Tell your master, the Orken are here to stay. Not here to be pawns. If he wants sacrifices for his rituals, perhaps he should overrun the Demon Wall and conquer his own lands. The humans here, however, are ours. We shall have them for pleasure, we shall work them for labor, or we shall slay them for food and for entertainment. They are all ours to do as we please. And come spring, we shall have more.. They shall see us coming and they shall not, and they shall despair, for we shall stretch from one horizon to the other, and we shall be around them, above them, behind them and among them, for we are!

I shall go forth and make my own and I shall leave a kingdom to rule for my son, Guntha’Gar..”

 

And a tall, well-built man and orc also stepped out of the dimness of the pavilion.

A man and orc made of harsh, tight, cord muscle, keen, cunning eyes, and a cruel, sinister face..

A man and orc, no other than Gar Thalot himself!

With his cunning gaze, he stared at the hooded man and the high elf noblewoman.

“Indeed.”, he said with his low, gravelly voice. “I believe we should add them to the pile of corpses we have prepared next to the First Lords shattered palace to match in height. I am sure the wench would make excellent tallow!”

“Have a care, Thalot.”, sneered Angrellen. “Should you raise your hand against me, you will find, I am not one of your usual easy marks.”

“It speaks. And it makes threats.”, Gar Thalot observed with mild amusement. And slowly drew a long, ugly-looking dagger from his belt.

“No, son..”, growled his mother quietly. “Its time will come, for it is shunned by all, disdained by all, and loathed by all.. and no matter where it runs, no matter where it hides, death will find it in due time.. It shall never have a tent to its own, it shall never have mates nor cubs, for its heart is dead and its womb is cold and the only thing that can come out of it are squirming, poisonous bastards. Little pity have I felt for any beast as I have felt for it, for it shall not even have a stone to mark its death. Such is the destiny of betrayers!”

Then she turned to the hooded man.

“I have said my piece, human. Should I want your counsel, I shall summon you.. Its counsel, I doubt even your master shall ever seek. Otherwise, should you and your loshka be here come dawn, you and it shall be tallow.”

 

For a long moment, the deep, hooded man in his robes stood silent.

When he finally spoke, it was in hushed tones.

“Very well.. I shall convey your words to my Master, Orken Mother.”

Then, without further due, he turned around and left, followed closely by the skinny elf loshka..

✱ ✱ ✱

You know, I disliked humans before. I loathed them after Nadina came to High Woods. Knowing you, I actually pity them now. Your lives are worth nothing, yet you walk this earth as if you own it. You stare at the horizon like it owes you something. And then you look at the heavens and make demands.. Your idiocy is bested only by your base arrogance.. And of all the humans I have thus met, I pity you the most..”

“..You punned me for my failures, but at least Nadina Graciousward was a power in her own right and had strong ties to many known and unknown, yet equally powerful allies all around the kingdom..”

“..And yes, I might have been bested by her eighteen-year-old daughter, back then, considering she comes from a human mother and an incompetent fool of a father, and hence, against all expectations, is in truth a girl of heightened grace, honest elegance, devote sincerely, an iron will, and, young as she may be, a woman of innate insight and wisdom for people.. When that girl speaks, people listen.. When she beckons, they follow.. She could have been the Rise of her people had she so much as sniffed in her father’s direction. But she chose to leave, rather than to confront, overthrow and disgrace him, and both the people and the nobles loved her for it, and so did my own daughter; tossed one hundred and seventy years of indoctrination aside and joined her.. I lost to that!”, the once high lady of Bari Na-Ammen, Angrellen Sunsear, said, openly admitting her failures.

Then she looked at the man in the deep, hooded robes with genuine pity.

“You? You got owned by an animal!”

 


Loshka: Orcish word for someone that has no home or clan, and hence, is subject to all forms of ridicule and use. It is also a word commonly used among Orcs and the Greater Orken for a whore.

 

 

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A ‘Warm’ Warning

A ‘Warm’ Warning

Timeline:

Sometime in near future.

And back at Serenity Home.

Early one evening..

 

This story takes place a bit over a month after
The Oathbreaker (Part Four)
and sometime between
Grulganesti Grimtooth Bolgrig;
“A Debt Father to Daughter Passed..”

and
a witness or two..

 

 

Aager Fogstep, the right hand of the town sheriff, the head of SIS —Serenity Intelligence Service, and unbeknownst to any but the willing few; the dreary Winter Knight and Inshala ‘la Fey’ Frostmane Bolgrig Hooman, the Mistress of The Grove, the wont of Mab and Titania, the Lady of Durkahan and the Ritual Guardian walk side-by-side, indeed, arm-in-arm, worn and tired of a long day’s hard accomplishments.

The quiet young woman, somewhat abashed and with the small smile of an unspoken achievement clearly etched on her face, walks with light steps next to the silent, spooky man in his dark, sinister-looking leathers, hood, and mask. The girl inadvertently does this little skip-and-hop thing every once in a while for she has her hair down and her awesome rams horns are in full display; the source of her smile, her skip, and her elation.. and one of great consternation, fear, dread, dismay, and anxiety —each distinct, now, and finally overcome, accepted, and acknowledged.. The man on the other hand seems alert and distracted at the same time. His steps are steady, careful, and ready to pounce. His distraction, hidden under the hood and mask, is perhaps due to the unaddressed nature of the hope he hankers, as they head for the little, single-room lodge assigned to him years ago, and that the girl with the light, happy steps next to him would also call, ‘home’..

“Thank you.”, he whispers in his growly and gravelly voice.

The girl turns and gives him a look of shy elation.

“You are welcome. But, why?”, she asks.

The man clears his throat.

Fighting and consequently bleeding, many times, has never been a matter of trepidation for him.

This girl..

This little girl, and trying to express his feelings, for her or otherwise, however, has always felt like an uphill battle for him.

A battle he knows he would win, should he but dare.

She certainly wills, with all her heart and mind, that he would.

 

Dare.. and win..

 

“I suspect you know why..”, he says carefully.

“I do. But I like it more when you voice it. Reminds me of Katana, my saber-tooth.”, she replies quietly.

“You like my voice because I sound like a cat?”, he asks a bit amused.

“My cat was not just any cat.”, the young girl retorts with mock fire. “She was a great, six hundred pound tiger, with a massive jaw that could take a man’s head whole and still have room for dessert, and awesome paws that could cave in an ogre’s belly, flat! And I find the viscous similarities between the two of you quite.. intoxicating! I am sure, or at least I very much hope you find something in me that makes you remember things you liked. Perhaps that is why we find something akin in one another.”, she says happily.

“How do say things like that and claim not to understand people?”, he asks with unveiled wonder.

“I claim nothing other than you, my Aager —for as long as I can.. Some things are clear to me. People.. and this.. social-thingy.. is just not one of them.”, she replies with resigned remorse.

“Fair enough.”, somewhat agrees, Aager. “Though you are wrong about my finding something akin in you that reminds me of something else that I once liked.”

“Ow.. How come?”, asks Inshala with a small pout.

“The answer to that is quite elementary in its simplicity.”, he says with a well-hidden smile.

“Ow?”

“You are unique!”, Aager admits, and freely.

And without even needing to turn, he feels, through their bond, how the young woman blushes.

“That.. is beautiful to hear.”, she stammers.

“You like?”, he asks, with a very un-Aager like tone. A tone that he would never, like never ever, use with anyone but the girl in his arm.

“I.. love!”, she smiles, blushing even more.

“I thanked you..”, Aager says, rewinding a bit back. “.. because of your brevity. And for not hiding what you are, for I wish you never to be my personal secret, but known to all, and that we belong.”

“I must thank you for that, even though I know you will not let me. But we both know I would never have come here, let alone display myself the way I have, had it not been for you.”, she admits and smiles even more.

“Perhaps. But this is your moment. Not mine. And..”, he says and freezes in his pace.

As if on cue, so does she.

“What is it?”, she asks peering into the night.

“I.. am not sure..”, admits Aager with a slight frown. “I sense.. an equal.. but not.. at the same time..”

“You sense quite correctly.”, says a deep, muffled voice from the night.

“Show yourself, if your intentions are honorable!”, grows Aager Fogstep, his hands clear and at his sides and Inshala standing, not precisely behind, but with the exact amount of space and distance he would need to draw his swords for a swing, a parry or an unrestrained thrust..

“That, coming from you, I find a bit ironic, Sir Knight.”, says the muffled voice.

“I sense.. Summer.”, whispers Inshala, a bit baffled.

“I greet you, Lady Inshala, and I mean you no harm.”, comes the voice.

“But you mean harm to whome I belong!”, she says staring hard into the night.

“That is but for him to decide.”, declares the muffled voice with an intense and implied voice.

“What is this?”, asks Aager in her mind.

“I am not sure, my Aager. I have a guess, but I would rather he introduced himself, lest I give him power he may not have.”, replies the young woman in his.

“Dammit!.”, very nearly blazes Aager with frustration. “Apparently, running around all day fixing issues and defacing potential political outbreaks, training three different parties for the upcoming battle, and corking security gaps as an encore, is not enough.. I would like one moment.. ONE SILENT MOMENT IN PEACE with you and alone, dammit!”

“I am sorry, my Aager. This is my fault.”, whispers Inshala guiltily.

“How is this your fault?”, he asks, still frustrated.

“You are the Winter Knight because of me.”, she says in a small voice.

“Inshala.. To this day, I have done many things that I have come to regret, and shall likely end up doing more.. Dying for you to live, however, was never one of them.”, he almost lashes back.

“But..”, Inshala tries to object.

“Also to this day, never have I banned nor barred you of anything, have I?”, he steams.

“No, my Aager. Never.”

“Well, now I have. Never shall I hear another word of regret to the choices I made with regard to you. Because when you cast doubt in my choice, you cast doubt on what I feel for you.”, he says, and not without wroth.

Inshala falls silent, whether it is perhaps due to shock of how her Aager has just addressed and admonished her, or because she is afraid, is not clear. When she speaks, however, it is due to neither.

“I.. am sorry, my Aager. It was thoughtless of me to question you and your feelings, for I know it isn’t easy for you to speak them, yet you have.. For my sake.”, she says with shame in her voice.

“Inshala. Please. There really isn’t any reason to go there.. Much like you have made peace with some of the things in your life, your past, and your choices, I have thus done so. If being Mab’s hatchet man is the way to keep you and safe, peace, then, is upon me.”, he says, though not unkindly.

“You want me to cry, don’t you, my Aager..”, pouts Inshala.

“Not for me, and not tonight..”, he says as he smiles..

..and turns to face the man, hidden in the night.

With a low, distant, and arctic voice, the Winter Knight growls..

“Who are you, and what do you want? I have run a full day of petty mortal errands and am tired. I have another long day full of such errands waiting for me tomorrow, which is in mere few hours, and hence have I but little time to spare for late-night theatrics, and none for drama. Either come out and spill your wont, or go. Suffice to say, move or I shall move through you, should you truly want to test me tonight, for you are between myself, my lady, and my home, in the middle of the night, and in my town..”

“Oh, my.”, giggles Inshala and mimes a tiny, virtual fist into the air —in his mind.

“I think he just ate earth! You go, Winter Knight!”

“You go, WHAT? Where did you even hear that?”, asks Aager both surprised and amused.

“I am sorry. I have no idea what I just said.”, bubbles the young girl a bit embarrassed. “I heard young Master Cümeyt say it, but I am not sure what it means! He did make it sound like a ‘cheer’, though!”

Aager laughs.. silently..

“It is ‘dirt’, by the way, love..”,  he inserts, stifling another laugh. “Not, ‘earth’..”

“But.. isn’t dirt, well, dirty?”, wonders Inshala a bit confused.

“The best thing about dirt, you never want to eat it more than once, love”, Aager says, not without a certain amount of vicious satisfaction. The man in dark leathers, hood, and mask wears what he does for three, rather distinct reasons, and none of them has anything to do with drama;

One, the obvious reason; for better cover in the dark.

Two; Aager has an astute sense of smell, particularly for bad ones..

And three; a dark hood, along with the mask, has the practical capacity to fend off fools.

 

There is a moment of chagrined silence and Aager gets the distinct impression that whoever it is hiding in the night, is perhaps a tad new at whatever he is at..

 

“Very well.”, the muffled voice says. “Meet me at the Guest’s Inn tomorrow at noon.”

“Afternoon!”, Inshala counters.

 

Another silence ensues.

 

“Why? Why would you back this evil man, Lady Inshala?”, he asks quite perturbed.

“My Aager is no evil man. He has proven his mettle. Yours is yet to be seen, Sir.”, she replies the young girl with stern command.

Aager’s eyebrows shoot up.

It isn’t the first time his Inshala has gone out of her way to defend him, and it certainly feels.. surprisingly ‘awesome’.. to be.. safeguarded?.. by someone you dearly loved, but the verbal dual here is a subtle one and in a realm, he is not yet accustomed nor has had much privy to.

“Afternoon, then. I shall consent to this request for your sake, Lady Inshala.”, the muffled voice says.

“You shall do no such thing, Sir. I owe you nothing and have promised you nothing. And I shall owe you no debt! ‘Afternoon’ is a neutral time, neither too warm nor too cold.”, Inshala says, equally sternly.

 

A sigh of resignation is heard followed by the slightest shuffle of feet and the muffled voice is gone.

 

“Alright.”, Aager muses, staring into the night. “That wasn’t odd or anything. Your thoughts, love?”

“I.. I am not certain..”, Inshala frowns slightly.

“It’s alright. Your halves are better than my nons!”, smiles the sinister-looking man.

“You are in an unexpected mood this night, my Aager. And I can’t even claim any crafty skills on my part.”, smiles back the young girl.

“First of all, I apologize, wholeheartedly, for my harsh words earlier. You deserve better than that. But I would much rather we put my choices and their reasons well behind us. They are done and gone. Going over them makes neither of us happy, but puts both of us in despair. Agreed?”, he says quietly.

“And I apologize for bringing it up in the first place, though I got what I deserved for it. I shall submit to your wishes on this matter, my Aager, hence, yes. Agreed.”, she replies staring somewhat at her own feet.

“Please, don’t do that.”, Aager says.

“Don’t do what?”, she asks.

“You did nothing wrong. Don’t look down. As a matter of fact, never look down!”, Aager pleads.

Inshala looks up, her face is slightly pink.

“You will not even let me suffer my own follies.”, she says with a flustered pout.

“The pout can stay. It looks sweet on you.”, smiles the man in dark leathers.

Inshala does a very unladylike snort, causing Aager to laugh.. out loud!

“Well. How about that. I laughed. Can’t remember the last time I did that. I guess I do owe my mood to crafty skills on your part.”, he says with an amused tone of voice. “As to what that was all about, I believe you do have some thoughts on the matter.”

“Yes. And deep down, I believe you have as well, my Aager..”, replies the young girl, suddenly looking at him with intense eyes.

Aager cocks an eyebrow and thinks..

..and the thing that has had him itching somewhere at the back of his mind suddenly dawns.

“Yes, my Aager. Nature is balance. Winter will follow Summer and Summer dies when Winter arrives. Much like Summer will melt and defrost Winter upon her arrival..”, she says softly.

“Damn..”, he blurts. “He is.. double damn.. the Summer Knight? My opposite?”

“That is my thought. I believe he wanted to keep that to himself and perhaps use it as a levelidge.. lefedirge.. leafer—”, she blunders and her face turns pure red in self-disgrace.

“Leverage?”, Aager offers kindly.

“Yes. That..”, says the young girl, her face still burning with frustrated shame.

“But he gave himself away.. Ahhh, that’s why you argued about ‘noon’. It is likely he will be at the peak of his power at noons and at summer times. That was very ingenious of you the way you refused him and moved the time of the meet to afternoon.”, says Aager admiringly for even though the young girl hadn’t quite won him an advantage, she had, instead, stripped any his opposite might have gained, just by changing something that had seemed so trivial.

Inshala blushes some more.

“I suspected.. the moment you said, ‘sensing an equal, but not, at the same time..’, and when he called you, ‘Sir Knight.’ Only fey would know you for what you are.. And the vassals of either court. I felt no fey vibes from him. He seemed.. mortal.. and something else.. perhaps some sort of affiliation I am not aware of.”

“How come there is suddenly a Summer Knight now and what does that entail?”, asks Aager, with a ‘should-I-be-concerned?’ frown.

“Nature is balance, my Aager. Both Winter and Summer have a ‘Mother’ known as Mother Winter and Mother Summer, and then they have the Queens, Mab as the Winter Queen, and Titania as the Summer Queen. Both courts are also supposed to have a ‘Lady’, but there hasn’t been a Winter Lady for ages forgotten After she lost her own daughter some unknown millennia ago, Mab refused to take another as the Winter Lady, causing the Summer Lady wane, and eventually fade away..  There was the potential for a new Summer Lady, but she was slain at Gull’s Perch by some ruffians a year or two before I was born, which is why there has been a ban on mortals, and a dwarven outpost there, guarding the Perch’s entrance ever since.. I believe there were some dwarves among the ruffians and Titania blamed their kin at Scowling Hills and forced them to build and safeguard the valley as a payment for their kins’ sins against her daughter. Whether the death of her daughter was a coincidence, or it was because Mab would still not take a new Winter Lady, I do not know.”

Aager listens to the young woman in amazement as she explains the monumental goings-on that no mortal would know.

“There also hasn’t been a Winter Knight since the last one was slain by a mighty wild fey, who was actually a noble in Mab’s court once, many, many millennia ago. And Summer failed to produce a knight of their own during that time. It isn’t a coincidence that they would do so now, almost the moment you chose to become Mab’s Winter Knight. For there to be balance, nature compempates.. compendates—”, she pauses, her face flushed with embarrassment again. “Help me, please..”, she pleads..

“Compensates?”, offers Aager as he puts one hand over her small shoulder and gently turns her to face him.

“Conpendates.. That..”, blubbers the girl, her face burning red. “I hate this. I am so stupid. I lack so many important words, and I am supposed to be the Ritual Guardian and fill my Father’s shoes..”

“Hey.. Don’t be like that.. Please.. We promised to be stupid together, remember? At least you know what you are talking about. I don’t even know where to begin to even understand.”, he says kindly, and gently pulls her into his arms.

Inshala just stands there, burning with embarrassment on any number of levels now.

“You are so awesome.”, he adds quietly.

“Awesome like.. Madina? Or awesome like Moira?.. Or perhaps awesome like Laila? Laila is awesome and cool, though I am not sure what that means.. I mean, she has a nice, warm heart. And I think that De-De-Dexter boy likes her. I saw him give her as an example of how his trainees should act and behave, just the other day.”, she mumbles.

“Madina, Moria, D.D. Dexter and even Laila aside, I would say, awesome like Inshala.”, he says. Then thinks for a moment, nods, and repeats. “Yep. We shall thus call it, Inshala-Awesome!”

Slowly he releases her, and they are once again, arm in arm, walking in the night, towards ‘home’..

 

. . .

 

“She is pathetic.”, says the skinny, vixen girl, hidden further in the night, and quite waspishly.

“She is what she is, love. And she holds great favors from both the courts. It is not wise of you to speak ill of her, nor to go out of your way to taunt her. She is good people..”, replies the man with the muffled voice.

“And the man. His attitude. Such arrogance.. Perhaps a nice hex will fix that for him..”, she sneers after the two.

“You shall do no such thing, love. There is no point in starting a war here when there is another war right on our doorstep. I merely wanted to meet him and warn him not to abuse his powers. We shall meet on the morrow.”, he says sternly.

“You are afraid of him.”, sniffs the girl with disdain.

“No one in his right mind would be uncautious of him, love. Mab chose carefully, as she always does. Don’t let your pride get the better of you.”

The girl sniffs again, and haughtily, with her small, perky nose.

“I bet, I could best her!”, she declares.

“Perhaps.”, says the man. “But you will not go up against her. She is the Ritual Guardian.”

“So?”

“Suppose you best her. What then? Who will take up her burden?”

The girl shrugs.

“Will you?”, the man asks, looking at the skinny girl.

“Why would I? It is a folly burden that offers little to no reward. She is as foolish as her Father was..”

The man with the muffled voice signs. The slight girl standing so agitated next to him is a fun, life-loving girl, but she does have her moments of pique, and they did tend to get the better of her indeed, and she is quite a single-minded girl who lives for silly challenges..

..which was how they had met, really.

“Come. We have much to do ourselves..”, he says, in hopes of distracting her. “Thousands of mouths to feed..”

“I think I want to know what they talk when they are alone.”, she says, squinting after what little she could make of the two, distant figures walking away, arm-in-arm.

“No.”, says the man even more sternly this time. “You don’t..”

..And picks up the skinny girl, by her waist and carries her off, literally, as she kicks and squirms and laughs with delight..

“Will you feed me too, Sir Knight?”, she snickers viciously..


 

arashkan şehri dungeons and dragons duygusal groups karakter analizi komedi the plot thickens tundra walkers

Three Sisters Which

Three Sisters Which

Timeline:

It is not altogether clear just when the origins in this story take place. Somethings just can’t be quantified in terms of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, or even years, but by incantations. The chanting of said incantations might take a lifetime.. or take the life itself, after all..

The part that we can quantify, however,
takes place right after
A Shift in Perspective (18+)..

 

 

I am not sure about the total, catastrophic failures,” said the little gnome finally, with the same subdued voice, “..but I think I can help with the big, blooming explosions. Provided, you run faster!”

 

“And..”, she said, “..that’ll be ‘Tonic’ for you, girl.”

The little gnome felt something shift inside her.

A point in perspective, perhaps?

 

Or something..

 

Whatever it was, it would come to her in due time. But she had this pinching feeling that it seemed like it was high time she got off her high horses and stepped up to her end of the pair.

To that end, she turned and hastily gathered all her tools; her hammer, her wrench, her drivers, pliers, nippers and cutters, the numerous gadgets, spare bolts, and coiled wires and put them to their proper places inside her large, portable toolbox. She sat down and took off her clobbering boots, ignoring the freezing cold biting at the soles of her naked feet as she opened the little hood of the lantern and pinched the life out of the candle in it. Cast in darkness, she skimmed the elegantly made lantern with her slim fingers until she found what she was looking for; a well-concealed runic button hidden at its base. She lightly tapped the button, setting it to MODE B…

There..

..on the other side of the ancient, bitter cold cave, where the curvy form of a very tall, pitch-black figure —her pair— slumbered..

..was something.

Something hidden..

 

Arcantonic smiled.

 

She might not be much of a sneak, nor have many of the quirky talents her pair did, but she was an artificer and that meant compensating what they lacked by way of substituting them with pure ingenuity and dedicated craftsmanship..

There was still time, and she was going to make things right with the only person who had bothered to get to know her, damit!

 

She reached up and twirled a small knob on her goggles, turning the black darkness into shades of blue and gray as everything became oddly distinct for her..

Arcantonic Palecog quietly faded in the darkness to do some burglarizing of her own; it was going to be a long night and hopefully, an even longer, FAQed and color-coded, read..

 

(from the end of A Shift in Perspective (18+))

✱ ✱ ✱

Arcantonic Palecog scurried back with a manic cackle, nearly waking up the very tall, very dark girl sleeping close to the ancient cave’s entrance.

It was unlikely the little gnomic girl would ever make a good sneak thief, for she hyped too easy.. Much like a sugar overloaded bunny! But she’d certainly enjoyed it, while it lasted.

She slid the last few feet, grabbed her thick, woolen socks and her boots —first things first; the cave was arctic cold, and losing toes was a poor payment for the success of having burglarized her pair. With her socks, her cup-sized boots, and the dossier; the object of her theft, she hid behind the monstrosity she’d grandly named; MECHABER!

She slid her socks on and one boot, but her left got stuck and refused to slip on.

“Damit!”, swore Tonic. “Of all the bloody times, you want to do this to me, now?”

She pulled, pushed and she was sweating profusely by the time the boot finally settled around her crippled ankle —just another memento, a souvenir, per se, from her retarded uncle, Arcanton Mordenon, because, obviously, the emotional dents and traumas weren’t enough.

She took a deep breath, and slowly counted to 1,048,576 by way of 2-bit squaring! Not that it helped, but the alternative was cussing.. out loud.. VERY loud.. and Tonic had a VERY rich and quite an extensive repertoire when it came to cussing. But doing that would have made all the skulking and ‘theft’, sort of moot, hence the 2×2=4, 4×2=8, 8×2=16, 16×2=32.. well.. you get the picture..

Her hands trembling slightly, Tonic gazed upon the treasure she’d just liberated;

 

Seressa Wraiven
User Manual

 

—and yes, that is exactly what was written on the dossier!

“Hells Bells, girl.. Really?”, frowned at the title on the dossier.

She stared at the dark green cover of the dossier and noted the elegant, or more likely, the pompous symbol of the Academy of Melshieve embossed on it. Carefully, she opened the dossier and saw the first page.

 

It was blank.

 

Perhaps it was due to the poor lighting she couldn’t see it at first, which is why Tonic had to look again to see Seressa’s handwriting there.

It was a recursive, delicate script, very tenderly inked, like it reflected the inside, the very soul of the owner of the hand that had written it;

 

To my bestest and awesomest pair:

Days will always be better because we will have you..

 

Arcantonic just stared at the beautiful words, and the depth of their meaning.. and..

..her eyes teared.

Tonic couldn’t remember when it was the last time she’d teared up just by reading something. Tonic just didn’t do ‘romance’, nor was she ever into any kind of stupid, sentimentality crap.. Thanks to her uncle, again, she’d had any kind of empathy washed out of her system by the time she was ten!

But here she was, staring at what her pair, Seressa, had written, some two years ago, before they had had a chance to even speak.. While she’d been sulking and cussing darkly as she’d bulldogged around the academy corridors when she’d found out she’d just been assigned as someone’s pair, Seressa was struggling for her life, stuck in a ventilation shaft, trying to get to know her!

And because that wasn’t enough, she’d then sat down and prepared this.. silly dossier in light of everything she’d learned about Tonic..

Tonic suddenly felt.. ‘funked’..

As silly and somewhat giddy as she thought her pair was, Seressa Wraiven had an iron-clad will, and her sense of ‘just’ always pointed north. And, apparently, once she was paired with the little gnomic girl, her ‘north’ had all but become Tonic!

 

“Damn, girl..”, gulped the little, gnomic girl, wiped her eyes and turned the page.

 

And, so be noted, the fact that the pages used in the dossier were all first-grade, cotton-silk paper, not parchment. Tonic knew just how expensive first-grade papers were, which is why she never used them.. Yes, she had about a dozen or so in her artificer’s sachel, tightly rolled and inside a protective case, but they were there because, well, an artificer just had to have some of everything in their sachel! It must have cost the girl an arm and a leg to buy all these cotton-silk papers. It was likely she’d blown away all her student’s savings, just so she would hand her pair something ‘worthy’ of Tonic.

 

“Damn, girl..”, she repeated mutely.

“Seressa: 182,734,659 – Tonic: ZERO.. Good job, girl.. You have the bestest friend in the world —someone people would kill for, and literally, and this is how you have treated her thus far.. Like an ass!”

 

Tonic turned to the second page.

It was a neatly prepared, clearly written, easy-to-read list;

A Table of Contents.

Seressa hadn’t used her recursive handwriting here, but a deliberately ‘book classic’, sort of mono-space script. Tonic herself much prepared and used blocky and ‘true’ mono-space fonts in all her notes, diagrams, and schematics. She could just imagine Seressa struggling to comport with Tonic’s style and preference but unable to use those ‘just-too-ugly’ fonts here, hence she’d settled for this one.

Tonic cackled!

Then went for the one thing that she thought defined her pair;

 

9. Pinks I prefer & their color codes, Page 29

 

She quickly shuffled to Page 29 and there, she saw, quite a number of pinks, carefully water-colored and coded. Tonic didn’t even know there were this many pinks in the world. When someone said, ‘Pink’, it meant, ‘Pink!’

Right?

Well..

Apparently, not..

Not according to Seressa Wraiven!

And noted under each were their hex-codes and ‘grades’. The grading system seemed to comprise of a complex combination of (a) how much she liked that particular shade, (b) how frequently it was found in nature, common cities, and the Academy of Melshieve, and (c) how well they got along with certain other colors and their shades!

 

  1. A shade that should be sent back to the abyss whilst it came!
  2. A total abomination.
  3. Very much disliked. I could slice myself open just by staring at this!
  4. I feel.. ill..
  5. Go away, please!
  6. Perhaps. Maybe. But only under very special circumstances such as a date that is likely to go wrong!
  7. Promising. Has some potential.
  8. Oh. This one makes me giddy.
  9. I.. WANT! ALL OF IT!
  10. I will not comment on this one, dear Arcantonic. Some things just can’t be put into writing without constituting highly damning and quite embarrassing evidence against myself should I describe the effects of this grade of pink on me.

And then she’d also put a P.S. at the very bottom of the whole, three-page long water-colored and graded ‘pinks’;

 

“Okay. Now it may seem like I have some sort of a fetish for pink, dear Arcantonic. I, however, assure you such is not the case, as seen on these pages. I merely am susceptible to ‘certain’ shades of the color and am sort of a fan.. in an obsessive way.”

 

Tonic stared at the postscript.

“Really, now, girl.. ‘I merely am susceptible to ‘certain’ shades of the color and am.. sort of a fan.. in an obsessive way?’ —that is what a fetish is, in the most practical sense!”, she snickered.

Then, inadvertently, she flipped the page and came to the next topic:

 

10. About my body and my anatomy, Page 33

 

“What the..”, Tonic ogled at the tittle.

And there, right under the title was an impossibly slim girl’s stretch.

Written under the sketch was her sentiments about herself, in her recursive handwriting.

 

“I will be the first to admit; this is not me! I saw this in a book when I was doing research in my freshman year about various cultures and their relative daily lives. But I was enthralled by the whole subject and this sketch in particular. This is supposed to be some sort of exotic princess named Yasmine who meets a street urchin named Valaddin. According to the story, the kid finds a genie trapped in a rum bottle —if you could believe that, which I don’t, who uses the genie to gain the favor of the princess and eventually marries her. The story is logically faulty and incommensurate in it’s accuracy to facts. First of all, rum is commonly consumed by sailors and Drashan pirates in our kingdom. It is not the choice beverage for the average consumer and deemed ‘lowly’ even by the middle-class, let alone the aristocracy, and the story does not take place in a sea-port city. I would also like to point out that a genie’s ‘home’ tends to be extremely illustrious and rich. Again, not a rum bottle. And lastly, I can’t imagine a genie getting trapped in a bottle and be unable to free itself. That’s just silly!”

 

Arcantonic coughed.

“What’s silly is, you making an ‘anthropologistic’ case against a children’s story, girl!”, she snorted.

 

“Aside from the unlikeliness of the story, however, I did appreciate their clothes. They were not meant to be only revealing, but gave a certain amount of freedom of movement, which I am sure is essential to both attract the attention of boys, and should the occasion arise, fight better in close-quarters without any restraints, though I must admit, it does not provide much in the way of protection. Comporting one’s self in the said way is a fact I know to be true because, in many cultures, men have been known to go to war clad in only lion-cloth or nothing at all.”

 

“Yea. I am sure those wars were quite short and bloody. Must explain why said cultures aren’t running around wearing ‘nothing at all’, anymore!”, snickered Tonic.

 

“To the reason why I inked the stretch here, then; I am fully aware my waste isn’t this slim and I am not even sure it is anatomically possible to have a waste as thin as this and still be able digest any food, but that’s another matter. I am also aware that my hips aren’t this narrow, though I believe mine are relatively proportionate to the rest of my body. I do wish they stay at their current dimensions, though, as I do not like wide hips. My the breast line, shape and cup-size seems about right, when compared to this illustration, and I have a similar length of hair.

I require air to breath, water to stay hydrated, and some form of vitamin, protein and carb-based foods to function, though I prefer a high protein diet with some vegetables and lower carbs and coffee makes me loose all my inhibitions —id est, I get drunk! Human beverages have little to no effect on me, though I must admit, I can’t stand the smell of beer, ale, ‘rum’, and any number of ‘rotten fruit’ based wines, explaining the reason I would rather not go into ratty inns or taverns —they smell horrible!

I have very good eye vision, hearing, taste and a nose acutely sensitive to smells. I wash regularly to keep my personal hygiene and very much dislike dirty environments, even though I won’t make a fuss should we require to go and stay in such places, provided we do get a bath at the end, much like any decent and self-respecting human ought to.

Should the day come and I conceive, I will be delivering exactly the way any human would. And breastfeed my child using my own breasts.

Whether my sensual senses are exactly the same as humans, I do not know. I do suspect, that they are much more heightened in regard to ‘touch’ and appears not to erode by the passage of time as it would in a common human female, though, again I am not absolutely sure of this, as I have never had any friends, back in the Academy, and hence, never really had the opportunity to compare.

My skin color is the result of, very much natural pigments, and not due to any artificial applications, nor to any ‘infernal’ reasons.

My horns are also a natural growth and my tail functions similar to that of a feline and neither are they in any way ‘demonic’..”

 

“Why are you telling me these, girl?”, mused Tonic quietly. “Yes, I have never really said a nice word to your face, not that I said any good ones behind your back either, but, again, why would you write these?”

Then it hit her.

This dossier was meant to be given to her shortly after they were paired. Not ‘burglarized’ some two years later. She had thought, as her pair, Tonic would be afraid of her appearance and was trying to assure her that she was ‘normal’.

Just like humans!

“Hells Bells, girl. I am happy you aren’t some stupid human. Yes, I am happier you are not a gnome, either but you are fine exactly the way you are. I might have called you, ‘dump’, ‘idiot’, ‘foolish’, and ‘silly’, among many, many other things, especially about your pinks and those silly and frilly dresses that reveal more than they conceal, but never have I made any remarks about your ‘being’. That is just.. EVIL!”

Then it hit her, again!

She, Seressa, had been treated thus, for as long as she’d been in the Academy. Tonic knew absolutely nothing about her pair’s origin, nor her parents, but she had seen the very tall, very dark girl many times, and always alone, back in the Academy.

Tonic was certainly not a good person. She had flaws.. No.. She had deliberate flaws you could fit a Drashan armada! But she’d never made any remarks nor questioned anyone due to their race.

Apparently, someone had.

Many ‘someones’..

Enough to leave a deep-seated need to have to explain herself about things that didn’t need to, and certainly shouldn’t have to need to!

Yes, she, Tonic, had called people, “You stupid dwarf!”, or “You stupid elf!”, or “You stupid human!”, certainly. But that was a pointer to the fact that the said person was being accused for their stupidity, not their race.

The race was basically interchangeable in her ‘accusations’.

‘Stupidity’ was the constant!

For some reason, the whole idea of her pair even having to need to explain that she was ‘normal’ pissed Tonic something vicious!

Then she felt shame.

What right had she to feel anger to anyone.

Hells Bells! The girl was her pair and she’d treated her worse than a tyrant would treat his subjects!

 

Then her eyes read the next few lines..

 

“And of course, I love to dance. I mean, The Great Heavens must have given us girls a lithe belly and a spine built for grace for a reason, now, right?

I am afraid, however, I never had the opportunity to go to any parties at the Academy —no dates!

Still, though, I sometimes danced. Many times, actually. When I was alone with my phloxes in my ‘Pink Garden’, which was pretty much all the time, really. Or in this secret cave I had discovered in the woods behind the Academy. That cave had nice, soft aucustics and singing there was awesome. It always made me feel like there were two others there, singing along with me.. Remind me to show you that cave, when we get back to the Academy with our findings of the real world. Ow.. this is going to be AWESOME. We are going to have so much fun together!”

 

“Well. I certainly must have deflated that ‘awesome’ hope out of her system!”, said the little gnomic girl and she truly felt awful about everything she’d done to her pair.

“I feel like a bastard!”, she blurted.

And something.. sort of irked her..

She wasn’t sure if ‘irk’ was the right word for it, but she didn’t dwell on the choice of word, either. She quickly flipped back to the Table of Contents page ran her tiny, pink finger—

Arcantonic froze.

And stared at her finger.

Then she did an even quicker, double-speed, rewind to page 27, 28, and yes.. 29..

..and carefully ran her finger across the three-page-long shades of pinks..

..and there it was.

 

#F8CDD2 — Arcantonic Pink — Grade 9

 

“Ow. My. Gosh! I am like.. her best candy color!”, blushed Tonic. “She even named the bloody shade after me! Damit. I really wonder what Grade 10 is, now!”

✱ ✱ ✱

Tonic returned to the Table of Contents and ran down the list —without using her finger! It was as if her fingers had been made the butt of a particularly memorable joke and now, whenever she saw her own small, pink fingers, or even have them mentioned, they would relate, and subsequently, remind her of the joke, making it impossible for her to un-relate the two! 

“Hells Bells, girl!”, she growled.

Then she found what she was looking for.

 

18. My origins, Page 62

 

To her surprise, the page was mostly empty and only had a short few sentences inked in her recursive handwriting, but it seemed as if there was the faintest.. ‘tremor?’, in the letters.. as if her pair had written it on a slow-paced camel. Not totally jumbled, but inadvertently missed spacing or the right amount of curves per letter..

 

Dear Arcantonic.

I was planning on not writing anything down on this particular subject. I was looking forward to talking this with you face to face, but since I had read pretty much everything about you that was written, reported, and/or noted, it only seemed fair that I should say at least a few words about myself —and my origins, in particular.

Who or what my parents were, I do not know. I was born quite far away from the Academy of Melshieve and received an anonymous sponsorship and was called upon to study and learn. When I first arrived at the Academy with my sponsorship papers and my invitation, I was summoned to the dean’s room and, although he didn’t say much, he did seem.. I am not sure what the correct word here is.. Scared? Cautious? Equanimitic?.. Or perhaps all three.. Suffice to say, he told me to attend my classes most diligently and stay out of trouble.. You know, the way he spoke in his low, raspy voice; ‘Stay straight and narrow, young lady!’. I know you know because you were sent to his office at least 48 times! The way he said it to me was a tad.. ‘funny’, though, and altogether something I found to be sort of ironic, really, since I am straight, and was certainly quite narrow, especially when I had first arrived, back then.

To this day, I haven’t been able to find out two things; my parents, and who my sponsor was..

 

Tonic frowned.

“Damit.”, she fumed.

She’d really wanted to know about her pair’s background. For it was likely the most important piece of information she would need in understanding her.

She felt she was sorely cheated.

As if she was handed a machine and expected to reverse engineer it without any schematics, any plans, not even some bloody sketches!

Then she saw the fine print at the bottom of the page.

“Hells Bells, girl. How in the blazes could you even write that small? I can barely see it, let alone read—”

Tonic held her breath.

Of course!

This dossier was specifically prepared for her. But it did have the remote possibility of falling into wrong, or merely unwanted hands. No one would want everything about themselves found and divulged for just about anyone to read, after all..

She smiled and dug her hand into her artificer’s satchel and rummaged for a bit until she found what she was looking for;

A palm-sized magnifying glass.

She moved the page closer to her diminutive face and read the minute fine print with the help of the magnifying glass;

 

Pls. see Index: “Ritual Summoning.”

My dear Arcantonic, if you can read this, you now know that you will have to find the index page. To find the index, however, you must solemnly note that you have my highest confidence. Beyond this, there is nothing more I can trust you with that really matters for me. Should you still want to see the said index, please recite the words;

“Remember me..” —trice!

These words have been keyed to you, as my awesome pair and as my ‘partner in crime’, per se.

 

“Holy Crap!”, spluttered the gnomic girl, horrified. “She even installed a bloody, embedded security system into the dossier!”

 

And that was when she was tested;

The curiosity of an artificer —a gnomic artificer, no less, and wondering if she truly did deserve Seressa Wraiven’s confidence, honestly given to her..

This made Tonic particularly guilty since the dossier was.. well.. stolen, really, even though she was the sole recipient of it..

 

..Aaaand her gnomic curiosity won!

 

She squinted around and into the darkness where the very tall, very dark girl slept restfully, with furtive eyes and hissed;

“Remember me..” —trice!

✱ ✱ ✱

Page 62 split!

Not horizontally nor vertically, but ‘facially!’ It was the oddest thing to behold. One moment there was just the Page 62, and the next, there were two, separate pages; 62 itself, and 62 index, bound to the same spine, and yet..

..it unfolded out and down once, twice, thrice, and done!

 

“Damn, that’s some fine and elegant magic there, girl. You spared no expense. I am truly funked and very much impressed.. This is seriously delicate and awesome work. I have GOT TO learn me how to do this!”

And then she looked at the unfolded Page 62 index..

 

“Ritual Summoning”

 

 

 

Near dusk and out of the mo’rs,
Doth arriveth in threes
Parting mists, their silent steps,
Dareful in the woods

One lady fair
One maiden fine
And one damsel doth sway

T is yet to be seen
Which is which
Is the witch
In the darkness of the woods

Three wolves howl
Three ghouls gnarl
Three will-o’s gloweth

Dash and hideth, spook’d, f’r
Cometh they, the Three Sist’rs
Which doth lust, charm, and harvest the
Souls of fools, lost in the woods

One lady, white
One lady, not
And one lady, foxy red

Witches of a coven
Doth they reveal the fare hideth
Deep in the hoods, whilst they step
Bold and brazen in the depths of the woods

Three maidens
Three aflame and
Three quite quaint

They were, and woe
To any man or beast who
Doth standeth in their way, whilst
They gage their lot in the dires of the woods

One lady wise
One maiden fi’rce
And one damsel she doth lust’r

Thus was their wont
Yet their wont was what was
Putteth to task, yond f’rsaken night
Hath shown them the p’rtents in the woods

Three stars in
Three circles and
Three runes each

They didst lay with chalk and twig
Didst they marketh, the hour
Whilst the night, did turn
Dreary and haze, in quiets of the woods

One cauldron
One spoon
And one sickle sharp

F’r each they hath brought, for
The p’rtents doth not forswear, even
Bethought those did wish, as they mourn’d
Their wonts, in the darkness of the woods

Three beauts doth setteth
Three cauldrons upon
Three fires burneth

To boileth, and
Bubbleth in mindless heat
Doth their cackles heard and
Spread, in the farthest end of the woods

One she doth screams, afear’d
One she doth laughs in manic
And one she doth moans in bliss

Ov’r the cauldrons
Boiling there, f’r the time to
Thus face their lot hast cometh
Upon them in the wilds of the woods

Three daz’d ov’r
Three cauldrons holdeth
Three sickles sharp

Stareth and down at
The ragg’d dram doll, brewing thus lifeless
In the cent’r of it all, unmoving
And still in the silence of the woods

One she doth laments
One she doth hums
And one she doth weeps

Ov’r the cauldrons three
Yond smoketh and slusheth
And bubbleth f’r what they must
Gift in grief, in the silence of the woods

Three witches with
Three sickles liketh
Three Grims and riseth

To bringeth those cruely
Down, harsh and ghastly
And with pain and hath paid, their
Screams doth shed farthest in the woods

One, the hazel of h’r eye
One, the plush of h’r breast
And one, doth untouch’d of h’r womb

Rake’d, slash’d, and spill’d
With the bloody sickles done
Their wonts task’d and won, thrown
Into the cauldrons in the dreary of the woods

Three witches f’r
Three nights ov’r
Three cauldrons

They chanteth and doth calleth
Upon the one yond deems
The moth’r of all the witches doth the
Raven’s Eye in the endless of the woods

One laments, blindeth
One hums, madden’d
One moans, f’rfeit

Ov’r the bloody soup
The deed is not thus done and neither
Art the gifts, one from each is not
Enough in the witching hours of the woods  

Three witches, crippl’d
Thee days, gone
Three nights, desp’rate

Doth they didst cast, incant and off’r,
Much liketh moths art daz’d
’round the fires burning m’rry, and dancing
Shadows longeth in the middle of the woods

One cat slinks, black as the night
One raven caws, fi’rce as the light
And one goat bawls, cuss’d as a mite

Arriveth upon the summons
And doth the witches toss ’em,
Into to the cauldrons three to broil, thus
Satisfyeth the wonts of the hunger of the woods

Three witches, one, blindeth and daft
Three maidens fair, one, only half
Three hath lost and one, she shalt nev’r has’t

Spineth and danceth and swayeth
And doth stomp quite unending
’round the fires burning alive
And high, in the dimness of the woods

One white, and dim
One not, and sickly
And one red, slump’d ov’r

Droop, with’r and vade
Doth those yet begeth, pleadeth and craveth 
F’r the die hast thus been cast to rolleth
And tumbleth, in the silence of the woods

Three nights, f’r
Three maidens, stout
Three cauldrons, ov’r

Thus doth they giveth
Not only their wonts and vains
But also yond which is which maketh
Them a witch, in the serenity of the woods

One, h’r sight and mind
One, h’r heart and love
And one, h’r pash and future

To season their soup in the cauldrons
Doth boileth, and doth watcheth The Eye
Shouldst they faileth, still they chanteth and doth
They danceth, in the oppress of the woods

Three dawns wend
Three dusks cede
Three et’rnals ov’r and done

Doth they topple, turneth and tumbleth
Their stew’d cauldrons ov’r
To seeth what they doth wrought, the fires
Cracketh and hisseth, in the stillness of the woods 

One she doth taketh the h’rns
One she doth taketh the tail
And one doth taketh the spirit of the raven borne

And doth they infuse
The ragg’d dram doll, brewing thus lifeless
In the middle of it all, opens h’r eyes to seeth
The witches dieth, in the middle of the woods

 

“What the f—”, spluttered Arcantonic Palecog in utter incomprehension, riddled with total confusion and spook..

For a long, long time did she stare at the ‘Ritual Summoning’ thing, and at the silhouette of the very tall, very dark girl, sleeping in her restful slumber at the far side of the arctic cave —a restfulness composed, perhaps, of having achieved a small perchance that for the first time in the two years she had been paired to a certain little gnomic girl with Grade 9-Class ‘Arcantonic Pink’ fingers, there appeared an ickle glimmer of hope that they might actually be friends..

If Tonic thought she hadn’t been concussed earlier by the things her pair had said and done to get to know her, she certainly knew she was concussed now.

She felt her mind swirl, dance, and tumble, not unlike a cauldron, in the vast and creepy implications of what she’d just read..


 
 
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Deep in Silence..

Deep in Silence..

Timeline:

The Orken Horde have arrived on the doorsteps of Serenity Home. Many have gathered to defend the ‘serenity’ of this once peaceful and quiet town but it is doubtful they will be enough.

The heroes scatter all around the kingdom to find those allies. Some go to other cities, some to their own people to get help.

And some go where they shouldn’t..

Gnine Tinkerdome, Laila Wolvesbane, and Merisoul Xyrotwu travel to Silent Hills and quietly enter the Demon Fog to find a way to pass the slithering fog and enter the Silent Halls. The only clue they have is the strange riddle that Nadine Graciousward gave them.

With the help of unexpected allies from Hell itself, the three have gained access into the long-forgotten, dusty and silent vaults under Silent Hills.

 

This story takes place a few days after
The Fog, The Path, And The Door.
Knock, More And Ascend..

 

 

And, here they come again!”, swore Gnine Tinkerdome as he took a step back and to the left, making room for Laila Wovesbane and her great bow.

“Persistent, aren’t they?”, replied Laila cooly as she huffed her bangs out of her eyes and drew a pair of long shafts from the quiver buckled to her back. “Don’t they know, these arrows cost money!”, she added mournfully.

“Perhaps these will pay..”, scowled the gnome as he started weaving his fingers into some strange, cross-over knot and started incanting.

“Persistence is the herald of victory. This they know. This they will use, always..”, came the soft, alluring, and vague voice of the unearthly beautiful girl with the raven black wings, and the dark, crowning horns, Merisoul Xyrotwu, from behind them. “..and they are likely bored!”

“I hate being the butt-end of relieving the boredom in demons!”, grimaced Gnine, and released his spell..

..and a faint, barely visible giant hand appeared in front of the half dozen fiends howling and charging in their direction. The fiends, barely humanoid in shape and size, otherwise black, spike riddled and bearing long, ugly-looking claws, smashed into the hand and stumbled back.

Laila ‘loosed’ her arrow, cocked the second, and sent that one as well, as she drew more arrows from her quiver and sent them one after the other —all in seamless, fluid motions.

Looking at the pretty ranger corporal, one would think she was knitting, rather than raining arrows into demons!

In all candor, it was quite rare for any talented bowyer to shoot half a dozen arrows in under a few seconds. What made the Ranger Corporal Laila Wolvesbane particularly unique, was the ‘cool’ in her deliberation, anticipation, and application.

“Want me to nuke them?”, asked the alluring voice from behind. “Or save it for later?”

“Save it for later..”, growled Gnine as he gritted his teeth. Holding back the demons with the very-nearly invisible hand was a tasking chore and beads of sweat had started gathering on heated his face. “I believe Laila’s got these.. You got these, right?”

“I got these..”, confirmed Laila as she riddled more and more arrows into the dark, and angry fiends pushing the giant hand, step by step closer to them.

“Now, I am bored..”, said Merisoul with an unhappy voice and released a pair of erratic, brilliant purple shafts of force sending two of the fiends smashing into the ones coming from the rear.

“Three down. Three to go..”, reported Laila, and hung her bow, drew her two long blades, and dashed into the remaining fiends.

“What. Are. You. Doing?!”, half shrieked Gnine.

“Arrows are expensive.. Thought I told you that..”, replied Laila as she rammed into one of the fiends, slashed it open with one sword, and stabbed it with the other. The fiend let loose a horrific scream, then fell back dead.

 

The remaining two rushed the ranger corporal!

 

Another pair of sizzling, erratic shafts of bright purple lightning-like beams cracked in the dark tunnel and struck one of the fiends, pushing it some twenty feet away, and buying just enough time for Laila to get into a defensive stance as Gnine sent a flaming bolt of fire, hitting the third and causing it to yowl like something that could barely be called feline.

Laila didn’t give the third one time to recover.

She lept forward, slid under the creature’s claws, blew her bangs out of her face, sliced open its belly with one sword, and half gashed open the demon’s scaly leg with the other.

The demon shrieked in pain, stubbled, and fell facedown onto the ground.

Laila stabbed it in the back of its neck, severing its spine.

The ranger corporal did not like half-dead enemies.

She liked them dead.. all the way!

Another pair of jagged shafts of purple lightnings jazzed right past her and the last demon crumbled, its chest caved in.

“Well..”, said Merisoul, merrily. “That went well!”

“Damit.”, spat Laila when she bent down to inspect the corpses. “Two more arrows, broken beyond repair and are now totally unsalvageable. I really hope I get paid. Or I am never going to be able to replace these.”

“You will get all the arrows you need.”, said Gnine, looking down at the dead fiends. “I will personally pay for them. Or have them crafted for you.. If and when I get my throne..”

“Ow? That’s generous of you.”, smiled Laila —a something she rarely did.

“Of course, my dear girl. You are risking your all, coming here with me.”, replied Gnine.

“Actually, I am here just to make sure you come back and in one piece.. As for your promise, I would like the same deal for ‘Bree’ as well!”, she smirked.

“Why? She’s not here..”, scowled the gnome.

“She’s my cousin. She gets what I get.. Unless you want to explain why she’s not getting the same generosity from the prince of the gnomes.. To her face!”

Gnine Tinkerdome sighed.

“And something for Merisoul as well. If anyone is risking anything, it’s her.”, she added.

“It’s alright, love. I don’t really need gifts. What I need has long been forfeit from me and can not be procured. Only comprehended, earned and merited.. Something neither my old master can give, nor my new shall ever deign to bless upon me..”, said Merisoul, with her own sigh.

 

The hour was early.

And it had been four days since they had entered the silent vaults under Silent Hills.

Early or late, it didn’t matter. Fiends, demons, and.. other ‘things’ came at them constantly, relentlessly, and mindlessly..

Yes.

Mindlessly..

And always insane!

As if the Demon Fog had driven everything in it, fiend, beast, and even the occasional walking corpse, insane..

They would come at them and just charge them.

Like some endless stream of rotting debris being carried off in some nightmarish, swift-running river.

Other than what they had offered thus far, the vaults themselves were barren, silent, and bereft of cognatious life. Gnine hadn’t minded it at first. As a matter of fact, he’d marveled at the geometry of it all. In a very non-human, defiantly gnomish way, the structural design of the vaults under the hills were.. beautiful! After four days —and nights, however, he’d started having doubts, for they hadn’t seen or met a single other soul.. The unearthly beautiful half-born, Merisoul, had inspected everything she could with mild interest, pointing at this or that —things she thought were… well… interesting. Laila had found the lifeless halls depressing at best. ‘Spooky’, was the word she thought was more fitting. Perhaps, if and when ‘life’ came back to these halls, vaults, and vast chambers, it might make these hills ‘spectacular’, though, even then, she thought, she wouldn’t have stayed here even if she were being paid for it.. Laila loved nature. And trees, and the sun.. None of which, she would ever find here. She looked down at her little friend, Gnine, with sympathy as she huffed her bangs out of her eyes. From her point of view, he was genetically predestined to like such depressing and dreary places.

There was something about this place that Laila truly found.. intimidating?

She was not really sure.

These vaults, great as they were, were also silent. Too silent. Much like the tombs under Serenity Home temple. Laila had been down there, but only once. Sort of as a private ‘dare’. It was cool, dark, not musty or moldy, nor did the place stank of death or anything.. just.. ‘still’.. and unmoving. And this place, these halls, and the vast, empty chambers they had left behind, were just like how those tombs had been. But with much, much more dread and certainly at a larger magnitude.

Monumentally so. 

It made her feel diminished, sparse, scared..

..And alone.

 

Laila inadvertently shivered.

 

Yep, her forest, her trees, and her sun, out there, was much, much more preferable than here and now.

What truly hit her was the thing she secretly feared most. That she was likely going to lose one of her oldest friends; Gnine Tinkerdome, to these halls, even should they survive and succeed in their endeavor, for here would be his home and his kingdom, and not Serenity Home anymore, and just the thought of that, brought a knotted lump up to her throat she found trouble sending back down..

She sighed and tried to remember their happier times. It was something she often did, for she knew it was important to keep one’s spirits up. If they fell to despair, likely the next encounter would be their last.

“Now there’s a gloomy thought!”, murmured Laila.

“Happy thoughts, girl, happy thoughts.”

Then she thought of ‘Bree’ Bremorel, her cousin and wondered what she was doing right now. She remembered the voice call they had received from her some months ago and inadvertently smiled.

So.. Thomas, that skinny boy, had finally garnered enough courage to be able to speak with her cousin, let alone go on some mission with her. Who would send that kid on any mission? The boy was a bookworm! And suddenly he was sent all the way to Dim Woods on some dangerous mission? With her ravishing and equally raving cousin, Bremorel Songsteel?

Laila liked Thomas.

Yes, they had never really had much in the way of interaction, other than the rare times she’d visit the town temple and he would greet her with his serious but generous smile.. And when they’d see him scurrying behind them like someone’s lost puppy whenever they returned to town in hopes of finding some desperate opportunity to speak, or at least get a glimpse of Bree.

Laila thought he was a good boy even if she found his quite mindless and very nearly melancholic obsession with her cousin a bit creepy..

Then, perhaps because they hadn’t seen each other for some time, Laila felt she should amend her perspective.

Thomas was not just a good boy, he was a good young man. Good, decent, calm, well-mannered, and well educated, but never condescending the way most ‘well educated’ tended to become. And both the orphans and the other children of the town loved him, as he’d somehow find the time, among his overcrowded temple duties and his studies to engage in all sorts of games with them, particularly the one called hog-ball even though he would end up losing in most.

Laila smiled.

Hog-ball; a game that involved a rough, ragged ball wrapped and knotted with strips of leather thongs, and lots of pulling, pushing, kicking, and tripping. Laila had played it a few times before, but only after she’d become a ranger novice. It was too rough a game and seemed to have one basic rule; if you ended up with lots of scratches, scrapes, a black eye, preferably two, and likely a bloody nose, you won —in a personal achievement sense.

Gnine had played it too. Gnine played everything that would get him hurt, for some reason. And when he played hog-ball, he chose to be the goalkeeper; the sole person where EVERYONE pulled, pushed, kicked, and tripped! Kids on their teams wanted larger boys to stand in front of their goal. Someone who could take the heat, AND block the big barrel; the goal. And Gnine would defiantly be their team’s goalkeeper and take all the heat.. just not block the goal. Once, the opposing team had simply picked him up and stuffed him, head first, into the barrel, along with the leather ball!

Her cousin, Bree, had participated in them since she was six and always came back with black eyes, a bloody nose, split lips, skinned knees, ankles, and knuckles. But she would also return triumphant and likely laid waste the whole playground!

The children of Serenity Home had heaved in collective and popular relief when she’d been drafted off to be trained as a ranger!

Another time, some years back, when they had come to town after a particularly long patrol, they had chanced upon one such game. Bree had elbowed her and both had entered the fray where they had ended up in opposing teams. Thinking back, Laila conceded that her cousin had deliberately joined the side where Thomas had been.

Poor boy.

He had run in front of her cousin the whole time, screaming like a lunatic and literally throwing himself on anyone who would try to tackle her! It had been a mindless, selfless, totally unnecessary, and endearing brevity on the boy’s part, leaving him massively scraped, thoroughly grilled, heart-breakingly bleeding, and outright concussed, but had given Bree the opportunity to score an epic goal!

Her cousin, however, had NOT found his ‘protective’ approach amusing..

At all.

She’d raged down upon him, hissing and screaming at his witless attitude all the while, until she’d found him lying knocked unconscious—

—with a stupid smile on his face!

Bremorel hadn’t talked for two days after that. She’d just steamed with confused furry and equally puzzled and somewhat scared expression on her face. Laila had kept her company with badly concealed amusement, triggering further frustration from Bree.

 

Funny how the stupid things people did in life had such devastating effects on others.. More so than the smarter choices they made.

Thinking back, she could still remember what Thomas had said, when she’d asked him why he’d acted so.. ‘rashly’.. rather than be the smart person that he was..

The boy had said, in his calm, serious voice;

“The smart choice was the stupid choice; no one is going to hurt Morel so long as I am around.”

 

Laila chuckled.

The stupid things people did, indeed!

But then, Laila wasn’t one to complain either.

She entertained bangs!

The girls back in Serenity called them ‘fringes’ but Laila liked to call them ‘bangs’. Sounded more.. well.. ‘rangery!’

Rangery? Was that even a word?

Rangerish, then..

Laila snorted. Like that made a better word!

She deliberately dismissed both words and returned her attention to the issue at hand;

Bangs!

Bangs were bad in fights..

Bang kept getting in her eyes..

Bangs made seeing near impossible when swinging swords while dancing among fiends, demons, and crazed corpses..

Bangs made aiming a problem too..

But there she was.. persistent with her bangs perpetually biting into her eyes..

 

The things people did to impress others.. Even when they weren’t there to be impressed!

 

Laila huffed her bangs out of her eyes and plucked another arrow out of one of the dead fiends.

The arrow splintered.

“Damit!”, she murmured in frustration.

That was the third arrow now, totally destroyed!

✱ ✱ ✱

It’s a big room.”, whispered Whimsi Lola.

“Big? How big?”, asked Gnine, to his sprite familiar in hushed voices.

“Big..”, replied the tiny, ‘less-than-six-inch’ girl as she hovered next to Gnine’s head.

“Big like.. a farmhouse?”, asked Gnine.

“Big..”, repeated Whimsi Lola.

“The farmhouse and the barn?”

“Big..”

“Ok.. the farm itself, then?”

“Big..”

“Two farms?”

“Big..”

“Hmm.. Three?”

 

Laila just stared at the two as they ‘haggled’ about the size of the room with the eerie light, at the end of the hall, some two hundred yards away.

Merisoul though seemed much amused and caressed and stroked her own familiar, Jay the little pseudo dragon. Jay purred and made happy croaking noises as he sent his pretty mistress mental images of the room ahead and indeed, it was..

 

“Big..”

 

“Four farms? Geez, how big is that room?, Gnine asked in an exasperated voice.

Whimsi Lola shrugged.

“Big..”

“Great Heavens, girl. Don’t you have a word to describe just how big it is?”, fumed Laila finally.

“No.”, replied Whimsi simply.

“Well, is it ten farms big?”, she asked.

“Dunno..”, said the sprite vaguely. “How big is ‘ten farms big?'”

“And this is why I never have pets!”, she glared at the minute girl.

“I am not a pet.”, replied Whimsi Lola with pure indignation and added with a disparaged huff, “I am an indentured cooperative auxiliary! I would have thought a big girl like you would know the difference. Apparently, I was mistaken!”

Laila glared at the minute creature buzzing in the air.

“I don’t think you even know what you just said, means.”, she growled back.

“Of course I do. All fey know about debts and what they entail, and we very much stick to them, once owed, Ranger Lieutenant Laila Wolvesbane!”, replied Whimsi Lola, buzzing higher and staring down at the ranger corporal with a distinctly superior tone.

“Don’t you look down on me, young lady! And it’s ‘Ranger Corporal’. Not lieutenant.”, scowled Laila.

“Not from what I heard, you aren’t!”, sniffed the ‘not-even-six-inch’ fey girl with admirable disdain.

“What?”, stared Laila up at the tiny, buzzing girl.

“We fey always correctly define things so we are not called upon our mistakes that would lead us to more debt. Don’t you know anything? You had Mistress Inshala ‘la Fey’ Frostmane, the Ritual Guardian, for months with you to learn you all this!”, piped down Whimsi Lola in disgust. Then she turned to Gnine and gave him a look of pure exasperation. “How do you mortals even manage to live as long as you do, not knowing anything that goes around you?”

Gnine coughed.

Laila just ogled at her.

The little creature turned to Merisoul and scolded her as well.

“You are not fey, ‘Soul Keeper’, but you are aware of the things I speak. Why have you not learned them these things?”

“It is a mortal thing, dear Whimsi Lola.”, replied Merisoul. “It takes time for them to be adequately equipped with the nesessary wisdom to start to notice such things. And by the time they do.. well.. they run out of time!”

The tiny Whimsi Lola glared down balefully at Gnine.

“You had better not run out of time soon, Master Gnine Tinkerdome! We just started having some decent fun!”

“I.. will make a point not to..”, replied Gnine a bit deflated.

“So.. I am a Ranger Lieutenant now? When did this happen?”, asked Laila a bit shaken.

“One month, twenty-four days, and the time since we entered this horrible Demon Fog! The Fey do not come here so I do not know exactly. It happened after your mothers’ oath-sisters’ daughter, a Bremorel Songsteel and the Temple Guardian Thomas Dimwood returned back to the mortal town you know as Serenity Home. They had both you and your cousin change ranks!”

Laila ogled at the tiny creature, some more..

“Wow.”, said Gnine. “That must have been some mission those two went to. I wonder what happened?”

“They fought many very big creatures there, with the elves and some dwarves. Creatures that have no respect, called Greater Orken. The elves warned us not to come near, so the details of what happened are a bit sketchy.”, shrugged Whimsi Lola.

“The Orken attacked the elves, again?”, Laila asked feeling a bit sick.

“Yes. But the elves were ready this time. And were backed up by your cousin and the Temple Guardian. Many elves still died, but then the dwarves from Elder Hills came and together, they defeated these Greater Orken.”

“But.. why would the Orken attack the elves again?”, frowned Laila. “..unless they wanted the north of Ritual Forest cleared to move in their main forces without hindrance when the time came.. And I think the time finally did come! Dammit. We had better get moving and fast.”

“So we are back to the room ahead, then.”, said Gnine, staring down the two hundred-yard tunnel-like hall.

“Big!”, prompted Whimsi!

Laila sighed.

“She is right, you know.”, said Merisoul from behind them. “The room is rather big. Possibly bigger than your Serenity Home itself, though its purpose escapes me. Why do the little races want to always build things so much bigger than they are? And certainly bigger than they need?”

“Well.. we like to..”, stammered Gnine.

“..compensate for something, perhaps?”, smiled Merisoul.

“We just like to emphasize things, that’s all.”, replied the gnome sternly then shut up.

The unearthly girl smiled at him again then started down the long tunnel.

“I think you just got served.”, snickered Laila.

“Yes. Yes, I did..”, agreed Gnine, then he smirked at the ranger lieutenant. “But at least I got served by something otherworldly..”

Laila scowled at him, then up at the little, buzzing ‘indentured cooperative auxiliary’..

✱ ✱ ✱

Gnine Tinkerdome gazed down the eerily lit room. But to call this place a ‘room’, was like calling the gigantic monstrosity of a T-Rex they had fought months ago in the Arashkan Arena, a rock lizard! It seemed to go on and on and on forever and it was not empty. Rows and rows of tall, stone boxes were laid out and aligned both vertically and horizontally in military precision so much so that it was downright creepy.

“Wow..”, said the Ranger Lieutenant Laila Wolvesbane from behind in hushed awe. “What is this place?”

Gnine looked up to see the succubi half-born, Merisoul Xyrotwu flap her wings overhead, with unveiled envy as she glided past them again, doing a wide circle in the great hall. It seemed like she was having a lot of fun while doing it. Fun, Gnine thought, that he would never hope to achieve. The gnome had many weak spots in his life. His unquenchable desire to be the things he saw, pretty faces, and to be able to fly, at will, and free of constraints. He secretly gave a side-long glance at his closest friend, Laila, and saw similar envy in her eyes. But there was a distinct nuance in how they viewed the half-born’s flight. Laila viewed it as something unique and perhaps wanted to try it out of thrill, and because it would make travel much easier on her feet.. Quite a practical wont, really. Gnine, on the other hand, much preferred the immense pleasure he could only imagine it would give him. The kind of pleasure only ‘total freedom’ would give. He watched Merisoul, a magnificent creature; her raven black wings stretched, her arms wide open, her honey-brown hair whipping among her dark, crowning horns, her very nearly black-purple strapless dress fluttering, and her tiny, baby pink feet tickling and who had a distinct dreamy expression on her face, disappear in the distance.

“Wow..”, repeated the Ranger Lieutenant Laila Wolvesbane from behind in hushed awe. “I feel jealous, now. I mean, you have got to admit, that’s just awesome!”

“Yes. Yes, it is.. It is almost a sin, watching her like this and know how hard she tries to be a mortal. She must truly want honest love and compassion.”

“She’s an idiot!”, fumed Laila.

“What? That’s a bit harsh, now, don’t you think?”, asked the gnome, taken aback with her sudden vehemence.

“That girl already feels love. And she certainly feels both passion and compassion..”, replied the ranger girl, frowning after the succubi half-born.

“How do you know?”, asked Gnine, a bit surprised because Laila wasn’t one to open up easily, nor give her opinion about ‘feelings’ and ’emotions’. On this score, he thought she was more catatonic than her cousin, Bremorel had ever been. As a matter of fact, he knew Bree displayed her emotions, like, all the time. Yes, it was mostly limited to anger, but Gnine knew it was to hide her real feelings. Laila, on the other hand, was always.. well.. ‘cool’.. Which is how she hid her emotions..

“Gnine.”, she said sternly, looking down at the gnome. “You do not sacrifice your own blood the way she keeps doing to ‘heal’ others, without some sort of genuine feelings. No one can be that ‘chore oriented’. I mean, look at Lady Magella. She healed us so many times, I can’t even come up with a number, and she still snapped at the end and she doesn’t even have to bleed to heal us.”

“Huh..”, grunted Gnine.

“That girl..”, Laila said, pointing at the general direction of the succubi half-born, “..does that every time she thinks any of us are in danger. I have yet to see her flinch when she is being attacked. I mean, she’s all like, ‘meh’, when a demon trice her size in coming at her, yet she very nearly panics when we are. That just can’t be ‘chore’!”

“Hmmm..”, mused the gnome, also looking in the direction where Merisoul had disappeared.

“Yes, she has issues. Issues I could only define using words like, monumental and otherworldly.. But she feels love, passion, and compassion. I can not imagine a girl who does not have those and do the things she does.. Have you seen her face? Actually seen it, when Princess Lorna said, ‘I thought you were my friend..’, back when we had just ran away from High Woods and were hiding in that cave? And the time when the two of us declared her as our friend when we were stumbling in that bloody Demon Fog? She very nearly broke down and cried. Had we been just a bit less nonchalant, or a bit more formal in our impromptu declaration of friendship, I fully believe she would have fallen apart.. Like, really fallen apart.. I was half afraid we had, inadvertently dismantled her! That girl lives for things we have and take for granted.. The things every ‘mortal’ has. Her problem isn’t the total lack of the things she wants. It’s connecting what she has, to her heart.. and mind.. She can’t relate.”, she said, and not without a certain amount of rage.

“Damn..”, Gnine whispered. “That’s.. that’s just sad..”

“When she says, she is broken, she actually means it. And until WE, her FRIENDS, find a way to make her relate to things she already has, she will STAY broken.”

“That’s going to be one, hard task, that is.. And I must admit, I am impressed AND pleased you opened up, the way you just did. Thank you.”, said Gnine happily.

Laila just stared down at the gnome.

“Just which part of anything I said, gave you the impression I was talking about me, let alone opening up, little man?!”

“Ahhaa..”, smirked Gnine. “..Anger! You always get angry when I am right.”

“No, I don’t.”, scoffed Laila.

“Yes, you do.”

“No. I. Don’t!”

“Then what’s with the name-calling?”, snickered the gnome.

“It’s the pre-warning you get before I knock you out of your socks!”, Laila fumed.

Gnine snickered, some more.

“You know, you really should go and have a long sit-down with that pretty boy, D.D. Dexter!”

Laila’s eyes blazed!

“That. Is. Non. Of. Your. Business. Dead. Man!”, she hissed at him.

“The well-being of my oldest and closest friend is non of my business? Just what world are you living in, girl?”, asked Gnine, still smirking. “If you are going to smack me, by all means, do, but my stance in this matter isn’t going to change.”

Laila glared down at him even more. Lucky for her though, or perhaps for the still smirking gnome, Merisoul appeared and did a stunning dive in their direction, swung up at the last moment, then gently settled down next to them!

“Wow, girl. That was truly spectacular, amazing, mind-boggling, and simply awesome.”, admitted Gnine.

 

Merisoul blushed!

And both Laila and Gnine noticed it.

 

That.. had never happened before.. Merisoul never showed any emotion other than perpetual sadness in her otherworldly beautiful face. Yet, here she was blushing..

Gnine ogled at her.

Because a blushing Merisoul was a whole new definition of ‘otherworldly beauty’!

Laila cleared her throat as a certain heat washed over her.

Damn!..

The half-born was unprecedentedly beautiful and Laila just now understood what would have happened had the girl actually used her succubi heritage over them the whole time she had been with them.

She also got a glimpse of what the girl truly meant, when she’d said, she was ‘hungry’ and hadn’t ‘eaten’ since she’d been forced to switch masters!

‘She must be starving!”, she thought, more than unnerved. ‘How does she even stay sane?’

 

“Tha.. thank you, Master Gnine.”, stammered Merisoul, still blushing in a baby pink-red color.

Gnine tried to clear his mind but failed.

Laila stepped on his foot and asked with a somewhat hoarse voice, “Uhh.. What have you seen?”

“Tombs..”, Merisoul replied. “These stone boxes are tombs.. All of them.. Thousands upon thousands of them.. It goes on for as far as I dared to fly..”

Gnine reeled back in desolate horror.

“Tombs? What the..? Why?..”, he spluttered.

“Relevant questions.”, Merisoul replied, all business again. “I suspect they all contain someone in them.”

“How do you..?”, the Gnine shuddered.

“They all have similar-dissimilar names, carved on brass plaques at one end of each box.”, she said.

“How do you mean, ‘similar-dissimilar’?”

“The names are all unique, but have a similar phonetic function, meaning they are likely all kin or of the same race and familial clan, Master Gnine. I believe we found your Silent Gnomes. I am, however, afraid it might be a bit too late for them.”

 

Laila suddenly felt sympathy for her little friend when she saw the sick expression on his face..

✱ ✱ ✱

Gnine, Laila, and Merisoul examined the ‘tombs’ for hours only to find very little more than they had expected to find. And now, Gnine was sitting on the cold, smooth floor of the immense hall of tombs with his back on one of the stone boxes and seemed very much on the verge of breaking down when the succubi half-born silently came and sat next to him.

Quietly, she put one arm over his other shoulder and hugged him closer to herself, and spoke in whispers. “I am sorry Master Gnine. I did the best I could to bring you here.”

“Tis alright, dear Soul. None of this was your fault, nor your doing. We were a couple of centuries too late.”, sniffed the little gnome.

“I know all seems lost, but I am not certain, nor do I know if they are actually dead or in some kind of suspended animation or cryo-sleep. If so, then there must be some way to deactivate it. Otherwise, It doesn’t make sense, preparing all these stone boxes, just to lie down in them and die.. Besides, the logistics behind it all doesn’t add up, either.”

“How do you mean?”, asked Gnine with a hoarse voice, stifling another sniff.

“There must have been a considerable number of gnomes left behind who were not put to ‘sleep’. Gnomes that had to ‘activate’ these ‘sleep-stones’, to care for them, and to make sure they were left unscathed.. Basic logistics and maintenance.”, she explained.

“She’s right.”, Laila said as she appeared between the stone boxes, further down the hall. “Other than the wear and tear of ‘time’, I noticed pretty much all the containers, or coffins, are still in pristine condition. So I checked for tracks. The floor is not marble, but very smooth and tightly fit stone, much like the walls. There is, however, quite a bit of dust. I found many tracks. Most of them belong to the demons we have slain on the way here. I found some small bootprints too. Seeing as you are one of my oldest friends, I could easily say, these prints also belonged to gnomes, though they are old. Very old. I happened upon many dead demons as well. Having looked closer, they all seem to have been ambushed. I suspect that Temez girl and her friends came through here. She did say they cleared all they could on their way to the Door.. The ones we met thus far were likely wandering around, rather than stationary sentries. We should move on.”

“We could be just wasting our time, you know..”, Gnine said in a depressed tone.

Laila looked down at the little gnome.

She felt a fluttering pang in her heart, for him.

But she refused to show any sympathy.

Her brows crossed and her gaze turned hard.

“Get up.”, she said with an unmerciful hiss.

“Wha—?”, gapped the gnome at her.

“I said, get up. Or I will hurt you. This is no time for your sorry feelings. We didn’t come all the way here, and through Hell, just to go back empty-handed. My town.. Your town needs you.. And I have no desire to see it go to waste by the Hell-Spawn Orken. I have seen firsthand what they did to Arashkan. I have seen what they did to High Woods as well, and so have you. Will you give up now and let our town, our homes burn because you are feeling sorry?”

Merisoul tried a poor attempt of a cough.

“Well, now. That was a bit harsh, girl, don’t you think?”, Gnine said taken aback. “‘Get up’ was more than enough. You didn’t have to beat me into the ground.”

“I don’t do ‘half ways’, little man.”, said Laila sternly. “Nor do I like doing repeats, re-do’s, begs, or pleads.”

“Apparently you don’t!”, mumbled the gnome. “I think you have hung around Bree for a bit too long.. All her bad habits seem to have rubbed off on you.”

Laila scowled even harder.

“Okay, okay..”, said the gnome in defeat. “There.. I am up! Geez, girl, you can be harsh at times..”

“Quit whining, Gnine!”, scoffed the ranger lieutenant.

“I think she’s right.”, smiled Merisoul.

“By all means, chose her side..”, grumbled Gnine.

“Well, yes. You are cute. But she’s prettier, and she has bangs!”

“…”

✱ ✱ ✱

Finally.. That was one, big, room.. We must have walked for.. How many hours?”, wondered Gnine Tinkerdome.

“More than five, closer to six.”, came Laila Wolvesbane’s voice, off to his left.

“How do you know, girl? There’s no sun here to determine—”, wondered the gnome.

“She’s been counting her steps.”, said Merisoul Xyrotwu simply, from his other side.

“What?”

“Easier than counting steady heartbeats, I must admit. But I have wings and skip a step or three, now and then..”, the succubi half-born replied a bit abashed.

“You have been counting your heartbeats?”, asked Laila, with a surprised tone. “Won’t that be a bit.. inaccurate? Considering it changes when sleeping or in exertion such as running or even prolonged walking, as we have been doing.”

“Yours does. So does Master Gnine’s. Mine?.. Mine only changes under particular conditions? Otherwise, it’s much like a metronome swinging on even surface.”, replied Merisoul, with a reluctant voice.

“That is ..remarkable; a truly metronomic heart!”, admired Laila.

“Not as much as you make it sound.”, Merisoul answered with the same tone.

“How so? And how do you do it?”

“I don’t do it, dear Laila. It has to do with emotions. More like the lack of them in my case. Hard to have a hyped heartbeat when you can’t feel love, fear, anger —or any other form of excitement.”, she said in a monotonous voice.

“But you said, yours does, under particular—”

“—When I feed, dear Laila.. My heart rate changes only when I ‘feed’..”, came the half-born’s defeated voice.

“When you feed?”, asked the ranger lieutenant a bit confused. Then it dawned on her. “Ow.. when you ‘feed!’

 

Gnine coughed.

Laila blushed furiously and shut up.

 

Gnine cleared his throat after several silent moments.

“Ahem.. Back to the issue at hand, then..”, he offered.

“The thing you are actually wondering..”, said Laila in a subdued and flushed voice. “We came just over 30,000 yards. Each stone box/coffin/crate/or whatever you want to call them is two yards long and one yard apart. There were twelve rows, each row has four lines of crates grouped together. You do the math. I did the steps!”

“Fair enough.”, Gnine said and did a quick calculation in his mind but voiced it for the benefit of the girls. “That’s 10,000 crates per row..”

“How did you come up with that number? I said 30,000 yards..”

“Well..”, said the gnome. “..Each box is two yards long so we can reduce 10,000 yards off right there and another for the length of each crate.. Then we have twelve rows, each row with four crates, making the lot 48 actual rows in total. Now we time that with the 10,000 crates and we’ll get 480,000 crates in total!”

Laila whistled..

“That.. is a lot of crates!”

“It is indeed..”

“You reduced 10,000 yards, twice, right at the start. Why?”, she asked.

“Because, my dear girl, 10,000 yards of it is just empty space between each sequential crate, and the second was because 20,000 is in ‘yards’. It is not the number of crates per column.. Each crate is two yards long, so that’s 20,000 divided by two..”

“Ow.. right..” *cough* “Well.. Let’s just get moving, shall we?”

Gnine did not laugh. He did not even snicker. A friend never laughed at his friend, and certainly not at a girls’ blindside or folly. But that wasn’t really the reason.

The Heir to all the gnomes of Silent Hills had just come to a stunning realization.

These.. were not crates..

These.. were tombs containing his gnomes, his people!

 

Damn..

 

The adventures of the Wizard Prince Gnine Tinkerdome, the Ranger Lieutenant Laila Wolvesbane, and the sad, otherworldly creature, Merisoul Xyrotwu will continue as they travel deeper into the demon-infested vaults of Silent Hills, desperately seeking answers and allies, and the original denizens of the hills..


dungeons and dragons duygusal groups karakter analizi modül savaş serenity serenity home the plot thickens Whispers; A Cabal

Grulganesti Grimtooth Bolgrig;
“A Debt Father to Daughter Passed..”

Grulganesti Grimtooth Bolgrig;
“A Debt Father to Daughter Passed..”

Timeline:

Sometime in the near future..

..and distant time to come.

 

This story takes place
about a month after
The Oathbreaker (Part Four)
but before
After Her..

 

 

It has been some time, little one. Many a things have I heard since you left. Of big happenings.. Of things moving; beast and man, elf and dwarf.. I hear the voices of the long-lost, waiting to be heard again.. Waiting in anticipation. Yet I hear another voice. Stronger now.. Louder. The one I warned Yours —the former Ritual Guardian.. It calls to us.. And it is not the voice of a mortal.. It is a dark voice.. Dark like untended, besmirching smoke.. I hear, also, whispers among the trees.. and the leaves.. and the winds.. and they say a new Ritual Guardian is among us.. And I sense the tender touch of a little girl in many of these big happenings. There is also a new grove, to the far north and east, where the mad mortal’s temple once was.. My ogres went there only to find.. peace! They lost all their bloodlust and all their hunger for hurt when they wandered it. They said the grove has an owner, little one..”, growled the nearly fourteen-foot tall giant of a woman, an ogress, with a harsh, vicious face, wild hair thickly braided many times, with arms and legs and body untoned and bearing awesome muscles and many scars; Chieftain Grulganiste Grimtooth Bolgrig stared down, a looming monstrosity, over the little girl with an adorable face, and beautiful, even horns.. and at the cold, silent man in his dark harness, emanating a certain, ‘wintery’ death..

“I have returned, mother Ganiste.”, very nearly whispered the little girl —her voice abashed and barely audible.

“If you will have me..”

 

One would never expect such frightening agility from Chieftain Grulganiste, and certainly not from a monster of her size..

Aager Fogstep almost dished out everything he had, when she moved.

One moment, she was standing and glowering, the next, she had the little girl, Inshala, in her massive arms and pressed against her impressively large breasts.

 

“No, my little one.. I will never have you because you never left. And my heart has ached since that unfair day.. This, you must understand.. This, your father tried so hard to learn you..”, she said with tears running down her brutish face.

“This, I understand now, mother Ganiste. I am so, so sorry.. I am not wise, but a foolish little girl..”, Inshala hugged the ogress back with a sob. “And.. I am so, so sorry for having hurt you and blamed you for my father’s demise..”

“Ow, no, my little daughter. You will not get away with one apology. Come.. I have food, and Chihuahua has missed you.”, smiled the giant ogress, leaned down, and carefully put the girl back on the ground.

“That was an awesome speech, by the way.”, said the little girl, somberly.

“It had better be. Been revising and revisiting it for quite some weeks, now..”, growled the massive figure.

She thundered a few great steps and opened the flaps of her tent and bid her, and the cold, dark man in.. the one she’d kept in her peripheral vision at all times and learned what she sought, the moment she’d grabbed for her little Inshala!

 

‘So. My daughter has found something that cares and savagely.. Yet.. in control.. barely..’, she mused as the two entered her tent, followed them in, and closed the flaps after her.

 

“Chihuahua!”, shrieked Inshala and grabbed a rather tinny dog with short legs and a pointy little muzzle, as it jumped on her, its butt waggling crazy.

This was followed by a lot of giggles and happy laughter as the tinny dog nuzzled and licked at her hands, her face, and her small feet.

Aager Fogstep stood watching the giant ogress, his Inshala, and the hyped little dog while he stood at one side of the tent flaps, the side that would likely be pushed open first.

Chieftain Grulganiste turned to her pots and pans, and started slicing some potatoes, onions, carrots and dumped them into a large pot, then dropped large chunks of meat, followed by various spices, then hung the pot over the large fire pit, close to the center of the great, hut-like tent.

It took a moment for Aager to realize the ogress was staring at him. Watching her preparing food with fluent, hypnotic motions as he stared at the fire in the pit, he’d drifted off.. He was standing and awake, but his awareness had gone, leaving his body on total auto-motion..

The ogress had also addressed him something and he’d missed that too!

 

That.. had never happened to Aager.

And the more interesting part was..

..realizing it hadn’t even bothered him.

At all..

 

What else he’d realized was, albeit, and yes, this was an uncivilized, barbaric tent, its interior was..

Aager Fogstep failed to come up with a word.

For he’d never really had it.

And it was the realization of this fact, that had come to him in shrapneled.. hurt?

 

“Home..”

..he heard Inshala’s small, breathy voice in his mind.

“This is home, my Aager. Not mine. Not yours. But a home. Her home. Mother Ganistes’ home. Here, she cooked. Here, she gave birth. Here, she laughed, and here, she mourned.. Here, she has fire, and here, she has Chihuahua..”

 

“The boy seems distracted.”, noted Grulganiste.

“I think so too.”, replied Inshala. “It is good that he is, mother Ganiste.”

“Ow?”

“Yes. He is always alert. Always watching. Always fighting, and always bleeding. He needs respite.”, replied the little girl softly.

“And found it here, has he? In my tent. The tent of an ogress.. My my.. He must truly need this respite, you speak of.”, smiled the ogress. “Well, bring him back from wherever he’s gone to. I wouldn’t want the sheriff to accuse me for letting his man go hungry nor for inhospitality.”

“You know the sheriff of Serenity Home?”, suddenly asked Aager.

“Yes, boy. And for quite some time now. Has an itchy hand with his blade when it comes to my ogres, though I can’t say I blame him. Everyone’s got to protect their own and my sons and daughters can get out of hand at times.”, replied Grulganiste, without breaking a smile.

Aager stared at the giant woman with reassessing eyes. This.. ogress was a lot more than what she appeared to be, and that was saying something.

“Come, boy.”, repeated the giant woman as she brought huge, ogre-sized bowls and spoons and settled near the fire pit where the tiny Chihuahua and the little girl, Inshala waited with equal anticipation.

Aager Fogstep stared at the scene.

A giant monstrosity of a woman sitting cross-legged; their host, a girl that could barely reach up to her caft if she were standing on her toes, sitting across her; her guest, and a dog that was ‘small’ even by Inshala’s standards, let alone the great ogre!

It looked so unreal.. And hilarious.. But he kept his mouth shut and settled himself next to the little girl.

The chihuahua have him a warning growl, made sure the man in the dark leathers would behave himself, then promptly dismissed him when Chieftain Grulganiste put a cup the size of a respectable-sized bowl with some potatoes and a large chunk of meat in front of him. The chihuahua started to ‘wolf’ it all down with a mindless fervor!

 

*chomp* *chomp* *chomp*

 

Aager took a careful spoon of the food and only after he’d smelled it first.

 

Funny how that went.

Aager Fogstep, the cold, sinister man. The Winter Knight, a peer to the Winter Court, had a sensitive nose and bad food churned his stomach!

 

“You are a guest in my home, boy. It is polite to just eat it, you know. It is vegetables, potatoes, and cow!”, rumbled the ogress with an impressive scowl.

 

*chomp* *chomp* 

 

Inshala giggled as she ate hers with delight.

“He is a sensitive soul, mother Ganiste. Happily, I cook well and have had much practice.”

“Sensitive, is he?”, snorted the ogress. It seemed at first, she was about to make a pun remark, but for whatever reason, she must have changed her mind. “Sensitive can be good. My daughter is alsa sensitive. Will you smell her carefully, before you taste her too?”

 

Aager..

Aager’s food came out of his nose!

 

“Mother!”, gasped Inshala, suddenly burning bright red.

“What?”, asked Grulganiste seriously. “It’s a pertinent question. Or perhaps he already has and that is why you are so skinny now!”

“M.. Mother.. Please.. Stop!”, begged Inshala with steam rising from her ears.

 

*chomp* *chomp* *chomp* 

 

“This is what mothers do, little one. Ask impertinent questions. I am sure your father would have approved.. and snickered.. though not obviously. He was a thoughtful old man, particularly where you were concerned, after all.. Sour though he was.”, said mother Ganiste briskly.

“She smells like something wonderful. I lack words. And the ones I have, fall short.”, Aager said quietly, after wiping the food off his face.

“Does she, now?”, asked Chieftain Grulganiste with an awesome scowl.

“Yes.”, replied Aager simply.

“A.. Aager.. Please.. Stop!”, begged Inshala burning even brighter if that was even possible.

Apparently, it was!

 

“And she tastes like ‘Life’.”

 

*chomp*

 

“Not ‘beautiful’, not ‘delightful’, not ‘passionate’, not even ‘enjoyable’, but ‘life’.. Your choice of word is intriguing, if not impressive. And correct, for life has the potential of encompassing all.. You do not speak the words of a young fool, as fools are often young, much like their base wonts and shallow understandings. You will keep her safe, content, and desired, always, then? Or shall we break spoons, now?”, said the giant woman with a certain, implied menace.

 

*chomp* *chomp*

 

“Your food smells and tastes good, Chieftain Grulganiste. I see no reason to break spoons.”, replied Aager formally.

Grulganiste cocked an eyebrow at the man in dark leathers.

“You wish not to talk about this, then?”, she asked.

“You may, as you would, Chieftain. This is your home and I am a mere guest. My Inshala is where I belong. I desire nothing more from her. But by the Great Heavens, nothing less, either.”, he replied calmly and succinctly.

 

Grulganiste, though, recognized that ‘calm’.. For it was the calm she felt only after she’d let her bloodlust have its way. Accept, this.. man’s ‘calm’ was before the bloodlust and there seemed no respite from it anywhere in his near future.

 

And then it hit her.

 

This man.. ‘danced’.. and perpetually, at the edge of insanity.. always.. He was as a feral wolf; savage, hungry, cunning and bloody mad!

And her little Inshala, was the lamb to that wolf..

‘Ow, my dear, dear girl. What have you done? To whom have given your beautiful heart?’, wondered the chieftain of all the ogres of Oger’s Foot in dread and hopeless fascination.

She stared fiercely at the cold man in dark leathers for a bit more.

“Very well.”, mother Ganiste said finally. “We shall put this issue and the breaking of spoons aside for the anon. Now, we shall take part the merry wisdom of my chihuahua to heart and eat.”

*chomp* *chomp*

✱ ✱ ✱

Now, then.  You came here at quite a critical time. Your enemies gather and in great numbers. The dwarven forges have been smoking non-stop for months, the foolish woodsmen carve spear shafts and great wooden stakes by the thousands, the elves enforce their woods with pits and traps as they fill quivers with arrows by the numbers I shudder to even assume. The humans to the south build walls and dig trenches day and night like their very lives depended on it, and by all accounts, it does!”, briefed the ogre chieftain in a low, rumbling growl that would have made any cave bear with a shred of sense to back off.

Aager Fogstep was, yet again, astounded at the accuracy of this giant woman’s astute perception. He had, and only once before, come to Oger’s Foot, some years ago, when a savage ogre called Cabot had come down from these hills and had started ravaging the lands. Serenity Home ranger masters Davien and Moorat had gone after him, but the ogre had been fast on his feet. He had gathered his followers and had made a run for it.. to the ruins of Themalsar, forcing the ranger masters to retreat. Then young Udoorin’s father, Sheriff Standorin, along with Davien, Moorat, Aager, more than half the guards of the town and no other that Lady Magella herself had come here, to these hills to give a harsh lesson to the ogres to behave themselves. They hadn’t met, nor seen Chieftain Grulganiste then. Looking back, now, Aager woke up to the fact that they really hadn’t seen all that many ogres at all!

‘Damn..’, he silently fumed. ‘We were played.. by ogres!’

 

Once again, he was harshly reminded that ‘the stupider’ something seemed, the more they ‘fooled’ the human’s ‘higher’ intellect!

Aager had never assumed, in any given time, that he was smarter than those around him. He prepared to stay silent and observe, hence at least give some semblance of ‘smart’. But being conned by one ogress?

Really, now..

That did nudge his self-esteem a notch or two down!

 

“If you are here to warn us not to join your foes, I have no desire to. Some of my more foolish sons and daughters might.. It is hard to curb the bloodlust when it comes. Particularly when their air stinks of it.. I shall resist ‘the call’, for as best as I can, for as long as I can., and will have nothing to do with this conflict. Should you see me and mine on the field, and waring against you, you may, by all means, slay me and mine, for it shall mean that I have fallen to ‘the call’. I would rather die with some semblance of honor on my own, than to rampage mindlessly for another..”, she rumbled calmly.

“We have not come to warn you, Chieftain Grulganiste.. Nor have we come to threaten you. Certainly not in your home.”, replied Aager carefully.

“Smart of you, not to.”, smiled Grulganiste terribly.

Aager paused for a moment before he spoke again, for whether this would be an official offer by Serenity Home, or a personal favor would be determined by what he would say next. Then he thought about the oncoming slaughter, and his pragmatism kicked in. He didn’t care how something got done, provided it wasn’t downright heinous. He cared that it did get done, and at this point, that was all that mattered.

Hence he looked at the little girl, Inshala..

..and realized.

He wasn’t looking at her like she was a little girl anymore, even if her mind worked and prompted her, at times, to do things that would make her seem like one.

He was looking at not just the ‘person’ he belonged but at the daughter of Lady Alisia and the late Delia Karakash Hooman, the surrogate daughter of the departed Master Cathber Gwet’chen Bolgrig, the daughter of the chieftain of all the ogres of Oger’s Hill, Grulganesti Grimtooth Bolgrig, the mistress of The Grove, The Ritual Guardian and by defacto, a citizen of Serenity Home and Gull’s Perch, the wont of both Mab, the Winter Queen and Titania, the Summer Queen and..

..he was looking at the young woman he loved and cherished by her mere existence.

Just when had that shift in his perspective occurred, Aager Fogstep couldn’t say.

The fact that it had, told him some things..

 

Carefully, he kept his composure and nodded at the young woman.

“Ritual Guardian..”, he spoke. “If you would.”

 

Chieftain Grulganiste cocked an eyebrow at him, then at the young woman.

“Respect..”, she said. “Good. For it’s there, only if it’s there.”

“Mother Ganiste.”, Inshala said softly. “We shall not confine you with demands. We come as beggars.”

“Ow?”, said Grulganiste.

“Yours can not stand, while the blood of the innocent spills by the thousands. Your own blood shall boil in wont and willy-nilly, the madness of its lust will drive you to war. We only beg, you choose when and where to release your blood and your lust for it..”, said the young woman, her eyes wide and pleading.

“What are you asking of me, girl?”, demanded Grulganiste.

“Join us, mother. Your daughter, and your forest of whom you have shared her bounties for centuries.. we need you.. Now, more than ever..”

“You are asking me to join with the elves and the dwarves and the humans who have hunted us for the said centuries and in our forest? You have gone mad!”, she roared and the hut-like tent tremored.

“Mother.. Chieftain Grulganiste..”, she said solemnly. “We go to this war with the intent of not coming back because we will not retreat, nor run, or hide.. These are choices, just not ours.. If your choice is to stay here as we bleed and die, then this shall be the last you shall see of your Father’s daughter.”

 

Chieftain Grulganiste Grimtooth Bolgrig just sat there, cross-legged and quietly petrified.

 

“You come here, to my hills and to my home, you eat my food and dare to threaten me? With your demise?”, she thundered with a horrible, torturous voice.

“No, mother Ganiste. I only speak my truth, as I always have.”, replied Inshala, bowing her head.

Grulganiste turned and with burning eyes, she very nearly burned Aager where he sat with her glare.

“Has this one put these foolish thoughts into your head, girl?”, she snarled.

“Mother, please. He spoke so I would go away, far away, when the slaughter began.”, replied the young woman quietly again.

“Then why will you not listen to him?”, snarled the ogress with much fury.

 

For a moment Inshala paused. Then, slowly she lifted her head, then herself. Step by step, she came at the giant woman and hugged her. One sitting, the other on her toes, and the young woman still looked so very diminished as she clung to the ogress.

 

“Because the running cannot belong, my beloved mother Ganiste.. You must know, for the first time, I belong.. Will you deny this one wealth, from me?”, she replied Inshala desperately, as she sobbed.

“You belong to this man?”, Grulganiste asked in some surprise.

“I belong to this man, mother Ganiste.”, she whispered again. “He is my hills. My trees. My garden. My day. And my night, mother. He is my land and my forest.. And my home..”, said Inshala in a voice that sounded so lost, yet so happy.

“And what has he promised you? What does he give you in return?”, asked the ogress, somewhat freaked! 

“His life, mother. This, he has already given..”

 

Chieftain Grulganiste pushed Inshala away at arm’s length and just stared at her, then at Aager like a mother was looking at her foolish children whose excuses were worse than their deeds..

 

“But know, mother, the Orken shall not leave you at peace, should they trample over our corpses. You know this to be true, for you recall what they did when they first came.”, Inshala said softly. “They shall come in number and trample over yours as well.. And take your hills, and your sons and daughters away from you, and push them into service of nothing less than darkness!”

✱ ✱ ✱

Chieftain Grulganiste Grimtooth Bolgrig stood up. With tangible wrath visible and plainly etched on her face, she stormed out of the tent, though not too far, for both Aager and Inshala could hear her great strides trample back and forth as if trying desperately to blow some steam, but failing horribly. 

“What now?”, asked Aager quietly.

“Now we wait, my Aager Fogstep. We have told her our wont and given her choices. It is up to her now. She must do what she thinks would best serve her and hers because she is the chieftain of her people.”, replied the young woman.

“She must love you much, my Inshala. I saw fear once, and only once in her eyes. And that was when you said you would not go away, but join the slaughter.”, noted Aager in a hushed voice. “I would have a word to say about your decision to stay, love. My inner voice says, send her away, even should it break her heart. There are many Aager’s in the world.. There’s but one of her! Please, my Inshala.. If I have one wish, I would wish you to go.. and live.”

 

The young woman stared at Aager with a broken expression.

Then, large, shimmering tears swelled in her eyes and slid down her small face.

 

“You.. wish to break our bond?”, she asked in a voice that could only be called; ‘desperation’.

“I would wish, that you lived.”, replied Aager and bowed his head, unable to look at her.

“And did you live.. before?”

“No. I did not, my heart.”

“And you think I lived? You wish me gone, knowing I shall die some, every day? You hope to preserve me while you die, knowing I shall not? Why? Why would you do this to me? We.. we promised to be stupid together. Does this promise falter at our first trial?”

“No, Inshala. We have had many trials together. You know this to be true.”

“Yes. I do know this to be true. But you fail to reason; distance will keep me safe, and perhaps assure my survival. But it will not keep me alive.. Not really.. If you truly want me gone, however, I shall.”

 

Aager cursed himself.

He had never wanted her hurt. But he had.. What else he had done, was to have made her choices for her. Did he really have the right to that? Yes, they belonged. But was he, perhaps unwittingly, abusing the ‘trust’ of their bond? And a tad too casually?

Then he figured..

..the monumental arrogance he was displaying without even knowing because he thought he knew things, and life better..

Keeping her away was just as selfish as telling her to stay.

It wasn’t up to him in the first place.

At all!

His Inshala had desperately wanted his love, certainly, but she wanted his respect more.

Yes, she looked so little, but she was not all human.

She was little.. and yet she was more..

Aager finally figured out what it was, his shift in perspective was telling him; that he should quit treating her by his stupid, narrow, quite conventional, and mortal standards, but by hers..

 

“No. To stay, or to go, is a choice you must make. I.. I do not want you to go.. I never wanted it.. I want you to stay, always.. Will you? Please?”, he asked silently.. and desperately..

 

..and she was in his arms.

 

“I never left.”, she whispered. “And stay, I shall. We.. we promised, my Aager, we PROMISED..”

 

The tent’s flaps pushed open and Grulganiste stood there, glaring down at the two.

“You..”, she said. “..truly love this man?”

“I do.”, replied Inshala, still in Aager’s arms.

“You..”, she said, glaring down at the man in dark leathers. “..truly love my daughter?”

“I do.”, replied Aager simply.

“And should something happen to either of you..?”, she asked and there was nothing but a baleful storm in her face.

“The other shall die.”, Inshala quietly.

“Why? Why would you make such a pact? To what purpose would you make this pact, girl?”, she thundered.

“Purpose? None, mother. Only to belong. It is a feeling like no other. It transcends.. This, you must accept, mother Ganiste.”, Inshala replied tenderly.

“Very well, Inshala.. I shall join you and yours in this slaughter.”, she said very, very harshly.

“Thank you—”, began the young woman.

“—In return..”, cut in the vastly angry ogress. “..you will uphold your father’s promise to me.”

 

Inshala ‘la Fey’ Frostmane stared at Chieftain Grulganiste Grimtooth Bolgrig with a horrified expression.

 

“No, mother Ganiste. I beg of you. Do not ask this of me.. Anything but this..”, she pleaded.

“It is not a choice I am giving you, Inshala. It is a debt; Father to Daughter Passed..”, she replied with a frosty expression. “Will you honor it?”

“Mother..”

“Will you honor it?”

“..Ganiste..”

“Will you not honor your father’s debt? His promise?”

“…p..please..”

“WILL YOU HONOR IT, INSHALA?”, roared the giant ogress.

“..I will..”, replied Inshala in a small voice.. and Aager held her fast as she burst into uncontrolled, unhinged tears and wept..

She wept with a terrible loss..

Aager held her and stared at the giant ogress.

“What debt have you tasked her to honor, Chieftain?”, he very nearly snarled.

“Her father, Cathber Gwet’chen Bolgrig, promised to slay me when my time came, young man.. He failed to do so, for he was slain ere he could.”

“I shall honor this task for her.”, he spat, without even thinking.

“No.”

“No?”

“No, boy.. You are not part of the debt, nor the honor. I do not know you and you are neither my respected enemy nor my loved one. This is not something that is covered in whatever pact, bond, or accord you have made with one another.”, she replied harshly.

“Will you not respect the Winter Knight, then? And spare my Inshala —your daughter, the pain?”, he asked, suddenly desperate.

“I respect Mab, and I respect the Winter Mantle. A heavy and dreary burden it is, and will likely drive you mad in the end and get my daughter killed as well.. But I do not know you.. Again, this is not your trial, nor your debt..”, replied and her voice was calm again.

Aager inadvertently staggered.

This ogre not only knew of Mab and of her Winter Knight she also knew of the Winter Mantle!

“Why? Why would you do this to her? She is ‘daughter’.. She loves you..”

“Because, the bonded of my daughter, love is beautiful. And it is harsh. It is not a word to be spent with ease. It demands.. always demands.. And is tested upon death.. Hence we ask this of only the enemy we respect or from the ones we love..”

 

Chieftain Grulganiste stared down at the two of them and something shimmered in her eyes, but for a mere moment.

 

“Now go.. I have many preparations to make. We must all make a pilgrim to The Grove to cleanse our souls.. Then gather.. For humans with false words, I lost my mother, my father, my greats, and many kin.. This time, I shall go to slaughter on my own accord. We shall make these Orken scream in pain, for they shall receive nothing less from us. Do not mourn your debt, my daughter. Perhaps I shall fall in the coming slaughter and free you of it..”


dungeons and dragons modül savaş The Great Arashkan the plot thickens Whispers; A Cabal

The Stab In The Back

The Stab In The Back

Timeline:

Anglenna Sunsear, Alor’Nadien ne (Lorna) Feymist ve Udoorin Shieldheart, Üç Köpek Lanetini Arashkan şehrine salmak için, elf konsolosluğu, High Spires’dan ayrılırlar. Bu esnada Darly ‘Darlius’ Dor ve Lilly Venom ise, ARIS (Arashkan İstihbarat Servisi) ajanı Largo Summersong ile beraber, Arashkan Birinci Lordu Kaladin’in kalan muhtemel son varisi olan sekiz yaşındaki yeğeni Korodin’in, kuşatma ve saldırı altındaki Arashkan Birinci Lordunun büyük sarayından kurtarmak için yola koyulurlar..

..pek az kişinin bildiği gizli bir geçitten.

 

Bu hikaye,
The Malediction of ‘Rellen..
(Part Three)
“Three Dog Curse..”
‘dan
kısa bir süre sonra yer alır.

 

 

Ne düşünüyorsun?”, diye sorar yakışıklı adam sessizce, ve bir yandan yıkılmış duvarın arkasında kendisi gibi sinmiş, yumuşak çizmelerine kadar dökülen koyu kahve deri pardösülü kıza, bir yandan da duvarın öbür yanında, neredeyse dört yüz yarda ilerde, kara cübbeler içerisindeki bir adamla tartışan, kızı kadar boylu kadına bakar; High Lady Angrellen Sunsear’e..

Darly “Darlius” Dor, kendisini bile şaşırtacak bir sükunete sahiptir nedense. Halbuki yıllardır görmeyi.. Hayır. Öldürmeyi beklediği kadın, iyi bir okçu mesafesindedir.

 

Genç hırsız ister istemez geçirir aklından.

“Laila Wolvesbane’in burada olmasını ne kadar isterdim şimdi..”

 

“Sence mümkün mü? Yoksa bekleyelim mi?”, diye devam eder Philius Silveroak ve Rimel Auburn’un oğlu, yanındaki kızdan herhangi bir cevap alamayınca.

“Sana hiç çok konuştuğunu söyleyen oldu mu, Darlius?”, diye sessiz bir tiksintiyle sorar Lilly Venom.

“Müteaddit defa…”, der Darly Dor sırıtarak.

“Bunu söyleyenlerin seni övmek için söylemediklerinin farkındasın, değil mi?”, diye ekşi bir suratla tıslar Venom.

“Etrafımdakilerin hakkımda söyledikleri yada düşündüklerine göre davranmış olsaydım, sanıyorum bulunduğum yerde olmazdım, sevgili Lilly.”, der Darly çok hafif alınmış bir sesle.

“Bulunduğun yer..”, diye burnundan solur Lilly Venom. “..yıkılmış, harabeye dönmüş ve yanan bir şehir!”

“Doğru. Ama ve en nihayetinde ben, yaşadığım şeylerin sadece bir kümülatif sonucuyum.. Aslına bakılırsa sen de öylesin, sevgili—”

“—Bana ‘sevgili’ diye hitap etmemeni tercih ederim, Darlius. Bu sana tek uyarım olacak.”, der Lilly Venom, yakışıklı half-elf’in lafını keserek.. “Ben senin yada bir başkasının ‘sevgilisi’ değilim.”

“Bugün biraz sinirli gibisin. High Spires’da seni güldürmeyi başarmıştım halbuki. Şehir ilk saldırıya uğradığında ve sizler surlardan kaçarken, benim gelip seni bulmamdan ötürü de için rahatlamış gibi bir halin vardı.. Ne değişti?”

“Beni bulduğunda sevinmiştim çünkü müteşekkirdim. Buna hakaret ederek karşılık vermemi beklemiyordun herhalde. Babanın evinde gülmemin sebebi ise, senin komik olman değil, kendini düşürdüğün ahmak durumdan dolayı idi.”, der Lilly Venom asabice.

“Bu iki durum da, neyin değiştiğini anlatmıyor bana.”, der Darly, önündeki kara cübbeli adamla tartışmaya devam eden High Lady Angrellen’i süzerken. “Ben aramızda profesyonelce bir samimiyetin olmasını tercih ederim.”

“Ben ölülerle samimiyet kurmam.”, diye keskin bir sesle cevap verir kiralık katil kız.

“Evet. Bir gün öleceğim. Muhtemelen yakın bir tarihte. Bunu anneme de, babama da söyledim. Yapmayı düşündüğüm şeyle beraber.. Ama şu anda hala hayattayım.”

“Sen ölümünü kendi kafanda tasarlamış bir ahmaksın. Ve buna da kitlemmişsin. Seninle samimiyet kurmakta herhangi akıllıca bir yan görmüyorum. Bu sadece yapacağımız işi zorlaştıracaktır.”, der Lilly Venom.

Darly Dor bir omzunu silker.

“Hmmpph.. O açıdan bakıldığında, haklısın.. sanırım.. Kara cübbeli adamı tanıyorum. Şahsen yada ismen değil ama daha önce gördüm onu.. bi sefer.”

“Yüzü görünmüyor.”, der Lilly Venom hafif kaşlarını çatarak.

“Dediğim gibi. Daha önce bir defa gördüm kendisini. O zaman da yüzünü görmemiştim. Ama cübbesinden tanıdım adamı. Benimle beraber, çaldığımız bir şeyin teslimatı için bekliyorduk ve teslimatı almaya bu cübbeli gelmişti. Bir anda aramızda peyda oldu ve diğer ikisini yıldırımlarla yakıp kömüre çevirdi —ki buna çok da üzülmedim açıkçası. İkisi de aptaldı ve ikisi de birer kesiciydi..”

“Sen neden hala hayattasın, peki?”, diye sorar kız, cübbeli adama kendisi de dikkatlice bakarak.

Darly tekrar bir omzunu silker.

“Ben sıranın bana gelmesinde bir fayda görmedim ve kaçtım.”

Lilly Venom ‘hıh’lar.

“Burası uygun değil. Çok istediğini biliyorum. Ama şimdi şansımızı denersek, bu sadece başarısızlığımız için kötü bir bahane olmuş olur, o kadar. Ve açıkçası, ne seni, nede Lady Angrellen’i, kendimi ahmakça bir şekilde feda edecek kadar sevmiyorum.”, der Lilly Venom, taş gibi bir ifadeyle.

“Alındım.”, der Darly yine sırıtarak. “Ama onun burada ne işi olduğunu merak etmiyor değilim. Şirret kızına, Prensese ve o şapşal Udoorin’in söylediklerine bakılırsa, onu en son Bari Na-ammen sarayında, Ri Grandaleren ile çatışırken görmüşler. O burada olduğuna göre, sanırım çatışmayı kimin kazandığı da belli olmuş oldu. Grandaleren’i pek sevmezdim. Ama Prensesimin babasıydı. Sevgili Alor’Nadien ne bunu duyduğunda yıkılacak.”

“Seni anlamakta zorluk çekiyorum.”, der Lilly Venom. “Sen umarsız, sorumsuz ve yılışık herifin tekisin. Ama iş prensese gelince o çiroz şeye hayranlık üstü bir saygı gösteriyorsun. Hakkını vermeliyim. Kız gerçekten güzel, zarif, alımlı, ağırbaşlı, zevkli, içten ve türünün nadir örneklerinden biri. Ama beni şaşırtan, senin ona gösterdiğin saygı, onun görünür güzelliği dışındaki her şey.”

 

Gerçekte Lilly, neredeyse hiç tanımadığı prensese, küçük Inshala dolayısıyla olmuş olsa da, onun giyinmesi için seçip gönderttiği elbiseden dolayı teşekkür etmesi gerektiğini düşünür. En nihayetinde, hayatında asla yapmadığı bir şeyi yapmış ve pardösüsü gibi koyu kahve deri pantolonu yerine, şu anda bile o elbise vardır üstünde..

Lilly, abisi Aager gibi pratik ve pragmatik biridir. Evet, belki daha huysuz —çok daha huysuz— bir mizaca sahiptir ama elbise, ayakkabı, saç ve tırnak bakımı ve makyaj gibi kızsal lükslere de hayatında yer vermemiştir.

Prense Lorna’nın gönderdiği bu elbiseye kadar.

Elbise rahattır. Fevkalade hafiftir. Etekli olmasına rağmen yan yırtmaçları dolayısıyla hareken kabiliyeti kısıtlamamaktadır, kir göstermediği gibi, gerçekte kir de tutmaması gibi hayret verici bir özelliği de mevcuttur ve korsesi de.. her şeyin yerli yerinde durmasını sağladığı gibi, zariftir işte!

Tıpkı elbisenin tamamı gibi..

 

Darly kendisine sorulan soruya bir süre cevap vermez ve cübbeli adama kızmaya başladığı açıkça görünen High Lady Angrellen’i kesmeye devam eder. Neden sonra kısık bir sesle cevap verir.

“Prenses Alor’Nadien ne Feymist.. Benim kulvarımın çok, ama çok dışında bir hanımefendi. Onun görünüşünün, zarafetinin, inceliğinin, anlayışının ve samimiyetinin hastasıyım. Ama bunlar sadece benim, ve benim gibi kendisini tanıma şerefine nail olmuş herkesin hissettiği şeyler. Bunlar, o salak Udoorin’in ne kadar şanslı olduğunun asla farkında olamayacağı şeyler.. O hödüğü kıskanabileceğimi aklımın ucundan bile geçirmezdim. Ama Prenses aynı zamanda High Woods’un seçilmiş ‘kalbi’..”

“Seçilmiş nesi?”, diye hayretle sorar Lilly Venom.

“Seçilmiş ‘kalbi’.. Yanlış anlamamaya çalış Lilly ama bu mefhum, insanların anlayabileceği bir şey değil. Bu.. kadim bir his.. Sanıyorum bende elf kanı olmuş olmasaydı, bende algılayamazdım.”, diye açıklamaya çalışır Darly.

“Hala hiçbir şey anlamış değilim.”, diye başını sallar kız.

“Dediğim gibi. Yanlış anlamamaya çalış ama sen bunu anlayamazsın. Abin, Aager.. O da anlamamıştı. Sadece kategorik olarak ‘Bilinmeyen, ama var olan bir şey.’, diye kafasında tanımlamış olabileceğini düşünebiliyorum.. Onu biraz olsun tanıdıysam, sanırım öyle yapmıştır. Grupta sadece İzci Onbaşı Laila’nın hissedebilmiş olabileceğini düşünüyorum bunu —tıpkı benim gibi. Ve.. ironik bir şekilde de, Anglenna. Ama o bunun ne olduğunu TAM olarak anladı çünkü kendisi hem bir high elf, hem de High Woods’da doğup büyüme birisi..”

“Bu.. o sırık boylu kız hakkında kötü olmayan söylediğin ilk ve tek şey.”, diye not eder Lilly.

Darly omzunu tekrar silker.

“Beni yanlış anlama, Lilly. O kadından ne kadar nefret ettiğimi sana tarif bile edemem. Ama kendisine saygı gösterebileceğim kadar değişmeyi de başardı. Belki bir gün ondan nefret etmeye dahi bilebilirim.. O güne kadar yaşarsam..”

Lilly’den “Huh!”, diye bir ses çıkar ve bu haliyle abisine ne denli benzerlik gösterdiği hayret vericidir.

“Gidelim. Ajan Largo nereye kaybolduğumuzu merak ederse gelir ve Angrellen’i görür.. ve ahmakça bir kahramanlığa kalkışmaya kalkar.”

“Kalkışsın. Bu bizim lehimize işlemiş olmaz mı?”, diye sorar Darly.

Lilly Venom, bir salağa bakar gibi genç hırsıza bakar.

“Senin gerçekten ne kadar aptal olabileceğine bir türlü karar veremiyorum Darlius.”, der burnundan soluyarak.

“Niye yaa?”, diye alınmış bir sesle sorar Darly.

“Anglenna şu anda o kara cübbeli adamla tartışıyor. Ama ortak bir düşmana karşı birleşmeseler bile, en azından aynı istikamete doğru hiç de hoşumuza gitmeyecek büyüler yapacaklardır. BİZİM İSTİKAMETİMİZE DOĞRU!.. Ama farz edelim ki bir yanlışlık oldu ve Largo o şirret kadını alt etmeyi başardı. Bunun sonucunda ya onu esir alıp sorgulamak, sonrasında da bir savaş suçlusu olarak günü geldiğinde adalet karşısına çıkarmak için bir yerlere tıkacaktır —ki o kadını zapt edebilecek bir hapishanenin olduğunu düşünemiyorum bile— yada onu öldürecektir. İlki olması halinde, senin ona dokunmanı bırak, yanına bile yaklaşmana izin vermeyecektir. Diğer ihtimalde de sen intikamını alamamış olacaksın, ben de ‘paramı’..”

Darly “Darlius” Dor kaşlarını çatar ve nefretle yüzü kararır.

Hayır..

Para onun için önemini kaybedeli çok uzun bir zaman olmuştur. Hayatında önemini kaybetmemiş olan iki şey vardır sadece ve biri çoktan ölmüştür. Diğeri ise ‘intikamdır’..

Genç, yakışıklı hırsız yanan gözlerle yanında sinmiş duran kıza, Lilly Venom’un cesur bir kalemle çizilmişçesine keskin hatlı yüzüne bakar.

Sonra sessizce hırlar.

“Gidelim..”

✱ ✱ ✱

Lilly Venom gönüllü muhafızların ve elf’lerin arasından bir hayalet gibi süzülür ve koca Orken’in arkasında belirir. Yere devirdiği muhafızı elindeki dev, tırtıllı baltasıyla ayırmak üzere olan yaratığın sırtına sıçrar ve hançerlerinden birisini soğancığına, diğerini ise kafatasının tam arkasına saplar. Koca Orken, bir anda felç olmuş bir şekilde elinden baltasını düşürür ve öylece durduğu yerde çakılır kalır.

Kız bekleme yapmaz. Geriden gelen diğer Orken’lerin arasına pervane gibi dönerek dalar ve bir an bile yerinde durmaksızın birisinin kolunu zehirli hançerleriyle çizer, bir başkasının yanağını, üçüncüsünün baldırını ve dördüncüsünün adem elmasını açar. Kız dönerken uzun, koyu kahve deri pardösüsü, ve giydiği elbisesinin etekleri yelpaze gibi saçılır ve kendisini hayretle seyredenlere; “İşte. Ölüm meleğini gördüm. Bu o!”, dedirtir.

Darly Dor ise kızın çizdiklerini, kısa kılıcıyla aksi istikametten kesmeye başlar ve Orken’ler böğürerek bir o yana, bir bu yana ellerindeki kılıç ve baltaları savururlar ama bir türlü tutturamazlar.

Ajan Largo ise ikiliyi sadece kısa bir anlığına seyreder, sonra, “Onlara dokunmalarına izin vermeyin. Devirin hepsini!”, diye emreder.

Gönüllü muhafız ve elf’ler, kendi silahlarını doğrulturlar ve karmaşaya dalarlar.

 

İki dakika içerisinde, hedeflerine doğru giderken karşılarında peyda olan bir düzine Orken ölmüştür.

 

“Bunu bir daha yapmamanızı tercih ederim, Lilly hanım.”, der Ajan Largo ciddi bir ifadeyle.

Lilly Venom, olgun bir yakışıklılığa sahip ajana bakar..

..tek kaşı kalkmış bir şekilde.

“Neden? Yapmamış olsaydım, sanıyorum bir çok adamınız ölmüş olurdu. Yoksa siz şu ‘kızlar arkada durmalı’, diye düşünen tiplerden misiniz?”

“Hayır. Ben kızların arkada ve güvende durmaları gerektiğini ‘dileyen’, eski kafalı tiplerdenim, ama bunun konumuzla bir alakası yok. Adamlarım ve elf’lerin hayatları benim için önemli. Ancak onlar ‘gönüllü’ oldular ve işlerini yapmalarına müsaade etmelisiniz.”, diye sakince cevap verir Largo.

“Daha hedefimize varmadan yarısını kaybetmiş olurduk o zaman.”, der Lilly Venom.

“Bunun farkında olmadığımı mı düşünüyorsunuz? Bu yüzden buna ‘gönüllü’ deniyor.”

“Aynı şeyleri züppemsi’ye de söylediniz mi?”, diye kaşları çatılı bir şekilde sorar kız.

Largo omuzlarını silker.

“İkimiz de onun tam olarak ne kadar disiplinsiz ve sorumsuz olduğunu biliyoruz, Lilly hanım. Dahası, o benim sorumluluğumda değil, babasının sorumluluğunda. Babasına, oğlunun hayatından sorumlu olamayacağımı söyledim. Ben sadece buradaki gönüllü muhafızlarımdan, elf’lerden.. ve sizden sorumluyum.”

Lilly Venom hayretle Ajan Largo’ya bakar.

“Benden sorumlu olduğunuzu da nereden çıkardığınızı sorabilir miyim?”, diye sorar kız.

“Buradaki herkesin bir ‘sahibi’ var, Lilly hanım.. Sahipsiz bir siz varsınız. Ben asla bir centilmen olmakla suçlanmadım, ama sorumlu olduklarıma sahip çıkmamak, kötü huylarım arasında da asla yer almadı.”, der sessizce Largo.

Lilly Venom ‘fırk’lar.

Sonra adamın yüzündeki keskin ifadeyi görünce gerçekten şaşırır.

“Siz ciddisiniz!”, diye ünler.

“Sizde ne zaman lakayt birisi olduğum izlenimini uyandırdığımı merak ettim doğrusu. Ve benimle saçma sapan, hararetli bir tartışmaya girmeden önce, fikrimi değiştiremeyeceğinizi de eklemek isterim.”, der adam aynı sessiz ve sakin sesiyle.

Lilly’nin kaşları çatılır.

“Benim ne olduğumu biliyorsun..”, der neden sonra.

“Tabii ki. Drashan’dan ayrılmadan önce yaptıklarının belirgin bir kısmı, ayrıldıktan sonra işlediğin cinayetleri ve iş olarak almış olmana rağmen son anda pas geçtiğin kontratlar da dahil olmak üzere..”

“Ve bunlara rağmen—”, diye hayretle sorar Lilly.

“—Hanım efendi. Etrafınıza bir bakın. Sizin ne gördüğünüzü bilmiyorum ama benim gördüğüm sadece bir şey var, o da ‘oyunun bittiği’.. Bununla beraber, Endless Watch Lordu Trimdel Kandara suikastı için daracık bir havalandırma deliğinde sabırla 80 saat beklemiş olmanız hayret vericiydi.”

“84..”, der Lilly Venom sessizce.

“Efendim?”

“84 saat bekledim doğru an için. Uyumadan ve kıpırdamadan..”

Largo gülümser.

“Dediğim gibi.. Hayret verici..”

“Asıl beni takdir etmeniz hayret verici, Ajan Largo. Ve ben sadece basit bir kiralık katilim.. Bir kesici.. Gözünüzde büyütülecek bir yanım yok.”, der ekşi bir suratla kız.

“Aaa.. Hayır, Lilly hanım. ‘Basit’ kiralık katiller 84 saat tek bir kontrat için aç, susuz, uyumadan ve kıpırdamadan, sizin omuz genişliğinizden bile daha dar, taş bir delikte beklemeyi göze almazlardı. Hiç birisinin bunu düşünemeyecekleri ise apayrı bir konu. Kesici olmanıza gelirsek.. Kimse bir ‘ajan’ olarak doğmaz, Lilly hanım. Ve inanın sizden çok daha fazla ‘kesmişliğim’ olduğunu söyleyebilirim ve bunlar arasında kimlerin olduğunu bilmek bile istemezsiniz.. Adıma bir kontrat olmayışının tek sebebi ise, bir ARİS memuru olmam.”, der Largo ve sonra da sessizce ekler. “Ve küçük Korodin hala hayatta ise, onu bulup saraydan çıkartabilecek tek kişi de sizsiniz..”

Lilly Venom adamı, Ajan Largo’yu sessiz bir an süzer.

“Ve..”, diye ekler Largo. “Ben kişinin yaptığı işe baktığım kadar, yaptığı işin kalitesine.. ve yapanın ahlakına bakarım. Beni yanlış anlamayın, Lilly hanım. Sizi gözümde büyütmüyorum ve siz de kesinlikle bir azize değilsiniz. Ama kendinizce bir ahlak ve onur anlayışınız var. Yoksa Serenity Home Baş Tapınak Muhafızı Demos Lightshand için aldığınız kontratı yerine getirmiş olurdunuz.”

Kız kaşlarını çatar.

“Yaşlı adam öttü demek. Bana bunu yapmayacağını söylemişti..”, der dişlerini gıcırdatarak.

“Hayır, Lilly hanım, Demos ‘ötmedi’.. Ama vefatına yakın, kimlere ne borcu varsa hepsini imtina ile ödemeyi de ihmal etmedi. Sanıyorum kendisini size karşı borçlu hissetmiş olmalı ki bu konuda sadece Serenity Home şerifine, onun vasıtasıyla da bana bir mektup gönderdi.. Şayet bir gün yakalanır ve idam edilmeniz söz konusu olursa, tapınağı ve yetimleri için yapmış olduğunuz ‘büyük bir hizmet’ dolayısıyla sizin affedilmenizi isteyen bir mektup..”

Lilly Venom tamamen şaşkına dönmüş bir şekilde bakar Ajan Largo’ya. En sonunda hafif boğuk bir sesle mırıldanır.

“Demek Demos öldü.. İyi bir adamdı.. Onu öldürmek için tapınağına sızdığımda, iki gün alışkanlıklarını öğrenmek için takip ettim kendisini.. Yetimlerin ve ziyaretçilerin kendisine gösterdiği sevgi ve saygıdan anlamıştım.. Gerçek sevgi ve saygı.. Gece uyurken yanına geldiğimde bana ne dedi biliyor musun?”, diye kendi kendisine soruyormuş gibi konuşur kız.

“Hayır. Ama bilmek isterim.”, der Largo.

“‘Beni öldürmeye mi geldin, kızım? Güzel.. Demek ki bir şeyleri doğru yapmışım..’ —bana söylediği şey buydu. Bomboş odasında, yamuk bir yatakta uzandığı yerden. Ve gülümsüyordu.. Ben adamın kaçık olduğunu sandım. Daha sonra anladım ki bir şeyleri eksik olan ben mişim..”

“Büyük insanları anlamak zordur, Lilly hanım. Ve Demos Lightshand de büyük bir insandı. Şimdi.. Bahsettiğiniz şu gizli tünelin yeri tam olarak neresidir?”

Lilly Venom, karmaşık duygular içerisinde muallak bir el hareketiyle yanmış Heaven Park istikametini gösterir.

Ajan Largo, gönüllü muhafız ve elf’lere başıyla işaret eder ve toplu bir şekilde yola koyulurlar.

 

Arashkan, Lilly Venom için hiç beklemediği kadar çetrefilli tecrübeler sunmuştur. Ve şehir ölmüş olmasına rağmen hala sunmaya da devam etmektedir. Arenada yaşadıkları, azılı düşmanı olarak bildiği Aager Fogstep’in gerçekte ağabeyi olduğunu öğrenmesi, bit kadar canı var gibi görünen Inshala adındaki kızın onunla arkadaş.. daha doğrusu onun küçük kız kardeşi olabilmek için gösterdiği insan üstü çabası, Gar Thalot’un isyanının bir parçası olarak surlardaki mangonelleri, bilmeyerek de olsa yok etmeleri, Orken ordusunun ani ve beklenmedik saldırısı, surlardan kaçışları, High Spires’a sığınması ve en nihayetinde de Birinci Lord Kaladin’in hayatta olduğunu umdukları sekiz yaşındaki küçük yeğeni ve Arashkan tahtının son varisini bulup kurtarmak için çıktıkları bu ölümcül yolculuğu düşünür Lilly Venom ve farkında olmadan kendisinin yepyeni bir farkındalık seviyesine ulaştığına ayılır zira eskiden olduğu gibi artık pek az şey ‘aldığın kontratı yerine getir, paranı tahsil et’ kadar kolay ve basittir..

 

Darly kızın omzuna hafifçe dokunur ve kız etrafına baktığında, ağır dumanla kaplı kömür olmuş Heaven Parkına varmış olduklarını görür. Lilly sanki bir şeyleri hatırlamaya çalışıyormuş, yada konum belirlemesi yapıyormuş gibi etrafını inceler ve aradığını bulur; yangından kararmış, köşeli bir dikili taş..

“Bu taraftan.”, der ve herkesi taşın olduğu yere getirir.

“Bunu devirmemiz lazım..”, diye taşı gösterir.

Muhafızlar ve elf’ler on yarda boyundaki, dikili taşa bakarlar.

Largo taşa yaklaşır ve yoklar ama taşın yükü ağır olduğunu görünce ister istemez kıza bakar.

“Her şehirde rüşvet almayı seven memurlar vardır, Ajan Largo.”, der Lilly Venom gülümseyerek. “Ve bu taş dikilirken, ilgili bazı memurlar neden basit bir anıt taşı için rüşvet yediklerini merak bile etmediler..”

Kız anıtın dibine gelir ve elleriyle zemininde bir şeyler arıyormuş gibi yoklar. Neden sonra yüzü hafif aydınlanır ve Ajan Largo’ya başıyla yaşlaşmasını işaret eder. Largo geldiğinde kız bulduğu şeyi gösterir ona.

Taşın dibinde, toprağa gömülmüş, bir yumruğun rahatça içine sığabileceği, demirden dökülmüş bir halka vardır.

“Nedir bu?”, diye sorar Largo.

“Bu bir zemin pimi. Bunun gibi üç tane daha var. Her biri bir kenarında. Hepsi aynı anda çekildiğinde, dikili taşı yerinde tutan çelik kelepçe gevşer ve taş devrilir.. Ama sadece üçünü çekerseniz, taş sadece bir yana meyleder ve orda durur. Bir kaç kişi, taşı tekrar yerine yerleştirir ve pimleri tekrar soktuklarında, taş yine eskisi gibi sapa sağlam durur. Orijinal anıt taşı devrilmesin diye en az bir yarda daha derine gömülmüş olması gerekiyordu.”, diye parlayan gözlerle açıklar Lilly.

“Akıllıca.. Ve potansiyel kullanımı itibariyle de ölümcül..”, der Largo düşünceli bir şekilde. “Başlayalım o zaman.”

Lilly, Largo ve muhafızlardan bir tanesi, toprağın altına gömülüp gizlenmiş iki halkayı daha bulurlar ve üçü aynı anda kendi demir halkasını çeker..

Anıt taşı bir an kıpırdamadan öylece durur, sonra ağır bir devinimle yan yatmaya başlar.

“Bence biraz uzaklaşsak iyi olur.”, diye keskin bir şekilde tıslar Lilly. “Bu taş ve kelepçeler çok uzun bir zamandır burada duruyorlar.”

Kızın uyarısı bir kehanetmiş gibi taş ivmesini alır, büyük bir çatırtıyla yarılır ve son altı yardası bir anda yere düşüp parçalanır. Geri kalanı ise rahatsız edici bir açıyla öylece durur.

“İşte burası.”, der Lilly ve dikili taşın altında belirmiş karanlık ve daracık bir tünelin ağzını gösterir, ardından keskin hançerlerinden birini çıkartır ve manalı bir şekilde bıçağın sivri ucuna dokunur.

“Evet.. İlk hanginiz, ‘Önden bayanlar’, diyecek?”

✱ ✱ ✱

Nefes alamıyorum..”, diye inler biri arkadan ve fevkalade ağır bir şekilde sürünerek ilerleyen herkes durur bir anda. Darly arkasına bakmaya çalışır ama dar toprak tünel buna pek de imkan vermez. Onun arkasından gelen Lilly ise içinden küfreder. “Lanet olsun, dar ve kapalı yerlerde bulunamayacaklar gelmesin diye özellikle uyarmıştım!”, diye tıslar haşince.

“B.. bırakın beni ve devam edin.. Kumanda Lilly hanımda!”, der aynı ses zorlukla.

Lilly bir anda basık ortamdaki sesin sahibini tanır. “Ajan Largo?”

“Size.. devam edin, dedim. Veliahttı bulun ve çıkarın saraydan. Ben.. geri çıkmaya çalışacağım..”, der kesik seslerle Largo.

“Aptal adam.”, diye burnundan solur Lilly Venom ve beklenmedik bir kıvraklıkla olduğu yerde, bir yay gibi kıvrılır ve tam aksi istikamete dönüverir. Sonra arkasından sürünerek gelen adamın üstünden zorlanarak da olsa geçer ve bu geçişi bir kaç defa daha tekrarlar. En sonunda ise Ajan Largo ile burun buruna gelir ancak adam sadece nefesi kesilmiş bir şekilde kendinden geçmiş değil, hiç nefes almıyordur!

“Lanet olsun..”, diye tekrar tıslar Lilly ve sürünerek adama daha da yaklaşır. Sonra adamı çenesinden kavrayıp nefes borusunu doğrultur..

..ve suni teneffüs yapmaya başlar.

Lilly dar, toprak tünelde ne kadar nefsini adamla paylaşır tam olarak kestiremez ancak kendisi de havasızlıktan başı dönmeye başlar. Buna rağmen inatla devam eder. En sonda Largo’dan derin bir inleme sesi duyulur ve kendi kendine nefes almaya başlar.

Gözlerini açtığında kesici kızla burun buruna olduğunu fark eder ve utanmış bir şekilde mızmızlanır.

“Bundan daha utanç verici sadece bir şey düşünebiliyorum..”

Lilly gülümser.

“Nedir o?”

“High Lady Anglenna’nın bunu yapmış olması!”

Lilly’nin gülümsemesi kaybolur.

“O kadına gizli bir hayranlığınız olduğunu bilmiyordum, Ajan Largo. Beni şaşırtmayı başardınız.”

“Aaa.. Hayır. Açık yada gizli, kendileri için olumlu hiçbir şey düşünmüyorum. Prenses hazretleri, benim ona şans tanımam hususunda şahsen ricada bulunmuş olmasına rağmen ve ne kadar denersem deneyim, olmuyor bir türlü.”

“Madem kapalı ortamlara karşı bir sorunun vardı neden geldin?”, diye azarlar kız adamı.

“Kapalı ortamlara karşı herhangi bir sorunum yok, Lilly hanım. Ama olsaydı bile yine de gelirdim..”

“Neden? Aptal mısın sen?”

“Hiç şüphesiz. Ama anlamalısınız ki, kendim yapmayacağım bir şeyi de başkalarından istemem. Hele o iş için gönüllü istemişsem. Sanıyorum sabah High Spires girişinde gerçekleşen arbede de aldığım yaradan dolayı biraz fazla kan kaybetmişim. Bununla beraber itiraf etmeliyim ki harika bir nefesiniz var. İşimiz acil olmasaydı, inanın uyandıktan sonra hala baygın numarası yapardım.”, der Ajan Largo ama bunu da ciddi bir ifadeyle dile getirir.

“Erkekler..”, diye burnundan solur kız. “Hepiniz domuzsunuz!”

Asabîce önceki yaptığı kıvrak hareketi tekrarlar ve daracık tünelde döner, sonra da arkasına bakmadan sürünmeye başlar..

..ama yüzünde gülümseme tekrar oluşmuştur —ki bu da ilginçtir zira Lilly Venom oldukça somurtkan bir kızdır. Kendisini tanıyanlar onun alay dışında kahkaha attığını yada sırıttığını görmemiştir. Sadece, ve çok nadiren gülümsediğine müşahede etmişlerdir.

✱ ✱ ✱

Tünelden en son Largo çıkar. Adam üstünü başını temizlemekle vakit harcamaz, tünelin açıldığı karanlık, rutubetli ve hafif küf kokulu mahzeni inceler. Mahzen oldukça küçüktür ve ne amaçla kullanıldığı da belli değildir. Belki bir zamanlar, çok eskiden, kolay bozulmayacak yiyeceklerin saklandığı bir kiler olarak değerlendirilmiştir ama artık boştur ve kullanılmamaktadır.

“Lilly Hanım?”, diye sorar Largo.

Lilly omuzlarını silker.

“Daha önce buraya hiç gelmedim, Ajan Largo. Unuttunuz mu? Akıllı bir kesici asla iki tür kontratı almaz; halk tarafından sevilen ve sayılan biri.. ve krallar.. Bu iki çizgi arasında kalan herkes ise mubahtır!”

Largo hafif kaşlarını çatar.

“Öyle olsun bakalım.. Efendi Darlius ve Lilly hanım, sizler bu konuda en tecrübeli olanlarsınız ve otuz yarda önden gideceksiniz. Herhangi bir sorun çıkarsa bize bildirecek ve en arkaya geçeceksiniz. Anlaşıldı mı?”

Darly omuz silker ve ileri doğru yürümeye başlar. Lilly ise kısa bir anlığına itiraz edecek gibi olur ancak bundan vaz geçer ve o da önden yürümeye başlar.

“Senden hoşlanıyor..”, der Darly sessizce yürürken.

“Kes sesini, Darlius!”, diye hararetle tıslar Lilly.

“Aaaa.. Demek sen de ondan hoşlanıyorsun.”, diye sırıtır yakışıklı half-elf. “Senin iki katından daha yaşlı olduğunun farkındasın, değil mi?”

“O da bir half-elf. Bu da onu ‘otuzlarında’ yapıyor. Dahası, sana ne!”, diye hışmeder kız.

“Bana ‘hiç bi şey’, sevgili Lilly. Adam yakışıklı, olgun, ciddi, disiplinli ve plansız iş yapmayı sevmiyor. Ama sanıyorum seni cezbeden en belirgin yanı, onun bir ‘amacının’ olması.”, diye analitik bir ifadeyle sıralar genç hırsız.

Lilly cevap vermez.

Birincisi, yılışık adam haklıdır.

İkincisi ise, ‘yeterince cevap vermezsem belki bıkar ve susar’, umududur..

Ancak yılışık adam ne bıkar, ne de susar!

Ve iki saat boyunca kızın sabrını sınar.

Sustuğunda ise bunun sebebi söyleyeceklerinin bitmiş olmasından değil, yakınlardan bir yerlerden çatışma seslerinin duyulmasındandır.

Lilly arkasına bakmadan bir elini havaya kaldırır ve yumruk yapar. Kısa bir süre sonra da Ajan Largo sessizce yanlarında belirir.

“Sanırım yüzeye yaklaştık.”, der Largo. “Bundan sonra daha temkinli olmamız gerekecek zira karşılaştığımız herkes bize düşman muamelesi yapacak. Şayet saray muhafızlarıyla karşılaşırsanız, ‘Elmanın yarısı nerede?’, diye sorun. Size, ‘Asıl kurdun yarısı nerede?’ diye cevap verirlerse, bu yaklaşmanıza izin verecekler anlamına gelir.”

Darly ‘fırk’lar.

Lilly ise sadece, ‘Tam hoşuma gitmeye başlamıştın ki bir anda ve tamamen düşüverdin gözümden!’, der gibi alık alık bakar adama.

“Ne?”, diye hafif utanmış bir ifadeyle sorar Largo. “Şifre ve karşıt-şifreleri ben hazırlanıyorum. Canları sıkılmış ve yapacak başka işleri olmayan, bir oda dolusu linuxçu ajan yumurtluyor bunları..”

Kız rezil olmuş adama gözlerini yuvarlar ve Darly ile tekrar önden ilerlemeye başlar.

✱ ✱ ✱

Elmanın yarısı nerede?”, diye seslenir Darly, karşılaştıkları ilk barikatın arkasındaki askerlere.

Darly Dor, Lilly Venom, Ajan Largo, gönüllü muhafızlar ve elf’lerden oluşan grup, barikata ulaşıncaya kadar dört ayrı yerde Orken’lerle çatışmışlar ve ilk kayıplarını vermişlerdi. İlk üç çatışmada iki muhafız ve bir elf hayatını vermiş, ancak sonuncusunda Orken’leri leş gibi kan kokan, mebus bir Orken şaman desteklemişti ve çatışma bittiğinde geriye sadece üç muhafız, yedi tane de elf kalmıştı. Ajan Largo ise habis şamanın tam ortalarına bıraktığı ‘Ateş İnmesi’ büyüsünden dolayı mı tütmektedir yoksa hiddetten mi belli değildir. Kaybettiği gönüllü adamlarına sinirden delirecekmiş gibi bakmış ve harlayan gözlerle yola devam etmelerini emretmişti.

 

“Uhhmm.. Asıl kurdun yarısı nerede?”, diye cevap gelmişti uzun bir sessizlikten sonra.

“Yaklaşıyoruz. Ateş açmayın!”, diye seslenir Darly ve açıkça görünecek şekilde barikata doğru yaklaşır. Onun hemen arkasından Largo ve Lilly, onlarında arkasından hayatta kalan diğer gönüllüler gelir.

“Kimsiniz ve ne istiyorsunuz? Burası tekin bir yer değil, farkındaysanız.”, der barikatın arkasından bir ses.

“Burasının tekin olmadığını biliyorum, seni ahmak!”, diye hırlar Largo. Barikatı açacak mısınız, yoksa onun da, sizin de üstümüzden mi geçmemiz gerekiyor?”

Barikatta yine bir sessizlik oluşur. Neden sonra ıkınma sesleriyle barikat azıcık aralanır ve Ajan Largo, diğerleriyle birlikte içeri girerler. Barikatın arkasında iki düzine kadar saray muhafızı mevcuttur ve temkinli ifadelerle yeni gelenleri süzerler.

“Ben Kıdemli Ajan Largo, ARİS. Bunlarda meslektaşlarım ve gönüllüler. Komutanımız nerede? Bana durum raporu verin.”, diye emreder Largo.

“Komutan Kenny öldü, efendim. Ölmeden önce bize her ne olursa olsun bu noktayı korumanızı emretmişti. Durum bu.”, diye özetler askerlerden biri.

“Prens Korodin.. Nerede olduğunu biliyor musunuz?”, diye sorar Largo.

Asker omuzlarını silker.

“Emin değilim, efendim. Bizler bu noktayı günlerdir koruyoruz. Kimse vardiya değişimi için gelmedi. Yaralılarımız öldüler ve erzaklarımız da bitmek üzere. Orken’ler günde bir kaç defa bu noktayı yokluyorlar.. Rastgele zamanda. Bu yüzden dinlenme şansımız da fazla olmadı.”, der muhafız bitkin ve umutsuz bir sesle. “Genç prensimiz hala hayatta olduğunu umuyoruz. Şayet öyle ise, onu Birinci Lord Kaladin’in odasında götürmüşlerdir çünkü—”

“—Savunma protokolü bu ve orası en iyi müdafaa edilebilir nokta.”, diye bitirir Ajan Largo. “Verdiğiniz bilgilerden dolayı teşekkür ederim, asker. Yolumuz üzerinde bulabilirsek sizin yer ve durumunuzu ilgili birilerine bildireceğiz.”

“Şehrin.. tamamen düştüğüne dair rivayetler var. Bu doğru mu? Bir umut var mı, efendim?”, diye sorar asker.

“Umut her zaman vardır, asker.”, diye cevap verir Largo düz bir ifadeyle. “Bu noktayı korumaya devam edin zira geri döndüğümüzde bu barikatın güvenli ve ayakta duruyor olmasına ihtiyacımız olacak.”

✱ ✱ ✱

Neden onlara doğruyu söylemedin?”, diye sorar Lilly Venom sessizce, barikatı ve saray muhafızlarını geride bıraktıklarında.

Largo hemen cevap vermez. Mebus Orken şamanının tepelerine bıraktığı ‘Ateş İnmesi’nden sonra olağan dışı bir sessizliğe bürünmüştür.

‘Hayır.’, diye düşünür Lilly. ‘Ateş İnmesi’nden sonra değil, adamlarını kaybettikten sonra.’

Açıkçası, hayatı boyunca tek başına ve yalnız çalışmış.. ve yaşamış olan kesici kız başkalarının hayatlarını pek önemsememiş, kayıplarının ağırlığını hissetmesi de kolay kavrayabileceği bir şey değildir. Özellikle de bütün ‘başkalarının’ potansiyel birer hedef yada onu öldürmek isteyebilecek kanun adamı yada kelle avcısı olabileceklerini düşündüğünde.

“Onların doğrulara ihtiyacı yok, Lilly hanım. Onların ihtiyacı olan şey ‘umut’. Bu şehir.. ve bu saraydaki herkes ölecek. Onların hayatta kalmalarını çok isterdim ama buna yetecek ne gücümüz, ne de zamanımız var.. Bu da onlara sadece iki seçenek bırakıyor. Ya onursuzca kaçarak ölecekler, ya da onurlarıyla savaşarak. Bu bizim için küçük bir avuntu belki. Ama onlar için değil zira onlar için bu hayatta yapacakları son şey olacak; onurlarıyla ve savaşarak ölmek. Bir askerden daha fazlasını isteyemezsin.”

“Seni üzen nedir peki?”, diye sorar Lilly Venom.

“Onların hayatlarını en yüksek fiyata vermelerini sağlamak.. Bu da benim görevim, Lilly hanım. Ve biz, ARİS olarak başarısız olduk. Düşmanın oralarda bir yerlerde olduğunu biliyorduk, ama delilimiz yoktu. Hasmımız ne kadar delil var idiyse, biz onları bulamadan yok etmeyi başardı —ki bu bile başlı başına bizim için bir delil teşkil etmeliydi. Ama kodamanlar bunu da kabul etmediler ve Arashkan ordusunun şehre getirilmesine izin vermediler. Ve sonuç itibariyle de Arashkan düştü, ordusu da buradan iki gün mesafede, kendi karargahında ablukada sıkışıp kaldı.. Otuz küsur bin asker gün be gün eritilerek öldürülecekler.. boşu boşuna.”, diye acı ve nefretle söylenir Largo.

“Ajan Largo..”, diye sessizce yaklaşır Darly Dor önden. Genç, yakışıklı hırsız olağan durmaya çalışmaktadır ancak yüzünde kasılmış bir ifade vardır ve iki eli de silahlarının kabzasındadır.

“İleride oldukça ciddi çatışmalar olmuş. Duvarlar yıkılmış ve yanmış. Her yerde kan ve cesetler var. Lilly ve ben önden gidip güvenli bir geçiş ararsak daha iyi olur gibime geliyor. Siz burada sessizce bekleyin. Bir saate kadar geri dönmez isek bilin ki ifşa olunduk ve sizlerde ne yapmak istiyorsanız yaparsınız artık.”

Largo kaşlarını çatar ve genç hırsıza bakar. Sonra benzer bir ifadeyle sorumsuz hırsızı kesen Lilly Venom’u süzer.

“Neler oluyor, Efendi Darlius?”, diye sorar.

Darly bir omzunu silker.

“Çok fazla kan ve ceset var. Karşılıklı sağlam büyüler atmışlar gibi.. Kan.. hele bu kadarı, benim olayım değil. Ve bir parçası olmak gibi bir niyetim de yok. Sizler çok gürültülü yürüyorsunuz. Hepimiz topluca gidersek cesetlere yenilerini eklemiş oluruz.. Lilly? Geliyor musun?”

Lilly Venom, Largo’ya beklemelerini söyleyen bir el hareketi yapar ve Darly’nin peşinden gider. İkisiyle grup arası yeterince açıldığında ise durur ve kendi elleri de bıçaklarının kabzasında olduğu halde genç hırsıza döner.

“Neler oluyor, Darlius? Ceset gördüğünde midesi kalkacak naif tiplerden değilsin.”

“Aaa.. Ben gerçekten naif bir ‘tip’im..”, diye zorlama bir sırıtışla cevap verir Darly. “Ama haklısın, sevgili Lilly, ceset gördüğümde midenin kalkacağı kadar değil.”

Lilly Venom derin, esef dolu bir nefes verir. Bu.. yılışık şey, yaptığı işte çok iyi olduğu bellidir. Ancak bir türlü susmaması ve lafı uzatıp durması, kendisi gibi pragmatik bir Drashan kızı için çekilmez bir huydur.. ve ona karşı hiç olmazsa asgari seviyede bir saygı duymasını da imkansız hale getirmektedir. Kız, ağabeyi Aager’in bu adama neden bu kadar uyuz olduğunu bir anda çok daha iyi anlayıverir, zira o da lafın uzatılmasından hiç haz etmez. Lilly Venom için laf uzun olacaksa, ya kullanılan her ifade özlü ve farklı bir bilgi içermelidir, yada sonunda mutlaka biri kanamalıdır!

Genç hırsız ilgili mesajı almış gibi, bir anda ciddileşir.

“Sanırım ‘paranı’ kazanma vaktin geldi, sevgili Lilly..”

✱ ✱ ✱

Ne düşünüyorsun?”, diye sorar yakışıklı adam sessizce, ve bir yandan yıkılmış duvarın arkasında kendisi gibi sinmiş, yumuşak çizmelerine kadar dökülen koyu kahve deri pardösülü kıza, bir yandan da duvarın öbür yanında, neredeyse dört yüz yarda ilerde, kara cübbeler içerisindeki bir adamla tartışan, kızı kadar boylu kadına bakar; High Lady Angrellen Sunsear’e..

Darly “Darlius” Dor, kendisini bile şaşırtacak bir sükunete sahiptir nedense. Halbuki yıllardır görmeyi.. Hayır. Öldürmeyi beklediği kadın, iyi bir okçu mesafesindedir.

 

Genç hırsız ister istemez geçirir aklından.

“Laila Wolvesbane’in burada olmasını ne kadar isterdim şimdi..”

 

“Sence mümkün mü? Yoksa bekleyelim mi?”, diye devam eder Philius Silveroak ve Rimel Auburn’un oğlu, yanındaki kızdan herhangi bir cevap alamayınca.

“Sana hiç çok konuştuğunu söyleyen oldu mu, Darlius?”, diye sessiz bir tiksintiyle sorar Lilly Venom.

“Müteaddit defa…”, der Darly Dor sırıtarak.

“Bunu söyleyenlerin seni övmek için söylemediklerinin farkındasın, değil mi?”, diye ekşi bir suratla tıslar Venom.

“Etrafımdakilerin hakkımda söyledikleri yada düşündüklerine göre davranmış olsaydım, sanıyorum bulunduğum yerde olmazdım, sevgili Lilly.”, der Darly çok hafif alınmış bir sesle.

“Bulunduğun yer..”, diye burnundan solur Lilly Venom. “..yıkılmış, harabeye dönmüş ve yanan bir şehir!”

“Doğru. Ama ve en nihayetinde ben, yaşadığım şeylerin sadece bir kümülatif sonucuyum.. Aslına bakılırsa sen de öylesin, sevgili—”

“—Bana ‘sevgili’ diye hitap etmemeni tercih ederim, Darlius. Bu sana tek uyarım olacak.”, der Lilly Venom, yakışıklı half-elf’in lafını keserek.. “Ben senin yada bir başkasının ‘sevgilisi’ değilim.”

“Bugün biraz sinirli gibisin. High Spires’da seni güldürmeyi başarmıştım halbuki. Şehir ilk saldırıya uğradığında ve sizler surlardan kaçarken, benim gelip seni bulmamdan ötürü de için rahatlamış gibi bir halin vardı.. Ne değişti?”

“Beni bulduğunda sevinmiştim çünkü müteşekkirdim. Buna hakaret ederek karşılık vermemi beklemiyordun herhalde. Babanın evinde gülmemin sebebi ise, senin komik olman değil, kendini düşürdüğün ahmak durumdan dolayı idi.”, der Lilly Venom asabice.

“Bu iki durum da, neyin değiştiğini anlatmıyor bana.”, der Darly, önündeki kara cübbeli adamla tartışmaya devam eden High Lady Angrellen’i süzerken. “Ben aramızda profesyonelce bir samimiyetin olmasını tercih ederim.”

“Ben ölülerle samimiyet kurmam.”, diye keskin bir sesle cevap verir kiralık katil kız.

“Evet. Bir gün öleceğim. Muhtemelen yakın bir tarihte. Bunu anneme de, babama da söyledim. Yapmayı düşündüğüm şeyle beraber.. Ama şu anda hala hayattayım.”

“Sen ölümünü kendi kafanda tasarlamış bir ahmaksın. Ve buna da kitlemmişsin. Seninle samimiyet kurmakta herhangi akıllıca bir yan görmüyorum. Bu sadece yapacağımız işi zorlaştıracaktır.”, der Lilly Venom.

Darly Dor bir omzunu silker.

“Hmmpph.. O açıdan bakıldığında, haklısın.. sanırım.. Kara cübbeli adamı tanıyorum. Şahsen yada ismen değil ama daha önce gördüm onu.. bi sefer.”

“Yüzü görünmüyor.”, der Lilly Venom hafif kaşlarını çatarak.

“Dediğim gibi. Daha önce bir defa gördüm kendisini. O zaman da yüzünü görmemiştim. Ama cübbesinden tanıdım adamı. Benimle beraber, çaldığımız bir şeyin teslimatı için bekliyorduk ve teslimatı almaya bu cübbeli gelmişti. Bir anda aramızda peyda oldu ve diğer ikisini yıldırımlarla yakıp kömüre çevirdi —ki buna çok da üzülmedim açıkçası. İkisi de aptaldı ve ikisi de birer kesiciydi..”

“Sen neden hala hayattasın, peki?”, diye sorar kız, cübbeli adama kendisi de dikkatlice bakarak.

Darly tekrar bir omzunu silker.

“Ben sıranın bana gelmesinde bir fayda görmedim ve kaçtım.”

Lilly Venom ‘hıh’lar.

“Burası uygun değil. Çok istediğini biliyorum. Ama şimdi şansımızı denersek, bu sadece başarısızlığımız için kötü bir bahane olmuş olur, o kadar. Ve açıkçası, ne seni, nede Lady Angrellen’i, kendimi ahmakça bir şekilde feda edecek kadar sevmiyorum.”, der Lilly Venom, taş gibi bir ifadeyle.

“Alındım.”, der Darly yine sırıtarak. “Ama onun burada ne işi olduğunu merak etmiyor değilim. Şirret kızına, Prensese ve o şapşal Udoorin’in söylediklerine bakılırsa, onu en son Bari Na-ammen sarayında, Ri Grandaleren ile çatışırken görmüşler. O burada olduğuna göre, sanırım çatışmayı kimin kazandığı da belli olmuş oldu. Grandaleren’i pek sevmezdim. Ama Prensesimin babasıydı. Sevgili Alor’Nadien ne bunu duyduğunda yıkılacak.”

“Seni anlamakta zorluk çekiyorum.”, der Lilly Venom. “Sen umarsız, sorumsuz ve yılışık herifin tekisin. Ama iş prensese gelince o çiroz şeye hayranlık üstü bir saygı gösteriyorsun. Hakkını vermeliyim. Kız gerçekten güzel, zarif, alımlı, ağırbaşlı, zevkli, içten ve türünün nadir örneklerinden biri. Ama beni şaşırtan, senin ona gösterdiğin saygı, onun görünür güzelliği dışındaki her şey.”

 

Gerçekte Lilly, neredeyse hiç tanımadığı prensese, küçük Inshala dolayısıyla olmuş olsa da, onun giyinmesi için seçip gönderttiği elbiseden dolayı teşekkür etmesi gerektiğini düşünür. En nihayetinde, hayatında asla yapmadığı bir şeyi yapmış ve pardösüsü gibi koyu kahve deri pantolonu yerine, şu anda bile o elbise vardır üstünde..

Lilly, abisi Aager gibi pratik ve pragmatik biridir. Evet, belki daha huysuz —çok daha huysuz— bir mizaca sahiptir ama elbise, ayakkabı, saç ve tırnak bakımı ve makyaj gibi kızsal lükslere de hayatında yer vermemiştir.

Prense Lorna’nın gönderdiği bu elbiseye kadar.

Elbise rahattır. Fevkalade hafiftir. Etekli olmasına rağmen yan yırtmaçları dolayısıyla hareken kabiliyeti kısıtlamamaktadır, kir göstermediği gibi, gerçekte kir de tutmaması gibi hayret verici bir özelliği de mevcuttur ve korsesi de.. her şeyin yerli yerinde durmasını sağladığı gibi, zariftir işte!

Tıpkı elbisenin tamamı gibi..

 

Darly kendisine sorulan soruya bir süre cevap vermez ve cübbeli adama kızmaya başladığı açıkça görünen High Lady Angrellen’i kesmeye devam eder. Neden sonra kısık bir sesle cevap verir.

“Prenses Alor’Nadien ne Feymist.. Benim kulvarımın çok, ama çok dışında bir hanımefendi. Onun görünüşünün, zarafetinin, inceliğinin, anlayışının ve samimiyetinin hastasıyım. Ama bunlar sadece benim, ve benim gibi kendisini tanıma şerefine nail olmuş herkesin hissettiği şeyler. Bunlar, o salak Udoorin’in ne kadar şanslı olduğunun asla farkında olamayacağı şeyler.. O hödüğü kıskanabileceğimi aklımın ucundan bile geçirmezdim. Ama Prenses aynı zamanda High Woods’un seçilmiş ‘kalbi’..”

“Seçilmiş nesi?”, diye hayretle sorar Lilly Venom.

“Seçilmiş ‘kalbi’.. Yanlış anlamamaya çalış Lilly ama bu mefhum, insanların anlayabileceği bir şey değil. Bu.. kadim bir his.. Sanıyorum bende elf kanı olmuş olmasaydı, bende algılayamazdım.”, diye açıklamaya çalışır Darly.

“Hala hiçbir şey anlamış değilim.”, diye başını sallar kız.

“Dediğim gibi. Yanlış anlamamaya çalış ama sen bunu anlayamazsın. Abin, Aager.. O da anlamamıştı. Sadece kategorik olarak ‘Bilinmeyen, ama var olan bir şey.’, diye kafasında tanımlamış olabileceğini düşünebiliyorum.. Onu biraz olsun tanıdıysam, sanırım öyle yapmıştır. Grupta sadece İzci Onbaşı Laila’nın hissedebilmiş olabileceğini düşünüyorum bunu —tıpkı benim gibi. Ve.. ironik bir şekilde de, Anglenna. Ama o bunun ne olduğunu TAM olarak anladı çünkü kendisi hem bir high elf, hem de High Woods’da doğup büyüme birisi..”

“Bu.. o sırık boylu kız hakkında kötü olmayan söylediğin ilk ve tek şey.”, diye not eder Lilly.

Darly omzunu tekrar silker.

“Beni yanlış anlama, Lilly. O kadından ne kadar nefret ettiğimi sana tarif bile edemem. Ama kendisine saygı gösterebileceğim kadar değişmeyi de başardı. Belki bir gün ondan nefret etmeye dahi bilebilirim.. O güne kadar yaşarsam..”

Lilly’den “Huh!”, diye bir ses çıkar ve bu haliyle abisine ne denli benzerlik gösterdiği hayret vericidir.

“Gidelim. Ajan Largo nereye kaybolduğumuzu merak ederse gelir ve Angrellen’i görür.. ve ahmakça bir kahramanlığa kalkışmaya kalkar.”

“Kalkışsın. Bu bizim lehimize işlemiş olmaz mı?”, diye sorar Darly.

Lilly Venom, bir salağa bakar gibi genç hırsıza bakar.

“Senin gerçekten ne kadar aptal olabileceğine bir türlü karar veremiyorum Darlius.”, der burnundan soluyarak.

“Niye yaa?”, diye alınmış bir sesle sorar Darly.

“Anglenna şu anda o kara cübbeli adamla tartışıyor. Ama ortak bir düşmana karşı birleşmeseler bile, en azından aynı istikamete doğru hiç de hoşumuza gitmeyecek büyüler yapacaklardır. BİZİM İSTİKAMETİMİZE DOĞRU!.. Ama farz edelim ki bir yanlışlık oldu ve Largo o şirret kadını alt etmeyi başardı. Bunun sonucunda ya onu esir alıp sorgulamak, sonrasında da bir savaş suçlusu olarak günü geldiğinde adalet karşısına çıkarmak için bir yerlere tıkacaktır —ki o kadını zapt edebilecek bir hapishanenin olduğunu düşünemiyorum bile— yada onu öldürecektir. İlki olması halinde, senin ona dokunmanı bırak, yanına bile yaklaşmana izin vermeyecektir. Diğer ihtimalde de sen intikamını alamamış olacaksın, ben de ‘paramı’..”

Darly “Darlius” Dor kaşlarını çatar ve nefretle yüzü kararır.

Hayır..

Para onun için önemini kaybedeli çok uzun bir zaman olmuştur. Hayatında önemini kaybetmemiş olan iki şey vardır sadece ve biri çoktan ölmüştür. Diğeri ise ‘intikamdır’..

Genç, yakışıklı hırsız yanan gözlerle yanında sinmiş duran kıza, Lilly Venom’un cesur bir kalemle çizilmişçesine keskin hatlı yüzüne bakar.

Sonra sessizce hırlar.

“Gidelim..”

✱ ✱ ✱

Orken’ler ve büyücüler..”, diye rapor verir Darly Dor geri döndüklerinde. “Çok Orken ve çok büyücü.. Oradan fark edilmeden geçme ihtimalimiz yok. Dahası, sanıyorum yeni bir saldırı için hazırlanıyorlar. Tahminim, Orken’leri önden sürecekler, büyücülerde arkadan ateş toplarıyla saldıracaklar. Aralarında Orken şamanlardan da var..”

Largo, bir yandan genç hırsızın raporunu dinlerken bir yandan da sessiz kalmayı tercih eden Lilly Venom’u süzer. Ajan, yılların verdiği keskin algılara ve kişi ve mizaç analiz kapasitesine sahiptir ve bu kapasitesi ona Darly Dor’un ‘çok konuştuğunda’ bir şeyleri ört bas etmek için bunu yaptığını, Lilly Venom’un ise susmayı tercih ettiğinde, söylemek istemediği şeyleri, söylemek zorunda kalmak istemediğini ona ‘söylemektedir’ —ve bu ona ilginç gelir. İlginç gelen kısmı Darly Dor değildir. Kızın, yalan söylemekten hoşlanmayışı da değildir. Yalan söyleme işini, ona, Largo’ya karşı yapmak istemeyişidir..

‘Benim saklayacak bir şeyim olsa, ben bana yalan söylerdim.. Yada lafı bu sorumsuz çocuğun yaptığı gibi dikkatleri başka bir şeye çekmeye çalışırdım.’, diye geçirir içinden.

“Özel diplomat koridorlarını kullanalım o zaman. Pek nadiren kullanılırlar, dolayısıyla düşman o koridorlardan haberdar olmaya bilir.. Bu taraftan..”, der sesli bir şekilde ve grubu başka bir istikamete yönlendirir. Yaklaşık yarım saat süren sessiz ve temkinli bir ilerlemeden sonra Largo yarı yırtılmış, yarı yanmış bir duvar halısını kenara çeker ve duvar taşlarından birisini sert bir şekilde iter ve halının arkasında dar bir geçit belirir.

“Efendi Darlius. Siz önden gidin. Ben ve Lilly hanım arkadan geleceğiz ve kapıyı kapatacağız. Bir şeyle karşılaşmanız halinde geri gelin ve bizi bilgilendirin lütfen. Babanız, Efendi Philius’a cesedinizi götürmek istemiyorum. Eminim bu onun kalbini kırardı.”

Darly ‘fırk’lar ve sessizce önden gider, kısa bir süre sonra da gözden kaybolur.

“Onu başından savmak için bu kadar ince çaba göstermenize gerek yok, Ajan Largo.. Nezaketle, ‘Git başımdan.’, derseniz de eminim hiç alınmadan gider. Kendileri biraz yüzsüz biridir.”, diye söylenir Lilly Venom.

“Ona olmasa da, babasına saygım var, Lilly hanım. Ve hayatta öğrendiğim bir şey varsa, o da gerçekte kimsenin tamamen umarsız olmadıklarıdır. Özellikle de kendilerine yapılan saygısızlıklara karşı. Bunlar azar azar birikir ve beklenmedik zamanlarda da patlar. Şu an, kişisel krizler için uygun biz an değil.”

“Bu yüzden mi bana devamlı Lilly ‘hanım’ demekte ısrar ediyorsunuz?”, diye kırık bir ifadeyle gülümser Lilly Venom.

“Aklı başında kimse size saygısızlık etmez, Lilly hanım.”, diye cevap verir Ajan Largo. “Ama gerçek sebebim bu değil.”

“Nedir gerçek sebebiniz?”, diye sorar kız.

“Bunu burada açıklamamayı tercih ederim. Bununla beraber, duruşunuz, ciddiyetiniz, benim gibi lakaytlığa ve sorumsuzluğa gösterdiğiniz…”

“..Tiksinti?”

“..tiksinti ve lafı dolamadan ifadelendirmeniz.. bende belirgin bir hayranlık uyandırmadı değil.”, der samimi bir ciddiyetle Largo, sonra da ekler; “Kapasiteniz olmasına rağmen de yalan söylemek istemeyişiniz..”

Lilly Venom kaşlarını çatar.

“En önemlisini, en sona saklamanız da benim dikkatimden kaçmış değil, Ajan Largo.”, diye hafif kızmış bir şekilde söylenir kız.

“Aaa.. bu en önemlisi değildi. Ama dediğim gibi. Bunu burada, şimdi konuşmamayı tercih ederim.”, der Largo sakince.

“Darly Dor kendisinin ‘yem’ olması koşuluyla, beni bir kontrat için kiraladı. Merak ettiğiniz şey bu ise söyleyebilirim. Bu kadar zorlanmanıza gerek yok. Kendince lafı dolamasının sebebi ise, kontratta adı geçen şahsı, ‘kontrol’ etmek için gittiğimiz yerde, ve Orken’lerin ortasında, bir başkasıyla tartışırken gördük. Kendisine kontratın gerçekleşebilmesi için yer, ortam ve zamanın uygun olmadığını söyledim, çünkü kontrattaki kişi söz konusu olduğunda Darly doğru düşünemiyor. Aptal gibi ikimizi de öldürtecekti.”, diye didaktik bir şekilde anlatır Lilly Venom.

“Bunları neden bana söylüyorsun?”, diye sorar adam.

Lilly bir omzunu silker ve ona gülümser.

“Çünkü kontrat çoktan geride kaldı ve siz de artık geri gidip ona bir şey yapamazsınız.. Öldürmeye kalkmak, tevkif etmeye çalışmak, kahramanca hayatınızı vermek, gibi..”

Kaşlarını çatma sırası Largo’ya geçmiş gibidir.

“Neden böyle bir şey yapayım ki? Buraya gelme sebebimiz fevkalade önemli. Yan eğlencelere vakit ayıramayacak kadar önemli..”

“Kontratımın, High Woods ve Bari Na-ammen High Lady’si, Angrellen Sunsear için olduğunu bilseniz dahi mi?”, diye cevap verir Lilly Venom, daha da gülümseyerek.

 

Largo olduğu yerde durur..

..ve kısılmış, haşin gözlerle kıza bakar.

 

“Bu.. bu bilgiyi benden saklamaya hakkınız yoktu, Lilly hanım.”, diye hararetle fısıldar.

“Bu bilgiyi sizinle o zaman paylaşmış olsaydım, tam olarak ne yapardınız? Onu şahsen öldürmeye çalışmanız, tevkif etmeye kalkmanız.. yada kahramanca ölmeniz dışında..”, diye sorar Lilly Venom ama gülümsemesi gitmiş, yerini, en az kendisine yöneltilen kadar haşin ifadeye bırakır.

“Bu kararı vermek size düşmezdi.”, diye hırlar Largo.

Kız sessizce adama bakar.

“Size herhangi bir şey söyleme zorunluğum yok, Ajan Largo. Siz bir kanun adamısınız.. teknik olarak. Ben ise kanun dışı bir kızım. Hangi hesabınızda size ve sizin ‘kurallarınıza’ ayak uydurmam gerektiği sonucuna vardınız? Burada bulunmam bile sadece bir nezaket meselesi. Size gizli tüneli tarif edip, High Spires’da sıcak çayımı yudumlayıp, kremalı çilek pastamdan yiyor olabilirdim. Konsolosluğu terk edecekleri için mutfağı ve kilerlerinde ne varsa hepsini mültecilere açtılar. İnanın, elf yapımı bir kremalı çilekli pasta gibisi yoktur.”

Ajan Largo burnundan solur.

“Neden şimdi söyledin bunu peki?”, diye sorar kıza.

Kız yine bir omzunu silker.

“Orken orduları tarafından yok edilmiş Bari Na-ammen’in bir high lady’sinin burada, sizin şehrinize saldırmış aynı orduların ortasında ve sizin birinci lordunuzun sarayında görüldüğü bilgisinin sizin ilginizi çekeceğini düşündüğüm için, olabilir mi? Yada belki bir başka sebepten dolayı?”

“Hangi başka sebepten dolayı?”

“O kadarını da sizin düşünmenizi tercih ederim, Ajan Largo.. Doğru sonuca varamayacak kadar aptal olmadığınızı umuyorum. Lütfen bana o kadar aptal olmadığınızı söyleyin..”, diye tekrar gülümseyerek cevap verir Lilly Venom, ve adımlarını hızlandırarak gönüllü muhafızların arasından geçer, ve kısa bir zaman sonra, o da gözden kaybolur.

✱ ✱ ✱

Elmanın yarısı nerede?”, diye keskin bir sesle tıslar Ajan Largo, kalın, oyma çift kapının arkasına. Çift kapı, üzerindeki muhteşem bir zarafetle işlenmiş çiçekler, yapraklar, dikenli sarmaşıklar ve ‘uçuşan’ orman perileriyle kaplıdır ve elf el işçiliğinin de nadir örneklerinden birisini sergilemektedir. Pek azının bildiği bir şey ise, gerçekte kapı sadece elf işçiliği barındırmamaktadır. Kapı, plaka halinde içine yerleştirilmiş mitral çeliği ile de desteklenmiştir. Ajan Largo bu kapıyı içeridekilerin rızası olmadan kırabileceklerini düşünmez.

“Elmanın yarısını ben yedim, hain!”, diye boğuk, alaylı, ve umutsuz bir ses gelir kapının ardından.

“Lanet olsun.”, diye mırıldanır Largo.

Yan taraftan Darly ‘fırk’lar.

Lilly Venom ise kaşlarını çatmakla yetinir.

“Ben Kıdemli ARİS Ajanı Largo. Arashkan Kimlik Numaram: 767-513-8814! Prens Korodin’i güvenliğe, şehirden çıkarmaya geldik. Açın şu kapıyı.”, diye burnundan soluyarak seslenir içeriye.

“Benim numaram da; 777-İYİ-VAKİT-İÇİN-ARAYIN!”, der içerden gelen boğuk ses.

Darly gülmeye başlar.

Lilly Venom ‘fırk’lar.

“Harika!”, diye ellerini hayaya kaldırır Largo, sinirden çatlamak üzere.

“Hiç olmazsa saray soytarısını bulmuş olduk!”, diye mırıldanır Lilly gülümseyerek.

“Largo amca?”, diye tiz bir ses gelir içeriden.

“Korodin? Sen misin?”, diye bir anda omzundan büyük bir yük kalkmış gibi sırıtır Largo.

“Evet, Largo amca. Neler oluyor? Şehir saldırı altındaymış. Kaladin amcam, Haradith abi ile Ariles ve Ylara ablalarım neredeler? Kimse bana bir şey söylemiyor. Beni amcama ait olan bu odaya getirdiler ve kapıyı barikatladılar.”

“Sana her şeyi anlatacağım genç Korodin. Şimdi. Yanındaki saray muhafızlarına kapıyı açmalarını emredersen buradan gidebiliriz.”, der Largo, sonra da fena bozulmuş bir şekilde fısıldar. “Lanet olsun. Kimse çocuğa amcasının ve kuzenlerinin öldürüldüklerini söylememiş..”

İçeriden bazı boğuk konuşmalar duyulur. Ancak sonunda kapının ardından ağır bir şeylerin çekildiğine dair gürültüler gelir ve kapı açılır.

“Hanginiz Largo?”, der yaşlı bir ses ve bir zamanlar belki uzun boylu ve açık kahve saçlı, şimdiyse sıska, bükülmüş ve saçları aklaşmış, sesi kadar kendisi de yaşlı bir kadın peyda olur.

“Largo benim, Lady Ferrara.”, der Ajan Largo sakince.

“Beni tanıyorsun.”, der yaşlı kadın.

“Evet, efendim. Ancak yüz yüze hiç tanıştırılmadık. Geçmişte iki defa sizin gizli korumalığınız görevinde bulundum. Bundan sekil yıl önce Büyük Arashkan Şenliklerinde ve ondan önce de Arashkan Arenası protestosuna katıldığınızda —yaklaşık otuz yıl önce..”, diye açıklar nazikçe Largo.

Yaşlı kadın önünde duran adamı uzun bir süre süzer, sonra da yanındakileri tetkik eder.

“Prensi nereye götüreceksiniz?”, diye sorar Lady Ferrara.

“Kendilerini önce sarayın en altına, unutulmuş bir kilere, oradan gizli bir tünel vasıtasıyla Heaven Parkının, Büyük Arashkan Kütüphanesi tarafına, oradan da şehirde güvenli kalan tek yere, High Spires’a götüreceğiz. İskelede gemiler hazırda bekliyor. Prensi High Spires elf’leriyle birlikte o gemilere bindireceğiz ve şehirden ayrılacağız. Nihai hedefimizi söylememeyi tercih ederim, efendim.. Şimdilik.”, diye sakil bir şekilde anlatır Largo.

“Korodin seni tanıdığını söylüyor.”, der yaşlı kadın.

“Evet. Birinci Lordu bir kaç defa şahsen ziyaret etmişliğim oldu. O ziyaretler esnasında kendileriyle tanışma fırsatını yakaladım. Beraber oturup ‘Gezgin Ozan Blom Bundlebim Hobim ve Hayret Verici Maceraları’nı okumuştuk.. Bir seferinde de Lordum Kaladin, okçular turnuvasını seyretmesi için onu bana emanet etmişti. Beraber güzel zaman geçirmiştik.”, der Largo çok hafif gülümseyerek.

“Öyle olsun bakalım.”, der yaşlı kadın. Sonra arkasını dönmeden içeri seslenir. “Prensi getirin. Soralım bakalım beyefendiyi tanıyor muymuş?”

‘Prens’, sevinçle kapıdan fırlar ve Largo’ya sarılır.

Yaşlı kadın kaşlarını çatar, ama gülümsemesine de mani olamaz.

“Sanırım bu sorumuzun cevabını vermiş oluyor. Ne zaman gideceksiniz, Efendi Largo?”, diye sorar yaşlı kadın, küçük prense sarılmış adama.

“Hemen. Orken’ler yeni bir saldırı için toplandılar. Ve bu sefer büyücülerini de getirdiler.”, der Largo ciddi bir sesle.

“O zaman prens sana emanet, Efendi Largo. Onu hayatınla koru.”, diye emreder Lady Ferrara.

“Siz gelmeyecek misiniz, Lady’im?”, diye hayretle sorar Ajan Largo, yaşlı kadına bakarak. Yaşlı kadına, ve odada sessizce bekleyen bir düzine kadar taş suratlı saray muhafızına bakarak..

“Hayır. Saraya gelmelerinin tek bir sebebi var, o da kök, dal ve budak.. ailenin tamamını ortadan kaldırmak için, zira başsız bir halkın geleceği de olmaz, gideceği yeri de.. Size vakit kazandırmak için bizler tekrar kapıyı barikatlayacağız ve içeri girdiklerinde de onlarla sonuna kadar çarpışacağız.”, der yaşlı kadın sakince.

Largo kadına hayretle bakar.

“Burası benim evim, Efendi Largo. Evimi bir avuç çapulcuya bırakmak gibi bir niyetim yok. Ve bir hanımefendi evinin sadakatini temsil eder.”, diye ışıl ışıl gözlerle cevap verir yaşlı kadın.

“Prens Korodin.”, der çocuğa bakarak.

Küçük Korodin yaşlı kadına döner ve kadın çocuğa sarılır.

“Largo amcanla gitmen gerekiyor. O ne derse hemen yerine getir, sesini çıkarma ve ağlama. Ama büyüyünce, ve zamanı gelince tekrar bize geri dön, çünkü bu şehir senin.. Beni anlıyor musun?”, diye yaşlı gözlerle sarılır küçük prense.

Korodin hayret verici bir sükunetle bir iki defa burnunu çeker ve o da yaşlı kadına sarılır.

“Gidin. Şimdi..”, diye emreder Lady Ferrara..

 

..sonra arkasını döner, içeri girer ve oymalı kapıyı arkasından kapatır..

..ve kapının arkasına ağır bir şeylerin yığılma sesleri tekrar duyulur.

✱ ✱ ✱

Tekrar geldiniz! Ve bu sefer yanınızda Prens Korodin de var!”, diye ünler hayretle ilk barikatta karşılaştıkları saray muhafızı. 

“Prensi güvenli bir yere götürüyoruz. Sizin de burada durmanız için bir sebep kalmadı, asker. Adamlarınızı toplayın. Bizimle geliyorsunuz..”, der Ajan Largo.

Bunu duyan saray muhafızları birbirlerine bakarlar..

..ama yerlerinden kıpırdamazlar.

“Ne bekliyorsunuz?”, diye hafif burnundan solur Largo.

“Sanırım gelmeyecekler, Ajan Largo.”, diye fısıldar Lilly Venom. “Bunlar bağlılık yenimi etmiş askerler, sanırım.”

“Hayır, hanımefendi.”, der kendileriyle konuşan asker. “Ama bu bina sadece bir saray değil. Bu bina, bu şehri, halkını, kültürünü, hayatını ve onurunu temsil eden son kale. Ve bizlerde bu sarayı koruyan son askerleriz. Sadece ve en sonunda bizler de öldüğümüzde bu şehir gerçekten ölmüş olacak.”

Asker saygıyla küçük Korodin’in önünde bir dizinin üstüne çöker ve ona gülümser.

“Bizleri unutmayın, Prensim. Ve bir gün geri gelip şehrinize tekrar sahip çıkın.”

“Büyüyünce geri geleceğim, efendim. Söz..”, diye mutsuz bir ifadeyle cevap verir küçük Prens Korodin.

Yukarılardan bir yerden büyük bir patlama sesi duyulur ve saray muhafızları sesin geldiği yere dikkat kesilirler.

“Kıdemli Ajan Largo. Prensimiz ve onurumuz size emanet. Şimdi gidin.. ve çabuk olun..”, der asker ve kısa bir emirle barikat tekrar aralanır.

“Adın ne senin, asker?”, diye seslenir küçük Prens.

“İsimsiz..”, der asker, gülerek. “Bizler bu şehir için ölen isimsiz askerleriz.. Elveda Prensim..”

✱ ✱ ✱

En sonunda.”, diye mırıldanır Ajan Largo ve hafif tepinerek çıkar toprak tünelden. Sonra tünele geri uzanır ve küçük Prens Korodin’in elinden tuttuğu gibi tünelden çıkartır. Başta biraz korkmuş olsa da, etrafındaki herkesin ıkınarak sürünmesine nispeten kendisi çömelerek yürüyebiliyor olması küçük prensin eğlenmesine sebep olmuştu. Tünele ilk girdiklerinde göreceli bir şekilde sabah saatlerde olmuş olmasına rağmen, şimdi ise gece çökmüştür. Buna rağmen şehrin bir çok farklı noktasından hala patlama ve çatışma sesleri ve acı dolu çığlıklar duyulmaktadır.

“Evet.”, der bir ses karanlıktan ve yanmış Heaven Parkının kömür olmuş ağaçları arasından. “En sonunda.. Bir ARİS ajanı olarak ‘acele’, ‘ivedilik’ ve ‘dakik’ ifadelerinden bu kadar uzak olmanız biraz utanç verici.. Ama zaten ARİS olarak başarılı olmuş olsaydınız, bu hale hiç düşmüş olmazdınız..”

Largo olduğu yerde durur ve genç prensi arkasına alır.

“Prens..”, der aynı ses. “..onu rica edeyim.. Hepinizin ölmesi gerek miyor. Aslına bakılırsa gerekiyor, ama ayak işleriyle ben ilgilenmiyorum.”

“High Lady Angrellen Sunsear.. Yanlış şehirdesiniz sanki..”, der Largo burnundan soluyarak.

“Ahahaaa.. Bana daha ziyade ‘yanmış şehirdeyim’, gibi geldi.”, der sesin sahibi ve kömür olmuş ağaçların arkasından, uzun, örülmüş, bembeyaz saçları, yay gibi kaşları, olağanüstü güzelliği ve ürkütücü zarafetiyle High Lady Angrellen Sunsear belirir. 

“Yanmış kendi şehrin.. kendi ülken yetmedi sanırım. Komşularına ihanet etmeyi, bir davranış bozukluğu olarak kabul edemesem de, yine de anlarım zira sizden daha azını beklemezdim asla. Ama kendi halkınıza nasıl ihanet ettiniz? Sizin yüzünüzden üç gün içerisinde on binlerce elf hayatından oldu.”

“Bu ne şimdi? ‘Son boss’ konuşması mı yapacağız? Peki. Yapalım bakalım.. Muhataplarımın cahilce ölmelerindense, aptallıklarının ne denli büyük olduğunu bilerek ölmelerini hep tercih etmişimdir.”, der High Lady Angrellen gülümseyerek.

“Hayır Angrellen. Sen bir ‘boss’ değilsin. Asla da olmadın. Sen sadece ve her zaman ikinci, her zaman bir başkasının ‘kulu’ oldun..”, diye sırıtarak cevap verir Largo ve yanında gönüllü muhafız ve elf’lerden geriye kalanlar da tünelden çıkmaya başlarlar.

Muhafızlar Angrellen’i görürler ama tanımazlar. Elf’ler ise Ri Grandaleren’in ablasını anında tanırlar ve bir anda yüzlerinde korku belirir.

Ve onların arkasından da Lilly Venom çıkar tünelden.

“Beni kızdırmaya mı çalışıyorsun, Ajan Largo? Buna gerçekten gerek yok. Zira sana kızmamış olsam bile öldürmekten keyif alırdım. Ama senin canın benim değil. ARİS’e katıldığından beri kaç tane düşman edinmiş olduğunu tahmin bile edemezsin. Şimdi.. Çocuğu verecek misin, yoksa hepinizin cesetleri arasından mı toplam gerekiyor onu?”, der High Lady gülümseyerek.

“Sırf merakımdan sormak isterim. Bu gece bizi burada nasıl buldun?”

“Zavallı Lady Ferrara.. Ölürken çok acı çekti. Ama ruhunu çekip aldığımda benden saklayabileceği pek de bir sırrı kalmamış oldu. Bu tünele gelince. Bunun kazılması için yıllar önce Arashkan kesicilerine kimin sponsorluk yaptığını sanıyorsunuz?”, der Angrellen gülerek.

“Kendi halkına değdi mi? Sana ne vaad ettiler, Angrellen? Hangi ödül, sonsuza kadar bir hain olmaya değer?”, diye hırlar Largo.

“Tam da üstüne bastın, genç adam.. SONSUZA KADAR! —bana vaad edilen şey buydu. Ve bir kaç bin ölümlünün hayatı buna değer.”, diye cevap verir Angrellen aynı gülümsemesiyle.

“Hiçbir şey sonsuz değildir, Angrellen.. Senden önce aynı şeye sahip olabileceğini düşünen kaç bin ahmağı ağırladı bu dünya, herhangi bir fikrin var mı?”, diye neredeyse bağırır Largo.

“Evet. Var genç adam.. Senden çok daha iyi bir fikrim var. Ama sanıyorum bu konuşma kendi kökünü kazıdı gibime geliyor. Ben seninle yada adamlarınla ilgilenmiyorum. Bana çocuğu getirmem söylendi, ben de tam olarak bunu yapacağım..”, der High Lady, sonra da sırıtarak ekler. “Ama canlı olup olmaması hususunda kati bir talimat verilmedi..”

“Canın cehenneme, Cadı! Neyin varsa görelim!”, diye hırlar Largo asice.

“‘Neyim varsa görelim..’ Peki o zaman.. Görelim bakalım.. Lilly!”

Ve Largo bir anda irkilir.

Zira ensesinde keskin bir hançerin ucunu hisseder.

“Prensi ben alayım, Ajan Largo.”, diye fısıldar Lilly Venom. “Ve lütfen. Ani hareketlere yada son dakika kahramanlıklarına da kalkışmayalım. Sizden hoşlandım.. Lütfen bu durumu bozacak bir şey yapmayın.”

Ve Lilly Venom, hayretle kalakalmış Largo’nun elini tuttuğu küçük prensi alır..

..ve onunla beraber High Lady Angrellen’e doğru yürümeye başlar.

✱ ✱ ✱

Seni takdir etmemek elde değil, sevgili Lilly..”, diye kedi gibi mırıldanır Angrellen. “Etrafındaki herkesi bir Lir gibi oynadın. Bu iş bittiğinde benimle gelmek istemediğinden emin misin? Seni tahmin edemeyeceğin kadar zengin yapabilirim..”

“Bunu düşüneceğim, Hanımefendi. Ama önce kapatmam gereken bir kaç başka hesabım daha var.” der Lilly Venom donuk bir ifadeyle.

“Nasıl?”, diye hayretle tanıdığını sandığı kıza bakar Largo. “Neden? Seni Efendi Philius tutmuştu..”

Lilly Venom bir omzunu silker.

“En başta Philius’un beni High Lady Angrellen ve kızı Anglenna’yı öldürmem için tutması fikrini —oldukça dolaylı yollardan— Angrellen hanımefendinin ta kendisi önermişti ona ve Philius, olduğu ahmak gibi, bunu fark etmediği gibi, asla da bu gerçeğe ayılamadı. Efendi Philius kendi çapında iyi bir idareci olabilir, ancak ‘büyüklerin’ oyunu için fazla toy. Kendisi beni kiraladığını sanıyordu. Halbuki Angrellen hanımefendi, onun beni kiralaması için çoktan beni kiralamıştı bile. Bu şekilde onun yanına kadar rahatça sokulabildim. Asıl hedef ise önce Prenses Alor’Nadien ne idi. Ondan sonra da sırada Philius’un kendisi ve eşi vardı. Ancak arenada prensesi öldüremedim çünkü karşımıza beklenmedik bir yaratık çıkardılar ve işler bir anda karışıverdi.. Şunu anlamalısın Largo. Ben kimseye ihanet etmedim. Sadece kiralandığım kontratı yerine getiriyorum, o kadar.”

“Bir kontratı yapıyor olman, seni ihanetinden paklamayacak, kesici.. Daha önce sadece kiralık bir katil olarak çok da fazla umursanmıyordun. Prens Korodin’e karşı yaptığın bu eylemle her zaman, ve her yerde aranıyor olacaksın.. Bunu bilmen gerekiyor!”, diye hiddetten kıpkırmızı olmuş bir suratla tıslar Ajan Largo.

Lilly Venom ise buna da omuz silker.

“Bugüne kadar beni bulamadınız. Bugünden sonra da bir daha görmeyeceksiniz —ki bir iki güne Arashkan da zaten kalmamış olacak..”

“HAİN!”, diye küfreder Largo ve belinden hançerini çektiği gibi kıza fırlatır!

Ama kız, bir dansöz gibi kendi merkezinde, trençkotu ve eteklerini yelpaze gibi saçarak döner..

..ve küçük prensi kaptığı gibi kaçar!

 

Hançer ise High Lady Angrellen’in karnını kıl payı ıskalar.. ve bacağını çizerek arkasındaki ağaca saplanır.

High Lady Angrellen’in gözleri bir anda kararır ve gördüğü herkese —ama herkese saldırır.

İki elinden de uğursuz, turuncu-kızıl yıldırımlar sıçrar ve daha ilk hamlesinde önce Ajan Largo yere yığılır, ardından gönüllü üç muhafız ve elf’lerden de dördü, göğüslerinde koca birer delikle, gıklarını bile çıkarmadan yere yıkılırlar. Kalan son üç elf ise kılıçlarını çekerler ve “BARİ NA-AMMEN!”, diye çığlayarak High Lady’nin üstüne atlarlar.

‘Cadı’ya kılıcıyla vuran ilk elf bir anda acıyla kıvranır ve tamamen donmuş bir şekilde olduğu yerde devrilir. İkincisi ise isabet ettirir ancak kadını sadece kolundan sıyırır. Anglenna anında karşılık verir; lavlı bir ateş, kadının elinden sıçrar ve elf acı bir çığlık atarak yarı kömür olmuş halde can verir. Kalan son elf ise tamamen ıskalar ve bu şekilde de kendi kaderini belirlemiş olur.

High Lady Angrellen tekrar ellerini kaldırır..

..ve bir an olduğu yerde tökezler.

Kadının suratında hayret ifadesi belirir ve ağzından bir oluk kan boşalır ve..

“FELİSHİA FREMİER’İ HATIRLA!”, diye bir tıslama duyar arkasında.

Angrellen arkasını döndüğünde, karşısında elinde kanlı bir hançerle durmuş, daha önce hiç karşılaşmadığı, genç bir half-elf bulur.

“Sen de kimsin, çocuk?”, diye hırlar High Lady.

Genç half-elf ona sadece sırıtır.

“Ben, ‘fili öldüren mızrağım’..”

“Hayır, çocuk. Sen sadece ölüsün!”, der yanan gözlerle Angrellen ve beklenmedik bir çeviklik örneği göstererek uzanır..

..ve genç half-elf’e dokunur.

 

Darly “Darlius” Dor..

..yüzünde hayret ifadesiyle kaybolur!

✱ ✱ ✱

Cadı.. nerede?”, diye acıyla inler Ajan Largo.

Uzun, ince parmaklar, adamın yüzünü tutmaya devam eder. Largo gözlerini açtığında, Lilly Venom’la burun buruna olduğuna ayılır. “Her uyandığımda seninle böyle mi karşılaşacağım?”, diye hafif ekşi bir suratla doğrulmaya çalışır, ama acıyla tekrar yanmış, kuru toprağa çöker.. “Yanlış anlama.. Nefesin hakkında söylediklerimde tamamen samimiydim, ama bu durumun bir alışkanlık haline gelmesi biraz garip olurdu..”

“Benim de kaç defa sizi ‘öperek’ uyandırmam gerekiyor, Ajan Largo? Halbuki bir kerecik olsun beni yemeğe bile çıkarmadınız. Pek de centilmence sayılmaz..”, diye cevap verir Lilly Venom hafif kırık bir gülümsemeyle.

“Söz.. bu işten sağ salim kurtulursak, sizi bulabildiğim en lüks lokantaya götüreceğim.”, der Largo inleyerek.

“Bu sözünüzü size hatırlatacağım. Bununla beraber, lüks olması gerekmiyor, Ajan Largo. Sessiz, sakin, mum ışığında.. ve loş olması yeterli olur gibime geliyor.”, diye vurgular kız.

“Lütfen hatırlatın. Ama sizin için biraz fazla yaşlı değil miyim?”

Lilly Venom bir omzunu silker.

“Bu konuda benim bir şey söyleme hakkım yok mu? Bunu mu ima etmeye çalışıyorsunuz, Ajan Largo?”, diye tehlikeli bir şekilde gülümser Lilly.

“Var tabi ki. Sadece hatırlatmak istedim.”

“Ben genç ve yakışıklı bir delikanlı aramıyorum, Ajan Largo.. Onlar hiçbir zaman ilgimi çekmediler. Benim aradığım, olgun, aklı başında, lafı uzatmayan, zeki ve mütemadiyen kendisini ispatlama ihtiyacı duymayan birisi. Ve bu vasıflar asla toplu olarak genç erkeklerde olmuyor ne yazık ki.”, diye sakin olmaya çalışan bir sesle cevap verir kız.

“Benim yakışıklı olmadığımı mı ima ediyorsun?”, diye alınmış bir sesle sorar Ajan Largo.

Kız hemen önünde yatan adama bön bön bakar.

“Bütün sıraladıklarım arasından çıkarabildiğiniz tek şey bu mu? Lütfen bana bu kadar aptal olmadığınızı söyleyin, Ajan Largo..”

Largo gülmeye çalışır ama bu sadece daha çok acı çekmesine sebep olur.

“Prens?”, diye sorar en sonunda.

“Burada ve kusmakla meşgul.”, der Lilly Venom ve başıyla adamın göremediği bir yere işaret eder.

“Prens neden kusuyor?”, diye sorar Largo yattığı yerden.

Lilly Venom tekrar bir omzunu silker.

“Onu kaçırabilmem için bir iki yudum ‘Gaz İksiri’ içirmek zorunda kaldım. O iksiri Arenada, Anglenna’yı öldürdükten sonra kaçış stratejimin bir parçası olarak kendime saklıyordum. Nasip küçük prenseymiş. Ama korkarım bu onun midesiyle pek de iyi geçinmedi.”, diye açıklar kız.

“Muhteşem Gökler adına! Sekiz yaşındaki bir çocuğa, hem de prensimize bir ‘Gaz İksiri’ mi içirdin?”, diye inler Largo.

“Gaz iksirlerinin kimseyi öldürdüğü duyulmuş bir vakıa değil, Ajan Largo. Sadece nadir hallerde mide bulantısı ve kusmaya sebep olabiliyor.. bu durumda olduğu gibi..”, der Lilly Venom didaktik bir ifadeyle.

“Cadı? O nerede?”

“Kaçtı. High Lady Angrellen fevkalade tehlikeli ve ölümcül bir büyücüdür. Ancak çok zorunlu kalmadığı sürece her zaman kaçmayı tercih eder.. Hırslı ve kindar olduğu kadar özde korkak bir kişiliğe sahiptir.. bu durumda olduğu gibi.. Angrellen bir çatışmaya girmeden önce her zaman elinde hazır en az bir kaçış planıyla gelir. Ve onun kaçışına engel olamadığınız sürece de onu yenemezsiniz.”, diye cevap verir kız aynı ses tonuyla.

“Senin için söylediğim şeylerden dolayı özür dilerim, Lilly hanım, ama sanırım gerekliydi.”, der Largo.

Lilly Venom’un tek kaşı kalkar.

“Huh.”, diye ünler. “Kimse benden özür dilemez, Ajan Largo..”

“Largo. Sadece Largo yeterli. Her defasında ‘Ajan’, demenize gerek yok.”, der Largo.

“Aaaa.. Hayır, Ajan Largo. Söz verdiğiniz yemeğe kadar Ajan olarak kalacaksınız.”, diye muzırca gülümser Lilly Venom. “Yemekten ve muhabbetinizden hoşlanırsam, düşünürüz.”

Ajan Largo gözlerini kapatır ve inler.

“Sadece üçümüz mü kaldık?”, diye sessizce sorar neden sonra.

“Sadece üçümüz ve gönüllü elf’lerden bir tanesi kaldık..”, diye kısmen onaylar Lilly Venom benzer bir sessizlikle.

“Darlius?”

“Bilmiyorum. Angrellen ona bir büyü yaptı ve ikisi de bir anda kayboluverdiler.. Aynı yere mi gittiler yoksa farklı yerlere mi bilmiyorum ve hangisinin daha kötü olabileceğini ise düşünmek bile istemiyorum..”

“Shit!”, diye küfreder Largo.

“Çok ayıp, Ajan Largo. Ama isabetli.”

“Babasına ne diyeceğim ben şimdi?”, diye inler Largo.

“İki doğrudan birisini; öcünü almak ve onurunu geri kazanmak için cesurca savaştığını.. yada her zamanki gibi fevri, sorumsuz, plansız ve düşüncesizce davrandığını.. Onunla bir anlaşma yapmıştık. Anlaşmaya göre o ‘yem’ olacaktı ben de ‘asıl’.. Ama o plana uymadı ve bunun sonucunda da sadece yem oldu..”, der Lilly Venom sessiz bir hiddetle.

Ajan Largo gözlerini açar ve yanı başında eğilmiş, kendisini seyreden kıza sessizce fısıldar.

“Angrellen seni ve ona olan ihanetini asla affetmeyecektir.”

Lilly yine bir omzunu silker.

“O kaltağın benden önce halletmesi gereken çok daha önemli işleri var. Dahası, bu işte benim hiç bir ihanetim olmadı bile. Her ne kadar o öyle düşünse de. O, Philius’un beni kiralaması için beni kiralarken, gerçekte senin beni ondan bile önce kiralayarak aynı numarayı ona çekmiş olman oldukça zekice idi.”

“Bunun için bana değil, rahmetli Efendi Demos Lightshand’e teşekkür etmelisin. O mektubu yazmamış olsaydı, bu geceki sonuç çok daha farklı olurdu.”

“Belki.. Gitmeye hazır mısın? Burada daha fazla oyalanmamız pek de akıllıca olmaz ve sanıyorum genç prensin de çıkartacak bir şeyi kalmadı.”

Largo biraz daha inler ve tekrar doğrultmaya kalkar. Lilly Venom adamın koluna girer ve ona yardım eder.

“Sen gerçekten hayret verici birsin Lilly. Bilmiyorum bunu daha önce sana söyleyen oldu mu?”, diye sessizce koluna girmiş kızın gözlerine bakarak itiraf eder Ajan Largo.

Lilly Venom, yüzünde garip bir ifadeyle koluna girdiği adamın mavi gözlerini, hafif bronzlaşmış yüzünü, kalın, altın sarısı kaşlarını ve ince kesim sakal ve bıyıklarını seyreder.

“Ferra. Benim adım Ferra Ferrea, Ajan Largo..”

 

 

 

“Benim, Dexter adında öldüğümü sanan, senden büyük bir oğlum var..”

“Huh!.. Benim de, beni öldürmek isteyen bir abim var!”

“…”


dungeons and dragons modül the plot thickens Whispers; A Cabal

Çok Uzaklardaki Gullem

Çok Uzaklardaki Gullem

Timeline:

Adalar Krallığında ürkütücü bir sesizlik hakimdir.

Elf’ler, Dwarf’lar, İnsanlar, Gnome’lar ve adı geçmeyen diğer bütün ırkların hepsi sanki nefeslerini tutmuş, ölüm ve felaketin ön habercisi olan bu sessizliği dinlemektedir.. zira sessizlik sonrası gelecek fırtınanın adı bellidir.

Bir araya gelip hazırlık yapma zamanı gelmiştir.. yada bunun için biraz geç kalınmış da olabilir çünkü ‘düşman’ çoktan harekete geçmiş durumdadır. Bunun ilk göstergesi, gerçekte Büyük Arashkan Şehrinin, hemen sonrasında da kadim elf şehri Bari Na-ammen ve High Woods’un yok olması değildir. Bu iki ‘cinayet’in kendileri başlı başına hayret verici ve kahredici olsa da, en nihayetinde ve ‘büyük plan’ açısından iyimser bir şekilde sadece birer dip nottan ibarettirler.

Kötümser olarak ifade etmek gerekirse;

Bu bir başlangıçtır..

 

Sonun başlangıcı.

 

Ve uzaklarda bir yerde, unutulmuş binlerce yıldır bütün bunları ‘keyifsizce’ bir şekilde, Büyük Kuzey Tundralarının en ücra batı köşesindeki muazzam şatosundan seyreden Gullem bulunmaktadır..

Bu hikayenin ne zaman yer aldığı kati olarak bilinmemektedir.

Ancak kronolojik olarak;
A Demon’s Plan (Part Four) – All End.
ile
The Fog, The Path, And The Door.
Knock, More, And Ascend.
,
arasında bir zamanda gerçekleşmiş olması muhtemeldir.

 

Kapkara bulutların arasında, kızıl yıldırımlar vahşice çatallanarak harlamaktadır. Kara bulutların altında ise belki bir zamanlar koyu mor olan, ancak artık grinin ürkütücü tonlarıyla kirli pas renklerinin karıştığı devasa, demir bir şato bulunmaktadır ve şatonun büyüklüğü, ancak ‘göz alabildiğince’ ifadesi kullanılarak tarif edilebilirdi. Şatonun muhtelif yerlerinden, rastgele serpilmiş izlenimi veren ve daha çok kanlı birer mızrağı andıran sivri kuleleri ise, gökyüzünü kaplayan kirli bulutların arasında kaybolmuştur. Şatonun devasa, girintili kapısı dışında bir başka girişi görülmediği gibi, ana kulesinin kara bulutlara yakın bir noktasındaki tek delik dışında da herhangi bir penceresi yoktur. Bu pencereden ise, dışarı kızıl-sarı bir ışık süzülmektedir. Gecenin karanlığında duyulan sesler, şatodan gelen çığlıklar, vahşi havlamalar ve ne olduğunu kimsenin bilmek istemediği seslerden ibarettir..

Burası yaşlı, mel’un ve şer kelimelerinin gerçek sahibi olan lanetli Gullem’in şatosudur ve buraya canlılar ayak basmazlar. Ama cansız bir çok şey buradan sürüler ve tümenler halinde ayrılır ve güneye, Demon Wall adı verilen, insanların, elf’lerin ve dwarf’ların korumaya çalıştığı İblis Duvarına doğru yollanırlar.

Şatonun ana kulesinin tepesindeki, kızıl-sarı kötürüm bir ışıkla aydınlanan kemerli pencerede bir gölge belirir. Uzun, sıska ve uğursuz bir gölgedir bu.

Gölge, bıkkın, isteksiz ve kataraktlı gözlerle güneyi süzer. Güneyde, demir şatonun iki buçuk üç günlük mesafesinde Demon Gates/İblis Kapıları vardır. İblis Kapılarının ilerisinde ise uçsuz bucaksız, yarıklar ve çatlaklarla dolu, keskin kayalar ve zehirli gazlarla hayata dair hiçbir şeyin yaşamasına imkan vermeyen Fiend Pits/İblis Çorakları, onun da ilerisinde, yüksek uçurumların altında, Demon’s End/Sonsuz İblis vadisi bulunmaktadır. Bu vadide bir zamanlar belki bir medeniyet var olmuş olsa da, söz konusu medeniyetlerden geriye kalan şeyler sadece yüzlerce, daha gerçekçi bir tahminde bulunmak gerekirse, binlerce yıl önce yıkılıp talan edilmiş harabelerden ibarettir ve bu harabeler ise artık, adı konulmamış on binlerce yaratığa ev sahipliği yapmaktadır. Bu vadinin sonunda ise, Gullem’in görüyormuş gibi baktığı Demon Wall/İblis Duvarı durmaktadır ve yaşlı, uğursuz adamın keyifsizliğinin kaynağı da bu duvardır..

..son, yüzlerce, unutulmuş ve umutsuz yıldır!

 

“Bıktım..”, diye kendi kendine mırıldanır yaşlı adam yılgın bir sesle. “Ama ölümlüler bıkmadılar bir türlü..”

Melanet adamın arkasından bir inleme sesi gelir.

“Sen hala yaşıyor musun?”, diye arkasını dönmeden sorar Gullem.

“Ce.. cehennemde yanacaksın..”, der inleyen sesin sahibi anca duyulur bir fısıltıyla.

“Hayır, evlat. Ben cehennemin ta kendisiyim.. Hiç merak etmiyor musun ailene ne oldu, yada şehrin güvende mi, diye? Ben olsam merak ederdim..”, diye kendince kıkırdar lanetli adam.

“Onları.. bir gün göreceğim.. Ama seni bekleyen.. hiç kimsen yok..”, diye bitik bir şekilde hırıldar sesin sahibi.

“Benim kimseye ihtiyacım yok. Asla da olmadı..”, diye çirkefçe cevap verir Gullem. “Ve sana bak. Bütün sevenlerine rağmen buradasın. Aslına bakılırsa, sevdiklerinden ötürü buradasın..”

“Bu.. dünya nasıl biterse bitsin.. seni bekleyen son aynı.. İblisler def edildiğinde.. senin de sonun gelmiş olacak. İblisler bu dünyayı.. ele geçirseler de.. senin sonun.. yine gelmiş olacak.. çünkü efendilerinin.. seninle de işleri bitmiş olacak..”, diye zorlukla fısıldar ses. “En nihayetinde sen.. insanlığını ve insanları satmış bir.. hainsin.. Ve kimse bir haini sevmez.. ve ona güvenmez.. Bu dünya ile işleri.. bittiğinde, senin de defterini dürecek ve ipini kesecekler.. ve seni hayatta tutan güç her ne ise, o da son bulacak..”

Gullem arkasından gelen sese döner.

Yüzünde çirkin bir ifadeyle, kızıl-sarı kötürüm ışıkla aydınlanmış demir kulesinin devasa zindanında, karanlıkta kaybolmuş tavandan sarkan bir zincire tutturulmuş havada asılı duran dikenli kafesin içindeki erimiş tutsağına bakar..

..ve yüzündeki çirkin ifade yerini tamamen çirkef bir ifadeye bırakır.

Gullem bir omzunu silker ve pis bir kahkaha atar.

“Ama sen bunların hiç birisini göremeyeceksin..”

Demir dikenli kafesin içindeki bi deri bi kemik kalmış tutsak acı bir şekilde ‘hıh’lar.

“Verebildiğin.. en iyi cevap buysa.. bahsettiğim sonu.. zaten sende biliyorsun.. Sadece.. duymak istemiyorsun.. o kadar..”

Gullem bir elini pençe yapar ve kötürüm, kızıl-mor yıldırımlar kafesi ve içindekini vurur.

Kafesten acı içerisinde inleyen sesler yükselir..

..ama çığlık gelmez.

Dakikalar boyunca melanet yaşlı, demir dikenli kafesi, ve içindeki tutsağını kaynatır.. Kan ter içerisinde yıldırımları kestiğinde, kafesin demirleri kor halinde harlanmış, içindeki ‘şey’ ise yarı yanmış bir şekilde tütmektedir.

“Belki bu cevap daha çok hoşuna gitmiştir.”, diye horlayan bir sesle mırıldanır lanet Gullem ve tekrar tutsağına ve demir kafese arkasını döner ve kulenin penceresinden dışarıyı, İblis Duvarını seyretmeye başlar.

Aradan ne kadar süre geçer bilinmez. Bununda gerçekte çok da bir önemi yoktur.

“Teşekkür.. ederim..”, diye inleyerek gelir tüten ses.

Gullem nefret dolu bir ifadeyle başını kafese çevirir.

“Be.. Beni her.. yakışında.. günahlarımdan da.. arındırmış oluyorsun..”

 

Gullem demir dikenli ve paslı kafesin içindeki yarı kömür olmuş ‘şey’i oracıkta öldürmeyi düşünür. Ölümün eşiğine getirdiği ‘şey’den istediği bilgilere ihtiyacı olmamış olsa, onun buraya getirtilmesi için verdiği emeğe de, planlara da gerek kalmış olmaz, onu öldürüldüğü yerde bırakması yeterli olmuş olurdu.. Yada özellikle acı çekmesini istiyor idiyse, onu aşağıda, yerin çok derinliklerindeki zindanlarından birine tıkar, ve beyin emici iblislerine yedirmiş olurdu çoktan. Ama Gullem’in bilgiye ihtiyacı vardır ve tutsağında o bilgilerin var olduğundan da emindir. Sorun, onun cinsinin kati inançları vardır ve kırılmaları da oldukça zordur.

“Sorun değil, sorun değil..”, diye söylenir içinden habis Gullem. “Burada çok uzun bir süre kalacaksın.. Çooook uzun bir süre.. Seni ve inançlarını kırıncaya kadar.. Dünya da bir çok şey değişebilir, ama senin için bu gerçek değişmeyecek..”

 

Yaşlı melun adamın odasının kapısı tıklanır ve içeri, pıhtılaşmış kan kırmızısı cüppeler içerisinde bir ‘şey’ girer. Giren şey her ne ise, ancak genel hatlarıyla bir insanı andırmaktadır ancak sırtında koca bir kamburu, ayaklarından birisinde yenmiş, pırtık bir çizme, diğerinde ise öküz toynağı bulunmaktadır. Yaratık içeri girer ve kapüşonunun içinde olması gereken yüz yerine sadece karanlık bir boşlukla, kıpırdamadan Gullem’e bakar.

“Ne var?”, diye hırıldar yaşlı adam.

Ve sanki adamın emri, yaratığı canlandırmış gibi hareketlenir ve garip, yankılı, derinlerden gelen, bir hortlak ulumasını çağrıştıran, ve herhangi bir vurgu yada duygu içermeyen bir sesle konuşur.

 

“Geldi.”

 

Yaşlı adam tiksintiyle yaratığa bakar.

“Söyle geliyorum.”, der kısaca ve odasının köşesinde duran bir sandığa doğru yönelir.

Yaratık, kendisine verilen emri duyup duymadığına dair herhangi bir tepki göstermez. Bir anlığına yerinde kıpırdamadan durur, sonra sektiren adımlarla ‘tok’, ‘tok’, ‘tok’, diye toynağının yankılarıyla geldiği gibi çıkar odadan.

“Lanet Renfield’ler..”, diye neredeyse tükürür Gullem ve sandığı açar. Yaşlı, mel’un adam bir süre sandıktaki eşyaları süzer, sonra uzanıp, çarpık bir asa, kömür karası bir çubuk, iki yüzük, bir madalyon, ve ne oldukları anlaşılamayan bir-iki eşya daha alır ve sandığın kapağını kapatır.

Kapıya yönelmeden önce madalyonu boynuna geçirir, yüzükleri takar ve diğer eşyaları kirli cübbesinin muhtelif yerlerine saklar, kömür karası çubuğu da kemer niyetine kullandığı altın ve gümüş simli sicime sokuşturur sonra bir elinde asası olduğu halde kendisi de odasından ayrılır.

 

gullem-01

Yaşlı Gullem tam kapısını kapatacakken demir dikenli kafese, ve içinde hala tütmekte olan bitmiş tutsağına bakar.

“Benim canımı sıkmayı başardın. Sırf bundan dolayı, duvarı yıktığımda Korduba’s Watch’ı kuşatacağım, ama almak için özel çaba sarf etmeyeceğim. Ana ordularımla önce senin şehrine gideceğim ve ilk katliamımı orada yapacağım.. Bunu da senin ailenle başlayarak kutlayacağım. Bunun için sana tarih bile verebilirim. Ama bilmemen daha iyi. Merak kediyi öldürmüş derler. Seni öldürmeyecek ama delirmen için kâfi gelecek.. Herkesin bir kırılma noktası vardır. Bu da seninkisi olacak..”

✱ ✱ ✱

Face!..”, diye saygısızlığın ancak kıyısında denebilecek bir tonla hırıldar mel’un Gullem, devasa, loş ve boş salona indiğinde. “Hangi rüzgar attı seni buraya? Gelebilmen için harcamak zorunda kaldığımız büyü gücü ile yarım düzine iblis müfrezesi çekebilirdik cehennemden.”

Kardax’Trakxa “The Face”, ölümcül bir sükûnetle yaşlı adamın salona girişini seyreder. Aradan geçen onca yüz yıldan sonra yaşlı bunağın hala yanına bir güç asası, kendince kendisini koruyabileceğini sandığı bi düzine oyuncakları ve sihirli çubuğu ile gelmiş olmasına hem şaşırır, hem de bu durumu komik bulur.

Şaşırması, beceriksiz adamın her geldiğinde oyuncaklarıyla gelme noktasında gösterdiği azminden kaynaklanmaktadır. Ahmak bunak, aynı azmi Demon Wall surlarını yıkmak için değerlendirmiş olsa, ölümlülerin ‘Adalar Krallığı’ diye kibirle adlandırdıkları toprakların tamamı zapt edilmiş olurdu çoktan.

Komik bulmasının sebebi ise, bunağın kendisine karşı oyuncaklarının herhangi bir işe yarayacağını sanıyor olmasındandır.

 

“The Face”, içinden tiksintiyle ‘hıh’lar.

Bir ölümlüye yirmi altı bin yıl verseler dahi, kibrinden, ahmaklığından ve aptallığından hiçbir şey kaybetmemiş olmasını hayret verici bulur.

Ruhunu eline alıp sıktığında, yaşlı ahmağın surat ifadesini görmek pek keyifli olacaktır ve Kardax’Trakxa, bunağa neden kendisine “The Face” dendiğini o zaman hatırlatacaktır..

..iş işten tamamen geçtikten sonra —ki bu da an’ların en güzelidir, Trakxa için!

 

“Senden beklendiği gibi göndermen gereken raporlar gelmediği gibi, gelen düzensiz raporlar ise en iyi ihtimalle yarım yamalak, eksik, kusurlu, tutarsız ve yanlış yönlendirmelerle dolu.. Neredeyse bilinçli bir şekilde öyle hazırlanıyormuş gibi.”, der “The Face”.

“Rapor edilecek bir şey olduğu zaman, ve gerekli gördüğüm kadarını paylaşıyorum.”, diye kibirli bir kinle cevap verir mel’un adam.

“‘Gerekli gördüğüm kadarını..'”, diye düşünceli bir ifadeyle yaşlı bunağın cümlesini tekrarlar “The Face”. “Sanıyorum, Efendi Gullem cehennemle yaptığı antlaşmasını tamamen yanlış anlamış görünüyor.”

“Cehennemle yaptığım anlaşmamda sen yoktun, Trakxa. Yanlış hatırlamıyorsam o zaman sen daha basit bir iblis müfreze komutanıydın.”, diye hatırlatır Gullem küçümseyen bir ifadeyle.

“Eskiyi yad ederek kendine mutlu anılar oluşturma zamanın sona erdi bunak, zira işler artık değişti. Buraya gelme sebebim, sana bunu kati olarak hatırlatmak içindi, zira sen istediğimden biraz kıt çıktın ve bu döngüde geçen 7,600 yıl seni bu gerçeğe ayıltamamış belli ki. Önünde sadece iki seçenek var, ölümlü! Bunlardan birincisi; benden sana gelecek olan emirleri harfiyle yerine getirmen ve kati, özlü ve dakik bir imtina ile sonuçlarını rapor etmen, ikinci seçeneğin ise benim seni yok etmem.”, der “The Face” sakince.

“Buna cesaret edemezsin, Trakxa.. Tahtımı bana sen vermedin, Krolum’da Xora vermişti. Ve kendisiyle yaptığım antlaşmaya göre de ‘sonsuza’ kadardı..”, diye hırlar Gullem.

 

Kardax’Trakxa “The Face”, gerçek tiksintiyle bakar melanet Gullem’e, zira bu ahmak tam olarak tahmin ettiği kadar geçmişte takılıp kalmış bir sürüngenden ibarettir.

 

“Bu konuyu istersen Krolum’da Xora ile konuşalım. Kendisi acaba ne diyecek senin beceriksizliklerin hakkında.. Aaa.. sanırım Krolum’da Xora ölmüştü.. Ad Ara onu öldürdüğünde ben oradaydım, bunak. Bunları sana söylüyorum çünkü bu sana vereceğim son şans ve tek uyarı. Ve açıkçası Cehennemin, senin gibi bir fazlalığı beslemesi için herhangi bir sebep görmüyorum. Ama Xora benim eski kumandanımdı ve ondan ‘aptallığın’ ne olduğunu öğrenmiş olmamdan ötürü küçük de olsa bir boyun borcu hissetmiyor değilim.. Her ne kadar kendisini defalarca uyarmış olmama rağmen kendi aptallığının kurbanı olmuş olsa da..”, der “The Face” aynı sakin ve ‘alttan alan’ gibi görünen yanıltıcı sesiyle.

 

Yaşlı, mel’un Gullem öylece Kardax’Trakxa’ya bakakalır.

 

“Siz ölümlülerin ‘hayat’ dediği şey gereçekten kendi ironileriyle dolu. Sana ölümsüzlük vaad eden acımasız Krolum’da Xora, kendi ölümünü bile ön göremedi. Onu ‘merhamet’ meleği olan Ad Ara öldürdü. Ve ben de Ad Ara’yı öldürdüm.. 1,600 yıl süren, adı konulmamış işkencelerden sonra. Önce onun kanatlarını kırdım. Teker teker. Sonra onları yoldum. Ve köklerinden kopardım. Bir daha kaçamayacağını anlaması için.. Ve kaçabilse bile bir daha asla Göklere geri dönemeyeceğine ayılsın diye.. Sonra onun parmaklarından başladım. Onları kırdım, kopardım ve iblislerime yedirdim.. Kolları.. Sonra kollarını omuzlarından yırtıp kopardım. Canı o kadar yandı ki, çığlıkları bütün şatomda bir sanat eseri gibi yankılandı.. O güzel saçlarını yolup hatıra olsun diye kendime bileklik bile ördüm. Göğüslerini, onun gözlerinin içine bakarak kestim. Pek sevdiği ölümlülere benzerliğini de bu şekilde gömmüş oldum. Ve bacakları.. Evet bacakları en keyifli yerleriydi. Onları yüzerken o kadar çok ağladı ki, yanlış hatırlamıyorsam gözleri yuvalarından akmıştı. Ve ben bunları ona çok uzun bir süre yaptım.

 

Tam.

Bin.

Altı yüz.

Yıl.

Boyunca..

 

Halbuki ondan hoşlanmıyor değildim bile.”

 

..diye anlatır “The Face” sessiz ve korkunç bir sükunetle.

 

Yaşlı Gullem dehşet içerisinde önünde duran Cehennem Komutanına bakar.

 

“Şunu çok iyi anlamanı istiyorum, Gullem.”, der Trakxa, bir eğitmenin, biraz kıt bulduğu bir öğrencisinde kullanabileceği bir üslupla. “Ben ondan sanıldığı kadar nefret etmiyordum. Ben Ad Ara’dan sanıldığından çok daha fazla nefret ediyordum. Ama hoşlanıyordum da. Çünkü o becerikliydi. Giriştiği bütün mücadeleleri başarıyla ve en önde idame ve idare ediyordu. Ve asla bir melek olduğu için kendisini ‘garantideymiş’ gibi düşünmüyordu..

 

Kardax’Trakxa “The Face”, ilk defa yaşlı ahmağa bakar —gerçekten bakar.

Ve o bakıştaki tiksinti ve nefret o kadar yoğun ve derindir ki, bir ölümlüde asla görülemeyecek derecededir.

 

“Ve sen, Gullem.. Sen onun yanında tam anlamıyla bir ‘hiçbir şey’sin ve ona duyduğum saygıyı da sana karşı hissetmiyorum..”, diye sessizce tıslar.

“Ba.. bana bir şey olursa bu şato çöker ve yerle bir olur.. Ve Sonsuz İblis vadisindeki bütün iblis ve yürüyen ölü saldırıları durur. Bu dünyadaki tüm girişimleriniz de sekteye uğrar..”, diye kekeleyerek ve sırılsıklam terlemiş bir şekilde cevap verir Gullem.

Kardax’Trakxa “The Face”, ona acınası bir şekilde bakar.

“Ne kadar aptal olduğuna karar vermeye çalışıyorum, ama her ağzını açtığında bana yep yeni bir tavan seviyesi gösteriyorsun, yaşlı, ahmak, çürümüş bunak! Bütün bu toprakları yerle bir etme pahasına seni gözden çıkardım zaten. Sana bunu anlatmak için geldim bugün. Ama görüyorum ki sen gerçekten aptal ve kıtmışsın ve bir türlü sana ‘nazikçe’ anlatmaya çalıştıklarımı anlamamakta ısrar ediyorsun. Sen, Gullem, gözden düştün, ve gözden de çıkarıldın. Senin defterin son sayfasında ve ben sadece o sayfayı okusam mı, yoksa okumayıp ‘sobaya’ mı atsam diye düşünüyorum. Dediğim gibi. Bu sana olan tek ve son uyarım ve önündeki seçeneklerde belli.”. der..

 

..ve harekete geçer.

 

“The Face”, olağan üstü bir hızla ve hiçbir ön uyarı olmaksızın gelir ve melanet Gullem ne asasını, ne her bir yerine gizlediği büyülü eşyalarını, ne de belindeki sihirli sopasını değerlendirme fırsatı bulur.

Cehennem Komutanı onu gırtlağından tutmuş, içi saman çöpleriyle doldurulmuş bir bez bebeği kaldırır gibi havada ve gırtalağından tutar.

“Bu dünyadaki ‘bütün girişimelerimizi’, senin kadar beceriksiz bir aptala bırakacağımı düşünmeni de şahsıma yapılmış bir hakaret olarak görüyorum. Ben buraya çeki düzen vermeye geldim, bunak. Bunun için de sana ihticayım yok. Bunun için ya varlığınla yolumu açarsın, ya da sereceğim yolun altında kalırsın!”

 

Yaşlı Gullem, kan ter içerisinde kalmış ve morarmaya başlamış bir suratla bir elini beline götürür. Titreyen eliyle belindeki sihirli çubuğu çekip çıkartır ve kendisini gırtlağından yakalamış Cehennem Komutanına doğru yöneltir ve..

 

“ÖL..”

..diye tıslar..

..ve tetiği çeker!

 

Sihirli çubuktan uzun, ince, ve kötürüm bir hale, muazzam bir hızla “The Face”e isabet eder..

..ve İblis Komutanının göğsünde, kısa bir anlığına, girecek bir delik arayan kertenkele gibi oynaşır, sonra da kaybolur.

Kardax’Trakxa “The Face”, sırıtmaz, gülmez, yada küçümseyen herhangi bir şey söylemez. Dipsiz ifadesiyle, kendisine hayret.. ve korkuyla bakan mel’un adamı süzer.

 

“Vurduğundan emin misin, bunak? Bir daha denemek ister misin?”, der sakince.

Gullem bir daha dener, ancak bunun sonucu da ilkinden farklı olmaz.

“The Face”, diğer eliyle sakince uzanır ve yaşlı adamın elini, elinde tuttuğu sihirli çubuğu ve neredeyse kolunun tamamını kavrar..

..sonra da acımasız bir sükunetle sıkar!

 

Gullem en son ne zaman canının bu kadar yandığını hatırlamaz.. On bin? Yirmi bin? Yirmi altı bin yıl önce belki..

Bir önceki döngüde..

Kardax’Trakxa, yaşlı, lanet adamın çığlıklarını duymaz. Aynı sükunetle sıkmaya devam eder.

Aradan ne kadar süre geçtiği bilinmez ama kendi acı sümükleri, göz yaşları ve silik inlemeleri duyulan mel’un adamı “The Face”, akıl almaz gücüyle fırlatıp attığında, Gullem’in sol kolunda kullanılabilir, değerlendirilebilir, yada iyileştirilebilir hiçbir kas, tendon yada kemik kalmamıştır. Kol, dirsek altından itibaren çamura dönmüş, kanlı bir balçıktan ibarettir artık ve sihirli çubuktan da geriye, birkaç acınası kıymık dışında hiçbir şey kalmamıştır.

 

“Yarın yeni bir kapı aralayacaksın.”, der “The Face” sakin bir şekilde elindeki yaşlı adamdan geriye kalan kanlı pise bakarak. “Buraya üç komutanımı gönderiyor olacağım. Onlardan çay, kahve, kurabiye.. —hürmetten hiçbir şey esirgemeyeceksin. Burayı hizaya getirmek ve gerekli değişiklikler için öngörülen.. siz ölümlüler nasıl diyorsunuz? ‘Performans değerlendirmesinde’ bulunacaklar ve istenmeyen, eksik yada gereksiz görülen her şey ‘shred’ edilip ‘çöpe’ atılacak.. Umuyorum atılanlar arasında sen de olursun.”

Kardax’Trakxa “TheFace” bir omzunu silker ve yerde inleyen habis Gullem’e bakar.

“Ama bu da senin ‘elinde’..”, diye ekler soğuk bir şekilde gülümseyerek.

✱ ✱ ✱

Gözleri acıdan kanlanmış ve faltaşı gibi açılmış bir şekilde odasına döner habis Gullem ve sessiz bir kinle elinin olması gereken yerdeki kanlı ‘şeye’ bakar.

Yirmi altı bin yıldır var olan uzvu artık yoktur..

Zorlukla ve ayaklarını sürterek sandığının yanına kadar gelir, sonra olduğu yere çöker.

“İnlemeni.. uzaklardan duydum.. Gullem..”, der demir dikenli kafesin içindeki ses. “Efendilerin.. senden memdun değiller mi yoksa?”

“Değiller..”, diye acıyla itiraf eder yaşlı mel’un.

“Bunu.. bekliyor olman.. gerekirdi.. halbuki..”

Mel’un Gullem acıyla ‘hıh’lar ve kıvranarak sandığını açar, içini biraz karıştırır ve aradığı şişeyi bulur. Şişe, yuvarlak, koni şeklindedir ve bir buçuk – iki karış boyundadır ve muallak, çamurumsu yeşil bir sıvı içermektedir.

Lanetli adam şişenin tıpasını dişleriyle açar ve kafasına diker..

..ve sonuna kadar içer.

Uzun bir süre sonra elindeki acının ‘tahammül edilir’ bir hale geldiğini hisseder ancak elinde herhangi bir gelişme olmaz ve hala iğrenç bir balçığa benzemektedir.

“Belki bir birimize yardım edebiliriz..”, der neden sonra mel’un Gullem.

 

Demir dikenli kafesten boğuk, anlaşılması zor bir ses duyulur.

Kafesteki her kimse, ‘kıkırdamaktadır’..

 

“Sen.. Mel’un ve Hain Gullem.. Benden.. sana yardım.. etmemi mi.. istiyorsun?”

“Hayır.”, diye cevap verir sızlanır acıyla Gullem. “Kendine yardım etmeni istiyorum. Heavens Hand ve gerisindeki şehirler ve kaleler hakkındaki bilgin azımsanmayacak kadar çok. Bana istediğim bilgileri ver, beraber ikimiz de ‘Efendilerimizden’ kurtulmuş olalım..”

“Ben.. ‘Efendimden’ memnunum.. Sen.. olmasan da.. Benim.. sonum belli.. hain.. Bu.. değişmeyecek.. Kendi hayatımı kurtarmak için.. bu dünyada yaptığım en son şey.. bana güvenenlere ihanet etmek.. olmayacak..”, der fısıltılıyla demir dikenli kafesten gelen ses.

“Bu sadece kendini kurtarman için değil. Aileni kurtarmak için de bir fırsat.”, der mel’un adam.

“İnsanlığına.. ve insanlara.. ihanetinden sonra.. şimdi de adına ihanet ettiğin efendilerine mi.. ihanet edeceksin..?”, diye hayretle inler sesin sahibi. “İhanetlerinin.. bir sonu yok mu senin?”

Habis adamın kaşları çatılır. Büyük bir kinle demir dikenli kafese, ve içindeki yarı kömür olmuş ‘şeye’ bakar ve hırlar.

“Ben senin aklının alamayacağı kadar uzun bir zamandır bu dünyadayım. Ben kadim ejderlerin ateşinden kurtulmuş kadim bir zatım. Ben iki döngü arasındaki boşluktan kurtulabilmiş tek kişiyim. Ben—”, diye çığlar aynı kinle.

“—Sen.. sadece çok.. uzun bir süre iblislerle yatıp.. kalkmış bir hainsin, Gullem..”, diye inleyerek araya girer demir dikenli kafesin içinden gelen ses. “Kadim ejderlerden.. kurtulabilmiş tek kişi olman da.. sana hiçbir onur kazandırmamış.. Kendi kibrin ve müritlerin.. sana.. ölümsüz.. olduğun sanısı vermiş.. Ama bir gün.. bir anda.. elin gibi.. sen de kuruyacaksın.. Şunu.. anlamalısın.. habis.. Gullem.. Yaşadığın bütün.. bin yıllarına rağmen.. gerçekte.. hiçbir şeyin yok.. Varlığının tamamı.. iblislere.. ait.. Ve senden istediklerini.. hasat edecekleri gün.. geldi..”

 

Yaşlı, melanet Gullem’in suratı daha da çirkinleşir ve demir kafese, ve içindeki tutsağına kaynayarak bakar. Ancak medeni tutabildiği bir sesle ona hırlar.

 

“Bana oldukça sınırlı bazı tercihler verildi bugün.. Şimdi ben de sana benzer bazı tercihler de bulunacağım. Ya bana yardım eder ve buradan kurtulup tekrar halkına ve ailene dönersin, yada yok olursun.. Evet.. YOK OLURSUN! Seni Oblivion’a gönderirim ve oradan da pek kıymetli Göklerine hiçbir geçiş kapısı da yoktur!”