On Power(s)

Jan. 9th, 2013 07:04 pm
thulcandran: (Default)
[personal profile] thulcandran
Continuing last piece, here's the one involving the battle-scarred Fae in rune-engraved armor.

The view was longer than wide, the sun beating down on the waving grass. Liron bent to examine the object that lay there, in a hollow of the dried grasses, where the sun glinted off of it, reddish and shining. It was the head of a javelin. She glanced back up at Basir, whose lips were tight, watching. He shook his head - don't touch it - and continued. There were signs of a grave struggle everywhere, subtly. Here, a place where someone had thrashed, in struggle or death throes; here, a splash of blood on a waving thistle stem. There were more weapons, too, all broken pieces - a long sliver of cold iron, which puzzled her for a long moment. No one made weapons out of cold iron, unless they were fighting faeries or gods, but it had clearly come from an edged weapon.

A short, sharp whistle split the ear, and she stood quickly - Basir was standing on the edge of the meadow, where the grass ended, and the trees began. There was a shape there, something that looked human, on the ground. She sprinted towards him, touching the hilt of her dagger briefly, just to confirm it was there. He gestured, shaking his head, as she approached, and she slowed - no danger. The body was smaller than a man's, and if it were not for the many old scars, and the scene behind them, she would've thought him a boy. But this was no child, nor even a youth - the face that looked up at them was young, fair, but the eyes... the eyes were that of an ancient. She frowned. He had not moved.

"There is some weirding on this place," Basir told her, looking around again. "I had a feeling, but - I think this battle was many years ago. He," waving towards the fallen Fae warrior, "is still alive, but can neither move nor speak." The sorcerer looked around. "I think there may be something on the other side - see what you can figure out, examining him." He walked off, leaving Liron with the unnerving warrior.

She knelt, looking down at the fallen form. The helm had been removed, and lay under his arm, and his hair was tousled, fair, and looked as though he'd been working hard. The armor was all of some fine metal, and shone brightly in colors hard to discern when the sun flashed on it - some copper, she guessed, and some silver, and most definitely some kind of magick. She leaned closer, and the sharp lines she'd taken for scratches stood out more clearly - engraved, so fine it was hard to read, was a swirling runic script. Written in a style she'd only seen once before, it filled every inch of the metal. She whistled under her breath, taken aback by the handiwork on display. It must have taken years, decades, for even a smith of the Fair Folk to craft something with such fine detail and skill. The lettering extended to the helm under his arm, she saw, and all over the armor. It was beautiful, and probably quite deadly. She tried to remember if Basir could read such a script, and stood, rubbing her eyes, to call him.

He was standing behind her, a smooth stone in his hand, a curious expression on his face. "Liron, I need a bird's eye view of this," he said, rubbing the stone absently. "Can you tell me what stands out to you?"

Liron nodded, and shifted her shape, reaching for the fine feathers of a hawk, the sleek shape, the control - as a kestrel, she looked back up at Basir from the ground. He smiled, and stooped to pick her up from the ground. She nodded once in thanks, and he gave her a quick thrust into the air.

For only a moment, the scene was quite normal - the weapon pieces flashed, standing out to her sharp eyes - and then she saw it. The wild had crept in on the east and the south sides of the meadow, and what had once been grassland was now underbrush, some trees, old and gnarled, and weeds. The east faded, she saw, going downhill, where rain and wind and time had worn the land away into a steep hillside. In the north, a dry riverbed stopped short at the end of the meadow; where it had gone, she could not tell. Perhaps underground, perhaps around to the hillside. On the west alone was more grassland, but even that side bore a strange, marked difference to the land Basir now stood on. The few trees inside the circle - clear, now that she looked for it - were far, far younger than the forest beyond them. She finished her last circle, and descended, letting her shape return to the girl's as she landed.

Basir raised his eyebrows in query, and she shook her head.

"It looks... odd. As if time had set a circle around this place, and progressed everywhere but here. A river was turned away, to the north, and landslides took the east away, but stopped short at the edge of it - even the way we came, the land just doesn't look the same."

He nodded. "Almost a perfect circle, with a few flat spots on the perimeter?"

"Exactly. What is it?"

He looked thoughtful, and turned towards the wood. "Let's step out of here - do you still have that javelin?"

She nodded, tapping the stone, where she'd stuck it through her belt.

"Good. I want to be sure we can get back in, if need be - but I don't think talking about this in the circle is a good idea."

They walked past the fallen soldier, through the trees; on alert, Liron sensed it immediately when they stepped through the edge of the circle, a tangible shift in the air around them - lighter, somehow. The sun shone, still, but the light wind that had stirred the grass in the circle was harsh now, whipping at the treetops. Basir led her about a hundred paces through the trees, following a narrow deer path, and stopped at a small open space, about as wide as two men lying head to toe. He sat against one of the great trees, leaning back against the thick roots.

Liron prowled the perimeter of the small clearing, more out of habit than any real sense of danger, before sitting down opposite him, on a root the size of her torso that twisted briefly out of the ground.

"Do you know the ballad of Tomán?" he asked, fishing his pipe out of his vest.

She nodded. "The son of Raegar, who led the charge against... ah, I don't remember now, but it was very gallant, his charger white as the pale snow and just as deadly, and there were several lines detailing the blue of his eyes." She chewed this inside of her lip, trying to remember it. "There was something that went badly wrong, ah, let me see... his own son betrayed him, that was it. He'd been compromised somehow by the enemy, a love affair with their general's squire, I think?"

Nodding, Basir drew breath through his pipe, and pulled a flask out of his vest as well. He took a pull and passed it across to her. After a long drink, she handed it back to him, thoughtful, now.

"So let's see. The battle was lost, but Tomán escaped with his life, grievously wounded. He turned to dark and evil magicks," she paused, sketching half a bow in his direction from her seat, "And swore revenge on, for some reason, the general whose squire had eloped with his son. Can you say willful ignorance?"

Basir laughed aloud, and cut her off with a sweep of his hand. "That's about the gist of it, aye," he said, adjusting his pipe. "Now - do you know who that was?"

She blinked. "I'd assume not Tomán..."

"You'd assume correctly. Tomán still lives, somewhere; legend has him holed up somewhere deep in the bowels of the earth, in fiery darkness."

Liron raised a skeptical eyebrow. "Fiery darkness?"

He flicked ash at her. "You're getting sidetracked by poetic turn of phrase, dear," he pointed out. "The point is, that was not Tomán, but there is clearly a deep magic about the place, and the boy lives - but cannot be moved, nor move himself, and the entire place is set about with spells of ancient protection, even against Time herself."

"His son," she breathed. "He couldn't kill his own son, but he couldn't let him go free - oh, gods, that is so much worse than death."

Basir nodded silently.

"There's nothing we can do."

"I'm glad you've come to that conclusion," he replied, drily. "Once upon a time, you would have demanded we save the lad."

She made a face at him. "What, and die in the ensuing explosion as Time unwound itself? Once upon a time, I was an idiot, Basir. How did you ever put up with me?"

The sorcerer laughed, sliding the pipe back into his vest. "We may never know," he intoned, standing. "The javelin, if you please."

She stood, made as if to toss it to him, and thought better, and handed it across the gap. He flashed a smile as he pocketed it, and she grinned in return.

"One more odd puzzle piece," she mused, running a hand over her hair. "Now. On our way?"

"On our way."


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May 2013


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