Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Chapter 2 up on WordPress



Blogger has decided to change their policy on adult content again so it is only 'commercial porn' that will be banned. However, I'm already invested in doing the rewrite and reshooting of Summerdream on WordPress, so I'm just going to continue on with that.

Chapter 2 is up on WordPress now.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Summerdream is moving


As many of you know, Blogger is instituting a new policy starting on March 23rd. Nudity and graphic sexuality will no longer be allowed, and blogs that have such content will be set to Private, meaning you'd need my 'express permission' to view the blog.

So, like many other Sim storytellers, I'm moving my story to another host, WordPress.

Summerdream is a few years old now, and there have been many times that I've wanted to go back and edit things, change things and generally, just rewrite the whole thing from scratch. So, I'm taking this forced move as an opportunity to present a whole new Summerdream, starting from Chapter 1.

For those of you who have already been reading Summerdream here, this retelling will be familiar, but there will also be substantial changes in the plot and character design. Some of those changes will be influenced by the comments you have made on chapters here. =)

So, here's the link to Summerdream on WordPress. I hope you will all enjoy this new retellling of the old story.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Chapter 54: A Place With No Name


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     "Lord Konan, be welcomed to Odet."

     Reinier has not come to welcome his guests personally, it seems, sending instead his brother-in-law Gunteras, of the Goth family. Konan smiles to himself, thinking of  the outrage his mother would profess this slight from Odet's lord, but for himself, he'd rather see as little as possible of the Landgraabs while he's here. "Lord Gunteras, well met," Konan speaks the proper, polite greeting he learned as a child, but with the gruffness of a soldier not used to such niceties.

     "You and your men are to be quartered in the Keep," Gunteras continues, "But the witch is to be imprisoned before she stands trial in the morning."



     The Landgraab guards step forward to take Sterren into custody. Konan, scowling, brings his hand to his sword. "My cousin is no base criminal," he growls, "You will not lay a hand on her."



     "She is a witch!" the old priest accuses, "She cannot be allowed to walk free."

     "Be reasonable, Lord Konan," Gunteras pleads, "Our laws forbid witches within the towns walls. I promise you, she will not be harmed."



     "Her guilt has been determined before your trial,  then?" Konan demands, standing defensively in front of Sterren, "This is an outrage! I will not allow--"

     Sterren lays a hand on her brash cousin's arm. "I will go with them, cousin," she says.

     "Sterren," Konan begins to protest.

     "They wish a public trial, Konan. They will not harm me before that, cousin," Sterren assures him, "Do not give them an excuse to imprison us all."

     Reluctantly, Konan backs down, allowing the guards and the smirking priest to lead Sterren away. Gunteras, mouthing polite apologies for the necessity of the action, shows Konan and the rest of his retinue to their quarters.



     Once away from Reinier's men, Morvyn and Kelyn, disguised by a glamour cast on them by Jennicor, approach the Avendale lord.

     "One of the fae, in the form of a raven, is following after Sterren. She will watch over her imprisonment, and inform us if she comes to any harm," Morvyn assures the man, "The plan is still unchanged. Kelyn and I will go now to scout for a good vantage of the scaffold where they hold their trials. We'll lie in wait there, and come tomorrow, when the dragon slayer is in view, we'll shoot him down. Then, we'll signal the dragons, who will create a distraction. During the chaos, you can rescue Sterren from the guards and flee to the forest's edge, to the place we marked for you. Kelyn and I will meet you there, and guide you through it back to your village."



     Konan nods. The unexpected imprisonment of his cousin required no change to their plans, so long as no harm came to her before the trial. "These dragons, are you quite sure they'll come when you call? And that they won't attack us?" he asks the wilders, still nervous about this particular aspect of their plan. Trusting dragons to follow orders, to help people...as an Avendale, Konan was raised to be respect the power of the fair folk and accept their gifts when given. But dragons...it's still a bit too much, even for him.

     "Yes," Morvyn answers simply, "They wish the dragon slayer dead, and they know what they have to do." They had better, Morvyn thinks, wishing he could put as much trust in Paerys as he professed to this mortal.


____________________________________________



     Unlike the bare dungeon where Reinier had imprisoned Morvyn, Sterren is given a comfortable, if sparse, cell in the prison tower. She even has windows with a view of ornamental pond in the grounds below, if she cared to look.

     If all goes as planned, it will not matter if she is found guilty or not. If all goes as planned, Reinier will be dead before she is even sentenced. She is the bait meant to lure Reinier into Morvyn and Kelyn's view, so that might at last kill the dragon slayer they have long hunted. And his death will mean the end of war, and of witch hunts. She will not burn at the stake, as so many of her kind have, those who serve the Lady and refused to recant. But no matter how many times she tells herself that she will survive the day and return to Taran and their children, an uneasy feeling torments her.



    With a groaning creak, the door opens, and he steps in, his guards behind him. How many years had it been since she'd last seen him? She had been pregnant then, and his wife still alive, suffering the first of her many miscarriages. The fairy curse had been meant for him, but poor Agneta Landgraab had borne the brunt of it. He had loved his wife, Sterren had seen that, and his suffering and his loss was writ clear on his face, more haggard than when they were young, his eyes dull, his mouth turned to a frown that seemed to be his natural expression now.

     Sterren cannot truly blame him for the hatred and mistrust of magic that grew in him since he was cursed, as he'd seen his wife and unborn children destroyed by its power. But like the fairy who cursed him, he did not care who else suffered when he unleashed his wrath, and his anger at the world had become a fire that threatened to engulf them all.

     Despite all the damage he's done, the war, the death, she does still pity him, for what he's suffered, but while she might wish there was another way to stop him, Sterren knows that only his death will put an end to the misery he'd brought with him.



     "Come," he orders, with no greeting, bidding her rise from her bed.

     "I don't understand," she answers, her voice breaking in sudden fear. Did he mean to hold a secret trial in the cover of darkness? Did he know of their plans to assassinate him? Her eyes dart to Shayeleigh, disguised as a raven, perched on the windowsill, watching. Would the fairy be able to get word to Morvyn in time?

     "I wish to speak with you, before your trial tomorrow," Reinier tells her, relieving some of her distress. He did mean to go through with the trial as planned then, "I'd prefer we speak outside this prison." He gestures to her as he turns, his guards shift positions, indicating that they will drag her out of here if she doloes not come willingly. So, Sterren rises, and follows Reinier, under the watchful eyes of his guardsmen, as he leads her to the church.



     He orders his men to stand guard outside, and takes Sterren's arm in a firm grasp as he leads her inside the church. A strange dread fills her, remembering how he once tried to force her to marry him in this very spot. Why would he bring her here, now?

     "Reinier, stop, please," she pleads, pulling away from his grasp, "Why bring me here? What do you want?"



     He looks at her, his blue eyes focused on hers, a scowl twisting his face. "You had the chance, I gave you the chance, to renounce your superstitious demon worship, in this very spot. If you hadn't spurned me, if you had instead joined with me, all this war and destruction would not have been necessary."

    Sterren's fear turns to anger at his unfair accusation, "You would blame me for your own actions?" she seethes, "You chose war, not I, and your lust for conquest would not have been abated even if were your wife."

     "Your followers cling to their false beliefs in your name," Reinier says, "If you had renounced such superstition, they would have followed."

   "You are angry because I did not submit and thus make your conquest easier?"



     Reinier sighs, rubbing his forehead in exasperation, "There is little point in arguing these points now," he says, "I brought you here to negotiate a peace. I brought you here to stand trial, and if you persist in your heresy, then the law demands that you burn. I know you are brave enough to die for your beliefs, but you must know that your matyrdom will only embolden others to continue to resist. And I will have to destroy their resistance, violently, and with no mercy."



     "You monster!" Sterren growls, raising her hand to strike in anger.

     He catches her wrist before her hand can connect, his fingers digging into her skin. "If I am monster, it is the curse that made me so," he says, his voice cold and even, his rage contained and directed to his purpose. "The demons you worship laid this curse on me, and have made me what I am now."

     "I will not renounce my faith," Sterren snarls, defiant.

   

     "Stubborn as ever," Reinier growls, grabbing her by the shoulders to shove her to her knees in front of the altar. "You cling to your false beliefs, blind to the evil of the demons you worship."



     "And is your Watcher any better?" Sterren retorts, "Your absent god who demands you burn people alive in his name?"

     He laughs bitter and harsh. Sterren turns her head in surprise, waiting in silence for him to explain his amusement. "Oh, Sterren," he finally gasps through his laughter, "There is no Watcher, no Lady. We throw our prayers into the wind, and tell ourselves that when things go as we like, that our god has blessed us."



     Sterren lifts her head and turns to face him, her curiosity overcoming her fear and outrage, "If you do not believe in your own god, why do you ask that I believe?"

     "You are not required to believe, only to say that you do. There may be no Watcher in the heavens, but his followers believe in me, and support my reign. You are the last hope of the resistance to my rule, and your public renunciation would put an end to that. A more peaceful end, anyway. For if you choose to continue your defiance and burn, I will destroy Avendale."

     "Reinier," she whispers his name, letting her remembrance of the man he was, when he was lover, touch her tongue with tenderness. It was that image she held of him in heart that made her still pity him, made her wish that his life might yet be spared. But seeing him now, what he'd become since last they'd spoken, heartless, cruel, speaking so coldly of the death and destruction he had brought and would continue to bring, Sterren's heart closed to pity for him forever. For the sake of the world, he had to die, and she could not rely on anyone else to see it done. "I will do as you ask," she promises.

   

     He's almost gentle as he kneels by her side, traces of the affection he once felt for her in his eyes and in the hand he reaches to her to help her to her feet.



     His hand lingers in hers, his fingers entwined with hers, "I am glad, Sterren," he says, looking into her eyes with the soft gaze of affection.


     Thus distracted, he does not see her take Jean's amulet from her pocket or notice as she triggers the mechanism that unsheathes the blade concealed within.



     She lunges suddenly, aiming for his gut, but his warrior instincts take over, and he steps back from her blow in time, and draws his own weapon in response.


     It happens in an instant, his hands moving faster than his thought, dealing with the threat quickly, decisively.


     She makes a horrible gurgling sound as she collapses to the ground, her blood puddling around her. He makes no sound at all, standing above her as she dies. A drop of her blood courses down the edge of his blade, falls to join the blood pooling on the floor. Reinier steps back as the spreading pool threatens to stain his boots.

     She had meant to kill him, and he'd killed her instead. Though it happened only moments ago, Reinier cannot remember killing her. She lies dead in front of him, his blade covered in her blood, but that moment between her lunge towards him and her fall to the ground simply does not exist in his memory. She had tried to kill him, and perhaps it would have been better if she had succeeded. After losing Agneta, he had thought his own heart had been buried with her, for it had been cold and quiet as the grave. But his heart beats within him still, and Reinier wishes he could silence it

 



    She come with the intent to kill him, he reminds himself. She carried a blade concealed, waiting for a moment to strike. Surely, such treachery could not have been of her sole design, but part of a plot hatched with her cousin, the Lord of Avendale, the most staunch of his adversaries and the last to capitulate his defeat. No doubt the plot did not end with Sterren, and Reinier must make haste to squash any further plans the young lordling had concocted from coming to fruition.

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     A hand reaches for hers. Sterren takes it, lets him help her to her feet. How could she have survived that?

     "You didn't," says the stranger. "You're dead.".

     Sterren looks around her; they standing by the mouth of a cave, in an unfamiliar landscape. No, it is familiar, but somehow not quite as she remembers it.

     "That's because it's how I remember it," the man says, again responding to her unspoken thoughts, "My memory reaches back much further than yours."

     "And who are you?" Sterren asks. Shirtless and tattooed, he resembles a wilder, but there's something about him even more different than those mysterious forest dwellers.



     "I'm more like you than they are," he laughs, "I am, or was, human. My name is Kvornan, and I;m the son of the one you call The Lady."

     "There is no mention of you in the tales," Sterren says with a frown.

     "I'm the one that told the tales," Kvornan tells her, "Come, it is time for you to go."

     "Go? Go where?" she asks.

     "I'm here to guide you to the border. Where you go when you cross over, I don't know. I've been trapped here since my death, you see."

     "I don't see," Sterren replies, "Where are we? Will I meet the Lady where we are going? Or, Auberon?"

     "I'm not sure this place has a name," Kvornan answers, "It exists in between worlds. Sometimes, those that have died end up here rather than going directly to, well, I call it the spirit realm, but I have not been able to enter it myself to say for certain what it is. Perhaps my mother's spirit does await you there, or perhaps she has become the Lady you have worshiped all these years and is no long the mother I remember. Or perhaps what lies beyond is something completely different from our expectations. You'll see soon enough. Your portal is here, just go into the cave,"

     "You aren't coming with me?"



     "As I said, I am trapped here, held by some force, for some purpose I do not understand. Sometimes I think this is my purpose, to guide spirits who come here to the portal. Sometimes I prefer to think there's something else, something I must wait for," Kvornan says, shrugging, "Sometimes I imagine this is just a dream. But that seems unlikely, since I distinctly remember dying. Auberon was with me when I died, and my sister. The fae one, Auberon's daughter. I suspect one of them, Auberon most likely, trapped me here. Only he could tell you why. And he's probably forgotten. He's like that," Kvornan sighs. "You should go now."

     "Wait," Sterren says, "You are the Lady's son, her actual son. We have so many tales of her, conflicting in their details. They cannot all be true. I want to hear, from you, what is real and what is fiction. I want to know..."



     Kvornan laughs. "The dead have no use for such knowledge. And the things I remember may very well be the imaginings of an old man left too long alone in a place with no name. I could tell you tales, but I no longer know for certain what is true."

     Sterren sits in front of the cave's mouth. "Then tell me your tales. Whatever lies beyond can wait."

     

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Chapter 53: Hope Will Light the Beacon


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     Sterren stands with her daughter before the image of the Lady in their garden, the very spot where'd she'd married Taran. Once, in times ancient almost beyond counting, before the village bore the name of her family, this place had been the center of worship for the people who lived here. Now they have a grander statue with a well tended grove for the Lady's service, and this sculpture is but a relic forgotten by all but the Avendale family. When the priests of the Watcher come to burn the sacred grove in the town, will they spare this private place of worship, or will they destroy even this in their zeal to spread the law of their god?

     No. She must not give into defeat yet, not even in thought. For the sake of the people she serves in the Lady's name, she must believe until her last breath that hope remains, that Morvyn's plan will work, and that they might yet prevail. Hope will light the beacon that guides Sterren on the journey she must take, but duty, grim and solemn, will not let her leave until she's made arrangements for the possibility of failure.



    Hope and faith, the gifts and burdens she must pass on to her daughter. Squaring her shoulders, Sterren looks Aouregan in the eyes as she speaks, "Tomorrow, I will be leaving with our cousin for Odet, and there is a chance I may not return." Aouregan's lips open to protest, but her mother silences her with a slight shake of her head, "I know this is hard for you to hear. But you must listen well now, my daughter. The magic we carry in our blood is a blessing from our Lady, but it brings a grave a duty to her with it. We Avendales have served her since the earliest days. And now, we face an enemy who wishes to end us, erase us from the land and its history."



     Aouregan lifts her jaw defiantly, but her eyes shine with tears unshed. "We won't let that happen," she says, her voice fierce on her trembling lips.

    "No, we won't," Sterren agrees, "You are brave and strong, my child, and you are the last of our line. If we do not succeed in Odet, the Landgraab army will come to Avendale, and they will burn the Lady's grove. Those remaining priests who fled here from the burning in other towns will try to defend our most sacred place, but they will not be able to stand against an army."

     "I am prepared to die with them," Aouregan says.


 
     Sterren caresses her daughter's cheek, smiling at her courage and determination. "Your death will be the Landgraab's final victory. The grove may burn, child, and I and all the servants of the Lady may perish, but you must live to carry on our service and our line."

     "But--"

     "Sssh, child, and listen to me. If we do not succeed in Odet, Moth will come to you, and take you away from here, somewhere safe. You must go with him, and no matter what happens in Avendale, you must stay with him, out of harm's way. And as long as a Landgraab rules this land, you must reveal yourself to anyone. This is most important, daughter. Reinier Landgraab must never know where you are, or even that you are alive." Sterren breathes in deeply, considering for a moment revealing the truth about Aouregan's parentage, and decides against it. Aouregan has loved Taran as a father, and has cause enough to stay away from Reinier even without knowing the real reason he'd pursue her particularly, above all other servants of the Lady. "The Landgraab means to supplant the Lady entirely with his church, and he knows that as long as an Avendale lives, so the Lady will live on. And he will not rest until every one of us is dead. Do you understand?"

     Aouregan nodes solemnly, "I understand, Mother. I will go with Moth, and I will never let the Landgraab know I live."

     Sterren smiles, a grim, hard smile. Everything she knows may be destroyed, but if her daughter carries on, all may not be lost.

_________________________________________________



     "Allying ourselves with mortals is a mistake," Paerys growls, not for the first time since Morvyn informed everyone of his intentions. Her dissatisfaction with his plan had been causing him to wonder if including her nest in it might be the true mistake. But, dragons were was needed, and he and Kelyn would be disguised among the humans in Odet. That left him with little choice but to ask for her aid, dangerous as that was. "I do not see why we can't just destroy their town, and not bother with disguises and trickery," she concludes, her eyes flashing with anger.




     Morvyn raises an eyebrow, "How many times have you tried that and failed? Leading your followers to their deaths at the hands of the dragon slayer?" he asks her sharply, "Your way has not worked. It's only made the situation worse."



     "I, for one, think this alliance is a step in the right direction," Jennicor says, "Humans are not monsters to be feared. They are not so different from you dragons, in fact. Many chafe under the rule of this Landgraab, and would make steadfast allies to both our kinds, if we offered our friendship."



     Paerys spits in disgust.

     "Paerys, I need you to stick to your part of this plan," Morvyn warns her, "Our lives may depend on it. You, Brant and Derrell are a distraction only. Keep your distance and refrain from destroying anything."

     "We'll steer clear of it," Brant promises, and Derrell nods in agreement. Paerys fumes, but acquiesces.



     "And I'll stay with Ametair, should the moon's call prove to strong," Riain says. Their wolven kin was not happy about Morvyn's plan to allow the mortals to use their forest as an escape route, but he did agree to not interfere, even if he would not actively help. But the one part of the plan that was not in Morvyn's hands was the timing. The schedule set by their human allies would have them in Odet during the fullness of the moon, and that meant Ametair would change, and would hunt, and only his father would be able to stop him from slaughtering Sterren's people if he got their scent while in his forest.



     "Kelyn, Shayeleigh and I will be in hostile territory, relying on humans we can barely trust," Morvyn says, looking each of them in the eye, "We will be counting on you, each of you, to do your part, and make sure we all get out of their alive."

     "The death of the dragon slayer is finally at hand," Kelyn adds, "And it's only right that we all have our part to play in his end."