Friday, February 20, 2015

Chapter 54: A Place With No Name


     "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 an Avendale, Konan was raised to be respect the power of the fair folk and accept their gifts when given. But'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.


     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."



  1. "She's gonna die," I thought, when I saw the church. Then I said, "Nah, Melissa is changing up the story..."


    Good read, anyway. Poor Konan. =( He's going to feel so terrible.

    1. Thanks, Becky!
      I am changing up some aspects of the story in terms of how things were presented in the Brannon legacy. (Agneta's death is a big change from that) But Sterren's death was something Kvornan saw in his first spirit walk, and was pretty central to the story I wanted to tell here.

      Konan, however, is kind of a new idea. I mean, he always existed, though I don't there are even pics of him as a child, even though I did actually make him. But he's getting his own larger role in all this. Which I'll shut up about now and let you see it unfold as it unfolds.

  2. Phew. Sterren dying at Renier's hand. *tsktsktsk. Theirs was a flame that burned too bright. Still. :(

    Boy. Now what of the plan? Especially if they were all waiting for tomorrow while Renier begins his work tonight. I'd feared this wasn't going to go as planned. No matter what happens to Konan and those with him Renier will still attack Avendale won't he? I wasn't really wanting Renier *dead* per se. But now I kind of hope Morvyn and Kelyn find a way to stop him. :/

    1. It was hard for me to carry through with it. I love Sterren and will feel forever bad about it.

      The plan really has gone tits up now. The trial they had pinned everything on is not going to happen, and Reinier has been clued in to the fact that there is a plot against him. And, yeah, attacking Avendale is almost inevitable at this point. Unless something happens to stop it. >.>

  3. Ugggghhhhh That Priest needs to DIE! Oh I hate people like that. Oh I so hate them.

    Oh no. Her cousin is at risk, everyone is at risk, why did she do that? :(
    He will imprison them all, I just know it, because he thinks she was coached to do what she did.

    Reinier has to die, right alongside that horrid, malicious and evil Priest.

    1. Ha, yeah, that priest is an absolute worthless human being.

      If Sterren had just gone along with Reinier and let the plan proceed, things probably would have gone a lot better. She made a stupid move that cost her her life, and worse, threatens the lives of her children, her family and the whole village of Avendale.
      And Reinier is now alert to the plot against him and will try to make a move before Konan even knows what's happening.

  4. Oh no! She didn't succeed in killing Reiner! SNAP! I was hoping she would! All the suffering. :(

    I thought it was sad when Reiner admitted he didn't believe in the Watcher. What a pretty line, "We throw our prayers into the wind" Ack!

    I loved seeing Kvornan again! I had to laugh when he admitted that he thought Auberon trapped him there. "And he's probably forgotten. He's like that." I love Auberon. :)

    Great update! I can't wait to find out what happens to The Plan!

    1. If Sterren had succeeded, things would have gone differently. Though it still would have been a bad move, since his men were waiting outside and she'd never get away with it. If she's waited and let Morvyn and Kelyn do it, their plan was to shoot at him from a concealed position and use the dragons to create a diversion that would allow all of them to get away in the confusion.
      The moral I guess is to stick to the plan and don't try to wing it on your own.

      Reinier used to believe in the Watcher, though he was never as devout as Agneta. He was always willing to use the church to prop up his own ambitions however. He completely lost faith after Agneta suffered so many miscarriages and then finally died giving birth. But that just made him even more determined to use the church as a foundation for his own rule. It became nothing more than a tool to him.

      I thought that was a nice way to re-introduce Kvornan, before he comes back in a bigger way. Auberon is probably not the only one to forget him.

      Thanks so much, Megan. I've got a lot to do for the next chapter.

  5. What have you done, Reiner?! :-( It's no lie how even the softest heart can turn to stone. Konan must be nervous for her, and that with reason!

    I am so eager to read the next chapter, to read the tales of The Lady and it is all too exciting. Thank you for sharing this amazing story with us. Oh, and I love that picture with the raven outside the window. How do you even.. I mean, you are so talented :-)

  6. What have you done, Reiner?! :-( It's no lie how even the softest heart can turn to stone. Konan must be nervous for her, and that with reason!

    I am so eager to read the next chapter, to read the tales of The Lady and it is all too exciting. Thank you for sharing this amazing story with us. Oh, and I love that picture with the raven outside the window. How do you even.. I mean, you are so talented :-)

    1. Thank you so much!
      It is really sad about Reinier. He did at one point have a decency to him, though he had a temper and a huge sense of entitlement, it did truly want to be a good man. But by this point, he's become bitter and uncaring for the most part.

      For the raven, I used the Debug mod from Nraas to spawn a raven on the ground. I then put the raven on an OMSP and lifted it up to the windowsill. That window is from TSR and has a nice wide sill for the raven to perch on.

  7. Grr. Honestly, I'm more mad at Sterren than Reinier. Her half-cocked, impulsive suicide mission really threw all the careful planning to the wind. How could she have possibly thought she could get the jump on a man who has spent so long on the battlefield that his muscle memory would kill her before he even fully registered what was happening?

    I thought she would die, didn't really think she had a chance to live, even with the break between the stories. I did just hope that the plan would go much smoother. Sterren has practically ensured a brutal fight that will wipe Avendale off the map, especially after her safety was promised by Gunteras. *throws hands in the air and yells a long string of obscenities*

  8. After going all back and start from Chapter 1, I am guessing Kvornan is somehow still searching for the girl in that tower he never found! And Auberon did make a promise to him that he could not for fill. If I could only remember who got his soul stone... Mhm! I am certain it was one of the fairies. Wait, wasn't that Evenfall? It was her brother after all!

  9. I had wondered, and almost asked last time, just how much of that vision would remain the same. Will Reinier still grieve for her? Oh dear, Sterren, what did you do? You didn't stick to the plan, that's for sure. I only hope her impetuous go for it plan won't end up hurting/killing any of the others, though presumably the raven was still keeping an eye on her?

    Hello Kvornan!; it has been a while...

  10. Wow sterren is gone...*tear* I never thought that would happen. This is becoming intense. I really hoped reiner would finally bed defeated. Amazing chapter I love the twist.