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A Chapter by militarybrat92

7285 C.E.


As Narevith looked around his chamber, he couldn’t help but feel sorrow, knowing he may never return to its comfort again.  He saw his small bed in the far corner that he’d slept in for the last 20 years, his wardrobe that still held all of his possessions, and his writing desk just beside him�"perfectly sized with a deep mahogany color to it.  Narevith had always favored it above any other piece of furniture he’d seen.  In a land that valued simplicity, sometimes the smallest things, like the intricate carvings Narevith’s father had done on the inside of the desk making it completely unique, could make one feel important.

Narevith had been directed to only take what was absolutely necessary and to leave anything related to the Ashkirthian culture which meant leaving all of his clothes�"hand-stitched by his mother�"and, also, his d’lavoi pendant.  He wished so much that he could take his pendant with him.  To this day, Narevith remembered the ceremony in the mountains when the local priest presented him with it.  He’d only been six years old.  But the General felt his pendant would give him away to the Ratics, so it stayed.

Narevith reached down and picked up the leather pack beside his feet that contained but a few articles of Ratic clothing along with some Ratic currency.  But everything from the life he’d led up to this point remained in its place in his desk, in his wardrobe, or beneath his bed.  Narevith crept down the hall to the dining room.  He remembered all the times he’d sat there with his father to his right, his mother to his left, and his sister across from him.  He wished so much that he could tell Lysee goodbye, but the General forbade it and the thought of tears in his sister’s eyes when she found out her big brother had left was just too much to bear.  Narevith pulled a letter from his pocket and read it once more.

I know this may come as a shock for you, but it is something I must do.  I’ve been sworn against revealing my destination, my purpose, my projected return home, anything.  I don’t know when I’ll be back, but I promise I will be someday.

All my love,


Narevith folded the letter, wrote “To My Lysee” on the front of it and laid it in front of her place at the table where the family took their morning meal.  He wished he would eat with his family once more, knowing if he came back from this mission, he would undoubtedly come back a changed man.

Taking one last lonesome look about his Spartan style home built into the mountains of his homeland, Narevith prepared for his trek to the docks.  He stood with his back to the aluminum door etched with its beautifully intricate maze of twists and turns embedded with tiny scenes of children playing in the legendary Field of Nocene.  Looking at the familiar shadows cast on the dirt floor by a shaft of early morning light falling from a window on the skywall, Narevith realized for the first time in a long while just how much he loved his home.  Thrilled, terrified and beginning to detect an inkling of homesickness, Narevith pivoted gracefully on one heel to face the door.  Narevith ascended the spiral stair cut into the wall until he reached the ground level.  As he stepped out into the morning breeze, he was stunned at the beauty of the mountaintops with their angelic halos of light seeping around their edges and tingeing the ice at their zenith red.  In all his 23 years, Narevith had yet to witness such a moving tribute to the day as this.  Picking his stride back up, he walked the short distance to the lean-to where his bike awaited him and rode off with the sun at his back before he could change his mind about leaving, knowing he may never any of this again.

Narevith was surprised how few he passed on the usually bustling track.  Only delivery cars hurried passed at this hour, going about their business.  Narevith passed through the morning light as inconsequential as a memory that has long faded away.  As he pedaled down the familiar highway, Narevith recalled the story he’d been told of how Raitshia, the land he was to infiltrate, was created.  As he recalled, many millennia ago, the Ratics, the largest Ashkirthan resistance seen to date, fought a great civil war against the Ashkirthic government.  As a result of this quarrel, the Ratics left to form their own world completely unrelated to the Ashkirthians.  As the first of the Ashkirthic people to leave since the Ratics, Narevith had fanaticized over a parade, an escort, something to justify his agreeing to this mission.  A long trip to Raitshia, two years there, and, if he managed that long, the trip home hung in his future.  Narevith attempted to let those thoughts slip from the forefront of his mind.  He wanted to appear calm when he met with the General before his departure, so he concentrated on the rhythmic pattering of his bike pedals and the music of the wind and the sounds of the sunrise.  As he drew closer to the docks, Narevith began to slow.  He wanted to evade the reality of what it was he was doing for as long as he could even though he knew it couldn’t be long.

Directly ahead of him was a tunnel, dark and damp looking.  Even though he’d never left this part of Ashkirthia, Narevith knew the tunnel lead to a checkpoint that everyone wishing to proceed to the dock must pass through.  Outside of the tunnel, there was a pavilion with many slots for travelers and delivery men to store their bikes.  Narevith took as long as he could pulling his lock out of his bag.  Once this was done, Narevith turned to face the tunnel, knowing he could wait no longer.  Above the tunnel, there was a sign that read, “Proceed by FOOT only.”  It seemed off to Narevith that the sign was necessary.  Who rides a bike through the dock tunnel anyways?  Narevith thought to himself.  Finally, after standing by his bike for a few moments more, Narevith took tentative steps toward the mouth of the tunnel, and, at even a slower pace, began down the corridor.

The inside of the tunnel stood in stark contrast to the liveliness of the awaking world just behind him.  Every step echoed loudly off the stone that lined the tunnel; ever step led him further down the tunnel toward the checkpoint where he’d meet the General.  Narevith had no way of knowing how far he’d walked in the tunnel and soon found his mind wondering as he walked.

There is still time to turn around and not go on this mission … but think of the glory… Narevith thought.

Have you finished your little chat with yourself Narevith? The General said directly to Narevith’s mind as he stepped out of the shadows created by Narevith’s torch.

“Oh, General, I didn’t know anyone was there.”

“Anyone could be in this tunnel, Narevith.  You’ve been trained to guard your thoughts better than that.  We are in no position to know how much the Ratics have changed.  They could still have Aurs amongst them who will recognize you instantaneously if they gain access to your thoughts.  Should that happen, all of Ashkirthia could be in danger.  Now come.”  And with that, the General turned and walked back in the direction from whence he came.

Narevith kept his guard up as he’d been instructed to do by the General himself.  Narevith was unaccustomed to protecting his mind.  The practice of training those with the ability to become Aurs was discontinued in Ashkirthia after the Great Civil War; there had been too many Aurs amongst the Ratics�"according to legend anyways.  Before, the power of an Aur was a blessing.  Now it had become the worst curse of all.  Although Narevith wasn’t an Aur himself and, therefore, couldn’t feel people’s minds, he was almost certain there was someone else in the tunnel with him and the General.  Uncertain what he should do, Narevith chose to remain silent.

Narevith walked a few minutes l0nger until he and the General reached a door blocking the tunnel.

“This is as far as I will accompany you.  From here, you will go through this door, have your bag checked, and a man will accompany you to your shuttle in the terminal proper.”  With that, the General pressed a button beside the door and strode past Narevith, leaving him standing there alone and frightened of what was to come.  As soon as the general was out of sight, the door slid open and a robotic voice announced that they had been expecting his arrival.  The room he stepped into was unlike any other Narevith had ever seen before.  The floors of the room were all covered in a material that resembled marble but that was much more beautiful.  All the other buildings he had seen were always made with packed dirt floors and usually walls as well.  Here, the walls were all covered with intricate tapestries.  One in particular caught Narevith’s eye.  It was of the great civil war he’d been told of before, only in this there was the image of a beautiful woman floating above the wreckage.  It was her hair of gold and her eyes that reflected the sunset that was woven around her that held his attention.  Narevith would’ve loved to stand there all day studying her face, but he felt a tap on his shoulder, tearing his attention away from the tapestry.

“Sir, identify yourself, please.” requested the robotic man behind him.  Although Narevith had never encountered these robotic men before, he knew enough to know that were the government had employed robots everything was a matter of maximum security.  He also knew the robots couldn’t have the power of the Aurs, also a result of the need for security.  Nothing would be said aloud that would jeopardize a mission, and nothing would be discovered by the robots that could be passed on to outsiders.  The robotic man handed Narevith’s identification card back to him and searched his bag.  “Thank you, sir.  You may proceed.”

Narevith took his bag back from the robot and strapped it on his back again.  As he walked toward the only other door in the room, its doors slowly slid apart to present a smallish man of seemingly no consequence.  He had no unusual or distinguishing features about him, just anybody else one would pass on the street.  That was until Narevith saw his uniform.  He wore the insignia of the royal family on his breast pocket; the royal colors were woven throughout his suit and, though they were intermingled with the traditional grey of the military, they stood out from the other soldiers Narevith had seen.  The royal soldier didn’t say a word when Narevith stepped up to him, but rather turned on his heel and began walking briskly away from the security complex and out towards the fleet of shining shuttles.  Narevith tried to tell himself that he wasn’t afraid of what awaited him.  He wanted to appear nonchalant, as though going to a place none had been to in tens of thousands of years wasn’t something to be afraid of.  

“So, kid, do you have anything in that rucksack of yours for entertainment?”  The soldier questioned to Narevith’s surprise.  He hadn’t wanted to think of the trip it was going to take to get to Raitshia.  “Judging from your expression, I’d say not.  Well, my advice, for what it’s worth, is to sleep as much as you can.  Well, this one’s yours.  Last chance to turn back.”

“I’ve come this far.”

The soldier pressed a series of buttons on a key pad that had been ejected from the side of the shuttle and a door opened up in its side.

“Good luck, kid.  Hope to see you return.”

Slowly, Narevith reached up to rub the sleep from his eyes.  He never would’ve guessed the trip would be so long.  Narevith reached up to turn off the light over his head so he could see out the shuttle window.  Aluminum, titanium and glass, these were the only things protecting him from the dangers of the eternal darkness surrounding him.  Narevith glanced toward the control panel driving the shuttle.  It was as though the blinking red and green lights were trying to tell him something; but what was it?  In their mechanical way, it felt like they were trying to comfort him.  Like they understood his conflicting emotions and wanted to help him.

“Oh, Voices,” Narevith said to himself, wishing he had his d’lavoi pendant to call upon the Voices properly.  “Please watch over me on this mission.”

Now was one of those times when Narevith would’ve liked to have taken the General’s offer, but he knew it was his job to do alone.  The General had fairly ambushed Narevith in the tunnel to the docks and had offered to have someone go along on the trip for support.  Narevith, however, had declined the General’s offer.  He wasn’t sure he could make the trip without panicking and didn’t want the General to hear accounts of his insecurities about the mission.  Narevith felt the shuttle begin to turn then pull against some unseen force.  Knowing this meant they were entering Raitshia’s gravitational pull, Narevith decided to sleep for a spell, maybe it would help him refrain for worrying about what awaited him.

Suddenly, there was a jerk that woke Narevith.  He looked about, gathering his surroundings, as sleep loosed its hold on his mind.  Propping himself up to see out the window, Narevith got his first look at Raitshia.  Larger than he had expected, Raitshia was a mishmash of colors- reds, browns, grays- but he could see no green anywhere on the land.  How strange Narevith thought to himself.  How do they live without being able to see the beauty of the trees and plants?  A series of beeps followed by a mechanical whirring from the control panel broke Narevith’s contemplations.  Un-strapping his protection belts from across his chest and lap, Narevith strained to see what the control panel was printing out for him.

We are arriving.

Never have you been

to this land.  Speak careful

and look sharp, I hope to bring

you back home safe.

            “Now all there is to do is wait to land.”

            As he stepped off the shuttle, he was shocked to see so many other shuttles around him.  There were so many more shuttles than at the docks in Ashkirthia; row upon row of shuttles were lined up as far as Narevith could see.  None of them looked the same except to tell that they all had the basic components of a shuttle.  They were all different colors and some had different flags painted on their sides to identify its country of origin.  Few had any kind of writing on it Narevith could understand.  The shuttle he had come in was simple, yet elegant.  There was neither a flag nor writing on it.  At first, Narevith was concerned this would cause his shuttle to stand out from all the painted ones until he noticed many other private shuttles that were done up quite similar to his own.  As he disembarked his shuttle, he couldn’t help but notice a young lady getting off a shuttle of her own right next to his. 

            For a minute, he was frozen on the shuttle steps as he watched her step down onto the landing area.  Then, the more he looked at her the more he couldn’t help but feel like he’d met her before.  He’d never seen anyone who walked quite as gracefully as she did.  Finally, Narevith regained his control over himself, scurried down the steps and tried to catch up with her, hoping to catch a glimpse of her face, a name, something to remember her by.  Navigating between the shuttles toward the large dock was easy enough; however, Narevith wasn’t prepared for the volume of people he encountered when he reached the dock.

            Most of the faces he saw as he looked around�"faces in the shop windows of this metropolitan dock, foreign faces walking in all directions coming and going from this teeming city center�"were pale as sun-bleached linins that have long lost their color and hair that has resigned itself to a pale dun.  He wondered at how he must stand in comparison to these pale faces with his deep skin tone�"tanned from years spent in the sun�"and his raven hair.  As he was looking through the crowd, Narevith spotted her.  Her skin was tinged rose and she had flax-flecked hair that she wore tied in a knot at the nape of her neck.  This made it impossible to tell just how long her hair was, but Narevith estimated it to be of an appropriate length.

            In Ashkirthia, it was unseemly for a woman to cut her hair shorter than the middle of her torso once it had reached that far.  In this foreign town, however, all the women kept their hair cut short, above their shoulders.  It was hard to believe these were the same people who had left Ashkirthia so long ago.

            Somehow, in the midst of all the people coming and going from the landing area, Narevith had gotten ahead of his mystery girl.  Luckily, though, he caught a glimpse of her golden hair and the pale blue of her tunic.  Narevith worked his way back to the door she’d slipped through and found himself standing at the back of the line in a coffee shop. 

            It was a cozy little place, despite being quite large.  On all the walls were photos from many different places in many different countries.  There were high tables and low booths, a bar with stools and a long, long line of people waiting to simply order and leave.  And this lady Narevith found himself so attracted to, she was standing just before him looking considerably overwhelmed by the choices. 

            What to do, what to do?  Should I go up and try to talk to her or just watch her from the shadows where I’m safe from humiliation?

            Hearing him walk up behind her, she turned around and started to talk to him.  He could hardly breathe she was so beautiful. 

            “For the life of me I can’t figure out why there needs to be so many choices to get a cup of half decent coffee.”  She said.

            “It’s quite ridiculous,” Narevith found himself replying before he knew what was happening.  “Why indeed?”

            “I would like a drink, but I don’t want to play twenty questions to get it.”

            “Well, would you like to go somewhere else with fewer options?  With me perhaps?”  He couldn’t believe those words had dared escape his lips.  They seemed to have a mind of their own around her.

            “Umm, well…” she hesitated, “I guess it wouldn’t hurt, but I’ve never been to this land before.  I don’t know where anything is.  I’m not even sure of where I’m to be staying.”

            “I’ve never been here either.  We could just wander around the city until we find a place…”  Narevith tried his hardest to keep a casual tone to his voice.  He felt, however, that he was failing miserably.  Surely, she can see how nervous I am around her.  He thought to himself.

            “Okay,” she said hesitantly.  “Maybe we could ask someone to point us in a general direction towards a place first though.”  Narevith almost thought he saw her redden slightly, but then dismissed the thought immediately.  There’s no way she’s blushing because of me.

            For a while, the two walked along in silence.  Neither was certain of what to say to the other and both were trying to figure out how they ended up walking around a foreign city with a stranger.  Narevith chanced a glance at this mysterious girl walking along side of him only to find that she too was watching him from the corner of her eye.  She blushed and looked down and away from him.  Blue, he noted.  Her eyes are blue.  But a few moments later he looked again, a little longer this time, and saw that her eyes had a grayness to them that lent them an air of wisdom and also an indigo giving them a depth Narevith had never seen before. 

            Narevith wondered how long they had been walking, passing only corporate business offices and clothing stores, without speaking.  The porter outside the dock assured them a coffee shop was in this direction; however, they had yet to see one.

            “Perhaps we should… maybe… turn around?” she said, trying to see if there was a coffee shop farther up the street.  “It’s not that I’m not enjoying your company,” she hastened to say, “It’s just that I’m quite tired and would like to get to my lodgings to rest…”

            Something in the way her sentences trailed off and how she spent more time looking around her nervously than paying attention to what was right in front of her didn’t sit well with Narevith.  It made him unsteady himself and he couldn’t help but be wary of believing all that her beautiful lips told him.  And so he took her arm in his and they changed their course to face the direction in which they had come. 

            To pass the time, this mystery lady began to make small talk with Narevith.  Already unsure of his companion, Narevith knew he couldn’t answer her honestly.  She inquired after his family- to which he confessed he had only a cousin many years his senior.  She continued prodding him with question he couldn’t answer, questions like where he was staying and what his purpose was in Raitshia.  In an effort to stem her questions, Narevith interrupted her saying he didn’t feel they should pursue a more detailed acquaintance.  Narevith was almost hurt to see a look of dejectedness followed by feigned comprehension cross her face. 

            The two continued their walk in silence, connected only by their common destination.  As they neared the docks, the streets now dead, they were approached by a young man, not yet 30, with hair the same flaxen color as they lady to Narevith’s left.

            “Madame, we really should’ve been indoors already.  It’s not wise for you to wander off like that.  Especially with…strangers,” he said, obviously wary of Narevith.

            “I thank you for your concern Jorj, but I am well aware of the dangers that exist in foreign places.  I wouldn’t have gone unprepared,” the lady said sliding her sleeves of her very plain tunic to reveal the tips of several flat blades strapped to her forearms.

            The way this man, Jorj, addressed her and the fact that she’d been armored to defend herself should the need arise led Narevith to believe even more that she was more than she appeared to be.

            “Of course Madame.  I should have known.”

            “Please, Jorj, how many times must I ask you to call me by my name?”

            “‘Tis not my place, Madame, to do such a thing,” Jorj replied somberly.

            “Such is always your response.  Very well.  If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like a moment please,” she said and nodded to the car waiting.  Jorj nodded to her and got in to wait.

            “So I guess this is goodbye,” she said looking at her feet and shuffling awkwardly.

            “Only if you want it to be,” Narevith replied before he knew what he was doing.

            “This town is big, but not that big.  I’m sure I’ll be seeing you again.” And with that she slid into the back seat of her shiny black car and drove away leaving Narevith alone in a strange place.

            Not able to think of anything else he could do, Narevith continued walking in the direction they had been traveling.  While he hadn’t liked walking next to someone he felt was being less than honest with him, Narevith found walking alone even less pleasurable.

            “I don’t like that I feel this way about a woman I don’t even know.  If the General could see how I’ve behaved he would admonish me to no end for my recklessness. I could’ve gotten myself killed before I’d spent so much as 24 hours here,” Narevith thought to himself as he walked along.

            He passed may shuttered buildings.  Coming from a few of the buildings, Narevith could hear the sounds of families tidying kitchens after their evening meal and outside one window Narevith paused to listen to a mother, young by the sound of her voice, singing a lullaby to a child.  It was the same lullaby his mother used to sing to him.

Sleep ye now

Soft and deep

Ride along to dreaming

Lay your head

Close your eyes

Soon enough comes morning

When you wake

Here I’ll wait

Just to see you smiling

            At last, Narevith appeared before a building.  He had no direction as to where he was to be staying, but something about this particular building just was right.  The building’s façade was an old clapboard style and the windows were all shuttered against the night’s cold.  With one hand, Narevith eased the door from its jam and tentatively rapped his knuckles on the frame as he stepped forward.  He was greeted by a single candle that called home an old knotted desk of oak.  The wood’s grains all melted together into miniature rivers of honey flowing along the desk’s surface.  The room appeared deserted and Narevith turned to leave when he heard a creak from within.  He paused.  Then he heard the floorboards groan again�"closer.

            Without thinking, Narevith silently left the safety of the doorway and edged closer towards the sound of someone, or something, creeping closer to him.  In the last remnants of candlelight, Narevith saw the opening of a hall and, in the darkness beyond, there was the faint outline of a short womanly figure.  He stopped and slowly she emerged. 

            She was dressed in the traditional Ashkirthic manner with a lengthy silk tunic over loose linin pants.  Her face was creased ten-fold and her still colored hair rested in a single silver plait that reached past her knobby knees.  Her stature was such that the first think she saw of Narevith was his Ratic disguise.  Her face hardened at his clothes of leather and suede but softened again when she took in the dark tones of his face that she recognized from her home.  She took his hand in hers and pressed his palm to her forehead in the traditional symbolism of friendship and, without a word, led him down the hall from whence she’d come.  Narevith noticed faint glows escaping from under one of the doors they passed before they turned down another hall that contained but one door.  She opened the door and let a warm glow fill the small hallway where they stood.

            “Here is where you may stay for as long as need be.  I am the mistress of this place�"Ta’Tima.  It is late now though.  Rest and we will speak later.  Your secret is safe here.”

            And with that, she disappeared through a hidden door set in the wall to the right of the one they had come through.

            Looking around his room, Narevith was surprised at how lavish the decorations were in comparison to the front room.  It was full of warmth.  The walls were covered with a warm burgundy accented with gold and between the two hidden doors hung a large tapestry, much like the one he had seen at the docks, of the civil war.  Looking at it now, he saw again the beautiful, familiar looking woman he had seen before, but he also noticed that the woman in the tapestry and the woman he met at the docks look so similar they could very well be one in the same.  Putting that thought aside, however, Narevith continued to survey his surroundings.  In front of him stood a small sitting area with a wide chair built for three that was swathed in a deep violet velvet fabric and flanked on either side by small mahogany tables big enough for a book or two.  Against the wall facing the door he had come through was a sleeping area.  This he found piled with many pillows of gold, purple, and brown and covered with a thick down-filled linin blanket died the color of the walls.  At the foot of the bed rested a mahogany trunk into which he placed his pack and then proceeded to lay down amidst the many pillows allowing them to engulf him as he drifted off to sleep.

            “The shuttle sent to deliver the boy to the Ratics has successfully returned, sir.”

            “Thank you.”

            There is something else too sir.  Something you should see.

            A look of concern crossed over Ranstoon’s face as his eyes met the General’s.

            Come, the General said and walked away with haste to his step.

            The General led Ranstoon to a spot in a small corridor that he’d never been down before.

            This place is extremely confidential Ranstoon.  Do you understand?

            Yes, sir.

            The General tapped rhythmically on a section of the wall, causing a door to appear and open. 

            In this section of the governmental headquarters, the walls are thicker than anywhere else. Ranstoon noted to himself.

            After they were both in the large, round room, the General shut the door and bolted a series of locks then pressed a button to activate a series of alarms.

            With all his security measures in place, the General turned to two plush armchairs set atop a thick, extraordinarily intricate rug.  He motioned for Ranstoon to sit and rang a small bell sitting on the table between the two chairs.

            In a matter of moments a young manservant entered the room from behind a bookcase with a tray of tea.

            “Now, tell me what is so important.”

            “The shuttle relayed this message to us when we were checking all its parts after the trip.” Ranstoon handed the General a small slip of paper�"crease lines crisscrossing its surface betraying Ranstoon apprehension of what it contained.





            “Have you heard back from the watchers on the boy?  Do they support this assertion?” the General asked, concerned.

            “We’ve gotten no reports as of yet.”

            Suddenly, his world was darkness.  This darkness, however, was unlike any kind of darkness Narevith had ever encountered before.  This was a thick, smothering kind of darkness that rendered the air nearly unfit for respiration.

            He panicked, trying time and time again in vain to open his eyes, sure he was only dreaming.  However, instead of finding himself where he last had been, safely sleeping in his lodgings, Narevith slowly came to the realization that he was in some type of full body encasement.

            He strained to hear anything around him.  Grasping for something to tell him where he was.  But all was silent.  He tried to scream.  But no air would escape his lips.  He tried to rock back and forth.  But it was as though his casing was surrounded as well for no matter how forcefully he pushed against his confines he could not tip himself over.

            Narevith awoke with a jerk.

            He lay in his bed shaking.  He could feel the sticky wetness of sweat running down his neck.  Looking around, Narevith slowly remembered where he was.

            I’m fine, Narevith thought.  I’m lying in a bed in Ta’Tima’s house.  She’s Ashkirthic.  She’s safe.

            Narevith smelt incense in the air and he realized immediately there must be a wedding�"or a funeral�"about to happen.  Looking around, Narevith spotted a washbasin.  When he walked over to it, however, he was disappointed to find the porcelain pitcher was empty. 

            “I can’t present myself to my hosts as I am.”  Narevith thought as he sat on the edge of the bed.  He looked around amazed at how the room had been transformed by the morning light.  Where he had only seen the golden color the night before, now Narevith saw the room shine as the morning’s light struck them through the series of small windows set into the walls near the ceiling.  Taking this all in, Narevith noticed a shining out of the corner of his eye.  A bell.  It must be a servant’s bell, he thought to himself.

            Narevith had never seen one before.  He’d always lived in a household where everything that needed to be done his family did themselves.  Hesitantly, Narevith reached over and flicked the bell’s clapper.  He waited and waited for a response to no avail.  After about three minutes, Narevith decided he had been wrong and hoped nobody in the house had heard him ring the bell. 

            “Voices, forgive me for coming to this place.  You have graced me with your guidance and I have left my people and come to this land filled with people who have forsaken you.  But this I did for you, to further Ashkirthia’s knowledge so we may be sure to not fall as this country has.”

            To his left, Narevith heard the creak of a door and he quickly stood and straightened his tunic as a young homely girl stepped into the room.

            “Forgive me, sir.  You rang?” the young girl stood before him, looking ashamed to be interrupting Narevith.

            Narevith stood there for a minute not really able to respond.

            “Oh, yes.  Water.  I, uh, need water in my pitcher.”  Narevith stated quickly, trying to make up for his lapse.  “Please,” he added as an afterthought as she curtsied and walked out of the door.

            After a few moments the young girl appeared again through the hidden door. 

            “Your water, sir,” she said.

            As she turned to go, Narevith stopped her.

            “What is your name, miss?” he asked.

            “My name, sir?” judging by the perplexed look on her face she wasn’t used to such personal questions.

            “Yes, your name.  It would appear that I am to be here for quite some time and I would like to know by what name I ought to call you.” This was proving to be more difficult than Narevith had anticipated.

            “Well I’m just called for by the bell.  No one ever addresses me by my name.”

            “I still want to know.”

            “It’s Muree, sir.”

            “Well thank you Muree.  I’ll call if I need anything else.”

            The water she had brought him was quite warm and felt nice against his face.  Next to the washbasin was a mahogany rack with a fine linin cloth hanging from it.  As he was drying his face, Narevith took to studying the tapestry of the woman and the civil war.  Now that he was neither terrified nor exhausted, he noticed that the woman in the tapestry wore a crown make of tiny golden vines with emeralds for leaves.  The crown was so fine he wondered how he managed to miss it before.

            A gentle knock on one of his many doors broke Narevith from his reverie.

            “Come in.”

            The door opened to reveal the old lady Ta’Tima.  She was dressed much as she had been the night before except that her silk tunic and linin pants were replaced by a single long garment that appeared to be made of some type of material he had never seen before.  It was all a pale rose color that accentuated the blush in her wrinkled face. 

            “Well I see you’ve found the help around here yourself,” Ta’Tima said kindly. “Would you like to join me and my granddaughter for the morning meal?”

            “I would love to mistress.  I shall be right down once I tidy myself up a bit more if you please,” Narevith replied. 

            “But of course.  Whenever you’re ready. Oh and I don’t believe I caught your name last night.” 

            “It’s Konnan.”

            And with that Ta’Tima nodded and slipped out of his room as silently as she had entered.

            Narevith found that the rest of the house was as much a labyrinth as the part he had seen before.  After he had changed and put on a linin tunic and silk leggings, Narevith slipped out the same door Ta’Tima had appeared in before.  It opened unto a long hallway with many passages coming off of it.  He ran into Muree and saw a few other servants as well. 

            “May I help you sir? You really should stick to the main hall.  It’s not proper for a guest to be seen in the servant’s halls you know,” Muree said all this under her breath and very quickly as though she were trying to make this encounter as short as possible. 

            “I’m to dine with the mistress of the house and her daughter,” Narevith said.

            “Follow me.”

            Muree led him down a series of passages and between vacant rooms.  One in particular caught his eye.  It was a room filled with nothing but books.  There were so many that they were overflowing to form piles on the floors and in chairs all around the room.  But Muree insisted that they not dawdle and keep the mistress waiting on her morning meal.  Muree stopped before a door.  After a moment, she opened the door leading into the most beautiful room Narevith had seen second only to the book room.

            The room was full of dark ornate wooden chairs surrounding a table of similar fashion.  The table was covered with a fine white lace cloth and set with three hammered silver plates and goblets.  Out of the corner of his eye, Narevith saw the swish of cloth disappearing as the serving girl left the room to fetch the morning’s meal.  Narevith hadn’t realized he was still standing in the servant’s hall until he felt Muree’s small hand push him forward into the room.

            “Good morning, sir.” Ta’tima said.

            “Please excuse my tardiness.  I hope I haven’t kept you from your meal long,” Narevith stammered, quickly adding to the end, “Good morning, mistress.”

            “Not at all.  My granddaughter and I were just discussing her marriage that is to take place this night,” Ta’tima gestured to the young woman to her left.  She looked much like her grandmother.  Both had brilliant green eyes flecked with hazel in the center, slender noses and, despite Ta’tima’s age, it was obvious the young woman had inherited her grandmother’s hair as well.  The young woman blushed under Narevith’s gaze and before he knew what he was doing, Narevith found himself speaking to her.

            “I wish you luck in your upcoming marriage, miss…”

            “Ligh’ri. Ligh’ri Meemb.”

            “Soon to be Ligh’ri Lera,” Ta’tima said joyfully as the serving girl returned with a platter of something Narevith had never seen before and a carafe of rose water.

            The meal progressed with little discussion and as soon as she was done, Ta’tima excused herself to see to wedding preparations leaving Narevith and Ligh’ri to finish alone.

            Nether Narevith not Ligh’ri knew what to say to the other.  While Narevith pushed his food around his plate nervously however, Ligh’ri had resumed the pensive expression she had taken on during the meal.  Feeling as though he was intruding on her thoughts, Narevith mumbled his excuse and left out the servant’s door that he had come from despite Muree telling him it was unseemly.

            He didn’t really know where he was going in the halls, but eventually Narevith came back to the book room.  Narevith had never seen so many books in one place before.  Narevith had never seen so many books in one place before.  Despite the more elaborate nature of this book room, Narevith felt more at home here than anywhere else in this safe house.  At home�"in Ashkirthia�"Narevith had a whole corner of his main room filled with books.  They comforted him with all their knowledge and tales.  So he just sat there amidst the piles and shelves of books in a foreign place far, far from home.

            Narevith woke to the creaking of a door.  The room had gotten much darker since he arrived there after the morning meal.  When he looked up, Narevith saw a slight frame silhouetted in the doorway.

            “There you are,” Muree sighed with an exasperated tone.  “I’ve been looking all over for you.  You’ve missed noon meal and my young mistress bade me find you to request your presence at the wedding tonight.”

            Narevith, still groggy with sleep simply moved toward Muree without a word.

            “You’ll want to wash up before the ceremony.  Come on now and I’ll show you to the washroom.”

            Again Narevith was led through the intricate maze that was Ta’Tima’s house.  Muree, after discovering him in the bookroom had led him to a large, somewhat humid room that had elegant slate floors and walls along with changing screens up around recesses in the floor that were filled with heated, scented water by the servants.  Muree had shown him to one in particular beside which a stack of clothes sat ready for him when he was finished bathing.  Although the water was relaxing and since the last time he’d relaxed in a warm bath had been before he’d left Ashkirthia, Narevith knew he didn’t have much time for relaxing at the moment.

            Now he strode next to her once more, as was becoming habit.  It felt nice for him to be wearing Ashkirthic clothing again�"the long, loose tunic embellished with intricate embroidery and leggings felt much more comfortable than the Ratic disguise he was forced to wear when he ventured outside of his safe house.  Narevith had yet been out much in the city, but on his way here the night he first landed, Narevith had noticed many different ethnicities and found himself wondering if he would indeed stand out so much if he dropped his disguise.

            “We’re here, sir,” Muree said, breaking his reverie.

            “Ah, yes, thank you.  And you shall be back after the ceremonies I assume to show me back to my quarter?”

            “Of course, sir.  If you wish me to be.”

            She curtsied again as Narevith turned to walk into the room she’d indicated.  It was a large room and the ceiling was constructed entirely of multicolored glass depicting a dove flying into a red sun.  There were dark, oak seats and out of the corner of his eye Narevith could’ve sworn he’d seen two figures disappearing from the room as he entered.

            Fighting the urge to follow and see who could’ve possibly been leaving such a ceremony with such haste, Narevith took a seat just as all the candles were being put out save those around the alter.  The two doors set into the wall on either side of the alter opened and out of them stepped the bride and groom.

             Ligh’ri was dressed from head to toe in white silks and laces more intricately designed than Narevith had ever thought to be possible.  In that moment, she was the most beautiful woman Narevith had ever seen.  In addition to her intricate dress, Ligh’ri’s hair looked as though it had taken all afternoon to prepare.  Her waist length hair had been braided and twisted and curled to form an intricate design with in which flowers were entwined along with her veil.

            Beside her now stood her groom�"Khali Lera�"who was dressed in a much simpler fashion than Ligh’ri as tradition called for in an unadorned white silk tunic and leggings.  Both his and Ligh’ri’s feet were bare as well and neither wore any jewelry or weapons.

            Surrounded by so much tradition from his home, Narevith almost forgot about the two mysterious people who had disappeared moments before and also that he was sitting in a city full of people who potentially wanted nothing more than his death.  However, Narevith pushed this thought from his mind to focus of the ceremony before him.

            As soon as the ceremony was over, Narevith slipped out of the room in the direction he had seen the two figures go earlier.  As he stepped through the hidden doorway, Narevith found himself in a stone hall, similar to the servant’s hall.  This hall, however, showed evidence of much disuse which Narevith was quite glad of.  It was easier to follow the direction the two had taken since they had left footprints on the floor’s dust.  From the size of the footprints, Narevith expected to find a woman�"or perhaps a child�"and a man. 

            After taking many turns and feeling like he’d traveled in a circle, the footprints Narevith had been following came to an abrupt end in front of a wall.  Assuming there was a secret door hidden here the two had gone through, Narevith put his ear against a crack between two stones making up the wall and waited to hear something.  It was difficult to hear, but Narevith could make out the voice of a woman and also that of a man. 

            “I can’t believe he was there! Ta’Tima said all the boarders were invited and no one else. Were you aware he was staying here?” the woman’s voice demanded.  That sounds almost like the same woman I met at the docks. Narevith noted.

            “I was not, madam.  It came as quite a surprise to me as well to see him there,” the man�"Jorj Narevith assumed�"said.

            “Ring the bell and tell the servant who answers that I wish to speak with Ta’Tima.”

            “Right away, madam.”

            Narevith wasn’t too sure if it was a good idea to stay where he was for fear that a servant coming to answer the bell would discover him.  He had, however, noticed a small hall off the side of this one just a yard or two back.  He could hide there until he was sure it was safe to go back.

            After five minutes or so had passed without hearing anyone in his passage, Narevith went back to listening at the hidden door.

            “I had no idea that man was even a border here.  He has no appeared before today at any of the gathering you have invited me to,” Anni said very quickly.

            “There were many young men who count Khali as a friend who came to stay from all over the world, Miss Anni.  I’m afraid you will have to be more specific if you wish an explanation,” Ta’Tima said carefully.

            “The young man sitting in the front of the room.  He was dressed after the Humatin fashion.  Surely you remember him,” Anni was beginning to sound even more frustrated.

            “Well…,” Ta’Tima began, seeming at a loss of what to say.  “I…missed this young man.  I can ask Khali and Ligh’ri if you wish.  Perhaps they know who it was.”

            “Please do.  I would be grateful of any information you can share about him.  It could make a difference in weather I stay or not.”

            “Well, I can’t keep you here, Miss; however, I do hope that you will make the best of the passages I’ve given you access to that he does not know of as an alternative to leaving.”

            “I suppose that will have to do for the time being until more is known,” Anni said.  “Good night, Ta’Tima.  And thank you.”

            “Good night, Miss Anni.”

            Back in his rooms, Narevith wondered what this mysterious lady’s business was in Raitshia that made her so suspicious towards other.  After this last encounter, Narevith could be certain that it wasn’t him alone that she acted suspiciously around.

            “I’m not even certain of what Humatin is,” Narevith said to himself as he prepared for bed.  “Perhaps I will consult one of the books in the library about it tomorrow.  Either way, I intend to find out,” Narevith said decidedly as he crawled beneath his blankets.

            Ta’Tima knocked softly upon her daughter’s door.  As was custom, Ligh’ri was spending her final night in her mother’s home. 

            “Come in,” she called, pulling on her dressing gown as her mother entered.

            “I have a question to ask of you, Ligh’ri, and also of you, Khali,” Ta’Tima said.

            “Of course, what is it?” Khali said, gesturing towards a chair for his mother-in-law.

            “One of my boarders brought to my attention a young many in attendance at the ceremony that was of Humatin origins.  She was quite concerned.  Is there anything you know about him?”

            Ligh’ri and her husband looked between themselves and Ligh’ri said, “There was no such man in attendance, Mother.  Or if there was, I assure you, he had not been invited.  The only people there were the one you wrote invitations to yourself.” 

            Ligh’ri seemed almost fearful at the thought of a stranger at her wedding ceremony and begged her mother to allow her to return to bed.













(**This part comes later but I have to go back and write the in between part still**)


            In the distance, Narevith could’ve sworn he saw her�"the mysterious lady he met at the docks.  It was just a glimpse of yellow hair bobbing along with the crowd. He couldn’t be sure it was even her.

            Yet he found himself crossing to the other, less crowded, side of the street to try to get a better look at her.

            It was her!

            Narevith was reluctant to let this beauty slip right past him without any assurance that he would meet her again after this.  Yet there he stood on the corner watching her cross the barren street.  One of the only things he’d seen thus far that was familiar to him was walking into the night.  Leaving him behind, watching, without a name, an address, or anything really save knowing what she looked like.

            Without a second thought, or even really a first, Narevith began to chase after her.  He had no idea what she was going to do when she realized a stranger was chasing after her or what he was going to do when he caught up.  All he knew was this felt right.

            “Wait, miss! Wait!” Narevith called to the bobbing blonde head across the street.  She stopped and paused a moment as if considering whether she wanted to turn around and face him or not.  Slowly, she turned around, deliberately looking like a ballerina practicing her footing.  Once he saw that she was waiting on him, Narevith slowed his pace to keep from being so out of breath when he approached her.  He had one more chance.

            Narevith finally got in front of her and then froze.  He had her attention; she was waiting for him to speak; but he couldn’t make words come from his mouth.  He just stood there and stared at her, entranced again by her beauty�"both familiar and exotic at once.

            As she turned around to leave again, Narevith snapped out of his entrancement.

            “Your name, miss.  I don’t know your name.”

            She just stood there�"her back half turned on him�"and said before completing her departure, “Anni.  My name is Anni.”

            Should I have told him that much? Or should I have given him a false name? Anni thought to herself.  I just feel like he’s someone I can trust in this sea of people I know I can’t trust.

            “Madame?” Jorj said, concerned.  “Is everything alright?”

            “Of course, Jorj.  Why wouldn’t it be?”

            “No reason, Madame.  It just seemed like you were a bit…perplexed.”

            “That’s absurd, Jorj.”

            “Of course, Madame.  The confusion won’t happen again.”

            For a while the two sat silently in their chambers.  Neither of them knew anyone in Raitshia; that’s why they chose this country though.  The less people that might recognize them the less likely Anni is to be taken hostage�"or worse�"taken home.  Anni had Jorj ask around at the docks for a good place to stay and the best place by far seemed to be this little clapboard labyrinth of a house.  It was modest by Ratic standards, but inside it was richly furnished and best of all, its mistress was an elderly Ashkirthic woman and therefore she was far less likely to turn them in if she did happen to recognize them.

            “Jorj?” Anni asked, breaking their silence.

            “Yes, Madame?”

            “Get the car.  I wish to go somewhere.”

            “Right away.”
















(**This part comes later but I have to go back and write the in between part still**)


            Narevith’s nerves had been going crazy the entire day.  His hands were shaking so much that he was having trouble dressing.

            It’s one night, on dance.  This should not have me turned so inside out; but, of course, it does.  If only she were slightly less beautiful.  Then maybe I could breathe when she’s in the room.  Narevith thought, his mind drifting as he fumbled with the buttons down the front of his tunic.  The silk was a nice cream color that complemented his skin tone well.  Under his tunic, Narevith wore his finest black linin pants.  Once he fastened the last button, Narevith rang for Muree to help him tie his neckpiece.  He had trouble enough tying it without the apprehension of a public outing with the world’s most beautiful woman.

            After a few minutes, the servant’s door swung gently open and Muree stepped into the room.

            “Sorry for the wait, sir.  I was helping Miss Anni finish preparing,” Muree said as she walked over to where Narevith stood before the looking glass.

            “If you wouldn’t mind?”  Narevith said, handing over his deep red scarf.  “Is she ready then?  Anni?”  Narevith asked as Muree twisted and tucked the scarf into place at Narevith’s neck.

            “Miss Anni said she’d be ready in a few minutes before I left her rooms.”

            “Splendid…Thank you, Muree,” Narevith said nervously, looking at Muree’s finished product.

            “Sir, if I may be so bold as to say, Miss Anni is just as nervous as you are about tonight.  Would you like to hear what I told her?”  Muree asked tentatively, as though she were afraid of being chastised for speaking out of turn.  Narevith could only nod in response.

            “I told her to not worry about missing a step during a dance or about who is looking at her as she passes by, but to just relax and have fun.  That is what a ball is all about after all.”

            “Thank you, Muree,” Narevith said again, somewhat encouraged by Muree’s words.

            “Good night, sir,” Muree said as she retreated from the room.

            Quickly, Narevith slid on his top coat�"black with a silk lining to match the scarf at his neck�"and his shoes.  With one last glance towards the looking glass, Narevith went to meet Anni in the foyer.

            She hadn’t come out by the time Narevith got to the foyer so he stood waiting for her.  As he stood there, back leaning against the old oak desk, Narevith recalled his first night in Raitshia and his walk with Anni in pursuit of decent coffee.

            Before his thoughts could wonder any further, Narevith heard the sound of Anni’s heeled footsteps on the wood floor.  As she stepped through the doorway, Narevith thought he had surely been transported to a dream.  Her dress was as black as the darkest night sky and he couldn’t help but notice how well it fit her and how flattering, if also a bit daring, the low neckline was.  The bodice of the dress was covered with intricate embroidery and the skirt was overlaid with a fine lace�"both the same majestic red as Narevith wore.  Anni had taken a great deal of time, it seemed, on her hair�"half was twisted into an intricate bun behind her head and the other half was curled loosely and fell delicately down her back and over her shoulders.  Narevith was shocked when he noticed she wore no jewels.  But then again, Narevith thought, she would outshine even the finest of gems.

            “Shall we?”  Narevith asked, stepping forward and offering his arm to Anni.

            “We don’t have much choice, I don’t suppose,” she said, taking his arm.

            They walked outside and Jorj was waiting with Anni’s car, ready to take them to the ball.






            “Ta’tima, what is this place?” Anni asked.  Her every step was tenuous, as though she were expecting the echoes of her footfalls to cause the tunnel’s ceiling to fall upon them. 

            “It is a carefully guarded secret.  One I had hoped to never need again.”

            The group continued down the tunnel in silence with Ta’tima in the lead; the pathway in front of them was lit by the light of a single lantern.  The group was 10 strong in all: Ta’tima, Ligh’ri, Muree, Jorj, Anni, Narevith, ___(another border)___, and Ta’tima’s three other servants.  Ligh’ri had all but begged Khali to come with her; he insisted, however, that he had too many things that needed his attention and that if he stayed behind he could cover for the others should anyone become suspicious of their sudden disappearance.  Secretly, Narevith believed Khali’s real intent in refusing to come was avoiding the damp dirtiness of Ta’tima’s chosen hiding place.  It hadn’t been until after he was told of where their refuge was to be, after all, that he declined. 

            It seemed as though the group had been walking for hours encountering a variety of terrain that Narevith found strange in a tunnel that was obviously not a natural occurrence.  There were many smooth, flat areas that the group traversed quickly enough; but there was an equal, if not greater, number of areas that were slopped upward or were covered with uneven rocks that could very easily injure any one of them.  Ta’tima halted in front of a fork in the tunnel.  One pathway was visibly rocky; the other appeared to slope dangerously downward.  After a few moments contemplation, Ta’tima began towards the second, sloping branch of the tunnel. 

            “Ta’tima,” Narevith said, not even attempting to restrain the quiver in his voice.  “That, uh, doesn’t look like the best way to go…”

            “It is the only way to go, I promise you,” Ta’tima replied, running her nearly ancient fingertips along a ledge overhead.  “If we were to go down the other branch, we would cross over our own path a hundred times before finally emerging about 70 meters from where we entered.  Jorj, can you please help me pull these three blocks free?  We need the openings to climb onto the ledge above.”



(**I haven’t decided where this part it going except that it’ll be well after the part above, but also before the part below**)


            “General? What are you doing here? Where’s your uniform?”

            “Oh, my dear boy,” the General said moving ever closer to where Narevith was imprisoned. “Surely you’ve figured it out by now.  You’re by no means the first Ashkirthian to come here as you undoubtedly once thought.  No, many others have come before you.  And all have come to the same fate you shall now endure.  You see, Narevith, it was I those thousands of years ago who led the rebellion.  It was I who provoked my followers to forsake their home as you have done to come here.  You look confused Narevith.  Perhaps you wonder why you never heard of any of this and I’ll tell you.  Yes, I am the founder of the Ratic’s.  See, it was imperative that no one in Ashkirthia know of these trips.  Then there would be no suspicion when those who left didn’t return.  In scaring every victim into believing the Ratic’s were to be feared above all else and that if they did anything to cause suspicion that they were Ashkirthian�"such as sending letters home�"then the Ratics would commit unimaginable crimes against them, I was able to keep the knowledge of these trips to a select few people.”

All of a sudden, the door behind the General burst open with a flash of light and Anni and Jorj stepped through.  The General looked horrified and for the first time ever Narevith could see the General’s age plainly.  He looked older even than Ta’Tima.

            The light pouring into the previously dismal dungeon, however, now seemed to be lessened as a light tore its way from the General’s chest.  The brightness of this light was such that it nearly blinded Narevith to look at it, but he was absolutely mesmerized by it.  In one final burst of energy the light vanished and there was nothing left of the General save the dagger he had held behind his back�"ready to torture Narevith to the brink of death before stealing his soul away and leaving him to suffer until he simply gave up clinging to life.

            Anni nodded for Jorj to leave and walked forward to the dagger.  She picked it up and turned the smallish, silver dagger around in her hands before she continued on to cut the ropes binding Narevith. 

            “Thanks,” Narevith began.  “If it weren’t for you�"” Anni�"not in the mood for sentiments�"cut him off with a single kiss leaving him entirely bewildered.

            “Let’s get out of here,” Anni said quickly, taking Narevith’s hand running towards the door.

            The two of them ran hand in hand up a tightly wound staircase carved directly into the ground stumbling and pulling each other along at times.  Finally, when the stairs when to farther and before them lay a smooth slate covered floor in place of packed dirt, Anni stopped and looked at Narevith as though for the first time. 

            “Narevith,” she began hesitantly.  “I don’t know what we’ll find now that we’re coming out of the dungeons.  Jorj and I, we didn’t come in this way, but the way we did come in caved in behind us.  Before us lies the main entrance to the dungeon’s façade and is no doubt armed heavily with soldiers and sorcerers alike.”

            “Sorcerers?” Narevith questioned as his eyes grew big.  He had always assumed that to be just a part of an old wives tale not anything to be taken seriously.

            “I shall explain later.  If there is a later that is.  For now though, I need your word that you will continue running as fast as you can to the exit and out to my car in the alleyway just to the left of the building.  No matter what happens to me Narevith you must get out of here.  Do you understand?”

            “On one condition.  You sit down and explain everything as soon as we’re safe.”

            “Absolutely,” Anni said taking a deep breath.  “Ready?”

            Narevith took a deep breath himself and nodded trying to disguise the apprehension on his face.

            When they flew around the corner into the main hall they were surprised to see no one, but continued running all the same.  On and on until they got to two enormous oak doors plated with steel that had been etched with scenes of the civil war.  Together they shoved the door open and stepped out into the bright daylight onto a bustling street.  Casually, they descended the stairs in front of the building and slipped into the car now idling beside the curb not 3 meters away.  

            “Jorj,” Anni said cautiously once the building was out of sight.

            “Yes, madam?”

            “What happened back there?  Why wasn’t there anyone?”

            “When I got there the hall was covered in ash.  I…disposed of it before I got the car.”

            “I see,” Anni said.  “So do you think they were like him?  Feeders?”

            “It would appear as such, madam,” Jorj said thoughtfully.  “Perhaps it would be better madam to have this conversation later.”

            “We can trust Narevith, Jorj.  We did after all just risk our lives to save him and end this horrible practice, exposing you in the process. Besides, he deserves to know what it was that manipulated him.”

            “Of course, madam.”

            “Narevith ring for Muree please. We may as well take dinner here tonight where we may talk freely.”

            Moments later Muree entered the room from one of the various hidden doors to the room. 

            “Yes Miss Anni?”

            “If there is dinner still available we would like three plates brought to us please.  If not just bring us something, anything.  Oh and a bottle of wine too would be nice.”

            “Right away, Miss Anni,” Muree said as she curtsied and exited.

            The three of them settled in while they awaited Muree’s return.  Jorj started a blaze in the fireplace.  Anni riffled through her trunk, selecting a dressing gown before stepping behind her changing screen.  Narevith, not knowing what else to do, simply sat on the couch, propped his feet up on the ottoman, and shifted the pillows behind his back to best situate himself. Narevith had just gotten comfortable when Anni stepped out from behind the screen.  He watched as she folded her dress neatly and tucked it away in her trunk along with her flat blades and the dagger she’d also been concealing.

            She’s so incredibly beautiful, Narevith thought to himself.  And here I sit because she came and found me after I’d been kidnapped.  She risked both her own life as well as Jorj’s for me�"for just some random person she met by chance and has run into time and time again. Narevith’s thoughts were broken by Muree’s knock.  Anni moved to take one of the trays as Muree entered.

            “Sorry it took so long, miss,” Muree said.  “There was food from dinner still, but it had gotten cold so I warmed it again for you.”

            “This is perfect, Muree.  Just one last thing if you wouldn’t mind.”

            “Not at all, Miss Anni.”

            “Would you please fetch Narevith’s night things from his chambers?  He will be staying in here for the night at least.  We had a bit of a…incident today.  I think it’s best to stay close.”

            “I shall be right back with them.  Would you like anything else brought in from your chambers, sir?” Muree asked Narevith.

            “Just my backpack if you wouldn’t mind Muree.  There’s extra room in it.  You can put the few clothes that are in the trunk in it.”

            “As you wish, sir.”

            “I shall be back directly, madam,” Jorj said before slipping through a door as soon as Muree had vanished leaving Narevith and Anni alone.

            “Anni?” Narevith questioned, unable to keep the fear from his voice.
            Instead of answering him, Anni simply came to sit beside him and took his face in her hands.  She looked into his eyes for a moment and had only just touched her lips to his when a knock came again indicating Muree had returned.  Anni slid a few inches away from Narevith as Muree stepped into the room.

            “Where shall I put this, miss?”

            “Atop my trunk is fine Muree, thank you,” Anni said and then watched Narevith from the corner of her eye as Muree left the room again.  “You may change behind my screen if you’d like.”  Narevith nodded and retrieved his own dressing gown from his backpack.

            Narevith had only just sat down again when the door Jorj disappeared through before opened again and he reappeared similarly clad, now, as Narevith.  All settled and comfortably attired, Anni began her explanation.

            “You must be most curious, I would expect, to know more of what the General was.  Am I right?” she asked.

            “Yes,” Narevith replied.  “And equally curious to know how you came about such information about him and how you knew I was in danger.”

            “I suppose we should start with me then.  Perhaps you’ve heard of the country Humatin?”

            “I’ve heard a little of it�"mainly just over the plague some ten years back that people were afraid would spread to other countries.”

            “Well, that is my home country.  I am a princess of Humatin.  Princess Asnarranni Khalida.  The morning I ran away was the morning I was to wed my cousin, Prince Isen Nisha.  We had been betrothed since my birth not a full year after his own and we both knew all our lives that we were intended for one another.  He accepted this fate readily and I believe had actually come to love me over the years growing up.  I, however, could not love him.  He had been arrogant and vain his entire life and it is unlikely that he has changed since I left.”  Anni paused in her explanation to study Narevith’s face at hearing this information and found neither shock nor surprise on his face.  She quietly asked him, “Did you already know that? That I was a princess who left her fiancé on their wedding day?”

            “No,” Narevith replied, the same tone in his voice as always.  “I didn’t know any of that before now.  How does that affect us now though?”

            “Well…I suppose it really doesn’t except that it was from a tutor I had as a child I was taught of Feeders.  They didn’t exist at all, according to my tutor, before Ashkirthia’s great civil war.  It wasn’t until the Ratic faction broke off and established themselves here that Feeders emerged.  You see, and stop me if you know this already, but when the Ratics first arrived here there were trees and baskets and crops as far as the eye could see that were laden with foods of all sorts that they had never encountered before.  Not thinking anything of the food they had simply happened upon, the entire faction partook of a brilliant feast.  As soon as they finished, however, the food all turned to ash.  All that remained were some 20 different types of seeds for them to try to grow.  Most of them didn’t seem concerned at first that all the food had disappeared seeing as they had always lived life without eating being a necessity.  It wasn’t long before they began fighting and killing each other though because they were starving.  Within the faction, there were 4 scientists�"Mardok, or the General as you know him, being one of the four�"who would kidnap every emissary Ashkirthia sent to Raitshia for negotiations.  They kidnapped them and tortured them as the General planned to do to you today.  The scientists would use combinations of various methods of torture�"making tiny slits all over their victim’s skin, burning them with branding irons repeatedly, stretching them until they were begging to be killed�"and after they felt the emissary had been tortured long enough, they would each consume a part of the emissary’s soul to keep themselves alive another year or so as they had been before they ate Raitshia’s food and leave the soulless remains to decay in the dungeons.  To my knowledge, the General was the last of them still alive.”

            The three of them sat there for a while thinking on this�"each consumed in their own thoughts.

            “And what of the sorcerers you mentioned before?” Narevith asked quietly.

            “There are some�"as far as I know all are from the country DiSannsk�"who can control the elements.”

            “Did you wonder, Narevith,” Jorj asked, speaking for the first time since he came back from his chambers, “how it was that there was such a bright light when we opened the doors despite that we were underground?”

            “I was so…shocked and frightened at everything happening at the moment to really think about it, but yes that is quite curious.”

            “As a sorcerer, one of the things I have learned to do is to channel my own energy through the particles causing them to explode,” Jorj continued.  “This explosion resulted in the burst of light you witnessed as the doors opened.  When Feeders have gone some time without feeding off another soul, they become weak and vulnerable as the General was.  Usually, an encounter with a lesser and admittedly out of practice sorcerer such as myself wouldn’t have harmed them much at all, but because he was so weakened, the General was unable to withstand the blast and was destroyed.”

            “I see,” Narevith said, still very much confused.  “And all sorcerers are DiSannskan?”

            “Yes,” Anni answered.  “They must be full blooded DiSannskan to be able to harness the powers.”

            Narevith thought on this for a few moments before deciding he could always ask more questions in the morning once he’d had time to properly contemplate how this was possible.  Instead of continuing on the sorcerers, Narevith changed gears.

            “So what then,” he asked, “do we do now?”

            “Well for now I think we could all use some well-deserved rest.  In the morning I think it would be best for you to write home and tell your cousin of what happened.  Perhaps even write another to the head of your royal family telling so your people can be warned in case there other Feeders we don’t know of,” Anni said.

            “I suppose that would be for the best,” Narevith replied.  “Two more things before we all retire though if you wouldn’t mind.”

            “Go ahead,” she said.

            “Firstly, how was it that you came to know my name was Narevith and not Konnan?”

            “I’ve always known.  I’ve been with you, Narevith, for longer than you might think.  I was there in Ashkirthia the day you left.  I heard you and the General speaking and followed you here.  It was in the dock’s security room where I glimpsed your identification stating your name as Narevith Konnan Rumphtin.  I wasn’t sure at first that I was doing the right thing, but I felt like there was a reason I overheard your conversation that day so I had Jorj follow you and get us a room here because it was where you were.  I wanted to keep close to you�"to protect you�"because…something just felt wrong about this all to me.”

            “I knew I’d felt someone outside of the tunnel!” Narevith exclaimed.  “And it was you all along.  I didn’t even notice anyone else in the room with me aside from the robot.”

            “I slipped into the tunnel after the General left you and then slipped through the doors to the security room behind you before they closed.  You were distracted with your own thoughts and then later with the tapestries and what not so I kept my presence to myself.”

            “Well, the second thing is that, as you’ve probably guessed from the fact that I lied at least in part about my name, I don’t actually have a cousin in Ashkirthia.  All my cousins have moved to other countries by now, busier countries, trying to make more of their lives.  But I do still have my parents, my younger brother and sister, and many friends also there.  I suppose this doesn’t really change anything, I just felt like you should know the truth is all.”

            “I had thought so much, but couldn’t know for sure.  Now, though, we all ought to rest.  We’ve had a long day.”  And with that Anni rose and, after turning down all the lamps, went to her bed to go to sleep.  Jorj left as well for his own chambers, returning only once with an extra pillow and blanket for Narevith.











******POSSIBLE ENDING: Meet Anni’s Parents******

            “She’s here.”

                “Thank you, Reema.” King Nirali Khalida said.  “Have her come in, please.”

                “Of course your highness.”

                Nirali wasn’t sure what he expected to see when his daughter walked through the doors to his private chambers.  It had been four years ago to the day that she had taken her mother’s shuttle and left her home.  Would she come in a completely different person or as though no time had passed at all?  Where had she been?  Why had she fled just hours before her wedding to Prince Isen Nisha was to take place?

                A soft knock at his chamber doors broke Nirali’s thoughts and for a moment he thought of sending away his eldest daughter.  They had already taken her disappearance to indicate her abdication of the throne.  What good could meeting with her do now?

                She probably doesn’t know about that yet, Nirali thought.  Well, this isn’t going to be easy.

                When is anything you do easy, my dear? Asked Nirali’s wife, Queen Miamouna Khalida.

                “Come in Asnarranni,” Miamouna said aloud.

                “Slowly, the large pine doors parted to reveal their daughter-the same and yet completely different-and a young man.

                “Mother, Father�"it’s been too long,” Anni said, looking at each in their turn.  “We have much to speak of, but first of all this is Narevith Romphtin.”

                Anni’s mother ordered tea and the four of them sat together speaking of what had happened since she left.  Anni learned she was no longer in line for the throne, but rather that her younger sister, Katrien, had married Isen and, upon their parents’ resignation, would rule the country.  This didn’t really seem to shock Anni as much as her father had expected it to.

                Perhaps that is what she meant to do all along, he thought to himself.

                Anni explained to her parents how she had flown as far as the shuttle would take her before she had to stop for fuel, how she had gone from country to country never staying anywhere for more than a few weeks  until she met Narevith in Raitshia.  She told them of their run-ins in Raitshia, their trip back to Humatin and finally ended by requesting her parents’ permission to move back into the palace.

                “I’m sorry, Asnarranni,” Nirali said, “but we can’t let you do that.  Katrien and Isen took your room after they wed and Katrien’s old room was turned into a nursery when Andrina was born three summers ago.  Having only one guest suite, you understand I can’t let you stay there either and there simply is no other place.”       

                “Of course, father.  I hadn’t realized how much could change in such a short time.”

                “You may stay in the guest suite until you get your affairs in order, but for no longer than four days’ time.  Isen’s parents are coming to be here when we resign and Katrien and him take the throne,” Miamouna said.

                “That won’t be necessary,” Asnarranni replied.  “We’ll be gone by sunrise tomorrow.”  And with that she and Narevith rose and Anni led them to the guest suite where they would stay until their departure.

                “I’m sorry about that.  I had hoped to find things more like I’d left them, but as that isn’t the case it would seem we have no choice.  We’re obviously not welcome here after I disgraced my parents with my disappearance.”

                When she looked up, Anni had tears in her eyes.  Not knowing anything else to do, Narevith simply placed one hand on either side of her face like she had done to him many times before.

                “It will be okay,” Narevith said.  “We will be okay.”

                “You mean you would stay with me even though I have no idea what is going to happen from here?” Anni replied in disbelief.

                “Well, I don’t really feel going back to Ashkirthia is a good option for me all things considered.  If I’m going to be wandering this world I can’t imagine anyone I’d rather be with than you, Anni.”

                Anni allowed herself to smile a tiny smile despite her fear and to rest her head against Narevith’s shoulder.  They just sat there like that for a while, each absorbed in their own thoughts until Anni spoke.



                “I just…I love you.”

                “I know, Anni.  I’ve always known.”

                And with that, Narevith and Asnarranni drifted off to sleep together.




© 2012 militarybrat92

Author's Note

Not sure what's going on with the spacing being so far apart but it's all supposed to be single returns

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Your story looks interesting, so far. There are a few odd things, such as " marks here and there that don't make much sense. But, you'll catch those when you do your proofreading. After all the parts are re-arranged you will be able to read through it, or get a friend to do so, and then do a rewrite. Some readers, including myself, find it difficult to read long chapters unless you have some good 'hooks' of mystery or action sequences to pull us in. You have good imagination and know how to spin a tale.

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Added on May 28, 2012
Last Updated on May 28, 2012
Tags: worlds, countries, love, friendship, adventure, mystery, evil, good, royalty, princess, princesses, sorceror, tragedy, trap