Chapter Thirteen: The Prince and the Vessel

Chapter Thirteen: The Prince and the Vessel

A Chapter by jmfconklin
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The Five Companions and the Legion of Souls meet.

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“Taisa, it’s not that bad,” Leogun began. He was quickly cut off. Taisa’s eyes burned with anger.
“No, it is that bad, Asmundvard. This was the first. The original, and I destroyed it.” Dropping her head into her hands once more, she mumbled. “At least, I helped destroy it.” Leogun sighed.
“This might just be because I’m not an adherent,” He tried to speak as softly as possible. These words, depending on who heard them, could incite violence. He didn’t know the woman sitting beside him well enough to know if it would or not, but he knew that he did not want to be on the receiving end of violence from a Stormfire’s ring. “but honestly, who cares if it’s old? Your faith is about you, Taisa, and it’s about the gods.” He shook off a feeling of familiarity with the very gods of which he spoke. It felt personal, connected, like a family, in truth, and far too close to what he’d felt about the High One his whole life. “And who cares if it was made in their honor? If you praise them, they won’t care if you wrecked a balcony.” Taisa groaned and leaned back against the pile of rubble, kneading her dark forehead.
“By the gods, I did, didn’t I? It’s completely obliterated!” she said, flinging her arm out to point to the point where her lightning strike had connected. There was a nasty hole in it, a stone made ragged by the force of it. Rocks occasionally fell from it, and in their roving through the temple, they’d each made sure not to walk under the spot for more than a second. “I blew clean through the wall!” Leogun gulped back his irritation and tried to begin again, remembering the respect Kaj had hammered into him. It would do him no good to start yelling now.
“That’s the thing, Taisa. It doesn’t matter if you did. These monuments... they’re just things we use to placate ourselves, to tell ourselves that ‘Yes, I’m a good servant. Look at all these things we’ve made in their honor!’” He didn’t know where that had come from. It wasn’t something he would have said a few months ago, but it felt right to say it. “The gods all know what we are, inside. They can see. There’s no point in pretending otherwise. High One knows I don’t try.” He chuckled, and Taisa smiled a little. She scratched her head and stood again, cracking her back and her knuckles. It was something she did often, he’d noticed; mostly when she was nervous.
“I just wish I could fix it.” She down at where she kept the ring, in a small pouch hanging from her neck. Usually she kept it under her tunic, but she hadn’t bothered to put it back in its usual place. “It’s a lot harder making things permanent with the mist. That’s what’s so... magnificent about these places, if you ask me. The Stormfires who made them didn’t use their power to destroy, but they poured their flesh and blood into the stone to make something that would last.” She frowned a little and shrugged. “But that’s not something I can do. Come on, we’d best get back to Abaus.” Leogun took to his feet and grabbed his staff from where he’d left it at the foot of the rubble. After all the walking he’d done, it felt so wrong to walk without it. Anyways, he’d always stolen Kaj’s staff as a boy to play monk, and he intended to make good on the promise that when he got his own he’d use it just as much as he’d used the older monk’s.
The sun proved to be considerably hotter than he’d remembered. Still rising from the horizon, they hadn’t hit his back when he’d been sitting near the hole in the back of the temple, but they were in full force by the doors. “By the High One!” Alaire remarked when they shimmied out of the doors. They proved much too large to move more than absolutely necessary, and if that meant they’d look ridiculous when they moved through them, so be it.
“Is walking through the desert in the middle of the day the best idea?” Pychi asked, staring out over the dunes to look for any evidence of people, especially those mounted on the Brymian camels so often used to traverse the desert.
“Probably not,” Taisa said. She pointed to the left, down a sand dune. “But I’d really prefer to avoid them.” Leogun squinted, trying to see what exactly she was pointing at. What he found was not what he was hoping for. A camp had been set up, with several dozen tents set up, and at the fringes of it the army’s standard flapped in the wind. The red semi-circle put Leogun off to even see. They were too close for his liking, about half a mile away.
“Oh no.” Pychi groaned. Most of the camp’s inhabitants still had swords with them, something that did little to relieve Leogun’s mind.

“What do we do?” Alaire asked. Leogun could see what he guessed was the watch at the fringes of the camp, and each held a spyglass. At least ten on each side of the camp, he guessed.

“Do we have much chance of getting by?” Leogun asked to no one in particular.

“I doubt it. If it was just me, maybe, but I’m not even sure about that, and with the rest of you...” Falyn bit his lip. “It might be better if we just surrender.” Pychi shook his head.
“They didn’t take prisoners at Arkaius, at least not that I saw.” Leogun felt inclined to agree. He’d seen the way they’d fought in the city; they’d murdered children as easily as adults. A simple surrender wouldn’t keep them alive. Finally, he stood from his crouch and pushed his staff into the ground firmly, holding it with one hand.
“I’m going down. I’m going to talk with them.” Pychi looked up, eyes wide.
“No. No no no. That is not what I said at all. I said we don’t surrender, not that we try to have a ‘civilized discussion’ with the bloodthirsty murderers. Seriously, Asmundvard, they’ll tear you apart!” Leogun shook his head and pulled up his hood.
“He’s right, Leogun, this is a horrible idea.” Falyn’s voice was surprisingly calm, though Leogun could see his knuckles whitening around the hilt of his weapon.
“I’m going to live for a long time, trust me.” Son of the North. He stopped at the crest of the dune. Only very rarely did the voices address him directly. If they try to kill you, the pain will be unimaginable. The thought of it didn’t deter him. Instead, he rolled his shoulders and began the walk down the side of the great pile of sand. You said it yourself. I have a duty. Leogun didn’t know if it was the same voice that had told him the first time, but it didn’t matter. The voices seemed to accept the answer.
Leogun could see Taisa and Falyn quickly fall in behind him. “This is not a good idea, I promise you,” he told them. Falyn shrugged, an action mirrored by Taisa. Alaire was close behind, too, staying as near to Falyn as she could with a worried look on her face, and soon enough, Pychi grudgingly joined them. “Taisa, if they attack, I need you to try to make a wall. Falyn, Pychi, I need you to stay back. There are far too many of them. I’ll try to speak with their leader.” Falyn took to the monk’s side.
“His name is Ragh Zel. I spoke with him, briefly, during the battle. He’s dangerous, Asmundvard. Very dangerous, and I don’t think he cares about our lives, if anyone’s.” He thanked him. In the distance, one of the guards caught sight of them, yelling something into the camp. As he came closer, he could see the men jump into action, finding armor and getting into formation.
“Then we’d best hope he cares about his own men’s lives.” Leogun rose his hands, one grasping the long, oak rod, and the other clenched into a claw, and two wisps of gold began to rise from the ground around the watchman’s feet. Quickly, they began to intertwine, forming a cage of fire as they approached. He made sure to keep the flickering flames from touching the prisoner. The fire seemed to move like a part of him, coiling like snakes but backing away when he wanted to them without any delay. Excellent work. Creative, too.
“Get me Ragh Zel of the Fell,” he told the prisoner. The man nodded quickly and turned his head over his shoulder, yelling to the men keeping back closer to the camp’s vague borders. He made sure to keep his face as far away from the fire as possible. By now, the others had caught up with Leogun and Falyn, Taisa slipping her ring on her finger and Pychi with a hand on his sword. Every few seconds, Alaire’s hand strayed to her own thin weapon, but Leogun could see she was making an effort to try not to. She looked almost scared of it. “Taisa, I need you to be ready to make that wall as fast as you can.”
A minute of quiet intensity between the grey-skinned soldiers and the small band passed without event. It was broken by the arrival of a man with a white cloak hanging from his shoulders, contrasting with the black of his armor. Two swords hung from his back.
“That’s not Ragh Zel,” Falyn said. The man stayed about ten feet behind the cage of fire.
“Let him go and I’ll take you to Ragh.” A promise, it sounded like, but not one the man wanted to make, Leogun guessed. The white-cloaked man was only barely restraining his anger.
“We’re not going into your camp.”
“If you want to speak with Ragh, you’ll have-” Leogun raised his hand and clenched it only slightly, but enough for the fires to edge closer to his prisoner’s flesh. The hand was unnecessary, but it felt right, and the Flameweavers he’d seen at the Monastery had always had to use their hands to manipulate the fire, and it acted as punctuation for the action.
The messenger’s hands shot up, not to his swords, but palms up and hands open in a mock surrender. “Wait, wait. I’ll get him.” He came back after another minute. The new man was taller, about as tall as Falyn, with even whiter hair than his messenger. That messenger, based on the way he kept close to Ragh, was more like a second-in-command. Behind the two, a few of the soldiers were carrying wooden stools, and they arranged the first five in a semi-circle and the last opposite the five. Ragh took his seat and Leogun led the others to theirs, sitting directly opposite the commander. The white-cloaked soldier stood behind Ragh, arms crossed and eyes locked on Falyn.
“All I’ve got is this dagger,” Ragh said. “Not enough to kill any of you with.”
“We are.” Falyn said, stretching out his legs. The commander smiled a little.
“On second thought, selae, I think I’d like to know your name.” Falyn was silent, and Leogun dropped his staff before leaning in.
“Who are you?” Ragh’s face darkened at that.
“You’re kidding, right?”
“I know you were behind the slaughter at Arkaius, and that’s about it.” The commander clenched his jaw. The lines in his face deepened, anger showing. After another second of silence, Ragh exhaled, and his anger seemed to flow out of him. Leogun could still see it in him, but it was not a fiery anger, more like disgust.
“You really don’t know, do you? None of you do.”
“Know what?”
“What’s your name, rylial?” Leogun had had about enough of the commander’s evasiveness.
“Leogun Asmundvard. Brother of the High One’s Order.” Ragh screwed up his face, confused himself now.
“Do you mean Adnval?” It hurt Leogun to hear that, and he could see Alaire’s eyes widen.
“I would appreciate it if you did not use His name.” Ragh rolled his eyes and sighed.
“No need to be so pious, Asmundvard, a name is to be used, not to be sanctified. Relax, no one’s going to kill you.” He chuckled, a sound that was so unalien it seemed all the more alien coming from such a strange creature. “That’s not true, actually, I’ll probably still kill you.”
“Who are you?” he asked again.
“I am Ragh Zel. I am the son of Tagh Maneth, King of the Fell, Praises Sung in His Name. I ame the scourge of the Chosen and their vile kin.”
“That doesn’t honestly tell me much.” Once again, his face became grim, a grimace that belied anger and fury only barely kept in check.
“You’re not a liar, are you, brother? You seem like a true believer.”
“I try to avoid lying when I can.” From all the questions he’d been avoiding recently, it almost felt like a lie to say it. The thought didn’t sit well with him.
“Then I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt. I’m going to let you go.” The man in the white cloak’s head snapped to look at the prince, a look of incredulousness on his face. “Calm down, Otral, I’m not going soft. Brother, I’m going to let you go, but only on the condition that when we meet again- and I am one hundred percent sure we will- you tell me who the Prince of Vengeance is. If you don’t, then I’ll kill you and the rest of your little group here. Swear to me in Adnval’s name.” The name almost hurt to hear, but Leogun ignored it.
“I swear in the High One’s-” Ragh raised his hand sharply.
“I said in Adnval’s name, brother.” Leogun took a deep breath, pushing down the anger.
“I swear in Adnval’s name to do all I can to learn who the Prince of Vengeance is.” Ragh nodded and stood, about to return to the depths of the camp from where he’d come.
“Actually, Otral, give them the horses.” Otral laughed before they disappeared.
They rode away from the camp as fast as they could.

“Tell the men to continue on,” Ragh said. “I’ll be going my own way, but I’ll return to Ntir when I hear word.”
“And why’s that?”
“I’m going to follow them.” He pulled a black cloak from the chest of clothing he had in his tent and slung a pack over his shoulder, filling it with bread and cheese from his table. “I’ll see you in a few months, Otral.”


© 2012 jmfconklin


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Added on July 21, 2012
Last Updated on July 21, 2012
Tags: Ragh, Zel, Leogun, Vessel, Prince, army, legion, five


Author

jmfconklin
jmfconklin

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada



About
Hi, I'm a young aspiring writer going by JMF Conklin. I read and write fantasy, and my current project's working title is "The Legion of Souls." It's about a man named Leogun Asmundvard, a monk of the.. more..

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