I originally wanted to write a rant about how insane I feel about joining Nanowrimo, but instead I decided to post this. Enjoy! This was another long chapter.
Chapter 1: Night of Day
The young child ran through the Temple barefooted, her feet slapping the cold marble floors. She skidded around one corner, missing the Acolyte with the afternoon meal trays by just an inch. The Acolyte shouted at her, but by that time the child had already rounded another three corners. Once she reached an empty corridor, she stopped and smiled. Closing her eyes, she willed herself to disappear, and then she continued on her way, running even faster than before.
The old castle was drafty, but sometimes the draft was not neccesarily caused by outside winds.
“Leaving them out in the open is not an option, Miakan! They are Rennec’s curse! We cannot abandon them!” a man was talking in a shrill voice to the woman in white on the throne, who was looking at him passively.
Next to her, a woman in a long black robe and a white sash leaned back, watching the man expend his energy. The young girl made her way to the second lady and climbed on her lap. The woman in white, whom the man had called Miakan, smiled and ruffled the girl’s head fondly. Her other hand lay on her tummy, where the hints of a new life within was just beginning to show. The man lost his temper at the Miakan when he saw that gentle gesture of affection.
“What is this child doing here? Does she not know to disturb when adults are in discussion?” he was getting angrier. The girl saw her uncle, the Miakan’s bodyguard, slowly sit upright from his post at the side of the wall and put his hand on the blade at his waist. The man was trying her uncle’s patience sorely.
“Our children can sometimes be far more adult than outsiders who do not know their place,” the Miakan turned from where she smiled at the little girl to glare at the man. The look she gave him would have probably strike him dead before his next words, if looks could kill. They could, but the Miakan did not often make use of such power.
The man merely drop his jaw at her tone. He had heard about the arrogance of these women, but he had never thought to see it himself. These women would truly hang one of their own to dry. His tribe depended on help from the Miakan; she was not one of their last hopes, but she was an avenue they turned into only in desperation. And from what he knew, they would never turn down a call for help from one of their own.
“What you thought and what we are, is two different things. Return to your village. We will not provide the Gypsy Queen nor you with any help. You are welcome to stay the night before you return. Your steed will need it,” the Miakan dismissed him.
“You cannot do this!” he took a step forward, but found himself stopped by the woman’s bodyguard. The blue-robed man had a knife to his neck.
“She just did,” the dark-haired woman next to the blond Miakan stood up as the child slid off her lap and went to the Miakan.
“Leave,” the blue-robed man’s voice was even colder than the Miakan’s stare. The man left, with anger in his eyes.
“Come out Daiko,” the bodyguard called out, and a boy, older than the young girl, came out from behind the drapes. He was dressed exactly like the bodyguard, except that his robes were red instead of blue.
“How are the reserves doing, sister?” the Miakan looked up to the dark-haired woman.
“They reached the battlefield yesterday. We’ll know how bad the situation is in a few hours,” the dark-haired woman picked up the young girl, who looked like a carbon copy of her.
“Good. We don’t have time.”
“Sister, will it really change anything? The bloodline will be lost by now…” the young girl buried her face in the woman’s neck at the sad tone.
“Tis not the bloodline, sister. It’s the trust. If we can rescue even a few, we would have done it. Our Goddess would not want to see anything wasted,” the Miakan laid a hand fondly on Daiko’s head.
“Generousity will only get you so far, sister,” the bodyguard disapproved.
“If we can but lay a better foundation for our children, it will be worth it. We cannot lose anyone, especially not Menalippe’s Children. Just because the Gypsy Queen’s tribe was one doesn’t mean we should ignore them. We have blood ties with them; our blood goes back a long time.”
“Family comes first, sister?” the young girl was now being carried by the Miakan.
The Gypsy Queen watched crouched low as the arrows flew overhead. So the archery machine finally worked. She was glad that she had allowed the newcomer to install those machines. The arrows, tipped with silver, fell into the shadows, and the familiar scream she had come to associate with the death of the shadows was louder than she had heard them before, even at this distance. It seemed that such death would become them. She had no time to congratulate the tinker though. There were still more shadows stalking them, and they were cmoing closer. By their numbers and movements, she knew a very large party was approaching.
Did they finally send in a battalion? she wondered to herself, but she did not have time to think. The first wave had struck, and it was all she could to concentrate on the enemies around her.
She blocked out the sounds of battle and concentrated only on her enemies in her line of sight. These wolves were well-fed and kept; they had none of the usual raggedness she had come to expect from the enemy. Their movements too, suggested an uniformity she would never have guessed; they were trained.
Her staff spun as she took them down anyway. Military training was only as useful if you backed it up with proper motivation, and her tribe was motivated. They were protecting their children, and they would be damned if some random monster thought it could come in and destroy their future. They would fight to their last breath, and hopefully take down enough to make whoever order the next attack think long and hard.
When the second wave faltered after seeing the first decimated, the circle held. They did not move forward to greet their enemies, but waited for their opponenets to come to them. Some in the circle quickly rolled away their old friends and stabbed their ex-comrades with a silver knife. That was the only way they knew of preventing the corpse from returning and joining the enemy,
Even when the second wave moved forward tentatively, the circle still held. They had survived by picking their battles, and even if the battle was chosen for them, they knew not to rush in headlong. Living life on the road had taught them the value of patience. The second wave stopped again. It soon became apparent why. Satr walked out from among them, his eyes glassy and unfocused. His body had been taken over by something alien, and she had a pretty good idea who had imprisoned the sidhe’s soul.
“Don’t you think you’ve had enough time to run around, dear Esmerelda? The time of our joining draws near, and you should be here to help oversee the preparations,” the sidhe’s voice had taken on an oily tone.
“No, Sasarai, I will not. I am not your beloved, nor will I join thee. Leave my people alone!”
“Ah, how you tease me, little queenling! Who else knows the pain you do? Of how the blood sing…” his voice was stopped by a silver arrow piercing his throat.
“She said no, Sasarai. Get a hint!” a deep woman’s voice interrupted, from above them. “And keep your eyes on him, Queen. He will spirit you away should you turn from him,” the voice said again in a hurry as the Queen’s men turned to look at her.
The voice stirred a deep memory within Esmerelda, but she pushed it down deeply. There was still much to do, and very little time to do it. Getting rid of the enemy was the first step. She could find out who the voice was later. For now, there was survival to attend to. The enemy regrouped, and then charged.
As the line held, shadows dropped from behind them to meet the other shadows head on. To the Queen’s surprise, the newcomers were women, most of them with the tribal markings of the Plains nomads. One of them turned to wink at her, before charging into the enemy with a loud cry. When they stood up with a loud cry, the Queen realised that her scar no longer itched. That usually meant that they had destroyed the enemy or that the enemy had fled. Either way, she would not let her guard down.
“Save the sidhe!” the deep voice was now standing next to her, a note of urgency contained within that command.
“He was possessed!” the Queen turned towards the voice, only to be greeted by a woman who looked very much like her dead mother’s sister.
“Aye, and his mind will tell us much about the man who controlled him. He is not yet dead, merely wounded. We must remove the arrow though,” the tall woman turned to the Queen. “Where be your infirmary, your Majesty?”