The youth, a Sz`a`Th
Imperial Scribe of sixteen winters, felt drained from his before dawn
translations. His back ached from hunching over the ledger, scribing ancient
runic text to the universal language. He
stood; the wood and leather chair creaked with relief from the movement. Stretching up with his shoulders, he arched
his back and relaxed with the ease it brought to his tall frame.
The Scribe closed his eyes for but a
moment, resting. Breathing in the icy salt air of early winter on the Tali`z coast. Under his amethyst, blue eyes, a lack of sleep-circled dark was evident. He
rubbed his face slowly, feeling the new growth of dark beard on his skin-the—the
sounds of the Keeps occupants filtered through the open window. The wet
courtyard below was awake.
Sharp piercing sounds of steel and broadswords clashed as Warriors played out
imaginary staged conflicts that came from the courtyard below his window. Rapid, sharp thuds muted softly as arrowheads
and crossbow bolts pushed by straight shafts embedded themselves into the
thickly bound hay targets.
Taelen's blue eyes opened, pale, dark grey winter light of early dawn; it reflected what the day might
bring. The youth’s eyes wavered between an amethyst blue and a strange purple
tint caught in the prism light from the window. Dark eyelashes as black as the
hair cut short and in the Keeps Warrior style hid his eyes for a second as he
blinked. His neat, close-cut beard had him look a little older than his fifteen
The dark blue metal of the quill he was
using had blocked yet again with the black ink. Inferior ink was bought from
the north, where the word of strange unrest came. He hated the cheap ink with
The youth dabbed the quill on the damp
cloth he lent on the thick limestone windowsill. The cold sharpness of the
black rock that was the Taayra`Ge Keep cooled his
agitation. Uneasiness had been scratching
at the perimeter of his thoughts well before dawn.
The ledger Taelen was deciphering had been
written in ancient runic script, challenging
to read and even more complicated when spoken. The old language was a series of lilts and clicks.
Though an Imperial Scribe, he was also a
Warrior and would have been happier practising his sword in the courtyard than
deciphering the ancient text. He shook
his head; it did not matter to him; he was an Imperial Scribe of the Sz`a`Th, nothing more to the Lord of the Taayra`Ge Keep than that.
Master Melicq, had been the Senior Scribe, a man ancient in winters and in his ways when Taelen had arrived at the Keep. One
of a hand full of survivors of a vicious attack of Lord Mah`sden’s
murdering Dark Warriors. He was thrown into the dark winter ocean while his
mother was butchered and drowned.
The Sergeant of the Blade had saved Taelen.
Sergeant Anston now sparred in the courtyard below in a well-choreographed
concern for the ledger had been consuming, even when he had passed away shortly
after Taelen had taken mastery of the problematic
dialect at age thirteen winters.
The Master had died strangely, an older man
in his shadow winters. He had taken the ledger from a dying Warrior. The
Warrior, the lone survivor of a shipwreck, had asked for the Master Scribe
specifically by name.
The Warrior had the marking of the Ogdoadic Knight, a silent and specialist arm of the Sz`a`Th. No one of the Keep had seen an Ogdoadic
Knight, and his death left more questions
than Taelen had liked. When he gave the ledger, the Knight lay moments from
death bound in thick sail canvas and had handed it to Master Melicq. The Knights' ocean
green eyes stared at Taelen as he said to the boy.
“One of the eight-pointed
stars will seek you out, be not afraid
boy, he seeks you, be not afraid of destiny‘s needs,
or the deeds he will demand of you…you must promise this to me…they are
wrong…there is the eighth book…you are that book – tell none…or those who have
died in heinous deaths will be for naught.” His words had scrawled against
Taelen’s mind, etching images that Taelen could never erase. He had the same
ill feeling that morning.
The Master Scribes' features had withered
at his first touch of the book. An unknown Spellcasters ward had been placed on
the ledger. His fate had been sealed
immediately with no resident Spellcasters at the Keep.
A myth surrounded the Eight Books: each breath was another volume of the
Seven Books of the Sz`a`Th, Simply
called the Seven Books, not Eight was the Eight Book was unknown. He could
never let the knowledge of the eighth book have time to breathe. His agonising screams echoed within the halls of Taayra`Ge Keep as his body decayed more with each torturous breath he took. He had died seven
pain-filled moons later.
The rune design on the ledger that burned
into his hand was the sign of ‘P`rth’. In the language of Scribes and the lands' language, it
meant ‘rune of mystery’. Its meaning was open to others' initiation to a hidden
Yet, all this meant nothing to the young
Scribe of thirteen winters. He had ledgers to decipher, with Apprentices still
too young to be trusted with quills and the inferior ink. Instead, he nurtured
and taught them like a big brother and insisted they instinctively knew the blade's
swing and the arrow's aim. Taught the use of each blade of the Sahn`Frwh Sword, it was not thought but instinctive, as
inconspicuous as taking a breath.
The only man who could assist was his Master Scribe, who was
dead. He now
had to occupy that grey space in between where Master Melicq
had been for so long.
The Commander of the Keep Captain T`nyson, a Sz`a`Th
Warrior, Sahn`Frwh trained and a veteran of the E`boda Plains Six Winters War, where there had been the word,
of those of Myth appearing, where arrows with mystic marking always killed
never maimed. Large double-sided broad
axes spun cartwheeling into Dark Warriors,
Warriors who had survived killed themselves in strange,
unorthodox ways - for suicide was not the Sz`a`Th way.
Yet many had just done that. When the darkness of war casts a blackness across
the minds of those who had witnessed the unspoken horrors of war, sometimes,
living is too complicated, and there are ways a Warrior will leave, and there
are worse things than dying for Warriors. Peace was one of them.
had strangely agreed with the Cook, Veh`nese,
regarding Taelen’s position at the Keep. Taelen could not shrug the feeling
that he sensed that Veh`nese the Cook, Sergeant Anston and Captain T`nyson knew
who he was but would always steer his questions of origin away from him.
Taelen stood as tall and powerfully built as the Warriors fighting mock
battles in the courtyard below. Most afternoons, he spared with them, much to
their discomfort. Naturally, he was
identical in skills. He was uncanny in his step and strike and deadly with the Sahn`Frwh sword and blades. He smiled, remembering one old
Warrior watching him sparing saying, ‘Lethal as an Elf…deadly as a
Dwarf…cunning as a man – wary as a Wolf, wise as a Raven, you will be right
lad…you react…a Warrior who thinks, dies quick…a Warrior who reacts lives.’
Those who exercised daily with Taelen were relieved his duties as Keeps
Imperial Scribe, and not a Warrior made
him absent from their drills.
Though Taelen had been apprenticed as one
of the Taayra`Ge Keep’s Scribes since six winters old, the youth
had also been taught the defence tactics of the Sz`a`
Th Warriors. The Cook, Veh`nese, had made that point to the Commander so many winters
Taelen watched one particular
Warrior. The Warrior called Brae was a winter younger and only slightly
shorter than Taelen.
At nearly sixteen winters old, the youth
below was skilled. However, Brae's
internal anger and arrogance were and
would be his end.
A warrior who bears a grudge is as
dangerous as the enemy who follows blindly.
Had the Sergeant at Arms not been as active and no doubt wiser, and a seasoned
Warrior, the younger Warrior, would have
felled him by the series of furious blows that were being levelled at the
The Sergeant's fast footwork saved him from a lethal blow from the youth.
The frustration and anger that drove Brae
ferociously on became short-lived as the Sergeant
at Arms cracked the flat of his broadsword
across his shoulders of Brae. And shoved the youth to his knees, then pushed
his boot down onto the back of the youth’s neck with a swift kick, driving his
sword close to the lad’s crotch enough that he felt the blade's vibration
against his balls. He did not move.
Anston was not the Sergeant of Arms due to his
war history; no Anston, even with one hand, could
disarm a skilled Warrior, and an angry one was easy.
“Fight like that in battle, and you will
die.” He snapped, his voice cold as the wind that blew off the grey Taayra`Ge Ocean below the Keeps walls. The Sergeant's large
chest rose and fell with frustration.
“Would be easier to tame a Tah`n Wolf than placing some intelligence between your ears.
I train you, Corporal so that you will
survive a battle. Not so you lose your bloody temper and not see the next blow
that will remove your head from those shoulders, too swiftly for you to take
your last breath.”
Brae angrily shoved the Sergeant's boot
from his neck, leapt to his feet, and swung around, his fist in full flight for
the Sergeant, who brought up his blade again. Brae twisted, narrowly missing
the centre of Anston’s edge.
Anston grabbed the young Warrior's fist in his
pincer grip. The metal of the Sergeant's prosthetic hand bit hard into skin and
Holding Brae’s hand high, his dark forest
green eyes bored into the young Warriors with contempt for the stupidity that
could kill the youth in combat.
“Do not threaten me…ever, do you
understand?” His voice cut through the background noise of Drill in the
courtyard, which ceased.
might be my blade that removes your stupid, bloody head, Corporal.” The
Sergeant's voice conveyed truth to those in the Courtyard.
Broadswords stopped mid-defensive as Warriors stood
still, hot breath fogging before their faces, chests heaving to fill with air
from a fast-paced drill session, as their
Sergeant held his own blade against the youth’s heart.
The sweat shining
on their bodies suddenly felt icy in its covering.
“Do that asinine action again, and I will not kill you, Brae,” he shook his
head furiously with the youth, slowly
moving his face centimetres closer. “No! I will transfer you to the Northern borders where your bloody stupidity can be used
against Lord Mah'sden's men. It will not be mud on
their boots but your blood soaking their leather.” Anston’s
tone heated with frustration burned in his throat. His eyes narrowed as his
lips drew back over his teeth clenched tightly.
Taelen watched as the Sergeant slowly
released Brae’s hand. Brae’s eyes glanced up at the window where Taelen stood.
Taelen ignored Brae’s glare as his own eyes and intuition stared intently at a
dark shape, a ship not more than two hours from the Keep.
“Well! What are you staring at, Corporal?”
The Sergeant roared as he acknowledged the look in the Scribe's eyes metres
above in the tower.
Taelen tore his eyes from the ship, obeying
the Sergeant's demand.
“Sergeant, a black-sailed Galleon is but two hours off the coast heading our
“What flag do you sense, Corporal -
QUICKLY?” His voice did not give away his cold gut concern.
ship sails toward us.” He shouted, staring down at the Sergeant in the
The Sergeant gave two short, loud whistles through his teeth, which
stopped everyone from their duties.
“EVACUATE THE KEEP” He yelled with all his
strength, “THIS IS NOT A DRILL…THIS IS NOT A DRILL”, and silently spoke in Sz`a`Th to all to make their escape immediately. If not,
hide or death would be theirs.
Beyond all the adrenaline, hours before and
kilometres from the Keep, someone rappelled down the cliff face in the inverted
position known to only be used by one region. She was now standing horizontal
on the vertical cliff wall with her long black and white hair tied tightly; she
did not need a distraction.
Two arrows had to be sent simultaneously. The
Warrior stood with rigging supporting her firmly. She dressed in the black
uniform of the Raven Nation. She knew it would be two winters before meeting
anyone receiving these two arrows, but it was imperative. She nocked the first and let it fly the kilometres to the Keep.
Then she flipped on her back, still in the rigging; she knew the next one was
as important as the first arrow.
She focused on a Warrior in her mind; she
breathed slowly, had the terrain in her mind mapped, closed her eyes, pulled
back, stared for a second at the storm clouds and released the second arrow.
Kilometres south, Sasson, a Karranja Warrior patrolling the forest outside the Castle
and docks, looked north up the coast. He breathed out as he stood on the
coastal beach bereft of anyone.
The arrow thumped centimetres to the left
of his left boot. He looked warily, pulling it out and studied the feathers,
then the tip, frowning. He wiped the sand off the shaft and sighed his breath
on the stem of the arrow, a blue script illuminated with his name, date,
region, and place. His arm burned and tingled, where the scar ran from inside
wrist to elbow crease. He had no time to contemplate the meaning as an urgent
shrill whistle coded came to him on the wind.
Taelen reached out to pull the wooden
shutter; when an arrow hit the wood centimetres from his left hand, he felt the
message's energy had not had the time but shoved the arrow into his kit.
The Raven Archer sent one more arrow, from
the top of the cliff crag. Far from her, a R`atogh Warrior,
crouching low, his reflexes fast, was a Tracker. His hand shot out in a blur
and caught the arrow before hitting the tree. He glanced at the fletching black
with slight white feathers. A small smile appeared as he then read the message.
T`tamu sighed profoundly and asked the forest to
protect this young Raven Archer. He frowned, for he knew her and knew she was
four winters younger than he, and he was eighteen winters, this lass fourteen
winters. She must be bloody brilliant at her quild,
he thought as he put the arrow in his kit and left just as quietly as the arrow
She sent off five more arrows, all to
different nations of man, woman and myth, and shivered
not for the cold blast off the ocean onto the cliff face but from a ‘knowing
deep in her soul that many would die.
The young Warrior rappelled, inverted down to
the rocks below, and retrieved her rigging. The sky above igniting cracking
thunder and lightning statically, the gale hitting the coast was coming fast,
and she needed to finish what had begun too long ago.
She released her hair as the wind took hold
of her hair Ar`qi shook her long hair,
folded down into a Raven, and flew into the storm's air currents. It would be
many winters before she would see the three who received the arrows; if any of
them survived, it was in the hands of the Elements. Ar`qi
black eyes rimmed with delicate white and even finer black blinked as she flew.
Again she nocked
her arrows and let fly to Ji`rah, a Warrior of the Sxq`rn Warrior of the Wolf Nation. The young Corporal stood
on the battlements of his Uncle's Fortress Castle and watched the arrow hit the
wood door he had just closed from a long shift on the Battlements. His heart was
saddened as he read the runes. He swore under his breath, ‘that’s all I need is
some bloody prophecy.
Her last was to a Silver Crescent, hidden
in the forest on her horse. As the arrow hit the giant oak, she pulled it out,
immediately healing the tree with her hand; frowning, KH`Dn
stared at the runes glowing. A tear slipped down her cheek, and her shoulders
shuddered as she. Two winters into the future was a long way off. She slid the
arrow into her kit on her back and sat on her horse in the pouring rain, her
heart heavy, Ravens rarely ever made contact, and one had from far away. Only a
Ravens arrow flew so hard long, and fast.
Anston cursed under his breath. His anger was for
the timing of the attack. Above he watched the gulls screech their warning
about the Keep for a second. The adrenalin hit, and his temples pounded with
the urge to live. Two hours was not long enough to remove the entire staff and
the Garrison attached to the Keep.
His black booted feet began running into
the Keep; if anything, he would be the last man out of the Keep, as the Lord
and his family were away with the Captain and half the
Garrisons' strength, attending a conference in the North.
Taelen's eyes moved to the black grey winter sky. The words of the man he knew as Anston and his Guardian spoke as cold as the wind that blew
off the Great Grey Taayra`Ge Ocean.
“The wind changes its direction for a
reason of nature. The man or woman turns their path
to the goal of survival. When both Mhyst and wind change together, there will be much death on the wind; remember, Taelen, we
are Warriors of the Sz`a`Th, ‘Winds of Mhyst’. He smiled at the thought.
D`hôte ducked his head into the room where
Taelen stood, gathering up quills and ink and wrapping them firmly. He also
burned parchments in the large fireplace as quickly as he could break their
He had been quick to understand that
anything that was Sz`a`Th
could and would be used by Lord Mah`sden to destroy
Taelen looked at D`hôte; his youngest
apprentice ran in, helping him burn all they could find.
“Are you scared, Corporal?” asked the young
Scribe as he stared out the window. Taelen threw in the precious parchments to the flames of the fire.
“This is no Drill”, his voice was low. “If
anything, D`Hôte, we must remember who we are and our
training,” Taelen said, pushing the
ledger he had been deciphering into his backpack.
He shoved it at his Apprentice and grabbed
the boy by the shoulders. Bending down to D`Hôte,
Taelen held the boy's green eyes with his
to me and listen good; take this to Veh`nese the Cook. She will take you to a safe place.”
“But you, you must come, you have too,
Taelen”, the boy pleaded as his eyes darted to the window, hearing the pounding
rhythm of the drums of the ship.”
“GO! D`Hôte, we
have done this drill before. I am a Corporal of the Sz`a`Th.
My duty is here. Now go, I will find you.” He stared intently at the boy of ten
winters; he could feel the boy shaking beneath his winter clothes. “Go, this is
not a drill, and I am ordering you, lad,
not telling you.”
D`Hôte looked out the window and over the din
outside as he heard the ship's order to lower the longboats for the attack.
Tearing his eyes from the scene now unfolding on the shore, he nodded and ran
from the room, down the back stone stairs to the kitchen and searched for Veh`nese.
Taelen's mind swung to the dark shadows of
Warriors on a Ship. He saw himself swimming, clinging to the debris around him.
Warrior’s laughter and the bubbling sound of air and blood mixed as throats
gashed, yawning with blades; he heard the splashes that bodies make as they
dumped into a black sea haunting him, shaking the images from his mind, he took
the Sahn`Frwh sword in his hands and uttered the oath
of the Red Crescent.
As the gates were being attacked, he heard
Cook’s voice; arrows hit the defences as the sound of metal on metal clashed
outside the Keeps oak gates. He listened to her order staff and Warriors alike
to safety. Screams and cries ensured the bloody battle was escalating
Taelen joined others; the assault on the
Keep began, and the gates gave way to the pounding of the Dark Sz`a`Th, the name Lord Mah`sden’s
followers were known. He stood as the Warriors were left prepared to defend the
and Corporal A`Dn, both Sz`a`Th
Warriors, fired cross bolts in rapid succession, killing six Dark Sz`a` Th Warriors as they came in through the gate. Tad`c was hit with an arrow through
his thigh. A'Dn
immediately handed his crossbow to Tad`c while he broke the bolt and pushed it through, healing as he went. Both worked in
unison, turning and pivoting to kill as many a Dark Sz`a`Th Warrior as possible.
move, with their backs at each, they each turn used another blade, for the Sahn`Frwh was a multiple-bladed sword; there was nothing
like it anywhere. Seen for the first time was as if each Warrior partnered with
the other in a dance, each step choreographed as if one Warrior was moving
instead of two. This drill could be used with up two
six Warriors, their backs to the other, swinging their Sahn`Fwrh
Swords without a connection. If you listened to their heartbeats, they beat as
one, which was what rhythm they fought—called the dance of the chosen, some
just named dance of extinction.
Taelen's vision burned with white Mhyst, blurring his vision. Slowly it faded as he shook his
head, and the Warriors breached the defence; bracing himself, he focused on the
enemy advancing towards him. Shaking his head as Warriors of both sides yelled
battle cries entering the Keep
Screams came from behind him as those who
had not fled were cut down where they stood. He felt for the women of the Keep
who had not yet escaped. He caught Tad`c with a blade
in his back, being carried by A`Dn and D` Ron
grabbing two young grooms half their ages on their way. All wounded, A`dn yelled to Taelen, ‘We go north I have ordered from
Captain Yassarn –‘ an arrow
hit him in his chest as they managed to get through secret doors and tunnels. Others
wounded left. ‘Taelen…we have orders to leave. You must leave now’ No more
words did Taelen hear as A`Dn’s mind became
unconscious. Stone walls slid shut Taelen knew A`Dn
had received the orders just as he did in his mind.
There was no time to think but only to act.
Corporal Taelen spun his Sahn`Frwh sword around,
decapitating three Warriors simultaneously. Absently he heard curses that they
had not been told Sahn`Frwh manned the Keep. Taelen
smiled as he continued his defence. He watched as Warrior after Warrior
collided with the energy that was the Sz`a`Th, one of
his Sergeants missed his footing on the entrails of a fallen dead Warrior.
Taelen used his Sahn`Frwh
sword pivoting through the air to the
Sergeant, disembowelling an Archer; with one hand, he assisted the Sergeant to
his feet, and then both worked as one. He spun the two-meter swords in opposite
directions, decapitating and severing what limb or torso came within reach of the deadly blades.
Both ducked as choreographed moves were shown
to them and drilled into them until the training became just part of them. Intuitively
they breathed as one made them lethal. One Sahn`Frwh
Warrior was a force. Two of them, back to back,
trained in the way of that sword was deadly poetry - beautiful execution of
death, swift, instant, painless.
Blood and gore replaced mud and slush; iced
winds cut deep into those still fighting for survival as rain lashed the coast
in winter storms.
Taelen heard his name scream into his mind with
such intensity that he stumbled. He stared at the arrow protruding from his
right shoulder, his mind not acknowledging the shaft
for a second, and then the pain burned deep.
The Sergeant he had been fighting side by
side with him bent to his aide, but Taelen screamed at him to run, leave him,
as another arrow split the arrow already embedded
into his shoulder.
Handing Taelen two blades from the Sahn`Frwh Sword, he
stared at the Corporal Scribe as Taelen stood in deep pain.
“Go, get help, send the alarm, go by the
tunnel in the Stables, go to the E`nihs Garrison to
the north at the T`hzic Straights….” He staggered and
smiled slightly as his friend held him up. “Go, you can do no more here, Dek`hlan.” The Sergeant nodded and left swiftly, as Taelen
turned to see one of the Keeps staff fighting off two Warriors as they tortured
birthright burned deep purple on his chest as he swayed at the debauchery.
Staggering slightly, he threw both daggers into the Warriors' backs, assaulting
the young woman; they crumpled to the rain and mud of the flagstone courtyard, dying instantly. She took their two swords
and began fighting alongside the others, her anger taking out more than one
He stood with the support of his sword,
making his way to her. He could not understand her words in his mind, then
turned to see a Dark Sz`a`Th Warrior screaming
towards him. Taelen spun the Sahn`Frwh sword slowly,
then threw the sword impaling the Warrior to the Keep's open gate. He also felt
the deep cut to his thigh as a sword sliced into him, and the warm liquid of
his blood ran down his leg.
He felt the hands of someone pulling him
into an alcove then, screams, screams and the smell of burning flesh.