Sin - By Firebrand, Chapter 7, Fantasy

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Sin - By Firebrand, Chapter 7, Fantasy

Post  Firebrand on Fri Mar 30, 2012 2:39 pm

Chapter 7

Lisana slept peacefully, and Julia was able to find several herbs in the surrounding forest to help treat her and ease her pain. The traveling group had remained in the cabin for a full day as Lisana recovered, and the sun was now setting on the second.

Sin was sparring with Kelrick in the yard, both wary for the approach of the robbers who fled two nights ago. Though they both knew no intelligent man would attack in broad daylight, these robbers had proved to be slightly less than that. So, anything was possible.

Kelrick had backed Sin into a corner when Julia’s shriek split the evening air. The sparring pair ran for the cabin, followed by Orrin, who had been splitting firewood, some distance off.

There was a crash from within the cabin, and muffled shouts. Sin charged through the door, wooden practice sword held at the ready. Julia was brandishing a frying pan at what appeared to be a bundle of cast-off rags.

“Light forefend woman!” the bundle snapped. “Are you trying to kill me?”

“Yes!”

The pan swung down again, and the bundle darted away. It ran into the wall of muscle that was Orrin, and fell to the ground. Orrin grabbed several of the rags. “Just what are you, creature?”

The bundle rolled out of the way of Orrin’s hand, and stood. “I’m a man, not a creature!”

Kelrick came up behind ‘it’ and yanked several of the rags away. The motion revealed a rather familiar looking boy with dark, intelligent, and very disconcerting eyes. “Man, huh? You don’t look like you’ve hit your majority yet.”

The boy snarled, and grabbed for the rags, but Kelrick swiftly stepped out of reach. “Well, I’m a human.” He shrugged. “Name’s Grey. Nice to meet you.” He stuck out a hand. No one shook it. Grey slowly pulled it back.

“Why are you here?” Thalia asked, sitting by Lisana’s bedside. “And how did you come to be in the closet?”

Now that Sin looked, the narrow, unremarkable across the room stood ajar. None of them had tried to open it, because they felt no need to. Grey blushed. “I’m here because… I’m one of the robbers. No sense lying, I guess, since that crazy lady’s gong to kill me anyway.”

“That ‘crazy lady’ happens to be my fiance,” Orrin growled. The earth demon grew pensive. “That said, I agree with your summary of her character.”

Sin palmed his silver knife. “Now I recognize you. I fought you on the road to Hollyvale the other day!”

Grey smiled sheepishly. “I had nothing to do with that, I swear! Aldrick made us attack you guys! And the big one wasn’t with you then, we would have never attacked if he’d been there!”

Anjaru scowled. “Size is not the only measure of strength.”

“It is with bandits who barely have a brain to share.”

“Point.”

Sin still had not put his sword away. “You still haven’t told us why you were in the closet.”

Grey smiled sheepishly. “When Aldrick came to check out the cabin after the demons frightened the other guys off, he brought me and two of his henchmen. Well, Thalia and Kelrick spooked those two pretty bad, and they knocked me down. I hurt my arm, and my leg, and couldn’t run away with them. So I hid in the closet, thinking I’d slip out in the morning after you all left. Except you didn’t leave.”

Julia swung her pan back and forth. “You’ve been in that closet two whole days? Without anything to eat or drink?”

“Yeah. That’s why I came out. I’m really thirsty.”

“Well, there’s a spring about half an hour’s ride south.”

Orrin sighed. “Julia, that’s just being cruel. Here boy, have a drink.” Orrin took Grey out to the well behind the cabin and drew a bucket. “When you’re done, you might want to consider a bath.”

Grey looked appalled. “A bath? Are you crazy?”

“If you’re going to be traveling with us, you need to at least make an effort to be clean.”

Kelrick, who had followed the earth demon, cried out. “Hey! Who says this rascal’s traveling with us?”

Orrin looked at the Master of Flame with a stony gaze. “I do. I will not send him back to live among brigands and robbers. He needs a corrective influence in his life.”

“But I liked being with brigands and robbers!” Grey protested.

Orrin glared at him. Grey shrugged and backed down. “Though… I can see the merits of coming with you.”

***

Lisana awoke later that night. Sin patiently informed her of all that had happened, and the demons prepared to leave in the morning. They would reach another farming village in three days, so they took almost nothing from the robber’s cabin. Deep down, Sin actually felt bad about driving Grey’s band away, if this was their home. At least they could come back and find the cabin just how they left it… except cleaner.

That night’s sleep was a restful one; because everyone was relieved Lisana had made a full recovery. Dusty was saddled at first light, and the demons made their preparations for the trail.

Julia thrust her traveling bag into Grey’s hands. “If you’re going to be coming with us, you have to earn your keep. Until I say otherwise, you are now my valet.” Grey grumbled about this, but not even Orrin said anything against it. If they had one more mouth to feed, that mouth had to earn it’s right to food.

They had traveled some distance when the steady tattoo of hooves filled the air behind them. “Sin! Lisana!”

Anjaru whirled, his cape flaring. “Who goes there?”

“Anjaru! It’s me!”

“Damin? Damin!”

The captain of Harrisholt’s guard rode up to them on a black horse, the poor creature’s sides heaving. Damin smiled and waved at Sin and Lisana. “It is good to see you all doing well.”

“Sin!” A blur of silver fur launched from one of Damin’s saddlebags. “Sin! You’re okay!”

Sin caught the creature. “Whoa, easy Fuzzball!”

Chifumi grinned up at him. “We were worried about you!”

Sin scratched her behind the ear and looked up at Damin. “Why are you here? Shouldn’t you be guarding the Wall?”

“There is no Wall anymore.”

Damin relayed what happened in Harrisholt. Lisana gasped, and the demons growled. “The Council will pay for this,” Kelrick growled.

“Liath will pay for this,” Thalia corrected. “And the Chancellor too.”

Sin’s hand wrapped around the pommel of his sword, seeking solace in the constant of the steel. “And Harrison? What about Harrison?”

“I don’t know. I rode away before the battle was completed. I was under orders.”

Orrin nodded. “We understand. No one faults you for doing what is right.”

“Thank you… erm…”

“Orrin. This is my fiance, Julia, and our valet, Grey.”

Grey rolled his eyes. “I didn’t ask for this.”

Damin sighed, and gave his horse some water. “I see. I’m surprised that I found you so soon. In fact, I expected you to be much further down the trail.”

“We experienced some difficulty in Hollyvale,” Anjaru said simply. “We needed a few days to recover.”

Damin opened his mouth to ask for an explanation, but Kelrick shook his head. “It was nothing we couldn’t handle. So… will you be traveling with us now?”

Damin and Chifumi both nodded. “I was instructed to go with you to the Capitol,” Damin said simply. “If any trouble arises, we’ll deal with it.”

Lisana’s brow was furrowed. “I don’t understand why Harrison sent you out here. See, the Chancellor probably ordered that attack to deal with Harrison. Why should we matter?”

Sin remembered Harrison mentioning that Lisana had been fated since birth to be instrumental in the struggle to equalize the stances of humans and demons, but the young man forced this thought down. There’s no way anyone outside of Harrisholt knew about that.

“Derrian wondered the same thing,” Damin was saying. “He wanted to ride off after me, but I left him in charge of the villagers. It’s a trying time for us all.”

***

The group continued on until nightfall, when they made camp in a clearing just off the road. As they sat around the fire, Lisana spoke up. “I’m going to need a wand.”

Anjaru nodded his assent. “A sorcerer requires a wand to perform any tasks more complex than calling fire or throwing up a basic ward. You should think carefully about how you make it, for it will become something of a signature for you. A sorcerer can only change their wands if the previous one has been destroyed. This wand will be with you a long time.”

Kelrick prodded the fire. “The type of wood you choose will affect its performance. A yew is best all around, while an oak wand is best suited for defensive spells. Ash and birch are both well suited for major workings. Maple is very versatile.”

Thalia sharpened her nails with a file. “It’s not the wand that makes the sorcerer, Kelrick. The sorcerer makes the wand. Lisana, in the end, how your wand performs is solely up to you.”

Chifumi tugged at Sin’s tunic. “I don’t get this.”

“Me either, Fuzzball.”

***

The next morning, Lisana rose early, waking everyone else with her. She wandered around the clearing, looking for a proper tree. Her companions were breaking the camp down around her.

When they were ready to go, Damin summoned her over. “It’s all right if you don’t find one here. We can look on the road.”

Lisana shrugged, but then her face lit up. “Oh! I remember I spell Harrison taught me! One I can do without a wand! It’s called Knowing! I’ll cast it, and instinctively Know which tree is best to become my wand!”

Anjaru scowled. “I'm familiar with that spell. It's used to gain a general knowledge of the contents of a magical text. I do not think the skill translates...”

But Lisana began chanting softly, calling upon the powers of Human Magic. A glow began to surround her hands, which she held open to the sky. After a full minute of chanting, she clapped her hands once, and opened her eyes.

“I can feel it…” She ran off into the Forest. Kelrick dashed after her. “Lisana!”

Sin followed the fire demon. “Lisana! Come back! It’s not safe!”

Anjaru shrugged and turned back to his pack. "Or perhaps I am wrong."

The two pursued the sorcereress for a good distance into the trees, before finally coming to a gap in the trees. The shriveled husk of a yew tree stood in the center of the gap, and it looked as if it had been struck by lightning. Lisana grabbed one of the spars, and with a small grunt of effort, broke it off.

“This will become my wand.”

Kelrick shook his head. “I’ve never heard of a wand carved from dead wood before.”

Sin glanced up at the Hellhound. “But… it’s going to die anyway. It was separated from the tree.”

“I know, but every wand must be carved from living wood. There must be some mistake.”

Lisana scowled. “There’s no mistake. This will become my wand.” The vehemence in her voice made Kelrick step back. Lisana held out her left hand. “Sin, I’ll need your knife. The silver one. This needs to be carved. If I use iron, it might taint the magic I’ll cast in the future.”

Sin grudgingly held out his knife, holding the tip of the blade in his fingers so that Lisana didn’t prick herself on it. The sorceress swiped it from his grasp, and thrust it through her belt. “I’ll have this back to you as soon as I’m done.”

She led them back through the Forest, which was slowly coming alive with the sounds of birds and small animals. Lisana’s skirts fluttered in the breeze, and Kelrick rolled his eyes.

“She’s doing that on purpose. It’s a minor spell that sorcerers use to make themselves look important. Look at her, she hasn’t even carved her wand yet and she fancies herself as something out of the storybooks.”

Sin chuckled, but sobered when Lisana whirled to glare at them. They emerged from the trees to find their companions waiting in the clearing they had camped. The horses were saddled and packs were in order.

Lisana brandished the length of dead yew over her head. “Got it!” she proclaimed. Then, she swung up onto Dusty’s broad back and sat sidesaddle, her legs dangling over the edge of the bay draft horse’s barrel-like chest. She whipped out Sin’s knife and began whittling the wand down. “Well? What are you all waiting for? Let’s go.”

Chifumi clambered up to sit on Sin’s shoulder. “Human girls are kinda weird, huh?”

“You have no idea, Fuzzball.”

***

Sin talked with Damin for the day’s journey. “Anjaru has been drilling you on your sword forms, correct?”

Sin nodded. “He and Kelrick both. They use different styles all the time, so I have to learn to adjust.”

“And your bow work?” Damin asked. “You were showing improvement back before you left Harrisholt.”

Sin glanced at the tube of oiled velum on Dusty’s saddle. “I haven’t needed it yet, and I haven’t worked with it because I don’t want to lose any arrows.”

Damin sighed. “I see. Well, perhaps tonight you should string it up, and shoot a round. I’d hate to see you get rusty. You haven’t shot in about two weeks, and that could mean the difference between hunger and satisfaction. Or life and death.”

Sin gasped. “You don’t think… I’ll have to shoot a person?!”

“Or a demon if it comes down to it. All of your arrows have iron tips, you know.”

“Damin! Why? Feral demons tend to avoid the Forest Road!”

“Well, Sin. We never thought Harrisholt would be attacked, now either. Times are rapidly changing, as they tend to do.”

The young man sighed. “I just wish it didn’t have to happen in my time.”

“So do I, and so do all who live in such times. But we have no power over that. The only thing we can do is decide what to do with the time given to us.”

Sin fell quiet then, and started a rather childish game. He tried to match Anjaru’s walking gait, that strange set of his shoulders, and the arrogant tilt of his sharp chin. And not getting caught doing it. When he tired of mimicking Anjaru, he copied Kelrick, and then Orrin, and finally Julia, who was rather hard to copy, because a woman’s walk is very different form a man’s. Sin quickly got sick of trying, and switched to copying Grey. The young man’s walk was constantly shifting, making Sin’s task rather challenging. Was he playing the same game? Was Grey trying to copy him?

Finally, from Dusty’s back, Lisana crowed with delight. “I did it!”

She held the strip of dead yew aloft, and Sin saw that she had skinned it down to perfect smoothness, and used a knot in the wood to shape a handle. A slight curling grain was carved delicately into it, making it seem to spiral.

“Impressive,” Orrin said slowly.

Kelrick scowled. “Well… does it work?”

“Let’s find out, shall we? Fire!”

Even Sin knew that calling Fire was a very simple spell, the first one taught to young sorcerers, and could be performed without the use of a wand. Lisana was probably just showing off, and hoping that at least someone here would be impressed by the slightly more advanced fire spell. Chifumi, probably.

Her wand erupted with a whoosh, sending a giant plume of white fire high into the air. Dusty, normally placid, reared up and screamed. Lisana was riding without any straps on the saddle, and was thrown from the draft horse’s back. Orrin and Grey rushed forward to catch her.

Fire continued to sprout from her wand tip, shooting high above the treetops in a white column. Kelrick snarled, and curled his fingers into claws. Fire crackled in the air around him, a dark blood red flecked with yellow.

“No!” Orrin cried, trying to stabilize Lisana. “This is human magic! Who knows what kind of consequences there could be if you attack it directly?”

Thalia’s fingernails sharpened as icicles formed around them. The air grew chilly, and ice crystals formed on Sin’s face. “Well. We must do something, or the entire forest will burn.”

Damin shook his head. “No! Orrin’s right! It’s the wand that’s doing this!” He raced forward.

“Damin, wait!” Anjaru cried. “You know nothing of magic! What if you just make it worse?”

Julia threw out an arm, cutting the air demon off. “I think Muscle Man here can take care of things.”

Damin plucked the wand from Lisana’s grasp and hurled it some distance down the trail. The fire stopped blossoming from the tip as soon as it left Lisana’s hand, and after it bounced off the ground several times, the fireball that had formed in the sky began to plummet down to earth. Chifumi screamed in fear.

“You fool!” Anjaru cried. “You’ve doomed us all! Something like this could kill even Kelrick!”

Sin’s hand moved to one of the amulet bracelets on his left arm. For defensive purposes, Harrison had told him, and only in emergencies. Well, if this didn’t constitute an emergency, he wasn’t sure what did. He ripped the first one from his arm, and crushed it under his heel, as Harrison had taught him. The clay beads and dried bone fragments broke easily, and a whisp of green smoke filtered up from under his shoe.

Sin felt a little guilty defending himself, and not the others. As he reached for the other bracelets to toss to his companions, a translucent green bubble surrounded the entire group. The white fireball crashed down on the force field, and hissed as if it struck water.

It detonated with a loud boom, setting the Forest ablaze for a mile radius. The green shield dissipated into vapor, and a wave of hot air made Sin reel.

“Lisana!” Orrin gasped. “I thought Mage Shield was an advanced spell! How could you have mastered it, and without a wand?”

“It wasn’t me!” Lisana protested.

“It was me,” Sin supplied, and at his companions’ puzzled looks, he clarified. “I used one of the amulets Harrison gave me.”

Thalia nodded. “All right. Two sorcerers to deal with? No thank you. Now… to do something about this inferno…” She started to form an orb of water in her hands. While her title was the Ice Maiden, her affinity also extended to water as well, but to a lesser degree. In all of his memory, Sin could only remember Thalia using the skill a few times. Kelrick liked to joke it was Thalia's feline affinity that made her hate water so.

“No, let me handle this!” Lisana cried. She ran to her wand, and began tracing patterns in the air.

“It was you who got us into the mess!” Julia shouted. She threw Grey in front of her. “Valet! Protect me from the fire!” Grey squirmed and tried to escape, but Julia had a grip like a vise.

Lisa finished her spell with a flourish, her wand trailing silver sparks. She thrust is skyward. “Downpour!”

A beam of blue light shot from the yew branch’s tip. It scattered into hundreds of little stars when it was a mile high, and clouds seemed to be drawn to it. A heavy rain began pelting down, dousing the fires.

“How did you know how to do that, Mistress Lisana?” Anjaru asked.

“I kind of borrowed Harrison’s spell books.”

Grey finally broke free, and laughed nervously. “I don’t know what Kelrick was talking about earlier about how a dead tree wouldn’t work. That’s one hell of a wand!”

***

The Chancellor slammed his fist down on the edge of his obsidian table, scattering the water in his scrying bowl. “Damn it all!”

A dark haired woman behind him moved closer and began to massage his shoulders. “What is it this time? Have the Royalists got you all worked up in a fuss? Can’t you just pretend it never happened?”

“No!” the Chancellor snapped. “And get your hands off me! I can’t explain this away! Everyone in Castle Town saw that fire! It’s that damn little sorceress from Harrisholt. She must have escaped the raid, and she has her demons with her.”

“Surely she is no threat to someone as great and powerful as my lord and master?”

“No, of course not. Not yet, anyway. She’s raw, untrained.” The Chancellor pushed hair out of his eyes. “But should she be trained… she would be a threat to my rule. And there must be a connection to Artos somehow.”

The dark haired woman hissed, and her tongue flickered out through her lips. “Artos! But I killed him!”

“And yet his three most powerful allies are at this girl’s side! And she even has that stubborn earth demon! If she has no formal training, how can four of the most powerful demons alive be with her? Unless they Bound themselves to her willingly, there’s no explanation.”

“I’ll kill them all,” the woman hissed. She moved for the door to the chamber.

“No. Talreya, I said no!” The Chancellor sat back in his chair, a large, imposing throne of obsidian and silver. “Fetch me Dunyi and Jaedayan. They can deal with this problem quickly and, more importantly, quietly. And inform the King and the Council that… that… hmm. Certainly not that an untrained little girl that seems to know a powerful spell or two is on her way to the Capitol. What should I inform them of?”

“Perhaps I should inform them that a powerful rogue sorcerer is headed for Castle Town even as we speak? To claim His Majesty’s head for the Royalists?” The woman chuckled, and stroked the tattoo of a snake that ran the length of her body.

“Why yes! Talreya, be a dear and tell the Council that. And call a meeting. I believe it is time for me to be granted emergency powers, seeing as His Majesty is ill again, and in no shape to deal with this threat.”

Talreya bowed low, her long, silky hair grazing the floor of the chamber. “As my lord and master commands.” She left the room.

The Chancellor sank back in his chair and smiled for a moment. Then, he rose to inspect the curse he had lain on the king, the curse that made him frail and sickly, the very curse that made His Majesty, King Gustav Demonsbane trust the Chancellor implicitly.

But soon… this curse would no longer be necessary, for soon, King Gustav and his waning authority would cease to be a thorn in the Chancellor’s side.

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Firebrand

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Re: Sin - By Firebrand, Chapter 7, Fantasy

Post  Vagrance on Sat Mar 31, 2012 5:24 pm

Characters:

Lisana: finally, something that defines her; a hint of vanity and an "adventurous" take to her trades
Grey: a stand-out for me; action and speech fits with background well
Julia: her stance towards Grey was very interesting
Orrin: the somewhat "altruistic" demon; well executed
Chancellor: plotting more evil; feels like he's the one that's pushing the story along

Writing:

“Oh! I remember I spell Harrison taught me! One I can do without a wand! It’s called Knowing! I’ll cast it, and instinctively Know which tree is best to become my wand!”
I think you meant "I remember a spell Harrison taught me!"

Apart from that, it's all good.

Style:
The dialogue from the Chancellor was a standout for me. Apart from that, I found the description for magic interesting.

Plot:
Good to see that you have come back to the main plot after a slight detour on the previous chapter.

Overall:
Descriptive, sometimes humorous and informative.

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