Before "Cat litter" (re-loaded), an old fanfic in a new coat

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by AzureAngel2, Sep 8, 2012.

Moderators: Briannakin, mavjade
  1. AzureAngel2 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 14, 2005
    star 6
    "As you might have already noticed from clicking on your stories, they've been cut off at a word limit. DON'T PANIC. There have been some coding issues, but they WILL be restored. Please let any of the mod team know if you have any questions."


    Actually I have many questions. I hate to see my old thread in total chaos with links not working & fanart not showing as it should, I decided to re-post my fanfic "Cat litter" again and set things right.

    http://boards.theforce.net/threads/...ksiders-33rd-update-19th-march-2012.31886873/


    And here is the link to my "Wolf whelp" fanfic:

    http://boards.theforce.net/threads/...ment-co-author-fanart-23rd-jan-2012.31414474/


    Perhaps I am too impatient about the fixing, but I have two teaching jobs at present & I am forced to take on a third one. So I want to use the little spare time for my hobbies wisely.


    [IMG]


    Title: "Cat litter", an attempt to tell early Jedi and Sith history
    Author: AzureAngel2, still loving to teach her mother language in a country far, far away. Even though this is not that easy most of the time.
    Editor: wonderful SWpants666, a genius of a beta, hard working& wise

    Muse: DarthUncle, husband, secretary, editor and wonderful cook.
    Time frame: The framework of the story takes place during the fall of Jacen Solo to the Dark Side of the Force, but the story itself is played out long before even the Old Republic existed.
    Summary: Jacen Skywalker, alias Darth Caedus, has fastened his cousin Ben Skywalker to the Embrace of Pain, an evil device of the Yuuzhan Vong for prisoner restraint. While screaming himself hoarse with agony, an unknown Force ghost visits Ben. The beautiful young woman shrouds herself not only in mystery, but in wise words and honest pleas that do not help him to cope with the situation that he is in. She even tells him her entire life story.
    Disclaimer: SW is owned by George Lucas and Lucas Lt. !!!
    Notes: The number three is magical in the SW universe. The original trilogy has three movies and so does the prequel. Han and Leia have three children: Jaina, Jacen and Anakin.

    My latest story is about Princess Grianán, a powerful Force bender from the Tjiehenet family. The reader already came across her in “Serpent-Spawn” and “Wolf Whelp”. She will face Luçien, her opponent, in many different ways.

    This time, I asked myself what the Dark Side of the Force does to the family members of a fallen person, to the lover that he has and to the possible children that exist between them.

    Love and patience are the answer to that darkness, I think.

    Once more, wookiepedia articles helped with research and inspiration. Thanks for all the hard work by all the different authors who enrich the internet with their knowledge.



    Prologue:

    Life, and family matters in particular, never had been easy for Ben Skywalker. Both of his parents had been living legends: Mara Jade and Luke Skywalker. Together they had fought in countless battles against severe enemies of the New Republic.

    Ben had been born during the terrible Yuuzhan Vong War, which meant that his own parents had not always been able to be there for him often. From the day that he was born there had been plenty of instability, travelling, frustration and hardship. His mother and his father had been like distance stars, which he could admire in all their shining beauty from a distance.

    It had been much easier for him to be with his aunt Princess Leia Organa and his uncle Han Solo. Or to form other emotional attachments, like the one with Zonama Sekot, a living planet.

    But actually, his strongest and deepest bond was that with his cousin, the famous Jacen Solo. He had been the apprentice of his elder family member. Due to him he had grown to be more open and trusting of the Force. Loyal and obedient, he had fought at his master´s side ever since that blasted civil war had broken out between the Galactic Alliance and Corellia. There had been so many dangers they had faced together since.

    A covert mission to Adumar.

    Operation Roundabout.

    The attack on Toryaz Station.

    That incident with Ordith Huarr.

    Their adventured at a former mining station, including meeting a sith lord calling himself Darth Vectivus.

    And then the most unthinkable had happened. His mother been stabbed by a poisoned dart. The killer was still on the loose.

    But the drama had not ended there. The Dark Side of the Force was cruel and vicious.

    Jacen was actually Darth Caedus and had tricked him into threatening Kashyyyk, the home world of the Wookies.

    The person he had trusted with his life and his health and his soul had attacked him with a bolt of Force lightening.

    Now Ben Skywalker was attached to the infamous Embrace of Pain, a rack-like Yuuzhan Vong device. While held in check by ghastly tentacles, the pain receptors in his brain were constantly manipulated. With increasing amplitudes unbelievable shock waves were sent through his body. All was drowned in a red haze.

    Yet dark thoughts nested inside his soul. The things that he would do to seek revenge from Jacen, once he was free again.

    While he screamed his lungs out, a blue figure appeared next to him. It was a woman, as gently built as his aunt Leia. She held herself with the same royal air. Her lovely face was framed by blond curls. She seemed very distressed.

    “Ben,” she pleaded with tears in her grey eyes, “you must resist! The more you struggle to escape this trial, the more pain you will be in. Relax! See it as a form of mediation, like the Vong did.”

    He could not laugh at her, because he was too busily engaged in yelling and suffering. Meditation was a different matter altogether. This was pure torture to break him.

    “Please listen to me, Ben! You are better than this! Do not listen to Jacen, but to your own heart. There is no pain, only the Force.”

    Whoever this woman was, she had no idea what real physical pain was. It was easy coming back as a Force ghost and holding serene lectures. Right here and right now it was his body being tortured by his evil cousin.

    Ben Skywalker stubbornly turned his head away from the apparition, not listening to her any longer.

    She was unnervingly persisted though. Her voice still sounded through his throbbing head.

    “Listen. Don't listen to ME, listen!”

    And then, simple as that, she told me the story of her life.


    [IMG]




    Chapter 1: Serenity

    I was born dead. It was a matter of the heart. Actually it was broken before it all began.

    A serpent-spawn of the Ophidea has three heart chambers. The walls between the ventricle are incomplete, so there is some mixing of oxygenated and de-oxygenated blood. It is a process that is minimised by the timing of the contractions. Normally the Force helps to overcome the obstacles of the human blood line. In my case it did not. My spirit remained in the Force vortex, a place of great beauty and peace. Glittering mist was everywhere. Time and space had no meaning. Serenity reigned. I wanted to stay there forever.

    But my mother, god queen Arcana Tamisra Tjiehenet, had decided differently for me. Dark Side energies crackled over and through my body.

    Against my own will, the muscles of my heart started working again, my Midi-chlorians were forced into action.

    I, my mother´s seventh daughter, was reborn into darkness, blood, dirt and chaos. It was wrong. I belonged to the light. Going back would spare me a lot of sorrow. To live again was like an embrace of pain.

    In her blind rage, Mother was taking the underground cave apart, bit by bit. Her powers controlled her and not the other way around.

    In the first moments of my young life I understood a basic principle: ´Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering.´

    Instead of clinging on to the pain that I felt, I let go of it, accepting it for what it was.

    My siblings raised their voices in terror. Stalactites rained down on all of us and the lake. Compassion filled me. My brothers and sisters could not help being frightened, but I could. The serenity of the Force vortex was still inside me. It was a place where everything was possible. Where the heart was the compass of the soul.

    A shimmering stasis field of Force energy settled down above our bodies.

    Somebody reached out for me. Her aura was familiar. I recognised Marquise Isabeau Riwalan, the royal nanny. Her heartbeat told me the stories of her home planet Sapuhru. About the constant struggle for life in the dune sea. There was much that I could learn from her about survival. I just had to cling on to her.

    The calmer I became, the more my light shield intensified.

    I snuggled closer to Isabeau´s chest, relishing in all the things she was able to offer me without even knowing it. Her acquaintance would be very valuable. In comparison to my own mother, she was untainted by the dark side. She was very much receptive to it, but it did not affect her. Generally speaking she had her own agenda: the protection of the royal serpent-spawn.

    To hold up the Force barrier that long was difficult on my own. As draining as it was however, saving lives felt good. There was also serenity in that. I could die another day. The Force vortex would wait for me patiently.

    *******************************************************************

    When Mother finally came to her senses, she carried both Isabeau and me out of the remains of the Fons Vitae. I was received by a group of snake priestesses immediately. Each of them had to touch me and breathe a kiss against my brow. Blessings were murmured. I was regarded as a miracle of the Force. Not only had I returned from the Netherworld of the Force, but I had shown extraordinary skills insofar.

    I did not feel so special. In the end I was just a small baby, very tired and dirty. I longed to sleep for a while.

    Isabeau got separated from me and was put on a stretcher. I had not much time to look after her because there was a little girl seeking my attention. She poked her way through the lines of grown-ups with determined elbows. Everybody looked down at her in amusement rather than to scold her for her rude manners. She was about the same age as my elder siblings. Her dirty blond hair was braided. There were many scars on her naked chest, but she still had the sweetest face imaginable. Her eyes had a dark green shade. So dark that they almost seemed black.

    ”Mi chiamo Aranea Verbera Djed. É un piacere conoscerti!” she said to me, when one of the priestesses lowered me down to her. My name is Aranea Verbera Djed. Nice to meet you!

    I liked to hear the native language of my mother, promising myself to learn it as much as Basic and all the other languages that were spoken aloud on the Holy Isle. To be a telepath held the danger of boredom. I would enjoy it more if I could I use my mouth and ears for communication.

    Aranea had not finished her little speech yet. ”You saved my grandmother. Not that she deserved it, but I am glad that you have given Darksiders a change.”

    “Darksiders?” Mother wondered, eyeing Aranea suspiciously. “What exactly is a Darksider for you?”

    I had the feeling it was wrong to answer that question, but the girl explained unconcerned: “Folk like You, big queen.”

    “Like me?” Mother asked. Somehow her voice trembled. It was like an echo of the stone avalanche inside the underground caves.

    Aranea nodded eagerly. “Darksiders use the Force to make everybody miserable.”

    Mother’s eyes turned into slits. “What do you mean by miserable?”

    Aranea also could answer that. “I do not buy that crap about the glory of the dark side. It only makes me cry when grandmother acts like a crazy person. You grown-ups can be so full of it that you forget a lot.”

    “Such as?” inquired Mother with a creamy undertone.

    “That Force lightening can hurt a lot. Not only on the outside.” Aranea put a hand on her chest, right where her heart was. “Mostly in here.”

    Mother breathed in abruptly in before she shouted, “Noctura!”

    An elderly woman came forth, covered with dust and bleeding from a head wound. She was shaking with fear. ”Regina devina?”

    “You have a very determined granddaughter in Aranea here. I wish to see more of her in the future. She can be with my daughter Grianán any time she wants to. Even if it is in the middle of a tropical rain storm.”

    ”Ciao, mio bellissimo principessa! Torno subito!” For some reason Aranea lifted her thumb up and showed it to me with a big grin. Good-bye, my beautiful princess! I will be right back!

    Mother pointed at the snake priestess. “Agents will visit your household on a daily basis and report directly to me. Cosmetic operations will not be required. Aranea carries her scars with pride. They make her what she is: a strong and outright person. I like the girl. More than you do, it seems.”

    Noctura clenched her hands in tight fists.

    Mother´s voice hardened. Even stalactites and stalagmites were softer. “From now on you better give your utmost to make Aranea happy. It is your responsibility to be the parent that she lost.”

    The snake priestess just bowed to my mother, not able to give a verbal answer. It was better this way. Her thoughts were horrible.

    Mother moved on, frowning deeply. Her face was a mask of contempt. “I actually recall now how your daughter died. An overdose of Force Lightening. It will not happen to Aranea. Let me be very clear about it.”

    I beamed with pride. There was definitely good in my mother. She had empathy for other beings. Her redemption was possible.

    Mother addressed the snake priestess that was currently holding me. “Clementia, I am needed at the crash site. Please carry Grianán to my bedchamber. She should have some rest. It was an exciting day for her.”

    ********************************************************************

    The jungle was sticky with heat and moist air, colliding like the light side of the Force and the dark side of the Force. One fine sun day I would play in its thick undergrowth and green shades. There would be much to learn and to see. I would allow it to surround me and to penetrate me.

    A soft rain started to conquer the landscape around us. It tickled nicely on my naked skin. I liked the way the world started to smell, so fresh and intense. But then a weird stench rose, annoying me.

    “Non ti preoccupare !” Clementia took a sudden detour with me. “Do not worry! Seems that you are in need of a nappy, principessa. And I should change into another sari. My house is nearby.”

    We entered a small bungalow. It was nice and homely in there. Love and laughter seemed to echo back to me from each corner.

    ”Benvenuta! Ti piace?” Clementia beamed. Welcome! Do you like it?

    I could feel a presence reaching out for me playfully. Its touch was comparable to the tickle of rain that I had experienced earlier on. Curiously I looked around.

    Clementia laughed. “Oh that is Mora, my only child. She was born last sun week. This is why I always have a lot of nappies in my house.”

    The snake priestess stepped towards a large hammock. I just could see an arm hanging out of it, covered with deep wrinkles. That could not be Mora.

    “My aunt Viola is not a very alert babysitter, but Mora is not very demanding. They get on well. It is also the only arrangement possible for me. Most of my family died in service for your family, principessa.”

    It made me sad hear that, but Clementia did not seem utterly occupied with that matter. She was a balanced and cheerful woman, doing funny gestures with her hands while she talked. There seemed to be a pattern in it. Her fingers radiated power.

    “Death and life belong together, principessa. One cannot exist without the other. It keeps the universe in balance. It is left to each of us though to keep ourselves balanced. That is the blessing and the curse of a free will.”

    My Midi-chlorians whispered to me that Clementia could be an additional teacher to Isabeau, the royal nanny. She could teach me to be self-contained and help me harness the ability to endure any kind of pain. Those hand gestures that she did were the key to regenerate my bond to the Unifying Force. That was a welcome prospect.

    After I was provided with a cotton nappy and Clementia had changed her own outfit, she allowed me to take a closer peek into the hammock. Clenched to the chest of the sleeping crone was a baby. She was fully awake and gazed at me with lime green eyes. An adventurous sparkle lay in those eyes.

    “Mora, meet Principessa Grianán.”

    Finding friends seemed to be easy in the jungle. I wondered what else life around here had to offer. There seemed to be so much to explore and to do. To pass over the Force vortex for all this richness proved to be a wonderful exchange.

    ********************************************************************

    The royal bedchamber lay high on top of a great pyramid. Delicate and graceful flowers framed the countless stone steps that Ischáh had to climb. It was a stairway to heaven. My entire skin prickled. This was a place of power, cleverly linked to the Unifying Force; a bridge between heaven and earth.

    “These flowers are called orchids, principessa,” Clementia explained to me. “They represent the love between Ischáh and her children of the Force. In addition, they stand for luxury, beauty and strength.”

    I smiled my toothless smile.

    “It is better to offer the goddess honey and flowers instead of human skulls. In the old times I would have been forced to walk through a sea of dried blood. Be glad that you are born into an age of Enlightenment and peace.”

    I was with all my heart.

    Mother´s bed was positioned where the four elements met with the four cardinal points. It was a large hammock in which my fellow serpent-spawn already lay. I could feel them all in there. It was comforting when they reached out for me telepathically. They recognised me as kin. We had communicated that wordlessly before in mother´s womb.

    Somebody else was waiting for me, too.

    My mouth watered as Clementia passed me to a naked chest.

    ”Ciao, bella!” Mother spoke aloud to me instead of using telepathy. She knew how much I enjoyed the vibration of her chest. How excited I was about sounds. Hello, beauty!

    Greedily I found the source of her milk. I relished every gulp that I took.

    Mother addressed the snake priestess with great kindness. “I can see Grianán is wearing a nappy, Clementia. How good of you to arrange that. I reckon you have children of your own.”

    Si! Just one daughter. Mora is her name.”

    I felt Mother walking around with me, rocking me in her arms. “With Isabeau gone for a while, I need a trustworthy and lovable person around. I wonder if you could be that person to the second serpent-spawn. The older ones can take care of themselves.”

    “Certainly, regina devina!” exclaimed the other woman with joy. It was very infectious.

    I felt Mother smile. It lit up her entire body. A corona of love formed around her head. “Clementia, you can also bring your daughter Mora around. It will do her good to have the company of other children at her age. An Ophidea child should not grow up on her own.”

    The snake priestess´ heart jumped excitedly. The greatest dream she had for her daughter came true. A companion, somebody as close as a real sibling. She kissed the feet of Mother with gratitude and shrieking sounds of glee.

    The prospect to see one of my new friends so soon was very promising. I could not wait for that. Life seemed to have much in stock for me. Things the Force vortex seemed not to offer.

    ********************************************************************

    Later on, a group of children enthusiastically stormed in. I had felt them in the Force before, waiting for my birth. They were my elder siblings: Adamah, Èleos, Caelestris, Sereno, Aréte and Phosphoros. Their shiny, happy faces filled my blurry view.

    I got patted and stroked by many hands.

    There was enough love and compassion in this family left to work with. We were not lost yet.

    In the late evening hours, our father Agathos Aletheia joined us. “Grianán, hárika!” he spoke to me in the language of Amnion. Grianán, pleased to meet you!

    It felt good to be kissed by his bearded face. There was so much kindness in him. His light balanced the darkness of my mother. Due to him, she was whole. He was her conscience, her measurement.

    I buried my face against his throat.

    It seemed possible to keep the dark side in check, that there was a middle way between passion and serenity. There was enough love and compassion in this family left to work with. We were not lost yet. I would do what I could to make sure it stayed this way.

    [IMG]

    (To be continued!)
    Last edited by AzureAngel2, Mar 9, 2013
  2. Lady_Misty Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 21, 2007
    star 4
    Ah, very sweet!
    AzureAngel2 likes this.
  3. AzureAngel2 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 14, 2005
    star 6
    I know that you know the story until Chapter 22 already, dear Misty, but this way I really have working picture links and also no large chunks of text missing. The boards have been down that long that only my genius editor SWpants666 and I might remember it.

    Here is more:


    *******************************************************************

    Within one sun week I met my own dark mirror. He sneaked in with the twilight of dusk. For the second time in my life, I was exposed to an embrace of pain, but I stayed fully conscious. Only my siblings and the Shesha guards blacked out completely.

    When I made an unhappy sound, the stranger moved closer. “Comment?” he said with a deep voice – that was muffled by a cotton veil. How is that possible?

    He lift me up to the level of his mesmerizing eyes. They were the brightest blue imaginable, shaped like Isabeau´s. In the low light around us the pupils were open as wide as possible. It was more than obvious that he had feline blood, too.

    “Tu as des beaux yeux, ” he started muttering in his mother tongue, absolutely puzzled.You have beautiful eyes.

    It was my salvation that he did not know what to make of me. I stared back, diving deep into his soul. It was a startling place, so deep and hollow. I knew the pain before the wound. Mother was only sick from the dark side. This man here almost incorporated it... and yet there was a conflict. It devoured him from the inside-out.

    I had pity for my would-be assassin. He took refuge in the wrong things. Dusty scrolls with laws on them were no substitute for the things that he was lacking. He was so busy creating a perfect utopia that he missed the real treasures of life; most of them were even around him. Family, friends and other loved ones.

    “Damn you, Sionnach O'Conghaile - “ he muttered under his breath in Basic. “I cannot kill a baby. How could you possibly have known that I would fail?”

    Love was the answer. I had so much of it at my disposal that I did not mind sharing. Life was about making sacrifices. Along with a tiny piece of my soul, I placed a bright, burning promise inside him. He was stunned, at first.

    “What have you done, you miserable beast?” he pressed out. “How dare you! What evil magic is that?”

    Calmly, I looked up to him. There was nothing evil in my deed. I had only taken refuge in the oldest magic in the entire universe. The very one that held the treads of creation together and made life possible. I had done him a favour and no harm. My light shone in his chest like a beacon of hope now.

    My happy gurgle made him flee the scene, but I knew he would return. We belonged to one another like day and night. From now on, his soul would crave for its counterpart. And I had to live with a strain of his darkness, but I could manage that.






    Chapter 2: For the love of a princess

    Around midnight, when the moon stood high above the evergreen roof of the jungle, Mother entered her bed chamber. She stood there gaping at the scene she beheld. Apart from me, everybody else was still paralysed. Her emerald eyes glowed in the darkness. No trace of yellow rage was in them.

    “Nobody should have such a large responsibility at your young age, bella.” She picked me up with shaky hands. “I will get Isabeau back with us. She will keep that murderous step-brother of hers at bay.”

    I blinked at her, not comprehending. The Force vortex gave me a wisdom beyond my young age, but there was still much for me to learn.

    “Luçien is one of the bastard sons of the Skywalker,” she explained to me hastily. “Only he could be so bold.”

    Luçien. In the language of my mother it meant ´light´ or ´being born at daybreak´. I asked myself why he dressed himself in dark, rich colours and served the dark side of the Force. He turned a blind eye to his own infection.

    Through telepathy Mother sent out emergency calls to the temple below. Soon the place would be swarming with priestesses of Ischáh, helping my siblings and the female palace guards.

    “Thanks for your bravery, bella.” Kisses showered down on me. “I owe you again. Without you, everybody in this room would be dead. How can Luçien call himself a father and threaten your lives like this? Will he ever learn? He cannot be twenty-two. He is still the sulking boy of fifteen who would not want to talk to me, when...”

    The upcoming rage in Mother was calmed by my movements in her arms. Luckily she did not know how exactly I had saved everybody. The soul bond that I had forged with her arch enemy would not find her approval. I would be able to take as much time as I needed to grow up with my burden.

    “It is too bad that Sionnach is the mother of his children. That forces me to leave them alive instead of having my revenge. They are also family, you know. She is your cousin.”

    It was nice to know that we had such a big family out there. But it puzzled me that Luçien was part of it. Members of a clan should love each other instead of trying to kill one another. I actually liked him despite his actions tonight.

    “Tomorrow, you will meet your grandmother Techné and your uncle Kairos. They are quite a nuisance. Your elder siblings are still saying good-night to them. It will take them a while to break free from their grasp.”

    So this was the reason for her prolonged absence. She had been hosting Father´s relatives from Amnion. I was eager to meet more of my family.

    ********************************************************************

    Grandmother Techné Aletheia was loveable no matter what the rest of my siblings thought of her. Underneath her stern surface there was a woman who had suffered a great loss. Since the death of Grandfather Xenophobes her only comfort was her religion, which clashed with my culture.

    I had to agree with everybody about Uncle Kairos though. He was a superficial man who had no love in his heart for us. We were dirty reptiles to him, tainted by Mother´s blood line. Bravely, my elder siblings, we held our tongues. Father would not take it very well if anybody would tell him about his brother´s involvement with the Human League.

    As far as I understood the matter, this league was a group of fanatic men who hated all who were different: Force sensitives, Elves, Lidérc and, on top of all, Ophidea.

    Nanny Isabeau had spent some time away from court, irritated with Mother for various reasons. Being forced to drink a mug of hot chocolate with chilli pepper had been one of them. Grown-ups could get upset for such small reasons. Cacao beans were a holy blessing for my people. They simplified the communication with our Midi-chlorians.

    All in all, Nanny´s return made me whole again. She carried the serenity of the desert with her. With all the information and impressions raining down on me since I had been re-born, I needed her calmness very much.

    [IMG]

    “Are you sure you did the right thing?” she asked Mother who was feeding my sister Daná nearby.

    It was a lazy afternoon for all of us. There was not much to do or to see. My other twin siblings were dozing in the bed nest and my older siblings were engaged in some games.

    After a while, Isabeau repeated her question with more urgency in her voice. Every feline creature hates indifference. She would get herself into a state of aggravation until she had the full attention of Mother. “Are you sure you did the right thing?”

    “You were never a mother and never will be. So there is no way that I can make you understand.”

    Isabeau, who had us both bathed in sunlight, turned towards Mother. “You are obsessed with the ones that you love. You should not abuse your powers that way.”

    I liked Nanny even more for the bravery with which she faced Mother. Fascinated, I followed their discussion.

    “On this I will not be lectured by you!”

    “I am asking you to be rational, Arcana!”

    “You spent too much time with my father. Being rational, that is something that I know I cannot do! The day my sister died on me, I swore to myself that I will learn to stop people from dying.”

    Isabeau spoke out an essential truth. “Train yourself to let go... of everything you fear to lose.”

    “Even if I need to spend a lifetime seeking power over death, I will go this path. In umbris potestas est. In the shadows, there is power. Therefore: do not lecture me on how to lead my life and how to raise my children!”

    Daná had reached her personal limit of noise and began crying, helping Nanny’s argument. “I am afraid that you have to listen to any and all subjects that regard the serpent-spawn.”

    It was not a novelty for my mother to get treated this way. She was sulking like a little girl. “You have been here for less than one sun hour and you pick up a fight with me already.”

    I nudged my head against Isabeau´s chest while she spoke, but she was determined to share her thoughts with Mother. “This is one of the reasons why you wanted me back. The other reason is, you know you did f...”

    “I will not have bad language here, Isabeau! The children can hear you.”

    Nanny grimaced. “Okay you scr...”

    “Mind your words!” Mother raised her voice in warning.

    I heard Isabeau take a deep breath before having an outburst of righteousness. “You complicated things for Grianán here. That is too much power for anyone to carry. Not only can she get drunk from her own abilities, they could actually break her.”

    To my relief, Mother’s answer was smooth and calm. “Then you will take care to help her keep a clear head and open heart. I will do my best that she gets the best training for her Force abilities.”

    “Yeah, right! I saw that brilliant and unfailing training of yours with Solitaire. Actually I felt it more than I saw it,” Isabeau scoffed. “That Force choke she gave me made me speechless; otherwise I would have complimented her back then.”

    Then it happened. The shroud of the dark side fell over Mother when Nanny confronted her with her failure. But it did not fall unnoticed. The royal nanny was able to tell the nuances. Her feline instincts were unfailing. “Calm down. You are breast feeding a baby of yours!” she roared. “I do not want them to start sucking up your rage via your mother’s milk already.”

    Actually, that was already happening to Daná, but it could not be helped. We were responsible for our own feelings. My twin sister had a choice despite all.

    Suddenly Mother laughed, easing the tension and the threat that the dark side had posed to all of us. There was no Force lightening, no Force choke, nor any Force scream. In the end, she hadn’t used any Force rage at all. “That stay in the village of Sendero really did you good,” she chuckled.

    Isabeau grimaced. “You should also try the concept of vacations. Narthex told me about it. All citizens of Amnion have it on a regular basis, no matter their status.”

    When Nanny had finished talking to Mother, she kissed me affectionately.

    It seemed to me that Lidérc showed their love for somebody by being physically close to that person. Isabeau was constantly rubbing her head, body, or face against me. I could almost perceive that it was a way to mark me as her own with her scent. I wondered if I could ever get her step-brother Luçien to like me that way. Cat affection seemed to be a book with seven seals.

    My thoughts were interrupted when Mother stated frostily, “I am a god queen. There is no such thing as having a vacation.”

    I felt Isabeau shrug her shoulders. “It might relax you and help you to root yourself again.”

    ********************************************************************

    Isabeau vented her irritation as we went down to the bungalow. She knew a lot of swear words, but her anger was non-threatening and did not intimidate my siblings and me. Like any desert organism, Isabeau was rough on the outside only. We loved her for that.

    “There you are, my darling.” Father greeted Mother with a brief kiss - when we all arrived on his veranda. “We were slightly concerned that it took so long for you to arrive.”

    My older siblings - also born as septuplets - had developed their own strategies to make Father happy. Their tactics mostly consisted of answering him in unison, as long as the circumstance was appropriate. “Sorry, dad! We had to wait for some Shesha to take over the babies before Isa would join us.”

    “Marquise, what a pleasure and blessing it is to have you back in our midst. You were missed dearly,” Father let Nanny know. I could sense his anxiousness to make this family union as pleasant as possible for everybody, including Isabeau.

    “Is she there yet?” Grandmother Techné called out, driven by that same nervousness that Father held. “Are the children with her?”

    I wished that everybody would let go of fear and other negative feelings. It was difficult enough for me to control my empathic powers. My head started to hurt. They were using words like lashes, and even the non-telepaths among them had poisonous thoughts. My head started to hurt even more by trying to work around it all.

    The hostility of my current surroundings would not change, but at least I could alter my ways of perceiving sensations that prickled my brain. I closed my eyes and focused on listening to the heartbeat of Isabeau, forcing out everything else. At first it was difficult, but then the flow happened automatically, leading me to some of Isabeau’s deeper thoughts and feelings.

    Sapuhru differed from the Mother Jungle. Change was more subtle there; the circle of life and death was more rapid. The sand made everything equal. Even the strong individuals were humbled by it.

    The dune sea was beautiful to behold. No sand dune was similar. The constant breeze that made the tiny sand corns move had such a great impact. Time was meaningless here.

    I returned from my trance-like state when I heard one of my twin brothers being mentioned. Shortly after our birth, he had been cut off from us, the rest of the newborn sextuplets. Iocus, Blandita, Dána, Calathus and I could not even feel him in the Force any longer.

    “He should have been put straight into an incubator.” Grandmother was not pleased. “Then the accident with the snake would not have happened at all. The poor boy, poisoned so early in his life. How could you give birth in such a filthy, dangerous place, Arcānā?”

    Offended by the words against her charges, Isabeau rose with me in her arms. “Excuse me, Grianán needs a new nappy.”

    I got carried away from the battlefield with firm and determined footsteps. “Narthex, it is me, Isabeau!” she called out. “Can I enter your little kingdom?”

    Somewhere in the background Grandfather answered. “We are in Agathos´ bedchamber.”

    Isabeau caught my gaze and said to me, “Let us go see your brother Aconite, ma petite!”

    Aconite. My Midi-chlorians told me that there was something wrong with his name.

    ********************************************************************

    Grandfather´s despair was difficult to encounter. It enclosed around me like the mighty waves of his birth planet Amnion, swallowing me. He felt like a drowning man. I had no clue how to block his emotions out.

    “When I did not see you at the table, I was concerned.” Isabeau´s deep affection for Grandfather bubbled out of her.

    “Agathos and I change our shifts here.” The speech of Grandfather was slow, strained by the same tiredness that Father possessed. “Of course, there is the medical staff that we sent for from Amnion, but the boy does need his family.”

    I heard the noises of the machines that helped my twin brother to breathe. They were my only indication that he was in this room. Whatever Force abilities he originally had called his own had been burned out of his body. He might as well be dead to the universe.

    “When you were rescued from the cave with Grianán, we heard a baby scream at the top of his lungs. Despite the weakness of the screams, they were alive and clear. Agathos went in and I followed. Neither the Shesha nor the priestesses of the Great Mother dared to stop us.”

    “I can´t remember,” Nanny said.

    Grandfather lowered his head as much as his voice. “I wish I could, too.”

    I became slightly squeezed between the two of them when they hugged. The close physical contact did me good though. It renewed my inner strength.

    “Why did she do it?” wondered Grandfather, overwhelmed by tears.

    Isabeau had a perfect explanation for it. “To try to figure out Arcana and her motives is like dancing on the edge of madness. She thinks in absolutes. And the dark side clouds her mind.”

    “Will you join us outside, milady?” Uncle Kairos had entered the room unannounced, his hateful thoughts stinging me like mosquito bites. “They are all eager for your return. And we have not been formally introduced to each other yet, which is a shame.”

    While Isabeau was forced in an unwanted conversation, I could continue staring at my twin brother. I had not asked Mother to suck out his energies on my behalf, and personally feeling guilty for it did not help his situation. I had to be more active.

    To my surprise, I ended up in Grandfather´s arms - while Isabeau was led away by Uncle Kairos. “Welcome, Grianán. Would you mind watching over your brother Aconite for a while? He needs all our prayers to get better.”

    There was something better that I could offer. I could give him back what had been taken. Not entirely, but it was better than nothing. I was a luminous being, much more than only crude matter. I closed my eyes, reaching out with my mind.

    Aconite was in delirium, badly injured from the dark side. It was not the poison that Mother had injected him with. That particular cruelty was just part of an ancient ritual.

    I took some of the grace that was given to me, multiplied it as much as I could, and passed it on to him.

    His eyes snapped open. He recognized me immediately. In the womb of Mother, we had been dormant together.

    “Grianán!” Grandfather was beside himself with joy. “It was you, was it not? First the cave and now...”

    I tried to keep my face blank, but my eyes could not lie.

    Grandfather laughed. “What a blessing it is to have you in the family, child!”

    My brother did not think so. He was full of hatred. Right now I could not do anything against that. I hoped that he would understand my choices in time.
  4. AzureAngel2 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 14, 2005
    star 6
    Chapter 3: Family encounters

    Just a sun month after our birth, the majority of the court went to Dún Barr, the midwinter castle of my family. The abrupt change of climate did not concern me; my body was prepared for it. My ancestry had made sure of that. I worried for Grandmother Techné though and her feeble health. Strong drafts came from long corridors and sometimes even from the colourful glass windows. There were too many stairs to be climbed for artificial hips like hers.

    It didn’t help that Mother was a sinister woman towards her enemies – and she considered Grandmother to be one of her enemies. The war that they lead was filled with ugly words. My siblings and I were embarrassed with how they behaved towards one another.

    I tried to be with Grandmother as much as possible. It eased the pain that she was in for the time being. But I was no Force healer. My skills were of a different nature. I was not sure what they were good for yet. It was all very complicated. None of my siblings seemed to be able to perceive the universe as I was, so I kept my experiences to myself.

    As the sun weeks passed, I watched the sunlight dance above the cradle that I shared with my twins when I was not carried around by adults like Isabeau. As much as I enjoyed seeing the rooms and hallways of the castle, I eventually began to avoid staring into the shadows because they stared back at me.

    Sometimes Éleos would wrap me up in thick caribou pelts and take me outside to see the grey winter sky. There were two places we could go: the inner courtyard of the castle or into the vacant gardens. That was the only concession that Isabeau would make to somebody as young as me. She did not want me to be taken beyond the boundaries of Dún Barr.

    I relished what I had. Just being with my elder brother was bliss. He was sweet and devoted, even if that meant changing my nappies. He did not mind. His love was genuine. And the Force was strong in him.

    Thus far my young life was full of wonders and merriment. Winter was interesting. It made the world look even and produced hushed sounds. I liked the artwork it created, such as the transcendent crystals of snowflakes, or icy layers that glittered in breathtaking colours.

    But there was a heavy burden that I carried around. It grew daily and I did my best not to bother anybody with it.

    All of my brothers and sisters flourished in the Force. Yet I could not help but notice that some of my skills could not be matched to theirs. I started to believe that I was different, perhaps not even in a good way. I had forced both Luçien and Aconite to accept a gift of mine. Dark side abilities could not only be aggressive and destructive, but they could also have perversely manipulative tendencies.

    The thought of being evil made me develop a little fever. Nanny had me separated from my twins and took me to her own bed. There she entertained me with stories from her home world, controlling my body temperature anxiously. If I had been a normal child growing up on Sapuhru, I would have been carried out into the dune sea, forced to survive on my own account. Nanny did not think anything of those practices; however, her heart had been softened during her time here. For that I was grateful.


    Sometimes my fever dreams brought the image of her step-brother Luçien with them, gazing down on me with stunning azure eyes. He whispered prayers in his beautiful mother tongue. I did not care if they meant me harm or not.

    [IMG][/IMG][IMG]


    ********************************************************************

    As soon as Nanny believed me to have recovered, Éleos was allowed to take me on a stroll. We ended up in one of the castle orchards. In the midst of dark shapes that were not much to look at, he came to a halt. Bald branches reached out to the sun above us. Even though the orchard seemed dead, I sensed faint life signals. The trees were in hibernation, dreaming of warmer days to come. Their plant saps were slow and focused.

    “I have never seen these gardens in spring time, Grianán. I was told that they are beautiful. Especially the blossoms of these trees here. They are apple trees. Apples are very juicy fruits with white and very sweet pulp.”

    The tone of my elder brother was almost crooning. I could tell he was trying to tell me something.

    “You can feel it, too, don´t you? The Living Force as much as the Unifying Force?”

    I summoned a weary smile.

    Éleos nodded at me. “Just as I thought. Then you and I are the only ones who can.”

    To have him make that statement came as a surprise.

    “Grianán, you are a very clever, little thing. I give you credit for that.” He tucked at my nose in tender jest. “But I have been around for much longer than you are. Long enough to tell that you are hiding. You are not really bonding with us, why?”

    There was only warmth and patience in his eyes. He would not yell at me, he would not force me in any way. It was not who he was. His soul was so gentle, soaked with light and belief.

    I had to make myself known to at least one of my siblings. Luçien was in so much trouble because he could not reach out to others. Bit by bit he had alienate himself from his surroundings. And in the end, from himself.

    “Being special is hard enough, little sister. To be alone among others is not necessary. There is more than silence around you. There is love. Much love.”

    His honesty made my heart ache. And so I told him wordlessly what I can feel and my affect on others. I did not mention Luçien though; that secret I would keep until I came of age. But I shared all my other weird sensations with him. What happened when I had skin contact with objects, animals or persons. That I could see, feel and hear the dead. I even told him about having coaxed Aconite back into life - by sharing some of my own life energy with him.

    When I was finished, Éleos breathed a kiss against the bridge of my nose. “Thank you! That was very brave of you.”

    My eyes watered with gratitude.

    “There are names for the Force skills that you have in the adult world. Scientists categorized them a long time ago, even before the human race left Terra.”

    It was a relief to be told thus. Despite my unusual re-birth, I was not tainted by the dark side. Nor were my gifts.

    “You are a rare diamond, Grianán. Reading thoughts is not the same as being able to get a peek into the past of somebody by sheer touch. Or seeing the souls that are stuck between here and the twilight of the Force.” His grin was winning. “Your secret is safe with me for now. Be free to share it with whom you want.”

    In the end, I decided to let the rest of my siblings know. But that was much later, after I had been fed and washed.

    ********************************************************************

    Adults did not realize what was in their best interests. They needed to be taught lessons by us, the children, and not the other way around. Aréte took advantage of this fact and was able to lure Isabeau into the wilderness to teach our nanny how to ski. It was a plan to that all the serpent-spawn had agreed on.

    But the innocent ski trip found an unexpected end. I woke from my nap feeling a disturbance in the Force. The soul of Aréte wailed in pain and was silenced in an unmistakable way within one heartbeat. She had been burned out of existence in the truest sense of the word. There was not even enough left for the mummy makers of the Holy Isle.

    I turned over in the cradle to face Daná. Her terrified features told me that she also had felt the death of our elder sister. We held a short telepathic conversation before she reached out to our favourite brothers.

    Since my revelations to Éleos, I felt more comfortable with my own siblings again. It was essential that we were there for one another. Together, we were even stronger in the Force.

    Daná´s thoughts were the clearest for long distance telepathy. Éleos and Sereno came running to her call, still in their snow gear from their recent outside activities. Then we began to plan on how to get to Isabeau.

    To leave the castle unseen was a piece of cake, as ever-hungry Sereno put it. The Shesha guards were no match for our united Force powers.

    Time was against us. Rancors had been unleashed from the stables along with our mother and her best female elite warriors. If we would not intervene at the crime scene before their arrival, there would be many unnecessary deaths.

    The fits of Mother had reached a dangerous level. We would not allow more bad things to happen. The dark side already stained her legendary beauty.

    Fortunately, we arrived before the hunters. The two druids who had murdered Aréte failed to notice us. They were leaning over a huge gap. The snow around them was coloured with the leftovers of our sweet sister.

    We could not see Nanny, but we felt her in the Force. She was like a flickering torch, fuelled by her feline emotions. “Luçien has murdered for less insults, you know!” she screamed at the Elves. “In the desert cities of my home planet, they call him...”

    Suddenly Isabeau fell silent in her earth hole. Despite the severe pain she was in, her hunter´s instincts were unfailing. She recognized the pattern of my elder brothers walking through the snow. Our familiar scent also gave us away.

    Immediately Éleos volunteered to calm her, sending his thoughts straight into her head. “I am sorry. There has already been enough bloodshed. I cannot allow any more of it. We must end this deadly circle or the dark side will forever haunt our family. I will help you, Isa.”

    I felt Nanny´s distress as well as her brave efforts to ignore the immense physical pain that she was in.

    Éleos changed our common plan within one heartbeat and shared his visual sensations with her. I even saw myself looking up to my elder brother. It was a weird perspective and not very helpful in getting Nanny into a more serene state of mind.

    “Don´t!” Isabeau roared. “These men here do not deserve your forgiveness! Let your mother and her rancors deal with them! Run! Seek shelter!”

    The two Elves swirled around.

    Remembering the serenity of the Force vortex, I passed my peaceful memories on to my siblings. They had to stay calmer than Isabeau. Éleos gave me a grateful smile and found the courage to greet the druids in their mother tongue. It was a rather long speech that he came up with. It made me drowsy with sleep.

    Daná spotted the approach of the royal rancor mounts before any of us did and started wailing.

    “Hurry up! Please!” Éleos pleaded to the Elves. “They will be here soon! She feels their arrival. I beg you, milords, by all that is holy and lives in the light, let me restore my sister´s body. The wrath of my mother could destroy the entire planet.”

    It took them a little eternity to give in to us. But finally they did.

    ********************************************************************

    Éleos started reconstructing the body of our murdered sister, but there were limits to his powers. It drained him dangerously. I supported him as much as I could, which was enough to keep him going for a while. But then he fell into the snow with me.

    The Force ghost of Aréte patted my head, reassuring me, “He will not die, Grianán. Neither will you. All will be well.”

    I was worried though, for Isabeau kept calling out for Éleos until she blacked out. This was the signal for Sereno and Daná to levitate our beloved nanny out of her prison. It was no trouble for them; size did not matter for the Force. I was too weak to join my siblings, which they fully understood.

    An approaching group of rancors told us we had run out of time. Their howling was a familiar sound to me. I had heard it many times, when I was still slumbering inside my mother. She was fond of her gigantic mounts and had their absolute loyalty. Her emotions from dancing so close at the edge of the dark side made the animals uneasy and unpredictable.

    Sereno knew that as much as I did. Following a sudden impulse he put me against Isabeau´s chest. “Here, hold her!”

    Nanny called out to Mother, “Behold! I do not want to be eaten up during this rescue mission. Arcana, when you can hear me, I beg you to spare this Elf's life for now.”

    “Oh be sure, I will!” Mother then explained what had escaped Isabeau’s notice. “For his druid brother seems to have taken one of my sons. And I will torture this foul creature here until I know where Èleos was taken.”

    ********************************************************************

    Holding me did not help Nanny to let go of her guilt and worries. The loss of Aréte drove her to the edge of madness. The disappearance of Èleos put her into even greater agony. I was happy that she did not possess an unhealthy affinity towards the dark side.

    The secret service agents of fovea centralis had rolled me into more layers of fur. I actually felt like a little sausage now. The winter cold could not harm me. I actually welcomed the frost bite into my face. It felt good to be alive.

    What actually did disturb me - was the tension of our company. I had trouble cutting myself off from that. So I began concentrating on the snow fall around me. There seemed no peculiar pattern to the flakes landing in the open landscape, which allowed my mind to wander.

    My soul left my body behind for a while and went after Èleos. The druid, who was transporting him through the mountains, was impressed by him and his courage. My brother’s life was in no danger.

    There were wolves nearby, singing their song of hunger. They were too clever to go after a user of magic and a Force sensitive. Draconis had unwritten rules, and the majority of the animal kingdom kept to it. Something else would die today instead to ease the canine stomachs.

    When I fully returned back to my body, I had found Sereno marching along next to the stretcher on which Isabeau and I had been put. He tried to soothe Isabeau with his physical contact and failed. She would need to overcome her guilt on her own. At the draw bridge of the castle she meant to sit upright.

    “Don´t!” Sereno begged. “You have an open arm wound and your shoulders will not like it.”

    Nanny‘s response was resentful. “You know what I do not like? Not knowing where your brother is.”

    “He is alive and well.”

    Bitterness filled her every word. “And who exactly can guarantee that? You? He himself perhaps?”

    That made Sereno cry. “Please trust us on this.”

    “Us?” Isabeau spat. “You really demand a lot, Sereno.”

    ********************************************************************

    Soul journeys cost more strength than I had. My Midi-chlorians eagerly maintained my energy level. I was too young and unskilled to be disciplined. Nevertheless I woke up when Isabeau screamed her lungs out in the castle yard.

    “I failed! I failed her! She is gone!”

    I wailed in protest to her personal accusations, which made Grandfather take me from her arms. “Isabeau, do not hurt yourself! You carry no blame!”

    “Indeed,” Mother agreed. “You are innocent. We know whom to make responsible. I promise you to leave enough of that filthy creature that you can live out your anger.”

    The treacherous yellow of the dark side lit in my mother´s eyes. With her wild emotions she had set the rancors mentally on fire. The animals were on the brink on slaughtering us all. They would not honour the official code when my mother wanted them to live out their anger.

    Nanny, a mighty predator herself, was aware of the danger. “Get a grip of yourself, Arcana! Can´t you see what impact you have on your pets? Do you want us all to get killed? Later on you can do whatever you want to that Elf. Now snap out of your mood!”

    Mother was amused due to all the ranting. All was well again. Especially after the commands that Isabeau gave to everybody present.

    “I want all animals being brought into their stables now! Do it quick, yet not too hasty! Feed them straight away with fresh meat. They lust for it. The members of the royal household are to retreat and so is the rest of the staff. Every unnecessary people: clear the yard.”

    Grandfather came closer to the stretcher. “You will be fine, Isabeau.”

    But she would not. I felt it coming. The mixture of physical and magical damage to her body would cost Nanny at least one limb.
    Last edited by AzureAngel2, Jan 13, 2013
  5. AzureAngel2 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 14, 2005
    star 6
    Chapter 4: Hazy shade of winter

    Grandmother Techné put all the blame on Isabeau for the death of Aréte and the disappearance of Èleos. The serpent-spawn, including me, suffered immensely from the false convictions being made against our beloved nanny. My older siblings no longer played games and my twins had grown very silent in the common cradle. Helplessness held us all in its grip.

    Adults were good in blaming one another instead of granting one another comfort. It was counter-productive. We were one family. That should be our strength, not our ruin.

    But it was not Grandmother who overstepped the limits. One very gloomy winter evening; two unannounced visitors appeared in front of the royal library.

    I was the first who picked up the currents in the Force. Breathing became hard for me. It was as if the dark side had manifested into a physical form. All my senses were alert.

    When the library door creaked open, the cold voice of a woman addressed Mother. “I found something that belongs to you.”

    Mother continued staring out the panorama window, not turning around to face her visitor. “I felt you both coming! Do not think that you do impress me much by appearing at my door step.”

    “I am not here to impress you. Actually, this time I am here to let you know that you went too far.”

    Mother did not like that. Dark side energies began to build inside her. “Look at my nanny! Or take a look into our cellar, where my dead daughter´s body rests between salt grains!”

    The visitor remained aloof. “I am not talking about THAT.”

    Isabeau stepped between the two women. In the face of the upcoming Force storm, she remained calm. “I presume that you are Her Holiness Mórag MagUidhir? The Holy Inquisition herself? I hope Èleos did not do something to offend you.”

    The shroud of the dark side covered almost everything in the room. Nothing could thrive in such darkness apart from madness, destruction, and death.

    Soon the library emptied considerably. Unfortunately, I was not able to walk off like Father and my elder siblings. Trapped in my mother´s arms, I had to suffer in silence. Words were exchanged like sword attacks.

    Then it happened. With one hand, Mother reached into the Force and began choking Nanny. I was horrified.

    Mórag stayed unimpressed. This bickering is pointless. Arcana, release her. Now!”

    Isabeau was dropped and I could hear her death rattle. That was when I started screaming at top of my lungs. I could not have any more of this violence. My bladder leaked at the same time as my stomach gave up. There were too many dark emotions. Screaming did not make me feel better, but it was the only thing left to me.

    After a few moments, Mother chuckled and went to a nearby armchair with me. I was hoarse by then. My heart was racing and seemed to be thudding loudly. I was about to throw up.

    Suddenly Mórag was in my head. “I can feel you, a brightness in the Force. But you are also privileged with the Dark Side. You will pledge yourself to me, Grianán!”

    I thought of Luçien, my dark mirror. The Force helped me to understand a very essential truth. “I am his,” I answered.

    “That cannot be! Not to my little, useless half-brother! You did not!” She shouted the last part aloud, as I showed her what I had done and how. Infuriated she left the library.

    “Why did you not stop her?” Isabeau inquired. “You make the entire holy island shake with your anger. You can kill folk with Force lightening from your fingertips...”

    Mother, busy with staring at me, simply explained, “Mórag is a member of this family, too. One of our oldest relatives. She is many times my great-aunt.”

    “Yet you wear the crown of the realm. You are in charge of this planet.”

    “There are alliances and rules you cannot possibly understand. I must obey her wishes.” There was much fear in my mother´s heart, which only fed her journey into darkness.

    “Are you her dark acolyte?” The realization put Isabeau in a state of shock.

    “No.” That was a meek lie and Isabeau knew it. My mother pulled all her pride together. “I serve nobody but my self. Yet she is an authority on this world not to trifle with.”

    “There is no fear. There is only the Force.”

    Mother smirked at Nanny for this remark. “Then keep it that way, for Mórag can smell the fear of others and turn it against them. This is why she is the head of the Order of the beanmna feasa, and the High Inquisitor.”

    Exhausted, I glided away into a dreamless sleep, trusting the women to stave off the darkness.

    ********************************************************************

    In the middle of the night I woke up in Isabeau´s arms. I was in her chamber, but we were not alone. A woman was standing next to our bed. She had dark curly hair and my father’s skin tone. Her eyes were as green as my mother´s though. There was a translucent blue glow around her and she herself was transparent.

    “Hallo, little niece!”

    I gave the woman a frown. My uncle Kairos on Amnion was unmarried and my mother had no living siblings left. Yet the nightly visitor claimed to be family.

    “I am Adamah.”

    That was a lie, because my sister was a little girl of seven summers and not a fully grown woman.

    “When I was still alive I was your mother´s eldest sister.”

    My confusion began to fade.

    “I could not help noticing your distress in the library earlier.”

    Had I been an adult, I would have nodded at my visitor. Instead, I just blinked at her.

    “Little one, I know it is not fair, but life never is. You need to be strong. Not only for yourself, but also for my sister Arcana. She killed me when she was in one of her dangerous moods. During the same incident, she managed to put our mother in a coma. That is a type of sleep from which you never wake up again, at least in most cases. Fortunately, my mother died when your elder sister Adamah, my namesake, took mercy on her.”

    I stirred uneasily, causing Isabeau to moan softly in her sleep.

    “Grianán, you seem to be a very intelligent and gifted girl. I tried very hard to contact your other siblings, but they do not take any notice of me. Your short stay inside the Force vortex sharpened your senses. It also gave you wisdom beyond your actual years.”

    I started to wonder where all this would lead to.

    “I will visit you more often if you want me to. It would help you to understand your mother and her situation better.”

    Today I felt that I had made no difference at all. The adults just had to be too eager to bash their heads in and scream unkind things at each other. It would be nice to be able to change something.

    “You are the light of the Force, at least within this family. We all need you to bring the balance back. Understanding and love will follow in your wake, even though you will suffer most of your life.”

    Aunt Adamah had a silly way to soothe my feelings. I felt more in uproar than ever before.

    “But do not worry; even when you seem to be alone, you are not. The Force is your ally and a very powerful one. You will also have many friends along the way.”

    Insofar I had met Aranea and Mora on the Holy Isle of Cunabula, but it would take me years to run around with them in the jungle. That was certainly something to look forward to. Friends could be chosen, it seemed.

    “Sionnach was mentioned today. She is not exactly my child, but she is of my flesh and blood. One fine sun day she will enter this castle and I would be very glad if you would welcome her into your life. She might need a helping hand with Luçien.”

    I yawned wildly. Wherever that Sionnach was, I bet that she was not as tired as I felt right now. I was even too exhausted to keep my eyes open and my focus on my aunt.

    “Sleep now, little one. I will guard you and your nanny while you are sleeping. This universe is a strange and wondrous place.”

    Aunt Adamah visited me all the following nights. I tried to understand all the things she told me, but sometimes it was all too confusing. Nevertheless, I started to like her. She was very beautiful, but sad. When she had been beheaded by my mother, she had lost her unborn baby. Later on, the scientists of Cunabula had done something very unnatural to force Sionnach into life. It was done by a process that was called cloning.

    [IMG]

    I stored all the facts in the back of my brain. Perhaps they would make sense when I was older. For now, I soaked up every word like mother milk, swallowing it to the fullest.

    My family´s history seemed to be written with blood. After all the experiences that I had had with Mother by now, that was not really a surprise.

    ********************************************************************

    When we finally returned to the Holy Isle of Cunabula and Grandmother Techné left for the water planet of Amnion, it was Aranea who welcomed me enthusiastically. She stormed into my mother’s bedchamber straight after the daily rain shower that washed over the Mother Jungle.

    “Mio bellissimo principessa!” she screeched like a parrot, causing Isabeau to settle automatically into a combat position. My beautiful princess!

    Mother held Nanny at bay. “This is no assassin, but a friend of Grianán. I told Aranea that she can visit any time that she feels up to it. And here she is. Hallo there, little warrior.”

    Isabeau looked appalled. “Why would Grianán need any friends? She has family.”

    “Sometimes family is not enough.” My mother said quietly.

    “Can I take her for a walk?” Aranea asked with flying eyelashes.

    “Certainly...” started Mother.

    “Not!” finished Isabeau.

    Aranea gave them both a dark look. “You debate this without me.”

    The girl reached out to me in the Force and I flew directly into her waiting arms. I squeaked with joy.

    “Arcana!” shouted Isabeau with her fangs and claws out.

    “Let them be! There are Shesha guards all over the island, and after the death of Aréte I do not believe that we will ever need to worry about druids again.”

    While Aranea hopped down the stairs with me in her strong, yet loving embrace, I heard the shouting match disappearing more and more in the distance.

    “Are they always like that?” the girl asked me.

    I made a face.

    “Ecco.” She did not stay serious for long. “I see. You know what, Grianán? I could use some cooling after so much fuss. What about learning to swim?”

    ********************************************************************

    Aranea was a very devoted swimming teacher. It was Isabeau who came for me later on. “If Grianán would have drowned, you would be in trouble!” she let Aranea know.

    “If the dark side cannot harm us, then a river certainly will not.”

    That was an answer that took Isabeau aback. Her cat eyes widened with disbelief.

    Aranea touched her own forehead. “Dark thoughts, dark deeds. They leak into us children as well, and can drive you mad. But there are choices. I made the right ones because of Grianán here. You know what I mean, don´t you?”

    Nanny never questioned my friendship with the girl again. She started bossing her around, but with the same tender gruffness that was reserved for my siblings and me. Aranea had become family for her.

    My brothers and sisters did not like it though. They were jealous, and believed Aranea disturbed our Force meld. Only Éleos tried to make a deeper acquaintance with the orphan on my behalf.

    ********************************************************************

    On the morning of my first birthday, Mother was jittery as a young eopie. Finally Isabeau suggested her to have a long walk with me in the jungle to calm her nerves.

    When we had left the royal pyramid behind and stood in the undergrowth of the jungle, Mother spoke, “Grianán, you met your grandmother Techné recently. Today I would like for you meet my mother Tamisra”

    I tried to look extra sweet and adorable. It worked, because Mother started laughing. The jungle seemed to join in. Some apes swung through the trees, making silly noises.

    “I should not doubt that you can handle stressful situations, bella. It is just...” Her voice suddenly sounded lost and hollow. “See, I have done a lot of thinking since the visit of Mórag. I need you to know things about me. Things I keep secret from everybody else.”

    I made a big air bubble with my saliva, letting it hover around with the Force.

    La mia stella brillante!” Mother smiled down at me. “My shining star! You are such fun. And I would like you to stay that way.”

    I let her clean my mouth with a tip of her sari.

    “Listen, I know that I have a problem. My sister died due to it and my mother... my mother was...” Her voice trailed away once more. “Grianán, what if I turn against any of you by accident? Are you really safe from me?”

    It was good to hear that she was afraid of hurting any more family members, but it was her very fear that exposed her even more to the dark side.

    “Posso aiutarti?” Mother sniffed. “Can you help me? I know that is a lot to ask of somebody so small, but I cannot make it on my own. Your existence proved to me that I need to be careful, respectful and, most importantly, I need to limit myself.”

    I wondered if my mother was referring to the cave incident, the rancor stampede that almost took place at Dún Barr or the fight in the royal library. The incidents just piled up around her, driving her into greater despair.

    ********************************************************************

    Grandmother Tamisra was nothing like I had imagined. She was a mummy, one of those dead corpses that are rolled in bandages. I was glad for her that her soul was long gone. That was not the case with all the other mummies in the crypts of my ancestors though.

    “You can feel them, can you not?” Mother asked me quietly.

    Tears ran over my puffed cheeks. I could not only see the evil Force ghosts, I could hear them as well. They had raspy voices. But it was not their sound that kindled my fears. More frightening was the content of what they said to me. If we would not leave immediately, I would be sick all over my mother.

    ”We are one. We are the Dark Side. The Dark Side is us. Feel the power of the Dark Side. Surrender to it; surrender to the unified whole. Let us become one.”

    The quiet voice of Mother cut through their unholy chorus. “My own mother brought me down here when I was your age. Like you, I was just the seventh daughter of her second set of sextuplets. The throne was out of reach for me. But somehow she knew I would outlive all my other siblings.”

    I gave my best to focus on Mother, instead of all the eerie shapes. Her pain was more urgent than all the seductive offers that I received from my undead ancestors.

    ”Essence transfer is the secret of eternal life. The physical body will always weaken and fail, yet it is nothing but a shell or vessel. When it is time, it is possible to transfer your consciousness—your spirit—into a new vessel…”

    I clung on to Mother´s sari.

    “Until your father Agathos entered my life, I had not realized how dreadfully alone I was in the universe. It felt good for a while, but I never managed to truly get a grip on myself. This place has haunted me for as long as I can remember. I wanted to stop people from dying on me, but the more I tried, the worse it became.”

    One of my ancestors had come face to face with me, threatening me in unspeakable ways. “Strength, hope, and wisdom are nothing but thoughts to be consumed.”

    It was a phantom malice I had not thought anybody to be capable off. If the dark side did that to people even after their actual death, I never would give into it.

    The royal crypt was the opposite of the Force vortex. Here was no serenity and peace to be found. The very essence of the dark side poisoned everything: the stones, the air, the mummies and the mind of the individual.

    “I know it is a great risk bringing you down here. This place reeks of evil, but I would not have done it - if I did not see the strength in you. Please make a difference in our family, Grianán! Be all the things that I could not achieve myself. Even concerning Luçien and Mórag; perhaps you can better them.”
  6. AzureAngel2 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 14, 2005
    star 6
    Chapter 5: Fragments of a childhood

    Aranea was furious about my involuntary trip to the crypt, but I could convince her to keep it a secret between the two of us. I could not bear for Isabeau to know and my siblings would only be sad about it. Life was already hard enough for my poor mother.

    “All right then, mio bellissimo principessa,” my friend muttered into my hair. “You win. There is no real discussion possible with you.”

    We were out on the Mother River, far away from the Holy Isle. Aranea had managed to borrow a little canoe for us. The secret service stayed at a reasonable distance and left us our privacy. Mother had fought hard for that special privilege.

    While Aranea skipped the oars, some botos – large and lively river dolphins - accompanied us. They wanted to play with us in the water and made pleading sounds. My arms were too short to pat their gleaming skin.

    Now and then we saw manatee as well. They paid no heed to us. Food was of greater importance to them.

    There were also giant otters, bull sharks, arapaimas, and other water inhabitants. I could all feel them woven into the carpet of life and death. The Living Force was experienced in all of its richness in the river delta. I liked it out here. Three of the four elements were with us: the water below, the cloudy sky above and the warmth of the sun radiating through our bodies.

    Aranea talked to me for hours, sharing her view of the universe with me.

    The way I see it, there are four types of Darksiders. The first is made up of the ones who did not get enough love in their childhood. Let us call them the affection-starved.

    The second group is of those who crave for dark knowledge and the powers that are connected with it: the power-hungry.

    Number three is your usual mad person. Look at my grandmother. She is such a nut case.

    And the fourth type is the worst: the cleaner. They believe that they alone have the stomach to face the dark side of the Force and twist it for the benefit of everybody else. That plan always backfires. Good intentions can be the step towards doom.”

    ********************************************************************

    We returned from our boat trip at dusk. The sun bathed everything in red colours, even changing the blue rain clouds into violet air vehicles. I was surrounded by the beauty of the Living Force again. It made me content.

    Isabeau and Èleos were waiting for us on the waterfront. They were in good spirits and lightened even more up when they saw my smile.

    “You do her good, Aranea,” my elder brother stated.

    My friend shrugged off the compliment, even though I felt she was on the brink of bursting with glee. “Maybe, maybe not.”

    Nanny laughed heartily. “There is no need to be that modest. You are good with babies, better than I am.”

    Now Aranea composed an impish grin. “It helps that Grianán is no ordinary and unaware baby. I also have no crazy plans for her, like most of the adults around her.”

    Sometimes I wished that my friend could be more subtle, but Isabeau just said, “What is the secret of your success then, super nanny?”

    “I just leave Grianán be. With me she does not need to pretend.”

    “Pretend what?”

    Aranea scratched her head, making her dread locks wiping up and down. “There are folk who are very pre-mature and the Force is to blame for that. I know exactly what she needs. And right now it is a new nappy.”

    Èleos walked away, chuckling. He had heard and seen enough to placate him. I was safe and cared for.

    Nanny smirked, revealing her fangs a bit. “A new nappy? Be my guest, Aranea. I will enjoy keeping my hands clean for once.”

    Once I started crawling, Isabeau provided Aranea with plenty of restrictions on what was allowed with regards to me. It was a bliss that Èleos and Sereno agreed on my Force training to begin so early. As my elder brothers they wanted me to be prepared for worst case scenarios. They saw defense as the best form of attack. My light shield improved, as well as my ability to move items around with telekinesis.

    “Everything can be used as a weapon, if necessary,” Sereno said during one training session. “Even if it’s only a piss pot that turns around in the air, showering your enemy.”

    Èleos nodded. “Be quicker than your opponent.”

    “Do not hesitate!” Aranea added. ”Ever!”

    The three of them dared to practice things with me that other children at my age would not even dream of. Growing up in a household with a Darksider gave no chance to enjoy an easy childhood.

    Mora and I learned how to walk together when we were eighteen sun months old. There was no rivalry between us. We made it a fun game once our bodies adjusted to the new upright perspective. The universe was still a big place, but we could freely move in it now.

    It also became important to me to deepen my relationship with Father and with Grandfather Narthex. Both had only a visitor status in the busy life of Mother. Once I learned to master the steps of the pyramid by myself, I would run over to their bungalow at every occasion possible. Sometimes I would outrun the dawn to get there. Isabeau and the Shesha allowed it, because I was easy to monitor. They also trusted me to take care of myself.

    I loved to crawl in Father´s bed and to listen to his stories until Grandfather came with a tray with three mugs on it. Two with coffee and one with hot chocolate.

    ********************************************************************

    I was about two-years-old, when I found a wicker basket with a baby inside. The basket was standing on the main plaza. The child looked sullen. I lifted her up with great care and the help of the Force. She was heavy, but I hugged her and kissed her. Finally she smiled back. I brought her straight to the bedside of Isabeau.

    “Look what I found!” I beamed. “Can I keep her?”

    Nanny wiped the sleep out of her eyes. “Gathering low life forms, I see.” she commented dryly. “Flowers also would have been a good surprise. I like orchids.”

    I looked at Isabeau expectantly.

    “All right, I will take care that this orphan will not grow up as an Untouchable. I will find a good foster mother. Just let me sleep on for another hour, ma petité.” Grumpily, she turned towards the wall. “And when I wake up I want coffee. Can we agree on that?”

    The baby was given to the care of Saeta Bona Merkhet. The gen scientist had lost her own baby daughter recently. It was a good match, but Aranea, Mora and I could not help checking on the little one on a daily basis. To have been made an outcast by her own biological mother, even though it had been only for a couple of sun hours, had left a deep impact on the baby. I did not want her to become prey to the dark side due to the grudge that she carried inside her. Under no circumstances would I allow her to turn into such a bitter being like my own brother Aconite.

    Even though I was rather young for such an honour, I was asked to become the godmother of the little one. Her name was to be Luna.

    ********************************************************************

    When I was about three-years-old, my elder sister Adamah, the future god queen, was sent off to live at the desert village of Sereno for a couple of months. Isabeau wanted her to learn some manners there.

    [IMG]

    All her life, Adamah had to fight her disappointment for being different. She was Force blind and begrudged us for our abilities. The worst for her was that she was no telepath. That gave her a difficult position among us. The most simple things would escape her notice, which made her even more cross with us. Especially with me.

    Isabeau did something very clever by putting Adamah in a totally new environment. Nanny proved to my sister that her worth depended not on her Force skills, but on the things she was able to do for a community. This would matter a great deal when she took the crown of Cunabula one fine day.

    When Adamah had served her sentence, my father had a surprise for everybody. We would all go to visit Grandmother Techné and Uncle Kairos on Amnion. There was a little baby boy to see. I simply loved babies.

    ********************************************************************

    My new cousin Khion proved to be great fun as well as Aunt Calothrix, the wife of Uncle Kairos. But they both were still recovering from the birth process and lay in bed the whole day.

    Luckily there were other things to do in the big house of Grandmother Techné, a so-called ´city villa´. One of the best was to watch the sun rise with Father. It was good for him to be on his home planet again. He enjoyed every moment of his stay and I loved seeing him so relaxed. Mother and my siblings would still in bed, sleeping, when we stood together on the roof terrace.

    In the mornings, Father belonged to me. The few human household servants of Grandmother would leave us on our own as the robot units completed their tasks around us. But one morning something was different. We had a visitor, who was able to mask his presence in the Force. My heart ached at the sound of his deep voice. I recognized Luçien immediately.

    ”Sire?”

    Father beamed at his unannounced visitor. “You seem to be an early bird like my daughter Grianán and me, old friend.”

    I wiggled around in Father´s arms to get a better view. Luçien tried his best to gaze at me neutrally, even though his thoughts were in turmoil. In the bright sunlight, his ice blue eyes had the characteristic slit-like pupils of his race.

    “What is the nature of your visit, Luçien?” Father´s hands clasped around his.

    “I was on my way to the city temple. When I passed this house, Narthex came out with a basket and invited me in. He told me that you were already up and would not mind to entertain a guest so early.”

    “How very good of him,” Father stated enthusiastically. His cheeks dimpled as he smiled. “Arcana, Isabeau and the rest of the children are still asleep, so the three of us can be undisturbed. Can I offer you some coffee?”

    “I would rather invite you and your favourite daughter for breakfast at the market place.”

    Father liked the idea. “Excellent! I will leave a message for my family. Grianán, please wait here for me! I won´t be long.”

    Trance-like I nodded.

    Luçien waited until Father was truly gone. Then he came closer, a dark shade in the morning sun. His robes had the colour of midnight. “So it is indeed you,” he purred, “The girl who does not make sense. You have grown a lot since I last saw you. Have you swallowed your tongue?”

    I looked at him with big eyes, unable to utter a single world. He had come for me and not for my father. Of that I was certain. I was afraid that he would take the rest of my soul into the night. Perhaps the tiny piece I had given him was not enough and he wanted more. Every Darksider wanted more. It was an insatiable hunger, as Aranea put it. A hunger that would devour the Darksider in the end.

    “Do not pretend that you do not remember our last meeting.” He crocked his head. “I can sense that you do. There is a cold intelligence behind those grey eyes of yours.”

    “Why you hate so much?” I asked straight out.

    He went to his knees with disturbing speed and faced me directly. “Your father loves you, little princess. He praises you a lot. You are his first thought in the morning and the last one before he falls asleep. It would pain me to hurt him by hurting you. So you are safe for the time being. Use this time I give you wisely.”

    I cupped my hands around his veiled face. The fabric felt rough under my fingers. “Why you want to hurt?”

    “You should not be alive and we both know that,” He snarled at me, shaking my hands off again in anger. “Your infamous mother summoned you back from the dead. The real you is dead. You are just a demon from another dimension.”

    Words could hurt more than being slapped by an elder sister or being hit by a bolt of Force lightening. I tried to hold my feelings in check, but I could not. A single tear ran down my right cheek. Luçien looked at it in wonderment and caught it with an index finger.

    “What is that for?” he asked.

    “You hurt me,” I mumbled. More tears were streaming out of my eyes.

    “Stop that!” he ordered me, rather irritated.

    I could not.

    Luçien sighed and took a handkerchief out of his sash. “Here! Blow your nose. I do not want your father to see you like this.”

    That provoked more tears.

    “Pull yourself together!” he snorted. “You act as if I was about to cut you into pieces.”

    I went on crying soundlessly, fearful of his threat. My ancestors had been keen on maiming and disemboweling their foes. Perhaps this was a Darksider thing. Aranea had many scars inflicted by her grandmother. Mother had beheaded her favourite sister.

    “Enough!” Luçien had grown flustered. He leaned forward, blew my nose efficiently and cleaned off my face with a corner of his robe. He was more gentle than I had expected him to be.

    Miserable as I was, I opened the gates in my mind and listened with my special gift anyway. The one that lay embedded in sheer touch. A scripture from the past only I could read.

    The last tears that this handkerchief had dried had been the ones of his own daughter. Her name was Tachys. He had insisted on leaving the house without her this morning. She had not taken it well. It had broken his heart to see her that distressed. With the promise to make it up to her, he had shut the door behind him, taking care not to squeeze her fingers in between it and the frame.

    He had held this handkerchief all the way to grandmother´s villa, being nervous to see me. My father´s friendship was dear to him. He had hoped that I would not disappoint him and be some toddler he could learn to live with. And that I would not burst out in tears in front of him.

    The tears of a child in distress were something he could not deal with well. The aversion had started with Isabeau during a killing raid in the desert when she was barely two and he had been three. He had spotted her from his father´s horse and had taken pity on her.

    The handkerchief had told me all I needed to know. I took all my courage to ask, “Why are you always that mean to everybody? To your daughter? To Sionnach? To Isabeau? To...”

    Luçien grabbed my chin and looked me hard in the eyes. “If you want to stay alive around me, little princess, you should stop asking questions like that. I have executed adults for less insults. Don´t push it!”

    “Why so angry?” I sniffed. “Why?”

    “More questions? What did I just say? Sacre bleu!” Luçien let go of me, but just to peel his left glove off. Slowly.

    I winced as if he was going to murder me right now on the veranda.

    “Do you ever listen, little princess?” he asked reproachfully, and his right hand came to rest on one of my shoulders. “Agathos is a dear friend. I honour the trust he puts in me. Therefore I will never move directly against one of his children.”

    I swallowed hard, seeing the problem here. “Somebody else hurt us? For you?”

    Luçien laughed at me, but not unfriendly. Then he stroked the skin around my puffed eyes, using the Force on them. “There, much better!”

    “I am not better.” My heart was almost in my throat.

    “I can tell you why.” His fingers withdrew from my face again. “Due to your mother, you are rotten from within. I sense darkness in you. It is the same darkness that your mother carries in her heart. Your father believes you to be an angel. I don´t.”

    “You are a bad, bad angel,” I stated, while my eyes wandered over his bent figure. He was armed. A sword hung at his side, looking like a crescent moon. I ticked at it. Just enough to provoke its horrible history. Strong pictures of the past spoke to me. So much slaughter. So much death.

    “The Force is my ally. This scimitar here is insignificant. It is just the tradition of my people to wear one. I don´t need it for the real kill. You know that fairly well, little princess.” He still knelt in front of me, bathing me in his mischievous glare. “You know more of the universe than you should. It is the maturity of a demon speaking.”

    Father came back, booming, “Already making a closer acquaintance, I see. You really have a way with children, my old friend.”

    It was not my place to correct Father in his kind assumption. When I wanted to ask him if he would carry me for a while, a pair of gloved hands picked me up. Luçien’s gleaming eyes proved he enjoyed my horror. “You are right about her, Agathos. She is a special child. I am intrigued by her already.”

    I was glad when he handed me over to Father, instead of keeping me in his embrace.
  7. AzureAngel2 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 14, 2005
    star 6
    Chapter 6: The gift

    To say that it was a beautiful morning at the local market place would have been a lie. But it also would be wrong to say that I had a dreadful time. Luçien tried to act charming. He was good at it.

    Shortly after our arrival, we got ourselves some typical Amnionian breakfast items. I had a kok, a breakfast roll with chocolate filling.

    I watched Father eat something that looked like a little caramel sheep. It was called kataifi. He ate it with a bowl of home-made vanilla ice.

    Luçien had loosened the veil around his throat. This way he was able to artistically enjoy his bougalsa, which was filled with vanilla cream and had a sweet coat made out of sugar and cinnamon.

    I found the veil rather disturbing. Nanny had explained me that it was tradition for male Lidérc to wear them after their rites of adulthood. But to me, it gave the impression that Luçien had to hide a lot from the universe, perhaps even from himself.

    We sat on the staircase of the big city temple, eating our breakfast, when a woman with two children came by. The boy and the girl looked like twins and were around my age. Their skin had the colour of latte macchiato and their hair was red. They had pointed Elfin ears and almond eyes.

    “Daddy!” the girl shouted and ran over to Luçien in order to hug his knees with wild affection.

    Luçien was slightly embarrassed to be touched this way in public. His feelings pierced my heart. At times, he was like an open book to me; but I was glad that I could not always read him. Soul relationship was not as I had imagined it to be. Most of the time, it hurt like stinging needles.

    “Agathos,” Luçien said, “May I introduce you to my daughter Tachys? The young gentleman over there is her brother Phren and the woman holding him is Angina Oon, our wonderful nanny.”

    I could tell from the glow around the woman that she was of the same race as Aunt Calothrix; an altered Sea Elf, hiding among the humans of Amnion.

    The girl looked at me. “And who is that, daddy?”

    “Princess Grianán,” answered her twin brother Phren in a hushed voice. “Can´t you see? The grey witch eyes. Daddy was right about her.”

    My father laughed heartily and patted my head. “Witch eyes? No wonder that I feel constantly bewitched by my daughter. I should have known better. You put a spell on me, Grianán. Thanks for pointing that out to me, Luçien.”

    Angina Ōon cleared her throat, embarrassed. “The children and I are on the way home. Sionnach and Éibhear might have the breakfast table ready by now.”

    “I should join you,” Luçien said. “Agathos, it was nice seeing you again. Please visit us any time you can.”

    “I will.”

    Phren and Tachys both wanted to be carried by Luçien, but he denied them that pleasure calmly. With hanging shoulders they walked behind their father, holding each other’s hands.

    “I am glad that I was not born as a Lidérc. Come here, my little Force witch,” Father said to me in a soft voice. He embraced me and held me close. Laughter erupted from my throat. His beard tickled so nicely in my face.

    Luçien was suddenly struck by the reminder of his failure in killing me. He turned around stiffly and very, very slow. “Enchantée! We will meet again, Princess Grianán.”

    I wondered if this was a promise or a threat. Perhaps he did not know that himself.

    ********************************************************************

    The next morning I was out at the market again. This time Nanny and Grandfather Narthex joined Father and me. It was bliss. I enjoyed having another early breakfast in front of the temple again. It seemed to be a popular spot for people to eat in the open, even though there were not orchids to admire.

    When Grandfather was finished eating, I brushed crumbs from his beard and helped Father with his own beard. “Gran-da clean. Daddy clean. Granny Techné not mad now!” I announced, pretending to be a playful, innocent child. It always worked with them and made them smile.

    Suddenly, a vision from the future flashed into Isabeau´s mind. Nobody had ever taught her sense, alter and control. This was why her gift was so unpredictable.

    A woman was kidnapped by desert nomads. She had been tortured very badly. Her body could not take it any more; the wounds were too severe. The love for her husband and her step-son was not strong enough to keep her alive. In death she hoped to be granted to get a glimpse of her other son, the child that she had received due to a Force miracle. Her blood slowly became cold. Life leaked out of her.

    I made a shrill sound like the sea gulls circling above my head. Another vision followed, even darker than the first one.

    A man in black, wearing a hooded cloak, killed all the people in the desert camp. Not only the men, but the women and children, too. He slaughtered them like animals and not like people.

    As if all the bloodshed was not bad enough, Nanny had to spill hot coffee over my feet. My thin sandals were no successful protection. After all her heartfelt excuses, I muttered advice that my elder brother Sereno gave me very often: “Just focus on the now and here.”

    Father and Grandfather looked at us, not sure what to say or how to help.

    ”Size matters not!” I told Isabeau, who asked herself how a small person like me could be such a powerful ally of the Force.

    ********************************************************************

    We were already inside the villa of Grandmother when another vision hit Isabeau. I had another involuntary peak into the future.

    It was the same Man in Black from earlier on, but this time he wore warrior’s armour. It covered his entire body. The helmet was frightening. It was like a skull. Instead of killing anyone this time around, he was spoiling the dinner of close friends - a small woman in white and red, a man with a gruffy look holding her hand, a tall animal creature and a coloured man.

    There was some pointless shooting with a laser weapon against him. The Man in Black was too powerful a Force user.

    “Keep him away!” I murmured to Isabeau under my breath. “He is the Fallen One! The child murderer.”

    “I´m sorry!” she let me know.

    There was only one answer that I could give her back. And this answer was heartfelt. “I´m sorry, too.”

    In order to distract Isabeau, I started talking about everything and nothing. In addition, I jumped on the lap of Grandmother. I told her about our adventures in the city, leaving Luçien and his children completely out of it.

    “So you did enjoy yourself, bella,” Mother concluded.

    I nodded, leaving it to Father to lead the story further on. While he did Nanny hit me with her third vision.

    The scruffy man from the previous vision was talking to the animal about the woman. She, a princess, needed to be taken care of and looked after.

    Isabeau saw the Man in Black fairly often. I suspected him to be family of Luçien. They had a lot of common. The faint shimmer of darkness around them was just one example of many.

    Suddenly the adults began to talk about bodyguards, the possible dangers in the city, and murder. It all ended up with the serpent-spawn asking Nanny a question. “What do you think about a day out at sea, Isabeau?”

    “Yes?” she answered from far away.

    “What do you think?” shouted my elder sister Adamah, the crown princess.

    Isabeau grew aggressive from her uncertainty. Her fangs were almost out. “About what?”

    The majority of my siblings answered her, “The boat tour.”

    “Boat tour?” Her mug fell on the floor, breaking into hundreds of pieces.

    *******************************************************************

    In the end, Nanny turned us down. She feared the ocean and believed monsters to lurk in the deep sea. She stood in front of the clipper - that my father had arranged - and said one single word. A word my siblings and I dreaded very much. “No.”

    “Isa!” we pleaded with her.

    Isabeau took the time to look at each of us for several heartbeats. “My answer is still no. You cannot make me go. Especially not with your dirty little mind tricks.”

    I was sullen with her.

    Nanny was determined. “My lords, milady, Narthex. Have a pleasant day. I will be back at dusk.”

    When she walked away from the ship and towards the city, I saw the dark shape of a man, waving at me mockingly. It was Luçien.

    I paled and sprinted towards starboard to get a better look on him.

    He was unveiled and looked completely different. More like a real Amnionian citizen. Even the colour of his skin was different. But he could not fool me with his masquerade. I would have recognized him even if he had shape shifted into a rancor bull or a sea gull. My soul knew.

    “What is it?” Mother asked me interested.

    “Nothing,” I sniffed, tears flowing over my cheeks. It was a silly idea of mine anyway. Nanny was his step-sister and therefore Luçien would not harm her. That was not how siblings acted towards one another. He also loved her. My own skin had shown me, and my special gift never lied.

    Mother wrapped her arms around me. “Hey, it is okay to be afraid at times. Isabeau is no super hero.”

    “I know.”

    It was just hard to define what Luçien was. I wanted to believe in him, but he was so full of himself and the dark side. There was not really space for anybody else in his chest. It was questionable if I could even create something there.

    When Mother was off again and the boat started drifting away from the harbour, I went to the other side of the ship. Luçien was still there, not hiding in shadows any longer. I could clearly see that he was up to something. When he decided to throw me a kiss, I was very worried, and not only for Isabeau.

    ********************************************************************

    [IMG]




    What do you mean Isabeau is gone?” Mother was outraged, when she was told. “She must be somewhere in the city and you better find her, Kairos.”

    “I will not waste money, time and resources on her, Arcana. That nanny of yours might as well be fish food by now.”

    Mother hit him straight in his face, leaving a cut with her signet ring. “Isabeau is the most valuable member of my court and an adopted daughter of the House Ankou. You will find her.”

    “Why me? I am no family of hers. Tell Luçien to look for her.” Uncle Kairos rubbed his hurt cheek. “As the consul of the Amnionian embassy he...”

    “What?” Mother´s eyes almost came out of their sockets. “That dirty cat is here on Amnion? Why has nobody bothered to tell me? They made him consul? Him? What for? Because he has stunning eyes? Anybody can use mascara and eye-liner.”

    Father approached her, his arms outstretched and his palms turned upward. “Luçien has no reason to kill his step-sister.”

    “Oh really? And how would you know?” Now her eyes became small, yellow slits of dark side fire. “Wait, you are still befriended with that bastard. And I believed it to be over between the two of you. You promised! Liar!”

    Mother started Force choking Father in front of our entire family. I stepped in between them without thinking, getting my share immediately.

    I dropped to my knees, panting as hard as Father. Star dust danced around me. My windpipe almost got crushed.

    Then the attack was over. Mother was in shock, looking at father and me with her mouth wide open.

    Grandfather ushered the rest of my siblings out of the room, while Grandmother picked me up from the floor.

    Mother stood rooted to the spot, absolutely dumbstruck. I felt horrible for her. This had been one of those dark moments that she was so afraid of. Alter, sense and control had become tricky for her recently. Logic slipped away from her easily. Death piled up around her as others found it to be more difficult to meet her expectations. There was a beast in her chest, wanting more and more.

    “Evil Force witch!” Uncle Kairos scowled towards her. “Now you show your real face.”

    Father heaved himself up and put an arm around my mother protectively. He was only full of love and regret. There was not a single grudge in his heart. “Stay out of this, brother. That can happen when a Force sensitive gets angry at a rude and callous remark from someone who should know better.”

    Mother started wailing and hid her face in my father´s embrace. Her trembling shoulders told me that she was crying a great deal, but it was absolutely soundless.

    The ugly laughter of Uncle Kairos filled the room. “Now I know why you married her. You like it violent in bed, don´t you? Does she use her unnatural powers even there? You are such a hypocrite, Agathos.”

    “No more!” Grandmother cried. “Tomorrow is the baptism of my latest grandson and I want you all to behave.”

    “Behave?” Mother screamed. “That is all that matters to you, is it not? Manners?”

    “Because you have none, you filthy reptile!”

    I jumped out of Grandmother´s arms and ran off. My feet carried me towards the only persons I believed to be safe from harm in this house.

    ********************************************************************

    Aunt Calothrix was breast feeding Cousin Khion when I stumbled into her bedroom. With me, she was not afraid speaking the language of her true origin. “Betho whye lowenack, Grianán!” she said. Happiness to you, Grianán!

    Her lovely voice made me cry even harder. “They do it again!” I sobbed. “The hate thing!”

    ”Vedo whye cawas badna?” she asked in a soothing voice, raising her free arm graciously towards me. Do you want a drop to drink?

    I ended up sucking her left breast while Cousin Khion continued to drink from her right one. He eyed me suspiciously, not used to sharing his milk source with anybody else.

    Aunt Calothrix stroked my hair over and over again. Once, her fingers had been webbed, but a surgeon had changed that when she had been as small as her son. A lot of her body had been altered with a cutting knife and stitches.

    Soon I was lulled into sleep by an ancient lullaby of the Sea Elves, tasting their magic through the milk that was given to me.
  8. AzureAngel2 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 14, 2005
    star 6
    Chapter 7: Shattered dreams


    The baptism ceremony inside the city temple was boring. I did my best to keep a content and interested face. Long speeches and even longer ceremonies were part of the life of a princess, no matter what her age was.

    It was rather clear to me why my best three friends Aranea, Luna and Mora did not even dream of becoming royalty themselves. Fairy tales lied about a happily ever-after. My parents sure had none. Yesterday had made that quite clear. The dark side was poison for every marriage. It strangled every seed of love.

    But there was worse, of course. The archbishop of Polysýndeton gave me a constant headache. Like Mother and Luçien, he was a powerful Force user, and he did not like to have any of us here. He could have easily hidden his thoughts from us, yet he chose not to.

    Adults on this planet seemed to have big issues about racial matters. It was constantly on their minds, even more than sex. The human race was not to mix with aliens or fairytale creatures - that had dared to step out of the realm of myths.

    To me, it made no difference what background a person had. We were all part of Force, even the Elves. Magic was just another word for the energy net that bound us all together. In the end we were all children of the Force.

    I stopped spying on the thoughts of the gathered congregation. Blissful oblivion was a gift, too. Knowing too much was unhealthy.

    A distressed man ran in, trying to get everyone’s attention. His toga was soaking wet and he left little pools of water wherever he went. It was clear to me that he needed medical attention. His face had a weird violet colouring.

    “Please listen to me! You are all in great danger! Something horrible is going to happen!”

    Eyes looked right through him as if he was invisible. I thought it was rude to treat a person this way, despite the fact he did a lot of shouting and had nothing cheerful to say.

    I could not leave the seat next to Mother as I wished. After the drama that had taken place yesterday, my grandfather had begged the serpent-spawn to behave nicely. It had been a very moving speech. I had to obey.

    The man grew more agitated with every person that he passed by. “Please somebody help me! They plan something dreadful, my cousin Triptychon and the others! You must help me to prevent their evil plans!”

    My heart grew heavy, but I was sure that getting up right now was inappropriate. This had to wait.

    “Triptychon, Heptan, Porphyr and Kalomel must be stopped!” The man sniffed and slid down to the floor, and clutched the legs of a middle aged citizen who was him no heed.

    “May Parhelion be with you!” The archbishop boomed through the temple hall and made a fatherly gesture with his arms stretched wide.

    Suddenly it was all over and everybody was going towards the exit doors.

    Mother rose with me in a swift movement. “I feared he would never stop,” She whispered down to me. “What a bore!”

    “Arcana!” scolded Father tenderly under his breath.

    All seemed well between the two of them again, as if the Force choking never had taken place. Their love made my heart sing with joy.

    Aunt Calothrix and Uncle Kairos passed by and were the first to leave the temple. Cousin Khion was carried in her arms, asleep in his baptism dress. He reminds me of an angel in white.

    “You look wonderful today,” Father complimented Mother.

    “Did you also notice that I wear no underwear under this dress?” She answered sneakily. “None whatsoever?”

    “I was wondering...” Father said, his eyes gleaming mischievously.

    This was the right moment to let go of Mother´s hand and to disappear into the crowd. She did not even notice. I clicked myself out of the Force meld that my siblings used night and day.

    ********************************************************************

    The sad man was not hard to find. He created a sort of cold spot that caused goose bumps to spread all over my body. Water was still dripping from his clothing and his hair. It mingled with his tears.

    “Somebody, please! Stop ignoring me! It is not fair!”

    I patted him on his large, muscular shoulders. “The city guards! They will listen. First see a doctor! You look ill.”

    The man swung around and looked at me open mouthed. His head remained at a strange angle as if it was not really attached to his spine.

    “Grianán,” Sereno commented sternly, “Why are you talking to yourself in that corner? Come, before mother has one of her fits again. She was not happy when you let go of her without any further warning. And STAY in the Force meld.”

    Embarrassed I stared at the man, realizing that he was a ghost. He looked so real and had no blue glow like a Force entity. I had not been aware that there was a difference in ghosts. Dead was dead. All dead people should look the same. It was all very confusing.

    When I turned towards Sereno, the man seized my left hand. “Can you really see me, little girl?”

    “Yes,” I whispered. Something told me that it was not good to be able to see, hear and feel dead people. Luçien would not like that if he ever found out.

    “Grianán!” My elder brother was unusually impatient with me.

    The touch of the dead man was cold, but it was real. His free hand went for my upper arm. Fingers dug into my flesh, hurting me a big deal.

    “My name is Acheron and I have to tell you that they want to kill the crown princess of Cunabula today. Please let somebody know!”

    I nodded for it was a reasonable request. There was a reason why I had such a Force skill. “I tell my sister.”

    “Your sister?” wondered the man.

    I went towards Sereno.

    “What happened to your arm, Grianán?” My elder brother asked baffled. “There are marks on it. Did somebody hurt you? Was it Vicomte Ankou? Is he here?”

    “No, Acheron. He drowned. See?” I pointed towards the ghost, just to notice that he was gone. “Can we see Adamah?”

    Before Sereno could answer me, a terrible pain went through my body.

    Then Phosphorous popped up next to my elbow. He was blue and transparent. “It is a bit late for that now! A Force storm is coming. None of you can stop Adamah any more!”

    From outside we heard a sound that sounded like the battle cry of a mad rancor mare defending her young ones. It was Adamah.

    “Are you dead, brother?” Sereno paled, which proved to me that he at least could spot Force ghosts and hear them.

    “What does it look like to you?” Phosphorus smirked. “Now stop acting stupid, Sereno! Save as many lives as you can! Off with you both!”

    The currents in the Force turned from little wrinkles into gigantic flood waves.

    ********************************************************************

    I felt like I was seeing one of those future visions of Isabeau. There was a lot of running, screaming, blood and dying.

    The Force was unleashed, or better to say my sister Adamah was. In her most desperate hour, her heritage had come upon her. It actually used her as a vessel in the physical world.

    Guns claimed a life of their own, shooting in every direction possible. Sometimes the laser fire hit living flesh, but in most cases only wood, stone or metal surfaces were shot upon.

    People howled in confusion and pain.

    Aunt Calothrix passed me by at one of the open doors, clutching to a crying Khion. “Grianán, come with me!” she pleaded. “You must not be out here!”

    I had no time to follow her, because Uncle Kairos pushed me brutally. “Off with you, freak!”

    The winged door was barred behind me and I heard Aunt Calothrix scream, “You monster! She is our niece!”

    More locks doors were bolted from the inside, while Uncle Kairos barked, “I hope they all die today, the entire freak show that Agathos produced with that reptile.”

    I turned away from the temple, just to see Sereno and Éleos sprint towards Adamah in the distance. Her eye sockets contained only yellow fire. The eye balls had melted away. My sister was truly gone. All that remained in the middle of the plaza was a lethal tool of the dark side.

    My two brothers got swept away in the Force storm along with a few other unfortunate people. At least their skills of levitation would prevent them from crashing on the ground.

    Somebody patted my head. It was Mother. “Stay right here and do not move! There is nothing you can do, Grianán. I will take care of this. It is my destiny.”

    Helplessly, I watched her walking towards her own doom, her back straight. There was no false haste in her movements. She had an appointment with death and she knew it.

    The buildings that surrounded the market place were on fire. It was not like a usual fire that can be found inside a chimney. No power in the universe could extinguish its unnatural heat. It would eat its way through the city and devour everything in its wake.

    I prayed that Luçien had brought his family into safety. Their pretty yellow house was nearby.


    [IMG]

    Slowly, I walked until I was in the middle of the stair case, being forced to stop more than once. Dead bodies and body parts were scattered around like neglected toys. My light shield only held all the flying debris away from me. I had to be careful not to stumble.

    Mother burst into flames. Instead of letting go of Adamah, she held her even tighter. It did not matter to her that my sister´s soul was already long gone. It was the body she had given birth to nine sun years ago.

    Daná cried out in terror and Caelestris tried to calm her effortlessly.

    Father collapsed and rolled down the stair case. Grandfather ran after him, his face a mask of alarm.

    “No more!” I reached into the depths of my being. My memories of the Force vortex were still there. I had to catapult them into the abyss around me.

    My Midi-chlorians helped me to establish the impossible, but there was a price to pay. Blood vessel after blood vessel burst inside my body.

    All that was in the air fell on the ground.

    Something red ran out of my ears in hot streams.

    The Force storm died in the distance.

    “Please stop! Please stop! Please stop!” I repeated this sentence like a mantra as I cried tears of blood.

    More red rivers sought their way out of me through the corners of my mouth. I did not mind. If I would die right here and now, it would be for a good cause.

    Then I stood directly in front of the smoking pile that once had been Mother and my sister Adamah. Their bodies had molten into one another like two chunks of bantha butter. Despite what had happened, one of them was still alive and full conscious. Her brain patterns were most familiar to me.

    “Mama? Mama? Can you hear me?”

    Her emerald eyes opened despite her severe burns. She looked at me with love. Her thoughts, drowned in unbelievable pain, reached out for mine. “Grianán, go straight to the villa! Use the holonet to call Misera and tell her that code 3757 is active from now on!”

    ********************************************************************

    Adrenaline and my Midi-chlorians kept me functioning. Nobody paid any attention to me. I was too small to be noticed.

    The city was completely altered. All the flowers and plants were gone, along with the majority of the houses in the temple district. But against the horizon, I could see an intact skyline. Somewhere out there was the villa of Grandmother Techné.

    I collided with a pair of legs and looked up in a daze. This galaxy was not vast enough.

    “You again!” Luçien roared. He was completely soaked in ocean water.

    I said the first thing that came to mind. “You killed Acheron?”

    He seized me by my neck and lifted me to eye level. “What?” He asked with an aggressive edge in his voice.

    “Acheron.” I could tell that the name meant something to him. “He drowned. He told me. In the temple.”

    His irises turned yellow. “Can you speak to the dead, little witching? Why am I not surprised? A true daughter of the Holy Isle. Necromancy runs strong in your family.”

    Another thought came to me. “The twins love you. They forgive you. So does Lisiére.”

    That was not what he had expected to hear. He dropped me into the dust. At first, I thought he was going to hit me, but he just stood there, breathing hard.

    “I also forgive you,” I went on. “Skywalker was a bad daddy. Poor Luçien.”

    Tachys loomed over my shoulder, while her father ran off like a mad person. “Now he is totally spooked out! You should not have said anything. Especially not about his twin sister.”

    Phren said, “The Human League has gone crazy all over the city. You are not safe. Move it, bright eyes.”

    I turned around to face the two Force ghosts. “I lost my way. Can you help?”

    ********************************************************************

    Shortly before entering the villa I drew the Force around me like a cloak. Phren and Tachys showed me how mask my presence this way. I was grateful to them. It was a pity they were dead; we would have been friends otherwise.

    I was able to sneak into the house by using the servant entrance. They were all staring at the frozen holonet screen. Some of them wept openly, others ranted passionately about my family and Force users in common.

    I sneaked upstairs, leaving bloody marks behind me. It could not be helped. My Midi-chlorians had an overdose of dark side energies. That made it difficult for me to heal. I would need help from someone else.

    A weird noise made me turn around automatically, with my body tense and prepared to flee.

    But it was just a cleaning robot erasing my blood. The robots were not such a bad invention, as my mother always had pretended them to be. Relieved, I continued my way with two floating Force ghosts next to me.

    “Cool place! Sad that daddy never took us here, while we were still alive,” commented Phren.

    “Daddy has a problem with the queen,” Tachys reminded him. “They had a bad start together.”

    “And he hates me,” I sighed.

    Phren held up my chin, making me look straight into his beautiful face. “Not all the time.”

    That was a small relief.
  9. AzureAngel2 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 14, 2005
    star 6
    Chapter 8: Guardian angel

    Establishing a holonet connection with Draconis was no problem with Tachys helping me. “Daddy lets me play in his office when he talks to his friend Agathos. This is why I know so much about you, Grianán. Your father loves you very much. He can talk for hours about you.”

    Compared to Luçien, the Ankou twins knew how to make me happy, even in their afterlife.

    Tachys chatted on, her face reflecting her excitement. “About the holonet. I have paid attention. You activate it here and then you press there. It is the number of his house on the Holy Isle...”

    The call went straight to the bungalow of father and Grandfather Narthex, but luckily it was passed on to the fovea centralis headquarters. The face of a young secret agent filled the entire screen. She frowned when she saw me. I assumed that I looked awful. “Princess Grianán?”

    “Code 3757, city temple, Polysýndeton, Amnion,” I blurted out.

    Before I could say anything else, Misera came into view and pushed her minion aside. She was the Commander-in-Chief of the entire Draconian army. Although she was a haggard, wiry woman with a harsh voice, with me she always had been tender. “We will get your royal arses out of there, kiddo!” she burst out passionately. “Stay put! How many are there down at the temple?”

    “Phosphoros and Adamah.”

    “Dam it! The future queen is dead.” She massaged her temples. In the background I could hear the howls of her staff. “Any injured folks?”

    Now I cried openly, remembering the burned body of Mother. “Mom,...she... dark side fire... and dad... his heart...”

    “Shush, kiddo,” Misera tried to soothe me. Her worry was genuine as only I could cause tears in her eyes. “We will get all of you out of there. Where are you?”

    “At Gran´s,” I whimpered.

    She made a clicking sound with her tongue, disapproving my whereabouts.
    It´s not safe to be there! Go to the Embassy of Sapuhru. Vicomte Ankou must help you. He is your father´s friend.”

    The office door opened.

    “Run!” Misera cut the connection.

    ********************************************************************

    I felt nothing alarming behind me, but I spun around very carefully nevertheless. Grandmother Techné stood there, panting hard. Her walking stick trembled uncontrolled in her hands. She was less blood-smeared than I was, but covered with more ash and debris.

    Two cleaning droids zoomed in, busy to fight the stains that we both had caused on the floor.

    “Grianán, is that truly you?”

    “Yes, Granny,” I gathered myself and sprinted towards her.

    At that very moment a loud bang was to be heard. It was as if the front door had exploded.

    Countless human presences entered the villa. They were in for murder and havoc. Each of them had scary thoughts concerning my family.

    “Hide under my tunic!” Grandmother yelped. “They are coming! By Parhelion, they are quick! I never expected them to be that organized! Oh, Kairos, what have you done?”

    I did her bidding and dived between her legs. A light curtain of cotton fell around me.

    Orders were shouted through the house.

    Grandmother tightened her grip on her walking stick. I heard the wood creak under her tense touch. “Stay very calm now,” she said in a low voice, which was thick with love and concern. “Do not move make no sound. Your life depends on it!”

    The cleaning robots rolled off again.

    “Mistress Aletheia?” a male voice asked.

    I was paralysed by a confusing amount of feelings. It amazed me that one single person could have such contradicting thoughts. This man was even worse than Luçien on a bad day.

    “You better explain yourself, Hyperion!” Grandmother bellowed. “And take that silly mask off. I know it is you.”

    “Yes, Mistress Aletheia,” He mumbled and I heard some rustling.

    Grandmother was not finished yet. “I am not dead, am I?”

    “No, Mistress Aletheia!” The man sounded less muffled now. “Of course not.”

    “That means”, Grandmother shouted, “That this is still my house. I thought that made it clear to Kairos. I do not wish to see any of you in here while I am still alive.”

    “We just wanted to protect this property,” Hyperion said hastily. He had been afraid of Grandmother since he was a young child.

    “By breaking in to it? Thank Parhelion that your mother is not here to witness such an outrageous act! Poor Hypoxia. You always were the apple of her eye, yet you have brought her nothing but shame the past years.”

    “We will stay here until Kairos is back!” Hyperion insisted. “You need protection.”

    “My eldest son is in hospital. Two of my grandchildren are dead. My daughter-in-law will not survive the night. My favourite granddaughter Grianán is missing. You may leave now! All of you!”

    “Mistress!” The man clicked his boots together and ran off, barking orders. “One of the royal freaks has disappeared. A girl. Three years old. Blond curls. Very small and bony. Let us find the little bugger and kill her off! I want her dead before the rest of the city gets destroyed.”

    The sound of boots lost itself in the distance. All the frightening thought patterns also dissolved. I wished that I had not witnessed them. What adults could think of other living beings was horrible. I hoped that none of them had a chance to come anywhere near my siblings.

    ********************************************************************

    Grandmother and I waited until we believed it to be safe. More than once she stirred uneasily. Her artificial hips gave her great pain, but she held herself like the lady that she was. “You can come out now, Grianán! They are gone. Hyperion even forgot to put his mask back on.”

    I crawled out of my hiding place. On the floor, just inches away from me, lay a white piece of cloth. When I picked it up, I saw that it was a hood. It had two holes in it for the eyes. Involuntarily I shivered. The Human League.

    I raised my right palm a bit and closed the office doors with the Force. They would not open unless I wanted them to. Grandmother looked at me thoughtful. “Am I really your favourite?” I asked her shyly.

    Her wrinkled arms closed around me, not minding that I was dirty. “Of course you are.”

    “But I have Midi-chlorians inside me,” I probed.

    “Force user or not, you are family. I will not give you to the blood hounds of the Human League. The primary meaning of my religion is love, and if I am to end up in hell for loving my own granddaughter, so be it.” Before I could wonder why she had come home in the first place, she said, “Narthex asked me to come here and to make to two important calls. One to Draconis with some secret code and one to the Embassy of Sapuhru.”

    “Code 3757 is already active,” I mumbled into the folds of her dress, just loud enough that she heard me.

    “Oh my!” Grandmother exclaimed. “You are such a clever child.”

    “Mother told me,” I said.

    She pressed her hand against her mouth. “But how could she...”

    With my right index finger I ticked against my brow, looking up to her. I also used a word that an adult like her knew. “Te-le-pa-thy.”

    “I see!” she exclaimed. “It is a miracle that your mother is still alive. Éleos and Sereno guard her body. They do not allow anybody to come close to her and.... what is also left of your sister.”

    Instead of shedding tears I told her, “Luçien visits the archbishop. Call him there!”

    Grandmother followed my suggestion without questioning it.

    During the actual call, I stayed out of view. It was bad enough that Grandmother begged Luçien to come for me and bring me into safety. She could not feel his anger the way that I did. Yet, he agreed to come, despite the death of the twins and their nanny Angina; despite the desperate state that Cousin Sionnach and her surviving son, Éibhear, were in.

    ********************************************************************

    When Luçien finally rushed into my uncle’s office, he reminded me of one of the guardian angels that framed the temple roof. He was a darker version though. There was nothing serene or beatific about him. He had lost his wings long ago and carried his stalwart scimitar at his side. Murder and blood lust lay in his eyes. They could turn yellow any time. He shut the door straight into the face of the servant that had brought him upstairs.

    “Mistress Aletheia, I came as fast as I could.” He bowed politely to Grandmother, taking time for etiquette with her at least.

    She beamed at him. “Milord, I am so glad that you came at my request. I trust nobody else with Grianán here.”

    “I am honoured to be of use, Mistress Aletheia.” Luçien gazed at me with irate and piercing eyes. “Come here, Grianán!”

    I did as requested, glad that he finally used my name instead of calling me dreadful things.

    He went on his knees. A waterfall of dark blue cloth gathered around him. “I will bring you straight to the hospital room where your father is. Once we arrive there, I will help your family to seek shelter at my Embassy. You all can stay there until...”

    “Nanny is back,” I interrupted him and rose my chin.

    Luçien lifted me into his arms and wrapped a large part of his cape around me. It was like sitting in a desert tent. “Don´t lose hope, Mistress Aletheia,” he informed Grandmother as he turned back to her. “I will try to get matters right.”

    I wondered how he was going to achieve that Force miracle. If he had not kidnapped Isabeau, none of this may have happened. I did my best not to put the entire blame on him. He also had paid a high price today.

    [IMG]

    “I am sorry for you!” I whispered. “So sorry!”

    “Don´t!” The new sympathy in his tone sounded genuine, and for all my heart knew, it was. “Better pity yourself, Grianán.”

    ********************************************************************

    Nobody dared to stop or to address us. Luçien was well known, feared and admired in Polysýndeton. His authority protected us like steel armour.

    In front of the hospital, another Lidérc approached us. Luçien inclined his head to the man and went on walking, but in a different direction. We were leaving the hospital grounds again.

    I stirred uneasily in his arms. My distress did not escape him.

    “It seems that the hospital was not safe enough from the Human League. Sangsue was kind to point that out to me,” Luçien explained to me. “He risked a lot coming here in person, just to tell me.”

    My pulse hammered in the hollow of my throat. “Where are they? The blood hounds?”

    “All over the city. They are strong in number. Many civilians might side with them. Everybody wants to wipe out your family after today. I am sorry for that. This is not what I wanted.”

    The uneasy feeling in my belly intensified. I felt it spread through the Force meld that existed between my siblings. “Éleos and Phosphoros are at the market place!” I yelped.

    He rose an eyebrow at me. “What for? Shopping for groceries? In the aftermath of a Force storm?”

    “Mammy”, I whimpered. “They guard her. Such great pain.”

    He shuddered. “Nobody can be alive after such a trial. Not even a powerful Darksider like her.”

    I gave him an explanation that he could understand. He was a parent, despite the way he behaved at times. “She waits for Isa.”

    ********************************************************************

    Luçien went straight to the city temple with me still in his arms. His heart hammered loud against my ears. So fierce, so violent. When we suddenly stopped, I peeked out from beneath his cape. It looked as if Éleos and Phosphoros had tried to fight off a huge crowd by themselves.

    My Midi-chlorians alerted me to another problem. The archbishop of Polysýndeton came to stand beside us. “We should free Arcānā from all her suffering, little brother,” he suggested practically. “It only would be merciful.”

    I did not like their idea of mercy. Silently, I began crying.

    Luçien, overwhelmed by a wave of empathy, stroked one of my cheeks. “No, Parhelion! We need to get Arcānā back to her home world. She clings on to life for her little ones.”

    The archbishop thought for a moment. “All right then. But only because it’s for the children.” He sighed and clapped his hands together.

    Immediately, temple guards came running out of their hiding places and helped my brothers to secure the burned body of our mother.

    “I won´t be long, Parhelion,” Luçien stated. His gloved fingers lingered on my skin. “Let me drop this one here at the Embassy and then I am with Sionnach and Éibhear again.”

    “Who is that?” asked the archbishop and tried to peak under the cape.

    “Grianán, her little favourite.” Luçien protected me from exposure, by tapping the other man on the fingers. “Just leave the girl be! She had a rough day.”

    “So has the rest of the city,” snorted the archbishop.

    “Please?” Luçien spoke casually, but I saw his fingers clench and tighten on a fold of his cape. Suddenly he was very, very tense.

    “Ah, go on then! I hate crying children! They are a nuisance.”

    Luçien wrapped his arms around me even more, as if to prove that I was no nuisance to him. “How much dark side energy were you exposed to?” He asked me when we were out of hearing range of the archbishop.

    I shrugged helplessly. There was no way to measure it.

    One of his hands cupped the back of my head. “I will not allow you to die on me! You better stay alive to honour the sacrifice of your mother. Do you hear me? Stay alive!”

    Something exploded inside my skull. I never had believed the night to be so bright and so hauntingly beautiful.
  10. AzureAngel2 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 14, 2005
    star 6
    Chapter 9: Against all odds

    When I woke up I was not in the company of Luçien any longer. Grandfather held me in his arms instead. We were lying in a bed with silk linen in a little, airy room with a lot of transparent curtains. The morning sun shone through the windows. I wore a clean nightgown and my hair was done nicely.

    My fingertips glided up and down my plait, my gift of touch unfolding. Luçien had braided my hair, crying all the way through it. I found that touching somehow. He was really guilt ridden. Polysýndeton, his twins, their nanny, Mother, Adamah, Phosphorous; he had mourned them all. Still did.

    “Grianán!” Grandfather kissed my hairline. “You slept through it all.”

    I was cross with myself for missing everything. “What happened?”

    “The crisis unit came to get everybody off planet. Misera asked me to give you her greetings. Without you, none of this would have been possible.” He continued to stroke my hair. “You were so ill - that Luçien insisted on keeping you here for a while. I agreed to that, if you do not mind. Misera made no fuss.”

    The room came closing in around me. Luçien cared. For me. “How long?”

    “You’ve been asleep for two days. Lucien and I would have thought you were dead if your chest didn’t rise with your short breaths.”

    I stared at the ornamented ceiling. There I could see desert roses painted in a soothing pattern. Beautiful plants that were able to survive a hostile climate, like my nanny. “Is Isa back?” I asked.

    “No, she is not, but we can wait for her to return while you heal.”

    ********************************************************************

    During the next two nights, Luçien would always come to my bedside as I fell asleep and sent me into a healing trance. He wasn’t aware that I knew of his deep sighs, his frustration, the flow of positive Force energies through his palms and his private sorrows. He was torn between concern and loathing. I was not sure how to help him out. He had to sort out the chaos in his head by himself, as Mother had to on the temple steps before rushing over to Adamah.

    Soon my life settled down into a comforting routine. Parhelion made sure that the harbour area was heavily guarded as Grandfather waited for Isabeau. We went to the pier every day when the sun was at its brightest to look for signs of her ship.

    To return to the Embassy for common meals with Luçien was awkward. Among us, he could allow himself to eat without a veil. His cat eyes would either be directed on his food or at Grandfather as they talked. The two of them had very long conversations. I did not mind that. This way I could listen in undisturbed and try to understand.


    [IMG]

    On the morning of my fifth day in the Embassy, I learned that Sionnach and her remaining son Éibhear were cared for at the palace of the archbishop. My cousin did not cope very well with the death of the twins. She believed them to be alive and in need of her. Her shock prevented her to grasp the truth of what had happened.

    Grandfather came up with an unusual proposal. “When the community of local Lidérc can spare you, you should consider bringing Sionnach and Éibhear to Draconis.”

    “What for?” Luçien frowned deeply.

    Grandfather poured himself a second mug of coffee. “Draíocht and her three children had a central role in the life of Sionnach long before you came along. They mean safety and home to her. A place she regards as sanctuary even. I doubt that the serail of your father can offer that. Not even honoured Minou can fix matters as they are.”

    Luçien gave a questioning look. “How...?”

    “I read all the confidential security files on your honoured maîtresse-en-titre. They were in my daughter’s personal luggage. One could say they are like her book of prayers.”

    Luçien flushed, both with anger and embarrassment. Whatever he wanted to say, he just swallowed it down and continued to listen.

    In general, people highly valued the expertise and advice of Grandfather. He radiated confidentiality. A master valet always seemed to have the solutions for everything, as well as an intimate insight. “Your little family needs to get better soon. And this cannot happen in a traumatized city. Not for them, and pardon me for saying so, not for you.”

    Luçien was avoiding Grandfather´s eyes now.

    “And if I might be allowed to add the following assumption, it also would do the boy good to have other children around. Éibhear is very well aware that he cannot get back his siblings in this life. But it would ease his loneliness.” Then Grandfather said something that made my heart ache. “When Aréte was taken from us, it did my grandchildren good to leave the midwinter castle. Of course the memories and the facts stayed the same, but a change of air can work miracles.”

    For a while I only heard the sea gulls outside, soaring above the city. Then Luçien started speaking again. “I really should consider it.”

    “Do not wait too long!” Grandfather took a sip from his mug. “Right now, Sionnach is still in shock and that protects her like a cocoon. She should not be anywhere near ground zero when she becomes more aware.”

    He did not indicate that Luçien would not be able to handle it. For that he was too discreet. He always had a way of saying things in a manner that people could be left to interpret to their own liking.

    I got up from my chair and slid out of the dining-room. It was not necessary for them to know that I heard them.

    ********************************************************************

    The next morning, when Grandfather was in the shower, I took heart and walked straight into Luçien´s office. He was wearing a simple house tunic. In white, he looked rather innocent and harmless. It was easy to see now that he was only slightly older than Isabeau, which meant that he was in his late twenties. His hair hung loose over his shoulders.

    “Luçien?” I asked.

    My appearance mildly irritated him. “What now?” He dropped the pencil that he had been sketching with.

    “You are not okay,” I stated.

    “I cannot see how this could be of any concern to you, Grianán.” Luçien heaved himself up from his office chair. The deep shadows under his eyes were not from his eye-liner or mascara. This morning he did not wear any of his usual make-up. I started to wonder if he had even gone to bed in the first place.

    “I lost family. I am sad.” My gaze wandered over his tense outlines. “You are sad. But you hide. You hurt. All the time.”

    He gave me a rueful smile. “Diplomacy is an art form that a young princess has to learn at some point. Even if she is a powerful telepath and rather empathic.”

    I swore to myself not to tell him about my other gifts. He had reacted more than implacable when I had told him about Acheron. I bet that if seeing dead people was forbidden, then my other Force skills would not be met with applause by him either. “Di-plo-ma-cy?” I had trouble with the word.

    His eyes glittered with mirth. He liked to educate me. “Tact and skill in dealing with people,” he explained. “You better start practising with me.”

    “You really know how it works? Di-plo-ma-cy?”

    He smiled even more. “I am an ambassador. Of course I do. For me, diplomacy is the art of conducting interplanetary relations, as in negotiating alliances, treaties, and agreements.”

    Perhaps I had it wrong, but ambassadors did not seem to sneak around and abduct people. They seemed to ooze charm and dazzle with words. So I told him about my doubts. “Am-bassa-dors also play innocent? Pretend they do no wrong? Like making people vanish?”

    “If your innuendos are meant as a diversion, your tactic works. I feel less sad now, but definitely more angry. Well done!” He glowered down on me. “I want you to leave now, Grianán! I have important work to do.”

    I crocked my head. “Like drawing the twins?”

    With a deliberate slow hand movement, Luçien put the drawing away and secured it in one of his desk drawers. He was still standing, which gave me the impression he liked to have the higher ground. “You are a complete nuisance. I wonder why your father is so fond of you.”

    I tried to ask a more innocent sounding question, searching all the words and grammar I had to make it sound like I wasn’t probing. “Why so serious? Why not be an artist, Luçien?”

    He threw his head back and roared with laughter. When he was more collected, he answered, “Killing is an art form of a different manner. A pencil cannot keep the enemies of the House Ankou at bay. Nor can a sheet of paper expel the sinners from the soil of Sapuhru.”

    I gnawed on my lip, considering. “Killing is not a nice hobby.”

    “Hobby? Your father can afford hobbies as a retired senator and prince consort. I have no hobbies. I have callings and duties.”

    “You not whole,” I tried to reason. “Do more paintings. Have more children. Like daddy. We do him good. More children with Sionnach would do you good.”

    Luçien leaned forward, his hands resting on the desk. He tried to keep his voice clear of any emotion. “I think your visiting time is up, Grianán. Do not test my patience!”

    I did not. Quickly I bobbed a curtsey and took care to close the winged doors as silently as possible.

    “Good girl!” I heard him call. “And now get washed and properly dressed! You are not on the Holy Isle. This is a government building. I know you are a wild child of the jungle, but try to look decent - especially when you visit me in my office! You can do better!”

    I could not help but notice that there was a tiny spark of humour in his voice. He enjoyed ordering me around. I would allow him to do so, but just for a while.

    ********************************************************************

    I managed to keep out of Luçien´s way for the rest of the day, which worked to my advantage. As usual, I sat as the harbour, waiting for the return of Isabeau. With the city being in such a bad state no search party was looking for her. Grandfather had explained to me that human resources were needed differently.

    My gift told me that Luçien had personally made the lunch we had brought. For me, he had packed in some sweets and a note which Grandfather had to read for me.

    “Do not forget to brush your teeth later on. Too much sugar can cause tooth decay.”

    Grandfather and I laughed together. I shared my halvah with him.

    When we returned to the Embassy, we found a note that Luçien was otherwise occupied. He had taken care to let an employee of his to cook for us. His impatience with me did not prevent him from sneaking in my room when I was in bed and Grandfather talked with Draconian authorities over the holonet. I had offered Luçien enough distraction from his recent heartbreak. He longed for more.

    “A bedtime story? For me? Please?” I asked into the dense shadows of my bedroom.

    “Sure,” Luçien came closer and I knew immediately that I would not like the story. “A long time ago, you were not even born and nor was I, the mighty Force witches of Draconis ruled my people. They made them to kill Elves, thousands of them. But when the Force witches tired of their loyal soldiers they forced them all together on a large trader and dropped them into the burning desert sand of Sapuhru.”

    I pulled my blanket up my nose, even though it was a fairly warm night. “Unicorns please!”

    He crouched down at my bedside. “You can´t always get what you want, little princess.”

    I held on to the blanket, hoping that I could at least learn something here. “If it helps you. You hurt again.”

    I felt him smile cynically in the dark. “Survival was not easy, but then divine Sodalith and her daughter Calme had an idea. They wrote down the holy laws and gave them unto Gorge, who saw those rules executed and followed. As time passed, Gorge had many followers. He was a good, righteous man who despised Force witches and people who did not act according to the Holy Scriptures. In the many generations to follow, the Brotherhood of Shadows brought peace and order to the realm. We still do.”

    I asked a question my sister Daná was fond off. It seemed fitting. “So what´s the point?”

    “Little girls that stay on the wrong path might get killed by a witch hunter when they are of age. I happen to be such a hunter.”

    That was worse than I imagined. He was not only an assassin. I vanished completely under my bed sheet.

    “Do not worry, Grianán. I have come to like you, despite how your mother is,” he assured me. “It is also against my principle to harm guests that stay under my roof. Hospitality is very important in my culture.”

    “Host-ility?” I asked with a thin voice.

    “Hos-pi-tal-ity, Grianán. There is a great difference between being nice to a guest or very unkind.”

    It was not clear to me if he truly knew the difference between those two. “Tomorrow night a real story, please! And hos-pit-al-ity. You can do better!”

    ********************************************************************

    An open challenge was something Luçien could not resist. He came to visit me again at my bedside later that night, but this time I was prepared. The salt crystal lamp went on when I gave its chain a Force tug. Then I made a fairytale book rise beside me; I had found it in the luggage of Grandfather. All the time I remained hidden under my blanket. It was my fortress.

    “No Force witches, please!” I exclaimed.

    After what seemed like an eternity, Luçien took the book. I heard him skimming through the pages. “Unicorns? Are you sure about that?” he asked in between. “Star Wars and unicorns? That is a culture clash, Grianán. You are a serpent-spawn of Cunabula. Blood and darkness should be to your liking.”

    I was not offended. “You love blood. And darkness. I want a happy end.”

    Luçien pondered on that, but not for too long. “What about a story with a fierce and dangerous dragon?”

    I made a little opening with my blanket. “A romantic story, please. With kissing.”

    He made an indignant sound, before sinking down on the mattress. “Are you familiar with the fairy tales of Kevin J. Anderson?”

    My head shot out of my hiding place. “´The Little Lost Bantha Cub´! Oh please!”

    He chuckled, stroking my hair thoughtfully. “Forget about the book! I can tell you his stories by memory.”

    I drew back under my blanket again. “You like to scare me.”

    “And if I try my best not to?” Sadness echoed in his voice.

    I remembered a sentence that I said to Isabeau before she went missing. “Do or do not. There is no try.”

    After a while, I felt a hand - patting the bump that was my head under the blanket.

    “After the sandstorm that drove him from home, the little lost bantha cub wandered alone. So he walked, and he walked through the desert heat till noon, when he found...”

    ********************************************************************

    When Luçien had finished the story, I was not under my blanket any longer. My head rested comfortably on his lap and he had one of his hands in my hair, curling my locks around his fingers. “See?” I breathed, overjoyed with the story and the special attention. “A happy ending.”

    “Real life is different, Grianán. People get hurt and die.”

    I reached up for his chin, stroking his funny little goat beard. “Then do not hurt. Make nobody die. Use happy endings. Like in story-telling.”

    He ticked against my nose, his demeanour bitter-sweet. “I wish it was that easy, my little dreamer.”

    “It is,” I disagreed with him.

    He sighed, too tired to argue. “Sleep tight and take care.” Luçien bent down to give me a good night kiss on my forehead.

    Reluctantly I let him go.

    Not much later, Grandfather was back. “I am sorry it took so long, Grianán.”

    I turned towards him and asked sleepily, “Mama?”

    “Misera told me that the emergency team has never seen anything like this. She still hangs on, too stubborn to die.”

    As much as I enjoyed my stay in the Embassy, I hoped that Isabeau would find her way back to us, soon. I could not have Mother suffer on my behalf.
  11. AzureAngel2 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 14, 2005
    star 6
    Chapter 10: The story teller

    Luçien made time in his dense schedule to visit me every evening. He altered between telling me a bedtime story giving me a brief good-night blessing. During the day, I was allowed to visit him in his office, preferably before breakfast and after I had dressed. He gave as much paper as I desired. The crayons he lent me belonged to the twins. It gave him some comfort to see me use them.

    [IMG]

    Determined to prove how beautiful Draconis was, I painted rancors, jungle trees and the midwinter castle in the mountains for him. Each time I had a painting ready, I rushed into his office to present it to him. Within a short time he had a large art collection, keeping it in a special drawer.

    Isabeau had been missing for nearly three weeks when Grandfather left for an audience with the archbishop. I was lying on my belly using a book as a pad for my painting.

    “This painting is extraordinarily green,” Luçien commented, hovering above me.

    “Life is green.” I glanced up at him expectantly. “The Living Force is green.”

    “What would you know about the Living Force, Grianán?” he asked sharply, as if the Force was a private club and I had no membership.

    I stood up, sad and bewildered at his reaction. “More than you would think.”

    “Enlighten me.” Luçien went to his knees to look me in the eyes.

    “What if you hate my answers? There is this book. I found it in your office, next to the paper.” My eyes stung. It was actually the very book that I had been using as a pad. “Those horrible paintings... women getting hurt. By men like you.”

    “Do not worry! I will let you know before I come for you, Grianán,” he said calmly. His eyes told me that he was not joking. “And there will not be any torturing. I will make it quick.”

    “We are friends,” I sniffed. “You like me.”

    “For the time being, yes.” He nodded. “I give you credit for being a sweet, little girl at present. But you will grow up, and being your mother´s daughter you are likely to do stupid things. Things that I might not approve of. Dark deeds.”

    I almost shoved my painting into his unveiled face. “Look very close! Green. Not black and white. Green. Why can´t you see! I am not evil!”

    With that, I ran out of the office, crying.

    ********************************************************************

    It did not take Luçien very long to find me. Uncertain, he stood in front of the wardrobe in which I was hiding from him. He felt me in there as clearly as I felt him.

    Are you okay?” he asked carefully, leaning his brow against the wardrobe door.

    “You still want to hurt me.” My voice was thick from tears. “You do not understand the Force. Or friendship. Or love.”

    He remained silent.

    “Your universe is black and white.” I pressed my spine against the inner wall of the wardrobe. “This is why you use pencils. You are afraid. Afraid to do the twins in colour.”

    Luçien tore the wardrobe door open, his eyes alight with the dark side. “You will not speak of them again!”

    “But you think of them night and day,” I protested. “You miss them as much as Sionnach does.”

    His breathing became irregular and he had clenched his hands. “You will not mention her either.”

    “It is just forbidden to mention the dead. But Sionnach is not dead,” I said and added hastily. “Not yet!”

    Luçien looked at me with his yellow eyes, streaked with red blood vessels. “Be careful, Grianán! You go too far!”

    “I?” I giggled hysterically. “You have yellow eyes.”

    His features froze. “What?”

    “You have Mother´s eyes,” I gulped.

    When Luçien picked me up, I did not stop him. I did not want to make it any worse. His cupped my chin, forcing me to look directly into his face. Then he saw it, his own pointless and frightening ire.

    “This is not possible,” He growled. “This cannot happen to me. I am immune.”

    “You thought wrong!”

    “It must have been that cursed holocron I destroyed. This is all Solitaire´s fault.” Disturbed from what he saw in my reflection, he put me down again.

    “You destroyed a holocron?” I was shocked. There were just teaching devices with nice gatekeepers in them, speaking about the universe. Luçien was obsessed with finding evil in everything.

    He looked down on me. “I want you to go to your room and stay there until your grandfather returns.”

    “Will you be okay?” I inquired, because I was not sure he would be.

    “Go!” he shouted.

    I ran as quick as I could. When he gave me such a warning it was better that I listened immediately.

    ********************************************************************

    Nanny returned a couple of sun hours later. Actually, it was when the memorial service in the city temple took place and Luçien was attending the ceremony with Sionnach. Therefore the entire city was empty. Everybody was either in the temple or glued to the holonet screens.

    When Isabeau came closer I saw that her sharp face showed lines of strain. For about two and a half weeks she had been lost at open sea.

    “Milady.” That was the only word that Grandfather was able to get out of his throat, tense with emotions. He had been strong until now, but now there were chisels in his perfect façade.

    “Who?” asked Isabeau, fetching him with her strong arms. “And how?”

    Her questions brought him to his knees because it was all coming back to him. Limp and exhausted he lay in her embrace, the tears constantly flowing.

    I skimmed through the thoughts of Isabeau again, even though it was not very polite to do so. It was never nice to dive into the secrets and wishes of others without their permissions. But I needed to understand Luçien. She could help me achieve that. I reached out with trembling hands.

    ”I want this!” I exclaimed.

    Nanny consented to my touch. The flesh of our hands almost melted into one another. The old mental link that we had once forged in the holy birth cave of Cunabula was reactivated and deepened a thousand times. The flood of memories was overwhelming.

    Until now Luçien had made so many bad choices. The most shocking piece of evidence was the brutal death of a fovea centralis agent, who had been dear to Mother in many ways.

    A blue crackling light was all around him, when Luçien strode towards the bed and pressed Solitaire down with a chilling easiness.

    “At the end of life, little secret service agent, all questions are answered. Yes, I am his son and inherited his powers. And no, Arcana cannot stop me. There is an issue to be resolved between the two of us. The Lidérc are my people now, not my father´s race. And I will fight for their rights. They have a right to get back into paradise again.”

    Solitaire was struggling hard under him. “The Lidérc are a failure. They cannot be controlled. And even you cannot teach them how to be nice to their former prey.”

    His nose was hovering above hers while he spoke. “The Elves are a very old and powerful race, blessed with a very long life. Our people should have greeted them as long lost brothers and sisters instead of trying to root them out. My father learned to love them during his exile here on Sapuruh. Love is the answer, not hate.”

    She spit into his face. “And you killing me tonight is an act of love. How kind of you. You spread love and peace everywhere you go.”

    Luçien gave her a very stern look. “I simply punish those who do not keep to the rules. You broke the duke´s trust and your marriage vows. Your recent behaviour makes no sense to me at all. You already had my attention the very moment you arrived here. I knew you were Her´s, bred for a special purpose.”

    “You will find out how special I was, when I am gone.” Solitaire hissed. Her eyes were blazing with hatred. “Come on, finish it!”

    “As you wish!” Luçien whispered sadly.

    Solitaire began to shake uncontrollably under him. Blood was running out of her nostrils, her ears and mouth.

    When I was able to speak again heard myself mutter to Nanny, “There is one thing. Be strong for me! I need you.”

    ********************************************************************

    Grandfather went straight to a little breakfast pension with us. The elderly couple, who owned it, had been friends with with him since his elementary school days. Joel and Bonnie Whitesun were honest and hard working people. I knew them from stories of his already. They glowed strongly in the Force, like two beacons of hope. With them we would be safe for the time being.

    When the three of us appeared in front of their desk they, acted as if Grandfather already had rooms with them.

    “Ah, Marquise Riwalan,” said Bonnie with a friendly smile while she leaned over the counter. “Master Kyrene and the little one were so hopeful that you would return to them.”

    Joel put his arm around his wife´s waist. “Dreadful assassins. To abduct you and to leave you on a boat for... what, three sun weeks? You must have been sick with worries for your protégés.”

    “Er... yes!” gulped Nanny, overwhelmed by so much acceptance and kindness. I read in her thoughts that she did not suspect anything wrong going on. She was just tired and happy to be re-united with us.

    “Grianán,” said Bonnie lovingly. “Your nanny could use a shower after all her hardships at the high sea. Come with me and fetch her some towels! We can prepare that room next to yours for her. The one you were so fond of.”

    I nodded eagerly and went with her, while Joel let Isabeau to the dining room for some coffee and lunch sandwiches.

    “Good girl,” Bonnie said to me. “Your quick wit is remarkable for a three-year-old. I can feel that the Force is strong in you.”

    I gave her an uncertain look, while she rummaged around in the laundry closet. She had deep wrinkles around her eyes.

    “Now and then a child is born who is ahead of its actual age. That must be hard on you.”

    She handed three white, fluffy towels over to me.

    “Your grandfather was the same way when he was your age. No wonder he chose to become a valet. This way he could hide his true nature among common people.”

    I blinked at her.

    “Oh, the Force is very strong in some of the local families. Off the record, of course. Authorities would not like that very much. We hide as much as the Sea Elves.”

    She winked at me and added three pieces of lavender soap to the towel that I was already holding on.

    “I will send my husband for your luggage, while your nanny is in the refresher. The Vicomte will have somebody of his Brotherhood at the Embassy, while he is at the memorial service. There should not be any problem. Her Ladyship will never know.”

    Bonnie put a hand on my back and steered me through her house.

    ********************************************************************

    While Nanny was enjoying her hot shower, Grandfather sneaked away to arrange an off-world flight. I decided to have a shower, too. When I was finished, I used the hair dryer and dressed all by myself. Then I pushed the wooden shutters of the bedroom open and made myself comfortable on the window seat.

    Not many people were around in the street below. Even though the fog of debris had finally settled, the shock and disbelief of the sudden death of a nine-year-old girl still filled the hearts of the community. The majority of the city state hated my belated sister for the destruction that had occurred. Only a few took pity.

    I was upset that nobody saw the real dangers of the dark side of the Force. It lay not in the destruction of buildings and life forms, but in the creeping shadows that attacked the goodness of the heart. Healthy minds that had been twisted beyond recognition, and dark ambitions that could be kindled the wrong way. Hate and anger only strengthened negative energy.

    High above me, sea gulls circled the sky, eagerly looking for food. Their chances were very low. The national mourning period was not over yet. That meant that the port operations had come to an absolute stagnation. Even the daily market on the temple plaza did not take place.

    Rescue workers in red suits and fluorescent jackets passed by, as often as civilians in black mourning clothing. Some of the latter were mothers with shopping baskets and silent children clinging to them.

    Dealg had no problem catching my attention. His blazing presence in the Force was unmistakable. It felt like the kiss of sunbeams on my skin; like laughter erupting from my belly.

    Luçien´s father was a large humanoid with white-blond hair that was shoulder-length. He wandered around with ease and grace, radiating love and hope. There was a friendly twinkle in his blue-grey eyes. He made people smile at him despite their worries. When he looked up to me, my heart expanded. He had such a beautiful face, his features timeless.

    “Grianán.” His lips did not move. He spoke directly into my head. “Come down here, child!”

    And I went, as simple as that.

    ********************************************************************

    To my relief, Dealg stood in the entrance hall when I arrived downstairs. There was no need for me to leave the building. The mighty Force user went on his knees before me. He spoke aloud now with his wonderful voice that was as deep and pleasant as Luçien´s. “Thank you for your courage, child! Without you, it would have been worse. The entire city could have crumbled into pieces.”

    I blushed, my eyelashes lowering. His praise felt good though.

    He placed his slender hands on my shoulders and healing Force energy began floating into my body. But then he frowned. “Why would you do THAT with your soul?”

    “His had so little light,” I confessed. “Was that wrong?”

    His answer was a firm embrace. I lavished in it for a while. If life would have been different for Luçien and his choices also better ones, he would have become a gentle man like his father.

    Long, elegant fingers stroked through my hair. “Now I understand why my son is so furious with you. He is blinded the beauty of your gift. It will take him a while to figure out what you have given to him freely.”

    I still felt thousands of butterflies in my stomach when Dealg was gone. He surely had left a deep impression in me.

    The gentle voice of Bonnie startled me. “Care to watch me cook and have a mug of hot chocolate, Grianán?”

    I turned around with a grin and bounded after her.
  12. AzureAngel2 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 14, 2005
    star 6
    Chapter 11: Fragments of the past

    On-board the space ship, that flew us back to Draconis a couple of hours later, I developed a severe fever. I feared that it had to do my sudden departure from Luçien. I felt so weak without him. It almost hurt me physically.

    In addition, fragments of Nanny´s life haunted me. All of the memories were focusing around her step-brother.

    [IMG]

    At daylight, the L´ œil du ciel mirrored the caramel coloured sky of my home planet Sapuhru in a very beautiful way. In the weak light of the twin moons Sodalith and Calme, the lake reminded me more of a drop of spilled lamp oil.

    With a smile I dipped a foot into the warm salt water. “Are you coming?” I asked into the dense night shadows. For many, many heartbeats I waited for a satisfying answer, but only the sound of the wind was to be heard.

    I shrugged and went straight into the lake. “Well, as you wish, my brother.”

    When Luçien’s elegant body hit the water, I screamed out with both joy and surprise.

    My whole race was considered unpredictable, but my step-brother was the greatest enigma of all. His moods were as ever-changing as the dune sea itself. To determine his actions was even more difficult. On top of all, he was a big teaser.

    “You scoundrel!” I cried out.

    “Yes, my beloved desert rose?”

    Giggling softly I tried to hit him, but he was too fast for me. He whirled around me with the lightness of a belly dancer. Full of love, pride and admiration I looked at him.

    The bad memories of Isabeau were more in number than the good ones, making my blood race. One was from the sun day she found out what he really was, the day I had eavesdropped on her step-father and him.

    A warm cloth rested on my neck. Somebody had wrapped my arms and legs in towels, but my entire back was exposed to fresh air. It smelled strongly of Argan oil.

    There was also the mixed pressure of fingertips and knuckles on my skin.
    Now and then a pair of hands moved up and down my spine, stretching my body carefully. My heart began to beat faster. Luçien, only he could massage so well.

    “She saw everything?” I heard Alezan ask with disbelief. “How could that happen, Luçien?”

    “It was because of my unbelievable bad judgment,” my step-brother answered gloomily. “Solitaire was more clever than I thought. I should have recognized her side plan. Her poison almost killed Isabeau. Forgive me, papa!”

    “By all the different services that I asked of you recently, it is a miracle that you are not resting next to your sister. I should relieve you of some of your duties at last.”

    “Please don’t, I can manage.”

    “Your task as chef du la sécurité is so demanding that I feel guilty that I also turned you into my master assassin.”

    “I love those tasks.”

    Luçien was an assassin. And he loved this hideous work.

    I almost swallowed my tongue.

    “I know, my son. Nobody is better than you and my friends envy me, because of it. I love you with all my heart and want you to rest now. In future, you will rest at daylight.”

    “I sleep enough.”

    “My sources tell me otherwise.”

    “Maman cannot judge the situation very well. Did you know that she tried to persuade me to let Solitaire have a hunting accident? She wanted to spare me the traditional representation of the bastard embryo on a plate. Can you believe that?”

    “An accident like that may have spared Isabeau a lot of worries. She always had trouble with our way of life.”

    Luçien groaned. “She is like porcelain in my hands, so vulnerable, so delicate. This is why I have spoiled her too much in the past. This has to change now that she is not a toddler any more.”

    “Unlike you, she had a childhood, Luçien.”

    “You acted according to our laws. I protect the homestead and its inhabitants for you. Everybody who crosses you with his words or deeds is forfeit.” Luçien stopped his massage. “You had better leave. Isabeau will wake up soon. Her breath is becoming calmer and more relaxed already. You have guests to attend to. Give Monsieur Ahearne and his noble companion my regards. And tell Senator Aletheia that we will have our game of chess tomorrow.”

    ********************************************************************

    Nanny held me in her arms through the entire interstellar journey, whispering sweet nonsense into my hair. She meant well, but the sheer touch made the sensations in my head even sharper. I forgot where she ended and I began. Thus I relived her time of captivity on the sailing ship that Luçien had taken her to.

    I dreaded opening my eyes, for the stench warned me of what I would see. The midday sun shone annoyingly through my eyelids though. The beams painted strange coloured ornaments against my iris.

    “Isabeau, I know you are awake. Your breathing betrays you.”

    It was not that I was afraid of facing Luçien. All around us was the wide ocean. It was so blue that it was almost green and deep beyond measure. Its salty breath tickled the inside of my nostrils. Being tied up to the mast did not help lessen my frustration.

    “I prefer not to look at you,” I answered my step-brother coldly. “And I would welcome it if you would stop staring at me non-stop It bothers me.”

    For so many sun years I had managed brilliantly without him, especially after all the heartbreak and misery that he had put me through. The murder of Solitaire, the destruction of her holocron, my exile on Draconis. Now he was back in my life, unannounced and rather dramatically. And not very welcome. Whatever he was up to, I was sure I would not like the prospect of it. He had proved to me once before that his morals were twisted.

    “You have changed a great deal since I last saw you.” His voice was half sad and half admiring. ”You are indeed as powerful as my mother has foreseen. She told me that I would find a self-aware woman instead of a spoiled little girl. And here you are: beautiful as ever, strong, skilled in many ways and fierce.”

    Actually I did not care much about the things Fleur had said, nor for his own validation of me. “You will find out that I am still a lot of trouble to you.”

    The sound of the waves around us cost me a great deal of extra strength. The knowledge that bottomless water was encircling me like a hungry monster was more than terrifying. This was not my beloved salt lake, where I knew every inch. I was dealing with a world-wide ocean of a foreign planet.

    “What happened to your arm? Is that a prosthetic, Isabeau? Why did you leave it bare? That must be awful in the jungle or high in the mountains. You could have artificial skin growing over the metal and all those dreadful wires, neatly covering them.”

    Luçien made my blood boil in my veins; it pounded in my head. I wished with all my might to jump straight into his face and bite through his skin. “I like it the very way it is. Mind you, it is a weapon still - not the arm of an invalid.” I barked. “Are we finished with the interview yet? Or do you feel like inquiring after all of my battle injuries?”

    His laugh was warm and light. Memories of my youth stirred in me while he spoke. “You have too many scars, Isabeau. It would take hours to even mention them all. And you are not in a very talkative mood after all.”

    “Guess why! Do me the favour!”

    I felt him nearby and bit as hard as I could on my tongue. Then I spit blood straight into his face. That was the ultimate challenge among our people. He was invited to get the rest of my water if he dared. I would not make it easy for him if he did so.

    “I do not wish for a feud with you, Isabeau.”

    “Do not use my name that often,” I suggested bitterly. “It wears out this way.”

    Luçien touched my left cheek softly. Obviously he was wearing no leather gloves at all. I also could hear no rustling of robes. That made me quite uncomfortable.

    “I did not mean to harm you,” he insured me, cooing almost. For the child I once was it may have worked, but the holocron had cleansed me from feeling any love for him ever again. His magic was broken once and for all.

    “Well, it is far too late for that, Luçien,” I smirked. “You did not leave the best impression with all that you pulled today. Consider me harmed.”

    “I just fear that you will hurt yourself if I cut you loose.”

    “You are so pathetic and self-righteous.”

    His friendliness towards me did not make me forget all his evil deeds to bring order and peace to the galaxy. In the beginning of his career as master assassin, he might have had noble motives; now he was corrupted by his own goodness, his own supposed benevolence shielding him from reality. He was a dangerous foe - for me, for Arcana, and even worse: for the children.

    My mind raced to put the pieces together. If I had learned anything over the past sun years, it was logic. Agathos and Narthex had opened me to a whole new world with their ancient earth politics.

    “He is one of your best friends. How can you do that to him?” The rope cut deep into my only real arm.

    “I will do nothing to him,” Luçien insisted. Behind his calm façade I felt anger rising.

    “The Brotherhood of Shadows is as hypocritical as the order of the beanmna feasa and the druid circle. They might be children of the Force, but they are still children. Your mother let you live.”

    My words found no fertile ground.

    “It is their ability to make choices that makes them dangerous. Arcana has meddled too much with the Force and the DNA of various races.” Luçien had a stubborn edge to his voice.

    “Who are you to be their judge?” My rage exploded.

    Luçien had underestimated the strength of my prosthetic arm. I could hear him breathe in deep while I jerked myself free on one side. My eyes snapped open.

    “Listen to me now! If you push them like that you will only reap what you sow.”

    “You care too much for them to be able to make a clear judgement about the situation.”

    I frowned, not only because of his words but because I realized that I was looking at a total stranger. Even his eye colour was wrong. “What happened to you?”

    “Oh that.” Luçien shrugged casually. “I needed to blend in.”

    In front of my eyes, he changed back to the man that I knew: tall, copper skin, dark, curly hair, intense blue eyes. Yet there was a darkness in him that he was not fully aware of, that he could not hide.

    “Are you aware that something went wrong when you tried to destroy the holocron?”

    “Nothing is wrong with me!” he roared. “And I destroyed that evil tool!”

    “I see,” I purred. “For me it was just an innocent learning device. You made it into something it never was. It was you who made it evil.”

    He stormed towards me like a mad bantha bull, but I just moved aside, laughing. While I talked, I managed to fully free myself with my normal arm. He had not bound my feet or knees. “What now, Luçien? Do you want to destroy me like her serpent-spawn? Or like her lover Solitaire?”

    My words made him stop. We stood in front of each other, neither of us moving or speaking for a very long time.

    “I will not intervene with the attempted murder of the crown princess,” he finally said, his voice coming from very far away.

    “Try not to wash your hands in innocence as it is futile!” I yelled. “You have no idea what you will unleash.”

    “I fear, I do. But whatever will be, will be.”

    I could have choked him until his regret came out of every single opening of his body. “I will tell her the truth.”

    “Do whatever you wish to do, Isabeau. It will take you three sun weeks to sail back to the city. I left you sufficient food and water supplies. You have no means of communication on board, but you will be safe.”

    With that statement, Luçien simply vanished.

    I stood on the deck of the empty ship, my hands clenched in fists.

    ********************************************************************

    Tormented, I rolled forth and back in the arms of Isabeau, who failed to realize that her embrace was dangerous for me at present.

    Grandfather did not dare to suggest turning the spaceship around and have Luçien heal me. He and I both knew that it was better that Isabeau never came to know what her step-brother had done for my health the past weeks. Misera and her department would honour their part of the deal. And my siblings never looked into Grandfather´s head.

    My temperature rose with each passing hour. The clinical thermometer that was inside the first aid kid shattered into bits and pieces at one point. Isabeau looked unhappy, but despite the scalds she received from holding me she did not let go.

    I blacked out when the ship landed at the Holy Isle of Cunabula, not even catching a small glimpse of the Mother Jungle.

    ********************************************************************

    I woke groggily to rocking movements. Aranea and Mora were crouched over me, their arms wrapped around my shoulders. They held on as tightly as they could. My head rested between their chests. Something fluffy pressed against my right cheek.

    “This is Bertha,” Aranea introduced a little toy bantha to me. “I want her to be with you to remind you how old you actually are.”

    I let out a deep sigh. Tears of gratitude streamed down my face, wetting us all. Including Bertha.

    Mora looked at me rather worried, but she said nothing. Instead she pressed a kiss on my brow.

    I recognized that I had been brought to Clementia. We were all lying in her bed nest now. I supposed Mora´s mother was in the snake temple for her daily duties.

    There was a brief disturbance in the Force, making my chest narrow. Somebody dear to me had died.

    The shiny blue figure of Mother beamed down on us just one heartbeat later. “Love and friendship are always stronger than the darkness, bella. You will hurt many times more, but it never will be in vain. This is what you need to cherish.”

    “Are you dead now, big queen?” Aranea started shivering. She saw and heard exactly what I did. I was glad that I wasn’t the only one seeing ghosts.

    “I always loved your sharp senses, child!” Mother joked lovingly.

    “Why are you dead?” Aranea asked with a reproachful undertone. “Could you not have waited until Grianán is better? That was very selfish of you.”

    Mother looked very smug, her emerald green eyes slits of amusement. “As far as I can judge the situation, my daughter is healing. You two are her fortress. What more can I ask for?”

    “Your body?” Aranea mumbled.

    Mother was not offended in the least. “Believe me, there is not enough body left to go back to. Only pain.”

    Aranea pondered on that before saying: “What´s with the ghost thing? Are you punished for being a Darksider?”

    That remark made Mother laugh. “The opposite is the case, little warrior. It is a reward.”

    Aranea looked critically at her. “Are you sure that the Force is not trying to pull your leg?”

    Mora decided to open her mouth. “She is not like the evil spirits in the crypt. She is a guardian angel.”

    “Are you?” Aranea challenged my mother fearlessly.

    “Let me be the backup until Luna is old enough to join your special fight club,” Mother suggested.

    “You could have least asked the Force for wings, big queen,” muttered Aranea. “Angels are supposed to have wings. In Amnionian legends they do.”

    “You will be the wings that I can wrap my daughter in. You will be the hands that hold her shoulders. You will be the eyes that watch over her. I cannot always be around.”

    With that, Mother was gone again.
  13. AzureAngel2 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 14, 2005
    star 6
    Chapter 12: Another door opens

    It did not surprise me that there was no corpse to bury. Mother had become one with the Force. It proved even to her strongest critics that she had been blessed with unusual gifts.

    I was not healthy enough to join the inauguration of Isabeau as the Holy Consort of the realm, but I was allowed to stay with Clementia and Mora. From them I learned the holy mudras of our people and they did me good. My brothers and sisters visited daily, some more frequent than others.

    When my stomach seemed more stable and my eyes had lost their haze, I was introduced to popcorn. It was made out of maize and was nothing like the usual corn meals that I knew. The girls made generous quantities with a stove top kettle in the kitchen. I liked the sound of the popping corns against the lid.

    But the best part of it was that the sweet tasty balls came with holo movies. Grandfather Narthex rented us his entire private library for free.

    In the many sun weeks of my recovery, I watched all that there was to see from the Amnionian film industry. My favourites were musicals, comedies and love stories with a happy ending. Real life was so utterly different, and I enjoyed escaping it.

    When I finally had to return to the bed nest of my siblings, I was a bit sad. I knew that my sisters and brothers needed me more than ever, but my bond with Aranea and Mora was less complicated. Plus they knew about Luçien. There was no way that I ever could tell my siblings about him.

    ********************************************************************

    By the end of the summer, Luna turned two sun-years-old and her foster-mother Saeta allowed us to take her with us for our excursions on the Holy Isle. Her scientific work in the underground laboratories kept her very busy. My godchild did not mind. She had grown more independent and confident. The lecture of love had sunk in.

    Almost every day, the four of us swam in the Mother River until Éleos had to drag us out again. By then, our skins had always been as wrinkled as those of old women.

    We practised our Force skills in secret, usually during our boat tours. Fovea centralis had stopped watching us and my siblings could not manage to find us when we were together. So we could indulge ourselves in forbidden practices, even playing around with skills the dark side had in store for us.

    Luna, despite her young age, was good in producing a single bolt of Force lightning and hitting any random target straight in the middle.

    Mora was good at manipulating the thoughts of others, or diving into them, but she did not like to do it very often. A gift like that came with great responsibilities for other beings, she said. And her mother would not approve of such deeds.

    Aranea was good at hide and seek, using telekinesis as much as levitation. She also could feel attacks before they happened, which was bad news for attackers, such as predators with unrealistic goals concerning us. There were jungle creatures that would even attack Force users.

    But in the very end, it was Isabeau who proved to us, that she was at the top of the food chain. One afternoon, she caught us practising. Nothing had alerted us to her arrival until it had been too late. Luna just had produced big holes in watermelons with Force lightning.

    “Interesting,” Nanny said, her eyes wandering over us. “And I always wondered where that faint smell of burned items came from, Grianán. Usually it lingers on your entire skin and hair.”

    We tried to have blank eyes and faces, but her feline nose smelt our fear too well. She took it in with satisfaction.

    Isabeau patted my head, while she addressed all of us. “In autumn the majority of the royal court will go to Dún Barr. I suggest that you take your three best friends with you, Grianán.”

    The girls looked at her in amazement.

    Isabeau had more surprises in stock. “Such talents as I witnessed today should not go untutored. The four of you can have some quality time in between, sure. You are children still. But there must be some weapon training, language lessons and other subjects that are required for a princess and her official hand maidens.”

    ********************************************************************

    Apart from my siblings, everybody else was happy about the unusual choice that Isabeau had made. “Why them?” Daná complained at dinner, mashing her feta cheese grimly.

    “Because I feel it is right,” Nanny answered courtly, her cat eyes alight with humour.

    My family and I were all sitting outside the bungalow that she still inhabited with Father and Grandfather. Four chairs among us remained empty as usual, but nobody was willing to remove them from the table. They were silent memorials.

    “It is bad enough that you will soon send Éleos and Sereno off to live with some Elves,” Caelestris moaned. “Now we have to bear Grianán´s friends among us. She needs no handmaidens at her age. What sort of non-sense is that?”

    “Then grow up quickly, my dear, and become the next god queen in line. Then you can make your own decisions and I can lean back, enjoying my well-deserved pension as Holy Consort.”

    My older sister bit her lip and said no more. Adamah would have reacted with a more spicy answer, but Caelestris was more shy and uncertain. I actually could not imagine her as a god queen. She lacked the aggressiveness that was necessary for the position.

    Isabeau put down her cutlery. “As far as I am concerned, Aranea, Mora and Luna are valuable members of this household. Your mother wanted them to be with her. Live with it!”

    I gave my utmost not to look too triumphant. My siblings had started to cling to the remaining family members in unhealthy ways. They formed a constant Force meld that felt like a battle transformation. I loved them all, but I was a person, not a community.

    ********************************************************************

    With my three bests friends at Dún Barr, life became blissful. Shadow people, mist apparitions, flying orbs and flaring objects stopped being a problem for me. I even found ways to expel all the ghosts that I did not wish to make any contact with. The residual energies could not suck the life out of me any longer. I stopped being a victim. The mudras that Clementia, Mora´s mother, had taught me did their additional work on my body, mind and soul.

    Instead of walking around timidly on my own, the four of us explored the most gruesome parts of the castle in our free time. Once, we broke down a wall in the old dungeon, finding a dark pathway behind it. When we followed it, we found the old torture chamber. And in its heart stood a dusty porta nigra, forgotten by the world above. We swore an oath to keep it a secret.

    The first letter from Her Holiness Mórag MagUhidir came three sun months after the events of Polysýndeton. It was a plain white envelope with the seal of the Holy Inquisition. Isabeau chose to ignore it. It was our first sun week back on the Holy Isle. “I hardly have unpacked my luggage,” she groaned. “This can wait.”

    The second letter followed seven sun days later. It disappeared in the same drawer as its predecessor.

    This is why Mórag decided to pay us a personal visit. I felt her the moment she entered my sanctuary. She had a very strong and unmistakable signature. There was no Darksider as mighty as her in the living realm.

    “I will be gone for a while,” I informed my siblings. We just had played hide and seek together, because they had begged me to spend some quality time with them.

    I drew the Force around me like a cloak, just as the Ankou twins Phren and Tachys had taught me. That would work better than the silly mud camouflage that the serpent-spawn had come up with.

    It was a hard and long discussion between Mórag and Nanny, but in the end I did not need to join the beanmna feasa yet. Isabeau was able to win another six sun years for me.

    ********************************************************************

    With my two favourite brothers gone from court, my Force training sessions with the girls had a more dangerous edge to them. We were ruthless, seeking danger on solemn purpose.

    I knew that I behaved undisciplined in an inexcusable way, but I could not help it. After a hard study day with a lot of knowledge that went into my head, I simply needed a healthy physical balance to it, if only to get rid of all the court etiquette, politics and history.

    In comparison to the rest of the serpent-spawn, I had no talent in painting or needle work. I enjoyed books and I had a love affair with them, but it was the Force that was the core of my life.

    When my best friends and I caused the power supply of the Holy Isle to shut down completely Isabeau was furious. “Enough is enough. I will personally see that the four of you find the limits that you seek out! We start with ´The Book of Earth´ and will move on to the other four volumes gradually.”

    My friends and I glanced at each other nervously.

    “There are other ways for attack and defence than the Force.” A malicious smile sprang from Nanny´s lips. “You will learn them the hard way.”

    Daná ran out of the jungle. “Me, too. Oh please pick me, too! Not always them!”

    Isabeau eyed my sister through narrowed eyes. “Very well, then our numbers will be even. That is very good for sparring. As I understand, all of you have gathered some prior knowledge about weapons and fighting.”

    We nodded carefully.

    “Forget all you have learned!” Nanny licked her lips deliberately. “We will make a new fresh start! The first thing you will learn is discipline. Without it you will never become true warriors.”

    For the rest of the day, she made us carry heavy water buckets between the river and the bungalow. My hands were calloused and bloody when the sun set on us. It was a fair punishment for using Force lightning earlier on.

    Daná was too proud to moan, but her pain was obvious to me. Her entire back was stiff and her shoulders equally hurt. “I wonder what Isa will come up with tomorrow,” She said breathlessly. “Lidérc can be pretty harsh with their offspring.”

    To distract herself from her own body, my sister began to tell us stories of how nomad children were brought up. The girls and I had trouble believing them. Bamboo canes and leather whips were a bit much.

    The next mornings, Isabeau expected us at dawn and had more impossible tasks for us. We did not dare to question any of them until Daná’s pain became too much and she dared to oppose Isabeau. She found herself doing twenty-five push-ups. The more she argued, the more she had to do. In the end, she reached the hundred marks.

    At the end of the first sun week, we clung to every word that Nanny said to us. We admired her stern resolve and purpose. Each of us wanted to please her during training sessions.

    In due time, we re-learned how to sit and how to stand; when to shout and when to be absolutely silent. We had to fly through the air and walk on our hands; we sparred unarmed, and then with pole weapons. Later on, swords and daggers were brought into play.

    We all suffered injuries of various kinds. None of them were permanent, but they hurt for sure. More than once, we bloodied our noses with our training staffs. We also gave each other black eyes with our kicks and strokes. Bones got sprained and muscles bruised. Here and there was a ghastly cut from ground contact.

    Each time Grandfather passed us by, he shook his head in disapproval. He looked very, very troubled. Now and then he dropped a remark about ´not ladylike behaviour´ and ´wild Amazon women`. He could not stand watching the drama.

    With Father, it was the opposite. He put his beloved books aside more than once and always found an encouraging word for each of us. At times, he would jump up from his ratan chair and applaud frantically, as if we were circus acrobats doing a show for him. Isabeau frowned each time he did that and reminded him of his weak heart.

    “Excitement is not good for you, Agathos!”

    “Seeing the girls thriving under your tutelage makes me very happy,” Was his standard reply and left my nanny mollified each time.

    [IMG]

    ********************************************************************

    During the winter holidays at Dún Barr, a midwinter angel descended from heaven to pay us a visit. Her red hair formed a halo around her head. She stirred the harmony of the Force vortex in me. It was as if my link to the Unifying Force got re-established. Finally I managed to greet her nicely. “I felt that we had a visitor. Welcome to the family, Sionnach! We will take care that Luçien cannot hurt you any longer.”

    Grandfather Narthex gave me a questioning glance. “Why should His Lordship want to harm Her Ladyship?”

    That was an easy answer to give. “Because he can.”

    Luçien was good at hurting the ones who cared most for him. His own disciple was the best example. It was not in Sionnach´s nature to chide him for that. She kept on trying to keep her unlikely master in her daily prayers. I was not the only one who wanted him to get better.

    Without fully realizing it, I had stepped up towards her and put my palms on her belly. “Underneath your cloth is such a strong story,” I said dreamingly, pictures of her past flooding into me.

    “Grianán”, commented Grandfather amused. “You know what a personal comfort zone is.”

    My voice came from very far away. “Yes, and Sionnach does not mind. I would never harm her, grandfather. This is not in my nature. You know that. When we waited for Isa to come back to us at the harbour, I told you of my secret.”

    He nodded to that. “Yes, you did and I asked you to use that gift of yours wisely.”

    “Now is the moment”, I insisted. “I need to know what he did to her. She came for our protection. In order to protect her, I need to understand.”

    Sionnach was surprised, but not cross. Her encouragement was honest. “Go on with whatever you need to do.”

    I relived her brief clone childhood that had seemed many sun years for her, but in truth had only lasted a few months.

    My first memories are those of the azure sky and the emerald sea of grass spreading underneath it. The land was vast and empty, stroked by the celestial hands of the four winds. Trees were scarce. Those ashes and hazelnuts that had managed to grow tucked themselves into the face of the plains. They were mostly mutilated by their constant fight against the element of the air.

    Old limestone walls, most of them fallen apart through the ages, marked long neglected farm fields where Mother Nature had taken over. Instead of corn and other crops, the local meadow plants grew wild and free: ragged robin, hog weed and gorse. Blackberry bushes grew wherever they could. Cracks in the ancient walls contained enough earth ferns and mosses had made themselves comfortable in there.

    Mother, not one who was patient, had sped up my cousin’s growth process. It was a miracle of the Force that Sionnach had not gotten mad by it. The equilibrium that her caretaker Críonnacht O´Conghaile had placed into her heart had made her survive all the hardships of life.

    While I watched her adventurous life, I matured mentally. There was so much betrayal and violence due to Mother.

    Far away in the distance, I heard a rancor roaring in blood lust. It was an awful sound that made my blood freeze.

    The holocron had shown me what the large carnivorous reptomammals looked like. They mainly consisted of fangs and claws. Yet there was a very gentle link between the Ophidea and those gigantic beasts of prey. The Elves even had a word for such relationships: anamchairde, soul friends. To me it was no surprise that Arcānā would have such a fierce companion.

    Due to an Elfin noble man called Dian O´Gradaigh.

    Eventually, His Lordship chose to attack me during a time everybody was down in the kitchen for a celebration. I was up in my own chamber and absolutely helpless. Granny had taught me to use the Force for healing matters only.

    It was also against my very nature to lash out at somebody else. Hatred and anger lead to the Dark Side. Taking that together with a portion of fear, I would enter a dangerous spiral that would bring me far away from the Light Side.

    Due to Commander Taran Cú Síth.

    I could have killed him easily, but I was a healer through and through. So I used another weapon against him, a weapon that was less final and more effective: pain. My trembling fingertips reached out to his belly and touched it.

    Waves of agony shot through his body. His howls shook me deep and to my core. Finally he ran off, this time as a werewolf.

    That was due to two Lidérc spice traders.

    Jonc and his partner Salopard dragged me on-board by my own hair. Both were muscular Lidérc dressed in crimson red desert robes. Only their cruel cat eyes and some felt could be seen under their veils.

    During the flight to Sapuhru, I found that there were worse things in life than the Holy Inquisition, or acts of necromancy committed with the help of the dark side. Nothing had prepared me for the living nightmare that I faced. Heavily drugged, my Midi-chlorians gave in and collapsed. I even feared for the health of my unborn baby.

    But the darkest shadow in her life was Luçien. It was unbelievable what he had done. Yet Sionnach had kept her hopeful and forgiving nature. She was such an inspiration.

    With wet eyes I told her, “I am so sorry for you. You did the right thing coming here. We will help you, daddy and I.”

    Sionnach smiled down at me, not knowing how far I had looked into her past. In her natural naiveté, she just believed me to have seen her latest sorrow with Luçien. But I knew all now, the entire story. “How can you protect me?” she asked.

    “Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is.” It was the Force vortex that placed that answer in my mouth.

    “You cannot protect the entire universe from harm, Grianán,” chided Grandfather in a friendly manner.

    My voice was not my own any longer, yet I still was able to give my own opinion. The Unifying Force surrounded me like a cloak. ”Do, or do not. There is no try.” I lost persons dear to me. They are one with the Force, I know. Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not. I know what I am supposed to feel, but I will not have Luçien destroying more lives. He must be stopped.”

    Sionnach, always on the practical side, humbly asked, “How?”

    I felt Aranea, Mora and Luna looking for me. Their concern was unnecessary. “Time will tell,” I spoke and ran off to calm my three best friends.
  14. AzureAngel2 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 14, 2005
    star 6
    Chapter 13: Bouncing off clouds

    By the time we reached ´The Book of Water,´ the girls, and I had learned to bear our injuries with dignity and grace. Our bodies were lean and steeled after three sun years of hard work. The Shesha guards all around the Holy Isle would greet us like battle comrades. Should the Force ever fail me as a tool I had other means to fight an aggressive attacker off. But I could not prevent the Force ghost of Mother to bear bad news to all of us. She came to me in the dim hours of dawn. The familiar prickle on my skin woke me to her presence.

    Mother signaled me to follow her outside the bedroom.

    Disentangling myself from my brothers and sisters, I left the bed nest. Under normal circumstances they would have noticed, but I supposed that the appearance of a Force ghost bent the rules a slightly bit. Not even their breathing rhythm changed.

    Bathed in her own blue light, Mother stood on the great plaza. Her back was resting against a tall stele that contained the life story of some ancestor of mine. “Bella!” she greeted me warmly.

    I was straightforward. “You always come for a reason.”

    Her smile widened, yet there was sadness in her eyes. “Your destiny wants to move in permanently.”

    I frowned before the realization came through to me. ”He will come to me?”

    She shook her head in denial. “Luçien actually wants to be there for your father. His heart is not well. To monitor him as his private secretary would...”

    “For what would dad need a secretary? He always writes his correspondence by himself.” I was not convinced of this plan.

    The dark side was like a dangerous narcotic, bringing the brain functions together. It was neither known for producing great healers nor for its life-giving aspects. The Force wounds inflicted on Father´s body were also very old.

    “Grianán, take it from me, Luçien will be part of the royal court soon. There is nothing that you can do against it. If I can give you some advice: take cover! Seek shelter somewhere else before you are an adult!”

    ********************************************************************

    The next morning, Isabeau was also visited by Mother, which did not contribute to lighten up her spirits. While Daná and I were testing the crane style against one another, our nanny started shouting, “Do me one favour! If you ever die, do not waste your time on useless visits.”

    I gave Daná a sign that I wanted to end the training session. “Isa, mother also appeared to each of us with messages and words of love.”

    My sister went for the short and painful way. “One thing that matters is that Luçien is coming.”

    Isabeau looked at her as if she was an unknown jungle plant. “Nonsense. He would never dare.”

    Grandfather came out of the Mother Jungle. His timing was exquisite, as usual. “Actually, he would. Agathos invited him.”

    “He would never do such a stupid thing.”

    “Luçien has had regular contact with him since the events of Polysýndeton. They write each other on a weekly basis. I never did mention it before; there was no need to upset you.”

    “Upset me?” Isabeau’s laugh had a mad edge to it. “Letter writing seems to be the favourite hobby of this family. Is anybody else writing letters to unacceptable persons?”

    “His Lordship seems regretful about the death and destruction that he has caused.”

    “And how exactly does he intend to close the wounds? Send flowers? Write poems? Erect a temple? Crawl up the holy pyramid on his knees?”

    I dropped the verbal bomb before anybody else could. “Actually he wants to help dad as a personal secretary.”

    Within a few heartbeats, a proud lioness, forged by the dunes of Sapuhru, stood before me. Her entire body was ready for attack. “Is there more writing to be done? If matters are too much for Agathos, then I can help him with the state affairs.”

    “Isabeau,” said Grandfather carefully. “The latest results of Agathos´ heart tests are not the best. The medical team is not satisfied that he does not agree to a transplant or any operation. Therefore Luçien has agreed to be his personal healer in secret and to be his secretary in public.”

    “This plan lacks any logic. I will not allow you to go through with it. There is no way that I will ever accept my cursed step-brother as a member of the court. Not even if you want to have men´s evenings with water pipes and card games.”

    My sister tried to prove that she had learned a lot the past sun years by saying, “One has to keep one´s friends close and one´s enemies even closer.”

    “You do not wish to have something like him at all at the royal court. Listen, Daná! Luçien is a trained assassin and the user of dark powers, even though he tries to convince himself that he serves the light side of the Force.”

    I exchanged a long glance with my sister. We had not trained that hard to get frightened by the first real opponent who crossed our way, but at times it was better to stay alert instead of attacking.

    ********************************************************************

    In the end, I could not stand being reunited with Luçien that soon. Not after running through Isabeau´s memories again. I chose to prepare her for our visitors by doing her hair, donning her in tribal clothing of the Mare Coloris and lending her some of the crown jewels. But when she wanted to join the actual dinner party I did not find it in my heart to join her.

    When Nanny was walking over the main plaza, I took a holocron and recorded a message for her. It took me ages to get the words right.

    “Isabeau. When this device finds you, I will be gone to see Her Holiness Mórag MagUhidir. Please forgive me! It is the only way, the only hope. I love you; I always have.”

    I was about to leave the room to store the holocron somewhere safe, when Daná stood breathlessly before me. “Why didn’t you eat with us?” she managed to get out.

    “I was not hungry,” I insisted.

    She came closer. “You are up to something. You have not been part of our Force meld since Isabeau came here with you. Éleos is more than upset with you.”

    There was no point lying to her. “I think it is better that I start my service for Mórag straight away. It is a bad idea for me to stay at court with Luçien hanging around.”

    Daná crossed her arms in front of her. The confident way she stood told me that Caelestris was the wrong candidate for the royal crown. “You want a witch hunter off your cute little bum by joining the Order of the beanmna feasa. Where is the logic in that? You might as well sign the order for your termination straight away.”

    “Luçien is not after the Holy Inquisition,” I argued carefully.

    “Duh, not yet.” Daná rolled her eyes at me. “You do not understand much of politics and religion, do you?”

    I shook my head. “I cannot see the connection with Luçien here.”

    “You remember how determined mom always was when punishing people she thought to have it wrong? I can clearly see that in Luçien. He is ruthless and he is precise. Soon he will be after the abbess and her order.”

    “All the more reason that I have to go.” I tried to shove my sister out of my way.

    “Why do you want to be with Mórag anyway? There is nothing that she can teach you,” Daná said.

    “Oh yes, there is. Perhaps this will help me to understand why Mother was so afraid of her all her life.”

    She gave me a very suspicious look. “You like to be complicated, don´t you?”

    Of course Isabeau was not willing to let me go. She came after me on a rancor, when I was already marching through the Montes Nubii. To my surprise, she had another proposal for me. I was to stay in the Mare Coloris, officially for health reasons, and she would continue my training. Daná was eager to join me.

    ********************************************************************

    Over the next two sun years we continued our martial arts training with ´The Book of Five Rings´. After successfully mastering the first three books, Isabeau went on with the fourth volume: ´The Book of the Wind´. It was primarily concerned with rather specific details of alternative war strategies. The overall lesson was clearly that it was important to understand various methods of fighting that any opponent may use.

    I was indeed desperate to understand Luçien and Mórag. If I were to fail this task, what other choices were there for this sun system? Love and understanding were my weapons in a war that I had not started. It had to be sufficient.

    [IMG]


    Daná, my three best friends, and I also had the opportunity to be raised as desert tribal women. I liked that very much, apart from the cooking and household tasks I was not very good with those.

    The best part of the nomad life style was the herding of animals. I loved banthas as much as eopies. They were wonderful to be around. I helped with the calves being born and disassembling dead members of the livestock.

    I was never homesick for there was a constant flow of visitors from the Holy Isle. Aranea, Mora and Luna came through the porta nigra as often as they could.

    During the annual midwinter holidays, I was able to stay with my entire family at Dún Barr. Luçien chose to leave during the latter half of the sun year, either to return to Sapuhru or to be with Sionnach and her family. However, it was inevitable that we would interact one another. It happened during a walk through Ceilonwyn. I was completely on my own, wrapped in a thick fur coat. The air was crisp with frost and there was a deep layer of snow covering the landscape. Instead of langlauf I had chosen snow shoes.

    When I felt Luçien in the Force, I started walking quicker. He reached out for me, surprised and pleased. I could not block him, curious as I was.

    Soon I noticed his lone figure approaching on a horse. I stayed where I was, bracing myself.

    In a swift movement, Luçien was off his horse and strode towards me. Instead of desert robes he was wearing the fur-trimmed clothing of an Udaler. His face was unveiled. “Where have you been, Grianán?” he called out.

    He made it sound as if we had met only yesterday and not five sun years ago. I managed a brave smile. When he was close enough I answered, “I never really recovered from Polysýndeton. Isa thought it better to keep me in a warm climate.”

    “So I heard. But I find it hard to believe. I know you. You would survive even the hostile climate of Polaris.”

    The warmth of his gaze made me believe that I would indeed be able to survive a walk on the uninhabited sixth planet of our sun system, a ball of frozen gas with no life on it.

    “Let me have a look! May I?”

    Dazed, I nodded.

    Luçien pulled off his leather gloves and threw them in the snow. Then he removed my cap with both hands. His index finger ticked against my nose playfully. “There you are, Grianán. Could you even see where you were walking with that thing on?”

    I could not help but smile at him, while he studied my face thoughtfully.

    “How old are you now? Eight?”

    I nodded eagerly. “I will turn nine in spring.”

    “How time flies.” He knelt in front of me. “You have quite a sun tan there. Something tells me that you live in a place where it is much warmer than here. And it is not the Holy Isle.”

    “Perhaps,” I grinned, for I would not tell him.

    He lowered his voice. “I must say you look healthier than everybody wants to me to believe. You are definitely not at the brink of death, ´ma petite marchande d´illusion´.”

    “Not yet.” I could not help feeling scared now, even though he addressed me as his ´little illusion seller´. That nasty book about witch hunting had left a deep impression on me, especially with its unmistakable illustrations.

    “I like you best alive! And fearless.” Again he tipped my nose in a teasing manner, dispelling my worries at once. “Perhaps I was not clear enough about that the last time that we met each other.”

    “No you were not. You are good with mixed messages.”

    “When I ordered you to seek shelter, I wanted you to be safe from me.” He sounded very tender, his eyes calm seas of ice blue. “In case you haven’t noticed, we bonded.”

    “We did?” Had he finally accepted the truth of our soul bond? That was too good to be true.

    “I had lost two of my children and you were a very scared girl far away from home. How could I resist? How could anybody resist the innocence shining in your eyes? I am not heartless, Grianán.”

    That was not the revelation that I had hoped for. But for now it was sufficient.

    My eyes wandered towards his horse. It was a black, impressive stallion who looked into my direction curiously. There was some dead game hanging from the saddle. I counted two snow rabbits. “Is that for Sionnach´s household?” I asked.

    He was surprised that I mentioned my cousin straight away, but he was not cross. “No, actually those rabbits are for my own dinner. I have a hunting lodge nearby that I built myself.”

    My mouth flew open in surprise. “You know how to build a house?”

    That made him laugh. I had forgotten how his face could glow when he was in a happy mood. “What about a cup of tea and some cookies at my place?” He winked at me. “Then you can judge my carpeting skills for yourself.”

    I made a decision, based on the tingling feeling in my belly. “Five sun hours only and then I want to be brought straight back to the main road. There is no need to show up with me at the castle. Isa would not understand. You know how she can be when it is about you.”

    “My step-sister is very unforgiving. The desert would rather freeze with ice three times over than her accepting my heartfelt excuses.”

    Thinking of my deceased siblings still hurt, but not as much as it used to. They were out there, re-united with the Force and Mother. Together with her and Aréte they watched over me, daily. Aloud I said, “Isa loved Phosphorous and Adamah. Of course she will hate you for the rest of her life.”

    “I am glad that you are nothing like her, even though she raised you.” Luçien bent down to loosen the belts of my snow shoes, trying to hide his triumphant smile. “But I will write your father about your little day trip to my place, if you don´t mind. Just to be on the safe side.”

    “Even after Polysýndeton, he trusts you with all his heart,” I let him know.

    “Once I had a daughter, too. It is a father thing, Grianán.” He put my snow shoes into the saddle bags of his black stallion. “I want him to be comfortable with our arrangement here. You are his little angel, not mine.”

    I could not help but say, “Normally you let people vanish without a trace. Take the Éibhear´s real father for example. He vanished only one night after your arrival on Draconis. There are rumours in the mountains.”

    He made a guttural sound. “You are NOT like most people, my little dreamer. This is why you are still alive and well.”

    “And because I amuse you,” I concluded.

    “Mostly,” he agreed mollified.

    There was a phenomenon that Father called ´midwinter depression´. It came to those who were alone at this time of year. Luçien missed the twins very much. I could read that from his mind. He was a parent who pined his loss, and was unable to communicate it to anyone. Not even to my cousin Sionnach, his disciple and official companion.

    Luçien let me sit in front of him. His gloves were back in place. Even though it was not necessary, he had swung a considerable part of his felt cape around me. His left arm rested protectively around my waist, even though there was no real danger that I would fall out of the saddle. We enjoyed the silence together. There was no need to talk. Old familiarity came back to us.

    The trees groaned under their heavy snow burden, while the sky was overcast with a continuous snowfall. I had an idea in which part of the forest I was in now. There was no need to worry and so I leaned back, listening to Luçien´s heartbeat.
  15. AzureAngel2 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 14, 2005
    star 6
    Chapter 14: The heart knows best

    When the hunting lodge came into view, I held my breath. Luçien had erected a two story house in the heart of Ceilonwyn. It was more of a family estate than a simple lodge. I was more than impressed; I was stunned.

    He slid out of the saddle, put his hands around my hips and helped me down on my own feet. “Here you go, Grianán!”

    I kept on staring, taking every little detail of the building in. The windows were made out of Elfin glass and immediately caught my eye. The midwinter castle had similar ones. There were heavy, yet elegant shutters to protect them for the severe storms around oskorei, the Wild Hunt.

    “I had to admit, I had some help with this project,” Luçien said from behind me. “Some friends of mine lent me a hand, once they saw the construction plans. They wanted to be a part of it. Do you like it?”

    I nodded, glad to hear that he had some friends. He could not be that lost to the dark side if he had any. Apart from Solitaire, Mother had been friendless all her life. And Mórag, as much as I had found out by now, just had minions, scared priestesses who would do anything not to end up dead.

    “Would you like to go inside?” Luçien offered.

    “Yes, please!”

    The front door opened into the main room, which was as large as the library of Dún Barr. Its impressive ceiling was supported by massive timbers. There was a large collection of animal skins and trophy animals. Luçien even had constructed two chandeliers made of antlers. A broad staircase led upstairs, where I could see five doors.

    “Do you live here permanently?” I asked, while he helped me out of my coat and hung it up for me.

    “Just for the hunting season. Or whenever I need to get a clear head. With no near neighbours apart from Sionnach, and no roads, there is no danger of intrusion. I like it quiet.”

    [IMG]

    “Do you never have any visitors?” I inquired carefully.

    “Of course. I expect some company for the winter solstice as usual.” Luçien walked off to light the chimney fire by using a single blow of Force lightening.

    “Who is to come?”

    “Commander Cú Síth, the archbishop of Polysýndeton and a young barbarian lord from the Eastern Prairies. But that is still three weeks from now on.”

    “The werewolf?” My eyes widened.

    “Taran is a war veteran, Grianán,” Luçien commented frostily. “He survived incidents far worse than Polysýndeton had over a thousand years. Of course that leaves marks.”

    I let my gaze continue to wander as I listened to him. The furniture was made out of local wood. One of the most beautiful pieces was a mosaic twig table. I ran over to it and stroked the smooth surface. “You really made this?” I exclaimed excitedly.

    “Sometimes I take my tools and have a go at carpenter work, yes.” He opened a corner cupboard, taking a cookie jar out of it. “You actually inspired me to do so.”

    “How so?” I wanted to know, tracing the patterns on the table with my fingers. They looked like something from Sapuhru.

    “I could not forget some of the things you told me back at Polysýndeton. So I suppose I found myself some useful hobbies, just as you requested. You are hard to disobey.” He fumbled around with a samovar and pulled out two mugs for tea. “My friend Draň likes this table a lot, too. He finds the inlays very soothing.”

    I watched him put a generous amount of cinnamon cookies on a wooden plate.

    “What about Sionnach and your sons?” I asked while munching on the first cookie that he offered me.

    “Éibhear and Garou like the lodge very much. But Sionnach shuns it. There are too many dead animals. You see, she is a vegetarian.”

    He had indeed many trophy heads on the walls. There were different types of bears and deer. I also could make out several wild birds and a ram. But there were no wolves or foxes. He loved those too much.

    “I need to take care of the snow rabbits now. Just stay here in the warmth and make yourself at home. There is no need for you to walk out into the cold again.”

    I called out quickly, “But I can help you to skin and disassemble the rabbits.”

    “Really?” Luçien was delighted and my cousin was utterly forgotten. “I would love to see that.”

    ********************************************************************

    Many sun hours later, I was brought close to the castle bridge of Dún Barr. My stomach was full with venison, cookies and tea. My hands were also clean again. The blood from the game was long gone.

    “Thank you for the nice afternoon!” I said, a bright smile plastered on my face while I slid down from the horse.

    “I owed you as much after our last unfortunate meeting in the Embassy.” Luçien looked down at me. His features were unreadable. “I suppose we will not see each other for a while now. You will go hiding again from me.”

    I nodded with a heavy heart. “It’s a trait I share with my mother.”

    “Does that have to do with witch craft, Grianán?” His eyes turned concerned. “Because if it does, you are in great trouble.”

    “With you?” I held his gaze.

    He turned his horse around and rode away. I felt like running after him or running away as far as my feet would carry me, but I stood my ground. In order to really understand him, I had to understand the madness of witch hunting from within. The infamous Order of the beanmna feasa was the best place to go.

    I had another sun year left though. Perhaps I would even be able to study ´The Book of the Void´ under the tutelage of Isabeau until then. It was the last volume of the five martial arts books from Terra. I had already taken a peek inside yesterday afternoon.

    “In the void is virtue, and no evil. Wisdom has existence, principle has existence, the Way has existence, spirit is nothingness.”

    I could not wait to read the entire book and experience all the training sessions attached to it.

    ********************************************************************

    When I entered the in-yard of the castle George, the High Chamberlain, stood there with Grandfather. They both were engaged in a deep conversation and smoking meerschaum pipes. I chose to join them, my snow shoes tucked under my left arm.

    “Ah, Grianán,” Grandfather beamed, when he noticed me. “I had not expected you back before sunset. Dinner will not be served before then.”

    He was not in the least concerned about the long walk that I had done all by myself, nor was George, who simply asked, “Would You like to have a hot chocolate, Your Highness?”

    I followed both men into the kitchen, which was overcrowded with servants in midwinter spirits. There was much laughter and singing.

    Even though I was a royal princess by birthright, it never failed to amaze me how many people were required to keep the midwinter fortress going. With the help of Grandfather, who was the Grand Steward and valet of my father in one person, I had studied their ranks and rules.

    First there were the supreme officers of the royal Court, such as the Grand Cup-Bearer, the Grand Master of the Hunt Supreme and the vox draconis, the Grand Chamberlain and messenger of the royal family.

    Next came the Chief Officers of the Household, which included the Premier Marshal of the Household, the Premier Master of Ceremonies, the Premier Master of the Robes, the Premier Cellarer and the Premier Master of the Horses and Mews.

    Then of course there were the housekeeper, various footmen, chamber maids, parlour maids, page boys, house maids, grooms, between maids, under cooks, kitchen maids, stable boys, scullery maids, gardeners, laundry maids, game keepers, ground keepers, craftsmen, candle boys and the gate keeper.

    Norn spotted me immediately. The rustic Udaler woman from the Lake District was the Premier Master of the Kitchen, but she preferred to be called by either her birth name or to be titled as ´chef´. “Grianán!” She called out.

    Obediently I ran towards her and got lost in her embrace for a while. She then sent me off with a big mug of chocolate and a mountain of midwinter cookies.

    “You are not really eating,” commented Grandfather after a while, his voice raised as a question.

    “I already had a lot of cinnamon cookies today,” I confessed.

    “Between here and the castle?” His eyes narrowed.

    I could not help but blush deeply. “I ran into an old friend.”

    Even though the High Chamberlain pretended not to listen in, I knew he was. But my secret would be safe. In fact, nothing that I would say in this kitchen would ever leave it, unless I granted it.

    Grandfather stroked his dense, curly beard. “And how is His Lordship? Apart from still being into cinnamon cookies that is. And being kind with a wandering child who seems lost in the wilderness.”

    “Luçien dropped me at the bridge.” I regarded my fingernails, glad that the rabbit blood had been washed clean. “We did not wish to alert anybody.”

    Grandfather let out a deep sigh. “I take it that you were hiding from Luçien due to Isabeau and her opinion about him? Or are there other reasons?”

    Even though George was munching on a cookie and looked at Norn, he was fully aware of the conversation.

    “Grianán, I do not believe that there is true cause for concern. I know him very well. And so does your father. ”

    I wiggled uncomfortably on the bench we were all sitting on.

    “I just need to know why you felt the need to re-establish your acquaintance with him after five years of silence.” Grandfather took my hand and squeezed it gently.

    Now the High Chamberlain was looking directly at me, his eyes full of warmth and worry.

    “When we were staying in his Embassy, I found out about him being a witch hunter. It scared me.” I did not mention Luçien´s outburst of the dark side. “When we met by chance today, he was just friendly and kind to me.”

    Grandfather took his meerschaum pipe out of his mouth and put it on the table. “Thanks for confirming my presumptions.”

    George smiled. “His Lordship must really like you, Your Royal Highness, but I would indeed not mention it to the Holy Consort. She would put a blame on him for deeds he is not capable of, even though he is a Darksider as much as your belated mother.”

    I blushed deeply, because I knew exactly what they referred to and it made me sick. “Why is it that adults always see the worst case scenario?”

    The High Chamberlain sighed. “The line between justified concern and unnecessary fear is rather thin, Your Royal Highness. This is why the dark side can play with our hearts so easily. Always chose the middle path between serenity and passion.”

    “Well said, George!” Grandfather patted the back of his old friend.

    ********************************************************************

    Father called for me the next morning, right after the common family breakfast. Nathalie, the house keeper of Dún Barr, brought me the message. I thanked her and ran towards my father’s study, and knocked on his door breathlessly.

    “That was quick, agapi mou,” I heard Father exclaim out through the door. He opened it immediately.

    I jumped into his open arms, enthusiastic with him as usual.

    Father looked down at me, grinning. “You cannot possibly know about the letter that I received last night, can you?”

    I blushed, my eyes looking with the thick envelope on his desk. It occurred to me that Luçien was very lonely at present. It had been an awful lot of text that he had produced since he had parted from me. “Perhaps your old friend is under the impression that I am an evil Force witch that needs saving? Like Mother? Is that an arrest warrant?”

    “Grianán, if he wanted you dead, you would be dead already. Not even my friendship with him could change your fate then, I am afraid.” Father held me away from his chest and looked me straight into the eyes.

    I started shivering involuntarily, overwhelmed from the nightmarish illustrations that had nestled in my soul long ago. Thumbscrews, the Chair of Torture, the Pear of Anguish and many more. One instrument more dreadful than the next.

    Father had moved on and I tried to concentrate on his mild voice again. “... you already have such a hard life with all your Force gifts. Seeing dead people, reading the past from the objects that you touch...”

    The sadness of Father was unmistakable. It poured from him and flooded inside me. “My life is brilliant,” I protested mildly, “Of that I am sure. Because you are my father and there are so many other people who love me.”

    “Including Luçien.”

    I had to comment on the special relationship that I had with my dark mirror.
    He has no other choice. When he tried to kill the second serpent-spawn and me as babies, I forged a soul bound with him to save us all. ”

    Father gaped at me as he fully understood what I had done. “Soul partnerships are serious business, agapi mou.”

    With a warm feeling, I looked over to the Force ghost of Aunt Adamah, who had been with us for a while now. She was transparent in the sunlight that flooded the study. Her face was content and calm, even though the subject of soul partnership was a difficult one for her. She had died and had to leave her lover Ruadhan Ahearne behind in the world of the living. Her only comfort was that his anam cara, Ciall, eased some of his pain.

    Not aware of the ghostly presence, my father continued talking. “I came to know a lot about the nature of soul partnerships via an Elfin friend of mine. What you did cannot be undone. Ever!”

    He let go of me and started pacing the room. I watched him in silence, giving him time to sort out his thoughts.

    “Luçien requested nicely if you can keep him company before his midwinter guests arrive,” Father informed me after a while. “If you want to accept his invitation, that is. He would understand if you would feel too awkward to go.”

    Joy flooded me. My heart almost jumped out of my chest. I had won my dark mirror over. “He really did write that?”

    Father did not answer me, imprisoned by his own thoughts. “Years ago, Luçien already told me that you helped him a great deal to get over his trauma during Polysýndeton. He needs a child that he can spoil once in a while. When children die suddenly, a lot of things become hopeless.”

    That Luçien saw me as a surrogate daughter was nice. I finally felt victorious.

    “You can spend the next three weeks until the Eve of the Midwinter Solstice at Luçien´s hunting lodge. Aranea, Mora and Luna will not be at Dún Barr before that.” He glanced at me. “You will keep that secret from them and your siblings. And you will keep your mouth shut to Isabeau. This will be strictly between the four of us.”

    Aunt Adamah nodded eagerly to that, her eyes begging me to give Luçien a chance. It was settled then. “I will not tell anybody.”

    “And please take care,” Father begged. “Sometimes Luçien is under the impression that you inherited unnatural powers from your mother. Perhaps you can convince him that Force powers like yours do not indicate that somebody is evil.”
  16. AzureAngel2 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 14, 2005
    star 6
    Chapter 15: The wind in the willows

    When I crossed the draw bridge at noon I could see a lone rider in the distance. He did not dare to come closer and also chose to mask his presence in the Force. I forced myself to walk towards him reverently. No false haste.

    “Hallo there, Grianán! Long time no see!” Luçien grinned through the hood of his thick fur coat. With that he could be easily mistaken for a human from the Northern polar region. His golden skin gave his true species away though.

    I beamed up at him. “Grandfather will bring my luggage to your place later on.”

    “What did your father tell the rest of the family?”

    I stroked the slender neck of his steed. “Everybody believes me to be with Mórag.”

    He stiffened visibly, his gloved hands cramping around the reigns. “That is exactly why I requestedyour presence in the first place. I do not know what arrangements your cursed mother made with her mistress, but I insist on spending some time with you before my mad half-sister comes for you.”

    I did my best to sound surprised. “She is your half-sister?”

    Do not act as if you didn’t know, nor about the fact that Parhelion is another child fostered by my true father, the Skywalker.” He gracefully slid out of the saddle. “That little, blond head of hides a lot of sharp intelligence, Grianán. Do not act stupid around me! I can see right through you.”

    “Always?” I requested.

    “Mostly,” he growled.

    “Because I am a demon from another dimension?” I suggested sneakily, repeating the insult he had given me at Polysýndeton.

    He sighed. “I found out that the truth is much more complicated. Things around you are usually complicated.”

    “And you happen to like to solve such complicatedpuzzles?” I asked, while he lifted me into the saddle and then jumped behind me immediately.

    “I like you, insolent child. A lot. At times you remind me of my step-sister, when she was younger. And at other times you remind me of...” He stopped, embarrassed that he almost had spoken out a forbidden name.

    I snuggled into the arm he had scooped around me. “It is okay to remember the dead, Luçien. There is no need to feel guilty. If you would start to feel less guilty about things, then your judgement would not be so clouded all the time.”

    “Pray, how old are you again?” he asked dryly. “I keep forgetting that.”

    I laughed carefree. “If you do not move this horse before the spring equinox I will be nine.”
    “Then don’t act as if you’re older than me,” he scolded me softly. “I know more of the universe than you do.”

    Even though I thought differently, I did not try to argue with him. It was pointless.

    ********************************************************************

    After we had feasted on roasted chicken with caramelized onions, we went to the Hall of Fire to play cards. I don’t know what showed on my face, but he paused mid-shuffle and said sternly, “You had best say what’s on your mind, Grianán, for you still have twenty-one days with me.”

    “I could not help but wonder what your real motives are with having me here. Apart from missing Tachys, that is.”

    “Go on,” he suggested as casually as possible, before dealing the cards. His daughter was still a painful subject for him.

    “This is like a witch trial, is it not? Just without diligent questioning. You want to see if I am really, really normal.”

    He put his cards down. “You are anything but a normal child. But that is a good thing to me, despite you knowing too much.

    My mouth felt as if somebody had stuffed a large ball of cotton inside. “My father has this big library. It was hard to resist. I needed to know more of your profession. ”

    One of Luçien´s hands reached out for my wrist, closing around itfirm, yet possessively. “You should never have opened one of my books in the first place. Look what that did to your cheerful spirit. Fear is a powerful agent of the dark side. Do not get washed away by it, Grianán!”

    I put my free hand on top of his. “Is this how the dark side sneaked into your heart?”

    His lips pressed together for a while but then he answered me with a calm, even voice. “No. I was not alert enough in other ways. That is why I built this place here, far away from all the things that bothered me.”

    I simply had to comment on it. “You took your fears with you, anyway.”

    “So did you,” he challenged me.

    For a while I only could hear my own blood pound through my head, and the fire burning through the branches.

    “Let me assure you, nothing will ever happen to you under this roof. Ever! Can you begin your midwinter holidays now?” Luçien spoke tenderly. “Or is there more you need to know about my work? Gruesome details? The exact numbers of the women I had to redeem for their own good? The locations?”

    I shook my head silently.

    “Then start smiling again, my little dreamer. I had the impression that you were winning this game. I find that I do not mind losing from somebody as charming as you are.”

    ********************************************************************

    Throughout my midwinter holidays we had long, extended meals together, talking about everything apart from politics, religion and the Force. Our views were too different and we simply left it at that.

    Luçien showed nothing but kindness and patience with me. His eyes did not change colour once.

    It helped that he was a father to quite a few children, and that he knew a lot of games. I mostly liked the strategy ones. Patole, Chaturanga, Mancala and Pachisi.

    During several occasions he played the violin for me. I cried with delight each time. He was so talented, knowing many classical songs from Terra and Elfin tunes alike. His long fingers moved with an amazing speed.

    “Does Sionnach know you can do that?” I asked, after he had finished a very long and sorrowful melody.

    He shrugged, lowering his instrument. “Does it matter?”

    “She should know that you are capable of so much beauty,” I protested.

    “Right now I play for you, not for her,” he scolded me and went on playing. The music became darker and more threatening.

    I enjoyed it anyway, and listened with my head balanced on my elbows.

    A part of me began to develop a grudge with Fleur. Without her hunger for power Luçien could have been a different man. The slender fingers that moved quick over the strings were instead deadly weapons. He could use anything to bring a victim down: the Force, martial arts, fine swordsman ship, poison and words.

    At various times during my stay, Luçien vanished to visit Sionnach, who lived nearby, but he never stayed long with her and her large patchwork family. Mostly he delivered some meat, had some coffee and was off again.

    There was much laughter in the hunting lodge, especially when it was about my poor cooking skills or my fruitless efforts with a wood carving knife.

    “Nobody can be perfect, Grianán,” Luçien comforted me one grey winter afternoon, nursing my cut wound with his Force healing skills. It was the start of my second sun week with him.

    “What are you bad at?” I wanted to know.

    “Patience,” he answered straight away. “I also can be rather unforgiving with my enemies as you already found out. It might even be that I overstep the rules at times.”

    For him that was a rather big revelation. I liked that he could bare his soul to me. As far as I knew he was not even this honest with his own sons.

    We were standing in his bedroom together, where he always worked on his wooden statures. His work area was in front of the window.

    Sacre bleu!” Luçien cursed. “Holy blue! Sionnach is coming.”

    I felt an unfamiliar presence somewhere between the trees. It was very dim though and I really had to concentrate on it.

    “I bet this is about the midwinter arrangements,” muttered Luçien. “Sionnach is not happy that I do not want to spend the feast days with her and the children. You better stay up here. This is an argument that I do not wish you to witness directly.”

    He rushed out of the room, eager to obliterate the tracks of my visit. I watched him from the banister. “Can I help?”

    He raised an index finger and said sharply, “You stay where you are and the moment she knocks you go into my room. No arguing!”

    “And I stay there until she is off again?” I offered.

    A smile split his face. “Good girl!”

    I was a bit sad that I could not make myself known to my cousin. But even my Midi-chlorians told me that it was for the better. Their relationship was already complicated enough. “Luçien?”

    He was busy stuffing my winter coat into a spacious chest. “Yes, Grianán?”

    “Please do not make Sionnach cry!” I begged. “She loves you and it pains her that you isolate yourself especially around this time of the sun year.”

    “Don´t you think that I know that?” he snapped. “Her honesty and pity makes it even worse for me.”

    Friendly love is NOT a curse,” I said loud enough that he heard me.

    “How little you know Sionnach.” He threw my winter boots into the chest as well. “Since she stumbled into my life, I am too emotional in all that I do. I can seldom concentrate onimportant tasks.”

    I stepped as close to the banister as possible. “Control, alter and sense come from within. You should not blame her for your failings!”

    “Hear, hear! My little Force oracle has spoken.” He gave me a poisonous look.

    That very moment Sionnach knocked at the door. “Luçien? Are you home?” she called with a voice that was tainted by uncertainty and worry.

    Wordlessly, my host gestured me to vanish inside his bedroom.

    ********************************************************************

    [IMG]




    I could not hear the entire conversation between Luçien and Sionnach, but I was able to sense their differences. When she finally left, she was very quiet. I watched her vanish into the forest again, hugging herself. She allowed herself to break out in tears when she passed the tree-line.

    Luçien joined me at my observation post. “That did not go well at all,” he muttered.

    “That surprises you?” I looked up to him, studying his tense face.

    “She takes the whole marriage business more serious than I do. Especially the part of caring for one another. I do not need to be cared of! Why can´t she leave me alone when I want to be? I give her enough time and space to be with Skje. She should concentrate on him. I do not need her attention.”

    I took his hands and made him look at me. “You are blaming her for your mistakes. Again!”

    “Grianán!” His eyes turned into slits.

    “I understand why you married her. It is about the legacy of Garou´s heritage, right?” It helped to be a royal princess and know about such things. “But you never explained that to Sionnach. It would have made a big difference. How is she supposed to know everything if you don’t tell her? You never told her about Lisiére either.”

    He growled again and tried to rip his hands free of mine. His twin sister´s name held a lot of power still.

    I held tight and carefully lifted his fingers to my mouth and kissed them. That always worked for my siblings. It soothed them in unbelievable ways. “I know I am only eight and should not speak to this like you. But my parents had their problems, too. Children see a lot. More than adults want us to see.”

    “Your mother´s marriage was at least a marriageformed by love.” He looked exhausted, but too tired to put up a real fight with me.

    I continued, encouraged by his near-silence. “You were the one who married her without asking. She does not even know that it was an invalid marriage.”

    He laughed hollowly and his chest trembled. “You sound like your grandfather now.”

    Thanks to him, I know a lot about Sionnach.”

    Luçien frowned at me. “Narthex discussed my marriage problems with you?”

    I frowned at that. “Of course not. He is a valet. But I am good at filling in the blanks. Got that from him I suppose.”

    “You exhaust me, Grianán.”

    I lowered our hands again and let go of him. “You do that to yourself.”

    He remained quiet for several heartbeats, before saying, “I am fully aware that I cannot stop you pledging yourself to Mórag. But when you do, hold your tongue, or she will have it on a plate.”

    Suddenly I felt very young and frightened. “Is she that dreadful?”

    His left hand came to rest on my shoulders. “Let us say, Her Holiness is not as forgiving as I am.”

    I tried to steer the subject into calmer waters. “What is for dinner?”

    Luçien tapped my nose and smiled at my abrupt change in subject. “Just pancakes with maple syrup. You can keep your sweet tongue where it is. I am not a gruesome ogre who takes young princesses apart just for the fun of it.”

    I wanted to tell him that he maimed unfortunate females from various races for religious reasons, but I was wise enough to keep those thoughts to myself. Especially while I watched him cracking two eggs into a bowl and beating them.

    “Can you give me the butter, please?” he called out with a humorous undertone. “My hands cannot be that fascinating.”

    I ran into the pantry, still thinking of all the blind havoc and pain those hands could cause to others.

    ********************************************************************

    Luçien and I spent a lot of time outdoors. We had fierce snowball fights and went on a long trips with langlauf ski.

    One time he tried hunting with me, but I chased off all the animals at the last moment. “Bon,” he commented with burning eyes, just after the sixth game had escaped his arrow. “It will be just mushroom soup for tonight and self-made bread. You will clean the mushrooms and cut the onions, Grianán.”

    I tried to feel guilty, but I could not. “Can’t you see the glory in leaving a being alive now and then?”

    He stuffed his hunting bow into my hands. “Can you hold on to this while I strangle you with my bare hands? Oh please do me the favour!”

    Giggling, I ran off. “I will make it not that easy for you!”

    “Run!” He laughed. “Though it is futile. No matter where you go I will find you. You will cut those onions for us.”

    A snow ball hit my back teasingly and at the same moment I bumped into a large man who came out of nowhere. My Midi-chlorians froze with shock.

    Fee-fi-fo-fum,
    I smell the blood of a Tjiehenet,
    Be she alive, or be she dead
    I'll grind her bones to make my bread.

    There was no Highland accent in the speech of Commander Taran Cú Síth. His former army instructors had taught him Basic very well.

    Luçien build up behind me, protectively. “Snap out of it, Corcra! You will not harm her! Grianán is a guest of mine.”
  17. AzureAngel2 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 14, 2005
    star 6
    Chapter 16: Soul bond

    The large werewolf glared down at me with his sulphur yellow eyes. Even his tiniest movements gave him away as the canine predator that he was. He was an epitome of brutal strength and eagerness. “What a lovely midwinter guest you have there, mon ami. No wonder you wanted to keep us away until the solstice. You caught yourself your own little angel full of midwinter grace.”

    Luçien nodded roughly. “Agathos and Narthex were very kind trusting me to care for their youngest. And I would like to give her back in one piece when her holidays with me are over.”

    “I was drawn in by that sweet smell coming from the lodge.” The werewolf gave me a grin that was mostly teeth.

    I found my voice. It was small and frightened, but I found it. “What an honour to make your acquaintance, Commander. I heard so much about you.”

    His eyes widened because the courtesy bob that I granted him. Such a greeting would only be given to an Elfin High-king. “What an unusual and kind welcome!”

    “My father always says that a man can only give honour to himself. I see it slightly different. We should honour everybody around us to make him or her feel important. Even though you are an arch-enemy of my family, I owe you my respect for the injuries and injustice you suffered the past thousand sun years.”

    I trembled uncontrollably when Commander Taran Cú Síth reached out for my right hand and blew a courtly kiss on it.

    “Well met, Your Royal Highness! You are actually the first Tjiehenet princess I’ve met who knows how to behave. A little Force miracle really. You even try to mask your fear!”

    To my annoyance, he kept my hand in his grip, letting his nose hover above the dorsum of my hand. This intimate gesture reminded me of Celia, the most dangerous rancor mare of Dún Barr. She was as mad as a hornet from exposure to the dark side, but I was one of the few people who was allowed to come near her and touch her.

    “You are in my vault now.” Commander Taran Cú Síth grinned, ticking against his brow with his free index finger.

    I hoped that was a good thing.

    Luçien was still standing behind me, his hands resting casually on my shoulders. His touch was reassuring and comforting. “Now that we agreed that Grianán is not food, Corcra, would you honour us by joining us for dinner? A chianti perhaps? Together with the mushroom soup?”

    The werewolf, reassured by the use of his soul name via Luçien, rose to his full impressive height again. “Seeing that you had no hunting success in so far, I think I will stay outside for a while.”

    “I could make a venison and juniper stew for us, when you are back from the hunt,” suggested Luçien. “I will cool the chianti in the meantime.”

    ********************************************************************

    Having the infamous war veteran with us in the Hall of Fire was extremely awkward. Commander Taran Cú Síth had washed and had dressed in Udaler clothing. For an Elf he was rather hairy. I already had seen as much in Sionnach´s memories of him. He had a stubby beard that gave him something dashing. His straw-blond hair was done in a neat pony tail, that was held together by a thin leather strap. His decent attire though did not ease the tension.

    “Your Highness,” he addressed me with his rich voice, “This is no raid. I am a guest here as much as you are. Yes, I arrived days ahead of schedule, but we need to find agreements here. Luçien did not burn you for being a Force witch, and I am certainly not going to eat you alive. Be more cheerful. It is midwinter tide.”

    I giggled nervously, hating myself for it immediately. The commander was just straight forward and I acted stupid.

    “Do you think that you can manage to sit closer to us and bring the cookie tin with you?” His eyes were fixated on my anxious face. “Around midwinter I relish in childhood habits rather than eating fresh meat. Luçien´s work of confectionery art is always worth acting civilised.”

    I passed him the cookie tin. It felt like a pulsating star in my hand.

    “And now you can sit between Luçien and me sharing the contents of the tin until dinner is ready,” the werewolf said with a surprisingly light softness.

    When I came down with trembling knees Luçien glided his left arm around me and drew me closer to his chest. “Relax, Grianán! When the Commander tells you continuously that you are not on his food list, then you really can believe him. Normally he does not make the effort. Now have a cookie!”

    “But dinner...” I started.

    “Does not matter! Go for a cookie,” Luçien insisted gently. “I will not send you to bed earlier if you cannot manage to eat your portion of stew later on.”

    Both men watched me nibbling on an Elfin shortbread finger. I choked on it several times.

    “It is not a carrot, Your Highness. And you are not a rabbit,” joked the werewolf.

    I gave him a reproachful glance.

    “Oh you have your mother´s fire. That is for sure. But you also have your father´s eyes. That helps. I bet it calms that inner fire.” Commander Taran Cú Síth took a cookie and began crunching on it with unhidden enthusiasm. Crumbs flew in every possible direction. Those jaws were made for tearing flesh from something alive. He started speaking again. “Luçien, a daughter of Agathos can never become a Force witch.”

    The werewolf closed the cookie tin.

    “I have seen generations of god queens grow up and die in battle. Some even between my jaws, twitching uncontrollably and Force lightening crackle over their doomed bodies. They were nothing like this white orchid blossom here. So young, so fresh and so innocent. Never do something stupid with her and she will be fine, Luçien. Trust my instinct and close her file, once and for all.”

    That was the moment that I really began to like Commander Taran Cú Síth.

    ********************************************************************

    About half an hour later, I followed the werewolf outside to help him hang, draw and quarter the large elk that he had brought down earlier on.

    “I know what you did,” he told me while taking the guts out with his bare hands. “But you secret is safe with me. You already will have Mórag all over you due to it. If she truly hates anyone in this universe, it is her two half-brothers.”

    “Thank you,” I said, placing the large heart of the dead elk in another large bowl.

    “Take a well-meant warning from me, lass. Soul partnerships are intense. They can drive people to the edge of madness.” He gave me a thoughtful look. “With our tom-cat here you only have two options. To join him in hell or to lift him into heaven with you. Darksiders think in absolutes. Especially those who fail to see the problem they have.”

    “Why are you with him?” I asked boldly.

    He smiled thinly. “The same reason why you sacrificed yourself. He is worth my time. Plus he can cook.”

    ********************************************************************

    The next evening, Taran winked at me, closing a little discussion we had about the obligations of a daughter of the House Tjiehenet. “Your family has a mountain residence. It will be expected of you to know all the local dances and the entire catalogue of Elfin dances. I will help your father launch you into society when your time has come.”

    “That still might be ten sun years from now on,” I mumbled, very shy suddenly. Would Luçien notice that Isa had let me train for the Way of the Warrior when I was on the dance floor? Would my body language give it away?

    “Ten years can fly by rather quickly, especially when you spent them in
    Mórag´s charge,” Taran laughed, getting up from the sofa. “She will make you dance to different tunes than I. Make no mistake about that!”

    Reddening, I heaved myself up. “It is really not necessary that we do that. I hate dancing.”

    Taran was not easily convinced. “Then you better start liking it, Grianán. It is part of your heritage. I may not have shared much with your mother, but I think she would agree with me here.”

    Seeing her Force ghost nod gleefully behind him I knew my mother did more than just agree.

    For the rest of my stay, I learned various Elfin céilí dances and set dances, and also jigs and reels. I was also taught the polkas and waltzes that were popular among the Udaler community. Luçien happened to know a lot of violin tunes for Taran and me.

    ********************************************************************

    On my last afternoon in the lodge, Luçien let me help him with more midwinter cookies. We did cinnamon stars and lemon hearts without Taran. The commander was dozing on the carpet in front of the chimney, rolled up like a canine. He snored as if he was busy bringing the entire forest down with a wood saw.

    Luçien pushed me away from the oven door with a little swing from his hips. “I do not want my guests to eat little piles of ash. No offence, but you have no talent in the kitchen. The man who will marry you one fine day will need to do all the cooking and baking by himself.”

    “Who says that I ever want to get married? It is not a custom among the Ophidea,” I pointed out.

    “It is licentious NOT to marry a person whom you have children with.” His disgust showed all over his face. “This is the main reason I married Sionnach, even though my mother was against it.”


    [IMG]



    His mother, a mighty shadow in his life. A woman so vile, that Mórag looked like an innocent lamb against her.

    “When I try to accept your traditions, Luçien, could you please try to accept those of my people?” I pressed the tray in his hands. “Even though you regard the majority of them as evil Force witches and crazy gen scientists, their customs are still a part of me and have purpose.”

    He smiled. “You are indeed good in filling blanks. Please cut out more stars and hearts now.”

    I waited until the second tray was out of the oven. Then I said, “Isa was never married.”

    Luçien raised an eyebrow, immediately on the defence.“There were other reasons for that. I certainly do not see you following her footsteps, Grianán.”

    I concentrated to get the cookies out of their baking forms nicely, manipulating the dough with the Force. “How do you know she never was with anybody? You never asked.”

    He turned his face away from me. “There was no need. A desert rose like her must bond with a bantha calf at a certain age. You can blame me for the fact that she ended up a hopeless spinster. I was always so busy...”

    “With killing people, hunting down Force witches and making others follow the laws,” I interrupted him.

    “...that I did not take better care of that matter,” Luçien concluded. “And suddenly I had to bring her into exile.”

    My hug from behind caused his shirt to get smeared with dough, but he did not mind that. He turned around to hug me back and we remained silent for a while. Then I said, “You can always tell Isa that you are sorry! That you wish life had been different and more fulfilling for her.”

    “Even IF I was skilled at empty excuses, she would not believe me. I will remain a monster to her for all eternity.” He absent mindedly took a towel and began cleaning my left hand. “She does not understand the things I do. You at least attempt to try.”

    “That does not mean I approve,” I whispered.

    Luçien moved on to cleaning my right hand. “Of course you don´t. I would be very worried if you did.”

    “Is that why I am still alive?” I could not help asking, even though a violent tremor went through his entire body.

    “You have no pride that could ever lead you to a momentary lapse of focus. There is no legacy of bitterness. Nor do you have a brash, impatient spirit. Those are the perfect targets for the dark side.” His hands cramped slightly and I had the feeling that he spoke about himself.

    “Can I make some tea for us?” I suggested softly. “I promise that I will not burn the tea bags.”

    “Burning tea bags!” Luçien laughed until tears came out of his eyes. The laughter turned into sobs and the tears came freely as he fell to his knees.

    Taran slept on, unconcerned. His snoring even became louder.

    “It is okay, Luçien.” I put my hands on his head.

    “Better promise me that you will NOT get into trouble when you are with Mórag. Because if you do then I need to go after you, Grianán.” He raised his head, his look unfocused first. “I mean it!”

    “You never could!” I stated quietly, my fingers still playing with his locks.

    “Watch me, my little dreamer!” He sniffed. “I need to obey the rules when it is about mighty Force witches. Never turn into something like your ancestors.”

    “I do not intend to!” I was half touched by his fears and half annoyed. Those undead creatures in the royal crypt of Cunabula are not my idols and never had been.

    “No more necromancy?” His tear-stained eyes searched mine.

    “Why should I want to create my own clone toy? Because it could be better with housework than I am?” I gave him a screwed look. “There is no need to raise the dead either. I let them sleep in the ground where they belong. As for creating new races in the gen laboratory, I am not really interested in such stuff. My family has not been doing that since the end of the war. Move with the times!”

    “And your mother?”

    “She was the only exception. True.” We both did not mention Solitaire by name.

    “What about talking to spirits or conjuring them?” Luçien looked at me expectantly and unblinking.

    I rolled my eyes. “Me conjuring THEM? They are desperate to make themselves known to me. I basically stumble over them. Everybody has her or his own story they want me to acknowledge. Or they insist on telling me about the crimes led to their deaths.”

    His bewilderment grew. “They could be sinister demons from another dimension, trying to lure you into things that are not righteous. Look at your family history! All those Force phantoms. Don´t you think that I feel their presence each time I am on the Isle of Cunabula? They hide inside the crypts of your ancestors, right?”

    I gave my best to sound natural and stir our conversation into much calmer waters. The last thing that I wanted to discuss with him were the inhabitants of the crypts. “Listen, my Aunt Adamah was the last spirit that I talked to since I came here. She even encouraged me to visit you.”

    “Your aunt,” he rumbled. “Just like that.”

    I eyed Taran; he seemed deep in sleep, and not in any particular need of tea. “Nobody would ever want to visit you, for fear of getting killed all over again.” I went towards the tea pot, checking if it contained enough water for the two of us. I eyed Taran; he seemed deep in sleep, and not in any particular need of tea.

    Luçien reached out for my shoulders. “Upstairs!”

    I did not like his change of mood a single bit. “The tea?” My voice dropped.

    “Later.”
  18. AzureAngel2 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 14, 2005
    star 6
    Chapter 17: Myrtle and ivy

    Luçien had locked us into his room. His face was a bundle of afflicting emotions. Something deep and profound was going on. “Do you know why we are sitting here?” he asked, trapping my hands in his own. Our heartbeats thudded in synchronization.

    “Because you cannot let go of the impression that I am tempted by the dark side of the Force,” I answered truthfully.

    The intensity of his cat eyes frightened me. They drilled straight into my soul like a pair of daggers. “You take the art of Necromancy too lightly, my little dreamer. Its study draws people in with the promise of power and riches. Their souls become corrupted in the process.”

    I frowned at him. “You believe me to be corrupted?”

    Luçien waited one heartbeat too long for the right answer.

    “You are good at finding evil everywhere,” I muttered.

    He reached out to cup my chin with one hand, pressing my fingers together with the other one. It almost hurt, almost. “But evil is everywhere, Grianán. Should we combat it? Ignore it? Is it possible to do both?”

    “And to what conclusion did these thoughts lead you to?”

    “Since you became a part of my life I started to ask myself if evil is a real thing with substance and power. Or whether it is no more than the absence of truth. Perhaps it is a vacuum of reality, simple negation of light.”

    I blurted out the words without thinking. “I am a daughter of the Force and no evil Force witch. Why are you always lashing out on me?”

    Luçien studied my face with a hooded gaze. “In general, evil is too close to us to see clearly; too painful to place a label upon.”

    It worried me that he did not notice the underlying problem of what he just had said to me. “So I am a willing agent of witchcraft?” I offered flatly.

    Luçien moved his hand away from my chin and rested it lovingly against my cheek. “Let me put it this way: somehow trouble always finds you. It seems you need protection from yourself rather than punishment. I am willing to try another approach with you – mercy and understanding.”

    The word punishment rang in my ears. I gulped hard. “And what happens now? Am I to promise you that I will never ever talk to any ghosts again?”

    “That would be sufficient.” He nodded.

    “I do not like talking to ghosts, Luçien. They make me cold and uneasy,” I assured him.

    “Another reason to stay away from temptation,” he reasoned.

    “I am not doing that on purpose. They have appeared to me uninvited since my birth.”

    His head tilted. “Do you ever see anything else apart from ghosts? The future perhaps?”

    I gave him an acceptable version of the truth. “No, I am not a clairvoyant, just a medium.”

    “Let us hope that doesn’t change.” His lips curled. “What about Force lightning then? You are a daughter of the Holy Isle.”

    “Occasionally, when nobody else is looking, I shock things, but only for fun. I fire on water melons or jugs. Not on living beings.”

    His expression softened. “I appreciate your honesty.”

    “Luçien, you can also do Force lightening. You do not only use it to light the chimney fire. I saw that in Isa´s memories that used it to kill Solitaire.”

    He surged to his feet with the fluid grace of his race. “Why were you in my step-sister´s head?”

    I stared ahead of blankly, trying to come up with an excuse that didn’t reveal my abilities. If he wanted something plausible, I would bend the truth around the core of my true condition. “When I had to leave Amnion I became very ill. I had no control over my telepathic powers any longer. Her memories of you, the good ones and the bad ones, flooded into my head. I could not hold them back.”

    Luçien stared at me so hard that I began to cry in fear. That was my salvation. He hugged me. “Hey, it is okay. I do believe you. Shush, please!”

    “Are we done now?” I hid my face in the fabric of his white cotton shirt.

    “Just one more thing,” I heard him murmur.

    “Yes?” I asked uncertain, looking into the abyss inside him. To be precise, at that moment, he was the abyss.

    “Why is Mórag so keen on getting her snow white corpse hands on you?”

    I came up with the obvious. “I am my mother´s daughter. That is enough reason.”

    The door handle began to jiggle hard, making us jump. Then somebody knocked, hard and determined. “Luçien, if you do not open immediately, I will stamp the door down!” Taran yelled. “The princess is innocent of whatever you think she is guilty of. You should report yourself to the Brotherhood for unorthodox working methods.”

    “Thanks for your time and patience, Grianán,” Luçien whispered. With that he stopped hugging me and let the infuriated Taran in.

    ********************************************************************

    The commander wore an expression of utter disgust when he eyed the two chairs. “You dare to interrogate a nine-year-old girl about witch craft? Who do you think you are? Dawn itself? The incarnation of justice?”

    “The Brotherhood trusts me to smite the wicked, to cast down the damned.” Luçien held his chin up proudly.

    “Wicked? Grianán? Pardon me!” Taran barked some creative curses in the Mountain Elves’ language.

    Luçien´s grimness increased with each abusive word.

    I stepped towards Taran and wrapped my arms around his hips. “Luçien only wanted to talk. Nobody got hurt, Carcra.”

    Eight fingers moved through my hair as if to check that none of it had been twisted. “If you ever harm Grianán in the slightest way, I will be after you. I will not stop until I bring you down. You will even beg me to finish you off at a point.”

    Luçien was appalled. “I am capable of a lot of bad things, Carcra, but I am not that evil. I love this girl here as much as I do my own sons.”

    “You had better,” scolded Taran, showing him his large canine teeth.

    “Can we have dinner now?” I asked. “I am hungry. Is the stew ready yet?”

    The men followed me downstairs, still exchanging looks like sword attacks. They became enemies when it came to my well-being this was something I had to stop. They needed to stay close friends.

    “Anybody in for tea?” I asked helpfully.

    Two mugs were held in front of me almost simultaneously.

    ********************************************************************

    On my last evening, we played cards together. When I had won a series of three games I was asked if I could sing for them before I went to bed. I chose some ancient songs from Terra. They had the solemn effect that I wanted them to have. Especially the song ´Lily white, comely queen´.

    ”This day day dawes
    this gentil day day dawes
    this gentil day day dawes
    and i must home gone
    this gentil day dawes
    this day day dawes
    this gentil day dawes
    and we must home gone.

    In a glorious garden grene
    sawe i sitting a comly quene
    among the floures that fresh bene
    she gaderd a floure and set betwene
    the lily whighte rose me thought i sawe
    the lily whighte rose me thought i sawe
    and ever she sang.

    In that garden be floures of hewe
    the gelofir gent that she well knewe
    the floure-de-luce she did on rewe
    and said ´the white rose is most trewe
    this garden to rule by rightwys lawe´
    and ever she sang.

    His gentle deed in glory who was proud and grand
    so I sit here a lilly white comely queen
    gentle fear beheld that saw she did love anew
    in his blossom a flower most true
    and for knoweth lilly white virgin queen.”

    My innocence and honesty came through the lyrics and music of the song. I had seen those two traits make people cry. It was a Force gift I had inherited from those who had taken advantage of their enthralled victims. Some had been simply murdered, others were turned into slaves. Luçien had his good reasons to be that fanatic about Force witches.

    I had witnessed the destruction that such temptation could lead a person to. I would never be able to step on that path of evil. Through my songs, I made this known.

    Luçien and Taran were subdued as I kissed them good-night. Neither spoke until I was almost out of the room.

    “Sleep tight,” Luçien said.

    Taran rose. “Shall I come up with and position myself between your bed and the door, lassie? Just in case?”

    Luçien snorted, affronted.

    “Thanks for the generous offer, Carcra, but it will not be necessary.” I started moving upstairs.

    The silence behind me was ear shattering.

    I had an idea. “If it makes you all feel better, we can all camp downstairs. And you both can keep an eye on me tonight.”

    It took them almost no time to move my mattress downstairs. They both decided to sleep on sofas on opposite sides of me.

    We did not all go to sleep immediately. There was much storytelling and even a midnight snack. Deep in their hearts, which other thought to be twisted and evil, the realm´s most merciless killers were very lonely men.

    ********************************************************************

    Father came for me on the morning of the solstice. Grandfather was with him, of course. Both were in midwinter spirits. They sang a song at the door step before they entered the lodge.

    We all had breakfast together, which extended into the early afternoon, due to all the food Luçien offered us. But at a point it was time to say good-bye.

    I started with Taran who immediately gave me his midwinter present, a muff. He was quiet, and I mimicked his silence when I hugged him.

    Then I looked questioningly at Luçien, who held a wooden harp casket in front of him like a shield. “My half-sister Mórag loves music,” he explained. “It holds her madness in place. Learn that instrument, Grianán. Save you, it can.”

    “I will do my best then.” I did not dare to hug him.

    Luçien looked at me with burning eyes. “I have decided to spend one or two days with Sionnach in the long-house. But then I MUST attend to my own midwinter guests again.”

    “I will not empty your pantry, mon ami,” promised Taran. “Take your time when visiting the little fox in her den.”

    The spaceship was parked outside. I was glad that I did not need to ride through the wintry Ceilonwyn. This quicker as I got away from the misery in Luçien´s cat eyes, the quicker I would heal. Or maybe not.

    “You did well,” Father assured me while I sat down next to him in the cockpit.

    Grandfather was still down in the luggage compartment, securing the heavy harp in its wooden casket. I did not like it down there. Stainless steel covered the walls and there was no panorama window. I had almost fainted from claustrophobia when I had helped to carry my luggage inside.

    ********************************************************************

    An unexpected letter came in the spring. I was out herding the cattle when its messenger approached me nervously. He was a druid in training and turned down my invitation into the village, but accepted some water from my water bottle and half of my lunch bread. Then he was gone again.

    I recognized the handwriting on the envelope immediately and tore it open. My heart sang with every word that I read.

    “Daná!” I called up the Adansonia tree that my twin sister was sitting on. “Come down quick!”

    She answered telepathically, “You get your lazy arse up here, sunshine.”

    Sighing, I jumped and with the help of the Force I went to sit next to her.

    “See,” she commented smugly. “There was no reason for me to climb down or for you to yell. Isabeau has jolly good ears and you’re acting as if this letter contains a secret.”

    I nodded excitedly.

    “Then show me, but do not shout surprises out into the great wide open. That is why telepathy was created by the Force in the first place.” Daná leaned back against the tree trunk and started reading. She was only half-way through the letter, when she shouted, “No, Sereno didn´t!”

    My laughter filled the treetop. “Obviously our brother did.”

    “A secret wedding three sun months ago. How romantic!” Daná started dancing on the branch that we were on. “And now there is a child on the way. Oh let it be a girl!”

    “Do you have a problem with baby boys?” I asked, taking the letter back from her.

    Daná interrupted my thoughts with her cheers. “I want a little niece that I can spoil. She will grow up like a real princess and I will not allow anybody to give her sword lessons or any kind of weapon training.”

    “Let our brother and his bride Gwenynen decide that.” I smirked at her and tucked the letter away. “If it is a girl and she wants to learn how to fight, then we should let her.”

    Daná gave me a critical look. “I mean, all our female ancestors have been either mighty Force witches or fierce warrior women.”

    “Or both,” I added thoughtfully.

    “It is time for a change,” my sister stated. “Let the men do the work and the wars. I would not mind being like one of those Elfin princesses - pale, lazy, unearthly beautiful and spoiled. I would play the harp from dusk until dawn, hand-stitch tapestries in between and dance with handsome lords in large ballrooms.”

    “You would get bored in no time,” I assured her.

    She gazed into the sky dreamingly. “Have you ever imagined life at Dún Barr before our family invaded it, Gri? The sophisticated Elfin society, splendid seasons of dancing and celebration...”

    “And people tell me that I am a little dreamer.” I thought of Luçien and hurt because I missed him so unbelievingly much.

    “Oh, Gri!” Tenderly Daná ransacked through my dreadlocks. “You are not a great romantic, are you?”

    I snorted dignified. “I love love stories as much as you do, Daná, but real life is different.”

    “You do not believe in love at first sight, do you?” She made a face.

    I stared into the leaves ahead of me. “Sure I do, but I...”

    “When you will see him, then you will know. Just like Sereno did with his Forest Elf,” Daná interrupted me. “And now they’ll have a baby together. Isn´t that sweet?”

    “Yes, very!” I agreed softly, painstakingly steering my thoughts away from my own dreams. When I was grown-up I would not mind to become Lady Ankou. There was good in Luçien and I had seen it. Many, many times. But there was still much time before that day would come.

    “Okay, the best thing to do is to contact Father and Grandfather immediately. Sereno might have written them as well. Perhaps we can have a baby shower here at the village of Sendero,” Daná suggested, gleaming with joy.

    “Isa might feel a slight bit... overtaxed. She does not like surprises very much.”

    “Tough,” Daná spoke with a firm tone. “There will be a baby shower for our niece. And Isa had better enjoy herself.”

    [IMG]
  19. AzureAngel2 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 14, 2005
    star 6
    Chapter 18: The crone

    Isabeau did not take the latest developments very lightly. Nor did she like anything about the baby shower that we had organized. Being trapped by one of her future visions she called through the village, ”Two liquid gems, indescribably precious - because they were his. He had earned them. As he had earned her; as he had earned the child she bore. He had paid for them with innocent blood.”

    After those words were out of her mouth, she went berserk. The Force controlled her body and sent seizures through it. She spat dark prophecies about the Chosen One. It was dreadful to see. Her eyes rolled forth and back. My siblings and I had to work together to stabilize her. Luckily she was not anything like mother and did not attack us with Force lightning. Umbra carried her inside her hut.

    While the rest of my family joined the other party guests after much persuasion, I stayed at Isabeau´s side. I was not hungry any more, just gravely concerned. The future tried to communicate with us through her and we did not understand most of the visions. It could be more than thousand sun years from now before the Chosen One would influence the universe. Even if we were fore-bearers, there was not much we could help to influence his choices. We had our own lives and perils to face.

    I stared at the unconscious Isabeau, who had been put in a Force healing trance by the female village chief. My wonderful Isabeau. She was in her early thirties now, a deadly beauty with a sharp symmetrical face. Where Luçien was shadow she was light, scorching sun light. She had been my guardian, my nanny, my substitute mother and, on top of all, my weapon master. I would miss her dearly when I joined Mórag.

    A movement at the door made me turn defensively. Something that looked like a walking willow tree had entered the hut. “Luçien´s past, being watched by Luçien´s future,” a voice croaked. “And Luçien´s present is living her own life far away in the mountains.”

    The bony woman was a Gwyllion elder. The Force lay like a coat around her. Her white hair fell to her waist and was threaded with feathers. Her body was wrinkled and knotted, but she moved with the combined smoothness of an Ophidea and the grace of an Elf. She used a walking stick that hadthe skull of a large bird adhered to the top of it.

    Instinctively I bowed to her like I would bow to the high priestess of Ischáh, the snake goddess of my ancestors.

    “Leave that nonsense, child,” she fussed. “I rather have to bow to you,
    Arcānā´s legacy of light and love.”

    I flushed deeply, not used such praise. “Please, do not, Reverend Mother.”

    She gave me a sharp look. “I am not Mórag. I do not do titles. Call meHelygen. Or just ´gammer´ if you have to, but never again Reverend Mother. That phrase sounds as if I am part of the dreadful Inquisition that she came up with to purge our race.”

    I let Helygen approach me. The intoxicating scent of the Silva Lacrimae followed in her wake; mist banks, ancient herbs, foliage and tree bark. My heart pounded in my chest when she investigated me from head to toe.

    “I can see that Isabeau has been busy sharpening a mighty weapon against the son of the Skywalker.”

    Bewildered and anxious I looked at Helygen. “I mean him no harm.”

    “Of course not.” I detected a hint of satisfaction in her eyes while she answered. “You tore half of your soul out of your chest for him. Just to bring him the light that got out in his own soul. What foolishness! What bravery! What glory!”

    Even though I began to warm up to the crone, she confused me with her speeches. Her spider-like fingers grabbed hold of my cheek and pinched it with so much conviction that it caused my eyes to water.

    “Do yourself a favour when your body turns into that of a young woman, Grianán. Come to see me! I will teach you the ancient way of the shaman. I only ask for one sun year. Nothing more, nothing less.”

    Regret crept into me. “Mórag will not allow it.”

    “Never mind her or her silly half-brothers. Especially Luçien.” She made an energetic gesture with her right hand. White light danced between her fingers. I could see the nebular arms of a spiral galaxy in them. “I will call for you when the time is right. You need to get reconnected with the Unifying Force.”

    I gazed at her with astonished eyes.

    “And now let us see what your family has brought along for the party,” Helygen suggested. The magical moment was over and she just seemed to be a hungry old wife again. “I heard it is Amnionian, so I hope that it is simple. My old stomach is not into kitchen experiments any longer.”

    “But Isa...,” I protested.

    “Will heal while she sleeps”, concluded the ancient shaman woman. “Stop creeping in the shadows. Come out into the sunlight and give me your hand. There is nothing you can do for the Holy Consort at present. Now, be brave, and don´t look back. ”

    Hesitantly, I left Isabeau and went with Helygen, who gave me an almost toothless smile. The rest of the night held no additional surprises.

    ********************************************************************

    Isabeau did not wake up the next sun day, nor the day afterwards. The visions held her in an iron grip. Not even Helygen could help her.

    On the morning of our birthday five days later, my twin siblings and I gathered in front of her bed. Instead of celebrating, the seven of us decided that Daná would stay behind with our beloved nanny while I travelled back to Cunabula. From there, I would be brought to the beanmna feasa by Father and Grandfather.

    Daná kissed me, strangely tearful. “You better keep practising your martial arts until we next meet again, or I will bash your skull in straight away.”

    I kissed her back and just smiled.

    “Take her away from me,” she howled. “Otherwise I will keep her here and not allow her to go.”

    Caelestris, Iocus, Blandita, Rubio and Calathus dragged me away from Daná, who was crying openly now.

    Outside the hut waited a triple surprise for me: Aranea, Mora and Luna. “Happy birthday everyone,” my three best friends called in unison. “Apart from Caelestris that is. Happy not-birthday to you.”

    My older sister giggled. “You three!”

    “Well, we talked about it,” Aranea grinned brightly, “And with Grianán going to live with that vampire for nine sun years, we... well we will stay here with Daná and keep her company while Isa heals.”

    My hands flew towards my temples and I closed my eyes as I imagined thetrouble they could get in to. “Do not kill each other, okay?”

    Luna gave a crooked smile. “Not sure we can promise you that, but your birthday gift can be our promise to try.”

    “Do I also get a present?” asked Rubio hopeful. “It is my birthday, too.”

    “Dream on, wormie!” she replied frostily and turned her back to him. “I´d just as soon kiss one of your elder brothers.”

    “I can arrange that. You could use a good kiss.” muttered Rubio darkly before calling out as loud as he could, “Èleos, quick! Luna wants to get kissed by you.”

    Luna turned dark-red and pushed Rubio into the dust with a very aggressive combat movement. But I had no chance to listen to them argue. Aranea pressed me to her chest so hard that I almost felt my own heart breaking.

    “Grianán, you know I hate long goodbyes as much as Daná does. There are three things I want you to do. Write to us as often as that mad old bat allows you. Do not lose sense of yourself, as your mother did. And, most of all, stay in the light.”

    I still felt the tight embrace from my oldest friend when Calathus lead me away towards the porta nigra. In its shadows, Father, Sereno, Èleos and Grandfather were waiting.

    “Gwenynen is still asleep, otherwise she would be here, too.” Sereno told me, his eyes glimmering with love and happiness.

    “Where is Helygen?” I asked and looked around.

    “On one of her usual shaman trips. She had some mushrooms, which sometimes prevent her from coming back from the spirit world for days.” Sereno rolled his eyes. “I love the old girl, but as times she is as crazy as a bantha with fleas.”

    “I rather have her teaching Grianán the ways of the Force than Mórag,” Èleos said with a sigh.

    In the end, it could not be prevented. I had to leave for the main temple by the end of the day.

    ********************************************************************

    Ready for your big adventure?” asked Father, when we were in the air above Dún Barr. His eyes twinkled with delight.

    “You are up to something,” I stated.

    “Told you she would recognize the truth straight away, Agathos,” laughed Grandfather. “You look too happy today.”

    “That could have been due to the fact that a new baby is on the way, enriching life for our family once more.” Father grinned back at Grandfather.

    “Our Grianán has a sharp mind. You cannot fool her. Neither can I.” He turned to me with a wide smile. “Listen, last night a letter from Mórag arrived. She is furious about Sereno and Gwenynen´s wedding. There is no need to go into her service until you are fourteen-years-old.”

    I looked back and forth between them in confusion. “Where are we going instead?”

    “We want you to get the education of an Elfin princess. We’re bringing you to a tutor of noble descent.”

    My mouth dropped open.

    Grandfather cleared his throat and continued. “We have been able to secure you a position where you can be Luçien’s protégée until Mórag requires you.”

    It was Father who asked the important question that only I could answer. “Do you want this?”

    “We´d be living a lie,” I pointed out. “Could you lie to my siblings and Isa on a daily basis, Father? Could Grandfather?”

    There was a look that I had never seen in my father´s grey eyes before: supreme anger. “We want you to have a happy life until darkness falls in your path. Please trust us!”

    In the end I did, even though I was uncomfortable by the fact that my life would now be protected by a shield of lies.

    ********************************************************************

    Luçien was already standing outside when our small star ship arrived above his hunting lodge. He gave a friendly wave when we became visible through the view port. As soon as the ramp came down he stood on it, ready to help with the luggage. He wore his leisure clothing - a comfortable leather trouser, a wide Udaler shirt and high riding boots.

    First Luçien shook hands with both Father and Grandfather. Then I received a bright smile from him. He would not touch me or give me a hug with others around. That was not in his cultural upbringing. His eyes told me that he was overjoyed with our reunion and deeply touched by the trust that was put into him by his friends.

    Luçien took the harp casket and led the way to the house. He pushed the entrance door open with the Force and took our winter coats. He had an early lunch for us, which we ate through wonderful happiness and laughter.

    When the samovar was empty, the rules of their mutual contract were made clear to me.

    Luçien focused on me after exchanging a glance with Father. “Officially I will remain your father´s private secretary and unofficially his Force healer. This means I am believed to be at Dún Barr all-around-the-clock.”

    I looked deep into his blue eyes. “But you are not,” I concluded. “Never were.”

    He stood up and gestured me to do the same. “Do you trust me, Grianán?”

    “Yes, in this I do.”

    I was able to feel his relief through the Force. “My brother Parhelion helped me to develop a special Force gift. I abused it once when I took Isabeau from you and the rest of your family. It would only be fair that I show it to you and let you enjoy it. May I?”

    I nodded.

    [IMG]

    He took a swift step forward and gave me the embrace I had longed for since coming here. The suddenness of it startled me though, and I tensed in his arms. “Do not be frightened! Apparition does not hurt. Just hold on to me.”

    The world became blurry, almost ghost-like. Suddenly we stood in the nursery of Dún Barr. The late afternoon sun danced over the walls, furniture, and the wooden mosaic floor.

    Luçien let go of me. “Look around carefully, my little dreamer. Is there anything you wish to take back to my place?”

    My glance fell on a toy bantha that I was fond of when I had returned from Polysýndeton. Her name was Bertha. She was a present from Aranea. I ran over to my plush childhood companion.

    Luçien was pleased. “You are a very touch-sensitive person, are you not?”

    “I simply like to cuddle and touch things,” I admitted without revealing my special Force gift to him. “So I better take Bertha with me to the lodge. She does not need to obey the Holy Scriptures like you do.”

    Luçien grinned at me. “Welcome to my hunting lodge then, little bantha. Make sure your young mistress behaves well as my student.”

    “I am always good,” I insisted.

    He took my left hand and eyed my fingertips critically. “Except with intense harp practice.”

    I looked devastated, my lip quivering.

    “Do not worry, Grianán! I will get you back into the habit of practicing often.” He tenderly pulled me into his arms again. “And you will like it.”

    We returned to the lodge immediately.

    ********************************************************************

    I got my old bedroom right next to his. Luçien had attended to it lovingly. There were fresh spring flowers next to my bed. The entire room smelt of lavender essence in a very pleasing way. It was like coming home.

    It soon seemed that I never had been away from the lodge at all. Luçien and I came up with a nice time schedule that suited both Father and Grandfather. We were up at dawn and had breakfast together. I set the table and he was in charge of the food preparation. During breakfast, he let me know what my focus of the morning would be: harp practice, language studies, essays, book lecture or art projects.

    Most of the time, Luçien could join me at lunch and stay for one or two hours before returning to my father’s study. When he stayed with me, he would only speak in the languages that I had learned in the past and hold a relaxed conversation with me.

    He never left without giving me sufficient assignments to work on until the late afternoon. As my tutor, he expected a lot from me. He was as stern as he was honest. I gave my best not to disappoint him, as each success of mine made him smile.

    He was not always able to have tea with me, but he always made sure that a surprise was waiting for me. They were sweets from his own desert culture, Elfin cookies, Amnionian niceties or even fruits from the Holy Isle. I liked the notes that he wrote for me and kept them in my bedroom draw like love letters. He never came up with the same words twice. Sometimes he did funny sketches.

    In the evenings, we would cook together. I was allowed to cut things into pieces or to hand him the ingredients that he requested. But he did make sure that I did not stir, fry or bake items myself. His patience with me was flawless, but my cooking skills were not.

    I had to play the harp for him while he washed up. He chose not to look directly at me while I displayed the fruits of my hard labour to him. He would wait until I had finished before turning around and giving me his feedback. It was always honest. But I was not.

    There were things I did not mention to him, such as my martial arts exercises that I did in the Hall of Fire, when I believed to be safe from exposure. I would twist off the head of the broom and use it as a pool weapon. One time he almost caught me.

    “Why are you busy with that broom?” he asked. “We don’t clean the lodge until the end of the week. Why are you not learning that complicated harp solo that I gave you this morning?”

    “It is my hair,” I explained quickly. “It is everywhere.”

    “So I noticed,” he sniggered. “There is always a price for having a hairy pet.”

    I stuck my tongue out to him, trying to act displeased.

    After that incident, I did my exercises at different times and managed to keep them secret.

    Now and then, Father and Grandfather visited us at the lodge. Sometimes even Taran came, when he was, as he put it, ´in the right frame of mind´. The commander suffered dearly from his old war injuries. Being exposed to Force lightening far too often had a great influence on his brain functions. Around Luçien and me, he was always relaxed and happy though. Somehow we were able to clear his head and keep him positive for days on end until his primal instincts took over and he would have to leave for a brief time.

    All in all, my life consisted of music, art, history, politics, dancing, languages, strategy games, writing letters, secret sword fights and visits of dear persons.
  20. AzureAngel2 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 14, 2005
    star 6
    Chapter 19: The confession

    When autumn came, colouring the leaves of the deciduous trees in breathtaking hues, the official hunting season had begun. Luçien scheduled a meeting with Parhelion and Draň Syn od Kerb. I still had not met the young noble man from the Eastern Prairies. For some reason, he was hidden away from me.

    Taran, already feeling the excitement of the hunt, had run off without Luçien, leaving the entrance door wide open. The smells of the awaking forest wafted in.

    I had come downstairs, already dressed and ready to start the day. Luçien did not like me to loiter around in my nightgown. He was more strict with me than he had ever been with Isabeau. But he explained more of his actions to me.

    “I know you are used to a lot, Grianán,” he said, “But I would rather have you not come down when the men are here.”

    I looked up to him, my face honest and friendly. “Do not worry! Father explained the rules of a ducal homestead to me, before he brought me here. Especially when it is up to under-age children coming near the tea room. You will neither hear me nor see me until they are off again. We played that game before when Sionnach popped in one time. Remember?”

    He kissed my forehead gently. “Thanks for your understanding. I appreciate that very much. For now I better catch up with Taran before he does something stupid. Once the blood lust gets a grip on him he only listens to his stomach.”

    ********************************************************************

    I was in the middle of shadow-boxing exercises when I felt a soft tickling inside my head. It was strange and yet familiar. “Luçien?” I asked uncertain via telepathy.

    He was shy, almost unwilling to confirm our mental contact. “Please listen to me, Grianán. You need to be very strong now. There has been a terrible accident. Your sister-in-law is no more.”

    All of my senses became heightened. “Taran did something stupid, did he not?” I concluded.

    “Not only him,” Luçien confirmed reluctantly. “But because I was the master of the hunt I will need to take the responsibility for this dreadful tragedy. It is my duty to protect the privacy of my friends and take the blame myself. ”

    I shook my head vigorously, even though he could not see me. “Try the truth. After Polysýndeton, we all should be honest with one another.”

    “Sure.” A wave of cynicism branded towards me. “That is what the two of us have done since your birthday. Being honest, having no secrets, living my tutelage of you in the open.”

    Sweat beaded across my forehead. “I... I...” I stammered.

    “There is no way to explain why she had to die. There simply isn’t. This is why I will take the blame - because it was my responsibility.”

    “But it was not. Taran followed his nature and that Draň... well, acted stupid, I suppose,” I offered.

    “You suppose?” he ranted. “Your brother Sereno is on its way to seek revenge. To tell him that my friend acted stupid with the head of his wife will not do the trick, Grianán.”

    My heart sank, while my skin grew cold despite the afternoon sunlight that I stood in. “Will you kill him when he challenges you for a vendetta?”

    “This is something that is beyond my control,” Luçien tried to explain me.

    “But you can control your movements in deadly combat,” I insisted. “You are a master assassin.”

    He remained silent for a while, but I could still feel his presence in my head. When he chose to address me again, his thoughts were misty and drenched in sadness. “His heart is broken beyond repair. The shock was too great. He will either become a Darksider like your mother or chose suicide.”

    “That is not true. Not Sereno. He enjoys life to its fullest.” I put my arms around me to warm me, but it was a futile attempt.Shivers began to wrack through my body.

    Enormous gentleness spilled into me. “Listen carefully, Grianán. Whatever happens when I bring her corpse home to your family, please believe me that I will do my utmost to prevent another drama.”

    I could not answer. All I could do was cry bitterly and continue shaking.

    Despite his own devastation, he reached out for me gently and sent me a positive stream of energy. “Hush now. Your tears gain nothing. She is dead and he wants to die as well. You can feel it as well as I do. The question is if I get killed along the way or not.”

    “This is NOT the question!” I yelled through time and space. My anger slowed the tears and the shaking.

    His sternness settled all around me. “Pull yourself together. I wish that I could be there for you in person, but I am on my way to Draíocht, Sionnach´s best friend. Iam on horseback with a dead body is in front of me and a crying baby pressed against my chest.”

    “Please leave Sionnach out of it!” I begged.

    “I need another Force healer with me if things should go very wrong. There is no way around it. And now I need to concentrate on the baby again. It does not stop crying.”

    An idea came to me. “Sing for Heulwen.”

    “Singing?” He was baffled completely. “I am not in the mood for singing. Not even a single note. Why should I?”

    “Right now Heulwen is very scared and frightened, but your singing can save her from the dark side. It is the Tjiehenet heritage in her blood. Sing as much as you can,” I suggested. “Go through all the lullabies that you know. ”

    After some heartbeats, I felt his thoughts coiling around me even stronger. “Will you be okay, Grianán?”

    “Please concentrate on my niece. I will be fine. Once you are back we can talk.”

    ********************************************************************

    Luçien was away for a couple of sun days, but I cared for myself as promised. There was enough food and tea for me and a steam of clear mountain water next to the lodge.

    One afternoon I went to fetch something from the ice cellar that had beenbuilt at the rear end of the property, when Parhelion found me. The mighty Force user startled me to death when he sneaked up behind me.

    As a toddler I had not paid much attention to him. Now I took the time to study him.

    Parhelion looked like a human man in his sixties. His hair was amber coloured, but it were his eyes that held my attention. They were large and oval, completely dominating a thin, sour face. The pupils were brown and freckled with tiny spots of gold.

    His long white priest robes gave the impression of leanness, but also in combination with strength. He was tall, two heads more than his younger half-brother, who was by no means small.

    Finally, he broke the awkward silence. “The little Tjiehenet witch that plays with my brother´s heart and soul. I should destroy you before you make it any worse for him.”

    Instinctively I moved back, which meant that I was closer to the wide open door of the ice cellar. It was like a fathomless abyss behind me. “I am his student, not his enemy,” I spoke slowly.

    Parhelion´s smile turned grimly. “And what can Luçien possibly teach you, witching? Penance? Sincerity? Innocence?”

    I started shivering. His thoughts and feelings were a swamp of anger and disgust. I felt myself getting lost in the muddy, hazardous depths.

    “No, I rather fear that you will stain his soul even more if you stay on.”

    “Leave that to me,” Luçien commented almost emotionless, appearing behind Parhelion.

    I squeezed around Parhelion and sprinted towards my tutor.

    Carefully Luçien tucked me under his travel cape and held me close. I relished in his reassuring touch immediately.

    [IMG]

    “Why Agathos and Narthex support you in this madness is still a riddle to me, little brother.” Parhelion´s displeasure grew. “They turned into old, sentimental fools before even reaching their fifties.”

    Luçien pressed me firmly against him. His heartbeat was loud and fast. “Due to her mother´s dark past, Grianán is in danger of the Holy Inquisition. I cannot stop her
    from fulfilling her destiny in the future, I fear, but I can give her some years of stability and happiness.”

    “By teaching her, exactly, Luçien?”

    Luçien stayed dangerously calm. Outwardly, but I felt how tense his muscles were. “I try to give her what I could never give my own daughter. What my own mother never gave me. I know the price of loneliness, fear and darkness. My mother, she... she decided that she would not want to raise twins. The saviour should not share his glory with a sibling. So she... made sure that I would grow up as a single child. On the day I was born. I still hear my twin sister´s piercing cries in my nightmares.”

    Parhelion said nothing, but his eyes had softened.

    “Until Grianán joins the beanmna feasa I will give her that what she needs. Sunlight, music, beauty, clarity and peace of mind,” Luçien said with a firm voice. “Somebody with her talent deserves that. Her mother can no longer stop me and Isabeau must never know of how close we are.”

    Parhelion stood as still as a rock.

    “You can come inside the lodge with us now,“ Luçien continued. “Or humbly take your leave from us. It is your choice. But never dare to criticize my relationship with Grianán again. I am an adult and many years her senior. This something that I will never abuse. It makes me sad that you suspect me of such crudeness.”

    I peeked out from behind the cape. Parhelion´s features were unreadable now and so were his thoughts.

    Luçien dragged me back into the sunlight and away from his body. “Sionnach is the living proof how wrong my good intentions can be. It pains me that I was a bad teacher to her. We never should have become intimate with one another. I should have protected her better from my mother´s greed and the serail schemes. Even though Garou´s birth is a blessing for me, I paid a bitter price for his existence.”

    Parhelion gave an indignant sound and walked towards the house.

    ********************************************************************

    Shortly after my thirteenth birthday, I woke up feeling ill. Luçien was worried about my whereabouts and knocked at my door. “Are you all right in there? The pancakes have become cold.”

    “No,” I whined. Too shaken to get up, I remained sitting on my mattress.

    He swung the door open.

    “Please do not look at me!” I cried, hiding my face in my hands.

    “But I need to see what is wrong with you,” he stated.

    “You should not touch me!” I called out. “The rules of your people forbid that.”

    “Oh,” he beamed. “I will do penance for overstepping them later. This should be a happy occasion, Grianán. You have now crossed into young adulthood.”

    “Don´t!” I hiked. “Let go. You sin. Because of me.”

    He rocked me forth and back. “I could not care less. When Isabeau turned into a woman I traumatized her with my behaviour towards her. You already had to undergo many shocks in your young life. Some thanks to me.”

    I let his voice penetrate me, give me comfort.

    “So let me amend those mistakes and be here for you when you need a friend.”

    I allowed him to hug me until I calmed down. When I had stopped crying completely Luçien walked me downstairs to my rocking chair. Then he rumbled around in his kitchen cupboards. Shortly afterwards he held something right under my nose. “Drink!”

    “It smells funny,” I protested weakly.

    “It is an herb that will help you with your stomach cramps and the feeling of nausea. It’s Genus Alchemilla, also known as ´lady´s mantle´. Please drink! I almost emptied the entire jar of honey into it. You might as well die from a sugar shock here.”

    Despite my great reluctance, I sipped at the brew. The tea unfolded its strength after half of my mug was empty. My sore womb calmed and so did my soul.

    “I also could use my Force healing powers on your pain, but I want you to deal with it by yourself. Unfortunately I cannot always be around. You need to fight your own battles, my little dreamer.”

    A kiss landed on my head.

    “Be strong, be good!” he asked me. “And stay away from witch craft – especially since that will strengthen the pain.

    He dissolved in front of me, heading towards the castle. Father and Grandfather needed to be informed that I was no child any longer.

    I stood up from the rocking chair and started to walk around in the Hall of Fire. How much I would miss this place. I had grown so fond of it. It had become home.

    The sunlight that danced around me was unnaturally bright. I knew the cause for it. My lips formed a name that was forever forbidden to Luçien. “Lisiére?”

    There were gentle currents in the Force.

    “Why are you always with me and not with him?” I continued.

    The answer of his dead twin sister was non-verbal. It consisted of images and feelings only. She had died shortly after her birth and had never learned to talk.

    “This is not right,” I tied to argue, considering her frightened impressions of Luçien.

    Lisiére turned herself into a little energy ball and came to hover above my right palm that I had stretched out towards her.

    “I would love so much to tell him about you. That you never abandoned him. That you always stayed his guardian angel, even though his own deeds forced you to do that from a distance.”

    The energy ball shivered and turned pale.

    I remembered and hung my head. “But he did not kill me at Polysýndeton when I mentioned you. He let me live.”

    A swirl of colours radiated from the apparition.

    “He was already in a bad mood when he questioned me about witch craft that afternoon,” I told Lisiére. “You know what he thinks about contact to the spirit world. Well, what the Holy Scriptures taught him to believe that is.”

    The ball burst and came down as glittering spots of light that settled around me.

    “I know that your twin brother hurts what he loves most. He hid his pain and past under a mask of cynicism, took refuge in the arms of religion.”

    The feeling of warmth and love intensified.

    “There is good in him, Lisiére.” I was stubborn about it. “I know there is.”

    ********************************************************************

    Barely three sun hours later I was on board the starship that my father owned.
    I clung to the harp casket. Neither Grandfather nor Father forced me to talk to them.
    We landed outside the village of the Adar tribe that was located high at the tree tops of the gigantic mammoth trees.

    The Gwyllion led a secret and calm life, always alert of possible invaders. Their cousins, the Daoine Side and Sleah Maith, conducted murderous raids on them, which they called ´the Clearances´. It was an almost innocent word for all the bloodshed and destruction that was caused.

    Via large wicker baskets and hauling ropes, we were lifted up into the village itself. There a great feast given in my honour due to the transition that I had undergone that morning. Helygen was the master of ceremony, which was as sacred as it was secret. I enjoyed every heartbeat of it.

    I moved into Helygen´s hut, which lay at the edge of the village. She had retired as the official shaman of the community long before the birth of my niece Heulwen. Every so often though, she took on apprentices.
  21. AzureAngel2 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 14, 2005
    star 6
    Chapter 20: Silent all these years

    One sun year should be enough,” Helygen told me through the dense smoke of the sage fire. “Your body and mind are flexible. Your Force powers considerable. Before me you had other teachers. They did good work. Normally I would start training you as a toddler, but I can work with you due to your background.”

    The sage burned strongly in my lunges. I coughed before saying, “What do you want to teach me exactly about the Unifying Force?”

    “Becoming one with it completely. Not via the mudras that Clementia taught you on the Holy Isle though. There are other ways.” She poked my chest. “Your body is just a vessel. But your soul, it can dance between the stars and the planets.”

    “How?” I asked curiously.

    “The Force is everything, and everything is the Force,” Helygen chuckled. “Once you realize that, Grianán, you can leave your body behind like a snake leaves behind its old skin. Your spirit within is perfect, whole, and aligned with the Force. It never dies. It cannot be injured, hurt, or betrayed for it is perfect.”

    The words came automatically. Èleos had put them into my heart a long time ago.

    “There is no emotion, there is peace.
    There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
    There is no passion, there is serenity.
    There is no chaos, there is harmony.
    There is no death, there is the Force.”

    Helygen was delighted. Her owl like eyes shimmered brightly. “Now I understand why the son of the Skywalker was so keen on having you for himself.”

    I swallowed. “It was never like that. To discuss matters with him about the Force is impossible. His thinking is too rigid, dyed by the religious piety of the Brotherhood of Shadows. He does not believe in free choices, only in what has been written down as a code of behaviour.”

    Helygen nodded before saying, “Grianán, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.. Look, the Unifying Force has no sides. We do. Every Force user has to decide for himself or herself. The cosmic plan seems to be that you must help Luçien become balanced again.”

    “Because he makes the wrong choices?” I suggested. “Over and over again? Because he is an appallingly bad learner who ends up running around in circles and fails to see the way out?”

    She chuckled again, that warm sound that made her shrunken chest tremble. “I really will enjoy working with you, my sunshine.”

    And thus began my apprenticeship under Helygen. I followed her deep into the spirit world. I found out that my totem, my spiritual guide, was a raven. Which made sense to me. I was not a shape shifter like Luçien, but my soul was linked to his.

    The raven was regarded as a creature of metamorphosis. Some tribes even considered it to be a naughty trickster. In general it was called upon in ritual so that visions could be clarified. It revealed the true nature of things, because it saw with its heart and not with the eyes.

    Furthermore, it was the bearer of magic, and could also act as harbinger of messages from the Unifying Force. Those were truly qualities that I possessed. What I liked most that the raven was thought to provide long distance healing.

    Another trade that I shared with my power animal was that we were both keepers of secrets.

    The more that I learned, the more it became clear to me that Luçien would not approve my new-won knowledge. His views were too rigid and strict. It was a pity because much love, wisdom and guidance could be found in the spiritual world of shamanism.

    ********************************************************************

    Exactly one sun year later, I set eyes on Her Holiness Mórag MagUdhir in her private audience room. A promise was a promise.

    “You have come,” she spoke triumphantly. Her Elfin eyes were black and deep. With her dark garments, she gave the impression of a thundercloud.

    I stood in front of her with the pride that I had been raised with as a daughter of the royal House Tjiehenet. But inside, I was quivering in fear. She knew though; her crocked smile was proof of that.

    “Fear can be a powerful ally to defeat the enemies of the true religion, Grianán.”

    I realized that she was speaking about Darach, the White Goddess that the Elves worshipped. “But fear can also dull the mind and turn a person into an animal,” I considered.

    “You already are an animal. Reptile genes in a human body.” She cupped my chin with mild violence. “And your fall will not end there.”

    If Aranea had been present she would rant about adults and their crazy plans with me. “I have wings,” I said calmly.

    Mórag laughed dangerously. I was reminded of my undead ancestors in their crypts. “You are no angel, Grianán. Your mother brought you back with necromancy. That alone taints your immortal soul.”

    “I am tainted in your eyes, because you want me to be so. Parhelion has the same problem with me. You are truly siblings. Luçien is less fanatic than the two of you.

    Her resounding slap sent me on the stone floor and I split my lip. “In time, you will learn when to speak to me and when to remain silent. For now I give you the allowance of inexperience.Do not think you will get another chance.

    By instinct I sucked my lip in, healing my wound with the tip of my tongue.

    “What else do you have to offer apart from meek Force healing powers and a polluted soul?” She walked around me with critical eyes. “I should have sent for Sionnach, that clone monster. Perhaps she is a greater Force user than you are.”

    Out of nowhere, spiked clubs came flying towards me. I was able to defend the first attack wave with a light shield. But I had to best the second wave with Force lightening.

    She crooked an eyebrow. “Marquise Riwalan raised a little fighter, I see. Perhaps you can serve the Holy Inquisition as a punisher like your mother did.”

    “You can forget about that,” I muttered. “I will not be an aire échta.”

    She used the Force to choke me until I lay curled up to a ball, dangerously drained of oxygen. Tears stung in my eyes. I had underestimated the madness and the cruelty of my opponent.

    Something sailed past my face. It was a handkerchief. I took it and froze. The vision that I got was too gruesome to describe. I lay screaming until I was hoarse.

    “Ah! That is much better.” Mórag was delighted. “Now I see your true value. What a fine tóraí na fírinne. So, you are touch sensitive. Imagine what crimes you can discover to save my people!”

    She knelt down in front of me and dragged my head into her lap.

    “Hush now, Grianán. That child is dead and your tears will not bring him back to life. His soul is free now and redeemed by the mercy of Darach.”

    That did not convince me. It was the most dreadful death one could imagine for a two-year-old boy.

    “Learn to live by my rules and all will be well. Defy me and I will break you like I broke your mother.”

    ********************************************************************


    [IMG]
    While my slow descent into the heart of darkness began, I found understanding in the tortured souls of both my mother and Luçien. In learning of the reasons for their actions, I was able to make different choices for myself.

    Mórag punished me more than once for my insubordination, but I bore that with dignity. We both knew she could not damage my body permanently for I was a royal serpent-spawn. The political consequences would have been toocatastrophic. She was too clever to provoke another Star Wars on my behalf. Her personal reasoning though was that I had rare gifts that were too precious to destroy.

    On its own, Clairsentient was the most commonly overlooked psychic ability. My power in it though was augmented by other psychic skills. I could not help being a ´seeker of truth´. For me, the past was entombed in the presence, always.

    Over the course of the sun year, Mórag took me with her on her journeys like a lap dog. During Force witch trials, I had to gather evidence and present it to her. She knew exactly when I was withholding information, and punished the accused even more dearly for my act of rebellion.

    One afternoon I killed a young boy out of mercy before Mórag could do her worst. I Force choked him quick and efficiently, breaking his neck with my telekinetic powers.

    “You consider yourself very clever, Grianán,” my godmother shouted at me, not caring that the entire village witnessed our dispute.

    “Actually I don´t,” I answered calmly and knelt in front of her, my head bent down and my arms stretched away from my body. “I am but a vessel of the Force. The light side of it.”

    A murmur went through the village hall.

    I did not look up to see that Mórag had dragged the boy´s younger sister out of the crowd by her hair. “The more you tighten your grip, the more you will lose it to the dark side,” I commented softly, but audible to everybody. “This is not about diminishing evil; this is about you being hurt.”

    Invisible hands broke the bones in all of my fingers. I cried soundlessly, biting my lipto prevent myself from screaming.

    “Anything more you have to say, or do you want the girl to share her brother´s fate?” Mórag spoke triumphantly.

    “You took the last living family member from her.” I looked up, dizzy with pain. There was more than one bone fracture piercing my skin. “Nothing that you can do to her can be possibly compare with that pain she feels inside. Death will only be a relief.”

    A single bolt of Force lightening went through me. I convulsed and fell on my back.

    “You are a hopeless case,” my godmother cried. “You never do what you are told and you never shut up.”

    With that, she stalked away and left me on the floor. The parish community looked uncertainly down on me. Two men, who had thus far masked their presence, moved forward to help me. One held me close.

    “Èleos,” I cried with relief.

    He gave me a sad smile. “My little sister, trying to improve the universe by redeeming all Darksiders she can find. And ending up hurt as usual.”

    “Her blood loss is extreme,” the other man said. Like Èleos he wore the robe of a Force paladin. He looked startlingly familiar.

    “Most of the things Grianán does are extreme, Val. She puts the safety of others first. Always.” I felt my brother sigh more than I heard it.

    ********************************************************************

    Later on, Éleos and his companion brought me into the parlour of the major. I did not witness their conversation since I was in a Force healing trance until somebody I did not expect chose to wake me up.

    “Can you tell me how you intended to play harp with twelve broken fingers and bones sticking out like the prickles of a hedgehog?”

    Sleepily, I answered Luçien, “I would not have many opportunities to do so. Mórag does not care that much for music any longer. Maybe this was her way of proving her control over me.”

    “I will not have that woman to lash out to you like that,” he said angrily. There will be consequences.”

    “Then you should join Éleos in talking to her,” I suggested, still feeling light headed.

    “I am done talking. If violence is the only language that she speaks, I will answer in the same way,” he sneered. His unveiled face was a mask of contempt.

    I sat up quickly. “Please, you cannot win this.”

    “It is not about winning or losing. It is about what is right.”

    “To answer blood with blood is never right.” I was at the brink of panic.

    “Leave that to me.” His free hand cupped my face. “How old are you now, fourteen? Fifteen? You should be at the royal court, having sweethearts like your sisters do. But your blasted mother forced you down on her path, playing an aire échta for my mad half-sister.”

    I meant to call out that I was not serving Mórag that way, that my rank and position within the Order of the beanmna feasa was different, but then I decided to stay silent. A tear made its way down my right cheek. “Please promise me to not do anything stupid,” I breathed.

    “You know that I never make promises that I cannot keep,” he said firmly, his jaw clenched tight.

    “I beg you!”

    “My decision was made the very moment the body of a dead boy was carried out of this building. I do not want to know who was responsible for that. It does not matter. What matters is that I want such things to stop happening.”

    “And you will kill to get there, well done!” I ranted.

    “Anger does not become you, my little dreamer.” He bent forward lightly, kissed my brow and then he was gone.

    Lisiére was not.

    “Hi there, little Force spirit,” I greeted her.

    A tiny spot of light settled down on my nose tip.

    “I also fear that your brother is up to something, but I can see no way to stop him. Perhaps you can stick to him for a while and let me all about it.”

    The spot jumped.

    “It is not betrayal, Lisiére. We both love him despite of what he became. Let us watch out for him. We are both his angels.”

    ********************************************************************

    After this incident I ended up in the monastery of Suaimhneas. It was a wonderful place to be. It lay high in the Montes Nubii mountains, where I found peace and enjoyment amid the eternal ice and snow. I was to be a care taker and teacher to a new generation of beanmna feasa. My brother Èleos had made this unusual bargain with Mórag and I would forever be grateful for this present. It saved my soul.

    I was asked to teach music, art, and history. And when we were not in the classroom, I taught the children about life and love.

    To get used to my new life style was not difficult. In the grey hours of dusk, I got up and made my way to the dormitory where my twenty-two protégés slept. Then I sneaked into the kitchen, where the cook, our steward and my fellow bean feasa sister, called Mair, waited. We always let the girls sleep an hour longer and took time to plan the day together over several pots of hot tea, served with short bread fingers.

    When the children awoke, we had breakfast together. Then Mair and I would split them up in groups of eleven. We taught them separately until lunch. After lunch, we let them work in groups on their various assessments. Between tea time and supper, we would play games with them, make music or read stories. Gáire, the elderly cook, and her husband Dóiteán would join us. We were all a big family.

    I received many parcels and letters from Aranea, Luna and Mora. My siblings also wrote from time to time. Father and grandfather visited regularly, loaded with presents.

    Luçien never sent anything. Nor did he ask about me. It seemed that he could not be bothered since our last meeting. According to Father, he did not even want to know where exactly I was. That made me unbelievably sad, but it did not break my heart. I had my life and he had his.

    Occasionally, I was approached by the Elfin High kings to solve crimes in their communities, but luckily that did not happen very often. In general my life was filled with happy children.
  22. AzureAngel2 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 14, 2005
    star 6
    The following update contains the mad violence of a Darksider!!! Read with care!!!


    Chapter 21: A dangerous game

    One morning, I woke up with a bleeding nose. An awful silence was all around me. Something was wrong, dreadfully wrong.

    I reached out in the Force.

    Something moved like a predator in that complete silence.

    I jumped out of bed, dizzy from the dark side energies that had hit me and injured me in my sleep.

    There had been rumours from many people, especially since my eighteenth birthday, but I had refused to believe them.

    Just dressed in my nightgown and bare feet I ran to the dormitory.

    The truth hit me hard.

    A hooded person stood in the middle of the room, radiating the madness of the Dark Side. And all around Luçien were my students, dead.

    I wanted to yell at him and force him to look me straight in the eye, but then something hit my skull very hard.

    [IMG]

    ********************************************************************

    I woke up lying on my belly in the empty common room. Iron shackles bound me to the low table I was on. I felt rather exposed clad only in my underwear, yet I remained calm. Instead of freeing myself with the Force or making myself known to him, I wanted to know what would happen. I had to find out what he was capable of. So much depended on it.

    “I left you alive for one reason only, Force witch.” Lucien´s smooth voice sent waves of pain through my throbbing skull. “You will bear a message from me to Her Holiness!”

    Something told me it was not a message that would be written with ink, pergamentus and a feather. A knot of terror built within me.

    When I went to reach out in the Force, one of his hands flashed out to grab a fistful of my hair, yanking my head upwards. At the same time, one of his leather boots came down on my back very hard. Two ribs broke, maybe three. I was shocked to be exposed to such ruthless violence.

    ”Don´t make me destroy you!” His words were like cold wind in my ears.

    While I sent tables, chairs, plates, goblets and cutlery flying against him, his boot was pressing more and more against my spine. He swept the attacking objects away as if they were just little sand flies.

    ”You are beaten,” he ensured me coldly.

    One of his leather gloves sailed by my face, shortly followed by the second one. I dreaded the reason for this action. A Lidérc male never displayed his hands in public. As expected, bolts of electricity erupted from Luçien´s fingertips.

    My light shield did not hold up against the aggressiveness of his Force lightening for very long. He was stronger than I had given him credit for. And I had not been ruthless enough to best him. Pain crackled into my skin, making me cry out and jerk against my bonds.

    Luçien informed me casually, ”It is useless to resist.”

    The air was loaded with blue electricity, hurting my already sore eyes. The same electricity continued to race through my veins, poisoning them.

    Again he struck down.

    I heard my own voice whimpering, as if it was coming from someone else. As if it had gained a life on its own.

    Luçien could have killed me easily, but my death was not his goal. His skills with his arcane Force gift allowed him to keep me conscious.There was no mercy.

    My vision was blurred with exhaustion and tears, when suddenly an item of frightening familiarity dangled in front of my nose. I felt one of his hands dig deep into my hair.

    When he wrenched me backwards, I was forced to stare directly into his gleaming eyes. The mad abyss of the dark side reigned them. He was alone out there, lost in the darkness that he had created by his own doing. That drove me more to despair than anything else. How was I ever to help him, when the situation was so bleak?

    “Now the real work can begin.”

    While gripping my neck very hard, Luçien pulled a torture mask over my head. The material paralysed my jaw, but worse was the fact that I was completely cut off from the Force. My senses were thrown back onto myself only, doubling the pain that I was already in.

    I convulsed in my shackles. It was an almost silent struggle, for my tongue was heavy from the mask. Luçien watched wordlessly while I wore myself out.

    ********************************************************************

    When I finally lay limp on the table, Luçien came into action again. His finger encircled my throat, which was vulnerable and exposed where the mask ended.

    “My message to Her Holiness will sink deep into your skin. Killing her dark servants seems to have no effect on her. She goes on killing Force-sensitives within the Elfin society. I want this bloodshed to end. Seeing one of her pets harmed might sober her mind.”

    Instead of clutching his fingers around my throat, he came very close to my left ear. He would not strangle me; he needed me alive to tell my tale.

    I never had been interested in tribal tattoos. Actually, I was the only female member of the royal family who had none at all. Now I would end up with more tattoos than all of my sisters and my belated mother taken together.

    Luçien worked on me, beating the ink with steel needles into my skin with deliberate slowness.

    Hours crawled by like sun years.

    In my head I repeated the words that Isabeau found confidence in. Words she had tried to teach to me and the rest of the serpent-spawn.

    “Peace is a lie. There is only passion.
    Through passion, you gain strength.
    Through strength, you gain power.
    Through power, I gain victory.
    Through victory my chains are broken.”

    For me, that mantra did not work. It was even more impersonal than the touch of Luçien. Passion, power and victory were not the goals that I strived for. I wanted to bring light back into this never-ending nightmare of his that he called life.

    When the day was half over, he freed me from my shackles and turned me around. I was too agonized to pick up another fight. Or to speak.

    Soon his tattoos spun around my entire arms and legs, crawling up my belly and my chest. They were like living snakes, slithering through me. He had laced the ink with a dark side poison. No cosmetic surgery could ever undo his work. I cried bitterly at the realisation of it. He paid no heed to my tears. Nor did he recognize me. He was in a frenzy.

    I had underestimated the power of the dark side. That was the most bitter lesson that I had learned today; that remaining calm, peaceful and passive did not achieve anything against the forces of darkness.

    I shut my eyes when he pulled the mask off and worked on my face with his steel needles. More tattoos bloomed on my skin like the roses of Dún Barr in high season. But Luçien was not done there. He also shaved my head hair off, until I was bald.

    When he had finished ornamenting my skull, I brought my knees to my chest and huddled in a ball on the table.

    The needles were withdrawn.

    “She will come for you,” he promised me. “You played your part well.”

    With that Luçien, left me behind. To him I was not more than a convenient piece of paper that he had written on. His indifference proved how egocentrically the dark side had turned him since our last encounter. With this dreadful knowledge, I collapsed.

    ********************************************************************

    The sky was nearly dark when I awoke to more pain shaking my limbs. I coughed droplets of blood. My inner damages were as great as the outer ones. I had absorbed too much of the dark side energies. They twined themselves around my veins like the tentacles of poison ivy, leaking into my blood stream.

    Through my equally traumatized Midi-chlorians, I checked each organ and cell in my body. The conclusion was grim: the abrupt drop in blood minerals had provoked muscular micro-seizures throughout my body. If I remained untreated for long, muscle damage and my blurred vision would become permanent.

    I tried to piece together where I had failed. My enthusiasm for redeeming Luçien certainly had not been helpful. The extend of his depravity had become abysmal.

    “Te bhan, te bhuidhe bhan, cho tairis ris an or. Ubhlan abaich,” spoke a husky voice from the shadows that gathered around the aisle. A fair haired girl, a golden fair haired girl. Sincere, pure as gold. Ripe, sweet.

    I recognized the newcomer not only by the aura that surrounded him but from my childhood memories of his voice.

    “I would do anything for love, Grianán, but I would not have done that. He would have spared you if you would have spoken one word to him. But you remained silent. How could you not know what to say?”

    It was no accusation. It was a simply a calm observation of Taran. His slanted Elfin eyes were shiny slits of yellow in the fleeing day light. His passionate, noble face hovered over me.

    I tried to prop myself up on my elbows, which was a bad idea. My stomach lurched. The scalding tide of sickness made me turn my head and throw up.

    “It is handy that I know remedies for Force lightening injuries. Had them myself several times in the war.”

    Taran pressed one of his pointed ears against my chest. I closed my eyes automatically and focused on breathing.

    “Good lass!” he praised me and listened on.

    His stubbly beard tickled me. We both were aware of the whistling that I made every time I inhaled.

    Delicately, he felt at a tender lump at the back of my bare skull. “Luçien could have done a better job with this wound. I hate to say this, but he gets sloppy. The dark side does that to a person. Such a pity! He had been such a damned good healer in his youth. The best in this sun system really.”

    I swallowed, especially when Taran cupped my face and turned my head gently from side, to side. My skin was still sore from my tattoo procedure.

    “Bruising in the eye sockets, blood in both ears. It must have been Draň who cracked your skull. It wouldn’t surprise me if he used a brick-stone. What a brute! Luckily you have sturdy bones. Comes with being a serpent-spawn of the Tjiehenet line.”

    I did not doubt that for one heartbeat.

    He felt along my ribcage with his delicate fingertips. I yawned loudly in the middle of his light probing.

    “Three ribs broken, one might have punctured your right lung. I need to cut you open to check that. I will bring you to the infirmary now,” Taran informed me. “For this I need to lift you. It will hurt a lot.”

    He scooted an arm under me, before he had finished speaking. At the same time he applied his other hand steadily to my backside.

    I screamed, especially when I ended up dangling from his broad shoulder.

    “Our drill sergeant always told us, ´What does not kill you makes you only stronger, soldier!´. Hang on! We are almost there.”

    ********************************************************************

    While Taran carried me towards the infirmary, I felt weightless and airy. I was like seed fluff, that the wind takes from the meadows on its journey through the mountains.

    “When you went away to join the beanmna feasa Luçien became gloomy. He really pined for you, even read some of your love novels. Then one thing led to another when Parhelion began to visit him too often, filling his ears with religious talk. You know how pious our tom-cat can be and how unhealthy that is for his direct environment.”

    We entered the infirmary.

    “I started to join Luçien, Parhelion and Draň on their hunting trips, because I missed the comradeship of the army. I kept telling myself that we would master the art of madness together, Luçien and I. But soon I disliked his methods. I am not cruel by nature, and witch hunting is another matter than destroying a Force witch in one clean go.”

    A single tear ran from my eyes on to his pale skin. He shivered a slight bit before continuing.

    “Soon there was too much fighting, too much disagreement on how things should be done. The tension built up over the years. I told the boys beforehand that it would be my last raid with them. There is more honour in attacking a single bean feasa in the open than using the Force to wipe them all out in their own home. However, I would not stop being their companion.”

    I liked his definition of honour better than Luçien’s. Also his hunting methods were more accurate and fair.

    “I could have been here sooner, but I was not hungry around noon. Food that is contaminated with dark side energies is very upsetting for the stomach. Actually, I sneaked back in for dinner, hoping to find something alive in the stables.”

    I smiled, shyly placing my free hand on his wild beating heart.

    “Once I smelled you were here though, I made it my priority to find you.”

    “Aye,” I breathe. “You found me.”

    “Oh look at you, shaved and marred.” The anguish in his features was palpable. Please do not follow Luçien into darkness! Find other options! Suicide. Homicide. Another man. Tons of chocolate. All that keeps you in the light, Grianán.”

    ********************************************************************

    With the remedies of Taran came new pains. During my brief moments of wakefulness in the infirmary I had to face them. His voice was soothing during all the field surgery he did on my body, but it did not help much as I was without painkillers.

    “Lie still, Grianán!”

    Perhaps I screamed when he cut open my chest, perhaps I did not. It did not matter. There was no shame left in me.

    “No, no, don´t move, Grianán!”

    I faded in and out of consciousness.

    “Can you breathe properly?” His hands skimmed over my ribs. “Slow and shallow, if you are able to.”

    Night came and day again. I lost sense of time, only feeling the poison of the dark side hissing through my body.

    “I need to examine your urine! Do you need assistance?”

    Somehow we managed to strike the chamberpot. There was also a bucket, were all the food and drink ended up that was instilled into me constantly. My body would not keep it either.

    “Go ahead if you need to be sick! Get it all out of your system. Your Midi-chlorians will be grateful.”

    ********************************************************************

    One morning I awoke not only to sunlight shining into the infirmary, but also to a lot of greenery.

    I blinked.

    Perhaps I had become mad after my ordeal with Luçien. There were flowerpots with ferns, heather and field flowers.

    Taran sat on a footstool, studying me through his gleaming eyes. “You were born into the Mother Jungle of Cunabula. To be aligned with the Living Force is essential for you.”

    With that he felt my pulse.

    “Better, much better, Grianán!”

    Bit by bit my body eased in the green room that Taran had erected around me. I stayed awake for longer periods and managed to keep nourishment inside my system. There was also no need any longer to support me when using the chamberpot.
  23. AzureAngel2 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 14, 2005
    star 6
    Chapter 22: Breathe

    One afternoon Taran stood in front of my bed, stiff and formal. “I will humbly take my leave of you, Grianán. It has been an entire month now. The abbess is on her way to see you. I can feel her coming though the mountains with a rancor.”

    Before I could wonder why my godmother came so late for me and why I failed to feel her in the Force, he put a letter in my lap. It had been composed in my handwriting. Understanding dawned in me. He had kept her away from me all the time, not trusting anybody else with the task of healing me. He had even pretended to be me.

    “I kept one of your historical essays in the pocket of my leather trousers.”

    “So you copied my handwriting? Is the wilderness not a waste of your talents, Carcra?” I mused, using his soul name with adoration.

    “I have good periods and very bad ones.” He shrugged his shoulders. “The last time I was that constant I was with Álainn. For eighty-three sun years, I not feel the need to change my body even once.”

    “What happened between the two of you? I never dared to ask before.”

    “She died when giving birth to our son.”

    He was definitely talking about Ruadhan Ahearn. I could judge it from the pure loathing in his haggard features. “Did you ever have any other children?” I asked.

    His hoarse laughter sounded through the infirmary. He patted my lap enthusiastically. “People seem to be willing to believe gruesome stories. Why should I want to carry on my curse? Álainn was the only woman I was ever intimate with. The rest I simply ate. I am not a rapist or murderer.”

    It made me feel better hearing this. All the legends about him were wrong. “Can you not leave Ruadhan in peace?” I checked.

    His eyes glittered with rage and grief alike. “I will never forgive him for killing his mother in childbirth. Never! He clawed himself out of her belly like a fiend. Ripped her apart, that blasted wolf whelp. She bled to death in my arms.”

    I could have argued on behalf of Ruadhan, but I did not. The relationship between a parent and a child could be very complicated. “I would like to thank you for all that you have done for me.”

    His features softened. “It has been a pleasure, Grianán. May our paths not cross again soon! I might not be in my right state of mind then. Take care!”

    Before vanishing into the misty autumn afternoon outside, he squeezed my hands. I would miss him very much.

    *******************************************************************

    Mórag swept into the infirmary with the swiftness of a winter storm. My heart sank when I beheld her temper. The plants around me became grey as ash; the leaves curled up and crumpled into dust.

    I swallowed against a surge of nausea. My stomach was not stable enough to master another meeting with the dark side so soon.

    Her voice was like the cry of an attacking raven. “Why do you look like one of your ancestors? Are you already practicing how to be a mummy?”

    My answer was faint. “I am also happy to see you, godmother.”

    “Spare me the niceties, Grianán!” she yelled. “They are all dead. An entire generation of beanmna feasa! I saw their graves in the in-yard.”

    My shoulders tightened. Inspiration struck me. “I would have joined them in death, if I could have. Luçien had other plans for me. As it is, I have a message for you.”

    “More messages?” Mórag spat. “You seem to think that I nothing better to do than read from dusk until dawn. I am not your father.”

    It was pure and mindless madness, but I answered,“With all the investigations going on and bonfires burning, no. You are very occupied bringing order and peace to the realm, just as your half-brothers claim to do with their own cleaning actions.”

    “Careful!” she warned me.

    My skin prickled though I stood firm. With slow movements I started removing the bandage around my left arm.

    Dumbstruck, Mórag looked at me when the damage became obvious. “Tattoos of the Brotherhood of Shadows?”

    I started freeing my head. “Yes, and they are spinning all over my body. Once Luçien started writing, there was no way stopping him.”

    “But he cares for you! How...?” She was bewildered.

    His hate for you clouds his judgement. He did not recognize me in the least.”




    I heard a soft gasp, when my face was bare. Cold anger exploded around her, causing currents in the Force. I felt gritty, but I held her gaze with my own. I caught a glimpse of my reflection in her midnight like pupils. I looked very young and vulnerable and lost. Was that hairless creature really me? My lips gave a bitter smile.“Luçien merely wished to make a point. No more arrests. No more investigations. No more torture. No more bonfires."



    Mórag drew breath to speak, but then she shook her head. She was speechless, disgusted by the proposition.

    I had not finished. “Do me the favour and agree to this peace treaty! I do not wish to be trapped between the two of you again. Get it over with or more will end up hurt or dead.”

    She stood fixed like an exquisite marble statue. “I will not be emotionally blackmailed. Neither by Luçien nor by you.”

    My fingers cramped into the bedlinen. What was it with Darksiders and their lack of vision? Their lack of sympathy; their lack of humanity; their lack of everything.

    I dragged myself up to sit cross-legend on the bed. Sweat trickled all over me. “As if I had the power to bring changes to your iron rule. You make me so tired.”

    It was a challenge, but I had been silent all these sun years.

    “If you could hear yourself at times, godmother! How can you be so unreal? You are the darkness that you try to fight. It is you who is wrong about so many things.”

    Mórag took my outburst in with her eyes wide. Her pupils flickered like candle flames.

    “I am done with being another casualty. It is your turn now to stand where I stand. No more hiding from me. How does crying make you feel? What did it cost you to turn into the woman that you are? Talk about your life, for I honestly would like to know. You are keeping secrets; I can see them in your eyes.”

    Her words were as cold as the steel needles that Luçien had used on me. “I am not one of your suspects, Grianán. Do not dare to use your gift of touch on me.”

    This time I would not take ´no´ for an answer. I swayed to my feet and darted through the air within several heartbeats. We fell to the ground hard, despite the white shield that I had erected around us. I touched the hollow of her throat, before she could stop me.

    “Give me some truth and stop making me cry!” I said compassionately.

    Pictures and feelings exploded in my head. Passion and tumult. A life exposed to my skilled touch. Her grief and weariness broke over me like an avalanche in the mountains. It was tinged with anger, so much anger. That anger choked her own life force from her. She hated a father that never had been there for her. This she shared with Luçien and Parhelion. But there was something that set her apart from her two half-brothers; a great amount of self-loathing for being different. She regarded herself as impure. I had guessed all these things, but finding confirmation was liberating.

    My fingers ran gently through her silky hair. “Pardon me for saying so, but you chose this. All of this. There could have been love. You turned your back on it. And on me.”

    I released her from my embrace. Gathering my failing energies, I stood up and said with short breaths, “Recently you said that you wanted to be proud of me. I always wanted that myself. Therefore I cannot be your dark acolyte.”

    She shivered violently, but held her gaze with a measure of defiance.

    “I will never meet your expectations of me. You know it to be true. I am NOT my mother.”

    “I noticed,” Mórag snapped. “Once I tortured her several times, Arcānā was as obedient as a young lamb. But you, you are indifferent to all that I do to you.”

    The room darkened around me. It was hard to tell if it was her anger causing this or my recent trauma. I sank to my knees again and slumped on my side. “I love you very much, Mórag, but your heart is not open.”

    She had not seen that confession coming. “You love me?”

    “Of course I do. You are my godmother.” One of my cheeks rested against the chilly flagstones of the infirmary. I breathed faintly, but got the words out that I wanted to tell her, albeit softly. “But you are guilty of making a problem with your own father the problem of all Force sensitives on this planet. Including me. Meditate on that you should.”

    “How dare you!” she ranted.

    “How could you ever dare to bring so much destruction of misery?” My eyes closed and whispered. “I will return to court and remain there. In the Name of the Draconian crown you are ordered to set me free.”

    ********************************************************************

    There was a curious rancor, sniffing at me with gigantic nostrils. It meant me no harm. I laughed at it with glee, kissing it's face. The mare purred and nuzzled at me.

    Mórag´s mouth was near my ear. “Too bad you decided against holonet connection and any technical equipment. It cannot be helped now. We need to return to the main temple, Grianán. I am not a healer, I never was. Hurting people is so much easier.”

    I closed my eyes, hearing her anguished comments and her heart beating even louder.

    My transport through the mountains proved to be difficult. I stirred too much in the large saddle and had to be tied to it.

    Large snowflakes, falling straight downward from a dull winter sky, drifted through the air. There were three sun weeks to midwinter, maybe four. The world seemed hushed as the rancor hurried through the majestic stone hallways.

    Each time I woke up I tugged steadily at the disturbing rope. It gnarled my flesh. Fascinated, I watched some drops of blood falling into the snow.

    ********************************************************************

    The attack came in the evening. There was an arrow. That much I noticed. Mórag was dead immediately and knocked out of the saddle.

    The rancor was furious. Bone-splitting roars of protest echoed through the mountains.

    Two more Elfin arrows flew through the air with deadly efficiency, drilling straight through the beast’s eyes. I felt the twin impacts, just a half heartbeat apart from one another, more than I saw them.

    A light shield erupted from my entire body, just before I fell hard to the ground. I had to breathe shallow and very slow to save air.

    Then there was more pain. Sharp fangs were in my left shoulder blade, dragging me into the bright moonlight.

    “Cancra?” I wondered.

    A pressed “woof!” answered me.

    I passed out again.

    ********************************************************************

    Taran held me in his lap when I woke up. Animal pelts were wrapped around me. Judging by my surroundings he had carried me into a cave, one of his many sanctuaries in the winter.

    “Hallo there!” I breathed.

    The werewolf was furious. “It took me an entire month to stabilize you! That mad old bat ruined it all. Now we have to start all over!”

    My trembling fingers reached out for his sturdy beard that was smeared with dry blood. My blood.

    He put up my chin up to the level of his slanted eyes. It was clear that he wished no further arguments from my side. “No more traveling for you. Midwinter is cancelled. We stay in here until you can walk out on me by yourself.”

    “We both know that the dark side damaged my bone marrow.” My voice rasped, and a heavy cough brought forth blood.

    ”Save it for the enemy!” He cleaned the mess off with the back of his hand. “Save it for Luçien.”

    “He is not my enemy,” I muttered. “I still love him.”

    “May the Force be with you, you stubborn thing,” growled Taran.

    ********************************************************************

    In the fever visions that followed my rescue, I was consistently tempted by the dark side of the Force. Unlimited power was offered to me by my ancestors if I only freed them from their tombs and sought new bodies for them. Luçien promised me to be my slave for all eternity; as long as I did what he said, dark pleasures would be mine. He would even take my constant pain away by healing my bones. I declined all.

    Taran stayed at my side like a loyal brother-in-arms. It was very touching. He let me rest in his solid embrace. Cool compresses were put on my brow continuously. He shared his body warmth with me when I broke into shivers. His hands kept me safe from harm.

    Cearcall a claidheamh. Circle of the Sword.

    But the best part was the singing. Taran knew many songs of his ancient race. I liked to listen to them, no matter how sad and longing they were. Sometimes he sang of war, too. Of the glory of the battlefield; the ruthlessness of the Elfin warriors cutting down Ophidea like trees; werewolf corps fighting against Lidérc. Claw against claw. Fangs hurting each other. Violent words of dark beauty. I liked them, too. They stirred something in my blood.

    Cearcall as oran. Circle of the Song.

    Now and then there were hot beverages. They tasted awful, but they made me feel better with each sip that I had to take. I also heard spells of Elfin magic, arcane and furious. My Mid-chlorians did not fight against them. They embraced the star dust they carried. Creation had started this way once.

    Cearcall a drùidheachd. Circle of the Spell.

    Outside the winter ruled the land.

    [IMG]

    ********************************************************************

    One evening I woke up completely fever free. Taran threw his head back and howled with unconcealed happiness. “Out of the dark, back to the light.”

    Soon I was allowed to get up and walk a little around. My legs were not used to holding my weight, so Taran supported me gallantly. During one occasion he told me, “When I picked up your trail, you were reeking with illness. There was also fresh blood. From my experiences with Darksiders I concluded you were in a hostage situation. Know the mission, know your enemy, achieve the mission, kill the enemy. That´s all I need. It´s all any soldier needs.”

    I sighed.

    He looked down at me. “I did not want to take any risks with Mórag. The rancor was harder to get down. It was a pity that you were squeezed between them. Without your light shield you would be dead as well. But I counted on the Force protecting its most valuable adept.”

    ********************************************************************

    Taran had burned both Mórag and the rancor and put their ashes in small graves. It was a conciliating gesture with a system he hated.

    “Thank you!” I whispered, tears dripping from my eyelashes. “I appreciate that very much.”

    I swore to myself that I would get the Order off his back. No bean feasa would hunt him down for Mórag´s unfortunate death. Taran was simply a soldier who did not know any different way to react. About a thousand sun years ago he had sworn an oath to protect and survive. He still lived up to it.

    “I also thank you for burying my students and my friends.”

    “Don´t mention it,” he murmured.

    “Can you forge another letter for me?” I breathed, looking down on the graves, hard in the frosty air.

    “There is no need. Mórag knew your qualities.” Taran placed an envelope in my hand. The seal was open. “Before I burned her I searched her thoroughly. She had this document in her possession. I took the liberty of reading it. It happens to be her testament.”

    I stared at him in shock, and his large hands caught me before I could crumble to the ground.

    “Yes, she loved you in her own special way. So much that you are her heir now with all the duties and rights that come with it.”

    I began to sob hysterically. Taran held me close as I clung to him for a while.

    I was the most unlikely High Inquisitor that there was. Mórag must have done this on purpose, to teach me some sort of lesson.

    ********************************************************************

    For the next few days, neither of us brought the will up in conversation as I thought it over. Taran broke the silence one morning. “With your godmother dead, let me take her place at your side. You need protection from yourself.”

    His offer was a surprise. “Are you sure that you really want to do that, Carcra?”

    “Around a certain age Elves start getting sentimental.” He clenched both hands about mine, touched as usual when I called him by his soul name. “You and Sionnach are the only family that I have left.”

    I took care not to remind him of Ruadhan, his only son. “Then I will be your godchild.” A werewolf would do a better job than a real fairy godmother.
  24. AzureAngel2 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 14, 2005
    star 6
    Finally we are there, the entire Chapter 23 lies before us. From now on, dear readers, I will update every weekend, but just a 1/4 or 1/2 chapter.

    Once more I would like to thank SWpants666 for having been such a brilliant beta. She put so much time, effort, sweat & love into editing. Please give her a big applause. =D=

    While I give her as many bows as possible for her dear sacrifices in the leisure time sector. ^:)^
    If you have a beta, do not take him or her for granted. Like mods and other important folk here on the boards they are not paid for their hard work. They do editing because they like you and/ or the story. Or they see talent. Or they are book addicts.
  25. AzureAngel2 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 14, 2005
    star 6
    Chapter 23: Coming home

    We waited another two sun weeks until Taran gave me clearance, and we set off together.

    Travelling around in the Vallum Ventii around midwinter was always dangerous, but it was a challenge we both were prepared to take. It was like leaving the living world with all its distractions and obstacles. Time, space and fears played no role for us. We simply focused on the task ahead of us and that was reaching Dún Barr. The breathtaking beauty around us was our reward: frozen glaciers, the colour games of the sun shine on the vast surfaces and the purity of the land.

    We took care of ourselves and each other.

    We made enough breaks to keep our strength and ate well.

    We warmed each other at night like wolf whelps in a bed nest would.

    There was so much to gain from each other in the hostile climate that we moved in. Talking was no necessity, and we spared our wheezing breath. Our cooperation lay mainly in touch and eye contact.

    When the Saxum Lucis drew close, I gave him the traditional travel blessing in Basic.

    “May the blessing of light be on you – light without and light within.

    May the blessed sunlight shine on you like a great peat fire, so that stranger and friend may come and warm themselves at it.

    And may light shine out of your two eyes, like a candle set in the window of a house, bidding the wanderer come in from the storm.

    And may the blessing of the rain be on you, may it beat upon your Spirit and wash it fair and clean, and leave there a pool where the blue of Heaven shine.

    And may the blessing of the earth be on you, soft under your feet as you pass along the roads, soft under you as you lie out on it, tired at the end of day; and may it rest easy over you when, at last, you lie out under it. May it rest so lightly over you that your soul may be out from under it quickly; up and off and on its way to the Goddess. And now may Darach bless you, and bless you kindly.”

    With a wry smile Taran shifted his shape. He had asked for my permission before he did so. I was even allowed to watch. It revealed much to me.

    The myths take no account of the agonizing pain that goes hand in hand with the transformation into a werewolf. There lay open madness in the act itself, but also wild joy. Taran embraced the animal in himself.

    While I carefully folded his clothing and put it into a hollow tree that he marked, the large grey wolf with its massive paws and many scars watched me good-natured. His nostrils took my scent in. He remembered our comradeship, the ties that bound us.

    “Have a wonderful winter, Carcra!” I got down on my knees very slowly, reaching out for him with my palms turned upward.

    The wolf passionately licked my hands and went on to my face.

    “Off with you!” I laughed. “Take care until we meet again!”

    There was so much that I wanted to say, but I did not. I was not his conscience. He would choose who was to live and to die. It was his stomach that made the choices in the end. It was the law of the wilderness.

    ********************************************************************

    The closer I came towards the midwinter castle, the more my heart grew heavy. I would not only be reunited with my family, I would see Luçien again. My scalp prickled with dawning apprehension. A sheen of sweat gathered all over my body. As the unwelcome memories of Suaimhneas flooded me, I hugged myself tightly.

    There had been a time when I had been whole. When my connection to the universe had been immaculate and uncomplicated. I had wielded the Force around me with no exertion. Devotion had been my greatest strength back then.

    I had not even been afraid to mouth my opinion to Luçien, knowing too well about his reverse to inflict any kind of pain on me. Not after Polysýndeton.

    Tears pricked my eyes. I tilted my head back as grief and longing laced through me.

    Luçien´s irrational fear for my safety and personal development had brought us both to the darkest place imaginable. The dark side of the Force itself with all its hazards. If I was to save him. I had to believe again. I had to somehow reclaim what I had lost with the temple raid; my faith in him and the healing power of love.

    In order to cool my thoughts I took off my winter boots. I needed to feel the snow between my toes. Immediately it distracted me from the constant pain I had felt since the tattoo session.

    When I reached the mighty draw bridge, I found it wide open.

    The rancors and huntsmen alike shifted in anticipation at the thought of a winter hunt. Familiar thoughts washed over me.

    I drew my grey felt coat closer around myself, calling on the Force to mask my presence. It was egoistic of me, but I needed some moments for myself.

    Steadily I walked on, taking great care not to leave footprints in the snow. I glided inches above the ground.

    I took the entire scene in.

    My siblings Caelestris, Iocus, Blandita, Rubio and Calathus were there, fighting for the best mounts in humorous ways.

    Shesha guards, that I knew and others that I did not, were on duty.

    Father, looking older that I remembered him to be, would not join the actual hunt, but was out here to give his blessings. Soon he would retreat into the library.

    Two Force knights of Éleos eyed the rancors with great concern and suspicion. Light Side crashed against dark side.

    Prancing horses wanted to run wild and free through the snow.

    My brother-in-law Draň, who had never been introduced to me officially, checked the weapons of his choice. He was the type of man who went for a slow and painful kill. It made me nervous, even though he was no Darksider with a shrewd logic. Just a bad person, hiding under a layer of sparkling charme and good looks.

    Three loyal household servants, who all were faces from my childhood, served hot beverages.

    And of course, there was Luçien, my destiny. He was in his desert robes, including that long, thick travel cloak of his. His sight made my heart beat faster in excitement.

    Lisiére hovered around her twin dutifully. A tiny spot of light, almost invisible against his darkness.

    But it was Isabeau who noticed me first, when I let go of my concealment. She could have tracked me down in a crowd of thousand people.

    “Bonjour!” I spoke quietly, but her excellent hearing caught my words despite all the noise.

    Isabeau's emotions were strong, and were sent to me in waves of delight. I had missed her very much. ”Ma petite!” she called out.

    I let her take down my hood for I was done hiding.

    The shock of recognition went deep into Luçien´s bones. I held his anxious, burning gaze for a moment, but then my attention was drawn to something else.

    “What happened to your hair?” Isabeau was outrageous with grief. “And what has happened to your eyebrows? Why are they shaven off as well?”

    I had to ease her distress. “It is only hair. It will grow back.”

    Doubtfully Isabeau stared at me, her cat eyes wide with alarm. “And what about those dreadful tattoos? Will they grow away, too?”

    I did not want to lie to her so I remained silent. The truth would only devastate her and drive her straight into a double murder.

    “When I agreed on your training as a bean feasait had never come into my mind that Mórag would cripple you beyond recognition.”

    Were the circumstances different, I would have laughed out loud. She believed my godmother had done all this. What a fortunate coincidence for Draň and Luçien! I felt their investigating gazes on me. Impassively I stared ahead of me, making my expression unfathomable.

    Intuition kicked in with Isabeau. “You look like one of those Nightsisters of Dathomir. Or even worse like the little sister of Darth Maul.”

    Her visions of the future were funny and exciting at times. “I missed your clairvoyance, Isa. With you around I would not have made the wrong choices.”

    I felt safe in her arms. No more fighting, so more running, no more hurting. It was just me and her. Everything else had to wait – my siblings, the hunting party and even Luçien.

    The voice of an elderly man, saying my name as reverend as a prayer to Parhelion, echoed over the yard. “Grianán.”

    I lurched towards the entrance of the castle kitchen. There he stood with his walking stick, a gentleman in every way. It seemed that he had been waiting for me at the door since I had left Dún Barr.

    “Grandfather! I missed you so much,” I cried in delight.

    His kisses rained down on me. “Come inside, my child. It must have been a long journey for you from the temple. Especially with those bare feet of yours.”

    ********************************************************************

    The kitchen always had been my favourite place in the entire castle. Our kitchen staff did not spoil all surprise visitors that dropped by. I always had been an exception. Everybody loved me. I was kissed and hugged by everyone before I was left with Grandfather, Isabeau, and Father with a mountain of cookies and sweets.

    “Are you sure you want black tea?” Grandfather’s concern was obvious to me. “I can remember that hot chocolate was your favourite.”

    The flames of the stove drew my attention. So many happy childhood memories of mine were attached to this room. Each time Norn, the chéf cook, had caught me with my hands in the cookie jar she had failed to punish me. Instead she had placed me on her lap and had added a mug with chocolate to my swag.

    Grandfather had let me sit next to him all those evenings when he had sought refuge here and not in the library. As my father’s valet, he had been the uncrowned king of this castle.

    I had helped the kitchen aids with baking cookies for the midwinter feasts. And with disemboweling game or other dead animals I had kept a calm hand. Other activities of mine had been doomed to failure. Burned dishes were the rule. I had even managed to let soups scorch.

    Feeling Grandfather still waiting for my answer to his request about chocolate, I said, “I should not. As Isa told me ages ago, it is not good for my Midi-chloriansat all.”

    “Nonsense,” he insisted. “You have loved xocolatl in all possible forms since you were able to walk. I cannot imagine you without it. Have a sip!”

    I was confronted with a mug of steaming hot chocolate. The coca beans did their ancient magic. In my veins the jungle unfolded in all its rich beauty. So much green; so much life; so much death. And all in balance. I remembered all those paintings that I had done for Luçien back at Polysýndeton, with the crayons of his dead children.

    As soon as I had finished my beverage Isabeau confronted me with the very question that I had dreaded. “How bad was it?”

    “You really want to know, do you?” It was better not to look her straight in the eyes. Father and grandfather both knew it was not Mórag who had maimed my skin. I could tell from their calm reaction. But I could not have Nanny to find out the truth at this point. So I stated, “I cannot give you the details. There is an unbreakable vow. I have to obey.”

    Even with my eyes closed the Unifying Force kicked in, connecting me to the sun, the moon and the stars. A song came to mind from a galaxy, far, far away.

    “I think we all could do with a song.” I kept my eyes closed and talked softly. “Perhaps you know it, Father. And you, too, Grandfather. It is a very old song, from a time even before the temple that I took my vows in was built. Actually, it is not even from this planet. It travelled along from the planet that they call Terra. A virgin queen is said to have written it to the man she was forbidden to marry by her ministers.”

    I let the light claim me and rule me. The words burst out of my chest with their timeless beauty.

    “My care is like my shadow,
    laid bare beneath the sun,
    it follows me at all times,
    and flies when I pursue it,
    I freeze and yet am always burned,
    since from myself I turn,
    I love and yet am forced to hate,
    I seem stark mute,
    inside I prate.
    I love and yet am forced to hate,
    I seem stark mute,
    inside I prate,
    some gentler love doth ease itself
    into my heart and mind,
    for I am soft and made of snow,
    love be more cruel or so be kind.”

    It was Father´s hand that brought me back to this world and this reality. He placed it lovingly on one of my shoulders. “I think we all had enough excitement this morning. What about looking for a nice bedchamber for you now? You can pick one of your own if you like. This castle has so many rooms.”

    This made me laugh despite all. “Four hundred and two, including all the dungeon cells, wine cellar and attic rooms as well. We once counted them all on a gloomy afternoon when there was nothing to do at all.”

    [IMG]

    ********************************************************************

    Fovea centralis came for me before Luçien could have the pleasure himself.The three half-blood Ophidea waited straight outside the kitchen.

    “Let me guess,” I offered, “you would be happy if I could join you?!?”

    I felt Luçien lurk in the nearby shadows and so did they. He had grown so self-assured that he did not even bother to conceal himself properly. Arrogance had become a major weakness in him. Or was it simply worry for me? His mood was difficult to interpret.

    One of the agents grabbed my left upper arm brutally. “You better hurry up, mio bellissimo principessa! There are some urgent questions you need to answer us.”

    I bit my cheeks. “Am I under arrest?”

    “We are just the real home coming party,” an agent with lime green eyes grunted. “You have been a naughty girl. Did you think that there were no consequences for you?”

    I shook my head defiantly.

    “That was already the wrong answer. You will bleed for that. Make no mistake!” The third agent looked at me disapprovingly, taking every detail. “Mammy is not around to cover your bony arse this time! Ain´t no way back from the dead!”

    I let them drag me away.

    There were places were Luçien would never go. The women’s rest room was one of them. Once we were inside, I gave my three childhood pals a hug once we were out of view and inside the toilets of the female kitchen personnel.

    “Thanks for all the letters and parcels, girls, I really appreciated and needed them. What have I done to deserve this welcome?”

    “We missed you, silly! You were gone nine sun years,” Luna prompted. Her lime green eyes were filled with tears of joy.

    Nine sun years, indeed, but not all spent with Mórag. It hurt to omit such information, knowing I would have to lie about it.


    What exactly were you busy with the last sun month? You never wanted a tattoo, not even a little tribal at your ankle. Now look at you! How daring. Mi piace davvero.” Mora put her hands on my skull, her fingers stretched out wide. I really like it.

    “We’ll stay in here for a bit.” Aranea told us while locking the outer door. “Ankou´s hearing is not as accurate as that of your common Lidérc. He looks like one, but he never inherited his mother´s feline senses. His sense of smell is a disaster for one of his people. Without the Force he could not be the man that he is.”

    The four of us stepped into the same toilet box, closing the door properly. As Ophidea we were all used to crowded spaces and awkward situations without wondering about them too much.
    Last edited by AzureAngel2, Oct 19, 2012
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