The Raving Otaku At Large (railstar) wrote in beregoth,
The Raving Otaku At Large
railstar
beregoth

Chapter 1



Sivand sat down on his bunk and began to pull on his boots. It had been two days since the fight in the yard, and his preparations to leave were almost complete. He finished lacing up his second boot, stood and stepped over to the small mirror hanging from the back of the door and began to tie his hair back. Golden hair fell to past his shoulders, and his blue eyes and even paler than normal skin made the other students comment that he looked like an Iceman from the glacier covered lands north of the Elven Territories. His height, a good hand taller than either Alaster or his father, was also unusual for West Hold. He knew that he was a foundling, but he had been abandoned at the gates of West Hold eighteen years ago, hundreds of leagues away from the great glaciers.

He finished the tie in his hair, and let it drop down into a ponytail that reached the middle of his shoulder blades. Pulling his shirt over his head, he had to tug a bit at the sleeves. His clothes were getting too small again; he would have to see about new ones soon.

After sliding his coat on and buttoning it, Sivand turned and looked around his room for the last time.

Four bunks, rigged with ropes and bolted to the wall so that one hung above the other, two on either side, and a paneless wooden-framed window with a pull down curtain were the only furniture in the room. All trainees, even the guildmaster's sons, lived and slept in the training barracks. Here all were equal, no matter where they had come from originally. Pegs next to the door held clothing and cloaks; armor and weapons were kept in a storage room next door to the barracks. Mercenaries in training never kept their own arms, by order of Master Harbind, since squabbles between the young men were frequent. Sivand had always gotten on well with his roommates, who were in the yard for the midday archery lesson, and hadn't really noticed them at all except when he threw one out of his bunk for snoring. Now, he thought he would miss the constant companionship. Maybe he could get a job with a merchant's train to Jassen Port Town or Tradervale to the east. Then at least he would not be traveling alone.

And then there was Alaster.

Sivand had run into him twice since that day in the hallways, and both times Alaster had rounded and stalked off the other way before Sivand could say a word. If only he could get him to see reason! This whole mess was giving Sivand fits. Years of friendship swept away for something so insane, and he still didn't even know why!

Shaking his head to ward off another headache, Sivand turned back and gathered his cloak and travel pack, a stout leather bag with pockets sewn outside for holding things and two padded cloth straps so that it could be worn over the shoulders. With one last glance over his shoulder, he left and headed for the arms room to retrieve his longbow and dagger. He would have to see to purchasing a sword before he left as well. There was a blacksmith near the inn he planned to stay at tonight that catered to soldiers and mercenaries. He often had a good stock of weapons on hand. Even if a shortblade was the only weapon to be had, it would be better than his six-inch dagger, which was the only weapon besides his bow that he owned.

At the arms room, the trainees were turning in their bows and drawing quarterstaffs for the next hour of lessons. Two of his roommates, Tav and Edgar, were in the line and trotted over to him after claiming their staves.

"Ho, Sivand." Tav said cheerfully. "Why weren't you at archery practice? Master Gaddif will scold you and make you stay later for the next lesson."

Sivand grinned. He was joking of course. A gaddif was an annoying bug that left an itchy welt where it bit you; Tav was referring to the head archery instructor, Master Gadden, a narrow, bug-eyed fellow who seemed to take great pleasure in shouting at everybody. Sivand had been in training so long that he often taught the archery class when Master Gadden was unable to make it.

Edgar spoke next, and the smile on Tav's face disappeared with Sivand's. "You are leaving today, aren't you?"

Sivand nodded, refusing to look sad no matter how he felt. "Aye. I have tarried here to long. To much longer and the Quartermaster will throw me out on my ear." He tried to grin, but it came off as more of a grimace.

"I don't quite think he would at that." Edgar replied. "I suppose you know what some of the trainees are saying, but don't believe it Sivand. What you did was well within the bounds of honor, even if the other fools don't see it or understand. I do; I also have a brother, younger than me, so I know."

This time Sivand did smile. Edgar was always the most soft-spoken of the three he lived with, and he had never known about him having a brother.

"That fool Kyle has taken up with the idiots talking you down." Tav said with a snort. "But don't worry, Ed and I will sort him out."

Sivand's smile lessened a bit, Kyle was the third of his trio of roommates; a merchant's son who decided to take up the sword rather than sell grain and pigs. Sivand seemed to have to toss him the most for snoring. "Don't be too hard on him." Sivand said. "He's probably just sore that I wake him up so often."

Tav chuckled and even Edgar grinned. "You aren't the only one of us that's thrown him on his arse for snoring, Sivand." Edgar said.

Sivand laughed. He had never imagined Edgar the sort to do something like that. It felt good to laugh; he realized he hadn't done much of that in the last few days.

Sivand clasped forearms with his friends and wished them luck at their training; then, with some final goodbyes, walked to the arms room. Inside the large room, arrayed in ordered racks on every wall, or stored in barrels and boxes that covered most of the floor, was every kind of weapon one could imagine. Swords and bows of every size hung about. Foot pikes that stretched almost the length of an entire wall were stacked in a neat pile. To his left, three barrels, two of them empty now, held shaved quarterstaffs bound with iron at the ends. Boxes of arrows and crossbow quarrels sat to his left as well as the quivers to hold them, while all along the far wall were arrayed halberds, crow beaks, military forks, spectrums and all other manner of pole arm: Olgothian, Serentian, and even some of the hard curved blades from the Rasheen.

Amidst the ordered confusion, sitting on a sealed crate marked as full of daggers and throwing knives was Chade Masa, the Olgothian armsman who maintained the inventory. Standing next to him, with his back to Sivand was Beran Tew, the Quartermaster, speaking quickly as Masa dictated onto a piece of parchment with a bit of charcoal.

"...And no more extra arrows are to be issued unless Master Gadden or Master LeCorbin allow it. Our fletchers are overworked replacing all the shafts those oafs break as it is. Also, make sure that the trainees who sharpen the blades in the evening do not walk off with the whetstones." Tew raised a hand to forestall a defense from Masa, "I understand they are only a copper each to replace, but we've replaced nearly two hundred in the last three months. The coin begins to add up." Masa went back to his scribbling with a scowl. "And finally, I need an inventory of the shortblades by next week. I want full accountability for those weapons, Masa, I've already caught five trainees with weapons hidden in their bunks." Tew watched as Masa hurriedly finished scrawling on his parchment and rose to bow. "As you say, Master Tew. I will see to it all, assuredly." he said with an unctuous grin. Tew snorted, and turned around, saying over his shoulder as he did, "See that you do." in a tone that suggested he didn't quite believe the man.

His gaze turned to Sivand. "So lad, already off?" he asked.

Sivand nodded and hiked his pack up a bit as if to emphasize the fact. "I just came by to retrieve my bow and dagger, Master Tew," he said.

Master Tew frowned as he looked at him up and down. With his nearly white hair and large bushy eyebrows he looked for all the world like an old shaggy wolfhound. "Aye, so you would be. Before you leave the guild, your father wishes to speak with you."

Sivand groaned inwardly. He had been hoping to avoid that encounter. Speaking to his father, with everything that had happened, frightened him a little. However, now that Beran had told him, he could not avoid it without being completely disrespectful. "Aye, sir." he said forlornly.

Tew seemed to catch his mood and said, "Look lad, no one here blames you for what happened. Least of all your da. I think he had a sense that it would happen eventually, although I can't figure why, seeing how you and Alaster got on so well..." his voice trailed off as he noticed Sivand's eyes darken even more. "Ah...well...that is..." he fumbled, "Look lad, I'll see to your weapons and have the gate guard give them to you as you leave. Why not go see the old man now and get it over with, yes?"

"Aye, sir." Sivand said again.

He turned to go and felt Tew's hand on his shoulder. "All will be well, lad. You'll see." he said softly. Sivand nodded and left.

Crossing the great yard, several trainees and a few instructors called greetings to Sivand, but he didn't hear them. Whatever Master Harbind had to say to him, it was surely nothing good.

Sivand walked through the open oak doors that led into Sun Hall, both the instructor's living quarters and headquarters for the Sunblades of West Hold. For once he didn't even notice the fancy Olgothian rugs or intricately detailed wall hangings depicting great battles that the Sunblades had fought in. The rugs muffled his boots on the polished hardwood floors of the hall as he wound his way through the instructor's apartments to the far eastern end of the building; to where his father's study laid waiting for him.

Sivand paused at the door to the study; plain oak except for the symbol of the sun and blade etched in the polished and stained doorframe. He raised his hand to knock then stopped. He could hear voices coming from inside. Even though he could not make out many words through the thick wood, he recognized one voice as his father's right away. The second voice, slightly raspy and high pitched belonged to his father's advisor, the wizard Garret Cain of the High Robes order. The third voice was not familiar to him, but it had an Olgothian accent.

He could hear nothing clearly enough to make out what they were talking about, but several times his father sounded angry, while the Olgothian voice seemed to whine incessantly and Garret Cain droned on in his normal monotone. He was also positive that he heard his name and Alaster's mentioned more than once and that the whiney Olgothian had called him a bastard.

Which he was, without a doubt, but he hated to be constantly reminded of it by fools; especially whiney ones.

Finally, the talking ended and Sivand realized that he had been standing there eavesdropping for over half an hour. Quickly taking a step back and composing himself, he knocked on the door.

A moment later, the door opened and three men stepped into the hall, bowing back into the room as they left. As they turned to leave Sivand saw that they were all Olgothian, and not Sunblades by their clothing. With their heads wrapped in those funny cloth strips and baggy clothes dyed bright reds and blues, they looked for all the world like a group of jesters with bandaged head injuries. The leader of the group, the only thin one amongst them, glanced a Sivand as he walked past and gave a disdainful sniff.

Sivand thought that one was probably the whiner. He looked like a ferret, Sivand thought. Then again, it seemed that all Olgothians, who weren't so fat that they split the seams of their baggy pants, looked like ferrets. Only ferrets had redeeming qualities, such as being smart and useful for hunting rabbits.

As the last one waddled by, Sivand noticed the gold and black scarab on his right breast. So, the Sha-Qualin merchant's guild was involved. No wonder that one complained so much. They hadn't ever gotten the better of Norhamn Harbind in anything.

Peeking into the study through the open door, Sivand saw his father talking softly with Garret Cain, a middling sized man with a bald pate and perpetual scowl that made Sivand uneasy, who was bending slightly in order to hear him where he was seated at his desk.

Master Harbind stopped in mid-sentence and looked over at the door. "Oh, it's you, boy. I thought for a moment that the Sha-Qualin rodents had come back. Come in, come in." he said motioning to him.

Sivand suppressed a smirk at the "rodents" remark; it was gratifying to know he wasn't the only one. Quietly, he stepped in and shut the door behind him. His father didn't seem to be angry; perhaps Tew was right.

The office was spartan for all that it held one of West Hold's most important people. The only other furniture besides Master Harbind's desk and chair was a circular rug on the floor before the desk, a short bookshelf along one wall and a simple stone hearth, cold right now, along the other. Those that came to speak with Master Harbind stood. His father had explained to him that it was to keep those who would seek to take advantage off balance by making them uncomfortable. It certainly seemed to work with the Sha-Qualin.

Atop the mantle of the hearth was a sheathed bastard sword, Valdis Ran. It was Master Harbind's personal weapon. Enchanted long ago, some of the scholars in the High Robes believed it was made before the Great War of Mages, the ancient Mageslayer War, in which the countries of Serentia, Boliviana, Zulathan and Trent rebeled against their Olgothian masters and destroyed nearly half of the Homeland in doing so. The name of the weapon meant "Honor's Hand" or "Hand of Honor", Sivand had never studied more of High Tongue than he needed to.

The need for new lands to settle is what drove Sivand's ancestors to cross the East Aldean ocean, leading to the discovery of the people of Rasheen and eventually, the new world, some two hundred and sixty years ago. Sivand's own ancestors, or at least those of his adopted family, were Serentian; the country to Olgothia's east that had spearheaded the revolution and founded West Hold and it's sister city on the other side of the continent, East Hold. The names given to the initially temporary outposts had, for a wonder, never changed after two centuries. Master Harbind said that it was probably so that no one country could lay claim to either city, leaving the land that they oversaw free to all, as the rulers of Serentia had wanted all those years ago.

"Are you done staring about like a poleaxed ox, boy?" Master Harbind asked.

Sivand started. He hadn't realized that he'd dazed off. "I'm sorry, father. I've had a lot on my mind." he muttered lamely.

"I'm sure you have..." Master Harbind bent his head and rubbed his eyes tiredly. It was then that Sivand noticed how haggard his father looked. A two day growth of white flecked stubble grew on his chin and his sun toughened leathery skin seemed to show every wrinkle in his face. He had never, in all his life, seen his father in such a condition. He had always been immovable and indestructible, like a weather beaten cliff of granite. It almost made Sivand want to weep.

Harbind raised his head; his face seemed to have a blankness about it, as if no emotion existed. He had seen that look before...when he was preparing to fight, to kill. Sivand wanted to squirm where he stood, but forced himself to maintain discipline in front of his father.

"What do you need, father?" Sivand asked, �Other than a good night's rest and a shave,� he thought to himself.

"When were you planning to leave?" Master Harbind asked in a dull voice.

Sivand glanced from his father to Garret Cain and back again. The wizard was standing to the left and rear of his father, hands folded inside his robes, watching the exchange with apparent disinterest.

"I was going to stay the night at an inn near the east gate and leave in the morning when it was opened for the farmers." Sivand answered.

"There is no longer any need." Master Harbind said.

Sivand was stunned. What was he saying? What could he be implying. No, it couldn't be. He didn't want to think about it.

"But, I had already said I would go, and the tradi...." Sivand began.

"Tradition be damned!" Harbind roared, suddenly losing control. "I tire to my core of hearing tradition being prated to me. I will not hear it from my own!"

Sivand realized that he had taken a step back at the outburst. "I was just..."

"No more!" Harbind yelled, standing up out of his chair. He visibly strained for control, palms set flat against the top of his desk. Finally, in a contained voice, he said: "There is no longer any need for you to go, son, because..." he took a breath and seemed to relax slightly, but Sivand could still see the barely contained fury in his eyes, "Because Alaster is gone."

"Gone?" Sivand asked, voice trembling slightly; that word could be read several ways.

"He has left the guild, and probably West Hold. He has been missing since last night." Master Harbind said.

Sivand sighed audibly. It was bad, but not as bad as he feared. Alaster running away was still a great dishonor to the family though, and no doubt was the reason his father had not slept last night. "Does anybody know why he left? Or where he's headed?" Sivand asked.

Harbind tensed, hesitant. Garret Cain inclined his head to Sivand and spoke. "We were hoping you could answer that for us, boy." His voice sounded as though someone had run a metal file across it and his green eyes seemed to stare right through Sivand.

Sivand had never liked the mage. Like most men of the sword, he distrusted wielders of the arcane, but this one in particular made his skin crawl. He wondered how his father tolerated him. "Why would I know anything about that? Do you think I told him to go? Every time I see him now..." Sivand began before Cain cut him off.

"Did I accuse you of such?" Garret Cain asked, a small mocking grin on his lips.

"You bait me, magician" Sivand growled. He was sure his father could not see that horrible grin.

"You bait yourself, pup." Cain replied, the grin slipping from his face. "It seems the only people who understand the quarrel between you and your brother, are in fact, you and your brother."

"Then what do you claim of me, snake!" Sivand yelled. "Come out and say it! Or do you wish to continue bandying words like a coward!"

"Enough!" Harbind roared, slapping the top of the desk hard enough to make the wood creak. "Sivand, you will not use such a tone with an archmage, especially when he is my counsel."

Turning to face the mage, Harbind seemed to collect himself and stand taller. It looked to Sivand like a wolverine trying to stare down a hawk. "Please forgive the indiscretion, Master Cain. Perhaps I should speak with my son in private."

Cain, who had been staring through Sivand with those icy eyes, shifted his gaze slightly to Harbind without moving his head, then back to him. When he spoke, he knew that the words were as much for him as for his father. "No offense taken, Master Harbind. Children will be what they will be."

Sivand seethed with fury as the black robed man slid by him and seemed to vanish out the door. Child, was he? A curse on all wizards!

"Hallo? Master Harbind?" Beran Tew poked his head through the door, frowning.

Harbind seemed to relax slightly at the sight of the old Quartermaster. "Come in, Tew, come in." he said as he sat back down.

Beran glanced back over his shoulder with a grimace as he entered. "The lad does well to name that one a snake, Norhamn." he said. "The perfect counterpoint to that mongoose, Al' Hadib."

Harbind gave him an unreadable look, but Beran seemed not to notice. "I do not mean to interrupt, but I wanted to let you know that all is in readiness. We can ride at first light tomorrow."

Sivand forgot his anger for a moment and looked back and forth at the Quartermaster and his father. "Ride where?" he asked.

Beran and Harbind both turned to look at him. Harbind locked his hands together on the table, a look of cold determination in his eyes. "South, to the Witherwood, son." his father said.

Sivand tried to hide his shock. "The Witherwood? But why...have the Unclean begun to stir again?" his voice was nearly a whisper.

Beran was the one who spoke next. "Your father and I were going to tell you...before the incident with your brother that is." he paused for a moment as if trying to think of the words, but Harbind began speaking before he could find them.

"Three of the containment forts have fallen. Runners from Karaken Hold near Reinsville claim that the army responsible was led by: 'A man in green mail, as mold is green, seated upon a steed of black with eyes of fire. ' "

This time Sivand did look shocked. A Lost One, a holy knight of Serentia that had turned to the service of evil during the Colonization Wars. They all should have been dust for over a century and a half. It was simply impossible.

Harbind continued, " ' And those who follow him are man shaped beasts; like yapping dogs and giant two legged wolves dressed in mail and using the weapons of man. ' "

The Unclean. The humanoid races devoted to evil: Dogmen, gnolls, goblins and hobgoblins. The only races more feared and loathed were the Giants, who had been so thoroughly crushed during the Wars that no more than a handful had been seen in the centuries since. The Unclean, however, were so numerous that annihilation had been impossible. Instead, they had been driven back; into the darkest forests or beneath the mountains and hills, and all the races set watch on those tribes near them, to insure that they never rose up again. But now three forts, of over a thousand men each, had been overrun and they were led by one of the Lost.

Silence hung in the room for what seemed an eternity. Sivand had thought his father's discomfiture had been only over his son. Now, when there hadn't been real war for centuries, he was called upon to defend an entire country. Sivand felt ashamed that he had doubted his father's strength even for a second.

"Since a Lost One leads, will the Holy Knights be moving as well?" Sivand asked, breaking the choking silence.

Harbind nodded. "Half the order, with Van Grell at the head, left yesterday." he said solemnly. "The governor has asked the Sunblades to follow and support the Knights."

Sivand shook his head, shocked. Half the order! Well over five hundred Holy Knights, plus almost two thousand footmen and squires, with War Priests of Berandor in tow, were on the move and the governor wanted the Sunblades to mount as well? It would be the largest force to move to battle since the Colonization Wars themselves!

"But if the Sunblades leave as well, then won't West Hold be left almost defenseless?" Sivand asked. "Surely the governor can see that."

Beran frowned and his bushy eyebrows seemed to droop. Harbind also seemed to look wearier at the words. They knew too, Sivand thought. They knew and there was nothing to be done.

Harbind sighed and rested his arms on those of his chair. "Son, I will not taunt you with words like the archmage, but do you know where your brother is?"

Sivand started. Of course; that was it. If his father was forced to go to war, he needed to name a successor to the guild leadership in case he...Sivand didn't want to think about his father dying. There had to be some way to stop this. "No, father. I have seen him only twice since then, and he ran from me both times before I could say a word." he said. "You must believe me, I swear I didn't do anything to make him go. I...I don't even know why he wanted to duel with me that day." Sivand added sadly. "This is madness."

Harbind nodded, a sad look of recognition in his eyes. "Wars and Successions often are, son. Yet I need him to be found. I wanted..." he paused for a moment as if trying to decide whether or not to continue then did so. "I wanted to name you, Sivand."

Sivand's breath caught. Name him? Had his father gone mad? He was a bastard, and no matter how great a soldier he might live to be, he was not blood kin, and not in the chain of command for the Sunblades either. What his father suggested broke all convention. " I couldn't...I mean I'm not...I mean...oh, hells, I don't know what I mean!" Sivand blurted out.

"It's the truth, lad." Beran Tew said. "Your father went before the counsel last eve and made the request, that in the absence of your brother, you should be named to the post of Guildmaster if he should fail to return. However..." the Quartermaster looked to Harbind and the Guildmaster continued.

"The other great guilds who influence the counsel will not accede. The Sha-Qualin are holding to one of their own as claimant, an Olgothian commander who leads the second light cavalry brigade at Ret Hold. The Order thinks that the West Hold Sunblades should be incorporated into them to make one army, under their leadership. And the High Robes are remaining neutral; the Hurex sect will continue to support us with their Battlemages, but they will not defend any claim more than another. Those Olgothian ferrets that were here a while ago were trying to make an argument for their man. And the Order is hoping to beat us to the punch against the Unclean, and lessen our position by making us look useless. They are fools. The Unclean, when fought in small bands, without leadership and unfortified, are not difficult to keep in check, but when organized and led, especially by a demon like one of the Lost...." Harbind's voice trailed off. "They had enough power to destroy over three thousand footmen and cavalry, supported by no less than fifteen to twenty Battlemages, holding fortified positions. If the Sunblades do not move to help, Van Grell and his Knights will be wiped out." Harbind bit off the last two words like iron.

"Then what do we do, father?" Sivand asked solemnly.

Harbind looked to Tew for a moment then back to Sivand. "We must find Alaster. Find him and return him to West Hold before we are torn apart from the inside with this bickering." Harbind's eyes seemed to flicker like fire. "You must find him, Sivand."

Sivand stood there for a moment, head spinning. Me? I need to find him? He wants to kill me, why would he listen to me? Slowly, the spinning slowed and resolution set in. Because I am his brother. Because even if I am not sure why, he left on my account. Because it's my duty.

Sivand nodded and held a clenched hand over his heart. "Ko geshran so nil atar." So commanded, I will obey with honor.

Harbind nodded back with what looked like pride in his eyes. Standing, he beckoned Sivand to come closer.

Sivand stepped forward as his father picked up something from behind the desk and set it down atop it.

It was a white cloth with the Sunblade's emblem of the Sun and the Sword, wrapped around something. As his father undid the ties that held the sheet, Sivand realized that it was a sword. A sword he had dreamt about for years.

Master Harbind undid the last tie and reached inside the wrap to pull out a sheathed bastard sword. The tooled hide scabbard was emblazoned with the same mark as the cloth. The hand and a half long handle and quillions were wrapped in gripcloth and soft leather, dyed orange and red. The metal shaped and etched to resemble the fiery rays of the sun.

"This blade is a symbol of those who lead in the Sunblades. All officers, whether they command a single squad or an entire regiment carry a blade of their choosing with these markings. It is given to those who have proven themselves after they complete their training and become men." Harbind held the sword out to Sivand with one hand by the scabbard. "By taking it, you choose to lead where others only follow. To fight bravely against any odds. And if necessary, to die for the sake of the freedom we have built here. We are mercenaries, but we defend something that is more precious than the money we are paid."

Sivand's head began to pound again, but as he reached for the sword, he was surprised at how steady he was. He had thought that he would never receive this honor, after the duel, but now his father was not only entrusting him with his brother, but with leadership as well. No, it was more. The entire future of the guild rested on his shoulders. His and his father's, and if he could find him�Alaster�s.

Taking the sword by the scabbard with his left hand and the hilt with his right, Sivand forcefully yanked it away from the grip of his father, as the ceremony called for, and unsheathing the blade, saluted him with the edges out. Beran had gathered Valdis Ran from the mantle and handed it to Master Harbind. Harbind returned the salute with his own sword, and spoke the words: "Einye Ran." Forever Honor.

Sivand replied: "Einye Jan" Forever Freedom.

Harbind and Sivand replaced their blades and clasped forearms. "Even if you are not of my blood, you are my kin. Tomorrow, with honor, I will ride forth with my son." Harbind said.

"Who will run the guild while you are away." Sivand asked.

"I will leave Master LeCorbin and Tew behind to see to things. All will be well, son. We will find your brother and beat back the Unclean, just like our fathers and grandfathers. All will be well." Harbind said, slapping Sivand on the shoulder. "Now we must get ready. Choose five trainees who you believe are ready to fight and give their names to Master LeCorbin. They shall be your command. After we have departed, you and your men will go east to Ret Hold while we continue south. Have them send runners and pigeons to East Hold if they have not already been sent. From there you may begin your search for Alaster."

Sivand strapped the sword to his belt and bowed slightly to Harbind. "I will be ready at first light, father."

Beran beamed at him as he left. " I suppose I shall have to stop calling you 'lad' now, lad." he grinned. Sivand grinned back.

He would find Alaster. He would not fail.

***
Garret Cain waved a finger and the mirrored globe of light before him winked out. So, the bastard child was going to bring his brother home to daddy. He leaned back in his overstuffed velvet chair in his private chambers and steepled his gnarled fingers as he pondered the situation. Steps would have to be taken to keep Alaster away from his brother. The lamb had become too useful and he could not afford to kill him, not yet at least; but there were ways.

With a scowl that made his face look like cracked stone, Cain rose and glided over to the transport crystal hovering in the back corner of the room. Weaving an intricate pattern in the air before the two-foot chunk of floating stone, an image of a walled city near a roiling sea took form inside the clear faucets. The city was covered in darkness, for it was night on the other side of the continent.

There were ways.
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