Princes of Purt:
Teppe’ in the field
Oirion wished he was anywhere but where he was. The worst part of it was the bugs, he decided. He could handle waiting, but he wasn’t looking forward to this. He didn’t even really mind sitting on the ground… it was the damned bugs that kept buzzing about his ears and biting him whenever they could. He slapped at the back of his neck and growled to himself.
It was hot, un-godly hot for this time of year, and sweat was running down his back. The valley here was where once a great glacier had pressed the ground down as it headed to the ocean. It made for a smooth sweep of field strewn with massive random boulders. This was a summer pasture, so right now it was knee-deep in spring grasses and even deeper vegitaion along the stream at the bottom. It was said once there had been an orchard here, but Gerome had chopped it down for a new round of furnishings for his chambers.
That had been well over a thousand year ago and now there was not even a stump to the entire valley. He watched from where he sat as the first ranks of the great elven army came forward. Oirion closed his eyes and bowed his head. He was going to end this. He prayed to any and all gods that if he died it would not end Shannon, or that if it did, that Shannon would simply die as a mortal man. Whatever it would take, he needed to win this war. Purt had to stand. If Purt was brought down, then there could be no Purtan emperor. The Barrier would shatter, the world would end, and it wouldn’t matter what cost he paid here or what he didn’t pay.
He let them begin to pour into the valley before he got up. He stood where he was a moment, then began to walk toward them. A group of several came forward on their horses with bows. They circled him, a bit awed that he didn’t seem at all afraid.
“Who are you? What are you doing here?”
“Hmm. I am TyShane Von Valreen, Regent of Purt, also called Oirion, and I would talk to your Lord.”
They laughed a bit, but one closed his eyes to relay the message. “What would you say to him?” the man asked.
“I would say that I do not think he is as great as word says. If he is, then Purt is foolish to not welcome him as a god. I, however, need proof. Let him come out, let him prove to me he is truly the demi-god he thinks himself. Or is he afraid of me?”
The message was relayed to the humor, then worry, of the elves who circled Oirion.
“He needs not prove anything to anyone,” one of them said and moved to kill Oirion with his sword. Oirion didn’t even flinch. The five men and their horses were hit with a power that turned them to ash faster than they could swing. Their weapons fell to the ground.
“Then let that be my proof!” Oirion roared. He didn’t know who had killed the men about him, but he suspected it was Victor. “Not only are you a coward who must beat on women to feel powerful, you fear your adversary! Your grandfather must be rolling in his salty grave in shame for your weakness!”
The elven army kept marching into the valley, but Oirion knew they, as well as the self-proclaimed emperor with them, had heard it all. The army continued to march as a section of it opened to allow a man on a white horse to ride forward. His robes were golden and white, shimmering with magic as well as wealth. It was clearly an attempt to appear to have capture the power of Armond’s. It was not chance at how similar it was to the robes of the pontiffs of Purt.
Oirion couldn’t help but laugh a little at the vanity. He wore black leather like Shannon might have. He had to admit, with the magic in the leather, it was a great uniform for the work he was about to take on. The two of them could not appear more opposite. It would make a grand image for some hero’s hall painting. Oirion almost laughed about that. As if his face was posted about Purt enough as it was.
The man rode forward with grace as his army moved to avoid the wet of the valley floor and to flank the Regent in the center of the field. Oirion waited, oddly wishing he had a horse, too. He at least would be drier. He was soaked to his knees and his boots were sunk in the mud a bit.
The elf took his time to get into position. It allowed his army to also find their new places as they rushed to get there. Oirion had to mildly admire the army and how neatly the elves could move into place. The ranks were not broken even at a run. It was truly impressive. A pity he was going to kill them all.
The elf stopped about a half mile from Oirion and cast his voice so it filled the valley like a song against Oirion’s roar.
“Child, I have no anger with you. Kneel down and I shall take you as a son unto me. You are fair and gifted, a shame to end such a blessed form as yours.”
Oirion almost laughed at the lure that the man spun into his voice as he sent it at Oirion. It might work against an elf, but not against a Hunter and certainly not against one who had Shannon in his soul. “My dear man,” Oirion laughed. “You clearly do not know who I am,” he cast his own voice out. “I am Adept-Master Oirion! I am older than you; I have walked the lands and currents of Purt since before the birth of Gerome by a thousand and more years. I stood on the banks of the Pusan as your grandfather thrashed in agony caused by his own foolishness. I have walked the hell fires and bear the scars to prove it. I have danced with dragons and I have made demons nestle in my hands. I am Regent of Purt, bonded partner of Tyredelle Von Armond Von Shannon. I opened the gate of the Lost and drew them through five thousand years to be here to meet you, to greet our dear brothers, our long allies and fellow Elder race,” he motioned around to them all in mockery and insult. He was making things up and trying to sound as grand as Theo did when telling stories. He began to walk toward the king of the elves. “You come to Purt and you do not even know who you face? Child,” he spat the word. “Get down from your horse and earn your right to be so bold as to even speak to me.”
The elf was stunned a moment, then laughed. “You are not Master Oirion. You are Oirion Hennen von Valreen. Father Oirion,” he spat the title like a joke. “I know you. You claim great things and yet you crawl on the floor to Shannon. How does it feel to be the concubine of a vampire? You spin nice lies of what he is, but I know the truth. I know what he hides behind the wall of Norwood, and all the nations know you are nothing but his bed toy.”
That almost made Oirion angry. Instead he held up his hands almost as in admittance. “I don’t know what source you get your information from, but clearly they have set you up to fail. Even now Prince Elliott, true cousin of Tyredelle Von Armond, has invaded your lands. You will have nothing to go home to. The elven race shall be as Razzan’s.” He pointed at the elf. “No one invades Purt!” he roared with power.
The land about him shuddered and rolled away like the surface of water when struck with a great vibration. The birds who remained in the valley launched upward. “You best call on your ‘allies’ now,” he said coldly. “You won’t have much longer to do so.”
Above, the storm suddenly rolled black and lighting flashed out over the sky. Teppe’ Ep Shek, king of the golden elves threw back his cloak and lifted his arm. “Fool!” he yelled and brought down lightning at Oirion. Oirion didn’t even have to deflect it. Someone else did.
Teppe’ threw up his arm, the horse reared, and while the elf fought to hold his saddle, Oirion hit the ground under the horse’s hooves with power. The bolt of power turned solid ground to instant mud. The poor animal sank just enough to tip over onto his rider.
There was a single shout and the elves all began to move toward Oirion. A gate ripped open before the king. Several dozen elven guards poured out to block Oirion. Oirion flung out a ring of fire that rushed outward, not only at the guards in his path but at the army that was running down the valley slopes toward him. He felt the ground shift under his feet and knew the Purtan army hidden beyond the valley had just been ordered to attack the elves.
With a shout Oirion reached up and grabbed the power of the storm as he had once seen Shannon do. It was searing and horrifically painful, but he held it. He sent it slamming down at Teppe’ and his guards. He brought down blow after blow. Shields shattered as fast as they were risen against him. Oirion got in one more fast than they could recover and the men who guarded the elven king exploded into fire and ash.
He was almost down to the king himself as the elven army’s wizards all aimed at Oirion at once. He was forced to put up a shield of his own. In the sky, fire began to burn as if oil had been spilled in the clouds. Oirion knew the fire would soon begin to fall in terrible drops of heat that would burn all it touched. He had seen it before.
“Don’t send them into this!” he yelled. He pleaded to all good powers that Dave would somehow get that order out and know what to do about it. He drew his sword and holding his shield, he moved to attack the elf himself. His sword lit with black fire as he ran at the king to try to get to him before he was cut off again.
There were just too many attacks. Elven wizards hammered on his shields and flung anything they could think of at him even as archers aimed the first round of arrows at him. He was forced to focus on his shields and to spin power off himself to keep the elves back and arrows out of him. Funnels of fire began to touch down like tornadoes and light up areas of the battle that were out of sight in the darkness.
Somehow he felt the gate starting to be built and with a roar grabbed at it. The shields he wore between himself and Shannon began to flake away even as he grabbed the king’s gate and exploded it. The concussion was enough the men about him were knocked back. Oirion staggered from the force of the explosion. For a moment he felt everything shatter, his ears went deaf, and his body went numb. He knew his amulets and illusions were gone and he was just old Oirion again.
Then the power that was Shannon poured in. Oirion cried out in pain as he had when they had melded on the tower top. Then he had spun away into shadow realms to emerge 5000 years back in time. This time it was different. His ring flared and power as golden as Shannon was dark poured into him as well. It was going to kill him and he knew it. There was nothing to do but hold it and flare it all out, both golden and dark as one. There was no way he could separate them or cut Shannon off. He heard Shannon yell somewhere far back in his mind, but it was nothing he could react to.
He held it as long as he could, then surrendered to it. He felt his arms being flung out as his body lifted off the ground, and then silence. He was, for a moment, back in the sky as the Great Albatross. He was dead; he had died and he was free of this pain. He could fly free and slip into the energy streams and be part of the living Purt. It lasted for a thousand years and for a split moment only.
Then it was dark and quiet.
Without pain Oirion pushed himself up from the ground. It was dark, lightning flashed and cracked randomly about him in a cloud of darkness and green toxic fumes. The ground bubbled with pits of grey mud that spit up vents of steam and boiling earth. He picked up his sword. His skin was burned beyond feeling. It was held together by power alone. He crossed the mud, past what might have once been elves, their bodies little more than stone bones or lumps under the mud. He walked toward where the king had been.
Oirion found the Teppe’ within a shield of power, his fine robes burned and tattered. He was working on building a gate to escape. He looked up, startled to see Oirion.
The elf had been hurt; his face was burned and blood ran from his eyes and nose. His shields were only to protect him from the fumes and heat. Oirion looked at him a moment. This was the man who had hurt Tavia, who had invaded Purt, who had forced him to use magic that would be felt for ten thousand years at least.
He lifted his sword and drove it into the elf’s chest, dropping all his weight onto the man who didn’t even have the physical strength to fight back.
“You can’t kill me…” the elf gasped, almost laughing. “You still don’t know who I am.”
“You still don’t know who I am,” Oirion said, his face not even an inch from the elf’s. He took every last pit of power he could pull through his ragged cords. He felt wings tear out of the back of robe as his eyes turned to golden fire. He slammed all his power into the elf, as Teppe’ gasped in fear for the first time. Oirion’s organs were set on fire, powers fought, but Oirion did not let go. The elf screamed, his power failed and as his organs died, all the magics bound to them exploded out as well.
The power caught on the storm and boomed outward. Oirion felt crushed and lifted at the same time. He collapsed. Maybe this time, he thought, maybe he’d just stay dead this time.
The power of it was unlike anything Theo had ever felt; he wasn’t even sure where it was coming from. He had gone to Shannon to try to ask him what he thought it was. The last thing he expected was for it to be from Shannon. The man had been transformed.
He was on his knees on the floor of his cabin. His eyes were closed, tears of shimmering power escaped the corners of his eyes. Sweat soaked his body. His left hand was glowing deep within the golden scar, so hot it had burned away his glove. His robe had been ripped or burned away, leaving him shreds held on only by his belt. His body shimmer in places, the power flushed in and out, from one area to another. Whatever it was, there was no doubt that it was both painful and erotic.
Theo considered that maybe Raz had gotten hold of Shannon and was doing to him what she had meant to do to Zou, but no… this was different. He could see Shannon’s chest heaving with his breath, his blood pounding though the veins in his neck, his muscles quivering.
Shannon opened his eyes to show they had gone utterly black except for the irises, which were vampire red, dark as the sash of the Von Armonds. Theo held the door closed from anyone else seeing Shannon this way. He didn’t know what to do.
“Shannon…” he whispered, not sure if he should help the man or let him experience what seemed to be a serious healing. It had been awhile since Theo had no idea what to do about something… and he did not like the feeling at all.
It ended suddenly. Shannon dropped forward to his hands. Gasping for air, he couldn’t move beyond that. Theo stayed at the door and watched as blood dripped from Shannon’s eyes to the floor. Tears had turned to red and the man had a bloody nose as well. Theo moved to grab something for him to wipe with. He dropped to a knee beside Shannon and offered the silk shirt he had grabbed. Shannon took it and held it to his face, wiping the corner of his eyes with it.
“You alright?” Theo asked very concerned. Shannon opened his eyes and looked at Theo. They were blue again, but so bloodshot they were almost vampire red.
“That hurt,” Shannon breathed in Crousen, his Port Hall accent clear and thick.
“I didn’t know what to do. What happened?”
Shannon closed his eyes. Theo could see he was already getting black eyes from the event and likely much of his body would bruise as well.
“I don’t know exactly… Oirion doing whatever he had to in order to hold Ulam Bac, I suppose. The world is going to feel what he did. We need to get off the ship before the earthquakes start the tsunamis.”
Theo nodded. “We’ll be cutting into the Barrier soon. Then we can land within hours.”
Shannon nodded. “Tell them to make for it now.”
Theo got up. “You want me to do anything else?”
“Lock my door. I need to bathe and… rest.”
The Barrier passing was a rough bit of weather, a gut-wrenching drop and then they were through it. Magics had indeed changed. They all looked to each other at the ease of the crossing but said nothing about it. Of all the magics they had to worry about that did not seem to be one of them. Just inside the Barrier line Dragons Teeth Mountains formed the chain of islands that they were headed for. Immediately Theo recast his search and narrowed the search for Riven down to a single island. Sails were unfurled. They aimed for their lost comrade with all speed.
The crew took the ship as close to the small harbor as it could. It was already crowded and it would take hours to get into the safety of its walls. The captain lowered a row boats for them. They grabbed their gear to be lowered down.
Shannon emerged from the cabin with his hood up and a limp. With s growing sense of urgency they hurried down the rope ladder. Ivan grabbed the oars at once. The moment Shannon had taken a seat he dug in hard and set to work cutting for the lights they could see on the water’s edge. The great warship headed away to try and survive the coming wave and to make itself known by the elven nations.
They were just pulling into the docks of the harbor when the storm cracked and rumbled overhead. Ivan caught the dock side and pulled the boat in. Theo jumped out to grab the ropes and tie it off. He helped the others to the dock, aiding Shannon last as the others moved to pull up hoods and gather packs.
Shannon gripped Theo’s hand to get up out of the boat and nearly fell as the tide jostled the boat. Theo pulled the man up and helped him get his feet back.
“Carry that,” Theo said, handing Ivan Shannon’s pack. He took the lead up the dock, looking for an inn as high up as possible.
The island wasn’t that big and the village on the docks was all that it was likely to support. The small fishing village was here at all because the safe harbor with grey stone cliffs that offered protection from the common storms.
Rain started to fall as they reached the street. Theo spotted an inn and cut for it. It was old, stone, and build up high enough that the waves would never hit it. The lower buildings, however, had stains from the salt winds and spray from the harbor. Theo had no idea how far the tsunami would reach across the world, but better safe than sorry.
They entered the front door to find it had far more people than expected. They sat about talking or eating. It was an easy crowd with a good mix to it. Several children were playing with a ball at one end of the room and the three puppies were desperate to go and join them.
The group pushed two table together while Theo went to the back counter.
“Can we get meals, beers, and beds if you have them?”
“That we do,” the man behind the counter said. “I’ll have the rooms readied and meals brought.” He nodded as he went to grab down pitchers of old clay to bring to them.
“You know,” Ivan sighed as he took a seat. “I forgot how nice it is to have things fit. A few years in Ezeer and god damn are the rest of you small.” He shifted in the chair that threatened to break under him. He stopped when he saw Shannon under the hood.
“You alright?” Kelly asked Shannon. Shannon lifted his blood-shot eyes to her.
“Fine,” he said.
“The Regent playing with magics,” Theo said with a light shrug. “I’m betting he showed the elves a bit of his temper.”
“Hopefully he didn’t sink all of Crouse,” Shannon muttered in Crousen, rubbing his eyes.
“Is that what that magic was earlier?” Kelly asked.
“You think he’s alright?” Salma asked concerned. Shannon looked at her while the man set beer pitchers on the table.
“No,” he said honestly. “He’s not dead, but I bet he wishes he was. If I feel this bad…” he shook his head. “He never learns.”
“You told him to hold Ulam Bac,” Kelly said. “I bet no elf gets hold of it.”
“I didn’t tell him to sink it.”
“Then you think the invasion is over?” Tavia asked. “Purt is safe now? That the elves are… kingless?”
“Elves are like orcs,” Shannon said. “Kill one king… they bicker a bit, then get a new just as bad as the last.” He took the mug of beer. “I hate elves.”
Tavia lifted an eye brow to him. His tone and the use of no whisper and the thick dialect of Port Hall seemed very odd. He didn’t seem to notice.
“I think they are so bad-mannered because they have so few women,” Ivan offered cheerfully. “They need more girls. What a sour race to be in if its only one out of ten. They have to invade other races just to get a little soft curves in their hands.”
Theo chuckled softly. “Ivan you’re one-minded, you know.”
Ivan grinned and lifted his mug. “It’s good to be home,” he laughed and drained the mug before pouring more.
Shannon watched him a moment, smiled, then shook his head.
The goal was to find Riven. Theo was trying to use magic, Ivan was asking around, and Tavia just left the inn. She needed to walk, anyway. The three puppies followed her, tumbling in games with each other and happily chasing along behind her.
The island here was a sleeping giant. She could feel its roots deep under the dark cold water. Fire boiled up at its foot, giving life and energy to the depths here. The soil was hammered with the Barrier magics, the salt of the ocean, and the abuse of the men who lived here. It was so badly over-grazed that what plants survived here did so with great effort.
It looked horribly barren, but there was something about it that she liked. It was quiet here. She drew up her hood against the rain. She let the village fall away behind her as she walked out over the hills behind it and let her feet go where they would. After awhile the three puppies just walked with her, soaked by the drizzle of rain.
She came down a steep gully to a little hidden level of land before it dropped off a cliff down to beach and tide far below. She made her way up the finger of narrow land tucked between cliff faces. There was a small stone house build against the cliff. It was well hidden with thorny brush grown up over it. She had to admire how the garden was grown here, tucked in safely, carefully tended, and hard to spot. Every little plant had its place in the cliff wall. In an age past this had been beach but was now a hundred feet above the new beach and all but invisible from below or from above.
She stopped and knelt to a small tree that had been carefully planted here with much care given to provide it soil for its roots, and yet it struggled. She let her fingers brush it, offering it life and strength.
“What are you doing?” a rough voice demanded with anger and shortness. She looked over as the dwarf came rushing down from the cliffs and boulders behind his house. “Don’t touch that!”
He was in hides and furs, and carried a wicker pack on his shoulder. His hair was bound back from his face with a shocking white streak from his left temple. His left eye was as white as the band of hair as was his beard. It took her a moment to recognize him.
“Riven?” she asked, almost in shock. The golden priest was gone. This man was angry, in pain, and nothing like the man she had known. He slowed as he looked at her again.
“Tavia?” he asked, almost as if he was seeing a ghost. His anger drained away into pain and sadness. “What are you doing here?”
“I came to find you.”
He looked to where his little tree was hidden behind her long skirt. “I found it on the peak. The rats uproot them and eat them. I had to try and save it.”
“I would not hurt your tree, Riven. I meant only to offer her a bit of energy.”
He grunted and waved it off as if it didn’t matter. Tavia knew better. She could feel the care and attention Riven had been pouring into his little tree. He motioned her to follow and led the way to his small house.
Ducking inside, she found it plain. The largest thing was the bed on the side wall. There was a small cooking hearth on the other, a bookshelf loaded with bits of shells, bones, and stones. A small table had a collection of finer things. There were gems, crystals, and bits of gold, silver, and copper. He had two stools at the table, but one had a large black stone on it. She took the other chair and watched him bustle about to make tea and find a place for the big stone.
The puppies laid down by the hearth to dry off and rest.
“Why are you here?”
“The Barrier is starting to collapse,” she said. “You are needed to help bring it down.”
“Shannon is emperor then?” he asked, not looking back.
“And he is ready to kill Dave to open the gate?”
“No. Dave is not with us. I do not know what he plans.”
Riven grunted. He took out two little stone cups and the already hot water. He used a screen to filter the water though the tea mix he had ready. With a great deal of care he made the tea and offered the cup to her, as if seeking her approval. She took it and smiled at him. It was huge compliment to her.
She had thought none of them noticed how much work she put into her tea. She had poured part of her soul into every cup to keep them all healthy and moving. She sipped the tea that Riven had prepared. The taste was new to her, not sweet, but not bitter at all. She held it in her mouth, feeling the hint of power and energy to it. It was a wonderful calming tea. She savored it. The tea was it was rather remarkable to have been made by a man who clearly was in great pain both physically and spiritually.
“Wonderful,” she told Riven. “You will show me how to make it one day?”
He nodded with a curt nod and sat on his stool. “Dave is not with you?”
“No. He was left in Purt to hold Ulam Bac against the elven kings who are invading.”
“He is with Dave.”
Riven took a drink and held it in his mouth a very long time, helping himself to calm before he swallowed it. “Who is with you then?”
“Ivan, Theo, Kelly, Salma. Dave’s son, Zou, and those three,” she nodded to the puppies. “They have been changed into wolf puppies, but they are each a prince of Purt in their own right. One of them is my son Rajak, another is Oirion’s son Valen, the third is Shannon’s brother Keeden.”
Riven looked at the three a long moment, then back to Tavia. “We cannot hope to do this without Oirion.”
“I did not say who was to come or not. Theo has hinted that Oirion will join us later.”
Riven grunted. “I do not wish to…” he looked away, shielding his scarred face. “I am not who I was.”
“Nor am I,” she said. “We have all changed… grown, gained scars.”
“And Travis?” Riven asked, looking up to her. “He must be a man by now. Where is he?”
“Travis died,” she said sadly. “It was his choice; he did it to save Purt. He knew his actions and he did them as a man of great power.”
Riven almost started to cry at once. He covered his eyes, his hand trembling. Tavia reached out and touched the arm of her old friend.
“He was Armond, Riven.”
Riven drew in a gasping breath and nodded. “I suspected something as such.” He wiped his eyes and looked at her. “You had another son, though?” He looked to the puppies. “Might I ask who the father is? Not Oirion, I assume, as you name his son separately.”
She laughed softly. “No, not Oirion. I wasn’t aware that was even an option.”
Riven smiled so small a smile his beard nearly hid it. “He struggled very hard with his vows,” he said. “Perhaps it was more struggling with being alive than being in your company. I was certain he had let go of that vow before the end.”
“He did. He and Salma had a son, DaHane. He is with Dave in Purt.”
Riven lifted an eye brow at her, a bit impressed. For a moment he seemed almost his old self. “How very unexpected.” He took another sip of tea. “And the father of yours?”
Tavia took her own sip of tea and sat a long time listening to the fire crackling and thinking how nice it would be to live in such a place as this. She looked up slowly. “I have studied many thing and one of them was to find the Deal Gerome made. We cannot save him until we know what the conditions are. It demanded I get into some rather unpleasant places and I was taken captive by him. He had no idea who I was; I think he thought I was just another rebel spy… if that. Shannon didn’t approve of my being in his hands. He rather rashly and foolishly moved to rescue me and that was not part of the plans of heaven. It nearly destroyed him… and caused him, while caught in the madness of a vampire, to sire a son that he cannot even look at without pain. It also forced Travis to act out of time.”
Riven sat quiet a long time, his eyes looking away at nothing. “You do not hold anger?”
“No,” she said. “Not anger; if anything I gain only more respect for his self-mastery and how much he has done with such a curse binding his hands and denying him so much. And you, Riven? How do you end up back inside?”
“Gerome hunted me. The stories failed and I was forced to flee. My people are nothing but merchants and traders now with little dwarf left to them. My brothers bicker over the throne and would sooner have traded me for gold than risk a war with Gerome. I was forced to flee them as well and fate cast me back within the Barrier. It was years of being hunted before I was taken down.
“And then I understood why I was so hunted, why I could not seem to hide nor shake them. I understood then just how powerful Shannon was, what he was, who he was, far beyond the revelations of the day on the ship’s deck.”
“What happened, Riven?”
“Great demons and great gods often split themselves into different pieces. They set each part of themselves to a task and so even if the Core is destroyed, the master mind simply goes to another part of himself to become the master.” He got up and went to his bookshelf as he spoke. “In the bog I would have died. He saved my life and likely my soul. For whatever poison was there, it went deeper than the flesh… and deeper than the flesh he had to go to save me. I cannot imagine the pain he endured then to pull away, but on the deck of the ship it was a thousand times more. So desperate and broken was he that he could not pull free. He cut off part of himself so as to not destroy me.” He set a flat stone on the table. “That part remained, slowly building power and strength, and when I was attacked… brought to my knees before Gerome… he attacked.” Riven smoothed his hand over the stone and showed it was truly a stone box with a lid of power. Within it was a collection of black diamonds.
“Gerome shattered him, but I escaped. I spent years collecting every shard.” He lifted the largest single shard. He had made it into a pendant. “When I go out, I wear it. It keeps me safe, it hides me. There is great power in it.” He laid it back down in the box. “I had been enraged, burned, and could not forgive him for what he had done on the ship. It ate at me and haunted me until that day. When he stood before Gerome, there was my old friend prepared to be destroyed simply so I might escape… I didn’t know for certain if it was truly him, or just a Summons, but I have heard whispers of an emperor in Purt and that Shannon himself had not been destroyed, only a part of him.”
“Shannon is not what you remember. He has changed. Even in the last year he has changed. Armond removed Gerome’s bond and bound him to Oirion. That alone forced him into new patterns and energy.”
“Oirion is Shannon’s partner? And he is sane?” he looked up shocked.
Tavia shrugged. “I think he pretends to be. Much has changed for Oirion as well. The man you knew died… several times.”
Riven sipped his tea and considered it all. “Tell me of the boys…” he said with a glance back at the three sleeping puppies.
Tavia told him everything she knew of all he asked about. He listened long and carefully, asking many things from her private life to the politics of the world. He made them a meal and they ate as they spoke slowly, without any rush to it. It was pleasant to slow down and simply talk with an old friend.
It was late when he lit a candle. “Tavia,” he said softly, “I have known you are a queen since the mountains of the Ulam Ar. The powers there showed me no less. Your crown does not, however, come from Shannon. You were born a queen. He might not know the details, but he feels it. I think we all did, even then. I think Armond gave you the crown to hide your truth. Not even the word of Armond will bind Shannon. He is beyond such things. He might honor Armond, for he loved him, but he will no more feel you are his wife than he did then. Worse, he may feel that Travis did it to keep shame and the life of being hunted from his unborn brother.”
“Shannon may well be changed from his bond with Oirion, but he is still Shannon. He still reads the emotions of men like you might read the lines of a stone or I the leaves of a flower. He is still a vampire and still… Shannon. He keeps us about him in order to save the world, not for his own heart. His heart is dead. That thing that beats in his chest is the heart Travis once wore, the thing that was once a core is now a pit into the abyss. He is not a man, Riven.”
Riven touched her hand this time, mirroring the very gesture she had given to him.
“You’re wrong,” he said softly and got up. He opened the door and waited. He turned to make more tea. It wasn’t long before Theo ducked in through the door.
Outside thunder rolled and the storm energies shivered through the air. “Tavia…” Theo said, surprised she was there.
“Theo,” Riven grunted and set the third cup on the table.
“Very well, then. Drink the tea while I pack,” Riven said as he turned to pull out an old battered satchel and began to put all his things into it.
“How did you get here?” Theo asked.
“I walked, Theo,” she said with a little smile. Theo smiled faintly, then sipped the tea. He savored it a long moment and sighed.
“Masterfully made, Riven.”
Riven grunted and dropped his stone box into the satchel.
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