Chronicled by Dro'gan NiteFlier
Disclaimer: Some characters copyrighted by Naoko Takeuchi, Toei Animation, and Kodansha. I'm still not idiot enough to claim them. Some elements were taken from the game Lords of Magic, copyright Sierra Games and Impressions Studios.
I was born Lady Chrysanthemum Halara la Deindra, of House Deindra, in the village of Winged Haven, where my father had his summer residence. The priestess who blessed my birth also told my father that in no uncertain terms, that when I was of age I would come to the capitol to be trained in the ways of Laynwyllyn.
At least, that's what they told me.
My parents were good followers of the Faith, and as such, were overburdened with children. They could not keep track of all of us at any one time, so they concentrated on the best of their children. And, of course, the worst.
I was, by my own design, in the latter category.
You see, I craved attention then, but there was absolutely no way to compete with Ardan. He was too perfect, from his golden hair and pretty face to his long legs and tapered boots.
I hated him.
Truth to tell, I hated all of them, from my parents who expected everything from me, to my obnoxious siblings who never questioned the words of the priestesses and their parents, to Ardan, that too, too perfect bastard who could never see past his own accomplishments.
I did whatever I could to demolish their fragile, closed world.
Later in life, I came across a curious saying from a Wizard, "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" The logic problem applied very well to my early years. Was it they who mistreated me first? Or I who would not follow their calm directives? They tried to constrict me, and I tried to tear them apart.
The other children teased and played tricks on my, but even the older boys never tried to roughhouse with me. Not after I sent my eldest brother, Lordan, to the temple healers when I broke his leg. No one ever got into a fight with me again.
But other methods of oppression were in full effect, and the teasing and tricks never stopped until the day that they sent me to the Temple.
One could almost say that I was an orphan, all alone in the world, for my parents scorned my very existence, and my siblings ostracized me when they were not looking down upon me. Even my youngest sister, barely out of the crib, found my presence distasteful, and could not be comforted anytime I was near.
I took solace in animals where I could not find it in my own kind. One of our stable sauri took great liking to me, and the stablekeeper grudgingly allowed me to ride him around the paddock occasionally. But that bit of fun was taken away when I was seven springs old, for Ardan came into the stable one day and claimed Rhodan as his own. I was never able to ride him after that, but did remind the saurus quite frequently of a friend with carrots and other treats.
I still think he likes me better.
I never tried to run away, mostly for the part that in Winged Haven there were more than enough people to hunt me down before I got even ten leagues away, and in the capitol I was not streetwise enough to survive.
At the very least, I knew my limits.
But I did explore, and I learned how to live off the land from talking with travelers who passed through the village. For instance, in my seventh spring there was a party of fire dwarves come up from the south to parley with the miners near Haven for several types of rock and ore that were running out in their own land. They had such interesting things to teach me, and were probably the greatest store of knowledge of metal and smithing that one could ever find. They seemed especially enchanted with me and my golden locks. Their own hair and features were darkened by the fires that held sway in their land, and, as I found out later, their own people kept children especially close, so as to not lose a single one.
I think that is explanation enough of how my family decided to be rid of me.
But I can claim intelligence enough that I did not wander off into any occupied dens or warrens, although deserted ones aplenty did I explore. Too, I made friends with the travelers that came to Winged Haven, and learned more of Urak than was possible sitting indoors studying. Always I gave my name as "Chrys" to them, so that they might remember me. Too, some of these friends I would later help, and be helped in return.
But that was later. Much later. After…
In the spring of my tenth year, I was presented to the Temple at the Capitol, and taken in as a third order acolyte.
It was worse than home.
The first day I was there, I was stripped of my possessions and clothes and given three plain white robes and a belt of rope. I was placed with other new acolytes in a single room with a score of beds, and told that this was now my home. Some of the younger girls started crying in shock, but the priestess ignored them, and told us to clean up the room.
It was a shock to me, as well. Even though I was an outcast of my family, I was protected when necessary and had a room of my own and things that I could claim as mine. Here there was only one room for all of us, a single room for bathing, and one for other necessities. It was so unlike what I, or even anyone from my family, judging from the teasing and such, expected.
But I was made of sterner stuff than the others, and took command of our group. Directing everyone to place their spare robes in the wardrobe, I quickly scanned the other two rooms. The bathing room was tiled, with grates in the floor for runoff, but there were no tubs, only waterspouts and buckets. I tried the water, and found it cold, with no other handle in sight. The cleaning closet also held the heads, but I busied myself with the supplies, tallying up what we had.
Two minutes later I was passing brooms out to the older girls, and handing the younger ones rags and telling them to fill up buckets with water and soap and follow behind the sweepers and scrub. The mattresses of the beds had no sheets, but that was rectified a half mark later when several downtrodden girls a few years older than myself came to the door and set packages of them inside.
I was curious as to why the older girls were so… lifeless. They would not speak, but the only difference in their robes and mine was their rope belts were gray, and mine was still white as fresh snow.
It was an intriguing question, one that would keep me up nights for some time.
But damned be the day I found out.
We were set to jobs and tasks by our overseer, a priestess who had obviously not had to climb many stairs laden with burdens or run around cleaning and ordering things. I know, for she made us do it. Those of us who could write were luckier, finding ourselves tasked with copying down scrolls and books for the Temple, instead of forced to physical labor.
But it occurred from that, something that got me mad.
One of the youngest of us, Adel, had been tasked to ferry an item of fragility from our obese keeper to another priestess, yet despite its breakable nature it was quite heavy, too heavy for a child to keep steady. The direct result of this had Adel back in the priestess's study, with those of us copying things looking on.
The priestess berated Adel for a quarter of a mark, each insult to her self and her heritage, driving Adel's self-worth down visibly. I had gotten mad at this within the first minute, but when the bloated worm raised her hand to strike the child I found that I had reached the level of anger needed to deal with her.
The priestess looked in shock as the downward motion of her arm was arrested by my hand. I looked her straight in the eye and told her succinctly, "Don't. You made your point long ago. Don't strike her, or I will be forced to do something you would regret immensely."
I caught her other fist coming at my face in the palm of my hand, and squeezed it just enough to hear a light crackle from the bones. Suddenly, moving faster than I could credit her form and weight, she wiggled out of my grasp and ran out the hall.
I hugged Adel, and calmed her, telling her all the things that she needed to hear, and when she was no longer shaking, handed her off to Carrie, who I had been working with.
As expected, the priestess quickly came back, with others. I stood with my arms crossed, but did not even have time to react as one of the other priestesses raised her hand and said something I could not understand.
What I did understand was the bolt of light that flew from her palm at me, throwing me back against the bookshelves. I lapsed into darkness.
When I came to, I feigned unconsciousness for a time, listening to the priestesses chattering around me.
"She attacked me!"
"Oh, really, then you have some markings on you? Or perhaps she tapped you so lightly your own rolls soaked it up."
"Quiet! It doesn't matter. She stood up against a priestess, as we saw when we entered. You ought to be taken from your position, Halthre! You've allowed them the freedom to think, and look where it got you!"
"It's not my fault!"
"So sure, Heifer?"
"DON'T CALL ME THAT!"
"SILENCE!! Thank you. Wake her."
I felt a rough nudge in my side, and obediently opened my eyes, but kept the pretence of just awaking. I stood, and saw three other priestesses with the one that I knew. That was odd, because I had only heard three voices.
The obese woman I knew puffed up. "So what do you have to say for yourself, gutter trash?"
I straightened up as befitting of a lady of House Deindra and told her, "That if you attempt to strike another of those under my care, you will get ten times worse to yourself! And I am not 'trash', and any of my siblings would be willing to take you to task for that!" That last was a calculated bluff, for none of my family would go out of their way for me. The House, yes, but me, not a chance.
The tall silver-haired Priestess snorted. "Who do you think you are girl? A daughter of one of the Great Houses?"
"Yes." I looked her straight in the eye. "I am Chrysanthemum Halara la Deindra."
Three of the Priestess immediately broke out into yelling at each other and me, but the oldest of them looked sharply at me, and said quietly, "Silence."
The other three became immediately still, and I realized that this was the one who had not spoken before. She rose unsteadily from her seat, and came to me. I looked up into her eyes and realized that this woman was nearing her death.
"How did one of House Deindra get mixed up with the third ranks? Especially with…" She frowned, and turned to the others. "Put her back where she was. She has seen too much, and is of a temperament to unbreakable to become one of us. Sister Halthre, you are relieved of your duties. I shall personally find another to take your place."
The obese priestess gaped like a landed fish and looked like she was going to argue, but I was escorted back the area of the Temple I knew well.
Another priestess was assigned to us, a bit more standoffish than the last, and we gained a bit more freedom. I think it was because of me, and that they did not want to anger House Deindra, even though I had no way of communicating with my family.
The woman let me be, and I organized the group as I wished. We kept the same jobs, but I spread them differently. For a time, the younger ones were rotated in to the study to learn how to read and write, and learned quickly, for we were not given extra paper to teach them with. The older ones took up more of the manual labor, until the spread was equal in age as I could make it. After that, there were regular shifts in tasks.
I gained two lieutenants from the girls; one was Carrie, who kept watch in the study, and the other was Shara, who watched over the girls engaged in more physical activities.
I learned from them what I had not realized before: All of them but me were born commoners, the "street trash" that Halthre had misnamed me. But I cared not for that little distinction of birth, and treated them all as my sisters. They were, in a sense, for among them I found the sense of belonging that was lacking with my birth family.
I spent my spare time in the study, copying down documents for the future. Most of the girls didn't care to remember the words they wrote down, but I found several interesting books that caught my attention.
In them were diaries and histories, but, as one wandering Amazon told me, if you know the past, you can be better at predicting the future. I learned much from those.
But I learned even more from the scrolls on the power of the priestesses.
Magic in the land was well-controlled, and only available to one set of people: the Priestesses of Laynwyllyn. I managed to memorize the basics of magic before the priestess took the scrolls back for the day, and I unfortunately never got my hands on them again.
I did attempt to follow the scrolls instructions, but all I was able to do was to center myself, and feel my own talent inside of me. Later, from other scrolls, I learned to "see" magic, but it was a sight that scared me some, for everything around us had magic seeping through it. I also found that I could distinguish those of my kind from those of others, but that, again, was later.
Other things, learned at other times:
We were not true acolytes, but mere servants, for the real acolytes started at second rank, and were all highborn. I didn't really care, then, for I did not know what else we were used for.
Adel grew close to my heart, and spent near as much time by my side as my lieutenants did. I could not bear to see her eyes when we had to be separated for any reason.
The kitchen that fed us we labored in as well, and it was events there that let to great changes in me, both to despair, and from it.
But that day, I was taken to the lowest I have ever reached.
We had just finished cleaning the dishes from luncheon, when I saw a sight that did not do my mood good. The obese priestess that had tried to hurt Adel — Halthre — stood in the doorway with a sneer on her face, and waved for me to follow her. I did so, but gave a look to one of the other girls. She nodded, and I knew that my lieutenants would hear of what happened.
I paced behind the waddling form for some time, leaving the areas I knew well, and passing through places I had only come once or twice. Going even farther than that, and coming to a room that I had never before laid eyes on.
Within that circular room was an arch made of gold, and in holders all around, carefully carved Crystal. The precious substance glittered in the light coming from the candles placed behind them. There was a ring inscribed upon the floor, and it was here that I was placed, standing facing the arch. Halthre gave me a cold smile, and I realized that she was of the opinion that she was getting her revenge.
That scared me to the bone.
But she left, and another priestess came to stand near the arch, but outside the circle that I was in. She began to chant in a sing song voice, and the light of the candles danced as reflected in the Crystals.
The arch began to glow fitfully, then the light grew stronger, until the light from the candles was overwhelmed by it. I felt something tugging at me, and I saw the weave of spells surrounding the Crystals, the arch, and me. A strange force, reached out from the arch, seeking, searching. The circle I was in led the power to me, and I felt something prodding me, as if it were searching for some power that I held.
And it found it.
The power grasped me almost physically, and the glow of the arch was blinding. Then… then…
It took from me.
It took from me that special spark, that private piece, that part of me that was mine alone to give…
Yet it took it from me without me giving it.
From the arch stepped a unicorn, and the Priestess laid her hands on its neck, and led it away, taking the power from the room.
It did not even glance at me, whom had it had taken innocence from.
I don't remember much of the rest of that day.
I think I heard Carrie and Shara put me in my bed, and were worrying about me. Especially since, they said, I now had a grey belt, instead of white.
Impure. Sullied. A thing to be scorned.
My mind, my emotions, my self… were broken.
After that, I no longer led, instead Carrie and Shara took over, and tried to cope with the zombie that I had become.
I did the tasks that were ordered, but I had no life, and showed nothing.
Adel practically glued herself to my side that first night, and never let go.
Halthre once again took over, and took sheer pleasure in personally giving me impossible tasks, then berating me when I could not complete them.
But she never hit me. And she never even looked at Adel.
Two months after my innocence was taken, and I was broken, Shara was taken away midday.
She came back with a grey rope belt, and lifeless eyes.
Carrie nearly broke herself with tears, between trying to hold our family together, and fearing what would happen when they took her.
Adel began sleeping in the same bed as I, not merely in the next one over.
I said that it was here that I stepped on the path to despair, and here that I was drawn out of it.
Shara, Adel, and I, plus a few others were once again cleaning dishes. But Shara got her hands on something we weren't allowed to touch.
Surely, we had knives for eating, but they were dulled, and could barely cut butter. This was a sharp, deadly one.
I saw in her eyes what she planned, no, needed to do, and something in me said that it was too late for anything but forgiveness.
And that is what I said.
Shara nodded, and shoved the blade into her chest.
She was dead before she hit the floor.
Some of the others followed, dead faints taking over from the shock.
Our Faith was that of Life, you see. Unnatural death was anathema.
I merely stood there, watching the blood spread on the stone floor, as Adel hid her face in my chest and cried as I held her.
Priestesses came and shooed us away. I did not see what they did with her body.
We returned to our room, and the girls immediately ran to their fellows and bawled out what had happened.
Carrie was stricken, and could not act.
Adel had stopped crying, but I her fear was quite plain.
"'Tears are needed, but cry not rivers for the parted.'"
The others slowly stopped crying and looked to me. I remembered that quote out of one of the diaries. A general, I think he was.
I looked at Carrie, whose eyes were wondrous. No doubt because I had not said a word since I came back with a grey rope.
"Calm. Calm is needed now. And thought. Planning," I said. "We need to leave. Get out of here." My mind was coming together again, the bits and pieces organizing into coherent thought. "A plan to get away before another one is taken to that place. Carrie." The girl looked at me with hope in her eyes. "Tonight. Gather everyone up and get them to meet tonight. In the cleaning closet. We will make plans then."
The others looked to each other and saw hope through the sadness.
We gathered that night, and ideas were discussed. I had my own, but I knew that the others had to express theirs, and faults exposed before they would accept mine.
I'm not sure if I was still numb to some things, or if I was being overprotective.
They did not like my plan, but could find no real fault in it, and indeed, it was most likely to be the best chance at them getting away uncaptured.
But not me.
Halthre called me into the study the next day before the others had gotten there to begin scribing documents as she had done since she came back. I acted as lifeless as I had been.
She was arrogant and got up into my face, her beady eyes reflecting her joy at her revenge.
"So your friend is dead! Too bad, I won't have another willing servant. You both could have helped me with your soulless bodies. What do you think of that!"
She turned away, not expecting an answer. "I think that you've gone too far."
She spun around, disbelief in her eyes, but I had already caught her neck in my hands. "No more, Halthre. Not in this Life, at least." With a twist, and a crack, she was slipping to the floor, dead.
I returned to the others, and quickly grabbed the makeshift pack that Adel had prepared. They looked at me with concern, for they knew what I must have done.
I turned to Carrie, "Remember, south to the Lands of Fire. And 'Chrys'. It is faint hope, but it is better than anything else."
Carrie gave a wavering smile, and hugged me quickly. "May some God or Goddess of Good smile upon you, even if Laynwyllyn does not."
My smile wavered as well, and I reached down and give Adel a tight hug. "Take care of yourself, and your sisters." I whispered to her.
She had tears in her eyes when she replied, "If I go to the Meadows Beyond before you, I shall wait patiently for your arrival." She knew, as did I, that it was more like to be me waiting.
I left them, stopping by the study for only a moment to take several of the scrolls.
They sent all they could spare after me. I knew it, for I had been running for nearly four days, and had not seen any animal larger than a hare. They knew that a force was coming.
Hopefully it would be enough to let my sisters escape to the Lands of Fire.
Hopefully before I was run down like the hart that I am.
To be continued.
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