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Topics - Liayna

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1
Arctra / A Strange Request
« on: March 02, 2017, 09:30:29 AM »
In all the bustle of court life as it settled into place after the True Queen regained her throne, there was one small family who were still unsettled for now. Though Conall and Liayna were a part of Clan Tarven, who had returned to the lands around Phalion to resume their nomadic existence, they had chosen to stay in Loscar a while longer, to see their friends settle into these new lives. Yet it was not only for that reason they had stayed.

By the time life in the capital had grown peaceful once more, Liayna had been too heavy with child for them to consider the month-long journey to the north, and so their daughter - the unexpected blessing that had come on them in the midst of war - was born in a small grove outside the city of Loscar, watched over by an honor guard from the clan of the Doma who had born both Liayna and Rory, delivered by the Goddess-born Kari, her great-grandmother. Vespera, they had named her, for the stars that shone on them without the moon to dim their light on the night she had finally been born; a name in the old tongue the Wild Ones still used among themselves.

The weeks that followed were devoted to Liayna's recovery, and to learning how to be parents to the little life that now depended upon them; to sharing their joy with the friends who visited them whenever they could. It was a new beginning, and one they seemed ready to embrace.

For a man who had once been a blacksmith and then a soldier, second in command to the leader of the rebellion, Conall Riordan seemed oddly content with his new life as a husband and father and clan member. If he'd known he was half Wild One, his life might have been different, but he had no complaints. How could he complain when he at last had the life he'd always dreamed of, and that included a loving wife and a healthy daughter?

Soon, they would pack up and head north, to rejoin Kari and Clan Tarven and find their place among their clansmen in this strange time of peace. But for now, this time was their own, to share or to protect, whichever they chose to do. The summer was just around the corner, bringing with it warm sunshine and fragrant winds, and the calling to the wilds that lived in their blood.

Liayna sat on a high, smooth boulder near their campsite, her bow at her side, and their daughter nestled comfortably against her as she suckled, breathing in the clean air of the summer to come with a contented smile on her face, heedless of the curious glances that came her way from the main road in and out of Loscar. She might have been visible to the Arctrans passing by, but they couldn't reach her. Not without Conall removing their spines for their rudeness in trying, anyway.

There was nothing more beautiful to Conall's eyes than the sight of his wife nursing their daughter, but every time one of the Arctrans glanced over, whether out of curiosity or interest or disgust, they turned quickly away due to the look of warning on the big man's face. "Why are we here, Liayna?" he asked, his voice betraying his impatience.

She chuckled softly, unmoved by the curiosity in the eyes of those who looked toward them. "Because there is company coming, eniro," she told him fondly. "It would be rude to force them to hunt us out when we can just as easily be visible to their eyes as they approach. We are in no danger."

"It's not danger that troubles me," the man replied, with a pointed glare toward those who were glancing their way. He almost growled with displeasure and bared his teeth, like a bear protecting his cubs. It did the trick though as the onlookers hurried away with some mumbled remark about "heathens".

"And if we hide from the eyes of those who have heard only stories of our brutality, then we do ourselves more harm," she pointed out to him with a smile. "Look at them, eniro. They are curious because it is obvious that we are not like them. Because they have heard stories about the savages in the wilds, who attack without warning and eat the flesh of their enemies, who use magic of blood and bone and necromancy, and who cannot possibly be anything like them. And what do they see when they look on us? A family, very like their own. Not so frightening, after all."

"Perhaps," Conall admitted grudgingly, his expression softening a fraction, though he was not going to let anyone get close to his wife and daughter without his say so. He'd lived most of his life among Arctrans and was half-Arctran himself, but ever since learning that he was also half-Clan Tarven, he had become even more protective of his wife and her people, as they were also his own. "What do you want me to do?" he asked, unsure what she expected of him.

Liayna laughed softly, lifting one hand from their daughter to touch his cheek with a fond look in her eyes. "Talk to me," she told him. "I know there is company coming, but I don't know when they will arrive, or even who it will be. Rory would know, but he's in that appalling cesspit they call a city."

"I don't know, either," Conall admitted with a scowl. He'd assumed his wife knew why they'd been sent to wait here, but it seemed he'd been wrong. If there was one thing that annoyed him, it was subterfuge. Now that Arctra was at peace - even if that peace was a tenuous one - he was hoping to join the clan and learn what it meant to be one of them, but he could not completely turn his back on the people who'd become his friends.

Liayna would never ask him to do that, either. She, too, had become fond of those few in the city she was privileged to call friend - of Liam and Shaye, of Ariana and Rory. Their friendship was something she would not willingly give up. She could foresee many visits to this stinking city just to see them in the years to come. "Why are you so on edge, eniro?" she asked him curiously, gently raising Vespera to her shoulder. The little head bobbed around until clear green eyes stared, unfocused, at her father as her back was rubbed.

"I don't know," he repeated, furrowing his brows. He was on edge - that much was certain - but he wasn't quite sure why, other than the fact that he wasn't a very patient man and wasn't overly fond of waiting for something, especially when he wasn't too sure what the something was that he was waiting for. "Something just doesn't feel right to me," he replied, though it was hard to say. He had always had gut feelings about things, but without any training in how to interpret those feelings, he'd always had a hard time understanding them.

Liayna's smile was a little crooked as she looked over their daughter's head in his direction. "How does it feel?" she asked. Some instincts they shared, she knew, but she had a lifetime of understanding them. He had only been aware of his connection to the Wild Ones for a little under a year, only just beginning to explore what that meant for him.

He didn't want to repeat himself a third time, but he wasn't really sure. He hadn't had much practice in interpreting those gut feelings, but there was only one way to learn and that was to try. "It feels ..." He trailed off, dark brows furrowing as he considered her question. "It's something to do with the First Blade. With De Winter, I mean." Though not close friends, Liam had spoken highly of the man, and Conall trusted Liam's word implicitly.

"Does it feel troubling, or more that you're waiting for something to happen?" she questioned him further. There was a purpose to her questions; he needed to be able to interpret those feelings if he was ever going to be able to fully embrace what it meant to be touched by the Goddess.

2
Arctra / Velir
« on: June 02, 2015, 12:08:37 PM »
Two days after the delights of the Goddess Moon, the True Queen's army was on the march again. This time, they were setting their lines, intending to establish their place on what would be the field of battle - far enough away from Velasca to ensure a peaceful night or two before battle was joined. Ariana marched with them, on foot, safer lost in the crowd of soldiers and rebels than she would ever have been on horseback. And despite strenuous objections, Liayna was on foot, too, weaving her way between the Arctrans who surrounded their queen to fall into step beside Rory. She bit her lip at the slight air of amazement both Ariana and Rory were wearing at present, careful not to laugh at the young lovers. She could remember that feeling herself. Her hand reached out to touch Rory's sleeve, drawing his attention to herself. "Walk with me?"

As might be expected, Rory marched at Ariana's side, hand in hand like the young lovers they were, reluctant to leave her side for even a moment. He was unaware of the air of amazement that surrounded them both, a little lost in thought and even somewhat distracted by the spell that love seemed to have cast over the young lovers. With any luck, he had a few days yet to compose himself before they engaged the enemy; for Ariana's sake, as well as his own, he could not afford to be lazy or distracted, not even by love. Startled by Liayna's sudden appearance at his side, he turned his gaze on her, blinking out of his reverie. "Is this going to be a lecture?" he asked with a frown, knowing he had to focus, even more so now that Ariana was likely with child. He was not only her Consort, after all; he had made himself personally responsible for her safety and well-being.

Equally startled, Ariana blushed as she felt Rory's attention turn to the wild woman now walking with them, a little less intimidated by all things female now that she had embraced that part of herself. She met Liayna's eyes, inclining her head as the wild woman nodded to her.

Liayna's green eyes turned to Rory, her smile making itself known. "No, veran," she promised him. "I have ... news to share. News that belongs to you, that I am uncertain you will be glad to know. But I am persuaded to tell you, for your own sake."

Veran, he thought. Why was she calling him that? The look on his face betrayed his puzzlement. What news could she possibly have for him that he did not not know already? He made no move to leave Ariana's side, only tightening his grip on her hand. "Walk with us, then," he replied, inviting her to walk along with them and share whatever news she had in witness of Ariana, as well. If she wanted to pull him out of line and speak with him privately, she was going to have to say so.

For the first time since they had met her, Rory and Ariana saw Liayna na'Kari hesitate, her head turning to seek out Conall on his horse, not so very far away from them. She didn't know what to say, how to separate the lovers without causing offense, but knew that Rory should hear what she had to tell him without an audience, if it were possible.

Rory's gaze followed Liayna's to find Conall not far away, watching them atop his horse. He seemed to offer a slight nod of his head, as if to assure them both it was all right. Rory exchanged a curious glance with Ariana, getting the feeling that whatever Liayna had to say to him was for his ears alone. He couldn't imagine what it might be, though it seemed important enough, at least to her, but before he could reply, Conall was carefully making his way through the ranks of Arctrans, towering above them all from his perch on his warhorse.

"I will keep watch over Ariana while you two talk. You have my word no harm will come to her while you are gone."

Rory nodded, still frowning, his stomach in knots as he wondered what it was Liayna needed to tell him. "All right," he replied, turning to Ariana at his side. "I won't be long. Promise," he told her gently, touching a kiss to her hand before letting go.

Whatever objection came into Ariana's mind was silenced by the solemn relief on Liayna's face. It seemed that the wild woman had words to share with Rory, words that couldn't be held back any longer. The young queen knew a little of secrets, understanding that when the time came to share them, they had to be spoken. She smiled as Rory kissed her hand, her thumb gently stroking his cheek. "I'll be perfectly safe," she promised him quietly. "I'll ride with Conall until you come back." Almost before the words came out of her mouth, a call went up from a man walking near her to bring the queen's horse, making her laugh warmly with those around them. "See?" Her hand stroked Rory's cheek affectionately. "Go with her. I'll see you soon."

Rory wondered for a moment if he was needed at all. It seemed there were plenty of people ready and willing to step in and see to her protection and care, but there were none whom she loved the way she loved him. With that thought in mind, he touched a kiss to her lips, in full view of anyone who might be watching. He was the Royal Consort, after all, and they might as well know that he loved her. That done, he turned back to Liayna. "Lead on," he told her, curiosity warring with his need to remain with Ariana, trusting Conall and the others to keep her safe while he was gone.

Liayna nodded to him, gently drawing him through the ranks to walk with her on the edge of the mass of bodies, through the unbroken snow that lined their road. Far enough that no one would hear them, close enough to disappear into those ranks if trouble came near. "You love her very much, don't you?"

He followed along behind her through the ranks of Arctrans and Wild Ones massed together on their way to fight a common enemy. He said nothing while they walked, until they reached a place where they could follow and still speak without anyone eavesdropping. Her question surprised me, and he immediately thought this conversation was going to revolve around himself and Ariana, wondering what it was he'd done wrong now. "Yes," he replied without hesitation. "I loved her as a brother once, but not anymore. Is this about Ariana?" he asked, unable to hide the worry from his face and his voice.

Liayna smiled gently at his concern. "No, veran," she promised him in a low tone. "It is about you, and about me, and about something I should have told you a few weeks ago, when I first made certain of it." She sighed softly, not knowing quite how to begin. "Did your father ever tell you about your mother?"

He might have relaxed once he knew this conversation wasn't going to be about Ariana, but then she mentioned his father and he found himself tensing again. "What does this have to do with my parents?" he asked, curiously and perhaps just a little defensively. Discussing his parents only served to remind him how alone he was in the world. Except for Ariana, he had no family and few friends, though a few had tried to befriend him. "My father is dead and my mother ..." He broke off, jaw clenching, unsure whether he should hate a woman he had never met.

Liayna winced a little, but she knew there was no other way to begin this conversation. "Your mother is here, veran," she told him gently. "She is a Doma among the clans, and she is very proud of the man you have become."

The expression of hardened acceptance faded, replaced with that look of confusion again. He looked very young in that moment, more boy than man, though he was quickly growing into the other. "What do you mean, she's here?" He felt dizzy suddenly, light-headed, as if the world was spinning. How could she be here after all these years? How could she know it was him?

3
Arctra / Origin
« on: May 12, 2014, 01:34:29 PM »
"I am going to say this again," Liayna sighed quietly as they rode toward the towering walls of Phalion. "This is not the most dignified way to travel." She had been complaining on and off for a few days now, since she and Conall had left the Sword in the hands of Liam and been sent on ahead to keep a close watch on what was happening inside Phalion's walls. Clinging to Conall's back, Liayna was certain she was going to slide right off the back of the horse, awkward and uncomfortable, and not at all worried about making sure he knew about it.

Conall laughed, a little amused at his lover's worries, not because he thought she was being silly but because she really had nothing to fear so long as she was with him. "You are the only woman I've ever met who didn't jump at the chance to ride with me." It wasn't a boast or a threat, but it was no big secret that he enjoyed teasing her. Now that the Sword was in Liam's hands and they had been given a task, he was feeling a little more relaxed and a little less anxious, and it showed. He was as at ease on horseback as Liayna was on foot, and that showed, too, as the horse was sure and obedient beneath them. She really had nothing to worry about as far as that was concerned.

"I prefer my riding not involve a horse," she informed her lover, lips brushing his ear as they approached the great gates. "Take the road west and north, eniro," she told him quietly. "Kari is waiting for us."

He suppressed the shudder that threatened at the soft touch of her lips against his ear, stirring desires that would have to wait until later. "You can ride me all you like later, aera," he reminded her, turning the horse toward the west road, away from the southern gate, remaining silent at the mention of Kari, wondering what - if anything - she would see in him of the Wild Ones. Was he really of nomad blood, and if so, what had happened to his parents?

"Promises, promises," she laughed huskily against his ear, feeling the tension spreading through him. He had heard a great deal about her grandmother, about the power the old woman held at her fingertips. It was only natural that he might be a little wary of actually meeting the woman. "Be easy, eniro," Liayna tried to reassure him. "She is no Skarran witch."

"I know," he admitted, the horse obeying his master and turning onto the western road. "I'm just not sure what she's going to think of me," he admitted, though it went a lot deeper than that. He had no idea of his own origins. Having been orphaned at a young age, he barely remembered his parents, only fleeting images of them remaining in his dreams. "You seem so sure that I am Goddess-born, but if that's the truth, what happened to my parents?"

"You must remember, eniro, that Goddess-touched is not Goddess-born," she tried to explain. "Kari is Goddess-born. You are Goddess-touched. Your mother, or your grandmother, was one of us. She might have left the Clan to make a life with her man, and her children would have been Goddess-touched, still holding that link to us before the dilution of blood erased it. As to what happened to them? Phalion was in flames sixteen years ago, under attack ten years before that by Skarran mercenaries. Anything could have happened. Be patient, and perhaps Kari will be able to tell you the truth."

"I'm not sure it even matters, aera," he admitted a little sadly. Finding out who his parents were wasn't going to bring them back, after all. Maybe they had loved him, but they were gone now, and he was left with the life that he'd made for himself, rising up from poverty to become the second only to Liam in command of the rebel forces. His life had not been an easy one, but he had somehow managed to rise above his meager beginnings. He was happy with his place in the world, though his past was a mystery that had never been solved and one he was a little afraid of. "We're here to keep an eye on things in the city, not chase ghosts."

"It matters to you, eniro," she pointed out softly, peering over his shoulder at the road ahead. A faint grin touched her face. "We should go on foot from here. We need to leave the road. Kari won't show herself openly where anyone from the city could see her."

He made no reply but turned the horse off the road, pulling him to a halt with an easy tug on the reins. He climbed down from the horse with the fluidity of movement that came from being well-accustomed to riding, and reached up to help her down from the saddle.

Liayna was nowhere near as graceful when it came to getting her down from the horse. And when she landed, it was with a groan of relief and aching pain, forcing herself to stand upright and stretch out her abused muscles. She grimaced comically up at Conall. "I prefer our sort of riding, eniro," she informed him, gently patting the horse's neck. "It does not make me feel as though I have been placed in a press for days."

"We will have plenty of time to ride when this is all over, aera," he replied with a smile, noting how she gave the horse a gentle pat and was rewarded with a soft nicker, as if to acknowledge her affection or even return it. He was a huge beast, a stallion bred for battle, but even so, he could be as gentle as a lamb with the right people.

She smiled, groaning softly as she rolled her shoulders once again. "It is truly a most uncomfortable way to travel," she added one last complaint, and flashed him her brilliant smile once more. "But I will cease talking about it." Gently nudging his arm with her own, she nodded toward a concealed game trail that led from the road and into the woods. "This way, eniro."

He knew Phalion and the surrounding area like the back of his hand, so it came as no big surprise to be nudged toward the trail that led into the woods. He had taken that very same trail himself a few times when he'd gone in search of food. He'd taught himself how to use a bow, how to hunt, relying on some innate knowledge and skill he was only starting to understand as having come from a bloodline he'd known nothing about. He led the horse off the road to follow behind them, remembering his youth. "I used to come here to hunt," he explained quietly, a little lost in thought.

"No one has used this trail in sixteen years," Liayna told him confidently as they stepped off the road and into the greenery. "There is something that clouds it, in the minds of Arctrans. That you can see it is more proof that you are Goddess-touched, eniro." As they walked along, it became clear that though no people had been this way in a long time, the animals had proliferated in this area, gathering themselves around a small clearing Conall no doubt recalled from his childhood.

4
Arctra / Thieves In The Night
« on: May 11, 2014, 09:47:31 AM »
The sprawling mass of carts, horses, and foot soldiers that made up the royal train stretched out around the small town of Canarfon, roughly halfway between Loscar and Phalion. Two weeks had passed since Velasca and her retinue had taken their leave of Adare and his people, and as yet, the Usurper Queen was unaware that, with her departure from the north, wheels had been set in motion. No sooner had she left the citadel, than the rebels in the mountains to the west had begun their march, turning their eyes to Phalion and the young prince therein, determined to reach him before the day of the hidden sun, and the promised revelation before them. At the same time, two rebels had cut away on their own, traveling faster than either of the two sprawling, crawling masses of men and women, inexorably catching up to Velasca the day before she and her train made camp for the night in Canarfon.

They crouched now in the cover of the trees and brush several hundred yards from the first edge of that wide camp, watching the to and fro of soldiers and servants, waiting for the night to come and give them opportunity for what they intended. Liayna sighed softly, laying her hand gently against Conall's shoulder. "We can do nothing until the sunlight is truly gone, eniro," she reminded him gently. "Come back to our own camp, rest a while."

Conall quietly studied the Queen's entourage as they made camp for the night, looking for weaknesses, vulnerabilities in the security they had set in place. Stealing the Sword of Arctra and swapping it with a fake wouldn't be easy. Their plan had to be perfect; they could not afford any mistakes. Conall caught sight of the Usurper Queen as she moved about the camp, doling out orders, no doubt, and he grit his teeth. There was no one in all the world he hated more than Velasca. "We should just kill her now while we have the chance," he whispered back, though he knew that was not part of the plan.

"If we kill her now, we die, and the Sword goes to her daughter," Liayna said softly, her lips close by his ear to minimize the risk of her words being caught by the slight breeze. "That is not the plan here, Conall. If you do not feel you can keep your anger under control tonight, then perhaps I should enter the village alone."

"I said should," he whispered back, putting an emphasis on the key word. It galled him to get this close and not be able to finish the job, but he knew Liayna was right. The rebel's plans depended on their success, as did Shaye's freedom. As much as it galled him, he would stick with the plan. "You're not going alone. I'll be fine," he told her, taking a last glance at Velasca and the soldiers that surrounded her before turning to quietly make their way back to their own encampment, not far away.

Liayna took her own last look before creeping away with him, ducking through the undergrowth to where they had left his horse and their few belongings. "It will not be easy," she sighed, thumping down onto her backside. "There are no women bearing arms in Velasca's ranks. I'll have to leave my bow behind and hope no one sees my knife."

Or try to look like a man, Conall thought, but that would be next to impossible for someone as pretty as Liayna. If it were cooler, she might be able to get away with wearing a cloak, but the weather had been warm, and a cloak would stand out like a sore thumb - even more so than a strange woman in camp. "I can carry your bow for you, in case we run into trouble." Though he was hoping they wouldn't. If all went well, it should be a quick in and out.

She smiled, shaking her head. "I can fight as well without it," she assured him. "Remember, you will be bearing an extra sword. I do not want you hindered, eniro. I do not want you hurt." The tenderness in her dark eyes was achingly intimate as she held his gaze, truly pained at the thought of harm coming to him.

"I don't want you hurt either, aera," he echoed her words, calloused fingers touching her cheek with surprising gentleness, that tenderness mirrored in his own eyes. He'd rather she didn't have to be part of this, but he also knew he couldn't do it alone. "She's not going to let it out of her sight," he continued with a worried frown. "We're going to have to wait until she's asleep."

Her cheek turned into his touch with a soft smile to light up her face as she edged a little closer to him. "After sixteen years, she will be complacent," she murmured thoughtfully. "I would be willing to bet that she keeps the Sword with her armor, and her armor will not be where she is sleeping. It will be in one of the luggage carts. We may not have to enter the village proper at all."

"Do you really think she'd be that foolish?" he asked, arching a brow, but he already knew she was right. If Velasca was anything, it was arrogant. She wouldn't be expecting the sword to be stolen from right under her nose, and that was exactly what they were counting on. A smile appeared on his face, tinged with hatred and just a little arrogance of his own. "I'd like to see the look on her face when she realizes she's got the wrong sword." But then, he'd made such a convincing copy that, with any luck, Velasca wouldn't notice it at all, until it was too late.

Pride lit up Liayna's expression in answer, warmth and solidarity in one grin as she nudged his shoulder with her own. "You might just get to see that," she told him cheerfully. "She won't know until she comes face to face with Shaye and is disobeyed."

He grunted softly at her remark. "I want to be the one to finish her," he admitted, not for the first or most likely, the last time, though he knew he might have to get in line behind Liam and Shaye for that. "So, what do we do now?" he asked, feeling more than a little anxious to get on with the plan.

"The only thing we can do, eniro," the nomad woman told him gently, her expression at once apologetic and amused. "We wait."

Thankfully, he wasn't as stubborn or obtuse as Liam and wasn't afraid to take orders from a woman. "Have I ever told you how annoyingly practical you are, aera?" he asked, with a teasing smirk on his face despite his nerves. He leaned close and brushed a soft kiss against her lips, refusing to believe things might go wrong. "You should get some rest, while I keep watch."

5
Arctra / A First Flicker of Hope
« on: April 26, 2014, 05:35:50 AM »
The last leg of the journey had been oddly subdued. The Arctrans were blissfully unaware of the reason, and though Conall could be absolutely sure that Liayna had not shared the events of their red dawn, the nomads seemed to know without needing to be told. On top of which, they were heading deeper into the mountains, to a place where the Wild Ones knew they would be utterly surrounded by Arctrans, not all of whom would be as accepting as the friends they had made on the march. Thus, as Conall's company grew more relaxed, Liayna's people grew more tense, until finally they entered the rebel encampment itself in silence, walking together in the midst of their Arctran friends. It took several minutes for Liayna to convince her people to go with their companions and find a place where they could set up a more permanent camp for themselves - they did not want to leave her with only Conall at her side when she entered the tent of the rebel war leader.

As it happened, the rebel leader was expecting them, killing time by going over maps and reports and planning strategy. He had grown even taller and broader over the years, with blond hair that reached past his shoulders and a slightly darker blond beard. He was nearly a match for Conall's height, just an inch or so shorter than his second in command.

There was a slight altercation at the entrance to the main tent. The guards there seemed to think that Liayna was going to voluntarily give up her weapons to them, just because she was a nomad. She was quick to disabuse them of that impression, though with Conall there, she didn't actually commit any bodily harm to do so. Tempting, though it had been. It was Conall who convinced the guards to allow her to enter the rebel leader's tent bearing her weapons, just as he was. He assured them there was no threat and that he would take full responsibility for her.

Admitted, finally, into the presence of Liam O'Connor, rebel leader and loyal to the line of Arlan, Liayna came to a halt at Conall's side, eying the other man thoughtfully for a long moment before she spoke. "The stupidity of your guards should be addressed, Liam O'Connor."

"My guards get a little carried away when it comes to my safety," the tall blond warrior replied, as he moved to his feet to greet the two of them. "Well met, Liayna na'Kari. Your reputation precedes you." He did not bother to introduce himself, as she had already named him. "Welcome home, brother. You have been missed," he told Conall, moving forward to give him a brief brotherly embrace.

"I was not aware I had a reputation," she mused, watching as the two men greeted one another. The affection they shared was obvious, bringing a faintly relieved smile to her face. It seemed that Arctrans were as capable of forming those tight bonds as her own people were. It boded well for the future. Cocking her head for a moment, she considered whether or not the guards were listening, and lowered her voice accordingly. "I come to you with blood on my hands, Liam O'Connor. I have broken the alliance. Should you choose to kill me for my crime, the Goddess-sworn of Clan Tarven will not stop you."

Liam glanced briefly to Conall at the woman's confession, but before he could say a word, the other man was quick to interject, "Reena was the one who broke the alliance. She has not been well since..." He broke off, as if reluctant to explain further. "I should have sent her back as soon as I knew she'd tagged along. I take full responsibility for her death. Liayna is not at fault."

Liam sighed, a thoughtful frown on his face. "What did she do? Did she attack you?" he asked them both. He was well aware of Reena's state of mind, though he had been hoping she would not be a problem.

Liayna's eyes strayed to Conall with a frown as he tried to take responsibility for a death she had meted out. "There was hostility between us," she told Liam firmly. "Two days ago, she came upon us while we slept, armed. I did not think, I simply reacted. I slit her throat."

"That is not quite true," Conall interjected as he glanced to Liayna. "She tried to kill you, and she would have kept trying." He turned back to appeal to Liam's sense of honor and justice. "She was defending herself and me. Reena had a knife, and if I hadn't gotten in the way, she would have killed Liayna."

Liam glanced between the two again. "So it was self-defense then."

Liayna raised a brow, torn between feeling insulted at Conall's implication that she and Reena had been evenly-matched, and feeling grateful that he was trying so hard to make her seem justified. "I do not know the Arctran definition of self-defense," she conceded mildly. "Among my own people, it would not be called that, because I am Goddess-sworn."

It wasn't a matter of being evenly-matched. It was a matter of Reena's questionable state of mind and determination to get rid of the woman she considered to be her rival. "What would it be called among your people?" Liam asked curiously, in an attempt to find a solution to the situation that would not end in any more deaths and would keep the alliance intact, and yet not ignore what had happened.

She met his gaze solemnly. There really was only one answer there. "Murder," was her reply, but she knew he was unlikely to accept that without knowing what it was that made the Goddess-sworn so terrifying. She sighed softly, glancing at Conall before looking back to his friend and commander. "Attack me. I will draw no weapons. But you should know what it is you are judging."

"Murder is what Reena intended. You were only defending yourself and me from further attack," Conall argued, the tone of his voice both insistent and irritated. "Why do you insist on blaming yourself? Do you want to be killed?" he asked, clearly agitated.

"No, eniro, I am not asking for death," she assured him, her gaze shamelessly intimate, despite Liam's presence so close to them. "But I will not lie. I have killed one of your people, who could not have defended herself against me even in her right mind. I acted without thinking. The sight and scent of your blood put me into a rage - if I stopped to consider, I would not have killed her."

"She spilled your blood?" Liam, who had remained silent while the other two debated, asked, turning a pointed look at his friend.

Conall shrugged. There was no wound he could show the other man to prove what had happened. "Yes, but..." he glanced to Liayna, as if at a loss for words, but Liam sensed there was a lot more to the story than he was being told.

"Eniro," the rebel leader echoed, looking between them. It wasn't difficult to figure out what was going on between the pair. He had Reena's own words to back him up there. She had explained things from her point of view upon her return, but Liam thought there was a much simpler explanation than sorcery at work here. "You are lovers, yes?"

6
Arctra / Red Dawn
« on: April 23, 2014, 12:20:26 PM »
For ten days and nights, the mixed band of Arctrans and nomads traveled together without incident. Each evening, when camp was made, the cementing of the new friendships continued - skills passed back and forth between groups. The Arctrans shared the written word and the stories of the Nine; the nomads shared bits and pieces of the old speech, small examples of their healing arts. In training and sparring, the two groups grew to know one another well. The nomads admired the armor and eloquence of their companions; the Arctrans seemed stunned by the stamina of the Wild Ones, who rode no horses and yet kept pace with them all day. Slowly, the camps began to intertwine, following the example laid by their respective leaders who, each night, slipped away to make their own bed in privacy beneath the moon as she waned.

The night they entered the mountains, just two days away from the main rebel encampment, the Arctrans learned something new about the Wild Ones - they did not like to be so close to the heart of their Goddess. They camped closer together that night, and even Conall had difficulty in persuading Liayna to sleep. But with the encouragement of their new friends, the nomads did settle finally, the silence of the mountains falling over the little encampment. Away from the rest of their companions, Conall and Liayna slept, sated of passion in one another's arms, protected from the cool ground by the furs they lay upon, watched over by the waning moon as she climbed to her zenith and began to descend, slowly, toward dawn.

All seemed peaceful. But seeming is not reality, and there was one loose end they had not considered might attempt to unravel what had been woven in the past days. Sent on ahead, humiliated and steaming with jealous fury, Reena had been all but forgotten by the lovers as they journeyed north. But she had not forgotten them. Determined to have her revenge on them both, she had left the main encampment mere hours after arriving there, retracing her steps alone in the hope of finding her company and putting an end to the woman who had ended all her own hopes. As the smallest hours of the night darkened, she crept past the camp, seeking out Conall and his witch, a blackened blade steady in her hand.

And there they were, as naked as the day they were born, the witch woman she so hated lying in the arms of the man Reena had sworn would be hers. That unblemished back faced her, vulnerable, an easy target, but she wanted to feel the knife go in, to see the life drain out of Liayna na'Kari's eyes. So she crept closer, until she crouched over the pair. Her eyes swept possessively over Conall, focusing furiously on the warm arm that embraced her prey. The knife rose, black against the dark sky, and plunged toward Liayna's unprotected back.

It might have been merely luck that woke Conall just before dawn, or it might have been instinct. In the days to come, there would be whispers among the nomads that perhaps the Goddess has whispered a warning in the night. There was no way of knowing for sure, but whatever it was, something disturbed the man's sleep, and he woke just in time to find the a figure crouching over them, blotting out the sky, one arm raised menacingly, a knife poised ready to strike. Without a thought for his own safety, only for that of his lover, he threw his body over hers to protect her and knock their assailant to the ground.

There was no way Reena could have pulled out of that deadly strike, even as Conall forced himself over Liayna to protect her. The blade sank deep into his shoulder, despite her best effort not to hurt him, yanked out wildly as she stumbled and fell back. "Conall ... gods, Conall, I didn't -"

But Liayna was already moving, woken abruptly by the swift movement of her lover, infuriated by the smell of his blood on the still air. She slid out from beneath him, one hand throwing a handful of the fine earth into Reena's face as she charged the jealous woman, knocking her back onto the rocky ground.

Conall growled in anger and pain, clutching at the wound in his shoulder that was already spurting blood. The blade had gone deep, tearing through flesh and muscle. Though he knew it was coming, it still took him by surprise, and before he was able to stop her, Liayna was already moving to defend herself and her lover against the intruder. "Reena, what the-" He broke off as Liayna moved past, as swiftly as a lioness attacking her prey. "Liayna!" he shouted, hoping to stop her before the two women killed one another. He moved to his feet, but it seemed as though he was mired in quicksand, and he knew he was already too late.

It should have been a foregone conclusion, the outcome of that swift, deadly altercation. The one woman armored, armed, alert; the other naked, unarmed, fresh woken from sleep. Yet as the two bodies rolled on the ground, it was difficult to see what was happening in the grasp and push of their hands on one another. Until Liayna suddenly rose onto one knee, Reena's hair in one hand, Reena's blade in the other, and sliced her jealous rival's throat in one swift motion with her own weapon. Their attacker gasped just once, in a burble of liquid death, and slumped to the ground, the threat she posed ended at the hands of the woman she had intended to kill.

Conall shouted at the women, horrified by what was taking place in front of him, terrified they'd kill each other, but unable to do anything to stop it. It was over quickly, far too quickly for him to react. Even if he hadn't been injured, there would have been little chance he could have intervened without risking his own life or making things worse. Even so, he knew what the outcome would be before it was over. He knew Reena had made her last mistake, and she'd pay for it with her life. He had seen blood spilled plenty of times before, but never quite like this, and while he felt sickened and grievous at the girl's death, had Liayna not been the warrior she was, he might have been grieving her death, rather than Reena's.

Breathing hard, Liayna knelt still for a long moment, sickened by the fact that she had been forced to kill a woman whose only crime had been to reach for what she could not have. Then, with a gentleness that belied the savagery with which she had fought, she cradled Reena's body in her arms, laying the dead woman down against the ground, drawing her hands to her waist, straightening her legs. The bloodied blade was wiped clean on the scrub, and set within the stiffening grasp; the open wound at the throat was gently concealed with the collar of the woman's bloodied shirt. Gentle hands closed the unseeing eyes, and Liayna's voice rose quietly in that haunting lament for the dead and the one who had killed her.

7
Arctra / Aera
« on: April 22, 2014, 02:09:16 PM »
Find Conall Riordan. Cut off the right hand of the rebellion. Those were the orders that had brought a cohort of the Guard into the wilds, eighty men heavily armored seeking out just one man on the orders of the Usurper Queen. Velasca's impatience to have all resistance dealt with was drawing thin, especially when she herself was traveling the wilder roads north. But the years had taken their toll on the Guard. Women had been barred from service in the armies, men were not trained to the degree their predecessors had been. They were a heavily armored, weapon-wielding gang of thugs hidden behind the barest facade of discipline - dangerous, yes, but not shaped as those who had gone before them had been. They fought for gold, not for the love of their Queen. And they did not pay attention to their surroundings.

Thus, they were taken by surprise when the company led by Conall Riordan and Liayna na'Kari burst from the woods around them, death on swift feet for any who dared to threaten their ally and friend.

Eighty men stood, facing a rag-tag mix of fifty or less rebels and nomads. The outcome should have been obvious, inevitable. But the Usurper Queen's guards had not encountered the Goddess-sworn of Clan Tarven before, nor the fierce fury of the rebels in close contact. The nomads attacked with no clear coherent plan - some entered the fray hand to hand, others with spears and stone daggers. And from the edge of the trees, stone-tipped arrows whistled from two bows, one of which lay in the hands of Liayna herself. And perhaps most terrifying of all ... she never missed.

The rebels were slightly more disciplined than the Queen's men, trained as they were for battle by a man whose father and father before him had been Captain of the Queen's Royal Guard. Even Conall, who had never been trained as a soldier until he had joined the rebels, fought better and harder than the thugs who were in the employ of the Queen. And why not? He was, after all, fighting for his life, knowing Velasca would like nothing better than to eliminate him, in part out of vengeance and in part out of need. Cut off the right arm of the rebels and they might flounder. While in truth, there were plenty who might take his place, none of them had become as close to their commander as Conall had. The rebels fought with spirit and courage, hacking their way slowly through the ranks of the guards, with Conall in the lead, knowing it would spur the rebels on if he were to lead from the front, rather than from behind their protective ranks.

It was a bitter, short struggle. The Usurper's guard were no match for them, despite their greater numbers, caught by surprise and attacked before they could rally themselves. Their commander's horse fell from beneath him, but he rose, roaring defiance, his anger aimed squarely at the leader he could see - Conall Riordan, the traitorous rebel. Swinging his great sword, he pushed through the struggling mass of fighters, intent upon at least taking Conall with him to the great beyond.

In the meantime, the object of the commander's rage was busy fighting his own battle, cutting his way through the attackers who seemed to swarm like ants from every which way. Every now and then, an arrow would find its mark before he had a chance to swing his sword. Slowly but surely, the enemy's numbers were dwindling, but the battle was not quite over yet. A shout from somewhere amidst the bloodied crowd alerted Conall to the danger, and he swung his horse around just in time to narrowly escape a killing blow, the commander's sword missing its intended mark, but slicing through the leather that covered his target's thigh, which only enraged his opponent all the more.

As Conall's blood bloomed, a distinct call went up from the edge of the battle, from the throat of the woman who had lain with him the night before. A rippling, undulating cry, high-pitched to cut through the sounds of the fray - a cry that drew the attention of the nomads. Those who were not engaged in fights of their own turned to cut into the gathering of the last guard around Conall, striking down the men who sought to aid their commander in finishing off the man they had been sent to kill. But the commander still stood untouched. This kill belonged to Conall Riordan, and the Wild Ones would not allow another to take it from him.

Conall could have cut the man down without much effort at all, but with him on horseback and his foe on foot, he thought he had an unfair advantage and wounded or not, he slid out of his saddle and faced his opponent on equal ground. The commander seemed surprised by this, a grin crossing his face, knowing he now had the advantage.

Of course, that advantage didn't last long. A small nomad boy darted out of the ring of bodies that surrounded them, stabbing a stone knife deep into the commander's thigh. He flashed a grin at Conall as the commander roared in pain. "To make fair," was all he said in his garbled mastery of the common tongue, before he disappeared back into the fray.

Conall mirrored the grin as the boy did his deed, evening the odds once again. Soaked in sweat and blood, every muscle in his body was crying out in pain, bloodlust and adrenalin the only things keeping him going. Now that he had his feet on the ground, he tugged a second sword from his back, turning one blade in his hand menacingly before advancing on his opponent and giving him no quarter. Swords clashed in the small clearing, and for a while it seemed like neither opponent would give any ground, both of them limping and bleeding from wounds minor and not so minor, until at last, Conall's sword found purchase, slashing through the commander's chest and drawing blood, followed by the other sword which finished the job cutting his throat cleanly open.

As the commander fell, the last resistance of the guard fell with him. And much to the Arctrans' disgust, every man still standing who wore the Usurper's colors had his throat cut by the nomads without a moment of hesitation. Liayna's people did not believe in letting their enemies walk free when they could bring more enemies to this place and continue on their mission. With the field littered with the bodies of the definitively dead, it was time to look to the wounded of their own company.

Conall was perhaps the only one of the Arctrans who was not disgusted when the nomads finished their enemy. He would have done the same, especially since he didn't want any survivors returning to Phalion and reporting back to Velasca. Conall wiped the blood from his sword's on the dead man's clothing and returned them to the scabbards he wore strapped to his back, looking haggard and worn, but undefeated. He gave orders to tend to the wounded, both their own and those of the clansmen, before examining his own wounds.

8
Arctra / Eniro
« on: April 22, 2014, 01:23:51 PM »
[size=9]((Contains reference to adult situations.))[/size]

That night, the rite the Arctrans had been warned of began slowly. At first, it seemed that there were no plans among the nomadic Wild Ones to honor their Goddess. Each went about their evening in their own way, eating, talking, honing their skills, sharpening their weapons.

But as the moon began to rise to her xenith in the sky, shining down full-bellied between the trees, every eye among Liayna's people rose to watch her stately progress across the stars in absolute silence. The reverence, the love they felt for their Goddess was palpable in that sudden stillness, and for a long time, the only sound that could be heard was the movement of the horses, the rustling of the wind in the trees. Then, with no visible initiation, a song rose from them, rhythmic and pulsing, the words in the old speech passing from one mouth to the next, rising in volume from the merest whisper to the full-throated cadence of a chorus. Somewhere among them, a drum started, and with the first beat, the fire at the center of their camp sprang into life, the flames roaring high, blasting the camp and their guests with heat like mid-summer.

The nomads swayed to the beat of that drum, to the cadence of their own voices, and it was easy to see when and how their form of divine ecstasy came upon them. Some sang on, harmonizing, giving themselves over to the music. Others drew their weapons, sparring with terrifying intensity as the sweat dripped from their skin. But it was the women who drew the eye. Seven in all, they ringed the leaping fire and danced for their Goddess, and in that dance was all the magic of the land. The danger and the tenderness, the threat and the comfort, the eagerness and the reticence.

Liayna danced with them, exuding as they all did that sense of wild freedom, of deep devotion, of blood-boiling sensuality. Each roll of her hips, each sway of her arms, were loaded with a knowledge of her own being, her own sexuality, her own desires, her dark eyes warm and wild as she whirled with her fellows in the firelight.

The nomads' fears that the rebels might mock them or ridicule them proved unwarranted as the men and women of the contingency looked on with interest - some in wonder, some even seemed envious of the freedom and joy that seemed to emanate from the nomads as they gave themselves over to the music and the dance. Some of the men murmured among themselves over one woman or another, finding them desirable, though not daring to join them, just yet. Conall had given them strict orders, under the threat of punishment if they disobeyed. They were allowed to watch and even join the nomads if they were so invited, but they were under no circumstances to deride them or scoff at them in any way. If anyone felt uncomfortable with the revelry, they were to leave the gathering and retire to their shelter in the caves, rather than risk blood-letting. He made it clear that he would tolerate no disobedience from anyone.

As for himself, once they were settled, Conall had rested a little and had removed the heavy leathers, clad now only in wool tunic and pants that were tucked into a pair of leather boots, his hair pushed back from his face, the firelight illuminating a chiseled, unshaven jaw, green eyes bright with curiosity. As he took in the rites of Clan Tarven, he found his gaze returning again and again to the woman whose acquaintance he had made earlier that day - the one who called herself Liayna. He felt his body betraying him as he watched her hips roll and sway, as though she were dancing for his eyes alone. Even as one of his own group came up to speak to him, he found himself entranced by her dance and wondered what she had meant by the words she'd shared with him earlier that day.

The song changed, growing more primal, taking on the beat of the drum in the emphasis on words the Arctrans did not understand. One of the women threw her head back and shouted to the sky, shedding her clothing until she stood bare beneath the moonlight, silhouetted against the fire. "Na'Leniniya do'sai!" Others who danced about the fire repeated her shout, supple backs arched as they called to the full moon above them.

Liayna joined them, raising her own voice to the Goddess as she, too, threw off her clothes, as bare to the eyes of the men and women who watched as she was to her Goddess. Her eyes turned, seeking out Conall's gaze in the firelight with a wicked quirk to her smile. "I am a child of the Goddess," she said, a translation for those who watched, and stepped backward, into the leaping fire.

The flames coiled around her, licking at her bare skin, yet no one rushed to her aid, not one of the nomads seemed even barely concerned for her. And why should they? The child of the Goddess walked through the fire and rejoined the dance with a joyous laugh, her skin untouched, her hair unsinged, her naked body sinewy with untapped sensuality as she resumed her swaying, enticing motion.

"Leniniya!" The call went up from the Wild Ones in celebration and thanks, and another of the women entered the fire as the beat of the drum grew more frenzied. One by one, the women walked through the fire, peeling off one by one to choose or be chosen, and soon, the fire was ringed with bodies engaged in the earthy worship Liayna had warned Conall of. Yet she did not choose a partner, still dancing to the heady beat of the drum as she turned her dark eyes to him. She had chosen ... but it was his choice.

"She is trying to seduce you, Conall," he heard a voice beside him, soft and womanly and full of jealousy and scorn. She had been trying to bed him for months, succeeding a handful of times when his resistance was low, but he did not love her, and she held no sway over him nor had any claim on him.

"Yes," he agreed, not denying it, nor denying the fact that it was working, but it wasn't so much that he found one woman more desirable than the other; only that he felt some strange attraction to the one who seemed to be dancing only for him.

"She is practically throwing herself at you," she whispered for his ears only, touching his arm as if to claim him for her own.

"I do not belong to you, Reena. I do not belong to anyone," he told her, glancing her way in time to see the flash of jealousy in her eyes.

The pairings around the fire seemed to be fluid - when one coupling ended, the woman returned to the dance unless she was chose to claim another lover for herself. And yet through it all, Liayna danced, slow steps drawing her further from the fire, toward the seated Arctrans. Toward their leader. The woman, Reena, was utterly ignored, meaningless in the heady invitation of the dance. Liayna's eyes never left Conall's as the firelight played across her slender form, as hips rolled and body swayed, and one hand seemed to beckon to him. Stark against the inner wrist of that hand, a triskelion burned, seemingly set alight by the fire that had enveloped her when she declared herself a child of the Goddess. A mark no other nomad bore.

He wondered not only at the beauty of her body and the graceful movement of the dance, but at the mystery of the fire and how she and her people could engulf themselves in it and come away unscathed; by the obvious passion with which she and the others worshiped the deity of their choice; by the way she so obviously had chosen him over even her own people; by the way her body moved, as though she was making love to him already without even touching him. He noticed the mark on her arm -  how could he not notice? And though he knew Reena was right, that she was trying to seduce him for whatever reason, he could himself unable to resist.

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