Circle of Stone


The Story

Page 1

Yvonne - 1999-3-3

Hiring Hall:

For hire - two highly skilled Llowra bodyguards. Both are extremely competent in their sword work, and are unmatchable at hunting and tracking. A brother and sister team, they are well matched visually and will complement both a Lady's Train and a Lord's Guard equally well. Will double as scouts.

Danae - 1999-3-3

To Hiring Hall:

Regarding the brother/sister team of Llowra guards for hire - I would be interested in hiring these guards for a fee of 50 eagles as protection in the caravan of my younger sister, the Lady Adriana Kaladaire of the House Talenis, who will be travelling to Torrigan on an extended visit.

Lord Lucian of House Talenis

Yvonne - 1999-3-4

To the Lord Lucian of House Talenis;

I am deeply honored that a personage such as yourself would consider hiring from my humble Hall. I have spoken to the Llowra pair personally and they are willing to escort your sister into Torrigan for the mentioned fee, although they request the addition of a pair of calm, sturdy mounts and reimbursement for any outstanding fees that they may be required to spend on assignment.

By my hand,
Renwer Davifs, Owner of the Hiring Hall

Danae - 1999-3-4

To Renwer Davifs, Owner of Hiring Hall;

I am sincerely pleased that I will be able to provide my sister with the very best protection that I am confident your pair will provide. As the two must know, House Talenis has long been known for its breeding of horses and I shall be happy to supply them with the proper mounts. I do request however that they spend a least a day before their departure with the horses and their trainer learning how to handle them properly in the manner they have been trained in. My sister will carry not only the purse of expenditure money but also the strings to that purse. She will reimburse the pair as needed for their services along the way. I assure you that my sister in extremely level-headed and will not hesitate to pay where appropriate. If these terms are acceptable to your pair, I should like to have them arrive at my estate two fortnights from tomorrow.

Kindest regards,
Lord Lucian of House Talenis

Yvonne - 1999-3-4

To the Lord Lucian of House Talenis;

My Llowra pair are on the road and will be arriving at your estate in approximately nineteen days, depending on weather and other variables. They will be arriving on foot. I have supplied them with identification papers, but, like most non-humans, I doubt that they will realise that the paper is as significant as I have tried to explain, and so they may not be carrying them upon arrival. To prevent any confusion, I am entrusting you with their names. They are Diana and Deran R'Rasni, and are both recognisable by their yellow eyes, sharp teeth, and Llowran leather wear. The male is tall and dark, while the female is shorter and has a reddish cast to her hair. Again, I thank you for your decision to hire through us, and a discount will be offered if you choose to do so again. Your business is much appreciated.

By my hand,
Renwer Davifs

Abby - 1999-3-4

Keleos woke to the scents of new earth and ozone.

She lay facedown in freshly churned-up dirt, the faint tang of blood in her mouth. There was a sick, painful feeling in the back of her head, and the skin of her hands and forearms felt raw and scorched. A subtle stiffness in her back and shoulders told her she'd been that way for several hours, perhaps longer. Long enough, certainly, for the cool earth and cooler air to leech the warmth from her body.

On the whole, Keleos could think of worse ways to wake up. She'd experienced a good many of them.

Slowly, grimacing as stiff joints complained, she levered herself up onto her hands and knees, the motion making her head swim. Biting her tongue and vowing stubbornly not to be sick, she dragged herself fully erect and blinked her eyes clear of loose dirt.

A vagrant breeze flowed across the landscape, and Keleos stood still, letting the cool, slightly damp air soothe and refresh her. It was a long moment before she again opened her dark blue-purple eyes and surveyed the scene before her.

She stood at the outer edge of a small crater dug into the crest of an equally small hill. All around, stretching off as far as the eye could see, were the gently rolling hills and scattered trees and brush of the Melanan countryside. The sky was a ceiling of uniformly grey clouds, diffusing the sun's radiance into a cool grey light.

At the bottom of the crater, the sandy earth was fused into crude glass, cracked, rippled, and bubbled, as though by some great force. Keleos lifted her hands, looking at them thoughtfully. The skin was mottled red with light burns, the palms blistered and raw, but each finger moved with no more pain than was to be expected. The sleeves of her white linen shirt, fluttering in charred ribbons around her elbows, had not fared so well.

"Not bad," she murmured, voice sounding unusually loud in the stillness. "Not bad at all."

She half-turned and, with slow, measured steps, made her way down into the crater. From a closer viewpoint she could make out the vague, misshapen figure of a man, thinly crusted with fused earth. Poking that crust with a booted toe split it, and the wind caught the ash that lay underneath and swept it gently away. A few shreds of charred silk and scorched, crumbling bone skittered briefly across the crater's floor, and on what had once been a hand and wrist, twisted knots of gold that had been jewelry were uncovered.

"Looks like I won that one, Sevarius," Keleos remarked absently.

She remained a moment longer, watching the wind scatter the remains of the black healer and occasionally prodding the lumps of ash and crude glass to help the process, before turning and walking away.

She headed east, towards the coast, giving herself time to plot her next move and her next destination. Keep Moray, the nearest settlement, was -- or rather, had been -- Sevarius's hold. Keleos had complete faith that, when the Conclave of Magi looked into the matter of Sevarius's death, a number of interesting bits of information about the man would come to light. Melanos's Conclave was inclined to forgive a great deal, but they didn't look too kindly on mages who killed their own apprentices for powerful spells. Keleos had spent the better part of a fortnight undermining the considerable effort to which Sevarius had gone to conceal his actions; when the Conclave did investigate, she was confident that none of its members would blame her for disposing of him. But, in the meantime, Sevarius had some very loyal and none-too-ethical supporters who weren't going to be pleased with her. Keleos deemed it best to avoid Keep Moray and the local mages entirely, and leave Melanos as soon as possible.

Over her years of travelling, Keleos had gained an acute appreciation for the fine line between honor and expedience.

So, west--the direction of Keep Moray--was out. South would take her into the heart of Melanos, which wouldn't help her situation; besides, the nearest settlement to the south was a good thirty miles away. Too far to walk, in her current condition. East was the Sea of Hope, and the odds of finding a handy ship to sail away on were slim to none.

That left north.

To the north, a little less than ten miles away, was the small town of Ansleigh; farmers and local craftsmen mostly, and no mage-lord, which suited Keleos just fine. Better yet, Ansleigh was only a long day's ride from the border that Melanos shared with Torrigan. Keleos was rather fond of Torrigan and its governing Knighthood, which followed a code of honor similar to Keleos's own. She could spend time comfortably in Torrigan and the area around it until the confusion of Sevarius's death had been dealt with and forgotten.

Keleos turned northwards, taking up a steady pace that would get her to Ansleigh an hour or two after sunset, if she was guessing the time correctly. She had enough money with her to pay for a night's lodging, a horse, and supplies to get her to Torrigan. Once there, she'd find herself a temporary residence and send for some of her belongings. What she'd left at Keep Moray, clothing and some other minor items, could be replaced.

She brushed a lock of silken black hair away from her face, wishing that she'd arranged to confront Sevarius somewhere closer to where she wanted to go. It was a long walk to Ansleigh.

Oh, well. Torrigan and the north.

Obsidian - 1999-3-18

Urging her horse, Toll, forward, Mia started up the road after readjusting her belongings for the thirtieth time. A light breeze filtered through her fiery red hair as Toll snorted obediently. Well, at least she could count on the horse, if not her dumb brothers.

But then, they were long gone years ago when she said goodbye to her family for what seemed like a ten years ago to become a herbalist.

Mia smiled somewhat proudly. It wasn't long before people realized her talent in herbs and medicine and allowed her to go off in search of her own work. That was the time when Mia packed up her belongings and money and set out in search to broaden her knowledge on medicines. But that was then.

Nonchalantly, she fingered her large pouch she tied to her belt. It was true. She needed more money. She wasn't going to survive on fifty silver coins; it was going to run out sooner or later. It was time to use the knowledge that she was storing up. The best place at this point would probably be Torrigan. Right now there wasn't much of a choice; she was closest to it.

She set Toll at a slow canter on the road to Torrigan where she hoped her lifelong dreams about being a professional herbalist were about to come true. Or so she hoped.......



The World
The Cast
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Copyright (c) 1999-2000 Abigail Laughlin and the members of the Circle of Stone.