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 A not-at-all Brief History of Keivah

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Keivah



Number of posts : 31
Registration date : 2007-11-10

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PostSubject: A not-at-all Brief History of Keivah   Tue Jan 29, 2008 4:51 am

The bag was slipping from his fingers again. With a sigh, Keivah shifted it into a firmer grip, but knew from his long walk that it was only a temporary solution. The bag was heavy and slick, and becoming increasingly more so as he walked. Finally, reluctantly, he gave up the struggle and clutched the bag in his arms. He felt blood squash into his chest and made a face. But he was nearly home, and he supposed it was better than further strain to his already over-worked fingers and hands. And the thought of being home made him more cheerful despite the blood, which had started to soak into his tunic and run down his chest. He was tired and hungry, and now bloody as well … and he just wanted to be home.






It had been over a year ago, when he first met the warlock. Keivah had moved from his home to Silvermoon City, to pursue his magic training. It was not quite going as he would have liked, though, and he seemed to spend most of his time trying to earn enough silver to keep his armour in repair and buy the few other small necessities upon which he would come. He was not exactly used to such a situation, and became increasingly frustrated that training had become secondary. After a particularly trying day, he decided to reward his weeks of hard work with a meal that was not some sort of fish.

After an incredible stew, he savoured his second of three self-allotted ales. Slowly, he became aware of a huge presence beside him. He was just turning for a look when a large hand clamped onto his shoulder, with such a heavy force that it made him wince and spill a few drops of his ale.

‘The master wants to meet you,’ the tauren owner of the hand said.

Annoyed by the lost precious drops of ale, Keivah turned and arched an eyebrow impatiently at the tauren. ‘Who is ‘the master’?’

During his time in Silvermoon, Keivah had met a lot of taurens. Most of them were reasonably, if not deceptively intelligent. This was not one of those taurens. He gave Keivah a baffled look.

‘The master wants to meet you,’ he repeated.

Keivah’s annoyance began to build. Not only had the tauren made him spill his ale, but he was interrupting one of the few times that Keivah had been able to take away from working for himself. He simply stared at the tauren, waiting for him to go away.

‘The master-‘ the tauren started for the third time.

‘I know,’ Keivah interrupted. ‘Where is he?’

‘Come.’

A sudden warning flashed through Keivah. He sensed something very wrong about the entire situation. ‘No,’ he said.

The tauren had started to walk away, still holding Keivah’s shoulder. He did not notice that Keivah was not moving with him until Keivah grabbed desperately onto the wooden bar to avoid being dragged from his stool. Then the tauren looked at Keivah, confused. Keivah waited until the tauren had let go of his shoulder, then he released the bar and straightened his tunic indignantly.

‘Thank you for the offer,’ Keivah smiled. ‘But I’m just here for a bite and a drink. I’m not here to meet anybody.’

The tauren stared blankly at Keivah.

‘I’m not coming,’ Keivah explained.

‘Ohh.’ The tauren seemed to think about that a moment, then he laughed. ‘That’s funny.’

‘What is?’

‘The master said you wouldn’t.’

Keivah forced another thin smile. ‘Well, the master must be very smart,’ he said and then turned back to his drink.

‘Oh, yes,’ the tauren said, suddenly very serious. ‘He is. Very smart. He’s a lot smarter than me.’

Keivah glanced over his shoulder and inserted yet another waningly polite smile onto his lips. ‘Tell the master that I am flattered he wants to meet me, but I don’t want any new friends just now.’

‘The mas-‘

‘Thank you,’ Keivah interrupted, feeling his last bits of patience fray. ‘It was nice to meet you.’

The tauren smiled back and then left. Keivah sighed and then had a drink of ale. The tauren seemed nice enough, but it was just too suspicious. He could go to meet ‘the master’, and suddenly the tauren who seemed so nice is leading him into a dark alley where five of his friends were waiting to kill him and run off with his gold. Not that he had gold. But they didn’t know that. Keivah sighed again and sipped his ale.

A while later, Keivah finished his third and regrettably last ale of the evening. He thought about ordering just one more, but his armour was starting to get worn and ragged, and he only had enough silver for either repairs or ale. Not both. It was getting late, anyway. He motioned the barkeep over and braced himself.

‘How much?’ Keivah asked.

‘It’s taken care of,’ the barkeep replied and started to move to the next patron.

‘Wait,’ Keivah frowned. ‘What did you say?’

The barkeep turned back. ‘It’s taken care of,’ he repeated. ‘Your friend paid.’

‘What friend?’

‘He said he was your friend.’ The barkeep shrugged. Then he pointed at the stairs to the end of the bar. ‘Last door.’

‘Thank you.’ Keivah’s brow furrowed, and he turned to look at the stairs.

‘Welcome,’ the barkeep grinned and then moved away.

Keivah knew that he could probably just walk out. The meal and drinks had been paid for. He hadn’t asked anybody to do it. It was a nice gesture, but unprovoked and he’d already made it clear that he didn’t want to talk with anybody. He could also pay the bill anyway, but he had to admit that the thought of being able to save all that silver gave him a sense of relief. Lessons were not exactly cheap. He stood and made his way up the stairs.

Standing outside the door, Keivah took a deep breath. Just a fast thank-you, and then he could leave, he told himself. He had a lot to do in the morning, which was the best sort of excuse because it was true. He rapped upon the door and waited.

Keivah was disappointed that it wasn’t a long wait. On the way up the stairs, he told himself that it was possible nobody was even there. But the door was opened quickly by the tauren from downstairs. He motioned Keivah in, and with a smile and a nod, Keivah walked through the door.

‘I’m Brukost,’ a deep voice said from somewhere in the room, before Keivah had taken more than a few steps inside. The voice was low and booming, but something about it gave Keivah the image of an icy river. He was about to reply with his own name, when the voice spoke again. ‘You kept me waiting.’ Opening his mouth to respond to that as well, the voice continued, ‘that is a bad start.’

Keivah was startled by the words, and even more startled by his response when he finally had a chance to give one. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said.

It was an orc, and Keivah sensed warlock, who was seated across a battered wooden table near the fireplace. The evening was rather warm, but a fire blazed hotly. Keivah felt his skin had started to prickle with static, and rubbed his arm distractedly. Keivah’s admittedly rather limited experience with orcs told him that they were basically violent and crude. This orc was different, and Keivah sensed it with his first glance; although physically he seemed rather a typical example of his race. Arms, which seemed thicker than Keivah’s legs, deep yellow-green skin, bald head and a coal-black beard, which seemed more groomed than usual. Perhaps it was the eyes, Keivah thought. They were deep red, with something much, much deeper behind them.

Brukost smiled slightly as Keivah stood there, fidgeting and uncertain what to do. Brukost did not appear to have that problem. He gestured smoothly and deliberately across the table behind which he sat, to a single chair on the other side. ‘Sit.’

The situation was different from what Keivah had imagined, and it took him a moment to gather himself enough for a reply. ‘No…’ he finally said. ‘Thank you, but I cannot stay.’ There was nothing but silence from the other side of the table. ‘I just wanted to come up and thank you very much for paying for my meal. It was…’ Keivah trailed off and stopped. The orc simply sat, massive arms resting upon the table, and thick fingers clasped before him. He was staring intently at Keivah with those red eyes. Keivah realised that he had the most amazing impulse to sit, despite not wanting to. He glanced over at the tauren, who was also watching him, but with a decidedly more vacant expression.

‘Sit,’ Brukost said again.

Keivah’s eyes narrowed slightly. It was not exactly said unpleasantly. It was certainly not said pleasantly either, though. It was not even a command. It had been said essentially as … a comment. Keivah once again had a strong urge to sit although he was not enjoying, nor was he comfortable with, being told what to do. He wanted to simply turn and leave, to show this orc exactly what he thought of the tone. Which made the fact that he did indeed come round the chair and sit that much more confusing to him.

‘I have to leave soon,’ Keivah said softly.

Brukost chuckled. Then he looked behind Keivah and nodded to the tauren. Keivah began to look back, but suddenly two strong hands grabbed his shoulders. Keivah struggled to stand, or to fight free of the tauren, but the grip only tightened.

‘No,’ Brukost’s icy voice said after a moment, and he sounded tired.

Both Keivah and the tauren stopped their struggle to look at him. Brukost’s face was in his hands, but slowly he looked up. Then he extended his arm and pointed a thick finger at the door. The tauren turned to look where he was pointing and then back.

‘Leave?’ The tauren asked.

Brukost nodded.

Releasing Keivah, the tauren turned and left the room, closing the door behind him. Once he was gone, Keivah’s gaze shot back to the orc. He reached up and rubbed his shoulders.

‘Jorcan does what he’s told,’ Brukost explained. ‘Unfortunately, at times, it takes meticulous instructions.’

Keivah noticed the lack of an apology, but felt that he had more serious issues at the moment. ‘Was he supposed to make me sit if I didn’t?’

‘Yes.’

Things had just reached an entirely new level, and Keivah shifted uncomfortably. ‘I should be-‘ he started, but Brukost held up a hand, silencing him.

‘He will not allow you out the door. So make yourself comfortable.’

Keivah thought it rather difficult to make himself comfortable. In fact, he was very bloody uncomfortable. He glanced at the door again, and then back. ‘What do you want?’ He asked.

‘Just to meet you. Have a chat.’

Keivah marvelled at the entirely pleasant words from an orc who had essentially just admitted to having kidnapped him.

‘Chat,’ Keivah repeated, and Brukost smiled slightly as he nodded. ‘What about?’

‘Exploring the possibility that we could be mutually beneficial to each other.’

Keivah was listening, but despite the seemingly dire circumstance, words were having a difficult time sinking in. He was becoming increasingly aware of just how fascinating this orc was. There was simply something about him. Keivah was nervous to be sitting there, not allowed to leave. But somewhere deep within himself, he felt a bit of unexpected excitement. As though something rather important was going to happen. Or perhaps already was. It conflicted badly with the feeling that something bad was, or would soon be, happening, though. When Keivah realised that he was sitting, speechless and staring back at Brukost, he shifted again and cleared his throat.

‘Exploring possibilities,’ he said numbly. ‘How so?’

‘You are here for training.’

It hadn’t been a question, but Keivah nodded anyway. He was in the process of being impressed, but quickly reminded himself that about two thirds of the younger, and even older residents of the area were there to train. He had to stay focused. This orc was obviously overwhelmingly impressive, and Keivah had to avoid any simple tricks.

‘You are growing frustrated with your training.’

That was a bit more difficult to guess, but still not an unusual situation. Keivah felt a hint of disappointment. Was it really just some form of scam to get his gold? Some ridiculous ‘pay me to guide you through a dungeon’ offer? Well, if that was what the orc was getting to, then he would be fairly disappointed and likely regret the investment he had made in paying for Keivah’s meal. With a mildly smug smile, Keivah nodded again.

‘But not because training is too slow. You feel that it is too fast. Too vague. Too easy.’

The smile faded quickly, and Keivah forgot to nod. That was not typical or something anybody could guess. Most of those training were eager to push through as fast as possible. Keivah certainly never faulted the enthusiasm, but did not understand why anybody would do that. He did indeed find it to be too vague and easy to train, even with the additional frustration of his training being in what seemed to be direct conflict with earning enough silver to support himself. Despite that, he still seemed to fly through phases of his lessons, and just as he would start to feel as though he could be close to learning something amazing, that section would be over. He never felt regret in not being further. He felt regret in not being able to feel a challenge from his trainers.

‘So you will do some things for me,’ Brukost continued. ‘And in return, I will teach you what you would never otherwise learn.’

The constant statements broke through Keivah’s awe and fascination, and began to annoy him just slightly. It was as though he was not even necessary for the conversation.

‘Who are you?’ Keivah asked.

‘One who has needs,’ was the reply. ‘Just like you.’

Keivah narrowed his eyes. That was not a response. However, he discovered that it was working.

‘One with a lot of power.’

Keivah actually drew back in the chair slightly with that comment. It felt as though Brukost had looked into Keivah, discovered who he was, and then used that knowledge to say the exact right things.

‘One that you need.’

Instinctively, Keivah nodded slightly. He did not respond, though. He had no response.

‘Join me,’ Brukost finished with a smile.

Keivah nodded again. Or perhaps he was still nodding; he was not certain. He stared at the orc, a thousand thoughts and emotions flashing behind what he hoped was a calm, unaffected expression. He felt so completely drawn to Brukost. After only knowing him for a few minutes, Keivah felt as though he could not live without him. And yet, a tiny voice somewhere in his senses told him to run. However, what Brukost offered, was what he had desired since training began. Since he first knew he had a talent for casting, really. Somebody to challenge him and show him amazing things. Not somebody who would simply check off his progress and tell him what to study next, with hardly even a glance in his direction. Yet the warning voice, vague and faint over the pounding of his heart and swirling thoughts, persisted. It took every bit of his willpower to push himself slowly from the chair. He smiled to the orc, but received only a stare in return.

‘I’ll think about it,’ Keivah said. He started to turn, but paused. ‘Thank you again for paying for my meal.’

Keivah turned and walked to the door. He opened it, and received a hard, firm hand to the centre of his chest. He coughed and then froze, reluctant to make a sudden move with the tauren staring down at him. Then, just as suddenly as the hand appeared, it was gone. The tauren gave Keivah a goofy sort of a grin, and then stepped aside. Keivah assumed that there had been some sort of signal from Brukost, but did not turn. He was shaken from the meeting, and just wanted to go. He stepped past the tauren and hurried out of the inn.
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Keivah



Number of posts : 31
Registration date : 2007-11-10

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PostSubject: Re: A not-at-all Brief History of Keivah   Tue Jan 29, 2008 4:54 am

Keivah had fully intended to think about it, as he said he would. But he planned to do it when he could focus objectively, and that never seemed to happen. As each day passed, all he could think about was the fact that it was one day he had missed spending with Brukost, and one day on which he had missed what could be the chance of a lifetime. It was also another day in which his infatuation increased, so finally after a week, which felt like a month, Keivah returned to the inn. That night, they made the journey to Brukost’s amazing house, arriving at dawn.

It did not take long for Keivah to fall madly in love with Brukost. Although when he reflected upon it during quiet times, he realised that it felt to him as though he had always loved Brukost. From the moment they met. Perhaps even before that. Perhaps he had always been destined to love Brukost, and it was simply a matter of actually meeting him.

Brukost did tell Keivah that he loved him in return, but Keivah was never certain if it was true or not. Firstly, he was not positive that he could be so lucky and secondly, Brukost tended to have a coldness about him. And cruelty. He regularly tortured Keivah, just for his own enjoyment. Keivah had made himself learn to enjoy it as well, because it was what Brukost wanted. Also, Brukost generally became his most tender after such times, soothing Keivah’s wounds as though he hadn’t been the one to inflict them. He would smile and say ‘Cannot have any scars,’ and Keivah would feel much more loved than usual. Brukost smiled a lot more in general during those times - a genuine smile rather than the thin, cold one that Keivah typically saw. And on the rare occasions when he was able to break through Keivah’s extremely high pain tolerance enough to make him cry out, Brukost's usually stoic expression displayed a lot more pleasure than any other time. So while it was far from Keivah's favourite activity, it was what made Brukost happy, and that in turn made Keivah feel wanted.





Keivah was not certain what made him think of that as he made his way home, clutching the blood-soaked bag in his arms. He supposed that he simply always thought of Brukost. Meeting him had changed his life. And true to his word, Brukost had indeed taught him a lot. Even with Brukost being mainly a warlock and Keivah a mage, he still learnt more in one lesson with Brukost than he would in a week with trainers. He learned so much about magic and arcane forces that he frightened his trainers and they finally suspended his training entirely. Keivah was indifferent to the suspension, but it upset his parents greatly when he was able to contact them, to let them know. To Keivah, it simply meant more time to learn from and work for Brukost. He was quite happy to spend his time taking these trips to collect ingredients for Brukost’s ‘projects’, and then return home for a lesson, or one of their other activities.

It was dark by the time Keivah arrived home. He paused only a brief moment to gaze up at the massive stone house, before passing through the entryway and down the hallway to the kitchen. Jorcan was there, as Keivah expected him to be at that time of night. The tauren had been cleaning up after supper, and looked round as Keivah entered the room. First, Jorcan seemed concerned by the blood on Keivah, and the bag, but then happy as realisation seemed to click.

‘Eyes?’ The tauren asked.

Keivah grinned, and nodded. Whatever they had eaten smelled delicious, and his stomach rumbled hungrily. ‘Downstairs?’

‘Yeah.’ Jorcan pointed enthusiastically to a small pot hanging over the fireplace. ‘Bat stew,’ he said.

‘Oh, wonderful.’ Keivah patted Jorcan’s arm as he moved past him and to the fireplace, breathing in the heavenly aroma. Jorcan always saved food for Keivah when he was away on his trips, and bat stew was one of his favourites. Keivah was just starting to turn away, when the familiar static, which always occurred when he was near Brukost, brushed across his skin. The usual ball of excitement knotted his stomach, and he turned.

‘I was just about to come down,’ Keivah said. He started to smile, but froze when he saw Brukost’s expression.

‘What did you do?’ Brukost hissed, his red eyes narrowed and a snarl on his mouth.

The ball of excitement was quickly replaced by dread. ‘What?’

‘What did you DO?’ Brukost repeated in a roar, staring at the bag Keivah held.

‘I … nothing,’ Keivah stammered, following Brukost’s gaze to the bag. ‘I have your crocolisk eyes.’

‘Eyes,’ Jorcan echoed, nodding rapidly in support of Keivah.

Brukost took two large steps forward, then slapped Keivah hard across the face. ‘You’re filthy!’

Keivah’s head jerked to the side from the blow. He remained like that a moment, blinking his eyes to clear them, and also more than a bit afraid to face Brukost again. He cast a quick glance at Jorcan, who appeared to be even more stunned. Then he looked back to Brukost.

‘The bag was heavy,’ he explained. ‘It kept slipping…’

Brukost was furious. He back-handed Keivah’s other cheek even harder, and Keivah staggered from the force of it. Then suddenly, Brukost snatched the bag from Keivah’s hands and thrust it at Jorcan. The tauren stood, holding the bag and appearing to either want to help the situation, or to become invisible.

‘You’re covered in blood!’ Brukost shouted at Keivah.

‘I’m sorry…’ Keivah knew that Brukost had an extremely volatile temper. He never would have held the bag that way, if he knew Brukost would react as he had. He never would do anything, if he knew it would upset Brukost. He was completely baffled by the reaction.

Suddenly, Brukost reached out and grabbed a handful of Keivah’s hair at the back of his head. Keivah flinched, but knew better than to dodge or try to move away.

‘Leave us now,’ Brukost spat out at Jorcan, barely able to speak through his rage. ‘Immediately. I don’t want his stupidity to corrupt your delicate mind.’

Jorcan set the bag on the counter, hurrying down the hallway to his room. Brukost stalked down the hallway as well, dragging Keivah along by his hair. When they reached the tub room, Brukost shoved Keivah to his knees and then activated the water pump for the tub. Keivah watched the water slowly fill, still trying to sort out just what had made Brukost so upset. He was indeed filthy, yes, but he had been several times upon returning home. It had never caused such a reaction.

Keivah vaguely realised that the water would be very cold, because the heating tank was not lit. It was only a vague observation, though, due to much larger concerns. As he waited, he watched Brukost fume silently. At least Jorcan was not there, Keivah thought with relief. The situation had already been embarrassing enough, and Keivah did not want it to become even worse. He felt toward Jorcan the way he imagined one would feel toward a younger brother, despite Jorcan being older than Keivah. Mentally, he was younger, though, and Keivah tried to protect the tauren from the darker side of his and Brukost’s relationship. Thankfully, Brukost rarely seemed to want Jorcan exposed to it, either, generally repeating what had just happened. A sudden explosion of anger or violence at Keivah, but then asking Jorcan to leave the room, lest he become upset. Of course, Brukost rarely said that and tended to blame Keivah for the reason why Jorcan had to leave, but Keivah felt that as long as Jorcan was not getting upset, he didn’t care what reason was given.

After the tub was full, Brukost pulled Keivah to his feet. He then ordered Keivah to undress and get into the tub, which Keivah did. The sudden chill of water stole Keivah’s breath, and he momentarily feared that his heart could stop. But it didn’t; it continued to pound with uncertainty and fear.

‘Wash,’ Brukost growled.

Keivah reached for the soapwood on the side of the tub and began to lather it in his hands. The water was so cold, that it was difficult to bring it to a decent lather, and Keivah closed his eyes, silently begging the strip of bark to cooperate. Finally, he had enough thin foam on his fingers, and he began to wash the blood from his chest. As Keivah bathed, Brukost stood, arms folded, and staring so hard at Keivah, that he imagined being singed by the red glare. Occasionally, Brukost would pace several steps in either direction, muttering ‘not tonight, not tonight’ to himself. Keivah wondered what that meant. He supposed that Brukost could be having friends over, and he wanted Keivah clean for it. But it was rather late at night for that. Generally such gatherings started much earlier in the evening. He could think of no other reason for Brukost’s actions, though. However, he did not ask. He did not dare say a word. Not only because he didn’t want to make Brukost even angrier, but he also feared his own anger at the treatment. He was indignant and embarrassed. And furious to be taken by surprise like that, to be yelled at for no reason that he could see, and that Jorcan had been there when he was hit. It was far too dangerous to even think such things, though, and if he even opened his mouth to ask what ‘not tonight’ meant, a lot else could come out. So he swallowed back any questions or comments, and concentrated upon washing off the blood.

After every spot of red was gone from Keivah’s skin and had been saturated into the bath water, Brukost seemed to grow calmer. Keivah sensed the change in his mood first, and then knew that the tension was ceasing when Brukost approached the tub and started to wash his hair. It was something that Brukost had almost never done, so Keivah forgot asking about ‘not tonight’ entirely at that point. He would find out soon enough, he supposed.

When the bath was over Keivah dried himself, then slid into the comfortable robe, which Brukost held open for him. Brukost adjusted the collar, and then set his large hand upon Keivah’s cheek.

‘Come sit with me,’ he said.
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Keivah



Number of posts : 31
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PostSubject: Re: A not-at-all Brief History of Keivah   Tue Jan 29, 2008 4:56 am

The cold, embarrassing bath seemed years ago as Keivah sat in front of the sitting room’s huge, blazing fireplace. The flames crackled brightly, making Keivah feel warm and content. In fact, gazing out the open wall to the full moon shimmering on the pond outside, Keivah could barely remember being upset at all. All he could think about was how relaxed he was, and comfortable in the luxurious silk outfit that Brukost had given him. The outfit was a soft creamy colour, with its top opened all the way down the front and flared sleeves. It was probably just about the nicest thing Brukost had ever given him; other than the intangible things, such as his love and time.

Keivah had been a bit later than he thought returning, as he’d had to wait for his eye seller to arrive, and then negotiate prices. It had been a two-day trip as it was, so perhaps Brukost was angry that he had gone through such trouble to buy Keivah the beautiful outfit, only for Keivah to arrive late. Whatever the reason, it was clearly no longer an issue. Keivah was warm and happy, and his skin tingled pleasantly with Brukost’s presence.

Keivah felt Brukost approach him, and then a drink appeared at his right side. He accepted the drink and thanked Brukost. Then Brukost’s hands were on his shoulders, massaging lightly.

‘You’ve done good work for me,’ Brukost said.

Keivah’s brow furrowed. That statement had an odd tone of finality to it. ‘I want to do everything for you,’ he replied, and then sipped from his drink.

‘I know,’ Brukost said with a smile in his voice.

Keivah continued to look outside at the peaceful scene, as Brukost began to work his shoulders more firmly.

‘My project is nearly complete,’ Brukost said after a few moments of silence had passed.

The furrow turned to a frown as Keivah had a slow sip from his drink. He did not like the sound of that. He was happy for Brukost, of course, but perhaps that was why the orc’s statement sounded so foreboding. He had depended upon Keivah to travel all over and pick up ingredients for the project. Once that was over, what use would Keivah be? After all, that had been the agreement.

‘All right,’ Keivah replied softly, and then he winced when Brukost’s fingers dug particularly hard into his shoulders.

‘I have one more task for you.’

Brukost stopped the massage and stood with his hands resting upon Keivah’s shoulders. Keivah hardly noticed, though. His heart had started to pound and his mouth became dry. One more task? That was it? Then what? Would Brukost just leave him, once the agreement had been fulfilled?

‘All right,’ Keivah said again, numbly.

‘The most important task.’

Keivah nodded, drinking to relieve his dry mouth. ‘You know I’m happy to serve you, my master,’ he said automatically. Brukost had extremely specific rules about how Keivah should address him at certain times, and that was how he was supposed to respond when it was work-related.

Brukost stroked Keivah’s still-wet hair before coming round his side and settling into the chair opposite of him. Pausing a moment, Brukost looked intently at Keivah, who gazed back. Then Brukost smiled.

‘All the other steps have been leading to this,’ he said. ‘But they were all for nothing, without this last part.’

Keivah had a deep swallow from his drink, not replying. He should have at least been excited to look forward to doing such an important task for Brukost. But all he could think about was how the warmth of the fire suddenly seemed uncomfortably hot, and the moist air outside the absent walls of the room had become choking humidity. The silk of his clothing seemed to dig and grate at his skin, and a slight nausea began to rise through him. Any moment Brukost could say that, after Keivah completed this final task, he would be asked to leave … and the thought was horrifying.

‘I need a full body this time,’ Brukost was saying. ‘Instead of all the bits and pieces you have been collecting.’

A new distaste sparked in Keivah. It was not the first time it had been his task, and so Keivah knew from experience that compete bodies were very often heavy and difficult to gather. It generally meant that they had to be fresh, so he either had to do the killing himself, or find somebody to do it. Then it meant hiring a cart and somebody to control the mules, and just basically being a tremendous amount of work. But what Brukost wanted, Keivah got.

‘Yes, my master.’

‘It needs to be young.’

Keivah groaned inwardly. He hated dealing with baby animals, necessary or not. It was rare, but did happen and he hated it. He would never forget the baby boar. It had died quickly; before it even knew it had been attacked, Keivah thought. But once it was dead and on the ground, it looked so innocent and its death seemed so cruel. Keivah had felt guilty for days. But he nodded.

‘Yes, my master.’

Brukost spoke then. Keivah was startled to realise that he couldn't hear anything. He had seen Brukost speak, but the room was silent.

‘Pardon?’ Keivah asked, and he could not hear that either. The only way he knew he had said anything, was the movement of his lips and the slight vibration in his neck and chest. Then Brukost spoke again, and this time, Keivah heard it.

'I want your body,' Brukost said.

It seemed like an odd jump of topics to Keivah. It certainly was not the first time Brukost had suddenly and seemingly out of no-where had such urges. But in those cases, he generally didn’t announce it first. And it was quite an odd way to express it, when he had just been talking about needing a body for his project. Then, in Keivah’s increasingly swirling mind, realisation hit.

‘My body?’ Keivah asked.

Brukost nodded.

‘You want my body for the project?’

With a smile, Brukost nodded again.

Rather than frightened, Keivah strangely felt very tired. That was when the next realisation hit him. The fever, the confusion, the lack of focus, and the tiredness. He glanced into his half-finished drink and saw the three tiny milky-white crystals settled at the bottom of the glass. He looked up at Brukost, startled. Then the world went hazy. He tried to stand, and run, but felt himself pitch forward. Then Brukost was there, catching him and easing him back into the chair.

‘Cannot have any bruises,’ Brukost’s voice came, distant and hollow. ‘Not tonight.’

Then Keivah felt and heard nothing.
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PostSubject: Re: A not-at-all Brief History of Keivah   Tue Jan 29, 2008 5:25 am

It was more difficult than usual for Keivah to wake up. He could not seem to get his mind working, and an odd feeling played at the corners of his consciousness. He had tenseness in his stomach, which made him think that something bad had happened. But he could not imagine what, and his memory seemed to be frozen. Then strange scenes began flashing in his mind. Odd, disjointed images of Brukost telling him something horrible. Keivah lifted his head slowly from the pillow beneath his cheek.

‘Nightmare,’ he muttered to himself.

He had planned to push himself up and get out of bed, but his muscles seemed weak and shaky. So instead, he pushed his hair away from his face and rested his cheek back down upon the pillow, sighing. Then he frowned. Something was vaguely wrong with what he had just done, but he could not sort out what. He examined the problem until suddenly it came to him and his eyes flashed open.

His hair was damp. He had been in the sitting room with wet hair. Keivah’s eyes caught focus and landed upon Brukost, sitting across the room. Then Keivah’s eyes readjusted, and he saw the bars between Brukost and himself. Turning to his side and sitting up slowly, Keivah’s gaze moved from the bars to Brukost and back again as cold spikes clenched his stomach. The cage was just large enough for the bed on which he sat, with perhaps three feet of open space surrounding it. It was inside a room, which Keivah had never seen before. Looking to his side, Keivah noticed that the bed had no blankets, but it did have several straps down its surface. Sitting at the edge of the bed, Keivah looked at Brukost.

‘It wasn’t a nightmare,’ Keivah said.

‘No.’

‘Brukost…’ Keivah started. But he was at a loss for words. He was at a loss for thoughts as well. All he could do, was be fully aware of the fact that he was staring at the one he loved through the bars of a cage in which the one he loved had put him.

‘I thought perhaps there was a small chance you would not want to cooperate,’ Brukost said, indicating the bars with a look.

‘Cooperate,’ Keivah repeated. He buried his face in his hands, elbows upon his knees. He tried to think back to the conversation in the sitting room, but it seemed three lifetimes ago and as though it had happened to somebody else. It was something about…

‘My body,’ Keivah said into his hands and then looked up. ‘You want my body for your project.’

‘Yes.’

Keivah glanced again at the bars. ‘I have no choice.’

‘No.’

‘Why me?’

‘Because I like your body.’

‘I was rather under the impression that you liked me in my body.’

Brukost just chuckled.

‘What are you going to do?’

Brukost stood and clasped his hands behind his back, as he often did when explaining something to Keivah. He began to walk slowly about the cage. ‘Over the course of a few sessions, I will insert my soul into your body, removing yours. With the help of a variety of animal and plant essences, which you have gathered for me, I will then reinforce my new body, making it virtually indestructible.’

Keivah turned to look at Brukost, who had stopped his pacing to the right of the cage. It was all so unreal, that Keivah could only think of one response.

‘What happens to my soul?’

Completing the circle round the cage and standing before Keivah once again, Brukost smiled. ‘Without a body to live in, it will fade away with time, I suppose.’

Keivah felt his jaw drop open. ‘How can you do this to me?’

Brukost nearly seemed surprised and offended by the question. ‘I am not doing it to you. You were chosen for it.’

‘Why, because I am doing such a great job?’ Keivah asked bitterly.

Brukost raised an eyebrow, but considering the bars, did not take the usual action that he would have when displeased by Keivah’s tone.

‘If you must know, it is because your body is slim and more suitable for casting. Your fingers are thin, you can move more swiftly, and yours is a body, which is already in possession of massive amounts of power. Therefore, transferring my power into it will not damage it. And being what you are, your body already has the capacity to last a few hundred years.’ Then Brukost sneered. ‘So no, it had nothing to do with the job you did for me,’ he said. ‘It was decided before that.’

Having been listening in shock, Keivah nearly missed the last part. But then it sank in. ‘Before … what? Before I worked for you?’

Brukost merely smiled.

‘I started working for you almost immediately after we met.’

‘Yes, you did.’

‘You knew…’

‘Of course I did. I would not spend eternity in just anybody. I looked for months, when I was finally certain it was possible. Then I saw you.’ Brukost chuckled. ‘I told you that you kept me waiting. I waited weeks for you to come back to the pub, after I decided upon you. If I approached you anywhere else, I thought I could scare you away. I wanted you to approach me, and make it seem as though it was partially your decision.’ He shrugged. ‘Thanking me for a meal seemed a good reason for you to come to me.’

‘You calculated it, and planned it.’

‘I calculate and plan everything. You know that.’

Keivah felt a sudden anger explode through him. ‘I thought you loved me!’ He shouted. The moment he said it, he wished he could take it back. It was such as stupid thing to say under the circumstances. He was not a jilted lover … he was about to become an ingredient.

When Brukost spoke it was the same calming, soothing tone he always used after doing something bad to Keivah. ‘I do love you,’ he said. ‘You are going to make me immortal.’

Keivah closed his eyes. ‘Brukost … I don’t want this.’

‘I have no idea why not. You always tell me that you want to be with me forever.’

Keivah’s eyes flashed open again. ‘WITH you!’ He exclaimed. ‘I wanted to be WITH you forever. Not you with my body, and me … ‘ he gestured wildly ‘fading away somewhere.’

‘Well, my love. It’s the way it will be, if you want it or not.’

Keivah stared at Brukost for several moments. It felt as though his soul had already been taken away. And in a way, it had been. Brukost was his soul, and his reason for living. Brukost had been everything and now suddenly everything was wrong. Keivah felt his chest tighten and it was difficult to breathe. He knew that nothing he could say would make Brukost change his mind.

He stood suddenly, more from nervous energy than anything. The movement made his head spin, and he staggered slightly. When he was steady, he paced round the side of the bed. His back was to Brukost then, and he gazed at the bars of the cage.

‘So you’ve been planning this for a while,’ Keivah finally said.

‘Yes.’

‘You just … saw me somewhere.’

‘Yes.’

‘Why didn’t you just kill me, or whatever it is you’ll do, at the time?’

‘Well, I needed somebody to collect the ingredients, didn’t I? I wasn’t going to send Jorcan out to do it. Those bastard vendors would take advantage of him, or he could get hurt.’ Then Brukost smiled. ‘And of course, I wanted to have some fun first.’

Keivah clenched his teeth. He was so hurt and angry that he could hardly see. He whirled suddenly and raised his hand, surging a rush of energy through his body. Throwing his hand forward, he cast a violent bolt at Brukost. His body was too weak from the lingering effects of the poison for it to be one of his more powerful bolts, but he still felt a deep satisfaction as he released it. The satisfaction vanished quickly when Brukost effortlessly flicked a shield before him and the bolt was harmlessly absorbed. Then Brukost raised his own hand and thrust a bolt back. It passed into the cage, barely rippling the bars, but slamming with full force into Keivah. Keivah was thrown back against the side of the cage, his entire body lit with pain. He slid to the floor, groaning. Then, sensing Brukost approach the bars, Keivah looked up.

‘You made me do that,’ Brukost scowled.

Keivah narrowed his eyes at Brukost. He clutched his left side, where it felt as though ribs had been broken. Checking inwardly, he realised that his casting energies had been depleted, so there must have been more to the poison than just making him lose consciousness. He raised a hand, anyway, and tried to draw energy from the air, but his portals refused to open and little more than sparks crackled at his fingertips.

Brukost sighed. ‘Shall we begin, then?’

Keivah’s eyes widened slightly and he tensed, prepared to attempt an escape when Brukost entered the cage. But suddenly two massive legs appeared before him. Looking up, Keivah saw that it was To’olon, one of Brukost’s magic-formed minions. He tried to scramble to his feet, but before he could even get a leg beneath him, To’olon had reached down and grabbed him by the shoulders. The minion effortlessly pulled Keivah off the ground and then turned to look at Brukost. Brukost looked back and after a beat of Keivah’s pounding heart, To’olon nodded. Then Keivah felt himself jerked through the air and slammed down on the bed. His ribs were jarred, and Keivah cringed. Then the cage door opened and Brukost entered.

‘I do know you, you know,’ Brukost said smugly as he approached.

Keivah struggled but he could hardly move his upper body in To’olon’s solid grip, and the minion didn’t even seem to notice the knee thrusts to his side. Then To’olon’s head cocked as he did when receiving Brukost’s mental instructions. After a moment, he released Keivah’s shoulders, and clamped one hand down hard upon Keivah’s chest. Then Brukost was there, grabbing Keivah’s right wrist and pinning it to the bed. Attempting to pull his arm from Brukost’s grasp, Keivah looked up to see what was happening. Brukost ignored Keivah’s struggles as he pushed the silk sleeve down Keivah’s arm and then buckled the straps from the bed tightly over his forearm and across his palm. Then Brukost moved down and secured Keivah’s right leg at the ankle and thigh. Coming round the other side of the bed, he repeated the process on Keivah’s left leg and arm. Finally, To’olon moved away and Brukost finished with straps across Keivah’s chest, waist and across his neck close to his chin, being certain that the silk top was open beneath the straps to expose Keivah’s skin. When he was finished, Brukost stroked Keivah’s hair.

‘This is very exciting,’ the warlock smiled.

Keivah tried to jerk his head away, but was not very successful. Brukost had lifted his hand again, anyway. He held his fingers a few inches above Keivah, and then began to run the hand down his body. When he reached the spot where Keivah’s ribs were sore, he stopped and frowned. Placing his hand at Keivah’s side, he let out a growl of displeasure.

‘When did you do that?’ Brukost asked, poking Keivah’s side for emphasis.

Keivah winced slightly at the prodding. ‘I didn’t do it,’ he replied. ‘You did.’

Brukost sighed, then looked thoughtful. ‘I’ll leave it for now, I think. Perhaps it will keep you from struggling.’ Then he grinned. ‘I know you will, anyway. Just try not to bruise yourself too much. You can’t escape, and the only one you will be hurting is yourself.’ Without another word, Brukost turned and left the cage with To’olon following. Then he left the room, closing its metal door with a loud clank.
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PostSubject: Re: A not-at-all Brief History of Keivah   Tue Jan 29, 2008 5:38 am

Once alone, Keivah began pulling at the straps. They seemed to be made with some sort of metal wires, covered in very soft leather. The bed was also quite soft, and Keivah realised that it was not for his benefit. It was to keep Brukost’s new body free of bruises. He continued struggling at the straps for several minutes, that thought making him thrash harder. Then suddenly something occurred to him, and he started to laugh. Brukost was right. Keivah should be thrilled. Being together forever was exactly what Keivah had wanted since they met. He supposed it was a case of what his father called ‘be careful of your dreams, lest they become nightmares’.

Although the laughter was more hysterical than humour, it still stopped with that thought and his heart sank. Would his parents ever know that something had happened to him? He hadn’t even contacted them in months. In fact, the last message he managed to get to them had been informing them about his training suspension. But he hadn’t actually explained why it happened. He never told them that he had become too good for his trainers, and that he was happy to spend all his time with Brukost. They didn’t know anything about Brukost at all, other than that Keivah had moved in with him. Contacting his parents was difficult, yes, but it was not impossible and suddenly Keivah felt ill with guilt and sorrow that it was possible the last thing he would ever say to them would be essentially: ‘I am not allowed to train anymore, oh, and I moved in with an orc. Hope things are well with you’. At that point, Keivah tried to stop thinking about it.

A while later the door to the room opened and familiar static brushed across Keivah’s skin. He was not certain how much later, as the room had no natural light and time had lost a good amount of its meaning. Once Brukost had come to the side of the cage, Keivah looked over to watch him approach. He was startled by what he saw. Brukost walked slowly toward the cage, holding a small, thin metal box. It was not his usual slowly deliberate walk, though. His approach seemed more … laboured. Keivah felt a pang of worry. He was about to ask Brukost if he was feeling all right, but caught himself when it occurred to him that Brukost was going to steal his body and erase his soul. Did he really care if he felt all right?

Without a word, Brukost entered the cage and sat down beside Keivah on the bed. ‘It’s time for the first step,’ Brukost said, and Keivah resented the pleasantly happy tone.

Brukost did not wait for a reply; not that Keivah had a reply. The warlock opened the metal box and set it beside Keivah on the bed. Then he removed a tiny glowing white crystal, which looked miniscule in his huge hand.

‘These are special soul crystals,’ Brukost explained. He firmly rubbed his thumb against Keivah’s forehead, above the bridge of his nose. Then he set the crystal there. He held it a few moments, until it felt to Keivah as though it was starting to burn just a bit. Then he released it. ‘Developed by me for just this purpose,’ the warlock continued proudly, repeating the process at the hollow of Keivah’s throat. ‘A part of my soul is contained in them, and as my soul enters you, part of your soul will return to the crystal.’ The next one went to Keivah’s chest, then one to his stomach. After that, Brukost set one upon each wrist and one on top of each foot. When he was finished, Brukost closed the box and smiled. ‘I am doing this very slowly, only removing and inserting small amounts at a time. It will lessen the possibility that you would go into shock or suffer serious mental and physical damage.’

‘Great,’ Keivah muttered.

Brukost did not seem angry by the sarcasm. He just chuckled. Then he stood and turned toward the cage door. The moment his back was turned, Keivah twisted his body almost involuntarily in an attempt to knock the crystals off. He would have preferred to wait until Brukost was gone, but the odd burning sensation scared him, and he wanted to stop any damage as soon as possible. However, he discovered that it didn’t matter. Although he was strapped down tightly, he still had some body movement. But his twisting and struggles failed to dislodge the crystals.

Outside the cage, Brukost turned back to Keivah. ‘Do not fight,’ he said. ‘The crystals will not move until their purpose is finished.’ With that, he abruptly left.

Despite Brukost’s statement, Keivah continued to struggle. But it hurt his ribs, and soon the burning sensation, which had started as a dull ache where the crystals sat, began to spread throughout his body. Within a very short time, he was paralysed with pain, and it hurt to do anything but lay still. Then, as a sweat began to break out across him, a new sensation appeared. He felt himself slipping away. It felt a bit like passing out, or falling asleep, but he was wide-awake. And he could not stop it, or shake himself out of it. He clenched his teeth and tried harder, but then it felt as though the harder he tried to hold on, the faster he faded and the more sensitive his body became to the burning sensation. At the same time, a tremendous darkness spread through him. He was not certain if it was the influence of Brukost’s soul, or despair. Possibly both. But that, too, was impossible to fight and finally all Keivah could do was let out a shout of rage and pain.



Over the next few hours, the burning agony got worse and worse until Keivah was not certain he could take another moment. Then it got even worse still. What started as light perspiration became regular beads of sweat dripping down his face. The struggles to dislodge the crystals had become mixed with writhes of pain. Then suddenly, the crystals slid from his body, landing upon the bed. The burning began to cool, and the pain started to fade. Keivah took several deep breaths, unaware until that moment that he had been panting. Then he let out a long, shuddering sigh.

Taking advantage of the ceased burning, Keivah began to fight desperately against the straps. His ribs still hurt, but he simply ignored that. Even then, whether it was his weakened state or the straps were simply far too strong for him to break, his struggles were useless. He was just settling back down to build his strength for another try, when the door opened and the static pricked at his skin. Keivah closed his eyes, but as he heard Brukost approach from the side, he could not help but glance at him.

‘You look terrible,’ Brukost said as he entered the cage.

Keivah ignored him. Brukost looked better this time, if not fully recovered from his earlier mildly ragged appearance, and Keivah regretted ever worrying about his health. Then Brukost sat beside him and opened the box.

‘You know, my love,’ Brukost said in an outrageously pleasant tone. ‘If you don’t fight it, it will stop hurting you so badly.’

Keivah gave Brukost a vicious glare – his only remaining weapon. ‘Don’t call me that,’ Keivah hissed, and he was surprised by how hoarse his voice had become. ‘You never loved me. You only used me.’

Brukost placed the first crystal upon Keivah’s forehead without appearing to have heard. Then he smiled as he began to work upon Keivah’s neck. ‘I did both,’ he said simply.

‘I was loyal,’ Keivah protested. ‘I did everything for you, and would have done anything for you.’

‘And you are proving that for me now.’

‘I don’t want this.’

Brukost paused from placing the crystal upon Keivah’s chest. He leaned forward with a hand on either side of Keivah, and his face hovering above. ‘You would have given your life for me.’

Keivah’s brow furrowed. ‘What?’

‘Before this,’ Brukost said. ‘You would have given your life for me. I know you would have.’

Keivah had a bad feeling about the direction of the conversation. But he nodded, because Brukost was correct. ‘Yes.’

‘And that is what you are doing,’ Brukost smiled. Then he leaned back again, placing the chest crystal before shifting to Keivah’s stomach.

Taken aback, Keivah could only stare at the ceiling for a moment. Then he shook his head. ‘That’s different.’

‘How so?’

‘I would have given my life. I didn’t want you to take it. It’s very different.’

‘Not to me.’

Keivah fell silent. Brukost had a point, actually. Keivah would have gladly given his life for the warlock. Without hesitation. So was there a difference? Head spinning, he closed his eyes again tightly. Brukost had a way of being able to make him doubt what he thought he knew or felt. Keivah was not stupid at all, and he knew that he was not. But Brukost had a way of convincing him of things that, on reflection, he could not begin to imagine agreeing to. It was something of a power that Brukost had over him. And in perhaps the argument for the idea that he was stupid, it was part of the attraction for Keivah. He was uncontrollably attracted to power and strength, and while he often resented the powers that Brukost had over him, he equally enjoyed it. He knew himself not to be weak, other than where Brukost was concerned. So anyone who could have such an effect upon him was one to be respected and admired.

Or respected and admired until he steals your body, Keivah thought bitterly as the crystals were set upon his wrists.

‘Thinking about me?’ Brukost asked suddenly.

They both knew that he had been, so Keivah simply nodded. It was that exact sort of thing, about which he had just been thinking. Brukost always seemed to know everything about Keivah. What he was thinking, what he was feeling, how he would react to a given situation, and what actions he would take. It was as though Brukost could get inside his mind. It was tremendously attractive.

‘Good,’ was all Brukost said. He stood and gathered the crystals from the bed. Then he walked out of the cage, set the crystals rather unceremoniously in a small pile on a table, and left the room.
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PostSubject: Re: A not-at-all Brief History of Keivah   Tue Jan 29, 2008 5:48 am

The pain started almost immediately, reminding Keivah of the less positive things about Brukost. All the pain that he caused, and all the things he did with the information that he seemed to pick out of Keivah’s mind. Keivah had tried to prepare himself for the fresh set of crystals, and take deep breaths. But soon, he was writhing and sweating again, taking shallow, gasping breaths between clenched teeth.

He was not certain how much longer it was – he guessed hours, when the door opened. The pain hadn’t stopped and the crystals had yet to fall from his body, so Keivah was not entirely certain why Brukost would be there. He had a flash of a hope that Brukost had thought about it, and changed his mind. That he had decided life, no matter how long, would be empty without Keivah in it. That hope was quickly dashed when he heard the voice.

‘Oh. Sorry.’

It was Jorcan. Not Brukost come to say what a mistake all this had been, and that he wanted to grow old with Keivah. As soon as that hope shattered, another appeared. But he heard the door start to close.

‘Jorcan, wait!’ Keivah cried.

He held his breath. Then he heard the door open again and Jorcan enter the room, closing the door behind him. Keivah tried to strain back to look at him, but the strap across his neck was too tight. So he stared at the ceiling, trying to think. He had to be fast, but did not want to upset the tauren.

‘Brukost forgot to release me,’ Keivah said with forced calmness. ‘Can you do it?’

‘Um…’ Jorcan hesitated, and Keivah heard his feet shuffle as he shifted his weight. He knew that Jorcan purposefully tried to stay out of the things he and Brukost did behind closed doors.

‘I’m supposed to be with him right now,’ Keivah continued. ‘He’ll be angry with me if I am late.’ Keivah reluctantly also knew that Jorcan had watched Brukost lose his temper at Keivah many times, and hated the results. It made him very uncomfortable to see Keivah get punished or yelled at, so while Keivah hated to do it, it seemed a good way to convince him. However, after a long silence, Jorcan shifted again.

‘I remind him,’ he said, and then Keivah heard him turn.

‘Wait!’ Keivah said, and he cursed the shrill desperation in his voice. But he was indeed desperate and as little as he wanted to say what he was about to say, he could be on very limited time. ‘Brukost is killing me,’ Keivah said quickly.

There was another pause. ‘When?’

‘Right now. He’s in the process of doing it right now.’

Keivah heard Jorcan turn back to him again. ‘Why?’

‘It’s complicated. Please … Jorcan. Help me.’

More shuffling and nervous twitches. ‘Killing you?’ Jorcan finally asked.

Jorcan had seen Keivah many times after Brukost’s torture sessions and twice by similar accident during. To Jorcan, Brukost was always in the process of killing Keivah.

‘Brukost could be back any moment. I need to get out of here.’

Jorcan continued to hesitate, and Keivah was not entirely certain why. ‘He won’t hurt you,’ Keivah assured the tauren.

‘I know,’ Jorcan replied.

Keivah hadn’t been trying to trick him. They both knew that Brukost would never harm Jorcan. As much as Jorcan was like a younger brother to Keivah, he was very definitely like a son to Brukost.

The pain, which had momentarily been pushed aside by the adrenaline of the situation returned to Keivah in a rush. Letting out a groan, Keivah realised that, after the brief hope of rescue, if he had to go back to the agony and despair he could very possibly go mad.

‘Jorcan,’ Keivah said softly. ‘I don’t want to die like this.’

That finally moved Jorcan into action. He entered the cage and began to unfasten Keivah’s right arm. Once he was finished, he moved to Keivah’s left arm and Keivah released the strap from his neck. Then Keivah unbuckled the strap across his chest as Jorcan did the one at his stomach. They each released a leg, and then Keivah was free. He swung his legs to the side of the bed, pushed up, and then promptly collapsed to the floor.

‘You’re sleeping now?’ Jorcan asked, looking down at Keivah with confusion.

‘No,’ Keivah chuckled. ‘I’m just a bit weak.’ He reached for the crystal at his chest and tried to pull it off, but it would not move. It felt as though he was about to remove a few layers of skin with it. But even after he decided that a few layers of skin were worth sacrificing to remove the crystal, and he pulled harder, it still would not move. It did not even lift the skin on which it sat. Then Jorcan tried, but had the same lack of results. Keivah was too conscious of time to try again, and decided that they would simply have to be ignored for the moment.

Keivah turned and began trying to pull himself up, using the bed as support. When his eyes were level with the surface, his gaze settled upon one of the straps and he paused. Taking the strap in his hand, Keivah noticed that there was only one buckle hole. The straps had been the exact right tightness. Not too tight, that they would dig into his skin and cut off circulation, but tight enough to prevent him from more than a small amount of movement. Staring at the strap gave Keivah a chill. They had been measured specifically for his body. Something about that thought made him even more determined to escape.

He continued trying to push himself up, and once Jorcan realised what he was doing, the tauren reached down and lifted him to his feet. Then, before Keivah knew what was happening, he found himself turned about and his face jammed into the thick fur of Jorcan’s chest. Despite the heavy hand at the back of his head, Keivah managed to turn his head to the side, so that he could breathe. Otherwise, he did not resist the clumsy hug, and even managed to wrap the arm, which was not pinned to his side about Jorcan, and return the gesture. And it was that moment in which Keivah understood one of the reasons Jorcan had hesitated to release him. It was not fear of Brukost, or not wanting to see Keivah safe. He simply understood that Keivah would leave, and did not want him to go.

‘I’m sorry,’ Keivah said. He knew that he was breaking up their family, and it was no longer the crushing hug and thick tauren fur, which made breathing difficult. It was guilt. He hugged Jorcan as long as he possibly could, but finally nerves and pain took over. ‘I have to go,’ Keivah said gently.

Jorcan let go then, but a thought seemed to occur to him. ‘I go with you,’ he said.

Keivah had anticipated that, and shook his head. ‘No,’ he smiled. ‘I know you’ll be safe here.’ He did not add the fact that something could happen to him, and then Jorcan would be out in the world alone. That was a thought he could not bare.

‘Please don’t think that I want to leave.’ Keivah continued. He tried to think of something else to say, but each moment he stayed in that room, could be a moment in which Brukost walked through the door. He asked Jorcan if he knew where ‘the master’ was, but he did not. So Keivah grabbed the used crystals from the table and walked cautiously out of the room.

He discovered that he had been downstairs. The room was in the corridor down which Brukost had told him not to go. It gave Keivah another chill. Brukost had been planning the entire thing since before they met. So this mysterious corridor held a room, which probably had been waiting for Keivah the entire time he lived in the house. And every time Keivah had taken a curious glance down the dark corridor, he was looking at the closed door behind which he would lose a lover, a good friend, and part of his soul. And in which he was meant to lose his life. It made his stomach turn.

Keivah was still wearing the silk lounging outfit, but did not dare go upstairs to change. As he left the corridor and came into the part of the house he did know, though, he made one quick stop. In the downstairs lounge, he walked quickly to the large wooden desk in the corner. The top drawer held several bags of powder incense, and not even bothering to empty the contents, Keivah slipped the loose crystals into one of the small bags. Then he hung the long cord about his neck and turned.

Jorcan had followed him, and stood quietly in the doorway, watching. He did not need to speak, for Keivah to read his expression and know that he was feeling very sad.

‘You’re very brave,’ Keivah smiled. ‘I wish you could go with me. But somebody had to take care of Brukost.’

Jorcan straightened and perked up. ‘I can.’

Keivah grinned with forced brightness, for Jorcan’s benefit. ‘That would be great,’ he said. He did not want life with Brukost to be any more awkward than it had to be for Jorcan. If he had a real purpose to staying in the house, he might more quickly forget what Brukost had done. After all, it was now Keivah’s fault for telling him of Brukost’s intent to kill him.

‘Thank you,’ Keivah said. He started to move past Jorcan and out of the room, but paused. He set a hand on Jorcan’s shoulder and smiled. ‘I’ll never forget you.’

‘Come back and visit?’ Jorcan asked hopefully.

Keivah nodded, although he certainly doubted it, and thought Jorcan did as well. ‘Perhaps,’ he said. Then he patted Jorcan’s shoulder and made his way back down the main corridor. The fastest way out of the house was through a side tunnel and onto the beach at the base of the cliff, so Keivah went that way, not risking a look back.
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PostSubject: Re: A not-at-all Brief History of Keivah   Tue Jan 29, 2008 6:00 am

Fresh salt air brushed Keivah’s face as he closed the iron door behind him. It was early evening, and the surf crashed onto the shore in purposeful rhythm. Keivah picked his way carefully down the narrow path to the sandy beach. He knew that walking would be more difficult on the sand, but thought he would cut his bare feet on the rocks if he tried to go above the beach. He made his way directly down to where the surf was washing up, trying to kick his footprints away as he went. Then he turned and made his way north.

The harder sand at the edge of the beach was not as bad as the looser areas, but even then, he had only walked for about twenty minutes before he was exhausted. He knew that it was only twenty minutes rather than the several hours that it felt to be, because the sun had moved very little. His entire body hurt and he walked with his right arm folded across his stomach, clutching his aching ribs. He did not pay particular attention to his ribs because they were what hurt the most. It was simply because it was the only pain, which had a specific location. Everything else was a solid burning sensation. Even the cooler air of the approaching evening did not help. It nearly made it worse, in fact, because the heat became that much more acute.

Keivah knew that the closest town was miles away. It felt absolutely impossible to make it that far, so he simply concentrated upon the next step. When he accomplished that, he focused upon the next one. He managed to walk for an hour or more that way, before his legs gave out and he stumbled, and fell.

Rolling to his back, Keivah gazed up at the slowly reddening clouds. There were very few, and they were high, wispy slashes of colour against the blue sky. Cold water of a wave flowed over and past him, nearly covering him for a moment before it retreated once again. Keivah imagined that his hot skin was sizzling beneath the chilly water, but knew it was not. It just felt that way.

When the next wave came, it was larger and did cover him completely. Keivah very briefly considered opening his mouth and breathing in the water, but it was only a flash of a thought. He certainly was not about to leave his home and everything about which he cared, only to kill himself when things got a bit tough. Were he to do that, he could have just stayed and let Brukost have his body. So Keivah held his breath until the wave retreated, then he rolled over and crawled inland a bit.

He was not quite ready to move on, but he also knew that lying back down in the sand could be dangerous. Perhaps he didn’t want to kill himself, but his consciousness was not very steady. He could easily pass out and then accidentally drown, anyway. So he settled back upon his heels and closed his eyes.

‘Keivah!’

Keivah opened his eyes quickly and looked about. The voice had definitely been Brukost, and he sounded close. But Keivah could not see anybody up nor down the beach. He frowned, looking over his shoulder again. It had been an odd tone. Not as though Brukost was calling out to him, but more just an exclamation of his name. Continuing to scan the beach, Keivah was suddenly aware of a deep nausea crashing into him. The surprise and fear of hearing Brukost shout his name was not reacting well with his condition. He wanted to get up and run, before Brukost appeared, but could not move. Instead, all he could do was double over and bury his face in his hands.

Behind his closed eyes, Keivah suddenly saw an image. Brukost stood inside the cage in which he had kept Keivah. He stared down at the empty bed in surprise and anger. Then slowly, the image shifted and Keivah himself was looking at the bed. He felt the emotions, which had been on Brukost’s face, and felt his hands clench tightly. He could smell candles and incense burning, and had flashes of his own violent punishment at the hands of Brukost for escaping. Then his view shifted from the bed to the empty table where the crystals had been. The sensation of anger deepened as the view shifted once more. He was moving out of the cage and toward the door. As he saw the door approach, the view froze, and Keivah watched Brukost stride swiftly through, slamming it behind him.

Keivah gasped and he fell forward, catching himself with his hands. He stared down at the sand, feeling drained and light-headed. It had been so real, and Keivah felt a horrible dread twist in his stomach. It had felt real, because it was. Somehow, he had witnessed Brukost discovering that he was gone. But how or why was pushed away by a much larger concern. Brukost was coming for him, and he was furious.

Realising that he had been staring at something, Keivah forced his eyes to focus. A small, clear glowing crystal sat nestled in the sand. Looking down, Keivah saw two more. He lifted his hand and in the print he had left was a fourth. Keivah quickly gathered the crystals, sifting through the sand to find the two, which had been on his feet. When he had them all safely put away in the bag about his neck, he pushed himself up.

The steady burning sensation was slowly fading as before, but it left his body feeling weak and ragged. Standing was difficult and he was so dizzy that he staggered before he had even moved. His ribs ached even more, both from the fall and standing again, and because that was now the main injury to his body. But he knew that he had to continue moving. He had no idea if Brukost received a similar image of Keivah, but if so, or if he even got a tiny flash, he would know that Keivah was on the beach. He would be able to move much faster, so it would just be a matter of time before he caught up. Keivah glanced back down the beach. The waves had softened but not erased the closest footprints. Perhaps the water had eroded his tracks further down, but perhaps not. He would have to hurry, in case it hadn’t. Or … Keivah’s gaze caught something along the shoreline above the beach. Or he could do something unexpected.

Keivah stumbled toward the area above the sand, instantly wondering if it was a mistake to take the time. Perhaps he should just go as quickly as possible toward town. But it was still so far away, and now that he thought he was certain Brukost was coming after him, he would not have enough time. He looked at the jumbled mass of driftwood strewn about the area. He could not exactly lash together a raft, but the larger pieces would certainly support him. Picking out one with thick, stubby branches at the side, he began dragging it down to the waterline. When he was too tired to continue, he paused and looked up. Half way. Keivah groaned and slumped to the sand. It had been a bad idea, clearly. Then, it could be worse, he supposed. The crystals were gone, and so the burning was gone. And at least it was not less than half way. He searched his mind a bit harder, but that was where the fortunes ended. Clutching the driftwood, Keivah took a deep breath.

‘All right,’ he said.





One imprint in the sand. Long and narrow, it seemed tiny when set against the vast stretch of the beach. Waves lapped steadily against it, across it and over it, leaving tiny puddles upon retreating. Any form had been lost to the gentle erosion, leaving nothing but an oblong dent. It seemed entirely inconsequential, completely ignorable, and unworthy of a second glance. However, two deep red eyes stared intently at it. The eyes narrowed, becoming slits against the large yellow-green head. Sharp teeth clenched in a sneer. Bending over, Brukost raked his thick fingers across the imprint, clutching the sand tightly. As he stood again, a light began to burn between his fingers and his red eyes looked north. With a snarl, he flung the lump of molten glass into the surf at his feet. Striding past the sizzling, crackling mass, Brukost growled angrily.





Panting and exhausted, Keivah leaned against the driftwood to catch his breath. He gazed at the long gash in the sand, leading down to the water. A while ago, the tiny hairs at the back of his neck had started to prickle, and he sensed Brukost getting closer. Keivah took a deep breath and ran up the beach to the shoreline. Once he had reached the scraggly grass, he side-stepped a few paces to where he had removed the driftwood. Then he got to his hands and knees, making his way slowly back and brushing the sand smooth in the process. At the waterline, he shoved the driftwood the rest of the way into the surf. Carefully patting the wet sand flat, he looked back at his work. It was a bit sloppy, but he was not certain anybody would notice the repair job unless they were looking. He hoped that anybody, meaning Brukost, would concentrate more on the footprints leading up from the water. It looked to Keivah as though somebody had left the waterline and run up to continue along the road above the beach. He hoped that it would look that way to Brukost as well.

Keivah turned and waded out to the driftwood. Climbing astride, he was relieved and quite pleased with himself that it did indeed support him, and the thick branches acted as something of a counter-balance, as he had hoped they would. With a last look back, he began paddling out to sea.




Keivah awoke with a start. He looked up quickly, nearly tipping himself over. He had apparently fallen asleep or passed out. Gazing across the dark water, he noticed odd shimmering lights reflected in front of him. He looked up, but the moon was behind clouds, so that wasn’t it. He turned carefully and looked the other way. The town was lit up brightly against the black night. Torches blazed in the streets, and soft yellow glowed warmly behind many windows. He could see figures moving about, and suddenly the dark shape of a flying mount streaked across the sky above him. The chill Keivah felt melted away just a bit as he took in the silent scene. Relieved, he paddled toward the beach.

When he was close enough, Keivah slid from the driftwood and swam until he could stand. Then he waded the rest of the way in. Shivering and wet, Keivah suddenly realised that he had no coin. All he had been thinking about was escaping and reaching the town. Now that he was there, he had no idea what to do next. Try to get away, obviously, as the town was not exactly safe. It was merely safer, and had options for leaving. But he knew that Brukost would not hesitate to snatch him away, even from a large crowd. With a sigh, Keivah knew what he would have to do. He hated the thought, but he would have to beg for coin and hope that somebody would take pity on him. He made his way to the path near the dock.




By the time Brukost arrived to the town, he was nearly blind with anger. How dare Keivah run, and how dare he ruin everything Brukost had been working for? With each step of pursuit, Brukost grew more furious, and the only thing that had made chasing Keivah pleasant was planning all the things to do to him once he was caught. Brukost could keep him alive for quite a long time, and scars be damned. A few marks on his eternal body would be worth the triumph of pain that it would be.

As he wandered the town, he tried to sense Keivah. Then a very brief image came to him. Slowly, his red eyes turned toward the dock.
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PostSubject: Re: A not-at-all Brief History of Keivah   Tue Jan 29, 2008 6:16 am

Keivah approached the path, smoothing back his hair and trying to hold the now-filthy top of his silk outfit closed. He was attempting to look presentable, but then realised that he probably should look as pathetic as possible. But it was too late to mess his hair and clothing again, because somebody was approaching. Anyway, he likely still looked fairly pathetic.

Keivah stood in the shadows of a tree watching the figure, which was also bathed in shadows, approach. Keivah began to move forward, planning to arrive at the same time beneath the torch, which was half-way between he and the hopefully kind-hearted soul. Then suddenly, a powerful image brushed through his mind. Keivah’s step caught and he stumbled. Brukost had arrived to the town and was looking for him. Not just looking, but hunting as one would an animal. And he wanted blood.

The image had made Keivah stop. But knowing what he did made him even more desperate. The figure on the path was just stepping into the light, and Keivah strode forward. Then he froze.

Human.

It was a human.

Barely suppressing a cry of surprise, Keivah crashed back off the path and into the trees. The human frowned, having seen the movement. He looked into the trees. He looked directly at Keivah, in fact, but didn’t know it from the darkness. Then, still frowning, the human hurried on down the path, with a single glance over his shoulder.

Keivah’s heart was pounding as he shrank further into the shadows. How had it happened? How did he come to a human town? He must have been unconscious longer than he realised, and gotten caught in a current. Looking wildly about, suddenly the warm, inviting town was sinister and terrifying. It was only now that he realised he did not recognise it. He never did spend a lot of time in the horde town to which he thought he had come, and he had been so relieved to be there, that he failed to pay attention. Backing away from the path, Keivah turned and rushed to the beach. He frantically scanned the water, but the driftwood had floated away. He began shaking as panic took over his senses. There would be patrols everywhere. He would be killed, or captured and worse than what Brukost would do to him.

A boat sat gently rising and falling with the sea at the dock. It only took Keivah a moment to make up his mind, because it was probably his only chance. He plunged into the water and swam to the side of the boat. Climbing the side, Keivah saw two crewmen, but their backs were turned and they were concentrating rather heavily upon the steaming mugs that they held. Keivah slid quietly onboard, and then ducked downstairs. He moved into a large room and hid in the cupboard. As his breath began to calm, he felt the ship move.




After a while, when it seemed nobody was coming into the room, Keivah eased from the cupboard. He stood, rubbing his ribs gingerly and thinking. The closest town to Brukost’s house was the horde one. He was certainly aware of alliance towns, but not for hundreds of miles down the coast, and a few across the land. It was still night. It had to be the same night … to have been unconscious and drifting about the water for an entire day seemed unlikely. A very strong current must have swept him down the coast.

Edging closer to the door, Keivah listened carefully up the stairs. He could hear a low murmur of voices, occasionally broken by a loud shout or whoop. If he had to guess, he would say that they were the voices of passengers. It hardly mattered, though. Crew or passengers, they were alliance, and therefore deadly to him. He moved away from the stairs and paced the room nervously.

‘Where am I?’ Keivah sighed softly. He didn’t even have a window. He had no idea where he was going or where he had been. And he had no idea how he would get off the boat once it had arrived to its destination. Most disturbing, he did not know where Brukost was. He closed his eyes, trying to get another scene to come to him, but nothing came. After a few moments, he felt himself start to panic just a bit. The small room felt claustrophobic, and the distant drone of voices felt entirely too close. Any vague or unfamiliar sound from the deck sounded to him as though it was swords being drawn or guns being readied in preparation to attack him. When his chest became painfully tight, Keivah took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

‘Calm down,’ he murmured.

There were some positives. There were always positives, so he would have to focus upon those. Otherwise, he would be too panicked to do anything if something did occur. So firstly, he was still alive. That was, of course, a huge positive. There had been loads of chances for him to die over the past while, starting with his experience in the cage and ending, but not necessarily concluding, with his current situation. But despite all the chances, he was still alive at the moment, and he had to feel good about that. Secondly, he was still himself. Brukost had not succeeded in taking his body, or at least not yet. Keivah supposed that the second one was fairly close to the first, but he was trying to make himself feel better, so he kept them separate. Thirdly … that was where he faltered. He had made it onto the boat, but again, that was the same as the first one. He considered making a list of each time he had survived something instead, so that he would have a good, solid list of many positives, but decided that would be cheating. Keivah rubbed his face with both hands and took another deep breath.

‘You’re hysterical,’ he whispered to himself.

To get his mind off the fact that his only positive seemed to be his continued existence, he began looking about the cabin. It was actually quite luxurious, despite the boat itself being a bit rickety. The bed was very nice and books lined one wall. Keivah took a few of the books down and opened them, but they were written in a language he could not read. So he closed them again and returned them carefully to their places. As he continued looking about, he began to wonder if there was food or water tucked away somewhere. The more he thought about it, the more he realised just how hungry he was, and why his body had started to grow weaker once again.

Sitting at the edge of the bed, Keivah tried to remember the last time he ate or drank anything. It was the day he had left to get the crocolisk eyes. Which had been … If he could not even remember, it had been a while. It felt like years. Jorcan would never allow him to go so long without eating, Keivah mused. Had Brukost waited just another thirty minutes that night, Keivah could have left the crocolisk eyes downstairs and had a bowl of stew before everything went wrong.

It was with a pang of nostalgia that Keivah remembered how Brukost always tried to be certain Keivah was eating as well. Food was something Keivah often forgot about, or he was too busy to bother with it. But Brukost constantly asked if he was eating, and when and how much. That made a great sadness drift into Keivah. Brukost did take care of him, and Keivah felt empty and hollow without him. Generally, even after being away for a day, Keivah felt empty without him and now he was facing the rest of his life without Brukost. Or the rest of his life if he wanted to live. Perhaps he didn’t want to live without Brukost, though. In fact, he knew that he didn’t, and never had. Why did Brukost have to do that? Why did he have to try to take his body? If he hadn’t done that, they would still be together. Yes, Keivah was currently free and alive, but did it mean anything without Brukost? It was with sorrow that Keivah realised no, it did not. Life without Brukost would be meaningless and lonely.

Something had been happening and Keivah glanced up, blinking away the tears, which he was surprised to find welling in his eyes. He looked about the cabin, confused. Then he knew what it was. The boat had made a hard turn and was slowing. It must be approaching land.

Knowing what he would have to do, Keivah stood. He clutched the bag about his neck tightly. He could not allow his soul to be dumped into nothingness, but he also could not stand the idea of existence without Brukost. He would simply have to die.

The boat gave a gentle jolt as it bumped into the dock. Keivah heard feet moving above him and knew that the crew would be busy securing lines and whatever else one did when bringing a boat in to land. With a long, deep sigh, Keivah made his way up the stairs.



Pale light seeped through the low, heavy clouds. The air had a dampness, which was clammy and refreshing at the same time. Steady gusts of wind pushed inland from across the sea, and the air smelled of salt and wet sand. The boat’s crew busied themselves about the deck, unaware of the sudden extra figure in the doorway.

Keivah wished he knew how to say ‘make it fast’ in the common language of the alliance. But, he supposed, if he asked them to, they might not. Best to leave it as the killing of an intruder. Perhaps they would be more likely to want to do that quickly. Stepping forward, Keivah began to close his eyes. Then he opened them again and his heart seized. He was about to die. Killed by the crew of some alliance ship in some desolate port. Was that really how he wanted his life to end?

Just as one of the crew turned toward him, Keivah lowered his head and rushed past. He was off the boat in three steps, and started down the dock. A voice called out, so with no more than a brief look over the side to check for rocks, he jumped off the dock and plunged into the icy water. Swimming hard, he made it past the buildings to his right and away from the sounds of confused voices.
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PostSubject: Re: A not-at-all Brief History of Keivah   Tue Jan 29, 2008 6:24 am

Another bloody beach, Keivah thought as he trudged forward. He touched the bag about his neck to be certain it was still there, and made his way warily north. He assumed it was north, anyway. He could not check the sun, because he had been walking for quite a bit and it had yet to move. It seemed to remain in a constant state of either rising or setting, but he was not certain which. Time had basically blurred away over the past few days, and without windows in the boat’s cabin, he didn’t know if they had sailed all day and arrived at dusk or sailed all night and arrived at dawn. It would depend upon how long he had been on the driftwood, but he didn’t know that either. And the lack of the sun’s movement was not helping. So he simply walked, hungry and cold, hoping to come across something.

After walking for what seemed to be at least two hours and possibly more, he did come across something. Keivah let out and exclamation of joy and stumbled forward, plunging into the stream. Standing thigh-deep, he cupped his hands and then lifted the water to his nose, sniffing cautiously. Then he touched the tip of his tongue to it. It seemed fresh, so Keivah sucked down the water in his hands, and then re-filled, bringing that to his lips as well. After that was gone, he abandoned being delicate, and fell to his knees in the stream, drinking deeply. When he felt satisfied, he waded back out and sat upon a rock to rest.

The gusts of wind off the water had increased, whipping the thin material of his clothing and chilling his skin. He could hear thunder mixed with the crashing of the waves, and knew a storm was coming. He would certainly not freeze to death … it was cold, but not that cold. He would, however, be incredibly uncomfortable and possibly make himself ill if he did not move inland and find shelter. At the very least, away from the harsh gusts of wind. So he followed the line of the cliff above the beach until he found a way up. Once above the beach, he realised he was at the edge of a seemingly abandoned road to his right. He turned left, assuming that a road must lead somewhere. As the first light drops of rain began to fall, he discovered that the road might be abandoned, but the land was certainly being used.

Keivah hid behind a large rock, taking in the strange scene. Fires crackled at assorted spots about the ruins, but the creatures tending them seemed neither as warm nor as inviting. They appeared to be part fish and part serpent, as they slithered about upright on their thick tails. Many of them carried weapons; either spears or tridents from what Keivah could see. Those who did not, he sensed were casters. They most certainly did not seem friendly, and Keivah was about to move on when he glanced at the ground in front of the rock.

A small statue made of white stone was nestled beside one of the camp areas. Without taking his eyes off the creatures closest to him, Keivah crept forward. When he reached the statue, he tipped it over, revealing several squirming white grubs. Not giving himself time to think, Keivah began shoving them hungrily into his mouth, chewing rapidly to kill them before swallowing. He was not thrilled by the sensation of having squirming, living things in his mouth, but it was a good source of nutrients, and he needed it. Looking about, a similar statue was on the ground further up. It was closer to a group of the creatures, but still far enough away that he felt confident in his ability to sneak up to it.

As he approached, three of the creatures slowly moved closer, and Keivah flattened against the muddy ground. One of them began to look in his direction, and Keivah cursed inwardly. But at that moment, a flash of lightning ripped across over-head. As though the lightning had torn the very fabric of the sky, rain began pouring out in torrents. The creatures turned quickly and began tending their fire.

With a grateful sigh, Keivah blinked rain from his eyes and crawled the rest of the way to the statue. The creatures were once again a decently comfortable distance from him, so Keivah moved to his knees and tipped the statue back.

There was a sharp crack, followed by a tremendous flash of light and a loud explosion erupted in the air. For a brief moment, Keivah thought it was more lightning, but it had been right in front of his face. He had started to fall back, but then there was something else. A vicious growl and a blur of motion. Keivah pushed himself back, and something slashed where his face had just been. Another growl burst before him, as Keivah tried to scramble away. Something was moving toward him, but he couldn’t quite see it. Turning over, he pushed himself to his feet, just as he was hit at the back of the legs and sent sprawling again. Keivah looked over his shoulder and saw another blur without any real form. Then he saw something else. A large group of the fish/serpent creatures were slithering toward him.

Keivah moved to his feet again and began to run. Before he had taken more than a few steps, a searing pain shot through his leg. Looking down, he saw the deep gash, and the spear laying a few feet away. He continued to limp forward, barely able to see through the downpour of rain. He didn’t even realise the cliff was in front of him until he was standing at the edge, staring at the sharp rocks below. Keivah turned just as the creatures caught up with him.

For a heartbeat, everybody stopped and stared at each other. Then one of the creatures raised a spear. Keivah thought he said ‘wait’, as his hand went up to cast, but was not certain. It would not have mattered, though. The creature threw the spear hard, at a distance from which he could not miss. At that moment, everything slowed down for Keivah. He felt the spear impale him and cried out as white-hot agony tore through him. He clutched his stomach around the spear and looked down. The blow had put him off balance, and his legs buckled. He looked up at the creatures again as he began to fall. Some were already turning back to their camps, and others watched with clear satisfaction as he pitched backwards over the cliff.





From silence, a cacophony of noise suddenly assaulted his ears. Pounding surf, rain, thunder … and something else. A voice.

‘What?’ Keivah asked weakly, uncertain where he was or why he was so wet.

‘Tell it I’m tryin’ ta help you!’

Keivah rolled the words about in his mind for a moment, trying to make sense of them. When that failed, he tried to open his eyes, but it was difficult. Blinking a few times, he squinted through the rain. The first thing he saw was a long piece of metal, and he was reminded of waking in the cage. Then it occurred to him that this metal was not around him. It was in him. The pain began returning to his body at that moment, and Keivah arched back, groaning.

‘Come on, lad!’ The male voice, which Keivah had forgotten about, called again. ‘Tell it I’m helpin’!’

Keivah looked about, confused and slightly annoyed. He had a spear in his stomach. Why was somebody yelling at him? And what was he talking about? Tell it? What – Suddenly, mixed with all the other sounds, Keivah realised that he was hearing a low roar. Wincing, he lifted his head and looked down. At his feet stood something, which resembled a large cat. It only resembled one, though, because it appeared to be white with black spots, unlike the normal red or brown with which he was familiar. Also … he could see through it. Not around it, or over it, but through its transparent body. Clearly, it was what was making the roaring sound. But it did not appear to be doing it at him. Keivah followed where it was looking. A figure stood in hooded cloak above him, several feet up at the top of the cliff. Looking about, Keivah saw that he had fallen onto a shelf.

‘Yer bleedin’ ta death,’ the figure called. ‘There’s not a lotta time. Tell it ta back off.’

Keivah cringed and his head fell back. ‘What is it?’

‘Do it!’

Raising his head again, Keivah looked down at his stomach and the pool of blood in which he was lying. Rain splattered into the blood, making tiny crimson eruptions around him. The cloaked figure was right. He didn’t have a lot of time. The ghostly creature had stopped growling and looked at Keivah. Gazing back, Keivah suddenly felt a connection with the creature. It seemed to be looking at him with concern. Keivah nearly felt as though he could hear the creature’s thoughts, if he listened just a bit harder.

‘Now!!’

Keivah groaned as a wave of pain flowed through him, and darkness began to close in. His head fell back again and he closed his eyes. He was losing consciousness, and tried to get out the words ‘back off’ before that happened. Whether he said it or just mouthed it, he didn’t know. He wanted to try again, but the sounds were fading quickly until he was back in silence.
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PostSubject: Re: A not-at-all Brief History of Keivah   Tue Jan 29, 2008 6:44 am

‘Who’s Brukost?’

Keivah opened his eyes and looked up. Jorcan sat over him, apparently working at the wound in his stomach.

‘You know,’ Keivah said in a voice, which was barely audible.

Jorcan’s brow furrowed. ‘I do?’

Nodding, Keivah closed his eyes again. ‘Of course you do.’

Suddenly, Jorcan did something particularly painful to his stomach and Keivah let out a sharp gasp.

‘Sorry.’

Keivah’s eyes flew open at the voice. He was both happy and terrified to see Brukost above him, working upon his stomach where Jorcan had just been. Keivah wanted to ask if everything about stealing his soul, and the past few days, had merely been a hallucination, brought on by whatever sort of injury he currently had, but was too weak to form the words. It had to have been, anyway. He smiled with relief as his eyes drifted to the ceiling. When he looked back a moment later, he tensed and tried to stand. It was no longer Brukost above him. Nor was it Jorcan. It was a broad face with a large nose and long, scraggly red beard. Hands from a second, unseen source slid beneath his chin and braced against his forehead, holding him still. Then the face above him was gone, and hands were at his stomach again. Keivah was about to struggle, but a harsh pain blasted through him. Keivah jerked, and then once again everything went black.





There was a very distant, hollow rattling sound when next Keivah awoke. His body was stiff and sore, but when his fingers carefully touched his stomach, he found a thick bandage rather than a gaping wound or a spear. He opened his eyes, suddenly aware of just how annoyed he was with waking from unconsciousness feeling confused and disoriented all the time. He turned his head to the side and looked at the current situation. It was nearly a shock to find himself not on a ledge of a cliff or a bit of driftwood or strapped down in cage, but in an apparently normal, pleasant room. He could hear wind and gentle rain outside, and somewhere the rattling persisted. That did feel out of place and ominous, but Keivah decided to enjoy the rare moment of normality before dealing with it.

Standing was difficult, but he was not in the sort of blinding agony in which he had found himself so often over the past few days. It was more of a normal achy pain. His ribs even felt better. In fact … he actually felt fairly good, aside from being groggy and dizzy.

The good feeling disappeared quickly. He noticed that he was not wearing anything from his waist up, and his hand flew to his neck, already knowing what he would find. Nothing. The bag containing his soul crystals was gone. He looked down, running his fingers across his chest and over his neck in case the bag had simply shifted behind him, but it was definitely gone. Keivah rubbed his forehead and looked at the archway leading into the next room. Now that things were falling apart as they were supposed to be, he decided it was time to discover the source of the rattling.

He was not exactly certain what to expect. He did have one brief and strange image in his mind of the bits of his soul from the crystals being locked in a cage and rattling to break free. It was only a brief image, though, because the thought was slightly insane. Although the way things were lately, Keivah was not certain he would be overly surprised.

When he peered round the arch into the next room, he was about as surprised as he would have been, had it actually been his soul crystals. It was not, though, it was a transparent cat in a cage, rattling to break free. Before that moment, had he thought about it, he would have guessed that the cat from the ledge had been his imagination. But there it was, clawing at the bars. It stopped then, and looked at Keivah. Keivah stepped closer and leaned over, looking back. When their eyes met, Keivah felt a deep sadness. He sensed great dignity and grace with the creature. There was also a vastness that he didn’t quite understand. He did understand the obvious, though. The cat wanted out of the cage.

‘I know how you feel,’ Keivah said softly to it.

He touched the metal padlock on the door, but it needed a key. He was not entirely certain it was a good idea to let the creature out, anyway. He wanted to, but was very aware that it had been what attacked him first at the camp of the serpent creatures. Glancing about to see if a key was nearby, he noticed a slight movement to his left.

Watching him attentively from a rug near a fireplace was a massive white wolf. It was laying quietly, but its bright eyes never left Keivah or seemed to blink.

‘Hello,’ Keivah said to the wolf. He had never seen one that large before, and he did not want to upset it. It simply stared back, not moving. Very slowly, Keivah reached down to pet it, but that was a mistake. It growled lowly, rising from the rug. Startled, Keivah straightened.

‘It’s all right,’ a male voice with an unusual accent said.

Keivah wasn’t certain if the voice, which was somewhere behind him, was talking to him or the wolf. Either way, the wolf slowly settled back onto the rug, placing its head upon its paws.

‘It takes a brave ‘un or stupidity ta steal a god,’ the voice continued.

Keivah turned. The words and whatever meaning they had were lost in his sudden fear. He had never seen a dwarf close before, but he knew one when he saw one, and there was one standing across the room from him. Holding a large, deadly looking axe. Keivah felt his heart jump into his throat, and he was momentarily frozen. Then his hand automatically went to the table beside him, fingers wrapping about something solid. The dwarf seemed startled. He looked from Keivah’s hand, to his face. Then he slowly released the axe, leaving it balanced upon its head on the floor, and raised his hands.

‘Calm down, lad,’ he said. ‘Don’t do anything you’ll regret.’

Keivah was relieved by the reaction, and thought he could escape the situation after all. Then the dwarf burst into laughter. Looking down at the object in his hand, Keivah saw why. It was a long piece of wax, the sort with which one would create seals. Frustrated, Keivah dropped the wax to the floor. He was weak, but he had no choice. Even a lesser spell could do well, as he sensed no magical abilities about the dwarf. He raised his left had and prepared to gather energy for a spell.

The moment he opened his first portal, blinding pain blasted through Keivah’s body. Crying out, Keivah collapsed to the floor on hands and knees. It was as though his blood had turned to molten steel, and he thought he was being torn apart down the middle. His breath had been knocked out of him, but then he gasped and wrapped an arm across his stomach. Vaguely he saw the dwarf run at him, and he tried to fend him away with a shaking hand. The dwarf did stand back, and Keivah looked up at him, shocked.

‘What did you do to me?’ Keivah rasped. ‘You’re not a caster.’

‘I didn’t do it,’ the dwarf replied, fairly startled as well, and no longer laughing.

‘Tell me what you did,’ Keivah demanded.

‘Er … ‘ the dwarf looked over his shoulder. ‘I’ll let the expert explain. She’ll be in soon.’

Closing his eyes, Keivah let out another soft groan. He could not seem to be able to move from his position. One hand braced him up, and the other clutched a wound, which was not there. As powerful as the spell had been, surely the dwarf would not have a lot of energy left. Keivah did not even feel as though the dwarf had the power to cast whatever he had. It would be the perfect time to attack. Then the door opened, and Keivah cursed. The night elf who entered was definitely a caster and this time, Keivah did sense power.

‘He’s up,’ the night elf said brightly. Then she cocked her head, looking at Keivah’s slightly crumpled form. ‘Kind of,’ she added.

Keivah knew that the situation had become grave. If the dwarf was still building energy and the night elf was unprepared, it could be his last chance for survival. Digging deep within himself, Keivah found the physical strength to rise to his knees. He raised his hand and threw open his portals.

‘Honey, don’t-‘ the night elf started.

The rest of what she was going to say became cut off by Keivah’s scream. He collapsed to the floor as molten metal once again felt as though it was coursing through his veins.

‘Sweetie, stop trying to cast,’ the night elf said, her tone gentle and concerned. ‘You’re doing it to yourself.’

Keivah took a shuddering breath and tried to move or roll over. What she said was impossible, and a trick. How could he be doing it to himself? It wasn’t reflective shields. He wasn’t even getting the spells cast. He felt the night elf and dwarf approach, and tried again to move. Expecting to feel the blade of the dwarf’s axe in his back at any moment, Keivah closed his eyes. Instead, he felt hands on his arms, lifting him up. Then the two placed him in a chair. Keivah tried again to stand, but the dwarf held his hands firmly on Keivah’s shoulders. The night elf said something that Keivah didn’t understand, and the dwarf nodded and replied. Then the dwarf moved about behind Keivah, as the night elf took his position, holding Keivah’s shoulders and smiling at him. Something was shifted about behind Keivah and he started to glance over his shoulder. Then the dwarf was pulling his hands behind his back. Before Keivah could even move or react, he felt rope loop over his left hand, and then his wrists were crossed and bound together. Keivah tried to lunge forward, but the night elf held his face in her hands.

‘Listen to me,’ she said. ‘This is so that you will not try to cast. You will be fine.’

Keivah paused his struggles to look at her. She seemed sincere, but that hardly meant anything. Brukost had seemed sincere a few times as well. He pulled away from her hands and glanced over at the cat, who had started to rattle the cage again. The night elf looked to where Keivah had, and then straightened. She said something to the dwarf, who came round the side of the chair. He picked something up off the floor and thrust it in Keivah’s face.

‘Tell us what ya know!' The dwarf said.

Keivah flinched, and then cautiously looked at the item the dwarf held. It was the stick of wax. The dwarf started to laugh, but the night elf gasped.

‘Stop that!’ She scolded. ‘What are you doing?’

The dwarf stopped laughing, and set the wax upon the table. ‘Sorry,’ he said. Then he looked at Keivah, who looked back wide-eyed and stunned. Glancing at the night elf, he coughed. ‘It’s a private joke.’

‘Be nice. He’s scared,’ the night elf said. Then she pointed to the cage. ‘Explain about the cat. He’s worried about it.’

‘Oh, yeah.’ The dwarf moved in front of Keivah. ‘Well, you were groanin’ a little when we were fixin’ ya. The cat didn’t like it, so we had to lock it up. Didn’t want it ta hurt you or us or itself.’

Keivah narrowed his eyes at the dwarf. It could be true, but it also could not be. ‘Let me go,’ he said.

‘Well, now, yer upset and we don’t want ya hurtin’ us or yerself either,’ the dwarf smiled.

Keivah felt extremely vulnerable, and it increased his frustration. He started to pull at the ropes, but stopped suddenly when the night elf held something up.

‘I wanted to talk about this,’ she said.

Keivah stared at the small bag in her hand. The bag, which contained the soul crystals. He could not tear his eyes away for several moments, but when he finally did, his gaze shifted from the night elf to the dwarf and back again. They had suddenly become very sinister.
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Keivah



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PostSubject: Re: A not-at-all Brief History of Keivah   Tue Jan 29, 2008 7:00 am

‘Give that back!’ Keivah shouted. ‘And let me go!’

‘Ohh, ouch.’ The dwarf made an odd face, looking at the night elf before turning away to shift things randomly about a side-table. The night elf arched an eyebrow, and then she leaned forward so that her face was close to Keivah’s.

‘I know you’re frightened,’ she said gently. ‘I know you’re very scared and excited, and probably confused. But nobody – and I say this with all kindness – nobody talks to me like that.’

Keivah swallowed. Her tone did seem kind, yes, but there was also a hard, warning sense beneath it. It made him stop a moment and think. He was indeed frightened and excited and confused, and perhaps that was making him miss something rather important about the situation. Somebody had gotten him up from the shelf. Somebody had gotten him away from the serpent creature camp. Somebody had healed him and bandaged his wounds. He certainly did not see any horde about, so it had to be these two. He blushed at the forceful, threatening manner with which he had spoken. It was actually very unlike him. The moment had taken control away from him, and he felt foolish.

‘I’m sorry,’ he said quietly.

The night elf grinned and then set a hand to his cheek. ‘I understand. I do. We’ll try to figure all this out, all right? Just relax.’

Keivah nodded.

‘Deep breath,’ she smiled.

Keivah took a deep breath.

‘Better?’

‘Yes.’

The dwarf turned back from the table. ‘Whew,’ he said. ‘Thought ya were a gonner, lad.’

Keivah glanced at him and then back to the night elf. ‘I’m calm. Will you let me go now?’

‘No,’ she shook her head. ‘I want you to listen to me first. Really listen. Then, I promise, we will untie you.’

Promises didn’t mean a lot to Keivah anymore. Brukost had made a few promises as well. But he nodded, because he didn’t really have another choice.

‘I am Aphelandra, by the way,’ the night elf said. She turned and gestured to the dwarf. ‘This is my husband, Barannan.’

Keivah glanced at the dwarf, who smiled rather smugly and nodded. ‘That’s right,’ he said. ‘My wife.’

Aphelandra rolled her eyes. ‘Anyway,’ she sighed. She turned her attention back to Keivah. ‘I wasn’t really sure until you tried to cast … but am I right to say that these crystals are holding some of your soul?’

Keivah tried to hide any surprise on his face. He didn’t respond. It would be mad to say ‘yes’, because he could only imagine what they would do with the information. He didn’t say ‘no’ either, because he was extremely bad at lying. So he simply stared at her.

‘I’ll take that as a ‘yes’,’ Aphelandra said.

‘I didn’t say ‘yes’.’

‘Your expression did.’ She looked at the bag and then back to Keivah. ‘I will also assume it was involuntary. Obviously, especially as a caster, you would not want to lose your soul and you certainly wouldn’t be out in the middle of no-where like this without it, if you meant for it to happen.’

Keivah failed to respond again. Anything that could make him more vulnerable than he already was, he absolutely wanted to avoid. But then Barannan stepped forward.

‘Did Brukost do it?’

Keivah’s gaze flashed to him. This time, he knew he hadn’t succeeded in hiding his expression.

‘Barannan!’ The night elf scolded.

‘What?’ Barannan shrugged. ‘You wanted ta know too.’

‘How do you know that name?’ Keivah asked evenly.

‘You … uh … said it when you were passed out. Did ya know you talk in yer sleep?’

‘No. I didn’t.’

Keivah was fairly certain he didn’t talk in his sleep, or at least not regularly. Somebody would have mentioned it to him. So either he had when passed out, the dwarf was lying, or the dwarf and night elf had given him something to make him talk. Or … they knew Brukost.

‘I wanted to know, yes,’ Aphelandra was saying. ‘But I thought it would be wise, and I thought we agreed, to wait.’

‘Why?’

‘You know why.’ She looked at Keivah, and then switched to a language he didn’t know. She said something rather forcefully to the dwarf, then turned and smiled to Keivah. ‘But I will continue in this language,’ she said.

‘Good,’ the dwarf replied. ‘Then I’ll say this in this language.’ He looked at Keivah. ‘It’s just that you were sayin things like ‘please don’t Brukost’ and ‘don’t do this Brukost’ and…’ he suddenly seemed embarrassed. ‘And ‘I love you Brukost’, and my wife AND I wondered…’ he trailed off and shrugged.

‘Barannan!’

‘You were just as curious as I was,’ the dwarf protested.

‘Oh, no, not as much as you were. I was trying to figure out what was wrong with him. It was all YOU talked about.’

They both switched to their own language again after that, and had quite a heated debate, which was apparently about who had been the most curious by Keivah’s unconscious comments. Keivah closed his eyes and sighed. They probably didn’t know Brukost. They wouldn’t be asking so much about him if they did, unless it was an incredible act. But if it was an act, what was the point? What would they do, tie him up and hold him until Brukost arrived? As far as he knew, they were half-way to that already. There was no reason for an act, because they already had him. He couldn’t move, couldn’t go anywhere, couldn’t cast, and they had his soul crystals.

Keivah watched the two argue back and forth for a moment. Then he cleared his throat.

‘He was my lover,’ Keivah said warily. ‘Yes.’

They both stopped arguing and looked at him.

‘Whatever I said when I was unconscious was probably true. I loved him. He was everything. And he used me.’ Keivah nodded at the bag in Aphelandra’s hand. ‘He was removing my soul and putting it into those crystals, then replacing his soul into my body. But I was able to escape before he finished.’

‘So it was a male,’ Barannan said slowly.

Aphelandra sighed and shook her head at the dwarf. ‘I swear, sometimes you are like a child.’

‘Hey, you were confused too.’ Barannan looked at Keivah, and then lowered his voice, switching languages. But he only got out a few words before Aphelandra held up a hand and he stopped talking. Then she smiled to Keivah.

‘My husband has a large heart but sometimes a small mind. He thought either Brukost was a female, or in your delirium, you used the wrong name.’ She spread her hands in a half-shrug, and then clasped them again. ‘That was the confusion. There you have it.’

Keivah chuckled.

‘I know,’ Aphelandra nodded. ‘But he is very sweet. And now that we have settled that…’ she looked pointedly at Barannan. ‘We can talk about other things.’ She pulled a chair over and set it before Keivah, sitting down. ‘This Brukost put his soul into you.’

Keivah hesitated. ‘Yes.’

She nodded, looking at the bag in her hands. ‘Then that explains a lot.’

‘Explains what?’

Looking back at Keivah, she smiled. ‘Do you know much about the … mechanics, shall we say, of casting?’

‘Yes,’ Keivah replied.

‘Good. Then you know that all energy really starts and ends with your soul.’

‘Yes.’

‘So with only part of a soul … aside from all the other problems, your casting would be weaker.’

‘Yes.’

‘But then you have parts of a different soul in you. A very dark soul, apparently, by the samples of your blood that I studied.’

‘You bled me?’

‘Er…’ Barannan broke in. ‘Wasn’t really a need.’

‘Yes, there was plenty readily available,’ Aphelandra smiled.

Keivah remembered the pool of blood and the rain splattering in it. No, he supposed there would not have been much of a need to bleed him.

‘So any casting you do, will go through your own soul and the fragments of this dark soul.’

Keivah hadn’t really thought about that. ‘I suppose so, yes.’

‘And you already saw what happened.’

The horrible pain, and the inability to cast. Keivah’s eyes widened and he looked at Aphelandra. His mind began to work, until he was dizzy. ‘When I opened my portals and drew energy in, it hit Brukost’s soul…’

‘And didn’t work so well.’

‘It cannot be…’ Keivah frowned.

‘Every time you try to cast, the dark soul, which is heavier and stronger than yours, fights against your own. It expands, and grows each time you feed it energy.’

‘No,’ Keivah shook his head. ‘There has to be a way. I am powerful as well. Not as powerful as he is, no, but I can fight it.’

‘No, honey, you can’t.’
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PostSubject: Re: A not-at-all Brief History of Keivah   Tue Jan 29, 2008 7:28 am

Keivah was insulted, and her insistence that he could not fight it made him angry. Now, she was challenging his powers, and that was something that he took very, very seriously. No, he was not as strong as Brukost, but he had incredible power. Powers that frightened even veteran trainers. ‘Yes, I can,’ he said.

‘You should listen,’ Barannan said. ‘She knows what-‘

‘I did listen,’ Keivah interrupted. ‘I sat and listened, and you said you would let me go if I did that.’

‘I was thinking more that we would let you go once you understood,’ Aphelandra said. ‘You don’t yet.’

‘I believe I understand,’ Keivah replied, becoming angrier by the moment. ‘It’s a trick. You know how powerful I am, and so you want to scare me into abandoning my casting.’

‘That’s not it,’ Aphelandra said calmly.

‘Yes, it is,’ Keivah replied hotly. ‘That’s why you have me tied up. The pain … was just some illness.’ He narrowed his eyes. ‘I lost Brukost and now you want to take away the only thing I have left.’

‘You don’t have it anymore.’ Aphelandra stood without warning and grabbed his face in her hands. She wrenched his head back and leaned into his face. ‘It’s not yours anymore. That pain is not illness. It’s your soul being eaten by darkness. And you’re tied up to save you from yourself. You cannot fight it. It’s too powerful for you.’

Keivah was stunned and a bit afraid, but continued to seethe over the suggestions about his power. ‘You don’t know how much power I have.’

‘You have no power,’ she said slowly and clearly. ‘None. Not anymore.’

‘That’s not possible.’

‘Every time you attempt a spell, you feed the dark part in you.’

‘I can fight it,’ Keivah insisted.

Aphelandra actually shook his head almost roughly then. ‘You can’t, because it’s already in you. Just fighting it will feed it.’ She shook his head again for emphasis.

The transparent cat, who had been mostly quiet for a while, suddenly let out a violent roar and rammed against the cage. Barannan said something to Aphelandra, who looked over at the cat, and then slowly released Keivah. She smiled at him and sat back down.

‘My husband says that I’m upsetting your cat. Do we need to continue this where it can’t see, or are you starting to understand now?’

Keivah was speechless for a few moments. Then he shook his head slightly. ‘I don’t know.’

‘I don’t want to be harsh with you, but I have to be.’

Keivah looked up at her. ‘You seem fine with it.’

‘Come now. If I wanted to enjoy it, I really could have slapped you around.’

Keivah smiled.

‘I still could, if you don’t listen to me.’

Keivah chuckled then.

‘I need you to believe me about this. And you need you to believe me. You cannot control it, you cannot fight it, and trying will only make it worse.’

Keivah sighed, but then something occurred to him. ‘How do you know?’

‘What?’

‘How do you know any of this? Has it happened to you? Do you know anybody to whom it has happened?’

‘No. I don’t. But I don’t need to have experience with it, to see the obvious.’

‘How can it be obvious, though, without experience?’

‘I know.’

‘But you don’t know anybody … have you ever even heard if it happening?’

‘No.’

‘Then how do you know?’

‘You screaming and falling down when you tried to cast, for one thing.’

Keivah blushed at that. It had definitely been a sign of weakness, and he hated that anybody saw it. ‘But I didn’t really know what I was facing. Now I do.’

‘Honey…’ Aphelandra sighed, and leaned forward. ‘I know you don’t want to believe it.’

Keivah looked away, but she reached out and took his chin in her hand, turning his face back to her.

‘I wouldn’t want to believe it either. I cannot imagine what it would be like. But it’s true. And you really need to understand that, or you will destroy yourself.’

Keivah gazed at her a moment, and then pulled away. ‘I listened. Will you please let me go, now?’

Aphelandra smiled. ‘I’m sorry. But no.’

A slow anger began to build in Keivah once again. ‘Why do you even care? If I destroy myself, fine. What does it have to do with you?’

Aphelandra sat back again. She seemed to consider that a moment. ‘Brukost didn’t really care about anybody but himself, did he?’

The use of Brukost’s name made the anger surge, but Keivah attempted to control it this time. ‘One other. He cared about one other.’

‘But not you.’

Keivah swallowed and shook his head, afraid that speaking would lead quickly to yelling. He did not like that she seemed to feel as though she could talk with him about a topic she knew nothing about.

‘And before Brukost, did anybody care about you?’

‘Yes, my fam—yes.’

She smiled. ‘Your family?’

Keivah nodded.

‘If your family found somebody lost and in trouble, would they try to help?’

‘Probably.’

‘Then you needn’t ask why we care.’

‘But you’re alliance. I’m horde. Why don’t you want to see me dead?’

Barannan scoffed at that, and Keivah turned to look at him. He seemed to only just realise that he had made the sound aloud.

‘We don’t have a lotta love fer the alliance,’ Barannan explained with a shrug. ‘No hate, really. Just not a lotta love either. No more or less than we have fer horde. Yer a blood elf. So what? Ta us, yer just a lost pup.’

Keivah’s head slumped and he let out a sigh. His thoughts began to twist and turn, as he reflected upon what had been said. Then he frowned. ‘That’s not my cat, by the way.’

‘He thinks he is,’ Barannan said.

‘No.’ Keivah shook his head and glanced over at the cage. ‘It attacked me out at that camp.’

‘Well, if you were bottled up in a statue fer thousands a years, you’d attack the first thing ya saw when you got out too.’

‘Thousands of years?’

Barannan nodded, seeming pleased to be the expert on the topic at last. ‘Those stormscales – the fish things that speared ya – they keep these cats in statues, and their mages get their power from ‘em.’

Keivah studied the cat and then Barannan. ‘How?’

‘I don’t know. You two are the cas- er…’ he coughed and trailed off.

‘What is it?’ Keivah asked, ignoring Barannan’s unfortunate mistake and gazing at the cat again. It had settled back down, and was watching him closely.

Barannan grinned. ‘Ask it yerself.’

Keivah glanced at him.

‘Open yer mind, and listen.’ Barannan said. ‘I saw that look ya gave it on the shelf. You made a connection.’

‘I was bleeding to death and half-conscious,’ Keivah said. But he had felt a connection. So he tried to settle his mind and looked at the cat. There was nothing but silence at first, but then, a very quiet whispering sound began to drift about the edges of his thoughts. Keivah closed his eyes and attempted to concentrate upon the whispering. It was a very swirling, ebbing sound until suddenly he heard a very clear voice.

‘…they will do to you, but if you let me out, I will help.’

Keivah blinked and let out a small gasp. The voice had been in his mind, but yet came from the direction of the cage. It was like listening to the voices of the spirits, but much louder and with a source. The cat stood then and leaned toward Keivah. Settling his mind again, Keivah listened.

‘You heard me.’

‘Yes,’ Keivah murmured aloud.

‘Finally,’ the cat sighed. ‘Let me out and I will fight beside you.’

Keivah glanced at Barannan, then Aphelandra. Then he looked back at the cat. Focusing his mind, he thought back, ‘I believe they are trying to help.’

‘They have captured both of us.’

‘I know, but they seem to have reasons. What are you?’

The cat pulled itself up proudly. ‘Neko.’

Keivah looked at Barannan. ‘It said Neko. What does that mean?’

‘I don’t know,’ Barannan shrugged.

‘Is that your name?’ Keivah thought to the cat.

‘I am Neko,’ the cat repeated.

Then, remembering something, Keivah glanced back at Barannan. ‘When you first came in, you said something about stealing a god.’

‘Oh, yeah, didn’t I mention that? They’re gods. Some ancient kind. Don’t know from where, or how they got in the statues. Some people think they’re ghosts of night sabers. Tell me, does that look like a night saber ta you?’ He shook his head in disgust.

‘I don’t know what a night saber is…’

‘Well, it doesn’t.’

‘Barannan,’ Aphelandra said. ‘Bring it back a level.’

‘Yeah, sorry.’ Barannan looked sheepish. ‘They’re gods. That’s all I know.’

Looking back at the cat, Keivah focused his thoughts again. ‘Are you a god?’

‘Of course I am.’

‘He says yes,’ Keivah said. He felt a very strange thrill to be able to talk with the cat, until Barannan spoke.

‘Well, aren’t you a natural?’ The dwarf said.

‘Natural what?’ Keivah asked.

‘Hunter.’

The slow anger began to rise in Keivah again. ‘No, I’m not. I am a natural caster. I always have been. Since I was a child.’ He heard the voice swirling about his mind again, but shut it out. ‘Please just let me go,’ he said. ‘You can keep the cat. Sell it back to the … whatever you called them, or something. I don’t care. But I want to go now.’

‘Stormscale,’ Barannan said. ‘And do ya really want ‘em ta seal it back in a statue?’

Keivah glanced at the cat. Then he shook his head. ‘I just want to go,’ he said softly.

‘Go where?’ Aphelandra asked.

‘I don’t know.’

‘And do what?’ Barannan added.

Keivah let out a small groan of frustration. ‘I don’t know. I just don’t want to be here anymore.’ Then suddenly anger exploded so swiftly through him, that it took him by surprise. He thrashed against the ropes about his wrists, and jerked his body in the chair. ‘I want everything the way it was. I want Brukost back, and I want to be a caster, as I was meant to be.’ He thrashed harder until he felt pain at his wrists and a drop of blood run down his hand. ‘I am meant to be a caster,’ he growled.

Aphelandra stood and walked around behind him. She wrapped her arms about his shoulders until he felt a calm wash over him, and he stopped struggling. Then she leaned her head against his, stroking his cheek with her hand.

‘Sometimes, destinies change,’ she said gently.

Then she pulled back and Keivah heard her moving about behind him. Suddenly, he felt cold metal wrap about one wrist, above the rope. A very tiny jolt went through him, and his eyes widened. His head twisted about to look over his shoulder, as he saw the second cuff lifted from a table and then brought behind him. That cuff was placed about his other wrist, and there was another tiny jolt. Then Aphelandra walked about the chair, standing before him and smiling.

‘No,’ was all Keivah could say.
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PostSubject: Re: A not-at-all Brief History of Keivah   Tue Jan 29, 2008 7:48 am

Keivah awoke the next morning, feeling drained. He was on a bed; no longer in the chair. Thinking back over the evening, he remembered Barannan and Aphelandra going about their evening’s routines as he sat, bound in the chair. That night when they ate, Aphelandra tried to feed him, but he had refused food both because he was too upset to eat, and because it was embarrassing to be fed. Raising his hands to rub his face, Keivah stopped and stared at the cuffs about his wrists. It was an odd, gleaming metal, which nearly appeared liquid. Keivah tapped one with his finger, already knowing exactly what it was, and knowing that it was quite solid. He studied it, looking for a way to remove it, also already knowing that he could not. It was a solid circle; it had been put on by magic and could only be removed by the one who had put it on. And it would absorb energy that Keivah tried to push out through his fingers. Aphelandra had made certain he would not be casting.

Cursing, Keivah moved his legs over the side of the bed. Something bounced gently against his chest and for a moment, he thought it was the bag of soul crystals. But when he lifted the item and examined it, he realised that it was a key, hung about his neck. He didn’t remember that from the night before, so he assumed they must have done it after he fell asleep, and was moved to the bed. His shoulders hurt where his arms had been pulled behind his back for such a long time, and he rubbed them absently as he stood. There was a fresh bandage wrapped about his waist, and as he did not remember that either, he assumed they had also done that as he slept.

Glancing about, he saw clothing at the foot of the bed, made of surprisingly soft brown material. He was still wearing the now-frayed and tattered silk bottoms of his lounging outfit; the bloodstain still present on the leg where he had first been speared. The tear had been made larger, apparently ripped open by whichever of the two had healed the wound at his leg. He lifted the clean shirt, and saw that it was at least two sizes too large for him. But it was something, so he pulled it over his head, and then changed into the new, but also much-too-large leggings. There were also boots, but comparing them with his own foot, he thought that his feet would likely rattle about too much in them for comfort. So he set them back at the foot of the bed, and walked into the other room.

He had expected to see somebody about, but both Aphelandra and Barannan were gone. The wolf, who had been in front of the fireplace the previous morning was also gone, but the cat was still in its cage. It glanced up when Keivah entered the room. Keivah fingered the key about his neck and then stepped forward. He opened his mind and was suddenly bombarded by words.

‘…not believe what they did to you. I thought they would kill you. Why did they put those on your hands? They’re gone now, we can escape.’

Keivah closed his eyes. ‘Wait,’ he said aloud. ‘One thought at a time. I’m not used to this.’

‘We have to escape.’

‘I know…’ Keivah looked at the key. ‘I believe I can let you out.’

‘Then do it. Hurry, before they come back. I will protect you.’

Keivah leaned down and looked into the cage. ‘You attacked me before, when you came out of the statue.’

‘Oh. That.’

Keivah sensed a hint of embarrassment, and could not help a grin. He had such a strong sense of grace and dignity from this creature that the sudden sheepishness made him want to laugh. ‘It’s all right,’ Keivah said. ‘I just don’t want you to do it again.’

‘I won’t. You just surprised me. I thought you were one of them. Sometimes they accidentally break the statues, and I was trying to get away before they put me back.’

Keivah chuckled. ‘I understand perfectly. I have been in a similar situation recently.’ He removed the key from about his neck and inserted it into the lock. It did indeed slide in smoothly, and then click as he turned it. The door opened with a very quiet squeak, and then the cat jumped out. Keivah heard a short exclamation of relief, and the cat looked at him.

'Let's go.'

‘Wait.’

Keivah looked about the room, not really expecting to find the bag of soul crystals. Then he saw it, simply sitting upon the corner table. He picked up the bag and looked inside, having a fast count. They all seemed to be there. Dropping the key to the table, he hung the bag about his neck, and then looked at the cat.

‘All right,’ Keivah said.



Keivah slipped cautiously out the door, with Neko pushing past him. Once outside, Keivah expected the cat to take off the moment it was free, but he was surprised to see it remain close. Rounding the corner of the shack, Keivah saw a road, which was really little more than a forest path. He had only taken a step forward when suddenly Neko crouched down and let out a low growl.

‘What-‘ Keivah started. Then he saw it as well.

‘Hey, yer awake!’ Barannan called from the far side of the shack.

Keivah’s hand rose automatically to cast, and the weight of the metal about his wrist brought a harsh reminder. He lowered his hand again. Barannan had obviously noticed the motion and knew what it meant, but he continued to smile, waving Keivah over. Neko let out another growl and Keivah focused upon what he was saying.

‘While I take care of the wolf, just be careful of the human. Don’t let it close to you.’

‘Wait,’ Keivah looked about. He did notice the wolf then, standing watchfully near Barannan. Nobody else seemed to be about. ‘What human?’

‘Over there.’

Keivah looked again, but only saw Barannan. ‘That’s a dwarf,’ he thought.

‘Whatever it is. Just stay out of the way. I will take care of it.’

‘No, wait. I don’t want to fight him.’

‘I will do it.’

‘No, I mean, we’re not fighting him.’

Neko glanced over his shoulder at Keivah. ‘I thought you wanted to.’

‘No.’

‘Don’t you want to escape?’

‘Yes…’ Keivah hesitated, but then nodded. ‘Yes, but I want to do this first. You can go.’

Neko looked at Keivah a moment, and then settled to the ground. ‘Let me know if you change your mind.’

‘You’re free. You can go.’

Neko had another sideways glance at Keivah, and then settled his head upon his paws, closing his eyes. Keivah frowned, but he didn’t really sense that the cat was annoyed or angry or disappointed. In fact, it seemed quite content. Keivah walked to where Barannan waited for him.

‘Sleep well?’ The dwarf asked.

‘I suppose.’

‘Ya didn’t talk as much this time.’

Keivah chuckled. ‘I … ‘ he shifted uncomfortably. He was still upset, and still doubtful of what had been said. But he also felt embarrassed by his actions the previous night and that Barannan and Aphelandra had seen such emotion and loss of control from him. It was so unlike him. ‘I wanted to thank you for healing me.’ He touched the bandage through the brown shirt. Then he shrugged slightly. ‘Taking me into your home…’

‘All right, lad,’ the dwarf grinned and pounded Keivah’s arm in a friendly manner. Then he pointed to something on Keivah’s left. ‘Hand me a piece a wood.’

Keivah looked to where Barannan pointed. ‘Which one?’ He asked, gazing at the large pile beside him.

‘One from the top,’ Barannan chuckled.

Keivah lifted one of the split logs and then leaned forward, offering it to Barannan. The dwarf accepted the wood and dropped it into a chunky and already nearly full metal wheelbarrow. Then he turned back and looked at Keivah. ‘Well?’

Keivah raised his eyebrows. ‘What?’

Barannan pointed at the wood stack again. ‘Next.’

Picking up another piece of wood, Keivah gave it to Barannan, who once again placed it in the wheelbarrow and then looked at Keivah. ‘Gotta move faster than that, lad.’

Keivah’s brow furrowed. ‘I just wanted to thank you…’

‘Going somewhere?’

‘Yes, I thought perhaps-‘

‘Yer not goin anywhere.’

Keivah looked at the path, which was on the other side of Barannan and the wheelbarrow. He wondered if he could make it before Barannan reacted.

‘Big storm comin’.’ Barannan pointed up.

Looking up, Keivah saw more tree limbs than sky. But what he did see of the sky seemed over-cast, but calm. He supposed he did see some rather dark clouds in one direction.

‘And anyway, Aphie wouldn’t like you runnin’ off with her bracelets.’

Keivah’s stomach clenched at the name. ‘Is she about?’

‘No.’

Keivah nodded and Barannan laughed.

‘It’s all right ta look relieved,’ the dwarf said, continuing to chuckle.

‘I’m not.’

‘Yeah, you are.’ Barannan gestured to the wood stack. ‘She scares you, eh?’

Keivah retrieved a piece of wood and gave it to Barannan. ‘No,’ he said. Then as Barannan dropped it into the wheelbarrow, Keivah felt a small sense of comfort with the dwarf. ‘A bit,’ he admitted.

‘That’s all right.’ Barannan waited for the next piece of wood. ‘You’d be mad if she didn’t. She scares me too.’

Keivah chuckled. ‘Probably not the same way.’ This time, he retrieved two pieces.

‘No, probably not.’ After dropping the latest two pieces of wood into the wheelbarrow, Barannan paused. ‘I’m real sorry ‘bout all that’s happened ta you.’

Smiling, Keivah urged the next pieces at him. As Barannan turned with them Keivah said, ‘thank you.’

‘Feelin better today?’

‘Not really, no.’

Barannan sighed and folded his arms, leaning against the now-full wheelbarrow. ‘I don’t know what yer goin’ through. I can’t imagine.’

He seemed to be pausing for a response, but Keivah had no idea what to say. Then he decided to simply say what he was thinking. ‘I thought I had lost everything when I left Brukost’s house. Then I discovered that there was even more I could lose. Something I never could have imagined…’ Keivah looked at the energy-absorbing bracelets about his wrists. Then he sighed softly. ‘What could be next? I’ve lost everything twice.’ At the statement, Keivah’s nerves fluttered. He knew exactly what he feared losing next, and did not even want to think about it.

Barannan smiled sympathetically. Then he looked down at Keivah’s feet. ‘You all right without boots?’

Keivah looked down as well, and nodded. ‘Yes. I actually prefer not having anything on my feet.’

‘Good.’ Barannan draped a large cured hide across the wheelbarrow. ‘Come on,’ he said, retrieving his axe and a long leather haversack. ‘Only a few hours before the storm hits.’ He began walking toward the forest and, confused, Keivah followed him. But then Barannan stopped and glanced at Keivah. ‘Bringin’ yer god?’

Keivah looked back at Neko, who appeared to be sleeping. But when Keivah opened his mind, he sensed that the cat was very much awake. ‘Did you want to come?’ Keivah asked him.

Neko stood, stretched, and made quite a show of indifference. But then he loped forward, seeming to lose himself in the motion briefly before stopping beside Keivah. ‘I suppose somebody has to keep an eye on you,’ Neko replied. ‘Where are we going?’

‘I don’t know. With Barannan.’

Neko did not respond, but simply moved forward when Keivah did. Brannan and his white wolf led the way deep into the forest. Occasionally, Keivah would catch sight of a larger road, and once an alliance rider went thundering past on its massive Elekk, just barely visible through the branches. They walked in silence for a good while, before Brannan stopped and looked at Keivah.
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PostSubject: Re: A not-at-all Brief History of Keivah   Tue Jan 29, 2008 7:57 am

‘So where were you goin’?’ The dwarf asked.

‘I don’t know,’ Keivah shrugged. ‘Away.’

‘Didn’t have anything in mind?’

Keivah had, but shook his head. ‘No.’

Barannan nodded, folding his arms. ‘Goin’ to see yer family?’

A panic jolted into Keivah, and he momentarily feared that his mind had been read. Then Barannan smiled.

‘It’s natural,’ he said. ‘And just a guess.’

Keivah calmed then, admitting to himself that it probably was natural and likely fairly easy to guess. ‘It was one thought,’ he said. ‘Yes.’

‘Does Brukost know them?’

Every time they spoke that name to him, it felt like a dagger in Keivah’s heart. He knew it was not meant to be one, but it was a reminder of what had happened. Also … the name seemed to come too easily. As though it was being tossed about casually, rather than being given the weight and meaning it required. Keivah had been so busy marvelling at how anybody could say ‘Brukost’ to him as though it was just an ordinary name that he nearly missed the actual question. But when he remembered, it was like another dagger in his heart.

‘He doesn’t know them, no,’ Keivah said. Then, as though more for himself than for Barannan, he added ‘He wouldn’t recognise them if he saw them.’

Barannan once again seemed to be pausing, waiting for Keivah to say more. Keivah knew that he was, but they had reached a very dangerous topic. He shifted uncomfortably, but Barannan simply continued to wait, staring at him. Keivah sighed softly.

‘He knows where they are.’ Keivah’s voice caught and he rubbed his face, hating to say that aloud. Then he looked up again. ‘Not exactly. He hasn’t been there.’ Yet, his mind added. ‘He doesn’t know what they look like.’ He glanced at Barannan, hoping to read an expression, but the dwarf simply nodded.

‘He would follow me there,’ Keivah continued, replying to questions he knew they were both thinking. ‘But he also knows somebody who knows how to get there. When he let me send messages to them … the one who delivered the messages could show him.’ Keivah felt a tiny shiver work through him. ‘I probably don’t have a lot of time.’

‘What would you say if you could send a message?’

‘I would tell them to leave.’ Keivah frowned. ‘And to not tell me where they went. In case Brukost found me…’ Another shiver went through him. It was what he had been thinking and worrying about, but saying something aloud made it very real. As though it had already happened. ‘Brukost does not really kill for fun. He finds it to be undignified and draws too much attention to one’s self. The things that he does, and has always done … he likes to avoid complications. But if he is angry, and to punish me…’ Keivah closed his eyes. ‘They have to be warned, but he could follow me there. I don’t know if he gets visions of me, the way I had them of him.’

‘Visions?’

Keivah opened his eyes again, startled that he had spoken about that. He thought he had merely been thinking it. But he nodded. ‘When I first escaped, I kept getting these visions of him. He saw that I was gone, and then he came after me. But I don’t know if he had visions of me as well. If they were even real at all. I just don’t know. And if I go there, what if he is having visions of me? He could be looking at me right now. He could be on his way here, and then you…’ he trailed off.

‘All right, lad, calm down,’ Barannan smiled. ‘If he’s comin’ here, then he better be a damned good tracker or know the area. If it’s just visions, all he would see are a lotta trees.’

Keivah thought that was probably true, actually. And it was not the sort of place Brukost would go regularly, so he would hardly recognise any of it.

‘So don’t worry about us. And maybe we can do somethin about yer family.’ Suddenly, the dwarf stepped forward and took hold of Keivah’s shirt, looking into his eyes. ‘Do you trust me?’

Surprised, Keivah took hold of Barannan’s hands, but did not try to pull them away. ‘I believe so.’

‘Has ta be yes or no.’

Keivah felt that he did. He had also trusted Brukost, though. But with a moment of reflection, he realised that he trusted Brukost because of love. He trusted Barannan simply because he did. ‘Yes,’ he replied.

‘Good.’ Barannan released Keivah’s shirt and smoothed it out. ‘Tell me where yer family is.’

Keivah chuckled.

‘Ya just said ya trust me. Yer not a liar, are ya?’

‘No.’

‘So tell me.’

Keivah did. He described exactly how to get there, feeling numb disbelief that he was telling somebody he almost didn’t know how to reach his family. Barannan listened, showing a lot of surprise. When Keivah finished, though, Barannan simply nodded. ‘Well. Interesting.’ Then he smiled at Keivah. ‘Name?’

Keivah shifted and paused. He stared at Barannan, and Barannan stared back for what seemed like an hour. Then Keivah sighed. ‘Maitlan.’

‘Good. Stay.’ Barannan began to turn, then glanced at Keivah. ‘Remember … ya trust me.’

Something about that worried Keivah. He watched Barannan make his way toward a clearing and then stop. The dwarf let out three fast, sharp whistles. Keivah was confused until he saw a troll emerge from through the scraggly brush on the other side of the clearing. Immediately, Keivah knew what was happening and took a step forward. Then he stopped himself. He did trust Barannan, yes. He was not certain he could or should, but he did. However, he did not know the troll. And even if he could trust the troll, due to knowing Barannan, Brukost knew so many others. Perhaps he knew this troll. A troll who was apparently good friends with a dwarf - which seemed to be the case, by the happy greeting they gave each other - would be the sort of shadowy edge-of-society figure that Brukost would know. Even if the troll didn’t know Brukost, he could let the information out, even accidentally. Keivah’s home was unusual and was the sort of thing one would mention, just as an interesting topic of conversation.

But Keivah forced himself to stay where he was, because he knew he could not make the trip himself. And even if he tried, he could lead Brukost there … and waiting to come for Keivah until he went home, in order to punish him, was exactly the sort of thing Brukost would do. He did not kill for fun, no, and nor would he ever bring unwanted attention to himself. But killing everybody Keivah knew while he watched, just because he was angry … that was definitely something Brukost would do.

By the time Keivah had finished rolling thoughts about in his mind, Barannan had finished talking with the troll and was coming back.

‘I’ve known him fer years,’ Barannan explained before Keivah could speak. ‘He’ll tell yer family.’

‘Thank you…’

‘I also asked him to tell ‘em that you love ‘em. Hope ya don’t mind.’

Keivah shook his head. ‘I would have requested that, had I known what you would do.’ He said the last bit pointedly, and Barannan grinned.

‘Ya would’a stopped me. I thought ya needed ta think about it.’

‘Yes, I would have,’ Keivah replied. ‘And yes, I suppose I did. But how do I know-’

‘You can trust him. I do.’

That actually made Keivah feel better, although he was not certain why.

‘Let’s go,’ Barannan smiled. ‘We still have more ta do, and anyway, that’s a horde outpost over there.’ He made a face, which made Keivah grin.

‘I thought you just whistled and trolls appeared,’ Keivah said as they began walking again.

Barannan laughed. ‘Yeah, sometimes.’

‘So we were coming here the entire time?’

‘Yep.’

‘Wouldn’t it have been a wasted trip, if I didn’t give you all that information?’

‘I thought ya would. Yer not stupid,’ Barannan said.



As they continued through the forest, Keivah felt his mood swing back and forth from relief to sorrow. If the troll did indeed deliver the message, it would mean his parents would be safe. Or probably safe, as Brukost could have as easily already gone to his home, found his parents, asked them if they knew where he was, then killed them. It would be slightly unlike him to be so careless and unrestrained, but he was certainly not predictable. Or they might not be guaranteed to be safe, simply because they might not want to leave. Their home was a very special place, and Keivah’s family had been there for generations. Some troll showing up out of nowhere, telling them to leave might not be taken very seriously. Although it was extraordinarily difficult to find unless one was looking. Just being there would be more than reason enough to believe the troll, and adding the fact that he would know names, should be all that the troll would need to at least convince his parents of his sincerity. Whether or not they left was another issue entirely.


A while later, they arrived to a large fallen tree bordering another clearing. ‘We’re here,’ Barannan said. He leaned against the tree, looking into the clearing. ‘Have a seat, we have a little bit ta wait.’

Keivah did sit. He was starting to grow very tired, anyway. Without a word, Neko curled up beside him. Keivah reached out, paused, and then stroked the cat’s head. Neko looked up at him, then settled back down. Crossing his legs, Keivah sighed.

‘There’s another thing I’ve lost,’ Keivah murmured to himself.

Barannan turned to look at Keivah. Then sat down with his back against the tree and smiled sympathetically. ‘Yer havin’ a bad time of it, eh?’

Idly stroking Neko’s head, Keivah nodded. ‘Sorry. I should just be grateful. I know I should. But anymore, I’m afraid to even try to find positive things, because I’m afraid they would just disappear.’ He rubbed his forehead and let out a soft curse. Then he ran his fingers through his hair. ‘At least my parents have a chance to be safe. That’s something, and very important. I don’t want to sound ungrateful. I appreciate it very much.’

Barannan nodded. ‘But if ya don’t have a chance ta say goodbye, it’s tough.’

‘I had a lot of chances to say a lot of things, but didn’t. I was busy with my magery and Brukost … why didn’t I write more or go visit?’ He had asked the question to himself, but then looked to Barannan, hoping for an answer.

‘Because yer young and younguns are like that. How old are ya? Yer age hasn’t even started to slow down yet, has it?’

‘No, I’m seventeen.’

‘You didn’t know all that would happen. If ya did, you would’a done things different. But ya didn’t.’ Barannan shrugged. ‘Yer right, they have a chance now. Maybe in a while when yer feelin’ better, that’ll be more of a comfort.’

‘I hope,’ Keivah said. ‘Right now, I just feel terrible. My life is ruined and I managed to ruin theirs as well, without even trying.’

‘You didn’t ruin it. Ya could’a saved em.’

‘If they have to leave their home, I ruined it. It is their life. It is as important to them as casting is – was, to me. Probably more, because generations of my family built it.’

‘Did they?’

Keivah nodded. He knew that once again, Barannan was waiting for him to say more. But at the moment, he was too sad to continue, and the exhaustion he had been feeling was made worse by such a topic. Instead, he looked to where Barannan had been watching.

‘What are we doing here?’ Keivah asked. ‘More trolls?’

‘No,’ Barannan chuckled. He moved forward and patted Keivah’s leg. Then he turned and leaned against the fallen tree again, facing the clearing. ‘We’re waitin’.’

Keivah pushed himself to his knees, and leaned against the log as well. Neko moved and re-settled himself beside the log. ‘What are we waiting for?’ Keivah asked.

Barannan looked up at the sky, then back to the clearing. ‘Should be soon.’
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PostSubject: Re: A not-at-all Brief History of Keivah   Tue Jan 29, 2008 8:34 am

Glancing up as well, Keivah realised that the sun had actually moved. Not a lot, but a bit. It seemed to have shifted slightly lower, indicating an approach toward evening. He also noticed that the wind had started to pick up a bit. He had been mildly suspicious of the storm about which Barannan had spoken. He had wondered if it was just a way to make him stay, but he definitely felt the energy starting to build in the air. A light static drifted across his skin, and Keivah was doubly reminded of how being near Brukost gave him a similar but stronger sensation, and how much he always enjoyed casting during storms. Then suddenly, he began to feel very, very wrong. The exhaustion had shifted to something else entirely. His ears began to ring, and his body went cold but his forehead felt hot. When nausea started to rise in him, he lowered his head, placing his cheek against the log.

‘You all right?’ Barannan asked.

He was not, but Keivah nodded anyway. Lifting his head, he realised that it was probably lack of food. He still hadn’t eaten, other than the bit of stew that Aphelandra had shoved in his mouth before he began refusing it. Of course, there had been the five grubs, but that was hardly enough to sustain a body for the several days it had been. It was slightly alarming to him that he was not really even hungry. And had he left that afternoon as he planned, he probably would have gotten a day away, become too weak to go on, and starved to death. He turned to Barannan, to admit that he hadn’t eaten in a very long time, but Barannan had begun rummaging in his haversack. Keivah watched as the dwarf removed a short, thick-barrelled shotgun, a bow and a quiver of arrows. Barannan set the bow and arrows on the log in front of Keivah.

‘Ever fire one a these?’ The dwarf asked.

‘No.’

‘Then time ta learn.’

Keivah gazed at the bow and arrows. Then he saw movement just above it. Shifting his gaze, he saw a small group of shadowhorns in the clearing. He looked at Barannan.

‘You want me to shoot one of those?’

‘Yep.’

Keivah looked at the herd again. They seemed so peaceful. ‘Why?’

‘The storm comin’ll probably last a few days. It’ll be nice ta have fresh meat.’

Looking from the bow to the herd, Keivah shook his head. ‘I can’t.’

‘Sure ya can.’

‘I’ve never used a bow before.’

‘So it’ll be yer first time.’

Keivah sat back upon his heels, partially as a subconscious gesture to get away from the bow. He pointed at the herd. ‘I’m not using those things for target practise.’

‘Don’t have to.’ Barannan reached over and lowered Keivah’s hand. ‘You shoot once, and I’m right there ta take it down.’ He tapped the barrel of his shotgun. ‘It won’t feel a thing.’

‘It’ll feel an arrow and a bullet.’

‘It’s fine, lad. We gotta kill one anyway. Aphie and I need ta re-stock salted meats. This storm’s just the first of the season.’

Keivah touched the bow; running his fingers over the smooth, warm wood. He hated such weapons. They were so clumsy and crude. It did seem like a nice bow, though. He lifted it, feeling the balance and weight. Then he set it back down again. ‘No.’

‘Just one,’ Barannan assured him. ‘It’s not fer fun, it’s necessity.’

‘Then go ahead,’ Keivah said. ‘Why do you want me to do it?’

‘Have ya ever used a weapon before?’

Keivah shook his head.

‘It’s a dangerous world, lad. Ya can’t cast anymore, so you have ta learn how to defend yerself all over again.’ He lifted the bow and then offered it to Keivah. ‘Ya seem like you’ll take ta these.’

Keivah bristled slightly. Why would Barannan say something such as that? Take to bows? He was a caster. He used the beauty, grace and art of a spell. These wooden and metal weapons were so … undignified.

‘With time, you can learn ta be decent with it. Maybe even well accurate.’

Raising an eyebrow at Barannan, Keivah felt himself become more annoyed. He snatched the bow away from the dwarf. ‘I can pluck a single spark from the air and turn it into a fireball. Of course I could learn this.’

‘It’s not easy, lad.’

‘I’m a caster,’ Keivah replied indignantly, gazing at the bow. ‘I weave elements. I tap into the great forces. I-‘ he stopped, realising that not only was he being arrogant, but that he was not a caster anymore and all the boasting was hollow and empty. He turned the bow, studying it. Then he lifted one of the arrows.

‘Just put-‘ Barannan started.

‘I can do it,’ Keivah interrupted.

‘I just wanted-‘

Keivah pulled away from Barannan, who was pointing to something on the bow. ‘I said I can do it.’

‘No, definitely haven’t gotten to where yer age slows down yet,’ Barannan muttered.

Keivah shot a glance at Barannan. ‘What was that?’

‘Nothin’, nothin’. Go ahead. Show me how ya weave arrows.’

Turning his attention back to the bow, Keivah tried to find where one would insert the arrow. He had only ever seen them used from a distance, and hadn’t bothered to pay attention. Neko, who had been laying quietly beside the fallen tree, turned to watch Keivah. Discovering the notch on the arrow, Keivah set it into the wire. He waited a moment for the bow to charge up, or indicate that it was ready to fire. But it did not. It just sat, dead in his hands. Keivah frowned, wondering if it was broken and that Barannan was just having a laugh at his expense, by giving him a weapon that didn’t work.

‘It is not broken.’

Startled, Keivah looked at Neko. He hadn’t been concentrating upon the cat. He was concentrating upon the bow. He had needed to really focus to hear him before. ‘What did you say?’ Keivah thought.

‘Your weapon is not broken. You have to do it manually.’

‘Why did I hear you?’

Neko just replied with a mental shrug.

Keivah heard Barannan start to chuckle beside him. Clearly the dwarf found something amusing in the way Keivah held the bow, and Keivah realised that his pride was in jeopardy. The mystery of why he had heard Neko became pushed aside for dignity’s sake. Keivah rose up on his knees and lifted the bow. Neko rose with him, watching intently. Barannan leaned forward slightly and even the white wolf looked over, expectantly. It seemed fairly simple, really, Keivah thought. If it had to be done manually, then really, there was only one way to do it. He braced one hand on the wood, resting the arrow on the back of his hand so that it wouldn’t slip. Then he drew back the string. Closing one eye, he looked down the length of the arrow, aiming at one of the larger shadowhorns; one that did not appear to Keivah to have any family nearby. He pulled the string back as far as he was physically able, and until it began to bite into his fingers. Then he let go.

The arrow sprung forward and for one brief moment, Keivah felt relief and satisfaction. Then he felt a sharp pain across the back of his hand as the metal feathers sliced his skin. Keivah let out a small cry of surprise, dropping the bow to clutch his hand. Before the bow had even clattered off the fallen tree, Barannan’s gun exploded beside him, and Keivah ducked automatically. Neko had moved to his feet, looking at Keivah’s hand.

‘Let me see,’ Neko said.

Then Barannan was standing over Keivah, leaning the smoking shotgun against the tree. ‘Let me see,’ he unknowingly echoed.

Keivah felt foolish, and he cursed as blood began to seep between his fingers. He looked up, and saw the arrow sticking out of the ground just on the other side of the log. Out in the clearing, all the shadowhorns were gone but one, who lay very still on the ground.

‘Here,’ Barannan said. ‘Let’s see how bad it is.’

Keivah was grateful that the dwarf was not laughing. He certainly had a right to be. Barannan took Keivah’s hand and Keivah gingerly uncovered the wound, watching a tiny cascade of blood fall to the ground. Barannan lifted the hand and had a close look at the injury.

‘It is bad,’ Neko said.

‘It’s not bad,’ Barannan said. He replaced Keivah’s other hand over the cut again. ‘Press hard and hold it over yer head.’

Doing as the dwarf said, Keivah glanced at Neko. ‘He said it’s not bad.’

‘He is lying so that you do not worry.’

‘Why didn’t you say anything? You knew I would cut myself, didn’t you?’

‘You said you could do it,’ Neko replied. ‘And now, you will probably not make that mistake again.’

Keivah glared at the cat. ‘Barannan was the one who put you into a cage, you know. I was the one who let you out. You should be nicer to me.’

‘You also told them to give me back to the stormscales,’ Neko said.

Keivah blushed, having forgotten Neko had been able to understand that. But when he looked at the cat, Neko’s eyes appeared to be crinkled with amusement.

‘Oh … That. Yes, sorry about that.’

‘You can work at making it even.’

‘Fair enough,’ Keivah chuckled.

Barannan approached again, holding a long, narrow bandage. It only took a matter of seconds, before some sort of paste had been applied to the wound, and Keivah’s hand was wrapped tightly.

‘That’ll hold ya fer now,’ Barannan smiled.

Flexing his fingers, Keivah moved to his feet. ‘I believe I could possibly have an idea what I did wrong,’ he said.

Barannan laughed, clapping Keivah’s back. Then he held a hand up, showing Keivah a small scar across his thumb. ‘We all do it, mate.’

Keivah grinned, feeling quite a lot better.

‘That’s yer first lesson,’ Barannan said as he slung his haversack over his shoulder. He picked up his gun, and then pointed at the bow and quiver for Keivah to retrieve. ‘Come on, second lesson’s over here.’
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PostSubject: Re: A not-at-all Brief History of Keivah   Tue Jan 29, 2008 9:07 am

Watching Barannan slice up the shadowhorn, Keivah was reminded of why he always tried to buy Brukost’s ingredients unless he simply could not find them with merchants. The job Barannan did was obviously expert, but it was still bloody and messy. Barannan talked Keivah through the entire skinning and sectioning meat process, but Keivah began to fade in and out a bit. Finally all the slabs of meat, wrapped in a paper-like substance that Barannan had brought along, were tucked away in the haversack. The hide was rolled, tied with twine, and put away as well. Then Barannan removed several of the teeth, explaining that the shaper ones were useful for cutting, and the flat ones could be used for cracking nuts or shells. Watching that made Keivah’s own teeth hurt, but he nodded at the explanation. When the antlers were removed with a small axe, Barannan showed Keivah the handle of his own dagger, which Keivah realised was a smoothed and intricately carved piece of antler. Finally, Barannan cut one of the hooves off and then in half. Keivah waited for the reason behind that, but Barannan simply gave half to his white wolf, who took it and began chewing it excitedly. Then Barannan offered the other half to Neko. The cat looked at it, startled, then walked away, swishing his tail and glaring over his shoulder. Barannan simply chuckled, and put the piece into his pocket.

Keivah was mildly stunned from having watched the body become reduced to little more than a skeleton. He was also starting to feel slightly nauseous and hoped that he would not be sick in front of Barannan. The dwarf stepped forward, and Keivah resisted the impulse to step away. He had a sudden horrible vision of Barannan dismantling his own body in a similar manner, and that made him even more ill. But Barannan simply lifted Keivah’s hand and looked at the wound. Keivah looked down as well and saw that blood had started to soak through the bandage.

It’s bleedin’ pretty good,’ Barannan said. ‘Hey, maybe we can bleed that darkness out a ya.’

Keivah chuckled. ‘I’m not sure it works like that, does it?’

‘I don’t know,’ Barannan grinned. ‘If it did, you’d be clean soon, as much bleedin’ as yer doin’ lately.’

Keivah guessed that it very likely did not work that way. But just the joke that it did made him think about being able to cast again and a tiny jolt of excitement fluttered through him.

‘Aphie can fix that up when we get back,’ Barannan said. ‘She’s got all kinds of herbs and potions that’ll take care of it.’ Then he patted Keivah’s back. ‘Let’s go. Gotta get home before the storm hits.’

As they walked, Keivah felt increasingly worse. He thought that it was partially due to watching Barannan’s work on the shadowhorn, but he had felt ill before that. And he had never been as squeamish as that. It hadn’t been pleasant, certainly, but it would hardly make him feel as bad as he did. He decided once again that it was probably simply lack of food.

The wind had increased quite a lot in the time they had been walking, and Keivah thought that normally it would have refreshed him. But it did not. When thunder began rolling across the sky, Keivah’s head became so light that he began stumbling regularly. He was behind Barannan, following, so the dwarf did not notice. But Neko, beside Keivah, did.

‘What’s wrong?’ Neko asked.

‘Nothing,’ Keivah replied.

‘Something is.’

‘No, I’m fine.’

‘You are not.’

‘Just … please. I’m fine.’

Neko was silent for a few moments. Keivah was rather alarmed that the approaching storm was not filling him with the usual energy. Instead, as it moved closer, he felt more drained, more tired, and he began to feel a strange hollow ache from somewhere deep within himself. As the odd illness increased, Keivah grew increasingly more annoyed. Over the past few days, the amount of time in which he was not in some form of physical or mental discomfort seemed to total about an hour. He’d had quite enough of feeling bad. So he began trying to give himself the energy that the storm was not. Lightning flashed, and rather than filling him with a pleasant charge, it seemed to go directly to that area of hollowness inside him, and expand it. His entire body felt heavy, and his heart seemed to struggle with each beat. His next stumble was so bad that even Barannan, with his back turned, noticed. He looked back at Keivah and frowned.

‘All right, lad?’ He asked.

‘Yes, fine,’ Keivah forced a smile.

‘No, you are not,’ Neko said.

‘Yes, I am,’ Keivah accidentally replied aloud.

Barannan’s frown deepened as he looked from Keivah to Neko and back. ‘Yer pale,’ he observed.

Keivah did not respond. Mostly because talking took energy and concentration away from walking. Also, because Barannan was probably correct. Keivah even felt pale, so he probably was.

‘I mean more pale than ya were,’ Barannan said.

Keivah smiled.

‘We’ll be home soon. You can rest and get a good meal in ya.’

‘All right,’ Keivah managed.

‘When I first saw you, I thought you were undead ‘til I saw ya closer. Yer too thin. Ya need some meat on yer bones.’

Keivah chuckled, although the comment brought images of the shadowhorn skeleton, and he had to stop the laugh abruptly, before he became sick.

The storm was coming fast. Each boom of thunder seemed to drain life away, and each flash of lightning felt as though it was unravelling what was left of his soul. As the wind gusted harder, he felt as though his mind would blow away with it. He was at least grateful to not be wearing boots, as that would have made his legs impossibly heavy. Barannan’s mention of food made him truly consider his theory that it was hunger-related illness. It was certainly possible but the longer it went on, the more he doubted it. It seemed more connected to the storm than hunger. Either way, it was getting worse by the moment, and each step made him doubt being able to make it the rest of the way to Barannan’s house.

‘Then tell him,’ Neko said suddenly.

Keivah was startled out of his thoughts. ‘What?’

‘Tell the human you cannot make it.’

Keivah had already been attempting to recall what he had just been thinking. It was all a bit of a blur, though. Apparently something about not being able to make it.

‘I don’t like you listening to my thoughts when you’re not invited,’ Keivah replied.

‘Tell the human.’

‘He’s a dwarf.’

‘I don’t care if he’s an ancient temple guardian. Tell him.’

‘No.’

‘Fine.’

Neko loped forward, and then walked beside Barannan’s white wolf for a moment. The wolf looked back at Keivah, and then up at Barannan. The dwarf stopped abruptly and turned to Keivah.

‘Why didn’t ya say somethin’?’ He asked. ‘Yer sick?’

Keivah glared at Neko. ‘I don’t know all the rules of this,’ he thought to the cat. ‘But I’m fairly certain that has to be a breech of trust.’

‘Answer him.’

‘I’m fine,’ Keivah said to Barannan.

‘Yer shakin’.’

With great exasperation, Keivah realised that he was indeed. ‘It’s nothing.’

The wind had started to howl, bending the surrounding trees at awkward angles. Barannan looked about, then back to Keivah.

‘We need ta push on,’ he explained. ‘Without shelter out here, it’s dangerous.’ Then he stepped toward Keivah, taking his arm and resting it across his broad shoulders. ‘Come on, I’ll help.’

Keivah desperately wanted to politely decline the help, but unfortunately he hadn’t realised how much relief the support would bring. So instead of refusing, he attempted to downplay just how much relief, as they moved on again.
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PostSubject: Re: A not-at-all Brief History of Keivah   Tue Jan 29, 2008 9:10 am

It seemed like only moments later when the sky opened and rain began pouring down upon them. The trees bent even more, at nearly impossible angles, and occasionally they would hear a large crash from further in the forest. The driving rain became blown sideways, pelting their skin in sharp little flicks. Keivah tried valiantly to hide his discomfort as long as he could, but it finally became too much and he allowed himself to lean heavily upon Barannan, who wrapped an arm about his waist for support. As Keivah clutched Barannan’s shoulder, he smiled.

‘This doesn’t mean anything,’ Keivah said.

Barannan chuckled. He was clearly uncertain how to respond, though, so Keivah glanced at him.

‘Unless you want it to,’ he said.

Barannan looked startled. Then he saw Keivah’s grin and laughed.

‘Well, then Aphie really would give ya reason ta be scared.’

‘Oh?’ Keivah chuckled.

‘Aye,’ Barannan nodded. ‘She’d be lost without me.’

Keivah continued to grin, knowing that it was said as a joke, but suspecting that the two would very likely be lost without each other; the way he was lost without Brukost. The couple just seemed to fit together. With thoughts of Brukost, Keivah felt a large wave of weakness pass through him, so he tried to think of something else.

‘How did you ever get somebody like her?’ Keivah asked. ‘You must be quite a spell-weaver yourself.’

‘I thought ya weren’t interested in that.’

‘I’m attracted to males,’ Keivah said. ‘I’m not blind. She’s gorgeous. Scary, but gorgeous.’

‘Yeah,’ Barannan agreed. ‘To both.’ Then he re-gained his grip, as Keivah had started to slump. ‘So have you always … er … loved males?’

The attempt to not think about Brukost apparently had the opposite effect. But Barannan seemed genuinely interested.

‘I’ve only loved Brukost at all.’

‘Never loved a female?’

Keivah shook his head. ‘No.’ Then he stopped and chuckled. ‘Well…’

Barannan looked at him, bushy eyebrows close to disappearing entirely beneath his cap. ‘Well what? That a ‘yes’?’

With a soft laugh, Keivah said, ‘I’ve had two loves in my life. Brukost … and Vutayli.’

‘Now I wish we had farther ta go,’ Barannan said, re-shifting his grip again. ‘Start talkin’.’

‘She was beautiful,’ Keivah smiled. ‘Intelligent, funny, sweet. Older than me by a few years, which is extremely attractive. All that additional life experience, you know.’ Letting out a sigh, Keivah continued. ‘She was to be my wife.’

Barannan frowned. ‘What happened?’

‘I believe really it all started when I accidentally cast a spell, which burnt the hair from one of her favourite dolls.’ Keivah sighed again and gave Barannan a sideways glance.

The dwarf rolled his eyes. ‘You were kids.’ Then he gave Keivah a glare. ‘I was all set fer a juicy story. I should make ya walk the rest a the way on yer own.’

Keivah grinned. ‘But I didn’t lie. I did love her. We loved each other very much, and it lasted even after the Baby Luttie incident. Although…’ Keivah frowned. ‘I always sensed that our relationship was strained after that.’

‘Or maybe I should just leave ya out here.’

‘But it’s all true,’ Keivah protested with a chuckle.

‘All right. So you were in love.’

‘As much as children can be in love. But it was an excellent match. At that time, of course. The match-maker would certainly be surprised now.’

‘Match-maker?’

‘Yes.’

‘It was arranged?’

Keivah nodded, taking a deep breath. His head had started to get rushing sensations again, and he had to pause a moment for it to pass. ‘I realise that sort of thing is not popular … or at least, it is not with the horde. I’m not certain what it is like for alliance.’

‘No, not fer us either.’

‘In a situation such as ours, where multiple families live in the same area for generations, it tends to be necessary.’

‘Why’s that?’

‘The match-maker is also something of a historian. She keeps track of what families are related and … well, you can guess why.’

Barannan thought about it for a moment. Then it came to him. ‘Ahh.’

‘Yes.’

‘So that families don’t get … too close.’

‘Exactly,’ Keivah chuckled. ‘The match-maker tracks family lines, and puts together those of marrying age, who are also suitable.’

‘But, so … it kinda didn’t happen, ‘cause she was the wrong … sort?’

‘It didn’t happen, because I left to train.’

‘Did she know about yer other reason?’

‘Nobody knew.’

‘Why not?’

Keivah closed his eyes briefly. His head had gone from rushing to pounding, and although it was a chilly rain, his skin felt hot. ‘I didn’t know either,’ he finally replied.

‘You didn’t?’

‘No. Not until I met Brukost.’

Barannan appeared to think about that. Then, as though searching for clues to a difficult puzzle, he suddenly asked, ‘So if you were both kids, have you ever … with a female.’

Keivah arched an eyebrow at Barannan. ‘Ever what?’

Barannan glared at Keivah. ‘You know.’

Keivah chuckled. ‘I haven’t, no.’

‘Never?’

‘Vutayli and I were too young to ‘you know’,’ Keivah shrugged. ‘And Brukost certainly would not have shared me with a female.’

‘Then if ya haven’t, how do ya…?’

‘What?’

‘Know what ya are.’

Keivah gave Barannan a mock stunned look. ‘What am I, exactly?’

Barannan growled. ‘You know what I mean.’

‘How do I know that I’m not attracted to females?’

‘Yeah.’

The storm was at tremendous force by then. Rain was pouring down upon the two like a waterfall, and the crashing branches were becoming more frequent. A few times, they had to move over or around fallen limbs. As intense as the storm had become, Keivah’s illness seemed to have gotten worse. He rubbed his forehead and then took a deep breath, determined to seem well, even if he was not.

‘How do you know you’re not attracted to men?’ Keivah asked.

‘Watch it, mate,’ Barannan glowered.

Keivah grinned.

‘I don’t know,’ Barannan chuckled. ‘I guess I see yer point- woa!’

Keivah either slipped in the mud or stumbled; he was not certain which. Either way, he started to fall forward, and was only saved from a very undignified face-first landing on the ground by Barannan’s fast reflexes and strong arms. Keivah clutched tightly to Barannan, to avoid another near fall.

‘All right, lad?’

‘Fine, yes,’ Keivah nodded.

‘Sure?’

‘Yes.’

Barannan looked at Keivah for a moment, concerned. ‘I guess yer right,’ he continued quickly, trying to keep Keivah focused. ‘I know I don’t want’a be with males and I don’t need ta try it ta figure that out.’

‘Of course…’ Keivah said. ‘I’m only really attracted to Brukost. So anybody who’s not him, male or female, doesn’t interest me.’

‘Yer young. You’ll be attracted to somebody again.’

Keivah thought about that a moment. Then he shook his head. ‘I think it would be impossible to ever love or be attracted to anybody again.’

‘Why’s that?’

‘Because Brukost was everything.’

Barannan chuckled and patted Keivah’s back. ‘Yer young.’ Then, after a few moments of silence had passed, the dwarf asked, ‘so you’d still be with him if that didn’t happen?’

‘Yes.’

‘Or if somethin’ went wrong and he never had a chance ta try.’

‘Yes,’ Keivah nodded.

‘Last night you said ya wanted Brukost back and everythin’ the way it was.’

‘Yes…’

‘But what if ya knew he wanted ta do that, but for some reason he couldn’t?’

‘Do you mean, would I still want to go back to him if I knew he could not steal my body, but knowing what I do now?’

‘Yeah.’

Keivah tried to take a deep breath to give the question the consideration it deserved. But the breath nearly made him vomit. And anyway, he did not have to think about it.

‘Yes,’ Keivah said.

‘Hmm.’

Keivah glanced at Barannan. ‘What?’

Barannan re-shifted his grip on Keivah. ‘I don’t know, lad. I guess … don’t ya think you deserve better than that? I know it’s love and all, but he wanted to kill you.’

‘Technically, he only wanted to kill my soul.’

Barannan looked at Keivah to see if he was joking. Then smiled when he saw that he was. ‘Yer right. I take it back. That’s very romantic.’

Keivah chuckled, pushing rain-soaked hair out of his eyes. ‘Perhaps I could find somebody who doesn’t want to hurt me and treat me the way he had. But I don’t want anybody else. I want him and only him.’

‘Well, yer-‘

‘Young,’ Keivah finished. ‘Yes. But I have aged a lot lately, and I still want to be with Brukost.’

A sudden lightning bolt crashed into the trees just off the road. Keivah let out a sharp groan, feeling as though it had hit him instead. His legs buckled and he slumped to the ground before Barannan could catch him. Keivah was momentarily stunned. He was reminded of the pain he had felt when he tried to cast. It was like that, but not exactly. The casting pain had felt like touching a raw nerve. This felt as though it was coming into him from outside. Then Barannan was pulling him to his feet again. He shook Keivah lightly.

‘We’re almost there, so just hang on,’ Barannan said, starting to walk with Keivah again.

‘Sorry,’ Keivah murmured.

Barannan chuckled. ‘Don’t be sorry. Just stay with me ‘til we get there.’

‘Something’s wrong,’ Keivah said, barely able to speak above the sounds of the storm.

‘I know. We gotta get you to Aphie.’
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PostSubject: Re: A not-at-all Brief History of Keivah   Tue Jan 29, 2008 9:26 am

Keivah didn’t remember most of the rest of the trip. It was basically just a blur of sensations. He felt nauseous, dizzy and wet. It felt to him as though the lightning strike had sent him over the edge, and after that, whatever illness had been creeping up on him had caught him, taken hold, and might not let go.

‘We’re here.’

Keivah felt himself being shaken. He looked up and was amazed to find himself still on his feet, although leaning heavily on Barannan. It was a small victory that at least he had been walking, he supposed, although apparently he had done it semi-conscious. Rain was still pouring down and the sky was as black, broken occasionally by brilliant flashes of lightning. Then he saw through the gloom a square of flickering yellow-orange light. Squinting, Keivah was reminded of gazing across the water from the piece of driftwood at the alliance town. But rather than the false comfort, which that had eventually become, he thought it unlikely that things would turn out as badly. Although, he thought, they could be approaching the alliance capitol city and as long as his prison cell had a comfortable bed, he would be happy.

Barannan hurried Keivah forward, bursting through the door, accompanied by a gale wind. As Barannan pulled Keivah across the room to a fold-down bed beneath one of the windows in the kitchen area, he spoke anxiously to Aphelandra. Keivah thought that either he was speaking in their own language, or his illness had made him go beyond the point of being able to understand words. He truly feared the latter, but as Barannan dropped him onto the bed, Aphelandra replied and Keivah did recognise it as alliance speak. Then Aphelandra was beside him, shoving something into his mouth.

‘Eat this,’ she said. ‘It will make you feel better.’ Then she spoke to Barannan, who stepped forward again and shifted Keivah to his side.

Keivah bit into the item. At first, it had a very musty-earthy flavour to it. Then a sudden sourness exploded in his mouth. It was so sharp that it made his jaws ache and tingle. Then a few moments later, warmth began to spread slowly throughout his body. It was an incredibly comfortable warmth, and such a relief that he hardly objected when, moments later, Aphelandra and Barannan undressed him, laying his wet clothes across a wooden frame near the fire. Normally, he would have been absolutely mortified. And he was, but he simply felt too good to care. A soft, thick fur pelt was pulled over him and that, mixed with the crackling fire, made his shaking subside quickly. Neko leapt onto the bed and settled against the backs of his legs.

‘Feel better?’

It was mildly disturbing to Keivah that he couldn’t tell if the question had come from Neko, Aphelandra, or Barannan. All three had very distinctive voices, so it should have been obvious. But again, it was only mildly disturbing. Mostly, he was too comfortable to care.

‘Much better,’ Keivah murmured. ‘Thank you.’

Aphelandra stroked his hair then, and set a small thin leaf in front of him on the bed. ‘When you finish what is in your mouth,’ she said. ‘Eat this one.’

Keivah nodded, placing his hand over the leaf so that he wouldn’t lose track of where it was. When he did eat the second one a few minutes later, it was basically the same. Earthy followed by sour, and then the most pleasant, comfortable and happy feeling he had experienced in a while.

‘What is it?’ Keivah asked at one point.

‘Medicine,’ Aphelandra replied. Barannan said something to her, and she repeated: ‘Medicine.’

As wonderful and relaxed as he felt, Keivah did not sleep immediately. It was as though somewhere within the medicine, he had also been given energy. But the tiredness and sensation of feeling better entirely over-shadowed it. So for the second night, he watched Aphelandra and Barannan go about their evening’s routines. Not tied to a chair this time, though, he thought. So things were improving.

The routine was decidedly more rushed and frantic, Keivah noticed. Barannan made several trips outside, once bringing the wheelbarrow of wood inside, and the rest of the times, carrying small wedges of wood and assorted tools out with him. Keivah could hear banging sounds at the windows. He assumed that the shutters were being sealed to protect them against the wind, which impossibly seemed to have increased even more. At one point, Barannan paused in his activity long enough to stand beside Keivah.

‘Doin’ all right, lad?’ The dwarf asked.

Keivah nodded and smiled. ‘Need help?’

Barannan chuckled, tucking the fur pelt snugly about Keivah’s neck. ‘Sure, whenever yer ready,’ he said. Then he turned and spoke to Aphelandra, who was busy unloading the wheelbarrow. Then he made his way back outside, having to pull the door hard to close it against the wind.

Aphelandra straightened from her work and looked over at Keivah. ‘Barannan and I cannot have children,’ she said. ‘He told me that he enjoys knowing what it is like to have a son.’

Keivah was startled and touched. He had basically thought of himself as a project and a burden for the two. It never would have occurred to him that he meant something to either of them. He was quite unused to it. He knew that he meant something to his parents, of course. And to Jorcan. But he never really felt that he meant anything to Brukost while they were together, hence his constant fear of being left by him. And of course, now he knew that he hadn’t meant anything to him at all, other than as a body. He also knew that he hadn’t meant anything to Brukost’s friends who visited at times, other than a source of amusement for them. He was not even positive that he meant a lot to those at his home in general. He did in that everybody had some meaning, being as small of a community as it was. But he was not a fool and knew that many did not trust him because he was a caster. Then suddenly, Keivah realised that he could be taking the comment entirely wrong.

‘Having a son, in that I cannot seem to be able to take care of myself and require constant attention, much like an infant?’

Aphelandra laughed. ‘Exactly.’

Keivah grinned tiredly. He was quite pleased with himself being able to make Aphelandra laugh. He had half-expected her to yell in his face again.

‘Try to rest,’ Aphelandra said as she pushed the empty wheelbarrow into a perfect-sized alcove beside the fireplace. Then she smiled at him. ‘I will wake you when the venison stew is ready.’

Keivah’s eyes had already been slowly closing. He nodded slightly. ‘I like bat stew,’ he murmured. He settled into the bed and was about to sigh contently when suddenly he realised that his bat stew comment was incredibly insulting. His eyes flashed open. ‘Stew,’ he said a bit too loudly. ‘I like all stew.’

Aphelandra laughed again, but this time Keivah didn’t feel as good about it. He cursed himself inwardly for ruining a very rare comfortable moment with her.

Neko stirred and set his head across Keivah’s leg. ‘What happened?’ He asked.

‘She said that she is making venison stew and I told her that I like bat stew,’ Keivah replied.

‘Oh.’ Neko shifted and stretched out on the bed. ‘No wonder she hates you,’ he said and then promptly fell back asleep.

Aphelandra had simply smiled. ‘Good. I’m happy you like stew. I am making a lot.’

Keivah was still trying to decide if he should further express his joy of all stews, or just let the topic drop, when he fell asleep.





Standing out amongst the trees, Keivah was uncertain why he was there. He shivered in the cold, his too-large brown clothes soaked in rain. The storm continued to lash the trees and branches crashed entirely too close. Everything was a confused blur and Keivah brushed hair and rain from his eyes. He felt completely alone; something made more acute by the vague sense that he was not alone at all out there. Something was in the trees. He knew it was there, and it knew he was there.

But what was it, and why was he there? He seemed to have no concept of anything other than being in the forest. He began trying to jog his memory. Had he gone outside his home and become caught in a storm? Had he gotten lost whilst working upon his training? Had he made a wrong turn on his way back to Brukost’s house? The last question stirred something inside him, and images began to flash swiftly and uncontrollably through his mind.

Brukost … Keivah’s hand clenched the bag hung round his neck as though to solidify what his mind was telling him. Brukost had done something terrible. Keivah had escaped and been rescued- his breath caught and then came out as a low huffing sound. He had walked into that side bedroom and was met by a gruesome sight. Wet pools, which were too dark to be a result from a leaking roof, and the deathly-still forms of Barannan and Aphelandra. That was why he stood out in the storm. He had fled the cabin in shock and fear. He hadn’t seen what killed them. But he knew. It was the same thing that was with him in the forest now, searching and stalking him. Brukost.

At just that moment, he saw something move in the gloomy darkness of the trees. He felt static brush across his wet skin. A large figure loomed toward him, and Keivah tried to make his feet move. But they would not. As Brukost became visible, Keivah felt a confused mix of deep love and blind terror. When Brukost was close enough to fix Keivah with that crimson stare, Keivah was finally jolted into action. He turned and ran, crashing through the underbrush.

As Keivah ran, low branches tearing his clothing and whipping his face, he had a vague sense that something was very familiar about the situation. He was too scared and disoriented to think more about it, though. As he burst through the trees into a clearing, he was startled by something large and fast in front of him. He stumbled back a few steps as his frantic gaze focused. A herd of shadowhorns had apparently been grazing in the clearing, and thundered past him at his noisy arrival. Keivah blinked a few times, watching as the last of the white flicking tails vanished into the dusky forest.

Keivah began to turn, and began to step forward when suddenly a sharp pain cracked hard against the side of his face. It was such a harsh blow that it sent Keivah tumbling to the ground. He pushed himself up, gingerly touching his cheekbone beneath his left eye. He nearly expected to find half of his face missing, but while aching and tasting blood, he seemed to be intact. There was little time for relief, however. Two massive hands grabbed his arms and lifted him to his feet. Twisting his head back, Keivah saw To’olon staring blankly at him.

‘To’olon,’ Keivah started, not exactly certain what he would say and knowing there was nothing he could say. He was going to try, anyway, but then the formidable minion’s dead eyes shifted from Keivah to something in front of them. Keivah looked as well, and his heart simultaneously fluttered and sank.

‘Brukost, please,’ Keivah said. He attempted to twist his shoulders from To’olon’s grip but the minion’s steely hands remained firm.

Brukost did not reply. Nor did he show any emotion. He merely stepped forward and gave Keivah a vicious back-hand. Then orc pulled his arm back and repeated the blow. A soft groan escaped Keivah’s lips. For several moments he was unaware of anything but pain. Then To’olon lifted him and threw him forward. Keivah’s plan was to land on his feet and then dash into the forest, and safety. Instead, his feet hit and he crumpled limply to the soggy ground, the side of his face resting in a shallow puddle. He was still considering a run into the forest when a boot half-kicked, and half-rolled him to his back. Keivah squinted into the rain at Brukost’s scowling face.

Keivah wanted to tell Brukost that he loved him. He also wanted to curse him out for killing his friends. However, he was so over-whelmed by emotion that he could do neither. He watched Brukost slowly kneel beside him. He barely moved when Brukost set one large hand upon his stomach, bracing the other powerful forearm against his neck. Keivah did reach up then, attempting to relieve the firm pressure from his throat. But otherwise, he remained still. It was not entirely by choice that he was not moving. He had no idea why his body felt so slow, even without the blows to his face, but it was. Even when Brukost’s head loomed above him and the red eyes burned into his, Keivah merely swallowed and stared back.

‘You will never escape me,’ Brukost said.

Everything seemed to stop, as the words hammered into Keivah’s mind. When Brukost spoke, it seemed to lift Keivah’s awareness briefly to a level outside the rain and wind and soggy ground on which he lay. It even momentarily removed him from being pinned beneath Brukost. But the odd feeling did not last. Brukost shifted, pressing his forearm harder. His other hand balled into a fist and then he pulled his arm back, slamming Keivah’s stomach. Keivah’s breath left him in a soft grunt. The blow, mixed with the slight restriction to his air made Keivah gasp. When he had recovered just a bit from the initial shock, Keivah noticed that Brukost’s knuckles still rested against his abdomen. His eyes met Brukost’s again and he realised that the orc was smiling. Then Brukost looked down at Keivah’s stomach. He flexed his fingers. At first, Keivah felt the thick fingers poke his stomach. Then he felt them poke through his stomach. Keivah’s eyes widened and he tried to sit up, but Brukost continued to hold him down, ignoring the struggles.

Keivah was not certain how, but he knew exactly what was happening. Brukost was reaching into him, forcing the rest of his soul into Keivah’s body. Thrashing harder, Keivah lunged against Brukost’s forearm and tried to pull the hand away from his stomach. But then he could feel the darkness flowing into him and feel his portals begin to shatter from the weight of it. He felt the burning agony and despair. Brukost’s soul flowed into him like a river, and all he could do was wait until it was over. He arched back and let out a shout of despair.
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PostSubject: Re: A not-at-all Brief History of Keivah   Tue Jan 29, 2008 9:43 am

Keivah sat up suddenly, clutching his stomach. He took a gasping, shuddering breath and looked about. Aphelandra stared at him from across the room, ladle in one hand and carved wooden bowl in the other. Shifting his gaze slightly to the left, Keivah saw Barannan sitting at the dining table, also staring at him, spoon half-way to his mouth. Keivah knew that he had shouted aloud, by the reactions of the other two, the eerie silence in the room, and the scratchy feeling in his throat. He began to blush, realising that even Neko and Barannan’s white wolf were looking at him.

‘Time ta eat,’ Barannan spoke up awkwardly.

Keivah cleared his throat. ‘Lovely,’ he replied. He wrapped the fur pelt about his torso, and stood. He staggered, stumbled and nearly landed back onto the bed again. Glancing up, he saw both of them begin to very actively not watch him.

‘Bread?’ Aphelandra asked quickly, raising the ladle and bowl for emphasis.

‘Please,’ Keivah said softly. He shuffled over to the fire, and retrieved his now-dry clothes. He attempted for a few moments to manoeuvre dressing with the fur still around him, but finally gave up and dropped it. Once dressed, he turned and caught Barannan trying to glance away quickly. Letting out a small sigh, he moved over to the table and slid into the chair toward which Aphelandra gestured.

Keivah picked up the leaf, which was sitting on the side of his plate. He chewed it uncomfortably, realising that both Aphelandra and Barannan were still trying very hard to appear as though they were not trying to avoid looking at him. Aphelandra set a bowl of stew in front of him, and then retrieved her own, taking her spot at the head of the table.

Keivah pushed his spoon into the stew, stirring it absently. He was fairly shaken by the nightmare and even as the leaf medicine blissfully took effect, he felt disturbed. Parts of the nightmare had been so real. Especially when Brukost told him that he could not escape. Even wide-awake and sitting in the cosy, warm cabin, the words echoed in his mind, making him feel vulnerable and nervous. But even worse than that had been the discovery of the bodies. That hadn’t felt as real, but was far more powerful.

‘Sleep well?’ Barannan asked suddenly, breaking the silence.

Keivah looked up in time to catch the last part of a warning glare directed at Barannan from Aphelandra and the first part of a shrug from Barannan directed back.

‘Yes, thank you,’ Keivah smiled to Barannan over the table’s candle. ‘Very well.’

‘Ah, good,’ Barannan returned the smile.

The room fell silent once again, and even the howling wind seemed to quiet slightly. After only a few spoonfuls of stew, Keivah felt full. He continued to eat, anyway, simply for the motion and distraction from other things. He was surprised when not much later, the bowl was empty. Having a long drink of water, Keivah ran his fingers about the underside of his plate. He set the pewter tankard down, and continued searching the plate’s edge. He could have sworn there was a second leaf, but could not seem to find it. With a frown, he pushed the wooden bowl and tankard to the side, and then lifted the plate. First, he looked at its bottom in case the leaf had stuck, but didn’t see anything. Still holding the plate in one hand, he leaned over the table, running his fingers slowly and carefully across the surface, squinting hard in the dim candlelight. Still nothing, but that didn’t mean it was not there. He looked up and reached for the candle to pull it closer, then stopped suddenly.

Keivah’s first thought was that at least Barannan and Aphelandra were no longer avoiding looking at him. They were definitely looking at him. But not exactly in a way that comforted him. The hand, which had been reaching for the candle dropped limply to the table as he glanced from one to the other.

‘Lookin’ fer somethin’?’ Barannan asked.

‘I-‘ Keivah blushed and shook his head. ‘I thought there was more medicine.

Barannan turned and said something to Aphelandra. She answered sharply, and he shook his head, replying with equal emotion. Then Aphelandra said something, which made him raise his hands in surrender and give a final comment. Keivah watched the exchange. It was clear they were talking about him and didn’t want him to know what they were saying. It was an extremely uncomfortable feeling. Aphelandra simply stood, walked to the shelf over the long window above the cooking stove and retrieved a metal tin. She popped it open and removed a leaf, then replaced the tin on the shelf. Turning, she smiled at Keivah, walked back to the table, sat, and offered the leaf to him. Barannan said something, but she ignored it.

‘Thank you,’ Keivah said uncertainly, accepting the leaf. He actually wanted to shove it into his mouth and let the warmth wash over him. But he was starting to have a bad feeling. ‘What is it, anyway?’ He asked.

Aphelandra looked at him for a moment. ‘Bloodthistle,’ she said, and then had a bite of stew.

‘Bloodthistle,’ Keivah repeated softly, looking at the leaf. There was something very familiar about that, and he felt as though he should recognise it. He glanced up and saw that Barannan seemed to be waiting for a reaction. That was when it came to him. He looked back at Aphelandra. ‘Isn’t bloodthistle highly addictive?’

She nodded, sopping up the remains of her stew with a piece of bread. ‘It is, yes.’

Keivah paused. ‘But I wouldn’t be addicted, would I?’

‘Probably. It only takes one or two leaves.’

The wind outside seemed to have picked back up again, although Keivah thought it could also be his suddenly swirling head. ‘All right,’ he replied. He paused again, waiting for somebody to tell him that what he had been eating was synthetic, or a less addictive type. But nobody did. Aphelandra had finished her bread and was draining her mug of water. Barannan still watched Keivah over the slowly diminishing candle. ‘So…’ Keivah said slowly. ‘You got me addicted to bloodthistle?’

‘If you want to word it that way, yes,’ Aphelandra nodded.

‘How else should I word it?’

Aphelandra smiled. ‘You were given bloodthistle by me and it is fairly likely that you’ve become addicted.’

‘What’s the difference?’

‘It sounds better.’

‘It all sounds the same to me.’

‘Eat your leaf,’ Aphelandra said as she stood, picking up her dishes. ‘We can talk in a bit.’

Keivah really did not want to eat the leaf. He also really wanted to. Sitting in stunned silence, he watched Aphelandra take his dishes, along with hers, to the washing tub. Wanting to eat the leaf finally won, and Keivah did, feeling very dirty about the entire thing. Even the rush of warmth wasn’t quite so blissful. He wanted to spit the leaf back out, but it was too late, anyway. He had already chewed it. That made him feel even worse. He never should have put the bloody thing in his mouth. He stared at the candle; vaguely listening to the conversation Barannan and Aphelandra were having over by the washing tub. It was in his language this time. Something about Barannan offering to help wash, and Aphelandra informing him that he does it wrong. Sure, Keivah thought. That, they discuss in front of me.

When Barannan returned to the table, he gave Keivah a sympathetic half-smile. ‘C’mon, lad.’

Still feeling numb and guilty, Keivah was led by Barannan to one of the large over-stuffed chairs near the fireplace. Barannan gently pushed Keivah into the chair, checked his bandages quickly, then sat opposite him. He removed a pipe and pouch from the drawer of a table beside the chair. He removed a second pipe and lifted it at Keivah, who shook his head. Barannan replaced the second pipe, and then filled the one he held.

‘Don’t be upset, lad,’ Barannan said, leaning over to set the tip of a long, thin stick into the fire.

‘You didn’t want her to give it to me,’ Keivah replied. ‘That was the discussion I couldn’t understand.’

Barannan took perhaps longer than necessary to light his pipe from the burning stick. Then he snapped the flame from the stick and leaned back, puffing at the sweetly-burning tobacco. ‘That’s half true,’ he finally said. ‘I agree with her decision, though.’

Keivah sighed and rubbed his forehead. He felt a burst of honesty coming on and tried to fight it. But finally, he shook his head in disbelief. ‘Don’t I have enough problems? Do I really need to be made addicted to bloodthistle as well?’ The comment made him feel foolish, because he really hated self-pity. He thought he had been feeling far too sorry for himself lately as it was. But giving him bloodthistle seemed so unnecessary. So cruel. It was nearly something Brukost would do to him. Then Aphelandra spoke, without looking up from the dishes.

‘You were already addicted,’ she said.

Looking at her, Keivah waited for her to say more. But she simply continued to dip clean dishes into a rinse tub and then set them upon a strip of cloth.

‘No, I wasn’t’, Keivah said. ‘I’ve never touched bloodthistle. I never needed it.’ The last comment slipped out before he could stop it, and he wished he hadn’t said it. Arrogance was about as bad as self-pity, and he had somehow achieved both within a small amount of time.

Aphelandra set the last of the dishes down and then walked over to the sitting area. She flicked Barannan’s arm and waved him up. With a grumble, he stood and pulled one of the dining chairs over beside the fire, sitting again. Aphelandra settled into the large chair, leaning toward Keivah.

‘Not bloodthistle,’ she said. ‘Casting.’
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PostSubject: Re: A not-at-all Brief History of Keivah   Tue Jan 29, 2008 9:45 am

Keivah looked at her, assuming she had only said part of a larger word or still had a sentence to finish. His brow furrowed slowly as he waited for the rest of it. But she merely looked back. The silence lengthened until finally, Keivah spoke.

‘Pardon?’

‘Casting.’

Another pause. ‘Did you say casting?’

‘Yes.’

‘Like … magic casting?’

She nodded.

‘Why did you say casting?’

Aphelandra smiled, which had become an indication for Keivah that he would not like what she was about to say. It tended to suggest ‘Sorry to tell you, but…’

‘You are addicted to casting,’ she explained. ‘It is the reason you became so weak when the air charged with energy. Your body was aching to draw that energy in, but you cannot.’

‘I’ve been casting all my life,’ Keivah protested. ‘When I was a baby, rather than crying, my parents told me that I used to shoot sparks from my fingers. How can I go my entire life casting and only now find that I’m addicted?’

‘You just answered your own question, didn’t you?’ Aphelandra asked.

Keivah shook his head, although it was starting to occur to him that he had.

‘So,’ Aphelandra continued. ‘All that energy surrounding you from the storm set off the symptoms, and made them more intense.’

‘Only during storms, then?’ Keivah asked hopefully. He loved storms and would hate to have it be necessary to avoid them the rest of his life, but he also hated how he had felt. But Aphelandra shook her head.

‘It would have happened anyway. You have been hurting for other reasons, and your body did not have a chance to notice how much it missed having all that energy going through it. Now it has noticed, and it is not happy. And…’ she paused then with a rare moment of hesitation. Then she smiled, and Keivah braced himself. She clasped her hands and continued. ‘That darkness in you unfortunately will have complicated your condition even more.’

‘Why?’

‘Just normally, it is like a piece of cloth laid flat.’ She turned to gesture at the cloth on which the plates were drying. ‘Natural energy would be like a thin layer of water settled over the top of the cloth. Some energy just seeps into your body on a regular daily basis. That happens for everybody. But as a caster, you open your portals and draw in the energy to be able to convert it into spells. The darkness is heavy, and of a different substance than your own soul. A more aggressive substance. So it would be like dropping a large stone onto the cloth. All the water would rush toward the heaviness of the stone. The darkness wants to be fed; the energy wants to feed it. That is why, other things equal, a dark soul will always be more powerful. Energy rushes to it, it is a simple natural law. Now … with your situation, the water is like acid, and the rock is an extremely heavy sponge.’

She seemed to be finished talking, but Keivah was uncertain what to say. He glanced at Barannan, who once again seemed to aggressively be avoiding looking at him, staring into the fire instead. Keivah rubbed his forehead. ‘And where does the casting addiction come in?’

‘Your body needs all this to happen, but it cannot.’

‘Why not?’

‘The sponge would become heavier, growing larger, and able to absorb more until it covers and then destroys the cloth.’ She waited for Keivah to speak, and when he did not, she added, ‘the cloth being your body and soul.’

‘I got that, yes,’ Keivah muttered. He cursed and shook his head. He had mentally been going along with the idea that he could not cast anymore, but always felt somewhere within himself that there had to be a way that he could. It was now starting to seem unlikely. ‘What does the bloodthistle do, then? Is that like a feather wrapped in grass, floating above the sponge and shooting snowflakes at it?’

Aphelandra grinned. ‘I liked my metaphor,’ she said. ‘The bloodthistle partially simulates casting. Normally, it would strengthen spells, so for you, it would open your portals and increase your energy flow. Your body will believe that it has been drawing energy and casting it, when it has not been.’

‘Are there not other, less addictive things? Why bloodthistle?’

‘There are less addictive things, but it would be more dangerous to use them. Bloodthistle, for all its addictive properties, is actually weaker than synthetic forms that do the same thing. It is natural, rather than created. Created types are much more aggressive to the system, forcing more powerful results. For somebody who can cast, there is no problem. But you might not be able to control it. That darkness in you receives the same changes to your system that everything else does. Anything stronger, and it could start feeding itself, drawing in energy, and ending in the same result that casting would.’

‘Destroying my soul,’ Keivah said softly.

‘Exactly. So basically, I traded an addiction that you had no hope of controlling or being able to endure in the short time you had – the casting addiction, for one with which you have a chance, over time. And … before you say anything, because I can tell by your expression that you want to, I did go out and get the bloodthistle from a friend earlier, but had no intention of using it on you in the way I did. I wanted to be certain, and then discuss it with you first. But when you returned earlier, it was obvious, and you were suffering.’

Keivah nodded slowly. ‘I understand.’

‘I know you don’t,’ Aphelandra said gently. ‘But I hope in time you will.’

Gazing into the fire, Keivah let out a sigh. He found it odd that he resented the storm very much at that moment. Perhaps Aphelandra was right, and the symptoms would have appeared anyway. But the storm had made it happen before she could tell him about the bloodthistle. Had he known what she wanted to feed him, he would have refused and fought this alleged casting addiction. And he was not at all convinced that there was anything to fight. She didn’t know him. How would she know he had some supposed addiction to casting? She could have ruined him – again … still – over nothing. Over just a small illness. All right, perhaps a significant illness. But was the bloodthistle really necessary?

At that point, he began to resent the storm for another reason. He had a lot of nervous energy, and wanted to leave, to walk and to think. The storm had him trapped, though. It had trapped him into addiction and now it trapped him in suffocating claustrophobia.

He stood suddenly and turned, but had no-where to go. His chest felt tight and he had to swallow back a shout. Clenching his teeth, he stalked round the back of the chair and into the kitchen area. He stood for several moments before he realised he was staring directly at the tin of bloodthistle. Blinking, he stepped back and bumped somebody behind him. He whirled and was facing Aphelandra.

‘Go ahead and have another leaf,’ she smiled.

Keivah narrowed his eyes. ‘I don’t want another leaf. I don’t want what I’ve already had. I just … don’t want it. I wouldn’t have wanted it. Never.’

‘You needed it,’ Aphelandra replied. ‘You will continue to need it until your body starts to adjust and normalise. With this darkness making things worse, the casting addiction would have been too much strain. In time, we can work through the bloodthistle addiction.’ Then she held his face in her hands and looked into his eyes. ‘And honey, I know you never would have wanted it. But I would have insisted.’

Keivah blushed. ‘You could not have made me take it,’ he said softly.

There was a sharp snort from Barannan, and Aphelandra giggled, patting Keivah’s cheek as she released him.

‘You cannot believe that,’ she laughed.

Even Keivah managed a small chuckle. ‘No, I suppose I don’t.’

Aphelandra locked arms with Keivah, leading him back to the sitting area. ‘Casting addiction is very serious,’ she said, motioning for him to sit. ‘It is even more serious for you. You are young, you have a huge amount of natural power that aches to be used, and you have strong, intense darkness in you. And normally the addiction happens to those who can cast, and who can ease the effects by draining outside energy. You cannot do that. So you need the bloodthistle.’

Keivah hated being told what to do, unless it came from a large orc named Brukost. And he hated to not have control, unless again, it was taken from him by Brukost. He planned to break himself from the bloodthistle as soon as possible. And if he was going to stop using it soon, it would not hurt to have another at the moment. He glanced at the shelf with the tin on it. Then he turned back quickly. What was he thinking? He scolded himself, while his gaze moved slowly back to the shelf. When he realised what he was doing, he accidentally cursed aloud. Glancing at Barannan and Aphelandra, Keivah noticed that they were both watching him, and he thought fondly back to when they were avoiding looking at him at all. He began to blush again, and felt the claustrophobia press in even more.

‘Have another leaf,’ Aphelandra smiled.

Keivah shook his head.

Aphelandra nodded. ‘You will refuse the bloodthistle. Then you will grow weaker and weaker. You will become deathly ill, hallucinate, go into shock, shake, and develop a dangerously high fever. I will have to force you to eat the bloodthistle, and bring you back from the edge of death. It will take you weeks, if not months to heal and it is possible that you will never recover fully. There.’ Aphelandra finished, still holding a steady smile. ‘Now that we have gone through it all, we can move on to you eating your leaf.’

Keivah’s eyes had widened. Barannan leaned toward Aphelandra and said something in their language to her. She looked at the dwarf and shook her head.

‘No,’ she replied so that Keivah could understand. ‘It is not ‘a bit harsh’. It is true.’

Watching the exchange, Keivah chewed his lip, thinking. Aphelandra had gotten up, retrieved another leaf and come back to his chair and he still hadn’t moved or said a word. He kept going back and forth between bitterness toward the idea that he had lost control over what took place within his own body, and remembering just how ill he had felt returning with Barannan. He definitely did not want to feel that way again, but if he kept taking bloodthistle, wouldn’t that addiction keep getting worse? Perhaps if he stopped now, it would be much easier than if he kept eating it until his body ‘normalised’, whatever that meant. Normal meant casting, and from what Aphelandra said, that was not going to happen anymore. She had set the leaf upon the arm of his chair, and he glanced down at it. Perhaps one more. Then he could sleep, and feel refreshed and strong in the morning, and then stop eating it. Keivah nodded slightly to himself. That is what he would do, yes. At the moment, he was still feeling weak and tired and drained. After a good sleep, he could simply not eat it anymore. To that point in his life, the only thing that had ever been able to truly control him had been a burly orc with more power than six normal casters. He was not about to have the second thing be a leaf no larger than a copper piece. Picking up the leaf, he felt satisfied that it would be the last one he would ever eat. He chewed it and swallowed, feeling so determined about his decision that he even allowed himself to enjoy the comfortable warmth one more time.
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PostSubject: Re: A not-at-all Brief History of Keivah   Tue Jan 29, 2008 10:22 am

A few days later, the storm finally broke. Keivah had left the house the moment the wind died down and the branches stopped crashing. While he and Barannan had enjoyed a lot of their time going over fencing manoeuvres and practising the proper way to hold a bow – with Aphelandra looking on watchfully, lest they start putting holes in her walls out of boredom - it felt incredibly good to be outside in the fresh, open air. He made his way immediately to the nearby river, stripped his clothes off and plunged into the chilly water. After the initial shock, he washed away the grime and dust that came from spending several days in a small cabin with a fire constantly raging. He spent another while with his eyes closed, treading water in a small pool and just enjoying being outside. Then suddenly, he sensed a magic-user approaching. His skin was already tingling from the cool water, so he feared it was Brukost. His head jerked round to where the source was approaching, and he was both relieved and slightly mortified to see Aphelandra making her way to him.

‘Barannan’s on his way back,’ she called with a wave. He had left the house at about the same time Keivah did, saying something about having business to take care of.

‘All right…’ Keivah replied, hoping that she would not come closer, and then watching as she did.

Aphelandra sat upon a stump; the remains of a tree that had clearly come down in the storm. ‘That looks cold,’ she said. All three of them had kept relatively clean during the storm by heating water in a bowl and washing with cloth, but for Keivah, it hadn’t been the same.

‘It is,’ he replied. ‘I was about to get out, actually.’

She simply nodded, still sitting upon the stump and looking idly at him.

Keivah waited a moment for her to leave or at least turn, but she didn’t. ‘Very cold, in fact,’ he said pointedly.

Aphelandra rolled her eyes. ‘Keivah, I have seen hundreds of naked men.’

He arched an eyebrow at her. ‘Have you?’

She laughed and nodded. ‘At my age? Of course I have.’

Keivah grinned. He had not really sorted out what her age was, but it was suggested that she was a few centuries. ‘Well, my nakedness is reserved for people who are not somewhat like a mother to me, and for other naked men.’

Aphelandra sighed and shook her head, but was clearly smiling behind her exasperated demeanour. She stood and turned her back to him. Keivah moved out of the river, drying himself quickly and then pulling his clothes over still-moist skin.

‘Thank you,’ he said, squeezing water from the ends of his hair. He stepped over broken limbs and sat upon the fallen trunk portion of the stump upon which Aphelandra had once again settled. Keivah set down the sheet of cloth he had used to dry himself, and then reached automatically for the tin of bloodthistle on the log. His hand froze mid-reach, and then he turned so that his back was partially to Aphelandra. He removed a bloodthistle leaf, slipped it into his mouth and then turned back toward her, chewing slowly. It was clear what he was doing, and he knew that Aphelandra knew. He just did not like anybody to see him do it.

‘There’s no shame in it, you know,’ Aphelandra said with a sympathetic smile. ‘It is a common problem for your kind. I am actually surprised your magic trainers did not mention it.’

They had gone the remaining days of the storm without talking about bloodthistle at all. Keivah had gone to sleep the one night fully intending to never touch another leaf, but the next morning it was the first thing he did. After that, he simply fed his addiction and hated himself for it, thinking that perhaps under better circumstances, it would be easier to stop. During that time, he could tell that Aphelandra wanted to say something to him about it, but never did. He assumed that she had seen the claustrophobia in his face, and not wanted to talk about something that was such a clear source of stress for him. And now that the storm was over, and he was outside again, she as clearly wanted to talk about it.

Keivah thought back upon his training. Over the past few days, when he had allowed himself more than a brief thought about it, he did feel as though casting addiction sounded a bit familiar. ‘It could have been mentioned.’

‘But you do not remember what was said?’

‘I didn’t listen,’ Keivah muttered sheepishly.

‘Why not?’

‘Because my trainers are incompetent fools,’ Keivah replied in a firm and slightly defiant tone. Then he added a bit more quietly, ‘And I didn’t think it applied to me.’

Aphelandra didn’t yell or call his actions irresponsible. She simply nodded. ‘What about your family? They did not mention it to you?’

‘We never talked a lot about my casting. There hadn’t been another caster since our ancestors first arrived, many generations ago. Nobody there really knows anything about magic.’

Aphelandra had started to frown slowly. ‘How many generations?’

Keivah chuckled. ‘I don’t know, exactly. Several.’

Aphelandra thought for a moment. ‘I believe it is time that I learn about your home, if you would like to tell me.’

Shaking his head, Keivah hoped she would move on to another topic. That didn’t seem likely to happen, though. She was waiting and probably would continue to wait quite a while, by her look of interest.

‘Years ago…’ Keivah started. ‘Many, many years ago, there was a great battle. I have no idea with whom or why. That is for our historians. Apparently there was some leader…’ he paused.

‘Just say what you know,’ Aphelandra smiled.

Keivah nodded. ‘He asked for great warriors and magic-users to come and fight with him. The fighters were betrayed … I am not certain if by this leader, or whom, but they were imprisoned. They managed to escape, and … I don’t quite know what happened next. This leader or somebody else asked them to return to battle.’

‘Do you mean Kael’thas?’ Aphelandra interrupted.

‘I don’t know,’ Keivah shrugged. ‘It isn’t discussed.’

She merely nodded and waited for him to continue.

‘That is where our history starts,’ Keivah said. ‘I believe many did go to fight, but a few did not. Some of those who did not were our – my people’s – ancestors. They had families and children, and a seer had told them that their safety would depend upon more than the outcome of some battle. So they built boats and left their homes, sailing for weeks until their food and water was nearly out. Then a great wave appeared out of no-where, pushing the boats to a chain of islands far out in the sea. My people have been there since. It is said that our ancestors had intended to see their families to a safe place, and then return to battle. But it was clearly the will of the gods that they land where they did, so they stayed. Few of us have ever left. I was the first in multiple generations.’

‘Interesting…’

Keivah could tell that she found it to be very interesting indeed. Almost too much so. She was clearly thinking very hard about something, and he shifted uncomfortably.

‘I believe it was Kael’thas,’ she finally muttered.

‘Perhaps. I don’t know. History has very little meaning for us.’

‘Why is that?’

‘When you live in complete seclusion and are at the mercy of the elements … or when the fish leaving on their migration just an inch to the right one year is the difference between feast and starvation, some battle that took place generations ago doesn’t make a lot of difference.’

Aphelandra grinned. ‘That is understandable. I think many tend to live too far in the past, still keeping old conflicts alive at the detriment of their own growth.’

Keivah returned the grin gratefully. It was the first time anybody else had said something such as that to him. It had nearly become a source of shame for him, to not know who led what battle, or why he should hate a certain race, over things that happened long before he was born. It all felt like such a waste of energy and thought to him. It was a relief to be able to hear words that he felt so wrong to think, said by somebody else. He re-played parts of the conversation in his mind for a moment, then something she had said came back to him.

‘What do you mean it’s a common problem for my kind?’ He asked.

‘Well…’ Aphelandra said thoughtfully. ‘It is odd, actually. After hearing your story, I am not so certain you should be addicted to casting.’

Keivah’s eyes grew wide. ‘I’m not?’

‘No, you are. I am just not certain how. I admit, I know a lot more about the addiction than I do the history of it. But I thought your people would have become addicted after your own ancestors began living on your island. Are you certain they did not leave and then return again later?’

‘I cannot be certain, because I was not there. But our historians have always said that we have been there since the first families were brought there by the gods.’

‘Hmm.’ She thought it over for another moment. ‘Certain your parents are your natural parents?’

She had asked it lightly, and Keivah chuckled, but he knew she genuinely did wonder. His parents had always joked that he was adopted, because of his casting abilities. Suddenly, after she said that, he wondered if it had been a joke after all.

‘As far as I know,’ Keivah replied.

Aphelandra seemed surprised, and he guessed she had read the uncertainty on his face. But he really did not want to discuss that possibility at all, and she apparently read that as well. She reached over and touched his hand gently.

‘I am not certain how, but you are addicted to casting. And even were you not, drawing energy in, or sending it out, or taking it from other creatures will feed that darkness and harm you badly.’

Keivah nodded. It seemed as though she kept reminding him just to be mean, but he understood what had happened. When she said that he shouldn’t be addicted, Keivah became excited to start casting again. He felt the gleam in his eyes and she had obviously seen it. She was simply giving him another strong reminder.

‘All right,’ he said, sliding his hand as politely as possible away from hers. It had finally sunk in that she did care about him and what happened to him. That was both touching and uncomfortable.

‘Good,’ Aphelandra smiled. ‘That’s solved. Now, what will we do about this Brukost thing?’

Mention of Brukost made Keivah wince. ‘What do you mean?’

‘You still love him.’

‘Yes.’

‘Then we need to solve that.’

Keivah chuckled. ‘It’s never going to change.’

‘And that is a problem.’

‘Why?’

‘Some of his soul is in you. So his own casting would be at least somewhat crippled. Would he not either want his soul intact again, or to finish what he started?’

‘I would think so, yes,’ Keivah nodded.

‘So you can never go see him. Either of those choices would be extremely bad for you. If he takes his soul back, but does not do it with care, it would damage you. And if he were to finish what he started … you know what that would mean.’

‘I know…’ Keivah said. ‘And I am not going to go see him.’

‘Well, good.’ Aphelandra clapped her hands together and stood. ‘That’s solved as well. Now the only thing left to do is break you of the bloodthistle. But not today. Bloodthistle aside, your life is perfect, so no reason to push ahead with it just yet.’

Keivah laughed, looking up at her. ‘This is perfection? One would think it would feel different.’

‘I know,’ Aphelandra grinned. ‘Who knew?’ Then she leaned over and hugged Keivah. ‘Don’t worry, I am finished talking for now. Barannan will be here any moment and then you boys can go play.’

Keivah returned the hug, chuckling at that. ‘Thank you for everything.’

Aphelandra stroked his cheek lightly. ‘You are sweet, intelligent and caring. Brukost was a fool to throw that away.’

Keivah blushed. ‘Thank you. Although I believe I was a fool to not know I was so easy to throw away.’

‘You’re not,’ she smiled.
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PostSubject: Re: A not-at-all Brief History of Keivah   Tue Jan 29, 2008 10:47 am

After she was gone, Keivah took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He watched the river bubble over a mini-waterfall and then flow lazily past him. Then he reached down and patted the top of Neko’s head.

‘I am,’ he said.

Neko opened his eyes and looked up at Keivah. ‘Am what?’

‘Nothing,’ Keivah replied. When he realised the double meaning, he added, ‘It’s nothing.’

But Neko had apparently sensed something or heard the conversation. Keivah was not certain which. He had asked Neko if he could understand others, but the cat/god had given a vague and cryptic answer. Something about the difference between listening and hearing, which Keivah did understand, but he still had no idea of the answer to the original question.

Neko stood and moved in front of Keivah, sitting. ‘Many who are like me forget over time who and what they are,’ the cat said. 'You would see them around, following people like common pets. They allow themselves to be named and in the most insulting ways. They forget what they are and lose their dignity. They are the ones who became lost to the thousands of years trapped in a statue.’ He gave a barely perceptible shrug and settled back to the ground. ‘Your human is here.’

Keivah considered that a moment. He had followed the first part, but had no idea how humans would fit in or where the thought was going. Then he heard a shout behind him. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw Barannan approaching carrying a cloth sack, with his wolf prancing ahead of him down the path.

‘He’s a dwarf,’ Keivah thought, although he knew that Neko was well aware of this fact by now and only called Barannan a human to be annoying. ‘Can we finish this another time?’

‘I was finished,’ Neko said, curling up and closing his eyes.

Keivah’s brow furrowed. He turned to Barannan again and started to stand, but the dwarf waved him to remain seated. Then Keivah noticed that Aphelandra was coming back, with a huge smile on her face. Keivah’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. Barannan set down the bag he had been carrying, and both of them came round to stand in front of Keivah.

‘Close yer eyes,’ Barannan said to Keivah.

‘Why?’ Keivah asked, growing more suspicious.

‘Close ‘em,’ Barannan ordered, snapping his fingers in Keivah’s face.

Chuckling, Keivah closed his eyes, noticing just before he did so that Neko had sat up again and that Aphelandra was watching his face eagerly. There was movement and a shuffling about of something. Then Neko groaned and Keivah asked what was happening, but got no response.

‘Now put yer hands out,’ Barannan said.

Keivah held his hands out, palms down. He had a sudden vision of them smacking his knuckles until he fell out of love with Brukost. But then one of them adjusted the position of his hands, turning them as though to grasp something between them. And that was exactly what he did. A very thick, furry item was set into his hands and Barannan told him to hold it. At first, Keivah thought that they had made a fur cloak for him, like Barannan’s, as he had commented how much he liked it. But then the furry item moved. Keivah gasped in surprise, but dutifully kept his eyes closed.

‘Open ‘em,’ Barannan finally said.

Opening his eyes, Keivah looked at what he held. A small feline face stared back. It was clearly a very young cat, although it was already larger than a regular house cat. Its fur was a soft turquoise and it had stripes the same colour but darker down its back and framing its face. Its eyes glowed a bright golden green, and proportionately to the rest of its body, its paws were about the largest Keivah had ever seen. They were nearly as big as the kitten’s face.

‘Hi,’ it said.

‘Hello,’ Keivah replied. Then, increasingly suspicious, he looked questioningly at Barannan. ‘What is it?’

‘Did he talk?’

‘He said ‘hi’.’

Barannan grinned. ‘Then he’s fer you.’

Keivah looked at the cat again. It had started to squirm, saying ‘down, down, down, down, down…’ into his mind. Keivah shifted it to a more comfortable position in his arms and glanced back up at Barannan. ‘Mine?’

‘Yep.’

Keivah wanted to ask why, but that seemed a bit ungrateful. He had no idea what else to say, though. He looked at the cat again, who seemed to have forgotten that it wanted down, and was hanging over his arm looking at Neko instead.

‘What is that thing,’ Neko said slowly. ‘And why are you holding it?’

‘Barannan gave it to me,’ Keivah explained, trying to gather the kitten back in as it swatted at Neko.

The transparent cat grunted. ‘Keep it away from me.’

‘Some friends and me find ‘em in the north sometimes,’ Barannan was explaining. ‘None of us would be caught dead with ‘em, but I thought maybe you’re a little more … that maybe you might like it.’

‘Now for the entire truth,’ Aphelandra said. Then she turned to Keivah. ‘It’s true that Barannan and his friends ‘wouldn’t be caught dead with them’, but that’s only because they are macho fools who think that these cats are ‘too pretty’ to be combat creatures. They think that real hunters do not have pretty pets.’ She turned to Barannan and nodded. ‘Yes, I said pets.’ Then, again to Keivah, she continued. ‘But he and his friends – the foolish ones, that I just mentioned - had found this one a couple of weeks ago. So he left this morning to see if they still had it, because he wanted to give it to you. He feels bad about what you are going through, and thought it would make you feel better. And also, I quote, ‘he’s pretty enough that one of these won’t look too out of place with him’.’

Both Keivah and Barannan blushed at that.

‘Thank you,’ Keivah finally said, touched by the gesture. ‘But I have no idea what to do with it.’

‘You’ll figure it out,’ Barannan smiled. ‘I don’t think you can be a real hunter unless ya raise an animal from a baby, and yer god’s already well grown.’

‘I’m not a real hunter, though. I’m a real caster.’

Keivah was relieved that Aphelandra did not pick that moment to remind him ‘not anymore’. Barannan just laughed.

‘Yer a real hunter now, lad.’

‘You should keep it,’ Keivah said. ‘Who cares what anybody thinks about how they look?’

‘Nah. I’m not a cat guy, anyway. Ya gotta have patience and a lot more smarts and creativity than I have fer that. Especially this kind.’

‘Why this kind?’

‘You’ll see,’ Barannan said rather cryptically. ‘I’ll just say, they’re a challenge.’

Keivah looked at the cat again. It had given up trying to swat Neko, and was rolling over in his arms. Keivah lightly scratched its belly and it promptly latched its claws into his hand and bit his finger. Opening his mind to apologise for apparently startling the cat, Keivah realised it was giggling wildly.

‘More, more, more!’ The cat laughed.

Grinning slowly, Keivah scratched the cat again and it laughed harder, kicking Keivah’s hand.

‘I’ll let you two get acquainted fer a minute,’ Barannan chuckled.

‘And I just wanted to see your expression,’ Aphelandra shrugged.

Keivah felt a sudden panic – the same sort of panic he always felt when he was about to be left alone with something that could talk to him. ‘Wait…’ he said.

Barannan and Aphelandra had started to leave, but turned back to him.

‘So am I supposed to keep it in the bag?’ Keivah asked. He was stalling, yes, but it was a valid question. Barannan had arrived with it in a bag. But Barannan laughed.

‘He was scared of the boat. I put ‘em in the bag, so he couldn’t see the water. No, ya don’t keep ‘em in a bag.’

‘All right…’

‘I’ll be back in a minute,’ Barannan said. Then he and Aphelandra left before Keivah could think of another question.

Keivah looked at the cat. It had shifted again, and was working its way around so that it stood on Keivah’s legs, with its paws braced against his chest. It was staring into Keivah’s face, and so he opened his mind to it.

‘Listen,’ the young cat was saying. ‘Are you listening?’

‘Yes … sorry,’ Keivah replied.

‘So I went way up in the air, and … and even birds were up there, but I didn’t catch any. Then the snow went away and everything looked different. Then I was on a big river, and it was so big I couldn’t see the banks, but I was on a huge, huge tree and it was going very fast, and that was scary but then I couldn’t see the river anymore and I went to sleep. Hey, are you listening?’ He reached out and patted Keivah’s face with his paw.

Keivah chuckled, stroking the cat’s silky turquoise fur. ‘Yes, I am listening. That huge tree is called a boat. It’s how humanoids travel on the water.’

‘I didn’t like it,’ was the reply. ‘Then the snow was back but nothing smelled right, then I went to sleep again. Then I ate and played and then I slept again. That happened a lot, then I went on the big river again. Then I was here. What’s your name?’

‘Keivah. And that is Neko. What’s your name?’

‘I think Xai. Did you ever go on the big river?’

‘Yes, many times.’

‘Did you get scared?’

Keivah grinned. ‘No, but it is all right to be scared.’

‘Why didn’t you get scared?’

‘I’ve been around boats all my life. But I’ll tell you a secret.’ Keivah scratched the cat behind its ear. ‘The first time I saw snow, I got a bit scared.’

The cat paused from rubbing on Keivah’s hand. ‘Really?’

‘Yes,’ Keivah nodded.

‘Oh, I know all about snow.’

‘It wasn’t long ago and I had never seen it before. I was off the path, getting something for my … a friend. I stepped in a spot and just kept going. But it was only up to my waist, or a little higher.’

‘Sometimes it goes over my head! Then you have to hop back out. Did you hop back out?’

‘No, I pulled myself back up to where I had been walking. Then after that, I used a stick to poke into the snow ahead of me, so I knew how deep it was before I stepped.’

‘I can’t do that. I can’t hold things in my feet, just my mouth. And I use all my feet. Why don’t you use all your feet? It makes you fast if you use all your feet.’

Keivah was saved from trying to explain the mechanics of the humanoid body by Barannan’s return.

‘How’s it goin’?’ The dwarf asked.

‘We were discussing snow and boats.’

‘Ah, good. Important topics. Hey … look … close yer mind for a minute.’

Keivah did so as best he could, although he was not very practised at it. ‘All right.’

‘It’s up to you how or if ya tell yer kitty, but the little guy’s parents are dead. Their parents are hunted and nobody checks for babies. That’s what happened to this one. He was back in the den when my friends found ‘em, so I don’t think he knows.’

Keivah felt an impulse to hug the cat, but settled for petting it affectionately, not wanting it to sense anything wrong. ‘All right,’ he nodded.

‘Now c’mon,’ Barannan grinned. ‘Another lesson fer ya.’

That was the first time Keivah really looked at what Barannan had brought back with him. When Keivah saw what it was, he began to grin slowly.

‘Those cats’ll eat a lot,’ the dwarf was explaining. ‘Especially that little one. He’s not gonna be little fer long. He’s gonna get real big, and he’s gonna eat a lot. You’ll probably not want to buy food all the time. It gets real expensive. So I’m gonna teach you how to fish.’ He smiled.

Keivah stood, still holding Xai carefully in his arms. He peered into the bucket Barannan held, pausing a very deliberate moment and then he chuckled. He looked at Barannan, arching an eyebrow.

‘Are you planning to fish this stream, or the shore?’ Keivah asked.

Barannan was clearly taken aback. ‘The shore,’ he said.

‘Well, you’ll never catch anything with that bait. At this time of day? Come on, let me show you.’

Ten minutes later, Keivah was crawling about on the forest floor, catching hopping bugs. He had finally, tentatively set Xai down, fearing that the cat would run away. But he didn’t. In fact, he was scrambling about catching bugs as well. However, whilst Keivah deposited the ones he caught into the fresh bucket Barannan had retrieved, Xai ate his. Neko, after informing Keivah of just how foolish and undignified he looked, had curled up feigning sleep, but watching. Barannan watched as well, arms folded and a smirk on his face.

‘All right, spill it,’ Barannan finally said.

Keivah chuckled. He was smug if not borderline obnoxious about the entire thing. He knew that his smugness was childish, but he didn’t care. Over the past several days, very nearly everything had gone spectacularly wrong for him. Finally, he had an advantage, and knew what was going on for once, and he was going to enjoy it.

‘My father is a fisherman,’ Keivah said, cupping his hand over another bug and then lifting it into the bucket. ‘My father’s brothers are fishermen. My father’s brothers’ sons are fishermen, their sons are fishermen. My father’s father is a fisherman, and his father is a fisherman…’ Keivah looked up at Barannan and grinned. ‘I could go on.’

Barannan laughed and shook his head. ‘No, I got it.’

Keivah caught a few more bugs, and then sat back upon his heels, brushing dirt from his hands. Looking up at Barannan, he realised that the dwarf was giving him an odd look.

‘What?’ Keivah asked.

‘I don’t know,’ Barannan shrugged. ‘I wouldn’t guess you were a fisherman. Ya seem so…’

He paused a moment then, and Keivah cocked his head to the side. ‘Seem what?’

‘I don’t know. I wanna say refined, but I don’t want ya thinkin’ I think fishermen aren’t refined.’

‘No,’ Keivah chuckled and shook his head. ‘I know what you mean. Others used to say that I acted more like the elders than I did my own family. When we used to go fishing, I would talk about energies and what I imagined other casters could do. I thought about that a lot, and talked about it when anybody would listen. All the casting possibilities, and what I might be able to do once I learnt how.’

Barannan saw that Keivah was starting to become distant and sad, thinking back to his family, and when he was excited and eager about his future. ‘So what did yer family talk about?’

Keivah had momentarily forgotten Barannan was even there. He looked up blankly, and then he grinned. Standing, he picked up the bucket and gave it to Barannan. ‘Bait,’ he said. ‘What to use and what not to use, and what used to work, and what no longer works. What might work again someday. Areas in which to fish. Areas we had already fished. Weather, the crops. The movement of fish. When we could expect the fish to leave and when we could expect them to return. They were refined, just in a different way. And … having listened to them more than they listened to me, come on. I’ll teach you a few things.’
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PostSubject: Re: A not-at-all Brief History of Keivah   Tue Jan 29, 2008 11:37 am

Later that night, after everybody including the two cats and wolf had been stuffed with fish, Keivah and Barannan moved to the sitting area in front of the fire. As always, Aphelandra washed the dishes, refusing all offers of help and showing utter disdain for their lack of abilities in that particular skill. Keivah watched Xai make several approaches toward Neko as though to attack, only to be turned away with a searing glare from the transparent cat. While outwardly amused by the cats’ actions, inwardly Keivah was deep in thought.

First, he had been thrilled and relieved that he actually did have several things to teach Barannan about fishing. The boasting and smugness had been playful, of course, and had it turned out that he actually didn’t know any more than Barannan did, they were good enough friends that it would have been easy to laugh off. But the entire situation had brought back a bit of the old him. He had never been truly boastful, as he was entirely too modest for that. His father always said that one who has to talk about their own good, doesn’t have any. So Keivah had never been boastful, but he had been matter-of-fact. He had huge amounts of power. That was simple fact. It was like saying he had green eyes, and if anything, he tended to under-state his true power.

The playfulness about his fishing abilities had been completely out of his personality, but also true. He was a very, very good fisherman. Not as good as his father, or his father’s brothers, of course. But he was very good. Knowing about something again, and being good at something again, and shining in ability again had been satisfying. It felt like him again, and he hadn’t really had that in a while. Really, not since before he met Brukost. With Brukost, he had been living with perhaps the most powerful caster alive. No matter what he did, and even if Brukost started off telling him how talented and powerful he was, eventually, he would come back to criticising or call Keivah’s abilities amateur and weak.

So yes, it was only fishing. But he was good at it, and Barannan had commented about how good he was. For the first time in his life, it occurred to him that perhaps things other than casting could also be worth doing. And not just doing, but doing well and worth striving to do well.

The moment he thought it, Keivah felt guilty. Casting hadn’t been an activity; it had been who he was. The energies and even casting itself were his gods. He felt as though considering the idea that other things existed, was turning his back on not only what had meant so much to him, but what had given him so much. However, leaving it wasn’t what he wanted, and it wasn’t a choice. It was necessity that he abandon his gods. And he was not replacing them. He simply would no longer believe in anything at all.

‘Got it settled, then?’ Barannan asked suddenly.

Keivah looked up, realising he had been staring into the fire with intense concentration for an unknown amount of time. ‘Pardon?’

‘You looked like you were thinkin’, then ya nodded.’

‘Oh … yes.’ Keivah said vaguely, still working through these new and intriguing thoughts. He felt sad and determined at the same time. Losing one’s gods was not a pleasant feeling, but there was an odd sense of excitement as well. He was an exceptional caster, and he was a highly intuitive fisherman … so if he applied his curiosity and work ethic to other things, perhaps he could become good at those as well. Barannan had even called him a natural hunter, and while Keivah knew that not to be true because he was already a natural caster, perhaps if he worked at it and put his focus into it, he could do it. Suddenly his future seemed just a bit less bleak. ‘What does a hunter do, anyway?’ Keivah asked. ‘Something with animals, I suppose. Do you tame-‘

‘Oh, dear,’ Aphelandra muttered.

‘No,’ Barannan said, shaking his head emphatically. ‘No, no. No, lad, no. No. Ya don’t tame beasts. No. Ya don’t tame ‘em, ya don’t break ‘em, ya don’t even bend ‘em. Ya don’t charm ‘em or twist their will or make ‘em do what ya want.’ He had leaned forward with a serious gleam in his eyes. ‘Ya never, ever tame a beast. I don’t wanna hear you sayin’ that.’

‘Barannan,’ Aphelandra said. ‘Aren’t you being a bit harsh?’

‘No, I’m not,’ Barannan insisted, completely missing the irony. ‘He’s gotta know these things.

‘Tell him about hunting, dear,’ she said. ‘The real hunting.’

Keivah gave Aphelandra a grateful look, and Aphelandra winked back. Keivah was starting to feel his sudden hope for the future drain away just as suddenly, and Aphelandra either saw it or sensed it.

‘Ya don’t tame animals. If ya tame that kitty, know what ya get?’ He asked, pointing at Xai.

‘No…’ Keivah shook his head.

‘A real big housecat. And a pet. Ya don’t want pets.’

‘I don’t?’

‘No. Tame a beast and ya take all the natural instinct right outta them. These so-called hunters do that, then they wonder why they can’t get anything outta their beasts.’

Despite the fact that he was essentially getting yelled at, Keivah started to grin slowly. Barannan sounded just like Brukost, but of course without the hitting and casting spells into him until he learnt the importance of magical protection. This dwarf was just as serious and dedicated to hunting, as Brukost and Keivah had been to casting. If Keivah was going to learn how, then certainly he was in the right place.

‘All right,’ Keivah said. ‘So if you don't tame them, what do you do?’

‘Ya gotta listen to ‘em, boy. Yer not makin’ a creature do what ya want, yer workin’ with ‘em for a common goal. Ya need to let ‘em know they can trust you. Yer not learnin’ to trust them. They know what they’re doin’ already. They wanna know they can trust you not to f—‘ Barannan paused and coughed. ‘Not to make a mess a things when yer supposed to be supportin’ them.’

Keivah considered that for a moment. ‘So a creature is like energy.’

‘A creature isn’t like anything but itself.’

‘No,’ Aphelandra broke in with a chuckle. ‘My love, he’s comparing being a hunter to being a caster. He’s trying to learn.’

‘Oh.’ Barannan suddenly seemed to realise that Keivah actually was showing interest for the purposes of learning. The gleam in his eyes brightened, and he grinned. ‘Yeah, like energy probably,’ he said. ‘I don’t know. Look, yer job is just ta decide what yer fightin’, then help yer beast. Simple as that. Yer pretty much just a backup fer ‘em.’

‘But what if I decide to fight something and it doesn’t want to?’

‘If it trusts ya, that won’t happen. Once they know yer not sendin’ ‘em off ta fight just anything ‘cause ya don’t know what yer doin, they’re usually happy to fight whatever you decide. It’s all in the trust, lad.’

Keivah glanced at Neko. ‘Do you trust me?’

‘Of course not,’ Neko replied.

Keivah frowned. ‘You don’t?’

‘No. But I’ll take care of you.’

‘Neko said that he doesn’t trust me.’

‘But did he say he’s with ya?’

‘He said he would take care of me.’

‘Same thing. Ya just gotta watch what ya decide to attack. If he’s makin’ it his job ta protect you, he’ll fight just about anything ta keep you alive. Don’t worry, lad, if ya don’t ask him ta do impossible tasks fer ya all the time, he’ll get around to trustin’ ya.’

Keivah nodded. He looked at Xai, who had heard the question to Neko and appeared to be about ready to burst, waiting for Keivah to ask him. Keivah grinned. ‘Do you trust me, Xai?’

‘Yes! Yes, yes! I dooooo!’

Keivah chuckled. Xai tended to like turning most things into half-songs, he had discovered. ‘Xai trusts me.’

‘Yeah, he’ll be fine with that. With him, ya just gotta worry about his focus.’

‘What do you mean?’

Barannan grinned. ‘He’s gonna be an excitable one. Like I said before, it takes more creativity and brains than I have ta keep those cats focused. Ya gotta find ways ta keep ‘em entertained.’

Keivah glanced at Xai again who, satisfied with his answer, had begun to chew the table leg.

‘Xai!’ Keivah stood and picked the cat up. ‘We don’t chew others’ furniture.’

‘Why not?’

‘It’s not polite.’

Aphelandra had turned to see what was happening. She just laughed. ‘Honey, go ahead and let him do it. We went through two tables while she was growing up.’ She pointed to the white wolf, who slept peacefully beside the fire.

‘Yer gonna be a good hunter,’ Barannan said as Keivah sat down again.

‘I hope so,’ Keivah replied.
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Keivah



Number of posts : 31
Registration date : 2007-11-10

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PostSubject: Re: A not-at-all Brief History of Keivah   Tue Jan 29, 2008 11:38 am

Several days later, Keivah had discovered that, not surprisingly, Barannan knew exactly what he was talking about. For some reason, Keivah’s impression of being a hunter had been charging into battle, and shouting commands at one’s creature to attack. It turned out to be a lot less dramatic than that. All it took was a simple ‘let’s get that’ and either cat would run off after the target. It was also true that Xai tended to lose his focus fairly quickly. Keivah was certainly not going after larger creatures with him, due to Xai’s age and size, but once they had tried a bear that was a bit on the small side, because Barannan often sold bear meat to those passing through the area. Things were going well until the bear charged Keivah and Xai stayed behind to pounce upon a stick on the ground. It had been a painful learning experience for Keivah. Fortunately Neko had taken over, or it could have been a lot worse. And Xai had successfully subdued his stick, so everything worked out in the end.

Keivah also discovered that shooting a bow was not as clumsy or ungraceful as he had once thought it to be. The weapon was actually rather slick and accurate. And something about it reminded Keivah of casting. It was in the build-up of energy when he drew back the string, and the release. He didn’t mention that to Aphelandra or Barannan, because he didn’t want them to know how much he was struggling with not being able to cast. He feared that they would make him stop using a bow as well, lest it cause him to fall back into casting again. But he actually became quite good at it, and enjoyed it more than he ever could have imagined.

Things were going so well, that there simply had to be a terrible down-turn. It was not that Keivah was waiting for it to happen, and in fact, he had started to feel as though his life was improving drastically. It was really quite a shock to him when one day, reality crashed down upon him.

He and Barannan had been chopping wood to replenish the stack beside the house. Neko and the white wolf were both sleeping, and Xai had dragged a small branch about the side of the house to play with. Keivah and Barannan were discussing the importance of working with other sorts of animals. It was Barannan’s belief that, just because one works primarily with cats or wolves, does not mean there is not great value in working with other sorts of creatures, and learning their own particular skills as well. Not only to know how to fight them if the time came, but to make one a better hunter with their own animals. Or, as Barannan put it ‘Yer not makin em do what you want, yer learnin what they do and tryin ta work yer fightin around it’. Keivah was listening intently, and nodding, having first not seen such a value, but slowly becoming convinced when suddenly Barannan stopped talking. Keivah began to look up, noticing that Neko and the wolf had both stood and were looking into the forest.

‘Something-‘ Neko started, but Keivah didn’t hear the rest.

Barannan rushed at Keivah. In a flash that seemed impossible for one of his size and stature, he hooked the head of his axe around the back of one of Keivah’s knees. Barannan jerked the axe forward, at the same time shoving Keivah hard in the chest. Keivah crashed to the ground amongst the split pieces of wood, too shocked to react. Barannan leaned over into his face.

‘All right? Stay down. Tell yer cats not ta move,’ Barannan hissed. Then he straightened again and set the axe head against Keivah’s chest.

Keivah was stunned by then, but opened his mind wide to both cats. ‘Don’t move,’ he said to both.

It was only a moment later that Keivah understood what had happened. The axe head was at the top of his chest, the sharp blade dangerously close to his chin. He could not sit up, unless he knocked the axe from Barannan’s hands, but he could turn his head. And just as he did so, he saw a group of riders approach. From his angle, he could not tell exactly how many there were, but Neko replied to the unasked question with ‘five’. Looking back up at Barannan, Keivah watched him smile and wave to the riders – most of whom seemed to be human, but he thought he noticed a Draenai and a night elf in the mix. Barannan spoke to them in their own language, and there was a chorus of laughter in response. Keivah looked again to the riders in time to see one fling a knife at him. Flinching, Keivah felt rather than saw the knife slice into the ground inches from his face and then he heard another round of laughter; Barannan laughing perhaps the hardest of them all.

It was the first time in a long time that Keivah felt his hands ache to cast. His fingers had started to twitch and he had to clench his fists to calm the sensation. Barannan seemed to be outwardly casual, but part through watching and part through translation, which went from Barannan’s wolf to Neko to him, Keivah understood what was happening. The group of riders were just passing through, and had come over to watch the battle. They were asking Barannan if he needed help, but Barannan replied that he had other ideas for Keivah, and didn’t want it to be over too quickly. The riders agreed, and there was still more laughter. That was when one rode closer, and Keivah warily watched the horse’s large hooves approach. Then the rider dismounted, landing so close to Keivah’s head that he felt the heavy boots brush against his hair. Keivah tensed, and he felt Neko tense. With a fast glance, he even saw Barannan’s face become darkly serious and the axe lifted slightly from Keivah’s chest. The now-dismounted rider retrieved his dagger from the ground, sneered at Keivah, and then spit upon him. He then kicked dirt into Keivah’s face.

‘That’s it,’ Neko said suddenly, and Keivah sensed him rise.

‘No! Please,’ Keivah replied quickly as the human pulled himself onto his horse again. ‘Please don’t do anything. I think they’re leaving, and I don’t want them to know that Barannan is helping me.’

‘Fine. But if I ever see that human again, he’s dead.’

‘You mean the human or Barannan?’

‘The human.’

‘It’s fine. See ... they’re leaving.’

And they did leave, but not before another rode closer to Keivah and repeated his friend’s expression of what he thought of Keivah, to another explosion of laughter.

After it was over, Barannan helped Keivah to his feet. He apologised extensively, explaining that it was the only way to keep the group from killing Keivah. Keivah nodded and mumbled that it was fine and he understood, but he was shaking badly. He did understand, but he was angry and embarrassed. Embarrassed for Barannan, as well as for himself, because he could tell by the dwarf’s expression that it hadn’t been easy for him to watch and not stop it. Keivah’s anger was only a very small part directed at the group of riders. They were simply acting in the manner that they knew how. None of his anger was directed at Barannan, because he had done exactly the right thing. It was just about all directed at himself. If he could cast, he would have picked that sneering human right off his horse, or blasted him twenty feet back before the spit hit his face. But he couldn’t cast, and Barannan was absolutely right. They would have killed him, and out there in the middle of no-where, a resurrection might not be possible. Or worse, they could have discovered that Barannan was helping him. The most anger of all, though, was because Keivah had put Barannan in that situation. This wonderful man and friend had needed to laugh along with the group of cackling fools, and watch them spit upon him, just to protect him. They continued with the wood after that, but Keivah already knew that he would have to leave. He was not going to put Barannan or Aphelandra through that again, just because they had the decency to open their home to an enemy.





That evening, Keivah announced his plan to leave. Barannan simply said ‘no, you can’t’ and Aphelandra abandoned her dishes to become water-logged in the wash tub, coming into the sitting area.

‘Why?’ She asked.

‘It’s because of earlier,’ Barannan surmised. Despite his constant statements to the contrary, he was actually quite intelligent.

Keivah nodded, having hoped that they would just agree and move on, but guessing they would not.

‘Don’t think about earlier, honey,’ Aphelandra said. ‘There is stupidity everywhere.’

‘Yeah,’ Barannan said. ‘If ya ever wondered why we don’t have a lotta love fer the alliance, that’s why. Most of ‘em are in a fight they don’t even understand. They don’t know what kinda man you are, but they spit on ya anyway just ‘cause they can’t think fer themselves.’

Keivah chuckled. ‘They’re not all like that. Horde isn’t all like that either. But enough of either side is like that, and I just cannot stay here anymore. What if those riders come back through and see me still here?’

‘They won’t,’ Barannan said.

‘Nobody ever comes here. They just pass through on their way somewhere else,’ Aphelandra added.

‘If not them, then it will be somebody else,’ Keivah said. ‘I am not going to be the cause of trouble for you.’

‘Yer not. And so what if they come back?’

Keivah glanced at Barannan. ‘If it is not me next time, it will be you getting spat upon. I am not going to have that.’

‘You have your mind made up, don’t you?’ Aphelandra asked.

‘Yes.’




The following day, Keivah stood on the road, holding Xai in his arms and with a backpack full of supplies slung over one shoulder. Over the other shoulder was a bow that Barannan had made for him over the last several days, and a quiver of arrows. Aphelandra had made a sturdy and comfortable suit of leather for him over the past few days as well, and it made Keivah sad that the first time he wore it was to say goodbye. Something he was not wearing, and strangely missed, were the energy-absorbing bracelets. When they were first removed, it had been a relief. But they had also been something of a comfort to him; that knowing what he did, and finally almost entirely accepting what casting would do to him, it was an extra assurance that he would not do it. Now he was on his own to not cast, and while it was nice to have that last bit of control returned to him, he also vaguely wondered if he could trust himself. He thought he could, and clearly Aphelandra trusted him. And having Xai depending upon him increased the risks of doing something stupid, so he felt mostly confident in his self-control.

‘Are there any other places as beautiful as this?’ Keivah asked, gesturing with a nod at the surrounding forest.

‘No,’ Aphelandra replied, smiling. ‘But Feralas is nice.’

‘No, it’s not,’ Barannan said. ‘Better stay here.’

‘Stop it,’ Aphelandra chuckled. ‘Stranglethorn is also nice, if you like jungle. Or Swamp of Sorrows, if you like … well, swamp.’

‘Perhaps I will travel about for a while.’

‘That is a good idea,’ Aphelandra agreed.

‘No, it’s not. Stay here,’ Barannan said.

Keivah grinned. He shifted Xai to one arm, and then leaned over and hugged Barannan. ‘Thank you for the bow,’ he said. ‘And for everything else. Every time I tame a pet, I will think of you.’

Barannan had been returning the hug, but smacked the back of Keivah’s head at that. ‘Yeah, ya better go now,’ he grinned.

When Keivah hugged Aphelandra, she whispered in his ear ‘stay strong and you can break yourself from the bloodthistle.’ Then she pulled back and held his face in her hands. ‘Go find others of your kind. Be happy.’

‘Thank you for everything,’ Keivah smiled. ‘Really, everything.’

Aphelandra nodded and returned the smile.

Keivah turned and left then. It was probably a good thing that he felt as though he was about to start crying and didn’t want them to see it, or he could have spent the next hour saying goodbye and thanking them. He had absolutely no idea where he was going, but as he walked with Neko and Xai beside him, he felt as though his life was just about to start.
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Keivah



Number of posts : 31
Registration date : 2007-11-10

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Level:
70/70  (70/70)
Remarkable physical features:

PostSubject: Re: A not-at-all Brief History of Keivah   Tue Jan 29, 2008 12:13 pm

((The final parts were written with the beautiful, brilliant and deadly Riaxa))


Keivah crashed through the low branches, running and stumbling into the clearing. A brief moment later, he heard his pursuer burst through behind him. In the open area, he was able to increase his speed, but as was the one behind him. He could sense the approach and nearly thought he could feel the hot breath on him. Then suddenly his legs were hit and swept from beneath him. Falling forward, Keivah tumbled across the grass, and landed on his back. Before he could move, two large paws thumped onto his chest and sharp teeth flashed in his face.

Groaning, Keivah braced his hands against the creature’s chest. ‘It might be time to stop stepping on daddy, Xai,’ Keivah panted.

‘I’m big,’ Xai’s excited and still childlike voice replied in Keivah’s mind.

‘Yes, you are,’ Keivah grinned. Nearly two years ago, when Barannan told him that Xai was going to get large, Keivah had absolutely no idea just how much the cat would grow. He was taller than Keivah when standing on his back legs, and ate more than Keivah and Neko combined.

‘And I won!’ Xai exclaimed.

‘Oh, you think so, do you?’ Keivah asked.

Xai pranced down on Keivah’s chest again. ‘Yes!’

Keivah coughed at the impact, then reached up and began tickling Xai’s stomach. The cat shrieked with delight and collapsed to his side. Keivah moved to his knees, still tickling the turquoise belly, as Xai kicked and giggled hysterically. Then another voice entered Keivah’s mind.

‘Idiots.’

Keivah laughed and turned to look at Neko, who watched the scene disdainfully from beside the small lake.

‘You’re just jealous,’ Keivah said as Xai clutched his arm and gnawed his sleeve.

Neko snorted. ‘Hardly.’

‘Yes, you are.’ Keivah dislodged Xai’s claws and turned, crawling toward Neko. ‘Don’t you want to play?’

Neko laid his ears back as Keivah approached. ‘Certainly not.’

Keivah closed the remaining distance, ignoring Neko’s growls and hisses. Then Keivah lunged forward, tickling the cat’s sides. Neko fell over, a low, rumbling laugh erupting in Keivah’s head. As Neko kicked and laughed, Xai squealed from somewhere behind Keivah.

‘Get the Neko!’ Xai cried excitedly. ‘Get the Neko!’

Neko rolled to his back, swiping his paws at Keivah and laughing uncontrollably. Xai was leaping at and over Keivah, giggling.

‘Get the Neko, get the Neko!’ Xai shouted louder.

Suddenly, Neko realised what he was doing. He flipped over and to his feet. With one glare at Keivah, he walked away.

‘Aww…’ Keivah sat back upon his heels and laughed. ‘Come on, Neko. Don’t be like that.’

Neko ignored him, giving one irate swish of his tail. Keivah chuckled again, then turned to pat Xai, whose ‘get the Neko’ chant had turned into a song. When Keivah turned back, he frowned slightly. Neko was standing still, ears back and staring at something in the forest. Keivah looked to where the cat was and cursed to himself. A figure stood just at the edge of the clearing, watching him. A female, and by the sudden whiff of musky-sweet blade poison, a rogue.

Xai had leapt at Keivah and was chewing his shoulder. ‘Get the Neko,’ he sang. ‘Get-‘ then he noticed the silence from the other two. He looked where they were and then drew closer to Keivah.

‘Human?’ Xai whispered to Keivah.

Keivah shook his head slightly, not taking his eyes off the figure. ‘No,’ he said. ‘It’s a blood elf.’ He had no idea he was still speaking aloud until the blood elf smirked.

‘It?’ She said. ‘Yes, ‘it’ is a blood elf.’

‘Is it bad?’ Xai asked.

‘I don’t know,’ Keivah replied.

Xai had moved down from Keivah’s shoulder and lowered himself slightly as though preparing to attack. Neko had done the same. Keivah moved slowly to his feet.

‘No,’ Keivah said to them both. ‘If something happens, run.’ He had a fast glance at his weapons, sitting beneath a tree on the other side of the lake. Too far to make a grab for them if he had to run, he decided regretfully. He was quite attached to that bow Barannan had made for him. But he was not about to fight unless he had to.

‘So you’re the wild man of the woods,’ the blood elf said.

Startled, Keivah cocked his head to the side. ‘Pardon?’

‘You’re quite a conversation piece for the locals here,’ she continued. ‘They talk about a wild man who’s seen with terrible cat-like beasts.’ She chuckled as she looked at Xai. ‘They say that he appears humanoid, but he runs when anybody approaches.’ Folding her arms, she raised an eyebrow at him. ‘Yet you haven’t run.’

‘I was about to…’

‘Why?’ she asked. She cocked her head to one side. He saw her green eyes move slowly from his face to his feet and sweep back up again.

Keivah had no good answer for that, and blushed deeply at her blatant perusal.

Instead of pursuing an answer, the blood-elf looked at Neko and smiled. ‘Hello, there.’

Neko looked over his shoulder at Keivah. ‘Can’t we attack?’

‘No,’ Keivah replied.

‘Why not?’

‘I know, I know, I know!’ Xai shouted. ‘We don’t attack humanoids unless we have to,’ he quoted, mocking Keivah’s voice.

The blood-elf had leaned over with her hands on her knees, smiling at Xai. ‘Aren’t you a cutie?’

Keivah winced and glanced at Xai. He knew that the cat didn’t understand the words, but he would not like the tone.

‘What did it say?’ Xai asked suspiciously.

‘She said that you’re quite scary,’ Keivah said.

‘So …are you going to run?’ the rogue asked.

Keivah thought for a moment. He closed his mind off entirely to both cats. They looked at him, surprised. It happened so rarely that neither seemed very pleased about it, but Keivah needed to think and didn’t need them interjecting. He really did not feel like running and in fact, felt something of a comfort with the rogue. That frightened him. The last time he had felt a personal draw of any sort of humanoid on first meeting, it had been Brukost, and that didn’t work out so well. It scared him deep within what was left of his soul to think of something such as that happening again. Being drawn to somebody and then realising too late that it had been a mistake.

She reached into her backpack and began rummaging. ‘Because it would be a shame if you ran.’

Keivah’s brow furrowed in confusion. ‘Why?’

‘Because you’d miss eating lunch with me.’ She produced a haunch of venison from her pack and grinned at him. ‘Scrumptious, I assure you. Made it myself.’

Keivah smiled at her expression and found himself blushing again. Really, the last thing he wanted was to have lunch with somebody he didn’t know. But again … there was that draw. And it was not at all the same as it had been with Brukost. That had been fascination, awe, infatuation and then love, all in about ten minutes. This was a comfort draw, and that was something he hadn’t even felt with Brukost, and something he only grew to have with Barannan and Aphelandra.

When Keivah did not immediately answer, Riaxa drew a thick linen cloth from her pack and placed it on the ground, and then laid the venison on it. ‘If you prefer lighter fare, I do have a few berries and mushrooms.’ She held them up.

‘I’m sure anything you have will be delicious,’ he answered softly, not really knowing what else to say.

She gave him a mischievous grin. ‘You are so right about that.’

As Keivah’s face flamed in response, she giggled softly. ‘You do not seem terribly wild to me, I must admit. Skittish, certainly, but not wild. Quite calm and serene, really.’

She sat on the grass near the linen cloth she’d laid, and motioned for Keivah to sit beside her. When he realized he’d heard nothing from the cats for a few moments, he opened his mind again and immediately there was a din of questions from them. They mostly wanted to know what was going on, so Keivah picked that question to answer.

‘I’m having lunch with her,’ he said.

Neko groaned, and Keivah could feel his disappointment. Xai asked ‘What’s lunch?’

‘You can’t eat standing up. It’s bad for the digestion.’ She motioned again for him to sit. He sat without protest and the blood-elf smiled with satisfaction.

Keivah suggested to the cats that they settle themselves further away from the picnic site. Neko was obviously displeased by the entire thing, and took that opportunity to inform Keivah that he disliked having his quiet disturbed. Xai simply watched, fascinated.

‘What’s lunch?’ The turquoise cat asked again. ‘Can I have one?’

‘May I have one,’ Keivah corrected automatically.

‘You seem distracted,’ the blood-elf observed as she placed more food on the linen cloth.

‘No, sorry.’ Keivah shook his head. ‘I just have some things on my mind.’

Xai had run over to Neko, prancing about proudly. ‘I’m going to have a lunch,’ he said. ‘I’m going to put it on a rock and jump over it. Can you jump over a lunch?’

‘It’s food, you fool,’ Neko grunted.

‘My name is Riaxa,’ said the blood-elf. She offered Keivah a flask of water. ‘What’s yours?’

Keivah hesitated. He watched her tear a piece of bread and put some meat on it, then fold it in half.

She was about to take a bite when she realized he had not answered. ‘If you’d rather not say, I understand.’ And sank her teeth into her venison sandwich. She chewed and swallowed, and all the while Keivah blushed and thought about whether or not to tell her his name. Then she added: ‘Mind you, I won’t let you get away with it for long. But I would hate for you to run off before you at least try my venison.’ She grinned then, and Keivah found himself grinning back despite any misgivings.

She handed him a hunk of bread and waved her hand toward the venison. ‘Go on and try it.’

Keivah was shocked when his stomach rumbled in response. Apparently he was hungry and hadn’t even realised it. He tore off a piece of the venison and took a bite.

‘So tell me about yourself,’ she prompted. ‘It’s not often one gets to meet a legend.’

Keivah chuckled. ‘I’m not a legend.’

‘Well at least you said something finally.’ She grinned at him again. ‘So tell me your life story.’

‘Er…’ Keivah watched her take another bite of her sandwich. She shoved some cheese toward him. ‘I…’ Keivah had no idea what to say. ‘I am Keivah. I’ve lived here for a while. These are my friends.’ He gestured to the two cats. Xai had gotten bored with the idea of lunch once he discovered that it was not some great mystical thing, and had switched his attention to patting the surface of the lake, then shaking his paw in disgust when it became wet. Neko watched, trying to appear as though he was not.

Riaxa nodded. ‘Did you know it’s illegal to have two pets out of the stable at the same time?’

Keivah found it amusing that he bristled at the use of the word ‘pet’, much the same way Barannan once had. ‘No, I didn’t know that,’ he said.

‘What a stupid rule anyway,’ she said with a shake of her head. Then she grinned at him, the mischief glinting again in her eyes. ‘Perhaps you are just a bad boy who doesn’t follow the rules.’

‘No,’ he answered. Then: ‘I just didn’t know. I don’t go many places.’

‘Except all over these woods becoming a legend.’ She chuckled, then said, ‘So what else?’

‘That’s about it,’ Keivah shrugged.

‘Oh, come on. You’re the wild man of the woods. Surely there is more.’

Keivah picked at his piece of bread. It was tempting. Very, very tempting. Almost too tempting. He hadn’t spoken to another humanoid in such a long time, and sometimes he nearly missed speaking with others of his same species. It was highly unlikely that this rogue knew Brukost, and he never had to see her again.

‘Love, heart-break, betrayal, attempted murder and a shattered soul,’ Keivah said softly. Then he shrugged. ‘The usual.’

Riaxa had stopped with a bite of cheese half-way to her mouth. Her surprise at his sudden candour was plain in her expression. She ate the bite of cheese, swallowed, and said, ‘Well in that case, you had better start at the very beginning. And don’t skimp on the details.’

Keivah gazed at her a moment. Then he nodded. ‘I met a warlock…’
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