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 The Gathering Storm [Original - PG-17] - Amortentia

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PostSubject: The Gathering Storm [Original - PG-17] - Amortentia   Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:04 pm

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Fic Title: The Gathering Storm
Author: Amortentia
Fandom: Original
Format: Novel
Genre: Action/Adventure/Gritty
Rating: PG-17
Total Word Count: 50,097
Warnings: Fantasy violence, suggestive themes, mature themes, occasional mild language
Characters: Lia, Ben, Anya, Richard, Darren, Brin, Nate, Lily
Status: Not Finished
Summary: When a young women finds herself at the center of a revolution plot as defined in their prophecies, she must choose between their cause, and what the King would have her believe...

Notes: This is my Nano novel, so I must apologize for the gaping plot holes, horrible word choice, blatant grammar mistakes and any other annoying things you might stumble upon. I'm currently trying to finish the novel before I go back and edit this to the best of my ability, but please comment/give advice/constructive criticism, as it's much appreciated. Thank you!


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Last edited by Amortentia on Sat Mar 03, 2012 8:47 am; edited 5 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm [Original - PG-17] - Amortentia   Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:19 pm

Lia

Lia entered the dining room, and was surprised to find she was the first to arrive. Roger immediately approached her, pulling back her chair for her to sit down in

“I believe His Grace is just finishing up a council meeting but should be here shortly.” She nodded at him, unsure of what to do in the meantime. She waited in the room for only five minutes, staring uncomfortably at her hands or the room around her, when the door finally opened and Charlie and the King walked in, both seeming more displeased and upset then usual as they took their seats, gesturing for her to remain seated as she made to rise.

“Sorry for keeping you waiting,” Richard apologized, as Robert and the other waiters came forward with the food. She nodded, unsure of whether to bring up the incident in the dungeons as his eyes were still darkened and angry from whatever had occurred in the meeting.

“You enjoyed your time in the city?” he asked brusquely.

“Yes, it was very interesting,” she responded quietly. Charlie had taken her to all the upper regions of the city, where the high ranking officials and the rich lived, very different from the side of the city she had seen when she had come to rescue Lily. The buildings were tall and gorgeous, white instead of the coal black housed by the poor, and gardens and markets made up a large portion of the area. They had spent a few hours riding on horseback through the city, and while she did enjoy herself, her mind kept thinking of all those starving in the streets, and her companions in the dungeon and then she would feel so ashamed she thought she was going to be sick.

She pushed the food around on her plate as her stomach churned, wondering when the best time to bring up Nate was. She was still enraged about the incident and yet she knew only too well Richard was not a man to be threatened or annoyed lightly, and feared the consequences of pushing him too far. She was also curious to hear his explanation, lies though it may be, but really wasn’t sure if now was the time to get into debates over his obviously skewed morals.

Luckily, by the time the main course was served, some of the darkness in his eyes seemed to fade away as Charlie made jokes here and there, and talked about random events that occurred in the city. When conversation reached a lull, Lia decided she had to take the risk. She cleared her throat nervously, and both men looked up at her expectantly.

“You heard about what occurred in the dungeon?” she broached. The King kept a straight face as he nodded gravely at her.

“Indeed, and I am most displeased to hear of it. Naturally, both the man’s father and the guards on duty will be punished for breaking the stipulations of the treaty.”

There was silence for a moment, Lia expecting him to continue.

“That’s it?” she said, anger creeping into her voice. Richard looked up, surprised.

“What more can be done?”

“What more can be done?” she repeated angrily. “Your men broke our agreement, and all that is going to be done is that the men will be punished? For nothing more than what they’re normally allowed to do anyway,” she continued, and her stomach twisted remembering what Lily had looked like when they brought her from the wet cells. “You say that if they resist, I will be hurt, and if I resist, they will be hurt. I have not earned them any punishment, and I will not allow them to be harmed without reason without getting something in return.”

The King’s eyes had turned cold, and Charlie sat still, a frown on his face.

“I hardly believe you are in the position to tell me what I must do,” he growled.

She stood up angrily, throwing her napkin onto the table in disgust. “You call me your ‘esteemed guest’, give me a room in the royal quarters, let me see the areas of the city, constantly bleating that I am not a prisoner here when all along you have been threatening, bullying and manipulating us to bend to your will. As your word that they would not be harmed, obviously means nothing, then I shan’t fear resisting you now.” He looked at her coolly.

“Sit down, girl,” he barked. “Do not say things you may come to regret.”

“The only thing I regret is believing that you would keep your word,” she hissed.

“Lia, please,” Charlie said, getting to his own feet, his eyes pleading with her, “calm down. What happened with Nate was a misunderstanding and nothing more.”

“You’re as bad as he is,” she shouted, hands clenching into fists. “I don’t want to listen to anymore of your pathetic excuses about not knowing. You say you planned my escape, and our recapture; if you are so all-knowing as you would have me believe, then I refuse to believe that you were not aware that the treaty was broken.” Now the King rose to his own feet, and there was fury in his eyes.

“You presume too much. It was not a treaty, but an appeasement to stop all this childish behavior, which it obviously hasn’t. You should not speak so boldly of things that you do not understand and of those you do not know. Sit down so we may continue dinner.”

“No,” she said forcefully, too angry to care that the King was almost unable to control his own rage. “Not until my terms are met.” Richard opened his mouth, ready to retort when Charlie cut in.

“Please, both of you sit down. You’re both acting like children,” he said, looking from one to the other exasperated. “Uncle, you can at least consider her terms since the man was hurt, even though it was a misunderstanding, and Lia, you can at least give us the benefit of the doubt and stop accusing us of everything that goes wrong around here.”

Breathing heavily, the King slowly sat down in his chair. Lia stood, shaking in rage, glaring at the two of them before sitting down rigidly.

“Name your terms,” Richard hissed.

“Nate and Christopher are released,” she said strongly.

The King began to laugh, quietly at first and then shaking with it. Lia felt the rage burning in her again.

“Those are my terms, or I no longer agree to cooperate.”

“I still don’t think you understand. While your cooperation makes our lives much, much easier, it is not the only way we have of getting what we want. The prisoners will not be released.”

“They will,” she said angrily, “because I think you need my cooperation more than you’re willing to admit; I don’t know what for, and I don’t know why, but you wouldn’t be bothering with me at all if you didn’t have to.”

His eyes darkened.

“The prisoners will not be released. The guards will be punished. That is my final word.”

She stood up, pushing her chair back so hard that it tipped over, crashing to the floor as she strode to the door.

“Where do you think you’re going?” she heard the King shout angrily. She refused to respond, throwing the door open and slamming it behind her as she made for the stairs that lead to the tunnels to the dungeon.

She was only halfway down the hall when the door flung open and she could hear the sounds of feet striding after her. She didn’t turn around but continued to walk straight for the door.

“Lia,” she heard Charlie call, “stop this madness.”

She pushed open the door and sprang past the startled guards on the other side, ignoring their questions and hurrying down the passageway.

“Stop her!” She heard Richard yell, voice furious. The guards immediately began to run after her. Lia turned the corner and began to sprint. She had no real plan in her mind and knew that she would be stop eventually, sooner rather than later, but she no longer cared. All she wanted was for the King to understand that she would no longer be playing the submissive prisoner. She could hear them gaining on her, and though she tried to run faster, her dress kept catching under her shoes, causing her to stumble and just barely keep her balance.

She made it another hundred yards before one of the guards caught her arm and jerked her back, she lost her balance and fell to the floor in a heap, striking her head against the rough stone floor with a crack. Two guards grabbed her and began dragging her back down the passageway towards the King. Charlie met them halfway, his face a mix of anger and pity as he saw her fighting against the guards hopelessly. Lia could feel blood running down her face from where she had struck the rock.

“Let her go,” he told the guards, and they released their vice like grip on her arm, and she immediately attempted to spring away again but the guards blocked her way. She pushed and kicked at them trying to get passed but they would not budge. Charlie finally signaled to the guards to take her again and they dragged her back to the King, who was waiting at the beginning of the passageway, fury only too visible on his face.

The guards had her arms pinned behind her back, or else she would have struck the King, she was so enraged at her imprisonment, fake courtesies and her grief. She knew her reaction was unreasonable to the situation, but she did not care in the least, as she glared at the King.

“Foolish girl,” he snapped. “You presume you have more power over me then you do. Your actions are those of a child, and will be treated likewise.”

“Let them go,” she demanded. “Or I’ll continue to act like a child for your sake,” she glared at him.

“The prisoners will remain where they are, and you will remain here with us at the palace. I’ll have no more of this behavior, do you understand?”

She spit in his face. The guards murmured furiously, but it was nothing to the King, who yelled in uncontrolled anger and struck her across the face. She could feel his ring catch against her face, cutting her deeply on the cheek and she cried out in pain. Charlie made to move forward, his face blank and expressionless but the King waved him away.

“Get her out of my sight,” he barked, and the guards dragged her away. Charlie gave her one last unreadable look before following the King out of the hallway. They threw her into her room and she heard the door click behind her. She fell onto the bed and cried a mixture of anger and sadness.

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm [Original - PG-17] - Amortentia   Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:20 pm

Christopher

“You’re face is looking much better,” Christopher said, glancing over at Nate, who nodded, brushing his face with his hand.

“Thanks to Lia…I still don’t understand why you didn’t want her to know that the King was behind her attacker,” he said, glancing at the corner where the man used to sit in the corner, but he had been moved to a different cell in preparation for execution the night before.

“Because,” Christopher explained, “she’s treading some very thin ice with him right now, and it’s better if she has her wits about her. If she knew that the King was behind her attack, there’s no telling what she would do. It’s better if she doesn’t find out right away, the King continues to believe he has us trapped, and then we can surprise him later.”

Nate frowned.

“I still think it would have been better to tell her so she can be aware and watchful about it.”

“I think she’s being careful,” he responded, but didn’t continue when he heard the sounds of the guards approaching.

“It’s a bit early for a meal, don’t you think?” Nate asked him, confusion on his face. Christopher shrugged.

“Maybe another visit with Lia?” he said hopefully. Nate was peering down the corridor frowning. When the guards came, they opened the door and immediately grabbed Christopher, tying his hands behind his back and pulling him out the door, leaving Nate along in the cell.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Nate shouted after them, but the guards didn’t respond. Christopher struggled against his bonds.

“Where are you taking me?” he asked loudly, but the guards didn’t answer. Christopher cursed as they dragged him into one of the rooms two hallways down.

“What’s going on?” he asked, panic starting to swell up in him as they tied both of his arms to hooks on the ceiling, his feet barely able to connect with the ground. The guards sneered at him.

“It’s about time we get some information out of you,” the snarled.

“We have an agreement,” he said, louder than he intended. “You can’t do this.”

They laughed loudly and cruelly.

“I think you’ll find we can do this, under the direct orders of the King himself. He was very stern that we take your punishment very seriously. Seems the King didn’t like something the little wrench had to say, did he, Peter?” he asked his partner, who laughed loudly.

“Last I heard,” Peter said, “the girl wasn’t looking too good herself. But I think you should worry more about yourself than her,” he said, his mouth twisting evilly, “cause we’re about to give you the meaning of pain.”

“What did he do to her?” Christopher shouted. “What did that bastard do to her?”

The guards did not respond but picked up two whips, spikes tied to the ends and throughout the length. With one lazy flick, the whip cracked, striking him on the chest, leaving deep gashes. Christopher cried out at the unexpected movement and pain and the guards laughed.

Christopher did not know how long the whipping lasted, he only new the repeated sting of the barbs as they struck and then the tear as it was ripped out again, as gash after gash tore through his clothes on his back, legs, arms, chest. They asked him no questions, but continued whipping him until Christopher began to feel faint.

Dear Spirits, he thought to himself, don’t let me faint in front of these men. Give me strength, he pleaded. He could taste blood in his mouth, and spit it out onto the floor, clumps of red. Eventually, they cut him down from the ceiling, and he stumbled, hardly able to keep himself up. Blood was running down his body, coming from the numerous gashes that covered his body, each one screaming out in pain. They took him out of the room, commanding him to walk faster; when he couldn’t, the bigger man hit him hard in the face, and Christopher could feel a tooth fall out. He stumbled and almost fell, catching himself on the wall. When they finally dragged him back to the cell, Nate was waiting, staring at him in horror.

“Dear Spirits,” he breathed, eyes wide in disgust as he saw all the blood. The guards dumped him into the room, slamming the door behind him.

Christopher could hardly concentrate on anything but the pain. He dimly heard Nate calling his name, and felt him slapping his face.

“Christopher, you have to stay awake. Just a little bit longer. You need to sit up.”

He felt himself being dragged and propped up against the wall, but the world was still spinning, and the pain was the only thing he was aware of. A thought in the back of his mind was urging him to listen to Nate and stay awake; they needed to see how bad the damage was and if he was in any danger of dying of infection before he went unconscious. He forced his eyes open, and took a deep breath, trying to rid himself of the pain, but breathing deeply only made it worse.

There was a loud ripping noise and Christopher forced his eyes open again, not realizing they’d closed again. Nate was pulling strips of clothing from his shirt and pants, and using them to bind the worst of the gashes. Christopher gasped at the extra twinges of pain.

“What happened?” Nate asked as he worked.

“I…don’t know…but I think…Lia may…be in trouble,” he forced the words out. “They said it was punishment…that she was bad off herself. They didn’t…even ask any questions.”

Nate look worried, and didn’t respond, continuing to apply pressure to the worst of the gashes.

“How bad is it?” Christopher asked.

“I don’t think it’s as bad as it looks—or feels. It’s mostly flesh wounds; there are just so many in places that will definitely hurt if you move.” Christopher winced.

“I can tell,” he said, pain still overwhelming him.

“I think you’re safe to sleep. I’ll keep an eye on you.”

“Thank you,” he said, and slipped right off, no longer having to fight off the delightful calling of unconsciousness. His last thought before the blackness overtook him was of Lia, and a silent prayer that she was not hurt.

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm [Original - PG-17] - Amortentia   Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:21 pm

Lia

Lia stared into the mirror, touching the huge bruise on her face and wincing slightly at the pain. Besides the deep gash on her forehead that had bled steadily since the night before, the King’s ring had left a deep cut on her cheek as well, while the blow itself had turned that whole side of her face an ugly mix of purple and yellow. She did not regret sticking up for herself and her friends though. It was time that she find a way to get her friends out of this mess at the least. The door to her room had been locked from the outside, as she discovered when she woke up that morning and could not leave her room, but she didn’t mind. She was still too angry to deal with
anyone rashly at the moment. Her head was throbbing, and she was surprised she managed to fall asleep at all the night before.

There was the sound of a key turning in the lock and a knock on the door; the door opened without waiting for an answer. She exited the bathroom and found Charlie standing in her room. He walked over to her, brushing back her hair and looking closely at the wounds on her face. She stared at him defiantly and he sighed.

“Those are going to need to be looked at,” he said sadly. “But I’m afraid the King wishes to show you something in the dungeon first.” She thought she heard a note of disapproval and anger enter his voice at the last part.

“And if I do not wish to go?”

“He’ll drag you down there, himself if necessary. I personally suggest a more dignified route.” She glared at him but walked out of the door, holding her head high.

“What is it he wishes to show me?” she said airily, as if she really didn’t care, but in reality, her stomach was twisting uncomfortably as her brain wondered what was in the dungeon that he wished to show her; she suddenly began to feel fear for her friends, and realized she had not thought about what may be done to them because of her acting out.

“I’ve been commanded not to say,” he said, and she definitely noted the disapproval in his voice this time. Her stomach flipped; this definitely could not be good. They walked in silence the rest of way, Lia growing more and more uncomfortable with Charlie’s silence. When they arrived in the dungeons, Charlie took her to the same room that he had the time before, and opened the door for her, a strange look on her face. She looked at him bewildered and stepped through the door.

The first thing she noticed was Nate, who turned around at the sound of the door opening, looking weary. When he saw it was her, he relaxed noticeably, looking relieved. Then she saw Christopher, propped up against the wall. She gasped, and thought she might be sick when she saw the dried blood covering his face and body. She ran over to him, wanting to take him in her arms, but scared that she might hurt him.

“By the Spirits,” she breathed, her eyes finally able to see the deep gashes and bruises. “What happened?”

“I should be asking you that,” he said weakly, and he reached up, touching the bruise on her face gently with concern and anger. She took his hand and gently pushed it away, tears welling up in her eyes.

“I’m sorry, this is all my fault.”

“Stop it,” he said, “you know as well as I do they would have found an excuse to do it eventually. What happened?”

“I tried to get them to release you two in exchange for my complete obedience, using Nate’s injury as a violation of our agreement. The King didn’t quite see it like that,” she said, hand coming to her face subconsciously, “and things got a little heated.”

Nate sat down beside him, but he was watching Charlie standing in the corner rather than what was going on in front of him. Lia glanced briefly over at him to find him looking confused, as if debating some important decision, but she looked quickly back at Christopher, brushing hair our of his face.

Before they could say anything more, Nate gave a cry of warning, Lia’s head snapped up to find Charlie signaling a whole bunch of guards who rushed into the room, securing all of their hands behind their backs.

Christopher winced as he was roughly moved about, Nate cursed under his breath, but Lia only looked at Charlie, betrayal written all over her face. His face was hard and showed no other emotion as the guard’s followed him out of the room and down the hallway. They arrived at two doors, side by side, and Charlie grabbed hold of Lia, dragging her into the room on the left, while the other guards took Nate and Christopher into the room on the right.

When she entered the room, she let out a hiss of breath. The King sat in a chair facing a window that looked in on the other room. He smiled when he saw her and Charlie.

“Ahhh, Nephew. I’m glad you decided to sort out exactly where your priorities lie,” he said pleasantly, but Lia’s blood went cold. She looked up at Charlie who looked angry, but said nothing.

“Take a seat, Lia,” said the King. “I would hate for you to miss this.”

Charlie brought her over to the chair next to the King and sat her down in it, her hands still tied behind her. She glanced into the room below and was horrified when she saw Nate and Christopher being tied to a rack, arms and legs tied to ropes connected to a handle at the top; a torture device, she was positive. Her stomach flipped over, and she felt faint.

“Please,” she begged. “You’ve made your point, don’t do this.”

He turned and stared at her, eyes cold.

“I want you to feel how powerless you really are, girl. I want you to know that your actions are what caused this. I want you to understand that I do not appreciate my courtesies and kindness being rejected so readily. I want you to see me break the man you love, and know that is was of your doing.” He gestured to one of the guards down there to begin.

Lia tried to avert her eyes, but Richard grabbed her chin, forcing her to look down on the scene. The guard for each man took the handle and began spinning it. The effect was almost instantaneous. They were slowly being stretched, and she could see their expressions changing from discomfort, to pain, to agony. Lia was the first to scream, horrified by what she was seeing.

“Stop it,” she screamed. “Please, stop it, stop it, stop it.”

Only until both men had cried out in pain did the guards stop, giving them a moment’s relief. Lia realized she was sobbing, unable to take in a proper breath. She saw the King nod and it began again, worse this time. Lia threw herself at the opening that looked over the room, but a guard stepped out of the shadows and held her back.

“Please, make it stop,” she sobbed. The King made no move to stop, but signaled the guards again, pointing at Christopher. She sobbed harder and screamed when she heard the sickening crack that could only mean his shoulder had been dislocated. She cried out Christopher’s name, screaming incoherently at the guards. She spun around and turned to Charlie, who still had that blank look on his face, showing no emotion.

“Stop them, please,” she begged, over and over. He gave no response but stared at her, eyes giving away nothing. She turned to the King, tears streaming down her cheeks.

“Please, I’ll do whatever you want, anything you want, just make it stop. Please, you can do what you want with me, but don’t hurt them anymore.”

The King looked over at her, eyes cold.

“I think you need a last reminder of exactly who has the power here.”

“No, please, just make them stop,” she said, her last word ending in a scream as Nate’s shoulder was dislocated as well and he cried out in pain. The guards were still spinning the handles ruthlessly and Lia buried her face in her hands, crying so hard that there was no longer sound to it.

“Uncle, she’s had enough,” she heard Charlie’s voice say from behind her
“I’m not sure she has,” he said cruelly, motioning the guards to continue, and Charlie didn’t argue. Christopher gave out a loud cry of agony as one of his legs snapped, the bone breaking. Lia threw herself at the guard who was blocking the door into the other room, screaming out his and Nate’s names. The King turned to face her after another few minutes of the slow stretching, his dark eyes boring into hers.

“Do you understand me, now?”

“Yes, please, just make them stop; I’ll do anything you say.”

“Very well,” he said, motioning to the guards to stop. They untied the men’s arms and legs, and forced them up. Nate was clutching his left shoulder but went over to help Christopher, who couldn’t put any weight on his right left. Lia was still sobbing, trying to push back the guards who held her back. Christopher and Nate looked up at her, faces torn in pity and sadness.

“I’m sorry,” she cried down, “I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault,” Christopher called up, gritting his teeth against the pain. “Don’t worry about us, Lia, fight the bastard.”

“Charlie, take her away,” Richard said coldly, and he walked into the next room. As Charlie pulled Lia out of the room, she heard the sound of boots connecting with flesh and a scream of agony; she guessed that the King, or one of his guards, had just kicked Christopher’s broken leg. Lia couldn’t see very well in front of her, eyes blurred with tears that streamed down her face as she tried to bring herself under control. She stumbled, but her hands were still tied behind her back, and if Charlie had not caught her right before she hit the ground, would have fallen face first on the floor. She heard him sigh heavily before untying her hands; she didn’t even try to move, but stood staring straight ahead miserably. He reached for her and she cringed backwards but he simply scooped her up into his arms to carry her the rest of way.

He only put her down when they were back in the room, and she’d gotten her tears under control; she now felt ashamed at how easily she’d broken down. But one thought about the crack made when Christopher’s leg broke immediately made her feel sick. She doubled over and had the dry heaves, since she had not eaten anything all day to throw up.

“Are you okay? Do you need me to fetch a healer?”

She stared up at him, repulsed and hurt by what he’d done to her.

“Don’t,” she murmured. “Just don’t.” She saw his face fall at her reaction, but she didn’t care in the least; he deserved to be hurt, he deserved to be hurt like they hurt her Christopher, and Nate. She made for the bed, dizzy and head spinning, and Charlie reached out to help her. She shook her head at him.

“Please,” she said, too frightened to be rude. “Just go, please, just go.”
He looked at her a moment longer, nodded and then walked towards the door. He paused in front of the open door.

“I’m sorry,” she thought she heard him say before he then exited the room, pulling the door shut behind him, and leaving her alone in the room with the sounds of their screams still echoing in her head.

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm [Original - PG-17] - Amortentia   Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:21 pm

Brin

Brin and Anya sat in the dining area of the inn they were staying at. There were not many inns in the city, as not many people ever visited the fortress of the Great Crow if they could help it, so it had not been too difficult to find a room for the two of them. However, the people were suspicious of strangers, as most of the visitors who came here were servants to the King or the Great Crow and were not to be trusted. This was making their mission harder than they expected. Anya had said, and Brin had agreed, that just sitting in the common area and listening to the conversation might get them some invaluable information, but as soon as they walked in, the room had sunk down to half its prior volume as everyone looked at them suspiciously.

They had ordered themselves a drink and gone to sat in the corner, striking up some conversation about the difficulties on the road and of traveling a job, and slowly the room grew back to its prior noise as they no longer considered them too big of a threat. They talked every once in a while to be sure no one became suspicious, but for the most part they listened to the talk around them.

At first, they heard nothing of importance, just the usual gossip that floats around towns about affairs, the economy, jobs and the King. It wasn’t until two men, obviously men of the guard, dressed in their uniform, walked into the room that they were able to learn something of value. When they entered, the bartender immediately recognized them.

“Back from the Tower so soon?” he shouted out at them. “I thought you’d be stuck guarding the Little Crow all night.” Brin had immediately kicked Anya under the table, signaling with her eyes over to their conversation. Anya nodded, instantly understanding.

“Yeah, well, Old Tom spent another night drinking a little too much and scheduled too many guards on shift. We got lucky and were sent back. The other poor bastards are stuck with him now.”

The conversation then turned away from the Crow’s brother and to the crops this season. Brin looked over at Anya happily.

“Well, that’s good news. If this ‘Old Tom’ is as unreliable as they say, all we need to do is dress up a few of our people as members of the guards, get them to send the others away by saying they have it under control—if they’re anything like these guards, they’ll be happy to have the excuse to go off and drink somewhere else—and then we’ll be able to sneak him out,” said Brin under her breath. Anya nodded, but there was something hesitant in her eyes.

“What’s wrong?” Brin asked.

“It’s just…it seems so easy. There has to some other form of protection around him if they’re only having guards in rounds of two in the Palace themselves and not the dungeon. Perhaps the rumors that the Great Crow has powers no other man besides the Nargarth have are true.”

Brin shuddered, contemplating what could be surrounding the man then.

“We might have to do some scouting,” Anya said under her breath. Brin inhaled sharply.

“Is that wise? We know we only have a pass that’s good for this area. If we’re caught we’ll not only be in a lot of trouble, but the Resistance won’t even get this much information. I think we should stay in this area and then tell them of our suspicions when we get back.”

Anya was frowning.

“Sometimes a little risk is necessary on a mission.”

“This isn’t just a mission, Anya. We’re trying to rescue someone here.”

“And in case you’ve forgotten, the last time you did that it didn’t work so well. So I think we should try to get all the details we can before we plunge into this,” she snapped. Brin’s face fell at her comment, deeply hurt.

“I’m sorry we couldn’t save her, we tried, we really did,” she said quietly. She watched Anya’s eyes harden.

“Well, you didn’t try hard enough,” she hissed. Brin felt like she’d been slapped in the face, and now she was getting angry.

“I didn’t see you trying to come after her,” she snapped back. “Nate and I didn’t have to do anything for her, but we cared enough to try to help. She was gone when we got there, and we knew it, but we still tried to get her out. Don’t blame me for your guilt of leaving her behind to die.”

This time it was Anya who reeled back as if she’d been slapped.

“I’m sorry,” Brin continued, “I know you would have come after her if you could, and I’m sorry that we didn’t get her out in time; we really did try our hardest.”

Anya smiled apologetically.

“Yeah, I know. It’s just been…hard, that’s all.” She held out her hand to shake. “Friends?”

“Friends,” Brin said, laughing and shaking her hand. “So,” she continued, “if you think we should try to sneak around and find out more, I’ll support you on that.”

“Thanks, but I think you’re right. We really shouldn’t risk it when we know how tight security is. We’re bound to get stopped—we probably wouldn’t even be allowed to cross over to any of the other levels of the city. I say we decide by the end of tonight if we need to stay an extra night or if we should just leave in the morning.”

Brin nodded, and they both went back to their quiet vigil, listening in to the conversations. After a few hours, they still hadn’t learned anything of importance, and people were beginning to file out of the inn, done with their drinking for the night, and ready to sleep it off before their work the next day. They were beginning to get ready to leave for the night when they heard a conversation at the table next to them, taking place in low whispers in murmurs. Brin noticed Anya leaning backwards nonchalantly to better hear the conversation, though Brin herself still couldn’t pick out much more than a few individual words here and there. She watched Anya’s face turn from puzzled, to interested to pleased, and felt her own mouth twitching into a smile. After about ten minutes, the men quickly gathered up their things and left, stealing glances around them as if scared someone was going to catch them doing something wrong.

Anya leaned forward, a bright smile on her face. “I think our luck just changed,” she said smugly.

“What did they say?” Brin said, trying to hide her excitement.

“It would appear that not everyone here was pleased to hear about the arrest of the Crow’s brother. From what I gathered, those men used to work for the Crow as spies before he got caught, and are now worried that he might sell them out. It sounded like they’ve been trying to find a way to see him, whether to threaten him or beg him not to give them away I’m not sure. But either way, they know he’s sentenced to house arrest in his normal quarters, and they know where the “enchantments” are –“

“Enchantments? So it’s true?”

“From what I heard, they sounded more like booby traps for the unwary or unsuspecting to me, but now that we know where they are, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get passed. Looks like our night turned lucky,” she said, holding up her glass for Brin to clink with.

“So I guess we won’t be staying an extra night after all,” Brin said smiling. “Darren will be happy, won’t he?”

Anya blushed, and Brin laughed.

“He’s very handsome. And from what Robb has said, he seems like quite the military commander as well. You must be happy.” The way Anya’s face lit up made Brin wish she had someone like that.

“Yes, he’s very kind and caring. He makes me feel safe…I didn’t realize until we became close how much I lost when Lily disappeared.”

Brin reached across the table and squeezed her hand reassuringly.

“I know, I feel the same about Nate. I’ve never been so worried about someone in my life. I just wish I could at least know where he was, if he’s okay, if he’s still alive.”

“If we ever finish this mission, I promise I’ll help you find your brother. I owe you for finding Lily.”

“You don’t owe me anything,” Brin said softly. She still felt guilt for not being able to get her out in time, and shame for not doing anything to stop the capture of the others.

“Brin,” Anya said gently, and Brin had to raise her eyes to meet the other girl’s. “You know you couldn’t have done anything. Despite what I said earlier, I know what it’s like to have to choose between the ones you love, and what you know is futile. It’s…what I had to do when I left Lily behind,” her voice cracked as she spoke.

“It looks like we’re more alike than we thought,” Brin said, smiling slightly, and Anya returned the look, though there was something hidden in her eyes that Brin couldn’t quite read.

“Yes, I guess we are,” she mumbled softly.



The next morning they woke early, had a quick breakfast in the inn so that it would not look suspicious if they left when they were supposedly down on their luck without food, and then left the inner city, heading for the gate. When they reached it, they found the same guard from the day before on duty.

“No luck, huh?” he said gruffly. They both shook their heads, feigning disappointment, but thanked him for his kindness in letting them stay. After he had taken their passes back, he lowered the gates for them, and they walked out, trying not to walk too fast, though every muscle in Brin’s body wanted to get out of the place as quick as possible. She could feel the eyes of the guards on the wall following her all the way until she reached the edges of the trees. When the shadows from the trees finally fell over them, she let out a relieved breath, smiling at Anya, happier then she’d been in a long time. For the first time, she’d truly been able to help the Resistance, instead of putting them in a worse position.

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