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Parent thread: Dark Stars Among the Steppes
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Eol Fefalas
Lord of the Possums
RDI Staff
Karma: 467/28
8744 Posts


Shyndyn Chronicles Q&A

This is the Q&A thread for The Shyndyn Chronicles.

As Meri and I have just wrapped the "Inn version" of Book One: Fates of Fortune and are gearing up to get started on Book Two: Dark Stars upon the Steppes, I figured it was long overdue that we had an "official" Q&A for both story threads going forward.

Stand by, dear readers! Much more to come!



Posted on 2021-03-09 at 14:52:51.
Edited on 2021-03-09 at 14:57:50 by Eol Fefalas

Eol Fefalas
Lord of the Possums
RDI Staff
Karma: 467/28
8744 Posts


Notice:

You may have taken notice, dear reader, that the opening post for Dark Stars is titled "Interview with the Assassin Part II," and, may be asking yourself; "Well, where in the heck is part one of that interview?"

As it turns out, the whole Interview with the Assassin bit started out as a 'side-story' I was working on whilst Meri was on her hiatus and, following her return, we decided that we might just work these interviews in as Preludes and Epilogues for each of the books, so, technically, Part I (both the prelude and the epilogue) got left on the cutting room floor, so to speak. By way of remedying that, I've decided to post Part I, here, for your reading pleasure (or heebie jeebies as the case may be). 

Fates of Fortune Prelude

“Assassin…”

The word was not so much spoken as it was hissed back at me from the gloom-shrouded bench on the opposite side of the table. And, perhaps, now that I think on it, ‘hissed’ may not be the appropriate word, either. It wasn’t a hiss meant to impart a threat or a warning as one might hear from a cat or a snake, for instance; nor was it of the sort that intoned surprise or fear or displeasure. Rather, I think, it was something about the speaker’s curious accent – the way that each syllable was drawn out for a half-breath longer than it should have been, lengthening each letter just so – combined with the way he seemed to almost savor the word as it filled his mouth lent to  the striking sibilance of it. And the soft beginning of the chuckle that followed, too, had an almost eerie rasp to it. It carried like a chill breeze across the scarred and stained planks that separated us and, I’m not ashamed to admit, sent a shiver through me the likes of which, I imagine, I’ll not feel again until my last breath.

I tried to mask my discomfort by lifting a goblet to my lips but was betrayed by the way the thing shook in my hand even as the wine it contained warmed my throat. I offered what was likely a too sheepish smile as I sat the goblet down and, as much to calm them as to warm them, rubbed my hands together before I took up my pen and found my place on the page before me once more. I still fought the shivering as I returned my inquiring gaze to the dark shape that lurked in the penumbra opposite me.

“…a rather politic way to put it, yes?”

“Perhaps,” I tried to smile diplomatically in reply as I watched the shadows ripple, “but it is what you do, correct? And it is how you are known, is it not?” I glanced at the small sheaf of papers stacked at my elbow, only long enough to check my notes for the moniker as I had heard it spoken or, rather, whispered for most of my life. “The Assassin Prince of Drasnia,” I read with possibly too much reverence coating the words. My recitation of them evoked another coldly mirthful chuckle from my subject.

“Assassin Prince,” the voice laughed as the shadows from which it issued seemed to somehow roil across the table toward me. “I suppose I have heard that one a time or two,” it said on the tail of that laughter, “though rarely to my face and certainly not in the way you’ve just spoken it.”  The shadows produced a hand, then – long, alabaster fingers reaching out to finally claim the wine I’d poured for him some time ago – and the shadows roiled back again taking the cup with them. “You make it sound as if it is some grand title, yes? As if adding ‘prince’ to it makes it something more than it is… a crown… lands… riches, hm?”

I blinked at this response, fascinated at his reaction. Had my usage of that particular name truly offended him? In all honesty, of all the names I had ever heard applied to this individual, Assassin Prince seemed to convey the most respect. “You object to this term, then,” I asked as my pen scratched a note on the paper before me.

The shadows sighed, it seemed, and, as they returned a slightly emptier cup to the table, the voice murmured; “No. No more than any of the others, at least.”

“Others?”

“Tsk,” that clucking of the tongue, at that moment, struck a sharper rebuke in me than his hissing of the word assassin had earlier, “Do not play coy with me round-ear. You know the others as well as I. You have them all scribbled out on your papers, there, yes?”

“I…” I blinked, again, swallowed too hard, reached for a drink, and tried to cover up my notes with an elbow in one awkward motion, “I…uh…”

“Go on,” the voice demanded flatly (I’m unsure if I actually saw him gesture impatiently at the spill of my papers, then, or if it was simply a trick of the shadows in which he sat), “read them off. I shall let you know if you miss any, hmm?”

I indulged in another clumsy sip of my wine and glanced nervously down at the spray of documents. I took another sip as some of the names he asked me to read emboldened themselves and seemed to leap from the pages on which they were inscribed. Some were dramatically evocative… 

The Terror of Thamaburgad Road. The Demon of Labaram. The Moon-Eyed Devil. The Mad Mith’ganni. The Edge of Prien’s Axe.

…Others were simpler, more direct, but no less descriptive… 

Bogeyman. Nightmare. Kinslayer. Killer. Murderer. Death, itself. 

…None of them, I realized, did I want to speak aloud in his presence. Especially given the reaction I’d received from ‘Assassin Prince.’

I blinked, again, looked back up at the swath of shadows across the table and attempted another diplomatic smile. “I’d rather not,” I admitted.

“Of course not,” the shadows sighed, again…

There was a pause, here; a pause brief enough that it might have been that he was only indulging in a sip of his wine but, also, lengthy enough that I was beginning to wonder if he was awaiting another prompt from me before saying anything else. I had just swallowed the lump in my throat for the umpteenth time and had let my eyes drop back to my notes to remind (and perhaps caution) myself of what path of conversation I should or shouldn’t pursue when those pale fingers emerged from the shadows, once more, and pushed a now empty cup toward me.

“…Allow me, then, while you pour, yes?” 

I nodded dumbly and, as I reached for the bottle to oblige, the voice in the shadows began to recite all those monikers I had written down but refused to speak aloud. Something in the way the names (and, I suppose, epithets) sounded on his tongue sent a prickling heat to my neck and a cold ache to my guts at the same time and I couldn’t keep my hand steady enough to keep from splashing a bit of the wine on the table when I refilled the cup.

 “…Mad Mith’ganni, kinslayer,” the voice was saying when I set the bottle aside again and the shadows reclaimed the refreshed cup of wine, “Ah! And horse f***er. Let us not forget that one, yes?” 

He was laughing softly – into his cup, by the sound of it – but I couldn’t laugh even had I wished to do so. Instead, my lips sewed themselves together into a tight line across my face, that cold ache in my gut twisted itself into a knot, and the prickling heat at my neck burst into an inferno that rapidly spread to my cheeks. I twiddled my pen nervously between my fingers, nearly snapping it in two more than one time before I forced myself to stop, and, involuntarily dropped my eyes to the sheet of paper in front of me. ‘Horse f***er’ was not one of the nicknames I had listed in my notes but, of course, it was one that I had heard before. More than once, in fact, and not applied exclusively to him. That sobriquet, along with others such as ‘grass-eater,’ ‘prong humper,’ and ‘moon-eye’ were derogatory terms that were freely tossed about whenever most humans encountered any Mith’ganni (as rare an occurrence as that might be)… I’d even said it, in my youth, to a half-Mith’ganni stable boy owned by the Bolstoii family… and, for lack of a better term, it embarrassed me.

“I… uh…” I murmured, still blinking at my paper but not really seeing it.

“What, round-ear,” the shadow across the table queried, not bothering to mask the condescension in it’s voice, “that one offends you, does it?”

“A…a bit,” I admitted, still deigning to look up for fear that the moon-colored eyes which I had yet to see but, nevertheless, knew were burning into me, would set me ablaze.  “My wife… uh… My wife is elven, you see… not Mith’ganni… Dur’manni, actually…”

“Ah,” he interjected into my stammering, “so, you are one of those that claims to have some sort of ‘tolerance,’ yes? Actually took one of us for a bride instead of for a whore, hm? And you think this gives you the right to be offended for her?”

“Yes,” I said, too quickly, as my gaze snapped sharply away from my notes, lifting to glare into those shadows but, instead, finding myself cowed and transfixed by the very glittering, golden-eyed stare that I had so feared to see but an instant ago. The moon-hued eyes stabbed at me from a pale, Mith’ganni face that was no longer obscured by the penumbra but was, instead, scant inches from my own, smirking at me with an ominous, razor-lipped smile. I tried to swallow but couldn’t and, so, I croaked rather than said; “No?”

“No. Be offended for your wife,” he said flatly, “It is good that you do. Makes me almost believe that you mean what you profess to, yes?”

I realized that he hadn’t yet blinked and, for some reason, found myself wishing I were able to look away and almost terrified that I couldn’t. I couldn’t look away, I couldn’t swallow the lump that seemed to be growing ever larger in my gullet, and, in that instant, I’m quite sure, that I couldn’t even move; not even to force a nodded response.

“Would you like to know what truly offends me, breeder,” he asked just as I imagined my heart might stop, as well. He didn’t wait for me to answer that, either; he simply pressed a finger to where the list of his aliases were scrawled on my paper, and continued; “What truly offends me is that, of all of these names you have scribbled, here, of all these things that people of all races have called me, you have omitted the same one that every paching one of your kind has ever done.”

My confusion at that, it seemed, was the catalyst that began to thaw my paralysis. My brow furrowed and arched, first, and, then, somehow disbelieving that, given all of the research I had done in regard to this meeting, I could have possibly missed anything, I finally broke my gaze free of his and inquiringly eyed my notes to discover what it might have been. “I don’t… I’m sure that…” I shook my head, then, and looked back up in capitulation; “Which one is that?”

“Nyx Shyndyn,” he sneered, melting back into his shadows, then.

Instantly I felt my mouth fall open and every drop of blood drain out of me.  Yet before my mind could begin to fully ingest what he had said a small chuckle rose out of the darkness behind the Prince, and I realized that we were not alone in this room. 

A voice followed the chuckle.  This was not the same wind caressed hisses of the assassin.  Out of the dark corner came a seductive purr that seemed out of place in this darkened crypt, because it resonated with a soft velveteen quality.  "Now Nyx, you know how I hate it when you lie."  

Material rustled and a moment later pale fingers came to rest on the assassins shoulders before they slid down his chest most possessively.  Another face pressed down into the little shaft of light that occasionally illuminated my subject.  The Witch.  

"He forgot at least three names.  Each just as important as Nyx Shyndyn."  She had yet to look my way as she was whispering sweetly into his ear.  White light danced upon the profile of her face, declaring the mixed blood running through her veins without question.  A scar danced along one cheekbone and into a mess of thick dark hair.  Already my heart had begun beating again, too quickly, and the blood that had drained from me was now pounding against my temples.  Staring at the line of scar tissue, which did not detract from her beauty, I wondered what was under that hair, if the rumors of her mutilated ears were true.  

"Ithilamin.  Moreiramin.  Melamin."  

The words fell breathlessly from her lips a moment before she pressed them against his neck.  I watched his hand slither out from under his cloak and take hers into its folds as a warm smile graced his lips.  The intimate kiss turned into another light tinkling of laughter.  "Or is that last one just for me?"  

In a fluid movement the witch came fully into view for but a moment.  If he was a Prince then certainly she was his Princess.  While certainly shapely, the figure draped in the long flowing lines of her dark purple gown exuded more grace and confidence than any other woman I had ever met.  Details were lost, though, as she melted into a puddle of satin near his feet.  The corona of dark hair coming to rest upon the elf's knee.  

"Oh... and be careful melamin.  They are called 'humans,' not 'round ears,' least you forget what might offend your wife." 

“Humans… But of course, elen en cormamin,” I heard the assassin concede, his fingers entangling themselves in her hair and tenderly, lovingly I might even say, stroking those locks that spilled across his knee, “I’d not want that, at all, yes?”

The smile on the Mith’ganni’s face, just then, was pictured in my mind and heard by my ears more than it was seen with my eyes, for those were still enrapt by the face of The Witch as she gazed upon me with no small hint of amusement playing on her features.

“That last name is yours alone to call me by, though, hm?”  The silk rustled as her gaze abandoned me and, smiling, lifted to regard her husband, somehow forcing mine to follow in its wake. “No other has my heart, after all.”

My mouth had gone as dry as the deserts of Garangrad, I realized, then, and, after only the briefest of instants after having met the moon-hued eyes that bore into me at that moment, I blinked in an attempt to break the spell of paralysis that this pair had just woven about me and reached for my cup in order to slake my thirst…. And, if I admitted it, also to mask the fact that I had been momentarily struck dumb… Ithiamin meant “my moon,” Morieramin was “my Dark One,” melamin meant “my love,” and elen en cormamin, “star of my heart,” if I was properly translating from the elven… None of these terms had I ever heard spoken in regards to this couple before me, now, and, had this been any other pair, I might have been struck by how sweet those endearments and the closeness of those who uttered them were. However, this wasn’t any other couple and, given that fact, I found it almost eerie as opposed to sweet. Cayrimsa Etellenya, Drasnia’s very own half-elven Witch of the Wharf, and Nyx Shyndyn, the Mith’ganni assassin from the far off steppes of Shanurdir; I had heard tales of these two for as long as I could remember, and those tales (along with numerous others, I’m sure) had been whispered in guarded tones for longer than that to be sure. Their legends, both alone and together, could never have shone even the palest light on the side of them that I was witnessing, now. The darkness of those legends would have surely consumed any light that dared tried to pierce them, after all, and I couldn’t help but wonder, now that I had been gifted with seeing this glimmer in the dark, if I would even be allowed to escape with the knowledge of its existence. 

As those tales chased through my mind all at once and I tried, in vain, to grasp the threads of them all and weave them into some cohesive tapestry, I still sat in an almost awed silence, blinking only rarely and forcing wine into my uncomfortably dry gullet more often than that. That silence, I realized, had gone on far longer than it felt, though, when the Witch’s velvety purring laughter reached my ears, snatching me out of my reverie to become vividly aware that a razor’s edge had carved a smile across the assassin’s lips whilst he glowered at me.

“So, human,” Nyx hissed past that smile as I blinked myself free of the trance in which I had been held, “you have more questions, yes?”

I nodded, still dumbly, for a moment and, then, when I finally managed to force a semblance of my voice past the desiccation of my throat, offered a smile of my own that, certainly, came nowhere near to matching the sureness in either of theirs. “Y… yes,” I croaked, tearing my eyes away from those discomfiting gazes across the table and forcing them, instead, to study the sheaf of papers before me, “yes… So many…”

So many… so many…

Those two words echoed, over and over, in my mind as I consulted my notes, frantically rifled through the stacks of papers, and consulted some more. They tore at my concentration almost as much as catching my first glimpse of Nyx Shyndyn had; almost as much, too, as had the sudden and quite unexpected appearance of The Witch of the Wharf in his orbit. There were so many questions; so many that I had prepared myself to ask when first this meeting had been set, more, now, that the meeting seemed to be with the two of them as opposed to just the one.

“…sooo many…”

“You have said this,” I heard the assassin’s voice murmur and, only then, realized those words hadn’t been repeating only in my mind, “many times, yes?”

“Perhaps, ithilamin,” the witch purred, her head shifting subtly against his knee, “his first question is which question he should ask first?”

 The tinkling of her bemused laughter punctuated that non-question and, at the same time, caused me to choke down those words before I allowed them to pass my lips again, and brought a flush of embarrassment to my cheeks. I felt the heat of it spread from my face to my ears and across my scalp. I felt as if all of the sweat in my body would suddenly find its way to my hairline and course in rivers down my face until I drowned in it…

“Perhaps,” Nyx murmured in reply, the pale fingers of one hand still absently toying with Cayrimsa’s hair as both of them stared, half-amused and half-bored, at me, “or, perhaps, his tongue has cut itself from his mouth before anyone has even touched him, hm?”

Tongue cut out of my mouth? What?

“No!”

I spoke the word too loudly, at first. Whether it was because I suddenly feared that my tongue had suddenly been cut from my mouth or, rather, because I checked and, quite joyously, discovered that it hadn’t; whatever the reason, I said it too loudly. The tone and force of the word as it exploded from my lips was enough to have raised an eyebrow – and perhaps a smirk – from across the table. Maybe before this is all over, I thought, I may inadvertently lose my tongue or more, but it wouldn’t … couldn’t be for that word.

“No,” I said again in a less, shall we say, emphatic tone. I tried a smile, as well, as further evidence that I wasn’t regaining my composure as quickly as I would have hoped. “Your lady is correct,” I said from behind that smile before I cleared my throat and, at last, willed my scalp to stop prickling, “I had had a rough outline of what I wished to discuss with you, but…”

“But I took him by surprise,” Cayrimsa cooed from her pool of silken shadow.

“Quite,” I agreed, my uncomfortable smile cracking into a foolish chuckle, “and now I’m not sure where to begin.” I blinked at the papers in my hands, shrugged, and dropped them to the table, letting them fall into the same state of chaotic disarray that my thoughts had been in these last moments. “Do I start where I had originally intended; the hows and whys of Nyx Shyndyn leaving the steppe for the cities of men? Or…or do I start with The Wit… er… Cayrimsa’s first memories? I…I…. I don’t understand how my thoughts are so…” I made what must have appeared as some kind of mad gesture when I couldn’t vocalize the words I was searching for because I heard a sudden rustle of silk and, possibly, the hissing of steel. I let my hands fall (slowly) to the table, then, and sighed; “I don’t understand, now, where to start.”

“Do you understand hate, human?” 

The hissing of that phantom steel reversed beneath those words and so, strangely enough, did some small bit of the tension. “Hate?” I repeated, blinking in the Mith’ganni’s direction and finding it just a bit easier, if no less uncomfortable, to meet his gaze directly.

“Yes,” he nodded faintly, “hate. You understand hate, and fear, and darkness, yes?”

I felt my brow furrow, felt the waves of confusion beginning to threaten my thoughts once more… Did I understand these things in a literal sense? No. Not really. Did I understand the concepts to which those words referred? As well as the next man, I suppose… Just as I thought the sweat might break at my temples, again, I found that, when I nodded an affirmative response, my mind untangled. I wasn’t going to be able to lead this interview in the same fashion I had with the countless others to whom I’d spoken over the years; I was going to have to be led through it or, quite possibly, it was going to drive me mad.

“Yes,” I said out loud, then, straightening my shoulders as well as my papers before taking up the pen I had abandoned a few minutes ago, “yes, I think I understand these things well enough.”

“Then that is where you begin,” the Mith’ganni smirked, “for that is where all of this begins…”

I was, perhaps, perplexed by this statement more than I had been by the question which had preceded it and, given the soft giggle that escaped the Witch, just then, my puzzlement was plainly evident on my face. Aside from that laughter, though, neither of them was quick to offer any further clarification. Instead, I was left to wrestle my thoughts alone as the darkest of Drasnia’s shadows looked on with some strange amusement. Was I to believe that all of the tales I had ever heard, all of the written accounts I had ferreted out and read, everything that legend and lore told of Nyx Shyndyn had been born of something as simple as hate?

and fear… The assassin’s voice echoed in my mind… and darkness…

Once more, I reached for my wine and poured a generous sampling past my lips in order to aid in my swallowing of that damnable, razor-edged, lump in my throat and, also, afford myself just that much longer to make some sense of the tangled web which Shyndyn had made of my thoughts. Licking the remains of the taste from my lips, and doing my best to even my expression, I let my gaze slip back into the shadows across the table. My mouth opened and closed more than once before any words escaped… I think I may have been still at a loss as to exactly what question I had wanted to ask or, at least, the best way in which to ask it… When I did find my voice, the words I spoke seemed far too simple for the true complexity my mind had made of the query.

“Everything you’ve done,” I asked, “has been because of your hate?”

“No, human,” the Mith’ganni’s yellow eyes flashed, “everything I have done has been because of your hate. Without that, my hatred would not exist.” 

I know that, in that moment, I hesitated – I hesitated because, in all honesty, I wasn’t exactly sure how to interpret what he had just said… I thought I knew… I could certainly guess based on tales I’d heard over the years… but certainty was far from my most tenuous grasp, just then – I hesitated, though, far longer than I thought I had, and I only came to realize it when a coldly impatient sigh chuffed out of the shadows across the table.

“You are to just sit there and blink, then, yes,” the shadows grumbled.

“He’s thinking ithilamin,” the witch purred from the patch of dappled light that fell across Shyndyn’s lap, her scarred beautiful face turning, almost pacifyingly towards his, “Exercise the same patience with his words as you have with your marks, hm?”

The shadows sighed, again. “Of course, elen en cormamin,” came the conciliatory whisper. The shadows moved a bit and sighed, once more, softly this time, as they seemed to settle into themselves. I couldn’t truly see those yellow eyes, just then, but I felt them on me, and that, perhaps, was worse.

“He struggles with where to begin…”

It was Cayrimsa’s voice that followed the Mith’ganni’s exhalation, and there was something of an irritation in it. She heaved a sigh of her own, then, spiced with mild annoyance, and her cinnamon eyes flashed, catching the light, as they moved from his to mine.

“…As my you are fond of saying,” she cooed through the cool air that partitioned me from them, “Should you seek the end of the trail, find its beginning.” She planted a light kiss on his knee, then, just before patting his thigh and getting slowly but gracefully to her feet. “I, however, have heard this tale more times than I care to count…”

I found myself disappointed as her face slipped from that patch of light and melted into the shadows behind him. For all I had heard of Cayrimsa Etellenya, she was the second to last person I had ever imagined might have given me some sort of comfort or condolence in this situation, but, as she disappeared from that little sliver of brightness in the predominating gloom, I, oddly enough, felt the reassurance in my own thoughts fade with her features.

“…Begin at the beginning, Morieramin,” the Witch’s voice purred from the dark, “I’ll join you again if I have anything to offer.”

“Thank you,” I stammered, my eyes straining to discern any indication of her continued presence in the shadows beyond the shadows, “m’lady…”

“So,” Shyndyn’s voice rasped, snatching my attentions dutifully away from the darkness that lingered beyond his own, “you wish to start from the beginning, then?”

“Y-yes,” I answered (why did I suddenly feel so much more apprehensive about seeking out his eyes?), “The Wi… er… Cay… er.. your WIFE seems to think that to be the best place to do so…”

“And, like many a wise man,” Nyx laughed softly in response, “you agree quickly enough to spare your berries from the harvest…”

“I’m a bit smarter than I may look to you, sir,” I chuckled, myself, in reply.

“We shall see,” he answered flatly.

I realized, then, that his goblet had disappeared from the table, and imagined him sipping away the remnants of that cup.

“Which beginning should I relate, human,” the assassin queried once I had imagined him swallowing the wine, “I cannot begin with your peoples’ hatred of mine, but I can tell you of my peoples’ fear of yours… and how that lead me here. That is what you seek, yes?”

“Yes,” I answered aloud… and so much more… “please. And, if you would, Nyx,” I chanced the familiarity, “do call me Tyoma…”

“Tyoma?”

“A… uh… diminutive for Artem,” I explained without really knowing why, “My name is Bazin Artem Vadimovich. Those who know me, though, call me Tyoma.”

The snickering that erupted from the penumbra, at that point, chilled my very bones. “And you tell me this freely, Tyoma?” The Mith’ganni’s laughter was nearly unrestrained. “Do you have any idea the power which a being’s name holds, or, perhaps, Bazin Artem Vadimovich, are you quite a bit stupider than you might look?”

Even if I had known the correct response to give, then, I likely wouldn’t have given it. Instead, in the wake of the uncomfortable flushing that fell across my visage, I tried to smile and, after I cleared my throat, asked; “What was your life like before…. Before whatever happened to bring you into the cities of men?”

“Whatever happened,” Nyx sneered with the same derision in which he had repeated the word assassin just minutes ago, “As if ‘whatever’ is a suitable term for the massacre of my clan?!”

“I…I… I didn’t mean…” My gaze, I found, had turned downward and, again, I felt shamed by my own thoughtless turning of a phrase.”

“I know what you meant,” the assassin’s voice susurrated from the dark, now strangely soothing in it’s tone…

Tentatively I looked up and, to my surprise, found the Mith’ganni closer than I would have imagined given the distance of his voice. The weight of his torso was supported by the wide placement of his elbows upon the scarred surface of the table. His yellow eyes gleamed like twin moons on a clear, midsummer’s night, and his smile was, at once, sharp and soothing.

“…and to answer the question you dare not ask; yes, had you spoken to me so before I met Cay, I would have killed you without hesitation…”

I swallowed… hard.

“…Since I have known my wife, however,” the Mith’anni continued, softening the lump in my throat a fraction, “I have also come to know that you humans are not as tactful with your language as might be expected….”

“Our tongue is nowhere near as old as yours,” I conceded with a smile.

“…and so your reprieve.”

I swallowed the lump in my throat, though, I’m fairly sure it cut a long gash on its way down.

“Nyx…” a purr emanated from the darkness again, “you prattle on.  The beginning… tell the round-ear what he wants to know.  Tell him about hate, tell him about the first time you kissed me…”  Her tone began sharp and impatient, but faded into velvety intimations by the time she came to the word kiss.  It lingered in the air as if she were still wrapped in the moment it had happened. 

Hate? A first kiss? My mind wrestled with how two such disparate things could possibly be woven together and, when I looked imploringly to the assassin for clarification, I found his features to be set in a similarly contradictory melding of awkward wickedness.

“The first kiss,” he inquired of the shadows at his back, “are you sure, melamin?”

“It was the beginning, ithilamin,” the Witch’s voice returned silkily, “Our beginning.”

“So it was,” Nyx acquiesced with a faint nod, the sheepishness melting from his expression as his eyes turned back to mine, “and so we shall.

Take up your pen, Tyoma,” the Assassin Prince urged me, reaching out for the cup of wine before him, “and I’ll tell you the tale of a time when my wife would have much rather preferred to see me dead than suffer my attention, yes?”

Nodding enthusiastically, I hurriedly pulled a sheaf of parchment in front of me and, as he watched me over the rim of his glass, readied my pens. When I had a freshly inked nib hovering over a blank sheet, I lifted my eyes expectantly to Nyx.

“Cayrimsa and I had only worked one other job together before this,” the assassin began, “and, while we were successful in our task, the two of us did not necessarily get along, yes?”

A tinkling of laughter rose up behind his shoulder, “That ithilamin is a great understatement…” the assassin simply raised his hand to wave off her sweet mocking and continued on.  

“I am sure, after that contract, she hoped never to see me again. As fate would have it, though, she would be burdened with me, once more, only a couple of weeks later…”

My pen scritched furiously across the page as, in a notably nostalgic tone, Nyx began to relate the tale that I would later come to title Fates of Fortune. 

Fates of Fortune Epilogue

“...and that, scribe, is how love was born of hate,” Nyx offered, coming to the end of the narrative and the bottom of I cannot recall how many glasses of wine, “and how verne’amin and I found ourselves woven into the tapestry of the revolution, yes?”

For a moment, I could do little more than blink my burning eyes, rub at them with ink-stained fingers, and gawk at the spill and spray of the numerous pages on the table between us. My hands were cramped, my eyes were heavy, and my mind was still trying to find its way out of the web of the fantastic tale he had spun. “This… I…” I struggled to find my voice, to find words that could truly frame my wonder. “It’s incredible,” I managed as I began to sort the dishevelled array of parchments into a more orderly stack, “and so much more than I had hoped for when you first agreed to speak with me. Diola lle, heru en amin, for sharing this.”

“Mmm,” the assassin rasped from where he had reclined back into his patch of darkness, his voice scarcely above a gravelly whisper, “seasamin.”

In the midst of my organization of the papers, I noticed that my inkwells had been all but emptied and, also, that I had woefully few blank pages on which to continue transcribing. The exasperated sigh that escaped me at that realization evolved all too quickly into a yawn of near exhaustion and that vexed me almost as much as my dwindled sundries. After all, Nyx and Cayrimsa’s impromptu wedding on the cliffs of Skalkbluff was far from the end of the tale, I was sure of it. 

My notes told of a span of months in which neither the Assassin Prince nor the Witch of the Wharf were seen in Drasnia (or any other Imperial city, for that matter). I had accounts of rumors that purported Nyx killing Cayrimsa before leaving the city in his wake. Other myths that told of the Witch abandoning her wharf in favor of Drasnia’s sewers and luring children into those cesspools for her own dark purposes. And, too, there were details of the pair’s involvement in the elven uprising, itself, that had yet to be touched upon; loose ends where the former crimelord, Vadim Dmitrova’s dealings had urged them onto the path of it.

As I tucked the stacks of paper into my satchel for safe keeping, I sighed and yawned again before turning my eyes to where the mith’ganni lazily watched me from the shadows. “You’ve given me so many answers, Nyx,” I acknowledged with a grateful smile, “but left me with twice as many questions. Unfortunately, I find myself short on paper and ink, now…”

A low chuckle emanated from the dark, then, and a glint of yellow flashed just beyond. “Short on sleep, as well,” Nyx noted, “given how you yawn and how red your eyes, yes?”

I’m certain there was no small measure of embarrassment etched on my face when I nodded in reply. “I’m afraid so,” I said, stifling yet another yawn with the back of my hand, “but I would dearly love to hear what happened next. Where did the two of you go after Skalkbluff? What happened to, as you said, weave you so tightly into the tapestry of the revolution? How were you brought back to Drasnia after so long away?”

“The hour grows late, Bazin Artem Vadimovich,” the shadows laughed, “and I have spent enough time with you for a day, hm? Those are tales for another time.

Go home to your wife, now, and leave me to mine,” his voice had started to dissipate, growing softer with each word as if he had already begun to take his leave of the room in which we met, “When you have rested and restocked your supplies, seek me out, again, and we shall see what can be done about answering your lingering questions, yes?”

“Of course,” I apologized, securing the hasp on my satchel so that the volume I had just tucked inside would be safe, “forgive me for…” I got an eerie feeling, then, that I was addressing an empty room, and so I let my last words go unspoken. 

Shouldering my satchel, I left the room through the same door by which I had entered.  Behind me, some distance and perhaps bouncing down a corridor or two, a sound drifted out of the darkness.  A teasing purr, “Assassin Prince…” it echoed my words from earlier.  The purr was followed closely by a low growling laugh that I had heard from the moon-elf several times throughout the night, a brief pause and then a long silky moan full of lust.  I felt my own loins tighten slightly at the sound of it.  Then quickened my steps and retraced my path through the deathly silent corridors of the tower, lest I be accused of overhearing something I shouldn’t have. After a time, a doorway opened ahead of me and I found myself squinting against the light of the dawning sun. I took a moment, once my eyes had adjusted, to gaze eastward across the bay where, beyond the ships and skiffs that bobbed in the harbor, the sprawl of Drasnia had begun to come awake. From where I stood, now, on the high reaches of the island of Ty’vaal, I could easily pick out several landmarks that had been mentioned in the telling of the Shyndyns’ tale - the lighthouse, the Grey Arm docks, Vergal Seaport, the Three Gates Bridge, and the River’s Mouth Market - and those sites prompted the story I had just spent a night recording to start afresh in my mind.

As I trod the long, winding path down to where Ty’vall thrust its way through the waves of the bay, I resolved myself to take a route home that might take me by more than a few of those points of interest and, when I reached the small pier that issued from a craggy cave at the island’s base, I climbed aboard the skiff awaiting me there and asked the silent ferryman who attended it if he might drop me at the Grey Arm dock.

With a nod, the ferryman untied the boat, pushed us into the deeper waters, and angled the boat toward where Drasnia’s seawalls separated the city’s harbor from the broader expanse of the bay. I watched the island fade behind me as the city grew ahead and, even as tired as I was, then, found myself filling with excitement at returning to Ty’vaal very soon… with twice the ink and paper I had brought this time.



Posted on 2021-03-09 at 16:05:52.

Eol Fefalas
Lord of the Possums
RDI Staff
Karma: 467/28
8744 Posts


Elven translations for Dark Stars Prelude

In order of appearance:

  • lane’eska - (literally; "cloth house") The Mith'ganni equivalent of a yurt.
  • Paching hwandi! Dolle naa lost! - "You f***ing fungus! Your head is empty!"
  • ruthaer - "angry one"
  • Dinalle! Ndengina sen ilya! Sii’! - "Shut up! Kill them all! Now!"
  • Tereva - "Fine."
  • Ar’sana lle mellon’ai vassen lle - "And take your little friend with you"
  • Ascenie - "Obviously"


Posted on 2021-03-09 at 16:13:38.

   
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