Origin

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Ebon Ilnaren
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Re: Origin

Post by Ebon Ilnaren » Sun Jan 06, 2019 12:32 pm

Sometimes, over the month since he had escaped the Palace (since Azure was murdered, a voice in the back of his awareness reminded him), Ebon felt like a pet in a pillowed cage.

He was grateful for Astenyar’s protection, of course, and it was much more comfortable than his hard cot in the Palace slave barracks. The man would tell him stories in the evenings, too, tales of lands beyond the great ocean: the Deep Forest, the faerie glens of Lorin, the sands of the Khasin where the desert dwarves lived; stories of the great cities, ancient Terbann, dark Murian, and Jahava, the City of Wings; and he would speak of his own homeland, Sorcais, the realm of the mages ruled by the Lords Sorcere.

Ebon wasn’t sure that he believed any of them, of course. Faerie-kin and dwarves were creatures of forgotten legend, barely remembered by the elders in the rural lands. And magic? Well, he’d seen numerous displays of power from nobles and Knives, but did the man truly expect him to accept great lords calling down lightning or summoning elemental creatures?

So cynical for one so young, Astenyar had told him, though without rancor.

So naive for one so worldly, Ebon had replied in matching tone.

They did get along well, the lad thought as he read--or rather, skimmed over--one of his rescuer’s secret trove of books. Though he had learned a smattering of words in his fifteen years, books were not readily available to the Palace slaves. Still, he was an eager learner, and Astenyar encouraged him to study.

So lost within the pages was he that he almost missed the warning glow from the small mirror hanging above the hearth. Dark eyes widened as he stared at it, watching the silvered surface as his host’s image appeared within. “Danger, Ebon!” Astenyar’s expression was unreadable, but there was certainly an edge of tension in his voice. “Get out of there. Now! They’re coming!”
Last edited by Ebon Ilnaren on Sun Jan 06, 2019 1:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Ebon Ilnaren
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Re: Origin

Post by Ebon Ilnaren » Sun Jan 06, 2019 12:33 pm

As he hurried through the bustling streets, Astenyar’s mind raced back over the past few days. How had the Knives caught on to him? Where did he slip up? More importantly, did his warning get through to young Ebon? He trusted his skill in sorcery, but his strength came from the world around him, drawn through his place of power, and those connections could be disrupted.

“There he goes!” The harsh voice rang through the air, and he risked a glance back to see four Knives round a corner, two blocks behind him. Too close, to him and to his home. He had to gain the lad as much time as possible, and so he raised a hand and spoke a harsh word of command. Lightning leapt from his fingertips, arcing through the air to strike the Kinghts. One of them caught the attack in his face, leaving his skin blackened and his eyes melted, while another went down and did not rise again. The other two, however, climbed to their feet and resumed the chase.

Astenyar ducked down a side alley and came out onto another street, turning back to lead his pursuers further away from his home. He knew his fate was inevitable, that sooner or later the Knives would catch him, but he was determined to gain Ebon as much time as possible to get away.

Furthermore, the mage was not going to go down easily.

A scream of fear cut through the air ahead of him, and the crowd parted to reveal another gang of Knives bearing down on him. “Not that way, then,” he muttered softly, but when he turned to try a different route, he saw the two survivors of his earlier lightning bolt emerge from the alleyway. Despite the danger, despite encroaching death, Astenyar found himself smiling, though it was a grim smile indeed. “So be it.”

Lifting his arms in both directions, the mage uttered a command word that unleashed a volley of glowing darts upon the Knives, projectiles that burst upon contact. Several went down, but there were more beyond them, moving in from all sides now. Astenyar whispered a brief chant.

* * *

In the center of the hovel where Astenyar and Ebon lived, the firepit suddenly sprang to life, an eerie blue-green flame rising from within. Hearing the sound as he gathered his meager possessions, Ebon poked his head out from behind the curtain shielding his cot. He saw the flames, and he knew he was out of time.

* * *

In the distant street, Astenyar had crafted a shield of magic, a blue dome that kept his enemies at bay. It was a stopgap measure at best, and already the shield was weakening as the Knives hurled their minds’ powers against it without relent. Still, it would hold long enough to draw them close, and for him to do what he must.

Finally it was time. He closed his eyes and sent a final, silent message to Ebon. Run, boy! Run! Then he dropped the shielding dome and, as the Knives surged around him, spoke a single word.

A fireball of vivid blue flames erupted in the street, incinerating abandoned market stalls and carts, melting armor and searing flesh until there was little remaining but bone and ashes.

At that same moment, some distance away, an unassuming little house exploded with the same blue-white flames, reducing it to rubble and blackened ruins. “Was there anyone inside?” asked one of the folk who gathered around, staring in awe.

“If anyone was in there,” replied one of her companions, “they’re dead,”
Last edited by Ebon Ilnaren on Sun Jan 06, 2019 1:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Ebon Ilnaren
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Re: Origin

Post by Ebon Ilnaren » Sun Jan 06, 2019 12:36 pm

Several blocks away, Ebon turned as he heard the explosions, and saw twin gouts of blue fire rising above the rooftops. “Astenyar.” There was no time for sorrows, however; the two of them had planned for this possibility, and haste was key.

If you must go without me, if I cannot reach my contacts with the Feranor, the man had told him, then leave the city, make for the forests to the east. Lay low at night, and move in the day when the streets are crowded. The thoughts of those around you will provide shelter, even as their movements hide you from prying eyes. Once you have left Tar-Kyrul, it is my hope that the Free Men will find you… but no matter what else, continue your training. Focus, learn your strengths and build on them, and you will reach greatness.

So he moved through the milling crowds, carrying with him only a simple sack. Within that sack were a few clothes, a doll of a horse that Astenyar had given him, and some dried fruit and jerky to last a few days. If he hadn’t won his way out of the city by then, Ebon knew that food would be the least of his concerns.

At least he was in decent shape, physically speaking. That was something the man had insisted upon. “Strength of body, strength of mind,” he’d said repeatedly while drilling Ebon through daily exercises, and indeed it had been no worse than some of the labors he had endured in the Palace.

The crowd jostled him as it passed by, but Ebon kept his head low, playing the meek and lowly peon to anyone who gave him a second glance. So passed the day, with night bringing shelter in the corner of a tavern’s common room that cost him what few coins he possessed and an evening washing dishes into the bargain.

By the time morning’s light was tinting the sky, he had scrounged a meager breakfast and was on his way once more. Tar-Kyrul was a very large city, and he had some difficulty keeping his bearings. All he could think was to head east, towards the forests as Astenyar had instructed him. By mid-day he was through the ramshackle homes of the lower castes and venturing into the merchant districts. This would be trickier, since he had to seem like he belonged there, but here his years as a Palace slave served his needs well. He carried himself like a lowly errand-boy, with the urgency of one who knows a beating--or worse--would be waiting if he failed in his tasks.

At one point a man called out to him from a pottery storefront. “You there! Boy!” Ebon froze in place, struggling and barely succeeding at keeping panic out of his expression and thoughts. “Are you on a task for anyone? Answer true!”

Even as he tried to spin a convincing falsehood, Ebon found himself compelled to speak truthfully. “No, lord.”

“Good! My houseboy has fallen ill, and I need someone to work in my shop while I tend to my customers. Today you will work for me.” It was clearly not a request, and even if it had been, how could Ebon have said no? Thus he spent the afternoon hours sweeping, straightening, and hefting loads of crockery into waiting carts for delivery. It was not light work, but he took advantage to practice his gifts, using his psionic talent to ease the burden of weighty loads or surreptitiously steady a pile of mugs before they toppled. When the sun was sinking low, the shopkeep--who had barely said a word to him the whole time--grunted and directed Ebon to a plate of scraps from his dinner, and a mug of surprisingly cool water. “You did well, boy. Now once you’ve finished that, go so I can lock up for the night.”

As the sun sank below the horizon, he went down into the stairwell behind the closed-up shop, crouching behind some barrels out of sight to get some rest. It had been a long day.
Last edited by Ebon Ilnaren on Sun Jan 06, 2019 1:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Ebon Ilnaren
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Re: Origin

Post by Ebon Ilnaren » Sun Jan 06, 2019 12:37 pm

Part 6 - Reunion

“Brother?” Azure’s voice led Ebon to turn, and he saw her standing there. They were both in a woodland clearing, with the sun high in a cloudless blue sky, and somewhere in the distance a bird was singing. She looked him, a smile bright upon her face. “It’s good to see you.”

“Where are we?”

His sister giggled at the question. “Is that really the first thing you have to say?”

For a moment he stood there, blinking,m and then he smiled back at her. “I’ve missed you.” It was Azure, he could feel it, and yet how could it be? Then he knew. “This is a dream.”

“Yes,” she replied with a nod, “it’s a dream. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. I’m not.” One step, then another, and then he reached out to embrace her. They stood there, hugging each other for some time before he spoke again. “I’m happy to see you, even if I’m just imagining it.”

Azure pulled away, looking up at him with a serious expression. “Are you? Imagining me, I mean.”

The question gave Ebon pause, his dark eyes blinking once, twice. “I must be. You’re.... Dead.” She gave a sad nod in response. “So why are you here now, if I’m not conjuring you from dream stuff? How else can you be here?”

“To warn you. Ebon, open your mind, and wake up!”

* * *

The night was dark, with no moon in sight, but Ebon’s eyes were darker still as they sprang open. Silent, unmoving, he simply listened to the hush all around. Yet the night, though quiet, was not entirely still. Something at the edges of his perception set the fine hairs at the nape of his neck on end.

Someone was out there. They were close, and they were hunting him.
Last edited by Ebon Ilnaren on Sun Jan 06, 2019 1:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Ebon Ilnaren
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Re: Origin

Post by Ebon Ilnaren » Sun Jan 06, 2019 12:40 pm

Quickly Ebon gathered up his sack and rushed to the top of the steps, pausing there to glance up and down the alley. He couldn't see anyone, couldn't hear anyone, and yet... somehow he knew they were there. Two figures moving approaching, one from either direction, and a third nearby. Just at the edge of his perception.

Why couldn't he see them?

Because they're shrouding my senses, he realized, as his skin tingled with sudden fright. He closed his eyes, struggling to contain the fear, to calm himself and find his strength as Astenyar had instructed him.

"Ebon," came a voice from the shadows, purring like a cat who has cornered its prey. "Pretty boy."

Upon hearing those words, all color drained from Ebon's face, leaving him as pale as the dead. Only one person had ever referred to him that way. "Ulara."

She stepped into view, lips curled into a smirk of wicked delight. As ever, she moved with the sinuous grace of a serpent, though her attire was far more subdued than it had been on that night years before. "You remember me! I am truly touched!" She reached out to him with both hands, almost entreating. "Do you remember how good it felt? My body against yoirs, skin upon skin?"

"...i remember..." Jet black eyes blinked, and the haunted expression on Ebon's face gave was to steely determination. "You used me, forced yourself on me! Treated me like your toy... aagh!" His words choked off mid-sentence as an invisible hand seemed to clamp around his throat.

"You are my toy, little boy! Mine to play with! Mine to command!" Ulara closed her right hand into a fist, and Ebon felt the force at his neck tightening. "You murdered the Kyrul, my kinsman!" Their eyes met, and triumph glimmered in hers. "I should thank you for that. I came through the purges stronger, and once I proved to the new Kyrul that I had no desire for his throne, I was able to secure a place in the court on my own merits, free of my uncle's shortsightedness or the shame of my father. So you have my thanks, Ebon... and believe me, I intend to enjoy rewarding you. You may even come to enjoy it as well... not that it matters." The tip of her tongue snaked across her lips. "Boys, hold him."

Even as she spoke, Ebon felt an almost-imperceptible shift in his mind, and then two men appeared, their shining chain tunics suddenly rustling in the moonlight. One of them turned to Ulara with a grin. "Can we get turns with him as well, mistress?"

"Why not?" she replied with a casual shrug. "Just be sure not to damage him too much for my pleasure."

The full truth of their intentions struck Ebon hard in that instant, and he writhed and twisted, unable to break the telekinetic hold on his throat. He closed his eyes, and within his mind, he heard his sister's quiet voice, calling to him. Open your mind, Ebon! Open!
Last edited by Ebon Ilnaren on Sun Jan 06, 2019 1:08 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Ebon Ilnaren
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Re: Origin

Post by Ebon Ilnaren » Sun Jan 06, 2019 12:41 pm

Then Ebon's eyes opened again, pinpoints of light burning like stars in his sockets. Ulara gasped as they stared back at her, and suddenly her mental grip on his throat was broken, the backlash sending needles of pain through her skull. "Aaah! Get him!"

Both of the Knives sprang into action, one of them striking q fighting pose as shimmering blades of psionic force sprouted from his arms while the other drew a sword and faded from sight once more. Ebon ducked beneath his more visible foe's attack, more out of reflex than thought, and then rolled as he sensed the physicality of the other man moving to strike. His awareness reached out and grabbed hold of his shrouded opponent, breaking the man's concentration on hiding himself. He suddenly reappeared in a reverse fade, hanging in mid-air for a moment before flying backwards, hard into the shop wall.

Ebon was looking desperately for an escape when suddenly a hazy mass appeared in his mind, approaching from behind. Turning, he caught a volley of gravel in the face, barely able to close his eyes before being blinded. Then a force blade cut into his shoulder, and he screamed in pain. Blood red tinged the edges of his vision for a moment and he just lashed out.

Barrels and crates throughout the alley rose from the ground and hurtled to and fro, shattering against side walls to spill their contents across the pavestones. Those selfsame contents joined in the chaos, mixing with wooden chips and loose stones pulled into the air. The Knife with the mind blades raised his arms and his weapons expanded into a shield, protecting him while at the same time anchoring him firmly to the ground. Ulara, warding off what she could with her own talents, managed to take shelter with him, eyes wide as platters in shock.

The other Knife wasn't so lucky. Stealth was useless in such chaos, and as he struggled to reach his comrade, the barrage of broken crates, shards of pottery, and rubble pummeled him mercilessly. He dropped to his knees, blood streaming from a myriad array of cuts on his face, and then a brick soared through the air to smash the man's nose into the back of his skull.

Screams sounded from the streets beyond the alley, but nobody dared approach the fight while the psi storm raged within the alley. Finally, though, it settled, leaving the scene looking like a tornado had passed through. For several seconds, the silence was broken only by the heavy panting of Ebon's breath as he stood there, hunched over with both hands on his knees.

As her servant dropped his mental shield, Ulara peered across at Ebon and then smirked, before suddenly glancing up, towards the rooftops. "We have to go. Now! Take him!" She turned and started towards the street while the Knife approached Ebon, psionic force extending into bands that wrapped around the youth, holding him fast.

"Gkk!" Hearing the unexpected sound, Ulara spun around to see her man and Ebon standing facing each other. The Knife still held his prey tightly, but his wide-eyed expression and gaping mouth made it clear that not all was well with him, while Ebon's face held a fierce, almost feral look. Then there was a crack and the Knife's neck just crumpled while his mental grip on Ebon vanished instantly before he crumpled to the ground.

The young man turned and looked at Ulara with those dark eyes of his, and an almost-predatory smile twisted his face. He took a step forward.

Ulara was not fool enough not to recognize when she was outmatched. She turned and ran.

For his part, Ebon stood there for a moment, watching her go, and then he gathered up the sack that he'd dropped when the encounter began and swiftly moved off in the opposite direction.

* * *

As the lad stepped out of the alley and hurried away, a hooded figure leaned out from the roof's edge above the alleyway. "The boy has strength, and the wit to know when to choose his battles and when to abandon them. Good." Then he dropped over the side, flipping in the air to land deftly on his feet, and headed after Ebon.
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