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> Ramblings Of A Madwoman, short stories and poems from Danann
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Posted: 08-Dec-2003, 05:04 PM
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Celtic Guardian

Group: Celtic Nation
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Joined: 02-Dec-2003

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Silence echoed through the halls, sounding louder than the scream that pierced the air just moments before. There was no sound of crying, no sound of anger, not even the sound of walking. Silence. The players in the scene were motionless, frozen in death. There was life in one of them, but she too, was still, fearful to move, to speak, to even breathe. The world held its motion, it seemed, and then the silence was shattered.

"Momma? You dropped you crown. Here it is, let me help you with it." The small raven haired girl, spattered in blood pulled the crown out from under the fixed gaze of the man that was sworn to protect her. He had died in the end, killing the last man that was sent to assassinate the royal family. The small girl pulled till the diamond diadem came free. She held it, looked it over and crawled to the spot where her mother was. The smiling face was as warm as ever, her green eyes fixed on the face of her darling daughter, but those eyes no longer saw the gray ones that looked into hers. They stared, not blinking, not shifting - just smiling - even in death.

The small hands of the child arranged the crown on her mother's bluish black hair. Smiling, thinking that her mother was smiling at her, she curled up next to the broken body, laid there, waiting for something, yet not knowing what it was she was waiting for. Maybe it was death, maybe it was for understanding, maybe it was for someone to come and wake her from the torturous dream that she was trapped in. In the stillness of the moment, things clicked in the young girl's mind.

"I am the only one left." She said to her mother, who just smiled in her silent way. "I don't have you or Papa anymore." Again the smile was her answer. "That means that... I am the Queen." Those eyes that held warmth and understanding looked straight on; nothing had fazed the mother to the little girl. The sobs, harsh and hated sounded too horrid in the quiet expanse of the room. She was too young to have the burden of state thrust onto her shoulders. She was only eight years old.

"My Lady, don't cry." Came a soft voice from near the door. The young queen started violently and backed away, pulling her mother's blood soaked dress up to hide herself. Her gray eyes darted to the man that occupied the doorway. He was tall, muscular, and scared the girl to no end. She recognized him; he was the man that would care for her when she went riding in the countryside. She looked over to her dead guardian, but he did not rise to stop the man from coming to her and taking her hand. "Come here, Lady Charisma. The people need to meet their new Queen, and you do not want to be seen like that, do you? Remember what you mother said, 'The people need to know that no matter what happens there will always be a leader.' She trained you for this Charisma, and you owe it to her to find out who hired these assassins."

Charisma nodded and tilted her head up. Her hair was bathed in blood, the blood of those who loved her, who died by the hands of the swordsmen that lay on the floor. The guardians of the throne, all but hers, had given into the lure of gold, and had killed the king and queen while they sat on their thrones. Charisma was brought to them, but seeing the bloodbath made her guardian livid, and he had killed them, at the cost of his own life.

"Try to not think on it Charisma. You need to think on the good of the country now. You are the only one left." The guard looked down at his new Ward. He had an idea of who wanted the Royals dead, and was glad that the man himself was now dead. Unfortunately, the family had escaped. Gent was one who believed that as long as there existed one that knew the desires of their parents, the plot would continue and Charisma would never be out of danger from another attack again. "You need this, Charisma."

Gent's hand was behind his back and he pulled forth the small golden crown that she had seen only a few times. It was the coronation crown. The circlet of gold was plain, brushed lightly when it was hot to give it a feathered look. On the front was set an emerald, square and dainty. She knew that it would sit on her head while she swore to uphold the oath of her parents. To rule and uphold the traditions of her country and to never rest until the wrongs were righted. She would swear to be fair, and just, even when justice hurt. She would swear by the name of her Father, her Mother, and the Creator. She was no longer the Daughter, heir to the throne, but she was the Queen, the ruler, the guard of the Light and all that was good. The people of Epiphany would look to her as their leader, and she could not let them down.

Bition?s face was contorted in rage. He had seen the death of his father at the hands of the King?s guard. He did not know who told the Army that his father was trying to take back his rightful place on the throne, but the execution was a bloody one. His father?s headless corpse hung on the wall of his estates, beside the body of his older brother, Malice. He knew that he and his mother needed to get away from Epiphany, to begin again, and think of another way to come back and take the kingdom away from Valiant?s daughter, Charisma. No one had expected that the young brat would be the one to survive. Valiant and Charity must have had her guarded very well. In his young fifteen-year-old mind, a plan was forming. A saying that was common in Epiphany was that to know you enemy you had to see inside his mind and know his heart. In this case the enemy was an eight-year-old girl that would never know who her real enemy was.

Bition silently thanked his father for keeping him and his mother secret, and disappeared into the Shadowed Forrest towards the land of Nomad.

?Lady Charisma, please! You must hold still if I am to ever get this dress finished!? The long-suffering Perseverance looked at the young girl before her. She was no longer the small child that had assumed the throne eight years ago, but she was a vibrant young lady, full of life and excitement. The girl lived up to the name that the Epiphany, City of Revelation, had given her. She was full of inner charisma. Perseverance shook her head and smiled at her Lady.

Charisma smiled at the woman who had become like a second mother to her. Perseverance took it upon herself to see the young queen robed in the finest dresses and the most colorful gown ?But Perse! You should see the glorious day that it is outside! It is wonderful! I think I will have Gent ready Mist for a ride later today.

?That is all well and good, My Lady, but today is Naming day. You need to see to those duties first.? Perseverance laughed at the face that Charisma made and then her smile. The girl was precious, and had only become more so as she made her way into womanhood.

?Well, then! What are we doing just standing here! I am eager to get my hands on those beautiful babies! Aren?t they wonderful, Perse? I want a slew of children someday!? The girl twirled around in her half -finished gown, sending stick pen flying from the hem. Perseverance looked at Charisma with an exasperated look. ?You are enough to try anyone?s patience, child! Let?s see here? What about that one gown, the blue frock near the back, maybe you can wear it, and I?ll finish this rose crepe for your ball in a fortnight??

Charisma made a face, thinking to herself that she would rather skip the ball that was scheduled for her seventeenth birthday. She had dreams of spending that night in a wonderful bath, surrounded by bubbles and scents that would wash even the crown from her mind. ?The blue gown will be lovely, Perse. Here, I?ll grab it.? Charisma skipped off to her closet, walked to the back and pulled out the pale blue lace covered silk confection. The color made her eyes look like the sky after a hard rain, and it accented her slim features and raven black hair to perfection. It also set off the diamond diadem that signified her as the Queen of Epiphany. Whenever she held the crown in her hands she remembered her mother, and fought to remember how she lived, not how she died. It was the one thought that could bring Charisma?s face to a sullen frown. ?I should have been able to stop it somehow.? Her mind would think, but her heart knew that she could not have prevented her parent?s death.

Charisma walked out, and smiled to Perseverance. She spun and allowed the woman to unbutton her and help her get the other dress over her head. When the dress was settled, hair was brushed and fixed, the Crown was placed on her head, and the queen walked from her chambers, Guardian?s surrounding her to either side. Her Advisor, Lestrina Anovar from the far Land of the Dragon ? where the Savior of the world had come and saved them all ? fell in step beside her. She was far different from the people from Epiphany, or even from the people that lived on the Sanche Islands. She had magic that dwelt inside her, not embedded into the foundation of the city. Only in special cases could Lestrina summon her power to help the young Queen of the land. She had not been here when her parents were killed, but as one of Charisma?s first acts of state, she had made an alliance with the Land of the Dragon.

?Good morning, Queen Charisma. I trust the night was passed well? No troubling dreams?? As far back as Charisma could remember the woman had asked her about her dreams, and told her that there were meanings in some that could only be seen by one who knew how to tell. She had said that her powers in the Land of the Dragon were different, and that she thought it was what made the city so unique that quelled many of her powers.

?The only thing troubling, Lestrina, is that I dreamed of a man with a shadowed face. His voice was soft, but there was steel in his hand. A dream probably left over from stories Gent has been telling me all my life.? Charisma smiled at the man to her left. Gent was in his middle years now, but as quick as ever. He smiled to his Queen and reached for her hair.

?Gent, if you touch that hair after I worked so hard on it, I?ll have you scrubbing the floors for a month.? Perseverance squawked from her place behind the Queen. Charisma laughed, thoroughly amused by the two people who had raised her.

Lestrina smiled at the queen and walked on. She had not been to a naming Ceremony in a long time, and wondered what to expect from it. She remembered the first she had seen. The Queen, not more than twelve at the time was holding an infant in her arms as she walked up the steps to the center of the city. Once there she stood on a rock and closed her eyes. That the young girl was used to this was evident, and that she had been a part of this from before her parent?s death was also pressed upon Lestrina?s mind. The girl stood still, waiting, and then a smile would cross her face and she?d press a kiss to the infant?s forehead. She would turn to the assembled parents and tell them the name of their child ? the very character trait that the child?s life would follow. The naming day lasted deep into the afternoon, and occurred every three months. It was a time of celebration for the city, and a time that Charisma got to know her citizens.

When the celebration was done, Charisma went back to her chambers, thinking that there had to have been at least five hundred born this period, and changed into her riding habit. She pulled the diamond diadem from her head and replaced it with the golden crown that was for normal days. The sapphire in the center was for her personal color guard, blue and silver and the emeralds that surrounded it were for Epiphany itself.

?I am off for my ride now, Perse!? Charisma called as she waltzed through the doorway.

?Be careful child! And make sure Gent wears his coat!? The woman called after the Queen. ?Those two, if she could rule from the back of a horse she would.? She whispered as the door closed behind the monarch.

Bition looked out from the bushes. He knew that the Queen ? how that word twisted his mouth ? would be along very soon. If what he had planned worked, then this would be the moment he had planned for in the last eight years. He knew that her seventeenth birthday was approaching, and at that time she would have to announce that she was looking for a husband, and needed to be wed in the next year. He planned to sweep the girl off her feet, and force his way into the palace. Once wed, the King?s crown would be his, and his ?wife? would meet with an unfortunate accident.

His smile was shrewd. His name, Ambition, lived up to his persona, just as the rest off his family had. He remembered his father tell of his brother, Valiant, and how the royal decree fell to his brother just because his name ? given to him by the city ? was not the name of a King. Covetous was placed as head of the Royal estates still in Epiphany. Valiant was crowned, but everyone remembered the older brother that was passed over because of a name.

Bition looked toward the house that was just off the path. He had planned the events perfectly, hoping that everything went according to plan. His mother, Envy, should be even now setting up the dogs to spook Charisma?s mare. Bition knew that she would go riding after the Naming Celebration, and even knew that this was the path that she would take. He had been watching the Queen for many years, after he came back from Nomad.

Bition heard the scream and the pounding of hooves as the Queen and her gray mare came tearing around the bend. He spurred Avenger out of the bushes and took off after the woman. When he came up even with her, he jumped behind her, grabbed the bridle and pulled the horse to a stop. With one arm he held the Queen close and the other he steadied the mount. In his deep voice he soothed the animal, and tried to comfort Charisma. ?Easy now, its ok, you?re alright, both of you are. Come now, why don?t we dismount and calm you both down now?? He swung of, holding his hands up to assist Charisma from the back of the still dancing mare. He would have to ask Envy what she did to those dogs to make them scare the horse so bad. ?My Lady, are you alright??

?I? I am fine. Thank you, kind stranger. Might I be privy to the name of the man whom just saved the Queen?s reputation, if not her life?? Charisma smiled an enchanting smile, and Bition smiled one back. This guileless girl would be easy to trap.

?I am Virtuous, my Queen. Had I known I was rescuing the fair Charisma, I might have tried to be a bit more expedient in my capture of the runaway horse.? He smiled again at the woman and reached to set her crown right on her head.

It was at that moment that Gent came around the corner his horse, blowing, scratched, and bleeding. ?My Queen, are you alright??

?I am Gent. How fairs the woman that was being mauled by the bear?? Bition?s face blanched. That was not in the plans.

?She did not make it, my Queen. My Lord, forgive me, thank you for rescuing Lady Charisma, may I have your name??

?Just Virtuous, my good sir. The woman? was she fair haired with brilliant blue eyes?? His face was contorted in grief. He would hate to lose his mother, but maybe even this could be turned to his benefit.

?Yes, my Lord. She was at first struggling with some dogs that tore from her grasp and when we came around the bend, she was running from the bear. I slapped Mist to get the Queen to safety, and then tried to save the woman. I killed the monster, but I regret that I did not save the damsel.?

?I will forever wonder who she was.? Charisma mused, stroking Mist?s nose. She watched the stranger?s face, and knew that he knew more about the woman than anyone else.

?She was my mother.? He rasped. Charisma?s heart broke for him as she went to him, and tried to comfort him. Her tears stood on her cheeks, and she decided then and there that this man would come back to the palace with her. ?We lived in the cottage over there, and she told me that she was going to take the dogs to the pond, but, I went riding instead of going with her.? With tortured eyes he looked to Charisma, knowing that she was hooked, ?It?s my fault.?

?Nonsense Virtuous. It could have happened at anytime, at anyplace. Come, we are heading back to the palace; there you will find rest and lodging. Please, come, as a guest of mine, ?tis the least I can do for what you have done for me.?

?The offer warms my heart, my Queen, but I need to care for my mother?s remains.? Bition looked aggrieved as he said this.

?We will help you, my Lord. You alone can grieve, but for attendance on her final breath, we will be there for her as well. Then you will accompany us into Epiphany?s walls.? Gent told the man, a note of command in his voice. The stranger was oddly familiar, but Gent could not place him, nor would he question him so soon after the loss of his mother.

?You are both kind, I thank you, and the memory of my mother thanks you.?

Bition smiled as they crossed through the gates of Epiphany. His first phase had been a success even if h e lost his mother. He was in the palace, just a few paces from the Queen herself. He was accepted as a guest, and respected because he saved the beloved Queen?s life. It looked to him like he would have the throne in no time at all.

Charisma looked to the sky from her seat in her room. She smiled up at the stars and sighed. Perseverance had told her that one day she would find a man that made her heart turn over, and she thought that she had found just that man. Virtuous was kind and gentle, but hurting. She hoped that the time she had before her ball would be a benefit to both of them. She had in her mind that she was going to ask him to entertain the idea of seeing her on a personal level, not as a Queen.

Gent sat in his chair staring into the flames before him. Something was not right about the stranger that they had brought with them. His senses had gone off when he saw him holding Charisma in the forest, but the grief in the man?s eyes reminded him of the King when he had to order his own brother?s death. He looked to where his wife sat, rocking their infant son, Valor.

?Lestrina, I don?t know what it is I felt today, but I know there is some danger in him. Maybe your foreign powers will be able to sense in him what I cannot put my finger on.?

?All things will be revealed in time, my heart. This cannot be hidden from the Creator. Charisma has a good head on her shoulders, she will not act just based on her heart.?

?I hope you are right, my wife.?

Charisma leaned back from the kiss and smiled. Virtuous was a great kisser, one that made her feel like a cherished woman, not just a queen. His hand stroked the inside of her arm, as his eyes seemed to study her face. Twelve days after the ball held for her to declare that she was looking for a suitor, and she thought she had found the one that was meant to be her king. She smiled at Virtuous and broke the silence with a small clearing of her throat.

?You seem to be lost, my Lord.? Her silver sounding voice lilted.

?Not lost, just forever enchanted, my Lady.? Came the sweet response. Charisma wondered how long she had to wait before she could proclaim that she had viewed enough suitors, and had decided on Virtuous.

Bition sat and watched his cousin. He knew that his performance was flawless, and that she was in love with him. He was also glad that soon she would probably see what had to be done to make him her king. After that Bition planned to poison her slowly, making sure she knew who was killing her and why. He smiled at this and stroked Charisma?s arm again. There was a certain amount of joy in seducing his Father?s brother?s daughter; since she was the only living person left to take revenge on, her downfall would be magnificent. His biggest complaint was that Charisma would not let him get more than just a few kisses in, and because of the name he had chosen, he could not act on his primal desires for the beautiful woman he teased. He watched as her gaze slid away from him and the small frown that puckered on her smooth forehead.

?What is it, My Queen??

?There is a ship in the harbor; it?s flying a Dragon and a Golden Hawk. I think I need to return to the city, and go investigate the arrival.?

?But, Charisma, ships come and go all the time, this is just one more from the Land of the Dragon.?

?I know where it is from, Virtuous, but the Hawk? I don?t know, there is something about it that calls to me to go.?

Bition felt a stab of fear spiral through him. Long ago his mother, Envy had told him of the senses of destiny that Charity possessed, and had most likely passed on to her daughter. She told of when something was predestined to happen faced the former queen, that she had to do it, no matter who told her not to. Rumor was that on the day the Royals were killed, she ordered the formal crown be brought to her, and placed it on her head before telling the guards to do as they must. He had to convince Charisma that this same voice of destiny would leave Epiphany without a leader.

?Charisma, please, I know what you feel must be strong, but I don?t want to lose you. What if it is the same feeling your mother had right before her death?? Bition had seized her arms, trying to pull her back to the blanket that she was rising from.

?No, it isn?t a feeling of danger, but of peace and contentment. This is for the good of Epiphany. I need to go, Virtuous, let me go, and walk with me back to the palace so I can change and find out who is visiting.? Charisma was disgruntled at the feelings that rolled into her. She felt that the Hawk was a pivotal point in her life, that all good would come from there, yet beside her sat the man that she fancied and wanted to make her king. Would the crown make her chose between her heart and the good of the City? She was relieved when Virtuous nodded and stood, held his arm to her and escorted her back to the palace. She left him at the entryway, called for her secretary and Lestrina and headed up to her chambers.

Lestrina was waiting her in her chambers, smiling brightly with joy dancing in her eyes. ?My Queen.? She said quietly.

?What has you fairly bursting, Lestrina?? Charisma asked as she went to the closet and pulled a golden dress slashed with a royal blue. She shook it, laid it on the bed and allowed Perseverance to unbutton the back of her gown.

?A messenger just came from a ship in the harbor, the one ? I assume ? that brought you in from your picnic. There is a missive announcing that Ventan Dragoran, Prince of the Malkins in the Land of the Dragon, has come to pay tribute to the Queen of the Sanche Islands.? Lestrina hid back what the other message that was delivered from the Tamyr of the Joint Magicks also told her of an evil that resided in the City and that if it was manifested that the world would face a change that not even the Dragon could save them from. It also told that Ventan was a Wizard of high caliber and skill, that he could read the pattern, and knows what needed to be done when the evil was faced. Lestrina knew where the evil was, but she had no proof, and the Queen was protecting him.

?Why is this exciting for you? I have met many nobles from the Land of the Dragon. Queens from Alistar, kings from Salincia, and High Lords from Truru. What does this prince have that the others didn?t??

?I am Malkin, My Queen. It makes me happy that I will be able to talk to someone that knows of the things I remember from long ago.? No word false, but not the whole truth either. A Sorceress? path was often tricky.

?Then I am happy for you, Lestrina. Tell me something, I had a feeling today? one that made me think that this man?s coming would change the direction of Epiphany. It did not frighten me, but excite me. After I saw the Golden Hawk, I had to come, even though Virtuous didn?t want me too. Should I be scared, Lestrina?? Charisma, even at seventeen, was a child in need of direction only a mother could give. Perseverance brushed the long black hair off her queen?s forehead and gave her a quick kiss there before sweeping the locks up into a mass of curls and pearls.

Lestrina smiled, ?No, my Queen. It is in your name and in your blood to see change as an exciting adventure to be grasped and experienced, not ran from. I remember Ventan from long ago, and even then he was kind and gentle, sweet in nature and manner. You will not need to worry about him, but I do wonder why Virtuous did not want you to meet the ship?? Lestrina placed a seed of doubt carefully, watching as Charisma?s brow furrowed in thought. She straightened as soon as Perseverance placed the diamond diadem in her hair and turned to the other two women.

?Well, do I look good enough to meet the Prince of Malkin?? Her smile was youth?s embodiment and her life shone in her eyes. She still felt that this meeting was a turning point in her life, and she was ready to see where that river would lead her.

?You are stunning, Child.? Perseverance said as she shook her head. ?Let?s hope this prince has a strong heart, or it will crumble at one site of you.?

Charisma smiled as she turned and exited the door, Lestrina at her side, to go to the carriage that would take her to the water?s front.

Bition slammed the door to his chambers and strode over to the window, jerking off his cloak as he moved. He didn?t know what was going on, but somehow Charisma felt farther than she had when he lived in Nomad. He did not understand this, and knew that he was not going to let his plans end because of some Golden Hawk.

?Avarice, I need you to go, get your brother and his friends together. I might need to make some things happen that will ensure that I have Charisma.? He turned form the man who had once served as his father?s man, a hard person to find and smiled.

Avarice was willing to do most things for money, if not for sentiment. Since Charisma had been the Queen, it was harder to make a living from darker forms of employ. For eight years he had kept watch on Charisma and the city and reported it to Bition and Envy. He nodded to Bition and hurried off to gather his ?friends? to see what could be done about this undesirable turn.

Ventan sat in the chair in the master cabin on board the Flying Heron. He knew that soon he?d get an invitation to the palace and he?d find out what he was here to find out. To see if the visions lie about destiny, or if the imagination was a powerful as he thought it was. Ventan remembered well going through the vision test, ?seeing? his future wife, long raven hair streaming down her back with a diamond crown on her head. She was not Malkin, nor was she wearing the decorations a Malkin wife would wear. She was vivacious, laughing, a bright spot in a dark time.

Ventan?s heart choked when he remembered the face of the man that killed her in his test. His face was contorted in race, but the hair was the same raven black color as his wife?s. He remembered him shouting about plans that would be completed, for his father and for him. His cry was ?Ambition? as he ran his sword through the heart of the woman. Ventan shuddered at the vivid memory that time had not succeeded in fading. It was then that he heard the commotion from above, thinking that the messenger had arrived he stood and proceeded to the deck of the ship. Ventan?s head popped up right when the First Captain started down the galley stairs.

?Pardon, Ventan, the Queen of Epiphany wants me to pipe her aboard, and I wanted to know if you wanted to be topside to meet her, or if you want me to send her to you?? The man looked like he had never seen a woman before, so sharp were his motions and his eye twitched. Ventan knew Darmin well, and knew that the man was never this jumpy, not even in the middle of the roughest storm.

?Permission granted. Let me get at the wheelhouse, Darmin, then you can lower the gangplank.? Ventan walked near to the Wheelhouse and nodded to Darmin. He stood to his full height of close to six and a half feet and wondered what manner of noble woman this was to come to a ship to greet a guest. He watched as the first person to crest into view was a man, hardened look to his face marked him as a warrior, perhaps of the crown it?s self, since he wore a crest with a wave topped with a crown encircling a rock. The next person made him smile. Lestrina was as pretty as the day she was when she left Malkin nine years ago. His Aunt was a Sorceress, by birth and by bearing. Lertrina was one that told the young Ventan that he played an important part in the pattern, and to not worry about changes that would occur. Two yeas later, at the age of twelve, he discovered he could wield the elements. His parents sent him off to train at the Joined Magics. He learned to control what was inside of him and to read what he saw because of who he was. He did not see things as in auras, but it was as if he could feel the lace of the pattern weaving about him. She smiled, came over to him, kissed him on either cheek and tossed his hair like she did when he was younger.

?You have grown my nephew. The Tamyr has kept me posted on your progress, I am proud of you. At only nineteen you have made a name for yourself as a successful Wizard. Now, the queen will be up in a moment, but I asked her to give me a few minutes to counsel you. Epiphany its self is shielded in someway that my magical abilities are not always allowed to work. I don?t know if it is the same for you, but I wanted to prepare you if it was. I can still call the elements, but I cannot conjour things such as a fireball, or a lightening bolt. I can make it rain and heal, but things meant for destruction cannot be called. You need to know this for your quest. Now, it is time for you to meet the Queen.?

Ventan smiled at his aunt and turned to the gangplank again. He stood with his shoulders back, hands at his side, but not looking too uncomfortable, just at attention. What he first noticed was the rich black hair that was pulled back, but still hung down her back. The white pearls were in deep contrast to the raven locks that held them captive. The face that was under that rich hair was the face that haunted and delighted him when he dreamed. Her mouth was a soft red, curved into a sweet smile. Her eyes were a gray, but not somber as his gray eyes were, but dancing. It was the face that even in death was sweet; it was the woman he knew was going to be his wife. She moved with the grace that could not be taught, just mastered. She came up the walkway, headed straight for Ventan and curtsied, not too deep, since she was a Queen and him a prince.

?My Lord, welcome to the Sanche Islands and to the City of Epiphany. May you find favor with all you meet, and may your stay be peaceful.? Charisma looked at the prince, marveling at his height and his bearing. She was captivated by him, and something in her heart cried out to him, but she tried to shake it off. Not long ago she was in the arms of Virtuous, thinking that he was the one to be her king. She had to think with her mind, not her heart. She was the queen, and had to hold to a higher authority. She was almost totally unnerved when the man studied her face and seemed to be reading her soul. She watched as he knelt at her feet, one hand pressed to the deck, the other capturing her hand and bringing it to his lips. The kiss he pressed to it was a courtly kiss, but it warmed Charisma?s heart.

?Your welcome and hospitality warm my heart, Queen Charisma. I come to you on behalf of the United Land of the Dragon and in the name of the Tamyr, Aamondred Estovar, son of the Dragon. I am here to counsel and guide you if needed, and protect you with my life. My blade is yours, Charisma n?Charity t?Valiant.?

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Posted: 08-Dec-2003, 05:05 PM
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Celtic Guardian

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Charisma sat on the ledge of her window, high above the city. Her legs were swinging as she looked down into her private courtyard. Her mind was roaming in several directions this day, and the solace of her window ledge, the exhilarating height and the dangerous aspect always seemed to steady her nerves. Her face was furrowed with a frown, her forehead puckered in thought as her gray eyes caressed the sky like a long lost lover.

Her sigh was quiet, but it disturbed the small bird that was perched in her lap. It cooed and looked up at her. ?How can I decide my future, the fate of my country, based on feelings alone? I felt that I love Virtuous, but something in my heart keeps putting him on trial. I feel that my future is somehow connected to Ventan, yet I have no reason or basis for that belief. I don?t know him, nor do I know of him. They are both very magnetic in personality, but there is something hidden about each of them.? The dove cocked its head to one side, then the other, cooed again and flapped its wings. Charisma laughed and held her hands up and let the bird fly away.

It was the musical laughter from far above that made Ventan look up. Seeing Charisma a thousand feet up, sitting on a window?s ledge made his heart constrict. He was afraid she?d fall, or get shoved, and he had to restrain from shouting up at her. Yet another side of him could not help but revel in her beauty and her carefree charm. She sat, queen of the Sanche Islands, in a homespun muslin dress of green, hair pulled back in a loose clip that allowed the breeze to play with the tendrils that escaped. Her feet were bare and swinging as she leaned forward on her hands to survey the sky.

Gently, Ventan conjured a platform of air beneath her feet, allowing it to lightly brush them. It startled her enough to make her look down. He smiled up at her and again he wove a spell that took his voice to her without booming over the whole courtyard. ?I heard you laugh, and saw you sitting there, and I just wanted to see if you?d like to fly like that bird. You?d have to trust me, I wouldn?t let any harm come to you.?

He watched as Charisma cocked her head, staring at him. He could feel her eyes weighing him, puzzling at him, and then coming to her own conclusions. Slowly she stood. To the world it looked as if she was standing on nothing, but to him it looked as if she was standing on cables of air, woven so tightly that nothing could penetrate it. He pulled the platform of air out, and slowly made it descend. She laughed, stretched her arms out to the sides and tossed her head back. He smiled and laughed with her as he brought the platform to the ground. Her eyes were shinning as she looked into his. The soft gray eyes melted into the hardened gray ones, but they were not hard in anger, nor were they completely emotionless as she first thought. There were lights in his eyes, dancing lights and a small smile in them as well. It was only then that she realized that her hands were on his shoulders. She snatched them down and took a step back.

?I was enjoying the draw of you eyes, but I think you stepping back is a good thing, My Lady,? he said in a slightly breathless voice. His hands had felt right on her waist, and his memories of the visions knew how she felt, and what her kisses tasted like.

She smiled at him, blushed, and then recovered. ?Would you like to have a look around the city?? She watched as he took in her appearance. ?I can change if you wish.?

?I was just wondering if it would hurt your feet to walk barefoot around.? He looked down at her small feet as she wiggled her toes.

?I love walking around barefoot. I?ll be fine.?

Together they set off, heading in the direction of the City?s source of magic, the Naming Stone. Ventan was impressed to see that even in the Queen?s state of dress, and without her crown that the people bowed to her and some waved. A regiment of the guard made move to follow till she waved them to stay. The captain followed, but he was the only one. Ventan watched as she stopped by several vendors and talked to them about their livelihood, not just as a Queen, but as one interested in what they were doing. Finally arriving at the Stone, Charisma walked up and stood on the base. She brushed her hand across the stone and turned to face Ventan.

?This is the Naming Stone. It names the children of the city according to their hidden virtues, and future personalities. Some wonder is the stone prophetic, or do the parents raise the child to fit the name. Come, stand by me.? She wasn?t sure this would work, but she hoped that it might give her a clue as to his character.?

Wondering what exactly the Stone was, Ventan stepped up, conjured a weave of earth and felt a resonance from it. His eyes widened as he realized it was an amplifier of magic, a powerful one. Releasing his hold on the magic he stepped towards Charisma and she took his hand. Her eyes closed and a tingling chill swept over him. He felt Charisma shiver the same way and knew she felt it too.

The feeling passed and Ventan looked at her, eyes wide, breath shallow and sporadic. Her eyes were large and her hand trembling. She looked at him and whispered ?Zealot.?

He was entranced by her eyes, they were distant, looking into his soul, discovering things about him that he did not know or that he had not before seen in himself. The mysteries that he kept seemed to come forward with that one word. He could not seem to look away, as if the spell of the rock held him there. His mouth opened to tell her that he meant her no harm and that his zeal was correctly places. But that is not what came forth.

?I have come to kill a threat to our people, he will not stop, and in so doing, I might take away one that you love. I don?t wish to hurt you, but I might have to take you out of the equation. I know the face of the man, and I know the face of your killer. If I do not stop him, you will die. If you die, the Sanche Islands will perish, and if they perish, then the Dragon Lands will die.?

Charisma looked deeper into his soul. ?There is still something you are not saying.?

?You are my wife, pledged to me by your father and mother on the day of your birth. It is recorded in the books of my people, and of yours; even more so, it is written on the bedrock of the City. ?With Zeal the land is made whole?.?

She gasped at the realization that the prophecy had been fulfilled, and that the choice was no longer hers to make. She broke the connection with the stone that sent them both reeling to the ground. The Captain of the Guard came and picked her up. Ventan took her from the man?s arms and cast a small spell of healing into her. ?I am sorry, my love, that you are shocked by this, I was too, when I was told that I was coming on this journey to meet my wife. I also know that you were not told of this, but that you felt drawn to me from the beginning. I felt it too, and my heart has been returned to me. I watched you die in my vision test, and my heart bled in anger and hurt. I will protect you forever, my heart.?

Two Days had passed since the man had landed on Epiphany?s shores, and two days had passed since the Queen had time to walk in the park or picnic on this hill with Bition. His mind was in torment and his anger boiled in his stomach, threatening to choke him with every breath. Two days had passed and Avarice had not been in contact with him. With a raged yell he smashed his fist into the headboard of the bed. Thinking that he might have broken his hand on the solid oaken creation he examined the appendage.

?With a temper like that, you are never going to woo the Queen.? The voice was one he would know anywhere, the slight biting tone that trained him in the ways of scandal and deceit. He turned and beheld the specter that was before him. Cloaked in the darkness of night, his mother was translucent, shimmering with a bluish glow.

?Mother, what has brought you here?? He was shocked at seeing her, knowing that she could deathwalk was one thing, but actually seeing her after her death was another. Part of him wanted to tremble in fear, the other part rejoice that the mistress of schemers was still with him.

?Well, my son, it looked to me like you were losing the ground you had made with the brat, and I decided that you needed more than just Avarice?s help. They await you in the countryside, I told him not to come into the city. You will need him to attack the city, and when you raise up and lead the battle against him, killing them then the kingdom would come to you, and call for you to be their king.?

?Brilliant! She will have to do what the people want her to do, Epiphany before all else.? Bition?s laughter echoed into the night as his mother faded away with a smile on her face. She might not have lived to see her son on the throne, but in her death, she would make sure it happened.

Avarice sat silent as Bition stormed into camp. He knew better than to speak when his lord was like this. He knew that there was a plan for him to lead the army of Epiphany against them, and that they would sacrifice themselves so that Bition could take the throne. The dead Envy had come back to tell him of these plans. So he wondered what had the man in a huff now.

?She spent all day with him. I wasn?t even able to get close enough to tell her of the army that waits in the forest. How am I supposed to get her to give me the lead of the army if I do not even get to tell her it is there?? His eyes were blazing and spittle formed on his lips. Bition swiped his hand across them and stopped. He knew that he sounded like a jealous lover, and in part he was, he had been the one that had captivated Charisma until this man showed up. Now all his plans for killing her had begun to evaporate.

Avarice watched him pace, silently drawing a knife across a stone. ?Go to her chamber after all have gone to bed. Tell her that you heard rumor that the army is here under this Ventan?s command and that the target is the Capitol it?s self. She will listen, because she knows it would be foolish not to. She?d send scouts out to discover the nature of this army, and every man knows who to say the leader is. She?d throw him out and you could lead the war against us. When the tide looks right we can crush them and take the city.?

?Good, good, I will go now to tell her.? Bition?s eyes gleamed as he headed for the palace. Avarice shook his head, wondering if this man would be sound enough to take over. No matter, he planned on his death in the battle anyway.

Charisma sat on the grass, on the hill near the Naming Stone. She looked up at Ventan, at Zealot and knew in her heart he spoke the truth. This was the man that she was destined to marry. Her heart was thrilled, but confused. Some of the things he said seemed to make no sense to her. She decided she wanted answers. It was still early in the day, and she felt the need to not return to the city to get them.

Charisma watched Ventan study the stone. Every once in a while she thought she heard a hum of some sort, and then he would step back and just stare at it again. Finally with a shake of his head he turned back to Charisma. She smiled softly and brushed the hair out of her face. ?Not even your aunt could figure it out. It is a power of some sort, older than the island itsself.?

?I was thinking it had to come from the The Old Age. I knew that it dated before the War of the Dragons. There are some things that I discovered that my aunt did not know. It is a magical amplifier that forces the truth to be spoken and what is said under the stone is binding, for both. You are a good ruler because you have been bound to your people by their names and their characters. You know parts of their hearts and know when they are speaking the truth or when they are lying. It is a powerful thing, and one that you are blessed by, Charisma.?

Ventan watched as she blushed when he used her given name. Slowly he lowered himself to the ground beside her. He reached forward and unclasped the clip that held her hair back. It tumbled down around her shoulders. His hand gently picked some up and held it in his hands. ?Lavender with a touch of spice.? He said after he inhaled. ?So long that fragrance haunted my dreams.?

?How did you know me? How did you know who I?d be and how I die?? Charisma moved back from him a little bit. She trusted him now, and knew his heart as he said, but there were so many unanswered questions that she wanted to know the answers to.

Ventan?s gaze took a far off light to it as he leaned back on his hands. ?It was five years ago when I tool my test to be a apprentice to the Magics. The two divisions of the god and goddess had been joined and the test for dedication is the same as the test for the acceptance. There are three wizards and sorceresses and when you cross over the lines they make you fall into a trance and discover your fears and pathways, of the past present and the future. By rite, no one talks about them. The fears and what happens in them are your own. But I will tell you about mine.

?I stood trembling naked before Aamondred, the Tamyr. Only then he was not the Tamyr, he was the master of students. We were heading to the testing chamber where I was to be given the first of three chances to complete the test. I did not refuse and under the attentions of the Mistress of the Coven and the Combined channeling of the Sisters and Brothers I entered the first trance. The first was for what was? there was only one way back, and that was to learn the lesson that you are meant to discover.

?Almost immediately I was home among the fields and flowers of Malkin. The lakes were as beautiful as a pearl necklaces and the hills as proud as a garrison of men. I was home, for the first time in three years I was home. I ran laughing towards the palace keep to meet my mother and father, Keren and Thorin Dragoran. When I got to the keep, the doors were off the hinges and blood covered the halls. The heads of my parents greeted me in fixed dead smiles. I was horrified, and I assumed a meditative technique called the emptiness as quickly as I could. I sensed someone behind me and turned. There was a horde of creatures cresting over the hills in a wave. I knew that there were people in the city, and I wanted to save them, but at that moment that shimmering door appeared. I had to leave or be trapped in the nightmare forever.

?When I was out, I was comforted and told the lesson was learned that one man can?t change the past, but could affect the future. Back into the trance I went, coming face to face with the fears of the present. In this one I was still in training, awaiting my raising to the level of Wizard and to my clan of choice. I had past the tests of both the Council and of the Hall. The Amyr and the Tamyr had conferred me and it was time for my presentation to the Pen and the band. I stood before all, head up and proud. I knew I had worked hard for this day, and I knew that the band would be Blue, I was a prince and causes and politics interested me greatly. I was destined to lead, and I knew that the Blue Clan would help guide me in that pursuit. There was a cheer as the seven of us stepped up to be presented with our shawls or bands and when it was my turn I discovered that they had decided that I was evil and was to be punished by death. I knew I was not a evil, but no one would listen. I then saw a light, and knew if I could get to the doorway I would be free. I fell back, fighting, killing several of my friends along the way. Crying I stepped though to feel cold dread fall over me. This was just the second trance, the third and worst was still to come. I was told the lesson was that there is evil in all men, but the desire to fight that evil was what kept a man pure.?

Ventan paused His cheeks were streaked with tears, and Charisma?s were too. He wiped her tears away, and placed a kiss on her lips. It was reminiscent of the next part that he had to tell, so much so that he shivered. ?The next trance was the worst. It told the future. I didn?t want to know, but I couldn?t stop. I stepped through and stood right where we sit now. You were wearing a diamond studded diadem, the one you wore when you greeted me on the boat. In your arms you held a child, one that had just been named.? Ventan smiled. ?He had your eyes and my hair. His name was Chaste. I held our daughter, Purity and was coming to see you back to the city. That is when the man came charging over the hill. You had given Chaste to Perseverance, and when you saw the man you whispered ?Virtuous? and ran stepped in front of your servant and son. I conjured the wind and the earth, tring to stop him, but his lance pierced you through your heart. I killed him, and tried to heal you. When I felt that I was almost there, the doorway appeared. In my mind I could see the times we had shared and the love we had. I saw our past, our future, our children, but I knew I had to go back. I screamed at the Creator to let me heal you, but I felt you die, I knew the moment you took your last breath. I left the trance cursing the Tamyr and the Amyr. They had to block me from the magics to keep me from tearing the testing room apart. I hated them; I hated me. I told myself it wasn?t true, that it was some sort of dream, but I could never forget your face. I have loved you for five years, loved you as a lost love, even though I had never met you. You are my heart, and the day I saw you on the ship was the day I began to live again.?

Charisma leaned forward and kissed him, a long tender kiss, with so much feeling and passion that she knew that she was not being robbed of a choice, but being given the world.


"Yes, My Queen?" The man stepped forward, quickly brushing his cheeks.

"You will hold this story to you, and never tell it again."

"Yes, my Queen."

"What is your name, solider?" Ventan asked.

The captain looked at him. "Discretion, Sir.?

Charisma smiled. Names could tell a lot about a person. ?I also issue an arrest warrant on Virtuous. If he comes within the City he is to be taken and put to the question. I want to be notified when he is taken.?

?Yes, my Queen. We need to go back now, My Lady, My lord. The lunch hour is fast approaching.?

Ventan turned Charisma to him. ?Tonight, will you marry me??

?I will.?
Bition walked his horse slowly towards the gates of town. He could hear the music and the celebration from within and wondered what was going on. He could not think of any festival that Epiphany would be celebrating, so he curiously walked to the gates.

"Halt in the name of the Queen and King. You are under arrest, Virtuous, otherwise known as Ambition t'Covetous. The King has ordered you hanged." Gent was standing there, righteous anger in his eyes as he lowered his lance to the heart of the man before him.

"No!" Was Bition's yell as he spurred his horse away from the man. His horse galloped, but he heard hooves pounding behind him. The horses of Epiphany were legends for their speed and strength. He flattened himself on the beast's back and tried to urge him on faster. He did not know how they discovered his true identity, nor did he care to stay around and find out. He knew that the army was just over the hill, if he could just get to them.

Bition was surprised when a volley of arrows rained down over his head. He noticed the pounding of the hooves lessen and he sighed in relief as he urged his lumbering beast onward. "Foul beast, least I should have done was steal a horse from the stables, you aren't worth the fleas that have eaten on you."

The beast shook his head and snorted, when Avarice walked up to the would-be king. "I am guessing that you learned the hard way that Charisma married Ventan this evening in a royal wedding that was arranged upon her birth."

"You pig! You should have told me! I barely escaped with my neck intact." Bition snatched the brandy flask that the man carried, tossed his head back and drained the brown liquid in several harsh gulps.

"I just learned of it from one of my men that I had on the inside. You had already left, and I was riding to tell you." Avarice was not in the least sorry. If there was a chance that Bition died, all the more for him. Carefully Avarice pulled out a knife and kept it concealed by his side. When Bition went to push past him, Avarice drove the knife into his heart to the hilt.

Blood bubbled around the knife and foam seemed to instantly form at his lips. "Why?" he croaked.

"Because, my son, you never looked past revenge." Came a female voice from behind Avarice. The woman took form, her willowy frame and golden blonde hair and blue eyes stood mocking him.


Charisma trembled in anticipation as Lestrina and Perseverance fluffed the white royal wedding gown that had served several generations of royal brides. The diamond diadem was placed on her head and a filmy white veil fell in a gauzy wave down her back. The dress was white frilled with diamonds and pearls that came from the city and the ocean around Epiphany. Her hand played with the blue diamond ring that Ventan had slipped on her hand when they arrived back at the palace. Her memory wandered back to that time...

"It was my mother's ring, and her mother's before that. My great great grandmother knew the Savior Dragon and aided him in his battle against the shadow. It is said that the Dragon gave it to her. My mother told me to give this to you and to tell you that they love you already, and to visit when we could." Ventan looked at his future bride with love in his eyes. He felt that he was being given a second chance to protect her from the horrible death he had not been able to prevent before.

"I'll wear it with honor, my lord." Charisma said with a wink. "But if we expect the palace to be ready for a wedding, we best tell them."

When they arrived back at the city the bells were pealing and the citizens were greeting them in the streets. Ventan's laugh flew to Charisma's ears and she faced him in shock. "My aunt... she can eavesdrop with the power if you have something of hers on. That pin you wear, was it he's?"

Charisma laughed and nodded. She no longer had to worry about the preparations of the wedding; they had been taken care of.

"I do believe we have lost her to dreams of the future." Perseverance teased as she playfully snapped her fingers in front of Charisma's face. The happy smile that wreathed the woman's face showed them that she had no fear of this whilwind courtship, and that she was happy to become Charisma Dragoran.
?Did he tell you why the royal title was added to his name so early?" Charisma shook her head no, and Lestrina continued. "When your parents died, and the people of Malkier heard of it, they grieved for their princess, you. After the morning period, even though the two of you were not yet married, Ventan was raised to the status of King of the Sanche in the council. He spoke for you when they met, read your words and prevented people from coming over in hordes. Now you are honoring him by placing his name ahead of yours. Oh, I can?t wait to see the children you two bring into this world.?

A blush creeped over Charisma's features and Perseverance hugged her. "You'll be fine, my dear, you'll be fine."

"And late if we don't move."

Ventan paced before the High Chancellor that smiled down at him. He didn't understand all that had transpired that day, but he was anxious to be able to hold Charisma as he had longed to do again since his arches. The hall was filled with people from the city, nobles and commoners alike. The High Chancellor was a stand in since the Queen could not perform this ceremony. Music struck up as Charisma started down the isle to him. All tension was gone as he stood transfixed at her beauty. He smiled at her and she returned it. Together they turned to pledge their life to the Creator, the Light, and to each other. They promised to rule together in honesty, justice and fairness. They had just kissed when trouble seemed to errupt around them.

Charisma would not know until much later the events that transpired on the night of her wedding to Ventan. All she knew is that during the celebration, there was an uproar that would take her from her husband?s side the entire night.

They were proclaimed husband and wife, king and queen, and then presented to their people. The cheer was thunderous, and the warmth that exuded from their people was overwhelming. Charisma swayed into her husband, and he held her tight, giving a kiss to her forehead. He thought that the festivities were getting to her, and smiled down at his bride. She looked up at him with an anxious face.

?Someone has harmed the city.? She said in a low voice.

A frown puckered Ventan?s forehead. He looked around and caught the eye of Gent. Gent shook his head, and Ventan knew that Ambition had not been captured. ?Come, my Queen, let us retire and discuss what you have felt.?

Charisma smiled valiantly up into her husband?s face, acting the part of the radiant bride. The people cheered as they made their way to the great staircase in the middle of the Grand Hall. They waved and kissed and finally made it to the top where they turned the corner and headed towards the master suites. Charisma again swayed on her feet and Ventan caught her up in his arms. Gent and Lestrina were waiting for them. This would not be a tender night spent getting to intimately know each other. This night would be one where they tried to save the nation.

?What have you felt, Child.? Lestrina asked. Her voice, soft and soothing, her eyes gentle and hard at the same time bore into Charisma?s eyes, almost as if she was reading a scroll.

?I have felt a piercing, as if something has happened to strike at the city. There will be a fight, a battle, and the victor will hold what is left. If the victor is the right side, the Island will survive, if the wrong side wins, the Island will fall into the sea.? Charisma?s voice held a singsong pitch as she spoke these words. Ventan knew that she was able to see this because of her connection to the stone of the city. He also knew what n o one said. If the city fell, if it was conquered and the stone did destroy the city, Charisma would be dead.

?That will not happen.? Ventan said in a hard voice. He stroked Charisma?s hair and turned to Gent. ?Assemble your men, and call on the reserves. The true attack will come in the night. Call for the city to douse the lights, and act as if the city is in slumber. Tell the guards to place a clay pot over their torches, and to be ready for my command.? Gent pressed his fist to his heart and briskly walked off. Ventan turned to his aunt. ?Lestrina, find my men. What you will find is not just sailors, but the best Wizards the Magics could afford to send. On my premonition and on the foretelling of the Amyr, the Tamyr sent me with troops to vanquish any foe.? Lestrina curtseyed to the King and walked towards the quarters the men were given. ?My wife,? Ventan turned to his wife who stood like a statue staring at the man she had just married. Her face was blank, but he could almost read her thoughts. ?I will not tell you to stay behind. I might be King, but you are the heart of your people. But remember while you are out there, you are also my heart.? He laid his hands on her forehead and conjured a powerful spell that took all the elements to form. It was a bond, of sorts. A bond between a husband and a wife. This bond allowed him to feel her and her to feel him. It allowed him to know she was safe and unharmed. It also allowed him to share his strength with her. She gasped as her realization of him and his feelings dawned on her. Her gray eyes flew up to his gray eyes and questioned him. ?It is the last part of the wedding. Normally a Wizard would do this when the wedding was consummated, but I want to know where you are in the battle we have ahead of us.? He kissed her passionately. When he broke off the kiss he looked above him, ?There is time?? He murmured as he scooped up his bride and took her towards the bed.

?No, my heart.? She spoke, the first time since they had gone to the master chambers. ?I want the whole night with you, not a quick fling just to go to battle.? She blushed, ?I want my first time to be sweet and long lasting.? Ventan?s hands caressed her face and trailed down her neck. He tilted her chin up and placed a kiss on her lips.

?As you command, my Queen.? His voice husky with emotion spoke. The next moment, the door opened, and the council of war resumed. The King and Queen often looked at each other, sharing a thought, feeling, or desire, but they had to place the nation first.

Envy smiled down at the prone form of her dead ?son?. She had told him from birth that he was hers, but the lie was no longer needed. Ambition was not blood of her blood, but the son of her nemesis. Covetous? wife had two sons, but she had spurned the other one to raise. Bition knew that Malice was his older brother, but he did not know that they shared a mother and a father. Avarice was Envy?s true son, but not by Covetous. Envy was not just a mistress to the once could have been king, but also to a man that had decided to overthrow the monarchy with Envy?s help. Strife had no reason to want the monarchy, other than to create conflict. He had been banished from the kingdom long ago during Valiant?s reign. She looked at her true son and smiled. ?He served his purpose, and has now joined his family. Now, come, let us go and prepare for the true attack.?

Avarice smiled coldly at his mother?s ghostly form. She had been granted leave by the Lord of the Underworld to again walk among man. The groups of people gathered were ones of the land of Nomad, and also some others from the Halls of death. Envy smiled a pale bloodless smile as she surveyed her army.

?The great Lord has commanded us to fight this battle, and to destroy the rulers, not only of this land, but also the land across the ocean. We are the New Dark Army. The Lord of the Underworld has found a way to span the gap, if only for a time, of death and life. The very stone that protects this city also allows us to walk again the roads of men. Be warned though. A second death will not be recovered from. Once we take Epiphany, we can be brought back, not only as spirits and specters, but also in flesh and blood again.? Envy paused to allow the cheer to die away. She nodded her head and snarled. ?We march.?

Human and Spirit, the army moved forward. Never had such a terrible force been faced on the shores of the Sanche Islands. The walking dead seemed to glide forth as the vile offenders rode on the backs of disheveled horses. The march was long, but not undetected. Envy knew the moment that Charisma felt the attack challenge on her city. The ground almost moaned as death walked across its chest. When they arrived at the walls of Epiphany Envy smiled and Avarice cackled in glee. The city was dark. Charisma in her youth must have expected the attack to come at dawn. The orders were given and the ghoulish army advanced upon the walls of the city.

A shout, a battle cry, sounded and then lights poured from the torches of the Epiphany army. Envy snarled in pain, as the light seemed to burn non-existent flesh. Her death army shied back as the onslaught came. Men in black coats with multicolored armbands advanced into the army she and Avarice had assembled. Bodies flew away from where the men pointed, and the second death came to many of her spirit warriors. Had the Lord of the Underworld betrayed them? Had he known that they would have been tossed about like dolls in the mouth of mastiffs? She turned to retreat when a man strode forth to confront her. She snarled; she had to fight this one. It was Ventan, the new king of Epiphany. He was connected to the death of Charisma. If she could kill him, then the Island would still be theirs. Envy lashed out, her ?hands? wrapping themselves around the heart of the King. His eyes bulged and his hands came up. He seemed to try and do something, but she squeezed tighter.

Charisma watched behind a line of her men. She had a bow on her back and a sword in her hand. She was not deep in the battle, but she was where her army could see her. She could feel her husband fighting and advancing. There were times when it was a distant feel, as if he was underwater, then he would come back and be strong again.

Charisma turned her horse in the direction her husband was fighting and peered off that direction. She knew that his army fought a different type of foe, and somehow the restriction of the stone that placed itself on Lestrina did not extend to the men. Fire burst from their hands, and lightening struck into the hearts of the ghostly looking figures. She recognized several of the pale specters as people who were put to death for treason, or for murder. Others she had no clue who they were.

Pain squeezed at Charisma?s heart, only it wasn?t her, she knew it was Ventan. ?Oh no!? She gasped and spurred her horse in the direction of his fight.

?My Queen!? Came the shout of her guard as she healed her mare into a fast pace. She covered the ground, not diverting to fight or to reach out to her people. It was not like her, but then she had not felt this type of pain before in one she loved. When she arrived to the place where a ghostly specter held her hand in her husband?s chest Charisma screamed. ?You shall not have him, Death!?

The woman?s face contorted, and transformed. A blacked haired man with cold black eyes now stood before her. His eyes were cold and hard, his toothy smile held not warmth. She knew who he was, the Lord of the Underworld. Charisma wanted to shake in fear, but she remained calm. She found herself floating in peace, and in her heart, in her mind she reached out to the stone. It had a protection against evil, and in the face of Death, she needed that protection. She held out her hands to either side of her and Death came towards her, dropping the hold he had on her husband. She prayed to the Creator and the Dragon that the Light would be on her side.

Death could not believe his luck. He had ridden in the mind and ?body? of Envy, hoping that he would be called out so he could assume his true form. When the very girl he sought to kill called him to face her, he took over. He knew that by doing so, he killed Envy; she was but a small loss. He was free, and ready to kill and take over what should have been his in the Last Battle. He could see by the light glittering in the young girl?s eyes that she was connected with the last great work of the Old Age. It was a magic older than time itsself that allowed the one bound to it to ferret out the truth, but it was also a powerful agent in the hands of one who knew how to use it. It would pull the powers of the god and goddess together, and had the potential to level the whole Island if used incorrectly. The thing was it had to be used by the one bound to it. Charisma could not spin the magics, he knew that, so she could not tap into the full power of the agent. He had to get her to pass the bond on to him in order to make use of the stone, and that would involve a physical touch.

In rich tones meant to be pleasing he spoke. ?My beautiful dear, don?t tell me that this man has fooled you into believing he serves the light? And tell me you don?t believe that I, the Lord of the Underworld, am the mean and embodiment of evil as they say? I hold the people that die in a tender and loving embrace, and am even now trying to find a way to bring the dead back to life. Think of it Charisma, to have your mother and father back again. To have the loves long lost reunited. Your people would bless you. All the sons that had died on the seas would return to their mothers, all the husbands killed in battle reunited with family. They would bless your name and pray that the Creator would bind you to time itsself or grant you eternal life. You would be the ruler supreme because the world would love you.?

His words rolled over Charisma as he got closer. She could feel her husband?s strength returning, but dared not look at him, least the vile being before her struck at him. With Zeal the land is made whole. She knew the prophecy, and knew in her heart that this battle would not end with this fight. ?I will not serve you, Death, nor will I aid you.? A torrent of power seemed to rush in her veins and she focused her eyes on the man before her. He was reaching out to touch her. She brought her arms together, towards him, as if she was going to embrace him. Her hands fell on his arms and a sick glad smile spread on his lips. What happened next was hard for Charisma later to remember. Light seemed to shoot from her fingers into the man. He screamed. Ventan had conjured a mass of liquid fire and ice toward the man, planning to freeze the blood in his veins before he could kill Charisma. He was his simultaneously by that blast, and the protection of the Rock.

Charisma felt like a feather carried along the rapids of the river. The light coming from her fingers was radiant, pure, and unfathomable. She did not understand what it was, or what she did. The body that she held in her grasp crumbled before her, and she swayed away from it. It was a frozen body of a woman. She was pale and slender. Blonde hair and frozen blue eyes looked up at her. She recognized the body as one that she and Gent and Virtuous, or Ambition, had buried. ?His mother. She was the one that tried to scare the horse.?

Ventan walked carefully to his wife. His arms were covered in Goosebumps from the look on her face, and the Power that flowed through her. He could sense what she was doing, even though she could not. ?My Lady wife. I think it is time that we return home.?

Charisma looked at the man before her. She squinted and pondered him. The power and protection of the stone was still flooding through her. She had never used the stone like this before and it was an odd sensation. She looked behind her, knowing that Lestrina was running towards them. She could feel Lestrina, and knew who it was. She looked back at her husband and shivered a bit as she looked at him.

In a calm voice, one that Ventan would have used with a child he began to explain. ?Charisma, my heart, you have done what you were born to do. You have protected the city at its greatest time of need from a villainess so great that the Stone of Epiphany allowed itself to be used in the only way it could protect you. What you have done is used both the magics together in a pure form, one that comes from the Creator himself, to protect the Land given to you to care for. That is why you are dizzy and dazed. You need to let go of the connection with the Stone, or you will be swept away.?

?My Child,? Charisma?s eyes turned to Lestrina ?what you did today will have its affects. You will feel hollow when you let go, and probably take a fever. I will be with you, as will your husband. But you must let the Stone go, or we cannot help you.?

Ventan stepped closer, careful not to touch her. He knew, as did Lestrina, that if they touched her now, the Stone would either strike out at them, or it would pass from her, and she would no longer be Charisma, but a hollow shell. ?Come back to me, my heart, and I shall explain everything to you.?

Charisma shivered and pushed against the connection she had with the Stone. She felt it gently retreat with a promise of another time as she slumped forward into her husband?s arms. Charisma looked up at him. ?I am glad that man did not kill you.? Ventan?s face was a mask of confusion.

?What man, my heart? You killed the sorceress that had planned to get the power of Epiphany through you. I saw you fighting with her.?
?It was not a woman, but the Lord of the Underworld. It was Death I faced, but not Death whom I killed.? Charisma?s head felt as if it was swimming, and she could hardly understand what she was saying. ?Death came for me when I called to him to leave you alone. He told me that I would be famous and loved if I allowed him to open up the world of the dead to the living.? Charisma shuddered. ?He isn?t dead. He left the body of his host before you froze the blood.? She collapsed, and Ventan scooped her up. They began to walk towards the city, Charisma sleeping and Ventan and Lestrina thinking.

Ventan looked at his aunt. She stared hard back at him. Prophecy was coming to life before them. Lestrina spoke in a quiet voice:

?And the Grave came forth again to Fight
The Zealot?s bride to himself unite
With the Call of peace her to entice
The battle ensues not once but Twice.
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Posted: 08-Dec-2003, 06:03 PM
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I probablly should have prefaced this with the fact that this is a long short story, and one that I am still working on to some extent. I hope you enjoy... its a fairly long read.
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Posted: 18-Dec-2003, 02:40 PM
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From Here
D. Kristine

From here I see the world before me,
The beauty shimmers bright.
The dazzling blues reflect from the sea
And the moon reflects its silvery light.
From here It looks too good to be true
That changes when I look at you.

From here I see the person you are
From here I see who you are meant to be
From here I see that you will go far
From here I see that you don't need me.

From here I saw a world that was perfect
I saw the castle on a cloud
This was a life full of of endless prospect
Now I feel like I am locked in a shroud
All it took was a moment you made me a suspect
Then I turned, giving you the reason to reject.

From here I see who I want to see
From here I hear the words I said
From here I see what was meant to be
From here I count the tears that were shed

From here I know there is a story
Yet I don't know how it will end.
Will the ending be a good one for me
Will I stand beside you, my friend?
I wanted to be a part of your journey,
Now how can I go until one says we are sorry.

From here I can wish the world was right
From here I can hope you'll come back
From here I can see I held on too tight
From here I can get myself back on track.

From here I can move to where I can see you and me.
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Posted: 18-Dec-2003, 02:42 PM
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D. Kristine

Soft and silent the night comes down
All around nothing makes a sound
In my hands I hold a key
That seems to unlock a world of mystery

Dreams, in a still dark night
Where thoughts and fears take flight
There is one answer that I pray to see
Do you dream of me.

Where there is a smile on your face
Where anger and fatigue has been erased
Do you dream of me
Is it my face that you see

When you rest beyond promises
Is our vow still in essence
As all hopes come to rest
Has mere love past this test

I have seen the face in sleep
Of the one who's heart I keep
And one answer I pray to find
Was I the last thing on his mind

And when at last we find the shore
Will our love have last endured
That this love's test was meant to be
And I find that you Dream of me

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Posted: 18-Dec-2003, 02:43 PM
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Where Would We Be
D. Kristine

There was a time when my arms held you
And when your heart belonged to me
Ours was a friendship and a love so true
But my foolish thoughts told me it wasn?t meant to be

We were young and life stretched on before us
Laughter and dreams were all we could see
Then I felt too crowded and broke your trust
And drifted away like a ship lost at sea

Where would we be if your arms still held me
If your hand was still in mine
Would our love have continued forever
Or end so tragically
I once had the chance to know where we would be

Years have past since I last saw you
And I am now probably a face with no name
My mind says to move on and not dwell on you
But my heart says it?s okay to dream

My best times were when we were together
In a play that us be what was never meant for us to be
We were lovers lost in tomorrow
Then the curtain fell on the end of act three

Where would we be if your arms still held me
If your hand was still in mine
Would our love have continued forever
Or end so tragically
I once had the chance to know where we would be
But it was never meant to be, you were never the one for me
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Posted: 18-Dec-2003, 02:47 PM
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This is one I wrote for my father.

A Father?s Love
By: Daughter

When I was young, you carried me upon your shoulders,
I knew then that you?d protect me.
When I was a teen, you cut my corn off the cob so I could eat,
I knew then that you cared.
But when you told me of God and his Son
I knew that you loved me.

When I was young, you taught me how to behave,
Even when you had to spank me.
When I was a teen, you told me ?No,?
But only because you cared.
Now I can see that you were giving me an example,
An example of the Love God has for me.

Even when it was hard to say ?I love you,? You know I always did.
Even when I was hurt inside, you knew just what to say.
Now I know that you did it to show the love God has for me.
Through all the heartache, pain and fear, my daddy, you?ve been here.
Even when you just smiled, I always knew you cared.

I think about the people who have never known such love,
And I wonder how they see the love of God you demonstrated to me.
You are my example of God?s unfailing love, and I hope,
Daddy, that when we stand together in front of Him,
That you will get the biggest, ?Well Done.?
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Posted: 24-Jun-2005, 08:29 PM
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I was too impatient to read the (long short story) but the poetry is excellent. You have a gift.

Lily O

"You can explore the universe looking for somebody who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are, and you will not find that person anywhere.
~Buddist expression~
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As you slide down the banister of life, may the splinters never point the wrong way.
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Posted: 13-Oct-2005, 12:04 PM
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Beautifully done, Danann. bravo

'Dying for being different is still better than living as a Sheep'-anon
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