It all began that night in my fifteenth winter…
I remember vividly the barked orders as my mother, father, my three siblings and I were dragged from our beds in the dead of night. I would have struck out upon hearing my sisters' screams, but in my blind panic, the touch of fear locked my simple magicks inside my head. Lord Tenshiro, The Blind Lord of Ichizoku Kouruujin, finally attacked our inn; The Dragon's Fyre itself.
In the corridor, I was roughly bound and gagged, all the more to prevent me from casting any spells that could have aided my family. The raiders were taking no chances that we could escape. This was more than a move to merge power.
The bigoted bastard, not content with killing the Island's Arch Mage, Master Yoarashi Tsuru, he made his move to put the entire island in his grip. Under the guise his wife, Lady Kimi, was attacked by "Foul Demon" Magicks while in child bed. The "spell" killing both her and the child. It was all the excuse he needed to have the aged Arch-Mage executed very publicly…
After that, his ambition not satisfied to rule the entire island as Lord Morgan Swiftwind's heir, for reasons too bitter to fathom he wanted The Dragon's Fyre as well. May he burn in a thousand hells for it…
Even now, in this far distant time, I can still hear the frightened screams and angered shouts echo through my head. It twists my gut still as I think of that time so long ago. I didn't realize it then that with a simple Levitation spell I could have driven them out. That knowledge is now a dull ache compared to the raw pain I felt when I realized it so many years ago. By the time I did, it was much too late and too far into the past to change things. It is my greatest regret that so much lost in less than a fortnight.
Master Tsuru's death must have affected me more than realized, for I was more concerned with what Tenshiro would do to my family. He had murdered his own to gain control. What would he do to mine if he got what he desired…
I watched in silent defiance as Tenshiro's guard rudely awakened and gather up our meager staff and what few guests that gave us patronage, then forced us all toward the large common room. A slight poke from a sword or knife here or a jab from the point of a spear there kept us moving and prevented our turning around to protest our treatment.
The blind panic I had felt upon my rude awakening had faded into a dull burning in the pit of my stomach that grew into a silent rage.
"… Move!" hissed the guard as they shoved my mother roughly down the hall. "Move you piece of Dark Elf Filth…"
When my mother fell to her knees from the particularly rough shove, my sire broke his bonds and shoved the guard away from her into the wall with enough force to leave a dent.
"Leave my wife alone, you fucking twisted son of a whore." He hissed, driving his fist into the guard's side.
In my mind's eye, I can still see him looming over the guard, standing protectively between my mother and the guard as he aided her to her feet to stand close to us. It was the last act of care I ever saw my sire preform.
As he aided my mother to her feet, the guard had recovered enough to take a swing at my father, but one of his comrades caught his wrist before he could strike.
"Don't…" the other guard said. "They aren't to be harmed. Let our lord take care of this one…"
The guard backed off and continued to push us forward while his comrades subdued my sire again.
None save my sire had dared protest with spears and swords at our backs, defiant to the end. He hissed curses at the guards as he was again bound and dragged down the hall behind us. At the end, that defiance would come to nothing…
Many times Tenshiro had claimed the Inn was rightfully his because of a supposed letter that promised the Dragon's Fyre to his father, Kei Akira Ryuujin, as a gift from the late master and mistress; my Great-Grandparents. It is highly doubtful that such a letter existed, for it would have been among my family's papers. I know that no such letter exists since I have been through those papers a thousand times since those dark days so long ago.
With a cold calculation, Tenshiro had chosen the perfect time to attack, for our night guard had been murdered only a short time before. No doubt he'd paid the assassin, for the Dhampir had been staked with a rotten Rowan branch and left to die in the light of the next dawn. All we ever found of our most loyal guard and dearest, the oldest family friend, was an ashen man-shaped heap on the ground.
Perhaps this too added to my fear and panic that night, for I had become too used to us having someone watching over us. Now that task is mine, even though I am no longer considered "Mortal" by most standards.
After being roughly awakened at knife and spear point, they held us as hostages in the common room at the center of the Inn…
Tenshiro demanded my father immediately hand over the Charter and Deed to the Dragon's Fyre and the small parcels of land surrounding it. These lands had given value to the Inn since its construction by my Thrice great grandfather and gave us status as Freeholders, and equal status with the lord of the Island. We had stood in the way of several who had tried to claim power from Lord Morgan, now his "heir" wanted to take away that power for himself.
"You've no claim cousin." My sire growled as the guards restrained him. "This is my inn, as it was my Sire's and his Grand sire's before him…"
The guards backed off as Tenshiro got close and starred into my sire's eyes with his dead ones.
"Your sire was a Mage, you are not…" Tenshiro hissed. "That alone has saved you so far. Tell me where the deeds and charter are and you and your cursed brood may go free…"
My sire hissed something low in Ningho. I did not understand it then, but the tone alone dripped venom.
"Trader!?" He hissed. "You call me a trader when you have bedded Dark elf Filth and produced offspring."
I do not clearly remember what my sire said in return, but it made Tenshiro hiss low in his throat and smack him into one of the room's support posts. It was then I knew Tenshiro's action was a terrible thing, for I watched my sire get to his feet and begin growling low in his throat.
I had heard that growl many times, often during Souling, becoming the large red dragon depicted upon the sign that hung outside. Now my sire made that sound at a relation, one who now betrayed everything they had taught us kindred was to be. He was now just an enemy, one who had broken kin-ties with us by attacking our home.
I began edging away as my sire charged; howling with justified anger. I would have aided him, but the three guards placed upon me held me fast. I did not know it then, but he would never lay a hand on Tenshiro. I knew my sire was dead even before he stopped moving. His body continuing its momentum after his head flew from his body and landed at my mother's feet. The last thing my sire's ears would have heard was my mother's horrified screams.
It appeared Tenshiro did not take well to the challenge of his "Claim". He held the bloodstained blade at eye level as if watching the last of my Sire's life drip from the end. I could not help but stare in mute horror at my sire's lifeless face and the pool of scarlet that flowed over our feet.
"Any more protests?!" He asked as he pointed the blade at us.
There was a stunned and horrified silence; none of us wanted to challenge this man who had murdered so easily in cold blood or take on the menacing guards that stood around him like a spike topped wall.
"I thought not…"
I stood there, numb and in cold observation of my surroundings.
"What do you want us to do with his wife?" One guard asked as he grabbed my mother by her silver-blond hair. "She'd still make a good bed warmer…"
Tenshiro looked my mother over and saw his death in those eyes; those beautiful violet eyes that so recently held so much love for my sire. He would see the same if he looked at us as he did her, only in shades of twilight, as our anger and pain were reflected in them.
"Get rid of her, stinking dark elf." He hissed, wiping my sire's blood from his blade. "And burn the bodies… I do not wish anyone to know they are dead just yet…"
A quick sword thrust and my mother joined my sire in eternity, leaving us four horrified and frightened behind.
I felt the blow keenly, as if it had struck me as well. The hatred and sadness of her death only made what was to follow more painful for its cruelty.
Next, the guards dragged us before Tenshiro, holding us roughly in a semi-straight line. My sisters already were stripped of their nightclothes and assaulted. They had beaten my brother and I about the face and body several times. We all looked at him, silently vowing vengeance if given the slightest chance, our mother's anger burning now in all of us. Tenshiro had no plans of giving us that chance, for he was a cunning man. He had already placed three guards upon each of us; one with a blade at our backs for a quick kill. I already had many shallow, burning cuts on my back from where I had struggled. The pain was already a dull itch across my back. My blood boiled for all that, anger and fear binding themselves into an open wound in my heart and soul. I knew worse was to come when one guard spoke.
"… What about the Half-Bloods?" The guard gestured to where the other guards held us. "The runt doesn't look old enough to be standing yet, let alone a Mage."
I bristled at his insult, implying I wasn't worthy to hold the status I did. I had been Master Yoarashi's last and only apprentice, moved to my Sire's home after his death until I could gain passage to Mage Island to continue my studies.
With a cold eye, we were looked over as our mother had been, as if calculating our value in his foul plans. Any decision made quickly would cost him, dear, in men and blood. This we all vowed by the hard stares we gave in return.
"Take the Bitches as you wish." He said to his guard, as he felt our eyes burn holes into him. "Lock the males into their chambers until I can decide what to do with them," He tuned to 'look' at my elder sister with a sick hunger. "Bring me the elder girl, she shall warm my bed first." He paused "Continue searching… those damn papers are within the inn somewhere…"
The guard closest to him nodded and gestured for the guards holding Nevelan'd and me to follow him.
Knowing Tenshiro's feelings about our kind, I knew it was only to further degrade Nevelan'd and me that our sisters would state their lusts and be bound as slaves. His strange hunger for my elder sister was more out of malice than anything else that had passed that day. He knew well that allowing the guards to use them and possibly us was just one more way to hurt and humiliate us further in the eyes of the villagers.
As we were taken away, I heard the guards that held Nevelan'd not so subtly discussing what they would do to him once he became their plaything, making crude remarks about what they would do to me as well. I knew Del'in men and women who liked to bed Dark elves for the simple pleasure of saying they had tried something "exotic" but those encounters were contractual, these men were crude and a disgrace to all I'd learned of Del'in as a whole. Their course remarks were only making my brother growling low in his throat, as our sire had. A clear warning that they were making him angry. I knew that warning would go unheeded by our guards, and at a terrible price.
As they dragged us away. Nevelan'd turned around and glared with such intensity at the guards holding him, they shuddered in fear and nearly released their grip upon him. They then knew that death awaited them if they so much as left. A door unlocked and he could get his hands upon their throats.
My guards tightened their grip, as the cuts on my back now burned with hellfire. One bastard had a Silver coated iron dagger, an effective weapon against any Mage. Though such metal is doubly so against my kind, I gritted my teeth against another jab as Nevelan'd and I were forced down the hall. The guard's blade seemed to sink deeper with each jab, and I knew if he kept up, it would soon damage more than my skin. They continued with their harsh and crude words, though with not so much enthusiasm.
The guards would find death, though only two at my brother's hands. It would be a death that would bring Nevelan'd freedom and condemn our sisters. I did not know until decades later that the price of his freedom and mine was their blood. Some would call me cold now, but I have long stopped mourning them. I cannot convey how much their screams still echo through the fabric of time. I see their shades often enough, beautiful eleven women who haunt my steps with their accusations and pleas. It tears my heart that I cannot change the past, nor repay the high price that had to be paid for my life.
From my sparse chamber, I watched Tenshiro pace as the guards continued to tear the Inn apart to find the charter and deeds. I was thankful to have found one of the four Spy Globes that had escaped the initial attack. The poor frightened thing was hiding up on a rafter and had zoomed down to hover in front of me as soon as they shoved in me and the door slammed shut behind me. I soothed it enough to communicate with the other three and show me what was going on outside my room.
"… Question the elder first." Tenshiro said as the guards returned empty-handed. "I do not wish the younger to come to harm…"
I was being saved as a bargaining chip against my siblings if they rebelled and they against me if I chose the same.
I watched as the Guard nodded, hearing the leather creak as he did so. I prayed the globe that was showing me this would not be detected, for such a thing would be a costly mistake.
"… And what if someone should try to aid them in the escape?"
He laughed long and hard, then suddenly sobered. He held too much power now for anyone to rebel, especially the villagers.
"None in the village will, and their filthy kin won't be around much longer. Spread the word, any aiding a Dark elf or the Windrider children to escape will be executed on the spot."
The guard nodded again and went to spread the Blind Lord's orders.
I watched him smile then, thinking he had delayed his death from our quarter. I did not know it then. He was living on borrowed time, for other forces were at work to see him punished for his deeds. I dismissed the globe back to its hiding place and looked about me.
My belongings were scattered about the room. My potion bottles lay shattered and smoking and my books torn to shreds. It was obvious where Tenshiro's fears rested and how deeply he feared Magick. He feared the very thing that gave him some measure of sight. He must have thought my meager magicks no threat, only the implements.
He did not know I had been born with more than the simple magicks of my mother's kind, for the elements too sang strong in my blood. I gave a casual wave of my hand and time ran backward, repairing much of the damage and putting things to rights. An illusion spell would cover my tidying.
The only thing left in disarray was the hanging of silk and wool displaying the Mon of my master; a crane flying in a stormy night sky lay haphazardly draped over my desk and had been trampled on. Someone must have thought enough of what it meant to pick it up from the floor and lay it upon my desk, at least. It was the only thing I could not set a spell upon, so I rolled it tight and hid it beneath a loose floorboard out of sight of the guards.
I dared not use more magic, for I did not wish to be fed Leaf to keep me docile. I had tasted it much during my childhood illnesses to keep me from damaging myself and others in a fevered state. I played along with Tenshiro, waiting to unleash the burning fury that sat beneath the surface of my skin. Of all the things my master had taught me, patients would become my best weapon.
Two days later…
I knew the bastard had something in mind for us as we were trooped toward the grove where we'd spoken devotion to the Dark Maiden all our lives. The smell of smoke and burning meat greeted us as we grew closer, there were cheers and screams. I felt sick, my stomach in knots of anger and revolution.
"Take a good look half-breeds…" The guard hissed as we were forced to stand among the crowd.
The priest of the grove was standing bound to the pilar in the center, the broken pieces of the altar stacked around him as the handmaidens and priestess' burned around him.
He looked directly at me, down into my soul. He mouthed something, a single phrase that seared into my brain and clung with a will. It would affect me for the rest of my life…
Remember, watch and remember…
Then came a surge of power, a joyous laugh sprung up from the Priest's lips and the pillar went up in flame so bright and hot it forced all back to beyond the trees. I knew that power, dragon Fire. Who had cast it, I looked about as I could only see the bodies in the flames and the Priest's laugh echo.
Remember, lost one, remember…
We were dragged away amid curses, and soon again I was locked in my quarters with the guards taunting my brother.
Four Days later…
I found myself at the desk in my Sire's counting-room, its old and worn surface having held four generations of the Inn's ledgers. I let my unsteady fingers trace the groves in the ancient wood. My thrice-Great Grandfather had bought it after a generous gift from Tenshiro's grandfather. Bought soon after accepting Akira and his twin into the Inn's employ as common laborers.
I remembered the tales my father would tell while he sat and ascribed the night's accounts. Now the room had been stripped of everything save past ledgers and all needed to scribe new ones. Even my mother's spinning wheel had been taken out and smashed to pieces to find the charter and deeds.
It had once been a room where the family gathered after the work was done and where we welcomed personal guests. I closed my eyes as I remembered sitting on the floor as Master Yoarashi taught me my first spells as harmless tricks. I had no time for tricks now. My life and those of my family hung in the balance of what I did and how well I followed orders. I knew it would come at a price, but never one so high as I paid.
With my Sire "missing" and Nevelan'd too suspect to send some word of distress through the ledgers we sent to the Guilds; Tenshiro petitioned the Innkeeper's guild that I should be named master. I had not wanted that task. I had answered the song of Magick in my blood. But now, I had no choice. Tenshiro needed someone to be master to satisfy the guild until he could get his "claim" validated. I had no illusion not have held my life or the title long if the guild had been faster. I and my siblings would have been deposed of, Tenshiro would have seen to it personally. That prospect I had no desire to come to pass then or now.
Under the ever-present threat to my siblings, I agreed to settle my Sire's accounts so that the Inn would transfer smoothly to Tenshiro. I had yet to take up the task as I sat there, for I still considered it my sire's Inn. I was also hoping against hope that one of my distant kin would dispute Tenshiro's claim. I felt my blood boil at the thought of Tenshiro causally planning to take over the Inn after slaughtering the rightful owners in cold blood. My patience served me well, though it was wearing thin as they forced me day after day into the counting room to settle my sire's debts and handle the daily accounts of the Inn. I even wondered how long it would be before they confined me to my room and escorted about by heavily armed guards.
In those four long days, they forced me to take a brutal look at my elder siblings and myself. The dusky skin inherited from our Dark Elf mother marked us as outsiders the moment from the time we first drew breath. We learned quickly of the villager's dislike. Bruises and welts from thrown stones and fists drove that point home. Once apprenticed to Master Yoarashi, most were keen enough to avoid me or show me the illusion of respect.
The villagers' hostility affected the Inn's human cooks the most. They had to go to market well before the sunrise to buy from the few merchants who still sold goods to us to avoid their wrath. My master would go into the village for us as well, more often than not, to save them and us from torment. No one desired to cross him, not only for his power, but he was the son of the old master. Despite the village, some quietly showed us kindness outside my Master and his Dibond Lord Tsuru. There would be no more help from them or Lord Tsuru.
The Nin Lord had vanished from the ruins of their cottage on the headland. That was after the bigoted villagers burned it to the ground and beat the aging man senseless before their children as it burned. Much as we were shielded, my siblings and I eventually found out how the trouble with the villagers started. It had been my mother and two of the Dark Maiden's priests who had accompanied a House Heir, a promised debt to our twice-great Grandfather. they had come in peace, but the village though they were some kind of advanced guard despite their protests. I place the blame for the beginning of this on the shoulders of the village headman and his bigoted band of thugs, despite our Writ of Good grace from the Late Lord Morgan and assurances they had come in the maiden's name.
Had my master or Lord Tsuru had been present when the Inn was attacked, none but we and our patrons would have escaped unscathed. It was then I realized why they had hated us so, despite our repeated attempts to assuage their fears and the conversion of some villagers to the Maiden's ways. We were diffident, foreign to them and did not understand us and thus wished to destroy us.
Destroy us they did, for not even vestiges of the Grove remain; They left all that is charred ruins and barren earth. None of the villagers have disturbed it, save for a few secret devotes coming to lay flowers at the ruins of her shrine. I made a pilgrimage there before I went to the Inn, to remember the maiden's joy and forget the carnage.
Day after day I did little as possible until I sat at the desk brooding over what I had to do to keep my mind from disrepair and my body whole. The despair was such that the memories of my parent's deaths played again and again within my mind, along with my sister's screams. I tried to silence it, but with little success. Unable to stand the sound any longer, I began frantically searching the pigeonholes and compartments, hoping to find some secret place overlooked by the guards when the room had been torn apart shortly after their arrival.
With each compartment, I searched the sound of my sister's screams grew louder to pull a few more strands from my sanity and stab my heart. Then came the anger, white-hot and burning, stored up over the weeks of my confinement. I dared not strike out at the guards. That would do my siblings or I any good, and so flung my fist out in frustration to the nearest solid object.
I did not know it but my brief outburst would soon lead me on an adventure I could not have prepared for. Oh, how I would I could tell my younger self what he would find and perhaps erase the heartache I have to know in my two centuries of life.
Hot tears flowed as the anger I had carefully bottled to protect my siblings exploded from me. I do not remember if I roared or simply screamed. I remember the sickening crack and sharp pain. I was blind to anything but my anger that I barely registered the falling of the books from the shelf I'd struck falling to the floor, showering me and the desk with papers. I sank heavily into the chair that had somehow righted itself and sat there sobbing. I cared not if the guards heard.
At that point, I had stopped carrying what the guards or Tenshiro would do, the hope of rescue lost upon me.
"What right does he have to claim my family's property…"
I sobbed as I sat there, banging my bloody fist on the desk and then cradling it to my chest as the pain registered.
"And what right to make it now…"
Only the room's silence and the heavy tread outside my prison. I knew the guard would enter soon, for the thudding of the ledgers to the floor could not be ignored.
As I expected, the sound of the ledgers had brought the guard. By instinct, I hid my hand behind my back, for if I could not write in the ledgers, Tenshiro would kill me anyway. For a few moments, I thought that letting myself be killed would have ended my misery, but some inner part refused to allow him that privilege. I did not know the significance of the scattered papers all around me, nor the manner of action that would cause the ledgers to shed so many pages.
"Is everything all right in here…" the guard asked in a threatening tone. "It had better be…"
I knew this guard. He seemed to take in delight in threatening me and my siblings. He had also been the bastard with the knife at my back. I despised him with all my being, though I was doing my best to act frightened.
"Y-Yes…" I stammered. My wounded hand was forgotten. "I just stood up too fast and knocked the shelf. I'll clean up…"
The guard nodded reluctantly and left, closing the door with a bang.
I stood there for a few moments, trying to catch my breath, waiting for my heart to slow and the now throbbing pain in my hand to subside. I did not know it then, the damage had gone beyond my meager healing skills.
I began cleaning up the ledgers and scattered papers as best I could with one hand. The pain of trying to open my wounded hand became too much, and I stopped. I sank heavily into the mysteriously righted chair and finally examined my hand. The large splinter had impaled through my hand, sealing it into a fist. Blood dripped down the end of the splinter and into my lap. I was half in shock as I looked at the large splinter buried in my hand. I knew it would bruise and bleed if I removed it, or the village healer did. I figured best I did, even with the meager healing I had.
I sat for a moment before I felt relaxed enough to pull the splinter from my flesh. My right hand would never be the same, even now I am reminded of my foolishness if I use it too often. I bit back a scream as I pulled the slippery splinter from the flesh, only to have it fall to the still paper strune floor. I tore a piece of cloth from my tunic and bound my hand as best I could manage; thankful the guard would make me wear a long hooded robe to shield me from the patrons. I knew I had recovered quickly before the guard returned to check on me and my "little" mess.
In my haste to clean up the papers and tend my injured hand, I took no notice of the smears of my blood on the books and papers I had collected. I put everything back in order, quickly searching for a fresh ledger, but as I reached for the quill, I saw a yellowed piece of paper on the desk. It had not been there a few moments before, as if a ghostly hand had laid it in my path. How true that seems now after all, I have learned of my kindred and myself.
I picked up the letter and held it in my hands for a single moment and put it down again. I wincing as I opened and closed my wounded hand. I rose and paced for a few moments debating either to open the letter or stick it back into the ledgers where it knew come from I was torn, between wishing to know what it contained and what it would say to me.
"The guards must have missed this, but how. They tore the room apart… Perhaps it's fortunate I have found It before they did…" I said to myself in a whisper.
I did not know it then, but there was a reason Tenshiro found no deeds, charters, or true ledgers within the walls. They were in my family's papers. Those were hidden away safely from Tenshiro's greed by what he feared.
I winced as I sat back down, trying not to make a noise of pain or let on about my injured hand.
"What does it contain?" I wondered "and what does it have to do with my family…"
What was in that letter would change my perceptions of family and kindred forever.
I knew so little of the old magicks and their activation that it had never occurred to me that my Great-grandfather, the sly old dragon, had been keen enough to set such spells upon the ledgers for just such a situation. The Inn had been at peace for so long by then, that no one at least of all me had thought of Great-Grand Father Manus' foresight. If I had been thinking straight then, I could have kept so much more hidden and saved so much heartache.
The room is taking on a chill now, a sure sign that my powers as Lord Grey are fading; soon to be passed to another. My assistant builds up the fire and pours me another cup of tea, knowing I am now feeling the chill. I will miss this. No, not the power. I could have done without it 200 years ago, but the solitude I've been granted repeatedly as High Lord. I must flex my hand, again reminded of the price I have paid.
The gods are kind to me for a little longer, working the cramp from my scared hand takes only a moment. I know when This power passes the pain of long use will settle into the joints and render such long use of a quill painful again…
Steeling my resolve, I carefully unfolded it, lest it tear as I did so. Upon it, in indelible ink, was a letter addressed to my father in Master Yoarashi's hard scrawl was by then as familiar as my flowing scrip. One word caught my eye, a word I never expected from my master's Pen. A word that sent me into a spiral.
The revelation was suddenly too much to bear at that moment. How much had I been lied to about my kindred? I flung the letter away. Master Yoarashi had been a kin, making him another I swore to avenge I pushed myself away from the desk, ignoring the pain and knocking the chair over again as I called out for the guard. He came in frowning, throwing the long robe at me. I caught it concealing my bandaged hand. He was glaring at me, looking for some excuse to humiliate me.
"I wish to retire." I said, shaking, "I do not feel well…"
The guard made a grunt of acknowledgment and shoved me out of the room, locking the door behind us
It was the truth. I felt ill to my stomach at the revelation of more kindred being within arm's reach of me and mine. Though looking back, losing blood may also have had a hand in nausea, I felt… If I had known sooner… No; it is the past and I cannot change them.
It was a few days later that I gathered up my courage and sat there with the yellowed letter before me, still half in shock over the revelation that Master Yoarashi had been my Grand Uncle. I had read pieces of the letter off and on over those few days, outraged and sickened in turns as I learned of kin, those I had never met and those I never would in life. I found references to an older letter, sent years before, and began quietly searching the shelves, which now seemed to contain more than they appeared.
Under the guise that my father's records had become scattered when I had knocked the shelf down. I eventually found it, the fragile paper nearly crumbling in my hands. The older letter turned out to be a Writ of Exile for one Mark Blackbird. It took me a few moments to register the name and a few more to connect a face to it.
"… The village healer?" I said, quite stunned at the new revelation. "He's the House Heir to House Blackbird?"
The letter stated only the conditions of the exile, not its length. I found this strange, though at the time I did not understand the circumstances of it.
A harsh knock and a bellowed voice made me hurry back to the books; it appeared Tenshiro was also becoming suspicious of me. I could not stop when a past look from every angle. A past I could not deign seemed to play an important role in why my brother and I were now imprisoned.
Under the guise of doing the books, I found much concerning my family. Words scribed for future generations and waiting to be read. With all my searching, I still couldn't find the things I so desperately needed to know. I studied the letter that Master Yoarashi had sent my Sire, oft when the guards had their backs turned.
It was also during this time; I allowed myself small undetectable magicks, one being the teleportation of a small mug of tea to the Counting Room. The Inn's staff knew well enough about my desires and covered the missing cups from Tenshiro's auditors. I continued until they hired a new staff, then simply requested a pot and a mug with my meals. I was glad Tenshiro thought enough to keep appearances and filled my simple requests. It disheartened to see my sisters deliver it, clearly accusing me of willing compliance. I learned to test my tea carefully after the second pot of wash water.
The most disheartening was hearing the guards taunt my brother each night as I was escorted to my rooms. Even he thought I had willingly conspired with Tenshiro, as one night they stopped me short when I heard my brother's growl, low and rumbling. He wasn't making that sound at the guards; he made that low threat at me, saying I too would die if he could get his hands on me.
"Betrayer." He hissed as the sound slid into my bones and sent shivers down my spine.
I had informed this after I he'd grown wings, great bat-like wings of Dragon kind. It is also when the shadow started appearing, voices whispering into my ear what the guards did to my siblings. It angered me, to where quills snapped in my fingers regularly.
Then in the dead of night came the roar of Kiln Fire and the screams. No sooner than this awakened me, two guards kicked down my door and trained their spears upon me. They must have thought I would run as well or had conspired to aid my brother in his escape. I immediately protested my innocence in the who matter… It fell on deaf ears.
I was dragged from my bed and shown three charred corpses. I only knew them for humans by the smoking leather armor upon them. I continued to protest, but Tenshiro was furious and had dragged me toward the village square. My protests were falling on deaf ears as I was dragged to the whipping post, where I knew my fate would be decided by leather and blood.
My hands were bound above me and my nightclothes ripped to expose my back bare as the bell was rung to draw the attention of the village, the guard loudly announcing I was to be whipped for my brother's escape. One guard shoved a roll of leather between my teeth, telling me to bite down against the pain in low tones. A minor act of kindness he no doubts died for.
The first few bites of the studded whip were easy to overcome, the second and third rounds stung with the addition of salted water. I bit into the leather to muffle my screams until my vision when dark and began to distantly hear a man screaming. It was not until days later, horse and delirious, that I learned the screams had been my own.
The next memory I had was of the village healer, my kin, deftly working with salves and a Silver needle as he pulled together my ruined flesh. I heard voices speaking low and gentle as a hand caressed over my now closely cropped hair. I'd been shaved after the whip stopped echoing. Another humiliation laid upon me as I had been proud of my long flowing hair and the intricate patterns my mother had taught me and my siblings to weave with the silver strands. I was all but shorn. I sobbed then, my first expression of sadness since my parent's deaths. Though it was more from sheer exhaustion than the pain, I had known similarly from Lord Tsuru teaching me the quarterstaff.
"Shush, Kalan'd… Lost one… Hush…"
They spoke the words in my mother's tongue, meant to offer comfort as the fingers stroked ghost-like over my shorn skull. They are offered me little to my pain addled brain.
"It will be over soon… Hush… Sleep…"
I sobbed harder, my hand echoing the pain in my back now, torn open during the whip strikes.
The healer's gentle hands inspected the bruised and swollen flesh of my hand. More salves were applied, and I was told to keep clean bandages upon it as booted feet ushered the guards and the healer out. Rough hands lifted me by the scruff of my neck and informed me they relieved me of my duties until I could stand on my own, then released to fall back into the ticking with a painful thud.
I remember little after that save dreamless sleep and the shadow coming to tend my shredded back. Once or twice I could have sworn Nevelan'd stood glaring at me from the doorway as my fevered brain tried to ignore the pain of changed bandages and the stinging itch of healing skin. To this day I do not know if that vision was me seeing through an illusion or if he was just a trick of my fevered brain.
Had I known who and what the shadow was, I would not have been so fearful of the almost chill touch and whispered words of what was going on around me?
A few weeks later…
My back was healing as I sat at the desk again, this time in a room under heavy ward spells, guards, and bolted doors. Tenshiro ordered me locked into the Counting Room after I'd recovered from the night of Nevelan'd's escape. My brother had killed three of his tormentors before his escape. I'd heard the locks being installed while I was recovering, and he'd somehow found a "tame" Mage to set the spells, no doubt from the Black Coin.
Despite these new restrictions set upon me, I was eager to discover more of my family's history. Miraculously, I found more of my family's papers hidden between the pages of journals and books I had knocked from the shelf. I eventually came across my Great-Grandmother's journals and a sheaf of parchments sent to my father from Master Yoarashi.
"… Contained is as much as the Guilds would give me." I read to myself quietly. "Recorded by spies and unseen sprites, this shall be our legacy…"
I paused for a few moments, wondering what the Guilds were. The only ones I knew of were those of thieves and innkeepers.
"This legacy is not for you or me, but for our sons…"
I continued reading the letter until I came to the end and the references to things in the large sheaf of papers I had found.
Those things opened doors I had not known were locked. I knew little then and perhaps I know a little more now, but my heart will always grieve those long weeks after my parent's deaths.
The pain still burns beneath the surface. I can feel the marks still though my back is long healed and the men who marked it long dead. I understand that pleading looks in a slave's eyes for my hand to free them from their torment. I also understand the fear in the master's eyes when I appear to claim what is my due. In my long years, I have been both, a lesson learned and never forgotten. I am oft reminded of that lesson when my wings pull at the scars after long periods confined beneath my cloak. It is a lesson I wish I could forget, but my body cannot.
Almost mechanically, I reached for the parchment and Inkwell on the desk before me; I knew then what I had to do. I would scribe those words as a testament to a great family whose bloodlines reached far into the history of Full Moon. Perhaps someday, someone will read my words or they will simply be for my distant kinsmen, yet unborn. I gave no thought to the price I would pay to set the tale upon the warm parchment. I only knew it had to be done, and in doing so, all my kindred will be remembered.
Remember my relatives I have, several Generations of them. My Great-Grandmother, born of an illicit affair and my Great-Grandfather, forever the rouge. They are echoes now, voices speaking from the shadows of a time that cannot be reclaimed, no matter how much I or others desire it. My Grandfather, I remember most fondly. The three rings in his ear always intrigued me. Where most Magi wore Silver, he wore Gold. A payment, I was told, for my Great-Grandfather's transgressions. I possess those rings now, tucked in a velvet pouch close to my heart. My father, proud and defiant to any who would have harmed those he loved and cherished. Now myself, bearing three legacies. One I cannot forget. The others wrote across my dusky skin like ink upon the parchment.
Two days passed, and I had not even started upon the pages of my father's ledgers laying spread before me. My wounded hand lay upon the desk, blood staining the linen. It was much neglected and again injured, this time by a blade pinning it to the desk. One of my eyes was swollen shut from the repeated blows to my face, because of Tenshiro having discovered my reluctance to settle the ledgers. He hissed curses at me and delivered the first blows himself. He left those that followed to his guards. When it ended, they battered my body as my soul.
Battered and bleeding, I only remember painfully reaching for the quill. It seemed to do as Tenshiro asked to avoid another beating seemed the wisest course. I pulled fresh sheets of parchment from the desk, and trembling with pain, set the inked quill to the parchment. I do not remember how or why I put my family's tale to paper…
Born Lady Gunzandia Blackbird on Nin Island, she was the bastard daughter of the Grandmaster Kei Takeo Ryuujin and the Lady-Mage Skye Blackbird-Greymear, who shared a brief forbidden love. This is the chronicle of how her birth came about and how the controversy over her conception set in motion an ancient prophecy. One that would shake Full Moon into its greatest age…