Prophecy Story Index
Eve of War
Set during "The Prophecy" just before the 'restoration' battle...
"I need to talk to them."
Dorien paused as he checked the padding of his lute in the saddlebags on Pela's back. He glanced over the mare's back to where Kellessan stood in the open doorway of the stable, back to him as she stared outside. Beyond her in the large open yard lit by torches, soldiers, farmers, metalsmiths, common folks, mostly Rillandans, were preparing for battle. The clanging of swords and shields mixed in with the sharpening of scythes and the practice thunks of quarterstaffs.
"Who do you need to talk to? Your parents? I thought you'd given up convincing them to stay here." In less than an hour, they would begin their infiltration into Brightstar. Advance scouts had left as soon as the sun had set, followed by two groups of fighters to secure their way into the city. But the bulk would be going all at once. Stefan and Raven, much to Kell's displeasure, had proclaimed that they would be going with them, specifically with Kell as she faced Seth. Stefan, never one for war and bloodshed, wanted to give the man one last chance for a peaceful surrender. Kell had finally agreed, however unhappily, asking Dorien in private to keep an eye on them when she couldn't.
Kell shook her head, continuing to observe those in the firelit yard. "No, not them." She waved a hand towards the yard. "Them. All of them. Most of them have never even seen me. For all they know, I'm just a figment of their leaders' imagination. I'm not real." Crossing her arms over her chest, she sighed. "And I won't even be fighting with them. I won't be there."
Satisfied that his lute would be safe in the saddlebag, Dorien secured the belt and patted Pela's nose as he left her stall. Slowly, he walked to Kell's side, joining her in her perusal of her troops. "You're needed to fight Seth. You know that. They know that." He shifted his gaze to the side, watching her profile in the shadows.
Her voice dropped to a whisper. "Do they?"
Frowning, Dorien touched her arm. "Kell...?"
She turned towards him, her blue eyes shadowed and her feelings shuttered behind the mask of impassivity that she'd cultured over time and circumstance. Dorien refused to flinch at the implacable stare, and pushed on, tightening his grip on her arm. Words of affirmation poured from his mouth and his eyes flashed in the darkness. "Kellessan, daughter of no one, champion of Rillanda, the 'she for whom' of untold prophecies, listen to the words we say." Raising his other hand, he grasped her other arm as well.
Kell's eyes widened as Dorien continued in a voice that wasn't quite his own.
"We know you wish to be with your people," he gestured outside, "fighting, leading them to victory, but you must realize that your battle is one that must be fought elsewhere. You are the only one who can defeat Seth. You are Kellessan and you carry with you the blessing of the Light, the gift of the giver, and the protection of Lachiellian. This is no other to go in your place. Not even this one who has shown such strength in the face of darkness, and who, in the name of love, has given and will give much of himself to shield you." His hands rose to cup her face, holding it firmly between strong fingers. "Remember that two shall become one. And that protection is granted the Protector...for a time. Use it wisely, Kellessan, daughter of no one, daughter of Rillanda, daughter of Light."
She swallowed hard. "But how do I defeat Seth? How--?"
A head shake from Dorien silenced her. "You will know. Trust. And believe." His hands guided her face downward and Dorien rose to press a light kiss on her forehead. "Go in victory, child."
And then he slumped against her, hands falling from her face to grip her shoulders. "Hngh. What--?"
"Dorien?" She shifted and brought her arms up to hold him as he got his balance again. "Are you okay?"
He moved back from her and raised one hand to his head, pressing against his temple. "I...think so. What happened? I feel kinda fuzzy."
Kell kept one hand on his upper arm, steadying him as he wavered on his feet. She kept her eyes on his face, as if seeing the minstrel...the bard for the first time and feeling as if she'd known him forever. It's been just over a week since he showed up at Yana. And...love? He...loves me? A minstrel? And a swordswoman? A warrior? I can't...
Her head snapped back and she caught her breath as a childhood memory, a story her mother used to tell her before bedtime, came back to her. A story about two constellations. She craned her head out the door and looked upward, searching the skies for... There. There they are. This was the very night that two constellations seemed the closest to each other in the night sky, when the Minstrel's stars reached for the Warrior's, separated only the expanse of sky.
Her childish voice echoed in her memory: 'Isn't the Warrior-lady lonely? I would be lonely.' Her mother's quiet, assured reply followed: 'She is lonely sometimes, but the minstrel sings to her and keeps her from being so alone. He follows her through their travels across the sky, never giving up that one day he'll catch her.' Her again: 'Because he loves her.' And her mother's final soft comment: 'Yes, because he loves her.'
'Because he loves her...' She tightened her jaw and mentally shook her head. Not now. Later. She took a deep breath and shoved those questions away. Time enough for them after the battle was over and they had won. And we will win. We must.
"Kell?" She refocused on Dorien who watched her in concern. "Are you okay?" He rubbed a hand over his forehead. "I feel like someone's been stomping around in my head, only without the accompanying headache, for some reason."
A smile creased her features. "I think they figured you could do without the headache."
Dorien paused and frowned. "Huh? Who's 'they'?"
Releasing his arm, Kell leaned back against the door post and glanced into the stable yard again, making sure no one had noticed them, which they hadn't. She returned her gaze to Dorien and said softly, "The Lightsisters. They spoke to me -- through you. I think they decided I needed a bit of a push."
Dorien's mouth rounded in a 'oh' shape. "Uh...okay. Did it help?"
She shifted, moving her feet over the gravel beneath her boots. "Yeah, it helped."
"Good, good." He paused, then blurted out. "Are you gonna tell me what they said? Or do I have to beg?"
Kell laughed out loud. "Sorry. In short, they told me that I had to fight Seth, that my battle was there, that no one else could go in my place, and that I should 'go in victory'."
Dorien nodded. "Sounds like a plan."
Kell returned the nod in silence, eyes shifting back to those outside, most of which were oblivious to being watched. "I still need to talk to them, however." She scraped a foot across the ground, eyes lost in thought as she drew random circles in the gravel with the toe of her boot.
"Would it be safe?" Dorien asked, then clarified, "I mean, what if someone recognizes you later? Isn't it better that you're unknown?"
"I..." Her voice trailed off as she stared at the gravel. A splash of water startled her as someone in the yard fell backwards and hit the trough of water near the fence. Ripples danced across the surface, distorting the firelight where it met the water. Quiet laughter echoed in response, but Kell didn't notice, her eyes fixed on the slowly widening circles in the trough. "That's it. Protection is granted... Hinarme told me--"
Dorien interrupted. "What? Who's Hinarme?"
Kell turned back to face Dorien, eyes glowing in the light. "Hinarme was my teacher. And a good friend. He taught me how to control and use my mage...gift, such as it is." She waved it away and continued in a rush. "He told me something once that I never quite understood. But now...now I think I understand. Let's see, how did it go again..." She closed her eyes and quoted from memory. "And the two swords shall become one. As a pebble creates ripples in a reflection, so shall the two swords be for 'she for whom'." Opening her eyes again, she watched Dorien's face.
"Oh." The minstrel blinked and his eyes widened. "Oh! Somehow Lachiellian and the sword pin are keeping anyone from realizing who you are."
She nodded. "At least unless I tell them, I think. Willim knew me that first time because I'd only had Lachiellian with me for a short time. Another mage, a strong one, might be able to see through it, but most people won't."
Dorien pursed his lips. "What about when the sword pin is returned? What then?"
Kell's hand rose to cover the pin. "Returned? What do you mean?"
He jerked a thumb backwards to the saddlebags. "In Terel's journal, he quoted something from Seyna about after the pin has done what it was created for that it would return."
She frowned. "Well, the Lightsisters just told me that protection would be granted me...for a time."
"Hmm. Maybe whatever effect the two swords have on you sticks around for awhile? Sorta like a reprieve?"
"Maybe." She pushed away from the doorpost. "Regardless, we can worry about it later. Right now, I need to talk to these people." Kell clapped her hands together once. "And then we need to get ready to move."
After a quick conference with her parents to let them know what she had planned, Kell stepped up onto the hastily-built platform of an overturned empty wood crate set over a hay bale. Willim, Jamas, and the other town leaders of her forces stood on either side of her. Her troops, nearly ready to go, arrayed themselves in front of her, whispering to one another as her name flew across the stableyard. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Dorien lean against the side of the stable, away from the crowd. Without the 'glamor' that Kell's swords gave her, he didn't have the safety of knowing he wouldn't be recognized later. And since Tulan had all but named him as his successor when he chose him as a personal student...
Kell let her eyes drift over the crowd, nodding here and there at faces she recognized. Movement and a familiar voice outside the fence on the far side of the stableyard caught her attention. She caught sight of Jydan and Blaen just arriving, both somber and ready to free their adopted country. A quick smile flitted over her face, answered a moment later by Jydan. Returning her eyes to those in front of her, Kell cleared her throat.
"Many of you here may recognize me as Kellessan. Many of you may not. Some of you may have seen me, but I know most of you haven't." Her voice rang across the yard, quieting the whisperers as all eyes turned to her. "Some of you have heard that I will not be with you in the streets, that I have another battle to fight."
The murmurs grew louder again as Kell took a breath and finished. "Both are true." She clasped a fist to her chest. "Know that my heart burns to fight side by side with you, but know also that I fight for Rillanda by facing Norseth himself. Your courage, your honor, and your strength goes with me."
"Rillandans, tonight, we go into battle. But not just any battle. It is the battle to win back our land, our homes, our freedom, not only for ourselves, but for our children and grandchildren. Fifteen years ago, Norseth took Rillanda from us by force, murdering the rightful rulers of Rillanda, King Randal and Queen Tayna. Since that time, he was worked to destroy us by burning our homes and killing our families. He has stalked us from town to town, setting his black mages upon us, ignoring pleas of mercy and cries of loss." She pulled Lachiellian from its sheath across her back and lifted the gleaming sword above her.
"No more. No more shall Norseth hold us in his grasp. No more shall he haunt us to take our lives from us. No more!"
Cheers rose in defiance and agreement, and Kell raised her voice above them. "Tonight, we take back Rillanda, starting with Brightstar itself. Tonight, we chase the invaders and unwelcome back to the north. Tonight, we take back our home. Tonight, we will not be defeated as Light guides us on the journey. Tonight, we go forth into victory!"
- The End -
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