ASCENSION-SIX

For ANYONE following ASCENSION…THIS WAS my writing style 20 years ago…

Gadzara

Watching the Citadel from Mortas’ arms, Glory Academy was a great fortress on the edge of the Iscarza built on a gargantuan jagged fang of rock, enclosed by the Grand Sandor Mountains backdrop and is the last bastion of the Old kingdom before King Larion’s Effieron was forged. Located in the wastes of the Stride Mines, the Citadel gleamed from the characteristic red, white and black marble. Thorin closed her eyes.
Mortas was silent moving over the forbidden zone with Thorin in his arms. She was still in shock from her ordeal, but had gradually begun to stop trembling; in her mind’s eye she replayed events in slow motion. Devron’s body being lifted and torn apart the pain and fear in his eyes, the sickeningly bone crunching rips and tears and the blood Oh god, there was so much blood. She sensed Mortas’ gentleness, but she knew that he had another side to his being even though she did not fear him, she understood and respected its existence.
She made a conscious decision to learn all that she could about the Diaks, no matter how horrific, she had begun to suspect that she could not escape and their fates were becoming increasingly intertwined . The question ringing in her ears was did she want to? Her thoughts were broken by Mortas’ query as to her well-being.
‘I’m fine , just a little overwrought’ This was an understatement.
‘I realised that my actions since I brought you here, has raised many questions and answered few, when we reach Kailan and you have refreshed and rested, then I will endeavour to answer all that you may broach in an effort to extend your knowledge on matters I know that are fearful to your mind.’
He answered her unasked question, for this she was grateful that she did not have to raise the subject.
They were crossing the shimmering pools again, and Thorin held her breath, the beauty of it always took her by surprise. ‘You think it beautiful?’ Mortas asked.
‘Yes, I think it’s the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life.’ She exclaimed with an unmistakable lilt in her voice.
‘I am glad it pleases you’ and more softly ‘Thorin’ her name rolled with a strange delicacy, it sounded unusual, special and familiar.
They arrived at Kailan a servant was waiting for them inside the great Hall, they could hear the voices of others, there was silence as Mortas entered with Thorin in his arms.
‘Brother, you were gone a long time, we were beginning to despair.’ Eon said
‘There was no need for concern, Lord Devron has passed.’
All fell silent and sombre-waiting expectantly. ‘It was inevitable his greed led influence had overtaken him, I saw him leave the silent tower and it was not difficult to guess the rest, when I found Gadzara, she revealed some of her arrangements with him.’ Mortas tone was full of regret, his lips tight; taking another’s life has never pleased him.
‘Where is Gadzara?’ Mortas darkened.
‘It seems a bargain with Devron, was less than pleasing to him and backfired, when he found out who the lady Thorin was, he came to exact his punishment for the deception as only Devron could. On my arrival she was too far gone to be saved .’ He said with pity.
Looking down at the woman in his arms he said ‘perhaps, you should leave us my lady while you are properly attired.’ He set her down and Thorin was escorted from the room.
Thorin was washed and carefully attire, despite her objections to be left alone the female servant Diak ignored her protests to bath in Private feigning confusion, so that the process was not to prove exhausting Thorin consented. The wound on her arm was cleaned and dressed. Wondering what Lila would think if she told her all these things and the others disbelief brought Thorin to the sum thought that she hadn’t considered her friend since she had arrived in Effieron. The thought was further expanded when she considered that the police must be looking for her, knowing her friend they may well be dragging lakes, rivers and any place else in pursuance to her whereabouts . But the need to know what was happening in her life was an ever forward force propelling her towards an inescapable truth about her destiny which was impossible to avoid. Her life with Jake had shown her that no matter how much you wish to avoid your fate in the end acceptance was the only respite, she had learnt the hard way, that a wise one knows their limitations.
She and Jake had met at Sam’s cafe one fresh spring morning, it had been unusually crowded and finding a place to sit was like an expert game of chess. she had finally allowed him to sit after making him promise never to speak to her for the duration of his intended visit but as always Jake had a way of using his charm to lethal effect and Thorin remembered how his devastating smile had made her heart skip several beats culminating in her involuntary response to his queries about general topics until the subject had wound its way round to her. They had been dating for several weeks, when he asked her about sharing his life, the first step was taking an apartment together and Thorin was elated. They had been settled in their new abode when Jake decided to ask for a trial period of being engaged and her heart had soared at the prospect. Then the nightmares began after Jake had suffered an attack while being assailed by thugs he could not recall, overnight the wonderful man and life she knew was rapidly crumbling to dust before her eyes and how she fought to make it better in any way she could, but in the end her most fervent efforts were to no avail, one day the man she loved left and never came home .
From this moment onward although she did not know it and it was not a conscious decision Thorin blocked all and any advance that might have the biggest romantic inclinations. Ryland Richards had been the latest to fall foul of the Parker charm and like others before him found the ever widening chasm impossible to cross or bridge. In the end he too had to cede to defeat and content himself with Platonic friendship .
Returning to the present-she surveyed her reflection in the mirror, her hair had been attended to and scented oil was added to her skin. She was amazed at how radiant she looked, despite her close encounter with Devron; she resolved to put the event from her mind for sanity’s sake. The question now was how to survive in Effieron, and the best methods to employ to ensure survival for it was certain that Mortas required something from her and she knew that she could not grant his wish, nor could she leave Effieron she was a prisoner there again feelings of repression began to surface.

‘My Princes.’
Sophiles, a Diak considered to be the oldest and wisest among them, had made his appearance at the Citadel and Mortas understood the gravity associated with such a meeting for he would never attend unless there was discord in the ranks of royalty. Sophiles unlike Mirach was of a single mind and all actions formed the sum total of his belief-loyalty to his king alone. Eon and Mortas bowed.
‘You can be at no loss as to why I am here.’ Sophiles’ tone was flat. ‘Alarming news has reached me and I have been studying its meaning for several cycles and can only conclude that your enemies have began to mobilise, but towards what goal is as yet unclear.’
He spoke studying the wall chart behind his hosts, frowning suddenly ‘how long has the King been on his current course as envoy?’
‘Twenty four lunar cycles’ Eon answered
‘And your initiation my Prince’ He asked Mortas pointedly
‘Consciously, twenty three lunar cycles’ Mortas answered frowning
‘That is what I thought,’ Sophiles said ‘in direct conjunction with the first diminishing of the Iscarza’ Eon and Mortas looked at each other .
‘What is your thought?’ Eon was defensive.
‘nothing, merely this, many others have been initiated before through the ages, Melfeshos, Larion, Theagar and even the first Ataron, yet the world showed no change, but you as you came brought noticeable degrees as you arrived in Effieron, have you not wondered why?’ Mortas listened intently.
‘Clearly, you understand something of this that I did not,’ the cold logic in his tone had returned, making Eon wonder at the identity of the Diak before him, studying Mortas closely for some sign, that may confirm the uneasiness he felt.
‘Tell me all you recall of your initiation and I will tell you my suspicions .’ Sophiles tone had remained constant.
‘I was in great pain, I used the markings on the Citadel at the far end of the desert, it brought me to the shadows at the ruins I awoke there, how much time had passed was unclear, but it felt like I was always in Effieron.’ Mortas concluded.
‘When we found you, you had been poisoned your human body had died and you had manifested into the state you are in currently but you were weak, and it was necessary to turn you permanently.’ Sophiles let time passed for the meaning to sink in.
‘You were placed before the Tarin Urn in Rhomadar the Citadel of Kings for the pure essence selection to be made and your true nature to be formed, an essence of one of the King’s past had infused with yours of its own choosing.’ Mortas and Eon could not conceal their surprise Sophiles continued uninterrupted ‘only you know the real name of your (counterpart), it was your instinct that brought you to Effieron and your blood all Diak and one other have this ability, a human born of both worlds.’ Mortas whole dark eyes did little to conceal his shock at the revelation laid before him.
‘How else can you explain the lady Thorin presence here?’ Sophiles sat back surveying the disbelieving faces before him. ‘was it knowledge that drew you to her, certainly instinct was overruled or you would have chosen Gadzara .’ this statement served its purpose Mortas rocked as the memories converged and flooded his mind, rushed visions of events past solidified before his eyes only to evaporate to be replaced by others. Thought and vision colliding in an all knowing explosion.
Raising his head Mortas’ expression was inscrutable, ‘I remember .’
‘Yes, I imagine that time would come when you would ask these questions, I merely forced the issue as time is of the essence and you can no longer remain in ignorance of matters unfolding around you.’ Sophiles stared at Mortas directly-’you are that which you suspect, the child of both worlds. It is both your halves in equilibrium that hold Effieron stable, but now change has come and equality has ceased to be the norm of all constants, this is the reason for the diminishing.’ Sophiles concluded.
‘Why have such drastic changes occurred?’ Eon asked.
‘Ah now you are asking the optimum question, I believe the answer lies in the death of one half of your being and now its whole composition here in Effieron, by diminishing your being, Effieron is itself diminished.’
‘My query is who would attempt such an action, knowing the consequences of it?’ Mortas asked slowly.
‘I do not believe prior knowledge of the consequences – the resulting diminishing of Effieron – were known, and thus I conclude the attempt was to end your life, but instinct prevented the task from reaching its completion, why else should the desire to end your life be attempted in your weaker human element ?’ Sophiles questioned. ‘What interests me is who should attempt such a task, is the threat still existent and since you are King after your father what outcome will these conditions pose the Crown ?’ Sophiles was thoughtful as he spoke.
‘We must now be ever vigilant’ Eon stated, all nodded in agreement.
‘On another subject of unease , the Princess Gadzara revealed to me her dealings with Lord Devron, and I cannot conceal my thoughts but would ask you brother and Sophiles, who I hold in the same esteem as my father the King. Tell me what your observations are on the evidence I shall shortly lay before you.’ Mortas’ attitude had changed; clearly there was some connection on the preceding conversation that had combined with the discovery which now fired the imagination .’ The Princess was badly beaten her body was broken and torn, it was clear whoever was responsible had used notable force and it was also their intention to kill.’ Mortas paused. Eon and Sophiles attentions were rapt. ‘She was quite weak and a little delirious from her injuries but still lucid enough for me to catch some details-Lord Devron it seems had approached her some thirty moons before, requesting that she should consider an alliance of our two lands, citing the benefits of such a joining among which would be the strengthening of our forces against the Cayjuns .’
‘Ah’ Sophiles interrupted ‘this was the time when the attacks were spurious and did not seem to be centred against us but our chattel and properties’
Mortas nodded ‘yes, she was to inherit her father’s kingdom after his age was complete, but she would not rule without a suitor as Melfeshos had decided not to pass his crown as was tradition, but interestingly had considered the unification of the land in favour of sovereign rule.’
‘So the proposition from Devron was a tempting one-to rule all the land, it was the ultimate combination.’ Eon said nodding Mortas added
‘Why would they have planned such an alliance, before consulting with King Larion, it was he who needed to decide, whether he wanted such an alliance.’
Sophiles smiled ‘I do not believe the alliance was to be with King Larion, despite his virility, experience and power all of which would prove attractive to the female, the Princess has always had a serious failing for the young and beautiful among us.’
‘Then the curiousness of her attachment is explained, but not the matter of how she suddenly and untimely became the ruler of her kingdom only to abandon it to soldiers and generals, for she revealed to me that Lord Devron was placed in charge of the security of the Borders, since we were fighting a common foe. She confirmed that it was Devron and another who had persuaded her to leave the East, Melfeshos would never have allowed such an action had he been alive, the people came first, and as leader he would have stood his ground unflinchingly .’ Mortas concluded.
The smile had vanished from Sophiles lips he had a thoughtful frown. ‘it seems this goes deeper than I first suspected and now caution is necessary at every step-you cannot underestimate the magnitude of deception, so I would advise that none but us three should know the contents of Gadzara’s confession and in fact to all it should appear as a contest battle for the right of Lady Thorin’s favour and no more. Swear that I have your silence .’ Sophiles looked at each seriously and they consented to his wishes without further question. They were interrupted by the brisk arrival of another .
‘My Lord Sophiles, your Highnesses, your father King Larion calls for your presence at Rhomadar, he has returned and wishes that you should attend immediately.’ A messenger Diak had arrived and read the orders sealed by Larion just as Sophiles had finished speaking.
‘We will go on ahead, perhaps you may wish to inform the lady Thorin.’ Sophiles added to Mortas who acknowledged with a slight bow each thinking the single thought as they left, who was behind the facade and whether there was enough time to unmask the players, for surely they were clever and more dangerous than Devron .

ASCENSION-FIVE

Thorin and Mortas

“The hour is late brother, come to my Citadel; it would please us to have you.” Eon offered to Mortas interrupting his brooding thoughts. Welcoming the diversion, Mortas nodded his acceptance.
“I still remember our last Hephestos combat; I must even the score …” Eon continued Mortas laughed, “to it then.”

“Loreck you knew there was no way I could stop the human from leaving, she was quite stubborn, I could not watch her continuously.” Gadzara defended against Loreck’s accusations that she must have had a hand in Thorin’s disappearance.
“My instinct tells me that you are lying Gadzara, there is more to this facade than meets the eye, since the death of your honourable and most excellent father you have been falling steadily, especially in the eyes of those who knew and loved you most.” Loreck vehemently paced the floor. “There is much rumours of the company you keep and even where your true allegiance lies, but this action is the grossest of failures even for you. This is the very depths of deceit and open treachery to our people.” Loreck vented his anger on the lattice wall, making a sizeable hole.
Even though her actions were punishable by death he could not act against Gadzara for she was of Royal blood and only another of equal standing may attempt to do so.
“Prince Mortas has to know, there can be no concealing of these facts from him,” and in a quieter tone “tell me what did you hope to accomplish by doing it, so that I might understand.”
Gadzara looked up eying him wearily, feigning sadness and discomfort her voice quivering. “I am sad that I cannot explain it to you, for you would not comprehend the female instinct.”
Seeing her obvious distress Loreck lowered his voice and mistakenly came closer. “Explain it to me dear sister, for I must understand for all our sakes, there is so much more at stake than merely wounded pride, our very lives have been turned by the actions you have taken.”
Gadzara leaned in nearer, the clasp of the girth of the sharp pelfezt needle firmly in her grip; Loreck held her to his bosom aware of her obvious sadness Gadzara began her voice childish and scolding. “I am in agony brother, I knew it was wrong to let the human go, she represented a challenge to me and as you know none has done this and lived, I was generous to her I spared her life.” Her grip was tightening about him. “I offered her an alternative and she was so happy to accept it I could not refuse her, you see she did not want the bargain that you filled Mortas mind with and planned for her, so I allowed her to go free.” At this her voice changed hardening. “Although there are varying degrees of freedom and she must be begging for death as we speak.”
Loreck look down, but it was an instant too late the flash of bronze glimmered, he felt the pain as it seared his flesh like hot coals, moving rapidly upwards with the blade was a wave of nausea overwhelming him with a warm and sickly aroma-metal, looking down the blackness flowed like the beginnings of a stream against his skin.
Falling to his knees he felt weak and dizzy he wanted to speak but the words were slurred, something was blocking his throat it came bubbling to the surface, running down his lips, collapsing forward to the ground Gadzara like a wild thing was dancing madly, laughing hysterically leaned over him, her eyes stone cold.
“You and your self righteous nonsense, you think to turn my Mortas against me, making him consider another, but he will come back he has no other choice now and when I tell him you took the human he will want you dead, and I am giving him his wish, in advance granted, but his wish nonetheless.”
Again she smiled like an angel smoothing Loreck’s hair and soothingly caressing his face. His eyes was drawn to the intricate bracelet, inset with a bloodstone, he had seen only once before. It was then that the thought struck him his eyes opening wide with the realisation. Gadzara watching him whispered the confirmation.
“Yes, I killed him, my own maker, your friend and ally, my father.”
Loreck felt his life’s blood draining, his eyes dulling, why did he not see this coming? Expelling his last breath he passed into the primal darkness.
Gadzara withdrew the blade from Loreck’s body and deftly cleaned it, turning to the servant she had summoned. “You know your instructions, speak of what you see and my Lord Devron will find you.” With that she turned leaving the room.

“You’re much improved, I see” Mortas teased. Knowing that his brother’s ability to rise to a challenge, can sometimes force an error, Eon sensing his strategy remained unchanged.
“Yes brother but I will not be drawn in despite your best attempt.”
Mortas smiled swinging his Hephestos staff lightly, moving it expertly from hand to hand with simple ease and dexterity while keeping a steady eye on his opponent. Eon circled warily, making small feinting moves, but Mortas was not fooled.
Knowing how often his brother had expressed wonder at how he managed to adapt to their ways with such ease he could be mistaken for a king of old, he shrugged off the sidetracking thought he needed to keep his focus. Eon’s ability to propel his staff with such accuracy makes even the most experienced fighter weary. Mortas had several memento scars from his previous encounters with his brother. And so the battle of wits and strategy continued, each attempting to better the other by exploiting his weakness.
The large doors at the end of the chamber swung open, announcing the arrival of Loreck, sparring was interrupted. The older Diak was frowning as he entered.
“My Lord Loreck, you honour us with your presence.” Eon was first to meet him bowing low.
“Loreck” said Mortas arriving on Eon’s heels and embracing the other in an arm clasp.
“My Prince I bring you news that worries me gravely, the lady Thorin has been ill informed by the Princess Gadzara of her purpose in Effieron and I am certain that the motive was not with the purest intent.”
Mortas quietly studied the two Diaks before him a knowing smile touched his lips but his eyes remained intent.
“So Gadzara has started to make her move, she knows that it is not my intention to follow tradition and unite with her, I often wondered at her motives for leaving the East, now I know.”
Eon spoke the thought out loud. “She wants to be Queen, brother.” Loreck nodded. “But who she is really loyal to I wonder, there are many eligible suitors yet she refused any alliance with them, even though such an action would strengthen her lands to the East and with the sudden and untimely passing of her father, her somewhat uncommon approach in her compassion for Lord Mirach and if rumour is to be believed several secret meetings with Lord Devron, it becomes increasingly difficult to judge her actions fairly.” Eon finished.
“You are remarkably well-informed as always brother,” Mortas winked to Eon. “Yet you do not wish to be King?” This was a long-running debate between them.
Eon smiled. “I have never craved nor desired the throne.” Mortas and Loreck knew the truth of his words.
“How do you propose to quell this current upheaval for I am certain that political aspirations are most assuredly connected with the outcome?” Loreck said.
“I want you to return and visit with Thorin. Gadzara may be trying to force my hand, I see no reason to confirm my understanding to her, indeed she will get what she so craves.” Mortas spoke softly, but none in his presence could mistake his meaning. Loreck bowed and departed.
“Loreck did not divulge all that was troubling him,” Eon observed.
“Yes, he often wishes to conceal unhappy truths from me, however unnecessary, I have been aware of Gadzara’s actions for some time, but it is not her, but to whom she is allied that interests me.”
Eon frowned, “you know she is plotting an incursion?”
Mortas smiled. “Not so much an incursion as persuasive rule and no doubt to the benefit of her conspirators. What I have yet to understand is why me and what hold they have over her, for she would never risk so much without ample reward or sufficient threat.” Mortas looked thoughtful for a moment “I must attend the ruins, then I may visit the Princess, she has concealed much from Loreck but nothing to me.” His voice had changed; it was strange, harder, and colder somehow. Eon nodded, he suspected Mortas had a plan.

“Come now human, you are a woman like any other; it was good of you to prepare yourself in such becoming attire for your Lord and Master.” Devron chided Thorin. She looked away staring blankly at the wall.
“Why have you brought me here?” fearing she already knew the answer, yet she could not avoid the inevitable question. “You must know that Prince Mortas will find me,” it was a hope rather than a certainty and Devron sensed this.
“Of course he will not find you, he is too much in love with my sister Gadzara, to wonder about a mere human.” Devron sounded confident. Thorin steeled herself and met his gaze squarely
“I am not a mere human, perhaps your sister has neglected to tell you, that it was your Prince himself who brought me to Effieron” she guessed rather than knew this fact and she had accomplished her aim Devron seemed nervous. “I see there is much your wonderful “sister” have not told you.” Thorin felt some confidence returning.
“It is a lie, Loreck brought you, we all saw that.” Devron said still with an edge in his voice.
“He could not have done so without some higher authority, and I’m sure it appeals to you that this is unlikely.” Thorin was triumphant, she had succeeded in frightening Devron, his face became monstrous, darkening angrily he bared his teeth in a snarl.
Turning to the guard at the door of the chamber he gave barking orders “untie her bonds, give her refreshment” and more harshly “watch her.” With that he departed the room.
Thorin’s mind was racing. It was clear that Lord Devron had bought her in some bargain with Gadzara. Who knew she was here? She answered her own question, no one. “Dammit” she swore under her breath, the warning light flashing in her head had been ignored as she suppressed her intuition. Now it was evident that Gadzara had it all planned from the start. Despite her attempts to stay awake, Thorin felt the weight of sleep overtaking her.
Thorin awoke, to the sound of someone breathing deeply above her; her temples ached, as hot air fanned her cheeks. Becoming aware she was naked and her breasts were wet. Looking up into Devron’s eyes as his weight pinned her open thighs against the furs and cushions. Panic swept through her as she tried to move and felt a sharp pain in her arm, warm sticky liquid trickled down and the pain intensified as Devron pinned both arms behind her head. Blood pooled in her armpit making a slow descent across her upper chest. Devron licked the blood from his protracted nails and then from Thorin’s arm. Moving his head to her face she closed her eyes to block out the sadism in his eyes, she felt his tongue warm wet and sticky across her face as it made its way towards her lips, she could smell stale wine and the iron from her blood on his breath, she cried out hearing Devron laugh in return.
“Screaming, I like that in women, the taking is all the better for it.”
Thorin couldn’t breathe, tears stung her eyes. “Please don’t” she pleaded.
Devron raised his head, laughing uproariously running his hand over her body; a Laughter which turned to a high-pitched scream. Thorin felt a warm wetness splashed across her face, trailing down her bosom, Devron’s weight crushed her before being lifted away. Above her stood Mortas, black blood dripping from his protracted nails and arms. Then Thorin saw it, the two gaping holes in Devron’s chest, she laid there trembling, covered in blood. Mortas approached silently, wrapping her in a fur he lifted her gently into his arms, burying his face into her neck, her reserve evaporated and Thorin broke down and cried uncontrollably. Mortas held her firmly to him as he flew out of the doorway.

ASCENSION- FOUR

Mortas...

A faint breeze stirred the air as Loreck entered quietly not wishing to disturb Thorin’s outwardly peaceful rest. He stood outside the curtains watching her- there was no doubt she was a beautiful child, Mortas had chosen well. He frowned slightly at the thought that Larion and those who call themselves his loyal followers may not accept her into the clan, because of fear and superstition, but she had the potential to save their world. Mortas will have to bear his soul to her if they are to succeed and there are things even the young prince did not know about himself and his initiation. Loreck did not want to dwell on those dark thoughts; he had to remain confident for all their sakes. They have a long and uncertain road ahead.
Thorin awoke to the smell of scented candles, Jasmine she dreams, opening her eyes to see Loreck seated cross-legged studying a map intently.
“Good evening, I trust you slept well?” He enquired without looking up.
“Yes thank you” she lied. Loreck glanced at her, studyingly. “I hope that we can talk some more this evening,” she ventured avoiding his gaze.
“What do you wish to speak about?” He asked the question slowly and deliberately.
Taking the direct approach Thorin took a deep breath “I want to know the truth, if I am to be used as a concubine to provide an heir and if so why was I chosen?” Her words came out surprisingly composed, which was far from how she felt. Thorin was looking at him directly she did not want to miss anything.
“I cannot answer your questions in a manner that may prove satisfactory to you,” Loreck said quietly.
“Why not?” asked Thorin trying to control the anger threatening to overwhelm her. “Look at it from my point of view I am a stranger here, I don’t know your rules, the way you live your lives, I’ve been taken from the home of my friend like that” she snapped her fingers her anger that she had been carefully keeping in check was beginning to escape “I have been vanished off to God knows where, to meet God knows whom, and in the interim, I am being told my body is to be used for the greater good and you can’t confirm or deny it.”
All the pent-up anger and frustration coupled with her fear and uncertainty of the unknown future was gushing out of Thorin like a tidal wave. Loreck looked taken aback by the torrent of rage emanating from the beautiful woman before him. He looked away, avoiding the intensity of her stare.
“I would tell you if I could, but you must understand that it is not my place to do so without permission.” Sadness coloured his voice “I know that Gadzara must have related something to you, but you must believe me when I say there are many things that she does not know or understand.” Thorin bit back a retort, Loreck raised his hand silencing her comment “she acted out of spite and for that I am truly sorry, I will go to see Mortas this night, it is my charge and I will ask him to settle this unhappy matter.”
In one fluid movement Loreck was on his feet, reminding Thorin of his bulk and she wondered how she could have forgotten her fear to speak to him in the way she had. Loreck departed Thorin watched him leave, aware that she had a decision to make.

“What do we do now Gadzara?” Thorin asked the other woman who looked well prepared as if expecting a visitor. “I will take you in my personal chair to a friend who will help you.” She answered smilingly.
“Fine.”
“But first we must prepare my dear, perhaps you ought to change your attire, you should appear a little more becoming.” Gadzara said continuing to hold her smile
“Why?”
“Let’s just say it helps the negotiation process, the way is dangerous and we will need an escort, you understand.” She did not but Thorin nodded her agreement. “My maid will assist you.” Gadzara continued “I’ll just make us a little drink to celebrate your impending freedom.” She left while Thorin was attended to.
Gadzara hummed while she dropped a Zen pod into the wine goblet, when she returned, she was astonished to see Thorin’s attire, she felt her uneasiness return, but she crushed the thought with a smile.
“You look perfect my dear, now for a little celebratory drink.” She held out the goblet Thorin clasped it and took a deep hearty drink, while Gadzara raised the goblet to her lips watching her above the rim.
“There must be 100% proof in that,” she giggled. Gadzara gave her a confused look. “Never mind let’s go before anyone comes.” Thorin put the goblet down feeling a little dizzy.
“Of course” Gadzara said smiling. They departed with Gadzara flying while Thorin was carried on an elaborately ornate chair between two servants.

Thorin awoke to the sound of voices and laughter around her. When she opened her eyes she became aware of some of the faces and was afraid.
Gadzara leaned over her. “You are with us again; it’s amazing how much you sleep.” Turning to the others she said, “I gave her a Zen pod, so she has no notion of where she is or how she got here.” Turning back to Thorin Gadzara pouted. “This is a special evening for you, you see I knew you were coming and when my Lord Devron expressed an interest, well I could not disappoint him, after all when he saw you at the gathering, he sent word as to his partiality.”
She stepped back allowing a Diak to step forward. Thorin gasped he was the one at the gathering claiming she was a spy; a cold smile touched his lips as Thorin became aware she was bound.
“Now I must go before Loreck returns, I must be prepared for him and my darling Mortas” and to Thorin Gadzara laughed harshly “you must get to know your new master,” she held Thorin’s chin drawing her closer “you wanted to be out now you are, granted Devron is not Mortas, but I dare say he has all the right qualities that you simply must learn to love.” She stressed the last words pointedly smiling and Thorin could see the glee in her eyes.

“My Lords this gathering is essential to our people, my father being absent, as urgent business calls him to the Badlands, to protect our vested interests. I am here in his stead to conduct deliberations on strategy, tactics, and advantages for trade as well as peace talks.” Mortas opened the floor to discussions among the leader Diaks. From his tier seat Lord Devron silently observed.
“We thank your Highness for his regard in these matters and would state the first concerns on our minds, for I do believe we are of one mind, when I say it sits uneasily with us that your Highness should see fit to invite a Cayjun here.” Mirach was first on the offensive. Mortas raised his hands to his loyal supporters silencing their outraged protests.
“Allow my brother Diak to speak, we are all one here and we cannot sever any part, simply because it does not please us, but accept the differences it represents.”
“King Larion has chosen well in you to lead us in his absence, your Highness.” Mirach conceded. “Still I do wonder if it is in our best interests, that one so young and inexperienced should be solely responsible for such advanced matters and decision-making.” He continued slowly.
“As adviser to my father, Lord Mirach, he has always valued your opinion and wise counsel and I shall endeavour to do the same, pray tell, what is your view on attempting peace to avert war?” Mirach shifted uncomfortably he was surprised that Mortas was adept at word games and all were watching him closely to discern his position.
“As your Highness is well aware I am not a politician but a simple Diak, who has always valued the interests and benefits of my people first.” Mirach said stiltedly, there were murmurs of approval and he was encouraged. “Further, we have always welcome peace, where such actions are clearly stipulated that the other party’s intentions are so interested, by openly acknowledging their interests and not in secret.” He stiffly concluded.
“Such actions are an admirable trait and may be best actioned, where sanction does not dictate a need for careful and quite proceeding. It cannot benefit the people if every action was made public before a mutually beneficial decision was reached and so I say that, it is clear that not everything can be explained openly, but partially, through time when there is absolute certainty as to the benefits for each individual Diak.” Eon smiled proudly at his brother’s defence. Mortas understood Mirach.
Standing in the background Loreck listened carefully, Ataron was reborn in Mortas, those could only be his words, and none would dare sanction, not even the King himself.
“As you say your Highness, we are not in possession of all the facts, but you ask very much of us without equal recompense.” Lord Devron interjected reluctantly; the single braided General Commander frowned under the ossein carved chaplet on his brow, wisps of teal coloured hair obscured his eyes and his fine boned face was contemplative while his lips were in a critical curl.
“King Larion has never lost sway to Effieron nor will his heir.” Eon had interceded before Mortas could answer. The eloquent charismatic Prince with the shaved beryl mohican waved a sophisticated hand.
“Then we will allow the matter to rest.” Mirach said steadily and bowed but each knew with certainty that it could not be for long other matters was then deliberated on. Lord Devron smiled, Mirach was a useful pawn. He watched as Loreck whispered to Mortas.
Prince Mortas was no fool he was young to be sure, but this was only his outward appearance. He told himself he must continue to monitor the young Prince, by comparison the King was predictable and Devron was better suited to comfort. After all given the right motivations one could be leader without being King.

ASCENSION-THREE

Mortas 4

Thorin held her breath; he was tall, with the characteristic indigo blue hair grey eyes although they were the same as Loreck’s there was also something different and familiar about them. His skin shown blue in the light although he was taller, younger, his features were defined. Fine boned and elegant, the handsome aristocratic demeanour and the exactness of his movements did not belie his strength and agility, adorned in regal attire and golden sandals, he carried no armour, yet the fact that he was a warrior was clear. As he drew nearer the others made a path for him each bowing in turn.
Thorin looked up trying to meet his gaze levelly, as he approached her. “I understand that you are the reason I am here, what I do not understand is why I’m here.” She said flatly trying to sound matter of fact and unaffected by his presence.
Without taking his eyes from her, he instructed “Loreck take the lady to the shimmering pools, I will join you there” Loreck nodded his assent and to Thorin he said “yes, I will explain all in time,” sensing her silent protest more softly “be patient and remain open-minded.” It unnerved Thorin that she was suddenly not afraid of him. She watched him until he was out of sight and nothing but a small speck on the balcony of the Citadel.

Moving silently over the plains and a small desert area, except for the occasional commentary from Loreck Thorin was grateful for the silence; her mind was racing in this new land. She kept coming back to how Mortas had appeared, there was much about him that was strange, his black feathered wings was certainly a showstopper, and yet there was something familiar in his air, the manner in which he approached her, his sure self-confidence brought back memories of another Thorin did not want to think on. In the distance there was a shimmering line, its shape continually adjusting.
“What is that up ahead, it seems to be alive?”
Prompted by Thorin’s curiosity Loreck said, “That is the Iscarza, it is quite literally living water, and it is a part of the equilibrium in our world once spanning many leagues.” He pointed as he spoke. “It is the largest body of water in the Kingdom of Effieron, flowing through the land from the western Silver Graveyard ancient ruins to beyond Osidian the Eastern Kingdom, but now it is slowly diminishing.” Loreck continued “our world is beginning to die and with added conflict, it seems hopeless.” His dejection did not escape Thorin who felt silent pity for the loss occurring in his world, as they passed over the still considerable expanse of water.

Beyond the pools, towards the horizon rising majestically out of the landscape was a tower, like the one she’d seen belonging to the King. “Wow” she exclaimed “what is that?”
Unable to contain her open fascination, she drank in the sight before her. What seemed a tower at first was more than just a building. As they passed through, it was also the doorway into the hollow shell of the mountain. Leading to the center of the great Citadel city stood a building higher than the rest. The aerie of Marble and gold, it shone in the glimmering light of the twilight sun. Encircling it, bent majestic branches of perfumed flowers, clinging and climbing ever upwards. Columns of white stood in the shape of a sphere at its base. It boasted of wealth beyond imagination.
“That is the Silent Tower, the Citadel of Prince Mortas. It has an interesting history. The lady who once occupied this great place had the stones strategically placed to create a large hollow pillar inside it is circular and the roof is designed so that light may travel from outside all the way to the very depths.” Loreck’s voice was proud as he expounded the facts.
“Such height, the view must be breathtaking,” said Thorin.
Loreck soared up on an air current, rising above the unruly gusts of the Great Sandor Mountains and the Gold Prairie below circling the tower. Thorin found that she loved the heights, for one she could see the landscape much better Loreck’s wings swept them effortlessly through the clear air, his feathers gleaming in the late afternoon sunlight.
“It is five thousand kilometres high.” Loreck said. “I will take you there, you must wait for Mortas, Gadzara will be your companion, she is level-headed and trustworthy I think you will be safe.” Loreck said.
“You will not be staying with me?” Thorin questioned, she felt uneasy to remain in an unknown place, not that she knew Loreck well but she was more at ease with him.
“There is nothing to fear. Gadzara is a very good warrior and you will come to no harm under her protection.” Loreck seemed certain and Thorin felt she had to trust him. She nodded quietly.

They landed on an open balcony, decorated by ornate vases; veiled curtains billowed and with them came a woman who was the image of the Prince. Although smaller in build. She had the same quiet strength, long blue black hair floating gracefully past her shoulders. Fine features and an elegant nose added to her haughty demeanour; her apparel although regal was more feminine, revealing ample attributes which when she moved, saw to it that none of her charms were missed. The metals in her ears arms wrists and neck like Loreck’s glistened.
“This is the one?” She asked
“She is the one.” Loreck confirmed, ushering Thorin in the footsteps of the woman.
They arrived to a central room that reminded Thorin of a Persian harem. Filled with cushions, subdued lighting lent a rich glow to the fabrics. In the centre food and wine had been placed and the scent reminded Thorin that she had not eaten for some time. The woman settled motioning them to join her.
“Where is Mortas?” She asked and Thorin noted the intimate way in which she spoke the name.
“He is at the gathering, there is unrest, and Larion is still away.” Loreck supplied briefly.
“I can guess who is causing the unrest.” She stated looking Thorin full in the face, the other becoming very conscious of her intense stare.
“Forgive me” Loreck interjected “this is the lady Thorin.” He said to Gadzara and to Thorin. “This is the Princess Gadzara-heir to the east lands and the Hieron clan (now occupied by the Cayjuns)-daughter of King Melfeshos-whose name is immortal-he died well.” Loreck concluded the lengthy introduction and Thorin noticed the change in the other woman as her past was revealed, there was proud silent defiance.
“I have had comfort prepared for her stay if she is to remain here, that is assuming she can survive the climate in this region.” Gadzara said in a stately manner. Thorin knew from her voice that the woman considered her “competition” and had no genuine liking for her.
“She is and she will.” Loreck nodded briefly. Gadzara rose in a fluid motion, bowed and withdrew to make further arrangements. As if sensing Thorin’s unasked question Loreck answered “do not be afraid of her, she is jealous, she considers Mortas hers and she does not like opposition, but she will honour his wishes.”
“How long will I have to be here?”
“Our gathering lasts two cycles-(four of your days) after that his Highness will be here …”
“But I don’t want to wait four days,” Thorin interrupted “why am I here, what is here, when do I go home?” Was that shrieking voice really hers.
“I have stayed too long already Mortas will need me.” Loreck said there was an underlying urgency in his voice as he signalled his goodbye.
“I have prepared refreshments for you; I think you will find them to your taste.”
Thorin turned. Gadzara had entered the room from another entrance, and following behind her was a servant with a tray made up of a strange gilded metal. On it was spiced cooked meats, bread, fruit and a wine pitcher with goblets. The servant set the tray down in the centre of the pile of cushions and withdrew. Gadzara motion Thorin to join her as she poured some wine into the goblets, giving one to her unwilling guest. Settling back she eyed Thorin openly.
“I am sure that you are aware that I do not like strangers, especially those who do not understand our ways,” she said, sipping briefly from her goblet. “Allow me to explain that in our world each chooses whom they wish for a mate, although it is true to say that royalty may forego such a luxury where it benefits the greater good, but unlike humans, our choices are for life, unless there is more than one favourable suitor, when such a situation exists then there is a battle to decide the victor, after that the natural choice is made.” Thorin listened intently she knew Gadzara would be telling her something soon.
“You speak as if each party has little choice in the matter, what about love, understanding and respect?” “To sacrifice everything for an action sanctioned by others seems, well to put it bluntly, cold.” Thorin said slowly.
“Of course to an outsider such as yourself you would not see the privilege of being chosen, by one of royal blood no less, certainly compatibility exists and great care is often taken when choosing a concubine.”
The words resonated in Thorin’s head. Gadzara continued smoothly “our land is dying and so to preserve it, we can no longer look to inside our own species. We have had to make a choice for the survival of our future that is why you are here, new genes are needed. A suitable breeding vessel, to bear a child carrying royal blood …”
At this Thorin who had been listening with quiet intent, dropped her goblet from suddenly cold hands, recovering she tutted at her own clumsiness she was not going to let Gadzara frighten her after all, the tactics being used could only be from a jealous desperation, but then again what did Gadzara stand to lose or gain she was royalty.
“That is not what I imagined the story to be. Loreck …”
Gadzara laughed sneeringly “Loreck knows nothing, correction forgive me, he is to say nothing, you must decide whether you will be a concubine, after all I am the chosen mate for Prince Mortas , our compatibility benefits both land and people, so you see you could have no place here.”
Thorin felt the bile rising from the pit of her stomach, she tried desperately to remain focused and composed.
“I can alternatively make arrangements for you to leave here this night; I could send you back to your own world.”
Thorin raised her head proudly looking the other woman straight in the eye. “I was told that you are jealous so I should expect such actions from you. How do I know that what you’ve revealed is not just some scheme to get me to leave?”
Gadzara smiled. “I consider you no threat my dear, I was merely offering to help you, in discovering the truth about your purpose here. How do you know that I am not showing you kindness, by telling you what is in your future, giving you the chance to leave before you are forced to stay?” Gadzara drawled “if you do not believe me when Loreck returns ask him and watch his reaction to your questions, he will not give you an answer, nor will he deny what I have said.” Gadzara was triumphant.
Thorin’s emotions were in turmoil; shakingly she reached for the spilt goblet and poured more wine taking a deep drink. She forced herself for composure, trying to steady her nerves and wild beating of her heart, levelly holding her gaze and courage she said to Gadzara “I will ask Loreck when he returns tonight, if what you say is true, then you can help me to go home, as long as you are sure you can do that.”
Gadzara smiled. “Of course and I will handle any questions that might be asked about your absence.”
With that she rose to leave. “I think you have made a wise decision.” And with that she was gone.
Thorin mused. This was Effieron, a land alien to her, that was dying, on the verge of war, her reality did not exist here nor the basis for rationality, everything was surreal there was nothing to attribute to normality. How could she explain this when it defied all logic and understanding, her being here simply could not be explained, all she knew had changed. The wine was taking effect Thorin fell asleep shortly afterwards.