Chapter 2

Kya reached her home, having bolted there from the palace. She flung open the door, knowing that she had little time to grab whatever supplies she could that she would need. She didn't know where she would go; only that she must escape and do what she could to survive. She had to run as far away from the Drakes as she could, and hide somewhere the Children of Molatag would not be able to reach her. She rushed to the kitchen, where she found the chief butler and ordered him to prepare food and water for her for a long journey. She did no tell him her reasons, and he knew it was not his place to ask, though he did look quizzically at the young girl. He set about acquiring the items she had asked for immediately and, running to her room, she grabbed the bag in which all of her mage books were always stashed, except when she was using them. Into the canvas sack she threw the fist set of clothes she could lay her hands on, and a small bag of gold she had always kept in a safe place for emergencies. If this was not an emergency then she didn't know what was. The Children Of Molatag were famed for being ruthless murderers, and she knew they would not cease their attempts to kill both her and Kayotor. Hurriedly throwing the food that the butler had prepared into her bag, she said a quick farewell to the man who had been a good friend throughout her childhood, and headed for the stables, throwing her full length cloak around her shoulders as she went.

Kya mounted her horse and set out, not being able to take in anything that had happened since the ceremony. It seemed like such a long time was almost like a memory of a dream. She rode out, knowing that her life depended on her discretion and the swift hooves of her beloved horse. The beast was raring to go, and was one person, at least, who was happy to see her. Kya had found the creature as a young foal, injured after a bad fall and with a broken limb and deep gashes in his side. Anybody else would have put the thing out of its misery, but Kya, with the help of her father, had taken the animal home in a disused cart and nursed it back to health. He had been wary at first, but Kya's love and warmth had gradually gained the creatures trust, and he had always welcomed her presence ever since.

Kya had named the beast Balen, a name that suited him well and had been taken from an elfin mythical tale she was often told as a child. The mythical creature had the ability to run great distances at impressive speed, a trait that the young horse shared. He did not tire easily. Kya loved the horse dearly, and now was the time she needed him most. She rode to the outskirts of the city, heading for the main gates and keeping to alleyways to avoid the eyes that could be watching her. She could trust nobody, even in passing. If they alerted the others to her presence then they would have her almost instantly. As Kya and Balen approached the gates, she spotted the guards at either side. She had never had any reason to fear them, but they stood threateningly now, watching the travellers come and go. Kya pulled the hood of her cloak a little tighter around her face, partly to shield herself from the rain that was beginning to fall, but mainly in an attempt to hide herself from their watchful eyes. She prayed for an uneventful passing. Kya, being seen as just another traveller, passed under the majestic gateway and felt immense relief wash over her.

She and Balen made their way slowly, not wanting to attract more attention than necessary. She would not risk a gallop, the guards would notice her and probably assume she was a thief and chase her down. If they did then she would be arrested immediately and almost certainly be killed - the Children of Molatag would find her within moments if she remained inside the city walls. She crept along the path out of the city as slowly as she dared. She had been riding for barely a minute when a horn sounded from the palace. Panic struck her. She turned her head to see the gates closing behind her, and she knew the reason was to stop her before she had escaped. Fortunately for her, they were moments too late. Kya dug her heels into Balen's hind quarters, urging him to go a little faster. She was grateful to the Spirits that she had got out in time. She passed a small merchant caravan that had stopped at the sight of the Imperial City closing its gates. He had been about to turn back, to shelter from the rain that was now falling more heavily. Kya looked down the dusty path that led the way to her future: lonely, dark and bleak.

General Ryshan Syranova stood on the fortifications of the Imperial Palace, looking down over the city as his men stood quietly behind him in the courtyard. He had lost his target. His men had searched her home, the mage’s university, the markets… everywhere obvious in the city. As he looked out of the city his wolf spirit birth mark seemed to stir. Considering the events of the last few hours he decided it would be best if he trusted his wolf spirit from here on in; its guidance was always going to be better than blind guess work. He turned around and leapt down into the courtyard, his cape fluttering in the air above him as he fell. "Unseal the city.” He said to a nearby officer. “The fugitive has already left its walls".

Ryshan’s men had grown to trust their leader’s intuitive ways; he was rarely wrong when he relied on his instincts. "Pack rations and equipment for a long chase. We might need it. Don't waste time and weight with ceremonial gear; we won't be using it. You have 30 minutes, go to it!"

The soldiers immediately ran to pick up their gear and rations while Ryshan went to his quarters to gather the equipment he had prepared whilst the alarm had been sounding. He had to be a hunter now, he told himself. To be a hunter of Drakes was an unnatural thing in itself. There were no natural predators of the people of the Drake isles. Ryshan made a small prayer and an offering of a small dead animal to Haruya at the shrine he had built in his quarters. He prayed for fair conditions and a good hunt. He returned at the end of his ritual to find all his men waiting for him in the courtyard where they had been dismissed from. "Let's go hunting!" He called to his men as he ran to the head of their column. The troops followed, running at great speed whilst staying in formation and holding their ranks as they had been trained to do.

The streets were lined with curious people each wondering what great emergency would called some of the High Flame and Dark Talon Guardsmen away from their Imperial Palace barracks. There were some cheers from the gathering crowd as General Ryshan lead his troops out of the city. Ryshan was taking his men the quickest route out of the city through it's huge market place. He stepped out into the bustling part of the city. The crowd seeing the approach of the elite guardsmen cleared out of the men's way, knowing that the guards would not have any second thought about throwing them out of their way. Ryshan looked around as he ran seeing the ornate covered spaces where many stalls had set up. The beautifully tiled roofs that were the known as being in the classical style with their symbolism of dragon's on the corners to show that the market like the city was blessed and beloved by Rainur.

The richness of the rainbow array of coloured paints, from brightest shimmering gold to deepest darkest sapphire. The merchants of the market all had a uniform that was issued to them after they bought heir trading licenses. The uniform reflected the beautiful colour scheme of the market place with diagonal slashes of colour running from the left tip of their shoulder down to the bottom right ankle of their beautiful robes. Even the stones of the plaza showed a richness that could have only come from years of trade as the smooth paving looked almost completely smooth yet had enough grip to ensure none fell even on the wettest of days, which judging from the sky above him Ryshan reckoned it could turn into. It took a few minutes for the soldiers to pass through the cheering market place and to reach the main gate of the city. The soldier settled into their stride for a long march. They were off on the trail of Kya.

Kya's horse was pushing quickly along the road to the port of Avenry. She could just about see across a large valley ahead of her that there was a Tavern she could spend the night in. She was on one of the relatively little used back trails and was expecting not too see many people on the road if any at all as she realised poor tavern owners were unlikely to question their clients to much as they would rather not drive away a potential return customer. She also hoped it would make her harder to track. She tapped her horses flanks and it trotted forwards along the track. The wind was chill and the burst of rain which swept towards her across the valley. Kya had decided to head for one of her families traditional homes. It was a castle on the coast that had been literally been built into small mountain in a cliff. It a place called 'Avenaire'. Kya dipped her head so as to only be looking at the road a few meters in front of her and avoid the most of the rain hitting her face.

She passed some thick bushes and heard a cough emanate from inside one of them. There was a sudden much louder rustle but Kya had the precious seconds to defend herself as a rather short man leapt from the bushes holding a rather large knife. He was squat and heavy, with a face that looked as if something was trying to squash it from all sides. He had teeth that were disgustingly yellowed, which were probably only still in his mouth because of his drake blood keeping the roots strong, showing in an evil looking grin. He lashed out at Kya's horse with is big knife. A moment later found himself lying upside down the bushes he had come from with a rather sore head and no idea how he ended up there. Kya's glowing ghost of a repulsion spell form hovered in the air for a second before fading away completely. Kya the made a simple sword summoning spell form gripping the weapons handle tightly more out need to calm her nerves than fear of being mugged by a highwayman. She spurred her horse on before the man could recover his wits and attack again. The road was quiet, but Kya was still reluctant to relinquish her grip on the sword she'd summoned. The rain was becoming more heavy as she arrived an hour later at the tavern he cloak soaked through and her body shivering uncontrollably. She rode her horse right into the stables and paid a young boy to take care of it.

Her body and mind were drained, but now the real agony set in. She had been used as a vessel for one of the great spirits and now she was being hunted by the descendants of Molatag. No way to return home and probably not going to be able stay in one place for very long. She staggered into the tavern and paid for her room before dragging herself up the stairs and collapsing in her bed. Her clothes hanging to dry by the fire she had set in the hearth.

Ryshan was standing under the shelter of some trees as he tried to decide his next move. His men were all under their tiny magical cloth shelters under the trees. Each shelter although flimsy looking was specially made for the elite troops by the Phoenician mages and through some very complex spell work had a huge amount of space inside. Once the men crawled inside they had enough space for the men to have at three small rooms. Ryshan knew that every moment he waited their fugitive became harder to track as the rain would be washing away every trace of her passing from the trail. He had to act fast. He looked down the main trail and saw the spread of people slowly wending their way through the rain. 'Would this woman run and hide in a crowd or try and avoid them?' There was another smaller trail not far away that lead to the port of Avenry. It was at that moment it hit him. She would be desperately be trying to get away from the Drakes and the Imperial City. The fastest way to get away from the Drakes would be to sail out of port Avenry. The heavy rain was rapidly turning into a storm and Ryshan watched as travellers on the road all seemed to head for a large tavern on the trail. 'This would be his men's advantage. They would travel in the storm and gain the ground they had lost.' Ryshan looked at the tiny magical portrait of Kya Temrain which he had found in the Temrain home. The woman was undoubtedly beautiful and her eyes seemed to captivate his very soul. He forced himself to concentrate on the task in hand.

He looked at the fact she was a mage, not just any mage but a master mage. She was the only one of her kind in the Phoenician order. She would travel the quiet road and hope to stay undetected. He walked back to his own shelter that his sergeant Lyang Qwan had set up for him. He entered to find sergeant Qwan sitting on a cushion with a nice meaty stew waiting for him. Qwan was Ryshan's closest friend despite their disparity in age and rank. Sergeant Qwan was a man in his middle forties and still in his prime fitness. The two men shared the General's shelter as it was easily the most comfortable and magically enhanced of all the shelters. Ryshan had personally commissioned its creation upon his promotion to General. Within it's magical confines the mages had cast and enhanced spell of the normal space providing kind used giving him five rooms instead of the usual three. It also had a spell that significantly decreased the weight of everything within. It was the perfect travelling home. "After we've eaten I need you to go round to the men and tell them to pack up we'll be moving off through the storm towards Port Avenry." Lyang looked quizzical "You found some tracks sir?" His sergeant had always been given the freedom to speak his mind "No, but I think that's the way she'll have gone." As he finished he felt his wolf birthmark twitch it's tail. "I'm almost sure of it." He said firmly. Lyang simply took his leader's word for it. He had experienced first hand what the intuition of this could do. In the first situation the two had met Ryshan had been just a mere captain. There had been an invasion of pirates on one of the outer isles of the Drakes. The pirates had somehow managed to repel a small force of normal soldiers. The then very young and inexperienced Captain Syranova had outmanoeuvred a pirates surprise attack so well that the pirates every move trapped them still further in the High Flame snare. Many Pirates and their ships had burned that day in the flames of their arrows.

Lyang had decided there and then he would stick with this Captain in the High Flame guardsmen. Sure enough four years later the young man had accomplished a feat many thought was impossible by becoming a fully fledged General. Lyang had also risen quickly through the ranks, thanks to his close association with Ryshan. He was now the highest possible rank for a none officer and was happy to stay as such. His saw it as his duty to look after Ryshan now that he was one of the most powerful men in the Drakes empire, to keep him grounded and without arrogance.

Their meal over Lyang went to roust the men and tell them their orders. Ryshan watched his friend leave, he knew the march through the storm would be hard. Even for his elite soldiers, but he also knew that he could catch his prey much quicker with the sudden gain of ground over her. He dreaded the thought of what he would have to do when they caught up with the woman more than could have ever expected. He had never met the girl but he knew that carrying out her sentence of execution, despite her terrible crime, would be the hardest task he'd ever undertaken.

Kya lay on her bed unable to sleep any more than the little she already had. She could hear the wind howling through the valley as the storm increased it's force. The rain hammered down on the tiled roof above her bed and seemed to have a menacing tone to it. She had lain there for several hours trying to get the rest she knew her body needed, but after staying asleep for the short amount of time her body had needed to function properly her subconscious mind had taken over. Throwing up horrible thoughts of the children of Molatag catching up with her in the dark and doing monstrous things to her. Kya decided that she couldn't lie in bed any longer she would look at one of the books she had brought with her.

Kya found herself sitting by the fire flicking through a book for battle mages. Reading about the theory's of a self perpetuating defence. Certain combinations of spell's that when used in conjunction gave a powerful and unbroken shield around the mage using them. She had just gotten to the part explaining about the drawbacks of such a defence, when she looked out of the window to see a flash of lightening illuminate the landscape. She spotted something that made her jump. She ran to the window to check that her eyes were not deceiving her with tiredness. A minute later the sky was lit up again and Kya had no doubts this time. There were a large number of men running down the path towards the tavern where she was staying, they had run through the night and the storm and were barely minutes away. She recognised the clothes they wore. They were High Flame and Dark Talon guards obviously sent to hunt her down. Kya grabbed her only partly dried clothes from in front of the fire throwing them on with an unpleasant squishing feeling. She tripped over as she pulled on one of her boots, but pushed herself to her feet quickly. She ran for the door grabbing up the rest of her things before running out to her horse. The stables were thankfully on the other side of the tavern from the soldiers. She saddled her horse then rode off into the bushes behind the tavern, just in time to heard a thud like a crash of thunder the sound of men shouting.

Kya rode through the tight paths between the trees as quickly as she could heading up hill and away from the tavern. The rain hit her mercilessly and Kya thought she would end up bruised because of the bombardment. She could see the me swarming inside and around the tavern seemingly turning it upside down in the process of searching for her. She spurred her horse into greater efforts soon reaching the edge of the valley. Kya tried to remember a concealment spell form, but the knowledge simply would not come to her. She crested the hill and hoped to Rainur, Kayotor, Haruya and Lapadel that none of the soldiers would look up in her direction now. There were no shouts of alarm or arrows fired at her in the few moments before she was back into the cover of some trees and on her way towards the coast again. Hoping that she could find her way to Avenaire and there be hidden. The trees shook so loudly from the storm that soon they were all Kya could hear. She wanted to slow her pace as her horse was unsure of it's footing in the soaking weather, but with the most feared soldiers in all the drakes hard on her tail she dared not slow. She could feel her horse shaking it's head in protest, but a soothing hand on it's neck convinced it to go on. Kya could barely see thirty feet ahead of her and was choosing her direction by dead reckoning. She hoped it would be enough as she pushed along the trail deeper into the dark.

Ryshan was practically kicking himself in annoyance. The information a particularly brutal looking man in his company had been able to extract from the tavern owner, told him that Kya had been here and probably not long ago. A woman matching Kya's description exactly had rented a room a few hours ago. The room looked as if it had been left in a hurry with a chair knocked over and the bed still warm. Ryshan didn't want to give Kya any more time to get a distance away as he knew she was very close, but he had to try and guess where she was going. He ordered Lyang to prepare the men for another quick march. Soon the soldiers were all formed up outside again awaiting their General's orders. Ryshan had an idea of where he would head. He looked around the back of the tavern by the stables looking for any sign of someone passing recently. It was then that he found them. The heavy hoof prints in the mud that showed a horse had cantered here not long ago. He called for his men to follow in a loose formation all weapons ready he may yet catch her. He ran into the trees where the hoof prints lead following them in the direct path to the edge of the valley. The ground was difficult to run on the armour of Ryshan and his men making them sink into the mud with each step. Ryshan slowed his pace knowing that he would just pointlessly exhaust his men by running.

At the crest of the hill the rain seemed to hit with twice the force of down in the valley and the trail simply stopped as they reached the crest. A few minutes of searching the trail was found again and Ryshan followed them down the hill side. The hoof prints getting more difficult to spot through the torrent of water that seemed to be rolling down the hillside. Ryshan cloak had turned completely brown from the amount of times he had slipped in the mud and landed on his back. His men were getting very weary. As they had already marched twice what could be expected of a normal soldier in one day for the most part in conditions that normal soldier wouldn't be expected to march in. Ryshan knew that he couldn't push them much further, they would have to stop soon. Whilst these thoughts were flashing through his mind Ryshan's eyes registered that the trail was gone. The storm had done it's work well and completely wiped the hoof prints and moved the flattened trail of undergrowth that showed where their quarry had passed.

Ryshan spotted a small cave near the bottom of the slope that looked like and abandoned mine. He took his men to it and they all gratefully sank to the floor to rest. "Set up a fire somewhere and then throw up the shelters we won't be going out again till morning." Ryshan called to his men who without the energy to make any kind of cheer simply accepted the order and got on with it. "No need for sentries tonight. We can just block the entrance to the mine and all sleep." Ryshan told Lyang before setting up their shelter and crawling in to sleep.