Chapter 3

Kya was an the verge of collapse when the derelict castle came into sight. It was Avenaire. Kya needed to rest some more as the wind and the rain had been draining her of her strength as she rode. Her legs were stiff and they felt bruised from the constant shifting of weight she had to do to stay on her horse in such fierce weather. She trotted along the smooth path up to the entrance of the broken down castle. Kya rode through the door way and into the main hall to find that the wind could still reach her only this deep into the castle. She remembered the familiar layout from when she was a child and this had been her playground. She steered her weary horse to the sheltered Kitchen and started a fire in it's hearth to keep the beast warm as it rested. She laid out some of the fodder she had managed to grab when she arrive in the tavern's stables and put a pail of water in the floor for the animal to drink from. Finally she took off it's saddle and gently rubbed it's back. Kya wished she could give the horse so much more as it's study legs and back had saved her life this night. Kya walked with difficulty up the great stairs of the castle to find shelter where she used to play on the top floor of the castle. Where she hoped the big make shift bed she had made long ago was still there. She opened the door to what had been her secret hide away, to see all the run down splendour of the castle which she remembered. The guilt gold framed mirror lying on it's side as it used to be, with it's reflective surface hidden by years of dirt. The broken old bed had not fared well in the years which had passed since Kya had last been here. Anther one of it's legs had collapsed since she'd seen it last and now it stood on only one leg with the rest of the frame on the ground. Kya did the only sensible thing and kicked the leg out of place so the entire frame rested on the floor. The fur mattress and bedding had survived incredibly and were still like she remembered, even if there were a few spiders that needed to be removed from them. Kya started another fire in the grate and once again threw her clothes in front of it. She felt safe in the place that had once been her favourite playground. The must needed rest came more easily in the familiar surroundings. Spirit Mage Darin sat in his chambers flicking through the book of his deity. Molatag's Kadel was the greatest assembly of Molatag's will in existence. The book was one of only six in existence and Mage Darin was the only person in the world to have his own personal copy. The wavy symbols laid out the words of a prayer to the dark deity. A prayer for vengeance and a prayer for death. Kyasarin Temrain was the death Darin prayed for. He sliced his upper arm to release the blood offering needed for Molatag to be able to act and steered the fluid into the small bowl altar that allowed a message to be sent into Molatag's darkness in the spirit world. Darin allowed his mind to wander whilst staring into the pool Molatag was guiding his sight. Darin soon found what he had been hoping for.

He saw from above a girl lying in a bed. The room was dirty and dilapidated and the bed was made of furs. From the girls chest he could see a faint golden glow. Kayotor was there and she was weakened. His sight seemed to travel out of the room to the air outside. A word came to his mind in the sound of a gravely voice 'Avenaire'. The image went dark again and then an image of a High Flame guardsmen appeared it was the General. The one he had lied to about Kya's actions in the palace. The image got closer but suddenly there was a deafening snarl and a wolf head appear on the man's shoulder. The view quickly lurched back from the general's sleeping form and to another body in another tent. He wore the uniform of a Dark Talon Guard. The view came closer Darin would have swore he was pressing against the man's face. "Avenaire!" the gravely voice sounded again then all was dark. Darin opened his eyes to see himself back in the room in front of his bowl altar. Molatag was making his work.

Ryshan awoke before most of his men and walked to the front of the mine to unseal the entrance and see if the storm had passed. The stone and wood barricade was pulled aside to reveal a clear blue sky. Not a drop of rain in sight. Ryshan turned to find one of his Dark Talon Guards standing there. "I've been thinking sir, there was an old run down castle that I remember hearing about not far from here and nowhere near anywhere else. It was called 'Avenaire'. Could the target have gone there?" Ryshan felt the hackles on his wolf birth mark burn as the man spoke. There was something wrong about the Avenaire place. His spirit was telling him clearly, but what?

He nodded his acknowledgement to the man and walked back to his shelter. As he crawled through the small entrance to the magically spacious room inside. He had to decide what to do with his men next. There was no possible chance of them finding and kind of trail after that storm. The ground would be like a clean slate. He thought about the Avenaire place his Dark Talon had spoken of. A derelict castle away from other towns, cities and villages. It sounded like a good option, but Ryshan's wolf mark still seemed to rebel against the idea. With no other options at hand Ryshan gave the order for the men to prepare for another march and told Lyang to seek out the Dark Talon so he could act as scout.

The road was quiet as the locals and travellers were still not willing to come out with the ground in such a sodden state. The soldiers boots squelched in and out of the mud with each step. Ryshan was with the Dark Talon at the head of the column. The man was very silent as he walked towards a small mountain in the distance. The silence unnerved Ryshan a little as the man as far he knew had always been quite the talker. He could feel the hackles on his mark burning even more insistently, but the disappeared as the building came into sight. It was a building actually carved into the mountain side. The sapphire stone shining slightly in the bright sunlight. There were fallen blocks of shimmering sapphire at the bottom of the wall, where time had taken it's toll on the ancient ramparts. The castle was obviously not a castle built for a defence, but for beauty. There was still a spiral topped tower with a swirl of white inside the blue roof. There was a half collapsed turret on the far side from the tower that obviously had brilliant views across the landscape, but now couldn't support the weight of a person. The entrance and obviously once held huge doors that had been a great symbol of status for the owners. The soldiers marched closer and closer to the derelict building. The Dark Talon that was leading the group seeming to increase his pace the closer. As the troops stepped into castle's main hall. The troops formed into a circle around Ryshan and Lyang. "Pair off and sweep the building. The search is to be co-ordinated by Sergeant Major Qwan." Ryshan walked out of the circle and up the winding marble steps onto the upper floors. The only sounds in the air were those of his men clattering through the lower floors of the castle. He saw the way in which most of the valuables had been stripped from the castle a long time ago. The brighter sections on the walls that told him a painting had once hung there. The scratch marks on the balustrades where there had obviously once been some sort of ornate decoration, probably gold leaf. "We've found a horse!" Ryshan heard the shout from below, he didn't think much of it. It could have just belonged to some shepherd who had come inside to shelter for the night. He continued up the floors seeing what much have once been the master bedroom stripped bare, it's doors likely having been taken away with the contents of the room. Ryshan looked up to the third and final floor. It looked darker than the other floors, he climbed the stairs with a sense of anticipation what for he had no idea but there was something. His bow was in his hand and some kind of instinct told him to string it. He knew he was heading to an area his men had not even seen yet never mind checked and for a moment thought that was the reason. However it was only for a moment. He knew that in truth that was not the reason for his caution, was something else. Something indescribable yet clear in it's effects. He pulled the string taught and flicked his cloak away from his quiver. As he came off the top of the stairway his tension was almost palpable. There was something here. Ryshan walked slowly and silently across the wide landing. Seeing the three doors and estimating from the size and shape of the building where people would hide. The largest and most frontal room would be the place chosen for most comfort. The main chimney ran through that section of the building meaning it was the safest place to build a fire. He approached the door and pushed it open with base of his bow. The room was empty but for an old broken bed, a dirty fire place and a mirror, so coated in dirt that the only way it would be distinguished as a mirror was it's framework. He moved into the room slowly looking around for any possible hiding places in the room. Behind the bed covered in furs was plausible, but a few steps to the side soon showed there was nobody there. He advanced again his eyes sweeping left and right striding slowly but purposefully across the floor. His wolf mark's hackles suddenly burned and he knew there was a presence in the room. He did not know where but somebody was there. He closed his eyes and felt out using his wolf mark to find his target. He span around, as he felt something behind and to his left, drawing an arrow as he went. The flash of a the spell form was just enough time for Ryshan reflexes to throw him onto the ground and avoid being launched bodily across the room by Kya's repulsion spell. Kya was in shock and unable to move. There she was hidden by a complete concealment spell form and he had found her. She had the element of surprise attacking whilst she was still slightly invisible and he had avoided it. Now she was completely visible and in the soldiers line of fire. His arrow drawn back and ready to slam straight into her chest. Her entire body was shaking as she looked into the eyes of the soldier. He was frozen laid on the floor the string on his bow so taught it was creaking slightly. Kya's heart had nearly stopped as the sound reached her ears. Ryshan looked into the face of the young woman he had spent the last two days chasing. She was even more beautiful than he remembered her to be, even though he had spent the last two days frequently looking at the picture he had taken from her home. Her face captivated him even more in person than it had in her portrait the rise and fall of her breast made him want to hold her an tell her every thing was okay. His mind was screaming at him to let go of the string. To do his duty and execute the woman who had tried to kill Kayotor. His hand twitched slightly but the string stayed still. He knew his duty and for once in his life he failed to carry it out. He couldn't face the cold blooded murder of this woman and he could not understand why. Nor could he make his body obey the orders his mind was screaming. All he knew was that something about this seemed wrong, and it heart felt as if there was a sword driving and twisting through it. His hands shook even more for a few seconds and the pair stared at each other then he relaxed the string. Kya couldn't understand the soldier's actions as he slackened the bow string and after another frozen moment, he took a step towards her and she fled. She didn't want to wait around to find out why he hadn't fired. Before he had a chance to change his mind and re-arm his bow, she had ran out of the room into the musty corridor, she ran into another room with a window that faced the once well kept gardens. She ran straight towards it, knowing that she wasn't being pursued but fearing the man she had encountered may snap out of his trance and not hesitate a second time to kill her. She looked out to see a familiar ladder of thick ivy working it's way up the outside of the building. Her bag was over still on her back from when she had thrown everything into it when she had heard the stamp of the soldiers boots. There was little wind as it had calmed after the storm. The climb was hard but she made it as quickly as she could nearly falling twice as her skirt wrapped itself around her foot.

She was barely twenty feet above the ground when her skirt finally caught her out. It hooked around her left heel as she lowered it. The shift in weight was all that was needed to over balance Kya and send her falling to the ground. She felt something in her leg crunch as she landed badly. There was a shout from inside as one of the other soldiers had heard Kya's fall. Kya pushed herself to her feet to see her horse tied up against a fallen stone. She hobbled towards it but she could hear the shouts of the soldiers getting louder and she knew she would have to act. She spun and drew out a spell form. She had only see it once, but the fear on being killed this time made it unforgettable. The swirls and symbols seeming easy as she could vaguely see red shapes appear in windows. The flash of completion came just in time as one of the soldiers arrows flew. It struck into water that had grown into a giant wall after the flash. It had taken almost all of Kya's energy to create but the wall was stable. It was the water wall spell. The defence was thirty feet high and ten feet thick. Kya could see bursts of flame appearing on the other side of the water. Her heart nearly burst out of her chest in relief. She dragged her self onto her horse, tapping it into motion with her uninjured leg. Ryshan had reached the window that Kya had escaped from as she scrambled off the ground and limped over to her horse. She had woven some sort of spell that created a sort of wall of water, and he watched her gallop away. He knew he couldn't bring himself to shoot her and returned the arrow to his quiver. His body seemed almost numbed and ignored his mind's orders as it roared at him to fire. He could still take her down, she was still within range, but something held him back and he powerlessly watched her go. Once she was out of sight, he screamed with rage and smashed an ancient wooden table that was in the room. He cursed himself for not killing the woman - it was his job. Next time, he vowed, he would not let her get away so easily. Furious with himself, he returned downstairs to his men and gave the order to set up camp for the night. Kya was having trouble not screaming in pain as she rode for the coast. She knew the spell would hold for half a day, which gave her time to get some distance away. Every jolt of her horses hooves shaking her injured ankle. Kya saw the rocky outcrop ahead of her dropping off into a small rocky cove. It seemed like forever to reach the outcrop having to grit her teeth to avoid howling in agony every time the horse hooves clattered onto the ground. She was becoming almost light headed when she reached the outcrop. She had no idea where she could go or what to do. The strange soldier had let her go on the top floor of the castle, but the other men had tried to kill her. She looked around the cove in desperation and to her delight spotted a small opening in the wall of rock below her. He heart sang in her chest as she rode closer to see a tiny cave practically hidden from view. Kya dropped off her horse onto her good leg and hopped one footed into the cave leading the animal inwards. The cave was obviously some sort of hide out. It had a shallow pit with used fire wood in scraped into the rock of the floor. There was another taller stone slab close in front of the seat slab which had obviously been used in the past as bench and a stone block with arches craved into it to allow people to use it comfortably as table. Kya tied her horse up again and poured some water from her horse's rain water filled pouch to let it drink. She drank some water too before sitting down on the stone bench and flicking through her healer mage spell book. The pain of her ankle was still intense, but compared to horse ride it was considerably less painful. She looked down at her ankle to see that it was now extremely swollen and she could see the broken bone pushing the skin of her ankle outwards. The thought of how close the bone had come to piecing her skin and being in the open air made Kya wretch, but she rapidly regained her composure and began to look for a spell form that would fix her ankle. It took almost what felt like forever for Kya's reading of her spell book to produce anything useful. The thick tome's vast resources having to be examined in pain staking detail in order to find the relevant section. The spell form was not particularly complex, but Kya could feel that she didn’t have the magical energy to perform any spell. She lay back on the stone and closed her eyes waited for the power to return to her. She could hear the sweep of the tide as it washed against the flat rocks of the cove. She couldn’t fall sleep because of the pain, so she just stayed unmoving and awake on the rock. Her magic slowly returned to her, but her injury was stealing her strength. She was barely conscious when she could feel that she had enough magic to heal herself. She began he intricate pattern above her ankle ensuring it was the all encompassing spell form that would heal her injury and not leave something for her body to have to do. She could feel the magic flow from her as she completed the spell form. Her ankle snapped back to the way it should be in a way Kya knew would have been agonising if it hadn't even done by magic, but the crunch it made still was enough to make her shudder. She would feel a strange writhing under her skin and she knew it was her bone re-knitting itself. She felt the ache ease as the muscle twisted back into shape and healed itself of it's rips and tears. It had taken a minute but soon the normal colour and shape had returned to Kya's ankle. She pushed herself to a standing position and tested her ankle gingerly almost as if she was expecting it to have not worked and for the injury to suddenly reveal itself again. It did not and Kya walked around the cave for a few minutes trying to decide what to do. The longer she thought of the topic the greater the panic gripped her heart, she had no where to go. No where she could hide, she had the great being Kayotor trapped within her frail body and there were people trying to kill her for it. Her mind went back to the soldier and how he had held back from the killing shot. How he had somehow been able to sense her even when she was invisible. The thought made her shake in a way she didn't understand, almost as if it was a quiver of longing. There was a sudden scrape from outside the cave, sounding as if the there was something very heavy. The noise reverberated through her ears and down her spine shaking her to the core. Kya sat up straight. She knew that her water wall would only just be failing back at Avenaire, it couldn't be the soldiers. The roar that filled very crevice of the cave told Kya that she was awaiting a fate both terrifying and possibly deadly. The troll a roared again as it ran into the cave entrance trailing it's heavy mace along the ground as it tried to squeeze through the gap that Kya and her horse had only just been able to fit through. Kya screamed as the troll pulled back and tried to smash it's way through the entrance, which was too tight for it to fit it's massive bulk through. She had been told by her battle mage study master that facing a troll alone even with the assistance of magic was one of the most dangerous situations a person could be in. She grabbed her battle mage tome and desperately flicked through it's pages searching for some sort of hope. She could summon a sword, but that would mean she would be facing down a twenty foot or more magical monstrosity bearing tusks the size of her forearms with just a thin and pointy strip of metal. The idea was not appealing. There was another bang that startled Kya so much she jumped and dropped the tome onto it's face losing her page. As the next mace blow slammed into the rock and sparks showered down through the small entry way. It was at that moment Kya remembered her spirit mage class and how when they had been talking about taking on a summoned troll. There was one thing that was guaranteed to drive one back; A fire spirit. Trolls were instinctually terrified of fire. Kya scrambled into back further from the cave entrance as the trolls stabbed it's mace through the cave entrance, scraping some of the roof away as it did so. Kya's mind was racing she was desperately trying to remember the spell form for a fire spirit, but nothing came. She had only see the traitorous Mage Darin perform the spell once. Then she scrambled for her bag again as the troll roared and began to squeeze through the gap dragging itself into the cave and to it's prey. Kya shaking hands dropped her bag onto the floor the tomes spilling out and scattering across the floor.

Kya fell to her knees and crawled searching for her spirit mage tome. As she crawled her eyes came across her elemental mage tome, in that moment a stroke of brilliance came to her. Something she thought few others would have thought of. She threw open the elemental mage tome to the second page and one of the simplest spell forms in the world. The spell form hovered bright in the air for the spilt second before activating and a fireball powered by all the magic Kya could muster flew across the cave. Kya felt a strange boost of magic and the fireball grew to the size of the whole entrance before it slammed into the troll's barely visible head.

The scream of terror from the beast made Kya cower behind the stone bench. It struggled screaming its pain and fear at the top of its lungs. There was a terrible crunch of bone and the troll pulled itself out of the cave entrance. The following splash told Kya she was safe. Trolls were too heavy to swim. She walked shakily to the cave entrance and stared out at into the cove to see the trolls body floating face down in the sea water which glowed in the red sunset. As it's body twisted in the gentle tide Kya could see the bone sticking out the top of the monsters shoulder like the giant limb had been skewered as to be able to spit roast it. There was a sudden flash and Kya was suddenly splashed with water as the troll disappeared and the energy release from the spell sent the water flying onto the shore. Kya broke down there and then. She knew so had sent the monster. It had to be Mage Darin and the Children of Molatag. It felt as if the whole world was hunting her and wanted her dead. She had nowhere to run to and nobody to turn to. She was facing the dark powers of the world and she nobody to help her. The hot salty tears flowed in stinging paths down Kya cold cheeks and she felt like she did not want to breathe any more. The world closed in around her and her body shook as she cried letting the emptiness in her heart escape and consume her. She had never wanted anything but to live happily to find a man who would care for her no matter what happened and would protect her from the pain in the world. The pain in her heart mocked her for it. Telling her she was a foolish little girl living in a day dream. Her mind returned to the thoughts of the soldier who had let her live. Now she wished the act of generosity and gentility had never taken place and that it had all ended there and then. She pulled herself into a corner of her cave curling up into a ball unable to think, see or hear past her pain and sadness. The warm pressure on Kya forehead made her jumped back against the wall. Her wide terrified eyes came to rest on the eyes of Balen. It nuzzled her cheek letting out a little whinnied in indignation at Kya's tears. Kya launched her arms around the gentle animal’s neck finding solace on its warm fur.

It was the middle of the night when an excited soldier ran to Ryshan's tent to tell him that the magical wall of water had fallen and that they were now free to move out of the ruined castle. It was ten minutes before Ryshan had his men ready to move again. They marched out in loose formation, each man charged with trying to find Kya's tracks. The pace was slow and the search methodical and soon the horse’s tracks were found in the damp ground. Ryshan lead his rested and refreshed men along the Kya's trail. The sound of pieces of armour clattering other pieces was loud as the men raced across the flat land to wards the coast. Ryshan didn't know how far Kya had managed to get, but he knew that his men were more determined than ever to catch the fugitive who had escaped them twice and would not stop until they had caught her. Ryshan had trouble with the idea, trying to decide whether he liked it or not. His head told him that it was the right thing to do and that the girl had tried to murder Kayotor one of the great spirits, but his heart kept denying it. He ran in silence following the trail without even thinking about what he was doing. He could hear his men clattering behind him with their weapons at the ready. Ryshan knew he could not allow himself to fail in his duty again. It was an hour before Ryshan came into sight of a pinnacle of rock. He knew this would be something someone on the run would aim for and so sped up the pace even focusing less on the tracks and more on his instincts. The ground was eaten up under his speeding feet and soon the pinnacle was just a few minutes away. Ryshan focused on the weight of his bow in his hand. It's steady strength reminding him of where his duty lay and of what he must do. He spotted the Dark Talon guard who had guided the unit to the castle, running just to his left. The man was moving very stiffly almost as if he couldn’t move is body parts unless they were completely straight. Yet somehow the man was keeping pace with Ryshan. Ryshan slowed his pace slightly so as Qwan could catch up. He began flicking his hands in the silent code created hundreds of years before by the High Flame regiment’s founders. ‘Keep watch on Guardsman Tails. Something is wrong.’ Ryshan flicked and curled his fingers for a few moments and the message was passed. Lyang Qwan nodded his acknowledgement before increasing his so as to fall in step behind the Dark Talon. The men slipped into a loose formation as they reached the pinnacle of rock moving as silently as possible. Ryshan was at the front leading with his bow at the ready, as he and his men crept across the rocks. They all moved like ghosts not a sound being uttered and moving so slowly and crouched that despite their distinct uniforms the soldiers probably wouldn't have been seen by any observers. Lyang Qwan threw up his hand to call a halt and passed a message in hand signals. ‘Multiple Targets below with cargo.’ Ryshan acknowledged the message before passing an order. ‘Prepare for combat.’ The archers put arrows to their bows and the lancers unshiethed their lances.