The loss of Blood in Terreille was devastating. Over forty percent had completely disappeared. Another thirty percent had been broken back to basic Craft. The rest were still recovering from the sudden freedom. The result was many eerily empty cities that had once been thriving with people. Local residents and tourists that had swarmed through those cities were gone. All because of his mother. Witch. Dreams made flesh. The living myth. No matter how you put it, under all the titles was one name, Jaenelle Angelline. The so-called saviour of the Realms.
Scowling, Darian Azriel SaDiablo stalked through the city of Beldon Mor. He had been sent to Terreille in search of remaining tainted Blood. How in the name of Hell could any of the taint remain, not to mention rise again? She had destroyed it all. Every single follower of Dorothea SaDiablo and that self-proclaimed Dark Priestess was eliminated. Killed in that tidal wave of power she released. Search for a taint? This was all just a joke.
Besides, he was sick of everyone expecting him to become the next Daemon Sadi. Even though no one said it, it was in their eyes, in their expressions. Subtle hints were dropped. "Why can't you get this spell? Your mother could do such amazing things with Craft and you can't even pass through a solid object?" It wasn't his fault that he wasn't Witch or the Sadist. Hell's fire, why couldn't they just leave him alone?
Another painful memory burned into his brain was the day not so long ago when he made the Offering to the Darkness. He had seen the brief flash of disappointment in his parent's eyes when he came out proudly holding an Ebon-gray Jewel. Ebon-gray! Hell's fire, that was the second darkest Jewel! Well, other than Ebony, but that was a special case granted only to his mother. But still, they had expected him to come out wearing the Black. Honestly, only two Blood males in history have ever worn the Black and they were his father and grandfather.
Ebon-gray Jewel glowing softly, Darian approached the so-called "leader" of this ragtag group sent to this hellhole. "Rhune," he snapped. The white-haired Warlord Prince turned around, snarl blooming on his face. Glittering copper eyes raked over him angrily. Darian just stared back, sapphire eyes matching stare for stare. He knew he had nothing to fear. After all, what does an Ebon-gray Jewelled Warlord Prince have to fear from a Gray Jewelled Warlord Prince.
"What do you want?" Rhune snapped. Although he was the leader of this little escapade, he couldn't have been older than Darian. At the most, Rhune Astarr would have had to be around nineteen to twenty.
"To ask why the hell we're still here!" Darian snarled. "There are obviously no signs of the taint anywhere. The only things tainted here are the reasons keeping us in this dead Realm!"
Rhune gave him a cold stare. "The reasons we are still here are the fact that the free Blood need something to support them. Something they can hold onto. Also, Prince, signs of the taint aren't as obvious as you believe them to be. In a few weeks, we can go home, and you can go back to your palace."
"Something to hold onto?! The Blood can hold onto the land. It's obviously fine!" Darian barked.
"The land is wounded. The cleansing had it's consequences as well. In doing so, the tainted land was also destroyed, making way for fresh, clean ground to grow." Rhune spoke to Darian like he would to a child. A particularly dense child.
"Screw the land!" Darian snarled angrily. "Who cares?! Terreille will recover! You've said before that there are strong Queens here who can heal the land. Let them finish this ridiculous job!"
"You are acting like a selfish bastard." Rhune's accusing finger stabbed into his chest. "You forget yourself! I can't believe that the son of Witch, the very woman who had sacrificed herself to save the Blood could turn out to be such a self-centred prick! The land is obviously in need of care and all you want is to go crying back to your palace! The Queen's in Terreille can heal the land, but they need time! That's exactly why we have a few strong, Dark Jewelled Queens here that came voluntarily to do what's right." Copper fire burned into his brain, leaving a blazing impression.
"No! You forget yourself, Prince!" Darian sneered the word, contempt plain on his face, twisting his handsome features. "You're full of shit! Save the land..... Where will that get you? You're not a Queen! You can't feel the land! You can't save the land! I don't give a damn if you can stand to be here, I'm going home." With that and a swirl of his cloak, Darian stormed off into the city. Ebon-gray Jewel flaring wildly as he blasted a stray piece of rock out of his way.
Rhune watched him leave wearily. He slowly made his way to a bench and sat down. Hell's fire, he was tired. Apart from dealing with angry Terreillian Blood, he also had to deal with this stuck up little bastard. It was obvious that Darian had lived his whole life in the lap of luxury, never having to worry about where his next meal was coming from, or who was going to pay the rent.
Darian was likeable enough, but he could be awfully close-minded, stubborn and selfish at times. Quick to anger and violence, it was a miracle SaDiablo Hall was still standing, with someone like him as a resident. Rhune sighed. What was he going to do with him? He had no real authority over the other Warlord Prince. Darian wore the darker Jewels, even though it was only by one rank, it was enough to matter in a duel. Age? No advantage there, as a few months wasn't enough to separate them. They were both Warlord Princes, both balanced precariously on that killing edge. Darian, bordering on all out rage. Besides, Darian came from a famous family. Rhune came from a poor family, settled on the outskirts, of Scelt's capital, Tuathal. Darian only cared about two people in life. Himself was the obvious first, and his twin sister, Reia SaDiablo.
Reia SaDiablo. That was a name he could never forget, nor would he ever want to. Long, flowing golden hair, beautiful summer sky eyes........ He had met her, once. But then, only as a humble young Warlord Prince from Scelt that was given the responsibility of leading the group into Terreille. Why? Because he was the darkest Jewel there, except for Darian, not to mention that the legendary Daemon Sadi, Darian's father, didn't want Darian leading the group. He had thought that it would go to his head. As if his ego could get any bigger.... Besides, Reia hadn't even noticed him. She was too busy laughing with her brother.
He sighed again, raking his fingers through his short, spiky white hair. He was born with such pale hair, an oddity among the other dark-haired Scelties. Along with copper eyes, he was a most unusual child indeed. Personally, he had no idea where the copper eyes came from. His father had a deep brown, his mother a dark blue. Odd. Not to mention the fact that he wore the strongest Jewel Scelt had seen. The Gray. There was talk of a Warlord from Maghre that wore a Sapphire, but only after the Offering. Rhune had received the Sapphire as a Birthright, automatically making him the strongest out of the whole territory. Which was why he was chosen to lead this whole thing in the first place. Shaking his head, he stood up and trudged wearily off the bench. Time to find Darian and try and settle this whole thing.
Darian stalked through the nearly empty city. Most of the population was either broken, or too shaken up to walk outside. Now that the hustle and bustle of everyday life was gone, he realized just how boring Beldon Mor really was.
Somehow, there was something familiar about this place. Just the name, Beldon Mor reminded him of something. A distant memory, lost somewhere in the caverns of his mind. What was it about this city that could stir up some forgotten memory?
Darian shook his head fiercely to clear it of all the spiritual clutter. This whole mission was a joke. Kaeleer was sending the strongest Blood they had to seek and destroy a non-existent taint. The only problem was, what was protecting Kaeleer? While the strongest were gone, what defense did Kaeleer have against raids? Or angry outsiders? Who would protect his family? Of course, his father and grandfather did wear the Black, and his mother was Witch, but if the rumours were true, then she no longer possessed the strength he had heard whole cities gossiping about. Besides, what did he really know about the so-called "leader" of the group? Rhune. A white haired Warlord Prince that was his own age that wore the Gray after his Offering to the Darkness. Besides the fact that he was a complete idiot and blind fool. Accepting the leadership of some joke. This was completely pathetic. A sudden noise caught his attention, drawing him towards the north-east corner of the city. Something seemed to beckon to him, calling him, leading him along the path. But there was nothing here to call, to make the subtle whisper of a psychic summon.
A towering mansion stood over an elaborate garden. Something felt wrong about this place. But still, he wore the second darkest Jewel and had nothing to fear. Curious, he entered the garden and began to look for what had called him.
Dusk had fallen in Beldon Mor. The tall buildings seemed eerily empty, along with the complete darkness of some areas of the great city. There was a somewhat scattered assortment of lights, from the homes of the Blood that had survived the maelstrom.
Rhune sat, squinting in the hotel where they stayed. The lighting was bad, but the owner was so proud of his building. Rhune decided that it was nothing a little witch-light couldn't fix. Besides, where was that stubborn prick of a Warlord Prince? He was supposed to be back hours ago. Even though Darian threatened everything within sight, he would never act on those threats. So, he probably didn't leave the city to return to Kaeleer. Where was he? Downing a glass of brandy from the bottle that came with the room, Rhune temporarily forgot the fact that he wasn't supposed to be drinking. There had been enough times of having to watch his father stumble home drunker than a drowned rat to put him off the stuff forever. But then, they didn't have to worry about what Witch would say, or do for that matter, when he told her that her son was missing somewhere in a tainted Realm. Sweet Darkness, that little bastard better come in through that door soon.
Reia sat on the balcony outside of her room, watching the clear, onyx sky. Stars shone brightly, twinkling in clusters scattered around the sky. She grinned at the memory of the time Darian tried to grab a star for her. Of course, getting up there had been the hard part. So, a thirteen year old Darian had climbed the high tower of SaDiablo Hall and launched himself off into the dark oblivion. It was a very good thing her uncle Khardeen had been taking a walk and noticed something climbing the tower. Of course, he alerted Lucivar. Lucivar had barely managed to catch Darian before he hit the stone courtyard below. They were a foot off the ground.
Still, the house was different, now that he was gone. She didn't have someone to talk to anymore. Oh, her cousins were fun and all, but she shared a certain bond with Darian, something she knew they would never have. Sweet Darkness, how she missed him.
A light tap on her balcony door snapped her out of her thoughts. She raised a hand and used Craft to open the door. A tall witch with short, white-blond hair, pale skin and ice blue eyes walked in.
"Reia? I thought you might be out here," Karla said quietly.
"Shut the-" Reia began. The door snapped shut with a bang before Reia even finished the sentence. Reia blinked, surprised, then laughed. Karla was always her favourite aunt. A sharp tongue combined with her quick wit and temper usually got her into some kind of trouble with her uncle Lucivar. Saetan once admitted that they used to call her the "little ice harpy," much to Karla's annoyance.
Karla smiled the wickedest smile Reia had ever seen. No one had come even close to smiling as wickedly as that. No wonder the stories about her youth had been hilarious. "Kiss kiss," she said softly, then laughed. Reia couldn't help but join in.
"Do you think that there is some taint remaining in Terreille?" Reia asked.
"Hell's fire, I hope not. After all we worked for to destroy it, after all the suffering we went through the bring Jaenelle back, I hope not." Karla stared silently out into the star-filled night.
Reia had heard about what happened to her mother that night she destroyed the taint. About how she had almost destroyed herself as a sacrifice. How her father and the kindred had fought to believe that they could still anchor the dream to the flesh. The kindred had believed to heal her. Her father, because he loved her and wanted her back. They all did.
"Aunt Karla? What if Darian doesn't come back?" Reia couldn't help but ask the question she dreaded the most.
"Reia," Karla sighed and raked her fingers through her spiky hair. As much as she didn't want to admit it, there was a chance, however small, that Terreille still contained some sort of danger. The major cities didn't have enough of the Blood to populate them as fully as they once were. The once crowded streets were empty. Mother Night, some of the Blood were still in hiding because they were too scared to show their faces. For nineteen years!!! Hell's fire, there were some Blood that were completely terrified of anything that had to do with Kaeleer. Thank the Darkness none of them knew that Jaenelle was born in Chaillot and was adopted into Kaeleer when she was fifteen. The Darkness knows how much chaos that would cause if the terrified Terreillian Blood ever discovered that little fact.
Karla was at a loss for words. What could she tell her nineteen year old niece? Whatever little reassurance she could offer would be consumed by the nagging doubt that he just might not come back. But then again, the chance that he wouldn't come back was small anyways. Karla said the only thing that she could think of.
"Reia, I won't lie to you and deny that however slim, there may be some kind of trace of the taint remaining in Terreille. But I do know for a fact, that if Jaenelle, your mother, gives her consent to allow her own son to wander a realm known to be tainted, then the chance of him returning is much higher. Besides, I'm sure you're tired of hearing this, but Jaenelle is Witch, the living myth, and when she knows something, she's usually right." Karla gave Reia a small, reassuring smile.
Reia didn't know what to say. She still had the doubtful feeling, but just hearing Karla speak those words seemed to somewhat dissolve the hard lump of emotion.
"Thanks, Aunt Karla," Reia whispered. Karla acknowledged her gratitude with a sharp nod of her spiky head.
"If you don't mind, I think I have to go make sure your uncle Khary doesn't do or say something stupid, resulting in Morghann dumping a tray over his head." Karla grinned her wicked smile and sauntered out the door, leaving Reia alone with a smile on her face.
Reia grinned quietly to herself. According to the stories she had heard of Morghann's pregnancy, Khary had had quite a time dealing with a pregnant witch and the... other things going on at SaDiablo Hall. She laughed quietly to herself as she slipped through the balcony door and into her room.... and stifled a shriek.
A young male Warlord Prince sat on her bed. His dark brown, curly hair set off a strong, handsome, slightly tanned face. His good-natured amethyst eyes twinkled in the dim lighting of her room.
"Darek! What in the name of Hell are you doing in here?" Reia gasped in surprise.
Darek smiled slightly and rose from the bed.
"You know you're not supposed to be in here. Not now, anyways. Besides, what will Papa say if he sees you in here? He might kill you. I think-" Reia was cut off from her speech and her worries as Darek swiftly closed the distance between them and pressed his lips to hers. The kiss was savage and deep, yet gentle and passionate.
Reia clutched his arms as he gently folded her into an embrace. "Happy I'm here?" he asked teasingly.
"Hmm, I don't know.... I still think you should go...." Reia was thoroughly kissed again.
"How about now?" Darek asked, a light shining in his eyes as he softly stroked her hair.
"Well, I think you've changed my mind about a few things. I think I need the company," Reia admitted, slightly breathless into his shoulder.
"Really? Are you alright? Is there anything I can do?" Darek asked, concerned. His Green Jewel shone softly in the light, filled with his concern for her.
"No. Not unless you can go to Terreille and find Darian," Reia said softly, burying her face into his shirt. "I just want him back. I can feel something happening in there. Not quite the taint, but not normal. I just wish I knew what was going on."
"Don't worry too much, Reia. There's nothing you can do." As soon as he said those words, Darek instantly regretted them. She spun away from his embrace and snapped her head up to look into his eyes. The anger that burned in her summer-sky blue eyes captured his and held the gaze, burning into his soul.
"I am very well aware of that, Prince Darek," Reia said coldly, her voice hard. "I do not need a male to point that out to me every time I mention my brother or the feeling I have been getting. If I want your opinion, I will ask for it."
Darrek's mind kept up a steady stream of curses and insults directed at himself. He knew that that was the wrong thing to say. So why did he say it? It was hard enough to talk to Reia. She was beautiful. And she came from a powerful family, not to mention the fact that she was a Red Jewelled Queen and Healer. What more could anyone want from a witch?
"I'm sorry Reia. It's hard for me too. I miss Darian as well, but he will be fine. An Ebon-gray Jewelled Warlord Prince doesn't have anything to worry about."
Reia nodded slowly. "Darek...... It's just that there's been a lot on my mind. There's nothing I can do and I hate that. Can we just forget about that for now?"
"Of course. Anything for you." Sweet Darkness, she made his head spin. Sweet one minute, icy the next. But she was beautiful.
"Come here," Darek said softly. Reia slowly walked towards him. He sat her on the bed and began to massage her neck.
"I hope this will help you to relax. You're too tight," Darek murmured as his fingers slowly soothed away the stress of a long day practising the art of Eyrien sticks with her drill sergeant uncle Lucivar.
A sudden knock on the door startled both of them to make them jump. "Reia?" Jaenelle's voice asked through the door.
Reia barely had time to think when the door swung open. "Hello Darek," Jaenelle said quietly. "I think Khardeen's looking for you. He claims that you may have been involved with an "accident" involving witch light, a statue and a bush." Darek's normally tanned face paled visibly. "I suggest you go quickly and not keep your father waiting."
Darek scrambled hurriedly out the door, a noticeably worried expression on his face. Jaenelle chuckled quietly. "I don't know what Khardeen's going to do now," Jaenelle said to Reia grinning. "You know, when Morghann was pregnant, Khary was always going on about how great it would be to have a boy. Especially a strong boy, like Darek. Unfortunately, I think Khary forgot about what his dear uncle went through with him and Morghann."
Reia laughed. She always loved to hear stories about her mother's past. Especially those involving the years she lived in the Black Mountain, Ebon Askavi.
"I just came in to tell you that I felt it too," Jaenelle said quietly, her sapphire eyes taking on a timeless look. "Tell me if you find that you have any odd visions or dreams. I need to know. Goodnight Reia." She bent down and kissed Reia's forehead lightly, then swept out the door; leaving a very confused daughter to try and decipher the meaning of the cryptic message she had left her but dreading the outcome.
Reia sat in the dark for a while after her mother had visited her. What did that mean? Dreams? Visions? Hell's fire, she wasn't a Black Widow. She didn't have visions. She didn't know how to weave a tangled web. It was all a foreign concept to her. But Jaenelle knew something. Her mother knew something and wasn't telling her. But then again, that meant that Witch had an idea about what was going on and Witch was the final word on everything. If she felt something wrong in Terreille......
"Darian," Reia whispered into her pillow, a solitary tear trickling down her face.