1201, The Year of Embers

The couple under the Tree of Life finally broke their embrace, which looked ridiculously prudent to their hidden observer. But instead of engaging in more lively activities, they started a long and tedious conversation, often interrupted by 'meaningful' looks, deep sighs, and occasionally - more kisses. Bodhi wrinkled her nose in ridicule at first, yet after giving it a thought, decided she approved of the queen's tactics. She could swear Ellesime was deliberately prolonging the experience, driving Jon mad with her teasing, but delaying the actual intercourse. Finally, they sprang to their feet and walked away from the Tree, holding hands, and looking into each other's eyes like a pair of happy youngsters on their first date. It was amusing to watch her sarcastic, cool-headed brother blush like a poppy flower as he bent his tall frame over his royal lover, who looked strangely diminutive and fragile at his side, offering Ellesime his hand. Her majesty giggled softly, and wrapped the proffered limb around her waist pulling him closer. Jon mumbled something lame but obliged. The queen could not be taking him straight to her bedroom in the Royal Palace, Bodhi thought in astonishment, or could she? Judging by the way Ellesime acted, she did not care if by tonight the whole city knew about her new affair. And they will, the Seldarine willing! Soon, the rumors would be all over the city, and every one of Bodhi's 'friends' and acquaintances would tease her about it.

Curse Jon! He was always showered with the best life had to offer. From his birth, he had everybody’s awe and respect for his arcane talent, and that was an unjust strike of luck since he was born with it and Bodhi was not. He also enjoyed Mother’s unconditional adulation, as he was the only son and a firstborn, and therefore cherished more than the second daughter. And now he even won Ellesime’s royal affection. That latest development was especially galling and completely gratuitous, since he did nothing to deserve it. Whereas her many excellent qualities were always ignored or under-appreciated, all because she happened to have an older brother. It simply was not fair. Especially so, after Joneleth destroyed what was rightfully hers - the ring for which she had paid such a terrible price but never had time to enjoy properly.

Bodhi shivered, remembering the weight of Keth'roen's cooling body in her hands, and the splash the river waters made accepting him into his murky grave. By now, the river spirit's grisly gift must be many miles away, drifting slowly down the Suldanesse into the Sulduskoon, and further to its final destination - the turbulent green depths of the Trackless Sea. She was exceedingly lucky to get away with that unfortunate ‘accident’. Everybody attributed Keth's disappearance to his free lifestyle that favored frequent expeditions planned in a spur of a moment, and his desire to avoid further complications after dating two sisters. Still, it was a wonder that nobody questioned his desertion of his honorary position as a captain of the guard company. It was not a small offence, and was damaging to his family’s standing in the clan hierarchy. Bodhi wondered briefly, if eventually the House Thistleleaf would request a formal investigation. But if the body were never found, she would be fairly safe.

Today the huntress had followed her brother to the Tree of Life at a distance, unsure of her next move. When she first learned the fate of her most costly possession, she went into a fit of white-hot rage, spitting into Jon's face and berating him with foulest curses. Joneleth had watched her impassively for some time, answering her accusations with sharp, cynical remarks, but at the end resorted to showering her with a bucketful of water, conjured from some abysmally cold place. He had it spilled over her with a mere twitch of a finger, and the obvious triviality of the spell (at least for him) made the insult worse. Bodhi was left wet and gasping, gnashing her chattering teeth at her brother in impotent rage. But even in that agitated state she stopped short of threatening Jon, or promising retribution. She knew better than to anger him, since even if Joneleth was exceedingly slow to ignite he remembered the offence dealt to him for months, even years after the fact, and Bodhi never fancied find herself on the receiving end of his anger, or even serious displeasure. Besides, she was no match for Jon in any potential confrontation, and neither was every single one of her many paramours. No, if her revenge on him was to be effective, it had to be subtle, even devious. Something he would never expect from her, and thus would not bother to counter. She left him smiling coolly at her disheveled state, and removed herself to her own quarters. But in her heart she swore vengeance: both for the destruction of her magic ring, and for that final affront with the cold shower.

When he left the house a few hours later, and headed towards the northernmost edge of the city, the huntress tagged along, just to find out what he was up to in that early hour. She had a vague idea of searching Jon’s rooms after making sure he was out of the way, although she doubted he would lie to her about the ring. Most likely it was lost to her. When Bodhi saw Joneleth and Ellesime kissing, her anger at him only deepened. Here she was - abandoned and vilified by her family (Yave’s betrayal stung as much as Jon’s mockery); her latest beau proved himself a weakling and ended up dead; and on top of it she did not even have the consolation of her prize, while her traitorous brother was enjoying himself in the queen’s embrace. As a cold fury squeezed her heart in a tight grasp, Bodhi abandoned her original intentions, feeling the strongest urge to remove herself from public eye before she would run into someone she knew, and would be forced to discuss the news of the queen’s latest exploit. In her rebellious loathing that quickly expanded to include not only her family and queen Ellesime, but entire Suldanesselar, which  was now happily waking up to another fine morning, she ran swiftly across the city’s bridges, and further down the looping trail out of the mythal’s borders, into the low rolling hills along the banks of the Suldanesse. Finally, she found herself at the very place of her ill-fated tryst two nights ago, and stopped to cool down her rage and survey the area.

The little clearing looked empty, and the grasses under the bush where she had lain with Keth’roen were standing upright as if nothing ever disturbed their growth. Keth was utterly gone, she noticed with relief, not a trace of his presence was left in the air or in the dark waters of the Suldanesse flowing lazily into the ocean under the low slopes of the riverbank. The huntress had to admit - she was afraid that her lover’s ghost would still be haunting the place. But perhaps his devotion to the Seldarine was a true one, and he was granted an easy, joyful passage to the Eternal Home right out of the hands of his devious lover.

"He did not suffer much," Bodhi thought without any sense of guilt, "and he is happier where he is now. There was nothing I could do for him." She sat at the edge of the bank watching the river flow under her feet, and biting at the dry stalk of grass, and tried to pull herself together. Things were not going well for her but there was not need to succumb to incoherent anger - her vengeance would be better served on a cool head.

She went over her grievances once again, and did not matter where she started, her brother always managed to get to the top of the offender’s list. It was all Jon’s fault, she decided finally. If not for him she wouldn’t have killed anybody, as before his arrival she had no idea how to use the magic of the ring. The least he could have done was to warn her that the spell was so potent. And the way he treated her afterwards! Not a word of consolation or apology. Only cold, stinging reproach over her conduct with Yave and Keth’roen. As if it was her fault. The love-stricken fool never gave her a chance. It was either lying with him, or watching him run to her mother with his pathetic warning.

Joneleth should pay for this, Bodhi decided firmly. Luckily for her, his affair with Ellesime would keep him in Suldanesselar for while, and well within her reach. Perhaps, violating something dear to him would be a good retribution. That ridiculous half-elven friend he had dragged from Evereska ... Would it hurt Jon much if she turned Rielev against him? Probably not, she thought with some chagrin. The attachment did not feel strong enough. But maybe his newly budding romance with the queen would be a good target? To be rejected by Ellesime shortly after the beginning of their liaison surely would be excruciating to his ego. Most likely, it would happen anyway, as the queen was renowned for her short temper and arrogance befitting a half-goddess, and Jon’s sense of humor would try an endurance of a saint. Although to think of it, very little was known of Ellesime’s love life, and her taste in men. Despite all the speculations and rumors, her majesty was incredibly private with her romantic life. That is until now. The way she paraded Jon across the city was plain scandalous. So, maybe their affair would last long enough to provide Bodhi with an ample opportunity to hurt her elder brother in the most deliciously painful way. But it had to be done cunningly, so that he would never know whose hand delivered the lethal blow.

Later on, she could even commiserate with him, showing her sisterly affection, and earning his trust. Regardless of his bright intellect, in his private life Jon did not possess much of a practical sense. And his blunders in social affairs were spectacular, at least in her memory. Bodhi chortled, remembering his legendary ineptitude when it came to court politics. Eventually, she could gain some influence over him, if she were careful. Joneleth’s arcane talent was exceedingly powerful. It should not be overlooked. If she could control him to some degree, and use him to advance her own position... Now that would be the sweetest vengeance of all.

These sweet dreams of revenge improved Bodhi’s sour mood significantly. She knew her willpower and cunning were her main assets, and hoped it was enough to guarantee her victory in the long run. If only in addition to these important traits she had a bit of luck - then with time all her grandiose plans would bear fruit. And by the Gods - she was patient. She sighed, wishing she could pray for success of her schemes, but decided that Hanali Celanil, her current patron goddess, would not be particularly pleased with such appeal. The Seldarine were a bunch of stuffy old prigs, the huntress thought vehemently. The only one with any allusion to revenge in his portfolio was Shevarash, the Black Archer, but even he would look darkly at a prayer like hers, as he was obsessed with vengeance against the drow, not against one’s own family. Bodhi chuckled quietly. If she has to go about her business without a divine patronage, so be it. The greater would be her pride at the success.

To her utter astonishment, the elf heard the sound of her chuckle repeated back to her. She raised her head, wondering at the curious tricks of echo in that place, and froze. On the flowing water before her stood a tall, beautiful elven female, with skin whiter than the mountain snow, and a long waterfall of sable tresses, to rival Bodhi’s own, spilling over her naked shoulders. The woman was clothed in a few skimpy veils of black silk that were rather revealing, and Bodhi noted with some satisfaction that her physique, attractive though it was, was no match for Bodhi’s own voluptuous form, as the stranger’s figure was sinuous but rather skinny. Her hands and chest were almost sagging under the weight of many silver necklaces, bracelets, and rings, supplementing her flimsy, almost non-existent attire.

"You’ve called upon me, angry one," the vision chimed in delight, and burst into unrestrained laughter.

Her many ornaments trembled and jingled in unison with her spasmodic giggles. She sounded quite mad, Bodhi thought in fascination, but strangely alluring. An almost instinctive fit of shivers ran down the elf maiden’s spine as she jumped to her feet, yet she could not pull her eyes away from the apparition.

"What are you?" she asked cautiously.

The tall woman stopped shaking and waved the lean hand bedecked in silver. With some uneasiness, Bodhi remembered her lost ring, cast from the same shiny white metal. The air around the apparition shimmered, and she walked closer to the shore treading across the river currents without giving it a glance. Bodhi could swear she heard crackling under the woman’s feet, and saw a thin transparent sheet of ice crumble and float away in the wake of her passage.

"I am Aransalee," the vision informed the stunned elf benignly, "the Power that the People call upon, when a need like yours arises."

"I have never heard this name," Bodhi replied warily, "not even in a passing whisper."

"Do you think the Elders would discuss it openly, or even mention it to an ignorant child like you, so that you can claim a weapon as dangerous as the name of the Goddess of Vengeance?" Aransalee parried scornfully. "My name is a secret, known only to a chosen few. But your need was great indeed, as I was able to hear your call without you actually uttering a prayer in my name."

"You did?" Bodhi’s heart fluttered in her chest.

Was she that important, after all, if the goddess of vengeance descended from Arvandor to pay heed to her grievances? It was a tremendous boost to her ego after today’s calamities. Judging by her supernatural powers, and royal bearing, the woman could not be anything but a fully-fledged deity. She could give Ellesime lessons in looking supercilious, Bodhi thought with approval. And the Suldanesselar queen was only a half-goddess, thus Bodhi could gain a definite edge over Jon in earning this strange entity’s patronage.

"Would you help me to revenge myself upon my family, Aransalee?" the huntress asked cautiously. "And what would you ask in return?"

"Oh, you are a smart one, indeed," the self-proclaimed deity nodded her approval, and burst into a fit of convulsive laughter. It was a very disturbing performance, as if her entire body was taken by a nervous seizure. When it was over, Aransalee continued with a low chuckle: "whoever were your mentors, they taught you well, Bodhi. Every offer of assistance always comes with a price attached. And mine is no exception, though one can argue that it is in my nature to help one such as you, and that I would need no other payment but your unyielding devotion."

Again, Aransalee’s brow creased in attempt to stop an upcoming spasm. Her face quivered, and a strange eerie wail escaped her lips, causing a flock of frightened small birds burst out of the nearby bush, and making Bodhi shudder. "A long time ago I had a family in a faraway world called...Threnody. I was the Queen of that land - an Empress even, you may say. He betrayed me, earning his proper punishment, and forcing my hand to deliver a terrible retribution. My powers grew stronger ever since, and one day I assumed the mantle of a goddess. Nowadays, nobody remembers the name of the wretched world, even as mine is whispered with awe among the Chosen."

Something in her voice told Bodhi she was not boasting. It was scary and enthralling at the same time to face the power that could dispose of the whole world on a mere whim. The apparition’s eyes flashed upon her pale face, and the huntress realized what was bothering her from the start - Aransalee’s orbs were bright crimson, like two flaming embers, or petals of a bloodrose. But it was only natural for the goddess of vengeance, the elf decided quickly, or was it?

"Was it your sibling that aggrieved you so, Belegerea?" Bodhi asked courteously, quickly deciding to worm out as much information as she could, before making any move of her own.

"It was my husband," Aransalee spat vehemently, "and he managed to recruit all my family to his case, except the ones who had followed me into exile. Later on, I made sure they could not be swayed from my side even after death, of course."

"Of course," Bodhi echoed weakly, wondering idly if she really wanted to know how that undying loyalty was secured. "The males are ever so cunning."

"Thinking of your ‘dear’ brother, Bodhi?" The goddess smirked in return. "Or your sycophant of a lover? The males are all betrayers from birth. It is in their nature. The weaker sex is always on the run - seeking to spill their seed quickly, and abscond to bestow their vileness on the next trusting fool! It is important to keep them under control, and extract vengeance when the trust is breached. Like you did."

Throughout this conversation, Aransalee was floating a few feet above the ground, watching Bodhi from her elevated position. Now she raised her hands in a gesture of arcane command, and smiled wickedly nodding in the elf’s direction. Her gaze shifted to the river below. The green waters of the Suldanesse stopped their run, and a swift deep vortex tore through the glistening surface. The waves parted, and some dark, elongated object was forcefully expelled from the river depths with a rushing, wet sound of the opened sluice gate. Bodhi looked at the thing that was now hovering in the air in front of her, and almost lost the contents of her stomach.

Keth’roen’s dead body showed all the effects of spending two days under water. His once handsome face was now pasty white and swollen, the pallid flesh pecked by fish, and peeling away in many places. His green eyes were no more, and out of the dark hollow cavities oozed black ichor, mixed with river water. The rest of the body was in no better condition, his limbs twisted and distorted like pale tattooed snakes, his belly bloated from decay of the inner organs. Aransalee dropped the cadaver on the ground unceremoniously, but instead of collapsing as befitted the dead thing, it jerked upright and made a few convulsive steps forward, waving like a drunk. The sight of Keth’s rotting corpse walking towards her in an ungainly lurch was so terrifying, that even Bodhi with her iron nerves, and virtually absent sense of empathy yelped in horror, and tried to back away from it. And found she could not - her feet were rooted to the ground by some invisible force.

"Get away from me wretch! I did not mean to kill you. It was not my fault you were so stubborn," the elf screamed in terror, covering her head with both hands, and whining like a frightened animal. "Please, get him away from me, mistress," she pleaded the laughing apparition.

Aransalee’s eyes flared with insane red light, her entire slim body shook in resonance with laughter, her many necklaces jingled on her skinny chest like the bells of a tambourine. "I was only teasing you," she uttered finally, waving at the corpse to stop its macabre dance. "And your deceased paramour got himself caught on a snag at the bottom of the river. They would have found him soon, if not for my timely intervention. If I really wanted to harm you, I could have done it long time ago. Look, he is harmless now."

Bodhi dared to peek at her dead lover through half-opened fingers. Keth’s cadaver sagged to the ground, sprawled on his back like a broken doll. The sight was shocking, yet strangely titillating. Her feet were now free from the invisible bondage, and the huntress made a few shaky steps away from the body, collapsing to her hands and knees on the rumpled grass. Yet even in her terrified state, an insatiable, wretched curiosity gnawed at her heart like a hungry ferret. The very concept of undeath is revolting to every elf, as the touch by certain powerful undead can contaminate and destroy their Spirit, communal by nature, and this would bar them forever from entering the eternal lands of Arvandor or reincarnating in a new body. Bodhi had heard the tales of the undead but being raised inside the Suldanesselar mythal, and with all her outside experience incurred in short military expeditions into the nearby mountains, she had never seen one. Her imagination was swarmed with images of undeath in its many grisly aspects; but even as her stomach gave a painful lurch, she clenched her teeth stubbornly. The fate had dropped this fantastic chance into her lap, and she was not about to miss it by being squeamish or exceedingly virtuous. Besides, was not Aransalee a goddess, on her own? Perhaps Keth’s sins against her earned him such an end.

"Did you turn him into a zombie?" she asked hesitantly, peeping at her former paramour.

"No," the apparition shook her head with an odd expression in her crimson eyes. "I could not call his essence back into this broken shell to anchor it properly. Regrettably, the wretched male still resides in Arvandor, though he would be feeling rather stressed right now. This is just his animated hulk, less conscious than a mindless construct like a golem, or a juggernaut. It cannot even follow the simplest commands, and it takes concentration to make it move."

She chuckled heartily and went into another awful fit of spasmodic laughter. Bodhi realized it must be a bad habit - akin to a nervous tic or nail biting, and decided to watch out for it, in case it may prove a useful weakness to exploit. But the goddess soon stopped her shaking, and looked at the transfixed elf piercingly, as if testing her merit.

 "I can teach you how to control the real undead, Bodhi, and use them to serve your purpose of revenge." Aransalee continued finally, with a sudden passion ringing in her voice. "All the secrets of the ‘true’ undeath will be yours if you bow before me, and swear your allegiance. You will gain mastery over death, and learn how to extend your life indefinitely. And your vengeance on the ones who have wronged you will be swift and painful. You would hunt, slay, and turn them into your obedient, mindless slaves. Is not it the true way to deal with your enemies? The only true way. Would you venerate me as your new mistress, Bodhi? Is your desire for vengeance and power potent enough to take this chance? Answer me now. I will not make this offer twice."

There was no hesitation in Bodhi’s voice, not even the slightest hint of indecision in her eyes. To think of it, her choice was made long time ago, inside that cold and lightless cave in the mountain valley. Or maybe even before that, when she first decided that her next chosen partner was not just a plaything good for satisfying her lust, but that he can also be enslaved and turned into a mindless pawn? Or, perhaps, she was born this way, with a heart cold and cruel as a midwinter storm in the Snowflake Mountains? Who knows, the truth is always something of a chameleon, easily acquiring the shade of the desired backdrop.

"I will follow you as my true mistress," Bodhi sang in a voice full of hungry zeal that surprised even the deceptive drow goddess. Kiaransalee, for of course it was her posing as a member of the Seldarine, wondered briefly why did she bother with such an elaborate disguise - the elf maid was ripe and ready for the plucking, but decided to continue with the charade for now.

"If you keep your part of the bargain, and teach me all these things, which will help me triumph over my enemies," the huntress continued exultantly. "But I want something more than a simple revenge over my bigheaded brother. His humiliation would be sweet indeed, but is it really worth my eternal damnation? For do not deceive yourself, Aransalee, albeit I have no idea who you are - I can recognize that you are not a sister of the Seldarine. Still, it would not matter to me if you can truly do all you claim - grant me the power over undead, and help me elevate myself to a position that I truly deserve among my kin."

"And what is the high place that you crave in your heart of hearts, Bodhi?" The amused goddess asked with a furtive smile. "The chair of a high priestess, or, perchance, the throne of a queen?"

"And why not?" Bodhi answered boldly. She climbed to her feet from the embarrassing position on all fours on the ground, and looked the apparition in the face. "Why is Ellesime more deserving of it than I am?"

"Why indeed," Kiaransalee intoned mockingly. "For one, because she is definitely stronger and smarter than you are. Do not take me wrong," she stopped an angry exclamation that was about to fly from Bodhi’s lips. "I will do all I can to help my devoted and ambitious acolyte, but you must be patient, my dear, patient and smart. Ellesime is clever and cunning, though no more so than I am," she added with a chuckle, "and she had centuries to secure her position over the city, and to hone her compulsive techniques. It will be a tough challenge indeed, to prevail over someone like her, but prevail you shall - with my sincere help. A pity I cannot interfere directly in this game," the goddess added with a shake of her head. Her necklaces jingled again, this time with a gentler, silvery chime. "There are certain rules of the engagement that all of us have to follow. But I can give you a few helpful hints, and perhaps a lead or two, and the first one would be - don’t even think about a direct assault on the queen, until you’ve gained support, and secured your own position as a trusted leader. And I mean not the support of a few lovesick males, but a powerbase, a group of devoted followers." She looked at Bodhi’s face and burst into delighted laughter. "Somehow I knew you would not like it. That was why I told you the queen is the stronger of the two of you."

"But unlike you, mistress, she surely is not omnipotent?" the huntress asked slyly.

"A clever one," Kiaransalee nodded her approval, "you are better at this game than I thought you would be. Here is another bit of advice for you then. If you crave power more than you crave revenge - do not try to disrupt your brother’s love affair with the queen. Rather, use it to your advantage. Make peace with him, and earn his trust, even as you exploit his weaknesses. Use every chance to wiggle your way closer to the throne. Study Ellesime’s habits, her style, her way of running the city. Sooner or later, you will see an opening."

"But this may take years!" Bodhi cried out in dismay.

"I would rather say - decades," the goddess smirked at her new disciple. "And you want the power now, at the tips of your fingers? I thought you’ve praised your own patience and cleverness. You are not even close to becoming one of my Chosen, Bodhi, although you do show promise. But I would like to see more of your devotion before I can answer any of your serious prayers, or help you develop special abilities. Subdue your ambitions, hasty one, and work on developing your powers. I shall grant you a few minor gifts soon, if you show sufficient zeal. My true rituals would be bestowed upon you in your sleep. But for now, here is my first endowment: that place in the Starspire Mountains that you’ve visited last month hosts an entrance to a network of natural caves."

"I had found one," Bodhi nodded eagerly, "but mistress ..."

"I am aware of it," Kiaransalee laughed sharply, and the elf maid noticed that goddess’s ruby eyes flashed with hidden mirth. A strange suspicion crept into Bodhi’s mind but she kept it to herself, since she was smart enough not to accuse her new patroness of deceit. "Now listen carefully, and do not interrupt! Down there, lies a vast labyrinth of tunnels, that leads deep into the bowels of Toril. A few of these tunnels are deeper than the others, and actually connect with even huger set of caves and underground passages, known collectively as ‘the Underdark’."

"The drow!" Bodhi gasped reflexively. "But there is an old temple of the Angharradh nearby. Surely, it was not built right on top of the drow caverns?"

"But it was," was the reply. "Exactly for the purpose of sealing the entrance, and maintaining the wards on it. Over many centuries, the earthquakes damaged the temple, as your queen does not have recourses to maintain it in proper order. The wards are weakening now, soon they will be gone, and Lloth’s children will have a gate to the surface that is two days march away from Suldanesselar’s border. This is not the end of it," Kiaransalee warned Bodhi noticing her excitement. "Deep underground, another three or four days away from that site, lies the drow city of Ust-Natha - the Suldanesselar dark twin. Her inhabitants have been eyeing these wards for centuries, testing them, probing them every passing year. Ellesime has perhaps a few decades of peace before the drow would be able to start raiding. And here is my boon to you. Last year a juvenile silver dragon, who had lost her parents to the marauding red, found her way down these tunnels. She is a mere youngling - perhaps thirty years or so, but she is growing stronger every day, and has started setting her eyes on collecting a small hoard. But this very summer the drow found her lair, and chased her across the tunnels, wounding her, and forcing her to the surface. She has found refuge in the very temple you were talking about, where the drow warriors cannot follow. But she is starving, as she is afraid of venturing further out, for that territory is in the sphere of influence of an adult brown, well known for his bad temper. The dragons have their own etiquette as you probably well know."

Kiaransalee smirked at her properly awed listener, and Bodhi responded with a quick nod. She never knew these facts but decided not to show her ignorance. "If Ellesime would convince the dragon of her good will, and establish an alliance by providing her with food, healing, and protection now - she may later claim her loyalty, and even set her as a guardian on the borders of her realm. The queen of Suldanesselar is known for her sharp intellect, and an iron grip. I am sure she would not miss this opportunity."

"Surely it will only strengthen her power," Bodhi scowled derisively. "What is in it for me?"

"Foolish child!" Kiaransalee exclaimed in irritation. "Have you been listening at all? If you deliver this piece of information to the queen, and present it as your personal discovery in the course of that last raid, you will claim a serious success, and may even gain a permanent access to her ears, and a place at her side to rival your brother’s. Is not it exactly what you would need to start your advance?" She noticed Bodhi’s indecision and snapped angrily at the hesitating elf. "Either you will see your profit, or you are not worthy of my gifts. Either way I should not be wasting more time on you. I shall watch you progress from aside from this point."

"Wait mistress, wait!" Bodhi screamed hastily. "What about him?" She pointed at the decaying body at her feet.

Kiaransalee waived her hand and the corpse began to melt rapidly, bubbling and sending out quick spurts of dark steam. In moments, there was nothing left of Keth’roen’s pitiful carcass but a dark puddle that quickly oozed into the warm river sand. It was not such a bad ending for him after all, Bodhi thought testily. When she raised her eyes, Aransalee was no more. The whole encounter could have been her fervent dream, if not for the smooth, plain silver ring that she later discovered clutched in her sweaty palm.




Belegerea - mighty one (elv.)




Last modified on April 9, 2003
Copyright © 2003 by Janetta Bogatchenko. All rights reserved.