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Warning: May contain stoopid content.
NaNoWriMo | Shejidan | Cherryh Pit

Chapters:  1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10


The sorcerer was out by the moat, fishing, the castle groundskeepers informed her with varying degrees of amusement.  It was what he did on Sundays while his wife was at market, and he would not be back for some time.  Nya had been warned of the new sorcerer’s eccentricities, but even so, this was beyond her expectations.  Anyone who’d ever seen the moat knew that any creature that lived in its murky waters would be best left alone.  The thought of actually consuming something that had spawned in such an environment was more than a little disturbing.

Still, Nya’s mistress, the Countess of Prelia, had sent her with strict instructions to deliver the invitation herself, so she resigned herself to muddying her skirts and headed out to find him.  She wondered again, why her mistress had sent her.  She was neither a messenger girl nor a favored lady of the Countess.  She was, after all, merely the child of Prelia’s recently deceased scribe.  Why she of all Prelia’s people should be the one to bring a message to the sorcerer was a mystery, especially when one considered that Prelia, like many others of her station, was desperate to curry this man’s favor.  He had been one of the foremost heroes of the War, and why he should choose to leave the Emperor’s court and accept employment under Duke Sejjin was a topic of endless speculation.  Prelia should have sent someone more impressive.

Nya was as awed by the sorcerer’s reputation as any, and when Prelia had summoned her to bear the message, she had been as surprised as everyone else by Prelia’s choice.  Her curiosity was piqued even more by the fact that Prelia had seemed unhappy with this decision, as if the Countess herself had been ordered to send Nya despite her own wishes.  It was all very odd.

She blinked her thoughts clear as she came upon a man sitting alone by the banks of the moat.   His eyes were closed, and his head was tilted slightly back.  If this was the sorcerer, he was surprisingly ordinary in appearance.  In fact, he was a bit untidy, Nya thought with a slight frown.  He was youngish, black haired, dressed in a shirt and brown breeches very similar to what the groundskeepers wore.  She began to wonder if this was, in fact, another of the grounds crew, and not the esteemed personage she was sent for.  She wasn’t sure what she had been expecting.  Someone older, perhaps, with fancy robes and a proper hat.

“Please have a seat.”  The man said without opening his eyes and indicated a spot on a nearby blanket.  “I am attempting communication with them.”

“With the fish, my lord?”  She couldn’t help asking.

“Yes.  Particularly the unhappy ones,” he said conversationally.  “If a fish has no will to live, it might as well swim into my net, yes?  To do otherwise would be a waste.  Do you like fish?  Virion—that’s my wife—makes an orange sauce that goes well with fish.”

She remained where she was and stared at the dark water distastefully and said nothing.  

He opened his eyes and finally looked at her.  “You do realize I was joking.”  He frowned.  “No, you didn’t realize.  My apologies, Nya.  No, I was trying to communicate with some friends of mine, but they’re awfully far away, and I unfortunately, didn’t have much luck.”

Her heart had skipped a beat when he knew her name without asking, but then she chided herself for a fool.  Anyone could have found out that information.  Willing herself calm, she introduced herself properly and handed him the Countess’ envelope with “Baron of Tedrua” scrawled in ridiculously fancy lettering across the top.  His mouth twitched and his eyes widened a bit as he read, and Nya could well imagine the flowery verbosity that was typical of Prelia’s outlandish prose.  

“I accept, of course,” he said, tossing the letter casually into a nearby lunch basket.  “Now will you sit down, please, Nya.  Have a sandwich.”

“My lord—“

“No ‘my lords’ please.  You may call me Reins.  Everyone calls me Reins.”

She couldn’t bring herself to do it.  He sighed.

“Do you know why the Countess sent you?”

“No, my lord.”

“You’d wondered, though, surely.”  He grabbed two sandwiches and handed one to her.  She finally sat down.  “I requested it.  I wanted to meet you.”

“Me, my lord?”

“Yes, you, Nya,” he said, chewing thoughtfully.  “Because when I arrived at the city, your thoughts were all I could hear in my mind.  For five miles, I had to constantly block out what was going on in that head of yours.  It took me more than a bit of time to finally dampen you enough to where I could think again.  Even now, you’re a low murmur in the back of my mind.  I’ve had a terrible headache for the last month.  And my wife is becoming displeased.”

She froze and blushed crimson.

“I would take you for my student, Nya, if you will allow it.  I would like to teach you to better control yourself for your own safety, and for my own sanity.  Do you understand what I’m saying?  You’ve a gift for sorcery in you, whether you were aware of it or not, and you need to be taught.  It would be irresponsible of me not to teach you.”

She was normally a bright girl, but this was too much, too fast.

“Yes, I’m aware you’re a girl, Nya, what of it?”  He squinted at her.  “Oh, sorry, I thought you’d said that aloud.  Where I come from, Nya, your gender would not be an issue.  I’ll give you some time to think about it then.  Know that your Countess has already given her consent.  And Virion already has a room chosen for you should you accept and move into the Duke’s castle with us.”

There was, of course, no question of her answer.  He was offering her an opportunity she hadn’t dared to hope for, a chance at something greater than a life of service in the Countess’ household.  This was a far better path to independence than her previous plans to either run away and join a troupe of musicians or become a courtesan.  

“I accept, my lord.  Thank you.  I’m very grateful.”

“Ah, it’s settled then.”  He smiled.  “Have another sandwich.  I will send someone to tell the Countess of your decision and to fetch your belongings.  First lesson of the day.  You will stop addressing me as ‘my lord’ and call me Reins.  It’s an odd name, I know, but the name I was given at birth sounds terrible in your language, and I’ve yet to meet anyone who didn’t butcher it.”  He looked at her.  “It’s a lovely day for a friendship, wouldn’t you agree?”

Afraid that her emotions would get the better of her, Nya merely nodded, and continued to eat her sandwich.


The candle exploded, the wooden paneled wall behind it splintered, and a fine shower of dust rained lightly down upon her as Nya surreptitiously looked over to where Reins was leaning against the doorway, arms folded across his chest, one eyebrow arched in mild surprise.  Sounds were slightly muted after the thundering boom that had resulted from her first attempt at lighting a small wall sconce.  A long silence ensued.

“My dear girl,” said Reins slowly.  “You have a rather alarming gift for destruction.”

“At least the wall didn’t catch fire,” she ventured.

“True.  For now, however, I think we should conduct our studies outdoors,” he said, as the sound of muffled shouts and footsteps could be heard down the hallway.  

Reins leaned his head out the doorway and assured the Duke’s guards that all was well.  Even so, sergeant Kovo appeared in all his intimidating gruffery and eyed the room suspiciously, scowling as his glance fell upon Nya.  She looked down, studying the floorboards in sudden intense interest.  

“Really, sergeant, we’re quite unharmed, and the room is intact.  Thank you for your concern, but we’ve no need of your services.”

Assured that the threat was over, Kovo turned on his heel and muttered orders for the other men to clear out.  Reins hadn’t moved from where he was standing.  

“I’m sorry, my lord.  I’m not sure what went wrong.”

“Things are supposed to go wrong every now and then when one is learning.  Just try not to kill anyone in the process.”  He smiled then.  “That’s enough for today.  Go on.  We need to get ready for Lady Prelia’s precious ball.  I suppose it would be gauche to show up late considering it’s being held in my honor”

“What about the wall?”

“We can fix that later,” he said waving his hand absently and shaking dust from his hair as he headed for his suite down the hall.

Nya moved to study the wall she had nearly destroyed.  

“Oh shit,” she murmured in soft surprise with one of her favorite expressions that she used only when no one else was around.  Upon closer inspection, the damage was more extensive than she realized.  Small cracks spread from the splintered site all the way to the ceiling and floor, and when she picked away at the ruined wood paneling, she could see that the stone behind it was pitted and chipped.  All of this, from trying to light one simple candle.

“Nya?”  It was Lady Virion’s voice from just beyond the doorway.  Nya straightened guiltily as the sorcerer’s wife entered.  

“Reins told me you’d been wreaking havoc on the architecture,” said Virion amusement evident in her pale blue eyes as she surveyed the ruined wall.  “But he didn’t say you’d nearly brought the castle down.”

It was said that the Lady Virion’s smile could reduce a man to a speechless lump of jelly, and Nya, standing close to the woman, could well believe it.  Virion possessed a delicate beauty that was nearly unrivalled in the Duchy of Mrillind.  Her white-blonde hair was worn as a single braid down her back.  She was dressed in dark blue silks that trailed in a swirl of fabric when she moved.  A thin silver and pearl chain decorated her long neck, and from it hung a small dragon shaped amulet with a sapphire eye.  Virion’s attire was as elegant as her husband’s was plain, and what the sorcerer lacked in polished manners, she more than made up for it with her cool and easy grace.

It was also said that the Lady Virion of Tedrua had obtained these studied charms of hers by way of her former profession, that of a courtesan at the Imperial Palace in Marageen.  Nya was not sure if this was merely rumor spread by jealous women of the Duke’s court, or if this were actually true.  The courtesans of Mrillind were nothing like the Baroness of Tedrua.

“So then,” the baroness was saying.  “Let’s get you cleaned up, shall we?  Reins, alas, has a reputation for dustiness and disarray.  Please let’s not start the same for you.”

Nya followed the woman to her rooms where a bath had been set up for her.  Once she’d washed all the dust away, Virion had a dark green dress for Nya that she claimed would go well with the girl’s auburn hair.  Nya was embarrassed a little by all the fuss, but she had to admit that it was an enjoyable experience for the most part, and at the end when the three of them were riding in their carriage towards Prelia’s estate, she was not as nervous as she would have thought to be upon returning to her former mistress’ home.  

Countess Prelia had never been a person to admire in Nya’s estimation.  The woman had kept Nya in her service merely as a courtesy to Nya’s dead father.  She had never shown any particular kindness to Nya, unlike Reins and Virion who had seemed to accept her as one of their own from the moment she entered their household.  It was odd, living in the sorcerer’s wing, she thought.  It had been a little over a week, now, and the change had still not quite set in.  Tonight, for instance, felt particularly unreal to her.

She often had a sense of unreality and detachment towards events that others found memorable.  Nya wasn’t sure why she wasn’t as affected by excitement as others around her seemed to be.  Minor emotions were not a problem.  She was embarrassed or annoyed as easily as the next person, but strong feelings of joy, fear, hatred, and love were a rare experience for her.  

It was this deficit, perhaps, that drew her to the sorcerer and his wife.  They were passionate and warm beings, the pair of them, although it was only evident in Reins since Virion tended to hide her emotions under a veneer of genteel civility.  Nya found them fascinating, a far cry from the cold household of Lady Prelia where the inhabitants had to be alert at all times or risk falling out of favor with the countess due to the machinations of one’s rivals in the household.  Prelia’s house had never been a safe environment, and Nya was secretly glad that she was only here tonight for a visit, and not to stay permanently.


“What is going on over there?”  Reins’ voice was concerned.  

Nya blinked, realizing she’d been woolgathering again.  She looked out the other side of the carriage to find a small commotion in the streets.  A small crowd had gathered, and as their carriage moved, two combatants could be seen in brief glimpses between the press of bodies.  

“Who are they?”  Virion asked.

“Damn!” cried Reins suddenly.  “Stop the carriage!”

“You know them?” said Virion, as her husband jumped out before they had come to a full stop.  “Stay in the carriage, Nya,” she said as she hurried out after him.  Nya ignored the order and followed quickly after.  It was strange how the crowd seemed to part for the sorcerer even though they weren’t even aware he had arrived, Nya noted with half-interest, as she pressed her way through to the front alongside Reins.

Two men stood facing each other, swords and daggers in hand, their breath steaming in the chill evening air.  They were apparently evenly matched, both looking spent, and each bloodied with minor wounds.  The younger of the two stood very still, waiting with an almost questioning look on his face, and as if in answer, the older combatant, with an angry roar, ended the brief respite and lunged forward.  His thrust was quickly parried, and the fighting resumed in earnest.

Reins, about to stop them, was checked by a hand on his arm.

“Don’t,” said a tall forbidding man next to him.

“What happened, my lord?  Why are they fighting?” Reins asked, his voice for once oddly deferential.  

The man shrugged, his attention fixed on the two fighters.  “I’m not certain.  But let them finish it.”

To Nya’s surprise, the sorcerer acquiesced without further word and turned to watch the fight in frustrated silence.  Nya saved her questions for later and turned her attention also back to the duel, which was progressing with startling fury back and forth within the wide circle of onlookers.  The tension was nearly palpable, not just between the two fighters, but within the entire crowd.  Nya was disturbed that she did not share that feeling.  She didn’t even know which fighter she was rooting for, and so, once again, she found herself watching impassively events which should have evoked something more within herself.

“Why is he doing that?” Virion asked softly under her breath to no one in particular.  And at Nya’s look of incomprehension, added, “The blonde one.  He hesitated twice when he had an opening.”

Nya stared at the two men, still shifting back and forth, their glittering blades flickering here and there, sliding off each other with a high metallic hiss.  They fought silently, neither of them indulging in the verbal tauntings that so often accompanied duels in the street.  These were neither drunken braggarts nor sons of rich lords wanting for sport.  Even Nya’s untrained eye knew them to be highly skilled.  She could see control they exercised, their wrists moving with precision with not an extra movement wasted.  

But her untrained eye could not discern what the sorcerer’s wife had commented on.  She watched the younger fighter intently and could not see the hesitation Virion had spoken of.  He moved as quickly in her mind as the other fighter, parrying each attack with cold precision.  And his own thrusts were equally blocked by the older man.  Nya thought the fight could go on forever.  

The crowd evidently thought the same, for a muffled shock rippled through when, with a blur, the older man’s dagger suddenly slid through the other’s defense, and surprisingly found itself buried to the hilt in the younger man’s side.  

“Beyen!” A startled cry from the opposite side of the crowd.  A young man stepped forward and would have rushed into the circle had he not been restrained by those around him.  “Maro, is that not enough?” he shouted at the older fighter.

The older man had already pulled his dagger out and was staring at it with an odd  expression on his face. The younger man, who had by some miracle remained standing, had resumed a defensive stance, his sword still before him.  Incredulity was evident on his face, Nya thought, and with a sudden flash of unexpected insight, she realized that he was surprised not because his opponent had been physically capable of the move, but that he had actually enough motive to execute it.  

The silence, having been broken, the younger man finally spoke.  “Now,” he said between uneven breaths.  “Will you at least tell me why?”

A brief flicker of doubt passed over the older man’s face, but he then tightened his grip on sword and dagger, and the anger that had suffused his features from before returned in full force.  “You know very well why.”

“No, I tell you I do not!”  The young man hissed.  And then, to the surprise of the crowd, uttered softly without bravado, “Don’t make me kill you, Maro.”

“He will do it, Maro,” warned the man who had cried out earlier.  “Whatever you think he’s done to you, there must be an explanation.  Put up your sword!”

In response, Maro shook his head, and with a sudden movement belying his exhausted appearance, rushed in for the kill, his brilliant blade a whirring flash, aimed dead at the center of the younger man’s chest.

He never made it.

Nya did not even see what the younger man had done, but there was a quick blur of movement, and of a sudden, Maro was face down on the ground making strangled choking noises.  There was blood on the younger man’s blade, and there was more of it on the ground, fanning out slowly from the dying man.  

The crowd was utterly quiet.  The victor stood staring down at his opponent, the slight sway of his stance the only motion in an otherwise still crowd.  Nya thought he might faint where he stood, but instead, he turned, slowly, to face the stranger at Reins’ side.

“Lord Anridis,” the young man named Beyen addressed the stranger standing next to Reins.  “I apologize.  I must admit.  I’m not sure why this happened.”  His voice was at least steady, if the rest of him was not.  

“Explanations can wait, Beyen.  Get out of here.”  Anridis said in cold dismissal, and the young man bowed his head once, then walked slowly and unsteadily to his friend in the crowd.

“My lord,” Reins addressed the lord.  “Why didn’t you stop them?  You could have done so.”  Pain was evident in the sorcerer’s face.  

Anridis looked at Reins in surprise.  “It was a point of honor.  Do you not understand that where you come from?”

“No,  I must not,” said Reins bitterly.  “Beyen is your friend.  He could have been killed.”

Anridis frowned, moved to a quiet dangerous anger.  “Aye, Beyen is a dear and trusted friend,” he said in a cold voice.  “And so, my dear sorcerer, was Maro.”  

Nya looked at the man lying on the street.  He was dead now, and had been covered by someone’s cloak.  Virion stood next to her, eyes scanning the crowd, her expression unreadable.  

“I’m sorry, my lord,” Reins was saying.  “I did not kn—“

Reins stopped suddenly, his head tilted as if listening for something, his eyes distant. 

“Reins?” Lord Anridis waited.  

“Gods,” the sorcerer choked.  “Your father, Anridis!  They’re after your father!”

“What are you talking about?” the lord demanded alarmed.

“Get your men to the castle, my lord!  The duke is in danger,” cried Reins. “Virion?” he called to his wife, and Virion, nodded calmly at him as if he had spoken.  Without a word, she turned and disappeared into the crowd.  

Reins then grabbed Nya by the arm, willing her to follow.  Ignoring Lord Anridis, who was barking orders at his men, Reins and Nya ran back up the street towards the duke’s castle.  Nya wondered how they could possibly get there before the duke’s men on foot like this, but then she noted with a lurch in her stomach, that the night around them appeared oddly blurred and tilted.  She looked at the sorcerer then, and saw a look of fierce determination on his face.  Turning her head had made her dizzy.  She swallowed and looked down at her feet, trying to center herself, and saw with a sick twinge of fear, that her feet were not touching the ground as she ran.  




Nothing to see here, folks.  



Nothing to see here, folks.



Nothing to see here, folks.



Nothing to see here, folks.



Nothing to see here, folks.



Nothing to see here, folks.



Nothing to see here, folks.



Nothing to see here, folks.



Nothing to see here, folks.

Words on this page, as ridiculous as they may seem, are © 2002 by CKTC.