06-11-2012 11:52 PM
The Bones of Lady Anne, a critical plot point in the Darkkin Chronicles. This begins where the Broken Bird of South Kettering left off.
Bella flashed a faery’s grin, but quickly sobered. “What is causing the glamours to collapse and furthering the decay of the Witching Tree?”
“The answer lies within you, Isabella,” Quinn replied, “Within your blood and heart, tracing back to Lady Anne.”
“The legend of the missing bones?” She asked.
Again Quinn nodded, but his features were tight with latent pain. “It is no legend, Isabella. Lady Anne was the last of her kind, the last of the Darkkin able to complete the misting. She was captured in 1585. Tried for heresy and witchcraft, she was condemned to death. She was burned at the steak before the Cathedral of Oban in October of 1586. Her remains were never returned to the Moncreiffe family.”
“What happened to them?” Bella pressed half afraid of what she would hear.
All eyes were now fixed on Quinn. “They were taken as trophies by the clerics of the cathedral. Incorporated into the mosaics of the Claymores and Darkkin, they serve as a grim warning to all who dared to take a stand, any who clung to hope and belief in the old stories.”
Confusion rippled across Bella’s piquant face. “But that still doesn’t explain why the glamours, all of the glamours and shields, are collapsing.”
The patient innkeeper drew a deep breath. “You are still a fledgling, Bella; there is much about the Darkkin and the lores you have yet to learn. You know many of the main tenet points, the knots that connect us.” Bella inclined her head slightly. She knew the references.
“Think of the magic flow as a river coursing along the paths of those knots.” Quinn said. “With that in mind, recall the legends of the Darkkin. What do they say about the passing of a lore?”
06-14-2012 11:42 PM
“Our bones and blood, the very essence of our magic are returned to the earth, renewing the bonds, keeping the cycles flowing. With each internment of darkkin bones, the world replenishes the magic we and all the Lores draw upon. Our souls take flight, spread our wings and ride the songs into the Beyond.” Bella said. “Of the earth and to the earth, we are born and bound. Dust and ash and snow.”
Quinn nodded, well pleased with her answer. “The reason our settlements remain hidden from mortal eyes is because of the Lore bones, but since the death of Lady Anne, there have been fewer and fewer Lores interred, and those that are possess little power. We have incurred a blood debt that has nearly bled our lands dry.”
“But all of the darkkin that have fallen victim to the Dark and its minions, surely all those lives must count for something?” Bella cried her eyes dark with pain.
The innkeeper glanced toward Pippa and Henri as his own losses rippled across his memories. “They have Bella. They have kept you and many of the other fledglings alive. You and your generation are the closest thing to hope we have had in more than two centuries, but the Fading has taken a dreadful toll. You have seen the Witching Tree and spoken with the Baksheesh. With the dwindling of the power comes the failing of our shields. The debt has come due, a debt that demands the bones of Lady Anne.”
“And if we recover them and return them to the Talonstone graveyard?”
“All the magic Lady Anne possessed will be returned to the Glen and South Kettering.” Quinn stated. “It will counteract the Fading, but I don’t know for how long.”
“So it could be just a fool’s errand?” Bella pressed.
Quinn shook his head. “No, never that. It will probably prove to be a stopgap, giving us enough time to figure out a way to bring an end to this Fading. But until the bones are recovered there is no certain way to tell.”
“Dammit…” Bella muttered her frustration written on her face. “Why can nothing ever be clear cut?”
Helios laughed. “You are a Lore, Isabella, a Darkkin. A very young Darkkin. Things for you and those like us will never be cut and dried. That is what it means to be a Lore. You are a living faery tale. We are the legends and fables, the living mystery. We are the dreams. A thousand shades of grey and no clear edges is the price we pay for the power we wield.”
Bella heaved a frustrated sigh. “I suppose you’re right, but it is still frustrating.”
Quinn’s sober features split into a wide grin at the fledgling’s put upon tone. “Frustration is life in a nutshell, little one.”
Isabella grimaced, her tone wry. “Well, that leaves us with just one thing left to do.
“And what might that be?” Helios prodded.
“Try and retrieve those bones, the shard and the stolen children.”
06-15-2012 06:37 PM
“No small task, little one.” Quinn said. “But we are Lores, not men.” A chorus of cheers greeted this simple statement, warming Bella to her toes, despite the icy ride she had endured. Talonstone would not stand alone in her fight against the Claymores.
“Come along everyone we have much to do and no time to do it in.” The innkeeper declared. “Bella, Henri, and Pippa come with me. The rest of you see Old Claude. He will have what we need,”
Bella caught hold of the strap above her head, just in time to avoid being jounced onto the floor of Quinn’s weathered carriage. That it was the vehicle of gentry was clear with the Cardiffe family crest emblazoned on the side, but the equipage was not of the most current fashion. Indeed, it was about two decades out of style, lumbering and serviceable, the perfect camouflage. No one would question a bereaved gentleman leading his three children on a tour of the various churches across the Highlands. Claymore Cathedral was one of the most pristine and awe inspiring examples.
“It was a wise move, Isabella,” Quinn said as the young darkkin righted herself. “Sending the main body of our forces north to Dunstanffnage. The gruaghach will alert the Oakem and the Claymores’ forces to the change in venue. That old fairy has been moping about South Kettering for centuries now, especially since the Stone of Destiny was moved. She seemed positively gleeful to have the job.”
Bella smiled softly within the dark confines of the carriage, settling a slumbering Pippa closer to her side. “We need to get the Claymores away from the village and my glen. With the bones of Lady Anne still missing, there is no knowing how long the failing glamours will hold. A battle that close to the hidden vale would almost certainly collapse the shield and destroy the Witching Tree in the process.” Wearily she rubbed her eyes that were now an exceedingly ordinary shade of grey.
Quinn cast a furtive, knowing glance over the three fledglings. Even under close scrutiny no one would know Bella, Henri, and Pippa for what they really were. Thanks to a glamour woven by Marianna of Fathoms Deep. He saw three worn youngsters piled in the opposite seat, two with hair the color of coal and eyes like slate, the third with hair of a sandy, indeterminate shade and eyes an open, almost vacuous blue. Their features were even and pleasing, but nothing out of the normal way. The stark, lethal beauty of their darkkin roots was tucked away beneath a skillfully crafted veneer.
The ancient Knight of Drake was well pleased. Marianna had done her job and done it well. Like many in South Kettering, Marianna was careful to keep the true extent of her powers a secret, but the wily old Knight knew she possessed the skills to conceal the true faces of the fledgling now in his keeping, especially Isabella. Hiding the glory of a Darkkin in its prime was no small feat, and she had succeeded. It was anonymity he had asked for and the Sea Fae had given it to them is spades. Quinn doubted even Isabella’s own brother would recognize her.
A despondent, domineering father hauling his wayward offspring across the wilderness and moors in the middle of winter would appeal to the cold, harsh minds of the Claymores and their more numerous underlings the Clerics. Quinn knew from experience that there was not a Cleric alive that didn’t love to prattle on about the virtues and glorious accomplishments of their masters. Advice for penance to be meted would be a perfect way in.
Bella had joined Pippa and Henri in the realms of slumber as the coach rumbled along the rutted road. With luck they would reach Oban by first light. Quinn knew the odds they were up against, but at long last something was finally being done. Too long, the Lores and Darkkin hid in the shadows, pretending to be meek, mild, and utterly self-effacing. Well, no more. The Dark had a firm hold on the world they had fought to save once before and now history seemed destine to repeat itself. The ancient Gregorian just hoped they hadn’t left it too late.
February 4th, 1815
The wee hours of the morning…
“They have been gone too long, Felix!” Tristan roared as he paced like the caged beast he was. “They should have been back by now.” He slammed his fist onto the hard cold marble of the mantelpiece with enough force to crack the stone. “Dammit! Why did I trust that wretched Chimaera?”
Felix blinked owlishly at his companion. “Calm down, Tris. Bella did what she thought best.”
“Thought best!” Lord Ettlesworth bellowed. Felix and Lucas both winced. The Viscount’s railing would do a fishwife proud. “She didn’t think. She dove in head first without a thought for her own safety. She could be laying out there injured or…worse.”
06-21-2012 12:11 AM
Lucas smiled benignly, his placid expression at odds with the turmoil twisting in his gut. “If Isabella were hurt or…” He swallowed audibly. “Heaven forbid it…gone. You wouldn’t be here ranting like the jealous fool you are Ettlesworth.”
Felix hoisted himself out of the ancient wing chair to join the rattled viscount in front of the fire. “You are not giving Bella enough credit. She stood her ground with Nog…er…Nicholas and brought him around her little finger. She may look like she is made from spun glass, but she is a fury when crossed. She made it to South Kettering, I’m sure of it.”
Tristan bristled, his gaze fixed on the fire. “What about the dense plumes of smoke drifting from the south? They were coming from just beyond Dagger Cove. Something happened and all the while, we’ve just holed up in this damned library.”
Felix’s temper flared, but he tamped down the angry torrent of words, knowing another diatribe would only exacerbate matters. “We have no choice, Tris. You heard Old Eli’s warning just before that mob got him. Do not cross the boundary. Her bones are still lost. Do not cross the boundary. Her bones are still lost.”
“What the devil does it mean?” Tristan demanded.
Lucas shot to his feet, his complacent expression in abeyance, worry written in its stead. “Damned if I or any of us here know, but it had to be important for the old fellow to scream them like that.” A shudder collective shudder passed through all three men. Even now the smell of charred flesh still lingered in their noses.
Tristan’s formidable temper boiled even hotter at thought of what the Claymores’ mob had done to the foolhardy old storyteller. After the deaths of the brutish blacksmith Newton Craig and the wretched Clout, the Darkkin returned to Talonstone after Isabella’s aborted rage. An Oakem stationed in the shrouded grove reported back to the manor with the devastating news that Old Eli had been captured along with young Bastion, who was banished to the mines. For the ancient storyteller, however, he was destined to meet a much more brutal end.
As the village elder was no Oakem he was spared hanging. The young Oakem, Tyson by name, snuck back down to crumbling Dunollie and followed the edge of the glamour to the edge nearest the village square. Tristan, Felix, and Lucas had followed, having seen Bella safely on her way with the Dire Wolf pack. The Claymores, in full Inquisition garb paraded the hooded old man down from the crag to the meadow bordering the Cathedral. A mock trial was staged for the benefit of the restless, seething mob as a pyre was hastily constructed before the steps of the church.
Just like the ill-fated, much lamented Lady Anne, Old Eli was found guilty of heresy and witchcraft. His sentence: death by fire. He was to be burned at the stake. Candide, leader of the six gathered Claymores, pronounced the frail elder’s fate with a malicious grin upon his face. Most of Oban’s residents hung back, worry and horror written across their weathered faces, while the sizable entourage of the Claymores went to work readying the wood and oil. Old Eli had remained silent throughout the entire ordeal, knowing that his time on this plane was at an end.
Gifted with the Sight, the storyteller was able to see through the glamour that shielded Talonstone and its inhabitants from the eyes of the Claymores. He glimpsed Tristan, Felix, Lucas, and Tyson the Oakem boy gathered along the edge of the meadow. Eli also noticed the distorted ripples of the glamour as the magic continued to fade. He knew from years past what would happen if the shield were breached for even the briefest moment. The whole thing would collapse and Talonstone would be at the mercy of the Claymores and their court.
Thus it was the ancient legend weaver mounted his pyre, gnarled hands bound, head high. As the flames greedily licked their way up the oil soaked pilings, Old Eli cried out his final warning, his voice high and pained as the fire caught hold. “Her bones are still lost. Do not cross the boundary. Her bones are still lost. Do not cross the boundary…” A final scream of anguish broke from his heaving chest before he finally succumbed to the smoke and flame.