Faery Fable

Part the I
The Wood the Wolf and the Rae’vn

Caleb Alan Kestner



Faery Fable
Part the I
The Wood the Wolf and the Rae’vn

Caleb Alan Kestner


Copyright © 2009 by Caleb Kestner. All Rights Reserved.

2nd Story Press Minneapolis, Minnesota Printed in the United States


This book is dedicated to Robyn. Hope you like your, “Faery Fable”.


Cover Illustration ~ Forest ~ by: lukpazera (http://www.deviantart.com/)

(P.S. If you have, or know of, any art you think would go well with this story I’d love to take a look.)



IiiChapter 0. Preface ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~8 iiiiiiiiiiiiiii iiIChapter 1. The Rae’vn and the Rose ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~10 iiiiiiiiiiiiii iiiChapter 2. The Snow ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~14 iiiiiiiiiiiiii iiiChapter 3. The Wolf ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~18 iiiiiiiiiiiiii iiiChapter 4. Leader ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~24 iiiiiiiiiiiiii iiiChapter 5. The Tongue ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~27 iiiiiiiiiiiiii iiiChapter 6. Time ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~30 iiiiiiiiiiiiii iiiChapter 7. The Pond ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~33 iiiiiiiiiiiiii iiiChapter 8. The Woman of the Woods ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~35 iiiiiiiiiiiiii iiiChapter 9. The Prince ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~38



“What  is  the  use  of  a  book,  without  pictures  or  conversations?”   Alice Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland



Once upon a when, in the heart of winter, in a cottage on the edge of an ancient wood, there was born, a child. The birth was like any other birth, the child like any other child and the parents, like any parents, were overjoyed. For the child was their firstborn. And while, for all intents and purpose, this moment seemed like any other moment, no more special, no more important. It was most definitely not like any other moment. For as the infant drew its first breath and announced it’s presence to the world with a cry, like any other cry, something heard, and began to listen. And slowly the course of history itself began to shift…



Chapter 1
The Rae’vn and the Rose

The child grew swiftly as all children do, and it wasn’t too long before the weary nights and exhausting days turned to fond memories and missed moments too quickly gone. The child was named Rae’vn for the color of her hair and the intelligence that seemed to sparkle in the back of her eyes. Now Rae’vn’s parents were loving and did their best to fulfill her every need, but they lived far from the great cities of the kingdom and the villages feared the ancient trees of the forest, and the things said to lurk within, things as old as time itself. So while there was food enough to be found in the deer that slipped through the shadows of mighty oaks, in the vegetables and herbs found along the banks of bubbling brooks, or in the crumbling shells of the forests fallen giants.


There was no one to properly engage the mind of a growing child. No friends to play with, or grandmothers to spoil or give stern bits of advice. This, while problematic, would hardly have been a problem. Were it not for the fact that Rae’vn, in the absence of any really companionship, began to look for something to fulfill the one need that had been denied her, and her parents, in their guilt for allowing her to grow up in such isolation, let her do as she pleased. Provided she never stray farther then the long ribbon of yellow yarn, wrapped around her waist at one end and the base of a tree at edge of the forest at the other, would permit her to. ~

Now this tree was in sight of the cottage, if at a distance, and the parents reassured themselves that as long as the string moved their daughter was safe, and, should something occur, it could quickly be followed, and their child easily found. And, for a while, the system worked, as most things for a while will. But it wasn’t too long before Rae’vn began to feel the limits of her freedom. For like most people it didn’t matter how much there was at her fingertips, inevitably, Rae’vn’s interest was drawn to the things just beyond her reach. This slowly growing dilemma was finally fully realized on a sunny


summer’s afternoon, while clouds painted mountains in the sky, and trees threw lazy shadows across bright green grass. Rae’vn’s father was out cutting wood to build a bigger storage shed for winter and her mother was in the cottage preparing supper. Rae’vn as always was wandering at the far tip of her dirty yellow ribbon of yarn. She had traveled into the edge of the forest, choosing as straight a path as she could manage, doing her best to extend the ribbon to it’s maximum possible reach. She had just reached the limit of its length and was leaning slightly forward, pulling the ribbon taught, when she noticed a bright red flower she’d never seen before just slightly farther then she could go. Now even though Rae’vn had never really been disciplined and by all rights should be thoroughly spoiled, she wasn’t a bad child, but she was a child, and children do not come preset to say no to temptation, especially as enticingly tantalizing as this perfect blushing bloom. Like all compromises the one Rae’vn finally gave into was small. “As long as you’re still touching the ribbon it doesn’t really have to be tied around you.” Said a small voice, timidly, in the back of her mind. “After all, it isn’t like I’m take it off to leave it off, I just need a little extra length.” she announced, to the open air. Content with her logic Rae’vn quickly untied the ribbon and, holding its tip with her fingers, proceed to stretch as far as she could towards the flower. But


still she came up just a little short. Frustrated she stepped back and considered her situation. “You don’t really need to be touching the ribbon as long as you can still see it.” Said the small little voice. “Yeah.” Rae’vn quickly agreed as the full potential of the thought dawned upon her. She kneeled down and tied the ribbon to a clump of tall grass. “Don’t worry I’ll be right back.” She said to the worn string as it began to flutter vainly in the gently breeze. Standing she moved to inspect the flower more closely. It had a dark green stem with nearly black, waxy, leaves. It petals were more of a deep blood red color now that she looked at them closely. She’d seen blood once when she gotten a deep splinter). She reached out to touch the flower but just before her fingers brushed the petals she heard her mother calling her home. “Rae’vn. Dinner!” Her hand shot back as she turned and dove for the string, quickly retying it and rushing back towards the cottage. “Coming!” Behind her the flowers petals wilted and fell to the ground, as the stem and leaves curled in on themselves and sank back into the dirt.


Chapter 2
The Snow

Days swept onward, spring turned to summer, and summer faded into fall. And every day Rae’vn pressed her limit’s a little farther. Her parents felt there was something strange happening with their daughter, but having no experience in the matter, they pushed aside their worries, and reassured themselves that Rae’vn could never get into too much trouble while she was at the end of her ribbon. Still, they weren’t able to shake the uneasy feeling that continued to grow. They watched as birds came to her finger bringing little flowers or singing melodies that Rae’vn mimicked at will. They studied the clumps of small white flowers that sprang up in her wake, staggered like skipping footsteps and suspiciously shaped like little feet. Or the blackened dead patches of earth that followed her if she was angry.


“It’s nothing!” The father said, as much for himself as to reassure his wife. “But how can you be sure, I mean the things that happen when she…” “It’s nothing, a coincidence, a fluke. Our worries playing tricks on our minds, fear for our first born. It means nothing, it can’t” “I know, it’s just . .” “Nothings wrong, she’s a perfectly normal girl, nothing will happen, nothing could. We’re too far from any people. And if there are any creatures to fear in the forest they’ve been chased deep into its depths long ago. She’ll be fine.” He pulled his wife into his arms, embracing her within the thick fur folds of his coat. “She’ll be fine.” “I know, your right. Its just … I don‘t know.”


The first snow fell while most leaves still clung tightly to their trees; a thick pure white blanket that seemed to wash the world of its imperfections. Raven was ecstatic. She would turn six in a few weeks and this was to be her first winter not spent cooped up in the cottage or stuck trailing her mother’s skirts all day. “Can I go out, can I go out, PLEEEEEEESE!” “Huh…what? The sun’s not even up.” The mother said groggily as she struggled to pull herself out of the sheets that Raven had managed to twist and


scramble within moments of jumping onto the bed. “It’s almost up, I’m sure it is. It’s probably just waiting for me.” “For you huh?” “Yeah. I’m sure.” “Oh well in that case if you’re sure, we can hardly disappoint the sun now can we. Go get ready.” “YES! Thank you, thank you!” Rae’vn jumped from the bed, the sheets miraculously coming untangled as her feet hit the floor. The sun was just breaking free of the trees and lifting into the ice blue sky, when Rae’vn, her bight yellow ribbon (recently washed) in tow, rushed through the cottage door into the new white wilderness. Her mother had tried to get her to eat breakfast, but she had quickly given up. Deciding to let her build up a hunger first. “Be back for lunch and don’t get your jacket dirty.” Rae’vn heard her mother call behind her as she’s dashed for the towering trees; their branches bowed down under heavy loads of snow. It wasn’t too long before Rae’vn reached the limit of the ribbon and as she’d been doing for the past several weeks, quickly turned, tied it to a low hanging branch and went to explore the area within view of the ribbon. But something different happened that day, for as Raven studied the new found wonder of snow tracks, once again a small voice began whispering in the


back of her mind. “These tracks lead all the way back to the house, just like the ribbon. If you have the tracks then you don’t really need to have the ribbon.” A thoughtful and slightly mischievous expression crossed her face. “I could just follow them back to the ribbon when I’m done looking around.” Very pleased with her new loophole Rae’vn, tramped off into the forest as quickly as any five year old can when dealing with deep snow. Unseen by her or her parents, the yellow ribbon, now abandoned between two trees, started to shiver as if the temperature had dropped a hundred degrees, around it the air sat, dead calm. Beneath it the tracks that were its last link to Raven, had already disappeared, as if brushed from existence. Ahead the remaining tracks were already fading. Disappearing after her into the forest.


Chapter 3
The Wolf

Who can say what happens to parents who lose a child. Some cope, lift themselves up and move forward. Some are caught in that finally moment, forever reliving that last instant to the day they die. Some are strengthened by the experience, others are shattered by it, in the end it can’t be said which fate prevailed in the lives of Rae’vn’s parents. Like so many things they disappeared into the immensity of history, a forgotten memory, even their names becoming a fading echo in the halls of time.


Rae’vn never meant to lose track of the time, or lead large sweeping circles through the trees with her tracks. Slowly moving deeper into the forest until at last the sun, no more then a light glow through the snow covered canopy, was


nearly resting within the forest for another night. All of the sudden Rae’vn stopped the game she’d been playing with a squirrel she’d accidentally woken from its winter nap. “I have to get home!” She gasped to herself as she shot to her feet and quickly began retracing the nearest set of footprints. At first they just led her in circles, and she was really starting to get frustrated when finally she found line of tracks that broke off from the rest and cut straight through pure white underbrush. She’d followed it for what seemed like forever when she came to its end. But the cottage wasn’t anywhere to be seen. In fact it looked as if she was deeper in the forest then she’d been before. She took another step forward, and as her foot pressed down on the newly fallen snow the last footprint in the line of tracks filled in from the bottom up, reverting to a patch of smooth white snow. Rae’vn sat back into a drift as the full weight of the situation finally dawned on her. Her body started to shake, ragged sobs pouring forth from her chest, her eyes brimming with un-spilled tears. Then, as the final ray of sun broke with a flash against the top of a giant pine tree and the forest was shrouded in dark, a different little voice rose above the panic of her frenzied thoughts. “Get a hold of yourself!” The voice said. “You can sit here crying till you freeze to death, or you can do something!” The voice whispered in her head before fading away again.


“What can I do? I’m lost, I’m hungry, I’m alone. No one can find me cause I don’t have the ribbon.” Rae’vn wiped the single tear that had managed to escape her long black eye lashes from her cheek. “I’ll think of something.” She said to herself, brightening slightly. “It can’t stay dark forever.” Behind her Rae’vn heard a low rumble that slowly rose to a deep growl. Turning she saw two yellow stars suspended in the shadows of a fir tree. Her vision slowly adjusted and the stars resolved into the liquid eyes of a large gray wolf nearly three times her size. Struggling she pulled herself up out of the drift and onto her feet. As she did the wolf slowly walked forward, into the tiny puddle of starlight that broke through the treetops to fall at Rae’vn’s feet. It’s black lips slid back in a snarl revealing ivory teeth each longer then Rae’vn’s hand. Rae’vn had never seen a wolf but she’d heard them talking to each other in the deep winter months and heard the stories her father had told her mother about them. Not knowing what to do and knowing she had very little time to do it, Raven let out a piercing shriek that she’d picked up from a passing raptor that summer. The she-wolf took a step back. “Why is this funny shaped deer making bird sounds?” The she-wolf thought. She moved in slowly sniffing around the short mound of deerskin.


“This isn’t a deer” the she-wolf realized, “its another creature pretending to be a deer. Why would any creature want to pretend to be a deer?” The she-wolf thought. “KaaKiiiiiiiiiieeeeeee” Rae’vn shrieked as the she-wolf sniffed a little too close. The she-wolf jumped back startled. Rae’vn made a dash for a nearby tree. The she-wolf easily out ran her and knocked her flat on her face. Her deerskin cap went flying and sank into a near snowdrift. “Hey! Stop it!” Yelled Rae’vn as she once again struggled to her feet, completely forgetting that she was dealing with a hungry wolf, several times her size. “It doesn’t have any fur.” the she-wolf realized. “Its not pretending to be a deer, it’s using it’s skin to stay warm. That pretty smart.” She thought admiringly. “If you don’t leave me alone…I’ll…I’ll…,I’ll pull your tail off.” Rae’vn yelled indignantly, remembering who she was dealing with but much too sacred, and angry to care anymore. “It’s feisty too.” The she-wolf thought. “This creature is much to valuable to eat, I’ll take it back to the pack and let Leader decide.” “…then once I’ve pulled all you’re teeth out I’ll poke you in the face with


them then…ahhh!” Rae’vn’s listing of the horrible plans for the wolf if it dared touch her was abruptly interrupted as the she-wolf hopped forward and grabbed the seat of her pants in it’s front teeth and took off at a trot into the heart of the forest. At first Rae’vn shrieked and struggled but once she realized that she wasn’t being eaten, and that the wolf wouldn’t stop shaking her until she shut up, she quickly quieted down. It wasn’t to long before the rhythmic motion of the wolf’s pace and the dark silence of the surrounding forest lulled Rae’vn’s to sleep. Weird dreams of spinning stars, black mountains of sand, entire forests springing forth form a single seed, landscapes made of water covered with thousands of floating houses, monsters the size of a hundred men breaking into a million shadows, day turned into night by flocks of… Rae’vn woke in mid air right before crashing onto the stone ground with a muffled thud. Disoriented she was fighting to turn onto her stomach when the shewolf that had found her in the forest barked, she froze when the bark was answered by another bark, much closer and much deeper. Now on her stomach, Rae’vn slowly lifted her head and moved her hair from in front of her eyes with her right hand, which seemed to have lost its dirty mitten sometime during the impromptu trip to, what appeared to be a large cavern.


Her vision cleared Rae’vn stared directly into the face of a black wolf easily twice as big as the gray wolf that had laid her before him. “Great,” Rae’vn said “now an even bigger wolf wants to eat me.”


Chapter 4

“What is it?” Leader barked to the gray she-wolf. “I found it in the forest, it was wearing the flesh of a deer to stay warm. I don’t think it has enough fur.” “So why did you bring it back?” The Leader responded. “It also spoke in the language of the sky dancers. I thought it might be useful. I think it’s still a cub.” The she-wolf responded as she circled around to get a better look at Raven’s frightened yet resolute face. “This thought was very wise. Perhaps this creature could benefit the pack. It will be put under your care as your cub. You will raise it, you will teach it.” Leader growled. “ME!.” Barked the she-wolf. “I’m not a den wolf, I don’t know anything


about cubs!” “Then you will learn.” Leader turned and retreated into the deeper caves leaving the she-wolf standing over Rae’vn, a stunned look on her face. Rae’vn had taken advantage of this short exchange to start studying her surroundings. All around her piles of fur in a variety of colors rose and fell softly, deep in the throes of sleep. Worn pockets of ground marked the beds of wolves that Rae’vn could only assume were out prowling the night as the wolf who’d found her had been. Rae’vn’s examination was interrupted as the she-wolf once again picked her up and trotted off deeper into the shadows of the cave. As the light from the caves entrance faded away Rae’vn glimpsed the shadows of two large wolfs guarding it. “So much for that plan.” She mumbled to herself, receiving a light shake from her involuntary guardian, reminding her to keep her words to herself. The she-wolf finally arrived at her destination, plopping Rae’vn down onto a pile of grass, feathers and bits of torn fur, before curling around her, locking Rae’vn into a circle of fur and muscle. Under different circumstance Rae’vn might have protested more, but it was a bitter cold night and the wolf’s heat did far more to warm her then the tattered remnants of what had been her deerskin snowsuit. Gradually her muscles loosened and she drifted off into the depths of her dreams. Several moments after Rae’vn’s breathing had finally deepened and her


body had gone fully limp, the wolf finally closed her eyes. Tucking the body in a little tighter, she finally drifted off to sleep as well.


Chapter 5
The Tongue

Situations are curious things. Who can say how a person will react to the challenges they're faced with. Who will stand and who will fall in the midst of adversity. Whatever Leader expected of Rae’vn, or the she-wolf thought of her, one things certain, both got far more then they anticipated.


At first Rae’vn had to be carried on the she-wolf's back, which she began to refer to as Night. Night grumbled about the extra burden and being slowed down. But after several days even she had to agree that Rae’vn took care of herself fairly well. She never fell off, she found most of her own food, and she willingly


accepted the food offered to her by the wolves (if grudgingly at first). It had been almost a week and a half since the night when Rae’vn had been found in the snowy clearing, when she uttered her first words in wolf. Night had been trotting along at a steady pace near the center of the pack and Rae’vn hadn't made sound for a while. All of the sudden her tiny voice broke the silence of the pristine wilderness with stuttered growl. "Where are we going?" The words echoing of the trees as the pack came to an abrupt halt. "What did you say?" Night asked. Her responding growl thick with shock. "I said where are we going?" "You can speak our tongue?" "Well not all of it, I've only had a week to figure it out." Rae’vn stated simply, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. By this time Leader had arrived. He walked up to Night and looked straight into Rae’vn‘s deep blue eyes as she laid on top of the wolf, her hands imbedded deep in the thick gray fur. "How is it you come to speak our tongue little one?" His words a deep rumble, his yellow eyes still locked on Rae’vn's. "I heard all of you speaking, and then I just started to understand." Rae’vn's voice more cautious now as she began to realize that she'd done something that had upset the wolves.


"We should get rid of the strange cub, it knows our pack tongue. We don't allow others wolves to know our tongue, much less whatever creature the cub is." A scarred old wolf growled out from the back. "No." Leader responded slowly but surely as he finally broke his gaze with Rae’vn. "She isn't a threat, but she could still be of great use." Rae’vn he said. "We're heading to fresh hunting grounds in the North." "Will I ever return?" Rae’vn asked; her voice laced with fear and a hint of sorrow. "Who can say where time will lead or a journey once begun will end." Leader turned and strode back to the head of the pack. Rae’vn 's eyes, blue chips of frozen sky, stared through the ebony strands of hair that had slipped free from her dirty fur hood to frame the left side of her alabaster face. They followed Leaders retreating form before looking up to stare at the white little clumps of snow that trailed slowly down through the pine trees, spiraling softly in the quiet, sheltered, breeze. "I'm never going home again. Am I?" Rae’vn said softly as she dug her hand's a little deeper into Night's glossy coat. Night said nothing as she followed Leader and the pack silently into the thickening snow. Turning back to


Chapter 6

The day’s passed quickly in the ensuing weeks and any thoughts of sorrow faded quickly in Rae’vn’s struggle to survive. She was not easily accepted into the pack and the only thing that saved her from the jaws of her newly adopted family was that most of them were certain she wouldn’t last the winter months and their was no need to stand up to Leader when she was bound to die anyway. To their amazement not only did the harsh weather of the dark months not kill Rae’vn, she thrived on them. She learned quickly, and though from time to time she still rode upon Night’s back, more and more she kept pace with the pack on her own. She continued to absorb the languages of the animals around her, and found that while wolves, raptors and other predators had an intelligence nearly human, deer, wild cattle and other small prey really were as brainless and flighty as they appeared. It wasn’t very long at all before she had replaced the


dirty, ripped, and recently too small, furs she’d been found in, with a completely new set of skins. She introduced the pack to the wonder of fire, which she had learned from watching her mother start the morning stove. She adapted to her lack of claws or teeth by laying traps, and coaxing weapons forth from plants and stone. Wherever Rae’vn went the ancient woods seemed to respond. Flowers bloomed in the heart of winter, emerald moss broke through ice-sheathed snow, and Rae’vn grew, her strength and speed ever increasing and her endurance seeming to never fail. She seemed almost to become one with the world around her, fading into it at will, comprehending it at a glance. Those things that didn’t give way to her glamour, or fall to her power, quickly found themselves victim of her intelligence and wit. Rae’vn quickly made a name for herself, and word spread quickly of the wolves’ new companion, the black-coated creature with the tricky eyes. Stories of her trials, troubles, and tricks, followed behind her like the life that infused everything that she touched, “Tales of the Rae’vn”, tale for another time. Throughout all this time passed on, sometimes slow in endless days of summer, other times fast in frozen nights of winter, but always on. Winter turned to summer and summer turned to winter as years swept by in cycles of hot and cold. Leader and Night had been right in their assessment of Rae’vn; with her at their forefront they thrived. The pack grew greater and more powerful then it had ever been, besting all foes and foraging farther into the depths of the Endless Woods then any pack had ever dared before. It was a


golden age for the pack, but all ages come to an end.


Chapter 7
The Pond

It was an endless day in the summer of Rae’vn’s seventeenth year. When exploring on her own, far from the pack, Rae’vn came across a clearing deep in the heart of the forest. Circled by weeping willows, tangled with roses such a deep red they appeared black, whose branches drooped into the edge of a crystal clear pond at the clearings center. At the pond’s center was a tall piece of granite covered in deep black scars and cracks. Water bubbled out of the top and ran in tiny slivers of blue over its sharp and broken surface. Oddly the water didn’t seem to flow out of the pond, though she could see several other spots where water flowed in. She cautiously crept to the edge of the pond; an eerie presence filled the clearing like the tenseness of a cave filled with too many wolves. Still Rae’vn


couldn’t just leave; even as the hairs on the back of her neck began to rise she bent down to stare into the depths of the pond. Giving into the insatiable desire to know what lay beneath the silver surface of liquid glass. Sudden her body convulsed, her legs and arms trying to pull away as her head was pulled slowly closer, as if by an invisible hand, towards the waters shining surface. “Welcome home my child.” Whispered a small voice softer then a flower’s smile but filled with a power deeper then rolling thunder. “It is time.” The voice’s words fading away with the ripples left by Rae’vn as she went limp and was pulled into the crystal black waters of the pond.


Chapter 8
The Woman of the Woods

Rae’vn woke up coughing, as her lungs ejected a stream of dark black water. "What happened?" She thought to herself as she slowly began to take in the murky surroundings of the nearly pitch black cavern that she seemed to be entombed in. "Now, now pretty that's no fun. You'll ruin my little game." Cackled an ominous voice from the shadows. Rae’vn scrambled to her feet, struggling to keep her footing on the water slick moss beneath her. "Who are you?" Rae’vn said loudly, as she quickly scanned the surrounding shadows for the voice’s source.


“What a boring question, I already know its answer. Ask me something interesting.” A shadow at the back of the cavern shifted slightly and resolved into the shape of a tattered old woman bent over a gnarled old stick that seemed to be all that was holding her up. “What?” Rae’vn responded confused. “Ah yes, that’s a much better question. It could be asking about anything. Let me see I think my answer will be…it’s the one that looks like blood.” The old woman hobbled over to where Rae’vn, who was soaked and struggling to stay on her feet, was standing. “I don’t under…” “You do realize why you’re here.” The old woman, now standing directly in front of Raven, said. Her words cutting through Rae’vn’s as she raised her weathered head and stared into Rae’vn’s eyes. “No.” Rae’vn felt as if her soul was being pulled into the vast abyss at the center of the old woman pitch black pupils; as if she was being filled to bursting and sucked dry at the same time. “Excellent.” The old woman cackled, her voice cracking with age. “This might just be more fun then it will be!” “Wait!” Rae’vn called out as the woman started to hobble quickly away. “Can’t wait, we have to get going!” The old woman called back, her voice echoing off the side of a tunnel that Rae’vn could have sworn wasn’t there a


minute ago. “Go where?” Rae’vn yelled as she raced into the tunnel after the old woman. Almost colliding with her as the woman stopped suddenly and spun around to face Rae’vn. “Where? Why to change the future of course!” The woman’s face split open into a thin wet smile that exposed jagged black teeth as another unearthly chuckle broke free from her throat.



Chapter 9
The Prince

A thousand miles to the south a young man fidgeted nervously on a large marble bench, one of several dozen scattered throughout the spacious antichamber to the throne room, in the Palace of a Thousand Days. The massive black oak doors that lead into the throne room cracked open as a servant and two guards entered. The young man quickly rose to his feet. “The Emperor will see you now your highness.” The servant said, stone faced as he bowed. “Thank you.” The young man responded, as he took a deep breath in a final attempt to calm his racing heart and strode straight backed through the door into the throne room. The throne room was massive. Its vaulting domed ceiling held up by


dozens of columns spaced far apart, each the width of a small house. Guards lined the wide path that ran from the entrance to the throne at the back of the room. Over a thousand people stood on either side of the line, moving back and forth between each other and whispering in hushed circles. The young man made his way down the long pathway that lead to the Emperor, the throne, and his destiny. The young man fell to his face at the base of the marble mountain that was the Emperors throne. “My Emperor, your wish is my desire. You summoned, I am here.” “So this is my youngest? Rise son and look upon your father.” The Emperors voice boomed over the gathered masses and his son. “Father I am yours to command.” The prince rose to his feet and stared for the first time at the man he’d spent his whole life waiting to meet. “I remember your mother, princess of that shepherd country I conquered on my final campaign. Shy little thing, it’s too bad she died in childbirth. She was pretty.” “Yes Emperor.” The prince said, struggling to keep his warring emotions in check. “You’ve no doubt heard of how my so called loyal servants and subjects have failed me.” The Emperor said flashing a glare at the bruised and bloodied men shackled to one of the columns near by.


“All I asked was for something amazing, fantastic, something worthy of an Emperor, and what do they bring me? A cat with stripes instead of spots, a child’s game, spices! They insult me with their petty offerings!” “What is it my Emperor would have me do?” The prince asked, snatching a nervous glance at the men in chains. “Obviously it is far beyond the ability of normal men to recognize true wonder. You have my blood within you, which means there must be some worth to you. I have had you trained, taught, fed. Perhaps I can finally retrieve some measure of the effort I’ve put into you. You will lead an expedition into the deep wilderness of the north; places more barbaric then even your mother’s homeland, and return with something worth my interest. If you succeed I might be convinced to believe I made the right choice in letting you live with my blood in your veins. If however you should fail to succeed, I will insure that my blood isn’t left to be contaminated by your failure. Do I make myself clear?” “Yes my Emperor, I will do as you command.” The prince responded his voice laced with steel restraint. “Good, you may go.” The Emperor lounged back into his cushions and beckoned for several of the girls attending to join him. The prince turned and walked back to the anti-chamber, the whole time trying to balance his utter contempt for the man who called himself his “father” with the understanding that if he failed that man in anyway his very life would be



To Be Continued . . .

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