Veriel's Tales: Night Warriors III, page 1
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Veriel’s Tales: Night Warriors III
Copyright ã 2004 Brenna Lyons
Cover art and design by Martine Jardin
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.
Published by eXtasy Books, a division of Zumaya Publications, 2004
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Veriel’s Tales: Night Warriors III
By Brenna Lyons
My brother and sisters, for teaching me that there is more than one side to any story.
John Malkovich’s performance of Jekyll and Hyde in MARY RIELLY, that convinced me that a man can be both villain and hero, driven to madness and torn to be what he can never be in either state, a situation I had always believed true.
Hollie…I TOLD you Jörg was coming back!
My inability to believe that ANYONE can be all bad – or all good, even the warriors.
Glossary of Warrior Terms:
Beast Beasts are what humans erroneously refer to as vampires. The stories humans tell are obviously not correct, but you can’t expect a human to get everything right.
Blutjagd The “blood hunt.” Warriors crave battle with the beasts, as the beasts crave blood. Warriors are tied to beasts in that they sense many of the beasts’ special powers. A Warrior can feel the use of coercion, feeding, and other controls of humans. They also feel other Warriors engaged in Blutjagd, the death of beasts and Warriors in their range, and the presence of nearby beasts who are not ghosted.
Elder One of the original beasts, the stone stealers who were damned for their crimes against the stone and the Warriors. The elders are gifted with powers turned beasts are not, including the ability to reproduce with a Blutjagdfrau, the ability to turn other beasts, and the inability to be killed by anyone but a Warrior.
Ende Spiel The point in printing when a Warrior must either seal printing or go insane. A Warrior who feels printing may not progress should break printing long before this point.
Ghosting A talent that both beasts and Cursed Warriors learn to harness. Ghosting can hide the physical form of Cursed Warriors or beasts and all they hold or carry from each other and humans. In a lesser strength, it can “blur” the image of the user so that humans do not note the passage but still see a person there, which avoids accidental collisions. Even a ghosted beast cannot hide uses of power that a Warrior can track.
Printing Like imprinting, a Warrior becomes tied to his mate for life. He cannot choose another if she is lost, cannot be unfaithful while she lives, and cannot ever divorce or otherwise dissolve the union. A printed Warrior is the most stable of men unless his mate or children are endangered or lost. Then, he will suffer the printing madness and may have to be killed by his house. Likewise, a Warrior who breaks printing, even early printing, will suffer for it. A Warrior who breaks printing too close to Ende Spiel will face the madness.
Warriors Also called Cursed Warriors or Sons of the Stone. The Warriors were an ancient race of protectors who spawned the beasts and now are driven to hunt their former brothers to extinction.
Veriel The mad elder. The destroyer of lives. The mad deceiver, who led the traitors and freed the elders from the stone. The most hated and hunted of all the beasts. Fixated on one woman, he would destroy the world to own her – or to destroy her. At least, that’s what the stories say of him.
Table of Contents:
Crossbearer Turned 13
Warrior’s Poetry 330
Excerpts from Early Histories 333
Excerpts from Kaufmann Histories 345
First Book of Texts: Rules of Sanction 348
The major players of the houses of the first cursed…
House KlingeStütze (Swordbearer, later known as Armen)—
Gawen Lord KlingeStütze, stone lord, and his chosen mate Bavin
Regana, the chosen of Pauwel Lord KreuzStütze
Abbo and Marcwi, parents of Gawen and Regana
House KreuzStütze (Crossbearer, later known as Cross)—
Pauwel Lord KreuzStütze and his chosen mate Regana
Kethe, the chosen of Thorald, village leader
Andris, son of Pauwel and Regana and his chosen mate Berna
House Jäger (Hunter)—
Ditrich Lord Jäger and his chosen mate Anabilia
House Schmied (Smith)—
Cunczel Lord Schmied and his chosen mate Lela
Sibold of Schmied, master trainer to the first cursed and stone lord
House Landwirt (Farmer)—
Gerhardus (known as Ger) Lord Landwirt and his chosen mate Ingela
Berna, daughter of Ger and Ingela and chosen of Andris Lord Crossbearer
House Maher –
Wilhelmus (known as Wil) Lord Maher and his chosen mate Evfemia
Riberta of Maher
House Kaufmann –
Olbrecht Lord Kaufmann and his chosen mate Lenne
The beast elders –
Jörg, the beast Veriel
Tilbrand, the beast Resten
Dado, the beast Lorian
Bertolf, the beast Draden
Redulf, the beast Carstol
Geldric, the beast Cerran
Major players in the village –
Eberhard, the leader at the births of the first cursed and elders
Marclef, the leader at the fall of the elders
Thorald, the leader after Marclef
Emecin, midwife and mother of Landric, the healer
Gawen marched over the uneven ground. The trees were thick but thinning as he neared the planting fields and home. His kill was slung over his shoulder. It was only a small deer, hardly larger than a wolf, but it would feed them well. He hefted it as if it weighed not a thing. At nine, he was already the size of many of the smaller men in the village, and the deer was not a burden to him at all.
In a land full of tall, broad men with eyes as fair as a summer sky and hair the color of grain and fire and clouds, he was one of the marked. The stone chosen were all dark haired – black except for the brown of Jörg’s — and had deep brown/black eyes — except for the silver/gray of Jörg’s and the almost black depths of Wil’s blue ones. Larger even than the largest of the local men in adulthood, the stone chosen were giants even amongst the giants.
He scowled at the birthmark on his wrist. The blood mark given him by the stone was the mark of Syth, the mark of the chosen master trainer and stone lord. He was to be Sibold’s replacement when the time came.
Most days, being chosen was simply what Gawen was. He no longer strutted about as if it made him important as he did when he was five and he had been given the duty of watching out for his younger brothers when the
Their formal training would not begin for many years — at fifteen. Gawen would be fully trained by the time the next, that insolent pup Tilbrand, was ready to begin his training. He secretly hoped Sibold would take on Tilbrand personally and knock the cocky attitude out of him quickly while Gawen worked with Wil. He would be a man of twenty-four by the time Jörg began his training.
Gawen knew Sibold and Eberhard, the village leader, were still searching for more of his brothers. The thought chilled him. They already numbered thirteen, and at times, controlling them was like reasoning with wolf pups. He sighed at the thought that Ditrich would join the play in half a year. Jörg was still a babe and would not join them for almost three years.
When he did, it would be up to Gawen to shield him. Though he had the blood mark of Reg — the intensity of the base of the fire, as proof of his status, prominent on the front of his shoulder, his features were different enough to cause dissention. With his rich brown hair and silver eyes, the difference had been noted immediately. Tilbrand had already been censured for wondering aloud if the difference in appearance denoted a weakness in the boy.
Sibold had high hopes for Jörg. He confided in Gawen that the stone named their youngest brother the greatest warrior, their champion. Though Gawen was slated to lead, he would not be the strongest. He smiled at the thought that Jörg would be hard pressed to prove his place with twelve older brothers wrestling to knock him from his perch.
Strangely enough, Pauwel stood out as the shining star with his blood mark of Ori — the sun, even at only four years of age. If anyone would be a challenge to Jörg, it would be Pauwel, and Gawen was not sure that Jörg could live up to that challenge.
He furrowed his brow in concern. Being the most powerful warrior made Jörg the weakest in other areas. He would be most unable to control his Blutjagd, most affected by printing, and most susceptible to being lost to madness. But, it was still a matter of many years before they had to worry about any of that. Still, the fact that Jörg’s family’s lands bordered his own was lucky. Sibold had given Gawen the duty of protecting their tiny, fatherless treasure as much as the fates permitted.
Gawen waved to a man from the village, who was working cutting firewood, and sighed as the man bowed his head respectfully, fearfully. It had been millennia since more than two or three were chosen by the stone at once and more than a century since there was more than one. The villagers were panicked and suspicious to have so many chosen. Gawen hated the fear in their eyes. Even if there was a war coming, and by all reports it seemed there was, it was not the fault of the warriors. Their duty was to fight to their death to protect all within the village. They were not the most pressing threat.
The foederati was unsettled. The peace was tenuous at best. It had been ten years since Sidonius had been exiled after his battle with Elric of the Goths.
Childric had continued the expansion of his father, Merovech of Chlogio, Chief of the Salian Franks, alternately allying himself with Rome and pushing the borders back to the Somme River. Now three years in power, Childric’s son, a man named Clovis, was attempting to continue the process of subduing friends and foes alike. His borders stretched out from the Pyrenees to the Rhine. Now, word was in the wind that Clovis and Ragnachar, his kinsman, would seek to take Syagrius at Soissons soon.
All these things were told him by Sibold, most of it knowledge imparted to the master trainer by the stone. Gawen learned it all faithfully, knowing that the fight would eventually come to their village. Until then, it was a mass of politics and battles that had little bearing on this place hidden away from such things.
Gawen’s people no longer bothered much with distinctions. In this region, only the tribe was of importance, only the village. Romans, Gauls, Christians or Barbarians were of no importance here. Even the fact that Pauwel, the grandson of a Christian emissary who intermarried and produced an heir that now served the stone of his grandmother’s gods was hardly reason to wonder in a place like this.
Buried deep in mountains rich in iron and fertile for farming, the village prospered under the protection of the stone. The stone chose its people well, and the bargain was sealed in blood and power. Every generation, a boy was born of a different family, chosen by the stone to be its lord and confidant. On occasion, two were born — or three, based on the stone’s perception of the coming need of the village.
The stone’s lord was always apparent by the mark of Syth. There were twenty symbols in the ancient language, and the stone marked its choice of any of the aspects on its chosen — except Zel, signifying an end, Jee for Justice, or Ani — the sign of the birth mother of beast killers. Those were signs of war and death coming.
Tilbrand was born with the sign of Wul — the cunning and feared wolf. It was a rare symbol, but it seemed appropriate for Tilbrand. Wilhelmus, Wil, carried the sign of Len — the strength of the mountain, and he was already a mountain of a young warrior. Olbrecht was born as Baroo — thunder, and Dado was Pol — the strength and speed of the horse. Cunczel was Vin — the untamable wind, Bertolf was Nul — the darkest night and stealth personified, and Redulf was Iol — immovable ice. Ditrich was Dobler — the twin peace bringer and diplomat, while Geldric was Fih — war personified and Dobler’s opposite number. Gerhardus, Ger, was Hir — the cool depth of the wood.
For millennia, the stone had protected the village, but many felt the coming situation was hopeless. Only once before in recorded history had there been so many chosen. Gawen knew that the villagers weren’t sure whether to fear another beast war or an enemy so dire as to require thirteen warriors more. Sibold’s magic should be sufficient to prevent beasts, but with the political situation, Gawen wasn’t sure even the entire seventeen allowed blood marks would suffice. In the end, Zel and Jee might be required, and the village might be lost. In that case, Gawen would take the stone away as was his duty, followed by whatever brothers remained, and find a new home.
Gawen speeded his step as his home came into view. For some reason, he was suddenly glad to be there. He wanted to run his hands over the baby growing inside his mother Marcwi, a brother or sister in blood that he had almost given up hope of ever having.
His breath caught as he moved his eyes over the group of people in the main room. His father, Abbo, wouldn’t meet his eyes. Eberhard and Sibold stared at him in a calculated way that made him uneasy, and Gawen retraced his steps over the past few days to reassure himself that he could not be in danger of censure for some misdeed.
When his eyes fell on Emecin, the young midwife who assisted Adalind as she learned her craft, peeking around Sibold’s shoulder looking grim, his blood ran cold. There was a problem with the baby, he guessed. His hopes of being a true brother seemed to crumple within him as he recognized the sound of weeping from his mother’s bedchamber. The fates could not be so cruel! It was the only thing Gawen wished for, and they could not take it from him this way after all the months of hoping and watching the baby grow in Marcwi’s belly.
Sibold smiled warmly. “Do not be concerned, Gawen. Come meet your sister.” He turned and scooped a baby from Emecin’s hands to show her to her brother.
Gawen smiled widely and dropped his kill on the table as he made his way to her.
She met his eyes evenly and seemed to assess him before yawning. She was newly born, still covered in a slick of their mother’s blood and a milky substance he had seen on other new babies. Her eyes widened, as he stroked her cheek and hair with one huge finger. Her eyes were as dark as the night sky beneath a sea of black hair that was soft as down.
“She looks like me, Father,” he exclaimed excitedly.
Abbo winced as he cast a sad look at his son, but Gawen gave it hardly a thought. Surely, it was an aberration of some sort. The stone didn’t choose female warriors.
“Yes,” his father agreed quietly. “Ye
Sibold nodded his head. “You are her personal protector, Gawen. No matter what happens, it is your duty to keep her always safe.”
Gawen furrowed his brow. “Of course. She is mine, a woman of my house,” he replied seriously.
“More than that, Gawen. The stone demands this duty of you. Love and protect her as the stone demands — with your life, if necessary.”
He nodded soberly, unable to conceive of a duty greater than that to any woman of his house but accepting that it must be so if Sibold said it was. He put out his hands to accept her into his care, and Sibold placed his sister in his arms gingerly. Gawen laughed in glee, as she grasped his finger while he tickled her cheek.
“What would you name her, Gawen?” Sibold asked quietly.
Gawen looked at him in shock and dismay. “My mother?”
“She lives, though she is very weak. The child is yours, Gawen. What would you name her?”
He looked to his father, but Abbo shook his head and left sadly. Gawen felt his heart begin to pound. They really meant to give him this child as his own responsibility. “Gana,” he decided.
“Regana,” Sibold corrected him. “Her name is Regana. The stone approves of her name.”
Gawen nodded quietly. “Regana.” He smiled as she brushed her mouth over his fingertip, rooting for food, his concerns momentarily forgotten. “You hear that, little one? You are mine. You have to obey me,” he ordered her.
“I never said that,” Sibold interrupted him. “In fact, I wouldn’t expect it of her.”
* * * *
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