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31 December 2008 @ 03:02 pm
The Gauntlet Thrown Chapter Twenty Seven  
CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN

JOURNEY


Toryn was livid. He had chopped up strangely clad men until the blade of his sword had sprayed red with every movement and he could scarcely move for fear of tripping over a body, but they had kept coming, finally overwhelming him with sheer numbers. He had no idea why they hadn’t just killed him instead of clubbing him on the head until he was dazed, before disarming him and binding him hand and foot.

Redwing had raced off after Shevyn and the Gauntlet. Toryn had not seen him since. He was quite worried, especially when Reed came down from the mountain dragging a sobbing Shevyn and carrying the cask with the Gauntlet. Reed threw Shevyn down next to Toryn and bound her quickly with a length of rope, not bothering to be gentle.

Reed tossed Toryn a satisfied grin and ignored his snarl of rage before speaking to the remaining warriors in guttural grunts and flowery hand gestures. Toryn’ss nearly continuous mental screaming to the Falaran had received no response, something Redwing would never allow if he were conscious. Shevyn looked at him and began to sob, trying vainly to create words. She tried for agonizingly long minutes, until Toryn asked her to please stop. He was afraid she would hurt herself. After that, she simple stared at the ground and wept silently. Toryn’s gut tightened painfully; he feared the worst for Redwing.


Prince Keev returned, apparently having heard the commotion and hurried back to join the fray, although he was apparently on the side of Reed and the warriors. He did not seem at all surpised to see ReedThe Silveran prince took an immediate interest in Alyn, who had also been disarmed and bound. Her whip had taken out quite a number of the warriors. She faced them all defiantly, although she looked at Toryn with a worried expression. She was tied too far from him to speak to.

Reed argued with Keev, who seemed to be making demands. If he still wanted the Gauntlet, Reed was hearing none of it, as they stayed far from the wagon. Reed walked a slow circuit of the battlefield, trailed by the prince. They were near enough for Toryn to overhear Reed agree to sell Alyn to him for a handful of jewels. Toryn tried to leap to his feet in rage, but his bonds were well-tied. He watched helplessly as Keev dragged her away with his entourage. Toryn decided he would have to kill Prince Keev sooner or later.

Probably later, he admitted to himself wryly, tugging on his bound hands. Reed placed the chest with the Gauntlet back into the wagon and ordered the warriors—Parmittans, Toryn learned later—to take it and be off. The leader of the warriors made several odd noises while gesturing at Toryn and Shevyn. Reed argued with him for a time, but nodded. Several of the warriors came for Toryn, hoisting him to his feet and dragging him without bothering to loosen his bonds. They loaded him into the back of the wagon with the Gauntlet cask. A few warriors climbed up next to him, fingering their knives with perhaps a little too much eagerness.

Reed gave some last-minute instructions to Sellaris and Garyn, then grabbed Shevyn and faded out of existence. The look in Shevyn’s eyes as she disappeared nearly put Toryn into a killing rage, but he recognized his own helplessness and chafed at his too-tight bonds. He assumed Reed had taken her back to Ven-Kerrick and could only wonder at her fate.

Lavan woke up shortly thereafter and roared with rage. He ran for Toryn with murder in his eyes and managed to climb up into the wagon and wrap his hands around Toryn’s throat. The Parmittans cheered happily. Things were going dark for Toryn when the Parmittan chief clubbed Lavan, thankfully loosening his hands and sending him sprawling.

“Mine,” the chief said, a statement that filled Toryn with unease.

“For now. I want to be there when he dies,” Lavan snarled. His red hair was mussed and matted with blood. Toryn made a rude noise at him and then the wagon moved out.

Two days later Toryn learned that he was meant for sacrifice, which rather intensified his need to escape. Unfortunately, he was kept bound and in the wagon at all times. Sellaris fed him by hand and asked him questions about Redwing. He hated that because it made him think of Redwing, and he did not want to do that anymore.

He was terribly afraid that his friend was dead.

They traveled over the Ven-Horn Mountains, a grueling experience at best, a nightmare at worst. Toryn, in the wagon with his hands bound, discovered that crossing a mountain range in a wagon was possibly the closest torture to being burned alive in Sheol. Each time the wagon moved, he was tossed to one side or the other and almost flew out completely several times.

By the end of the second day, he was bruised from head to toe and the ropes on his wrists were wet with blood. The Parmittans walked, except the brave few that unwisely rode in the wagon. They would only do that until the torture became too much for even their small minds and after that they got down and stayed far away from the wooden torture chamber.

Sellaris, Garyn, Lavan, and the two men they had met in the Black City, (whose names were Yik and Yak, or something like that) rode horses. The two men were twins. It was Toryn’s opinion that the couple who had brought those two into the world had cut their own throats shortly after viewing their children. They were not pleasant-looking men. Toryn amused himself by insulting them whenever they were in range. They paid no attention to Toryn, which frustrated him immensely. He insulted the Parmittans also, but a few of them could speak his tongue and they just grinned and fingered their knives. All in all, it was wonderful company.

Toryn’s only true release came from taunting Lavan. The redhead would endure Toryn’s slurs for approximately two sentences before his face became as red as his hair and he would shriek at Toryn until Sellaris ordered him to shut up and ride elsewhere.

After the last shouting match, Garyn rode up to the wagon and frowned at Toryn. “You should not irritate him like that,” he said.

“Why? If I’m nice to him, will they delay my sacrifice for an hour?” He sneered. Garyn flushed and rode away.

Sellaris took pity on him on the third day of the crossing, after he was knocked unconscious by a particularly hard jolt that sent his head slamming into the side of the wagon. When he came to, he discovered that his legs had been untied. His hands were still bound, but they had been cleaned of blood and dirt and tied in front of him instead of behind his back, giving him limited use. Toryn glared at Sellaris for thanks. She shrugged. He climbed down from the wagon, grateful—despite his hatred—that he was allowed to walk rather than ride in the vehicle with the Gauntlet.

After months of traveling on horseback, it was hard to adapt to walking again, Toryn discovered. The Parmittan warriors were tireless. They wore short skirt-like wraps around their hips, adorned with many multicolored feathers. Their skin color was surprisingly pale, considering the time they must have spent out of doors. They seemed generally amiable, talking to each other in their sometimes guttural, sometimes musical language, and ignored everyone else. They obeyed their large leader without question. Their favorite pastime seemed to be sharpening their curved knives.

Toryn was exhausted after his first day of walking. They were close to the peak, Sellaris informed him, and would probably cross over soon. After that, it would be all downhill.

“All the way to my grave, eh?” Toryn joked with no real humor. Sellaris looked at him with something that resembled pity for a moment. Perhaps her heart was not completely stone.

“Are you so certain Brydon will not come to your rescue?” she asked. Toryn looked at her in irritation. He had never liked her and could not see Redwing’s attraction. She was the type to put herself first and foremost.

“Did you not see Redwing go after Shevyn?” he asked.

“The brown-haired girl?” Sellaris shrugged. “So?”

“Reed came back with her,” he said. “Redwing did not.”

She looked puzzled. Toryn rolled his eyes. “Are you simple? Redwing would never have let Reed take her unless he could no longer prevent it.”

“What do you mean?” she murmured, grey eyes going wide. Her red hair shone in the light of the Parmittan’s fires. She was beautiful, but Toryn cared nothing for it.

“Redwing is dead,” he said brutally.

Sellaris shook her head. “No! He cannot be! Reed would not—”

“Reed tried to kill him at their first meeting. What makes you think he would hold back? Do you honestly think Reed would save Redwing for you?” Toryn snapped. Sellaris climbed unsteadily to her feet and then turned and ran into the trees. Lavan jumped up and stalked to Toryn.

“What did you say to her?” he yelled.

“Nothing she can’t handle,” Toryn growled. “She’s more of a man than you’ll ever be.”

Lavan’s face flushed and he swung a booted foot at Toryn, who put out his bound hands, grabbed Lavan’s foot and shoved as hard as he could. The redhead flailed his arms and toppled over backwards.

He climbed to his feet again, his rage apoplectic. He leaped at Toryn, only to be stopped by a hand that grabbed his shoulder and spun him around. Garyn looked at Lavan’s enraged face calmly.

“You dare—?!” Lavan burst out.

“Just leave him alone,” the brown-haired man said quietly. “He is right. Sellaris can take care of herself.”

“But he said I—!” Lavan protested angrily.

“Yes,” Garyn snapped. “And you are proving him right, acting like a fool.”

Lavan spluttered incoherently and reached for his sword, but something in Garyn’s calm gaze seemed to halt him. His eyes dropped to the sword hilt where Garyn’s hand rested. Toryn also looked and noticed with outrage that Garyn wore his blade with the jade dragon hilt.

Lavan seemed to deflate suddenly, but his bitterness still found an outlet. “Fool I may be, but at least I do not follow Sellaris around like a rutting stag. She will never treat you as anything other than a quivering pup!” he goaded. With that, he stalked off in search of his sister. Toryn saw a real pain in Garyn’s eyes before it was squelched. He looked at Toryn and sighed.

“It’s a pity that he is right,” he said with a sad smile. He went back to the fire and returned with a large piece of roasted buck the Parmittans had brought down earlier that day.

“Why bother feeding a dead man?” Toryn asked, burying his temporary compassion for Garyn under his own despair. He took the meat and bit into it ravenously.

“No one is dead until their breath is gone for good,” Garyn said. “Until that time, hang on to life with all your power.”

“I haven’t given up yet,” Toryn snapped, wondering why Garyn would give him such advice.

“Death does not bother me,” Garyn went on quietly. “But sacrifice? I don’t like it. Shaitan will never be my god.” He uttered the last vehemently.

“Then why are you here?” Toryn asked, not understanding where the conversation led. Garyn looked into the forest where Sellaris had disappeared and then turned to walk away.

“As Lavan said, I am a fool,” he said over his shoulder.

Toryn thought, with a stab of pain, that the man reminded him somewhat of Redwing. He sighed and finished eating even though his appetite had fled.

Sellaris was pale the next day and avoided Toryn, which was fine with him. Lavan also stayed far away, riding near Sellaris at the front of the column.

Only Garyn spoke to Toryn, bringing him water and answering questions. Toryn had discovered that he hated having no one to talk with. Since meeting Redwing, he’d had someone to argue with and laugh at whenever he needed it. He thought back to his last argument with Redwing and recalled his brother, Morgyn. His fears seemed foolish now that the Falaran was gone. What did it matter that Redwing was a Falaran? He had proven his nobility, his courage, and his friendship time and again. Toryn wished now that he’d had a chance to introduce Redwing to his family. He wished...

“Where are we?” he asked Garyn almost desperately, to take his mind away from his friend. He had tried calling Redwing with his thoughts several times, screaming mentally until he was drenched in sweat. There had been no reply. He had expected none, anyway.

“We are in Parmitta,” Garyn replied, even though Toryn suspected that from what he remembered of Jace’s maps.

“Where are we going from here?”

Garyn smiled. “Parmitta is the only place to go from here. The continent travels to the sea on all sides.” Seeing Toryn’s frustrated expression, he explained further. “We just entered the land of the Voor.” He gestured at the warriors and some of them glanced over at the familiar word.

“We will probably travel to their village, Voor-ik, on the banks of the Fear River.”

The Fear River. Lovely name. “Where does the Gauntlet go?”

Garyn’s face tightened. “I will not be the one to answer that,” he said.

“Who is the Dark Master?” Toryn prodded, recalling Sellaris’s conversation with Prince Keev. Garyn touched heels to his horse and galloped away, leaving Toryn’s questions unanswered and somehow the more ominous for it.

The further they descended out of the mountains, the warmer it became. The forest was taller and thicker, also. By the time they left the Ven-Horns behind, they were deep in jungle that blocked out most of the sunlight and made day seem like dusk. The place was alive with fauna and Toryn was reminded of Terris, except that the forest floor was mostly dry instead of covered in ankle-deep muck.

The Parmittans were quite at home, as was evident when they reached the first man-sized bush that contained blossoms of huge orange-colored flowers. The warriors swarmed around the bush and decimated the blossoms. They rubbed the flower petals all over their skin. Their antics continued until the last warrior was coated from head to toe with the juice. It left them looking even more freakish and exotic with huge orangish streaks on their bodies.

“What are they doing?” Toryn asked, walking around to where Garyn stood. Sellaris approached the plant and sniffed at a flower. She made a gagging motion and backed away in disgust.

“I don’t know, but they smell wretched. Perhaps it’s some sort of tribal custom?” Garyn suggested. The leader of the Parmittans spoke to Sellaris and gestured at the plant, but she wrinkled her nose and shook her head. The man shrugged and smiled before grunting to his warriors in their language. They burst out laughing and slapped each other on the backs. Sellaris looked annoyed, but ordered them to get moving.

Two hours later, the northerners discovered the worth of the blossoms. Toryn batted at the mass of insects feasting on his flesh. Noisy, fat, bloodthirsty insects, at that. They had a painful bite. He was so busy waiting for them to land, so he could smack them, that he tripped over a root. The insects seemed to take it as a sign that he was dead and therefore free food, so they swarmed on him with voracious hunger.

Toryn leaped to his feet, shouting and swatting frantically with his bound hands. He heard loud laughter and looked up to find the Parmittan warriors laughing at his plight. They were unaffected by the insects, which swarmed around them, but did not land. Sellaris, Lavan and Garyn were not laughing; they were as plagued as Toryn.

Sellaris shouted at the tribal leader, who shrugged and sent some of his men into the jungle. They returned a short time later with an armful of the reeking orange flowers. The northerners wasted no time in snatching the blossoms and smearing the foul-smelling plants all over themselves. Once Toryn adjusted to the smell, the relief from the insects was immense.

In late afternoon, it began to rain, although it could hardly be called rain. The water filtered down through the thick curtain of foliage, reaching the ground as a fine mist that coated everything. It continued for hours and turned into true rain when they entered regions less dense with trees. Toryn felt like he breathed warm water.

Instead of driving the insects away, the rain seemed to attract them and they attacked with renewed frenzy. Unfortunately, the mist also washed away the flower repellent and before long everyone, including the Parmittans, slapped themselves frequently with yelps of pain.

Darkness came even earlier with the clouds covering the forest, so they camped and huddled near the fire. It was horrendously uncomfortable since they were already sweating, but the smoke from the wet wood drove most of the carnivorous insects away. Toryn was too hot and tired and bitten to eat, so he rolled himself into the blanket Garyn had given him, smashed all the bugs that found their way inside, and tried to sleep.

He decided he hated jungles.



The next week crawled by with little change. Every morning brought the bloodsuckers and every afternoon the rain. The jungle seemed never-ending and the only moment of excitement was when Sellaris ran across a snake and, screaming, chopped it into a hundred bloody bits. The Parmittan leader was angry because the snake had apparently been edible before she had demolished it.

Toryn stopped taunting Lavan, too bored to bother. He ignored everyone and withdrew into himself, passing the time with memories of his family. One night when he huddled under his blanket, hiding from the insects, he heard footsteps pass by. He glanced out and to see Sellaris slip into the foliage. When she disappeared he got to his feet. The Parmittan who guarded him had fallen asleep, so it was little trouble for him to follow Sellaris. His guards were often lax and Toryn had often contemplated escaping on foot, but he had watched firsthand when the Parmittans tracked a jungle cat. They were incredible trackers and Toryn would simply be lost in the jungle until they found him.

He walked until he saw Sellaris perched on a moss-covered fallen tree. About to step forward and make his presence known, he halted at the sight of something in her hand. Curious, he stopped and peered at it. It was a large tear-shaped crystal that fit in the palm of her hand. Toryn recognized it as the pendant she normally wore around her neck. It was pale green in color and seemed to glow slightly. Sellaris looked at it intently, as if searching for some flaw, but Toryn had the impression that her action meant something else entirely.

She stared at it for a long time without moving. Toryn nearly stepped out of hiding when she said, “No! You did not say you were going to—!” She stopped quickly and seemed to recover herself. “No,” she went on. “He meant nothing. Yes, everything is going according to plan. No trouble.” There was a long silence and then Sellaris covered the crystal with her other hand. Toryn noticed a fine gold chain attached to it as she slipped it over her head and tucked the stone into her blouse. She seemed wearied.

Toryn moved forward and she turned with a start as her hand flew to her sword hilt. Beautiful she might be, but she was a warrior through and through. She stared at him for an instant and then straightened and to let the blade slide back into the scabbard.

“How long have you been there?” she demanded.

“Long enough to find that very interesting,” Toryn said coldly. “Do you often talk to rocks? What is it? Magic?”

She tossed her hair, but her eyes slid away from Toryn’s. The word seemed to make her uneasy. “I don’t know,” she said. “Reed communicates through it.”

Toryn felt jolted. “Reed? But he is weeks behind us.”

“More,” Sellaris said quietly. “He is back in Ven-Kerrick.” She clasped her hands together in front of her as if cold, or in prayer. Her eyes were far away. She shuddered.

“Did you receive bad news?” he asked hopefully.

“Brydon is dead.”

Toryn felt as if she had driven a lance into his chest. He gaped at her. “How do you know?” he demanded.

Sellaris gazed intently into the forest and wrapped her arms around herself. “Reed told me. They fought, the two of them, for the Gauntlet.” Toryn felt a slice of fear. He knew Redwing was no match for Reed. “Brydon was wounded. Reed lashed out and Brydon went over the edge of a cliff.”

Toryn closed his eyes. He had suspected Redwing was dead, but had not fully allowed himself to believe it. They had been through too much together. He had expected Redwing to charge out of the trees any day and rescue him. Toryn took a shuddering breath and let the anguish fill him before the rage took over. Both emotions warred within him, threatening to crack him in two. A sob from Sellaris shocked him and he snapped his eyes open. Her face was buried in her hands and she wept brokenly. Toryn wanted to cry with her. The misting rain would have concealed it, but the hurt was too great for that. The only hope for uniting Redol and Falara in peace was gone, killed by a madman for a stupid, useless token.

Reed. It was because of Reed. Toryn vowed revenge. The thought made his pain slightly more bearable and he let rage at Reed take over. He looked at Sellaris again. He could not have comforted her if he had wanted to, with his hands bound as they were. He watched her expressionlessly.

“I could have loved him,” she said dully, looking at Toryn through eyes wet with tears. Toryn had nothing to say to that. He turned and walked back to the encampment, his mind no longer sluggish from boredom.

Somehow he would escape, and then Reed would die.
 

CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT

 
 
 
Lunalunasky3 on January 2nd, 2009 08:22 am (UTC)
"He had chopped up strangely clad men until the blade of his sword had sprayed red with every movement and he could scarcely move for fear of tripping over a body, but they had kept coming, finally overwhelming him with sheer numbers."--There is so much fun to be had with this opening line :)

And I really just want to hug Toryn right now. He'a adorable when he's upset.
vesperagainvesperagain on January 2nd, 2009 06:44 pm (UTC)
Loved it. I keep waiting for Brydon to wake up from his sleep and go to rescue Toryn or Shevyn, as they both need rescuing now. And I also can't help but cheer for Toryn, vowing revenge on Reed. If anyone can defeat him, Toryn can. And where are Jace and Gavin? Poor Alyn, though.
Sellaris, for all her sorrow, could not rouse my sympathy this time. I mean, she still works for Reed, Brydon's supposed murderer.
And I rememeber asking this question before, although if its connected to the story I know you won't answer it, lol, is Brydon a Ven Kerrick, from that lost branch of the family you had mentioned once? I can just see Toryn escaping, rousing up the kingdoms for a war against Reed, and just as everything is about to be lost, Brydon comes along and weilds the Gauntlet! Well, yes, I do get ahead of myself sometimes, lol.

Loved it. Happy New Year to you both.