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09 December 2008 @ 10:14 pm
The Gauntlet Thrown - Chapter Twenty Five  
This is a very short chapter, but hopefully the action makes up for it...



    Brydon turned slowly to see Reed standing at the edge of the cliff, holding the chest that contained the Gauntlet.  Reed’s gaze was fixed on Shevyn.  Brydon’s grip tightened, holding her protectively even as a sinking feeling stole over him.

    “You have led me a merry chase, my dear.  But I warn you, you shall not escape me a third time.”  Reed’s voice was hard and commanding.  He wore a white shirt frothed with lace that began to droop quickly in the rain.  His burgundy colored breeches were tucked into gleaming black boots.  It was an outfit more suited to lounging in a drawing room than climbing around in wet mountains.

    “Where did you come from?” Brydon demanded.  He had a suspicion, but it seemed insane.  Reed’s eyes returned to him.

    “Ven-Kerrick, of course.”

    Brydon cursed inwardly.  Sellaris must have called him.  Damn her!  “How did you know to come here?” he asked to verify it.  A gust of wind caused Reed to sway slightly and he prudently stepped away from the cliff’s edge.

    “My lovely Sellaris, of course,” Reed admitted.  “She told me you were here, so I came straightaway to see if you still had my prize.”

     “You came from Ven-Kerrick?  So quickly?  That’s impossible.”  Brydon could not seem to stop the words, even though he knew of Reed’s ability.  The distance was staggering.  How did he do it?  Traveling on horseback, it had taken Brydon and his friends nearly a fortnight to reach this point.

    Reed smiled without humor and spoke over the quickening wind.  “You are very young to know all that is possible and all that is not,” he said.  “It’s a pity you will not live long enough to learn otherwise.  Come to me, Shevyn.  We must be going now.”

    Shevyn gripped Brydon more tightly and shook her head.  Her gaze was steady, but Brydon could feel her quaking.  He wondered what had happened to the warrior-woman he had seen only minutes before.  Why was she so terrified of Reed?  Could he penetrate her mental shields where Brydon could not?

    “What do you want with her, Reed?” Brydon demanded over the wind as it turned the rain to icy sheets.  “You have the Gauntlet!”

    “Yes, and I will have Shevyn, also.  She is to be my bride.  Did you think to keep the Princess for yourself?”  Reed laughed. “Sorry, dear boy, but you do not have the power to hold her.”

    “Your bride?”  Brydon spat.  “Why?  She despises you!”

    “Trifles,” Reed said, waving a bejeweled hand.  “I thought you were smarter than that, Falaran.  I cannot legally claim either the throne of Ven-Kerrick or the Gauntlet until I marry the only surviving Kerrick—Princess Shevyn, soon to be Queen.  She escaped me twice, but she will not do so a third time.  I will have her and you will release her now.”

    Queen?  Shevyn was a Kerrick?  Suddenly everything clicked into place.  Her familiarity with the castle, her terror of Reed, Kerryn’s odd behavior when he helped to rescue them, the secret passages…  Adona, she was the last surviving Kerrick!  “I will not,” Brydon said with a sinking feeling.  His fingers tightened on Shevyn reflexively, wishing he could reassure her.  If only he had taken another arrow from his quiver.  If he tried to do so now, Reed would notice for certain.  The memory of what he had done to Brydon long ago came back with painful clarity.  He would rather not provoke a mental battle.  He thought about calling Toryn, but knew the Redolian had troubles of his own—he was in the thick of battle with the jungle warriors, yet another situation for Brydon to worry about.

    “You know you are no match for me.  In any way,” Reed said as he carefully set down the Gauntlet cask and drew his sword.  Brydon moved Shevyn aside gently and gave her his bow.  She clung to his wrists, shaking her head wildly, eyes full of terror.  She tugged at him, obviously urging him to run, but Brydon knew he would not get five steps before Reed cut him down.  He smiled grimly at her and forced her hands to grip the bow, silently willing her to use it on Reed should the battle turn ugly, which it most likely would.

    He shook off his quiver and set it near Shevyn’s feet before drawing his own blade.  Shevyn’s face was wet, although whether with tears or simply the rain was hard to know.  Reed’s words were true, even though Brydon would never admit it.  Only Toryn was a match for Reed with a sword.  He wished that Toryn had killed the bastard in Terris.

    Reed stepped forward and their blades met with a clang.  They were both soaked to the skin and Brydon was grateful for the leather grip on his sword.  He and Reed danced carefully, thrusting and riposting while blinking the rain out of their eyes.  Reed toyed with him.  Brydon knew it, and fought him off, not straining, but the effort was not easy, either.

    Reed forced him slowly back toward the edge of the cliff.  Brydon tried to watch his footing—there were rocks and small hillocks of grass everywhere, slippery and wet.  Reed drove in hard and Brydon jumped away from the edge—with an uncomfortable glimpse of the darkness below.

    They circled each other warily.  Reed stepped in and slashed.  Brydon deflected the blow, but earned a painful nick on his upper arm.

    Reed laughed aloud.  “I think you should have practiced more, Falaran.”

    “Where are you sending the Gauntlet?” Brydon countered.

    “Where it will be used instead of admired,” Reed replied with a blinding attack that left Brydon gasping as well as bleeding from two new gashes.  It was not until then that he noticed Reed’s stealthy presence in his mind, seeking to gain a foothold.

     Get out of my head! he snarled, beating back blows with arms that were beginning to feel like lead weights.

    I think I will stay, Reed shouted mentally.  The force of it rang through Brydon’s mind like a crash of thunder, causing pain that he had never known.  Brydon staggered and Reed’s blade cut a long furrow down his side.

    “Do not move, Princess,” Reed said as Shevyn stepped forward, raising the bow with an arrow ready.  Shevyn froze as though she encountered a barrier.  Brydon, peering through a haze of blinding pain, wondered how Reed had stopped her.  He leaped at Reed and grazed his chest with a quick slash before Reed slammed the flat of his blade against Brydon’s head.  Brydon fell to his knees, head ringing—the blow had magnified the agony still piercing his mind.  Reed snatched a fistful of Brydon’s hair and pulled him to his feet.  Brydon glared at him in despair.  He had failed his Quest; he had failed everything.

    What do you want with the Gauntlet, Falaran? Reed asked mockingly in Brydon’s mind, even though he tried with all his might to block him.

    “I was sent for it,” he growled.  “By Adona!”

    Reed drew back in distaste.  “You have spirit, I will give you that,” Reed said.  He released Brydon, who staggered for a moment in surprise.  “Perhaps I should keep you as a sacrifice to Shaitan.”  Reed seemed to ponder the idea and Brydon remembered the jeweled dagger with renewed loathing.

    “You are sick!” Brydon yelled, revolted.  He leaped at Reed and swung his blade with all his might.  Reed slashed, using both sword and mind with deadly force.  They hit Brydon like a tidal wave.  He slammed backward and discovered with horror that there was nothing to break his fall.

     His last vision as he plunged over the edge of the cliff was of Reed’s satisfied face.  Then he felt pain and darkness and nothing more.


Lunalunasky3 on December 11th, 2008 12:17 am (UTC)
Slah: "They were both soaked to the skin and Brydon was grateful for the leather grip on his sword." o_O If you read this chapter as porn, it actually makes some sense! :) lol

But OMG! sdlfagjkshlkh!!! Short but WOAH! Action DEF makes up for it!!
XC Publishingxcpublishing on December 17th, 2008 06:16 am (UTC)
HAHAHA! You're so bad! *loves*

Poor Brydon. Unfortunately, he's not in the next chapter. And neither is Toryn. DOH.
Faithfaithwood on December 18th, 2008 06:06 pm (UTC)
Queen? Shevyn was a Kerrick? Suddenly everything clicked into place. Her familiarity with the castle, her terror of Reed, Kerryn’s odd behavior when he helped to rescue them, the secret passages…

Hahaha! That was my line of thinking. :D

Awesome chapter! *is not scared for Brydon* *rushes to the next chapter*