• Published 22nd Oct 2020
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Realms of Magic: The Realm of the Gryphons - TheEighthDayofNight



An elf, Kathranis Shadowsong, is transported to the realm of Equus by wild magic. This story follows his explorations of the different races and civilizations a new world has to offer.

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Chapter 17

Kathranis waited silently, his hands clasped behind his back, as his elves slowly filed into a quiet section of the castle gardens. Paving stones formed a circle in the tall walls of hedges, and Fordred crept around it, spreading warming enchantments. Though the sun was shining in the sky above, the air was still freezing, would be for hours if Aquila was to be believed.

Kathranis wore his cloak over his armor, his swords dangling comfortably from his hips. His elves were all in similar dress, each ready to fight if it was so demanded of them, and at a Talk, such was a possibility. A low one among his small band, but a risk nonetheless. Harsh words would no doubt fly as the day grew long. It was logical to let his brethren keep the tools to let out their frustration, even if it was on each other.

As the elves began settling in small, huddled conversations, Riven approached, the tall elf bearing a hard scowl as he stopped before his blademaster.

“We have an interloper,” Riven growled. “Huron is keeping her out, but she has brought guards.”

“And have you told this interloper that this is a private affair?” Kathranis asked.

Riven’s eyes narrowed.

“Do I look like an idiot to you? Of course I did. She didn’t listen and said that you wanted her here.”

“Riven, shush,” Luieustriel said, creeping up to hang on the large elf’s arm. She smiled and met Kathranis’ eyes. “Princess Aquila would like to participate Blademaster. I believe she misunderstands the purpose of the talk.” She giggled lightly. “I also believe she is worried about you. It’s cute.”

Kathranis hid a mild blush by shifting his hands, letting them rest on the hilts of his swords.

“And the guards?”

Luieustriel’s smile dimmed.

“Riven was accurate about that. The princess has two guards with her. I do not recognize them Blademaster.”

Kathranis gave the pair a nod.

“Alright, I’ll deal with it. If you wouldn’t mind though, after the Talk, I would like to speak to you both in private on a matter of spirit.”

Riven sneered.

“Lady Sylvanus finally wants some real fighters does she? I can’t say that I’m surprised.”

Kathranis snorted and grinned, letting the “playful” insult pass. Riven wasn’t very good at banter, but that was alright. He didn’t need to be if he was open to the discussion of a change in faith.

“Just help Secil keep a watch over everyone. I won’t be long.”

Riven blinked with disbelief at the small black cat, who stared back, his nose twitching in mockery as he padded toward where Kathranis had been watching everyone file in. Kathranis gave Luieustriel a wink, then moved toward the space in the hedgerows.

He came upon a mildly concerning scene as Huron stood cross-armed before an increasingly irritated Aquila, who was backed by a very nervous looking pair of armed and armored gryphons. They looked no less nervous as he approached, but Aquila’s eyes lit up when she spotted him.

“Finally!” she called. “Somebody reasonable I can talk to!”

Huron glanced back, his lips curled in a careful frown.

“Blademaster, this is an elvish affair. You know that just as well as I.”

“That I do,” Kathranis said, clapping Huron on the shoulder. “But I also know that this isn’t our kingdom, and that we are guests in it. To remain diplomatic, I must at least humor Princess Aquila’s effort.”

He offered a smile to the gryphoness.

“Though I do have to make an attempt in support of my brother. He’s right, this is a private, elvish, affair. Such words are not to be taken lightly.”

Huron gave a slight nod, his shoulders relaxing at Kathranis’ words of support. Aquila too, relaxed slightly, offering him a bright, if cautious, smile.

“I won’t take them lightly Shadowsong,” she said. “I just want to listen, to learn!” She hesitated, then added; “And I want to make sure you aren’t making a mistake.”

“And there it is,” Huron said, throwing up his hands. “You cannot be allowed to influence a Talk! It’s about free expression of thought, and we can’t have that if a royal spy is observing.”

“I’m not a spy,” Aquila snapped. Her eyes shifted to Kathranis. “Please Shadowsong, I just want to listen.”

“You can’t honestly believe this garbage,” Huron said, turning toward the younger elf. “She doesn’t belong at a Talk, she’s not an elf. It is your duty as Blademaster to…”

He trailed off as Kathranis merely met his eyes with a slight grin and a certain warning look. Huron coughed and looked away.

“Apologies,” he mumbled. “I know you know better.”

Kathranis patted his shoulder, his grin growing.

“Quite.” Looking toward Aquila, he said; “If you truly only want to listen, then I’m sure you wouldn’t object to Fordred casting a silence charm on you.” He tilted his head, even as Huron began to relax. “And a geas of course. Huron is right, what is said in a Talk is held with the utmost secrecy. It is our truest thoughts laid bare, however ugly they may be. I cannot allow any discussion of them. To do so would be an immense breach of trust.” He smiled and gave Huron another pat before letting his hand drop. “But, if you would submit to those two spells, I think the fuss would be minimal about an outsider joining as an observer.”

Aquila’s face, hopeful at his first words, twisted with disappointment.

“I… I won’t do any of that, but I also won’t talk!” She laid a hand on her breast. “Shadowsong, I swear that-”

Kathranis held up his hand, cutting off her words.

“Princess, I must ask that you swear no oaths, because I cannot accept them.” He sighed. “If you are unwilling to submit to the mildest of spells to keep the quiet, then I’m afraid Huron is correct; you are not allowed entry.” He bowed slightly. “I apologize if this sours our budding friendship.”

Aquila’s eyes widened with alarm, then filled with anger. A wing slapped into the back of his head, then talons gripped his armor, yanking him forward to where he was nose to nose with the gryphoness.

“Don’t you dare suggest such a thing,” she growled. “I am not some hatchling that needs her personal relationships coddled because of professional difficulties.” She leaned in closer, and he noticed a different kind of fire enter eyes, though what it was, he wasn’t quite sure. An aggressive form of affection if her words were any indication. “If you say something stupid like that again, I will make sure you can see exactly how I feel about you, is that clear?”

Kathranis chuckled.

“Quite.”

“Good.” She shoved him back, then, as he quickly caught his footing, she let out a sigh and crossed her arms, her anger fading. “Still, I can’t pretend that I’m not disappointed.” Her eyes narrowed, and she tapped her arm, as if trying to think of another way to convince him.

He knew that she couldn’t though. He glanced at Huron and nodded toward the gap in the edges, silently telling him to get settled. Just as the elder elf began to step away, however, one of Aquila’s guards stepped forward.

“Master Shadowsong, if I may?” Given a nod of acknowledgment, the guard took a further step forward.

Kathranis couldn’t help but straighten as the armored gryphoness again spoke.

“Princess Aquila will be involved in your “talk” on the orders of Queen Scylla. Your willingness to involve her is optional.”

Huron’s hand shifted to the hilt of his sword, and he looked to Kathranis for permission. This time, the elf was far more agreeable at his brothers defense. Fortunately, he didn’t need to do anything as Aquila whirled on the guard.

“What?” she screeched. “How dare you say something like that to my charge? Do you have any idea what you’ve just done?”

“Princess,” the guard said, lowering her voice and raising her wings. “Queen Scyla said-”

“I don’t care!” Aquila slapped the guards wings open, then shoved her back toward her fellow. She flared her wings wide, and Kathranis found himself amazed at how big they seemed. They were obviously larger than any natural bird’s wings, but by Sylvanus, Aquila’s were simply massive, with each feather clean, and so invitingly fluffy. It sparked foreign feelings in his chest, and more than distracted him from the crises at hand, even as Aquila continued to speak.

“Go tell Queen Scyla that I will be enforcing Shadowsong’s privacy until his talk his over.” She flapped her wings, sending forth a brief, gale force wind at the guards, forcing them to cower behind their wings. “You can also tell her that she and I will be having a talk about boundaries, if I don’t decide to get Zefuris and Dad involved.”

The guards cowered back further at her mention of the guard captain. Aquila snorted, and her wings drew closer to her body. Kathranis blinked as he heard a grunt to his left, and he glanced that way to find Huron pointedly staring at his hand, outstretched and reaching for Aquila’s feathers. Kathranis felt himself flush, and he quickly relocated the hand to the hilt of his swords. When his eyes flicked up, he found Aquila glancing back, a knowing smile temporarily on her beak before she went back to barking at the guards.

“Go deliver my message, and I swear if I findeither of you sneaking around, I will report you to Zefuris, because I don’t believe for a moment that he approved an attempted intimidation of my guests, especially not the elf that holds my brother in life-debt.”

“Where is Prince Valan?” Huron muttered, moving closer to Kathranis.

“I told him to find me around sun-high,” Kathranis whispered back, his eyes looking anywhere but at Aquila’s golden, alluring wings. “He can’t be involved either, and he welcomed an excuse to not be my constant tail.”

The guards began to slink away like beaten dogs, their heads down and their tails dragging. Aquila held her wings up until they were out of sight, then dropped them with sigh. Placing her hands on her hips, she turned, meeting Kathranis’ eyes.

“I apologize for that Shadowsong.” She heaved a greater sigh, then looked toward the ground. “I… really do want to watch your “talk”, but I think that would be inappropriate now.” She met his eyes, grinning slightly. “Would it be inappropriate to ask for a chat with you on what happens later?”

Kathranis smiled.

“No, I will need to work out my thoughts and feelings with someone anyway, and I think Secil is getting tired of me using him. I would be happy to share the watered-down personal thoughts with you later.”

Aquila’s grin took on a brighter look.

“Then it’s a date Shadowsong. Have Valan take you to the training grounds whenever you all are done. I’ll be practicing there.”

She winked at him, then turned away, a slight skip in her step, and her tail waggling higher in the air. Kathranis watched her go, evidently for far too long, because Huron nudged his shoulder. The elder elf grinned at him, nodding toward the garden entrance.

“Come on lover-boy, you can “treat” with the princess later.”

Kathranis flushed slightly and shoved his brother back.

“Not all of us try to bed every woman we come across. Aquila is just being friendly as her position demands.”

Huron snorted, his expression a doubtful grin.

“Then should I expect my own personal bath with a princess soon? Or should I arrange another one for you, being your elder and all?”

Kathranis rolled his eyes and shoved his brother harder, drawing a chuckle from the elder elf as he walked into the garden. He remained outside for a moment, taking time to collecting himself, but he couldn’t help grow a touch more flustered. Aquila had used the word ‘date’, and they had been spending a great deal of personal time together. She had also helped to revive him, had sworn to be his physical protection where his goddess was his spiritual…

He shook his head and took a deep breath. He was reading far too much into what were obvious diplomatic actions. He was her charge after all, and if he died on her watch, that would reflect poorly on her. It was plain to see that all her actions, while incredibly friendly, were just that; friendly. No more.

For some reason, that admittance caused his heart to ache, and his last thought before calming his turbulent mind was the question if he could try to change their friendship into something more. He then straightened his cloak, and walked into the hedges.

He was greeted by a silent circle of elves, all of whom were sitting facing the center of their chosen gathering spot. That was where he guided his steps to, stopping once he was equidistant from them all. He clasped his hands behind him, meeting each of their eyes before speaking.

“Fordred, the silence charm if you would.”

The wizard got to his feet and he moved to the center of the circle. Waving his hands caused runes to appear in the air, and with a whispered word, a nearly translucent dome fell over the garden, dulling the sounds outside.

“Our words are private against all,” Fordred said.

Kathranis gave him a slight nod, and he withdrew to his seat. Taking a deep breath, he kept a neutral expression, and addressed the elves.

“I declare this Talk begun,” he said simply. “I have several matters of importance that need to be discussed, and once I have addressed them, everyone who wishes may come forward to say their piece, or to share any news they believe important.”

He took a breath and looked toward his boots. Neither of the important pieces of news would roll over easily; best to start with the most pressing.

“King Terran of the Gryphons, our host, has called us to war against the humans,” Kathranis said, looking up and around the circle. “He claims that the Thayans we called ally have massacred a village, siezed lands, and have begun preparing fortifications. I am inclined to believe him, but told him that no matter our decision that I would investigate these claims further. I will not lead us to any conflict on words alone. We have not shed blood without reason in the past, and I see no reason to abandon that tradition now. Should I be convinced of completely avoiding the oncoming violence however, I will withdraw us to the woods west of here to plan our next moves. We will talk again if that comes to pass.”

A few elves nodded silently, Huron among them. Fordred, on the other hand, looked mildly alarmed. Likely he didn’t like the fact that he had the thought to withdraw them away from the gryphons, but if he declined the offer to war, what could they do? Terran said they wouldn’t be held to account, but resentment would build, especially if the war was costly.

Kathranis pressed on with his words, hardly letting himself take a breath as he delivered a second vocal punch.

“I also must bear horrible news my friends, but because we find ourselves in a new world, most of the gods and goddesses we knew are out of our reach. Lady Sylvanus has followed me, and has made me her champion. She has informed me that Sune, Lathander, and Mask have followed us here, but that is all. Lady Selnue is not here, as I’m sure you all have noticed. I am sorry.”

He paused, waiting for cries of outrage, or at the very least grumbles. He was surprised to find only silence as the Selunites glanced among themselves. The cleric among them, Zilyana, rose to her feet, bowing slightly.

“Apologies for my breach in conduct Blademaster, but we are well aware that the moon above does not belong to Our Lady in Silver. We have known for some time.”

Kathranis blinked owlishly.

“And you have… come to terms with this revelation?”

The elf maiden smiled.

“Second Blade Shadowsong can say more than I Blademaster, but yes. We are coming to terms with this new world and her new goddesses.”

Kathranis glanced at Huron, who grinned, but remained quiet. Kathranis looked back to Zilyana and gave her a slight nod.

“Thank you Priestess, you may sit.”

The elf maiden bowed, then returned to her seat. Kathranis took a deep breath, then spoke again.

“Well, I’m glad that you all have found some solace, but feel free to say your thoughts on the matter regardless.” He spread his hands and smiled. “But those are the greatest matters that face us today. As is tradition, the youngest among us will begin, so I call forward Fordred Nightgazer to speak his thoughts.”

Kathranis moved toward Secil as Fordred got to his feet, moving to the center of the circle. The wizard paused in the center of the circle, shuffling his feet nervously. His fingers reached to something tied in the long locks of his black hair, and he seemed to calm, a bright smile spreading on his face.

“I would like to start with a bit of brighter news,” he said. “I know we have only been here for a few days, but I believe I have found something, someone truly special.”

He drew his hair back, showing off a large brown feather, tied with leather to a cut lock of hair. A gasp finally rose from the group of elves, and even Kathranis found himself surprised. Cutting one’s hair was a sacred act to his elves, a sign of preparing for a great change in their life, usually their death. Even though he cut his hair every morning in offering to his goddess, Sylvanus regrew it during his prayers, letting it appear unmarred. No doubt the feather tied in Fordred’s hair had equal significance to the gryphons, leading little to the imagination, even as Fordred explained.

“Deyenidal Brightwing, bodyguard to Princess Aquila, has offered her primary in the opening stages of our courting,” Fordred continued. “She knows the risks with engaging me, and I know the heartache I will eventually feel as decades pass, but I love her. I hope to see us married in time, and hopefully we can find fertility treatments to ensure we have young.”

He looked around the circle nervously. Everyone remained silent, as was tradition to prevent hot-headed interruptions, but the wizard seemed to want some form of approval. His eyes met Kathranis’ and the elvish blademaster gave him a smile and a wink, then motioned him on. Fordred swallowed dryly, then with a nod, continued.

“Furthermore,” he said, his voice cracking, “I would like to speak on Blademaster Shadowsong’s deceleration of our separation from our former faiths.” He gave Kathranis a deferential nod. “From all I have witnessed, Blademaster Shadowsong speaks the whole truth. His goddess has followed him, and even now protects him, but ours do not. Lady Mystra is not here, and I publicly denounce my faith in her with no intention of insult.”

A collective inhale filled the air, and everyone leaned in as Fordred continued.

“She is not here,” Fordred said firmly, meeting the eyes of a few of the more alarmed elves. “If she was, I would still follow her, but she stayed behind, and we must adapt. Although I have not yet sought the services of a priest, I consider myself an official follower of Lady Harmony. She has offered her warm embrace, and I simply couldn’t refuse. She is kind, and loving. If any would like to hear more about my experiences with her light, I invite you to join me when I go to one of her chapels. We can learn more about her together.”

His eyes again flicked to Kathranis, seeking approval. This time, Kathranis remained passive. He couldn’t show his opinions on any of the official Talk matters. It could influence the words of his fellows as the Talk continued, and he could tell that others were watching him.

Fordred licked his lips when he found no comfort from Kathranis, but he didn’t seem to take it too poorly as he continued.

“On that note, however, I voice my support for war against the humans if we should find sufficient evidence of a massacre. I have found love here, I have found a new goddess here. I am loathe to give up either. There is great potential for stability and happiness among the gryphons, and I firmly believe we should support them. We cannot throw away such kind allies, not now. We have no home to withdraw to should things go wrong. I recommend we start a home anew here.”

He bowed his head toward Kathranis, then made his way back to his seat. Kathranis waited until he was sat down before nodding toward the next youngest.

“Kellam Vana, you will speak next.”

The warrior returned his nod and got to his feet, striding to the center of the circle. As the elf began to speak, Kathranis took in a deep breath, steeling his mind for the long day to come.

*****

“We have been fighting for some time, but always for the reason of pure morality,” Riven said. “I have no problems with that, but now we find ourselves in a world that, like Fordred has pointed out, we are alone. There are no elvish strongholds to back us, no place to return our dead. We are once again without a home, and I for one refuse to let that stand. Should we simply agree to go to war on behalf of the gryphons? No.” He stared at Fordred, as if challenging the wizard. “Nor should we simply give up our traditions and bow to a new goddess without reason. Blademaster Shadowsong has his goddess, and I for one will seek her out first. She has kept us safe, she has kept Blademaster Shadowsong strong. Love and experimentation cannot be our only avenues of progress.”

His gaze shifted to meet Kathranis’ eyes.

“We should negotiate our involvement in their war. We need promises, of gold, of security, and of freedom. Though you have not spoken of it Blademaster, gryphons are no different than humans; they talk. I have heard much about Queen Scylla trying to convince you that Lady Sylvanus was a demon! A devil that deceives you, and I will not stand for that either!”

“We are elves!” he roared, spinning away, his arms thrown wide. “We are ageless, and we do not throw away our every tradition just because we find ourselves weakened! Despite our losses, despite our isolation, we are still a force to be reckoned with! Everyone should know that and show us proper respect!”

Kathranis should have anticipated that Riven’s time speaking would be a true firebrand rant, but he couldn’t help see some value in his words, hostile though they may be. Being a gold-driven mercenary burned at his soul, but logically, they would need some place to settle. He didn’t want his elves to become bound to the gryphon royalty; they should be free to come and go as they pleased. A tidy account filled with coin would do much to support such a lifestyle, and homes, built perhaps near the edge of the city would be help even moreso. Ideas on how to broach such a subject without demeaning his kin filled his mind as Riven began to calm.

“I do not speak against Lady Harmony, nor Fordred’s fast faith with her,” the large elf said. “But we cannot lose sight of what we are, what we still have. I support staying with the gryphons and aiding them in their war should sufficient evidence against the humans be found, but only if we look after our own interests as well. Fighting for coin is an ugly business, but we must secure our future. We will outlive such a petty conflict, and we need to be prepared if we suddenly find ourselves in a land that has forgotten the kindness of the current rulers, has forgotten the debts our Blademaster has earned from the prince and princess.”

He stiffly turned and bowed his head to Kathranis.

“That is all I have to say Blademaster.”

Kathranis gave him the same light smile he had given everyone else.

“Thank you Riven, you may sit.”

As the large elf took his seat beside Luieustriel, Kathranis glanced toward Huron. He was last, with everyone else having spoken. Most had voiced outright approval for supporting the gryphons, provided evidence be found, and a few had spoken similarly to Riven, recommending they try to extract some value from the conflict. Only two had spoken against conflict, wanting to merely withdraw to the forests to find their own way in the world, to wait out the dangerous nature of any conflict. Unsurprisingly, the pair were already married, and Kathranis could empathize with the desire to see their other half safe.

His brother met his eyes, then slowly got to his feet without prompt. He stretched, then walked to the center of the circle, taking a moment to look around silently before speaking.

“I am the eldest,” he started. “Only by a few months, but I am the eldest nonetheless. I have been listening just as Blademaster Shadowsong is, and I find myself in agreement with most of you.

I believe there is great opportunity for us with the gryphons, and so far, barring an exception or two, they have been nothing but kind, gracious allies. Do we need to ask for some sort of payment? I say yes. We need to secure our future, and money will be a part of that.”

He turned, his eyes stopping on Fordred for a moment before moving to Kathranis.

“However, I do not believe that we should stay here. The gryphons are kind, and gracious, but there is another option that nobody has mentioned; Princess Luna and the ponies.”

Whispers immediately rose, and Kathranis could help but frown, leaning forward slightly as his brother continued to speak.

“I have already spoken with the princess at length,” he continued, “and she has offered a place for us in her kingdom; newly built and ready for expansion. The ponies have only recently united and ceased their conflicts with the gryphons, within the last century! Now is a time for peace and the growth of a civilization, and we can help it become truly great.” He smiled and motioned to Fordred. “We have a wizard, knowledgeable in many things. Think what we could create if he taught the pony mages!” He spun around, motioning to someone else. “And what of forgotten dreams of becoming architects, and musicians? As we have all seen, Stonetalon Peak is established, has already been so for generations! We can prosper here, of that I have no doubt, but it will be stagnant, and after enough time, Riven is right, they will forget. We need to be somewhere where we can create, where we can earn our place, not with mere coin, but with legend. Our songs can be recorded and sung, our structures can be mixed with that of the ponies to create something new, and yet distinctly elvish.”

He took a deep breath, then let out a sigh, offering a smile to Fordred.

“I am happy for what you have found my friend, but we can do so much more to leave our mark. Who knows? Perhaps you can convince Deyenidal to join us and travel to the new pony nation, but our future, our centuries that we have not yet lived are not here.”

He turned one last time, bowing to Kathranis.

“I believe we should support the gryphons until the war is finished Blademaster, but I believe we should follow Princess Luna after. Our home is not here, and I don’t think it ever can be. It’s all simply too… ingrained.” He straightened. “But that is all I have to say. The rest is on you Blademaster. No matter your decision, I will support you.”

He offered another low bow, then moved back to his seat. Kathranis stared at the ground before him in thought for a long moment. There was much to think about, and Huron had thrown rain on his bowstring with his idea to follow the ponies. It was not an avenue he had considered, likely because he had not yet spoken to Luna again. He needed to arrange that, though apparently she had spoken with Huron at length. A simple conversation with his brother would likely be enough to see why she wanted the elves. He highly doubted it was purely altruistic, but then again, perhaps it was. Huron spoke of a developing nation which could be raised to greatness if it had the help of two-dozen elves. That was more than enough motive, and no doubt the princess could reward them greatly.

He tapped his fingers on his chin, then huffed and slowly got to his feet. That would be a part of his meditation. A new avenue he needed time to think about, to parse out.

He walked to the center of the circle, clasping his hands behind his back. Secil padded up next to him, brushing his side as he began to think.

“If that is all, I call this Talk to a close,” Kathranis said. He glanced up, noticing that the sun wasn’t quite at its noon zenith. “I will take time this evening to meditate, and by tomorrow I will have a decision for you all. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. I will try to assure that I make the correct decision to lead us into a bright future.”

He bowed his head.

“If any of you would like to speak to me privately, I will be seeking out Princess Aquila in the training grounds.”

He turned away, and was surprised when he heard chuckles filling the air as the circle began to disperse. A glance over his shoulder found Huron talking in hushed tones with several elves, and his green eyes shined at Kathranis’ back as he whispered something, causing another round of chuckles to chase him from the gardens.