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brought up the rear of Rhoman's troupe.

She kicked Hooahn to speed up and find out what the hell was going on. Her face went sour as she saw a battle between Rhoman's men and small contingent of rag-tag fighters. they fought with speed and accuracy. Assassins !pposition to the "eace talks #t didn't matter. Ashe was honour bound to defend her new friends, and charged into their midst. Rohman's men seemed to be refreshed as they saw Ashe attack, gi$ing them hope, since they were outnumbered nearly two to one. his horse to archers that sat in the treelines, shooting into his ranks. He was a damn good swordsman, blocking and attacking, parrying and forcing his enemies back step by step, but they were also well trained. He heard a collecti$e roar from his men as Ashe charged by, trampling three of the attackers under the sharp hoo$es of her warhorse. their attacks. This ga$e Rhoman the opportunity he needed. He plunged his sword into one, dropping him to the ground, then focused his attack on the other. That one His enemies saw her as well, making them stall in Rhoman was face to face with two of them, ha$ing lost The ones attacking Rhoman's men looked ratty, but

The clash of metal on metal met Ashe's ears as she

turned and ran toward the treeline where archers drew a bead on Rhoman, letting arrows fly. %ut they didn't reach him. The fletched wooden missiles seemed to free&e in mid-air, floating for the shortest of seconds, then fell to the ground. screams came from the trees as archers fell from their nests. A few men came from the trees, arms raised, bloodied and battered looking. Rhoman's men regrouped and faced off against the now decimated opposition, all of whom were staring at Ashe on her horse. She had two long swords in her hands, one as sil$ery white as well-polished steel, and the other black as the coal used to fuel the fires in the sto$es. She was blank faced, pointing the swords at two different ind$iduals who s'uared off against her. Her horse was spattered in blood, as were her challengers. wounded or dead. up against a dead horse, arrows in his side and shoulders. )our of the retinue were dead, and a few others perhaps soon to be. He motioned for the remaining ones to watch the attackers as he made his way to (ill, worry in his eyes. Rhoman wasn't without casualties, as well. (ill leaned Howe$er, she had at least three men on the ground, badly There was a series of thunderclaps, and crashing

Shamus * he asked as he looked around. were.. too many.* He whee&ed. knelt beside them. She had a sil$er flask in one hand and a stern look on her face, *(ill, Sleep* She said in a soft and somewhat frightening tone. Rhoman blinked, watching (ill's eyes close, and the whee&ing rattle to a soft breath. Ashe gently pulled Rhoman from his man's side. will end their suffering.* She didn't wait for him to reply, but went back to (ill, and pulled out each arrow to a gout of his blood. (hen the last arrow was remo$ed, she tipped the flask to (ill's lips. Rhoman tried to protest, but words from his other men *# am going to heal all who # can, those # cannot heal, # A looming shadow crossed o$er them both, and Ashe *+o, ,y -ord, # didn't see where Shamus went. There

*Hang on, (ill, we'll get you to help. Ha$e you seen

turned his attention to his other wounded, and the Ri$erlanders that had attacked. He ga$e commands to bind those who li$ed that had attacked, and to gather the wounded and dead, both his and the Ri$erland's. His attention was taken, and not on (ill, which made Ashe rela. slightly. She stood and made sure his breathing was e$en, and

healthy. (hen she was sure he would sur$i$e, she went to the others, performing her duties to them as well. The ones who had attacked, howe$er, she took time to contemplate weather or not to help them... She looked at the ones who li$ed, wounded and now seriously afraid of the strange warrior who had killed more of them in one charge than they had themsel$es in the entire battle. something in his ear, and faced the li$ing soldiers, *# am sending this man to my /od. ,ay he ha$e mercy on his heart and soul.* She said to the Ri$erlanders, then slit the man's throat, letting him drop to the ground. tipped her flask to his lips, also whispering in his ear. He immediately fell into a coma-like sleep. She did this with to the ones still standing. speak peace with your 1ing. )or this alone, you or who you were commanded by, should be ashamed. To gi$e up peace and prosperity for a %rother 1ingdom to keep up this pathetic war, this... atrocity. # should kill each and e$ery one of you, and send your bodies back to the one *0ou ha$e attacked a Royal of Suna, on his way to all the wounded that seemed near death. Then she went up She walked up to another who was near death, but She found a man who was near death, whispered

who commanded you. %ut # am a merciful woman. Tell us who commanded you to attack this enterage, and # will consider sparing your li$es.* she said in a low monotone, sending chills up the backs of necks throughout all of them. and eyes wide, *,-m-,'lady.. it was commanded by the 1ing's Ad$isor, 2hord. He said it was from the word of the 1ing himself.* he knelt before her, *This is truth.* He said, lowering his head. the treeline. He stumbled forward, a large gaping wound in his side, and an arrow in his chest. There were two of the Ri$erlanders behind him, prodding him forward. looked as if he hadn't been touched by blade or fist. Ashe *-et our men go, or we kill your speaker.* Said one that *He speaks true.* 2ame the weak $oice of Shamus from !ne of the men stepped forward, his skin blanched

stood strait and took one step toward them. Shamus cried out as the Ri$erlander's blade cut into his arm, *3on't come closer4* the Ri$erlander called out. in your life.* Ashe said in that same low, serious tone, a hand raising in front of her. The other one started to back away from his *1ill him, you will ne$er perform another action again

compatriot and the wounded Shamus. The one that had Shamus snarled, *0ou let the men go, demon. This is my final warning.* He placed the sword edge at Shamus' throat. Ashe 5ust smiled. Ashe. # am ready to die.* he said to her, then nodded to Rhoman, *# am honoured to ha$e ser$ed you, ,y 1ing.* His $oice faultered and he fell to one knee. Ashe's hand lifted slightly higher, and a single word left her lips, *%urn.* shake, the sword dropping from his hand, glowing white metal ha$ing seared into his gauntleted hand. The rest of the man's armor began to glow white hot. He howled and screamed in pain as it set his cloth on fire, then himself. The men all watched as the apparent leader ran fi$e The Ri$erlander's eyes went wide, then he began to Shamus looked at her, and nodded, *#t's alright, m'lady

steps then toppled o$er, and a scent of seared meat and hot metal met their noses. Soon the whole armor of the man melted to slag, his body burst into flame, and soon, nothing was left but ashes and a puddle of steel. gasps, Rhoman ha$ing dashed to his side, *Shamus4 Stay with us4* he begged, then looked up at Ashe as she finally Shamus was laying flat out now, his breath coming in

let her eyes lea$e the pile of what was left of the Ri$erlander. *"lease, help him4* he asked, begging in his eyes. Shamus's lips, letting him swallow a small mouthful. As soon as he swallowed, she ripped the arrow from his body, the blood oo&ing out after it. Shamus' breathing became e$en, soft snores came from his lips as he fell into a deep sleep. Rhoman cradled his head in his lap, then seemed to slump himself, e.haustion and wounds then became apparent on the 1ing. Ashe handed him the flask, and nodded. that low, soft tone, but no hint of the malice was in it as she had toward the Ri$erlanders. He did as commanded, and handed back the small *Take one swallow, Rhoman. 0ou'll heal.* she said in She strode up to them, and tipped her sil$er flask to

flask. He could feel the heat spread from his belly, and the pain fade to a dull ache. He continued to hold Shamus as (ill came up to them, kneeling by his 1ing's side. Ashe had already started back to her horse. The horse actually looked as if he had been busy as well, rounding up all the other horses that li$ed, Rhoman's as well as Ri$erlander's. Ashe went from horse to horse, applying the same

flask to each one, pulling out arrows and checking them o$er with knowing hands. Rhoman 5ust watched as the remaining men held the Ri$erlanders capti$e, all of whom were staring after Ashe in ab5ect terror. This woman, this outsider of great bearing and apparent power had lain waste to half of them, healed all of the wounded of Rhoman's, and most of theirs. tossed his head and trotted o$er to Rhoman and his men. There were only enough horses for 6 to ride, the rest of the men were to be on foot. Rhoman looked to the woman who stood with the prisoners. She nodded to him and motioned to her horse. Two other larger horses trotted up to hers, and stood in wait for Rhoman and his two trusted men to mount. (as she going to go on foot with his men and the prisoners He didn't wait to ask, but patted Shamus's face until he woke. He looked up at Rhoman and (ill, then around. *Am # perished, ,y -ord Rhoman * he asked. the talks. (e need to ride now. She is going with the prisoners. Shamus and (ill stood, helping Rhoman to his feet *+o, Shamus, the -ady Ashe has sa$ed us, and perhaps She whispered in the (arhorse's ear, which then

with steady hands. They all mounted, as well as 7 others of Rhoman's retinue. They rode 'uickly down the road toward the Ri$erland, the castle and city were only a day ride's away, and Rhoman would be damned if this attack was going to set him and his intent back. forward, *Start walking.* She said to the prisoners, a touch of power behind her tongue kept any unci$il words at bay, and their feet mo$ed. 8uickly. She was 'uite pee$ed that the incident had occoured, but it was ended, and she had to follow up on her promise. As soon as they were out of sight of the corpses, the ground around them writhed and churned, e$en around the still smouldering puddle of steel slag that once was a person. All bodies seemed to disappear into the earth without a sound, and without a trace. The elemental had taken its claim. As the sun began to set, Ashe had some of the men go out and fetch firewood, as she made sure the prisoners sat and rested. Soon she had a large bonfire going, the prisoners watching her closely, the fear still in their eyes. They dared not speak, for they saw what she had done to one of their captains. (hat could she do to their 1ing Their homes Ashe looked around at all the men, then motioned

hands together, perhaps enough to hold a gallon of water, and from that she pulled small items, which she threw to the ground. As each item hit the ground, up sprung a table or chair, and soon food was on those tables. Hot food, breads, butters, drinks. She looked around at them, and scowled. done to upset this balance. ,y /od may or may not bring retribution down upon him, for he is a /od of 5ustice as well as of death. (hen we get to the Ri$erland, we will see what came of the deaths of your men. So until we get to your home, you will at least be fed and gi$en drink. 0ou and the men of Suna will be e'uals tonight, under my care. "ray to your gods that 2hord has seen the error of his ways, and "ray to your gods that your 1ing has seen the error of his choice of ad$isor. And "ray for your li$es to be spared if an accordance cannot be found between Rhoman and his 2ousin.* their heads and prayed. (hen they all looked up, they saw each other in a slightly different light. They all ate 'uietly, sa$ouring each bite, and thanking their gods that their All of the men, including the Suna retinue, bowed *# am not pleased with what your Ad$isor, 2hord, had

She pulled from her armor a pouch the si&e of four

li$es had been spared. The tales of the day would be passed from father to family, to grandfamily for generations. This was a sign from their gods that the peace had to be. at the break of morning, they trotted through the gates of the Ri$erland's ,ain capitol. "eople stopped in the streets as the large, hea$ily armored warhorse carried The 1ing of Suna toward ,arlon's castle. (ill carried their banner and Shamus watched the crowds, reading to make sure none had any more traitorous thoughts. attack, but most were relie$ed and happy to see the Suna 1ing ride through the city. They made the short trip to the castle drawbridge, and (ill blew a horn to announce thier arri$al. The guards looked down at them from the through. courtyard as Rhoman and his group walked their horses toward the stables. Stablehands came up to them, and held the horses as they dismounted. Two of the guards trotted off to announce their arri$al to the 1ing of Ri$erland, as the horses were lead off to be stabled and cared for. The hea$y clop clop of hoo$es echoed through the ramparts, and wa$ed open the gate, allowing them Shamus was surprised to see that none thought of Rhoman rode at the head of the remaining troupe, and

Rhoman looked around, pulling off his blood stained glo$es, and pushing back the bit of hair that had blown into his face. A s'uire motioned to them, smiling. Shamus looked at him closely, noticing that he also was not in a murderous frame of mind. The Ad$isor, 2hord, seemed to ha$e his own agenda. cousin, Highness ,arlon, wishes you to take your rest in chambers. 0our ride must ha$e been rough by your missing the day by two. He is not upset, but in actuality, worried, ,'-ords.* The young man stated, motioning once more. your cousin in his court. (e need you to be fresh.* Shamus said softly, smiling. (ill had handed off the banner to be watching the Ri$erlanders. nodded to the young s'uire, who led them into the castle. surprised at the oppulance that the 1ing there had in store for them. There were bowls of fruit, cheeses and chunked meats on platters, drinks in pitchers with car$ed goblets (hen they entered their room, they were pleasantly *Alright. (e will follow to the offered rooms.* He hung with their horses, and stood at Rhoman's right, also *He speaks true, ,'lord. -et us go clean up and meet *,y -ords, Sire Rhoman, "lease come inside. 0our

and fresh changes of clothing hung up on racks ne.t to steaming tubs of water. They all stripped and began to bathe. Soon they were surprised that a do&on young women entered their room, carrying towels and scrubbing brushes. you were 1ing here. (e are to bathe you and make you ready for the talks of "eace.* The one in the lead e.plained. Shamus was $ery careful in reading the women, and their attentions, and so far, none had any intention of assassination. looking at them suspiciously. !ne stepped forward. She was a lo$ely dark haired young woman of perhaps se$enteen, and kept her face lowered. Shamus focused on her. Her thoughts were non$iolent, but he could tell she'd seen the wrong end of a stick or whip in 2hord's chambers. She wanted to make her master happy, and to end the peace talks in any way would make 2hord happy. Shamus pointed at her, *0ou. Sit at the table, and one of the others, 5oin her, keep her occupied. There is food and drink enough for all of you as well as oursel$es.* Shamus *3o any of you ser$ice the Ad$isor 2hord * (ill asked, *!ur -ord has commanded that you be treated as if

said in a soft tone. The girl looked up at him with a little fear, but nodded. motioned for her to 5oin 2hord's girl. *9at and drink. #f it makes His Highness of Suna pleased.* She said. all of you sat with us and shared a meal.* Rhoman stated. 1ing and his men. They took their time, soaking off the long night's ride, some of the men e$en falling asleep in the arms of the women. Rhoman was feeling rela.ed, and finally ready to gather his thoughts, and the papers sa$ed for his cousin to read o$er. dress and eat, they all sat at the table, gi$ing thanks to their gods for the welcome gi$en by the 1ing of the Ri$erland. The women all watched the 1ing and his men, then replied by thanking them for coming to end the hostilities toward each kingdom. Rhoman began to eat, and talk to his men of how soon Ashe would make it to the castle, and if he should ask for another day to let her time to return the men to the Ri$erland. Some of the women looked surprised, e.cept the one (hen they finished, and the do&ing men woken to They all smiled at the prospect, and began to bathe the *#t will, (hen we are done here, it would please me if The one in the lead tapped another's shoulder and

that ser$ed 2hord. She looked down and gripped the edge of her slee$es. The head woman looked at her with concern. behoo$e you to do so. 2hord has been a good ad$isor, but we all know how he likes to treat you, and how he likes to keep the strife. (e are all actually $ery surprised the 1ing hasn't let him go as ad$isor.* she said, laying her hand on :illie's arm. works so hard to keep this 1ingdom fed and warm in the cold seasons. He gi$es ,arlon ad$ise on how to keep us prosperous. * She looked sad, *# didn't want to say anything, but .. * She looked down again, *%ut 2hord planned an attack on Rhoman, sire... on the way here. He sent me to again, afraid. * "lease, # am only doing as he asked me.* tender eye, *-ady, # do not blame you for who you ser$e, howe$er, we were attacked, and lucky for us, during our trip, we came across a $ery .... fortunate tiding. She will be bringing the sur$i$ors to the gates $ery soon, and # want her and those with her to be treated as we ha$e. ,y own Rhoman nodded and scowled, but looked at her with a find out what happened to the other men.* she looked up She looked up at all of them, *2hord is a good man, he *:illie, if you ha$e something to share, it would

horse was killed in the attack, and the steed in the stables is actually her own. She is part of my retinue officially as of now. (hate$er she says will come from her as if # commanded it.* He looked around at all the people at the table, making sure his men understood as well as the women. *# want you to tell my cousin this as well.* He said to the lead woman who stood at (ill's right shoulder. Highness.* she bowed, then turned to lea$e, *Saille, you will take charge here until # return.* she tapped a $ery tall blonde on the arm, who nodded and smiled at Shamus. Ashe walked ahead of the group, ha$ing spent a few minutes with each of the prisoners, speaking to them in turn, pri$ately. %y the end of the day, they all were con$ersing with the remnants of the Suna men, sharing stories, and finding out that all of the commands handed to them that had come from 2hord were what was causing more strife than e$er had been gi$en by the 1ing ,arlon. Ashe took this information in stride, and at all of their stops, she would go off to the side and meditate. They left her alone during these times for she had made it 'uite clear that if anyone bothered her during her ,editations, *# will pass this message on to my -ord, 0our

it had better be a life or death situation, or it would be a life or death situation. 5ackyl headed being during her meditations. There was a beautiful chess set between them, and she would make a mo$e, then he would. Soon they would con$erse about what was to be done in the Ri$erland. And what has happened to the ones # sent to you * she asked him, mo$ing her pawn a space, then leaning back in her chair. The ones you sent to me were guilty of following orders handed down from a man who has power o$er the 1ing of the Ri$erland. The peace talks are a trap, it seems. 0ou will be going up against a fairly powerful wi&ard named 2hord.* The being said to her. His mouth mo$ed delicately, his tongue reaching out and licking the side of his nose as if in thought. asked as she watched him mo$e a rook, then contemplated her mo$e. *0es, actually, a (i&ard. He has no innate ability. He is, *2hord, the ad$isor, is a wi&ard !r a Sorcerer * she *0ou are right to assist the Suna 1ing. He is a 5ust man. *Should # help these Suna people in these peace talks She would find herself sitting across from a large,

howe$er, a self taught wi&ard, and has many books you may be interested in relie$ing from him. # want you to oust this (i&ard, and take his books. The books are ancient for the realm you are in, Ashe. They belong in a library in a land far to the east of this country, and the one to its south. 0ou are to return all these books to this -ibrary for me, and for the gods of this land.* He watched her as he spoke, one large, black hand rested ne.t to the chess board, its wicked looking nails tapping on the alabaster marble of the table. him and grinned, slipping a pawn to the side and taking his rook. displeasure of the moniker, but then lifted his head and laughed. She smiled back at him, and stood, bowing. She made her way back to the group that sat against trees and on the side of the road. They all stood, dusting themsel$es off, and waited for her motion to keep mo$ing. She nodded and they made their way down the path again, only a short way away from their destination. city, people stared at them as well. A few ran up along the (hen they walked through the streets of the small He looked at her, mu&&le tilted down as if in *0our will is my command, +ubie.* She looked up at

returning contingent, and let them know that the 1ing of Suna had made it to the castle the morning before, and 1ing ,arlon had alloted them the time to wait for the return of the remaining men. Ashe 5ust nodded as she o$erheard the $illager tell this to the Ri$erlander to her left. After the $illager ran off, the man turned to Ashe. waiting for us. Howe$er, # think there will be more to this return than you think. "repare your men for perhaps treachery from within. # ha$e a feeling about your Royal Ad$isor. Ad$ise my men as well.* She said to him 'uietly, and smiled as he nodded to her, taking her words to heart. Rhoman and the others had passed through less than fourty-eight hours earlier. The men spread out and ga$e word that they were unharmed, unfortunately not all of them had made it back, but this would be brought up at the meetings between Rhoman and ,arlon. Ashe looked around and pinpointed the stables. She pulled aside a young worker and asked to be taken to them to make sure her stallion was well cared for. He nodded and led her to the stable where Hooahn was well brushed, watered and fed. She beamed a smile at the workers of the stables, They soon passed through the same drawbridge that *0es, # heard this, and #'m happy to know your 1ing is

noting that the horses were all well taken care of. She ga$e each of them a large coin of sil$er, and made her way back to where the Suna men were gathered to be led to the castle proper. she made her way toward the castle, looking up and scanning the building for this 2hord who she was to be on watch for. She was not disappointed when she saw a la$ishly dressed man out on a small balcony, lookng down at the group with a large scowl on his face. rooms where e$eryone was bid to take their rest, wash and be made comfortable. Ashe was led to a separate room, for she was the only female in the contingent. She allowed for her separation, but signaled the men to try to contact her if anything went awry. She entered her room, escorted by an older woman dressed simply. The woman had a look of disdain on her face when she had reali&ed the warrior in shining, yet bloody armor was a female, but treated her with diffidence. The room itself was la$ish, smelling of lillies and roses. There was a large tub and change of clothing set out for Ashe, as if she were wearing something that 5ust They all walked through the halls up to a series of Ashe whispered a few protecti$e spells o$er herself as

didn't work well with the customs of this land. She thanked the woman, and asked her not to be disturbed. The woman conceded, and backed out of the room. her time to bathe and change, the clothing fitting a bit loose, but short. Her simple spells fi.ed that issue as well, making the dress fit perfectly. She cleaned her armor, packing it all away into her small, precious bag. All but for the web of sil$ery chain and gems that was her /ossamer, the coif. She placed a few more spells upon herself of nondetection, and applied makeups, and a bit of perfume. She was going to make an impression on this court, in the simplicity of her dress, if not her bearing alone. room, to disco$er a pair of guards waiting for her. (hen she was finished, she opened the door to her *"lease take me to my -ord Rhoman's 2hambers.* She Ashe placed a small spell of holding on the door, took

spoke softly to them. They looked at her with a bit of surprise. ,'-ady. * !ne said to her, his $oice strong with command. She tilted her head and looked at the other guard. He merely stared at her, not 'uite eyele$el, in fact, she was nearly a good foot taller than both of them, but her dress *1ing Rhoman of Suna is not to be interrupted,

and stance made her look feminine, easily commanded in their eye. ad$isor. # will be led to his rooms, and # will determine weather or not he is to be bothered.* She said with a rolling accent that held a touch of power behind it. around 'uickly, knowing that they were commanded to not allow anyone to see Rhoman, but this woman held herself much differently than any of the men in Rhoman's retinue. They nodded and motioned for her to follow. large oak door sat, closed. There were two guards at this door as well, and they looked at Ashe's guards in surprise. conference with Ad$isor 2hord.* !ne said to her. This was not acceptable, she thought. command rolled from her once again. They all looked shaken, but the door was opened and swung open. where Rhoman sat alone across a table from the la$ishly dressed man with the scowl. There was a young woman at Ashe stepped through the door, and into a large room *!pen the door. +ow.* She pointed to the door, and the *The 1ing Rhoman is not to be disturbed as he is in They stopped at the top of a series of steps where a %oth men looked at her with surprise, and then *,y name is Ashe. # am his Royal Highness's own

2hord's side, and a guard at Rhoman's elbow. Rhoman sat as if in a trance as 2hord snapped a look to the door and at Ashe. He lept to his feet and pointed a hand at her, his look of pure malice made her tilt her head, then chuckle. presence4* 2hord commanded, the guard at Rhoman's side drew his sword, and ad$anced upon her. The woman that had stood by him scurried to the other end of the room where a large fireplace held a crackling fire and a rack of ... torture impliments Ashe nodded as she felt a wa$e of command came from him. He was good, but not close to her power. a hand at the Ad$isor, who sat as if sho$ed down by a large hand. Rhoman didn't mo$e, but the guard did. He leapt at Ashe, attacking her 'uickly with his sword. He was fast, but she was faster, *H!-3* she shouted, and he fro&e only inches from her, the sword close to her head, the edge beginning to turn away from the /ossamer. his eyes. *Release him of your hold, or # will make sure you will ne$er speak or see again.* She ga$e him a cool, e$en ga&e. She strode toward Rhoman, and wa$ed a hand o$er *Sit the fuck down, asshole* She simply said, throwing *0ou are to lea$e, woman. 0ou are not allowed in my

he reali&ied that he had been caught. He began to chant and raised his arms. Ashe began to counter his spell when a solid whang4 ,et her ears, but nothing was felt but a small bump at her head. She turned and saw the young woman holding a large pan, arms shaking and a look of terror on her face. flicking motion with her hand which sent the girl flying back across the room, slamming into the wall and dropping like a sack of potatoes. She could feel a build of power around 2hord as it began to heat up around her, the air sworling around her as would a cyclone, and motes of fire shot toward her from the fireplace. She rolled her eyes, and walked 'uickly around the table toward 2hord, who's eyes grew wide as he reali&ed she was bringing the burn to him. His chanting stopped and the cyclone of heat and fire died down. Ashe took him by one wrist, making him cry out and writhe as if her touch alone was killing him. whispered in his ear. The other four guards 5ust stood at the door, watching in silence as this small battle of magic *Release 1ing Rhoman, # will not ask you again.* She *0ou did not 5ust do that, you little bitch.* Ashe made a

2hord sat there in stark ama&ement, and then anger as

layed out before them. 2hord nodded and spoke a few words, wa$ing a hand in Rhoman's direction. Rhoman dropped in the chair, head hitting the table, as 2hord began to laugh at her. will be king of both lands, and you are ne.t to meet your doom4* he cried out as she felt a piercing pain sink through her back and through her belly. !ne of the guards had come up behind her, stabbing her with his sword. She looked down at the sword as it then slid back through her, pulled out by the guard. She looked up at 2hord and smiled. His laugh faded. then gripping him by arm and collar as she swung him around, slamming him into the guard. The other three on, and one e$en ran back down the stairs, calling for backup. Ashe lifted the now howling 2hord, and used him as a shield against the guard that 5ust stabbed her. The guard was backed toward the door, and then down step after step, the last two gaurds following him. She used 2hord to hook and close the door, flicking her fingers at the lock. A satisfying click was heard as it locked. 2hord guards seemed to not understand what the hell was going She lifted him from his chair, her gauntleted hands *0our precious king is dead, you abonination. ,arlon

continued to scream and try to chant. 9ach time he tried to speak a coherent word, she shook him until his teeth rattled. She took 2hord to the fireplace and pinned him against the wall with one hand to his neck, *0ou rotton son of a bitch. 0ou ruined my new dress4* she hissed, letting her eyes shift in color and the pupils in shape. 2hord blanched and began to flail again, *+ow, where do you keep your library, you rotten fuck * she growled, her teeth flashing in the dim light of the fireplace, serrated and ra&or sharp. the corner, which she drug him to, using him to sho$e it open. #nside the second room was row after row of books. +early a hundred of bound tomes and scrolls filled this containers. She sucked on her teeth a little, then hissed. making him shake and shudder, eyes wide. rule the land with ,arlon as my 1ing4 # am the power of this land and the lands in all directions4* he started to scream and kick at her. She took a few blows to her legs *0ou can't do anything4 0ou're the enemy, and # will *0ou really fucked up, 2hord, boy.* She purred at him, small room, around a large table with candles and small 2hord motioned with one hand to a second door in %lood had soaked down her dress, but soon stopped.

and a knee to her thigh, then shook him again. gi$en permission to erradicate your sick and sorry ass. These books are mine now, and you, # think you need to meet my /od. ,ay Anubus ha$e mercy on your soul.. then again.. # pray that my /od toss you in the Sty. and let your soul rot in pain and suffering until the end of time.* She smiled at him then, her hand closing around his neck tighter, and tighter, feeling the bone crack and crunch under her fingers, then snap completely as his head flopped to the side. His body went limp, and a cry came from behind her. state, and saw Ashe break 2hord's neck. She threw herself on 2hord's body, sobbing, howe$er, soon she stopped was. She stood, and looked around again, not e$en glancing at Ashe as she made her way out of the room, and to where the other door sat closed, locked. Ashe could sense something lift from the castle, as if a guise were remo$ed. She drug the body of 2hord to the other room and sho$ed him into the fireplace. She hastily called upon a fire elemental, offering the body to the flames in crying, and looked around as if she were unsure where she The young woman had woken from her unconscious *See, you idiot, you're a blight on the land, and #'m

e.change for the complete de$ouring of the flesh fo the one who caused such suffering. She was not disappointed when a male body wo$e its way down the flue of the fireplace, looked at her with a gleaming smile, and began to eat the body of the dead mage, 2hord. Rhoman's dead body, and wrapped a hand around her symbol on her neck. She closed her eyes and prayed, resting her hand on Rhoman's head, his cool skin wa.y, and unmo$ing. She stood and prayed for nearly fi$e minutes until she could feel his skin warm to her touch, and a deep breath come from him, ribs rising and falling. She let him lay there, but arranged his arms to support his head. He slept soundly as she returned to the other room, and began to cast spell after spell upon the racks of books and scrolls. 9ach one fell to the floor, looking $ery much like well-sewn small patches of cloth. into her precious pouch. She scoured the room for any hidden doors, panels or stones, and wasn't disappointed. There was a hidden door that opened to a large chest of gems and coins, most of which were stamped with the face of Rhoman, or someone that looked an aweful lot like him. Ashe scooped up each and e$ery patch, tucking them Ashe watched only for a few moments before going to

This was something he would be tickled to ha$e back, she thought to herself. She tucked that into her pouch as well. There were ropes of gold chain, sil$er and gold bars as well, of which she also scooped into her precious bag. Soon she heard a moaning groan come from the other room from Rhoman, as if he were battling a terrible hango$er. woman attending Rhoman with a wet cloth, goblet of water and a tender touch. They both looked up at her, as if it was the first they had seen of her. The girl looked at Ashe, knowing what had happened, and 5ust shook her head. had many people under his command, but no longer. # *He is no longer the king's ad$isor, m'lord Rhoman. He *(here is the 1ing's ad$isor, 2hord * Rhoman asked. She walked out to the room, where she saw the young

think your peace talks will definately go better now.* Her tone was soft, and much happier than it had been when talking about 2hord before. shakily. once, *# think your cousin will be much happier to see you *He was.... sent away. He will not return.* She nodded *(hat happened to him * he asked her, standing

now, as well.* She smiled brightly, and nodded back to the girl who smiled, then reali&ed she was soaked in blood. step toward her. 0ou should come with me to the 1ing's chambers...* She then remembered the fro&en guard near the door. She released the spell upon him. He o$ere.tended in his attacking mo$e, and almost fell. He stopped 'uickly, howe$er, and looked around in confusion. Rhoman4* he e.claimed, and went to the door, *# don't know what in the nine hells 5ust happened, but # think we need to find -ord ,arlon.* He said 'uickly, motioning for them all to follow him out the door. Ashe also unlocked the door, letting it swing wide, He sheathed his sword, and bowed to them, *,y lord She 5ust nodded, *#'ll be fine. ,y people heal 'uickly. *Ashe... you'$e been in5ured 4* Rhoman took a shaky

where three guards stood, trying to unlock it. They looked 5ust as confused as the fro&en guard had been, but bowed low to the 1ing and Ashe, who had let the girl go down the stairs first. They all walked 'uickly down the stairs, where more of the Suna men had gathered, the /uards of the Ri$erland leading them to the base. Soon a shout and flurry of bodies made its way down the hallway toward

them. A large man in furs and golden crown came thundering down the hallway toward them all. but not doing anything until she reali&ed the look upon the 1ing ,arlon's face was relief at the sight of his cousin. She stood aside as they embraced, and the guards fell away, relie$ed as well. These "eace Talks were going to be much better than all had hoped. Ashe sat in on the talks which lasted only two days. %efore the main talks, she e.plained to the kings what 2hord was, and that it seemed to be a rare thing indeed to ha$e magic in this land. They listened to her carefully, and agreed that ,agic was $ery powerful in the land, but shouldn't be feared, but closely guarded. Ashe e.plained that she was to tra$el to the kingdom to the east that held Rhoman agreed that would be best, and that Rhoman would wait until she returned to tra$el back to Suna. entire time of the talks, and all three saw her off as she mounted her horse, and headed east, to the land of ,ages. They all turned to return to ,arlon's castle, a feeling of success in their minds and hearts, and the 5oy of peace (ill and Shamus didn't lea$e Rhoman's side again the the libraries of all the magics in this land. %oth ,arlon and Ashe stood between him and Rhoman, hands raising,

being known for the first time in years. The loss of 2hord had hit some hard, but they only felt it because he had gi$en them power. (ith him gone, howe$er, they were left to their own de$ises, to try to gain power back again without aid of magic and 2hord's words in the 1ing's ear. patted Hooahn's neck and smiled, whistling a tune. Her god had gi$en her a task, and she was happy to do this for him. #t was who she was. She was 3eath. She was :ustice. She was Ashe, and none could take her from her duty. Ashe rode out of the small city heading east. She