Half Blood Part XXIV--Marches

Fiction By Heather // 9/16/2010

Well, everyone, I suppose this means that I need to finish up Haflbood on here, so make sure you check back a couple of times every week. I'm going to miss this--without you guys (especially Anna) who continued to bug me about HB, I never would've finished it. Thank you!

And know that because of you guys, I'm now planning to pursue publishing with HB. It will probably change a bit in revisions, but it's still going to be Varian's story. If you're interested in keeping up with how revisions and research for publishing houses are going (and if you feel like you need to keep bugging me ;0) visit my blog! www.magical-ink.blogspot.com. Even if you're not interested in keeping up with HB, drop me a line, follow me, tell me about your blog so I can follow you! I'm going to miss all of you guys a LOT!

Thanks for the wonderful 3 years!

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The next morning came too quickly. Varian groaned at the sunlight piercing his eyelids and rolled to his stomach. Now I know why Jokk had that perpetual stone-face. It was just because he was always too tired to make any other face. He yawned. Ugh. If I'd known as a child what exactly came with commandin' an army, I'd never have dreamed about it. And I'm sharin' responsibilities, too. How did my uncle ever do it? No wonder he…
"Varian!"
"Go away, I'm gettin' up!" he yelled. "Leave a tired man in peace, Solvar."
Solvar opened the door and grinned. "Good mornin', old one."
Varian chucked a pillow at him. "Old one? I'm enjoyin' my last few minutes in a soft bed with a pillow for who knows how long! That isnae cause to be called 'old one'!"
Solvar ducked away. Varian jerked his tunic and boots on and stumbled after him.
The village was buzzing. People walked slowly by him, carrying bundles and packages. Dragons floated overhead on the breeze, guarding the passage of the people. The smithies were strangely silent.
Lia and her children sat outside, waiting. As soon as he exited the house, Lia stood up.
"We were just waitin' for ye, Varian," she said.
Varian felt his neck warming. "Well, I…"
One of the younger children, Tannre he thought, wrapped arms around his legs. Varian reached down and ruffled the child's hair. He hadn't had much time with them in the few weeks, not nearly as much as he'd wanted. He regretted that. He swallowed down a lump in his throat. They hadn't joined the group of refugees yet. They'd waited for him. Like he was family.
"Thank you," he whispered.
Lia squeezed him into a hug. Kearah arched her eyebrows and smiled.
"But ye should hurry," he added. "We're tryin' to get to the fortress as quickly as possible. It's not far, but it will take a good part of the day with all the villagers."
"Why are we goin'?" one of the children asked.
"Because we dinnae know if Danilos means to come here first," Lia answered, helping him on with a rucksack. "There, now ye be a strong boy and carry that for Mother without spillin' it."
As the family's chaos in getting ready erupted, Kearah stepped to his side, swinging a bundle in one hand. "Here," she said, handing him a folded paper.
Varian set down his rucksack and quoroni and unfolded the paper. It was a black and white sketch of him on Fleet, with Mount Arborn in the background and a corner of the village below. Fleet was diving, and Varian had his arms outflung, his mouth open in a shout of laughter. It was from the other night. Fleet's whiskers and his hair were so finely drawn, Varian felt that they might start to move at any second.
"Thank ye," he said, tucking the picture into a pouch on his rucksack.
"I've never seen ye enjoy bein' on dragonback so much as the other night," Kearah said. Then she blushed. "Well, granted, I've only seen ye start up and maybe a few practices above the field, but still—"
Varian smiled. "It was a beautiful drawin'. Thank ye."
She looked up at him, her vivid green eyes sparkling. Varian caught his breath. He felt something, a quick spark, pass between them. Kearah blushed a little more. He grinned, knowing in his mind that it was a ridiculous grin, but unable to help himself. She gave him a smile, tightened her hand around her bundle, and skipped after her mother and siblings. Varian stood frozen in place, staring after her.
What was that? he wondered.
"Comin'?" Solvar asked, slugging him in the arm.
Varian started. "Oh, aye." He slung his rucksack over his shoulders and followed Solvar own the street.
Villagers snaked in a long line over the hill. Soldiers marched intermindgled in the throng, their armor and weapons making them stand out in glittery bursts. Dragonriders swooped over them, alert to any danger coming from afar.
Varian found Fleet and saddled him.
"If we did not have the walkers, we could be at the fortress in under two hours," Fleet informed him.
Varian mounted. "But we do, and so we cannae. Let's stay on the ground for a while, Fleet. I think Solvar and Kearah are plannin' to walk their dragons with their family."
"Hm. And I wonder why you wish to do that."
"Dinnae say another word," Varian threatened.
"You looked happy as you walked up, that's all I am saying." Fleet bonded forward and caught up with Solvar's family at the back of the line. Within a few minutes, Kearah and Solvar joined them.
Thankfully, there was little dust as they traveled over hill and rock. Varian, Kearah, and Solvar each swung up one of the littlest children to ride with them. Few words were exchanged as the dragons lumbered over the land.
Varian paused on the top of a hill. He saw the line of villagers snaking over the next hill. Varian scanned the south, feeling exposed. If Danilos knew that they were making a journey like this, he wouldn't hesitate to exploit it. The dragons could guard the villagers, yes, but there would still be casualties. He prayed that they would get to the fortress without incident.
At noon, the whole line paused for a meal. Varian ate on dragonback, letting Fleet prowl up and down the line and keep a watchful eye on the south. Others on dragonback followed his example. When the line started up again, someone at the front began singing. The song rolled back at Lia's family, and they joined in. It was a slow, calming harvest song.
"Not exactly apropos to the situation," Fleet said.
"Let them sing without grumbling, brother," Rosebreath said. "We could all use a distraction."
As the harvest song died, someone started a marching-song.
"Much better!" Fleet roared.
The villagers and soldiers shouted it at the top of their lungs. The dragons joined in, their melodic tongue booming out over the crowd. Fleet began stomping his feet every step, providing a heavy downbeat. Soon all the dragons were stamping as they walked or flapping their wings harder. Varian grinned. The zeal with which everyone sang was contagious. The melody ripped through the air, full of defiance and battle-readiness.
All too soon, it ended. Fleet shook his feet and grimaced.
"Let us fly a while, Varian. My legs are killing me, as your expression puts it."
Varian laughed. "All right, spoiled, we'll fly. Though if ye didnae stomp them, it wouldnae hurt so much."
"You are brilliant, my young rider," Fleet retorted.
Varian checked his weapons. His quoroni was strapped crosswise on the saddle behind him. He also had a sword at his hip. He was afraid that, though he had improved with the quoroni, he hadn't mastered it enough to be in battle with it. The sword was one of the practice ones, but it was finely balanced and had ground to a sharper edge than the smith had expected. Then lastly, a small quiver of javelins rode strapped to his saddle side, as all the dragonriders had.
Fleet lunged into the air, and Varian saw several villagers duck as his wings skimmed over their heads.
"Fleet!" he scolded.
Fleet hummed contentedly. Varian looked down. None of the villagers looked angry. A few laughed and one or two foot-soldiers playfully shook their fists at Fleet.
"They need cheering," Fleet remarked. "This whole business has everyone too quiet and sober. That war-march was invigorating!"
Below them, someone had started another song. Varian guided Fleet upward until he could see the whole of the villagers, snaking along in the grass of the Highlanders like an undulating, patch-worked snake of bright colors. Their song floated up to him.
"I wonder how far away this can be heard," Varian said.
Fleet, who had been bobbing his head to the music, stopped. He grumbled in his throat. "I never did think of that. You are right."
"Let's see how far away we can hear it."
Fleet soared away. Varian relaxed in the saddle, letting the wind blow his hair and listening to the song. They didn't speak until they were out of earshot.
"That is some ways," Fleet said. "But I do not think that there is any danger."
"Probably not," Varian agreed. He looked down. Here, the Highlander ground was swampy and muddy. "Is that the river?"
"The river's origin." Fleet nodded eastward. "It flows down to the sea."
"Can we see River Fortress from here?"
"No. I'll fly to where we can."
The flight took very little time. Varian seemed to scarcely have gotten comfortable again when Fleet said, "There it is."
Varian looked over Fleet's side. A brown hulk of stone jutting from a peninsula into the river. They swooped lower, and Varian could see the tiny men working on the battlements. He looked back westward.
"How long do ye think? An hour?"
"About," Fleet agreed. "I can see some of the foremost dragonriders."
"Good."
Suddenly Fleet stiffened underneath him.
Varian gripped tight with his knees and stroked his hand over Fleet's neck. "What?"
"I smell something." Fleet narrowed his eyes and swung his head from side to side. "The wind is blowing our way. I can smell dust in the south. Dust and horses and…dragons."
"Dragons? Ye must be wrong. Why would there be dragons to the south?"
"That is what I want to find out."
"Fleet! Let's nae! We donnae know what we will find." Varian gripped the saddle frantically.
Fleet's shoulders heaved. "I will not go if you do not want to. But we should find out what is causing that smell."
Varian sighed. "All right then. Let's go."
"Are you sure?"
"Move, Fleet."
Varian sat upright, his muscles tight and one hand curled around a javelin. Fleet was tense underneath him, his tail whipping back and forth as he jerkily guided them through the air. Varian ignored the jerks—he knew now that he could stay on. He glared at the horizon.
Slowly, a black mass appeared, then took shape. They stopped before getting too close. Varian squinted. Then gasped. Fleet jerked in the wind, so startled that he'd forgotten to concentrate on the currents for a moment.
Winding out in front of them was a thick black snake of men. They carried penants and flags of the Lowlands and their weapons glittered. There were others, mounted on large animals…
Varian shut his eyes and drew a deep breath. "Am I seein' what I think I am?" he whispered.
"Dragons. The Lowland dragons, if I am not mistaken," Fleet said, his voice low. He tilted his wings and they dipped a little closer. "My brother is so foolish. How could he align himself to Danilos, as his shamed ancestors did?"
"Fleet, we have to get back. We have to warn the fortress, the people."
"Let me see if my brother is here."
They dipped again, silently. Varian scanned the mass, searching for a big black dragon. Then Fleet's sharp hiss broke through his fangs.
"There."
Varian's heart jumped when he saw which direction Fleet pointed. He dragged his eyes reluctantly to the front of the mass. There strode Darkfang, carrying a figure that Varian knew all too well even at this distance. He jerked the javelin from his sheath.
"Move closer," he whispered.
"What are you doing?" Fleet twisted his head around and saw the javelin. "Are you mad?"
"Move closer. If I can kill Danilos now, I doubt we'll have as much of a fight. I donnae think that the soldiers are eager for this."
Fleet shrugged and swooped down. Varian leaned back, watching Darkfang and Danilos grow closer. Suddenly he felt a smashing, insivisible cloud descend on him. He collapsed in the saddle, gasping. His breath was being sucked from his lungs!
Fleet wrenched up and flapped, flailing his feet.Varian moaned. It felt like they were still descending. He tried to sit up, but the force was too great on him. He felt his arms going limp. Fleet broke from the spell, with a jolt like he'd broken a rope, and shot up and north.
Varian tried to tighten his hand, but it was too late. The javelin dropped from his hand and plummeted to the black mass. He thrust himself upright, surprised that he could, and twisted his head. He lost sight of the javelin and was rapidly loosing sight of the army.
An angry shriek pierced the sky. Fleet yelped. Varian cringed against his neck. But no dragon silhouette appeared. No arrow arched after them. They watched until Danilos' army disappeared over the horizon and they could see the fortress, and a bright band snaking through the hills toward it.
"What was that?" Varian whispered.
Fleet stopped and turned back southward. He glanced at Varian, his bony eyebrows drawn together in a troubled expression. "I don't know. But we had best talk to Dulcan and Solvar."
"Onna first. She discovered that Danilos was a Kamaril sorcerer. Maybe she'll know what we ran up against."

Comments

The plot thickens! Or,

The plot thickens! Or, rather, the danger thickens, and that just doesn't sound the same. :D

Now the question is, did Danilos see them and cast a specific spell on them, or is that spell just generally protecting the whole army? They could be in a lot of trouble if Danilos can use magic that freely.

And now I'm wondering...it doesn't seem likely that Danilos would bring Jevran along on this, so does that mean that Jevran is relatively unguarded and might be able to escape or be rescued?

Leandra | Sat, 09/18/2010

Yes! That's It!

Jevran gets free and does something back in the lowlands that totally destroys Danilos.

Or something.

Ultimately, I want to see Jevran kill Danilos.

A quick swipe to the head, preferably.  Suiting for a snake. 

James | Sun, 09/19/2010

<><~~~~~~~~~~~~><>
"The idea that we should approach science without a philosophy is itself a philosophy... and a bad one, because it is self-refuting." -- Dr. Jason Lisle

Oh...

Oh dear! 

That's all I can bring myself to say...
Oh dear! 

Kyleigh | Tue, 09/21/2010

James, I think you've said

James, I think you've said that about 5 times now.  :-)  Not criticizing, however; I completely agree.
Heather, I've been reading this and have gone through all the past chapters in about 4 days, although I haven't been commmenting.  I love this; you're a brilliant writer and BTW, it's about time he likes Kearah!

Bridget | Thu, 11/11/2010

"I always wonder why birds stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth. Then I ask myself the same question." - Harun Yahya

Thanks Bridget!

Thanks Bridget!

Heather | Thu, 11/11/2010

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And now our hearts will beat in time/You say I am yours and you are mine...
Michelle Tumes, "There Goes My Love"

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