Fantasy Fiction posted March 21, 2024

Not yet exceptional. When the exceptional rating is reached this is highlighted
An excerpt from an unpublished novel

Elementals (c)

by Dimzdale1

The author has placed a warning on this post for violence.
The author has placed a warning on this post for sexual content.

…An excerpt from Chapter 2 with third section abridged from the unpublished novel Elementals ©


          The days turned to weeks as the charger regiment covered the hard rock-strewn ground to get through the mountain pass. The northern trail was just a half a day to day’s journey Dominus estimated as he fumbled through the prepared charts. The regiment was a decent size troop of nearly 800 men, but a very young group when it came to experience. Dominus had learned that Lord Capos Chama, the senior officer of the regiment, was newly promoted from the scout outpost to lead the troops to the northern territories. Although he was well prepared to lead them through unknown terrain, he had little actual combat experience when it came to commanding troops. It was evident through his interactions with the men, the man was aquainted to being in solitude as he seemed unfamiliar with giving orders. However, despite his tentativeness in ordering others around, he did have a presence about him that made you want to trust his decisions, when he did make them. Dominus spent the resting hours with the young officers learning as much as he could about the field and details of their defined experience in combat. They shared similar paths Dominus discovered; some of the officers, including Chama, were also graduates of the pedagogic. The dream of Dominus taking this journey with a renowned general like his benefactor Eridanus Aster had to be put aside.

          Dominus attentively gave ear to the instructions from a man with so few years ahead of him; but it seemed those years were filled with invaluable survival experience that would never be taught in a school. Dominus would not take this time lightly as he realized his need for understanding the foreign terrains of these lands he ever longed for and to escape the sheltered world that from now on would never be his reality.  The uneventful days seem to blend in on their long journey north, which was a concern of Dominus as he noticed the men initial bravado and alertness when this rare journey began now turn into indolent gaiety. The winter winds came upon them suddenly as they entered the northern goat pass that felt like a wind tunnel with a kiss of frost welcoming them to regions that only Lord Capos Chama knew and he express the same concerns about the men sluggish attitude in his own unique manner that usually invited a jovial response from them as they carried out the tasks. The time he took to get to know every man during the early days of the trip was now paying off as he had a knack for selecting the right man for the right task. As the speira of men move along the pass on foot, Dominus began to notice a change in the demeanor of his new friend. Lord Chama had begun to send out scouts periodically more often as they furthered deeper into the northern trail. It was a very dangerous area if an ambush was ahead. They had little ground to maneuver and miles before and behind them to travel to escape out of the pass. Lord Chama had decided that the paced should be quicken with few rest breaks until the troop reached the end of this goat trail that led out to a stream where they could find cover and refresh their beast. Their current location provided nothing but mountain ash and sedum that left them exposed. However, with just fifty miles short of their destination Lord Chama took pity on his troops as he stared at their exhausted faces. They had kept an intense pace for hours when Chama sensed that his men were not used to such hard pushes, and ordered the company to slow to give them and the beast a small breather before they continued.

          Dominus watched a young officer approached him with a slight look of concern on his face as he continued to stare up at the mountain ridges and caught a glimpse of a brief flash of lights. Instantly, the young officer rushed over to the Dominus and tackled him to the ground. Within moments of the officer’s sudden desperate actions, shouts of orders to form defensive lines came from Lord Chama, a shower of arrows pierced through the men and several fell in struggles of agony and death. The hopelessness of the situation forced the young Lord Chama to change his tactics; he screamed for his men to remount their beast and charge onward through the trail that led out of the pass and then regroup there to counter attack. It was clear that a horse regiment had no chance in such a restricting terrain to defend themselves. Nearly a quarter of his men had already met their demise and others where barely in health to make the ride. Yet, Lord Chama’s inspiring pleas for compliance rallied the men not to surrender to the confusion around them. As the men mounted, Dominus felt a sudden painful thud in his shoulder that nearly forced him from his horse. Lord Chama steadied him and ordered the regiment again to rush for the trail. Dominus was beginning to see the qualities of the leader that had cause his superiors to put him in this man’s charge. They had stormed over twenty miles when they eyed their pursuers behind them that had better steeds suited for the terrain. Lord Chama realizing their predicament and the condition of their exhausted beasts made a decision of martyrdom. “Lord Dominus you continue on and find cover in the woods that surround the stream. Survive this and we will meet up later,” the young officer yelled directions, as he split the companies with clear and confident orders as ever before. He settled the men and ordered twenty to follow the young lord to the trail. After watching the young lord clear his chosen battleground, Lord Chama steadied his remaining men to line up and prepare for a mounted flame assault. He knew their elemental flame bolts were most effective within fifty yards and nothing outside of that would prove fatal. As the bandits approached, Lord Chama seemed determined to win the day. The bandits neared the range where his men could inflict severe damage upon their pursuers. Lord Chama confidence was growing until he spotted the bandits raising retardant shields in front of them, which would reduce the casualties he hoped to inflict before they reached sword distance. He ordered the attack despite the limited effectiveness only to discover that the presumed bandits giving chase were in fact well-trained elementals. He could he sense a slight wind chill strike his face. “Sky elementals are among them!” Chama shouted as he felt sharp thuds enter his chest. The very breathe of his life he felt escaping him as he sat upon his mount, noticing a familiar figure approaching. “General Lumen?” the young officer mouthed in disbelief then set to charge despite his wounds. His men eyed his bravery and followed hard after him. They rode towards death and glory, leaving cowardice bound in the shadows of their thoughts. Their final goal was to delay the progress of these rogues. If they could hold out for an hour, then it was worth the end he knew they would meet.

          It had been over eight hours by the position of the sun since Dominus and his small band had left Lord Chama and the rest behind. Dominus hoped he could prove as capable a leader as Lord Chama when the time came to make a stand. However, without the proper supplies he was unable to treat his wound properly. There was enough sunlight to help him mend his flesh, but surely he would seal in the toxin he smelt from the arrow and that would make things worse. It was best to let the wound stay open for a while and let the bane bleed out. The tourniquet, one of the men put on him, was doing more harm than good at this point. And he had slowly lost feeling in his right arm. If he had to engage into hand-to-hand he was limited to what he could do. Matters were made worst when his faint headache and slight drowsiness began to sap his strength; he knew he was approaching unconsciousness if he did not find treatment soon. The small troop was ill prepared for a head-to-head confrontation and Dominus elected to seek a defense posture with small guerilla attacks amongst the cover of the trees.  As night fell upon them, the troop realized the bandits’ had yet to approach as expected and wondered if they were waiting for them to expose themselves. They were unfamiliar with the terrain and they were certain the bandits were not. A night assault could lead his group into confusion if they got lost in the dark maze of the trees. Therefore, Dominus chose to stay near the stony shoreline of the stream to help direct their re-positioning if they had to regroup. The plan seemed useless as Dominus spotted a feminine figure motioning towards him. They had been spotted and were compromised before they could even put up an attack. Dominus could barely make out her silhouette, but was certain she was trying to get someone’s attention. His anticipation of an immediate onslaught of bandits to charge them never came. Dominus was reluctant to give up his position if he was mistaken about being spotted. However, if he did not stop her persistent waving he was sure she would alert the attention of their unseen foes. As Dominus maneuvered towards her, he then sensed what he had dreaded. His men were surrounded. Instead of a full assault attack from the bandits, Dominus heard the whizzing noise of arrows striking the surrounding trees around his small group. However, the bandits were not targeting his men; they were filling the air with gas to render his men unconscious and helpless. The damsel had help locate his men position and he provided them the general target. Dominus knew he had failed at his first command and the men that trusted him to lead them. Slowly the repose-inducing smoke forced his body to surrender and he fell to the ground on his knees. The last thing he felt was the sharp edge of a stone connecting to his temple then darkness took him.

The things your Enemies try to break

          Dominus awoke dizzy and confused. His head was swirling as he tried to focus his eyes but he could barely keep them open. All he could see is blurring light above him and darkness beneath him. There was a sharp pain coming from the side of his head but as he tried to reach and touch the area with his hand, he realized he could not move his arms. His arms spread apart in crucifixion fashion on a short post. His body propped in an upright kneeling position, his legs cross behind around the pole and his ankles tied together. He felt he must have been in this position for hours due to the sharp pain in his knees that suddenly announce itself. His legs were numb and he could not adjust his body to stand. He did not feel he even had the strength to attempt to stand.  As Dominus began to sort things out he heard men approaching. Who was that girl he remember seeing by the stream before the attack, he could only see her silhouette. A door open and the voices became louder and drew closer. “There my lovely, nice to see you awake you’rrrrrre highness,” the voice growled. Dominus felt a blow come to the back of his head with such force that it felt as if his head would nearly plop off. Dominus tried to force his head up to see his captor but darkness claimed him again. “Back to wonderland for you lovely,” the voice jested as he prepared to take a second swing. “That’s enough Birnen," the second voice crowed, “He’s out already, maybe we should get the girl to come and see about his wounds.” “Simoom, the day you give me orders is the day I cut me on brains out from me head. So shut up and check his bonds and make sure he hasn’t already tried to burn his way free,” Birnen responded back haughtily. Simoom took a more gentle tone to explain, “Birnen those chains are made from rhenium, there’s no way he can generate enough heat to melt those off. Beside he’s such a young lass, I bet he’s hasn’t had the proper training anyway, …look he‘s dressed in the surplice of common noncombatant students.” Simoom countered. Birnen didn’t want to be appeased, he wanted to fight or at least torture. Birnen rubbed his fat stubble face “If you don’t do what I tell you I’ll whop you one,” belched Birnen. Simoom without a word moved hurriedly over to the child to eye the bonds “There in good condition Birnen, but the boy looks near death. I don’t think he will make it through the night with such a bad cut. He is sure to bleed to death through the night. I don’t think General Lumen would like that.”  Simoom reasoned. Birnen stared sadistically at the child licking his lips, “maybe I’ll let the girl come here and treat those wounds. I wouldn’t want to waste such a nice prize. Besides another conversation with that pompous ass is more than I can take for one day. Go get her, let her know her talents are needed.” Birnen turned towards the door and spoke softly to himself “Maybe Brisa’s talents are needed; she could get out of him what we need if my methods fail.” Birnen smiled inward to himself, pleased with his cunning idea. “Get her now, we need him awake for questioning”, Birnen growled “and get Lampas, tell him to meet me at my place.” Simoom immediately raced past him out the door and into the dark with only his torch to show his departure.

          Later into the evening Brisa entered into the cave behind Simoom with cautious steps. The sunset was brighter than normal but it seemed its light was shunned by the cave. After a few feet inside all natural light came to an abrupt end and lamps were needed to continue safely. Brisa didn’t trust these brigands and momentarily hesitated with a thought. Did they truly need her to help to manage the boy or were they luring her here for other mischievous deeds? Brisa instinctively felt for her hidden blades, she was prepared either way and was well aware of Birnen notorious reputation. He was never kind to her, always ordering her around as if she was his slave girl. She secretly damned her benefactor for leaving her here in a land of cutthroats. Brisa grew tired of her role as a gift promise entrusted to Birnen until their gold payment was received. It had been three months since then and no sign of the gold payment or her benefactor. Brisa was a fit price for the supplies given as far as Birnen was concerned and in three more months, she would be his betrothed. She was an alluring vision with her burnt orange hair that seemed unnatural in color and sky blue eyes. Her tall and shapely form for a nineteen year old resembled that of a matured woman at her ripest. Her curves were seductive and proportioned. Her small birthmark that aligned perfectly left of her left eye just below her temple added an exotic appeal to her features. From the moment she and her benefactor entered into this colony of rogues, hungry eyes followed them both everywhere. Her benefactor shared no lack of on-lookers as well, but she had posed a more dangerous aura, fit and petite yet slightly shorter than Brisa. When men saw her approach they tended to grasp for their swords meant for fighting rather than the one meant for houses of ill fame. For her benefactor was always cladded in sky realm armor and that dreaded facemask she loved to wear only allowing her beautiful flowing locks to be seen. Brisa instead was more genteel in appearance despite her slightly towering frame. Her physical features resemble much of the elemental conflict within her. She was the product of war as far as she was concerned. Her mother, Lady Ardere, was from a prestigious family of the Sky kingdom who decided to entertain a high official from the Kingdom of Flame, none other than General Brim Lumen. The Sky kingdom was near the end of one of their many bitter conflicts in the past with the Kingdom of Flame and General Lumen was sent to negotiate treatise. Her mother described the general as pompous, but intriguing and enjoyed a brief, but passionate love affair with the cad. Her mother’s affair was found out by her fiancée and her mother became an out caste during her pregnancy. The General did what he could for her but refuse to marry her mother and so she was raised as an illegitimate off-breed of fire and sky. She came here in search of the famed rogue general that later parted ways with the Kingdom of Flame to lead a band of out caste named the Wind tribe. The General; however, had a failed flaw in the need to surround himself with as many beautiful sirens as he could find, so her mother was just one of many women he consorted with. She had never met her father because he was known to change location at mere whims to avoid daring bounty hunters seeking a substantial reward for his head. She ventured here with her benefactor to find her father and joined his cause for the free colonies. However, she eventually found these rogue colonies to be nothing more than a group of bandits that plagued their own people. Her ideas had been slowly shattered as she spent time with these lust driven cutthroats. “How far Simoom?!” she questioned in an irritated and nervous tone. “His oubliette is located at the end of this cave entrance, not that far lovely, not far …follow close less you fall in the pit traps we made along the entrance,” Simoom jested as he slid his foot across the cave floor tapping particular stones and changing directions in the dark. Brisa stumbled almost dropping her satchel then jerked back in fright as she felt her foot slipped into empty space. Simoom grabbed her quickly and steadied her. “Careful lovely or the General will take it out on my hide if we lose you to such a silly end,” Simoom snickered. Simoom knew of her claims as the eldest child of the General and the General knew that she was in this camp, but had no true desire to see her. Brisa had shared with him such fantastical stories of her mythical father that it saddened Simoom if she ever discovered the truth. Her father was pure poison to the Sky Kingdom and he had help that braggart take control of what was at first an honorable movement. He knew the General would never welcome her the way she hoped, but he did decree that she should not be harmed. Simoom continued his periodic shuffle and sidestepping for a few more yards. “That’s it Brisa, that was the last trap we can step freely now. The boy is just a little further,” Simoom explained. Brisa gave a brief, queer smile in his direction, and then realized he probably could not see her smile anyway in such thick darkness that seem at times possible to touch. “Here we are lovely, just beneath our feet is the entrance. I’ll be back in an hour to help you back out,” Simoom directed. “You’re leaving me?!” Brisa shrieked. Simoom cleared his throat and tried to answer her in a calm voice that came out more harrowing than he intended, “It’ll be okay little girl, I left two lamps in there for you to use, I hope you brought enough supplies and medicine because I’m not trekking you back and forth all evening.” Simoom then abruptly turned and departed swiftly. Simoom had other ideas for the evening and his own plans to place into motion.

          Brisa pulled up the false floor and step down the stone steps in to the dark pit. She swung her torch left to right looking for the lamps Simoom said he left. She spotted them in the far left and right corners of the room. She lit them both and to her delight filled the entire room with flickering light. She looked back to the center of the room and paused. Instinctively she placed her hand to her mouth as a tear trepidatiously emerged from her left eye.  Brisa trembled at the sight, “By the halls of Bree what have they done to you Dominus?” The back of Dominus head was gashed to the skull and his clothes were drenched in blood. His surplice ripped and dirtied, his pantaloons were also soaked with his blood and needed to be discarded as well. Her benefactor suggested to her that the wind tribe might try to kidnap the young fire lord as leverage for a new treaty, but she doubted they would survive such a foolish endeavor. Her usefulness to these rogues only extended to providing them with useful information, medicines and other rare provisions not easily sold in public markets. She doubted if she was caught by one of the fire realm’s patrols they would feel she was worth rescuing, but this youth was worth ten times if not more his weight in gold. However, this daring action of capturing him meant now that there would be open war again and her father may have been the catalyst to such a poor decision. The wind tribe risk annihilation at such a daring ploy. Brisa shook her head to retrain her thoughts on the task at hand, a healer was needed now and she would consider her options later. This would be no simple task and she was encouraged that she guessed right on the items she needed to bring. In Brisa’s possession was a morning star to suit such this occasion. She learned from her benefactor that Dominus possessed a rare gift from his sacred bloodline that gave him the ability to self-heal in sunlight. The morning star possessed the unique energy of sunlight to cause the same reaction, but it only had enough energy to be used at most three times. She was sure this first healing session would consume most of it energy. Brisa placed the box containing the sacred stone to the side so she could clean his wounds first. She took out her prepared poultices, cloth for ligatures and a flask of water from her satchel and began wiping his wounds. She then gently lifted his head and began to wipe the soot from his bruised and swollen face to see if she missed any more open gashes. She then ripped away his bloodstain surplice from his chest and reexamined the rest of his body. She blushed as her fingers fondled his well-defined body for possible broken bones and dislocated joints. She noted the definition of his physique was impressive and wondered what he would look like without all the bruises, she could tell he was very attractive despite his unsightly wounds. To her satisfaction, he had no broken bone or dislocated joints, only superficial wounds and bruises over his body with exception to his right shoulder that by appearance must have left his arm completely useless during the brief and decisive battle. She could not help stare at his well develop physique again. For such a young boy he must have endured a great deal of physical training. She tried to imagine what training the Lord Phoenix had him go through to be so well defined for such a youth. He could not have been trained as a warrior she thought for he wore the traditional garb of a youth to be placed in the trust of the flame clergy. This was a common choice Lords used when they had only one heir and did not want to risk their lost in battle; so the children were entered into the ‘Schola Esse Oriri’ and educated by the clerics. That path led to a long career of diplomatic prestige, General Lumen was a product of such a parent’s choice she was told. Her mind kept reciting her thoughts as she scrubbed his body down again to clean off the dried blood that she did not get off with the first application. After his wounds were clean, she finished dressing his wounds. Brisa feeling pleased with her quick work opened the box and placed the morning star in front of Dominus. The glow was magnificent and the room radiated even brighter. His response to the light was almost immediate and caused her to stand and back away. His body seemed to be burning and became a glowing golden tent. His eyes started to open slowly as his head wounds remarkably began to close. He still seem weak from the blood lost as she looked into his blurred eyes. They held a pinkish tent and seemed somewhat dimmed. Brisa stepped forward to claim her satchel and drew out a small bottle of tonic. She forced it down his throat as he coughed forcing him to swallow. The tonic began to slowly to take effect as he regained his ability to speak. “U- u- you,’ was all he could softly utter. Dominus was bewildered how Aeris had found him. His blurred vision revealed his angelic Aeris tending to his hurts. He wanted to ask her how she found him and motioned to speak. “Don’t speak,” Brisa instructed, “Conserve your energy and focus on healing.” Dominus closed his eyes and imagined himself as pure light. He reached into his depths towards the healing pure light and his skin shone the brighter. Within several minutes, his wounds were closed and nearly every bruise had vanished. He open his eyes and smiled at Brisa with such peace in his eyes it shocked her how developed his skills were. “You may want to keep your skills secret young lord,” She warned. “If Birnen knew you had such abilities, he would surely test them to its limits. He is a sadistic fiend that one.” He seemed to ignore her statement as he attempted to smolder away the chains from his arms and legs. “What are you doing? Did you hear a word I just said?!” Brisa nearly screamed and place her hand over her mouth to silence herself, forgetting how deep they were in this cave. Dominus gave a seductive boyish smile, “I heard you, I just want to weaken these bonds a little to free the strain off my joints. Trust me I will not reveal such a secret if you will not. Your features almost reminded me of someone that is dear to me. Yet, on second look you’re slightly taller and the hair color doesn’t match either –very attractive though,” he blurted abruptly. “May I ask what your name is?” Dominus spoke with complete calm in his voice. “Brisa, Brisa Dantus,” she blushed. Brisa was wary to reveal her identity and took up the last name Dantus to avoid the ridicule her mother placed on her formal name and bounty hunters seeking information if she used her father’s. “That’s a weird name for someone who has such an aura of royalty about her. I can see it even pass the tabard you are wearing. Is there armor under there?” Dominus asked cheekily. Brisa shifted eyes to look elsewhere, avoiding his question, but more so to hide the glow in her face. Dominus continued when he went unanswered, observing, “It looks more like a disguise than what I can imagine you in.” Brisa felt light and a little piqued at his comments and a fear that he may have somehow guessed her true identity, but there was no way those two morons would know or divulge her true motives for being here. Or would they? Aeris did leave her here with these cut throats with nothing more than a mere gesture of farewell and blow of a kiss. Brisa while in thought clutched at the trinket hanging from her necklace her benefactor had given to her. It was her Aeris’s most prized possession and she would return to claim it. “What are you thinking about?” Dominus questioned her. “Oh nothing,” she jerked, “let me tighten the wrap on your head to help keep your abilities a secret.” She gestured. Dominus gave a nodding rejection, “I think it’s tight enough. I will be quiet now, don’t want to upset.” Brisa smiled agreeing and shut the box then began to pack her items back into her satchel. Suddenly a thought took over her movements as she drew closer to Dominus. “Let me take a closer look at you,” she spouted as she reached for his face to examine his eyes again. Brisa immediately realized this was a bad decision. He clearly now could see her blushing face as their eyes connected. His eyes no longer resemble the pinkish blood clots but glittering pools of amber. She felt weightless at his stare as if he could see her, really see her and not through her. Slowly and uncontrollably she raised her right hand to his left cheek and caressed his face and smiled, “How old are you little boy?” Brisa toyed. Dominus smiled in return, “This little boy my lady is sixteen years of age and I am the soon heir to the Phoenix Crown. And may I gently ask your age.” Dominus quietly laughed as he noticed a slight quaver of her voice. “I am nineteen my lord,” Brisa responded as firmly as she could. “And what is so funny my lord,” she grinned with white teeth unable to detach herself from his eyes. “Nothing Brisa,” Dominus whispered “I am just happy to have such a beautiful nurse maid,” he added. Brisa felt like a little girl in front of his gaze. His physical appearance was not the only attribute that resembled that of a man, but his sophisticated demeanor was breathe-taking. Brisa realized she still was caressing his face and started to pull away, slightly embarrassed at her brashness. “Don’t, your touches feel nice,” Dominus lured. He needed more time to read her aura as the priest taught him, and know if she could be trusted. The use of the eyes of allure was making his head throb louder than ever, but he needed to focus and get as much information from this woman as possible. This was the woman that cost him his men and their lives. He would not allow their memory to be lost due to a failed leader who found himself dead at the feet of torturers and sadist. He needed to know if any survived, if any could be rescued. This was his window of escape and he needed to focus. That insignia she wore around her neck was more than a hint that she was a collaborator to someone he stilled hoped to call friend and sister. However, he could not deny his attraction to her. She leaned into his lips and softly rubbed her closed mouth across his. He felt her moist tongue began to press against and past his teeth. “Brisa! Brisa! Open the door lovely,” Simoom voice screeched from above them. Brisa immediately came back to her surroundings as if ice-cold water was dashed against her back. She shuddered and hastily tried to gather herself and her things. She needed to hide the fact that Dominus had nearly recovered. She dimmed the lights a little and grabbed a wetted part of his torn garment still soaked with his blood and smeared Dominus body with it. “Brisa, Brisa, The door is lock from the inside girl, open it!” Simoom shouted with annoyance. “You better not have fallen asleep,” Simoom insulted as he rattled the hatch. Brisa spoke quietly to Dominus, “What do you want me to do?” Dominus responded calmly, “Nothing, I need to find out why I am here and I expect I’ll need your talents once again in a few days. It will be okay Brisa this isn’t your fault,” he smiled. Brisa shivered at the continuous rattling from the trapdoor. She moved slowly and opened it. “What was keeping you girl we need to get back.” Simoom scolded. Brisa smiled softly, “I guess I fell asleep waiting for your return. I cannot do any more for him. I think he may make it for a couple of days, but without proper care he may never fully recover or survive,” Brisa stated with convincing charm. Simoom grimaced at her comment, “I knew he got too carried away, that idiot. Nonetheless, we have to get back.” Simoom looked toward Dominus, “Unfortunately for him, he may have visitors in the morning that are not going to care about his wellbeing so much.” Simoom walked over to Dominus and covered his head with a canvas sack. “Let’s get going girl, you still have chores to do before late supper.” Brisa pointed in Dominus direction, “And what of him?” “He’s no longer your concern child.” Simoom ordered as he ushered her out into the cave.

          Brisa followed Simoom carefully, focused, memorizing every movement he made. When they reached the cave entrance Brisa gave a slight look back of concern. Dominus was wrong, this was her fault. She led them to him at the stream thinking he was a spy looking for the hidden camp. She had to save him from what seem to be a tortuous death. She had to save him while she was here to complete her mission. “Alright lovely,” Simoom spoke “this is where we going to part; I have a prior engagement for tonight.” Simoom snickered as he lewdly grabbed his crotch as he gestured towards the area of the camp where they held the captured women from their raids. Sadly some relented to their forced servitude. As he abandoned her on the trail that led to her tent, he broke through the bush towards the local tent pubs downhill. Brisa secretly whispered to herself’ “I must remember to poison those casks before I go.” She headed towards her tent with thoughts of how she could come up with a way to slow down Birnen efforts.  She did not realize the shadow standing in the corner of her quarters as she stepped through the entrance of her tent. She felt a blow connect across her temple, which caused her to stumble to the ground from the impact and briefly lose her senses. She braced herself on her hands and knees when she noticed feet approaching her. “Whore, whey you’ve been? Don‘t think that just because you claim to be the general‘s daughter that you ‘bove me.” Birnen roared as he jerked her up off the floor. Brisa could smell the strong liquor on his breath as he shook her back and forth –her senses began to return. Birnen continued his bluster, “Arius was a fool to let his concubine run free and wild. I’ll show you how a man supposed to handle his woman.” Birnen was about to push her up against the base post of her tent to molest her when he felt his groin nearly burst. Brisa placed a barrage of blows and kicks to his rib cage and jaw to follow up her assault that forced him to crumple to the ground. Brisa could no longer contain her savage side as she stomped down at his ankles and knees. Furiously she cursed, “Don’t think I’ll ever let you do that again idiot. I am not your slave and when Aeris moron …Aeris comes back this little agreement will be completed. I may have been Arius concubine, but I was also a trained volunteer of the Sky regiment and unless you want me to pull favors to have your fat carcass thrown to the wolves I suggest we end this conversation here and now.” Brisa backed strategically away to her hidden weapons chest and grabbed the short sword and buckler and waited for his response. Birnen rolled to his back stunned by her power and speed of attack. He looked up at her with a newly sober and clueless eyes. He had never anticipated her to be that skilled of a fighter. Without a word, he crawled in pain to the exit of her tent. He would have to formulate a new plan to get the information he needed from the boy if he could not strong arm Brisa into doing what he wanted. He needed leverage to facilitate his plans. If she was able to send word to her constituents or even her father it would cause unnecessary troubles. Birnen felt himself at a disadvantage with all the parties concerned in this little game of extortion. Why did the General want to kidnap the prince when his secret support came from General Eridanus, the boy’s benefactor? He had learned of this by monitoring secretly the General’s personal messenger birds. Moreover, what was the reason for supporting two foolish women in massing their own army in the Sky regions? Birnen had more questions than answers. He thought the General was more selective on who he supported. He didn’t until recently learn the identity of the mask-wearing female who walked around as if she owned the camp rather than needed help from them. “Proud bitch,” Birnen muttered, “both of them.” As he continued his crawl, slowly getting up to his feet he felt his joints scream in agony along with his balls. He walked away in the night deep in thought, and then nearly shuddered when he noticed he was being shadowed from a figure that was closing in on him. Birnen inched for his knife at his side preparing to swing and thrust his blade at anyone attempting to better him a second time. “Birnen! Relax your guard,” the voice yelped. “You sent for me remember.” Birnen smiled greedily as he realized his backup plan had arrived to camp from the outskirt post. “Lampas, you old devil you are still quiet as a church mouse. I guess those quacked happy priest still keeping up the training of their best assassin. I have use of your talents on the morrow.” Birnen growled happily, placing his knife back into its sheath. Lampas was an ol' war buddy Birnen served with in the latter end of the war between the fire and water tribes. As lowly ranked officers they teamed up to break away from their constituents and led the interrogation teams that help end the war only to be congratulated with early retirement for their unjust war tactics. They walked off into the dark as Birnen laid out his plot to the only man he could trust in dark times like these.

          Brisa could see them from her tent laughing loudly as they drifted further and further away. She put her blade and buckler back in their hidden compartment. She had thought to use her charms to get Birnen to ease up on Dominus, but now she feared she may have made matters worse. Birnen was angry and ruthless. He would be willing to issue out pain on anyone he felt dominant over. The simpleton she thought, he might not be her biggest problem. Simoom was acting strangely these days and he being a former scout for the northern region of the sky kingdom made her aware that he could be a bigger threat to her assignment especially now that she had to save Dominus.

The Will to not let you Break me

          Dominus tried to focus through the pain he caused himself earlier when he attempted to melt his chains. His flesh seared at the heat from his chains. He did not realize these rogues had such connections to have specially made chains for him. These rhenium chains required a focus mind to melt them and he still felt a little woozy from the blood loss and smell that saturated the room. His body felt fine other than the pain in his wrist, ankles, and knees. This was a minor setback for now because the goals remain the same, escape and rescue the survivors. However, for some reason he was not sure if he could trust Brisa, but he had to try even if he had to play a charming braggart to get himself freed from these bonds. He noticed the charm around her necklace and knew of its origin very well. He gave it to Aeris as a gift before she ran away. Why this girl was in possession of it was another mystery to solve. She seemed taken with him, and he would have to use that as a means to procure his escape. Finally, the pain subsided and he gathered some of his focus back. They had intentionally left him in the dark to befuddle his sense of direction and to see them leave through the ceiling only gave hint that he was underground. He continued his efforts to loosen his bonds until the pain made him feel delusional. Dominus began to lose focus again as the smell started to overwhelm his senses. He drifted off into slumber as his head slumped back down to his chest. The next morning Dominus awoke to silence in complete darkness. It seemed the anticipated meeting with his captors would be delayed. He was hungry and his bones had begun to ache again. Dominus drifted in and out of sleep losing hours and causing him to be unable to tell how long he was left to this prison. The state of being completely isolated and confused began to take its toll. He felt the urge of paranoia sink into the front of his mind and he could not allow it to settle in his memory as he began to rethink his capture. The ability to heal was useless if he could not maintain his healthy mind for his escape. All his abilities seemed to do for him now is keep him alive longer to endure more pain. His plan of obtaining information from his abductors now seemed secondary to a needed escape. However, if Eridanus needed information to the hidden camp’s location, than he had to turn his misfortune into opportunity. There were enemies everywhere in his mind and for moments in the day he wanted to give in to its scream just to release the tension he was feeling. However, he kept himself as sane as he could so to not let them break him -he could not let them break him. With no one to speak with, it caused his loneliness to set in deep, and his mind revisited the night he had lost Aeris for good. It took all he had to keep the subtle insanity at bay. The darkness began to play tricks with his mind as he saw images and figures moving quietly in the dark meaning to hurt him. He wanted to attempt to create some source of light by focusing his eyes on something he could burn, but with the sack over his head, he did not want to burn himself in the effort. Dominus began to use his teeth and wildly shake his head to remove the canvas from his head. Slowly he felt some progress as he had the lip of the sack in his mouth.  He continued to shake his head until he felt the sack fall from his head and dangle in his teeth. Instead of dropping it, he tried focusing his eyes on where he wanted it to land when he tossed it from his teeth. But if he dropped it he could not adjust its direction –a conundrum. Dominus focus his internal heat through tongue and lips. This was going to hurt. He could feel the dry in his throat and the cracking of his lips. The sack began to burn and for a few seconds, he kept it in his mouth to use it as a light and he moved his head from left to right to see the room. There was no one in sight as far as he could tell. He then began to feel the heat enter his throat and decided to drop the sack. The canvas stayed aflame for several more minutes allowing him to study and scrutinize ways of escape. He could see the only door was the one that exited through the ceiling on the other side of the room. Eventually darkness returned, yet he had forced his brain to remember key locations in the room that could help him find a way to get free. He memorized the location of the kerosene lamps and the steps that led to the exit. Now all he could do was to wait for an opportunity to escape and hope that he was not too weak to succeed in his effort.

          Brisa had been eyeing the movements of Birnen and Lampas for days and they seemed they had forgotten about their hostage. It had been three days since she had seen Dominus and she was sure he was starving now with no food or water. She wondered if this was the plan of Birnen, to have him to the brink where he would be willing to share anything for an act of kindness or was that where she was to come in for his plan to work. Was the reason he attacked her was to somehow keep her loyal to him? He had kept his distance from her since then. A part of her imagined her father had some reason to do with his change of heart. No longer did she have to endure with his constant flirting and foolish comments. As two more days past her patients wore thin and she decided to make her move while there was time to act. Brisa loaded up her beast with supplies and headed from the camp. It would take her a day’s journey to reach her location and return back to camp. She had made it obvious of her departure, but they would hopefully not detect her return. To her observation, no one seemed concern with her departure. She was known to take long treks through the forest to gather herbs and medicinal plants. Birnen seemed fine with her abrupt outings after she discovered the location of what she thought at first was a warring bandit raid party.  The unit turned out to be part of the horse regiment General Lumen faced in an eight-hour skirmish he endured with the unrelenting band of fire realm cavaliers in the lower mountain pass. Birnen felt proud of himself to return with the sword of their fallen captain after the battle.  As Brisa hurried out of the camp, she failed to spot the figure observing her movements, carefully shadowing her departure.  Brisa had just the place to hide out with Dominus until he was in full strength if she could travel the distance in time. She picked up her pace slightly to ensure she had time to return. Just a mile up from where she spotted Dominus’s small party days ago was a deep cave she discovered weeks before. It was perfect and the town of Sere was only forty miles west of the location if Dominus needed serious medical attention and protection, the rogue settlement would deter an outright confrontation. As Brisa neared her destination, she decided to ere in the side of caution and circled her own trail. As she headed back a mile or so before resuming her original course of direction. Brisa decided not to waste time hiding her tracks by journeying the last five miles through the middle of the tributary that ran along the mountain range and several miles beyond her actual destination. The waters were deep this time of year and perfect for concealing her tracks for the short time frame she had to work with. Brisa paused and surveyed her surroundings carefully before she made her way out of the stream and headed up the bank towards the concealed cave just a half mile away. She quickly entered the cave, deposited all the supplies she had carried, and backtracked towards the stream while she covered her tracks. It took longer than she had plan and she decided to travel the full journey back up the tributary towards the camp. It would take her out of the way nearly a mile, but she had to make up for the time and clearing her tracks back would take longer. Time seemed impatient as evening turn to dusk and the camp was still miles away. She decided another detour was necessary. She would have to head back to her tent before she made way to the Dominus’s oubliette. As Brisa neared her tent, a figure stood leaning against her entrance door. She was sure the stationed proxy was aware she was not in her resident. Brisa strolled casually up to her tent still soaked from the stream humming a tune. “You think you can go anyplace you like don’t you lovely,” spouted Simoom. “I have been waiting here for two hours for you to return. I spotted you heading out early yester morning and you not been given a word of discharge from anyone. At first, I assumed you realized that the payment arrived today for your release until I examined your quarters. Where were you?” Simoom insisted. Brisa pushed him aside from her entrance and in a single motion swept his legs from under him. She leaned forward and lowered, resting her right shin on his chest, her knee angled a few inches below his chin and studied his face for tells of lying. He was serious on all accounts, but she could tell he was holding back something. “If it is as you say, then my whereabouts are none of your concern. However, so we don’t have this conversation again, I took a long ride through the forest searching for herbs and such to restore the medicinal supplies I wasted on your prisoner. On my way back I decided to take a bath. Do you need to check my satchel for proof?” Brisa challenged. Simoom briefly snickered lewdly as he eyed towards her crotch. Brisa rolled her eyes in annoyance and her right hand out of nowhere produced a blade, “Focus Simoom, my eyes are up here.” Simoom eyed her wet hair and clothing and realized that her statements were true enough for now. Simoom grunted out for his release, “Alright, you made your point damsel, now get off me before I forget you’re a lady.” The statement shocked Brisa, she notice a hint of tenderness in his statement. No one had ever referred to her as a lady before in the way he meant it. As she maneuvered to get off him, out of nowhere came Brinen and Lampas heading towards them with heated eyes. “I knew you were a harlot the moment I laid eyes on you. To see you here out in public canoodling with this buffoon,” shouted Birnen as he walked up to them. Simoom used the moment to push off Brisa and immediately stood to his feet. His stature was no longer that of a shriveling jester, but he straightened his posture and stared directly into Birnen’s glare. Birnen unfazed by his newfound courage continued his verbal assault “Is this how you repay me Simoom? I ask you to follow the wench and you make moves on her behind my back. Fool, those birds you keep have more brains then you could hope to have. Lampas I think we shall dine on fowl tonight.”  Lampas silently nodded but uttered not a word. Simoom could take no more of his abuse; he took a deep breath and stormed away. “Wait a minute birdbrain I am not done with you,” Birnen crowed then he turned back towards Brisa grabbing her shoulders. “And you …you still belong to me; you best start getting use to this place or suffer from my ill will and intent.” Brisa smiled with shear enjoyment of the words she was about to utter, “Your claim of me ended when you received payment from my benefactor.” Birnen was beside himself; the fool informed her of the payment received and began to mutter inaudible obscenities beneath his breath, “Just because the payments arrive doesn’t mean anything. I still have to finish counting it before we can let you leave.” Birnen then rushed off to follow Simoom and continue his argument. Lampas seemed amused by the scene and slowly turned from Brisa to follow Birnen without one word to add just a slight tilt of his head and inconspicuous nod. The incident was fortunate and timely as far as Brisa was concerned. Those two would go at it all night until Birnen was determined to be right.

          Brisa hurried to change and staged her tent for insurance if they returned. She tied her tent door shut from inside and squeezed out a small hole she made in the rear facing away from the camp. She would make her escape with Dominus under the cover of night. She reached back into the hole to grab her satchel full of clothing and rushed towards the oubliette. If she journey back down the trail of the stream she could at least mislead them as far as her direction of escape. Once she helped Dominus recover completely from his injuries, they could finally free themselves from the memory of this place and maybe free her of another problem, if Dominus was willing to follow along with her plans. Brisa could not believe how far Dominus health had declined since she last treated him. He had managed to nearly burn through his chains, but he suffered dearly for his bravery. The unyielding heat he had to generate left exposed wounds to infection. His natural healing ability didn’t allow the wounds to sear close and now the infection showed and battle against his body’s desire to heal. Brisa was concerned about how easy it was to escape from camp, but she had to make it to the hidden cove before daybreak. That same feeling of being followed she had earlier stiffened the hairs on the back of her neck as she trotted through the stream with her unconscious fugitive. In the shadows far behind them was a slightly amused follower that decided to turn back to the camp. He had no true interest in the couple and the brave decision by the woman made his true mission much easier. If she was found out he would have to continue with his master’s original plan that only ensured the survival of the unconscious fugitive. However, it seemed she was more cunning than the fool he once called friend.  His lord would be pleased with his new report.

          Birnen was incensed with anger and betrayal as he realized that he was not the tactician he thought himself to be. And Simoom and Lampas offered him nothing other than excuses for their failures to prevent her escape. It had been a week since Brisa escaped from camp and they could find no trail to follow. He needed Simoom’s help, but it was clear the man had his own personal objectives that didn’t include supporting him. He had notice the man becoming more distant as he found more reason to gripe over the way General Lumen was leading their once honorable rogues into a group of hired cutthroats. On the night Brisa escaped Simoom refused to leave standing guard of his stupid coop and Lampas just up and disappeared out of nowhere for half the night. “I am surrounded by incompetents,” Birnen cooed. Lampas was the only one Birnen could trust now that his plans had to change to just escaping with the gold without the knowledge of the normal patrol routes of the fire nation. Killing Lord Chama’s men was premature on his part and he had no backup plan in escaping from this cursed region of war. Lampas had advised to allow the child to suffer alone awhile until he was so desperate for nourishment that the boy would give up all he held dear for a cup of water; then used him as leverage to flee this damnable war-ridden country. And what was with Simoom revealing that they had received payment for that stuck up whore? In time she would have been obligated to her pledge and both fortunes would have been his. Did Simoom believe that he would not share the fortune with him? Of course he was right, but Birnen didn’t think the man was smart enough to figure that out until after his knife was deep in his chest. Let that fool play with his dumb birds, they soon would be feasting on his bones he pondered.

          Simoom had been spending a lot of time tending to his kestrel the last couple of months. However; this was his way to conceal his true agenda. His nightly excursions were not one of personal entertainment, but his reason to leave outside the boundaries of the camp and send out updates to his contact. He knew he had made the right decision in reaching out to his former compatriots about the foolish plan of his general to kidnap the child. However, General Bise sent orders to him to not intervene in any way with the plans and keep him informed on the situation. The only one that had any idea of his late night excursions was now a fugitive and of no concern to him any longer. Brisa had caught him releasing his birds on one of her scavenger hunts for the medicinal herbs that the forest possessed. She showed no interest in questioning him when he visited her tent, so he saw no need in ending her life. As a show of faith he gave her one as a gift which she trained and kept in her tent. However, among the missing items from her tent was the secret gift they shared. She was a clever one. Simoom could not figure how she could leave so quickly with so many supplies with her and an injured companion and leave no trail whatsoever. She should have not been able to get so far in one night. Simoom recalled the last time he saw her coming out of the dark towards her tent with soak drenched hair and clothing that clung to her every curve. “Women,” Simoom muttered under his breath, “Let them have a little freedom and they can change sides as quickly it takes to wash their hair.”

          Lampas plan was coming together as he hoped. Birnen had foolishly followed every word he spilt into his ears as if it was truth that fell from the heavens. He anticipated the spy would act the way she did if Birnen gave her opportunity to show her true intentions in the camp. And now that Birnen was occupied over locating his seductive fugitive, he could complete his own mission. The will of Komi and his lord would be fulfilled; however, there was another player he did not anticipated that had entered this game of lies, wills, and ethereal dominance he did not foresee. It was as ancient and dangerous as Komi. Lampas was unsure what had awakened such a demon into this game, but it seemed the entity was biding its time. Carnage demons were known to dwell near areas of devastating battle to soak in the energy given off from senseless slaughter and the blood of the innocent slain. Did Birnen’s attack on the fire nation cavalry catch the attention of this unwelcome guess? And what disturbed Lampas most is that he was the only one able to sense the demon. That meant only one thing, that he somehow was selected to be the catalyst of a forthcoming event that would cause the slaughter of many.

Love, Lust & Lost

A book I wrote long ago. My first novel under the Dimzdale moniker.

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