The Chronicles of Rissai - I
The young man named Rissai trotted through the streets of a city whose name he simply couldn't remember. He had never been in a city before, but he had heard so much about them, and now he had a chance to see just how many of the stories were true!
He stepped over to a tavern, feeling a little thirsty and in need of company, and just after opening the door, he was overwhelmed by music. Somewhat dazed he fixed his sight on a young woman that stood on top of one of the tables, her clothes – oh they mattered not and neither did her face. All that mattered for the moment was her voice and the fiddle's melody.
Without much thought, Rissai took a seat at the nearest table. His jaw dropped so his mouth was wide open, rather disrespectful, really. He had seen much in his life, such as bandits and angry mobs a cold cell or strange wanderers, as well as the bright stars across grand landscapes and jolly festivals during the harvesting season. And he had heard tales! So many tales he knew, of the gods, or of myths, of dragons and elves, all of them which he thought amusing but untrue. Yet this woman's song, it was the most intense thing he had ever witnessed. It had to all be a dream, a beautiful one at that.
The tavern fell into complete silence. The woman and the fiddle had both stopped singing, and it seemed that Rissai was not the only awe-struck person in the room. The woman bowed to her silent audience on all sides, then stepped down from her table and retreated to a corner that seemed to give her some sense of privacy. Rissai watched her, fascinated, undisturbed by the mutters that had now arose. He saw several other instruments in the lady's corner, there was a harp, a drum, and several flutes upon the table, joined by a mug, a cup and a bottle. This woman, apparently not much older than he, he was sure, was interesting. He wanted to talk to her, at the very least talk to her, but he still hesitated, instead he ordered a good ale and watched her from afar, pondering how to approach her. Step up and just begin a conversation? Or compliment her, perhaps, blunt and openly? Or possibly even try to catch her attention by giving a performance of his own!
He frowned and slid a nervous hand through his short hair. Then, after the third ale, he stood and stepped over to the woman, doing his best to look charming. He was good at that.
“G'day lady.” he said to her, but she didn't even look up to him, tuning her fiddle in concentration. She answered though, with her soft voice. “May you never forget what you have heard this day stranger.”
The answer startled him, and he tried to speak but failed to give an answer. He took a breath, giving himself a moment to think. “Well, why would I forget such a beautiful voice belonging to a beautiful woman?” He thought that a good reply, and gave his sweetest smile.
Her eyes, a deep blue that hinted violet, fixed his own. She looked unimpressed by his compliment, and the look was so intense that he struggled to not step back. Or even look away. “Not 'I', stranger, you shall remember” she spoke, “But the song and whatever the song gave you.”
He laughed. It was all he could do. “May I sit, then?”
Rather annoyed, the woman looked back to her fiddle, still trying to tune it. “If you must.”
With a broad smile, he grabbed the nearest chair and sat upon it, leaning back in it and watching how the woman cared for her instrument. Now he also examined her appearance, not quite as nervous as he was before. Her clothes were bright, in reds, yellows and other colors that made a wild but pleasing match. Her hair was long, tied back, and several braids, strings and colorful bands joined the red hue. The longer he observed her, her appearance and her soft features, he smiled more and more and forgot his own looks that were near to opposing hers, rather bland and average.
Then, all of a sudden, she set down her fiddle and looked right at him again. “What do you want of me?” she asked. And even though there was annoyance to be heard, he simply couldn't get enough of her voice. “Just good company, specifically yours lady.” he answered with a smirk. She only rolled her eyes, turned away from him and raised her hand to get the waitress' attention. Rissai glanced to the other woman, so very different, that had brought him his three ales. All of a sudden he didn't feel all too well.
“Aye, Sword-Singer?” the waitress asked as she approached, as she gave Rissai an unwelcoming glance. “Another of the usual.” the melodic voice spoke. The waitress nodded, but didn't quite leave yet, now fixed on the young man. “An when're ye willing t'pay son?”
Rissai stood, knowing this kind of situation all too well. He smiled charmingly at the elder woman. “This lady here just had me so dazzled, I forgot about the troubles of copper and coin.” he said in a smooth voice, and moved a single step back, still with a charming smile upon his lips. “And of course, I am an honorable man that would never steal form such a beautiful woman as yourself.” He moved another step back. “If I had any coppers to spare, that is.” And with that, he ran through the crowded tavern, knocking over another waitress and three chairs, ripping open the front door so swiftly that the poor man on the other side fell over screaming. Rissai could only spare a heartbeat to apologize to the poor sob, hearing the angry shouts from inside. He felt guilty, really, but he had no time. He ran, not even looking around, and disappeared into the streets of the city.
By the time he stopped, somewhere unknown to him, it was raining, but he was rather grateful for it. He leaned against a wall, panting, and recalling those moments of flight. It was a close escape. Too close. And it was all because he paid more attention to that goddess of a girl than his financial state. It was typical for him. But he had a grin upon his face. Despite everything it was worth the rush and the trouble, by all the gods! Even worth almost killing that man at the door. He nodded, standing and glanced up at the sky, dark and threatening. He closed his eyes and smiled.
Well, the day was starting well all right! Surely banned from a wonderful tavern and charmed by a beauty of heavenly grace, it could only become better! Perhaps by finding some sort of honest work, or charming another beauty.
He chuckled, his eyes opening again, and he stepped out of the alleyway he had fled into, suffering the full effects of a cold rain shower. He shivered, but smiled still, and in a frightening way remained as cheery as ever.
The shower faded away after some time, revealing the evening sun. Rissai had found a somewhat protected place at some stables, talking to a boy about horses and how interesting they were. He didn't really find them that interesting, and he had learned far more than he intended to, but he knew, all knowledge would come in handy some day.
As the city's streets became livelier he bid farewell, and dove in to the masses. He felt hungry, but he had no intention to run for his life again. And spending time in prison was rather frustrating, he knew that very well. But he had to either risk stealing – or as he said, 'borrowing' – something, or he needed to find actual work. Both seemed very unwelcoming at the moment. The latter could, though mean for him dry clothes and a chance to repay those three ales that he truly didn't intend to drink.
He shook his head and marched through the city, again and again becoming lost in thought. A harsh grip on his arm made him halt, look back and – There was trouble. But, he had it coming. He saw leather and iron upon the man, and grew pale, winced even. And then the heavy guard spoke what he feared, he had actually seen coming, really. “You are under Arrest!”
Before he could do or even say anything, two other men, meagerly armed in hardened leathers, yet no less strong and impressive than the first guard, grabbed him and pulled him away. People about him started whispering and muttered gossip already about him, poor Rissai, without even knowing his name. He'd never managed to do that so fast before.
A woman spat at him. At seeing who she was, he recognized her as the waitress, and he was clearly impressed that she had actually hunted him down to this place. The surprise faded quickly, though. He bowed his head and let himself be carried away.
The guard house, a rather small and tight building, wasn't as horrible as he had expected it to be. It was, to a certain degree, even cozy, though it lacked the space to be really comfortable. He was bound, set in chains, and then locked in to a tiny room that gave him barely enough room to stretch. It was dry, though, and he could sit fine, so that was really quite all he wanted for the moment. Well, until his belly claimed otherwise. But he kept himself quiet, as there were other troubles at hand, things far more important, such as his very life.
Past dusk, after hours of humming all of the songs he knew, after reciting poems and complaining about how horribly hungry and thirsty he was, someone finally came to let him out of his cell. “About time.” he muttered, as he was released from his chains. He could barely stand, and threatened to fall over as the guard shoved him out of the building. He wanted to walk away, uncaring that no one even tried to ask 'him' what had happened, but he had to stop as his arm was grabbed yet again. “What now-!” he had turned around. All his anger flew away. He looked right at the woman that had dazed him so, that had in his opinion started all the troubles and worries. “Good evening, beautiful lady!” he said, and brightened immediately, but her expression was serious.
“I am Iasha, and you owe me much, stranger.”
“Iasha.” he repeated, beaming. “A name fit for a woman like a goddess in mortal shape! So it was you, in your absolute grace, that…“
Rather rudely, she placed her hand over his mouth, her face showing she was rather angry. “Silence, fool, before I change my mind and hand you back to those ruffians”
He nodded obediently, gasping after she let him go. He said not a word and figured it better to do as she told him.
He followed her to a small building near the centre of the city, appearing as any other except for its proud banners hanging from the walls, showing a rising bird of flame. He hadn't seen anything like it before, and he was so impressed that he stood there dumbly in front of the house. A pain shot through his face, one that faded as quickly as it came. Apparently, something small hit him to catch his attention, and, well, it worked. He looked baffled at the woman that shouted at him to come inside. After recovering from the surprise, he did so, rubbing his wounded cheek.
The inside of the house was surprisingly warm, a fireplace burning brightly to fend off the cold of night that was approaching. Upon the walls were banners and paintings and along with them also tools of war and song. At the far end of the rather cluttered room there was a set of stairs leading upward to more mysteries and wonders. Rissai heard song coming from above. To the woman didn't live alone.
“Sit.” she ordered, and not caring any longer for him, rushed up the stairs that creaked with every step she made. Rissai did as he was told, sitting near the fire as it was soothing to both his body and his mood. He stretched and yawned and felt very happy again, having a roof above his head that kept him dry, a fire that kept him warm, and he was very sure, there was food to be found somewhere and drink as well, all just waiting for him.
Musing, he let himself topple back, and realized in fascination, as he looked at the ceiling, that it bore a grand painting. The image showed a woman, beneath her a snowy mountain and above her, like a ghost or spirit, flew a large bird of flame. But the flames were not mere flames, no, and that made the painting so interesting to him. As the flames spread to the outmost parts of what would be a bird's feathers, the color changed from yellowish-red to green and then to a speck of blue.
He stood to take a better look at the art, walking without ever lowering his head around the room that was crowded with things. The longer he observed, the more he was in awe of the detail of the picture.
“Stop staring.” Rissai nearly yelped at the sudden disturbance. He looked toward the stairs, to the woman Iasha that was sitting on one of the lower steps, and he bore an expression of slight shock. Oddly, she smiled. “It is the image of Vinnel, the Sword-Singer, Flame-Dancer, Daughter of the Phoenix.” she said, and glanced up at the ceiling, too, even if for just a moment.
He blinked, and followed her glance, looking at the painting again. “Vinnel, huh?”
He heard the woman step down the final steps, now hearing the creaking of the stairs. But he was now by far too much in awe of the image of this person, whoever she was. He had seen much in his life so far, but nothing like this, absolutely nothing like this!
“Vinnel rarely walks the mortal world, at least, no longer in these ages.” said Iasha, her voice calm and soft, almost as if lost in memory. The change in her voice made him look at her somewhat confused. But she simply spoke on. “Lore of her is that her guardian, the eternal Phoenix, loved her so much that it did not wish her to die, as she was the last of its children. Thus, they bound, and became one being, and she lived with the purpose to never let anything be forgotten. No hero, king or even a simple tribe of people.”
Rissai listened with great attention. It was not only the tale that was interesting. No. It was also the woman's voice that didn't cease to strike him with awe. He could have listened to her for hours, if not days, without getting tired. But she had ended her story. And it didn't seem as if she would pick it up any time soon again.
The silence was awkward, he didn't like it at all, and so he took a deep breath. “You people, I mean, there's more than you knowing of this Vinnel, right?” The woman nodded, though her soft expression did harden a little at his last words. But Rissai asked on, all too curious about whoever lived here. “Well, do you all sing and dance and such? And was it you, or your people, that painted the ceiling?”
Iasha sighed. Then she hardened again, her voice with a tone of annoyance in it. “We are the bards and deciples of Vinnel, yes. We follow her path with the art she taught and used herself, and yes, it was the founder of this little place that made the grand image of the goddess above you.”
Wait. Goddess? He pales, and awe-struck, he, the little unknowing boy, had to glance up at the image again. “Goddess.” he repeated in a whisper.
“Stop it now.” the woman said. Rissai was confused, and he had no intention to hide that. She cared little, though. “You are not here to enjoy. You have a debt to repay.”
Oh, right. He had tried to forget, and he did, with grand success. But now he was force to remember it all, that tiny cold place had been locked in to, without food or drink...
“You will work here, in this building, and not leave until I allow you to.” He nodded at her words. That was quite fine with him. “Can you cook?” she then asked, and he had to grin at her words, widely even, and he was very sure of himself now.
“I am Rissai, I cook and bake the very finest of things! Name it, and I …” she raised her hand though to silence him. Annoyed, he frowned, but fine. There was little reason to protest now.
“Can you handle instruments?” she asked on. But he couldn't. And he hated not being able to do something he was asked to. It annoyed him greatly. But he had to think of something witty as a reply, rather than admitting to a lack of skill. So he said: “If I can't do it, I can learn it!” and he said it with pride. The woman shook her head, but left it at that.
“How many languages can you speak? And can you read and write?” He didn't get a chance to answer the first question when the second one came, and he had to wince. Speak? He knew what he had to know, and there was no need to babble in any other language than his own, except to impress people. So he knew the High Jalonian rather well, with various accents that he could use. But write? What for? He was silent, pondering how to answer this, but yet again, he had no chance to answer at all.
“No matter.” Iasha said. “You are best to go upstairs and help master Athale.”
Rissai nodded and went quickly up the creaking stairs. On the upper floor, his spirits rose again as he saw that, besides the beds, the place was little different from the room below. A strange figure sat on a stool and had his back turned to him. To the figure's front was a fine table and the person, he could not tell who or what it was, was apparently writing something. Rissai remained silent, ignoring the other people around, and was trying to make out who this person before him was. He or she seemed slender, the bright hair long and plaited, then tied back. And the clothes matched those of Iasha, only finer, more detailed and decorated. Then he saw those ears.
“Elf!” he shouted. The person, truly an elf, and as it seemed a man, too, turned to him, looking rather irritated.
“Please, no need to be so loud.” the elf said in a calm voice. Rissai was at first surprised, but then bowed and apologized over and over. Then he finally calmed down a little.
“Forgive me, sir!” he said excitedly. “I've only never seen an elf, sir!”
The man laughed. “I must disappoint you. Only a part of me is elven blood, but how about we introduce ourselves?”
Rissai nodded hastily. “Of course! I am Rissai, wanderer and adventurer, famous wherever I've been to!”
“Ah, I see.” the not-elf said with a nod and a smile. “And I, Rissai Wanderer, am Athale Windsong, Master of this sanctum of song and tale, and most devout disciple of the Flaming Winds, and not any member of the elven kindred.”
Rissai nodded at every other word, though his excitement did begin to cease. “So, how may I help you, Sir?” he asked, as Isasha did appoint him to help this man.
The Master turned his back to Rissai again. “At first, let us begin with you not calling me 'Sir'.”
“Yes, Sir, I mean…” he was interrupted again. Being interrupted all the time was getting annoying.
“Next, please try to clean up this room. My students tend to create unnecessary chaos within these walls. And don't break any instruments. They tend to be rather pricey.”
Rissai had begun even before the Master had finished speaking; thinking this an easy task as there was, in his opinion at least, little of a mess. But after beginning work, he could see what the master had tried to say. There were scrolls, clothes, smaller instruments and weapons, tools of all sorts, everything lying around more or less hidden from sight. He was amazed what could be found in this rather small place, and how he hadn't seen anything at first. The more he searched, the more he found, and after asking the master about personal belongings, he began being able to apply the things he found to students on his own.
He was quick to learn, and he knew so. He proved it during this simple task as well. And while he worked, he got to know many things, tools of art and war, oils and other things that he had otherwise never cared for. And by the time he was completely exhausted, some time during the dead of night, he finished, and he was endlessly proud of himself.
The Master stood with a smile, bid Rissai to sit and rest. “You've done well. The students are to return soon, their performances finished by now, and they'll feel as tired as you do now, if not more. There is a spare bed below, in another room. I am sure Iasha will show you. You've made my student's day just all the better.”
Rissai didn't quite listen, but he got the gist of it, smiling tired but happy. He stumbled on the stairway and did his best to not fall down, the creaking only barely reaching his tired mind. Then he saw a flock of younger and older people marching toward him, then past him, but didn't really pay any attention.
The last thing he remembered before falling asleep was a beautiful voice and a comfortable bed.
A brutal shattering sound woke him from a serene dream of warmth, light and song. He sat upright, ready to run, but then realized that the sound came from outside, beyond the window that stood wide open and let in both sound an sunlight. He abandoned his thought of flight for the moment, stood and stretched, yawned and slowly awoke. Then he smiled and looked out the window.
When he had come the day before, it was dark and he had no time to examine the area. Now he saw a grand plaza that was filled with people. The first thing he saw though, were people bearing fine weapons and finer clothes, adorned with bells and bands and strings. They fought, or so it seemed, until he noticed that they were dancing. He heard a rhythmic drumbeat, now as he paid attention, and saw around these dancing warriors spectators, all as curious as he was.
The day was young. And his stomach growled loudly. He turned away from the window after some struggle, leaving the small room that that had nothing but the bed and window. He stepped in to the beautiful room that he knew from the past night, and immediately began to search for something eatable. Heartbeats later, he bit heartily into a juicy little apple that he found upon a table, right beside an open scroll. He couldn't read the scroll, to his frustration, but the apple helped against the hunger. To ease his curiosity, he looked about once more. He found a pile of pillows in a more or less open corner. So, happy, he dropped in to it, and took his sweet time observing the ceiling, the image of this goddess he had no knowledge of, listening to the violent shattering sounds paired with soft drums.
He had almost dozed away when the door opened. He barely had heard it, but his trained mind was ready for flight if needed. He jumped to his feet, glancing at the door, and looked at the beautiful but ever-angered Iasha. Her eyes were fixed on him, and it only disturbed him because he knew that it meant trouble.
“Stop fooling around.” she said sharply, approaching him. “You said you could cook? Do so!” And with those last commanding words, she pressed a cloth bag against his chest. He clung on to it, to not let it fall, for she let it go all too swiftly. He frowned, but he was, yet again, ignored. She spun around, leaving the building without another word, just as swiftly as she came, and frustrated the young Rissai even more. He didn't even get a chance to protest! He had to surrender. He sighed, and set the bag down upon the nearest table after clearing it off, then took a peek inside it. There was bread and cheese, some vegetables and dried meat. It was far more than he was used to seeing. He became hungry all over again, so cooking seemed a rather good idea all of a sudden.
He approached the fire that was always burning, found a decent pot and water that looked still fine, set up a wide grin and began to cook with the ingredients he had at hand. It wasn't much, really, as his skills were by far not as great as he claimed them to be, but he was sure that it would be eatable. Just to really be sure, though, he added some apples.
The day passed rather quickly, his belly got full and it stayed so, and he was introduced to some of the students. Apparently, his meager skills in cooking were just fine for the most of them, as they came from backwater towns just as he did, living a rather poor life. He heard some rather dramatic tales of abused youths that were saved by having their talents found by the Master Athale, but also a sole that was quickly told as: 'I was bored and found myself here'. After supper, he gladly helped some of the students with their instruments and notes, and was rewarded with some grand melodies and song. By night, lying in his lonesome bed, he thought of all that had happened, and with a chuckle, he no longer regretted stealing some good ale or breaking a poor sob's nose, nor having spent half a day in a tiny, cold cell. He liked this place. And with a smile, he fell asleep and was granted dreams of care, song and tale.
As the days passed, he got used to his work more and more, and he also took up more duties such as actually getting up early enough to fetch fresh bread or escorting younger students to a performance, primarily to carry along anything needed. He even requested to be taught to read and write, for curiosity's sake, but also he wished to aid Master Athale in any way possible, for he liked the half-elf much and respected him greatly.
He was surrounded by the best of arts, performed by the most talented and skilled of artists, and he was allowed to be part of it all. It seemed as if he could settle. Yes. He had settled...
Rissai looked out the window, pouting. It was snowing, and he didn't like snow. He had hoped that it'd stop after three days, but it didn't. He pondered if wanting it 'not' to stop would perhaps work, but then abandoned the idea, lest he'd make the weather worse by accident. He looked about the prime room again. Most of the students were inside, huddled around the warmth of the fire. Iasha, though, and also the young student Alhannah, were performing at the Lord's court. And that worried him greatly. He had found that the city's ruler was the type of person that he'd play pranks on, the bad sort of pranks that ment harm, even though he had never met this self-proclaimed king. But it was better to not do so. And he knew that Iasha was a fine blade-dancer, so he did his best to not worry at all. Still, he couldn't help but keep wanting to sneak out to follow them.
„Rissai!“ someone shouted. He glanced over and figured that it was a young man named Karad, after his grandfather, apparently. Rissai knew vague tales of some War-hero named Karad. „Please tell us the story with the old man and the fish again, Rissai!“ Karad said, grinning wide. Rissai rolled his eyes. He had much to tell and these people couldn't get enough of it, no matter how often he told them the same stories. It was frightening and fascinating. And he couldn't help but give in to their bidding and tell those tales over and over again.
So he smiled, then grinned, and began the tale of the old fisherman that kept hitting him and other children, and, how in the end, that same old man came to never wanting any fish again. He told the story as he had every time before, making the fisherman sound like an old monster and him like the fairest knight of East Haven. And as every time he knew he was closely watched by Master Athale.
Athale Windsong. The man never told much of himself, nor did he ever leave the building. Despite all this time, Rissai thought of the half-elf as a stranger, one that he respected and liked, indeed, but a stranger nevertheless. All the Master did was teaching the instruments and songs and dealing with many letters and all finances. He had also performed several rituals in the name of the Goddess Vinnel, but never fully. Iasha had always taken over at some point. It was confusing and it felt not quite right.
Just after his story's ended the students wanted more. The Master though, thought it enough. He claimed it was time for practice again and despite protest the students did as they were told and gathered their things, tuning instruments of all sorts and preparing their voices, or searching for a sheet of notes. While they prepared, Athale approached Rissai to have a word with him.
“They are as excited as ever!” Athale claimed with a soft smile. Rissai nodded, but he wasn't sure where this conversation would lead to. He never knew with this man, and Athale, so he thought, didn't like Rissai's tales quite as much as the students did. Athale, though, shook his head, reading Rissai's face. „No. I think a change can be fine. But you seemed worried ever since the two left for court.“ Ah. Rissai nodded. Yes. So it had become obvious that he had been worried for Iasha and Alhannah?
So Rissai answered: “I don't like that try-hard king if I may say so, Master Athale, and you are aware of that. I can feel his bad intentions down to my very bones, really! Like a day of heavy and cold rain.” He was sure that something terrible would happen. His feelings were usually right, and that worried him even more.
Athale only smiled a little more, trying to lighten Rissai's mood a little. “You have come to worry about any performance in the past, young Rissai, so why now? What has changed?” The Master tilted his head slightly to one side, the closest thing he was able to show was something like curiosity. It could have been mocking, though, too.
“I...” Rissai paused. He was unhappy and he hated to admit things like defeat or lack of knowledge. “I just worry because I am sure something bad 'will' happen, Master Athale!” he proclaimed finally, sighing and desperate. There was nothing else he could say.
Athale rose his arms in a calming gesture. “Calm, child.” he spoke soothingly, though being called a child didn't make Rissai any happier. Still, he was silent and listened. “I meant not to offend you, nor did I mean to anger you, but you have no reason nor right to shout here. I had a simple question and expected a simple answer. Now go. Aid the others.”
Rissai frowned greatly, and it was only then that he noticed he had caught the entire rooms' attention. He was furious now. The words spoken to him were calm, but he somehow felt a great measure of arrogance, and he hated any arrogance that was not his own. And in fury, his thoughts spun, though he knew that this was his master, this person fed him and kept him sheltered, he thought for a moment only badly of his half-blood master, someone he usually respected and liked. So, with a deep growl down his throat, he spun away and went up the creaking stairs to aid the students with their instruments and notes. They knew little of what was going on, but they did all they could to cheer him. And yet he denied all aid. He remained grumpy all through that night.
Most of the students had gone to bed and were already soundly asleep, but not Rissai. His anger had changed to worry again, and he stood in his tiny room, looking outside at the snow that didn't cease to come. He pondered which of the gods he could make responsible for the horrible cold, but he could only think of Vinnel. Lore spoke of her being born in the high and cold mountains, upon a peak that had eternal snow. He had grown too fond of that goddess, though, so he couldn't blame her for anything.
He sighed, muttering a curse to the weather. But the weather was only a small distraction; he began to worry for Iasha again. During the past months, she had become a good friend despite her temper, and he hated when friends, especially ones that called him a friend, too, were in trouble. He imagined horrible things, like her freezing in the storm outside, or giving a bad performance and being locked away, or worse, tortured, for having insulted the Lord-King. He shuddered as a deathly chill went down along his spine, and once again he wished himself there so he could know what was happening.
Fatigue hit him at last, defeating worry and fear, and he had to surrender to sleep.
The following day, Iasha hadn't returned, nor did the snow cease. It was impossible to keep the roads clear for long, and it was only a matter of time until the entire city was snowed in. Rissai's worry grew with every passing hour. Master Athale did all he could to calm him, reassuring him again and again that the snow was at fault for her not returning, as truly, only few dared to leave their homes now. But Rissai couldn't cease his worry, neither on that day nor on the three following days, cursing gods, weather and Athale all alike. He had made a plan, and he was desperate for it to work.
Rissai looked back at the two students. They nodded at him, and he returned the gesture, then took a deep breath. He blew out the flickering candle. And it was then very dark. Outside, night was at its peak, and the snow was nearly impassible, reaching up to the lower windows, in some places even beyond. Rissai pondered over the situation one last time, and pondered upon the plan he had made. But his decision had been made. There was no turning back. So he nodded one more time at his companions, then opened the window with some struggle and leapt out, beginning to wade, or swim, really, through the cold white masses of snow.
Rissai had never been on a mountain before, though he could see the snowy peaks in the far distance during clear and bright days. He had heard tales of so much snow that a mortal could drown in it, of the eternal colds that were worse than the most terrible draught, or of winds that were like ice-blades, cutting away flesh and bone. He had never believed any of the tales until this moment. Now he could clearly imagine how it might be upon the high and frozen mountain-peaks. And it just made him hate snow even more.
He and the two others struggled through the deep snow, sinking deep over and over again. Fear struck all three of them every time hey didn't get an immediate answer from a companion, and Rissai's greatest worry was for them to be buried alive under the cold snow. The fear was reasonable; it was snowing unstoppably, and the flakes could be as large as a small child's fist. Falling in to the snow and not getting out quickly meant being covered in the horrible cold and white within a few short moments.
The short trip to the Lord's court seemed to last for days and days. Rissai had doubts, and regrets, he wished to be home and warm. He couldn't see the faces of the two others, but he was sure that their feelings were no different from his own. Out in the dark and cold, out in this storm, it was terrible. He wished dearly to just turn around and go to his bed, underneath the thick woolen blankets. And then he sank into the deep snow again. He shouted, roared, and cursed all things of power so loudly that half of the city would have heard it, if it weren't for that acursed snow that drowned nearly all sound. Before he had finished all of his curses, though, he was freed again, freezing, but the anger still lingered and gave him warmth. With strength of a kind he didn't really like, he pressed onward with his friends, speaking no more.
It was not long after that, that he saw faint lights in the distance, and he led the joyous cries of his companions that saw the nearing palace, too. But he was sure, things were only about to begin now. The lights alone were no proof of this being the King's residence.
But indeed, it was. They had dropped deep into the snow a few more times until they reached it, but it was clearly where they had intended to go. They arrived, feeling miserable, but they lived and still had the strength to press on. And they intended to bring back their missing friends, no matter what the cost. Or so was the plan, anyway.
Rissai made his way up the slope that usually was a set of rich and proud steps, leading to the grand door of the palace. He frowned as he then stood before the grand front gate, fearing that there was no way to enter. He tried to open the great doors, pushing and pulling, but figured they were locked, or perhaps barricaded, or even both! So he motioned to his companions to follow, barely seeing them as they barely saw him, and they followed as he led them around the building. It was another exhausting journey, fighting their way through the snow, but at last, they arrived at a door that Rissai knew as the entrance to the kitchen. He had known that since he entered the city, as it was the sort of information useful for his kind; but all that mattered little now.
He tried to open this door, too, failing yet again with curses, but this time he was not so quick to give up. He pulled a small package from his thick coat, opened it and with blind precision picked out several tools. Moments later, the lock 'clicked' pleasingly. Rissai grinned proudly, happy that he could use both his tools and skills once more. A bad past, really, but it aided him in this moment.
No questions were asked, no answers were given. Rissai opened the door quietly and carefully looked inside. He saw nothing in the blackness of the room, so he found it safe enough. The three stepped inside. Now they had to decide what to do next. Rissai had only ever seen the kitchen. He had no idea how the rest of the Lord's Court looked like.
They discussed this for a while, quietly, taking their chance at warming up and refreshing a little. A few sounds startled them, but they figured that it was only a few mice that had joined them in their misery. They decided then after some discussion that they'd plainly explore the building in hope of finding their missing friends that way.
Rissai went ahead; he was experienced in getting past troubles and avoiding any guards. Due to the storm outside, though, there were only a few people lingering about, and Rissai had found two guards sleeping. He guessed that no one would be able to get around in the streets anyway, and most guards were probably stuck in their guardhouses throughout the city. The same thing could count for any servants. Only those that lived here or worked here before the snow made the roads impassable were now about, and many were sleeping for sure, as the two guards he had found.
This was good. It made things easier, very much so. And it took away much of his fear of being caught.
“Rissai!” he heard in a whisper. He glanced back, fearing the worst of things, but a gesture calmed him. “I hear song.” the student spoke quietly, pointing down a hallway lit by a single candle that withstood the cold. Song, so Rissai hoped, was a god sign. He hoped that it meant his friends were safe. They decided to walk down the hall, approaching the door at its far end, and listened. The closer they came, the more Rissai was sure that he heard Iasha's voice.
They listened at the door, their breaths at a halt. None of them dared open the door quite yet, fearing too much of that what might come. But they listened closely, probably more than they should have, for they heard clear and strong the eternal songs of the Flamesingers, praising Vinnel and all the arts of her's, but also her eternal tale that was said to last, even today. They became dazed and entranced simply hearing it. The dark they were in turned light, damp blackness becoming a wild fire, glowing white with ghostly heat that lashed in wild flames of yellow and orange and red, but cooled in sparks of blues and greens that were no less impressive. It was warm, here, hot even, but it didn't hurt or burn them. No. It eased body and heart, and with all its apparent fury, it had a serene nature deep within, something they felt all too strongly.
A shattering cry broke the trance. Rissai fell to his knees, holding his ears, and his eyes tightly closed. The cry, or scream, or whatever it was, made him feel as if his ears were bleeding or bursting or both. He only had that one horrible sound left in memory, accompanied by a mad ringing, and it wouldn't cease.
Despite his suffering, his face grimace showing his pain, he opened his eyes slowly and carefully, as if afraid that he'd be blinded too. He didn't see much, all in a blur, but he knew he was no longer at the door. No. He was in a grand hall now, and he was sure that the shape before him was a woman. The vague shapes reminded him of the painting upon the lower floor's ceiling, back in the home of the Deciples of Vinnel, the picture that showed the image of a wild woman, the image of a goddess protected by a flaming bird, by a Phoenix.
Something thumped loudly. A pain shot through his entire body. Then his sight failed completely. He thought he heard shouting beyond the painful ringing, thought he even heard his name, and Iasha's voice. But it all faded. He became cold, lost. And then everything was gone.
Rissai moaned. His head felt like someone had hit it hard, and his entire body felt like it had been dragged around without any respect. He sat up, and held his head, hoping to ease the pain a little. To his surprise, though, he felt something wet, and when he looked at his hand, he saw the remains of blood. He swore. Well, at least he knew what caused the terrible pains.
“Rissai?” He glanced around. He was in a dark, wet and cold cell, across from him was a set of iron bars that kept him inside, horribly rusting and dangerous, and there was no light but for a pair of torches that were smoking terribly. He coughed.
“Rissai?” The voice was joined by whispering flame from the torches and lamenting drops from the ceiling. He had no companion in his cell, dead or alive, so he walked to the bars and looked as far as he could in both directions. It didn't help his headache one bit, though.
“Rissai?” he heard again. So he answered. “What?” he said, his voice hoarse. He tried to clear his throat, repeating the question over and over until his voice had an acceptable sound that didn't frighten him any longer.
“Oh thank the gods!” a second voice spoke, sounding horrible, though. A bad cough followed.
“Sush, Isaam!” the first voice said. “Rissai, how are you?” Rissai frowned. Of course, he was in no good state, nor did he feel happy. And he had no idea what had happened after he listened at the door. He had his coat no more and was freezing. And with his coat, his special tools were gone also.
He growled. “Oh, sure. Been better.” he said, rather annoyed, really. He saw nothing of interest beyond his bars and decided to sit somewhere upon the cold stone, somewhere as dry as possible, though it mattered litte. At least the stone was better than snow.
He heard a sigh, even if barely so. “Really, Rissai. This is no time to joke.” the first voice said. And Rissai knew it, of course. But he had to keep his own sprits as high as possible. So he snorted at that and continued the conversation. “Tell me what happened.” At least one of them had to have seen what happened. Or know who hit his head so hard that he was bleeding.
“Vinnel.” the second, hoarse voice said. “I saw her. The Flame-Dancer, Sword-Singer, last of the Phoenix-Tribe.” The student's voice was frighteningly stable during the sentence, but it ended in horrible coughs. Rissai didn't know what to say.
The other student winced, and there was a worried shuffle. “I said shush, Isaam! Don't talk with that fever of yours, it'll kill you!” There was a short silence.”But... I think I did see her too.” Another silence followed, only stirred by the sound of dripping and cracking of flames. Rissai didn't like all this. Ghosts, gods, dragons, and elves, they were things of stories, and in his opinion, they all should stay in those stories!
“I don't know what I saw,” he said at last, breaking the silence. He closed his eyes, hoping to ease all pain within him somehow by shutting out everything. “But I don't think it was Vinnel.” He started to rub his temples, remembering faintly hearing that that would ease the pains he felt through his skull. Then he remembered that it was a drunkard that had told him, but it was worth a try nevertheless. There was silence, until at last, everyone found sleep.
At Rissai's awakening, he looked up at an exhausted face, and his head was upon the lap of that face's owner. His eyes widened, and he was very suddenly awake.
“Iasha!” he shouted, scrambling to his feet to face her properly. She stretched out her arm and placed a finger on his lips, silencing him, and he sat again, shuffling close to her. He just realized that his head was still thumping with pain, and so he held his head again.
“Why did you come?” she spoke quietly, carefully, and her tone carried a sense of deep worry. Rissai didn't like that tone. He liked her better when she snapped at him or was filled with arrogant pride that he endured gladly. Then again, he was very grateful for the softness in the voice, for his head's sake.
“Came to save you.” Rissai claimed proudly. And he was incredibly glad when he found a faint smirk upon the woman's tired expression.
“Some savior you are, Rissai.” She said quietly, and playfully slid a hand through his hair, making a greater mess out of it than it was already.
He shrugged a little, though with a faint grin. “Well, I just wanted to know if I should keep making supper for you or not.” He paused there, hesitating. “Well…” he saw that he had her full attention, and it felt a little awkward. “I got worried.” he said, but he wasn't finished yet. “I mean, Athale said you would be fine, and Athale is mostly right, but…” he struggled still, trying to find the right words. “You know, it's really, really cold, I mean, what if you had just fallen into the deep snow and died on your way back home? So, to stop worrying, I had to…”
He couldn't finish the sentence. He was interrupted by a soft kiss. It was faint, not much, and it was short, but he still had to blush, his entire face a blazing red.
“Shush.” Iasha said, highly amused by his reaction. “I missed you, too.” He nodded, slowly, not quite comprehending what had just happened. He didn't understand it, nor this woman. But he had little time to think, if thinking worked at all. “Now, little Rissai, tell me your tale of my rescue!” she said at last, and still seemed very amused. Fatigue seemed less strong about her now.
He hesitated, but after a reassuring nod of hers, he did what he was best at, and he told the story of their leaving, the never-ending snowfall, Athale's wisdom and the making of a plan, then of the terrors of deep snow and the journey through the dangerous halls of the court. And then he described what he had seen, heard and felt, in all detail, before he found himself in this ugly cell. He watched Iasha all the while as he was telling the tale, but he got little expression out of her. She nodded at the tale's end, and then seemed to ponder. She looked tired again, but not only that. She also seemed unsure.
Rissai didn't like the silence that hung about this place again, nor the woman's final reaction to his story, especially since he did try his best to keep the tale as close to truth as he could. He had been so incredibly glad to see her safe. But now he was worried again.
Finally, she spoke. “What you saw, in the grand hall…” She paused, thinking, while Rissai watched her with anticipation. “It…” she struggled for words, then sighed, surrendering to some thought she had. “It… it doesn't matter. Not now.” She finally finished the sentence, and then nodded, though slow, but she didn't give him the feeling that it didn't matter.
“Fine.” Rissai said calmly, though he was about to shout and yell and burst with all curiosity within him. “So.” he continued, taking a breath. “Why are you still here? I mean, not just with me, that's fine, just…” He frowned, blabbing again. “Tell me your tale, too, Iasha.”
She smiled at him. That was good. Very good, even. Then she nodded. “I suppose it 'is' my duty to tell tales as well, dear Rissai. So listen!” And there she told him what she knew.
Rissai stood in the grand hall, smiling at the young man wearing the noblest of clothes, adorned with gems and jewelry and a fine crown upon his head. Rissai didn't like this person, but he had imagined the King would be far different, far older, broader and uglier, a lot more ugly. But it seemed that the Lord was not much older than he or Iasha. Only his arrogance seemed to have no end, and it didn't cease to make Rissai angry. Still, he smiled, and he bowed.
“I am Rissai, great King, famous beyond your walls and well-known in places such as Fartham's Call, Yorshire and Evendale.” Rissai said still bowing, and he glanced up at the King. “Master Athale tends to call me Rissai the Young. Friends call me Rissai the Brave. Others have named me Rissai the Tale-spinner.”
The lord watched him closely with faint interest. But Rissai had the intention of turning that faint interest into a great one. He took a deep breath, excited.
“Quite some time ago, long before you, my Lord, were born, there was a simple man named Asham. Now, you will have heard of Asham, but in truth he was far different to those tales. Before he was a grand hero he was but a simple man, and new nothing of magicks or beasts.”
“So, a long time before you or I were born, and even longer before the tales of Asham the Martyr were told, there was a simple man named Asham. He was not old, but he was no child either, he might have been my age or possibly even yours, but he knew not yet of the word of love.
His father spoke to him one day and asked: Why is it you reject every woman fair? And his mother inquired: Have I born a man that is one not? But Asham spoke: No maiden I’ve met has been fair at heart and I was to them not man enough. I shall go and seek a wife, seek a woman to please me so that I may end your worries.”
“And Asham left his home so fair, its name of no importance now, and Asha began to wander the world. He visited every town in a day's march, but had no success in finding a wife. Then he wandered to every town within a five day's reach. But still, he found no woman. So he wandered further for a full year.”
“Now, during that year, Asha saw many things! He met the dwarven kin in the deep mountains, saw a living dragon and spoke to a holy man. He smiled upon the grand sea and he learned the whispers of the magicks and he also came to fear the Seeker of Darkness. But still, he was a simple man named Asham. And he still searched for a fair wife.”
“On the last day of that one year journey, he entered one of the forbidden forests. He hoped that amongst the elven-kin he would find a woman fair at heart, for the elves were often mistaken for the children of the gods. He wandered all day and all of the night, and by the next dawning he was lost in mist and shadow.”
“Now Asham had seen and done much during his year, but he remained a simple man. He feared the shadows and feared the mists and feared for his life more so, for the forest was forbidden and yet he had entered without hesitation. So he ran and cried until the coming of night, and all night he cursed and cried until the next dawn. There then, he saw a maiden more beautiful than all he had ever seen before, and he thought this maiden must be a goddess.”
“The maiden spoke: Stand and speak what you seek in this sacred place! And Asham spoke: I sought but a wife in a year and many days more, but instead I find a goddess in this truly sacred place. The maiden spoke then to him: But why does a frightened man seek a wife in a place forbidden to his kind? And there Asham answered: It is but here that I hope to find a fair maiden with a fair heart. I found her not upon the snowy peaks, nor upon the farthest sea. I found her not by scaled beast, and not amongst the secrets of magicks. So that is why I sought a wife so fair within the forests forbidden to man.”
“The maiden was a wise woman, and truly, she was fair as well. Thus she spoke: I shall be the fairest maiden your eyes shall ever see but never your wife. You've met the highest peaks and farthest sea, lived past scale and mystic magicks, but you cry and shiver and you fear shadow and myst. You are no braver than other women are fair, and with no right do you tread within this sacred place.”
“And so it was that Asha left and returned home. He was still young and still bore the simple name of Asham, but he no longer was a simple man. He had learned and became wiser, and many years later, he became the hero known to us all.”
There was a long silence. Rissai had been surprised how intently the young Lord had been listening to his tale, the boredom shifting with every word into growing interest. In fact, Rissai was extremely proud of this. Now he could only hope that this tale affected the Lord as it should. Or rather, he just hoped to not be thrown into prison again.
The silence lasted. Then, at last, the Lord raised his hands and clapped exactly five times. He changed his appearance again to the bored and barely interested brat that Rissai had seen when he first entered the hall, and the arrogance of the highborn was about him again.
“I do not regret giving you a chance, despite your disturbance.” the young King spoke. “The Lady Sword-Singer can be nasty, but I heard her out and truly, there is something about your sorts of people. You, too, shall stay, until the snow passes.”
Now, that didn't quite sound like what Rissai wanted to hear. “Sir, great King!” he said, his voice rising. “My fear is that the snow will never pass!” He knew it wouldn't. It hadn't stopped for the past days, no matter how much he wished it to. And he had learned of things from Iasha. “So I bid you, please, grand Lord! Release us, all three students, the Sword-Singer and I, if we have managed to please you!”
“But then every one of you must please me on their own.” the Lord spoke, standing up from his throne. “Prove to me that your goddess' tales are true. Or rot in my dungeons.” He motioned to the guards that stood ready, and panic rose in Rissai's throat and heart. He was grabbed, and despite all his struggles, locked away.
Iasha frowned after Rissai's tale. In fact, she looked angry. “Who does he think he is, challenging my goddess! Doubting! Insulting!” She flung her arms through the air, furious. “I should have showed him how sharp my blades really are, how precise my blows can be! Accursed fiend! Spoiled filth!”
Rissai stepped back, wincing. He had never seen her like this before, her eyes burning with rage. He didn't want to know how furious she could really get when she wasn't completely exhausted. He raised his hands, trying to calm her. “We either take the challenge or find the source of the storm quickly. Are you sure it is not just bad weather?”
She growled. “By the Eternal Blazing Flames and Ash, yes I 'am' sure, you fool!”
He stepped back further, his arms still raised, but this time he kept them up in defence. “Calm now. You can walk freely through the court. That's good. So you keep searching whilst the rest of us think of how to impress the Lord 'I-Am-Above-Thou'. You will have more time!”
She calmed slightly, and gave him a single nod. “But he 'will' pay for this insult, I swear by the ever-lasting songs!”
Rissai agreed with this. Yes, the Lord would pay for this, if not by her hand, then by his for the fool-king's sheer arrogance, also for knocking him over the head, and locking him up, and for Iasha's suffering.
“You rest.” Iasha spoke, still anger in her voice. “I will see what I can do for all of you. A cell is not the place to prepare a performance, nor to ask the blessings of the Flaming Winds.”
He nodded again. The challenge would be taken then. But he was still worried.
Iasha had old him what had happened in great detail. She had come to this place on Athale's wish, as he didn't trust sending a mere student. Her guess was that he knew more than he cared to surely, as often be the case, but it mattered not. She performed, as did young Alhannah, but they could not leave. The weather made it nearly impossible to return with all of their things. And it seemed like a kind request that they stay the night, but at the next dawn they still could not leave. To make matters worse the king had suddenly claimed that the performance wasn't of good quality, and so they performed again. Still unsatisfied, the King demanded they stay. Iasha had pleaded long with the young King. It resulted in him claiming that they could leave as soon as it stopped snowing, but he still demanded performances as payment for food, water and shelter. They were treated well until Alhannah refused to perform and was thereafter put into prison. In the cold and dark she had lost her voice. Iasha became furious, but she had no choice but to perform until she was at the brink of complete exhaustion. She had to to keep young Alhannah safe. Then Rissai and the others had come. She had another lengthy discussion with the lord King and was able to convince him that Rissai could perform, too. That was the end of the tale as she had then wakened Rissai in his cell and agreed to tell him her tale.
Iasha was sure that the weather was this Lord's fault. She didn't explain why she was so sure, except that it had something to do with what Rissai and his two companions had seen in the great hall. She was absolutely sure it had to do with dangerous magicks. Things that Rissai refused to believe in. Things that made his head spin so hard that he simply denied it. He could tell tales about them. But that was all they were, mere tales.
Iasha had been gone again, making Rissai worry yet again. Then his companions woke, and he worried more as they sounded horrible. Young Isaam's fever had become worse and Yoric didn't sound any better. Still, Rissai told them all he could, and just before he was about to panic, the Sword-Singer returned for their rescue.
“You heard the king.” she spoke with a familiar arrogance, giving Rissai the feeling that she was feeling somewhat better. “They are guests and are to be treated well!”
The guards were ruffians, not liking this at all, but under Iasha's sharp and watchful eyes, the three were led from their cells to comfortable rooms. There wasn't much talk. Each of them was too exhausted. So they slipped in to their beds without a second thought and fell into deep slumber.
“Rissai?” He opened a tired eye, making a confused sound. He had been having a grand dream, and now was disturbed by – well, it wasn't Iasha as he had expected. Not really expected, but rather hoped. Instead, it was a young girl, not too young, but still several years younger than he. She looked horrible.
He sat up in an instant, worried. “Alhannah, you should be sleeping.” he said, his voice as soft as possible. He felt her forehead and her blushed cheeks. “You're burning with fever. What are you doing here anyway?” He quickly got out of bed and tried to lie her down. “Dear gods, scaring me like this.”
“Where is Lady Iasha?” she asked, her voice so faint he barely heard her. She sat upon the bed, but refused to lie down. Rissai looked about the room, hoping to find some water, but then he looked at her again.
“I'll get you something. Water? Or no. Milk and honey is best. Lie down Alhannah!” He raised a finger and gave her a serious look that matched his worried voice, then he rushed out of the room. It was impossible to tell what time of day it was, but he still hoped to find a servant. He rushed through the halls, turning left, and then right, opened several doors or trying to. Yet he found no one. So he began searching for guards, shouting and running. But still, he found no one. So, in fear, worry and doubt, he slowed, beginning to think this was all a horrible dream. He couldn't return to Alhannah, though. He was lost. But if this was a dream, he would wake and all would be fine.
His thoughts suddenly began to mingle with a sound. He didn't notice it for some time, as it was so faint to begin with. Then he stood before a door. Beyond this door he heard a sound, a humming, and realized he had been hearing it for some time now. Caught with curiosity, he slowly paused and leaned against the door, trying to open it. Much to his surprise, it actually gave in to his push and silently opened a little.
Rissai blinked. Then he hesitated. The last time he had a peek beyond a strange door things hadn't gone quite so well. He rubbed the back of his head, feeling the lump that was still there, and made an unhappy face. On the other hand, he thought of finding someone beyond the door, and he really needed help. He nodded, reaching out for the door again.
“Phoenix.” he heard, and paused just before touching the door again. He listened carefully.
“Why, Phoenix?” The voice was male, or so he thought. Yes, he was sure of it. And the sweet hum became an angry screech. He leaped back in fear, slapping a hand before his mouth to stop himself from shouting.
“Ah, yes I did.” the voice spoke on. Rissai approached the door, his heart beating wildly. The hum had calmed again, but he didn't dare lower his hand quite yet, afraid he might shout in fright. He listened. “But I did not expect you, Phoenix. Not like this.”
The screeching began again, angry, furious even. Rissai held his ground, though he was tensed. Still, his heart beat wildly. And he didn't dare to see what was beyond the door. In fact, be began to think it was a bad idea to even be here, listening. So he tried to move. He failed, but kept trying. Then he gave up, and figured his body had denied escape. It didn't make him any happier.
The horrible screeching ended at last. But there was no other sound, save for the sweet hum that had led him here. Rissai attempted again to escape. He let go of his mouth and exhaled, slowly turning away from the door. He carefully set one foot in front of the other, trying to be as quiet a possible, even ceasing to breathe until he could finally get away from here, wherever 'here' was.
He heard heavy boots behind him. Some reflex urged him to run, and so he did. Three long steps he fled then he tripped, and fell flat on his face. He moaned, holding his face. Usually he could fall, roll and then run on again without losing speed or taking any harm. But he didn't here.
He heard the boots again behind him, and he scrambled back to his feet, preparing for another escape attempt. But a simple “No” from behind him made him stop and look back.
He didn't like this person, not at all. The man's face showed he was older than him by several years, but the hair of this person was whiter than that of his great grandmother's. And upon the face, he saw three long scars, as if made by claws, running straight across the stranger's face. And he couldn't even think of how to describe this mans eyes! This mans appearance struck him with terror, and he didn't like it at all. He barely noticed the dark robes the man wore until he caught glimpse of something shining. Upon the man's waist there was sturdy leather belt, and in a fancy leather sheathe was a long dagger. Rissai's eyes were fixed upon the dagger, because he didn't like it either. In fact, he liked it less than the man. There was little light in the area, but he could clearly see that the daggers hilt had a reddish color that metal simply shouldn't have. He tried to back off.
“No.” the man repeated. He sounded older than his face would show, but far younger than his hair suggested, being brilliant white. It was irritating. Rissai tried to back off, still, but his limbs failed him again. He wanted to swear and curse, but even his breath failed him.
“Come.” the frightening man spoke, gesturing to him before turning around. He stepped through the now open door that revealed much light beyond it. Rissai wanted to flee trying hard to just spin and run. Yet he couldn't. His body followed another master, it seemed, and he followed the stranger, silently. Only his heartbeat agreed with his thoughts of fear.
Just before he stepped through the door into the light beyond, he managed to wince, though quiet and miserably. And though it was absurd, he was very relieved that he had his voice back under his own control again.
But alas, it helped him little when he raised his eyes to see a bird, a very, very large bird-like shape, burning in many-colored flames. Or so it seemed to be. A burning bird, wearing flames instead of feathers, burning bright and warm. His voice failed him as did his mind.
~ ... so singt es der Wind ... ~