04 January, 2013

Chapter One - Fears and Deceit - The Witches' Assassin

Chapter One of the TWA! Please enjoy! A word of caution: there is demonic activity in this chapter.... but please enjoy it none-the-less!

The Swashbuckler Disciple,
Mari J. Fahel

Morwynne twisted a lock of curly honey-brown hair out from her face. Her sea-green eyes gazed at a blurred figure in front of her. Her face was distant and pale, as her eyes were swarmed with shadows and blackness. In her mind she felt cold gripping shadows ripping at her body as she desperately cried, longing for comfort, light, warmth, and love! Morwynne’s face grew paler and more drawn back when all of a sudden agony was etched on every feature of it.

She fell to the ground, writhing and screaming, “Help! Help!” Suddenly her breath was knocked out of her and she felt the shadows’ clawing embrace, “Does anybody hear me? HELP!”

“Morwynne!” a far off call of her name caught her attention, “Morwynne! I hear you! It’s me, Jeniah! Can you hear me?”

“Traitor!” cried Morwynne, pushing many hands off her, “Let me go! Let me free! Let me be!”

“Jeniah, go get the Captain!” said a voice, something shook Morwynne’s sweating body, “Morwynne, it’s me, Jat… Help is coming…”

“I don’t need help! Don’t you see? This is not me! Someone’s in danger! Help her!” Morwynne’s vision was overtaken by darkened clouds, as tears flowed down her cheeks. She felt many hands lift her up off the floor, “Leave me! She’s in trouble! It’s not me!”

_____________________________________

Willai stood in a sunlit room, overseeing the courtyard. There was a crowd of people in a far off corner where he knew two of the trio of ministers roomed together in a cabin. Jeniah Claran and Morwynne Gael were known best for their teamwork in ministering for the sick and needy. Morwynne’s specialty was in the spiritual wounds, whilst Jeniah’s was in the bodily wounds. Willai stared, silently at the crowd as he saw Jeniah push her way through the crowd towards a foot soldier. She spoke with him really quickly and he pointed to the tower window that Willai stood, watching through. Jeniah nodded, and spun around towards the tower, her auburn red hair flying in the breeze. Willai took up his claymore and sheathed it behind his shield, and ran down the staircase leading down to the door below. As he rounded on the door he swung it open as Jeniah neared it.

“What is happening?” Willai asked; his heart racing at top speed and his breath shallow.

Jeniah gasped for air and spoke so fast that Willai could barely understand her, “Morwynne is having another vision! It seems to be one of her dark ones! She is ranting and last I saw she was say—“

“—talk to me on the way there!” Willai cut in the sentence, turning Jeniah towards the crowd and nudging her on.

He kept in step with her as she went on, “She was saying things and in panicked pleas!”

“What sort of things?” Willai asked as he and Jeniah quickened their pace.

They neared the crowds when Jeniah spoke again, almost out of breath, “She said ‘Help’ several times, ‘Does anybody hear me?’ and didn’t seem to know where she was, who I was and called me a traitor! She said, ‘Let me go! Let me free! Let me be!’. Do you think that maybe she…“ Jeniah trailed off as the crowds made way for her and Willai.

“It’s possible. But, won’t know for certain until we get there…” Willai stepped in the house and saw one of his new recruits, Jat, who was the third of the ministers, as well, trying to get Morwynne to sit down. But, it seemed the efforts to get her into a chair were a complete and utter failure as she tossed and turned her head like a maddened horse. She paced back and forth, eyes widened and completely black.

“Morwynne? I got help…” Jeniah slowly edged to her and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.

Morwynne leapt away from it in alarm and stared into nothingness, “She has come, the Barrier between us and the Author. Trust will be tested, bonds of friends will be broken, then the Author will send His Spirit Fire upon her, and she will be known as the Gael’s Chorus!”

Morwynne’s eyes rolled back in her skull and she fell to her knees and wept, shaking as if she was cold, despite the burning fire in the hearth.

“Captain…” Jat edged away from the trembling body of Morwynne and eyed Willai nervously, “While she was in this she kept saying it wasn’t her that needed the help… she said someone was in danger…”

Willai knelt beside Morwynne and placed his hand on her shivering back and all of a sudden Morwynne shot up from the floor and in energized glee she beamed at Willai. Her sea-green eyes glimmering with joy and anticipation, “What are we waiting for? We need to help that girl!”

Willai looked at Morwynne sternly. As she stared at his stern expression in wide-eyed wonder, she bit her under lip and frowned, “I’m alright, Captain. Really I am.”

Willai glared at Morwynne as her eyes trailed from his face to his feet, “Don’t give me that, girl.”

Morwynne’s eyes ceased their joyful glimmer and a steely glint replaced it in a heartbeat, then all of a sudden her voice became authoritative and firm, just as if she too were of his rank, “Captain, there is a lost soul in the forest. She is in more pain than I could ever be! Sorion is attacking her and the Author has called us to retrieve her. His Spirit Fire shall fall upon her in His time, and we must be ready for it! Do you understand?”

Many of the guardians murmured from all directions outside, as Morwynne stared deep into Willai’s narrowed eyes with her steadfast ones.

Willai turned abruptly to the crowds and snapped at them, “Make yourselves scarce!”

The crowds nodded and went their separate ways. Willai looked back at Morwynne who smiled with a false portrayal of innocence. Jeniah and Jat had remained in the cabin, looking away, but Willai knew they were still listening intently. His left eye twitched in its annoyance.

Morwynne’s smile faltered and her face grew dark, “Willai, she’s on the brink of death…”

Willai harrumphed and pointed a firm finger at Morwynne with a creased forehead being revealed, “We aren’t done with this,. I’ll return and we’ll discuss this! Nobody is to follow me, understand?” He hastened away and began giving out orders to men to prepare horse.

Jeniah and Jat went around the room and prepared themselves for the newcomer.

Morwynne leaned on the dinner table and gazed directly in Jeniah’s eyes, “Jeniah, I know someday, I’ll prove myself to be a warrior. Just you wait!”

Jat scoffed.

Morwynne shot a poisonous glare at Jat, “And what do you think is so funny?”

“Willai didn’t train you for good reason… and you know it!” Jat replied, neatening the work desk.

Morwynne smirked, “Captain Willai doesn’t have any authority over me…”

Jeniah looked around for some herbs and mixtures, “I beg to differ, Morwynne. He is your mentor in this fort. Your father gave him full responsibility over you until you return to Onedath with him…”

“Dash my father! He never once communicated with me after he sent me away to Oraeda for ‘safety’. It turned out Oraeda was no safer than Onedath!” Morwynne lazed her arms on the table, “And anyway… Maybe Willai didn’t train me because he wanted me safe and to honor my father’s request!”

Jat shook his head exasperatedly, “Morwynne, Morwynne…. Don’t you remember Willai trying to train you when you were able to lift a sword?”

Morwynne’s jaw tightened as she clenched her teeth.

Jeniah leaned closer to Morwynne’s ear, “Or when he beat you black and blue with a blunt blade?”

Morwynne didn’t answer, but pushed herself away from the table and walked towards her bed and pulled out a bundle of clothes from under the mattress, wrapping something. She placed it on the table and unveiled the item, revealing it to be a sharpened dirk made by one of the greater blacksmiths in the Guardians’ fort.

Jeniah dropped a vial of some concoction as the contents scattered everywhere and stared open-mouthed at the dirk, “Is that—“

“Aye, it is…” Morwynne smirked mischievously and glanced at her buckler shield in the far end corner.

Jat smirked along with Morwynne, “Oh, so you’ve finally decided to use that? You goin’ with him, Mor?”

Jeniah looked from Jat to Morwynne, “You both were in this together?”

Jat chuckled, “I won’t tell your secret if you don’t tell ours…”

Jeniah blushed rosy red, “Fine…”

Morwynne looked cluelessly at the two of them until she heard heavy footfalls outside their door. She threw the bundled clothes on top of the dirk and spun around to see Captain Willai nearing the door. He looked from one false innocent face to another. Jeniah’s face burned cherry red, Jat grinned sheepishly and Morwynne smiled as believably as she could. All that and the mess on the floor was quite a sight and revealed them as untrustworthy, for sure.

Willai’s wide-eyed stare became one of a cynical glance at the trio of misfits, “Be prepared to house the girl in here for a while, ministers… And Morwynne, I’ll see you later.”

“Yeah… bye!” she grinned spotting the pommel of the dirk on the table and sidestepping to hide it.

Willai’s eyes seemed to have caught a glint of the shimmer of the pommel but he didn’t investigate it further. Rather, he turned on his heel and strode off. The three off them let out heavy sighs of relief at the turned back of the Captain as he went further and further away from the cabin. Jat held his head and chuckled softly. Jeniah began to clean up the floor. Morwynne ran to the buckler on the other side of the room and then gathered the dirk. She ran outside to see Willai saddling up to ride off. Morwynne quickened her pace to get a random horse she led it out into the courtyard.

Willai spotted Morwynne saddling up her random horse, “Whoa! No! And where do you think you’re going?”

He eyed her skeptically as she hid the dirk behind her back, grinning widely, “Didn’t I tell you? I’m coming with you!”

“Ahh… no! No, no, no and no!” Willai took the horse’s reins and began to lead it away, “A battle zone is no place for you, girl!”

“My place…” Morwynne tried yanking the reins from his hand, but he raised it above his head and smiled wryly, down at her flustered face, as Morwynne craned to try and get it. Frustrated, she relented and continued, “My place is with the girl, I feel drawn to her! And I’m a spiritual minister… the girl needs spiritual attention immediately!”

“I said no…” Willai led the horse back to the stables and lifted the reins off it. Morwynne smiled as he strode away and secretly saddled the horse up and when Willai was distracted with other things she mounted the horse and rode on past him at full speed. Willai was almost thrown off balance as he tried to calm his horse from the excitement. Morwynne halted at the gate and smirked behind her.

_______________________________

Willai remained, watching that stubborn girl of a Morwynne mounted on the horse at the gate. She was smiling that deceiving innocent smile which made him shake his head, exasperatedly. He knew Morwynne wouldn’t ever listen to him, but why stop her? She seemed set on going, and if she wanted to make a fool out of herself, who was he to prevent it? Stubborn as he was, he had his limits. Jat walked towards Willai, with his blade sheathed in his belt, and he stood by Willai’s side.

“Well, Captain, at least she didn’t steal your claymore…” Jat stroked the pommel of his blade as he spoke.

“She couldn’t anyway. She doesn’t have the stealth for it,” Willai strode quickly to his horse, and continued to prepare for the ride.

“But, Captain… she did steal your dirk from the armory,” Jat eyed his feet, nervously and snickered.

Willai smiled wryly, “I thought so…”

“You knew it was gone?” Jat’s eyes widened as he thought, What else does he know? That I mischievously helped her by trying distract him with slime bombs? Oh Author, please no!

Willai turned to Jat and patted him lightly on the back, “We’ll discuss this later…”

When Willai turned away, Jat froze where he stood, squeaking, “Help…”

_____________________________

Melody twisted in the shadows, suffocating. Cold and afraid she cried, “Traitor! Let me go! Let me free! Let me be!”

Tears streamed down her face and she tried to reach out of the shadows, “Help me! Please! Mercy!”

Suddenly a shout of victory echoed as if in a far off land and light pierced the darkness like a blade forged in the Heavenly Kingdom. A sweet song of a marching army, marching on to the victorious beats of love rang all around her and became nearer and closer as the light grew brighter. Two hands pulled her out of the shadows as she fell into the embrace of a warm cloak. Honey-brown curls cascaded into Melody’s face as deep sea-green eyes delved into hers.

“In the name of Jeshua, you will depart from these parts, Sorion!” a firm voice of one with authority spoke in the blurred forest. A scream of agony as Sorion sounded his retreat.

Melody’s body, exerted and in agony slumped onto the girl’s shoulder, as her weight started sliding to the ground. Blackness engulfed her vision once more and she saw no more.

_____________________________

Morwynne stood there, holding the full weight of the girl in her arms, “Captain…help me!” Morwynne’s knees buckled under the girl’s weight. The girl’s face was concealed by a rimmed hat, which hid most of her facial features. Her chocolate brown curly hair took a peep out from under the hat. The girl’s body temperature was almost freezing. Morwynne wrapped her heavy cloak tighter around the girl.

When Willai was quite certain they were alone he hastened towards Morwynne, struggling under the weight of the unconscious girl. He lent a hand in lowering the girl to the ground temporarily.

Morwynne gathered herself as she went to lift the hat off the girl’s head. She barely got it over the eyes when she let out a drawn gasp and with tear-rimmed eyes covered her mouth with her hands.

Willai looked at Morwynne in confusion, “What?”

Morwynne remained silent as a single tear rolled down her cheek. She had lost all sense of thought process and words to speak.

“Morwynne!” snapped Willai, glaring at her.

Morwynne snapped out of her revelry and wiped her tears away, smiling as if she had the most joyous news in the world, “Sorry...”

She continued to lift the hat from the girl’s head and revealed the tanned freckled face of Melody Gael-- Morwynne’s cousin. There was the long lost vagabond Guardian who never stayed in one place for very long. She’d visit every now and then, but seven years ago-- she was ten years old-- she and her family disappeared and didn’t return. Everyone assumed the worst, but here she was! Deep bloody gashes were cut into her arms, leaving a bloody mess in the cloak and staining Melody’s jerkin. Morwynne laid Melody on the ground and knelt beside her and placed her hands over the unconscious form and her heart. She closed her eyes and focused on the cold shadows rising to her hands. She still sensed a lot of evil on Melody. She focused deeper then felt beastly cold claws grip in the presence of the girl’s mind. She tried to pull out when the claws pulled her in as if yanking her by the throat into the shadows. In the shadows Morwynne saw a pale, naked feminine figure in an overshadowed corner. Bloody gashes on her arms and chest, she shuddered in the chill of the dark. Morwynne walked closer to the cringing form and reached out for her when something yanked her back. Light shone in her eyes and she lay, spread-eagle on the ground beside Melody, so traumatized that not one sound left her mouth.

_______________________

In the fort Jeniah saw Captain MacNell carrying a wrapped form in his arms, running towards the cabin. Jeniah kicked the stool from under Jat who sat, lazing back. He fell to the ground and glared up at Jeniah who nodded towards Willai’s hurrying figure. Jat hastened to stand up and helped lay the wrapped form on the bed. Willai breathed heavily as he stared into Jeniah’s eyes in concern.

“Where’s Morwynne?” Jeniah heard the hint of dread in her own voice when she spoke.

Willai seemed to hear the edge in her voice too so he looked down at Jeniah, “She’s--”

A loud clatter from behind the two of them alerted them of another, as Willai turned to face Morwynne picking up the mop and bucket that she tripped over, “She’s here.”

Morwynne lay the mop gently on the wall as it slid off and clattered to the floor again. She left it there and went to help Jeniah with the new patient. Jeniah unwrapped the cloak to reveal the sliced body which oozed blood and shadows. Morwynne stooped to touch it when the sound of a clearing throat, alerted her of Willai’s rising temper.

“If you would, Morwynne Aari Gael, follow me to my quarters,” Willai’s cool tone aired a sign of caution for Morwynne who bit her lower lip and looked, pleadingly at Jat and Jeniah as Willai stepped out the door. Jeniah shook her head, solemnly as Jat grinned widely and shrugged. Morwynne’s head lowered in shame as she turned and followed the Captain, as if marching to the death.

______________________

In Willai’s quarters, Morwynne saw, near the fireplace was a chair and on the chair was a switch stick. Willai lifted it from the chair and eyed Morwynne pointedly. Panic rose in Morwynne’s heart as she backed away slowly.

“I know what you’re thinking, Captain… Giving you orders was very bad. And disobeying was even more so… but didn’t I have enough of a punishment on the mission for both of those?” Morwynne tried reasoning with the man who tapped the switch in the palm of his hand. Fwap! Fwap! Fwap! The sounds of the oncoming tanning pinned Morwynne to a corner, as she tried to evade the maddened man.

“Turn around…” Willai’s steady and darkened voice said, as he smiled wryly.

“J-just put that down…” Morwynne eyed the switch warily.

“What? So the stubborn little child isn’t prepared to reap the consequences of her actions? Tsk tsk…” Willai’s smile became almost overshadowed with harmful intent.

Morwynne looked desperately at the door that stood, slightly ajar then back up at Willai whose smile became a wry grin daring her to run for the door. She looked down at Willai’s legs which stood firmly in place. Those were strong that wouldn’t keep him down long enough. Her eyes trailed higher to his crotch. He’d have that protected at all times, very painful for his attacker. Her eyes trailed higher his stomach seemed to be unprotected but his arms were strong and he’d block her attack and turn her around in a heartbeat. Then her eyes trailed higher to the chest, which would only knock the wind out of him for a second… Would that be enough time to run? Her eyes trailed higher the neck was a good place to punch, and unprotected but again his hands were fast and he’d block her attack and spin her around. Then lastly the face… let’s just not even go there! Only in Morwynne’s wildest daydreams would she actually fight against Captain Willai Nikev MacNell. There was no way that she’d be able to pin this man down, being an untrained Guardian. Resigned to the punishment, Morwynne turned around and then the moment she did pain streaked at her rear end.

___________________________________________

Three days Melody was unconscious. Sometimes the ministers noticed a flicker of fear across her face. Willai stood in the doorway as Jeniah strode to him.

In a low voice, she spoke to him, “We’ve tried everything… Her pulse is normal, her cuts are healing, and she is more than recovering physically. Nothing seems to be abnormally wrong with her, except those looks of fear. I don’t think she’s gonna make it, it would take a miracle from the Author to save her now.”

Light footsteps leading towards Melody alerted Jeniah and Willai to another’s presence. Morwynne knelt beside Melody’s quivering form and hovered her hands over the girl’s heart once more. She felt the cold claws of shadows crawling up her arms, again and shut her eyes. All of a sudden she opened her eyes to complete blackness. The chill of the dark permeated through her skin as she walked through the darkness. Shuffling sounds and agonized cries made her back hairs prick up as she saw the nakedly exposed form of the pale girl, curled into a tight ball. Morwynne outstretched her arms as the shadows dissipated and began to be penetrated with a grey light. Shadows crept up her arms and legs and into her mouth. Morwynne fell to her knees but shadows kept coming, gathering, clawing, strangling and in these shadows were whispers, whispers of her worthless past life. Morwynne tried to scream for help, but found none as she shut her overshadowed eyes and finally opened them.

Morwynne stood in the courtyard of Oraeda’s Guardians Fort. Chickens clucked in satisfaction for their chicken seed. She stood much shorter than she was used to, but in her shortness she saw a small boy, snorting in laughter as he hid behind a wagon. In his hand was a slingshot and he stretched it far and long, aiming at an unsuspecting chicken.

“Jat Claran,” Morwynne spoke up, making the boy jump and spin to face her, as she approached him, “What are you doing?”

Jat grinned in his mischief and beckoned to her, placing a finger on his lips. Morwynne knelt behind the wagon with him as he stretched the slingshot again. Jat shot it at the chicken’s rear as the chicken bawked loudly. Jat snickered as Morwynne giggled at the sound. The two children continued to wreak havoc across the fort and guffawing at the noises and sounds of the chickens’ indignant bawkings after them.

Jat smirked, “Let’s move this up a step, Morwynne…”

“How?” Morwynne’s eyes glinted with glee as she expectantly waited for Jat’s answer.

“Aim at the Guardians….” Jat winked.

Morwynne aimed at men’s helms, women, holding clothes baskets, and the tops of an accident just waiting to happen. The baskets would fly out of the women’s hands in alarm as clothes flew in all directions. Then Morwynne spotted a child running towards one of the women and underwear falling over his eyes. The helmed Guardians would hear this loud clanging noise, throwing them off-balance. Morwynne and Jat laughed hysterically as the chaos unfolded. Then the accidents would be like mud hitting people’s clothes and water splashing in their faces, but the person standing in the way of that was…Oh no! Captain Willai MacNell turned his head in all of the directions where the chaos took place and then his eyes fell on Morwynne just as Jat hid, just in time. Willai looked sternly at Morwynne and beckoned with a dangerously calm motion of his finger.

Morwynne closed her eyes tight and opened it back in the shadows where they continued to claw their way through to her heart. Then suddenly she was drawn away from the darkness again and Morwynne saw a flood of memories. Two girls running after a lightly armored warrior, playing tag and running into—the coven stole a girl from a family of guardians raising her to be a weapon against—two girls played with wooden blades as if they were growing into being—the boy smiled on the altar, a confident glimmer in his eye as a woman spilt blood from his staked heart… Morwynne fell back onto the wooden floor and cried in sorrow.

“Jeniah, come, quickly!” Jat’s voice broke through the absorbed darkness.

Morwynne was forced up as she knelt on the floor, “On your knees!” Two hands were laid on Morwynne’s shoulders as Jat spoke again, “Author of all, cast the shadows that are in Morwynne’s mind at this moment away from her. Mend the wounds that she just procured from entering the realm of shadows, and taking it on herself to help Melody. Comfort her from the things she just witnessed and hold her accountable for what she tried to bear. Amen.”

The shadows dissipated from Morwynne’s vision as she saw Jeniah’s stern face level with hers. A swift slap in the face from Jeniah alarmed Morwynne as Jeniah spoke firmly, "You don't take on the burdens of another without asking for help from the higher source, you hear?"

Morwynne looked in the doorway as Willai’s silhouetted form moved away from the door and he walked away. She threw herself spread-eagle on the floor, muttering, “It’s gone… it’s gone… It’s gone! It’s gone! It’s gone…”

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