someone called from far away in the darkness, ripping Andorra from the
arms of the big strong hero who had a hold of her.
came again as she watched the last of her dream fade away.
her eyes slowly, Andorra could see that she was in her bedchamber with, to
her disappointment, only Kolletta her maidservant as company.
a dream, she cursed to herself. Deep down she knew that being the
fourth-oldest heiress of the Knight Sir Kaladan, she had little hope of
being betrothed to any of the heirs to a royal of higher rank than her
sire. Sadly she had met all the heirs of all the knights and squires on
the planet and none of them had stood out to her liking. With three older
heiresses getting first choice she was doomed to have to settle for the
meager leftovers. And that didn't include the heiresses of the other
knights and squires that she had to compete with.
well, she sighed. Maybe in the next life.
good, Your Highness, you are awake," Kolletta said, opening the
window to Andorra's bedchamber. "I have prepared your azure skirts to
wear to lessons. His Knightship has requested your presence for morning
feast. There is a guest who came to the hold late after lamplight who he
wants to introduce to you."
is he?" Andorra asked climbing from her bed and stepping behind her
dressing blinds where Kolletta helped her out of her nightgown and into
her girdle and skirts.
name is Baron Kirken but he rules no star system his title warrants, at
least that is what I have been told by Elad who served them ale last
evening. He has his heir with him, Korel, who is just a few seasons older
than you if my eyes have not deceived me when I glimpsed him this morning
in the hall. He is quite the rogue too if you will forgive my
pondered Kolletta's words as she looked on while the last of her skirts'
laces were tied. They then went before the mirror as Kolletta did
Andorra's hair and make up. She gazed at her reflection, seeing the
beautiful brown haired, blue-eyed elven princess that she was, barely
three hundred twenty seasons of age, adolescent for a gray elf.
curiosity for the stranger and his hair went strong more so for the heir
wondering how long they would be at Benaroya Hold.
in that regard was said in front of Elad, highness," Kolletta replied
when asked on the matter. "But there was a considerable amount of
luggage brought with them and they were given the west wing guest
west wing guest apartments?" Andorra asked surprised. "But they
are used only for guests who are staying at least a season. Are all of the
guest chambers full?"
no, highness. In fact only two of them are occupied."
was all very strange. If Lord Kirken and his heir Korel were going to stay
that long surely her sire would have known in advance and then she would
have heard about it before now? Hopefully there would be answers at
was no more discussion on the matter as Andorra waited impatiently for
Kolletta to finish applying the little eye shadow and lip gloss her sire
allowed. Once it was done, Andorra headed out the door, holding her skirt
as she went, and down the steps into the feast chamber.
were twelve people sitting at the table as she entered the chamber and
took her place between Adriana and Azoria, her sisters who were on either
side of her in age, Angelia and Aorynette her oldest siblings sat on the
same side in the chairs closest to their siress. To Andorra's left on the
other side of Azoria was their sire Sir Kaladan and across the table to
his left sat Arden, Adrek and Asyn, her older brothers. Next to them sat
the guests: Baron Kirken and his heir Prince Korel.
Kirken had the air of royalty about him and he dressed the part in a teal
tunic with gold seems, puffed sleeves with several rubies embroidered into
the cuffs and breast pockets. His silver hair was cut short and well
combed while his beard was trimmed neatly. His expression was pleasant but
serious while his build was broad like a terran, not slender like an elf.
he was a half-elf, Andorra thought, turning to look at his heir for the
Korel was roguish as Kolletta said, with a long silver mane tied back in a
ponytail. The beginnings of a beard trimmed into a goatee accentuated his
rakish smile. His steel colored eyes seemed to pierce hers as he watched
her from across the table. His tunic of night blue with silver seams and
puffed sleeves was decorated with several sapphires. He also had a broad
build that seemed to want to burst from his tunic but his pure elvish
features gave no doubt of his untainted heritage.
sire introduced her as she settled into her chair and explained that she
was always last so that her entrance was most memorable. Andorra blushed
profusely as Baron Kirken let out a billowing laugh and stated that she
was a wise princess who would undoubtedly catch the heart of a Duke's heir
for her trouble.
I am betrothed to Prince Gershwyn, third heir of Baronette Serrat,"
Andorra's oldest sister Aorynette volunteered, always monopolizing the
attention of guests.
your sire has told me, congratulations, milady." Baron Kirken nodded.
"Having met the Prince only once I am convinced it will be a good
match for both you and your honorable household."
could see the amusement that had flickered in and out of Baron Kirken's
eyes and she knew exactly why it was there. Prince Gershwyn and Princess
Aorynette were a perfect match because they would betroth someone to
maintain their reputation, rather than for love. Andorra knew that most of
these betrothals were quickly plagued with scandals and the couple would
get a reputation for providing the commoners with amusement. Both of them
were also self-centered and pompous perfectly living up to the popular
opinions commoners thought all royals were.
thoughts were interrupted by Angelia asking how long his lordship was
going to be there at their hold. Angelia had always been the curious one
and Andorra could almost kiss her second oldest sister for it.
your sire's permission Princess Angelia, easily until the middle if not
end of next season," Kirken replied bringing his goblet to his mouth
for a long swig.
Prince Korel be attending lessons with us then, your highness?"
do not know any reason why that cannot be arranged. What are your thoughts
on the matter, Korel?"
prince seemed to look over at Andorra when he answered, "As you wish,
then it is settled," Baron Kirken said, cleaning the last bit of food
off his plate with a roll. "When can he start?"
if it pleases you, your highness," Angelia replied unable to hide her
see all of you have finished your morning feasts, so off to your
lessons," Sir Kaladan commanded. "Andorra, please take Prince
Korel with you, since you are both roughly the same age your lessons will
heart drummed in her chest in excitement but she remained outwardly calm
as she gave her sire the old, "Yes milord," curtsey and headed
out the feast chamber's main doors with Prince Korel in tow.
walked silently down the corridor despite Andorra's many questions. She
didn't know where to start and didn't want to come across as being
unmaidenly. She decided then to let him speak first which he did as she
finished her thought.
must have a hectic life with so many brothers and sisters, princess."
laughed despite herself. "Do you not have any brothers or
two younger sisters but they live with my siress on Scarsdale," he
sire is the Baron of Scarsdale?" Andorra gasped for she knew that it
was one of the star systems in the Realms capital province of Tristani. It
was a great honor to rule anything in that province.
the Baron of Scarsdale's name is Guiderius Houdayne," he answered.
"We only live in one of the outlying holds on Scarsdale Four."
must be hard being away from your harem for such a long time."
Andorra couldn't imagine being away from Benaroya Hold for anymore than a
do miss my siress and sisters dearly but my sire says it is necessary for
me to be presented to all of the royals he has acquaintance with." As
he spoke the words, Andorra didn't think he was very happy about it.
wondered silently what his sire did instead of ruling the solar system he
was entitled to, but she couldn't ask. Such a private question would be
unmaidenly and she refused to be scandalized for curiosity's sake.
through her lessons she found herself losing her train of thought and
looking over at Korel who was always diligently studying. He was an enigma
to her, one she was determined to unravel.
is, if Angelia would leave them alone long enough. Already the sage had to
move her older sister away from Korel because she continued to whisper
questions at him. But Andorra knew that as soon as mid-feast came Angelia
would fall on him like a raven on a dead rat. She couldn't let that
happen. So just before it came time for the sage to dismiss them, Andorra
cast little spell that she had learned for just such an occasion.
as she whispered the last words and pointed at Angelia, her sister, with
one hand over her mouth and one on her stomach, Angelia shot up and ran
from the classroom. Everyone in the room began whispering and when the
sage realized it would take some time to get them settled down again, he
dismissed them for mid-feast.
was not very nice," Korel commented.
blood ran from Andorra's face in shock at the thought of doing something
he would disapprove of.
her reaction to his words, he said, "But I only wish I had thought of
it myself." And he gave her a grin.
laughed with relief and replied, "You also know the spell?"
was one of the first I learned during my short time at the Magus Academae,"
were an apprentice at the Magus Academae?" She couldn't believe he
had even been to, much less attended the Realm's school for wizards on the
capital planet of Tristani Prime.
about a hundred seasons," he said simply, in a tone that suggested it
was all he would say on the matter.
you teach me some of the spells you know?" she asked giving him the
eyes that her sire could never refuse.
you want to learn magic, why not ask your sire to send you to Tristani to
take the test?" he suggested.
the Magus Academae only took fifty new apprentices every four seasons,
every applicant had to take a test for admittance and you could only take
the test once, she thought.
do not want to become a wizard," she answered. "I just want to
learn some spells so I can impress people and my sire refuses to hire a
tutor for me."
you should heed your sire, princess," he remarked. "Spells
should not be cast merely to impress people."
sighed resignedly and didn't pursue the subject but Korel, seeing her
a few spells would not hurt," he remarked and he was almost blinded
by the smile that lit up Andorra's face at his words.
thank you," she squealed with glee. "I will be responsible with
those spells, I assure you."
was again at the table for mid-feast except Angelia who, her siress
explained, was mysteriously ill, letting her eyes rest on Andorra for a
brief moment. Andorra knew she was in trouble but decided it had been
worth it because if Angelia had been there Korel would not have offered to
teach her some spells.
it was that her siress called Andorra to her sitting room where she was
scolded thoroughly and restricted from leaving the hold for five cycles,
which meant she could not ride her griffon Liala.
she spent the time with Korel learning to cast a light spell at the end of
an ordinary staff. It took her four cycles to memorize the spell while the
entire fifth cycle to get the spell right enough to work. The bright flame
that appeared at the end of the staff neither hurt her eyes to look at nor
burned her when she touched it. It was however as bright as a small
candle, that Korel promised in time and with practice, could become as
bright as an unshuttered lantern.
the next half a season, Korel taught Andorra about a dozen spells that she
wrote down in a book that she hid under her bed. She was a fast learner he
told her and only once they had almost been caught when a web spell went
amiss. She had hiccupped while casting it and it missed the barrel she had
aimed it at instead it pinned one of the hold's other guests birds to the
hold's outer wall. Luckily Korel was there to show her how to cancel the
spell and release the bird. Once it was free it flew away and Andorra
never saw it again.
two became the best of friends, even when they weren't meddling in magic,
they were never apart for very long. Then came the day that Andorra was
summoned to her siress' sitting room where she had not been to since the
day she had gotten in trouble. So she was naturally worried when she
knocked on the door and was told to enter.
sat both her siress and her sire. He had just returned with Korel's sire
from where she did not know. They bade her to sit across from them and
when they saw her discomfort explained that she was not in trouble but
they had something very important to discuss.
you remember Viscount Galeron who visited us on the first part of last
season?" her sire asked.
course she remembered. How could she forget how he had filled their hold
with his entourage and nearly feasted them into poverty? They were still
repairing the stables that a pair of his heirs had accidentally set
I remember, his highness," was all she said in reply.
have just returned from his castle where we discussed a betrothal between
you and his second heir, Rakyn."
my," she replied in shock. Thinking hard she remembered Rakyn for he
had been with his sire at the hold. She had thought at the time that he
was rude, pompous, and a fool. He was always trying to show off when her
and her sisters were around and she had then dismissed it as immaturity.
This, however, shed a different light on the whole thing.
would be a match good for all of us," her siress explained.
did you tell him?" she asked her sire and she could see his
discomfort at the question he had hoped she wouldn't ask.
told him that I would have to talk to you on the matter first but I didn't
foresee any reason why not." As he mumbled the last words his eyes
were on the floor in guilt.
knew that if her sire ordered her to become betrothed to Rakyn, she would
have no choice but to obey. She also knew that normally he would never
have offered her into a betrothal she didn't want but this was an
opportunity that most maidens of her station would kill for and if she
refused, she would bring scandal to herself and her harem. This was
something that she refused to do.
then there was Korel who she cared for deeply and had hidden hopes of the
two of them becoming betrothed. She was sure he felt the same way even
though they had never spoken outwardly of it. It was the answer to two of
her dreams, one wanted the other unwanted. She hoped to betroth someone of
a rank such as Prince Rakyn held but didn't want to betroth someone
I consider the matter before I give you my answer, sire?" she asked
but she already knew what the answer had to be. She just wanted to stall
for a little while.
course." Sir Kaladan nodded. "But I must have your answer within
sire," she agreed.
she headed out to the hold's courtyard where Korel had been waiting
anxiously for her. He quickly asked what was said, but her only reply was
a soft request to ride with her.
the backs of two griffons they headed east past the Whispering Woods and
the towering White Plume Mountains to the edge of Gold Dust Lake. They sat
in the sand where Andorra tearfully told Korel what her sire had told her.
His reaction was not what she expected.
that is wonderful news," he remarked with a smile.
"Congratulations. It could not have happened to a better
only made her cry more as she realized he didn't share her feelings.
do you cry, Andorra?" he asked honestly not knowing the answer.
"I thought this is what you had wished for."
wanted this to be with you, you big brainless half-orc," she sobbed
hoping it would make him admit his true feelings for her.
his shock obvious. "You do not know what you say, Andorra. We are
friends and that is all we can ever be."
Do you not care for me?" she challenged.
than you will ever know," he answered warmly. "But we can never
be more than friends."
it because you are betrothed to another?" she inquired
I am not. I would have told you. Please don't push me for an answer I
cannot give. Just believe me when I tell you friends is all we can ever
she could press him further, there was a loud rustling in the bushes
behind them and they both jumped to their feet. Korel pulled a sword out
of his saddle sheath.
hulking orcs emerged from out of the foliage, each brandishing shields and
spears, and they immediately began to spread out. Shaggy manes of hair did
little to conceal their ugliness, and their lips could not hide the jagged
teeth protruding from their out thrust jaws.
your griffon and flee," Korel ordered.
without you," Andorra returned, her eyes dry and lips moving silently
but quickly. She thrust out her hands at one of the orcs and it was
covered in a glowing web it could not escape.
began to shout at the orcs in a language Andorra didn't understand but
then the orc in front of Korel replied in the same language. There were
several more exchanges between them then the orc suddenly thrust his spear
at Korel. But Korel parried it with his sword while touching the orc's
animal hide shield with his free hand and it burst into flames. The orc
squealed in surprise and threw the shield aside and gave Korel another
thrust with his spear that was again parried. But this time, with the
shield out of the way Korel came forward and landed a left jab into the
orc's face sending him staggering back.
then Andorra let out a scream as two orcs grabbed her and began pulling
her into the nearby bushes. Distracted by this, Korel did not see the orc
he had been facing recover from his blow and come back forward.
orc's spear sank deep into Korel's arm, causing him to howl in pain and
drop his sword. Andorra cried out as she saw Korel get hit and it drove
her to fight more viscously, if vainly, with her captors.
orc continued forward pressing his advantage at his now unarmed foe. Korel
made no attempt to pick up the sword but instead stood his ground and
emitted a deep growl. The griffons took flight and the orc stopped his
advance when he saw Korel's eyes turn bright red. Then, before the orc's
eyes, Korel's body began to change. His neck began to stretch while his
body began to expand, his cloths disappearing, wings spouted from his back
and horns from head. Then in a flash of light a towering steel dragon
scowled down at the orc who Korel had been fighting.
on the petrified orc, the dragon headed through the bushes where Andorra
had been taken. In her struggle she had seen Korel change but had fainted
from the sight just before he began to move. Seeing the dragon approach,
the orcs holding her let go and tried to flee but they were cut in two by
a giant claw.
Andorra awoke she found Korel the elf lying next to her, blood seeping
from his wounded arm. His breathing was shallow and his eyes were glazed.
had to get him help right away she knew but she couldn't leave him to get
a cleric from the hold because it was too dangerous to leave him alone and
it might take too long. So she had to get him back to the hold.
she went to get the griffons, which had returned after the beach was
empty, she couldn't shake the memory of Korel turning into a steel dragon.
She had heard of polymorph spells that turned the caster into any creature
they desired but she didn't think he had time to cast a spell.
the question from her mind, Andorra pulled the griffon by their reigns to
Korel and with great effort she put him in the saddle. Taking a rope from
his saddlebag, she cut it with his sword and tied his hands together
around the griffon's neck then his feet to each other under its chest
behind its eagle's talons. That and the magical charm the griffons used to
keep a conscious rider in the saddle would be enough; she hoped to keep
Korel from falling to his death. She mounted her own griffon, and with
Korel's reins in hand, kicked its flanks and they were off. Several times
during the trip she glanced back at Korel, his arm still dripped blood,
his face grew paler by the minute and Andorra became more and more
they landed they were met by the cleric and most of the hold, for one of
the lookouts in the towers announced their approach. Korel was carefully
removed from the saddle and taken to the cleric's rooms nearby with
Andorra not far away.
by questions from both sires, she quickly explained he was wounded
fighting off several orcs who had attacked them. They would have asked for
more details but Andorra refused to leave Korel's side where she silently
prayed to Daemyn, the god of the dead, not to take him yet.
cleric announced that there was a spell on Korel that blocked her curing
spells and until it was removed, she was helpless. Baron Kirken
immediately ordered transportation be made ready for him and his heir
only. Sir Kaladan obeyed without question, having his own personal hover
carriage made ready.
they were loading Korel, Andorra tried to climb in as well but the Baron
ordered her out and she knew by the tone in his voice he was to be obeyed.
With only the Baron and Korel aboard, the hover carriage left the Hold.
Kaladan ordered his daughter to follow him and he led the way to the
library where he closed the door behind him. Alone, he asked her to tell
him the entire story in as much details as she could remember. She told
him everything except their conversation details and Korel turning into a
was hit by the orc's spear and dropped his sword when I passed out. When I
awoke, he was lying near me and the orcs were dead. So I put him on his
griffon and returned to the hold." When she finished she waited
silently watching her sire pace before her, deep in thought.
Kaladan dismissed her and she tiredly went to her bedchamber surprised at
how exhausted she felt. When she arrived she was met by Kolletta who
helped her change while bombarding Andorra with questions she was too
tired to answer so she remained silent. Finally, it felt like a season
later, she crawled into bed and despite her worry for Korel, fell into a
awoke with a start late the next cycle, quickly dressed, with Kolletta's
help, and went to the feasting chamber where her sire sat brooding with
just a goblet as company. He looked up and gave Andorra a small smile
which she returned as he asked if she was hungry. She said she was and
ordered a servant to bring her food. They waited in silence until the food
was brought. Because they were between mid and evening feast it consisted
of cold food, breads, and cheese mostly.
scarfed it down as maidenly as she could until everything that had been
put before her was gone including the griffon's milk in her goblet. Her
sire chuckled saying she had the appetite of a lord rather than a maiden
but promised not to tell anyone. Thanking him for it she asked if there
was any news of Korel.
as yet but the guards I sent to the place you were attacked have
returned," he announced. "They found the places where the orcs
had been killed but there were no bodies only bloodstains on the ground.
From the fresh tracks that were found it looked as if they were carried
away by other orcs but they were long gone by the time my guards
was about to continue when a guard came forward, bowed, and told Kaladan
that his carriage had just entered the hold's outer gates. He then thanked
the guard and dismissed him with a wave of his hand then turned to Andorra
who had anxiety in her eyes.
us go together to get the news." And with that he left the feasting
chamber with his heiress on his arm.
felt her hold tighten as they entered the courtyard in time to see the
carriage come through the hold's inner gate and stop before them.
emerged from it and came towards them, his face expressionless. He had
obviously not slept since he left but he only looked mildly haggard for
it. Standing before Kaladan he looked at Andorra and said that thanks to
her quick wit and steady head, Korel would live.
Andorra asked where he was, Kirken told her not to worry, he was with
those who could heal him. Then he asked if he could speak to Andorra alone
which Kaladan grudgingly agreed to let him. Kirken waited until her sire
was safely beyond earshot then turned to Andorra.
told me exactly what had happened and how he had defeated the orcs,"
Kirken explained. "What do you remember exactly?"
knew exactly what he wanted to know and wondered whether she should tell
him but she saw in his eyes that her hesitation told him everything.
see," he replied to her unspoken words. "Have you told anyone
what you saw?"
she answered shaking her head. "I would never do anything that could
then you understand the dangers he and I would face if our true identities
was at that moment that she realized what she had seen wasn't Korel the
elf polymorphing into a steel dragon, but Korel the steel dragon
polymorphing back from being an elf. Which meant Baron Kirken was also a
steel dragon in disguise.
she was little, she had been told tales of knights and dragons, but she
had always thought that that's all they were, just tales. Then she thought
about those tales and in them the dragons were always evil, never once the
hero. She knew without a doubt that if she had seen a dragon before that
day with Korel, she would have seen it as evil and probably fainted. That
was why she had fainted when she had seen him return to being a dragon
because it was what she had subconsciously been taught to do.
all of this going on in her head she gave Baron Kirken a smile and said,
"Of course. I care about him too much to let him be hurt because of
foolish tales told to young ones at bedtime."
he grumbled. "He told me the two of you were in love."
said he loved me?" she stammered not wanting to believe she had heard
he said he loved you and you him but you must understand something
Andorra, you two are completely different kinds of creatures. He will live
three of your lifetimes and we die when our mate dies. Also you could
never bear him heirs. I do not even want to think about what kind of
creature would be spawned if you tried. So you see, your love for each
other is foolishness and it will only break your hearts in the end. If my
business here was finished I would take him away and never return but it
will not be for another half a season at best."
Korel will be coming back?" she asked hopefully.
he will return in two or three cycles when he is well again but I want
these foolish notions of love to end, Andorra. When we leave, we will not
be returning in your lifetime and you will not be coming with us," he
reproached gently and walked away.
knew he wasn't saying these things to hurt her, he was just being honest
but it still hurt none-the-less because he was right. Her and Korel could
not build a future together. That night she cried herself to sleep
mourning the loss of what might have been.
woke her the next morning and Andorra joined her harem for morning feast
where her brothers and sisters bombarded her with questions. She answered
all their questions as simply as she could and when they finally ended,
Andorra asked where Baron Kirken was.
sire explained he had taken the hover carriage earlier to fetch Korel and
bring him back to the hold. Andorra tried to hide her excitement at the
news but was unable to concentrate when she returned to her lessons. All
she could think about was seeing Korel was well, with her own eyes.
he returned the next cycle, he nodded curtly to her and walked off when
she had greeted him. She had felt like she had been punched in the stomach
and she ran to her bedchamber in tears, crushed.
she emerged later on she was determined not to let him know how much he
had hurt her and give as good as she got. But he thwarted her again by no
longer coming to lessons and avoiding her scowl during feasts. She became
increasingly moody and her brothers and sisters began to avoid her. Her
siress would have said something to her about it but Kirken promised she
would return to the way she used to be when he and Korel left.
the orcs came.
was heading towards the stable to visit her griffon when she saw the group
of orcs being escorted by her sire's guards into the main hold. Curious,
she followed the group inside through the main hall and into her sire's
audience chamber. Both her sire and siress were there sitting on their
elaborately carved oak thrones and standing beside them was Baron Kirken
flanked by Korel. There were twice as many guards as usual in the chamber
while the orcs were only a third of that in number with only two of them
armed. Kirken stepped forward to translate.
of the orcs, Andorra assumed was their leader, began to speak in
unintelligible growls, barks, and grumbles.
turned to Sir Kaladan and said, "He says he has been sent by the
Great Marrok, Chief of the Big Tooth Tribe, to demand the one who cast his
heir into the land of Baka be turned over to them before lamplight this
him, I am sorry for the loss of the chief's heir but had he not attacked
my own heiress, her escort would not have been forced to send him into the
great land of Baka," Kaladan replied and Kirken translated.
listening to the orc reply, Kirken said, "He says they had trespassed
into Big Tooth Land to spy on their tribe and when the chief's heir
discovered them he was cut down before he could defend himself."
is a lie!" Korel shouted.
Kaladan roared at Korel. Then he turned to Kirken and said, "Ask how
then did my heiress' escort get wounded by a spear if the chief's heir had
been unable to defend himself?"
relayed this to the orc and when the orc replied the Baron seemed to argue
with him before turning back to Kaladan.
says perhaps it was self inflicted."
that Kaladan burst into laughter. Before he finished, Kirken came up to
him and whispered something in his ear. Kaladan nodded and Kirken returned
to where he had been standing.
the chief's heir sent himself into the land of Baka after he could not
defeat my heiress' escort, who was half his size, in single combat. Since
the escort's blade had not been stained with blood when he returned how
did the chief's heir get sent to the land of Baka?"
course, Andorra thought to herself. When she had gone to get the griffons
at the edge of the lake, she had found the orc that Korel had first faced
sprawled deep in the ground in the middle of dragon's giant claw print. He
had been crushed not stabbed or slashed so they could only prove that her
and Korel had been there not that anyone had died when they were there.
orc was obviously angry when this was translated to him and his reply made
Kirken's eyebrows rise.
says that our fancy words will not deny the great chief Marrok his
vengeance and that if we don't turn over the one who sent his heir to the
land of Baka then he will send all of those in your great walls to the
land of Baka."
Kirken finished translating, the orcs turned and left.
I guess that is it then," Kaladan sighed. He motioned to one of his
guards, "Send a message to Baron Serrat explaining what had happened
and that we may have to deal with some local orcs. Ask him to send
whatever he is able as soon as he is able."
you think they would really attack the hold?" Kaladan asked Kirken.
would not be the first time orcs have done so on other planets,"
Kirken replied. "Does the Big Tooth Tribe have a lot of
latest estimates give them about five hundred or so," Kaladan said
right off the top of his head. "They are the largest clan in the
region but we have never seen them use anything bigger than hand held guns
and grenades during their battles with other tribes. I think we can handle
anything they throw at us."
why ask Serrat to send help?" Kirken asked.
you never underestimate an enemy, even orcs."
in tight midnight blue breeches, a sky blue short-sleeved jerkin under a
deep blue doublet and jet black buskins covering her feet, Andorra helped
guide the hold's twelve thousand citizens, who were unable to take up
arms, into the siege shelters.
shelters were built deep into a hill next to the main hold giving each
harem a two bunk bed chamber that included a pot and bath chamber in each.
They were all self contained, like a starship, with their own independent
power supply, air and water circulation system and direct communication
system to the planet's capital of Weepingdale.
shelters were being occupied to protect the citizens from being hit by
anything the orcs might clear over the outer walls of the hold. It took
almost three times as long to get everyone in the shelters as it had in
the seasonal drills because this time the people knew it wasn't just a
drill. So they had to get as many personal belongings as they could carry
together, some had to go find harem members on the other side of the hold,
while others, mostly those betrothed to someone in the hold's citizen
reserve, refused to leave their loved one's side and many of them had to
be carried. There were even a few who just flat out refused to leave their
homes and Kaladan himself was forced to go and order them into the
was the following cycle after the meeting with the orcs that their army
arrived under the cover of a magical fog that Kaladan's own wizard could
Kaladan released a dozen or so automated cyborg displacer beasts, that the
Realms used as scouts, to ascertain their numbers. All of them were
destroyed but not before the video images they sent back was analyzed and
Kaladan had a good idea what they were facing.
didn't look good. The Big Tooth Tribe must have convinced several other
tribes to help it because there were at least three thousand warriors
outside the hold's outer wall compared to the two thousand Benaroya
numbers weren't what worried Kaladan; the hold was designed to allow the
defenders to fend off a much larger force than they were facing. It was
the presence of Realms issue artillery and siege equipment that they
should not have. The man-portable particle cannons alone were enough to
make Kaladan's job near impossible even with the diamond steel walls of
the hold being three swords thick.
had overheard all of this before she was ordered into the shelters but she
had other ideas. Instead she commandeered a suit of Elf combat armor and
made her way up onto the outer wall. With the helmet closed and its
polarized faceplate completely darkened, no one could see her face.
reservists, armed with plasma rifles and swords, manned their positions
behind arrow slits in the wall that gave them a wide arch of fire while
exposing them as little as possible. These positions were completely
enclosed within the wall, while those above them were opened to the air in
order to keep the enemy from climbing over. That was where Andorra was
between the upper battlements she could only see the faint glow of
campfires through the fog that even made the multi-optic sighting in her
helmet useless. She was pulled back behind the battlements suddenly just
as several laser blasts hit the outside of it. The soldier who saved her
life pointed at his helmet and put three fingers that Andorra knew to be
combat frequency three on her comset, so she switched over and nodded.
you asleep during training?" the soldier asked. " Or are you
just as dumb as an ogre?"
had to fight down the desire to lash out at him for talking to a princess
that way because she knew that he had no idea who she was.
just figured since I could not see them, they would not see us" she
is just a bunch of griffon droppings," the soldier scolded.
"When we took part in the Tabors Quest Exercises two springs ago, our
division's battlemage laid down just such a fog, which, to our amazement
only impeded the units we were facing, not us. So remember, they can see
you as plain as day."
turned her eyes to the crest on the soldier's left breast which marked him
as on of the one hundred twenty soldiers her sire had to provide to the
Baronette's Battalion in the form of an infantry company in the time of
war. On his right breast was the crest of Benaroya, a screaming griffin
clutching three arrows in its left talon and skull in its right while its
lion hind quarters stood atop a headless skeleton.
is your rifle and sword?" the soldier challenged.
weapon-smith was already gone when I arrived so I was unable to get a
rifle and my sword was being mended after I broke it during training last
season but it had yet to be finished."
was silence for a moment and she could see the gruff looking lord through
his faceplate talking but she couldn't hear what he was saying. Motioning
to him that she couldn't her him, he put up a finger to wait and continued
talking while looking over her shoulder. She turned and found another
soldier coming towards her with a rifle and sword in his hands which he
handed to her. She nodded her thanks sheathing her sword at her worst and
cradling the rifle in her arms the way she had seen others do.
you go," came over her headset. "Now take up your position again
and try to keep your head down. We are scheduled to start firing back
soon." Then he continued on along the wall.
wondered where Korel was as she crouched down, tucked her rifle into her
shoulder and aimed it out into the fog. Aligning her right eye with the
rifles telescopic, multi-optic targeting sight she searched the ground
below for a target. She silently thanked her older brother Adrek for
teaching her how to use such a weapon as she clicked off the rifles safety
and activating its charge pack.
heart pounded in nervous anticipation but she kept her rifle steady
despite the fear she was starting to feel. I should have stayed in the
shelters where it was safe, she berated herself silently. But she quickly
dismissed the thought knowing it was too late now. She started to think
about what it would be like to meet Daemyn, the god of the dead, but she
quickly dismissed that thought as well not wanting to curse her chances.
right everyone", came over her headset. "We are going to fire
plasma missiles hoping to burn off this cursed fog so continue to hold
your fire until the order is given."
message had just finished when a hail of missiles soared over Andorra's
head and began exploding in the orcs' positions. Liquid fire splashed over
the area igniting clothes, flesh, metal, anything it came in contact with.
The heat from the fires did succeed in burning off the fog but it was soon
replaced by black smoke. But the defender's multi-optic sights could see
through the smoke.
took in the scene before her in morbid fascination as the charred bodies
of hundreds of orcs littered the field next to the smoldering hulks of
several vehicles that by the looks of their remains were missile carriers.
She found a missile carrier that had survived the missile attack and it
was suddenly hidden behind a cloud that appeared from nowhere.
missiles," someone shouted over Andorra's headset. "Take
quickly ducked behind the barrage and explosions echoed around her.
Someone's cries of agony burst through her headset and she quickly changed
frequency but found it imitated there as well, so she changed it again and
again and again. It was the same on every frequency but soon orders began
being shouted over the screams to open fire on the approaching orcs.
grabbed her rifle and returned to her firing position but the shock of
what she saw kept her from firing.
as far as the eye could see were charging towards the walls with dozens
siege towers in tow and carrying hundreds of ladders.
herself loose of the awe she was feeling at the sight, Andorra aimed her
rifle at the orc horde and squeezed the trigger. The plasma rifle shook
mildly with each shot but she ignored this as she sent blast after blast
into the approaching enemy.
a different orc with each shot still didn't seem to make a difference in
Andorra's eyes. They just kept coming closing the distance between
themselves and the wall with astonishing speed. Several missiles streaked
out from the hold and hit the closest siege tower at its base sending it
toppling forward onto dozens of orcs. The orcs around it ignored those it
fell on and just went around it, continuing forward. Then they were at the
top of a ladder banged against the outside edge of the wall in front of
Andorra and it began to shake mildly as orcs began to scale it towards
her. Leaning forward, she held her rifle over the edge, pointed it down
along the latter and began firing. She pulled it back when she sensed
someone standing over her and when she looked up she saw a soldier holding
a pair of thermite grenades. She could see the smile on his face as he
activated both of them and dropped them over the side of the wall. There
was a muffled boom s they detonated at the base of the latter and it fell
away from the wall. Then she was alone again as the soldier continued on
down the battlement with a sack of grenades in hand.
went back to firing into the crowd of orcs below and the latter was never
replaced. She then spied three missiles leap from the attackers and climb
towards the wall. Without thinking she put one in her sights and began
firing at it until it detonated in the air. The other two struck the
position to her left with an ear-shattering explosion, which vibrated the
wall beneath her, and something landed on her legs with a metallic clang.
Looking back she found an arm lying across her legs that had been blown
off someone at the shoulder. She jerked her legs and kicked it away from
her in disgust then she looked over where it had come from and gasped.
were body parts, some recognizable, some not, spread out over the area
blood pooling beneath each piece. The battlement itself had been torn
jagged by the explosive force of the missiles, smoking from the heat.
leaned against the side of the battlement as she tried to fight of nausea
and the overwhelming urge to faint. Gulping air like it was water she kept
both at bay as a loud roar echoed over the battlefield, drowning out the
sounds of combat.
out over the parapet she saw a pair of steel dragons swooping down on the
orcs and breathing their fiery death into the enemy.
cheer went up over the comset from the defenders galvanized by the sight
of Korel and Kirken killing dozens of the enemy on each pass. Andorra's
heart soared seeing Korel grab the top of a siege tower and topple it
before it could reach the wall.
was pulled away from the sight when something out of the corner of her
eyes to her left. Turning she found herself looking face to face with a
towering orc holding a huge club at the ready. She tried to bring her
rifle to bear on him but he knocked it out of her hand with his club. She
then pulled at her sword as she ducked the next blow and she jumped back
in a defensive stance preparing for the next.
it came, she put her sword up to parry it but it was too powerful for her
and her sword went flying over the parapet. She watched it in horror,
knowing with it went her only chance of survival.
turned back to the orc who was swinging again this time the club struck
her left shoulder but it glanced off the top and slammed into the side of
her head. Sparkling blackness filled her vision as her helmet flew off her
head and she tumbled over onto the edge of the parapet. When her vision
cleared she looked in time to see the orc looming over her, club raised to
deliver the deathblow.
let out a scream and instinctively kicked out with her right leg as hard
as she could. It connected with the orc's knee and it let out its own
bellow of pain as it stumbled a few steps back.
still ringing from the blow she'd taken, Andorra climbed back to her
unsteady feet and tried to get away from the orc by heading down the wall.
The orc, however had other ideas as he grabbed her by the hair, pulling
her back towards him.
let out another scream at the pain of her hair being yanked hard. The orc
turned her around to face him as he raised his club high over his head and
gave her a crooked toothed grin.
was the last thing Andorra remembered about the orc as something grabbed
her around the waist and lifted her into the air.
looked up and saw that Korel had saved her once again from a certain death
glanced back at the receding battlement where she had stood moments before
now occupied only by the body of a headless orc. She relaxed in Korel's
rear talon as he headed for the main hold where her sire was sure to be.
they approached the courtyard, what she saw shocked her. The entire
courtyard was covered with wounded soldiers and rivers of blood. The dead
were pulled to one side by adolescent heirs and piled up against a wall
while their weapons were put in another pile where they could either be
redistributed or destroyed, which ever was needed.
cleric's adepts scattered at the sight of Korel, tripping over bodies in
their haste. Korel set Andorra down on the steps of the main hold, being
the only clear place in the courtyard, winked one of his big yellow dragon
eye at her and leaped back into the air to return to the battle. Just as
he disappeared from Andorra's sight everything went black.
a voice echoed, pulling her from darkness.
opened her eyes slowly, squinting at the bright light that met her and
looked up into the eyes of Korel the elf. Her body felt like it had been
trampled and her head certainly about to explode. But even with the agony
she was in she managed a weak smile.
I guess that is two I owe you," she gasped softly, pain lancing
through her with each word.
am always at your service." Korel smiled back, choking back tears
upon seeing the dark purple bruise that covered the left side of her face
and neck and the dried blood at the edges of her nostrils.
sire said you loved me," she said, each word a struggle. "Is
not talk," he replied, "save your strength."
this true?" she repeated.
it is true," he sniffed tears flowing down his face.
she mumbled as she slipped back into unconsciousness.
her sire called as she rose from the depths of blackness.
her eyes opened, she found her sire looking down on her, his face ragged
from worry and exhaustion.
we win?" she asked softly.
my little warrior," he chuckling in relief as well as at her
question. "We did at that."
am sorry I disobeyed you," she breathed.
not worry yourself about that," he stammered. "I am very proud
about what you did."
could tell from the look in his eyes that he meant it and she smiled her
thanks for he had never said that to her before. It felt good to hear.
cleric that she didn't recognize came forward with a chalice that he
handed to her sire that then brought it to Andorra's lips. The first
swallow sent shockwaves of pain through her but the pain faded as she took
a second swallow. When she had finished the rest of the chalice, her body
was warm and tingly. A healing potion, she deduced.
few moments later she felt totally refreshed as if she had just woken up
from the best sleep of her life. She looked around and found herself in
her bedchamber with both her sire and siress along with Kirken, Kolletta,
and Korel. Despite him looking as if he hadn't slept for several cycles,
he smiled brightly at her with love in his eyes. She returned the smile
and asked how long she had slept.
sire looked uncomfortably around the room at all the faces and then turned
back to Andorra. "Nine cycles" he said simply.
was incomprehensible to her as she sat up not wanting to waste another
cycle in bed. She was dressed in her favorite emerald nightgown but it
didn't stop her from heading straight behind her dressing blinds, while
ordering Kolletta to bring her something to wear, neither did the protests
of everyone in the room who wanted her to stay in bed.
have spent enough time in that bed," she replied curtly. "Now
unless you all want to be here while I change, you will have to excuse me.
I will join you all momentarily."
shuffled out but she was too busy climbing out of her nightgown and
donning the petticoat and skirt Kolletta had brought her. After she was
dressed and Kolletta had done her hair and makeup, there wasn't any sign
on her that she had been injured, she went to her window and gazed down at
Benaroya Hold. Its citizens scurried like ants, repairing the damage the
orc army had done to it using repair equipment and carpenters that had to
come from somewhere else. Supplies were being brought in by V.T.O.L
transports and after they were unloaded, they were loaded with the debris
she turned away from the window and left her bedchamber heading for the
feast chamber where she knew everyone was waiting for her. When she got
there, she took her place at the table and asked her sire to tell her what
had happened after she was knocked out as the servants put food before
attacked the food as maidenly as she could as her sire explained that the
force the Baronette had sent to support the hold didn't arrive until the
second cycle of the siege. The air cavalry company dropped their infantry
into the hold where they reinforced the wall and the twelve assault
transport crafts began tearing gaps into the orcish horde for nearly half
the orcs withdrew but they were pursued by the air cavalry company's
crafts and the hold's six centaur armored troop carriers that had waited
inside the main gate incase it was breached. Kaladan doubted the orcs
would ever attack another hold on Weepingdale again.
three hundred had died and another eight hundred wounded defending
Benaroya Hold while the orcs, it was estimated, had lost a thousand
warriors with another thousand wounded. The orc ladies and maidens had
just finished carting off the last of the dead two cycles ago so the
retilling of the fields outside the walls had only just began. Kaladan had
ordered that the anniversary of the last day of the siege be a feast day
from then on and he ordered a statue built in memory of those who gave
their lives in the hold's defense.
he was finished she told her story, omitting the parts that she knew who
the dragons were and her rescue by Korel. Her father explained that part
though and said the dragons flew away when the Baronette's force arrived
and hadn't been seen since.
suggested that if all the tales she had heard about dragons were true then
they were probably passed out on a pile of treasure where they would stay
for hundreds of seasons, the lazy beasts that they were. Then she gazed
mischievously at Korel over her goblet as she took a long pull of the
juice in it seeing his "you'll pay for that" look as reward.
everything had been said, she asked to speak to her sire and siress alone.
Kirken and Korel left the feast chamber and went outside into the
courtyard to wait.
Andorra emerged sometime after, she asked Korel to walk with her and
headed through the hold's inner gate. Korel followed silently as Andorra
led him onto the wall to the parapet where she had fought from.
gazed out over the charred, black fields and broken black stumps that had
once been trees, recalling the battle she had been in, in her minds eye.
She turned to Korel throwing herself into his arms and wept for the horror
of it all. He held her silently, letting her shed her tears, surprised it
had taken so long to vent.
her sobbing subsided, Korel handed her his handkerchief so she could wipe
her eyes and blow her nose. Returning to lookout over what had once been a
battlefield, this time with their arms around each other, Andorra told
Korel what she had talked to her sires about.
am going to turn down Prince Rakyn's offer of betrothal so that I can
attend the Realm's Royal War Academae," she explained. "I want
to earn my own title and vassals, not betroth myself into them."
think that is an excellent idea," he replied certainly. He knew that
any challenges thrown at her while taking this path, she could easily
when you leave," she continued, "I will never see you
the shock, Korel kept his composure. "I understand," was all he
you?" she asked turning to face him. When he hesitated she explained.
"Your sire was right that we are only fooling ourselves with notions
of love that can never be allowed to flourish. It is like having an heir
that is locked in a room his entire life given only means necessary to
survive but nothing else. It would be cruel and my heart needs to be free
of such bindings if I am going to have the harem I want once I have earned
the title I am satisfied with. I want my heirs and heiresses to be
conceived out of love not necessity. So you see, I must let you go if I am
going to achieve these things. Do you understand?"
took his face in his hands and kissed him then she said, "I do love
you, Korel. You will always have a special place in my heart. I hope that
the dragoness you find to have hatchlings with will share with you the
love we share."
and Kirken left five cycles later and Andorra never saw her love until she
was on her death bed almost eight thousand seasons later.
became the Duchess of Tristani when the previous duchess died without
heirs or heiresses able to replace her. So King Alymaster awarded her the
title and she left it in the capable hands of her oldest heiress Zhalykia.
her life she wrote dozens of tales where dragons were the heroes that were
widely popular with the next generation of Realmers. It was the groundwork
for the cycle when the dragons emerged from hiding and took their place
among Realm society.
this cycle dragons remain well sought after for their knowledge and their
loyal friendships and have given the Realms more achievements then could
ever be listed here in these pages.