Fried Fly Productions

The Library

Wild Magic

Chapter I

To the moon, a lone wolf's cry

Echoes across the land.

From mountain tops and glaciers high,

To valleys deep and sleeping towns.  


Time moved slowly in the vast Irish mountain ranges, the sun seeming to take an eternity to slip its last blood red rays below the horizon, causing the last of the warmth in the air to dissipate. Mist twisted its translucent limbs 'round the thick weatherworn trunks of ancient trees, intermingling with dark green corrugated leaves and finger-like branches. Animals moved quietly about their everyday work, collecting berries or stealthily stalking their prey.

An agonised scream rang out, causing all the animals that heard it to freeze in fear and seemingly melt into their surroundings. Again the shrill cry split the air like a thunderclap during a storm. The cries resonated from a small, tumbledown old stone and thatch cottage, nestled into a nook at the foot of a mountain. After several minutes, the strength in the screams ebbed to sobs, and a new set of lungs challenged the world.

Inside was dark and cold, the only source of heat and light a small open fire, next to which stood a small rustic crib. The flames twisted and danced as it they were alive, consuming the wood that fuelled it like a starving fox. It cast a flickering golden-red glow, which fell upon an elderly woman, clad in worn skirts of hemp and woollen shawls. In callused hands she held a new-born babe, blood from the womb still wet on wrinkled skin and tiny, perfect features.

The elderly midwife turned to the young girl lying exhausted on the bed. " 'Tis a girl lass, yer daughter. " Her voice sounded as old as her gnarled body looked.

The young mother turned pale blue eyes towards the child. " Salya. " Her words were tired and breathless. " My daughter, Saly... " The sentence ended in a scream, her back arching in pain.

" Twins! " The midwife exclaimed in surprise. " I din'na see this littlun ah comin' "

Salya was placed down into the cot before the midwife turned back to the girl. She was a Seer, one of the oldest in the region, experienced, having attended near a hundred births, and bearing eleven children herself. Her talent lay in foreseeing the birth, if a girl or boy were to be born, if the child or the mother were to die, and an ability to heal by touch. She was well respected by all, and had never once been wrong in her predictions. Until now.

The girl screamed yet again.

"Easy child, breath easy now, come on darlin', you know how. "

Her answer was another scream.  

The second babe was born near dead, lungs labouring to supply an unnaturally small and sickly body with oxygen, miniaturised fingers and lips turning blue from lack of air. With a quick prayer to Brighit, the midwife lay her hand over the babe's wildly beating heart, closing her eyes for a brief moment. A pale golden aura surrounded the two forms, and the child's breathing eased.

Unlike most new-born babes, he did not cry, but lay still in her arms. It was unlikely that he would see a moons cycle pass, but he was alive, which was more than could be said for his mother.

Settling the nameless boy down next to his sister, the midwife turned to heat a pan of goats' milk over the fire. As she waited, her eyes wandered over to the still, blood-covered figure on the bed. The girl had been too small, her hips too narrow to survive the multiple childbirth, born for beauty, not motherhood. Long waves of midnight black hair, dampened by sweat covered the pillow, framing a pale elfin face. Blue eyes stared sightless at the ceiling. At less than twenty minutes old, both children were orphans.

Turning back to the fire, the midwife took the milk off the heat and turned to feed the children. The little lass, Salya, a name for hope would be easy enough to sell. Near any family would accept such a pretty child, but her brother would be a problem. None would want such a sickly child who would die on them.

Looking again at the boy, she shook her head. He would endure a harsh life, brief and most probably painful. " I'll call thee Ajax laddie, a name for sorrow. "

Next morning, she gathered up the twins, swaddling them in blankets and heading out over the mountainous terrain towards the nearest town. The new sun's brilliant gold rays caressed the land, but never touched the cottage, outside of which a newly dug grave, unmarked started to be reclaimed by nature. In a few years, there would be no sign that anyone had ever lived this far from civilisation.

In her arms, Ajax whimpered, then let out his first cry, pitifully weak compared to his sister's lung capacity.

In the distance, from the wildest part of the mountain, a wolf's howl broke the morning stillness, as if in reply.  

Chapter II

'Cross the earth a lone wolf roams,

From town to town, from home to home.

To wander into destiny's hand,

Still a child in a grown mans' land.

The city's bustle could be heard and seen from over a mile away. The dark sprawling mass of houses, shops, trading stalls and other large buildings appeared as a massive bruise amidst the vast greenery that surrounded it on three sides, and the rich blue-green blanket of the sea to the east.

" Stop, thief! "

The cries of the fruit merchant rang out above the din from the crowd that surrounded him, just as a young boy, barley nine turns old eased his way through the throngs of closely packed people with long practised ease, heading towards Dead Mans' District, the cluster of old, rickety houses and narrow, poorly lit streets where nobody but its natives or fools dared to step foot.

" Stop him. Guards - Stop that little wretch "

The crowds began to mill with anticipation and excitement as the castle guards began to chase after the thief, some moving out of their way, whilst others went flying as citizen and guard collided.

The thief made a dash for the alley that led to his salvation, knowing the guards would not follow him into the catacombs of Dead Mans' District. He was still several meters ahead of his pursuers when he was brought abruptly to a halt, a strong, unyielding hand clamped down onto his shoulder.

" Hey, lemmi go! "

The man holding his shoulder just smiled with amusement as the youth squirmed and twisted under his grip, trying to escape. " Now why would I wish to do that, thief? You should try paying for goods, it's a lot easier. "

The boy gave his captor a sarcastic look, taking in immediately his fine clothing, clean skin and well-toned muscles. Obviously a noble, or a shaman. The face was hawk like, black eyes piercing and knowing. The youth gestured with his arms to his own ragged appearance, torn, filthy clothing and soil smeared skin.

" With? I don'na exactly have money to spare on luxuries like food, do I? "

" Try working for money. "

The boy laughed at that statement. " Workin'? And just who would employ a street rat now? The King? "

The man frowned, and seemed to be about to say something more when the castle guards arrived, panting heavily and faces bright red from the exertion of the chase.

" Tha . . . Thank-you . . . for catching the little . . . thief. We'll take him from here. "

The guard reached out a meaty hand, which encircled the boy's throat, nearly cutting off his air supply. The captive was twisted painfully around so as the guards could attach heavy manacles to his wrists, then the guards started to literally drag him towards the castle.

The noble's voice rang out. " Wait a minute. "

The guards paused.

" What is your name, boy? "

After a moment, the reply came.

" Ajax. "  

Ajax looked around the cell he had been thrown into; dark, cold and dreary. At least the skeleton of the previous inhabitant had, more or less been removed. If only they could remove the stench of death and decay that stifled the air.

With a grunt of effort, he pushed himself up to his feet, struggling with the extra weight of the manacles around his wrists, neck and ankles, and the heavy iron chain that bound him to the stone wall.

His muscles ached. The guards had beaten him with a vengeance, tacking their humiliation out on his small, under-nourished body; the scars from the lash they had used across his back would be with him for the rest of his life. Ajax did not particularly care about the pain his nervous system was telling him he should be experiencing, he had been beaten much worse before. The Thief Lord he worked for never accepted failure, and from one mistake he had nearly been killed.

Running his hands through long blond hair, he surveyed his surroundings. He stood in the corner of a small, stone room. Old rotting straw lay on the floor, half covering the skull of the last person to die in that room, gaping cavities of the eye sockets, and permanent grin giving it a mocking look, as if condemning any other prisoners. Ajax's Brilliant blue eyes turned to survey the great oak door with its ominous looking lock, then glanced down at the locking mechanism for the bands of iron encircling his limbs, and grinned. It would be easy to escape.

He lay two fingers over the lock holding the manacles together and closed his eyes, concentrating. He envisaged the leavers of the lock turning under mind's pressure. He whispered a single word: " Unlock. " When he reopened his eyes, the ring of iron lay unlocked on the floor.

Minutes later, he was heading at a cautious jog down the passageways that lead to his freedom, trusting his intuition to lead him the right way.

He was unaware of the cold black eyes tracking his progress.  

An aura of evil foreboding emanated from the powerfully built warrior, unobtrusively observing the escaping thief from a darkened passageway of the castle's dungeons. His thoughts were of surprise as he watched his departing quarry.

It couldn't be him, could it? A scrawny youth not even ten turns old? Admittedly he had, for the most part evaded detection and permanent capture, but how could this child be the next Light Warrior?

Keninal shook his head, brown hair flying in every direction, and detached his tall, muscular frame from the wall from which he had observed Ajax, and began to stalk his prey.

As a Dark Warrior himself, he felt it better to be safe than sorry. Anyway, who would miss the kid?

He followed his quarry up to the streets, vaguely impressed by the ability the boy had to avoid the numerous guards milling around the corridors, and the calmness he displayed when the alarm was sounded, alerting others to his escape.

Maybe this kid was indeed the One.

Even if he were not, he would soon die.  

The figure walking slowly through the trees was that of the man who had prevented Ajax escaping earlier that day. He stood against the setting sun, silhouetted by red, gold and amber light. The woods on the outskirts of the town proved to be a slight refuge from the mayhem that brewed down in the city, and he needed to think in peace.

Barlon mused about the boy, Ajax, who he had handed over to the castle guards earlier that day. From the moment he first touched the child he knew that he was important to the future, and that it was imperative he prevented the boy from loosing his hands for stealing.

" What should I do Arganon? " He queered, looking towards the great golden eagle perched on his arm.

The eagle turned his head to gaze into Barlon's eyes. {Buy him.} The words echoed in his mind.

" Buy him? My friend, you know I do not believe in owning people. "

It was one of the laws he hated, and desperately wanted to change. Slavery, whilst accepted as normal by the vast majority of people was something he despised.

{Would you prefer he loose his hands, or die? He did lead the guards on a merry chase, they are bound to take their revenge for their humiliation.}

Barlon sighed. Arganon was right, it was better to buy the child than to see him maimed or killed. He stood up and turned towards the vast city below him. " We better get going then. " He started to walk back to the array of houses before him. After a moment, Arganon spread his wings and took to the air, following.

{He should still be at the castle.}

" I know my friend. That is why I shall be going there first, I just hope it will be in time. "  

The night had turned dark earlier than usual with the dark boiling storm clouds that thrashed the land with rain.

The streets were less crowded than they were earlier, giving Ajax less of a chance to loose himself among the people, though the rain masked his progress slightly. In more simple terms, the castle guards could see him. And were gaining on him. He slipped on the soaking wet uneven cobbled roadway, then ducked into an alleyway, increasing his speed in an attempt to loose his pursuers.

Pausing in a doorway, water dripping from sodden clothing, his hair plastered to his skull. He gasped, desperately trying to bring his breathing back under control and to rid himself of the crippling pain in his side.

Looking back, he saw the guards gaining on him. With a sigh, he pushed himself from the doorway and ran. He was close to Dead Mans' District and home.

The thief made a dash for the alley that led to his salvation, knowing the guards would not follow him into the catacombs of Dead Mans' District. He was still several meters ahead of his pursuers when he was brought abruptly to a halt, a strong, unyielding hand clamped down onto his shoulder.

" Oh please, " He said with a note of exasperation in his voice. " Twice in one day? In exactly the same way? This is getting ridiculous. " He turned again to face the man who had caught him, half expecting it to be the same noble from earlier that day.

What he faced terrified him.

" You're going to die, boy. " the man muttered, a sarcastic grin on his face and a brilliant, grave cold gleam in his black eyes. " Can't have you living, now, can we? "

" Wh . . . Who are you? "

" My name's Keninal. I'm the Dark Warrior and your worst nightmare. " The light from the lamps lining the streets glinted off highly polished metal and the wickedly sharp edge of the hunting knife, turning silver steel to a blood red hue. " Not that you'll live to dream again. Prepare to meet Donn, boy. " The blade flashed downwards, aiming towards Ajax's heart, but missing it's intended target completely.

Ajax had lashed out with all the strength his exhausted nine-turn-old body could muster, kicking his assailant just under his kneecap, causing it to buckle. In a split second, the youth had turned tail and ran.

Directly into the oncoming guards.   

Chapter III

To the pack the lone wolf howls,

Effect take place as others rouse.

To see and hear the future's voice,

Or to silence destiny's choice. 

The Great Hall was in an uproar. Maids and servants fussed around the edges of the room, talking amongst themselves, and, in part, enjoying the commotion. On the dais stood a magnificent wooden throne, ornately decorated and padded with red leather stuffed with horsehair. On it sat he King of the tuath, dressed in fine stains and silks, with a stern, uncaring look adorning a handsome face, though the green eyes glowed with amusement as he surveyed the scene before him.

Six burly guards stood in a semicircle around Ajax, his arms tied tightly together behind his back with rope, a loop of which encircled his neck. Forced to his knees before the King, the two guards holding him grabbed his hair, pushing his head down in respect for the deity.

" Six guards for one little thief? " The words conveyed the amusement the King felt.

" 'E's a slippery little blighter majesty. We din'na want 'im ta escape. "

" And just what did this stripling do to aggravate my guards so? "

" 'E's a thief milord. 'E stole from many a merchant in town, but 'e's always got away before. And 'e escaped the dungeon cell we placed 'im in. "

The King laughed. "If he has always evaded your men during his escapades, how did you apprehend him this time?"

There was a pause while the guard tried to comprehend what the King had said.

" He asked you how did ya manage to catch me last time. " Ajax muttered, earning himself a sharp kick to his ribs from one of his captors.

" We 'ave the Shaman Barlon to thank, 'e stopped the rat getting ta Dead Mans'. "

The King raised an eyebrow, Barlon was well known throughout over thirty provinces as a powerful yet fair shaman, a man raised in the mystical ways of the Ancients. He travelled extensively, and always had a reason for his being somewhere, even if he himself did not know it. The King could not help but wonder at the mystics reason for being in Llandoverlin, his tuath.

His musing returned to the situation at hand. Once a moons cycle prisoners locked in the dungeons were brought up to stand trial for their crimes, and to receive their punishment. For thievery, the usual punishment was to first be branded as a thief with a simple 'Y' on the web of skin between the thumb and forefinger of both hands, then, if they were caught again, the hands were amputated at the wrist.

" Does he have the burns of a thief? "

" Yes milord. "

" Then remove his hands. " The case was a simple one, even if the guards did want to see the boy's death. " Next. "

" Wait. "

Nearly everyone in the room gasped as Barlon himself entered the room, robes swirling about him, shrouding him with blue dyed wool.

" I request, my Lord, that you release the boy into my custody. "

 " May I enquire as to why you wish to have this child? "

" My reasons are my own sire, but I must stress that this is of the uppermost Importance. "

" This is highly irregular. I can't release a criminal just like that. " The last word was accompanied by a snap of the fingers.

" I am willing to pay for him. "

At this information, the King looked surprised, Barlon's dislike of slavery was well known. The situation must be of great importance if he were willing to buy someone.

" Ten in silver, " The King announced. " Is that satisfactory? "

" Yes, my Lord. That it is. " Barlon nodded at the guards. " Would you please release him? "

With a look of disdain the guards released Ajax into the shaman's custody.  

The great old castle had once stood proudly looking out over the sea, its tall turrets once showing stark relief from the surrounding grasslands and cliffs. Once it had been proud, defying the relentless power of storms and gale force winds. Now it stood half-ruined, a mere shadow of what it had once been.

Within, Keninal swung his great sword at his opponent, venting the anger he felt at letting the Light Warrior escape through the blow. The opposing blade shattered with the force, splintering into iron fragments, which cascaded down to the stone floor like metal rain. Fear shone in the man's eyes as he realised he was going to die.

Keninal lunged again, gouging a deep wound on his opponent's chest, just below his rib cage. Moving forward, the Dark Warrior thrust his hand up through the lesion, evoking a cry of agony from his victim. Lungs were obliterated by Keninal's fist till his fingers coiled around the heart.

With a powerful tug, the muscle came free of its confines within the body and was thrown onto a wooden table before a darkly beautiful, but cruel looking woman where it spasmed uselessly for a few meagre moments before becoming still.

" I take it your mission to kill the boy was not the greatest of successes. " Her voice was silken smooth, with a cold edge of pure evil to it.

Keninal looked towards his sorceress, the beautiful Lydia and watched with appreciation as she reached forwards to pick up the heart. Long crimson and black robes of satin rustled as she moved, the golden torque encircling her neck glinting in the firelight. A large venomous snake curled itself around her slender white ankles, Its black eyes appraising the situation with a reptilian lack of emotion.

" Where is he then, woman. "

" Patience, my murderous one. I will answer in time. "

She tossed her head back, causing long ringlets of black hair to tumble down behind her shoulders. Lifting the heart with both hands, she spoke quickly the words of sight as the blood remaining in the hearts chambers and veins fell onto her closed eyes.

Behind her eyelids, the visions came.

After a moment, she reopened her eyed and looked towards Keninal. " We have more to be concerned about than the boy. He has a twin sister in Kellahain who shares his destiny. Her potential is already being exploited. "


A darkly gleeful look appeared on Keninal's unshaven face. " She's goin' ta die. " He would enjoy tasting the blood of a child.

The sorceress smiled as she held the heart above the head of a snake that lay coiled around the legs of the chair she sat upon. " I know she will. You never fail twice in a row. " The snake's head snapped up, the lower jaw dislocating to enable it to swallow the fist sized morsel, muscles contracting as it swallowed.

" By the great Morrigan, Keninal. You better not fail. This is a battle I intend to win. "  

" Why did you buy me? " Ajax's voice was breathless as he tried to keep up with Barlon's easy loping run which enabled someone to travel a score of miles without tiring.

In the two days since they had left the castle and its surrounding town, they had covered over fifty miles. The scenery had changed from the densely packed trees of the Forrest to the wide-open expanses and sheer rocky cliffs of the mountain range. For two days they had travelled in near complete silence.

" Tell me why. "

" Have you ever heard of the Light and Dark Warriors? " Barlon had stopped and turned to face the golden child behind him. A child that reminded him of the stories woven around The Shining One, Lugh.

" Yeah - Dark Warrior. That's what that maniac...Keninal I think he was. Thats what he called himself. "

Barlon's eyes widened in surprise. " You meet Keninal and survived? I'm impressed. He kills as easly as most people breath. "

Ajax rolled his eyes in exasperation. " You still haven't answered my question. "

With a sigh, the older man turned to survey their surroundings, his eyes distant, as if seeing something beyond normal sight. " Sit down. There is a story I need to tell you which may help you to understand more. "

Ajax lowered himself to the sparse grass, looking expectantly at the shaman.

" A thousand turns ago, this land was in conflict; there were no tuaths, no kings and the gods for the most part remained hidden. All except Morrigan; the goddess of death and war. Individual tribes fought against each other, the amount of blood shed on the planes would have been enough to fill the sea.

" Chaos ruled in the form of the Dark Warrior, the most evil being alive. He or she would betray anyone; strangers, friends, family, clan, anyone. It was believed that they came from the womb in the form of a venomous serpent, that if they had a twin, they would kill their own sibling before their birth, as they were always stillborn.

" They lived on blood, death and war. They enjoyed inflicting physical and emotional pain on others, and Morrigan, who fed her bloodlust to her chosen warriors, protected each Dark Warrior.

" Then the day came when a child was born. The purity that lay in her very bones radiated out, effecting the people around her. She was adept at the Craft, causing her clan to both love and fear her. After years of practice, she also became a swordsmaster, intent on bringing justice to the land.

" When she turned twenty, she challenged the then Dark Warrior to a fight. For three days and nights they battled until the woman's blade cleaved through the neck of the Dark Warrior.

" With this act, the gods who had been subdued by Morrigan rose up to take her throne from her. The scream of anger and hate she unleashed could be heard across the entire country, to which peace came.

" However, Morrigan lost little of her power, and never gave up trying to reclaim what was once hers. Every hundred turns, a new Dark Warrior was born. To keep the balance, the gods decided that a Light Warrior would also be born. A warrior who would be under the protection of Lugh. They would fight to the death. If the Dark won, Morrigan would reign. If the Light won, peace would prevail for another century. "

At this point, Barlon turned to look into the eyes of the boy watching him.

" You, child, are the Light Warrior for this century. It is your destiny. "

Ajax stared at the shaman open mouthed. He could not believe what he had just been told. " Me? "

" Yes, and I also believe I am going to train you to achieve your destiny. "  

Chapter IV

To the stars a lone wolf calls,

Fire's friend and Darkness' curse.

Loss and pain to live through now,

To mountain ranges hope doth go.

 Seasons passed. The lazy warmth of summer ripened into blazing autumn, when people gathered crops of fruits, nuts and grain from the earth. Then, after the feast and celebrations of Samhain, the days became shorter still, and cold nestled into the bones of the land. Trees slept and men curled up next to fires were waiting out the bitter cycle. Grudgingly winter gave way to the vibrant life and energy of spring. Shoots bloomed and the trees awoke refreshed and ready to send forth a dizzying array of colours and scents. Slowly spring slowed back into summer and the cycle began again.

Up in the mountains, two figures sparred. The younger, an agile golden lightning-bolt, danced with amazing speed around the older, blocking the blows from the sword tat were aimed at him with a seven foot oak staff.

{He has improved greatly over the last five turns.}

With this both stopped, turning to face the golden eagle perched on a nearby outcrop of rock.

" That he has Arganon, old friend. There is not much more I can teach him. " Barlon gave a sidelong glance at his slender companion. The passing turns and decent food had greatly improved Ajax's physical condition, golden brown skin gleamed in the sun, the lean muscles of a swimmer or runner giving him a mature poise. At five foot one, he little resembled the nine-turn-old thief from the streets of Llandoverlin.

Ajax grinned, lowering himself down onto a moss covered rock near the eagle. Stretching out his arm, he made a beckoning gesture to a leather water-skin, and spoke. " Come. " After a slight pause, the water-skin flew through the air towards the outstretched hand. Water glistened in the sunlight as it spilled over the face and into the mouth of the boy. " D'ya want some? "

" No, thank-you, Ajax. "

{His use of language has not improved. Its 'Do you', not 'D'ya'.}

Barlon laughed. " I've long since stopped trying to tell him that. Whatever else he may learn, he will not speak properly. "

Leaning back, Ajax closed his eyes, listening to the banter between his friends. His thoughts drifted back to when he first met them. Still he didn't believe he was the Light Warrior, but the turns had been kinder to him than his previous nine turns. Barlon had led him up to this remote cottage, high up in the mountains where he had begun his training. He smiled as he remembered one argument they had had...

" Magic I can believe in, but what makes you think I can do it? "

" If you care to remember, you already have. If not, how did you escape the dungeon? "

" With Words, there's a big difference. "

" And what, pray tell, is the difference between magic and words? "

" Words are words - you say summin' and it 'appens, there's nought magical about it. If I say 'pass the bread', you pass it, is there anything magical about that?"

" Yes. Both Words and magic is done through gestures and voice - a spell is the same as using Words, it is just speaking to nature and the gods instead of to other people or objects. Magic is just a different, simpler language than the more common Words that everyone can under stand. "

Ajax was brought abruptly back to the present as Barlon pushed him off the rock.

" If you are quite done daydreaming, we have to go. " There was urgency in Barlon's eyes. " There's a fire in the village, we have to help. "

Ajax nodded and pushed himself up to his feet, setting off after Barlon and Arganon down the steep mountainside. Glancing up at the sun, he noticed several hours had passed since the sparring match ended, and now the great golden orb hung closer to the horizon than before.

The first sign they saw that indicated something was wrong in the small village was the tall column of black smoke that rose in billowing clouds up into the sky.

Ajax and Barlon ran towards the settlement where the villagers had set up a human chain between the stream and the fire and were transporting the water forth in an attempt to combat the blaze. A number of thatched cottages had already caught on fire, the flames speeding through the dry straw and heather which was used to cover the timber and mud buildings. Sparks flew high into the air to alight on the roofs of other houses, setting those alight as well. As hard as the villagers tried, the fire was out of control. The only way it could be extinguished was to let the fire burn itself out.

As Ajax and Barlon arrived, they saw a woman run towards one of the buildings consumed with fire. Her eyes were wide open in terror and reddened by tears and the irritation caused by the smoke. Ajax sprinted forward, catching her around the waist and holding her back from the inferno.

" Mah daughter, " she sobbed, nearly inaudible above the roar of the fire. " Mah daughter Genna, she's still in there! "

" Barlon. " Ajax looked around for his companion. " Take her. I'll get her daughter out. "

" You cannot be serious, none but the gods can tame fire. The blaze is too advanced - you'll be killed! "

" I have to, I canna let anyone die. " With those words, Ajax turned and dived into the fire.  

Once inside, Ajax lowered himself to the ground where the smoke was less dense. Flames engulfed the walls and ceilings, making it seem as if the small, single roomed cottage was made of fire.

" Genna. Genna can you hear me? " His voice, sullied by the smoke and intense heat sounded unfamiliar to him. " Genna! "

From under a sturdy wooden table he heard a slight whimper. Moving towards the sound he found a small girl, hardly four or five turns coiled up in on herself, lips a pale blue against ash darkened skin and the vivid red burns which covered most of her body. Gathering her up in his arms, Ajax turned to leave, only to find his exit consumed by an impenetrable wall of searing heat. Glancing desperately around, he could see no way out.

Suddenly, he felt a pressure building up in the back of his mind. Quickly it spread around his body, filling every vein and muscle with an electrifying fire. After several seconds, he felt it build to a maximum potential - his entire body felt alive and vibrant. Tossing his head back, he stretched out his arm, like he had done when calling the water-skin to him. Completely by instinct, the words came to him:

" Fire that burns as sun doth shine,

From wooden walls and soul of mine,

Dance here and there your deadly flame,

Die down and sleep, preventing bane.

Burning light come here to thee,

This is my will, so mote it be! "

With the last words, he felt the intense pressure in his body seemingly explode into his surroundings. The fire began to writhe, twisting together to form long ropes of flame which encircled his body. Fire surrounded him, but did not burn. He stood as still as a statue, arm outstretched, shrouded by a brilliant aura of fire.

The villagers outside were amazed as all the fire left its lodgings in the thatches, and spiralled towards a single house, the walls of which rapidly dried and fractured under the onslaught.

" Look out! Everyone, get back! "

The commoners only just reached a safe distance before the building literally exploded. Before them stood what seemed like a demon made of fire. Half backed away in terror, whilst the other half stood still, petrified with fear.

" Ajax? " Barlon could hardly believe it. He had not expected the boy to hold so much potential - controlling fire was not something that had been attempted in millennia, the last person to try to do so being burnt alive by his efforts.

Ajax clenched his fist tight, the fire obediently forming a pulsing white-hot sphere around it, looking like a miniature copy of the sun. He looked at it for a moment, marvelling in its deadly beauty before almost idly waving his hand, as if dismissing it. The fire dissipated then vanished.

The crowd started to move in around him; awed yet fearful of this powerful enigma that stood amongst them.

" Genna! " The young girl's mother ran forward, clutching the hands of the child who still lay still in Ajax's arms. " Genna, no! " The mother wailed as she realised that no pulse beat beneath her desperately questing fingers. "No, she can'na be dead, I can'na lose her too! "

Looking down at the child in the crook of his arm, Ajax tenderly lay his free had on the girl's ribcage, directly over her heart, pushing gently. " Breathe. " He whispered, gathering his will. He felt the electrifying pressure once again build up in his body, but nowhere near the intensity it had been at before.

" It is no use Ajax. " He tried to ignore Barlon's gentle voice.

{You can not bring the dead back to life. I'm sorry.} Arganon.

Pushing the voices of his friends out of his mind, he concentrated on the lifeless body of the girl. His next words were spoken with more force. " Live! "

A glowing golden aura surrounded the two forms. The burns covering the child faded, smoothing themselves out to reveal smooth, unblemished skin.

" LIVE! " This time the words were almost shouted as Ajax threw his entire will into bringing life back to the child. The power in his veins flared and channelled down through his fingers into the still body, leaving him feeling totally drained of energy. The aura surrounding them also flared, then as one, the crowd gasped in shock as Genna shuddered and choked. Gently Ajax turned her over as her ragged breathing filled lungs with much needed air, and her heart started to beat wildly to restart the blood flow. As her breathing eased, Ajax handed her over to her mother, who grasped her, crying with relief.

Then darkness descended on his mind.  

Salya sat out under the shade of the large oak tree, keeping away from the burning sun. Fore some reason she couldn't identify, she had had sudden images of fire dance across her vision, and now sat trying to work out what it meant. For all her life she had been getting strange visions and feelings that were not her own. Before she had turned ten, she was always feeling starving, even after a full meal. Often pains had struck her back, stomach and legs as if she had been beaten, and bruises had appeared in strange places all over her body.

It had taken her several years to realise it was her second sight causing her problems, even so, her tutor, Zarleya had said it was strange they should be so intense. Such connections, she had been told, only arose in siblings, of which to her knowledge, she had none.

" Salya, come on, we have training to do. "

Maybe she would get farther in her contemplation if this 'destiny' didn't rest on her shoulders. " I'm coming, Zarleya. " She still found it hard to believe that she was supposed to be the Light Warrior. Standing up to her full height of five foot one, she pushed the mass of golden hair out of her azure eyes, looking around for her tutor.

The large field she sat in bordered a large stone house that had been her home for as long as she could remember.

She jumped as a scream sounded from behind the corner of the house. Turning, Salya ran towards the sound, half fearing what she might find. She skidded round the corner, coming to a full stop as she saw the lifeless body of her tutor of ten turns slumped in a bloodstained heap on the grass, a wound through which light was visible replaces her heart.

" Well, well, well. If it isn't another Light Warrior. "

Salya turned to face the speaker, her heart freezing over with fear at the sound of his voice.

" I should have killed you many turns ago when I first found out about you, but I wanted ta find and kill your pretty little 'Light Warrior' brother. Pity I couldn't get ta 'im. "

Brother? She had a brother?

" Still, I had Lydia burn a number of villages to draw 'im out. Guess I'll just have ta settle with killin' you first instead. "

Salya gasped with realisation of the words, but she didn't have time to react. She felt the blazing pain in her stomach radiate through her body, then the numbing sensation of her nervous system shutting down. Her thoughts became sluggish as death closed its grip on her. Her last coherent thought before Donn claimed her was: 'Its up to you now, brother unknown.'  

Barlon looked down in concern at the boy lying on his bed. Several volunteers from the village they had helped - no, - Ajax had saved had shown their gratification by carrying the unconscious youth back to their highland home. That had been two days ago, and still he had not stirred. Arganon sat on the open windowsill, watching.

{He's still out of it then.} It was a statement, not a question.

" Yes. Controlling the fire, then bringing the girl back to life drained him of his energy. "

{I thought that pyrokinetics and bringing the dead back to life were supposed to be impossible.}

" They are supposed to be. After this, I think many people will be reviewing what is possible and impossible. "

Both were jerked out of their conversation as Ajax sat bolt upright in the bed, a scream of agony on his lips. Collapsing back down onto his side, he wrapped his arms tight around his stomach, as if trying to ease some great pain.

" Ajax, are you alright? " Barlon reached down in concern.

" She's dead. " Ajax whispered, pain evident in his voice.

" Who? Ajax, tell me. "

It was several seconds before he got a reply. " Salya, mah sister, Keninal killed her. "

" How do you know? "

Another long pause. " I saw it. He got someone called Lydia to start the fire in the village as well, trying to draw me out. "

Barlon closed his eyes in despair. " Arganon, keep an eye on the boy. There's something I have to do. "  

The tradition was an old one. The head of an enemy was decapitated and brought back as a trophy to display.

Knowing about it was one thing, seeing it was quite another. As Barlon walked past the pikes adorned with the gruesome rotting heads of Keninal's enemies he felt his stomach lurch sickeningly into his throat. Quickly he headed towards the chamber where he knew Lydia to be waiting.

As he entered, his nemesis' voice rang out from the far side of the room; " Welcome, brother. You took your time in getting here. "

He looked at the beautiful raven haired woman who was watching him with unconcealed malice in her eyes. " You are no longer my sister, Lydia. You were abandoned when you turned to evil. "

" It disgusts me to think we are even related, Barlon. It's time for you to die. "

" Not one for small talk are you? "

She smiled sarcastically, raising her hand to point at Barlon and started to speak;

" Fire within me, fire around,

Burn your flame upon my hand..."

Deep crimson flames appeared mist-like around her fingers, twisting, dancing, quickly growing in intensity.

" Grow in power till I let thee free,

As is said, so mote it be! "

With the last words, the brilliant red fire ball erupted from her hands, flying like lightning towards the shaman, who ducked out of the way. The flame struck the wall, turning stone to molten liquid.

Quickly, Barlon created his own version of a fire ball, his a rich blue hue which was sent spinning towards his sister. Red flame struck blue, causing a deafening explosion of light and sound. This fight would end in the death of one or the other.

For several minutes the fight raged, Lydia alternately screaming defiance and praying to Morrigan, neither of which did her any good. Barlon's fire ball broke through the sorceress' defences to strike her in the stomach.

Instantly Lydia was surrounded in flames. She screamed in agony as the cloth of her robes incinerated and her hair burnt, releasing an acrid odour, which mingled with the stench of burning flesh. The skin itself erupted into flame, darkening and charring. Lumps of flesh slipped from her body, revealing the snow white of bone beneath.

Internal organs, once protected from the outside world were exposed and consumed by fire. The screams stopped abruptly as the vocal chords incinerated and the brain boiled in its own blood.

Even robust bone, capable of withstanding the high temperatures used in cremation was not spared.

As the fire died away, all that remained of the sorceress was a light scattering of grey ash.

Barlon fell to his knees, drained of energy from the fight. He twisted around as he heard a wild yell behind him, just in time to see Keninal's blade cleave down towards his neck.

That night, the large collection of enemy heads received three new additions.

" He's going to die, isn't he? " Ajax's voice was soft. The weight of loss rested heavily on his heart - first a sister he did not even know about, now Barlon, probably his only true human friend.

{If he hasn't already.}

Ajax did not reply. Instead he looked out over the mountains that had been his home for so many years. After several minutes, he came to a decision. Turning back to Arganon he asked: " Do you know where Keninal is? "

If a bird could look surprised, Arganon did a very good impression. {No, but it would only take a few hours for me to fly around and find him.}

Running a hand through his hair, Ajax nodded. " Find him. Then tell his to come up here. Its time to end this once and for all. "

Arganon looked at the youth, sadness in his eyes. {I'll miss you my friend.}

" I'm not dead yet. "

Opening his wings, Arganon paused, looking once more at the boy who had grown up so much in the past few days. He would truly miss him. Then he took to the air, sharp eyes looking out for the Dark Warrior to whom he would give Ajax's deadly message.

Chapter V

Into the dark a lone wolf walks,

Destiny done, no more to war.

Light and dark did clash and pass,

To next generation the game is passed.

 The air hung with a heavy, stifling texture. No breeze stirred it. The trees had stilled, as had every animal and insect in the woodland. Even the gurgling from the small mountain stream was muted. All was still, waiting, anticipating something.

The only sounds at all on the mountainside was the metallic ringing of sword on sword and the rich song of a blade cleaving the air. Two warriors fought - the only witnesses to their majestic and deadly dance the gods themselves.

If someone had been watching, they would have been awed by the sight - the speed and agility of the younger balanced perfectly the skill and strength of the older. It was a fight neither could have hoped to win.

Ajax was beginning to tire rapidly, and noticed the same exhaustion etched into the face of his burly opponent - the legendary Dark Warrior, Keninal. The youth dodged another blow from his enemy, jumping and twisting through the air to land several feet from his previous position, shacking his head to get his post-shoulder length blond hair away from his face. At the same time he raised his sword to parry another of his opponents deadly swings.

He concentrated, pushing all thoughts of exhaustion from his mind. He faced a murderer. Keninal had killed dozens of people unjustly, including Barlon and his near unknown sister, Salya. Vengeance boiled through his blood, eradicating the tiredness that lay in every muscle of his body.

The two were equal. Neither could win against the other and both knew it. They fought a battle that would go on for another century, but someday it would end. Dark against Light, a battle between good and evil, the victor determining the fate of the entire country - either to fall to the chaos and bloodshed under Morrigan's rule, or to rise to peace.

The end was near; he could sense it. This youthful opponent, not even seventeen turns old could match his blade, which stood undefeated in battle. A scrawny boy could, unlike his twin sister, match his legendary skill and strength. With a scream of rage, he swung his sword in a powerful arc towards Ajax's heart. The youth crouched under the blade, pivoting and swinging his legs round to catch Keninal behind the knees, causing them to buckle. Regaining his balance, the Dark Warrior kicked out at the Light Warrior, catching him a glancing blow to the ribs. Scrambling back, the boy stood, raising his sword in anticipation of another attack.

They were too evenly matched. In a fair fight, neither could win, but Keninal had evil running through his blood. If he could not win in a fair fight, he would have to turn it to his advantage. His last gift from his sorceress before she died was a potion that could send him through time. He could not win now, but he would in the future. He would kill the next Light Warrior before he reached his full potential.

Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the bag of silver blue dust - just enough to transport a single person and grinned as his opponent's blue eyes widened in shock. He was well versed enough in the magical arts to realise what was about to happen.

Ajax dropped his sword and ran at Keninal in at attempt to stop him. He clutched at the Dark Warrior's wrists just as the two were eclipsed in a brilliant explosion of light and sound. For a second, the sun seemed pale in comparison to the artificial light, then it was over.

As the smoke cleared and life returned to the mountain, all that showed the evidence of the ferocious battle was the torn grass and Ajax's sword deeply embedded into the bedrock.

There was no sign of the two warriors.   


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