Santharian Development

Santharian World Development => The Santharian Library => Topic started by: Coren FrozenZephyr on 09 September 2013, 06:33:21

Title: The Banshee: a short story from Varydnn for Arti!
Post by: Coren FrozenZephyr on 09 September 2013, 06:33:21
Almost finished Act I of "Child of Spring". Taking a break before I go back and do a structural revision. In the meantime, I am going to work on this short story-cum-novelette as a writing exercise - sorbet between meals if you will. The focus will be on plot and producing material quickly. Literary prose is probably going to be kept to a minimum.

I will post in parts. Please feel free to comment at any point! =)



Tharoaer Son of Tharoan Son of Tharodin,
I curse you and the House of [Bitterstone].
Wither shall your loins, as shall the womb of your wife,
No child shall be born to your line except one son in every generation.
Six years I will give you to know and love him before I come for you,
As I will come for him in his twenty-eighth year.
And so it shall be —
Now and until the end of days.

The House of Bitterstone is cursed. The moment a Duke Bitterstone seeds a child, he and his wife both grow barren. And on the sixth birth day of the heir apparent, the Banshee will come for the father. Her ear-splitting song causes the mind to shatter and drives any man who hears her to insanity, or, if the Twelve show mercy, to death. The Late Duke Bitterstone threw himself off a cliff. The Eleventh Duke Bitterstone gorged his eyes out. The Tenth Duke Bitterstone was found frozen solid on the hottest day of the month of Burning Heavens. The Ninth Duke Bitterstone cut off his own ears and bled to death.

Aeric Bitterstone is The Marquess of Alvang, heir apparent to the Duchy of Ancyros and soon to be Duke Bitterstone The Thirteenth of His Name After the Curse. Then his wife becomes pregnant, and the next morning the Banshee starts haunting Ancyros once again. Before long their son will be born, and, overnight, almost by eldritch magic, Her Grace The Duchess of Ancyros will become The Dowager Duchess; The Marchioness of Alvang will become the new Duchess Bitterstone; and Aeric will become… a dead man.

Or will he?

Title: Re: The Banshee: a short story from Varydnn
Post by: Coren FrozenZephyr on 09 September 2013, 06:38:35

“In my family birth days are not times of celebration. They are times of passage. One man delivered into this world, the other out of it. The birth of a son in our line heralds the death of his father. Each birth is salvation, extinction warded off for one more cycle – and yet the child a harbinger of sorrow. Today is a day of significance. Today is my twentieth birth day, and the fourteenth anniversary of my father’s death. And soon, the Banshee will come for me [as it came for him, and his father, and every father of House Bitterstone for thirteen generations].”     The Marquess of Alvang, Thirteenth of His Name After the Curse, Heir Apparent to the Duchy of Ancyros


“Only in the Duchy of Ancyros would a tourney be held in a cemetery. It is an ill omen,” the knight said as he helped his lord into his armour. The Marquess of Alvang did not say anything, but walked over to the table to take his sword. “Please do not move, my lord. I haven’t fastened the braces yet.”

“My father died fourteen years ago on this day. We honour his memory.”
“Do you even remember your father, sire?” the knight asked.


“It is good that we honour the dead, my lord; but perhaps we ought also to celebrate the living?” The knight inspected his handiwork and attacked the armguards again. There are only so many belts and buckles between rerebrace and couter, but the squire and standard-bearer of the Marquess of Alvang was a perfectionist. “You turn twenty today.”

“And a tournament is being held to mark the occasion.”

“In a cemetery!”

“As is the custom of this House.”

“And it is a fine custom, sire; but even the finest – ”

He was interrupted by footsteps in the hallway. There was a knock on the door, followed by the seneschal, who walked in without waiting for a response. “My lord, the Duchess is ready and awaits your arrival at the gates.”

“She is early,” the Marquess mused as he put on his gauntlets.

“The Duchess of Ancyros is always early,” the seneschal of House Bitterstone informed them.
“Please inform Her Grace that The Marquess of Alvang will join her shortly,” the knight interjected. There was no love lost between the two. Then the knight went on one knee, and, holding up his lord’s sword, spoke the ritual words, “Armeros bless this sword.”

“And the hand that wields it,” the Marquess finished the prayer as he took the sword and sheathed it. He then held out a hand to help his friend to his feet.

The Seneschal of House Bitterstone frowned.


There had been a wind all day; and it was rising then, with an extraordinary great sound. It blew over the tombstones and cried in the cypresses; it ran through the crowd and haunted the knights’ armour. A keening rose from fissures in the ground, and the rabbits and other burrowing creatures of the region dug deeper into the earth. The Duchess shivered despite herself and gripped the pommel of her ceremonial sword.

 “The noose draws closer around our necks,” she said.

“It was just the wind, mother. Be at ease.” The Marquess of Alvang watched as the knights took their places and waited for the tournament to begin. Some sparred with their squires to keep warm against the chill. He longed to be down there with them, with a sword in his hand a shield on his arm; but, as heir apparent, protocol dictated that he sit beside his mother The Duchess of Ancyros and hold court. The Marquess was a man who lived in his body instead of his head. He was known as the protector of the community and of families, but, in truth, any reason to join in a brawl was a good enough reason for him.

The wind freshened in the treetops and a fringe of it ruffled his hair. The Duchess clenched the hilt of her sword until the engravings pierced skin and drew blood. “Is she with child yet?”
The air was crystalline as it sometimes is when rain is coming. And then the light rain began to blow on the wind although the sky was not properly covered with cloud.

“Mother, your hand is bleeding.”

The Duchess of Ancyros motioned for one of the attendants to come forward, tore a piece of cloth from his clothing and wrapped her hand. Then she stood up and thrust the sword toward the firmament, motioning for the tournament to begin.

“Is she with child?” she asked when she sat down again.

“Mother! It has not been a week on the morrow.”

“Ample time for you both to perform your duties.”

“She is in the Troll Mountains negotiating with the Kloighut over rights of way. I ride off with the Knights of Armeros to-night. I have not been in the same room with my wife since the wedding!”

Ser Eyrin fought Moundgraven Marzevash in the grounds below them. Ser Eyrin was a ferocious warrior, and the youngest squire to be knighted in the history of Anycros. The Order of Armeros had high hopes for him.

“You had three hours together before she departed,” the Duchess noted.

“Rest assured we enjoyed the respite.”

“And did you use this... respite... productively?”

“Oh yes!” The Marquess wore a faraway yet intent look, as though he were listening to some wind-carried music. “We danced, and drank, and enjoyed each other's company.”

“You danced?” The Duchess raised an eyebrow. “I thought she hated dancing.”

There was a loud thud followed by the clash of metal on metal as Ser Eyrin lost his footing and fell to the ground, pulling Moundgraven Marzevash with him. They rolled on the grass and came to a stop with the Moundgraven on top and a dagger pressed against Ser Eyrin’s throat. The Moundgraven of the High Fores always had another dagger up his sleeve.

The Duchess rose from her seat and pointed her sword towards the Moundgraven, declaring him the victor. The next contestants entered the ring.

“It seems His Lordship will face Moundgraven Marzevash again for the championship. Do you think His Lordship can retain the title for the third year running?” said the Justiciar to the Master Almoner. His voice had gotten rusty over the years, though certainly not from lack of use.

 “The Moundgraven does not like to lose,” the Master Almoner wheezed in answer. He breathed with difficulty and spoke with even greater difficulty still. He had crested his middle years, and catapulted into old age, well before the Late Duke Bitterstone was even born, and, from then on, clang to life with the tenacity of a badger. He will bury us all, thought the Marquess.

The Master Almoner came to a pause, regarding the Marquess with a singular scowl, a strange contortion of brow, which would probably have been interpreted as an expression of bitter anger and ill-will by people who did not know him. But, in fact, this forbidding scowl was the innocent result of his near-sightedness, and an effort to concentrate his powers of vision as to substitute a firm outline of the object instead of a vague one.

“Then he will like losing repeatedly even less,” the Marquess declared and winked at the old man. Then he turned his head back to his mother and lowered his voice, “We danced — ”
“For three hours?”

“Well, we talked too.”

“Am I to understand that between all this dancing and wine, the conversation never turned to... other matters?”

“I admit our affections did grow warmer as the wine flowed.”


“And I leaned to kiss her and we were about to share an intimate moment, but then — ”

“What then?” the Duchess pressed.

“Then the war broke.”

“Wars can be fought by other men. A duke’s first duty is the production of an heir. You must apply your mind — and more to the point, your body — to that before all else.”

“Mother, must we discuss this now?”

“Every year the noose gets one notch tighter, Aeric. Fourteen times it has been yoked since your father...” The Duchess broke off, and started again after a moment, “Since your father was taken from us.”

“You mean since he went insane and threw himself off a cliff and left you a widower at twenty-six.” Aeric broke into a rage, and his powerful voice climber higher and higher as he spoke. “Was it this cliff, mother? Or was it the cliff the castle sits on? Perhaps he climbed Mount Heckra and threw himself into the caldera?”

“Lower your voice, Aeric. Appearances must be kept.” The Duchess sat like a statue from the Age of Kings, but she did smile at the crowd every now and then, which is to say: at regular intervals, with clockwork precision.

“Yes, appearances must be kept. Perhaps you should have thought of that before you broached the subject here. But then that's exactly why you ambush me now, isn't it? To make sure I can't run, trapped between crowd and tourney. Say it then, mother. Say it all. Relieve yourself of the burden. Get it off your chest.”

In a rare public display of affection, the Duchess put her hand on her son’s arm and said quietly, “You have seen twenty cycles of the Disk. More than two thirds of your life lies behind you. You are not a child anymore.” She paused and looked into her son’s eyes. “We run out of time.”

“I have eight more years. Eight more years before — ”

“Say it.”

“Before I go away.”

“Say it!” Her grip on his arm tightened and her fingernails bit into his skin.

“Before the Wailwoman murders me.”

“Or drives you out of your mind and to your death.”

“Thank you, mother, for the reminder.”

The Duchess took her son’s cheeks between her hands, turned his head to face her, and kissed his forehead. Her voice softened, “Son, see what is at stake here. The fate of the Duchy rests on you. You must produce an heir before the Banshee comes for you.”

“I have eight more years!” the Marquess of Alvang protested. “Mother, let us enjoy the time we have. Once she is pregnant... everything begins again.”

The Duchess looked at him and did not say anything for a long time. “Is that why you delay?”

“Mother, I know what must be done. And I shall do it. But we need not rush. If I am to be taken from my wife, then let my last years with her be years of solace. Let me give her years of brightness, away from the Banshee's shadow. The year before the Banshee comes for me, we will conceive. Then that should buy us another six years. Why hurry?”

The Duchess laughed; it was a cold, hard laugh devoid of any mirth. “Thirteen generations of the Curse, son, and you think no one has thought of it? Vaeleron the Bold, third in line after the Curse, tried it. The House of Bitterstone almost ended with him.”

“Why?” Aeric objected. “The Wailwoman graces us with six years of our firstborn, does she not?” He spat on the grass when his mouth met the word ‘grace’.

“Not exactly,” said the Duchess.

The Marquess of Alvang pulled in his voice to a whisper and recited the Curse as it was passed down from mother to son for thirteen generations of House Bitterstone:

Tharoaer Son of Tharoan Son of Tharodin,
I curse you and the House of Bitterstone.
Wither shall your loins, as shall the womb of your wife,
No child shall be born to your line except one son in every generation.
Six years I will give you to know and love him before I come for you,
As I will come for him in his twenty-eighth year.
And so it shall be —
Now and until the end of days.
“Son, the Banshee will come for you in your twenty-eighth year or on your son's naming day, whichever is the earlier. Delay will only shorten the time you have with him. Will you deny him a father?”

“A father will be denied him regardless.”

“Your father loved you...”

“So much so that he left us — ”

“Your father did not leave us. The Banshee took him,” she whispered angrily, interrupting her son.

“I will not abandon my family.”

A darkness covered her cheeks and the Duchess of Ancyros said hoarsely, “Son, don’t, for the love of Foiros, put violence on me.”

“I will fight for my wife. She will fight for me. We will fight for each other.”

The Matriarch of House Bitterstone slapped her son across the face, and a great cry, which was audible even above the wind and the cheers of the crowd, rose from her chest. “How dare you! You think we did not? I gave everything for this family. And your father loved us as much as it was ever possible for a man to love his family.”

The Marquess of Alvang did not flinch when his mother’s hand connected with his face. Fire burned in his eyes. His cheek smarted and the impression of the Duchess’s fingers flared on his skin. Still he did not move. In the shocked silence, heads turned to the ruling family. The Duchess motioned for the tourney to continue.

She regained control over her lungs and sank her voice, but a storm still seethed behind her words as she said, “Why do you think he walked off that cliff? Fighting the Banshee will only drive you to insanity. You know what happens when you resist: Your grandfather gorged his eyes out. His great great grandfather cut off his ears and bled to death. It will serve purpose but to bring yet more misery upon our House.” The fire went out of her eyes and she said quietly, “Learn from the mistakes of your forefathers, Aeric. Spare your wife the pain.”

“There must be something I can do.” The Marquess of Alvang looked stonily at the horizon.

“There is. Put a child in her. Ensure the survival of this lineage.”

“Enough, mother!”

The Duchess’s anger grew and put out leaves. She put her hands on the arms of her raised chair and squeezed the polished wood to restrain herself. Her face was bent down, and her jawbone jutted below her temples from clenching. She spoke with the warmth and understanding of a glacier, “Until you put a child in her belly, I am the matriarch of this family. You will do as I command.”


“Or I will take your manhood and put it in her with my own hand.”

 “What if... she doesn't want a child? Not so soon, anyway.”

“Do not be ridiculous. Every woman wants to bear children.”

Aeric’s hands were clenched and the blood was driven out of his white knuckles. He closed his eyes and his head reeled with uncontrolled fury. “I will not rape my wife,” he said.

“Then stand aside and worry not. I shall convince her easily enough.”

A horn sounded and the Master of Arms announced his name. Finally, he thought. The Marquess of Alvang rose and walked down the steps to the tournament grounds.
His first opponent was the Markgraven of Weyring, a Knight of Armeros himself and a bear of a man. The Marquess of Alvang did not draw his sword. The horn rang out again, its deep note carrying across the cemetery. Aeric’s iron fist had already landed on the man’s bevor before its echo died in the cliffs, and the Markgraven lay splayed on the ground. The Marquess did not move.

The next contender in the line flinched visibly and took a tiny step back.


With the arrival of the morning, the wind had dropped away and left the air raw and wounded. It was cold enough to shake out the curtains of rum in the prisoner’s head without restoring his timidity or good judgement. His hands and feet were bound with iron, his body tied to the trunk of a tree, and his eyes blindfolded. Despite the cold, sweat gathered on the man’s face and ran down his neck; little beads of it caught the sun now and again. The edges of the blindfold were wet and, increasingly, plastered to his head like a second skin.

A great frost spread through the sky and drained the world of all warmth. The skies were so clear, and the air so bright and sharp, that a man could not look up without averting his eyes shortly afterward.

There was a snap and a whistle and a grunting thud on wood. A large, red bell pepper was pinned to the trunk of the tree, with an arrow shot through its perfect centre, the iron tip deep in the wood. Seeds lay scattered, variously on the man’s head, shoulders, and the ground around his bound feet; and reddish translucent juice ran down his nose. And the man felt warmth, and he felt relief, streaming down his legs.  

“Well done, Katrea!” the Duchess bellowed. She seized her by the shoulders and kissed her forehead as she might a son; and, stepping back to look at her, hands still on her arms, said, “I see so much of your father in you. His iron will, his keen mind…” The Duchess paused for a moment, head turned to the tree. “And, it seems, his unerring aim.”

The man was shaking uncontrollably and sobbing.

“Chachali Son of Carlin Son of Bosto; you were sentenced to death for high treason by the Laws of the Land, but you requested the Justice of Armeros. The Armourlord looked into your heart and saw that it held true; he saw that you were falsely accused and falsely judged, and weighed in his divine justice,” the Justiciar decreed. His rusty voice crackled through the crisp air. His proclamation was punctuated periodically by the jangle of iron on iron as tremors ran through the accused man’s body and shook and rattled his shackles. “Let your name be cleared this day and let no man call you a traitor. By the divine justice of Armeros and the authority of Her Grace The Duchess of Ancyros acting in the name of the Santhros, His Royal Highness King [name] the [adjective] of House [house] – ” The Justiciar stopped short. He had gone on so long and so persistently, refusing to pause even for a meagre intake of breath, that he felt a bit lightheaded and had lost all track of what he was going to say next. After a moment of uneasy silence, he recovered, “Your lands and property are restored to you. Go now with the blessing of the Twelve. Go now as a free man.”

Two guards came to unshackle him. “Blessed Armeros!” the man shouted, still trembling, “Glory be to Thy Name!” He was crying and the air smelled sharply of urine. “Thank you, Your Grace! Thank you! And The Lady Alvang!” Tears and sweat and the juice of red bell pepper streaked down his face, and perhaps a bit of phlegm and snot too. “I am forever loyal to Ancyros,” he said as he was led away. “And House Bitterstone,” he added after a moment’s contemplation. Coming within nailsbreath of his life often sharpens a man’s powers of perception. This was a truth well known to the Marquess of Alvang, who was no stranger to death himself.

The Duchess had a unique gift of being able to punctuate in speech as well as in script. “My dear Daughter,” she said, “There is a matter with which We require your assistance. We would not ask it of other women, for it is a matter which calls for steel-minded resolve, and requires restraint and command of the emotions.”

Aeric frowned. The Duchess could be very persuasive when she set her mind to it, and to this, her mind was set. His wife was smart, smarter than him by a respectable margin, and a master strategist. But she did not have his experience with his mother. He could feel the jaws of the trap closing around his wife.

The guards brought another man to face the judgement of Armeros, the God of War and Justice, and prepared him for court, by tying him to a tree.

“A firm hand is needed,” the Duchess said. “But restraint also.” The Marchioness of Alvang looked straight ahead at the horizon and listened, carefully withholding all emotion from her face. But Aeric knew his wife as well as any man can know a woman. Her eyes were intense and she appeared to be calculating something behind them. And Aeric saw the fire in her, roused by the unspoken challenge in the Duchess’s words.

The Duchess had read her daughter-in-law well and her words had bypassed the steel and found the soft spots between the plates. “War is at our threshold. No one knows this better than you, Katrea. Action must be taken and swiftly. But there are some among the markgravens as speak against it. We must call a Council of War and corral them in. They must be convinced and converted, one and all to the cause. With the Late Duke gone, may he rest in peace, the duty falls to Us. But this is a task which calls for a man’s hand and We lack the military expertise. Neither can Our son lead the Council in this, for, as a Knight of Armeros, the neutrality of his judgement would be doubted.” The Duchess waited so that the weight of her words may sink in. “Thus we turn to Our daughter. Can she rise to the task and be Our Voice in the matter?”

“I agree Your Grace, other women cannot handle this.” With one fluid motion Katrea drew her longbow and released. The arrow whistled through the air and found its target. “But I am not other women.” Armeros had absolved another man today.

“My son and I do not see eye to eye in many matters; but, in this, we are in agreement.” The Duchess smiled. “You are your father’s daughter, Katrea.”

The Justiciar droned on in the background.

“While we are on the subject, how is your father?” the Duchess asked.

“His Grace The Duke of Astran is well and inquires after your health, Your Grace.”

“Call me Mother,” she said, almost absentmindedly, but not quite. “We are family now, my dear. And between family there can be no secrets. Nor shame. The situation is no discredit to your father’s name. He holds strong in impossible circumstances. Were it not for him, we would all be buried to our necks in Kloighut and Gob-ocs,” the Duchess said. “Any other man would have faltered long ago. Which is precisely why we must send him aid.”

The Marchioness learned quickly.  “Thank you, Mother,” she said and the Duchess smiled.

“Your father’s legacy will live through you, Katrea. Imagine what could be accomplished if you were to marry the mines of the High Fores to the arm of Astran?”

Aeric’s brow furrowed deeper and deeper as fragments of the conversation reached him. The Duchess believed in fair exchange: She never gave something without getting everything. The trap was set, the succulent scent of bait wafted on the wind, and the Duchess was leading his wife step by inexorable step to it.

The guards brought a third man to the Justice of Armeros. The Lady Alvang stepped back and the Duchess took her place. Her bow was still strong, but it was smaller than Katrea’s – a woman’s bow. Aeric shook his head. He had never seen the Duchess wield any bow but his father’s. This was not a conversation between mother and daughter, but a performance, and every detail of it had been orchestrated with precision.

“Carlinn Son of Linah Son of Tynei,” the Justiciar intoned with a voice like a whetting stone scouring rust off metal. “You were sentenced to death for the murder of your brother. You claimed that he bedded your wife and dishonoured your family, but could not prove this before the court. Hence, your plea for mitigation was refused by the Justices of Ancyros. You requested the Justice of Armeros before your sentence was carried. And you shall have it!”

The Duchess released her arrow. It flew through the air and went through the man’s shoulder. The man screamed in pain and went on screaming.

“The Just One has affirmed your guilt, but judged the sentence unduly harsh. You will appear before the magistrates to be resentenced,” the Justiciar said without missing a beat. “Guards!”

The guards hauled the howling man away. A fourth man was brought before Armeros – or would have been, had he not been causing such a commotion. “The Lady Katrea! I want the Lady Katrea!” he yelled. He was flailing about so wildly that it took four men to contain him and bring him to the trees, and another two to tie him down.

“Captain, remove his blindfold and gag him with it instead,” the Duchess suggested. Some suggestions are not suggestions.

The Justiciar began reciting a catalogue of the man’s crimes. Aeric counted slowly to a hundred, and then back again. At one point it seemed to him as if the list would never end, and the Justiciar would go on until the Banshee came for him. So much for Mother’s plans for an heir, he thought.

“… sixteen counts of embezzlement, thirty-four counts of fraud, fifty-and-one counts of selling counterfeit goods, sixteen counts of forgery on official documents, seven counts of theft, and one hundred and sixty-nine counts of misrepresentation,” the Justiciar paused and checked his notes. There was a great deal of shuffling. “By the Gods! That was not a scribing error!” he muttered. Then he continued in his rusty voice for quite some time. He had saved the best for last, “And one count of withholding taxes from the Duchy.”

There was a collective intake of breath. The Duchess did not wait for the Justiciar to finish this time.

The arrow missed the man’s head by half a palmspan and impaled wood. “Poor tree,” the Duchess said.

“Armeros has declared a mistrial for lack of evidence. The Oracle of Seyella will be consulted and the case retried,” declared the Justiciar.

“Murrrm… gurg… ddrrrgg…”

“Request for bail denied,” the seven lords justice announced unanimously. The Justiciar wiped his brow and made a note.

“May I suggest that he be held separately? Outside the city even. Away from anything valuable.” the Duchess said. “Perhaps on the Isle of [isle], in solitary confinement?” Again, not a suggestion.

“Mother, that’s where they hold lepers,” Aeric said.

“Is it now?” the Duchess said. “Then he should already have many friends there. Justiciar, We seem to recall that, among the many – and We mean many – crimes of which this man stood accused, there was one charge of purporting to sell a miracle cure for leprosy? Does memory serve Us correctly?”

“Perfectly, Your Grace.”

“What did he call it again?”

“The Tears of Baveras,” the Marchioness stated matter-of-factly. She had an excellent memory and absolute confidence in it.

“Opportunity to gather evidence then,” the Duchess said. “Justiciar?”

“Your Grace?”

“Was he not also found guilty – excuse Us, accused of – withholding taxes from the Duchy?”

“That, at least, is beyond doubt. It is well documented,” the Chancellor informed them. “I personally looked into the matter, Your Grace.”

“Well then, can we not hang him for that?” the Duchess inquired.

“Unfortunately not, Your Grace.”

“Are you sure about that, Justiciar?” The Duchess seemed to be very surprised by this.

“Positive, Your Grace.” The Justiciar inhaled deeply and moved to pronounce the man’s fate. “Skeir Fjorsund Snilingfril – ”

“Hold!” bellowed the Duchess, extending the vowel. “Fjordsund – that sounds Avennorian?” By this she meant what is an Avennorian doing in my duchy and is this going to cause me trouble with the Thane of Manthria?

“Wait,” the Lady Alvang said, “This isn’t the Skeir Snilingfril by any chance, is it? The one Thane [Name] is forever complaining about?”

“Indeed it is, my lady,” the Justiciar said.

“Chancellor, send word to the Thane of Manthria that we have Skeir Fjorsund Snilingfril in custody. And write separately to his justiciar to ask whether they wish to exercise jurisdiction,” the Duchess instructed.

The Chancellor nodded.

“And Chancellor?”

“Yes, Your Grace?”

“Let us import wine, not criminals, from Manthria next time.”

“Noted, Your Grace.”

Throughout all this, Aeric Bitterstone remained on edge. He was still waiting for the proverbial axe to drop. His mouth was clammed shut, his shoulders tense, and knees slightly bent like a fierce animal ready to pounce on the predator that threatened its mate.

“Unpleasant business,” the Duchess apologised to the Marchioness.

“But necessary,” she responded. “Please, Mother, there is no need to apologise. I understand perfectly. Sometimes for the good of the realm we must do things we otherwise would have preferred not to.”

The Duchess’s ears perked up and a light flickered into being somewhere in her eyes close to the surface. “My Dear Katrea…” The Duchess was exercising her gods-given gift of punctuating speech again.

Here it comes, Aeric thought.

“You set Our heart at ease. You have your father’s strength in you, which is why We have approved of this marriage from the moment you were introduced to Us,” the Duchess said.

Aeric thought this was true in more sense than one. Katrea was her father’s daughter, who, just as it happened, was His Grace The Duke of Astran. She was, in fact, his eldest daughter and sole heir. This made her The Marchioness of [place] in her own right, as well as The Marchioness of Alvang by marriage to him. Yes, she was very much her father’s daughter – and a chance to annex the two duchies in all but name.

“Other women are weak – take the Lady Clarissa, for instance,” the Duchess offered lightly, testing the trap.

The Lady Clarissa was the most beautiful, daintiest little woman in the United Kingdom of Santharia. She was so dainty, in fact, that she had to be carried to her matrimonial suite. This was a thought his wife had trouble wrapping her head around, no matter how hard she tried. At the wedding she kept asking Aeric whether the Lady Clarissa had [been wounded in battle]/[sprained her ankle]. (And what manner of weapon did she wield anyway, given that she was so… well, dainty. This was a question that exercised her mind considerably. Indeed, it was one of the great mysteries of life for Katrea Valýra of House Astran.) When she heard the Lady Clarissa went south for her honeymoon, she approved. She thought the couple had gone south to battle pirates in the Scattersand Shoals. (The Marquess and Marchioness of Alvang spent their honeymoon fighting trolls.)

“Had she been married to Aeric… We shudder at the thought.” The Duchess now had the Marchioness in the palm of her hand. She moved in for the kill. “As We were saying, other women are weak and ruled by emotion. For example, faced with the impending death of their husbands, instead of doing what must be done to secure the line of succession, they would most likely fall apart – ” The Duchess’s eyes found those of her son and remained there as she spoke, “Or they would deny the inevitable all together and choose to spend their last years in a cocoon of happiness.” At the last word, the Duchess grimaced as if she had tasted something sour, and the corners of her mouth stretched to a line. Happiness was not in the Duchess’s list of important nouns.

The Marchioness of Alvang took her bow in hand and swapped places with the Duchess. A fifth man had been brought to the trees.

“Justiciar, what did this man do?” Aeric asked in an attempt to staunch his mother’s momentum and steer the subject elsewhere.

“My lord, he raped seven women, and three of them had not even come of age,” the Justiciar said.

“I will take this.” The Marquess of Alvang removed the longbow from his shoulder and walked over to his wife. It was a bow that would have served happily as a siege weapon. He drew and the wood of the bow groaned in protest, as it bent, and bent, and bent. Then the shaft whooshed through the air for two hundred peds. The arrow struck the man between the legs.

“Pity that,” the Marquess said.


“It’s a good thing I squired for Duke Erthis,” the Marquess of Alvang said, “Or I wouldn’t know how to do this.” A pauldron came off and fell to the floor. A rumbling clang rang in the chamber as steel hit stone.  “Or this.” The guardbrace hit the floor, followed by select pieces of armour in close succession.

“I am vaguely impressed that you can take off a plackart with only one hand,” the knight said. “I hope you didn’t have to practice it on other men first.”

The Marquess of Alvang laughed. It was a rich, deep sound, hearty and vigorous.

The knight’s helmet came off and a shock of shoulder-length hair cascaded down. Their lips clasped together like couter to vambrace; then the Marquess pulled back and beheld his wife for a long time. A true Erpheronian, he thought; tall and proud and with flaming red hair.

“You know,” the Marquess said, shifting the weight on his lap, “This would be so much easier if you weren’t so heavy.”

“Are you implying that I should lose weight?” his wife teased him, feigning outrage.

“It certainly would help.” This earned the Marquess a slap on the back of the head. “You could always start by losing sixty ods of steel.” He winked at his wife.

“I was thinking…” the Marchioness began, as she reached over, pushed her hands under Aeric’s arms to his back, and tugged at the staple and pin fastening his pauldrons to his breastplate, “Maybe it is time we both lost weight.”


At half past Darkreign that night, a terrible keening resounded in the cliffs. It was an unearthly sound – one that reverberated in a man’s bones. It was felt first as a vibration through the feet, then a rising of the hairs on the arms, before it gathered and pooled into a haunting resonance between the ears. It was not a sound one ever forgot.

At the gates, the guards’ eyes widened and their hearts tautened in their chests. Before they passed out, they thought they saw a darkness coming towards Castle Bitterstone. A writhing mass of darkness moving through the air like ink through water. At times it looked like a tall, hooded figure; and at times just a curling, drifting mist, alive with intent and a great, bottomless sorrow.

It passed through the gates and drained into the shadows.

Title: Re: The Banshee: a short story from Varydnn for Arti!
Post by: Ta`lia of the Seven Jewels on 09 September 2013, 16:13:13
Huuuu Coren, what a strange tale, what a cool idea. I forgot that I was on my way to breakfast when I started reading...

Title: Re: The Banshee: a short story from Varydnn for Arti!
Post by: Artimidor Federkiel on 10 September 2013, 04:37:55
Just read the first part, Coren, and you've got a nice setup here, so I'm curious where it will head... Especially as you say that it will be a smaller tale, so I hope an ending is in sight relatively soon :) Anyway, well written so far, I only wonder what the poor man has done in the first place to deserve such a curse...

Some names you use perhaps should be considered changing, because Eyrin and Marzevash are key figures in Santharian history and ideally should be rarely used. Here they are fighting each other, so this looks a bit strange... ;)

Here also a little mistake I found:

...and his powerful voice climbed higher and higher as he spoke.

Hope the story will soon continue with the second part - how many parts do you plan for this story?

Title: Re: The Banshee: a short story from Varydnn for Arti!
Post by: Coren FrozenZephyr on 10 September 2013, 04:51:37
Thanks Art! I'm a neophyte when it comes to horror stories, so we'll see how I do! Tips from a master of horror like you would be very much appreciated. ;)

Eyrin and Marzevash are key figures in Santharian history and ideally should be rarely used.
Hmm, don't people like to name their children after heroes and famous people? I thought those names would be commonplace for that very reason. I'll change them if you want though, no worries.

I only wonder what the poor man has done in the first place to deserve such a curse...
Well, I'm not going to give away the climax. No, mister. Good try.

how many parts do you plan for this story?
About 6-8 parts. The next chapter will be the end of Act 1.

Title: Re: The Banshee: a short story from Varydnn for Arti!
Post by: Coren FrozenZephyr on 13 September 2013, 02:29:53
Part 2 now posted. In terms of story structure, this marks the end of Act 1. Or, to rephrase Churchill, the end of the beginning. ;) The next part will be a foray into the middle.

I need some help with a couple of names - these are marked in square brackets ("[]"). You can do a Ctrl+F search and type in "[" to find them quickly.

The information on tribal language and nomenclature is a godsend! I hope I rendered Aerpheriane correctly throughout the story.

Title: Re: The Banshee: a short story from Varydnn for Arti!
Post by: Ta`lia of the Seven Jewels on 13 September 2013, 06:14:10
Coren, at which time do you want it to happen? Ca?

A bit frightening, what you have here, but maybe a bit lengthy also, not so to the point as the first part.

Title: Re: The Banshee: a short story from Varydnn for Arti!
Post by: Coren FrozenZephyr on 13 September 2013, 06:20:31
I've never written a horror story before. I think I may have gone a bit overboard with the gore. :P

Not sure about the time line. Maybe some time around the first Troll Wars?

Title: Re: The Banshee: a short story from Varydnn for Arti!
Post by: Altario Shialt-eck-Gorrin on 13 September 2013, 08:01:08
I LOVE the Duchess.  To tell the truth, I wish this were about her and a Political themed story. ;)

Title: Re: The Banshee: a short story from Varydnn for Arti!
Post by: Artimidor Federkiel on 15 September 2013, 18:00:57
Just finished reading the next part of the story, and enjoyed it very much :)

The Duchess for sure is a fascinating character, and the way the whole Justice of Armeros is executed and described is no less interesting, some painful surprises included... At any rate the latter makes the whole Wilhelm Tell affair much less exiting - more action and drama in this part of the story... :D Also it's very well written of course, and I especially like that it really is firmly embedded in Santharian history and tries to get all the tiny details right to make that work. Looking forward to see the tale continue...  :thumbup:

There are still some names open, maybe I can think of something here and there. Will post a few suggestions later.  :cool: