Lorkan was hunched over the fire, trying to get it light. Kitara watched him intently trying to get the damp sticks to catch aflame. He’d been trying for at least five minutes and was getting frustrated. He kept glancing over at Kitara, to see if she still watching. When she at last turned towards a noise coming from the bushes behind her, Lorkan sighed, finally he could light the fire.
It burst into flame with terrifying speed and crackled heartily. Kitara turned, puzzled, and stared at Lorkan questioningly. He shrugged and shifted his attention to his pack. He rummaged around until he found a pan for cooking and placed it on the fire. Kitara shook her head dubiously. This had happened at lunch time as well, she’d turned her back for a split second and suddenly the damp twigs and leaves had burst into flame. Although Lorkan had told her long ago that there was no magic spell for creating fire, she was beginning to doubt it, and they’d only been travelling for a few days. The outline of Cavral’s towers and battlements still showed against the sunset.
Most of the last few days had been spent in awkward silence. Neither or the pair seemed to know what to say the other. Kitara’s lame attempts at making conversation quickly fizzled out. Lorkan’s mind was somewhere else, and Kitara was still really worried. So they walked in companionable, but uncomfortable silence.
Kitara roused from her thoughts to see bacon, mushrooms and two sausages sizzling away in the pan. It took little over five minutes for all of it to cook properly. She wolfed it down hungrily, and smiled a satisfied grin.
“That was really lovely,” she said to Lorkan. He nodded thankfully.
“Cheers,” he murmured. Kitara sighed; she was getting bored of silence now.
“And thanks,” she continued, “for the other morning.” Lorkan looked up.
“Why?” he asked, “What did I do?”
“When we were leaving, you spoke to all those people, said thank you for wishing us farewell and all that,” she paused “I know you don’t like crowds,” she added sheepishly, “but you spoke to them, because I couldn’t.” Lorkan seemed shocked.
“Oh,” he replied, turning away embarrassedly, “So you noticed my..er..problem, with lots of people in one place,” Kitara nodded,
“Yeah, I did.” There was a pregnant pause.
“How?” Lorkan murmured quietly.
“Lorkan,” Kitara replied, “How much time have I spent with you these last few months? Every time we go somewhere, you take the least crowded routes possible, even if it doubles the journey length. Every time we encountered a person, you pulled your hood even higher over your head and you spent as little time near them as possible. You were so uncomfortable in the ball and at the emergency council. I have spent more time with you than anyone else in Cavral altogether, at least that’s what it seems, and I'm still trying to work out half of your mannerisms, like the crowd avoiding and the whole hood over face thing.” Lorkan was quiet for a long time.
“I don’t really want to go into it,” he said at last, “Just understand that it’s to do with things that happened long ago, which I can't get over. I deal with it in my own way, so don’t worry, ok?” Kitara nodded, she could see his reluctance to talk about it. It was frustrating, but she knew if she pushed him that he’d clam up even more. Perhaps on their journey he’d learn to trust her enough to tell her the truth.
“You could at least take your hood down when we’re alone,” Kitara added, “I mean, what reason would I have for not wanting to see your face?” Lorkan paused for a moment, almost considering the idea. Then a wry smile curled his lips and he shook his head.
“No,” he said quietly, “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Kitara’s eyes narrowed,
“At least give me a reason why,” she sighed, “Not many people would travel happily knowing they’ll never see their companion’s face.”
“I get the feeling you wouldn’t travel happily knowing what I looked like either.” Kitara raised her eyebrows. Lorkan just shrugged and turned back to the fire. Kitara was unsatisfied, but reluctantly dropped the subject. Lorkan sighed. He really wished that he could tell her the truth, but he wondered how far her trust would stretch once she found out. Besides, Lorkan thought, in a way, she already had seen his face, sort of.
When Kitara woke in the morning, it was pretty cold. The misty morning haze of early spring hung in the air. Dew covered the grass around where she’d slept. Lorkan had been right to tell her to put a weather shield spell up around her bed, if she hadn’t she’d have probably been soaked. Sitting up, she stretched and yawned. Lorkan was over by the fire, which was blazing happily despite the fact all the logs and leaves around seemed to be soaked. Lorkan’s amazing wet-start fire trick, Kitara concluded. Disbanding the weather shield, Kitara got up.
“Morning,” she yawned at Lorkan as she went to sit by the fire too.
“Morning,” he murmured. He looked like he hadn’t slept well. Kitara was about to say something, but caught herself just in time.
“Sleep well?” Lorkan asked.
“Err,” Kitara replied, surprised, “Yeah, pretty well actually. You?”
“Fantastic as ever,” Lorkan replied dryly. Kitara hadn’t missed the sarcastic inflection in his voice, nor the way he turned his head to face away from her, ending it at that. No questions asked, as always.
“What's for breakfast?” Kitara said. For a moment there was no answer. Lorkan rummaged through his pack.
“This,” he answered, brandishing some salted pork slices and a small loaf of bread. “Not very tasty,” he continued, “But that’s all we’ve got. We’ll be able to replenish stocks when we get to Marsia.”
“Marsia?” Lorkan nodded,
“Two days walk, if we keep up this pace.” Kitara nodded. She liked Marsia. She had only been there once, despite the fact she’d once lived so close to its borders. She smiled, remembering that her brother had got in trouble that day, the Marsian police had thought he’d been stealing from the shops. Her brother……it hurt to think about him, about any of her family in fact. She pushed her memories aside.
“Good,” she replied, “I can't wait for a decent mattress and pillows.” For once, Lorkan smiled.
“Its only been 5 days. You’ll have to get used to them, we’ve got a long road ahead.”
“Great!” Kitara moaned sarcastically, but she smiled. “How long is the actual journey?” she added, “I’ve never actually thought about it before.” Lorkan looked up astonished.
“You’re telling me, you set off on a possibly self-sacrificial ‘quest’ to save Myrraea from war, and you have no idea how long you might be away? How the hell did you pack?” Kitara shrugged,
“I just brought stuff that was easy to wash out time and time again.” Lorkan shook his head disbelievingly,
“Amazing,” he murmured almost to himself, then he sighed. “Well, we’re not going to risk the Sholen Marshes, that’s for sure, which unfortunately means going all the way round them. After Marsia the terrain get really rough, and there’s only one flat road through it, which we’d be avoiding anyway, because if the Black Lord gets wind of our plan we’ll both be dead before we get anywhere near Varrigor. The whole journey, including awkward terrain, stopping in cities for well earned breaks along the way, infiltrating the Black Lord’s army, killing the Black Lord, and getting out alive (assuming of course that we do) could take over a year.” Kitara wasn’t surprised. She had assumed as much anyway. But there was something that bothered her.
“Why can't we just sail around the edge of all the land, instead of taking the long route and hiking all the way in the other direction?” she asked. Lorkan shook his head.
“We’re not going as far as you think, we’re certainly not crossing the mountains. Besides, the sea is rough to navigate when you go across the pass between Myrraea and Sir'aia. It is passable, and The High Magician’s suggested we take that road, but I told them it was a bad idea. “
“Why?” Kitara asked.
“Because it’s not the pass between Sir'aia and the mainland that needs worrying about, the waters around Clatt aren’t called ‘The Seas of Lost Souls’ for nothing you know. The undercurrent is lethal. It churns up the water so much that only an idiot would try and sail out on it. There’s so many sunken ships on the sea floor there it’s like a graveyard. Accounting for the time it would take for us to sail there anyway, the time of year we’d arrive would be awful, that when the sea is at its worst.” Kitara was confused.
“How do you know?” Lorkan turned away from her. He’d known it would come to this. At least he could be economical with the truth.
“I grew up there.” He said in a dull flat tone. Kitara gasped. She was stuck for words.
“What? You grew in Varrigor?” Kitara managed to stammer. Lorkan chuckled dryly, still not making eye contact.
“No,” he said quietly, “The Black Lord only created Varrigor when I was about 10.” Then he fell silent. Kitara looked at him expectantly, desperate for more information. After a while he sighed.
“I lived on Clatt with my family. We were part of a community of the last remaining people who were descended from the original inhabitants of Clatt, the Clatians (clay-shans.) I had a brother, a twin. We weren’t well off, but we were happy.” He paused, and Kitara bit her lip. She knew about living poorly but being happy. She also knew about losing all your family and friends, and being alone in this world, and she had a sinking feeling that this was what Lorkan was about to tell her had happened to him.
“Then one day,” Lorkan continued sadly, “The Black Lord, with his ‘army’ which was just a bunch of bloodthirsty criminals and bandits back then, decided he wanted Clatt as a stronghold. His ‘army’ came and killed everyone. I had to watch my family die before my eyes. The Black Lord himself, who is an immensely powerful magician, sensed my twin’s and my own magical ability, which, putting it modestly is rather impressive. He didn’t kill us. Instead he tried to take us under his wing. I refused and was kept in the dungeons. My twin, however, well, he was too scared to say no. He was tortured and beaten as part of some sadistic experiment, and he went mad. They, they…” Lorkan paused awkwardly, “He was killed because he became ‘ineffective’.” Then Lorkan fell silent. Kitara eyes were brimming with tears. His story of loss made her chill to the core. She knew what he must’ve gone through to lose all he’d ever known in almost no time at all. But, she realised, with a pang of guilt and shock, Lorkan probably had a much harder time than she’d had. It was the fact he’d been a twin. Twins were rare in Myrraea, but when they did occur, it was beyond the boundaries of normal genetics. Twins had a sort of mind link, they could speak into each others minds and often shared dreams. Also when one was in a state of high emotion, pain, love, fear, joy, the other felt it too. Because of this, Lorkan must have been put through his twin’s pain and agony and not been able to do anything about it. Living with another person inside your head your whole life might get annoying sometimes, but when a twin dies, their voice dies too. It must have been so empty and quiet to the point of utter madness after Lorkan’s twin was killed. Almost like his other half had been taken away……Kitara sniffed. She looked concernedly at Lorkan. His face (at least what Kitara could see of it) was grave. No tears stained his cheeks though. How could he have lived through that? Kitara wondered.
“After a while, they forgot about me,” Lorkan continued, his voice heavy. “I escaped in the end. They never came looking for me. I swam from Clatt to the mainland. A small boy in rough seas isn’t a good idea, and I almost drowned. I washed up on the beach, unconscious and near death. They family that found me knew only magicians could do what was needed to keep me alive. They trekked across the marshes to get me there as soon as possible. They risked their lives to save me……we had a few run in’s with marsh bats.” He shuddered, “Nasty vicious things. The man lost an arm. But they still kept going, trying to save my life. We got to Cavral, and the Magician healers nursed me back into shape. It was a close call, but they managed it. They also did the best they could for the man’s arm. As I was reviving, my powers started coming back to me. The magicians were astonished to find I was so strong. The High Magicians knew nothing of my past yet, but they didn’t want a stray magician to get into the hands of the Black Lord.”
“Just like Varran has,” Kitara hissed under her breath. But Lorkan heard, and for a moment his whole body went rigid. But then he shook it off as if nothing had happened. Kitara took a mental note of this.
“It was decided that I would be kept and raised in Cavral, under watch of the High Magicians. Do you remember Count Akunin, the one I had a teenage rivalry with?” Kitara nodded in answer. “Well,” Lorkan continued, “I was sent to live with his family. His father was less than thrilled to have a weird and dangerous kid in his house. He watched me like a hawk. In fact, he spent so much time making sure I didn’t do anything wrong, that he neglected his own son. Akunin didn’t like this. He blames me for his father ignoring him. I was an innocent and troubled kid, but I was never the type to cause trouble. I was actually afraid they’d kill me if I stepped out of line. His father’s paranoia made my fear even worse. Akunin hated me because his father was too paranoid to leave me be. He spread rumours about me, that I was evil and a freak. All the kids at the time believed him, I didn’t exactly fit in, I barely talked, and Akunin was influential even as a child. They took his word for it. Of course I've grown up now, but so have those people who thought of me like that. And they passed on their unease with me to their children. It doesn’t help that I'm still scared of pretty much everyone, stuff like that scarrs you, and the evil of the Black Lord is still as fresh to me as it was all those years ago. Human beings are unnecessarily cruel, and you and I both have felt that. It wasn’t until you came to Cavral that I had someone I could relate to, even if it was only through some horrible experience that left both of us alone.” Lorkan paused and looked up at Kitara. He forced a smile.
“What a sob story eh?” he grinned weakly, trying to brush off the tension, “I'm sure you didn’t need to hear all that. Oh well, its done now. Shall we pack and get going, we’ve got a long road ahead?” And with that he stood up, his back to Kitara, ending the conversation. Kitara didn’t know what to say. A single tear had escaped onto her cheek. His tale had touched her, and she really, genuinely felt for him. How horrible had his life been? She’d never known…….She took a deep breath. ‘Get a hold of yourself’ she said to herself, gathering her thoughts. For Lorkan’s sake, she’d get her act together, and not dwell on what he’d just told her, but she knew, that when the night came round again her nightmares would be back, and perhaps not just her own ones either.
Varran’s long stride took the steps three at a time without much effort. He reached the top and turned left. He strode swiftly through the halls of the Black Lord’s tower, cloak billowing out behind him, eyebrows pulled together in a tight frown.
The servants who saw him coming scuttled desperately out of his way. Had they not already been terrified of him and his unstable temper, the look on his face would’ve sent them running anyway.
For Varran was not wearing his usual murderous glare, or his even scarier happy expression, which usually meant he’d just killed something. No, his expression was a mixture of anger, fear, confusion, and maybe even a little sadness, a dangerous combination, and one to which no-one knew how Varran would react. It was soon found out, by a servant boy who’d been on his way to the kitchens, that anyone who didn’t move out of the way, would find themselves hitting the wall down the opposite end of the corridor, with a few broken bones and a giant hole in their top, which revealed a large patch of raw, torn skin from where a mage bolt had hit them in the stomach. No-one dared to get in the way after that.
The Black Lord himself was standing in his room, looking out of the wide window out onto his city, Varrigor. He watched the people scurry like ants, and every now and then, like a kid with a magnifying glass, he’d send a mage bolt down to fry one of the ants. He smiled as his latest victim burst into flame and started screaming. Suddenly, a sharp knock on the door caught his attention.
“Come in,” he said, lazily waving his arm in the appropriate direction. The door swung open of its own accord, and Varran stepped through.
“You called for me, my Lord? Varran asked in a solemn tone, putting himself in his usual position, standing behind his master’s right shoulder. The Black Lord turned to Varran, and his eyes widened. Varran did not meet his master’s gaze. Instead, he was staring out over the city, distracted and distant, head bowed slightly, his face ashen. Clearly, something was on his mind, for usually the Black Lord was afforded his undivided attention.
“Yes, I did,” the Black Lord answered, “But it can wait.” Varran looked up surprised. “What I want to know,” he continued, “Is what is on your mind, for you seem greatly troubled by it?” Varran turned his head away. His brow furrowed. Suddenly, he seemed reluctant to talk. But this was not a problem. The Black Lord would’ve killed anyone who ignored a question like that normally, but this was Varran, his beloved general, whom his blackness adored like a son. Instead, he put a reassuring hand on Varran’s shoulder. Varran flinched.
“I'm sorry,” he stammered, misreading this gesture as a warning, “It’s just, it’s so hard you know, after so much silence, hearing from him again…….” His voice trailed off nervously. Now the Black Lord’s interest was piqued.
“Did he speak to you?” he asked. Varran shook his head,
“No. I don’t think he even meant to let it happen. You see, it was in a dream.” The Black Lord raised his eyebrows,
“A dream? Does this mean he could be losing control of the block?” Again Varran shook his head.
“I don’t think so,” he replied, “But whatever it was, he let his guard down, badly. He, err, let slip his whereabouts, or at least, where he plans to be soon.” The Black Lord smiled greedily.
“That makes your job easier then,” he said. But Varran grimaced involuntarily. The Black Lord frowned. “Unless you would rather me send some of the sorcerers instead?” Varran immediately shook his head. He well remembered the sorcerers and their methods of ‘persuasion.’ They were sadistic men, fallen magicians much like himself, but who’d devoted their time to experimenting on others, trying out horrible fusions of man and beast, which mainly ended up dead after much pain and torture. He shuddered at the memory.
“No,” he told the Black Lord, “He is my brother, and therefore my burden to bear.” The Black Lord’s eyes flashed.
“Not for much longer though,” he smirked.
“No, not much longer,” Varran agreed, his voice tight, “Besides, I'm the only one who’d reach him in enough time to intercept him. You literally couldn’t send anyone else anyway.” The Black Lord laughed.
“Indeed,” he grinned, “That’s something to thank the sorcerers for then isn’t it?” Varran grumbled something under his breath about it being ‘too much trouble’ and ‘pointless most of the time.’ The Black Lord smiled to himself. For once Varran was showing some human character. Usually he was just sombre, obedient and violent, killing without feeling or mercy, and for petty reasons. The Black Lord didn’t mind this, on the contrary, is was useful to have a general who didn’t care about massacring an innocent city, for instance, but occasionally it was amusing to see Varran had, or at least remnants of, a personality.
“Did your brother reveal anything else interesting?” the Black Lord asked.
“No,” Varran sighed, “At least, not directly. But an image kept slipping into his consciousness of a girl. Maybe it was someone he left behind in Cavral. However, whenever this image appeared he hid it straight away. I kept quiet, but I think he could tell I was watching. Whoever it was, he didn’t want me to see her.” The Black Lord frowned.
“This is not good news,” he said solemnly, “I fear your brother may change his course of action if he does know you were in his mind. I think, as a precaution, I will order you to drop you current duties, and begin your mission.” Varran raised his eyebrows.
“But my Lord, I…..” Varran was silenced by a firm glare. The Black Lord turned to stare out of the window.
“We cannot have the mission going amiss, Varran,” he said sternly. “His death is of great importance to me. It needs to be known that those who turn traitor to the Black Lord, will not be tolerated. Defecting from my army is punishable by death. And your brother must be made an example of.” Varran frowned but said nothing. “Well go then,” the Black Lord hissed angrily. Sighing, Varran tensed his muscles, and then leapt out of the nearest window. The Black Lord smiled evilly. He really did appreciate what the sorcerers had done for Varran, even if their efforts had been wasted on his turncoat of a brother.
(A/N) Please review! Id relli appreciate it as I need all the help I can get!