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Official website of Science Fiction and Fantasy Author Carol Hightshoe
Call of Chaos
Book One: Chaos Reigns Saga
Kyrianna slipped out the window and dropped to the ground. Her soft leather boots made a slight thud and she froze for a moment, crouching in the shadows as she surveyed the area. She released a silent breath and watched as the moisture condensed in front of her. The moon was a few days past the first quarter, waxing toward full and provided enough illumination for her eyes to pick out the shimmering frost on the rocks, bushes and statuary scattered between her location and the back wall of the estate. She continued to study the area, searching out the best route through the clutter.
This was a small estate and she judged it only a couple dozen paces from where she was to the wall, but there had to be over fifty items of statuary and bushes in her path.
“Ibacia, master of shadows and patron of thieves, guide my steps,” she whispered as she made her way through the clutter. She half danced as she avoided the clutching branches of the bushes that threatened to capture her. Rocks and broken pieces of marble bit at her feet, but her training had taught her to move with a light step—even at a quick pace. However, as her right foot slid over an icy piece of stone, she was glad she had an even softer step than most.
“Chaos, where is it?” she muttered as she searched for the message tube her guild mentor, Silvis, had told her to find. Most of the noble estates in Nydith, like this one, had several in various locations on the grounds so messages could be passed if there was something preventing normal communications. If not for those instructions, she would have slipped back out the small gate near the stables where she had entered.
After what seemed like an eternity, though the moon had not moved from its watchful position, she located the message tube in the northeast corner of the back wall. The opening was overgrown with flowers and grass; and it was only the slight sparkle of the silver and gold marker crystals that allowed her to find it. Kyrianna released the breath she hadn’t realized she was holding then pulled the small packet of papers from under her tunic, rolled it tight and slid it into the tube.
Before moving away, she took a few seconds to straighten the flowers and smooth the dirt. There, it would take someone with the proper training to see the area has been disturbed, she thought.
Still moving cautiously, she made her way to the other corner of the wall where the small statue of a unicorn stood. As soon as her hand touched the white marble, she jerked it back. She had felt warmth and the slight tremor of flesh, but this was just a statue. How could it be alive?
Kyrianna stared at the statue, holding her breath, for several heartbeats. She reached back out and placed her hand on the unicorn’s smooth neck. As the cold, ebony eyes watched her; she rubbed the hard surface of stone. For the briefest moment, there was a sparkle in the unicorn’s eyes that should not have been there. She blinked and looked again—it was gone.
“My apologies,” she whispered as she used the statue to climb to the top of the wall.
Kyrianna froze on top of the wall as footsteps echoed in the small alley. What little light the moon had been providing was now hidden behind the morning clouds and she forced herself as flat as she could as she waited.
The footsteps continued, regular and even in their stride. Three or four, walking together, she thought, must be the Watch. However, it’s too early for the morning patrol, why are they here? Knowing the odds were already against her if this was a special patrol; she mouthed a silent prayer her brother wouldn’t be with them.
Kyrianna shifted her head, to see the patrol and frowned at the flash of gold on the shoulder of one of the group. _Chaos take it, Erudus is with them_.
She breathed a small sigh of relief when she saw her brother’s attention seemed to be focused on the walls opposite her position. As long as his attention was elsewhere, she was safe; human eyes wouldn’t see her in this darkness.
However, even that slight sound was enough to betray her. Erudus jerked his head up and turned to scan the wall where she was. His eyes widened as he tapped the shoulder of the guard next to him and pointed in her direction. “The informant was correct,” he whispered.
“By Ibacia,” Kyrianna muttered as she jumped from the wall and ran to the front gates. If luck is with me, I will be able to get out before they can begin their search. She sprinted around the corner of the house, stealth forgotten in her haste. Loud footfalls approached the gate. Her elven born reflexes prevented her feet from sliding on the pebbles of the courtyard as she stopped. There was no decent place to hide and no time to get over the gate. Her hand went to one of the daggers on her belt then stopped. She listened to the sounds again. There were at least two groups of guards on the street; she would have no chance against them. An echoing creak told her someone was opening the gate near the stables and a muttered curse floated from the back of the estate, followed by the splintering sound of stone breaking.
She had no way out of the estate. It was almost as if they had been waiting for her. She knew she couldn’t risk being caught in the house. At this point, all they had were suspicions. There was no evidence of anything except her trespass on Lord Ravel’s estate. Still it would be better to not be caught at all. With a heavy sigh, she stepped back against the wall of the house, crouched down behind a large shrub in the shadows and hoped for the best.
She swallowed silently and refused to answer the familar voice calling her name.
“Kyrianna?” The voice was a bit more insistent this time.
She again held silent refusing to answer. Still holding her position, she listened to the footsteps of the guards as they moved around the area. Several people walked by the shrub she was hiding behind. Finally, one of the searchers stopped in front of the large bush.
“Kyrianna, I know it is you, do not make this any harder than it already is.” The shrub rustled, and Kyrianna inhaled sharply as Erudus’ sword stopped less than an inch from her face.
She took a slow, deep breath and closed her eyes to calm herself, then stood; her hands held well away from her weapons.
Erudus only stared at her as he sheathed his sword, the sound of the sliding metal loud in the silence of the night. Kyrianna flinched, but otherwise didn’t move.
“Why?” Erudus stared at her for several seconds then nodded toward her weapons and held his hand out.
She only shrugged in answer as she removed the daggers she was wearing and placed them in her brother’s hand. The weapons handed over, Kyrianna held her hands out, waiting for him to bind them.
Erudus glanced down at the symbol engraved in the hilt of the daggers. With a frown, he jerked his head toward the gates. “Let’s go.”
“Commander.” The guard saluted as he and an older gentleman approached. “This is Lord…”
“Lord Ravel.” The older man glared at the guards as he looked around. “What is going on? The guardsman said someone was caught trespassing.”
Kyrianna’s eyes widened as she studied the gray haired, portly man standing there wrapped in a brilliant green cloak over his nightclothes. She had never met Lord Ravel, but she still knew this person. Silvis! She felt her breath catch in her throat. Was this a test or a set-up?
Lord Ravel, Silvis, looked at her and smiled. She shuddered at the malice she saw in his expression and moved several steps closer to her brother.
Erudus bowed slightly. “My Lord, this person was observed on the back wall of your estate. We have not yet ascertained whether she was entering or leaving the grounds.”
“I have checked; there is nothing missing or disturbed within the house. I would surmise you were able to apprehend her as she was entering. I leave this matter in your hands. Please inform Lord Brygan I will expect his personal report regarding this matter.”
Kyrianna’s head snapped up at the mention of her father and she frowned at the look Silvis was directing toward her. Chaos take it, this was a set-up.
“I will relay your request, My Lord,” Erudus whispered.
For a moment, Kyrianna wondered if he had been hoping to hide the incident from their father.
“Very good.” Silvis turned and walked back toward the house.
Kyrianna glanced back over her shoulder as her escorts walked her through the gates and saw Silvis standing at the door smiling at her. He moved his hands in a series of quick movements. “Thank you for your service to the guild,” his hands said.
She moved her hands behind her back and signed back. “Chaos take you.”
Erudus dismissed all but two members of the guard and motioned for her to walk beside him with the two guards behind them. The streets of Nydith were deserted as the four of them made their way back to the guard barracks for this district.
Kyrianna clenched her hands and fought the shiver that slid up and down her spine as they approached the building. One of the guards opened and held the door as Erudus motioned her through. They walked in silence to one of the offices. Kyrianna held her head down, not looking at the familiar weapons hung on the walls or the plaques honoring those recognized as heroes by the Lords of Nydith. Several of those weapons and plaques belonged to Lord Brygan of House Dalynne, her father.
“Ryia, fetch Lord Brygan and the Magistrate. Vailken, remain here. Admit no one until one of them arrives,” Erudus said when they reached the interview room.
Both of the guards saluted then left the room.
“Sit down,” he ordered as the door shut behind them.
Kyrianna walked around the small desk and pulled out the chair facing the door. She looked at her brother, who had positioned himself in the corner to her right. He was ignoring her, so she sat down, crossed her arms on the table and put her head down to wait until her father arrived.
A soft, feminine voice whispered in her ear, calling her name and Kyrianna looked up. There was still no one else in the room other than her and her brother. She put her head back down and the voice was there again, stronger.
“Kyrianna, you don’t belong in this place,” the woman’s voice said. “You are too independent to be tied to the rules or prejudices of Nydith. You know in your heart you will be sent away. Remember when they reject you, you can call on me. I welcome you as one of my daughters.”
“Who are you?” Kyrianna mouthed the question, although she knew it was her thoughts the woman would hear more than any verbal expressions she might make.
“You will know; when it is time.” The voice and the presence attached to it faded.
~ * ~
_Kyrianna, you have really done it this time_, she thought when she raised her head. She had no idea how long she had been there, but was getting anxious to get this ordeal over. She glanced at her brother, still standing in the corner, then slowly stood and stretched. Careful, so as to not appear threatening, she lifted her arms over her head and reached toward the ceiling. Despite her height, her fingertips did not make contact with the smooth wood of the ceiling. Relaxing from the stretch, she lowered her arms and crossed them behind her back then began twisting her upper body from side to side. With slow, deliberate movements, she bent at the waist and pressed her forehead against her legs. That got a response from her brother, who cleared his throat and frowned at her. Kyrianna followed the direction of his gaze to the small bulge in her right boot.
So, you know the daggers are there; yet, you didn’t remove them when you searched me. She nodded her understanding and kept her hands away from the boots as she straightened and again took her seat. She glanced around and frowned at the lack of windows in this room, a security feature, but it also prevented anyone in the room from having any idea what the time might be.
“Where is she?” Kyrianna flinched at the anger in her father’s voice as he yelled from down the corridor. Instead of looking up as the door slammed open, accompanied by the sound of wood cracking and splintering against the wall, she kept her gaze locked on the table.
“Kyrianna?” The voice was different; she looked up, then immediately dropped her gaze back to the table. Behind her father stood an elf with long silver hair and gray eyes flecked with silver and blue, Lady Arielle—her mother.
This is even worse than facing Father. He brought Mother with him, she thought hearing the sadness and disappointment in her mother’s voice.
Arielle reached out to lift her chin so she would have to look at her. Kyrianna jerked away.
“What is this?” Brygan dropped one the daggers Erudus had taken off Kyrianna onto the table. Engraved on the hilt was the mark of Ibacia, the patron God of Thieves. “Where did you get it?”
Kyrianna looked at her father. Despite the anger in his eyes, she saw something else; a slight quiver at the corner of his mouth. Though she had seen him angry many times, never had she seen any sign of weakness in his stance or demeanor—until now. He is hurting almost as much as Mother is. Good, she thought as she remembered all the arguments they had had over the years. Him wanting to make her into something she did not want to be. Pushing, always pushing her to be other than she was. Kyrianna immediately regretted the thought; much of her father’s attitude came because of her appearance. Elves were not well thought of in Nydith or in any of the human controlled areas. Lord Brygan had had to deal with that prejudice since the day he married Arielle.
Even though her father was no longer the commander of the city troops; having retired as a minor noble, title and estates granted him by the Lords of Nydith, he was still a highly respected man and still served as the senior arms master to the guard. He also worked closely with the current commander of the guard. That he, as a human, had had the indecency to marry an elf was something overlooked by the much of the nobility. That his son had inherited his human appearance and had never adopted any obvious elven habits or traits was something he was complimented on in private. That the only features his daughter had inherited from him were his golden brown hair with the copper highlights and his height was something never talked about.
“What do you think it is and where do you think I got it!” Kyrianna jumped up and slapped her hands on the small table where the dagger was laying. She was careful to keep them well away from the weapon. There were now guards in the room other than her brother; and she knew she would not live long if they thought she was threatening their arms master. Erudus placed his hand on her shoulder and pulled her back from the table. He was taking no chances her actions might be misinterpreted either. Kyrianna sighed and shook her head; her temper was something else she had inherited from her father.
Lord Brygan looked up at his son and his scowl deepened. Kyrianna saw the frown and realized her brother was in almost as much trouble as she was. Father will be proud he did his job properly, not allowing the fact I am family to stop him from arresting me, but he will be angry at the same time. Because of the damage it will cause his reputation, Father would have preferred something like this be handled within the family. Of course, that was not the intention of the Guild.
“Arms master?” One of the guards cracked opened the door and looked in. “The Magistrate wishes a word with you and your lady.”
Brygan looked at her and shook his head as he turned to leave the room. Arielle followed him.
“How long have you been a member of the Thieves’ Guild?” Erudus asked after they left.
“Two years.” She turned to look at him, arms crossed over her chest as she studied him. He was so much like their father in appearance, except for the eyes. True he had Brygan’s dark brown eyes, but there was a softness in Erudus’ she had never seen in their father’s. Perhaps when he has lived as long and seen as much as Father has, he will lose that as well. I hope not. The two were a close match in size and build, Erudus while not quite as burly as his father—a product of his elven heritage was still a large, well-muscled man. His dark brown hair had never been as unruly as their fathers or hers and flowed smoothly to his shoulders.
Erudus swallowed hard as he looked at his sister. “Kyri.” He used the old nickname then looked away. “I did not know it was you at first and when I realized it, it was too late as the alarm had already been sounded.”
“You didn’t know it was me! Who are you kidding? Just how many elves or half-elves live in this city?”
He still refused to look at her.
“The only ones I know of are you, me and Mother,” she said after a few minutes of silence. “You looked right at me before you alerted the rest of your patrol; so don’t tell me you didn’t know who I was. I knew who you were immediately and you should have known me.”
“You are correct.” He straightened his back and looked her square in the eyes. “I did know it was you, but I had a job to do. You should never have put me in that position.”
Kyrianna took a breath as she realized she had pushed her brother into a corner he had been hoping to avoid then smiled as she looked at him. “You’ve never been good at lying to me, you shouldn’t have tried. I understand it was your job and I know I made the mistake. You caught me, don’t apologize for it.” She reached out and took hold of his hands, squeezing them lightly. “Just don’t let Father find a way to blame you for my actions. You made the correct decision tonight.”
Erudus looked at her the trace of a smile on his lips. Unlike her, Erudus was indistinguishable from humans. He had none of the light-heartedness of his elven kin and his appearance was that of a human. However, when he did smile, rare as it was, his eyes would light up in way Kyrianna had only seen in their mother’s. That light was there as he looked at her.
“I think the Magistrate will release you to Father’s custody,” he said.
“I would rather take my chances with the council than with Father.” She gave him a crooked grin.
“Kyrianna, don’t say that.” He pulled his hands from hers and grabbed her shoulders. “You know the penalty for attacking one of the nobles is death. That you are obviously half-elven will only make that sentence more likely.” He looked away again.
“And yet, you were the one who spotted me and raised the alarm—knowing what the possible penalty would be.” She took a step back and stared at her brother. “Wait a minute? Attacking? I never attacked Ravel. You have no evidence of that or of anything other than trespass as there was nothing taken or found on me.”
“We had been informed of a possible plot by the Thieves’ and Assassins’ Guilds to have Lord Ravel killed. Both Ryia and Vailken had heard through their own informants you were the one assigned the task. A member of the council requested I be part of that patrol tonight—I do not know which one.” He took a deep breath. “If I had not alerted them, and something had happened to Lord Ravel, I would have been implicated as well. Father possibly also, as he and Ravel have had public disagreements recently.” He took another breath. “Kyri, Ryia had already spotted where you were and would have attacked if I hadn’t intervened.”
“Erudus, there’s something more going on here….” The door behind her opened, and she turned to see her mother entering the room.
“Kyrianna,” Arielle said softly.
As she looked at her mother, Kyrianna took a step back. She had not noticed earlier, but Arielle was wearing her sword and her left hand gripped the hilt. She wasn’t holding the weapon to draw it, but seemed to be using it almost like a touchstone.
“Your father has convinced the Magistrate and Lord Ravel to drop the charges and release you into your family’s custody. Your brother and I are to escort you home.”
Kyrianna took a deep breath and nodded. This is not going to be pleasant, she thought as she followed her mother out of the room.