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30 November 2008 @ 11:26 pm
NaNoWriMo Entry: 12  

Chapter Eleven: Rise Above

Their new target took them back through the town they had passed before reaching the sea. They resupplied with what they could, exchanged horses with one of the villagers, and immediately left town, not even bothering to stay for the night. No one wanted to experience anymore kidnappings, except perhaps for Rebi, who wanted them to try just for the sake of killing them.

“There are many towns like this scattered throughout Autopia,” Kalien explained to Cadenza as they walked along. The young man had chosen to walk next to Kalien instead of sitting in the cart with everyone else. He did not seem to mind walking alongside a horse, and Kalien did not offer him a seat.

“Ah, this is the only one I have seen since I came here,” Cadenza said as an explanation. “Pray tell, sir, how large is Autopia?”

“Large,” Kalien declared proudly. “More than nine weeks of travel from end to end on a galloping horse.”

The blond boy blinked. “That is very large, sir.”

The prince nodded, smiling. “Ours is the largest among the countries here. There are two others, Puversia at the west and Retellsa at the south.”Unfortunately, when it came to the topic of his country, Kalien often found himself unable to stop prattling on about it. Considering that he had studied about it for the past seven or so hundred years, he supposed it was understandable. “Our land, being biggest, also has the most resources. We’re vastly self-sufficient and unlike the other two, are able to survive without relying on the other countries for anything. Puversia often attempts to wage war with us and Retellsa because they lack water, while Retellsa tends to have rather bare regions.”

“Are you not troubled by wars, your highness? I am surprised that they have not banded together yet to overthrow Autopia.”

Kalien beamed at him. “Autopia is far too powerful for Puversia and Retellsa together to overcome. I suppose both countries are aware that if they were to attack us and we were to fight back, we would deal them more crushing damage than they would us. They have tried in the past, of course, I have lived through several attempts, but they have never succeeded.”

It was then that Cadenza tilted his head just so, looking at him in wonder. “Several? Do they often attempt, then?”

“No, of course not,” he corrected. “Perhaps once every few dozen years. They do it every other generation.” Kalien paused, remembering what the problem was. “Ah, I forgot. Members of our family live quite long. I am about eight hundred, myself.”

The blond stared and said, weakly: “I think I know why the countries fear waging war with you.” Upon Kalien’s inquiring look, Cadenza merely shook his head. “Your mighty kingdom have mighty leaders. Any enemy would hesitate.”

“The boy speaks well,” Elsith cut in approvingly from Kalien’s other side, to the amusement of the younger of the two princes.

“You would think that, brother,” he answered good-naturedly.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Elsith huffed, but it had no heat behind the words. Cadenza smiled, and chuckled at Elsith’s inquiring look.

“Ah, no, it’s nothing.” Cadenza’s gaze went far for a moment, perhaps to a place not in this world. Kalien understood that the foreigners all had wishes to fulfil, otherwise they would not be participating in the quest, but he had never thought to ask. Autopia’s plight had always come first in his mind, and the problems of others were not of consequence to him. Now that he had come to know his party members, however….

“We’ll succeed,” he told the younger man. Cadenza nodded and smiled.

------

An arrow embedded itself next to Elsith’s front, right hoof, the whizzing echoing dully in the air. Elsith reared back, startled, and Kalien tugged his own horse when it whinnied in alarm. Cadenza was still walking next to him by then, and helped keep the black stallion from bolting.

“Brother!” he exclaimed when his steed settled.

“I am fine,” Elsith assured him, restlessly looking around with his ears pricked. “Once I find out the source of this arrow…” Kalien could hear the threat there. He gazed around, then, surveying the trees that surrounded them. There was no one else on the forest path that they were taking, though the forage was probably thick enough to hide assailants.

“Prince Elsith!” The cart rolled to a stop next to him, Dino at the front seat. Cairre was standing behind him, and hopped out as soon as he was able, standing at Elsith’s other side. Kalien could see that anyone who tried to harm them would have to face the magician’s wrath, and it was not a wrath to be trifled with, for certain.

“It did not hit, fortunately,” he informed him, though Kalien was certain that the arrow was meant to warn, not to harm. “Elsith?”

“I cannot yet detect the offender. But Kalien, do you realize where we are?” The prince blinked and shook his head.

“I have not been keeping track of our location. At the west side of Autopia, am I correct?”

Elsith nodded the way horses did. “At the border just crossing Puversian land.”

“That is correct!” a voice rang out. A horse with its lone rider – a small, hooded figure – appeared from behind a tree. The rider steered his horse to trot a little closer to them, but remained close to the tree. Six other riders stepped out from their hiding places to join their leader. “You are very near Puversian land, Summorn!”

“Near, but not there yet,” his older brother snapped. “You are on Autopian land, insolent stranger. Name yourself!”

The rider who spoke removed his hood, exposing a young face, long red hair in a severe braid, and strangely luminescent gray eyes. Kalien found the face familiar, and the name that came with the face dawned on him at the boy’s next words.

“I do not answer to horses!”

Kalien drew his mount next to his brother, and addressed the younger man. “You must be the grandson of the late King Nolka, of the Puversian house of Methe. I met him in his younger days and remember him as a fine, young man. Pray, state your name. We are not intruders in your land.”

“He’s a prince?” Abe muttered from behind him, incredulous. Kalien shushed him.

“I am Prince Noase,” the young one snapped. Elsith snorted.

“Noase, fourth son and fifth child of Nuada and Nuala, current King and Queen of Puversia. A nobody, are you not?” The Puversian prince hissed, earning himself a scoff from Elsith. “The fifth in line after your sister. There is no chance of you succeeding the throne, and if I remember Puversian politics correctly, that relegates you and your many siblings under the third child to other roles in the castle. If you are lucky, you may become an advisor, but I somehow doubt it.”

Noase flushed so hard that his face resembled his hair. Kalien felt a little terrible for him, earning Elsith’s sharp tongue like this, but he also knew that Elsith was only stating fact as he knew it. And then Noase seemed to remember something and drew himself up, lithe frame reflecting his nobility.

“I at least have a family to go home to,” he started. Kalien stiffened in his seat, and turned pale, lips thinning to a line. “What is this I hear of the Summorn family vanishing into thin air? Is it true that your kind was cursed?” the young prince bit out smugly, leering at Kalien. The Summorn prince would have charged at him were it not for Elsith planting himself in front of Kalien’s steed. His eyes were like frost as they glared at the boy, and even Noase was startled by his ferocity.

“I do not think it wise to antagonize the prince of the country that we may need to travel to, Your Highness,” Cadenza spoke up quietly from his side, but Kalien barely heard him, the fury rushing through his head. His body strained to reach for his blade and carve this offensive child into strips of meat and flesh. The reminder of the price he paid was a burning, stinging pain that he had managed to dull over the month of travel, and having a meddlesome fourth son of a foreign kingdom mock it and slap it to his face was intolerable.

Elsith brushed against his leg in that moment, and his brother gave him a warning look. It was like cold water reminding Kalien of his place, that Kalien could not afford to let his temper control him. Unlike Elsith, Kalien acted on his rage with actions, discontent with letting mere words fly. Elsith talked and attacked verbally. Kalien attacked, period.

He sucked in a slow, deep breath, calming himself lest he did something he would come to regret. Autopia, while still powerful, was at a bigger risk now that its leaders were gone. An attack from Puversia would be damaging.

“How do you know about the Summorn in the first place?” Elsith demanded, logic winning out now that Kalien lacked his. “I assume that you have spies in our lands. Or are you the spy? This is very likely, I think. Is that the role that you have been left to play?”

The boy sneered, but it was apparent from his gestures that Elsith had gotten it right. Noase fidgeted in his seat and surreptitiously tried to hide his clothing under his coat. Plain, black travelling clothes. The best kind to meld with the dark.

“No matter,” the older Summorn prince dismissed. “Give us safe passage into Puversia, young prince,” he announced in his usual, imperious way. The boy stared in disbelief.

“Surely you jest,” was the flabbergasted reply.

“I believe we started at the wrong foot,” Kalien interjected, voice still brittle from his earlier fury. But he was willing to set that aside to secure a path for his party. “We need to gain entrance to Puversia, Prince Noase. It is for a quest to save our country. Of course, we shall show utmost gratitude with gifts. Perhaps a chunk of Autopia as a sign of our thanks?”

“I heard that your Roderick Twilight went berserk,” was the flat comeback.

“You seem to hear many things,” Kalien remarked. “Or is it because you make it a habit to peek into other people’s businesses?”

Noase flushed again, but he seemed like the kind of person who would never back down until proven wrong. True to Kalien’s impression, the younger prince bristled at him like an angry cat. “Roderick is the one causing all of this trouble, is he not? When he came to our country, he also dealt us a lot of damage.”

They all exchanged looks.

“What?!” Noase asked shrilly, visibly recoiling.

Kalien turned back to him, thoughts rapidly running through his head. “Will you assure us safe passage?”

“No!” Panicked, Noase drew his sword, prompting his guards to follow suit.

Kalien went into action then, whipping his own blade out and leaping out of his saddle in the half a second it took for Noase to exhale – Kalien was at the boy’s side in the next instant, blade snugly fit at the Puversian prince’s neck, a hair’s breath away from drawing blood. Noase’s guards surged forward to attack him, but Cairre stepped in, spreading his hands in a single, fluid motion and setting their weapons alight. The hooded figures dropped the weapons, and Elsith whinnied at them warningly.

“Now then,” Kalien said gravely, “What were we saying?”

“Kill me,” Noase muttered, dropping his weapons. The sword and the crossbow fell with a dull clatter at Kalien’s feet. He kicked them away from him.

“Why would I do that?” he asked, blinking. “My goal is free passage into your country, not to start a war.”

“But I’m not giving you free passage,” the youth scowled. Despite this, Kalien knew that it was merely false bravado. Sweat dripped down the boy’s chin, and his face was pale in fear.

“Then…” he murmured, thinking. “Do I have your word that after I let you go, you and your guards will do nothing to harm us?”

Noase stared down at him, surprised. “That’s all?”

Kalien nodded. “Like I said beforehand, we do not mean any harm. It would be of no use for me to prove myself otherwise.”

“I…”

“This is not a trap,” Kalien told him gently, kindly. “We of the Summorn are always true to our words.”

The prince swallowed and nodded. “I will… let you pass to Puversia.”

Startled, Kalien tilted his head questioningly and removed the sword from his captive’s neck a little. “Excuse me? You are?”

“But you have to take me with your party,” Noase added hastily, flushing again. “That-that is the only way I can guarantee your safety.”

“An impulsive one,” Elsith commented snidely. “I refuse. We can kill this group easily, Kalien. I do not see why we need to cater to this child’s fantasies of adventure.”

The Autopian prince smiled ruefully, recognizing that they were back to their old roles already. “For diplomatic purposes, brother. It would be difficult for our Autopia to deal with invaders right now. And this way, our travel to foreign land would be easier.”

His brother sniffed, but otherwise did not argue. “Do as you want. But I refuse to be lenient on that cretin.”

“As if I need it from a horse! Now put that blade away!” Noase cried. Kalien obliged, sheathing his sword. After all, even while weaponless, he had no doubt that he would be able to take all of the Puversian guards by himself.

“I’ll… I’ll come with you, all right!” the boy continued, appearing shaken. He had a hand to his neck, examining it for blood. Kalien took it as a sign of weakness on the boy’s part – even while injured, Kalien would never be one to show his enemies any sign of vulnerability.

“Yes, of course. We travel shabbily, as you can see. I hope this does not offend you too much,” he answered in good nature, turning his back to the boy with what would seem to be recklessness, though he was alert to all of Noase’s every move.

“It will do,” the princling replied stiffly. He conversed with the nearest of his guards in quick and heated whispers, though Kalien could no longer hear their conversation.

“He is telling them to leave him and inform his father that he is going exploring,” Elsith told him, not bothering to lower his voice. Noase and the guard looked startled, and the boy reddened again. Kalien merely nodded and turned to Watanuki, gesturing to the path ahead and, even though they could not see it, the barren land beyond that marked the start of Puversia.

“Is this where the compass is leading us, young Watanuki?”

The boy with the glasses nodded grimly. “Yes, sir.”

“I was not aware that my master had gone there before,” Cairre stepped forward in a rustle of cloth, eyeing the guards with distaste. Kalien took the opportunity to climb back on his steed.

“Your master? Roderick Twilight was your master? Are you of the house of Sullen?” Noase demanded. At Cairre’s minute nod, he shook his head. “Your master stayed in an oasis when he came by our country. That oasis died shortly after he left, the water going dry and the forage withering for no reason. The wells connected to it have only yielded poisonous water or mud ever since.”

“That is obviously not Stormbringer’s fault,” Elsith declared, though Kalien was unsure if his brother did this for the sake of being contrary, or to really defend the magician. He inspected the boy when Noase came forward, and seemed smug to find out that he was bigger than the horse Noase was on.

“I did not say it was,” Noase replied sullenly, as Kalien watched the magician direct a surprised look at his brother. He filed the information on Roderick at the back of his mind, thinking that he would probably need that sort of knowledge one day.

“Shall we march, then?” Kalien did not wait for an answer and urged his horse forward, the others following at an easy pace.

He felt it, the loss of Autopia as soon as they left their country and cross into Puversian territory. Silently, he hoped that their travel would not last too long.

------

Surprisingly, Noase was not very difficult to travel with. The boy was educated in the ways and geography of Puversia, and tended to keep to himself most of the time. He spoke only to Kalien and none of the others, and steered clear of Elsith. The boy could hold himself well in battle, and while his magic was untrained, it at least made it easy for Kalien to care for him. Beyond the arguments with Elsith, he seemed uninterested in antagonizing them.

Kalien had told him as much about their quest as he could afford without informing the boy of Autopia’s currently sensitive state. Noase, horrified by the destruction of their land, seemed eager to help (to ‘get this over and done with,’ he said, but Kalien thought otherwise). The Puversian prince seemed fond of travelling and adventures, and Kalien personally thought that if his rank in his family were as Elsith had said on their first meeting, then Noase’s tendencies would be understandable.

Still, Noase liked keeping the pretence of a tough prince up, and Kalien was used enough to indulging it with Elsith that he did not mind at all. Noase also seemed interested in the former Summorn court, and asked questioned that Kalien was only too happy to oblige.

“Yes, we do live to that age,” he said patiently, nudging his horse a little to the right as Noase accidentally let his horse stray in his direction out of excitement. The younger prince immediately brought his horse back to its proper path sheepishly, but quickly followed his earlier question up.

“But how is this possible? A normal Autopian can only live to two hundred, and it is the same in Puversia, though perhaps a little less by a decade, but both age expectations are rather far from your three thousand!” He gestured in the air as he asked, emphasizing his points with air diagrams.

“I think this is because the family married into elf a very, very long time ago.”

Noase blinked. “Elves were real? I was always told that they were only creatures of myths and legends.”

Kalien nodded, once again moving a little to the side to duck Noase’s arms. “Yes, they were real. As a human, Elsith had rather pointy ears, himself.”

“My ears were not pointy so much as accentuated,” his brother said haughtily from in front of them, where Elsith had moved after Noase had insisted on walking alongside them. Noase blinked, but completely ignored Elsith, as he had been wont to do lately.

“So this would explain why! My grandfather often regaled my brothers and I with stories of the Summorn brothers, and I always found it odd that both my grand father, his father, and my father, knew of you as a young adult.”

Kalien chuckled, amused despite himself. He had quickly grown fond of the younger prince, though he supposed it was the sort of fondness one would have for particularly difficult children who were actually nicer than they usually behaved, like his cousins, or perhaps the children he encountered before. “Your grandfather had been a peaceful man. The last war with your country had been before he was king.”

“Not really peaceful,” Noase snorted. “He just told us not to come up against you because ‘As long as their contingents have a member of the Summorn among them, we are sure to lose’ – that is what he said!”

“Perhaps he meant Elsith. I only came in during the latter phase of that war, and before that, it was Elsith who strategized and fought with the soldiers. And it has only been the two of us participating in most of the wars, ever since.” He paused thoughtfully. “For about six hundred years, it was only him. My father never allowed our cousins to fight.”

Noase gave the back of the white horse an inquiring, innocent look. “He must be the small prince with the appearance of a doll, then?”

“Not small,” Kalien hastily corrected, wincing when Elsith’s ears pricked up. “Not small. Never small. He was just… very slim.”

The boy gave him an odd look. “I see.” And then in a very loud whisper: “Is he very sensitive about his height? I would understand, for I am still also rather short, myself, though I am barely past my twenties and can still grow.”

“Not… very sensitive,” Kalien swallowed, laughing sheepishly when his brother harrumphed.

“Being small is not so bad, though,” Noase pushed on, oblivious. Kalien found that when the boy got an idea in his head, he rarely let go of it without a fight. He was peculiarly stubborn, though it could be one of the ways to catch attention in a family like his. Still, this did give Noase and Elsith a lot of similarities with each other.

“It… is not, of course,” Kalien echoed weakly.

“Being small can be advantageous! Also, I find that smaller people are usually smarter because they tend to need to be resourceful.”

“Perhaps,” Kalien later heard his brother murmuring, “I may learn to like this gremlin.”

 
 
 
a mind as vivid as it is absent: original art: briar rosemiir on November 30th, 2008 03:54 pm (UTC)
It's centered, why ;_;

*cheats, opens her copy of the .doc*

I think the last part here is right about where I started warming up to Elsith.

The first part is right about where I seriously considered throwing Cairre over for Kalien. (Oh, your boys, Yukeh! Why so adorable.)
.Yukeh. ( ̄‿ ̄)ノ: /ggyukitsu on November 30th, 2008 04:00 pm (UTC)
I forgot to close the HTML! It is fixed now!

When he was being sensitive about his height? XD

Kalien x Cairre? I think that was the first pair people noticed! ... Before they saw the horse. (Yours are, too!)
a mind as vivid as it is absent: original art: lunemiir on December 1st, 2008 04:51 pm (UTC)
When he said that thing about the gremlin! I like his word choices a LOT.

Well, Kalien was very hot while he was dealing with Noase + minions. I can totally understand the infatuation. XDDD
.Yukeh. ( ̄‿ ̄)ノyukitsu on December 2nd, 2008 01:06 am (UTC)
Ahahahahaha, his fail speech. ; 3;

:< Noase is in for a heart break, though.
a mind as vivid as it is absent: original art: shinobumiir on December 2nd, 2008 06:56 am (UTC)
Heartbreaks are fine. I like how Kalien breaks hearts! ...*is a masochist, obviously*
.Yukeh. ( ̄‿ ̄)ノyukitsu on December 2nd, 2008 07:00 am (UTC)
........ orz
a mind as vivid as it is absentmiir on December 2nd, 2008 07:00 am (UTC)
At least he is very straightforward about it.
.Yukeh. ( ̄‿ ̄)ノ: :<yukitsu on December 2nd, 2008 07:11 am (UTC)
:< He has not sent Noase away yet, you know !
Lynlynkye_kestrel on December 1st, 2008 08:37 am (UTC)
Hahahaha Noase's puny anger. *pinches his cheeks*

... I suddenly got this image of a tiny Ciel railing up at a massive horse. :'D
.Yukeh. ( ̄‿ ̄)ノ: /ggyukitsu on December 1st, 2008 02:31 pm (UTC)
Noase is angyyyyy! Ahahahaha, his wee, ineffective rage.

Hmm! More like a chibi Luke from TOA!
Lynlynkye_kestrel on December 3rd, 2008 02:04 am (UTC)
Ah! So he's a redhead?
.Yukeh. ( ̄‿ ̄)ノyukitsu on December 3rd, 2008 02:05 am (UTC)
Yes ~ With a braid ! ♥