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Friday, 09 September 2005
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Chapter I, Sebekneru, Prince of Battles
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Praise be to Isha, holy mother Isha who is the mistress of the dawn.

As the band of warrior women broke cover, scrambling down between the high boulders that stood like sentinels at either side of the trail as Bronwyn had said they might, Ae'thenal did hold no suprise that her left hand had fallen to her sword's hilts. Nor did she hesitate in drawing her mage wrought blade as Nadimar did side step and prance beneath her; her right arm and hand wound tight about the shaft that did hold aloft Si'anelle's new banner that the kindred of Athel Loren had crafted for her. Except that Bronwyn Half-Elven's strong hand now did fly to lock about her wrist as she urged her horse Rascal to her side. The Half-Elven woman's green eyes were bright with amusement as she did meet and hold her gaze. Then did Bronwyn ever be other than amused at all within the world, as if Orcs and Skaven were but naughty children who did cast stones at their betters. Cocking her chin at Si'anelle who was seated upon her horse Finaith at her left hand as if she was in truth a spirit daughter born of the mountains that did surround them; and in equal kind as cold and hard in her aspect as these mountains for all that her violet eyes were fever bright in their sockets; Bronwyn did quietly say to her. "There is no call upon your oath here Ae'thenal." "Then these women are indeed known to you Bronwyn Half-Elven?" These words of Si'anelle's were softly spoken, breaking the silence that had been like a heavy cloak upon her ever since this day's dawning. Now Ae'thenal did glance at her friend. Her Si'anelle had not so much as moved a single muscle of her body save to speak, and her eyes remained focused upon the band of wild seeming women standing on the trail before them. These women garbed in mail and leather and gathered about the black skinned female giantess who was their leader. "Aye my Lady I do know them aright," was Bronwyn's reply as she did swing herself down from Rascal's back. Though Ae'thenal did not fail to note that Bronwyn did still have her shield upon her arm and that her hand had risen to loosen 'Ironfang' a little within its scabbard at her back.

While Ae'thenal watched their friend begin to walk towards the warrior band, a tall lean shape in her battered and hard used armour, Nimine came to stand at her stirrup. "Are these unruly human woman in truth bandits Ae'thenal, or friends as Bronwyn would have us believe?" Nimine did ask her then and Ae'thenal discovered herself to be smiling in amusement at her fostermother's present critical scrutiny of this band of a bare dozen female warriors. A member of their Everqueen's Maiden Guard in her youth, Nimine did still hold close within her hand the same exacting degree of martial discipline in her prime. And Ae'thenal did know her fostermother sufficiently well to predict by her expression that Nimine Starbrow, blooded champion at Finuval Plain, did consider these near feral women to be at a lack in their martial prowess. "Bronywn does know them Nimine," was her reply, "though I do think in truth that she may not entirely consider them to be friends." "Before this day I did not know a human woman could be so black of skin; - nor to be of such a stature," Nimine did say to her in a voice pitched for her ears alone. By the present shape of her expression it was plain that her fostermother did already consider the huge woman to be as unruly as those she led; though her features did ease in some measure as now Jean-Marie d'Quenelles and the Gladerider champion Peledym Ashleaf did come to ride past the ranks of their small army to join them. "No ambush does gather about us in this place," Jean-Marie did say with her relief evident in her voice as she did rein in her mare Cloud. The young scorceress did seem to be more than a little breathless and Ae'thenal could predict that she had given to herself the task to accompany the Gladeriders of Athel Loren on their swift reconnaissance once the column had been halted. "Though I shall say that I do not enjoy being made to stand at a pause in this place," said Peledym as he ran his eyes along the long straggling line that the narrow pass had made of their company. "Even though Cedwyn Brighteye does have every hand that is skilled with a bow turned to watch the skyline...." And here he did nod towards Nimine, "And the spears and bows of your she-Elves Nimine Starbrow set to watch the rear of our column in company with Talieth Mistborn and the Swordmasters of Hoeth."

Now at last Si'anelle did make a movement. As Peledym had spoken of the Swordmasters that were with their company her head had turned. Her illness bright gaze had touched the Gladerider champion then she had looked away once more; returning her eyes to where Bronwyn was now speaking with the huge black woman that was these warrior women's leader. Ae'thenal did know it as a certain fact that her friend did hold a coal of resentment in her heart towards the six Swordmasters who were of their company. For had not but a single day passed since their own ship had found port on the shores of Bretonnia these months past than another Elven sail had been sighted upon the horizon. That the Loremasters of Hoeth had sent these six to act the part of guardians towards Si'anelle and herself was perhaps in itself not an ill intentioned thing. But within her heart Ae'thenal did hold close her secret fear that should they both fail in their keeping of the Banepearl and become stained by Chaos's taint it would be these six who would spill their blood and close their eyes in death. And that the Wood Elf enchantress Talieth Mistborn did ever keep the Swordmasters' company did not further serve to ease her heart. All her senses did tell her that the enchantress could be called no friend to them both, sent as she had been by Ariel of Athel Loren's hand to join with their company and to watch over them. And this despite the fact of the care and healing that Ariel had bestowed upon Si'anelle and herself in Isha's name during their sojourn in Athel Loren. For Talieth Mistborn did have too much of the Mother of All's dark face in her aspect; - and Ae'thenal had also marked her well, - as a one who would be charged with their deaths on the fell day that they both should fail. "Free to walk the wide World sweet Ae'thenal," Si'anelle did whisper to her then, the bond between them that was the Banepearl gift giving her the knowledge of her thoughts. "Though for all our fair seeming freedom imprisioned still." For a bare moment her fever bright gaze did touch her except that Ae'thenal did not look away as others often did do. "Death is not for the likes of us," soft her friend did say to her, her empty right hand straying to lightly touch her arm. "Do not fear those who watch, for they do lack all power to gift to us a release." Though for all her Si'anelle's clear sight into her heart, and for all that her dear friend did know well the nature of the Banepearl's hold upon them both Ae'thenal could not cast aside her doubt. Which allied with her despair did now seem to work anew within her breast, for why else were these watchers with them if not to seek the means by which they were to be cast out from the World. "Isha," said her friend softly before she bared her teeth against the following agony and her eyes did once more return to watch Bronwyn who was indeed a true friend to them both.

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