Title: A Daughter Of Soraidha
Arc: The Black Sword
Rating: PG-13/R for violence
Written: Spring 2002
Summary: Revenge can be a tricky business.
These characters, stories, and ideas are the original, copyrighted work of Nicole Sharp and are protected under a Creative Commons License.
Elyna turned the sword over in her hand. Its blade was long and black, with knotted, silver designs decorating the broad side. The weight of it was significant, and, as she closed her eyes, she felt the heaviness of her inheritance in it. The sword was powerful, undoubtedly. It had been forged generations ago by the best smiths of her people, and spells had been set into its steel by her foremother at the height of her civilization. At the thought of her people’s destruction, her fist tightened around the hilt, and a weight seemed to bear down on her shoulders. She shrugged, trying to adjust that load, before she straightened, squaring her shoulders.
She turned. Ladhyn stood in the doorway, his pale hair obscuring bright blue eyes. “It’s time to go.” She nodded, thanking him wordlessly, and sheathed the sword, adjusting the scabbard’s buckles so that the sword could not be drawn by another. Then she adjusted her overcoat, hiding as much of the sword as she could before following Ladhyn out of the room to the front of the building where they stayed.
There they met the others and prepared for the walk to Feloras, where they were to have their private meeting with Morhara, who now controlled much of the lands of Erdha. Elyna closed her eyes, listening to the murmur of the others’ voices in the Babilon tongue as they gathered the last of their study materials.
“Have you your things, Elyna?” Orilan asked her.
“I do,” Elyna answered, nodding toward the bag on her shoulders.
“Then you’re ready?”
Orilan knew the truth of Elyna’s reasons for going to this. She nodded.
“Let’s go then,” Ladhyn said as he motioned toward the uphill path. “It’s none too easy a climb to Feloras.”
Several of the others chimed in agreement, and they fell into a line as they made their way uphill. They met a few pairs of people—often students much younger or much older than them—that were coming down the hill. Elyna could tell which ones had just left their own session with Morhara, for they were the happiest of disposition. She seemed to have that effect on people. A shudder went through her at the thought, and she wondered if she was ready to see Morhara up close again. It had been difficult enough for her to see her at a distance at the welcoming ceremony a few months ago. Would she manage to keep cool during this session?
And, of course, there was the question of Morhara’s memory. Would she recognize the daughter of Tyrlana Liaska, a woman she had murdered? Or had that been so long ago that she’d forgotten? Elyna had been so little when her mother was killed that she couldn’t remember exactly what her mother had looked like, so she didn’t know if they were similar. She did know, however, that Soraiths, as the Babilon tongue called her people, looked little like the native people of this land. Elyna had none of their fairness; she was dark-headed. But there were other foreigners from lands that Morhara had conquered here, though there were few Soraiths remaining, thanks to Morhara’s hatred for that people.
Long years ago, as Elyna understood the tale, before Morhara had succeeded in gaining her power, she had come to the land of Elyna’s ancestors following her exile from Nyloran. The Soraith had welcomed her among them, but she had proven a false friend. It was she that brought the War of Plague upon that people, and they rose against her, driving her from their lands. From then on, Morhara had hated the Soraith and strove to spite them however she could. They were the last land to fall under her yoke, and, when she did at last gain their land, she slaughtered their people, the royal house, in particular. How Elyna had escaped the Wind of Death she didn’t quite know. She only knew that she had been very young when Serradhon, the capital of their land, had fallen. The thought of it still brought tears to her eyes, and she felt that she could almost hear the sound of her father falling before Morhara’s onslaught.
Elyna shook her head and tried to concentrate on the path. She couldn’t allow herself to be caught in the past, not today. All of her skills had to be focused on blending into the group of people she was with. Magic was a commodity in these times, and Morhara had a monopoly on it. Elyna would have to be careful with her spells to hide her sword and to disguise herself. And, of course, there was also Hevlon to concern herself with. He was Morhara’s lieutenant and an accomplished mage in his own right. Even if Morhara overlooked Elyna, he might not.
The path widened and Ladhyn stepped up to walk beside her. His head was down, and some of his hair slid down to obscure his eyes, but Elyna could still see the determination set in his jaw. He, too, was preparing to face Morhara’s magic. He seemed to notice that Elyna was watching him, and he glanced up.
“How goes it, Elyna?”
“I suppose well enough. You, too, fret over this meeting.”
“Indeed, but not with the same worry as you. You’ve far more reason than I,” he said, looking away toward the mountains. “I fear that we shall all fall to her power.”
“You Babilons don’t have the experience with magic that I do,” Elyna said, “but I doubt that she’ll cloud your eyes, Ladhyn. You’re clever enough.”
“That is not cleverness, Elyna. Clever would be to make them believe that we’d fallen when we hadn’t.”
Elyna nodded, watching her feet once more.
“Do you fear this meeting as I fear for you?” he asked, his voice soft.
Elyna glanced up. “How can I know? I don’t know your mind.”
He smiled. “That was very Soraithen of you, Elyna. Your people are not lost to you.”
“I hope not.”
He reached for her hand and squeezed it in his. “You’ll conquer your challenges, Elyna. I know it.”
She smiled but shook her head. “You cannot know that.”
She looked up at him, scowling.
He smiled, the corners of his mouth raised slightly, and leaned closer. “I, too, hide what I am. A priestess bore me.”
Elyna’s eyes widened. “Don’t go, Ladhyn. Ladhyn! Fool’s name! Why didn’t I see it? She’ll see it, Ladhyn. You know how she treats the priestess-born.”
Ladhyn straightened his shoulders. “I’ve seen.”
“Martyrdom is foolish. Use what gifts you’re given to help the others. Go no further.”
“Shall I say the same to you?” he said, stopping as she did.
“That is different,” she said, moving once more.
“Is it? I think not.”
“My people have died. I martyr myself for nothing.”
“Are not my people dead, as you say? Why should I not choose as you have?”
“You are skilled. You can help the Uprising.”
“And cannot a daughter of Soraidha?”
She scowled as he used her people’s name for themselves. “Soraidha exists no longer, and her daughters have been slain or scattered to the very edges of Erdha. What care has the Uprising for us?”
“Don’t mock me, Elyna. You are of import. I can tell that. Now why don’t you reveal this, not even to me, your friend?”
“I don’t know my mother’s station. I know only that Morhara—curse her—killed both my parents.”
Ladhyn was watching her intently. “Her soldiers slayed my family, too.”
“No,” Elyna said, “she killed them. I remember that much, at least.” She closed her eyes as the images returned. “My nightmares carry her face and that of Hevlon, but not of nameless soldiers.”
Ladhyn gave her a strange look, which she could not read. “You are more than you realize, Elyna. If you will go on, please, take care. I fear that, with your death, the Cause would lose a great ally.”
“Even the peoples of the Uprising grew during Morhara’s rule, and so have learned her lessons well. Those that remain of my people are outcasts, hated by all. They would have no love of me, just as none other has had since my mother’s death.” Before Ladhyn could answer, Elyna sped up so that she was ahead of him as the path narrowed. The group continued, single-file, and Elyna forced her mind to her spells. In her head, the words echoed, building power, masking her in the guise of a Babilon. Yes, she would be dark for them, but the spells could hide some part of that, as well as her accent. She would sound as a Babilon.
Elyna was so engrossed in her thoughts that she hardly noticed the great chateau jutting out of the mountainside. The student in front of her stopped, and she ran into his pack. Muttering an apology, she turned her eyes to the building. It was four stories tall with pleasant windows and balconies to overlook the mountainside beneath. Despite the happiness that was already infecting the others, a chill gripped Elyna as an evil glimmer of Morhara’s power came to her.
Ladhyn laid his hand against her arm, steadying her, and wordlessly, they followed the chattering group up into the building. Inside, it was warm; Elyna hadn’t realized that she was cold from the wind until the wind no longer hit her, and she started to remove her overcoat. Then, remembering her sword, she only unfastened the front, cursing herself for falling already for the magic.
A man on the early side of middle years addressed the group, asking them to follow him to their meeting. Elyna recognized Hevlon and her eyes narrowed. She fought the urge to scowl at him, reminding herself to act as the others did. Through a kitchen and up the stairs to the third story they went before following a hallway to a good-sized room, in which sat a large oval table. At one end, smiling beneath dark eyes and hair, was Morhara, for all her years, looking still like a young woman. Elyna’s blood ran cold. Here was the face that haunted her dreams, the same face, unaged, that had taunted her mother before killing her. Elyna’s hand went to her side, gripping the hidden sword, a source of strength.
“Come, my students. Sit round this table.” Morhara’s voice, Elyna could tell, was sweetened by magic. Her normal voice could not be so kind. Obediently, the students took their seats, and Hevlon sat at the end opposite of Morhara. Elyna took care to sit herself halfway between the two, as far as she could be from either. “You are among the younger students, are you not? So I thought. Tell me your names please.”
Around the table they went, saying given name and surname. Elyna concentrated on her lie, determined to speak it normally. Next to her, Ladhyn gave his fake name, and now it was Elyna’s turn. She opened her mouth, but her throat seemed to close on the name. She felt the eyes of the two adults on her and struggled to speak. “I am Elsha Babilon,” she said in what seemed to her a whisper.
The naming went on around her. It seemed that no one, Morhara least, had noticed any delay. Had she imagined it? Or did they simply attribute it to the nervousness of a new student meeting the great Morhara? No matter, so long as they did not suspect her.
Morhara began her lesson, instructing, with Hevlon’s help, the new students on how best to succeed in their courses. The others took notes busily, but Elyna was so distracted, so desperate to keep her spells straight and subtle, that she had not even opened her notebook.
“How do you study, Elsha?”
Elyna scribbled something about studying on the book, waiting for the student to answer.
“Elsha?” Morhara repeated.
Elyna looked up, realizing suddenly that she was being addressed. “Sorry?”
“How do you study?”
“I… reread notes… but I’ve done little else in the past.”
“It is better, of course, to make study guides, lists, such things to remember by. You will find your classes here not so simple as those of the past. Instructors expect of you each day what others expect only at tests. Life, my dears, is a test, and so will you be taught, and such will be expected of you.”
Elyna was nodding, and, remembering her notebook, began to write vigorously to match her classmates. Morhara, though addressing the question to her, had not answered to her. Elyna was happy to feel that gaze gone from her, though she felt Hevlon’s on her still.
After a half an hour more of the study lessons, Morhara leaned back. “That shall be all for today’s lesson. In the remaining time you will introduce yourselves to me more.” She called each student by name, asking of their families and homes, siblings and hobbies, such things as a new friend might wish to know. After each one answered, they were dismissed, and the table’s occupants grew fewer and fewer in number.
Elyna felt her discomfort grow with each question. She had not prepared answers for questions such as these. How could she lie without letting it be known? And without practice? There were three students left. Ladhyn and Orilan had gone. Elyna knew the others very little. Regled was questioned and left, grinning like a fool with Morhara’s false compliments. Only Fezle and Elyna remained.
Morhara glanced between the two students before asking Fezle of his homeland. He answered happily, chatting about his siblings and parents, their farm, and his pet raccoon Scamps, whom he had left in the care of his younger sister. As if the woman truly cared, she smiled, nodding, her eyes never leaving Fezle.
Elyna would be last. She dreaded the thought of being left alone with these two. What if she were unnerved, and struck out with her sword? Students were to be unarmed. Gods! what a fool she was to try this! What had possessed her to think that she could avenge a death committed by Morhara? She couldn’t even remember her parents, only their deaths. Why did she seek revenge for them? Would she, too, die unremembered save in contempt?
“I’m told that you’re a good swordsman, Elsha,” Morhara said.
Elyna forced herself to smile. “So instructors have told me.”
“Aye, and what land call you home?”
Elyna felt her jaw tightening as she tried to say Babilon. Morhara had increased the strength of her spells, and Elyna couldn’t overcome them and lie. “B—Ba—“ the sound fell into a hiss, “—Soraidha!” She wanted to jump to her feet, draw the sword, but somehow she couldn’t overcome the leadenness of her body. Her eyes were locked in Morhara’s gaze. Despite the reaction she expected, Morhara’s expression had not changed from the sweetened countenance she had worn throughout the encounter.
The voice, however, was different when she spoke this time. It was lower, heavy with magic and ill wishes: “A daughter of Soraidha. Hevlon, such a gift this is!”
“Yes, my lady.”
“And, Elsha, will you not tell us your true name? No? It matters not. Remove your dagger from your sleeve. I’ll have it.” She held out her hand, and Elyna, unable to stop herself, handed the dagger to her. Morhara’s eyes left her, then, as she examined the weapon, and Elyna regained her control.
Rising, she drew out her sword. One of them cried out, and she saw a flash to her right. The blade answered before she knew what it was, and Hevlon’s body crumpled in a spurt of blood. Elyna turned the blade to Morhara, and, though she felt that she must be shaking, the black blade was steady. Morhara rose, smiling, but no longer with the friendliness of before. This was the smile that Elyna remembered, the one that haunted her dreams.
“And so you have come to avenge your people’s deaths, little one? What? My soldiers have slain your parents and burnt your house? Would my death avenge their wrongs?”
“I didn’t come for them. I came for you. It was you that killed them.”
The look in Morhara’s eyes changed, and it seemed that she first noticed the sword. “What station held your mother, girl, that you now hold that sword? Your name. What is it?”
Elyna felt the air grow thick as the spell against lies grew stronger. No matter. She would not lie, not now when she held Morhara at sword point and guarded her escape. “I know her station not, but she called me Elyna.”
A wicked smile spread across Morhara’s dark face. “No, Liaska, Telyna she called you. I thought you dead, little one. Dead after my sword stroke, and she, too, lay dead across you. Fate is not so kind.”
“Why did you kill them yourself? What harm to you had they done?” Her voice was grown hoarse with sudden emotion, and she wondered that her vision was clear of tears.
“No more than any. It was the Queen that I wished to kill, and in her defense your family fell.” The smile returned. “But you don’t know. You were too protected and too small to realize, and yet you have the sword still.”
“What lies do you speak now?” Elyna demanded. Morhara’s words confused her; what did her parents have to do with the Queen?
“No lies. Spells such as these are tricky. As you can speak no lies, I can weave none. The truth lies there in your own hand. That foul device—gods know how I never wished to lay eyes on it again—is the Black Sword of Soraidha, and you, you are then Queen, as the mother I took from you was never made. Tyrlana Liaska was the Queen’s heir. But you knew not!” Morhara laughed then, and the iniquitous tones made Elyna shudder.
“I don’t believe your lies, Morhara. But you tell one truth and I shall fulfill that. By my hand shall you die.” She stepped forward, raising the sword, expecting a reaction from Morhara.
The woman shrugged. “He is dead. Why not me as well?”
Elyna lunged in, but Morhara was swifter, drawing the dagger that Elyna had given up. She knocked Elyna’s sword arm as she, too, lunged, and Elyna’s blow fell wide as Morhara sliced the girl’s side with the dagger. Elyna hardly noticed more than a quick sting, so sharp was the blade. She came back around, realizing that Morhara was now near the door. The woman was rushing for it, but she tripped over Hevlon’s sprawled left arm and fell. Elyna grabbed her from behind and hauled her to her feet.
“In hell you shall suffer as my people have by your hand. Die now, traitor!” One swift move and Morhara slumped, the life draining from her. The opposing magic that had filled the room seemed to fade away, and Elyna was left alone with her own. She gasped, pressing her hand to her side. She was bleeding worse than she’d realized. Wincing, she knelt, making certain that both Hevlon and Morhara were dead. She knew, with irony, that had Morhara stopped to do this years ago, this day would not have come.
Elyna took her dagger from the dead woman’s stiffening fingers, and, wiping it on the corpses’ clothes, she sheathed it and her sword. For a moment she wondered if Morhara was right. Was this the Black Sword? But, no, many Soraithen swords were black-bladed, and she soon forgot as she stumbled down the stairs, still bleeding. Where was everyone? She called for Ladhyn as she stumbled through the empty kitchen. As she fell, gray and black pierced her vision, and, though she felt herself lifted, she saw not who did. Were they friend or foe? Would she awaken from this darkness? And then, with her last shred of thought, she realized that it didn’t matter. She had succeeded in her revenge, and, if she died now, she would join her family and her suffering would end.