A new chapter arrives!

The new PK chapter is up at the new site.  Pahchoo!

We've moved.  New stories are being posted up at the new site now, and I'll only be updating here a little bit longer.

If you got here from another site then please ask them to update their bookmarks to the new site's URL.


New Chapter!

The new PK chapter is up at the new site.  Bling!

If you got here from another site then please ask them to update their bookmarks to the new site's URL.


Book 2 Chapter 2 is up!

One more post over on the old site just in case people miss that we've moved to a new site. The new chapter of Book 2 is right here, and if you want to read the first book, it's over at the new site as well, along with a whole bunch of shorts and extra materials!

Also, we have some cool things happening on the merchandise front, but I'll wait a little while to tell you about that.

Keep an eye on the new site! We have a lot happening there and a lot of cool features to reward people for interacting and commenting.

Oh yeah, and remember that I tweet chapter updates as @irkdesu, and Char is @charnanigans, if you want to follow either of us in Twitter!


The Peacock King Trilogy Book 2 - The Peacock King in Court

Come and get it.

(Please change your bookmarks to the new site and spread the word!)


Bonus: The Last of the Dhealg'seala (Part Five)

This isn't the last of The Last of the Dhealg'seala, but it's the last that Char's posting before PK Novel 2 goes up.  This is probably the most comedic one so far, and I think you'll enjoy it.

Come this Saturday we'll have a new novel going in the Peacock King Trilogy: The Peacock King in Court.  We'll also have a new site up for you to peruse.  Hope to see you there!


Nighttime usually found me lurking about the roofs.  I loved being up there on the still-warm tiles, stretched out under the stars, listening to Bel'eth's roar dimming into the quiet sounds of a settling city.  On nights like this one, the breeze carried the faint crisp scent of the ocean, adding a nice edge to the warm, mild odors that hung over the Complex.  The solitude was reassuring as well, welcome after a day spent chasing snot-nosed upstarts who thought that being slapped into a teenaged body excused treating me as one.

They learned quick, but 'Sy was starting to complain about the toll that the medical supplies were taking.  Luckily, I only had a couple more days of growth to go before I was the proper age again.

Being assassinated sucked.

I felt Camden's approach before he actually stepped into the practice yard.  I growled low in my throat at the intrusion, but luckily the new Peacekeeper was so wound up in himself that he didn't notice me lurking in the shadows on the roof.  I rolled over and glanced down, recognizing the pinched look of someone having a deep discussion with their Arms.  If I strained, I could probably eavesdrop a bit, but I had already been warned about playing nice with the fresh meat for at least a couple of days while he adjusted.

Not that Camden particularly wanted me to play nice.  I grinned, sitting up and leaning back against the chimney so I'd have a clearer view.  No, the new Peacekeeper was quite happy to play hard, and my girls were already forming some respect for his Geillg'a.

Another good reason not to eavesdrop.  If Geillg'a hadn't seen fit to warn her partner that they were being observed, then I'd much rather accept that small gift than give Geillg'a reason toreally take notice of me.  She was a quick one, that whip, and even if her partner was nowhere near ready to catch me, she did a damned good job of evening the odds up a bit.

Camden drew Geillg'a, and I watched them practice together for a while.  He was naturally a quick learner, and I'm sure Geillg'a's habit of taking chunks out of him when he moved too slow or in the wrong direction provided a lot of motivation to learn faster still.  He had a natural grace to him, though.  He had claimed no experience with whip-style weaponry.  It showed.

Oh?  Are we such an expert on whips now?

I decided not to take any notice of Gevurah's tone.  It was actually rather pleasant for the peevish little knife--


Would you prefer 'diminutive'? I asked, rubbing my hip where she had jabbed me.  

Gedulah's ivory-toned laugh rippled through my head.  Awww, is the little toothpick getting cranky about her size again?  Gonna throw a wee bit of a tantrum?

I felt Gevurah's form shift, and reached for her in a panic.

"No, don't--!"

Gevurah roared, and a respectable chunk of the roof went flying.  I stared down at the hole in dismay, down at a very familiar desk, barely hearing the girls screaming at each other in the back of my mind.  I had just enough time to wonder why the Hell Gevurah had shot a hole in the roof when she was angry at Gedulah before another chunk of the roof exploded outward.  I threw myself sideways, staring back at the spot... and kept falling.

Fuck.  Missed.

I am going to drown you in a well, I thought at Gevurah, managing to twist myself around so that I at least managed to land mostly on my feet.

She snorted, the sound suspiciously like a magazine slamming into place.  She started it!  Besides, I could hit you from anywhere in the Kingdoms, and you know it.

Good job there, birdshot brain, Gedulah snapped.  We were trying to stay hidden.  Not to mention the shit we're gonna be in when Di-- 'Sy finds out who shot holes in the roof.

I turned and looked over my shoulder.  Camden was staring at me, Geillg'a still in his hand.  I noted that he had his Arms held at ready, Geillg'a's silvery length coiled to strike with the slightest provocation.

He does learn fast! I said, making sure I had enough room to maneuver if they decided to take the offense.

Gedulah murmured her approval of their improvement.  Gevurah snorted again, a quick metallic snap of her chamber loading.  Not fast enough.  He didn't notice us until... well, much later than he should have.

Alarm flooded me, and I nearly whipped Gevurah out before I realized it was Gedulah reacting to something.  Her next words, however, had her sister and me joining her in her growing panic.  

Shit!  He's coming!


I had barely enough time to process Katherine's rather abrupt entrance from above before she was raising her arm, eyes wide with... fear?  I didn't recognize the dark object she was pointing at me, but Geillg'a apparently did.


I threw myself sideways, instinctively whipping Geillg'a back at my rather unexpected opponent. The noise her weapon made was incredibly loud, and I had to fight the urge to clamp my hands over my ears.  Sparks flew as Geillg'a made contact and slid along the other weapon.  Geillg'a?  What WAS that?

Gevurah!  I felt my Arms curse, and my body rolled back the other direction of its own accord, another roar and a spray of dirt kicking up from where my head had just been.  There was a distant shout of alarm.  I felt Geillg'a listening to whatever had made that exclamation, and then her laughter filled my head, near drowning out the commotion Gevurah was making.  Just keep up yer dancin' fer another minute, boy, and we'll be fine.  The Judge is on his way!

Why is she trying to kill me?  I asked, rolling to my feet.  Geillg'a curled behind me, ready to strike.  She whipped forward as I twisted, very nearly catching Katherine at the ankles.  

She isn'a.  Ye'd be dead already.

I scowled at her matter-of-fact tone, trying to track Katherine's movements and look for cover at the same time.  She's toying with me?

Geillg'a laughed, her tip sailing out and smacking Gevurah aside enough that the next round missed.  Think of it as illustratin' a point, boy.  Here I am, doing all the work, and barely managing to keep her in check.  I stepped to the side, pulling the whip back in.  She coiled behind me, scratching at my ankle to underscore her reprimand.  If she were working with Gevurah instead of fightin' her, ye'd have several holes in ye by now.

Quite so, that deep voice from earlier growled.   It's a good thing she's actively trying to slow down her Arms, or...  STOP.  Out of the corner of my vision, I saw the Judge step out of the shadows, his battle-fork held at ready.

Trident, m'dear, Geillg'a whispered.  I made a note of the word, and watched as Katherine nearly bent herself in half trying to turn and face the Judge mid-leap.  I noted with relief that her Arms no longer seemed to be aiming at me.

Rather nasty feelin', isn' it?

Like...  I groped for some way to describe it.  Like seeing the sword descend towards your throat, and knowing there's nothing you can do to stop it.

Exactly like that, Geillg'a chuckled.  Make a note of it, and learn to use that effect to yer advantage.  There isn't a creature alive that doesn't feel our Aim.

The Judge spared me only the slightest glance as he stopped in front of Katherine,  then turned and focused the full weight of his scowl on Katherine.  "Explain."

She called me a toothpick --

-- took a shot at me for no reason --

-- won't SHUT UP --

I blinked at the sudden flood of accusations and counters, and watched the Judge wince and pinch the bridge of his nose with his fingertips.  The Trident's tip rose until it was being held perfectly vertical, blunt end sinking into the earth, the Judge leaning slightly against it as if he needed the support.

They'll get better soon enough, I heard the Trident mutter.

Better?  Is there something wrong with them?

I realized as I felt the Trident's regard weigh down on me that I hadn't been addressed directly by him.  After a moment, I heard something like a sigh.  Nothing is... technically wrong with them.  I felt the Trident's focus mercifully shift away from me once more.  Nothing discipline won't fix.

Her Arms fell silent at that quiet threat.

Discipline and a mere couple of days, Diyn, I heard the Judge say.  There is no need to take her to task for a situation that is very nearly done correcting itself.  "Jhe Cruxradia."

Katherine straightened with a small wince, standing at attention.  I noticed with a start that she looked older than she had earlier in the day, closer to my age.

"Please explain why my office now features two skylights and ventilated furniture?"


Maybe we should make a run for it.  I wasn't terribly surprised to hear Gedulah propose a strategic retreat... except that it wasn't terribly strategic in this situation.

No, I said, snapping my mouth shut as I tried to think of a way out of this without a lecture or loss of limbs.  No, running is a bad idea.

Gedulah fretted in the back of my mind, little ripples of worry buffeting my mind like a million butterfly wings.  If we ran fast enough, we'd get a decent head start before Diyn could--

Before Diyn could what?  

I sighed, closing my eyes.  He sounded altogether too amused.  It didn't speak well for our safety and well-being.

"Well," I said, shifting my weight, taking care to keep my hands visible at all times, "I was on the roof minding my own business and... well, the girls started fighting, and Gevurah tried to shoot Gedulah."

She started it, Gevurah grumbled petulantly.

The Judge sighed, and I risked a quick glance at his face.  He had that distant scowl that he always got when Diyn was giving him an earful, and I could tell by the way the corner of his mouth occasionally twitched that he was arguing back just as hard.  I didn't envy him; Diyn was even harder-headed than the Judge, what with being the literal knife-edge of the Law and all. The Judge's face went blank at one point, and I reflexively took a step back.  Camden flinched at the same moment.

He can hear us, Gedulah murmured so quietly that it took me a moment to realize that she was deliberately pitching her voice low for privacy.  Diyn just chided him for being impolite, but the poor boy didn't realize he was eavesdropping.  Or that he's not even supposed to.  

Don't know why it would be, Gevurah grumbled.  If he can hear, let 'im hear.  Besides, getting him used to this could prove to be a tactical advantage.  Hey!  Hey, kid!

Camden jumped, then looked at me, puzzled.

No, down a little.  ... Lower, boy, or I'll shoot you.  Those aren't yours.  Yep, that's me.  Hi!

... can hear you?

Gevurah snickered.  Because I want to, regardless of what that huge hunk of over-polished dinnerware says!  Hey, tell your razor-snake there that I sai-- shit!

I glanced down, wondering at her sudden retreat, then looked up.  The Judge was scowling at me again... and he was tapping a boot against the ground, obviously waiting for me to say something.  "I'm sorry, sir?" I said, my voice thin.  I couldn't even pretend to have heard what he was saying.

He sighed, and opened his mouth to say something, but stopped with a funny look on his face.   His mouth snapped shut and he snorted, glancing at Diyn with a small, amused grin.  "Dinnerware?"

Shit shit shit shitshitshitshitshit.  Geillg'a you whorish betraying loud-mouthed fucking overwired piece of ass-floss, I am not going to fucking forget this--

Someone -- Diyn, I suspected -- shut Gevurah up before she got to the part where she started making promises.

Diyn and the Judge sighed simultaneously, and it felt so much like a sudden pressure-drop that I reflexively worked my jaw to pop my ears.

"My dear, I cannot wait for you to finally mature."


Bonus: The Last of the Dhealg'seala (Part Four)

So, if you ever were wondering about how Armed become, you know, all Armed and stuff.

(And I know you were.)

You'll really like this one!

Part four of Char's short about Camden and Elric Briarseal is pretty exciting all around.  Expect at least one more part this coming Wednesday - next Saturday we start posting novel 2 in The Peacock King Trilogy: The Peacock King in Court!  Once that's live, Char might change her update schedule on The Last of the Dhealg'seala a bit.

Anyway, go on and read.


I stamped my foot against the ground, sensing the composition, as I looked at the structure of the courtyard around me.

No, this was no courtyard.  This was a training arena.

Everything was designed to be portable, from the lush greenery in tasteful containers to the benches and the stones that composed the walkways.  Of course it would be preferable to master certain weaponry with the objects in place, but should the situation call for it, the grounds could be completely cleared.  The aisles surrounding the courtyard were faced by simple columns, but backed by thick, windowless stone walls.  The doors were stout, no-nonsense affairs as well, built to withstand direct assaults.

My right hand twitched, a motion that didn't go unnoticed by the Judge.

"A little morning exercise before the tour, then?"

I started to look at him in question, but instinct took hold and I knelt instead, drawing my dagger from my boot and parrying the Judge's attack before I consciously realized he had moved. 

"Well done," he said, standing back and flicking the point of his sword to the side.  

I laughed, flipping my dagger and resheathing it as I stood.  "I am not a match for you, sire."  

"No," he said, tipping the point of his sword into its sheath and sliding it home in one smooth motion.  "However, you could very well be in a very short time."  He glanced to one side of the practice arena and smiled.  "I hope you can forgive my presumption," he said, holding one arm out to the side, "but I wanted to include her in today's activities."

I looked in the direction he was was watching.  A young girl was approaching, looking from me to  the Judge with a puzzled expression.  She stopped several feet away, her green eyes studying me as carefully as any soldier whose inspection I had been subject to, before turning to the Judge with her arms crossed.

Of course she didn't speak Rhivendish.

I took that moment to inspect her in turn.  She was young, no more than twelve by my estimation, and short for that age.  She had begun to fill out as a woman, but was still more limb than length.  Despite her youth, she had the careful foot-forward stance of a trained warrior, and her hands had the beginnings of the calluses that spoke of a familiarity with weaponry beyond mere hobbyist.  Her dark brown hair was pulled back and twisted into a braid which was wrapped around and pinned in a loop.  A sword was strapped across her back, and a smaller knife at her waist.  

She turned and pinned me with those eyes again, and my hand reflexively twitched for my sword.  She watched me a moment longer, then nodded and smiled.

"Jhe Katherine Cruxradia," she said, bowing gracefully.

I returned the bow, careful to accord her slightly higher rank.  "Camdhegn, Laigr Dhealg'seala."

Again, she gave me a measuring look-over, then performed a different sort of bow, one that set my blood singing in recognition.  I returned the bow, and then stood guard.

She came at me quickly, her knife seeming to leap out of its sheath, slipping easily past my guard and drawing first blood in one smooth twirl.  I twisted away and adjusted my stance, careful to keep my eyes fixed on her.  She was fast.  She pivoted on one heel, looking for all the world like a Rhivendish dancer, and flew at me again.  I was better prepared this time and moved with her, my hands ghosting her wrist long enough to brush my fingers against the hilt of her knife.  She twisted away once more, the knife moving out of my reach, and I heard the metallic hiss of her sword being drawn.  I hit my knees and stilled as I felt the edge of the blade against my neck.

"I yield," I said, spreading my fingers wide in case she didn't grasp the meaning of my words.  

The blade withdrew, and her small hand appeared in front of my face.  I grasped it, rising to my feet, and she bowed low over my hand and said something in Radian.

"She thanks you, and says that you're damned lucky you hit your knees when you did, or you would have died," the Judge said, barely-contained laughter in his voice.  

"Would I now?"  I glanced at her, returning the bow with my eyes carefully keeping her in view.  

The Judge chuckled.  "Gevurah doesn't take well to being handled, and Gedulah is very protective of her sister."

I stared at him, certain that the tall warrior was pulling one over me.  His smile widened. 

"Arms don't react well to being handled by any save their Armed."

I looked at the short child watching us with intense interest.  "She's one of the Armed?"

"Armed, and a Poet, as well as one of my officers."

My respect for the child rose, high as it already was.  "How old is she?  I thought none save the Clan would serve the sword at such a young age."

The Judge's eyes twinkled.  "Fourteen, but don't let her age fool you.  She has the mind of a grown woman already, and takes some offense to being in such a young body."

I blinked, then decided I had simply misunderstood him.

Katherine cleared her throat, and I looked her way even as I reminded myself I wouldn't understand a word she said.  "Camden," she said slowly, and it took me a moment to recognize it as my name, "when..."  She looked at the Judge, her eyebrows scrunching together in irritation.  I startled inside as I realized I could almost hear the edges of their silent conversation, and then she was looking at me again.  "When you are free... I would like to match you again."  She grinned.  "This time matching Arms."

I reflexively bowed, wincing a little inside.  "You do me honor," I said, and caught that curious echo once more between the Judge and Katherine, "but I do not have Arms to match to yours."

She listened, then tilted her head at me.  "Gevurah says differently."  She turned and narrowed her eyes at the Judge, speaking quickly to him.  This time, I was on the receiving echo of the Judge's translation.

Her Arms are quite insistent that we introduce you immediately to them, he said.  I was anticipating a more prolonged introduction to the Armed, but they are certain that you are ready now.

Am I?  I said, then froze.  When had I decided?  I didn't recall making any decision to join this unknown army, but there was the curious sense that somewhere, at some point, I had.

The Judge looked at me with his gold eyes, one eyebrow raised.  "If you are, then you are," he said, then began walking towards one of the doors.  Katherine gave me a long stare, then followed.

I watched them a moment, feeling as if the future were bearing all too quickly down on me, then pulled myself together and followed.


They led me into small, sparse room.  A solitary chair was the only piece of furniture present, as well as a few very old and worn weapons, suitable only for display.  Sunshine spilled into the room, lending a soft glow to the wood surfaces.

The soft click of the door being closed behind me set my nerves on edge.  I turned, my guard rising.  The Judge stood in the center of the room, his hand resting on the hilt.  Katherine stood behind him, her face tense.

"What's this about, then?" I asked softly.

Katherine glanced towards the Judge, crossing her arms.  

"I do apologize for the abruptness with which we're inducting you, Laigr."  He drew his sword and twirled it, the blade reforming into the battle-fork form.  "Typically, training for this moment lasts years, but time is short... and I'm certain enough that you are ready to gamble on this course of action."

I heard Katherine's short gasp before I actually felt the tines of the battle-fork in my chest.  My eyes flew from the Judge's flat stare to the silver prongs buried in my chest.  As I marveled at the lack of blood, my vision seemed to slide backward, then go black.

You've courage enough for twenty men.  He says you will see it through, but I have my doubts about your stamina, you half-grown navel-gazer.

I stared into the blackness.  I will last as long as I must.  I am the Dhealg'seala.

A thin mist curled around my ankles, thickening as it rose to my knees.  I heard the low impact of hoofbeats, and a chill raced along my spine.  The Dubhimealleach.

The darkness coalesced, forming jet hooves fringed in fine hair, flashing glimpses of a long, rippling mane and a tail that trailed to the ground like a black silk banner, then finally revealing the midnight-black form of a bridled mare.  She halted two arms-reach in front of me, tossing her mane and snorting.  Her head turned and she regarded me with one blood-red eye, peering out from behind her long forelock, her jaw working as she inspected me.  I stared back, my hands forming fists at my side.

Quick as lightning, her head swung around, teeth bared.  I twisted and dropped to my knees, hand instinctively flying to my side.  I was surprised to feel a hilt, but reflex took over and I drew, swinging my arm around to block.

The Dubhimealleach caught the blade in her teeth, shattering the metal and shaking her dark head.  I had no time to think, only to stare as she reared and squealed, her attack faster this time.  I cried out as her teeth sank into my shoulder, then screamed as I felt my flesh being pulled into her fiery mouth.  

This is no dream, son, I heard the voice of my father say.  I saw his body, stretched out in the wrong direction, face-down in the mud.  The line of Dhealg'seala ends here.

No!  I clenched my jaw and pushed against the mare's head.  She squealed and dug in, twisting as she fed.  

Oh?  I felt the curious sensation of being watched from within.  Rather looks like she's making a decent meal out of you, son.

I can fight this.  

I felt rather than heard the snort.  Yes, I can see that.  Can you win?

I will prevail or die trying.

There was the cold feeling of being stared at, and I saw a brief flash of silver eyes narrowing.  And if you die, boy, what becomes of the Dhealg'seala?

I tried to respond with my brother's name, but the thought was snatched from me as if the mare had taken it into her teeth and consumed it.  I knew to my core that if I fell, my brother would not be able to hold the Seal on his own.  I looked into the mare's eye, for a moment completely unaware of the pain.  

I wasn't just the Laigr of Dhealg'seala.  I was the Dhealg'seala.  

The Dubhimealleach squealed and tossed her head, throwing me through the darkness.  I hit something and slid, pulling myself to my feet as she charged.  I dove away, rolling away from her hooves.

At that moment, it finally occurred to me that my feet weren't stuck.

About time you noticed, whelp.

Aye, he's a slow one, alright, a new voice whispered, sharp and soft.  Ach!  He heard me!  A low, silvery sound, like chainmail spilling off of a chair filled the darkness.  Laughter?  At the same time, my fingers brushed a hilt at my waist, even though I was damned sure this time I had none a moment before.  

Quit thinkin' so damned hard and fight! she said.

I drew, and felt the blade impact as my vision went black and I toppled forward.


Katherine caught me, her hands steadying my shoulders as my knees buckled.  My head fell foward, my nose banging painfully against her collarbone.  I sat back on my heels, blinking tears from my eyes.

"Well?"  Katherine tapped her foot, her lips twitching.  She gave up fighting her own face and grinned eagerly.  "Let's see her!"

"Not in here," the Judge grumbled, pulling the door open.  I blinked against the flood of sunshine, wiping fresh tears from my eyes, and surged to my feet.  Katherine fell in behind me, her footsteps light, as if she were dancing her way out to the courtyard.  I snorted at the thought.  Having been exposed to her form, it was entirely plausible that she was in fact waltzing out to the arena.

She stopped near the edge, drawing Gedulah and adopting a stance that seemed a bit more suited to a knife fight than a sword.  I shrugged, and drew my own weapon.  

Instead of the metallic slide of a blade being drawn, there was that soft chainmail-whisper, and the brush of something at my feet.  I glanced down in confusion, then stared in shock.


Boy, are ye criticizin' my form?

I choked on a laugh.  This is not a man's weapon!  A whip?  What am I to do, tickle my opp--"AUGH!"

My pants lay in shreds around me, one leg bloodied and near-skinless.  The whip had skinned me before I could even register her movement.

Katherine's laughter echoed through the courtyard.  Mercifully, I didn't hear any noise from the Judge, but I also wasn't terribly inclined to look for a smile on his face, either.  

Serves ye right, ye insolent half-brained puppy of an inbred bitch.  She snorted.  I'll have ye know, th' Judge and Jhe Cruxradia are currently arguing over th' terms of their bet.  She sniffed, and I felt her watching them with disdain.  As if t'were a fair deal, what wi' the Judge bein' a part of myself an' all.

I glanced down at the whip, the notion that I was talking to it finally sinking in.

Her, if it pleases ye, she grumbled.  Or Geillg'a, iffn' ye be addressin' me proper.

Geillg'a?  I turned the name over in my head.  Are you my Will, then?

A part of it, she said, her voice a purr in my head.  Yer Will, yer contract, yer Duty... call it what ye want, boy, but when ye boil it down, yer mine.  Now wipe that stupid look off yer face an' look smart.  She snorted.  As smart as ye can manage, ye dull toin.

I looked up, fighting to keep my irritation from showing on my face.

"Don't worry," Katherine says, "we all make that face at least three times a day."  She held out a small kit and a folded bundle.  "For your leg, and a change of clothes."

I sighed as I accepted them, tucking them under one arm.  "My thanks..."  I stopped, unsure of the proper way to address her.

She smiled, one corner lifting higher than the other.  "Katherine is enough.  As of now, we hold equal rank."  Her smile widened a touch, mischief sparking in her eyes.  "Just don't forget to add Jhe once I'm promoted."

"If you are," I said, then blinked at my own familiarity.  To my relief, she laughed and lightly slapped my shoulder.

"Just wait," she said.  She bowed, her hand tilting out at my side.  I was puzzled for a short moment, then realized she was addressing my Arms.

A pleasure to make your acquaintance, lady, I heard her say.  I hope that we'll have a chance to take our measure of each other soon.

Aye, Geillg'a responded, and a pleasure to meet you as well, Your Highness.

Katherine's face twisted into a small scowl as Geillg'a's laughter rippled through my mind.  Ah, ye didn't know that about yer wee friend?  She's the Emperor's daughter, amongst other things.  Geillg'a snorted.  Amongst many other things.

How do you know so much about her?

I know what he knows, and that's enough.

Before I could think of anything further to ask her, I felt her curl up in my mind and quiet, almost as if she had fallen asleep.  I glanced down, and she was sheathed at my waist.  Light sparkled off her as I turned, and I finally noticed that she was composed of thousands of tiny blades, layered like the scales of a snake.  

Rather beautiful, actually.

I felt her rumble of pleasure at the compliment and smiled.  

Katherine snorted.  "Camden, you're going to bleed out at this rate.  Stop daydreaming and dress those wounds."

I startled, then winced as the agony in my leg finally registered.  "Could you show me where I can..."  I held up the kit.

"This way," she said, tilting her head towards a section of the building across the arena. 

I limped alongside her, only half-aware of the pain as I contemplated the quiet, curled presence of my Arms in my mind.


Bonus: The Last of the Dhealg'seala (Part Three)

Here you go with Part Three of Char's serial short on the backstory of Elric and Camden and just how they got to be all Armed and Poetic.  This is really getting interesting because you're starting to explore some new places, and see a few characters quite a bit younger than they are in the Peacock King Trilogy's time period.

The first part of this story is here, and the second is here.

If you would like to read the first book in the Peacock King Trilogy, please go here.

See you in a few days!


Elricht set the cups down on the table and dropped into his chair, his fingers dancing as they curled around his teacup, smiling the widest grin I could recall having seen on his face.  The knot in my chest loosened to see him so happy and caught up in this new kingdom, though I felt a small flash of bitterness that he could so easily set aside our clan.

I reminded myself once again that the state of my clan was my burden to bear, not my brother's.

"So," I said, threading my fingers through the handle of the teacup and bracing myself for the onslaught,  "what has you dancing about in your chair like a giddy barmaid, Elricht?"

His grin widened to the point where I feared his face would split, and his eyes focused on some point in the distance, his mouth hanging open as he gathered his thoughts.

It was going to be a long tale, from the looks of it.

"Oh Cammie," he sighed, looking for all the world like a love-sick lad, "I've not seen so many books in my life."  He then spun a tale of an entire building of books, mountains of books, and the people who write them...

I sipped my tea and nodded at all the right points, giving up on keeping track of what he was actually saying.  As I watched him speak, his hands dancing through the air as he illustrated one point or another with little gestures, I began to see him in a new light.  No longer my little older brother, the quiet mouse of a boy, but someone who had... potential.  There was no room in the Clans for a man who refused to take up the sword, but things were playing out a little different here.  My brother had a place now, and the more he spoke of the Poet Hall, the more obvious it became that he had already decided somewhere in that head of his that he was going to be there the rest of his life.


I startled.  Elricht was starting at me, his eyebrows raised in question.  I had gotten so lost in thought that I had missed one of my vocal prompts and had been caught drifting.

"My apologies.  It's been a long day..."

"I understand," he said with a small smile, and for a wonder I believe he really did.  "I'm sure tomorrow will deliver its own set of delights, and we should probably be well-rested for them, aye?"

"You haven't even touched your tea."

He looked down at his cup, surprised.  "Aye, and it's gone cold, too."  He chuckled and drained his glass in one long draw, then set the cup down with a loud clunk.  "Now?"

I chuckled and pushed away from the table, heaving my sore body out of the chair.  "Bed has never sounded lovelier."



I stared at my hand in the rising glow of dawn.  It rested on the pillow near my face, the shape still young, the skin smooth -- save where it was callused and scarred from years of wielding a sword.  As the light rose, my hand seemed to age, revealing more of the rough texture and marks of hard use.  A grown man's hand.

My brother's hands, while bearing a few hints of the same sword calluses, were noticeably smoother and more delicately shaped than my own.  I wondered at the small pang of jealousy I felt.  Not at the skin, I decided, but at the way he so easily cast off the Clans and moved ahead.  He slept easily, only the occasional sigh or mutter breaking the silence.  His soul had already found a home here, and he was relatively at peace.

I hadn't slept.  I didn't even have to shut my eyes to see the specters of the dead, of my kin crying out for revenge, demanding that their Laigr return and restore the Dheag'seala to their glory.  Behind them, the Radian Emperor stood, his pale blue eyes staring at me in cool curiosity, wordlessly asking me what I would do next.

The tips of my fingers twitched.  Join the Armed?  I hadn't believed for a moment that taking up with the Armed would still leave me free to carry out the duties of my lineage -- but what of my lineage was there to be dutiful to?  My brother, whether he realized it or not, had already turned his back to Rhivend and the Clan.  There was only me, and what was the point of a Laigr whose only Clan was himself?

Dhealg'seala.  There was the Seal, but that blood-tie was something that would follow me, whatever the geography my blood happened to occupy.  As long as there was breath in me, the Old Man would remain in slumber beneath the earth.  

I thought of the black horse that had haunted my nightmares as a child, a beautiful horse that my father claimed was the Old Man's mount, and shivered.  I had dreamt all to often of the Dubhimealleach as a boy, and finally had approached the Laigr about it.  He had listened as I had described standing at the edge of a misty bog, my feet stuck in the black rot, listening to the wet, muffled impact of her hooves as she walked toward me.  Clouds of mist rolled from her nostrils, and as she approached, I could smell the rot eminating from her, could see her breath feeding the fog.  She stopped in front of me, then stretched her muscular neck out, the whiskers of her muzzle tickling my ear, and the world pulled sideways.  The first sharp pricklings of pain began at my jaw, and then I felt my hair sliding, and I realized she was eating me, bringing me down under to the Old Man.

My father looked at me, ruffled my hair, and told me it wasn't just a dream, and that it had been a damned good thing I woke myself up before the mare had finished consuming my soul.  Many men had been lost to her cold, devouring teeth.

I rolled over and sat up, pushing back the covers with a sigh.  Sleep wasn't going to come now, and with the sun already peeking above the horizon, it wasn't likely to find me until another day had passed.

Mist rolled by the window, and I suppressed another shiver.

There was a small amount of comfort to be found in preparing breakfast, and by the time Elricht shuffled out of the bedroom, I had pushed back the worries of the night and felt ready to tackle a new day.

"Sleep well?" he muttered, pulling out a chair and dropping gracelessly into it.

I shrugged with one shoulder, loading his plate and setting it in front of him.  He looked at it, mouthed a quick word of thanks, and dove in so enthusiastically that I idly wondered why he didn't just bury his face in the eggs and chew his way down.

As I was loading my plate, there was a firm knock on the door.  I set the plate down and steeled myself before opening it.  Instead of the Judge, I was faced with a giant quilt wrapped about a young, dark-haired man with a crown.  I bowed reflexively, then waited for his response.  He smiled and seemed to be waiting for me to say something.  I smiled back, a little off-balance, unsure of what this person wanted me to say.

"'Hello' would do nicely," he said, only the slightest trace of irritation mixed in the overall good-natured tone.  He tilted his head as I remained silent, then laughed.  "You'll get used to it."

I wanted to ask what exactly it was that I'd be getting used to, but Ericht chose that moment to choke on his eggs as he tried to simultaneously greet our guest and swallow his breakfast.  The man smiled serenely at Elricht as my brother pounded furiously at his chest and swallowed, his eyes tearing.  He said something in a different language, and the man laughed and replied in kind.

It occurred to me then that he had spoken flawless Rivhendish to me, and my weary head hadn't picked up on that fact.

My brother turned to me with a sheepish smile.  "Camdhegn, permit me to introduce the Poet King, Jhe Eleth-travente 'hLogos."  I bowed, and the King tilted his head in a polite nod.  "Jhe 'hLogos, my brother, the Laigr of Clan Dhealg'seala, Camdghen a'Laisgeanta."

"I have heard many tales of your clan, Laigr," the King said.  I tried to keep a smile from my face at hearing the smooth condescension in the man's voice.  He may have been a king, but he looked to be a bare few years older than me, perhaps only the same age as my brother.  "The Dhealg'seala are well-known for their strength and courage.  From what your brother has told me of you, I would say you've fair earned that title-name."

I glanced at my brother, who had the temerity to grin.  What have you told this man?

Only the truth!  Nothing embarrassing, I swear it.

I do not trust your definition of "embarrassing", Elricht.

"You do me honor," I said aloud, fighting the urge to glare at my brother.  "They are bestowed as  the wish of a parent for their child, and my father would be proud to have his wish acknowledged as bearing fruit."

"I wonder," he said, a small grin ghosting his face, "if you would be as fierce today had your father not gifted you with that name."

"My brother's means 'he writes history with his fist'", I said mildly.  Elricht scowled at me, and the King looked at my brother, openly amused.  

"Well, we shall see, won't we," he said with a small chuckle.

My brother scowled and pushed.  It was rather like having my head trapped in a blacksmith's vise.  Mercifully, I heard a distinct set of boots in the hallway followed by a polite throat-clearing from the threshold, interrupting my brother's unsuccessful, but admittedly uncomfortable attempt to crush my head with his mind.  

"Jhe 'hLogos," he said quietly in his strangely-accented Rhivendish, "if you would be so kind as to permit me entry?"

The King turned, blushing slightly as he stepped to the side and pulled his robes closer to his ankles.  The Judge entered, glancing from the King to my brother, then raising an eyebrow in my direction.  

I bowed, at a loss for any other course of action.  He returned the gesture with an equal dip, according more honor than I expected.  I was so surprised that I bowed lower.  The Judge frowned slightly, then his expression smoothed and he nodded. 

"Laigr Dheag'seala, if I may have your time..."

"Of course," I said, hurriedly stamping my feet into my boots, grateful that I had fallen asleep in my clothes.  I bowed again and moved around the Judge and into the hallway, then turned and nodded to my brother.  He returned the nod, and the King smiled and waved his fingertips as the Judge brushed past me, pausing to wait outside the door.

Courtesy out of the way, I turned and followed the Judge down the hall, quietly wondering why it felt so much like a narrow escape.

I will prepare dinner tonight, dear brother.  The Jhe 'hLogos just warned me that you might be rather worn from the day.

What?  My footsteps faltered ever-so-slightly.  How could he... I... I sighed mentally.  Whatever the day brings, I can manage.  I thank you for your offer, brother.

You're welcome.  ... Jhe 'hLogos requested that I pass along a message.  I felt him listening carefully to whatever it was the King was saying.  He says to say hello to Geillg'a for him.  Do you know who...?

No, I said.  From the corner of my eye, I saw the Judge watching me with the tiniest of frowns.  Perhaps he's mistaken?

Elricht turned that over in his head.  No, he's pretty certain.  ... Camdghen, I like him, but he's a little strange.

Strange, and more than a little full of himself, a new voice broke in.  I glanced at the Judge, recognizing the low, warm tones of his voice in the mental one.  He is about as eccentric as they come, but don't mistake that eccentricity for madness or stupidity.  He shot a hard stare in my direction.  His lack of discipline disguises a keen intellect and abilities you'd do well to heed.

Sire, I said, one concern rising over all the new questions brewing between my ears, do all Radians have this ability to communicate through thought?  I was so sure of the privacy between my brother and myself that I hadn't thought others might be able to eavesdrop.

"Not all," he said aloud, "but you will need to learn to guard your thoughts and speech."  He looked down at me, curious.  "Is the ability so rare in the Clans?"

I nodded, then frowned.  "It would appear that way, but I've wondered.  It's not something that is discussed amongst our people."  I thought of my brother and winced.  "Such abilities are rather frowned upon."

I could feel him turning the information over in his head.  "Interesting."  He glanced down at me, but kept his silence.  

We walked for a bit of a distance, then climbed a set of stairs.  The Judge opened the door at the top of those stairs, and we stepped out into a wide courtyard, surrounded on all sides by a large building five stories high.  Beyond that, I could see the rise of a much larger building that couldn't possibly be anything other than the Palace, and a smaller but still impressive tower to the left.

The Judge smiled at my awed expression.  "The Palace, as I'm sure you have guessed, and the Poet Hall."  He looked around, pride filling his eyes and smile as he glanced at the building surrounding us.  "Welcome to the Armed Hall."