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."

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