Death of a Beloved Betrayer
Tali had suspicions for quiet some time, but none of them were fruitful in proof. He had hoped it was his over-thinking, but the report from his spy was unmistakeable. A child of his own flesh and blood had betrayed them. Too soft was he in the child’s youth, he coddled them and did not ingrain the teachings of the Anexus deep enough. Now Tali stood at his fire, prodding it with a metal bar as the years with his children flashed in his mind. His own child was blind to the atrocities that were sorcerers, but a failure can also be a lesson--to this soft generation who have no respect nor understanding of the voices of the ancestors. They have covered their ears to the whispers of wisdom which have prevented the repeat of history until now.
This the chief will remedy quickly, as a wound is cauterized to stop bleeding he too shall be the red hot blade that burns closed this growing wound.
“What would you have us do?” Yaken, Tali’s lieutenant questions.
Tali let out a quiet sigh so not to be heard by the others, “Call a meeting in the square.”
Avalon and Fenrir were in the forest just outside the village. As the alchemist sat in the tree, the grey Dire Wolf kept to the floor, guarding the tree his companion resided in. She was here during the few pauses in training and battle, this tree had the best few of the village, a comfortable place to watch silently the day-to-day activities of the clan members. Their movements, their reactions; voice; habits; if they removed alchemy from the equation then they would be seen as any other people of man. Avalon’s thumb traced the runes of the leather bracer.
She wondered about Godric occasionally, when her mind was not filled with clan-related ordeals she was able to remember their short, but meaningful time together. Why could not other sorcerers be as he? She has yet to meet another sorcerer be it wizard or witch who held such an open view on alchemists and sorcerers alike. Perhaps it was simply circumstance--meeting on neutral grounds with no knowledge of the other’s true nature. Avalon smiled, remembering that she was automatically defensive against the stranger who fell from the tree after she believed him to be spying on her. Fenrir was the one who truly solidified their relationship, if he had been anyway aggressive, sensing hostility from Godric, Avalon would have gone for his life.
“How long do you plan on remaining there?” The Volva called out from below, “You are much too large to be adopted by the Faire.”
Avalon glanced down to the familiar face, then climbed down in a matter of moments despite the significant height. It was unusual for the Volva to come fetch her personally, usually she sent Sid if there was something to be done. Basing off the expression of the Volva something was amiss that Sid was not meant to be told.
“Your father has called a meeting in the square.” She gestured the two to follow.
Avalon walked at the Volva’s side, “But the clan meeting is not for another four days. Has something happened?”
The Volva was reluctant to answer, knowing that one of two paths could be taken in Avalon’s case. She suddenly halted, still out of sight of the village boarders.
“If your sorcerer friend attacked our village what would you do?”
Avalon was puzzled, “He would never--”
“If he did, if he was given no choice else his own would be killed! What would you do?” She firmly asked as her gaze locked with Avalon’s.
“I...” That was a very painful thought, but hypothetically if that were the case, “I would protect our clan no matter what.”
The Volva was hiding something, “Then you will understand what is about to happen is not because it is a choice, but because it is what is best for the clan.”
Avalon had enough and expressed her tiredness of beating around the bush.
“Falcon has been arrested for treason.”
Instantly Avalon protested this obviously preposterous lie, “FALCON WOULD NEVER--!”
The Volva clasped Avalon’s mouth shut, raising her finger over her lips to gesture the young woman’s obnoxious tone to be silenced. When satisfied Avalon would mind it, she let her go and rustled under her coat to retrieve the desired item. Ensuring no others were within eye or ear shot she quickly relayed her request.
“If you care about your brother then you will go and destroy the evidence of his transgression.” In the Volva’s hands was a leather-wrapped map where a place within the forest not far from here was marked. Avalon recognized the handwriting as her elder brother’s.
Suspiciously and with surprise Avalon questioned, “You would cross father for Falcon?”
The Volva shook her head, “I would kill anyone if it meant keeping you and your brothers safe. I promised your mother I would look after you, even if I must from your own father.”
Avalon mounted her horse with hast, riding hard with Fenrir keeping pace beside. It was dusk now, Avalon saw a small occupied house within the trees and dismounted, tying the reins to a nearby branch. Her and Fenrir kept low, their predatory senses on alert as they crept closer to the residence.
For a time they kept in a single spot, motionless, lying in wait for whatever moved within to come out. From their distance Avalon achieved a glance thru the window, but not clear enough to make out what the figure was. She drew her sword, instructing Fenrir to remain back due to the small confines of the house injuring each other is too high a risk. The sun was nearly gone, its light slowly being replaced by the glow of the crescent moon. The shadows were used to move, but the clearing where the house resided in its center allowed for little concealment. Movement was to be swift, quiet; no different than the strike. Avalon stopped at the front door, realizing that under a straw patch at the entrance was a spell. Glancing at her bracer, she hoped it would be enough to protect from whatever this spell would emit. However a question finally broke thru her mind: why was a sorcerer’s magic here?
The alchemist pulled the hood of her cloak over her head, and a scarf over her nose and mouth before hovering her sword beside the spell. Driving the sword down the ground was transmutated, destroying the foundations of the spell and the door along with it. She dove in, transmutating a wall upon her entrance that protected her from an offensive spell. A sorcerer was here! Avalon jumped over, sliding under to evade another spell and jumping up with a swing. The blade halted inches from the neck.
Avalon’s eyes widened, “A witch?”
Yes, a witch...one with child.
Sid caught the strong scent of blood as Avalon appeared next to him and the Volva. He wanted to ask, seeing as no one had gone to battle for many days, but was distracted when their father stood above them. The boy looked around for elder brother, not seeing him at father’s side was unusual, but as the Volva would often say: he does not need to know adult things yet. Avalon shifted to Sid, pulling him to meet her side. Her gaze did not pull away from father.
The entire village came to the square, their torches lighting their faces like a grim mob on its way to burn a witch--a very muggle thing to do. The Volva was across the crowd, but pulled Avalon’s face from the mass; noticed by her and others was that familiar scent. The young alchemist’s appearance was not what alarmed the Volva, but the sight of Avalon’s eyes shifting in and out between their normal hazel to a golden yellow. ‘That’ was not a good omen.
“My breathren, I have called this meeting to make known of one who has betrayed us.” Tali’s powerful voice has the gravity of the gods themselves, a declaration for all to hear and fear.
“Falcon Anexus, step forward.”
Sid could not see and when asked to be lifted up Avalon sharply refused. The people parted as a sea, allowing for Falcon to advance to his accuser.
“For your affiliation with a witch, you are guilty of treason. Do you deny these charges?” Their father, taller and broader than all his children questioned with no hint of emotion.
Falcon spoke confidently, “I will not apologize for who I love.”
Tali nodded to his aids who took Falcon and restrained him with chains of magic-blocking properties, engraved with rune-d formulas to ensure his powerlessness. The crowd erupted in argument, half the clan stood with Falcon the other against. Nonetheless all demanded evidence of his transgression--words were not enough.
For the meantime Falcon was to be kept in the dungeon, a re-purposed cave that acted as the perfect magic-suppressing prison. There he was left with bread and water until a sentence was decided. Avalon however would not wait for a known outcome. The Volva halted her, pulling her to her home before something rash was done.
She sat Avalon in a chair and fetched a rag and bowl of water, “Let me have a look at you.”
She carefully wiped the dried blood, soot, and dirt from her hand. There was silence between them for a time before Avalon’s hand was half-way cleaned.
“Your father told me when they went to the house marked on the map, some of the wood was still burning with hot embers. Whatever happened occurred just before they arrived.”
Avalon blankly stared at the ground.
Hoping to be conversed she continued, “With no evidence there is nothing tying your brother to a crime.”
The first hand was cleansed of its own evidence. The Volva shook the rag in the water then rung it of excess. In need of something sturdier she left the room to acquire herbs and when returned found Avalon gone. She turned left and was met with the steady gaze of yellow inches from her face.
“You knew who was there did you not?” Avalon tilted her head curiously.
In clear light the Volva is able to see how stained her cloths are with blood. This young blood, hardly halfway thru her her teens had rendered the battle-hardened Volva speechless. Angered at this Avalon punches the wall beside her, “Answer me!”
“Yes I knew.” The Volva began, “I know all within the village, who do you think was the one who informed your father of your hobby with that sorcerer-boy? The moment I sense a danger to any of you, I will act upon it whether you believe me right or not--”
Avalon threw her fist thru the wall with little resistance as she transmuted the wood into a material less dense, “You sent me to ‘destroy’ the evidence and I have done just that.”
Avalon removed her hand and walked to the door and both opened and closed it with no malevolence.
From the shadows she came, soundless, a presence unknown by Falcon until intentionally made known. In his lonely prison cell it was good to have company, even more that it was his sister. Thru the bars she passed him food and mead, swiped from the kitchens without being seen.
Avalon sat against the door her brother the same, but despite the short distance between them they felt the other’s presence.
“That blood on your clothes...whose is it?” Falcon’s voice carried between the bars.
Avalon answered plainly, “It does not matter. What is done is done.”
She stood, keeping her back towards the prison door.
“Whatever they believe they have against you they will not find.” She explained refusing to meet her brothers eyes.
Falcon jumped to his feet and held the bars, “What have you done?” He asked in a panic.
Avalon kept quiet. She walked towards the door, her silence and the blood on her clothes an alarm in the back of Falcon’s mind now propelled forward. The only one who knew was the Volva...
“Avalon! What have you done to her!” The anger in her elder brother’s voice did not carry outside the dungeon.
Avalon spoke, but not to Falcon and not words that he could hear from his confinement. She then halted at the steps and addressed him before moving and leaning her back on the wall to patrol the stairs.
“Nothing I will regret.”
Avalon found no sleep that night. She kept wake throughout the darkness, watching Sid effortlessly sleep. Though it took him a time for Avalon to calm him down, the excitement of the day was instantly gone when his head hit the pillow. Sid does not need to know of this, Avalon thought. The cruelty of the adult world filled with endless fighting, fear, suffering, and death. Seeing those he loves pass before his eyes, to feel no love towards a parent and to receive no love from another that has already passed.
Fenrir guarded the door, undisturbed throughout the night. Had father or anyone entered the house she would have been alerted by her companion immediately. Fenrir sensed the tension within the house and his senses were sharp enough to know of the unseen that resided anywhere near his friend. As he grew into a far more effective protector and fighter, he too became more weary of strangers, regardless if he sensed ill-intent or not, he would protect Avalon no matter what. That being said, he did well to obey any order she gave, though a few times his quick defiance did great to save her life.
It has been half a day now and there is no word from father nor his advisors on the outcome of Falcon’s sentence. Avalon knew with no solid evidence they could not hold him without creating a division within the clan. However, it was up to Falcon to keep his defensiveness to a minimum else self-incriminate himself. She thought all night of possibilities this could go wrong, what would happen should his sentence be dismissed, minimal, banishment from the clan--she has read of cases in their history of people’s stature as an alchemist being stripped from them, but there is no reference as to how this is done. In his best interest however, Falcon would be better off banished from the village and disowned by the clan. He can survive without them, though the risk of running into known adversaries increases and without the support of the clan.
Avalon became too anxious and left Sid’s bedside. She went to the kitchen and began preparing food for the morning and thought what to make Falcon in the event of his extended residence in the prison.
Her younger brother walked down the stares, rubbing his sleepy eyes with a large yawn to wake the rest of himself. He smiled when seeing the eyes and ham already on the table and greeted Avalon before climbing into his chair and grabbing a handful of bread.
“I hope father and elder brother return in time for breakfast.” Sid gargled with a full mouth.
Avalon stopped her cleaning and sat across from him, “Sid--”
Fenrir’s barking sent Avalon flying from the kitchen to the entrance, who was met by Yorn and Adolf, two of father’s personal guards. Both looked at Avalon with grin expressions.
“You and Sid are to remain here by the chief’s command, until the sentence has been carried out.” Adolf explained seeing as Yorn was of few words.
“Sentence?” Avalon questioned heavily.
“Sister?” Sid came with Fenrir in tow, “Have father and brother returned?”
Quickly the sister put on a fake smile, “Its just Yorn and Adolf coming to check on us. Now go finish your breakfast before it becomes cold.”
With Sid sent away, Avalon’s attention turns to the two warriors before her.
“There is no evidence tying my brother to any crime, there should be no sentence.”
The two exchanges glances then continued, “Based on Yaken’s witness and Falcon’s confession that equates to enough evidence to convict him of treason.”
As Avalon tried to step passed them they moved into a wall and blocked her departure.
“The chief, your father, has made it clear: you and Sid are not to leave until the sentence has been carried out.”
Avalon took a step back, holding her leather-bound hand out. Light sparked from the top of her hand, “Try and stop me.”
Cutting thru the alley between two larger homes, Avalon steps onto a series of barrels, alternating between the close walls and making the distance to the roof. Keeping to the wooden frames so not to fall thru the hay-covers she made greater time this way than cutting thru different alleys and a possible window or two. She slid down the last hut before being grounded again, seeing the large crowd of people gathered in protest and alliance with the finalization of the sentence.
Avalon broke the corner of the row of housing. There, in the center of a raised platform kneel-ed a bound Falcon with Yaken on one side and Tali on the other. In Tali’s hand’s was his legendary axe, Berserker, held at his side.
This sentence was an execution.
Due to her altercation with Tali’s sent, the transmutation circle branded on her leather was damaged and unable to be used; her sword was left at home, having been unable to grab it in time and though Fenrir could have retrieved it, he was the only one to keep Sid safely at home.
Tali rose the axe above his head, wielding it with both hands so not to risk the possibility of missing. The axe glowed a light blue and white fog, its haze leaving momentary trails as it descends.
The young alchemist shouted native-ly, “STOP!”
Avalon’s eyes snapped yellow, she charged the crowd, breaking thru anyone and everyone in her way. A few noticed her--she clapped her hands together as a false hope that somehow alchemy could be done without a circle. Nothing.
“FALCON!” Avalon shouted as she was held back by the guards and the Volva herself, “Avalon stop! Look away!” She shouted when desperately trying to pull her precious girl’s gaze.
“FALCON!” Her word echoed in the valley.
Her elder brother looked up from the wood, his kind eyes meeting the devastation in hers as he mouthed words that were cut short by the axe. Avalon broke the line, making it to the lifeless body that fell intact over and off the platform. She caught him before the ground did, freeing his hands, but it was too late. His eyes were empty, the life within his body--his spirit--had been severed. Avalon screamed, her voice loud, full of agony; deafening to all other sound.
She remained when all others had left. The rain cleansed her of the blood and dirt, but it could not be told whether she had ceased her tears. Tali had already seen to the failure of his warriors in preventing her attendance, however now perhaps his daughter can see the consequence of actions that threaten the safety of the clan. This would be hard, but a lesson without pain is meaningless to an Anexus. The sky’s cry did not cease, nor did Avalon move, a day passed before the Volva finally came with a blanket and food. She cannot remain here forever.
“Please...you do not need to speak, but you must eat something...” The Volva held bread, but Avalon did not move.
Since the previous day she sat cradling Falcon’s body as though she had just caught him. No others approached the young alchemist, but each prayed to the gods for her comfort. Upon seeing her reaction to her elder brother’s execution there were no sides in that moment. None had yet dared to prepare Falcon’s body for burial. Regardless of his crimes in life, he came into this world as an Anexus and will leave this world the same.
Three days passed.
The Volva came with Tali, with a horse and cart in tow. The time for her mourning was over. Tali was the first to reach for Avalon, to gently shake her shoulder and grasp her attention. Instead he was met with spikes protruding from the ground around the girl. Avalon stood, lifting her brother’s body onto her back.
“Keep your hands off of him.” She threatened when walking, “You will not touch him again.”
In the temple none were allow within. There she cleaned his body, carefully removing the dirt and mud. She clothed him in ceremonial dress, garments of white and gold, the crest of the Anexus proudly embroidered on the back.
After Avalon took a horse and carriage and made for the sea less than a day’s journey from the village. Brother often spoke of his fondness of the sea and this was Avalon’s first time seeing it for herself. At the cliff’s edge, hidden by runes, was the ancient gravesite of the Anxeus Clan. Generation upon generation of members, whose bodies were recovered, made their final rest here.
“You must blame me...” Stated shamefully from the carriage when removing her hood and cloak when sure of being alone.
Avalon did not respond. She spoke however aloud--reciting the ancient words of death that also acted as a prayer to many.
Lo there. Do I see my father
Lo there do I see my mother and my sister and my brothers
Lo there I do see the line of my people back to the beginning
Lo they do call to me
They did me to take my place among them in the shallowed halls of Valhalla
Where the brave shall live forever
Though alchemy would quicken the process of burial the Anexus consider themselves children of nature. When born they possess nothing, no knowledge, no sins, they are at their purest form, closet to the order of nature and the Eternal Balance. Though each step further thru life is another away from the balance It is thru alchemy that they keep close to the order. An Anexus is born without the knowledge of alchemy because it is not needed and in death they are once again one with the balance--returning all energy from their life into the soil they took from--those who live to bury the dead therefore honor this order and use their own two hands to send their fallen the rest of the way.
A six-foot deep hole is finished, with that her brother is wrapped in sheets of wool, accompanied by numerous belongings before the dirt is returned to its hole. As the last dirt fell from Avalon’s shovel, she proceeded to return to the carefully laid out items and took the selected boulders. Then she lined the mound of dirt with them, the largest and smoothest set at the head of the grave--Avalon spent another hour carefully carving her brother’s name as well as the Anexus’s Clan’s crest below.
“Come here.” Avalon commanded from her kneeling position.
The woman came, careful to step where Avalon had so not to disturb the remains of her ancient family. She was a woman with long brown, curly hair that seemed barely maintain by tying and braiding it. A thinner woman, the witch appeared frail and weak, but Avalon suspect her apperance was not to be the estimate of her ability considering she managed to stay hidden so close to the village as long as she had. She kneeled beside the younger woman, seeing the alchemist possessing the short sword known to be Falcon’s.
“If I did, I would not have brought you here to know where he would be laid to rest.” Avalon looked out to the sea, its salted winds scratching at her bare cheeks.
“His lasts thoughts were of you.” The alchemist said, “Protect my family. Those were his final words. I do not know whether at that moment he truly betrayed us or simply we and you he considered his family, but I know that was meant for you.”
Avalon grasped the two swords strapping them to both hips after she stood.
“I am an Anexus, like my brother before me. Our pride with our name and lineage is as great as our devotion to our oath to protect and preserve the Balance.” Avalon cut her hand, with a sharp and tight squeeze her blood soaked into the dirt, “Elene, My brother loved you and refused to hide it from everyone even when faced with death. On the honor and pride of our clan I swear I will protect you and the life you carry.”
She looked out to the sea, her tears not of sorrow now, but of pride toward his shamelessness. It is a wish that she could be as him, but he wanted to change the clan too fast and too boldly and that is where he failed.
Avalon returned in appearances alone. No one dared to speak to her, for there was a new blaze in her eyes that was an unstoppable force. She went to the Volva’s home, allowed in out of the rains to a warm cup of tea.
“You have made your decision then?” She held the sealed letter in her aged hands.
“The way I am now...I cannot change anything. That is why I am leaving.”
“That is ‘part’ of why you are leaving.” The Volva shot out quickly.
Avalon smiled, “Nothing does get passed you.”
Though only one good eye, that eye sees far more than any would know. Some even say the loss of one sight granted the master another. Ordinarily she would do what is necessary to protect Avalon, however she is growing into a woman who must make her own decisions and live with the consequences.
“I am weak.” Avalon admitted, “Without alchemy I am powerless and with it I cannot hope to best father the way I am now. I do not understand the world enough, or our place in it.”
The Volva was quiet, then she went to a chest long left sealed in the back of her home between two shelves of books. With a wave of her hand the seal over the lock glowed and burned into nothingness. Opening it released pent up dust, however the cloud had no affect on the Volva. Shuffling thru things not yet ready to be seen by Avalon she grasped her desired item and held it firmly in her hands when closing the chest and moving to Avalon.
“I want you to tell me what this says.” She instructed, extending the book wrapped in an ancient cloth detailed with the Celtic knot.
Careful to not damage the fabric; tattered green with spots of dried blood, she unwrapped the book found it no better conditioned than what was around it. On its cover was a strange rune, nothing she had come to read before, but somehow that single rune changed before her eyes into something to be understood.
“Ragnarök?” Avalon asked quizzically, wondering if her eyes had been deceived.
The Volva was pained to know that her suspicions had been correct. She had scolded herself for denying something obvious to one who knew what to look for, but her love for Avalon made her doubt the evidence.
“Take that with you.” Master turned away, “It help you to know what was in order to understand what will be.”
Avalon nor the Volva spoke after that. There was no need for words--they understood each other without them. This was not a goodbye, the Anexus do not say goodbye they say “until next time”.
With her business tended to, Avalon loaded the last of her carriage, Fenrir sitting on the seat to keep it warm while Elene remained cloaked and hidden between the contents of the carriage. Though rare, it was not unheard of for an Anexus to leave the village for a certain time, but in every case their reason was the same: the desire for power. Avalon was no different.
“So you mean to leave after all.” Tali stood against the village entrance where the cart was set up.
Avalon walked towards him, “I am. You would be wise to be wary of my return.”
Tali replied heavily, “Is that a threat?”
As she broke passed him their gazes met, “Its a warning.”
Mounting the carriage Avalon took one last look at the village before turning her back to it, not to lay eyes on it nor her friend for years.