The Devil's Dominion

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Chapter 29: Living History

The reunion between Garneth, Daliana and El Darnen had to wait, but Heavy Paw decided not to make his decision until later that day. El Darnen decided that his life might rest on his decision whether to wait for Heavy Paw’s judgement or not. He chose not to.

“He wants me gone, and I agree with him. Enough of this Pride’s Cartarin were alive ninety years ago to know I was the one who came with Taren and left with Grrwa. The Chief will not rule in my favour. The sooner I’m away from this camp, the better the help you will get.” “I know Heavy Paw well now, El Darnen. He has no love for you, that much is clear, and he hoped never to see you again. But the news you brought to him, that his sister is alive, it will tip the scales in your favour.” “I may not have fifty years of dealings with Heavy Paw to draw on, Garneth, but I know him well enough. Those scales, even if they’ve tipped back some, are still weighted heavily against me. When he first saw me, he gave me until tonight’s sun sets to be out of Cartarin land. If I leave now, I still have a chance to make it.” Garneth shook his head. His beard had grown to be over a foot long, and his hair was long and shaggy. He clearly had not shaved or trimmed his hair in the last twenty years, or likely since he had come to the camp. “Even if you could make it out of Cartarin lands, Heavy Paw will just have the hunters track you and bring you back for leaving before he passed his judgement. You will be better off if you stay, my old friend.” “We may not have wasted time in this camp Garneth, but Anaria does not have the time we still need to use. Someone has to get back across the mountains, and I’m not welcome on this side of them. We should have met with Gelida two days ago, at the latest. She’ll have sent word into the forest by now, looking for us.” “Gelida?”

Daliana answered. “Gelida Mectar, the daughter of Dalasin Mectar. She’s the Morschcoda of Noldoron now.”

“Obviously much has happened that I had no way of knowing about. And if I do not know about it, Heavy Paw does not. There is a possibility that I can convince him to judge you less harshly.” “What’s the worst he can do to me, Garneth? Exile me? I want nothing more than to leave.”

“He could kill you.”

El Darnen laughed. Edya thought it sounded slightly hysterical. “He could try.”

Edya knew from the tone in El Darnen’s voice that she was right. He was hysterical. More than that, he was terrified. “What aren’t you telling us, El Darnen? Your hand hasn’t left you sword since the hunters overtook us. Every time you turn around, you look over your shoulder first. You haven’t eaten or slept in three days. What is going on?” “You hold yourself as one of high honour and great power. You speak with the arrogance of a women three times your age, but I am the Serpent. I’ve led a long and complicated life, Edya Reeshnar. You may have done what your own people consider to be great deeds on the battlefields of Taren’s imperial expansion, but you aren’t me. Oceans could be filled with the blood I have shed. Lords and commoners of all the Ten Nations and more have felt the bite of my sword. Cartarin have died on it.” He hung his head slightly, and his next words were quieter. “I killed Heavy Paw’s father.” Garneth did not look too shocked, or even appalled at the admission. Edya swore. But Daliana finally understood exactly why Heavy Paw was looking for any excuse to get rid of the Serpent. When she had learned that Taren was dead and that Makret had killed him, even before she had known Taren was her father, the betrayal shook her. After she knew the truth about Taren, she had wanted to do everything she could to make Makret suffer for her father’s death, and even though she knew that Makret was fighting for his redemption, she still wanted it. She doubted that the Cartarin chief would, or could, be any more forgiving. “What happened?” “We had no idea how far into Cartarin Pride lands we already were. We were found by a group of hunters, who wanted to take us back to this camp. Only, we wanted to enter the camp on our terms. When we could not come to some sort of agreement, mostly because we couldn’t understand each other, a fight broke out. We tried not to kill any of them, but Taren, being Taren, became frustrated when our show of force was not as effective a deterrent as it should have been. He swung hard, not just injuring one of the hunters. He killed him. That nearly started a war then and there between Anaria and the Cartarin. Eventually, I had no choice but to fight to kill as well. The chief, Heavy Paw’s father, crouched on all fours and pounced at me. I fell backwards and drove my sword through his gut. We tried to turn around after the battle, which ended with the chief’s death, but we were lost, and we stumbled into this camp.” “How did you get lost on the plains? The mountains are right there.”

“We were about an hour’s walk away from this camp. It was the night after the Silver Moon. There were no stars, and the moon was spent.”

Kallin asked the next question. “What happened?”

“All the Cartarin could smell the blood in our past, but only Heavy Paw could tell that some of it was Cartarin. We could barely communicate with them, so we had no way of explaining that we had done everything we could to avoid the fight.” He paused and took a drink. “I think that maybe Grrwa could smell her father’s blood on me, but I think that she believed that I had done everything I could to avoid it. Heavy Paw made Taren and me promise never to come back to his Pride’s camp. It’s been over ninety years, but I know that he still remembers that promise. And I know that he still disagrees with Grrwa’s belief that I didn’t mean to kill their father. Of all the lives I have been forced to take, that is one of those I regret most.” “There has to be a way that you can stay here with us.”

“No, Daliana, there is no way. I have to leave, and I have to do it now.”

Garneth gave his head a frustrated shake, and but there was sympathy in his voice. “The hunters will stop you.”

“They’re welcome to try. Daliana and Edya can explain what has happened in Anaria since you left far better than I can.” El Darnen stood up and looked around, preparing to make a dash. But Edya called him back.

“How will we find you? The Garuthen Mountains don’t forgive travellers without a plan.”

“Garneth, if you come with them, remember that not everything is as it seems.” He looked around one more time, stepping cautiously, making it look like he was just walking through the camp, but before he had even gone ten feet he broke into a full run. He was well out of Morschen sight before any Cartarin stopped to inform them that he was being looked for. But none of the Morschcoda knew how long of a lead El Darnen would need. Daliana was sure of one thing though. El Darnen’s feud with Heavy Paw would end the same way it began.

“You know that there is no way that he will outrun the Cartarin hunters Daliana. Heavy Paw himself will try to run him down.”

“That is what I am afraid of, Garneth. Either the chief will conquer, or he will die on El Darnen’s blade. But they don’t know that he’s gone yet, and I intend for it to stay that way as long as possible. What I want to know is what he meant by his answer.” Garneth simply stared at Daliana for a long time, as if he did not quite understand the woman that was sitting in front of him. “Obviously, things have changed since I last stood in Anaria. I know that the Deshika and the Seven walk in our lands once again, but I know nothing else that has happened in the last fifty years. And you, Daliana; you have changed more than I believed was possible.” “I sat on the Morschcoda Council with you for over three hundred years, Garneth. While I was not surprised when you abdicated the Throne of Stars, I was surprised to find out why, and more so when I discovered how secret that reason was.” “Taren could have told the Council. I am actually surprised that he kept it quiet.”

Edya and Kallin were both of the opinion that they had known Taren well. Edya voiced their collective question. “It surprises you?”

“It does not surprise you?”

“Taren wasn’t exactly an open man, Garneth. He kept a lot of secrets.”

“Well, tell me what’s happened.”

“Taren and Erygan broke the Anarian Treaty. Taren conquered Dothoro, Caladea, Meclarya, Noldoron, and Armanda without losing a man.”

“What about the rest of Anaria? Why did Taren and Erygan break the Anarian Treaty? They were always the ones who fought hardest to uphold it.”

“Garneth, I think you have been away from the Great Library for far too long. Taren did everything he could, with your help more often than not, to find every loophole in the treaty.”

“This is exactly why he did not want the treaty broken. It was what was keeping Taren and Erygan in power. It made them the two most powerful Morschcoda in many hundreds, many thousands of years. No one else would challenge something … anything that old.” “Well, that’s why they did break it. Dalasin Mectar forced the Council to vote on a new High King or Queen.”

“I often wondered why Taren never challenged for the throne that was his by right.”

“Maybe he felt ashamed of the legacy of his ancestors.”

“The Garrenins have been many things, young one. I would not expect you to know much about the history of such an impressive and powerful family.”

Edya crossed her arms indignantly. “I was one of Taren’s personal guards for two hundred years. I know more about him personally than all but maybe three people in history can claim. I wasn’t only a captain of the Spear, I replaced him on the Morschcoda Council.” This was the first thing that made Garneth realize that the young woman whom he thought he might possibly recognize was actually someone of great importance on the other side of the mountains.

“You are a Morschcoda?”

“To be an even more painful braggart, I am the first Morschcoda General in over twenty thousand years, and the only non-Garrenin holder of the title. I have access to the personal records of countless Garrenins, notes and journals that Demosira would kill to possess, or pay fortunes in gold to read. I know the history of the Garrenins as well as you do, if not better.” “Peace, girl. One does not become Demosira by simply knowing things. What does surprise me, though, is that Taren allows even a Morschcoda such free access to the Garrenin Journals. I have long known of their existence, but Taren never trusted me with their knowledge.” “Taren is … Taren … Daliana?” Edya could not say it, and looked imploringly at Daliana to continue, but Daliana could not say it either.

Kallin though, had no such difficulty. “Taren Garrenin is dead, father.”

“Impossible. I would…”

“You would know nothing. You have been sitting around a campfire for the last fifty years. Taren died two years ago. He drowned Agrista with him in an attempt to kill The Kindler.”

“And he failed. What a waste.”

“He killed thirty thousand Deshika in five days, by himself.”

“And how many more replaced them? No, with Taren dead, I cannot advise the Cartarin march and aid the Morschen. Anaria is no more.”

Daliana did the one thing no one expected at that moment. She laughed. “Guinira Gundara was named High Queen of Anaria. She betrayed us, and has made An-Aniath her capital under The Kindler. But we have an advantage.” That got Garneth’s attention. “Makret Druoth is The Kindler’s High General, and he is a spy.”

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