Fiction: A Lady's Prerogative Book II: Wounded Aerth - Part IV by Brian Joseph Johns

Whew. Almost didn't make it with this one. Computer is temporarily out of service so I had to publish via the phone.

Anyway, there's someone strange knocking at my door, for whom I am not going to open the it. Probably another bully out as part of the day's game if you know what I mean, and today's attack was a real bad one.

Regardless, I made sure I got this up and to the front. Enjoy!

Brian Joseph Johns

If you're arriving here from the website or an external link and haven't read this book before, you might want to start from the beginning of the book.

Warning: This story deals with some mature situations. Reader discretion is advised.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Evan's Home

Shaela awoke startled; the eerie feeling of being misplaced still wore heavy upon her. She did not recognize the surroundings and all at once her hopes that it was all a bad dream were dashed. She could smell cooking food from somewhere in the living space and decided to get up to quell her creaking stomach. At the base of her bed was a stack of folded clothing. A dress, a top and some soft leather shoes. There was also a hammered metal basin filled with water and a cloth and a pouch of herbs and pot-pourri, like the one Evan had been wearing only this one was more the scent of lavender and pine.

She used the basin and cloth to clean herself as best as she could, but nowhere near as good as she'd have liked. She tried on the top, dress and shoes and found that they fit her well though not as comfortably as she’d hoped. It took her a moment to get used to the prickly feeling, much like wearing a burlap sack, before she continued without scratching. She took the pot-pourri pouch regardless of the fact that she didn't smell (yet) and held no concern about whether she did. There were other matters to attend to like figuring out how to get home.

She stepped out of the room and into a precariously thin hall, shafts of sunlight streaming in through the windows and some of the less sealed gaps of the lumber construction of the house. She descended a steep flight of stairs and found the kitchen area where a lady was busy cleaning up after the mess she'd made cooking Shaela's breakfast.

"Milady." The lady curtsied to her.

"G'morning. You must be Evan's wife." Shaela said as she yawned.

For a moment the lady seemed a little tense if not offended before continuing.

"That I am. He left earlier in a hurry to attend to his affairs in West View." The lady informed Shaela.

"I appologize for being rude, I am Shaela." Shaela offered her hand.

"Lady Shaela, I am honoured to make your acquaintance. I am Lylara." The lady offered her greetings rather formally.

"Please be at the table for a meal. I did what I could not knowing of your arrival." Lylara pulled a chair from the table for Shaela to be seated.

"Thanks. It looks like a nice meal." Shaela eyed the food her stomach already lurching for the table.

Lylara served Shaela and filled her plate, making Shaela somewhat uncomfortable. Shaela ate uneasily as Lylara cleaned the kitchen area and attended to her chores. Things had changed much from her time and she observed Lylara performing tasks with unbelievable vigour and determination that would in Shaela's time be performed by an appliance or machine. Sometimes and in some cases, such tasks were performed by the less procrastinating members of the opposite sex.

"Why don't you leave some of that for Evan to clean up. He eats too doesn't he?" Shaela asked Lylara.

"Yes and he's a good man. He helps a great deal around the house but he's been so busy with the hunt and all... Where you come from things must be much different. Evan told me a little of your story. I'm so sorry to hear but we'll help you in the mean time, Milady." Lylara spoke careful of her words.

"What did Evan tell you?" Shaela asked Lylara.

"You've but my admiration and loyalty, Milady. To flee such a great distance and treachery must have been frightful. Your safety here is certain. Evan is a good man." Lylara replied standing in confidence before Shaela before returning to her chores.

Shaela thought about it for a moment when it occurred to her that Evan might have told Lylara that she was a Wytch. Shaela tended to the situation with immediacy.

"Lylara is it? May I ask you for your own safety and Evan's not to speak with me or anyone of this ever! Do you understand?" Shaela confirmed with Lylara in all seriousness.

"As you wish Milady." Lylara answered, curtsying once again.

"You don't have to curtsy every time you answer either, unless that is common for you?" Shaela told her inquisitively.

"All right then." She answered.

"Thank you for this wonderful breakfast... er lunch." Shaela stood up carrying her dishes with her.

"Where should I put these?" Shaela asked Lylara.

"Milady! You don't have to... Please, I beg of you." Lylara looked at Shaela with shock at the prospect of her carrying the hammered metal plate and cutlery.

"Look, I must look natural and fit in. This is the best way. Now where do I put them?" Shaela rationalized the situation to Lylara and her expression changed to one of compassion.

"Please, if you could, by the well just outside." Lylara answered her pointing towards the door.

"Which way is it to town?" Shaela asked Lylara her last question.

"Turn half to your left when you are facing the well from the door. Follow the path and you'll be there in none. Take a horse if you're going. Winnifred would like the company if you're going." Lylara offered politely.

Shaela walked towards the door, opened it and slipped out into the afternoon air. The sun was blindingly bright and the sky clear giving her a perfect view of the surrounding land. The house was situated in a forest clearing with three other houses, all within a few hundred feet of Evan and Lylara's. A horse trail almost as wide as a single lane road split up the houses into pairs and just off the shoulder was the well.

Shaela dropped the dishes into a bucket to which a rope was fastened. She lowered it into the depths of the well and pulled it up leaving the dishes to soak. Shaela then headed back to the house and around to the side to a gate. There was a back field where two horses were grazing, one with a saddle and one without. Shaela quietly approached the saddled horse who glanced over to her as it chewed a mouthful of tall grass. Its coat was gray with tinges of black and its' mane was a magnificent salt and pepper. It chewed away oblivious to Shaela's presence.

"You must be Winnifred? I'm Shaela." Shaela introduced herself to which Winnifred shook her neck.

"Good! We're making progress." Shaela responded taking the neck shake as a sign of friendship.

Shaela reached out remembering what Evan had taught her. When she went to put her foot in the stirrup, the horse trotted off a short distance. Not one to give up easily Shaela followed Winnifred, sneaking up from the side. This time she pet Winnifred's neck softly and talked close to Winnifred's ear.

"Yer a good one. Yes. You are." Speaking in a bit of a baby's voice for Winnifred.

Winnifred shifted her ears momentarily as Shaela spoke, possibly even laughing a bit. Taking that as a sign of approval once again Shaela attempted to mount the horse. Winnifred jumped back away from Shaela and made her way closer to a tree and stood waiting in this little game.

When Shaela arrived she took notice of the nearby tree. Seeing that it was an apple tree, she moved quickly over to it in search of an apple. When she'd found a red, juicy and plump one she returned to Winnifred, splitting the apple in two.

"What a good Winnifred!" Shaela offered half an apple, once again speaking like a little girl to Winnifred who once again shifted her ears.

Winnifred could immediately smell the sweet apple and carefully plucked it from Shaela’s hand and consumed it in one bite. Winnifred looked at Shaela hoping their little game was not yet over.

"Ok. One more but this has to be our little secret." Shaela offered up the other half which Winnifred devoured.

Once again Shaela slowly moved her way over to Winnifred's left side and reached up while placing her foot in the stirrup. Winnifred remained motionless as Shaela mounted the horse careful this time not to over shoot her destination. When she was firmly seated on the horse, she leaned forward and stroked behind Winnifred's ears realizing that she’d made another friend.

"I'm not a very good rider my friend so I'm going to need you take care of me. Can you do that?" Shaela asked Winnifred.

Winnifred whinnied in acknowledgment.

"I really hope that was a yes." Shaela said aloud more to herself than to Winnifred.

She took the reigns in each hand and kicked the horse's side with a little force and then squeezed a bit with her legs. Winnifred knowing that Shaela was an unexperienced rider, began slowly. Despite Winnifred's slow start, Shaela almost tipped backward off of the horse. Shaela slid forward a little on the saddle and continued the ride, leading Winnifred towards the path into town. Winnifred almost immediately knew where they were going and for the rest of the ride Shaela was more a passenger than anything.

In The Balance

Nelony Ardbloem paced her house in circles wondering what to do. She'd tried phoning Shaela many times over the last eight hours with no response to her messages. In her frustration she'd called Yirfir and Jasmer but they too were not to be found. Two hours previously she had reluctantly tried Mila's number but there was no answer there either. She had over the course of the day fought the urge to conjure a portal as it was against the rules of their craft to use their powers and abilities to overcome the common inconveniences of life. There had to be sufficient reason and justification to do so, like an emergency. She thought carefully about the situation and when she'd run out of options she came up with an idea that made sense.

She went to the cupboards and retrieved the small chest with the memoirs of Father Wilsen and the death certificates of those who'd perished during the wytch hunt. She ran to the foyer, momentarily putting the chest down and began her portal summoning incantation. The air in the foyer began to fly wildly as the air pressure differences between the her house and the destination of the portal balanced between one another. She picked up the chest and stepped into the portal which hissed and crackled as it consumed her.

A moment later and she emerged from the portal to a set of different surroundings. She was in another foyer, the ceiling extended for three stories and was lined with various plant fauna from the various planes of existence. The air itself was slightly humid and the aroma was full of life and earthiness. She inhaled deeply feeling invigorated by the atmosphere. Tiny glow bugs much like the same that had lit the way for Shaela's test in the labyrinth illuminated the foyer harmoniously tending to the plants that lined the walls.

This was the New Sanctum as it was beginning to take shape. This was the second time that it had been rebuilt within the Midspace where it had fallen two hundred of our years ago. The Midspace was considered to be a timeless dimension. That did not mean that time did not progress but instead that anything that occupied the Midspace would in fact never age. Including the residents of the Sanctum.

The Midspace had allowed the membership of the Sanctum and the Forces Of Lyra access to every other dimension, for the Midspace was geometrically located in the center point where all dimensions overlapped in both time and space. It happened to neighbour our own plane of existence which was conveniently named The Prime. In a sense the Sanctum was not only guarding over us and protecting us from each other, but was in fact protecting us from the rest of Plane Space. This is why it had been chosen as the secret location for the fortress of the Sanctum. The same fortress through which Nelony made her way towards her destination.

The rich diversity and colour of plants and the humid air itself was full with the power of organic life. She was in the wing of the Sanctum that would eventually house the Order Of The Aerth Mother. She ultimately would be the one who grew the Order from its only living member, herself to flourish and once again become the protectors of the balance of life upon the Aerth and throughout the planes. She pondered this as she made her way out of the foyer through an archway and into a corridor, the walls around her embellished with magnificent relief work carved into the stone itself with no pattern to the design. It bore a remarkable resemblance to the walls of Mila's reading room thought Nelony as she walked towards another archway.

She ventured through to the room on the other side of the archway. It was large and in its center was a tremendous sphere which contained several geometric shapes, the Platonic solids, each nested one within the other. These shapes and the chamber itself were lit with glowing gems which were placed around the edges of a marble basin, where a strange gold liquid flowed in two concentric circles in opposite directions. 

The apparatus hummed quietly as the liquid frothed within the basin. For a moment it made her feel like the overly clich├ęd representation of a Wytch. A lady standing over a boiling cauldron (or large basin in this case) adding the ingredients for a potion or spell. 

"Eye of Newt and Gall of Frog. Clear the way, remove this fog!" she joked aloud to herself hoping the levity might help her cope with the circumstances.

Instead she was reminded of the loss of life incurred by the Wytch Hunt and she once again felt the tremendous weight upon her soul.

Nelony stood before the basin, the sphere spinning an arms distance from her face as she began to orate.

"Librum Universalis Codex. I present thee this addition, brought forth on this day by Nelony Ardbloem. Herein contained are the historical letters sourced from a Father Elias Wilsen circa 1649. Additional death certificates for victims during the Wytch hunt of that era. One wooden chest that contained the letters as sent to my home address by... unknown." Nelony spoke into the sphere.

She carefully opened the chest retrieving the letters, tossing them each in turn into the gold liquid. The letters and the writing upon them glowed momentarily as each was consumed by the liquid, disappearing into and beneath its surface. The sphere hummed and flickered as it presumably had been affected by the consumption of these letters. She sighed as the burden she'd shouldered with the receiving of this package was lightened. When she was done she closed the box and tossed it into the gold liquid. A variety of wood grain, finger prints and the scratches and marks on the box glowed as the box was consumed.

"May peace find the souls of my Wytch-kind sisters and others felled during the Wytch hunt. May the history and the knowledge of the loss of these Wytches and other victims of the same ignorance be healed and rightfully restored to the Sanctum and the Aerth, from whence they were taken." Nelony finalized her entry into the Codex.

She watched as the Codex restructured itself, the shapes within the sphere changing minutely in reflection of her recent addition. Suddenly she felt a sharp pain in her abdomen, much like she might have after eating too much spicy food. It quickly spread throughout her body and she fell to her knees crying.

Outside of the New Sanctum within the Midspace the air became charged and tense.  Back in her world in the Prime and upon the Aerth itself, the fabric of the world changed rapidly and was quickly reflected in the upper atmosphere. The stratosphere became host to an electrical storm with bolts of lightning flying everywhere finding their way through the ionosphere and then to the surface, the world over. The winds had picked up in many places, both populated and sparse as people ran seeking cover. Wild animals and fauna all over the world began having aggressive interactions with humans and their settlements in every continent, while domesticated animals became unrestful and agitated in their keepers' midst. Even the well trained beasts grew restless, some relentless. Something had changed drastically and Nelony could feel it in the pulse of the world. 

The heart beat of the Aerth Mother had suddenly quickened and her nervous system was alive and fraught with anxious dismay.

Nelony struggled for a moment attempting to keep the contents of her stomach. She gasped for air, sweat visibly filling her brow and soaking her hair as she fell to the stone floor. Her emotions quickly changed from those signaling relief to the harbingers of unresolved vengeance and ire. She pounded her fist on the floor harder and harder before she stood, her hands clasped to her head.

"Stop! Stop it!" She cried aloud.

"Leave us alone!" her voice echoed through the halls of the New Sanctum.

In another wing of the building, the Healer Feylashar had heard the cries, causing her to shudder. She grabbed two gems from their stands on an Auric shelf case and ran in the direction of the torment she'd heard. As she left she yelled out to another Healer in the room.

"Notify Lannay and Jexelen immediately that we've got a problem near the Codex." yelled Feylashar as she ran for the Codex.

Further away and much deeper into the center of the Sanctum itself a meeting was taking place.

"Something foul is afoot!" Jexelen spoke aloud from her place in the Sanctum Chamber Hall.

The members of the Sanctum representation had been in session, voting upon issues related to their infrastructure and the construction of the New Sanctum.

"That is not on the itinerary for the day. We can discuss matters that have not been scheduled after we've dealt with the formal list." Lannay reminded the council members.

Almost as if on cue, a large bolt of lightening broke the silence of the chamber as the electricity struck the outer wall of the Sanctum.

"It sounds as if the weather is not going to wait for the bureaucracy!" Jexelen pressed Lannay.

"The agenda can wait. This appears serious and requires our immediate attention." Thara agreed with Jexelen.

"We need three hands to agree..." Lannay reminded them.

"Then I'm the third." Xenshi raised her hand with that of her brother Xushu, following shortly thereafter.

"I guess that makes four..." Xushu added.

"The last time we had electrical activity in the Midspace was almost seventy five Aerth years ago." Lannay suddenly agreed having been forced by way of representation.

"This isn't only affecting the Midspace. It appears we're having problems near the Codex and upon the Aerth itself!" Jexelen advised the members present as she received a written message from the Gypsy Seer.

"I Propose that we arrange for an immediate investigation conducted by all members present and adjourn this session, returning to it once we have enough understanding to decide a course of action?" Jeong Soon suggested.

"All if favour?" Lannay asked.

The show of hands was immediate and unanimous.


Feylashar arrived at the Codex, finding what was left of Nelony standing before her. The screams had stopped and the woman laying upon the stone floor was a mere reflection of the woman crawling there moments before.

"They suffered and you watched it happen." Nelony's shadow spoke, her dark breath visible with each syllable.

"Nelony? I want to help you. You have to let me help you." Feylashar pleaded for she had no concept of hurting another.

Nelony's shadow convulsed as an internal struggle twisted her form nearly beyond recognition.

"...Uugh... Run... Please... I can't hold this back... Please honey... Do it!" Nelony struggled to speak through her shadow to warn Feylashar.

The Healer looked at her for a moment raising a gem before her in attempt to alleviate a part of Nelony's torment. A bolt of sparks shot out from Nelony's mid section and hit the gem instantly rending it to an extreme temperature. Feylashar gasped, dropping it as it was both extremely hot and extremely cold to the touch. She had run out of options and she could clearly see Nelony's pain.

"I'm sorry Nelony. I'll return with help!" Feylashar turned and ran seeking further help.

A moment later and Nelony was gone, replaced by Nelony's own internal nemesis. Her form had become more muscular and sinewy just as her clothes had turned to ragged leaves, dead yet clinging to her as the decrepit vines did. Her hair had become as dried blonde tree bark and her face held the blush and tone of a dead garden. She turned away from the Codex clapping her hands together then stretching them apart, a portal growing between them to fill the gap. A moment later she was gone from the Midspace and back to the Prime. Out into the Aerth. She had become more than she had ever been as Nelony. She was becoming the ultimate power and force of nature.

Neglected far too long to shoulder the pain left by the growth and passage of humankind. There was much for her to do in order to relieve humankind of their crushing grasp upon nature. For her the night was only beginning. For the world it may as well have been the end.

In Search Of The True

They had left that morning at what would have been ten o'clock, Yirfir, Jasmer and Thedrick. It had not taken much convincing on Thedrick's part after he'd told them the story of his dreams. He'd told them of the feathers and the acorn at his doorstep and finally of the tree nymph named Nelony.

They had looked at each other in disbelief when he'd said that name. Their first impression was that their friend of the same name had arrived here in this time before them by a few years and had setup a settlement somewhere. Perhaps using her abilities and nature's alliance to help her but upon examining the evidence it became clear. There were others that were part of the True, the group that Thedrick had mentioned who were collaborating with the lady named Nelony. They had no proof that it was their Nelony and that likely it was just someone with the same name from this time period who'd possessed innate abilities in a similar craft. Being founding members of the New Sanctum their responsibility to investigate was imperative.

Thedrick had decided that they would leave during the day and that he'd accompany them for one day's travel. From that point they'd have to travel by night only as requested by Nelony. He had rounded up his favourite riding horses, all of whom had been out little since his wife's death. They had instead been field horses free to roam his lands stripping it clean of its soft and tender grass until the following season by which time it had regrown. During the winter it was horse feed from the troughs despite their protests. When Thedrick had come out with the saddles, they had become nervous and possibly even excited anticipating an outing into the brush.

Thankfully both Yirfir and Jasmer were experienced riders as they had ridden many times together when they were younger. They'd had many outings together themselves and their first summer together they'd ridden deep into a field, leaving the horses to graze a ways off while they enjoyed their picnic. They'd found a peaceful and quiet place there where they setup their blanket and their spread of light foods and drink. After they'd consumed some of what they'd prepared they consumed each other, making love under the afternoon sun, drunk on each other and life itself. For the rest of that day they lay wrapped around one another feeding each other pieces of cake and sweets. Finger drawings upon their skin and the summer breeze brushing their hair. A memory they'd cherished every day since. It was something they'd always had and shared together. Setting out upon horses only rekindled their memory.

They hadn't ridden for years since before the battle that saw the collapse of the first Sanctum and the rise of the Power Lords. They'd no time since the battle of Alivale barring Mila's backyard feast and their wedding announcement. Their recent journey despite the startling departure had reopened some of their most cherished memories together. They'd found themselves rediscovering their love for one another and they felt as young as the day they'd met. Being empathic creatures the horses took to Yirfir and Jasmer right away and there was no effort in gaining their trust. This impressed Thedrick immensely as the horses were rather fussy about people and had only trusted his wife, even more so than the man who fed them.

They had been riding for six hours and had stopped twice to allow the horses to rest and eat. They'd been in the brush for most of it thankfully as that had kept them out of the hot sun and left the horses to walk the soft ground of the forest. They had been able to keep at a steady pace as a result of the shade and the soft ground, letting the horses drink in the many streams that scattered the brush. They had arrived at a clearing which had opened to a vast field which appeared to stretch for miles ahead of them.

"This field will be my last as yer guide. I shon't be with you for amore." Thed told them as they edged the bush.

"As said have I afore, ye'll have to go by way of the night. They'll be yer eyes. They'll be watchin', they will." Thed continued.

"My horses. Take good for them as yer own and they'll do good by ye both. Return them back to their home. My wife she'll have my hide when I'm done if ye not do so. While here we're fore restin'." Thedrick finished his instructions for them as he led the horse to a patch of soft grass to graze upon. He dismounted letting the reigns down then dug into his saddle bags. He'd pulled a few helpings of bread he'd prepared on the wood stove at home along with a bag of food he'd put together in the morning.

"Take it afore yer travels as by you miss yer mark. Ye might as might I. Know ye not." Thed loaded their saddle bags as they dismounted for a stretch.

"I think he's telling us that he's giving us extra food just in case we find ourselves lost," Yirfir told Jasmer as they walked together.

Yirfir upon finding a stretch of grass fell to the ground stretching out, Jasmer admiring her with that look in his eye. Thedrick tended to the transfer of food, pretending he'd not noticed though slightly envious in miss of his own wife's presence all the same.

She paused for moment sitting up on a bed of flattened tall grass on the field.

"They're watching us. Now. I can feel them. Her. It's her. Nelony." Yirfir explained, her vision focused inward to some distant place beyond space.

"Honey how is that. You mean our Nelony?" Jasmer tried to grasp how it might be possible jumping back to one of his earlier theories.

"Yes. No. Not ours. She's one of the first of the Order Of The Aerth Mother. Wait. Its the Codex. Something's changing... Something. Aaraarrrrrgh!" Yirfir screamed her gut in searing pain.

Jasmer ran to her side, his hand trying to sooth her. He looked momentarily to Thed before proceeding.

His hands both began to glow a green tinge that pierced the air, strands drifting to her abdomen. He placed his hands upon her solar plexus relieving her pain. She wrapped herself tight to him as he did feeling the strain upon her fall.

"Nelony. Our Nelony...She fell. She was at the Codex. Something horrible has happened. To our Nelony! Something's wrong!" Yirfir struggled to stay focused.

"What's happened?" Jasmer asked her pressing her for answers, desperately wanting to help.

Yirfir looked straight into his eyes.

"It's beginning." She said to him unblinking.

"What? What's beginning?" Jasmer pleaded with her.

Yirfir looked desperately into Jasmer's eyes and said two words.

"The end." she spoke before collapsing.

The Cost Of Power

Shaela dismounted carefully remembering what Evan had taught her about dismounting on the correct side. Though it was not her dress it fit her well and she admired it as one of hers considering its designer had preceded any of hers by three hundred and fifty years. Her arrival had drawn many eyes as she led her horse to the grain and water trough.

"Don't mind them, friend. I'll be back soon." She told Winnifred as she fed the horse another half apple.

Winnifred's ears drew back momentarily in amusement.

"Be good. There's another half apple in it for you if you are." Shaela stroked her horse's neck gently.

Winnifred stomped her hoof once and drew her head back whinnying again as Shaela left her.

Shaela walked the short distance to the West View Legal Office in search of Evan. She had ridden into one of the largest towns that had been settled during that time and West View was known as the West's Best. It had been strong in commerce. Their only allied supply routes were the caravans that ran regularly from the eastern seaboard across the land. By the time the trade caravans had made it to West View there was little trade and supply left for the growing town. What it lacked in outsourced supply it made up for local goods and commerce, both of which were strong industries for the growing town.

It was possessed of the most skilled workforce as the abundant supply of materials of both wood and iron were readily available from the land. Mineral extraction had already begun as had a lucrative lumber business, supplying the caravan itself for the trip back. Farming in the fertile land had yielded many crops and the higher than temperate climate had made many crops possible that weren't available elsewhere thanks to the warm air stream. On top of its own native resources it also had the power to protect them thanks to organized support via the Crown Merchants, who were effectively the support team for Evan and his force of law keepers.

Since the strangers and Wytch hunters had moved into West View with their own ideas about the removal of the social perils of a growing town, there had been uncertainty. A division in the population. Evan had seen it himself as an honest law man, the Wytch hunt taking hold of the towns across the land one by one. Though he'd seen it happening and suspected no good of it, he lacked the kind of information to do something about it. He suspected that it had been responsible for manufacturing the cases for which it paid rewards. Many of those who'd been subject to trial and execution had a list of charges that would have taken any human being many life times to accomplish, Wytch or not. This to him was the sign that something else was afoot though he found little help in gathering the information he'd need to pursue a legal case against it. A trip to the nearest neighbouring towns had yielded the same. Everyone with whom he'd spoken had claimed to support the hunt, and didn't want to talk. Others wanted to talk but were too afraid to do so in fear that they might appear in the next bounty list released by the Wytch hunters.

If not for his exemplary record and the trust of the Crown Merchants, he suspected that he might have fallen victim to a Wytch trial and had been cautious to prevent such an occurrence. The problem was not that everyone was out to get the few whom they called Wytches. The problem was that there were a few that were out to get everyone else whom did not side with them, calling them Wytches. The problem was that nobody knew who the few were or how and why they were doing this. The evidence against the Wytches presented itself in ways that contradicted the behaviours of those who'd been accused of the craft of Wytchery. Most found guilty had been peaceful citizens, maybe artists, philosophers, theologians or similar outcasts who had their own way of doing things. The people were often great contributors in some not so obvious way to the town and Evan theorized that it was probably the same across the settled continent.

Shaela stepped into the large building that housed the West View Legal Office, a large mural on the wall greeted her. It depicted a crown atop a noble horse rider, his sabre drawn, an image of a cartographic map of the known world sewn into the mural. Below the mounted man were a pair of hands linked much like a handshake, which symbolized a promise. Below that was what appeared to be coinage or treasure of abundance, its significance: prosperity for all. Shaela was amused by it and continued into the office in search of Evan.

She encountered a man who asked her business in the building. She told him squarely that she sought Evan with regard to legal matters. He directed her to an office a few doors down. His desk was scattered with velum paper and wax seals littered the floor. There was no sign of Evan in the office though there were chairs beside his work space where she could sit and wait. Seeing them she took a seat thinking that he might be in the lew. Her mind then wandered to what a sixteenth century bathroom might look like. She shuddered at the thought hoping she'd not have to go anytime soon.

Shaela sat back in the chair trying to get comfortable without much success waiting for Evan to show. A moment later a man poked his face into the office and seeing her he spoke.

"Milady. Milady. Begging your pardon Milady. There's a man requesting your presence out of the doors Milady." He spoke quietly to her.

"Thanks... er... My thanks. I shall attend at once." Shaela replied standing.

She quickly made her way through the archaic building to the front door once again, stepping into the afternoon sun. There on the dirt street stood a man whom upon seeing her, expressed his recognition of her immediately.

"Thought ye'd nought accompany mine to this meeting. Milady, this may nought to yer liking be but I must speak. Yer presence is nought needed here. We know ye, and yer kind. Be gone or death shall seek ye afore yer time." He spoke candidly unafraid nor perturbed by her pained expression.

A crowd had gathered before and behind the man. They started chanting quietly slowly building in presence and force.

"We are here ye to burn. Yer kind shall fall ye each one. Not for the great plan ye be." He spoke as they chanted.

Shaela looked on in disbelief never having been persecuted in such a way. Even in school she'd been picked on but never by a group such as this. A lynch mob. She hardened up, staring each one of her assailants square in the eyes.

"This has gone far enough! This hunt is madness!" Shaela screamed, the towns folk far and close stopping to look to her.

She looked around at the faces on the street making sure each one understood before she keeled over in pain. Her abdomen on fire her body tense and unrelenting. She collapsed on the ground reeling in pain as the group chanted, drawing more of the township closer toward her.

"She be there, a Wytch as none have seen! Burn her we must, a just must be her turning dust! Into an urn she'll retire!" Spoke a man from the crowd.

The pain had spread to her body and filled her with spite for the man and the crowd alike, though she contained her anger. This was Evan's town and many of these people may not have been participants in the hunt. Her perception of them changed instantly when one of them stepped forward with a torch and held it near her dress.

When she'd felt the fabric grow warm she pushed the pain aside. It was time to act and for them to know the error of their ways. The Codex had told her. The Codex was sick where ever it may be. It was full of their insolence and ire and it was hurting her. They'd reached the end of their effort and she'd see to that personally.

Shaela rose, standing before them once again, the man with the torch jumping back away from her in fear for his life. She stumbled attempting to hang onto herself a moment longer.

"Please, stop this. There's no more warnings beyond this point." She struggled to keep her restraint the air already building with elemental energy.

"The Wytch is begging us! She has fallen! We've won against this one! She's relealing 'erself to us now! The devil's sister!" One of the group shouted attempting to rouse the others.

That was the point at which Shaela knew she must act and she wasted no time. A huge bolt of energy crackled in the air around her, seeking release.

"Run I said!" She said allowed herself mercy for them one last time.

Instead the crowd moved in closer to her, the torch bearer once again getting closer trying to find the right moment to light her aflame.

The energy burst left her body striking a third of those around her, several fell to the ground convulsing and screaming. The torch bearer jumped forward the torch extended before him. Shaela held a hand out and a blast of thunderous sound echoed from her arm extinguishing the torch and knocking its bearer back in place.

The remainder of the group rushed her all at once quickly overwhelming her. Seven of them held her in place while another group sought a source of fire with which to light the torch bearer's fire. They had deemed that she would burn and there was no way back for them, because there was no way back for her. They'd made their choice which had shamed her.

"You've one last chance! Let me go and I shall spare you all!" Shaela pleaded with them.

When the torch bearer had returned, the torch lit she knew they were each already dead. They'd drawn her without trial or jury and the like they would find, though her judge was a much better measure of character and much more merciful.

They held her in place while a group of people had formed to watch the live execution. There were at least fifty people there and she hoped there were none innocent. They'd not noticed the portal of pure blackness open in the space between the buildings nor the entrance into our world of the humongous beast there within.

"Ye shall know mercy by us. The last we'd taken had her head removed from her body. Ye shall only burn until be yer life far gone so be it!" The torch bearer spoke raising the torch above his head.

He then approached Shaela holding the torch to the same flap of dress he'd tried to ignite earlier. His experience had taught him that aerated cotton had burnt the best.

He held the torch and the skirt slowly began to smoke though he'd nought felt the hot breath of the beast upon his back nor the silence of the crowd who'd spied it.

It bit down upon the torch bearer's head instantly snapping his neck, the torch falling to the ground as the crowd watched in horror and lust. They'd come to see someone die though they realized all too late that they were on the wrong side of this conflict.

The torch bearer's corpse fell limp to the ground his life snuffed out. Those restraining Shaela turned to see it and screamed. Two of them ran out onto the street as fast as they could only attracting the attention of the enormous Shadow Cat. It leapt in a single bound and landed on the two of them at once extending its claws into their soft flesh. They were punctured easily and they too stopped struggling and ceased to be. The crowd in absolute terror now turned and ran in every direction exciting the senses of the cat to the prospect of its personal hunt. For the first time since the Wytch hunt, the Wytch hunters felt the same kind of fear and terror that they'd instilled in their many victims. Shaela felt the screams of every one of their victims as she fought to stave off her link to the Codex. Most of all she felt the pain of one who'd been brought into this mess costing him the only love he'd ever known.

She struggled to her feet and tried to assess the situation when the giant shadow cat leapt overhead landing on a group of the chanters who'd cheered for the torch bearer. They fell as a group, all five of them at once. One of them got up only to have a pair of tremendous jaws wrap around his body crushing him instantly. The cat beast flung his body sixty feet into the air, the body landing and rolling to a stop motionless and broken.

A man had stepped into place behind Shaela while she was taking in the situation on the street. He'd used the cover of the screams to make his way to her back in hopes of plunging his knife into her kidney. As he lunged something heavy landed on his back, the shadowy kitten, its paws wrapping around him claws digging into his extremities holding him from movement.

"Infernal creature!" He screamed trying to move against the strength of the man sized kitten.

The kitten's sharp teeth dug into the back of the man's neck, snapping it. He fell forward landing on Shaela. She stepped aside, turning to the kitten who'd crawled off of her attacker and waited for her affection. She brushed the kitten's head praising it for saving her while it looked gloatingly out to the crowd.

Shaela felt a strong sense of relief, the Codex having loosed its hold upon her. She realized that the situation was out of hand and that she'd failed Evan. That was when she awoke in the chair still in Evan's office.

"Yer sleep t'wer a peaceful one. I'd not take yer rest." He spoke seeing her eyes opened.

Shaela both felt a sense of relief and a realization of how serious the situation was and her responsibility to it. She remembered the test in the labyrinth given by the Order of the Night Wytch and her reservations about the use of stealth. Her bold approach would cost her dearly if she did not learn to use stealth and restraint, not to mention the many innocents that might die as a result.

"I take it yer sleep was good? ...Milady?" Evan asked her.

"It was great. Just great." Her natural inclination for sarcasm wasted on Evan.

Continued in A Lady's Prerogative Book II: Wounded Aerth - Part V