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A New Path

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The illustration on the page was gilded and glimmered in the candlelight as Gwyn peeked over her mother’s shoulder and stared, enraptured.

“It’s beautiful,” Gwyn said, fingers tracing above the golden spear embossed on the page (she already knew enough from her mother not to touch the drawing itself, so as not to damage the delicate picture. Her mother was the scholar of the Warsworn, after all, and Gwyn was not yet old enough to hear the scorn behind those words). “What is it?”

“Ah,” her mother said, leaning over her head to take note of the picture that had captured her attention. “That spear is known as the Piercing Light. It’s made from the horn of the Niskaru duke Gajaar,” her mother continued, more to herself than to Gwyn. “Able to defeat any horror… even one of the mind. But no good to us, it is sealed away, and there is no-one fated to retrieve it.”

“Why was it sealed away?” Gwyn asked her mother.

Her mother looked up from where she had been staring at the page, smiling at Gwyn’s curiosity. “Well, perhaps whoever sealed it away thought it was too dangerous a weapon to leave lying around, especially since they thought most Niskaru had been driven away.”

Gwyn tilted her head back, looking at her mother in surprise. “Everyone says the Niskaru are all gone.”

“Who is everyone?” her mother asked.

Gwyn shrugged in response. “The Warsworn. Everyone in the Keep.”

Her mother shook her head. “Our past still holds answers, even if the Warsworn have forgotten that. There is still much we can learn from books and scrolls, no matter what everyone says.”

“I won’t forget, even when I’m a proper Warsworn!” Gwyn promised her mother, and she ruffled Gwyn's hair before she turned back to her books.

“I know you won’t,” she replied. “You’ll be warrior and scholar both, I know it.”

Gwyn smiled, pleased, and watched her mother search determinedly through pages until she fell asleep in her chair, lulled by the fire and the rustling of pages.

Later that night, Gwyn was awoken by her father’s pained, rasping breaths as he picked her up, a sound so familiar it filled her with reassurance rather than fear. She kept her eyes closed as he tucked her into bed, drowsily content. He pressed a kiss to her forehead, and she listened to his footsteps walk away, towards the study in their quarters where her mother was no doubt still reading.

“Come to bed, my love,” he said, and Gwyn heard the frantic rustling of pages.

“If Chaos caused your wound,” her mother said, “maybe a weapon made to counter Chaos can cure it – if we could find a way past the seal and claim one…”

Gwyn frowned a little, turning her head into the pillow. The wound on her father’s face had scared her at first. Purple and sore and oozing some kind of energy, never healing. She was used to it now, though. It didn’t frighten her anymore, but she didn’t like that sometimes it hurt her father so much it made him cry.

Sometimes it made her mother cry, too. That’s why she spent so long looking in all the old books to find a cure.

When her father spoke again, his voice was very gentle. “This wound is my fate. We’ve asked every fateweaver we’ve met, and they all say the same. There is nothing you can do to change it.”

Her mother was quite for a long, long moment. Then her chair screeched backwards as her mother stood up.

“I don’t accept that.” She said it the way heroes did in stories the Warsworn told, and something in Gwyn thrilled to hear it.

Her father laughed, low and fond. “You wouldn’t be you if you did.”

“I will find a way.” She said it softly, but it was still a promise.

“And I believe you. But not tonight, hmm? Let’s go to bed.”

As their voices faded away, Gwyn felt sleep start to drag her firmly down, but her mother’s words stayed with her.

She never accepted it, always fought for him, until the day she never came home.

But Gwyn always believed she was right, long before she had proof of it.

---

Gwyn stood gathered with the other Warsworn as Grian Shane adjusted his gauntlet before addressing them for the first time as Castellan.

“I thank you all for this great honour,” he began formally. “I hope to make some changes to the way we do things around here.”

Gwyn watched him, feeling the stirrings of hope. Perhaps he had finally listened to her, remembered what they once were, what they stood for, what they could be again.

“Swords must be sharp, armour must be shining,” Grian continued. “We may be mercenaries, but we are honourable ones. We need to show a smart face to world, so that those who hire us know that we truly are the greatest warriors - each and every one of us.”

Gwyn sighed. Borri Kura met her gaze and rolled his eyes, and she hid a smile, despite her disappointment. She should have known. None of the Warsworn cared for their past, Grian Shane least of all. He was a decent man, a talented warrior, but he cared more for appearance than truth, and always had.   

He sought her out afterwards, a disapproving frown on his face. “Is there something you want to say to me, Gwyn?” he asked, sounding impatient but not annoyed. He had heard her thoughts many times before, after all.

“With all due respect, we are not just mercenaries. The Warsworn are meant to stand between Amalur and Chaos.”

“There are no Niskaru left,” Grian said flatly. “The stories of the past are just that. Don’t get lost in your books and scrolls, not like…” he trailed off, and Gwyn crossed her arms.

“Like whom?” she demanded, and Grian sighed, squeezing her shoulder once in apology.

“Your mother was a fine woman, but I worry –” he shook his head. “Never mind. Look, I wanted to give you this.” He handed Gwyn a small golden key. “This is a key to the Warsworn Vault. You are right that it needs to be catalogued, at least. Perhaps we can sell some of the things in there. But I expect your support, Gwyn. You are Oathblade now, you need to act like it.”

Gwyn took the key from his hand, clenching it tightly in her fist. “I’m Warsworn. You have my support. But I don’t accept that we are just mercenaries, or that we should just forget our past. And I definitely don’t think we should sell anything in that vault.”

Grian nodded, but Gwyn could tell that he had stopped listening after she had agreed to support him. He squeezed her shoulder again and turned away.

Gwyn threaded the key onto the chain she wore around her neck and wondered if she would find any sign of her mother in the Vault.

---

Gwyn stood quietly outside the Hall of the Firstsworn, besides the makeshift grave that Kyrielle had helped her make. They had gathered her mother’s bones and her armour (and that was how Gwyn had recognised her in the end. It hurt) and gently lowered them into the ground. The sun had almost set, but Gwyn couldn't bring herself to leave.

“I’m sorry,” Kyrielle said quietly, and Gwyn shook her head.

“Don’t be. If it weren’t for you, I would still be wondering what happened to her. Everyone always said that she was crazy, obsessed with the past. That she should just accept what had happened to my father and forget our history. But she was right, about all of it.”

“She was,” Kyrielle agreed, glancing from the grave to where the Mystic Hammer leaned against a nearby rock, its bright glow illuminating the grave in the darkness. “It seems so strange to me that anyone would want to forget their whole past,” she mused.

“I suppose it must,” Gwyn agreed, shaking her head. What must it be like for someone with no memory of their past to know that a whole group of people would willing ignore their history? She would have to ask her about it.

Another time.

Gwyn crouched to fill the shallow grave with the red dirt of Detyre and after a moment Kyrielle bent to help. When it was done, Gwyn rolled a rock over the grave, and Kyrielle reached out to burn her mother’s name into the stone with magic, and Gwyn swallowed hard, feeling her eyes prickle.

She would have liked to have buried her parents together, but this place seemed fitting for her mother, who had fought so hard to get here, who had never accepted that she would fail.

“I’m glad you’re here,” Gwyn said to Kyrielle, and Kyrielle reached out to hold her hand for several long moments, until Gwyn was ready to move on.   

---

“Have you ever heard of the Piercing Light?” Kyrielle asked, appearing behind Gwyn unexpectedly as she swung the Mystic Hammer at a practice dummy.

She was more used to fighting with a spear, but the Hammer was a dream to use, surprisingly light and responsive, even if the new combat style took a bit of getting used to.  

(The Hammer was more than just a weapon, though, it was a physical symbol of everything she and her mother had ever believed about the Warsworn, their history and purpose. She still couldn’t believe that Kyrielle had just given it to her.)

Gwyn blinked sweat out of her eyes as she stopped mid-swing, and turned to Kyrielle with a pleased smile, surprised that she had sought her out.

Then she realised that Kyrielle had asked her a question and shook her head. “Pardon, I was preoccupied with practice.” She removed her glove to wipe her forehead and couldn’t help but notice Kyrielle’s eyes follow the motion before shifting away. She swallowed down the strange nerves that realisation brought her and asked; “how can I help?”

Kyrielle blinked and shook her head, seeming to refocus. “I’m looking for the Piercing Light. I think it’s a weapon of some sort…”

“Yes,” Gwyn confirmed with a nod, remembering the way the drawing in her mother’s book glimmered. “It’s a spear, made from Niskaru horn. Said to be able to counter any terror. But it’s sealed away, no one is fated to…” she trailed off, and smiled at Kyrielle. “No one but you can claim it. But why do you need it? If you need a weapon to stand against Niskaru, you are welcome to take the Mystic Hammer back. It is yours, after all.”

Kyrielle shook her head with a little laugh. “I’m a mage, remember, what would I even do with it?” The glance she shot Gwyn was warm and fond. “Besides, I just opened the door. You were the one who found it. You are the one who deserves to keep it.”

“We’ll argue about that another time,” Gwyn replied, with a fond smile of her own. “But you never said what you wanted the Piercing Light for?”

“Oh, it’s not for me. It’s for someone called General Tilera – she needs the spear to break the siege of Mel Senshir, and I need to break the siege to get to Alabastra.”

“General Tilera?” Gwyn asked, and Kyrielle nodded in affirmation. “She’s not Warsworn, but she could have been the best of us. Stood against terrors in Klurikon that most people would fear even to dream of.”

Kyrielle nodded, seeming to absorb that. “Will you tell me about it? The person who… asked me to help doesn’t tend to fill me in on the details.”

Gwyn nodded immediately. “Of course, we can discuss it on the way.”

Kyrielle grinned over at her, impish and bright. “Are you sick of Grian already?”

“It’s not that,” Gwyn said, but she was grinning too. “This is Warsworn work, true Warsworn work, and I want to be involved. Besides, you can fill me in on why you need to go to Alabastra on the way.”

“Alright,” Kyrielle replied, looking terribly pleased. “I can’t deny I’ll be glad of the company.”

---

It took longer to reach the Cradle of Summer than Gwyn expected, mostly because Kyrielle appeared to be incapable of passing by someone who needed help and not aiding them.

Gwyn admired it, not bothered by the slow pace. It gave her time to search through her mother’s notes for information about Urul-Tusk, for one thing.

“It’s full of Niskaru,” Gwyn informed Kyrielle as they camped under some trees one night.

“What’s new?” Kyrielle asked, lying on her back, arm draped over her eyes, spinning her sceptre absently between the fingers of her other hand. “Considering they are meant to be extinct I’ve bumped into a lot of them. At least we have the Mystic Hammer to bop them on the nose with.”

“Like a naughty puppy?” Gwyn asked, amused, and Kyrielle laughed. “Are you sure you don’t want it back?”

Kyrielle moved her arm enough to peek over at her with one eye. “Quite sure. Besides, I have these.” She abandoned her sceptre in the grass next to her and fumbled at her neck, plucking the beads upwards so that Gwyn could see them. “They are meant to protect me from Niskaru.”

“Are they Mitharun prayer beads?” Gwyn asked, squinting over at them in the firelight. “Do they work?”

“Well, I’m still standing,” Kyrielle replied, and Gwyn laughed quietly.

“I don’t know how much that is to do with the beads and how much is to do with you.”    

“Oh hush,” Kyrielle said, covering her eyes again, and Gwyn smiled, feeling those curious nerves once again.

But Gwyn mostly didn’t mind the extended trip because she got to watch Kyrielle change lives up close, in one small way at a time. She wasn’t a fateweaver, but she could picture the way that she re-threaded the Weave, every small act of kindness making a new, brighter picture.

Nothing was clearer than when they reached Emaire and Kyrielle saw the rows of tents outside the town, and the thin, hopeless look of the refugees dwelling in them.

Kyrielle clenched her fists. “Why isn’t anyone helping them?”

“Perhaps they feel like there is nothing they can do,” Gwyn replied, watching them with a frown.

“I don’t accept that,” Kyrielle said, raising her chin. “If no-one else will do something, then I will.”

Gwyn smiled at her, feeling something bright stir in her heart as she did. “Of course you will. And I’ll be here to help. Not all battles are with Niskaru, after all.”

“I’m glad you’re here, Gwyn,” Kyrielle said, and Gwyn reached out to squeeze her hand.

“Me too,” Gwyn said, and she meant every word.  

It was just a few days after that when they reached the Cradle of Summer, and Gwyn gasped, staring at the rolling grassy plains and the sparkling waterfalls. She had never seen anything like this before.

“It’s beautiful,” she murmured.

“It is,” Kyrielle agreed, but when she Gwyn looked over at her, Kyrielle was watching her, not the landscape.