Chapter 1: Gwyn's Path
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.
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.
Chapter 2: Tilera's Path
Tilera hated the Cradle of Summer.
It was beautiful, yes, and peaceful, and the fae left them alone as long as they did the same, but she had spent ten years camping outside the same locked door and she feared deep down in her heart that this was how she would meet her end.
Her retinue dwindled day by day until only her most loyal servants remained, and she knew that she could not expect them to give up their whole lives in her hopeless quest.
But she couldn’t give up. Not now, not when there were just a few doors in between her and her goal. She was so close she could almost touch the Piercing Light, she frequently dreamed of it being in her hands, only to awaken, bitter and empty handed, the fateweaver’s words echoing in her head.
And that’s how she spent her days, until two dokkalfar approached her camp.
Tilera got to her feet with a sigh. “And you are?”
The one dressed in mage robes answered. “I’m Kyrielle, this is Gwyn. Alyn Shir sent us to help.”
Tilera looked them over, unimpressed. “A single Warsworn and a mage? What exactly does she think the two of you can do that my people can’t? The way she spoke I expected her to send me an entire army. She can never stop herself from meddling.”
“Believe me,” Kyrielle said earnestly. “I can help. This isn’t the first ancient weapon we’ve reclaimed from a ruin that no-one is meant to be able to enter.”
It wasn’t her words that convinced Tilera, so much as the tight smile of anticipation that grew on her companion’s face, and the brightly shining warhammer on her back.
“If you really want to help,” Tilera said, still annoyed, but willing to take a chance, even if she wasn’t yet willing to hope. “Then you need to open this damn door. We think those windstones open it, and we think this windchime controls the stones, but we have never made it any further than that.”
Kyrielle held her hand out for the charm and Tilera handed it over. She watched as the two of them wandered over to the windstone, heads bent close together in discussion, and in less time than it took for Tilera to sit down again, the windstone moved.
Tilera leapt to her feet again and watched in disbelief as the first door opened and, simultaneously, a Niskaru attacked the two woman who had come out of nowhere and changed everything.
Before Tilera could run and help them fight, the two of them brought the Niskaru down, lightning crackling from Kyrielle’s hands, Gwyn swinging her hammer that the Niskaru tried to flee from, but it was too late for it. It crumpled at their feet while Tilera gaped at them.
As soon as the two of them returned to camp, Tilera gripped both of their hands tightly. “You did it, you really did it.” Her voice cracked somewhere in-between disbelief and hope. “You don’t know how long I’ve been waiting.”
“Twelve years,” Gwyn said, and there was admiration in her voice, not pity. “And it’s Kyrielle who changes things.”
Kyrielle looked torn between pleased and embarrassed but didn’t deny it.
“Please,” Tilera said to her, desperate now like she had not been since after that battle in Klurikon. “There are more windstones, more doors –”
“I’ll open them, I promise,” Kyrielle said, and glanced over at Gwyn, who was staring at the ruin with a thoughtful expression.
“I’ll remain, for now. If there are more Niskaru…” She adjusted her grip on her hammer meaningfully.
Kyrielle nodded. “I’ll be back soon.”
As they watched her walk away, Tilera turned to Gwyn, still disbelieving. “Is she always like this?”
“You have no idea,” Gwyn replied, a small smile on her face. “None at all.”
“Your weapon…?” Tilera asked, and Gwyn smoothed a hand over it.
“An ancient Warsworn weapon,” Gwyn said. “Wielded by Eamonn and Eagonn themselves and sealed away by a door fated to never open.”
Tilera stared at it hungrily. She had seen how the Niskaru had fled from it, the way it had seemed to spark and sizzle as it struck the creature. If the Piercing Light could do half of that… it would have been worth all this time waiting.
“It’s not the first time she’s preformed a miracle, then?” Tilera asked, and Gwyn shook her head.
“It won’t be the last either, but it is her story to tell,” Gwyn replied. “But yes, she is…remarkable.”
“I’ll ask her when she returns,” Tilera assented, having seen nothing so far to dispute Gwyn’s statement. “And what of you? What’s your story, Gwyn?”
Gwyn shook her head. “Me? I’m Warsworn,” she said, as if that was the only important detail, then paused. “And something of a scholar – I am interested in relics such as these.”
“A Warsworn scholar? I’ve never heard of such a thing, I must admit.” Tilera replied, looking over at her with new interest. If only she had known of her, after the battle at Klurikon. Perhaps she wouldn't have been waiting for so long.
“I’m not the first,” Gwyn said quietly, her mouth turning down for a moment. “And I won’t be the last, not now, I hope. If we had not neglected our true duty for so long, perhaps your battle in Klurikon would have gone differently.”
“Stop,” Tilera said sharply, though the anger was directed at herself, not Gwyn. “My failure is my own. Your people are not at fault.”
“You didn’t fail,” Gwyn said, leaning close. “You faced impossible odds and never gave up. This battle isn’t over – you have a new start ahead of you.”
“I hope you’re right,” Tilera said, the hope she was trying to suppress flaring brightly despite her best effort.
“I am,” Gwyn said. “You’ll see.”
By the time Tilera had made it back to Rathir, news of her defeat had beaten her to the city.
She walked off the docks, her head held high, ignoring the whispers, the people who spat on the floor when she passed them, the bereaved parents and children who cursed her when they saw her.
She deserved it, every part of it.
The Elund refused to grant her an audience, and when she went to sleep in her rooms in the Orbocant, the building felt more deserted than usual, like even the guards and servants were ignoring her.
But she wouldn’t give up. She would find a way to avoid the future the fateweaver had seen, or she would die trying. There was no alternative she could live with.
It took her a long time, and all remaining favours and influence she had in Rathir, to get an audience with the Archsage of the Scholia Arcana.
Many mages had died in Mel Senshir, and many more would, because of her. She didn’t blame him for his anger.
But finally, she got his permission to search the libraries for any information about the Balor, about the Witch Knight, for anything that could help her find a way to defeat them.
But it was no good. She was not a scholar, for one thing. For another, any mention of the Balor mentioned that it was all but undefeatable, that all the weapons that may have helped had been lost.
She sent word to the Warsworn, in case they had heard of any such weapon, but never heard back. So many of their numbers had fallen in Klurikon, she understood their silence even as it frustrated her.
But the weeks turned into months, turned into a year, turned to longer, and she found no answers, no hope.
One evening, despairing and angry, she took refuge in the Seafoam inn. Everyone there ignored her, but she was used to that, and she had begun to take comfort from it.
Then a woman slipped into the seat next to her. A dokkalfar, dark-haired and sharp-eyed, wearing armour that suggested she was more spy than warrior.
Tilera didn’t turn to look at her. A few people had tried to start a fight with her since Klurikon. She would defend herself, if she tried anything, but she wouldn’t try to stop her.
“I hear you are looking for a weapon that can stop the Balor,” she said, out of nowhere, her voice hushed like she was sharing a secret.
“It’s not a secret,” Tilera replied dully, not looking at her.
“There are not a lot of weapons left like that,” the woman continued, nodded at the barkeeper as she put down a glass of wine in front of her. Tilera hadn’t even seen her order it. “Most mortals have forgotten about them. Luckily, I know a few immortals who remember when such weapons were a necessity.”
“The fae,” Tilera breathed, looking over at the stranger for the first time. “Of course.”
“They told me of a ruin in the Cradle of Summer,” the stranger continued. “Urul-Tusk. It contains what you are looking for.”
Tilera pushed her drink to one side and stood up, hope surging through her body.
“There’s no hurry,” the stranger told her. “Urul-Tusk is sealed up. The fae don’t know how to open it. No fateweaver I have spoken to has seen the door open.”
“Faint hope is better than no hope,” Tilera snapped, putting a coin down on the table. “I would rather wait there than here.”
The stranger smiled. “Very true. And who knows? It may open one day, if not for you.”
“What do you want for this information?” Tilera asked, eyes narrowed. “Who are you?”
“My name is Alyn Shir, and we want the same thing. Someday, I may ask you for a little favour of my own. But for now, I will leave you to prepare for your journey. Pack well, you may be waiting for some time.”
“If your tip pays off, you may ask me whatever you like,” Tilera told her, then leaned closer, lowering her voice. “But if you are mocking me, I will find you again, and you won’t like what I have to say.”
“Why would I mock you?” Alyn said airily, bringing her drink to her lips and taking a sip. “I think what you are doing is admirable, if foolish.”
“I may be a fool, but I have never been a coward,” Tilera snapped, walking away. She would go to the library one last time, now that she had a name, and then if what Alyn Shir had told her appeared to be true, she would head out.
Doing something was better than doing nothing, after all, and she could never accept her helplessness.
The atmosphere in the tavern was subdued when Tilera entered, but the room still went utterly silent as her presence was noticed.
Then the whispers started. Failure. Coward. Some Great General.
She felt her hands clench into fists as she stalked across the room and took a seat across from Mel Senshir’s fateweaver.
Wismey Destan dragged his gaze up from his ale to look at her. He was a young man, barely out of his teens if she guessed right, but his eyes were ancient. There was a yellowing bruise on his cheekbone, though whether that was from battle or from someone who was displeased with the future he had seen for them she didn’t know, nor did she care.
Tilera was furious at him. She slammed her fists on the table, knocking over his tankard and spilling ale across his cards. “Why didn’t you tell me?” she demanded.
He didn’t flinch. He looked at her, not with anger or disappointment, but with terrible aching pity, and that was so much worse.
“Would it have helped?” he asked. “Going into battle, knowing you would have failed? Knowing wouldn’t have changed a thing. You would have just gone into battle with a heart filled with dread.”
“I wouldn’t have been afraid,” Tilera snapped, but she wondered then, how she would have felt to throw her spear while knowing it would miss, knowing she would fail to stop Malwyn and the Balor, knowing she had doomed Mel Senshir, if not now, then one day soon.
She leant back in her chair and folded her arms with a frown, not wanting to concede that he had a point. “How do I fix it?” she asked.
“You can’t,” Wismey replied, his voice exhausted.
“Then who does?” Tilera asked, agitated. “Who kills the Witch Knight? The Balor?”
Wismey shook his head, and Tilera leaned forward and jabbed at his damp cards. “You didn’t even look!”
Wismey spread them out on the table but didn’t glance down at them. “I don’t need to look. That’s all I see,” he said, his voice too weary for fear. “The Witch Knight will come again, and lead the Balor to Mel Senshir, and we will all fall before them. The Tuatha will swarm over this fortress like flies over a corpse and the way to the Faelands will be open to them. It is the beginning of the end for us”
Tilera shook her head, fear seizing her heart. “This can’t be how it ends for us,” she whispered.
“Not for you,” Wismey replied absently, and immediately looked as if he wished he hadn’t spoken.
“How does it end for me?” she demanded, then held out her hand to forestall his protest. “Don’t tell me it’s better not to know.”
Wimsey sighed. “You will die far from here, alone, in peace, and in bitterness.”
Tilera stood, her hair toppling behind her. The tavern was utterly silent. “I don’t accept that,” she told him through gritted teeth.
“You wouldn’t be the great general if you did,” Wimsey replied, and the lack of mockery in the title wounded her somehow. “But if you run from your fate you will only come to it sooner.”
But Tilera was already storming away, and she didn’t hear his words. She would have just ignored them if she had, anyway.
Chapter 3: A New Path Together
“There are another four doors,” Tilera said, tapping her fingers impatiently against her breastplate. “Another four windstones.”
Gwyn nodded her agreement. “That corresponds with everything I have read.”
“Good,” Tilera said, staring at the doors, waiting for them to open. “Do you know what to expect inside?”
“More Niskaru,” Gwyn began, just as the second set of doors opened and Niskaru poured out. Together, they rushed forward, Gwyn with her hammer, and Tilera with her spear, both instinctively spreading out to flank it, Gwyn striking down with her hammer and Tilera pinning it to the ground.
When it was dead, Tilera looked up at Gwyn with a fierce sort of gratitude. “I’m glad you’re here. Things will be different this time, I know it.”
“It will,” Gwyn said, a small smile curling her lip. “Have you ever heard of Khamazandu?”
Tilera shook her head, pushing her hair out of her face where her ponytail had come loose. “Can’t say that I have.”
“It’s a long story, but it will pass the time as we wait.” Gwyn stayed close to the entrance, not returning to the camp, remaining on guard by the door, in case of more Niskaru.
Tilera stayed with her, unconsciously mimicking her stance. “Tell me. Please.”
It was two days before all the doors opened and Kyrielle returned. In that time, Tilera had all about how she and Gwyn had stopped the emergence of a Niskaru lord, and she was filled with equal parts hope and impatience.
Hope that she would finally, finally have the Piercing Light in hand, ready to return to the front, and impatience for the same reason.
But when Kyrielle returned, she still found it in herself to pause and smile at her before rushing into the ruin.
Kyrielle’s smile in return, bright and sudden and true and directed both at herself and Gwyn, burned itself into Tilera’s mind, like the sunrise after a long dark night.
They made their way into Urul-Tusk, and Tilera and Kyrielle looked to Gwyn.
She was looking around her in undisguised interest, and despite her anxious need to hurry, Tilera allowed her a moment.
“We are the first person to enter these ruins since the Erathi,” Gwyn said, clear awe in her voice and Kyrielle laughed, making an after you motion.
“Maybe we should walk and admire at the same time,” she said, and Gwyn ran her fingers through her short hair, almost embarrassed.
“Of course, my apologies,” she said, looking at Tilera. “We should go before the Niskaru notice us.”
Tilera opened her mouth to reassure her, or encourage her to move, she wasn’t sure, when Niskaru started pouring down the tunnel.
Lightning flashed past Tilera’s face as she and Gwyn drew their weapons, and then the Niskaru were upon them. There were so many of them, but between Kyrielle’s magic and Gwyn’s hammer and her spear, the battle was swift and short.
Tilera shook her head, impressed. “We should move.”
“Agreed,” Kyrielle said, and matched her pace down the corridor, Gwyn on her other side, and Tilera was filled with the sudden sense of rightness of them being there, like they had always been with her, always on her side.
And suddenly Tilera had hope, not just for the battle that was coming in Mel Senshir, but for afterwards. She couldn’t remember the last time she had felt that way.
A few skirmishes later they reached the Piercing Light, glowing white and gold. Tilera sucked in her breath, her heart pounding. After all this time, it was right in front of her.
Besides her, Gwyn did the same thing. “It’s more beautiful than I imagined.”
“Yes,” Kyrielle murmured, stepping forward and putting her hand on Tilera’s shoulder. “Take it, it’s yours.”
Tilera stepped forward, feeling almost like she had been hypnotised.
And then, of course, the biggest Niskaru she had ever seen (save the Balor itself), ripped its way into the chamber from whatever plane of existence it dwelt in.
“Go!” Kyrielle shouted. “We’ll hold it off!”
And Tilera ran, trusting them at her back implicitly, climbing the dais and grabbing the spear. It was warm under her hand, comforting and welcoming, and it was embedded so deeply in the stone she knew it would take time to remove, time her allies (her friends, despite the fact she had known them for two days, it was already true) didn’t have.
Tilera pushed the panic down and pulled. She would not fail again. Not now, not ever, not while people needed her.
Finally, finally, the Piercing Light came free in her hand, and she turned in one swift movement and threw.
The spear flew swift and true, piercing the Niskaru through the throat where it had been pinned down by magic and the hammer, and it fell down dead.
Tilera strode forwards and pulled the spear from the corpse. It was unstained by blood or gore, as it the weapon had simply purified itself.
Kyrielle grinned fiercely at her, and Gwyn leant on the hammer, looking quietly pleased.
“Nice throw,” Kyrielle said, and Tilera grinned wildly, purely glad for the first time since she could remember.
“Thank you,” she said, the words not enough, and Kyrielle reached out to touch her shoulder, as if she understood. A heartbeat later, Gwyn copied the gesture on the other side of her, and the three of them took a moment to just breathe.
“We need to go to Rathir,” Tilera said, reluctant to break the moment, but equally just as reluctant to wait any longer. “We’ll need to persuade the Elund to let us back to Rathir.”
“Leave that to me,” Kyrielle said calmly. “I’m good at changing people’s minds.”
“We’re with you,” Gwyn added. “All the way.”
And Tilera laughed, in relief, in gratitude, in happiness, for the first time in twelve years.
Most Warsworn ended up in Klurikon, sooner or later, Gwyn knew.
Her duties until now had kept her in the Faelands, but she knew her path would lead her to Mel Senshir, eventually. All Warsworn did. The war was getting worse, and more and more soldiers were needed.
It seemed fitting now, to go with Kyrielle, with Tilera, when they truly had a chance to change things for the better. Not even Grian Shane could dispute that.
But more than that, Gwyn didn’t want to leave them. She felt that that they belonged together, somehow, that they needed each other, and that if she returned to Helmsguard Keep without them, she would regret it for the rest of her days. They might have never been fated to meet, but now their threads in the Weave were tangled together. She didn't know how she knew that, but she did, in some deep instinct.
Watching Kyrielle persuade the Elund to give them a ship to get to Mel Senshir, earnest and passionate and confident, and the fond affectionate glance she shared with Tilera as she did so made something warm and light grow in her heart.
When they arrived at Mel Senshir, she watched as the soldiers brightened just at the sight of Tilera and the way Kyrielle moved among them, her presence reassuring them, and she knew she had made the right choice. She knew, somehow, that this was where she was meant to be.
It was like something out of her history books, but playing out right in front of her, and she could not turn away from them.
By the time they reached the battle on the walls of Mel Senshir, Gwyn didn’t have the time to dwell on such matters. The Tuatha swarmed around them, and for every warrior Gwyn struck down with the hammer, another took its place. The three of them fought together in a unit, guarding each other’s backs and calling out warnings, and they were still taken by surprise when the Witch Knight appeared.
“Malwyn,” Tilera snarled, and the Witch Knight snapped his hand towards her, sending a bolt of magic towards her, which she dodged, but she did not see the Tuatha approach from behind her.
Gwyn did, as did Kyrielle. Gwyn dived towards Tilera, knocking her out of range, and when they turned back, Kyrielle’s eyes were glowing white, her expression unusually furious, and there were white strands of energy tangled around her fingers. The Tuatha fell down dead, though Gwyn could not tell exactly how.
"No," Kyrielle gritted out, speaking more to herself than either of them. "If I can change anything, let it be this."
“The Weave,” Gwyn breathed out, and Tilera glanced at her briefly, but her attention was taken up by the Witch Knight, and the arrival of the Balor.
Kyrielle spun her staff, lighting him up with fire and he screamed. Tilera ran him through with the spear as he burned, and Gwyn swung the hammer and crushed his skull, feeling no remorse or pity and at last the Witch Knight fell down dead.
Tilera spat on his corpse. “Finally,” she said. “Finally, he’s dead.” She turned around then, and pulled Gwyn in by her pauldrons into a kiss, brief and passionate. “Thank you.”
Gwyn stared at her, the battle around them, even the Balor raging in the distance, fading into nothing. “Oh,” she said quietly.
Kyrielle smiled, but she seemed sad for a brief moment. Before Gwyn could do or say anything, Tilera had stepped over the Witch Knight’s corpse and pulled her into a kiss too, hands tangling in her hair for a brief moment.
“And you,” she said, eyes burning. “You change everything. This is all because of you.”
Kyrielle laughed, seeming flustered. “Well, we haven’t won yet. The Balor went,” she gestured absently, “over there somewhere.”
Gwyn joined them, and kissed Kyrielle too, the way she had wanted to for longer than she had realised. “We will win. You will win. Then we will go with you, into Klurikon, and beyond.”
Kyrielle’s eyes were huge as she looked between them, her gloved hand pressing against her lips in surprise. “You will.”
“Of course,” Tilera told her, looking even more determined now the Witch Knight was dead. “We wouldn’t be here without you.”
“I’d still be in jail,” Gwyn quipped, and Kyrielle smiled, despite her uncertain look.
“That’s a story you’ll have to tell me later, I think you missed it out before,” Tilera said, her expression warm and full of joy as she looked between them. “But for now – you, both of you, have given me everything. I don’t know how long we have left, but I know that I want to spend it with you. Both of you.”
“You’ll have plenty of time,” Kyrielle promised fiercely. “I’ll see to it,”
“I believe you,” Tilera replied, her voice almost reverent. “How could I not?”
“Then let’s follow the Balor,” Kyrielle decided. “And then –”
“And then,” Gwyn agreed, taking both their hands for a brief moment.
“I’m glad you’re both with me,” Kyrielle murmured, her smile like sunshine. “Let’s go.”
They gathered their weapons and set off after the Balor, ignoring the wide-eyed soldiers who had witnessed their exchange, and despite the danger still before them, Gwyn felt lighter than ever.
Kyrielle had changed the Warsworn’s path, changed Tilera’s, changed her own, and although she didn’t know where it was leading, she had no doubts or regrets about walking it. The Balor, the Tuatha, the future, she was afraid of none of it. She knew, in the deepest, truest part of her, that she would fight with everything she had to protect it.
She also knew just as well that Tilera and Kyrielle would fight just as hard for her. And that one day, not so far off, there would be peace, and they would have all the time in the world to figure out this new path together.