Fan fiction:Winds of the Kae Huron/Chapter 12: Ghosts of a Future Lost
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Winds of the Kae Huron is a fan fiction piece by Nephilim, originally posted in the Diii.net Fan Fiction Forum. The fiction series was reposted on January 29th 2004. You can find more information on Winds of the Kae Huron article.
Chapter 12: Ghosts of a Future Lost
Kinemil had lost track of their comrades almost the moment he entered the fog. He remained aware of everything.
"There are dark enchantments," the Archbishop Ismail had said, wrapping his hand in cloth as he spoke to the trainee Paladins before him, "that can cloud the senses. Should you ever battle a Viz-jaaq'tar, you will understand this fully. Should you let your attention slip, you will succumb to these spells, but stay focused, and they will be of no avail to you."
It was several minutes into the fog before Bohdan stopped abruptly. "Shh!"
"What is it?"
"Shh!" the Barbarian insisted, and then, after a few moments of strained silence. "I can't hear anyone."
Kinemil smiled inwardly at Bohdan's slow senses. The Barbarian was a little dim and was led by his passions, but he was peerlessly loyal and a fine warrior nonetheless.
"Yes," said Kinemil seriously, "I noticed that as well. We should press on, though."
They walked in silence for some time. Kinemil suspected that they were straying to the right, but dared not correct their course, afraid that any misstep would cause him to lose his bearings completely.
"Allow me to demonstrate," Ismail had wagged his finger, and taken a helm from a pedestal. It was a mask, rather feminine in form, and some of the young, would-be Paladins chuckled at the sight of the imposing, dignified teacher donning headgear obviously designed for a woman. It was a dull silver colour, the eye slits angry and the mouth grimacing. And stamped into the forehead were three runes.
"Now, I shall remind you," he said, as he fitted it onto his own head, "that these heathen magics are forbidden in the act of what we must do. I wield them now only to prepare you for what lies ahead."
He lowered the mask, covering his face, and put a hand to the side of it, and then waved the other before him. "Nadir!" he called, and suddenly, with a gasp that swept through the room, the vision blurred, twisted, and dimmed. Kinemil squinted, though he knew it would do no good. The enchanted helm had worked its magic.
"Calm yourselves!" Ismail had bellowed. "This spell is not permanent, nor invasive. It is an illusion, cast in your mind to blind your senses from the truth. Focus! My children. Focus! Do not listen to the lies this spell tells you."
If only Ismail had followed his own advice.
Bohdan was getting agitated. He would glance about furtively, as if he had seen something from the corner of his eye. Shadows in the fog, or shapes in the light. Kinemil decided not to press the matter. So long as Bohdan held onto his shoulder, he would lead the warrior from the Valley.
When the whispers began, Kinemil was unphased, though he knew that Bohdan was growing afraid with every step they took.
"Steel yourself, Bohdan," said Kinemil assuredly, "there is nothing in these hills that can do us harm." But even as he said it, he felt the claustrophobia of the fog seeping into him. The whispers became more fervent, though more intangible, and the shadows seemed more convincing. He couldn't be sure if he was losing focus, or if the powers within the valley were growing stronger. But he would not fear. For fear was a convention of the mind, and obeying it would make him no better than the beasts of the earth or sky.
There were spirits about in this place, he knew, but they were not physically manifest. If they were, they would be undead, and would fall before his blessed blade. Being undead was a mark of irredeemable damnation. They could never be saved.
The shout surprised Kinemil, and he jumped in spite of himself. Bohdan had let him go, and was staring, wide-eyed into the fog.
Kinemil looked around. He saw nothing but shadows, and heard nothing but whispers. The Paladin grinned to himself. The primitive minds of the Barbarians must be easy to invade, if such things caused them alarm.
"They're nothing more than shadows, Bohdan," Kinemil said quietly. But Bohdan was motionless, his eyes unblinking. His chest heaved with every breath, as if it took extra effort to push the white clouds of air from his lips, in this place.
"Even shadows must remain true to their shade."
It was a woman. An older woman, but she sounded strangely displaced, as if three identical voices were speaking the same words in time.
Bohdan turned towards it, and disappeared into the fog in its direction.
"Bohdan! Wait!" Kinemil shouted. "Light curse that fool!" he muttered acidly as he trudged off into the suffocating fog after the Barbarian. He knew that he would lose him. Kaelim had warned them of this.
But he didn't lose him. The bulky frame of the Barbarian came into view, hazy and silhouetted in the mist, but soon he focused into view, and so did a never-ending rock face. They were at the wall of the Valley.
Carved out of the rock face was an alcove. Not very big, but rather deep, and seated on a boulder was a woman. Her facial structure betrayed her lineage. She was a Barbarian. Her hair was white, and her face was older than it looked. Her skin shimmered with a strange incandescence. Kinemil had seen it before, at the Battle of Arreat Summit. She was an Ancient One. She was clothed in finely-made skin smocks and a dress of wolf hide. And chained around her neck was a scroll that unraveled down the length of her body, and then end was still rolled up at her feet. On the scroll were druidic runes, which Kinemil recognized, but could not properly understand. Her hair fell carelessly but gracefully about her shoulders, and was a bright white, so bright that it was impossible to distinguish individual strands of her hair. And her face was old, but untainted by age. Kinemil wondered how he knew that she was so old. Maybe it was those grey eyes, that seemed to have a millennium of memories within their confines.
"Those are not shadows you call to, my child," the woman said, once more with the strange echo. "She is as much flesh and blood as you and I."
"So Divo is alive?" Bohdan demanded.
Kinemil looked at him. "Bohdan, who is this woman?"
"Forgive me," she said, "I am Kala, once Seeress of Sescheron, now a jealous reflection of the living. For while my kindred within these walls of water and air are content to be mad and oblivious to the world around them, my talents do not afford me that luxury. I wonder, at times, what heinous thing I did in life to incur so terrible a curse from Bul-Kathos. Though perhaps the intent was never a curse for me, but a blessing for another."
Bohdan was taken aback. "Kala?" he awkwardly set his halberd down and knelt before her. "My apologies, Seeress. I was not aware I was in the presence of such a legend."
"Do not bow to me, child," Kala shook her head, "you revere a living woman, but I am long dead."
"But you did so many things in life," Bohdan insisted, "you changed the course of history."
"I did, in life," Kala agreed, "but now, I am in death. I do nothing but look upon the world and mourn that I no longer am part of it. A cruel fate, of which I never believed I had earned, but the intentions of the Nephalem are lost, even to me. Perhaps some good will come of this, someday. We shall see."
The Light allowed Kinemil to sense undead presence around him, and he knew that this was no wraith he spoke to. This was something else. He wanted to take Bohdan away, but he did not feel that Kala presented any danger to them. With Cain's warning repeating itself at the back of his head, the Paladin hesitantly stepped forward.
"Perhaps you can help us," Kinemil said, removing his helm politely. "I am Kinemil, Paladin of the Zakarum - Religion of the Light. My companion is Bohdan of the Crane Tribe."
Kala examined him intently. "I have seen the rise and fall of your religion, Kinemil the Paladin. I am happy to find you not as disheartened as many of your brothers. Ask what you shall, and I will tell you what I know."
"We are following an expedition of Barbarians who came here some time ago from Harrogath. Do you know of them?"
Kala smiled. "Ah yes. Theodoric of the Tribe of Thunder was at the forefront of that group. We spoke at some length, he and I." She averted her eyes, longingly. "I have many memories of the Tribe of Thunder in the far west . . ."
So then they did not fall to the Mountain Clan, Kinemil surmised.
"I had never been so far from home when I first visited the western shores," Kala mumbled. "I had never seen a place so green and blue. If only I had been there for not so tragic a duty, I might have been drunk off the warmth of the very air. Visions can be only so vivid, and even the voice of the Immortal King may only tell so much."
"What does he tell you now?" asked Bohdan, still kneeling.
"His voice does not reach the ears of the dead, forsaken to spend an eternity amongst madmen and lost children. I have not heard his words for an age. Instead, I simply gaze out at the world of my own accord, and watch history unfold through a muddled lens."
Kinemil shook his head. "Self-pity is no sin for such a legendary woman to be indulging in," he scolded gently.
"Do not speak of it, Paladin," she replied with equal tenderness, "for you know nothing of the legends for which I am legendary, nor do you know the curse of the Valley. I gave up pride long ago, Kinemil of the Zakarum. Now I have nothing more to my name but my own lament."
Bohdan held up a hand to silence Kinemil. "Wait, but what were you saying about the shadow. That she is flesh and blood?"
Kala reached forward and touched Bohdan's face with her gleaming hand, "She is, but she is not the one you seek."
Bohdan closed his eyes. "And what of Divo?"
"Divo, the Rogue you knew, is no more, one way or the other," Kala answered.
"But is she dead?" Bohdan pleaded, a tear seeping from his eye.
Kala bowed her head. "Bohdan of the Crane Tribe, listen to my words and hear clarity. Divo perished that afternoon in the woods, with you. I cannot tell the fate of her body, for her body is no longer her own. She is a different person, whose name I cannot tell. But she could never have been saved from so complete a despair."
"But she didn't know," Bohdan, Kinemil could tell, was struggle to maintain his composure. "She didn't know I love her."
Kala shook her head, "Not even a weapon as powerful as love could have saved her."
Kinemil frowned. "Love is no weapon."
The Seeress looked at him with her limitless eyes. "Then why do the brokenhearted grieve so? If the wielder is right, and the victim as well, then anything may be a weapon. Wounds of the spirit leave scars that no healer can remedy."
Kinemil looked around, but aside from the rock, it was nothing but the ominously slow-moving fog. "We'd best move along, Bohdan."
But the Barbarian sat back on his shins and hunched over, crying into his hands. Kinemil wasn't sure how much he trusted Kala anymore, and he wanted to leave the Valley as soon as possible, but he needed Bohdan with him. Not only did he feel responsible for the Barbarian, but he felt that his defenses were failing, and he feared to brave the mists alone. Kala continued to stare at him intently.
"If you are truly a Seeress," said Kinemil, "then tell me how our quest will fare."
Kala sighed. "I know only the future that Bul-Kathos told me, and he tells me such no longer. Now I only see past and present, and I lose count of how many times the forests of the south have turned gold and withered only to erupt into green once again." She looked past them, deeper into the fog. She closed her eyes, and breathed deeply. "I cannot foresee where your quest shall take you, to doom or glory. But this shall be a test. For all of you. Some of you have already been tested. But I know only because of what has passed, and I cannot say what will come of these trials."
Kinemil put a hand on Bohdan's shoulder. "Come, Bohdan. We must quit this blasted fog."
"I can tell you this," Kala blurted out so suddenly that it startled Kinemil. "Make for the Watchtower of the North. You shall find solace there, in some form or another."
Bohdan stood, and Kinemil sighed. The Seeress was becoming strangely unnerving, and he did not want to tarry any longer than he had to. Kinemil took a step away.
"Wait," said Bohdan quietly. Kinemil paused. "If the shadows are flesh, but not Divo," the Barbarian said slowly. "Then who is it?"
Kala looked past him, and gestured into the fog. Bohdan turned, and so did Kinemil. The mists, Kinemil admitted to himself, did seem to make a human shape in the darkness. Bohdan saw it, too, and he stepped forward, and took it by the shoulders.
To Kinemil's surprise, his hand did not grasp a mere wisp of cloud, but landed on solid matter. He stepped back, and pulled the shadow out into the light.
From the fog came a metal face, a woman's face, dull silver, with three runes stamped on the forehead. The same mask Ismail had worn. Only the eyes were tilted back in sorrow, and the mouth was half open in a mournful wail. The figure was covered top to bottom in form-fitting armour, betraying that it was a woman. He knew her even before Bohdan lifted the visor and revealed her pale face and dark eyes.
"Jade." Kinemil would never be sure which of them said it.
A thousand different thoughts flooded into Kinemil's head as he fully realized who she was. An Assassin of the Viz'jaq-taar. The very Assassin who, along with two of her brethren, went with Isenhart, Vidala, and Qual-Kehk to the final battle with Baal. And Qual-Kehk had been all who had returned. Those who hadn't died had gone through the portal that Tyrael had lain open for them. Kinemil's eyes widened. Jade had seen the battle. Perhaps she, too, had gone into the portal with the others. She knew the fate of Isenhart.
"Jade," Bohdan said, again or for the first time, it didn't matter.
"Bohdan," she replied. Kinemil had forgotten what she had sounded like.
The two embraced.
"You've been following us for a while, haven't you?" Bohdan muttered.
Jade nodded. "You've seen my shadow many times, my friend." She looked at Kinemil, and smiled. He bowed his head in return.
"But why didn't you come out of the shadows and into the light?" asked Bohdan. "I thought I was going crazy."
"Wait," said Kinemil. "Jade. You were with Qual-Kehk and the others?"
The Assassin nodded. The visor clinked as she moved.
Kinemil took a deep breath, excited that he might finally have the answers he was looking for. "What happened?"
Jade sighed, and began.
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