Fan fiction:Winds of the Kae Huron/Chapter 3: The Banquet Hall
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 3: The Banquet Hall[edit source]
It had been a remarkably long time before Dimoak was noticed missing, all things considered. The storm had died overnight, and it was the next evening, over a dinner of rabbit stew in the modest banquet hall, when Drus asked where he was as he went to make a vegetarian plate for him.
Kinemil had glanced around the table. "Dimoak?" he asked, worried. He stood.
"He left," M'avina answered quickly. She had considered waiting to see everyone's reaction, but in light of all that had happened around them, she knew it would be far too cruel. "Last night, he left."
"In the storm?" Drus asked worriedly, as he poured another bowl of stew.
"You let him go, alone?" Arcanna demanded harshly. "He'll kill himself!"
"He's a Druid," the usually quiet Ume noted plainly, "He's more at home in the wild than with the rest of us. I'm sure he'll be fine."
"But the demons . . ." Kinemil started.
"Are nearly eradicated in this part of the mountains," Ume reasoned with a shrug. "Dimoak knows his own abilities and is rational enough to steer clear of any danger he can't handle."
The Barbarians, M'avina knew, were not rational about their abilities. They jumped into impossible battles when they were sure they were to lose. M'avina had to admit that the Amazons could be like that, too. No warrior liked to be called a coward.
"He's right," Caden, the shortest Barbarian at the table, broke the silence as he swallowed a mouthful of stew. "The demons nearly have been driven from Mount Arreat. We can turn our attention back to other matters."
Drus sighed, sitting down with his own bowl. He was still having trouble adjusting to only one hand. "It seems like forever since before Baal came here. I feel like we've been fighting him for eternity."
Scyld, Drus' older sister, nodded in agreement. "What's left to do?"
Caden looked at her, almost exasperated. "Nulholla Peak?"
Everyone who wasn't a Barbarian glanced at each other, looking for an adequate explanation from a fellow outsider.
Scyld's eyes widened, and she looked away, "By the Immortal King . . . I'd forgotten completely."
What's Nulholla Peak? M'avina thought.
"What's Nulholla Peak?" Kinemil asked.
Scyld didn't speak for a moment. Her face was turning red. M'avina sensed that she was ashamed she had forgotten.
"It's one of the mountains of the Kae Huron. The tallest, next to Arreat and Cobralor," Scyld explained.
Arcanna's eyes shot back and forth between Scyld and Drus. "What's to do on Nulholla Peak?"
Drus looked around to make sure everyone was served, and then awkwardly sat down on the bench beside Caden. "Nulholla Peak is a treacherous mountain. None of our people have ever attempted to scale it. But it's the seat of something Bul-Kathos left for us."
"According to legend," Caden muttered.
Scyld looked at him darkly. "There's a passage in the prophecy of the Final Day which reads, 'But lo, there is but one place where even the Ancients may not tread. So great is its power and so mighty its secret. And this place is the Eye of the King - Nulholla Peak - where there lies a thing which shall test the children of the Eternal King. And if they prove worthy, Truth shall rain upon them, and they shall whoop in joy and song. And in the darkest hour, Truth shall be the only light within the lands of my people.'"
M'avina glanced back at her stew and saw a hair in it. More likely a piece of rabbit fur. She made sure that no one was looking before she daintily plucked it out.
"When Caldra first began to get her visions, Ord Rekar sent a group of warriors to Nulholla. He told them to tread until they could tread no more. They would either walk the summit of Nulholla Peak or walk amongst the Ancients," Caden explained, rather acidly. M'avina judged by his tone that he was not as faithful to these prophecies as his brethren. She was not unaware of such casual heretics in Skovos. She couldn't understand that. Hafaertus and Athulua were just a way of life. With them, the world made some semblance of sense. She could never understand going through life without them and her other gods.
"That was almost a month ago. Nulholla Peak is a week's march from here," Scyld continued. "We expected them back by now. Though scaling the mountain would be no easy task. Qual-Kehk was beginning to think about sending someone after them when we saw the smoke from Sescheron." She shuddered at the memory. M'avina could imagine how disconcerting that sight would have been to her, especially after the rumours of Caldra's mad prophecies of doom.
"Why would . . ." Kinemil coughed awkwardly. "What makes you think it's possible to scale the mountain at all?"
"It's in the Prophecies of the Final Day," Drus explained. "Nulholla Peak will grant our people salvation. Qual-Kehk believed that there was some sort of weapon left for us by Bul-Kathos."
"'Truth' doesn't strike me as the name of a weapon," said Arcanna, sipping some water from a wooden mug.
"The prophecy has many interpretations," Drus replied simply.
"We should send out a rescue party," Caden said firmly. "As soon as possible."
"You don't expect to find them alive, do you?" M'avina tried to catch herself even as she blurted it out. But before she could stop herself, she had already spoken. She looked around the table. Kinemil looked at her, exasperated. Arcanna lowered her gaze, and M'avina felt her cheeks grow hot. "I didn't mean that . . ."
"I don't know what to expect," Caden replied harshly, "but even if they didn't make it, freezing in the cold is no way to leave them for eternity."
The Barbarians at the table began to converse with themselves, almost excitedly, about Nulholla Peak, and the foreigners exchanged furtive glances.
What if they don't make it this time, either? M'avina thought.
"I hate to sound so negative," said Jabari with his distinctly Kehjistani accent, "but if they didn't return, what makes you think you will?"
M'avina was quietly disappointed that it had occurred to someone else, as well.
Aside from Ume, whose face remained creepily neutral, all the foreigners looked to Scyld and Caden. They had obviously been thinking the same thing. The other Barbarians stopped talking, too.
Scyld nodded. "For one thing, we will be allowed to take our time. It's likely that Theodoric - the warrior who led the band - was rushing because he feared for Harrogath. With Baal destroyed, the Highlands are safe, and time need not be a priority."
"And . . ." Drus said slowly and carefully. "We may have some assistance."
There was a silence on the table.
Who do they have to help them? M'avina thought. And then realization dawned on her. They were asking them for help. She felt a little embarrassed. It seemed that this occurred to all her fellows quite a bit quicker. Vidala would have picked it up immediately.
"We've been fighting for months, Drus," said Arcanna quietly. "I can't expect everyone to join you."
I can't. M'avina sighed. Arcanna had decided to go with them.
"I'll go," she found herself saying. What choice did she have? Trek alone across the Western Kingdoms? And then, what life was there for her on Skovos? Without Vidala, she had no mentor, and her training was nowhere near finished. She remembered how, during the battle with Diablo, Vidala had prayed to Athulua and summoned a Valkyrie - the famed spearmaiden Celestia. M'avina was nowhere near that kind of power.
But it was no matter. Her heart had already decided, and her head was merely catching up. She would stay in these wintry mountains because she had nowhere else to go. It made her profoundly sad. But she wouldn't cry in front of these people.
She looked up, and found everyone staring at her. She looked down again.
"We haven't even arranged anything," Scyld said quietly. "We may not even go. It depends on what Qual-Kehk and Anya say."
Ume chuckled. M'avina saw his age when he smiled. "Of course Qual-Kehk will approve and Anya will be anxious to save whoever she can." He took a swig of whatever he was drinking, and set down the goblet delicately. "A party shall go to Nulholla Peak. Be certain of that."
M'avina bit a piece of stale bread, looking at Ume with a neutral expression.
No one spoke for the rest of the dinner.
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