Zane Michael Richardson- Wayatazosdadsveitli

Tori Anne Sturgeon- Arein Saralonde


Waya strode into the dance hall with a little smile pulling at the corner of his mouth ever so slightly. Here there was music and dancing, laughter and smiles and, all of this away from the killing and horrors of his job as a soldier. There were a great many people in the hall, it was after all owned and funded by the local lord, Lord Von Drake a fairly wealthy and influential lord. Waya couldn't have cared less, he was a soldier blessed to be of high enough rank to gain admittance into the hall.

There were many officers in the beautiful gothic hall all dressed in their crisp dress uniforms, their swords polished and the leather scabbards oiled to a glossy black, all of this a match to Waya's.

Nodding to those he knew and saluting those of greater rank he mingled in his own silent and unobtrusive way while treating himself to a cup of warmed wine. Sighing with contentment he found himself a seat at the edge of the dance floor and relaxed into it, grateful to be off the road and away from violence. Tapping a glossy black booted toe to the rhythm of the music he nearly nodded off and continually found his wine cup empty...

The music steadily grew more aggressive and the dancing was enough to make even Waya blush. The musicians (a full fledged symphony and choir) were working with such passion Waya felt himself nod in their direction in a little salute; it was then that he noticed her. Aki Hana Knight of the Imperial Dragon, commander of all of his majesties armed forces on the whole island of Kride, and also the most beautiful woman in the whole region, and one of the few wilekin in places of power. She was stunning and to Waya's surprise rather scantly clad for the dance, though of course not out of place. He had not noticed her, but she had been seated next to Lord Von Drake who ogled her the whole time which in its own was disturbing, wilekin were not well loved by humans, even less so in Kride. Lady Aki looked sad as she stared wistfully at the dance floor, and though he could not hear what was said, the constant movement of the over fed Lord Von Drakes mouth hinted at a long-winded and boring conversation. Thus Waya started a battle with himself, he was only a captain and she was the leader of the whole army, but she was bored, that was clear enough, Lord Von Drake was fat. Waya was not, Waya could dance, he was sure Lord Von Drake could not, and last but not least, Waya was just drunk enough to consider it. Though by no means a stumbling drunk, he was inebriated just enough to feel a warm courage spread through him making his toe tap with more enthusiasm and twitch his long wolf like tail. He drained another shallow glass of wine before standing with an almost loud:

"Fine!" that made the couple seated next to him jump with fright and mutter under their breath about "uncouth wilekin" which of course fell on deaf ears. Striding over to the seats of honor straightening his uniform as he went and pulling his shoulders up into a disciplined levelness gathering his wits, he could not however remove his grin that had remained plastered to his face upon entry of the hall. Grinning or not though Waya very nearly lost his nerve and retreated back to the wine and his seat but as a new song was struck up with more vigor and passion than all the others combined he couldn't help himself as he nearly danced over to where she sat with a slightly pouting expression on her lovely face, and with nary a care he found himself standing in front of her bowing deeply, one hand on his heart, the other on his sword hilt

"M'lady, may I have the honor of this dance?" a little voice deep inside squeaked with fright at what he would behold when he raised his face to look into hers, but instead of a cold anger at not being addressed by her rank he looked into her lovely face made more so by her excited grin

"Now look here you-" began Lord Von Drake in a sneering voice, but Aki cut him off

"The honor is all mine, Captain…?"

"Waya, Captain Waya of the 24th Skirmishers m'lady." He said smoothly and bowing low again, she curtsied and laughed a small laugh

"Well then Captain Waya I would be most happy to dance with you." She said in an almost seductive voice looking into his eyes flicking her cat like tail in Lord Von Drake's direction in a sign that only another wilekin would know as irritation. Lacing each other's fingers together and pressing into each other they lost themselves in the crowd away from a sputtering Lord Von Drake where Aki whispered into his ear

"Captain, do you know how to dance?" Waya laughed and spun her to the music

"Like the wind m'lady!" Lady Aki's presence on the floor did not go unnoticed, and soon the roving mage lights above fell upon her, following her and Waya's every move. The musicians determined to work themselves to death for their honored guests poured their souls into the music with the effect that only they of their ilk gathered together in a symphony could produce. Waya and Aki danced until even the musicians had to break for slower music, which they also danced to until reluctantly, higher officers broke in which of course he had to yield to, but by that time he was well and truly worn out, and Aki couldn't be to far from it. Feeling the call of a bath and bed Waya departed receiving more than one slap on the back and crude comment from comrades and friend and more than one interested look from other female dancers, all of which he responded to politely before seeking out the bath house and then bed...


"Wake up Captain, c'mon now wake up, Captain Waya sir wake up please," droned an annoyed voice in Wayas' ear.

"Go away Mo, I've had too much wine," muttered Waya as he rolled over in his bunk.

"I'm well aware sir; you're sleeping in my bunk…and not yours." As tired as he was Waya managed a chuckle

"I danced with Lady Aki tonight…she's beautiful." Mo shook him by the shoulder,

"I know, as does everyone else on this little spit of a continent, to think a grunt like you stealing Aki from Lord Von Drake to dance the night away. Cute. Now c'mon I want to go to sleep, my shift is over." Waya chuckled again as he forced himself out from under the scratchy but warm army blanket and placed his still booted feet upon the plank floor of the barracks with a groan.

Mo stood there staring at him impatiently still dressed in his black and white checkered style of uniform "Ya got your dress uniform all rumpled shame on you, now get movin...sir," Waya laughed but was cut off by a huge yawn as he trudged passed Mo, clapping him on the shoulder as he passed.

"Good night Mo." He said as he yawned.

"Good night sir," said Mo shaking his head dislodging several of the randomly braided strands of his long black hair "Sleep it off sir." He murmured as he crawled into his bunk.

"Aye, I will at that." Waya said to himself as he stumbled out of the barracks common door, and into the officers' wing. Several officers of various ranks were already sleeping or sitting by the little table near the fire place playing cards quietly, it was late and the fire was low and the room was over all quite cozy. Waya stood for a moment squinting at the bunks oblivious to the good-natured grins of his comrades around him, but finally Waya located his bunk, and this time remembered to remove his boots.


Chapter 1


The city of Kranshiyah was all outwardly festive preparing for Winters Giving, wreathes and ribbons covered everything, and children were underfoot everywhere. Great mounds of snow had fallen in the night on top of what had already blanketed the city beforehand, and instead of finding himself leading soldiers against soldiers Waya found himself almost neck deep in battle against snow. Armed with shovels he and his men worked hard to clear the roads. Several times they came under fire by fierce snowball wielding children, and though their losses were few he indeed considered the option of honorable surrender in the face of overwhelming odds. This he thought of with a wry smile on his lips.

"I hate the cold," muttered Mo beside him, shoveling sullenly at the bright white snow.

"Oh come now, its not so bad," chirped Waya with a smile and grunt as he shoveled an icy chunk of snow away from the road.

"Heh, so says you, Sir you're a northerner not I, I was born in the east where it's nice and warm and half way sane. Here it's just cold and wet and miserable with odd things to drink and funny customs and YAHH!" Mo yowled and danced away from where he had been shoveling to claw at the back of his neck where a particularly wet snowball had splattered. Shouting and cursing in his native language for a while Mo had the whole column laughing merrily. Waya laughed as the unseen ambushers giggled from behind the massive snowdrifts surrounding them. Waya laughed with a light heart but was still quite aware that even though it was a game, enemy soldiers could as easily use the snowdrifts with more lethal weapons. He knew that no matter how festive the city looked it was still teeming with enemy soldiers in hiding liking nothing better to do than to kill an Imperial soldier. Still though duty was duty and it would be carried out as futile as it was.

As the sun crept higher and higher into the sky until it began to sink lower Waya and his men toiled hard with only a few breaks, but in the end the main road through town was cleared in time for it to be snowed over again that night…

Waya sat in his bunk with his cover wrapped around him staring out the window. He held a small flask of spirits in his claw nailed hands. His father had given it to him before marching off to war saying "Save it for a special occasion, be it good or bad." Waya had never taken a sip of it, had never even uncorked it, but on certain lonely nights he liked to take it out of his trunk and hold it, like a little piece of home brought with him.

"What a dance," he grinned to himself "What a beautiful woman." He could not stop thinking about General Aki Hanna, the perfection of her body, her flawless eyes and rosebud lips. He could still feel her against him as they moved to the music, her smooth, strong limbs. It had been two years since he had been shipped to Kride, and never once had he enjoyed the company of a woman there. Even before hand he had not been a carouser of women, but tonight he felt the call stronger than ever.

Looking out of the window next to his bunk he let his gaze linger on the sleepy city blanketed in snow and the cool embrace of night. He watched snowflakes falling in great soft quantities and felt a loneliness descend upon him. He was the only man in the officer's wing of the barracks tonight, no one sat at the table playing cards tonight, no one lay in their bunks sleeping, there was only the crackling of the fire and the occasional gust of wind to be heard. Flopping his long wolf like tail against the rough wool of his cot a few times he let himself sink down to lay on his back looking up at the ceiling. Scratching at a furred and pointed hear he sighed

"My but I'm uncomfortable...I'm in love with my commanding officer." He almost laughed at the irony of it, but was too tired, and at the same time quite board and restless. "I need a hobby, whittling, drawing, writing…something…something…something other than talking to myself." He mused silently folding his arms under his head, the flask lying on his chest. "But then I do believe I would be given too much temptation to become a pervert," he said with a chortle for indeed all the soldiers and officers he knew who whittled, drew of wrote had one thing on their mind at all times, the fruits of their hobbies were a constant reminder to most in the barracks of what they had not had in some cases years. "Captain Waya…pervert of the north!" he said through his own growing laughter, which cut off into a huge yawn. "Knight General Aki Hanna…what have you done to me…what have I done to me…what in all that is sane was I thinking?" he asked himself trying to deny the love he was feeling. "Knight General Aki Hanna…you've bewitched me…and I'm glad you did, its about time someone did, but I never thought it would be you." He spoke aloud as his eyes grew heavier and heavier

Outside the window beside him the snow continued to fall peacefully, the night was silent and still and it seemed that for one night the war had stopped.


Aki grinned broadly into her reflection as she sat in her spacious tent as her aid helped her remove the elaborate dress she had worn for the dance.

"He was quite handsome wasn't he," she said with a smile. Rin grinned and nodded

"He was at that m'lady."

"He had some nerve to do what he did, ha ha! I like that I surely do!"

"It was rather daring." Agreed Rin "Too bad he was just a captain, otherwise I should suggest you court him m'lady." Aki's grin faltered slightly and resisted the urge to cry out, 'But that's not fair!' but that would have been childish and silly, instead she let her grin return.

"My but how he could dance!" Rin giggled as she handed Aki her robe of crimson silk, one of the few luxuries she permitted herself to keep.

"I would almost venture to say that you are smitten m'lady!" cried Rin in mock surprise with a mischievous smile "Shall I summon him to your tent then, or shall I wait for a particularly cold night?"

"Rin!" cried Aki with a laugh and a blush "Whatever happened to that shy elf girl I saved from the brothers eh?"

"She must be around here somewhere," she replied with a grin.

"Bah I doubt it, more than likely in the barracks "aiding" the soldiers!" Both laughed at their lighthearted jokes to pass the time. They had been best of friends for many years now, even before Aki had raised to power as the Lady General, supreme commander of his majesties armed forces on the continent of Kride. She was also a native to Kride, and knew full well the turbulent times it was clawing through, and as a wilekin knew full well the prejudice her people were subject to. Never the less it had not stopped her from climbing to the top, from the daughter of a murdered field general to the seat of General Supreme. But now at the zenith of her powers she felt as coy as a schoolgirl around a simple captain it was not fair.

"It's a week away from Winters Giving; perhaps we could have our handsome captain attend the banquet, as a guest or for the main dish is really you're choosing." Suggested Rin with laughter on her voice

"Rin!" cried Aki again blushing furiously, this of course only served to make Rin laugh all the harder

"I'm sure you would quite enjoy yourself either way you saw fit to…educate him." Nearly with a squeal Aki tossed a pillow at her friend who broke into great peals of laughter. Sometime later after their laughter had subsided into an amused silence a scratching at the tent flap heralded a visitor. Rising from her seat automatically Rin untied the loose knot that secured the tent flaps. A human soldier stood at the entry wrapped in his cloak and wearing the colors of the local lord. He stuttered a few words, his breath rising in white puffs in the cold air outside and handed Rin a large folded parchment. Instinctively Rin tossed the man a coin as she closed the flaps again and walked back to her seat, to hand Aki the parchment.

"A letter it seems, from Von Drake." She said in an amused voice.

"Ah him…well…let us see what the wind bag has to say tonight," muttered Aki, her mood turning sour. Unfolding the cream colored parchment she read:

My dearest Aki, my heart goes out to you

I am brought to tears by the dishonor that was show to you this night, and I promise I shall find the uncouth dog that dared sully your hand with his unclean touch. I do this for you my sweetest rose, And I take this chance to beg of you, to see me again at my estates the Castle of Kriduning, my doors are always open to you, my dearest General.

Lord Von Drake

"Well that was nauseating." She muttered as she passed it to Rin "This Von Drake is swiftly becoming a bother to me, damn his political leverage, and damn his deep pockets!"

"Well it seems the captain made an impression on that lout as well, I'm beginning to like this captain more and more," chuckled Rin as she stood to pour a vintage of deep red wine into silver cups from their matching pitcher. "Have a drink Aki, and forget about Von Drake, just relax, everything has quieted down since winter, you don't have any paper work tonight the soldiers are all bedded down in the city barracks, just relax, lets play some cards it'll do your mind some good." Aki felt a smile quirk her lips

"And just where have you learned to play cards pray tell?" Rin's quizzical look was enough to bring a hoot of laughter out of her

"Well alright then, cards it is!"

"Your deal, I'm afraid you'll have to teach me as we go along."

"Pffft, try again sly cat I know as well as you do that you can play cards."

"Ahh well it was worth a try you know." Aki frowned as Rin dealt the cards "You know…Von Drakes wants me to…marry him, I of course have absolutely no intention, but something about him strikes me as unstable, and with so much hanging in the balance here at Kride what happens when I say no…I sometimes get the feeling that he's in more control of things than we really know." Rin was eyeing her cards warily before discarding one and drawing another, prompting Aki to do the same.

"Well I'm no tactician, but you are the Supreme General…have him watched."


"I'm hungry." Muttered Mo as he watched the serving girls pass by his table and on to another.

"Me too," murmured Kyi Yi looking more at the girls than the food. The inn was packed to bursting as townsfolk and soldiers crowded in for early Winters Giving meals

"Kyi stop staring." Mo grunted as he took a drink of his ale, which turned out to be warm mead instead. Choking on the unexpected beverage Mo wiped his watering eyes on his checkered sleeve and tried to ignore Kyi's laughter, until abruptly cut off.

"Kiy I ougta h-"

"Excuse me kind sirs." Whispered a melodious voice in Mo's pointed ear, a voice that cut through the din of the oppressive crowd like a knife. Turing Mo looked into the radiantly lovely face of a small elven woman standing behind him dressed in finery. Mo blinked and nodded in what he hoped looked respectful as he tried desperately not to cough again.

"I have on good account that you Lieutenant Mo are good friend with a certain Captain Waya?"

"Aye," he croaked as heat flushed his face.

"Good, have this delivered to him at your convenience." She said with a perfect smile as she handed him a small folded parchment.

Mo nodded again with a pained expression as little coughs began barking at his breath. The elf smiled and laid a fat gold coin on the table beside his mug "For your troubles good sir, a good night to you." With that she turned and strode out of the door flanked by two richly dressed honor guards. Mo took her absence as a good time to cough and hack violently trying to bring back up the caustic mead that lapped at the back of his throat.

Pounding his friends back Kiy shook his head and stared back towards the door

"I don't understand, I mean is it your uniform? Should I have chosen the checkered over the dust color I mean what's your secret lieutenant?" Mo stared at him blankly for a moment. Wiping his mouth on his sleeve before answering in a gravely voice,

"Actually I'm beginning to wonder what it is about Captain Waya; perhaps it's an officer thing, the rank "captain" in particular or maybe we both need to act reclusive and smile at nothing a lot."

"Yeah or dance with the Knight Commander Aki." Suggested Kiy

"Yeah or dance with the Knight Command- okay that was just sheer madness," replied Mo taking a more careful sip of his mead, and looking at the pristine white parchment in his hand. "I tell ya though; our captain sure knows how to get noticed."

"Yeah, been awful eventful these past few days aint it." Murmured Kiy looking over his shoulder as another serving girl walked towards them with a platter full of food…and then walked past them to another table.

Some one, probably a soldier stuck up a tune on a small harp, and the sound of panpipes soon fallowed. It was a simple, familiar little tune and before long most of the crowd was singing it further adding to the din of the smokey inn.

The door opened again as another knot of people wandered in, blasting cold air through the crowd before the heavy door was again shut tight.

"Here you are boys, sorry about the wait," said a smiling serving girl as she finally brought Mo and Kiy's food to them. Two plates of roast lamb slathered in pale gravy, two slices of warm golden bread, and cooked onions steamed in front of them. Both soldiers were nearly awestruck by the delicious sight.

"Iss, really no problem at all," breathed Kiy as Mo fumbled for the coins in his pocket to pay her with. Finally fishing them out he dumped a few into her waiting palm without looking to see if they were coppers or silvers.

"Thank you boys, enjoy that meal," she said with a wink as she turned away to other customers.

Mo was just beginning to enjoy his food when a heavy hand landed on his shoulder. Looking back he found two rather large humans glaring back at him, and Kiy was in the same position.

"Well you're not in uniform but I can tell your soldiers, what do you want?" demanded Mo gruffly. The human with his hand on Mo's shoulder grinned harshly showing bad teeth

"You're in the 24th Skirmishers yes?" demanded the man in a condescending tone. "And a lieutenant to boot, I didn't think they would let animals be officers." Mo glared at the man, and absently tucked a wayward braid behind his ear as he glared up at the human.

"Why yes I'm in the 24th, and no they don't let animals be officers, it's why you're still a grunt." Mo grinned a patronizing little smile at the man before turning back to his food, as through three more of them weren't surrounding the table.

"Think yer smart eh?" growled the human "Well I have a message to be delivered, it's actually for your little captain, but you two will be an added bonus." Mo ignored him as he munched at the meat on his plate. Kiy sat there tense as a spring glaring at the man standing beside him. Customers crowded around them at their own tables began to inch away if they could, or sit silently trying to ignore the problem. The man leaned over Mo's shoulder and spit on the plate full of food, now face to face he stared hard at Mo "Now listen to me wilekin filth I have a m-" the man was cut off as Mo head butted him with brutal force sending him crashing to the floor, blood streaming from his nostrils. Kiy was up like lightning a flurry of kicks and punches towards the two surprised humans on either side of him. Mo himself stood and slung his chair at the remaining brute. The chair crashed into the big man with little effect and a vicious left hook felled Mo to his knees, where he rolled over quickly to avoid a kick. Kiy was in dire straights as his attackers threw him back to slam into another table. Panic spread through the room as the fight burst out. And all at once the crowd was up and everywhere effectively ending the fight, leaving two still hungry wilekin running for the door. The hired guards in the inn added to the pandemonium as they charged in with cudgels ready for anything.

Over the Din Mo could just barely hear Kiy shouting

"What a night! What a frickin' night!"

Several hectic moments of flight found Mo and Kiy covered in the remains of good food gone to waste standing in the alley behind the inn they had just fled from.

"Aww I'm still hungry Lieutenant," groaned Kiy as he scraped hopelessly at his stained uniform and looking pitiful. Mo hardly spared a glance for his comrade as he glared back down the alley they had come from.

"Quit your belly achin," he growled, well aware that his own belly was indeed still aching "We've got to get cleaned up before going back to the barracks."

"Aww the bathhouses?" bemoaned Kiy as he very nearly pouted.

"Yes the bath houses," affirmed Mo, emphasizing his decision by cracking his knuckles "I don't like being naked for the world to see either, but it's the way of things here." Kiy just grunted in affirmation as he allowed himself to be led through the streets towards the somewhat distant marble building, its windows glowing merrily in the cold winter's night.

The bathhouses were almost as crowded as the inn had been; everyone enjoyed the huge communal tubs of cut and polished marble heated from below. Everyone except the soldiers, bathing together was still foreign and embarrassing.

Settling down to his chin in the steaming water Mo let out a great sigh as he tried to relax. His cheek was swollen and throbbing from the hit he had taken, of course it was nothing new to him, go to an inn or a bar and most of the time you left with bruises. Kiy splashed down into the water not far away from him as always intent to enjoy anything he was doing. Mo smiled, Kiy was like the companies little brother, always getting into messes without realizing it.

"C'mon pretty boy calm down, don't disturb these folk!" he called to him over the murmur of the crowds.

"Sorry Sir!" he called looking over his shoulder with a beaming smile. Mo shook his head and concentrated on scrubbing his body with a bar of soap he had purchased in the bathhouse lobby. He was not young like Kiy anymore, by no means an old man, but he no longer had the youth that Kiy radiated. Then again Kiy was a fox wilekin and even other wilekin had trouble telling male from female apart, they were down right pretty and seemed forever young.

"Ah but I'm a long way from home." He said to himself as he leaned back against the cool marble "And hungry," he groaned as his belly growled again. Looking up he found that only Kiy's feet were visible in the water now, as he had dived to stand on his hands. He resurfaced a moment later spluttering and smiling his long russet hair in his eyes.

"You're gonna be the death of me boy," called Mo shaking his head with a smile, Kiy just laughed and swam over to lounge against the cool marble sides beside Mo.

"You been thinkin bout the letter that lady gave you to give to the Captain?"

"Well sure I have, don't you worry about it I'm sure its nothing, just an order or the like, heh, heh stay in the army long enough and you might be an officer someday. Takes hard work though you think you can han-" Kiy was already off and away gaping at the women folk in the pools and getting underfoot, Mo again could only shake his head and mutter "Fox wilekin…Lords above…fox wilekin."

"I know what you mean," agreed a rather attractive human woman lounging along the edge of the tub her eyes partly closed in the bliss of the hot water. "I've taken one under my wing for several months now, heh by no means as rambunctious as that one there," she said with a nod and a smile towards Kiy "but still quite a handful." Mo laughed nervously and tried not to stare.

"Ahh, Kiy's not so bad, but he does get himself into predicaments time after time," he said managing not to stammer.

"Sounds familiar," she said with a chuckle "I'm Lady Arane owner of the Half Tail Tavern; it's a nice little place. Tell your friends about it, back end of the merchant's quarter." She said with a dazzling smile as she offered her hand to Mo. Mo took the hand and kissed it lightly.

"Lieutenant Mo 24th Skirmishers I…heh I don't have much to say about myself really," he said with a blush.

"Oh? And here I thought you had the look of a man who's seen and done it all."

"Ah well I've traveled plenty and seen plenty, and hardly of it I'd care to see again."

"Hmm…I see, and how do you like Kride lieutenant?" she asked with a little quirk of her lips.

"It's…looking great right about now," he said wistfully as his eyes took in her perfect form. Shaking his head and splashing water on his face he managed a laugh "Yeah its lookin good, but it's a tad colder than I would usually care for, not to mention the whole renegade royalty and all heh, heh!" he said desperately trying to keep a reign on his hazed mind.

"Indeed," she said with a radiant smile. "Well lieutenant I must depart but remember Kride may be cold but the Half Tail Tavern is always warm."

"I will," he promised his voice hardly more than a wheeze, as she stood walked daintily to the few steps leading down into the waters of the pool.

"Good, then I hope to see you and preferably your friends there soon," she said with a wink as she turned to regard him one last time before wrapping herself in a pristine towel and departing.

Mo all but melted in the water with a great sigh as she left letting his head go all the way under before rising back up to lean on the smooth marble side again.

"She got ya!" called Kiy "Hook line and sinker ha! Ha!"


Still damp and chilled from the bathhouse Mo made his way back to the barracks with the parchment in hand. The officers' wing was not quite as luxurious as he had often thought it would be, but it was quite a deal more homely decorated, with bunk beds instead of single cots and several chairs and small card tables arrayed around the room. Mo was surprised to find that Captain Waya was the only occupant of the room, lying in his bunk snoring softly.

Mo grinned thinking what kind of mischief Kiy would have thought of if it had been he to deliver the message, but Mo was not as inclined to Kiy's constant pranks and jokes as others were. Sliding the parchment in the small space between cot and bunk, well enough away from Waya's arms and legs to avoid being rumpled or bent Mo departed silently, his message delivered.

"You deliver it?" piped a voice from the gloom. Mo jumped with fright and whirled to see Kiy peering back towards the officer's wing bare chested and russet hair a mess from the baths

"Never you mind, now get to your bunk soldier." Growled Mo irritated that he had been snuck up on.

"Yes lieutenant" replied Kiy obediently turning towards the Barracks Common "Good night lieutenant."

"Good night Kiy."