Author Notes:

I think my biggest fun in writing is discovering my characters even after I've outlined everything – I know what they're doing and when. As I write, I learn the why. It certainly is a fun journey. I just hope it comes together in the end. If anything feels out of place, let me know. (Oh, and, the first little section here goes back to the scene between Author, Kelch, and Veedran…something from the Introduction)


"Life is the greatest gift. What you do with it, is the greatest choice."

Dragonblade: The Seeker

Chapter 23: A Small Truth

After I finish reading the latest installment, I look up and grin at the shocked look on both of their faces.

Kelch blinks, confused, but trying to understand, weighing the truth up against my creation. A cold, calculated mind. From what he tells me, I know he's changed. A lot. I wish he would tell me more about himself, though. The story seems to have chosen him to be the main character and yet I haven't gotten to delve into who he is…or what makes him so important, even. I hope it doesn't hurt the story to have a main character so aloft, so mysterious, so different.

"Baxorth doesn't do that!" Veedran, of course, is much more outgoing, outspoken, and plain damn rude sometimes. When he disagrees, he is certain to let me know and loudly. "Baxorth isn't like that at all. He wouldn't rush the Human King. I mean, why would he? What's the point?"

I shrug and then grin again before answering, putting both of my hands under my chin, elbows on my desk. "That's exactly what you're supposed to be saying. From what I've gathered of Baxorth, you aren't supposed to be able to guess his movements. He isn't like the rest of the cast; he's unpredictable."

"But he doesn't kill the King!"

I laugh. "I never said he did."

Veedran blinks, confused again, mouth open but not sure what to say. Kelch decides to take this moment to explain what he's figured out by thinking. "The truth of the matter is, certain events you're writing about aren't in a history book and they aren't in either of our memories, so you have to embellish because to the story you're writing – they're important. From what we know of Baxorth and his actions, you've made something up that could have happened, and I dare say you've got his point of view down to how I've always imagined."

"Have I succeeded in giving him life?"

Kelch pauses, the thought just now crossing his mind. Veedran stares at me. I go back to watching the cat-dog-thing. The tail twitches slowly: to the left, to the right, to the left again. Then it picks up pace and starts to spin as his excitement begins to boil over.

"That's what you're doing, isn't it? You're trying to make them real. You're trying to give them life! That must be the secret to bringing back our friends!" His happy expression turns to the white haired thief boy. "Kelch, I understand now! I understand why you wanted an author!"

Grinning, Kelch stares at the floor. "The magic of an author is very different from real magic, but in the end just as powerful."

Kethen, Human Territory; Year 10019, Spring Season (Drakeigh's Days)

I have to cause a scene. I have to do something. I must change the recent turning of events.

Mother! The Anon have ruined our hope! A cat – a prophetic cat!

"I did warn you, son. Others are making plans."

It was not her true voice that filled his head, just a memory. This was normal for him, to live by memories.

Before he charged for the Human King, Baxorth glanced toward the Anon minister. The strangely tall, thin, proud bearing…the clothes only royalty defeated. Why must an Anon have such a position? It was unheard of! The gods had abandoned the Anon people for a reason. Mother's warning…This one even carried the taint!

Instead of attacking the real threat, Baxorth went for the Human. He had to wake them up. They were too trusting…Allowing Catrek to roam free and Anon to be ministers in their court! Filthy Humans were setting their country up for failure – and the Anon would be the ones to pick up the pieces.

Even Sheik, especially Sheik, could not be trusted. The black dragon stitched on his neck proclaimed the warning. The Humans didn't understand, didn't believe. Someone had to make them see.

I am sorry, Mother. I never was the best at subtlety. Nations always rise up stronger if their leader is killed. Their pride returns. Their suspicion returns. We need that now. The Anon – the Anon! – have made their move. Now it is our turn.

With plans to save the world by action, Baxorth reached the Human King. Thinking of what he would change, what he would save, he pulled back his scimitar. Ignoring the look of fear, the wide green eyes, the trembling but slow fingers reaching for a weapon…he brought his weapon forward, mustering force, screaming a cry for his people. At the last moment, he closed his eyes – even years of death could not harden him to look in the eyes of an innocent being killed for the greater good.

In that moment, the sound of metal hitting metal echoed through the room, through his big wolf ears. The clang of a sword blocking his attack brought him out of his mental prayers. His mind stumbled. His eyes opened.

Lord Trytel stood before him, protecting the king. Faster than the wolf.

Baxorth stared, mouth open, caught mid-swing. Unbelievable. It was unbelievable. A Human faster than the Wulfcon savior. How? Mother, how? Why?

A regal cloak, embroidered in silver and golds, silky blues and reds, Lord Trytel stood before him, opposing him. Eyes hard, mouth firm, posture perfect… The Lord protected the King. Of course. He had expected a fight of vengeance afterwards, maybe, if the Lord was loyal enough. But…this…the Human Lord had been loyal enough to act without hesitation. Lord Ester, now, would have undoubtedly thought of the possibilities, the chances of taking over the throne that came with a fallen leader. This young lord before him now was as loyal to his king as a bonded samurai was to a Catrek mage.

The kick came while he was in shock. A small bout of pain to the chest and his feet lost their footing. He stumbled backwards, lost his scimitars when Trytel maneuvered his own sword to knock Baxorth free from weapons. The Wulfcon savior fell for a moment, unable to grasp onto defeat, but as soon as his back hit the ground, he snapped his fangs, forced control onto his brain, and flipped himself back to his feet.

The guards crowded him a moment later. He held up his hands, put them on his head, and glared at the lord who now held his precious weapons.

"My, well, that was most certainly an interesting greeting. I suppose it is true that you are a lone wolf, completely severed from your pack, wild, untamable, and unexpected. Thankfully, Lord Trytel here was on hand and on guard. I thank you, son." King Kethen spoke slowly and precisely, nodded to the young lord when he offered thanks, and then turned back to Baxorth. "Now, my only question for you, is why, Baxorth? After all the trust and acceptance we gave you, this is hardly the way I expect to be treated."

Having to face defeat after the fact, in front of a failed kill, was harder than he had ever imagined. Damn Human. Ruined everything. Now they'll only be wary around me. There must be a way to salvage this. There must be a way to get them to distrust the Anon.

He stared at the king, trying to look past the furs, trying to think of something. A spear prodded him in the back and he realized how much of a terrible situation he had put himself in. Where could he go from here? They wouldn't believe a word he said. Not anymore.

Mother, I don't know what to do anymore. Our plans are crumbling. Is this what fate has given us? Is there no way to fight it?

"I had heard from Lord Ester that you wanted to speak with me about the thief boy. Apparently, after having captured him, you want him freed? And you expect to convince me to do this after an attempted assassination on my life? If there's anything else, a lone wolf does certainly have odd logic."

The thief boy! Oh, Mother, I forgot!

"Oh, Princess, must we do this?"

Amira stopped her walk down the stone steps, and turned to her handmaiden with a sigh. "Vali, it is not as horrific as you imagine. I have visited the prisoners before. What is the difference in this one?"

Vali, hand clasped on her arm to keep her from moving forward, wet her lips and did her best to keep her voice from rising. "He's a murderer! Your father and the others may refer to him as a thief boy, but he's more than that!"

"So? I want to see him," Amira stated calmly, shaking herself free once again and continuing down the steps, hating her green dress and high shoes all the way. I should have changed shoes at the very least before coming down here. My feet are going to need a good soaking after this or else the blisters will make Father wonder what I was doing.

The guard at the thief boy's cell proclaimed much the same exasperated – and slightly confused – protests. Of course, being Princess, she used her authority and forced her way inside. Her Father had yet to deny her entry; perhaps he was too busy to think of such a thing. And seeing as the boy was shackled to the far wall, their protests of being in danger didn't carry all that much weight.

Once inside the dank and musty cell – they could try to do something about the smell – she found that the boy did indeed look handsome and it hadn't been her imagination. Killer, thief, or what have you, he was not the beefy, ugly, ruffian she had expected from the stories. His face was lean, his eyes were gorgeous blue, and he was thin without being underfed scrawny. She could even get used to the strangely spiked white hair.

Too bad he would be executed soon. He would have been fun to tease had he been just a simple thief boy.

"All right, Princess, you've seen him. Now can we leave?" Vali again, being that annoying nagging voice in her left ear.

"No, Vali, we just got here. I want to hear his story."

"Princess, this is ridiculous."

"I don't care what you think. I'm curious as to how such a cute one could be a murderer! Surely, there's something—"

"Cute! Is that why we came down here? So you could talk to a cute guy?"

Amira could feel her shoulders sag when she turned around to face her handmaiden with a sigh. "Vali, does it matter? He's going to die tomorrow, right? Why can't I hear his story? I never get to talk to other villagers outside our city, and the thieves the guards pick up here aren't worth speaking to and you know it. At least he looks interesting, though I could do without that strange white hair."

"Princess…" Vali groaned.

"Everyone has to comment about the hair, don't they?" At the thief's voice, Amira turned around slowly to stare back at him, shocked that he would interrupt her conversation. "I'll have to admit, this is the first time I've been in prison and had a girl come visit." He had his head cocked to the side, looking up at her because the shackles had his hands above his head but otherwise he was sitting down quite normally. "You could have tried to wear something a bit cuter, though; the girls I know back home could show you better dresses for listening to men's stories."

At first, she couldn't understand the reason for his grin, but when Vali started yelling at him, she felt her face heat up in an embarrassing blush. He had just…How could he…? That was so…

"Okay, okay, I'm sorry. That was a bit too rude for a princess, I suppose," he said, giving in to Vali's demands for an apology. Amira found herself staring at the boy, unsure what to think. One moment he was the rude thief she had met plenty of times before, but in the next, he seemed to have transformed his mocking grin to a real smile, becoming polite enough to have been raised by a noble. "These past few days have been a little different from what I'm used to. I've been wanting to lash out at someone, and you just happened to be the first person in here."

"Oh, well in that case, all is forgiven," Amira said with a grin of her own.

Ignoring the sigh from Vali, she took a few steps towards the boy, being sure to keep her distance even if he was shackled to the wall. She had heard stories of captured criminals breaking such things and attacking the guards. Of course, this boy didn't look strong enough for that, but at least she was being careful.

When she squatted down near his outstretched feet – dress covering her legs of course – she could finally see his discomfort. So, like she had anticipated. He was uncomfortable being close to someone else; even now, his eyes were scanning the area as if he were back in his unsafe home and his back was pressed hard against the stone wall behind him.

"What do you want, princess?" The thief boy finally asked, breaking the somewhat uncomfortable silence. "Is the fallen really that interesting to you?"

"The what?" She asked, cocking her head to the side, feeling her hair falling against her ears and partially bare shoulders.

He blinked, a strange white spike of hair falling across his left eye. "You know, the outcasts of your perfect little world. Those who live in the underground beneath you. Thieves and murderers and anyone else who has been cast out or managed to escape from prison." At her blank stare, he blinked again, cocking his head to the side the same as her. "You came to ask my story and you don't even know where I come from?"

Amira shook her head, yet again finding herself without enough information. It was really beginning to annoy her: how her father and Vali and even Lord Trytel kept important information from her because of who she was or because they didn't want to "crack her perfect little world." Clenching her hands, she had to work to keep her anger in check. As much as she protested, she still knew nothing.

"Nobody tells me anything. I have to get my information on my own, thief boy. No one told me about a whole society existing beneath us, underground. I didn't even know such people could manage to live and work together."

His laugh interrupted her tirade. How could he laugh when he was set to die? Had she said something stupid again? "It's not easy, I can tell you that much. The Thief Leader has to be someone ruthless, cunning, and willing to kill those who disobey him. I—I could never do it, though I did dream of it once." As she stared at him, he lowered his head and sagged his shoulders. "Even if that Wulfcon manages to get me out of this, I know I'll never be able to go back. Not that it was much of a home, but it was all I ever had…"

"The Wulfcon?" Vali exclaimed.

Before the conversation could change to something else, Amira held up her hand to silence her handmaiden and tried to meet the boy's eyes. "What about your parents?"

After the question, his head shot up and she realized she had said something wrong. The pain in his eyes made her turn away and blush. "I was abandoned," he spat. "And not the only one down there with the same fate, either."

Instead of asking about how he could survive or what happened to the unlucky ones, she decided to change the hard conversation to something a bit more lighthearted. For some reason, she didn't like seeing him sad. Maybe it was just the awkwardness of having brought up the painful subject herself. "I'm sorry," she muttered, "but I forgot to ask your name."

He seemed to freeze, as if having been abruptly stopped in the middle of a memory. "My name's Kelch, princess, but I doubt it'll matter much. You probably won't be using it if you ask your next question."

She laughed, but it sounded forced. Why was it so cold? It had been hot and humid when she first entered. "Princess, why don't you ask who he's killed…why he's here…I think he just remembered something for you."

The glare Kelch sent to Vali made her curious. "What did you remember, Kelch?"

His eyes stayed focused on her handmaiden, eyes that seemed to glint with a strange red light. It must have been her imagination. "I just finally remembered why Lord Ester would hate me so much, and why the girl in my memories looked so familiar."

"You killed Ester's daughter?" Amira shouted, standing up, feeling shock and anger at the same time. Not willing to believe it. Her only friend among nobles. Her only girl cousin. "You killed Jenny? That's why everyone treats you like this, then. I think I understand. Was it for money? Did you get paid for it? Or are you one of those sick bastards that kills women just because he can?" She couldn't believe it. She had almost felt sorry for him. She had almost wanted to pardon him. Now she knew why he was going to be killed tomorrow, and she didn't care anymore.

Standing up and taking a few steps forward, fighting the tears in her eyes, she forced herself to face her best friend's murderer. In a rush, her anger came back and her arm went up and forward, slapping against his face with as much raging force as she could push out. And then Vali was pulling her back, bringing her away from this bastard of a man.

It wasn't until she was back in her room, crying in her bed for the loss of her friend, that the memory of those strange red eyes made her wonder. Wasn't the hair the only strange thing? Didn't he have blue eyes?

A/N: Music listened to for this chapter: "Long Way Home" by Royal Hunt, "Spirit Never Dies" by Masterplan, and "Angels" by Within Temptation. I really liked Baxorth's section. Not too sure about Amira's, though. Her point of view is the hardest because she's the least like me. Blah.