Prophecy Story Index

Cleansing
by Becky
February 1999

Dorien shifted the bag on his shoulder again, moving the strap slightly. Glancing toward the horizon and the sinking sun, he bit his lip. Almost curfew. Seth's soldiers will be out, looking for stragglers. He quickened his pace a little, moving as quickly as his legs would let him. He hadn't planned to be gone from the Academy this long, but it'd taken him longer than he'd thought it would to find the quills and ink and parchment for the special gift he was making for Tulan.

He smiled. Tomorrow evening he would officially graduate from student status and take his place among the other journeymen. As he was only 14, this was happening a year earlier than most of his peers. And Dorien wanted to do something special for his mentor, his second father after his own father died the year before, to thank him for all he'd done for him. Granted, the ceremony of him becoming a journeyman wouldn't be anything big or even talked about at all, for fear that Seth would find out. And Dorien couldn't really go out and travel like most journeymen did -- his place was with Tulan for one thing. The rest of course being that Seth wouldn't allow it. Especially not for the boy he knew would be Tulan's future successor.

That future successor frowned to himself as he strode down a shortcut alleyway, cutting a few minutes off his time. Tulan is getting old. I know that. And with this war and the uneasy relations between he and Seth, I don't know-- He shook his head. No. He'll be around for awhile. I know that. I'm not ready yet. I'm only a kid.

Shifting the bag on his shoulder again, Dorien forced those thoughts from his mind and continued on his way, concentrating on what he would be doing with the supplies his pack. A new inscription of the title page of 'Seyna'. One to frame. It had taken Dorien several weeks to decide on this and several hours that day to find the supplies he needed. It was getting harder to find such things in the city and only by virtue of invoking Tulan's name had he even gotten what he did. And at a very expensive price too.

Grimacing slightly at the much lighter weight of his coin purse, he jogged around the last corner before the Academy. He paused a moment in the shadows, looking around for soldiers. No reason to be incautious and get caught by those guys. When word had gotten out that Dorien was Tulan's protégé, Seth's soldiers had taken to looking for ways to catch the boy unguarded and harass him. But this once, Dorien didn't see anyone aside of a group of bards and students entering the Academy doors. So he left the safety of the shadows and hurried to join the others, throwing a quick smile at Mateo, one of the other bards, as the young man moved to block him from the sight of the soldiers just appearing in the courtyard.

Just as the group began to enter the doors, more soldiers appeared from the other direction, all talking loudly and holding brightly lit torches, firelight glinting off their faces. Mateo turned to face them, shoving Dorien behind him. Another bard joined him, also guarding Dorien, something the boy felt a little odd about, but he also understood that the bards were protecting their future...leader, he guessed. The soldiers, however, ignored them, too busy laughing and joking amongst themselves to notice. Dorien peered out from behind the two bards, curious, one hand grasping the strap of his bag.

What's going on?

Before he could voice his question, one of the soldiers, a captain Dorien noted idly, threw his torch at the Academy wall, igniting the wood in moments, flames reaching upwards and devouring the walls much too fast to be natural. Dorien gasped, staring in fascination and shock at the fire, watching the other soldiers follow the captain's lead and throw their torches at the walls, feeding the flames that filled his vision. The soldiers laughed raucously and pointed, slapping each other. Dorien heard little of what they said, other than the word "cleansing" being tossed about them.

Abruptly reality crashed down on him and the rest of the bards. Everyone scrambled in different directions and voices rose in panic. He stumbled to one side, pushed off-balance as someone from behind him tried to get out. Tulan.

A different kind of panic hitting him, he turned, shoving bodies aside as he pushed his way further inside. Mateo's voice called out behind him. "Dorien! No!" His strong hand touched Dorien's arm as he squirmed away. Dorien inched away and felt Mateo's hand latch onto the strap of his bag. He twisted away, letting the bag -- and its precious contents -- go without a thought as he broke through the crowd. Wind at his feet, he took off at a run, pelting down the corridors that led to Tulan's office at the other side of the large building.

Tulan will be in his office right now. He always is. He threaded his way past others who began to appear in the hallways, all heading out. Evading hands that wanted to catch him, he dodged and twisted his way, grimly noting that Camella's lessons in being "slippery" were coming in quite handy. Don't think this was what she meant when she taught them to me.

A set of hands finally -- and firmly -- caught him. He struggled, kicking out instinctively. "No! Lemme go!"

"Dorien! It's Ryana! Calm down."

He looked up, blinking a few times. Dark brown eyes of his former teacher and still good friend met his, and he pleaded quietly. "Please, I need--"

"--to find Tulan. I know. That's what I need you to do as well. I haven't seen him yet and he should be in his office right now. But you have to hurry. There isn't much time. Use the back exit. It should be clear." She squeezed his shoulder and released him. "Meet me at Mazara House."

Dorien threw her a smile and was off again, disappearing down another, thankfully empty, corridor which led directly to Tulan's workroom and office. He passed his own small set of rooms without a glance, intent on getting to his mentor. Rushing into the outer workroom, he called out, "Tulan! Master! Where are you?" Flames already licked up one wall of the workroom -- the outside wall -- as Tulan's rooms faced the courtyard.

They lit the back of the Academy too. How am I gonna get out?

Panic struck him, threatening to overwhelm him. He shook it away, his mind already tracing out alternative routes -- secret ways that only he and Camella knew of. Swallowing hard, he hurried down the short hallway to Tulan's office. "Tulan!"

"Dorien?"

The voice was strong but muffled and fading. He burst into the office, pushing at the door. "Tulan?" He waved away the thick smoke beginning to fill the office and scanned the room quickly, frowning when he didn't spot his mentor. Books lay strewn across the floor. A support beam rested broken over the large desk, half behind the desk. "Tulan? Where are you?"

"Behind...the desk."

Oh, no. Eyes widening, Dorien scuttled around the desk, stepping over books and broken pieces of wood. He jerked to a stop, staring at Tulan where he lay on his back, pinned to the floor under the beam, books and sheets of music scattered around like broken toys.

Dorien dropped to his knees, moving his hands to the beam, trying to push it aside. He sobbed out in frustration when he realized he wasn't strong enough. "I need to get help."

"No time." Tulan's eyes were sad but calm, steady, accepting.

He shook his head, the child he still was rising up. "No...please. You can't die. Not like this. I --I'm not ready."

Tulan stretched up his hand and Dorien grasped it warmly, shocked at its coldness. "You are ready, Dorien. You were born for this, just as Ryana has always believed. As I knew from the moment I met you. My only wish would be that it hadn't come so soon. There was so much more I wanted to teach you." He closed his eyes, coughing and panting.

Dorien leaned down. "Tulan? Master?" His heart added 'Father' even if his voice couldn't.

The Royal Bard's eyes opened again. "You must leave soon or you won't escape. And that you must do. So please listen closely to what I have to tell you. Tell Camella, the daughter of my heart, that I love her. And that I am so very glad she came into my life -- even if she did try to pick my pocket."

"I'll tell her." A small smile twitched at his lips in spite of the situation.

The man swallowed and went on. "You must get the books from your room. The special ones. Keep them safe. Arven was right when he said they would be needed. That need is not yet finished."

Dorien nodded silently, ignoring the tears that dripped from his eyes.

"I want you to take my lute, Dorien. It is yours now. You are the Royal Bard to a kingdom in exile. My mark is on the lute. With it you will be recognized by the other bards as my chosen successor. With it you can command our 'armies' of students, journeymen, and bards to fight this war with their words and songs."

Dorien nodded again, his throat closing up with emotion as well as the smoke thickening around him. It was getting harder to breathe, as evidenced both by Tulan's open mouth panting and coughing and his own coughing.

"And lastly," Tulan's eyes shuttered closed a moment, then opened again with obvious effort to stare intently at Dorien. "Lastly, I charge you to find the heir to the Rillandan throne. Bring them, whoever it is, back to Brightstar when the time is right. Defeat Seth. Retake our land for our people. Look for the sword within a circle." His hand tightened on Dorien's. "Say it."

Dorien repeated dutifully, "A sword within a circle. I understand."

A dry chuckle rumbled in Tulan's throat. "No, you don't yet, but you will. No matter." He swallowed again, relaxing, his words and final commands given. "Remember what I've taught you. Remember!"

"I will. I promise."

Hand falling lax, eyelids fluttering closed, Tulan whispered, "Thank you. Now, go, Dorien, son of my music. Go, be safe, and live. Time is running out," he panted, voice trailing off as he fell into unconsciousness, "for all of us...."

Dorien nodded, lips held tight, tears tracking down his dirty face. He squeezed Tulan's hand, then placed it gently on the floor. "Goodbye, Tulan. And thank you." Taking a shallow breath, he stood and strode to the opposite wall. Without hesitance, he lifted the treasured lute from its wall hook and cradled it to his chest. After one last glance at Tulan, he hurried from the office, down the hallway, through the workroom and back to the main corridor.

The smoke had thickened considerably and Dorien pulled the edge of his cloak up around his face, trying to breathe and cough at the same time. He could hear yelling outside the building and knew the soldiers were watching, jeering, enjoying the show of the Academy -- and many of those who lived within its walls -- dying.

Cleansing.

Biting back a sob of hurt -- not now, deal with it later -- and a growl of anger, he jogged quickly to his own rooms and darted inside. Running past the small front room, he burst into his bedroom. Once inside, he shoved his bed roughly to one side, uncaring that it hit the bedside table and knocked a glass to the floor, shattering the glass instantly. Setting the lute on the bed, he dropped to his knees and scrabbled his fingers into the wood paneling on the wall, prying open one of the planks to reveal a small hidden space. Inside rested a small leather bag which he grabbed. Clenching the bag tightly to himself, he stood up again, lifting the lute with his other hand before hurrying away.

Re-entering the hallway, Dorien paused a moment, coughing as the thick smoke burned his eyes and throat. Which way, which way? Making a decision, he dashed down the hallway, skidding to stop in front of a storage room door. He tucked the bag under his arm, then yanked open the door, going inside, shoving past half-empty paint points, stacks of old brushes, and packets of parchment. At the back wall, he pulled aside a large, hanging, paint-splotched cloth and pressed a spot on the wall behind it. The wall groaned and shifted, opening just enough for Dorien to slip past into a narrow, darkened corridor.

Not waiting for the door to shut behind him, Dorien walked quickly through the passageway, running one hand along the walls as he went, unable to see but knowing exactly where the tunnel would take him -- outside, to the forest beyond the Academy walls. The entrance remained hidden in the shadows behind a clump of bushes at one corner of the building. In the darkness after sunset and the chaos on account of the fire, it would be fairly easy for him to slip away unnoticed.

The walls creaked above him and he shot a panicked glance upward into the darkness. Just hold on a little longer. Please. I'm almost out of here. The walls creaked again in response -- louder than the first time. Holding his breath, Dorien walked faster, stretching his hand out in front of him. I've got to be almost--

Ouch!

His fingers hit the end of the tunnel with a jarring scrape. Ignoring the pain, he felt blindly along the edges of the wall, looking for the small latch that would open the door for him. He couldn't find it for several moments and panic rose again in tune with the increasing smell of smoke and creaking of the walls around him. Finally, his fingers found the right spot and he frantically popped the latch, shoving at the wall with his shoulder as he did. He knew the door wouldn't open much, just enough for him to squeeze through.

Dorien slid out, holding the lute and bag close to his chest, squinting his eyes in response to the bright firelight all around him. Smoke hung around him and he tried not to cough, not wanting to be found hidden in the prickly bushes. With all the noise, however, he had a feeling he wouldn't be anyway. Shoving his way through the thorns, his cloak caught and held. Frustrated and not wanting to take the time to undo it, he unhooked it and let it fall. Then he ran again, heading for the forest area just beyond the Academy building.

Upon reaching the safety of the trees and shadows, Dorien dropped to the ground, head hanging as he coughed and panted, feeling grimy -- inside and out -- from the smoke and ash floating in the air. After finally catching his breath, he turned to face the Academy grounds, sitting against the rough bark of a tree, holding both the lute and bag in his lap. A sudden sob worked its way up into his throat as he watched the building start to collapse inward on itself. Flames shot upwards, lighting up the evening sky as the soldiers watched in unholy glee at the destruction. His eyes picked out the few huddled groups of bards, journeymen, and students among the soldiers.

Not enough of them. Where are the rest?

His heart thudded painfully against his ribs, wondering just how many of Tulan's....of his people had died in the fire. And how many had managed to escape.

Tulan....I'm not ready for this. You weren't supposed to die. Not yet.

Sorrow filled him, followed by the awesome task of taking responsibility for Tulan's work, his music, his bards, his people. Too much. I can't--

'You must.'

He gasped, looking up and around, his eyes jerking away from the spectre of the burning building. "Who's--who's there?"

'You must have faith, young bard. Your path is not an easy one.'

Dorien twisted to look behind him, spilling the bag into the dirt beside him, still clutching his mentor's lute to his chest. His eyes widened and he swallowed at the sight of the indistinct, glowing figure of soft yellow light hovering above the forest floor. "Who are you?'

'That matters not, child. Listen. Destiny has given you a task.'

"But I don't know what to do. I'm not ready. Tulan is dead. No one knows where the royal family is. I'm all alone." As he spoke, the Light being wafted closer to him.

'Some paths must, for a time, be walked alone. You are ready. Tulan spoke truth when he said you were born for this. You were. You are. Look for the golden warrior, young bard. When the time is right, fate will lead you to her.'

"Her?" His curiosity took hold in spite of himself, his bardic training and love of knowledge coming to the forefront.

The Light wavered, chuckling. 'She for whom. She for whom destiny awaits. She also waits for you. Look for her. Look for the sword. And look into yourself. See the truth for what it truly is.'

Dorien opened his mouth to ask what that meant, but the figure drifted closer, distracting him. He felt a soft, feathery touch on the top of his head. Closing his eyes, a moment of peace filling him, he waited.

'Light's blessings onto you, young Dorien. May your journey guide you to what you seek.'

The touch vanished and Dorien's eyes flew open....to find himself alone in the forest again, the evening chill sinking into his clothes. He swallowed, resettling himself against the tree, one hand tightening on Tulan's lute. Did that...really happen? With the other hand, he reached up to touch his hair, feeling a residual warmth from that touch just then slowly beginning to fade. I guess it did.

<<CRACK!!>>

<<CRASH!!>>

Jerking backwards, scraping his back through his tunic on the rough bark behind him, Dorien's attention fixed again on the burning Academy building. Flames still rose from the blackened mass of timber and stone. The scent of acrid smoke hung heavily in the air, clinging to his clothes and face and hair. Reality hit again, driving away the temporary peace he'd found.

Tulan....

Curling his legs upwards, he clutched the lute to his chest, holding on to the last piece of his mentor he would ever have. He rocked slightly in place, forehead resting on his knees, eyes squeezed shut.

He was still there when Camella, eyes red from the smoke in the air, found him several minutes later. A quick hug, a few exchanged stumbling words telling her of Tulan's death, and then they were hurrying back to Beggar's Market, to Mazara House. To safety. To spend one last hour in the city of his birth, of where he'd spent his entire 14 years of life, before leaving to begin his journey.

Dorien would not return to Brightstar again until the restoration of the Rillandan throne 14 years later.

- The End -


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