Raydorn: The War in the Black (Chapter 42)

“Some people just need to learn when to shut up.”

Stygis, the Wolfhunter about Henry, the Bard of the Song, 440 A.C.A.

There is one building in Raydorn that rivals the Silver Spires of Sicaron. Not in the way the Spires shine, and not in the way they were constructed.

Cloudtower was the only building to touch the clouds. Not even Castle Raydorn in the capital could… yet.

Despite being many miles away, Malum could see the tip of it through binoculars in the crow’s next. It also helped that he had eyes far better than most.

They were taking it slow as they sailed up the coast towards the town of Skyhold and the ancestral home of the house of the same name. It was better to iron out the plans when they could and not when they were in the clutches of their enemy.

Malum put his binoculars away and began to make his way down to the ground floor, where Andy and Jack talked strategy, and Astrid talked to herself.

As Astrid leaned over the railing of the ship, looking out over the water, Malum dropped down onto the railing next to her. He spooked the people walking behind her, but she was unfazed.

He watched her as she ignored him.

She’s not even talking to herself.

“Not one for the seas?” he asked her, getting only a shrug in response. “You didn’t seem too ecstatic about it when we sailed to Susanna the first time either.” 

Astrid turned and looked him over, her brow creasing at the sight of him. “Don’t your knees hurt sitting like that?”

Malum was squatting on the railing. He looked ridiculous like he was showing off his flexibility, and with these people, they would use anything to deflect. But what did he expect? 

He hopped down from off the railing, and Astrid immediately started wiping it with her hand. “People have to clean this place, so rude.”

Malum held in another sigh, as he leaned over next to Astrid, and started staring. She turned and stared back at him. 

What is she… what is she doing?

Malum stared at her until her eyes started twitching.

“I’m not having a staring contest with you, you can’t even see my eyes.”

“You don’t know that.”

“You need glasses so I’m pretty sure.”

Astrid blinked garnering a loud, “Gah!” and a swing of her hands. 

She immediately crossed them before looking away and pouting like she were ten years younger than she was. 

She did this all while Malum stared. 

She looked at him in the corner of her eye and then squinted at him as he only kept staring. After a few seconds, he rested his arm on the rail, then his chin in his hand, and kept staring at her.

“Fine,” she said with a roll of her eyes, “I… I respect the seas.” 

“Hmhmm,” Malum mumbled, doing little else but listening.

Astrid gestured to the water as if they were presenting an answer, but since when did seawater do anything more but house horrors and drown people? 

“The seas… they are bonded with the weather. Lapis’s mother is the great sea goddess, Thassia,” upon saying her name, Astrid crossed her hand over her heart, “I have nothing but respect and an adequate amount of fear for her. 

But, when I feel Lapis calling to me, it’s from above.” She rested her hand over her heart and pointed towards the sky. “The clouds whisper to me, calling me to the sky. So no, I’m not one for the seas, I am of the air, but I find no discomfort when sailing.” 

“Hmmm,” was all Malum said, but not all he thought.

I think I know what her problem is.

“So you’re dying of boredom?” 

Astrid threw her hands up in the air and yelled at the top of her lungs, “OH MY GOD, I’M SO BORED!” 

Then she started yelling, groaning, and making a bunch of inhuman cries as she forlorned her fate.

All Malum had to say as he watched her start crying real tears, was, “That’s a mood.” 

“I AM the MOOD. The MOOD becomes ME, and I want it to LEAVE me ALONE!” 

As Astrid only got louder, Andy opened the door to the Captain’s quarters and yelled, “What the fuck are you two going on about?!” 

Jack called back to her, “Ignore them, Andy, we need to concentrate.” 

Andy ground her teeth as she went back inside. “As if I’m the one who needs to concentrate.”

I should see how that’s going, Malum thought and made a quick walk towards the captain’s quarters, or whatever it’s called when your captain won’t sail after a traumatic experience.

Malum didn’t realize that Astrid was following him until he opened the door, and she entered ahead of him.

Are they learning the silent step from me?

Malum entered as Andy and Jack were knee-deep in a discussion.

“I still don’t understand what we’re doing,” Jack said, “where do we even dock?” 

Andy drew a line down the map with her finger, trailing down the coasts as she muttered her thoughts aloud. “Cloudtower has only one port on its east side…” 

“Is that bad for us?” Malum asked, drawing Jack’s eye, but Andy didn’t even look up.

She started tapping her lip with her finger, fighting the urge to bite it. There was so much to worry about, the risks of getting caught, imprisoned, and executed by their own countrymen… their own families most likely.

And all because of a vision by a mad woman and a drunk.

It’s understandable to assume that would leave the drunk with a lot to prove. “Well,” she began to say as her eyes searched the map for the makings of a plan, “considering there’s only one place for people to dock… when coming from the capital… going to Krone…. or Artis…” 

“It’s going to be busy?” Jack asked, which made Andy’s eyes go wide.

Here come the insults.

“No, you idiot, we’re at war.” Astrid sat on her knees and rested her chin on the table, looking at Andy like a child staring up at her parent working. Andy paid her no mind as she continued. “The guards that usually monitor it are still going to be at war.” 

Jack made the same look of realization that Andy did. It was even more pronounced even, but that made it look far less effective. 

Then his expression sank.

“They are one of the Great Houses, even if they are reduced in number, they should still have a standing army ready to repel an invasion, Krone is just across the sea,” he reminded Andy, which made her grab her chin and start backtracking. “They’re going to be looking for what’s left of the Black Legion, Andy.” 

“We don’t know that…” she muttered before she finally set her eyes on the assassin, “Mal!” 

Oh, is it finally my turn to participate? Bummer.

“You said that you weren’t recognized when you went to the Golden Plateau?” she asked him.

“I was there too,” he pointed out, “why didn’t you just ask me?” Jack shrugged, his face growing this perverse look as if he was just slighted for no reason, but Andy always had a reason. 

“You’re stupid, Malum would have noticed people watching you.” 

Malum spoke up immediately as if to actively ignore the aghast look on Jack’s face.

“We were found almost immediately, and to be honest, I think the only reason we weren’t attacked is because Jack’s sister literally owns the place.” 

Jack’s neck snapped back as he said, “I didn’t see anyone.” 

Andy let out this little scoff. “Thank you for proving my point.” One could always count on their dumb friends to prove that reality was intact.

“So what that makes me think…” Andy mumbled as she started tracing a path on the map again. “We should probably dump the boat up the coast, and walk the last day in.” 

“Can we really afford to waste that much time?!” 

Malum pointed out to Jack, “Can you really afford to waste our lives?” 

Andy snapped her fingers just as Jack was going to say something would turn the table against him once again. Andy grabbed his attention so they could skip that step. 

“Jack, you want to do this, we want to do this right. Do you know what happens if we don’t take every slightest precaution when we’re being hunted by nobles who know our faces? 

“We die.” 

“Likely painfully,” Malum added.

Definitely painfully,” Andy piled on and then continued to do so, “probably by slow torture if House Skyhold is even half as vicious as Starshield. I mean they supposedly ride griffins, I’m sure they feed people to them sometimes.”

“Um actually,” Astrid said, as she pretended to push her glasses up her nose, imaginary glasses that she actually needs but won’t wear, “Griffins actually have to eat fish, something they don’t see very often. Otherwise, they would hunt people or even cattle for food when they fly over them, you know like dragons do.” 

Malum, Andy, and Jack all turned and stared at her as she still knelt on the floor, now nodding her head back and forth.

“I like the birdies,” she said with a shrug, “they’re pretty and I want one.” 

“Well, she might be here to steal a griffin,” Andy surmised, “but the rest of us, We’re here to help you, Jack, not die for you. If you’re going to get us killed because you don’t want to be careful, we’ll give up on trying to find Kion, and bring you home.”

Now threats were something Jack was not to be teased about. You don’t tease someone over something they were well-versed in. That’s the epitome of trying to bullshit a bullshitter.

“You think you can force me to do anything?” 

Jack may have been seen and treated as a dolt, but his expression hardened as any of theirs would. With a clench of his hand, the Wind swirled from and around the room. The map nearly blew in Andy’s face and avoiding it was the only way the table reacted to his counter threat.


  Jack’s stone face twisted into confusion at the sound, until the lock of hair hanging in front of his face fell to the ground, expertly cut.

Jack turned to Malum as the assassin was sheathing his sword. “Want to see how fast I am when I’m trying?” 

Again, before Jack or Malum could continue their pissing contest, Andy yelled something obscene at them.


She was interrupted by Astrid’s axe slamming into the table, burning bright enough to make even Malum cover his eyes under his mask. 

With the threat of incineration, Astrid told the boys to, “Shut the hell up, and listen to Andy!

As the light dimmer, both men slowly lowered their hands in front of their faces, but never quite putting the fully down. At a moment’s notice the axe could turn on again, and who enjoys being blinded?

Astrid slowly lowered it as all eyes were on her until she gestured to Andy. 

As if it were not big deal, Andy nodded her head, said, “Thank you, Astrid,” and got them back on track.

  “We want to help you, Jack, Kion was our friend too…” she tried to say, as her fingers closed into a fist, scratching the table, “but we didn’t escape, go a bunch of dangerous missions, and start rebuilding the Black Legion, only to die for you to hop back on some good dick, understood?” 

Eww…” Astrid groaned. 

“Don’t be a child,” Malum chided her in kind. 

“Fine, I’ll be an old woman,” then she proceeded to mock having a hunch in her back, and used her best old woman voice to squeal, “you youth are disgusting, where are your traditional family values?! This generation is going down the toilet!” 

Suffice it to say, they stopped and stared at her. 

Astrid,” Andy said with a tilt of her head and a hunch of her shoulders. 

Astrid stood up straight, fixed the high collar of her shirt, and crossed her arms with nothing less than complete indignation. “If you’re waiting for me to say sorry, I’m not going to.” 

“Just need you to stop.” 

The axe woman deflated at that point. “Okay, that’s fair.” 

Andy slammed her fist back down on the table as if to make a moment. “As I was saying, Jack, we’ll help you, but we’ll stop you to save your life, so work with us, let’s be careful, and maybe… just maybe… you’ll get that blowjob you so desperately need.” 

Jack crossed his arms at the second jab at his private life. “I don’t make fun of your sex life you know,” he pointed out, “pretty sure I’m the only one.” 

It would be hard for anyone to hold back the smirk on Andy’s face. “Yeah, because you don’t have ground to stand on with your sex life being non-existent.” 

Boom!” Astrid yelled as she threw up her hands and pointed at Jack, “Got you!” 

Jack didn’t say a word as he stared at the two women doing everything they could to make fun of him, unmoving, without making a sound. He did nothing but let his jaw keep dropping.

Then he slowly facepalmed.

“I’m starting to regret this already, but fine, I’ll do what you say,” he agreed, his voice cracking and creaking as if this conversation was nothing but pain to him. “We’ll walk in, I’ll listen to you, we’ll do… plans… I guess.” 

“Thank you,” Andy said.


Why am I always surrounded by beautiful people who have nothing interesting to say? Amidala thought to herself as she looked out her carriage window. One of the Stormguard guarding her carriage was another woman disguised as a man, one of the few she helped hide, and one of the many under her debt.

The Stormguard trotted on her horse, trying to avoid the warlock’s gaze, but there was nothing she could do to avoid the feeling on the back of her neck. Looking at the crowds cheering for their arrival would do little to make the warrior feel better.

“Are you even listening to me?” the archmage called to her.

Amidala’s nose scrunched up her face as his voice called to her. She turned back to his visage in the mirror across from her.  

Talking to him like this was no complicated or extravagant manner. This was a spell she had done a thousand times to keep up to date with what the archmage, Hùnxiě, and the alchemist, Leto, were up to. 

I really need a better way to keep track of the dogs, preferably one where I don’t have to talk to them.

“Stop wasting my time, Kain,” he called to her as if using her last name would make her tick. It barely made her avert her eyes from her future pet and the cheering crowds that gave her a headache.

The castle cannot come soon enough

Sadly for her, the town that surrounded Cloudtower was a mile-thick membrane that protected the castle, and she had an archmage to aggravate.

“Wasting your time?” she asked, her eyes alone turning his way, her attention divided amongst the little nothings around her. “Tell me, little Hùnxiě, what’s the point of having you around if you don’t do anything I need you to?” 

Hùnxiě remained as unmoved as ever. It was the most annoying thing to a woman who smirked and sneered as easily as she breathed. She had to learn his little twitches to know if she was getting a rise out of him, and at some point, that kind of mental energy didn’t seem worth it.

Don’t start fantasizing about killing him. Once you start, Ami, you never stop.

“Tell me again why it is I would help you,” Hùnxiě told her, “when our countries are at war.” 

Amidala rolled her eyes. “Other than to keep me from taking your life?” She tapped her head, pretending that she had some novel idea that magically came to her. “I would think with all this money being spent on war rather than your science you would want to help me end it sooner… but I guess not.” 

She heard the hallmark grumble in the back of his throat.

It almost made up for the sarcasm that followed. “Yes, because what all loyal patriots want to do is help someone on the other side win.” 

“Depending on how much you believe in the gods…” she said as she nodded her head, “if I win we all win.” 

“I’m not much of a holy man, Kain.” 

Amidala wagged her finger at him and his mirror. “*Tsk*tsk* Oh, that’s too bad, then you’ll likely not appreciate me or my hair-brained schemes…” 

Amidala’s eyes started to glow with blue light, with electricity crackling from it. She leaned over the gap in her carriage, making the mirror crack. Hùnxiě jumped back at the sound, as his pond surely cracked as well.

As the magic of the gods flowed through her eyes and into her veins, she told in no uncertain terms, “Let’s settle on the fact that I’ll rip your fucking heart out if you fail me again, is that enough motivation?” 

“You don’t think I can protect myself?” Hùnxiě told her, his arm still raised over his chest for protection. 

He still has stones, I’ll give him that.

“What I think is that you can’t defend yourself from me. We’ll see if you have what it takes to prove me wrong. Be there at the rite, I’ll have Andelyn by then.” She leaned back in her carriage and raised her hand as if to wipe the image away, but she had a few words left on her tongue before she did, as Hùnxiě was turning his back on her, “And Hunny?” 


“Don’t make me come find you.” She wiped her hand through the air and the image dissipated. 

The warlock rested back against her seat, closing her eyes as her thoughts leaned towards sleep.


Then the carriage stopped.

The leader of the warlock’s escort pulled back one of the shades, letting light hit her in the face. Then she informed the warlock, “We have arrived at Cloudtower, Lady Kain.” 

“Great,” Amidala said, with a clap of her hand, followed by a low groan, “Great…

Despite arriving at her destination, she made no move to leave the carriage. She didn’t even open her eyes until a representative of House Skyhold itself had a red carpet rolled out for her. 

“Introducing our honored guest, the acting warlock of all Raydorn! Amidala Kain!

“Why do they-”


Horns blared, making the warlock grasp her eardrums. She began to gasp and take deep breaths to calm herself. 

I could kill all the little peasants with a word, it would be easy, easier than riding a bike. There would be little more than dust, and next to no witnesses to speak of.

Instead of acting on such thoughts, which were far from invasive despite their nature, she inhaled and exhaled. She gestured up her throat with each breath, smiling as the air went in. When the servant opened the carriage for her, they happened to catch her smiling. 

She stepped out with ruby lips and dimples galore, and the crowd cheered for her.

I’m the most important person these sods will ever see.

She waved to the adoring crowds as she walked across the red carpet, barely looking ahead to see who would receive her. 

Hopefully, the Bard will keep me entertained, they say he can make anyone laugh but the king. When she looked ahead to see not the Honorguard she expected, but the Lady Skyhold herself, Amidala almost dropped her smile. Oh god, not the glorified housewife.

Lady Skyhold was what one would have expected, a beautiful woman in a dress made from silks worth more than half the homes in Shadestown. She smiled brightly and genuinely, for what did she have to be upset about? 

The war didn’t call on her sons to fight, even if the small wrinkles on her face would make you think they were old enough to fight.

The adoring crowds surrounding the steps of the castle were held back by guards so they would not run just to touch the closest one to the gods. The cobblestone streets were invisible in all directions due to the crowd. They made the empty bridge and the moat to Amidala’s left appear as dead as Hedone.

If only there was something to look at other than this Lady’s face. Someone ought to burn it off along with her golden hair. She’s not gold, she’s cattle, and worse than anything, she likes it… little cow.

Amidala took Lady Skyhold’s hand first and foremost, giving her a gracious greeting. “A thousand blessings for welcoming me to your home, I’ve always wanted to see Shadestown during the festival.”

“It is you who honors us,” the Lady said, and with a whisper in Amidala’s ear, “and hopefully me if rumors are to be believed.”

Maybe I was quick to call her a cow, but I can change my mind. How quickly the Lady’s flaws disappeared almost perfectly in the warlock’s eye. I should have expected this. The tongues of noblewomen commonly have little else to do but wag. They can’t all be Diana Starshield.

Lady Skyhold held her arm out for Amidala to take, and Amidala played her part, waving to the crowd with her.

Amidala leaned close and whispered into the Lady’s ear, “I could turn rumors to facts while the Bard serenades.”

“I hope the crackle of fire will serve as a fine replacement for the lute.”

Amidala tilted her head at the lady, who noticed with a glance. Out the side of her mouth, the Lady told her, “The Bard of the Song has yet to arrive.”

She says the would-be spy isn’t here. That’s nothing more than confirmation that he is, and watching me.

Amidala filed that tidbit away in her head as the lady of the castle turned them around towards the small bridge over the moat surrounding the castle. Even with some distance, and the sounds of soldiers’ clanking metal boots, they could still hear the adoring crowds… even once the bridge was pulled up. 

Amidala shirked in the direction of the sound as a griffin perched itself on the castle walls. 

Ah, yes, I supposed I was going to see one of them eventually. 

The griffin, the pride of Raydorn, was born and raised across the lands of House Skyhold. They raced across the sky faster than a squirrel raced up a tree and hunted beasts instead of rodents.

Yet, griffins were domesticated all the same, cursed to trade messages between the war fronts, but if rumors were to be believed, they would soon be doing far more than trading messages.

The griffin, with a rider perched on its back, stared down at the lady and the warlock. The lady showed her onward, but Amidala kept her eye locked on the little bird.

In the language of magic, she whispered, “Off pedicabo.” 

I’ll turn you into a fucking pen if you want. 

For some reason, the griffin shuttered, nearly making its rider fall off.

In turn, Amidala laughed as the lady told a joke.

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