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The Story of Naga Queens
of the
Bracada Snow Desert

by Lady Dragon
Chapter 4
A Dreadful Decision
Castle Ge'Manh, or the Fortress Between Mountains as it was more known in the Wizards' Keep of Celeste, became almost invisible in the grey weak light of the setting sun, mostly due to the half-magical construction of the Fortress. It was said to have been built together by the free Genies and Nagas in ancient times, so long ago that none could remember the exact names of the builders or the date of the construction - the Loremaster chronicles ranged three millennia, far back in time but not far enough.
"Yes. The Hawk with the message arrived seven hours ago."
"But will they survive till dawnlight?"

Heilasi crawled closer, and hugged her daughter. Then she whispered, - "Of course. I haven't seen their Citykeeper lose a single fight, be it small or great."
"But the odds against Nagabaz are so great And that second message"
"What second message?" - Heilasi asked, surprised.

"Three hours ago a second Hawk flew in, and told of the attack from the East in the Pass of Blood. They say that the army came from the land of the undead, the Barrow Downs. I'm surprised that they haven't actually told you." - Sollivell shrugged.

"Who - 'they'? - Heilasi's look became more and more fierce.
"The Wizard who read me the letter, and his gremlin-assistant, of course. Whom else could I mean?"
"To whom was the letter to?"
"To you, mother. But the guards didn't allow anyone to see you. Actually, I thought that was quite weird since you said to admit anyone to your quarters, and I asked Bluebeard to read it to me. It says Nagitari is now the defender of the Aquamarine Valley."
"Where is he now?" - Heilasi questioned, and seeing the confused expression on the other one's face, rephrased her words, - "Bluebeard?"
"Oh he left into the Dungeon. The Deadgates  he said he needed to feed her."

Heilasi frowned, but Sollivell continued. - "By the way, when will he come? For the transplant, I mean?"
The Loremaster placed her hand on her daughter's, and said with the tone she hoped would sound soothing, - "Soon, dear, soon." - Sighing, she added, - "I need to go."
"To send the Wizard back to you. You can't do on your own, and you know it, Sollivell."

The Naga nodded absently, and bowed before turning back to the window.
Heilasi quietly left the room and softly closed the door behind her. She needed to see the damned Wizard.
Heilasi patiently waited for her to become accustomed to it, and then descended into the pit herself, carefully slipping to the level-ground.

"So, the Loremaster came here to torment others? What a surprise. From till now, I actually believed I was hallucinating." - Mierdred's sarcastical whisper was hoarse and nearly under breath, but nonetheless, Heilasi heard it. She ignored the remark and said in dry hissing voice.

"I'm here to talk, not to exchange dirty languages with a lower class. I can get you out of here."
"Oh, I'm sure. But it would definitely be in a sack for burning, or with a sword between my ribs?" - The heiress of the Deur'Mar clan laughed bitterly. - "Who said I wanted out, anyway? You?"
"Yes, me!" - the Loremaster snapped. The smile slid off Mierdred's face, replaced by a cool mask of indifference.

"I don't need your help. I'm fine where I am."
"Ah, I see Bluebeard fed you with his notorious specialty, did he? The famous water pea soup mixed with some delicious floor diet. I'm sure that your conditions are fine." - Heilasi's gaze hardened. - "You will get out of here, and you will help me. The Deadgates are but a small sample of what I can do to you." - the name slipped, but Heilasi didn't really care.

"Oh? And what makes you think that?"

The Loremaster looked at Mierdred, and then said quietly, notes of danger coming too close to the surface in the words. - "How about your mother? Does she live fine? Perhaps a cool knife would freshen her life up?"
Mierdred's eyes flashed up, and she advanced on the other Naga.

"You wouldn't dare!"
"You really think so? What is there to stop me? She is old, and I am confident that some excuse can be found for this most unfortunate accident."

A moment they stood, the hatred burning so tense between them that it could be physically felt in the cell. As the saying went, Nagas eyes could indeed kill.

Slowly Heilasi murmured:
"Only one thing is required of you. Your body." - she paused, and then continued meaningfully. - "Comply. Otherwise Isinar dies, and you will probably accompany her not much later."

"You do not tell me all!" - Mierdred protested, but Heilasi answered icily:
"That is all you shall ever need to tell me your answer."

Mierdred panicked, never being in this state before, her heart racing as a wild snow hare, and the blood pulsing violently inside the head. She found it hard to breathe and think, as if after a drug
'Yes, a drug... they poisoned me!' Those words were the last in her mind and then she fell down, her senses clouded and the vision of the world around was as if through a fog.

"Do you agree?" - Heilasi's voice came out from somewhere above her, seemingly the same, but like more male, sort of.
"Fine... have it your way, you witch. I agree." - Mierdred blurted out before passing into a half-comatose state.

The Loremaster grabbed her, as the Naga's body fell down finally submitted to the effect of the drug, and almost gently held her in the arms.

Then she called for the Wizard loudly, forgetting her order of his execution. When no answer came, Heilasi sighed and whispered something on an alien tongue.

After a second, the Nagas disappeared. Only the empty grim cell of the cold dungeon was a witness of the things that happened there a moment ago.
The Castle became most beautiful at the early hour of night, when the stars are just beginning to show in the dark sky and the moon twinkles treacherously high above you.

Then an entire night spectacle starts and goes on continuously until the very first sunrays appear from the Tail Ridge Mountains, and then the lights of the moon are exchanged for the shining bright beams of the sun. The day sight actually isn't much less beautiful than the night one, but  few outside spectators who have seen with their eyes the fortress of the Naga military operations, all speak
of the marvelous, practically enchanting beauty of the stronghold at the time of night. The impression made on the viewer by the construction is startling, to say the least, and the optical illusion is such that the Castle is alive, a sort of a mirror for the black sky...

The high towers of the magnificent structure reached high up into the darkness, the teal banner of the Empire flying on each one of the twenty peaks.

As usual, there were only four gates leading in and out of the Castle  being fortress and city at the same time, the general construction principles were the same as in any other town of the empire, except for maybe Neregiya.
In this time, only the guards and a few others in Ge'Manh were awake, the guards because of their nightshift duty, and the others by their own reasons known only to them.

One of those 'others' was the Loremaster, Heilasi Mech'Kipr, who was up in her daughter's rooms, talking with her almost blind child.
Sollivell Mech'Tor
Sollivell Mech'Tor, the young Naga Queen of the great house Mech'Lauren, the one that seemed to exist from the beginning of time itself, stood by the balcony and looked at the Golden Mountains, behind which was the city of Nagabaz.

At the window she smelled the fresh air at least. But she couldn't see anything with the Sofien Fever.

"They are probably fighting right now, mother." - she spoke, turning to face the Loremaster.
It was horrible to see her eyes.
An inescapable effect from the Sofien Fever is that the eyes of the victim turned rose, with the illness progressing they are covering with a thick level of slime which doesn't allow a person to see anything beyond it.

Sollivell was in the final stage, and though Heilasi loved her dearly, she just couldn't possibly help but sigh when she looked at her daughter, who didn't notice it deep in her thoughts, though the Loremaster was just a few steps away.
Wizard Bluebeard
"What do you think you have done?" - Heilasi snapped at the Wizard with fury. - "Letters addressed to me in person are given to me. Learn that." - Her grip tightened on his skinny throat even more before he had a chance to answer. - "And now, leave. Your payment is waiting outside. I expect you gone from Ge'Manh in five minutes. If not..." - the meaningful grimace of the Naga Queen showed exactly what would happen.
The Wizard's expression seemed obedient enough for the Loremaster, and she let him go, his body sliding limply down the wall. After a few seconds, the Wizard scrambled up and sped away before the Naga could stop him.

'Well, it doesn't really matter anyhow.' - she thought. - 'In four minutes he'll be thrown as the dinner-meat to the Restless. They'll need to be fed.'

Softly chuckling to herself after the encounter with the Wizard, Heilasi entered the pit room, and pressed an out-standing slab of stone on the wall. Half of the
floor immediately moved away in total silence, revealing the shape of Mierdred the Naga Queen, huddled in a corner and hissing upwards at the light, no doubt blinded by its sharpness.