The Chosen:
By: Stephanie J. Bardy

Ren stood in his bed chamber window and watched the scene below in the courtyard. Peasants came and went, doing their chores, Hunters passed, children ran by chasing a dog. None of this held his attention like the woman at the well did. She was bent over a small child, a smile curving her lips. For all he had done to her over the last 4 months, she still smiled. Anger blazed in him like fire. He had not yet found the way to break her.

He turned from the window and sat down in the chair by the fire. He had to formulate a new plan. At first he had tried to woo her. Win her over with lavishness. He gave her a wing in his castle, servants, beautiful clothes, and still she refused him. She would sit, sullen and silent at each evening meal. She would go stiff at his touch. He quickly grew frustrated with her and turned to violence, thinking if he broke her body he could break her spirit. The smile he just saw on her face confirmed that he had not even come close.

Ren called for the Head of the Guard. He was his most trusted advisor, as much as he could trust anyone, and carried a heart almost as dark as his own. The man entered Ren's chambers bowing low, his dark purple cloak billowing around him.

"You called your Highness?" he said, daring not move until told. He had learned early on that Ren Daul was a harsh master.

"Look out my window and tell me what you see." Ren instructed. The man walked to the window and looked out.

"Peasants, servants, brats running loose." he said.

"What else?" Ren said quietly.

The man spied Celly at the well. "A servant girl, kitchen help at that, dressed up like a fine Holiday turkey. Well beyond her station of course. Playing with a small child, acting like she has some status here, when she should be on her knee's." he gave Ren a look that said much more than his words.

Ren rose from his chair and joined the Guard at the window. He stood watching Celly for a moment.

"She does seem to have forgotten her place hasn't she? My fault I suppose. I should have just taken her, planted my seed in her and been done with it, but a bitter woman will not raise a child she does not want."

The Guard laughed, "There are many woman on this land who are raising children that I didn't want, nor them I would say, but they do it none the less. Why is she any different?"

Ren spun and struck the Guard across the face, and he immediately dropped to one knee, head bowed. "Because it will be my child!"

Ren began to pace the room. "Making her love me hasn't worked, breaking her spirit by beating her body hasn't worked. With her spirit intact she will poison the child against me. I break her spirit and I can have the child raised to my liking."

He slammed his fist down on the table, causing the still kneeling Guard to flinch just a bit. "How? How do I break her?" he ground out.

He looked over at the Guard. "Be gone." was all he said and the Guard was gone. Ren sat back down in front of the fire and gulped down his cup of wine. He gazed into the flames, thinking of new ways to torture Celly, when movement near the door caught his attention.

He turned his gaze toward it and a sneer spread across his lips.

"You have nerve coming to my private chambers. I believe I told you I would see you gone should I ever lay eyes on you again."

The Elder's stood. Silent. The only movement was the female's hands as she wrung them. After a moment, a voice Ren hadn't heard since childhood filled the room.

"We gave you power. Taught you our ways, the ways of The Chosen. You took it to a dark place. Now you want to destroy the one pure being left within your domain. All for the sake of an heir."

Ren went to speak but was silenced by what The Elder's said next.

"We can tell you how." They said

Ren stood and walked towards them. They had never offered to help before. They had only ever offered warnings, prophecies and disdain since he had perverted his power. Suspicion filled him as he circled the three, trying to see their faces. The woman still wrung her hands, and he could see a slight shake to them.

"Why help me now? You have done nothing but try and stop me since I "liberated" the throne from my father and brother. Why should I trust you now?"

"You shouldn't." They said. "We have our own agenda, as we always have but you have changed things by keeping the Soul Seeds. They make you immortal. If you have a child, we may have a second chance at righting a grievous wrong. We don't do this to help you, we do this to help ourselves."

Ren thought this over. He knew they always had some plot up their long black sleeves. The chance to change things with his child made sense as they could not change him.

"Tell me" he said.

"You must destroy that which she holds most dear, to destroy her spirit. Do what you will to her body, to her shell, you will never reach her heart. Find what she holds there, destroy that, and you will find what you deserve."

Ren grunted in frustration. "What is it that she holds so dear? Tell me that!"

The Elders stood silent.

"TELL ME!" he screamed. He was so close to getting what he wanted he could almost taste it. To have the final piece held from him, enraged him. Finally the woman spoke. Softly, and sadly. "Watch her. See with eye's beyond the living vision. Use the power you have been foolishly given to see what is hidden from you. See what you can never touch, never feel, never have." As she finished speaking, the three, as always, were gone.

Ren strode over to the window and looked down again. Celly was still with the small child, but now she was surrounded by several more. She laughed and played with them like nothing else mattered. She scooped the one small child into her arms, planting a kiss on the girls cheek and Ren realized it was the child from the hall. The one she saved, from him. He watched her with the child. He saw the tenderness in her face, the gentle way she stroked the child's dirt stained cheek.

A plan began to form in Ren's mind. He finally knew how he could break her.

* * *

Celly swung the little girl around, her heart swelling at the sound of her pure laughter. She set her down on her feet, and gave her a quick hug.

"Best get back to the kitchen before your Momma misses you little one." she said as she handed the small girl the bucket of water.

"Yes Celly, I mean Ma'am" she said as she tried to curtsy holding the heavy bucket. Celly put her hand on her small shoulder and stopped her.

"No matter how many pretty dresses Master Ren puts me in, I will always be Celly. Now off you go." she said. She hated that Ren had separated her from the others, hated that he made her dress as a Lady, made her friends treat her differently, even moved her out of her room and gave her a whole wing. She knew what he wanted. She heard the whispers among the staff and she also knew that she would never yield to him. As she turned to enter the main hall, she heard horses galloping up behind her.

The men whooped as they entered the courtyard. The castle Hunters were returning from their daily hunt and by the sounds of things, it was successful. Celly loved horses and stood admiring them as they went by.

"You ride M'Lady?" a voice asked her. Startled she looked up at the man atop the horse that had stopped in front of her.

She smiled at him. "No sir, I've never had the chance. I worked in the kitchen until a short while ago. We don't get much chance to ride the horses in there."

The man slid gracefully from the horse and walked towards her. He was tall, much taller than her, and his eyes seemed to look right into her. Her heart skipped.

"The kitchen?" he asked laughing. "How did you go from that to a finely dressed Lady?"

The smile quickly vanished from Celly's face. "Master Ren. He felt I served a better purpose elsewhere. I am his property." she spat the last few words out with a venom she tried to hide most of the time. Her hatred for the man held no bounds, but she also knew that to display it, risked his wrath.

The man watched Celly's face as it darkened. "I don't know Master Ren well, as I have just joined the hunting party. I am sorry if he has caused you pain."

Celly shook off her anger. The man in front of her didn't need to be part of her anguish. She smiled up at him, and as her eyes met his, it felt as if the world suddenly stopped, then took a deep breath.

"What is your name?" he asked softly

"Celly." she said, barely above a whisper. "Yours?"

The man took Celly's hand, gently pressed his lips to her knuckles, raised his eyes to hers, and said. "Merrik, M'Lady. I hope you think kindly of me when you hear my name, if you think if me at all." he bowed once more, and then turned and joined the others heading to the stables.

Celly stood holding the hand that he had kissed. The skin prickled like it did when lightening struck near. She could still feel his breath, warm on her skin. She turned and entered the main hall and made her way to her chambers, her thoughts lingering on the man named Merrik.

* * *

The Elders stood by the well, unseen, and watched Celly enter the castle. The woman was still distressed about their conversation with Ren Daul.

"Stop fretting. It must be this way." said the one.

"How can I not? We have sentenced her to a life of pain, of loneliness, loss. Several lifetimes. We have given Ren the means to destroy her, again and again. How can you be sure that this will work. This affects not just her, but him as well. Does he deserve the same fate as hers?" The woman, who said little, was furious at the lengths they must take to right what they had created. She had a soft spot for Celly, and although she had the power of sight, she could not see past the final incarnation. She, as well as the others, had no proof that this would work, as all their visions were clouded after The Divine Keeper and The Warrior take their final incarnations. Either they would defeat Ren Daul once and for all, or they would fail for the last time.

The Other, who usually never spoke, said quietly, "Once Ren twisted the use of the Soul Seeds, he went beyond our control. We can not destroy him, or we would have, as you know. This is the only way. It must be this way. Look to the final incarnation. That will bring you some comfort, as it does me."

The woman still fretted, but remained silent. Her heart breaking for what Celly was about to endure.

* * *

Celly spent a few hours in the kitchen with her aunt, helping where they would allow her too, feeling useless and out of place. She returned to her rooms, feeling even more out of place, as the only family she had ever known returned to the place she knew as home. This was not her place, not her station, and she resented Ren for putting her here. She would never yield to him. No matter what riches he lavished on her, no matter how many beatings he gave her. Her body was her own, her spirit unbreakable. He would remain childless as long as she drew breath.

As she entered her bed chamber she spied a bundle of rags at the foot of the grand bed. It was so out of place among the finery that it caused her to pause. She approached with caution, knowing it had to be another gift from Ren. As she knelt to examine the rags further, she heard a soft whimper. Quickly she pulled back the cloth and almost screamed in dismay. There lay the child from the courtyard. Her face almost unrecognizable. Cuts and bruises discolored the child's pale skin. Her eyes, almost swollen shut, seemed hollow, lifeless. Celly knew she had to get the girl to the castle physician and she scooped the child up into her arms. The girl screamed at the movement. Celly rushed as fast as she could to the physicians cottage behind the barn. As she entered she was met by the man she had encountered earlier.

Merrik rose from the table as Celly burst through the door carrying what appeared to be a bundle of rags.

"M'Lady!" he exclaimed "What brings you here at this hour?"

"I am in need of aid for this child. She needs the physician. She was left in my chambers. I am unsure of all of her injuries, but if her face is any indication, she was savagely beaten."

The Physician rose from the table clearing it quickly. "Lay her here. Merrik, fetch me some water from the well and some bandages from my cupboard."

Merrik left quickly to get the needed supplies and Celly laid the child on the table. The Physician gently peeled back the rags covering the child to reveal a little body, broken, bruised, and abused in the worst possible way. Celly covered her mouth to prevent the enraged scream that was building in her chest from escaping.

"Who would do such a thing!?" she asked

The Physician, disgusted at what he saw answered. "Someone very very dark. A twisted man."

Celly knew Ren was behind this. He had to be. He was the darkest man she knew. She turned away from the child as tears flowed down her cheeks. This was not over. She took the rage building in her and wrapped it firmly around her heart. At that moment, the child reached out, touching Celly's hand, and every despicable thing, every twisted disgusting action inflicted on this child, raced through Celly's mind, like she was experiencing them. She felt the pain, the agony, the moment that the child's mind escaped to a safe place deep inside. She saw every blow, every movement of the man. She saw his face.

"Celly!!" Merrik screamed, shaking her.

Celly opened her eyes to find herself kneeling on the floor, her arms wrapped around herself. Her face wet with tears. She looked up at Merrik and the Physician who stood just behind him. Both looked as if they had seen the devil himself.

"What happened?" she asked her throat raw.

"You held the child's hand, then suddenly dropped to the floor screaming." The Physician said.

"I've been shaking you for ten minutes. I was afraid you would never wake up!" Merrik said, his voice shaking. Gently he brushed the hair that had fallen across her brow. Celly slowly stood, her body shaking. Merrik held her close to steady her.

"I saw it. I saw it all. What he did to her. Over and over, until there was nothing left of her. Of her spirit. He broke her." she said softly

Merrik looked confused. "How did you see it? Were you there?"

"I can't explain it." Celly said in frustration, "When she touched my hand, I saw what she saw. I saw his face."

Merrik's face darkened. "Who? Tell me!" he demanded.

Celly looked at Merrik and the Physician. Her eyes cold. "No. He is mine."

With that she left the two and headed to the Great Hall. She knew Ren Daul would be there with his Guard.

She entered the Great Hall, and as she suspected, Ren was on his throne, the Head of Guard at his side. The two seemed lost in a conversation, both laughing.

"REN DAUL!" Celly bellowed. A silence fell over the room. No one had ever dared to speak to his Highness in that tone before. Ren Daul exchanged some words with his Guard and sat back on this throne, observing the woman storming towards him. Celly could see a smirk on the Guards face. She desperately wanted to strike him now, but she had to know for sure.

"Celly wait!" Merrik ran up behind her. He had seen the look in her eye when she had left the small cottage. She was no match for Master Ren, or any of his Guard, but he knew that look. That wouldn't stop her. He couldn't see her hurt.

"Merrik." she ground out. "Stay out of this. This is not your concern."

"Yes, it is. It concerns you, so it concerns me. I won't see you hurt." He said softly.

She spun to face him. "Did you not see that poor child? Did you not see her broken body? You did not see what I saw. This can not go unpunished. It just can not!"

"Celly, dear, what has you so out of sorts?" Ren asked mildly. She turned back to face him, taking the last few feet to the edge of the platform his throne sat on.

"I found a child in my chambers. Left there like kitchen scraps. What say you?" she asked, desperately trying to reign in her anger. A clear head will get her through this, but a rash attack would see her dead.

"You didn't like my gift?" he asked, amused.

Celly faltered for a moment. His gift? It was not his face that she had seen. "How is this your gift? You did this to that child?" she asked confused.

Ren laughed, which caused most of the staff to flee the room. Nothing good ever happened when he laughed like that.

"Oh no my dear. Children are not my taste. I merely had her left in your chambers. That beautiful piece of handiwork was the Head of Guard. His taste runs more that way, and while I don't quite understand why, I do admire his workmanship. He is nothing, if not thorough. Was the package badly damaged? Broken? Spiritless even?" he sneered at her. His Guard out right laughed at the disgust and rage that raced like water over Celly's face.

"You…You knew? You knew what he did?" she whispered

"Of course!" Ren replied. "Nothing happens in this realm that I do not know. I have always kept his proclivity reigned in. He has not been allowed to damage my property. Today, he earned a boon, so I let him have his way. All the way. Be lucky it still breaths."

With a wave of his hand he dismissed Celly, but she would not go easily. Not this time. He had pushed her too far for her to let this go.

"IT was a small child! A living breathing human being! How dare you treat her like a toy for your Guard to play with!" She lunged at the Guard and with a flick of his hand, she was thrown back, landing with a hard thump at Merrik's feet.

Merrik helped her to stand, while she regained her breath. "Celly, please, leave it alone. I will see the Guard get what he deserves, but please, walk away." he whispered.

Celly looked up at Merrik, saw the pain and fear in his eyes, the anguish at the thought of losing her. Her eyes softened. She knew he would do as he had promised, or die trying, but she also knew that she would never be able to shake what she had witnessed through the child's touch. She pushed away from Merrik, giving his hand a gentle kiss. "Know this, whatever happens from this moment on, my heart will always be yours."

She turned back to Ren. "Your Guard will not touch the children of the court again." She said, walking back towards him.

"They will fall, one by one, if even a hair on any child's head is slightly out of place." she spoke with confidence, and it intrigued Ren.

"You make demands, and yet, offer nothing in return." He said softly, like the hiss of a snake about to strike. He leaned forward slightly on his throne. He knew he had her now. "What will you give to me, to ensure this bargain?"

She stopped at the bottom step of the platform. "Me."

"NO!!!" Merrik screamed from behind her. Three of the Guards raced to hold him back.

Ren clasped his hands together gleefully. "Finally! I have broken that insufferable spirit in you!"

Celly looked at Ren, her face blank. The Head of the Guard had a niggling feeling in the pit of his stomach that something wasn't right.

"Do I have your word." She asked. "The Head of Guard will never touch another child in this court." she asked calmly

Ren was so wrapped up in his triumph, he didn't notice the slight movement of Celly's hand. "Yes, yes fine. He will behave."

"There is only one way to ensure such a promise. Men like him are driven by need. His is an abomination, words alone will not stop him, but I now have your word. I will take my assurance as an example to the others." she raised her hand and before the Guard could react, the blade she had concealed in her skirts, appeared in his chest. He fell before Ren realized what had happened.

Rage exploded from Ren Daul. Windows shattered, tables flew, the great pillars cracked. Celly stood amidst it all, unmoving, staring at Ren with the full measure of her hate, in her eyes.

"You will have my body, but you will never have my heart, nor my spirit, as it no longer belongs to me." she sneered at him.

Ren grabbed the first Guard he could. "Bring me that child!" he screamed. He pointed at Celly. "You will pay for this!"

A wave of panic ripped through Celly. This should have been over. He had won. He had her body, which is what he wanted. She would bear his child. She had underestimated his anger. She tried to reason with Ren, begged him to leave the child alone. Promising anything she could. The Guard brought the child in, the Physician raced right behind him. He laid the child on the stone floor in front of Celly.

"You brought this on yourself. You do NOT test my word. You do NOT demand or question me. I reign supreme. You are merely a vessel for me to use as I wish. What you don't realize is that by giving your heart away, your spirit away, I no longer have use of you."

He raised his hand, slowly drawing the soul from the child. Celly screamed, held the child, rocked her, tried to shield her but she was no match for Ren's power. Again, at contact, Celly saw what the child had seen. Behind the Guard, Ren had stood. Laughing at the destruction of the small body. At that vision, Celly finally gave over to her anguish, as the last of the child's soul was pulled from the small body, and as the last breath left the girls lips, Celly gave over to the tears.

Ren watched with interest as he tucked the Soul Seed into the pouch on his belt. Had he finally broken her? Was this who she had given her heart too? He watched Celly collapse over the small body in her arms. As she wept, a man approached her. He knelt down and wrapped his arms around Celly and held her, stroking her hair and whispering to her. She seemed to calm in the curve of this man's arms. She seemed to lean into him. Her body language spoke volumes. She trusted this man, cared for him. Ren knew he had been fooled. It was not the child, but this man who held her heart, this man she lived for, would die for, would protect, this man who her spirit shone for.

He watched them as Merrik helped Celly stand. Watched as he gathered the small body into his arms, Celly's hand never breaking contact with him. The two began to leave the Great Hall. A woman and man ran forward towards them. The woman was inconsolable, the man, resolute. They took the child. Celly turned in Merrik's arms and laid her head on his chest.


The word rang through the Hall. It seemed to bounce off the cracked walls, weave in and out of the shattered tables and broken glass. It almost seemed as if it physically reached out and grabbed both Celly and Merrik, holding them in place.

An unseen force turned the two and pulled them back towards Ren Daul. An ugly, eerie smile was splashed across his face. As he had watched the two, he had seen more than anyone else in the room. A light had appeared around the two, white, pure, surrounding them both. As they were pulled towards him, he used his magic to move them away from each other. Always that light remained between them, no matter how thin it got, they remained connected. Within that light, he saw flashes of a future. His future. They were the key to his destruction. The flashes weren't clear or long enough, but that he knew for sure. He also knew, he wasn't about to let that happen.

"You think you have won Celly?" Ren asked, "You think by giving away the one thing I need to create my legacy, that you have outwitted me? ME?" he laughed harshly. "All you have done is sealed your fate, and the fate of your lover."

Celly understood immediately what Ren planned to do. He would Reap Merrik, then herself. He would finally succeed in breaking her, then use her to fuel his power in another form. She swallowed all the pride she had left.

"Please. I beg you. I can give you back your Guard. He isn't dead, not yet, merely wounded, but please, let Merrik go. I will stay, do what you want, be what you want. Anything." she pleaded, as she watched the labored breathing of the Guard become more and more shallow. She knew somehow she could save him, if that meant saving the life of Merrik, but she had ensure that Merrik was safely away before she did.

Ren again laughed harshly. ‘You think I want you now? Any part of you? You are sadly mistaken. All I want from you now is to see you suffer, see you break, then see you die."

He raised his hand, pulling Merrik's soul from his body. Merrik fell where he had stood, much like a puppet who's strings had been cut. Celly tried to run to his side, screams tearing from her lips, but she could not move. Cold hatred spread through her, the pain in her heart stopped, her tears dried up, and she became calm and quiet. Something that amused Ren Daul. He had seen many foe take this emotional stance, or emotionless stance. It was the last rallying cry of the dying. Ren looked down at the Soul Seed in his hand but before he could put it in his ever present pouch it vanished. His eyes flew to Celly.

The Elder's stood behind her. Their hands raised towards Ren. As one, they spoke, as they Reaped the Soul from the dying Guard.

"This is only the first battle Ren Daul. Know that. Remember these faces. Merrik, Celeste. For you will spend lifetimes seeing them. Each time they will not know you, only your evil. Each time they will come for you. You will never be free of them." They turned their hands towards Celly. Her eyes closed and her face became slack. "She will follow you always. Pursue you. Find you, no matter where you hide, her heart, will always be his. Her spirit connected to his. Each Soul you corrupt she will Reap. Each man you darken, she will destroy. She will destroy you."

Celly, The Elder's, along with Merrik, his Soul Seed, and the Soul Seed of the Guard, disappeared as their last words faded.

Ren Daul's enraged scream could be heard throughout the realm.

* * *

The Elder's taught Celly the ways of The Chosen. She became The Huntress, always seeking the evil within men, destroying it, planting it in her garden, started by that first Soul Seed. She retained none of her memories of her previous lives. Each new incarnation seemed to erase the previous one.

* * *

Celeste woke, screaming. Her head pounded like a violent thunderstorm. Merrik, on his cot by the hearth raced to her side.

"What is it?" he asked

She looked up at him, seeing him again, like the first time, so many lifetimes ago, in the courtyard. As she reached out to touch his face, a light jumped between them. Merrik gasped, and screamed. Memories of lifetimes crashed into him like waves on rocks.

When it was over, he opened his eyes and looked at Celeste.

They remembered. For the first time ever, in any lifetime, they remembered.


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