I am not sure if it would work, but if Kendal can commune with God's maybe it would be easier if he just heard voices in his sleep rather than being transported to some hard to describe special place.
Yeah I've thought about it some more too and realized that this particular thread in Kendal's narrative may not truly be that necessary - or can be altered into something more interesting, as you mentioned.
I am removing that scene from this chapter and not re-writing it. Right now the entire chapter is about at 75% completion.
Qenroth galloped out of the Deep Wood into the outskirts of the Qallin manor grounds. A miasma of snow kicked up from the stallion's hooves obscured Kendal's coming through the white veil. As mount and rider darted across the snow buried field, urgent shouts in an unfamiliar tongue pursued him out of the thinning woods.
He spurred Qenroth onward, reaching full tilt.
Kendal kept his eyes peeled for shadows in the forest, but he could find nothing visible in plain sight. An arrow whistled overhead before he realized the peril he had flown into. Another arrow flew by him, mere inches shy of finding his flank. Several more flew from separate directions along his flanks, but the miasma of grounded snow kicked up from Qenroth's hooves distracted their aim.
Kendal and his mount cleared the low wall built on the perimeter of the outlying farmlands. Realization came swiftly as slender grey figures laid waste to the armed guards and farmhands standing their ground on barren tilled soil. Raging fires fanned amid isolated sheds and animal barns scattered over the manor grounds. Herds of frightened horses scattered from the infernos into the thick of the Deep Woods.
Kendal sheared the hands from one of the Lani guerilla fighters as the Raven Knight passed him by. The manor guard rescued was left to his fate as he pressed into the heart of the manor. Through the endless veil of snow, his home finally began to manifest into his peripheral vision. His heart skipped a beat, watching on as half of the manor blazed against the dreary midday light. A thick smog of smoke billowed through every crevice and crumbling hole where the fire grew hungrier, rampaging through what little remained of the structure's left wing.
Qenroth galloped through the manor's toppled inner gate and up the narrow cobblestone path leading up to the veranda. Six lithe figures of grey skin and leather armor bedecked in the pelts of beasts both docile and ferocious gathered on the veranda. Kendal willed Qenroth to rapidly slow his pace and slipped off his mount before he could come to a natural stop. He landed amidst the blood-streaked snow, the cobblestone path showing through where too many footsteps had turned the white earth into slush covered grey stone.
The Lani gathered in opposition did not blockade the patio as he anticipated, but instead withdrew through the manor doors into the burning building. Sword in hand, Kendal cautiously approached them even as they disappeared into the smoke and smog, one after the other. By the time he climbed the several stairs and came onto the veranda proper, the Lani had vanished from sight.
Kendal approached the smoke belching entrance of the manor and shirked from the touch of an intense heat. He lifted the sleeve of his quilted armor to shield himself from the acrid smoke warding him away.
He stopped himself from plunging headlong into the ruins, taking a moment to compose himself and regain some semblance of concentration. He readied his sword out in front of him, inhaled deeply, and quietly entered the burning manor. What little sunlight that graced the world outside dwindled in the dim and smoke shrouded corridors of the Qallin estate.
Kendal found himself in the main hall that he had always known - a lengthy stretch of cedar floor that passed room after room. Silently, he pressed through the scattered debris of ruined decorations, shattered chandeliers, and busted frames. Any memory of his childhood, he intentionally blocked out of his mind. He kept his sword poised to strike, his eyes peeled, and his ears listening for even the slightest disturbance.
Kendal approached the entrance of one of the farmhand quarters. He slid his back against the wall and slunk forward until he had about rounded the corner. His onyx gaze studied the shut door of the adjacent room across the hall. A sudden crackle of splintering wood followed by the collapse of a single piece of timber behind him seized his attention for briefest instance.
The Lani elf hidden on the other side of the wall burst through the open room, spear angled perfectly to stab Kendal through the throat. Kendal parried the strike swiftly even as another grey elf kicked through the adjacent door. He reacted swiftly, pulling himself away from his nearest assailant and deflecting a quick slash for his eyes from his other opponent. He lashed out with the end of his pommel into the chest of the elf in the farmhand room, pushing him back. A silver sword cut him across the forearm but could not bit through the quilted material there.
Kendal leveled his blade with the chest of the Lani he struck with the pommel, then thrust into the foe that had cut him. Already overextended, the Lani he had cornered found no room to flee, the room from whence he had come too awkward an angle to slip away into.
The long sword parted leather and the flesh beneath, slammed through the Lani's chest with enough force to pin the elf against the wall. Too shocked to cry out from the pain, Kendal did not wait to watch the blood erupt from out of the elf's mouth. He ripped the blade free and swung as if he had fought the lioness he had encountered earlier. The haste and force of his blow effortlessly parted through the neck of his other foe.
Surprised by his own strength, Kendal shirked from the sight of the Lani's head rolling cleanly off the shoulders of his body. The corpse staggered at first, then slumped against the wall till it smacked the floor with a loud thud.
A shriek of agony cut through the sound of burning wood and rampaging destruction toward the corridor's end. He had no time to digest the grizzly scene he had created. Kendal hurried through the corridor, his pace quickening with the hammering in his chest. As he began to sprint through the narrow stretch of hall, he heard the graceful clashing of swords echo amidst the burning fires.
An unfamiliar language suddenly called as another Lani woman ducked back into the hall. From her unprepared stance and utter look of horror as Kendal came bearing down on her, she had expected her two brethren instead of him.
An inkling in his mind warned him of striking her down without warning. It would have been just. It would have been retribution. Yet Kendal decided on a whim that the blow was too dishonorable and would break his knightly vows. He slammed an armored fist against her temple with enough force to lay her out on the floor, removing her as an immediate threat, but withheld the brunt of his strength so that she would have strength enough to escape.
He rushed past her sprawled out form before she could even think to lift a sword in her defense.
The sounds of combat rang out ever clearer as Kendal came into the grand foyer before the main stairwell.
Rynath Qallin stood with the proud bearing of a centuries old Ishalnan elf. Even amidst the cloying smoke, his pallid skin shimmered with sweat and reflected the dancing light of fanning flames. He was garbed in nothing more than a fine satin black robe pulled over his silken clothes. He wielded a slender sword in one hand and nothing in his off hand. Despite their superior numbers, four Lani elves lay dead at his feet.
The four remaining survivors had managed to surround him, one of them having slipped behind Rynath to hold Akine, his wife and Kendal's mother, by spear point. The opposing forces appeared to have come to a stalemate.
Akine kept an air of poise and grace that outmatched even that of the desperate Lani warriors that had cornered her. In her amber eyes, Kendal could find no fear. Her caramel skin was unblemished from burns or weapon cuts - the Lani had not dared to lay a finger on her. A cloak of the winter shades was layered over a dress comprised of several thin robes of pallid silk.
His mother's composure seemed at odds with the brutal reality besetting the Qallin family - until she noticed Kendal out of the corner of her eye. She reached out with one hand toward him and made to shout a warning at him. It was an unreasonable action for the Lani holding her hostage. He retracted his spear arm for a thrust through Akine's torso in the moment that Rynath gracefully turned on a heel to strike the offender dead in one blow.
Both struck at once - their weapons a blur of steel that had no chance of countering the other. Akine staggered onto her knees, a spear head rammed through her gut. Her offender had perished from a cleaved skull before she could hit the base of the stairwell.
The remaining elves swept toward Rynath the moment he turned his back on them. Kendal mobilized, sword thrown overhead and straight through the throat of a foe who had finally noticed his silent entry. His two comrades hesitated in their charge briefly, taken unawares.
Rynath weaved between them with a grace and speed that even they lacked. His sword left its mark on their flesh in the form of fatal wounds as he passed them by. Before he had even come to a stop, his foes slumped onto the Grand Foyer's marble floor, dying rapidly.
The Ishalnan did not even pause to take a breath or process what had happened. He followed into the exit of his combat stance with a sharp turn, rushing to Akine's side. Kendal searched the foyer for anymore enemies and determined that no one else would be mad enough to enter this blazing house of ruin.
He reclaimed his sword and joined his father by the stairwell.
Rynath cradled Akine in his arms and propped her up even as she whispered her final words in his ears. Kendal knelt to better hear her, but all that he had gleamed from their brief conversation was the comforting look his mother gave him a final time. Kendal made to open his mouth in the same moment her strength fled, and her eyes lulled.
She had perished before he could say anything.
Rynath looked to Kendal with that stoic gaze he always had about him. He wondered if anything could ever break that stony visage of his.
His father spoke hurriedly. 'Come, Kendal. This manor will collapse over us at any given moment.'
Kendal attempted to process everything that had just happened on a whim and failed. 'Wait a moment...'
His father cut through the fog of uncertain grief plaguing his son's mind. 'Kendal, there's no time. We cannot avenge Akine if neither of us escape from this place. I've lost your mother, but our time is waning, and I refuse to let you perish due to your distracted thoughts. Ready your sword, there shall be a fight when we make our escape. Is Qenroth with you?'
Kendal blew out a heated breath but repressed his desire to protest Rynath's disconnected demeanor. He wanted to say so many things in that moment but knew that his father was ultimately right. There was no time for anything but escaping their farmstead and the Mist Hollow with their lives.'
Kendal shook his head, his mind clearing. 'When I arrived here, there were scores in the field. They were murdering everyone.'
Rynath sighed. 'I asked if Qenroth was with you, not about the odds.'
Kendal shot him an irritable look. 'Of course, no other steed could arrive here so fast.'
Rynath smirked, about as pleased an expression as anyone was likely to get out of him. 'A faithful steed unto the end. Good, we should find our friend before these barbarians put him in the frozen earth.' He searched Kendal's eyes for weakness and grunted in surprise. 'You've changed. Never have I noticed such steel in your eyes... or so much darkness. Perhaps your mentor has taught you something about life after all.'
Kendal frowned, his impatience growing. 'Are we going or not?'
Rynath's gaze did not waver. 'That depends... are you ready? Blood shall be spilled, and I am determined it will not be any more of ours.'
Kendal returned his father's expectant gaze and nodded. 'I know some years have passed... I'll show you that Hanneth carries some steel of her own and that her faithful can put it to good use.'
Rynath's smirk became a neutral mask, but he nodded. 'We shall see. I am expecting to be impressed. The killing does not cease until we've left this place behind us.'
Kendal inclined his head in agreement.
Neither waited for the count of three. Kendal bolted after his father, who bounded forth with an effortless speed. They rushed through the entrance of the Grand Foyer and out into the burning winter landscape of a battlefield where only one army had fought. The Lani slaughtering in the outlying fields were not where Kendal had left them upon his arrival. Scattered still, the grey elves were naturally congregating toward the main attraction - Kendal's half-collapsed homestead.
Nearly anyone who had survived the carnage thus far were being trapped and killed off, one after the other. Those of the raiders who had nothing left to kill for sport, had gathered outside the Grand Foyer, some feet away from the base of the entrance stairs. Kendal counted about a dozen warriors dressed in battered leathers and sporting vicious scars across their bodies. By the way they readied their weapons in a collective manner, they had been expecting someone to come fleeing into them.
Kendal cursed, shaking his head. 'This is suicide.'
Rynath nodded in agreement, he cast a knowing look at his son. 'Should we have no choice, then we'll die with dignity.'
Kendal swept his gaze across the fields as the last remaining innocents who protected the Qallin manor were put to the sword. As more bands of Lani began to congregate to their location, only then did their numbers become apparent. He took in the sight of a few hundred of the druidic elves amassing before him and his father.
Kendal glanced toward his father. 'Why are there so many gathered here? This farmstead is no different than anywhere else. It's almost as if they made coming here a priority.'
Rynath made to answer his question but was interrupted by a face familiar to Kendal.
The Lioness he had encountered at the ambushed caravan pushed her way to the fore of the crowd. She spoke in the fluent tongue of the Halish folk.
She looked to Rynath. 'Go ahead. Lay your weapons down. It should be an obvious sight that you stand no chance of beating our numbers.'
Rynath shook his head. 'You've spared no one else. You do not even know me. Why ask us to lay down our arms after butchering this manor here so treacherously?'
The Lioness smiled in that sly, playful way that she had. 'I know your son well enough by now. The dance of our blades is a memory made to last into the years. He is a handsome man. He would do well as my slave. To warm my bed while I'm away and warm it hotter still when I return.'
Grim laughter rippled through the warband's dense formation.
Rynath sighed. 'Over my corpse, would you take him. Let us not mince words. Your head or mine - claimed in personal combat.'
The Lioness' smile withered. 'I've no need to prove myself to a dead father. I've killed enough of those already.' She announced. 'But I am being remiss. You should at least know my name. I am Ishali Winterwood of the Black Wolves. Remember that and speak it to the gods your soul is promised to.’
Ishali considered them both and waved in dismissal. 'Lay down your arms and you both survive. Or fight and you'll die - at least one of you.' She smiled at Kendal with lustful eyes. 'Either way makes no difference, but it's my last generous offer. The next one shall be far more taxing on your bodily health, old elf.'
Kendal interrupted Rynath with a quick rebuke. 'Do your worst but know that you'll be broken on the rack in time. The Kingdom of Hallorn will seek retribution and far sooner than you realize.'
Ishali shrugged. 'They are welcome to come into these woods and find nothing to mark our passing. By the time we've departed, nothing of our presence shall remain here. There is little point in playing hard to get. You'll regret your defiance momentarily when I have your father hacked apart before your eyes.'
Ishali sighed, then gestured with a cock of her head. 'Kill him. Leave his son alive.'
A horn sounded out of the dreary mist and snow in the moment that Kendal and his father readied their swords together. A sonorous blast that struck surprise and fear in the hearts of the Black Wolves. Urgent shouts rippled through the ranks and Ishali's orders were lost as the Lani reorganized into some semblance of formation.
A deafening barrage of war cries swept out of the Mist Hollow, betraying the ranks of the Raven Vale Knights before they charged out of the Deep Wood's gloom and into the white fields on the manor's outskirts. The thunder of one hundred barded horses bred for war quaked the earth beneath Kendal's feet even from this distance. To him, they seemed like a thick tide of the night sweeping through the veil of heavy snow. Only the gleam of their billowing banners and steel in the wane sunlight betrayed anything more of the mounts and their riders.
Rynath looked to Ishali, who continued to watch Kendal and him with the peeled eyes of a hawk even as her ranks scrambled to meet the charge. She shrugged once out of resignation, muttered a few words to her nearby retinue - then swiftly made for the nearest of the Lani's commandeered horses. She promptly fled from the ensuing battle before it had begun.
Rynath looked to Kendal and grinned even as Ishali's subordinates began to close in around them. 'Tell your mentor he has my praise. He is sharper than his brief years show.' He pointed toward the sight of Vindiaccos leading the fore of the Raven Vale's charge.
A flame of pride fanned in Kendal's chest as his brethren crashed into the Lani with crushing force. Scores of fragile Black Wolves simply vanished beneath the hooves of their fearless steeds, trampled into the crimson earth, and adding to its dark hue.
Lani spears flashed through the veil of snow as the cavalry came on. Several knights were unseated by well-timed thrust or their mounts forced to a screeching halt, their riders trapped beneath a flurry of spears and impaled onto death. Unerring arrow fire from the Black Wolf Sentinels brought low several more, but the Raven Knights had slain so many on the end of their lances that the Lani formation simply broke apart even as the cavalry began to scatter amidst the melee.
The Qallin farmstead echoed to the sounds of a collapsing manor and of open war, the struggle degenerating into a brutal battle for survival.
Rynath seized Kendal's attention with a flick of his wrist. A severed head toppled off the shoulders of a Lani who had closed in for the kill.
Gleaming sword in hand, Kendal joined the battle alongside his father. Afternoon began to fade into hues of the evening dusk by the time the skirmish waned, and peace began to descend on the ravaged lands of the Mist Hollow…