Tag Archive: chapter


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While the two walked through the tunnel, Llana had blindly ran to, Odella smiled softly thinking to herself that perhaps the girl truly might be ready for the first step.  As such Odella’s mood improved with each step.  So much so that softly under her breath she sang the anvil’s song.

Llana did not notice the changes in Odella as she was watching the walls with fascination.  No longer were the stony walls blank and dark now the glowed dotted with silvered light.  The further into the tunnel they walked the brighter the walls became and soon the dark was gone completely and a false twilight prevailed.  This was the only sight until they reached a bend in the tunnel where a tall man stood with a kind of stout strength exuding from him.  As the sounds of their approach reached the man’s ears he turned pickaxe in hand looking them up and down.  Without pretense he dropped the axe from his shoulder and walked up to Odella grinning ear to ear.  The closer he got the more of Llana’s field of vision he seemed to take up.  The large man stopped less than a foot in front of the two and said, “Be welcome ‘Dellia,” in a booming voice at odds with his wide smile.  However, as he took notice of Llana standing behind and to the side of Odella his smile dropped and out of the corner of his eye he took the girl’s measure, “Who’s this?”

Llana, however, did not have a chance to answer because Odella quickly wheeled the man away from her and held him in quiet conversation.  While Llana impatiently waited on the conversation’s end she warily eyed the walls wondering how it was that they seemed to create their own light.  To her they shone like beat tin except in one spot which sucked in any light that ventured in its direction.  She reached out for the dark spot wondering if it was empty; when she felt a liquid warmth rush up her arm.  Startled she stepped back and much to her amazement she held a stone that glowed blood-red at the center of what appeared to be a piece of amber.  She must have gasped in her surprise because the talk in the corner cut out abruptly as they both turned towards her.

“Bless the mist Beorn!  Why didn’t you tell me there was a blood stone in here, I would have come a different way,” Odella nearly shouted hurrying back to Llana.

“I didn’t know ‘Dellia honest.”

“How can you not know?”  She did not even look back over her shoulder as she responded.

“Haven’t been this way since last time you were here, we only took a yard all around.  No one mentioned anything.”  Beorn sounded hurt like a scolded child.

Suddenly the warmth in Llana’s hand started to prick red-hot burning her very soul it seemed.  Only Odella’s harsh words broke through the pain.  “Drop it Llana…now…let it go!”  With the last word Odella struck the girl’s wrist causing the stone to finally separate from young flesh.  When the girl looked up Odella’s top skirt was quickly being wrapped around the stone as the tunnel started to dim back to silver.  The last image girl understood before she sunk to the floor was the oddly shaped mark in her palm.

Beorn was quick enough to grab the child in her swoon and held her lightly as a rag doll turning this way and that.  “Dellia we must be going this is not a good way for you to be discovered, not with what you got under your cape.”  All she had time for was a nod of her head and they were off.

The dark tunnels flew by as they wound their way through scarcely used twists and turns that entered at last into a clearing in the middle of the forest.  “Wait,” Odella motioned to herself a twinkling spectacle with her uncovered chains, “it would be almost as bad to run into the village like this.”

Beorn’s laugh rumbled like summer thunder, “Good point ‘Dellia.  Not sure if you, the stone, or the stranger would cause the most stir, but it’s best not to test those waters.”

Odella agreed.  Setting her cloak on the ground and forcing herself not to let curiosity win out and look at the stone she took the leather jerkin out of Beorn’s hand.  It fit like a potato sack and smelled of wood smoke, but it would work, she wagered, if they kept to the treeline.  “So you think Jira will be happy to see me,” Odella asked with a cocked brow and a half smile.

His only response was more thunder.

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To Llana the endless dark seemed to have lasted for days though as they walked with little to no rest time had lost all meaning.  Llana had not been told but she was sure they walked the Crossroads themselves.  To her this place had been the stuff of legends, but some how with Odella as her guide it only made sense.  As her feet become accustom to walking on the path that Odella cut without the slightest thought Llana began to remember the stories her mother use to tell.  Though she had not heard them in years they came back to her and in the stony silence that surrounded her and kept her company.

“To all children, I believe, mist is a magical thing which can hold any number of surprises or adventures, but this quality of mist is often lost on adults who are too busy trying to look past the mist to look beneath it.  Because beneath the mist lies the tangled weavers web that is the Crossroads.  Whether or not we are honest with ourselves we are, each of us, upon those crooked roads making decisions which lead us ever closer to what comes next and forever closing the way to what might have been.  Yes Llana, even our smallest choices define us and determine who it is that we are to become.”

Her dream-like state wavered in and out as the surroundings changed in subtle shifts.  However, Llana refused to give up on the story rippling through her mind at the moment, as it seemed to be of particular importance, but the sharp clang of metal shattered her revere.  It was at this moment that the subtle changes fully hit her.  The ground was different, the dark was different, and even the air seemed altered.  “Where are we?”

“Right where we are supposed to be.”  Odella turned sharply to face Llana causing her to stumble at the abrupt stop.  She gestured grandly suggesting that Llana should fully take in her new environment which included a Y in the path they had been following through the dark.  The two arms of the path were  illuminated by nothing more than the few errant rays of light falling from the air shafts.  Neither bend in the path looked particularly menacing nor inviting if she was being perfectly honest.  “Which way would you go,” Odella asked a faint smile upon her lips.

Llana started to answer then bit her tongue trying to restrain the tartness she was sure Odella would hear in her response.  “What kind of trick it this?  You’re supposed to answer questions not ask them?”

“No, I tell truths, but if you insist.  You asked me about my chains what do you wish to know?”

“Why do you wear them?” Llana immediately locked her eyes on the ground mentally berating herself.

“Because they are mine,” Odella responded calmly, “but tell me, why do you wear yours?”

“I’ve told you I have none.  You are the only person I have ever seen wear chains.”  The disgust Llana felt at the idea of being chained leaked out into her words causing Odella to study the girl intently with anger in her eyes. 

“Truly?  What of Namari?  Does she no longer bear chains?”

“How absurd would that be?  My mother would never lower herself to wear chains like some…some…slave.  She has more grace and dignity in her titles alone than you could ever hope to have,” Llana practically spit at the other woman.

“Tell me what dignity was there in birthing you?”

Llana’s mouth fell open in a silent O of confusion, but Odella continued without taking notice.  “Yes, you are one of Namari’s chains, and the titles you spoke of does she not have to strap herself into those chains of gold and silk to prove her worthiness, and what of her man?  Does she still not suffer the ring he gave her?”  Here Odella paused holding Llana captive in her piercing gaze.  “Oh yes, Namari does have grace and dignity, but her chains are only hidden from the unobservant.  She is as much as slave as I.”

The questions whirled around in the girl’s head chasing each other to dead ends.  Yes her mother still wore her coronet and her father’s ring…”but she does not wear chains,” Llana whispered to herself.

“No.  Namari does not wear chains like mine, but never think she does not carry them.”

That statement echoed through Llana’s very core as she blindly started towards the path to the left needing nothing so much as to escape the place where such bloody truths had been spilled.

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“Goodness its dark in here.”

“Not to me, not anymore.”

She knew there was no point in explaining that her eyes were big enough, that they saw more, so she let the silence drag.  The walk was very short, but as her companion was far behind she went slowly.  She listened as the girl inhaled as if to begin quite the conservation only to stop as if she was no longer sure how to make the words come out right.  Finally, the girl found her voice.

“I did not mean to offend you,”  the girl began wondering what could seem human and still be able to see clearly down here no matter how long they had lived in this way, “it’s well I just…let’s start over?  I’m Llana of Tralia, and…”  When there was no immediate response Llana feared that she had lost the other girl who had been almost completely silent on their descent.

“Odella.”

It was then that the two reached their destination.  A hole through the high rock ceiling allowed an orange-red orb to shine through the hall.  Llana blinked fiercely in the sudden glow as the room started to appear out of the shadows.  It was comfortable without being overly lavish even with the many fine things the room held.  Perhaps the most outstanding piece was the mirror, which encompassed more than half of the stone wall that held it.  In the mirror Llana caught her reflection.  A girl of normal height and build with hair that fell to her shoulders in thick strands of sun gilded brown.  However it was not her mussed appearance or her wide amber eyes that caught her attention, it was the girl standing behind her.  The girl, if you could call her a girl, was not just named Odella. She was Odella.

Llana inhaled sharply and spun on her heel as if Odella might disappear.  “This is not where you are from.”  Llana hoped that she had not given too much away, but she had to know for sure.

“No, but sometimes I come here, and you ought to be glad I do or you would still be very lost.  Now enough.”  Odella smiled as the girl was caught confused and unsure, but she had seen the recognition in the girl’s eyes.  It had been a long while since anyone on this side had cared to notice, and Odella stood at the edge of truth.  “You must now continue on your way, and I mine,” the woman said tersely gesturing towards the dimly lit path to her her right, “you have my best wishes.”  And with those words Odella turned to leave.

Llana however stood rooted to the ground, she had never before received such a dismissal.  Had been so sure it was a sign.  Then without giving it the thought it deserved she replied, “ I am so sorry to impede you on your way, and thank you very much, but I am not leaving.  Not without answers.”  These last words dripped with a disdain that was not lost on Odella.

“I would get real comfortable then because answers don’t often make it this far,” Odella offered over her shoulder taking the downward slanting path to the left.

Out of the quite sounds came a small and rather uncertain voice from the top of the path, “Where are your chains?”

If Odella hadn’t been dragging her feet she would have been too far away to hear the girl, but as it was the words hit her square between her shoulders connecting her Llana.  It was too late to walk away now Odella finally admitted to herself as she walked back to the room with the mirror.  The girl stood facing the path to the right shoulders slumped.

“I am wearing them,” she held out her right arm in such away that the sleeve fell back exposing her wrist and a flash of pale metal in the light, “and where child are yours,” she answered.

“I am no child…and I have no chains,” Llana looked confused as she turned to once again face Odella and sounded offended as she barely suppressed a scoff.

“I thought you sought truth girl?” As her words hung in the space between the two Odella sat down. Llana, however, showed no interest in sitting calmly and discussing what she considered utter nonsense.  Though she stared unabashed at the wrist and neck bands that she could see spark in the low light.

“They make no noise…are they light then,” Llana asked hopefully suddenly meeting Odella’s piercing gaze.

While she knew that the girl could not help but be curious this was a conversation she wanted no part in, and as her anger got the better of Odella struck back with a question of her own. “Why would the chains have to be heavy to be heard or better yet light to go unnoticed?”

Llana sat suddenly open-mouthed so much sting had been in the words she felt as if she had been struck.  Dumbfounded she lowered her eyes to her lap. “I…”

Odella cut her off before she could even begin. “Rest. We start tonight and believe me you are not ready.”

I can hear my mother’s voice, in the quite moments if I listen hard enough, but the stories she used to tell me always ring in my ears.   The story which I never could shake was Her’s…Odella’s. 

“There are no small stories about her as a fussy baby or an argumentative child,” my mother explained, “she just is.  Her story is one that starts in the middle nearly fully formed.  Odella, the hauntingly striking young woman with black eyes and chains upon her brow, neck, arms, and legs all reaching back towards the midline of her body.  “Come, and know your truth,” she dares those who call to her, “I charge nothing for the answering.”  Still she warns, “A price must be paid for while they are freely given true answers are not easily found.”  Her quiet presence seems to unnerve even the bravest of men should they not live in truth.  For that more than anything defines her.  Odella the truth teller, the storm crow, the pot stirrer.”

“Truly that is all that is known, of Odella” I remember asking full of disbelief, “surely there must be more?  Many must have questions which require answers.”

“Only those who have journeyed with her know more, Llana,” my mother replied plainly, “and I think you’ll find very few people are ever very truthful with themselves about their desire for answers.  For the truth can be a weighty thing, daughter.”

For better or worse these words have stuck to me, driving me in my pursuit of honesty, daring me to ask questions…

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All he could see of the offending scrap was its top most edge, the rest was obscured by a bunch in the rug he had caused while moving the furniture. He walked over to the page and stood staring down at it with wide eyes.

“I don’t believe you. What devil’s trick is this? Who could’ve? I don’t believe you!”

Amazingly the page took Doug’s insults and questions in stride. Snatching it up from the floor and shaking it menacingly in the air he might have initially thought to force a response, but good sense won out and Doug realized that the page was just a page, with an author.

“Who wrote this,” he asked the door, then the windows, and finally the broken typewriter which sat dead center on the large wooden desk, but no one came forward to take the credit. Defeated, Doug slumped into the moth eaten leather desk chair and ran his free hand through his hair. He shook his head, eyes closed, and wondered why he was so disappointed so surprised. The likelihood that some ne’re do well would slip from the shadows and admit to playing the loathsome prank was both slim and nil. Still, he had wanted something. A response of any kind, while shocking, was warranted given what the page had said. Instantly, he remembered the crumpled thing clutched in his balled fist.

The look in Doug’s eyes spoke of destruction and rage, and fire, as he stared at the badly wrinkled piece of paper. “This is not true,” he said to no one in particular. “Its a pack of lies and scare tactics, and I wont stand for it!” Emboldened he sat a little straighter. No he thought to himself its something all together different, its a story. Just one of his little adventures which had gone a bit off course and was now running away with him Doug reasoned with himself. The problem with this theory, however, was that the page did not read like any story Doug had ever read. The character had not been introduced or explained, the story line, if one could call it that, bounced around, a lot, though it only seemed to cover a single day’s worth of time, and the ending was so sudden it could hardly be absorbed. Additionally, while the writer had included plenty of obstacles there was little to no resolution or thematic plot to be found.

Doug cocked his head to the side as if a different vantage point would bring a serge of clarity, he was wrong. The page remained as mysterious as it had always been and he, he remained perplexed. If this was indeed not a story, it would mean that Doug was going to have to consider the possibility that the words on the page were real in more than just the tangible sense and that was an eventuality he was not prepared for.

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By Jeannette Woitzik

The Queen Who Wasn’t

          Fierya had been counting down the seconds till she could make her escape, unimpressed by the string of never-ending courses. Finally, sugared fruit tarts and sweet warmed cider were placed before each person.  She looked down at her plate wishing she could enjoy the treat, but instead Fierya started the conversation, “What are your plans for me?”

          He picked up his cider with a careless gesture and sipped at it thoughtfully. “Let me begin somewhere else Fierya. You are without a doubt my daughter, one need only look at your eyes to see that, and you most decidedly have power.”

          “But why does this mean she must be your responsibility,” Haddie cut in. “I am sorry to be the one to say it, but it does seem questionable that your bastard child appears only in time to usurp your legitimate heir and be sent to the Phlox.”

          Auria could almost feel Haddie’s fingers upon her strings as if she was no more than a puppet, but she could not help responding. “In three short years I am to be named Queen Heir, and you would find me hard pressed to give that up.  Father, it is all I have ever learned, I do not know how to be anything else.” As quickly as the words dried up on Auria’s lips, tears welled in her eyes, which she unconsciously wiped away.

          “We’ve been through this,” Fierya said exchanging looks with both Auria and Dronocum, “I want nothing from you.”

          “Then why are you here?” The hate in Haddie’s voice colored each of her words.

          Fierya pivoted in her chair to take the white-haired women on face to face. Drono tried to break their eye contact with a wild but unfortunately useless gesture. “Have you something to say to me girl?”  A half-smile played across Fierya’s face, but her eyes were empty and unforgiving. “I’m not like you.”  The words were simple but they seemed to hang upon the air heavy and full of meaning causing the smugness to fall from Haddie’s face as if she had been hit. However, before she could say anything Fierya continued. “How did you ever get those snow-white locks? I wonder?” The way the words rolled off her tongue left little to no doubt that Fierya did more than wonder. “And, why suffer the humiliation of being the Queen that wasn’t?  I am nothing like you, and you will do well to remember it.”

          The silence that followed rang with the same finality that Fierya’s threat had. “Enough! Fierya?” Dronocum was torn she now had answers to the questions which often kept him up at night, but this had to end. “You are my daughter and shall be named as such on the same day Auria will be named as my heir publicly, in four nights.” The King then spoke to Haddie, “I shall escort my daughters to their room and then will receive my Lady-Consort in my suite.” He rose stiffly but without hesitation, and holding an arm out for both girls left supported by their youth.

                                                                       ★★★★★★★★

          At the sound of the main door swinging shut one of the young men who had carried the large serving platters entered the dinning room, but when Haddie’s wide eyed glare meet his curios gaze he nearly ran from the room.  Haddie shook with unreleased rage. 

          Her chest heaved and spots danced before her eyes when she was finished with her outburst, but she managed to make her way past the thrown dishes, spilt food, and broken glass to the door with deft grace at immediately odds with her surroundings.  She leaned against the strong oak door for but a moment regaining her composure before she made her way to her rooms not his.  Whether or not he knew it he had chosen, and wrongly.

          In her own suits the women shied away hanging on the walls very awear of her mood and disposition.  “Tell the King I’m indisposed,” the command cut through the air like a horn blast sending the women in a hundred different directions while she went to her boudoir shutting and locking the door behind d her.
         “Stupid Drono…just sitting there and letting that whore-spawn…talk to me…like that!
How dare she think she knows anything…about me…me!
I am queen…in all but name…how dare she…cross me!”
         

          Each exclamation was followed by the ripping sounds of Haddie shedding the formal blue gown from her person.  Finally, she stepped from the ring of ruined fabric making her way to the large hanging mirror.  Bathed in only the moon light her elaborate hair coiffure shone and sparkled so like her desired crown making Haddie smile slyly.

          “Dangerous game your playing, bastard.  The last one who thought to best me lost more than she bargained for.”

Finding the Blood Stone

As the two walked through the tunnel, Llana had blindly ran to, Odellia smiled softly as she thought to herself that perhaps the girl truly might be ready for the first step.  Odellia’s mood improved with each step so much so that softly under her breath she sang the anvil’s song.

Llana did not notice the changes in Odellia as she was watching with fascination as the walls in front of her became dotted with silvered light.  The further into the tunnel they walked the brighter the wall became and soon the dark was gone completely and a false twilight prevailed.  This was the only sight until they reached a bend in the tunnel where a tall man stood with a kind of stout strength exuding from him.  As the sounds of their approach reached the man’s ears he turned pickaxe in hand looking them up and down.  Without pretense he dropped the axe from his shoulder and walked up to Odellia grinning ear to ear.  The closer he got the more of Llana’s field of vision he seemed to take up.  The large man stopped less than a foot in front of the two and said, “Be welcome ‘Dellia,” in a booming voice at odds with his wide smile.  However, as he took notice of Llana standing behind and to the side of Odellia his smile dropped and out of the corner of his eye he took the girl’s measure, “Who’s this?”

Llana, however, did not have a chance to answer because Odellia quickly wheeled the man away from her and held him in quiet conversation.  While Llana impatiently waited on the conversation’s end she warily eyed the walls wondering how it was that they seemed to create their own light.  To her they shone like beat tin except in one spot which sucked in any light that ventured in its direction.  She reached out for the dark spot wondering if it was empty; when she felt a liquid warmth rush up her arm.  Startled she stepped back and much to her amazement she held a stone that glowed blood-red at the center of what appeared to be a piece of amber.  She must have gasped in her surprise because the talk in the corner cut out abruptly as they both turned towards her.

“Bless the mist Beorn!  Why didn’t you tell me there was a blood stone in here, I would have come a different way,” Odellia nearly shouted hurrying back to Llana.

“I didn’t know ‘Dellia honest.”

“How can you not know?”  She did not even look back over her shoulder as she responded.

“Haven’t been this way since last time you were here, we only took a yard all around.  No one mentioned anything.”  Beorn sounded hurt like a scolded child.

Suddenly the warmth in Llana’s hand started to prick red-hot into her hand, burning her very soul it seemed.  Only Odellia’s harsh words broke through the pain.  “Drop it Llana… now… let it go!”  With the last word a short almost unfelt blast of power separated the stone from young flesh.  When the girl looked up Odellia’s top skirt was quickly being wrapped around the stone as the tunnel started to dim back to silver.  The last image girl understood before she sunk to the floor was the oddly shaped mark in her palm.

Beorn was quick enough to grab the child in her swoon and held her lightly as a rag doll turning this way and that.  “Dellia we must be going this is not a good way for you to be discovered, not with what you got under your cape.”  All she had time for was a nod of her head and they were off.

The darkly light tunnels flew by as they wound their way through scarcely used twists and turns that entered at last into a clearing in the middle of the forest.  “Wait,” Odellia motioned to herself a twinkling spectacle with her uncovered chains, “it would be almost as bad to run into the village like this.”

And so Chapter 6 Ends

Though Fierya had decided to immerse herself in the project he had left for her rather than come to dinner with Landon and Auria, he now, at least, had a clear picture of what had happened on the little distraction he had thought a good idea.  Distraction was a perfect name for what had happened because he now had three more people to deal with before the ball, and that was only two nights away, now that the early morning hours were upon him.

Edwin and Shreeann were no problem to talk to, with the ball only days away his appearance at a jeweler’s would not arouse Haddie’s suspicion.  Landon wouldn’t mind a day off of duty to prepare all that he would need to travel soon, and while he was at the market Drono was sure he could take care of all that need to be done at the tanner’s shop at the back of the market which they had visited the other day.  However, he had no idea how he would be able to meet with Talis to find out about the charm his daughter now wore around her neck and what it meant that she had it.

Finally Dronocum had to lie down, as sleep threatened to take him at his desk, thinking that no matter how complicated all would wait till light.

The Pendant

Fierya hated to admit it but the speed at which Auria ordered all the necessary things for them both amazed her, which meant it had taken very little time to make it back to the front of the market.  However, it seemed that there was one last stop to make before this little trip was over, but no one was taking the first step to get there.  Landon and Auria were whispering quickly and quietly much to Fierya’s enjoyment it looked like Auria was on the loosing end of the discussion, but before she could guess why, Landon started talking to the other guard.

“Since you covered for me when I got caught up at the back of the market,” here he paused while Chrestop smiled widely, “let me return the favor.  The ladies would like to look in at the jewelers before we return and the four of us will be a tight squeeze why don’t you relax here and then when we all go back neither of us will feel cheated.”

Chrestop agreed and went quickly away from the group which now headed toward a small shop with windows filled with interesting and ornate items.  Once inside the shop the cramped feeling dissolved away leaving behind an open room filled with glass display cases which caused the space to seem as if it was floating.  Immediately a small bejeweled woman rushed out form behind the counter.  “Your highness, what are you doing here,” the woman asked in hushed tones.  “We, we did not know, we were given no message.”

Auria raised her hand to quiet the now frantic woman before speaking, “No notice was sent ahead of me Shreeann you need not worry.  I came quietly in order to not be noticed.”  Here Auria paused to give the small woman time to realize that there were others in the room.  “We,” she gestured to Fierya, “have need of a few things.”

“Of course you do, forgive my thoughtlessness your highness, I’ll bring Edwin out.”

“Is that what you two were arguing about?  What to do when she recognized Auria.  Well why are we flirting with such danger, according to the window this is nothing more than a pretty bits and bobs stand.”

“Fierya, we are here to find your focus.”  Auria said from across the room already peering into a display case.

“What here could possibly help me focus, Auria?”

Landon tried to smother his laugh and failed.  “No, Fierya it will become a focus not give you focus.”  He turned towards the other girl and sighed loudly, “Auria get over here you can search later.”  She looked back reluctantly at the counter but walked over to the small group anyway.  “This is my focus,” Landon said as he held his hand out, “It is a stone that for some reason, which I do not understand, amplifies my abilities.  It is also a sign of my power and rank.”

Auria smiled an apology as she too held out her hand to Fierya.  Fierya while confused was still able to register how finally crafted these items were.  The stone on Landon’s hand was a swirl of greens and browns and had a heavy and solid look to it, but Auria’s stone was delicate and looked almost like trapped smoke.  “They are very different from each other.”  She reached out to touch Auria’s ring fascinated by the design which appeared to be in constant motion.  Auria jerked back as Fierya touched the ring and shouted in surprise, “No you mustn’t!” But she already had Auria in hand.  Fierya looked up to see them both exchange worried glances.  “I wasn’t going to hurt the ring I just wanted to look at the design better,” Fierya said in hurt tones as she released Auria’s hand.

“You touched it?”  The question fell from Landon’s mouth like lead.  “Fierya can you touch mine?”

Auria was wringing her hands and looked terrified but Fierya ignored her and took up Landon’s hand turning the ring this way and that in the light.  “Is that your family crest on the side?  Auria had no such markings on her’s.” Fierya finally asked as she let go of his hand.

“No it is a mark of my rank.”

That was all that could be said as Shreeann returned with Edwin, a broad-shouldered bespectacled man.  “Auria what a pleasant surprise for us both I think.  I hope you don’t mind but I caught word from a rather important bird that you might be in need of something worthy of a ball.”  With a flourish he procured a small box which when opened sparkled in the light.

“They’re gorgeous Edwin I’ll be sure to wear them thank you.”  With those words Auria ran forward and hugged both man and woman who helped her put on the new earrings.

“Landon I trust all is well even if they are confusing,” Edwin said looking at Fierya.  Landon turned a shade of red that was very unbecoming as he tried to avoid the non-question, “Why yes things could not be better Edwin, yourself.”

“Interested at the moment quite interested,” was the man’s only response.

It was at that moment that Fierya decided that she was tired of this and of this man way of turning all comments in to barbed questions.  “I am uninterested in buying a trinket to use when I have a talisman of my own.”  The words had the desired effect as every one of them stopped what they were doing; however, they all then turned to face her.  At first she was as shocked as the others not knowing where she would have gotten that idea, and then she felt the warmth at her breast and relaxed.

Edwin regained his composure first and gesturing grandly at the rude girl and spoke, “My I see this talisman?  You see a beloved piece of jewelry is far from the talisman which you shall require if you are to be among these two.”  He smiled wanly as Fierya reached around her neck pulling on a long gold chain.

Fierya was as curious as every one else as in all the confusion of her first days here she had neglected to examine the necklace like she had first intended.  The chain ended below the breast in a pendent.  The pendent was shaped like a teardrop and was the color of a sunset with a woven knot carved into the center.  Fierya was lost in her emotions, a gift like this was irreplaceable and priceless and without meaning to immediately wondered at how her mother could have possessed something such as this, but only said “It was passed down to me from my mother and foster-mother.”  Auria inhaled sharply when she saw it sure of its import, but not of its meaning.

“I…I’m, I am so sorry miss I had no idea,” Edwin stumbled as he tried to think.  “Of course that is a talisman I would never dream of suggesting otherwise, however it is not in a setting perhaps we can have one made for you by the ball.  I shall call on your father Auria and seek his advice on this, I think, and you shall finally have a use for the setting I made for you years ago if I understand what is to take place at this ball.”  He smiled and winked trying to lighten the mood which had fallen on them all.  “I do have a small ring with a fire ruby in it, as I assume that you may want to keep this one as a pendent, in wearing the ring you can still appear to keep to the traditions of the day.”  Edwin eyes were wide as he took up a bit of leather to fold the stone in before taking the necklace Fierya offered him at arm’s length.

Fierya did not understand the attention now being placed on an object which she knew nothing about, but she changed her mind immediately about the man.  “I would like that very much.”

Just as Landon started for the door he heard the man make one last comment and it stopped him dead in his tracks, “Sir?”

The man turned surprised by the question perhaps thinking himself alone, “I only said that the one with the red hair must have roots.  It’s a shame I couldn’t just give her the belt, but I would want the King’s anger on me.” He smiled slightly almost like a question.

“You would have given it to her?”  So unprepared for such generosity Landon lacked his usual candor.

“Yes, it was to be for my daughter, but she died before I could make a gift of it.”  The man’s face closed in with grief but he continued.  “Growing up around this,” the man’s arms swung wide, “I was always pulling wooden swords out of her hands so her mother could wash them.  So, when she was old enough we sent her to the Umbel and their Canna, I’m sure you’ve seen ‘em though I guess the guards usually call them warrior women like they’re another breed.” Exasperation had started to leak into the man’s words which gave the impression that each one drug it’s feet as he uttered it.  “She was so excited to be living with a Canna Mother.  She earned her sword and I started the belt, then everything went wrong; we were told she was dying.”  Landon’s face fell as the man continued.  “It was years ago now, but maybe you’ve heard the story nearly a legend I’d think for the oddness.  She was standing guard at a cutting and a girl child was taken, didn’t even have a name yet,” the shock of hearing the same ludicrous story again told as fact must have registered on Landon’s face because the man stopped to explain.  “That’s right some send their girls like that.  Well when it happened she followed after the bandits and was even with the group that found the girl, she rode the whole way back with the girl-child in the saddle with her.  When she got back she fell into a kind of delirium, we only just made it in time.  Before we got there she had managed to write a letter for us and one for the Phlox, who came and blessed her herself.  All we were ever told was that she had become a prophet by fire.”  The man could clearly see the question on Landon’s mind because he elaborated.  “I know it doesn’t seem like a good enough reason to lose her, but she had scorch marks on her shoulder above her heart and covering her hand so it must have been true.  The story goes the child sat among still live flame and blackened men unhurt except for the tips of her fingers on her right hand.  The girl with the red hair let me find some peace today.”  Here he paused the intensity in his gaze holding Landon in such a way that all else fell a way, “The belt will be here when she has the coin to get it.”