The slight creak of the door of her bedchamber roused
Fenwan from her sleep. The lamp from the hall back lit the figure
slowly walking in. It was her father, Lord Drewan Draydor, Viceroy
of Atnor Province. Fenwan sat up in her bed drowsily, and her father
sat next to her, smiling at her sadly. She noticed even with her
tired eyes that he wore his armor and colors: yellow with a fawn
playing a horn. He squeezed her hand.
“Father?” She asked, her voice a whisper.
“Sh, my darling. You needn't wake. I must go, and wanted to say farewell.”
He nodded, his head hanging, a strand of light blond hair falling into his eyes. He tucked it back, it wasn't long enough to fit in the tie at his neck.
“We received word this early hour from Ogden Castle. All lords must come in for a vote.”
Her mouth fell open in disappointment.
“The Assembly is going to declare martial law. The king and queen might yet be found alive! They would give up on their high lord and lady?”
Drewan squeezed her shoulder, attempting to balm her.
“Fenwan, Gregor and Pellora have been missing for nearly 3 months. Our beloved country, Luddler, needs rule of law.” He caressed her shoulder. “That is why we have prepared you so. You have grown up during the Wars of the Ages, and will never be without your strength of knowledge, your countenance.”
She fell back into her pillows, frustrated. Her father raised his eyebrows at her for a moment, then quickly softened his face.
“My Maiden of the Pale Crown...I am counting on you to protect our castle. I take the castle guards with me...and our provincial army. The Fawn rides the golden dawn this early morn – just as it was meant to.”
She swallowed thickly, nodded, and yawned. A small smile broke through her fathers conflicted face. He leaned over, kissing her forehead, then stood. Even in the the amber light of a torch yards away, he stood strong and proud, with glittering armor and broad shoulders. It was an impressive image, leaving her with great pride on her face, as her eyes fluttered closed and sleep overtook her.
He turned to her one last time, giving her a sad smile, and her hair a gentle stroke.
“Sleep, Maiden of Fair. May the Lightbearers ever shine upon you.”
Fenwan now lay asleep in her large bed, as her father walked away, strong even with his burdens.
“Farewell, darling Fenwan.”
At midday, Fenwan was reciting poetry with her tutor in the castle library, when a servant appeared, saying her mother requested her presence in the ladies sitting room. Fenwan entered the room, and went to her mother, Lady Martana Draydor, vice-reign of Atnor Province, sitting on a tall chair, her light brown hair nearly hidden by her shawl, holding a letter in the lap of her dark yellow brocade dress.
“My darling daughter,” her mother started, looking sweetly at Fenwan, but poised as always, “this letter confirms what we feared. It is as Mistress Hadera warned us.”
“Luddler is now without its highest lord and lady? The Assembly declared martial law.” Fenwan sighed.
“Indeed. It has become a coup d'etat. The palace guards moved the Princess, along with her husband and brother...we can only hope that they are safe. The lords will now wage war against each other.”
Fenwan squinted in frustration. “Princess Nora is the heir to the Luddlite crown, there is no questioning that!”
“She is.” Martana nodded slowly. “But all royalty must be officially crowned by the Scion of the Originals. Master Williams has not been seen in 20 years.”
“So, the lords will fight for each others province, taking knights with valuable skills in the Wars of the Ages against Vallon, to gain more votes in the Assembly, and have themselves declared the rightful owner of the crown of Luddler – though the rightful heir lives – and they will then hope that the Scion will be found? Is there any reason in this?”
Fenwan and her mother exchanged identical dubious looks. Her mother looked down at the letter.
“When power is within reach, it turns Kindred into monsters.” Martana sighed as she stood. “Lissy, how did this letter arrive? Courier?”
The servant shook her head. “No, Your Ladyship. On the wing.”
Martana's eyes widened, and she turned sharply to her daughter.
“Your father is not coming back yet, but rather, is sending the Rosemere Castle guards to fetch us and take us to safety.”
Fenwan eyed her mother, noting the tension in her form. “He will remain loyal to the Princess, will he not?”
Martana quickly nodded, “Yes, but your safety is paramount over all else. And I fear that his plans will go awry.” She glanced towards the row of windows on the castle face. “The guards should be here by now.” She muttered.
“Mother...?” Fenwan stood, concerned.
Martana looked at her daughter, her eyes even wider.
“You have the haversack Hadera gave you packed and ready, yes?”
“Good. Get it. Take Lissy, and any Kindred you find on your way there, and hide in the deep cellar under the stables.”
“Why? What do you fear that is imminent?”
Martana clenched her jaw. “The castle guards should have been here by now. GO Fenwan!”
Lady Martana Draydor was always poised and calm. Fenwan had seen her worried and angry, but never so pressed to make such a judgment. That is how she knew to not question it, only to act. Minutes later, carrying her haversack, and with Lissy and two other servants behind her, they hurried from the castle, four more servants joining their frantic pace down the path to the stables.
“Elsie!” She called out when they entered the stables. The 23 year old servant emerged from a stall, wearing her usual working pants, and her brown hair in a tight bun, with grooming tools in her hands.
“My lady?” She asked, bewildered.
“We must get everyone into the deep cellar.” She ordered. The servants looked at Elsie anxiously.
Elsie nodded, confused, but led them into a stall, where she pushed bales of hay to the side, and opened the low wooden door to the deep cellar.
“What are you doing?” A young male voice asked. Fenwan and Elsie looked to see Elsie's 12 year old brother Roger standing there, looking confused and disheveled.
“Roger, why are you here? My father took the castle guard with him before dawn. It is your duty as a squire to join them.” Fenwan demanded.
Roger and Elsie both looked panicked.
“My lady, are you coming?” Lissy asked her, poking her head through the opening, the other servants already inside.
“A moment, Lissy. Roger?”
“It is my fault, my lady. They left so early, and Roger and I were up late, reading and drawing by candlelight.” Elsie rushed to explain.
Fenwan balled her fists, making up her mind quickly.
“Elsie, you will ready my horse, I will be riding to meet my
father. Roger, you will ride with me.”
“My lady – who will defend Rosemere? You are the only one who is trained to do so!” Elsie pushed.
“We need not ride into a fight, my lady. We need not go anywhere, the castle is in no danger.” Roger added.
Fenwan fought from rolling her eyes at the squire. “Roger, I am not hiding everyone in the deep cellar for my amusement.”
“But luncheon! I can smell it! The kitchens have put a suckling pig on the hearth. Can you not smell it? Bacon and ham!”
Elsie groaned, “Oh, Roger...the stomach of a growing boy. Forgive him, my lady – ”
“ – Hold.” Fenwan interrupted her. She slowly walked towards the entrance to the stables. She could smell it too. It did smell like a pig on the hearth. “I know there is danger...why would the kitchens be preparing food?”
The words had barely left her mouth, when the horses started stomping and huffing.
Fenwan, Elsie, and Roger all took notice, as the horses shook their manes, becoming vocal as they shifted around in their stalls, acting peculiar and uncomfortable.
“The horses are spooked.” Roger stated.
Elsie moved to Fenwan's horse, Finnolmay.
“Finnolmay, what is it girl? The kitchens preparing food wouldn't startle you so.” She soothed the black horse, stroking her head.
That was when Fenwan realized what was wrong.
“They smell fire.”
She whipped around, “Roger, have you a weapon?”
He looked around, panicked. “I have a pitchfork!”
“That will do. Elsie, hide with the others – and do not leave. We will be back.”
“My lady!?” Elsie whimpered.
“We will be back!” Fenwan called to her, as she ran up the path, still carrying her haversack, with Roger right behind her, holding the pitchfork.
The smoke and flames were starting to leap out of Rosemere Castle as they ran up to it. The kitchen servants where outside, coughing and filling buckets from the well in the garden.
“My lady – no!” The head cook protested as they started inside.
“Gloria, get everyone to the deep cellar!” She shouted back, pointing quickly at the path they had taken.
They continued into the castle, feeling the heat coming from the flames as they took over the rooms on the first floor. Smoke quickly filled their lungs as they made their way through the halls.
“Hello?” She called out, into the gaming room.
“My lady?” Three servants cried out to her. “We are blocked by a fallen beam!”
“Roger, the pitchfork!” The two of them rushed into the room, seeing the two women and one man huddled next to an open window.
“We never saw them coming! Only the arrows of fire as they landed.” One of the servants pointed towards a couch in flames, with an arrow sticking out of it.
“Nevermind that, we must get out. Go to the deep cellar in the stables!”
“My lady was told there are knights on their way!” Roger told them, as he and Fenwan put the tool against the beam, and putting their weight against it, maneuvered the beam enough to get the other servants out.
“The castle guards should have been here by now, so we must hurry to safety!” Fenwan told them as they rushed out of the room. “Do you know where my mother is?”
“Last I saw, she was in the master bedchamber.” They told her. She took two steps, when a beam fell, separating her from Roger and the other servants. They all looked at each other for a moment.
“Enough! Get everyone you can and get to safety!” They were now yelling and choking through the smoke.
She turned and raced up to her parents bedchamber, past rooms consumed with flames fighting their way past stone, and the smoke threatening to choke the life out of the air.
She rushed into the chamber, looking around, and finding her mother laying on the large bed, the room already aflame.
“Mother!” She then saw the arrow in her mothers stomach.
“Fenwan, darling, you must leave! Get to the deep cellar!” Her mother became panicked seeing her daughter standing amongst the flames.
“Most are already there, but I will not go without you.”
“I do not matter, Fenwan, only you matter!”
A loud crack and popping sound came from above, and they both looked up in time to see the framed part of the four poster bed fall. They were both stunned as the pieces stopped in mid-air and flew to the side. They looked, and saw Hadera, the Elven Sorceress holding up her wand and rushing to them.
“Fenwan, we must leave now.” She told them earnestly.
“YES – Fenwan go with Hadera.” Her mother insisted.
“Not without you!” Fenwan clutched her mother, refusing to let go, taking care to not touch the arrow wound.
“This was on the arrow. Green, with a buffalo. Ferla attacked us.” Martana told her daughter, handing her a green ribbon with a rearing black buffalo that had been tied to the feather end of the arrow. Fenwan took it, looking at her mother, feeling crushed, then turned to the Elf.
“Hadera, can you not release water from your talisman?”
Hadera looked at her pained. “I over-extended myself. I am only a 3rd Degree.”
Fenwan turned back to her mother, laying on the bed, close to death, bleeding profusely.
“You must be safe. Your life is what is greatest to us all. I would die, I would go to the Realm of Light in peace, my darling, knowing you are safe.” Martana told her daughter tearfully.
“I would have you live knowing I am safe!” Fenwan choked out the words, echoing words close to their house motto, as the smoke grew thicker.
“Fenwan, I came here with a scouting party. They will be able to get to any Kindred they can. She can still be saved – but you must leave now.” Hadera came up close to them, grasping Fenwan's shoulders, looking mournfully at Lady Martana.
“Go, Maiden of the Pale Crown.” The noble woman told her daughter, squeezing her hand. Fenwan leaned down and kissed her on the cheek.
“I will go, but I will wait for you after.” She told her mother determinedly.
Martana gave her a small smile and started coughing, and Hadera grabbed Fenwan's arm, as they ran out of Rosemere Castle.