Daughter of Tarragon

All Rights Reserved ©

Tarragon's Welcome

Vance watched with a carefully schooled face as Rowena returned from the forest, flanked by two white-haired elves. Though both were tall, lithe, and easy on the eyes, he could tell that there was one of either sex. The male looked the three of them over with the careful wariness of a hunter, while the female glanced to Rowena as if for permission before turning and introducing herself. She spoke in short, heavily accented sentences. However heavy her words, she portrayed them well enough so that Dale, Cameron, and Lora all bowed and curtsied, respectively, in reply to the lady elf. This was Rowena’s sister, Silna. Vance himself offered a light bow and waited for a cue from Rowena that it was their turn. However, the male elf stepped forward and spoke.

“I am Dolen, the lady’s guardian.”

Vance heard an even heavier accent with his deeper voice, but regardless, the four of them gave him a respective greeting as well. Only when he straightened his stance again did he notice Rowena’s suddenly flushed face, and his court training alone kept him from smiling. This Dolen must be the one Rowena had spoken of.

“I am Second Prince Vance, of White Phoenix. These are my guards, Dale and Cameron, and the lady’s escort, Lora” he lifted his hand to regard each of his companions in turn before focusing back on Rowena.

She nodded and offered him a small smile before translating to her companions (though she focused mostly on the green-eyed male, Silna was apparently well learned in both languages). It was a careful, yet flowing language that Vance thought he would not mind learning himself. Dolen nodded toward them all once Rowena had introduced them in the elven tongue. Now she met his eyes again.

“I have spoken with one of Ta’llevny’s riders, and you will be fostered here for a day or two while we work out the treaty,” she said, her eyes making a nervous glance to the side. “While we are making an exception in letting humans into Tarragon,” her voice had dropped to a near whisper, “you will be residing amongst Wylden’s kin at Feather Grove.”

The fairy appeared at the mention of his own name, floating in between the groups of taller beings and moving into a low bow. He spoke not only in his own language, but much too quickly, and Vance gave Rowena a curious glance. The girl smiled and nodded, translating the fairy’s words easily.

“You will be treated as honored guests, Human Prince! They even have a covered shelter large enough to keep you for the time you will need to stay.”

Wylden took off in a myriad of circles and acrobatics in the air, his voice trilling as he went. Rowena nodded and waved them forward.

“He is right; the cold will sink into you. Please, let us welcome you to our home.”

Vance smiled, glanced back to the other three, and began to lead Treasure after Rowena and the two elves. He wondered if his eyes were playing tricks on him as the forest’s trees seemed to sigh and move apart, allowing them easy access into the thick woods. Even the snow at his feet seemed to go down by a few inches, but that he blamed on the trees being so large.

The first breath he inhaled was invigorating. Again, Vance wondered if it was just his imagination as an almost tingling sensation flowed through him. The view of the forest was quite usual, though things did seem somehow brighter. Just as the view was clearer, his senses seemed to clear as well, and he turned to look at his companions to see if he was alone in his astonishment. Their smiles and flushed faces were a clue that the effects of the fabled forest might not be his imagination.

Rowena dropped back to fall into step with him and grinned. “It does feel a bit different, does it not?” she asked, letting her eyes drift over Lora, Dale, and Cameron as well.

All of them nodded in reply. Vance did not even try to put words to his thoughts, unable to explain how different it felt. It was something like waking up on a fresh morning and not feeling the groggy sensation that usually clung to the mind.

“You’ve made it back in time for your ceremony, I hope?” he asked.

Rowena nodded and began to say something in reply, but Vance’s eyes caught a movement that had him stopping in his tracks, hand on the hilt of his sword. The white-clad being seemed to have appeared from nowhere and pulled his cowl back, revealing yet another elf. This one was also male but with dark hair, light blue eyes, and a fierce look on his handsome face.

“This is Tey’ven, Prince Vance,” Rowena said quickly, even going so far as to lay a hand on his arm. “He is one of Ta’llevny’s own... guards.” She had thought for a second on the terminology, but the word made sense.

Vance had a feeling that this camouflaged rider had several weapons hidden beneath the layers of white. Taking a short breath, he straightened his stance and bowed stiffly to the elf (who remained atop his stallion’s back).

“I offer my apology, then. It is good to know we are so well guarded,” Vance replied.

Rowena quickly translated and the dark haired elf nodded in his direction. He said a few words back to Rowena in their own tongue and the girl nodded.

“He will stay behind to watch for followers,” she explained, and the group moved on.

Vance noticed that Dale and Cameron took second and third looks at the elven king’s guard as he moved silently away from them.

“No footprints!” Dale whispered, and Lora shushed him.

The look in her eye must have been serious, for there was nothing but silence behind him for the majority of the way.Vance found it interesting to watch the interaction between Rowena and her elven kin. The male and female elf both moved with the same smooth grace, soundless compared to he and his group’s trudging footsteps. Dolen stayed a few steps away, rarely speaking and keeping his eyes trained ahead of them. Silna walked with her sister, chattering in soft words to Rowena as she went. Vance thought that the two had missed each other, and did his best not to interrupt.

As they moved deeper into the forest, he noticed that Rowena had let Spirit take her own path. At first, this startled him. Would she not want Spirit to stay with her? After a second thought, he remembered the horse’s many capabilities and decided that Spirit would likely be waiting for Rowena when she finally reached her home. He was curious about the elven community, but he was not about to overstep his bounds. The mere fact that they would be staying in Tarragon Forest was enough for him.

It turned out to be a long walk. When he noticed the footsteps behind him were further and further away, he told Lora, Dale, and Cameron to mount their horses again. Rowena and Silna were obviously used to such treks, but even he was feeling the strain after such a long journey. The sun was edging toward the horizon by the time they arrived, and it created a beautiful dappled scene. The fairy’s home, Feather Grove, consisted of a literal grove of huge trees. They reached higher than most, creating an even canopy over the forest and draping the land in thick branches. The tiny homes were barely noticeable unless one focused on the tree’s bark. Each of them had tiny holes or moldings that fit in with its surroundings.

Vance and his human companions dismounted and stood open-mouthed as what seemed to be the whole of the fairy community came out to greet them. Their hair and wings spanned the colors of the rainbow, and the soft glow that Wylden gave off in White Phoenix was nothing compared to the dazzling display they were putting on now. He stood stark still while a group flew toward and around him, seeming to greet him in some sort of dance. Their voices trilled in different tones, and though he could not translate, he understood the welcome.

Other groups were doing similarly to Dale, Cameron and Lora. The ever-wary Cameron flinched a bit and did his best to follow them with his eyes. This only succeeded in making him dizzy. Dale kept his eyes closed and grinned as his hair flipped and lifted in the soft wind their flight created. Lora giggled and lifted her brows as she felt her hair being lightly tugged and pulled around in some sort of arrangement.

“They are happy to see you,” Rowena said under a laugh.

Silna looked a bit more impatient as she watched the scene. Dolen had disappeared altogether. There was either a hurry to get to the ceremony, or the elves and fairies were not always cooperative neighbors.

“The home that was made for you is up there,” the female elf spoke with an accent again, pointing to a tree a bit deeper into the grove.

Rowena led the group to the base of the large tree and stared up. In following her gaze, Vance saw what looked to be a tree-house, branches arranged for easy access.

“That’s something I’ve never seen before,” he commented, surprised by his own voice. They had been just about silent on the ride through the forest.

“It is much sturdier than it looks, trust me,” Rowena smiled and sent yet another nervous glance at Silna. “I’m afraid I need to report back as soon as possible to prepare for the ceremony,” she admitted, eyeing her sister. “I will return later, though. The fairies do not know the human language, but if you need me, just call for Spirit. She is always nearby.”

Cameron and Dale, who had already begun to un-tack their horses, nodded in reply, while Vance and Lora both professed their thanks. Vance mentioned that he would be more than willing to speak with Ta’llevny if need be, to which Rowena simply nodded. She waved to them before she and Silna left them alone in Fairy Grove.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

“We shall all freeze to death.”

“Continue with your whining and I will send you back, Zane!” Ferin turned in his saddle to glare at his companion before facing forward again.

The prince was leading six of his guards, including Dergon and Zane, through the darkness. Dergon’s huge mount paced along at his side, and the big guard made an amused face before squinting into the darkness. The sun had set nearly an hour before, causing the snow to ice over and navigation to become a more difficult task. The moon rose high into the clear sky after some time, though, which lit the snow-strewn valley with cool blue light.

“It will be another hour to Tarragon, Lord Ferin. If you wish to enter this evening, we will ride on,” Dergon commented, his words coming out with a puff of steam from his beard.

Ferin thought a moment, ignoring the plaintive whine from behind him. He had ridden out with the group not long after his brother’s grand exit, telling his father that he meant to hunt. Under the king’s watchful eye, the group had turned due east and headed toward the usual hunting grounds. Only once they were well into the forest did they turn and ride parallel to Vance and his party’s trail. Ferin had led them all out into the valley as soon as they were out of sight of the kingdom, and the group had ridden on the clear trail of prints that would lead them to their destination.

To their dismay, the prints cut off suddenly at a particularly desolate part of the valley. Zane waved it off as the wind, but Ferin had narrowed his eyes and directed Dergon to lead the way to Tarragon Forest. After hours of riding, the group was tired, hungry, and saddle sore.

So, Ferin conceded. “No, we will camp out and approach the forest at sunrise,” he ordered, once again ignoring an exaggerated sigh from behind him.

“I’ll wager it’s just the group of them sitting alone in there,” Zane piped up as the others pulled their horses to a stop and began to dismount. “Though, if she does have people of her own, I hope they’re as fair and quiet as she is,” his smirk and the wicked gleam in his eye contrasted the sweet tone of his voice.

Ferin lifted his chin as he released the straps of his horse’s saddle. “I’d lay out my best cloak on nothing. The tracks stopped a ways back. I doubt they even came this far,” he said, though his eyes scanned the perimeter with a strange wariness.

Something was making him nervous, but he was not about to admit to it. So, he played along with Zane’s flippant comments and kept his guards moving with barking orders.

As they took guesses and made bets, the group set up a small camp by a copse of trees within the valley. They packed down snow so that they could lay out blankets and start a fire, all eager for some rest after the long ride. The White Phoenix natives made plans for the next day under the cool blue hue of the moon, not knowing that their fire would be a bright beacon to any looking their way.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Whisper had an uncanny ability to stand as still as needed. Any other horse would have shifted his stance over and over within the hours it stood, but Whisper did not. Of course, neither did his rider. The two watched the boundary of Tarragon under the cover of their cloaks. Only once the sun had begun to set did they move from their post, weaving slowly and silently through the trees. All the while, Tey’ven’s ice-blue eyes were trained on the clearing that met the forest in a line of tangled underbrush and branches.

We are meant to stay here all night?” Tey’ven sent to his mount.

It had been some time since they had stopped, and he was once again lifting his hand to pull the branches into an impenetrable fence. The humans had made it clear that they would most likely have been followed, and the dark haired elf was not taking chances.

As our master wishes,” was Whisper’s only reply.

Tey’ven suppressed a frown and sat as still as he had been trained, eyes watching the darkness for any movement. The moon has just begun to cast its bluish-white light on the forest, giving the snow a sparkling look that lit up the dappled area beneath the branches of the trees. Horse and rider were vigilant as the moon lifted into the sky, unmoving but for their eyes. That was, until Tey’ven turned for what seemed like no reason, nodding his head.

Another of Ta’llevny’s riders moved carefully between the trees to meet them, lifting his arm to pull his white layered cowl back. Tey’ven realized it to be Sa’nengal and his light gray mare, Shaden. The older elf had long white hair and green and gray eyes, which he focused on Tey’ven without showing any emotion.

“The leader has sent me to replace you at this post,” Sa’nengal announced, his uncloaked head seeming to float above a sea of white.

Tey’ven removed his own cowl and did his best to keep his composure. This was a much older, more experienced member of the riders, and he did not want to make a bad impression.

“Thank you. Where am I to be moved?” he asked, his voice barely carrying above a whisper.

“You are free to attend the ceremony,” the elder rider was unable to hide his annoyance from Tey’ven, who had an exceptional ability to see through facades.

Still, Tey’ven sat and stared at him with something akin to astonishment, and was about to ask why when Shaden turned and stepped away from them, Sa’nengal pulling up his cowl. He had delivered the message, and now set about the job he was given as smoothly as any of the blessed riders did.

Although Tey’ven still stared, Whisper turned and began walking them back toward the clearing. They had been moving for some time before he finally turned in his saddle, pulling up the camouflaged hood and watching the moonlit trees pass by. His thoughts ran with questions, since it was not a usual thing for Ta’llevny to let one of his guards off duty.

I suppose you will want to change into something more acceptable,” Whisper offered.

“I suppose so,” Tey’ven replied aloud.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Rowena gazed at herself in the reflective surface of Silna’s shield, turning her face back and forth as her brown eyes took in her own reflection. Despite the cold, she had been draped in a soft white dress that flowed about her form in a delicate fall of fabric. It had the opposite effect that the human’s corseted dress had, giving her plenty of room to breathe, and only giving hints at her figure as she moved. Her hair was in the midst of being set by Silna, who wore something similar to her; all white and flowing, with accents of sparkling fabric around the edges and neckline.

“Are you sure?” Rowena asked again, her voice breathless as she sat still, her dark hair being pulled softly as Silna put braids of ribbon and flowers into it.

“We have spied on the ceremonies in the past! We would be scorned if we walked in wearing our riding clothes,” Silna answered, her deft fingers finally finishing before she stepped back. “That will do nicely.”

Rowena turned and smiled to her sister, whose hair had been left free of any decoration but for a crown of pale flowers. It hung in a straight curtain to her waist, all white and glinting in the soft light of the moon. It was the celebration of winter, and Silna looked beautiful in white, her blue eyes shining even more against her skin and hair.

She moved so that she could get a look at her own hair and grinned, seeing that Silna had pulled it back in an elegant design of braids, leaving the bottom to flow with black waves all strewn with white ribbon and flower.

“You’ve done a better job than the fairies!” Rowena exclaimed, moving to clasp her sister’s hand in thanks. She was feeling a bit too demure for the usual all-encompassing hug.

Silna smiled back and moved to climb down out of their room. “I take that as a high compliment coming from you,” she admitted with a proud look in her eyes. “Come, mother will be furious if we are late.”

The two females moved out of their home, somehow not feeling the cold of the sparkling snow that surrounded them. Their flowing dresses did not keep the cold out as well as fur might, but as they got closer to the lights, sounds, and scents of the ceremony, they found themselves warming. Only their feet were fully encased in thin leather boots to keep the snow off of their skin.

“I hope they are alright,” Rowena said softly as the two walked through a passage in the snow, her gaze fixed in the direction of Feather Grove.

“The fairies will give them the same respect they give you,” Silna said, and in seeing the wry smirk on Rowena’s face, smiled and sighed. “We will visit them once the ceremony begins to wane.”

The statement had the calming effect it was meant to, and the two moved on at a quicker pace. As they came closer to the clearing, their excitement grew. There were several paths like the one they walked, all which led to the center of the celebration. Each path was lined with soft blue lights that seemed to emanate from the frozen icicles hanging from tree branches. Along with the moon’s cool light dancing off of the snow in a splash of diamonds, it made for a magical view.

Rowena gaped as they made their way into the clearing, stopping in her tracks at the sight of nearly a hundred elves all dressed in their best garments as they mingled. Many had the long white mane of hair, but some had brown or blonde with white running through it as Tey’ven’s did. Their attire was vividly different as well. While many from the Mind-borne clan wore flowing gowns and shirts of white, others wore gaudy vests with shining silver adornments. Some even wore all black, which made them easy to see amongst a crowd of white. Though, as Rowena watched them, she wondered if that was their reason for wearing such dark clothing to begin with. Around them were the same glowing icicles; some blue, some white, all hanging gracefully from various table edges and overhanging tree branches. Though soft, the lighting of the clearing was surreal, as if setting the mood for the evening’s true purpose.

Lae’ra came to welcome them, dressed in her own white garb which fit her in a fall of embroidered flowers and leaves. Her hair was left down so that she looked as young as her own daughter, cheeks flushed as she turned both around to look at her work.

“You both look beautiful,” Lae’ra said with a contented smile. Rowena had thanked her several times for making her a dress, especially when she and Silna had so often skipped the ceremony in favor of going off on pretend adventures. This year, the two meant to spend it within the ceremony, even if Rowena could only watch.

“There are so many...” Rowena started, looking at the different faces around her, and only recognizing a few.

She knew that many foreign clans often sent representatives, but this year it looked as though entire communities had made the trek to the Mind-borne home. She swallowed her words as she noticed that many of the foreign faces were turned toward her, eyeing her without expression as so many of elven kind often did.

Lae’ra pursed her lips as she too noticed the gazes, and shook her head.

“I believe Ta’llevny is to address a council following the ceremony. Many more than usual have arrived this year-” she stopped her own speech and turned her head back to face the two younger females. “We are standing just at the entrance and the two of you are a sight to behold. It’s a wonder we have not been approached yet.”

With a sideways glance at each other, Rowena and Silna followed Lae’ra into the clearing, both stopping to pick at an ornate table filled with food. They sat and talked with both Lae’ra and A’dair, watching the others mill about and learning about a few of the strangers that their parents knew. After a time, the elders began to gather around the pool in the middle of the clearing, forming a semi circle and bidding the rest to come forward.

Rowena and a few others stood back as the majority of the group clustered around in a circular formation, palms lifting as the elders began to speak. They chanted words in an old tongue that Rowena did not understand, but somehow felt. The words were lifted in an almost musical tune, and as if on a cue, the rest of the group joined in. Their voices lifted into the darkness, seeming to bring forth a breeze that stirred the branches and moved the hanging icicles so that the lights shifted around them. Somehow, they became one voice, chanting and calling to the forest with palms and faces raised to the sky. Rowena found herself smiling, shifting to the slow beat of the chant while the hairs on her arms prickled.

It was like this every year. Although they had sometimes missed watching the calling, Silna and Rowena had always been quiet through it. This year, her sister joined in the singing, and she smiled and found herself basking in the feel of the magic. For that was what they did! They called the magic forth from the very core of the Earth, bringing it to life in the air of Tarragon forest. It was a renewal of trust, love and thanks between the elven inhabitants and the forest itself. Even as a human, Rowena found herself humming the tune, closing her eyes and letting the feel of the calling seep into her pores. When the song strengthened and sped up, she opened them with a quick smile, watching as the upturned palms came together in a resounding clap, and the calling had ended.

The crowd moved away, leaving the elders to sit in a circle around the pool in the clearing. There they would sit for another full day, performing some silent rite of season’s passing that Rowena (and likely many of the younger elves) did not know of. Silna approached her again, her face practically glowing from both the magic and the exertion of the chant. She lifted her brows and nodded in another direction, looking over her shoulder more than once as the two of them moved away from the center of the clearing.

Somehow, the two managed to find a quiet place to sit. It was there that they passed the time, observing the goings on, and watching the others interact as they had when they were younger.

Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.