Daughter of Tarragon

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Players to the Field

Lora jumped as Vance turned toward her, his eyes wide and ablaze with anger. However, he was focused behind her, his hand gripping hers once before dropping it.

“Blast him to the depths of oblivion!” he spat, moving back to the table and grabbing up a pile of cloaks. He tossed two to Dale and Cameron, and brought Lora’s to her. “He means to charge them for witchcraft.”

There was a collected gasp, and another milling buzz of conversation. Vance spoke over it.

“They are a foreign people, yes! They dabble in small magics, yes! But they are not evil! They do not work with the evil’s master. We have seen their land, and it is nothing short of a god’s painting!” he yelled.

Although Vance spoke through a wild temper, the people were listening. Lora pulled her cloak on as he spoke, and keeping her eyes on her father and the rest for their reactions. Dale and Cameron took their places at his side once they were ready.

“I cannot stand and watch him make such a mistake. He means to lock them up. Put them to some sort of trial in front of as many folks as he can. He’ll use this to degrade me and make himself seem more worthy of the throne. Of course! If I ‘run with witches’, who will want to seat me as king?” Vance ranted, baring his teeth in anger.

Lora watched him pace before a silent audience.

“Blast him! He can take the damned throne. I refuse to play such dangerous games with him over status. Not if it will hurt so many.”

“That is the reason ya need to take action, Lord Vance,” Charles interjected, his tone hard and sobered.

The earlier jubilation that had lightened his face was long gone. This was her father’s war face.

“If Ferin is willing to play such a dangerous game with a foreign guest, what will he do with his own people?”

It took a long, silent span of time, but Vance finally set his jaw, his eyes searching the floor as he thought. At once, he nodded in an acquiescing gesture to Charles. He turned on his heel and looked between Dale and Cameron.

“You two, let their horses free and hide their tack. Lora, see to it that this message is passed on. We need to play along, but make sure the right people know what is actually going on.”

“We’ll make sure the word is spread outside of the castle,” Charles said.

“We’ll have to get them out somehow, and find a way to keep Ferin and his followers at bay while we...” he stopped and shook his head, obviously overwhelmed. “We did not plan for this!”

“Can you get a message to their people?” someone from the crowd asked.

Vance looked up and pointed to the man, nodding. Once again, his thoughts came together, and he looked resolved as he spoke once more.

“Yes. Yes, I think I can. Thank you,” he said.

He was nodding again, and Lora knew he had ideas. She shook her head, remembering that she already had a task.

“Come on, let’s go now. We cannot all leave at once,” she ordered.

Her brothers turned to follow her, and she gave Vance a consoling look.

“Maybe your father should be aware of this,” she said as she passed him, standing closer than she would ever dare within the castle.

“Oh, he will be,” Vance said, his tone suddenly dangerous. “We will let Ferin play his game. If he calls a grand hearing, attend it. Attend it, and surround it as best you can. If there is any place to make ourselves known, it will be there. ”

Lora nodded and saw the rest of them nodding as well. Once again, conversation began to pick up.

“Send for me if you need me,” Lora said softly.

When Vance nodded, she turned and followed her brothers out into the cold.

How much time had passed? It was already dawn as Lora made her way back into the castle. She stopped several of her most trusted friends on the way, speaking low and fast to inform them of the news. They promised to pass the information on to the others in the castle whom they knew did not follow Ferin. She took her hair down, removed her cloak, and smoothed out her gray dress. It would be time to serve breakfast soon, and she assumed that with the guests now being held in the law breaker’s ward, she would be serving them there.

It was perfectly customary; at least that was what she told herself. She had been assigned to them, and had not been told otherwise. Lora put on her best frightened face and carried a laden tray up several flights of stairs. She met a guard at the main door who directed her through two turns and finally led her to the small room her friends were being held in. There was one guard who paced the hall. At least, that was what his duty was. This one was slumped asleep, and jumped awake when he heard her loud footsteps. Upon seeing her dress and her burden, he simply nodded. As she made her way down the desolate hall, she felt a little flurry of elation. No one had stopped her! Apparently,she had made the right choice.

Three doors down, she saw the dark outlines of her friends. Silna was seated against a wall with a sleeping Rowena leaning against her, and Dolen was pacing. They all looked exhausted, their hair let down from the previous evening’s event, and their fancy court dress now wrinkled. Both elves showed only minor surprise when they saw her, and she figured they had heard her approach. Silna stayed put, apparently not wanting to wake her sister. It was Dolen who approached the gate.

“I brought food,” Lora whispered.

He simply nodded in return, taking the cups and bowls carefully from her through the bars.

“My brothers are releasing your horses,” this she said in whispered Elven. She knew it was not the correct way to form the sentence, but Dolen seemed to understand.

“The small ones have taken care of the horses,” he said softly, speaking in accented Common.

He was much better than she was in speaking a foreign language. She wondered if that had anything to do with magic.

“I do not know what they mean to do with you,” she said honestly, switching back to Common and speaking in a low whisper. The guard was either asleep, or did not care. “There is a plan, though. Can you send one of the small ones back to alert your people?” she asked.

He shook his head once. “Not now. Soon. They remain unseen. Fear hurts their kind.”

Pursing her lips, Lora sighed. It would be a long time before she fully understood the creatures of Tarragon.

“Try your best to get a message back. I need to go. Is there anything I can do?”

Dolen glanced back at the other two and nodded. “They are cold.”

Lora nodded and turned to move back down the way she came. She was sure they would at least allow a blanket or two, so she took the task upon herself. Her own bed could wait.


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


He went against every instinct by taking it slowly. He bathed, gathered food, brushed Whisper down and saddled him. Then, he adorned himself in his dark gear, packing the white in a small saddle bag. The trip would be mostly spent in the wooded areas, and black would blend well. More importantly, the black was armored. It was his battle gear. Within a few hours, he was on track to Ta’llevny’s vale. Both he and Whisper were fed, rested, and ready for anything that might come their way. They were cloaked in black and gray this time, moving through the thick woodland with quiet ease, as always. Elves who were milling around on the paths moved out of his way, either sending him wary looks or turning to whisper to companions. Tey’ven and Whisper moved on. Both felt the hilt of the knife at his boot, still pulsing in warning.

He pulled up and dismounted just at the base of Ta’llevny’s tree. Almost immediately, he heard the leader’s whispering voice welcoming him, and he ascended. Upon pulling himself up and standing in the entrance, he found another three of Ta’llevny’s riders, Sa’nengal included. They were all dressed in various ways, two in white, and the third in a cloak that was dappled in gray and brown. Part of him was curious about the third rider, whom he did not know, but necessity prevailed, and he spoke up only seconds after he entered.

“The first blow has been struck,” he said.

Ta’llevny nodded. He was seated further down the hallway in his usual chair. This time, he had surrounded himself with what looked like maps and various sheets of paper.

“And you mean to meet it?” as Sa’nengal spoke, his green and gray eyes held no sign of any emotion.

Tey’ven looked between he and Ta’llevny, but the leader did not answer. He was working studiously over his table, apparently not listening. That was a signal to carry on amongst the other riders. He nodded.

“Yes. I had thought that to be the plan,” he answered the elder elf carefully.

“To ride into human territory and attack their stronghold?” Sa’nengal’s voice was calm, but his brows lifted high, as if he were a father scolding a son.

Tey’ven’s nostrils flared. They were losing time. He bent and unsheathed the knife, flipping it easily in his hand and offering the hilt to the elder elf. The black knife continued to pulse in his hand.

“Our kin are in danger. I will do whatever it takes to see them safely home. If that means meeting the humans in battle, so be it.”

Sa’nengal eyed the pulsing blade and pursed his lips. It appeared as though he were holding back words, and looked ready to speak before the stranger spoke above him.

“I will attend,” it was a female voice.

Tey’ven had not been paying attention. Now he looked her over more carefully. Above the well blending cloak and boots, she had dark hair. Not quite black, but brown. It had not turned for the winter, which would most likely make her either of Blade, or Tree-borne. Her eyes were brown as well, closer to honey than the bark colored hair. She seemed familiar, but everything about her was foreign. Deciding that he did not know her, Tey’ven fell into mannerly conduct. One arm across his chest, he offered a short bow.

“I am Tey’ven of the Mind-borne lands,” he said, professing his current place of residence rather than his heritage.

She did the same. “I am Fellen’drey of the Tree-borne lands.”

He nearly lost his composure at the sound of her name. Fellen’drey! This was the Tree-borne leader! Ta’llevny was Tarragon’s grand leader, but each clan had a leader to its own. Not only was she a clan leader, she was Ta’llevny’s sister. To have a sibling in elven culture was most unheard of. It was a testament to exactly how old Ta’llevny was. Sa’nengal seemed to have been unaware as well, and offered her a bow at Tey’ven’s side. The other white cloaked rider did not yet speak.

“I am honored to have your assistance,” Tey’ven said, quite honestly. He hoped his ever-schooled face did not show his awe.

“I will attend as well,” the white cloaked rider spoke after another moment.

Now Tey’ven looked to him. This was Avaciel of the Trail-borne clan. His white hair was strung through with a few brown streaks, and his eyes were nearly as blue as Tey’ven’s. They knew enough of each other to simply bow without offering names. Though Tey’ven had never held much of a conversation with the white clad rider, his offer for aid was enough.

“Three will ride out, then,” Ta’llevny said from the other end of the hall, gaining the attention of the four visitors.

“Three? I do not understand,” Sa’nengal said in a rush, albeit quietly.

The elder rider was beginning to loose his cool. In a way, Tey’ven understood. To him, they were being sent to battle a horde of angry humans on their own. Then again, Sa’nengal himself had not volunteered.

“They will have help when they reach White Phoenix. I cannot afford many more to spare at this time,” Ta’llevny answered, only then glancing up from his paperwork. Each differently colored eye glinted in the soft light.

Sa’nengal bowed quickly and excused himself. It seemed as though he had reached the end of his temper, and left before he could make any more mistakes. Fellen’drey turned and walked back toward her older brother, and Tey’ven and Avaciel followed.

“If we were all of the same mind, we would never advance as the world does,” Ta’llevny said, offhandedly. He was excusing Sa’nengal’s actions. “Now then,” he sat up, addressing the three with a businesslike stare. “You will go to White Phoenix as soon as possible. Ride in as equals. I do not foresee a battle taking place, though there will be some tension. Keep your weapons at bay until you are contacted by your human allies.”

“Allies?”

“How will we make contact, we do not know their language?” Tey’ven asked. His question overrode Avaciel’s, but Ta’llevny nodded.

“There is a growing group of humans in White Phoenix who favor Vance Warrington as king, as opposed to his brother, Ferin. That same group will be willing allies to Tarragon Forest,” Ta’llevny said to Avaciel. Turning to Tey’ven, he smirked in amusement. “Fellen’drey knows the human Common language, as I do.”

Tey’ven nodded, glancing to the brown haired elf and back. Though Ta’llevny had white and brown hair strewn with bare branches, and odd colored eyes, he could see the resemblance clearly in their facial structure. He wondered if the elder leader had looked more like his sister in his younger years.

“One of the fairies has returned to tell us that Silna, Rowena and Dolen are being held by Ferin and his followers. They will likely call as much attention to them as possible, in order to cause trouble. I hope you will arrive before such a thing takes place,” Ta’llevny finished.

“We will leave now,” Fellen’drey said.


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




She was surprised to wake up to warmth all around her, and an unfamiliar smell. A tiny wiggling motion by her arm caused her to jump in instinctive fear.

“Sorry-sorry!”

Rowena sat up carefully and focused on the now dancing ball of light. “Frisle?” she croaked.

Her voice was not working very well. In fact, she was quite thirsty.

“Go-to-sleep!”

“She is probably hungry,” Silna said to Frisle, her voice weary. “Rowena, Lora brought food if you would like some.”

As her sister’s voice drifted through the small room, she sat up from her slumped position. The movements made her realize she was in a nest of rough, cloth blankets. She kept one of them over her legs as she leaned back against the stone wall, and focused, remembering where she was, and why she was there. It also reminded her of why her throat was tight and her eyes felt puffy. Silna was seated at her side, and Dolen was crouched in the corner, his green eyes wide and glowing as always. Only now, he looked more like a cornered cat than an ethereal elven being.

She took the cup from Silna’s hands and sipped carefully. The water was not bad. The food was dry and cold, but it sated her. After some time of silence, she finally spoke up.

“Is there news?”

“Wylden went back,” Silna replied.

“Brave-one he-is!” Frisle piped up again. He was in the folds of one of Rowena’s blankets, so his speech was even more difficult to decipher.

“The horses have been let free, and the twins hid our possessions,” Silna finished.

Rowena felt somewhat calmer at that news. One of the myriad of worries swirling through her mind was for Windwalker. Especially after the incident the day before.

“Will they not take that as even more evidence against us?”

“They need no more. What they have fabricated is apparently all it takes to cage us,” she said.

Silna was speaking in short, succinct sentences, while her eyes were focused on the knife. Its white hilt still pulsed as it lay stuck in a crack in the stone floor. The rhythm almost seemed faster than earlier.

“Lora. Did Lora say anything?” she asked, desperate for some sliver of hope.

To see her friends cowering, the once-bright fairy hiding under a dull blanket, was threatening her sanity.

“She said that there is a plan,” Dolen spoke for the first time since she had woken up.

Rowena wanted to ask what it was, but if Dolen did not say anything, then Lora must not have explained. It was frustrating! What were the rest doing? Had Wylden delivered the message? Even if he had, what would the beings of Tarragon do? There was not much that could be done without causing even more trouble between the two communities. She fought back the weight of the idea that this was all her fault. Silna had told her that was far from the case; that without her, the humans would have simply trod on Tarragon ground without warning. In such a situation, they likely would have been hurt or killed by a watcher. Still, it seemed that a clash between their two kinds was inevitable.

“Have the horses gone, then?“she asked at a length, wishing the ability to mind-speak went beyond a few meters.

“Frisle claims they are hiding in the woods nearby. They will not return without us,” Silna answered carefully.

“Not even Windwalker,” Rowena whispered, a ghost of a smile on her face.

The three of them sat wordlessly for some time after that. The sun was high in the sky, leaving a sliver of light on the stone floor when Rowena finally sat up with a resounding intake of breath. Frisle took to the air in a quick move to be out of her way.

“Well,” she said, gaining both Dolen and Silna’s attention. “If they are to take us out of here soon, we should do our best to look presentable,” she said, straightening the flowing fabric of her dress.

When she received no reply but deadpan stares, she lifted both arms.

“At least prepare for the possibility of battle,” she whispered that phrase, even as she spoke in Elven.

Silna sighed and finally nodded, reaching for the pulsating knife and pulling it from the stone. It continued to pulse, even as she sheathed it in her boot once again. From there, she went to work on arranging her dress in a way that she could move more easily. Dolen stood and began to pace again, but Rowena noted that he began to braid his hair back, away from his face.

It might not be much, but it was all they could do to keep from going crazy in the tiny stone room.

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


A guard tried to stop him at the door, but one look at his dress and demeanor, and Vance was let in at once. He had planned carefully. Anger had always driven him to make rash decisions, but the sight of his friends being led away by guards, and the waiting faces of the tavern folk had set his mind to work. Vance had returned to his room to bathe, eat a short meal, and dress in another cordial outfit. He made sure that Dale and Cameron were ordered to their rooms once they had visited the stables. The two of them needed rest, and time to pass along the plan. He barely took notice of the watchful gazes and whispers as he walked the halls, and was not surprised to see Ferin standing over his ailing father when he finally made his own entrance.

Ferin had one of his proverbial masks on. There was a distinct look in his eye that gave away his true feelings, but now he turned on Vance with a forlorn look.

“He is not well, brother,” Ferin said, a bit too loudly.

“Then why visit and disrupt his care?” Vance asked, his voice low and his words carefully spoken. Ferin stood his ground, looming over the bedridden king in an almost threatening posture.

“Father needed to know of your recent discovery.”

My discovery? You mean to say your wild accusations? We have yet to hear of the verdict for our attackers, yet somehow this takes precedence?” Vance replied, heat flooding his face as his anger threatened once again.

He reminded himself that Ferin said and did these things on purpose. It was all a game to him, and in order to fight fair, Vance would have to play on the same field.

“I can only accuse when I see obvious examples before my eyes, Vance. If they are who I think they are, our entire kingdom could be at stake,” said Ferin, his tone derogatory.

“So, we are to accuse all foreign folk of witchcraft?” Vance asked, slowly making a semi-circle around his brother. The king lay still under a heap of covers, and Vance frowned when he stole a look at his father’s yellow pallor.

“I accuse those who show obvious signs of it, Vance. You visitors have done well to hide it, but I will not take a chance.”

“Because they have white hair and a different language, you’re willing to accuse them of witchcraft! Put them in a cell? You do know that you are throwing a direct insult at our only possible allies against Van Reston!” Vance came back at him, doing his best not to raise his voice. Despite their arguing so close to his bed, the king lay still.

“Van Reston is not our immediate problem. These Tarragon folk could easily be in league with them. They-”

“Doubtful, Ferin,” Vance interrupted. “It they were in league with them, why would they give up information about them?” he asked breathlessly. “They are twin Kings, Serval and Sabian. Tarragon’s leader called them anxious. More than ready to expand their grounds. They are as much Tarragon’s enemy as our own.”

Ferin stood still, his mask dropping for a moment as he looked his brother over. It seemed his knowledge of Van Reston had taken him by surprise. It was good thinking, to have kept it to himself until that point. Both brothers flinched as the king moaned and shifted under his covers.

“Do you need your attendant, father?” Vance asked, now looking fully at his wasted father as the man struggled to speak clearly.

“He is asking why their leader did not deliver that information himself,” Ferin said, satisfaction ringing clear in his demeanor. It was a talent, he guessed, to be able to shift between faces so easily within a matter of minutes.

“He does not often travel from Tarragon,” Vance answered. “He is old,” he added.

It was the blunt truth, though Vance knew better. From the looks of him, Ta’llevny could have run circles around his father. The king was quiet, and Ferin pursed his lips. Turning to his father, he produced a sheet of paper that Vance had not noticed before.

“Regardless, I will call an open trial for tomorrow. We shall solve this as our law deigns.”

Vance was frowning as he watched Ferin guide his father’s hand, stamping the paper with his approval. As soon as it dried, Ferin was rolling up the order and striding towards the door, sparing not even a glance in either direction. Another moan from their father stopped him. This time Vance heard the king’s whispered words clearly.

“Let the people decide.”

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