Daughter of Tarragon

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Heart's Embrace

The weight of the crown on his head was a foreign thing. However, even for one with aspirations as high as he, it was also a haunting thing. He sat in his father’s room, staring into the mirror at his own reflection. He looked haggard. Of course, it had been an extremely long day. His father’s passing had caused a rush of preparations that he could not sit back and merely watch. Not as he did when his mother had passed. He was older, and with that came responsibilities.

Now, he was king. Ferin reached up to finger the heavy crown, knowing that his father would be proud to see him in such a state. Of course, he could not wear it in public until after his coronation.

"That fits you well,” Zane drawled from behind him.

Ferin eyed him in the mirror to see that he had draped himself with one of his father’s old fur cloaks. As always, he looked perfectly stately, but Ferin ground his teeth.

“I’d like to be alone, if you please,” Ferin said softly. When Zane nodded and turned to leave, he added a short tempered order. “Put that back.”

Zane rolled his eyes, but did so without speaking. He had known Ferin long enough to know when to argue. This was not the time.

The door closed, and Ferin stared at himself once more. Regardless of ceremonial pomp and circumstance, his kingship had begun the second after his father’s last breath. Of course, part of him mourned his father’s passing. Without his father, he would not be the man he was that day. His father was also the man who had deemed him fit to rule.

The crown was meant for his head; the title meant for his name. Even Vance looked as though he had finally accepted it. His brother had not said more than a sentence to anyone during the funeral procession. He looked positively defeated, which was as it should be. Vance’s soft-hearted fight for the throne had been useless. Hopefully, he had come to his senses as the blow of their father’s death had struck. Ferin would have a place for him somewhere in the court. After all, he was his only sibling.

However, it was obvious that he was too far gone for any position of real worth. Vance could not be trusted to make any serious decisions for the kingdom. He had been led astray by a mixture of his own wayward lifestyle, and the otherworldly ‘talents’ of those blasted magic-users.

Ferin sneered and stood, carefully placing the crown back on it’s mantle. He had been given this span of time to be alone in his father’s room, and Vance would be given the same. They were free to take whatever might please them, unless previously bequeathed to another in the will. Vance would not be allowed to take anything related to Ferin’s inheritance as king. That was a soothing thought, at least.

He paced along his father’s bedroom, and opened the doorway that led into the receiving suite. It was quiet, and a fire had recently been lit to warm the room. Ferin would be glad to inherit his father’s servants. They were prompt, and seemed to know one’s every need before they asked.

He jumped and put a hand to his chest as a boy practically materialized before him. In reality, the boy had been standing by the outer doorway the entire time, but Ferin had only just noticed him. The boy was genuinely frightened, not daring to meet his gaze, and visibly flinching when Ferin noticed him.

“What are doing here?” Ferin asked, only then recognizing the boy as his father’s old medical attendant. He was a tall, lanky boy that was caught somewhere in the middle of becoming a man.

“I dinna’ have orders, Lord Ferin,” the boy said quickly. His accent slipped into his speech, and Ferin could only guess that it was due to fear. Castle servants knew well enough how to speak properly.

“My father is dead, boy. Your job is done.”

The boy looked up to meet his eyes, some of the fear slipping away to be replaced by incredulity.

“I cannot-” he started, his gaze drifting to the fire. “Is there no other task to which I can be assigned?” he asked, his speech near-perfect.

Ferin stood up to his full height, stepping forward and doing his best to loom over the boy. Proverbially, he was doing well, but the boy was literally almost his own height. He was not much to look at, with a shaggy head of hair, and brown eyes that hung like lanterns under furry brows. Ferin had not trusted him when he first saw him, and he did not trust him now. However, he felt the need to exact his newfound authority, and a message did need to be sent.

“Send a message to the council members. War has been declared on Tarragon Forest, and we will meet tomorrow as the sun sets to plan it,” he said with finality.

The boy stared at him with wide eyes, and finally nodded. “Yes, sire.”

Ferin smirked as the boy left the room with a few fast steps. He could get used to being called sire.

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

Should he stop and get his cold weather clothes? He always did get yelled at for running without being properly dressed. However, this, he knew, could not wait. Because of that, he did as he had been ordered. He made quick work of alerting the three eldest and most important council members through their servants. Once that task was complete, he made a dash for the servant’s wing of the castle.

The new king of White Phoenix had not taken long to make his first move, and it was a heavy-handed one. Marcus was simply glad not to have been killed. He had been in the king’s suite for nearly a day, cleaning as he had been told. However, when no one had come to order him to another task, he had been forced to stay. Leaving the castle without permission could cause a load of trouble, especially if something were to go missing. When Ferin had come through the doorway, he had felt his stomach sink. The first prince had never been kind to servants.

Marcus considered himself lucky. Not only had Ferin not dismissed him permanently, but he had given him the perfect duty! It would make it so easy for him to complete his true task.


Marcus slowed to a jog, turning at the sound of his old nickname. Had he already reached the servant’s wing? A female was trotting to catch up to him, and he slowed even more when he saw who it was. Though he was in a hurry, he would not dare pass such a well-known maid without a word.

“Somewhere to be?” Barlowe asked, panting as she did her best to keep pace with his fast walk.

“Plans to put in motion,” he replied vaguely.

Barlowe stopped in her tracks, and he kept going, not wanting to stop.

“Then the hammer has struck?” she asked.

“Loudly!” he replied.

Their message seemed almost coded, but it had to be that way. That was all a part of the slow-spreading plan that the second prince had put into effect before his father’s death. It had spread as a controlled rumor, staying within the correct crowd so as not to alert the courtiers, or Ferin’s followers.

Marcus ran down another two stairwells, and wound his way through the kitchen and storage hallways. He passed several maids at a smooth lope, and aside from a few of the newer ones, all stepped out of his way without questioning him.

Only when he felt the air grow colder did he slow his gait. When he reached the door, someone he knew stood in his path. He stopped abruptly, ready to glare before he realized who it was. Charles’ daughter Lora offered him a cloak, and stepped out of his way.

“News?” she whispered.

For any other, he would have replied with another vague metaphor regarding his actual news. However, Lora was not only Charles’ daughter, but was well known for her recent companionship with the second prince. For her, he bent his shoulders and whispered.

“Ferin has declared war on Tarragon. There will be a council as the sun sets tomorrow,” he watched her green eyes widen.

“Go on,” she ushered, opening the door for him.

He did not hesitate, moving out into the cold. Within a few short steps, he was moving at a dead run, draping the cloak haphazardly over his form as he felt the night’s air cut through to his skin.

Marcus has certainly finished his jobs. Ferin’s council had been alerted, and both Barlowe and Lora could be trusted to spread the more urgent message. However, he wanted to be sure. There was one last person that he needed to tell, and he knew exactly to which tavern to run.

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

Dolen frowned as he moved through the darkening woods. Rowena was following not far behind, followed by Snowsong, who had been doing his best to stay out of the way of late. The same could not be said for the fairies. They had begun flocking to her after the past day’s message had been passed, no doubt gushing to the one being who had patience enough to listen. They certainly had enough to be excited about.

Tey’ven had confirmed Wylden’s message, and added more information that he had attained from Ta’llevny. All of the visiting clan-members would be moved out toward the border of Tarragon and White Phoenix. Since they lived not far from the border, Dolen, Rowena, and Silna did not have much moving to do. However, from Tey’ven’s explanation, it would be an affair that could last a few days for the visiting outlanders. It was even said that Ta’llevny himself would be joining them. The fairies were more than happy to welcome more elven neighbors, and were happily preparing their grove and it’s surrounding perimeter for possible habitation. Camps would be made at staggered intervals surrounding the White Phoenix border, and preparations would be made from there.

Left with not much else to do, Dolen had continued helping Rowena practice the next day. Once again, she had worked until her fingers looked about to bleed before he called the practice to a close. She was certainly getting better; there was no doubt of that. Living in Tarragon had done more for her musculature and reflexes than she likely knew. Any other human would take much longer to work up to the level she had reached in two days. Rowena was a persistent and open-minded student, and he was in no way annoyed with being asked to train her. In fact, he was actually enjoying himself.

Dolen found himself smiling in response to her actions and words, and feeling more at ease than he had in years. Only when she was very young had he been so care-free with her, and her laughter reminded him why it had been so easy. He had found himself acting out, sometimes just to see if he could bring a blush to her cheeks. Then again, it seemed as though she were doing the same on some occasions. Dolen was beginning to put serious thought into sending her on a game of chase when the fairies had arrived.

They had babbled and trilled and flown around both of their heads while she did her best to practice. A swipe or two had not deterred them from pulling his hair into tiny braids., and he had stood brooding while Rowena laughed and kept up with their fast conversations. She had the patience of a watcher, that was for sure.

“Tell them not to bother the our guests much, please. Some of elf-kind are not as calm as we are,” Rowena continued. It was apparent that the fairies saw the outland elves as guests in ‘their’ land, and were asking Rowena for advice on welcoming them.

They were nearing the place where Dolen and Rowena would split, and Snowsong came up from behind them all. He turned just in time to see the great owl swoop down at the group of fairies, scattering them before he could tell him not to.


“I did not command that!” he defended himself readily, giving the owl a glare as he settled on a branch above them.

“You think it’s funny, though,” she stopped and folded her arms, meeting his gaze with a defiant look of her own.

Dolen did not deny that fact. When he said nothing, Rowena shifted her gaze to either of her sides, seeing that the fairies would not return for the time being. She sighed, rolled her eyes animatedly, and stepped forward to wrap her arms around his neck. The hug was not an unusual thing for Rowena. She hugged everyone. However, he could not deny that he enjoyed the close contact. He allowed himself a few quick moments to return the embrace before speaking.

“We’ll meet earlier tomorrow. The incoming groups will not make it easy for us to practice once the day begins to wane.”

“They’ll probably need help anyway,” she said, finally pulling back and dropping her arms to her sides. “I’ll see you tomorrow, then,” she grinned.

Dolen nodded, allowing a small smile to grace his features before he stepped around her to move in the direction of his own home.

“He doesn’t have to follow me home, you know.”

Dolen turned to look back at Rowena to find her glaring up at Snowsong. The evening before, the owl had happily followed her on her route home, sending him mental images of her trip along the way. Though he had not asked him to, it appeared that the bird had a similar task in mind

“He enjoys your company,” Dolen replied.

“So do you, but you don’t follow me home every night,” she argued back immediately.

He answered her words with such a pointed look that a blush rose to her cheeks in record time.

“I’ll... see you tomorrow,” she whispered quickly, turning on her heel and marching through the trees.

Dolen found himself grinning once again, and wondered at his own brazen actions. Then again, if there was anyone with whom he could be himself, it was Rowena. He sincerely hoped that she would accept the sides of him that he would show no other.

“Master-elf! May-we-see-your-home?”



Dolen’s pleased look dropped in place of a glare, and he did his best to channel Rowena’s patience. The glowing sprites followed him the entire way back to his home, and did not leave until Snowsong returned.

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

Vance ran a hand slowly over Dancer’s flank, allowing his eyes to adjust to the darkness. He could very easily light one of the torches, but that could bring more attention than he wanted right then. Instead, he enjoyed the warmth of the great beast he stood near, and watched his dark ears. When they perked, Vance chanced a look around the stable door.

Just as he had hoped, he saw a slim figure and a trailing tail of blonde hair trotting down the large hall.

“Dancer’s stall, Lor,” came Cameron’s low voice.

He heard soft footsteps, and finally, Lora came into his sight, sliding the bolt lock open and slipping into the stall. Dancer let out a pleased breath, nosing at her. Despite the nervous energy she was giving off, she smiled up at the dark horse’s face and ran a hand down his nose before turning to Vance.

“He’s called a war council,” she said, stepping closer. When he nodded slowly, she lifted her brows. “You knew?”

“No, I guessed that he would do as much,” Vance answered.

“He hasn’t even been crowned yet! I didn’t know such things were allowed.”

“His coronation will be a ceremony for the court. Ferin was king the moment my father’s heart stopped beating,” Vance answered.

He was surprised to find himself on the receiving end of an embrace, and felt her sigh against him as he returned it.

“I’m so sorry, Vance,” she whispered.

The two had not met since the news had spread, and she was only now able to express her condolences as he guessed she had wanted to. He accepted them gratefully.

“He is with my mother now,” he answered, adding more tone so that his voice was just over a whisper.

Lora stepped back and drew a hand over his chest, as if trying to straighten a wrinkle she could have made. As if a wrinkle would make a difference alongside horse hair, dust, and dirt. He smiled at her, and leaned on Dancer.

“Has your father been notified?” Vance asked, returning to the matter at hand.

Lora nodded, looking back over her shoulder. “His runner is on his way now. I’ve only just seen him. Ferin’s council will meet tomorrow evening.”

“Which is perfect,” he answered.

“Do you honestly think we can just... sneak out?” she asked, wringing her hands nervously.

“It will be our best chance to catch him off-guard. Has the message circulated?”

“Not yet, but it will have done so by morning. Father has had the families packing for days. They will be ready,” she answered. “Those who are not will follow, and bring news of his reaction.”

Vance nodded and ran his hand over Dancer’s flank. The horse would be his tomorrow evening, whether or not Ferin knew it. Treasure would go to Lora. Which reminded him...

“I want you to take these,” Vance said, turning and moving toward the back corner of the stall. He lifted a cloth-wrapped package and turned to hand it to her. This had been the one item that he had taken from his father’s room. It had been buried deep within an old wardrobe, but he had not missed the familiar garments.

Lora looked at him questioningly as she took the package, glancing back over her shoulder again. She would be expected back to her duties soon.

“My mother’s winter riding clothes,” he answered her silent question. “You’ll need them.”

“No, Vance,” she said, her eyes hardening with stubborn pride. “I couldn’t. They wouldn’t even fit-”

“See Kenzy. They are yours, Lora,” he said sternly, keeping one hand on the package to stay it’s place.

Lora looked genuinely angry at losing an argument, but it was clear that her time was up. Her face softened, and she nodded once, turning to move back out of the stall.

“Thank you,” she whispered, meeting his gaze as she closed and locked the door. “I’ll see you tomorrow night.”

Vance nodded, waited for two breaths, and then leaned out the stall door to watch her silhouette.

“Didn’t bother to tell her about Treasure yet,” he said softly to Dancer. “That’ll be an argument in it’s own.”

Dancer snorted, and he smirked in reply.

“All clear, sire,” Dale’s voice called from the other end of the stable.

As he exited the stall, he glared down to his right. “I told you not to call me that!” he whispered harshly.

“Callin’ it as I see it,” Dale replied with a grin.

Vance rolled his eyes, but could not help but smile at Dale’s demeanor. Listening to the brothers argue in whispers as they made their way back to the castle, he felt even better about his brash plan. He would do anything to keep life as colorful as it was right then.

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