The Four Lands Of Arravan: Birthright

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Chapter Four: Hollow Eyes

Xenia stood in the main hall, not at all amused by the request from Solon, facing the group of Monty, Nathan, Evan and Fraya with a scowl.

None seemed too pleased to be there, excluding Nathan who had earphones blasting music into his ears from his MP3 player, all of them could hear it but he didn’t seem to care as he bobbed his head to the beat.

“I appreciate your help Xenia” Solon announced stepping into the hall.

She paid no mind to his words and simply did as she was instructed, a portal swirled open revealing the distant blue roofs of Salatia.

Figuring she wouldn’t respond to anything he said, Solon directed his next words to the group “Make haste for Salatia, be sure to inform Nerina that you are there under my authority. I have sent a letter in advance but I dare say it has yet to arrive”

Evan being the first to nod and step through followed by Monty left Fraya and Nathan at the portal’s edge, Nathan hadn’t even seemed to have noticed a portal had been made until Fraya elbowed him in the ribs soon following her through the portal.

On stepping through to the other side, Fraya observed the area.

She had only been near Nirvariten a few times but none of which took her near to the capital since her childhood.

A family had raised her, unrelated to her bloodline after her true parents abandoned her on their doorstep.

Admittedly, it was an odd sensation, standing in the streets where she used to play, as much as she despised the notion she felt as though she was home, reconnected with her roots in a way.

Usually, her clients would have travelled to her in New Montem, that was when she had a respected occupation that paid generously.

Enough for her to have many luxuries including comfortable accommodation and a chance to afford high end dinners whenever she felt like splashing out on a bit of money.

With her job, travelling had never been for her own enjoyment, she could only just keep herself hidden enough in New Montem to be able to continue living there, but it was another risk going to other cities she wasn’t familiar with.

Out of her three companions, she could somewhat trust only one.

She blamed it on her occupation and the aftermath of the mishap with Zachariah for the reasoning as to why she trusted next to no one.

Evan was at least a little reliable, the other two however she didn’t like and couldn’t see herself putting much faith into them in the near future, especially Nathan who didn’t seem to be serious about anything so far.

They progressed through the city, Fraya leading the company although noticing the small changes in the layout and build since she was younger.

Small stone bird tables and certain designs on small buildings exterior architecture were missing, things that reminded her of home that ingrained themselves in her mind were gone, things really were constantly changing.

In the city of New Montem change was normal and part of everyone’s everyday lives, if it wasn’t new roads or buildings being stacked amongst the already clogged streets, then it was new visitors and forever changing traffic, Fraya had learn to adapt to it all of course it had taken time but once getting the hang of the fast paced life things were relatively straightforward.

But, going back to such rural places where silence was an option, seeing wild animals and hearing the songs of birds threw her off and she found herself more anxious, being gone from such serenity for so long she had grown familiar to the bustling streets, the sounds of birds nothing but the beeping of car horns.

It was sorrowful in all honesty.

Reaching the inner square of the city Fraya noticed Nerina stood atop the balcony of the High Council’s hall, she had clearly been notified about their arrival.

The people they passed in the streets looked ill, there weren’t as may children playing in the streets as Fraya would have expected which now reminded her of New Montem, where the roads were no place for games.

It was rare for her to even see a living soul where she lived, in the decrepit back alleys of the city, but even out in the open, passing down the paved pathways beside the main roads that were clotted with cars, bin wagons and delivery trucks, their drivers all equally as impatient and rude.

The innocence was missing, with very little areas that the fae’s homes were so richly surrounded by, families found it hard to escape the suffocating smog with The North Park being the only haven for them.

She along with many others, silently envied the fae cities, they were clean and peaceful and yet she felt somewhat ashamed that she had the option for a peaceful life, but even with the choice, she couldn’t stay with her own kind.

Business was high in the human cities with clients always eagerly waiting a glimpse of their futures.

It was no secret that the fae were firm disbelievers of such abilities, Mayfel was good proof of that, she did sincerely sympathise with him although her upbringing had been somewhat better in the sense that her parents stuck up for her and her differences.

They had made sure to raise her to be strong and sure of herself, their teaching had worked, perhaps a little too well.

Although when the Trinity War had occurred, she lost them both, luck had been in her favour and she had been old enough to look after herself by then.

Fraya made a living rather quickly and all seemed to have started off perfectly, and then her luck ran out a few years later when a certain black-haired boy asked her for her help and sent everything off the rails.

It had been a learning curve, a mistake she’d never make again.

Taking the lead up the steps to Nerina Fraya spoke up abruptly announcing their arrival “Solon sent us to help, may we observe the stone” she said cutting to the chase.

“I think introductions are in order before we begin” Nerina replied, her constant elegant charm taking its affect.

“Very well” Fraya agreed bitterly “I am Fraya Selino, this hear is Nathan Ordon, Evan Jacobs ad Monty Blackwood” she informed pointing to each individual as she spoke their names.

“A pleasure to meet you all, I am Nerina Barika Leader of Salatia’s High Council. Thank you for coming on such short notice, be sure to also thank Solon when you see him. The man is a blessed soul” she said before adding “If you will follow me I will lead you to which you seek” on seeing the impatient expression in Fraya’s eyes.

Nerina lead them down into the hall, the trickling of the fountain echoed off each wall creating a deeply serene atmosphere. although upon looking at the state of the fountain it made Fraya feel anything but settled and content.

The Lamia Rose sat clutched in claws of Elkhorn coral that all but plastered the bottom of the basin to which she could only just make out through the murky waters spewing from the fountains spout.

“How long has It been like this?” Fraya asked pondering the question of how Nerina and the other council members had left it in such dire condition for so long.

“Not too long after it had been returned”

“Could Helena have tampered with it somehow?” she asked seeing it as a possible reason considering what else the woman had done.

“It is highly unlikely. The stone would have killed her should she tamper with it’s power, it would have been too much for her to handle. As well, I watched over her as she placed it here, there was nothing out of the ordinary”

How could she have left if for so long? Fraya thought as she peered into the mass of coral, it’s like a would that gets infected, you don’t simply see it and leave it for it to get worse, you take care of it while it’s manageable. So what possessed her to leave it?

She was about to propose her question when Nathan began to speak, she all but expected something absurd to fall from his mouth but was pleasantly surprised when a serious question was asked.

“The King has told us that you’ve tried removing it, can I ask how?” he said and Fraya couldn’t help but look a little more calculating towards him and the others who didn’t seem phased at his odd personality change.

“We have attempted to break the coral surrounding it, I have personally hired experts on such plant life to analyse it and identify what it is exactly. However despite them determining what it is, they also informed me that it is not acting the way it should”

“What do you mean exactly?” Evan asked stealing Nerina’s gaze from Nathan.

As if the simplest answer she replied “The coral is unbreakable”

“Have you attempted to drain the fountain?” Fraya questioned seeing it another possibility,

“We have not for the only way to do such a thing would be to shut off the entire water supply in Salatia and the mechanism to do so lies in the underground cave system”

Becoming frustrated with Nerina’s lack of attempt Fraya cut off Evan as she asked another question “Surely you have maintenance members for such a contraption, why not send them to seal it off?”

The corners of Nerina’s lips fell a touch before resuming their usual composure “If you have yet to notice, my people are ill. Due to the stone’s corruption, all water sources in Salatia have become poisoned. None of my people have the strength to complete the task you are speaking of”

“Then we’ll do it” Evan stated earning both Fraya and Nerina’s eyes.

“It will not be easy” Nerina responded “The caves can be a maze, especially should your light source waver, it will be dangerous”

Nathan spoke up again, a bag of crisps that he somehow produced, open and already being dug into “Well what have we got to lose”.

* * *

Solon wondering out to the Raven’s nesting platform expected to have some time to himself to think over all the plans, meetings and rules that were quickly approaching, but seeing Rowan simply standing and looking out at the world told him he’d have to wait a little longer for his time alone.

The breeze shifted their hair in waves as the King approached the man, placing his hands down on the railings.

“What’s on your mind?” Solon began.

In a barren and estranged tone Rowan replied “My family, or rather the lack of it”

“I see” was all Solon could think of to reply with, what does one say to a man that has lost it all?

Speaking up again and holding out two envelopes to Solon, Rowan said “These arrived for you”

Recognising Nerina’s curled hand writing and Sorin’s more joined up and difficult to read font on the fronts of the paper, he collected and stored them away in the pocket of his jacket.

“What is it that you plan to do?” he asked Rowan as he returned his sights to the horizon.

“The only thing I can do, I plan to track down the only family I have left. The child may not be my own blood but it is a part of Braylen and despite her madness and dedication to Bregan’s ludicrous visions for our race, I did once love her”

Nodding, in partial understanding of what it is like to lose a family member Solon replied “You should not do such a task alone, it could be dangerous and you are not yet healed, you must take it easy”

“It’s something I must do alone, it is my responsibility now”

Haring his words Solon chose to ask “Are the others not your family too? Kaydence and the others would want nothing more than to help you” mostly out of curiosity but also interest “You know that if they hear of you taking it on alone they will still find ways to help you whether you like it or not”

Pondering over Solon’s words, Rowan tapped at the stone railings, a tune unknown to Solon but one that clearly meant something to Rowan as his fingers tapped with gentle care, often gliding side to side making Solon wonder if the man could play piano with all the grace his hands showed.

“Solon” Florenta called form the doorway, Solon already turning to face her with a smile, seeing her in the pale, light-fabric, yellow gown that flowed around her ankles.

She would always be everything to him in his eyes, from the moment he first met her he’d felt the jigsaw click together.

He loved her with everything he had and would have.

Briefly he turned back to Rowan “Let the others help, my friend” he said before making his way to Florenta where they then returned inside.

Rowan did think it over, all the while his voice and breath felt as though they were lodged in his throat, he never did well at asking for help.

Sure, when Arravan had been facing ruin he’d recruited the Raven’s to help, but now that it would be solely focused on him and his personal life he just couldn’t bring himself to sound so weak and look even weaker.

Too long had been bed-ridden and useless, he had to find Braylen’s child, his debt to Ida was finished and he had nothing holding him down.

The only Question was, could he trust Zack enough with such a mission when he too was in mourning?

He supposed there was only one way to find out.

His steps quickened he rushed through the mountain, he knew where Zack would be as he hadn’t moved from the area much in the past few weeks.

Zack had taken it upon himself to clean and rearrange the armoury, everyone that knew Zack could tell it was as a distraction, something for him to focus on and take his mind off of his sister’s death.

And those around him had left him to it, even Aveline after he and her had a small squabble, she’d made it clear that there were no hard feeling’s between them after it because they all knew by now how it felt to lose someone close to them.

For Mayfel it had been Rena, for Kaydence it was Bregan, Zack lost Helena as did Everette and he himself lost his wife and child.

He passed the library heading down a mostly unused corridor, lining the walls were canvases lined with splendid frames of golden swirls, the Aer Clan crest at the very top in the center.

Each canvas held the portrait of an Aer Clan ancestor, no doubt the past Leaders of the High Council.

Torches were dotted down the stone corridor between each painting casting eerie glows upon the stern stony faces, each one he passed he read the names off of golden plaques: Elva Indoorm, Uner Colven and Rendeth Angon.

Even Vallen Harkhallow had his own despite the hardships he he put his people through.

Seeing his face so still and easy to look at, Rowan could see the resemblance to Kaydence and Dalamis, there was no doubt that they were his sons.

Walking further down the corridor he could feel their eyes lingering on his back as if they were watching his every move, he’d be lying if he said it wasn’t unnerving and slightly creepy.

The hallway, to his relief, to a turn to the left before sloping down in stone steps, it reminded him a lot of the dungeons at Crestfold where he had lived for a good few months, although the staircase he was facing definitely went deeper into the mountain.

Descending the steps, his footfalls and breathing echoing off of the vast and damp cavernous walls, the temperature was dropping with each step he took or so it seemed, sending goosebumps up his arms.

The musky air was thick as he headed away from the fresh air, Zack was mad for even dreaming of coming down here he thought to himself finally able to see the bottom that ran forwards into another corridor.

As his boots thudded to the bottom his vision fell to the door-lined hallway, there were perhaps seven doors or so on each side leading to who-knows-where.

They were all made up of the same thick wooden panels, held together with heavy black bands of spiralling steel.

The last room on the right was open, a dull yellow glow poured from the half open door, Rowan made his way towards it like a moth to a flame.

Metal clanging and the screeching of a blade being honed, the gritty and shrill noise made it hard not to flinch, but Zack didn’t seem to be bothered in the slightest as he continued to sharpen the short-sword.

Reaching out a hand Rowan rapped on the door with his knuckles and somehow over the racket Zack heard, he didn’t lower the blade but his eyes cast over to Rowan looking empty and hollow, nothing but loss and loneliness held within.

“May I take a seat?” He asked from the doorway receiving nothing but a nod in return aimed towards a small table in the corner, a chair tucked neatly at it’s side.

From what Rowan had heard of the armoury previously from Dalamis and Stavros, the armoury hadn’t been used for years.

The cobwebs, dust and rust that had taken over, coating every inch of it was nowhere to be seen, every piece of metal was gleaming and arranged in precise sections.

Swords mounted horizontally on wall-mounted racks at the far end, spears propped vertically along the opposite wall next to stacks of shields, the Aer Clan crest embellished on the fronts.

A chest similar to the design of the heavy duty doors down the corridor sat in the corner, open and displaying polished and shimmering metal helmets to which none of the guards wore.

Relics of old he supposed.

Other display cases and stands held an array of daggers, archer and battle axes, crossbows, bows and quivers packed with arrows and finished with stark white feathers.

Perhaps dove feathers were used, it made them seem so innocent and pure, yet when combined with the arrow it wielded a gesture of death.

Taking up the seat Zack had directed him to, he notices that even the workbench Zack was sat at was completely spotless, not a speck of dust or a smear of polish was set on the wooden surface.

Everything was immaculate, that was excluding the clear, screw-cap bottle that sat idly to the side of the table, Rowan didn’t recognise the human medicine capsules but he wasn’t about to ask, not when he had other questions.

He did wonder what Zack would do after the room was completed to his standard and had nothing left to offer, perhaps he’d become Evangelis’ personal cleaner and cook or maybe he’d leave and take Aveline with him.

Starting a new life didn’t seem impossible for him especially if it took him away from the faces and buildings that held memories of his sister and their past, would he invite Everette to leave with them too knowing how she felt? It was hard to tell.

Amidst his thinking, Zack had turned to him and had placed the blade on the workbench.

“You’ve changed the entire room” Rowan began to say before Zack cut in rather sternly.

His eyes not changing whatsoever, nor his expression Zack continued to say “I don’t want any pity or small talk Rowan, why are you here?”

Not taking nay of it to heart, Rowan looked Zack square in the eyes where no life seemed to roam in the icy blue pools, they were so barren and desolate it sent a shiver through Rowan which he tried to suppress.

“Did you hear of the disappearance of Braylen’s child” he asked thinking that maybe in Zack’s state of mind he might have missed the whispers being passed around.

Nodding Zack replied “Yes, I have. And, I am sorry for your loss of Braylen and Jeanove”

“Thank you” he said before quickly analysing the situation as he continued “However, her child is still out there”

“You want to find the child” Zack stated earning a confirming nod from Rowan, Zack however seemed sceptical of Rowans visit and so asked the question Rowan had been expecting “What does that have to do with me?”

“You wish to have something to keep your mind off of things” he said while gesturing to the room.

Catching onto what Rowan was hinting at Zack came out with it “You want me to help you”

“I know you are still in mourning, but I did not know who else to turn. I do not think the others would understand why I would wish to locate a child that is not mine”

“Kaydence might” Zack mentioned “He was an orphan too afterall”

Seeing his point but already having made his mind up Rowan said “He is too busy and after his previous experience with missions, he could do without another journey”

“Do you know who the father is?” Zack asked, suddenly taking a detour away from their conversation.

“I do not” he admitted a little in defeat, he wished he did, or perhaps he didn’t, both the not knowing and the knowing would surely pain him the same.

“Did you think that maybe the father took his child? During the battle would have given them opportunity to kill Braylen and take the child”

“Your words urge me to find the child sooner, if the father could murder the child’s mother, then I fear what he may do to the child. Will you help me Zack?” Rowan asked, a slight pleading to his voice, he really was desperate.

Zack eyed him carefully, the cogs in his mind ticking over as he thought it all over.

Sighing out a “Fine” his boots hit the floor, his body leaving the chair as he stood up and transferred the sword from the workbench to the display mount.

Following his movements, Rowan too stood up saying “Thank you Zack, if there is ever anything you every require, do not hesitate to ask for a favour. I owe it to you”

“There isn’t any need for that, you always owe everyone something. It’s about time you get some help without having to vow your loyalty or efforts, you’ve done more than a lot of people would do so it’s about time I do something for you in return.”

“That is very kind of you”

Huffing a sort of laugh out through his nose, Zack looked to the door.

Rowan amused him with his polite sway of speaking, he always had but he didn’t know how much he missed it when he’d been held captive for al those moths, at least with the mission he’d just accepted he’d be able to relax a little, away form pitying eyes and I’m sorry phrase many threw around.

“Where do we start first?” he asked to the older fae.

Seeming as though he’s already thought ahead and planned it out, Rowan replied quickly “We should begin by asking those that were made to remained here after the trials. With all hope they will divulge things they kept secret from the King. You know a few better than anyone else, perhaps that will aid our attempts”

“Okay, if that’s what you want to try first” Zack agreed although slightly sceptical with Rowans confidence in them speaking freely.

“It could potentially save us time, it may not be certain we will gather any necessary information but it is worth a try.”

“Lead the way”

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