Chapter Four: Uninvited Guests
I awake slowly, blinking into the multicoloured light beaming through the windows. Yesterday I had not seen the glass to have rainbow properties. Upon staring intently at it, I realised that it was the direction of the sunlight on the window, the angle, that made the rainbow effect.
These Giants, I think sleepily, are extraordinarily talented with their glasswork.
Shifting, I turn and bunch the blankets over my shoulders, coming face to face with Sequoia. I freeze, studying the planes of her face. When she sleeps I can fully appreciate her features. The stern brows, pale skin and high cheekbones fit enough to slice glass. Her dark eyelashes casting long shadows on her cheeks, or the pink lines of her lips. Small scars pepper her jawline, probably from people smaller than she swinging towards her face in battle with their swords.
My hand moves to trace her jawline, reaching across the bed, but before my fingers can touch, Sequoia’s hand grips mine and her eyes fly open. It takes a moment for her to realise it’s me, and when she does, her eyes visibly relax.
“Not used to gentle hands waking me,” she mutters, rolling onto her back, “Sorry for startling you.”
I shake my head, sitting up.
“No need to apologise,” I tell her, moving off the bed, “I didn’t get stabbed, so all is well.”
“I wouldn’t have stabbed you!” She exclaims.
I move to the other side of the bed, plucking the knife from under her pillow, and the ones under the mattress, the bed, from the bedside table and then gestured to the one strapped to her thigh. She shifts guiltily.
“People have tried to stab me in my sleep,” she mumbles.
Throwing the blankets off she stretches, before her purple eyes move over me slowly. They stick to my hair before a large grin fills her face. It was a hearty smile, one that had no restrictions, that beams to its full potential.
“Your hair is huge.”
I swear at her.
“Of course it is,” I hiss, “It’s big and coiled in nature.”
Sequoia stands, dwarfing me, and brushes her hand over it. She pulls at a black curl, elongating it and then watching it spring back again.
“And it’s beautiful,” she tells me, kissing my forehead, “I’d like to braid it some time, if you’ll let me, of course.”
Glancing up at her, I reach for the ends of her hair, contemplating the possibility. She looks good with braids like these, with metal rings tight around the ropes of her hair.
“But aren’t these special to your people?” I ask, feeling worried, “I don’t want to disrespect anyone or overstep.”
Sequoia hums in thought, considering, before nodding.
“Some may feel that way. Perhaps we can find other braids more suitable to your culture?”
I nod, relaxing.
“That sounds best. Hair is special.”
There’s a banging that sounds, and Sequoia raises her eyebrow, unimpressed. It’s getting worse and worse, emanating from the door, and Sequoia shoves the wardrobe back. Ardwen stares from the hole in the door.
“Sequoia!” He shouts, panicked, “There’s a mob at the gates demanding The Blue Fire!”
Sequoia pinches her nose, giving me a pointed look, and I shrug in response. I couldn’t see the problem. The blue fire is blue fire.
“Deal with them how you see fit,” she huffs, “I trust my guards can manage bandits.”
Ardwen looks uncomfortable, his eyes flickering to me. I stiffen, not liking the dread on his face.
“It’s the Orc Chief,” he admits, “She wants Lady Jadis.”
Sequoia swears colourfully, swooping to her armour and heaving it on.
“The fuck she is,” she grunts, “Where is Chief Ula? Guard Jadis with Arla, and if anyone suspicious comes near, dispose of them and take Jadis to the tower safe room.”
With that, she rips the door open and storms out, axe at the ready. I gaped at her retreating back, stunned, but before Ardwen could open his mouth, I was following Sequoia.
“My Lady!” He pleaded, following behind me, “You can’t be at the gate-you’re who they’re after.”
I grunt, aware I was dressed in Sequoia’s shirt still, looking unfit for a confrontation of any kind.
“Yes, and why is that? Blue Fire is just fire. I don’t understand the drama surrounding it. Ardwen, tell me about Chief Ula.”
He goes pale and then looks relieves with Arla appears beside him.
“She’s a powerful leader, intent on finding the Blue Fire and harnessing its powers. The Blue Fire is a central part of the Destiny Legends, foreseeing-”
Ardwen smacks her in the stomach, and she splutters before some kind of acknowledgement dawns on her.
“Oh,” she backtracks, “It’s an old tale told by old delusional old priests in old drab robes. A load of ancient gibberish!”
I sigh, gathering that Sequoia had told them something, as she also forbid me to use the Blue Fire in public. Before our marriage, the small village of Porro was very hush about my ability and avoided me, which suited me fine. My father stated it was an omen, but no one ever told me why.
Gritting my teeth, I turn and glare at the two of them
“The truth, please,” I demand, panicked at the increased noise growing outside, “and make it fast.”
Ardwen and Arla stare at me, glance at each other, and fidget. I can see their reluctance to go against Sequoia, but they didn’t want to disobey me either, though I’m sure Sequoia wouldn’t mind if it kept me ignorant about the entire ordeal.
“It is an old legend,” Arla relents, almost shrinking into herself, “Long ago, in the Age of Dragons, there was an old Queen. She was murderous and cold, creating chaos and fear over the land. A crone went to visit her and prophesied that she would birth a monster that would shock even her.”
She gestured to Ardwen, not wanting to continue, her voice caught in her mouth. He pressed his lips together but continued.
“She birthed a girl, Chrysos, who had the power of the Blue Fire. She grew wicked and cruel, worse than her mother. There’s a reason people regard the blue flame as an omen, as it means death to most. Anyway...” Ardwen paused and licked his lips, “Chrysos had two daughters, Peitho and Eirlys. It’s said they are alive today and hold the key to awaken Chrysos once again.”
I blink, utterly bored.
“So Chrysos is taking a nap waiting for her dragon children to come for her, and I just happen to have Blue Fire?”
Ardwen nods, but then grimaces.
“Well...we suspect,” he says, “You look like Chrysos, so we think you may be one of the daughters.”
Arla glares at him and then smacks him at the back of the head before looking at me apologetically.
“It’s a possibility, but you don’t look dragon,” she tells me, “It’s just the hair...and the face...and...”
She gestures to my face and then goes quiet.
“Yeah,” she finishes, in defeat, “You look just like how the paintings dictate.”
“Well, jokes on you, because my mother, from...what I remember, was part fae!” I exclaimed, and then frowned, “Partly?”
Truth is, I have very vague memories of my mother. She had a wild mane of hair, that I remember, as I used to love touching it with my hands. Her face is a blur, her eyes black holes, and I can’t tell you what her voice even sounds like.
“I don’t remember her,” I admit, “but I have more than one sister.”
Arla bites her lip.
“You are the only one with black hair, my Lady,” she says quietly.
“My father has black hair.”
“He’s not your father,” a voice sounds, and I turn, seeing Sequoia’s sister Elide.
We hadn’t yet spoken, and whereas Brina was carefree and relaxed, Elide was stern, cold and blunt. Her dark eyes don’t move from my face.
“They are not your sisters, he isn’t your father, and you are supposedly Eirlys. We don’t know where Peitho is, but we’ve been studying you in Porro for almost seven years,” she states blankly, coming closer and closer to me, “Which begs the question: why did Sequoia marry you?”
Arla looks uncomfortable, and Elide’s eyes did not miss this. They settle on Arla, silent demand brewing.
“It’s the other part of the legend,” she reports, her eyes flickering to me, “A Dwarf Giant of Rank can quell the Beasts of Three.”
Elide frowned deeply.
“And how do you know so much of these legends, Arla?”
“Nightwalkers have a rich history of storytelling. We tell stories by the fire, remembered from our elders and our elder’s elders. Sometimes, we tell them in song.”
Elide nods, satisfied with the information. However, as I listened, I felt increasingly more outcast. I knew Sequoia had married me for a reason, but I thought it would be to rub her back or pour her ale. Not because I was a suspicious person she and her guards had been spying on for nearly seven years. I knew this marriage wouldn’t be happy.
A pulse of anger and resentment forms, hot under my skin.
“I’m going to get dressed,” I declare, suddenly unable to be near anyone.
Ardwen and Arla go to follow me and Elide watches as we go, silent judgement in her eyes. I walk fast, my thoughts racing with more thoughts.
I slam the door shut when I reach it and stare at the hole at Ardwen and Arla with annoyance. They seem genuinely nice, but I smile grimly at them before draping a blanket over it. When I can’t see them, I throw myself at the bed, trying to think how to get out. The windows here don’t open, and other than the bed and wardrobe, the room is very bare. No books, no doors, and no rooms I could move into from the bedroom.
Pissed, I belt up the shirt I was wearing, unwilling to wear a bodice in this situation. I grabbed my knives and my cloak and look around the room with frantic eyes.
“Should have known this was bullshit,” I hissed at myself quietly, memories of last night floating in my head, “Better to go now than later.”
Set, I opened the door, and they looked at me worriedly, unsure why I was armed. I ignored the confusion, moving past towards the kitchens. There’s one kitchen with a door leading onto a patch of land used for growing vegetables, with a shed that I could climb up and then swing onto the wall. Arla’s face tightens when she works out my plan, but she doesn’t stop me.
“It’s dangerous,” she says, “And Sequoia will keep you safe.”
I smile a smile that isn’t nice.
“Sequoia used me to fulfil some legend that has not yet been proven to be true,” I fired back, frustration emanating from me, “I’ve been taken from my sisters for this shit.”
Elide appears in front of us, having stepped out of the shadows. Before she speaks I cut her off.
“If you dare say they’re not my sisters, I’ll kill you,” I say sharply, promise loud in my words, “I don’t care who you are, but you cannot tell me that.”
Tears brimmed in my eyes as I remembered my sisters. We’re indeed different. They’re beautiful, kind and capable, whereas I stay alone, and people grow sick of me. The villagers hated me, and my father loathed me. It made complete sense that we would not be of the same blood, but I refused to believe that made us unable to call each other family.
“They are my sisters,” I tell her firmly, “They’re my sisters, and I love them. I will not stand here and have a stranger dictate otherwise.”
Elide steps forward, and I hold up my hands, my flames flaring from my palms. It glints eerily blue, causing the three of them to stare in horrified awe.
“Move,” I order, “I make my own decisions.”
Elide sets her jaw.
“Not when it affects other people you don’t, ” she says gruffly, stepping forward again, “And not when it includes my sister.”
My flame grows in size from my palms, and I look over the edge of the balcony, judging the height from the third floor to ground level.
“Sounds fair,” I smile and then leap to the side.
I grasp the hard metal of the chandelier with a crash, swearing as the ornate details slash into my palms. Arla wails, but I pay her no attention, intent on swinging my weight towards another chandelier. My hands are slick with blood, and I swear as I clamber to the second one, almost slipping to the tiled floor below.
“Stop this madness,” Elide roars, furious, “if you fall, Sequoia-”
I laugh maniacally, throwing my head back.
“Sequoia would have a lot less to worry about, so fuck you.”
With that, I throw myself to the second floor, grunting as sharp pain booms in my left ankle. I hobble onwards, dip into an open study and run to the window as if driven by madness. The maids disperse as I throw the window open and bolt out of it, scratching myself on the latch as I go. I grasp the window ledge and twist down, hanging to observe where to land. I’m shocked to see Sequoia staring up at me, along with many spectators from over the gate. They look small from here.
I wave with a smile before dropping, feeling the wind through my hair. There’s a lot of shouting sounding, and I have a fleeting sense of guilt towards Sequoia. Her words from last night echo in my head. The way she asked if I would stay and the way her eyes looked shy to ask. I swear, throwing my hands to the ground and blasting my flames at it, trying to cushion my fall. It works, though I feel the heat singe the ends of my hair. My left ankle screams at me in warning, but onwards I hobble, my eyes fixed on the shed in the distance, determined to make it.
I hear running coming closer, the clanging of armour, and I hobble faster.
“Fucking nope!” I hiss, hearing the heavy footsteps coming closer and closer, “Son of a bitch!”
Sequoia is right behind me, and she scoops me into her arms firmly, holding me close. I expect rage from her. Anger. Words of heat and poison, or something like venom in her words to snap at me. Instead, she pulls me close, burying her face in the back of my neck. It’s silent save for her heavy breathing and the banging outside the gates.
“You jumped,” she whispers, pulling away finally, “And you’re bleeding and limping, and your hair is...gods. You scared me.”
Confused, I feel my body relax, too perplexed to be defensive. Instead of anger, Sequoia was scared for me.
“What we’re you doing?” She asks, turning me around.
I open my mouth, full of retorts and sharp remarks, but she looks devastated. I feel shame swarm me. How could I leave her? Shaking my head at my foolishness, I realise that unwillingly, I do care for her. A small part of me doesn’t want to hurt her.
“Shit,” I hiss, hanging my head, “I was running away. I heard about the legend and called it quits. I ran from Ardwen and Arla and Elide. I jumped from the balcony onto the chandeliers.”
She goes still, her eyes wide.
“You were leaving me?” She whispers, distraught, “You said...”
You said that you wouldn’t leave me.
I flinch, hearing the words we had spoken last night together. It must have meant a lot to her because now, I can see how my broken promise ripped her apart. Her purple eyes drop, but she nods.
“I don’t blame you,” she says quietly, “But I can’t let you go either.”
I smile sadly.
“I thought you’d say that.”
She binds my hands, a sad look in place, and she stares at them in her large ones. For a moment, she glances at the wall before closing her eyes and swearing.
“Fuck it...we’ll go together,” she huffs, ripping the binds off, “I don’t want you caged, but I want you safe.”
She picks me up, a determined look on her face, before crouching low.
“Tuck your legs in and hold on,” she tells me and then launches forward.
She’s fast. Faster than expected. She bolts towards the shed, hops up, and then springs over, surprisingly nimble. Atop the wall she shakes her head, staring over the vast sands alongside the castle, before darting off towards the trees. The banging and shouting behind grows quieter until slowly, it disappears. Sequoia still runs on, keeping me tight to her chest.
“You’re going to exhaust yourself,” I gasp, my hands coming up to her face, “Slow down.”
She doesn’t want to, but she slows to a brisk jog, a happy compromise between the two.
“You’ve been running for ages!”
Barely glancing at me, she frowns, peering through the trees.
“I can do this for days,” she insists, finally stopping, “We should be safe here for a moment, but a moment only.”
Finally, she looks at me properly, her eyes holding mine. Unable to look away, I feel drawn in.
Around us, the trees buzz faintly with life, the glistening moss and leaves reflect the golden sun around us. Her eyes look magical and full of enchantment. Slowly, she presses her lips to mine, and I’m startled. She may have touched me last night, but she had not kissed me before. It felt almost sacred, personal, and my body coils in delight. When it ends, I feel myself chasing her lips with mine, hungry. It’s odd. This Dwarf Giant, who has run away with me simply because I wanted it, because she wants me safe, makes my heart yearn for more.
I wrap my legs around her, her arms keeping me up as I do so.
“How long is a moment?” I asked her, brushing a kiss on her jawline, “What can we do with a moment?”
Sequoia’s face darkens, desire clouding her judgement. It was like a switch had gone off, making her breathing come heavier. I questioned my sanity and blamed the adrenaline of running away with her.
She lays me down, her strong hands gentle and her expression passionate.
“You can do a lot of things in a moment, and only a moment,” she tells me, licking her lips, “and I want to show you one of them.”
I feel my face flush, and I parted my legs almost brazenly. It’s almost as if I hadn’t wanted to cave her head in earlier for marrying me for a strange, bizarre reason and taking me from my family. My eyes lock onto hers, and I contemplate. Maybe it’s the dutiful, loyal and magical way she looks at me. Full of longing and hope. No one has ever looked at me like this.
Slowly, she lifts her borrowed shirt from my legs and bows her head between them.
I gasp, not expecting that, but then moan at the flick of her tongue.