Queendom : The Beginning

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Chapter 3

1 ~ Daru

Pain burned in almost every inch of Serrala’s body and her head throbbed with the worst headache she’d had in years. Just what had happened, did the spell fail? Was she still trapped in the palace dungeon? Had she simply passed out with her failed effort and the man had been left to work her body at his will? Panic and fear began to roll through her like a tidal wave but she forced herself to remain calm as she tested each one of her limbs and opened her eyes. No chains, no apparent damage. Then, why did she hurt so much?

A groan of pain forced its way passed her lips as she made to push herself into a sitting position but stopped as her hand brushed against something hard and sharp. Alarmed, she explored the object and carefully lifted it from where it was, bringing it to where she could see it in the non-existent light of the room. It felt rough and grainy, and was almost triangular in shape but the lack of illumination in the room made it nearly impossible to identify. Grumbling, she tossed the item aside, listening as it clinked against something else near her.

Confused now, and a bit more cautious, she again began working on getting herself into a sitting position. All around her body she found more pieces of the grainy broken objects, they poked and prodded as she shifted but she finally managed to get herself sitting upright. Moving carefully she began to reach out in the direction she’d thrown her unknown object and grimaced as her hand smacked into something hard. “Yeah, let’s just throw my hand out into the unknown darkness,” she mumbled to herself as she slowly ran her fingers along the mystery item beside her. It was a large piece of pottery, which meant the sharp debris beneath her were pieces of clay earthenware that she must have crushed somehow.

Well, at least being surrounded by clay pottery meant she wasn’t in the dungeon any more, so the spell must have been successful. But now the question at hand was where she was? She began to consider all of the possibilities when she heard a sound coming from over her and cringed as she found the room suddenly flooded with light.

“Hey Aiden, there’s someone down in here!” A male voice called from above.

“Just hang on my lady, we’ll work to get you out of that ritual storage pit,” another voice added as she slowly began to focus on her surroundings.

Storage pit indeed. Now that she had, a decent amount of light to see by she realized that all around her were large earthenware containers filled to the brim with grains and other sacred items. There was no door in any of the walls, in fact the only way in or out of room was the hole in the ceiling that must have been formed when she crashed down upon the pottery within. No wonder she ached so fiercely, it was almost amazing that she hadn’t broken any bones in her fall.

It didn’t take the two men long to lower a ladder down into the storage pit, but when she tried to stand up her left leg gave away under the weight of her own body and she went tumbling head first into the wall, knocking herself unconscious.

The smell of food stirred her from her slumber as she slowly opened her eyes, only to close them again against the brightness of the room around her. “So you finally are coming around eh?” A female voice inquired off to her left. “I brought you some food; I figured you might be hungry. That leg of yours is fractured you know, probably would have broken it if you had managed to put your full weight on it. As it stands now though you’ll mend quite nicely in a few weeks.”

Serrala grimaced as she shifted herself into a sitting position, and took in her surroundings as well as the woman beside her. The woman was young, barely into her twenties and dressed in a rough hand spun outfit of wool. Her stomach was round with child, and her hair was pulled up into a simple bun upon the nape of her neck. Yet some how the simple nature of the woman seemed to compliment the character of the room, for it too was simple. The walls were made out of a rough clay brick, and the only furniture around was a small table, a stool, and the cot she was laying on. There was a small window to her right, with a rough-hewn cloth covering it.

“Well, I uh,” she knew she should say something, but as she attempted to think of something that wouldn’t make her sound like a raving lunatic a sharp pain shot through her head causing her to cringe.

“Oh, oh shh, don’t say a thing dear,” the woman immediately stated as she shuffled over to the tray she’d placed on the small table and retrieved a cup. “Here, just drink this and you’ll feel better. Got some good herbs in here.”

Serrala made to argue against partaking of, well, whatever was in the cup, but as soon as she opened her mouth the woman pressed the cup to her lips and began to tip it. Suddenly the only option she found she had was to either drink, or choke and she decided to do the less traumatizing of the two.

“Better now?” The woman inquired as she pulled the cup away, allowing Serrala to nod her head in the affirmative. What ever was in that drink, it was good and Serrala could feel the pain bleeding out of her body with every second that passed. “Good. Shall we try some food then?” Again, Serrala inclined her head, but this time she managed a smile as well.

“Thank you,” she stated quietly as she accepted the tray and began to pick at the items laid out upon it. She’d never seen any food like this, and she couldn’t really pick out what most of it had been made with, but she decided to try it. After all, the unidentified drink the woman had given her had tasted deceptively good. Generally, anything containing healing herbs, in her experience, tasted like dirt.

The woman gave her a few minutes of silence to eat before she sat herself down in the only chair in the room and looked thoughtfully at Serrala, as if she were trying to puzzle something out. “So, just how did you manage to get yourself trapped in one of the ritual storage pits anyway? That’s sacred ground. No one’s supposed to walk through that area of town.”

That certainly was a good question. How did she end up where she’d been found? She didn’t even know where she was now. “I uh, well, I really don’t know,” she replied as she swallowed a bit of food. It was the truth, but she couldn’t explain just why she didn’t know in the first place, so she fabricated a little white lie to add to her previous statement. “The last thing I remember was… You know, I really don’t recall anything.”

“Poor thing, must have hit your head pretty hard.” The woman rose from her chair and gathered the now empty tray from Serrala’s lap. “Well I’m going to let you rest now. If you need anything just call for me, my name’s Mairta.”

“I’m Serrala,” she called out as Mairta slipped out of the room and closed the door behind her, allowing Serrala to drift off to sleep again.

2 ~ Fahrei

Jatech grumbled as he stepped out of the physicians’ wing of the palace. Sometimes that woman knew how to rub him completely the wrong way. To believe she actually accused him of knowing more about their newly acquired guest then what he’d told her, the gall of some people! Though he did have to admit there was something odd about Ashise, and one way or another he would figure out just what that was. But that could keep, because now, he was on his way to the royal library where Crestin had been hiding himself all day.

“I simply can’t believe it,” Crestin mumbled as he shifted through the sizable pile of papers in front of him. “This is, no, this simply can’t be.”

“What can’t be?” Jatech inquired with a smirk as he watched Crestin nearly fall out of his chair with surprise at hearing his voice behind him.

“By all that is sacred Jatech! Why do you insist on continuously sneaking up behind me every single chance you get?”

“Because I just love seeing you ruffled,” he replied as he sat down across from where Crestin was settled. “My fine faithful advisor, you’re always so tidy, and well, all advisor-like. It‘s fun to catch you off guard. To shake up your day a little.”

“Oh grow up.” Crestin grumbled as he straightened a few of the papers in front of him.

“Right. Perhaps I will,” Jatech replied as he shifted in his chair to make himself more comfortable. “I’ll start with asking you what you were talking about when I entered the room.”

“I, well,” Crestin paused a moment as if he really didn’t want to tell Jatech about what he’d been reading, but after a few minutes of deliberation he gave in. His hands lifting a handful of papers off the table, to hold out for Jatech.

There was a moment of hesitation before Jatech accepted the papers from Crestin; it wasn’t much like him to be distressed about anything. Crestin seemed to always be prepared for every scenario, every possibility. To see him like this piqued Jatech’s curiosity and pushed him to read the papers he’d been handed with a bit more attention then he would have, under normal circumstances. After all, most of the papers he was handed were political in nature, land negotiation, trade delegations, and other mundane reports.

But this time, this was different. When he finished reading the papers this time he was as amazed as Crestin, his mind reeling with ideas, and possibilities. “But this, these are all legends. No one believes these stories,” he stammered in disbelief as he set the papers back down upon the table between him and his advisor.

“If you had said that to me even one hour ago, I would have agreed with you,” Crestin replied with a thoughtful frown. “But now…”

“She could be making it all up you know. She could have been hit on the head hard enough that she thinks what she’s told us is the truth. Isn’t every child taught these tales?”

“Perhaps, but it all coincides with what’s written on these pages. The year, the time, I know it’s all a little crazy. Yet what if it’s all true? If it’s all true and we just ignore it…”

“Ignore it? No, I wouldn’t ignore something like this, I won’t risk that. I just think we should sit on this, keep it between us for now. After all, there’s supposed to be two women, not just one. I think we should do some investigating, maybe send a few of the royal scouts to some of the villages near here, see if any strange women have shown up in the last day or so.”

“For once, I have to agree with you. I’ll see to it that it gets done my prince.” With that, Crestin rose from his seat and slipped out the door, leaving Jatech alone in the library with his thoughts.

3 - Elyant

Padru stopped to check himself over and tug some creases out of his uniform before he took a deep breath and stepped into the royal bathhouse. He really did not want to be in here, he really didn’t want to be anywhere near his king right now, and he especially wasn’t looking forward to delivering this small bit of news to the king. It was just one problem after another lately, first the queen disappeared, and now her royal “advisor” was missing too, right out of the dungeon no less!

Even though he was the king’s advisor, Padru had come to dread being approached with any kind of news that should be brought to the king’s attention, because he ended up taking the brunt of the king’s temper. Though here in the baths there was a chance he could get out of this with minimal injuries. With a resigned sigh, he tossed himself out of his thoughts, and stopped to look around the main bath area in an attempt to locate just where Saven was hiding himself. This of course was next to the waterfall, rutting it up with three of the castle maids. Ashise was just a formality to him, his cock was never too far from a woman’s cunt no matter what was going on in the kingdom.

Once upon a time, a scene like this used to make Padru uncomfortable, but now he found himself rather immune as he made his way toward all four of them. “Pardon the intrusion your Majesty…”

Saven shifted slightly as he looked over to where Padru was standing, while motioning for the girls to continue what they were doing despite his presence. “This better be important Padru.”

“I wouldn’t have come in here otherwise,” Padru replied as respectfully as he could. Saven was speaking as if he was too busy to be bothered with anything, what he wouldn’t give to be able to call having a foursome busy. “I have just been handed a report from the dungeon, Ashise’s so called advisor is missing.”

“What?” Saven exclaimed as he shoved the women away from him. “No one escapes from the dungeon! How the hell did she manage to escape?”

Padru tried his best not to flinch as the yelling began. “The report is that she ah, vanished.”

“Vanished? What do you mean vanished?” Saven shot back while stepping out of the water and grabbing a nearby towel.

“Simply that your majesty, she vanished, disappeared into thin air. The warden claims that one moment she was chained down to the table in front of him and the next she was gone. I’ve ordered him to remain within my office so that you could question him better then I was capable.”

“You’re a good smart man Padru; I think I shall have you accompany me. Women are disappearing from my castle, this is going to require some serious investigation before any one else comes up missing.”

“Of course your majesty.” After all, it’d be a tragedy if his all high and mighty King Saven ran out of women to fuck. Not that Padru would say that aloud of course, he valued his life a bit more then that.

After Saven dressed himself in something a little more appropriate than a towel, he and Padru walked to Padru’s office where the dungeon’s warden waited for them. Somehow, Padru felt that this meeting wasn’t going to go well for the twisted old man. He was old, frail, and a bit overdue to be replaced, it’s no wonder the woman managed to get away from him. The man was probably so distressed that prisoner got out of his dungeon on his watch that he concocted this insane story about her just up and vanishing. The problem was that Saven was in no mood to understand this. This may only be the third day since Ashise’s disappearance but already it was quite clear that Saven was going to be incredibly ill tempered about being denied the only cunt that actually belonged to him.

“Oh, good day your Majesty!” The old warden exclaimed as he leapt up out of the chair he’d been sitting on to bow while he glanced between the King and Padru.

“I’ve heard a bit of news that disappoints me, Gartec,” Saven replied with brusque reject while he sat down in Padru‘s plush chair behind the desk.

The old man’s greeting had been completely lost on Saven, he didn’t care, didn’t even acknowledge it. And when the Gartec looked to Padru for a little bit of assistance, all he could do was motion for him to continue, he wasn’t about to get between him and Saven today, or any day before Ashise was found. This was something he chose to demonstrate by moving to stand just behind where Saven had sat down.

“Ah, yes, I would imagine that has gotten all the way up the ladder by now. Is there any more that I may be able to explain to you that you haven’t heard?” Gartec frowned slightly as he looked at Padru seeing he obviously wasn’t going to receive any help in this.

“Indeed there is,” Saven replied in a dangerously idle tone. “How about everything, from the beginning? I’d like to know how a woman just simply vanishes out of a dungeon when I was assured she’d been left securely fastened to an appropriate location.”

“Oh she was, I will indeed add to that assurance. The guards that brought her down did a flawless job in leaving her upon the persecution table; In fact she had remained in place for quite some time.” Gartec paused a moment as he seemed to be recalling the events of the evening. “You see, I was delayed in coming down to question the woman due to a family issue. So the first thing I did was to go over and check that my tools had been laid out correctly. They were, so I went over to the woman to begin questioning her, but she wouldn’t say anything. I used some persuasive actions against her and she shut her eyes against it. Then she started to, well I can only say, chant, something. I couldn’t for the life of me, make out the words; they were nothing I’d ever heard before. As she chanted this strange wind started to build up in the dungeon, so strange that I had taken a step back, yet as I did so, the woman just, vanished.”

“Vanished,” Saven repeated at the end of Gartec’s statement. “So, as you expect me to understand this, Serrala started chanting something in an unknown tongue and disappeared? Do I look daft to you sir?”

“Daft your majesty? N-no I don’t think you look daft.” Gartec sputtered out in a bit of alarm.

“No?” Saven replied as he stood up out of his chair and rounded the desk separating him from Gartec, stopping when there was but a foot worth of space between them. “Then why in the seven hells would you expect me to believe a tale such as that?”

Gartec swallowed hard as Saven reached out and put a hand on his shoulder. “B-But your majesty, it’s all true, I swear it!”

Saven sighed as he shook his head and pulled a small dagger from a hidden sheath inside his belt. “I’m very disappointed in you Gartec,” he stated in calm, soothing tone. Then without any warning what so ever he plunged the dagger deep into Gartec’s heart, stepping back as the old man crumpled lifelessly to the floor. “Very disappointed.”

Padru slowly released the breath he’d taken the moment he saw Saven go for the dagger and watched as his king plucked the dagger out of Gartec’s chest, using the man’s own tunic to wipe off the blade. He then opened the door and called for the guards standing outside to come in and take care of him.

“His wife will be given a small bag of coins as compensation,” Saven stated as he looked over at Padru. “I want this rug burned; you have permission to purchase a replacement. Now let us see if we get anymore stories of women just disappearing.”

Having finished with his task, Saven stepped out of the room, and Padru promptly collapsed into his chair. Saven didn’t even know that when the dungeon had been inspected, the chains on the persecution table were still locked. Not only were they locked, they were locked and adjusted in the manner they would have been if they were fixed around someone’s body.

4 - Daru

With an irritated sigh Serrala flung the covers back away from her body and sat herself up in the bed, finally giving up on her futile battle to fall back asleep. Something had woken her up a good fifteen minutes ago, but she still felt tired, and the sunlight pouring into her room was making it absolutely impossible for her to get any more rest.

“Well, good morning Lady Serrala,” said a voice she didn’t recognize as the form of a young girl pushed her door open and backed inside carrying a tray of food.

“Ah, good morning,” Serrala replied in a slightly cautious tone.

“Oh don’t fret now, my name is Ashki, and I’m an apprentice of Mairta’s,” the girl stated as she offered the tray to Serrala and settled it on her lap. “She’ll come in and check on you shortly. Now it’s best that you eat this all up, some of the Mother’s best stuff to help you recover.”

“Of course,” Serrala responded as she began to pick at the contents on the tray, and smiled when Ashki quietly dismissed herself saying she had other chores to attend to.

Just what kind of a place had she found herself in? It obviously wasn’t too populated or rich, she didn’t think that she’d find too many comforts here, nor was she certain of the help she’d get. Saven must have guards out combing all the cities in Varecht by now and she didn’t even know where she was! The only thing she could hope was that she hadn’t appeared in one of the small agricultural villages outside of Elyant, because then she was a good as dead. Good goddess, but she hated being helpless and ignorant. Yet there wasn’t much she could do right now to help her figure things out, unless…

Her hand stopped in the middle of lifting a bite of food to her mouth as she glanced around her room. Perhaps if she were to use the sparse furniture to aid her, she could carefully make her way over to the window, and still keep her weight off her fractured leg? Yes, that would probably work. Pursing her lips in concentration, she slowly and carefully swung her feet over the edge of the bed while setting the half-empty tray down where her legs had been. It took her a bit of quick thinking, but she managed to push herself up off the cot using nothing but the wall to steady her.

“So far, so good,” she mumbled to herself while she took two awkward hops in the general direction of the window. Of course, two steps weren’t enough, and she nearly found herself falling to the floor, but she managed to catch herself on the small table nestled against the other wall. From here, it was just a few feet to the window, and the distance was easily conquered while she hobbled along using the wall as a newly acquired leg.

However when she got to the window and pushed the rough hewn piece of cloth aside she found herself completely bewildered with the view before her. This was impossible! The scene before her was like looking at a painting of the past! Varecht no longer had the kind of lush vegetation that she was seeing before her; this was a jungle, a real jungle! Yet Varecht had been barren of plants like these for over two thousand years! Immediately she attempted to figure out how a place like this could exist, but she found herself lacking any brilliant ideas.

“Oh my!” Mairta’s voice exclaimed from behind her as she felt steady hands grasp her left elbow, guiding her away from the window. “You shouldn’t go hobbling out of bed on your own Lady Serrala! You might injure yourself further.”

“I was careful,” Serrala mumbled as she found herself settled back down on the small cot while Mairta fussed over her. Well the woman was definitely going to make a good mother. “Can you tell me Where am I?”

“Huh? Oh. You sincerely don’t recall where you are?” Mairta scrunched her face in consideration of this knowledge. “I didn’t think you received that much of a bump.”

Serrala frowned at the woman’s hesitation and suddenly she wondered if she should explain herself, but there was no telling what would happen if she did. Nonetheless, she probably wasn’t going to get very far without a little truth, so she set herself to it.

“Can I be honest with you? I have some things to say that may be, odd, and perhaps a little alarming…”

Mairta paused a moment, but eventually she inclined her head in a nod. “Of course.”

“Alright, first off, I lied when I told you I didn’t know how I had gotten into the ritual storage pit. Well not completely, because I don’t remember all of it. You see, I am Serrala Grishta royal advisor to Queen Ashise Cerais. Two, was it two? Days ago, Ashise disappeared from her bedroom and her husband, King Saven Cerais, being the foul tempered man he is threw me in the dungeon’s as the prime suspect in having knowledge about her disappearance. Now the thing is, I know nothing, but I knew he’d never believe that, and if I had stayed where I was, I would surely have been put to death. So, I began to chant a spell that I had seen in Ashise’s family book. It was a spell of transportation, and now, here I am.”

“I worked the spell in the dungeon of Castle Elyant, and woke up in the dark confinement of your ritual storage pits. I can’t go back to the city of Elyant, I can’t be anywhere near that place, or Saven. My life depends on figuring out where Ashise ended up. I believe she worked the same spell that I did, and since neither of us had any control of the wild magic we’d called to us… Well, there is simply no telling where she is.” There, she’d admitted it, now to see how Mairta took it.

Minutes passed before Mairta managed to think of anything to say, yet even when she did so, she seemed to be picking her words carefully. “Well, I can tell you, I have never heard of Elyant, nor have I heard of this Queen of which you speak. However, I can answer one question for you before I inquire of a few things.” She waited as Serrala nodded and motioned for her to continue. “You are in the Sacred City of Daru. You’ve been here two days, which means your friend disappeared four days ago. Our city is nestled in a small valley behind the Pirnae mountain range in the Queendom of T’seiryn. Just south of us, a two days ride through the mountains is Fahrei, our capital city, where the current ruling monarch is Prince Jatech Mairon.”

Serrala creased her brows in confusion as she held up her hand in order to interrupt Mairta from going any further. “If you can honestly tell me you’ve never heard of Elyant, I can be just as equally honest and tell you I have never heard of any of the places you just listed. And if I might ask, what is a Queendom? I’ve never heard of a land being referred to in such a manner. Elyant is the Capital city within the Kingdom of Varecht.”

Mairta looked as if she was about to faint when she heard Serrala mention the word Kingdom, and that confused her even more. Although just as she was about to ask her if she was all right, Mairta suddenly exclaimed; “Oh great merciful Mother Brighid has the time come at last?” Again, Serrala found herself at a loss, and again she was cut off before she could say anything as Mairta leapt to her feet. “No, don’t say a thing! You just, sit right there, I am going to find you some crutches. You have to come with me.” Just like that, Mairta ran out of the bedroom, leaving Serrala more confused and bewildered than ever.

5 - Fahrei

Jatech grumbled quietly to himself as he placed two sound knocks on the door to Ashise’s room and waited for some kind of reply. When he heard nothing, he knocked again and then simply pushed the door open before neatly ducking a shoe that came flying toward him. “Well, that was certainly uncalled for,” he muttered, as he lifted a hand to stay two nearby guards who had already withdrawn their weapons. As discourteous as throwing a shoe at him was he didn’t think he needed two women with swords to follow him into the room.

“Now,” he paused a moment to retrieve the shoe before making his way into the room and closing the door. “I don’t know if it’s considered an appropriate greeting where you come from, to throw a shoe at someone when they‘ve come to check up on you, but here in T’seiryn we don’t very much appreciate it.”

Growling in distaste Ashise turned herself away from the window and threw the other shoe at him, gasping in alarm as she realized just who was inside the room with her. “Oh! Majesty!” She exclaimed as she immediately flung herself onto the floor in a kneeling position. “I am so sorry! I didn’t realize that it was you!”

“So it’s appropriate to throw shoes at people so long as they’re not royalty?” Jatech inquired as he crossed the room and gently coaxed her into a standing position. “There’s no need to kneel. Women are never expected to kneel to any man no matter who they are.”

Confused with what had just happened Ashise stood there a moment and stared at Jatech. She had just thrown two shoes at a prince and all he was going to do about it is help her stand up? Saven would have beaten her, and probably raped her as well. “Well, I, n-no it isn’t appropriate to throw shoes at anyone. I just, am I a prisoner?”

Jatech arched his brow as he watched the emotions churn over her face before he finally managed to issue some sort of reply. “A prisoner? No. Have we done something to upset you?”

“Upset? Well, yes I am upset. I’ve been kept in this room for three days now without any reason, and I don’t know where I am or even how I arrived here.”

“Actually, it has been four, but your complaints are valid,” Jatech replied as he thought about the way he’d been handling things. “I suppose I have been handling this rather poorly, I have been trying to figure out how we might manage to get you back to your husband. Though honestly no one in T’seiryn has ever heard of Varecht.”

“So you are sticking with this T’seiryn thing,” Ashise muttered, as she turned toward the window for a moment, then turned back to face him. “I have never heard of T’seiryn, I have never heard of Fahrei! I just, Oh beloved Danu, give me strength; I sincerely don’t know what to make of any of this!”

“In all honesty Lady Cerais, no one in my palace knows what to make of this. Why don’t we just go and take a walk in the gardens? I’m sure the fresh air will do us both a bit of good, I’ve found it’s one of the best places in the palace to think.”

Ashise’s demeanor immediately seemed to brighten at the prospect of getting out of her room. She loved gardens, they were like heaven to her and she just couldn’t hide the smile that came with the thought. “A walk in the gardens would be lovely,” she finally replied as she moved to retrieve the shoes she had thrown at him.

“Good. But ah that outfit of yours,” Jatech trailed off as he moved across the room toward the closet. “We’re bound to have something in here that will fit you.”

“There’s something wrong with my attire?” Ashise inquired as she watched him sort through the various pieces of clothing hanging in the closet.

“Don’t get me wrong, it is,” he fumbled a moment as he turned to look at her. A million words ran through his head as he attempted to summarize her sheer, and in his opinion, barely there outfit, but he doubted she’d appreciate most of them. So instead, he grasped at the first, non-offensive word that he could think of. “Stunning. But I’m afraid it is also a bit revealing, not to mention, a little on the thin side. You wouldn’t be comfortable outside the palace in that. Here, try this on.”

Ashise arched a brow as she looked at the outfit Jatech was holding out for her, it was done up in the style most of the women she had met in the palace were wearing, long and concealing. She wasn’t certain she was going to like it but she decided to try it on, and accepted the outfit from him before moving behind the folding screen set up in the corner of the room.

The make of the outfit was strange to her. The dress was made of two layers of a smooth silk material done up in the fashion of a wrap that went down to her ankles. The top half was done up similarly, but the two layers of fabric only covered her breast and waist, leaving her arms covered only by one layer that went all the way down to her wrists. Though despite having so much fabric around her, the outfit didn’t feel constricting. In fact, she found she could move rather freely in it, which surprised her. Looking herself over in a mirror set behind the screen she issued a little shrug and stepped out into the room.

“Perfect fit,” Jatech stated with a smile. “I think the style suits you.”

“Oh, ah, why thank you,” she responded as a light blush colored her cheeks

“Right then.” Jatech moved over to the door and opened it, turning to offer her his arm. “Shall we?” Ashise could only nod in response as she slipped her arm through his and allowed him to lead her into the hall.

Aside from the occasional greeting issued by guards, servants, and nobles, the trip through Jatech’s palace had passed by in silence. Yet Ashise didn’t know whether this was because the prince had nothing to say to her, or because he was simply giving her the chance to absorb the atmosphere of this new place she found herself in. Either way, she found this place simply amazing. Every single person they encountered appeared to be genuinely content here, smiling and waving warmly as the two of them passed by. And when they encountered a pair of girls who giggled and whispered to each other in delight when the prince offered them a friendly smile and bow, Ashise was most definitely impressed.

The spirit of these people astounded her; they were so different from what she encountered back in Elyant, the surroundings far warmer too. People here genuinely enjoyed being in the presence of their ruler, they didn’t fear him, and they never once scoffed at him behind his back. It was if she had stepped into some kind of dream world, a world where there was no pain and no sorrow. A world where, thus far, she had never once found herself in fear for her life.

“I hope you’re ready for this,” Jatech commented as he paused in front of a pair of wooden doors and motioned for the guards there to open them.

For a moment, Ashise was confused. He hoped she was ready for what? Then the doors were opened and she couldn’t help but gasp at what lay behind. This was the palace gardens? But she had never seen such rich, luscious greenery! Before she even knew what she was doing, she darted between the doors and approached a large flowering bush that came up to her waist.

“How do you do this?” She heard herself inquire as she immediately leaned forward to inhale the pleasant aroma the flowers were producing.

“Do what?” Jatech replied in turn, as he watched her admire the plant as if she’d never seen flowers before in her life.

“Get such lush beautiful plants like this! I’ve never seen plants so large and healthy; we simply can’t grow them like this in Elyant.”

“Really?” That wasn’t a response he was expecting, and he failed to hide the alarm in his voice. “You’re joking with me right? All of T’seiryn looks much like this.”

With this news, Ashise just about fell backward into the gravel path she was crouched upon, her head whipping about to stare at him. “All of T’seiryn? Show me.”

“Show you?” Jatech paused a moment to glance at the two guards standing off in the shadows. “Sure. I don’t see what hurt that could cause, it’ll do my guards good to actually be able to shield me from harm in some place where I’m actually in danger of finding some.”

Ashise couldn’t help but chuckle in response to that, though back home she rarely found herself followed by guards unless she was leaving the castle. Most of the inhabitants of Elyant had a bit more sense then to go attacking Saven’s wife. Besides, if there were going to be an assassination attempt on anyone in Elyant it would be on Saven and not her. In fact, she’d probably push Saven into the path of the assailant herself, just to help them kill him easier.

Unfortunately, this was not the place to be entertaining such notions, for she was once again following Jatech through the palace halls, and she was determined to pay attention this time. Maybe with luck she could remember these passages and be able to wander them on her own at a later time. Not that she found Jatech to be ill company, but she was the type who liked to find things on her own, and the architecture of this place was simply amazing. Everything seemed as if it had been planned down to the slightest detail, without so much as single flowerpot, or candle, appearing to be out of place.

However, now that she was paying attention, she found herself ashamed she hadn’t done so earlier. The beauty in this place wasn’t something to be cast aside and ignored, though she supposed that after a while it might become lost to the inhabitants. This palace was designed to amaze and astound everyone who passed through its halls, and on her, it was working. It was all she could do to force herself to keep up with Jatech as he moved along the various passages needed to reach their destination.

“Don’t worry,” Jatech stated as she found herself lagging behind him once again. “Somehow I think you’ll be with us long enough to see all that this palace has to offer.”

All she could do is smile in response as she moved to where he was standing and accepted his offered arm. “Of course, I didn’t mean to trail behind like that.”

“No one does, but this place is one of the most beautiful in T’seiryn, not to mention Fahrei. People tend to find themselves lost.”

Before Ashise had a chance to respond to his statement, a servant approached them, and offered them both a formal bow. “Pardon me my prince, lady; I have an urgent sending from Captain Denshia.” His hand lifted to offer Jatech the clear glass orb he’d been carrying.

Without a word, Jatech accepted the orb and placed it lightly between his palms as a faint white glow instantly emanated from its core, seeking contact with his skin. The moment the connection had been made, Jatech’s eyes flashed crimson and he smiled, handing the orb back to the servant. “That orb is to be used when Captain Denshia reports again in two days. I don’t want that reception pushed out; keep them both in there together.”

“Of course Prince Mairon, I’ll see to it personally,” the servant replied as he accepted the glass ball, bowed and departed.

“Ah, I don’t want to seem rude, but can I ask what just happened?” Ashise inquired as the servant moved out of hearing range.

Jatech stared at her in disbelief. “You’ve never been taught Rikenshi?”

“Rikenshi? No, I can’t say that I have.”

“Every child in T’seiryn is taught Rikenshi by the age of five,” came his reply before he suddenly paused. “But you, and Varecht, right. Ah, put simply, Rikenshi is a means of communicating over vast distances.”

“But, how?” She suddenly hoped she wasn’t pushing him too far as she watched him hesitate before issuing a response.

“By using the power within. Everyone in T’seiryn is born with an innate ability to call upon and use the power within.” He paused when she just looked at him in confusion. “Well, Crestin could explain this better. Lets just say, the power within allows us to do stuff like this.” A quick glance was given to the nearest wall-mounted torch before his eyes flashed crimson and it suddenly caught fire.

“Oh, magic,” Ashise stated with a smile. “Varecht was once a land plentiful with magic, but that was before the great mother Danu had to take it away. Two thousand years ago, there were some men who tried to take the sacred magic out of the land and put it to foul uses, so Danu turned the land against them. Quite literally, over night the people found their lush, fertile fields turned to worthless sand and rock. Of course she didn’t do this to the whole planet, the Mother allowed some women to hold onto a piece of their magic so long as we promised to never to let men find a way to control it. Where those women can be found the sands are tamed and fertile land replaces it.”

“Unfortunately this change opened up a whole new barrel of trouble for Varecht. Those women who kept their magic were branded as Lavant, or blessed, and any female children found to be Lavant are often coveted away before their power reaches its peak. Because once a Lavant woman settles to claim a piece of fertile land as hers, it remains that way until she dies. Those women not found to be Lavant don‘t live good lives either. Men have deemed it right to blame women for the disappearance of magic, and even today they punish them.”

“So I take it you don’t have any of this, magic?” Jatech inquired carefully.

“Me? Actually, yes, I am Lavant, but I am also royalty. I am not required to tie myself to a plot of land, though I am expected to aid in the upkeep of the royal gardens.”

“I see, well, with all these delays it has become a bit late for me to show you T’seiryn. How about you dine with me tonight and I take you tomorrow?”

“That sounds good to me,” she replied as she smiled and motioned for him to lead the way.

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