1 ~ Fahrei
A week ago, Jatech granted Ashise permission to wander around the palace without having to seek his permission, so long as she agreed to be accompanied by two female guards. At first she wasn’t so sure that she liked this decision, but after the second day she came to the conclusion that it wasn’t as bad as she thought. The women were a bit more polite then the guards she was used to dealing with back home, they weren’t afraid to hold a conversation with her, and they seemed to go out of their way to clarify things that she found a bit bewildering. Overall she found herself enjoying her stay in this unknown land, with its lush greenery and friendly people. It was truly a pity that she probably couldn’t stay.
Ashise closed her eyes a moment before turning away from the library door to face Crestin. Here was a man she hadn’t quite figured out yet, he always seemed to have an air of indifference where she was concerned. Yet he had this knack of showing up just in time to keep her from entering the library. “Yes, Lord Plingat, is there something I can help you with?”
He smiled politely before issuing a bow. “Prince Mairon has requested you join him in the secondary receiving hall. He says that he has someone there he’d like you to meet.”
She arched her brow curiously before issuing a little shrug. “All right, but you’ll have to lead the way, I’m afraid I haven’t discovered the receiving hall yet.”
“It will be my pleasure,” replied Crestin as he turned and moved down the hall.
Ashise was surprised that Crestin didn’t offer her his arm as Jatech always did, even though it was an action she had only first encountered here in T’seiryn. Saven wouldn’t have bothered to extend such a courteous gesture to any woman, especially not his wife. In Varecht she was expected to be forever grateful to Saven for even deeming her worthy enough to be married to him in the first place. Here in T’seiryn things seemed to be a bit different, people treated her like a human being instead of an object.
In fact, Crestin was the only person who seemed to show any hint of distaste for her, it was almost as if he didn’t trust her, and wasn’t completely certain of what her intentions were. Then again it could just be that she was being a bit too suspicious of something that was, in fact nothing. Occasionally she found herself seeking out any hint of blemish in this otherwise perfect world, because coming from where she did she found it very difficult to accept everything she was experiencing here. This place often felt as if it had been plucked right out of the dreams and hopes of every woman in Varecht, yet here she was, very much awake, and presently living her life here among these people.
“Right through that doorway is the secondary receiving hall,” stated Crestin as he came to a stop in front of a beautifully gilded double door.
Having been once again brought back out of her thoughts, Ashise smiled and offered him an incline of her head. “I do thank you Lord Plingat.”
“Please, call me Crestin,” he replied as smiled, bowed and quickly made his departure.
That surprised her, perhaps Crestin didn’t dislike her as much as she thought he did, but that was a thought for another time. Right now she was expected inside, and so she took a few steps closer to the doors as the two guards standing to either side moved to push them open.
“Ah Lady Ashise!” Exclaimed Jatech from across the room as he stepped away from a group of about eight people whom he’d apparently been speaking with. “Please, come quick there is someone here whom I think you will be very happy to meet.”
“Of course,” she responded with a shy smile as she crossed the room. Although, as she moved closer to the group of people she caught glimpse of a form that she swore she recognized, which would be impossible, so she pushed it aside.
“Ladies,” Jatech called out, once Ashise had reached his side. “I’d like you to meet Lady -”
“Ashise!” The prince was abruptly cut off as a familiar figure emerged from behind the other women.
“Serrala?” Inquired Ashise in disbelief. “By the great mother Danu it is you!” Immediately the two women rushed toward each other wrapping themselves in a tight, reassuring embrace. “How in the seven hells did you get here?”
Crying with happiness, Serrala laughed. “How else? I followed you into this mess like I always do! You left your book sitting on the floor; it was opened to the transportation spell…”
“And you just couldn’t help but speak the words!” Crying now herself, Ashise pulled Serrala to her once again, happy to have someone she knew in this strange land.
“Actually, I didn’t believe that you’d done it. I couldn’t believe that you would do something so foolish without consulting me, but then Saven found out you were missing and it took him all of three seconds to decide that I was the one responsible. Don’t fret they didn’t get a chance to hurt me, I used the transportation spell to escape from the dungeon before the warden had a chance to do anything.”
“But how did you find me?” Ashise freed herself from their embrace to look at her.
“There is time for that later,” Jatech stated with a smile. “High Priestess Mairta and Captain Anglera Denshia have brought me news from our sacred city of Daru. Would you be willing to go partake in a ceremony that we put every single one of our children through?”
Confused at this sudden inquiry, Ashise arched a brow and glanced between him and the two women he’d just introduced. “What kind of ceremony?”
“It isn’t much of anything,” Serrala responded before anyone else got a chance to reply. “The High Priestess asked me to go through the very same ceremony; they want to see if you have any magic abilities. It’s a very simple process and it won’t harm you at all. In fact I don’t believe I have ever felt better than I do right now.”
“Alright then, of course I’ll go through your ceremony,” Ashise stated with a smile. She would trust her life to Serrala, and if she said the ceremony was harmless she wouldn’t argue about going through it.
“Magnificent!” Jatech exclaimed in response to her decision. “Why don’t you go with High Priestess Mairta so she can prepare you? I’ll make sure that the Lady Serrala is well taken care of and I’ll set her up in the room right beside yours so that you two can be with each other when ever you want.”
Still a little uncertain about this place and these people all Ashise could do was smile and nod in appreciation. Jatech hadn’t harmed her so far, and she doubted someone revered as a High Priestess was going to do so either.
2 ~ Elyant
Padru couldn’t help but sigh as he fingered through the pile of reports that had appeared on his desk the night before. They were thin, and every single one of them said the exact same thing, the queen and her advisor had not been found. In fact, the very best of the royal trackers had day after day, failed to find a single clue as to where the two women may have gone. By all accounts, it looked as if the women had vanished into thin air, yet that was impossible. Women didn’t just up and disappear without a trace, there had to be something that he, and everyone else were missing. Unfortunately he had no idea what that thing was, or what it could be.
For the past week Padru had made it a point to disappear inside the royal library once he’d taken care of the daily reports. If he could manage it, he would remain there all day and pour over the most ancient of the kingdom’s books and archives. He did this not only to attempt to find insight about their current plight but also so that he might manage to stay hidden from the King and his wrath. Unfortunately for him though, today he found a royal summons tucked in amid the usual reports. “Oh just lovely,” he muttered to himself. “At least this time the king won‘t have to worry about paying off another family.”
Padru had been dreading this moment all week because he didn’t have anything he could tell Saven that would allow this meeting to have a good outcome. In fact, the only thing he could do was gather up a few of the reports he’d been receiving and let Saven do what he would. After all how could he be expected to report anything new, when there was nothing new to report? With any luck Saven would throw his anger upon those who are expected to do the reporting, instead of him, who was most honestly, just a messenger.
“When I send a summons I expect that the summons will be obeyed promptly. Not when it is convenient for the individual in question to comply.”
Padru froze in alarm as Saven’s voice boomed into his office. “I was just getting ready to leave, your Majesty. Your summons was buried beneath a pile of reports.”
“Reports you say?” Saven inquired casually as he looked over the papers scattered across Padru’s desk. “Well, if you have received new reports today you must have something to report?”
“One would think that would be the case,” replied Padru with a sigh. “No one has found a thing your majesty. The best trackers employed under your command have come up empty handed. No one has been able to find a single clue that might tell us just where the Queen and her little Advisor have disappeared to. Take a look for yourself…”
Saven paused a moment before taking the reports out of Padru’s hand and looking them over. The man had been speaking the truth, these reports didn’t tell him anything. Unfortunately Saven didn’t care about that, if Padru couldn’t control the people who were required to report to him and force them to do their job harder, he’d have to give the man a reason to do so. “I do see that you indeed do not have any information,” he finally stated as he set the reports down. “However I’m inclined to think that you could have information, if you weren’t so soft hearted.”
“Begging your pardon your majesty, but I do not see how the failings of others is my fault. I do not fancy forging other people’s reports and telling you lies.”
“Lies? Oh no, I do not mean for you to tell me lies. Lying to me would result in your death, despite how much I value your friendship. No, what I want you to do is motivate those people whom I have designated to report to you. They can do better, you know they can.”
“I don’t understand what you want me to do.”
“No?” Saven responded mischievously. “Why don’t I enlighten you then?” Almost before he had finished the sentence, Saven lunged forward and grabbed Padru’s left hand. “You see, men need discipline, they need leadership, they also need to be reminded who they work for and what is expected of them.” As he spoke he forced Padru’s hand down upon the desktop. “When the people you’re paying aren’t doing their job as good as they should, well, then it is time for you to remind them what can happen.”
“And what exactly is that?” Padru inquired as calmly as he could, while not taking his eyes off Saven.
A wicked smile curled upon Saven’s face in response to the inquiry, but instead of answering the question, he slipped his free hand down to the hilt of his dagger. He really hated to do this, but Padru simply needed to learn this lesson the hard way. Hence it was with little remorse that he drew the weapon out and slammed it down upon the desktop, neatly severing Padru’s pinky finger from his hand.
At first Padru didn’t quite grasp what Saven had done, of course he’d jumped in alarm at the sound of the thud, but it took an entire minute for his brain to process the pain that was now present in his left hand. Saven was grinning, he hadn’t lifted the dagger from its place in the desk and Padru didn’t want to look down. Yet it was obvious that the silent standoff between him and the king wasn’t going to end until he reacted to whatever it was he had done to him, so, Padru looked down.
What he saw shocked him beyond words, Saven’s dagger was standing in a pool of blood that was welling up from the spot where his pinky finger should have been. There was nothing he could say to this, he didn’t even know how he was expected to react. Should he scream? Yell? No, Saven would enjoy that far too much. If he put on an elaborate display Saven would win. No, he wouldn’t make a scene; in fact he wouldn’t say anything about it at all.
Moving slowly, and with care, he pulled a cloth handkerchief out of his pocket and pressed it firmly against his hand to suppress the blood flow. Then, since he couldn’t stand here another moment with Saven’s leering gaze upon him, he bowed, turned on a heel and departed the office to find himself one of the royal physicians.
3 ~ Fahrei
Ashise sat in silence amid the darkness of the ceremonial chamber as she attempted to come to terms with everything she had just been told. She simply could not believe this; she had never dreamed that anything like this could happen to her; she had power! It wasn’t the tiny little sliver of power that she was used to having either, this was the kind of power that filled her very being until she could hardly breath without feeling its presence.
This power warmed and embraced her, lending her a new and vivid awareness. Even the dull, stony surroundings of the ceremonial chamber seemed to be pulsing with life, the space trembling in a way that was both revitalizing and exhilarating. This new existence was wonderful, but it was building within her, and pushing on her, until she couldn’t hold still any longer. Suddenly and without warning she rose to her feet, but quickly wished she hadn’t for she pulled the energy up with her, causing whole place to start quaking.
This quaking started slow, and then all at once it became so violent that she found herself clinging to the nearest wall for support.
“Don’t be afraid of it Ashise, ride it. That’s your power; accept it and it will not harm you.”
Ride it? How in the seven hells was she supposed to do that? Was it always her manner to be so annoyingly vague? Closing her eyes, she began to force herself to calm down, telling herself that nothing was going to hurt her. This was just a little earth shake and she could handle a little earth shake right? With a sigh, she mentally braced herself before carefully taking one, and then another step away from the wall, fighting to remain on her feet.
Unfortunately, even though she‘d taken this step she still wasn‘t comfortable. Her body kept fighting against the motion instead of accepting it and suddenly she figured out what Danu was telling her, she needed to let go; so she did. Her arms dropped to her sides, her knees went out beneath her, and she didn’t fall. Instead, a current of power pressed forward and began swirling around her body, supporting her weight and lifting her right off her feet.
Her eyes went wide as she looked around the chamber to confirm that what she was feeling was indeed true, and to her amazement it was. She was floating a good six inches off the floor of the chamber, smooth and free despite the continuing quaking. Now though, she had to figure out just how she was going to get down. She’d certainly spent enough time in here already, Mairta and Serrala must be growing worried about her. “I need to get to them,” she mumbled idly as she tried to think. However no sooner had the words left her lips then she found herself whisked out of the chamber and into the main room of the temple where she was placed down upon the ground, standing a mere two feet from where Mairta had huddled herself in defense to the earth shake.
“By all that is sacred, she’s Gold!” Mairta exclaimed in a tone that was barely louder than a whisper.
“Gold?” Ashise inquired with a quirk of her brow.
“Your, your eyes, they’re Gold. The prophecy was true! You and Serrala!” With the quaking having stopped, Mairta leapt to her feet. “Serrala is Silver and you are Gold! By the great mother Brighid I had never thought I would be the one to witness this day!”
Before Ashise had a chance to respond, they were interrupted by a bought of shouting coming from the entrance of the temple. “High Priestess Mairta!” A man’s voice called out as the form of Jatech rushed into the room. “High Priestess Mairta! Oh thank Brighid you are all right, that terrible earth shake damaged some of the buildings surrounding the temple, we feared that you… By Brighid’s blade, her eyes are Gold!”
“Her eyes are Gold, as mine are Silver,” Serrala stated as she came to join their little group within the temple. “It seems we are to play in a prophecy after all.”
“Mind your manners Serrala,” Ashise chided her friend with a smile. “We are guests here on this world; we wouldn’t wish to offend anyone. Now would we?”
“Of course not,” Serrala replied as she issued a low curtsey in the direction of Mairta and Jatech. “I give you my most sincere apology if I have caused any insult.”
“My dear, wonderful women,” Jatech stated, as he bowed in their direction. “There is hardly anything you could do that could offend me. In fact I proudly swear myself loyal to you both for all that you would do for T’seiryn. Your coming has been spoken of for longer than I can recall.”
“Prince Mairon, there is no need to bow to me,” Ashise responded with a bit of embarrassment as she turned to face him a little more evenly. “No one has ever seemed fit to honor me before, why should people start honoring me now? I am but a simple woman with a chance at greatness. Do not honor me when I am simple and unworthy of it, honor me when I have risen to greatness, and when I have proven myself worthy of such honor.”
“I do not see you as simple, you are an extraordinary woman. A strong, capable woman the likes of which I have never in my life had the pleasure of knowing. I am but a humble Prince, yet you are a Queen.”
“I am not a Queen in the sense that you are used to you can trust me on that,” Ashise shot back at him a little more roughly then she had intended. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to speak thus.”
“No, it was my error,” Jatech amended as he glanced nervously between her and Serrala. He could feel the situation becoming tense, so he offered the first thing he could think of to allow them all to escape. “Well I do think it’s about time for the evening meal, perhaps we should head back to the palace? You must be starving after all that has happened.”
“That sounds like a wonderful idea,” Serrala responded quickly with a nod and smile in the direction of Ashise. Even on this world, Serrala was doing what she did best, advising Ashise, and getting her out of a declining conversation.
Dinner passed by without much of anything, for it seemed that after the events within the temple, everyone was content to keep to themselves. They sat in amicable silence, setting eating utensils to their purpose, until eventually Ashise excused herself, leaving her plate sitting half full. This action alarmed Jatech, who barely managed to wait until she was out of earshot, before he turned to Serrala.
“Did I do something wrong?” He inquired with a hint of worry. “I mean you obviously would have more insight into… well…”
“I’m fairly certain she is not upset with you,” she responded casually as she turned herself to face him. “The stress of today has simply gotten to her. You see we don’t come from a pleasant place, women in Varecht are treated like dirt, they’re property. The common women are forced to wear chains bound about their ankles when they’re out in public, and Ashise was practically sold to her husband, High King Saven Cerais to even out some debt her father owed him. She is Saven’s third wife, his first two both managing to meet rather sudden deaths no more than two years into their marriage. The way she is treated here in T’seiryn, well, it is all a bit of a shock as I’m sure you can imagine. One of Ashise’s flaws is that she doesn’t hide her feelings well, but then, that’s why she has me.”
Jatech tilted his head off to one side as he listened to what Serrala was saying. “I’m certain you have more use than that. What is your story then Lady Serrala? I assume you take the role of Ashise’s advisor, but there has to be more to you then that.”
Serrala couldn’t help but chuckle as she shook her head and looked out a nearby window. “Unfortunately, there really isn’t much else to me then that.” Turning back, she caught the look of disbelief that came across Jatech’s face and found herself continuing. “From what I have been told, when I was but two years old both of my parents were killed by bandits and I was captured so that I could be put into the slave markets. However, being as young as I was they had some difficulties selling me, so I bounced around from market to market until I wound up in the markets of Aerin, Ashise’s city of birth.”
“Now, this could have spelled disaster for me, since Aerin is one of the larger cities on Varecht, and their markets tend to cater to the sort of individuals who would have raped me even at two years of age, but I was lucky. You see, the lesser king who ruled Aerin, had only one child, a three-year-old daughter who he loved very much, but who was also very lonely. His solution to cure her loneliness was to purchase her a companion from the slave markets, and after days of searching he finally found me. I was purchased, cleaned up, and presented to his daughter as a gift before eventually being ‘adopted’ into their family. Don’t get me wrong, I was never treated as an equal by anyone other than Ashise, but we were almost instantly inseparable.” Pausing a moment to let out a sigh, she turned back to Jatech. “You see Ashise and I are like sisters, I would give my life for her without pausing a single second to think about it. Even when she was sold off to her husband, there was no doubt I would go with her, because there’s no way we could have been pulled apart.”
“I see,” Jatech replied as he shifted himself in his chair. “Different as our worlds are, I would say that Ashise is extremely fortunate to have a friend as loyal as you are.”
Serrala smiled as she rose to her feet, and issued him and Mairta a curtsey. “I’m going to excuse myself for the evening, if you could have someone show me to my room?”
“Of course,” Jatech rose and gestured for a nearby guard to come to where they were. “Belisar will be more then happy to escort you.”
“Thank you very much.” She issued them both another curtsey before turning to follow Belisar’s lead.
The next day Ashise woke to the sound of light tapping upon her bedroom door, it started light, but when she failed to answer it, it grew louder. “One moment,” she called out with a groan as the door suddenly opened. “I said one moment!”
“Like I would wait one moment,” Serrala’s voice answered as she appeared beside the bed. “Good afternoon sleepy head!” Flashing Ashise a grin, she turned and walked over to the windows so that she could begin throwing open the curtains.
“What time is it?” Ashise inquired as she slipped out of bed and crossed the room to make use of the washroom.
“I’d say almost noon,” Serrala called out before moving to the closet.
“Noon! Why on earth did you let me sleep so long?” Coming out of the washroom she paused to watch Serrala begin casually flipping through the outfits in her closet.
“Well, Prince Mairon begged me to let you sleep since you had such a stressful day yesterday, but I knew better than to wait any longer.” She plucked an outfit from the closet and held it out toward Ashise. “Here, put this on.”
“This doesn’t phase you does it?” Ashise was stripping out of her nightgown as she walked over to accept the outfit from Serrala.
“What, this whole getting transported through a magical spell and ending up on a different planet thing?” She waved a hand in a dismissive gesture. “Nah! I see it as an adventure! This isn’t like going on a visit to a lesser Kingdom in Varecht; this is a completely new world! Come on Ashise open your eyes! I was treated to a four-day ride from Daru, the city I ended up dropping into, and this city of Fahrei. Ashise, this planet is amazingly beautiful! You have never seen such wonders! I would be happy to never leave here again.”
Ashise couldn’t help but smile as she listened to her friend but when Serrala finished, she sighed. “This world is too perfect, Serrala, we can’t stay here and you know it. It has already been two weeks, Saven has probably torn all of Varecht apart and murdered a few members of the castle staff as well, those people don’t deserve to die on my behalf.”
“I’m sorry to say this Ashise, but, who cares? Saven can’t find us here! Why should you fret about what goes on in Varecht? Why not forget Varecht all together and make this our new home? I highly doubt Jatech would object, he seems to be quite taken with you, you know.”
“I’m married Serrala! When I was married off to Saven, I became more than just his bride; I became the High Queen of all of Varecht. Those are my people you’re telling me to forget. Goddess Danu did not give us these wonderful powers to leave Varecht as it is; she gave us these powers to change things, to give our people a chance at a new life.”
Sighing Serrala lifted her hands in a motion of surrender. “I know, I just, I wish we didn’t have go back to that sand filled shit hole.”
“Believe me, I’d love to stay here as well, but we have to take care of our planet before that ever becomes an option.”
“To think, when that tutor your father hired for you told us he thought there had to be other planets in the sky beyond ours, I thought he was insane. I suppose it goes to show that just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t believe in it.”
“Hey, we’re still young yet, I’ve only seen twenty one years, and you twenty. I don’t think either of us is beyond a bit of learning. After all, we’re going to be doing a lot of it in order to get these powers of ours under control.”
“I suppose we are. Finish getting dressed would you? There’s some food out in the sitting room that connects our two bedrooms, Prince Mairon made sure that you’d have something warm to eat when you woke up.”
“Of course he would,” Ashise mumbled as she finished dressing herself. “That’s ten times more considerate than Saven could ever be.”
The sun had barely risen from its nightly slumber when Crestin stepped inside the royal records room to find his prince asleep atop a pile of papers. It appeared that Jatech had been unable to sleep, and had come here to read every single piece of parchment that mentioned anything about the prophecy. Evidently, Crestin noted with regret, those parchments had been numerous, for Jatech had managed to scatter them not just over the desk, but the floor as well.
With a sigh he stepped forward and shook Jatech’s shoulder. “Prince Mairon.” When he failed to respond he shook him harder. “Jatech, wake up.”
Jumping with alarm, Jatech suddenly lurched himself upright, sending even more papers flying to the floor as he did so. “Huh? Who, where am I?”
“Inside the royal records room,” Crestin replied as he bent down to pick up some of the parchments that were lying on the floor. “Doing a little bit of research were you?”
With his head clearing away it’s morning haze Jatech looked around the room and grimaced. “I hadn’t realized I made such a mess of this place,” he mumbled as he gathered up some parchments that were still lying in his lap and placed them upon the desk.
“You may have made a mess,” Crestin observed in a thoughtful tone as he considered the papers in front of him. “But there is an order behind your madness.” Looking up from the papers in his hand he smirked. “These parchments seem to still be in chronological order, well, for the most part anyway. A few of the things here are out of place, but not too many of them.”
“See I’m not as careless and clumsy as you think I am,” Jatech replied with a bit of a grin as he shifted in his chair and picked up a nearby paper. “Honestly though, have you looked at these? There is a whole lot of information hidden in these old scrolls; we’re going to have a lot of changes unfolding as these two women come into their powers.”
“It most certainly isn’t going to be easy,” Crestin agreed as he moved to place some papers in their appropriate place on the shelves surrounding the room. “These women are supposed to be more powerful than anyone in all of our written history, only the Great Mother Brighid can truly know what is in store for us.”
“Well so long as the planet doesn’t split in half or something I think we’ll survive. I mean, what harm could two women possibly do?”
“I imagine we’ll be surprised to find the answer to that question,” Crestin replied as he sighed and placed the remaining parchments upon the desk. “I’ll finish these later. Right now you need to go to your room and get ready for breakfast. It just won‘t do to have you showing up in the same outfit you wore to dinner last night.”
“Of course not, that would be some sort of crime,” Jatech stated with a smirk as he pushed himself to his feet and headed for the door.