Chapter Eight

Chapter Eight

The body of the fallen Prince was laid out in honor, and laid to rest in honor, and the shame of the crime attributed to the one who had corrupted him.  Marus saw to the cleaning of the knife and personally returned it to Dauris, who nodded her thanks.  “I will protect you, little sister, from this kinsman who would use even your own brothers against you.”

“You are sinister, too.  You know this.  I warned you, before.”

He nodded.  “I swear to you, I will not surrender to the darkness.  I will be your ally.  I will be your protector.”

“You would accept me so readily, with all my oddities and my age-inappropriate knowledge and experience?”  She sounded so strangely vulnerable.  So frightened.  “Even though my presence in your family has already led to the death of a brother?”

He shrugged.  How could he explain to her the immediate acceptance that he had felt from the moment they met?  “You are odd.  So am I.  I like it that way.”

And when she had problems sleeping, as she had when they had first brought her home, Marus held her long into the night so that she would know that she was safe.  She told him about the nightmares, about how she watched her mother’s soul forced out of her body to try to kill the unborn child within her.

In the weeks after Jules’ death, they spoke of many things.  But she didn’t speak of the dreams that she wasn’t sure she believed, of the events she still saw when she slept.  Strange scenes of war and bloodshed and allies in unexpected places, of friends loyal to the last breath.

Still, she dreamed of a strange figure, a wolf who tracked her down for motivations of his own, but always seemed to stand protective over her, nuzzling her gently with his great head.  She dreamed of him so often that she was certain that he could not be real.  But in this world of Castellan dreams… how was she to know?

In his hidden retreat, Lukan paced back and forth.  The tool had gotten himself destroyed.  And now this mysterious, unknown, goldeneyed female was warned as to his presence.  Lukan wasn’t even certain what powers she would, or would not, have. The destruction of the book had unleashed quite a bit of his power with it and if the girl was what he feared… well, he had no way of knowing what one of those could do with his power.

Lukan growled in frustration.  He wanted so much to destroy that Motherborn female who called herself his sister and prevent her from ever spawning the destroyer.  He knew that the Motherborn could be destroyed.  They were as mortal as any other being, and even the First Ones were known to die.  He’d seen it with his own eyes.  He had dispatched Hunters to deal with the Pearl Shard and without her Knight it was only a matter of time before they succeeded.  But until he had her body lying at his feet…

He growled again.  The only good thing in all this was that his goldeneyed sister was the last.  There would be no more Motherborn shards wandering around disrupting his plans.  She had declared that herself when she finally told them all who she had been before she was made Nameless.  If only he could find a way to get to the Mother Speaker herself, and end this whole maddening mess.

But until they were all dead, there was the risk, however faint, that progeny had been born to destroy him, and that he could not tolerate.

The Prince had failed.  Lukan pulled in a calming breath.  Very well, he would try again.  Find another tool to use.  He could not approach the next Prince in line, not directly at least, so he would find someone more easily corrupted, someone already inclined to care less about the methods than the results, someone to whom power would be very tempting…

After a time, Lukan had calmed himself enough to walk the streets on this world of Castellan dreams, a Mother-sent madness he was sure, in search of his next “ally”.

Marus climbed the steps in Jules’ tower, now empty and abandoned.  Something in what his sister had shouted to Jules lingered in his mind, and would not leave him.  What was it again?  Ah, yes, “Motherborn”.  Something about goldeneyed girls being Motherborn.  Something about how there might be others.

He sighed as he entered the chamber atop the tower and looked around at the scattered papers and books strung haphazardly on floor and table and shelves about.  This was going to take a while.

It took a good hour to get everything gathered up, the papers in neat piles on the table that had been cleared of anything else and the books back on their shelves.  Marus knew his brother’s handwriting on many of the papers, though there was a hand on some of them that he did not know.  He could only presume that it belonged to the mysterious “Lukan” who so terrified his sister.  He packed the papers into a bag that he had brought.  He would have to transport the books back to his rooms later; he could not be away from Dauris for very long, not while she was so hurt.  With a sigh he wondered what could have rendered his sister, who normally had such a grown-up attitude that it hurt, so delicate that she could not sleep for fear of attack.

For a moment Marus felt fury rush through him at the thought of Dauris, eyes wide and staring, watching the empty room around her as if she expected attack from the shadows.  He had to protect her.  He had to ensure that no one would ever be able to hurt her again.  But to do that, he needed the power to destroy someone who could corrupt even a man like Jules had been.

Well, Jules had been seeking power, too.  He would have to be careful.  It would not do to be corrupted by the very forces he sought to combat.

A young man with reddish-brown hair marked by a brilliant streak of white was calmly walking through the halls of a retreat he had built… well, quite a while ago.  Like most of his kin, apparent age, in this case around nineteen or twenty, was nowhere near accurate for how long he’d been wandering.  He hadn’t intended to stay here for very long this time, there was something of a massive search going on and while one had been sent in one direction, he’d elected to go looking for a different lost kinswoman.

He felt the shuddering in the energies around him and stopped completely still, one hand still holding the crystalline flute that he’d picked up to carry with him from his collection of various musical instruments.  Then the faint rippling became a massive jolt and he shivered as he realized that an incredibly powerful object had been destroyed.

And something in that explosion felt… familiar.

In an instant he was in another building, in another world altogether and he fairly ran forward as he looked for the tree in the center of the floating island.  She was usually there.

Destiny Dreamsail looked up at the man’s entrance and blinked.  “Riordan?  What are you doing here?”

“Mother, something’s happened on the world of Castellan.  I wanted to let you know.  Something incredibly powerful was shattered.”

She tilted her head in curiosity and then stilled herself, looking inwards to see the cause and effect of things and then she let out a held breath with an explosive sigh.  “Ah Elar… Wolf Eyes is there…  He’s trying to get his claws into the Imperial Family…”  She pinched her lips closed in frustration.  “My sight is blocked and the only one capable of facing Wolf Eyes I’ve sent in another direction entirely.”

“I’ll go, then.  I’ll keep an eye on things and see if I can spike his plans.”

She reached a hand out to grab his, squeezing hard.  “Be careful!  We’ve lost too many to him and his Master.  I don’t want you to be added to that list.”

He grinned at her in a way that always reminded her of his father.  “Of course I’ll be careful, Mother.  What else would I be?”  Then he was gone again and Destiny sat back shaking her head and murmuring something about the idiocy of charming bards.

Years passed and sleep, for Empress Grainne, brought no rest.  Night after night she found herself running after her daughter who seemed determined to run off a far cliff. In desperation Grainne looked at the bracelet that glinted silver on her wrist.  It was old and strong, perhaps it would go where she could not.  She pulled the bracelet off and threw it to her child.  The bracelet became a bridge for Dauris to cross and on the far side a man waited with his arms outstretched to receive her.

“Where are you going?” she called out.

“To Castellan, Mother, and the source of our dreams.  You must follow another path. You cannot go with me.”

“But I love you.”

“Love me enough to let me go, Mother.  I will always be your daughter, but I cannot always be your daughter.”

Grainne woke to the sound of crying from Dauris’ chamber.  “Dauris?” she called out, too weak to stand and go to her.

After a moment the girl emerged from her chamber, still wiping tears from her face.  “M-mother?  Y-you called for me?”  She sat down at the edge of her mother’s bed.

“You were crying.  What is wrong?”  It had been two years, could she still be crying over Jules?  They all still mourned him, each in their own way.

Dauris caught herself on another sob.  “I woke alone.”

Grainne blinked in surprise.  “You dreamed?  My daughter, have you had Castellan dreams?”

“I don’t know,” she admitted with a sob.  “I have odd dreams a couple times a week, in the cavern it was every night, and I just don’t know!”

Grainne reached out and pulled the unresisting girl into her arms, nestling her close on the bed.  “Tell me about these dreams.  It may be that I will be able to help you.”

Dauris sighed, resting her head on her mother’s shoulder and laying beside her.  “They’re always different… sometimes it’s just images, but this one was like I was watching a story unfold… one where I was part of it.  There… there was a knight and he was my friend and when I woke up he was gone.”  She sniffled as tears started up in her eyes.  “They were all gone.”

“What did he look like?  Can you show him to me?”  That was something that had changed since the destruction of the book that had corrupted Jules.  Dauris had started showing abilities beyond magic – in the form of illusions, both visual and auditory.  She used them mostly to entertain her mother, who was bedridden and terribly bored most of the time.

With a thought, Dauris created a small image of the man from her dreams, his dark blond hair swept back from his face, his short-trimmed beard, and the scar on his forehead that went into his hairline.

“Oh my,” Grainne said, “he is handsome.  What was he doing when you dreamed of him?”

The image shifted and changed until Grainne could see two men dueling on a bridge.  One, in bright armor, had the scar and his hair flowed almost to the tip of his collar.  The other, in dark armor, did not have a scar and his hair was trimmed very short indeed. Otherwise, they were the same.  Beside the one in bright armor there was a huge wolf fighting, almost as tall at the shoulder as the man’s waist.

“What he’s usually doing when I see him in my dreams.  Trying to get to me and having to fight his way through his brother and mine to do it.”

“His brother and yours?”

Dauris nodded.  “Gabriel just wants to fight.  I’m an excuse more than anything else.  There I am.”  A figure in a red and gold dress – a grown-up Dauris – appeared off to the side running towards the dueling brothers and the wolf.  “Sometimes I wonder, though, how much of an excuse I really am to him, because of his reaction every time that happens.”  The Dauris-figure threw herself between the brothers and the dark one caught her with a sword thrust intended for his brother.  The stunned grief in the figure’s reaction was unmistakable.

As was the roar and snarl of rage from the wolf.

“And that happens every time?”

“Yes.  He’s always very sorry for it afterwards.”  The figures knelt around the Dauris-figure, who lay in the arms of the bright one, leaning against the side of the wolf, her hands on her wound.

“What is the wolf there?  He looks just as angry over your wound as the Knight is, like he would kill that man for hurting you.”

Dauris looked at the figures for a moment.  “I’m not sure who or what he is.  He shows up in all my dreams.  Usually he’s hunting me.  Sometimes he’s standing over me because I’ve fallen over something.  Illian thinks that he’s a protector… I think Illian reads more romance stories than I do.”

Grainne chuckled softly because she knew full well that Illian read more of the stories written for adolescent girls than her daughter did.  “Be that as it may, it does not mean that he is wrong, you know.”  She understood, now, what the dream had tried to tell her.  The path that she was walking was different from the one her daughter would have to walk, and she could not be with her while she walked it.  But she could give her some gifts to make the journey easier.

“Dauris, if you have had Castellan dreams, then they will not be denied.  They will happen.  Someday you may run from here, run to follow your dreams as my sister would have run to her Emperor.” She took a deep breath.  The giving of names… had a power of its own.  “If you must run, sweetling, take with you a new name.  Become Riva, little daughter, that you might regain strength.  And know that no matter where you go or what you become, you will always have my love.”

Dauris started crying again.  “Yes, Mother.  I understand.  I just don’t want to lose you.”  The hints of a wail could be heard in her voice.

Grainne smiled and turned her head slightly to kiss Dauris on the forehead.  “Those we love are never gone from us.  No matter what happens.”

Dauris sniffled through her tears.  “I have heard others say much the same thing.  I just… I don’t know how it can be true.”  The pain of losing the mother of her first birth was still such a tearing ache on her soul that the thought of losing a second one… was almost too much to bear.

“Someday you will, when you find the man of your dreams, and look into his eyes and know that he will never be lost to you.  No matter what happens, or what separates you, you will always have him, and that is all that matters.”  Something in Grainne’s voice caught Dauris’ attention and she looked at her mother in curiosity.

“Mother?  Did you ever have Castellan dreams of a man?”

Grainne smiled.  “I dreamed of my sons, each of them, before they were born.  I dreamed of you, before you came to us.”

“But have you ever dreamed of Father?  Please, he… he wants you to dream of him.  He wants it so much.  He would give up everything to know that you dreamed of him, if only once.  He loves you, Mother.”

Grainne sighed.  She wasn’t going to answer the question, and after a moment, Dauris laid her head back down and started showing her mother pictures of some of the other dreams that she had had over the years.  That led into creating a story and making images to go with it, and they were still talking long into the morning.

Categories: The Firebird's Daughter | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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