Chapter Five

Chapter Five

It was called Destiny’s Sanctuary, as much because that was the woman’s name as it was what she did.  It existed in a place between worlds, not sitting within any one sphere of influence, an island of sorts, with a large tree in the center around which was built a mansion of buildings and gardens and walkways between them all for the enjoyment and habitation of one woman… and her chosen guests.

This particular day, she sat at the base of the tree.  To look at her, she didn’t seem to fit her name, though she did.  She was a diminutive person, much smaller than a human would expect to be, with long reddish blonde hair that carried a very distinctive streak of white through it and very large eyes of a brilliant green color.  Beneath her hair were hidden the distinctive points on her ears of someone whose bloodline… was something other than human.

She didn’t usually do her own spinning; she didn’t really need the physical thread and fabric to perform her duties or to manipulate the way that events played out around her.  The concept of a “Loom of Fate” was, after all, more a complex metaphor than anything physical.  But she enjoyed playing to the preconceptions of her role and sometimes, when she was working with complex situations involving a great many influences…

…well, anything she could get to help her focus was a good thing.

Today, though, Destiny was spinning.  She was using a drop-spindle to twine the thread to a uniform thickness and the activity was relaxing as much as it was involving.

One part Moirai in a single body and one part Tyche, with all the complicated roles and positions implied by both, it was her task to oversee the relationship between events and to see that things proceeded according to plan, to see that there was a plan to the strange, chaotic snarl that was History and Life.

As she sat, patiently spinning, a man entered her presence.  He was larger-built than she, with a pale complexion and dark black hair, his eyes a sinister seeming yellow-gold color that was most definitely not natural in origin.  He, like she, looked much younger than his actual experience, seeming to be just out of his teenage years, if that.

“You called for me, my Lady?”

She hid the deep sigh and simply nodded, keeping her focus on forming the thread in her hands.  “We have a situation, Aleister, and I need your old skills.  I need you to find someone who’s been lost.”

He lifted a curious eyebrow.  “Lost?  The great Destiny has lost someone?  Why don’t you just locate them on your Loom?”

She shook her head.  “It’s more than a little complicated, Aleister, and I need you to track her down.  You’ve got skills that I don’t have and you can go places I can’t; that’s why you agreed to work with me, remember?”

He nodded shortly.  “What should I do when I find this woman you have lost? And can you give me any clues about her whereabouts?”

“I need you to protect her; it’s as simple as that.  I need you to keep her alive because she’s not going to be able to do that on her own, I know that much.  She’s a Dreamsail, like me, so she’ll have a streak of white in her hair, which will be some shade of blonde.  She was last seen fighting for her life against no less than two of Wolf Eyes’ Hunters, and Wolf Eyes himself was fast closing in on them.  They were on FaerieEarth during the turn of the millennium at the time.”

“She is likely dead, then.  Or wishes she were.”

Destiny shook her head.  “No, her death I’d be able to see.  If she were dead, I would know.  She’s alive, but she’s not going to stay that way without your assistance and your protection.”  She looked up and met his eyes.  “Please, she’s a kinswoman of mine.”

He sighed deeply and bowed to her.  “I hear and obey, my mistress.  Do you have anything which I might use to follow her trail?”

She nodded.  “Over there on the bench, it’s a necklace she made.  It’s a talisman.  She’s too well-trained to leave soulstones lying around and I’m not in a position to ask for them.”

He walked over and picked up the necklace, a piece of woven links in gold with red, purple, and milky white stones interspersed among them.  “A talisman?  What did she fashion it to do?”

She chuckled.  “Appearance alterations, small ones.  Hair color, eye color, skin pigmentation, and so on.  The minor forms of Shaping for pure aesthetics.”

He nodded.  “Can you give me anything else?”

She paused for a moment and then shook her head.  “I’ll keep in contact and try to keep you updated in case I find out anything.”

He bowed shortly and left with a swirl of his dark blue longcoat.  She watched him leave and only when he was gone did she allow herself the deep sigh that she’d been holding back.  She looked down at the thread she was forming in her fingers and watched as the neutral grey slowly bled away to reveal a deep crimson color.  “For what it’s worth,” she murmured softly to no one in particular, “I’ll see that you have the reward you would never seek… in time, Aleister.”

Grainne smiled at her sons, the next morning, as they entered the bower for breakfast.  Illian ran in demanding to know where his sister was.  Marus grinned.  Grainne nodded to her littlest boy.  “She’s still asleep.”

Illian pouted.  “Aww, still asleep?  How much sleep do girls need anyway?  I’ve been up for hours.”

Grainne looked at Marus and Jules for confirmation and received nods from both of them.  Illian woke them almost with the sun wanting to see his sister.  It had been all they could do to delay him this long.

One of the maids took a step forward to quietly speak with the Empress.  “I could check on the little Princess, my lady.”  Grainne nodded and the maid curtseyed to the Princes and then left the chamber.

A moment later they heard the maid scream in fright.  Looking startled all four of them ran for the room and found the maid standing terrified, and Dauris backed up against the wall beside her bed, holding a knife in her hand, pointed outwards.  The knife was of the oddest design, stag-horn and bone with a thin edge of metal.  Dauris saw them and gasped in relief, collapsing to her knees on the bed.

Marus walked around the maid to calmly take the knife out of his sister’s hand, even as Grainne stepped forward to pull the girl into her arms.  “Dauris, what frightens you so?” Grainne asked.

Dauris sobbed in relief and remembered fear.  “Nightmares.  I can’t… I can’t let them hurt me!”

Marus looked at the knife curiously.  With a glance to his mother for permission, given with a nod, he cast a small magic upon it and saw the glow of blood along the edge.  “This blade has killed.”

Dauris nodded, burying her face in her mother’s shoulder even as Illian approached to take her hand.  She grasped his tightly.  “I have carried it for as long as I can remember… since the day I first drew breath.  It… it has magic.  There’s a sheath… under the pillow.”  She whimpered softly.  “It’s the knife that was used to cut me from my mother’s body.”

Marus retrieved the sheath, it was deerskin and had long straps that would hold it on an adult’s hip while going across the chest, and put the blade back in it, winding the straps around it into a bundle.  He set the bundle back on the bed and looked at his little sister.  “Who hurt you?”  His voice was icy with anger.

Dauris sighed and sat up from her mother’s arms, rolling onto her stomach so that she could reach out and take Illian’s other hand.  She rested her forehead on one arm with another sigh.  “A kinsman… an uncle.  He tried to kill me before I was born… an attack of his locked me in that cavern.  I was supposed to die there.  If he finds out that I live nothing will stop him from finding me and killing me.  He’ll send his Hunters; unleash his killing Hounds…”

Illian’s eyes went wide.  “An uncle?”

“Yes, an uncle.”  She paused, and almost smiled.  “Do not be afraid, Illian, you are my brother and I do not fear you.  You would never do anything like that.”

He sighed in relief.  “Good.  When I get bigger I’m going to find this uncle and I’m going to make him pay.”

That made Dauris look up suddenly at Illian, her eyes frightened.  “No, do not seek vengeance, not even for me.  You are innocent.  Please, I need you to stay innocent.  I survived, that is all that matters.”

Illian nodded slowly.  “Okay,” he paused a moment, “but I’m going to stay with you.”

She smiled.  A child like him would be nothing to the one who sought to kill her, but the sheer gallantry in his offer touched her heart.  “Maybe you could teach me some games.”

Grainne shooed the boys out of the room so that she could help her daughter dress for the day.  As they left, Marus watched his fist tighten of its own accord.  Illian might be an innocent, but he wasn’t, and he wasn’t going to let anyone threaten his sister.  Even if that one were kinsman of hers by blood.

As soon as she was dressed, Dauris and Illian went out into the gardens to play, and Marus watched them leave.  He nodded to his mother and paused long enough to kiss her cheek before he, also, left.  But he wasn’t going to find distractions this day.  He had to find his father, and ask a favor.

The Emperor looked at his middle son curiously.  “A Guardian?”  He wasn’t certain that he’d heard Marus correctly.

Marus, though was adamant as he stood fearless in front of his father, knowing that he wasn’t the elder son, wasn’t the Heir, but he was not going to let this request be made by anyone else.  “Yes, Father, from our personal guardsmen, the strongest and most trustworthy if possible.”

“Why would this be necessary?  She is still a child, and in the bower no less.”

Again, Marus felt his hand clench of its own will.  “Dauris has admitted that it was a kinsman who was responsible for her being in that cavern, that she was left there to die.  She fears his retribution should her survival be uncovered and I do not wish for her to be unprotected should that day happen.  She is ours now, and she is ours for a purpose that does not include her death at the hands of a kinsman, no matter who he might be.”

The Emperor thought a moment.  There were several recruits who showed promise, but they were untried and this was not the task for an untried guardian.  Perhaps one of the older ones, who would not take such an assignment to be an insult.  After all, following a child around day in and day out could be misconstrued and he certainly did not wish this duty to be resented as a punishment.

He looked up at his son and nodded once.  “Ask the Weaponsmaster to lend you Sir Gallus.  Additionally, it is time for Illian to begin his training.  Perhaps your sister could benefit from being included in the instruction.”

Marus bowed his gratitude.  “Thank you, Father.”

The Emperor smiled.  “I still find it difficult to believe that you have become this fond of your sister this quickly.”

Marus shrugged.  “She is an odd one.  So am I.”  It was all the explanation that he could offer.

The Emperor nodded.  “Very well.”

Marus took his leave and the Emperor watched him leave, a great many thoughts running through his head.

Eventually Dauris and Illian found their way to a courtyard surrounding a statue of a man.  Dauris looked at the statue, and its peculiar mix of medieval and Roman styling, in curiosity.  “Who’s he?”

Illian grinned.  “That’s the Warlord Krellian.  He founded our family four hundred years ago in the time of Lady Zaira and Lord Gryphon.”

“Zaira?  and Gryphon?”

“Uh huh.  Lady Zaira was the Ruling Princess of Castellan and she had dreams just like Mother.”

Dauris looked at Illian for a moment.  “I think I would like to hear their story.  Does Mother know it?”

He nodded.  “Yeah.”

“Let’s find her.”

Lady Zaira became Ruling Princess of Castellan at a very young age.  When she was sixteen years of age she ran away from home to combat a growing threat against her people.  Monsters were appearing with increasing frequency and with increasing ferocity.  Among the heroes she gathered around herself on her journey was a young streetling of Castellan, only a few years older than she, by the name of Gryphon.

Gryphon hadn’t wanted to become involved in any grand quest, but she dangled the promise of fame and treasure in front of him, and in the end she offered to be his hostage, to purchase protection for the other children who lived in Castellan with nowhere else to go.  So he followed her, and he fell in love with her.  But no less than she fell in love with him.

The source of the monsters, a threat that could have destroyed their whole world, was a summoner who had opened a door that should have remained shut.  They defeated the summoner, but to shut the door required that one of their number surrender his life by entering through it.

Gryphon volunteered.

It worked, and for two years Zaira grieved for him as for a fallen husband.  For two years the sound of his death haunted her dreams, until the night that she dreamed that he had returned to her.  The High Council of Castellan had been trying to arrange her betrothal to the Prince of Reis-Bohnen, a neighboring kingdom, and were not happy to hear their Princess insist that a man had returned from the dead.

So Lady Zaira ran away from Castellan for the second time in her life, because of Castellan dreams.  She took with her only her personal guardian and friend, the Lady Arie, who had traveled with her previously, and journeyed north, because the dream had given her the name of the third son of the northern Warlord, Tertius.

Lord Gryphon had, against all expectation, returned from death and was trying to find his way back to the Princess he had left behind two years before.  But two years had changed him.  He was without body, composed solely of energy, and had only limited ability to interact with the world around him.  So he formed a pact with Lord Tertius.  They would work together to return Lord Gryphon to his Princess, and they would share the one body between them.

So Lady Zaira traveled North and Lord Gryphon traveled South.  Lady Zaira was captured by the Warlord and Lord Gryphon became an ally to the Prince who would have wed his Princess, for the purpose of giving the lady the chance to choose for herself.  Lord Prince Daneil would have no woman unwilling, or bound to another through Castellan dreams.

The Warlord, though, was not so honorable.  He planned to lay claim to the Kingdom of Castellan through a marriage alliance, by wedding Lady Zaira whether she willed it or no.  Lord Gryphon and his allies interrupted the ceremony and Gryphon challenged the Warlord to battle while in control of Tertius’ body.  The Warlord was defeated, but in the chaos Lady Zaira, who did not know who it was that attacked, fled the palace with her guardswoman, seeking the very doorway that Gryphon had entered.

It was her thought to enter the doorway herself, and find him beyond it.  All her dreams told her was that she would find him again there.

Indeed, she did, for as she was about to enter the door, a hand rested itself on her shoulder, and she turned to see Lord Gryphon standing there, from inside the body of Lord Tertius.

Reunited, the lovers were still separated from each other by Lord Gryphon’s condition.  Together they sought means to return him to a form and a body of his own.  Meanwhile, Lady Zaira’s guardswoman, Lady Arie, found herself seeking the company of Lord Tertius, and he returned her interest.

Aid came to them in the form of a wandering engineer, of sorts.  He had traveled with Lady Zaira and Lord Gryphon for a time during their quest to save the world, and he conversed with them in his hidden sanctuary.  He knew of a way to return Lord Gryphon to form, but it required a great deal of energy, much more than any mage could manage, even working with others.  He would need six to stand to assist, and he would be one of them.

They journeyed to a hidden cavern where they prepared the necessary pieces, and the six of them took their places around the lambent form of Lord Gryphon in two triads:  Zaira, Tertius, and Daneil, and Arie, the wanderer, and a raven of the intelligent clans to the south.  Together they focused power through devices created by the wanderer and solidified the energy of Lord Gryphon’s form back into that of a physical body.

In the shadow of the celebration of the wedding of Lady Zaira and Lord Gryphon, another union was made as Lord Tertius wed Lady Arie and together they founded the Order of the Knights-Guardian of Castellan, an Order that remained in the kingdom of Castellan, even four hundred years later.

The wanderer, for his part, stayed in the Court of Castellan, in service to the King and Queen, who were his friends.  He helped develop the engines that made the skyships sail the clouds and he helped build the towers that supported them.  And then, he vanished.  Some said that he left so that he wouldn’t have to see his old friends age and die.  Others claimed that he had responsibilities elsewhere and promised to return.  In any event, he was never seen again, however long his legacy remained.

Dauris listened to the tale quietly, her lips pursed in thoughtfulness.  When her mother finished, she was silent for a while, and then nodded her thanks.  She had a few suspicions about that wanderer, but she wasn’t exactly in a position to be asking those sorts of questions.  At least, not yet.  Besides, he could have been anyone and he certainly hadn’t hung around.

As she took off with her brother in search of more games to play, Grainne watched them and a sorrowful thought came to her heart.  In the dream, she had been given the treasure to guard for a time and then let go as she ran for Castellan.

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

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