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 him hurt me ever again!”
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 carry it for someone else. It… it has magic. There’s a sheath… under the pillow.”
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 brother. He put me in that cavern to die.”
Illian’s eyes went wide. “A brother?”
“Yes, a brother.” She paused, and almost smiled. “Do not be afraid, Illian, 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 brother 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. “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 another brother of hers.
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?”
“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 brother who placed her in that cavern, that he left her there to die. I do not wish for this brother to return to finish the task, or to seek a way to take advantage of her new position in our family. She is ours, now.”
The Emperor thought a moment. There was a new recruit who showed much promise, exceptional promise actually, but he was still too young and untried. 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.
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?” The names, they sounded familiar somehow, like they were the sort of names that the voice in the back of her head might create.
“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 no where 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.
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 solidity.
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.