In his hidden retreat, Lukan paced back and forth. The tool had gotten himself destroyed. And now Goldeneyes, that dear, delicate, tender sister of his, was warned as to his presence. Lukan wasn’t even certain that the seals still held on her. The destruction of the book had unleashed quite a bit of his power with it.
Lukan growled in frustration. He wanted so much to destroy that Motherborn female. He knew that the Motherborn could be destroyed. Shadeslayer’s wife had died, though that had happened in another multiverse and before Shadeslayer had found his way to them. He didn’t know where Guenevere was, though it was entirely likely that Guenevere and her redeemed Tiran had followed the path of mortality together. But without proof of that move…
He growled again. The only good thing in all this was that Goldeneyes 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.
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.
— — —
In a hidden retreat of his own, a man with reddish gold hair streaked by white frowned in concentration as he felt a quivering in the energies of the world. He hadn’t intended to stay here for very long, he was trying to find someone, a kinswoman who had vanished from sight, but the energies that were finding their way to him… were curious indeed.
Somewhere, an object of power had been destroyed.
The power that was released teased the edges of his understanding. It felt… almost familiar. Like he should know these energies, like he should know them very well. He sighed. Looks like he was going to have to stick around for a while and see what he could find. He didn’t think that he would find the kinswoman, but stranger things had happened.
— — —
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 even as other figures in the distance closed in to join them.
“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? Granted, they all still mourned him.
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 dream of him 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 him.”
Dauris sighed, resting her head on her mother’s shoulder and laying beside her. “Most of the time he’s a Knight. Sometimes he’s a Pirate. He used to be a Prince, too. But he hasn’t been a Prince for a very long time.”
“What does 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.
“What he’s always doing 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 green dress – a grown-up Dauris – appeared off to the side running towards the dueling brothers. “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.
“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, her hands on her wound. A light began to shine around her hands.
“What are you doing there?”
Grainne blinked. “You can do that in your dreams?”
“I used to be able to do that in real life.” Dauris buried her face in her mother’s shoulders, tears falling onto the cloth of her gown. “Jules was right, Mother, there is Healing that can cure you, and I used to carry it, but because of what happened to me in the cavern the ability is sealed away and I cannot use it. I cannot save you and I cannot even contact one who could.” She cried and shook and Grainne wished that she had the strength to be more comfort to the daughter she loved.
“Will you one day be able to do so again?”
“I don’t know. Probably. Maybe. Anything is possible. I can use the illusion-skills again, so it might just take time and strength to break the other seals.”
For an instant Grainne understood 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.
“Daughter, 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, my daughter, 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.” She wanted it to be true… she wanted it so very much. To know that the ones she’d loved, the ones she’d lost in lives long past would still be with her even today, somehow.
“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.”
In that moment she didn’t care about her own broken heart, about the grief and tragedy that had marked her for so very long. Here was a tragedy that could be averted, maybe. “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 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.