Bastion read through the letter two times before he looked at the box that came with it. He felt a sinking feeling in his heart whenever he thought about Dauris being hunted like some wild creature. He had to get up and pace a bit; he wanted nothing more than to run to her and protect her from whoever this hunter was.
But he did not have that right, and he had other responsibilities.
In the box, nestled on a bed of white cotton, was a brooch pin for a cloak in the shape of a rose with a sword. He had seen her choose it while shopping. Next to it was a small note.
To my Knight, from his Princess. Please remember me.
The mere thought that he could forget her… He took it up with gentle hands and simply held it for a long time. Oh, he would remember. He would remember her. With a sigh he put it back in the box. He would wear it as they left to return to Castellan, and he would wear it every day afterwards.
But first, he had some writing to do, and a gift of his own to prepare.
— — —
My thanks for your gift. I will remember you, always. I do not think that I will ever be able to forget.
As for your questions, I was with others when I was transported here, one I have seen since then, but we have not had cause to talk about what happened to us. The other I have not seen. I do not know what happened to him.
You speak of powers, is this in addition to the teleportation that you mentioned? This all sounds so much like the television shows my younger brother would watch. But in those it was always girls. I have not noticed anything unusual, though I have learned to use the magic inherent to this world. It was part of my training as a Knight.
I find that I worry for you, with the hunter that you mentioned loose. I can readily understand your brother’s protectiveness if he is aware of such a one. Though from your words I find it difficult to believe that this hunter has not tried for you again.
If you ever need my help, ask me and I will run to you.
Somehow, just knowing that there is someone else in this world who understands where I come from… in a great help. I wish I had the leisure to sit with you and discuss everything I remember from the world I came from, just to see you remember it as well.
I find that there is a question that I must ask, as awkward as it is. How long have you been Traveling, as you call it? I know that you have been here since the age of five. Yet you seem to speak from an experience that is much greater. Forgive my presumption, please.
— — —
Dauris read the letter three times through while lying on her back in her bed, with a box of chocolates nearby. Then she rolled over and looked at the small box that had accompanied it. Inside was a set of earrings, wings to dangle from her ears. She had to smile as she looked at them again.
He had given her wings.
Now how to explain about Traveler powers, and how she was six before she was five, and seven before that. She had more than lost track of just how long she had lived, going through one adolescence after another, until she simply paused her age and spent a couple hundred years helping heal a world after a war that destroyed everything. And all that was before… before more recent attempts to forget something that would not be forgotten.
Traveler powers are highly personal. She wrote, carefully thinking about how to phrase her explanation. They tend to vary drastically from one Traveler to another. One may be very gifted in telepathy, another may have the ability to fly, yet another might be able to communicate with animals, and every once in a while there will be one who can do all of the above. I was one of the powerful ones.
As for my age, Dauris had to smile even as she wrote the words, imagining how he had writhed against the old adage to never ask a woman her years, I was six before I was five, because of the cavern. It was the method our enemy was using to try to kill me. I know that to this world I am merely twelve years of age, and I will abide by that until time restores me, but I was twenty when I became a Traveler, and I have only gained in experience since then.
Travelers do not age as other people do. We tend to have an ideal age, and once we reach it we tend to stay there, physically at least. A great many Travelers, if they survive their youngling days, tend to stay in adolescence in some form or another. Adolescents tend to awaken Traveler powers more than those older or younger, and if one of their friends when it happens is experienced… survival is easier. So look to mannerisms and attitude rather than appearance to judge age if you suspect that you have met another Traveler.
Besides, once maturity is reached, anything else is secondary.
Dauris spent quite a while making sure that the letter was ready. It would be the last one to reach him while he was still in Pallantia.
— — —
The day for departure for Castellan’s delegation dawned clear. Bastion listened to his fellow knights grumbling about their helmets and the intense desire to be away from this city so they could take them off. But the grumbling was good-natured. No one was seriously disturbed. Very purposefully, Bastion fastened his cloak with the brooch-pin he had been given.
As they formed up in the courtyard he could see Emperor Marus standing with Prince Illian and a young woman stood by them, doing everything she could not to fidget, or to glance their way.
King Ainmire appeared with his children and gave his final farewells to the nephew who had become Emperor. He could feel tension deep in his bones as he looked into the face of his niece, watched her slip a folded sheet of paper to her cousin, Keara. If only she knew how close she was. He almost sighed. But she could not know. Not now.
But if she ever ran, if she ever found her way to Castellan, then matters would be different. He promised his sister’s shade that matters would be different.
Dauris watched the knights march off in formation next to the carriage that rolled away with her cousins and her uncle. She knew that her friend left with them. She had seen the cloak-pin. She wanted so much to even just hear his voice. She wanted to sing out to him with a song that he would know, but she was afraid. She was afraid that if she did anything at all, that even now Gabriel would reach out and kill him.
But she promised herself, if she didn’t have an answer by sixteen about her dreams, if the mysterious Knight of her dreams, or the Pirate if that was what he was, had not appeared by then… then she would run to Castellan and forget that she had ever dreamed. If she couldn’t have dreams, then she already knew what she wanted.
— — —
Later that afternoon, Marus sat in his library looking at a map of all that was now his. Gabriel entered with a salute. “My Emperor, you called for me?”
Marus nodded. “Well, we managed to avoid an incident, don’t you agree?”
Gabriel frowned. “May I be honest with you, my Emperor?”
Marus looked at him and grinned. “Go right ahead, Guardian Gabriel, give me your honest feelings on the matter.”
Gabriel sighed. “I am surprised by how readily my brother submitted to the requirements placed upon him. I am even more surprised by how little your sister fought against me. Restrictions of any sort seem to anger her.”
Marus raised an eyebrow in surprise. “You didn’t know? She was writing to him the entire time. They had messages going back and forth since just after you confronted your brother in the hall.”
Gabriel stiffened. “Does she know?”
Marus shrugged. “That I know about the letters, probably not. That he is your brother, of a certainty no, or she would have raised such a clamor that they would have heard it all the way South. You see, I know my sister very well indeed. She hates restrictions almost as much as she hates secrets, and she has only one answer to secrets.” Though she had submitted to keeping the secret of Jules’ death readily enough. Still, the day might yet come when she insisted that the truth be known.
Gabriel nodded slowly. “Very well, my Emperor. What is your will?”
Marus looked at Gabriel with eyes that almost looked tired. “Just protect her. That is all I ask. Keep the secret of your brother from her for as long as you are able. If she should discover his relationship to you, or even hear of his existence, then let me know and we will remake our plans. My sister means a great deal to me.”
Gabriel bowed to his Emperor.
Marus gave him leave to return to his post and then watched him leave. He did not envy the soldier, if all was to go according to plan.
— — —
Once safely on board their vessel, the Castellan knights gratefully pulled their helmets off, more than one proclaiming that they never wanted to wear them again. Bastion merely sank onto a bench, his helmet in his hands, a terrible ache in his heart. More than anything else, he hadn’t wanted to leave Princess Dauris behind in that palace, under her brother’s loving thumb.
Sometimes loving too much was worse than not loving at all. Sometimes love must set a person free. And Bastion suspected that Emperor Marus loved his sister too much.
He looked up as he saw the edge of a gown approach him. Princess Keara smiled at him, with tears in her eyes, and silently offered him the folded paper that she had received from Dauris as they left the Palace. He accepted it with a grateful smile, and a nodding bow. She reached over and patted his shoulder in sympathy and then left him to what privacy he could find as he opened the letter and began to read.