Monthly Archives: June 2014

Arc Three Chapter Six

Gabriel entered his Emperor’s library with a formal salute. Marus looked up at the soldier from the pages of a fascinating book. It purported to be the chronicled tales of a woman who was also a cat. If he read between the lines a bit it also raised all sorts of questions about his sister, who knew how to wolf howl. Once the door was closed and they were secure, Marus set the book aside, marking his place. “What news from Castellan?”

“Lady Dauris still has not declared herself. She seems content to allow the world to believe that you have placed her in seclusion. Following the unpleasantness at the Fall Festival she has spent more of her time in the Palace. She has demonstrated exceptional weapons skill in training alongside the trainees and squires of the Order. There is even quiet talk of knighting her.”

Marus smiled. “I never did let her join Illian in further training with our guard. Are we in a position to influence those whispers?”

“Not at the moment. Something of importance has emerged. Lady Dauris was attacked this morning.”

Marus sat up, his face bloodless white. “What happened?”

“Information is sketchy. I am getting it second and third hand because we do not have an agent directly in the Order. I believe that the events played out like this. The Castellan man who came to Pallantia seeking information on the last day that your sister was seen,” Marus nodded, remember the situation, “returned to Castellan and went to the Palace, seeking my brother. He did not return to Castellan alone. Accompanying him was a Pirate, as best as I can ascertain it was the same one who flew off with Doctor Revier’s prize vessel the night Lady Dauris departed. I believe that Lady Dauris was with my brother when his contact returned to him, the Pirate in tow. I know for certain that shortly after they went into the Palace, your sister and the Pirate reappeared on the street and went directly to the shop of the dwarf, Kodran. I am told that she looked nervous going to the shop and even more nervous coming out of it, and that she carried an unusual walking stick.”

Marus blinked. “Hmm, it is entirely possible that she was going to tell your brother that she is his Princess.”

Gabriel nodded. “That is what I surmise as well, Excellency. This is where matters become complicated. As near as my contacts can inform me at almost the time your sister left Kodran’s shop and started back to the Palace, my brother and Prince Kian ran from the Palace grounds towards her. She was almost halfway back to the Palace when she came under attack from a group of squires of the Order and a gang of footpads they had recruited.”

Marus clenched a fist so tightly that his hand shook. “They were informed of the intended attack, weren’t they?” He met Gabriel’s gaze. “Your brother and my cousin ran to her rescue before she even needed them.”

Gabriel nodded. “That is my belief. My brother and the Prince arrived at her side quickly, but not before your sister and her Pirate guard were overcome by the squires and footpads. I have not been able to get a good description of what took place in that alleyway, but I know for certain that there were bodies taken away, including that of the ringleader, and that your sister is credited with the kills.”

Marus covered his face with his hands. “So she has killed in defense of herself and this Pirate. Find out what happened, if you can. I must know everything. What of the ones who survived?”

“They have been taken into custody by the guards, down to the last man. The dwarf, Kodran, personally assisted in the search as did the least streetling child once the news traveled that their mother-adoptive had been attacked. More walking-sticks like the one Lady Dauris was carrying have begun to appear on the street, in streetling hands, though none of them seem to be as unusual as hers.”

“Unusual? How?”

“I am uncertain, Excellency, I am still seeking that information. Lady Dauris was kept for a time in the bower of your cousin, Lady Keara, and then she remained under the guard of my brother while her attackers were gathered up. She has not left the Palace since then.”

“So my sister is a guest of the Palace now?”

“Yes, my Emperor, in the hall with the other members of the Order. She has a private chamber.”

Marus sat up at that, his face pale again. “They’re leaving her alone? After what happened? After the shock she has taken? After she has killed? They’re leaving her in a room by herself?”

“My Emperor?” Gabriel was confused.

Marus stood and began to pace. “They wouldn’t know, and my little sister is too proud to tell them… They should not leave her alone right now.” He turned to Gabriel, a pained expression on his face. “I hope for all our sakes that your brother is exactly the man you have described. She will need him very much.”

Gabriel sighed. “There is more, my Emperor, and I am uncertain how to tell you.” He paused slightly. “There are indications that she was attacked at the request of Lukan, and that he aided the attack on the condition that your sister would subsequently be turned over to him.”

Marus became completely still in overriding fury. “Find out. Now.”

Gabriel nodded and excused himself from the library, leaving Marus to his thoughts and fears and anger.

— — —

Bastion arrived back in his rooms to find that he had a visitor waiting for him. A dark-haired woman wearing a soft lounging robe sat in a chair beside the table, and she had a bottle of wine with a pair of glasses with her. “Guenna,” he said, trying to smile, “it’s been quite a while.”

Guenna nodded. She was also a captain in the Order and she had been on an extended mission in another land for several months. In point of fact, she had left on her mission shortly after Riva had arrived in Castellan. “I know,” she said, standing and bringing him a glass of wine, “Is this a bad time? I heard about the excitement lately.”

He took the glass gratefully. “I could use the distraction.”

She lifted an eyebrow in curiosity. “So I am a distraction, now?”

He sighed. He didn’t want a fight with anyone right now, least of all Guenna. “You are now and have always been a dear friend, and you know it. How was Reis-Bohnen?”

It was her turn to sigh. “Nervous. The attack on the Imperial Princess,” Bastion felt his heart leap at her words, remembering the earlier events, and then settled as he realized that she spoke of the Emperor’s proclamation, “has the anti-Imperial groups in an uproar. Some are claiming sympathy for the attackers. Others are denouncing assassination in favor of kidnapping Lady Dauris because of the Empress’ Castellan dreams.”

“How bad is it?”

Guenna shrugged. “Bad enough. The priests are starting to speak out… against Emperor Marus.” She watched his expression carefully. “But no one in Reis-Bohnen has many kind things to say about the Empire since the old Emperor’s invasion. Even the king said that he believed Lady Dauris was not in Pallantia or her brother would have produced her by now and that if he found her hiding in his lands that he would shelter her in his own household.”

Bastion groaned. “He’s going to provoke Emperor Marus into attacking him and it will pull Castellan down with him.” The two nations were long-time allies since before the time of Lord Gryphon and Lady Zaira. No few alliance marriages over the centuries meant that the occasional Castellan dreamer appeared in the Reis-Bohnen royal line. It was even possible that some royal cousin in Reis-Bohnen had dreamed the truth.

Guenna took the empty glass of wine away from Bastion and set it aside. “Enough politics, my friend. It has been a long time and we are both in need of some relief.”

For a bare moment Bastion struggled with his conscience. He loved Riva, or at least thought he could, but she was promised to another and he had no right to her. Guenna was an old friend and they had often comforted each other. Guenna was here now. He sighed in surrender and reached out to Guenna. She needed him as much as he needed her, or she would not have been waiting for him.

— — —

Annie was worried. It was the time of darkness, the time when her momma should be sleeping. But her momma did not sleep. She burrowed properly, Annie had to give her credit for that much, but she did not curl and sleep. She trembled and shivered, and watched the room with wide eyes that did not close. This was not good. Annie knew that much.

She nudged her hand with a concerned whine. Her skin was cool, and her hand trembled as she tried to pet her. She cooed at her, but her voice wavered. Annie had had enough. Her momma needed help, and if anyone was going to bring it, then she would have to fetch help herself. Annie wormed her way out from the burrow after a parting nuzzle to her momma. She would return, she silently promised, she would fetch help.

She made her way to the hallway. The closed door was something she had gotten past before. Once outside the room, Annie sniffed the air and then the floor, looking for one scent in particular. She found it and followed it carefully to the source. This way, this way, turn here, this way, turn there, fetch help, fetch help.

Bastion was pulled from a very pleasant dream by the sensation of a long, wet tongue running across his face accompanied by a cold, wet nose and a whining sound in his ear. He blinked his eyes open and found himself eyes to worried eyes with a whimpering Annie. He blinked several more times to be certain that he wasn’t still dreaming. “Annie? What are you doing here?” He glanced at the door, which was still closed and locked. How in Heaven’s name had the dog gotten into his room?

His movement woke Guenna where she had fallen asleep beside him. “Bastion? What’s going on?”

“It’s Annie, Riva’s pet dog. She warned me that she tended to ignore locks, but she’s never proven the ability before.”

Annie whined louder at the mention of Riva’s name and pawed at the blankets, seeming to try to dig through them to get to him. Bastion sighed and sat up. At the movement the dog started walking across the bed, towards the door and then back to her, and then back towards the door where he paused and looked back at Bastion.

Bastion sighed in defeat. “I think she wants me to follow her, Guenna. Something must be going on with Riva.” He reached for his breeches.

Guenna sat up and began to reach for her clothing as well. “Who is Riva and why would her dog be coming to you for help?”

Bastion wondered how to explain the situation and decided for simplicity. “Do you remember all the excitement earlier?” Guenna nodded. “Riva’s the streetling girl who was attacked. She’s… she’s a friend of mine.”

Guenna looked curious again. “A friend? Like me?”

“Yes, a friend, and no, not like you. The King is going to see to her being inducted into the Order.” He looked at Guenna, who stood beside him and finished getting dressed quickly. “Are you going back to your rooms?”

Guenna shook her head. “No, I thought I would go with you, so that there was no misunderstanding your showing up at an underage girl’s room in the dead of night.”

Bastion didn’t know how to tell her that the only one whose opinion mattered to him would understand very well what he was doing and why. The King would only be upset if he didn’t go to Riva if she needed him. “I appreciate it, Guenna.”

She smiled. “You’re welcome.”

He turned to the dog and opened the door. “Lead on, Annie.”

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Arc Three Chapter Five

Bastion escorted Riva back to his chambers while the search resumed for the rest of the gang that the squires had managed to build. He had quickly decided that he wasn’t going to allow her to be alone while there was the slightest risk that they might decide to return to complete the task and steal her away.

Once inside the small set of rooms Riva sank gratefully into a chair while Bastion made certain that the door was closed securely. When that was done he found another chair and sat down nearby.

The silence quickly became unbearable.

“Please,” she murmured, “please talk to me. I can’t hear you think and it’s starting to scare me. I know… I know that you have every right to be angry.”

He sighed. “Part of me is angry, but not at you. I’m furious that you were hurt, that it could have been so much worse, that I failed to protect you. I am stunned and I am confused, but I am not angry at you. You tried to tell me, that day I was told about the proclamation, didn’t you?”

She nodded. “I wish I could have seen your face when you finally realized the truth.”

“And I wish I could have seen your face when you were told about me. How did you get away?”

“I ran that night. I kept Gabriel in sight so he didn’t have a chance to warn Marus and then left him with Illian, who probably bought me an extra couple of hours. Illian was always on my side; he always believed in my dreams. I was so angry with Gabriel. He knew. He knew I dreamed. I asked him about you when we were introduced. He let me believe that he didn’t have a brother.”

“Did you hit him?” Bastion felt a detached sort of curiosity.

“Yes. It wasn’t as satisfying as I had hoped. He was wearing armor at the time. If he ever, though, catches me in the side when he’s swinging at you… I am going to knock the hell out of him.”

That caused Bastion to sit up, startled. “What do you mean?”

“In my dreams. Every time. I’m trying to stop him from killing you and get caught in the side by his blade. I told him that if it ever really happens that I’m going to knock the hell out of him.”

Bastion stood and started pacing. “How much about all this did you dream? The term ‘Castellan dreams’ is fairly vague.” He found that if he concentrated on something that he could bring his scattered thoughts into something resembling order again.

“For me, because of what I am and how I see the world, I dream in stories. A sequence of events that flows in dramatic order. Sometimes you were a Knight who rode to my rescue, sometimes a Pirate who flew in to steal me away. There was a time when you were a Prince, who fought at my side to stop a war between our lands. In each and every dream, though, you had the same face, the same scar, and you were always fighting with a twin brother named Gabriel. And I always got hurt trying to keep him from killing you.”

Bastion almost laughed. “I considered becoming a Pirate for a while. If you hadn’t already been in Castellan… I probably would have.” He sighed. It was time he asked the question he had been avoiding. “How… how did you dream of me?” The words sounded as awkward as he felt. “A Castellan dreamer is customarily given what she dreams of. I want… I want to know what you expect of me.”

She sighed. “I want nothing more from you than you choose to give me. Obligation is meaningless without choice, at least to me.”

“I am your Knight, I made that choice four years ago. I will protect you, my Princess, with my own life if necessary.” He paused. “How do you wish for me to call you, when we are in private?”

“You may call me anything you wish, Bastion. That is your right.”

“But what name do you prefer? Riva? Dauris? Some other name I do not yet know?”

She sighed again. “I’m partial to Riva at the moment. Dauris… Dauris never believed in her dreams. She wanted to, but she didn’t. When I looked up into your face, and knew that you were real, and that you were the one in the letters… I believed.”

He slowly looked up to meet her eyes. “Do… do you carry rings, Riva?” He had to ask, even though the thought of her betrothal to someone else made him feel as though his heart would shatter. It was the custom in this world for the bride to provide the rings, as a representation of her dowry, he supposed. It was usually part of the betrothal ceremony, the sealing of a divine blessing upon rings that the girl would carry upon a chain around her neck until the day of her wedding.

She took a deep breath. “Yes. I carry rings. My brother saw to the betrothal papers before I escaped Pallantia, even against my repeated statement that such was unnecessary. I… I left them with Kodran before I started back to the Palace.” She looked at him. “I can still burn them, though, and throw the rings away. I am not bound by anything I do not choose to be bound by.”

“Who is this man your brother has chosen for you?”

Riva felt her heart skip. She didn’t know what to tell him. That Illian believed him to be her dream-promised True Love? That she didn’t know whether she even had the right to such a thing with how many loves she’d lost over endless centuries? That there was another man with as much a claim to her heart as he could have?

“Does it matter? I have every right to negate any choice my brother has made. It’s in the betrothal documents. I must first choose to present the documents to him and then he has to choose to accept them.”

“Wasn’t he…?”

“No, he wasn’t present for the blessing.”

“Why would Emperor Marus betroth you to someone in absentia?”

“Marus wasn’t the one who arranged the betrothal. It was Illian. And it was the result of the simple matter that we wished to avoid the complication of Marus making conflicting arrangements. Illian had never met the man.” She took a deep breath. “Neither of us knew who, exactly, he would be, if anyone.”

“And yet he pledged you to him.” Bastion sighed. “You dreamed of this man, didn’t you? You dreamed of marrying him.”

She sighed deeply. “I ran from Pallantia to find the Knight I knew I could trust to protect me, but love is another matter entirely, Bastion. It always has been with me.” She took a deep breath. “I don’t know that I have the right to marry any man when… when my heart is so entangled by scars and long histories.”

Bastion sighed and nodded. “I understand, Riva. I am your Knight, and I will be loyal to you. I hope that you are able to find some good man who is worthy of your love. I hope that you are able to find happiness.”

Riva wished that she dared explain matters more clearly. Bastion didn’t understand. But how could she tell him that she loved him without bringing his sense of obligation to the front and destroying his chance to choose her?

— — —

Kian pulled Keara aside for a few private words. “He was here, briefly. He was the one who warned us about the attack on Riva.”

Keara’s breath caught. “My seer? Did he say anything?”

Kian shook his head. “There wasn’t time. He gave me…” He paused, his hand touching the hilt of the sword which he still wore. “He gave me a sword, though, one that means a great deal to him.” He paused again, lowering his voice slightly. “Do you want to have rings to carry? In case he comes back quickly?”

Keara bit her lip nervously. “I don’t know. What does Father think?”

“I’m not asking Father, little sister, I am asking you. If you want this, I will make it happen.”

“Riva carries rings.”

“I suspected as much, but we are not concerned about her dreams right now. My concern this moment is for your dreams and your heart and your future. Do you want to carry rings for your seer?”

Keara thought about it for a long moment. Then she nodded slowly. “I’ll talk to him about it when we speak next in my dreams.”

— — —

Rounding up the surviving squires and their gang-members took several hours and the aid of every streetling in Castellan. The news of Riva’s attack had spread throughout the city within moments of Dalziel’s visit to Kodran’s shop. By the time the last of them were located the sky was growing dark and Riva’s stomach was a twisted snake-pit.

Kodran himself arrived at Bastion’s chambers to inform them of the capture of the last hold-outs, and he didn’t arrive alone. A wiggling Annie tried to jump from his arms onto Riva’s lap where she held her close as she would let her. She’d been worried about her friend. Kodran looked at Riva a long time. “Are you certain that you are unhurt?” He sounded doubtful.

She tried to smile at him. “Nothing hurt but my pride, Kodran-da. I killed two of them and… and then I killed the ringleader. Our streetlings are safe from them.”

Kodran nodded slowly. “Very well.” He looked over at Bastion. “As strange as it is, I see a great deal of Arie-lass and Tertius in you, Bastion-lad.”

Bastion blinked in surprise. “You knew Lady Arie and Lord Tertius?”

The dwarf nodded. “Knew Gryphon-king, too, when he was a lad on Castellan’s streets. He was full of trouble even then. I traveled with them, on the first journey. It nearly broke my heart when Gryphon gave his life.” Kodran took a deep, sorrowful breath. He sighed, then, and looked up from his thoughts. “Perhaps you could answer a question of mine, Bastion-lad. How did Kian-prince come to carry Riordan’s sword?”

Bastion blinked in surprise. “Lord Riordan? The one who helped restore Lord Gryphon? The…” he paused and glanced at Riva, understanding dawning, “the wanderer?”

Kodran nodded. “That would be him, indeed. He was also nearly as troublesome as Gryphon, though in his own, knowing way. Gryphon was a scamp who discovered responsibility and devotion. Riordan had the soul of a Pirate. How did Kian-prince acquire his sword?”

Bastion closed his eyes. “Dramsol gave it to him, when he warned us about the attack on Riva, so we could get to her in time. He said… he said that it had been a gift from a friend, and that it was important to him.”

Kodran blinked rapidly for a moment before he took a deep breath. “Tell Kian-prince that I hope he carries it with honor. And when the time comes, Bastion-lad, you have my approval.” Then he nodded to each of them and excused himself.

Bastion was silent for a long time wondering just why Kodran had felt it necessary to say those words when surely he knew that Riva was promised to someone else. Or was that the reason Riva had said that she could reject the arrangements her brother had made? But what of her dreams? What right did he have to seek her heart when she dreamed of someone else?

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Arc Three Chapter Four

Bastion didn’t stop until he was at Keara’s bower. When he entered maids cried out in surprise, but Keara came running up to them. “What happened?”

“She was attacked on her way back to the Palace from Kodran’s.” Bastion knelt to set Riva on a chair before he met the worried gaze of the Princess. “Lord Kian is seeing to the guard and the bodies before he returns here.”

Riva took a shuddering breath. “I killed them. I actually…” She bit back a sob. “I knew that he wasn’t going to kill me, not with the knife at my neck, but I knew… I knew that the knife was going to demand blood. The neck is a threat; she only kills when she goes for the heart.”

Bastion was very worried. He didn’t like the distracted way Riva seemed to be rambling. He took her face in his hands. “Are you all right?”

She looked at him and tears filled her eyes. “I was just so scared. They said… they said that they were going to give me to…”

He interrupted her quickly. “I know. We were warned in time. Dramsol warned us. It didn’t happen. It’s not going to happen.” He looked up at Keara. “Do you have something clean and whole for her to change into?”

Keara nodded. “Yes, I have something, if you will give us a moment of privacy.”

He sighed and shook his head regretfully. “Use screens for modesty’s sake, if you must, but until I know that those ruffians have been rounded up, I am not going to leave her open to another attack.”

Keara nodded, a half smile teasing her expression. “Very well, then, Captain.” She motioned to her maids and they brought several sets of screens out to create an enclosure where Riva could change clothes.

Bastion dearly wished for a chance to speak to Riva alone, or should he now think of her as Dauris? but with Keara and all her maids it was not possible. Keara found a dress from somewhere, something in blue and golden brown, and quickly came over to coax Riva into the screened enclosure.

Riva stood on shaky legs and pressed the stick she held into Bastion’s hands. “Here. It protected me… until they got it away from me.”

Bastion nodded. “I’ll be right here.”

She disappeared behind the screens and he took the opportunity to take a look at the stick, and the runes carved into it. His eyes widened as he read the name. “Riva, did Kodran…?”

“Yes, he did. It means a great deal to me.”

Bastion swallowed carefully. “It might just mean more to him. Riva, this means that to the dwarves, you are one of them.”

There were gasps of surprise in the room and Keara emerged from behind the screens to look at Bastion in curious confusion. “Captain?”

He met the Princess’ eyes. “She’s been named Kodransdotter, Lady Keara, and gifted a weapon from her father’s hand. It’s as binding as blood.”

Keara’s eyes widened and then narrowed in thought. Just then, though, Riva emerged from behind the screens and Bastion felt his heart squeeze. In Keara’s gown, Riva looked every inch a princess. Bastion almost wondered aloud how he could have been so blind.

There was a commotion at the door and they turned to see Kian enter with Dalziel and King Ainmire close behind him. The King looked at each of them in turn and then nodded to Keara. “Daughter, if you will be so kind as to dismiss your maids…”

Keara bowed her head to her father and then nodded to her maids. “Thank you. I shall call you back when I am ready.” They each curtseyed to her and then to the King and Kian before leaving the room.

When the last maid had departed and the doors were closed behind them, King Ainmire turned to Bastion. “What happened, Captain?”

Bastion bowed to him. “Forgive me, Majesty, Princess Dauris was attacked when I should have been protecting her.”

“When did you find out that your friend was the Imperial Princess?” The King’s voice was low, merely curious, not threatening.

Riva answered for him. “Sometime between the time I left his side to retrieve proof of my former name and the time he arrived to rescue me from the squires and their gang. I thought… I thought I was going to have to actually tell him myself. I have every confidence, Uncle, that had he known beforehand then he would not have allowed me to walk outside the Palace without him. As it was… I was not unaccompanied.”

The King looked around. “Who was with you?”

Dalziel bowed. “That would be me, your Majesty. To my shame I was unable to aid her.”

Riva spoke up quickly. “They ambushed us using an immobilization spell, Uncle. There was nothing anyone could have done. As it was… I was able to fight back only because of Kodran’s name-gift to me.”

King Ainmire blinked. “Name-gift? The dwarves have gifted you with a name?”

“Yes, Majesty,” Bastion said, and showed him the shaped walking-stick carved with dwarven runes.

The King took the stick and looked at it carefully and then handed it back to Riva. “What do you intend to do now, Niece?”

She lifted her chin and faced him. “I am not returning to Pallantia. I would rather… I would rather run away again as to return to that city while my brother keeps a pet scientist who is studying at the feet of the one who corrupted Jules.”

She heard a hiss of indrawn breath and wasn’t certain who it had come from. King Ainmire blinked in surprise. “Niece, what would lead you to believe that I would allow such? You belong to Castellan, as your dreams, and the dreams of your mother, have declared.”

Riva wavered slightly on her feet and Bastion reached out to steady her before stepping back again. To suspect that she dreamed was one thing. To hear it confirmed was another. “My mother…? When? How…?” She paused. “Oh, the letter she gave me. That was why she wanted me to deliver it personally. But… I wasn’t able to.”

King Ainmire nodded. “Your mother, my sister, dreamed that you would run to Castellan. We walked a razor’s edge, Niece, at the funeral four years ago. I was prepared to fight for you then and I am no less prepared to fight for you today. I ask again, what do you wish to do?”

She sighed and looked at Bastion, who kept his expression carefully blank. “I do not know, Uncle. I do not wish to bring war to Castellan, and my brother is powerful, and very possessive. He will… he will seek to reclaim me, eventually. I was… I was content to remain a streetling.” She looked back at the King. “But now Bastion knows and… and my decisions won’t just affect me. If I declare myself and openly flaunt my brother’s proclamations, then there will be war and I fear that Castellan would not be ready to meet the Imperial armies. If I remain silent then perhaps my brother will contain his possessiveness and leave Castellan be and we will have time to prepare. I… I have dreamed of war, more than once, and though the details varied it was always sought as a means to gain power.”

“Power?” Kian asked. “What form of power?”

She sighed. “Treasures. Relics. The use of them to dominate the world.”

Dalziel grinned. “Now treasure is something I understand, sweet Riva.” He looked at the others. “I’m a Pirate. Finding treasures is something I do by second nature.”

“Can you aid us in hiding this one?” Bastion looked at Dalziel and wondered for a moment if he was the one Riva loved. Just because she had dreamed of him did not mean that she had dreamed of him that way.

Dalziel nodded. “Aye, Cap’n, I will help you hide this treasure, if that is her decision.” He looked at Riva. “Is this your decision, sweet Riva?”

Slowly she nodded once. “For the time being it would be best if I remained the streetling, at least to those who do not already know.”

Kian sighed. “There is a slight complication, Cousin, in that your correspondence with Bastion is something of an open secret in the Palace. There are no less than three betting pools going, quietly of course, over when Bastion would fly to your rescue to steal you away from your brother. There are probably at least that many wondering whether or not you dream.” He glanced at Keara and then continued. “And there is one that I know of, among the ladies of the court, that wonders about your true identity.”

Riva trembled, but forced herself to remain standing, even as she clutched the walking stick so tightly that her knuckles turned white. “It is only a matter of time, then, before the truth is known.”

Kian nodded. “Yes, Cousin.”

She took a deep breath. “I will not openly provoke my brother to war. When the time comes I have no doubt that he will manufacture excuse without my aid, but I will not encourage war. As long as I am able, I will remain the streetling Riva.”

“Niece,” Riva forced herself to meet King Ainmire’s eyes and he continued, “I wish to ask you if you would be willing to make public your loyalty to Castellan. I am offering you a place within the Order of Knights.”

Riva blinked. “Aren’t there formalities and such?”

“There are, and I am willing to speed them along as I am able. It has been done before, in the case of those who show exceptional talent and ability, and you have proven to have both in abundance.” He shrugged. “It has already been suggested by no less than three other Captains, though I believe that it has as much to do with the fact that they are pleased to finally have someone to bet on against your Captain in the sparring pools as it has to do with your ability.”

She looked at Bastion. “Should I?”

Bastion smiled at her, but it was a very small smile. “I am hardly without bias in this, my Princess, but I believe that the Order would benefit from your inclusion.”

She nodded then, to the King. “Very well.”

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It’s changing us…

I love ElfQuest.

I’ve said it before and I’ll likely say it again.  Time and time again if I know my own tendency to repeat things ad infinitum.

I also have started reading through several blogs, following one post to another post to another site to another post like some long-term ongoing wikiwalk of trauma survivors and feminists and philosophers examining ideas that conventional Christian thought would rather label as heretical and simply ignore from that point on.  But some things refuse to be ignored.

Some of what I’m reading is causing me to look seriously at myself, at my own assumptions, and at how some of my characters are portrayed.  Both when they’re in the right and when they really aren’t.  Most of those scenes aren’t even written outside of a few scattered notebooks and some conversations with The Mysterious Co-Writer, but some of them have been typed up in Word Documents and are waiting inclusion in this timeline or that one.

Or simply remaining hidden in the backstory, mentioned only in passing.  Because not everything really needs to be shown in all the prurient detail.

In ElfQuest, of late, there’s a theme starting to be mentioned.  The presence of the Palace of the High Ones is causing the Elves to slowly change over time.  It even caused one creative individual to build a fan-poster for the series, using that line “It’s changing us…” as a metaphor for how ElfQuest has changed us, as fans.

And it has.  ElfQuest has changed us.  It’s changed me.  I credit ElfQuest with giving me the ability to understand that my views, my opinions, my Way, isn’t the only Way.  It’s right for me, but maybe not for everyone.

And even my Way can change as I encounter other ideas, other views, and incorporate them into my own.

What I’m reading now… it’s causing me to question some of the fundamental assumptions of my childhood.  I can see how some of those terrible, toxic ideas were passed on to me, even if not to the extreme of what I have read of other lives.  Even though I ended up on the light end of the spectrum of damage, the damage is still there.  There are things that I once took for granted that I no longer believe, and cannot bring myself to even accept any longer.

No one, for any reason, has a Divine Right to Rule over anyone else.  The very concept goes against what my Christian soul tells me of Christ, of His message and His purpose for living and for dying and for rising again.

I can no longer accept the idea that there is anything inherently wrong in loving another person, no matter their gender, no matter their identity.  Hatred is wrong.  Anger born of hatred is wrong.  Attitudes that dehumanize other people, make them objects to be owned or used at the will of someone other than themselves; these things are wrong.  These things are sin.  Loving someone and wishing to spend one’s life with the one held so dear to the heart?  Not so much.  Wishing the rights and privileges associated with the informed and consenting union of two or more lives into a single family unit?  Oh hell to the no.  There is no evil in that.

Unfortunately, the process is messy.  Change is confusing and painful and difficult.  It means that I’m probably going to make even those who like me sick of hearing about things over and over and over again until they simply want to puke and tell me to shut up already.  I’m odd when it comes to new ideas, new concepts, any sort of changes at all.  I’ll talk about it.  Maybe nudge it with my toe a bit.  It takes me forever to work up the courage to actually do something I haven’t done before.  It’s almost as painful a process as listening to me talk and talk and unendingly talk about some new concept that I’ve latched onto with all four feet.

I have to chew on things forever before they finally work their way into my system and I’m able to calm down and simply let them Be.

I still find it interesting that one of the central themes of ElfQuest is Change.  Doesn’t mean it’s easy, just that it’s necessary.

Hopefully I’ll be able to get back to working on my stories soon.  Still wrangling with some of the chapters in Story Arc Three for Castellan Dreams while simultaneously trying to figure out how to present all the other stories that exist within the larger universe of stories that comprise my creative efforts for the past twenty, twenty-five years or so.

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