Arc Three Chapter Eight

Story Arc Three: Chapter Eight

Riva arrived at Bastion’s rooms with her curiosity ablaze and no small amount of worry. Kian had not given her much in the way of explanation, just that she was needed, and it wasn’t like she was going to be able to take that nap she’d been trying to catch. She looked at the gathering, though, and felt the sudden clenching of fear.

Kodran was holding the betrothal documents, though they were still sealed, and the King was present. Most frightening of all, though, was the complete absence of emotion on Bastion’s face. If they told him about the betrothal then he would uphold the expectations, he would do his duty, but she would never know if he would have chosen her freely.

She swallowed carefully. “Kodran-da, is aught wrong?”

Kodran set the documents on the table and stepped over to her, motioning for her to sit in a nearby chair. “Riva-girl, we’re worried is all. What happened to you that makes you so frightened now? We have been told that there is one who seeks your life.”

Riva looked at Bastion, suddenly afraid for him. His honor was everything to him. If he had been commanded to surrender one loyalty for another… “How do you know about that, Kodran-da?”

Kian came to the rescue. “Your Captain refused to tell us, refused to surrender your secrets. Dramsol was here. He said that there was one who hunted you, both of you, and that you are his kinswoman, and that while the one who hunts you seeks only his death, this one would seek your torture as well.”

Bastion fell to his knees in front of her and took her cold hands in his. “Please, Riva, tell them. I cannot. I will not.”

Riva sighed. “Once upon a time I called him Brother. His name is Wolf Eyes Dreamsail, third son to Northwind Dreamsail by his first spouse. I was adopted into the House, but because of what I am and what I did before I became what I am now, the bloodline claimed me and made me one of them in truth. It’s why my hair is the way it is.” She took a deep breath. “Wolf Eyes was one of the ones who stood by me when I… when I shattered after I killed the first time.”

The room was silent as she struggled for words. “I didn’t even think I was capable of it, but a woman I called Sister was in danger, terrible danger, and I killed a man to protect her. Wolf Eyes was one of many who worked to keep me from madness.”

Her voice faded in sorrow. “We lost him in the Massacre, but he was not killed. It would have been kinder if he had been killed. He was stolen away from us, stolen and tortured and broken to serve the one who seeks to subjugate all existence to his sole control. To serve his new master, Wolf Eyes became a kinslayer and corrupter.”

Her hands trembled in Bastion’s grasp. “I am linked to the power that created us all, well, to the feminine component at least. Wolf Eyes caught me as I was riding to find a man. He- he was a dear friend of mine and we had history together, and unfinished business. Wolf Eyes could not kill me outright, but he bound the magic that is my birthright so that I cannot use it and he sealed me in a cavern that stole my years from me one day at a time, slowly causing me to dwindle into childhood and ultimately into nothingness.”

King Ainmire looked troubled. “But you were taken from that cavern by my sister, Grainne, and her sons.”

Riva nodded. “Illian and Mother found me; even then I knew that Jules and Marus would be trouble.” She sighed. “Wolf Eyes found me again and corrupted Jules, trying to get to me. When he died I collapsed again.” She gripped Bastion’s hands desperately. “Wolf Eyes corrupted the squires, not that they had very far to fall, corrupted Bannon so that he was willing to aid him in destroying me. He will not stop trying until I am dead or he is redeemed. He will try again, and again, and again.” Tears coursed down her face and she fell silent.

King Ainmire took a deep breath, steadying his voice. “We will protect you.”

She shook her head. “I do not know that you have the strength for that, Uncle. Besides, in this place you are more important than I am, you and my cousins. I would stand to protect you.”

“You believe Captain Bastion to have such strength?” The King looked at her seriously.

“Yes.” She looked at Bastion and smiled. “Bastion I trust to protect me from anyone or anything, even himself if he were ever compromised. Kodran-da I trust as much as I trust Bastion, though for different reasons. I doubt that even Wolf Eyes could deceive the dwarves.” She chuckled weakly. “I would know the strength of the dwarves, there was a time that I walked as one of them calling myself Mardis Firegold.”

Kodran blinked in surprise, his face turning pale. “I – I have heard tales of a woman named Mardis…” he gulped slightly. “She rose with wings of fire and defeated a dragon a thousand years ago.”

Riva sighed deeply. “Yes, that was me. So this is the place where I had gone during that time… Cearnach traveled with me, then. He… he found the process of rebirth to be fascinating and I… I didn’t know if he could truly become a Dwarf without having been born one. Even for me the transitional process takes time.”

Bastion looked troubled, and he wasn’t the only one. “What of my brother? He guarded you.”

Riva forced her stomach to settle, but still it clenched in sudden fear. “If I had to choose between Gabriel and Wolf Eyes, I do not know which would be worse. Gabriel, like Marus, would protect me from Wolf Eyes, and he has the strength to do so, and he would protect me from anyone else who came along. But who would then protect me from him?”

There was silence in the room for a moment as all considered her words. Then Kodran spoke up, his face serious. “What about you?” he asked.

“How do you mean?”

“Right now you are a danger to yourself and others, my daughter. What do you suggest that we do about you?”

She sighed. “I will recover, Kodran-da, but it will take time. Large crowds would not be a good idea right now. But other than that…”

Bastion looked at her hands, still clasped in his. “What was done for you before? You said that you collapsed after Lord Jules died. What was done then?”

She couldn’t meet his eyes, afraid for him of his own sense of responsibility. “Marus stayed with me. Mother needed Illian more than I did at that point, and Marus was starting to show signs of overprotectiveness. Gabriel was with me all the time anyway, but Marus held me as I slept. I’ll never be able to hate him, not after that.”

The King glanced at Bastion and met his eyes for a silent moment. Then Bastion nodded slowly and stood next to Riva, putting his hand on her shoulder. “You won’t be alone here. I swear it.”

Kodran nodded to the King. “Bastion-lad has my approval and we have the documents from Pallantia. We can have this settled by the evening.”

Riva panicked. “No! No, please, don’t command him. Please, I want him to be able to choose. My life, my heart is too complicated for anyone who does not willfully choose it.” Bastion felt his stomach do a double back-flip as he suddenly intuited what she had neglected to tell him.

King Ainmire looked at her, startled. “But Niece, there will be whispers otherwise.”

“So let them whisper! It’s not like the ignorant haven’t whispered things about me before. They hardly need an excuse to whisper about things they do not understand. I’ve heard it before and I will likely hear it again, endlessly again. I am a streetling here. What does it matter? In less than a month I will celebrate sixteen. In another year I will be judged an adult by your standards and at that point we can see where things are. I swear, if you try to command him in this I will burn the documents to ash.”

Kodran looked from her to Bastion and back to her again. “If I didn’t know better, I would say that you did not wish this union, Riva-girl. Haven’t you told him?”

Riva flushed red and Bastion answered for her. “No, Kodran, I have not been told. She said that she was betrothed, that the documents were signed and all was arranged in the absence of the one who was chosen for her. She did not tell me to whom she was promised. Am I to presume…?”

Kodran nodded to him. “Aye, Bastion-lad, it was to you.”

Kian sighed loudly. “I guess, Captain, that I owe you a slight apology. It appears that you are not quite so idiotic as I thought, if you haven’t been given all the pertinent information. Cousin, how did you think to catch him if he didn’t know that it was allowable to be caught?”

Riva colored again. “I’m not sure that your culture would accept some of… of the oddities of my life. I’m complicated to the ultimate degree. And there is still the matter of unfinished business with the man I was going to find, though I do not know if he is still there to find at all. I owe him the search, at least.” Her voice dropped into a hesitant whisper. “I’m sorry.”

Kian frowned. “Does this have to do with… with Lenne and Rina?” He tilted his head in a way that said that he wasn’t certain that he was remembering the names correctly. “Dramsol told us that you would need to explain about them and he said something about others, Jana and Dewberry.”

Riva turned a brilliant shade of red and tried to hide her face behind her hands, though Bastion refused to let go of them. She couldn’t look at him and kept her head down. Not in shame, so much as embarrassment. “Ah Elar… he would tell you about them… I suppose I don’t have a choice anymore.” She took a deep breath. “I’m not sure what exactly to call them since… well, since different cultures treat the relationship differently.”

She trembled, trying to decide how to explain the different women in her life. Might as well take the matter chronologically. “Dewberry was Cearnach’s concubine, in a place called Faerie, and he was my husband, before we were killed by one of Wolf Eyes’ Hunter squads. I found her again, centuries later, and we were friends and… sometimes lovers. Jana was… Jana willingly bound herself to Nebby and myself as a lover. Less than a wife, more than a mistress. But when Nebby died… I set her free to find a future where she could be happy. Lenne and Rina were with me when Wolf Eyes caught up with me, when he threw me into that cavern. I sent them away, told them to run and hide. I didn’t expect to survive the attack and I – I just wanted them to live.” She took a deep breath. “I expect that one day I will go back to find them again. I have found that a heart can be large enough to hold any number of loves.”

She looked down at her hands, still held by Bastion’s. “Illian… Illian thought that maybe the Knight in my dreams would be Cearnach and Nebby reborn… that he would be the universe’s way of returning that great love to me. But I was never certain. I never saw Cearnach in the Knight of my dreams.”

Bastion sighed. “Dramsol was right, you do like to keep secrets. We shall have to speak, later, and I will want the whole truth from you. In the meantime,” he stood and looked at the King and at Kodran, “I appreciate your interest in seeing matters settled, but I do not know that they can be right now. What remains to be done?”

Kodran nodded. “Your signature upon the betrothal documents signifying your acceptance of them and then the wedding itself. Lord Illian was very thorough in preparing matters.”

Bastion thought a moment. “I presume that all this interest in seeing these matters completed means that you intend for the two of us to reside very close? Perhaps separated by no more than a door, perhaps less?”

King Ainmire nodded. “That was my intention, yes.”

“Then make it quietly said,” Bastion said, “that Doctor Revier has taken to stealing gifted youths and maidens for sinister purposes, and that he had made an attempt to steal Riva because of her outstanding ability with weapons, dance, and song. There is safety in numbers and I was just so gifted, though no singer, when I joined the Order. As two streetlings we are staying close to each other. That should satisfy the curious.”

Kodran nodded. “And for the other?”

“Forgive me, but it will take time to grow accustomed to the thought. It is something which I do not want to rush.” He sighed. “It is her wish that I should have the freedom to choose, and I find it to be no great burden to grant her the chance to know that I have chosen my path freely and without compulsion.”

King Ainmire nodded slowly. “Very well. I will see that her belongings are moved.”

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Categories: Castellan Dreams Traveler | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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