Disclaimer (Spoilers maybe ahead):
Now these aren’t so much spoilers for Darkness’s Fury itself, though it can be applied, but more for how Vengeance of Segennya ends. So if that doesn’t scare you away I should also warn this has yet to be even really touched a second time by me even, Darkness is far enough along though that I feel comfy giving a sneak peak. So without further ado I present for the first time on the internet Darkness’s Fury, Book 2 of the Birthright Secrets.
Durj’s chains rattled as the leaky boat plunged over yet another wave soaking him through his prison issue tunic and trousers barely any protection from the cold, wet sea. He shifted uncomfortably on the splinter filled bench as his jailors pilot their ship over yet another wave. One of them noticed his change of position, “What’s the matter King Durj? Sorry it’s not velvet lined and cushioned but don’t worry you won’t be on here for long.” He gestured ahead of them. “Look!”
Sharp rocks rose out of the churning waters like some fabled monster’s teeth as a jutting island cliff loomed overhead. Their ship dangerously was pushed near the rocks, near enough Durj could reach out and touch one despite his attempts to keep an image of calm. The rock was slimy yet sharp as the teeth they seemed to resemble. Quickly his guards righted the vessel and guiding it through the cluster of obstacles until a small opening appeared just wide enough for their boat to go through. As they disappeared into the darkness barely able to even see the walls Durj was almost thrown several times from the vessel as it bumped into the walls. Just as suddenly as the passage had emerged into view it widened into a calm pool, his guards maneuvered the boat towards a slight shell that formed a bank to the pool and the steep steps leading form it, there two armed and armored guards waited.
“About time,” one yelled as they near. “Thought we’d have to fish you out!”
“Sorry, it’s a bit rough out there,” The one behind Durj responds. “And his former majesty isn’t exactly giving us the easiest of times.”
“I’d bet not, how many times did he try to escape?”
“Five times,” the guard in front said speaking as though Durj wasn’t there.
The boat gently bumped into the rocks, the two guards hauled him to his feet, “We’ll help you get him settled into his rooms. They nice?”
“Oh he’s got the best,” one of the guards said leading the way up the stairs. Durj’s chains echoed eerily as they climbed. “Nice and private.”
They neared the top of the landing and the guard took a key from his belt pouch sliding it into the iron door it opened with a groan and bang. “In you get,” the guard behind Durj orders shoving him.
Durj stumbles slightly as the urging, slowly entering the room one of the guards right behind him. As Durj studies his accommodations the guard takes the lose end of his chain and locks it to a ring in the wall then releases his hands though his feet remain shackled. The room had a horrible draft from the cracks in the mortar between stone and brick showing the prison’s age and state of repair. Water steadily came in through the open bars to the outside soaking the floor and was right next to the most uncomfortable bed just short of what he had in the makeshift jail they had him in inside Ravewood and was no doubt at least partly wet. “Room not to your standards Durj?” one of them asked.
“Do I get a blanket at least?” he asked trying to play obedient prisoner. The look on their faces tells him that they don’t quite believe it but say nothing.
“It’s at the foot of the bed there,” the same guard replied pointing.
Durj picks up a raggedy thing patched in many areas and threadbare, “Thanks.”
They shut the door with a bang causing Durj to jump and blink as it did so. “Enjoy your home for the rest of your days,” the guard told him laughing with the others as they went down the stairs once more. “So five times huh? He must have heard what happens to those who stay in Dalyrus too long or what being sent here means…”
Their voices faded, Durj walked to the bars as much as his chains would allow. He looked down the hall and called out softly, “Anyone else here?”
The roaring wind outside was his only reply waiting several minutes in case he was too quiet he tried again. “Anyone?”
“You will only find skeletons here,” a voice came from behind him in his cell.
Durj whirled to see Traidan leaning against a wall showing little care with his old ally’s predicament. “Where have you been?” he hissed.
“I have been making plans and making sure you’d still have a chance at your throne again. Zara says hello by the way.”
“Better than fine, currently she is a guest of Manarum to the South while I prepare out current forces to weaken Segennya. I think right now she is finalizing some plans of ours.”
“Take me to her!”
Traidan laughed. “No Durj no, you see you failed and while I have decided some use is to be had by you, a few months of the pleasure and silence of Dalyrus is more than fitting for your failures with your underling. I will come get you have no worries there,” he walked over to Durj and pressed a crystal to his skin of his forehead. Durj screams in pain the cry echoing, it continues to carry on even after the crystal is removed. “That should remind you who truly has the power,” a black mark in the shape of the crystal was etched where he had pressed the crystal. His own screams still rang through the air as though he was still making them. “This will let me keep an eye on you,” he smiled at him. “I’ll leave you with your company, can’t have you going too mad too fast now. Do not worry though only you can hear them or see the mark, if you ask the guards they will think you crazier than they already do.” He vanished from sight as Durj lunged for him.
A searing pain exploded in front of his eyes for a moment. Tut tut now Durj, that will be enough of that. The screams seemed to grow louder.
Resigned Durj sat on the bed putting his pillow over his head but it didn’t help. After some minutes they quieted somewhat but still continued on, for three days it went on and with the guards only coming up from the somewhat shelter of the rock below to give him gruel for meals three times a day othe r than that his only company was the screams. When they ended Durj was relieved to have the silence since it was a calm day and Dalyrus was far enough no wildlife traveled. Soon though he longed for that noise, sitting in his cell he leaned against the wall tapping his fingers, anything to keep the silence at bay. He could hear the blood coursing through his very veins it was so quiet, it was as Traidan had said, and soon he would go mad from it if he couldn’t keep it at bay.
Miles away in Ravenwood Liz walked through the corridors of the palace towards Cat’s room sighing. She had hoped the extra time she had before she felt Dalynus was ready for Durj would have shaken Cat’s obsession with looking through her brother’s belongings but had no luck. She was on her way to once again force her to join them for supper and was using the summons Cat had put forth as an excuse to do so. Pausing at the door she gave it a token nock before entering. Shutting the door behind her she took her sister in, Cat sat with her back to her books and other things littered the desks and tables all around where she sat in one of her rare gowns for her new station. Liz walks over her own green gown trailing behind her having had official Queen business earlier in the day and meeting with new nobles as well as racial delegations. “Cat, what is it?” she asked sitting in one of the scattered chairs around the room, and looking around. Clothing and other odds and ends were tossed on the bed over other furniture and floor. Cat’s bedding was rumpled, half moved to a couch near the desk. “Cat?” she tried again almost pleading to get her to answer.
Cat’s head shot up, “Sorry. Got lost in what I was looking at.”
“So I noticed,” Liz said dryly. “Why did you want me to come by?”
Cat turned to face her, leaning back in her chair. Liz had to bite back a breath at the sight of the eye patch covering her right eye, now a familiar accessory for her friend even after all these months but still took her breath away. A sharp, vivid reminder of one of the prices paid for what took place though she had been lucky where others hadn’t, a bit more though and Liz shuttered to think. “I’ve been looking at something quite interesting,” she said drawing her attention away from the injury. “You now the uprising that took your father had no visible signs right? It would happen.”
“Yes, Cat we have spoken to my mother on this. Unfortunately though since I and others are still almost positive Durj had help he won’t tell us so we are left to guess and prepare the best we can until prison loosens his tongue. The guards have orders to let me know if he lets anything slip while he is there. ”
“I don’t think any amount of preparing will help you. I’ve been looking also at the bastard’s notes seeing if what he won’t tell you is there and found some things.”
Liz leaned forward, “What is it?” Cat reached over to the desk pulling a bunch of lose piece of parchment some of the writing looked unskilled as though someone had made the characters was quite new at forming the words. “Your notes?” she asked knowing Cat had just recently begun to master the art of writing.
“No, it’s his. Look though,” she changed a few pages around to reveal an entire page of what appeared to be someone else’s additions to the writing. “And I can’t read it.”
Liz held out a hand, “May I?”
“You’re the Queen, go for it.”
Taking the parchment in her hands she ran her hands over the words trying to gauge age of ink and parchment. “It looks fairly old but not as old as some of the papers we have come across buried in the room here.”
“Yeah lucky that idiot doesn’t have enough smarts to destroy things,” Cat laughed as Liz resumed her study of the notes. “And that he didn’t make it all the way through the palace cleaning it.”
Liz nodded half listening then cursed, “I cannot make out enough of this. It looks to be Eiren but it is also written in a code or a much older form. I do not understand though how Durj understood it to make what seem to be additions or his take on what is written.”
“What do you mean?”
“Like this-My Lord, you have truly thought of everything but I think more traditional routes are needed as well. If it’s agreeable I’ll put men in place to wait out the storm of unhappiness. I’ll also put in place my best weapon, she’ll do as told.”
“No doubt meaning you,” Cat muttered bitterly. “But he tried to kill you instead does it hint at what changed, the reply to his suggestion that is.”
“What I can make out of it says danger and no regarding his best weapon. I would assume though that the others must have been put in place.”
“Why haven’t they struck yet?” Cat asked. “It’s been months since you put Durj away and he stayed here for ages too while we waited for everything to settle to do a public trial and then after.” She shook her head. “Maybe you shoulda answered the call to kill him.”
Liz eyed her vehemently, “As I told him when I cornered him that is the easy way out and I am not about to begin this new chapter with more killing for us. I did a bit of research myself before I sentenced him to Dalynus by asking my mother. He will be all alone out there only seeing other people when they bring him meals, far from any supporters that might have gotten away from us. The prison never held more than one or two prisoners at a time and they are punished for speaking to one another. Meaning, except his own thoughts if anyone is put in there with him he only has wind and rain for company. He had his chances plenty to possibly get a lesser sentence or at least a better place to spend his days while we waited for Dalynus to be ready. Let him stew the rest of his life over what he lost and over who took it from him.” A wicked smile spread across her face. “That’s punishment enough I’d say and keeps him alive to pull information if needed.”
“Right you are,” Cat stretched yawning. “Gods I’m starving I’ve been at this most of the day,” she said glancing over at the timepiece on the wall.
Liz followed her glance, “It is almost supper time, why do you not call it break time from all this? No need to research constantly you are going to go mad.”
“The answers are here though!” she cried. “I know it and I think you do too, whatever he won’t say that we haven’t seen yet. I honestly think something is brewing, it went too easy. Durj is an idiot but not that bad of one for as much as he did taking the place over.”
“That we can agree on, but right now we are looking at smoke with no flame,” Liz replied staring thoughtfully at the parchment in her hand. “I am visiting my mother after I do this tour of the country I am going on soon perhaps she can shed more light on what these characters might mean. Simply do me a favor and do not work yourself ragged over this, since I know you will. Also let this go no farther beyond how is necessary so Terra and Kellin at the most.”
“I can agree to that,” Cat said, she walked over to the bureau and took some water to freshen up her face splashing it all over. “No need to start panic, I’m not so obsessed to know that there might not be much to all this.”
“Cat you have hardly moved into your rooms or your new house down in the city and,” Liz winces as Cat lifts the eye patch to examine the empty space that used to hold a viable eye. “Will you stop that?”
Cat quickly put the patch back in place, “Sorry,” she mutters. “It’s somewhat surreal so I can’t resist. And I have too moved in!” she waves her hands to mess of clothes and bedding.
Liz picks up a discarded tunic and tosses it aside once more, “Indeed it seems as though you have.”
Cat tosses a towel at her smacking her in the face, “I don’t care if you’re Queen Liz I can still pummel you.”
“Some might consider that a serious threat,” Liz tossed the towel aside. “Come on; let us get something to eat.”
Laughing they step into the hallway, Liz nods her head to acknowledge some passing servants’ bow as Cat locks her door. As they begin to walk farther into the depths of the main palace, “So I was asked by another lady during one of those things I’m forced to do about why you went with Queen Liz for your ruling name.” Cat asks. “I gotta agree with her somewhat it does sound off…like.. I’m not sure.”
“Not Queenly?” Liz smirked. “To be honest it was somewhat default since most involved with making me take the throne know me as Liz. It is still going to take me some time to embrace the name Cianien.”
“True, didn’t think of that, though you’ve told me a thousand times by now probably.”
“Well in your defense you have been a bit preoccupied.” They round the corner where more of the bustle was as a common corridor for this area of palace. Several builders scurry past them carrying boards, buckets for mortar and nails along with other tools into the other rooms. Servants in training carry mismatched furniture to fill the finished areas once more, the nicer things having been sold to give much needed assistance to a treasury directed by those who already had some time as domestic help.
“Your mum’s room done yet?” Cat asks peeking in an open door where the dust was still settling it seemed and workers still moved around.
“In a few weeks I believe. We both told them that it was among the last priority since she is quite content with Rue in the Manor and no need for it.”
They walk on in silence, Liz pauses once they reach where the private corridors join with the main palace to look out the window and to the courtyard that not too recently had mostly overgrown garden in it. Far below Kellin was working with men and women alike who had volunteered for military positions, William overseeing different group’s training with staffs and hand to hand combat. Their charges had come a long way from when they first began, eagerly embracing their training all along though. In a way it reminded her of the days she worked with those in Brookcavern and Rinette to stand against Durj the way the training had progressed having snuck down to observe the lessons on several occasions when she could get away from her more Queenly duties. Resting her fingertips on the window she looks out over the pools of water and toward the prism of color that shone over the rainbow. Several people were coming over the paths over the pools enjoying the milder weather within the cavern or just going to and from one section of the city to the other on their jobs. In no means would the construction be done again when winter’s winds blew at the fiercest, but it was coming along better than it had last winter. Still many homes needed repair and food and heat could still be issues. Liz was tempted to invite those who needed it into a floor or wing of the new palace to stay especially those who worked in and around the building and had families outside. That measure wasn’t needed though and she could imagine the fit from nobles if she went ahead and did it though she doubted few would openly challenge her decision. As they continued to watch the lessons she glanced back as a few servants walked past and smiled at her, eyes sparkling with life.
It was here that Durj had failed during his reign; he had wanted and wanted from the people with little offered in return. Turning back she watched the lessons break up for the evening some rushing into the barracks to clean up before starting on their own supper, Kellin and William joined them for this activity to strengthen the bond outside of combat. Sometimes in the late evening they would slip out as well with those off duty to drink away their worries at Terra’s new establishment in Ravenwood Proper not located too far from the palace. It was the favorite for most in the city, never an empty night. The amenities it used to offer were now done so in private, though it doubled as an inn so it was easy to cover such digressions. Terra lived in the building just as she had with the first Blood Moon despite Liz’s offers of a room at the palace for her she had declined. A title to rebuild she had accepted to a point, but never a thing like that. She was content being the Queen’s unofficial eyes and ears among the general populace where they might say things they wouldn’t without aid to loosen the tongue. As she watched she saw the huddle form of Terra march up, curious for this time of day since shortly after supper Terra’s place was usually flooded with patrons she pulled herself away from the window. No use in making her wait for whatever it is, she thought.
Pulling herself away from the window she walked on Cat struggling to keep up. They rounded a few more corridors joining with the main areas of the palace, the ones shared by servants, nobles and dignitaries mainly from the Eire and Inarni at the moment. In this hour only a few were out and about most having taken to supping in their rooms to get a few private moments since court hadn’t officially been set up and those rooms were still waiting to be freshened as another of Liz’s low priority rooms. They made their way to a room she had claimed for private suppers if she had more than Kellin joining her, it was the closest she had gotten to fully embracing her new title and role of being a courtier needing to use dinners to make arrangements or relations. Opening the door the women entered to find the circular table set with mismatched china and silver dinnerware, the settings were for five making Liz curious who else might be joining them. A few servants in training milled about the edges to tend to their needs with a senior member of staff, an old hand to such things overseeing them all bowing much too low or curtsying the same as they entered. She nodded her head at them trying to put them at ease making her way toward the head of the table Cat taking a place on her left side only taking a seat once she did.
For several moments the servants were a flurry of movement, pouring wines and making sure water glasses were full. Cat’s eyebrow rose above her patch as she glanced over at Liz, “Umm… my Queen… you don’t think…”
Liz too her hint, “Brandon,” she said to the overseeing servant. “Our companions are not here yet; might we get the room for a few moments in private? I will alert you as soon as you are needed.” He looked confused but nodded and motioned for the equally confused newer servants to follow him out using the main door.
“Ahh peace,” Cat said once they were out, leaning back in her chair and kicking her feet up on the empty seat next to her.
“Indeed,” Liz agreed tempted to join her in the very un-Queenly position. “I feel bad however.”
“Why? It’s not like you were vicious when you did it.”
“Quite true, I simply needed a moment. My attendants are stifling enough at times, I do not know how many gowns they try to stuff me into and let alone get me prepared for the day.” She shook her head exasperated. “Face paint, numerous brushing of my hair and Gods help me if I get mussed in any way.”
“It starts all over again huh?”
“Even if it is simply a smudge of dirt and I do not dare go down to train! Imagine the fuss then!”
They chuckled until a knock at the door drew their attention, “Enter,” Liz said trying to school her face into the appropriate expression in case it was someone not so familiar.
“What are ye laughin’ at in here?” Terra swept in, throwing her cloak on a side chair as she pushed the door shut with a foot.
“Terra!” Cat cried jumping up to embrace her. “Quite bein’ a stranger!”
“Yer one te talk! I’m surprised Liz even got ye out of yer rooms for supper!” She returned the embrace heartily. “It’s been what? Three weeks?”
“Not that bad!”
“Terra,” Liz greeted walking over.
“Ahh lass,” Terra released Cat to embrace her. “Or I suppose I should be all mannerly and curtsy?”
“Do not dare!” Liz insisted pulling back. “Come sit, it is not often you get up here.” She walked over to fetch the decanter of wine from where the servants left it pour Terra a glass and setting it on the table.
“Your servants are gonna have a fit,” Cat told her. “Where it is has you written all over it.”
“I am a Queen not immobile.” Liz sat back in her seat while Terra simply drank up. “So what does bring you up here at this hour? This is your busy time.”
“I can’t just see my friends?”
“Not when you have that option every day,” Cat replied. “And not when it breaks your normal routine.”
“Well besides wantin’ te see ye before ye took off on yer tour I admit I’ve been hearing some curious things.” She took a deep drink.
“Like what?” Liz leaned forward, eyes gleaming with keen interest.
“Well like odd creatures popping up outside the city, things no one’s seen only te vanish. Odd whispers of Durj’s survivors near the borders, been plenty travelin’ lately hoping te come and get work while we rebuild here so news has been flowin’. They seem te be heading for te hills so te say, scattered from what I hear in te tavern.”
“This is old news though,” Cat pointed out. “Well somewhat.”
“The creatures are odd,” Liz said. “Any more description?”
“Nah, none sadly. Most it seems don’ believe it, but they still will come get plenty te drink once they see one.”
Another knock came at the door causing the conversation to pause once more, “It must be Kellin,” Liz told them. “Enter!”
The door opened to reveal Kai, who quickly closed it once more. Her appearance caught Liz by surprise though it had been only weeks since they had seen each other. Unlike Terra who favored low cut gowns and other articles of clothing Kai had been one of them in the cave before they reunited with Kellin to scramble into dry clothes though only females were present and yet here she was in one. Looking over the table she saw a similar look of shock on Cat’s face as well though Terra simply appeared to be knowing of what was going on. Well I think we now know the last item you wanted to talk to me about. “Kai,” Liz greeted warmly.
Kai smiled wide as she sauntered over holding herself with a confidence she had lacked on their journey together. Newly found somewhere I wonder… or is there something else at work here. Regardless she tightly embraced her friend pulling back to study her face. Kai’s eyes seemed as dark as her black gown but alight with spirit that was lacking before. They were accented by a light sprinkling of face paint that highlighted her natural beauty while maintaining the darker air about her. “What is it?” she asked Liz curious.
“I feel as though a little sister has grown up,” Liz replied. “You look good though.”
“Tanks,” Kai replied embracing Cat and Terra who had stood to greet her as well. Liz studied the exchanges, something was definitely off with their friend but at the same time it didn’t seem malicious in nature. In fact it was almost as though she had discovered a part of herself.
Kellin swept into the room followed by William, both men stopped at the sight of the women and Kai now animatedly chatting away to Cat. Liz shook her head subtlety to hint not to ask then said loudly. “Kellin why do you not go and get Brandon and let him know they can return, he more than likely is not far. Also that we will need another setting for William.”
“Sure,” Kellin replied disappearing back out.
“Kicked them out again huh?” William asked taking an empty spot though it lacked eating utensils.
“Cat wanted privacy,” Liz smiled. “Having good luck with your recruits?”
“Yeah they’re great,” he beamed. “Got more arriving by the day it seems and while some lack talent on certain items they’re great on other others. Definitely can’t fault them on being eager though, they have that in droves.”
“Good to hear,” Liz said. “Hopefully that heart stays with them.”
“I tink it will,” Kai said, sitting down next to Cat. Tey got a future now.”
The door reopened allowing Kellin to enter the servants following behind. He sat at the opposite end of the table while the servants raced to get William a place. “You know,” he said as they worked. “All we need for this to be complete is Laeni, Ciehul and even Oktobriana though he was only with us for the end to get everyone back together.”
“True,” Terra agreed. “Where have those three gotten off te anyway?”
“Last I heard they were spending some time with their people before coming back into our realm again,” Liz said. “Had some important business to negotiate in Caya before they came back on a more permanent basis. They also wanted to get Ciehul checked by the healers there more. I imagine though that Oktobriana is working in Caya back as General of their forces mainly, available for helping us if needed of course.”
“He’s still having trouble then?” Cat asked.
“They think they might have some odd things there that can help. I hoped they can, seems a bit unfair.”
“Such a stupid thing,” Kellin said. “He’ll get through.”
“That he will,” Terra agreed. “So how do things stand in te realms of te high and mighty?”
“Tense and complicated to put it mildly at the very least,” Liz sighed as plates were put in front of them. A type of fish graced each plate along with some rich looking green sauce and nicely done root vegetables and rice. Liz paused as they waited giving Brandon a clear sign that this next part of their discussion should be left to them. Once meal was served and glasses refilled if needed they bowed out and Liz felt it safe to continue. “Humans worry about the influence the other races now have, which is somewhat understandable on all sides considering. When this court is finally set up it will be a fragile balance for me to strike about whom is accepted as a noble house. As it is there are dozens that lay claim to the titles, it is going to take some time to wade through all of them. Some want certain conditions applied, old ways from Lower Quarter of that very screwed hierarchy. Others are attempting to get certain taxes passed, others borders closed or not…”
“Tell them the worst,” Kellin said after she trailed off.
“They have not shown up for a while now, but early on I had several that approached me to get Durj released at least made a focal feature of court. I of course denied these requests, but their number surprised me. Even now though every so often some letter has the same request, from villages all over Segennya, there is no ties to them to show that maybe there is a stronghold to be had lying in wait.”
“That’s somewhat comforting,” Cat said. “Only somewhat since why in the name of the Gods do they want someone released who drove this place into ruins?”
“I tink tat was ta odd part, Cat.”
“We’ll never know,” Kellin said. “We send out covert searchers every message we get and had them working double right after everything came crashing down around Durj. There’s never any sign.”
“These come from your own potential court though?” Terra asked.
“At one point yes, those who hoped to gain power when Durj took the crown but did not since he fell. As of late however the requests seem to come from more rural settings. Do not be too concerned though the last one of these requests was weeks ago.” Liz smiled widely at her friends. “Now eat, this is probably the last supper I get without some degree of manners and attempts to get favor and I would rather enjoy it.”
“You don’t have to go you know,” Kellin pointed out.
“I know I do not, but a leader needs to be among the people. From what I have read on my father’s reign he stayed much in touch with his subjects and I think we can all agree somewhat that was a clear mistake of the past in not doing it. I must say though I am curious to see how life is now in the places we visited on our journey.”
“Even Rinette with how miserable we were there?” Cat asked.
Liz considered, “Yes actually I am. I still stand under the thought that they were only doing that under Durj’s orders.”
“I know, but seems like if they had more courage they’d find some way te make it better,” Terra clearly still had some feelings on the issue.
Liz shrugged and resumed her meal. For several moments they ate in silence as though digesting the conversation as well as the food. Utensils clanked against plates and gentle thuds against wood as glasses were set back down and the drinks slowly disappeared. Despite the somewhat heavy topics the feeling remained light as they ate simply enjoying proximity that didn’t happen too often these days. “So, what do ya look forward ta most Liz,” Kai asked at long last. “Goin’ anywhere new?”
“I am visiting mainly the same areas we went to in our trip, though there are a few newer villages that are rebuilding that are being granted visits as well this trip. Maybe in coming days a more elaborate visit will be planned. This time including some of the Eire cities that we did not get to see last time.”
“That lot will be happy about that,” Terra laughed. “Well some of them at least.”
“Yes a certain Lord comes to mind,” Liz agreed. “We should have introduced him to Durj really. They might have gotten on swimmingly.” She pushed her plate toward the center of the table then rose to refill cups. “I think at a certain point the servants here will love and hate me for my lack of using their services.”
“I know they’re very confused,” Cat said. “I hear some when I pass them in the halls.”
“Ya mean ya actually leave yar rooms?” Kai teased. “Tat’s amazin’.” Cat stuck her tongue out at her. “Well tat’s not very ladylike.”
“Who claimed I was fully a noble lady?” Cat argued. “I might have the title but I definitely don’t have all the manners.”
Liz snorted. “That is an understatement my friend.”
“And you’re one to talk?”
Kellin laughed, “I’m inclined to agree with her there love. What’s that saying about this type of thing?” He pondered it for several moments before giving up. “Let us just say you are the least queenly person than I think anyone has pictured. I know you girls used to do this a lot; dream about what you might have done if you were in charge is this what you thought of?”
They nodded. “I suppose it’s true she’s not. I’d imagine bein’ a leader as less confinin’,” Kai said. “Suppose I’ll find out soon enough myself here.”
“What are ya talking about?” Cat demanded.
“I’m rebuildin’ my village if I can. I’m more a creature of ta warmth anyway an’ my family has held it for years. It’ll be a shame if I didn’ try at least ta make it work.”
“Was everyone not killed though?” Liz asked. “It is a large task for you alone to take up.”
“I won’ be alone by any means. Tere’s a few villages down tere tat got hit hard ta. Tere’s not enough of us left ta have our own villages again but the fishing is ta best off mine so we’re gonna see what we might do.” She paused swirling the deep red wine in her glass before downing it. “It might fail but we gotta see what happens.”
“As long as you are sure about it Kai. If it does fail you come straight back here though and we will see what we can do for you. Also talk to some of the suppliers helping with rebuilding in Briar’s Port on your way through, they might be able to give some supplies for your efforts.”
“Tanks for ta suggestion I bet we’ll need ta help.” She stretched and stood. “Tanks for lettin’ me join ya as well here but I’d best be off. I’m headin’ out early ta get down tere. Good luck on yar trip Liz.”
“Don’t be a stranger now,” Cat said giving her a hug. “We’ll have to come visit once you get settled completely.”
“That’s right,” Terra agreed. “Anything ye need let us know.”
Kai walked over to where Liz waited and bowed. “Tanks for everyting, yar highness. Ya let me tag along where most wouldn’ back in Brookcavern. It means a lot.”
“It was nothing,” Liz beamed. “We will see you again soon, maybe things will be settled when I do my next tour and I will drag Terra, Cat and Kellin along to visit. Maybe too Ciehul and Laeni will be back by then.”
“We’ll see.” She walked toward the door getting clacked on the arm by Kellin and William giving them a glance over her shoulder as she reached for the knob to the door. “I hope we can have tat.” Her head turned to the side slightly. “Shadows over ta land, but from where? I need to consult ta others.” She walked from the room leaving its occupants staring at the door long after it closed.
“That sound overly foreboding to anyone else?” Cat asked at long last.
“Very,” Kellin frowned. “And who’s she consulting?”
“Tell ye there was somethin’ up.” Terra said. “She’s way different.”
“I will agree to that, the clothing aside. Now the sudden desire to go back to her home village when I know there is nothing left there and many are calling the old sites cursed for not surviving. There might be a group of villagers pooling together down there but not in the fashion she is saying.”
“Why would she lie te us?”
“It is not a full lie, she is worried about our reaction no doubt.” Liz replied retaking her seat. “What is not being said is not so damaging to others besides how we might see her and she does not want to risk it right now.”
“She knows where we’re from right? It can’t be that bad.” Kellin said.
“It probably is not, but you never know that part until it is out in the open. As for her last statement, I will give her a message with one of those Eire spells in it for talking over long distances. This way even if she does not want to say how she can give the information she was talking about.”
“Smart thinking,” Terra approved.
“Still she won’t tell us,” Cat shook her head. “Thought we were past secrets. Well that and whatever she did see won’t take my other eye.” Her hand went to fiddle with the patch’s strap around her head.
“Don’ lift it!” Terra shouted. “We get the point.”
Liz stepped her hands resting her chin where her fingers met. “What is your take in this William?”
“Me? Well, I’d say she didn’ give too much to go one right now,” he blushed at being called on to give his opinion. “I’d still say its worth seeing what information network we have in place has had word or the Eire and them. I’d also say put more on guard detail when you go on your tour.”
“I was going to anyway given things,” Kellin said nodding his approval.
“And do that, though I doubt they will have much more to go on. While there might be other sources of trouble I think we all know who is probably making this happen or at least have considered it.” Liz frowned.
“I think we all know who is doing it.” Cat pointed out. “I’ve been saying it all along.”
“We have no proof it was him Cat, and until you bring me concrete evidence or whoever shows their face we cannot do much to him.” Liz stood and looked over them. “Terra, send a message to Ciehul and Laeni please we can try to meet in Rinette if that is not too far for Ciehul to travel yet. They need to be aware though of what we might have going on.”
“Consider it done,” Terra said. “Should ye even go on this trip given all these whispers?”
“Yes I am still going.” Liz replied firmly. “I will not let them rule how we live now given all we have are whispers to go off of for any indication that things might be afoot.”
“While you’re gone I’ll be pouring over the books I have of his,” Cat said. “There’s gotta be something he blabbed about in there to whoever those letters are addressed to.” She pushed away from the table and stood up. “I’ll go start on it now.”
“No, stay!” Liz cried. “Tomorrow is early enough for that. Now let us just put this out of our mind and just enjoy since we set out tomorrow so we can get back before the cold fully sets in.”
Later that night in Liz’s temporary chambers she was sharing with Kellin she sighed as she flopped back on the bed wearing only her nightgown. Her hair fanned out over the pillow as she turned toward the flames. Next to her she felt the bed move as Kellin joined her slipping under the covers before scooting over to lie next to her.
“Get under the covers Liz. You have to be up early to leave; we have to be up early.”
The fire flickered across her skin as he hooked his arms around her body and his hot breath hit the cook of her neck. Liz kept staring at the flames showing no sign of acknowledging his presence this close to her. He gently rubbed on her shoulders working his way down her arm to her fingertips causing her to sigh again but this time with pleasure more than frustration. “Well that might just have to wait until we get back.”
She shifted to join him at last, swinging her legs under and tucking her feet in between his legs to warm them causing him to jump. “I am going to humor Cat in her thoughts regarding Durj. Well, more than humor I suppose. After my visit with my mother is complete I need you to return to Ravenwood with the story that I am simply taking longer on my visit while William and some stay with my mother.”
He shifted next to her rising up slightly. “Why?”
“I have a visit to arrange with Cat to accompany me, I would take Terra as well but her absence would be too noticeable now with one of the few working businesses up and running in Ravenwood now. You have to return to keep up appearances so that whoever is behind these shadows will not know our moves quite yet. After that you will return to my mother’s estates and we will reunite to keep up the story.”
“Why all the misdirection? You’re avoiding saying who you’re visiting Liz and shouldn’t your Captain and well lover join you?”
Liz sighed, “Do not go all protective on me. I am visiting Durj in his cell if you must know and do not give me that look.”
“Liz seriously? What’s to be gained by that?”
“It will be safe if you are worried about that. As for what is to be gained by this secret side trip it is quite easy. He will have been in Dalyrus for a while at that point with only the wind and water to keep him company. He might have a bit more of a slippery tongue now and much easier to deal with. I am taking Cat so that we will move quite easily and hopefully it will put her more at ease about things. Poor thing is barely eating or sleeping I know. Right now where he is though this will more than likely go unnoticed by his allies right now and so I cannot let the opportunity go away.”
Kellin frowned pulling her close. “Do you have to take Cat though?”
“If I have you do this it will be best, also it is not like I am going unarmed. Two people disappearing unnoticed will be much easier than all of us.” She reached over and patted his arm. “I know you’re not happy about it, but I need to find these answers and you are the only one I trust right now to keep the plan a secret since I did not want to spring it on you suddenly when we arrived in Briar’s Port.”
“Thanks for that,” he grumbled. “Let me just make it clear I don’t like it.”
“Noted,” Liz laughed and leaned up to peck him on the lips. “Now go to sleep my protector, you were right we do need to sleep.”
“We don’t have to go to sleep right now.” His eyebrows wiggle suggestively.
Liz smacks him playfully across his chest, “Typical a one track mind.” She rolled over and rose slightly to blow out the candle on her side of the bed. “Nice try but not tonight.”
Kellin sighs as the room plunges into darkness causing quiet laughter for a few moments which faded into the sound of their gentle breathing.