Tag Archives: Zodi
I noticed out of the corner of my eye a girl who looked about my age. A wild look filled her deep green eyes as she slowly sharpened a short sword. She was staring hard at Mandrel, I fought to keep myself from laughing. Though I did wonder just how many women he had angry with him. I turned my head to look at her. Sitting next to her, was a boy who may have been just slightly younger. Both of them had the same flaming red hair that Waien had. Except the boy’s hair was neat and tidy, the girls was wild, like Waien’s. Her hair was adorned with several feathers. The boy whispered calmly to the girl, and she seemed to relax a little. As I continued to study them silently, I felt Mandrel tug me forward. For reasons unknown to me, I was apprehensive about going near the two. It might’ve had something to do with the large sword that was shouldered on the boy.
“Villith,” Mandrel said. Both looked up when he spoke. “Sylith.”
Villith’s eyes fell on me and I was fairly certain that if looks could kill, I would have been six feet under.
“This is Lyssa,” he told them while motioning to me. “She’s Waien’s girl.”
The color of my cheeks matched my hair and the look of death lingered in Villith’s eyes. She stood up, moving to Mandrel with grace unfitting to someone who looked so wild. I watched, inching away as she drew closer.
“It’s been a while,” she growled softly to Mandrel, her hand resting on his shoulder. “Maybe ya should learn ta leave yer trinkets at home next times ya come visit.”
She stalked off leaving me dumbfounded and confused. What had I done to her to make her hate me so much. I looked to Mandrel questioningly, he simply shrugged.
“That’s Villith for ye,” he said as if it explained it all.
“It’s a bad day today,” Sylith commented. Mandrel nodded. There was something they weren’t telling me, though I was curious, I didn’t pry.
Lyssa looked to the wall clock and sighed at the late hour; Pania would be home any minute.
“Mr. Wallock,” she stated. “It’s quarter to three in the morning. Perhaps it would be wise if you left this recorder with me, and I will return it to you in three days, full. Unless you have more little tapes, at which point I will fill them all.”
Xavier nodded, and stifled a yawn.
“Very well, Ms. Stormwater,”
There was something suspicious about this man. Lyssa didn’t know what it was it, perhaps the way he looked at her. His eyes seemed glazed over in awe, though intently focused on her like he was burning the image of the red-haired elf to his memory. In any case, Xavier Wallock made Lyssa feel uncomfortable in her own skin.
Pania returned home that night with a sack full of groceries. Lyssa was passed out on the couch, with an empty glass in her hand. Sighing softly, she covered the small elf and took the glass from her hand. As she quietly straightened up the sitting area, Pania noticed the small recorder. Her curiosity piqued, she rewound it and pressed play.
Pania put away groceries as she listened to the recorder. It was then that Pania made up her mind to retrieve the first part. She knew Lyssa would never write the story herself. Pania would do it for her. Pania stared at the recorder when she heard Lyssa’s voice says Wallock’s name. A frown forming on her lips.
“This is no’ good,” Pania said softly. “No’ good t’all.”
The next day, we arrive at the festival. Mandrel helped me from the carriage and my eyes lit up with excitement. Bright tents were pitched all over the massive field. Flags and drapes decorated the stalls. Music filled the air from various stages, magicians and other entertainers worked the streets, pulling crowds around them to watch their act. There were hundreds of people milling about the stalls. Some contained pouches and bags made from the finest leather. Blankets, saddles, shoes, everything you could think of was there.
Towards the back was a grand palace. It was the sort of place that are only read about in children books. It had gold bricks and stained glass windows. Turrets reached towards the heavens caped with green slate.
“The castle o’ illusions,” Waien’s gruff voice said behind me. He chuckled when I jumped slightly having been pulled from my thoughts. “It’s not a real castle. Just painted canvas. It’s fer the royalty that comes ta the festival.”
“Waien are you going to be entering the brawler’s tourney this year?” Sywyn asked quizzically.
“Aye, and archery,” he said. “Someone else is gonna be tryin’ their hand at the archery too. She can consider it a final test ta see if she’s ready fer the next level.”
My eyes widened as I stared at him.
“You’ll be enterin’ the archery contest. You’re not required ta win. Just prove yerself to those that will distract, and jeer. Myself included.”
“Perhaps that is a bit much, Waien.” Sywyn interjected. “She’s never preformed before.”
“Like hell she hasn’t! I’ve seen what she can do, an’ I know she’s got it in her.”
“Mate, she’s ‘ere ta ‘ave fun,” Mandrel stated, coming to my defense.
“No, no,” I said. “It’s alright, I’ll do it. If only to beat my teacher.”
“Oh ho! Do I smell a challenge?” Waien said laughing at my brazenness.
“Damn right,” I replied.
A pale woman approached us. She wore a hat that I had never seen before. Her black hair pulled back into a pony tail at the nape of her neck. Down her back flowed a long coat, and her clothes seemed out-of-place. The cut and style very different from what I was used to seeing. She wore a sturdy pair of trousers and a white cotton shirt that laced in the center. On her feet were the most curious looking boots. They had odd little bells on the heels that clanked when she walked.
While I stared at her odd appearance, Mandrel, Waien and Sywyn grinned. The woman walked right up to Sywyn and punched him in his left arm.
“Ow!” Sywyn shouted while rubbing the spot. “What was that for?”
“Thet’s fer callin’ me a girl,” she said. She pulled her arm back again and released another strike that was doubly hard. “And thet’s for saying I hit like one.”
Sywyn laughed as he rubbed his other arm. I continued to stare incredulously at the women. Confused as to why she had hit Sywyn in the first place. He had seen my expression and chuckled more. The pale elf turned and eyed Waien and Mandrel who were biting their knuckles to hold back laughter.
“You want some too?” She growled at them. Both shook their heads but still kept up with their silent giggles.
“Lyssa, I’d like you to meet my sister, Shani,” Sywyn started as her eyes fell to me.
“Well, ain’t you a purty lil thing,” Shani said extending her hand. “Which one of these dogs dragged you along?”
“I’m L-Lyssa,” I told her. “Mandrel is the one who twisted my arm and held a blade to my throat,”
“Oh really now,” she smirked as she turned to Mandrel. “Well he’s the worse o’ ’em. Ain’t ya Mandrel.”
“C’mon now Shani,” Mandrel chuckled, holding his hands up. “Ye dunna really think that I would force ‘er ta come, would ye. It was completely optional.”
“Uh-huh,” Shani nodded, unconvinced. “You think I’mma believe thet?”
“No, but it was worth a shot,” he grinned at her. “Actually, she wanted to come, it was just a matter of ‘er keeper allowing her. If ‘e didn’t, we were just going to take ‘er anyway.”
Shani turned to look at me once more. I nodded in agreement to Mandrel story.
“They give you any hassle,” she told me pointing to each of them. “You come find me and I’ll take care of ’em.”
I giggled and nodded. Watching as she walked off with a short wave. After a moment I lost her in the crowd. Behind me Waien, Mandrel and Sywyn were laughing.
“She still hits like a girl, only a little harder now,” Sywyn commented.
“I but I doubt you’d say that ta her face though,” Waien chuckled.
Sywyn gave him a wry grin. The idle chatter continued as we walked into the festival. My stomach growled slightly as we passed by a food stall. The scent of salted meat and hot bread made my mouth water. As much as I wanted to gorge myself on food, I didn’t want to risk spilling something on my dress. Waien seemed uneasy as we drew closer to a small glade on the eastern part of the grounds. Sywyn and Mandrel picked up on his mood and fell somber.
“Is there something wrong?”
“Aye,” he replied nodding towards the grove. “That’s the problem.”
“It’s just a bunch of trees,”
“Ye’ll have to see ‘im, mate,” Mandrel said softly.
“Ye think I don’t know that?”
“See who?” I asked not wanting to be left out or confused.
“His father,” Sywyn explained. “He’s the Arch-Druid.”
“Oh, oh!” I exclaimed as it dawned on me. “Wai-”
Mandrel tapped me on my shoulder and shook his head. I closed my mouth and nodded somberly. I didn’t know what fully went on between Waien and his father, but I knew that it was family matters and none of my business. Waien parted from us and went to the grove with his head hanging slightly. Mandrel and Sywyn ushered us over to a small grouping of tents not far from the grove of trees.
“You really should look your best at all times, Shani,” a woman told her as she fussed with Shani’s shirt. Tying the laces. “I really think this would lovely if you wore your vest and took that ridiculous hat off.
“Momma!” Shani huffed, trying to make her mother stop fidgeting with her clothes. “Momma stop it.”
“Honestly, I don’t see why you don’t wear dresses anymore. You always looked so pretty in a dress.” Shani’s mother continued as if Shani’s pleas fell upon deaf ears.
Sywyn laughed boisterously and went to greet his mother and sister. Kissing his mother on her cheek, catching her by surprise. The woman then made an excited noise and turned to hug her son. I looked around the small make-shift campsite. There were six large, nondescript tents and in the middle of the camp was a fire pit. A large pig roasted over a spit above the bright orange flames.
“Lyssa,” Mandrel called. He pointed to a dark brown tent. ”Over here.”
I followed quietly, my eyes going back to taking everything in. I watched two little girls, playing with a tea set. One little girl had the face of a cherub with white blonde hair and cerulean blue eyes. She wore a dress of the most delicate shade of blue. Around her neck was a small amulet of a full moon. She proved to be quite the chatter box as the other little girl said nothing.
“And that’s the sort of man I want to grow up and marry.” She said, her eyes looking towards Sywyn. The little girl next to her nodded, before her head turned towards Mandrel and I. As we approached the other little girl clapped her hands and stood up, flying to Mandrel who in turn scooped her up and spun her in a circle. I smiled at the interaction.
“Guess what?” Mandrel said to the small child.
I studied the little girl curiously. It was quite clear she was related to Mandrel. She had the same platinum white hair that he did, and very similar facial features. She wore a buckskin dress with intricate beading around the collar. There was also a fringe at the hem of her dress, and on her two small feet, she wore slippers made of buckskin. It was completely different from what I was used to seeing. However, I said nothing to the oddities in dress styles. For all I knew they could have been costumes.
The little girl signed to Mandrel, who laughed and pointed to me.
“This is me friend, Lyssa,” he told her pointing to me and then motioning me over. “And no, I didna marry ‘er, ‘r anyone else and no’ tell ye. See?”
He held up his left hand to prove there was no ring on his finger. Once again the little girl signed something I didn’t understand. When I moved closer, Mandrel set the child down.
“Lyssa this is my youngest sister, Pylia,” he said.
“Hello Pylia,” I said slowly. I assumed she needed to read my lips to understand what I was saying.
Pylia gave a silent giggle and waited for Mandrel to explain.
“Pylia, can ‘ear jus’ fine, Lyssa. She’s mute, ‘as been since birth. But that dunna stop ‘er from getting her point across.”
The small girl beamed happily and motioned to her friend in the blue dress.
“Oooh, is that who she is?” Mandrel said. I wrinkled my nose slightly. Pylia just nodded. “That girl there, is one o’ Unia’s most promising students. ‘Er name is Vindy.”
Vindy looked up, smiling brightly. “We’re playing tea party, want to join us?”
“Mmm very temptin’, but per’aps ‘nother day?” Mandrel replied.
“Okay,” she giggled. Pylia ran over to join her again for their tea party and once more she started babbling. Mandrel laughed as the girls began to play again.
I woke before the sun on the morning of the festival. Toeryn was passed out in his usual drunken slumber. Careful not to wake him, I slipped from my bed and dressed quickly. The coin purse I left sitting on the table the night before, remained in the same spot. Toeryn hadn’t left me any coins to take with me. He probably didn’t even know that I left money on the table. I clasped my hand around the full of the purse to prevent it from jingling and left. I wouldn’t return for several days and felt no need to inform Toeryn of this.
The streets were quiet, with only a few sounds of the early risers leaking through shuttered windows. Excitement and apprehension filled my chest as I got closer to the main square. I looked up to the sky; the colors fading from black, to indigo, to cerulean. And it was cloudless. It seemed that it would be a perfect day to travel. How we were traveling, I did not know, though I had told myself if it was by horse, I would walk. When I finally reached the center of town, stalls and shops were beginning to open. My stomach gave a grumble informing me that I was not providing it with food and that I should soon. My nerves were set on edge that I had forgotten to take a piece of fruit. Opening my coin purse, I had planned that I was going to eat a decent meal and made my way to a tavern that had just opened.
It was one of the cleaner ones. The barman behind the counter took one look at me and smiled.
“A bit earlier for a drink, isn’t luv?”
“Maybe, but I’m not here for a drink. I was actually hoping you might have something decent to eat before I begin my travels.”
“Aye,” he said. “What can I get for ye?”
“I’d like something filling, that isn’t fruit or porridge.”
He gave a hearty laugh. “I see ye ain’t of them for nuts and berries. Well lass, I’ll tells ye what, I just got a few eggs and a slab of pork fresh this morn. Hows about that, a cup of coffee and a glass of milk?”
While he busied himself, I counted out three coins and set them on the counter. After he brought my food, out and placed the coins in his coin box, he attempted to make small talk. Commenting on anything from weather to if I had ever been to the festival. The food was very tasty and filling. The eggs were just right amount of cooked and the pork was a golden pink color. He also had given me potatoes and fried bread. I dipped the bread in the yolks of the eggs and cleaned the entire plate of food. It had been such a long time since I had anything so delicious. I thanked him for the meal, and left three more silver coins on the counter for him.
Once outside again, it was time for me to find Mandrel and pray that he waited long enough for me. I didn’t have an exact time he wanted me to meet him. Or place for that matter. So I stood in front of the dress shop, which allowed me to see the square clearly. Many people were gone, having left for the festival days before. I didn’t know how long it would take to get to the festival grounds, but many more people were leaving today.
It didn’t take long for me to spot Mandrel. His lithe body moved smoothly down the stairs of the theater building. He was speaking animatedly to Waien, whose eyes scanned the crowd, probably looking for me. I watched impatiently, waiting to see if they would indeed head towards the stay house, or if they would leave without me. Waien started off towards the street to where Toeryn and I stayed. I took that as my signal to start running to the carriage that Mandrel had just stepped into.
Cutting through the square, taking care not to run into people, I ran to the carriage. It was rather plain looking on the outside. A simple brown wood box with wheels, a driver and two horses. On the back was a few trunks strapped tightly to the carriage. The top had several boxes and other crates that undoubtedly contained things for festival living.
“Wait for me!” I shouted. “Mandrel! I’m here.”
The carriage slowed to a stop as Mandrel’s face appeared in the window. He looked relieved for a brief second, then looked quite smug. Swiftly, he opened the door to allow me into the carriage. Judging my expression, he just smirked. I sat down across from him, panting heavily from my speedy catch-up. It was lush on in side. Soft cushions made of burgundy velvet. Curtains hung open against the door, tied back with gold cords. My eyes drank in everything about the carriage. I was much more comfortable in that then on a horses back.
“Yer late,” he stated in a playful tone.
“I was early, had second thoughts. But when I saw Waien headed in the direction of the stay house, those thoughts were quickly banished.”
“Good thin’ too. I’m quite certain tha’ Waien woulda removed ye from the premises regardless o’ wha’ yer brother said or did. Waien can be very persuasive when necessary.”
“I know,” I laughed knowing full well how Waien was.
“He’s worried about you, Lys,”
I gazed out the window, nodding slowly. The sound of more hooves reached my ears and I leaned a bit more to see who it was. A massive white horse came trotting along us, the rider was all too familiar. His black hair pulled neatly in the back. A white tunic hung loosely over his muscled torso and form fitting trousers along with riding boots on his lower half. At first, it was hard to recognize him, without all his armor on, he looked very different.
“Good day, Lyssa,” Sywyn greeted me with a smile and a wave. His horse whinnied under him.
“Hello, Sywyn, off duty?” I replied in kind.
“Aye, I am. It will be a week of fun, that’s for sure,” he chuckled
“An’ booze, an’ women!” Another voice rang out.
Mandrel chuckled as Waien caught up with the carriage. His hair flowed wildly behind him. He wore earthen shades of brown, and greens. He looked as if he had been raised in a saddle with the way he rode the chestnut brown horse. A faint green glow came from with in his flame-like hair. As I looked hard enough, there she was, a small fey sitting in the mess of tangles. She was holding on for dear life.
“As much as I’d love ta partake of your savagery, Waien,” Mandrel started. “I have a task to keep me lady ‘ere comp’ny.”
“Who’re you foolin’ Mandrel, she drinks like the rest of us.” Waien teased.
“Have you never been to the Brockton Festival, Lyssa?” Sywyn asked me as we rode along.
“No, but I’ve always wanted to go.” I replied looking down. I had realized how childish I sounded as I said that.
“Righ’ then mates,” Mandrel said. “If ye’ll excuse us, I need ta make me pure intentions clear ta Lyssa here.”
“Pure my arse,” Waien said while Mandrel grinned and I turned as red as the seats we sat on. “If yer intentions ‘re pure, then I’ll become Arch-Druid.”
The laughter that flowed around us was warm. I truly felt like I had known them all my whole life. They never asked any questions about where I was from. It wasn’t that they didn’t care, they were just too kind to inflict that sort of pain upon me. As Mandrel pulled the curtain shut over the windows, Waien’s laugh boomed, Sywyn’s joining him a second later.
“Don’t ya two do nothin’ I wouldn’t do!” Waien called out.
After a moment, the laughter died down and the extra hooves took off ahead of the carriage. Mandrel rolled his eyes while lifting part of the bench seat up. Inside was the small package that contained the blue dress he attempted to give me a few nights ago.
“’Ere,” he said offering it to me. It explained why the curtains were drawn. Though, I blushed deeply at the thought of him being there while I changed into it. It was part of the unspoken agreement. I would wear the dress for him while I accompanied him to the Brockton Festival.
Carefully, I took the dress and put it on my lap, gently pulling back the layer of brown packaging. I was keenly aware of his eyes watching me and fought to keep my eyes down on the dress. It was more beautiful than I remembered. The fabric flowed over my fingers, making a soft rustle as I pulled it out of the package. I held it out in front of me, admiring its gold filigree trim. The dark blue satin balancing with the light blue. I allowed my eyes to flicker over to Mandrel momentarily, he sat with a simpering smirk on his lips.
“Thank you, but how do you expect me to change with you sitting here?” I asked him quietly.
He said nothing and placed his hands over his eyes while turning his head. I giggled softly and set the dress next to me. Quickly, I pulled the tunic over my head and dropped it on the seat next to me. I blinked a few times realizing that my body had blossomed and I didn’t even know it. It had taken me by surprise to see that my body was becoming less gangly and more curvy. I ran my hands over my body, exploring the new curves. A shiver ran down my spine when my hands moved over my breasts. It wasn’t a bad feeling, just one I didn’t completely understand.
Difficult wouldn’t come close to how hard it was to change into that dress. I kicked my boots off, and then finally pulled the dress over my head. It fit perfectly, albeit a bit tight around my newly discovered bosom. I reached under the dress and removed the trousers as well. And even though I was dressed, I still felt quite naked.
I stole a gaze at Mandrel to make sure his eyes were still covered. I blushed slightly, thinking I had seen his fingers move. His lips curved slightly into his signature smirk.
“Well?” I asked, trying to balance carefully in the moving carriage.
Mandrel looked at me with an appraising eye. After a moment, he fiddled with the laces loosening it a bit. I felt a relief against my chest like I could breath again.
“Would it be wrong o’ me ta offer a pair o’ shoes ta go ‘long with the dress?”
My eyes fell on my own boots. Not that they would be seen, but they hardly fit with the dress I wore. I shook my head.
“No, I suppose it would be fine.”
He pulled another box out of the compartment and handed it to me. Inside were a pair of soft shoes, made to match the light blue of the dress. When I slid my feet into them, it was like stepping on to a cloud. I had never felt a shoe like this. I looked at Mandrel with a bright smile.
“Thank you, for everything.”
“Think nothin’ o’ it, luv.”
Once everything settled down, and the curtains were opened again, Mandrel and I chatted idly about the festival. He told me elaborate stories about the on goings there. At times I felt as though I was there. Mandrel made the stories come to life and I listened raptly, eager to hear his voice continue on with more tales.
As the miles passed, we made stops to eat, or get something from the trunks. Sometimes Sywyn and Waien joined us in the carriage. Both of them commented on how the dress flattered me. It was an uneventful ride. When I asked how long it would take, I was told that we would arrive late the next day. I later discovered that the benches would fold out to become one bed. Mandrel laughed when I blushed again and assured me that he would do nothing to spoil my virtue. Not that I would have minded.
Once I started the bath, I found my favorite scent of bubbles; rose and poured some under the running water. While it filled, I went to the curtained window and peeked into the streets below. I watched for several moments, a set of Patrollers walked down the street. My eyes followed them a moment and then fell on to a shrouded figure standing under a street light. I felt his eyes on me and felt the smirk to go along with it. Giggling softly I waved to him and he began to lower his hood. Sure enough it was Mandrel. I opened the window and leaned out while he walked across the street.
“What are you doing here?”
“Babysitting, my dear.” He replied with a flourishing bow. “But what a poor sitter I am, seeing as you caught me in my first night of duty.”
“You weren’t exactly hiding, now were you,”
“No, no I guess not. Might I impose on your hospitality for a little while?”
“Um,” I felt a blush rising to my cheeks. “Well the room is only covered for me”
Chuckling, Mandrel began to scale the drain pipe with ease. Within seconds he was sitting eye level with me in the window.
“What the keep doesn’t know won’t hurt,” He said with a wink.
I moved away from the window to allow him to enter and turned off my bath water.
“If I get caught–”
“You won’t my dear, I shall be gone momentarily. As it happens I have a gift for you.”
I stared at him blankly for a moment, then shook the cobwebs from my head.
“A gift for me?”
“Mhmm,” he said smiling as he pulled a small brown parcel from behind his back.
The lumpy parcel took me by surprise as I took it gingerly from his hands. Cautiously I opened it, seeing two tones of blue fabric, along with the gold trimmings. It fell from my hands as I gasped loudly,. Mandrel had bought me the dress I spotted in the window.
“Like I said, that dress would look splendid on you,”
“I can’t accept it.”
“Because– because it’s far too expensive.”
“Pitiful excuse, Lyssa.” He said picking the half opened parcel off the floor. “It’s something you can wear to the festival.”
“I don’t even know if I’m going or not. It’s still up to Toeryn. And besides, he’ll want to know where I got the money for a dress that expensive and then make me take it back to the get the money back. So you must understand why I cannot accept this dress. I thank you so much for buying it, and I appreciate the thought–”
His hand covered my mouth quickly while he looked into my eyes.
“I’m not interested in your excuses. I want you to wear the dress to the festival. Since you won’t take it now, I shall take it with me and it will be waiting in the carriage for you should you come. Deal?”
I nodded silently, looking into his eyes, drinking them in. My heart raced faster, sending my mind reeling. Mandrel pulled away from me with an impish smirk on his lips and made his way to the window.
“Enjoy your bath,” he said, looking me over. I felt my ears redden on the tips as his face disappeared below the window. Though when I went to the window, he was already gone. Smiling, I went back to the bath, turned the water off and slid into the bubbles.
The next morning I work and retrieved my clothes. They had been cleaned and made to fit my body better. Quietly, I crept down the stairs and returned the key, then made my way back to mine and Toeryn’s room. He was awake, sitting at the table looking paler than normal. When he realized I was there, he stared at me for a moment, before looking back down at the glass of brown liquid.
“You can go to the festival,”
My head snapped slightly to look at him.
“You mean it?”
“Mhmm. Penelope talked me into it. So long as you come back, we won’t have any problems. I’ll even toss in a few coins to buy yourself something nice. Ain’t going with you since I got work to do. So I’m trusting you. Got it, Ana?”
I didn’t say anything, I was still slightly dazed from the fact he said that I could go to the festival. He looked up at me again. I could tell it had been a while since his last bath, his hair was grimy and hung limply over his eyes. However, I could make out the sharpness of his crystalline blue eyes.
“Remember what I said to you. So you better come back.”
“I will, thank you.”
Nothing he said or threatened put a damper on my good mood. He was allowing me to go to the Brockton Festival. He didn’t need to know all the details of who I was traveling with. So long as I returned and did his dirty work for him, he would simply let me alone. That was good enough for me.
Two years passed. We stayed in Stonebridge. Toeryn thought that it was big enough that we could just disappear in the crowd. He had warned me that he had eyes everywhere, and that if I got away, he would hunt me down. Keeping true to his promise, he often gave me reports of what I had done through the day, as proof that he was always watching. At night he locked our door, preventing me from getting away. This isn’t to say I didn’t try. Toeryn had forbidden me contact the knights, or anyone I knew. I felt scared, alone and desperate to escape my prison.
My chance for freedom came one late morning when I stood in the main square. I was careful to blend in with the crowd, not to be noticed as I nicked coin purses of the townsfolk. That’s when I saw him. It was a smile I knew I would never forget. Mandrel. He was feet away from me, chatting with some people as he made his way down the stairs. My heart did flip-flops in my chest as I stared at him. Happy to see that he was safe and untouched by Toeryn’s goons as far as I could tell. For a split second, he looked directly at me, I could have sworn he winked at me. Adverting my gaze, I stared at one of the tailor’s displays. The most beautiful dress of blue and gold sat on a dummy. The deep blue satin shone in the sunlight. The light blue satin overcoat had a delicate gold filigree pattern. A gold border trim wove along edges of the light blue fabric and corset lacing on either side of the bosom. Never had I wanted something so badly, yet knew I would never be able to claim it for my own.
I was poor in all sense of the word. My clothes baggy, and hid my girlish figure. My hair constantly kept short to add to the boyish appearance I was portraying, was dirty and very tangled. My heart sank as I realized that I would never see myself in that dress.
“Why the long face?” A familiar voice said behind me.
I shrugged slightly, not wanting to turn towards the voice.
“I think it would look splendid on you,” He told me.
Words caught in my throat, my voice cracking softly as I realized it was Mandrel standing behind me. My eyes darted around, knowing this would be reported to Toeryn.
“How did you know it was me?” I whispered, careful to not move my lips.
“Who else do I know with flaming red hair that stands out over a crowd of people?” Mandrel countered.
I snorted softly still not looking at him.
“What happened to you?” Mandrel asked, obviously sensing my hesitation. “Waien was livid when you weren’t there. Everyone was worried. We all thought you had just runaway.”
“I can’t about it here,” I replied. “He’s watching and I don’t know where he is.”
“Alright, then answer me this,” he started, “Are you in some kind of trouble? Just nod or shake your head in response.”
I nodded slowly. I could sense the wheels in his head turning.
“Look at me,” he said. Slowly I turned to look to Mandrel. My heart beat against my chest threatening to break through.
As I looked at him, I kept my expression neutral. His eyes searched mine for the truth, but there was nothing to explain my situation other than I was scared.
“The festival is coming up. Do you think that you can go?” He asked with a smirk.
“Probably not,” I replied softly.
“Well…” he paused to look around before he leaned down to whisper in my ear. “I’ll hope that you can make the carriage leaving the south gate early morning in three days time.”
“I’ll talk to Toeryn,” I said noncommittally. When he didn’t pull away I became nervous. I heard a soft clink of coins in my pocket and frowned.
“We’ll get you out of this.”
I watched him walk away with a flourish. Sighing heavily, I looked at my purse. It was easy to spot the coins Mandrel gave her. Three platinum coins gleamed up at her along with a small handful of gold. Without realizing he had done it, Mandrel made himself a future target. But perhaps this was his intention in the first place. I chuckled and shook my head as I wove my way through the crowd and back to the little hovel of a room Toeryn and I shared. My spirits were visibly lifted as I threw the coin pouch on the table, less the three platinum.
I smelled Toeryn before he walked through the door. As he clambered up the steps, I remained motionless on my bed. When I heard the giggle of a female with him, I rolled to my side and sighed heavily. It was going to be a long night. If I was lucky, I would get some sleep. This wasn’t the first time he came home with a woman. Usually she was too drunk to care who was in the room. The door squealed when he opened it.
“’oo’s that then?” The woman said. I rolled my eyes and forced myself to sit up.
“I’m his sister,”
“Oh. Well why ain’t ‘choo in yer own room then?”
“My brother doesn’t trust me,”
As she stood there and took this in, I threw the coin pouch to Toeryn. His eyes widened with the weight of the coins and he grinned.
“I want to go to the Brockton Festival,” I told him, while his companion wrapped her arm around his waist.
“Why?” He asked with a cocked brow. “You ain’t never wanted to go before.”
“Well I want to go this year. I’ve done everything you asked of me. I might of been mean and spiteful and downright hateful but I did it. The least you could do for me is let me go to the festival.”
“Ah, let ‘er go love.” his companion crooned. One good thing about her, she was on my side. “Then we can ‘ave the room to ourselves and I’ll show you what I can really do.”
My insides turned as my dinner wanted to march it’s way back up my throat. Swallowing it back, I forced a weak a smile on to my lips.
“I have a way there, and I don’t need money.”
“I’ll think about it.”
Inwardly I cheered. Excited that he said he would at least think about it.
“But,” He said, opening the coin pouch and tossing me a gold coin. “Get your own room for tonight.”
“Would you mind if I went to the pub?”
He waved me off as the woman began to drown him in kisses, telling him how compassionate and kind he was to look after me. Not taking a second glance back, I bolted out of the stay house and into the darkening streets. With a rush walk, unable to hold back my excitement, I moved through the small crowds.
When I reached my destination, I peeked in the window of the pub. Mandrel, Waien and Sywyn sat at the table. Waien was drinking his preferred ale, Mandrel and Sywyn both drinking from wine goblets. Giggling slightly, I fought hard to contain my excitement. Quietly, I entered the pub, Mandrel looked at me for a second with a smirk on his lips. Waien was distracted with his mug and Sywyn had his back to me. I walked to the counter and ordered a bottle of rum. Setting the gold coin on the counter. Once I got my change and bottle, I sauntered over to their table and just plopped down in the fourth empty chair.
“Who the hell…” Waien’s words froze on his tongue as he stared at me in disbelief.
“I was just telling them that I had seen you today lo-,” Mandrel said.
“Where in the hell have you been?!” Waien screamed. The bar fell silent as his voice rose. I knew it was going to be a long night as I explained my disappearance.
Waien listened and asked questions, Mandrel sat and listened, a smirk on his lips every time my eyes met his. But the one who concerned me the most was Sywyn. His face was stony; cold and hard. He didn’t ask many questions, and I danced around some to protect myself. All three of them knew that I was hiding things, but none of them pushed me into telling them.
“Do you need help to get away?” Waien asked.
“Not at the moment. He’s told me that he’ll think about allowing me to go to the festival.” I replied, my eyes falling on Mandrel once again. He gave me an award-winning smile and a wink.
“He gonna let you start your lessons up again?”
“No and that isn’t something I’m going to push.”
“What we need is a plan,” Sywyn said. “A plan to get her out of there and get Toeryn out of Stonebridge once and for all.”
Everyone looked at the knight. It shocked us all that he would suggest something like this.
“Look I understand I am part of the law here, but I refuse to sit back and watch someone innocent become broken and corrupt from her living station. If I can help just one person change, then I will know I have done my job.”
“Spoken like a true knight,” Mandrel chortled.
“Unfortunately, Lyssa, I will have to exclude you from the discussion,” Sywyn said pointedly.
“Simply because we will need the element of surprise on your part,” he explained. “To put it quite simply, we have to create something that will make you and your brother become prisoners. For that to happen, we’ll need to know all we can about what you and Toeryn do throughout the day. Mandrel, after the festival, I want you to follow Lyssa around.”
The smirk that formed on Mandrel’s face made me turn a deep shade crimson. All he could do was chuckle.
“With pleasure,” he said after a moment, raising his glass in my direction. “I would go to the end of the block for this fine lass.”
Waien lifted a brow and gave a sidelong glance to Mandrel. “That’s the tenth woman you’ve said that ’bout in the past week.”
Mandrel gave Waien a playful shove, causing a small amount of ale to dribble on to his shirt.
“‘ey! Watch it!” Waien said in response. Sywyn chuckled before taking a small sip of wine and then turned to me. I giggled softly, but it still felt a bit awkward, like I was standing outside looking in.
“Pay them no heed,” Sywyn said softly, in hopes of easing my anxiety. “Now, why don’t you tell me what I need to know, so we can plan accordingly.”
Several hours passed and the pub grew rowdier, then began to quiet down. I didn’t pay attention the darkness filling the streets, rather I kept telling the three men exactly what Toeryn had me doing. I could see in Sywyn’s eyes that he was becoming tense with each passing moment. I had my guard up the entire time ready to run at a moments notice should Sywyn be ready to clap my wrists in irons.
“Sywyn,” Waien called several times. “Ease up a bit, yer makin’ my girl a bit nervous.”
“Your girl?” Mandrel chuckled.
“Well I teach her don’t I?”
“More like taught, it’s all past tense.”
There was a few more minutes of bickering, but Sywyn seemed to take his old friends advice and relaxed a little.
“Is there anything else we should know?”
“Nothing that I can think of.”
“This will all take place after the festival. You won’t know when, just be ready and on guard. I will not be the guard to interact with you. I will make apologies now, just in case he’s a little too rough.”
“Can’t be any worse than my slave driver teacher and whacking me with an arrow shaft.”
Sywyn chuckled and looked to Waien. “Oh really? Child abuse mate?”
“Huh? What?” Waien stammered.
“Well it would seem that your girl said you were whacking her with arrow shafts.”
The expression on Waien’s face was priceless, it was a mix of shock, fear, and maybe a dash of humor. “I did not. I only made her word twelve hours a day without food or water.”
As Waien spoke his pitiful defense, everyone laughed, including the barmaid who heard us talking.
“Aye! The dog does the same thin’ to me,” she commented playfully. Waien lifted his fist jokingly and shook it at her.
“Back in the kitchen wench and fetch me some meat!” He jested.
“Well I think it’s time for me to head back before my brother realizes that I’ve been gone too long. It was great to see you all.” I said with a hint of hesitation. I didn’t really want to leave, but I didn’t have much of a choice. “Hopefully, it will end soon.”
“I could give you a lift if you’d like,” Sywyn offered.
I shook my head. “No, I don’t like horses, they’re usually associated with trouble and that doesn’t have a hard time finding me. I’ll be alright. Remember. I grew up on the streets.”
I left them sitting there looking after me as I carried what was left of my rum bottle. The streets were practically devoid of life as I walked down them. There was the occasional cat call, or panhandler asking for any spare coin, but I kept going until I reach the stay house. Once there, I took the steps two at a time, I hit the door and turned the knob. Lock.
I could hear snoring from Toeryn and the rustling of his companion next to him. Remembering that he told me to get my own room, I retreated down the steps and looked for the inn keeper. He was a tall man with long blond hair. It was often loose, but neat looking. His arms were
“Lyssa, vhat can I do for you?”
“Toeryn’s got company, and locked me out. Again.”
“Got a spare for me?”
“Yah, I do have a spare room. Many in fact. Vhat you say to the special suite?”
“Really? How much?”
“For tonight, since you were so helpful to me, I give you free.”
I beamed happily and jumped on to the counter giving him a kiss on the cheek.
“Thank you so much.”
“Is nothing really. Just make sure you clean it up.”
I took the keep and flitted up the steps. I loved the special suite, it was an entire floor. The red velvet drapes blocked the sun from the window. The goose down mattress was covered with soft linens and every thing was spotless. My favorite feature of this room was the bath tub that was as large as a pool. I opened the door and found a warm cloth robe sitting on the bed. Immediately I stripped down, leaving my dirty clothing outside the door. Picking up the robe, I slid it on to my arms with ease and tied the belt.
Waien showed me everything there was to know about a bow. He was a strict, but good teacher. He would correct my form, posture, and positioning. Over the next few weeks, I would learn how to correctly shoot an arrow, how much to pull back, and how to keep my arms from getting archers burn.
Put this on yer bow arm,” He told me handing me an pliable leather arm guard. “It’ll keep your sleeve from getting in the way, protect your arm when you release of the bow string.”
I examined it for a few moments. It was soft, but still stiff. Three little knots of leather had been placed along the edge and three other strips were placed along the other edge to act as fastenings for the guard. Carefully, I wrapped it around my arm, Waien helped me to secure it to my arm.
Did you make this?” I asked, taking up the bow again. Once more he had adjusted my position.
Aye,” he replied. “A Simple thing to make, but damn useful.”
Over the past several weeks, I’ve never once seen Waien lose his temper with me. There were times I had pushed his limits, but he just sighed heavily and grunted his displeasure. I didn’t see much of Mandrel, since my night at the bar. Not that I didn’t want to, but I was ashamed of myself for making a fool of myself. When I asked Waien about him, I usually got an annoyed look and told that I shouldn’t bother with Mandrel, because it was pointless. Yet I couldn’t put him from my mind.
“When you can have any distraction,” He murmured into my ear, one day during our lessons. He was standing close to me, an arrow in hand. “Not bother you. That’s when you know you’ve become a true archer.”
My arrow flew away from the target when I felt the feathers of an arrow flick against my ear. My head moved slightly, away from the feathers, Waien chuckled.
Again,” he told me.
Waien kept this up. Flicking my ear when I least expected, throwing my form and aim off completely. I would growl with frustration and take up the bow again. On the times he didn’t flick my ears, I would hit my target perfectly. But when he did, my arrow would fly in random directions. Maglor would often chuckle as he watched the lessons from the shop. He even took some of the advice Waien had given to me.
Weeks past and I was getting better at not being distracted. I learned to keep my guard up around Waien. It was soon after that his feathers no longer bothered me. Having finished my work early one afternoon, I started practicing in the yard. I took aim of the bulls-eye, the wind was perfectly still.
“Both eyes open,” I murmured to myself.
“Well, well, well,” A voice mused from the wall. My arrow flew into a wall, the arrowhead breaking as it made contact.
I turned my gaze to look at who it was and nearly fell over. Toeryn.
“W-what are you doing it?” I asked while he hopped off the wall.
“Is that anyway to greet your big brother?” He said. Toeryn looked different, his eyes darker, his skin paler. “And I’ve come to claim back my littler sister. We have work to do.”
“No,” I said firmly. “I’m not going with you. I don’t need you.”
Toeryn stepped behind me, his breath smelled of cheap rot gut whiskey.
“No my dear Ana,” He said darkly, stroking my hair before he grabbed the plait and pulled hard. “That is where you are wrong. You do need me. And here’s why.”
“Ow!” I cried out, trying to wrench my hair from his grip.
“You will come with me, or I will tell the knights that you were also responsible for the pickpocketing,” He growled into my ear. “And I won’t even tell you what they do to little girls in those places.”
My whole body shook with fear, if I pulled away he yanked back; sending pain shooting through my scalp and down through my body. I heard the familiar sching of his dagger being pulled from its sheath and then felt the cold metal against my throat.
“Do I make myself clear, Anarar’ithil?” he asked darkly.
“Y-yes,” I replied, afraid to move my head and almost too frightened to speak. I had no choice but to do as he said. If I didn’t, he would surely kill me.
Toeryn pulled the blade away from my throat and against my hair. I felt my hair fall away in a swift movement and then heard the dull thump as it landed in the dirt.
We left Malgor’s without a word of notice, Toeryn dragging me forcefully along by my arm. We moved down the streets quickly, I hadn’t been in this far away from the main streets. Try as I might, I would struggle to break free, futile at best, but I had to try. If I could get away from Toeryn long enough to find Waien, or even Mandrel, I might have had a chance. But Toeryn’s grip was strong. Silently I prayed someone I knew would recognize me and told Waien. Secretly I prayed he would save me.
No one came though.