Well, I've made it this far. 20 pages-ish. I'm doing quite well, going strong. Still have plot coming. Oh and this next part...I'm so excited! The funny thing is what my charries are doing...or becoming. You'll see...bwhahaha!


Into the Night

I never went back out into the dining hall, not until I was sure that most of the people had left. That and when Princess Oliana herself came out, curious about how much fresh air I could possibly take. Wondering how I wasn’t cold staying out so long. I made some excuse about groups of people making me nervous, which was true. She told me that most of the people had left and asked if I would join them again. I agreed, mostly because I had to give Janus his coat back. However, when I went back inside he wasn’t there. When I asked, no one could tell me where he left or if I might still find him somewhere on the grounds. Some didn’t even remember there was a bard at all. So, since I couldn’t find him, I left as soon as it was acceptable to do so. Actually, it was a bit earlier than acceptable, but I merely mentioned to Oliana that I was feeling tired, that it had been a long day. She, of course, understood and bid me good night. And then Falan called Orion in from his position of guarding the hall doors to escort me to my room.
After that, I was pretty much on my own, aside from Edith coming in briefly to untie that hellish thing called a corset. From there I could get out of it on my own. I put Janus’s coat in the dresser for safe-keeping, figuring—or hoping—that he would probably play at the castle again and at that point I could return it to him. Finally, I got ready for bed. Unfortunately, I had to wear one of those long night gowns to bed. I had always hated those because I move a lot in my sleep. Thus, when I wake up, I tend to be basically tied up in the silly thing.
Not much of consequence actually happened for awhile. The day after the dinner, I got up and got dressed in a very simple dress that I could actually wear my normal bra with. For this reason it became my new favorite dress. After donning the aforesaid dress, I decided to explore the castle. Unfortunately, upon opening the door, I discovered two guards standing at the ready outside my door. Short of blocking my path with the pikes they held, they basically told me I was not to leave my room until and escort arrived. This was ridiculous, but something I could plead my case about later, so I just asked if they knew if my backpack had made the journey or not. I hadn’t seen it since the riot in Boston. They said they would ask Falan—or rather Guardsmaster Yoranson—about it. For awhile I sat in my room. Then Edith came in and, since she found me already dressed, told me that someone would be along to bring me to breakfast. She wouldn’t answer anything I asked, but gave me a look that she would stay and talk if she could. I guess she had duties to attend to or something.
As promised, someone did arrive to bring me to breakfast, which I ate with the princess. We actually managed to get through the meal without me having to botch any answers or leave the room distressed. It was actually rather pleasant. Then I was escorted back to my room, where my book bag awaited me. That was how it was for every meal, every day. Sometimes I ate with the princess. Sometimes Edith brought food to my room. After about three days of this I felt like I was essentially a prisoner. One day, at lunch, I brought up the subject with the princess.
“I realize,” I started, “that you want to make sure that I don’t do anything to hurt myself and in effect you. But I can’t live in that room all day.” We were both about finished with our meal.
Oliana looked at me in understanding, “I’m sorry. Why don’t we go into the garden and we can discuss this there. I know this has been trying, but I have not had the chance to figure out a safe solution.” So we made our way out to the garden, guards following us along the way. Once we were in the garden, Oliana dismissed the guards, allowing us to talk in private. I suppose it was saying something that she trusted me enough to walk alone with me. Then again, who knew what would happen if one killed their own shadow. What would be the consequences of that, even if you were not the one whose wounds were an intensification of the other’s?
“Now, let us discuss this, shall we Calvary?” Oliana asked.
“Yeah,” I said, “I’m sorry but I cannot stay up there only to come out for a meal and a few other times. I feel like I’m in some sort of gilded cage. Even you get to ride out with the hunt on occasion.”
She sighed, “I know. I was half hoping you would be able to find some amusement in that bag of yours, but that was foolish and…and rather cruel of me to keep you there. I just don’t know what to do.” It was the first time I had seen her actually kind of vulnerable.
“Like I said you have a lot to worry about but…I don’t know, as much as I wish I could do it to help, I can’t stay cooped up in there. Couldn’t we work something out?”
“Well,” Oliana said, thinking, “you could have roams of the keep…as long as you had an escort.”
“That could work. I mean it’s better than nothing,” I said.
She smiled then, “I’ll put my best guard on it. We’ll have nothing to worry about, you and I.”
“The way I see it, you’re the only one who has to worry. Sure, I’ve been watching to try and see that I don’t even step on a pebble the wrong way, but I don’t need your best man for that.”
Oliana looked at me gravely, “Calvary…you are at risk as well. Surely you realize that if someone wanted me out of the picture, they could do it through you?” I hadn’t thought of that and I told her as much. She assured me, however, that I had nothing to worry about. We were both in good hands.
Unfortunately, the ‘good hands’ that I was to be in were Falan’s. And either he took his job way too seriously or he took some sort of pleasure in causing me frustration. He wouldn’t take me into the garden because though I wasn’t allergic to anything in my world, who knows what I might be allergic to on this. And if I had a reaction to one of the plants, what kind of effect would it have on the princess? The courtyard was off-limits as well because one there was supposedly a lot of traffic coming in and going out and what if a horse got loose and so on. And apparently certain areas were a no go because the stairs leading to them were uneven, or ill-worn, or poorly constructed and I could fall down the stairs and break my neck or something. As if I were clumsy or something. So I was still, for the most part, confined to my room and the dining hall. For awhile, the princess wasn’t even available so I couldn’t talk to her about it either. And talking to him about it was basically pointless. He either said nothing, gave me some weird look I couldn’t divine the meaning of, or gave some ridiculous answer.
I tried to make the best of it; the castle had an extensive library. Unfortunately, the little pendant around my neck had no effect on written word, so I resorted to looking at the pictures if there were any. Sometimes I managed to get Falan to tell me a little bit about them. There were even some times when I almost thought he enjoyed talking about some piece of history or mythology of Coren. But then again, I jokingly made some remark about paper cuts and that was nearly the end of that. It was ridiculous. I had one book in my backpack other than the Calculus one that I could read. I also had my CD player. However, about the time that the batteries ran out, and I finished the book for the third time, I had had enough.


Confrontation

It was a relatively cold morning when I closed my now well-worn copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise. I had put on the simple dress that I didn’t need to wear a corset for, but it was kind of a thin dress, so I was wearing Janus’s coat over it. A couple of days before, I had decided that when I finished it for the third time I would confront Falan. Three was just a random number really, I had written the numbers one through ten scattered on a piece of paper. Then I closed my eyes and put my finger down and three was the number that was closest to it. Talking reasonably hadn’t worked, coaxing hadn’t worked, even trying to ditch him didn’t work! And so it was time to do things the hard way. I just hoped it didn’t come off as something like a kid having a tantrum when it doesn’t get its way.
When I opened the door, he was standing there. I hadn’t been expecting that so I started off a little on the defensive. And I didn’t want to be defensive, I wanted to be offensive, but not in the insulting way. So then I got mad at the fact that he had already screwed with my plans. It went a little out of control from there.
“I am so sick of this!” I fumed, glaring, “You can’t just keep avoiding the subject either! I’m sick of feeling like some sort of bird in a cage! I don’t care about whether it’s nice or not I don’t care about the fact that I haven’t needed anything, which is more than I’ve had for a long time! The fact is, at least on the streets I had freedom!” I really hadn’t meant to bring that up. None of them knew about my previous situation so far as I knew and I had fought hard to keep it that way. I continued anyway, “Even Oliana said that I could go where I wanted on the grounds, yet you won’t let me go anywhere! I’ve been perfectly willing to help. I’ve done my best to practically stay still for hours on end! But I need to do something! I mean, you probably wouldn’t even let me do needlework for fear I’d prick myself with the needle. I realize the cause for worry but this is getting ridiculous!” I felt like I was repeating myself a lot. In fact I felt like I might as well be yelling at a brick wall because all he did was stand there, looking at me. “Would you say something?!” I demanded. Still he just looked down at me and I couldn’t take it anymore. So condescending it drove me nuts. “Damn you!” I yelled, swinging a punch at him. There really wasn’t anywhere for me to aim but his face, it would do more damage to me than to him to hit his armor. Unfortunately, I didn’t hit my mark; he caught my wrist about six inches before it made contact. “Let go of me, damn it!” I exclaimed. Screw the armor; I started using my free hand to beat against his chest to encourage him to release me.
Suddenly, he had both my wrists in his grasp and he was looking down at me with that cold gaze of his. “Da-!!” I began, but his mouth against mine served to cut off any more cussing. And then I was too shocked to speak even if I had the use of my mouth. What the heck was he doing? Well I knew what he was doing, he was kissing me! But how had this gone from yelling to kissing? That had not been part of the plan. In my shock, I kind of went a little limp. My arms stopped fighting; I stopped struggling and soon found myself supported by the doorframe. And the worst thing was, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to slap him one when he let me go or not. When he released me—well drew away, but only let go one of my wrists—it took me a minute to get my bearings even remotely back.
When I did, I said, “What the hell was that?” To my dismay, my voice was a little breathy. Falan looked both ways down the corridor and then turned back to me.
“Come with me,” he said quickly, in a whisper.
“What?” I questioned. I had lost control of this situation long ago and couldn’t even fathom a way to get the upper hand again.
“Come with me,” he repeated, “quickly.” With that, he started pulling me gently, but urgently down the corridor. I didn’t have much of a choice but to go along. I supposed that somehow I had got my point across, had won, though I couldn’t begin to conceive of how. Actually, my head was still a little muddled trying to fit itself around that kiss. He led me through familiar corridors and stairwells and down a few new ones as well. Finally, we came out into open air next to the stables. A boy had Falan’s horse ready. He mounted with ease and then drew me up with him. Figured, we got to go somewhere but I still couldn’t be trusted to keep myself seated on a horse by myself. And the most annoying thing was that he didn’t even give me a chance to sit comfortably; I was stuck sitting side saddle.
Falan gave the boy a nod and made his way towards the gates. A few of the guards gave a salute to him on the way by, which he returned but he somehow seemed distracted. It almost seemed as if his confidence wasn’t quite what it usually was. He was moving towards the gates at a healthy trot, something that made me quite nervous considering how I was situated. My determination and his arm were pretty much the only things keeping me from sliding off.
I found myself noticing a scar on his bicep that I hadn’t seen before. My absent-minded investigation of this had me turned so I could see it and if I focused further, the castle we were leaving in our wake. And this is how I had the opportunity to see Falan leaving the castle doors, talking with a guard, looking up and actually looking shocked.
“The gates,” he bellowed. The sight of this second Falan caught me off guard, enough that it took another second or two before I realized that the one I was riding with was not Falan. He looked remarkably like him, but there were small differences. His eyes were cold but not hard like Falan’s. There were a few scars that Falan didn’t have, and finally, there was the gauntleted left hand that held the reigns. Somehow I hadn’t noticed that, or if I had subconsciously, I had shrugged it off as Falan getting some new armor. A clamor was rising up in the courtyard as people tried to stop us, tried to close the gates before we could leave.
The Falan look-a-like smirked and spoke into my ear, “Time to run, Lady Calvary, Shadow to the Princess.” With that we broke into a gallop. I yelped in a combination of surprise, fear at the prospect of falling off my precarious perch, and also not just a little at the fear of this strange person that held me on the horse. The guards were too slow to catch us and the gates not quick enough to stop us. We made it through with little problem. By this time, I was clutching at what fabric on his upper body that I could get a hold on. He laughed in what seemed like exhilaration. I was debating whether falling off would be a very bad thing and trying to figure out the odds of escape. Mostly I was afraid.
Upon reaching the woods that were about a half a mile down the road from the palace, he went down what looked like a little used wagon trail. There he let out a whoop. All at once, I heard crashing from the brush, cries of excitement and triumph, and for a moment my mind was brought back to the riot in Boston. Around us we gained a sort of guard of honor, both on foot and on horseback. Most of them were strangers to me, but what I didn’t expect to see were two that I did know. The woman with the golden eyes from when I first arrived flanked us on the left. And in front of us to the right rode Orion. Suddenly, I didn’t care about falling off. Something in me had trusted Orion and had thought him—if not a friend—than at least maybe a confidant. Now I wondered. Had his kind, joking, sort of carefree manner been an act? I started to struggle, hoping the rider would stop if only to try and get a better handle on me. I wanted answers. If I couldn’t get them, there was no way I was going to make this easy.


Facades

We actually continued riding for a good distance before the Falan look-a-like got fed up with my squirming. I felt like one good bump would have sent me to the forest floor. Upon pausing, however, he merely pulled me easily back up onto the saddle before nearly setting off again. I beat at him as well as I could from my position with my fists.
“Hold on just a minute!” I exclaimed. The others had stopped by now and were watching with a sort of amused interest, all still exuberant from their success.
The rider seemed a little annoyed or perhaps still anxious, “It can wait.” He motioned his horse a few steps forward, but I managed to grab onto an overhanging branch and was hanging on as if it were my only hand hold to keep me from falling off a cliff. He tried to move forward regardless.
“Hold it!” I said again, “You know what I am and what happens if I get hurt! I’m assuming that you don’t want the princess dead because if you did you probably would have just stabbed me in the doorway to my room! With this in mind, I’m guessing you probably don’t want to hurt the princess either, at least not yet.” All assumptions too, but I felt they were pretty good ones. Maybe they wanted me for ransom or something, I didn’t know. All I was sure of was that I would have been dead right then if assassination had been on their minds.
My captor looked at me, “How do you know we aren’t just after you? Hmm?” He gave me a kind of leering look that was probably meant to get me to shut up. It didn’t do that, but it did make my stomach tighten and made me feel as if the blood had drained from my face.
Because,” I said, sounding more certain than I felt, “I’m no one of importance. Not by myself.”
“You shouldn’t think so lowly of yourself,” he said, the horse prancing impatiently beneath us, “you’re more than you know.”
“Because of her,” I retorted.
He sighed, “Look, they are bound to send out men in search of us and you. I will tell you all you want to know once we reach safety. But right now we must flee!”
“Why should I cooperate? All I know is that I have been kidnapped!” I pointed out.
“You will want to know what I have to say,” he replied.
I glared, “I know nothing about you! The only one I even sort of know is Orion, but apparently I’m a crappy judge of character so that gives me nothing!” Orion shrunk a little into his armor at the attack on his character, though it was more sheepish than anything else.
“We don’t have time for this.” We were getting nowhere fast. He was getting more nervous, I was getting more indignant despite my curiosity. The only thing that kept me from delaying him further, however, was the fact that I wanted freedom. I didn’t want to go back—not just yet—and I really was curious. Who cares what curiosity might have killed anyway? That cat wasn’t me, so I was willing to take the chance.
“Tell me your name,” I said.
“What?”
“Tell me your name,” I repeated, “that’s my stipend. Take it or leave it. But if you leave it, I’ll make this hell.”
Orion chuckled and mumbled, “She never did pretend to be a lady.”
“Like hell I didn’t!” I said, shooting him a look. He grinned and then laughed again. Maybe I hadn’t misjudged him so badly after all. I sincerely hoped I hadn’t. I turned back to my captor, “Well?”
“My name is Daemon,” he replied.
“Alright,” I said, keeping my gaze and voice even, “then we can go…as long as you let me get a better seat on this horse.” Daemon chuckled and helped me to clumsily straddle the horse. The dress wasn’t the type for riding in, but it was full enough in the skirt that I didn’t feel embarrassed.
“Naida,” Daemon said, “hide our trail and if there is time, confuse it.” The woman with the golden eyes nodded and loped back the way we came. With that, Daemon let out a cry as a signal to move out. We galloped down the trail and I began to wonder if I would ever get to enjoy a nice, leisurely ride through the countryside. So far the theme of these things had been me hanging on for dear life.
This time, however, we did not approach a castle-like keep at the end of this ride. Before us lay something like a mini-castle. It was much smaller, but well fortified with a water source that looked like it ran through the building, as if the place had been built around it. This was convenient for those that lived within; of course I knew that should this place be attacked, it would most likely be easy to siege because the attacking force could contaminate the water supply. That is unless they had stored it somehow within. Probably the most notable aspect of the structure, however, was the fact that it looked completely abandoned. Vines had grown up all around it, some stones had fallen from the higher walls, and the stones were covered in lichen.
“This is the hold of Krievsh,” Daemon explained as we slowed to approach the gates. At the arrival of our little traveling party, we were called to declare ourselves.
"Daemon, of Elserware,” he projected.
“Daemon!” the voice exclaimed, “Did ye do it?”
I raised an eyebrow and whispered, “Shouldn’t the watch be able to see where they’re watching? Did the architects screw up or something?”
Orion was beside me, speaking quietly, “No, he is one of the Sightless. They cannot see, but they have many other skills that make up for that sense. Don’t you remember the two that were in the escort that first day? He is like them.”
As if to prove what Orion said, the guard said, “Aye, you did it then! G’day to you Lady!”
“Uh…hi,” I said, a little unsure.
“So are you going to let us in?” Daemon asked, “Or are we going to chat from out here all day?”
The watchman laughed, “Aye, aye! In good time. But I hear only six where there should be seven. Where is Naida? We didn’t lose her, did we?” Concern tainted the previously jovial voice.
Daemon shook his head, “No, so far as I know she’s fine. She’s covering our trail.”
“Be she?” the watch asked, “Well then none shall find us!” I pulled Janus’s coat a little tighter around me as a breeze blew through the wood. The leaves of the vines hissed softly against the stone. “Ah, but I should be letting you in now. Wouldn’t want the lady to catch cold.” I wondered if it was the cold breeze that had made him think of that or if he had actually heard the fabric of Janus’s coat rustle against the fabric of the dress. The gate soon opened and allowed us entrance. Inside was far from what you would expect upon seeing the outside.
It was incredibly well-kept, none of the decay of the outside showed. Also, it was far from abandoned. People dressed in smatterings of armor were busy here and there. A blacksmith sharpened a sword. Another person was re-wrapping the leather grip on a hilt. Others were doing drills in a center courtyard. It was as if they were preparing for war. But with one exception. Children ran here and there, dodging among the lines of drills. Other children play-fought with wooden swords. Women tended fires and cooking pots. Some mended clothing. Still other women trained alongside the men. And some people were just standing and talking, taking a break.
“You thought that we were just a small band, didn’t you?” Daemon spoke into my ear, “Brigands perhaps?”
I nodded, “Well, aside from the fact that Orion seemed to be employed among the guard, yeah brigands is about right. But somehow I doubted one would choose thievery over a steady income. Of course, I’m assuming things, which isn’t always a good idea.”
“We are not mere outlaws,” Daemon agreed, “there is reason to us.”
“Which you’re going to explain, right? Because if not, I am completely capable and not at all adverse to the idea of being a real pain in the ass,” I said.
“Yes,” Daemon replied, “as I promised, I will explain everything shortly.”
“Good.” With that said he slid off the horse and helped me to get down without embarrassing myself.


A Truth Given

I was escorted to a room in a higher room towards the back of the hold, which was slightly deja vous-ish considering the fact that Daemon looked so much like Falan. The room was no where near as extensive as the one in the keep, but at the moment I really didn’t care. Mostly, I wanted to know exactly how deep into this I was. And I was going into a room with a strange man who had grabbed me, kissed me, and kidnapped me earlier. When he closed the door, I didn’t complain, but I but as much distance between him and myself that I could manage. Basically, I was on one side of the bed in the room and he was on the other. I guess something in my eyes or my mannerisms tipped him off to my worries, though.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” he began.
“Yeah?” I said, “Well, all the same, I’m going to stay on this side of the bed, you can stay on that side. You start around it before I’m satisfied and I’ll start screaming bloody murder. You understand?”
Though he looked like he was trying not to grin or laugh, he said, “I do and I agree to your terms. Go ahead and ask what you will.” With that he took a seat on the bed. Since the bed was small enough that it would be easy enough to touch if one or the other tried, I contented myself with leaning against the wall.
“Why did you take me here?” I questioned first.
“Easy,” he replied, “we need you so the princess will have to listen to us. She can’t risk your harm without consequences, so she will have to hear us.”
“I’m a negotiating tool?”
“In so many words, yes.”
“That sucks, you’re not making me like you any more than I did before, which was a negligible amount.”
He smirked, “You stab me. I never said you’d like the reason.” The only redeeming quality to him so far was that he wasn’t treating me like some child or some fragile young woman that was going to faint at the slightest provocation.
I glared, “And who is us?”
“We don’t have a name,” he answered, shrugging, “we are what you might call a…rebel faction. There have been some bad rulers in the past, and we don’t want a repeat. We’re willing to do what it takes, for the sake of our futures and the futures of the children you saw down there.”
“It didn’t look so bad from what I’ve seen. The country looks healthy, abundant, and all that jazz,” I said, “and Oliana seems like she wants what’s best.”
“Looks are deceiving,” he said coldly, “and Oliana…she is…we don’t know where her loyalties lie. Her mother was kind and fair, but died when she was young. Her father was not as benevolent and his advisors toted to him. Those advisors may now become her advisors. We do not want a repeat of the last monarchy.”
I shrugged, “She seemed nice enough.”
“You said yourself you were a lousy judge of character,” he replied.
“That’s not fair.” He gave a noncommittal shrug, keeping his gaze at me, making me uncomfortable. I decided to be a bit more to point, “So if she won’t listen to you, you’d kill me?”
“If it came to that.”
“You said you wouldn’t hurt me.”
“It wouldn’t have to hurt,” he voice was so even, his gaze so solemn that it frightened me. And when I looked into his eyes trying to see his sincerity, he looked away. I shuddered and sank to the floor.
“I’m a prisoner.”
“Less of one than you were there,” he replied, “you can do what you want within the keep. You seem to take the idea of your harm meaning Oliana’s harm seriously. You seem to value your life, at least enough not to kill yourself. I don’t think that we need to worry about any harm coming to you as long as you are within the walls.”
“No escort?”
“For as long as you prove you don’t need one.”
“But you’re prepared to kill me?”
“How long are you going to dwell on that?” he asked.
I glared, “You are a horrible person.”
“You don’t know that,” he said simply.
“Is it just so easy for you? To kill someone? Someone who really never wanted any part of this? This is not my fault and I don’t want to die!” I exclaimed.
“Then you better hope your Oliana will listen to reason,” Daemon said, his voice low and cold, “because if only takes two deaths to solve this rather than the dozens we would lose in battle, so be it! Take it a comfort that your death would not be in vain and that not one of us here would take it for granted.”
I buried my face in my crossed arms, which rested on my knees, “I think I feel sick, let’s change the subject.”
I didn’t look at him as he said, “Alright but…you realize that is a final resort. No one wants your death. I don’t want your death.”
Raising my head just the slightest bit, I replied, “Why did you kiss me?”
“What?”
“Why did you kiss me?” Did I really want to know the answer? Did it really matter what the answer was?
Daemon sighed and pushed a stray lock of hair out of his face, “I…I…couldn’t help myself?” It was more of a question than a statement. Why was he now trying to spare my feelings?
“Liar.”
“I did it,” another sigh, “I did it to catch you off guard. I figured you would be less likely to raise an alarm and more likely to follow if you were confused, shocked. Maybe a little curious. And after your tirade, I thought perhaps the chance at going outside might encourage you even more.”
“I see,” I said, emotionlessly, “get out.”
“For what it’s worth, I’m sorry,” he replied.
“I said get out.”
He started to leave, and then turned again, “We…will require your presence tomorrow morning.”
“Whatever. Just go away.” Once he had left, I got up and went to the bed. I laid down on it and then curled up under Janus’s long coat. It was an inexplicable source of comfort and it wasn’t long before I had fallen asleep, feeling tired and empty.


Symbolism

The window next to my bed faced the east—or at least what was east back home, who knew if it rose in the west here--and so when the sun’s rays hit my face in the morning, I woke up. The last thing I felt like doing was moving. For one thing I was warm and judging by the air that I felt against my exposed arm, it was a little chilly. I was also quite comfortable. But I was also rather dejected. In my own opinion, it would be a long time before I felt any need to move. However, the rebels had other ideas, though I didn’t have to worry about them for another hour or so. I heard the door open behind me, but I continued staring out the window, unmoving.
“It is time for you to awaken, Lady Shadow,” said a pleasant but firm alto voice. I said nothing. “It is…Calvary, isn’t it?” the voice questioned. I still didn’t answer. I remembered what Daemon had said the day before, something about my presence being wanted that morning, but the truth was I didn’t care. Whatever it was, why should I cooperate? I heard a sigh, “He said you might be difficult.”
“Screw him,” I mumbled without turning around.
“Is she up yet?” I heard Orion ask from the hallway.
“No,” the voice said. I didn’t even try to find out who this woman was that was in my room. Or the room, it wasn’t really mine. They could kill me and then it’d be someone else’s room.
“By the greyed, what did he say to her last night?”
“Leave me alone,” I murmured, “I’m not getting up.”
“Of course you are, Calvary,” Orion said, his voice clearer, “you can’t stay in there all day.” I heard a hand remove the second pillow that was beside my head. Seconds later I heard it thud against something, “Hey!”
“Then stay out,” the woman’s voice said.
“Well you don’t seem to be having much success, Naida…and we need to hurry!” Orion persisted. So the voice belonged to the woman with the golden eyes I thought, though without enthusiasm.
“Not that much!” Naida exclaimed.
“Please just leave me alone,” I persisted, “I don’t want to go anywhere.”
“That’s it,” Orion said, I heard Naida start to protest, but then I was suddenly lifted into the air. I let out a squeal of surprise and managed to grab a hold of the remaining pillow on the bed before being lifted too high. My assailant was then pummeled with the aforesaid soft object.
“Let go! Whatever happened to chivalry?” I exclaimed in indignation.
“Chivalry is second to duty and common sense!” Orion said, occasionally muffled by a pillow to the face, “And it makes no sense for you to continue in such a mood!”
“Show’s what you know! Put me down!” I exclaimed.
“Are you going to come?” he questioned, the intonation of his voice declaring that to be the condition of my release.
“No!” I protested.
Naida spoke up, watching amused but trying to look stern, “Orion-“
“Hold on,” Orion gave me a mischievous look between pillow hits, “are you going to come?”
“No I said!”
“Alright, if you want to do it the hard way,” Orion said, as if the thought of doing what he was about to really pained him. And then he actually started to tickle me! I squealed and Orion laughed. In his face I saw the kind of brotherly affection that I imagine one would see in a sibling when tormenting a younger sister. Whatever happened to the whole idea of being proper, reserved and such?
“Stop it!” I exclaimed between fits of laughter and squirming, “Cut it out!”
“Well?”
“No!” He continued until finally I conceded, “Alright, alright, mercy! Mercy!” Orion dropped me onto the bed and I gasped for air. “That…was not…fair.”
“But it worked, didn’t it?” Orion replied with a smirk.
“I pity any siblings you might have,” I said with a half pouting glare. He just grinned back at me. “So where’m I going?”
Naida took a step forward, shooting a disapproving and yet thankful look at Orion, “You have to get dressed first.”
“I do? Can’t I just wear this?”
“No.”
Orion grinned, “And on that note, I go wait outside.” He closed the door behind him.
“How do I get to wear a decent outfit like yours?” I question. She was wearing something like what I had seen her in the first day that I met her. In my opinion, it was this dimension’s equivalent to jeans and a nice but comfortable shirt.
She smiled a little at that, but said, “Maybe later, but not today.”
“Figures. You at least realize that for the most part, dresses are ridiculous?” I questioned.
Naida laughed, “Yes, I understand. I understand quite well.” Naida retreated to a small dresser in the corner of the room. It wasn’t full of magnificent, rich dresses like at the keep, but they still weren’t something you expected to see in a rundown old holding like this place. She pulled out a grey colored dress with ornate silver embroidery around the hems.
“How does a place like this manage a dress like that?” I asked, giving the dress a distrustful look. These people were rebels, where did they find the extra money for something like this. And why was I the ‘lucky’ recipient?
Naida brushed a stray particle from the front of the dress and replied, “It was left here when the inhabitant of this keep fled. You see, Oliana’s father did not inherit the thrown; he took it by force and ruled for about twenty five years. All supporters of the former king fled, were driven off, were or killed. This hold was the last one abandoned. However, the king did not want the old supporters plotting to overthrow him. So he sent messengers offering them their titles and land if they returned and swore fealty. This was about three years after he took control of the kingdom. Many did come back and settled into their estates. And then…well, perhaps I should hold my tongue.”
“What! No, tell me what happened!” I insisted.
“Well,” she said hesitantly, “promise you’ll still wear the dress?”
I blinked, “If you tell me there was a corpse in that dress or anything like that, I’m not wearing it.”
“No, there wasn’t.”
“Ok then, tell me.”
Naida took a breath and continued, “The king invited all the previously disenfranchised nobles a year later to the keep for an evening of dining and merriment in celebration of the anniversary of their return. And there they were killed, both to get them out of the picture and to send a message to those who might oppose him. King Marinus was insane and sick. The family of the executed nobles, if they had not accompanied them to the ‘dinner’, fled once again.”
I was in horrified, “Does Oliana know about any of this?”
“I don’t know,” Naida replied, “but if not of this specific event, there were plenty of others she might know about. Marinus was a very paranoid man, ruthless and powerful. Some say he killed his wife, Oliana’s mother.”
“You know, you are very conniving, getting me to promise to wear the dress before telling me that,” I said weakly. I was horrified at what I was just told, at what Oliana had had to live with. However, I couldn’t avoid pointing this fact out.
Naida half smiled, “I try.” Naida told me the locations of things like petticoats, corsets and the like and then left me to get dressed on my own. I liked her already. As I dressed, I tried to put what she had told me out of my mind. Really, that’s not the kind of thing you tell someone who’s already depressed. When I discovered I could wear the dress with my bra instead of a corset, I tried to be pleased. Yet someone it was just beyond my reach. I rejoined Orion and Naida outside the room, looking better attire-wise but in no better of a temperament.
“Are you going to smile at all?” Orion asked.
“No.”
“Oh,” he replied. The rest of my conveyance was made in silence. I had no yearning to speak and break it and they probably didn’t know what to say. They brought me to a large room, sort of like a mini throne room. This was probably where the late noble had received visitors or dignitaries. Not anymore, though. Off to the side there was a curtain that probably blocked a balcony from view. Wryly I wondered if there was a garden beneath it. Daemon appeared from behind the curtain and I caught a glimpse of some sky and trees outside. I tried to turn right around and walk out; he was the last person I wanted to have any contact with. However, I was stopped by Orion and given an apologetic look. So I turned around and glared at Daemon.
“What do you want?” I asked grimly, “Have anything else you want to say, more things you should have said last night?” My tone gave the implication that he had already said enough. Daemon looked aside for a moment, then back at me.
“You…look nice,” he said lamely.
I let out a short, sharp, bark of a laugh, “Oh? Is that all? Then I’ll be going now.” Orion still blocked my mode of escape. “What? What?! What do you people want from me! I’m a tool? Fine! Just don’t expect me to socialize! You can’t make me do anything but stay here! And if I have anything to do with it maybe you won’t even be able to do that! I’ll just find somewhere where I can avoid you, and the princess, and anyone else!”
Daemon’s eyes sparked and he spoke harshly, “That would be a pretty lonely life.”
“I haven’t needed anyone before,” I replied, matching his tone, “and it is most certain that I don’t need you. And I don’t need any damned royalty. I’m not for one side or the other, I’m for myself. My needs, my ideals, my morals, my conscience.”
“Selfish,” he said simply, “can you even see past yourself?”
“You know what, I don’t care! I think I have a little bit of a right to think about myself right now! It’s a thing called self preservation! No one has given me any reason to give a damn about what’s going on! This is not my fight, I’m just a pawn and I’m sick of it!”
“You want a reason?” Daemon asked angrily, rushing forward and grabbing me by the arm. He pulled me to the curtain, me struggling and cursing him all the while. I ended up tripping over my dress at the last moment to join him on the balcony beyond the curtain. “The Shadow Dweller, Calvary Asher.” I heard Daemon announce as I regained my balance. There was silence and then a roar. It was like what you hear at the close of an opening night of a play when everyone comes. Before the show you were nervous and it seems like everything is going to fall apart. Then you suck it up and get through it and are greeted with accolades. I was dumbfounded, looking at the faces that crowded the courtyard. They were so full of hope and happiness. They had their chance now in my unlikely form. There had to have been over three hundred people there. I even saw a little girl wave. My expression must have been something of confusion, shock, and surprise.
“You’re a symbol now, so smile,” Daemon said, not harshly, more matter-of-fact with a wry twist. How could I be a symbol of anything? I hadn’t done anything, said anything. It all had to do with something I was, something I had no control over. Something that I was beginning to hate. And yet with the cheering, the overwhelming wave of hope, I couldn’t help but let a slightly uncertain smile grace my lips. I felt my hand go up and I waved a little, waved to the little girl. And she smiled. Her father—or who I thought might be her father—approached her, lifted her up onto one shoulder. She laughed, wrapped and arm around his neck and waved some more with the other hand. It all baffled me. I wasn’t anything. So why? I had no answer, but it didn’t matter.
After a few minutes, Daemon dismissed them with words of encouragement and confidence that I could only dimly recollect. It all echoed in my head and bounced around. Standing there silently, expressionless, I focused on my thoughts. In recollection, I get the feeling that Daemon was a good speaker. It seemed that his whole being was put into keeping the spirits of the people up. When he was finished, he brought me back inside. Once there, he looked at me but I had no words for him.


Dinner and Dancing

That night I was asked to attend a dinner with Daemon and all the other important people of his little militia. Orion was going to be there, as was Naida. However, I didn’t look forward to it being any better than what I had gone through with the princess. One the plus side, though, they didn’t make me change my dress, though Naida did attempt to do something with my hair. It was more like hanging out with a good friend then being fussed over by some whose livelihood depended on waiting on you. Not that I begrudged Edith in any way; she wasn’t anything like that. But I didn’t mind talking with Naida. Edith had been like someone you could talk to and get advice from. Naida seemed like she could just be a friend. And as if we were old friends, we spent the rest of the day together. She showed me around the holding and told me different stories she new, even a few that they had that related to my or other worlds. And then night arrived and I was expected to go.
My morals and my conscience had apparently gotten the better of me again. I had decided to cooperate with them for as long as my well-fare was assured. I wasn’t comfortable or committed to the idea of becoming a martyr, but I was willing to help them if I could. Which meant I had to cater to little things, like showing my face in public. It was like I was some sort of freaking pop idol or something, only without the singing. Or at least I certainly hoped I didn’t have to sing. Whatever it meant, Orion escorted me as far as the door of the dining hall of the hold. Once there I was passed on to Daemon. I was not looking forward to this night. For the most part, Daemon and I just did not get along. But then there was that other part of me that was rather afraid of him. There were times when he had a sort of a cynical humor, which I liked. But then again, having your life threatened kind of puts a damper on things.
“Good evening, Calvary.”
“Hi,” I said simply. I didn’t want to converse with him and I didn’t want to instigate him either. I just wanted to get through this evening in one piece emotionally.
He sighed, “Can we try to start over?”
“Why bother? What you said was true no matter if it upset me or not. There’s no point in trying to take back the truth. You just have to understand that, though I’m willing to help however I can, if it comes to the last resort, I’m not going to just roll over and die,” I answered him.
“Fine,” he replied, “then if I make an effort to be civil and dare I say, friendly, to you, will you at least repay my efforts?”
“If you really try, then I’ll do my best.”
“Agreed,” he replied, escorting me into the room. There was a staircase leading down to a long table. One half expected a herald introducing each person as they entered. Perhaps there had been one in the past. The room quieted as we entered, all eyes on me. I was uncomfortable already and I wanted to go right back up those stairs and somewhere where they didn’t know who or what I was. As if sensing my uneasiness, Daemon pressed my hand a little bit where it rested on my arm. It was meant to be reassuring and I suppose to some extent, it was. At the very least it meant there was someone here who would treat me like a normal human being.
“This child be the great weapon we have against the little whelp that wants the thrown?” came a snide demand. It came from an oversized man with a grizzled red beard and hard eyes. He was balding slightly, but what still ringed his head was long and held in a braid by a leather tie. His question wasn’t insulting, it was just skeptical. I couldn’t blame him; I certainly wouldn’t believe that I was some sort of ace in the hole if they didn’t keep jamming the idea into my head.
“Calvary is what will make the Princess Oliana listen to us. If we threaten harm to her Shadow Dweller, we are threatening harm to her,” Daemon explained.
“We wasted Rolandson’s position within the grounds just to get some girl that may or may not cause harm to the princess,” another asked.
Daemon looked a little weary, he had known this was coming, “She is Oliana’s Shadow Dweller. She and Oliana are linked.”
“Pah! And whose word do we have on that? Has anyone actually seen it done?”
“Orion saw the results himself. The princess’s hand was bound after Calvary’s arrival.”
“And what proof is that? She could have done that doing stitchery or some such thing!”
“That would be…” Daemon began.
I was sick of the arguing, “That would be wrong. Look. I’d be perfectly happy to let you all keep arguing and eliminate me as a tool. That’s fine with me. But Daemon is right. Princess Oliana’s hand was wrapped because she tried to prove to me what I was. She poked my finger with a pin to the point that it bled and as a result, there was a gash across her palm. I’m willing to help if I can, but what good is it if you won’t even believe your own people?” There was silence for a minute; I don’t think they had expected me to say anything.
“And you saw this lass?” red beard asked.
“Yes! Do you need to see where she poked me or something?”
He paused, “Well…actually…”
“Oh for Heaven’s sake!” I exclaimed. I marched over to him and showed him the scabbed over mark on my finger. He merely nodded.
“If you’re from another world, how come we can understand you?” someone sneered. He thought he was being clever. Really he wasn’t unjustified either, I had asked almost the exact same thing. At the moment I didn’t care though, I yanked the pendant over my head and off and held it by the chain.
“Huh? Can you understand me now, hotshot? I hate you all right now.” They all looked at me perplexedly and for a minute I was afraid that they had understood me. However, when they started conferring amongst themselves, I couldn’t understand a word of it so I figured I was alright. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Daemon grinning a little. Glad someone was appreciating this, I must’ve been doing something right. I slipped the pendant back over my head.
“Cute,” Daemon said, soft enough so only I could hear over the din. I inclined my head just the slightest bit in acknowledgment.
“So,” someone said after the noise had died down a little bit, “if something happens to that girl there, the princess gets hurt too?”
Daemon nodded, “Which is why she will have to listen to us.”
“Why bother with that?” the speaker continued, “Why not just kill that girl and be done with it! Why take the risk of another Marinus?” I didn’t like this guy. He was kind of small and wiry, bald with a hawk-like nose and sharper eyes. A sickly goatee fringed his chin.
“Berin!” the red bearded guy reprimanded, “At least have the decency to discuss such things when the lass is not in the room! She doesn’t need to hear it.”
I rolled my eyes though I appreciated the guy at least sort of speaking in my defense, “It’s not the first time, probably won’t be the last. Don’t like it any better than the first time, though. Generally I prefer a plan that does not involve my death.”
Daemon spoke up, “As would I. I thought that we already agreed that if we could solve this peaceably we would.”
“That was before you told us our hope was some little slip of a wench,” Berin grumbled. This guy was not getting any points in my book and I’m sure my eyes were shooting daggers.
“You know, I resent that remark!”
“Hmm…that’s right, you’re a bit more than a slip,” Berin replied leering.
“Oh you…” I began, glaring.
However, the bearded man stood up, his face red “That be enough out of you, Berin! You do not speak to a lady like that, especially after she said that she be willing to help us! Do you be needing to be put in your place?” This guy, I was beginning to like a bit better. Daemon had moved beside me, seemed to be ready for action should anyone decide to act on Berin’s suggestion. It was kind of nice to know that he wasn’t lying when he said that killing me was a last resort.
Berin backed down, “No, Thuritz…I just…lost…” His sentence trailed off into something unintelligible, but Thuritz appeared satisfied.
“We can speak more after we eat,” Daemon said at last. Everyone seemed to agree and food was soon brought out on platters. Daemon guided me to a seat that put me between himself and Thuritz. Most of the food seemed alright to me, or at the very least most of the time I couldn’t tell what it might have been. Whether this was a good thing or not, I wasn’t sure. I decided if anything looked suspicious, I’d ask Daemon and go from there.
“So you be Calvary?” Thuritz asked, turning to me.
“Yeah, Calvary Asher,” I replied.
“I am Aerin Thuritz, previously of Dormden, now exiled like so many others,” he replied, “we appreciate your help, M’Lady. And I’m sorry about Berin.”
I sighed, “Well, aside from entertaining the thought of trying to maim and or kill, I’m alright.” Aerin laughed heartily. I tentatively took some food from a plate and also took advantage of a stew bowl in front of me. Somehow stew seemed like it would be safe to me.
“So you really be from another world?” he asked.
“Yeah, it was alright in the right circumstances. I’ve never been quite the center of attention before though.” Aerin nodded in understanding. For awhile I didn’t have to talk anymore, we all were concentrating on eating. After awhile I didn’t even feel anyone’s eyes on me, which was a relief, especially when the annoying paranoid feeling left. The one that made me think they were still looking when they had stopped for the moment. I began to notice music filtering through the murmurings and laughings of humans socializing. It was pleasant and comforting.
Daemon looked at me, “Would you…like to join me for some fresh air?”
“Umm, alright,” I said after a moment. Our confrontations tended to go either well or end in us yelling, there was no happy medium. But if it meant getting out of the crowd for a few minutes, I was game. He was either trying to be civil like he said he was going to or he had something to tell me. Daemon brought me to another balcony, partitioned by a curtain. I guess that balconies were all the rage in Eriashen or something. Of course that didn’t bother me, it meant plenty of chances to escape on one’s own for awhile, even if one was only separated by a curtain. This balcony was comparatively small, however, perhaps ten square feet. We could still hear the music distantly through the curtain.
“It could have gone worse,” I said after a moment’s silence.
“You did well,” Daemon replied.
I laughed, “Of course after Berin’s remark I was about ready to ask to borrow your sword. I’ll act like a lady if I’m treated like one, if you really want me to, but if I’m not I’m going to be myself. And I don’t take that kind of crap.”
Daemon allowed himself a chuckle, but replied seriously, “We’re not all like that you know. I’m sorry for the fact that the option of…of your death keeps coming up but…well I’m just sorry.”
“I understand,” I replied sighing and leaning on the railing. No garden this time, but a charming view of the little brook that ran into the castle. “Is there something you wanted to say to me?”
“Actually,” Daemon said, a hint of nervousness entering his tone, “I was wondering if you would like to…if you dance?”
I stiffened in the act of withholding laughter, “Not exactly. Although I can kind of do a fake waltz. And square dance, but that’s really no help.” In truth, I could do a little more than a fake waltz. When I was little, the same place I learned how to square dance, well they would do one song as a waltz. So my dad taught me how. However, I needed someone who could lead in order to do it, otherwise I just reverted to the simplified method we used in theatre productions.
“Would you…like to dance?” Daemon asked. I was kind of surprised, after all I had been entertaining the idea that Daemon had a general disdain for me. Or something to that effect. Maybe it was the fact that he resembled Falan so much, or maybe it was just the fact that we had gotten off to such a bad start.
“Ummm, alright. Just pardon if I step on your feet. I haven’t done this in awhile,” I answered. So we paired off, hand in hand, the other hands placed just below shoulder and on waist. The beat ran through my head; one, two, three, one, two three. I attempted to step as he did. At first I couldn’t remember if you started on the left foot or maybe that was just when you were marching. And I kept anticipating the wrong way. But eventually, I got the hang of it.
“You’ve got it now,” he said.
I smiled, “Don’t jinx it.” Round and round; one, two, three, one, two three. Somehow I found myself being drawn closer to him. “You’re good at this,” I said.
“I’ve had time to practice,” Daemon replied.
“Oh?” I asked, “You mean besides all the strategizing and the sparring and the being a leader figure there’s actually a cultured person beneath that armor?” There was the opportunity for him to take that the wrong way, to make an innuendo out of what I said. I hadn’t meant for there to be, but if he took the opportunity I was going to kick him.
“I’d like to pretend there is,” he said with a laugh. He didn’t take it, thank goodness.
“Pretend? You mean you’re not sure?”
“Well,” Daemon stated, “it depends on what you would consider cultured.”
I thought for a moment, “The opposite of probably at least half the men in there.” Daemon laughed.
“Maybe we’ll find out,” he answered. The song ended and he stepped away and bowed. I curtsied almost reflexively. “Thank you for the dance.” I was almost disappointed it was over, both because I was enjoying myself and because the end of the dance meant we had to go back inside.
“You’re welcome,” I returned, “you sure you want to go back in so soon?” It sounded like I was flirting or hitting on him or something, but I didn’t care.
“We don’t have to.”
“Thanks.” I moved to look over the rail again at the oddly cast scenery. It was such a curious thing, the two moons. The light one was brighter than the moon I was used to and the grey one darker. It was almost as if the world were cast in eternal twilight. I found myself wondering whether they waxed and waned like the one at home.
“How different is this from your home?” Daemon questioned.
“Mine? Well, it depends where you go. It’s incredibly different from the city. The air’s fresh here, there’s not cars or beeping or people flipping other people off. The clothes are different, more of them; I rather miss my jeans and fitted t-shirt,” I thought a minute, then muttered to myself, “Damn, my sweatshirt was in that book bag too.”
“What about the country?”
“Well, I was never in it much, though I loved it. It may have been more populated than around here and less scattered. But the trees and plants and animals are all very similar to what I have back home. The main thing that always catches my eye, though, is the two moons here. We only have one back home.”
“Do you know the story of those moons?” Daemon asked.
“There’s a story?” I questioned.
“Mmhmm,” he replied, “the actually story was lost long ago. But there are verses that tell the gist of it. It tells of Eirwen, the light moon and the grey moon, Gethin. I’m fairly sure I can remember it. Would you like to hear it?” I nodded, and he recited:

Two souls meet on a celestial path
One shrouded in darkness, the other of purest light
Darkness covets the Light and asks for its companionship on the long journey
But the Light is fearful and rejects Darkness
Darkness is angered

Two souls meet on a celestial path
One shrouded in darkness, the other of purest light
Darkness will not give in so easily
He is powerful among old souls, and so Light is ensnared,
She is strong yet her light is hidden

Two souls meet on a celestial path
And through the actions of fear and greed
They are woven together in the Loom of Souls,
Inexorably bound together in their fates.
The sadness of one brings the sadness of the other.

I looked up at the night sky, “That last line, it kind of reminds me of the whole Shadow Dweller thing.”
Daemon nodded, “People, of course, try to make connections to make sense of their world. Many have thought that perhaps when Eirwen and Gethin were put into the sky together, perhaps that is when the Shadow Dwellers were created or able to come into being. Eirwen is usually a symbol of those who live on Coren, while Gethin is the emblem of the Shadow Dwellers.”
“Was Gethin really bad? Or did Eirwen just not understand?”
“No one knows,” Daemon replied, “some people think that yes, he was something evil. And just as shadows cling to the edges of light, Gethin was attracted to Eirwen, something pure and lovely. Some go further to cast some of that onto the Shadow Dwellers?”
I raised an eyebrow, “Do you?”
“I’ve thought about it,” he answered, gazing off into the distance.
I laughed, “Oh, do you think I’m evil now?”
He blinked and looked at me, “What? No, I didn’t mean that.”
“I know.”
After a pause, he continued in his thoughts, “Some say that a Shadow Dweller is actually a representation of some part inside you. That they’re not actually real people; they’re manifestations of different aspects of your personality.”
“Well that’s a load of rubbish! I came from Boston and I’ve had a life, I’m not just some quirk of Oliana’s personality!” I exclaimed.
Daemon nodded, “I don’t believe it either. But those that say that also believe that if a person…eliminates…and absorbs all the shades of themselves…then their power would be limitless. They could become godlike.”
I let out a short laugh, “Thank goodness Oliana doesn’t believe that crap. Of course, right now it would be kind of hard to kill me, wouldn’t it?” Daemon nodded, “Yes, thank goodness.”
I sighed, “I guess we should be getting back inside, huh? Keep up appearances and whatnot? Were you serious when you called me a symbol?” I started towards the curtain, waiting for his answer. He joined me and walked by my side.
“To an extent, to some, you are, yes,” he replied.
“Does that mean I have to act the part? Where this kind of stuff and all that?” I questioned.
Daemon laughed, “We’ll see. Certain times you will probably have to dress up at least for the most part. To…‘keep up appearances and whatnot’.”
I sighed, “I can never catch a break.” And yet, when Daemon smiled in understanding at me, I smiled back.


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