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Chapter Eight

"O, Elanora, to think that we lived without you once!

To do so now would destroy our chances for salvation!

But, once in the darkest of all pasts,

You were but a mortal mage,

Until that fateful day you came across two girls,

Fleeing death itself …"

—The Pasegean Scrolls

Elanora Jovan sat uncomfortably at a small wooden table, a cup of hot tea before her. She had felt cold when she made it, as she always did when something was not right, but now it had been overtaken by a feeling of pure agony in her stomach … a feeling she only got when a force of extreme evil was nearby.

She heard several angry voices outside, and leaned towards the window next to her, parting the curtains slightly before doubling over again in pain. What she had seen in those few seconds had caused something inside of her to stab at the lining of her stomach more painfully than before. It’s them, it must be them … Elanora knew she had to be quick, or everything she had planned would fail miserably. She pulled the curtain to the side, and quickly murmured: "Petrify". The scene before her froze instantly, and she sighed thankfully. Elanora stumbled towards the front door, and opened it cautiously.

Outside, the street was eerily silent. Around thirty angry Chailans were halted mid-step, brandishing many objects, ranging from small sticks to a pitchfork. Elanora raised her eyebrows at the two girls who seemed to be backing away from the angry mob right into the dead end of the alley. They certainly didn’t look like what she had expected … sighing, she pointed towards them and whispered, "inverse".

The first girl, with light-brown hair, began to scream. The other, a redhead, raised her fists as if to fight their pursuers. Elanora smothered a giggle, and quickly grabbed both of their arms and pulled them inside her house. She pushed them away from the door, and locked it behind her. The brown-haired girl continued to scream, and the other looked decidedly annoyed at Elanora, so she cast a quick calm spell and motioned for them to sit down.

The redhead recovered quickly. "Who’re yeh?" she demanded, and Elanora raised her eyebrows as if to say, ‘what, no thanks for saving you from a mob of angry villagers?’

"My name is Elanora Jovan," she wrinkled her forehead for a moment as she stared at the two girls, "and you—" she pointed to the redhead, "—you must be Tierna Farray, and—Catalina Sheperd!"

Catalina stared at her in wonder, but Tierna’s face held a look more of suspicion than of warmth. "Wow, great, yeh ken do a simple psychic charm. It’s not all that hard, yeh know." Elanora grinned at Tierna’s distrust.

"Ah, maybe so, but at least I am able to claim that I have had training in that specific area." Elanora pointed at the table before her and two steaming teacups appeared next to her own. "Would you like to join me for some tea?" Catalina nodded, and Tierna rolled her eyes before dispelling the cup before her. Elanora smiled, and began to drink from her own cup, ignoring the pain in her stomach which was steadily worsening.

Tierna stared straight into Elanora’s eyes, then asked: "Wha’ did yeh do out there?"

Shrugging, Elanora calmly replied, "A petrification—simple spell, with simple results. It should wear off in around twenty minutes, so we don’t have much time. Of course, as long as you tell me the truth, I’ll be able to transport you home without much trouble." Under her breath, Elanora whispered: "Veracity" then awaited their reply.

For the first time, Catalina spoke. "We don’t need your help! Our mistress, Sidhe, shall save us from whatever circumstances should befall us!"

Elanora smiled at the glare Tierna shot Catalina, who was now covering her mouth, surprised that she had said too much. Tierna looked defiantly at Elanora, then said: "Nev’r let it be said tha’ Keori will fail ‘is faithful subjects." This time it was Tierna’s turn to look surprised, and Elanora’s as well.

Keori! Her mind flailed simply with the thought of him. Then, her blood boiled with anger. I should have known he was behind this! This is probably one of his plots to conquer Arsinuae with his fulfilment of a person’s desires … desires which shall be fulfilled only until he has used that person for his purposes!

"Uh …" Elanora was at a loss for words. "Um, why exactly were those people after you?"

"Tierna asked me to attend a religious meeting with her, to speak about Fultonism, as to attract more to the cause. Sidhe had commanded it, and as such it must be done." Catalina stared around strangely for a moment, wondering what was making her say these things. Elanora felt her mouth go dry. Anybody who knew anything about Chail would know that they abhorred Keori and all his doings. He would rarely even show himself in the province, which caused some problems when the Sonaran royalty would visit the King and Queen in Chail. Princess Elenore Goonads Uthefulton had the most trouble with this, since in the previous years she had become very attached to her daily worship.

"So," the mage dreaded the answer to her next question, "who, exactly, is Sidhe?"

Tierna rolled her eyes, as if everyone should know who Sidhe was. "She was once the Queen o’Syriana, bu’the country was rul’d by a Chailan. So, nat’rally, she is seeking revenge ‘gainst ‘im, an’ Keori is ‘elping ‘er to do this."

Elanora could not stand it any longer. She removed the truth spell, and smiled weakly at them. "Well, I guess I should send you home now, shouldn’t I?" To her relief, Tierna’s suspicious look was back, and she hoped that neither of them would remember much of this conversation.

Elanora stood, motioning the others to do so as well. Once they were all standing, she spoke again. "You should think of the place you most want to teleport to before I say the words." She concentrated on Catalina’s mind first, which was thinking of an inn near the main square, the Filthy Mallard. Elanora made note of the inn, pointed at the two girls, then yelled, "Rift-teleport!"

As Elanora blinked, the people outside revived and began to exclaim at the disappearance of the two girls. The mage collapsed back onto her seat, exhausted from the teleportation, and thought about how she could save Arsinuae from the wrath of a thwarted princess and an evil god.

"Miss, shouldn’t you be resting in your room?"

Llyne was shaken from her reverie by the housekeeper, whose name she had discovered to be Renia Opanir, which she had also discovered to be quite a common Chailan name. Llyne was having rather a hard time grasping all the strange names that were considered typical in Chail.

She looked up at the friendly woman, but was puzzled by her statement. "Why, Mrs. Opanir?"

The plump woman’s eyes widened. "You mean you haven’t heard? Tomorrow is to be rather a busy day, what with the festival going on and all!"

"Festival?" Llyne was surprised. She had expected Garvin to have informed her if there was to be some kind of festival during their stay, but, then, since they had arrived three days earlier, she had barely seen him. He always seemed to be out, or about to go out, as she had seen him the night before. He had been wearing a rug around his face again, carrying a small basket, and, when she looked down at his legs, he had been wearing a skirt! Llyne had demanded he tell her what was going on, and he had tried to make excuses for himself, and she had ignored him, telling him that if he couldn’t trust her with whatever his secret was, then what was the point of their relationship at all? He had looked at her, his face full of pain, and she with tears pouring down her face, but he had still opened the door and walked outside.

Mrs. Opanir looked shocked. "You mean that you haven’t heard of it?! Well," she smiled down at Llyne’s questioning face, "tomorrow is to be the anniversary of the Chailan Prince’s birth … his 22nd one, to be exact. And, on his birthday, if he cannot produce his bride, his father will betroth him to his cousin, Elenore Goonads Uthefulton, of Sonaro. And they shall be married on the Three Moons, as is customary."

"The Three Moons? But isn’t that months away?" Llyne wondered why anyone would want to wait that long to get married once they were engaged.

Mrs. Opanir nodded. "Yes, it is a long time to be engaged." She sighed. "But, my dear, that is the custom. I only hope that the Prince will not have to marry Princess Elenore … she gives me a nasty feeling in my stomach."

Llyne sighed. "Well, some people don’t deserve to get married at all!" Her thoughts during the conversation had once again drifted back to Garvin.

The older woman smiled. "I am guessing that you are talking about Garvin? What has happened between the two of you?"

Llyne was startled. How does she know about Garvin … and then she laughed. This woman reminded her of her mother, in a way—the nice way. She was very much like Mrs. Darvosten, who had always been nicer to Llyne than Mrs. Penwhite ever was. Llyne found her own mother rather domineering, which wasn’t good when you were that way yourself. Llyne smiled at Mrs. Opanir, then decided to tell her everything.

"He’s been acting strangely ever since we reached Zarenn. First, he hid under a rug when we entered the city; he keeps disappearing; he won’t stop talking about politics … and, last night I caught him sneaking out dressed like an old woman! Oh, what am I going to do?"

The housekeeper looked rather shocked for a moment, but she quickly recovered. "I’m sure, Llyne, that Garvin will tell you about this in his own time." Mrs. Opanir quickly looked away and started dusting around the fireplace in the main room.

The younger girl stood up and brushed her blonde hair away from her face. She pointed towards Mrs. Opanir. "You know something, don’t you?" she yelled at the old woman, "what is it?"

The other woman shrunk away from Llyne’s accusing finger, and her voice shook as she spoke. "I sh-shouldn’t have s-said anything. They p-paid me well to keep my mouth shut. I don’t know anything but who he r-really is."

Llyne’s face was red with anger. "What is it? What is he too cowardly to admit to me? Is he a murderer? A thief? TELL ME!" Llyne was screaming in the woman’s face, who looked like she was about it faint from fear. The younger girl shook with anger, her face contorted in fury as she demanded Mrs. Opanir confess her secret. And, Renia Opanir knew that it was all over. She had to know … she couldn’t not know. And Renia knew that Garvin would never have the courage to tell the woman he loved his most hidden secret.

So Renia did.

"Llyne, he’s the Prince of Chail."


Copyright 2000 M. Lees

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