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Chapter Nine

"Kessah,

she who was left behind,

was given a quest by Queen Sidhe.

It was a quest that was deemed even more important than

The downfall of Radalph Lorran—

It was a quest of love, and of power …"

—The Pasegean Scrolls

Kessah Darvosten knew what she had to do. Sidhe had told her exactly where to go and what to say … on penalty of possession. Kessah knew that to disobey Sidhe would not be an enjoyable experience.

She nervously tugged at her long brown hair before flicking it hastily over her shoulder as she saw a tall figure in the distance. This is it … Kessah walked towards Banudi, a weak smile on her face. As the noble recognised her, his mouth broke out into a gorgeous smile. Kessah nearly swooned at the sight of him, half-forgetting her reasons for meeting him. "You think your mind can remember what people look like, then you see them again …" Before she could resist the urge, Kessah rushed towards Banudi and grasped him around the neck, ready to kiss him. He looked shocked, but Kessah didn’t care.

A bolt of electricity surged through her body, and Kessah shrieked loudly. The scene around her shifted back to the dismal cave which Sidhe inhabited. The mage looked furious and Kessah gave her a sheepish look. "Kessah Darvosten!" Sidhe screeched, her face purple with rage, "what in Keori’s name do you think you’re doing?!"

Kessah grinned. "Sorry, mistress. I’m very susceptible to temptation, I’m afraid." The girl giggled as she spoke, more with nerves at Sidhe’s reaction than mirth.

To her surprise, Sidhe smiled. Then, even more surprisingly, Sidhe began to laugh. "Oh, Kessah, what am I going to do with you?" Her face quickly changed from a smiling one back to a murderous glare. "I’m going to barbecue you if you don’t get this right! Do I have to possess you, Kessah, or are you going to try and do this properly this time?"

Kessah hastily nodded, but Sidhe was wary. "Kessah, come here." She beckoned to the girl with her index finger, who walked over to her slowly. Sidhe muttered a few words before placing her finger in the middle of Kessah’s forehead.

She didn’t feel anything for a moment, but then her vision seemed to warp and Sidhe’s lovely face became as plain as any regular person’s. "What’s happening?!" she questioned, her mind racing.

"Just a simple charm, Kessah. One to help you control your raging hormones so that we can get this job done quickly and easily." Sidhe shook her head. "I was never like you as a girl, Kessah … my father would’ve never allowed it."

"Was your father very strict, mistress?"

Sidhe paused. "No, but he was rather domineering and stubborn. Unfortunately, so was I, and I didn’t like being told what to do by him." Her tone became bitter. "That cost me my freedom, Kessah. But, it made me strong and helped me in the years to follow—years of misery and torment at the hands of evil men." Sidhe shook her head, as if to clear the memories. "Now is not the time to speak of such things. I shall remove your charm when I believe our work has been done. Until then, I will not bring you back to my cave; I shall speak to you through your dreams if the need be. Convince Banudi of his love, and plot with him a way to requite it."

Kessah sighed. "Yes, mistress Sidhe, I shall do my utmost in all that you demand of me."

"You understand that this is to be the favour I recall? That if you do not fulfil it that I shall destroy you?"

Kessah nodded, and Sidhe seemed contented. "Well, I shall send you back then." Sidhe pointed towards Kessah and yelled: "Rift-teleport!". Kessah vanished and smoke spread throughout the cave, causing Sidhe to cough loudly for several minutes. "Why Keori fashioned me a cave with hardly any ventilation, I will never begin to comprehend," she muttered before erupting into another coughing fit.

As Kessah waited for Banudi on the edge of the forest, she wondered exactly why Sidhe wanted her to encourage Banudi’s feelings for Samandia. I mean, after the terrible time she had with Radalph, you’d think she’d be trying to push us away from marriage. I’m not one to question her motives, of course, but it does make you wonder why she wants me to do this. Kessah tapped her foot impatiently. He would be late, wouldn’t he? The one time I don’t want to wait for him and he’s late!

As if on cue, Banudi Tream suddenly appeared from a clump of trees on Kessah’s left. She jumped at his approach. "Banudi, you startled me!" she exclaimed, and stared at him for a moment. Good thing Sidhe gave me that spell, even if it does make this job less enjoyable. Kessah looked him over, and found that her heart didn’t skip a beat once. Yep, it’s gone …

Banudi grinned. "Sorry about that, Kessah. Now, would you mind telling me why you wanted to meet me outside of town?" He walked towards her, a knowing look on his face. As he leaned in to kiss her, Kessah darted underneath one of his arms and he turned to give her a puzzled look. "Kessah, what’s going on? I thought you wanted to meet me here so we could get to know each other better …"

Kessah shuddered at the thought. Strange how I used to dream of this moment, when now I wish I was somewhere else. She gave him a watery smile, then decided to speak quickly and get it over and done with. "BanudidoyouwanttomarrySam?"

He raised his eyebrows at her. "What? Slow down, Kessah." He reached forward, as if to put a comforting hand on her shoulder, but she jumped away from his grasp.

She took a deep breath then spoke again. "Banudi, do you want to marry Sam?"

The young noble looked taken aback. "Why are you asking me this?"

Kessah sighed. "Look, do you want to or not? I’ll help you."

Banudi stared straight into her eyes, wondering what was going on with her. One moment, she was enamoured with him, throwing herself at him like he was the most gorgeous man on earth—which most women thought he was. Now, this … it was quite unusual. Plus, she was asking if he would want to marry Samandia, who he thought loathed him! Both sisters were lovely to look at, but he had seen a spark in Kessah which had attracted him to her like a moth to a flame. Samandia too had something, but he couldn’t place it. Well, at least courting one of them might help me somewhat …then he remembered that Samandia was in Chail. "Kessah, how am I meant to court Samandia if she’s in Chail?"

All of a sudden, Kessah realised the same thing. "Um …" she seemed at a loss for words, and she stood in front of Banudi gaping like a fish. He narrowed his eyes at her as he waited for a response. Sidhe, please help me … Sidhe!

But Sidhe could not hear her, or if she did, she ignored her. Kessah’s mind raced through the possibilities. This was her only chance to fulfil her favour to Sidhe, and she gulped as she remembered Sidhe’s words … ‘You understand that this is to be the favour I recall? That if you do not fulfil it that I shall destroy you?’ The words echoed in Kessah’s mind, I shall destroy you. Destroy you. DESTROY YOU!

An idea came to Kessah. "Banudi, I mean to help you plan for her return. Then, when she is back in Fernan, which will be very soon—" Kessah hoped this was the truth "—then our plan will go into effect. Okay?"

Strangely enough, Banudi seemed satisfied with this response. He smiled, and beckoned for Kessah to sit with him on a nearby log. She sat down next to him and smiled back him. She firmly told herself that she was going to perform Sidhe’s bidding; that she was not going to be destroyed.

She hoped that was the truth too.

Sidhe floated along the hallowed halls of Castle Syriana, closing her eyes as she did so, seeing if she remembered every inch of her old home. A smile crossed her face as she remembered the trouble her older sister Adeline had gotten into the time they had knocked over all of the imperial suits of armour in the throne room; the times they would play in the courtyard with their dolls, pretending that they were magical faeries from far-away lands like Januli; that one day in the courtyard, when she was only seventeen, and had met him. She remembered that day well, for it had been the most joyous of all her life. She had imagined her life away with the possibilities, what might have been …

If he hadn’t been Sonaran. If he hadn’t been King Furyew’s son, Prince Rheon of Sonaro. He was travelling with his father, to speak about the treaties of Januli with King Herann. He had told her how he loathed his life, and found his only comfort in Keori. His words had shocked her then, but she had understood their meaning when she became a devoted follower of the god herself. He was older than, her; he was twenty-eight, and to be married the next month. He asked her to run away with him, run away to Capurna—‘It is the only place where we can be free!’, he had said. She had wanted to, but was unsure of what her father might do. Rheon told her that he would wait for her in the forest, near the castle moat until dawn. If she did not come, he would know her answer and would go back to Sonaro with his father and marry his betrothed, Baronessa Fayruza Dumarn of Tusheba.

Sidhe didn’t go. Her father, on that very night, brought Radalph Lorran to the castle and told her with pride that she was to be betrothed to Radalph that very night, and married two years later, as no King of Syriana would allow his daughter to be married before he believed she was ready. And, as Herann said that night, Sidhe was a very stubborn maid who needed to mature before she was married. And, another custom of Syriana was that for seven days and seven nights both involved in the betrothal had to fast and only drink water, and be locked inside their rooms until the week of solace was finished. Sidhe nearly wept when she heard this news, and she sat on her balcony the entire night, looking down into the forest where a small torchlight glowed until the dawn … when it was extinguished, and doleful footsteps could be heard retreating into the forest. Finally, when Sidhe could no longer hear him, she stood and walked into her bedroom, collapsed onto her bed and wept into her pillow for the rest of the day.

She never cried again.

Her life after that day was joyless, and her wedding day held only bitter memories of how Radalph Lorran destroyed her life. Less than a year later, she gave birth to a son, and named him Isiona Rheon Pasege, in memory of her lost love and in homage to her grandfather. Radalph was angered that Sidhe had not named the child after himself, but she merely told him that he lived in Syriana now, and he must abide by Syrianan customs. He still grumbled, but seemed appeased by the fact that the next child would bear his name.

However, Sidhe had other ideas. She distanced herself from Radalph, spending her days with Isiona instead. As he grew, he came to love his mother and hate his father for the way Sidhe described him. She waited for him to become old enough to handle the strain of her absence before she made her plans. She had worshipped Keori since Isiona was born, knowing that one day she would need the evil god to save her soul.

So, a month after Isiona’s ninth birthday, she took him aside and told him that she would not be living in the castle with him for much longer. He had asked her why, and she had told him that she needed to do something very important for herself and all of Arsinuae, and that she had to leave to do that. Isiona had started to cry, and Sidhe nearly decided to stay with him … until she told him, rather forcefully, that she would always look out for him and that she would help him overpower his father’s wishes in any way she possibly could. He had finally agreed to let her go, and she had smiled down at him, walked up to her room and climbed onto the edge of her balcony—the same balcony she had watched Rheon all those years before, and stepped off.

It had not felt wrong. It had not felt horrible; she had not worried about the fact that she was plummeting to her death. In fact, she had felt like she was soaring, slicing through the air like a swallow, flying straight like a dove …

Sidhe never regretted doing it, even if her afterlife had not been as wonderful as she had hoped. She had never had a chance to revisit Isiona since that day six years before, but she was going to now.

As she moved into the courtyard, she saw the stone seat she had been sitting on eighteen years before, and she smiled as she saw a girl and a boy seated there, whispering to each other. The girl had long, golden hair and eyes the colour of sapphires. The boy, with his chestnut brown hair and light green eyes seemed familiar to her … then she realised. Isiona! Her face was filled with pride as she looked upon her son, a handsome boy of nearly sixteen … but who could the girl be?

"Caela," Isiona was talking! Sidhe had never heard so sweet a sound in all of her life. "I know what my father thinks. And I don’t care. All I want is you, Caela, not some stupid Sheban! Will you marry me, someday?"

Caela’s eyes filled with tears. "Oh, Isiona, I wish that I could tell you that I would. If only your father …" she trailed off, and footsteps were heard in the distance. "Isiona, I must go! If your father sees me out of the kitchen again, he told me he’d fire my whole family!" Her eyes pleaded with him, but Isiona pulled her closer towards him and kissed her one last time before letting her go. Caela raced back to the kitchen, straight through Sidhe, tears streaming down her face.

Radalph Lorran, a tall man with dark brown hair and eyes entered from the northern doorway, a stern look upon his face. He saw Isiona standing near the seat, and walked over to him. "You’ve been seeing that girl again, haven’t you?! What’ve I told you about her? She’s all wrong for you, and while I’m alive you’ll not have anything more to do with her!" He raised his hand to Isiona and slapped him across his cheek. Sidhe’s insides boiled with anger, but she knew that now was not the time to destroy Radalph. When she did, however, she would make him suffer greatly for it.

Isiona stood his ground. "I don’t care what you say, father! I love Caela, and I’m not going to marry some Sheban idiot just because you tell me to!"

Radalph’s eyes blazed. "You’ll do as I say, boy! You shall marry Baronessa Ariora, whether you like it or not!" Then, Radalph’s face changed. "Son, please … we need to restore peace with Tusheba. Baron Ieran has been rather angry with Syriana as of late, and we need a connection with them—they’re actually thinking of joining with Sonaro and attacking Januli! Please, son, if you love me, you’ll marry Ariora." His voice was dripping with false pleasantries, and Sidhe was repulsed. Just as much as his hair is dripping with oil, of course. She looked to see what Isiona’s reaction would be.

His face nearly mirrored Sidhe’s thoughts. Good boy, he still remembers all that I’ve told him, about Radalph’s mastery of the art of manipulation. "No, father! I will never do anything you tell me! I never loved you, only mother! When she died I could not even tolerate you anymore. Sometimes I wish that I had died with her, because then you would’ve had to hand the crown back to Aunt Adeline!" Isiona’s face was flushed with anger, and Sidhe’s heart nearly burst with pride at the way he had stood up to Radalph. Caela, who was peeking out from behind a wall near the kitchen had a small smile on her face.

Radalph turned away for a moment, and all but he held their breath in anticipation. He turned back to Isiona, his eyes venomous and raised his hand again. "Never speak to me like that, BOY!" His hand fell onto Isiona’s face and the boy clutched at his cheek. Radalph continued to beat him, and Caela began to scream loudly.

Sidhe’s hands shook with anger as she raised them towards Radalph. Her mind was furious that he would even think of hurting her child … yes, Isiona was hers, now and always. He loathed Radalph, and loved her. Simple enough, but Radalph could never handle being disliked, being wrong, being stupid … yet he had experienced all of these things throughout his entire life. And now he was going to feel pain that only few before had ever felt.

"So, you think that you could escape me, did you, Radalph? Thought you could control my child? Well, think again … today will be the last day you control my life, the last day you try to destroy my son’s chances at happiness … and the last day I ever have to trouble myself with thinking about you again!"

At the sound of this voice, Radalph jumped. Isiona looked around him in wonder, and Caela stopped screaming. "S-Sidhe?" Radalph’s voice shook with the realisation.

"Mother?" Isiona ran to where the voice had come from. "Mother, is it really you?" He walked through her, and she smiled.

"Yes, Isiona. Remember that I told you I would always save you from whatever he tried to destroy you with? Well, here I am, and I’m ready to avenge everything. Goodbye, Radalph." Sidhe set a large glowing ball loose from her hands, and it hit Radalph straight in the stomach. He doubled over in pain, and Sidhe stood there, a cruel smile on her beautiful face.

"Mother, no!" Isiona ran back to his father, trying to help him up from the ground. Isiona’s face was covered in blood from his father’s hand, but Sidhe could still see the similarities in their faces. Caela stayed behind the wall, wondering how Isiona’s mother seemed to be speaking even though she was dead.

"Isiona, isn’t this what you wanted? Now you can marry Caela!" Sidhe was puzzled.

"Mother, I don’t want you to kill him! I might hate him, but he’s still my father." Isiona’s face pleaded with her, and Sidhe softened. She lowered her hands and decided to leave.

"Isiona, I don’t understand why you wanted me to stop, but I will. He will still die, in a week or so. Goodbye, my son. Rule well."

And, with that, Sidhe returned to her cave, and Isiona helped his father up to his room, longing for the day on which he would become king and marry Caela Faille.

 

Copyright 2000 M. Lees

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