"The return of our troubled trio,
and of Camryn Montage was unexpected,
not to mention ill-timed.
For, on the eve of the New Year,
The betrothal of Kessah Darvosten and Banudi Tream
was held in the Fernan Square "
The Pasegean Scrolls
It was night before Camryn Montage half-dragged the horse and cart over the entrance to the village of Fernan, three dejected, travel-worn women trailing behind him. As he led the horse towards the village square, soft music began to play and became louder with their approach.
Samandia paused, and grabbed for Camryns nearby arm. "Whats that sound?" she questioned rather madly, her eyes looking glazed and her mind somewhere else.
"Music," Camryn whispered, "probably the town celebrating the New Year." He said this only to pacify her, as to him the music sounded strangely eerie and dark, hardly celebratory.
He didnt recognise the tune directly, but Samandias grip on his arm tightened as it became known to her. "Daughters Troth," she whispered loudly, an anxious tone in her voice. "By Raden. Someone is engaged."
Camryn nodded with recognition, and smiled back at Samandia, who looked rather sorrowful. "I wonder who the lucky couple are!" he said with mock-excitement, before turning away and muttering bitterly under his breath, "at the rate Im going, Ill be dead before I marry the woman I love."
As they entered the square, Camryn stopped near the edge merely out of politeness, but the three women halted only at the scene before them. All the Darvostens, minus Samandia, stood in the moonlight near the feast table as Tyrus Fernan, the mayors son, sat on a small stool nearby and played the song upon his flute.
Mrs. Darvosten kissed Kessahs cheek in farewell and Mr. Darvosten grasped her hand and led his daughter to the opposite side of the square. Samandia followed them with her eyes, and saw that a man stood there, his face covered with shadows, and Samandia held her breath as her father offered Kessahs hand to the man, who accepted it and stepped out into the moonlight.
Samandia gasped, and the world around her seemed to blur. She heard applause from all corners of the square which deafened her, and she stared straight into the mans eyes. She began to fall, then everything went black for a moment, before the darkness was replaced with their happy faces.
Her sister was betrothed to Banudi Tream.
As Samandia apparated onto the stone slab, Sidhe screamed in anger. Kessah had deliberately disobeyed her, and such traitors deserved to be destroyed! Sidhe stared down at the pained expression on Samandias face and she felt empathetic. Without even a thought for her own sister, let alone the coven! she thought furiously, Id never have done such a thing to Adeline! Kessah has no respect for herself, or for the bonds of sisterhood.
Samandia stirred, and Sidhe put on her best concerned yet vengeful face and sat by her side. "Kessah! Howwhy?" she muttered incoherently as she regained consciousness. Sidhe softly stroked the other girls hair, and Samandias eyes popped open. "What? Where?! Si?"
"Its alright now, child. Everything is okay. Here is where we can stay forever and nothing will change while youre here, anyway." Sidhe patted Samandias forehead then stood and walked to the middle of the cave before turning back to stare at her. "How would you like to hear a story?"
Samandia raised her eyebrows, but nodded all the same. Sidhe walked back to her side and seated herself on the slab. Samandia started to rise up from the stone, but Sidhe shook her head. "No, you rest for now. Youve had a terrible time of it, havent you?" As she looked up into Sidhes emerald-green eyes, she sensed something in them that she had never seen there beforesome form of motherly love, however out-of-use it may have been. Samandia settled back down and Sidhe began her tale.
She spoke of her own life in the Syrianan court, and how she had lost her only love, Rheon, through anothers foolish actions. Sidhe told her of her life with Radalph, and of Isiona the only thing she had lived for. "Isiona was my whole world," she said with a smile. "That is the only reason that I didnt come to find you ten years earlier, Samandia. That and the fact that somewhere in this world, Rheon lived, and he still loved me." Sidhes eyes glistened with tears and she turned away, while Samandia tried to swallow the lump that had grown in her throat. When she looked back at the younger girl, Sidhes eyes were dry and her face was resolute. "But you, Samandia! You shall not be denied that which you were promised at birth. Kessah is a selfish girl, but she will not succeed. However, we do not have much time. They leave for Tream tomorrow at dawn."
Samandia was shocked. "Tomorrow?! Oh, Sidhe, how am I meant to do anything in that short a timespan?"
Pondering this, Sidhe stood once more and walked to her bowl of ebony water. She dipped her finger into it, then muttered a few words before removing her finger and filling a small flask with the water. "Here." She said, and stoppered the bottle with a cork before putting it into Samandias pocket. "Put this into the wine and all who drink it will sleep at midnight, no matter where they fall, and not awaken until the sun creeps over the Bion Mountains in the north. If Kessah drinks of it we shall triumph. Go now." She pointed at Samandia and settled down onto the chair beside the table, knowing that the night was not over for her yet.
After she had returned from Sidhes cave, Samandias mother had suggested she head straight home, since her fainting spell was obviously due to the long journey she had returned from. Samandia agreed heartily, but before she left she poured the black liquid into the large barrel of wine that was seated atop the feast table, hoping that her parents, in their jubilant mood, would allow Kessah to sample the wine.
Now, as she lay in her room and heard the raucous noises from the square, she knew that whatever Sidhe was planning would be achieved, especially when she heard her sisters high-pitched laugh echo into the distance. Several minutes later her parents had returned home, and as they climbed the stairs to their bedroom and passed her room, she heard her mother say: "I do hope allowing Kessah to drink wine was an educated choice, Bo shes rather flighty when shes sober."
Bo Darvosten had replied with a hearty chuckle. "Ah, Angelyou worry too much. Besides, shes staying at Mayor Fernans tonight, so shes none of our concern. All we need is to get ourselves a good nights rest for the trip to Tream tomorrow."
"Thats another thing Im worried about, Bo. What of Sam? Shall we just leave her here? I dont believe that another journey could be good for her, especially after how traumatic this one seems to have been. To have Llyne Penwhite and her mother killed in a fire! And then Garvin Lseiand simply vanish! Shes not up to it, Bo."
"Angelyn, well discuss it in the morning. Its midnight, so we"
As the grandfather clock downstairs began to chime midnight, her fathers words were cut off and Samandia heard two thumps in the hallway. She jumped up from her bed and raced out to find both her parents lying asleep in the cramped hall, her father snoring loudly and her mother muttering in her sleep. "Sidhe obviously wasnt joking when she said theyd sleep wherever they fell," Samandia said, trying to smother her laughter.
She was just about to make them more comfortable when Sidhe appeared in front of her and shook her finger at her. Her legs had disappeared again, and her lower-body was simply a cloud of wispy fog. "I wouldnt advise that, Samandia," Sidhe warned, and guided her downstairs instead, floating beside her. When they reached the front door, Sidhe turned to Samandia. "Do you know where Kessah is?" she asked, an urgent tone in her voice.
Samandia nodded. "Shes at Mayor Fernans, which is just past the crossroads. I shudder to think where she fell, though." This time Samandia did not giggle, but even if she had it wouldve been muffled by the screech Sidhe made as she threw herself into Samandias body.
Riann Sheperd, who had not joined in on the festivities that night drunkenly stumbled through the undergrowth surrounding the Fernan homestead, singing an old tavern song he remembered from his youth. He heard footsteps from the nearby road, and saw a young woman with long dark hair walk past, and recognised her as Samandia Darvosten, a friend of his daughter. He watched her curiously as she quickly crossed to the Fernans barn and slipped in through the door, wondering what she was up to. He walked further through the bushes before he tripped over a large root and he lay there, dazed, and stared stupidly at the barn door, not realising exactly what he was about to witness.
Copyright 2000 M. Lees