I hear my name called, and I am awakened from deep sleep. Called again. And the Captain is at my door. His expression is stricken.
“Lady, a great evil has occurred. You must come immediately to the Palace.”
As I dress hurriedly, I hear cries now, and many voices shouting – some in terror, some in grief. I worry about the Oberon and Tatiana. I look again at the Captain.
“Deja-el, what has happened?” I could not help myself and used his formal name, he was so distraught… so unusual for him.
“Lady, some great evil Beast breached the Shield around the Palace, killing three of the Royal Guard. For some reason, when it could not get past the four of us remaining, it quickly disappeared.”
“Can you describe this ‘Beast’?”
“All I saw was Darkness – not of seeing blackness, but a curious absence of Light, throwing whatever was near it into Shadow, and then sucking the Life Force out. I believe only the Unicorn elixir protected us.”
“What of the other three guards?”
“Ah, they were new, my Lady, just recruited. We hadn’t yet given them the Protection. One was my younger cousin, and I am at fault for his death.”
“Truly, you had no idea that such as this could happen.”
“Truly, I had no idea that such as this existed.”
We were nearing the Palace, when he asked, “Can you see any energy imprints, any trail, any debris-signature that may have been left?”
I cast around, scanning the area of most destruction. Although it was difficult by torchlight and energy globes, there were some things that looked like energy bruises, scrapings, and abrasions in the Shielding about the Palace. Some even seemed to indicate the Path taken – to and from.
“Yes, Captain, I do see some. But they are not Fae – not of Fae.”
“They must be, Lady – to be here.”
“Let me amend my statement. They are not of your current Time and Space. This is an ancient Evil – very ancient. The energy tastes of corroded death, and smells of power not known for millennia. It makes me nauseous just being near the imprints.”
“Can you tell where It went, or came from, or if It is still nearby?”
“I can tell you It’s not here – It has stolen back behind some Portal that I cannot reach beyond. Nor probably would want to. Although most of these imprints are probably distractions or deceptions, I have a sense that the trail and Portal lay beyond the Goblin domains, north of here. But, It is not here anymore. And I do not believe It will strike again soon. It will want to use the information It got this time. It will want to understand what stopped It… what about your guards stopped It. It will wait until the vigilance has waned. It seeks to destroy prime targets, and is not interested in just causing chaos.”
We had entered the Palace. The dead guards had been covered with blankets, but the many other dead and injured who had unfortunately been in the evil Beast’s Path were still being moved to the Hospital. Faces frozen in unspeakable terror; skin paler than death… prayers that they had died quickly, and not suffered long.
I looked at the Captain. “The King and Queen, are they all right?”
“We did not let It through. I felt a sense of puzzlement, anger, and frustration from the Beast, and then It just dissipated and disappeared.”
Two Elves came forward to the Captain, dragging a struggling Elf between them.
“Captain,” one said, “this is the one who betrayed the Guards.”
With a quick movement, the Captain thrust his sword through the Elf’s heart.
In shock, I turned to him, and spoke, “He could have given us important information, and now he’s dead!”
“The only information he could have shared would have been tainted by that evil Beast, and would have misdirected us,” he said coldly. “He was a Guardsman recently dismissed from the King’s entourage for insubordination. He disagreed with the King’s views about you.”
Looking at the two Elves, he said, “Do with him what you will.”
Then he escorted me into the Queen’s room. My friend, Kyri-el, was there with the Tatiana. I bowed.
“My Queen,” I said. She called my name, and I understood the depth of the shock when she used neither ‘Elc’yrr’ or ‘Lighthawk’, my familiar names.
She spoke to me, weeping, “Our healers will do what they can, and – although you might be better able to counteract these injuries – it is more important that we discover this evil Beast’s lair and plans, before It returns. My husband awaits your presence.”
And I knew I was dismissed, to go see the Oberon. The Captain and I entered his room. Deep sorrow furrowed his brow, but the righteous anger that glowed from his eyes was fiercely intimidating, even to those who knew him well. I bowed.
“My King,” I whispered.
“Have you determined a trail for this… this Thing… this evil Beast? Do you know what It is?”
And so I repeated my thoughts on the ancient Evil awakened – some Portal opened and then closed, that my Knowing had difficulty perceiving beyond.
“Through the Goblin lands?”
“Yes, my King. And what I can discern is that It is not alone behind that Portal. Many of Its minions rage just inside it, held in thrall by this evil Beast, waiting to be unleashed upon this World.”
“Yes. In different guise, but no less evil.”
Then he also called my name, and said, “I need your help. I need you to find that Portal. And see if there is anything that can lock it, destroy it, or something. I cannot afford to let my Captain go with you. And my son is injured. He is recovering because of the Unicorn elixir he drank while with you, but nonetheless, in shock. Can you find a questing party to go with you?”
“Let me also suggest, my King, that perhaps a diluted serum could be made from the remaining elixir to help your People.” At that moment, Ky’riak, my Phoenix Faery companion, flew in and landed on my shoulder. He was carrying a message in his right talon. I opened it, and read: ‘Sky-dragon will be arriving at dawn for Journey.’
Suddenly, the King’s brother, who had been sitting quietly beside him, exploded in rage. “Why do you pamper this human? All this is caused by her disturbance of our Web and Way of Being! She has caused these deaths! She killed my grandson! She called the Beast! Humans have ever betrayed us so!” And he said all this with such poisonous vehemence, that I stepped back a few paces, bumping into the Captain.
The Oberon put a restraining hand on his brother’s arm as he reached for his dagger. The Captain had stepped between us.
One word. And then the Oberon looked at his brother, and said sympathetically, “Well I know your feelings, Loren-el, and the reasons behind them. But, know this – you do not know all there is to know about this human. And if you harm her, you will answer to me, unless my Captain kills you first.”
There was dead silence in the room.
“Be that as it may, I have given you warning,” and his brother stood up to leave.
“And I have listened patiently, but no longer. Do not presume to forget that I am the Oberon. This evil Beast, or whatever It is, must be understood to be defeated. It will not be deterred a second time.”
He looked at me gently, and spoke, “My Lady, have you considered your company?”
“Yes, my Lord. I will ask Tonner – the Rock Troll, who was to accompany me to the Goblins’ domain soon anyway. And Chip, the Dwarf son of my friends. With the Sky-dragon and Ky’riak, I think we will be fine.”
A voice spoke from behind me. “No Elf? How can that be? Permission, my King, to accompany the Lady Silverhawk on her Journey.”
I turned in surprise to see my old friend, Ferrin, whom I had not seen in years. I smiled. How could I not, he was such a wonderful scoundrel, whose grin lightened every place he went.
“Ah, off probation, I see,” said the King, with an almost imperceptible smile. Even in the seriousness of his mood, his eyes twinkled to see him. Old friends, regardless… from a time before he had become Oberon. He, Ferrin, and the Captain… quite a troublesome trio they had been growing up.
The Oberon looked at me and said, “I would guess you have your company, my Lady. Good fortune on your Quest. And please have Ky’riak keep us informed of your progress, or difficulties, if such transpire.”
And we were dismissed to walk out of the Palace, and prepare for the morrow’s Journey.
Ferrin and the Captain escorted me Home.
“It isn’t safe for you, right now, my Lady, so set your guard well.”
“I have Ky’riak, Captain, and the Unicorn Shield.”
“And me,” said Ferrin. And then, turning to me, “Not to worry, my Lady; I will sleep on the porchwalk.” And he grinned.
He and the Captain shook hands, exchanging a few whispered words. I went into my Home to pack – perhaps to sleep… perhaps to dream… hopefully dreams of Peace, knowing how long it might be before I would know it again.