Silence filled the yard. No one called out in grief. No priest bespoke Unity. No family sought comfort. Embarrassed and confused as to their role in such a rare event the witnesses wandered about speaking in low voices, wondering what was to happen now. Would the weather spells be restored now the one who struck them down was gone?
Ionia snorted and rolled her eyes. As if magic was that simple.
A movement nearby caught her attention. Lenneth made his way through the crowd to her side.
“The birthing went well?” he inquired.
Ionia nodded surprised he was aware of the reason she’d gone beyond the House walls. It was fortunate the husband had come to High King Eioth’s House. A sensible High King, Eioth had brought all the healers and herb-women into his House, fed them and kept them safe so that if needed they were near to hand to send out.
Or, perhaps it was Halidan the Wise, regent for the North West demesne, who was the one who thought to keep all the herb-women within her House. A sensible and well educated mortal, Halidan knew the refugees would arrive cold, hungry, desperate and yes, in need of medicine and, with the Water priests unable to connect with their Element, the herb-women must met their needs.
It was all to the good for Ionia, knowing that she, herself, was safe, had a place to sleep that was dry and food that she did not have to pay outrageous fees to purchase. In exchange she ventured out daily to do what she was trained to do.
“What is going forward nnow?” demanded Lenneth, looking over Ionia’s head toward the training grounds.
Ionia turned. Three more figures were leaving the House and walking toward Chandri’s body.
“Surely.” Ionia levered herself up onto the balustrade. “Surely, that cannot be… it is Haldian. Lady Regent Halidan. Surely they do not require her to declare the criminal dead!”
“Not after I have done so. There is no reason.”
One of the figures approached the guardsmen and the archers raised their bows again.
“No! No,” shouted Lenneth and with Ionia in his train began fighting his way down the stairs.
“What are they doing?” gasped Ionia. “no. No. Stop them!”
Indeed, the guard lines were heaving as those behind the lines fought trying to reach the Lady Regent. But they wouldn’t reach her in time, sobbed Ionia. No one would reach her …. Ionia staggered as the flow of people changed. No longer seeking to reach Halidan the crowd was now a mob, fleeing another threat. Running away from the House. Ionia, spun and stumbled, turning to stare up at the great House, towering overhead.
Towering. Something was towering, higher than the House itself.
And now falling. Falling. White, huge and tumbling. The House was descending to the training ground. Falling. The House was falling!
The cries turned to shrieks, panicked hands and feet pushed at her. She would have fallen only Lenneth, taller and stronger, seized her by her vest and hauled her to her feet. They stood, clinging to each other, as the panicked crowd flowed around them and fled. Ionia cringed, burying herself against Lenneth’s chest, muttering her mother’s name over and over. Painfully slow seconds passed and she was not dead. Emerging from that tight embrace she turned to hazard a look about. Fearing to see people crushed by stones she was astonished to find, instead, that the center of the grounds was filled by a huge dome of glowing white.
While screams retreated she and Lenneth stood, as if fearing they would fall if they let go, and stared at the monstrous sight.
“Where… where…where..,” stuttered Ionia.
Lenneth could only shake his head.
Seconds dragged by and the shouting and screaming receded as the panicked watcher’s realized they were yet alive, the House still stood and the white thing did not attack.
“Who commands here?” came a voice above their heads, echoing throughout the training ground.
Lenneth turned them both. Before Ionia could ask he pointed to an opening in the wall, high above their heads and said, “That is High King EIoth. Federan of the True South stands beside him and that is Mitash, Eioth’s personal secretary.”
Eioth, to Ionia’s eyes, seemed as enraged as any High King of history. The identified Federan looked to be ready to fling himself into the empty air to try and reach the white dome. Distantly Ionia wondered how well Lenneth knew the ranked magicians of the Empire that he should name a secretary as well as Heirs and High Lords.
Most of the archers lowered their bows at the sound of the High King’s shout but one lone arrow flew toward the smooth white dome and splattered into kindling before sliding to the ground. He was immediately struck by another and driven to the ground.
"I am High King Eioth! Lower your bows!" shouted Eioth, again. "All guards stand down! Let there be no more deaths today."
The chief of his guard on the training ground repeated the order and there was a general shuffling as bows were lowered and confused guards waited to discover what would become of them.
Surrounding the glowing dome was the wreckage of a few shattered arrows. Ionia felt the knotted muscles in the back of her neck slowly release. Foolish to believe so but just knowing the High King was present, that he was issuing orders, made her feel safer. Foolish indeed. His orders would not send the flood waters away nor make food plentiful and ease suffering but, in this instant, his voice made Ionia feel safer.
Illogical as that seemed even to herself.
Now if he could explain the mystery of the white dome, she would bless him forever.
“I cannot believe it,” whispered Eioth, staring from side to side. “The balcony! the stairs! Where have they gone?”
“You remember the legend of your House,” said Federan.”It was built in one night. Only think. Silva raised a bridge over the Harmony river in just one morning. When we arrived Silva told me that the balcony and stairs were made from Light Magic. She must have pulled it to herself when they threatened herself and Halidan. They are both within that structure.” He gave a shaken laugh. “You did ask for her to provide proof of her magic. Shall this serve, do you think?”
“You kept that knowledge to yourself? You withheld this intelligence from me? No, no, I shall not scold.” Eioth paused and shook his head. “Today let us praise Light Magic and clever mortals. If that is the case they are likely alive and well within, do you think?”
“For the moment. We must get them out of there," said Fedoran. "I know Light Magic is impervious to water, likely it is also impervious to air."
"And sound?" asked Eioth, leaning further out of the opening. "Can they hear us?"
"I do not know. The whisper ribbon carries sound."
But as they spoke they saw a small hole appear at the apex of the dome.
"Clever Silva," said Fedoran. “Now they can breathe and hear but it would take a very skilled and lucky archer to harm them.”
Eioth leaned out through the door opening. "All archers stand down. Where are Lady Halidan's personal bodyguard?"
There was a disturbance and several guards jumped aside releasing a group of three similarly garbed individuals who had been fighting to get free for some time. The only difference in their uniforms was the color of their tabards and the sigil embroidered upon it. These three men were high lady Halidan's personal bodyguard, a trio of part elf, part mortal men who were absolutely devoted to their lady. They had been struggling to reach lady Halidan from the moment she appeared in the courtyard as the injuries to their persons and their uniforms gave silent testament. Now they straightened their spines and gripped their swords tightly, glaring at the other guards.
“Let them pass,” commanded Eioth. “Let no one raise a hand against your lady regent!”
The three bodyguards raced through the ranks to come to a skidding halt beside the white dome. They looked from side to side then ran around the barrier, seeking an entrance to guard. Eventually they halted and signaled their helplessness and confusion to the high king.
"Friend Tormin! Friend Tormin, stand forth.” Fedoran leaned out beside the hiking.
There was another disturbance as a tall, suntanned mortal made his way through the milling archers. Tormin, a city guardsman promoted by Fedoran to chief guard of True South, was an imposing individual who managed by combination of frown and competence to bring both Silva and Fedoran safely out of the flooded southern lands. He came to stand beside the bodyguards and the four men took up position between the dome and the archers and waited, staring up at Eioth and Fedoran.
“All archers, place your bows on the ground,” shouted Eioth. “On the ground, this instant!”
There was a moment of confusion at this order that required disrespect to their weapons but before Eioth could be offended he was obeyed.
"Master Silva," shouted Eioth. "It is safe. Come out."
By this time several of the Synod High Lords clinging to the edges of the door opening with the High King. They gasped in unison as the white dome split and deflated, caving in slowly from the apex and sinking toward the ground. It halted suddenly, a frozen wave of white, only half deflated. After a moment, Halidan appeared at the split opening glanced about then waved toward her bodyguards.
"Quickly!” called Halidan. “Silva has collapsed. Fetch a litter and send for a healer!"
Before any other could react Tormin ran into the distorted dome of light and returned an instant later holding Silva, unconscious, in his arms.