Monday, January 30, 2017

consequences 23

Silva shuddered, prompting Federan to cover her hand with his own.
“Master Silva goes to the North as soon as her party can be assembled. Mitash, to the South East, to discover all that can be learned from the mass of Masters who apparently were involved in the destruction of the weather spells. Halidan, that fellow who assisted Master Silva this morning, he is the mortal engineer of whom you spoke?”
“Yes, you may not be aware High King, but mortals have guilds of various skills. The mortal, one Farnam re Kindre, is the local guild master. He has promised me to assign his skilled colleagues and apprentices to your service. They are prepared to go wherever you command.” Haldian consulted a list then continued speaking.
Behind her chair one of the Lady Regent’s bodyguard, Cris Dracolan, caught Silva’s attention and drew her away from the presentation and closer to the wall.
“If you will grant me this whim, Master Silva,” began Cris. “Before you embark on your journey North, Master Farnam is the father of my… my young lady and he has asked to speak to you. There is engineering questions he wishes you to undertake before he leaves his family. He wishes to know the, well, the stresses and strengths of your magic.” Cris frowned at the words.
Silva, accustomed to the stress of thread and cloth nodded. “I would be honored to meet him. This afternoon, after the synod,” she glanced about the room. For the most part she was being ignored. Only Eioth, the High King, spared a glance for her, situated as she was behind Halidan’s chair. She could not judge from his expression if he approved or disapproved of their conversation. Erring on the side of least offense Silva whispered to the bodyguard, “later.”
Cris nodded and stepped back again.
Another elvish voice was raised in petulant complaint and Silva winced, grateful that it was not she who was required to chivy this group into motion.
And cast an apology toward the memory of her mother. Obviously willful blindness was not an exclusively mortal complaint.

Meanwhile in the True South

Elanis emerged early from her pile of blankets and winced as the chill air hit her face and the floor caused her toes to curl. Even wrapped in two pairs of socks her feet were sensitive to cold stone floors. Taking a deep breath she reminded herself she was grateful. Grateful to have a secure roof over her head. She glanced up to make certain it was still in place. Many refugees were living in the tent city High Lady Senoia ordered assembled. Elanis, however, had a house. A secure and somewhat warmer than outside, a house in which to keep her ever changing tribe of orphans. There was a core group of homeless children she’d brought out of the Lowlands that stayed constant but for the rest, Elanis huffed out a sigh.
She had food, which reminded her she must rise and begin her day. There was a thin film of ice in the lavitory and when she dunked her already winter reddened hands into the basin to wash she hissed out words not used in Ritual.
Then she was downstairs to greet the morning and the other items on her gratitude list. Young Ceridin was still with her and as useful a fellow she might never see for all that he was only twelve and skinny with it. She’d acquired Ceridin on the journey out of the floods and it was the lads stated wish to be a town guard when he grew right now he was useful in managing the younger lads, his brother Metir and Jegory te Fallon amongst them.
Ceredin was already awake, dressed and in the small courtyard of their house, opening the wooden gate that separated the yard from the narrow lane behind. Two guards, one mortal, one mixed blood, escorted in an elf and pony bearing locked paniers.
“Bright the day,” declared the elf, smiling at Ceredin and Elanis both.
“Bright the day,” echoed Elanis, as the elf balanced a large book on his forearm and took a pen out of his sash.
“Ah, here it is. For Elanis Master Weaver.” The elf handed the book and pen over to Elanis while he took a key and with clumsy movements unlocked an old padlock binding closed a pouch. He tutted to himself. “This does not grow easier.”
“Perhaps a little oil,” said Elanis. “The old locks do seem to tighten up in the winter, especially on cold, wet mornings.”
The elf shot her a look. “Do you tell me so? Astonishing.” He glanced toward the mortal guard for confirmation. Recieving a nod the elf continued. “Any oil in particular?”
“There are machinery oils specific to the task,” began Elanis.
“Then I shall ask one of the engineers High Lady Senoia is gathering.” The lock clicked open and the elf drew out a pouch, counted the contents before passing it to Elanis who counted it again then signed.
Elanis smiled as she tucked the money away. She accepted it. She was not fool enough to refuse. She was grateful for each small coin and kept a percentage in a safe place against the time when the money was no longer delivered. As soon as the elf and his guard departed another arrived, this one with a small cart drawn by a donkey, but the guards, the book, the strict record keeping was the same. The cart came daily bearing food and other supplies for the the orphanage. Ceridin locked the gate behind the latest arrivals lest curious neighbors discover how much, or how little, was delivered to this house. The paranoia necessary for life weighed on Elanis’s soul but she said nothing to discourage the boy. Instead she counted balls of cheese, an already plucked hen, bread and grain and other essentials, signed in the great book, then turned to assist Ceridin in restocking the cart. Here Elanis salved her pride knowing that she was not merely accepting charity, accepting rations. No. She was contributing to the safety, the health of others. She kept her orphans busy. Busy spinning, busy weaving and knitting. Two of the older children were skilled with felting needles and wasn’t that the best way to make warm clothing. Into the gaps on the cart they packed felted hats and gloves and socks. Tightly knitted blankets and vests. The elf thanked her sincerely as he lifted one softly felted, multicolored scarf from the pile and rubbed it against his face before tucking it back into the cart. He, himself, wore a cap Elanis felted for him and he expressed his gratitude often.
“My duties take me to the refugee camp later today,” he observed, nodding as he noted the quantity of socks the children produced. He added the numbers to his lists, gave  a copy to Elanis tucked his own away. “There are many, so many, who will be grateful for your skills, Master Weaver.”
“And glad I am to be of service,” said Elanis.
There was a noise from the house and a small girl ran out, a canvas bag in her hand.
“And you, little one?” asked the elf, bending down to her level. “What have you here?”
“Dollies,” said the child. “I have made dollies for the little girls who lost theirs.”
She opened the bag and produced a few lopsided felted figures, one spotted dog and what might be a cow or a horse. The elf laughed to see them.
“Oh, and very happy you will make the little girls, my dear.”
Elanis blushed. “Cicily. Where did you get the wool?”
“Off ends of the rovings, Elanis,” said Ciciliy. “Naomi said they were too small for her to use.”
Since Elanis, and Naomi, both knew there was no roving of wool too small to be of use Elanis simply sighed. Ciciliy, at least, was showing compassion.
The elf tucked the small toys away. “I promise they shall gain good homes,” he promised the little girl who blushed as she bowed to the very tall elf.
Elanis and Cicily waved goodbye, watching as Ceridin again dealt with the gate.
Once their little yard was safe they carried the supplies into the kitchen where another of Elanis’s lost souls was stirring a thick porridge. Naomi tor Linot, another weaver from the Lowlands, had appeared at Elanis’s door a tenday ago, seeking her lost children. Their names were not on the list of found children Elanis maintained. Naomi refused to depart as other desperate parents did, instead insisting on remaining at the orphanage until reunited with her loved ones. She was an odd woman, her grief manifesting itself with an obsession with cleanliness, but she was useful to Elanis and patient, if a little obsessed with keeping track of the orphans.  Elanis sniffed over the bowl she was served, wishing idly for spices or dried fruit or something to liven the rice portage. It was dull but it was hot, it was there, and it might disappear tomorrow.
Gratitude Elanis reminded herself. Gratitude. Although she desperately wished each day that she was back in her comfortable warm house with her well maintained and respected workshop, she pressed her lips together and forced a smile. Gratitude.
Feeding the smaller children took an hour after which they were settled in the courtyard to take turns reading aloud and working on their letters and numbers. There were only a few hours of sunlight for outdoor work but it saved them wasting scarce candles and lantern oil in the daytime.
She tried, but not too hard, to leave the house alone but Ceridin knew her schedule as well as she did herself. If she was leaving the house, leaving the children, leaving with money in her possession her self appointed guard was in attendance. It was understandable, truly, that the lad insisted on staying close to Elanis. In truth the lad would prefer to give his devotion and attendance to Silva but having lost everything Ceridin clung to what remained. Clung and was useful.
And Elanis was grateful for his  companionship.

Friday, January 27, 2017

consequences 22

She frowned at the map. So many small lights, yes, and tight together.
What did they represent?
Drawing out her borrowed notebook Silva did a number of quick sketches. The first only the landmarks and outline of the maps, the rivers, valleys and mountain ranges. On one map she sketched out the path the High King wished her to follow. After a half dozen of these general maps she did one and one only of the lights.
Tucking the book into her sash she rose and frowning, concentrated on calling the extra glow from the room and looked about for somewhere to put it. To hide it. Strange, she laughed to herself, it was easy to create the light but she could not think of a way to send it away. She couldn’t even think of a way to make it smaller. She could, perhaps, put up some more decorations on the walls but they would continue to glow for a time after she departed and she couldn’t count on the room being left empty long enough for the light to fade. The High King might have other people needing to see that map. She was not privy to his schedule.
Sending it away was far harder than calling those stairs into being. She continued to draw light from the room until the magic retreated to a very dim glow. If friend Tormin taught her anything it was that she should have a store of light magic to hand. She could not, would not waste this effort. If she had light to hand when, she shuddered, when those archers… when they’d raised their bows… She pushed the memory away. Oh, if she’d possessed the magic, the time, she might have attacked instead of protecting and that would not have ending well. Not when it was all a strange misunderstanding. She frowned. Soon she must be a full explaination. Tor Halidan would know. She cupped the lenght of extra light in both hands then carried it over to the doorway. Without that light the room was dimmer but there was still a small glow to the map. After a pause she held her hand over a slightly larger speck, feeding light into it and taking an equal amount back. She wrapped the resultant thread around a finger, shaping it into a thin ring. She wasn’t certain who created this map or the purpose but it seemed right that she have this link to the past of her magic.
Satisfied she could discover nothing more here she left the room was in something close to darkness. A few hours would be enough to remove the evidence of her presence.
Well, nothing beyond that pile of light threads. She shook her head and lifted it. There had to be some inconspicious way to carry this. A vest, perhaps, except it didn’t move like normal fabric. Or shoes? No. She concentrated and a moment later she made her way down the corridors carring a dull, grey walking stick with an intensely glowing handle.
The next morning Silva was finally formally presented to the Synod. The High Lords, and Mitash, gathered in the training yard staring up at the strangely, almost obscenely denuded front of the High King’s House. The half deflated white dome was behind her and High King Eioth stood at her side, his hand resting on Silva’s shoulder.
“High Lords, Ladies, I bring to you Master Silva, Adept of the Element of Light. I ask you to bid her welcome and invite you to witness her adept demonstration.”
A pink stain rose on Siva’s cheeks and she hesitated, uncertain as to what she should do.
“It is not necessary for you to recreate the steps as they were before,” added Eioth, waving toward the naked stone. “Put your own touch on the construction.”
With a nod Silva stepped forward. First she reached out and called to the clumsy, collapsed dome, which smoothed, flowed and moved rapidly toward the House. Several witnesses cried out and stepped back. A few servants down in the courtyard going so far as to run around the corner of the House and away. No one fainted although a few cried out that they would. The Elements were invoked to save them.
Silva ignored all the noise, concentrating, moving her hands as she shaped the image in her mind. Her first attempt attached a clumsy set of steps directly to the front of the House. She gave a small sound of distress when she realized that repair would not serve. She collapsed the construction again and forming a broad, curving balcony with a matching curved staircase almost the same as was there before. There were some murmurs of approval but Silva frowned, set her teeth and continued. The High King referred to this as her Adept test and simple, flat white was not enough. She had, in better times, planned out her weaver Masterwork. She stepped forward, climbing the thin surface of the stair treads as interlaced geometric patterns spread out before her. Utilizing what she’d learned from bridge building she made the surface a little rough, casting fine lacework into the uppers while making the risers smooth straight lines. She worked the edges of the balcony, raising protective balustrades and inserting love seats and individual chairs at decorative intervals along the railings as fine as fabric lace but as strong as mountains. Finishing the stairs were harder. They needed to be level, equal in depth and safe. Yielding to the practical inevitable she requested a trained engineer’s assistance to measure and confirm the level. Lady Halidan sent her body guard Cris running to the nearby town and he returned with a mortal engineer and his apprentice, with his measures and levels and surveying equipment.
The whole task took the better part of the morning but eventually she was done. She used some part of the recovered Light magic from the dome to restore the crenelations and decorations to the facade and stopped.
“High King, is this acceptable?” She waved to the glowing white surface. “You will forgive me, I hope, that this time I do not change the appearance to that of common stone. I want it to remain in the mind of visitors to the House that this was made of Light Magic and nothing else.”
“I am grateful,” said Eioth and turned to the Synod. “Well, shall you accept this proof? You know of your own magic, even in the fullness of your powers working with other masters, you could not summon all of this in the space of one morning.”
“Beautiful, as always, dear Silva,” said Federan, boldly stepping out and wandering over the surface, brushing his fingers over an area of decoration.
Most of the Synod regarded it with deep suspicion and it was another hour before they acknowledge that yes, it was an acceptable demonstration of her power. Eioth, patience near to exhausted led the way up the new staircase and back to the temporary Synod hall.
“Now that important matter is attended to,” said Eioth, as Federan and Silva retreated to True South’s throne. “I will hear reports as to what preparations you have made to bring aid to your demesnes and being the restoration of the empire.”
A heavy silence answered him.
“What nothing?” demanded Eioth.
“It has only been one day,” protested a voice.
“It has been a full moon, more, since the weather spells broke!” cried Federan. “What have you done to justify your rank?”
“Calmly, Federan,” said Eioth and began walking the room. “An advantage Master Silva brings us is a solution to the communications problem. Master Silva, as soon as you have recovered from this morning’s exercise I require whisper ribbons.”
“How many?” asked Silva, then blushed when she realized she’d interrupted the High King. He, however, smiled kindly.
“As many as you can prepare until you depart.” Turning his gaze to the High Lords he continued. “These ribbons you have seen used, my High Lords. You will send one half of your assigned ribbons to persons in your demesne with whom you wish to communicate rapidly. Your assistants, your Heirs. Work cannot be delayed by the long ride required to cover the long distances and over come flooded rivers and damaged roads. Indeed, we need to know where these floods and damage is so it can be repaired. The longest delay will be the transportation of the whisper ribbons.”
General muttering answered this. There was a brief disturbance from the archivists table, but they subsided with Eioth frowned at them.
“Since you have made no plans, no preparations, you shall here my thoughts.”
As he walked Eioth dictated the building of signs and creation of guard stations to direct refugees to the South East, True East and North East, who had suffered least of all the demesnes. The North West would take its share of the lost and wandering but they would have to continue to the far west of the demesne. True West and South West would also take some refugees but since the flooding to the South West, draining down from the Broken Spine mountains had not yet crested few would be sent in that direction at this time. Food, being the greatest need, must be provided at way stations along these routes and therefore must be the resource moved early.
“The refugees will sent the shortest distance to a place of safety. Fortunately our scrying will give us guidance as to which roads are passable. The safest place to direct the citizens. With whisper ribbons we can direct the rescue efforts. I would ask that your Heirs send supplies to the central corridor so the fewest number will die of starvation before they reach safety.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

consequences 21

“Tell me what you think helps you,” the comb caught on a large knot and Silva yelped. “Ah, my apologies.”
“Cut if you must. For the light magic, can you think of a time you sat before a candle or a fire and were drifting off to sleep?”
“Yes. Careful. Do not move. This one is close to the scalp.”
“Ugh. Well, have you noticed that the outside of the dark seems to glow and tremble a little?”
“That is it,” said Silva. “When I say that to Federan or Halidan they say ‘no’.”
“There are some differences between elves and mortals. Perhaps our eyes are different. Besides, I have seen that odd change to the light many times in my life but never have I done anything with it.”
“Next time you see it try and pick it up. I did.” Silva looked at the floor. “But not now. It is too early in the day. You have to wait until there is a strong difference between light and dark. Straight lines. Shadows.”
“I shall call again one evening for instruction.” IOnia moved the shears smoothly over Silva’s head. “I am trying for an even length so in some areas I am leaving a small knot. It may be that you can tease those knots out and I can come again and trim you evenly.”
“That is well.”
“If that is the case, then I am done.Do you wish to see?”
“No,” said Silva, seizing her borrowed scarf from a table and wrapping it about her head. “Later is soon enough. If you can leave this book so I might copy the illustrations as well?”
“Tomorrow is soon enough, Master Silva,” Ionia swept the hair cuttings up in her hands and deposited them in the nearest fire. Silva crinkled her nose at the smell. With a nod Ionia gathered the rest of her equipment and vanished.
Silva found pen and a blank plain book in a chest of drawers. There was no luxury denied the High King’s guests, it seemed. Dark ink. Good paper were easily to hand. It was the work of two hours, while the daylight grew dim and the noises from the window died away, to copy out the pages. She was considering drawing light from the nearby brazier to her hand to light her work when she turned the page and found the next section was the treatment of certain birthing related wounds and closed the book with a disgusted noise.
She glanced about, surprised to realize how much time had passed, then looked toward a neat water-clock and laughed at herself. A distant memory of her school days reminded her, this far north, at this time of year, night fell earlier. Supper would not be for a few hours yet although she wasn’t certain where she was supposed to go to find food. Her meals thus far were served in her rooms while she recovered from exhaustion.
Rising she went to the door and stopped. There, above her head, a chain of flowers began and ran around the chamber. She hadn’t noticed before but again there was the remnants of Light Magic.
She bit her lip as she stared. How old was this House? The High King himself seemed uncertain. When they’d passed a new corridor, known to be so by the absence of Light magic decorations he had not answered when asked when the building took place. Could it be he knew so little of his House’s history or, perhaps, had he been deceived as well?
When had Light Magic been so common that it was used for simple House lights? Why had she not seen similar before? Was it only in the Houses of the High Court elves?
And what else had she sensed in that map chamber?
There was but one way to find out. The question that nagged was, did she wish to venture there alone or should she wait for Federan? For the High King or Lady Halidan?
Or, perhaps, Trevan of the True North. The way he spoke to her, of her and her abilities brought to mind that terrifying time in the training grounds when she could not believe what was happening. Standing only a short distance away from the bleeding body of a High Lord with shattered arrows underfoot, she feared her death was near. Had she not possessed Light Magic and the balcony and stairs near and ready to be used both she and Halidan would be dead.
Dead. At the hands of elves. Sentenced to death as her father threatened. Dead, as her mother feared.
She huddled against the door. Since she’d woken no one spoke a word about the event. Besides her husband, that was. He assured her that would never happen again but how could he prevent it? If the guards came? If the High King commanded? Her stomach sank and her head began to ache. She was being sent away from the land she knew and was known far to the North. Under guard. Alone. Federan was staying here. Perhaps she should take Tormin with her. If aught went awry, if someone tried to harm her, she could use Light magic to get free and then Tormin would guide her home again. In all the confusion and turmoil she could find a place to hide, to live and with so many wandering about who would question her an doubt the name she gave?
She opened the door and looked about. No one. Ducking back inside she fetched her book. She should look at that map again. Create a drawing clear enough that if she lost track of Tormin she would have some vague idea of where she was, what landmarks were important.
Or, she should stop lying to herself and admit she wanted to see what light magic lay under that stone floor.
Retracing her steps took no time at all. There were no servants hurrying about in the dim corridors. She’d summoned light to the bracelet she’d fashioned to celebrate her marriage to Federan, and smiled when she heard his voice faintly through it. She would remember that and make certain to that her explorations made no sound.
She froze inside the door, then shut it tight behind her. When they’d departed earlier the only light in the room was the sword and the web binding it to the wall. Now the whole room was lit. All the geometric designs she’d sensed and, which was astonishing, a mass of tiny pinpricks of light in the map.
Not the whole map. Her geography classes, dimly remembered, told her the shape of the Continent and yes, that was here but the lights were clustered along the west side of the Northern mountain range - half of what was True North in modern times, then they drifted down filling where now was the North West and Full West demesne and some part of valley that was now the Hub of Harmony lake. More than a third, less than a half of the continent but from the look of those southernmost two lights, there was nothing of interest in all the southern demesnes.
She hazarded a step onto the map to gain a closer look. Her weight caused no harm. Crouching down, she near crawled until she reached the northern sector. It was clear that eastern branch of the Touch of God Mountain range and the North/South River were clear of the lights. They actually began on the western side of the Touch of God range.
She ran her fingers over the lights, startled when a few thin threads rose, sticky and twisting, trying to attach to her lantern. Impatiently she pushed the light back into the stone. So, the light recognized her, or her lantern.

Monday, January 23, 2017

consequences 20

“I am grateful, High Lord.”
Trevan nodded. “Messengers will be sent in advance of your travels. We will reach out to the nomads to ask for their assistance traveling over the snow. They should have come to populated areas for the festival of Third Harvest and be more accessible than other times of year.”
“Again, gratitude.”
“The emissary I have chosen is my own nephew, my Heir, Phineian,” continued Trevan. “All who live in the North know him well. Listen to him, be guided by him and all will be well for you.”
Eioth straightened. “One of the reasons I brought you here, Master Silva is to show you the whole of the country. Our Empire is vast. You have done much to aid True South with the road and bridge that unites the South with South East. And the bridge that unites East and West at Hub of Harmony. But see, this is the vastness of the Empire. Compared to the needs facing us more, far more, is required than mere bridges and you are our only Master of Light. Turn you mind, if you can, to a stronger means of communication than the whisper-ribbons. I cannot give a ribbon to each person of the empire. Or even each mayor and alderman and yet I must speak to them all, to guide our repairs, to help our peoples.”
“Yes, High King.”
“Your unique status you should take steps to correct,” said Trevan. “You must train as many of those who travel with you as possible. High King, perhaps Masters of Fire should accompany the party. Fire is the closest Element to Light, in my mind. Those who are trained can return to us and be sent on to other tasks.”
“I tried…” began Silva.
“She tried…” said Federan, at the same time.
“You must try harder,” insisted Trevan. “What if you should die of some illness? There are no Water priests to attend you and these herb-women Lady Halidan promotes, if they were so skilled with medicine we would need fewer priests.”
Before any other could respond Lady Halidan spoke.
“There is so much in that statement that is wrong, my Lord Trevan. First and foremost is your accusation that Master Silva does not try hard enough. To have overcome so much, come so far and with no more support than one guard and a powerless elf, she is to be admired not admonished!” She stared at Trevan until he lowered his gaze. “Yes, indeed. I would like to see you accomplish anything in comparison under good circumstances let alone such privation as she endured. In the fullness of your power you could not raise a footpath let alone a bridge!”
A shrug was her only answer.
“Secondly, Water priests are lazy. The herb-women serve the majority of our citizens while Water priests cast spells each festival days and must be heavily bribed to attend those persons whose illnesses are beyond the herb-women’s abilities. Lennett is under compulsion to speak the truth in these matters. Ask him if you do not believe me.”
“I should not dream of doubting your words,” said Trevan.
Which was wise, in Silva’s opinion, given the glare being directed toward him by the High King.
“Those reasons are sufficient,” said the High King. “For now, before you depart, Master Silva, I need as many of the whisper ribbons as you can create without doing yourself harm.”
Silva nodded. “I assumed as much. I made one set as a test of my abilities as soon as I awoke. Their creation take little time and effort.”
“Thank you,” said Eioth. “I believe we have accomplished as much as can be here. Trevan, have your nephew attend upon Master Silva this afternoon to begin planning. I should prefer they depart in a few days.”
“I have preparations in hand, High King. If it were not for the scrying I would be begging leave from you to depart myself.”
“Stay, my friend. I have need of my strongest and most intelligent supporters in Synod.” But the High King looked at Federan not Trevan when he spoke.
The herb-woman, Ionia, was waiting when Federan and Silva returned to their rooms.
“Federan, would you grant me a little privacy to consult with Ionia?” said Silva. “There are matters women should speak of together.”
Federan blushed, which amused both women, and departed without another word. Ionia waited until she was certain he was not loitering outside the room.
“I would be pleased to be of assistance to you, Master Silva. Do you, perhaps, suspect you are with child?”
Silva started and stared blankly at the other woman. “I most sincerely hope not,” she cried. “With all the traveling I shall have to do for the next year or more a pregnancy would be a burden I do not need!”
“Oh? Well, I suppose you have the right of it,” said Ionia. “Permit me to first confirm that you are not with child then we shall discuss which method will best serve you to prevent. If you are traveling it might be best to give you a list of the many alternatives so you can obtain the necessary no matter where in the empire you travel.”
“I would be grateful.”
The examination was mercifully brief and it seemed to Silva that Ionia was searching for something particular at one point but eventually it was done.
“Indeed, you are not with child therefore we might safely discuss the methods you might utilize to maintain that condition.”
“Thank you.”
“But it seemed to be you were surprised by my words. Was there something else you wish to discuss with me?”
“Nothing medical,” said Silva with a smile, then raised a hand to her hair, currently covered by a scarf borrowed from Lady Halidan. Tugging the scarf off she gave a grimace as her fingers tangled in the knotted mass thus revealed. It was hard to tell the original color so long had it been that the hair had been properly maintained. “Another complication of traveling in poor conditions. My hair … I cannot get a comb to go through it. I tried last night but it is a futile undertaking. I was wondering if you had sharp shears. I would do the job myself but ..”
“Oh, dear.” Ionia tried to imagine drawing a comb through the matted, knotted mess. “If I try to cut it there will nothing left.”
“I don’t mind if it is very short. It will be easier to manage for a long journey and I cannot say that it would be a shame for me to follow the fashion set by Lady Halidan for mortal women’s fashion.”
“As you will, Master Silva.” IOnia crossed the room and pulled a book carefully wrapped in preserve shield bespelled covers and a comb and shears. “I hope you have a good memory,” she said, setting the book on a table before Silva and using the page turner to search through the pages. “The books we receive from the Water Temple are expensive and we are required to swear an oath that we shall not permit them to be copied. Each herb-woman must buy her own copy and protect it lifelong, and after she passes from life the books are returned to the Water Temple to be burned, to go with her to Unity.”
Silva paused, considered then shook her head. “You do know, I hope, that sounds utterly without merit.”
“I do know. I think it is the Water Temples intention to keep herb-women under their control. Our education comes from them at great cost, our annual permission to treat comes with a heavy fee and, to tell the truth, there are times when they abuse their authority to misuse the prettier girls who apply for training.”
“Is that not always the way?” Silva sighed and leaned forward as Ionia placed her book rest holding the page open to show a selection of plants, at various stages of leaf, bud, flower, which were available in one or another of the demesnes. “Have you told Lady Halidan?”
“I shall consider it,” said Ionia, moving to stand behind SIlva’s chair and lifting the pale hair. “If I might suggest a trade? I would close my eyes while you copied over these pages if you…”
“If I would, what? Teach you Light Magic?”
Ionia blushed. “I will understand if it is secret. If you have been told to keep it thus.”
“Not in the least. High King Eioth, himself, has directed me to try and teach as many as I can. Sadly, until this point, I have met with no success.”
Ionia hummed to herself as she worked her fingers into Silva’s hair. “Who have you tried to instruct?”
“Experienced and skilled Magicians,” said Silva. “And Lady Halidan, to see if this magic is for mortals only. None of them can understand what I am trying to say. It might be that I am a poor teacher. I discovered this myself when I was a child too young to know better. I do not remember the moment I caught light for the first time.”

Friday, January 20, 2017

consequences 19

Silva leaned closer but the sound was gone.
“Master Silva,” called Eioth. “Come, let us show you where you must go, and why.”
Silva came to her feet obediently. Federan was a shadows breath behind her while she walked around the map.
“See, Master Silva,” said the High King. “This river, which arises far to the north, further north than our people live, according to our scrying, has frozen. Frozen rivers do not freeze in a neat manner, flat and smooth. No. The older ice is pushed higher, forming huge … what is the term?”
“It is complicated, High King,” said Trevan. “There are areas with ice feet, where the ice reaches from above the surface down to the riverbed. Ice floes, coming loose from further up the river have come down and over time anchor themselves against the strongest of them while some areas of ice are shattered and driven down until they can go no further, due to more ice. Oh, it is impossible to describe the irregularities of the ice. It is more challenging than the worst mountain range. So slippery. So sharp. You can slice your hands and the strongest boots to pieces trying to cross it, and should you touch the surface with your bare skin your hands can adhere to the ice, tearing your skin from your flesh as you try to get free.”
“Do not imagine that ice is softer than stone,” continued Eioth. “It is not. And, the worst of it for your task, Master Silva, I require that whatever you build must continue to exist past ice break-up. When the spring thaw comes ice floes larger than a house will barrel down the river…”
“Carrying trees and soil and rocks with them,” broke in Trevan.
“And will strike any bridge you build. Since by that time you will be about other tasks for me the bridges must be strong enough to survive these attacks.”
Silva simply nodded, a reaction that did not please Trevan.
“Do you understand, mortal? The High King insists that your magic is all that can aid my people. You must build roads, bridges, repair houses and those repairs must last more than one day. Bear the weight of unending snow. This is not some piece of lace. This is life and death.”
“Yes, I hear you,” said Silva. “The bridge I created over Giant’s Gorge required I thrust anchor points through stone.”
“Ice can be stronger than stone, and it moves,” cried Trevan.
“There is nothing I can say to you, High Lord, that will comfort or reassure you,” said Silva, moved by a mix of compassion and frustration her voice emerged cross and hard. “Let a demonstration speak.”
So saying she reached out and pulled the light being cast by the lanterns into her hand and twisted it first into a thin thread, then rope, then a chain, then - to her audiences surprise - a longsword. Taking the sword she looked toward Eioth.
“I apologize for the damage,High King. What price would you pay to demonstrate my skills to this High Lord?”
“I would pray you not damage the map,” said Eioth, calmly folding his arms in his sleeves.
Silva nodded then crossed to the wall, she ran her hand over it and glanced over her shoulder at Trevan.
“What say you, High Lord, can the strongest sword your Elemental magic forges penetrate this stone?”
His mouth hanging open Trevan shook his head.
“Neither can mine,” said Silva, smiling. “However…”
So saying she pressed the tip against the stone, moving it left and right and permitting the light to turn back again to threads, hundreds and thousands of threads. Each thread shifted over the otherwise smooth surface seeking an imperfection. Once found, as Silva continued pressing the sword against the stone, each thread drove into the wall, leaping from one stone block to another and another until a loose web joined all the blocks. Silva released her grip and stepped back, watching as she was watched, as the web spread, interlaced, until the wall behind was no longer visible, just one solid mass of light with a hilt emerging from the center.
“Were I to continue to feed light into this, High Lord, I could make the sword as long or as thick as needed. I can direct light to go through the thinest crack, down beneath water, down to bedrock stone, and lace it together until it would take the ending of the world to shake it loose.” She smiled. “Unless you truly think it weak, in which case I invite you to call all your friends and servants together and ask them to pull that sword out of the wall.”
Shaking his head, Trevan declined. Federan, grinning all the time, climbed onto the sword hilt and bracing his hand against the wall, jumped up and down. It did not move or creak.
“Satisfied, Trevan?” inquired Eioth in a mild voice.
“As far as I can be, High King,” said Trevan.
Silva stepped forward and placed a hand on the sword preparing to remove it.
“Leave it, Master Silva,” called Eioth. “I require it to remain as proof of your abilities. When you depart I might bring doubting witnesses to this room and let them try to pull the sword free. No other means but your unique magic could put that sword into that place. I thought to leave that dome you created in my training grounds but that would displease my guards.”
“I apologize, High King,” said Silva, blushing.
“No, no, a thousand times, no. Do not apologize for preserving your life and the life of my beloved lady.” Eioth took a breath and calmed. “Always act to save life, my dear Master Silva. Things, decorations, can be replaced and I trust you can create a decoration worthy of my home at some future time. But I would ask you to sign the balcony and steps, in some discrete location. I want no future doubts that it was Light Magic that wove the stairs.”
“It would be my honor, High King.”
“Now, to be practical, Silva, direct your attention to the map. You see the path of the river. It is too turbulent in many areas to be useful for transport of goods and curves about, here and here so that a road that followed it honestly would increase the journey by hundreds of lei, therefore bridges are required. In better times there is wide, well maintained road, with bridges set so the the actual road is straight enough.”
“It isn’t shown on the map,” said Trevan rubbing his chin. “Sometime in the future this map should be updated.”
Eioth gave an absent nod.
“Those of the True North can,” continued Trevan, “in the usual winter, keep the road clear and open. This year, our scrying shows us, three of the bridges have been shifted on their foundations by the weight of the ice and cannot be used.”
Silva nodded, that at least explained Trevan’s obsession.
“Several villages have vanished under the snow,” said Trevan. “My people have techniques for survival, building of snow tunnels and such, but I have seen evidence of houses collapsing under the snow. I have no doubt many have died.”
Silva bit her tongue. Now was not the time to compete comparing deaths by drowning with deaths by freezing, suffocation and crushing.
“Your task, Master Silva,” said Eioth, “as I see it, is to repair the roads, the bridges, so that rescuers can reach the North and food and other supplies be provided. The houses you can reinforce much in the way you repaired that storehouse but only if it is not an excessive drain on your strength.”
Silva nodded.
“Above the second set of bridges - you see how far you must travel, yes? - the roads from the east and west diverge. Go a little way on each side to assess the damage. I will leave to your judgment if you must continue on. The most important task is to recreate the River Road. Do you understand?”
“Yes, High King.”
“To aid you, and to see to your safety, I shall be sending a troop of guards with you. Northerners, who will be accustomed to creating cold camps. Supplies, that are for your support, Master Silva, and I must insist, despite your compassion, not to be shared. I do not want you collapsing from hunger and cold when you have work to do. Am I rightly understood?”
“Reluctantly,” said Silva. “But I acknowledge the necessity.”
“Good. I have asked Trevan to assign a member of his entourage, someone known to the people of the North by reputation if not in person, to accompany you. You will need a guide where the roads are hidden and someone who can speak for High Lord Trevan and myself where there is conflict.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Consequences the real 18.

Silva did not trouble herself to conceal her awe at the great House of the North West demesne when she finally emerged from her exhausted sleep.
In her life she had not visited a great city - at all. Her personal ambition only months ago was to one day visit the capitol of the True South but the destruction of the weather spells put paid to that. Her wandering since that moment took her to the broken spine mountain range, the Hub of Harmony lake - now completely covering that great city and the House of the High King. She’d been stunned with fatigue and hunger when she’d entered this House and besides realizing the front steps and balcony were made of light magic took no notice of other features of the building.
Today she was well rested, warmly dressed, and not acutely hungry so permitted herself to behave as the unsophisticated country girl she was and be overwhelmed and astonished by the beauty and aged dignity of this House. The High King himself, oh, wouldn’t her friends from Twisted Rock be astonished, gave the tour, pointing out no longer functioning magical tools - lights, summoning crystals - as well as artworks created centuries ago.
Her gaping and gasping amused the High King and he was therefore not aware when her gasp of delight was replaced with an indrawn breath denoting discovery.
Halfway up a wall, where two corridors met, was the carving of a woven basket. The decoration was not out of place as there were several carvings of fruit leading toward it. Underneath, at regular intervals, were the light globes that seemed to offend the High King by their darkness.
“In better times we would have light, this far from windows,” he said, waving toward the globes. “You cannot see some of the finer points of the House in this dim light.”
“I am more accustomed to using lanterns,” said Silva, smiling at the servants who accompanied them, an oil lantern suspended from a curved stick held to light the High King’s steps. “But if it would aid you, High King…”
She took the stick from the servant, after a short wrestling match, and held it higher, close to one of the carved apples. It was not necessary for her to chant, or invoke, or cast a circle. The servants stepped back, raising hands in gestures against evil, as the apple began to glow, then the light spread from fruit to fruit, then filling the basket and after that the corridor, with light.
Eioth’s eyes widened, while Silva smiled and Federan laughed outright.
“Now you know how I felt the first time she created a light for my tent,” said Federan. “Amazing, is it not?”
“Astonishing,” said another voice.
Trevan, High Lord of the True North came down the corridor staring up at the slowly spreading chain of light. “How long will that last?”
“If someone gives light to it once a day it should last, well, until you stop,” said Silva.
“The bridges Silva created still stand,” added Federan. “A day of rain does them no harm.”
“Astonishing,” repeated Trevan.
“If you think on it,” said Silva. “These light magic constructs have lingered here for a long time, unused. The fact they have not been activated has not change them. They have not faded to dust, merely faded to dull grey with disuse.”
Trevan extended a hand, hesitantly at first then with more strength, examining the carvings. He pressed and pulled, frowning hard, then settled back on his heels.
“Very well. Let us see what else it can do, although I doubt you can do much to aid my ravaged North.”
“We shall see,” said Eioth and led them deeper into the House.
They passed one intersection and noted that the light magic chain of fruit did not continue down one corridor.
“That leads to a newer section of the House,” mused Eioth, touching the wall. “The Southern wing.”
“If you look to the history of your House, to when that section was built it might give us an indication as to when light magic ceased to be used,” said Trevan.
“Possibly,” said Eioth, but he didn’t look convinced. “Given that none of our general acquaintance know of light magic, I think, rather, that this House is older than my family’s ownership.”
Trevan gasped. Eioth ignored him. Silva stared then turned to find Federan and Halidan regarding the glowing decorations with interest.
“There are no homes I have visited in True South with these markings,” said Federan.
“I will examine the books on architecture,” said Halidan. “There are some I have seen in your library, Eioth, that comment on the history of the fashionable changes of decorations. Fruit and such have been unfashionable for some time.”
At the surprised looks on her companions faces she laughed. “There are books on very odd subjects.”
“Speak to me on this when you have reviewed them, Halidan,” said the High King, and shared a private smile with his lady.
Silva looked away. There was emotion in that look that told her more than she wished to know about their relationship, and yet it was comforting and encouraging. That an elf could love his mortal lady well enough to look upon her that way while in company boded well for her own relationship with Federan. She very carefully did not look at Federan, knowing he would smirk if she did.
“From my superficial review of one of those books,” Halidan continued, “decorations tend to be regional. This area of the North West is celebrated for its tree fruits.” She waved at the wall. “Apples, pears and such. There are orchards here that claim centuries of cultivation.”
Eioth nodded.”But this House is alleged to be a thousand years,” he said, softly and led them into a large chamber. “It had been my thought to hold the Synod gatherings in this room but as it is so far from windows and lanterns can only do so much I decided not. You can see my reason for considering it.”
He gestured toward the broad floor. The stone of the floor was a deep shining black, inset with a map of the continent. Mountain ranges, rivers and other features of landscape were marked, incised into the stone as to create the illusion of height and valleys. The rivers shimmered slightly and Silva knelt to touch the surface surprised to find that it did not feel damp.
“I am surprised,” said Federan, walking about the outer edge. “There are no marks of the compass. You would think that the demesne’s would be outlined in some manner.”
Eioth nodded. “I had not considered that in the past, only I admired the ancient artist’s work.”
“The room is unpopular with the servants,” added Eioth, nodding to where the servants stood, reluctant to go past the entrance of the chamber. “Come in. Come in. How are we to see what we are about if you hide?”
The lantern bearing servants came immediately and hovered at Eioth’s side, leaving most of the room in darkness. Silva looked about for the chain of fruit but it stopped at the door. Instead there was geometric designs inset in the walls that she knew she could bring to light but she did not. She was reluctant to light this room, although she could not say why.
Silva kept her eyes cast down, while her heart pounded. Should she speak? Should she say what she only could sense? Her gaze roamed over the map, marking in her own mind the presence of small fragments of light magic. The High King and Trevan, High Lord of the North continued to speak as they made their way to that side of the chamber, pointing at the mountain range and broad river that descended, eventually feeding into where Hub of Harmony lake now existed. This map did not show that landmark, nor the capital city, indicating to Silva the age of this carving.
“Why don’t they like this room?” inquired Federan. “It seems to me to be beautiful. What is the danger?”
Eioth raised his finger for silence and they waited. When Silva’s patience ended and she was about to ask what they were supposed to hear a faint hissing, as when snake scales moved against each other drifted through the room and away.
“The servants report this noise occurs frequently and it cannot be accounted for. That, in addition to the difficulties in lighting the chamber, you see there are no windows, that without significant magic explains it falling into disuse.”

Friday, January 13, 2017

consequences 17

“They will not let me in to see Master Silva,” announced Eioth, entering Halidan’s office as the day passed toward evening. Halidan’s only concession to the chill in the air was a shawl wrapped around her shoulders and a blanket over her lap.
“She is sleeping,” said Halidan, continuing to write.
“For how much longer?”
“Until her body recovers from her labors,” was the calm reply.
Eioth tapped his fist on the chair arm. “There is so much to do,” he muttered.
“But not all of it revolves about her.” Halidan lifted one of her lists. “I have set my guards to inquire as to artisans and craftsmen who can serve in rebuilding. Some of them will have to go with Mitash to the South East. They will know what stores and supplies are needed. You and I could not identify copper over iron, but they can.  Herb-women can identify herbs still able to be used and the correct way of packing them for transport. All manner of tasks that mortals can do.”
“None of those groups can go out without the attendance of a master level magician,” declared Eioth, rubbing his chin. “It will add legitimacy to the group and comfort those they meet.”
Halidan glared at him. “Do you mean to say that mortals cannot be commissioned to act with authority on behalf of the empire, at the orders of the High King without an elf about to claim to be their master?”
“I meant that it would be easier. Besides, if magic returns there will be a practitioner near at hand.”
“Besides  - Mortals do not occupy positions of authority within the empire - except those few in True South,” said Halidan looking up for the first time since he’d entered the chamber.
Eioth closed his eyes. “Patience, I beg you. Now is not the time to attempt such changes. If we send out emissaries, mortal emissaries, few will believe they come at my command. It is not as if I can bespell my seal at this time.”
Halidan directed a guilty glace toward her father’s papers. The spell was there, but it was a lie. All a lie. She shook her head and concentrated on the - many - tasks at hand.
“Now is exactly the time! You are sending out mortal craftsmen and women to be useful to their fellow citizens. Must you make it appear that they may only do their own special crafts at the will and direction of an elf who like as not does not know how their devices work?” Halidan let out a breath. “That makes no sense.”
Eioth scowled across the room at her.
“Besides,” continued Halidan. “I thought your supply of master  magicians were limited and their health compromised.”
“They are,” he snarled. “And it galls me that you have the right of this. Mostly,” he added, his manner calming, “The fact that elven magicians do know nothing of mortal crafts. What could they do but eat scarce food and watch? Most would not even turn their hands to lifting and carrying if that is part of the reconstruction.”
“That is the truth,” Halidan threw off her blanket and came to wrap her shawl around Eioth’s shoulders. “My dear, this is the time we need to act. If mortals come, with food and solutions to problems, they will be seen to be strong, their full contribution to the empire will be acknowledged. For the most part those in power do not see the mortals, the low court elves of being any use but now, now they are essential. Let them have ownership of their knowledge, their abilities. To send them with elven masters will lessen their power. At this moment the Synod sees them only as helpless victims needing rescue. This is the mortal moment of authority! You must let them be the strength of our empire.”
“I know that, Halidan, only I do not think this is the best time to upset the balance of authority. Only in True South are mortals given rank and responsibility.”
“And by your own words, Eioth, you prove that there has not been balance! This is the best time. Mortals are useful, strong, enduring. Or would be if you gave them the authority, responsibillity and rank! Do not weaken their contribution by giving the authority to elves.”
“I acknowledge all that as true, but I do not want ot risk that elves will ignore the help if it comes at the hand of a mortal.”
“I have no doubt that some will doubt and hold and hope for return of elemental magic until the elements themselves arrive to carry them across flood waters. Some fools will always be with us, those who learn to trust the mortals will survive.”
“We are one people.”
“We have never been one people!”
A pink stain flared on Eioth’s face. “There has been peace.”
“No, there has been silence or, there has been words, complaints and noises which has not reached your ears. Until you spoke to me, listened to me, when was the time you sought words with a mortal on any matter of consequence?”
Unable to answer that question Eioth only shook his head.
“Oh, Halidan, I wish to work with you to grant justice to the mortals but this is not the time. I do not have the resources to promote your search for legal change.”
“It is the best time. Eioth, if you are sincere in granting protections to mortals elves must acknowledge their usefulness. Their rights. Their place. Now is the time, and if not from your authority, who else?”
He did not reply.
“And if you will not, then I shall. You declared I should be regent for north west, therefore High King, while you are occupied with holding the empire intact for the return of the elements I shall keep my people alive.”
“The citizens of the North West. The citizens of the empire. All of them.”
She prepared to storm out.
“You are right!” shouted Eioth, before she reached the door. Then he lowered his voice. “I only wish it were easier.”
“Not in our lifetimes,” she said, returning to settle herself on his lap and draped her arms over his shoulders, and embraced him. “Aren’t you happy we disagree?”
Eioth shook his head while a slow smile stretched his tired face. “Sometimes I would like peace between us.”
“Certainly. Whenever you agree with me we are at peace. It is that easy.”
Eioth laughed and pulled her closer.
Halidan stiffened and resisted for an instant only. He thought her mortal. One day, if she did not confess what the herb-woman’s news, he might realize the truth on his own and then what would happen? Would he be pleased? Would he accuse her of lying?
When he made a small sound of protest at her poor spirited response to his kiss she gave a fair imitation of her usual passion. One day, one day she must tell him before he realized for himself. Then again, if there were differences between mortal women and elvish clear enough for a herb-woman to know, why would Eioth know? It was not as if he had embraced another mortal woman besides Halidan.
 That thought gave her some small comfort.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

consequences 16

“But, the fact of the matter is, they did. The archers fired!”
“Ah.” Cris nodded slowly. “My Lady, the chief guard came to us, all the guards, in the early morning ordered us into formation. He asked us, each of us, in the silence of their own hearts and with the hope of Unity, to discover if it were possible to carry out an execution order. Killing a person in defense of another, or in pursuit of a criminal, or in the performance of our duties, that is one thing, but in cold blood, before witnesses, in the bright light of day, that is a different thing entirely. Only six guards declared that, if given a order they would carry out the act and those were the ones you were brought before. They did not know, until CHandri was brought down, who they would face. And then you were brought out and, well…”
Halidan nodded slowly. “Yes, that preparation might answer.”
“But they all heard the High King speak after. They know the order was commuted.”
“Not commuted. I committed no crime. I must speak to the chief guard and have him address you all again. Eioth has confirmed before witnesses that I am not to be harmed. Today’s attack was a deception of the worst kind. Faithful servants and guards were almost tricked into committing a crime. The full synod will meet to address the perpetrator and assign his punishment. YOu should know, Germancy, the chief archivist, was the deceiver!”
Her guards gave slow nods as acknowledgment.
“But, you should know, Chandri’s punishment was authorized by Eioth and the ssynod. That was the truth. It was only someone who was offended by the idea of mortals in authority, mortals with magic, who acted to murder Master Silva and myself while Eioth was distracted.”
“If asked, are we to say that?” asked Nittel, doubt layering his voice, “that there is a mortal with magic?”
“With a very special magic,” said Halidan, knowing the way gossip worked and the importance of getting the correct story out before all manner of misinformation spread. “Not Elemental magic. Master Silva, now wife to Federan Heir of True South, has the magic to control and shape light. She has, which will be useful in coming days, built a bridge to the south of Hub of Harmony, reuniting East and West and repaired roads and houses.”
“That is good,” said Cris. “And bad. More refugees will come now they can cross the river.”
“And they shall be directed to go onwards. High King Eioth has decreed that the refugees to on to those areas of the empire least affected by the floods. To the far East and far West, and then, well, we shall direct further as the waters recede. Not the North, whih is badly burdened by snow, but South EAst, True EaSt. We of the North West can take some, but mostly we shall direct them to our southern boarders. To True West and South West.”
The men nodded.
“And speak carefully to those you meet,” continued Halidan. “The synod is laboring to reach the Elements but until they do we must do for ourselves without Their intervention and that means turning to the skills and knowledge of the lower court elves and, most importantly, to the mortal craftsmen.”
“Mortals?” repeated Cris. “That will meet with resistence.”
“Exactly so.” Halidan took her place behind her high and wide desk and opened her book of obligations, tapping the sheets with her page turner. “All these needs must be met, there is no choice. Food must be gathered, held and stored in a manner to avoid decay. Roads built, homes repaired and water cleaned. Mortals have done this with the least amount of magic for generations. I need you to go into the town, amongst the displaced people. I need you to gather the useful people. Mortals with useful training and skills. The wood cutter, the crafters, the healers. Those who build houses and those to tend farms. We need to know who can turn their hands to the essentials of rebuilding. Harvesting of metals, the reshaping of it to useful forms.”
“Smelting,” said Nittel. “ Blacksmithing. My grandda and his friends used to go to the mines and collect scraps the elves thought too small and they’d,” here his voice faltered. “I dunno the exact forms. They did something needing a lot of coal and then they’d make horse shoes and other such small things for mortal use. Took time and was hard work.”
“Exactly. Lacking Fire and Earth and Water Masters to bring forth metals we must use mortal skills.” She sighed and began counting on her fingers. “We need to speak to those that we know already, those who live  in ……. Cris, you will speak to your young lady and her father.  We must discover those who know how to keep food without preserve spells. We need crafters. With winter coming we need ideas on keeping houses warm without magic.”
“Master Silva will know some of that,” said Cris.
“Master Silva is busy, or she shall be when she recovers,”said Halidan. “For now, go to …… , go to the refugees and ask their skils, and when you find these people, test their knowledge then bring them within our walls. We must keep them well and do our best to provide what they need when the rebuilding begins.”
“As you command, lady,” said Cris. “We shall be careful. Don’t want just anyone coming within walls. Or too many.”
Halidan nodded. “There are plans to move people along soon. You might begin to speak of that as a positive action.”
Her three guards nodded slowly. Halidan could near to hear their thoughts. It would be difficult to force the desperate and homeless to move from the shadow of the High King. How would they know food and help awaited them far from his hand and voice?
No matter. This was their duty and they would accept this labor. 
No. Not all three nodded. Halidan could see Morae, the most stoic and solid of the three was standing, staring off into some distance that contained pain. Of course they were all worried and distressed by the disaster but this pain, this distraction, did not help matters.
“Morae? Morae? Is aught ill with you?” Halidan rose and took a step toward the stocky fellow. “You have an air to you that denotes trouble.”
“No, my lady. I am well.” Morae spoke slowly and shook himself before he was able to focus. “He is dead. I lived long enough to see him dead.” He gave a shuddering sigh. “Executed. Justice, at last.”
Halidan blinked. Cris Drakonan swung around and took his friend in his arms.
“Do we celebrate, friend Morae?” asked Cris, softly. “After all these years justice has been rendered and before your very eyes. Take that for your own peace.”
“Forgive me, Morae, I had forgotten for the moment,” said Halidan. “He gave the order that separated you from your parents, did he not? It was Chandir who drove you from the South East and took your name. I am so sorry for that.”
“Yes.” MOrae paused. “I shall never know what became of her, my mother. I cannot bespeak a temple to pray for her, for I do not know her name, let alone the place and manner of her passing. I .. When I pass no one will be able to speak for me. For me and for so many others.”
“I will speak for you to Unity,” said Cris. “They will welcome you. Lady Halidan will speak. She knows you by your actions. Your loyalty.”
Morae shook his head, tears standing in his eyes.
“I cannot believe that those who drove you out of the South East destroyed all the records,” said Halidan, suddenly. “Yes, yes,  I know they gathered your personal papers. That atrocity is well documented. And that is the point. We,” she waved her hand at those in the room, then again to include the world outside, “respect our personal papers too much. The very thought of that destruction is repugnant. Surely, even as they took you from your homes someone must have been making records.  Gathered the personal papers and took them to store in some achieve or another. To do otherwise is beyond my understanding. The empire is built on our records.  The Chief Archivist, himself, scolded me for abandoning Hub of Harmony and not rescuing the Archives.”
“Is that why?” began Nittel and then bit his tongue.
Morae’s head came up.
“They took our papers. Yes, Lady Halidan. Even as they asked our names, they took the papers. Struck our names across with…” Morae’s voice craaccked. “Obliterated our names, oh, mother.”
“Did they burn them?” pressed Halidan. “Destroy the pages?”
“Not that I saw.”
“It is difficult to do permanent harm to the papers. Most have preserve spells cast on them.” Halidan nodded. “Then, like as not, there are piles of papers in an archive somewhere in the South East. The Empire’s bureaucrats are predictable in that alone. When we are at leisure you should go, Morae. Investigate.” She paused and touched a finger to her lips. “Or, in fact, you should go, now.”
All three of her guards froze.
“Now?” repeated Cris. “To the South East?”
“Not this instant,” said Halidan. “I tell you this, for the moment confidentially, that Mitash will be traveling to the South EAst soon. The craftsmen and healers you will gather for me will be going with him.”
“Mortals, going to the South EAst?” cried Cris. “That will not end well.”
“Mortals and half elves are part of the Empire as are the elves,” said Halidan. “And the High King is reminding the South East of this fact, as well as sending those who will want to act on behalf of their friends and families instead of those who will consider themselves above their fellows and indifferent to their suffering. It occurs to me that Morae should go as part of the guard. I wish Mitash to have a friend, someone close to him he can trust and rely upon. You would do this service, to me, Morae? You will keep Mitash alive?”
Morae simply stared.
“I am not a fool,” continued Halidan. “No more is the High King. We know there will be those loyal to Chandri, who believed as he did, that the empire is for elves only. Those people might attempt an assassination of Mitash. They may attempt to continue Chandri’s work. We will be sending other guards, mostly of mixed blood, but I want someone to guard Mitash’s back, for the comfort of my own mind.” She smiled sadly. “And while you are there with him you might look about for the records of that sad time for the comfort of your own.”
Morae stepped to her side of the desk and knelt. 
“My life for yours, my lady,” he said and remained kneeling until she placed her hand on her head.
“I know the pain of not knowing your name is a ache in your heart. Go, my friend, and find your mother’s name.”
Morae rose and went to stand staring out of a window. No one could bring themselves to reprimand his poor manners.

Monday, January 9, 2017

consequences 15

Tor Halidan, Lady Regent of the Northwest, retreated to the place she considered her personal domain. Her place of authority and safety. She stood in the center of the High King Eioth’s personal library and glared at the piles of barely organized books. So much knowledge, so well hidden! But, even if she had access to all the available knowledge in these books it was likely that little would be useful under current circumstances.  Or, if there was, she has little time in which to search.
And now, in addition to all that was needed to aid the empire she was shifting through the layers seeking a medical text.
Was it true? Could it be true that she was elvan? No, it could not. Her father, may he rest in Unity, was the most honorable man she had known. She trusted him, loved him, lived with him for decades and to be told he was not who she believed, that she was not who she believed, was impossible. Intolerable.
Placing the book back on its pile she hurried down the private residential corridor to the chamber she shared with the High King. There, on the small personal Elemental altar lay her father’s personal papers, crushed and slightly smoke damaged, the only item she’d keep of his. The only record of his life.
She caught it up, hugging it to her chest before turning the pages. The one she sought, she needed, was not hard to find. In all honesty,Ephram re Rathnin, father of Halidan traveled little in his life according to his personal papers. His education, the Houses he’d served, all were listed within these pages and also, there was the page, a record of marriage to Trinitha tor Alaban. A female child born shortly thereafter. Halidan remembered smirking the first time she read those words as an adult and realized how soon after the marriage she had been born. She was barely legitimate. On the next page, the record of end of employment due to all the children of the that House now being of age, and oddly enough, a divorce. Trinitha, it seemed, ended her relationship with Halidan’s father on the same day he left that House. Halidan counted on her fingers.
When she’d been younger her father implied that she was young, a year, perhaps two years of age when Trinitha left them but if Halidan’s calculation was correct her father married Trinitha, Halidan was born, her father was dismissed from his employment and Trinitha left him all within the same moon. She had been days old, not years. Days. And immediately after her birth she was, he was, they were dismissed from the House.
Why had she not noticed before?
By what magic, or contrivance, had her father gained a daughter?
If Ionia was to be believed her father had taken a full blood elf child from some location and kept her for his own.  A female child. A potentially fertile female child and kept her from her family, from the knowledge of herself for the remainder of his life!
How and why and who was she?
And what did that mean?
Who would dare such a thing? Not only because high court elvan children were so rare but all elvan families valued their children. Mid court, high court, low court. Children were precious.
Well, yes, mortals valued their children as well. She should not be cruel now she might be other than what she was raised to believe she was. Mortal, elf, half elf, children were precious.
She paused running her fingers over her face, her chin.
Her hair.
She had been accused of mimicking the appearance of an elf. Had not the Matriarch hated her for her ash white hair? Her traditional beauty?
Were she to announce this change in her heritage, what would happen?
She started to pace. She would be called a liar, or worse. They would think her insane, trying to become something she was not. It was known, well known, that the High King’s lady was mortal. She was mortal. It was a scandal, certainly, that he was involved with a mortal woman but since she’d gained the rank of Lady Regent she’d been petitioned immediately by mortals seeking redress of wrongs. She, herself, petitioned the High King to settle old legal wrongs against mortals. To confirm that mortals aught not be cast out of their homes and employment when one of their number became ill. They were entitled to medicine at need and employment that suited their abilities. They… they… Halidan stopped. She! She! She counted herself as one of the mortals thus mistreated, acted for them. She was the highest ranking mortal in the history of the empire! She stood in place for her child-to-be, should the child be blessed with sufficient magic, continue as regent for the North West until the child was of age and confirmed in his - or her - authority.  She gasped, her hands clenching hard on the papers.
She was elvan! The child had a greater chance for being born with a bond to Elemental magic. Eioth would be delighted. All those who tried to direct him toward a marriage with an elvan woman could be told Haldain… Halidan… she stopped, frowning. They would say she lied. That she lied in a desperate effort to bind Eioth to her. That Ionia lied.  A mortal herb-woman? Who would believe it?
Did she believe it herself?
She huffed out a breath and put the pages down.
She could write to the House in which her father worked before this marriage, if they, in truth, were the family for whom he’d labored. Was there anything in her father’s history that was truth?
If matters were settled she could ask that the guards examine their files. Look for a reported kidnapping in the year her father acquired her.
She could look to see if the woman, Trinitha, existed. She had ignored that person, preferring to give her loyalty and love to the parent who chose to stay with her, but now she wondered. Wondered and feared. Had Trinitha existed at all?
So much she’d assumed to be true simply because of the accepted truth that personal papers could not be altered. She ran her fingers over ink that glowed faintly in the winter light. That glow, the promise of authenticity, of truth, of magic.
But now, with all in chaos, who could she ask to examine her father’s past? No one! And, more importantly, there was no advantage to revealing the truth and much to protect by hiding it.
Would the mortals of the empire trust her if she said she was not mortal?
Would Eioth, oh Eioth, what must she do there? He declared her child to be his knowing her to be mortal. Would he hold the mortal’s rights and law as close to his heart if his child did not carry that taint?
No. No. That was unjust. He wasn’t cruel, merely unaware, and having a mortal lover meant he faced the inequalities for the first time in his noble life. In this time of disaster he would tend to the mortals as well as the elvan citizens, of that she was certain and after. After. After she would decide what she must do. What she must say.
Which brought her back to the work she was supposed to be doing.
Recruiting mortal aid and knowledge.
She turned her back on her library and walked through the house to the room she had claimed as her office in her role as Regent to the North West. Her bodyguard, Cris Drackolan, Morae NoName and Nittel Dorin, awaited her.
“It is so good to see you well, Lady Halidan,” said Cris, urgently, bowing as she entered. “You know, I hope, we were endeavoring to come to you. It is the greatest pain in my heart that I was unable to stand, to protect you against the archers. It all happened so suddenly and then…”
Halidan blinked. Had it only been this morning that she was almost executed by High King Eioth’s guards? She shook her head. So much had happened that the hours were blurring together.
These three, part mortal, part elvan, were wandering masterless men when they’d met her, and though she had nothing to do with their hiring by Eioth, at the time the High Lord of the North West Demense, they considered her their lucky charm and their loyalty to her was unending. In the hidden corner’s of her heart Halidan feared her child would be as they were, with dark pink skin, muddy grey brown hair  - and no magic.  Of course, currently no one had magic, elemental magic. Eioth behaved, spoke as if he feared it would not return and with that in mind she would direct her servants.
“I know and understand, Cris. No blame is assigned to you. The last thing anyone would have expected this morning was an order to… to execute me.”
“How did this happen?” demanded Cris. “I am, we are supposed to protect you from all attacks, and if there is going to be another such, we should be prepared.”
Halidan paused then asked a question that tore at her heart.
“Was there any warning? Did you hear anything from the other guards, from the servants that they hated me?”
Cris’s face flushed dark red. “No. No! Lady Halidan you know we would not let anyone speak so of you.”
Morae shook his head. “They have been good to us, Lady Halidan, and we half-bloods are accustomed to random prejudice but in the High Lord’s, the High King’s guard we have been better treated than any other employment. If there were anger directed toward mortals, or mixed blood, we should have known of it long before it was directed toward you.”
“Besides,” added NIttel, “they all know you are with child. Bearing their beloved High Lord’s child - and they still are proud of his ascension to the throne as if they’d done the deed themselves, and they would not raise their hands against a pregnant woman, let alone the High King’s Lady.”

Friday, January 6, 2017

consequences 14

Haldian heaved a sigh, staring at the woman on the bed. “So much depends upon her recovery, Ionia. Not only for the future work she shall do but for the standing of mortals in our empire. I bless the fact she was born in the demesne of True South. Of all our High Lords Senioa is the one who is willing acknowledge ability and grant rank to a mortal.  And for one to manifest magic in her demesne, Senioa is practical. She will rejoice rather than deride. Praise, inside of hiding the fact.”
“As you say,” said Ionia, neutrally.
Halidan reached out and closed the door. “Before Federan joins us I would ask a favor of you. I am troubled since I have never known a person who was with child. Might you offer advice to me? There are some things I hesitate to speak of with Lennett and books can only provide a degree of knowledge but little comfort. And, you will understand, there are very few people with whom I might raise the subject. The risk of offense or hurt is great.”
“I understand completely, Lady Regent.” Ionia laughed and took Halidan’s hand. “In truth, even with elvan ladies the Water Priesthood does not like attending birthings. Those fragile spirited men do not like to watch suffering where they do not will to expend their energies to end it.”
Halidan snorted then her eyes narrowed. “Do you tell me so? They withhold their abilities not only from mortals at need but also from all women at their greatest need? I must inform Eioth.”
Ionia shrugged then considered. “In truth I considered women with child to be beyond their abilities and we have such medicines that aid the women but, yes, the Water Priests and Healers decline to expend magic during birthing unless the need is extreme and even then, well, one must pay a great deal for the honor. Only the highest ranked may depend upon a Water Healer to attend a birthing. But I cannot repine. It is one of the reasons that we herb-women prosper. We do not encourage their involvement. To do so would limit our own incomes.”
Halidan’s lips twisted then she nodded watching as Ionia carefully cleansed her hands.
“I must acknowledge there is some, not much, but some wisdom in that. At this time my concern is for the health of my child.”
“Then it is mine as well.”
Ionia directed Halidan to Lennett’s chair and knelt before her, taking both Halidan’s hands in her own and smiled.
“You must trust me. I am not like the Water healers who might report on your health from a mere touch. I must touch, yes, and see and feel. I hope you can endure.”
Halidan nodded and for the next few moments said nothing while Ionia’s warm and gentle hands explored. Finally the Herb-Healer rose, crossed to the other side of the chamber and washed her hands a second time. With a glance toward Silva to confirm that woman still slept Ionia returned to Halidan, her expression set and unreadable. Halidan pressed her hand to her throat.
“What is wrong? The child, is all well?”
“Be at peace,” said Ionia immediately. “The child is well. It is only, I must wonder, why do you tell people you are mortal when you are not?”
Halidan paled, staring blankly at the herb-woman. “I am mortal. I have my papers. My ancestors are mortal in all my recorded history.”
“They can be faked,” said Ionia, calmly. “It is not that hard, if the need is great and the price right.”
Halidan blinked, momentarily distracted but the other news held her mind and heart in its grip.
“I am mortal!”
“And I tell you that you are not,’ was the reply. “Truth to tell, you are full blood elf.”
Silence, except for Halidan’s slow breathing, filled the room while her mind raced and heart thudded heavily in her chest.
“This cannot be,” she said eventually. “My father was mortal. He … I know he was mortal. He died a mortal death. I! I have,” she ran her fingers over her close cropped ash white hair, then gave a weak laugh. “Oh, you have been distracted by this. It is nothing. Other mortals have pale hair.”
“Lady Halidan,” said Ionia. “I swear to you, it is not merely your appearance. Your heart rate is slower. The internal temperature of your body, lower. The presence of a particular structure within your birth canal that is absent in mortals. All of these things tell me your heritage.” She made a gesture and a slight flush touched Halidan’s high cheekbones. “Believe me, my lady, I have examined both mortals and elvan women many times and, yes, those of mixed descent as well. I know, intimately, the shape of their bodies. The way they carry and deliver their young. It is beyond denial. You are elvan. It is as well I know this now as the medications you will need in labor are different. How you came to be in the hands of a mortal man saying he was your father, I cannot speculate upon. Knowing the punishment for abduction of a high court female I wonder at it, but, the reason? The method? No. I have no idea.”
“No more do I. He. I loved him. He was wise and kind and good. Never did he harm me in any way.” Halidan gave a sad smile. “He taught me so much. To love learning, I think was his greatest gift. He taught me.” She stopped and her gaze sharpened. “He taught me all that I would need to know to live as a high court female! He knew. He must of known! Why else the formal language, the formal manners?”
“And told you nothing?”
“His death came upon him suddenly and the Household we were serving, the Matriarch ordered our belongings burned. If there was a letter, an answer, an explanation it was lost.”
“Some families take the instructions to cleanse a house after illness to extremes.”
“As I know to my pain.”
“What shall you do?” asked Ionia.
“Aside from swearing you to silence? Nothing. My need remains the same. Instruct me in anything I must do to maintain my health and protect my child. For the rest, I must think on it.”
“As you wish, my lady.”
“Will you swear?” pressed Halidan.
There was a snuffling noise from the bed and they both turned, concerned, for different reasons, that they might have been overheard. Silva slept on. She had, however, changed position and now lay curled on her side.
“Better,” said Ionia with a smile. “This is a more natural sleep. No longer fully exhausted. She should awaken soon.”
“Excellent. If I am not present summon me immediately.”
“That list is long,” said Ionia.
“No doubt. Honor Federan’s request first and foremost. Myself and the High King to follow. The others - no. They might wait upon Silva’s summoning.”
“As you direct.”
“As I direct,” said Federan, entering in time to overhear Halidan’s instructions. “Ionia, if you will, I wish to attend to my wife now. If you need refreshment or rest now will be acceptable.”
A messenger paused at the doorway.
“High King Eioth requests an update from the healers. Has Master Silva awoken?”
“No,” said Federan, “and tell him that…”
“Have a care what you say to your High King,” said Halidan, laughing. “Fear not, Federan, I shall instruct Eioth in patience. Please keep us informed of her heath and if you need aught, you need only ask.”
With that she swept all witness from the chamber and closed the door behind her.
Federan collapsed onto the bed beside his sleeping wife and caught her in his arms, pressing a kiss to her cool forehead before his whole body began to shake.
She was alive. This was the first moment since the attempted assassination they were together, alone and his closely held restraint broke as he wept against her neck. She was alive and he would give his life to see she continued to live.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

consequences 13

“How would you judge Tormin’s loyalty?” inquired Eioth, of Federan.
“To the True South? Without limit!”
“Then he is acceptable. There are ways, I think, to increase the effectiveness of the spells when they are cast by mortals.” Eioth rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “I hesitate to use them since I judge the technique dangerous but, if necessary and Tormin gives his consent, it might be done. And a ritual to bind a woman to the True South, as you, Federan, should remember can be done with any willing person.”
“But, High King, you will remember, we came from the True South in a small party. There is no female for him to be intimate with. How shallow do you think his heart? Shall he go out and select a female at random? Announce to the refugees that a woman is required for sex? What payment would you offer? Would that work for you? For me? No. We both know that the practice of sex magic requires a bond of affection. Not only to the demesne we serve but between the practitioners. Do you think him a whore to mate at your command?”
Instead of becoming distressed or angry Eioth considered the matter. “I shall inquire of my Lady Halidan. Her acquaintance within the mortal community is extensive. It may be that she can discover a suitable lady.”
“And then you will command Tormin to be intimate with her? There is no dignity in that request, as I well know.”
“I would add, High King,” broke in Mitash, “you cannot consider that the magic of two mortals together to be equal to that of an elf.”
“I do not like to use the option but as I said,” Eioth’s face grew stern. “There are ways to enhance, to augment the magic, from the sex magic text I have. Some additional information I have kept out of the texts I have distributed. Since this is mortal magic it is to be acknowledged they studied how to increase the power raised. If necessary I shall ask permission to perform this on Tormin.” He paused. “Hopefully it will not come to that.”
“And what is to prevent Tormin from spreading this knowledge?” pressed Mitash. “Returning magic fully into the hands of mortals?”
“There are spells to compel silence,” Eioth told him, with some sadness.
Federan turned away and began pacing. “I dislike, strongly, this manner of betrayal. Tormin serves from love of our land and people. To compel him, High King, I can only say it is wrong. Even asking him to do this, the request coming from you personally bears a weight of compulsion he would regret refusing. I beg you, do not do this.”
“Do you think I do not know that? That I have forgotten ethics and mortality? No. No, I have not! Now you see the reality of the burden of my rank,” said Eioth. “I must deal with those I despise, compromise my own tastes and preferences to promote the health and continuance of the empire. For this task I have dedicated my life.”
“And the mortals? When will you decide it is in the best interest of the empire that mortals not know their truth history, their true magic?”
“Who I am has not changed in essence,” cried Eitoh, as a faint pink flush stained his high cheekbones. “I will hold fast to what is moral, though I fail my own ideals time to time I return to morality always as my guide. Therefore shall the mortals know what we learn. But not now. Now, sacrifices must be made so that our empire can survive. If I were to ask this Tormin to engage in a task that risks his life you and I both know he would not hesitate. That is the man he is.”
Federan snarled some words under his breath.
“Your sympathy touches my heart,” said Eioth and Federan barked out a laugh.
“I cannot believe you wish to do this,” said Federan, sobering. “You would separate us when we are so recently married.”
“Reluctantly and only with the knowledge that I need you both to do what you do best. She, for her unique and astonishing magic, and you, for your administrative skills and flexibility of thought.” Eioth frowned, started and turned to face Mitash. “And you. I have not forgotten you, my friend. No one else bears all the skills necessary to bring the South East back to the empire!”
“I am honored to serve,” said Mitash, weakly. “And, if there is any additional information for gaining power, High King, I would beg you pass this knowledge to me. I am so weak from bearing the weight of Water on my bond to Earth that I can barely think.”
“I am hoping that the pain shall lessen as the flood waters recede.” Eioth winced and rubbed his forehead. “We all suffer, Mitash but that pain does not prevent the magic, the sex magic, from being effective. You should speak to your lover, soon and direct her to pack.”
“Which is why Tormin…” began Federan.
“Enough.” Eioth raised his hand. “When Silva awakens, when she is judged well enough by the healers, I shall speak to Master Silva and tell her of the needs of the empire. If she is the person you admire so much, if she is the person I sense she is, she shall agree with me as to the need for herself to go North and you to remain.”
“Very well,” said Federan. “But if she does not I shall not permit Silva to go anywhere without me unless it is back to True South. If you attempt to separate us against her will that is where we shall go.”
“And if she gives her consent you will not attempt to dissuade her from her duty?”
“Agreed. Additionally, if it seems to me that she needs the history of her people to survive I shall give it to her.”
Eioth nodded.
“And, her eventual reward, High King, shall be equal to her sacrifice.”
“On that you have my oath.”
Ionia tor Diath, midwife, graduate of the Drifting Leaf Water temple medicine school, knelt beside the bed where slept Master Silva, adept of the element of Light and and wondered what other surprises her life would bring her.
And was the current surprise a harbinger of good or ill events?
She lifted Master Silva’s hand almost reverentially and felt for the pulse. It was steady, reassuring. The sleep that held the magic user was exhaustion, obviously, and the slight looseness to her skin was recent starvation, shared by many in this time of disaster and completely understandable, as well as being easily treatable.
She rose gracefully and crossed the room to where a small pot simmered. A mixture of meat, herbs, vegetables was passing from solid to soup. She gave it a stir and glanced back to Silva.
“Eat some,” said a voice from a doorway. “You, also, have suffered recently and have remained here instead of going to the kitchens at the proper hour.”
Ionia turned to face Lenneth.
“Thank you, but no. I received my allotment from the kitchen when I fetched the supplies for Master Silva. It is my good luck to be useful to the Synod. So many others lack the very basics of life and I have much to be thankful for.”
“And we have to offer thanks for your dedicated education and hard work,” said another voice.
Lennett and Ionia bowed to the new arrival. Lady Halidan, her hand gracefully supporting the small swelling of her belly, smiled at them both.
“If you had not made the journey with so much of your medicine on your back those of the Synod would not be able to concentrate,” continued Halidan. “I applaud your efforts.”
Ionia inclined her head.
“And how goes matters with your patient?”
“Still she sleeps, Lady Regent,” said Lennett. “It is better so.”
“Federan might not agree,” said Halidan with a half laugh. “You make expect him to call upon you soon. When High King Eioth releases him he shall come like a storm to his wife’s side.”
“My thanks for the warning,” said Lennett.
“And for you, Healer Lennett, I bring the message that Trevan of the North seeks your advice. At least, he said as much to me after the synod session.”
“I shall attend him. Send for me if there is need, Ionia.”
Both women watched him leave.
“The truth, now,” said Halidan. “Silva. Will she recover completely?”
“From your testimony she was not injured by arrows or other weapons. I have observed no injury on her body, only the signs of heavy work, much travel and privation. Sleep and food will restore her body but the magic? That question I cannot answer.”

Monday, January 2, 2017

consequences 12

“After giving the matter thought,” said Eioth, “I have decided that Silva cannot be told the real reason she was almost murdered. Cannot be told the true history of the empire. Germancy’s information must be withheld from her. I need her cooperation, Federan. Her obedience. If we tell her of mortal children who shared her gift were murdered by the order of High Kings long dead, at the hand of the water priesthood, how can she trust us? What shall she do?”
“Do not underestimate my lady,” said Federan. “She is good and sensible. And if you swear the practice ends with you, show her a declaration you intend to make as soon as it is possible to spread the news, then she will accept your word.”
“You have high confidence in your wife. But what if this news reaches other mortals, who are like to rise in protest at this proof that generations of mortal children were murdered at the hands of elves? You can, I hope, see the inherent danger.”
Federan sighed. “Truth, my king, yes and then again, can keeping a secret of this weight do any good? There must come a time when you credit the mortals with sense and strength and admit this crime lest it become a gag the Archivists use to compel you to other outrageous acts.”
“His point is well argued, High King,” said Mitash. “Secrets are heavy chains be they secrets between friends and wifes or secrets suc as great as the fertility spell.”
“I acknowledge your arguments are valid.” Eioth continued to pace.
“That is not the only reason I credit her with good sense, although she showed wisdom by marriage to me.” Federan gave a weak smile then frowned. “I cannot agree with you, Eioth. You cannot mean to promote contention between us so soon in our marriage. No. I cannot lie to her or mislead her on a matter so important.”
“It may be necessary…” began Eioth.
“I do not want to lie to her, besides she heard the articles of execution read out just as Halidan did. She is not deaf nor without intelligence. I have read the document Germancy prepared. There is no possibility she did not understand. Her mind is quick. She will have questions, high king, and she will turn to me and to you for her full understanding and if we lie or attempt to turn her attention elsewhere that is the moment when her trust will be destroyed.”
“It is more complicated than simple honesty, Federan. At this time of need I do not wish her loyalty to be questioned.”
“You are questioning her at this moment! She must be sent out to repair roads and bridges and it cannot be that mortal magic users must be watched or threatened or regarded with suspicion else they will not act with compassion and responsibility. She must act as if she has your complete faith and that means honesty on your part as well as her own.”
“I am aware of our need for her magic. It is a desperate need at the moment. What would we have done without sex magic and light magic? We may have survived but how many more would have died?”
“Certainly, of the people of True South, of the Lowlands, the death toll is unimaginable. My own death amongst them! Once Silva’s role in the restoration of the roads and building of bridges is better known she will be respected.”
“Perhaps. And how I wish I could send that message to our people, advising them that help is coming. Giving direction to their rebuilding efforts. They leave their homes, wandering toward Hub of Harmony in the hope of finding food, shelter…”
“Magic,” added Federan.
“Yes, and magic and all I can offer them is nothing. While you have been traveling, being useful with your Master Silva, and I have barely been able to hold the Synod’s attention long enough to agree to perform the least of spells in the sex magic book. There is so much we must do and the High Lords of the Synod mutter and complain and declare that they will wait for the return of the Elements.”
“Surely they must accept the truth!”
“As I am well aware, and yet I am stymied by the reluctance of many of the High Lords to admit the reality. Each morning I witness them performing the dawn’s rising ritual, with less hope and increasing desperation and yet, to suggest they perform an additional sex magic ritual is more painful than birthing.”
“That will change after today’s lecture. After Chandri’s execution,” said Mitash. “It may have been they delayed because they believed, they hoped, that Chandri had the answer. They believed you, Federan, that Chandri was responsible for the destruction of the spells and in their secret hearts hoped he could restore all to how it had been. That is, I think, the reason they voted for his death. The fact he could not was too great a disappointment. They wanted to punish him for failing to fulfill their futile hopes.”
“If you pursue that line of thought,” continued Federan, “now is the time to press them harder on their duties. With the bridge to the east open riders can be sent, finally, to deliver instructions to the other demesnes. Direction given to turn the refugees onto better paths. Warn the outer reaches of the empire to be prepared to receive them.”
“Already done,” said Eioth. “And messengers will be sent North to try and locate those traders Halidan spoke of. The ones with the strange beasts. They will be useful.”
“So soon?” asked Mitash.
Eioth gave a thin lipped smile. “Do you doubt the efficiency of my lady Haldian?”
“For what purpose?” asked Federan. “Why the speed?”
“Trevan has the right of it. We must reach out to the people of True North. They must have roads, bridges. A path must be made for their escape south or the bearing of resources north. Your story of how you repaired that house with the sideways roof inspired me. Silva can assist reinforcing houses where the roofs are collapsing and build some sort of road as a temporary measure above the snow. None other can provide this magic. Light magic requires no special tools. No wood. No iron. No nails or cut stone. No ritual herbs or assistants. She will leave as soon as arrangements can be made to create a path to the North.”
“We!” said Federan.
“No,” said Eioth. “The unfortunate truth is I need you here. I need your support and your vote as Heir to True South. There is so much to be done and you, at least, know the truth. I must have support to hold the synod to their course!”
Federan stared, disbelieving.
“Of course I support you, but Eioth, you need us together for sex magic spells. We cannot be separated at this time.”
Eioth frowned. “For the moment, Federan, and I shall make it a command if necessary, you and she must serve the empire in the manner I direct. Later, when we are at leisure, I swear to you, I will find some way to make recompense to her. To the memory of those lost children. To the mortals. The injustice is beyond my understanding and the invasion Germancy hinted at chills my soul but I cannot deal with history now. But that is for later. For now, she must go North.”
“You will not separate us. Sex magic requires we stay together.”
“Not necessarily. I can find other solutions. When Chandri was not available to us to do magic for the South East we found a water priest from that demesne and he and his lover conducted the Sex Magic spells successfully. When Mitash is bound to serve the South East that demesne’s needs will be met.”
“Where will you find someone else bound to True South? We who were both born there, carry the soil in your bodies and blood? Who love our lands and peoples as we do? We who have already successfully completed spells at your command!”
“There is your servant, the guard Tormin,” said Eioth, with a faint smile. “Do you doubt his bond to True South?”
Federan froze and gaped. “Tormin? That is why you send for him? Tormin and who? What elvan woman of the True South is here for you to compel to mate with Tormin?”
“It need not be an elf,” Eioth smiled. “Have we not recently learned that Sex Magics origin is with the mortals?”
Federan exchanged a shocked glance with Mitash.
“But it has not been tested?” protested Federan. “How? How could we test this?”
“It could be the reason elves were given the throne,” said Mitash. “When we practice magic, any form of magic, it is more effective, longer lasting. Longer reaching.”
“We have no knowledge of this matter,” said Eioth, his lip curling to a sneer. “As the conscientious archivists have no doubt destroyed all records of the actual events.”
“The Archivists destroy documents?” cried Mitash. “No, that they would not do.”
“That they have done,” said Eioth. “They have destroyed every copy of that book you hold they put their hands to. Oh, I suggest you protect it from their sight, the sight of any magician. It is likely if anyone discovers you bear it they will burn it. Another copy will not be found easily.”
“But,” began Federan but Eioth raised his hand.
“Master Silva is too ill, too weak at this moment to conduct the morning sex magic ritual. If he is willing I shall ask your servant Tormin if he is willing to serve.”
“With whom?” protested Federan.
“You would give the knowledge of sex magic back to the mortals?” interrupted Mitash. “After all we have learned today? I thought it was your intention to limit the knowledge to the Synod so that there will not be hundreds of practitioners working at cross purposes.”