Sera arrived then to take their order for supper, and they all told her what they wanted. She left and returned quickly with their drinks and a promise to return soon with their food.
The Lady asked Tizzy to tell her what she had done to keep her out so late into the evening. Tizzy told her, most animatedly, about all that she had seen and done. She was most excited about the Angel she had spent the afternoon with and showed her Lady the trick the angel had taught her about peeling the apple. The next thing she was most excited about was the Medusa half-breed.
"An Angel, you say! I have not heard of the actual existence of an Angel being reported in many centuries. Are you sure she was an angel, Tizzy?"
"She is all white and has wings and everything! She even has a pure and true servant's heart! She had to be a real Angel! She had to be!"
Tizzy spoke so rapidly that it was very hard to understand what she said. Her voice even got squeaky with her excitement.
"Hmm, perhaps there is one left. Perhaps."
After Tizzy had settled down a little bit the gracious, sapphire coloured woman thanked Tizzy for the food and told her about the little bake shop she and Seth had found and about the delicious apple fritters they had enjoyed. Tizzy was not happy that she had missed it.
"Perhaps Tizzy, you can go in the morning, before breakfast and ask him if you can have the recipes for the fritters and the apple cider. You would love the cider, Tizzy."
"Tizzy will go and ask before my Lady wakes!"
"Now," said the Lady, "I too have gifts to share with you all and then we must discuss your compensation for joining me on my search for my little sister."
She looked over at Beldon. "To Beldon, I have already given the Axe of Great Precision. With it you will never miss your target. It will cut deeply with every strike. Should you lose it or should it be stolen, it will return itself to you."
Then she turned to Seth. "For you I found a most unique feather from a very rare bird. Tizzy it is in my hair could you get it out for me?"
Tizzy gave her an exasperated look and flew into the Living Hair. She grumbled a little as she worked quickly and carefully to extract the feather without damaging it in any way. She placed it in her Lady's hand. It was a long, fluffy-looking fiery red feather with a deep sapphire and yellow marking on it that strongly resembled any eye. She took a strand of her own hair and tied both ends of it to the end of the feather, forming a necklace of the thing.
Seth watched as Tizzy dove into The Lady's hair and started pulling out what looked like a peacock feather, but the colors were all wrong. This one was a long, fluffy looking fiery red feather with a deep sapphire and yellow marking on it that strongly resembled any eye.
"Thank you M`lady but you did not have to buy anything for me." Seth watched as she took a bit of her living hair and made a necklace.
"Thank you, Tizzy." She turned back to Seth, "This is a feather from the tail of a phoenix that has been cross bred with a peacock. Keep it on your person. It will enable you to 'float' down from high places."
"Thank you M`lady. I will carry it close to my heart. I have not had the chance to leap from anything tall," and he added, "yet. But If I do, I will know that I will be safe. Thanks to your gift."
Taking the feather and the living strand of hair, he puled them over his head and tucked the feather under his shirt. He felt a strange tingling when the feather touched his skin, but it passed.
"It tickles," and he looked over at Amarantha and gave her a soft smile.
"Good Major, for you I have this gift." She reached into her sleeve and brought out the strange egg she had there and handed it to him. It was a small egg. It was hard and solid yet clear. It looked like a diamond with something inside it. Inside the egg was the fetus of a rare bird called the Ginxo. The fetus had died quite naturally in it's egg.
"Keep it in your pocket. It will give you the ability to see with perfect clarity in any circumstance when held in your hand and caressed softly."
The Major hefts the small egg, allowing a small smile to register on his impassive face.
"M'lady, I am in your debt..." he says slowly, his cheeks coloring. "In the Southern Kingdom, M'lady... I cannot accept a gift without returning something for it... sadly, I have not the, ah, monetary resources to purchase something of like value... a Major in the cavalry makes... surprisingly little in terms of coin."
The Major laughed nervously, acutely aware of his own relative poverty. "I hope you will accept this..." The Major's hand came out of his jacket pocket, holding a tiny gold locket. It is certainly not anything that would draw high value from a jeweler. It is, rather, something of a cheap lover's trinket.
"I hope this finds some value to you... t'was my wife's... I gave it to her on a walk by the River in our town... I... I took it back when she passed on..."
Drawing himself back from the emotions he views as signs of weakness, the Major instantly regains his composure, "I hope you will accept it, along with my greatest apologies for it's poor quality."
"Good Cali, you are a most unusual friend. For you are unlike any I have ever before encountered. You I give the gift of serenity." She removed from her sleeve the pendant she had made and held it out to him. It was made of her own hair, woven intricately into itself. The pattern looked something like a vine intertwined with itself; there were even little tufts that resemble leaves. A small, flat, rounded sapphire had been placed in it over both ends of the woven hair and fused to the hair. It was as though the ends of the hair had grown into and along the gemstone, rooting itself firmly and permanently to it.
"Wear this and it will enable you to be calm when your anger escapes you."
Cali was again slowly sipping the golden liquid from the small glass, standing in the background not getting in anyone's way. When The Lady addressed him he took a step forward, and for the moment enjoyed the attention that was on him.
He took the pendant with his claw from the beautiful white hand, and in that instant realized that this moment was charged with emotion. He was completely unsure how to react appropriately, but at least he did know that this was not the time for grabbing the spotlight.
"Thank You My Lady, I am sure that I will make great use of this, but at the same time I hope that some day I will not need any kind of an aid such as this to help me." With that he took a step back again and blended out of the spotlight.
When all the gifts had been given to their intendents she looked them all over with a contemplative expression on her face. Then she looked at the palm of her hand and seemed to study it for a few moments, as though she would find an answer there that she needed. Finally she looked up at them.
"I would like to discuss over our meal how you would each like to be compensated for your assisting me in my quest. I cannot promise to give you exactly what it is you may desire but I will do the best that I can. I am not yet familiar with the workings of this world and do not know what is considered fair compensation and what is inappropriate.
Please, I ask that each of you share with me now what you feel would be the best form of compensation for your help."
The Major smiles a little, stroking his chin thoughtfully. "I'll take a kiss from each of the ladies upon the completion of our task. No further payment will be necessary?" Grinning a little, he glances at the females. "Acceptable?"
She looked over at the Major and raised a slender white eyebrow. "As I said, Major, I can not promise exactly what you ask for, and I may not answer for Amarantha. Please understand... I will not in any way compromise myself or surrender my virtue. You would be wise to weigh more carefully and thoughtfully the words you use when addressing a lady, or ladies."
She listened in on the group's two most austere personalities who both seemed hell bent on outdoing one another in acts benevolence. Finally stale mated, the Major asks that his compensation be 'a kiss from the ladies'. Her immediate reaction was to stifle a peal of laughter that was just begging to be let loose. He just had to be joking, right? Instead, she smiled slightly and cast a side long look at the stoic Major. "My, my aren?t we the hopeful fool tonight," she wryly commented.
The Major nods, humbled, but with a sheepish smile spread on his face. His martial air seems to have faded slightly as the night wears on... There are two ways soldiers behave: one is the strict, uncompromising air which seems to occupy almost all of the Major. And the second is that familiar, campfire friendship that makes soldiers willing to die for one another. The Major, upon realizing he may have slipped too far into that second sense with the group, nods again, more seriously.
"My apologies, M'lady. As the night wears on, my tongue becomes looser. I meant no slight to your honor. Perhaps I should retire before I begin to speak foolishly again." The Major's face seems to regress in time as he realizes this: he becomes again the soldier. His smile disappears, his posture straightens, and his eyes harden visibly. Perhaps The Lady prefers him to remain so...
"I'm not after a reward," she shrugged. "This whole 'go get the kid' thing looks like it could be interesting. Besides that, Fate brought us all together for a reason, and I'm not silly enough to go against that."
That wasn't the whole truth, but Amarantha wasn't about to let that little fact be all known. It's bad enough that one, albeit inanimate, member of the group knew her little secret.
The truth was, the binding powers of the Bottle made Amarantha feel compelled to follow the Lady, and side with her. That was its basic nature. A High Djinniyeh cannot be made to do anything she didn't want to. If the Master of Mistress tries that, it is taken as an affront. High Djinniyeh will always strive towards whatever cause their Master or Mistress has, assisting where ever possible. The High Djinn are highly prized Advisors and Court Mages, because they are so trustworthy. Even the Djinn's own ulterior motives are likely to ultimately compliment that of the Master or Mistress of their Talisman, no matter what their opinion of their owner.
"Verily, Ma'am, the beautiful axe you gave me is more than enough payment. I have reasons of my own to be traveling around, and you fine folks seem like very good companions."
Beldon thought to himself, *And perhaps when this quest is over, they wouldn't mind helping me with a mini-quest of my own...*
He then ordered another ale and leaned back in his chair, content.
"Dear Lady, I do not believe that anyone in this group is doing this for material gain, I certainly am not. All I want is to accompany all of you on this quest, and from that learn and gain some experiences. Perhaps at some point in the future I might ask for a favour; I do not know what it will be, and you will be in no way obliged to grant it. But if you feel the need to compensate me somehow, then you might grant me that favour." Cali looked around at rest of the group, and did not find any glances of disapproval. With that he took another sip from his little glass, and let the rest of the conversation continue.
Seth looked around the table before he spoke. Everyone else was too busy thinking to hear him clear his throat. When they all looked his way he leaned back in his chair and started speaking slowly and with great difficulty.
"Well... ah... You see," he took in a deep breath and closed his eyes. Then he tried again.
"Well, first I would like to thank The Lady for everything she has offered us. I am almost like her. I too am a bit new to this world, though I have lived here all my life. What I mean is that I was raised by the Fye. Everything is still a bit new to me." He reached back and took Selina off his shoulder and placed her on the table.
"Since I have left the Fye, the only friend I have had has been her. I never stopped long enough to make real friends. But now...", and he took in another breath and looked down.
"But now Seth has found something more than friendship." Selina spoke out loud to the group. "He has found a family. Being raised by the Fye has always been hard for him. He never really fit into the scheme of things. You might say he outgrew his family. This is why the Old Tree has sent him out to look the world over. To find a place where he might fit in. He has found these things in all of you."
A faint glow started to flow around the Major from her eyes. "Major, he has found in you what one might call a power figure. The way you carry yourself, your manners, and your power of authority.All are great qualities in what I would call a Father figure."
She next turned to The Lady. "You M`lady would be what I might call a Mother figure. Your caring, warm heart and soul has showed Seth something that he has missed since he was small. Your smile and your soft voice carried a lot of weight with him. He would and is willing to die for you, as well as the others." She waited for a response.
"His only compensation is that if anything were to happen to him, saying he was killed, he wishes to be buried under the Old Tree. I will go to Cali if he would have me. The feather that you so gracefully gave him would go to Beldon if that is possible. The coins and his back pack would go to the Major. He has something special for Amarantha. But that will come in time."
Then she turned to Beldon and Cali. "You both are very special to him. More than you both know. He thinks of the both of you as brothers that he never had but always wanted. Your good nature and your laughter makes his heart swell up with pride. Myself, if you would excuse my demeanor, I would have thought that Seth would think of Cali as a pet. But as you now know I was wrong. Forgive me Cali, I mean no harm to your being. Please forgive my mistake."
At long last she came to Amarantha. The glow became brighter around her. "Amarantha. Here is where I know I should be quiet but since I have told the others what Seth cannot, I might just as well tell you how he feels about you."
The glow faded when Seth reached for Selina and closed his hand around her. A few tears were seen falling from his eyes. "Forgive her. And Me. I am sorry if she has placed anyone at ill ease. She forgets that not everyone wishes to hear or feel what others are thinking. Please excuse me."
Seth stood up and placed the bow around his shoulder. With a soft voice he said to one and all:"Forgive me. Please.I need some time...alone ..."
He looked over at Amarantha and mouthed: "I'm sorry," and he started to head upstairs ...........
The Lady watched Seth's face discretely as Selina spoke, wondering how much Seth would allow her to say. The Lady was not at all surprised that Selina was silenced when she was. She raised a single slender eyebrow as she watched Seth walk away, giving no comment, nor,indeed, any indication that she had a comment on the subject. Instead she shed a single tear for him.It glowed iridescent on her cheek for a brief moment before lifting off and floating towards him. It mingled itself with his own tear and together they dissipated into his skin.