Checking to make sure everyone was there before leaving, Seth counted heads.
"Hold on! One's missing!" Checking once again, he saw that the young man in the tin armor was no longer there.
"Excuse me? Everyone? Has anyone seen Blaine? The young man from Kindar? "
Everyone looked around, and shook their heads. Rose shrugged her shoulders and asked, "Who's that?"
"You never had the chance to meet him Rose. He was at the table when I first entered the Inn, sitting with Beldon and The Lady. I really didn't get the chance to talk to him to much. He was kinda shy. But I did see him last night heading towards the stables. But he never came back. Or at least I didn't see him come back. He knew we were heading out this morning. I told him that before I went up to bed. He might have changed his mind about coming."
"Perhaps we are not going the same way as he is. Did he say anything to anyone else?" She looked around and everyone shook their heads once more.
"Well?? I can leave word with Sera. When or if he decides to follow us he will know where we are heading."
Getting a nod From Seth, she ran back in and left word with Sera and Hugh. Running back out, she mounted Starr and waited for the Seth to lead the way.
Upon declaring them ready to begin the journey, reaching out a hand to grab the saddlehorn, she gracefully and expertly lifted herself onto her mare's back. She had urged her into a full gallop almost before she was even fully seated. She headed off in an Easterly direction, only to be called back by Seth. True to her personal flaw, she had headed in the wrong direction. She was not ashamed to admit that she had no sense of physical direction whatsoever. The others would also soon learn that this pallid and genteel woman had no sense of time either. Time had never been of any matter to her before and it was going to be a great adjustment to have to gain some sense of it's constant passing.
Once headed in the right direction, they traveled at an easy lope for the better part of an hour before stopping to let the horses relax and catch their breath. She moved her mount to walk beside Cali.
"I have concerns, good Cali, as to the nature of our travels once we reach this great body of water Seth has spoken of. I would ask a great favor of you. I ask if you might be willing to travel ahead on your great and powerful wings and find this ship and it's captain: The very one of whom Seth has mentioned. I ask that you would procure for us safe passage across this great water to the shores where it is believed Aellora D'Annelle has been taken. Will you give the captain this sapphire to ensure that he is awaiting our arrival?"
She then reached again into her sleeve and took out another large sapphire and handed it to Cali. He took it from her and promised to meet her request.
"I place my every faith in you, Cali"
"I know I have not been much fun during the social occasions that our group has had..." He saw the expression on The Lady's face that his reply provoked. "I mean... well if I..."
He took a deep breath, and tried again. "I realize that you are not throwing me out of the group... what I am trying to say is: I think I agree with you. This will probably be the best use of my, shall we say, available resources."
Cali turned to the others. "I am going to go ahead of the group to arrange passage across the sea. I am sure all of you will be safe even without me. I will see you all in about a couple of weeks... unless of course you guys happen to come upon another Market," he laughed slightly uneasily, unsure if his light humor would be taken as such.
After Cali lifted off into the air a shrill sound was heard coming from the Lady's hair and Tizzy literally blasted out once again. She bolted straight upwards in the direction that he had taken.
"Cali! Cali Friend! Wait for Tizzy! Tizzy has to talk! Please wait for Tizzy!" She caught up with him in a matter of seconds; he didn't even have the time to respond to her cry before she was fluttering anxiously in front of him.
"Tizzy almost missed chance to thank friend of stone! Tizzy wants to thank friend for helping to protect her Lady from nasty mortal this just past Moon. Tizzy is glad that Cali proves to be such good and true friend to her Lady. Tizzy wants to give Gift of Thanks to friend of stone for helping."
She floated closer to him until she was near enough to gently kiss his cold, stone lips. As she kissed him he felt a sharp shiver of excitement pass through his body, spreading from his lips, up to the very tip of his scalp. Then, moving in a downward sweep, it reached the tips of his fingers and toes, even to the very tip of his cold, stone tail and wings. When the tingling had touched the very last fiber of his being he looked down at his hands and saw with astonishment that they appeared to be made of flesh, warm and soft and yielding. Then he was plunging wingless and helplessly to the ground. It was over in a heartbeat. He was again made of stone and his wings once again carried up skyward. The shivering sensation had passed, save for some small feeling of it that clung faintly in the recesses of his mind, like a distant and near-forgotten memory or dream. Cali was not even really sure if it had happened at all. Tizzy fluttered in front of him and the kiss was ended. She smiled warmly at him and squealed with delight.
"Oooooh! Cali is good kisser! Tizzy might kiss Cali again sometime just for fun! This kiss gives Cali very special Gift. This kiss will let Cali be truly Human one time only for seven Moons by seven Moons. When gift is spent it will pass away into Wind and Cali will be friend of stone again. Tizzy knows Cali will use Gift of Thanks well!"
With that she darted back to her other companions and plucked gently but mischievously at one of Mysty's feathers and sang merrily as she darted into the trees: "catch me, catch me, if you can! Come on now, come on now, catch me!"
Cali did not know what to say. ~Good kisser, bah!~, he thought to himself. He tried to find Tizzy, but she was already dizzily darting in between trees. He took one last look at his companions, turned and flew away ...
Beldon sadly watched as their newfound friend flew off. He waved, and soon smiled because he knew that they would see Cali again.
He started blushing fiercely again, when he glanced at Rose and thought of his little "incident" earlier. He looked at the ground until his face began to cool down a bit.
After they had traveled down the road, she watched the one called Cali and the Lady talking. Cali soon said his good-byes, flew up and headed out.
"Darn shame he has to go so soon. I was hoping to get to know him a little better. Oh well. I still have Beldon and Seth to 'play' with."
::We do not have time to be 'Playing'. We have lost a good man.... I mean gargoyle. He will be missed on this trip!::
"Yes, I guess you're right. He will be missed. He was kinda cute too."
Rose watched Tizzy as she shot out of the Lady's hair, flew up and gave Cali a kiss.
"Lucky Fye! She gets to kiss him. Why didn't I think of that before he left?"
::If only you had wings, you could... Hey!! Watch it there Tizzy!::
Misty ducked as Tizzy buzzed her. She spun her head around and watched as Tizzy started teasing her.
::Oh this is great! The small Fye wishes to play tag! Now I can have some fun!::
"Misty! Behave yourself! No tricks and try not to get into any trouble."
Mysty rose up off Rose's shoulder and started chasing Tizzy around everyone's heads.
"Oh brother! I hope Tizzy knows what's she's getting herself into." Shaking her head, she turned Starr and followed the rest.
::It's good to get out of town. It felt like we had been here forever.:: Starr shook his massive head and trotted up to one of the Mares.
::Care for some company? I promise I won't bite!::
"Oh brother! You're as bad as Mysty!" She kicked up and tried to pull him away from Beldon's horse, but he held his ground. With a deep sigh, she laughed and leaned forward. She patted his large neck. Whispering in his ear, she said, "Enjoy yourself old friend. But remember what Mysty said about the Mares. They are special."
Turning towards Beldon, she smiled and asked, "And what brought you to this little group?" She tried not to blush, but she did anyway. There was something about him that made her stomach tie up in knots.
"That's never happened before...", she thought.
Beldon turned to look at Rose, and was struck by how pretty she looked in riding clothes. He noticed her blush a little, and he smiled and blushed in return.
"Well, Rose, you might say that I am a bit lost, and I am trying to find my way again."
Realizing that he was being cryptic, he sighed and went on.
"I have few memories of my life. I definitely know who I am, I just don't know where I came from or where my family is. I have memories of my family when I was a child, but the older I got, the fuzzier my memories became. One day I suddenly found myself wandering in a strange land, with no recollection of how I got there."
He smiled sadly. "I've been wandering ever since, figuring that one day my luck would win out and I would find my family."
His eyes grew happier and he chuckled. "But if not, I'll be fine. I still have myself and my new friends, and I think things will work out in the end."
Calling the Lady back, after she started to head the wrong way, he pointed the out direction that they needed to go. Looking back as they crossed under the city's gates, he noticed the Major bringing up the rear. Seth watched as the Major took in everything. His sharp eyes checking every man, woman and child. Nothing was going to get by him.
Taking the lead, he headed out of town and started to follow the same path that the caravan had taken. It was the only way he knew to get back to the ocean. Reaching back, he made sure that the maps were in place and within easy reach.
Seth smiled and tried to find a soft spot in the saddle, to no avail.
"I hope this thing gets softer as we ride. I don't know if I can handle this bouncing up and down for too long."
The Black shook her head and looked back at him.
::Young one. What will you do when we start running. Our gait has been an easy one so far, just a lope. This thing on my back will not get any softer, but if you watch the others closely, you will see how they ride. Try to relax a bit. You're too stiff.::
"Stiff? I am not stiff? I'm just a little unsure about all this. I think this is worse than riding in that big boat. If it wasn't for the captain giving me that foul liquid I would still be feeding the fish!"
Seth felt his stomach roll and he wished he had some more of the captain's cure.
The town soon disappeared from behind them and the trail spread out in front of him. The forest sprung up all around, and once again Seth felt at home. A soft, warm wind blew leaves around and some of the trees were looking bare. Fall was here and winter was soon to follow. He looked up at the morning's sky and took notice of a flock of geese heading south.
"Winter will be here soon. I would say it will start to cool down in a few weeks. We should be OK until then. Let's hope the others brought something warm to wear." Seth laughed at the thought of Amarantha wearing something that would cover all her skin. Looking back to the group, he calls out, "The journey is a long one, and we have a fair way to go. There are camp sites up ahead that we can stop at. I have a few marked out on my maps that have fresh grass for the horses and water for us. Some are off the beaten path, well hidden from view, but the ones I saw were safe. There will be plenty of firewood and fresh game if anyone gets hungry. Just call out when you are tired of riding and we will rest."
He was hoping that someone would say something soon. It was still early in the day, but it felt like they had been riding for weeks. Reaching into his back pack, he pulled out a map and starts to study it.
"We are here... ", Seth pointed at his map, "... and the closest site is way down here. It looks like we should be there by dusk."
The Lady called a halt to things and they took a short rest. Seth watched as the lady called Cali over and started talking to him. Soon he turned and said his good-byes. Seth stood by the Black, away from the others and watched and waited.
Seth watched Cali unfold his wings and head out to see the Captain. He called up, "His bark is worse than his bite!", but he wasn't sure if Cali heard him or not. He knew the Captain would not be afraid of him once he knew that Cali was a friend.
"I would like to see the look on the captain's face when Cali drops in on him. That would be a sight to see!" Seth could almost picture the Captain pulling his eye patch up, just to get a better look at Cali.
Looking back up into the morning's light, he sent a little prayer out to Cali.
"May the God of the Four Winds carry you safely in her arms. May the sun shine down on your back to keep you warm. May your journey be short and without danger. Let the forest feed you and my friends guide you on your way. Come back to us!! And soon! You will be missed old friend. Go in peace."
He saw Cali receive a kiss from Tizzy and he started to laugh. "I wonder how he felt about that? I think I will ask him when he gets back!"
He ducked when Tizzy buzzed past him and Mysty dived after her. He tried to swat at them with the map, but missed every time.
"Don't you two ever rest?" Seth laughed and placed his map back in his bag.
Looking back, he asked the Lady, "How are you doing? Better than me I hope." He watched as she gently nudged her horse and made it step up to his. He noticed for the first time that she was sitting in the saddle sideways.
"Hey! That might work!."
Before the Black or the Lady could say anything, Seth kicked his right leg over the horses neck.
And fell out of the saddle onto the ground.
Everyone stopped and looked down. "Remind me not to do THAT again." Looking up at the Lady, Seth started to laugh. "You make it look so easy!"
Getting up and brushing the dirt from his pants, he remounts and looks back.
"What? Have you never seen anyone fall out of their saddle before? Well... You have now, so get used to it!"
Seth laughed and made the mistake of kicking his horse in the flanks.
Before he could blink he was galloping down the path. Both feet were in the air and his hands were flailing in the air. He was leaning way back and he was trying to reach up to grab the reins. He could feel the saddle smacking his back side and causing it to bruise. He could hear laughter from the others as he screamed...
"I'm going to die! Die I tell you... Die!"
Resplendent in his black uniform, modified slightly for use in the field, the Major takes up a watchful position in the rear of the column. Assuming the Lady will ride in front, he would never be so pretentious as to assume he should ride as the equal of the party's leader. It may be more beneficial, he reasons, to perform as the rearguard.
However, the Major sits up in the saddle of his white charger when Seth's horse goes careening across the earth, following a mistaken kick to her flanks. What followed was almost painful for a true horseman to watch. Seth's sheepish grasp at the reins, the clumsy flailing of his arms... hazardous!
"Ha!" shouts the Major, a short blast of his deep voice. A quick kick from his spurs sends his own horse charging across the ground, snorting and straining at the bit. The Major quickly traverses the distance to Seth, leaving swirling clouds of dust his wake.
Some men were born to be poets, others born to paint. A man's true gift is always evident in his work. The Major was born to do what he referred to as, "a man's entire duty": Pray, fight, and ride. The bright silver hilt of the saber at his side caught the sun, flashing in brilliance as the Major fairly flew over the earth.
Stretching out a white gloved hand, Major Ashbury Cooper caught the reins of Seth's wayward steed, instantly stopping the animal.
"Watch where you kick her," said the Major firmly. "If she bolts again, remove your legs from the stirrups, wrap them around her belly, and hold onto her neck."
Without a further word, the Major jerks the reins to the right and guides his panting horse back to the column, assuming his quiet place in the rear.
Amarantha covered her mouth as she watched Seth's horse go charging off.
*Do you think he knows how to stop a galloping horse?* Elite asked watching in amusement. The notion of swapping, and being Seth's mount came to mind. He would certainly be fun, although he suspected the elf wouldn't dare go near the golden alicorn even if his life depended on it. Still he could tell him that he's a smoother ride, which was true.....
*Elite, don't even bother thinking about it. I think he'd figure it out eventually, but I suspect he'd end up getting flying lessons. For some reason I don't think that would be a very good thing to allow to happen. I've heard Pain can be very debilitating,* she sent back, watching the Black and the screaming elf.
*We'd better go after them then.* Elite suggested.
Amarantha tensed herself for the sudden increase in speed and gave Elite full rein. Despite his fine build he was surprisingly fast, and easily caught up with the horse. They edged over and Amarantha doubled her grip with one hand on Elite's mane and reins, and tried to grab at the Black's bridle.
"This is harder than it looks," she thought and made another tentative attempt to grasp the horse's reins. By the third go, she had them. She indicated to Elite to slow down. The horse's eyes weren't wildly rolling back, so it was pretty obvious that the she wasn't bolting. The two horses eventually slowed down.
*His butt's bruised. Can I Heal him!* Elite sent.
*That is so sick!* she replied
*Heh heh heh. I know.*
Amarantha looked up and noticed that the Major had grabbed at the reins as well. He'd obviously grabbed them while she was leaning across to do the same. Both must have been too busy with the task at hand to notice one another. She pulled her hands from the bridle and smiled. "Hey, you beat me to it," she smiled. *Elite, why on earth didn't you say anything?* she asked, irritated.
*I didn't see him,* was the excuse.
*Oh come on! All you needed to do was run, and watch where you were going,* she sent scornfully.
*They must have come up from behind me,* Elite explained patiently.
*Even still you should have at least been aware of their approach.*
This final comment got no reply from the telepathic alicorn. Elite's eyes studied the Major for a moment. Despite the first impression of being horse's eyes, they seemed to be more than that of a mere creature. They were intense, like the gaze of a dragon or some greater being. Amarantha looked around, and gathered Elite's reins preparing to head back to the watchful position behind The Lady. But stopped when she sensed some irritated resistance from her mount and long time friend.
Elite focused his attention on Seth.
*Fye boy, I wouldn't try galloping again like that anytime too soon. At least not until you can keep your saddle and have more control over your steed. You can get yourself seriously hurt doing that,* Elite sent to Seth. *And I don't want to spend this whole journey Healing your broken bones.*
Seth felt like his whole body was in pain. As hard as he tried, he was unable to slow the Black down.
::What are you doing?::
::You were the one that kicked me into running. I am just feeling the spirit to do just that. Are you frightened?::
::You should not fear me Young One. I will not let any harm befall you. You should know that by now. I told you that your body is too stiff; that you should relax more.::
::If I ever get off you, I am going to walk the rest of the way to the ocean!:: He heard the Black laugh, then she looked back.
::Now look what you have done. The Major and the young goddess are chasing after us. You know, it has been a while since I tried to out run another rider. Let us see how well they have been trained.::
Seth felt the Black taking in a deep breath and watched as she spread out her legs, and dug into the ground faster. She was enjoying this too much. He could feel the saddle slapping against his back side, making the pain worse. His hands were white, and his fingers were pulled tightly around the reins. He never thought to pull them back. All he wanted was for this ride to be over.
He tried to look back, to see where the others were, but every time he tried, he almost fell off.
"I am not going to do that again! Once was enough!" He heard the beat of hooves and felt the Black go faster.
He saw a hand reach out for the reins and miss, then he saw another coming from the right. It was the Major's, then Amarantha's. They both pulled the reins back, slowed the Black down and stopped her.
Before Seth could even say thanks, the Major explained what to do the next time the Black bolted and then he left.
He 'heard' Elite, and was about to tell him that it was not his fault that the Black felt like a good run with him on top. He started to open his mouth, the shook his head.
::They wouldn't believe me if I told them::
::That was fun! Can we do that again? The Major and the Goddess are capable riders. And I think the winged one is cute. Did you see the way he looked at me?::
::No. I did not! I was too busy trying to stay on the saddle to watch him make eyes at you!::
::You're no fun Young One.::
The Black kicked the dirt and waited for the others to catch up before turning back and trotting along the trail.
::We should find a camp soon. It is getting towards night fall.::
::Perhaps you're right. Know any place close?::
::Yes. I know of a few good places. Some are off the beaten path. A few have water and I know of one with a hot spring. You would like the hot spring. It would relieve your sore and aching muscles.::
::Let's walk ahead and see where this place is. Think anyone would miss us now?::
::I have sent a message to the other horses. If anyone asks, they will let them know.
The black started to pick up pace once more, and before they knew it, they were out of site of the group once more.
Or so they thought.
Rose watched as Seth's horse shot ahead of the group after Seth accidentally kicked her into gear.
"Did you see the look on his face when the black sped away? I thought I was going to die."
Mysty dropped on her shoulder, all out of breath and looking tired. Her feathers had sticks and leaves stuck in them and bits of tree bark hung from her beak.
::That little Fye... is fast... I tell you. She had me... going there... for the... longest time. We went... up in the trees... through old stumps... and dead trees, not to mention.... buzzing everyone in the group. This has been... so much fun! I can not... remember the last time... I had this much fun!:: Mysty spoke in gulps, after catching yet another breath.
"You're getting too old to be chasing after Fye. You're going to miss someday and then you will wish that you could have steered clear of them. Now hold still while I take all those sticks out from between your feathers. And how did you get tree bark stuck to your beak?"
Rose pulled sticks and leaves from Mysty and waited for her to catch her breath. At last Mysty balled up and shook her whole body. Bits of pin feathers and dust flew everywhere.
"You are taking a bath once we camp. You are dirty."
::I do not bathe. I can clean my feathers with my beak like I always do. And the reason I have tree bark on my beak is because that little Fye chased me down a dead tree that was almost too small for me to pass through. I had to suck everything in just to escape. I think she forgot that I am a bit bigger than she is. She had plenty of room. And I think she pulled one of my tail feathers out too!::
"Oh, you know better than that. Tizzy would not do that. I bet you lost it in a branch or something." Rose turned Mysty around and looked at her tail. Then she started laughing.
::What's so funny?:: Mysty turned her head around and looked down. There was something written on the back of her feathers.
"Well it looks like it says "Tag! Your still It!"
::Why that dirty little...!"
"Mysty! Behave! You both were having fun. This is Tizzy's way of showing that she enjoys playing with you. It will soon fade. I promise."
::IT better!:: Mysty shook her feathers and closed her eyes.
"You're spoiled!" Rose smoothed out Mystys feathers and laughed.
::I am going to rest. Why don't you go with Seth. He is thinking about looking for a camp site. Go with him. Maybe he will stay out of trouble that way.::
"That sounds like fun. I see that the Major and the Goddess have halted his horse. Let's do that Starr. Maybe you can figure out what's so 'Special' about the mares.
::I am still looking into that. The others are not talking but I have a feeling the Black is the one to talk to. She seems to be the leader.::
Rose watched as Seth's horse started to step faster and move away from the group. Kicking Starr, she galloped ahead and caught up with Seth.
"Hey stranger. Care for some company?" Rose smiled, but didn't feel the same as she did with Beldon. "That is strange."
Her eyes lit up when Seth motioned her to follow.
"This looks like fun."
As the party snaked it's way across the broad terrain, the sun began to retreat to the west, giving the sky a brilliant touch of crimson. It was at this time that a black uniformed messenger rode towards the group, wearing the telltale Maltese Cross of the Southern Army. The Major was away from the group momentarily, searching for a suitable location for a camp. His absence was a terrible coincidence.
The messenger reined up sharply alongside the party, casting a dark eye towards the Lady in particular. Without waiting to be acknowledged, the gaunt, angry looking soldier cast his spear into the earth next to his horse.
"I am Ensign Gregory Stephanus, Royal Guard and loyal servant to her Majesty the Queen. You have in your company a Major Ashbury Cooper, who is the exclusive property of her Most Excellent Majesty. Recently, he was ordered to return to the Southland to suppress a slave rebellion. He replied that he had no intention of returning, as the mission was one of immoral butchery. He attempted to resign his commission, and then proceeded to inform her Majesty that he was now, "pledged to support the Lady in her Quest, and honor dictates remaining with her to serve and defend..."
Turning to the Lady, the soldier looks directly into her eyes, his canny and cold face frozen in a barely concealed sneer.
"You are ordered, under penalty of the death of your party and yourself, to deliver Major Ashbury Cooper to my custody, so he may be brought back to the Southland for execution. Cooperation is mandatory, and surely you do not mean to defy her Majesty Catherine?" asked Ensign Stephanus, hand on the broadsword at his side.
As the journey continued on into sunset, The Lady took pleasure in the crimson glow of the retreating sun. Her pleasure was disturbed only by the sense of an approaching anger. When she was finally able to hear the pounding of approaching hoof beats, she turned her head slightly to watch the darkly clad soldier approach her. She watched without flinching as he thrust his spear into the earth. His loathing and anger reviled her. She had seldom felt such sour emotions. He left a bitter taste in her mouth as he reminded her of Craven and the blackness in his Soul Crystal. She listened in silence to his demands and remained still for an infuriatingly long time before responding to him at all.
"Ensign Gregory Stephanus, Royal Guard and loyal servant to her Majesty the Queen, I am afraid the Major is currently unavailable to you. He may return before you are forced to retreat. If so you may place your demands before him. If you do not wish to wait you may leave now. I will not force anyone to go where they do not choose. Nor will I allow one of my Company to be taken by force."
At this point Tizzy came out of the Living Hair and began to buzz the soldier's face and head. She darted in and away more quickly than any bug the soldier had ever had the pleasure of swatting and it was impossible to make a connection with her. She wasn't attacking him, yet, just being prepared to defend her mistress if necessary.
"Tizzy please! It is most difficult to have an intelligent conversation with you buzzing around like that. Be still for just a moment. Please."
Tizzy looked at her Lady for a moment and then sat herself down quite boldly right between the ears of the soldier's horse.
Sapphire eyes gazed at him steadily for a moment, boring into his very soul, making him uncomfortable enough to squirm slightly in his saddle. She looked at the sword that rested, as yet motionless, beneath his hand. Then she looked him once more in the eye.
"Have you not been properly trained in the matters of Royal Etiquette? You are in the presence of a lady and of Royalty. You would do well to address me with greater respect than you have shown."
The Ensign struggles to contain his temper as Tizzy flits to and fro in front of his scarred face. After hearing his etiquette called into question, the soldier leans in the saddle and spits on the Earth.
"I've delivered my message. Major Cooper is the property of Her Majesty Catherine. I've got the whole thing in writing." Withdrawing a yellowed piece of parchment from his cloak, he practically shoves it against the Lady.
Par Ordre de Son Majesty Catherine , Suprême Reine du Southland, Empress de le, Seigneur du de l'est Plaines, et Consul Suprême du Loin Collines, Majeur Ashbury, ancien commandant du deuxième Léger Cheval, devrait être livré à Dyrynwyn pour exécution sur la charge de désertion et refus obéir un ordre. Son, y compris deux mille de le long du Royalle, cent et quarante huit, et Cooper sont forfeit à le. Le porteur de cette lettre est autorisé à la coopération pleine du lecteur, sous peine de la punition royale. Signé, Richard Du Lac, le Régent de Son Majesty. -Dieu Epargne la Reine-
"Now, woman, I'm going to wait right here for him to get back. If he does not return within the hour, I'll cut out your lying tongue, and feed it to my wolf pups." Spitting again, the tawny soldier glares at the party as though daring them to move.
Amarantha felt the Starsword Kyrsanthe awaken angrily and begin to hum and glow at her belt. She sensed it's feelings. It wanted to spill the fool's blood, but was cautioning her that physical aggression wouldn't be wise. Following in quick pursuit was the dagger.
*Summon me! We'll see if this man is foolish enough to incite Hubris, and condemn this precious Queen of his. You have permission of the High Council to use your Title in this matter. Let him know exactly what he is facing. If he is conceited enough to think he can take on the entire Pantheon of Gods, Goddesses, Archeotypes and Immortals, he is truly a fool.*
Amarantha touched the sigil on the blade and called out, "Lysande" Standing so that she flanked Amarantha, Death gazed sternly at the man. She stood with one arm holding the Scythe out to the side of Her, the great blade arching over Her head. Amarantha nudged Elite forward to stand beside The Lady, and allowed her Divine Aura to become very visible, emanating brightly around her. Her eyes glowed intensely as she gazed haughtily at the man.
"I am Amarantha of Ishamael, She Who is Destiny. My mother is Astartia, the Great Archmagress, and Goddess of Magic. My father is Kyros, the Unbeaten, and God of War."
"And I am Lysande, Her Aunt , Vampyr Queen, and Goddess of Death." Lysande's spoke, her voice strong, clear and resonant, her presence strongly felt.
"Major Ashbury Cooper is also the possession of the Gods, as are you and your Queen. As Destiny, my rulings in many things go over the ruling of the High Council, and this man's presence within this party serves the Higher Purpose. As Destiny, my Ruling is for him to remain with this party until its mission is carried out. This matter goes above the orders of your Queen. If you or Queen Catherine believe otherwise, you incite Hubris, Pride of the Gods. Your misconduct will then be dealt with accordingly."
"The Major is also invited to become a Knight of the Gods, a Paladin as it were. As a Paladin, he is answerable only to the Gods, and will bear the title of Sir. But the choice is his alone. The Gods accept only those who are willing to be Their Champions."
Ensign Stephanus tosses his head angrily, almost as though he is trying to bite his own ear.
"Seems a bit irrelevant, as I intend on dragging him back to Her Majesty in chains." Ensign Stephanus suddenly laugh uproariously, not a pleasant sound.
"Which one of you ladies thinks that you rival Her Majesty, anyhow? Who among you has corrupted the attention of Her Majesty's servant?"
The soldier's unfriendly stare is interrupted by the sound of hooves: The Major has returned. Curious as to why a Southern soldier is present, Ashbury kicks his horse into a snorting mass of tangled hooves.
Reining the white bay roughly, the Major sits up in the stirrups.
"Sir, you're under arrest for refusing to assist in the suppression of the Taylor Rebellion and disobeying a direct order of Her Majesty. You are to be brought back to Drynwyn for execution."
Suprisingly, the Major does not look very alarmed.
"Suppressing the Taylor Rebellion would have involved the slaughter of innocents, and that is a duty I undertake for no Queen."
"Sir, if you refuse to come with me now, I will order the assembling of the 2nd Light Horse to come and take you by force, and kill those under your protection." Stephanus smiles nastily, "Your own regiment, which I now command."
"My boys are not murderers."
The Ensign laughs again, this time rocking back in his saddle.
"Your boys? Ha! You're a relic, Cooper! All of your friends are dead! Face it, my good man, you're something of an antique. You're past your prime!"
"I'm not too old to run a beardless youth through, Ensign. Now leave, and if I ever see you near this party, I'll bury you." The Major's last words are not spoken loudly, but with a much more frightening, steely resolve.
After a moment, the Ensign spits at the feet of the Lady, collects his lance, and turns to ride away. Twisting his head over his shoulder, Stephanus calls out over the plains.
"I'll be back with the 2nd."
Appalled beyond words or expression at the vile and irreverent treatment of her beloved mistress, Tizzy made an ear splitting sound and went after the soldier, leaving that popping sound behind her. She buzzed directly in his face with a profound skill at being irritating. The sound she made rang maddeningly loudly inside his head.
"Bad Man! Bad, Bad, Bad Man. Not insult Heir to Staff so! Not good! Tizzy not like at all! Others may be happy to let Bad Man go so quick but Tizzy not so happy! Tizzy not let Bad Man go not feeling sorry for Big Mistake! Bad Soldier will sleep for whole Month! Bad Man! VeryveryveryBadMan!"
With that Tizzy zoomed up into the air and the soldier thought that maybe the pesky little bug had gone away, speaking nothingness out of frustrated anger. He realized otherwise when She came back down at him at an incredible speed, actually creating a strong breeze as she approached. She hit him with her fingertips so hard that he cried out in shock and pain as he literally flew off his mount, hitting the ground with a sickening thud. An incredible pain began to fill his head. It grew until he was certain he would explode from the pressure building up inside. He began to see a strange, eerie red glow that seemed to emanate from within his head, coming out through his eyes. Then the pain seemed to snap inside him with a sickeningly loud cracking sound and he felt as though his head had been yanked backwards and slammed against a rock on the ground. It marked the last moment of his consciousness. He wouldn't see the light again for twenty eight Moons; when he did his head would hurt and be fuzzy for several days after. Tizzy was quite certain that by the time he woke they would be long gone and floating on this Ocean that Seth had talked about.
As they made their way back from the site that they had found, Seth could not help but ask Rose a few questions.
"Have you journeyed far from your home Rose? I myself have traveled for over two years before I found myself at the Inn. And believe it or not, The lady knew I was coming! Does that sound strange to you?" Seth leaned back and flinched as his tail bone hit the saddle.
"I have been traveling for a few years now. I am searching for something that is precious to me. I have not yet been able to find it. But once I do, I will go home and set things at peace. Until then I will travel on." Rose saw Seth's face as he leaned back. "I'll bet that hurts. I wish I could do something to help you, but that's a sensitive area." She blushed a bit and smiled over to Seth.
"You're telling me! I think after this little adventure I will walk from now on." Seth received a look from the Black, and he patted her neck. "Not that I am saying there is anything wrong with riding on your back, it's just that I am not used to it." Under his breath , he said, "And I never will be!"
Rose laughed and placed a hand on Seth's shoulder. "Things will get better. I promise. Now do you think the others will like the site we found? It's a bit off the beaten track but at least it has fresh grass."
"Yes but no water. At least nothing we would want to drink. The pool I did find was next to a hot spring. The water smelled like iron and god only knows what else."
"You know those type of springs have been known to heal a sore and bruised body. They say the minerals in the water and the heat helps relax the body, causing it to heal faster. You should try it. It might help with your little problem," and she pushed Seth away.
Seth laughed. "You think so, huh? Well I would have to see you go in first before I try it. If your skin doesn't peel off and you don't bake, I will go in next." Seth blushed when he thought about taking a dip in the pool with Rose. She caught his blush and smiled.
"You know we would have to go in without any clothes on? Think you can handle that? Me seeing you in your birthday suit?"
Seth blushed a deep red. He looked up and shook his head. His voice was being choked away by the thought of seeing Rose with no clothes on.
All Rose could do was laugh. "From the look I am receiving, I must say that you have never even seen a woman's form before. At least not with no clothes on. This should be fun!"
She heard Mysty as she flew down and landed on her shoulder.
"And where have you been?" She stroked her feathers and pulled a bit of grass from her claws.
::I was hungry after playing with Tizzy. So I went to see what I could find here in this forest. The mice here are very fat. It must be all those seeds that they are eating. They were very tasty.::
"And how many did you have?" Rose scratched Mysty's belly and laughed.
::All I can tell you is that I will not be feeding for a few days. As I said, they were very fat and tasty.::
"You're spoiled. That's what's wrong with you." Rose looked over at Seth and winked. "Did you find your voice yet?"
::What did you do to the poor man now?:: Mysty yawned and burped. Rose brushed her hand in front of her face, to blow the smell of Mysty's breath away.
"Next time burp away from me. OK? And I did not do anything to Seth. We were talking about the site we found. It has a hot spring and I was telling him how the waters can help him heal faster. That's all.
::That's all? There has to be more to that story. You're holding back!:: Mysty looked over at Seth and saw him blush again.
"I was telling Rose that I would have to see her go in first before I went in. Then the thought of seeing her with no clothes on made me choke on my words."
::Choke? I would think one would be happy to see Rose without any clothes. But to choke? You are a strange one Seth Fye.::
"That's not what I meant Mysty and you know it!"
::Yes, I know, but I like to see you blush. That colour looks good on you. Oh! Did I tell you that there is someone else with the others?::
Rose stopped laughing and looked at Mysty. "WHO MYSTY? Tell us now!"
Rose took Mysty off her shoulder and held her out in front of her.
::HEY! Watch the feathers! Some Ensign came riding up to The Lady and demanded to see the Major. He said something about bringing the Major back to be hung or something::
Seth stopped the Black and looked over at Rose and Mysty. "Was he alone? Is everyone all right? The Lady? Is she well? What of Beldon and Amarantha? Are they well?"
::Everyone is fine. The Major came riding up and addressed the Ensign. Then the Ensign rode off. He yelled back about bringing the 2nd. What ever that is?"
Seth looked at Rose, and Rose looked back at Seth.
"Black. Can you get us there fast? I have heard that you can pop away. Is that true?"
The Black looked back and shook her head.:: Yes that is true young one. But I can only teleport all of us a short distance. Unless Rose's horse wishes to help me.::
::What do you mean help you? And what's this about you being able to teleport?::
::Do you not remember Mysty saying that we were special? We are more than that. We are Unicorns!::
::WHAT? You're kidding me? Right? Unicorns are a myth. A story told to children!::
"Not true Starr. You are part Unicorn. Your mother was a full blooded Unicorn. Your father was a great stallion in the king's stables. How do you think you can use mind speech?"
::I never knew. I was sold to you when I was young. I thought only you could hear my thoughts, until now!::
"We all can hear you Starr," Seth said. "I have been taught to 'listen' by the Fye. I hear the wind as it whispers the way the day will be like. The trees tell me where the best fruit grows. The animals tell me when the seasons change. Its all in the mind I guess. Will you help the Black?"
::Yes. I will do what I can to help her. She is the first to even speak to me. The others shy away from me. I will do what I can.::
::Good. Now come closer and start by thinking about the others. I will do the rest. I can get close to them, but I am not sure how close. We do not wish to scare them. I am not sure if they know about us yet.
"Beldon knows. He was there when we bought you. I think The Lady knows as well. I am not sure about the Major or Amarantha though. I guess they will find out soon enough. Ready?"
Rose brings Starr close to the black. "Ready when ever she is."
Every bit of hair stood out on Seth's body as the Black teleported them closer to the others. A bright light enveloped them and then faded.
Seth looked around and saw a strange horse standing by a body. Jumping down, he ran over and touched the mans chest.
"He's alive, but he looks like he is sleeping. There are five little marks on his face. It looks like he has been stung by a bee or something."
Mysty flew over and landed on the man's feet. She looked down and studied his clothes.
::It's the Ensign. He was the one ordering The Lady to let the Major go back with him.:: She hopped down and walked along the man's legs, up to his chest and looked closely at the man's face.
::I have seen that mark before. Tizzy has been here. She has stung him. He will not wake up for weeks. This is bad for him. The animals will have him for dinner if he stays here. The horse will be fine. She will find fresh grass and water nearby.::
Rose jumped down after she got her bearings and looked around. "The others can't be far. I will see if I can find them. See if you can find a safe place for the Ensign while I look for the others."
Grabbing Starr's reins, she started walking and following the path that the Ensign's horse had made.
"Bring them back here once you find them. Ask Tizzy how long will he be out. In the mean time I will see if I can find a safe place for him nearby."
::Make sure he is not eaten by the time he wakes up. I would hate for him to be mad at me. He was very ill tempered when he was talking to The Lady and the Major. I am surprised that The Lady didn't turn him into stone or something. Even Amarantha looked mad. That's one person I would not make mad. For that matter I would not want to make The Lady mad either!::
Seth watched as Mysty flew back and landed on Rose's shoulder. Rose turned back and called out, " I will be back with the others soon. I promise."
Seth waved her on. Reaching down, he picked up the limp figure of the Ensign and threw him over his shoulder. Looking around, he spotted a large oak tree. It's branches hung down and almost touched the ground.
"Over there! I think he will be safe until he wakes up. I will place him up in the branches of the tree. Then I will explain to the tree to hold him there and keep him safe. I only hope the tree will do it."
::No harm in asking it.:: The Black started walking over to the tree with Seth right behind her.
After explaining why the tree needed to hold the Ensign in its branches and placing him there, Seth watched as the tree folded itself around the body of the Ensign.
::No harm will befall him young one. He will be safe in my arms until he awakes. His horse will be lead to fresh water and grass. When the time comes the horse will be returned to him if that is your wish.::
"Thank you old one. I trust that you will see that he is safe."
::He will be. But he might find it difficult to understand why he is up so high in a tree. His last thoughts were that of being on his horse. The small Fye was mad at him. He is lucky to be alive. I have seen what the Fye can do.::
"So I have heard. Thank you again, Old one. May the winds and the rain make you strong."
::Go in peace young one. I will let the Older one know that you are well. He has been asking about you. I will tell him that you have found friends during your journey. May they too go in peace. I will let others know that you mean them no harm. You will find a few that still have fruit and berries on their branches, but not for much longer. Winter is coming soon. My leaves are already starting to change. Soon the north winds will blow. They will bring cold winds your way.::
"Yes, I have been told that the winds are changing. Let us hope it holds out until we meet the sea."
Seth turns and steps back into the saddle of the Black. Taking the reins, he heads her towards the same path that Rose took. Looking back, he notices the tree bringing the body of the Ensign up higher in its branches.
"He is going to have a long climb down. I hope he still remembers his childhood."
It didn't take long. Seth saw the others as they made their way towards him. He waved and smiled.
"At least they are safe. Remind me to stay closer to the group. I always seem to miss all the action!"
Rose was the first to ride up. "Well? Did the tree take him?" Mysty was asleep on Rose's shoulder.
"Yes. It took a bit, but I explained to the old oak that it was best this way. He will be safe until he wakes up. Did you ask Tizzy about the sting?"
"Yes. She said he will sleep for twenty eight Moons. She didn't say if these were full moons or not. I know one thing. She was not a happy camper. The Ensign will feel the affect of Tizzy's sting for days after he awakes."
"Good. By that time we should be on the ship. The Old Oak told me that the north winds are coming soon. We will be hitting rough seas when we get abroad the ship. I hope Cali has found the Captain and he will take us their. Did the Major say anything about another camp site?"
"I didn't ask him. Should I?" Rose started to turn back, when Seth placed a hand on her shoulder.
"No. I will ask him. He was the first to leave the others. Maybe he has found a better camp site."
Rose giggled and blushed. "I think you're afraid to take me up on my offer to go skinny dipping in the hot springs." She held a hand up to her face and tried to hide her laughter. She then looked over at Beldon and asked, "Would you like to go skinny dipping with me?" The look on Beldon's face made her laugh even harder.
Seth Blushed a deep red and kicked the Black towards the Major.
"Major? Sir? I was wondering if you found a camp site yet? Rose and I found one, but it only has a hot spring and a pool. No fresh water but a nice place off the beaten path. It does have fresh grass for the horses and plenty of dry wood for a fire though. We have water in a few skins and I have a jar from the magic shop that will hold water for some time. But I want to know if you found one better."
He looked back at Rose and blushed. In a whispered voice he said, "Rose wants me to go skinny dipping with her in the hot springs. Naked!! What should I do?"
Seth gulped hard and looked back at Rose. Then he looked back at the Major. "Tell me you found a better site? Please!!"
The Major's face hardens a little when he hears Seth implore him for advice on bathing in the nude with Rose. Darkening despite his efforts to conceal his thoughts, he kicks his horse away from Seth.
"Quit your pleasure, boy," he snaps irritably. "There's work to be done, none of which involves gawking at our leader like a piece of meat. Fine excuse for an aide-de-camp you are. Perhaps when you become a man, you'll know how to deal with women. Until then, boy, do not presume to act outside of your station."
Hardly listening to his harsh words, he drives his heels into his charger sharply, riding with cold stillness until he stops abruptly in front of the Lady.
"If I may address you, madam, in private, I have some information that you must be made aware of..."
She gave him a quiet, steady look for a brief moment; just long enough to make him feel a little uncomfortable. Then she nodded almost imperceptibly and her 'horse' turned to move a short distance from the others.
"Tizzy, to me."
She waited until Tizzy had returned to her and rested on her shoulder. She smiled at the obviousness that Tizzy did not want to be there at the moment. She had just spotted a rather large, four-winged creature and was anxious to investigate it.
"What is it that concerns you, good Major?"
She listened attentively as he spoke; hardly paying any attention to Tizzy's impatience.
When he had done and the two returned to the others Tizzy wasted no time at all before asking permission to leave.
"I have a mission for you Tizzy."
"A mission! Ooooh! What kind of mission?" she asked, forgetting completely about the dragonfly. She darted back and forth in front of her mistress while she was given her mission.
"I sense that many of the insects in this forest are of an intelligent nature. I am not able to communicate with bugs and I'm unsure if any others in out company are able. I do know, however, that being a distant relation to bugs, you are quite capable of communicating with any intelligent bug, even if that intelligence is low. I would like you to speak with as many of these insects as you can. Learn about the details of this forest, the creatures that live in and pass through it and the sustenance that it provides. I sense that that rather large, four-winged creature is highly intelligent. It would probably be the best place to start. It certainly would be more productive that the harassment you originally had in mind for the dear thing."
Tizzy was so excited she looked like she might burst. She started to glow just a little and a tinkling sound began to emit from her body. Then tiny little sprinkles, glittery and melodic, began to drizzle from her wings. It was a Wind Sprite's version of faery dust. The faery dust just managed to land right on top of Rose's head and it radiated out to cover her entire body. To Rose's surprise she began to float upward, stopping about ten feet above the ground.
Tizzy giggled and buzzed off after the strange insect calling out to Rose as she left, "Sorry! Faery dust will wear of in two faery counts!"
Before Tizzy could get very far, however, The Lady reached out a hand and grabbed firmly on what appeared to be nothing more than thin air. She pulled her closed fist back as though she had hold of a rope and Tizzy came flying back, not of her own volition. She stopped in front of The Lady.
"Tizzy, that is no way to make an apology. Now ask Rose if she wants the Dust removed."
Tizzy looked sullenly at Rose. She kicked childishly at the air.
"Does Miss Rose want Faery Dust gone or should Tizzy leave there?"
"Two... two faery counts?" She laughed and and then looked at Tizzy. "Yes, please remove the dust. For now anyway. Perhaps later, after we camp you can sprinkle me again. Then we can play tag. I always wanted to chase after Mysty like you do. Do you think The Lady would mind if you did that?"
Tizzy shrugged her tiny shoulders, "Maybe, Tizzy will ask later. For now Tizzy has mission!" She moved closer to Rose and blew air at her. It was sweet smelling, like a mixture of flowers and honey, and it was shockingly powerful. Rose's long red hair lifted up and flew straight behind her. A small streak of glitter blew out beyond her hair. When the glitter was gone Tizzy stopped blowing and Rose came to a graceless landing on the ground.
"Tizzy is sorry! It always happens that way. Tizzy hopes Miss Rose isn't too bruised. Tizzy has to go now!"
Having dealt with the Faery Dust issue, Tizzy scooted away after the strange insect before anyone else could delay her in any way. The bug had moved into the forest a so Tizzy went in after it. Within moments she was nowhere to be seen or heard.
[ Seth ]
Seth had no idea what he said wrong to the Major, but what ever it was, it made him mad.
Looking over and watching Rose float up, he shook his head, turned the Black and trotted away.
"Why was he telling me not to look at The Lady like a piece of meat? I wasn't even looking at her, I was looking over at Rose."
::I think that you have a 'thing' for The Lady. He has feelings for The lady, but it is hard for him to show it. He is not really mad at you. His emotions are getting the best of him. He will find out soon enough.::
"He thinks I have a Thing? What kind of Thing?"
::He thinks you're in love with The Lady.::
"Your kidding?" Seth started laughing and then stopped suddenly. "Am I in love with her?"
::You do not know if your in love?::
"I don't know what real love is, if that is what your asking. I have never really felt true love. Well that's not true. I loved the small Fye that cared for me.
::That is a different kind of love. Do not worry young one. You will know.::
"How will I know?"
::You will just know. You will feel it in your heart, your stomach and every fibre of your soul. In the mean time I would steer away from the Major.::
"Yes. I think it would be best to do just that. Should I have a talk with The Lady about this?"
::No! I would not do that right now. If the Major saw you two talking, he might take it the wrong way. Go see if Rose still wants to bathe in the springs. You will have to bathe sometime. You are getting a bit gamely. Perhaps you can talk Beldon and the Goddess, Amarantha into coming along. That way you will not feel so frightened. And alone.::
Seth laughed and patted the Black's neck. "You're right!! I am over twenty eight summers old. I guess it is about time to enjoy the company of a woman. But what do I say? What do I do? How should I act?"
::Just be yourself.::
Kicking the Black and feeling the pain in his back side as he is pushed back in the saddle, he strolls over to Rose and the others.
He is heard saying, "Just be yourself... Just be yourself..."
Military exterior fading as the Lady draws near, the Major watches the ground intently.
"I... well, madam, are you and Seth... well, are you and Seth?"
She looked at him with interest and curiosity. She could sense his strong discomfort and something else as well. It was an emotion she had never encountered before. She would have to delve deeper into the Major's mind to understand it.
"I beg your pardon? Are Seth and I what?"
She typed her head slightly in her usual manner and furrowed her brows slightly, "What is this powerful, unfamiliar emotion I sense from you? I have never sensed this before. May I see into your emotion, that I may learn of it's nature?"
Fearing that the Lady is asking license to read his mind, the Major shakes his head immediately.
"I'd prefer that my thoughts remain my own, my Lady, for the time being." Sighing a little, the Major picks at imaginary dust on his gloves. "You're the reason I'm on this trip, madam. Perhaps it's a foolish hope, perhaps it's masculine arrogance to be attracted to one so outside my station. I no longer have land, slaves, a commission, or any holdings to speak of. To presume that I could capture the interest of one like yourself, it... well, it's hardly feasible..." Never meeting her eyes, the Major begins to turn his horse. "With your leave, I'll go apologize to Seth."
She spoke smoothly and softly, there was no note of chiding nor offense to be detected.
"I was not asking to read your mind, good Major. I was merely inquiring about a single emotion. It is not a reading of thoughts. I would not know what your mind conceives. It is a focusing on a single emotion to gain an understanding of it. But If you wish me to defer I shall. Perhaps, before you part my company, you would deign to explain this emotion for me in your own words. I would truly care to fathom it's meaning as it is an emotion I have never known before. It is not Love; I have sensed this from many in may different forms. It is not anger; for I have know this emotion also. Yet it seems kin to both. Please... If it does not make you too uncomfortable, help me to understand what it is you feel for me. I understand the attraction you speak of. I also understand arrogance, although I sense none from you. I also know that there is no such thing as 'foolish' hope. I also know that there is something that I must make clear to you. Although you possess all the attributes that a female of my station would find most desireable developing a love relationship with you could cost me and my worls everything. Should I become tied to this world for your sake I would be unable to return to my own. Once mated I cannot leave you; only your death could allow me to leave this world without you. Should you willingly and truly chose to come with me to my world you would have to sever permanently all ties to this world. There must be nothing here that you desire."
She looked at him with a sad expression in her great sapphire eyes and reached out her slender hand to softly touch his cheek.
"It is because it is a matter of such great import that I cannot allow myself or you to become emotionally entangled at this time. Think on it, good Major, from this time until the time comes for me to return with Aelora D'Annelle. Then, if you can love me enough to leave this extraordinary world, please tell me."
Her hand dropped gracefully from his cheek to rest on her lap.
"I have never before been interested in any male... until you... Ashbury."
When she spoke his name it was spoken softly; so softly, in fact, that it could have been the whisper of a warm spring breeze. She gazed into his eyes for a moment longer before turning her horse and walking away.
The Major's face tenses as her hand brushes against it, almost as though he is willing himself into a stony wariness, afraid to let his guard drop.
Refusing to let himself watch her leave, the Major jerks the reins of his horse suddenly and spurs toward Seth, waving his hand to slow down the young man. Part of his mind was still focused on the Lady. Should he go and visit her that night? What has changed? Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, the Major pulls the horse to a stop near Seth.
"Seth... I think I owe you an apology..."
The dark figure stood there for a while. Still: Perfectly still. Unnaturally still. Like a statue, but not. Not even a silken strand of her long glossy black hairmoved: Not an inch of material from her dark velvet and satin brocade gown that swathed her pale skin, nor a muscle in the hand that grasped the fabled Scythe of Death, the weapon of office.
Long pointed ears peaked out from her head, her features both delicate and beautiful. She had been an exotic beauty among her people once. Dark hair amongst a folk who featured the palest of hair. Deep eyes where others were bright and piercing. Vibrant and full of life, she was once like Rose and Amarantha. She had wished for nothing more than to fall in love and settle down. Live a simple life. She wished for none of the grandeur that her more powerful sister had achieved.
But she had lived in a time when Vampyrs had plagued the realm, and was soon inflicted with the terrible Curse. It took over her and turned her into a being of unspeakable evil. For a long time she walked the land, laying waste to even the greatest of cities. She couldn't be stopped; couldn't be killed. The more people she cruelly murdered the more powerful she became.
In time the Gods had chosen to intervene. Death had grown weary of collecting the souls of the folk that she had chosen to slaughter, and had wished to retire. So, she was given the position. As a quirk of Deification, the Evil within her was held in check. But it had still left a mark on her.
Not so much physical, but more the memory of what she had done, who she had been.
One by one, she watched the different members of the group of people her niece had chosen to travel with. In the case of the Lady though, it was more necessity than choice. But she seemed to have come to terms with the whole thing. As Lysande's eyes focused on each, they felt a slight chill run down their backs.
Then, again, her deep indigo eyes lost their focus, as she reflected on the behavior of the bold young soldier that she assumed was presently snoozing somewhere, stung by that cute little wind sprite. Her little curse would not come into effect until he made his first kill. And then that spirit would haunt him, as well as every other life that would end because of him.
She cast that curse more for the sake of Amarantha and the other Gods, than hers. As the young Sidhe (otherwise known as High Fae) girl had cared very little about worship or the Gods, she never paid all that much attention to all the preaching in the Temples. As Queen of the Vampyrs, she'd swear at them, even threatening to dine on them. But these days, she tried to avoid being embroiled in the affairs of her now colleagues. Their petty squabbles were all such a waste of time.
Her sister's daughter at the moment was still fuming over the soldier's reaction. The Starsword was still resting in her hand, although no longer glowing brightly; just a subdued glimmer. It sensed no threat, just it's wielders own ire. It waited for Amarantha to come to her senses and return it to it's scabbard.
As her aunt stared into space like an intoxicated junkie, she couldn't help but wonder why her aunt had chosen to stand there and let that fool insult the gods the way he did. Did that moron believe that the she, the Lady, and Death had just been three crazy and deluded bar wenches or something. Elite's presence should have indicated that the situation was very much to the contrary. Furthermore, the man had threatened the Lady... hang on, wait a minute... why did that make her so angry... oh yeah, right. The bottle. Dammit!!! Dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit!! She wanted to smash the stupid thing into a million bits. She wanted to be independent. Why did she have to tag around after some silly woman like some dippy little handmaid?!? She quickly shot the Lady a foul look, and then turned to her aunt Lysande.
*Ouch!! Do you mind???* Elite protested.
*Oh, please shut up!* she snapped back. Elite chose at that point to keep silent. He knew this mood all to well. Right now she was at her most volatile.
"Lysande! Why didn't you do anything. That dolt just insulted us. He's invoked hubris upon himself and that silly cow of a Queen of his. By law of the Gods, he should have been suitably punished." she ranted.
Death calmly looked up at Amarantha.
"I have." she told her simply, "But please bear in mind that many of these mortals are skeptics. They don't believe in the Gods. And they would find it hard to believe that you are who you tell them you are. Sometimes, you will find that its better to play at being simply Princess Amarantha Ishmaela, a high djinniyeh. Something that will still invoke awe, but also be more stomachable. Many might not want to believe that you are a goddess. If you want them to believe otherwise, you will have to prove that to them beyond all doubts. You needn't worry with this group though. They know who you are. They've merely gotten used to being among gods and people of great power is all. Now, if you will excuse me. I have been called upon. There is a Soul to gather."
With that, Lysande vanished as quickly as she appeared, leaving a seething Goddess in her wake.
She was not satisfied with Lysande's reply. Not in the slightest. But she was right. Still, the reply did nothing to ease her concerns or calm her down. So, deciding that she wanted to go for a gallop, she whirled Elite around, tugging hard on the reins.
*Would you mind stopping that?! The bit's really digging in, and it hurts.* Elite reared to get Amarantha's attention. She frowned at him, and wished he would quit his complaining. She sighed.
* Okay, fine. I'll walk then.*
She began to climb down off Elite, but paused when she noticed. Seth walking in the direction of her and the others. Apparently talking to himself. This should be interesting. She continued to dismount Elite, but instead of walking off, as she had previously planned to do, she waited to see what the elf wanted.
A chill ran down Seth's back and he shook it off as a cool breeze blowing from the north.
"Just be yourself..." Seth kept repeating what the Black told him to do. He would have bumped into Elite if it hadn't been for the Major stopping him. Seth blinked once, then again. Then he looked up.
"Sorry Sir. I guess I had other things on my mind at the moment." Seth smiled and turned his face up to the Major.
"And there is no need for an apology. I understand how you feel. Or at least I think I do."
Placing his hand on the neck of the Majors horse, he looked down and shuffled his feet around.
"You see, I was raised by the Fye, as you well know. They never really showed me or told me about the emotions that I will or should be feeling. Hatred is one emotion I know too well. The emotion called love is still new to me. As is Jelousy."
Seth kicked a few rocks and looked around. "You were right to yell at me. I understand that you have feelings for The Lady. The Black has explained some of it to me. This feeling of jealousy has been known to drive men, as well as some women crazy." Seth chuckled and added, "from what I heard."
"You felt that I was having feelings for her. This made you angry. So you yelled at me. To ease your mind, I can tell you this. I do not have this feeling called 'Love' for The Lady. She is indeed a very beautiful woman, but she is not for me. She needs someone bold... Daring... Brave." Seth reached up and placed a hand on the Majors arm. He tried to pull away, but he held it tighty.
"She needs someone like you... Sir!"
Seth let go of the Major's arm and turned to walk away. He stopped and looked back and smiled.
"Go to her Major. You left her without explaining why you were mad. You need her as much as she needs you. Do not let your mind or your emotions decide your fate, when you know that your heart knows how you truely feel. Go with your heart Major. And may the Gods bless the both of you."
He watched as the Major dropped his shoulders and then his head. Kicking his horse, he moved off towards The lady.
He in turn headed towards the others. Amarantha was standing in front of Elite and she looked mad.
~Now what did I do?~ He thought. "Remember, be yourself." He mumbled and walked up to her smiling.
"Rose and I found a great camp site. It is off the beaten path, but it has a large enough clearing for everyone. It has fresh grass for the horses and plunty of fire wood. It also has a hot spring."
Seth took in a deep breath and tried not to blush to much.
Of course he failed.
"I was wondering if you would like to go skinny dipping? With Rose and me? I was thinking of asking Beldon to come along, but by the looks of him Rose has already asked him."
He heard Elite laugh. The look he recieved from Amarantha was not what he expected.
He was not sure if the smile was a happy one or one that says, "I am going to hurt you now..."
That's when he noticed that she still held the Starsword in her hand.
"Perhaps later...," and he slowly started stepping away.
After settling back into the saddle, she turned to see the Major and Seth talking. She was too far away to hear everything, but she was able to catch a few words.
~So he was telling the truth!~ She thought. She looked over at Beldon and shook her head. The poor man was still speachless.
She was about to yell down at Seth, but he was busy talking to Amarantha. Her mouth dropped when she heard him asking Amarantha if she wanted to go skinny dipping with them.
She also noticed the smile and the Starsword.
Jumping from her horse, she ran over and stood between Seth and Amarantha.
"What Seth meant was that we found a nice spring and he wishes to share the healing powers of the spring with the rest of the group. The minerals in the springs are said to work wonders for the body. I mentioned that they would be used better if we went in without alot of clothing on. I might have said that we could go skinny dipping, but I said it in jest. I did't think he would take me serious."
With a gleam in her eyes, Rose smiled at Amarantha, "Then again, it would be fun to see if Seth and Beldon can blush all the way down to their toes."
Pulling Seth away, she yelled back, "Grab Beldon and follow us. And tell the others!! It will be a blast. "
How soon those words would ring true...!
"Wait, what's going on?"
Beldon looked on in horror as Rose yanked Seth in the direction of the spring. He flinched backward when she yelled back at Amarantha to, "Grab Beldon," and his eyes were wide with fright mixed with anticipation as he stared unblinkingly at the goddess.
"Wait, perhaps we can discuss..."
The true mark of intelligence is know good advice when it is offered; whether it comes from the teacher to the student, or vice versa. The Major, fortunately, is able to remember this when Seth urged him to return to the Lady.
"Well... the Lord hates a coward...," mutters Ashbury to himself, and spurs his horse back towards the Lady. Suddenly acutely aware of his appearance, the Major gives himself a quick once over in the saddle. Running a hand through his dark hair, the Major does indeed look the part of the stately soldier in his perfect black uniform. Wishing he had done a better job at shaving that morning, the Major hardly slows the horse before leaping down next to the Lady.
"M'lady, I... what I wanted to say was..." His hand rises, almost of it's own volition, to cup her cheek gently. Acutely embarrased by his worn, calloused hand, the Major draws it back down to his side quickly. His face turning a light shade of rose, the Major tries to find voice, unable to look away from her eyes.
"Forgive me, M'lady... that was... inappropriate... My heart appears to be stronger than my head."
She turned her head gracefully as the Major approached her. As his hand moved to touch her cheek she raised an eyebrow slightly but she did not flinch away. She though how interesting the way the people of this world seemed to have conflicting ideas of what was appropriate behavior and what was not. It was going to take her some time to understand it all.
As he removed his hand and placed it at his own side it seemed to her that he had tried to hide it from her. She reached out with both her hands and took gentle hold of the hand he hid. She looked at the hand closely, studying the lines and the callouses it held. She reached out with a single slender finger and, using her long, tapered nail, traced the longest line along it's full length, effectively touching his hand from the heel to the fingers. She felt the shiver that ran through his body as she did so. She looked up into his eyes and repeated her statement from earlier conversation.
"Should I become tied to this world for your sake I would be unable to return to my own. Once mated I cannot leave you; only your death could allow me to leave this world without you. Should you willingly and truly chose to come with me to my world you would have to sever permanently all ties to this world. There must be nothing here that you desire. It is a matter of such great import that I cannot allow myself or you to become emotionally entangled with you. Not at this time. Think on it, good Major, from this time until the time comes for me to return with Aelora D'Annelle. Then, if you can love me enough to leave this extraordinary world, please tell me."
With that she turned her head to look in the direction the others had gone.
"It begins to grow dark. Perhaps we should attend to the evening's rest before continuing with this discussion. You battle with yourself and will only cause great stress and distranction to your mind. I understand Seth and Rose have found an interesting place to camp. Unless you have found a more suitable location I belive I would be interested in experiencing this hotspring they are all talking about."
With that she let go of his hand and began walking gracefully in that direction. Her horse, realizing that she was not planning on mounting her just then, turned to follow behind her.
Amarantha's eyes narrowed as she watched Rose drag a protesting Seth off in the direction of the springs, her smile not fading.
The glances at the now dimmed Krysanthe did not go unnoticed, and she slowly, deliberately, returned the weapon to its ornate scabbard. The hilt made a soft ringing sound of quality crystal striking metal.
The girl had been right about one thing though, it would be fun to watch the boys go every known shade of red and stumble over themselves as only they knew how. It did however, annoy her, that she was being ordered around. Still, she had a handmaid to do that sort of running around for her. So without a moment's extra thought, she summoned Calipso and turned to walk over in the direction of Beldon. By the time she reached the big goofball, Calipso was present and in tow.
"Come on Farm Boy! You are going skinny dipping and I will not take no for an answer!" she said to him, grabbing him by the arm and pulling him in the direction of the springs.
"Calipso, the pale woman over there is known as 'the Lady'. Will you tell her that Beldon, Seth, Rose and I have gone for a swim in the springs."
The Siren silently bowed her head in acquiesence and turned to go in the direction of the Lady. She paused for a moment and turned around.
"One question though, how am I supposed to return to the...?"
"Wait around for a bit, I'll send you back later. You can join us, if you want. Meet the others." Amarantha said, cutting Calipso off, guessing, what is was she was going to say.
"Well, Farm Boy, don't just stand there dribbling, they're waiting for us."
The farm boy turned four shades of red in about two seconds as the goddess yanked him toward the springs. He stumbled and hurried to his feet in fear of being physically dragged.
"You don't think we could discuss this...?"
He grunted and decided that it was best not to argue for now. Beldon had the wide-eyed look of a frightened deer, and hoped as he ran that he would be able to worm his way out of this potentially scandalous situation.
He pondered, for a moment, the possibilities and how they might not be so bad... But he quickly shuddered and forced the naughty thoughts from his head.
She watched as the goddess and the human went of in the direction of two figures who she could only guess to be "Rose and Seth" and shook her head in bemusement as she heard Ami's comment about dribbling. She then sighed and went in the direction of "the Lady". Odd that, she didn't seem to have an name, just a title. But she could guess at the woman's origin. She'd never met one or been to there herself, but from what she had heard, those folk had some strange customs. Perhaps this Lady thing was another one of those.
"Hello MoonLady, please first permit me to introduce myself. I am Calipso, Siren of the Isle of Night, and Handmaid to the Goddess Amarantha. I have been instructed to tell you that She, Beldon, Rose and Seth, have gone for a swim in some springs they have found. I guess it would not bother Amarantha if anyone else joined them. She was not entirely explicit about that point." Her voice was rich and melodious, and clear.
She watched the creature approach her,stopped at her arrival, and marvelled at the incredible variety af lifeforms this world had to display. Her world being very reclusive, she had not heard of most of them. She was quite certain that meeting as many of them as she could on this journey was going to be a very fascinating pass-time. She took note of the formal manner in which this Siren introduced herself. It marked her as being well-born and well raised. The only part of the approach that displeased her was being called "MoonLady". First it had been spoken in the manner of a Name, which she must not have. It also seemed a rather rude twisting of her own species.
"I am a Moonbeam, Madamne, not a MoonLady. Nor is this my name. I have no name, nor will I. I am the Rarest of Treasures from the Sapphire Sun, Protectorate and Heir to the Staff. I am, however, most pleased to meet you."
The Siren's dark eyes widened in alarm when she realised the Lady had taken offence to Calipso's form of address.
"Forgive me, Lady, it was not my intention to offend. Clearly there are some cultural misunderstandings here.
"MoonLady is merely a Title, among my people it is a way of showing respect to another, particularly one of high station. A title is created in respect to the nature or identity of the one that they wish to address. The title, 'Lady' is regarded as belittling, akin to saying 'Girl' or 'Woman'.
"I confess that I am ill versed in the ways of other cultures such as yours. I have indeed heard it said that you are forbidden to have a name or be called by one. But if it is your wish, I too will call you Lady."
"My customs do indeed to be greatly different from those of this world. But I must be true to them if I wish to return to my own world: And that is my wish.
It is also imperitive that I am not given any name or be titled in a manner that can be mistaken as a name. Lady, in and of itself, is indeed a name when spoken alone but when used in proper context it is concidered a title of respect and high regard. Most refer to me as My Lady, mistress or some here have referred to me as Mamme. If you are not comfortable with any of these there is also any combination of my full and proper title but they seem a bit too formal for such a close knitting of friends. Perhaps we can spend this time in travel learning about each other's cultures."
She listened intently to what the Siren had to say, flicked an eyebrow slightly at the manner in which she had been invited to join the others, then simply nodded her head slightly.
"I was just on my way to these same springs myself. I have never heard of such a thing and am most interested in experiencing it. Your world is filled with the most intreguing wonders. Even your young godess-no-longer, with her secrets and knick knacks has her intreguing characteristics. I still await an explanation regarding that most interesting bottle she keeps with her. To see such a tall woman disappear into such a tiny bottle is something that bears definition. I would also like to understand the strange feeling I got when I picked it up to examine it. I suppose she will help me to understand when she is ready. the beast she rides is also a thing worthy of wonder and speculation. It is such a pity that he is not proud of all that makes him the unique creature that he is. He cannot reach his full potential until he accepts this. I truly look forward to the many things I will learn here on this world. My people will be most excited about these things. Especially about the Shar'kra'tar. They will be pleased to learn that our precious Messenger have survived in some form."
With that she looked in the direction of the springs, flicked an eyebrow and turned to the Major. Holding her soft, elegant hand out to him, she said in a smooth, crooning voice, "Shall we, Major?"
"As you wish, my Lady," nods the Major, taking her hand after a moment's hesitation and begins to walk beside her towards the springs.
"I've seen hot springs twice before, once in the Cor'Dei Desert and again near the Tallahaute Mountains... but of course, then, we were being chased by four thousand Forjin heavy cavalry, so there wasn't a lot of time to soak. I remember a corporal named Jonas Dobbs saying that..."
The Major flashes a smile as he realizes he has begun to ramble down through his memory.
"Forgive me, m'lady, old soldiers love nothing so much as to bore those around them with stories."
"Nonsense, Major. I find learning about this world and those who dwell here to be most fascinating. I would most enjoy spending the evening learning about your past. And as for your being 'old'... I sincerily doubt that you are more that forty five of your years. That would make you a very young man by my standards. I said on the day we met that I had reached my twentieth summer. My world has only two seasons and each season lasts for two thousand moons. It would appear that we age differently, you and I. Should you choose, at the end of this journey, to join me on my world you would begin immediately to age accordingly. And now... Who is rambling?"
She smiled warmly at him as they entered the clearing where the others were waiting for them. She looked at them all and joined them in the center.
"I do believe that I would like to enjoy the hotsprings first. We can set up the camp later. For our supper we can enjoy the rest of those wonderful treats Tizzy has in her bag: Provided she returns before we are ready to dine. I have sent her on a mission to investigate the smaller lifeforms in this forest and gain information as to the nature of this place."
The clearing was set a few hundred yards from the path that the group was following. It was well hidden from the road, but a small path led everyone to the clearing.
The sun had set over the trees and a soft, flowing ground mist was just starting to rise up from the earth. It lingered there until the group passed through it. The mist yielded as each person and their mounts made their way to the clearing but fell back in place as soon as the group passed though it.
The leaves on the trees had already changed to their autumn colours. Gold, red, brown and yellow leaves shook in the slightest breeze. Some fell and blanketed the clearing making it look like someone had painted them there. The night air was starting to cool down, and everyone could see wisps of steam floating up from their horses.
The moon was slowly starting to rise up into the heavens. It's glow flowed down upon the clearing, making it a little easier to see.
The clearing was rather large. Tall trees circled around the clearing almost turning it into a living fort. Anyone or anything coming into the clearing could be heard by the dead leaves and twigs that blanketed the forest's floor.
Patches of green grass could still be seen peeking out from under the fallen leaves. Near the center of the clearing a fire pit, circled with smooth stones, laid waiting for the next traveler to start yet another fire in it's heart. Firewood was stacked neatly by the circle of stones along with a striking stone and flint.
After finding the horses some fresh grass, and taking the saddles and reins off them, Seth and Rose started checking out the camp site.
The others stood around and were talking to one another.
"Do you remember seeing that there before?" Seth bent down and studied the circle of stone and the wood.
"Well... No, but we might have missed it when we saw the springs. I see more paths leading away from here and we might have taken one of them." Rose bent down and picked up a piece of wood that had not burnt completely.
"It's cold and by the way it looks there has not been a fire in here for a while. See here...," she pointed at the ashes. Small craters could be seen from rain drops hitting the ashes.
"At least who ever was here last left us enough wood to last us the night. And then some."
"Yes, it was nice of them to do that. Remind me to gather up more wood before we leave tomorrow. The next traveller might not be so lucky as to find dry wood any time soon."
"So you felt it too? Winter I mean...," Rose blushed.
"Yes! It's coming but not before we meet the ship and the Captain. Or at least I hope not.
"I hope we find a town before then. I don't think anyone thought about bringing their winter gear with them. I know this cloak will hold some of the cold out, but not if we find ourselves in a storm."
Rose pulled her cloak tighter around her and shook her head. "I will get the fire going. I think the springs are over there," she pointed to a well worn path.
"That looks like the path we took. Looks like as good a place as any to start. When we get back from the springs we will not have far to walk to dry off." She giggled when Seth blushed a deep red once again.
"Don't worry. We are not going skinny dipping. I have a night-shirt I can wear and you can wear your pants. I am not sure what the Goddess will come up with or Beldon. But it will be fun to find out."
About that time Mysty woke up with a yawn and a fluster of feathers.
::What's this I hear about skinny dipping? Remember the last time you tried that Rose Thorn ::
"Oh hush! How was I to know that there were thieves near by? Anyway all they got was my clothes."
::Along with your boots and all the food we had!::
Seth looked at Rose with a puzzled look, then got the nerve to ask her.
"How did you get your cloths back?"
::Would you like me to tell him?::
"NO!" Rose reached up and tried to close Mysty's beak with her hand. Mysty ran behind her and stayed clear of her hand.
::All I can say is never play cards with her. And always count the leaves on a bush before using them as clothing. 'If its three, leave it be' I always say!::
Seth shook his head and thought back to the time he found such a bush. The leaves were soft and he rubbed them all over his skin. It wasn't until he broke out with small itchy red bumps was he told that it was poison ivy.
Mysty ducked when Rose brought her hand back and tried to swat her once again. This made Mysty dig into Rose's shoulder even more. Rose flinched at the pain then looked over at Mysty.
"You just wait! Once I get this fire going and I get my hands on you, were going to have Owl stew tonight."
::I am old and tough and I would stick in your craw!::
"I will take that chance!"
Mysty took this time to fly away. She knew that Rose would not harm her, but she didn't like the thought of being dinner. Or the hungry look in Rose's eyes.
"I will set up the tent after we get back from the springs. Once everyone settles down I have a surprise for them!"
"What might that be?" Rose looked up from the circle and saw Seth smile and wink.
"Wait and see."
Seth laughed and walked over to the spot where he left his satchel. Reaching for it, he placed it on the ground and went about looking for the things he had bought at the spell shop.
"I know it's in here somewhere. Now where did I put that thing?"
Mysty flew down and landed on Seth's shoulder. She then leaned over and cocked her head sideways, looking into his bag.
"Do you mind?"
::No. Not at all. What are you looking for?:: Mysty fluffed up her feathers and turned her head around to face Seth.
Seth brushed away all the pin feathers that went flying around his head.
"If you must know, I am looking for the lantern I bought at the spell shop."
Seth had both hands in his satchel looking around, and he started pulling things out.
::What's that thing?::
"It's the lantern." The lantern floated up near Mysty and started to glow.
::It looks more like a glass ball that glows.::
"It's a lantern!"
::If you say so!::
"I just did."
::What else do you have in there?::
"Never you mind! I will show you and everyone later. It's still early and some of us want to bathe in the springs. Care to join us?" Seth laughed when Mysty shook her feathers once again and batted her eyes at him.
::Oh yes! I can see it all now. One big bowl of boiled Owl soup. Everyone can feast tonight. Forget it buster. You have been around Rose too long!!:: She turned her head almost completely around and spread her wings.
::Anyway, I see my supper over by that tree. And it looks ripe for the plucking.::
Seth turned his head and heard a mouse running through the leaves. "Then you better hurry. I think it spotted you. And do us all a favour."
::What might that be?::
"Eat it away from camp! Please?" A cold chill ran up his back as he thought what Mysty would do once she captured the fat little mouse. "And don't hang from a tree and show us either."
::Spoil sport. You have been hanging around Rose too long. You're beginning to sound like her now!::
Mysty flew up and found a small limb by Rose. She tilted her head and tried to listen for the mouse, but it was hard to do with everyone moving around.
::Would everyone be quiet!!::
"Mysty! That's rude!" Bending down, she picked up a small rock and threw it at her. "Go deeper in the woods. That way we will not bother your hunting. But remember, there are things out there that might enjoy the taste of a nice fat snow owl. And with those white feathers, you will stick out like sore thumb!"
::You would miss me if I got eaten.:: She turned and dove off the limb and barley missed Rose's head.
Then she was gone.
"She'll be fine." Rose laughed and added, "Anyway anything that bit into her would spit her out. She's to tough to eat."
Rose got a nice fire going and headed towards the springs. As she passed the others, she smiled and winked at Beldon and Amarantha.
"The springs are this way. There are places we can change by the water, away from the guys."
Walking up to The Lady and the Major, she stopped and bowed her head.
"If it pleases you we would like for the both of you to join us. We have found a most wonderful spring and we thought that you and the Major would like to soak and soothe the day's ride from your bones."
Rose felt like a small child asking permission to go, but with her up bringing she was not sure how to address The Lady.
What surprised her even more was when she looked down and noticed that the Major was holding The Lady's hand. Their fingers were locked together. The look on her face spoke of more than just friendship. The Major looked different as well. No longer did he stand as stiff as before. He looked more relaxed, more... human. Even his eyes had a strange look about them. A long forgotten look. She just couldn't place it.
Rose wanted to read his thoughts. But she decided not to.
With a half smile and a deeper blush, she turned her eyes away and stood there, waiting for an answer. Kicking around a small stone with her feet she could hear Seth and Beldon talking. Seth was trying to talk Beldon into going: Without much luck.
"Come on Beldon! It will be fun! Everyone will have 'something' on. I will have on my pants, Rose assures me that she will be wearing a night-shirt, what ever that is, and I am sure Amarantha will wear something.
Then he slowly turned, looked over at Amarantha and he sheepishly asks, "You are going to wear... Something? Right? I mean... You are going to wear something...?" He took a big gulp and blushed.
Turning back he looked over at the Major and The Lady. "You do know that they will be there too... Right?"
He was hoping if The Lady and the Major went then Beldon would have to go. Or he would just throw him in, clothes and all. Or he would have Rose do it.
That thought alone made him laugh.
Calipso happened to walk up and was talking to Amarantha when he turned back. He didn't see her until he bumped into her.
"Where did...? Who are...? What are...?" He grabbed her and was holding her out at arm's length.
Looking over at the others he asked, "Anyone know who this is?"
He heard Mysty calling back, ::Perhaps she is the Keeper of the Springs? You're in hot water now!!::
Then everyone heard a mouse squeak.
He let go of Calipso and stepped back. He watched as she took a step back, crossed her arms and gave him a look.
~Oh boy~, he thought and took a big gulp. "Ahh... Hi?"
"I don't know, Seth. I just hope you know that my life is in danger. If I see more than I should, I might blush so much that my head explodes!"
Beldon chuckled and then sighed, "Seriously though, I guess it MIGHT be relaxing after the day's travels but I don't think I'll be joining you."
He grinned, "Like I said, my head might explode."
He glanced in the other direction and his eyes locked on Rose Thorn. He stared dreamily at her for slightly more than was prudent, and then tore his gaze away.
Beldon thought to himself, *The only way they will get me in the water is to throw me in! The thought of being in the water with her..., or with Amarantha...*
He blushed for no apparent reason, and continued thinking, *Of course, being thrown in might not be that bad... What I am THINKING??*
His attention was grabbed, at that point, by Seth grappling with an unknown woman near Amarantha.
The Siren smiled as Seth stumbled over his words in alarm.
" 'This' is Calipso, I am a Siren and one of Amarantha's many Handmaidens. I am certainly no Keeper of the Springs. Such a role tends to belong to nymphs, undine or even a rusalka. You are elvenkin, yet I've heard that you were raised by the fye. Is this true?"
She grinned evilly as Seth tried to ascertain that she was not going to dive in to the water with nothing on.
"Don't worry, Fye Boy, I'll be wearing something."