Feb 15 2019

Daughters of Fate (Chapter 2)

Posted by Mathias in Daughter of Fate, Fantasy, Novels, Projects

Earoni blesses only a few with the gift of the birth of twins. The event is sacred among all of Earoni’s  people. It is rare as the falling star and the blessing is infinitely more precious. 

-Book of the Gods 9:6 

Chapter 2  (2nd of Alshu 6184) 

Beneath the canopy of spring leaves a coach traveled along the uneven road. It rumbled and bounced in haste, protected on all sides by a company of knights on horseback.  The formation was so tight that at the speed they traveled a misstep or slip by any of the mounts would have been disastrous. 

There were no markings on the stage.  The once colorful placards adorning the sides had been removed. All that remained of them were the metal hangers and darker, unfaded wood beneath that had not seen much of the sun or elements. The voids left a silent testament to the importance of not announcing where one had come from. 

Even the armor of the knights had been scrubbed of any identifying marks. Ground out and then buffed smooth, the metal was as close to pristine as it could have been. 

 “Aurthur,” a woman’s voice called from inside the stage. The driver turned his head slightly to hear the words that followed.  “Aurthur, the girls are getting rowdy. Perhaps we should stop for a few minutes?”    

 “Eliza,” the driver responded, raising his middle-aged voice enough to be heard over the wheels striking the loose stones of the dirt road. “Could this not wait?  We’ll be within the safety of the elven borders by nightfall.”   

 There was a slight pause before the answer came.  “I think we should stop.”    

Aurthur sighed.  “Alright.” He signaled to the troops. Pulling hard on the reins, Aurthur forced the team of powerful Fimmirran horses to a reluctant stop. 

Stunned by the sudden cessation of their pace, a knight bearing the short golden plume of a commander rode up alongside.  “Minister Stormband?  Why are we stopping?”    

“For a rest,” he responded.  “Take a group ahead and check the trail for signs of trouble.  I know we’re deep in the Borderlands, but that doesn’t mean Hedric’s agents aren’t about.”    

“Sir?  You’re certain?”    

Aurthur nodded.    

 The commander turned his mount in a circle as he motioned to a group of soldiers.  “You three, come with me!” The group then thundered off down the road, armored mounts and all.  

Climbing down from his seat, Aurthur held tightly to the sword at his side to keep it from getting caught. Nearly losing his balance, he took a moment to regain his feet. He reached up and opened the carriage door as if he had not almost fallen. 

 A woman in a green dress with frills and pearls graciously accepted the assistance of his hand as she climbed down. Behind her, two young girls scrambled out and disappeared behind the coach in a blur.   

Aurthur only caught a glimpse of their red hair as it whipped behind them.    

 “Girls!  Don’t wander off!” he called as he heard the two laugh and giggle.   

 Eliza turned to look in the direction her daughters had gone. “I don’t know if it was wise to bring the girls along,” she commented. 

 “They’re driving you that crazy?”    

 Eliza scowled, “You know darn well that is not what –“  

Aurthur silenced here with a soft touch of his hand on her lips.  “You know elven custom.  They’d consider it insulting if King Turon’s new ambassador did not bring his entire family.  Besides, they’re six years old. I wasn’t even that old when I made my first trip across the sea with my father.” 

“And if I remember correctly you also caught the nastiest case of Sandrian Flu that had you sick in bed for almost a year.”  Eliza sighed.  “Why did you ever agree to become his new ambassador to the elves?”   

 “He trusts me, Eliza. And then there’s always the legends,” he added the last as a gentle reminder.    

 “From the protected isle will come the Child of the Storm,” Eliza echoed the verse from memory.  She had been taught it from a young age and as a young lady assigned to the care of the priesthood.  “And this child shall rebuild the fallen kingdoms and drive the corrupt sovereign from the hallowed lands.”  She shook her head.  “I still liked it better when you were just his chief military advisor.”   

 “Listen, it’s only for a couple days.  I would have preferred to sail directly into their ports, I’m not going to deny that.  But the blockade is just too tight.  The elven leaders have promised us safe passage back to Fimmirra.  They will draw the fleet away while we skirt through in the night.  Eliza, I owe this to your brother.  He is the King after all.  And he asked me as a friend.”    

 Smiling, Eliza kissed her husband and walked to the front of the carriage. There she smoothed the manes of the horses without another word.   

Aurthur knew that she understood the importance of this journey. She may not like it.  But she understood.    

 “Cass!  Sheala!” Aurthur called to his daughters.    

 It took a moment, but soon Cassandra followed quickly by her twin sister, darted around the corner.  Cass jumped into his arms, and Aurthur lifted her off the ground with ease.  He greeted her with a kiss to her forehead.   

 “How are my two angels today?”  He brushed aside Cassandra’s red hair from her eyes.   

 “Are we there yet daddy?” Cassandra’s green eyes twinkled as she asked.    

 “Yeah,” Sheala chimed in, “when are we going to be there?  I’m hungry.”  Her hands went right for her stomach with that comment.    

Aurthur placed his younger daughter to the ground.  “Soon.  We’ll be there very soon.”    

 “Daddy?” Cass questioned.  “What’s an elf?”    

Sheala seized upon the opportunity, as she always did.  “Aw, Cass, you know – they’re really big and scary monsters with large teeth and –”    

 “Sheala!” her father scolded, seeing a look of terrified concern cross the face of his other daughter.  He picked her back up.  “Cass, elves are just like you and me.”    

 “They’re not scary?” Cass spoke with hesitation.    

 “No, not at all.  In fact, they’re very, very nice. Now, I’ve got something for the two of you.” Reaching into his pocket, Aurthur produced a pair of silver pendants. Each was about two inches in diameter and both were engraved with two concentric rings.  The Silver Steel glimmered in the broken light.    

 “Oh-boy!”  Sheala jumped up and down, clapping her hands.  “Presents!”   

Aurthur handed one of the necklaces to Cass, who took it with gentle care.  Sheala reached out and snatched the other.    

 “Now you be careful with those,” their father warned.  “King Turon gave those to me, and I want the two of you to hold onto them until we get to the elven lands.  Ok?”    

 Cassandra easily undid the clasp of the necklace and placed it about her neck.  “Uncle is so nice,” she commented.  “Thank you, daddy.”  The medallion was warm to the touch.    

Sheala, having problems with the clasp on her chain, stomped her foot in frustration.  Cass laughed at her.   

Sheala held it up, sniveling for help, “Daddy!”    

Aurthur took the necklace and placed it around his daughter’s neck.  Sheala looked at the item in wonder; mostly at the way it shined in the leaf-filtered light.    

 “Now, remember what I said. Hold on to those.  King Turon says they’re magical.”    

 “Ooohh,” Cassandra responded in amazement.  Then she got a confused look on her face.  “What’s majikal?”    

Sheala did not hear any of this, more intent on admiring her own necklace.  She polished it thoroughly with the cuff off her blouse.    

 “It means it’s very special, Cass,” her father said.  “Verrry, very special.  Just like you.  As long as these two charms are close by, they’ll continue to remain warm and remind you that your sister is near.”    

 The warmth of the medallion did give Cass a soothing quality.  It made her feel safe.  “Did you hear that Sheala? Daddy said I’m special.”    

 Sheila turned her head up.  “Mine’s shinier!” she said with pride ringing in her tone and displaying her handiwork.    

 “Nu-uh,” Cass responded indignantly. Then she jumped from her father’s arms and after her sister.  The two again disappeared around the carriage.    

 “Girls! Stay close!”  Aurthur shook his head and was rejoined by his wife.  “You know, Eliza,” he spoke, drawing her close.  “We have two very special daughters there.”    

 She placed her head on her husband’s chest.  “I know.”    

 Moments passed.    

 Horse’s hooves rumbled on the path.  Aurthur turned to see the commander he had sent off earlier returning at breakneck speed.  There was only one soldier with him, and he knew there was trouble.  He could just tell.    

Aurthur brought his sword into his hand and began to usher his wife into the coach.   She resisted him.  Aurthur could now see the blood on the commander’s sword.    

 “Minister!  The enemy i-” the commander called at the exact moment an arrow pierced his armor and felled him from his mount.  His horse reeled up in a frenzy.    

Within a fraction of a second, a rain of arrows began to fall around the caravan.  Most of the other soldiers died before even readying their swords.    

“Sheala! Cass!” the minister called to his daughters.   He continued to try to get his wife into the carriage.  But a sharp pain in his back forced him to his knees.    

“Aurthur!” Eliza called as she saw the arrow protruding from him.  She reached for him as several more embedded themselves in the wooden frame of the stage around her.  She winced back to avoid being hit.  But it was only a temporary reprieve.    

 She reached out again but never made it to him as an arrow found her heart.    

Cass ran out of the woods, followed closely behind by her sister.  She expected her father to be angry with them.  The two girls had wandered off and been gone for some time.  But she was not prepared for the sight that stopped her in her tracks. 

The bodies of guards and the blood-soaked ground shocked her so bad that Sheala ran into her from behind.     

Sheala was blabbering about what they had encountered, “That was certainly the strangest thing -.” But then her eyes saw what her sister’s had.  “What happened?  Daddy!”     

Cass stood deathly still as her minutes older sister began running from body to body. She was calling for her father before finally finding him.    

“Daddy!  Daddy,” Sheala wailed, “wake up!”     

Cass, in a half-dazed state, wandered over to where Sheala knelt beside her father’s corpse.  Their mother laid motionless over him. Sheala’s hands and clothes were red with blood as she prodded their lifeless forms.     

“Cass,” she called.  “They’re hurt.”     

Cassandra knew that it was far worse.     

A slight moaning to her right drew her attention.  A soldier peppered with arrows struggled to move as he bled at a terrifying rate.  “G – girls,” he struggled to say.  “Run.  Go!”  He reached out a hand, but it fell lifeless as Cassandra moved tentatively to touch it.     

She retreated while her sister repeatedly cried the same words over and over, “Daddy, please wake up.  Mommy, please wake up.”     

Cassandra turned and grabbed her sister.  “C’mon, we’ve got to go.”  Sheala brushed her aside.      

“But daddy – mommy.” 

On the ground, Cassandra noticed a piece of broken arrow shaft.  She bent over to pick it up.  The engraving of an eagle superimposed over a triangle on the shaft seared into her mind.  It had no meaning except that it represented her father’s death.  Again, she grabbed her sister.   

This time she fought off Sheala’s resistance and led her twin back the way they had come.  She knew it was not safe here and wanted to get as far away as quickly as possible.

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