May 07 2019

Daughters of Fate (Chapter 24)

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

“Turn back! These lands are closed to all but the Child of the Storm!  There will be no further warning and all who disobey shall be met with death.  We will speak to no other but the chosen one!” 

Royal Elven Proclamation 9th of Alshu in the year 6184 

Sheala sat, alone at the desk and the mirror in her quarters on board the Oracle, staring into her own reflection. It was as if she were looking at herself for the first time, transfixed by the likeness sitting there and glaring back at her. The eyes were unknown to her, like those of a stranger.  

She’d hoped the gentle pitching of the ship on the waves would ease her mind. They hadn’t so far, and she soon realized that they wouldn’t as her mind raced. She’d returned here straight from leaving the Palace and after having sneaked out the back through an old passage her and Cass had often used.  But instead of using it to avoid her uncle, she now used it to avoid any lingering partygoers who might be able to identify her as the thief who had been so bold to brazenly steal from the guests of King Turon’s Yule Ball.  

In her mind, Sheala retraced the events of the night, trying in desperation to find out where she had gone wrong.  The one thing she could not accept was how she had faltered and cracked at the mere mention of her uncle’s name.  In a fit of pent up rage, she ripped the purse from under her dress and threw it against the wall, sending the small fortune in coins contained within scattering across the floor.   

“A common thief,” she muttered to herself as she pouted.  “Father would be so proud.  By the Fates, I can’t believe this is my life.”  She looked harder at herself in the mirror, giving herself a what-are-you-looking-at glower.  

There was a light knock at her door that only came once.  She ignored it, but the door opened anyway when she didn’t answer, and her uncle peered into the cabin.  “Sheala?” he asked. 

“What do you want?”  Sheala turned in her seat so as not to deal with his presence. As if by not looking at him, he wouldn’t really be there.   

Dressed in very informal attire and a long evening cloak, he entered and closed the door behind him. “Reane told me you’d be here.”    

“If you don’t mind,” Sheala mumbled, “I’d like to be alone with my thoughts.”   

“Sheala, I meant what I said earlier.  I’d like you to stay.”  He saw how she ignored him and sighed.  King Turon pulled a small, dark wooden box from beneath his cloak.  “I brought you something.”   

She took a look at the item, recognizing it as one of her mother’s music boxes.  This one in particular was one that she enjoyed listening to as a child for its rhythmic, chiming tones.  “I’m too old to be bought off with gifts.” 

Her uncle sat it down next to her anyway.  “I think you should have it.  Listen, if there was anything I could have done to change what happened, I would have done it.”  

“Such promises are easy to make when you know that there is nothing you can do,” Sheala snarled.  “I suppose you expect some words to make everything better?  Well, they won’t.”  

“Sheala, what do you want from me?” the King pleaded, his heart aching to mirror her own.  “Do you think it doesn’t hurt me to know that my sister, your mother, died that day and because of a mission I sent her on?  Do you think it didn’t hurt to lose a friend as close and dear to me as your father?  Do you think that not a day didn’t go by where I couldn’t sleep at night while wondering what happened to the two wonderful little girls that were never found?  I did everything in my power.” Then he chose slightly harsher words for her, “You were the one that never came back to me, Sheala.  You were the one that chose to stay away.  But that doesn’t matter to me now that you’re here.”   

“I didn’t choose to stay away,” Sheala confessed.  “I – I thought about coming back, I really did.  The problem was that I felt that if I did come back,” her words paused, “- I just couldn’t risk getting close to anyone like that ever again.”  

Those words confirmed to him everything that Reane had said, and he knew they were true as they were spoken.  King Turon presented the medallion that she had left in his study.  “I believe this is yours as well.  But I do need to ask you if you know where the other one is.”   

“Father gave it to Cass.” Sheala folded her arms.  “Is that what you want from me? A stupid little trinket?”   

“Sheala, these medallions are very important.  Did your father tell you anything about them when he gave them to you?”   

Sheala sniffed, wiping her nose with one of her white-gloved hands.  “He said they were magical.”  

The King nodded.  “Your father was supposed to take them to the elven people who possess one exactly like it.  They are the keys to our victory over Lord Hedric.  But they had been lost for centuries.  Until your mother, my sister discovered them on a mission to the ruins of the First Temple.”  

Sheala shook her head to try and drive the pain of her memories away.  “Don’t get me involved in this.  I’m not getting involved in a war.  I have nothing against Lord Hedric that could force me into it.”   

“Are you sure of that?”  King Turon sat the medallion on its chain down on the tabletop and pulled an aged roll of parchment out of his belt.  He held it out for Sheala to take, but she was hesitant.  “Go on,” he ordered gently.  

Sheala took the item with deep reservations roiling inside her, suspecting that it contained something she didn’t want to see and understand.  She unrolled the piece of paper but didn’t read it, stopping halfway. It appeared to be some sort of formal court document.  “What am I supposed to find in this?”  

“It’s a confession. Look at the name on it.”   

Sheala did.  “Eudwar Rone?  Why does that name sound familiar?”   

Her uncle nodded.  “He was the captain of the ship that sailed you and your sister along with your mother and father to Relmishia.”   

“The captain?”  

“I’d suggest you read it,” he encouraged her.  “It answers a lot of questions.”  

No, she resolved, instead choosing to set it down.  The document was too painful to even hold, bringing back too many memories that cut into her soul.  “I don’t have any questions,” Sheala sniped.   

“Sheala, do you know why I appointed your father as Ambassador to the Elven Kingdoms?   

The thief shrugged.  “Something to do with some stupid old legend about storms and some dumb old artifact that you thought was important.  My mother babbled on about it.”   

Her uncle nodded.  “The Tear of Earoni, Sheala.  It was hidden away centuries ago. When Lord Hedric came to power after defeating all the other Blood Lords and unifying the Ten Crimson Thrones of Srabeth.  After it became clear that the Hitithe Empire would fall before him and his quest for revenge, the Tear was secured to keep its power from him.”   

Sheala rolled her eyes, “Still doesn’t involve me.”   

“Sheala, Eudwar was my most trusted captain.  He was intimately involved in the planning of the delegation that was to go to the elves and show them what we had found.  And to begin seeking out the Tear of Earoni, which their magic hid away.”  He paused, looking down.  The memories of all that happened were always painful for him as well.  “A year before your family left Firmmirra, Eudwar was delivering a message containing the details of the medallions and that I was sending who I thought was the Child of the Storm to meet with them.  The problem was, Eudwar was captured by Imperial spies before that meeting even took place.  They found the letters and correspondence for the Elven Ambassador.  So, under threat of execution, he bargained for his life with the information he had, agreeing to assist the Empire in what was clearly seen as a threat to Lord Hedric’s reign.”  

Sheala reached for the scroll, even as her uncle continued to speak.  But as she unrolled it and began to read, his words were lost to those on the parchment.  What he had said was backed up by the hand-penned confession she now held.   

There was more too.  The captain was ordered to concoct a story, once the delegation had set sail, about how the blockades were too tight and the need to divert to the Borderlands.  The contingent would then unload and Eudwar would signal one of the local spies.  Then an ambush would be set.  Eudwar was also supposed to be the coachman for their contingent, making sure they followed the planned route.  But he realized the entire delegation would be slaughtered and faked an illness to save his own skin. 

That was of course when her father, the only remaining member of the contingent available to take the reins of the stagecoach decided to do that duty.  Eudwar then waited a few days after the Ambassador and his family had left, continuing to feign his illness, miraculously got better, returned to his ship, and sailed back to Fimmirra.  All while her mother and father were being executed by Imperial troops.   

“The Imperial troops,” Sheala heard her uncle’s voice once more, “had been disguised as Hitithe rebels. The ambush patrol were being closed in on by real members of the Rebellion who had been tracking them.  So, they raided a rebel storehouse and disguised themselves. Using the weapons they had seized from the raid, they made it to the ambush point and laid in wait.  It made the entire incident look like an act of the Rebellion.  They left plenty of signs; weapons and armor each engraved with the symbol of the eagle.  It was so convincing that even the leaders of the Rebellion were fooled thinking that a rogue bloc must have been to blame.  That attack shattered the Rebellion into the factions that still exist today, the elves went into hiding, and the alliance crumbled.  I’ve tried to get the facts of all this to both the elves and the Rebellion, but have not been successful.” 

Sheala started to put down the confessional but decided that she needed to read it once more.  This all seemed too … she didn’t know what it seemed.  But she wanted to see the words again.  Far too often Sheala had felt like her life was a series of nudges by unseen forces, trying to get her to do this or that; misleading and manipulating her.  Far too often, she felt like she had no control.  Rereading the letter was just her way of ensuring, in her own mind, that this was real and not imagined.   

Even upon the second read through, it seemed that what her uncle said had been true.  The confession spelled out the plot in great detail. Not bothering to roll it back up, Sheala placed it back on the table, folded her arms, and rested her head in them.  

“Sheala,” King Turon spoke to her. “I want you to be my new ambassador to the Elven Kingdoms.  Take your father’s place.  It’s very important.”   

There was a long silence.  Sheala had too much information to process.  Too much new hatred to assimilate into herself.  And too much forgiveness for those that she falsely blamed for her life.  Finally, she only said, “I’d like to be alone if you don’t mind.”   

“Sheala-”   

“Leave me alone!” her voice roared.   

King Turon stepped back at the forcefulness like he was standing face-to-face with a dragon that would consume him if he dared not obey.  As he heard her start to cry, the King thought about reaching out to her but decided with great reluctance to leave her alone as she requested.   

Her uncle stepped back and out the door, his hand pulling it shut with the most gentle of care.  A brief moment later, as he stood there, King Turon heard Sheala scream followed by a loud crash of shattering glass.  He moved to reenter the room, but Reane stopped him with a firm hand.   

The sounds died down, but then another crash came.  And then another. “You’ve done all you can,” Reane said.  “The rest is up to the Child of the Storm now.”

<< Back to Chapter 23 | Forward to Chapter 25 >>

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