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Part 5, just as part 4, is was also completed this weekend--after much banging my head against the keyboard. In which we meet: a fairy, a ruined elfin city, and another murder. More about the elf, more about the girl, and generally more about the plot, is also included. Feel free to chastise, condemn, admire, hate, criticize, or generally turn into a soppy fan, as long as you tell me about it at the end.
Part 5: The Forgotten City
The old woman was almost done. The paper was stacked neatly now, slowly and carefully placed in order and stacked in neat piles in front of her. All that was left now was the ending. This was the hardest part. Endings…her life had been so full of endings it seemed. And now she had to live them again through the written word. Pain, nothing but pain. Beautiful, inspiring pain that both refreshed and cut. How long had it really been before these things happened, how long since she had been really living this memory? She could not remember. It all seemed so timeless.
Her black eyes turned to the rushing flames of the fire. For a moment she was tempted to let it all go, to bury her memories forever and feed all her hard work to the leaping flames. But no, she knew could not. As much as it hurt she had to finish. She was the last hope that they had left, even if they did not know it.
“Are you done?”
The voice was high and soft, like the feel of velvet or the sound of a running brook. A tiny fairy fluttered down from where she had been sleeping in a nook above the hearth to land on the table in front of the woman.
“Not yet my friend, not yet.” The woman answered. She gazed at the blank sheet in front of her but made no move to pick up the pen again.
“Perhaps you should take a rest. You’ve been at it a long time.” The fairy ventured.
“No.” The woman replied, “I have to finish this. I just don’t know how. How can endings always be so hard, even when they are long in the past? I don’t know where to start.”
“Oh, is that all?” The little fairy fluttered her wings and smiled kindly at her friend. “That’s easy, just start at the beginning.”
The beginning…but where had that been? The memories were so near, and yet so far. But perhaps…yes that was it. She knew what to do now. Slowly, the old woman picked up the pen again and touched it ever so gently to the paper.
* * * * *
The late afternoon sun burned high and warm overhead, filtering down through the trees in brilliant shafts of light. The occasional wildflower dotted the thick underbrush of the forest floor, lending color to the medley of shaded green. Seril, trudging through the thick underbrush, thought it was very pretty but wished heartily it was somewhere else. For instance, somewhere where she didn’t have to wade through it.
Seril and Brendon had been hiking through the forest for four days and they were already miles away from Brendon’s cottage. They had left the morning after Seril had woken and had hardly stopped since. They only ever paused to sleep and spar, which was another reason that Seril was in such a bitter mood. She was black and blue all over and more sore than she could ever remember being in her life. Her muscles burned at every movement, but she wouldn’t let herself stop. Anger drove her to keep moving and it was a relentless master.
Brendon had tried to dissuade her from her quest again the morning that they left, but the more Seril thought about it the more determined she became.
“I’m not letting this one go Brendon,” she had said, “This is something that I have to do. If you’re coming then you had better accept that right now. I won’t be dissuaded.”
Brendon had looked at her with something that was close to pity, but not quite. “All right then Birdie, since I can’t convince you otherwise, which direction do you plan on going at least?”
“West,” said Seril after thinking for a moment, “The elfin cities used to be to the forest to the west, right?”
“There were some cities in the northern mountains as well.” Brendon pointed out.
“True, but there weren’t many. Besides it would be a lot harder to find a city in a mountain range than in a forest. We’d have better luck west I think.”
“Whatever you want, I think the whole thing is hopeless anyway. I’m just along to keep you from getting yourself killed.”
“It’s settled then,” Seril had said, “We’re going west.”
And here they were: going west. Seril muttered a curse as she forced her way past a tree and a branch caught her in the face.
“You alright up there?” Brendon called cheerfully from behind her. Unlike Seril, he had had no trouble with the pace or the sword training. In fact, he had been enjoying it. It had been a long time since he had actually fought against another person and he was tackling her through their exercises with an enthusiasm not often found.
“Fine.” Seril answered briefly.
“If you want to stop for a while then-“
“No.” Seril interrupted, “I really am fine. How far away did you say that city was?”
“We should be on top of it any minute now actually,” Brendon replied. “I heard of it off of a traveler that stopped by my cottage last summer. It’s mostly gone he said, but the ruins should be around here somewhere.”
“Well, maybe you should check your sources next time. I’m beginning to think there are no cities in here after all.”
“But that’s what we’re doing now Birdie!” Brendon answered cheerfully. “Checking up on good old Dando. In fact…what?”
Seril had stopped abruptly. “Perhaps Dando was right after all,” she said.
Rising up in front of her was a wall. It was built of smooth granite and no seems were visible, making it look like it was carved out of a single piece of rock. Tangled ivy and various other plants and moss grew all over its sides until hardly any of the stone was visible underneath. Seril looked back at Brendon and grinned.
“Now we’re getting somewhere.”
Before Brendon could answer she turned to her right and started following the wall. Brendon followed without comment. In only a few moments they came to a rusted gate that sagged on its hinges. It looked like it once had been magnificent. Tall statues framed the entryway to the city and bits of gold and silver trim on the doorway could be seen under the tangled plants, but Seril barely glanced at it. The huge gates were open and without hesitation she strode into the abandoned city.
Seril stopped just inside the gates and looked around her. Once majestic buildings surrounded a former plaza with wide streets that led off deeper into the city. Trees and undergrowth had taken a firm hold here. Everything was covered in green plants until it was almost impossible to distinguish what the original structures had looked like. Nearby a startled deer sprang away into the shadows. The sound of it scampering away was loud in the hush that seemed determined to stay settled over the city.
Seril looked over at Brendon and shrugged. “Well, let’s go.”
Brendon grinned. “After you. This is your adventure after all.”
Seril set her jaw and started away down what was once a broad avenue. She wandered through and around the buildings, trying to find some sign of life. She walked for hours exploring the maze of silent stone and blooming plants. Brendon followed without comment. Eventually, Seril found herself wandering through another archway and into some sort of courtyard.
“Well Brendon, what do you think?” she asked.
“I think it’s abandoned, same as I thought the moment I set eyes on this place,” he replied.
“I think this is some sort of garden, or was anyhow.” Seril said as she wandered through the overgrown paths dotted with trees and wildflowers. An occasional bright blue butterfly fluttered its way past in the warm sun. “And look, that building just there on the right. It’s a lot larger than most of the others. I know that’s not saying much; most of these buildings are huge. But I think this was some sort of palace or something.”
“I’d say your right again Birdie.” Brendon replied. “Strange it is, about the elves I mean. I wonder why a whole race would just up and leave. This place must have been amazingly beautiful once.”
“I would have liked to see it when it was inhabited.” Seril remarked.
Brendon chuckled. “Wouldn’t we all lassie, wouldn’t we all.”
Seril grinned back at him, but then suddenly paused. “Brendon look!” She pushed passed him and ducked under an overgrown archway, grimacing as thorns scraped her back as she pushed by. Brendon followed with some difficulty; he was much larger than Seril’s tiny frame. When he finally got through he paused in surprise.
“Well, that’s something you don’t see every day.” He said.
They were standing in a little clearing that looked like it was once a large arbor, but parts of the roof had long since fallen away. Rose bushes had once been planted around it and now the plants were climbing up the walls and twining around all the openings until it looked like it was a room made all of white petals. They covered the walls and dripped down from the ceiling, scenting the air with their sweet perfume. In the center of the arbor was a basin filled to the brim with clear, still water. The sun reflected off of its surface causing ripples of light to play over the white room. And keeling on the edge of the basin was a tiny fairy.
At first Seril thought it was another butterfly because of the brilliant cobalt wings that sprung from her shoulders. In truth she was only a little larger than the butterflies that she had noticed fluttering by them only a little while earlier. The little fairy looked at them curiously; obviously surprised that anyone had found her there. She had loose black hair that was tinged with blue and bright blue eyes that matched her wings. She was only about four inches high and dressed in a white dress with silver trim. Her bright wings were the only other color in the room besides the white of the roses and the marble basin. When she spoke her voice was rich and smooth, though distant as if from far away.
“Who are you?” she asked, “And may I ask what you are doing here?”
“Um, my name is Seril, and this is Brendon.” Seril answered. “We were looking for an elf.”
The little fairy laughed and it sounded like the sun might sound if it could be heard playing with the tips of the roses.
“Well in that case you’re a bit late.” she said, “There hasn’t been an elf here for several hundred years…May I ask what it is exactly what you want with an elf?”
“May I ask your name first?” Seril retorted.
The little fairy looked amused. “Kr’wen.” She said, “Don’t worry if you don’t remember it the first few times. Humans always have a little trouble with fairy names.”
“It’s very nice to meat you Kr’wen.” Brendon spoke up. “But I am afraid that we must be going. We have some rather important business to take care of.” He gave Seril a pointed look.
“But you can’t travel in the dark, and the stars will be out in no time.” The fairy protested. “Stay here for the night. That way you can tell me your story. I haven’t heard a good story in a long time.” She looked up at them and gave them both a pretty grin.
Seril looked at Brendon. “We may as well.” She said.
Brendon just shrugged. “This is your quest.” Was all he said.
Kr’wen’s grin broadened. “Wonderful, make yourselves comfortable then, and start talking.”
Seril smiled back and sank down onto the carpet of white rose petals as she began to tell her story.
* * * * *
Terien was sitting in the house of the Prince Cray under the guise of a visiting Duke. As a result, he was discussing politics. Terien hated politics but since this was part of his plan, he pretended to be interested.
“So this new situation is rather interesting, is it not? A King dead and no one sure if the heir is alive or dead as well…it seems to present some interesting problems if you ask me,” Terien took a sip of spiced wine and smiled at his host, “Or perhaps, opportunities.”
Prince Cray smiled back. Terien hated his smile.
“Opportunities?” The prince said, “Yes, I suppose one could say that. But it really is not likely.”
“Yes, but I never did like studying lineage.” Cray said in a bored tone. “I really have no idea what my dear father will do, but that is his specialty, not mine. I really just hope that someone decides something quickly. Nothing can get done like this.”
“Really?” Terien’s eyes bored into Cray’s. “Because I heard that you were trying to figure out a way to get the throne yourself.”
“Oh, come now, where did you pick up that pretty rumor? What nonsense!” The prince gave a chortling laugh.
“Ah, my mistake.” Terien smiled into his cup. The man was lying. He could see it as plain as day. He might have been able to fool other humans, but he could not hide from Terien. “I’ll just tell the Captain of the Guard that he can disregard that letter I sent him then.”
Prince Cray’s smile froze. “What letter?” He asked sharply.
Terien looked at Cray, feigning a look of mild surprise. “Don’t worry, since you’re innocent nothing at all will come of it, I’m sure.”
Cray looked at him and his eyes narrowed. “Alright, I know a threat when I see one. What is it that you’re after, exactly?”
“Nothing too terrible.” Terien smiled, “Just the truth, if you please.”
“The truth?” Cray repeated, “The truth is that I am in line for the throne. The truth is that it will be mine, and I won’t have to even do a damn thing to get it, you hear? What is it that you are after?”
“I have no desire to take the throne myself, if that’s what you’re thinking.” Terien remarked truthfully and the noble gave him a satisfied nod, “However, I’m afraid that you yourself will be in no condition to take the position.”
Cray’s face turned into a hard mask. “Is that really another threat?” He growled.
Terien paused and thought for a moment. “You know, I think it was. But don’t worry,” he sighed and stood up, setting his drink down carefully, “I’ll make this as painless as possible.”
Ten minutes later found Terien walking away from yet another house wiping blood from his dagger, and hating himself for it.
* * * * *
“…and then we found you. That’s all really.” Seril finished her account and looked up at Kr’wen who was perched daintily on the edge of the basin. Kr’wen looked down at Seril thoughtfully.
“If you want to know where he is, why don’t you just try to see him in your mind?” She asked. “It seems like all this wandering around is just a waste of time.”
Seril smiled, “well, I don’t know how for one thing. Fairies may be able to do that but-“
“Fairies can’t do that.” Kr’wen interrupted, “It’s a very rare and specific gift. But since you saw him in your dream then you must be able to do so.” She paused, and Seril looked at her in surprise.
“I never thought of that. I thought that just maybe it was something that happened only once or something.”
Kr’wen smiled. “Come here then.” Seril stood and Brendon watched in silence. “Alright,” Kr’wen said, “Look into the basin here and just think of this elf. Try to picture him on the surface of the water.”
Seril looked at the fairy skeptically. Kr’wen just gave her an encouraging nod so she turned to Brendon.
“Go on Birdie.” He said, “I’ve never seen anyone take lessons in scrying from a fairy before. This is interesting.”
Seril gave him an exasperated look and then, feeling very much a fool, she gazed into the water and tried to do as Kr’wen told her. At first nothing happened and then, just when she was about to give up, slowly something shifted in the water, as if she had caught a movement out of the corner of her eye. She blinked and looked harder and then suddenly he was there, his obsidian eyes gazing out of the water at her. She gasped and stepped back.
“It’s alright.” Kr’wen said, “He can’t see us even though we can see him.”
Seril nodded and looked again. She noticed that Brendon had stood and was peering over her shoulder. She tried to refocus the image to see where the elf was and before she knew it the image shifted. He was striding quickly away from a manor house wiping blood off of a short dagger. His black hair brushed against his face in the night air, and his eyes looked calm but haunted somehow. But there was something else that caught her attention. She knew that house; it was near the castle.
“He killed Prince Cray.” She muttered. She wasn’t quite sure how she knew it, but she somehow was certain. She felt Brendon place a hand on her shoulder as an angry tear slipped its way down her cheek and fell with a splash into the basin. She roughly brushed another one away and focused her attention on the image again. She stood there for a long moment gazing intently at the water.
“What are you looking for?” Brendon asked.
“I want to try to find out where he is going.” Seril replied. “I think I have it…wait…”
She stepped back abruptly and let the image fade away.
“Seril, what is it?” Brendon asked in concern.
Seril looked up at him slowly. “Terien…Brendon, he knows where we are. He’s coming here.”
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