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Flower of Grace
Soft leather shoes glided across a black marble floor, overly polished, mirroring the world around it in a trapped blackness. Wrapped in the animal skin shoes lay tiny feet belonging to a tiny girl. The small being of grace was draped in yards of colorful silk, but even with the lengths of slippery cloth, the girl’s body was scarcely covered. The silk arranged about the girl flowed as the delicate child moved and twirled, never getting tied up. Dancing lightly around the large room in complicated patterns, she closed her eyes, dreaming of doing the same steps on a cloud. Her audience stood in a circle around the girl, and it looked as if she was floating.
The circle of watchers murmured in awe as the girl ended her dance and curtseyed deeply first to the throne, and then to them. The audience had never been able to take their attention off the child during her dance, and now they felt as if they were waking from a trance. The magic filled silence was finally shattered with boisterous applause from the seat of power.
“Lovely my little flower, now off to your room.” An overweight man occupied the throne, holding a golden goblet filled with red wine in one hand, the other hand resting lightly on the back of a woman sitting on his lap. He tipped his head back and finished his wine, waving away the dancing girl. The cup was immediately refilled by his object of lust.
The girl left the grand hall quietly, filled with the many lords and ladies of the court, and the red faced king, draped in all his fineries, the finest of all being her mother. Slipping down a hallway she arrived at a small bedroom. The bedroom was decorated in deep red fabrics and pretty gold trinkets, generously provided by the king to please her mother, whom she shared the space with. They were slaves, and treated to a separate room from the other slaves because of both their talents and looks. The girl was the king’s favorite choice of entertainment for crowds, and her mother, his choice entertainment for himself.
Once she was safe in her room, away from the crowds of people, she collapsed on the bed. She had gathered a lot of energy from the audience this time, her mother would be pleased. The intricate steps of her dance had absorbed it, taking just a drop from each person, so the missing energy wouldn’t be noticed. She drifted asleep, in the nest of silk.
“Awaken my Kira.” The little girl’s eyelids fluttered open with the gentle sound of her mother’s voice. “I need to draw the energy you collected, can you open up the channel between us for me Sweet?”
Bobbing her head Kira sat up and felt with her inner hand the line connecting her and her mother. She gave the line a little tug and felt a responding tug from the other end. Her mother’s side began to draw the fire from within Kira into her own body. The violet flame that was magical energy had been high with the addition from the audience, and now simmered down to glowing coals.
“Thank you Love, you may go back to sleep now if you wish.” The woman gave her child a kiss on the cheek and tucked her into the covers.
Kira did not sleep though, just watched her mother as she performed her magic. Ninca told the child what she was doing when she saw that Kira’s eyes obstinately remained open.
“I’m going to use the energy I obtained from you, which you in turn took from the crowd, to create a cloak of invisibility for you.” She said as she pulled a pair of golden knitting needles from beneath the bed. Kira watched in fascination as her mother began to knit. She didn’t use any string of sustenance, but used instead a string of power she had pulled from the fire within herself. Ninca’s hands flew as she wove the invisible thread through the needles.
“Tomorrow night, maybe the night after, you will be able to use it.” Ninca didn’t pause or look up from the work. “You should sleep now, you’ll need the strength.” Her mother didn’t explain to her further, and Kira knew better than to ask her. If Ninca wanted her to know why she was creating the cloak, or why she would need the extra strength, she would have told her.
The next night, as Ninca was preparing for another feast with the king, she instructed Kira. “Hide the cloak in your silken scarves before going to give your performance. When you are finished with your dancing, and have lulled the crowd into a sleep, slip out the back door and throw on your cloak. Trust in the cloak for invisibility, but remember that people have ears as well as eyes. Behind the stables you will find a man waiting for you, he will take you to safety.” Ninca had stayed up the whole night finishing the invisibility spell.
“But Mama, where will you be?”
Ninca’s eyes filled with tears as she took in her daughter. She stood before her, looking so very brave in her three foot five frame. Her long black hair flowed down her back, and looked more precious than the scarves, shining with a blue sheen. Ninca’s own hair was like her daughters, along with the dark eyes, that looked black in the dim light. Her skin was golden and had sparkles of glitter spread across her face. She would miss her daughter.
“Mama?” The little girl ran up to her mother and flung her arms around her. “I don’t want to go anywhere without you.”
“Hush. I’ll meet with you later, I promise.” Her heart grew sore as she added the silent words to herself, in the afterlife. Ninca left her daughter in the room and walked to the king and her last night. She prayed to the Goddess to keep Kira safe, and to forgive herself for what she was about to do.
Kira did exactly as her mother told her, and when she was called to perform in front of the king and company again she began the dance of sleep her mother had taught her. As she started to glide and twirl, she closed her eyes in concentration, and thought hard of a soft bed and sheets of silk. She spread her thoughts as she danced and projected them to the audience, keeping the king out of her web. When the girl finally opened her eyes at the end of the dance, the people around her stared silently off into the distance, their faces slack. Kira wasn’t sure how long the spell would last. She flew out the door and gave one final look back at her mother. Ninca was sitting on the king’s lap, as usual, refilling his goblet . The king was unaware of the hypnosis of the lords and ladies around him, as he was in his own hypnosis of alcohol. Kira watched as her mother slipped something into the king’s goblet then hurried her daughter out the door with a quick flip of her hand, behind the king’s back.
Before she was completely through the door, Kira had thrown on the magical cloak, hoping it would grant her complete invisibility as she tiptoed past the guards. She treaded silently through the courtyard and behind the stables. Horses snickered as they sensed her presence but were quieted by her soft murmurings. The outline of a man was barely visible in the shadows of a corner, a deeper shade of black in the night. As Kira approached the man she reached out a hand through her cloak.
The man jumped at the sight of her hand which had materialized just a few paces in front of him. He stifled the urge to yell and waved the hand closer. He grabbed the extremity as it came within reach and quickly tugged it to the front of the stables where a horse was waiting. He felt around the hand for the body he knew was there and hoisted it onto the horse, and then jumped up in front of it.
“Put your hand back in now.” Whispered the man, and Kira obliged. They trotted past unsuspecting guards, out the castle gates , and into the thick night.
They came to a shelter after five long hours of hard riding. When the horse stopped, the mysterious man turned back to the girl he could barely see. Her invisibility was beginning to ware off and she now sat obscured within a cloud of mist.
He extended his hand to her. “Hello Kira, I’m Jinxen.” The girl just stared at him with large up-tilted eyes.
“Right.” He muttered. “Anyway, this is where we will stay the night. We have to be on our way again in the morning, so make sure you get enough rest.”
Jinxen slung a leg over one side of the saddle and hopped off. He then lifted the girl off too and carried her inside. She had already begun to fall asleep.
“Poor thing.” He thought to himself as he brought her in the shelter. He laid her gently on a pile of hay at the corner of the rest house. The stranger turned to the fireplace and lit it, then went back outside to take care of the horse. Jinxen lifted a parcel off it’s back and tied the sweet beast to a nearby tree.
In the shelter once again, Jinxen searched through the parcel he had been provided with. It was filled with plain clothes about the size of Kira along with other essentials. At the very bottom of the bag was a small pouch of coins and an envelope. He set aside the gold and looked at the envelope. It was addressed to him. He opened the envelope and found that it contained a letter and another envelope addressed to Kira. He read the letter that he assumed was his and left the other one alone.
Thank you for taking Kira for me. She is seven years old now. I hope this number has some significance for you. Give Kira her letter eight years from now, the day before harvest, on her fifteenth birthday. Keep her safe.
I still love you, and always will,
I’m going to tell you a story now, a story about a young woman. This particular young woman lived with her family in a small village. She had been courting with a man whom she had been friends with for a long time, but he had just left to mage school, determined to better himself before they got married. No more than a month after the man’s departure, a small army arrived at the village seeking shelter. They said they had been out fighting barbarians, and would be very grateful for a place to stay. The village, being as kind as it was, obliged to the soldiers, and divided them among the houses, giving them food and a roof over their heads. That night, the soldiers slaughtered the very villagers that had shown them nothing but generosity.
During that night, the young woman had been in her room, feeling lonely without her mage. She heard the sound of her mother’s scream and ran to the kitchen to see what was wrong. The young woman added her own scream to her mother’s as she saw the soldiers. In their hands they boasted bloody swords, made bloodier by the girl’s family. Her mother, her father, her little brother, who had only seen five summers, all lay dead at the young woman’s feet. The soldiers turned to her, measuring her with their greedy eyes. She was to become a slave.
The next morning was gray filled with floating ash from the burned houses of the villagers. Soldiers were doing there last checks of the houses, taking all valuables and able bodies. The young woman, and many other age mates of hers, were marched to the city where they were sold as slaves. The girl ended up as a launder. She gave birth seven months afterward, to a baby girl who’s father was none other than the absent mage. The child and mother lived at the launderer’s for two years.
A change of location happened when one of the king’s guards saw the woman on a trip to the market, getting some dye. The guard knew that the woman’s looks would please the king, so he immediately bought her and her child and brought them to the king’s harem. They were treated kindly there by the eunuchs guarding the harem, and the other women there.
Though they were taken care of at the harem by the other people from it, the king was cruel to his women. He would have killed the young woman’s child if she hadn’t threatened to commit suicide if he did. The young woman’s anger of the king was overwhelmed when she heard the king talking to one of his soldiers. The soldier had just come back from looting a village. The king’s own orders were to go out to other kingdoms and bring back anything valuable to sell, and destroy anything that wasn’t, including people, the profits going to the king.
The young woman then looked into the room with the king and his guest, and saw the soldier. She recognized him as the man who had led the small army that had slaughtered her family and captured her. The young woman vowed revenge on the king no matter what the cost.
When the young woman was no longer so young, and completely a woman, she saw her daughter, who was now six, dancing in the garden. The girl was twirling around a cobra, enchanting the snake into stillness. She saw her daughter’s dance as it really was; magic. The woman now knew how she would be able to save her daughter, and kill the king.
Dangling from the woman’s ear was a teardrop of the earth. It was a teardrop shaped stone of power, used to hold energy. It had little energy in it gathered thus far from her life, but now she had the means to fill it. The woman taught her daughter how to dance, and control her audience, lacking the grace that her daughter had. She taught her child how to take energy from the audience to give to her, where she then stored it in her earring.
When there was finally enough energy accumulated in the woman’s earring, she created a cloak of invisibility for her daughter. There wasn’t enough energy for another cloak for herself, and she refused to wait so long that her daughter was old enough to join the harem. Already she had seen the king begin to cast glances at her. A few weeks beforehand, when she realized how close she was to having sufficient energy for the cloak, she used some of it to cast a spell of finding. She found the person she was looking for, Jinxen, her lost mage lover. After locating him she opened a channel of communication and charged him to come collect his daughter and bring her to safety.
With all the arrangements made, the woman made a poison for the king. It was also to be a poison for herself. She would rather die than remain captive any longer. With her daughter’s assured safety, she committed murder and suicide.
You, Kira, know the rest of the story. I refuse to let you work in the harem. Know that I love you, forever. I’m sure you have found the teardrop of the earth that was accompanying this letter in the envelope. Wear it always, from now on, it will protect you. I hope you can forgive me for what I have done.
Kira had trouble finishing the letter, her eyes blurry with tears, the salt water now streamed over her cheeks and down her face, to splatter softly on the ground. She gripped the earring in her hand, and finally attached it to her ear. If only her mother had been a more powerful magic user, so she could have made another cloak for herself. Or if only Kira had known more about magic then, she could have created another cloak for her mother easily. She wept bitterly.
Jinxen had left the small house, silently giving the letter to Kira earlier. He returned later in the night to find her curled on the floor, clutching the letter close to her while she slept, exhausted from crying. He gently pried the letter from her hands and set it on the nearby table.
The girl stirred in her sleep and then opened her eyes.
“Jinxen, I think you should read the letter too.” With that she left the kitchen and entered her own room, shutting the door softly. She never was one for too many words
The mage looked at the letter he had just placed on the table, then hesitantly picked it up. He read it. Silent tears coursed down his face, as with Kira. Jinxen had tried endless times to find Ninca, but the king’s palace had warding spells around it, only letting spells from within go out.
Flower of Grace
The Journey Begins…
Kira had had her suspicions, of course, that Jinxen was her father. Though he had always treated her more like a companion, or an apprentice than a child of his, which was fine with her. She knew he loved her, and she loved him as well, but it differed slightly from a father daughter type of relationship. And for the first time, he was being overprotective of her. Kira didn’t approve.
“I order you to stay here. As your father it is my right.” Jinxen stood in the doorway of his daughter’s room, watching her as she scurried around, packing.
Kira looked up at him, then turned back to the pile of clothes before her, remaining mute.
“You won’t stay then? There’s no way I can convince you?” Jinxen’s voice was thick with defeat and worry.
“I must go Jinxen, I can’t explain why, but I must.” With a sigh, Jinxen left the room. He returned a few minutes later carrying a dagger, short sword, bow, and arrows.
“If you must go, then by God, you won’t go unarmed.” He shoved the small arsenal of weaponry towards Kira.
Kira picked up the dagger and then handed it to Jinxen and turned her back to him. Jinxen looked questioningly at the dagger and then back at Kira as she said “Jinxen, please cut it for me, I can’t seem to be able to do it myself. I know it will be safer to travel as a boy.”
“Your hair? But…” Kira’s father soothed his hand along the girl’s head, making her onyx hair shimmer in the light. “You’re right.” He regretfully scooped up her tresses and began cutting through them gently, watching solemnly as the velvet strands floated to the floor.
Kira sighed, and also watched the descent of her hair, it had taken her years to grow it out so long. It had been nearly to her knees, but it was just hair, after all, and she could always grow it back. Her head felt oddly light. She began crying uncontrollably and turned to face her father again who opened his arms to her. She rested within the safe protection of his arms, hearing the soft thud from his heart against his chest where she rested her head. He was warm and smelled faintly of herbs and horse. She took a step back and wiped her tears, and she caught the unusual shininess in Jinxen’s eyes as well as she walked out of her childhood home, and into the unknown.
The world outside was gray and damp, the sun not yet risen. Kira’s bag felt heavy as her heart, or maybe it was the just the fog pressing down on her. She had been uneasy and restless as soon as she had put her mother’s earring on. The teardrop of earth buzzed white noise at her, encouraging her to move.
The girl’s feet traveled westward, toward the darker part of the sky. Why west? She didn’t know, she just felt it was the right direction. Floating above the forest, behind her, where Jinxen’s house was, the sun peeked it’s rays of gold, warming Kira’s back.
Stopping for lunch, she retrieved her bag, and rifled around in it for the food she had packed. She grabbed a roll and a hunk of cheese, washing it down with a swish of water from her canteen. She didn’t know how long she would have to travel before she reached her destination, so she would be careful with her food.
Days passed by uneventfully, just long stretches of dirt road, surrounded by trees. There was the occasional passing of merchants followed by wagons ripe with merchandise and profits. Nights were spent in clearings, time passed with mind wanderings while staring at small fires, built to keep warm and cook game she had caught. Food was plentiful here, where the forest was almost undisturbed, filled with rabbits and berries.
Kira’s feet toughened, and she was able to travel farther each day, feeling the tingling in her earring become louder, as she kept getting closer and closer. She finally arrived at a town. The streets were bustling with people, the market square almost claustrophobic. Suddenly a clearing formed in the crowd, and in the middle was an elf girl, surrounded by malicious looking guards.
Flower of Grace
The buzzing from her earring was almost deafening, she could feel it, but it seemed quiet compared to the burning rage of her own. The guards began to circle the girl, their intentions clearly harmful. One guard stepped forward and grabbed the girl from behind, pinning her to his chest, arms wrapped around hers. Another of the guards stepped towards them, cracking his knuckles for dramatic affect.
“Did you know stealing is illegal?” The guard spoke loudly, so he could be heard by all. Many people from the market stopped what they were doing to watch the event unfold before them.
“Yes little missy, you need to be taught some manners.” Said another guard.
“Lookie here, what’s this?” The first guard reached into the girls dress, and pulled out an apple. He took a bite of it, then abruptly smacked the elf across the face with the fruit.
“Stop!” Kira shouted, realizing with a start that she had walked into the circle formed by the watchers, with the elf and tormentors in the middle.
“And what do we have here? A little boy, out to prove himself a man?” The guards leered at her and for a moment she was confused before she remembered her appearance.
“Leave that girl alone, now.” Kira took another step into the circle. Her voice was calm, even, but deadly.
“Oh no! I’m scared! Please, don’t hurt me.” A large blonde haired guard mocked as he gave the elf a vicious punch to the stomach.
Kira shook her head, then started to move her arms in a hypnotizing movement. She started swaying where she stood.
“What the hell is he doing?” The guard holding the elf girl chuckled. “Does he fancy himself a dancer? He looks…” The guard’s words were cut off, and his arms went slack. The girl slipped out of his grasp, then turned to face him, striking him squarely in the jaw.
“What did you do to him?” Demanded another guard, with a crease of worry across his forehead. The rest of the assailants had paused with their wolf-like circling and stared puzzled at the unconscious guard.
Kira didn’t bother to answer him, but drew her sword in reply. The elf girl put her fingers in her mouth, like she was whistling, but no sound came out. A large form leapt into the clearing, and landed facing the guards, back to the girls, mouth open in a snarl. It let out a roar that would frighten any half brained person. The guards started walking slowly and carefully back into the crowd, eyes never leaving the tiger, until eventually, they were gone. The groups of gawkers dispersed, leaving the two girls and the tiger to themselves.
The elf turned, and started walking away, the tiger following a few steps behind. “Tora!” yelled a male voice in front of them and another elf appeared. “Are you okay?”
Tora, the elf girl, nodded and looked back at Kira.
“Thank you.” Said the young male elf understanding Tora’s look. “Please, come to our shop, and have lunch with us.”
Kira nodded, and followed them back to a small hut, complete with a stand for merchandise. The inside of the hut was small, but neat, filled with colored thread and the beginnings of a tapestry on a huge loom in one corner. The loom had been put at the opposite corner of a fireplace, currently unlit.
“Please, have a seat.” said the cordial, male elf, indicating a chair beside a small table. As his guest sat down, he went over to a pantry beside the fireplace. His hand disappeared into the space, and reappeared with a loaf of bread, and some cheese. Setting the items down on the table, he had a seat himself, across from Kira.
At this time, the guard’s victim chose to sit by the loom, her tiger stretching out before her. She just sat there, staring intently at the unfinished tapestry, apparently lost in thought. Kira’s gaze was drawn to the tapestry, and she studied it with more detail. Drawing in the beautiful workmanship of it, she sighed.
“It does seem as if it’s missing something.” She said, not realizing she had said it out-loud.
“Yes, but I can’t think of what it is.” Agreed the elf at the table.
“Did you do that?” Inquired Kira.
“With the help of Tora. She’s learning herself now, too.”
The tapestry depicted a scene in the forest, filled with vibrant greens, and cool blues. In the middle of the forest was a clearing with crystal clear water. In the middle of the water was a young woman bathing.
“She has no reflection.” The realization came to Kira after a slight pause.
“Of course! Thank you, umm… I don’t seem to be able to recall your name.” The weaver had leapt up from his seat as if the equation for perfection had been solved.
“It’s…” she paused a moment, and cursed silently at herself for not thinking of a male name earlier. “Kiren.”
“I’m Charlie.” He extended his hand to her. She shook it. His hand was rough and calloused from carding wool.
“Tora.” Stated the girl elf.
Flower of Grace
The companionable silence that had formed between the three was disrupted by a knocking at the door. Without waiting for an answer, a portly man stepped through.
“Hello Halb, what can I do for you?” Charlie greeted the man with a smile frozen to his face.
“I’ve come to collect the money from your tapestries Charlie.” Replied the intruder with an equally fake smile on his own visage.
“Why of course, let me go retrieve it.” The elf strolled over to a cupboard, and returned with a jingling bag. “Here you are.” He said as he handed it over to Halb.
The man weighed the bag in his hand, and then tipped it into his palm. “There isn’t enough here, you’re missing at least 20 gold pieces.”
“Ah yes, well you see, Tora was in need of a more suitable outfit, and I lowered the price of a one of the tapestries.”
“And why is that?” Halb’s face began to turn red, it seemed to turn into the color of a good apple when he was angry.
“The couple that wanted to buy one of tapestries just didn’t have enough money to pay full price, so I gave them a minor discount, as it was the day after the wedding, and I hadn’t given them a gift.”
“And you knew the couple?” The man hadn’t cooled down, in fact, he was getting angrier by the moment.
“If you don’t make an extra tapestry this month to make up for the lack of money, I’ll make sure the baron hears about it, and believe me, you don’t want him to know about this.” And with that threat, Halb left the room.
Tora let out a sigh that she hadn’t realized she had been holding in.
“What was that all about?” Kira had sat and watched the whole thing from her seat at the table.
“We’re slaves here, owned by the baron.” Charlie had flopped down again into his previous spot across from Kira.
“Why don’t you just escape then, if you don’t like it?”
“They’ve put a spell on us. We can’t cross the gates without them knowing it, and being able to stop us.” The only human in the room turned to the elf girl standing by the corner. Her voice had surprised Kira, since she had only scarcely heard her speak.
“I see,” Kira sat thinking for a moment, “Do you know what kind of spell it is, you appear to have a great deal of magic.”
“I know some elf magic, but it’s much different from the type humans use, and Tora knows almost nothing of magic, even though she’s overflowing with it.” Charlie had responded to the query as Tora had just shrugged at it.
“Give me some time, and perhaps I can come up with something.” Kira said. “Both of you come over here, I want to see what this magic is.”
The two elves approached her at the command. Kira sat staring intently at them rubbing her earring. At the first touch neon colors flowed through the room. Charlie stood in a pool of green with a tint of blue, and Tora was completely saturated in an orange glow that flickered like a fire. Within both of these auras was an ugly brown spot, in their stomachs.
“Ah!” Kira leapt up at the appearance of the color, letting go of her earring at the same time, and the colors faded away.
“What is it?” Charlie asked with concern.
“Umm… nothing. Did you two eat anything given to you by any of the baron’s people here?” Although she trusted them, she didn’t want them to know about her earring yet. She still knew almost nothing about the earring, but it kept doing things that shocked her.
“Of course. Tora has been prisoner here almost her entire life, and worked at the manor before. I myself came just a few months ago, and had almost no contact with the manor, but I was fed by the soldiers on the way down.”
“Alright, I think something you ate had a spell imbedded into it. It might take me a while to create another spell to counteract it.”
|Flower of Fire (Chapter 4)||A Night with the Faeries|
|Flower of Fire (Chapter 2)||
|Flower of Fire|