We're back again -Tian, Castien and me. We left our boys having fun and that's where we pick up but the fun doesn't last long
Castien’s wonder at every new thing he comes across is exciting. At first, he was hesitant, shy of the attention showered on him by every part of our environment, from the merfolk, to the small animals who sniffed and climbed and fell asleep on his lap. Fey folk, from the tiny flower-fairies, to the gnarled root-dwellers ran to-and-fro bringing disparate tidbits and cool, refreshing cordials for his delight. When he waved them off, professing to be full, they brought him sweet truffles and candied flowers.
Of course they brought these thing to me, too, but I could not have found sweeter nourishment among any of their rich fare than to drink in the pleasure and excitement on the face of my love. Every now-and-again, he looks up at me and his eyes shine brighter than the scales of the mermaids who won’t leave him alone. They want to hand-feed him, constantly touching his golden hair.
Malik is getting his fair share of attention, too. His purr fills the clearing and he submits to petting with good grace, even when the little ones tangle his hair.
For my part, I wish we could get on with it. The events of the last few days are catching up with me and I just want to go home. I want nothing more than to sleep in my own bed wrapped in the arms of my love.
Soon, my dear one. Soon
The voice drops into my mind like golden sunshine. It is not the warm, comforting glow of Malik’s presence, but a bright, light that warms me from the inside out.
“Come, let us retire to somewhere more private, that we might speak freely.”
The myriad creatures who had been so absorbed in our attention, cried loud protest when The Lady bade us rise and follow her. We pass again into the garden where the statues forever pour the crystal water into the pool. Malik pads silently at my side as The Lady leads us behind, to where an opening in the wall leads to a pleasant garden and thence to a simple, single story structure with no door.
Inside, it is cool and silent and I had not realized how much I’d needed just that until the house envelops me in sleepy shade, muting sounds and enveloping me solitude. Except that I am not alone. Castien’s fingers lace with mine and his guileless gaze draws me into its bottomless depth as we move through the hall into a room that contains little finery, but a plethora of soft cusions that we can lose ourselves in.
Sinking with a sigh onto a mound of gold and russet silk, Castien tugs on my hand and I only too pleased to settle myself beside him. Malik circles for a few moments, then plops down with his head in Castien’s lap.
The Lady poises delicately on a chair that could have been made from spun glass. She smiles, but the smile is full of sadness.
We wait while she observes us in silence. I sense Castien tense, and I, too begin to worry about what news she has.
“My dears,” she says in a voice as gentle as a summer breeze. You have much to do and time grows short. The situation in the South is worse than anyone knows. Sorcerers are weaving spells and they have almost concluded their work. One day soon, they will come and all will fall before them. The old forests will burn and the very stone of The Kingdom will rise against it.”
The words fall like burning brands into my mind, searing me with images of death and decay. Before I realize, I am on my feet, my hand clenched at my side and the stench of burning flesh in my nose.
“Be easy,” The Lady says. “There is yet time.”
“My father can raise an army.” Castien says. “We can march within the week.”
The Lady nods her head sadly. “No army can stand against them,” she says. “The land itself will rise against them.”
“Then what? You are telling us there’s no hope?”
“There is hope. There is one thing that can stand against them. One thing that can strike at their very heart. We can defeat them before they cross our borders.”
“Then tell us. What is this thing? We will find it. Build it. Whatever it takes.”
Castien tugs gently at my sleeve and I glance down. His eyes are bleak, his face pale. “It’s us,” he says. “The weapon is us.”
Weakness overtakes me and I sink to the cushions. Malik wriggles between us, nudging us both in turn with his massive muzzle.
Fear not. I am with you.
I have smile at the surety of the cat, as if his presence changes everything. As if he alone can protect us.
“I don’t understand.”
“She made us like this,” Castien says and there is bitterness in his tone. “All of that – what happened to us - was a trick. They…that…that Druid, tricked us into going through the flames so they could create weapons to fight for them – us.”
I gaze at The Lady with shock. “Is this true?”
“I cannot pretend otherwise.”
“But why? Why did you trick us? I would have gone willingly.”
“I would not have.”
I tear my gaze from The Lady’s calm, blue eyes and gaze into green eyes that are far from calm. A tiny flame of anger burns hot behind each pupil.
“How could you do this to me – to us? To change us like this. To use us. I-I can’t…”
Castien gets to his feet and begins to pace, as if his anger is too great to be contained by stillness.
Finally, he pauses before her and draws himself up to his full height. “I will not be treated like this. I will not bend to your will. Let me go and will return to my kingdom and prepare for war.”
Now go read the other fantastic flashers. Don't forget, if you're new to the stories, to go back and read from the start. Most bloggers have put them in the same place for you. Just like I have :D - mostly