Chapter 19 – A New Face
3 0 0
X
Reading Options
Font Size
A- 15px A+
Width
Reset
X
Table of Contents
Loading... please wait.

Chapter 19 - A New Face

 

~ Eighteen cycles of the seasons - 5 Years earlier ~

 

The bronzed light of an early spring dusk lit the city with darkened tones and set the low laying clouds alight with golden hues. Lia walked toward the entrance of the Academy, the tall gates set between the two foremost towers, lanterns already lit and giving a gentle wash of illumination. She looked up, above her the abutment stepped out slightly; its lofty position a marvel and also her home. Nodding to the guards at the gate and bidding them a good evening she resettled the case of her guqin on her shoulders, smiling to herself as she remembered the requests for another song. She had agreed to play her instrument at the most well-respected establishment in the city, its owner a friend of Eira’s and her daughter one of Lia’s younger classmates.

It had been almost four months since she had returned from Selera’s hometown for the second time. The Captain of The Northern Wolf had returned slightly ahead of schedule. Lia blushed slightly, recalling Selera telling her unashamedly of their union in early hours of the morning, the hot light blazing from both of their marks as they found each other. The wedding had come quick and Lia had attended as the snows first fell in the mountains. It was the week after the wedding that she found out Selera’s parents and the twins would be leaving the village for potentially a few years as they had been offered an opportunity to research ancient sites in the northern reaches. A sprawling desert that hosted a number of pristine small cities, with accumulated history which dated back to before the destruction of the world.

Selera had mentioned her plans to board The Northern Wolf as a spell runner, and be a part of the crew at her husband’s side. After meeting Selera’s destined, she was quick to agree that despite his stature and physical qualities, Alletair was a gentle giant. Thoughtful, caring and respectful of everyone he crossed, but with a sense of command and authority among his crew that could not be overlooked. Lia could sense the pain behind his eyes, the long past that made him who he was, and she was happy for her closest friend to find herself partnered to one such as him.

On both fortnights that she had stayed with the family, Groyven had effectively glued himself to her in every waking moment despite his twin sister’s protests. Lia smiled to herself and shook her head as she passed through the entry hall, the great vaulted ceilings echoing her footsteps. Taking the same door that she had years before with Jaina. She passed along a short passage and started up the flights of stairs to avoid the other students and academics that would be present in the main hall of an evening. She distinctly disliked the attention that followed her, the eyes of students and masters alike, the false words and hollow respect. Following another side-passage, she slipped into the corridor that the servants used.

Exchanging a few polite nods and words she made quick progress and came out in the service entry right beside the main entrance of the Sanctuary. Holding the door open for an elven girl a year or two younger than herself who pushed a small trolley, she asked for her to come to her rooms later after delivering the contents as soon as she recognised her. Almost stuttering in surprise, the serving girl agreed, blushing furiously. It was well known that all those that served the sanctuary were met by all who lived within, and that some were even selected to become personal attendants.

Lia smiled to herself again as she walked through the forest of the sanctuary, her father Harks and Jaina were in Heimlan’s Pass at the moment. She had sent a letter along with Harks to Rietta and Orlwen, promising that she would visit the following autumn due to missing out on some of her studies while with Selera. Even now after this time, she made it a point to visit at least once a year for a few weeks and when able, twice. The journey took days, but being back home in the mountains, walking the trails and speaking with her parents and Odessia gave her a sense of peace that she couldn’t quite find anywhere else.

The sanctuary felt strangely empty tonight, the forest still except for the occasional breath of the faintest breeze that tickled the leaves. Faint shafts of the waning moon past its prime shone through the canopy and lit the forest floor in gentle ambiance. Tonight it was only Eira and her. Lia frowned slightly; she would dine and spend the evening with Eira, the woman she always addressed as Mama. Picking up her pace, she slipped through the door to her quarters, the lanterns springing to life and bathing the rooms in a soft glow. She passed the room that once again resembled the study she had when she first arrived at the Academy before entering the library and placed her instrument down on the long table.

Unbuttoning her blouse and untying the sash at her waist as she walked, she kicked off her doe-skin boots and entered her wardrobe. With barely a moment spent she had picked out a comfortable, yet simple mid-thigh chemise of deep emerald green and a silken long-sleeved gown with sash of creamy jade. Taking of her clothing, she barely spared a thought for the mirror before adorning her body with the light cloth. Just as she settled the robe on her shoulders she heard a light knock at the door.

“It is open.” Lia called out.

A few moments later the chestnut-blond girl Lia had invited stood at the door to the room, nervous and at attention.

“My Lady.” she said with a small curtsey.

“Do you know why I invited you here?” Lia asked as she closed her robe and started with the sash.

The girl shook her head, worried as Lia glanced at her.

“Did you think I wouldn’t recognise you?” Lia said with a smile.

The girl cast her eyes downward in shame, fidgeting, “I-I didn’t mean to…”

“I have seen you before, I remember your face from earlier this year. You are the youngest in one of the classes, quiet and always seated at the back. Laela, is it not?”

“I-I am honoured that you remember my name, My Lady.”

Lia smiled softly, “Laela, you do not need to hide your face.”

Laela looked at her quickly before once again staring at her shoes, “I do, my lady. I work as a servant when I am not in classes. It was the only way I could afford to…”

Lia glanced at her and drew close, standing in front of her, “It is the only way you can afford to be here, your family are not of the upper caste are they?” Lia watched as she shook her head, “Your accent, you are not from the city. We can speak in our native tongue if you wish.”

“Thank you! Speaking common seems so…”

“Backward?” Lia finished with a grin.

Laela nodded quickly.

“Which village are you from?” asked Lia.

“Aisodai, it is a fortified town, to the north.”

“I have been to Aisodai, two years ago. Jaina hails from outside its walls, we visited her family.”

“Lady Jaina? She is from Aisodai?” Laela asked in visible surprise.

Lia shook her head, “You did not know?” she said with a laugh, “I suppose a reasonably big town populated by Fyrelves might not know each other by name. Have you met with Jaina yet?”

Laela shook her head, “No, every moment outside of class I serve the Academy. It was only this week I was reassigned to serve the Sanctuary instead of the Masters.”

“Oh, then someone is looking out for you. Or believes you have a chance.” Lia said as she looked Laela over quickly and took her hand, an imperceptible shimmer under her fingertips.

Her younger classmate and servant to the Academy looked at her in bewilderment.

“There are not many students working as servants with your skill. Most who can not afford to enter the academy, enter by serving the masters and catching their eye to be sponsored. Whereas you are working to fund your place. How long have you been doing this, Laela?”

“Over a year, nearly two.” Laela said as she stared at her shoes submissively.

Lia nodded slowly, “Your arts?”

“I am a Weaver, of fragile life and…”

Lia’s eyes widened, “You are equally strong in both sides of your art? A Weaver?” she exclaimed, “Then you are a Warden of life and death, or at least destined to be so.”

“Yes, but I also have elemental sorcery, the eternal air.” Laela added, meeting Lia’s eyes with a measure of pride.

Lia stood, watching her for a few moments, “Well, you can not dine with the Chancellor dressed as a servant, come.” she said, gesturing for Laela to follow.

“But, My Lady, I…”

“I will not have one of my kinsfolk, who is so talented and correctly natured working as a common servant. But, I can not sponsor you as I have not graduated and the Chancellor is unable to or else everyone will be approaching her. There is one thing I can do; I can offer you a position as such.”

“My Lady?!”

Lia smiled, “If you wish, I am offering the position of being my personal attendant. I am alone up here most of the time. You will attend your classes, study in my rooms if you need to. I assume you are living in the servants’ dormitories?”

Laela nodded in shock.

“No longer. There are the Attendants’ quarters just inside the entrance to the Sanctuary, do you know of the passage?”

Again a disbelieving nod.

“You will have your own private room and a generous allowance.” Lia stopped as she saw the tears growing in Laela’s eyes.

“But how?”

“We are more alike than you realise. For a few months now Mama has been suggesting I take on an attendant. The least I can do is help another at the same time.” Lia said; her eyes on the girl’s as she nodded.

“That you are entrusted to enter the Chancellor’s home, tells me everything I need to know. Come Laela, you can borrow some clothes of mine and we will have dinner with the Chancellor.”

 


 

Lia led Laela around the perimeter path. Lia’s junior was dressed in a simple shift of blues, her dirty blonde hair loose and over her shoulders in waves and her soft blue eyes shimmering wetly in the muted light of night.

“Am I really going to dine with the Chancellor, My Lady?”

Lia laughed, “Yes, Mama is expecting me. Erann will be there as well. Another, as my guest will not cause issue and Laela, my name is Lia.”

Laela smiled hesitantly and continued to follow, “Lia, I am one of the servants, are you sure?” she said timidly.

“No, you are a fellow student, two years my junior who is talented and in an advanced class. We both share very similar positions, we are both alone when in the crowd. You are coming at my invite.” she looked at the girl, “We will cut through the forest.”

Laela looked at the wood with apprehension, “We were told to not enter, something within can waylay the servants.”

“Ivy? Waylaying servants?” laughed Lia, “Actually, it would not surprise me.” she said to Laela with a smile, “Take my hand, you will be safe.”

Laela glanced among the trunks and took Lia’s hand, allowing herself to be led through the lush grass and trees, her eyes full of wonder.

“Who is Ivy?”

“A Dryad, she tends this forest.” Lia glanced at Laela as they walked, “What have you heard?”

“A Dryad? I heard a story of a girl being lost in this forest for days when she thought to cut through it.”

Lia grimaced, “An easy mistake, to be sure. Your intent is what makes the wood change. If you really want to disappear even in the back of your mind, it will help you, the same if you want to quickly move from one side to the other. Are you sure she just didn’t want a nice walk through the woods to get away from something that was troubling her?” she finished with a thoughtful expression.

Laela looked ahead, spying the walkway on the other side of the wood through the trees, “Is it really this small?” she said quickly glancing at Lia.

“I am starving, Laela! No forest would dare get in the way of that!”

They both stepped out and onto the stone path just a few short steps to the entrance of Eira’s expansive living complex. Lia looked Laela over and smiled, gesturing for her to wait a moment as she entered alone.

“Mama?” Lia asked as walked down the hall and toward the dining room.

“You brought a guest?” Eira’s voice filtered out from another room.

“Yes, Mama.”

“Bring her in; Erann will be with us shortly.”

Lia shook her head and waved Laela in, leading her to the den-like dining room. She quickly picked a couple of items from the already set table.

“I am so hungry.”

Laela stared at her, “Do you not eat outside, in the city when you go out?”

Lia shook her head, “Only if Papa is with me. He can sense if the food has been tampered with.” she said through a mouthful of flatbread, “Or if I take some with me.”

“I swear, Lia is completely absent when it comes to having guests.” Eira said as she entered and quickly stepped over to Laela.

“Please, sit…”

“Laela of Aisodai. It is the greatest honour to be invited to your table, My Lady.” she said with a deep curtsey.

Eira smiled, “Ah, finally another Fyrelf from the settlement. There are too few of you here. Please, sit.” she looked at Lia, “I was wondering how long it was going to take after Selera graduated. I had a good feeling about today.”

“Do you approve?” Lia asked.

Laela stared at the both of them in confusion.

“Erann, let’s get this done quickly, before the girl passes out from hunger.” Eira said as Erran entered, “You did as I asked?”

“Good-evening, and yes.” he said without surprise.

Eira looked at Laela, “Do you understand the honour that my daughter is offering you?”

Laela stared at her and nodded, her mouth suddenly dry.

“You are a fellow student of the Academy.” Eira said.

“She is, the Matron sent word that there would be a new addition to those serving the Sanctuary.” Erann said.

Laela looked to Erann, his dark eyes on her, scrutinising, “How do you know about me?” she asked quietly.

Erann smiled warmly, “I know about everyone that enters Eira’s home, the Sanctuary. I signed the approval after the Matron sent me all your details. She has been watching you carefully, you have demonstrated fine qualities and dedication to both your position as a student and to the Academy. But, to become an attendant, is to become like family to a degree.”

Eira suddenly stared at the wall, placing her hand on the table and frowning.

Erann continued, “Since you are a student, it will be...”

“She has already accepted, I have seen it.” Eira said sharply in sudden impatience, “What is this?!”

“Mama?”

“I must go, now.” she quickly swept out of the room, “Apologies, Laela, something has,” she frowned deeply and closed her eyes, “Something unforeseen has…I must leave now. Erann, the guard are already forming. Lia, change and…”

Eira gripped the doorframe tightly, her white hair falling around her shoulders, “Someone is forcing the portal. Lia, the entry as quickly as you can.” she said, her eyes sharply glowing as they met Lia’s, “Now.”

With those words, Eira was gone, striding down the hallway, leaving the girls in shock. With a curt nod, Erann was after her.

Lia looked at Laela with concern, “The portal – Back to my rooms, as fast as we can.”

 


 

Lia ran down the steps, Laela not far behind. Dressed in doeskin breeches and a silken blouse, a longsword was strapped to her waist, its hilt being levered by a hand as she ran.

“Laela, I do not want to place you in danger, but I must…”

“I am coming with you Lia.” she said back as they ran.

Lia smiled as those loitering in the main halls were quickly getting out of the way.

“Then stay behind me, you are unarmed.”

They both took the wide set of stairs two at a time. Running light with sure feet as the doors to the main entry came into view. She could see Eira at the doors, Erann at her side, blade drawn, the hum and vibration in the air now perceptible. A number of senior casters were preparing and calling out their readiness.

Lia came up behind Eira, skipping to the side as her mother pointed to the side passage, “Watch from the pillars and be ready. If everything is well, disband the forces before I exit with whoever is coming. If it is not right, you know what to do.”

Lia nodded and ran for the passage, quickly making her way to the side door.

“What is going to happen?!” Laela gasped as she reached Lia’s side.

“We watch, we wait, and if all goes to hell…” Lia smiled crookedly as her eyes flared to life with simmering blue fire.

 


 

 

ANNOUNCEMENT: If you would like to support the author or read advance chapters and get access to other goodies, don't forget to check out my Patreon (the big red button below!), where up to 7  weeks (+14 chapters) of advance chapters of Book 2 - In the Shadow of Dreams are available!

0