The night wind was blowing strong, whisking leaves fallen from the trees around in miniature whirlwinds, and carrying the scent of snow from the North.
A group of riders, dressed all in dark blue, paused on a hill top, and one leaned his head toward what he thought was faint singing, like a tune hummed into the wind. Fog was thick, hanging in the air like a tapestry, and in the distance, the dim outline of a cloaked figure could faintly be seen.
"We ride on to Maderina; we should arrive by dawn."
At the command from the senior officer, the company of about fifteen started again, and within less than a minute, the hilltop was empty. The lone movement for miles around was a mysterious figure, walking on until the dawn, but with a very different destination from those who had just departed.
The walking seemed to go on forever, the fog was like trying to walk through a blanket, and my shoes were soaked through, obviously not meant for serious travel. The only comfort I had was the gray cloak, given to me ages ago by the one who had told me everything, and yet answered nothing. It was a blessing disguised as a curse, but I didn't know it yet, to me, it was just a going away gift, but perhaps I should start at the beginning. That's usually best.
"Malhareina, where are you? You have lessons this morning with Master Westworth, and a luncheon with your father."
I wanted to hide in the wardrobe, but sighed and called to tell her that I was in the Queen's chamber with my new dress.
Mistress Prunista sniffed as she came in as if we were not good enough.
"Mardis, why do you not have enough sense to keep this child out of the Queen's rooms? You know she does not like to look upon her."
"I will do better from now on Mistress," my nanny Mardis said.
I was dragged by my fathers advisor out into the cold stone hallway, and was about to enter the classroom, when surprisingly my father stepped around the corner, and stopped us.
"Malhareina, come join me in the audience hall. Prunista, you will stay here."
I now stepped along with the King of Feldrinth, much happier than just moments before. Though I did not have often occasion to be with my father, I loved him more than anything, my stepmother did not like me for I reminded her of the Queen before her, acclaimed by the people, and loved, unlike she.
"Reinny," my fathers eyes were troubled, "I want you to come in, and you must not say a word, alright? I just want you to know that I love you with all my heart."
"Alright father, but I don't understand, I…"
"Daughter, do not speak until I tell you. Just come."
We stepped into the grand audience chamber where I loved to sneak into at night and play so my voice would echo off the vast walls. A strange group was assembled there. A man in a black cloak, a woman with a tiny green bird on her shoulder, my stepmother on her throne, and most peculiar was a man dressed in an array of bright clothes and scarves, with a beard almost to his waist.
I was about to ask what this was about until I remembered my fathers wishes.
The strange man spoke first.
"Milord, we have contacted you. You know who it is we seek, and you will let the foretelling play itself out, or it would mean peril for all of Feldrinthe. We must have a Prophesier."
"Stephen, just let them take her. It's not like you are giving her to the enemy. This is for the good of the country." That comment came from my stepmother.
I knew they were talking about me, I wasn't addled, but the two things that kept me from speaking this were my fathers warning, and the fact that I didn't really know what they were arguing about, but I didn't like it.
"Wengirlyn, I can't. Her mother…"
"Her mother will never know," she replied in a smug tone, "She's dead, remember?"
I had never seen my father so angry, but at that moment, the woman said, "We can take her, or she can stay here and die. That is your choice. They will find her, and kill her eventually."
It was silent for a long while, and then my father turned to me and I saw the sadness in his eyes again.
"I think you know what I must do, and why, but I will miss you like a piece of my heart child." Then turning to the rest of the individuals, he said, "Alright, I… You may take her with you."
"Reina, get your things…"
"NO, she may take nothing with her."
At this point I finally decided to stick up for myself.
"Father, what about mother's locket? I must take that if I am to go somewhere."
Again, the woman said no. I wasn't about to let this stranger dictate my life more than Nanny had, so I ran from the room, and into my own, grabbed the necklace, shoved it in my pocket, and pretended to still be searching for it when they came in to get me.
"Let's go child." The people who wanted to rip me away from my world and family seemed impatient.
The rest of that day seemed in a blur, except waving good bye to father from the back of a caravan wagon, and then finally collapsing into tears. I still didn't understand WHY any of this had happened, and why it was happening to me.
I woke up from a deep sleep in the hay in the cart, only to find that it had stopped moving, and everyone was outside sitting around a blazing fire. The man who to me looked like a magician saw me and yelled for me to come to the fire.
"How old are you, girl?" he asked.
"I'm nine," I said with the proudness of one who thought that was many years in wisdom.
He laughed at that, and asked if I would like some food. I nodded eagerly, and he handed me a plate of sausages out of the blaze. They began to talk among themselves and I was ignored until I voice that sounded like music to me said, "You can take that locket out and wear it now. They will not take it away from you."
I gasped. "How did you know that I had it?" I asked, amazed.
"I can feel you concealing it," he said. He still had not removed the ebony cloak, and so I could not tell whether he was young or old, or anything about him. His voice sounded timeless.
I had enough for one day, and while sitting at the fire I fell asleep again, and did not awake until the following morn, back in the wagon with the bumping of the dusty road beneath the wheels. I crept up to the front of the cart so that I could hear the woman and the magician man speaking. I did not see the mysterious stranger anywhere.
"So, Kirhanna, what do you think about all this? I still don't see why we must go to the Plains Tower. Can't he teach her from here, or even better, from Nevintshire?"
I was shocked by that name, it is the country above Feldrinthe, where the wild woods and the fey are supposed to live.
"I think we had best follow his orders, Marlon. I don't want to be one the bad side of…of one of them." The bird woman, who I now knew as Kirhanna said.
"Well, I still think we would be best of if we left him and the girl, and let them do their prophesizing or whatnot, and we went back to the farm. Let them save the world. I just live in it."
Kirhanna turned away, a hard thing to do since she was driving the wagon at the same time.
I felt the discussion was over, and besides, I wanted to have breakfast. Nine year olds are hungry most of the day.
"Can I please have some porridge please?" I asked the magician man.
He seemed startled that I was there. I ate, and the two were silent the rest of the way. We stopped after many dials, and it was almost dusk again. The place that we halted was a barren, dusty stretch of land about as long as the stables had been at the castle, and it was surrounded by the luscious green of a forest. In the center of the stark area was a great tower of stone, though I saw no windows or doors. Though, most surprising was that the strange man who knew too much was standing there, waiting for us.
'How did he get here before us?' I wondered to myself.
My two recent traveling companions stepped back, and were into their cart before I could even say a word.
"Come here please, Malhareina." I did not even question how he knew my name, all those who had been in Feldrinth knew of the tale of the warrior queen, her child, and the new harsh queen in her place. The citizens of Feldrinth held no love for their new queen, and she had of yet given them no reason to. I had no reason to believe that she ever would.
"Do you know why you are here? More importantly, do you know who I am?" he asked, again with his voice that could not be placed.
"Well, I know it has something to do with a prophecy, and Nevintshire, and me…"
"Yes, it does have to do with all of those, but first let us meet. I am called Draestin, but that is not my true name. My true name is Dryaestinial-al-yuadra."
"But…but that is a fey name," I stammered out. "You…are you fey?" This was like a dream come true for the nine year old that I was. I thought him to be out of a faery tale like Mardis would read me. That name though, brought a pang to my heart, and I wondered if I would ever see her again, or any one else at home.
The man nodded, and he finally removed the hood of his raven cloak. His hair was a brilliant silver against shining skin and bright green eyes.
"Wow, you are fey? Can you do magic like in the stories too?" I asked him in awe.
He laughed. "Yes, but you shouldn't be so shocked, youngling, for you to can do it."
I giggled at that, "No I can't. I'm not fey."
"Listen to me, Malhareina, for I have a tale to tell you. Once upon a time, a fey woman set out of Greenveil forest in order to find a cure for her mother, who was dying from a steel made wound, something of which she had no knowledge. She met a man who was a ruler in a foreign kingdom, and he made a potion to cure this hurt. He journeyed with her to the forest to make sure that it worked. On the way there, he fell in love with this faery woman, and she returned that love, for he was a good man. Once the remedy worked and the mother was cured, they arranged to be married, but if the woman married a mortal man, she would not be allowed back into the forest, which was her home. Everyone warned against it, but she would not heed their warnings, and was married. Though the Zeks-the immortal wisefey told her of the perils of having a half fey child, she disobeyed. She had one child and a happy life with her king, but, the call of the enchanting forest was too strong, and she died of a broken heart mourning her home. That woman's name was Latalhenreina."
"But that was my mothers name…Oh!" I gasped with the shock of all of this. "But that means that I am…"
"Yes, you are faery, but you are so much more than that." Draestin said.
"What do you mean?"
"There has been war in the land for too long, too much death, and too much Tamed magic. Only a prophesier can stop this as Nelhamma the Great Created the worlds long ago. There has been to prophesier since to keep this world in check, or help the gods in aiding this world." Draestin continued with his explanation.
"Oh, but what has that to do with me?" I asked.
"Youngling, have you not felt Nature call you, the Moon sing, and Sea stir in your blood? Have you not noticed that you are much more aware than any other your age? YOU are the only hope for this world, you Malhareina, daughter of Latalhenreina, are the Prophesier." Draestin exclaimed. "A mortal is one thing on this earth, and a fey another, but when you combine the blood of a fey and royal house whose line goes back to Nelhamma, you receive a powerful being."
I was shocked beyond words by his speech, and of course spent many minutes denying it.
"But I couldn't be," I protested, but Draestin cut me off finally, and said,
"You know it to be true, don't try to deny it." His voice was lined with steel.
At this, I knew it would do no use to protest more, so I resigned myself to this fate. After all, it's not as though I really had a choice.
Five Years Later
I had lived in this tower for five years with Draestin, taking lessons in swordplay, magic, and just plain academics. I now was a junior swordsman, one step below master, and my magic skills were well under hand. I could read, and write, and knew how to work with figures. However, after that first day I had been there, we had talked no more about my destiny as the Prophesier, and I did not know what hope I had to save this world. I had never heard a prophecy, or even a poem. The Gods could not know me in any way other than any other fey. This is how things went until Jon arrived at the tower.
It started on a night when the storms were raging, lightning lit the sky in sheets, and the thunder sounded as if the gods were angry enough to end the world. Only a fool would travel in such weather.
A knock sounded at the door, and at first I thought that I was imagining it, but as it became more persistent, I went to see who it was. I opened the door with a spell, for it concealed the door on the out side of the Plains Tower, and I wondered how someone would know how to get in, or where the door was. A man was standing outside, sopping, with water running in tiny rivulets down his forehead from his hair. He was tall, at least two heads taller than I was, and he had russet hair, long and shaggy. He looked like a cat dragged on the sea bottom, and as I was about to invite him to the fire, he brushed past me with out a glance, and strode toward the staircase.
"Where do you think you're going?" I asked, outraged, and "is this your home? If you think you can just stomp your way in here, dripping mud by the buckets all over my Tower…"
He cut me off with a biting look, and answered in a deep tone,
"Aren't you awfully forward for a maid?"
I just stood there, spluttering. I suppose I looked rather like a fish, but at the time my mind had gone so blank from fury I cared not a bit. I had never come across such arrogance in my life!
"Maid! Maid…! If I am a maid, then you are a cockroach! I would be so honored to be the maid of any man if it meant I was not standing in the room with you, sir," I sneered the last word, spitting it out as a bullet should hit his heart and knock some sense into the fool.
He wheeled about narrowing his eyes, and I couldn't help but notice their unusual color, the deep luster of sapphires in a mermaid's hidden treasure cove. I felt a slow blush rising to my cheeks like the rise of the blazing summer sun and prayed it wasn't noticeable, for the man was contemplating me as though I was a bug he might not want to dirty his shoe with. I did notice, however that he did not seem very much older than me, maybe a semi-decade.
"Who are you?" he asked finally, with genuine curiosity. It seemed he had not expected to find me here, but I was being an idiot, who would expect to find me here?
"Who are you?" I echoed, and stared at him until he answered first.
"I am Jon…Jon Strelensorm," he said, hesitatingly as if not sure if he should reveal this. I wondered about this man.
"Well, since you told me, my name is Riena." I had taken to a more adult form of my childhood nickname.
"Riena," he said musingly, savoring each syllable over his lips, "I assume that this is not your full name, your highness," he said mockingly.
"No, it is not. My name as given is Malhariena. Malheriena Kelovvonen." I knew it wasn't wise to give my true name, but I had an irrepressible urge to see how this man would react.
My wish came true, though not in the way I had expected. Jon's tanned face turned the color of chalk, and his eyes just about bulged from his head, the way a goldfishes do when they are about to die.
"Where's Draestin?" he demanded in a hoarse tone, and since his face now seemed to be the purple color of rotten ashberries, I thought maybe I had better hurry and respond to his request. I left him where he was and hurried down the dark stairs to Draestin's work room. He was often in there at nights and at late had been staying there longer and longer as the winter turned to spring.
When I reached the bottom, I called out,
"Draestin? There's a man named Jon here to see you. He seems, well, a little irritated," I said cautiously, for with Draestin you could never be sure of a reaction. He was a very kind man, yet underneath his gentleness with me, there was an edge of danger, of uncertainty.
Draestin looked up from the scroll he was busily translating, and said,
"Jon hmmm? When did he arrive? I thought he wouldn't arrive for another week."
He stood up, and came over to me. He looked into my eyes once, and I felt a shiver run through my veins like icy liquid steel and a burning magma together, and then he looked away, and all was normal once again. I felt as though he had gazed into my soul.
"I wonder now, I do wonder," he muttered to himself as I followed him back up the staircase and to the stop where I had left Jon.
"Jon, how have you been? How are the Zeks these days?"
I stared at the man with a new wonderment. No wonder he had such a strange air about him, he was eternally young and all powerful. I was struck dumb, feeling a complete fool for the things I had said earlier.
"Draestin, you are a conniving man! Now I know why you pulled me up here! I am not the one supposed to continue her training, that's Menthinth's job and you know that! The prophesier can only be trained by the eldest; they are too powerful for anyone else!"
Jon kept looking to me out of the corner of his marvelous sapphire eyes, and shockingly to me, he seemed nervous. Draestin pulled him close and whispered something in his ear. Something that had great affect, for with whatever words my mentor had spoken, Jon was now shaking his head fervently in agreement.
"Draestin, I suppose I have no other alternatives. However, I had no option but to believe someday you will regret this choice," Jon said somberly, and I could not help but notice the gleam in Draestin's eyes as he turned to me was anything but somber.
"Reina, come over here please. I think we should plan how you will arrange yourselves, for there are worldly dangers outside this tower."
"Outside? Am I leaving?" Draestin had warned me this day would come, but he hadn't said it would come so soon, or be so sad in parting.
"Yes, I believe you and Jon will leave at first light. He will escort you to Went where you will learn the elements of the Orbs, and then onto Greenviel so you may help us ward of the Tamed Magic."
I noticed Jon was edging away slightly, and I couldn't help but wonder why. I wasn't green, purple, or any other strange color.
"I am going to back to my workshop. Jon, would you care to accompany me?" It was not really a question.
They descended underneath the tower side by side, leaving me to wonder what would happen next. As I got ready for bed, I began to feel nervous about leaving the Tower; after all I had spent the last five years of my life here. Jon was an interesting character, but I wondered more about that strange look and comment of Draestin's. What had he meant? I slipped under my covers and prepared myself for an interesting day ahead of me. At the time though, I did not know how interesting it would in fact turn out to be. Or how long.