Magic, murder, intrigue, missing relatives, secret caves, fantastical creatures, royalty, nobility, romance...
Who ever said our lives were dull?
To follow our story, use the sidebar links and start at the beginning of it all...

Keish- July 6, 2004

July 6, 2004
Dear Arri,
We had another shock yesterday, not long after the paper I was writing on vanished.  (Not that that wasn’t a little bit of a shock in and of itself.  I wasn’t entirely sure how the fairy magic in the paper would work.)
Anyway, just after lunch we were in the library, resting.  Jace and Imato didn’t want to go to bed yet, in case another note came from you, but we were all so tired we were just sitting, listless.  Papa stayed with us, hoping for news.
I had started to doze when there was a rap on the door.  “Lord and Lady Brio, My Lord,” Brooksby intoned in his most precise tone, managing to sound both deferential and disapproving.  No doubt because he had not been prepared for guests.
I jerked up in my seat as Uncle W. came in, followed by Nysa.
“Thank you, Brooksby,” Papa said, managing to not sound as surprised as I’m sure he felt.  “Bring a tea tray please and see that their things are taken to guest rooms.”
Brooksby bowed and left.
Nysa and Uncle W. both looked awful.  Jace quickly surrendered his chair to Nysa and pulled another closer for Uncle W. before joining me on the settee.
“We’ve come for news,” Uncle W. said.  “The waiting was becoming unbearable and if there was any news, you would have it.”
He was looking directly at me and I resisted the urge to squirm like a child caught in a lie.
Papa handed him your letter before I could form a response.
I could follow where in the letter he was by the rise and fall of his shoulders.  When he finished, he handed it over to Nysa.
While she was reading, Marta brought a tray.  Not just tea, but sandwiches, pastries, juice and a cup of the soup Nysa liked so much when you were all here for the wedding.  She paused, uncertain whether or not she should approach Nysa, who had started crying near the end of your letter.
“Just leave it on the table, please,” I said.  “Thank you, Marta.”
As she left, Nysa dropped your letter and buried her face in her hands.  She couldn’t speak, and so I went to her, kneeling in front of her and holding her as best I could.  She seemed so fragile.
After a few minutes of uncomfortable silence, I was able to convince her to sip at the soup, but it was clear she was exhausted.  They must have pushed hard to get to Adya.
Papa and Uncle W. talked quietly for a few moments.  Imato excused himself gruffly, without looking at Uncle W. once.
Eventually, Gretel and I helped Nysa to her room and got her settled in bed.  Jace went to check on Imato and reported that he had been pacing his room.  Jace told him to go to bed.
“You should go to bed also.  You haven’t had any sleep,” I told him.
He nodded distractedly.  “How’s Nysa?”  He motioned toward her door as we stood in the hall.
“We put her to bed.  Gretel’s sitting with her.  I don’t think they stopped at all between Rousha and here.”  I pushed him toward the stairs.  “Go to bed.  I’m going to go force Uncle W. to sleep also, if Papa hasn’t already.  I’ll use a sleeping spell if I have to.”
That made him smile a little, but he looked ready to drop.  Luckily, Ryland came by just then, and I immediately put him in charge of getting his master into bed.
Heading back to the library, I heard raised voices.  I hesitated at the door.  The walls and doors are thick, to muffle outside noise.  Unfortunately, this also made it difficult for me to eavesdrop.
After a moment, I heard my name and yours, then Imato’s a moment later.
I pushed the door open decisively.  “That is enough,” I said sharply.  Papa and Uncle W. looked up and started to reply.  I raised my hand, shaking my head.  “No, I don’t want to hear it.  I don’t care what the argument is, who started it or anything else.  We’re all exhausted.  Go to bed, both of you.  I’ll arrange for trays to be brought around to everyone for dinner and breakfast.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, is going to rest until then.  Lunch will be served in the breakfast room at noon, and it will be quiet and civil.  After that we will discuss things rationally.”
Uncle W. started to protest, but I cut him off.  “I do know several sleeping spells, Uncle.  I think we would both prefer I not have to use them.”
He sighed heavily, but nodded and left the library.  Papa was chuckling as he left.
I took Papa’s chair and rested my head on my arms on the side table.
“If I may say so, Milady, you should be proud of yourself.  You’ve managed everyone very well,” Marta said from the doorway.  “Unexpected guests and family arguments are difficult for any hostess, let alone one under as much stress and with as little sleep as you.  Yes, you did very well.”
I chuckled softly.  “Well, thank you, Marta.  I don’t know that my uncle agrees with your assessment, though.”
She waved that away.  “Leave it to a man to not be able to see the reality in front of him.”
I laughed.
She smiled.  “Now, then, Milady, time to take your own advice.  I’ll make sure everyone is fed and resting as they should.  You go to bed, too.  I know you couldn’t have gotten more than four hours last night.”
I was far too tired to argue with her, though I did scoop up a book on my way out.
When Malia and Ryland came up with dinner trays, I had them leave the trays and went to check on Imato before waking Jace.  I had checked the ward on Liop, but with how exhausted Imato was I thought I’d better make sure he was in good enough shape to keep it intact.
“The warden visits her prisoners?” Imato quipped when I poked my head in.  He was propped up in bed with a tray, but there were still dark circles under her eyes.
“If you like,” I replied.  “I was worried about you.  You shouldn’t have stayed up all night with the strain you’re already under.”
He shrugged.  “I’m fine.”
I cocked an eyebrow.  “Yes, you look fine.  You’re not going to give us any trouble about staying in bed until tomorrow, right?”
He gave me a mischievous grin that looked so much like Liop my heart nearly stopped.  He grew serious again quickly, though.  “As long as I don’t have to see Uncle W. I’ll be happy to stay here.”
“What happened this time?  You’ve been bitter for weeks now.”
“We disagree on certain matters of magic instruction,” he said sourly.
“As if that were anything new.  So this is about Liop’s spell in here and the subsequent mess.”  I shook my head.  “You realize the problem is that you’re too much alike, right?”
He glowered at me as I left him to ponder that thought.
I returned and ate my own dinner, opting to let Jace sleep since the trays were just bread and cold meats.  He woke a couple hours later and ate while I explained the “orders” I had given everyone.
He laughed.  “Well, I agree with Marta.  Very well managed indeed, my dear.  Tomorrow we’ll have our council of war.”
“I don’t think we can march on the fairy castle,” I replied dryly.  “But perhaps we can think of something.”

I have to go down for lunch soon.  No doubt it will be a bit strained, but at least everyone will be well-rested.  Better than any of us has been in days I imagine.
Beyond that, I don’t feel sure of anything right now.

Lunch was not as bad as I feared, but Imato still looked very tired.
After lunch, we all retired to the library.
“Well, Keisha, this was your idea,” Papa said, still amused at my “management”.
I rolled my eyes.
“I think we can assume that we’d have heard something more if they needed more natron,” Gretel said, sounding more confident than I think she felt.  She sat with Nysa for hours yesterday, calming her each time she awakened with a start.  The news of the fire upset Nysa a great deal.
“I agree,” I said.  “I went out this morning and the ring in the garden is gone, so the fire must be out or nearly so.  We probably won’t know anything for certain, though, until Arri can get another letter to us.”
“To you, you mean,” Uncle W. said sadly.
“Let’s not start that kind of talk, please,” Papa interjected.
“It’s true,” Uncle W. replied.
“Maybe if you trusted Arri she’d trust you more,” Imato interjected.
“She’s a child,” Uncle W. shot back.
“She’s nearly 18!  You cannot still call her a child after all she’s done!” Imato contended hotly.
“She is not of age and still in my care!” Uncle W. replied just as hotly.
Imato jumped up from his chair.  “Then maybe that is part of the problem!”
“Alright enough,” Jace said, standing and taking Imato’s arm.  “Let’s take a walk, Imato.”
He shook Jace off and stalked out.
“Let me,” Gretel said, following Imato out quickly.
I glared at Uncle W.  “So much for a rational discussion.”  I turned away from him just in time to see Nysa start to tip out of her seat.
I moved to catch her, but Jace was faster.
“I’m okay,” she said weakly.
I felt her forehead.  “No, you’re not.”  She was burning up and she looked terrible.  The stress was clearly catching up with her.  “Jace, let’s get her to bed.”
Jace nodded and lifted her gently.
Before following them out I glared again at Uncle W., this time including Papa as a warning.  As I shut the door I heard Papa say, “I know it’s hard to accept, Winthrop, but you can’t deny, Lakeisha is no child.”

With our “council” thus broken, we got Nysa settled.  I had sent Malia for Marta and soon she bustled in, clucking her tongue.  She had a basin of cool water and a cloth, which she quickly wrung out and placed on Nysa’s forehead.
“Cook’s got a nice broth started and I can bring up some chamomile with it, Milady.”  She patted Nysa’s hand and bustled off again.
Gretel appeared in the doorway almost as soon as she’d vacated it.  “Jace, I’ll trade you.  Let me help with Nysa.  Imato is in his room brooding.”
Jace nodded and started to leave.
“Wait,” I said.  I stilled my mind as best I could and checked the wards on Liop.  They were still holding, but I could tell Imato’s exhaustion would affect them soon.  “You’ll have to find a way to keep him quiet, Jace.  That ward may need to last a while still.”
Jace nodded once more and was gone.
Gretel gave me a sad smile.  “I’ll stay with Nysa.  You may need to talk to Winthrop yourself.”
I sighed, but nodded.
“Keisha Nerys,” Nysa said softly.  I turned and she held a hand out to me.  “I brought Arri’s bird.  Hermes.  Marta has him.”
I smiled.  “I’m glad to hear that.  I’ve missed Hermes.”  I thought a moment.  “I don’t believe the enchantment will allow him to cross into the land of the fairies, but perhaps we can have a letter ready for her as soon as she leaves.”

I returned to the library, but Uncle W. was gone and Papa was leaving to meet with the king, so I gave up and came back to write this.  With any luck, you’ll be leaving the fairies soon and I can send Hermes to meet you.

July 7th
I rushed into the breakfast room this morning, looking for Imato.  Thankfully he was already there.
“Liop is not with Arri.  The fairies have him again.”
Imato turned so quickly he nearly dropped the plate he was holding.  “What do you mean?”
“I was checking the wards this morning and he’s surrounded by fairies again.  They’re tossing spells at him as fast as they can.  I didn’t notice it last night-- just that he was exhausted.  He’s causing them a little trouble again this morning.  Besides the trouble the ward is giving them, of course.”
“The ward is holding, then?” Uncle W. asked.
Imato turned toward him angrily, but I grabbed his shoulder.
“Yes, it is.  But I don’t know how long Imato can keep it up.”
Imato turned back to me.  “I’m fine.  I think I can strengthen it.”
I shook my head.  “Imato,” I said carefully, “you’re exhausted.  You were up all night the other night and you haven’t recovered.  The ward is drawing on you more than you maybe realize.”
He began to protest, but Jace interrupted.  “Let’s sit down and eat while we discuss it, at least.”
Imato sat down reluctantly and began picking at his food.
“I do think we can strengthen Liop’s ward a little,” I began slowly, “but I’m not sure you’ll like my idea.”
“What is it, Keisha?” Papa asked.
“If I take my ward off Arri, I can…”
The room erupted.
“No, absolutely not!” Imato insisted, banging his fist on the table.
“We can’t sacrifice Arri’s protection for Liop’s,” Uncle W. put in.
I waited for them to subsist, raising an eyebrow at Jace.  He shrugged, helping himself to more eggs.
I followed his lead, figuring I was going to need my strength.
After a moment, Imato and Uncle W. stopped clamoring.
“May I finish now?” I asked.
They both looked slightly chastened and nodded.
“Thank you.  I know we don’t like the idea of Arri being unprotected, but my ward isn’t strong enough to protect her from much anyway.  I can’t create a strong ward at this distance.  However, if I feed that power into Imato’s ward, he should be able to hold out longer.”
“And what about Arri?” Uncle W. asked.
“I wish you’d accept that she can take care of herself, Uncle.  After all, my ward isn‘t doing much more than giving us peace of mind.  Besides, if she wants to, she can likely cast a ward of her own that would be stronger than mine is from here.”
He didn’t seem to like this response, but he didn’t say anything.
Imato seemed to be thinking.  After a moment he looked up at me.  “You think you can feed enough power to me to hold it for a few more days?”
I could see in his eyes how tired he still was.  I think he was finally realizing how draining the spell was.  “Yes.  Formed into a ward, it’s not much, but as raw power… even with the distance it’ll be a good boost.”
Imato nodded.  “Alright, then,” he said, finishing off his glass of juice.  “Do you need to set anything up to do this?”
I shrugged.  “It isn’t complicated.”
We left the others and went up to the sitting room.  I carefully removed the ward I’d placed on you and took Imato’s hands.  “Concentrate on your ward.  That’s all I need you to do.  I’ll feed the power into it.”
He nodded and closed his eyes.  After giving him a moment to concentrate, I began feeding more power into his ward.  It didn’t take long, but it’s better than nothing.
Even though he hadn’t had to do much, I could tell strengthening the ward still tired Imato.
“Stay here and rest a little.  Gretel should be here any minute, no doubt with some last minute change or tale of woe.”
He smiled a little as I left the room.
In the hallway I leaned against the wall until the dizziness passed.  I hadn’t wanted Imato to see how much it had affected me.  It would only have worried him.  I fed as much power as I dared into that ward.  Now I could only pray that it would be enough.

July 9th
Tomorrow is Liop’s birthday.  Nysa says that if the fairies don’t succeed in the before sunset, they won’t be able to succeed at all.  They’ll have to let him go, but they won’t be happy about it.
I’ve spent the last day and a half resting, making sure Imato was resting, and checking on Nysa.
And keeping Uncle W. and Imato away from each other as needed, of course.  I don’t think Uncle W. is finding it any easier to wait for news here.
I hope you are okay.  Now that I’m feeding power into Imato’s ward it’s draining me also.  I don’t dare check in on you as often.

July 10th
An express rider brought your letter this morning.  I read it myself, then passed it around for everyone else.
“Do you think the lion is right about the alchemy?”  Uncle W. directed this question to Nysa, who was feeling much better.
She frowned briefly.  “I believe so.  The fairies have never taken a child with alchemical talents before.”
Imato was shaking his head.  “It won’t matter.  The ward will hold.”  He didn’t sound completely sure of this.  Turning to me he added, “Can you check on him?”
I nodded and closed my eyes.  Something was different.  It was still Imato’s ward, that was certain, but it had been added to, reinforced somehow.  More power than just mine had been fed into it.
“What is it?” Imato asked, impatient.
I shook my head, opening my eyes.  “I’m not sure.  The ward isn’t failing,” I said quickly.  “It’s… changed though.  Someone or something has added to it.”
“Can you show me?”
The question was so quiet I almost missed it.  Imato, however, was gaping at Uncle W.
I considered this carefully.  “Yes, I think so.  Come trade places with Gretel,” I said, indicating the seat across from me.  He did so quickly.  “Now give me your hands.”
He put his hands in mine and I opened a connection with him.  His eyes grew wide as he recognized that I had my mother’s gift.  He started to pull away.
“It’s okay,” I told him.  “It’s a temporary connection, nothing more.  Now close your eyes and concentrate on that link.”
He closed his eyes, but slowly and I saw the worry there.  I closed my own eyes and checked Liop’s ward again, slowly and carefully so that Uncle W. could see it too.
When I released his hands he had a strange expression.  He seemed torn between anger and pride.  “Liop infused the ward with white iridium.  It’s used in restoratives.  It’s one of my most expensive supplies,” he added ruefully.
“Then between the ward and the alchemy…” I began.
Nysa’s smile was brilliant.  “They cannot take him.”

Though we were still a little worried, everyone felt much better after that.  I imagine the fairies were unhappy to find his ward alchemical as well as magical, though.
After breakfast, we all went about our own activities until lunch, then gathered in the library once again after eating.
“Now that Liop should be safe, the question is how do we keep this from happening again,” I stated firmly.
I instantly had everyone’s attention.  Eyebrows were raised around the room.
“But this was there only chance,” Uncle W. said.  “Liop is the youngest.”
Imato picked up on my train of thought.  “Of our generation.  What happens when we have children?”
Gretel blushed slightly at this, but nodded.  “I don’t want to go through this again.”
“Well, there are ways,” Uncle W. began.  “We may not be sure what Jezreel did, but we know what method Ellean chose.”
“No, Uncle.  My mother was reckless.  I would not endanger another child that way.”
(Believe me, the irony of Uncle W. arguing for a magical solution while I argued against it was not lost on me.  Nor on Jace or Papa who seemed to be trying not to laugh.)
Nysa left the room quickly.  Gretel started to rise, but I waved off her concern.  “I don’t think anything is wrong,” I said, though I was just as puzzled.
Nysa was back quickly, holding something large wrapped in cloth.  She pulled the cloth off and held it out to me.
“The Chronicle,” I said softly.  I touched the cover, but shook my head.  “I don’t know that there are any answers there.  Arri would have noticed.”
“In times of need, spells appear that are never found otherwise,” Nysa said, still holding it out to me.
I took it doubtfully.  “It’s not my gift.  It’s Arri’s.”
“It showed you the spell you needed before,” Uncle W. put in.  “It may respond to you again.”
I sat down and opened it.  I flipped through pages, jumping around, but nothing came to me.  “I’m sorry.  I think that was a special case.  It only showed me the spell I needed because I was the only one who could do it.”
Nysa’s eyes lit up and she grabbed the book.  “That is it exactly.  It must be the only one who can perform the spell.”
She held the book a moment, then walked over to Imato and held it out.
Imato eyes went wide.  “No.  It’s not going to show me anything.  It probably wouldn’t even recognize that I have magic.”
“You are a Knight of the House of Brio,” Nysa said, more forcefully than I’ve ever heard her say anything.  “Protection of your family is your province.  It will open for you.”
Her eyes bored into him and finally, reluctantly, Imato took the book.  He held it on his lap, unsure of himself.
“Nysa’s right, Imato.  We each have our gifts and our roles.  If there is a spell in there for protection, it will open for you.”
He sighed.  “I suppose it’s worth a try.”
Imato lifted the book’s cover and immediately pages flipped aside as if by themselves.  Finally, it stopped on a page that almost seemed to glow.
I rushed to Imato’s side.  “This is it,” I said, excited.  I looked at Imato.  “Do you realize what this is?”
Imato was focused on the page, his finger moving lightly across the lines and he read.  His brows were furrowed in intense concentration.
I covered the page with my hand and he looked at me in surprise.  “Be careful,” I warned.  “If you accidentally feed magic into this, you’ll lose the ward on Liop.”
His expression darkened, but he nodded.  I moved my hand and together we read through the spell, more carefully this time.
“Is this what I think it is?” Imato asked quietly.
I was chewing my bottom lip, thinking.  “I think so.  It’s complex, though.”
Uncle W. was out of patience.  “Well, what is it, already?”
I indicated that Imato should answer.
He took a deep breath.  “It’s a series of wards.  A very complex series of wards.  To be set on our blood.”
Gretel and Papa looked confused, but Jace and Nysa looked thoughtful.  Uncle W. looked… well, I’m not sure what he was thinking.
I took over the explanation.  “It wards the blood of whomever it’s cast on, so that all children born to that person are protected.  I’m not sure if it’s effective after that or if it has to be recast each generation.”
“Keish, it’s a very specifically Brio spell.  Look, your mirror is called for,” Imato pointed out.  “I don’t know what the ring it asks for is, though.  Do you?”
I looked at Uncle W.  “I think we need to ask Uncle about the ring.”
Now it was Uncle W. squirming like a child caught in a lie.  “Why would you ask me about any of it?” he asked defensively.
“Each gift has an object.  I’ve often wondered what yours was.  I saw the stone when our spells interacted, but it’s so bulky and then one day I remembered something about a ring that Grandfather wore.  Shaped like a snake, made of stone.  What better object for a gift such as yours?  The stone is the source, but the ring is the key.”
Uncle W. looked even more uncomfortable now that everyone was staring at him.
“I hope you still have it, Uncle,” Imato said quietly.  “I don’t think the spell will work without it.”
Uncle W. sighed and closed his eyes.  He nodded.  “I have it.  It’s put away, at home.  I haven’t gotten it out in years.”
With that settled, Imato turned back to the spell.  I smiled at Uncle W., then joined Imato’s musings.
Most of the others wandered away since we had stopped talking.  Nysa went to rest and Papa and Gretel both had appointments to keep.
Jace pushed a chair over to where I was leaning on the arm of Imato’s and I sat.  He pulled another up for himself and picked up a book he’s been reading, leaving Imato and I to our mumblings.
Eventually, even Imato had had enough magical theory.  Actually he lasted longer than I would have thought.
Declaring himself feeling better than he had in days, he announced he was taking Sprigs out.  “Care to join me, Jace?  She’ll be at this all afternoon and evening at this rate.”
Jace looked to me.
I waved a hand absently.  “Go ahead.  I want to write to Arri.  By sunset the fairies should have to release Liop and they can leave.  I want Hermes to leave soon.”
Jace and Imato left and I dragged myself away from the spell to write this.
It’s a complex spell, Arri.  Extremely precise.  It’s going to require all of us, and not just because we all should be warded.  I think with my power and yours we’ll have enough to allow Imato to cast it.  When it comes down to it, he has to.  Regardless of how much power I put into it, it’s clear I could never successfully cast this spell.
We’ll have to do it in Rousha, when we’re all together.
But as I wrote to Uncle W. when Liop was taken-- We Brios are done losing a child each generation.

I’m sending Hermes now, right at sunset.  I had to enchant the paper to make it lighter.  Hopefully he finds you swiftly.

Tell Liop Happy Birthday.

Love Always,


No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave us a little note-- Hermes or Clotho will be sure to deliver it!