Tales of the Kirgeur

Part 30

By: Bluedragon

The sun was hidden by clouds at dawn; though the first rays played across the sky they did not shed much light upon the desert. Entering my dreams soon after the evening meal had assisted my waking an hour before dawn. It was rare I rose before Salenia. I savored the time watching the rays pierce the darkness as I stood on the balcony.

Though when the sun rose fully, the desert tortured those unaccustomed to the heat, the air was cool during the night hours. It was pleasant. I allowed my thought reign. It seemed the escape of the prisoners was a puzzle. In my youth I had excelled at puzzles. As the rays began to touch the sand, I believed I had an answer. The journey to Yleminea's chambers across the roof of the palace was made with ease. She resided not far from Kierian.

"If one wished to test the measure of a warrior, would one not release prisoners who bared steel with skill?"

"Is it not improper for one to appear in another's chambers with little warning?" Yleminea answered. "Though I admit I have been expecting you."

"I have a duty to Soliumant. For the length of my stay, his continued good health is my concern." It took a moment before I realized the rest of her statement. "What mean you by that? You were expecting me?"

"I was. I knew you would correctly assume how the prisoners escaped." She claimed a chair near to the table in her chambers.

"Then you hired the three to die in the attempt?"

"The three were prisoners as well. I provided them with the proper attire. They were under sentence of death. They died as they wished with honor."

"Why would you attempt such a deceit?" It made little sense.

"I wished a test of your skills. My father is enamored of your skills and training. I wished to know the truth of them."

"You requested a display as we had speech in the stairway. Why would you arrange such a deceit instead of requesting one?"

"Sit, Torienne. There is much we need have speech." She waved me to a chair and poured a mug of viniare. "You do not trust in me."

"Nothen. You have not proven you are worth my trust in you. Since you have arrived, you have attempted to seduce my shehala and arranged an encounter full of danger as a mere test. Would you trust such a person?"

"I must confess I would not. If I were to journey to your homeland, would you not test me as well?"

"Such tests are not required in our homeland. You would be judged by your merits. There are great differences between my homeland and this realm. Such tests would be seen as lack of trust and maturity."

"You think me a child?"

"I think you require more years."

"I am but a few seasons younger than you and your shehala."

"This journey has tested us as few kirgeurs have been tested. By our natures and the brands we bear, we need not be tested by others. Those unworthy are not given the brand. It is an honor to bear it. In truth, it has caused us to mature beyond our years." I turned to her. "What wish you in truth?"

"Torienne, this is a new age for this realm. If you remain, the two of us could greatly assist Soliumant in shaping it. I will be honest. I have no wish for your shehala. When you entered the chamber, you saw what did not appear. I was illustrating a hold I had learned in the village I was schooled. She lost her balance and fell against me. Had you calmed, we would have related the incident."

"Then why taunt me in the stairway?"

"I wished to judge your reaction. You are a possessive warrior." She laughed. "I shall admit you are more skilled than I had believed. You broke your arm and yet you still managed to defeat the prisoner. It was wondrous to view."

"You wished to test me so greatly?"

"I wished you so greatly. I did not tempt Salenia. You assumed I did. All one needs do is look to her eyes as she speaks of you. It is similar with Kierian. She feels for you as well. Tell me, were you often called Tori?"

"Only Kierian used that name. I wish not to hear it."

"Then it is true. You and Kierian were lovers?"

"Nothen. We were companions in our youth, but no more. Why wish you to know?"

"You are bound to Salenia, though you love her not. You were jealous though it was from possession, not love. Perhaps you feel still for Kierian or perhaps another may earn your heart." She leaned forward. "Would you wish remain here? I would wish the chance to learn your nature. We are similar, though the few differences are great."

"In truth, I love Salenia. Why would you not believe in it?" I understood her not. "It is not my nature to display such emotions. It is against my training to display them to others not in my household. It would seem a weakness and would be exploited by an enemy." I allowed myself to relax into the embrace of the chair. "I shall return to my homeland with my shehala and the others in my household. I will not remain, though I shall return if Soliumant bids it. Perhaps we are similar, though I would not have tested you in such a manner."

"I need attend my duties at court." She stood. "It would be wise if you returned in the manner you entered."

"I shall." I stood and crossed to the doorway leading to the balcony.

"Torienne, if you pledge not to speak of this to my father, I pledge I shall cease all tests. I wish your friendship and shall prove I am worthy of your trust."

"I shall speak of it to none save Salenia. I keep no secrets from her. You have my pledge." I departed across the roof of the palace. Though the sun had risen enough to wake most within the palace, I had no trouble on my return. None noticed my presence.

"Visiting Kierian?"

"Nothen, shehala. I have the answer to our puzzle. Where are the others?" I turned to view my shehala standing near to the chamber doorway.

"Lyliane and Rul have journeyed to the kitchen to fetch the morning meal. Tre and Sevianth are still within their dreams. Iolaine is bathing." She recited the whereabouts of our household with ease. "What answers bid you journey across the roof of the palace?"

"Yleminea arranged the three would be guards to assist the prisoners in their escape. She wished to test our skills." I wished not relate all I had learned. "She has pledged friendship and vows not to test us again. In return, I have pledged not speak of her deception to her father or any save you."

"Why would she wish test our skills in such manner?"

"Knowledge, shehala. She merely wished knowledge." In truth, it was so. "What plans have we this day? We need only be present in the great chamber for evening court and the ceremony."

"We need complete our attire. Little remains to be fitted. It shall be completed before the midday meal, I believe."

"Aight. It is well. We cannot attend the ceremony unclothed."

"I think if we appeared unclothed in the great chamber, it would be greatly against protocol." Sal laughed. "Come. Let us wake the others. We have much to attend before the ceremony."

"I suppose we have. I grow weary of protocol and ceremonies."

"As do I, Tor. If fortune is with us, there shall be only one after this ceremony."

"It is as Siveruian related. This ceremony is in our honor. I suppose we must be present." I relaxed onto the mattress.

"I assume we must." She seemed reluctant. "Tre spoke of a custom in this realm that I believe is most intriguing." She joined me on the mattress.

"What is the custom?" My interest was only partial.

"Merchants and cordermers secure in their rank make a journey each year for only their enjoyment. Also, those newly joined are secluded for a moon. None may have speech with them if the pair wish it not. They make journeys to villages in this realm or in other lands. Perhaps when we return it would be well if we took such a journey."

"You wish to travel again?" It seemed full of humor.

"We would not bid our companions, those of our household, to accompany us."

"In truth?" It seemed full of temptation. "Perhaps such a journey has merit. I shall think much on it."

"I have. It would seem a dream."

"In truth, it would."

"Greet the day, Torienne." A slight weight hit my chest. "You have just departed your dreams?"

"Nothen, Sevianth. Sal and I were just conversing of the day. Has your attire been completed?"

"It has. Wish you to view it?" He seemed greatly enthused.

"I shall view it before the ceremony. It would not do well to wear it before." He squirmed between us. "Are you comfortable?"

"Aight. When shall we journey to your homeland?"

"After the ceremony to join Soliumant and Kierian we shall depart for our homeland. It shall be a long journey. Recall you the journey here from Creasinda?" I wished not remind him of the journey from the Poulantie region to Creasinda.

"Aight. It was long."

"The journey to our homeland shall be longer." Salenia answered. "You shall be required to attend the virithen and listen closely to our directions. Think you have the ability?"

"I have, Salenia. I shall ensure you are proud of me."

"Sevianth, we feel pride for you." I reassured him.

"When we return to your homeland, shall we remain a household? Shall we remain together?"

"Aight. This realm has many duties have been required to attend. When we return, our duties as kirgeurs shall be only when needed. We shall be a family and attend duties near to our farm. If they wish to join us, Tominent, Lyliane, Tre, Iolaine, Rul and any of the lost ones may do so. I believe we shall give Salenia's thoughts of our own village life."

"Shall I have siblings?" I looked to Salenia over his shoulder. She smiled and shrugged her shoulders.

"If the goddess is pleased, perhaps you shall." It seemed an answer of merit. In truth, I had not thought much on it, and Salenia and I had conversed but little regarding the matter. "We shall give it thought when we return."

"Good. I hunger. Is it near to the meal?"

"It is. Lyliane and Rul will return in haste. Go you and bathe before the meal." Salenia returned him to the floor. "We shall when you have completed yours."

"Aight, Salenia." He hastened to the bathing chamber.

"He is your son, shehala."

"Why mine more than yours?" It seemed a humorous thought.

"He has much of your nature. I suppose it is from your brother. I eagerly await the meeting of your father and siblings."

"They shall be as enamored of you as I am. My grandfather shall treat you as his own. He shall treat Tominent as if he had been born to my mother." I paused for thought. "You, I believe he shall treat well, as if you were a jewel."

"I long to meet him. I long to return. I miss grass and water."

"As do I, shehala." I could hear the others return. "Perhaps we should assist. At the least we should consume the meal."

"Aight. Loath though I am to agree, perhaps it is our duty."

"Perhaps it is so. I think we shall give this journey you spoke of much thought. It would be well to spend time without duties." In truth, it would be well to spend time without others as well.

"Wish you both to remain all day in bed?" Lyliane asked she approached.

"Aight. We wish it so." Salenia answered.

"Though we know such wish shall not be granted. At the least it shall not on this day." I rose. "Come. Let us begin the day."

The meal was consumed in haste, as was the midday meal. Lyliane and Tre ensured it. They wished the attire completed for evening court. In truth, they required the time we had. The attire was not completed until an hour before evening court. Though I was limited in my assistance, I attempted to stand without moving. I failed, though the effort was appreciated.

Boots and swords were polished until they seemed to contain the light they reflected. Though we had purchased cloth to attire ourselves with, we had neglected new bracers. Polish and a bit of oil returned them to a state appropriate for the ceremony. Sevianth had pleaded for a set. His attire was designed near to ours, though of a different hue. They fitted him well.

"Is Tominent joining us?" Sevianth admired him greatly.

"He shall. During the ceremony, you shall remain close to Lyliane. Tominent, Salenia and I shall be required to join Soliumant on the platform." Salenia had related Siveruian's words as her sister had fitted our attire. "I know not what we shall be required, what duties we shall perform. It is necessary you remain near to Lyliane and Tre." In truth, there was much mystery regarding the ceremony. Siveruian had not related all the details to my companions. We knew not what to expect. I knew only my vow of brotherhood to Soliumant would be reaffirmed before the court. There would be a ceremony of binding for our oaths.

"I shall, Torienne. I pledge." He held his hand before his heart much as he had done in Creasinda. "May I bring Morgreane?"


"The virithen, shehala. Morgreane is the name of the virithen."

"My gratitude." I was grateful. I had not recalled the name of the creature. "I think perhaps Morgreane should remain in the chambers. The great chamber is no place for virithen."

"Aight. It shall remain here." His agreement was given with reluctance.

"It is time, my friends." Tominent appeared at the doorway.

"You seem an impressive warrior." Lyliane's tone illustrated her admiration. In truth, he was attired in an impressive manner. His costume was as a uniform, though created from silk and including a long cloth draped around his shoulders. His pants were of blue, as was his tunic, though his shirt was the red of the queriane. We seemed drab in our black.

"Perhaps I have journeyed to the realm of the gods, for I have not seen such extraordinary examples of the Alsounthia." He bowed before us. "It shall be a privilege to accompany this household to the great chamber."

"You flatter us, Tominent." Sal seemed amused. In truth, I was as well, though the rest were indeed flattered.

"It is truth. Sevianth, you appear well attired and cared for. Blue is a wise choice for you, my young companion." He kneeled before the boy. "Are you prepared for the ceremony?"

"I am, Tominent. Lyliane is greatly skilled. She fashioned it for me, though I was able to choose the color. In truth, is it well?" He turned in place.

"I believe you shall draw much attention and all the girls of your years shall wish to speak with you."

"In a few years, Tominent. He has not the seasons for such attention." Sal replied.

"In truth, my friend, allow us a few years in his company before we find one for him to join. Shall we?"

"This shall make a fine tale, I believe." Tre seemed enthusiastic. Rul seemed content merely to watch.

"It shall indeed, Triennia." Tominent's manner was full of courtly charm. "Since you are not escorted, allow me." He offered his arm. She reddened as she accepted. "It is an honor to escort one full of such beauty."

"Tominent, you flatter me greatly. If I knew not your nature, perhaps I would believe your performance." My sister laughed. "Regardless, it is well and entertaining." She gathered the hem of her long tunikela in her hands.

"Let us depart before a certain warrior causes us to become ill." It was with great effort I was able to contain my mirth.

"I believe it is best. Since you have charmed our companion, perhaps you should lead the way, Tominent." Salenia stood.

"Allow me to escort you?" I offered my arm. I knew not the reasons for our behavior, save the ceremony seemed to require it.

"I shall be honored."

It seemed strange to again stand before the platform in the great hall among the cordermers. I had not done so since Johianei presented us to the Jilhsaed. I believe they thought it an honor to relieve us of duty. In truth, we gave little thought on rewards, though we were grateful for the hours we were given to relax.

Our rank bid us stand near to the line before the platform. Those of our household stood behind us near to Kierian. She could not yet stand on the platform. She would assume the smaller seat of power upon completion of their joining.

"This is not a court for duties. This day we have gathered to honor three who have displayed much courage, loyalty and still to preserve my life and the stability of this realm. We gather also to honor one of great service and induct him into a new duty and higher rank. This day shall also see the raising of one to chamberlain. For the first time in the history of our realm, we shall witness the ascension of a female to chamberlain." Soliumant stood before us. Yleminea and Siveruian stood to one side. The mute stood to the other.

"Siveruian, you have shown great loyalty in service to the seat of power. Custom dictates the Jilhsaed requires a Bandera. I wish you to rise to the rank. Wish you to accept?"

"I wish it so if you desire it, Jilhsaed." Siveruian bowed.

"I desire it so." Soliumant crossed the platform and halted before a guard who knelt before him. The guard held a great sword in his hands. The sword rested on a pillow of silk. Soliumant grasped it by the hilt and carried it to Siveruian. "This is the sword of my father. It is the mark of the rank of Bandera. I gift it to you as a sign of your ascension. It shall be returned to my household only when you have been called to join the gods. Do you pledge to bear it with honor?"

"I pledge my continued loyalty. I pledge that I shall perform my new duties as well as I am able." Siveruian knelt before him. "It is a great honor and I am humbled by it, Jilhsaed. I shall continue to serve you as I am able."

"I believe you shall serve us well. You may stand and take your place near to the seat of power."

"Yes, Jilhsaed." Siveruian stood and crossed the platform. He only halted as he came near to the seat of power.

"Yleminea. Though you require training, you shall be chamberlain. Do you pledge to uphold the traditions, customs and rules of the realm?"

"I so pledge, Jilhsaed." She knelt before him.

"Do you pledge to perform your duties with loyalty and skill? To treat all within this realm as honored guest and worthy of your time and attention?"

"I pledge, Jilhsaed."

"You kneel as a female of slight rank. Rise as chamberlain." Siveruian handed Soliumant the robe of office. Soliumant extended it to Yleminea.

"It is an honor and I hope to prove worth your trust in me." She accepted the robes with shaking hands.

"I believe you shall as you attain more years." Soliumant grinned. "Your first duty is to honor our warriors. Tominent, Salenia and Torienne, approach the platform."

"Aight, Jilhsaed." We crossed the line and stood before the seat of power. Soliumant had reclaimed his chair.

"Face the court." We did as bid. "The three before you have attained great rank through skill and loyalty. Though two are from a distant land, I accept them as inhabitants of this realm. Torienne and I have pledged brotherhood. Before I reward these three great warriors for their deeds, the pledge needs affirmation before the cordermers to bind us. Torienne. Approach."

"Aight, Jilhsaed." I crossed the platform.

"It is a custom of this land for those who swear brotherhood to bind the pledge. Are you prepared to do so?"

"I am, Jilhsaed."

"As am I." He stood and waved to one of the queriane.

We repeated the pledge as the queriane stood before us. We each pledged our swords to protect the other. The cordermers cheered, though Sal seemed concerned as the queriane pulled a strangely shaped steel rod from a fire near to the platform. It was the second time I had been branded. The mediacios hastened to heal the burns on our arms.

"It has been pledged and accepted." Soliumant seemed unharmed. In truth, the burn pained me not. "It is now time for rewards." He grinned broadly. "Tominent, you are my brother, my friend and my guard. You have attended your duties with skill and grace. As a token of the esteem I place in you, I offer you these." A servant hastened forward at his gesture. A shirt of metal, attire made of silk, a bag of goldens and a sword designed similar to Soliumant's were presented to Tominent.

"My gratitude, Jilhsaed. I do not deserve such for duty."

"You do, brother. Use them well."

"I shall, Jilhsaed." He bowed low before his brother then turned and resumed his place near to the line.

"Salenia. You have proven your skills as both warrior and healer. You have proved as well you are an apt instructor. Accept these as a token of the esteem placed in you." Another servant appeared carrying many gifts. Sal was presented with a matched set of daggers, attire befitting a kirgeur made from silk and a cloth we could not name, a pouch containing many of the herbs used by the mediacios, a statue of a native goddess made of gold, a well made shirt of metal, and fifty goldens.

"My gratitude, Jilhsaed, though I am not worth so much."

"You are worth more, Salenia. We have not the riches for your worth. Accept these as an attempt to illustrate the depths of my gratitude."

"I shall, Jilhsaed." With reddened cheeks, Sal returned near to Tominent.

"Torienne, my sister. I have not the riches for your worth either. I wish you to accept these tokens as proof of my gratitude. Though I know you shall protest and claim it was all for duty, I know well you were not required to perform all the deeds you have since you entered this realm. If I knew not your nature, I would beg you to remain. Since I know you desire to return to your homeland, I offer these to assist your endeavors and recall this land when you have need."

"My gratitude, Jilhsaed." They were the only words I could give voice. A servant displayed the gifts I had been given. It amazed me. Among them were the sword Johianei had carried during the coup, attire similar to Salenia's, a bag of goldens and a horse so pure white it seemed to glow from within.

"They have been well earned, Torienne." He grinned. "In one hour we shall have a feast. During the feast the tale of the three warriors shall be told. The final gift I give is a copy of the scroll. Perhaps it shall become a legend to the Alsounthia as it shall in this land."

"My gratitude for your great generosity, Jilhsaed." I bowed low before him. The brand on my arm had begun to itch. Great temptation bid me scratch it. I resisted, though it was not with ease.

Soliumant dismissed the court after I returned to the line. We were bid by a servant to remain near to the great chamber. Rul and Sevianth wished not attend the feast. They escorted servants carrying our rewards to our chambers. It seemed strange Sevianth returned to the chambers without being asked to do so. I wondered at it.

"Well met, Torienne."

"You appear well, Graneima." It was the first I had seen her since the night Sal and Kierian had been taken.

"The mediacios are greatly skilled. In truth, I am well." She smiled.

"Perhaps we need wait the meal in the gardens." Tominent watched the cordermers near to us with a look of suspicion.

"Aight. If you wish." I sensed no danger to us, though I complied with ease. Behind the seat of power was a well guarded entrance to the gardens. Only those of rank could make use of it.

"I did not realize our speech had need of secrecy." Kierian commented as she joined us. "Though perhaps it should. Are you well, Torienne?"

"I am well. Why ask you?" I noticed not the use of our tongue.

"The palace is filled with strange tales. It is said a guard to the Jilhsaed attempted to fly as a bird. It seemed a deed you would perform in your duty."

"Nothen, Kierian. I know my limits well. I have no wish for the ability to fly as a bird, nor have I attempted to gain it. I prefer my horse or my feet." Though I knew she believed me not, the laughter from those of my household fed her doubts.

"Perhaps you should petition Solisiric for wings when next you pray." Though the words seemed a bit harsh, her eyes and her voice were filled with gentle jesting.

"If perhaps I again encounter a similar situation, I shall think on your advice."

"The next time Torienne encounters such a situation, I shall ensure she gains the ability to fly, for I shall push her from the balcony."

"Salenia, such are not pleasant thoughts." She laughed. Sal and I did not. "Regardless, enjoy you the ceremony?"

"Aight. I enjoyed much of it." In truth, I enjoyed all by my role.

"As did I."

"Modest warriors. You shall be missed. Gran, tell them the news you bear."

"The Jilhsaed has bid one of the queriane to instruct me as a warrior." Gran's pride could be heard with ease.

"I am gladdened. You shall do well." Sal offered her arm.

"Aight. You shall, though I had thought to inquire if you wished to return."

"Nothen, Torienne. Salenia has informed me of your desires for a village and perhaps a school. I would assist if I were to return. I wish to remain." She seemed content with her choice.

"Has she a name, old friend?" I jested. I could not but ask.

"There is none who have caught my interest, though many have caught my attention."

"In time, Graneima, perhaps I know of one who would be willing, though she would need forget Torienne." Sal looked to me and raised her brow. I merely shrugged my shoulders. I could think of no words.

"Another fall to your charms, Torienne?" Kierian seemed amused.

"Tominent. I am hungered. Perhaps it is time for the feast?" I wished to halt the conversation. It did little to instill comfort in me.

"I believe it is near to time." He looked from Tre. They had been much in conversation with Lyliane and Iolaine.

"Then we should enter the chamber for feasting." I turned to my companions. "Shall we?"

"We follow, shehala."

"I wish not to lead you, Salenia." I allowed the others to journey before us. "I wish only to accompany you. Perhaps after the feast you shall relate the meaning of your words." I knew not if she meant Yleminea.

"Perhaps. If I desire it so." She seemed much amused.

"Torienne and Salenia. I bid you welcome." Yleminea bowed low as we entered the chamber for feasting. She bid a servant approach. "Escort our honored warriors to the great table." She turned to the cordermers behind us.

The servant directed us to the royal table. We were bid claim chairs near to Soliumant. As the last entered the chamber, the feast began. It was more impressive than the feast to honor Soliumant upon his ascension to heir. I could not count the courses we were given, nor could I name but half the food offered. It seemed only tirgeaur meat had not been prepared. In truth, I missed it not.

"I know not what we ate, nor do I know if it was prepared well." Salenia commented as we departed the chamber for feasting.

"Nor do I. Such feasts are filled with esteem and for honor. They are not made for enjoyment." Tominent commented as he approached. "I wish an ale. Wish you to accompany me?"

"Aight. We need speak of the journey." The quest was complete. My thoughts were now on the journey. It seemed I had a battle with myself. I wished to return though the palace held much comfort.

"There is much I wish to know."

"In truth, there are many plans we need make." Salenia agreed. "Perhaps we should bid Iolaine and the other to accompany us."

"Perhaps we should. I believe Tre would enjoy it. She has yet to journey from the palace." It seemed reasonable.

Our companions seemed gladdened by the opportunity. In truth, Lyliane seemed ill at ease with the suggestion. Iolaine spent much time easing her concerns. It was well. She enjoyed herself once we entered the tavern. We all enjoyed the ale and conversations. We did much planning for the journey to our homeland and had much speech regarding tales of our youth. It was a nice bonding, though we practiced restraint with the ale. I wished not to wake again with drums in my head. Fortune was with me. We returned to the palace after only three mugs of ale. It had been a good eve.

Traditional joining attire often required seasons of design and preparation by the bride's mother. The women of the bride's family would organize the attire at celebrations after a day's labor. I had witnessed such celebrations as my father's first wife assisted my eldest sister to prepare for her joining. I had not been allowed to assist.

I was not allowed to assist with the preparations for Kierian's joining attire. I could only watch and voice my opinion. It was rare they heeded my advice. Tre and Lyliane required no assistance. Even Salenia watched as they created the attire, though they heeded her opinion.

"I believe we have accomplished the impossible." Lyliane seemed pleased as she stepped away from Rul.

"It is beautiful." Rul commented as she waved her arms and watched the cloth shimmer.

"Aight. We have accomplished the impossible. There are few who could prepare such attire within a week." Tre rolled the remaining cloth into a bundle. "What say you, sister?"

"I think Kierian shall be gladdened by such attire."

"In truth, I know not a woman who would dislike it." Salenia commented. "Perhaps now we should design our attire for the joining."

"Would not the silk we were gifted with be appropriate?" I had no wish to be fitted with more cloth.

"I believe yours shall suffice, Torienne. Sevianth's shall as well, though we shall require more appropriate attire." Lyliane replied. "Perhaps you would wish to present Kierian with our gift. Tre shall accompany you."

"Wish me gone?" It seemed a strange request.

"Nothen, Tor. It merely seems efficient. Regardless, we believed you would wish to gift Kierian with the attire." Sal explained.

"Aight. Wish you to accompany us?"

"Nothen. I shall remain." She favored me with a smile that seemed filled with mystery. It seemed my shehala had planned a surprise. I knew not what. I knew only to halt the conversation. Had I pressed for an answer, they would only have become more evasive.

"Shall we?" Tre gathered the completed attire in her arms.

"We shall return for the evening meal."

"Tender our greetings." Lyliane called as we departed from the chamber.

The journey to Kierian's chamber was not made with ease. The joining attire required both Tre and myself to carry it. We were favored with many strange looks as we walked through the corridor. It concerned us not.

"Torienne, what have you?" Kierian and Gran peered around the door before waving us inside.

"We wished to gift you with proper joining attire. Tre wished to ensure it fits you well."

"Let us view it." Gran assisted Tre in displaying the attire.

"It is marvelous, Torienne. It is too much." Kierian wiped a tear from her eye.

"We need bid someone to fetch the midday meal, wish you to join us?" Gran asked.

"Aight. We need fit the garb to Kierian." Tre beckoned her. "Wish you to change into it now?"

"After the meal perhaps. I know not what to say."

"We felt it our responsibility to attend such duties. You are family. I believe Tre and Lyliane derived much enjoyment from the design and creation of it."

"You all have my gratitude." She examined a piece of the cloth. "It is wondrous. I have not possessed such." She seemed near to tears.

"Every woman deserves wondrous attire for her joining." Tre embraced her. "It is rare a companion joins with one such as the Jilhsaed. Fortune is with you."

"Think it so?" She looked to me.


"Perhaps Tre and I should fetch the meal. We shall return in haste." Gran beckoned Tre to accompany her.

"My gratitude, Graneima." Kierian claimed a chair near to her table. "Torienne, you are known for voicing the truth when asked. I need ask you a question."

"I shall answer." Her request intrigued me. It was rare one asked for permission before giving voice to a query.

"Is this correct, this joining?"

"Have you feelings for him?"

"I have, though it is not love as one would wish. I have feelings for him; perhaps eventually it shall be love. I know not. How knew you were in love with Salenia?"

"You believe it truth then?" Yleminea's words echoed in my ear. I had given much thought on her words.

"Aight. I believe it truth. Why ask you?" She seemed puzzled.

"Yleminea believed I did not." In haste I related the words that had echoed through my ears since that day I confronted the new chamberlain.

"Purge her words from your thoughts, Tor. She knows you not. I know your nature as none here but Tre. I have not seen you in such a state. It does me well to view it upon you." She leaned forward. "Salenia is blessed by fortune."

"Nothen." I knew not what to say. "Think you should not join with Soliumant? He is much in love with you."

"I know not."

"Kierian, Soliumant feels much for you. Think you can exist in such surroundings?" I knew not what advice to offer. I wished for Salenia. She would have known what words to give voice.

"I had thought it would suffice." She shrugged her shoulders. "I fear it is a mistake."

"Nothen. I believe it not. Soliumant is a good man and shall suit you well." I recalled the anxiety my brother felt before his joining. "It is customary to question such decisions. I doubt you shall regret the joining. Perhaps it is destiny. This realm is as a line of horses. They have been inbred, I believe."

"You have not changed your nature." She laughed. "Perhaps you are correct. I shall join with Soliumant. It is near to time. I had questioned it only when I realized the ceremony is in three days."

"Aight. Shall we enter full seclusion? Perhaps Tre and Gran would accompany us. Salenia would as well, though I believe she would wish guard Sevianth." In truth, I knew not. We had not had speech on it.

"Perhaps we should for the night hours before the ceremony. I would not ask you to separate yourself from your family for the traditional three days."

"In truth, does it bother you?" I needed to ask. I know not why.

"Nothen, Torienne. It bothers me not. I am gladdened for you, in truth." She smiled. "Perhaps we were mismatched. We were meant to be sisters."

"Aight. I believe it so." I laughed. "Come, let us assist our companions. I believe they are returning." I heard them approach. They spoke in loud voices as if they wished to warn us of their arrival.

It was a nice meal. We conversed on Kierian's joining and Tre's desires for her joining with Dalin. Gran and I participated little in the discussion. Regardless, it seemed fascinating. I had not given thought on such topics. I was in awe over the attention they gave to the smallest details of the ceremonies. It seemed a logic I could not understand, though it suited them well. The speech did much to ease Kierian's anxiety as well. Before the meal was complete, she seemed anxious for the ceremony.

"Want to ensure the attire fits?" Tre asked as a servant arrived to claim the tray and return it to the kitchens.

"Aight. It would be well to ensure it fits. Who stood for it?" Kierian accepted the clothing from Tre.

"Rul. She is taller than I and possesses the ability to stand without moving."

"Her father is tall. It shows in her though her brother takes much from their mother." Gran commented as she assisted Kierian. "What is this material?"

"I know not. Lyliane claimed it suited the attire."

"It is a style of silk. I know not what it is named." Tre informed us as she assisted Gran dress Kierian. The three of them were required to fit the attire to her. I watched, having no skill for such actions.

"Oh. Gods of my tribe." Kierian exclaimed as she viewed her reflection. "In truth, this is wondrous. I am undeserving of such attire."

"Nothen, Kierian. If you are to join with the Jilhsaed, you require the best attire we could provide. If you were not to join with him, you would deserve such attire regardless."

"Torienne is correct, Kierian. All females deserve such attire once at the least." Tre agreed. "It is custom here for the bride to guard the attire. At times of need, she may sell it if the situation requires. It also illustrates the wealth of her family. We wished this to display the esteem we hold you in."

"You shall have my gratitude even as I greet the gods." She seemed moved to tears.

"This seems a great surprise." Yleminea commented from the doorway. "I had thought to inquire if you would find sufficient attire. It seems you have."

"Torienne and Salenia purchased the cloth. Lyliane and I designed the attire." Tre seemed pleased with the attention.

"I am much impressed. It seems such barbarians have a grasp of style."

"Yleminea, these are my companions. They are no more barbaric than you." Kierian seemed displeased with the new chamberlain's comments.

"My apologies. I did not speak my thoughts correctly. Is there more I need know of for this ceremony?"

"Perhaps I shall allow you to discuss that and inform me this evening." I wished to return to my chambers. I had need to speak with Salenia. We had not discussed her knowledge of Yleminea or how she had obtained it. I had not had speech with her regarding Yleminea's words either.

"Has your shehala a tight rein on you?" Yleminea asked. The tone of her voice was strange.

"Aight. She has it upon my very heart. Where she goes I shall follow. Enjoy your afternoon. Kierian, if you have need of me, I shall be in my chambers. Tre, wish you to remain? I shall send Lyliane to partake in the discussion."

"Aight. It is well, sister. We shall inform you if we change tradition further."

"My gratitude." I wished not know what changes they would create. I paid little heed to joining ceremonies in our homeland. I would do as they bid and ask no questions. I would not know what to ask.

"What is amiss, Torienne?" Lyliane asked as I entered the chambers.

"None is amiss. Kierian meets with Tre and Yleminea. They require your presence to discuss the ceremony. Where is Salenia?"

"She has journeyed to the river. She wished a swim."

"And the others?" Only Lyliane remained in the chambers.

"Tominent has escorted Iolaine, Rul and Sevianth to view the making of minarina. They wished also to have speech with Kespearen, though I know not why." She set the cloth she had been mending inside the great wardrobe. "I shall see to Kierian if you see to Salenia."

"Has she need of me?"

"Perhaps you heard me not. Salenia is near to the river. She wished to swim."

"I shall see to her." I had forgotten for the moment that Sal swam most under duress. There was something amiss. Once I understood, I felt the pull on me from the direction of the river. I could only heed it. "Go you and see to Kierian."

"Aight, Torienne. I shall see you for the evening meal." With that, she departed.

I followed her into the corridor, though I journeyed to the river instead. The path I followed led me past the stables. The stallion seemed conspicuous when compared to the other horses. Though I had worked him to accept a rider, I chose Kier to accompany me to the river. The stallion seemed strung a bit too tightly for a leisure ride. I resolved to handle him closely on the return to my village.

"What is amiss, shehala?" I asked as Kier halted near to the bank.

"I felt you approaching." She smiled. "You chose Kier instead of the stallion?"

"Aight. The stallion has yet to settle and I have yet to name him." I slid from Kier's back. "Regardless of my horse, you have not answered my query. What is amiss, Sal?"

"Are you satisfied?" She sat on the bank. I joined her.

"We have but one ceremony remaining. There is perhaps one week before we depart for our homeland. I know not how I would be dissatisfied. Why ask you?" Kier bent near to the water and drank deeply.

"You have seemed distant this past week as we prepared for Kierian's joining. Have you regrets?" She would not look to me. "It seems you have spent more hours with the stallion than you have within the chambers."

"Nothen. I have no regrets. I merely wished to train the stallion before we departed. Sevianth has assisted. He shall be a fine breeder of horses. It is in his blood."

"Nature breeds true." She released a long breath. "What is amiss? There is more than a desire to train a horse."

"How knew you of Yleminea?"

"It was not difficult. She spoke of it when you entered her chambers, did she not?"

"She did." I paused. "Salenia, she questioned my feelings for you. You question them not?"

"Is that what is amiss? You think I doubt you?"

"Yleminea doubts."

"Torienne, there is but one aspect of life I hold to be certain and that is you." She looked to me. "Is there else?"

"Nothen. If you doubt me not, there is little else that concerns me. Wish you to return to the chambers? Or wish you to explain why you wished me absent before the midday meal?"

"It is a surprise, Torienne. You must have patience." She patted my arm. "Let us return. I wish a bath after my swim."

"Aight. Perhaps I can assist?"

"Perhaps. May I ride with you?"

"I would be pleased." I calmed Kier while Sal mounted, then took my place behind my shehala. "Wish you to return to the chambers?" I wished not return. I had lost my patience with others. We had been too close for a week. I wished for solitude.

"It matters not. Wish you to ride near to the river?" Sal read my feelings with an ease that was indicative of her nature and our bond.

"Perhaps. We have not journeyed beyond the palace walls since the ceremony to create Yleminea chamberlain."

"In truth, we have not. If you wish to saddle the mounts, I shall fetch a meal."

"Aight. It is a good plan, though if you wish, we could dine at the tavern." I wished for simple fare. "Then perhaps we could ride near to the river."

"If you wish. It seems a good plan." She slid from Kier's back. "I shall saddle my horse. Shall you ride Kier?"

"Aight." I dismounted. "I trust not the stallion. He shall breed well, though he needs much training still before I ride him in company of others."

"He is an example of beauty." Sal looked through the tact. "Where are our saddles?"

"I know not. Perhaps we should inquire of a stable hand." I shrugged my shoulders. In truth, I had not needed my saddle since the hunt for the tirgeaurs.

"Nothen. They are here." She pulled two saddles from shelving near to the entrance. We saddled and bridled our mounts in haste. "Shall we?"

"Aight. Let us depart."

We rode beyond the houses of the cordermers. We remained near to the river and halted only when we discovered no evidence of others. I knew not where we had halted. In truth, I cared not. We dismounted and reclined in the cool grass. For a moment, I had believed we were in our homeland.

"What traditions have you decided to adhere to for the ceremony?" Sal broke the silence.

"I know not. They shall inform me on the morrow."

"Plan you to shear your hair?"

"Nothen. I wish not to wear hair as short as a trainee or priestly scholar." In truth, I did not. "I understand not the logic to shearing hair before joining ceremonies. I know Kierian will not adhere to that tradition." I pillowed my head on my arms and looked to the sky. "Why ask you?"

"I believe it is a tradition unworthy of adhering to. Also, I am fond of your hair. It is a lovely hue." She rested her head on my shoulder.

"Nothen. You possess a lovely hue. It is as rare as your eyes. I am fond of both."

"Are you weary, shehala?"

"Aight. I feel the pull on my soul to return. Can you sense it?"

"I sense it. I feel it as well, though it is not all from you. We are required to return. Our duty is complete. Perhaps the day after the ceremony?"

"We have three days then. Iolaine has made many preparations. Tominent has as well. They are both excited."

"Lyliane and Iolaine shall be joined upon our return." She commented.

"It is well. I shall be gladdened to view the ceremony. Have they lain together?" I wished not to know, though I was required to ask.

"Nothen. They have not. Lyliane wishes a traditional ceremony. She has asked me to stand with her, though we shall not adhere to the loss of hair."

"Gladdened am I to know. Wish you to return to the palace?" I wished it not. I was content to remain on the grass with the smell of water and earth in my nose and the weight of my keytheda on my shoulder. At the moment, I felt as if I had aged ten seasons in as many days.

"Nothen. I seem to be in comfort here. It is pleasant here with no others demanding our attention." She shifted and moved her arm across my stomach. "Perhaps it shall be as this when we return. Our duties shall not require all our day hours."

"They should not. It shall require much time for a few seasons. When we have completed the buildings and breeding, it shall take time only to ensure it continues in ease." As I had trained the white stallion, I had given much thought to our future as horse breeders and farmers. It would require our entire household to construct the life we wished to create.

"I an anxious to return to our homeland. We have merely three days?"

"Aight. Though it shall take much time to return. I believe the journey shall encompass two moons at the least."

"You and Iolaine have given much thought to our journey while we have prepared for the ceremony."

"We have. I wish to encounter no dangers." In truth, it had much concerned me. As we had journeyed to the realm of the Jilhsaed, we had been concerned only with the rescue of our stolen ones. The return of those we had rescue and my companions required much thought to safety.

"I believe you have given too much thought on this. Perhaps you need to relax." She stood and approached her horse. She returned with a bedroll. "We have none with us."

"In truth, we do not. What have you planned?"

"A night beneath the stars. We shall return to the palace at dawn."

"I have no bow. Wish you for me to hunt with my sword?" I jested. "Shall we consume fish?"

"Aight. We shall camp, fish and perhaps swim. It shall be as it was during our journey, though with one difference."

"And what difference would that be?" Though I knew the answer, the game bid me ask.

"We have but one bedroll." She smiled. "Come. Let us prepare our camp."

"Aight, if you but answer one question. How know you the words to say and the actions to perform to ease my thoughts and concerns?"

"I know not." She shrugged her shoulders. "I am gladdened for the ability, though I question it not. Perhaps it is merely an aspect of our bonding."

"Perhaps. Wish you to gather plants or begin the evening fire?" We had shared the duties without question during our journey.

"I shall forage for the horses and for us." She moved to search the area. When she returned, I had placed the bedroll near to the fire I had begun.

"You wished a bath and fish?"

"Perhaps more as well." She grinned. "Shall we?"

"Aight we shall." I ensured the fire would not cease its burning while we swam.

It was pleasant. We played as babes in the river, consumed fish full of a foreign flavor, and walked the path of our dreams beneath the stars. We were content with only ourselves for companionship. My keytheda had chosen the correct action in response to my feelings and thoughts. It was an evening well spent.

"We heard not the bells. I assume you encountered no danger." Lyliane looked sternly at us as we entered the chambers. "Have you reason for such behavior? Perhaps an excuse for our concern?"

"We wished merely to dream beneath the stars, sister." Salenia seemed amused at her sister's behavior. I had not thought on the reactions of our companions.

"Tominent was prepared to search for you, as was Iolaine."

"Lyliane, Salenia and I are warriors. I doubt not we could defeat any we encountered." I loathed answering to others.

"My apologies, Torienne. I spoke only from concern." She seemed to sink within herself.

"It is well. We thought not of any save ourselves." I offered a small apology. "Has one been bid fetch the meal? I know not of my shehala, though I am hungered."

"I am as well, keytheda."

"Rul and Tre were sent. They should return in moments." She seemed relaxed. "I shall bid a servant inform Tominent. He shall be pleased to have knowledge of your safety."

"Bid the servant invite Tominent to our chambers. We need have speech on our journey. I wish us to depart the morning after the ceremony."

"Shall we inform Soliumant and Kierian?"

"Nothen. We fear they shall create a reason to delay our departure." Sal voiced the conclusion we had discussed the prior evening.

"In truth, they may. Sit, I shall fetch Tominent."

"My gratitude." I claimed a chair near to the table and poured two mugs of viniare. "Perhaps we were required to inform our companions of our plans."

"Perhaps." She shrugged her shoulders. "They shall recover. Though I appreciate their concern." She accepted a mug of viniare.

"As do I, though I am unaccustomed to it."

"Torienne? Salenia?" Sevianth stood before us. It seemed he had departed his dreams in haste. He seemed tousled. "You were absent for the evening meal."

"Aight. We journeyed to the river to speak our thoughts on our journey." I explained. "Miss we any events of note?"

"Nothen. We merely consumed the meal and dreamt. Are we departing in haste?"

"We shall depart after the ceremony. Perhaps you should bathe and dress before the morning meal." Sal suggested. "Tominent shall join us. We have much to prepare before we depart."

"May I assist?"

"You shall greatly assist. Regardless, you need bathe. Sal and I have done so."

"Aight, Torienne." He hastened to the bathing chamber.

"I know not if all males in their youth are as eager to assist as Sevianth."

"Many are, I believe. At the least, my brothers seemed to be." I relaxed into the chair's embrace. "I know not how to explain Sevianth's presence."

"With ease, shehala. Merely relate the truth of his finding. I believe none shall question it." Sal reassured me.

"It seems the lost have discovered the way to return. Wish a night beneath the stars, cousin?" Tominent did not seem concerned with our absence. I believe Lyliane had explained our desires to him.

"Aight, cousin. We had wished for privacy to converse on our thoughts."

"I miss such thoughts." He grinned. "I am gladdened you are well. Lyliane has relayed your desire to depart after the ceremony. I am gladdened. I am anxious to view your homeland."

"I long to view it as well. I have been long in this realm." Lyliane claimed a chair near to her sister. "Though I know not how our family shall react."

"They shall be pleased to look on you again, sister. I know it so."

"Where is Iolaine?" I had not noticed his absence until discussion of our homeland commenced.

"He has journeyed to the market. We required more supplies for the journey. He is anxious to depart as well." Lyliane displayed a smile seemingly full of pride.

"It seems we are all anxious to depart." I held a deep breath. "If we were not required to attend the ceremony, I would wish to depart this day."

"Kierian requires our presence. It would not suit our honor to depart." Salenia answered. "Though I feel as you, keytheda."

"Regardless, we need converse on our journey. We shall escort many who have not the skills such a journey shall require." Tominent appeared concerned. "Those who we rescued from the home of the conspirators were bred servants. They have not departed far from the palace or the homes of their cordermers."

"Aight. Iolaine has located a wagon for our use. It once belonged to slavers. It is why he journeyed to the market." Lyliane explained.

"A wagon? Gladdened am I to hear it. Has it still the metal cages?" Sal seemed interested. "Perhaps we can design changes to the wagon."

"If you wish to view it, I have returned. It is near to the stables."

"You are a good man, Iolaine." I waved him to the table. "Sit. My sister and my cousin shall return with the meal."

"You are not angered?"

"Nothen. You have displayed much of what we viewed in you in Creasinda. It is merely confirmation of your intelligence and foresight." Sal handed him a mug of viniare. "Tell me, are the changes we would wish make possible?"

"I believe they are, Salenia. I had wished Torienne to view the wagon before I had purchased it, but you did not return last eve. The man wished to rid himself of it this day."

"You did well, Iolaine. I shall view it after the meal. I doubt we have much to attend to this day." I knew not if Kierian and the others needed my assistance. I knew of my duties for the ceremony. I knew not if they had altered them. In truth, I cared not. I would do as they wished.

"Torienne, if you wished privacy, you merely needed to ask." Tre jested as she entered. Rul followed with another tray. "Those in the kitchens have given us more than required. It seems they believe we require much supplies."

"It is as if they reward us with food to prepare us for our journey." Rul laughed. "They are most generous."

"Have we plans for this day?" I believed Tre would know of Kierian's wishes.

"Kierian merely wishes a day to pray and bathe. I believe she trusts not in Yleminea. She has requested Siveruian to attend her." Tre shrugged her shoulders. "It seems many do not trust in Yleminea."

"I trust not in her." Tominent voiced his doubt in the chamberlain. "It seems I know her not. She has changed much from her youth."

"Cousin, Yleminea remains in her youth. If she matures, she shall become a great chamberlain. Regardless, she needs mature in haste. She shall cause much damage unless one explains the danger she poses."

"In truth, you are correct, Torienne. I know Siveruian feels pride for his daughter. I know not if he is aware of the need for her to mature." Lyliane agreed.

"Perhaps, Torienne, you should have speech with her." Rul seemed to believe her thoughts were inspired.

"I am not native to this realm. It would breech protocol." I wished not have speech with Yleminea. In truth, I wished to avoid the new chamberlain.

"It would not seem correct for Torienne to have speech with Yleminea. Regardless of protocol, we have relied much on both Torienne and Salenia. Perhaps this shall be the first true test of Soliumant and his reign." Tominent seemed in thought. "I believe we need not concern ourselves with Yleminea."

"I believe you correct, cousin."

"I doubt you are correct, Tominent, though I know not how to resolve the situation." Salenia looked to me. "You have had speech with her once. I know not if you need converse with her again. Perhaps if you explain to Kierian our fears and doubts."

"In truth, Kierian has rank over the chamberlain. Siveruian answered to the Jilhsaed only because the Princess had no rank outside the harem. The wife of the Jilhsaed is in command of the palace as the Jilhsaed commands the realm." Lyliane explained. "It would be Kierian's duty to confront or converse with Yleminea."

"Then I shall have speech with Kierian, though I believe she shall share out doubts." I stood. "Come, I am weary of speech. I wish to view the wagon."

"You have not completed the meal." Sevianth returned from the bathing chamber.

"I have consumed what I wish. Partake of the meal and you shall join me when you have completed it." I ruffled his hair. "Once we have completed the new designs of the wagon, we shall continue to train the white stallion."

"I am gladdened. I greatly enjoy the training." He grinned broadly as he claimed the seat I had vacated.

"Salenia, wish you to view the wagon?"

"Aight. I shall accompany you. Tominent?"

"I was not greatly hungered. I believe this shall be interesting." He stood as well.

"Perhaps I may assist?" Rul seemed enthusiastic.

"You may. I believe we shall require much assistance, though I wish you to remain and escort Sevianth."

"Aight, Torienne."

"Torienne, Tre and I shall continue to design our attire." Lyliane seemed not interested in accompanying us.

"Aight. It is well. Come, my friends."

We followed Iolaine to the stables. The wagon rested near to the enclosure for the horses. It was a true slaver wagon. It appeared as long as five horses end to end and three across. Also, it seemed filled with age, as though it had journeyed for many seasons across the desert. It rested with unease on its wheels.

"Tell me, Iolaine, how much was this wagon?" I walked around it. Wooden planks were missing from portions.

"It was merely two silver. The man acquired it as payment for a gamble. He knew not its condition when he accepted it. He believed offering it for sale or trade would recoup his loss."

"Two silver?" Sal laughed. "It is well, though it shall require much preparation. At the least we shall remove the metal cages with ease."

"Let us begin." I knew of no reason to continue our discussion. "Iolaine, if you and Tominent locate the necessary tools to remove the cages, Salenia and I shall locate the wood to repair the missing planks."

"It is a good plan." Iolaine smiled. He seemed pleased with his purchase. "We shall return."

Salenia and I located the storage chambers for timber. We requested planks of the appropriate length and width. The servant in command seemed pleased to meet our request. We were provided with the planks and the means to transport them to our wagon. We required only the tools to repair it.

"Perhaps we require one to fetch the tools we require." Salenia commented as we halted the cart near to the wagon.

"Aight. I wish not use swords." I knew of those who had repaired wagons with swords. I wished not damage mine in such a manner. "Perhaps Kespearen shall assist us."

"Then we shall visit Kespearen?"

"It is not necessary." Iolaine returned. "We have located tools for all repairs. They are of little use and have been replaced. We were gifted with them."

"That seems strange, though I shall not question it." Sal hefted a hammer.

"Nor shall I." I hefted one as well. "At the least, the horses we claimed from the bandits shall pull this. We need not provide horses for all the rescued ones."

"It is well. I know not if we could afford horses for all." Tominent shed his tunic. "This shall be interesting. I have not repaired a wagon."

"I have repaired many, though none so massive." The wagons I had repaired were used only for transporting food and my father's first wife. She liked not horses.

"Then we shall follow your lead." Iolaine shed his tunic as well.

We had removed only two planks when Rul and Sevianth joined us. Though Sevianth was much in his youth, we bid him assist. He was bid fetch water and tools when needed. Rul assisted Salenia and I remove damaged planks. It was not long before Sal and I removed our tunics as well. I assume those who witnessed our repairs thought it strange for us to repair our wagon clad in loose shirts. We cared not.

"I understand your need of a wagon, though I understand not why you purchased one to repair." Siveruian caught my attention. "I doubt not you can afford better."

"Slaver wagons are all that would suit our needs. It would be difficult to remove the cages from a recently created one." It seemed reasonable to me. Regardless, I minded not the effort to repair the one Iolaine had provided.

"You are correct. I know not of wagons designed for long journeys without cages. Wish you assistance? I can bid servants to repair this."

"Nothen. It seems barbaric, though we care not. In truth, such effort is good for the soul and we have grown soft in such opulent surroundings."

"Perhaps, though I doubt you have the ability to grow soft, Torienne. If perhaps you decide otherwise, bid one to fetch me. I shall provide servants to assist."

"Should not Yleminea have that duty?" Salenia leaned against the wagon and wiped her brow.

"My daughter is in lessoning. She requires much schooling before she handles such duties. There is much still for her to learn."

"Perhaps, it is so. When she matures, she shall be a great chamberlain." I spoke little of our thoughts on the matter. "Regardless, my gratitude for the offer, Siveruian."

"It is a small token. You deserve more than we can provide. It is well you have not requested your worth." He smiled. "I shall meet you before the ceremony."

"Aight, you shall. I have but one request." I caught his attention before he could depart. "Bid one to have our companions in the chambers fetch the meal and meet us here."

"I shall. May the gods guard your day."

"And yours as well, my friend." Salenia tendered our greetings for his departure. "We shall consume the meal near to the stables?"

"Nothen. We shall consume the meal near to the river. I wish not return to the chambers until the evening meal."

"It would not be wise. It could cause illness. I believe consuming the meal here is a good plan." She turned to the wagon. "We have perhaps an hour to continue."

"Aight. We can accomplish much in an hour, though I believe we shall not complete the repairs this day. It shall require the morrow as well."

"It shall, Torienne. We shall require your assistance with several cages." Tominent called to us from the top of the wagon.

"Aight. There shall be many planks to repair beneath those cages as well. Regardless, speech is not action." I hefted my hammer. "Shall we continue?"

"Aight." Sal smiled. "This is good for the soul."

"Aight. It is."

We continued replacing planks until Lyliane and Tre joined us with the meal. Wordlessly we halted our efforts and journeyed to the river. Once near to the water, we cleansed our hands and faces of sweat and dirt. Lyliane and Tre had brought a blanket as well. They arranged the food as if we were near to a table. It was a pleasant meal.

We discussed plans for the journey and plans for the day. Tre related the changes Kierian had chosen to make in the traditional joining ceremony. It resembled less a ceremony from our homeland and more a ceremony unique to Kierian. I was gladdened. All I was required was to stand with her. I believe Salenia was gladdened as well. There were many aspects of a joining ceremony from our homeland we liked not.

"How go the repairs?" Lyliane inquired as we cleansed the area of the remains of the meal.

"They progress, though not in haste." Iolaine answered.

"Aight, though we shall complete them on the morrow. Sevianth, wish you to return to the chambers?" I wished not exhaust him. I knew we would train not the stallion.

"Nothen, Torienne. May I stay and assist?"

"If you wish." I rose and wiped the dirt from my pants. "We have much still to repair."

"Then let us begin." Tominent stood.

We continued our repairs until the hour chimed for the evening meal. We had completed half of those required for the journey. Fortune was with us. We had examined the wheels and body of the wagon. They had appeared in good condition. We were gladdened. Repairs of the wheels and the body would not have been made with ease.

We returned to our chambers wearied and hungered. We consumed the meal without haste. In truth, we ate at our leisure. Tominent departed after the meal to bathe in his chambers. He had staggered a bit. He was less accustomed to such labors.

"I am wearied. I believe I shall bathe and walk the paths of my dreams. Wish you to join me, shehala?"

"Aight. I believe I shall, Salenia. May the gods guard the paths of your dreams." I tendered the evening greeting to our companions. "I shall see you on the morrow."

We bathed merely to cleanse ourselves of the grime from our efforts repairing the wagon. We decided not to rest in the pool for relaxing. We sought our dream paths with relief. The labors of the day had exhausted us, though we were accustomed to such labors. At the school, Kayla used such labors to strength us. Regardless, we walked the paths of our dreams with heavy tread.

"I believe it is complete." Tominent wiped his brow. We had labored long in the hot sun to complete the repairs on the wagon. It would suffice.

"Aight. We have done well." I placed my hammer against the enclosure. "It is near to the evening meal. Have we plans for this eve?"

"After the evening meal, you need attend Kierian." Rul informed me. "The vigil has only been halved."

"You are correct. Let us return to the chambers and discuss the plans for the journey. We need prepare our supplies."

"Torienne, while you are with Kierian we shall gather our supplies and attend the loading of the wagon." Iolaine pledged.

"Iolaine, you are anxious to depart, are you not?" I believed his desire for haste amusing.

"In truth, I am. When we arrive in your homeland, Lyliane and I shall be joined. As the hour approaches, I am filled with energy and anxiety." He spoke in a low tone. Salenia, Tominent, Rul and Sevianth walked ahead to provide us a bit of privacy. "May I ask if you would stand with me?"

"I would be honored." In truth, he honored me with the request. "The ceremony for Sal and I shall not require others to stand for us, though I would wish you attend and view it."

"There are difference ceremonies?"

"Aight. Lyliane wishes not a traditional joining ceremony. I believe she shall design a ceremony near to the one Kierian has planned. Anxiety is understandable, though it is not necessary. Lyliane greatly loves you."

"My gratitude, Torienne. You are correct. I wish a long life with Lyliane and many babes." He laughed. "I have desired such a life, though I had not courage to wish for it."

"The gods grant what we deserve, Iolaine. You deserve this. Come, I believe Lyliane and Tre will not allow us to partake of the meal in this state." I redirected the conversation.

"Aight. I shall inquire if Tominent wishes to share his bathing chamber. He suggested we partake of the meal at the tavern."

"It is a good plan. I shall speak to Salenia. Perhaps Sevianth shall enjoy the tavern as well." We had not allowed him far beyond the palace walls.

"Salenia believes it is a good plan." Tominent turned to speak with us. "I have suggested it to her as well."

"In truth, I think it a worthy suggestion." Sal turned as well.

"As do I. Perhaps the entire household would appreciate the evening."

"Perhaps so, shehala. Let us discover their wishes."

Iolaine and Tominent journeyed to Tominent's chambers to bathe. Sal and I returned to our chambers to suggest the plan to Lyliane and Tre. We had bid Rul to escort Sevianth to the chambers as we looked to the wagon. I wished him not exhaust himself. He had changed much from the boy we had rescued in Creasinda.

Our companions were gladdened by Tominent's suggestion. Sevianth and Rul seemed enthusiastic. They had not viewed the tavern. We all bathed and changed our attire in haste. When Salenia and I departed the bathing chamber, Iolaine and Tominent had returned. With no wasted words, we departed the chambers and directed our steps beyond the palace walls.

It was not a night of drunken revelry. The food and ale were beyond compare. It was our last taste of Marlkina fare. We ate and drank at our leisure. We were content in our companionship.

After the meal, Tre and I journeyed to Kierian's chambers. Though Tre was not required to stand with her, Kierian had wished my sister sit the vigil. Fortune was with us. Yleminea was not required to attend. I was gladdened. I knew Tre was as well.

"Well met, Torienne. Kierian is bathing." Graneima allowed us to enter the chambers. "We should join her."

"Aight. What else need we attend this eve?"

"I know not." Gran shrugged her shoulders. "I must admit I listened not during the plans for this ceremony."

"I blame you not."

"Regardless, we need attend Kierian." Tre directed the speech to the matter.

"Aight." We entered the bathing chamber. Kierian rested in the pool for relaxing.

"Well met, my friends. Bath in haste and join me here."

We did as bid. Kierian's bathing chamber was larger than the one in my chambers. It was well. She deserved such chambers, though she would share chambers with Soliumant upon their joining.

"What else have you planned?" I asked as I lowed myself into the pool for resting.

"I have no plans for this eve. I merely wished a final evening with my companions. I believe you shall return to the homeland before the next moon."

"Aight. We shall." I wished not inform her the true day of our departure. "Have you doubts of Yleminea and her abilities?"

"I like not her attitude. She believes we are barbarians. I am not barbaric nor are my companions." Her tone was harsh. "She would do well to recall it."

"I believe she requires maturing."

"Aight. She has been treading a line she needs not cross." Gran seemed not amused. "I wish to display barbaric tendencies and introduce my sword to her."

"Gran, I believe you are best suited to consult Yleminea in the ways of our people." I knew Gran would either cause the death of the new chamberlain or bond with her. In truth, both amused me.

"Tor, I have no gratitude for such suggestion."

"I believe Tor is correct, Gran. It is a duty that suits you well." Kierian seemed amused.

"In truth, I agree." Tre spoke her thoughts. "Perhaps it shall do you well."

"Aight. I believe it shall. With fortune, it shall be my final advice in this realm." I relaxed further in the pool.

"Think you Salenia is pleased with this vigil?"

"Sal is gladdened you have greatly changed tradition. In truth, I am as well." There were many traditions we knew not of, merely the gossip of oldsters had jested with our thoughts and painted strange scenes in our minds. I wanted not knowledge of the truth of such traditions.

"I believe I shall suggest such changes to our father. I understand not the desire to shear one's hair before the ceremony."

"Nor do I, Tre. It is why I have chosen to disregard such traditions. Those of our homeland would do well to do likewise." Kierian rose. "I am weary of water. Let us rest on the balcony."

"Let us dress first. I have no wish to depart one from his body if he views you unclothed."

"Shall Tre and I fetch viniare? I know of no other drink worthy of such occasion."

"My gratitude, though Siveruian bid one deliver several flasks as you were in search of the stone." Kierian poured four mugs of viniare. "On the morrow, I shall no longer be required to even pour a mug. I shall know not what duties to attend, though Siveruian has offered much advice. I know not if it shall please me to have servants clothe me."

"I know not if such would please me. In truth, I would not be gladdened by such treatment. Tell me, shall they bathe you as well?" I could not but ask.

"I have been informed such servants are dedicated for those tasks. I doubt I shall employ them. I have bathed myself for many seasons. I have no wish to allow another to assist save for Soliumant."

"I know not. It seems as if it would be pleasant." Gran smiled. "I have heard tales of houses here in Marlkina that cater to such trade."

"In truth, there are such places." I wished not converse on such matters. I recalled with ease the establishment we had invaded to rescue Til. "I would not journey to such places if I were a guard to the Jilhsaed's bride."

"I merely gave voice to my curiosity, Tor, not my desires."

"What trade do they cater to in such houses?" My sister retained her innocent naivety.

"They cater to desires of flesh, Tre." I wished not explain the details.

"Are there such houses in our homeland?"

"Aight. There are none near to our village, though they exist elsewhere." I resolved not to look near my sister. "I believe the desires and trade differ slightly." In truth, I knew not, nor did I wish such knowledge. The view of such a house in Marlkina caused me to believe I wished to view no more.

Kierian directed the topic to other matters. We had speech on the ceremony, traditions, our journey and many other such topics. It was a small celebration of companionship. We could ask for no more.

One hour before midday, we gathered in an alcove near to the great chamber. Salenia, Lyliane and Rul had joined us for the morning meal. It required Tre, Lyliane and Rul to fit Kierian's attire to her. We began clothing ourselves an hour after the morning meal. We completed it moments before departing for the alcove. It was well; we had not duties to attend.

I departed after escorting the others to the alcove. Tominent stood patiently near to the platform. The great chamber was filled with cordermers, merchants, slavers and servants. I bid Iolaine and one of the queriane to clear a path from the alcove to the platform. We needed not push through the throng. Sevianth was bid join Salenia in the alcove.

"This shall be a great day." Tominent stood with his sword unsheathed.

"It shall be." I unsheathed mine as well. It was tradition.

We stood near to the platform until Soliumant joined us. He crossed the platform and stood before his court. It seemed he was too anxious to give voice to his thoughts. Siveruian stepped forward and announced the plans for the day. A feast was to follow the ceremony, as was a fortnight of celebration.

"Wish you to witness the joining of Soliumant, the Jilhsaed of this realm and Kierian his chosen bride?" Siveruian stood tall before the court. Yleminea stood near to him. She held a cushion and a cloth of scarlet. The court cheered their agreement. "Then, Torienne, present the bride."

"Aight. If you wish it so." I bowed low before him before directing my steps to the alcove. "Kierian, you are to be presented to Soliumant for joining. Wish you proceed with the ceremony?"

"I wish no more than that." Kierian placed her hand on my arm. "Will you escort me?"

"It is my honor to do so." Kierian held my sword arm, though I had held my sword in my other hand. Though most joining ceremonies were no longer forced at the point of a sword, it was tradition to have two stand with the couple. Those who stood with them were required to stand with swords drawn.

We crossed the floor side by side. The others followed and halted near to the line. Kierian and I continued to the platform. Soliumant crossed and offered his hand to his bride. I stepped back and stood near to Tominent.

"Wish you to join destinies?" Siveruian asked as they looked to him.


"I have no greater wish." Soliumant stood tall.

"Then stand firm and be joined in this life with hopes of being joined in all others." Yleminea handed her father two lengths of silken cord. Siveruian tied one length of cord around their ankles. The other was tied to their wrists. They were required to remain tied to one another until they were escorted to the Jilhsaed's chambers after the feast. "I present the Jilhsaed and his bride, Kierian. Kierian shall be wife in full to the Jilhsaed. Since the time of the Jilhsaed's birth, this realm is privileged to be ruled by Jilhsaed and Jerisheal. How greet you the Jerisheal?" The court cheered again. Kierian seemed near to tears. Soliumant wiped them from her cheek.

"The ceremony is complete. Gather now in the feasting chamber. We shall celebrate this event." Yleminea spoke to the court.

"If you wish, we are prepared to depart now." Tominent spoke in a low tone.

"It is a good plan. Let us do so." I wished not remain for the feast. "Have our clothing and possessions been gathered?"

"Aight. They are in the wagon." Salenia joined us. "I think we should depart now. It would not do well to remain. The queriane wish us train them and Soliumant wishes an advisor. It is time we depart, else they shall depend on us."

"How know you?" It piqued my curiosity.

"I dreamt of our future. I believe it a vision."

"Then we shall depart." I trusted in her. "What of the rescued ones?"

"All we need is change and saddle the horses. Iolaine has volunteered to fetch the lost ones. We shall meet him near to the gate." Tominent seemed pleased with his plan. "We decided this course last eve."

"It is a good plan. Let us change and depart." Tominent journeyed to his chamber as those of my household journeyed to ours.

It seemed empty, as all we had gathered in this realm was stored on the wagon or in our saddlebags. We changed our attire in haste. It seemed a breech of protocol to depart with no word to Soliumant or Kierian. Tre scribed a message for them. A servant was bid deliver it on the morrow. We wished not interfere with the feast. In truth, our duties were complete. It was time to return to our homeland.

Iolaine journeyed ahead to fetch those we had rescued. Stable hands assisted the harnessing of the bandit horses to the wagon. We had need of haste. Julaniant had been bid gather the rescued ones together and prepare for Iolaine's arrival. We would meet them near to the gate we had entered Marlkina.

"Shall we?" Tominent's entrance broke the silence that had fallen in our chambers.

"Aight. We have no reason to delay." I shrugged my shoulders. Though I knew such departure was preferable, I felt guilt at our actions. I believe the others did as well.

"Tor, you are departing this day?" Gran caught my attention as we journeyed to the stables. I waved the others to continue.

"Aight. We believe it a wise action. How knew you to find us?"

"I was bid locate you. Kierian and Soliumant wished speech with you."

"What speech wished they?" I eased the saddlebags from my shoulders.

"I know not. I believe they wished tender their gratitude." She pulled me into an embrace. "Safe journey, Torienne. Our paths shall cross again."

"Soliumant and I are bound by a pledge. If he requires me, he needs only send for us." I offered my arm. "I wish you well, Graneima. This realm suits you."

"My gratitude for all, my friend. You shall be greatly missed, though that is why you wish to depart in secrecy, is it not?" She showed wisdom in her surmise.

"Aight. We need not interfere more in this realm unless called by Soliumant to return. Guard yourself and Kierian well. You have a destiny here to fulfill."

"As you have one in our homeland. I wish you safe journey and long life. Until we meet again." She turned to the palace. "I believe it sooner than perhaps you shall wish."

"Perhaps. We must depart. Fortune be with you." With those words, I followed my companions to the stables. "We have many leagues to traverse. It is best we begin now. Tominent, lead the way."

"Aight, Torienne. I do so with pleasure."

"Regrets, shehala?" Salenia rode beside me.

"None, keytheda. Have you?"

"Nothen. I look only to the future."

"As do I, Salenia." Iolaine waved to us from the gate. We allowed the wagon to precede us. The guards paid us little heed. As we followed the path from Marlkina, we turned and favored the city with a lingering look. "To the future. Come, let us lead the way."


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