Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Silver Flower: Chapter 9

Another Chapter from my book: only three more to go! Enjoy it while it lasts. :P

Chapter Nine: The Legend of the Silver Flower

“The legend of the Silver Flower is a story well worth listening to, and many believe it to be as true as you or I.” Valkin started, his eyes closed and he had a gentle smile on his face as he remembered how he was told the legend by an old elf. Finally Justin broke the silence.

“Ye still havnae told us o’ the legend!” he exclaimed impatiently. Valkin laughed quietly and opened his eyes.

“Alright, I shall tell you the legend. It’s long, be prepared.” The children merely sat closer and let the story sink into their minds. Valkin began:

“Yes, a long and complicated legend is the legend of the Silver Flower.” He paused. The children exchanged looks, and he continued.

“The legend started as a simple story, a story easily believed, for we are a magical people. It is said that a long, long time ago, when elves were more plentiful than men in this country, there lived an old, wise elf. His name is not known, but back then he was an important person.

“One day, while working as usual on some odd concoction or another, the elf discovered a magical metal substance deep within his cave where he did all his work. He excitedly dug all of the metal out of the rock, but was somewhat disappointed how little there was. Only enough,” Valkin paused and ran his finger over the delicate flower pendant, “To make one silver pendant. The elf went right to work, melting the metal, cleaning it, crafting it. When he finished the pendant, he was pleased. The pendant, as I have said, was crafted out of a magical metal found only deep within certain caves, and it is extremely rare, even for magical folk like elves, to find it. The substance’s magical power is this: It can create anything you ask, it opens all locked doors, and it acts as an invisible shield to the one who wears it, however, it only works if the ones using it can come up with believable reasons to do it for others.”

Valkin took another deep breath, and looked at the children sitting in front of him. He smiled, took a drink of water, and proceeded.

“Because the Silver Flower is so rare and powerful, there were many who wanted to take the pendant from the wise elf and use it for their own gain. The elf knew this, and thought long on how he could protect it from the ones who would use it wrongly. At last, he came up with a plan. He took the Silver Flower out of its resting place. Donning on a disguise, he travelled the world for a time, getting to know men and their ways. After many years of this, he found at last a trustworthy family. They lived in a small Scottish village at the edge of a thick forest. Though poor, they were honest and hardworking. The elf liked what he saw, and as a parting gift bestowed the Silver Flower to the father, Flannigan Elliot. The man did not know what a powerful thing he had, and life went on as usual for the Elliot family.

“However, after a few generations, when men prospered in the land and the elves retreated to the forest for safety, their came another man, He was the great-great-great grandson of Flannigan Elliot. His name was Grant Elliot, and he was a fine hunter. He stumbled across a stone circle one day, and stepped inside it for a moment for there was a deer he had been following for some time just ahead of him through some bushes. Imagine his surprise when an elf stepped out from behind a bush and asked his business. Elliot told him the truth, being honest, but still he was brought before the king. Elliot was soon loved by all the elfish people and many gifts were exchanged. He had heard stories from his father and grandfather about the Magical Folk and had interest in their lives. He learned their language, made many good friends, including the mother and wife of the king. His name was spoken over the entire elfish kingdom of Dunnion, which is the kingdom we are in right now.” Valkin turned to Mary with a smile, and took another drink of water, stopping the legend long enough for a passing guard to leave.

“As a quick side note, though Mary and we elves already know this, our kingdom’s name means ‘Strength’. We are very proud of our defensive abilities.” He cleared his throat. The three children leaned forward again, eager for him to continue the story.

“Grant Elliot decided to look into his past, feeling that he must have been linked with the elves somehow, and found that a certain elf had given a gift to his great-great-great grandfather. He searched over his house for it and at last found it in a secluded closet in a little used room. He took out the Silver Flower, and decided to find out what exactly it was.”

“During a long conversation with the king’s mother, she mentioned a mysterious legend about a silver pendent. He casually prodded for more about it, and she told him the legend, he realized that when the elf seemingly ‘disappeared from the elfish kingdom’ he really was travelling throughout the world and at last came to Scotland on his way back, he thought from a failed mission. He then met Flannigan, Grant’s great-great-great grandfather, and found him to be an honest, hardworking man. He gave the priceless pendant to him, and then promptly left. Flannigan didn’t know how precious a possession he had, and the Silver Flower was soon forgotten. That is, it was forgotten until now. Grant now knew how precious the pendant was, and he kept it safe for a long time.”

“But he grew to be an old man, and had no children to hand the pendant down to, he had to find someone who was honest and kind, and wouldn’t try to use the pendant for their own gain. After a few years, he at last found three people, siblings, who he knew would use the pendant wisely. So when the time came for the kingdom to be saved, he sent those certain humans to help our kingdom.” Valkin stopped and looked into the siblings eyes. He smiled.

“Yes, you three are those certain people. He gave you that pendant for such a time as this, using it you can get out.” His eyes scanned over the three humans, and he nodded his head as if agreeing to some unspoken thought of his. “He made a wise decision I think, there is no evil in any of you.” Justin frowned slightly.

“How can we use the pendant to get us oot!” he said. Valkin smiled.

“You are always thinking ahead, Justin, this is good.” He sighed. “Now, to answer your question, the pendent can help you in many ways. It can blind the guards’ eyes as we escape under their very noses, it can be used as a file to get through the bars of out window, it can be used as a key and unlock our door. Any of these things it will do, but only if it is for others that you do it.”

The three children exchanged glances, and Duncan chewed his lip thoughtfully. There was a moment of silence before Duncan spoke.

“We need to get oot so ye can be crowned king.” He said. Mary’s head shot up, and she smiled.

“Aye and we need to get oot so Shetta can marry Glevanne!” she said. Justin grinned, and he slapped his knee.

“An’ let’s not forget our own parents. If we be stuck in here forever or be-headed, then they’d niver get over it.” The elves laughed as the three humans came up with their reasons and the siblings were now full of vigor and ready to leave, but the elves had to think of who they needed to get out for. There was another silence, and the siblings waited, somewhat impatiently until the elves came up with an answer. Dusak spoke first.

“I need to be free so I can help Valkin rule.” He said, stealing a mischievous glance at Valkin out of the corner of his eye. “He’ll need lots of advice.” Valkin gave his brother in law a playful punch in his shoulder, but then sobered as he said his reason.

“I need to be free for the kingdom.” He said. “If I don’t become king, our land will perish under the evil counselor’s lust for power.” The children and elves both nodded their heads; this was the best reason yet. Vinea said her reason as Duncan pulled the pendant off his neck.

“My reason seems so small compared to all of yours.” She said softly. “But I need to escape for my child.” Dusak, who was sitting on the very edge of the prison’s cot, jumped so high that he would have fallen onto the floor if Valkin hadn’t caught hold of the hood of his cape.

“W-what did you say?” he asked breathlessly. Vinea smiled.

“We’re going to have a child, Dusak.” He nearly fell off again.

“That’s what I thought you said! But I didn’t believe my ears.” He replied. He enveloped his wife in a hug, and tears of joy ran down both their faces. The children and Valkin discreetly remained silent, and Duncan clapped a hand over his mouth to suppress a laugh. The children and Valkin exchanged smiles of happy surprise. Duncan held the pendant to the lock, and the door opened as if it had never been closed and locked.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Silver Flower: Chapter 8

Finally! I'm on schedule! Here is chapter 8: have fun!
Chapter Eight: The Counselor’s Move

Evening fell and supper was served cold by a red-eyed Vinea. Valkin and Dusak hardly said anything, and the three children were silent also. Mary was worried. She had figured out who the prince was, so now her mind went back to the king. How could they help him, and would he get rid of the counselor?

She glanced over at Valkin, still puzzling over all this. His eyes met hers, and he gave a slight nod in the direction of the door. Mary frowned slightly, but looked away from him towards her brothers. Had they seen Valkin’s sign? She was relieved to see that they both had their attention on her, and she gave a quick nod. The boy’s exchanged glances, and they all went back to eating.

There was something, or someone, watching the house, and Mary did not like it. She felt a prickly sensation go down her back, and she knew she was being watched. She shuddered slightly, and glanced again at Valkin. The meal went on in silence.

Suddenly there was a crash, and the front door was flung open. Valkin, Dusak, Justin and Duncan all jumped from their seats and stood, ready to put up a fight if it came to that.  Ten heavily armed men came into the house and the leader spoke first, his voice rough.

“j seeta deddicae ru digumsy adeck tu pretik tendelle.” (I have orders to take you all to my master/leader) he said, his eyes sweeping over the elves and resting on the children. Mary’s eyes were ice, and she returned his stare, making him look away quickly. They didn’t have much choice in the matter, and accepted the fact that they were captured.

They were heavily guarded on all sides, making it clear that they were not to escape. The guards had tied their hands securely, and Mary’s hands ached. Duncan watched the guard nearest to him warily, and Justin did likewise. They were furious to not be able to do anything, especially when they saw their sister in pain. Their fierce eyes clearly told the guards to keep away from their sister, and so they kept their distance. Valkin, Dusak, and Vinea were kept separate from the children, and Mary was worried about the three elves. Undoubtedly, the counselor had a special punishment for them. She glanced worriedly up at her brothers, but they could only console her with a grim smile.

Duncan was looking straight ahead with his head held high, when he suddenly remembered Elliot’s gift, the Silver Flower. Immediately, he had hope. He stepped closer to Mary, the sibling closest to him.

“Mary, we still ha’ the Silver Flower!” he whispered softly. Mary’s eyes lit up. She turned to Justin, and told him. He smiled with satisfaction, but suddenly, his face clouded, and he whispered something to Mary. Her smile also disappeared, and she turned to Duncan.

“Where be it?” she asked softly. Duncan was relieved that was all that was wrong.

“‘Tis around my neck on a string fer safe keepin’!” he said, and Mary quickly told Justin. Now hopeful, the trio followed their captors all the way to the castle. A password was said softly, and the gate opened. Saden Flettica glanced at the children in some surprise, but pretended not to recognize them. Mary, Justin and Duncan did the same, merely glancing at him. They continued up to the throne room, but turned before actually entering it, into a smaller hall. The door was opened by another guard, and when the door shut with a bang the children and the elves were together again.

They found themselves in a fairly large room, and the windows on either side filled the room with daylight. On the far end sat the counselor behind a desk, and to one side of him stood Glevanne Addets. His eyes met with the children and elves’ only a moment before looking away again. Duncan racked his brain for a way to deliver the note from the princess he still had before he was searched.

The counselor was looking at them smugly. He turned to Glevanne and whispered something in his ear, to which the elf gave him a quick nod and walked over to them, and then the counselor spoke.

“My agent will now search you for any illegal items.” He said, with a triumphant gleam in his eye. Duncan swallowed a smile. It was perfect. Glevanne would find the note, and all would be well. Glevanne made a big show of searching the elves, taking Valkin and Dusak’s daggers and Vinea’s locket. He searched Mary and Justin, finding their pocket knives and taking them, and then he came to Duncan. He felt him over, and took his knife. He left the silver flower around his neck, hiding it more efficiently before moving on, and found the letter. His face only slightly changed and he hastily concealed the letter on his own person.

The search was now complete, and Mary looked at Duncan, who gave her a quick nod while the counselor wasn’t looking. The letter was delivered, now the pendant would come into play.

The children and the elves were put in the same cell, which they were all very grateful of, and Mary spoke to Valkin as soon as they had their bonds off and heard the echo of the guards’ footsteps end and then silence.

“Valkin,” she whispered, her eyes shining. “Before we went on this mission, Old Elliot gave us a silver pendant to protect us. It be a silver flower. Will it help?” Valkin’s eyes suddenly lit up with hope.

“A silver flower you said?” he asked. Mary nodded.

“Aye! He gave it to the boy’s. Duncan has it around his neck as we speak.” She replied. Valkin smiled.

“Yes, it will help! The Silver Flower is a legend older than the kingdom itself.” Mary was puzzled.

“It be a legend?” she asked. Valkin nodded, raising an eyebrow.

“Yes! You have not heard it?” the three children shook their heads; even Elliot had not told them this elfish story. Valkin smiled, leaning his head back against the damp prison walls and began the story.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Back Again/ The Silver Flower: Chapters 6&7

Yes, I am back again, at long last. The ending weeks of November and beginning week of December have been very, excruciatingly to be exact, busy.
First, I had some of my family gone for almost a week, and then we had relatives from Indiana coming for thanksgiving. Yeah, not the most relaxing thing right after a trying week of baby-sitting. (Not to mention one of my older sisters had her wisdom teeth extracted which means our family was down a helper, not good if there is a lot of baking to be done and extra cousins to be watched.) All that adds up to equal a very busy few weeks.
Anyways, all that to say, I'm am very sorry to have neglected you all shamefully the last couple of weeks, I beg your pardon, and now will continue to make up for it by posting two whole chapters of The Silver Flower. Enjoy! :)

Chapter Six: The King and the Counselor

The door creaked open a crack, and Mary heard the familiar voice of Saden Flettica.

“Halden kassit?” (What is your business?) He asked. Mary replied.

“j hesik tu gresi tu adenk tendelle.” (I want to speak to your master/leader.) She said. Saden recognized her, and with a smile, he opened the door.

“j lasen adenne gretae.” (I wish you [feminine] luck.) He said. Mary smiled gratefully.

“Adigen.” (Thank you.) She replied. “je reton ti.” (We need it.) They continued on, Saden helpfully pointed out the way. They recognized Glevanne’s door, and saw a glimpse of Dusak behind it, but they dared to show they knew him and continued on their way without so much as a glance in his direction.

They passed the tapestry of the queen, and Mary looked at it with a new respect in her eyes. The queen seemed to smile down at her, encouraging her to do the mission well. Next to this poster, Mary saw another for the first time. It was smaller, but the lady was dressed in rich gowns and looked like an older version of the princess, Shetta. She guessed that this must be the king’s young wife. She studied the faces of both women, frowning. There was something about those two faces that reminded her of someone, but she just could not place them. Next to the young bride was a picture of the princess herself, but after this there was a gap, as if someone had removed one of the tapestries, and then a tapestry of the king. She puzzled over this for a moment, but the boys were anxious, and pulled her away.

They continued down the hall, and at last came to what must be the throne room. They paused, for in front of the door stood two imposing guards. Mary spoke up tentatively.

“j hesik tu gresi tu adenk tendelle.” (I want to speak to your master/leader.) the guards exchanged surprised looks. A human, speaking their language? This had been unheard of since a man named Elliot came through. But these humans were children. Their surprise turned into curious excitement. For this was something exciting, and they wanted excitement. With a nod, the taller of the two guards swung open one of the doors, and the children stepped into a room far more magnificent than the hall.

It’s high ceilings were covered in beautiful, delicate designs, and from it hung glass lamps which had the appearance of icicles. Huge columns, also elaborately designed, supported the castle. Justin looked at the width and barely suppressed an admiring whistle. He knew he and Duncan could probably reach around the sides without being able to touch their fingertips together. 

They walked down the carpet that lay exactly down the middle of the room, and stood in front of the throne, waiting.

At the moment, the king was in a deep discussion with his counselor, and Mary could tell from the frantic movement of his hands and the telltale terror in his face that time was running short, the counselor was getting impatient and wanted the throne for himself soon. She cleared her throat with emphasis, and the king and counselor stopped immediately. Mary looked pointedly at the king when he asked their business in a still shaken voice.

“We wish this conversation to be private.” She said, and looked at the counselor. He whispered something into the king’s ear that made him turn pale, and then shuffled from the room with one last sneer toward the humans.

“What do you want?” the king asked, his voice tired and strained. Mary looked at him. She let her clear gaze meet his fearful one. The king dropped his eyes, and he motioned them closer. Mary’s gaze didn’t flicker.

“I have come with my brothers to tell ye a thing or two aboot yerself.” She said. The king’s face was a picture of confusion, and even Justin and Duncan wondered what Mary meant by that statement. She continued, pleased that the king didn’t know what she meant. “Ye have done something wrong.” She said, as if she was reading his guilty mind. The king started and looked at Mary, but she ignored this and continued, her blue eyes burning into the king’s brown eyes. “Ye think no one kens.” The king sat forward in his chair, and glanced nervously at the door the counselor had gone out from. Mary realized that her suspicion was correct, the counselor was eavesdropping. “Ye cannae hide no longer.” She said. “Others ken what went on in tha’ room where the good queen died.” The king jumped from his throne, and his eyes darted from Mary to her brothers and back again. He was worried. How much did they know, and how did they know it? Mary continued. “Aye.” She said with satisfaction. “Ye will not listen, fer ye dinnae believe me.” This was true, and the king’s attention was arrested again. “But ye had better, fer ye are a watched man, and ye have evil council.” There she had said it.

The king licked his lips and glanced again at the door. What did this girl mean? How could she be so bold in such danger filled times? He was puzzled, and concerned, but also somewhat glad. If another person was there, maybe he could be free from the oppression of his counselor.

Mary paused for a moment, her mind racing. What could she say to completely convince the king that he needed to get rid of the counselor? Suddenly, she remembered the princess, and the king’s young bride. She smiled to herself in triumph, yes; this would bring the king to himself. She took a deep breath, thinking her words over carefully.

“Ye ken yer daughter loves ye?” she asked, and was pleased to get an immediate reaction from the king. His head shot up again, and his brow furrowed in thought. “Aye,” she continued, nodding wisely. “An’ she was yer wife’s last gift to ye.” The king was glancing nervously from the door the Mary. But Mary was only beginning her reproof to the unfaithful king. “Aye, ‘twas her last gift to ye, an’ ye were glad, but ye needed a son. Yer wife gave birth to a girl, yet,” she now paused, realizing she was on very dangerous ground, and licked her lips. “Yer wife not only had a daughter, Shetta Gloriheem, but she also gave birth to a son. She had twins.” The kings rose slightly from his throne, and his hollow eyes searched Mary’s.

“How come you know this?” he demanded hoarsely. Mary smiled and returned the king’s stare evenly.

“How I came to know this?” she asked innocently. “Why didn’t ye ask yer mother?”  The king’s face turned livid and then a deadly pale.

This news was a shock to him. He had an heir? The counselor had been tricking him, and conniving against him, and pressuring him, for nothing? The king suddenly grew angry, at himself, at the counselor, at all those he had hired for his own gain. Suddenly he realized what a fool he had been. He realized that he needed to get rid of his counselor, the start of all his problems. His beautiful wife’s face came into his mind, and his mother’s gentle caring one. He felt he could no longer be a king, he wanted to give up, and he wanted to have someone else take over. He was finished, an old and worn king, used by many for their own profit.

In front of the children’s surprised faces, he broke down under the unseen strain, and he cried. All the years of a false face, and a weak ruler in the hands of a crafty counselor, the king finally gave in to his better judgment.

Awkwardly, the three children stood in front of him. When he finally looked up, he searched their faces carefully, and read in them honor, loyalty, and a plain honesty. This refreshed the king, who was so used to fear, manipulation, and flattery. He was actually relieved to see someone willing to stand up against him. He smiled for the first time in years, in fact, the first time since his mother died, and looked into Mary’s eyes. Her gaze still did not falter.

“Find the prince.” He said hoarsely. “Find him and bring him to me. I want to see him before I die.” The children turned as if to go, but the king’s next words stopped them. “Tell Shetta.” With that they left, and although they were aware of a sense of danger, no one molested them on their way out.

They went the long way back to Dusak and Vinea’s house and entered by the back door. They didn’t want to bring any trouble to their friends. Valkin greeted them, giving them all a smile.

“How did it go?” he asked. Mary shrugged.

“I dinnae ken, the king wants the prince back, and he wants us to tell the princess she has a brother.” She replied. Valkin’s brow creased slightly in surprise.

“There is a prince?” he asked. Mary raised an eyebrow.

“Then ye dinnae ken too?” she asked in some surprise. She looked at Vinea who was setting the table for an early supper. “Ye should ask yer sister aboot yer history Valkin, I ken ye’d find it mighty surprising.” Valkin stood in between Mary and Vinea and his eyes darted from one face to another. Finally, he turned and went to Vinea.

Poor Justin and Duncan were still in the dark, so Mary took them aside to explain her story. They went into the room that they were sharing during their stay, and she told them the short history as told by first Old Elliot, and then Valkin Tredhale.

Chapter Seven: The Mystery Solved

“It started that one bonnie day when I went doon to Old Elliot’s house to deliver some things Father had just mended fer him and fer my weekly language lesson. He opened the door and led me in with a troubled smile. Puzzled, I asked him what was wrong. He sighed wearily and ran a hand through his hair.

“‘Ah, ye’d not understand lass.’ He said, but I begged him to tell me, so he finally gave in and sat down heavily. ‘Ye ken tha’ I’m a great friend o’ the elves, aye?’ I nodded, so he continued. ‘Well, they’re a troubled people right now, an’ I want to help, but I’m an old man an’ cannae lift a finger to relieve them.’ I asked to know more, so he did his best to tell me.

“‘The kingdom began to fall when the king’s wife died o’ childbirth aboot twenty or so years ago. I was much younger then. She was a young lass, and couldnae bear the strain o’ given birth to two children. One was a boy, but he was a weak lad, and the midwife, a wonderful and wise woman, took him in as her own to train as a page until his time came. The girl was healthy and strong, and given to the king as his child. Only four people knew of there being two children. The queen, the king’s mother, the midwife, and myself, the king’s young wife was a friend of mine, and trusted me more than herself, bless the wee lass.’ He paused for a moment and I saw his eyes glisten some with unshed tears. He went on. ‘We all swore to one another that we would not tell another living soul that there were two unless it came to saving the kingdom from falling.’ He looked me directly in my eyes and I felt them go clean to my most inward thoughts. ‘I’m tellin’ ye this now, because the kingdom is falling, and fast, I just got word from an elf, one of my oldest friends, that the king’s mother has been dead these three years, and only now had they time to tell me. The prince be safe, but he must be put on the throne. The only way ye can save the kingdom and the prince is wi’ the help o’ yer brothers. Ye must work quickly; there be no time to lose. Go home now, for I see yer brother’s coming on doon the lane, it looks as if they’ve found somthin’, and probably want my help, I’ll tell them, an’ ye can fill them in on any other details. Go!’ He turned to the window as he finished all this, so I left quickly out the back way.

“My mind was racing over all this information and I tried to work it out. There were still many holes I had to fill when you came back with the note. It was the perfect opportunity to get into the kingdom without suspicion, and I forgot for a time to tell you all aboot what our conversation was aboot, I’m sorry. I was busy finding clues as to where the prince was, and who the prince was. After I had looked at the tapestries for the second time, and put two and two together aboot the seemingly missing tapestry, I figured oot who the prince was and where he was. I now just needed the throne to open up to him.” Mary paused to take a deep breath and moisten her lips. The boys were both leaning forward in their chairs, drinking in the information.

“Who is the prince?” Justin demanded when Mary paused. “How did ye guess, and what were the clues?” Mary smiled.

“Aye, well ye may ask.” She stopped again, her eyes sparkling. “You’ll never guess.”

“WHO IS THE PRINCE!” bellowed Justin; he was the one in the family gifted with healthy lungs. Mary smiled again.

“The former Valkin Tredhale, messenger for his Majesty the King.” There was a long silence. The boy’s mouth’s hung open. The clock on the wall ticked, and somewhere a rooster crowed. The silence was broken by a chuckle from Mary.

“Aye, ye weren’t expecting tha’ were ye?” she asked. The boy’s shook their head dumbly, still not over the shock. “As to yer other questions, I guessed when I took a second look at the tapestries. The first time I noticed a strange resemblance in the king’s mother’s face to someone I knew, so I kept a sharp look out for that person, and then I saw the one tapestry again, and the smaller one tha’ must be the king’s wife. The resemblance was so clear when I looked at it again, that I knew the prince must be Valkin. The clue was the missing tapestry. It wasn’t actually a missing tapestry as I had first guessed, but a space for a tapestry when the prince was on the throne; the space was put there, no doubt, by order of the king’s mother. As for how the Valkin ended up here, I think Vinea will have the answers to our questions.” She paused and sighed. “I think I shall go ask her next, would ye two like to come?” The boy’s, still somewhat in shock, stood and followed Mary mutely down the stairs.

As they came closer and closer to the kitchen, they started to hear muffled conversation. Mary knocked on the door, and it was opened by a somewhat flustered Vinea. The three children stepped in, and Mary looked squarely at Vinea.

“I’m ready to hear yer part o’ the story.” She said matter-of-factly. Vinea turned slightly pale, and darted nervous glances at Valkin, who had an angry frown on his face, and Mary, who stood in front of the door, her only chance of escape.

“I don’t know what you mean.” She said weakly. Mary cleared her throat.

“Aye, ye do.” She said. Vinea darted another look over at Valkin who was fuming silently over in a corner. Mary continued. “Start when ye got Valkin from the midwife.” Vinea saw that they knew, and saw that the secret was out.

“How do you know about that?” she asked, paling even more. Mary raised an eyebrow.

“Old Elliot told me, because it needed to be told.” She replied. Vinea sat down heavily in a chair looking like a cornered animal.

“Very well, I shall tell you. The midwife was my mother.” There was a gasp from behind Mary, and Vinea smiled grimly. “Yes, it was not supposed to be known. My mother and I raised Valkin up as a page, and then he stopped that to become a messenger for the king. For some reason he preferred that job. We have kept him a secret this long, everyone thinks that Valkin and I are brother and sister, and shall continue to until he is on the throne. My mother made me swear to tell no one until his time had come.” She looked at us and sighed. “I suppose this means his time has come.” There was a silence, and finally Valkin stepped out from his comer, trembling with carefully contained emotions. He went over to Vinea and looked into her downcast eyes.

“Why did you not tell me?” he asked. Vinea had a tear run down her cheek.

“Because mother told me not to.” She said softly. Mary and her brother’s drew back quietly, and left the two to sort things out in their own time. Dusak was sitting outside moodily, so they did not disturb him and went back up to their room.

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