The introduction to his parents hardly existed as they didn’t even gaze at me when passing us heads lowered for respect. Finn didn’t make a try to raise their attention either. I thought of it weird, but rethink it a moment later, realizing it was good.
The castle itself was very dull. I expected elves to be a bearers of something wonderful, instead met a lot of empty walls. It was lighter, yes, and the plants covered almost every place possible, but that was about it – behind the walls there was nothing, no elaborated carvings, no wooden or stone laces. Finn caught me staring around and explained this was their hunting house that was built for war in the first hand and has been like that since. When that since was, I had no inclinations to ask.
What he called halls seemed to me as all self standing huge tents built in the middle of a huge garden. Only made of stone, yet having the lightness of a wood. Still, it was ugly to my sense of beauty and made me wish back to my ugly suburban yellow room.
Just as he had promised – after the lords had entered to one of those tall white halls covered everywhere with soft white silk, he left me alone, standing in the middle of nothingness. I could have killed him for that move. What was he thinking?
I spent my time well, studying the men and women around me, one more beautiful than the other. Two women not far from me seemed similar to Finn, their hair were much longer, but they had the same eyesight and way the familiar body built. One of them kept a keen watch over me, so even I hardly dared to breathe. I wondered if they were his family members.
“Look at that! What an awful lace she’s done to me!” I looked at the most wonderful handwork I had ever seen in my life – she’d be fit to dress queens! I had seen her earlier walking in the corridor looking at the flowers while comparing her work with them. But I never saw her even look at her work while her fast fingers did her bidding, yet no one else managed not to look – what wonderful glistering patterns came under those small fingers. There was nothing comparable in our world. She reminded me of Fenny, but she was younger than she was. I thought this might be her daughter and therefore mother of the six children, who happily chased us up when we left.
“I must make sure one of her fingers is removed for presenting me such a distasteful thing.”
I froze. The bright lady before me turned into an ugly toad. Was she serious?
“How dare you?” I asked loud over the hall, taking my place next to the young Fenny. “She just gave you the most elaborated lace anyone has ever mastered!”
Her golden eyes shot open in shock, her long fingers starting shivering. “It is trash!”
“In what way?” I demanded crossing my hands on my chest. If she was to through such accusations, she better do this through facts.
She stared at me before taking a closer look in woman’s handwork. “It’s… not in style! Lilies! Who wears lilies anymore?”
I let my eyes flow over the bystanders – six women in higher rank had lilies covering their coats, two of them being Finn’s sisters.
“And it’s cheep!”
I was appalled. “It was done with love between all her other duties in the hall, watching her children play and listening birds sing! It is worth more than you ever own, princess, and she offered this to you as a gift!”
“HOW DARE YOU SPEAK TO ME LIKE THAT?”
I collected the lace from the floor where she had thrown it and gave it back to the woman. “Who are you then?”
She gave me a list of titles. “Without your titles,” I intervened, “Tell me, who you are, without using your titles.” Between screaming and fainting I sort of lost the answer, but I didn’t wait up to get it either, but decided to lead my friend out of there.
“Milady…” she tried to intervene, but I shook my head.
In this world I had nothing to lose I couldn’t fight for. If this was to bring any problems, I was sure it couldn’t be worse I had encountered before. Surely not as disturbing as that political history exam I was stupid enough to take last year. Now that was something to fret about.
I was almost out, getting us through the crowd out in the hall. Finn better be right about this dressing code or I’ll find my end right here and now. He had to be right, I decided a moment later, when we got to the door intact. But that’s where the real problem started.
I noticed Finn not far from the other door leading in and stared in his cold eyes for a moment. He was leaning on his long bow and didn’t seem very happy to see me, which could only mean he had witnessed the whole thing from here.
“Did you really mean what you said in there?” the old lady’s question brought me back to reality and I released her from my grip.
“Then you are in real trouble, milady.” She gave me a concerned look.
Finn started towards us and I could feel how my heart sank with his each step. “I know. But it’s better me than you.” I shrugged, I tried to keep my attention on her and not look him coming.
“I owe you my life now, if…”
“Definitely not!” I had no need to mix anyone else in my little drama as far as I could help it. God knows what that would bring if I’d accept an offer big as this.
She seemed shocked. I had to be broking one of their unspoken rules again I sighed. “But I’d take a promise, if I may ask?”
“Promise me,” I could feel Finn getting closer, “promise me you teach your children your art?”
“Just promise me, please? Teach them the gold you possess.”
I discarded her with a smile and watched her disappear between the columns. Better me than she, I repeated to myself. She had other obligations more important from mine.
“Leave you alone for one damned minute!” he cursed, but without his usual angry tone. “You should’ve taken her life, she being lower than you, it….” Finn put his hand on my back, a sign to start walking.
“It’s not hers to give.”
“She can’t go around giving promises like that – she has children to grow. Surely, you see logic here…” I hoped so. “Besides, she’ll be soon happy she didn’t give it and therefore she can go on with her life without regretting it.”
“Please don’t be mad.” I whispered. I didn’t want him to be mad.
“I’m not mad.” He grunted his usual way. “And you are right. It’s not hers to give.”
I thanked him in my heart.
“Where are we going?” We had walked some time now in silence. He was leading me outside, towards the training fields, but he surely wasn’t out to practice. But exactly there he stopped and showed me a bole I could sit on and watch.
“Do I have to watch?” I was sort of displeased, what fun could there be watching someone do something for hours, because he probably wasn’t gonna satisfy with five minutes. Seeing how he mastered his bow, this must have been a daily routine.
“You wish to stay at the hall with Ferigan?” he murmured, checking his arrows.
So that was her name? I gladly declined the offer. I knew it was in my own interests not to get around her right now, being equal to Finn, she’d probably see me scream of pain.
I watched him tune his bow before taking the first shot as casually as he was getting dressed. In a way he did. I was amazed; the shot hit its target hundred feet from where he was standing.
“Can I try?” My fingers ached to touch it.
He gave me sympathetic look. “No.”
“I’m not as week as I look!” I showed him my muscles as tiny as they were, but knowing those muscles did help me move my oversized bed, they seemed much bigger to me.
He burst in laughter. I was taken off guard – his eyes sparkled. This was no polite smile, but a genuine, warm mocking smile.
Ok, I sat back on the pence. “Why not?”
“No one, not even my weapon master, touches my bow. Definitely not the one I used as practice stance.”
I gulped hard with that image. “Alright, fare.” I gave up.
He started his practice, sending one arrow after another to the target. Not one missed. I observed him repeat this for some time and realized I rather liked watching him in action. Is that how the medieval women felt when the only place most of them saw men were on the practice fields?
I flinched from my seat, feeling him suddenly right next to me. “What?”
“You had this look on your face…” he shrugged, slightly worried.
How would he know what I looked like when he was so into his exercise? I clenched my teeth – he hadn’t concentrated on that at all!
“I’m sorry – I didn’t mean to distract you.” I apologized as soon as I managed to create words with my dry mouth again.
“It’s alright.” He took his bow and sat next to me on the pence. “I was meaning to talk to you anyway.”
I came rigidly still. It was if talking to my father. He used to use this tone with me when I was a little girl and he had to bring me the news of one my many pets gone up in heaven to their rightful place. After Susan was born, he stopped talking with me like that and instead used it on Susan, thinking I was big enough to know now, what really happened to my loved fireballs. I was so furious and hurt I didn’t spoke with him for weeks. Then he came home with another furry hamster. Why would one give a pet to a child that would die in two years anyway? Parents are so cruel using mice and hamsters to teach respect to animals. It was more like preparing them for death to me. And that made this tradition cruel.
“Tomorrow my father is signing me back to my duties.” He said calmly, not noticing my fear filled eyes. “You are left with my sisters until the Healer returns from her journey.” He paused, giving me time to take it in.
Did he just say until Healer returns? I took a breath. “I thought the Healer was here, isn’t that why you brought me here?”
“No, Healer is on his way to the Sharecone Mountains, she’ll be back in few days.”
“Then… why did you bring me here?” Away from all my duties, just to sit around?
“So you wouldn’t be able to call me out again – I’m having difficult times explaining my disappearing as it is, I will not have you call me away again!”
Things got a lot worse at that point. I was still hoping I’d have to spend here less than a day, then return home and pretend I was just out for fun and prepared to stay in my room for the next two months. But to be gone for more than a day would raise suspicions and with my mother, bring consequences only Hell master could bear later on. I didn’t even want to think on what happened when I then turned out.
“You? I am about to miss two days with my family! While being under house arrest! I know it means absolutely nothing to you, but they are fucking gonna kill me! After tomorrow they probably will call police to search me out and then… God!”
He had this incredible I-don’t-care-look on his face I could have hit him right there so hard he’d remember it forever. I jumped up and started spacing to stop the irresistible urge to puke.
“Stop it, you’re giving me a headache!” he growled and rose to stop me.
“In two days, I’m gonna be more than a headache!”
He was convinced in that just as much as I was, because he frowned at me.
“But before that,” he started after a moment of silence and took a step back, “I am arresting you, Catalina Delmer, for using witchcraft for personal amusement.”
Six elves appeared from surrounding foliage witch all arrows pointing at my neck. I was so baffled I hardly managed to keep myself standing, which all together was actually quite easy as I was sure had I fallen there, it would have brought with it at least ten arrows all over my chest.
I kept my eyes on Finn. I was trying not to start crying and show myself week. Through all the sceneries I had in mind, this hadn’t even occurred to me.
Speaking to my lawyer would be a joke at this point; I thought anger flooding over me and went with the guards, knowing he was still standing there, probably laughing his socks off.
What happened next was like a bad dream. I was taken before the Lord again, who roughly went over why I was brought there and added the insult against Ferigan. I saw Finn take his place next to the Lord and watched me stand there, all dressed up, ready to be fed to the wolves. I kept staring at him, not really knowing, where to turn.
“Is it funny now?” someone asked from the crowd, “Are you laughing now, witch?” asked another.
He tried to look away couple of times, but turned his gaze back. I had done nothing to him and he knew it, I was sure he did. I wanted to see him burn for his actions, not me. I prepared myself for burning, what else did they do with witches then? Hang them? No, I was safe until we saw the Healer, that’s what he said! Or was that one more of his lies? I realized suddenly that he wasn’t amused by the trial. I could have sworn he was actually sad.
Someone sent a shoe towards me and it hit painfully at my elbow. I didn’t take a look, who had done it, but kept my eyes on Finn. His eyes grew darker and were turned to my right, where the blow came from, before turning them back at me.
I hardly remember what was said, before the Lord turned to me.
“Are you aware by the charges placed on you?” his voice barreled over the hall, making everybody silent.
I lowered my eyes, but said nothing. When I first stood here, I was sure I wanted to burst out all the injustice they were doing me, trying to make them see that I was no witch and this was accident, but listening them made me realize that even if I tried, I was still the worst in their eyes, the one who had the power over both of our worlds and abused it.
“Open the tub, read it to Scarab…” I gasped and looked up, searching among the elves standing around me. The voice belonged to my grandmother.
“Do you understand charges placed on you?”
“No.” I tried to stall and still searched the voice among the faces, but none of them looked as if they’d said anything for a while. “Yes, my lord.” I whispered sadly, turning my gaze back to the floor tiles.
“I therefore sentence you to be hanged tomorrow morning. You will spend the night in the garden of Solitude.”
I had to sit and that’s what I did, fell down on my knees, trying to keep my head from swirling.
The garden was small, perhaps only ten feet by ten feet and resembled more a hole. It was surrounded by arches, which were probably filled with watchers, though I didn’t see any. The wines going up and down looked like one huge mass, leaving only small area to put the bench in. The moon was bright and I hated it – all looked liked spattered in cream.
I had sat there for two hours, before the sentence reached my mind and I burst into tears. I had no wish to leave my life behind. I had sisters for crying out loud and mother and father. I wanted them back!
I was cold now, I felt as the sadness was draining me from my warmth and not long after I was shivering hard. The clothing the woman had provided me with was not meant for fall’s cold nights. I tried to keep still, so the pain would keep still on the surface and not get deeper.
I remember the stones I had brought with me. Through them I could still see in their eyes, right? I hoped so, I saw longed to see them right now. I took the gems out and played with them for a while, before my eyes stopped on Lizzy’s stone. It felt warm in my hand.
Suddenly a small hand reached out and touched it. I raised my eyes and watched her weird light filled shape dance before my eyes. She was smiling at me, just as she would when she came to wake me up and in her hand she held a blue Iris. I couldn’t move, only watch her and try to smile back at her, while she reached out to try my dears.
“My little angel…” I whispered, before she reached out her hand and placed the Iris in my lap and then disappeared as smoke.
I gasped – what was that? I threw the stones back in the pouch and stared at the flower in my lap. How did she manage that?
Hope – that was the name of the Iris. I had hope. Even granny had said it, in the crowd. Only if I could get to that man she named – Scarab. It was also the only box left in the garage.
She told me to read him the letter in the tube… I grabbed the tube from the pouch and watched it in the moonlight. It had still this unreadable seal on it.
“Granny, you better be right.” I prayed towards the sky and broke the seal and very softly removed the upper part of the tube. In it was a small piece of paper.
And let out disappointed sigh on the next moment. It was like a torment had to go on forever. I read the words:
” As Earth is my witness,
So shall I say
Twice will you take it.
If you appear before me
Once will I give it.
If you stand beside me.
Mine is the will to call you
Yours is the will to answer.
As Earth is my witness,
So shall I say.”
I had to be dreaming! All it was was the same stupid spell that got me in this mess in the first place. I put it back in the roll and was ready to hide it back in the pouch, when I saw suddenly Finn appear in one of the archways.
I felt my stomach strengthen. I had no wish to talk to him not now not ever.
“Is this the spell you used?” he asked, honestly shocked.
I used it to wrinkle my eyebrows and nodded. “Yes, you didn’t know?”
He shook his head and touched against the wall for a second, but pulled away fast as it was burning him. “The words…” he shook his head again and then disappeared.
I was speechless. I sat down again, still cold, still not willing to understand what was to happen in the morning, because I honestly had no idea.
The next morning came way faster than I expected. As came the soldiers, who took me back to the hall. This time it was empty and there were no one except the Lord, woman, who I would say was the Healer and Finn.
“There has been a change in the circumstances,” Lord began. “As I understand, you have power over my son that needs to be lifted before you can be hanged.”
I wished to die right there. These words hardly touched my soul, only made the wounds hurt more and I wanted this to end, one way or the other.
“I have no power over your son!” I retorted, why wouldn’t they finally get it? “I had no idea what I was doing that evening and still don’t! I swear on my honor, on my granny’s grave, on God, on who ever you choose – I did not wish it to happen nor will ever wish again! And I did not wish to gain any personal joy out of putting you in this situation.” I turned towards Finn, but gave up almost at the same time. “Why won’t any of you believe me?”
Finn’s voice was so clear I flinched.
“I heard your spell last night.” He said calmly.
“So?” I didn’t understand where he was getting at.
“I heard what it said. Mine is the will to call you, Yours is the will to answer. It wasn’t you, who kept the spell alive. It was me.”
As if it was all a dream, I stood again in my own bedroom with him in the middle of the flower circle, holding his bow at me, ready to shoot. He immediately lowered it, just as surprised as I was.
“Get out.” I said firmly, rising from the floor, where I was sitting.
He didn’t answer, but never looked back either. That night was a torment to me, I didn’t know what to think or where to look. I kept my hands in fists too, so I wouldn’t reach up, take the damned book and burn it.
I burned the box meant for him the next day though, cried like hell for all the hurt feelings gathered in me, but I did it. Never new what was in that box. Except that it was light as a feather.
Then Lizzy came to me with a letter she said she had found from the box meant for me and she’d taken it out yesterday to bring it to me. I burst in sarcastic laughter so heavily I must of looked like nuts, but I opened the letter and read it anyway. Granny had been right so far, perhaps this was only to prove she had the answer to make me feel better, too.
the bottle you carry with you will help you to clear your anger towards him. You like him and so do I. All my love will stay with you, my dove.
I took out the bottle and watched it sparkle against the evening light. Maybe he actually is worth it?