Note: Thank you very much to Kate for starting this! Kate is working on a page for this story; as soon as she gets it done, I will link to it instead of this page.
Note #2: This version of the story is not very current. Everything that was written after 08. July is still sitting in my mailbox waiting to be posted. I promise to get that up as soon as I possibly can. Please bear with me.
Participants in the posted portion of this story:
The early morning sun threw its rays down on Leoness. Flora, the innkeeper of The Unicorn and the Dragon Inn, had just opened the shutters and the front door of the inn. Now she busied herself with the usual chores, drawing the water from the well, milking the cow, gathering the eggs from the hens, and preparing breakfast for her lodgers.
Many of Flora's lodgers were old friends who came to the inn as often as their travels would allow. Others were the occasional traveler or the wandering adventurer to whom Flora's door was always open.
After a few moments, Flora's daughter, Kess, came bounding down the stairs.
"Not so loud, love, you'll wake the whole house."
"I'm sorry, Mama. I'm just excited." Today was the day that Lady Magdalina's court was to arrive in Castilla. A celebration and bonfire on the beach were planned for the evening.
"I know, child." Flora, too, was excited. It had been many months since she had last seen many of her friends that served in the Queen's court.
"Soon, my friends, soon we'll all be together again." Flora closed her eyes and sent her message across the space between her and her friends. She felt the gentle brush ing against her mind as each of her friends answered her with a message of their own.
"Mama, may I go down to the shore? I want to watch the bonfire preparations."
"I suppose. Just don't be gone too long."
"I won't." Kess called over her shoulder as she headed out the door.
Flora went back to fixing breakfast, but she was interrupted moments later my the sound of hooves in the courtyard. She wiped her hands on her apron and went outside to greet the newcomer. To her surprise, it was Ingara.
"Youíre here so soon? Lady Magdaleneís party wasnít expected until evening! The townspeople are still preparing the decorations, and--"
"Donít worry," Ingara replied. "She hasnít arrived yet, and probably wonít for hours. I rode on ahead to ensure our quarters in the castle were ready."
"Oh, hon, you must be tired. Come inside and have some tea, and Gunther will water your horse." She motioned to Gunther, the stable boy, who had come running as soon as he heard the hoofbeats.
"I can only stay a little while," Ingara said as she dismounted. She turned to Gunther and motioned at the horse. "His nameís Wildfire."
Flora started. "You ride a stallion?"
"Raised him from birth. He and I†are inseparable."
Flora nodded, still surprised. A mare would have suited a member of Lady Magdaleneís entourage much better, but to each her own. She led Ingara into the kitchen and poured tea for both of them. Ingara unbuckled her belt and let it clatter, sword and all, onto the table, then leaned against the countertop and took a long draught. Flora motioned to the chairs at the table. "Please, sit."
Ingara laughed. "Thank you, but Iíve been sitting since midnight. Iíd much rather stand. So tell me, what has happened here since last summer?"
Flora mentioned a few things she was sure the queen would like to be told, about the recent good fishing season, and how the floods of the previous winter had come dangerously close to the priestessesí sanctum. On a personal note, she added, "and my daughter returned home."
"Your daughter? I didnít know you had one. Can I†meet her?"
"She left not five minutes ago to watch the preparations. Hold on, let me call her." Flora closed her eyes. "That wonít be necessary," Ingara protested. "Iíll be around the whole summer, ample time for us to meet. Let her enjoy herself today.
"Which reminds me," she continued, "I really should be going."
"Iím afraid Iíve got a long day ahead of me. I promise, Iíll be back to visit within the week."
"Itís been lovely seeing you again."
"Likewise." Ingara reached for her belt, and strapped it securely around her waist. It was common courtesy to remove oneís arms at a social gathering, but Ingara could never feel comfortable so bare and unprotected.
"Hold on, I have something for you." Flora opened her huge bakerís oven and retrieved a basket sitting right in the front. "A batch of my sweet rolls, for the Lady and her entourage. I intended to bring them over later, but since youíre here now, you can have them waiting when she arrives."
"On Lady Magís behalf, I thank you. You know, she loves your rolls, and your cooking." Ingara looked outside, noting the position of the sun. "I really must leave. Thank you again for the tea."
Flora called for Gunther to bring Wildfire. As they came, Ingara got the nagging feeling that she knew Gunther from somewhere, and when he looked at her, she was sure he knew her, too. She realized, though, that she wouldnít have time to figure where he lay in her past. Ingara said her last goodbyes to Flora, swung her leg over the saddle, and rode off down the street, toward the summer castle.
Though she and Flora were fast friends, Ingara was glad to get out into the sun, away from the constraints and stilted speech of polite society. With her fellow attendants, she could act normally, since they were together almost all the time, and the switch she had to make whenever she visited people was jarring. This life was necessary, though, at least for the time being. She clicked her tongue and spurred Wildfire on.
(By Sarah Kathryn)
Kess sat on a little cliff above the shoreline. The ocean was a calm, glassy blue and the light breeze swayed the dune grass. She picked up a handful of sand and let the wind blow the tiny grains away from her fingers. As she watched the men hauling the logs for the bonfire, she felt the same restlessness that had driven her to wander Leoness before returning home. Kess thought she heard someone call her name and looked around to see who it could be. When she didn't see anyone near her, she realized the voice was coming from her own head. The voice was muffled and sounded as if it was calling from a distance or from the bottom of a well. Kess could not tell whose voice it was or whether it was a man or a woman, but she realized that it was this voice that was causing her restlessness.
"Kess," the voice seemed to be saying. "Kess, when..." It kept fading in and out, as if she was hearing it from a long distance. "Kess... La... Magdalane... when..."
Back in her tower by the sea, Dainarra cursed. "I can't reach her. It's too far. She can't understand anything I'm saying!"
Reed, one of her few friends and a fellow devotee, shook his head. I told you. I told you, didn't I? She has the ability, but you're low on power and can't reach that far. There are easier ways to find out when the Lady is expected."
"Yes, there are easier ways, but most are far riskier."
"Well, you're going to have to either a way or give it up. I'm afraid you'll have to choose."
Dainarra sighed. "The best way, I suppose, would be to be there when she arrives."
Reed nodded. "You certainly have enough power left for a mere translocation spell and a few measley sheilds. You needn't even have a magical disguise."
"True. Thank you, Reed, I think I shall do something of that nature... What do you think? Redhead or brunette?"
"I've always liked you better as a redhead, myself."
"Red it is, then. I wish I could do something about these eyes. Or my skin. I'm too dark, and paint rubs off too easily. And I haven't enough power to do an illusion, too."
Reed shrugged. "So do something no one would expect of you. Pretend to be a mercenary woman. Wear a sword and some leather armor. Come up with a job you're on your way to somewhere so that you don't look suspicious turning down offers."
Dainarra smiled. "And alter my name. To... Daira? Yes. I like that. Thank you, Reed." And she ran upstairs, trying to remember where she'd put her hair dye.
Later that afternoon, a flame-haired woman rode up to the Unicorn and Dragon. "Name's Daira," she told Flora. "How much do you charge?"
(by Sara F)
"Not much, just 3 silver pieces a night, meals included. If you'll just the sign the registry, I'll get you a key." As Daira signed the registry, Flora fetched a key from a peg under the counter. "You'll be in room number six." Flora said, handing her the key. "If you need anything, just let me know." At that moment, Kess walked into the inn.
"Hello, Mama, I'm back. Did I miss much?"
"No, child, not much. My friend Ingara stopped by, she's anxious to meet you. And this, " Flora motioned to Daira, "is a new boarder, Daira."
"Hello," Kess extended her hand, "My name's Kess. It's nice to meet you. Will you be staying long?"
"Not long, no," Daira replied. "As you may have guessed, I'm a merc, and I've got a job to get to. I'm just passing through on my way there." She took the hand and shook it firmly. "Glad to meet you, Kess." She turned back to Flora. "And my horse? How much for her lodging?"
(by Sara F)
"For two pieces of silver, she can stay in our stables and the stable boy will tend to her." Daira took two extra pieces out of her pouch and placed them on the counter. "Kess, go and fetch Gunther to care for the horse."
"Yes, Mama." Kess ran out the door towards the stables.
"I assure your horse is in the best possible hands."
Daira nodded, satisfied. "Good. Her name's Baya. She's pretty sweet-tempered; your stable boy shouldn't have any problems with her. Room number six, you said? I think I'll just go relax a bit. How long do I have before dinner?"
(by Sara F)
"Oh, about an hour. Just come when you hear the other guests clattering around in the dining room," Flora smiled. "I hope you enjoy your stay here."
"Thank you," Daira said politely. "By the way, I had heard that the Lady Magdalina will be in town. Will she and her entourage be spending any time near here, do you suppose? I'd love to get a glimpse of such a person as she."
(by Sara F)
Back to the Works of the Forum