Half of Mortal
Table Of Contents
Agoddess walked the streets of Deaayn.
Her silver hair flowed to her waist, steps near silent on the cobbled alleys, the air around her a soft glow of white, as if a layer of mist surrounded her and the white noon sun lightened it’s edges. But it was night, and the moon was the only spotlight shining down, curiously watching the graceful figure as she rounded the building and stepped into the torch light of the streets; nearly abandoned.
Another figure stood at the end of the road, tall and broad, all trained muscles and dark uniform, pointed ears sticking through the light hair that hung to his shoulders. His hand was wrapped around the neck of a man who held the disadvantage of age, strength, and species. A human man, eyes begging what his mouth could not to the Faerie who held his life in a clenched fist. The Fae smirked down at the man, knowing his power against the mortal, feeling a rush as the man struggled in his grip.
It was the man who saw the goddess first, his eyes seeing the white glow, and widening. The Fae followed his gaze, and a look of terror replaced the greed.
“Why don’t you let go.” She said, close enough for the man and Fae to see her golden eyes glowing with power.
Suddenly human life was the second best prize he could claim, his terror stricken eyes shifting to anger, to a challenge. He dropped the man who crumbled to the dusty ground, coughing raggedly as rough air returned. The goddess met his eyes and gave him a nod. “Leave.” She commanded, and the man did not wait for another word.
Stumbling off the street and away from the area; right hand holding him up on the wall and left holding his throat. He was gone when the fae walked to her.
“I’ve heard of you.” He snarled, a silver sword drawn from the sheath attached to his guard uniform. “A goddess of the night, protecting humans.” He said the word as if it tasted bitter on his tongue. He spat them onto the ground. “I know many who won't return to this town because of what you’ve done to them.” He was closer now, yet she showed no fear, her face stoic at his approach. “I’ll take the pleasure of killing you myself.”
He lunged at her, sword set to strike and kill.
Then he froze. His body held still as a statue, resembling the artwork of ancient heroes charging to battle. But his face continued to move, showing his confusion, contorted as if he were straining against some invisible chain.
She could feel it. The struggle of his own power beneath hers. The magic of physical strength. But even as his magic strained to release from hers, it was not strong enough.
It was the goddesses turn to step closer. Close enough for the guard to see through the white veil that hung off an intricate crown of woven wood and masked most of her face. Close enough to see the silver markings decorating her skin in patterns and lines flowing over her cheeks, her forehead and lips. She smiled, softly, yet in her eyes was a darkness hidden behind the gleaming gold.
Only through those golden eyes could she see the colored tendrils of light wrapped around his body. Snaking and tightening their hold. They were maroon. The color of confidence. Confidence that was sorely misplaced.
The goddess flicked her wrist ever so slightly, and watched as they grew wider, taking over the expanse of his body. Until she could not see the dark uniform under them, hiding the king's insignia on them. She stuck out a single finger, silently guiding the way for a lone coil snaking up his chest and lazily circling his neck. She clenched her fist and the slice of energy contracted against the fae guards throat.
She watched silently as the sounds emanating from his mouth were the exact twin to those that had come from the human mans. Watched as his face rise in color, reddening until it blended into his maroon, confident energy she had manipulated and used against him.
The light around him flickered like a candle under her hold. As soon as it began to weaken, she snapped her fingers and it released. He fell to his knees, gasping and begging for air to fill his burning lungs.
“If you wish to continue to breathe,” She said, and he looked up. The smile that had been on her lips was replaced by a sneer. “You will stay away from these people. From this town. I will not be so generous when I see you again.”
In his state of scrambling and hurrying away from the goddess, he looked no different than the man before. So scared, so close to death. So weak.
She stood where she was until he had crawled out of her sight. Then she turned and walked back the way she had come.
Out of the town and into the dark forest, her white glow fading in the trees where she could no longer be seen. She removed the white veil covering her face, and let it dangle next to her side as she walked, holding the long skirts of the white dress up as she stepped over logs and fallen trees.
She approached the stone walls of a large manor, guards on the other side of the large property unaware of her as she pushed in the stone that poked out ever so slightly more than the others. The grind of stone against stone was harsh, but silent enough that it did not alert the guards. She entered the small dank tunnel and let the stones shift closed behind her.
The tunnel was weakly lit by small lanterns she had made sure were glowing before she had left. She blew each one out as she walked down the hall and emerged through another hidden stone door.
The room she entered was musty, and poorly lit, even worse so than the tunnel. The dirt on the ground coated the bottom of her feet as she removed the white silk shoes and placed them on the table. Sliding the white dress off, she carefully lifted its skirts over her head and folded it gently on the table next to the shoes. The crowned veil was set on top of it and the trio of white assortments were taken to the wooden box hidden under the shelves. Tucked neatly and secretly where no one was to look.
The goddess, undressed and chilled in the dirty cellar, sat in her chair in front of a cracked and worn mirror. She grabbed a cloth and wetted it in a bowl of water, then lifted it to her face and wiped at the silver lines and patterns that adorned her skin moments before. Washing away without a sign they had been there. The water in the bowl turned silver as she dipped the rag back in.
The goddess stared at her reflection in the mirror and examined the silver hair and golden eyes that looked back. Closing her eyes, she took a relaxed breath and when she opened them up again, a girl stared back. The silver hair and divine eyes gone.
Ellyseen stared at her plain honey brown hair and green-hazel eyes; her normal appearance.
No goddess, no divine being. Just a human girl nineteen years of age. In the cellar that she lived as a servant for her whole life.
The fires and screaming. Members of the king’s guard pulled human women and half-breed children out of their homes in the middle of the night. Slaughtering them on their doorstep.
She was young then, only 5 years of age as young Ellyseen watched in horror out the window of her home. Her mother grabbing her and throwing her out the back door and telling her to run to the forest. Telling her to tell no one what she was, let no one see her powers.
“You can only be a human now, Ellyseen. Only ever a human.” And then her sickly mother shut the door, leaving Ellyseen’s screams to camouflage in with those of the people being slaughtered around her, humans and half-breed alike. Her house engulfed in searing flames with her mother still inside.
Ellyseen panted as she shot up in her bed at the banging on the door. Blankets tangling her legs as she kicked them off in a panic that ate away at her sense of reality until she was able to take in her familiar surroundings. The thin mattress on the dirty ground, the embers of the fire in the makeshift pit she had built years before, dying away after a night of warming the chilly room. Cinders leaving black smudges on her hands and face from a restless night. She held a hand to heart, it’s fervent beating slowed and her breath returned to its normal pace. Her head cleared, but her emotions did not.
“Get up, it's time to work.” Bellowed a voice from the other side of the cellar door. They banged again and then their footsteps retreated away.
The nightmares never relented in their torment of her rest. Ellyseen had gotten used to not sleeping much. Used to the terror. The undying rage for those who had done those atrocities to her mother and village. Her blood boiling as thoughts of the king and his command to kill in the early hours of the morning spoiled any pleasant dreams. While her trips into the town took most of the night every time, the rest of the time was infected by nauseating dreams of memories long ago. Waking up less than three hours after she had arrived home and being eaten away by all-consuming despair was common and expected. She would find time to rest another day.
Ellyseen rose from her bed and arranged her blankets neatly before heading to the bathing tub; removing her worn nightgown and sliding herself into the lukewarm water, a chill running up her spine at the feeling. Her body still shook.
She scrubbed at the dirt on her feet and the cinders on her hands, splashing the clear liquid on her face to remove any lingering filth. She used the last sliver of soap to scrub clean and lather into her long brown hair as best she could.
When she exited the cold water, remnants of dirt and soapy bubbles remained behind. She dried herself and dressed into dirty gray rags that had once been a simple deep green dress. She wrapped her off-white apron around her waist, and quickly tightened it in a bow behind her back. Damp hair pulled into a plain bun, sandals slipped on her feet, she headed out of the cellar room and locked the door behind her.
The steep stone stairs echoed the sounds of her feet slapping onto the dank cobble as she emerged on the lower servants floor, reserved for the human help to keep them separated from the faerie maids and guards. She had learned from her time alive that the two species were best kept apart when possible. She turned left down the windowless hallway and into the kitchen area, her head bowed, hands clasped obediently in front of her.
She made sure her steps were clear as she entered the kitchen, never too quiet. The careful taps of an obedient human.
“Ma’am.” She said, her voice soft and nervous. She kept her eyes low, avoiding eye contact with the head servant of human quarters, and cook of the manor.
“Ellyseen,” The woman said, pleasantly signaling the young girl in with her hand. “Good morning dear. I am just starting breakfast, the duke and lady will be eating chicken eggs and veal today. Please cut up the onions.”
Ellyseen did not say anything as she nodded and got to work on the chopping. The sting of the onion made her eyes water violently, but she blinked through any burning tears and dropped the onions into a pan over a fire. Her position in the manor was simple. Cut the vegetables, serve the food, shop for more, clean the floors, wash the dishes, and repeat.
It was easy yet exhausting work. Work she had done since she was a young girl bought off the streets by the duke.
“Today is a very busy day, dear. The duke and lady will be having guests over for a party. We are to prepare all the food for tonight. I’m afraid I don’t even have half the things I need for such a grand meal!” The woman, Liluth, buzzed around the tiny kitchen moving from dish to dish, stirring and kneading and boiling all sorts of things. “I will need you to run into the town right now to pick up everything I’ll be needing. Annese will be helping me serve the first two meals so I will be needing you in town, and Emyn will be joining you to ensure everything gets carried back properly.”
Ellyseen stayed silent, as she always did, and simply nodded. Her only sign of acknowledgment. Eyes down and away from anyone. Her shy demeanor was her own form of camouflage.
She finished with the onions and was rushed out of the room by Liluth with a list of food needed and a small bag of coins clinking as she walked with it in hand. The list was long, nearly a whole page, and she worried how she and Emyn would be able to carry it alone. Neither one of them were very strong or could carry a lot.
Emyn was already by the gate when Ellyseen arrived, her bright blonde hair pulled half up with two curly pieces refusing to go anywhere but the side of her face; her blue eyes lightened when they landed on .
“Good morning Ellyseen! How are you today?” Emyn greeted her cheerfully at the gate. Ellyseen nodded her own greeting, and said nothing else. That was enough for Emyn who was used to her nonverbal responses over the past two years. “It is such a beautiful day today don’t you think? I don't think we have been out on such a beautiful day for over a month now! I think we should enjoy this walk very much!”
Emyn’s joyful one way conversation carried on the bright and warm breeze that did not change their entire trek into the town, but there was a shift as soon as they entered the streets. Not in weather, but in energy.
“Doesn’t something feel off to you?” Emyn whispered, her eyes scanning the people of the town who were murmuring amongst themselves quietly, paying no heed to the young servant girls walking to the market. didn't even acknowledge Emyn’s question, and instead scanned people with her lowered eyes.
The town was normally bustling with life, human children running through the streets. Elegant ladies and gentlemen linked arm in arm for a stroll. But something had shifted. The life was still there, but it was humbled, a gracious gleam from the citizens who spoke in hushed tones. Ellyseen focused on the people who walked about, and wished she had an opportunity to tap even a bit into her powers and see what color of energy surrounded the calm town, but to do so at that moment would be too great a risk.
They entered the marketplace to feel the same uncharacteristic energy. Merchants who were normally yelling out deals and trades on wares were sitting calmly behind their booths, only speaking to those who approached.
Ellyseen led Emyn to the poultry clerk, who quietly stared down at clasped hands, eyes closed.
“Good morning.” Ellyseen greeted, and the man looked up. His eyes gleaming.
“My apologies ladies, I did not hear you approach. I was lost in thought.” He said kindly, his voice sounding emotional as he rose from where he sat. Ellyseen was saved from responding as Emyn naturally took over.
“That seems to be a common sentiment around town at the moment.” She observed, blue eyes sparkling with interest, and leaned closer to the merchant. “What is with this atmosphere, sir?” Ever the need for gossip and information. The man nodded, looking around as well, a smile on his face.
“Our town has been blessed once again by the merciful and protective goddess.” He said, his eyes brimming with silver tears as Emyn gasped, hand taking its place covering her shocked mouth.
Ellyseen did not react. She kept her face neutral at the man's words, his reaction, his face, the tears in his eyes. She knew if she were to use her powers to scan the energies of this man and the people around him, she would see the color pink. The color of gratitude.
It was a color she saw often in the night, the color that whisked around people that she saved from the fae guards who came into the town. Pink gratitude that could only be seen by her glowed off of their bodies as they fell to their knees and thanked her before running off to families to share word.
“The goddess is back?” Emyn whispered, leaning her hands on the table next to dead birds of various species and inclined closer to the man. Eyes wide in wonder and delight at his announcement.
“Indeed, a man named Lucius was rescued by her last night when a king’s guard attacked him and tried to take his life. She appeared and made the guard release Lucius, he announced her reappearance as soon as he escaped, but she and the guard were gone by the time anyone went to the area.” The man paused and looked around, to see if anyone was listening to their conversation. looked around as well and knew for a fact that they were listening as several eyes were on them and ears perked up in interest. “But they say the goddess never actually left. Some people see her wander the streets every night, but with less guards willing to come to the town, there have not been any attacks until last night. She is a truly gracious goddess, looking over the town every night and making sure it is protected any time a threat appears.”
For the first time, the man’s eyes moved over to who had claimed her spot silently behind Emyn’s glittering excitement. “Don’t you think so too? How blessed are we to be protected by a deity?” He asked her, and for the first time smiled. She nodded in response and lowered her eyes.
Her heart thumped loudly in her chest, resonating in her ears and through her head. Giving her thoughts waves to ride on.
A deity. What a funny word to describe her.
She had only been fourteen the first time she had snuck into the town, keeping her eyes and hair black, wearing her darkest clothes to blend into the shadows. She had heard of the atrocities committed by the king’s guard during the night. She snuck into the town that night to see if it was true, and saw it for herself when a group of guards started to rob the only pub in the town, leaving the humans inside screaming.
She had only taken down a few guards without them seeing her, and then she ran home to her cellar. Scared that anyone had seen what she did and reported her. She was fearful the next day she had gone into town and heard the rumors carry in the wind of a goddess who had taken control of the guards and scared them away. A goddess; at fourteen.
There were no plans to continue her nightly trips to the town, catching the fae off guard when they attacked a human. A sight unseen as she controlled their glowing energies with her powers, using it against them. But when she saw a town of despair, terrified of the tyrants who ruled them, become a town of hope and life, something inside of her shifted as well. A spark of justice grew into a flame, and she bought the flowing white gown and veil with the little money she earned from Liluth for getting groceries.
If the town wanted a goddess, Ellyseen would become a goddess, letting her own white energy glow so others would see her in the dark. She changed her hair to silver, and the golden eyes of another world. The silver paint to hide the features of her face that she could not change. She would remain a goddess of hope and protect the town, and since then she had.
Most of the king’s guards chose to stay away from the town, fearful of what would happen to them if they entered. The only ones who showed up were new arrogant recruits who doubted the tales of those before them and wanted to see for themselves. They always did, and they never returned. For the most part, had rid the town of its dangers and fear. Protected its citizens, and while she was not a goddess, it was enough to let them believe that there always would be someone there watching over them.
“Has anyone seen the goddesses face?” Emyn’s words brought out of her memories and into the present, frowning at her question.
“Yes,” The man said, leaning closer. “She is said to be very beautiful by those she has protected. A flowing curtain of long silver hair and silver skin, and eyes as gold and bright as a cats. She glows like the moon and walks on air, floating through the streets.” Emyn’s eyes widened at his words, and Ellyseen held back a slight smile behind her lips.
Floating? That was a new one.
Ellyseen looked up at the sky and saw the sun already nearing the center, indicating they had already wasted half a day of chatting and had to get back to the manor in time to prepare food.
“Thank you for your tale sir.” Ellyseen said, keeping her voice quiet and shy as she spoke, “but we must be making our purchase and moving on.”
“Of course, of course.” He said, and handed them the chickens and pigeons they requested before they began moving through the market stalls to picking the rest of what they needed from Liluth’s list.
Of course, Emyn did the talking, and made sure that she learned a little bit more about the goddess and the rescue from the night before with every merchant she spoke to. Each one happy to elaborate on nearly the same thing; their gratitude for her protection. Ellyseen was worried she would need to start dragging Emyn away from every stall.
They finished as quickly as Ellyseen could manage Emyn to get, and when they left the market place and headed back to the road that led to the manor on the hill, Emyn was practically bloated with new things to speak about.
“I have heard so many things about the goddess since I was brought here two years ago, but I have never been here when she does something! I always miss out on such exciting things here in town!” Emyn looked up towards the blue sky wistfully, “I wonder what it would be like to be rescued by a goddess.”
Ellyseen looked over at the younger girl, three years her junior and excitement glowing in those rich blue eyes. She knew enough of Emyn’s story to know it wasn’t a good one, and she always wondered how she could manage happiness and delight in such little things with a traumatizing past behind her. She envied her naivete, but enjoyed her company enough.
The main floor of the manor was the most beautiful. Chandeliers of diamonds and gold hung in every room as maids and servants bustled about, readying the space for the soon to arrive guests.
Ellyseen and even Emyn were ordered to arrange the table with seating places and ginormous bouquets of flowers. Emyn had leaned over the Ellyseen and whispered her curiosity of how they would even be able to see each other across the table with such large assortments. Ellyseen allowed herself to laugh along at the thought.
“It is certainly looking divine.” A feminine voice sounded, and the girls turned. Lady Fae Daratrine entered into the room, behind her a line of fae maids walked, also taking in the decorated dining area. Ellyseen and Emyn dropped into a low curtsy to the lady of the house and the movement seemed to catch her attention. She stopped her surveyance and turned to the girls. Ellyseen could feel her energy shift from delight into disgust as she saw the two human servants. “What are you two still doing here?”
“We are still setting the table, my lady.” Emyn said, keeping her voice polite and her head down in their curtsy. Ellyseen remained silent, staring instead at the lady’s ruby shoes. There were moments of silence as Daratrine pondered their words before speaking again.
“Very well, finish quickly and then return to your quarters. I do not want any guests seeing humans here.” The lady said, and strode past the girls in their bows. When her steps echoed in another room, they finally lifted from their positions.
They did as they were told and went down to the kitchen area where Liluth had made her finished dishes look as beautiful as they smelled. Ellyseen’s mouth watered at the colorful array of foods, some she has never seen before. She had never eaten anything like that in her life.
When the guests arrived, fae maids came to collect the food to serve. On a normal evening, Ellyseen and Liluth would be tasked with the serving, but with such esteemed fae guests visiting, they had not wanted any humans on the upper floor at all. They were to remain out of sight for the next couple days.
Ellyseen was about to head down to her cellar before she was suddenly stopped by a frantic Liluth, calling her name.
“They forgot one dish. Will you please run it up to them quickly before the meal has started? You are much quieter and smaller than me, I cannot risk being seen.” Liluth handed a plate of assorted vegetables and pork to her. Ellyseen nodded and headed up the next two flights of stairs, making sure none of the cooked potatoes fell off the side of the plate.
She quickly found the first maid she could in a hallway near the guests rooms, and handed over the plate. The maid said nothing of thanks to her as she took it and ran it to the dining table, Ellyseen gave a slight curtsy and returned back down the last three levels of stairs until she was in her cellar.
Without a second to waste, she walked to the wooden shelves and pulled out her secret box, opening its lid and lifting out the white dress. .
She tread quietly behind the row of small homes along the avenue, their dark windows creating an alley of shadow for her to walk in, hair once again silver and golden eyes bright.
The quiet spirit of the town earlier in the day had translated into the night as well, and even the usually rowdy tavern of drunk men and women was silent from within. The only sign they were still open was the flickering lantern above the door. She made no sounds as she walked past even that, only the bartender could be seen through the window.
Perhaps there was no need for her in town that night. It was silent enough that she found it hard to believe anyone would be out at all. She was alone in the streets and in the town square she entered. The marketplace she had walked with Emyn in earlier that day was empty, stalls covered and dark.
She walked up to the small fountain that gurgled in the middle of the square, its water sparkling under the moon. Tonight it was decorated. It’s cobblestone borders had flowers of every color laid upon it, and some floated on the rippling surface. She reached down and picked one out of the water, its delicate white petals opened wide as an invitation for her to breathe in its scent. A Magnolia.
Under the tiny waves in the water, gold and silver coins winked at her from the fountain floor.
The town's men and women had started their offering to their goddess a year after she had first appeared. After the rumors flew of her presence and hopes began to rise they pondered on how to show their gratitude to her. The first time someone saw her in her new white dress and veil, the fountain became the gathering place for gifts to her. They appeared everytime she saved a life and a fae guard was too afraid to return. Magnolia’s had been her favorite since the day she first discovered them floating in the water of the fountain.
The first time she had entered the square and saw the flowers and coins meant to thank her for her service, she had cried in her cellar for the entire night. Both from overwhelming love for the humans of the town she would protect as long as she can, and also from guilt. Guilt that she was fooling an entire town about who she was, no matter her reasons.
She left the coins where they were on the bottom and instead took the magnolia and wove it gently into the spires of the circlet on her head.
She stood there for a little longer. Turning her eyes on the sleepy town and taking in the feeling of the quiet night. With her powers in use, she could see the energies of the town and the lives within it. A glowing pink just as she had expected.
Her moment was shattered by a shriek in the air. Coming from down the same alley way she had been in the night before, its shrill sound cut through her blood and made it run cold. She hadn’t heard a scream like that since-
Another was let out and she sprinted towards the sound, her dress and silver hair blowing behind her as she ran. Windows in some houses lightened at the sound as lanterns and candles were lit. People wondering what could be happening. Faces peered from windows as she ran past.
Normally she would try to retain her composure if there was a chance of being seen, but in that moment it did not matter to her when there was a scream of pain and death.
She spun around the corner, panting ever so slightly to see three figures. Their silhouettes were at first hard to make out until she got close enough that her glowing aura revealed their faces. On the sides stood two fae guards, their black uniforms nearly blending in with the black energy around them. The one on the left stepped forward, and Ellyseen looked at his face. The same face she had seen the night before, the same pointed ears sticking through his light hair. A smirk on his face this time when he saw her.
She hid behind her own stoic expression and looked to the figure in the middle. Kneeling on the ground with a knife pressed against her neck was a young girl with a shaking dark blue energy of fear. The fae on the right who held the knife yanked on the girls hair pulling her head back as Ellyseen looked to him. He scowled at her and pressed the knife harder into the girl's neck. The girl whimpered at the slice and a few drops of blood slid down her skin, splattering onto a white bundle in front of her knees.
A bouquet of magnolias.
Wild contained rage sliced through Ellyseen’s blood, sensing a red wall of energy overtake her being. But she kept her face still and her light white. She would not show them what she felt. She looked to the blonde fae.
“You must have forgotten what I had said last time.” She said, her voice calm and steady. A contrast to the sputtering fire inside her. He snickered.
“I don’t take orders from something like you.” A wicked smile drew up his lips. “And I don’t take lightly to being threatened.”
The fae behind him mimicked the guards smile and before Ellyseen even had a second to register, there was a snap and the young girl felt limp to the ground, the dark blue essence gone. Her head at an angle that no human’s should be turned.
Her rage snapped from control and Ellyseen reached out a hand. Fist clenched. The fae who had snapped the girls neck only had the chance to grunt before she willed his black energy to crush his bones and organs. She knew he was dead when the black sputtered out before he even hit the ground.
The blonde guard turned and saw the two bodies on the ground, surprise lingering on his face as he beheld the crushed body of his companion. Bones mangled and broken beyond recognition.
“Did you not believe me?” Ellyseen said, her voice a poisonous venom. She took a steady step towards the Fae as he whirled back to face her. His normally silent steps dragged against the gravel as he stumbled a foot away. His black energy of death was gone and mimicked the color of the young girls right before he had killed her. It only made Ellyseen bare her teeth. “Did you not think I was being honest when I said I would not be so generous to you again?
”He did not answer, and instead turned around and sprinted down the alleyway. His fae speed giving him an advantage.
Ellyseen would go after him, but she would take her time. She wanted to marinate him with fear before she ended him. Wanted him to believe he had gotten away, and then rip away any relief.
She knelt next to the body of the young girl, and wiped her hair from her face. Her blue eyes stared at nothing, glazed and jaded. She was so young. Too young to be killed. Mercilessly and cruel.
Ellyseen clenched her jaw as she laid her fingers over the young girls eyelids and slid them shut, whispering her own prayer to gods unseen. There was nothing she could do for the girl, and that thought made her ever more furious.
Voices converged behind her and she turned to see a group of men holding torches walk around the corner. They halted as soon at they laid eyes on her. Eyes wide as they took in her glowing presence. Shock as they took in the dead body of the girl. The crushed fae guard next to her.
Ellyseen stood and looked to the men, who gawked at her presence. Their energies a swirl of gray confusion, dark blue fear, and searing red anger.
“I was not able to save her.” She said to them. They remained silent, “But I will make sure that it is not left unavenged.”
Then she turned down the alley and ran after the fae guard.
She had never moved so quickly; footfalls silent on the ground and her speed matching that of a fae guard. She searched the area for his presence. For his glowing aura. She halted when she sensed the deep blue shaking in fear down a dark dead end
.He pushed against the wall as her white light appeared. His eyes pleaded as she prowled closer.
A predator and her prey.
“P-please.” He begged, a dull crunch of stone as he fell to his knees. “I will never return. I will never come back. I was wrong, please let me live.”
She smirked at his cowardice. He had been so confident earlier. So eager to tempt her. She could see the magic mixing with his energy. It was stronger than the last time.
He had come prepared for a fight, trying to use his magic against her. He realized too late that it wouldn't be enough.
She stopped less foot away, peering at him down the bridge of her nose. He stared back through her veil. Tears of fear running the spanse of his cheeks.
She flicked her fingers and began to coax the fearful energy around his body. Letting it brush mockingly against him. He flinched as it slithered against his skin, around his arms and up his back. She took her time.
Making sure he was truly afraid.
“I remember saying that if you ever harmed another human in this town that I would make sure you would never breathe again.” A blue tendril coiled around his neck and up his face, peeking into his mouth. The fae guard shook his head in desperation, silently begging for mercy. “I guess it is my turn to uphold my promise.” She flicked her finger and the curious tendril plunged down, down, down.
The fae gagged on it as it went further in, clawing at his throat as it blocked his air. Ellyseen guided the coil through his body and commanded it with a single finger to curl slowly around his heart tightening by the second
.He groaned as much as he could and his eyes glazed as they had once before.
She let it sit for a minute, let him wonder, giving him a sweet smile, and then clenched her fist
.Ellyseen watched, feeling no joy or pleasure as the life leaked from his eyes. His energy dimming into nothing as the seconds went. She felt nothing.
A life for a life.
“I never took you as the killing type.” A deep voice startled her, and she froze. Her ears perked as footsteps crunched on the ground behind her. She readied herself to run, but his voice perked up again. “No need to flee. I am on your side."
She didn’t have any sides.
She didn’t turn to face him, but tilted her head enough to get a look of him, her face still hidden behind the veil and makeup. He was young, not much older than her, and his hair a crown of chocolate brown curls. Human. He didn’t bother looking at her as he stepped up to the body and gave it a swift kick, making sure the fae guard was truly dead.
He was. His energy was gone. He was dead.
This man on the other hand swirled with dark indifference.
He gave a low whistle, “You really made quick work of this bastard. I’ve never quite seen anything like that. You didn’t even lay a hand on him.” He gave one more nudge to the body with his foot and then hacked spit onto the dead face.
Ellyseen didn’t move. Her gold eyes moved from the man to the dead body.
“If the king didn’t see you as a threat before he definitely will now, killing two guards in the matter of minutes and practically draining the life from them…” He paused, and she almost reeled at the mention of the king. Anger brimming through her at the mention of the man who had destroyed much of what she loved. He had never cared enough about this town to notice it, why would he suddenly care now?
He turned to look at her, his eyes were a shade of green that resembled the gems brought by merchants into the market. “Are you really a goddess?” The words were serious, but based on the smirk on his face, he was not.
“What do you think?” Her only retort as she kept her face hidden in the shadows.
“I think you are something the king has tried for years to get rid of. A threat.” His words turned her blood cold. For the first time of the night, she felt something other than rage. Fear. “I think goddesses don't care enough about humans to come down and kill two fae for killing one human girl.” He stepped closer and she kept her distance by taking one step away. “And I think,” He paused, looking her up and down, taking in the white gown she wore, the veil covering her face, and the glow around her that faded under his scrutiny, “that we can help each other.”
“I don’t need help.” She said, her voice steady, her heart beating faster by the second. He took another step towards her. She kept her face still, a mask over the confusing emotions wreaking havoc on her.
“No? Then how about doing something more than scaring a few fae when they show up. Don’t get me wrong, what you are doing is indeed effective...to a point. But you are only one person, imagine what could be done against the king and his tyrants if there were more.
”She listened carefully to his words, weighing them. Drinking them in and tasting them. They didn't taste bitter, yet they also weren’t sweet.
“And two is supposed to be better than just one. Than just me?” She asked, and he laughed.
“I am not alone in this. There are more, not just here in Deaayn, but across Palanthnm. We are larger than you think, but we could use something like you. Not quite Fae, yet not quite human.”
“You know nothing of me."
“I know enough to know what you did to those guards,” He pointed at the dead fae on the ground and she followed it. The guards' eyes were wide and glassy. She kept her gaze on it as he continued. “You can kill with just a thought.” She didn’t dare meet his eyes again. “Give it some thought. When you are ready, we will find you.” He turned to leave, and paused, looking over at her and up to her hair, a smirk dancing on his lips. “Nice flower.”
He continued walking past her, leaving her there, and she didn’t bother to watch where he went.
She returned to where the young girl had been, but when she arrived, there was no one. The men were gone, and they had no doubt taken both of the dead bodies.
The only thing that remained was the abandoned bouquet of magnolias, their white color tainted by the drops of red blood that had come from the girls throat.
Ellyseen knelt to the ground next to them, dropping her glow and letting it dim around her. Plunging the alley into darkness.
She barely noticed the dark as she rubbed the petal of one of the flowers, still so beautiful with the terror that had gone on around them.
She had failed. Failed that young girl. Failed to protect her the way she had always done.
Her first life lost. Her first life taken.
In the town a woman began to wail, so desperate and painful. The cry of a mother who had lost her child. Ellyseen had heard similar ones when she was five.
She reached to her circlet and pulled out the white magnolia she had stuck in it, examining the petals before she placed it next to the others on the ground.
She rose and left the town, but for the first time, she left with the writhing pain of grief and anger that she only felt in her nightmares
Her nightmares were different now. The children out the window being slaughtered were not just any children. They were that young girl, screaming in terror. Her dark haired killer smiled as he snapped the girls neck, and the blonde fae next to him, stared at Ellyseen through the window.
When she awoke her body strained. The pain in her chest was practically crippling, and she found it difficult to even rise from bed to clean herself and start the day.
The words of the man from the night before played through her head as she dressed. Talk of rebellion and overthrow. Stuff much bigger than her.
He had said so himself, they were many people across the land who could aid in his battles, his uprisings. She could add little to something like that.
But here, here in the small town of Deaayn she could offer so much more to them. Protect them if this man went through with his plans. Keep them safe. She would be no use to a large gathering of hosts, but could if she stayed to protect her beloved small town.
Thoughts of her failure and the dead girl played into doubts. She blocked them out and pulled on her sandals.
She would be lying if she didn’t want something like what he spoke of. Of a better world without tyrants for leaders. But she would have no part in that. No place for her.
She didn't even bother greeting Liluth as she entered into the kitchen, heading straight to the onions. Liluth greeted her, but seemed to notice her off-color demeanor. Much different than her usual quiet. She pushed no further and they both cooked in silence for the morning.
Ellyseen lost herself in thought of pain, and rebellion. Pushing away memories from years ago, and memories from just the night before. Dead eyes and death played with her mind.
The word that would not relent.
Her thoughts were disrupted by a crashing commotion in the hallway. Ellyseen slowed her stirring of a thickened sauce and exchanged looks with Liluth.
“What is going on?” Liluth said, dropping her chopping knife onto the countertop and walking over to the door to check. She reached out to grab the knob but was practically thrown back as the door flung open with force. Two fae manor guards walked into the room and Ellyseen flinched at their presence. Her spoon slipped into the saucepan as she lost her grip in surprise.
Fae so rarely visited the human quarters, that no doubt the commotion in the hallways was due to the presence of not only two guards and a maid, but Lady Fae Daratrine and another elegant Lady Fae next to her.
“My lady,” Liluth dropped into as low of a curtsy as she could with her plump body, and Ellyseen followed suit, bowing her head until her face was hidden. “To what do we owe this pleasure?”
“It was her, the girl there.” A female voice sounded, and light fae bootsteps came towards Ellyseen. Two pairs of hands gripped her arms with unnecessary force and she snapped her head up.
“My lady, what is going on?” Liluth said, also rising from her position and looking between Ellyseen and Lady Daratrine.
Daratrine did not answer and walked over to Ellyseen, giving her the same look of disgust she had the day before.
“I should have known when I saw you in the dining room that you were a little thief.”
Ellyseen’s eyes widened at the accusation, and her eyebrows came together in confusion, “My lady, I-I…” She looked to Liluth for some sort of explanation or help. The plump human stepped forward.
“My lady, I believe there may be some sort of confusion, Ellyseen has been here for thirteen years and she has never been a thief.”
“My dearest friend Lady Imra had something very precious stolen from her room last night. Rowara says she saw this human girl lurking by the rooms during our meal.” She gestured elegantly to the maid who gave Ellyseen a victorious smirk.
“My lady, I did send Ellyseen to deliver some food that was left behind by the maids. That must be the reason she was up there.” Liluth’s words were frantic, panic lightening her eyes as she shifted them between the lady and Ellyseen.
“Did you see her when she was there? Were you with her?”
“Well...no. I didn’t-“
“That answer is enough for me.” Daratrine held up her hand and the guards began to drag Ellyseen from the room. Her feet stumbled as she struggled to keep up. Her mouth opened and closed, but no words could escape. No excuse. No defense.
The same must have happened to Liluth behind her, or the few humans servants who watched from the hallways because as no one said a thing as she was lugged up cold stone stairs and into the back gardens.
The gardens were astonishing in the daylight. She’d only ever passed them under the hood of moonlight, but now in the sun they were an abundance of colors and life.
She wished that she would have been able to witness them under vastly different circumstances.
“I figured a servant who has lived here for 13 years would have understood how we treat thieves.” Duke Rolim ticked his tongue in disapproval. The leather whip in his glove groaned as he tightened his hold. “Do you deny this accusation?”
Ellyseen didn’t attempt to look at the fae behind her, the tied ropes burned into the skin of her wrists and ankles.
The dam of words allowed one to pass through.
A crack hit the air, and a second later it sliced through the cloth of her underclothes and cut into skin. The eyes of the Duke, lady, and their guests burned into her. Her hair shielded her gasp and grimace from them.
She would not relent. She would take a whip, but she would not accept blame for something she was innocent for. She would rather die.
“Do you deny?”
Blood slithered down her spine. A cool breeze whispered soothing words into her flaming wound.
“Do you still deny?”
“Yes.” Her voice croaked.
Tears slid down her cheeks and dropped to the earth she knelt on. Silent prayers of mercy followed them from her lips. Her clenched jaw held in the cries begging to be released from her mouth.
The duke did not even ask again.
Crack. Crack. Crack.
Ellyseen’s knees gave out, and the only thing that kept her from completely crumbling to the blood soaked ground were the ropes now cutting into her wrists.
Footsteps crunched lightly next to her, and a dark shadow covered her, blocking the morning sun. A hand yanked the roots of her hair and pulled her face up to look into the eyes of the duke. She was having difficulty keeping them from sliding shut.
His voice carried lower than it had, only for her to hear. “Did you steal from Lady Irma? Tell me now and I will spare you.”
Her own voice was not pretty, croaked with anguish.
“I did not.”
He dropped her head and her eyelids fell with it.
“Cut her loose.” He ordered, and a second later rope was cut, leaving Ellyseen to finally hit the muddy floor.
She did not remain conscious long enough to hear the sounds of Lady Daratrine questioning what was happening.
Consciousness came back to Ellyseen in waves, giving her seconds of clarity before knocking her to black again. In moments of darkness the pain was there, planted in her back like the blade of a knife. In moments of clarity, it was the immense pain that knocked her out again.
It wasn’t until the agony subsided into an ache that she was able to recognize her stiff position on her stomach. Recognize the cool press of a wet cloth dabbing at the gashes on her back.
Ellyseen didn’t try to hide her surprise that someone was actually tending to her wounds, and more so that it was young Emyn who had taken on the role of caregiver.
“Emyn.” Her throat was dry as ash, her voice barely audible. Enough so that Emyn jumped at the sound with a small squeak. Her blonde hair knitted messily on her head. Based on the dark patches that had taken residence beneath her blue eyes, Ellyseen would guess the young girl had gotten less sleep than her.
“Ellyseen! You’re awake! Thank the goddess!” She rose from her spot next to the tattered mat Ellyseen used as a bed and walked to her table, picking up a glass and pouring water into it. If Ellyseen were able to, her mouth would have been drooling at the sight of the cool liquid.
Emyn brought the glass over and pressed it gently against Ellyseen’s lips. It was not an easy thing, drinking water while laying on one's stomach. While some drops managed to make its way down her throat, most dribbled onto the blanket beneath her.
She pulled away from the cup, thirst quenched enough, and Emyn put the glass next to her.
“How are you feeling?” Emyn asked, eyes wide, and Ellyseen noticed the relief in them. It surprised her enough.
“What are you doing here Emyn?”
“I was trying to help you get better, can you tell?” The young girl seemed mildly confused by such a question.
“Why?” When she was whipped, she hadn’t actually expected to wake up. Since she did, she certainly hadn’t been expecting anyone to be helping her wake up.
“Because you’re my friend.”
Ellyseen closed her mouth. Her guard came up as her emotional mask set into place.
She had known Emyn for two years. Known her since Emyn had been bought by the duke as a homeless child from a town that had been completely ravaged by the king's war. A war they had no defense against.
Her story had reminded her so much of herself, of the town and family ripped from her at a young age. She saw the young girl as another human to protect and give hope, just like the citizens of Deaayn.
Yet never in the time she had served in the manor on the hill, bought off the streets, had she ever thought anyone considered her a friend. Never thought anyone cared at all.
Tears began to well painfully behind her eyes, and she shut them before Emyn was able to see, and turned her head away. Her weakened physical state had made it difficult to hide her own emotions as well.
“Thank you.” The only words she could garner as a response.
Emyn did not say anything else as she grabbed the wet cloth again and gently tapped her way up and down Ellyseen‘s back. Ellyseen was grateful for that.
She would have slept again, but the ache was still pounding on her enough to keep her awake, but not enough to send her to sleep. Instead she lay still for Emyn to do her work silently on her skin.
Her wounds were bandaged and dressed by the girl, who kept an usual quiet the entire time. A stark contrast to her usual chattiness. While Ellyseen did enjoy the quiet when on her own, being with Emyn and sitting in silence was unsettling.
She looked to the girl every now and then to gauge if her attention would warrant any reaction from her, but it didn’t. The girl’s face remained tired, solemn.
Everything about her had become so drastic a change from the bright and optimistic girl that Ellyseen has enjoyed going into town with.
She decided to speak up, being the first to start the conversation between them for the first time.
“Emyn,” the young girl halted her movements and looked back at her, eyes dull in comparison to their usual delight. “Is everything alright?”
She averted her eyes as if she couldn’t stand to make eye contact for more than a few seconds and loosed a breath that Ellyseen wondered if she had been holding.
Her head shook from side to side.
“It’s not.” Her hands dropped to her lap, and her shoulders sagged. Her chin fell low to her chest and her body began to shake. Ellyseen tried to sit up but the pain only made her whimper and fall back to her stomach.
She just stared as the young girl’s sparkle of life washed away in a wave of sorrow and despair.
Emyn lifted her eyes and revealed the flood of tears that drained from them, dirt on her tired face left streaks of clean skin behind every drop.
Ellyseen felt the heartbreak emanating from her entire body.
“It’s all gone.” She sobbed, her voice a remnant of what it used to be. “The whole town is gone. Deaayn is gone. They’re all gone.”
Ellyseen wasn’t able to move for a few days, and the only person she ever saw was Emyn, who had become a shell of her former talkative self.
When news of the town hit her, Ellyseen’s mind went blank and while the pain in her back kept her immobile, she no longer felt it. She didn’t feel anything.
She had failed one girl in that town. A young girl was slaughtered because of her and she was too slow to react. The knowledge of that had been disarming.
But this. The entire town was demolished. Most burnt or rubble, and from Emyn’s brief descriptions, the few survivors lived together in the last standing buildings.
None of them sure where to go or what to do.
Failed by their goddess who had never bothered to show up as the town was raided by the king's army.
The only pain Ellyseen could register for the past days was the burning sting of a broken heart, and the crashing waves of unrelenting fury that battled against it. Both trying to outdo the other.
When Emyn was busy with her work, or sleeping in the middle of the night, Ellyseen fought her own battles trying to decide whether she preferred to sob until her eyes were dry, or scream until her voice was raw. Most nights it ended up being a little of both. She could do nothing else otherwise.
It was even hard to manage eating any of the food Emyn brought to her throughout the day. She did not deserve the unwavering kindness the girl showed her. Surely if she knew how badly she had failed that town, she would despise her soul and leave her to rot in that cellar.
Seeing how troubled Emyn was by the town's demise, Ellyseen only then began to understand how much the young girl truly enjoyed being in the lively town. She hated herself even more for also failing her.
By the fifth day, she could sit up, but Emyn told her she needed more time to rest and recover and she was not ready to return to work.
Ellyseen only nodded.
When Emyn was not there, she finally started walking around the room, seeing if her healing body could manage that enough. Barely, but she welcomed the struggle of staying upright and kept at it.
She did not bother telling Emyn of her walking around, knowing she would only scold her and make her return to the bed. Emyn always worried they would open up again.
But she also didn’t need her knowing in case she tried to stay with her during the night.
She needed her gone that night so she could do what she had been dreading since the day she woke up.
Emyn’s description of the town's destruction did not do it justice.
She had not bothered to mention the mountain of bodies that had been piled in the square. Some looked the same as they had before death, and some were charred beyond recognition.
She had not mentioned that some buildings still smoked from the pile of ash they had been reduced to, and that some people wandered the streets with eyes that looked forward as they walked, yet never looked at anything. The look of complete defeat.
And there was one other thing she had forgotten to mention. It was the guards. The ones that patrolled the near empty streets- or what used to be streets - and laughed at the state of the town. The same guards sent by the king to destroy this town.
Ellyseen was not a goddess that night. She was only a human servant, dressed in the same torn dress she wore every day.
She walked the streets silently and every time she heard the voice of a fae guard, she hid in the shadows as they passed. She had seen first hand what happened to the human girls that were found in the streets at night.
Ellyseen slipped into a ruined home as some guards drew close and silently climbed a case of standing stairs to the top floor, where the roof was gone. Replaced by the night sky slightly blurred by the smoke from nearby buildings.
From up high she could see more. See more of the rubble and smoke. See the extent of the piled bodies. In the square, the fountain that had once been covered with flowers, was now just an unrecognizable patch.
It was so much worse than anything Emyn told her. She wondered if the girl had held back in her descriptions for Ellyseen, or for herself.
Salty tears began to drip down her cheeks, hitting her lips. She so badly wanted to yell curses into the night air. Curses at the king, and at the guards, and at the goddess. The protective goddess who had failed them all so badly.
Everything about her ached. Her heart, her back, her head. The destruction of Deaayn destroyed her too.
Stairs creaked slowly behind her. The heavy steps that made their way up drew only half of her attention, but she couldn't bother to turn and see who it was. She could already tell they were human. She didn’t want them to see her face.
The presence came forward and took his position next to her, breathing in the scent of the broken town before he spoke.
“I won’t lie and say I’m not surprised to see you came back.” It was the same deep voice that had greeted her in the alley the last time she was in what Deaayn used to be. She didn’t bother looking at him.
“How did you know who I am?” Her voice was barely a whisper choking on tears, but he still heard her. He recognized her even when she was just human.
“Like I said before, goddesses don’t care enough to protect a town of humans.” He paused, following her gaze to the fountain. “It was easy enough to figure out the rest.”
They sat in reverent silence. His presence was a dark shadow next to her, lingering and waiting for guidance on the next step. She needed time. Needed to accept all the thoughts and emotions that ran through her. They were a wicked storm within her even when she decided to speak.
“What happened?” the silence grew pregnant before he responded.
“The King’s guards arrived six nights ago and destroyed the town.” He said, and she didn't even blink at the words.
“You won’t like the answer.” He warned.
“Tell me.” She could handle more. This time he did look at her, but she didn't return the gesture.
“The guard you killed seven days ago, he was the son of the king's court. His father is a member and when he found out what was done, he took action.” He paused, searching her face for a reaction, but she wouldn’t give him one. “Like I said that night, if the king didn’t care about you then, he definitely will now. They waited for you to appear, and you never did., so they did this instead” He motioned out the broken walls.
Ellyseen didn’t say a word. She couldn’t. The breath had been sucked out of her and the weight of his words crashed down into her throat, barely leaving room for much else. Even for the bile that rose. Everything she had been holding back until that moment crashed into her and knocked her down. She fell to her knees, ignoring the tear of her back. The man knelt next to her, putting a hand on her shoulder. His fingers brushed against the patch of skin that showed through a hole in her dress. She shrugged him off as if his touch burned her.
“Where were you?” He whispered, and she clenched her eyes shut so hard that they began to hurt. Pain hammered against her skull as that same word tried to crack its way out.
She had not only failed in protecting the town, but she had been the reason for its fall. The reason the guards were sent.
And she hadn’t been there. She couldn't protect them when it mattered most.
The man sucked in a quick breath and put a hand onto her spine. She hissed at the sting that filled every crevice of her.
“What happened to you?” And his hand left her back. She opened her eyes and saw the crimson coating the tips of his fingers.
The man's eyes surveyed her back, then moved to the rope burns on her wrists that hadn't healed yet.
“I couldn't be there.” She finally let the dams burst, and everything flowed from her at once. The strings of her heart tore at once, and the pain manifested in gasping sobs. Agony. “They needed me. And I couldn't be there.” She gazed to the stars, hand to her throat, holding in the shriek. They winked down at her, their beauty mocking and teasing. Unaware of the world below. Uncaring. “I failed.”
“You’re bleeding, we need to get you some help.” He said, trying to get her to stand onto her feet.
“No. No.” She begged, grabbing his hands and pulling him back to her level on the ground. “I cannot stay here. Take me back.” His brown eyes glanced between hers, unsure. “Please.”
Moments of silence until he nodded, and hauled her off the ground, and this time she let him.
He had to drag her down the stairs and from the house, she could barely hold herself up anymore, the tear down her back drawing any energy she had left.
He knew the way to her entrance. Based on everything he said, she knew he would.
He covered her with darkness in the shadows from passing guards, and out of the town, and up the hill. One arm around her, the other kept balance by holding onto passing trees and bushes. He struggled under the deadweight of her nearly limp body. She did her best to walk, but it was difficult with his arm constantly pressing against her wound and spreading the pain more.
They arrived at the stone wall after tumbling up the dark hill. Ellyseen reached out her hand to press against the stone in the wall, but it slipped off before she was able to put enough pressure. The man took the responsibility on himself, and the door slid open in front of them.
He began to lead her into the black tunnel, but she shoved him off before they stepped in.
“No.” She said, bracing herself against the wall. “You cannot come.”
He did not argue and took a step away.
“What is your name?” She asked him, eye lids heavy.
“Garrik.” He whispered, as if it were a secret.
“Garrik,” The name rolled from her lazy tongue as her body began to relax against her will. “I will join you Garrik. I will fight with you.”
His eyes widened and he stepped closer once again. “What made you decide?” She stumbled a step into the tunnel, catching her balance before she managed to fall. She looked back at him, taking in his dark golden hair and brown eyes. Those eyes staring at her expectantly.
“Because I already failed them once, and I don’t plan on doing it again.”
The stones crunched as the stone shut between them, not giving her a chance to gauge his reaction before she was plunged into darkness.
The gasp that echoed through the cellar woke her from the fever induced nightmare that had her sweating all over her blankets, still in the torn dress from the night before.
Emyn was standing at the bottom of the stairs, hand to her gaping mouth and blue eyes wide.
“What happened?” She gasped, and ran to Ellyseen’s side.
Ellyseen was disoriented from the fever that had her shivering yet sweating in heaps. She examined the soaked bed and realized that the blankets were wet from sweat, but because of the blood.
Blood that stained crimson through her mat and dried on the cloth of her dress. Her dress was more torn on the hems than before and covered in patches of brown dirt. Practically unrecognizable from the rags she had worn for five years.
She wasn’t sure how she had gotten to the bed, she recalled entering the dark tunnel to the cellar, and the door closing with the man, Garrik, watching. And then...nothing. Darkness.
She had definitely not gotten to that bed herself.
“Ellyseen,” Emyn scanning the blood on her clothes and the bed. Hands hovering over her back yet too afraid to touch incase they made it bleed more. Ellyseen shook with raking shivers. “How did this happen? You were almost healed, they are expecting you to return to the kitchen today. I didn’t know, if I had known I would have said you needed more time. I-I…”
“Emyn,” Ellyseen stopped her, and grabbed one of her hands. They were shaking just as much as her own, but because of tears that were now streaming. “It’s all right. Get my back fixed and dressed. Hide the blood and make it look like I’m better. I’ll go back to the kitchens today, but you cannot tell anyone about this.” She gestured to her clothes. There was no hiding that somethinghad happened in the time Emyn wasn’t there. She needed her cooperation. Emyn nodded, eyes wide at the amount of words Ellyseen had said to her. Perhaps the most ever at a single time. “I will need a dress to wear.”
That seemed to knock Emyn out of whatever stupor she was in, and she stood up, wiping tears off her face. “I’ll be right back.”
When Emyn returned, she made quick work of the cleaning. The wounds were cleaned and dressed within minutes. Ellyseen had to bite her tongue to keep from yelling out in pain every time the girl had touched the gashes, but she did her best in order not to worry the young girl.
Emyn pulled Ellyseen’s hair to the side and tied it with a black piece of rope, letting its length fall in front of her shoulder. Different from the usual bun she wore every day, but a welcome change in style despite everything.
The dress Emyn had brought was one of her own. It was the same cut of the servant dress that was now bloodied on the floor; yet less torn and the color more vibrant a green than Ellyseen’s old one. Shorter as well due to Emyn’s height compared to her own. She sighed softly at the feeling of the crisp cloth on her skin, enjoying the feeling of a cleaner dress to work in.
When they were done, the fever was still there, but it was minor enough that Ellyseen knew she could handle it. Wiping away the occasional bead of sweat on her brow.
“Let’s go.” Ellyseen said, and Emyn grabbed her arm, helping her reach the top of the stairs. Before she opened the door she turned to the young girl, who returned her stare with a nervous one of her own.
“What if they can tell?” Emyn whispered, leaning close to Ellyseen.
“They wont.” She said, and pushed the door open.
She let her demeanor changes as soon as they walked into the hall. Drooping her shoulders, and bowing her head, hands politely held in front of her. The perfect model of an obedient human.
Emyn gave her a brief expression of surprise at the sudden change, before following her example and positioning her own hands in front.
Ellyseen pretended to not notice the lingering gases of passing servants. No doubt having whispered tales of her beating in the garden, and the dukes mercy on her. Surely they all wondered if she was actually dead. She imagined their surprise to witness her walking through the halls as if she had never left.
Emyn on the other hand, followed behind her to the kitchen and stared back at everyone that looked their way, sending them glares. Daring them to say anything at all.
Liluth was bustling around the kitchen as usual when they entered. Not noticing their presence until Emyn offered a quick hello.
She swiveled around, gasping at the sight of Ellyseen standing there as if she were a ghost.
“Well, I’ll be.” She dropped a wooden spoon into a pot, and walked over to Ellyseen. Eyes wide and scanning over her body. “I wondered if I would see you in here again.” Ellyseen was still gazing at the ground as she always did until instructed to start cooking something. Keeping quiet at Liluth's words.
She was not expecting the plump woman to wrap her arms tightly around her body in a crushing hug, Pressure put right onto the wound on her back. She gasped at the sudden pain, and little Emyn behind her even let out a surprised squeal when she realized that the woman's arms were squeezing right on the gashes.
Liluth on the other hand seemed to not have noticed either of their reactions.
“It is very good to have you back. I quite missed the quiet that came with working with you here. Instead I had to deal with this chatty little thing for the past week. I thought my head was going to burst!” She said, and behind Ellyseen, Emyn shifted uncomfortably at Liluth’s words.
Ellyseen responded only with a polite smile, and hoped she wasn't wincing from the pain the hug had left. She hoped Emyn had put enough bandages on incase it was bleeding more.
“Well, there is no more time to waste. Hurry and help me finish this meal so we can deliver it to the duke and lady.” Liluth said, gesturing to the pot she had been stirring when they entered the room. “And you,” she turned her attention back to Emyn. “You can return to your cleaning duties. You are no longer needed here.”
Emyn stepped forward next to Ellyseen, looking between her and Liluth. “But…”
“No buts. You were a great help when I needed you, but now I have my real worker here. So you may go.”
Ellyseen shot Emyn a look from the corner of her eye, and the young girl backed down. Giving a polite curtsy to the cook, and then turning and leaving the room.
“Loyal little thing isn't she?” Liluth questioned, and Ellyseen kept her gaze steady. ”None of those self-righteous fae healers wanted to help you, so Emyn offered to. I guess lucky she did, because you’d be dead otherwise.”
Ellyseen frowned at the words. Guilt shrouded her as she realized she had never thought about that. Never considered that Emyn had been the only one willing to help her. Never realized how she must have been trying to juggle her duties as well as staying up alot of nights helping Ellyseen heal.
She realized she owed a lot to the girl.
“Are you going to stand around all day or help me bring this to the master?” Liluth’s voice was tart but pleasant, and Emyn savored the look of the elegant plating of potatoes and pheasant on the trays. She grabbed its sides, and followed Liluth up the two flights of stairs to the top floor.
The decorations they had spent time putting up earlier the week before were all gone and the entrance and dining area were back to their former decor. A plain wooden table large enough for a crowd, sat only the duke and the lady. Maids and the dukes guards stood silently around the room.
“Sir, My lady.” Liluth announced their entrance and punctuated her words with a curtsy to both, Ellyseen followed her lead. Duke Rolim motioned their permission to enter, and they moved forward, setting the trays on the oak tabled, and began to dish portions of food onto porcelian plates. Ellyseen carefully grabbed her assigned plate and kept her face turned to the ground and she walked to the dukes end of the table.
Fear rose as bile in her throat at the sight of him. The pain in her back seemed to pinch at her, reminding her who had done this to her.
She avoided his gaze at all costs, yet he seemed determined to meet hers. Curiously watching her movements as she set the plate in front of him and curtsied. Stepping away and quickly as she could.
“How are you healing up?” His words halted her movements, and she winced at his tone. Mocking, harsh.
She turned slowly back to him, keeping her head down. She felt the prickles of eyes from around the room. Everyone was watching; curious how this would play out.
“Fine, thank you sire.” She was barely able to make her voice come out, but it was loud enough for a fae’s sensitive ears. He lifted a finger and curled it towards him, gesturing for her to come closer. She gulped silently and took a step towards him.
This time his voice was lower. Lower than hers. Quiet enough so even the fae lingering around the room wouldn't be able to catch anything other than a low grumble of nonsense.
“I will have you know Ellyseen, that I am not cruel. I will treat all creatures with respect as long as they earn it. You told me in the gardens that you were no thief. I decided to trust you on that. I spared you based on your honesty. But,” He leaned closer, and she dared not look up. She felt the wind whistle through her ears, messing with her hair that hung over her chest. A small show of the dukes magic, of the air he could manipulate and use as his own weapon if needed. “If I find out that you are lying to me, girl, then I will have to finish your beating the way everyone expected me to earlier.” A burst of wind banged on her back and the pressure made her step forward, wincing at the sudden pain ringing through her. “It is only what is just.”
Her mouth was dry, struggling to swallow her fear. She knew he was telling the truth.
She kept her face calm, and eyes firmly planted on the edge of the table, never once meeting his gaze.
“Yes, sir.” She said, her voice coming out croaked from the dryness on her throat.
He sat back in his seat at the head of the table, a smile on his lips. “Very good,” He clapped his hands, and reached for his fork. “Let’s eat then.”
Ellyseen gave a curtsy and returned to her usual place against the wall next to Liluth, who would not look at her. Unlike the maids and guards around the room who seemed to be delighted in her predicament, giving her amused glances every few seconds.
Lady Daratrine gave Ellyseen a smirk, before reaching for her own fork and poking into the meat on her plate.
Her smirk disappeared as she took a bite and send a pointed glare to Liluth.
“Pheasant again? And potatoes? Liluth this is the third time in a row we have had this for breakfast, I’m getting tired of it.”
Liluth stiffened next to Ellyseen before stepping forward.
“My apologies, Lady. The last food we have from the market has run out and this is all that we have been able to get since Deaayn…” She trailed off, and it was clear everyone in the room was able to finish that sentence for themselves. Ellyseen blocked out her own memories of the wreckage of what was left of the town. Certainly no market place.
“We will need to arrange different accomodations then.” The duke offered, chewing on a piece of meat. “The next nearest town is north, to Coalfell. I have heard they have a fine market place. We will start getting the food from there.” He nodded to Liluth and popped a small potato into his mouth.
“Sir, Coalfell is hours away, it would require a days travel there to get food.” Liluth rebutted, looking up at the duke.
“Do you have another suggestion then?” He asked, leaning forward in his chair and resting his elbow on the table. His eyes looked from Liluth, to Ellyseen, then back. As if waiting for either of them to say anything.
Liluth took a step back and bowed her head. “No, sire.”
“Then it is settled. We will send food there once a week as usual. And make sure it is not potatoes or pheasant, Liluth.” He said, a smirk on his face as he looked over to his wife. Daratrine smiled back to her husband.
“You both may leave, we will call for you when we finish are meal.” Ellyseen raised an imaginary eyebrow at his words, but did not show any actual reaction. It was unusal for the duke to dismiss them before they were done with their meals, but they had no room to argue.
Both humans curtsied and turned to leave the room.
The door closed behind them, but Ellyseen was still able to catch the last words from the duke before they shut.
“This cursed Goddess. It is making everything much more difficult for me.”
Ellyseen didn’t need Liluth to tell her that it would be her and Emyn who would be doing the weekly traveling to Coalfell for supplies. She would have already assumed as much.
She was at least spared for two days later before they were to leave, giving her time to recover enough to be able to ride a horse there and back.
When she had told Emyn as they met in her cellar at the end of the day, the girl's only concern was for if it would be harmful to her healing. Ellyseen assured her that she would heal enough for such a thing. She didn't bother telling her she only hoped that was true.
That night she was lucky to convince Emyn to leave her alone to sleep after the incident the night before. She waited impatiently for an hour to be sure the curious girl would not return to check on her before she threw on her sandals and exited through the dark tunnel.
The summer air was cooler than usual, the sky covered in clouds darker than the night and threatening her with a chance of rain. She wished she had a cloak to at least keep herself dry if it were to pour.
The guards were still in the town. Still patrolling the abandoned streets, and she still had to conceal herself in the shadows as they passed. The buildings were still destroyed though they had stopped smoking; the musk still hung in the air. But the mountain of bodies was gone. That she was grateful for. After the night before with all she had learned too quickly, she was glad for that one mercy.
She didn’t know how she would handle if the rotting corpses still lay there, accusing stares unblinking as she looked at them from the top floor of the same house broke in the night before. She didn’t want to think about where they had gone.
This house was the last place she wanted to be. This town was the last place she wanted to be. The guilt dug at her insides. But there were things she needed to do now. Things that needed to be righted- if she could. She would be doing far less for the people she failed by sitting in self-wallow on a mat in a cellar.
Instead, she sat on an abandoned chair and waited.
It felt like hours had passed, but realistically she knew it could have only been less than one.
The creaking of the stairs signaled his arrival and she stood from her chair, wiping any dust of her skirt and turning to face the landing as Garrik appeared at the top, leather hilted knife in hand.
She knew he would find her there eventually.
“Have you been here long?” He asked.
“Very.” She lied.
“Pardon my late arrival then, I’ll admit I wasn’t paying much attention to see if you were coming into town tonight.” He excused himself, smirk on his face, and she didn’t push for further explanation. There was little light around them, no torches or lamps, just the moon that was struggling to peer around the dark clouds.
Garrik's face was hard to see, but his light green eyes sparkled enough that she could translate that whatever reason he was late tonight, it wasn’t a great one. He stepped closer, no doubt so he could see her better as well. In the cool night air, she was grateful for the heat of his proximity.
Garrik’s shaggy hair was messier than it had been the few times she had met him before. Brown curls covering his brow. Stubble she had never noticed before covered his jaw.
Ellyseen waited patiently for him to say something, never the one to start a conversation, and he stood in front of her. Perhaps waiting for the same thing.
Moments of silence passed with neither of them saying anything. He consistently help her eyes, and despite the instinct to turn away, she ignored it and held his right back. Not going to be the first to give in to the awkward space.
She wondered if he could think of nothing to say.
“Are you alright?” He asked, and her question was answered. He knew exactly what to say, he was just debating whether he should say it.
“I’m fine.” Ellyseen answered, her face set in stone.
“Last night…” he paused, searching for some sort of emotion. Perhaps something to assure him that what he had witnessed the night before was real. “You’re back was bleeding. Badly.”
“Would that have anything to do with you not being here that night?”
She finally looked away, instead focusing on a piece of broken cobble barely close enough for her to see in the darkness. She had let him see too much of her before, and she wouldn’t let tonight be another occasion.
She turned back to face Garrik, meeting his eyes again. Sincerity and concern crackled in their gemstone green.
“I was punished for stealing.” She kept her explanation as short as possible.
“Stealing?” Surprise dropped from the word. “And you are still alive.” It wasn’t a question.
“Did you do it?”
He nodded, examining her stone expressions. Eyes contemplating. Understanding.
“I was worried.” He said, and she blinked at his words. Then blinked again. Possibly the only form of surprise that she was displaying. She didn’t bother responding to that. “Last night I didn’t know what was happening to you. I couldn’t help you. You collapsed in the tunnel and so all I could do was-“ His words clicked in her mind and she finally took a step back.
“You took me into the cellar.” She finished his sentence, and he nodded. She hadn’t been sure how she had gotten into her bed after everything went dark. Had just figured she had gotten there herself in a feverish trance.
“I genuinely wasn’t sure if you were going to die. Leaving you in that tunnel where no one could find you was not an option.” He offered his explanation.
Her cheeks heated at the thought of Garrik carrying her bloody body into her bed. Humiliating to be seen like that by him. No doubt he was the only person who had ever seen her at such vulnerable times. She would never say that aloud.
“Thank you.” Ellyseen said quietly, staring again at the cobble, “I suppose.”
From the corner of her eye, a smile flashed white.
There was silence again. The same heavy silence that signaled that he was contemplating his next words. She could guess what they were, since they were the same words she had come down here to say.
“I meant what I said last night.” She said looking over to him once more. His eyes flicked up to hers and she knew she guessed right. “I will join you.”
“I thought you wouldn’t remember.” Garrik tensed a bit, and she couldn’t blame him for that assumption.
“I don’t think I could forget a proclamation like that.” She gave him a slight smile, a joke. He relaxed and returned her smile, relief dancing on his lips.
“Are you sure?”
“Then are you ready?” He asked.
His smile faltered and a grim, serious expression replaced it. Ellyseen’s stomach churned at his sudden change.
“Ready to meet the others.”
It was the tavern, or what was left of it.
She had never actually been inside the place when it was crowded with drunk and jolly souls; only ever seen from the outside window. But there was no one there anymore. The counter over which ale and mead had been served, was crushed and tipped, no more a counter than a shattered slab of stone.
Charred pieces of chairs and tables scattered the floor, and she supposed it was lucky that the entire building had not burned in the raid.
Garrik led her to the back of the room and down a dark hallway to a stone wall. He pressed a solid hang against the stone and the wall groaned as it opened. She blinked in surprise at the familiar contraption. Just like her own secret entrance to the manor.
He gave her a teasing smile, no doubt guessing her thoughts..
“What? Did you think you were the only one with a hidden door?” A smirk lifted his lips, and Ellyseen didn't even bother returning his humor. She looked past him and past the door as it opened all the way.
Another dark hallway lay beyond it. Light shone at the end, from an entrance on the right she could not see.
“After you.” Garrik held out an arm, giving her permission to enter. She studied his face for a second, making sure no sign of trickery lay in his eyes. Then she turned and searched the darkness again for any sign of danger. She was sure of its safety before she entered.
Garrik followed her lead and the door slid shut behind them, his body close enough behind her she felt his breath ruffling through her hair. His presence looming.
She hesitated moving forward, and he must have taken that as a sign for him to go first. He slid past her and continued down the dark hall before she finally followed.
She hadn't noticed it before, but as they got closer to the light at the end, the faint grumble of conversation echoed against the darkness. She could make out voices, at least two, discussing. No, arguing. The baritone of tense tones and stark interruptions made that clear.
“I’ve sent word to Harper in Remington and haven’t heard back. I fear the king has pushed further east onto the towns there.”
“We can’t afford to make assumptions, Wick. It will only distract.”
Garrik reached the entrance before Ellyseen did and the debate between the two voices halted at the sight of him.
“Carver.” A new voice cut in, this time a female. “Where did you-”
Ellyseen stepped into the light behind him, peering over his shoulder in the doorway at a group of people sitting there. Larger than she had expected from the voices. Six bodies crowded the small room, and all of them gawked at the sight of her. Eyes wide and some mouths hitting chests.
“I brought you a gift.” Garrik said, and moved aside so that Ellyseen was completely exposed to the group of men and women. She didn’t know what to say. Didn’t know if she was supposed to say anything.
Garrik had not informed her of much, and so she just stood there hands still by her side and face aloof to shield from unrelenting stares.
No one said a word, completely stunned at her appearance. She was stunned at their reactions.
“Is that…” Someone said, and Ellyseen turned to look at him. It was the same voice that had been explaining his concern for an eastern town. It belonged to a tall man, bulky and muscular, taking up half the room on his own. Dark hair cut short and curled on his head, pointing in all directions. His eyes widened with her attention on him.
“Yes.” A woman said, standing from a chair in the back of the room. The only one not ogling Ellyseen. Her face was an expression of unsettling calm. She gave a look to Garrik, who took that as some sort of command and left Ellyseen’s side to take his own place in a vacant chair. Ellyseen watched him go, silently begging him to stay, but he didn't even look at her as he sat down and pulled out his leather knife. “It’s our little goddess.” The woman said, and Ellyseen immediately sensed the sarcasm in her voice.
The woman's steps were still the echoing tap of a human, but they were trained, skilled enough for Ellyseen to sense that whoever she was, she was no common woman. Her hair was silver, yet not entirely the silver of age. The silver of a difficult life.
“And she’s arrived rather late for the party,” She paused, and examined Ellyseen’s appearance, “As usual.”
It took all of Ellyseen’s strength not to flinch as her words sliced right through her cool.
“What, Olleas?” The woman, Nessira snapped, turning to an old man standing behind her. Her teeth bared like a dog, her glare a piercing blue at him. “I just spent all day and night creating a new graveyard for the men, women, and children of this town. For everyone who died trying to defend this town.” She turned back to Ellyseen. Ellyseen held her breath, and tried as hard as she could not to break down under the womans deadly glare. No doubt wishing she were one of them. “All because of this little goddess.”
Ellyseen’s breath became heavy in her lungs and her stomach sank. Her eyes fluttered under the realization and she glanced to Garrik, who was using his knife to carve at a small piece of wood.
I’ll admit I wasn’t paying much attention to see if you were coming into town tonight.
He had been there too. He had been burying the bodies of all those she had failed.
Ellyseen turned back to Nessira, who was waiting for a reaction. Gaze expectant.
It took all Ellyseen’s strength not to start screaming at her, to defend herself, to scream and cry and beg for mercy. She felt her heart decay in her chest. Felt her body begging her to lay down and rest. Felt the rips in her back, mocking her. Teasing her. It took everything in her to say her first words.
Nerissa’s expression stumbled over surprise. As did everyone in the room, clearly not expecting that. Something else perhaps, but not that.
“So you know it?” Nessira asked, straightening and crossing her arms over her chest.
“Yes, you are right.” Ellyseen swallowed before continuing. “I failed this town. I failed the men and women and children of this town. But I came here because of that. I came here to ensure that fae will never be able to hurt another human. To never hurt another human in this town. If I can do something,
anything, to help you prevent what has happened here from happening anywhere else in Palanthnm, then I will.”
It was silent, a weight over the air in the room, taking in its occupants.
“Even if it means I have to die to protect them.”
Nessira’s face returned to its calm, and again she surveyed Ellyseen, but this time, it wasn't as hostile. Instead it was cunning. Plans flicking behind the pane of sky blue eyes at Ellyseen’s words.
Not one person breathed. They were now all watching Nessira, their attention between the two of them knocking back and forth as if watching a sport.
Nerissa said nothing as she turned away from Ellyseen and strode back to her seat as calmly as she had left it. She took her time settling in, making sure the tension had properly filled the room before she looked back to Ellyseen, crossing her legs.
“Well then,” She said, shooting her a wicked smile, “Let’s get started, shall we?”
Ellyseen took an empty chair offered up by the man Olleas, who remained standing next to her. She wished she were able to sit by Garrik.
He wasn’t someone she was comfortable with by any means, but he was the only one she knew. She felt as if she had just been thrown into a lions den, and the only person who she could get guidance from sat across the room not even bothering acknowledging her. Instead he only carved at the same piece of wood since the beginning.
She would have to get by on observation only, and learn her surroundings first.
“If we haven't heard back from Remington we need to consider other options. We can’t sit around and wait for someone to offer.” Olleas said from next to her, to the young dark haired man, Wick.
“Then where else? Half of the towns within two days' travel have been taken over by the king's guards.” Wick said, obviously frustrated with the older man. Ellyseen blinked, shocked by his words. She had not known that.
“Coalfell is not.” Olleas remarked, and this time it was Nessira who answered.
“Coalfell is swarming with fae. They might not be guards, but they would easily turn on a group of refugee humans if they were to catch wind.” She said, fingers tapping on her knee. “We need to find a town that our people can go to without being turned in to the guard. Coalfell is not an option, and Remington is not anymore either.” Her eyes slid over to Ellyseen, who stiffened under her stony gaze. “Do you have any ideas half-breed?”
Ellyseen’s thoughts stumbled under the sudden attention of the room. She had barely been introduced to this conversation. Barely even began to understand what they were planning. She had little experiences of the towns that surrounded Deaayn, much less more current knowledge of their occupation or not.
She cleared her throat, ready to say as much before another voice piped up.
“Turrine to the south is unoccupied by the guard.” Garrik finally spoke. Clearly he had paying enough attention to the conversation. Ellyseen wouldn’t have guessed from the way he focused solely on the small wooden figurine that he was carving in his hand.
Nessira held Ellyseen’s gaze a couple more seconds, certainly not pleased she hadn’t been given a chance to respond before her light eyes slid over to Garrik.
“You knew this?” She asked, annoyance seeping from her words. He barely seemed to care. He shrugged and another chip of wood fell to ground by his chair onto the tiny pile that was accumulating.
“I heard the guards discussing it in the streets.” Another slice of wood onto the pile. “The king is running out of hands and is more focused on keeping security in the castle than sending them to tiny insignificant towns like Turrine.”
“That would have been some important information to know before, Carver.” Nessira said, fingers continuing their rhythm.
Carver. That had been what they called him when they first arrived. She wouldn’t have realized it then, but from the growing wood pile at his feet, she understood the nickname.
He only shrugged again. “I just got here.”
“Indeed.” Nessira said, and glanced at Ellyseen for only a moment before turning her attention to the tall and broad Wick. “Wick, you and Lucas will head to Turrine tomorrow. Make sure it really is unoccupied and inform the officials that they will have refugees from Deaayn coming.”
“Understood.” Wick nodded, and a young boy behind him did the same. He was so young. Based on the slightly childish cheeks on the lean face, he couldn't have been more than only fourteen years old. She couldn’t fathom why such a young boy was there. Why he was being sent to scout out another town. There were so many things she was struggling to wrap her head around at once.
“Now that we have a potential town, how do we plan on getting the people out of town.” A new voice piped up from behind Ellyseen, and she turned to see a girl with black curls similar to Wick’s crowning her head. Even her dark skin matched his. The girl's brown eyes flicked to Ellyseen when she caught her attention, and then went back to Nessira. “There are guards in every part of the town at every time of day. We won’t be able to get them all out at once.”
Nessira nodded at her words. “Good, Arro.” Her fingers picked up their pace. She was thinking.
“We can take out smaller groups at a time. One of each remaining family at a time. It would require more time, but it could be easier without the guards noticing.” Wick offered, and Nessira nodded.
Ellyseen perked, an idea suddenly forming in her mind. Her observations were done.
“What if there were less guards.” Ellyseen spoke. Everyone looked at her, Even Garrik finally focused on something other than his carving. Nessira paused her taps.
“Well.” Ellyseen took in a quick breath. “I could get rid of the guards. If there weren’t any, you could get everyone out of town without trouble.”
“There are far too many for even you to handle at once.” Nessira said, her voice condescending. Ellyseen deflated, almost wanting to shut her mouth again and remain quiet. But she continued anyway. She wouldn't let the woman get satisfaction in seeing her back down.
“Then what if it weren’t all at once. What if it were only some at a time, as a distraction. The guards will be so focused on the goddess that they won't even notice if a few humans go missing. It could be done progressively, a family at a time.” She paused, taking a second to return the smirk Nessira was giving her. “Besides, what is the use of me if I can’t use my powers.”
Nessira’s smirk remained but her eyes darkened ever so slightly.
“Very well.” She began to tap her fingers again. “Carver, since you brought her here, you will be responsible for making sure she can fight properly.” Garrik’s only response was to continue his whittling. Ellyseen on the other hand wanted to object. She already knew how to fight. She had been protecting this town for years with her powers.
Nessira caught the look on Ellyseen’s face, and her smirk returned to its normal look.
“You may know how to use your fae powers, but you are still human. What will you do if you need to fight as a human? Using your powers could get you killed.” Ellyseen said nothing. For once, she knew that Nessira was completely right. She had agreed to join this, and that would involve possibly fighting. Without powers. She would have to learn. She nodded to Nessira.
“As for your powers, you will have to work on your own to strengthen them. You may not be able to kill an entire army now, but I’m sure it’s not impossible.” Nessira added, and for once, it didn’t feel like Ellyseen was being mocked by her. For once, it seemed like she was actually genuine in her belief of Ellyseen’s powers.
“Is there anything else you can do?” Wick asked, his first time addressing Ellyseen directly.
“I thought you guys have been following me for years.”
“That was mainly Carver’s job, but we all know the basics of how you mess with the guards.” He said. Ellyseen glanced at Garrik, who didn’t even look up. “How do you do it? The whole…” He moved his hands, mimicking the way she guides her magic.
She hesitated in responding, and instead looked to Nessira, wondering if going much further in the conversation would be bad for her first day. Instead the woman only nodded and Ellyseen realized that she was also curious. One survey of the room made her realize that they were all curious of how her powers worked.
“I, Well it's a little hard to explain. Everyone has energy, and I am able to just…” She searched for the correct words to explain it. “Turn their energy into a physical weapon.”
“You can see it?” Wick asked, his dark eyes bright with curiosity.
“Yes.” She said. He blinked at her, and she realized he wanted an elaboration. “It’s a different color for everyone, depending on their energy at that moment. It’s like a glow around them. Like the glow around me when I go as the goddess.”
Wick nodded in understanding at her words, as did Olleas next to him.
“And the hair?” He pointed at her head. Subconsciously her hand rose to her currently brown locks.
“Small form of shapeshifting, my hair and eyes.”
“Can you show us?” He asked, and Ellyseen suddenly out of her comfort zone. She had never in her life spoken about her powers to anyone. Except for her mother.
“I..I guess so?”
She let out a shaky breath, and closed her eyes. A second later she opened them and everyone except Garrik and Nessira were looking at her in wonder. Her hair was now a burning shade of red, it’s length to her knees. Her eyes matched the red in vibrancy.
She let them ogle for a few seconds. Let them take in her piece of physical magic. Once she became uncomfortable enough, she willed the hair and eyes to return to their normal state, and the room relaxed. Only a tiny bit.
“Are those the only things you can change?” Wick asked. She was surprised at the curiosity from him. His big build and intimidating array of weapons strapped around his body had certainly not strike her as boyish-curiosity.
She hesitated a second before answering. “No.” She said slowly.
“Just my ears.” He seemed a little surprised by her answer. Perhaps he was expecting something more spectacular. “I am half-fae after all.”
“You have faerie ears?”
“Only when I want to.”
“We never saw them.”
“Because I never change them.” Ellyseen said. “I don’t care to look fae at all.”
Wick nodded, seemingly understanding what she meant. Perhaps they had worked out in their years of watching her that she cared little for her fae heritage.
“That is very high tier magic.” Wick added. And this time she did not respond. She knew. “No wonder you have no trouble with the guards. Your power goes way beyond the physical tier. You have manipulation tier magic. I don’t think that’s seen very often outside of royalty or-”
“Wick.” Nessira stopped him. Ellyseen was genuinely grateful for her interruption. “It’s getting late and we need to get our little goddess back to her manor before she is found missing. We’ve all had a very long night”
Ellyseen would have been more annoyed with the way she said it if it weren’t absolutely true.
“We will continue on when we meet again. Wick and Lucas head out tomorrow for Turrine. Ellyseen, you and Garrik begin your training as soon as you return to town.”
Ellyseen nodded and followed the lead of everyone who rose from their chair.
They all looked exhausted, and she couldn't blame them. They had spent the night burying bodies of people who had been their neighbors and friends. Possibly even family. And her appearance to this meeting probably made it run longer than needed. She tried not to feel slightly guilty, but for a lot of reasons that was difficult.
“Until we meet again.” Nessira said, and everyone filed out into the hidden hallway. Ellyseen with Garrik right behind her.
They took turns sneaking out of the tavern, in case a guard happened to see a group of humans exiting the building at once.
It would not have looked good.
Nessira had left first alone. A couple minutes later Olleas followed after making sure the street was clear.
Ellyseen stood behind the rest of the group, who all hid in the shadows of the hallway until the next person was ready to leave.
A red-haired man who had not spoken at all during the meeting was the next.
In front of Ellyseen, Wick spun around and stuck out his hand towards her. She stared down at it, unsure of what he was offering.
“It’s for you to shake.” He said, and when she didn't reach her own hand to take his, he did it himself. Grabbing hold of hers and giving it a firm shake. “I’ve always wanted to fight alongside a goddess.” He joked, a bright smile showing off his white teeth. Ellyseen returned with a small one of her own.
“Wick.” Arro said from next to him, getting his attention to the door. It was now their turn to leave. Arro only gave Ellyseen half a glance of her own, and Ellyseen wasn't lost on the glare that was glinting in her eyes.
She knew they would not all be able to accept her. At least not at first.
Wick dropped her hand, giving her a sheepish smile. Then he turned and walked out the door. Behind him, Arro followed without giving a second look to Ellyseen, and the young boy Lucas walked beside her. They exited together out the door, and Lucas took a spot between the two others as they left down the street.
Ellyseen couldn’t help wondering why they had all left together.
“They’re siblings.” Garrik spoke up finally, leaning against the wall behind Ellyseen.
“Even Lucas?” She asked. Arro and Wick - she could tell they were siblings. Almost every one of their features looked the same; from the dark curled hair to the dark skin. But Lucas was so young, his hair lighter and straight. He didn’t look anything like them. Not to mention he had to be at least ten years younger.
“Not biologically, but yes.” He said, fiddling with the figurine he had carved during the meeting. Upclose, she could finally tell what it was. A small wooden doll of a little girl in a dress. “Their mother took him in when his family died from an illness. He was a baby. She decided to be his mother then, so they’re siblings now.”
“He’s so young.” She said, and he nodded
“We all say the same thing, but Lucas won’t listen. Neither will Arro and Wick.”
“What if he gets hurt?” Ellyseen asked. He was definitely too young to be able to hold himself up in a fight. Barely looked like he had any strength at all.
Garrik laughed, and slipped the wooden doll into his pocket. “They would never let that happen.” He stepped past her and signaled her to follow him into the street.
There were no guards thankfully when they exited. They both turned towards the west of town, and Ellyseen realized Garrik was also headed to the manor.
“You don’t have to go with me.” She said, and his lips tilted into a smile.
“No I don't.” And that was that.
The night was silent. The moon was just a sliver in the sky, and the air was getting colder as they neared autumn. She sucked in a breath at the crisp air, letting it fill her lungs.
She stopped when a hint of smoke snuck in with it. She didn't look at the burned building as they passed. She was just grateful they hadn’t run into any guards yet.
"I didn't know about the ears." Garrik said, his voice low incase anyone were to overhear. "The magic, the hair. I knew all that. But the ears..." He shook his head. "No idea."
Ellyseen's hand went to the round edge of her human ear. It's skin soft and pleasant. Much better than the slightly pointed tip that appeared when she willed it. Tonight had been the first night in ten years that she had brought the ears out. Aside from the magic, they were the one thing that truly identified her had half-fae. She hated them for that. Had considered cutting off the tips of her ears once when she was younger, just incase she accidentally changed them and someone were to find out what she was.
Of all of her features, the ears were the ones she most despised. A feature that she could mercifully keep hidden for the rest of her life.
"They are not exactly something I go around showing others." She said, and Garrik snorted. "And not something I'm proud of."
"No, I suppose they are not." He said, and they rounded a corner after checking for any sign of guards. "Were other half-breeds able to do that?"
Ellyseen stifled her wince at his use of past tense. She had repressed a lot of memories from her childhood, and the other half-breed children who lived her in her town were one of them. "No, if I recall correctly, most couldn't." She said, looking around to make sure no one was near. Staying alert. "We're basically mutts. Our features from both races differ. Some only had mortal features, and others only had...the other kind. Some had loads of magic, and some had none. For me, the ears are a part of the physical shape-shifting."
He nodded along as she explained. Genuine interest shined in his eyes. It was not common for people anymore to know much about half-breeds. Not after they'd become extinct.
They turned the last corner before they would leave the town, and she inspected the darkened alley ways as they moved toward the edge of the woods and hill.
“Wait one moment.” Garrik said, and Ellyseen stopped. Suddenly on high alert. Wondering if their luck had run out already. But he didn't give her a warning to hide, only a humored smirk. Instead he walked up to the door of one of the standing buildings.
She watched with confusion as he reached into two of his pockets. Out of one, he pulled out the pile of wood chips that he had created while carving. From the other was the small doll. He put each one onto the ground in front of the house. A tiny pile of shavings, and a tiny wooden girl.
Then without so much as an explanation, he turned and walked past Ellyseen, continuing towards the edge of town. She lingered there for a few seconds, taking in what he had done. A movement in a window by the door caught her eye, and she turned to walk away from it.
They were already walking through the trees up the hill to the manor by the time curiosity got the best of her and she spoke up.
“Why did you do that?” She questioned, and for a while, the only response she got was the crunching of twigs and leaves under their feet.
“There are some people who live there now. One of them is a little girl. I just made her something to enjoy. The shavings were just to use as kindling for a fire.”
Ellyseen didn't hide the way her eyebrows rose, or her eyes widening. His gesture shocked her enough that she couldn’t think of anything else to say. How could she respond to that. It certainly wasn’t what she expected from this rugged man.
His wavy brown hair, or those hardened gem green eyes. Stubble flecked across the skin of his jaw and cheeks. A knife strapped to his thigh, and his clothes dirty and rough.
No. She had not expected that at all.
“What should I call you then?” She asked, gripping the trunk of a tree as she stepped over a fallen branch. “Garrik or Carver?”
His green eyes met hers, and he gave her a smile. “Just Garrik is fine.”
“Then I will do just that, Garrik.” She said, a smile twitching her lips. His own grew, as he held out a hand to help her step over more logs. She accepted, grabbing hold to his coarse fingers as she held up her skirt to make it over them. She dropped it as soon as she was over.
“Then what should I call you?” It was his turn to ask. “Ellyseen, or Goddess?”
Ellyseen shook her head, pushing the edges of a branch out her way. “Just call me Elle.”
“Elle?” His voice was curious. Both at the informality of the name, and the change from her usual.
“I figure if I am going to be changing so much now, I may as well adapt.” She shrugged, ignoring the feeling of his eyes on her face. Or the awkwardness of the new name from both her and his lips.
“It suits you.” He said, and they finally neared the manor wall. She pressed the stone on the wall, and the entrance slid open.
She turned back to the man who was giving her a small smile.
“Garrik.” She nodded to accentuate her farewell. Stepping into the tunnel. She gave him one final look before she shut the door, his own nod of goodbye.
To be continued...
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