Chapter the Seventh
"So this is your boy, Adakran?" A merry voice asked, as a strange person looked down at Derryn. Well, he wasn't strange; he just looked different. His long, parted hair was blond, almost like shining gold. His skin was a little white, but not in the sickly way that people have. He had those weird pointed ears; how did people get ears like that? Crystal blue eyes sparkled amusing at the small, brown-haired boy. "He can scowl just like you." Derryn was indeed scowling; he never had someone look at him so intently before. It was unsettling.
"He can throw quite the fit, if he puts his mind to it," Derryn's father chuckled, mussing Derryn's hair. The boy looked up at his father admiringly. "His mother keeps him in place." They were in some kind of throne room, which looked very white and polished. Several intricately wrought pillars lined the sides of the giant room, and a massive--well, to Derryn it looked massive--golden throne was perched on a pedestal from a few steps. The pointy eared man, who was dressed in flowing green and white, was standing up from the throne. He held a small girl in a grey dress, about eight years of age, in one arm, who dozed against his shoulder contentedly. She had golden hair too, except that some of it was streaked with brown. These people were very strange.
"Don't they all?" The elf man quipped, and he and Derryn's father laughed out loud. The girl stirred from her nap, and yawned sleepily. The elf looked lovingly at his daughter, then set her down beside Derryn on the throne's steps. She rubbed her eye with a small fist, then blinked and looked at the people around her. Derryn realized that she had pointed ears too! What was this place?!
"A cute girl, Ithralli," Derryn's father said, bending one knee to look at the pair of children. "Her name is Linnatiel?"
"Yes," the elf said proudly. "In Elven, it means "Star of the forest". Did you have a good nap, my star?" Linnatiel nodded at her father, then looked at Derryn's. Surprisingly, she met the Templar's gaze stare for stare. Derryn's father laughed and stood up. "Linnatiel, this is Derryn," Ithralli said, kneeling and laying a white-gloved hand on the boy's shoulder. "Do you want to show him the garden?"
Linnatiel stared at Derryn with shining green eyes. Puzzled, he stared right back at her. They held their gaze for a short while, until she visibly blinked and laughed. "Yes, Father," she said happily, and began trotting off toward a door on the far side of the throne room. Derryn looked up at his father expectantly.
"Go on, son," he said encouragingly. Derryn nodded wordlessly, then followed the elf girl.
With a gasp, Derryn blinked his eyes open. He was dreaming again, he realized. The stars hung visibly in the night sky, sparkling in different patterns. He stared up, pulling away the covers of his sleeping roll. The nights were cool, but his face was matted with sweat. He looked around in the darkness; he could see no one. Reassuringly, Derryn felt the hilt of his sword at the side of his sleeping roll; it was like a safeguard against the creatures of the dark, wherever they might be. Suddenly a wink of blue light flickered in the darkness, followed by others around him, then winked out again. He sighed with relief when he remembered they were signs of a protection ward that Valaan had set around the camp; that way, no one had to keep watch during the night. If there were any intruders, the ward would become a shield.
Why was he dreaming of things long past? It wasn't the first time, and Derryn doubted it would be the last. Maybe he was trying to tell himself something, but what? Before he could ponder any more, a white arm lay itself across his chest. He could hear Linnatiel murmuring in her sleep. "The forest...Derryn...where..." It was all a jumble to the swordsman's ears. Derryn stretched a hand carefully in the dark to his other side, and felt his fingers slipping though the elf's hair. He began to stroke it gently, and slowly went back to sleep.
Derryn could hear himself gasp at what he saw, and he knew it would not be the last time. He padded softly on vibrant, green grass, surrounded by flowers with such bright colours, and trees of every shape and size, yet all were grand and proud. A small stone fountain stood nearby, a well with a pedestal mounting a tall, slim statue of an elf woman in a dress. She seemed sad, but had a poise to her that told Derryn that she would never falter. The splashing water sparkled in the sunlight. The boy found himself staring at the woman.
"She is Araon," the girl called Linnatiel said, suddenly appearing beside him. Derryn almost jumped; he never heard her approach. "She cries for all of us, but she smiles over us, too."
"Who are you people?" Derryn asked, in a voice that was a bit harsher than was intended. "You don't seem like other people." Linnatiel looked at him sadly, a look that belied her age.
"We are Elves," she said. "You don't like Elves, do you..." Something sparked in Derryn's mind at the word. He had overheard conversations at home between his father and other lords. They all called Elves bad names; not out of haughtiness, but fear. Derryn shook his head.
"I like this," he said, gesturing to the garden around him. "It all looks so...pretty. Everything here is pretty."
"Even me?" Linnatiel asked in a slightly mischievous tone. Derryn looked at the elf girl, and blushed harder than he ever had in his life. Yet, through all the heat in his cheeks, he saw that she was pretty.
"You are pretty too," Derryn replied, forcing the words slowly. His cheeks went redder as Linnatiel laughed.
"I like you, Derryn Drakelight. You're funny." The boy was wondering why he was funny, when the elf said, "Come on, there's more around the corner." With another light laugh, Linnatiel was off again, skipping merrily. Derryn began to follow her, when he saw two tall Elves standing against one of the trees, in the shadows; they must have been watching Linnatiel. One was a woman with a long, blonde ponytail, hooped earrings and grey clothes. Two knives were sheathed at her waist. The other was a man with a green cloak and golden hair that fell to his chin. A long, gilded scabbard hung at his side. Derryn started when the man began walking toward him, motioning the boy to stop. The elf man knelt to the ground, looking into Derryn's face.
"I know who you are, child," he said. "I know what you are destined for. There will be a time when no elf will be there to help her." The man glanced in Linnatiel's direction. The girl had stopped skipping, and looked at Derryn and the elf man, puzzled. "To protect her. You must do that for her. Swear to me, child, that you will do this. Swear that no foulness will touch her, without touching your sword. Swear that your blood will be spilt before hers. Swear that you will be her Casin'nath, boy. Swear." The soft, yet powerful words were a barrage in Derryn's ears--he didn't have a sword-- but inwardly panicked, he slowly repeated the elf man's words. The intensity of the green eyes that gazed into his brown said that there was no other option.
The swordsman sat up in his sleeping roll faster than last time, awake with cold sweat. It was almost sunrise, he saw. Linnatiel lay in her own sleeping roll next to him, breathing softly.
Derryn was a --what was it -- Casin'nath. Linnatiel's Casin'nath. He had no idea what it meant. He had not remembered that incident so long ago; how could he? But like the past month and the one before it, the memories of Vellucyn came roaring at him in his dreams like a burst dam. At the same time, he had been afflicted with the wanderlust. What could it all mean? But Derryn recognized the elf woman; it had to have been Shusa. And the man...judging from what he knew, it could very well be Sinvrael. A Waymaster had made Derryn, as a boy, to swear what had to have been fealty to Linnatiel. Did she know?
As if to answer his thoughts, the elf Princess stirred, rolled on her side and opened her eyes, looking right at Derryn. "Why are you awake?" she asked softly, yawning.
"I could ask you the same question," Derryn replied with a smile, "It's an hour before morning."
"I have a habit of waking up to see the sun rise," Linnatiel explained, sitting up in her blankets. Her hair was in disarray, and her eyelids looked heavy, but Derryn still found her beautiful.
"Linn," he said, "do you know what a Casin'nath is?" The elf's eyes widened when she heard the word.
"That is a word not often used, Derryn," she said, frowning slightly. "Where did you hear it?"
"It came in one of my dreams. From a memory. Do you know what it means?"
"Literally, it is Elven for "foreign defender"," Linnatiel said, looking a bit worried. "It is something from long past, when Elves and Humans were still fast friends. Long ago, there was a custom that a male of noble lineage would serve as a servant to a female noble of another race. For example, an Elven lordling would act as a bodyguard for a Lady of the Castle Cathanin, or a Human knight would serve an Elven Lady. He was called a Casin'nath. There has not been one from either race in over a hundred years." Linnatiel was looking seriously at him now. "Where did you hear it? You must tell me."
"S-Sinvrael used that word," Derryn stammered as he faltered under Linnatiel's gaze. "Well, a long time ago, anyway. It was in my dream. It was when I just came to Vellucyn. I think it was Sinvrael, anyway." The words poured out of him. "We...we were in the garden. Waymaster Sinvrael...it had to have been him, since Shusa...well, I think it was Shusa...well, Sinvrael came up to me. He-he made me swear something about no foulness touching you without touching my sword first, and my blood--"
"--Would be spilt before mine," Linnatiel finished. "Sinvrael swore you to be my Casin'nath. It could have been nothing else."
"What does it mean, Linn? Does it mean I'm...I'm supposed to be a slave or something?" The elf suddenly laughed at Derryn's words.
"No, silly," she soothed. "From what you've been doing, you couldn't have been a better Casin'nath. It could explain your...suicidal tendencies. It explains much. I was wondering why Sinvrael wanted to speak with you, of all people." Linnatiel let out a sigh of relief. "He wanted to swear someone to be my Casin'nath since I was a child. He said he did when I was around ten years old, but he never said who. It's something I've been fearing for a while: a complete stranger becoming my bodyguard. I had a suspicion it was you, but I never really thought about it then." The elf smiled at Derryn, then twisted around to hug him. "I'm glad it's you, Derryn. My Casin'nath." Derryn hugged her back, held her arms and smiled back at her.
"I'm glad you're glad," he chuckled. "But Linn, do you have any more explanation for my dreams? Every time I remember something, it always relates to something that will happen. The night before I met you, I suddenly dreamed of us in a forest in Vellucyn. After I tried saving you from that Nightcloak in Elithanor, I dreamed of the time I carried you back from the canyon. It has to mean something." Linnatiel gave Derryn a curious look as his face was twisted in deep thought.
"I'm sorry, Derryn. I don't know why that happens. It must be connected with the wanderlust. It all seems jumbled. Maybe you can find an answer in Vellucyn."
"Vellucyn," Derryn mumbled, pulling up his knees and resting his arms on them. "Vellucyn, everything's in Vellucyn. Why couldn't I just go there now?"
"Because you have a duty to fulfill, Derryn," Shusa said, suddenly appearing as she usually did. The swordsman never knew what he thought of the Hunter; she was like an enigma, with the jade-like green eyes seemingly watching him whatever he did. Shusa squatted behind Derryn and Linnatiel.
"I remember Sinvrael, Shusa," Derryn said over his shoulder. He could feel the older elf's smile.
"A darling, isn't he? But I remember him saying some more serious words to you," she replied. "Remember those words, Derryn. We haven't much time left." In a sleek, swift movement, Shusa leaned closer to the swordsman, gripping his shoulder firmly. "Your blood first," she whispered in his ear. "We are like brother and sister in our duty, young Drakelight." Smoothly she rose to her feet. "I must rouse the others. Tareth sounds like a dying ox when he sleeps. Derryn, My Lady," Shusa nodded to each, then strode off. Derryn shook his head in confusion as he slipped out of his sleeping roll, smoothing it out before rolling it up.
"Elves," he muttered, earning a raised eyebrow from Linnatiel.
"Ah, a real bed!" Nadia sighed, falling back onto a soft mattress. Two more beds like it were arrayed along the far wall of the room, each separated by a nightstand with a fresh candle. Linnatiel sat on the edge of her bed, while Shusa stood at one of the three windows of the room, peering outside. "I hate sleeping on the ground!"
"It's only the men who seem to like it," Shusa sniffed. "My Lady, this place feels suspicious. It may not look it, but there's an air of...discomfort."
"Well, Derryn and the others are just in the room next door, so we shouldn't feel completely helpless," Linnatiel reasoned. "Besides, we three can deal with most threats."
Nadia sat up and rested on the bed on all fours. "Are you sure it's just not that you want Derryn to save you?" She teased. "It would be so romantic!" Linnatiel flushed slightly.
"What are you talking about?" She protested. "I had no notion of the sort!" The elf shook her head. "I don't know why you find the...relationship between Derryn and me so interesting." Shusa then laughed, turning away from the window and sitting next to Linnatiel.
"At least allow yourself the pleasure of gossiping, dear Princess," the Hunter chided. Linnatiel shook her head again, her cheeks growing a little darker as her golden locks swung back and forth.
"No! What happens between Derryn and me is our business!" Shusa clucked her tongue and turned to Nadia.
"We have much work to do," the Hunter said determinedly, and the apprentice nodded fiercely. Linnatiel had to resist the urge to grab her quarterstaff.
When Derryn knocked on the door of the ladies' quarters, it was Nadia who answered it. "Oh, hello, Derryn," she said with a mischievous smirk on her face. Derryn could see the other two women over Nadia's head: Shusa sat by a window, alert, but she looked amused when she saw the swordsman. Linnatiel sat cross-legged on her bed, reading a book, but her face blanched when she heard his name. Some words must have passed between the three.
"Hey, Nadia," Derryn greeted. "Hey Linn, I'm going out for a walk around town. Want to come-" Derryn didn't have time to finish his sentence, as Linnatiel quickly snatched up her cloak and walking staff, and bounded to his side.
"Let's go, Derryn," she said hurriedly, with a forced smile, then practically shoved him out the door. The elf swiftly followed, slamming the door. Confused, Derryn thought he heard laughter coming from the other side of the door.
"Something wrong?" he asked. Linnatiel let out a large sigh of relief.
"You wouldn't believe those two!" She growled, taking Derryn's arm and leading him down the hallway. "The nerve of them, trying to get me to talk about..." The elf trailed off, her cheeks suddenly flushing crimson. Just as suddenly, Derryn brushed her cheek with a finger.
"You know, Linn, you look cute when your face is red like that," he smiled awkwardly.
"Derryn," Linnatiel said quietly, then hugged the swordsman tight. "I'm glad to have a friend like you, Derryn." Derryn remembered the feeling of the elf in his arms, that warm and comforting feeling.
"Me too, Linn," he replied warmly. "But as much as I'd like to stand here, we have a market to check out. Are you up for it?" Linnatiel nodded, and, taking Derryn's arm again, followed him down the stairs.
Derryn and Linnatiel picked their way through the throng of people in the town square. The midday sun beat down on their heads in a gush of sunlight.
"How do you like it?" Derryn asked, raising his voice over the crowd's noises. "Getting a feel for the commoner's heaven?" The elf smiled at him.
"Well, it's not something I'm used to," she replied. "In fact, it's the opposite. All these regular folk, all these humans...at another time, I think this town would have scared me witless. But now...since you're with me, I'm fine." Derryn smiled warmly, then laughed.
"Don't get too comfortable, My Lady," he teased. "You better watch your feet, and make sure the pretty hem of your dress doesn't tread in mud--hey, what's going on?" A commotion was beginning to stir up several meters down the street. Derryn elbowed his way through the circle of onlookers and found himself in a clearing, with Linnatiel at his side.
Three large, very rough-looking toughs circled Valaan, who was clutching his stomach, doubled over. Straightening himself, he clenched his fists and glared around, his eyes defiant.
"Valaan!" Derryn exclaimed, and started forward, a hand on the hilt of his sword. Linnatiel suddenly held him back with one arm.
"Valaan can take care of this himself, even though he doesn't want to," she explained calmly. Derryn looked once at her, then let the blade slide back into its sheath. He grit his teeth in frustration.
A trickle of blood dribbled down a corner of Valaan's lip, which then curled into a sneer. "Don't...mess with me!" He roared, throwing out his arms. The thugs were hit by a flash of bright light, and then sent flying several feet through the air, crashing to the ground. Strange, soft light pulsed from Valaan's tightened fists. The look of fury raged in his eyes. His red hair seemed to look like a crown of flames.
"Spellweaver," one voice in the crowd muttered in awe, followed by several more voices. "Spellweaver." "Lord Spellweaver." "Help us, Lord Spellweaver!" "There is hope!"
-February 19, 2002