Authors: K.M. Shea
Red Rope of Fate
By: K. M. Shea
a Take Out The Trash! Publication
Also by K.M. Shea
A Girl’s Tale
Fight for Freedom
My Life at the MBRC
The bells hanging from Tari’s gold anklet jingled nonstop as she paced back and forth, unable to keep a smile from twitching across her face. Today was the day.
Today Tari was going to be partnered with a human in the honorable custom of Nodusigm. Today she would—hopefully—forg
e a friendship with a human woman that would last for life.
“Who thinks Tari is excited and nervous? Anyone?
” Kiva—Tari’s older sister—teased as she adjusted the bronze circlet nestled in her hair.
ne of their female cousins sighed as she curled up on a bench. “We’ve been waiting forever for the ceremony to start, and they’re barely halfway through seating the guests.”
Tari briefly paused to inspect her hair,
which was coiled in an elaborate braid, in a mirror. “Any ideas to pass the time?” she asked, renewing her march.
eir only male cousin who was to be matched today—shook his head as he leaned against the door that would lead into the Celebration Hall, the location of the Nodusigm ceremony. “No, I’m not much in the mood for horseplay,” he said.
Tari stopped her pacing circle next to Talon and leaned briefly against him. “You don’t seem pleased with this, Talon.”
“Why not?” another female cousin asked. “To be select
ed for Nodusigm is a great responsibility. Only a small percentage of our people are given this honor.”
Talon leaned back
on his heels, staring at the vaulted ceiling of the waiting room. “It is not the elves that worry me. This bonding reeks of human politics.”
“It is last minute and rushed, which is
something of a surprise considering the great length of time the young Prince Vincent courted Lady—excuse me—Princess Claire,” Kiva acknowledged.
“The human royals were not happy with Prince
Vincent’s choice of a new bride. They’ve been so obvious about it even the general population of elves knows of it. But what do we care? Our countries are allies and close companions, but our governments are separate,” a female cousin said.
Tari pushed away from Talon and walked until she stood in front of the floor to ceiling mirror. “
It should matter to us because
been selected. Is that what you’re getting at, Talon?”
“Exactly,” Talon said. “We are to be bound to Princess Cl
aire and her four siblings. They were not bound to elves as children, which reveals their low standing in the courts of human nobility. That’s why the human royals were so upset with the marriage—Princess Claire hasn’t much power to her name. Of course any human connected to the throne of Calnor—whether it be by blood or marriage—must be bound to an elf. I suspect they’re snubbing the new princess and her siblings by binding them to us.”
“Talon!” a female cousin said, swishing the heavy skirts of her dress in protest. “How can you say that? We are relatives
of Our King Celrin, ruler of Lessa! It is not shameful to be bound to
distant relatives of our King, cousin. If we were so exalted we would have been bound as children. Tari is an Evening Star and shouldn’t even
bound but they’re doing it anyway because our next closest relatives who are not already bound are King Celrin’s direct niece and nephew,” Talon said.
“That doesn’t mean anything,” Kiva said, hugging herself. “Everyone knows Tari always
dreamed of being bound. Maybe she was selected because the elves on the selection committee are fond of her. Perhaps they chose her because she is an Evening Star. Whoever is bonded to her will be adored by us elves because of their connection.”
“It’s possible,” one of the female cou
sins said. “Kiva, isn’t your husband in the committee? And is his brother not a member of the Translators’ Circle?”
“That doesn’t change the fact that the royalty of Calnor have been
less than welcoming to the new princess, and I suspect they are using us for an ignoble purpose,” Talon said.
“Be that as it may, I’m not going to let it spoil the bonding. Let them try to snub
Her Royal Highness Princess Claire’s family. In turn we will rise to the occasion and dazzle and awe the humans even
than our already bonded kinsmen have,” Tari declared, lifting her chin.
One of Tari’s cousins chuckled. “That is quite the tall order. But you are a
n Evening Star, perhaps you can. Do you hope to be matched to Princess Claire?”
grinned. “I hope to be bound to the human I am the most compatible with.”
“I agree with Tari. As elves we
know better than to be petty. It is our responsibility to act so,” Kiva said, stepping back into the conversation. “And whomever I am matched to I shall do my best to befriend, communicate with, and honor.”
Talon straightened, this was no longer a
mere question of human politics. “Of course. The reason for the binding doesn’t matter. I will support my partner as well, and be of as much use to him as I can.”
“Of course,” Tari echoed. Her cousins fell silent as they waited to be summoned into the Celebration Hall.
In the quiet Tari brushed the soft material of her plain, white dress. The seamstresses who made the clothes for the ceremony had to rush to finish as Tari had found out a mere two weeks ago that she was to be bonded.
up to tuck a strand of her creamy, butter blonde hair back into her thick braid. As a child—the most auspicious time for a Nodusigm ceremony—Tari had hoped and wished to be bonded to a human. That was before she understood the depths of her role as an Evening Star. Now, at twenty five summers, Tari was getting her heart’s desire. She was so happy, but at the same time her heart buzzed in her mouth like a ruby throated humming bird.
Tari extended her warmest smile to her reflection and made the sign language gesture for “So pleased to meet you.”
“You’ve been practicing,” Kiva said, strolling up to her.
A few translators taught me some new gestures,” Tari said, pausing before folding her elegant elven fingers into the sign for “Help meet.”
Kiva’s smile deepened into dimples.
“You would seek to learn more. I suspect you will be great friends with the human you are bonded to. How did you part with your teacher?”
Tari froze in the middle of making the gesture for “great honor.” “Seer Ringali was a little upset, but he knew I could not refuse the selection. It is surprising
the selection committee chose me, given what Evening Stars mean to our country, but Seer Ringali felt perhaps they were planning to match me to one of Princess Claire’s sisters who won’t much come to Haven.”
Haven was the sprawling city that straddled the borders of Lessa—the country of the elves—and Calnor—their human allies.
“If she were not at Haven your attendance would not be required, freeing you to return home to Gloria and continue with your career,” Kiva nodded. “It sounds plausible. However, I must admit—I had hopes your binding would mean you would stay with my husband and me here in Haven.”
Tari flicked her eyes to look grimly at her sister, and Kiva sighed. “Yes, it is unlikely, your profession being what it is,” she said before scrunching up her nose. “But I can always dream.”
Tari smiled, and the gesture softened her sharp features. “Indeed. I always dreamed of Nodusigm, and look at us now,” she laughed, reaching out to hug Kiva.
As the two sisters embraced someone knocked on the door
that opened into the Celebration Hall.
“Are you ready?” Kiva asked, reaching out to straighten the
neckline of Tari’s dress.
“Not hardly, but I am willing,” Tari said before they fell in line with their cousins.
The elves filed out of the room, separating when they approached the immense maroon curtain that divided the platform in the front of the Celebration Hall.
The curtain blocked any sight of Tari’s future human partner—or her cousins’—but allowed a clear view of the guests.
Tari took up her position at the base of the curtain. She was standing closest to the guests, and nervously looked to the human and elf translator standing a few paces from her.
The audience murmured, glancing back and forth at the two sides of the curtain. Something seemed to unsettle them, for they talked among themselves until the elf translator started the ceremony
by banging his staff on the floor.
Tari couldn’t understand the elf
translator—he was speaking in the language of Calnor, Calnoric, but she knew he was reciting a short history of the Nodusigm ceremony.
y put, Nodusigm—the bonding of an elf to a human in a symbol of friendship—was done to honor the humans and to favor the elves.
Centuries ago the High Elves left the Continent to search for lands undiscovered and untouched. Their more fragile cousins, the Lesser Elves, knew they would be unable to survive such a journey as they lacked the major magic and
ferocity their cousins possessed. The High Elves promised to return for the Lesser Elves after establishing themselves in their new lands, but the Lesser Elves knew they would be wiped out long before their cousins’ return. The High Elves had done little to befriend the humans of the Continent and mostly fought with them, leaving humans wary of their kind. Unable to fight and wage wars like the High Elves, the Lesser Elves would no doubt be overtaken in a few decades.