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Authors: Dan O'Sullivan

The Fallen (Book 1) (9 page)

BOOK: The Fallen (Book 1)
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A
dark skinned guardian entered the room. He was dressed entirely in black and Danil couldn’t help noticing that he moved like a panther. Within seconds of entering the patio the guardian’s intense blue eyes had taken in every detail of the setting. He stood before Lord Tiernan and Lady Karrijeuiga and bowed his head briefly. ‘My Lord and Lady?’


Your Majesty,’ Tiernan turned to King Dannicus. ‘This guardian is Callian, General of the guardian forces. He’s a highly skilled warrior and has led our Forces for many, many years.’ King Dannicus couldn’t help but stare at the guardian. He looked to be barely twenty years of age. Callian turned to face King Dannicus and dipped his head slightly, his eyes never leaving the King’s face.


I’m honored to meet you, Majesty.’


Your Majesty,’ said Tiernan, ‘could I please ask you and Yarrabyth to inform Callian of our current situation. My Lady and I must take time now to speak to your King’s Marshall and our Lady Valeska.  We will join you again shortly.’


Valeska,’ said Karri, ‘I think every guardian in the Dwellings felt what happened earlier. Choices have consequences.’

Valeska
dropped her gaze to the floor. ‘Ní thuigim,’ she said and her voice was barely more than a whisper.


What don’t you understand?’ Karrijeuiga asked gently.


Choices have consequences. I don’t understand how he can pull such powerful emotions from within me. The love I feel for him is overwhelming. I know he’s the one.
Mo anam cara!


Your soul friend? So soon?’ Karrijeuiga looked surprised.


I don’t understand how this can happen! I have known him for so little time, but there is no doubt!’

‘You’re afraid,’ said Tiernan worriedly. ‘Tell me what you have learned about the King’s Marshall. What have you sensed in him?’

Valeska
looked at Danil. Danil lowered his eyes. He knew if he looked at her, his passion for her would be laid bare for all to see. Valeska said nothing but a look of sadness swept over her face.


Speak,’ Karrijeuiga commanded.


See? Even now he hides his beautiful heart. He’s more like us than he is human! A fell warrior to his enemies, but he finds only grief in the taking of any life. But he’s worried too. He knows as King’s Marshall his life belongs to his King. He would willingly die for his King. Yet he feels the need to protect me. I can feel his heart as though it was my own.’ Valeska’s voice dropped to almost a whisper. ‘I know he loves me and I know he’s the one. Yes, there is fear in me. It is the fear that I will lose someone I may not even be allowed to have.’

Tiernan
turned to Danil who was now staring at Valeska with open awe. Immediately, Danil sensed Tiernan’s question but now he fought against the strange feeling within his heart, not wanting his private thoughts examined. Within seconds he was calm and his face free of emotion. Tiernan sighed.


King’s Marshall, I know you are uncomfortable but I need you to open your heart. I’d rather not force you.’

Karrijeuiga
looked at Tiernan in amazement. ‘He’s preventing
you
?’

Tiernan
nodded, his eyes still fixed on Danil. Danil looked fully into the eyes of Tiernan. There was no way Tiernan was going to allow him to conceal his feelings for Valeska, so he opened his heart and allowed the strange emotions to flow freely.

 

Chapter
9

Eijelin
’s Game

 

The view from Squire Dale’s window was uninspiring. The window in his room at the back of the keep looked over the inner curtain wall to the stables and soldiers’ barracks.  The building was now referred to simply as ‘the castle’ and it retained its original stone keep and walls. It was built by Kelian’s great, great grandfather, after whom he had been named. Kelian’s great grandfather Irwin had raised a motte around the keep, leaving only the top three levels of the keep exposed, at a time when peace between Alkira and Tatharlia was nonexistent. King Dannicus had found the motte a nuisance in times of relative peace and huge iron doors now led from the courtyard through the motte into the keep. The lower level, which was referred to as ‘below’, was dark and cold as opposed to the ‘above’ levels which were at most times warm and full of light. Most nobles were housed in the rooms at the rear of the second ‘above’ level. The third level of the castle accommodated the King and Queen and the southern half was used as guest accommodation. The many rooms were each equipped with beds and washstands, and were mostly unused but all kept in a state of readiness.

Squire Dale had lived in Emerald, where he had been taken into the care of Duke Li and
Princess Elizabeth after his parents were killed in the battle of East Inlet. The Duke and Princess insisted his training include court procedures, several languages, Alkiran history and everything else they felt he would have learned from his parents, Baron Daarin and Baroness Alise. Now Duke Li had asked him to travel north with them to Castle and though Squire Dale had been eager to accompany the Duke and Princess on their travels, he wondered if the Duke had a particular purpose in taking him to meet the King. His time in Castle had been difficult, as he was unused to the city and unused to what he felt was strange and illogical behavior of the self-absorbed Squires and Pages. More than one had tried to bully him, but this behavior decreased significantly after Dale was firmly befriended by the King’s son.

He stared from the window towards the soldiers
’ barracks, thinking back over the King’s orders. There were usually hundreds of soldiers garrisoned at Castle and even with Cassic’s company escorting the Governor’s daughters, and some soldiers gone with Borgulnay, there was still a considerable number within the Castle garrison. ‘Any one of which could be a traitor,’ Dale said quietly to himself. He wondered for a moment if he was completely wrong and it was one of the castle staff. Or even a noble. That thought shook him a little and he considered how he might lay a trap of misinformation, and perhaps draw the traitor into his snare.

He sat on the window seat
allowing the breeze from the partly open window to ruffle his dark brown hair. Several senior nobles had suggested that he should have someone else cut his hair, but Dale felt this was a little vain and he had hacked it off with a knife he found in the castle kitchen. The result was a little rough, to say the least. This coupled with the fact that he felt that shaving more than every third day was pointless (annoyingly, his beard kept growing back) and that he was wearing the same crumpled clothing he had worn the previous day, gave the Squire a careless look, a look that wasn’t reflected in his dark intelligent eyes. The western sun was now pouring through the window and at this time of late winter it was pleasant. He could see it wouldn’t be so pleasant when summer came. The sun would shift across the sky somewhat, but he imagined it would still strike this window heavily as it lowered.

He smiled as he watched the K
ing’s daughter, Princess Eijelin, cup her hands for her friend Elliot and boost him atop the outer curtain wall. The children were playing on the high artificial mound raised between the walls and both obviously decided to ignore the King’s order to not run along the top of the curtain walls. Elliot reached down and grabbed the Princess’ hand and dragged her up beside him. Within seconds the two were off, nimbly avoiding guards as they ran around the wall towards the new stables which were built between the walls.

A soldier appeared as the children approached the stables. He
shook his head at the pair then disappeared inside. The two children climbed from the curtain wall onto the roof of the stable then slid over the edge of the roof. Dale winced as he watched the Princess drop to the ground. It wasn’t a long drop but within the short time he had been at Castle he had become very protective of the little Princess. Elliot gestured towards the courtyard of the castle and the two children ran through an arch in the inner wall to a small box of sand the children referred to as ‘the pit’. They leapt over the wooden edge and landed sprawled in the sand.

Dale turned away from the window
, deciding to continue his task in the castle kitchen, as it wasn’t yet time for the evening meal and he was decidedly hungry having not eaten since an early breakfast. He eased past a bunch of loud young Squires who had congregated in the hallway as though they were waiting to be told what to do. At that moment Administrator Tappy appeared with his usual frown marking his long face, and herded the junior Squires, whom he referred to as ‘the hobbledehoys’, down the hall towards the room of assembly. The junior Squires referred to him as Administrator Happy as few of them could recall the man cracking even the smallest smile. Nothing seemed to please the atrabilious Administrator, though Squire Shaw from Storm Haven swore he heard the Administrator laugh loudly one day when a stray kitten the Princess had befriended caused three Squires to trip over each other and go tumbling down a spiral staircase.

The kitchen master was
, as usual, standing at a long high bench giving orders to kitchen servants. Dale had noticed on his first visit to the kitchen that most of the kitchen staff were large jolly people, content in their work and obviously not underfed. Today was no exception.


Squire Dale!’ Kitchen Master Tolly called loudly as Dale entered the kitchen, ‘our best customer!’


Our best thief!’ contradicted Kessie, one of the kitchen servants. Dale smiled sheepishly. He had ducked into the kitchen on numerous occasions and if there were no staff in the immediate vicinity, he helped himself.


Never mind, he needs fattening,’ said Charie, noticing that the Squire looked even thinner than ever. She was a short, plump girl with pale skin and a pretty face with freckles scattered across her nose. Her almost white blond hair was hidden under a scarf, similar to those worn by most of the female kitchen staff. She opened a panty door, pulled out a tray of sticky turnovers with cooked apple inside and held the tray before Dale, knowing he had a penchant for the little pastries. Immediately he grabbed the entire tray and headed towards the door.


Don’t you dare!’ scolded Kessie, snatching the tray as Charie’s wooden stirring spoon landed on Dale’s buttocks with a sharp thwack.


I only carry this spoon so I can smack your cute little buttocks, Squire Dale,’ said Charie mischievously. Dale laughed and dodged a second blow from the spoon. He felt completely comfortable in the kitchens, particularly when Charie was there. He loved her sense of humor. He settled himself on a high stool at the bench and helped himself to one of the smaller pastries. As was his habit, he took one that had slightly burnt edges, knowing the staff wouldn’t wish to serve anything over-browned at the royal table.


What’s happening around here?’ he asked casually after a few bites of the delicious pastry.

Kitchen Master
Tolly dropped his voice to a loud whisper which couldn’t possibly have been heard more than two rooms away. ‘The King has gone to visit the Daoine Maithe.’

Squire Dale shook his head in disbelief.
‘How did you know that, Tolly?’

Tolly
didn’t answer but casually wandered through a large door at the rear of the kitchen which led into a massive storage room. ‘Squire Dale?’ His voice sounded muffled from within the room which was crowded with shelves of food and kitchen supplies. ‘We may have a problem here with rats. Could you take a look please?’ Charie and Kessie exchanged knowing glances and returned to their work. Dale hesitated, and then taking a second pastry, rose and followed Tolly into the storage room. Tolly stood at the back of the room, leaning against the wall with arms folded.


It’s an agreement we have,’ he explained. ‘If one is called into the pantry to discuss a problem with rats, then the other servants won’t intrude. We have no rats, at least not in the kitchen,’ he added.


I could arrange for some if you wish, Kitchen Master,’ said Dale, grinning at Tolly. ‘I noticed several in the stables yesterday.’


Heaven forbid, Squire!’ the Kitchen Master exclaimed. ‘It’s of Eijelin I wish to speak.’ The Kitchen Master’s entire demeanor changed. In place of the fat, jovial cook stood a serious, angry looking man. Turning away from Dale, he lifted a massive barrel from a stand and placed it on the floor, gesturing for the Squire to sit. Under the layer of fat remained a well-muscled man and right now the look on the Tolly’s face would deter any sensible person from underestimating him.


What is it, Tolly?’


I think someone is coercing her.’

Dale leapt to his feet, incensed.
‘What!’ His voice was a roar. ‘What do you mean?’


No! Not like that! Someone is persuading information from her and I don’t think she’s even aware this is happening.’

Dale sat back on the barrel, his face returning from rage to thoughtfulness.
‘How do you know this?’


I won’t betray the little Princess’ trust but I suggest you talk to her, carefully.’


You think this may be our traitor?’


Yes.’


You know who it is?’


She hasn’t actually mentioned a name so I’m not completely sure. Besides, I made a promise to a Princess. I cannot tell you about her little games, but I bet she’ll talk to you.’


I’ll need to speak to her today.’


Yes. You’ll need to speak to her before she leaves with her mother for Tarlique. They’re being taken on the Admiral’s finest, of course.’


Tolly,’ Dale said resignedly, ‘you seem to know a little more than I would have expected of a Kitchen Master. How do you know these things?’


The King and I have been the best of friends since we were lads. The King was surrounded by other nobles but
we
became friends. We’re still friends.’


Have you told any others what you know about Eijelin?’


No.’


Good.’


Once you have spoken to her, it might be a good idea to keep an eye on her, at least for a while.’


I will.’


Thank you, Squire.’


Dale.’


Thank you, Dale.’

Dale left the kitchen, stealing another apple turnover from the tray and giving Charie and Kessie a little wave of thanks as he went.  He made his way out into the courtyard where Eijelin and Elliot were still playing in the pit of sand under the speckled shade of nearby
toobada bushes. They had spent the time constructing their own sandy little keep, complete with curtain wall and a tiny barbican with a portcullis made of sticks. Dale seated himself on the wooden side of the sand pit.


It’s a good castle,’ he commented. ‘What are these little animals?’


They’re the evil ngurakin.’


And these?’ Dale pointed to a little group of round sand balls with stick legs.


Sheep,’ said Eijelin. ‘I love sheep. They’re so cute and fluffy. They’re my favorite animal. What’s your favorite animal Dale?’


Roast chicken.’


Ugh! That’s not funny!’ Eijelin chastised, as Elliot burst out laughing. ‘Really Dale! What’s your favorite? Don’t you like puppies or kittens?’


I don’t know. I never ate one,’ said Dale mischievously.


Oh Dale!’ Eijelin couldn’t help but laugh at his ridiculous statement.


Will you play with us Squire?’ enquired Elliot.


What are you playing?’


This is our castle and we have to defend it from the bad ngurakin whilst the King is visiting…er…visiting someone.’ Eijelin blushed as she touched on the conversation her father had asked her to not repeat.

Dale pretended not to notice.
‘Who shall I be?’


You shall be Jaralina, and Timbul is in love with you,’ replied Eijelin.


I can’t be a girl!’ said Dale, appalled by the very idea. ‘And how did you know Timbul is in love with Jaralina. That’s a secret!’

Elliot replied,
‘I saw him carry Jaralina to her room while she was sleeping. He had this stupid gooey smile on his face and then he kissed her but she didn’t wake up.’

BOOK: The Fallen (Book 1)
3.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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