Authors: L. Filloon
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © by L. Filloon
All Rights Reserve
- Olivia Tovey
Cover Art by Char Adlesperger @
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A special thanks to the following:
, for your unrelenting support and encouragement. I could not have done it without you. I love you.
, for the foresight to see what I could not see and threaten to kick my butt if I did not see it
! Love you, Sis.
C. Tuaula Faiai and Afatia Teofilo Leota
, for seeing past the flaws and loving me anyway all these many years. I love you both so very much.
For Afatia Christina
~ * ~
I stay hidden behind the young tallow wood, breathing in her fragrance and thanking her for the cover. Since coming back to Pathen I have put my senses on high alert and discovered either I am being followed or I have hit the apex of paranoia. A day after I stepped through the doorway I knew someone or something came through after me – someone or something that doesn’t belong in this realm.
It took me three days to
find Marilyn’s sister’s house in York and another three days just watching from afar. Since I found the place there have been no signs of anyone being home. A server at the cafe in town told me that the nearest hospital for the kind of treatment that Marilyn’s sister needs is back in Perth. Crap. Without much money, I had to hitchhike or stow away on trucks or do the elf mode thing on foot. But I found out quickly how much speeding on foot drains my energy.
or the hundredth time since I arrived, I contemplate sneaking into the house and wait for them inside. But what if the info my mom gave me is wrong? What if I’m at the wrong house?
I lean back against the tree, sighing.
What would Tharin do? I close my eyes and let Tharin fill my thoughts...again. Mom said things are sometime not what they seem and she seems to give Tharin the benefit of the doubt. So why can’t I? Because the sight of Kalis’ hand moving along his arm while naked in bed hurts me, that’s why. There are times when I think of him he feels so close to me, like I can almost feel his touch. Other times he seems distant and I only feel his reaction to
feeling of being followed hits me again and I shrink into my coat. My coat, the one Tharin gave me in what feels like a life time ago. I hug it to me tightly in hopes of keeping the fear at bay – because when I think of my pursuer, the face I see is Harlu’s. And like all the other times when I think of him, my mind replays the scene in the queen’s garden when he attacked us and kill Milina. And each time it happens Tharin invades my thoughts chasing away the evil that is my brother. With Tharin’s face comes a sense of peace and I calm and think straight again. That is until the vicious cycle of that night starts all over.
Shaking myself to the present
, I slip from behind the tree. I take another look at the house situated across from the park where I have set up my vigil. Screw this, I’m going in. At least I can sleep on a sofa instead of the hard ground as I have done the past few nights. If they are back in Perth I can wait until their return. The only thing that worries me is why they are not home. Maybe Marilyn’s sister has turned for the worse.
The morning light
is coming fast. I have to make a move now to use what shadows are left. I scan the area for the hundredth time and gauge the distance. I will be out in the open until I make it across the street where a neighbor’s jeep is parked. I concentrate on the jeep, keeping my breath in check and within seconds I’m leaning against the vehicle. I make my way to the back of the car and stare at the house; no lights, not even the porch light is on. It’s been like this for the past three nights. I spy the gate to the back yard and make that my next stop. I take a breath, focus on the house...I’m through the gate, closing it behind me. I lean against it giving myself a second to catch my breath.
I scan the
area quickly. It is a pretty big backyard with a full grown mango tree in the middle of it. Its leafy top decorated by low hanging fruit causes my mouth to water instantly. Beneath it is a small round table with two chairs. The yard is fenced in by a tall wood fence and lined with a variety of flowery bushes, including several tall rose bushes. The fragrance from the surrounding flowers is intoxicating and I breathe it in deeply. As lovely as the backyard scenery is, it’s also dangerous. The shadows are still too deep for my liking and I move along to the back porch steps. I glance around one last time before quickly, and as quietly as I can, make my way up the steps to the back door. I try the knob...locked.
I peer through the window next to the door, trying to see beyond the curtains. I can make out the kitchen area
; the sink is under the window and across from the sink is the fridge with the stove next to it. The wallpaper is some kind of floral design and in the dark it looks dingy and tan. There is a table next to the fridge with three chairs and I can make out a room that opens up into what looks like a living room. I try to look to the opposite side from the table when a shadowed figure passes a doorway near the stove. I quickly pull back, my heart in my throat.
Oh, God...they found me, which means they found J
ulia and Marilyn. What if they are inside being held captive? What if they have been tortured and are dying? My feet ache to take off, slip through the back gate and run as far as I can. But my concern for Julia and Marilyn keeps me in place. I can’t leave without knowing first if they are okay or if they are even here. I close my eyes, mustering what courage I have and peek through the window again. The small kitchen area seems even more deserted than before. I quickly move to the other side of the window and look toward the open door area where I saw the shadowed figure...nothing. I move back to the door and place my hand on the knob but hesitate.
Someone is standing on the other side of the door. I can feel him. I step from the door slowly. I hold
my breath and retreat as lightly as possible toward the porch steps. When the knob slowly turns, I am down the steps and running for the gate. I picture the backyard gate in my mind and focus on getting there. Once I feel the wood gate, I quickly open it to only shut it again. Crap.
I turn, leaning against the gate shutting out
who waits for me across the street at the park. But in turning from the threat outside, I come face to face with the shadowed figure towering over me. In a blink of an eye his hand is over my mouth, holding me in place – and, to my shock and surprise, my blade is at his throat, holding him from leaning any closer than he already is.
I look into familiar eyes but my adrenaline is on high gear and my blade remains at his throat. Alorn slowly wraps his hand around my wrist and
gently pulls it downward. I let out a hard breath and with it I go limp against him, letting him wrap his arms around me. He holds me until I stop shaking and then gently pulls me back, looking at me until our eyes lock. He nods slowly and I nod back taking a deep breath, pulling myself together. I move to the side as he opens the gate and peeks out. When he closes it again, stares at me with his usual unreadable face and winks, easing the last of the tension from me.
We’ll have to find another way out of here,”
his calm thought slips into my head.
What about Julia and Marilyn? Are they okay?”
takes me by the hand and we head toward the other side of the house. As we cross the garden he answers,
“I don’t know, Lily. I just arrived about an hour ago and found the place empty. It looks like there hasn’t been anyone here for days. I didn’t know if you had already arrived and was going to wait until later this morning before heading back to Perth.”
I stop in my tracks, tugging at his hand.
“Alorn, I can’t leave without them. And I’m not going to leave them to what’s waiting in the park.”
I think of the five figures standing like shadowed statues among the trees. They are so still that in the dim light of the early hour, they seem part of the tree line. Although I couldn’t see their faces, one of them I know even under the cover of night...Harlu. I can feel him; I know his aura and he knows mine. Automatically I reach for my blades, something I notice I have done since leaving Velesi as if the feel of them gives me a sense of security.
I shake myself
, focusing my attention on Alorn again.
“Please, I have to know they’re okay.”
Lily, haven’t you been listening? They aren’t here. We have to go...now.”
I’m sorry, you’re right,”
I answer, flustered by my fear for their safety.
pulls me after him. At the end of the fence we come to a stop as Alorn looks through an opening along the fence. He turns, scanning the yard and says,
“Not good. There’s only two there now, which means they will be here any second.”
As if to confirm his
suspicion, we hear movement inside the house. They must have come through the front door. Alorn pulls me after him again and we make our way to the corner, hidden behind the tall hyacinth bushes, melting into the shadows.
Damn it, this won’t do,”
he says, looking past the mango tree toward the closed gate.
My eyes follow his
and an idea hits me. It’s a long shot, but we don’t have any other options available. I step forward looking at the mango tree, searching for the connection I need. There, up in the large branches the young dryad stares back at me, large brown eyes and hair the color of ripe mangos. She doesn’t move or speak, just waits. I lift my hands up to her and quietly call for the elements to come to me. I let my mind and will go forward and up, seeking the dryad; giving her a peek at my heart, at my soul so that she knows I am one of her kind, a part of her circle in the hands of the Mother. She resists my urges at first, but gradually, as I watch her young face, a smile slowly appears. I feel Alorn step up behind me, his hand at my back to stay connected. The branches of the tree grows thicker, fuller and longer – long enough to touch the ground. I look around and know we are now within the protection of the tree and safe for the moment. I look up at Alorn and he nods – a look of surprised approval in his eyes.
back to the mango tree only to be startled by the dryad standing inches from me. She stares up at me with curiosity and wisdom beyond her young looks.
I am Si’i,” she greets. With the exception of the color of her hair, she is identical to Asi, the first dryad I met back in Las Vegas. I smile and give her a bow.
Welcome, Lilianethia, queen of the Willow, future queen of the Oak, and soon to be queen of the Velesi realm.” She lowers her head and bows deeply before me.
Thank you, Si’i, for answering my call,” I say. “This is Alorn. He is cousin to Prince Tharin and Prince Tolan.” Alorn steps forward, giving a slight bow.
’i looks at Alorn briefly before stepping to the side to peer behind us as if expecting someone else. “Where is Phoris?”
Her question hits me in the gut and I feel Alorn stiffen beside me. I look at him expe
cting him to answer and when it is clear that he won’t, I turn to Si’i, saying, “Phoris is no longer with us, Si’i.”
She nods but doesn
’t follow through with her inquiry of Phoris. Instead, she smiles up at me. “It is all right queen of Velesi,” she answers. “I will see him eventually. Come, you are welcome to stay in my thela until it is safe for you to leave.”
Thank you,” I reply as we follow her to the trunk of the mango tree. Within seconds we are inside the spacious, but seemingly unfurnished, thela. I watch as Si’i slowly sweeps her hand across the empty space and as she does, the room transforms into a small living area with furniture made of wood. Two dimly lit panswas hang close by. On a small table in front of a sofa is a large bowl of, what else, mangos. I don’t remember ever noticing a fragrance from mangos before, but I can smell the sweet meat of the fruit and my mouth starts to water. As hungry as I am, I wait along with Alorn to be invited. In my short time in Velesi, I have learned their ways and a few of their customs.
“Please sit and help yourself to some fruit,” offers Si’i.
’t long before Alorn has skinned a mango for me and hands me sliced pieces of the juicy, ripe fruit. Without thinking, I pull out one of my blades and spear a piece, taking a savoring bite. Mangos never tasted so good. As for Alorn, he cuts off a large side slice of his mango, eating it whole, skin included. As we eat, I notice Si’i has disappeared. I look questionably at Alorn but he shrugs and continues eating.
off my fruit and as I reach for my cup of water I nearly jump when Si’i reaches out first, handing it to me with a smile. She sits before us on the floor and she laughs at my reaction; the sound of her laughter is like lilted notes from a forgotten song. I find myself laughing with her.
Alorn breaks in somberly
. “Do you know who follows us, little sister?”
Yes, Warrior, I do,” answers Si”i. She turns to me. “Your brother seeks you out this day. He believes you to be alone and is unaware the First Greaneth has found you. He seeks a way to take you for his own without you having to marry Prince Tharin.”
I shake m
y head. “It’ll never happen.”
You’re damn right it’ll never happen,” adds Alorn, his face hard.
’i stares back at Alorn and says, “You may have your hands full then, Warrior. Harlu has obtained the service of someone from your past, someone just as dangerous as you are.”