The Elven guard shows up at the Citadel
|Chapter 18 Guard of Honor
On Tuesday morening after breakfast, Pluto met with Bedelia and they began planning the walk-thru for the next day. He didn't quite know how to broach the matter of the Scarab, however, She knew what he was thinking and rather than suffer the suspense, brought him uip to date.
Last night I had the most amazing and vivid dreams of my life she told him. I saw a great warrior atop a huge steed. He was wearing a horned helmet and steam coursed through his nostrils. he removed his helm and I saw his face. He was handsome with a full and bristly beard. He smiled, tipped his head and saluted with finger tips.
Did you get the scarab to turn loose he asked when she had finished.
What do you suppose it means she asked. I never had a dreams like that one?
Did you try wiggling it back and forth he answered?
Are you listeniening to me she asked.
Huh? he answered.
Yes, I tried wiggling it and it was to no avail. If anything it has burroughed even deeper. Her tone was sharp.
I just asked he replied. You don't need to get upset....I'm sure we'll get some results in the next couple of days.
She exhaled, exhasperated. The euphoria of first love was beginning to give way to more realistic semtiments.
Don't be mad at me he told her.
I'm not mad she replied... and not knowing where to go next, changed the subject.
On Saturday Martha and Giles spent the day together. They walked in the park down a trail of incredible natural beauty next to a stream where they made picnic. Martha had brought a basket and they ate a light lunch of sandwiches, fruit and wine. That afternoon they took a row boat down the river. That night they had dinner.
“What a wonderful day Giles.”
“It was absolutely enchanting.”
“Must it end?”
“I promised to have you home early.”
“Don’t feel bound by it.”
“I gave my word.”
“I wish you hadn’t.”
“Let the happiness linger.”
“It sets on my hopes.”
“To rise again tomorrow.“
“When I'll welcome the dawn.”
That evening Climatus and her husband sat in bed. It was their habit that before going to sleep they spent time recounting the day. Since much of what her husband was involved in was considered proprietary...his wife usually did most of the talking
I got a message from my sister.
What did she have to say?
Here, she said handing the scry-velum to her husband.
Sounds serious he said handing it back. When are you leaving.
End of the week she answered. I’ll keep you posted. Maybe Trilla is overreacting.
Doesn’t sound like it….I’m going to miss you Honey.
And I’ll miss you too
Have you thought about taking Pluto?
That’s an idea…although he’s become quite attached to Bedelia.
Won’t be a problem…. She’s on her way to Nirvana. The beacon we have there now is fading.
He’s never met my mother.
Then by all means take him. He has a bedside charm and I’m sure Miranda will love him to death. Plus its time he got out and saw a little bit of the world.
I’ll ask and see what he thinks.
After, Orin and Lilith had left for work, Liope and her mother were sitting in the kitchen, when there came a knock at the back door. Cateyln went over and looked through the peep hole. It was Silas. Cate ushered him in and he bowed to Liope, looking furtively about, to see if anyone else was present.
"There’s only Liope, and me;" said Cate, "If that’s what you’re wondering. You can sit in the shadow of the staircase if you're a mind to"
He took a stool, went over beneath the staircase and sat down.
"How are things coming at the Citadel?" inquired Liope.
"You wouldn’t believe what Spatch has accomplished in such a short period. They’ve framed the roof on the Great Hall and shingled two more. The old Garrison House is thatched and the windows have frames. So is one of the barracks along the inside wall. The cisterns are calked and awaiting water from the Viaduct. The kitchen will have its roof and windows in a day or two."
"Things are moving right along," noted Liope.
"Yes, and later this morning, Orville is going to do an initial test of the viaduct. Perhaps you'd like to be there to see it happen."
“We’d like that." said Cateyln. Liope nodded in agreement.
"Anything else to report?" asked Cate.
"Yes, my lady, a small matter, but one that troubles me personally. As you know, I'm a fugitive from the Emporium and they have a price on my head. Two of your Eleven acquaintances have been checking up on me, asking questions, here and about. If word of my presence gets back to Emporium, my life will be in grave peril."
"I should have expected as much. Are the two Elves who are making inquiry named Varnack and Albiano?"
"Yes my lady."
"I'll see to it, they trouble you no more."
"My gratitude goes deep. Can I be expecting you then at the Citadel, say eleven o’clock?"
"We'll be there."
Standing up he bowed low, stepped back and was gone in a heartbeat.
"We need to get a handle on what those two are telling The Council. Look yonder at that Elf by the corral. He’s monitoring us, sure as the world. I think we need to speak with our two 'acquaintances.'"“
I'll tell the Elf to go get them," said Cate, "It might be a good idea to have Uta here too."
Cateyln went outside and spoke briefly to the surveillance; then was off to the Inn. In half an hour, she had returned and the four were seated at the Kitchen table.
"It seems to me, began Liope, taking the lead, that there's much going on, that's being passed to others, while we're being left out of the loop. The Witches keep a low profile here in the valley, but if you think for a minute we’re not in charge then you're sadly mistaken. Up to now, there's not been a conflict of interest between men and Elves but I find it annoying that you're beginning to operate around here like you own the place."
"Is there something in particular that brought this on?" asked Varnack.
"I'll get to that soon enough but first let me speak in broader terms. Ever since the High Pasture incident there's been an influx of Elves in numbers never before seen. They are everywhere, being reported at Dead End, here in Middletown, along the river, and on the Western border. They can be seen camped under trees, cooking in the open, not to mention evidence everywhere of voided feces and urine. We have to get this under control. The last thing we need reported to the Emporium is that a large Elven presence has shown up in the Valley."
"We couldn’t agree more," said Albiano.
"Further," continued Liope, "there's all this sneaking and nosing about evidenced by a constant stream of mind messages being sent to that omnipotent Council of yours. I want you to tell me what's going on before you start blabbing everything to them."
"We aren’t trying to keep anything away from you," said Varnack. "I'm sure the Council has no objections to telling you first.
"Well, that's reassuring," replied Liope; Now returning to the specific, it’s been reported that you're now surveiling and asking questions about Silas Goldman. I want that to stop at once. Do I make myself clear?".
"If you're knowledgeable of his background and dealings, then your vouch-safe is all we need. He turned up out of nowhere and abruptly established a bank in town. That's not the sort of thing we just pass off with a shrug. We'll distance ourselves from his banking and dealings with the trade guilds. However…"
"We're only taking these measures for the good of everyone. You don't have the resources we do....resources that are already employed in insuring your safety and the welfare of everyone in this valley. If word gets out about what's going on here, we can expect visitors of the most unwelcome kind."
"Well...while we might not have your resources, we know this valley better than you ever will. However, to be fair, I acknowledge the capabilities you have and appreciate in spirit what you're doing. However, we need to start working more together... you know, the right hand knowing what the left is doing?"
"We applaud that and will support any idea or initiative that will serve our mutual needs. Simply tell us what you want and we'll do it."
"Now that’s encouraging," replied Liope, "seems like we're starting to make some progress. So, to start things off on the right foot, there's something we can do for you. As you're noticed we're refurbishing the Citadel. I intend for it to be a place where the Elves can be quarted without filling up the town and surrounding forest. There we can set up an office to oversee our security interests. A good beginning would be for Orphious, our Magistrate, and whoever you wish to assign, to move in together. Ask Silas to give you some office space. There I expect to be told what's going on. I'll make it a habit to drop by after breakfast."
"If you'll tell your magistrate, I’ll work out the details from our end and see to it you're kept informed."
With that, the meeting broke up. Varnack and Albiano went their way leaving Uta, Cateyln and Liope seated at the table.
"We had best be getting along if we hope to reach the citadel by eleven," said Cate.
With that, they went outside and headed down the road. Fifteen minutes later, they rounded the bend and the Citadel loomed before them. They crossed the moat, over the drawbridge, and passed through the high arch and into the courtyard. The interior was abuzz with activity and an amazing amount of work had been accomplished in a short time. The framework of the huge canopy was in place over the Great Hall. Inside massive timbers were being set in place to define the floor above the cellar and the three stories overhead. The first was the Great Room which had once been the seat of power. It was an impressive space where justice pageantry and ceremony once took place. Above that were the suites where the witches and their husbands once lived. The top floor stood below the canopy and was used for dining and relaxation. It was open to the parapets with a commanding view of everything within a ten-mile radius.
At four locations around the hall, were cisterns designed to collect rainfall in times of siege. In times of peace the cisterns were served by the viaduct that brought water from the glacier. At that moment, Orville stood atop the wall where the arch entered. He was excited and called out...
"Here it comes here it comes…. The water's coming down the slipway."
...And sure enough there came first a trickle and then a small stream. Most of it seemed to be lost as it leached out the sides and through the bottom, but enough made it through to begin filling up the cisterns. Everyone gathered around these, scooping it up, delighting in the chill, splashing it on their faces and drinking deeply of the cold glacier waters.
"I think that's the most amazing thing I've ever seen," said Cateyln.
"It’s a marvel beyond words." seconded Liope.
The walked over and joined the crowd of workers gathered around the troughs and delighted in the joyful and festive mood that swept the courtyard. At length the supervisions got everyone back to work and Silas took them on a tour of the construction. They were almost finished, when suddenly all activity ceased and a hush fell over the ramparts. Through the arch came a section of Elven soldiers, marching at the double-time, to the baritone of their leaders' cadence.
Detail halt!", commanded the imposing Elf. They all stopped in unison. " Right face." The line pivoted to the right. " Parade Rest!" Their shields dropped to one side and their pikes extended on the other. The leader looked about and one of Varnack's elves went up to him and spoke in a low voice, gesturing towards Liope and her mother. The two caught his eye and the old warrior glided over, as if still on review, stopping before Liope and taking a knee.
"I'm True Axe, commander of your Guard of Honor. Are you Liope, First Witch of Nirvana, Queen of Light and Darkness?"
Liope looked over at her mother, inquiringly. Everyone was watching and their ears were attentive.
Hecate shook her head in disbelief and nodded affirmatively to her daughter.
"I am." said Liope.
"Yonder are my warriors," said True Axe, "who've served Cisteria, faithfully, some for over three hundred years. We're here to give you homage and swear our allegiance. We serve at your pleasure, to do your bidding and provide safeguard to your grace and family.”
Taking her hand he led her over in front of the formation and nodded his head. Pikes and shields fell to the cobblestones in unison, to a sound of crashing metal and falling spears. Then, as one, the soldiers took a knee. There was a pause as everyone stood in awe beholding the spectacle. At length, True Axe spoke up, in loud voice so all could hear.
"If you would be so gracious my lady… We've come a long way and would be honored if you would allow each of us to touch your burden."
Liope started and Cateyln sucked in her breath, her hand reaching up to her mouth.
"Have I spoken out of turn?" True Axe inquired, noticing the shocked looks of everyone standing about. He had not expected such a reaction. Graciously Liope smiled at him, stepping up close.
"Not at all Captain," she answered and took his hands, placing them on her stomach.
She looked into his eyes and felt the strong emotions that were hidden from his face. Into his awareness, swept a goodness, incredibly sweet, mingled with an evil, dark and foreboding. He struggled to reconcile the two and a tremor passed through him. Abruptly she took his hands away and he breathed a sigh of relief. Recovering his presence, he took her hand once more and they walked to the end of the formation. Then before each warrior they paused. Liope would take their wrists and facilitate a laying on of the hands. In each instance she noted the same effect and heard the sucking intake of their breath. For the Elves it was a moment never to be forgotten, akin to a religious experience. After fourteen repetitions, True Axe took her hand once more and returned to the front of the line.
"Do you wish to make address?" he asked.
"Yes." replied Liope, with a surprising composure.
"I 'm honored this day, not just by the presence of this Honor Guard but also by the fine work done by everyone to help return Nirvana to a semblance of the glory it once knew. I pledge to each of you that I’ll dedicate my life to your service and the welfare of your families."
When she concluded, True Axe kissed her hand and escorted her back to where her contingent stood waiting. Everyone shifted about nervously not knowing exactly what to say or do,... they were still in a state of shock over what they'd witnessed.
"We need to go now," said Liope. "I need to speak to Orin before all hell breaks loose."
"All right Pumpkin, agreed her mother, "I think the time has come to share the good news."