"Well, then," said Mordreth, lowering his voice, causing Gavin to quiver even more fearfully than before. "If you don't have the information I seek, I don't have any use for you anymore. You have until tomorrow afternoon to give me the information I seek. Otherwise ... well, I'll leave it to you to imagine up what I'm planning to do." The window was slammed shut and footsteps were heard trudging away.
"You don't suppose he's going to give us seats of honor in his parade tomorrow?" asked Leo, turning to his friend. "Because that would be very fun."
"It would be, I'm sure ... but knowing Mordreth, it would be a parade to our deaths!"
"You don't say? Well, then we ought to figure out a way to escape before he has a chance to do so."
"And how do you plan to do that?"
"Haven't figured it out yet. No worries, though. We have at least twelve hours before Mordreth's parade. We should have plenty of time to figure out how to get out of here."
"Only twelve hours! Leo, there is no way to escape Briton dungeons. No way!"
"That's what they said in the dungeons in Fronce, too," said Leo, eating a bite of his gruel. "Now, be quiet while I think. And eat up! We'll need our strength. Prison food may be lousy, but it's what we have. No use complaining!"
"Dungeons in Fronce?" Gavin squeaked.
"Yes, now those were some dungeons. Be quiet."
Gavin fell silent and simply observed his friend, the look on his face (if it had been visible in that dark cell) a mixture of confusion, awe, and horror.
"You wouldn't happen to have fallen in love with any young lady who might be able to arrange a soldier to play traitor and let us go, now would you?" Leo suddenly spoke up.
"Ah, well I suppose not every young lady can be so obliging. And, then again, falling in love with them is as good a way into the dungeon as out. Now, where were we ... no, bribing the guard is out of the question. We have nothing but gruel to call our own, and I'm sure they have much better food in the soldier's quarters.
"There's no way that we'll be able to get out of here!" Gavin moaned.
"That's what you think. That's what everyone thinks. But I tell you, there's always a way out of every sticky situation. You just have to be observant and look for it." Leo frowned as he set his now-empty bowl to the side. "It's too bad that Mordreth doesn't have any pretty daughters for us to charm. Only that good for nothing Kew, and I really do not see him helping us. And Prince Arthur's gone, of course, so that's out of the question."
"If Prince Arthur were here," said Gavin, dryly, "We wouldn't be in the dungeon!"
"Good point," said Leo. "As I was saying, we could always try to steal a key and unlock the door, but that can be very tricky business, and it's very easy to get caught and then where would we be? Probably talking about death sentences some more. Honestly, I don't mind death sentences, it's all this talk of them that annoys me."
- My Kingdom for a Quest
The moment that King Harold put a sword in Jyson's hands, he felt at ease. No queens who knew more about yourself than you did yourself, or princesses who look down their noses could be master over him. Not while he held a sword.
“Well, you certainly have a good stance,” said King Harold, approvingly. “Now, let's see what you can do with it. Tomik?”
Tomik, the captain of the guard, who would soon be captain over Samul and Jyson, ran towards him, his own sword drawn. Jyson clicked instantly into fight mode, raising his sword to meet Tomik's. He spun away, and made an attack of his own, towards the legs. Tomik blocked it, but barely.
Taking a step back, he prepared for the next attack, which proved to be a jab towards the stomach. He stepped to the side, out of harm's way, and returned a jab of his own.
Back and forth they went, neither giving an inch. Jyson could tell he was wearing Tomik down, however. It would only be a matter of time …
“That is enough!”
The words cut into his concentration for only a moment, but Tomik took a step back, starting to sheath his sword. Jyson would have none of that, no one should just step down from a fight. He launched himself forward …
“I said, that is enough!” King Harold's voice thundered.
This time the words penetrated into his understanding. Almost confused, he turned to the king, unsure what to say … or even if he should say anything at all. Maybe he should see how well he could fight. How …
“Jy, put down the sword!” Samul's voice trickled in.
Jyson whirled on his cousin, who seemed almost afraid. Perfect. He took a step nearer …
“No, Jy. Snap out of it! Put the sword down!”
“Jyson son of Dular,” a third voice floated across the courtyard. A woman's voice. Queen Blanche's. It was gentle, yet commanding. He slowly turned, and saw her standing behind the fence that marked off the area that was designated for weapons practice. “Now is not the time to fight. Save your fire for the true enemy. Do not waste it now. Not with friends.”
Jyson had no choice. He dropped the sword. As it clattered to the ground, he came back to his senses. Sheepishly, he turned to the king. “Uh sorry, sire. I … got carried away.”
“You are a fighter, Jyson,” said Queen Blanche. “I expected no less of you. Your father would be proud to have a son who walks so close in his footsteps. I know …” she suddenly broke off. Jyson turned back towards her in surprise, and found that the expression she wore was now pained. “No … I mustn’t think of the past,” she whispered. “It is gone.” Her eyes fell onto her hands, which she glared at for a moment before she looked back up. “His father was very known for losing himself in a fight.”
“I know,” said King Harold, thoughtfully. “He would have made a good soldier but for the fact that he refused to take orders.”
“He never had to before,” said she.
“Well, Jyson,” said King Harold, turning back to Jyson. “I think I shall take advantage of your skills, but I do not know how well you will do as part of an army, but it is likely that you will do as poorly as your father did. It may be a while before I find a task suited to your unique talents.” He turned to Tomik. “Now, if you are not too tired, do you mind if I ask you test the skills of his cousin? I hear that he is not quite so … enthusiastic.” He bent down and picked up the fallen sword and handed it to Samul.
Part of Jyson tried to protest to this – that was his sword! – but he forced himself to stand still. The king could do whatever he wanted to. Right?
“I think I could handle another fight, now that I have my breath again,” said Tomik. “Shall we begin?” He drew his sword again.
Samul fought no worse than he usually did, and very little better. Having already had his own fight with Tomik, Jyson had already acquainted himself with the captain's fighting style, so he soon lost interest in the fight, and unconsciously drifted over towards the queen.
“You fought well.” Her voice suddenly cut into his thoughts, causing him to spin to face her again. “Do not believe for a moment that your skill escaped my notice. I have not seen such a natural fighter in a very long time … and yet your skills are unpolished. Ah, I would that I could gain for you the instructors who taught Stardrana, but I do not know if it is time for them to know of you.”
“Stardrana?” repeated Jyson. “Who's he?”
Her mysterious smile only made him more uncomfortable. “One whose future is, I have no doubt, very entwined with yours.”
“What do you mean?”
“No questions now,” said she, shaking her head. “For I am not yet permitted to give answer. Hopefully, soon, however all will make sense.” With those words, she turned, her cape billowing around her like a cloud, and walked away.
- 300 Dragons
“Nay, I shalt not bury thee nor shall I ever!” declared Doranna, staring up at the painting that sat opposite her bed. A painting of Grumadam, the Evil Enchanter, the ugliest man she had ever laid eyes on, and the worst mannered.
With a sigh, she hopped out of bed and marched over to the painting. She stuck out her tongue at the hideous man, then pulled her chalkboard over to cover him. She knew that it would only last a few hours before it rolled back again, it always did, but she hated having that man's eyes on hers … even if they were only paint.
Then she walked over and rang a bell for her servant and sighed. After 28,439 days stuck at the top of this mountain, her daily routine was starting to get a little boring … okay, maybe it wasn't starting to. It WAS boring.
“What would you like to wear today, milady?” asked Maria, entering the room.
“Oh, how about the growing chest?” she said. “I have a pretty day ahead of me, so I need something radical.”
“What dost thou plan to do?”
“Oh, read Fibonacci’s Rabbits for the one thousand and fiftieth time, discover the one hundredth twenty-third place in pi, roam the garter, talk with my birds, and, if I can squeeze it in, boredly watch as quinces try to rescue me.”
“Ah, thou dost have a busy day ahead of thee! I hope that thou mayest get it all done!”
Doranna sighed. “Well, if I get started at once, I just might!” She glanced at the mirror for a moment, trying to perfect her expression of complete and utter boredom, but instead burst into laughter. Maria soon joined her, shaking her head in amusement.
“Any other princess,” said Maria, as their mirth died down, “wouldst be in tears after spending … how long has it been? Fifty? Sixty? Seventy years trapped in a castle caught in time. But thou, Princess Doranna, thou art a wonder.”
“Seventy-seven years and three hundred and three days,” said Doranna, automatically. She sighed. “Verily, it hast been far too long. I tire of my confidence, yet my only other option is unthinkable.”
“Well, thou never knowest. Today just might be the day that thy true prince gets past the challenges frees thee,” said Maria, encouragingly.
“Aye, he could,” said Doranna, brightening for a moment. “But after all this time, I begin to think them too impossible. Even Maxie wast unable, despite his immunity to mangoes, and I wouldst have though him a true Quince. Though why he attempted my resurrection is quite beyond me, save that something happened to dear Shira.”
- "Woodcutter Quince"
Melisza was nearly giddy with excitement. “Tonight's the night!” she announced in English, as soon as Tabetha entered her room. “Tonight all of the Lilnia finally find out about us!”
Tabetha's face, as usual, registered no sign of understanding. “Where is the dress which you are to wear tonight, Dizalay?” she asked.
Her friend's stiff attitude dampened her enthusiasm. “On the bed,” said Melisza, still in English.
“Milady?” said Tabetha, in a questioning voice. “I do not understand the human tongue, as you full know. Where is your dress?”
Wincing at her slip, Melisza repeated her words, this time in elvish.
“Oh, Beth, I feel as though I am betraying you,” said Melisza, switching back to English as Tabetha began undoing the fastens on the back of the dress she was wearing. “Here I am, living in the lap of luxury, while you are a servant and little more than dirt!”
Tabetha as usual, did not respond.
“There are days when I wish we could go back to the orphanage,” she continued. “We weren't liked there … but we were friends then. We could be friends. Alistaar doesn't feel the same way … he thinks you're better off here, but … I don't know what's gotten into him. Ever since he found out that he was a Nalish, he's resented ever living among the humans, ever letting you and your brother become close.”
The fastens were all unlatched and Tabetha helped her to step out of the dress. Then the fancy ceremonial dress was pulled over her head.
“He thinks you're better off here as servants, but I …”
“We are,” said Tabetha, suddenly, though in elvish. “Don't fret for us. We have friends among the Harshia now, and our work isn't too hard.”
Melisza turned to face her friend, blinking in surprise. “But …”
“Do not let your thoughts dwell on my brother and me,” said Tabetha, shaking her head. “We are cursed Harshia, and not worth your notice. You are the Dizalay, and your thoughts must be for the bettering of the Lilnia.”
Melisza wanted to tell Tabetha that she was wrong, but the girl's face was so set, so sure. Her gaze fell to her hands as she fidgeted with the embellishments of her dress. “I just …”
“If I am not stepping beyond my place,” continued Tabetha, and Melisza caught a slight tremble in her voice. “I would ask that you please stop speaking in English. You live among the Lilnia now, and should forget the humans. Besides, it makes it harder for me to serve you.”
Melisza opened her mouth, but Tabetha had turned away. “You are ready, Dizalay. The Lilnia await your announcement.”
As if Tabetha had planned it, the door opened at that moment, and in walked Liya, all smiles. “Ah, what a wonderful day it is today, granddaughter!” she said, triumphantly. “At long last, the Lilnia will see again that Elonodi does smile upon them.”
Melisza forced a smile. “Yes, tonight.”
“Nervous, dear?” said Liya, brushing the backs of her fingers against Melisza's cheek. “I suppose that's understandable. You're not used to the crowds yet. But keep your chin up, it shan't be as bad as you think.” She turned to Tabetha, “That's all, Harshan. You may return to your quarters.”
Tabetha, who had been standing, still as a statue, hands folded in front of her, eyes fixed on the floor, snapped to attention, bowed slightly, then left the room. Melisza swallowed. Her best friend was gone for good. Oh, why did the Harshia have to be cursed?
- The New Division.