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Adornments of Glory
The knife quivered in the tree trunk beside Windrover's head. He'd felt it go by, heard it hit and knew better than to move. She would be changing position and have another blade ready. If thrown, it wouldn't miss. As they said in Terran fiction, "The first shot is a warning."
"It's me, Feldspar." He should have known better than to pop in on his foster niece unannounced, but teleporting to a further spot and walking in wasn't as impressive. Planetsinger said vanity would be the death of him. At least sometimes she said that. Other times she said it would be his weight.
"Well, so it is. Okay Unc, you have my permission to faint." Feldspar's soft contralto came from his right. He'd been looking left. Yes, she was good.
"I wasn't scared."
"Liar. You also have my permission to move."
Windrover turned to face her. The grin was familiar but when she had left Capitol a year earlier she'd worn her woman's body like a nervous colt. Now she stood tall and confident, meeting his gaze with level eyes, deep and smouldering with a barely suppressed passion for life. It was a shame they had a familial relationship. He'd heard stories. Mind you, they weren't actually related. "You've become quite the beauty. Come here and give your old uncle a kiss."
She didn't walk. Rather, she flowed. Her aura was stronger than he remembered. She got closer, and Windrover shivered. Those familiar dark eyes held a glint he didn't like. She treated him to a half-smile. "I don't want to kiss you." She pulled the knife from the tree. It could have been buried in butter rather than oak for all the effort it took. "Skythane's right about you. Don'tworry, he's not here right now." Her smile had gained her mother's sardonic edge... if you could call that a "gain".
"I wasn't worried."
"Liar. Again. As usual."
"It's just I don't approve of his approach to justice and don't want to get into that old argument today."
Feldspar wiped sap off her knife. "You're right. We should discuss something else. So, what's up, Unc?"
"Can't I visit my favourite foster-niece without having an ulterior motive?"
"No." She didn't meet his eyes, instead examining the knife as if looking for spots she'd missed. "You can't breathe without an ulterior motive, and you're not side tracking me into any of your disarming chat. If all you'd wanted to say was 'hi', you could have written. But I haven't heard from you since I left Capitol."
"I've been busy." He should have kept in touch. After all, she was the Prophesied and even without a seer's talent, he knew she'd play a pivotal role in the planet's future. He just hadn't expected it to happen so soon, hadn't thought he would need her until she was older. But things hadn't gone as scheduled. "How can your old uncle make amends?" he asked.
"He can't... you're not here as my uncle, Windrover. You're here as a manipulative politico presuming on a personal relationship."
"I'm not! I'm here on Adepts Five business... recruiting for a quest." Trepidation! He hadn't meant to broach that subject so soon. Damn Skythane. Since he and Feldspar had taken up with each other Feldspar had lost her innocence.
"Yeah, everyone knows that." Apparently satisfied with the state of the blade, Feldspar slipped her knife into its sheath. Still level, and now cold, her eyes met his.
"No, they don't... not everyone. Just teasing, uncle dear. Mind you, rumour has something serious is shaking Diluvia and it's not exactly like I'm isolated." She turned her back on him and started to walk away. His eyes were drawn to her tight leather breeches... such sweet cheeks, each would be a perfect handful.
She slowed, stopped and turned to face him again. She sighed. It did marvellous things to the fabric covering her breasts. A sad shake of her head. "Most people treat me like I'm an adult in more than body. I suppose I should know better than to expect the same from you." She unclipped her com-reader from her belt. "I told Skythane to make himself scarce because I expected you to show, and he's less forgiving than me." She pressed three pads and tossed the com-reader to him. "As you can see, Planetsinger contacted me yesterday with the news. Encrypted, of course."
Windrover caught the reader but didn't bother looking at its screen. "I'm surprised she didn't just use mind-touch."
Feldspar grinned. It was the old grin, hers as opposed to her mother's sneer. "I'm sure she would have, if she could. I've been working on my shields."
"Can you teach me?" Windrover hadn't known anyone could elude Planetsinger's mental reach for long. Other than behind the ancient shields which kept the Academy sacrosanct, he certainly never'd been able to hide from his on-and-off companion.
"I'll tell her you were asking. I'm sure she'll want to know why. By the Unknown, Unc, I've missed you and your scheming belly! Whatever people say about you, no one can call you dull -- tiresome maybe, but never dull -- care to join me for dinner? There's an excellent inn in the village. They make the best chocolate cake on Diluvia."
"You're forgiving me?"
"Like Planetsinger says, you are what you are."
"I shouldn't." The cake sounded good but he was on a diet. Planetsinger claimed to be as tired of him cheating on his diet as she was of him dallying with impressionable young women. "How powerful are your shields?"
"Not strong enough to include someone of your girth, but I can make the cake look like something more wholesome."
"Your illusions are that good now?" If so, and with her improved mind defences, maybe having her lead this quest might not be as hopeless as he'd feared. Certain people would be less than pleased to learn about Feldspar's developing power, assuming he told them.
"Your confidence in me is underwhelming. My illusions have been that good since I was six. I've always known neither you nor my equally loving mother deserves anything resembling the truth."
Windrover didn't like being lumped with Bethina, or having to consider Feldspar had never been as innocent as he'd thought. Had she been deceiving him all her life or was she lying now? Then again, did it matter? She'd put him off balance and there weren't many who could do that. Choosing this girl... this woman... to lead the most critical quest since the creation of Diluvia might not be as big a mistake as he'd feared when the cursed fairy stuck its oar in and cast a decisive vote in her favour.
The roast hare had been exquisite, the best ever. Windrover wanted another.
"No." Feldspar shook her head. "I promised you dessert but other than that you've had more than enough."
She sounded all too much like Planetsinger. And he hadn't voiced his desire. "Are you developing a talent for mind-reading as well?"
"No, as the dwarves say, I'm only human. But I know you and your appetites, Unc -- like anyone doesn't. You're getting cake, as promised, you'll have to be content with that."
He could sneak back later for another hare, and maybe the luscious blonde serving wench who'd been giving him the eye. Women of all races were attracted to power. He watched his foster niece walk to the counter to get his treat. Only human? Was she? He hadn't believed it before, but speculation was Bethina broke the Compact by coercing some elf to father Feldspar, her much anticipated fifth child. Males were attracted to power too -- what else would explain his fascination with Planetsinger after all these years?
And like her or not, Bethina was powerful. Of course, anyone who'd seen Feldspar with Maramatma on one of his rare visits knew he was indeed the girl's father; her sculpted features were his, as were the deceptively gentle brown eyes. And if Feldspar's complexion was caramel rather than blue-black, which was understandable given that Bethina was an icy blonde. No, it was the "only" part Windrover questioned. Feldspar was the Prophesied, and he was beginning to think her well-noted failure to live up to her billing just might be the ultimate proof of her abilities.
Copyright © 2002 by J. Crispin-Ripley