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By Dawn Mckelvey
Partridge AfricaCopyright © 2015 Dawn Mckelvey
All rights reserved.
324th year of the Second Age:
Aeval, the queen of Faylinn, lay on her back in agony. She had heard the pain of birth was far worse than she would know, she did not believe her companions. She regretted not asking for the numbing potion before giving birth to her newborn. It felt as though her innards were splitting open to release a new faerie into the world. She was overcome with the excitement of giving life to another. She wondered what species of faerie her infant would be. She was a Falco but her late husband, rest his gentle soul, was a Columba. She could not wait to see what her little baby would be. She was so concerned on the gender and species of her infant that she did not prepare herself for the intense pain that was to come. It felt to her as though her pelvis would break in two. Her body broke out in a sweat from the effort of pushing out the infant. Not only from such an effort but also the intense pain her fragile body endured. She squealed and clutched tightly to the hand of one of their nurturers whilst another assisted the infant in finding its way into the world. Her heart broke for her husband who could not be there to witness something as beautiful. The war with the woodland elves had made sure of that. She had hoped her husband was there in spirit to see their child take its first breath. She silently cursed him in her head for putting her through such agony. One final push would release the infant from the comfort of her body. The poor thing, for inside of her was all it knew. It would see the world for the first time and had to adjust to its surroundings. She would help the helpless newborn and protect it with her life. She cried in relief as the sound of its wails reached her ears. She laid her head back against the headboard of her bed. The nurturer smiled up at her as he held the crying newborn in his arms. It had not been cleaned but she did not care, she held out her arms to hold her newborn. The nurturer smiled and cut the cord that still attached the infant to its mother. She could not help but feel saddened that the attachment to her newborn had been severed. That feeling dissipated as quickly as it had formed after she laid eyes on her baby girl. Tears of joy rolled down the cheeks of the queen of Faylinn. The unconditional love she felt for the little squirming newborn was unfathomable. She held the scared newborn to her chest and cooed at her to calm the baby girl. She whispered that the little newborn would never have to be afraid again, the queen would protect her. She thought how tiny the little faerie was in her arms. Her heart almost leapt from her chest as the little hand of her baby wrapped around her finger. Her beautiful little girl looked her in the eye and ceased her wriggling. Aeval thought that nothing in the world could ever have made her feel more special. That little faerie knew who her mother was and proved it to her. She smiled down at the newborn in her arms and wriggled her held finger. One of the nurturers stood beside her and smiled at both the queen and the new little princess.
"Have you thought of a name for her yet, Majesty?" He asked.
"I have," Queen Aeval laughed, "Lorelle is a well suited name for such a beautiful newborn."
936th year of the Second age:
I was only a curious child then. I did not understand that I was different to my mother, the queen. I did not understand why my wings were different to hers. Hers were different shades of brown and so big that they dragged behind her. To me she was the most beautiful woman in the world. She always told me I looked more like my father than her. I remember this upset me because I wanted to look just like her once I was full grown. She had perfect blue-black ringlets that cascaded down to the middle of her back; her pale skin complemented the color. Her eyes were twinkling pools of blue with a touch of brown spots in the middle. The curve of her face was firm and gave her very set features. Although the only thing different about her was her pointed, pixie nose. Otherwise she had perfect almond shaped eyes and full, crimson lips. I remember running to her with a butterfly cupped in my little hands whilst she was getting ready for a function. I never understood why she would dress up every few months. It was all a game to me, as it is to all young children. She laughed at my enthusiasm and bent low so I could look her in the face.
"Butterflies are the beauty of the world," she told me, "they are fragile and very playful. Just like you, my little starlight."
I remember she then hoisted me up against her hip, even in her extravagant gown, and took me to the balcony to release the butterfly. The two of us watched as it fluttered away into the world. I wriggled out of her arms and bolted after it, hoping I might see where its home was. My wings were still a bit too heavy for me and caused me to trip over my dress. One of the nurses chuckled and picked me up, placing me on my feet again. As soon as my feet touched the ground I was off after the butterfly once more. I just really wanted to see where the butterfly went home to. When outside something distracted me, as all things do for children. There was a larger mountain among the others. I wondered why that particular one was bigger than all the rest. A little mouse skittered over my toes as though it tempted me, so I chased it. My nurse caught me before I could catch the mouse and dressed me in my party dress. A sweet little pastel pink gown with little lace frills in the skirt. She pulled my wild auburn tresses into a reasonable braid and finally, after a vicious struggle, managed to put matching pink shoes on my feet. I hated wearing shoes and how they pinched my toes. Once I was cleaned and dressed in my fancy dress, my nurse led me to my mother and her grownup friends. I raised my arms for her to pick me up. She smiled down at the gesture and obliged. I played with the loose strands of her up hairdo, thinking that maybe her handmaids forgot about them. I took her face in my hands regardless of her speaking with her older friends, thinking my question was more important than what they were talking about.
"Ma, why is there a bigger mountain than all the other mountains?" I asked in complete innocence.
I could not understand why her happy face suddenly turned grim. I wondered if I had done something wrong and my heart began to race. I did not want her mad at me whether I understood why or not. She noticed my frightened expression and her own softened.
"Because a scary, old dragon lives on that mountain. I don't ever want you going to that mountain, dragons are not very friendly." She explained, "Here we can protect you from that nasty dragon."
She then growled and tickled my sides, inevitably making me squeal in delight. I forgot all about that mountain. I was scared that if I went to the mountain that my mother would be upset with me. The last thing I wanted to do was upset her. My whole childhood revolved around my mother and how much I loved the woman. My curiosity of the world was vast and I had to make friends with at least one of every species in Faylinn. There were five different species of fae folk. There was the Colubris, Columba, Cygnus, Falco and Pavo. I was known as a Colubris because I had wings that resembled those of a hummingbird. Fae folk were classified based on what their wings looked like. The Columba had the wings of a dove, the Cygnus had the wings of a swan, the Falco had the wings of a falcon and finally the Pavo had the wings of a peacock. Each had their own personality traits that majority of them took on. But I only learned that at an older age.
104th year of the Third Age:
I sat on the brim of our sculptured fountain settled right in the middle of our palace's courtyard. I stared at my reflection in the water, resting my head on my hand. The only thing I inherited from my mother was her pointed, pixie nose. Maybe the set curve of her face as well but even that was a different shape. Her face was longer whilst mine was rounder and more firm. My lips were not as full as hers and my eyes looked Eastern. Even my complexion was different to hers. Mine was a darker, olive tone and she was as pale as parchment. Her hair was a blue-black color and curly whilst mine was auburn and fell in wild waves to my lower back. Even our choice in clothing was different. She chose long, extravagant gowns whilst I chose shorter, less extravagant dresses. I still hated wearing shoes but I covered my feet in silk straps that I wrapped around my long legs. I was disappointed that I did not grow to look like her. Although, there was one thing I admired about myself that my mother did not have. My wings were a beautiful emerald green with tints of blue and purple and my outer feathers were a darker green at the tips. True hummingbird wings on the back of a faerie.
"Admiring yourself in the reflection again are we, Lorelle?" My best friend, Cathen, teased.
She was a Pavo. It was not uncommon that a Pavo and a Colubris would become friends. The species had a lot in common with each other and got along better with each other than the other species. I stuck my tongue out at the other faerie as she perched herself beside me. I thought she looked magnificent. Her wings were such a deep royal blue and the patterns on the tips of her wings resembled big, round eyes. I was envious of her wings and she was envious of mine. Her hair was a very odd color, although it complemented the color of her wings. The best way to describe it would be a very light gold color. Almost white but had a gold tint in it. The waves that fell to her lower back were tamer than my own. She had a paler complexion that suited the royal blue. Her features were softer than mine and somewhat dainty. She reminded me of a porcelain doll with her long lashes and round, sky blue eyes. I loved that faerie; she was my one and only best friend. She meant more to me than she ever knew. She was my sunshine on a rainy day. That was mostly because of her frivolous personality. There was never a dull moment around that particular faerie. We did almost everything together. People would make fun of the two of us and say we were attached at the hip. I never went anywhere without Cathen at my side. She would tell me our souls were born sisters separated at birth. I believed her. I trusted her. I was taken from my thoughts by the very faerie I thought of.
"Now I see you're off in your own world as well." She pestered, "I'll just go on my own and terrorize the mermaids."
"They'll try to drown you ... again, if you terrorize those mer folk." I warned her, "Why don't we do something more constructive?"
"But watching a mermaid flap her tail and try to get back into the water is constructive, and very funny."
I opened my mouth to object to her statement but I simply could not. Instead I laughed and shook my head at her. One could not go against Cathen's word; if one had that one would sorely regret doing so. She always had something to retaliate with and never faltered. Not once. She leapt off of the fountain and stood before me with her wings raised and her hands on her hips.
"So if we shouldn't terrorize the mermaids, which I highly recommend we should do, what do you suggest we do to keep ourselves entertained?" She asked, "Bury our noses in old books, catch unicorns and ride them, race through the forest trees and waken the woodland creatures, attempt to capture a kelpie and make it eat reeds or sit and have afternoon tea with your mother?"
"What about all of the above? We have afternoon tea with my mother to soothe over before she finds out the things we did before." I proposed.
"Sounds like a plan."
We exchanged grins and spread our wings, making for the forest.
That afternoon we invited my mother to afternoon tea on my terrace. Of course, being a purebred socialite, my mother accepted in a heartbeat. I made sure to choose her favorite berry and chamomile tea. It soothed her both physically and mentally. I smiled sweetly as I poured the tea in her delicate china cup and watched as she tilted her head to the setting sun. Cathen and I exchanged devious smiles before she looked at the two of us. I offered her a sweet lemon cake to go with her berry and chamomile tea. Her green and gold gown glittered in the late afternoon light. Her pale skin reflected the light of the sun and it seemed as though she was glowing. I was envious of my mother's infinite beauty. She had no flaws and the only wrinkles she possessed were the little creases created at the corners of her eyes when she smiled. As though she were reading my mind, her eyes locked with mine and her lips formed a sly smile.
"I hope you are not treating me with such pampering because you mean to turn my thoughts from what the two of you have been up to?" She queried.
"Oh, no, you're Majesty! Princess Lorelle and I simply thought you needed time to relax, time to yourself and your daughter and enjoy the beautiful sunset. Just look at that breathtaking view!" Cathen stated.
My mother tilted her head forward and covered her mouth as she laughed. I knew that she knew what we had been up to. Nothing happened in Faylinn without the Queen knowing about it. She rather enjoyed the company of Cathen. As I have said before, there was never a dull moment when Cathen was involved.
"So you have not been terrorizing the mermaids, chasing unicorns, disturbing woodland creatures and trying to make kelpies eat their own reeds?"
Cathen lifted her chin proudly and shook her head, folding her arms over her chest.
"You have been fed lies, you're Majesty! We have been nowhere else but the library with our noses buried deep within those interesting, old books. Now we're having tea with you; and that was our day." She insisted.
My mother quirked her brow and turned her gaze to me. I sipped my tea and looked everywhere else but in her eye. She knew I could not lie to her. Cathen then kicked me from under the table; my best friend knew me as well as my ma.
I placed my cup on the table and looked my mother directly in the eye, as collected as I could.
"She's correct. We've been in the library all day. You should get better informants." I agreed.
My mother then leaned back against her chair, something that was very uncommon for her to do, and folded her arms. She knew she would not win the fight against two young faeries with the ambition not to get into trouble. She fixed her posture as soon as one of her handmaids walked out onto the terrace. The faerie had a grim expression so we knew the news she bore was not good. My mother drank the last of her tea, kissed my temple and followed the handmaiden. Cathen gazed after them with a frown upon her dainty face. It was unusual to see such an expression on such a free spirited faerie.
"What do you think it could be?" I asked, "To be so gy."
"I don't know, but I don't like how that handmaid looked. I think we should do a little eaves dropping." Cathen said, her frown turning to a look of determination.
I knew it was a terrible idea to eavesdrop on a conversation of the queen, but curiosity was a ghastly thing. We crept behind my mother and her handmaid to my mother's chambers. The door was coincidently left ajar. We hid against the wall and tilted our ears to the conversation going on inside. The hushed tone of the handmaid frightened me. Whatever news she had for the queen, it was not to complain about mine and Cathen's behavior. I moved to stand behind the door and pressed my ear to the wooden plank. We had not gotten the beginning of the conversation, but just enough to understand what was being spoken of.
"Has anyone had sight of the beast?"
"So how can we be certain that it is the creature?"
"People near the mountain have been feeling the presence. That feeling has been growing stronger. What ... will we do if it is the dragon?"
"Dragons have not been seen for almost two thousand years. But if it is the beast, we should pray we do not disturb it. Now, we should cease this conversation. We are not alone."
Excerpted from Riath by Dawn Mckelvey. Copyright © 2015 Dawn Mckelvey. Excerpted by permission of Partridge Africa.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Lorelle, 1,
Chapter 2 Theon, 17,
Chapter 3 The start of the quest, 26,
Chapter 4 Prince Lhoris' Point of View, 35,
Chapter 5 How to form friendships with strangers, 51,
Chapter 6 Cathen's point of view, 64,
Chapter 7 Shaerah's point of view, 80,
Chapter 8 To Elden we turn, 98,
Chapter 9 The Heart of Cathen, 117,
Chapter 10 Love and War, 138,
Chapter 11 The battle of four armies, 154,
Chapter 12 Garrik's point of view, 163,
Chapter 13 Home, 185,