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The Twins of Fairland II
By SB White
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2015 sb white
All rights reserved.
Tre walked from the large castle to the corral, and Pat whinnied loudly when he saw him, leaning his red-hued head over the fence in greeting. Tre patted the large horse's neck. "Are you ready for a ride to Rinland?"
He had not seen Rin, the woman who had raised him, or his twin sister, Skylin, in weeks. He knew everyone in Rinland had been as busy as the people of Fairland this past year. After the intense battle with the Rider of Upland, the people of Fairland moved back to their homes to care for their wounded and rebuild their lives. Tre realized that it was the first real battle the people of Fairland had been part of, as Fairland had lived in peace for over one hundred years, not counting the fourteen years of cruelty when his uncle Kross had killed his own brother, Tre's father, and assumed the throne of the kingdom.
The mountain villagers had fought hard alongside the Fairland army to defeat the Rider and his fierce warriors. After the battle was over, they moved back to the large meadow now called Rinland. So different from the people of Fairland, the villagers had never known peace. They were constantly hunted by the lowland raiders for their food and meager possessions. The village women were captured into a life of slavery. As a young girl, Rin had been captured by the raiders, and after years of being starved and beaten, she had escaped from the cage that had held her and found her way home. Rin's unfailing courage had led the villagers to defeat the lowlanders, free the captives, and move to the large meadow named after her. The name Rinland always made Tre smile in awe at the brave young woman who had rescued him many years ago.
As Tre bridled the horse, he noticed the tightness in his shirt. All the work involved in rebuilding Fairland, planting and harvesting the crops, and completing other daily tasks he set for himself had, as Old Nanny told him, "increased his stature." It was more the muscles in his chest and arms than stature, but Old Nanny had her own special way of expressing herself. Reaching the road that led out of Fairland, Tre stopped and looked across the long valley and smiled, satisfied now that the harvest was completed and all the grains and vegetables were secure in the barns. There would be ample food for the winter months ahead. Tre gave Pat a slight nudge and the large horse galloped down the road, shaking his head and enjoying his freedom as his long, reddish mane flew behind. The horse stretched out his legs for more speed, making Tre hold tight to avoid falling off.
Tre was anxious to reach the village and see Rin. After Axe's wounds had mended with help from Old Nanny's potions and Rin's care, Rin and Axe had married, and she was now expecting her first child. It was the first wedding in the new village, and everyone celebrated with the happy couple. Rin glowed, her brown hair curled with ribbons and flowers, and wore a new dress one of the village women had made for her. Axe stood proudly by her side when they made their vows, affirming his intentions with hand gestures. After learning of the coming child, Axe now strutted around like a giant rooster and treated Rin like she was fragile and would break when touched. Axe wouldn't let Rin help with the chore of cooking, and two of the village women had taken over the duties in the bakery. Rin laughed when teased about her special treatment and Axe's insistence that she not lift anything heavy or move anything larger than a broom. Tre knew that Rin's child would be blessed for having Rin for a mother and Axe for a father.
Moon, the village girl Tre had known all his life, now spent most of her free time with Old Nanny, who was teaching the young woman about herbs and potions and what they did and how to use them. Old Nanny said that Moon had the healing touch in her hands. Old Nanny and Moon had made several trips up the purple mountain to gather certain flowers and herbs to be used for potions. Most of Old Nanny's supply was depleted from treating all of the wounded fighting the Rider, and she wanted to gather as many plants as possible before they withered and died in the cold. It was the small purple flowers that caused Old Nanny to exclaim out loud when she found a patch hidden between two rocks, and she carefully picked the precious flowers and put them in a special pouch. She told Moon they were very rare and held a magic to create children. Moon didn't question Old Nanny about the flowers and knew that Old Nanny's words often held double meanings. Tre had seen Moon occasionally when she came to the castle, but they had not spent much time together the past year, and Queen Laurel had not brought up the subject of marriage for him or Skylin lately. Tre was relieved because it was a path he was not ready to take.
As the village came into view, Tre could see that Skylin's horse, Wind, was not tied in front of the bakery. This past year, Skylin spent much of her time in Rinland, saying she was more comfortable in the small village than the large stone castle. Skylin had not embraced the change of moving from Old Nanny's house nestled against the forest to the large castle built into the purple mountainside. She relished being outside and free, as she'd told Tre when he mentioned that she should spend more time in Fairland. Tre decided that it was being with Dellis that Skylin wanted, but she would not admit it to herself or anyone else. Dellis and Skylin were a mystery to everyone: they spent most of their time together, but Dellis understood Skylin's independence and did not try to make her commit to anything she did not want to do. Skylin came and went as she pleased but was not pleased when Dellis wasn't around. Tre shook his head. Skylin and Dellis would have to work out their own future. Dellis was almost finished building his cabin in the hills above the meadow and would move there when it was completed. Tre knew that Dellis had made many changes based on Skylin's suggestions, like where to place the windows for the best view and which direction the cabin should face, even adding a large porch across the front.
The midday meal was over and the large bakery empty when Tre walked inside looking for Rin. He had not had the chance to congratulate her and Axe, hearing the news of the coming child from Old Nanny. He was happy that Axe was doting on Rin and their child — Rin deserved to be taken care of after spending most of her life taking care of others, Tre included. A woman from the village was in the back putting away the cooking pots and, noticing Tre, stepped out and told him Rin was in the large barn with Axe. Tre thanked her and started for the recently completed barn; an exact replica of the new ones in Fairland.
Tre was stunned when he stepped into the large barn; his mouth gaped at the amount of seeds and grains and vegetables that filled the building. From the small amount of crops the villagers raised in the meadow, there was no way their harvest could have filled this large structure. In the back of the barn, he could see Axe lifting sacks of seeds onto a shelf, and he walked that way. When Tre came close, he called to Axe, not wanting to startle him. Axe turned, and when he saw it was Tre, the expression on his face was not welcoming — instead, Axe looked startled and seemed confused as whether to greet Tre. Though he was mute, Axe was not good at hiding his feelings, and Tre could sense that his being there was causing Axe stress.
Tre walked closer. "I didn't realize that the meadow harvest was big enough to fill the barn," he said, gesturing toward all the grains and vegetables in the bulging barn. Axe just stared at Tre, not responding to his words. "Is there something going on that I should know about?" Tre asked. Axe looked away and then motioned that he would get Rin. Axe's sign for Rin was a closed fist to his heart. Tre nodded he understood Axe's meaning and leaned against one of the filled bins to wait. Axe hurried toward the side of the barn where Rin lay sleeping on a small cot and shook her awake. Axe helped Rin sit up and motioned that Tre was here. Rin slowly stood, awkward in her movements as the child she carried grew larger.
Tre was shocked when he saw Rin coming toward him and realized it had been months since he had last seen her. "Mother!" he exclaimed.
Rin reached up and hugged him tightly and said, "I've missed you."
Axe stood beside Rin, and Tre took both their hands and said, "Congratulations. I can't believe I will soon be a big brother."
Rin had a glow about her he had not seen before, and Axe grinned at Tre's words. Rin looked at Axe, and an unspoken message passed between them. "Axe is almost finished and will meet us in the bakery," she said. "I need to tell you something since you have seen the barn for yourself."
Rin stood on her toes and affectionately kissed Axe on the cheek and then took Tre by the arm and led him out of the barn. They were silent until they reached the bakery, when Rin said, "Sit down, and I will get us a drink." Tre sat on a bench at the back table and waited for her to return.
Rin came back and sat across from Tre. "A few weeks ago, Queen Laurel sent for me and asked if I would do something for her. There was no way I would ever refuse anything the queen asked of me. She also said not to tell you or Skylin and that she would tell you herself, but that was weeks ago, and perhaps she has forgotten." Rin paused in thought, and Tre wondered why Queen Laurel, his birth mother, would not want him or his sister to know about the grain. Rin took a drink of water and then continued, "The queen said that she needed to set aside grains and seeds to keep safe in case something happened, but she did not say what. She also sent a small herd of cows and sheep, and Dellis built a corral in the hills and has been tending to them. She sent cages of chickens as well."
Tre interrupted, "Does Skylin know? Because she must be aware of the cattle, if Dellis is involved."
Rin grinned at the thought of Dellis ever being able to keep a secret from Skylin and answered, "Skylin thinks the cattle are ours and Dellis is taking care of them because there is no room in the meadow for another corral."
"You have no idea why the queen would ask you to store grain and cattle for Fairland when we have plenty of barns?" Tre asked, even more confused.
Rin slowly shook her head. "No, and today was the last trip the crop tender said he had to make, which is good because our barn is full. None of the villagers have noticed because the man takes the cart to the back of the barn, and Axe meets him there."
Tre knew Rin was as confused as he was regarding Queen Laurel's reason for sending cattle and grain to store. He stood up. "It's getting late and I need to get back." After giving Rin another hug and reiterating his happiness about the coming child, Tre rode to Fairland.CHAPTER 2
Tre reached the castle before he realized that he had not seen his sister or Moon, though he had planned on seeing them both. At every opportunity, Old Nanny would ask him if he had seen Moon and tell him to spend more time with the lass. Tre knew Moon cared for him — she did not try to hide her feelings for him. He cared for her but did not feel that now was the time to make any commitment. Tre was troubled by the actions of the queen and the mysterious reason she was hiding them from him, causing everything else to slip from his mind.
It was dark when Tre walked into the castle. He had not eaten since morning and went to the cooking room to see if Old Nanny had left any food for him. It wasn't that he was hungry, but he needed something to occupy his thoughts until he could talk to his mother in the morning. As Tre sat at the long table and ate the bread and cheese that was left there, he thought Queen Laurel had seem distracted or distant lately, more so than usual. Maybe something was going on and he had been too busy to notice, but even Old Nanny had not mentioned anything and she would have told him if she thought it was important. Tre sighed and stood up, nothing would be found out tonight and he went to his room.
Tre did not sleep well that night. He kept waking up with night sweats, and his dreams were dark and confusing, and when he tried to recall what they were about, he could not. He now realized that something menacing was happening or about to happen, and he had no idea what. Tre washed the night's fret from his face, dressed, and left his room to look for his mother, needing to find out what was going on. Tre found Queen Laurel standing by the large fireplace and looking more ethereal than ever. Her long hair looked silver in the flickering light, and her robe hung straight to the floor like there was no one inside. The queen turned as Tre entered the large room, and her smile was faint.
"Mother, I need to know what is going on and why you sent grain and cattle to Rinland without telling me," Tre said as he walked toward her.
The queen softly answered, "I will know more when Mallrok returns. He has gone to consult with Haaman. The slags have not brought out any metals for weeks and have emptied out the two barns that were given to them. I will tell you everything after he returns. Now I have other matters to attend to." The queen touched Tre's face as she left the room, leaving his cheek cold.
Tre had not seen Mallrok for some time and wondered what the old mystic had been doing. Mallrok kept his own schedule and answered to no one but the queen. When the truce with the slags had been made and Mallrok established a friendship with Haaman, the slags' mystic, Tre would anxiously wait for Mallrok to return from the weekly trip to pick up the ore the slags had dug from the mountain. The slags had scratched their history inside the mountain walls, and Tre could not wait to hear what Mallrok learned from Haaman each week.
But Tre had learned the mountain's secrets long ago and had not waited for Mallrok in a long time. He wasn't even sure if Mallrok still made the weekly trips with the ore cart, as the old mystic seemed to be growing feebler with time. Tre now worried that he had been negligent regarding the health of the old mystic.
Tre wandered into the cooking room, not sure what to do while waiting for Mallrok to return. Old Nanny was busy at her pots, cooking the day's meal and loudly mumbling to herself. Tre could not make out her words; at times, her brogue was so strong that he had no idea what she was saying. Old Nanny banged one of the black pots with a large spoon and moaned out loud, causing Tre to back out of the room. He wasn't sure what to do, but he didn't want to be on the other end of Old Nanny's spoon and knew that whatever was causing her odd behavior would be explained by Queen Laurel when Mallrok returned.
Tre retreated to the one place in the castle he loved: a large room filled with books. Over the years, he had read all the books kept here, except one. It was different from the other books, written in the ancient script, and only had lines and long and short slashes covering the pages. The cover of the old book was made from the hide of an animal. There was no hair left on the cover, just withered skin with lines and slashes leaning from side to side or going up and down — nothing resembling words. The old book was a riddle, and Tre loved riddles. He wondered what secrets this book held. Since everyone in the castle was acting strange like Old Nanny, keeping secrets like Queen Laurel, or away like Mallrok, Tre decided he would try once again to figure out a way to understand the strange markings.
Tre lifted the old book from the shelf, and as he carried it to the small table with the candle, he spoke to the book. "Now is the time to reveal your secret and show me words that I can read." He wasn't sure why he decided to talk to the old book; it just seemed like the thing to do. He sat down, held the book close to the lighted candle, and turned it around, trying to make sense of all the scattered markings. Tre wasn't sure the exact order of the way things happened, but the candle light started to flicker and flame up, smoke ebbed over the book, and the lines on the book began moving and came together to form words. Tre's hands shook as he watched the marks on the cover of the book join together to form words: "The Lineage of Currin." At the bottom corner of the book, a symbol formed. It was the same symbol that Tre had seen above the castle door: a large circle with a line running across it from side to side and another that went from the top to bottom, the lines crossing in the middle.
Excerpted from The Twins of Fairland II by SB White. Copyright © 2015 sb white. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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Table of Contents
ContentsPart 1 Revenge of the Spirit Riders,
Part 2 Rin's Child,
Part 3 Moon's Legacy,