(ZOOM OR YOU'LL MISS DETAILS!)
The night guards were taken aback when Maeral'a and the Drow party silently appeared at the gates at twilight the next evening. But Aranée had left precise instructions and they were admitted and escorted to their new quarters. At first, neither group trusted the other because of their obvious differences. For the most part people on both sides had a healthy curiosity about each other, but a few holdouts in both groups fueled suspicion and division.
Emotionally weary from the recovery of Galen's personal items, even a few hours of discord pushed Aranée to her limit. After conferring with Maeral'a, she ordered every soldier to invite at least two newcomers to a family dinner within the week - or risk expulsion.
Similarly, Maeral'a ordered her people to accept any offered invitations. And the Drow "guests" followed their usual customs and arrived with small gifts for their hosts and their children - and the thaw was in full swing.
Aranée was relieved, but still had a sick heart. The recent reminders of her past triggered yet another source of torment: Guilt for her neglect of Kuila.
The big cat adored her. But in her new role as queen she had hardly any time for him. Quite simply, she could not allow him to freely roam the grounds or accompany her in the throne room for more than a day or two each week. Things were getting better, the guards and the people were learning to accept his presence and she believed she could gradually increase his time with her. But he was far too attuned to her moods and if somebody angered or upset her, the big cat became dangerously agitated towards the unfortunate offender.
Images of past moments with Galen and Kuila chased around in her mind and she could not sleep more than a fitful hour or two. Finally she could stand it no longer. She gathered Kuila and fled the fortress for a refuge they had not visited in quite awhile: An extended hunt in the deep forests of the Aeritan, a place even Greeners avoided.
Mubela and Grigham both protested of course, but she told them they had better let her go or damned well find a new queen. She at least relented to their request to take an escort - her Elf bodyguard and six soldiers. She lined them up before their horses and warned she would personally deal with anyone who crowded her or spooked her quarry.
Maeral'a was astonished to find her new friend so abruptly gone. But after discussing it with Grigham and Mubela, the three of them hatched a plot to shadow Aranée and maintain a protective perimeter well outside the limits of her detection.
And so for a twelve day period, Aeriteuin was without a queen, Aranée reconnected with Kuila and slowly banished old demons in her head - and the people in the fortress fully realized just how much they needed her back where she belonged.
TO BE CONTINUED!
View episodes in sequence for the entire story, links below.
This would have appeared a bit sooner, but I discovered my Kuila character files had become corrupted. Grrrr - So I had to create a new Kuila and it took a bit of time.
The background is a photo I took on one of my prior trips to the Sierra and is part of my freebie Woods background collection. I'm on my way back up there for a week, maybe I'll take a few more and update the collection...
Please leave a note or suggestion, your words keep me stoked...
FIRST CHAPTER -:- NEXT: Smoke in the Wind -:- PREVIOUSLY: Keepers of the Night
Image and story © 2012 by Larry Hodge
Oct 12, 2012 6:55:03 pmby brewgirlca Online Now! Homepage »
Larry, I am sitting here returned from a long journey and catching up on the beautifully told story written by someone I consider to be an old friend, or so it seems. I have Vitamin String Quartet cranked up on my ipad and between their gorgeous violin symphony and your exquisite writing I am almost moved to tears as I read your words.
Lovely, just lovely.