She sighed. She had not realized until now, how well her brother had grown into his skin. He looked exactly like the statue of a god. Not perhaps as beautiful in look, but most definigely in stature. Tall, lean and incredibly handsome. His hair had turned to a golden main that went to his feet as her silvery one did. His eyes had deepened in intensity, and his face had filled out. Her brother was indeed one of the handsomest men she had seen in a very long time. It was a good thing that they had sworn brod siblingship after she had taken care of him for an entire year, otherwise she would be falling all over him.
Kyle marveled at his sister. Marvelled that she could stand here after two weeks of runner’s Sleep and be sane. He had not left her side during the whold time she was in the grip of the Sleep, and had been calling her name once every three or four days for the past two seven days. He had begun to worry that the Sleep would rob her of the life she had been wanting to live, the passions she held, and would leaver just a husk with no mind of her own left. He was glad that he had been able to pull her from that, even if it had been by using his own magic and that of a mysterious windspirit to do so.
He watched her then, noticing, not for the first time, how beautiful she was. Her silvery main flowing down to her feet, her sea green eyes, her face, that of an angel. It had a little bit of a feline cast, still in this form, but that was to be expectet. Even his fase somewhat reflected his forms. More the bobcat than the other, as Ryliegh had said, but if you knew what to look for, it was there. Thank the gods no one save his sister, the runner master and the fay folk did. If they weren’t brood bound, he would gladly have asked her to be his wife, he wondered briefly if she felt the same of him.
“News, news.” She was anxious for two weeks of news. She feared some of it wouldn’t be good. The game tended to pick up during the autumn months and it being near to Barley Moon, if her reckoning wasn’t off, things would start to become dangerous for most if not all runners out on missions.
“Let us make our way back to your quarters, sister.”
She was crying. She was not crying, she was wailing. It wasn’t that she had known these runners, it was that she knew people who knew these runners. Marcos had been a very good friend of Mardrien. Kathlene had been the betrothed of Adrianos. Kitreen had been a rooky runner. Poor Kitreen, why did she have to die? She had only been little more than a child! This game had to be stopped, it was taking lives faster than runners could produce replacements. Iliana never saw the point in it? The betting, she could see to some extent. Betting on a runner’s fastest time. But to bet that someone wouldn’t make it, and to try to make good that bet by impeding the runner? It didn’t make sense. Perhaps the game hadn't started out like this. Perhaps it was a bet on whether would make it within their fastest time, or outside of it, but somewhere along the lines of years and years of the gaming the rules had changed. Somehow it became legal, or OK, to take down a runner. This needed to be stopped, and stopped soon.
And to think that some actually made livings from this. Obstacles meant to hamper the runer’s ability to move, things that if the runner changed forms to jump, they would be caught. She could think of plenty of times where the winds had guided her around such obstacles. She could think of several tricks to disarm certain nasty surprises. But not all runners knew those tricks, and not all runners could tell the differnence between the winds.
“Poor Kitreen. Poor, poor Kitreen.” Her sobs came in bursts now, “This has gone too far. Now they’re killing children. Rookies were supposed to be safe, were supposed to be under the protection of certain magics that cept them safe for their first two years as a runner. What happened to them brother?”
“Her master never placed them on her. He has since been dispatched by our own master for ‘neglectful practices’ and ‘neglegence in te protection of rookies ending in the death of those rookies.’ Apparently this wasn’t the first time this has happened to a rooky under this particular master’s tutelage.?
She would have screamed had she known this master was still alive. But as her brother had just told her he was not she did nothing save keen softly. It had been mo less than three hours since she had been awakened from the Sleep, and already she was tired again. She felt wrung out by the news of three death of runners. Three good runners, Kitreen had been one of the better rookies. She sighed, “Any mor news?”
“Your mother…your mother has passed, sister.”
“She looked at him in shock. “Passed? So soon?” She knew her mother had been ill, but not so ill as to pass the worlds entirely…to have her mother pass…
“She is still alive, sister, but just bearly. She has passed the test to become the next queen of the land.”
She sighed with intense relief. Passing the test was a hard thing…hard indeed…she knew this for a fact, for she had to pass the same test as a prospective runner.
“You say she is bearly alive. Why is this?”
“Because the test demanded she use her full potential, and she would not. She refused until someone told her that they would find us and kill us. Then she used it, calling on the elementals to help her deal with the problem. She never once grew angry, unless it was able to be used in a way that would not harm innocents.”
“Your mother will have no choice but to use what she now refuses to acknowledge.” Again the words floated back to her from the past making perfect sense now. Her mother, queen of the land they lived in, making her the princess. She sighed. The first royal to be a runner, just as she was the first mage. She wondered if, now, her mother’s views had changed. Now that she had to use the powers she commanded. She wondered if now her full potential was as great as it was six years ago. Having all that power to call on the elementals must have cost her a great deal in strength and energy.
“So now I’m royal in fact as well as name. Now she will come and say that I must stop my running and become the next heir as I have already past the test.” She had to take the test of rulership to become a runner. All runners did. It was a little more lax, perhaps than the ruling test, as both good and bad runners came through it. She felt that the runner master who had done that to his rookies was as fowl as they came, but still, she had past.
“No, she cannot do this, sister. She has tried and the contract is with you and the Runner’s guild, not your mother and the Runner’s guild. You are safe.”
Safe to try to figure out this game and why it began, she thought soberly. Safe to find the people behind this vile mockery of a sport, and bring it to an end. This would have to be done soon, before she, or any other runner was killed in the name of coin. Greed, ah greed, what a hateful and spiteful thing you be. She sat up straighter on her bed and rang for a servant. She took the time to look about her room.
Sumptuously furnished she realized. The bed could easily fit two, and te heavy curtains could be drawn to keepout the light. The chairs were comfortable things apulstered in leather. Some other chairs were overstuffed relclined affairs for those who were either elddrly or had joint difficulties. This room was a combination bedchamber and sitting room, just the way she liked it. She had a washstand and basin, a wordrobe, and a very nice chest to place her things in. Even her tapestries had been hung. And some of Kyles amazing paintings adorned the walls. She was proud of her brother’s work and would not have anything else in her rooms, save that work.
The servant appeared and Iliana politely asked her to bring up a tray with a dinner for towo.”
“Iliana, mistress, it is only lunch. Would you like a double portion of that for each of you?”
“Yes, Magdolane, thank you.”
“No trouble, Mistress, no trouble at all.”
“I have more news, sister,” her brother spoke when the servants had left the room, “The three runners that you learned tricks from have been permanently stationed here. They are pregnant of a piece and refuse to go on mitions that take them out of this land. King Theordore needed three palace messengers since Kencade has decided to runn regularly again, so he posted the three of them here indefinitely.”
Her tears came again, this time for joy. She would not have to worry about losing her three best companions to the game. The palace was a safe ground, as were all starting and ending points of missions. Once a runner passed a gate they were safe. Even if the arrow had been in flight and had gotten them while inside the gates, the archer was charged with braking the rules. The palace, being a safe ground at all times was a good place to be. However, the rules stated that there were only certain circumstances where you could use that safe place to run. Being pregnant was one of those circumstances. Many archers had learned to stay their hand when the runner got within ten paces or more of the gate. Her magic had saved her more than once as she had been able to turn the arrow upon it’s source, killing that source before he could scream. She only used this on archers who had tried to get her right outside the save places hoping she would fall outside the gat, and not inside. She would fall all right. Straight inside the gate while gripping the arrow in her magic and as the guard closed the gate, she would let the arrow fly…and the archer wouldn’t even kno what hit him. Most of the time, anyway. She had made a few scream, she had made a few beg, but those were the ones she ended up letting the fay folk handle. Those were the truly evil archers who would shoot at the runner even after they had past the gates and were to be considered safe.
“The last bit of news is this. The game rules have changed. Somewhat for the better, thank the gods. If a runner hands the messages to someone to be delivered, if that person destroys the messages they re given, that person must run himself to get the extra copies of said messages, no matter how far, or how out of shape the person may be.”
Iliana sighed. She wondered now if the archer had not ment the arrow for her, but for the offending guard who tried to destroy the messages she had tubed and placed into his hands. “This is a good thing, brother of my spirit, a good thing indeed.”
Magdolane returned then bearing a tray with steaming dishes on it. She set it on the table next to the bed and left quietly. But not before she received an equally discrete thank you from Iliana.
Now you are no longer getting exclusives. LOL I hope you enjoy this. I will probably end up writing more of it today, we shall see, however. Oh and forgive the spelling errors, I haven't run the spell checker over this last part yet. LOL
The Rowan/the Phoenix