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Introduction [Section One]

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Editing Notes

  • Any text that is not enclosed without (p) or (ul) tags will be centered by default.
  • What's up with the red borders, you ask? It's to help you customise the layout even more. If you wish to remove them, every time you see border: 1px red solid; you can delete the entire declaration. Or change the 1 to 0.
  • This layout combines relative and absolute positioning, which allows for a centered layout while utilizing absolute positioning. Notice how, the #container div is relatively positioned (div id="container" style="position: relative") in the HTML. Take note (img src="urlhere" id="focal_img" style="position: absolute"). In the CSS, #focal_img { top: 0; left: 0; } which means that it's shifted down 0 pixels and to the left 0 pixels /WITHIN/ the relatively positioned #container div -- not the entire browser. I don't know if that made any sense lolyep. The same goes for the #nav div.
  • The #container is currently 900px wide (you can set it to 1000px if you want idk). Note how the #header & #opaque div is 700px wide, and the #focal_img & #nav div is approximately 200px wide -- this is so that both side adds up 900px. You can change the ratio of the widths. For example, you can make it 600px/300px; or, if you change the width of the #container div to 1000px, even 750px/250px. The #focal_img is slightly bigger so that it overlaps the #opaque div... it looks more dynamic that way okay ;A;
  • This layout works best if the orientation of the #focal_img is facing right and if the image is a transparent png or gif -- which you'll have to render in photoshop or GIMP (which is free!). If you're not that great of an artist, try going to here or here [adoptables directories] or use a png from Details. Depending on the dimensions of your image, you may find it beneficial to adjust the positioning/width of the #focal_img (or the #nav div). Notice how in the CSS it has #focal_img {width: 300px;} yeah, change that 300px to anything you want really.
  • There are a LOT of nested divs. First, you have the #container (which houses the navigation, focal image on the left, header, and content), then #opaque (which is the 30% semi-opaque background border thingy), then you have #content (which is the completely white background), and then finally you have each .page (which is for each section). Be very careful not to delete any stray ending (/div) and remember to close all (/div) tags properly -- because that's the difference between this layout working properly and looking like a trainwreck.
  • Currently, this layout accomodates for seven sections ish. It is possible to add more sections and create more subpages. You can actually change the anchor names to anything you want, really as long as the spelling and capitalization remain consistent. For example, notice how (a href="#two")Character(/a) links to the subpage Character Profile [Section Two]. That's because I placed the anchor (a name="two")(/a) right before the corresponding (div class="page"). If you want to create a new subpage or section, just stick a (a name="eight")(/a)(div class="page")Section Eight(/div) right before the (/div)(/div)(/div).
  • I used a background from Felleia, although really any type of background works. All you have to do is grab the image URL from their textarea and in the CSS... body {background: url("copy-pasta-dat-img-URL-right-here") repeat fixed; } Generic abstract backgrounds work well too, like the ones at /~Lazahrus, or /~kiarlie, or /~quinsai.
Next »

Lady Seina of House Adrakti

Though many in court like to claim they know the strange lady-in-waiting, few really do. Lady Seina entered the company of Endarin nobility with neither pomp nor publication, and yet upon her arrival, many a head was turned that should have remained high and proud. As lady-in-waiting to the much more beautiful and graceful Princess Violetta, those who did not at once see her strange charm wondered very much what all the fuss was about. Those who did wondered exactly what it was they were even facing.

The one who knew didn't really care.


Solitary walks around the palace gardens and the nearby woods

Honey in tea and biscuits

Cherries and other berries

The sounds of the rivers and the wind

Hand-spinning threads, stitching, and other such 'weaver's work


Gossip among the nobility

Being unfamiliar with the rules at court

The many tantrums thrown among the royals

Citrus fruits such as oranges and pomelos

An old nickname she never even speaks of — Spindle

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. Seina was sitting alone again. On her lap lay an embroidery frame, her unfinished work stretched taunt over it as she squined at her needle. The thread simply refused to go in, no matter what she tried. It was a stubborn weave, though, and she would not be surprised if this end was thicker than the rest of its length. She had been the one to spin it, after all. She remembered being too free with it.

. "That looks so boring!"

. "You look so messy," she replied without looking up from her needle. She was right. The brown Lupe who stood, stooping over her work and hoping to cast a shadow, was garbed in patchwork clothing. The hat on his head looked as though it had eaten a mouthful of his dark-wood locks. His vest had streaks of dried mud where he had dried his hands after washing them none too well in the river, his cuffs were dark brown and had specks of food on them from being wiped across his mouth, and his knees were a funny color, likely from the brown of his trousers mixing with the grass stains after he had knelt too long worrying the insects in the valleys. He had big, black eyes that squinted at the intricate details of her work and rolled themselves when he saw how much play time must have been wasted on the soaring birds and the thickly leaved trees. "Come on, Spindle," he wheedled in his most dejected tone. "The others are running to the river to go fishing, and they say you're too boring to come. I told them you weren't, and they said to prove it."

. "You shouldn't say things that aren't true," Seina replied. "And I would appreciate it if you didn't call me that." Her namesake, a drop spindle of beautiful white wood, was, as it always was, by her side, hanging on her belt like a knight's sword. As much as the Lupe hated the thing for having started his friend's downward spiral into boringness, he too had become used to the nick-name the children had given their old comrade. He also knew it annoyed her to no end and hoped it would help dissuade her from her new occupation.

. "But, it is true!" he exclaimed. "None of the others want to remember that you were the one who wrestled that huge catfish that bit Jerry and the time you clocked a big old snake with a stick, or the time-"

. He saw that she wasn't listening. The thread was almost through, but at the last moment, it doubled upon itself and refused to go in. The Lupe gave a huff and grabbed a tare from the ground. He began thinning the stem as he talked, "Couldn't you at least ask your mother if she'll let you sit by the river while you do your girl work?"

. "I shall, as soon as I finish threading this," Seina replied, knowing her friend would be bored long before she got the thread through - bored enough to leave, she hoped. She started when he snatched the needle from her. "Give that back, Carter!" she demanded. Carter made a loop in his much-thinned reed and thrust it through the needle's hole. Being stiffer than the thread, it went in without trouble. He then opened his hand for her to drop the thread in. "You'll get it dirty," Seina said with a grimmace at his hands, which had mud in their fingernails and a fine layer of dust on their palms and fingers. Her thread was a pale and cloud-like white with a single strand of light blue running through it.

. "You can cut off whatever I ruin," he replied, waving his fingers in impatience. She ruefully dropped the thread in his palm and he shot it through the loop in his reed. With a pull of the reed, the thread came through the needle ceanly. Seina blinked at him and he handed it back to her. "Can you go ask her now, please?" he whined.

. Seina gave a huff. She had said she would. "Fine," she replied, sticking her needle into her belt to keep it out of trouble. "But you know she'll say no!" With a flourish of her long skirt, she turned and opened wide the door to the gypsy wagon.

. A pleasant aroma burst through. Marigolds, sunflowers, logwoods, and madders filled the air with their sweet scents. Carter caught a glimpse of the shelves and shelves of brilliant threads, the rolls of fabrics, the buckets of fine feathers, and, of course, the costumes and masks hung up all around the wagon. They winked at him in every shade between the colors of the rainbow. The precious silver and gold threads were woven into their cuffs and collars, and the feathers lent the masks their glory.

. Seina shut out his view and heard an annoyed yelp from behind the oak door. "That was my nose!" she heard through the wood. A slight smile pulled the corners of her mouth.

."That was not kind, Seina." The little twitch of her lips vanished and the young Ixi looked up guiltily. At the far end of the wagon, she stood. And she stood much the way a willow branch hung - straight, but with an elegance, an ease, that Seina often tried to acquire. She was gliding from one shelf to the next, running her long, tapering fingers through the unspun threads that flowed over rods set into the wall. "What does young Carter ask of me?" the being of calm and peace questioned, her startling green eyes fixing Seina in her place for a single heartbeat before moving back to the threads.

. Seina had stopped wondering long before how her mother knew such things. To the young Ixi, her mother was the epitome of magic in the world - she knew all the goings on around and within her daughter's little world, and she made sure every single detail was under her watchful guidance. She came when her daughter had pricked her finger, when she had ruined her threads, when her needled had made a wrong stitch. She soothed wounds, corrected mistakes, and directed her learning. Perhaps it was too much, but none of the other fathers or mothers in the camp had any say in the rule of Lady Evelia's child, and everyone knew it.

. Lady Evelina. Seina had never heard her mother called by any other name, except perhaps, 'your mother' by the other children. The Ixi lady lifted her own spindle from its place in her white basket and tied in the unspun thread. "Come now, Child, I believe he is awaiting whatever reply you need give him," she went on.

. "May I go to the woods?" Seina asked, hands behind her back and her head bowed slightly in respect. "I shall only sit and sew and watch them."

. Lady Evelina looked at her daughter. Immediately, Seina straightened her stance, gazed at her mother with frank eyes, and ran her hand over her skirt. The lady took in her child's posture, her glance, her head respectfully bowed, and her garb in one swift glance... and nodded. "Change into your cotton dress. I shan't have that new skirt ruined."

. "I still can't believe she let you go." He'd been repeating the same statement over and over again, but he couldn't seem to stop. Seina let out a longsuffering sigh and glared at him with eyes that seemed to him the color the river hid as it sped on its course through the wood - not quite blue, not quite green. "I'm sorry, but I can't!"

. "It is a bit strange," she replied, gathering up her light copper hair into ponytail. She was kneeling on a giant boulder that overlooked the river. From her perch, she barely avoided the splashings of the young tots who had tagged along with their older brothers and sisters. Also, and this he knew, she was far from those who sat by the banks making loud jokes about boring spinners. Those were of their own age group, and she'd rather face mud than such tauntings.

. Carter, to his credit, now severely regretted pushing Seina to come. He was on the riverbank, his hook in the water, keeping her company and snubbing any attempt of the others to get him back to their circle. Not that there had been more than one. The children were more than happy to make two laughing stocks instead of one. Every once in a while, the Lupe's ear would flick in their direction when he heard talk of the smell of varnish scaring all the fish away. He bit his lip hard and his poor pole took a painful wring for every unkind remark. The young could be very cruel when they chose.

. "I heard he ran into a tree yesterday," someone piped none too softly. "That old carver wouldn't know the forest from the meadow soon!"

. Carter threw his rod down and rose to his feet. His fists were clenched so hard that his fingers ached. "Don't." She must have heard him rise. He'd wished she hadn't. If he went on now, she would scold him later. If she'd only caught him when he'd clocked someone, she just would have sighed and shook her head and glared. But now... Now he had his warning. He turned away with none too little difficulty, and gazed up at the sky. Seina kept silent, and he took a deep breath. Then he sat himself down and a sad half-smile crept on his face. "Still sorry you came?" he asked.

. "If I hadn't, you would be with them and without trouble," she replied matter-of-factly. Carter looked up at her. Her pointed face lacked any emotion, her gaze on her work. But as a breeze wove through the trees and carried with it the smells of the forest, her mouth smiled and her eyes softened. She missed the woods, no matter what she said otherwise. He was glad, though he knew he should wish she hadn't, for then she'd be happier.

. He gazed at the rushing water and tugged at his pole, wondering if the hook had gotten stuck. His eyes widened when he saw a dash of red in the rushing water. "Carter." Her voice was high, shaken, nervous, a thousand things he hadn't heard in an age. He looked up at her. She was standing, her work face down on the dusty rock. Her eyes were fixed on a single point in the river, and he followed them almost reluctantly.

. "Go get help. Spindle, go! Run! I'll get him out!"

.Seina was holding the bowl for them. Her hands were shaking as she watched them work. The boy from the river had a severe wound in his side, and they had had her running in and out of the medicine Blumaroo's cart to fetch more clean water or gather this or that herb from the field. Often, Carter would be right outside the door and would fix her with his wide dark eyes, questioning silently how he could help. She would thrust a bowl into his arms and march off to find more healer's root. They were using an aweful lot of healer's root.

. Once, when she came back, Carter wasn't there yet and she knew they wouldn't be able to use any of the root without the heated water. She stood right outside the door to the wagon, keeping down impatience as she drummed on her arm for calm.

. "He's as restless as a fish out the stream," she absently heard. There was the smallest of holes in the wooden door. A rug hung on the inside kept out whatever tiny wind whistled in, but not the voices that whispered out. "He won't heal this way, never matter what I do."

. "He is yet young," she heard her mother say. Where was Carter? "He may heal better than you think."

. At that moment, Carter appeared with the bowl and a copper kettle filled with hot water. Seina took both with a nod of thanks and he opened the door to help her in. The two ladies inside were no longer talking.

. They had her stand beside the sickbed and hold the wooden bowl. Within, the medicine Blumaroo had seeped some of the roots in hot water. She was addressing the would with a cloth damp from the brew. The roots had made the water smell like the wet earth after a rainstorm, coloring it a grassy green. Seina worried over what it could possibly do to help him.

. He was a Xweetok lad perhaps two summers older than Carter. Bright gold hair stuck to his damp forehead and his pale fur still had darker patches where the river water had not dried. His eyes were shut so tight that angry lines formed along his brow and his hands were fisted tensely by his sides. She saw his rounded jaw bite hard as the medicne Blumaroo attended to his wound. Seina wondered if you could feel pain even when you slept.

. It was a long time before she came out again. Her mother had dismissed her. "You need your rest," she had said. "You can do little more now." The young Ixi sighed and took in a draught of the fresh night air. The moon above shone brightly over the world and the stars twinkled at her from their perches. It was then she heard a snore.

. Carter was curled up on the wagon's porch, letting out snores like a sleeping hog. Seina sighed. She couldn't carry him, and she didn't want to wake him. Knowing the Lupe, he'd forgotten to tell his grandfather where he'd be and the old man would be worried sick. Seina took the shawl her mother had bid her to fetch for herself and laid it over the sleeping boy. She then took stock of where the woodcarver's cart was and made her way towards it.

. As she walked, the Ixi watched her footing. The camping ground was stony from the years of use it had seen. True it was that the gypsies were always travelling from one city and one kingdom to the next, but every Fall, they made their camp on certain same spots if they could. When in the kingdom of Everel, they camped near the Sourstream River, when in Livores, in the Singlong Valley, and when in Veneration... Seina glanced up briefly to take in the view of the King's Wood. It stood just a few minutes away from their camping ground, brooding and shadowy by night, soulful and bright by day. Seina smiled at it, a child who had found that the monster beneath the bed was the imaginary friend long played with.

. A swift form sped by her face and she startled with a mute cry. Another followed, then a third. They looked like smoke given life. No light could hit them that they did not completely swallow. More of them glided along through the camp and into the wagons, sliding through walls as easily as they did the air. Seina sighed again. Irritating things, the whisps. Still, they did no harm that she knew. She didn't even think they were properly alive.

. Seina ignored them as she went on. They only came out by night. She'd seen them hiding beneath people's tables during the day, but, again, all they did was curl up and stay still. The only time one had actually scared her was when she had seen one feeding. The Lady Evelina had nodded off in her chair, and the whisp was cirling her head, growing bigger as it did. Spindle had screamed and her mother had awoken and the whisp fled into the shadows of the hanging cloths. It took a long time to convince the young Ixi that all the whisps fed on was fear. It took a little longer for her to accept that her mother must have been afraid. In fact, she had yet to completely believe it.

. Old Emerson was sitting at his work bench, wringing his hands. On the worn wooden table behind him sat two plates of cold food. On the back of his chair, an old cloak was hung. The carver had a block before him and his tools by its side, but his hands refused to pick them up. In a moment he stood, grabbed his cloak, fastened it, and squinted. He felt his way to the door and threw it open. Outside the light of his lamps, he saw blurry shadows of blury shapes he knew well. Beyond, he saw blury shadows of what he thought were blury shapes. He wrung his hands again, shut the door, made his way to his table, and hung his cloak on his chair. The old Lupe sank into his seat with a groan and wrung his hands some more. His old clock in the corner chimed the late hour.

. A knock sounded at the door and the old carver sighed. Carter wouldn't knock. Even if he did, it wouldn't be that sort of knock. What had echoed through the wood was an elegant three-tap, given at precise beats and no hesitations, but was neither demanding nor louder than it had to be. Either the Lady Evelina or her daughter, no doubt. The old Lupe immediately shot up. The little Ixi was a favorite friend of his boy's. Mayhaps somethingn had happened to him. Carter had said he was going to the river. The river was a swift one, and it was so cold out now.

. The Lupe ran into one of his chairs in his haste to grab the door. He yanked it open. "Where is he? What happened?" he choked out at the small form standing on his porch.

. "Forgive me for bothering you, Sir," said the little green blur, her tone calming him almost instantly, "but Carter fell asleep on the porch of the medicine Blumaroo's cart. I left my shawl on him and the night's none too cold now so he should be fine."

. "Ah, little rascal! Worrying his grandfather like that! Little rascal!" exclaimed the old Lupe even though he felt the wide smile on his face and his chest heaved from relief. What Carter would even be doing by the medicine Blumaroo's cart barely mattered, as long as he was not within it.

. The light green blur did a quick dip, likely a curtsey and wished him a good night. Kind girl. She was on her way before he remembered he had not thanked her. "Wait a moment, girl!" he exclaimed. The old Lupe felt his way back into the cart and squinted at the shelves. Little figurines of wood smiled at him, trees grew in his sight, and lovely Unis galloped past as he searched. Which one would suit the little Ixi? Not something too lively. He had remembered Carter complaining about her growing 'boring.' What was her name again? Spindle?

. His face lit up and he picked up a carving that would fit perfectly in her little palm. It was a spinning-wheel carved of pale aspen. The wheel turned just like a real one, and the details on every spoke of the wheel were magnificently accurate. He turned around and handed the miniaturized tool to the girl, braming the whole while. He saw the blur fidget and bring the even smaller white blur in her hands as she put it up to her face. "Thank you." Simple words, but her voice was softer than it had been, and he heard a little shake in her composure. He could feel her simple, child-like joy and he knew she was smiling. She began to thank him again in more formal language, but the old Lupe shooed her away before she could finish. She reminded him too much that Carter would have to start talking like that before long as well, and by then the simple joys of his grandson's childhood would be fewer and farther between.

. The other boy still hadn't woken up. Carter languished on the porch like a cast-off scarecrow, his chin burried in his scarf and his floppy hat pulled over his eyes. His arms were spread out and his legs were stretched through the bars of the mini fence that defined the porch's end. He had been waiting for a good two hours for Spindle to come out and ask him for help with something. Didn't she think he had better things to do than wait around for her to give orders? He didn't, but didn't she think so?

. The autumn wind flew into his face and Carter immediately curled up. He'd forgotten how quickly autum could turn in a couple of weeks. No more falling asleep on the porch for him. He'd probably freeze his ears off if he tried it again. The door opened and he shot into an indian sit.

. Spindle emerged carrying the copper kettle and the wooden bowl. She saw him and for a moment her eyes seemed to pity his state of relative order. Carter was well aware that there were no mud stains on his trouser knees and that his boots were still quite shiny. He knew his hair was as combed as his grandfather had demanded it be that morning and that his face was lacking in any scratches and dust. He knew she knew what that meant. "You really needn't stay there all day," she said, trotting past him brisquely. Carter scrambled to follow.

. He took the kettle from her as they walked. "I've little else to do," he replied as he did. They would make their way to the river, where she would spend a few minutes longer than the day before searching for herbs. He, in turn, would spend a few minutes shorter filling the kettle from the swelling river. The roots and sprouts she was gathering were growing scarcer both by her ceaseless quest to find more and by the chilling weather. Until then, he could at least talk to her for a bit.

. They both heard the laughter of the other children as they made their way through the woods. They even caught glimpses of them as they gathered up the falling leaves into piles. The sound of the leap and the crunch into the heaps of brown, orange, and gold rent through the forest and left the two melancholy and silent.

. "You should join them," Spindle said at length. "I know you've forgiven them for what they said, and I'm quite certain they'll invite you back in if you asked." She tried to take the kettle from him. "I can easily fetch the water they need now that the river's higher."

. Carter clung to the kettle and shook his head. "And who's to fish out the next patient you find in the river?" he demanded. "This one's almost better. I heard Miss Beatrice say so through the hole you're always telling me not to listen into."

. That was a mistake. She cast him a withering glance and he quieted down. "Miss Beatrice says his wound is improving," she rectified, "but the fever he caught last week refuses to leave. Fevers are dangerous; they take away all his strength and he's weak enough from not being able to sleep properly."

. "With a ginormous-" Another swift glare made the Lupe catch himself. "With a hurt like that," he corrected, "you can't really be surprised, can you? It must be real painful!"

. "No," Spindle replied. "It isn't. Miss Beatrice's herbs were to removed the pain and allow him to rest easily. But, he's never still and he looks frightened. His forehead's full of creases and the whisps..."

. "Maybe he's always been like that," Carter offered. He didn't want her to worry too much. She'd get sick herself if she did. Spindle kept silent and they walked on.

.The room had gone cold from her silence. She was standing over the boy, half a dozen whisps swimming around her in dizzying circles. They would grow too fat should she allow them to feed on the fear the boy was letting out. The fear pulsed around him like heat from a fire, drawing the whisps from all around the camp to the one cart. That was why she was constantly by his side, and why she only caught her own rest when her daughter was present to tend to him. For the smoke-like beings to grow too big would be a disaster. Mindless as they were, they were still a threat.

. "My Lady, please," Beatrice begged. "He needs your help."

. "I have given much to keeping him from these," she said, indicating the whisps with a weak wave of her hand. "He must do what remains on his own."

. "He can no less heal without proper rest as a bird can fly without wings," Beatrice went on. "The boy is scared through and through. You know fair well how you can banish those foul thing AND give him a little peace."

. "And should he come to know how it was he was healed?" Lady Evelina demanded in the cold, calm voice that had quelled her daughter's tantrums the second they began. "You saw his the seal in his jacket, though the children did not. You know what he is, what he would do-"

. "Mayhaps I know what he is, but neither us two knows what he'd do," Beatrice returned. "Now you leave him like this and we never will, but on your conscience be it because I know the right path here and it ain't sitting back and watching him fade!"

. The Ixi Lady paused. "Seina!" she called suddenly, the first instance Beatrice had ever heard her raise her voice. She went on only when her daughter swung the door open, "Instruct young Carter that he is not to eavesdrop, and when you have finished, come inside."

. Her mother had her sit by the boy. Seina fidgetted and fussed with the herbs still in her basket, her eyes fixed on the strange lady whose shaking hands could be none other than her mother's. And yet, if they were, why were they shaking? "Tell me about your father," the lady commanded, her voice giving the slightest trembled.

. Seina stared up so suddenly that her blue eyes fixed the lady's wide green gaze. It was the lady who turned away first this time. The Ixi girl felt a shudder through her whole body, her mouth opened, and she obeyed.

Father was an actor. He played the lead in many a production, in the days when the troupe was young...

. She heard hints of her soft voice as she continued, but her gaze never left her mother's face. She saw the stranger take a breath, and she saw her mother's hard eyes return. Seina felt herself breathe deep again. The Lady Evelina put forth her hand, and as the Ixi girl spoke, sand-colored thread, unspun but with the smallest hint of shine, glided from her forehead to her mother's reach.

. Seina's story came to an abrupt halt as she opened her mouth, trying to speak more. Her tongue refused to obey as she fixed the thread with wide eyes. The flow stopped and Seina stared at it as her mother wound it around her hand, measuring with each wind. She had done the same countless times before with the wool and the flax's thread.

. "This was one birthright I hoped you would never aquire." Seina tore her eyes from the thread to stare up at her mother's face. Lady Evelina's frown was soft and sad, her eyes fixed on the thread now clasped in her grip. The whisps were swimming around it faster than the Ixi girl had ever seen, the boy now completely forgotten. "But, since you have," the lady went on, "I hope you shall never need it."

. She took the spindle that hung on her belt and tied in one end of the strange thread. With a flick of her hand, the tool began to twirl and the thread spun into a dull weave of sand brown. At this, the whisps seemed to change their nonexistent minds, and they darted away like startled birds. "Catch one for me," her mother stated, focus fixed on her spinning.

. Seina had learned immediate obedience a long time before. She lunged for one, and with a sudden leap of her heart, she saw the other end of the wagon speeding at her. She rammed into one of the medicine Blumaroo's shelves before she could stop. Her head spun as her mind tried to piece together what had just happened. She sat there stunned for a second or two as bottles rained down on her from above. "Hurry up, Seina," her mother went on, her voice as calm as the forest ponds.

. The girl snapped out of her riviere and saw that only two of the half dozen were still within the cart. She took a breath. One of the whisps was spinning on the other end of the wagon, near the boy's head. Seina fixed it in her gaze and sprang. This time, her hands closed around the smoke-like form as she felt he air rush from her lungs. She tried to dig her feet into the ground, but all she felt beneath her was thin air.

. She barely came short of slamming into the cot. Seina gasped in air as she felt herself stop. The whisp in her hand wriggled and strove, but she kept her hands firmly cupped. She hurried to her mother's side.

. The Lady Evelina had left perhaps a hand's width of thread unspun. Seina held up her cupped hands and with a flick and a pinch, the lady had somehow snatched the whisp from its small prison. It wound itself around her finger obediently and she frowned at it. "So eager to be a dream," she said, "yet so unwilling." Without another word, she fed it into the thread and wove it in with a final twirl of the spindle.

. The woven thread began to gleam and shine in the light of the small lanterns hung about the wagon and the dull sunlight piercing the holes in the shut windows and through the drawn curtains. It sparked and gleamed, though it was very short. The lady drew it from the spindle and tied together the ends so it created a single loop. She made her way to the boy's side and Seina trotted after her.

. The girl stared from her mother to the pained face of the Xweetok lad. His forehead was still creased with worry and pain, his jaw still set with firm fear. But, the moment the crown of thread brushed against his forehead, the tortures seemed to cease. His brow unwrinkled and his teeth ungrit. There was a sense of sudden calm and rest on his features that has so long been plagued. Her mother let the crown rest on his head and withdrew to fall heavily on the old wooden chair by the bed. She beckoned to her daughter with a weak wave of her hand.

. The lady took the girl's face in her cupped hand. "You and I," she said, "can give rest. Rest and dreams and calm for health and healing." Seina nodded and her mother went on, "We cannot give true peace. When he awakens, whatever fears and worries that plague him are his own. Never delude yourself that you have such power as to banish them entirely. Do you understand?" Seina stared a moment, bowed her head, and nodded.

. He wasn't quite sure he liked having the other boy get better. The calming walks in the woods were no more. They had stopped needing healer's root long before and Spindle herself insisted that she could boil whatever water they needed. It wasn't even that he wished the boy had never gotten better. It was just that he missed being an actual help instead of a bother.

. Carter was contemplating these things as he sat on the healer's porch carving a white-beaked leaper. All around him wood chips were scattered like seed sowed. He wore a heavier coat since a chill wind had come and sat even though it was only another week into Fall. His hat still looked like it had died on his head. Seina had stared at it so not five minutes earlier when she had gone out to fetch water.

. "A cold will catch you if you stay there the whole day." She was standing with the boiling water in both hands, frowning at him. Her mother had her in the warmest wool, dyed a vibrant red. It was a strange contrast to the blue and green of her natural fur, but the style suited her well enough. Her small boots had a coating of mud though, and she was consiously trying to hide the fact with the kettle.

. "Why not?" he replied as he hopped down to try and help her. "I won't be much of a bother to you or Miss Beatrice. And I can fetch my own hot water with you when I need it."

. "That's hardly how a cold works," she replied, refusing to relinquish her hold on the kettle. "I've thanked you a number of times already for the help you've given," she went on, "now please go and play with the others and jump in the puddles or whatever it is you really want to do. It's worrisome when you don't."

. Carter startled and stared at her. She glared back, daring him to read between the lines. There was no sentiment in her voice, only simple fact. He opened his mouth to speak.

. "Seina!" the healer's voice interrupted. The door to the wagon burst open and the hefty Bumaroo lady scrambled out. Her eyes caught sight of the little Ixi and her worried brow relaxed at once. She smiled. "He's waking up, dear. Come and see! Quickly!"

.Carter wouldn't forgive her quickly for almost dropping the kettle on his foot. At the very least, it had missed him entirely, and the water only splashed a little. He was still muttering beside her, though, and had to be silenced by a shush from the medicine Blumaroo.

. The Xweetok lad was stirring fitfully again. When she and Carter had entered, she had caught a glimpse of her mother's hand whisking away the ring of dulling gold that had sat on the boy's forehead. Now it was wrinkled once more, and his hands were shut tight by his side.

. Then his eyes opened. They were the color of leaves, as pale as new sprouts, and stared wildly around before resting on her face. She blinked at him and he stared back, a wide-eyed, terrified stare that made her instinctively reach out to hold her mother's hand. Fear was contageous. She hid behind her mother's arm to get away from his pitiful gaze.

. "Where am I?" he rasped before he exploded in a fit of coughs.

. "Seina, go fetch some water for him," her mother ordered. She jumped at the chance and hurried to the other end of the cart, where the medicine Blumaroo's cupboard hid a jug of water.

. She heard the medicine Blumaroo conversing with the lad in calming tones as she poured into a wooden cup. He wasn't responding and her mother was keeping silent. She returned and he hadn't said a word. He reached out to take the cup, but when she released it, the vessel slipped through his fingers to spill water on the floor. "Another, Seina," her mother stated, "and serve it well."

. She fetched another cup and held it until the Xweetok had a better grip. He lifted it to his lips and took in deep draughts of the cooling liquid. Some of the water spilled over his cheeks, but he barely paused to allow himself to breathe. She had to go back and forth a number of times to refill the vessel before he set it down on on his lap half-full.

. He stared about more calmly then, taking in the wagon with its hanging herbs and shelves of ointments. His eyes gazed around in polite curiosity, and every turn of his head, though seemingly stiff, showed an ease to grace. He bowed his head to her when he once more seemed to turn his attention to the people around him.

. "You have my thanks," he stated. His voice still sounded like sandpaper on stone, but she nodded politely and dipped a curtsey. All she knew was that it was what her mother would wish her to do.

.His head ached. It was as though two village boys were throwing rocks inside his skull. His vision blurred, his bones seared when he moved, but in his mind, something told him that his waking had been different. There had been less fear, somehow, than there had been since he could even remember. The young leige felt the stares of those around him and fidgeted beneath them. He put away the thought. He could brood at a later time. He needed to know what was happening. He needed to be in control.

. The elegant Ixi lady by his cot was holding the others in check. He could feel the unseen power of command she released. It reminded him of his father. "Might I inquire now as to where I might be?" he asked, the sound of his own voice grating the insides of his head. He'd have to put more effort if he wished to sound proper.

. "You are among the gypsies of the Forestsong Troupe, my Lord," the Ixi replied rather coolly. He cocked his head. He'd never been among gypsies before, as though that would be surprising to anyone. "My daughter and this young Lupe found you in the river," she went on, indicating the younger peasant boy who was near glowering at him. "We have been attending to you for three weeks since the day."

. He nearly shot off the cot. A fire burned harsh on his side and he let out a single cry of pain. He saw the younger Ixi rush over, but she stopped herself for whatever reason, and he saw the panic in her strange blue eyes. "Three weeks!" he exclaimed, gripping what felt like bandages beneath the cloth of his shirt. "What occured to keep me abed three weeks?"

. "We were hoping you'd tell us, lad," the fat Blumaroo woman beside the lady stated. "But, mayhaps not now. You need your rest." The Blumaroo fussed about the young leige until he settled back down. She had the Ixi girl fetch oats from the cupboard for his food. "Seina, where be the hot water?" she asked.

. "I'll get it," the Lupe boy grumbled. He stalked out, arms crossed and posture somewhat hunched. Fantastic. He had somehow managed to offend one of his rescuers. He caught the other one's gaze as she worked. He expected her to look away, but instead, she stared back inquisitively, brows knit in curious worry. The Ixi lady stepped before his view of her daughter and the young Xweeotk looked away quickly. The last thing he wished was to cause insult to yet another.

.The nightmares were returning. A constant vigil had to be kept over the recovering youth lest they began circling again. Seina had never seen them circle one awake like they did him. They were all over the cart now, fleeing her while she swept the dark corners of the room. She kept catching glimpses of them as her mother spoke with the Xweetok lad.

. The Lady Evelina loomed over the cot like a statue. She stood differently, losing the grace of the willow branch and taking up a sentinel's arrow-straight stance. The lady spoke with the lad in hushed, cool tones, and she would absently raise her hand when a whisp drew too close. At this, the offended nightmare would buzz away in a flurry of haste into the deeper shadows of the furniture. The upteenth time she did this, the Ixi girl caught sight of the slightest tremor in the gesture.

. Seina hesitated a moment longer before making her way to her mother's side. She gripped the handle of the broom as she did, for as she drew near, she felt the lad's fear. It surrounded him like mist, and the closer she came, the thicker it grew.

. He sat as straight as he could on the cot, his back propped up by a mountain of pillows. His sunlight-shaded hair was gathered into a short tail of straw behind his head and he held himself as still as possible, a fidget and a squirm escaping him as she draw near. His sprout-green eyes were drawn with calm and ease, but they spared her a glance and a slight widening of curiosity. She felt more than saw the fear, but still a hint of it showed when he looked at her.

. "Is there something you require, Seina?" her mother questioned. Her voice was even, nearly choking itself with control. Seina glanced up into a frowning, tight-lipped face whose emerald eyes were dull and ringed by red.

. "I thought you might want to rest," she blurted out. The glint in her mother's eyes returned a moment and the lady pursed her lips even harder. The Xweetok lad looked away and squirmed a little more.

. The lady laid a hand on her daughter's shoulder and drew away to the side of the cart. Seina followed obediently until they were as far from the lad as possible. "Am I so haggard that you need draw it to attention?" her mother hissed under her breath.

. The Ixi girl bowed her head. "You seem needing of repose," she replied at length. "I can guard against the..."

. "Hush," her mother snapped. Seina sealed her lips together and stared a the ground. When she looked up, her mother had her face in her hand. "Can you guard against the fear as well? Are you really as much a protégé as that?" she questioned in even lower tones. The lady allowed a breath of a sigh to escape. She did not wait for her daughter to answer. "Allow me three hours, Seina," she said. "I shall return then to take your place." Lady Evelina stroked her daughter's head fondly before gliding out of the cart.

.The Ixi lady had left, and the fat Blumaroo had returned. She was humming a strange tune as she bustled around the cart, taking this or that herb down and stringing up others. Every now and again, she would quip a comment or a question to him and he would take a moment or two to think up an answer. By then, she had managed to inject and recieve replies to three questions for the younger Ixi sitting by his cot. She was there as well.

. Her strange eyes were set on a piece of embroidery in her hands. Her light brass hair curtained most of her pointy face. From the way she was constantly raising her hand to it but not sweeping it back, he guessed she was forcing herself to leave it be. She had a mask of powder blue fur centred by and set upon the color of glassy emeralds. That was most of what he caught when he glanced her way.

. Otherwise, he only heard her when she offered her replies. It was rude to stare at a lady, even one perhaps two autumns younger than he and not of noble birth. Whatever the case might have been, she certainly held herself like one. That was more than his sister ever did.

. "Seina," he heard the Bumaroo reproach, "do talk to the lad. He needs more than a clucking old gobbler to keep his thoughts cheerful." He caught the swift rise of color on her cheeks before glancing away again.

. "Might I know," he began, to put her at ease, "the name of my rescuer?" It was a slightly rediculous question. He had heard her name called countless times by the Ixi lady, but protocol demanded he either be introduced or learn it from the younger lady herself before using it.

. "Carter was the one who pulled you from the river," she replied quickly. He looked at her when she spoke. He was allowed that much at court. She seemed to straighten when he did, drawing herself to glance at him with a precise rise of her small chin - not so high as to imply pride, but no longer bowed to her work, just enough to look up at him from where she sat. A wave of calm washed over him so quickly that it drew an owlish blink. "I only hastened to call more aid from the camp," she went on, her voice calm and measured.

. The young leige smiled. "Then might I know your name?" he asked. She forgot him a moment and her head tilted to consider. There was the slitest knit of her brows and a small twitch up on her lips before he binked and saw her just as before, head bent over her embroidery.

. "You may call me Spindle," she replied.

. It was some form of test. He smiled even wider. "I'd much rather call you Seina." Her eyes looked up at him and he felt color rush to his cheeks. The words had come out without amother second's consideration. He hadn't even though how it might offend her. Generally, test-givers did not disdain you if you passed.

. Then she smiled, her eyes softening with their simple happiness. "Then you may," she said, and he felt himself breathe again. "And what might I call you?" she asked, returning to her work. The smile lessened, but remained.

. "Alexander," he replied, "if it pleases you."

. She nodded, and asked him from which village he hailed. He answered her with a vague description of what could have been any village at all. She shook her head at him and asked what their main export was. He replied with 'food' and she almost laughed. Their talk continued until he had managed to reverse their roles. She was telling him of the forest and the river, of the dusty road and the colorful towns. As she spoke, he felt himself nod, and shook himself awake so suddenly that it startled her. He apologized, and she returned to asking the questions. From the corner of the room, the fat Bumaroo sat tending to her gathered herbs and smiling to herself. The nightmares were curled up beneath the furniture, sleeping. « Previous | Next »

The Camp

Carter Callius

Young Carter has been Seina's friend since childhood, and followed her to court to masquerade as her errand boy. The Lupe is a fast thinker, and his cleverness has gotten him in and out of more trouble than anyone else Seina knows. He harbors a great fondness for the Ixi, though it may be more for the memory of what she was than the reality of who she has become.

Lady Evelia

The matronly figure has called down whispered criticisms and rumours upon herself ever since her arrival in the gypsy camp. As Seina's mother and protector, Lady Evelia has watched over her child with the vigilance of a sentinel. While some would say the noble Ixi is far too strict with the girl, none can deny she raised the child well enough. The lady carries in her veins a most powerful and mysterious gift, and has yet to teach her daughter its secrets.

Miss Beatrice

The medicine Blumaroo arrived in the camp the same time as the strange Lady Evelia. Unlike the Ixi Lady however, Beatrice took to the routine of the camp as easily as a fish to water. Her talent with salves, herbs, and remedies drew the attention of the elderly medic, and Beatrice came to take the old woman's place after she faded. She, too, joined Seina when she moved to the court and serves her as a lady's maid and confidant.

Old Benjamin Callius

The camp's master craftsman and grandfather-to-all has been steadily loosing his sight for the past number of years. Still, Old Ben is always ready with a smile for any confused soul who comes knocking at his door, and his talent with the woodwork hasn't suffered in the least either. He once spent his days worrying his rambunxious grandson, Carter, would fall in the river. He now spends them worrying he'll fall to a blade. « Previous | Next »

The Court

Lord Alexander

Sed faucibus iaculis augue. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Phasellus volutpat nisi metus, ut gravida felis lacinia ac. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Phasellus malesuada erat dolor, id commodo arcu dapibus a. Aliquam iaculis pretium elit a sagittis. Ut congue varius ex eu fringilla. Curabitur pellentesque lacus finibus nisl lobortis blandit.

Lord Dimitri

Sed faucibus iaculis augue. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Phasellus volutpat nisi metus, ut gravida felis lacinia ac. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Phasellus malesuada erat dolor, id commodo arcu dapibus a. Aliquam iaculis pretium elit a sagittis. Ut congue varius ex eu fringilla. Curabitur pellentesque lacus finibus nisl lobortis blandit.

Princess Violetta

Sed faucibus iaculis augue. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Phasellus volutpat nisi metus, ut gravida felis lacinia ac. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Phasellus malesuada erat dolor, id commodo arcu dapibus a. Aliquam iaculis pretium elit a sagittis. Ut congue varius ex eu fringilla. Curabitur pellentesque lacus finibus nisl lobortis blandit.

Duke Reginald

Sed faucibus iaculis augue. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Phasellus volutpat nisi metus, ut gravida felis lacinia ac. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Phasellus malesuada erat dolor, id commodo arcu dapibus a. Aliquam iaculis pretium elit a sagittis. Ut congue varius ex eu fringilla. Curabitur pellentesque lacus finibus nisl lobortis blandit.

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The Court

Crown Prince Alexander

Antisocial, while being the best word to describe the heir apparent, is not quite the word anyone wants to hear about the heir apparent. In a system where the nobles' power is more than a little important to the rule of the crown, Alexander's reputation of being an absolute recluse calls attention to him in the worst possible way. The only reason an assassin's dart hasn't found him yet seems to be because no one can. This changes with the arrival of one strange little lady-in-waiting.

Prince Dimitri

Of the four factions of the royal line, Dimitri may not head the largest, but among his entourage, the most powerful courtiers of the nobility don his colors with pride. Though the slightest limp in his left leg renders him physically inferior, the Xweetok is known to be among the most powerful magic users in the kingdom. He also has a talent for small talk and silent agreements, making him the court favorite — the Prince all wish had been born first.

Princess Violetta

Frivolous as a bright red rose unaware of the concept of wilting, the Princess of Endaria enjoys nothing more than the nightly banquets and celebrations held for the court. She's lovelier than a swan, twice as graceful, and very much aware of it. Her jealousy lasts but a moment, for in the end she knows that what grace and beauty do not attract, power will. Her curiosity then when none of the three manage to grab the attention of a single stable boy is almost understandable.

Duke Richard

The ability to sense magic has been an extremely rare and desirable one for many a generation. So when nothing more than a simple Viscount came into the court and displayed not only an apptitude, but a talent for the art, it was unsurprising when he came suddenly into possession of both a Dukedom and a high place by the king's side. The Princess Violetta is Richard's key to keeping said place no matter who the throne passes to.

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History/Story [Section Three]

. He stalked the corridor like a ghost. His footfalls were shuffling, his head bowed and shoulders slumped. His eyes, twin stagnant ponds of dark green, were set upon the worn stone floor. Dark circles marred them even further along with the red rims given by the sleepless nights. A heavy crown rested on limp mahogany curls and provided a sharp contrast to the weakened wisp of a king.

. "Highness?" The white-furred Zafara glanced up briefly. The Kyrii would have been a head taller than the king had his back not been humped. He had gnarled fingers which clung to a tall oak staff that rattled with small decorative charms. Long robes only served to accentuate the bone-thinness of his frame, but his voice had been strong and even.

. The Zafara gave a weak smile. "I envy your eloquence," he rasped out, squinting slightly as he forced his gaze to focus. Exhaustion had stolen the young king's eyes on the second day, his voice on the third.

. "I doubt 'eloquence' is the proper term," the Kyrii corrected. The king shrugged. "You still haven't slept."

. The king gave a weak snort and shook his head. "With torture awaiting me on dream's door?"

. "Fallon." The Zafara stared at the floor, unheeding of the call. "Your father sat on his throne, led his soldiers into battle, advised his council…" The young king refused to show any indication of having heard. "He faced his own terrors alone. The whole kingdom knew. They knew how strong a king he had to be. Then, he would rise and do it all again."

. "Yes, well, that was him, wasn't it?" Fallon returned, holding back a hysterical chortle. He waved a hand as he continued down the corridor. "Leave me to my own devices, Hevelar. I assure you I'll keep myself from madness for as long as possible."

. *~*~*~*

. Fallon's eyes scanned the star-spread sky. The small gems of the heavens twinkled merrily at him even as dark little wisps flew about them. He'd seen them since he was a child, those haunting, slithering forms. They wove about the clouds they so resembled, then dove down into the villages. He shuddered at the sight of them. He'd seen how one was made.

. One night, as he snuck about his father's chambers seeking a lost toy, one of the forms snaked out from between the old king's eyes. The whole room had gone cold, digging into his bones and catching his breath in its icy grip. The form never even spared him a glance. It zipped out the window faster than sunlight, ignoring the shrieking child terrified by its passing.

. The chill ran up the young king's spine and he withdrew from the -blocked- Away from the bluish night, into the warm firelight, he crept. The empty room welcomed him with warmth and the sense of safety as he made his way to the four-poster bed. The Zafara pressed his lips, took a breath, and lay down. The feather bed enveloped him in comfort and his eyes, his heavy, heavy eyes began to droop. Slowly, but all too soon, consciousness began to slip away.

. Fire burned, smoke stung, and safety fled with the light. Fallon gulped in poisoned air. A jolt, he forced a jolt of awareness into his fuzzy mind as he watched strange flames dance on his arm. He swallowed the mangled cry he knew would pass from dream into wakefulness and tried to shake his stiff head. He choked and held back the cough. Another jolt.Slithering about the painted warriors on his ceiling was a tiny wisp of dark. His muscles tensed, his heart beat faster, and he waited. It slid down and past him even as he launched himself to catch it. The wisp escaped through the shut window as though he were not even there.

. The ground slammed into him and wretched out a dry cough from the shuddering form. The Zafara struggled for breath like a fish on land. He ground his teeth, forcing his eyes to release their hold of the dark. He met the flickering of the calm fire with a racing heart and a pounding head that snapped up to seek his prey.

.The drumming heart slowed. His hands clenched. Fallon knelt a moment longer, allowing himself the calm sparks of the fire and the softness of the plush carpet. His hands released their hold and he took a shuddering breath. Then he stood, lay down, and tried again.

. *~*~*~*

. "There has to be an answer."

. The old Kyrii shook his head sadly. "If there had been, your father would have found it long ago."

. "No," Fallon croaked. "No, I cannot accept that. My father, he... He was an honest man..." Hevelar's eyebrows rose at the statement. Fallon swallowed and went on. "Was there anything at all he downright refused to try?"

. Hevelar's frown deepened. "No."

. "Hevelar," Fallon ordered softly. In that word, his voice regained an ounce of former strength. "Do not lie to me."

. "They were locked up for a reason," the Kyrii shot. "Their kind is dangerous."

. "Who?" Fallon demanded suddenly. "What kind?" A desperate king seeking a curse's caster. Hevelar sighed.

. "The Spinners."

. *~*~*~*

. The corridor swallowed him. It trapped him in its looming shadows, its echoing silence. Fallon took a breath of the dusty air and steeled himself. His footsteps resounded eerily, shuffle, step, shuffle, drag. He would not approach it like this.

. Stopping half-way down the dark path, he forced himself erect. His shoulders squared, his head rose. His back straightened and he set his gaze upon the end of the hallway, upon the old oak door reinforced with the black iron. He took a step, a stride toward his fate. He dared not look back.

. His hand hovered over the knob. Chill seemed to emanate from the metal. He grasped it, felt the cold settle into him, fear screaming for him to release and flee. The knob turned and he entered the dark room.

. Dust drifted in the beams of bright moonlight that shone in from the clear glass ceiling high above. The grey walls were solid as ever, an entire foot of solid stone. The old tapestries that hung upon them were worn and darkened from inattention, the white stone floor coated in dust. Then there was the spindle.

. It glowed under the beams of light. What looked to be white marble formed the spindle itself, its wheel shaped much like the spinning wheels the weaver ladies now used. Golden thread had been wrapped around the shaft, trailing in a wisp of dull gold fluff below the disk. It wasn't in the exact center of the room. It was to one side, having been caught upon a bump in the floor.

. Fallon took a stride toward it and felt the entire room buckle and protest. As though on cue, the moon's face was hidden by clouds and an angry wind whipped in from the open door, howling inside the great tower. His eyes followed the sound to the high ceiling, catching sight of the wisps above darting among the stars. He shuddered and stomped for the spindle.

. His hand steady while his heart hammered, he grabbed the spindle by the shaft, above the golden thread. The king gripped it in his gloved hand, feeling sweat on his palm as he did. Immediately, the wind flew out the open door with an angry howl and the clouds released the moon, flooding the room with moonlight.

. "Spindle, I bid thee, awaken!"

. The moonlight intensified, the glow from the spindle suddenly exploding in searing light. Fallon held it away from him, throwing his other arm over his eyes. Still, the light managed to spill through his defenses, streaming into eyes and mind a picture of bright celebrations in a golden age, when all were clad in sunshine and starglow, each with an intricate web-like crown upon their heads. The vision forced the king to his knees.

. And, all at once, the light faded and the night's darkness took him back. Fallon gave out a gasp as he began to breathe again. Spots swam in front of his eyes. He blinked them open, shooing away the eye sear from the flash as scrambled to his feet. The spindle's thread was much lessened, the wisp below its tail now long and trailing out the door. The king followed.

. As he ran down the corridor, Fallon scooped up the fluff that led from the spindle to whatever was at its end. His arms overflowed with the stuff by the time he reached the courtyard. The moon had been partially hidden once more, setting a soft glow to the sight.

. There was a lady standing on the fountain's rim. Her wavy hair brushed below her shoulder, ink-black strands falling around her face. Her back was turned, her face toward the streaming water, and she trailed a long gown of midnight blue. Her arm was outstretched, pale, candle-like fingers hovering over the fountain's pool. The fluff ended where she stood.

. "So much has changed," she stated softly. Her voice reminded him of the winter wind that came too soon, stinging the autumn trees with cold. "So much has gone wrong." She turned so suddenly he thought she'd fall. He faced glaring orbs of the strangest shade of blue. "What have your people done to this land?" she demanded.

. Fallon shook his head to wake himself. The adrenaline had gone and the exhaustion began to settle once more. Running had been a bad idea. "My people?" he croaked as the world around him swayed. "What are you talking about?" He shook his head again and made for the first column he could find. Leaning against its stable stone, he slid down to rest on the ground. All pretence of pride had gone. He needed her help.

. "There are nightmares running loose in the sky!" she accused. "The dreams are nowhere to be seen and the- are you sleeping?" The last icy question drew him back, reminding him where he was and to whom he spoke.

. The king gave a grim chuckle. "Nodding off," he responded. He breathed in and out, steeled himself, and forced his eyes to open. "Don't want to," he went on with a wince. "You cursed us, you know. My father, grandfather, on and on for generations. My turn to suffer, now that I have the crown."

. "What are you babbling about?" she asked. He looked up and found she had stepped off the fountain and was gliding toward him, the fluff at her feet following her as though she stood on fog. "I never cursed anyone."

. He thrust off the unspun thread from his lap and tried to stand. "Yes, well," he stated, "I know at least one old scholar who would disagree with you on that." His legs swayed beneath him and he caught himself on the pillar.

. She cocked her head at him and took a long, hard look at the frail, swaying being. "Six days?" she questioned. "Seven?"

. The king shut his eyes and bit his lip, struggling to make sense of her question. He knocked on his head a couple times to wake himself a little more and perhaps to jog loose an answer. "Since my father's end, yes," he replied at last. "You're talking about the curse? No time to mourn. Too busy keeping myself awake."

. "A generational curse," she concluded. "I have little knowledge of such things. Only that they are very difficult to perform. The spell on you must be-"

. "Can you fix it?"

. "No."

. He stared up at her. His tired eyes were huge and red-rimmed. She saw the limp hand by his side shake, and soon his whole being was being wracked by tremors. The king embraced himself and let out a single sigh. With it, the tremors left. "Worth a try," he breathed. Bending down, he brushed aside the fluff and grabbed the spindle by the shaft once more.

. "Careful, you'll tangle the threads!" she scolded.

. "Don't care," he replied shortly. Holding the spindle up to her face, he ordered, "Now get back in there."

. He eyes grew wide and she took a step back. "You can't put me in there, not again," she all but pleaded, "not with these nightmares running lose like this. I have to fix them!"

. "You just said you couldn't," he returned, waving the spindle at her like a wand.

. "Not your curse, you spoiled little brat!" she snapped as she took another step back. She looked up, eyes glancing through the heavenly canopy. "You can't see them, but they're there. Nightmares will rule the stars themselves if you don't-"

. "I can see them." She faced him so suddenly, blue eyes wide and searching, that he lowered his arm. He was getting tired of holding the accursed thing up anyway. It slipped from his hand and he told himself he'd pick it up again later. "They look like... smoke. Living smoke." She just stared at him, eyebrows knit in either puzzlement or annoyance. "That's what they are, isn't it?"

. "Who are you?" she questioned, crossing her arms and drawing herself up to glare down her nose at him. It worked, though had he not been slouching he would have been at least a head taller than she. "You told me you were king."

. "King Fallon," he responded with the slightest of bows, "of the House of Somniatis." She cocked her head at him and proceeded to circle. He felt a losing life before a vulture. "And you?" he questioned. "Or should I just continue calling you Spindle?"

. "House Somniatis did not exist in my time," she stated. "When was it established?"

. "Spindle it is," he muttered under his breath. He clutched the spindle he still held in his hands. "I grow tired of these games. Can you help me or not?"

. She sighed. "Was it your family that placed this curse on me?"

. Fallon nodded. "Yes," he replied.

. "Have you no siblings?" she pushed. "Cousins?"

. Fallon furrowed his brow and squinted at her to make sure she wasn't some strange vision of an exhausted mind. "Somniatis is known for its single line," he replied at last.

. Spindle pursed her lips and frowned. She glanced up and he followed her gaze, taking in the scene of at least a dozen nightmares swarming the stars. Then she stared at the feeble king and nodded. "I may know a way to help you."

. Fallon couldn't help it. He allowed a smile to slip and beamed at her. She raised an eyebrow at him. Her frown deepened and the looked she sent him was scathing. "Not sure I deserve that," he noted.

. "Teach me the path to the battlements," she ordered simply.

. Fallon shrugged and forced himself off the column. His head swam as he did and the smile vanished as quickly as it had come. He bit his lip to bring himself back before his body decided to shut down. He took a moment to gain his bearings before setting off for the stairway.

. Ahem. He turned to see her standing cross-armed beside the column. Impatient, Fallon slouched against the wall. Giving a huff of annoyance, she bent down and picked up the spindle that lay where he had discarded it. With a flourish of her hand, she set the tool to spinning as it hovered beside her open palm. Fallon stared. It was the first time he had ever seen actual magic. Her other hand was somehow handling the fluff so that it spun properly over the hook. Every so often, the thread unhooked from the spindle and was twined around the still turning shaft. The spindle never stopped spinning as length after length of dull fluff turned to golden thread.

. Fallon watched the glittering gold in the moonlight. It was almost hypnotic. Spin, unhook, wind, spin, unhook, wind... He felt himself following the strange pattern. Breathe in, hold, breathe out. The king felt the fire before his eyes completely closed. And he gave a cry as he slid down the wall.

. Fallon found himself sitting on the cold stone floor, breath hissing through grit teeth. Spindle had turned to him in surprise, her spinning stopped in mid-air. He bit his lip angrily. "I wonder," he said after a moment, "if we might solve my problem before you continue your work?"

. A small frown had crossed her lips. She glanced at the spindle sadly before sending it hovering to him. There was still quite a bit of fluff left unspun that trailed on the ground from where she stood to the hook. The king took the spindle and forced himself to his feet. He stared ruefully at the tall stairs and began to climb.

. *~*~*~*

. "There," the king huffed, "happy?"

. The path to the battlements had taken them first through the stairs of the watchtower. Halfway through, a door had led them outside to stand atop the tall walls of the castle. Fallon plopped himself on the stone floor, his back resting against the guarding wall. First running, now climbing. And he though walking had been painful after lacking so much sleep. The guards at their posts were hard-pressed not to stare. He almost chuckled at their straight-set gaze into the dark night and would have made a face at them had he not been exhausted.

. She glided onto the wall and Fallon really had to respect the discipline the guards showed. They showed no sign of even remote interest in the strange new arrival. For the first time, Fallon noted how strangely doll-like she looked, and he wasn't even sure why. She was an Ixi, her fur ghostly pale when set against the black of her hair and by the dark shades of her trailing robes. Her face was short and pointy and very much lacking in expression. Her movements had the slightest of hesitations, as though forced to grace rather than born to it.

. A nightmare darted in front of her and she seemed to pounce on instinct. She was fast. Fallon only blinked and missed how she suddenly found herself in front of it. The wisp dashed through her as though she were not even there. In that instant, her eyes widened and she drew in a sharp breath. On her face flashed a look of shock and pain and Fallon almost forced himself to his feet to help her. Then she blinked, swallowed, and straightened herself.

. The guards were still staring fixedly on the night. Fallon shot them a look of annoyance. He didn't care how strange she looked, if a lady was in distress, any gentleman of his kingdom was to aid them. He opened his mouth to say so, but stopped when he saw her standing atop the wall.

. The king scrambled to his feet. "Woah, what are you doing?" he questioned. He felt the guards' gazes finally turn to him.

. She raised an eyebrow in what had to be her favourite expression in his case. "Calm yourself," she stated. "I merely wish to see the village."

. "You can do that without standing on the wall," he noted. "Please get down."

. She smiled, showing a mouthful of white teeth. Fallon felt worry form in the pit of his stomach. She stepped off the wall.

. "Spindle!" he exclaimed as she disappeared over the edge. He was about to run to the edge when a hand gripped his shoulder roughly.

. "Sir?" Fallon turned to face the guard, eyes wide and wild. "Are you alright?" the Gnorbu asked.

. Fallon couldn't keep his voice from wavering. "What do you mean-!"

. "They can't see me." Spindle floated up beside him. He stared.

. "Sir?" The soldier was watching the young king sternly, as though examining him for signs of madness. Fallon could hardly blame him. The king pursed his lips and took a breath.

. "You could have told me that earlier," the king hissed. Turning to the soldier Fallon regarded him with a bleary gaze. "I'm fine," he stated. "Thank you." He looked around a moment. "On which battlement do we stand?"

. "The south battlement, Sir," the soldier replied.

. "Please reinforce the north battlement," he ordered. Looking behind the Gnorbu, he saw the other guard watching him curiously. "Both of you."

. The two guards exchanged a glance. "Sir, we mean no disrespect-"

. "Then go to the north battlement," Fallon interrupted. He took a shuddering breath. "I haven't lost my mind," he added, staring straight into the guard's eyes, daring defiance, "not yet. Just go, please."

. The guard kept his gaze. Fallon was a new king, and he had yet to earn their respect. The curse hadn't helped in the least. But, he was still king. "Yes, Sir," the guard replied. He motioned for his companion to follow as he made his way into the tower.

. Spindle alighted upon the battlement wall and he glared at her. "Next time, warn me when you're about to do something drastic," he stated. The cold of the night wind pushed at him and he found his footing unstable. Just the sight of her standing there made him feel dizzy.

. "I sincerely hope you fear not heights," Spindle said bluntly.

. "No fear of heights," he replied, "though I doubt anyone lacks the fear of falling." His sleepless mind took a moment to realize what she was implying. The king blinked at the expectant figure and made his way to the wall. He looked down. "Surely you jest," he said drily.

. "Your turn," she stated, gesturing to the great expanse of night outside the lanterns' glow.

. "In case you are half blind," Fallon returned, "I have no wings."

. "Neither have I," Spindle replied, once more hovering over the edge. The fluff at her feet formed a strange trail. It almost seemed that she had no feet.

. "I am no longer sure you even exist." Fallon glanced from her to the sky. Nightmares were swimming among the clouds. « Previous | Next »


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