Thorin held her breath; he was tall, with the characteristic indigo blue hair grey eyes although they were the same as Loreck’s there was also something different and familiar about them. His skin shown blue in the light although he was taller, younger, his features were defined. Fine boned and elegant, the handsome aristocratic demeanour and the exactness of his movements did not belie his strength and agility, adorned in regal attire and golden sandals, he carried no armour, yet the fact that he was a warrior was clear. As he drew nearer the others made a path for him each bowing in turn.
Thorin looked up trying to meet his gaze levelly, as he approached her. “I understand that you are the reason I am here, what I do not understand is why I’m here.” She said flatly trying to sound matter of fact and unaffected by his presence.
Without taking his eyes from her, he instructed “Loreck take the lady to the shimmering pools, I will join you there” Loreck nodded his assent and to Thorin he said “yes, I will explain all in time,” sensing her silent protest more softly “be patient and remain open-minded.” It unnerved Thorin that she was suddenly not afraid of him. She watched him until he was out of sight and nothing but a small speck on the balcony of the Citadel.
Moving silently over the plains and a small desert area, except for the occasional commentary from Loreck Thorin was grateful for the silence; her mind was racing in this new land. She kept coming back to how Mortas had appeared, there was much about him that was strange, his black feathered wings was certainly a showstopper, and yet there was something familiar in his air, the manner in which he approached her, his sure self-confidence brought back memories of another Thorin did not want to think on. In the distance there was a shimmering line, its shape continually adjusting.
“What is that up ahead, it seems to be alive?”
Prompted by Thorin’s curiosity Loreck said, “That is the Iscarza, it is quite literally living water, and it is a part of the equilibrium in our world once spanning many leagues.” He pointed as he spoke. “It is the largest body of water in the Kingdom of Effieron, flowing through the land from the western Silver Graveyard ancient ruins to beyond Osidian the Eastern Kingdom, but now it is slowly diminishing.” Loreck continued “our world is beginning to die and with added conflict, it seems hopeless.” His dejection did not escape Thorin who felt silent pity for the loss occurring in his world, as they passed over the still considerable expanse of water.
Beyond the pools, towards the horizon rising majestically out of the landscape was a tower, like the one she’d seen belonging to the King. “Wow” she exclaimed “what is that?”
Unable to contain her open fascination, she drank in the sight before her. What seemed a tower at first was more than just a building. As they passed through, it was also the doorway into the hollow shell of the mountain. Leading to the center of the great Citadel city stood a building higher than the rest. The aerie of Marble and gold, it shone in the glimmering light of the twilight sun. Encircling it, bent majestic branches of perfumed flowers, clinging and climbing ever upwards. Columns of white stood in the shape of a sphere at its base. It boasted of wealth beyond imagination.
“That is the Silent Tower, the Citadel of Prince Mortas. It has an interesting history. The lady who once occupied this great place had the stones strategically placed to create a large hollow pillar inside it is circular and the roof is designed so that light may travel from outside all the way to the very depths.” Loreck’s voice was proud as he expounded the facts.
“Such height, the view must be breathtaking,” said Thorin.
Loreck soared up on an air current, rising above the unruly gusts of the Great Sandor Mountains and the Gold Prairie below circling the tower. Thorin found that she loved the heights, for one she could see the landscape much better Loreck’s wings swept them effortlessly through the clear air, his feathers gleaming in the late afternoon sunlight.
“It is five thousand kilometres high.” Loreck said. “I will take you there, you must wait for Mortas, Gadzara will be your companion, she is level-headed and trustworthy I think you will be safe.” Loreck said.
“You will not be staying with me?” Thorin questioned, she felt uneasy to remain in an unknown place, not that she knew Loreck well but she was more at ease with him.
“There is nothing to fear. Gadzara is a very good warrior and you will come to no harm under her protection.” Loreck seemed certain and Thorin felt she had to trust him. She nodded quietly.
They landed on an open balcony, decorated by ornate vases; veiled curtains billowed and with them came a woman who was the image of the Prince. Although smaller in build. She had the same quiet strength, long blue black hair floating gracefully past her shoulders. Fine features and an elegant nose added to her haughty demeanour; her apparel although regal was more feminine, revealing ample attributes which when she moved, saw to it that none of her charms were missed. The metals in her ears arms wrists and neck like Loreck’s glistened.
“This is the one?” She asked
“She is the one.” Loreck confirmed, ushering Thorin in the footsteps of the woman.
They arrived to a central room that reminded Thorin of a Persian harem. Filled with cushions, subdued lighting lent a rich glow to the fabrics. In the centre food and wine had been placed and the scent reminded Thorin that she had not eaten for some time. The woman settled motioning them to join her.
“Where is Mortas?” She asked and Thorin noted the intimate way in which she spoke the name.
“He is at the gathering, there is unrest, and Larion is still away.” Loreck supplied briefly.
“I can guess who is causing the unrest.” She stated looking Thorin full in the face, the other becoming very conscious of her intense stare.
“Forgive me” Loreck interjected “this is the lady Thorin.” He said to Gadzara and to Thorin. “This is the Princess Gadzara-heir to the east lands and the Hieron clan (now occupied by the Cayjuns)-daughter of King Melfeshos-whose name is immortal-he died well.” Loreck concluded the lengthy introduction and Thorin noticed the change in the other woman as her past was revealed, there was proud silent defiance.
“I have had comfort prepared for her stay if she is to remain here, that is assuming she can survive the climate in this region.” Gadzara said in a stately manner. Thorin knew from her voice that the woman considered her “competition” and had no genuine liking for her.
“She is and she will.” Loreck nodded briefly. Gadzara rose in a fluid motion, bowed and withdrew to make further arrangements. As if sensing Thorin’s unasked question Loreck answered “do not be afraid of her, she is jealous, she considers Mortas hers and she does not like opposition, but she will honour his wishes.”
“How long will I have to be here?”
“Our gathering lasts two cycles-(four of your days) after that his Highness will be here …”
“But I don’t want to wait four days,” Thorin interrupted “why am I here, what is here, when do I go home?” Was that shrieking voice really hers.
“I have stayed too long already Mortas will need me.” Loreck said there was an underlying urgency in his voice as he signalled his goodbye.
“I have prepared refreshments for you; I think you will find them to your taste.”
Thorin turned. Gadzara had entered the room from another entrance, and following behind her was a servant with a tray made up of a strange gilded metal. On it was spiced cooked meats, bread, fruit and a wine pitcher with goblets. The servant set the tray down in the centre of the pile of cushions and withdrew. Gadzara motion Thorin to join her as she poured some wine into the goblets, giving one to her unwilling guest. Settling back she eyed Thorin openly.
“I am sure that you are aware that I do not like strangers, especially those who do not understand our ways,” she said, sipping briefly from her goblet. “Allow me to explain that in our world each chooses whom they wish for a mate, although it is true to say that royalty may forego such a luxury where it benefits the greater good, but unlike humans, our choices are for life, unless there is more than one favourable suitor, when such a situation exists then there is a battle to decide the victor, after that the natural choice is made.” Thorin listened intently she knew Gadzara would be telling her something soon.
“You speak as if each party has little choice in the matter, what about love, understanding and respect?” “To sacrifice everything for an action sanctioned by others seems, well to put it bluntly, cold.” Thorin said slowly.
“Of course to an outsider such as yourself you would not see the privilege of being chosen, by one of royal blood no less, certainly compatibility exists and great care is often taken when choosing a concubine.”
The words resonated in Thorin’s head. Gadzara continued smoothly “our land is dying and so to preserve it, we can no longer look to inside our own species. We have had to make a choice for the survival of our future that is why you are here, new genes are needed. A suitable breeding vessel, to bear a child carrying royal blood …”
At this Thorin who had been listening with quiet intent, dropped her goblet from suddenly cold hands, recovering she tutted at her own clumsiness she was not going to let Gadzara frighten her after all, the tactics being used could only be from a jealous desperation, but then again what did Gadzara stand to lose or gain she was royalty.
“That is not what I imagined the story to be. Loreck …”
Gadzara laughed sneeringly “Loreck knows nothing, correction forgive me, he is to say nothing, you must decide whether you will be a concubine, after all I am the chosen mate for Prince Mortas , our compatibility benefits both land and people, so you see you could have no place here.”
Thorin felt the bile rising from the pit of her stomach, she tried desperately to remain focused and composed.
“I can alternatively make arrangements for you to leave here this night; I could send you back to your own world.”
Thorin raised her head proudly looking the other woman straight in the eye. “I was told that you are jealous so I should expect such actions from you. How do I know that what you’ve revealed is not just some scheme to get me to leave?”
Gadzara smiled. “I consider you no threat my dear, I was merely offering to help you, in discovering the truth about your purpose here. How do you know that I am not showing you kindness, by telling you what is in your future, giving you the chance to leave before you are forced to stay?” Gadzara drawled “if you do not believe me when Loreck returns ask him and watch his reaction to your questions, he will not give you an answer, nor will he deny what I have said.” Gadzara was triumphant.
Thorin’s emotions were in turmoil; shakingly she reached for the spilt goblet and poured more wine taking a deep drink. She forced herself for composure, trying to steady her nerves and wild beating of her heart, levelly holding her gaze and courage she said to Gadzara “I will ask Loreck when he returns tonight, if what you say is true, then you can help me to go home, as long as you are sure you can do that.”
Gadzara smiled. “Of course and I will handle any questions that might be asked about your absence.”
With that she rose to leave. “I think you have made a wise decision.” And with that she was gone.
Thorin mused. This was Effieron, a land alien to her, that was dying, on the verge of war, her reality did not exist here nor the basis for rationality, everything was surreal there was nothing to attribute to normality. How could she explain this when it defied all logic and understanding, her being here simply could not be explained, all she knew had changed. The wine was taking effect Thorin fell asleep shortly afterwards.