Copyright © 2019 Tiffany Shand
Ann and Ed reappeared in the forest where they had been attacked the day before. After speaking to Urien again, her brother had vowed to keep an eye on Byron and the other leaders when they arrived whilst Ann and Ed searched for the seer.
“Do you think whatever that seer saw is connected Byron or one of the other leaders somehow?” Ed asked. He glanced around the tree line, looking anxious.
“It would be a big coincidence if they weren’t connected. That prophecy and whatever it involves isn’t going to come true,” Ann vowed.
“What about Urien? What if he is involved?” Ed asked.
Ann frowned. “How could Urien be involved? He’s —” her voice trailed off and she shook her head. “We may not see eye to eye at times, but he’s still my brother. He’s a good man.”
“His mother is a demon,” Ed pointed out.
“We need more facts before we go jumping to conclusions.” Ann knelt and placed her hands over the ground where she’d seen the seer. She reached out her mind. Around her the elements buzzed and hummed. Earth, water, air. Her own affinity was fire, but she could use the other elements to an extent. Erthea’s natural lifeblood contained pure magic. Light whirled around her vision, reds, greens and all shades in between. But each line of energy didn’t lead to the person she sought.
She gritted her teeth. Everyone – even humans — left a trace of energy behind. Yet no sign of the strange seer.
“Do you sense anything?” Ann asked as she looked up at Edward.
Ed shook his head. “I’m not as skilled with magic as you are.”
“You’re good in knowing things. You always seem to know things without people telling you. I swear you have an entire library locked up inside your mind somewhere.”
Ed laughed. “I wish and no, I don’t sense anything.” He knelt beside her and examined the ground. “No sign of any tracks but they might have been wiped away by now.”
“She didn’t stand, she hovered over the ground. Floated which would suggest a lot of power.” She sighed. “Argh, how could she leave no trace?”
“Perhaps she cloaked herself.”
Ann muttered numerous revealing spells and tracking spells, but no sign of the elusive seer appeared. “Maybe we should retrace our steps. See if we can locate that sorcerer,” Ed suggested.
She shook her head. “I don’t think he’s part of this. But go look for him if you want to.”
“I’m not leaving you alone,” Ed protested.
“I was alone yesterday. Maybe I need to be again.”
“Go, I’ll be fine. See if you can find the sorcerer. Maybe he can tell us something.”
Go, she told him in thought. Seers sometimes hang around watching people. Maybe if I’m alone she’ll appear.
What if he’s the one who brings the prophecy about? Ed demanded. No, I don’t like this.
“It’s my job to keep safe,” Ed said out loud. “What if something goes wrong and I can’t get to you?”
“Glad to know I’m so important to you.” She scowled.
“You…” He sighed. “You are important to me and you know it.”
She bit back a smile. “Good, then trust my judgement and go find sorcerer.”
Ed gritted his teeth.
“I could make it an order, but you know I hate ordering you around.” Ann bit back a smile.
“Really? You do it all the time.” He snorted. “Fine, I’m going but at the first of trouble you damn well call for me.”
“I can take care of myself.”
“Yes, but we’re stronger together.” He turned to go then gave her a look. I’m not going far. Stay close. Call for me if you see her.
“Be careful,” he added.
Ann moved off through the trees and glanced around. The scent of leaves, grass and earth hung heavy in the air. She scanned the area with her mind, feeling the familiar hum from the earth lines. “Come on, I know you’re around here somewhere,” she called. “Show yourself.”
Ann moved back to the spot where she’d seen the woman the day before and leaned back against the tree. Come on, you have to be here.
“Please, I need to talk to you,” she said. “Tell me more about the prophecy. How will the house of Valeran fall? What’s going to happen?”
A faint laughter carried on the air. “The house of Valeran shall fall and the stars will darken,” a voice whispered in her ear.
Ann jumped, and fire crackled between her fingers. Yet she found no one standing beside her. “Where are you?” she hissed. “Show yourself.”
The woman appeared, hovering a few feet away. “Rhiannon Valeran, druid’s daughter.”
How she hated that name. There were other druids on Erthea, despite their race’s dwindling numbers. No doubt they had daughters too.
“Tell me what you’ve seen,” Ann said. “Who are you?”
“I’ve been here since the world was young, I will be here when it ends.” The woman grinned; her black eyes gleamed like obsidian.
“You’re cryptic, I hate cryptic. What did you say?” Ann put her hands on her hips. “How will the house of Valeran fall? Are you going to do it?”
The seer giggled, her obsidian eyes glittering like gems. “The house of Valeran will fall, the stars will —”
“Yes, we’ve established that. What does that mean?” Ann demanded, hands clenching into fists.
The woman smirked then turned upside down as she stared at Ann. “You have her temper.”
“Who’s temper?” Her eyes narrowed when she crossed her arms.
She snorted. “My mother is a gentle woman. She has no temper. My father on the other hand does.”
“I did not mean your father’s wife.”
Ann flinched at that. She would not discuss that with a complete stranger. “You’re not going to tell me anything,” she said. “I should have known you were a fraud, coming here was a waste of time when I should be figuring out how to keep my family safe.” Her lip curled. “You’re probably not even a real seer.”
Ann, be careful, Ed said. You don’t know what she is capable of.
The seer’s button-like eyes flashed. “Watch your tongue, girl,” she hissed. “Do not question my power.”
“I do question it.” And put her hands back on her hips. “Why warn me if you don’t intend to stop it?”
“Some things cannot be stopped. The house of Valeran will fall,” the woman repeated.
The seer’s lips curved into a twisted smile. “Soon, girl. Very soon.”
“Then how…argh! Why am I wasting my time with you?” she asked. “Whatever you think will happen, won’t. I won’t let it.”
The seer laughed. “The stars will darken, blood will spill, and the Crimson will grow. Then your path will be revealed.”
The woman vanished in a plume of smoke. “You can’t stop what’s meant to be.”
“Please tell me you saw that,” Ann said after they transported back to her chamber.
Ed nodded. “I did.”
“So what is she?”
“I have no idea. Her magic seemed… old and powerful. Maybe she’s from beyond the veil.”
“Something bad is going to happen — we both feel it.” She pulled off her cloak and tossed it aside. “The question is how do we stop it?”
“It would be a big coincidence if something didn’t go down at the meeting. If so many leaders are there —” Ed rubbed his chin. “Maybe we can convince Reevus it’s too much of a security risk.”
“That won’t work. My father spent years working to bring this peace. Three out of five realms is better than nothing.” Ann turned when she heard sound of something breaking and frowned. Her heart lurched as she hurried into the hall and found both her brothers pummelling each other.
Oh no, Urien must have told Xander about him and Ceara’s affair. I should have known he wouldn’t take it well.
Xander swung at Urien, who dodged the blow and struck Xander with a lightning bolt. Xander stumbled backward and fell to the ground. More lightning flared between Urien’s fingers.
“Enough!” a voice thundered.
Ann felt the wall behind her tremble was Darius marched down the hall. She hurried over to Xander.
Darius rounded on Urien and shoved him, grabbing hold of his tunic. “What is wrong with you two?” Darius hissed. “We’re days away from the most important day in history and here you two are fighting like common thugs. I won’t have either of you ruining this.”
“He attacked me,” Urien seethed.
“Maybe shouldn’t have bedded my woman.” Xander shoved Ann’s hand away and scrambled up.
Urien’s lip curled. “It’s not my fault you can’t satisfy Ceara.”
Xander tried to lunge Urien again but Darius put a hand out to stop him.
“Enough. Stop behaving like children,” Darius snapped. “If you can’t control yourself then leave. I won’t have all the realms thinking I can’t contain my own sons.”
“I won’t miss the meeting of the leaders,” Urien retorted.
“Then start acting like a grown man instead of a spoilt brat.”
Urien stalked away, muttering curses as he went.
Ann hurried after her older brother. “What did you say to Xander?”
Urien wiped his bloodied lip. “Nothing. Ceara told him after Xander caught us together.”
“Damn it, Urien. You should have told him.” She shook her head, sighing. “This is the worst possible way for him to find out. And you didn’t need to antagonise him like that. This will be hard enough for him to accept already.”
“Whose side are you on, sister?” Urien demanded.
Ann grabbed his arm, dragging him into an empty chamber so people wouldn’t be able to overhear them. She shut the door behind him. “That is not important. We have other things to worry about.” She pushed her hair off her face. “I found that fear again. She said her prophecy is going to come true. Very soon. What have you found out about Byron and the other leaders who are coming to the meeting?”
Urien picked up a silver tray and glanced at his reflection. “Argh, damn, a little brother can hear better than I thought.” He dropped the tray with a clunk. “It seems Byron has been gathering a lot of troops lately close to his fortress in Nordige. I’ve sent a scout out there to see what they can find out. There may be at least another day before we have any news.”
Ann sighed. “We need more than rumours and hearsay to convince Papa not to go ahead with the meeting.” She paced back and forth in front of the fireplace. “Think. There must be something we can do. We are his children. We are hardly powerless.”
“We’ll find something. Perhaps we need to get a little closer Byron.”