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Published by Ava D. Dohn at Smashwords – Copyright 2011 Ava D. Dohn
Sisters of the BloodWind #30
Of Councils and Small
ENJOY THE CONTINUING READ . . .
Mihai’s interruption had gathered its magic to the moment and saved Ardon from a dangerous, possibly life-threatening encounter. Darla had fought down her ‘madness,’ regaining quiet control.
Just how Mihai and certain others tolerated this creature was beyond him. This was not the first time he had witnessed it nor, he feared, would it be the last. As Mihai continued on with her pleasantries, his mind flashed back to the day of his return to Palace City just after Mihai’s attempted murder.
There he was, consoling Mother, he leaning over her, they hugging each other, lost in the cries and wails of lament, when little six-year-old Darla entered the room. In a vicious, blind rage, the girl screeched and lunged forward, tearing and biting at the ‘monster’ attacking her mother. It took weeks for the wounds to heal and many more for the scars to go away. It pained him, even now, just recalling that attack. Although the event was almost six millennia ago, it appeared to Ardon that Darla never forgot, her hatred for him only growing until, again, after the Great War he had been confronted by her, only to be saved that time by Euroaquilo. No! The girl was a menace and a danger! Why Mother put up with her was beyond his understanding, and why she had been invited here – on this night – was even a greater mystery.
Mihai backed away, making room for Darla to step forward and receive her official salutations from Ardon. She, though, did not move, her icy stare boring into the man.
For his part, Ardon politely bowed, acknowledging Mihai’s escort. “My Lady, may all be well with you.”
Darla remained motionless, glaring at Ardon. Mihai finally gave Darla a nudge with her arm, whispering, “Mother will be most displeased to see her favorite daughter acting so rudely. Do your part. Or is it shame you also want to deliver upon me?”
Moved by Mihai’s scolding, Darla stepped forward, arms stiff at her sides. She bowed ever so slightly and in a most formal way replied, “Your Counsel…good evening.” She turned away, not even looking Ardon in the face, stepped behind and around Mihai and tugged on her elbow to go.
Mihai looked apologetically at Ardon, addressing him as ‘Lord’ and wishing him well. She then excused herself, following Darla’s direction, and advanced on to the next person. Soon the room was again filled with the quiet chatter of private conversations while Mihai and her escort continued to receive the long line of wellwishers.
As soon as they had distanced themselves from him, Ardon slipped from the crowd and retraced his steps to the quiet, safe world of his perch.
From there he pondered the life and history of this madwoman who was so bent on his destruction. Ma-we had shared it with him, oft repeating it through the years, but still he was more troubled by the way she fussed over the girl than for the reasons why.
He had heard it all, and not just from Mother. Unlike the other children, Darla had no pleasant memories to cling to. Her world was torn apart while she was but a babe, when Ma-we permitted the child to nurse at Mihai’s breasts while she convalesced after Asotos’ attack. Mother found it so therapeutic for her daughter that later, after Zadar was born, she offered the job of wet-nursing him to Mihai also. For three years, until the age of six, Mihai acted as mother and nursemaid to little Darla.
All the while, the child’s increasing nightmares and panic-filled fainting spells were largely ignored, Ma-we believing the girl had suffered a great emotional shock because she had been nursing Darla when Asotos attacked Mihai, she falling to the floor, Darla crashing headlong into it after being dropped by her. Ma-we had repaired the physical damage and believed the child would eventually outgrow the emotional trauma.
Indeed, it may well have been Ardon’s entry onto the scene that saved Darla from going hopelessly insane. Much to Ma-we’s dismay, when she discovered the demons growing in the girl’s mind, it was too late to cure her. But at least they could be suppressed –for a while, anyway – until a cure might be found. Yes, Darla had been thrown onto the altar of fire and blood from the dawn of her memories. Violence and terror were her earliest companions. Only long after her gaining adulthood had others come to truly fathom the evil buried within her mind…fathom, but not understand.
So why did Mother allow her most dangerous child the freedom she did? Ardon puzzled. True, the child needed love and attention, something Ma-we and Mihai always showered on her. She drew so close to Mihai that the girl refused to leave her bed until the growing sensual emotions that were waking within her forced Mother to make other arrangements for her. It was understandable that she acted in such a way. She had no companions who willingly shared their lives with her.
Ardon remembered well, he living at the Palace for many years after his return. Oh yes, there were still the parties and gatherings, fewer and less attended, but visitors there were aplenty. Zadar was always the center of attention while Darla would often stand silently in the corner or slink off into the shadows to seek solace with imaginary friends. Euroaquilo’s willingness to take Darla under his wing and provide loving companionship not only eased the girl’s heart, but also introduced her to the realities of war. Here, Ardon believed, was where Darla’s madness worked to her advantage, and he wished she would remain there until her cure was accomplished.
Ardon did not hate Darla. He was ridden with a deep inner sadness concerning her. Still, one was to consider the welfare of the people over one person no matter the cost to that being. At least that was how Ardon viewed matters.
And then there was Zadar, the youngest of all the children. Darla loved him from the start, acting as much his protector as she did for Ma-we. And Zadar?
As he grew in stature and manhood, his devotion deepened for his sister to the point of what some came to view as worship of his older sister. To this day it was wisdom to not criticize her while in Zadar’s presence.
And the things Mother allowed Darla and her other children to get away with bothered Ardon so. The last time he was almost attacked by Darla, the last time she had spoken to him, some forty years before, the woman had been in a drunken stupor. At least tonight he had smelled none of the strong drink on her like he had Planetee.
Why Mother put so much trust in Planetee he did not know. True, she was an Ancient, but there were limits and responsibilities. More than once he had witnessed that woman crawling up the Palace steps, reeking with the stink of strong wine and vomit. Never once had Mother turned her away, much to Ardon’s disgust. Planetee was one of Mihai’s closest councilors and confederates in war. He feared so often for Mihai’s well-being because of her. Still, Planetee was a force to be reckoned with, and he felt he was not up to that task. He turned his attention back to Darla.
It was true that Darla lived in a world of satanic madness and pain that was not of her making. And it was true that Ardon’s unkempt appearance and long, disheveled hair caused some of Darla’s actions. Still, the woman should be watched more closely, especially in a gathering like this. Who knew if the serious matters discussed this night might not bring out the monster in her anew? He must remain alert to the possibility. He must act as the peoples’ protector if no one else would.
At that moment a fellow councilor called to him. He stood, smiling, and extending a hand, sauntered over to the man.
* * *
‘So! This is the world of angels and fools, the blowhards of government and policy making!’ The eyes hidden in the shadowy confines of secreted corners of the council chambers studied the many faces in the gathering crowd. There was scorn on the whispering lips of the person behind those eyes, the disdain for people of pompous society and highbrow pedigree evident in the creature’s bitter frown. Visions of days long ago flooded the person’s mind, filling it with the sights of torn and bloodied bodies of the dead and dying, all the while, the ‘grandiose chatter’ of the amused audience concerning itself with the glory of the kill, or bravery of the defeated.
Turning its attention back to matters at hand, the creature muttered under its breath, “And who, this good eve, is the next to find my blade?
‘A clean kill tonight! Show your skill and cunning, and allow it no second breath! Cleave it to the kidneys, yet let it live long enough to smell your sweet joy in its capture unto death.’”
Shaking off the intoxicating vision, the creature sputtered, “It is for the safety of the King and its council… Indeed! The world I shall save tonight. Is the death of one not a fair price to save so many?”
And there was the one hiding behind secret doors, waiting for someone’s message or directions. But the spy was not secret to all, nor would it survive long enough to receive a ‘well done’ from its awaiting master. Now to wait…to wait and see who shall deliver the treasonous note to the contemptible thief.
Sucking in a breath as though sniffing the breeze, weary eyes examined the crowd. Nostrils flared with disquiet. ‘Too many are the foul odors of mischief and evil in this room tonight. Have all the worlds’ vultures gathered here to me, or does the wind itself offer up its putrid scent to offend my thoughts? And yet another I smell whose presence I do not yet discern, but like the Kriggerman on the prowl it comes ever closer. Its very breath hastens the death of us all.’
Quietly, the creature slunk further back into the shadows like a panther waiting its prey.
* * *
“Come with me.” Mihai was emotionally exhausted as she tugged on Darla’s sleeve, pulling her toward the stairs that led high into the upper bleachers. “I need a rest from these well-wishers.” She turned her head to look down at the gathering crowd as the two ascended the steps. “We’ll take a litter breather up here.”
“Whew!” Mihai sighed relief. She nudged Darla, pointing down toward the main floor. “There, right there, you see where PalaHar and Terey are standing? There’s a trap door in the floor that allows a person to be lowered out of sight. Well… not just people, but stage props and things like that.”
Darla sat up, asking, “Like what? Why would a council chamber have a trap door for props?”
“Oh…” Mihai smiled. “This wasn’t always a council chamber. Really, it has been that for less than your lifetime. This was the Palace Grand, Mother’s private theater, before the Rebellion, that is. The entire floor was…is the stage, the far wall the backdrop for the plays’ settings. Two and three dimensional holographic scenes would accent the storyline and acting, creating an illusion for the audience, making everything so real.”
She softly stroked Darla’s knee. “There are a vast number of storage rooms and passageways under these bleachers, and the many landings scattered about within the seating area. Then there’s the wide upper landing above and behind us that circles around in a horseshoe formation nearly to the far wall. All of those things were originally constructed for the actors’ use… to bring the plays more to life. Oftentimes the people in the audience would become part of the play itself. Oh, it was so much fun.” Then pointing down at the spot earlier mentioned, she added, “I came up through that trap door. I was a flower blossoming in spring, and I sang a little song after the hidden elevator had lifted up to the stage.”
Mihai nodded dreamily. “I was only eight years old and, as I remember, the center of attention, receiving the most accolades for such a splendid performance.” Her face clouded. “That was so long ago now, back in the days of endless peace.”
Just then, Governess Anna entered the main doorway, accompanied by two other court officials. Mihai pointed. “See that door? Only the actors came in the way that overlooks the Winter Gardens. The audience always entered from up there, behind us.” She waved her hand in the direction of the upper deck and beyond where a set of double entrance doors were now sealed closed. “We would come down these steps… they were lighted, of course, because the chamber was usually hidden in blackness awaiting the play… then we would shuffle our way along the different rows of seating. When the lights came up, oh, what a thrill! You would never know what sights awaited anxious eyes.”
Darla studied the surroundings, fitting Mihai’s tales into what she was seeing. “A person must have been pretty special to get an invite here. There’s only seating for about three hundred or so. You must have been pretty special to come here so often. I’ve only been here once before, and that only on business… like tonight.”
Mihai squeezed Darla’s arm. “No one ever comes here anymore unless it is on business. And yes, I was special, just like every other young child of Mother’s. This is where she showed them off to their older siblings. She made them feel special. I’m sorry that those days were gone before you had your hour of magic here. I…”
Darla sourly interrupted. “I’m made to feel special all right. Every chance they get, someone makes me feel special!”
Mihai took Darla’s hand and looked into her face. Her voice was gentle but chastising. “There is reason why you have been gifted with the name ‘RachelOchranNohah’ (lit. ‘the ewe that makes trouble her resting place’).”
Darla stiffened, peering into Mihai’s eyes. At length, after seeing no malice, she answered, “Old fools sit on old councils dreaming old dreams! They care not for understanding or insight. They pine wistfully for the past and torture any who do not understand such useless dreams. I have been gifted that name by the very fools who do not wish to forget the past, nor remember the deeds of today’s heroes.”
Mihai nodded. “Be that as it may, your actions here this eve were out of line, supporting the argument that you have been gifted the name you rightfully deserve.”
“What’d I do?!” Darla exclaimed in question.
Scolding, Mihai answered, “You know full well what you did. This night you were my consort, a lady of this court. It was…is, your responsibility to act the part… even if you don’t want to. What you did was rude and uncalled for. Ardon is a great councilor in Mother’s court. He is well-respected and deserves to be treated that way.”
Darla sputtered a nasty retort. “Big bag a’ shit…!” She chanced to see a scowl cross Mihai’s face. “Wind…I mean wind… Big words with little meanings that drizzle in a piss pot, they are. Chief of the War Honors Council! He wouldn’t know a hero if it bit him on the ass! I didn’t want to waste pleasantries on a fool who would have no real appreciation for them.”
She looked down, folding her hands in her lap. “His kind are what ruined this… your world, too blind and unbending, unwilling to see the demons in the hearts of men. And after they were seen, too stupid to act effectively and bring matters to a rapid finish. His kind waited until my kind took to the field and watched as my kindred were slaughtered while protecting those sorry fools. Then, when the body count was delivered up to them, his kind cried, ‘What?! You ask that we should also honor your dead for deeds well done? There is no honor in dying. It is the living, the judicious, the wise, who deserve the honor, for they protect the people through councils great and small.’”
Mihai’s retort was sharp but tempered. “Rachel! You call down evil on our Mother by those words for she, too, fell into such treacherous reasonings. Are you also bitter of soul at her? How could that be? I know of your unquestioned love for her.”
Darla stared into her lap saying not a word.
Mihai thought a moment, then asked, “What did Ardon ever do to you?”
Darla shot a glance at Mihai, hatred burning in her eyes. “Old fool!” She stared back down into her lap.
Taken aback, Mihai pondered the reason for Darla’s outburst. After thoughtfully considering the matter, she leaned over and wrapped her arm around her little sister’s shoulder, drawing her close and speaking softly in the girl’s ear. “Today my demons tried to invade my waking hours. They are strong and growing in power by the hour. Do you not also feel their anger, their rage because of being trapped in a mind so filled with love for Mother?”
Darla did not look up or move. No word came from her mouth.
Mihai quietly pleaded. “At least admit to their presence. Admit that you, too, are infected with the Devil’s spawn, as I am. Do not deny that they also live in you. At least admit it to yourself.”
A thunderous voice shattered the moment. Mihai and Darla looked up to see Euroaquilo stepping over the row of seats directly behind them. “How are my precious children tonight, especially my one and my own?” Before either could move, he had swooped down and gathered them both up in a giant, loving bear hug.
Like the sun breaking out from behind a thundercloud, Darla’s face lit up radiantly. She squealed with delight, stood, and flung her arms around Euroaquilo, and cried, “I have yearned so for the hour to wrap myself up in your love. My coverlets I have already pulled from the bed in anticipation of your visit. Hurry, my heart is passionate for your manliness. Let’s leave these… important fellows… to their important business and be off to make some important business of our own.”
The shock of the moment quickly disappeared from Euroaquilo’s face. He grinned, leaning down and kissing Darla on the forehead, exclaiming, “My little roe has missed me so? Am I the only stag in the wood?” He shook his head. “I cannot believe you have hidden yourself away waiting only for me. Though it does impress me to think I am so highly sought after…”
Darla nuzzled her head in his chest. “There is no other like you. My dreams are your playrooms. You make my heart sing with passion and delight.”
Mihai took Euroaquilo’s hand, her eyes searching his, telling him tales of her concerns and the relief of having him there. A sad smile grew on her face. “Lord Euroaquilo…”
Euroaquilo tipped his head down and kissed Darla on her upraised lips. “Dear little one, I am your willing servant, but business first. You know my motto, ‘the prison of dreary work only heightens the heart’s passion for release.’ So let us off with dreary work so we can ride the wind of heart’s passion with abandon.” Allowing no time for reply, he asked so politely, “May I make company with my two beautiful sisters tonight?”
A giggle rolled from Darla’s lips. She leaned up and kissed Euroaquilo again before dragging him down beside her. In seconds, both she and Mihai were snuggled up close to their companion, Darla on his right and Mihai on his left, the man’s arms around them both.
NEXT- Section #3 Legend’s Heroes
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