Home > Dryad-Born (Whispers from Mirrowen #2)(4)

Dryad-Born (Whispers from Mirrowen #2)(4)
Jeff Wheeler

Terror froze her in place.

“I have traveled to every kingdom within these lands. I have seen the Vaettir of Silvandom fly amidst their tall trees. I have visited the forges of the Cruithne and witnessed their experiments with chemicals and gemcraft. I abhorred my visit to Havenrook and the gambling Preachán who risk everything on a shake of the dice. I have supped with the King of Wayland and his many dukes and thought how the Aeduan race multiplies faster than the others. But I encountered no hospitality whatsoever in Stonehollow. They are a suspicious bunch and keep to themselves. I hardly learned anything during my first visit. With those in Stonehollow, you must earn their trust before you earn their hospitality.”

—Possidius Adeodat, Archivist of Kenatos

I startled you,” the man said in a firm voice and with an accent she did not recognize. As he stepped away from the shadows, Phae saw the black tunic and white collar marking him as a Rike of Seithrall. There were no Rikes in Stonehollow. His very presence startled her. She wanted to flee, but her muscles wouldn’t move.

As the light from the nearest window exposed his face, her shock increased. Not only was he a Rike, he was also Vaettir-born, meaning he had to be from Kenatos. He had dusky skin with slightly slanted eyes. A healthy crop of hair covered his head, though not long. His face was earnest and serious, his expression slightly disapproving. Was she required to kneel in front of him? How was she supposed to know what customs were proper in Kenatos?

She barely found her voice. “I…I must go,” she whispered, edging away from him.

“No,” he said, holding up a warning hand. He studied her shrewdly. “Yes, it is you. Even the hair marks you. Child, you are in grave danger. The Arch-Rike of Kenatos is hunting you. I found you first and must lead you to safety. There will be Finders set loose to track you down. He may even send someone to kill you. The Quiet Kishion. You must pack your things and go with me to a safe haven. Take me to Master Winemiller. I will explain this all to him.”

If his presence had not already terrified her out of her wits, the warning nearly turned her legs to water. Her stomach did a spasm of dread and she took a distancing step backward, ready to flee. Who was this man, and what sort of greeting was this?

“Are you not a servant of the Arch-Rike yourself?” She backed away from him but he followed her, his face vanishing in the shadows. Her power would not work with him in darkness. They needed to be able to lock eyes for her magic to work.

“I am Prince Aransetis of Silvandom,” he said, his voice growing more dreadful. “I was sent here on an urgent matter to save your life. To protect you from harm. What is your name, child?”

She was dumbfounded. “You came all this way, and you do not even know my name?” Distrust swelled inside her.

She glanced at the opening of the barn, trying to judge if there was enough room to sprint for it. Anger began to replace the fear, and her fingers started to tingle with pricks of heat. She was not totally defenseless, but she had never summoned the flames to harm anyone before. She was not certain she could do that.

“You do not understand the danger,” he said, reaching out and grasping her wrist, preventing her from bolting.

She struggled against his grip, but it was like iron.

“Pyricanthas. Sericanthas. Thas,” he said out loud. They were Vaettir words, words she had been taught as a child to control her anger and the fireblood. He put his other hand on her shoulder. “I know what you are. I know who you are. Your father sent me to find you. What we do not know is the name the Winemillers gave you. That was done deliberately to protect you. Your name, child.”

He was outmaneuvering her in every possible way. His approach was deliberate. He had purposefully sought to meet her alone. Everything he did was in reaction to her, anticipating what she would do next. She wondered if she should surprise him, stomp on his foot or something. His grip was hard, but not painful.

“My name is Phae,” she answered, not knowing that she had a choice.

He seemed to breathe it in. He was quiet for a moment. “You may call me Aran. I would like you to go back inside the house. Tell Master Winemiller to meet me here in the barn. I will explain to him the danger that will befall this place when the Arch-Rike discovers it. While he and I speak, you must prepare for a journey. We will travel far, to the woods of Silvandom.”

“I won’t go with you,” she answered firmly. “This is my home, this is…”

His voice hardened. “For your own protection and the protection of this family, you must come with me. Now do as I say. Send Master Winemiller to speak to me. Pack your things. We leave by moonlight.”

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