The Prologue of the first part of the Jewel of Life series
The Line of Feolyn
Backs against the setting sun, Velaria and Arlyn approached the small, yet expanding village of Cor’lera, after just crossing the narrow river Bethyl and drawing an end to their journey north. The river was more of a creek, and it was astonishing how it was permitted the title river.
A simple wooden wall protected the majority of the village and its people, while buildings no older then thirty years stood outside the walls, evidencing the recent growth of the small village. A dozen partially completed constructions were paused due to the snow and would presumably resume when the snows melted and the land thawed in the spring.
Farms were scattered in every direction outside the village. They had a dulling effect on Velaria, in comparison with the start of their northern journey, she gazed upon them with fascination, but as the journey north drew on and the distance between villages increased, the familiar scenery became repetitive as she longed to return to Ceurenyl or even better, her home city of Lucillia.
Velaria’s thoughts drifted to the wooded structures of her home and how the buildings simply grew from the very trees, the palaces, buildings, magnificent walls and above all the Royal Palace. Each building had its own identity, yet they all belonged and complimented each other in that magnificent city. Even the common buildings shared the same attention to beauty. The twining wood gave a fluid motion to the city. Velaria half expected to see the very buildings move on their own accord one day.
As lively as the buildings were, the people of Lucillia were the true heart of the city. An eagerness to live was shared amongst all. The Lucillians had an incredible energy for living, a quality which dimmed with every town they passed in their journey north from Lucillia. Village after village, the people abandoned that quality for gloom; the greater the distance grew between them and Lucillia, the greater the despair and fear of the people.
Disturbing Velaria’s thoughts, Arlyn brought her attention to the small gate of Cor’lera and the man standing guard and the rough looking soldiers, obviously foreign to this region, standing on patrol closely behind the guard at the gate, not too far ahead of them, but still out of hearing.
“Before we enter the village,” started Arlyn, “remember, the people here must not discover that you are training with the Ei’ana. The rumors of whole villages tossing out Ei’ana and any other they suspect a Wielder from the Abbey Schools are true. It wasn’t all that long ago when the Ei’ana were exiled from Cor’lera by the villagers themselves.”
The man at the gate ordered them to halt as they approached. The guard was unlike the rough soldiers beyond the gate; rather he shared the features common to the people of this region. His age could be no more than thirty, yet the grease covering his body along with his disheveled appearance could make one wonder. Most appalling were his eyes; hatred was their only identifiable feature. Even their color was not memorable.
He glared at the newcomers with evident disdain, as they required him to perform his simple duty at the gate, he opened his lips in a snarl and spat out, “Quickly state your purpose.” There was no mistaking that voice with its owner; it was as fowl as his appearance.
Arlyn spoke before the guard could refuse them admittance and send them off unwelcome. “My daughter and I are simple travelers seeking a safer home to the north, far enough away from the growing turmoil in the south.”
Eyeing the two newcomers suspiciously, the guard responded, “You look to be of wealthy stock. Why would you desert your lands to head to the cold north?”
“I have no lands to the south. It could be said that I’ve been stripped of them and my possessions do not surpass what we carry,” said Arlyn.
Velaria stared blindly at him in disbelief. I thought he wasn’t allowed to lie, she thought.
“A man should have a firm grip on his property. Well, move on, I don’t care to hear the rest of your pathetic life. If it’s north you’re heading, set out before dawn and leave our village,” chided the guard before grimacing towards Velaria. “We don’t indulge in your kind, witch. All you Ei’ana Witches are the same, carry yourselves thinking you’re higher than Nobles. I hope it’s out of wisdom that you flee north to rid yourself of those witches.”
Without pointing them in the direction of an inn, the guard stepped aside and permitted the pair to ride through the small gate. How does he know, she thought.
The foreign soldiers gave Velaria pause. The hatred in their eyes somehow managed to surpass the guard at the gate. Without stopping they rode past the cluster of men and into the village, which had a pleasant look about it, and surely at an earlier time it was. The buildings were of either a rough stone or timber topped with thatched roofs showing signs of neglect.
The streets and gardens were littered with rubbish. The trees and plants within the village walls were also in poor condition. Several years must have passed since they were last tended. The few villagers found outside their homes had the same appearance as the guard. None stopped to inquire about the two strangers. Rather, they spoke amongst themselves. Velaria picked up only their tones without hearing the words, but it was evident that they held no trust for the two strangers.
They strolled warily through the streets, twisting around the buildings until they finally arrived at an inn towards the center of the village. The inn was one of the better maintained buildings in Cor’lera. I recognize this building, she thought. While she unsuccessfully wracked her mind, Arlyn spoke for the first time since their encounter with the guard. “Welcome to the Cor Inn, or as it is commonly known, the King’s Inn.”
The familiarity struck home. The inn resembled those structures she knew all too well in Lucillia, except of course this building looked to have actually been built by Elven or Human hands and not melded out of the very Wood. The details and the masterful carving could not disguise the origin of the inn. Delighted with her discovery, she shared it with Arlyn.
“You learn quickly for a student. I had grown accustomed to lecturing the same point on several occasions before my students remembered,” returned Arlyn playfully. Velaria joyfully received the praise from her teacher. “It’s said that the builders of this inn came from your beloved city, Lucillia. So inspired were they, that they could not help but replicate the architecture. This inn also happens to be the namesake of this village.”
“That’s incredible, I feel closer to home already,” said Velaria.
“As do I,” replied Arlyn recalling a past from long before.
Before they entered, Velaria asked the question she had withheld since the gate, “Why did you lie back there?”
“Where, tell me, did the deception dwell? Was not every word I spoke truthful?” inquired Arlyn.
“Well for one, you called me daughter.”
“Do you not address me as father? Is not daughter a loving term for a pupil? Especially in relation to an Ei’anaceur Steward,” The answer to the riddle was plain, yet she still could not hide her amazement. “Remember, your whole truth does not need to be spoken to the world.”
“Alright,” said Velaria before pausing a moment and looking around before continuing in her hushed tone. “Should I be concerned about the guard?”
“I doubt he would have named you so if he wasn’t certain. I didn’t think any in this small village would recognize an Ei’ana, but he must have lived in one of the great cities where they’re a common sight. We’ll simply have to be cautious. It would be wise to refrain from wielding, lest we stir anything here.”
“Where do you suppose the family lives?" asked Velaria, only just realizing how many questions she was asking of Arlyn. "None of the villagers seem eager to speak with us.”
“I’ve been here before. In a time that seems a lost memory. It was before I entered the Temple of Ceur all those years ago,” answered Arlyn, sounding older by the second as he referenced his age. “She was only a girl at the time, and the shadow had just begun to creep into this village. She has all the qualities you would expect and more. She won’t be difficult to recognize.”
Without further discussion, they left their horses in the stable with the cheery stable boy with black hair and silver grey eyes before they entered the Cor Inn. He gratefully accepted the horses into his care before they entered the inn through a finely carved wooden door, relieved to finally escape the cold winter air; the two hurried inside and breathed in the warmth. The Common Room was comfortable with a fire roaring in the hearth on the far wall. Tables and chairs were scattered throughout in an orderly fashion with several couches, appearing most inviting to the wintery travelers. Regular benefactors were enjoying a meal, a drink or two, or simply the warm atmosphere. Secretly, they peered toward the entry and the two that walked through. They showed little interest in the weary travelers, aside from what they might possess of value.
A fellow standing behind a counter to the right of the entry was the only who showed a genuine interest in the new benefactors. He’s probably only interested with what our purses conceal, thought Velaria. As they closed the distance between the entry and the man at the counter, she began to notice something peculiar about the man; he actually looked happy. His grey eyes were alight with energy. She grew accustomed in the past month to find such qualities belonging only to Arlyn. The startling surprise wiped away her previous assumption as the merry man greeted them.
“Good day to you fine travelers. Would you be interested in a room this cold afternoon? We have mighty fine rooms, some better than others mind you,” the man said before quickly adding, “there is a nice beef stew for supper if you haven’t other plans. Nothing better than a hot stew next to the fire after a day of traveling in this weather.”
“That would be most welcomed,” returned Arlyn. “Would you mind showing us to our rooms first though? It would be nice to rest a bit before supper.”
“Certainly, let me just call my eldest son from the stables to keep an eye on things here,” said the man with a broad smile before he went to the front door and hollered out for his son, whose name was no mystery as he yelled, “AYDEN! Quick, come here son! Those horses can manage without your eyes constantly on them.”
Shortly after, Ayden strolled through the front door at his father’s request, bringing with him a chilled breeze. “How can I help Dad?” asked Ayden.
“I need you to look over the Common Room while I show these guests to their rooms.”
“Please, just this way. The name is Abire by the way,” he said as they parted ways with Ayden and headed up the stairs behind the counter. “Fine young man that boy of mine is, and he knows it too, bless the lad! Reminds me of his mother he does. It’s a shame he didn’t have the chance to meet her. Died giving him birth she did. Fortunately, my wife, who I married some years after, embraced Ayden as her own. He was only nine at the time. It’s her who runs this fine inn by the way.”
Abire continued to talk in his merry tone the entire way up to the third and highest floor of the inn, until they reached a pair of adjacent rooms. “Here we are, some of the finest rooms we have to offer.”
Velaria was very pleased as he unlocked the door and caught her first glimpse inside. Abire withheld none of the truth when he described the quality of the rooms on their journey up. While the room was modest in size, the furnishings were finely made and intricately carved.
Before Velaria was granted a chance to rest in the bed close by and soothe her back from the constant motions of riding horseback, Arlyn's tone changed as he addressed Abire. “Abire, my name is Arlyn. We never met before, and truly that pains me. We travelled north from Lucillia to speak with your wife, Evellyn; it’s of critical importance we speak with her privately, without any eager ears.”
Abire’s merry mood dampened slightly as his tone also shifted in light of the change of conversation. Nevertheless, he responded as any would when addressed by Arlyn in such a manner. “Arlyn… I thought you looked familiar. How could I miss it? Your face and those eyes of yours. Please, forgive me Steward, this way. My family lives in the private quarters in the back of the inn, just beyond the kitchens.”
Without any further questions they made for the kitchen, taking the maid’s passageway down. It was a narrower stair and well hidden from the view of the main hall. Nearing the kitchen, Velaria’s nose was consumed with wondrous aromas, likely the stew Abire had mentioned. Down the back stairs, the kitchen came into view, along with a beautiful wooden door, just as masterfully crafted as the front door.
Abire led them through the entry into the private quarters of the Cor Inn, reserved for the Innkeeper’s family. Velaria was shocked at how easily the massive door opened without any suggestion of a struggle. Upon entering the parlor, Abire let out a warm call for his wife. Before she had an opportunity to respond, two children came sprinting towards their father. Abire’s face broke into a smile, bracing himself as two of his children collided into him. The union of the three brought an easy smile to Arlyn and herself.
Abire looked down to his two children and asked surprisingly sternly, “Does your mother know you’re out of bed?” The two shook their heads in denial. “You know she’s gonna blame me for your late night don’t you?” Again the two shook their heads in denial. “Do you really want me to get in trouble with your mother? She’ll toss me out in the cold if you two loose a minute of your precious sleep.”
Together the two children began protesting and declaring all sorts of promises stating they’ll take the blame. Before their words were able to progress past babbling a voice resounded from deeper in the quarters demanding the two children return to their beds. The voice only a mother could make.
“You two had better listen to her or else you’ll get me in trouble. But, before you do, how about greeting our two guests. This man is named Arlyn and this young lady here is called… I’m sorry miss, but I never got your name. Pardon my manners.”
“That’s no fault of yours master Abire,” said Velaria before bending down to the level of the two children with a small smile on her face. “My name is Velaria. And might you tell me yours?”
"My name is Leilyn," piped up the girl first. "But I'm not so little you see. I'm already six years old." The younger boy was struggling to form his own words, but was still too young to manage as he stuttered trying to form the first syllable, which sounded like ‘deb.’ Leilyn spoke on his behalf saying, "This is Devlyn. He's almost two. Much more littler than myself." The last part spoken on her tip toes.
"Oh, what beautiful names," Velaria said to the two children. As the children said goodnight, Evellyn called again for the children. This time they hurried away without further debate. Unable to restrain herself, Velaria complimented Abire on the beauty of his two children.
They were, without question, the most beautiful children she had ever seen. Their heads were full of golden brown hair, with hints of red, blonde, and black woven through it, but the brown was dominant. Their sparkling eyes were much the same as Arlyn’s, a silver iris that shifted to a stunning green around the pupil. Before she could dwell on the two children any longer, a gentle voice replied to the compliment before Abire had his chance. "They are beautiful aren't they? I might be biased as their mother, but I can't help but admire the two of them," came the voice. In the direction of the voice appeared a woman of remarkable beauty. The features of the two children were clearly gifts from this woman, yet matured and amplified. "My name is…"
"Evellyn, oh Evellyn. I can’t begin to say how much I've longed to see you again," interrupted Arlyn as he crossed the room towards the woman.
"I've missed you too brother," began Evellyn. Velaria's mouth dropped in astonishment. Incredible as the news was, it was not difficult to make the connection between the brother and sister. Both had the same golden brown hair, yet, unlike the two children, there were no shades of black or red in theirs. Arlyn, however, was showing some silvery threads, most prominent at his temples, from his advanced age. Where Evellyn exemplified feminine grace, Arlyn displayed masculinity. The brother and sister complimented each other's own beauty. Even the slender feminine lines on her face reflected the firmer masculine lines on Arlyn's. Velaria assumed the two kids would grow and one day resemble their mother and uncle.
The eyes were most remarkable, a jubilant silver giving way to a forest green encircling the pupil. Their eyes were all but shimmering. Surely, thought Velaria, such eyes are only found among those who can trace their lineage to the royal line of Lucillia. Such eyes were only discovered among the wise nobles and the royal family itself. As the two women shared eye contact, Evellyn ended the silent connection by saying, "You behold my eyes in the same manner as one would our Queen in Lucillia."
Unprepared for such an assertion, Velaria stammered as she struggled to find the appropriate words. "I do apologize Ma'am, but you and our virtuous Queen, descendant of King Roendryn the Great himself, share the same eyes. I've looked upon her eyes much in my life, and never have I seen such a resemblance as I see in your own." Unable to restrain her growing enthusiasm, she added, "Surely a common relation must exist between the pair of you."
“His name is Feolyn. An old story that is and the connection you refer to is just as old," started Evellyn, as she gestured the guests towards the couches to recline. "Please, have a seat if you would. The tale is not brief and you could both benefit from a comfortable couch. There's tea if you would like a cup."
Without waiting for their response she gathered up four cups and poured hot tea already prepared into each. She brought the tray carrying the cups filled to the brim with tea over to the small table between the couches. "Nothing better than a hot cup of tea after a cold wintry day. Cream and sugar?" They all answered gratefully with their requests and received their cups, now overflowing onto the saucers from the recent additions.