Wow, It's been a really long time. I forgot how much emotion I put into that last chapter. But anyway, college has kept me so busy. I do apologize for not updating. But here you all are, those of you that are still so loyal to this fic.
Kari rode magespirit through the forest, riding harder and faster than she had ever before in her life. Tears streamed down her face. It just wasn't possible. Her parents were Nealan and Yukimi of Queenscove. But that meant they were cowards. She was their baby daughter. They didn't die for the sake of their country. They went into hiding to save their own skins. She couldn't be part of that family. She couldn't be a coward. And most of all, she couldn't be related to them because they lied. They lied to everyone. Who was she? She didn't have an identity anymore. She was just a lost girl. A lost little girl. Her heart sunk as she rode further, but she slowed Magespirit down, realizing that she had gone into the forest unarmed.
"Damn Karian, how could you have been so stupid?" she whispered, and as if they knew she had realized it, she heard footsteps behind her. She whirled around, as the Odocoil surrounded her on all sides. "Oh Mithros! This is it. I'm going to die here and nameless." She breathed. There was absolutely nothing she could do and the immortals knew that. Their leader stepped forward, and opened his mouth. She expected to hear the sound of screeching, but instead a very human and male voice sounded from within him.
So the calf of the Queenscove line has finally realized who she is?
Kari swallowed, and nodded. "What do you know about me?"
We know all. We could smell you were a Queenscove long before you knew it yourself. We know your family has wronged our master. And we know how to exact revenge.
"What do you mean?" Kari said, following the voice as it jumped from one Odocoil to another. She was frightened. They could kill her at any moment. Why did they stall.
We will not tell. But you shall see, or perhaps you won't as you only have moments to live. But within a few months time, your land will be over run. The rain will destroy all your crops, while it helps our kind flourish and grow stronger. Our kind will destroy all of your people, from the youngest babe at his mother's breast to the oldest man, so close, he can see death. And we shall enslave you all. All for the sake of our master. Pity you won't be alive to see it. Oh, how glorious it shall be.
Kari shuddered. "No! You can't! I won't let you."
And just what does an unarmed human female calf use to defend herself?
He, she, it was right. She had nothing to protect herself with. There was nothing she could do, accept accept her fate. And it was no one else's fault but her own. She ran off by herself, she went unarmed, and she was well aware of what lay inside the forest.
"She's got me!" Asten shouted, Willow coming up beside Magespirit. She hadn't even heard him approach.
A male calf with a practice sword? What are you planning to do? Make us laugh ourselves to death?
Asten glared at him, as if that would do him much good. He knew their chances of survival were one in a million, but he wouldn't let anyone hurt Kari without putting up a fight. He pulled a dagger from his belt and threw it at one of the immortals, striking him in the eye. The creature went down in an instant, screeching as it fell in a pool of it's own blood. "RUN!" he commanded Kari, and they turned their horses, galloping back towards the palace. The Odocoil pursued, running swiftly. Several times, Kari felt their knife like claws in her back and on her legs. Asten tossed her a dagger, which she used to hack away at their arms everytime they got to close. He used his own sword to hold them off, but he could feel his clothes saturated with blood. Kari's eyes teared, and suddenly she felt herself pulled back off her horse, an Odocoil's claws embedded in both her shoulders. Asten leapt off Willow and ran toward her, his sword raised in the air. As the Odocoil's claws raised to slice through Kari's throat, he charged down the immortal, using his blunt sword to cut him from naval up. He drew close to Kari, who couldn't get up. Her eyes were closing as the blood drew around her. Asten fought them off as hard as he could, watching the life seep away from the younger girl. Suddenly, he felt an ice cold claw cut through him. He dropped his sword and looked down at his right shoulder. The tips of three claws stuck out just below his shoulder blade. He felt the immortal withdraw his clawed hand from his back. He collapsed to his knees, bleeding profusely as everything went black.
She sat beside his bed later that week, her entire body bandaged, her spirit wounded. Tears were forever in her eyes as she watched his unconscious form. A figure pressed itself against the doorframe, watching her as she held his cold hand in her own, running her delicate fingers along his skin. He sighed and walked closer to her, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. She shrugged him away.
"Don't touch me." Her voice stung him like acid, as he removed his hand.
"This is your fault. Yours and Mama's. I can't believe you. Not a word you say. How could you have been so cowardly?"
Neal shook his head, and stepped away from his daughter. Her voice shook with rage, as tears streamed down her face. She looked into his eyes, so much like her own, and yet there was nothing of the man she once knew.
She pouted, she ought to hate this man who was in front of her. She did hate him. But he was still her father. And the boy she loved was dieing, right before her eyes, he was slipping away.
"Daddy!" She threw her arms around his middle. She needed him right then. No matter how mad at him she was, she needed him.
"Daddy, can you save him? The Odocoil already know you're alive. Please, save Asten." She cried into his shirt. Neal sighed, and nodded.
"The king has forbade me for using anymore magic, but I don't care. Too many people will support me anyway. Close the door." Kari ran to obey. She locked it and sealed it with her own gift as Lord Thom taught her. Neal smiled at her. "You're gonna be a great mage one day Kari." He shut his eyes and concentrated, slowly sowing all of Astens muscles, tissues, and tendons back together. He mended the bones. His biggest worry was the nerves. He concentrated, trying his hardest to re connect everything. He had to, for Kari's sake. For the sake of his friends who still didn't know he was alive. For Merric, For Esmond, For Faleron.
Four hours later, he came out of his trance, tired, sweating, and breathing hard. Kari fetched him a glass of water. He leaned back against the wall.
"Why did you and mommy go into hiding? Why didn't you really sacrifice yourself? And why did you lie to everyone?"
"For you baby. It was all for you. We loved you so much, and we still do. We couldn't take away your life when it had barely begun. We would have sacrificed everything had we not had you. But your mother and I cared more about you having a successful and full life than about our own reputations."
"But you lost so much."
"And I'd do it all again for you, Kari. You've turned into the person I can be proud of."
She sat down beside him and laided her head on his shoulder, closing her eyes. "Daddy, I don't know who I am. How can that make you proud?"
"Because a name means nothing. You're still my Kari. You're still the young page who loves her friends, and has big dreams. You're still Kel's number one fan." He smiled at her.
She nodded and began to drift to sleep. A cough from the bed drew her attention. Her eyes flung open as a voice, soft, but strong called her.
"Asten. Thank Mithros, you're ok." She ran to his bedside, gripping his hand.
"Kari, who healed me?"
"Yes, Nealan of Queenscove healed you. He made you better." She ran his hand on her cheek. Asten nodded.
"I love you." He wiped a tear away from her eye.
"I love you too, Asten."
"I'm glad." He slowly shut his eyes and drifted to sleep. Nealan watched the two of them, a small smile on his face as he watched his little girl.
"Kari, it's time to get some rest." It was already two bells past midnight. She sighed and nodded, standing and hugging her father one more time. "Goodnight, Dad. I love you."
"I love you too, little one. Sleep well."
He walked into the hall and watched her go in one direction.
"You've sorted it out with her?" his wife asked, coming to stand beside him, laying her head on his shoulder.
"I had to break Jonathan's rule, but yeah, she trusts me now."
"I'm glad. But what are you going to do about the king?"
"Honestly, Yuki, I don't know. I have absolutely no idea.
Faleron walked down the guest corridor of the palace, having just finished visiting his son in the infirmary. He thanked Mithros everyday that Lord Raoul had seen Kari and Asten ride off. Had he and his companion, Sir Garieth, arrived even a few seconds after, both Kari and Asten would have died. Finding his son that morning, not just alive, but conscious and healed, was the most wonderful thing in the world.
He reached the door to the rooms that Karian's parents occupied. He wanted to thank the man who had saved his son when no other mage had been able to. He knocked swiftly on the door.
"Come in," Lord Aaron's familiar voice reached his ears. Faleron opened the door and frowned at the sight of a tall man's long brown hair pulled back in a horse tail, instead of the short, sandy blond hair of Karian's father.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I was looking for Lord Aaron of Lion's Crest," Faleron informed him. The tall man turned around. Obviously this man had yet to hear the news. He looked at Faleron with brilliant green eyes, which went wide when he realized that he was talking to one of his friends from his past. Faleron of King's Reach frowned at him.
"Faleron," Neal said in a whisper.
"It's true? The rumors are true? No. You can't be. It's not possible. You're dead."
"Faleron, no. I-"
"Mithros, Neal, it is you. You're Karian's father? You went on that ride with us last year, and you didn't say anything?"
"I couldn't Faleron. It would endanger Kari, myself, and Yuki. But Mithros, I wanted to. I saw Kel the night before and I wanted to talk to you all. So badly. I wanted to reveal myself."
"How did you?" Faleron asked, coming farther into the room and sitting down on the couch. "I mean, how did you reveal yourse?"
"Well, Shinko was sick. I couldn't sit by and let the Princess die. King Jonathan wanted me to stay hidden, but I had to save her." Neal explained, sitting beside him. Faleron nodded.
"I still, well, I can't believe it's you. But… you healed Asten? You saved my boy?"
Neal nodded. "Jon forbid it, but Kari begged me, and he was your son. How could I sit by with the power to do something and not do it? I'd be even more of a coward than I already am."
"You disobeyed the king, twice. I don't think even Roald can save you, now. You're no coward. You're nuts." Faleron said, punching him in the shoulder slightly.
"Hey, I'd have to be nuts… I survived page training under the Stump. Who wouldn't be nuts?" Neal laughed. Faleron grinned and raised his hand. "Hey!" Neal frowned playfully. Faleron stood up laughing.
"I just came by to thank you for saving my son. He's my only child."
"I know how you feel. Ever since we sent Kari to Tortall, she's been in danger and getting hurt. I apologize that your son got so close to her, that he got hurt too."
"Don't. There's a strong connection between them. I'm glad Asten could help them stall for time. They helped each other like they're supposed to help their fellow pages."
Neal smiled. "As we did?" He remembered the time in the cliff with the bandits.
"Yeah. But… I got to go. I need to go back to Asten and his mom."
"I understand. Thanks for coming by Faleron."
"It's great to have you back, Neal. Kel must be thrilled."
"Oh, I am," Kel appeared in the doorway, her arms folded over her chest. "Hey Fal, you finally found him?"
Faleron laughed. "He hid from us, huh? You gonna let him live it down Kel?"
"And she'll have help," Owen said sticking his head in the door from the other side. Faleron nodded and excused himself once more, walking back towards the infirmary, while Kel and Owen entered Neal's room.
A week later Karian and Asten returned to their page training, after pleading with the training master to let them. They sat at the breakfast table for the first time with their friends. Lillia, Orion, and Jon kept looking and each other and back at the second year and third year. In only a few weeks they would all take their exams again. Lillia would take her big examinations and join Raoul as a squire. Aram of Kennen would finally join them in the fall. But at that moment, all those things were far from their mind.
"Kari?" Orion was the first to break the silence. She looked up at him, her eyes clear and translucent. She didn't want him to know she was scared of this meeting. After all, he was her best friend. "I-I guess this makes us cousins?" he said with a smile.
He wasn't mad. He didn't hate her because of what her parents had done. He still wanted to be her friend. He wanted to be her cousin. Kari grinned and threw her arms around the taller boy's neck. "Yes! The best cousins there ever were."
"We're cousins too, Kari," Prince Jon reminded her (For all who might have forgotten, Neal's father, Duke Baird of Queenscove is the brother to Prince Jon's Great Grandmother, King Jonathan's mother.). Kari nodded and hugged him also.
"I can't believe you're a Queenscove," Lillia told her, a smile on her face. "But I'm really glad you are. Dad says that you're father's a good man. He said that your parents aren't cowards. But he doesn't know if he believes it."
"Why not?" Asten asked, frowning at his cousin. (Again, minor detail: Faleron and Merric are cousins).
"Dad says only a Queenscove could heal him, and he's never met Kari's dad. He doesn't think he could heal him."
"I bet he could!" Kari said. "He just doesn't know that Sir Merric is blind. Papa helped healed him a long time ago, I've heard the stories. I'm sure all your dad's have told you. And Orion, your mom is bound to have told you?"
They all smiled and nodded. "It was destiny." Jon said.
"What is?" Orion asked, frowning.
"That we'd all be friends," the prince finished. "Our parents were friends and so are we."
They all smiled and laughed.
"What's this? Nameless laughing with a bunch of nothings." Shale said with a smirk. Leon had his hands resting on her shoulders. It was common knowledge among the pages that the two were a couple. "Oh, I beg your pardon, your highness, I didn't see you among the scum."
"Watch who you're calling scum, Tires, or you'll find yourself working nothing but law enforcement if you ever get your shield." Jon told her and stood up. He excused himself from his friends, telling them that he had to go and see his father and grandfather. As soon as he was gone, Shale looked back at the others.
"So, Nameless is really the daughter of cowards and liars."
Kari glared at the girl. "My parents are not cowards or liars. They're brave and honest people."
"That's why they hid for so many years?"
"No. They did that so that Tortall wouldn't go to war and they could make a life for me. Besides, my family has a much better name than yours, so what makes you think you're so much better?"
Shale paused for a second. "I don't have to take this." She sputtered, gripping her silent boyfriend's hand.
"Then why don't you return to the slime hole you crawled out of?" A deep voice asked behind Shale and Leon. They spun and looked up into the coal eyes of a tall fourteen year old.
Shale frowned and fled, Leon trailing behind her.
"Raoul! You're back!" Lillia threw her arms around his waist, a warm glow in the teens eyes. He looked at her back with longing.
"I saw them kiss goodbye," Orion whispered to Kari; his friend giggled silently under her hand. Yet she shot a quick look at Asten, accompanied by a smile.
"Yeah, we just got in. Hey Kari, I hear you're a Queenscove."
Kari sighed and nodded. "You heard."
"You're not ashamed to be my friend?"
"Nope. I always thought there was something special about you." He hugged her around the shoulders.
Lord Padraig entered the room, and all of the pages and squires in the hall quieted down. Kari settled down between Orion and Asten. She was welcome there. No matter who she was. She was welcome there as a friend, part of the there family. She looked at Asten, and caught his eye. And maybe even more.
Kari sat straight up in bed. It was just dawn on Sunday, the pages day off. But that didn't mean everyone in the palace had the day off. And Kari had just remembered the warning that the Odocoil had gave her, right before they tried to murder her. She threw her covers off her and quickly managed to throw on her best shirt and breeches. Then she pulled on a crimson tunic and left the room, hastily remembering to lock the door. She had to tell someone. And she had to tell someone immediately. She sprinted down the corridors, only to bump into another page as she ran.
"I-I'm sorry. I must-"
"Kari? What's wrong?" The older boy gripped her shoulders and held her still. She was breathing really hard. Kari looked up at the familiar voice, and into the deep blue eyes of her sponser from the previous year.
"Jon. It's you."
"Yeah, Kari, what's the rush?"
"I- the Odocoil. They gave me a warning before they attacked. They told me their plan because they didn't think I'd escape and live. I have to tell someone." Her green eyes pleaded with the prince for help. Jon nodded.
"Follow me." He swiftly lead her down the back corridors of the palace and into the private living chambers of the royal family. Kari had never been there before. She walked silently, as she traveled the slightly decorated halls. Some how, she imagined that the Conte family would decorate their living quarters a bit more extravagantly. Jon stopped outside the family's dinning hall.
"Father and Mother are taking breakfast with Granddad, and Grandmother." Jon told Kari as he knocked on the door lightly. Kari had a feeling the older page had just left them.
"Come in," a cool crisp voice rang from inside the chamber. Kari shuddered at the voice of the king, yet she followed her friend inside.
"Jonathan, I thought you just left?" his mother asked him politely.
"I did, mother, but I met Karian in the halls and she said she had very important news to convey. So I brought her straight to his majesty." Jon bowed down to his grandfather. His younger siblings, Elisa and Areleana, the twin eight year old princesses sat quietly between their parents. Prince Roald, Princess Shiko, and even Queen Thayet, all looked toward the king to see if he would receive the girl. Kari, like Jon bowed low, and never looked up at any of the royal family. Jon, however, sent a silent, pleading, glare to his grandfather.
King Jonathan sighed and placed his napkin down. "Very well. Roald, bring Queenscove to my office in fifteen minutes. He stood swiftly and left the dinning room, his wife quickly excusing herself and chasing after him.
"Don't worry, Kari. Father is always cranky in the mornings," Roald told her with a smile. Kari relaxed a little, as she knew that the crown prince and his wife were good friends of her mother and father.
Fifteen minutes later, Kari found herself in the presence of King Jonathan of Conte, and his sons Prince Roald, Prince Liam and Prince Jasson of Conte. The two younger princes sat on either side of their father, while Roald stood behind Karian for support.
"Alright Queenscove," the king stated. Kari closed her eyes, letting the name that was so foreign to her ears sink in. "What have you to tell me?"
Kari took a deep breath and told King Jonathan everything she had been told by the immortals.
Merric found himself in the deserted halls of the palace. It was the pages day off and it was so nice out that almost no one was around. He had gotten separated from his guide when a troop of the men at arms came through, and he had wandered a bit until he reached the royal library. Placing his hands along the plaque that marked the name of the place he was, he sat down on a stone bench along the wall.
"Just great, who in their right mind would come to the library on such a beautiful day." He sighed, knowing he would have to wait a while before someone found him. Merric slammed his fist into the stone bench. "Damn it! Why in the name of Mithros? Why did you do this to me?" He cried out, his voice echoing against the marble walls of the palace. Tears fell from his eyes as he sat, regretting that he had ever fought the Odocoil. A man stuck his head out from the library doors, wondering where all the noise was coming from. He gazed at the blind knight who sat on the bench alone, cursing himself.
"Sir, can I ask may I ask what troubles you?"
Merric was startled by the sound of another voice. He settled down and nodded as the man came closer. "I just want to see my daughter again. See her big examinations. I want to fight again. I'm a knight, for Mithros sake."
The man examined him, and yet did not recognize him. "You can't see?"
"No. I had an encounter with the Odocoil a few months back, and the only healer left alive that could give me vision again, is abroad."
"Well, maybe I could help. I do have the gift. I could try."
"You can try, but it'll be no use. Only one family has the power to heal me." Merric informed him. The man looked at him, examining the eyes that seemed so bright, almost as if they could see him.
"I'd like to try anyway." He shut his own green eyes and let his power flow out into the eyes of his patient. He quickly found the problem and began to correct it.
Merric froze as the feeling of a mage's power entered his form. However, the magic was familiar to his body. He had felt it at least once before, if not many times before. His inner eye could see the bright green gift as it floated through him. Suddenly his vision began to clear, he wasn't sure if it was his minds eye painting a picture of the hall for him, or actual sight, but he saw something. The man came into his focus, smiling as Merric blinked several times, the light of the area, making it difficult for him to open his eyes once again. Finally, he could see clearly. Merric looked at the man who had helped him. The man looked tired, and worn.
"D-Duke Baird?" he asked, hesitantly. The man shook his head and frowned at him. Suddenly the Knights face lit up.
"Neal! Mithros, I'd know that magic anywhere. You've save my life more than once." He breathed. "But you're dead, how can this be?"
"Do I know you?" Neal frowned, feeling very drained from the healing he had just done. Tears formed in Merric's eyes as he looked at his childhood friend.
"How could you not? I mean, when we were pages, you practically saved my life that day."
Neal frowned and looked closer at the knight. "Me-merric?"
The knight nodded, "And now you've given me back the ability to see! B-but you're dead, aren't you?"
Neal ignored his question and pulled his friend into a hug. It had been so long. So very long since he had seen these people. It was good to be home again.
Well, that's all for chapter 12. I'm not going to go another six/seven months without updating ever again. I really do apologize for that. Please forgive me. Anyway, if you're still reading this, and you like it, please, don't hesitate to review. Anyway, I'll update soon, I promise. Until then, enjoy everything life gives you.