I Promise

Summary: Maerad gets kidnapped from Pellinor at the age of 4 and is taken to the Winterking where she is abused. When she escapes it changes lives…and not just her own.

Disclaimer: We don't own The Gift! We are merely passing the time in our otherwise doleful lives…

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Chapter 1: The Rite of Renewal

Written By: Savaria

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Dark hooded figures crept stealthily around the high outer walls of the magnificent city of Pellinor. Cheerful music could be heard from within the city along with the magnified chattering of thousands of people.

A group of four hooded figures stopped underneath a large willow tree that resided next to a stream that ran around the edges of Pellinor. A figure dropped from the tree and by the way the others reacted to him it was obvious that he was their leader.

He pulled a piece of parchment from his cloak and read it. He looked up at the others.

"Dec de aek agemtd ane meag?" He asked in a deep chilling voice. His companions made noises of agreement. "Naea onae dei milangi,"

The four hooded men eat disappeared into the vast woodland that surrounded Pellinor, all in different directions. The hooded man nodded and climbed back up the tree.

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Pellinor itself was decorated in spectacular colours with all types of music playing from a large band that was situated on top of one of the School's grand towers. Every man, woman and child flocked into the streets where many stalls were set up, each selling many beautiful items ranging from clothing to children's toys.

In the middle of Pellinor's town square was set a large dais, and it was this dais that everybody in the town of Pellinor was heading for.

To the North of the town square stood the magnificent School of Pellinor. The large white building stood on a slight hill overlooking the town, inside its halls the young Bards of Pellinor learnt Bardic lore, music, dancing, craftsmanship, horse-riding and many more arts. The stain glass windows that decorated the music hall and library told stories of past Bards long forgotten.

A few of the students lived in the school, as there were some families who felt dishonoured to have a Bard in the family. But most of the students lived at one of the many white-bricked buildings that dwelled within the city.

Today it was Midsummer Day and every school in Annar, The Suderain and Thorold were preparing for the Rite of Renewal, an annual ritual that said goodbye to the old year and welcomed and blessed the new year. On Midsummer Day the people of Pellinor dressed in their best clothing, with the children dressing up and learning dances to perform before the Rite. It was the First Bard's duty to perform the Rite and to make the Tree of Light.

The First Bard Milana lived in a lovely house on the school grounds with her husband Dorn and her two children: Her 4-year-old daughter Maerad and her 2-month-old son Cai. The family stood just inside the school's main courtyard.

4-year-old Maerad currently clutched her father's hand as she listened intently to the music. She was wearing a deep blue dancing dress with silver trimmings. Her hair was done in a single plait and she was wearing a silver and deep blue mask with dark blue feathers. Her light blue eyes were lit up in excitement. 2-month-old Cai simply snoozed in his mother's arms.

"Daddy!" Maerad squealed as she tried to pull her father out of the gates at into the gaggle of people outside. "Can I please go dancing!" She asked. As one of the children of Pellinor Maerad had been taught one of the town's dances and the little girl was eager to try it out. Dorn chuckled; his pale blue eyes alit with silent laughter.

"Not yet sweetie," He replied, he and Milana exchanged glances and Milana smirked, readjusting the tiny baby in her arms. Dorn dropped to his daughter's level, he tapped her nose gently. She scowled and he smiled widely. "We'll wait until Cadvan gets here," Maerad's face lit up and Milana giggled.

"If he gets here," Milana said idly. "That boy always seems to be late!"

As she said this, a young boy with messy black hair and deep grey eyes skidded to a halt just outside the courtyard gates. Maerad squealed happily and tackled the 13–year-old into a bear hug. The boy laughed and hugged her back. He smiled at the adults.

"Hello Milana, hello Dorn," He said. The adults nodded their hellos. "I was thinking of bringing Maerad around some of the market stalls before the kids begin their dances,"

"She's been looking forward to dancing all day," Dorn chuckled. "It's alright with us, we'll be at the dais if you need us," Cadvan smiled and then blushed slightly as Maerad grabbed his hand and then led him outside, chatting animatedly.

Dorn chuckled fondly as his daughter and her friend disappeared from sight.

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"Do you like my feathers?" Maerad asked after she had exhausted herself in talking about the music of today. Cadvan blinked at the abrupt change of subject, but remembered that he was like that when he was 4.

"Yes I do," He replied, knowing that it was what she wanted to hear (and that he knew that he liked them himself) and was rewarded with a big smile from Maerad. Her hand was still clutched in his and Cadvan found it strangely comforting. She stopped suddenly and made an appreciative 'oohing' sound. Cadvan looked in the direction she was looking at and his eyes were attacked by an army of jewels. Maerad dragged him towards the stall.

"Ooh! Pretty!" She cooed as she gently picked up a diamond and sapphire circlet. The stall-keeper smiled at her kindly and nodded to Cadvan as he surveyed the stall. There were jewels of many shapes and sizes, all wrought into different accessories. Maerad had moved on from the circlet and was now looking at a pair of emerald earrings. Cadvan chuckled.

"Do you like them Maerad?" He asked. Maerad nodded enthusiastically. "Which one do you like the best?" He asked. Maerad thought for a moment and pointed towards a beautiful diamond, ruby and gold necklace. Cadvan filed that away for later use, 'Maerad likes rubies.'

Maerad put a bracelet she was examining back onto the table and then skipped happily over to a large, colourful stall full of masks, face paints, clothing and many more colourful items, Cadvan trailing behind her. The black, Suderainian man smiled at her, she grinned back.

"You have a pretty mask there little one," He said. Maerad smiled shyly.

"Thank you," She replied. "My Daddy made it,"

Cadvan blocked the now animated conversation that was going on between Maerad and the stall-keeper out as he examined the many colourful items that decorated the stall. His thoughts strayed to the numerous Rite of Renewal festivals he'd witnessed in his birth-town Lirigon, and he wondered if the one in Pellinor was anything like the one's at home.

He must have zoned out for longer than he thought because when he turned around the black stall-keeper was now serving some 11-year-old's and Maerad was nowhere to be seen.

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The black, Suderainian man politely excused himself to serve a group of pretty, brightly dressed girls. Maerad light ran her hand along the red fabric covering the table as she admired the beautiful masks that lay upon it. She turned around to see a glassy-eyed Cadvan staring at something. Something caught her eye across the street and she immediately ran for it.

But the problem with barging into a bustling crowd when you where slightly taller than your father's knees was that you were bound to get jogged around and as Maerad emerged in an alley slightly further down the road from where she was heading with her beautiful blue mask broken. Maerad pulled it off with a disappointed scowl on her face. The rod that two of the feathers were stuck too had snapped and was hanging sadly on.

Maerad sniffed.

"An de iaed koaka naika?" Asked a deep voice. Maerad spun around the see a man dressed in black behind her, deep into the alleyway. The man was applying a regal looking mask in deep purples and blues decorated with peacock feathers to his face, but he stopped as he asked her a question in a language that Maerad didn't understand.

Maerad ignored the strange phrase and stared appreciatively at his mask, she looked sadly at her broken one. The man smiled sympathetically.

"An de iaed koaka naika?" He repeated. Maerad titled her head as she looked at him.

"I don't understand what you just said big man," She replied. "But I like your mask; did your Daddy make it for you?" She asked. The man's brow creased in confusion and he didn't answer. "I like it," She stated.

Another man appeared in the alley, seemingly out of thin air. He was already wearing a grand mask along with a brightly coloured outfit. His cold blue eyes stared at her and she instinctively backed away. He spoke harshly to the other man, again in a language that Maerad didn't understand. They seemed to be debating something when the older one (the one who had appeared out of thin air) produced a black flame in his hands.

Maerad jumped and went to run when the flame suddenly wrapped around her waist. She let out a strangled yell as she dropped her broken mask before she felt a pressure form over her mouth. The flame dragged her towards the men as she tried in vain to escape. The older man let the flame diminish when she reached them and he wrapped his arms around her before she ran.

The last thing she saw was Cadvan darting into the alleyway, his grey eyes widening in fright. Then her world dissolved into darkness and she knew no more.

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