A/N: Who was Alliel? And why is there a fountain named after her on the South Lawn of the Abhorsen's House? That is what I wondered when I saw the map of the House, and this story is the result of wondering.
Disclaimer: Garth Nix owns Ancelstierre, the Old Kingdom, and everything within. Alliel's name and her fountain belong to him as well. For the rest, however, I take full responsibility.
It was the middle of a beautiful summer day, and the sun was baking the red-tiled roof of the Abhorsen's House. A young woman lounged on the South Lawn. Beside her a book was lying open, and a glass held a few vestigial drops of punch. She closed her eyes and stretched luxuriously, enjoying the sunlight on her face.
Although Alliel was the twentieth Abhorsen, she certainly did not look the part. She was wearing an elegant dress of lilac satin, her lips were painted, and on her feet was a pair of highly impractical shoes. None of the usual trappings of her family were to be seen. She wore no sword, no bell-bandolier, no armour, and no blue surcoat. In fact, Alliel could have been any fashionable young noblewoman enjoying the warmth of a summer's day.
"Now may I speak with you?"
The young woman groaned and opened her eyes, shielding them from the sun with a pale arm. She squinted up at the albino dwarf standing beside her. "What was that you said, Mogget?"
"I have been asking to speak with you for quite some time," her servant reminded her. "But you always put it off by saying how busy you are. Right now you are most noticeably inactive."
Alliel gave a small grumble of annoyance and propped herself up on her elbow. "Very well," she sighed, smoothing the lace on the front of her gown.
The dwarf stared down at her with a very serious expression, but she refused to meet his eyes. "Milady," he said. "This has to stop."
The Abhorsen shook her head. "I do not know what you're talking about."
"Then you are a fool," sniffed Mogget. He sat down beside her on the lawn. "As the eternal servant of your family, it is in my best interest to see that the line continues."
Alliel finally met the dwarf's green eyes. "Go on."
"You ought to stop seeing the King."
"What?" Alliel pushed herself up fully into a sitting position and glared at Mogget. Her white face was flushed, and her dark eyes sparkled with anger. "That is none of your business!" she snapped. But curiosity ultimately overcame her anger, and she had to ask, "But… how on earth did you know about that?"
"Abhorsen, everybody knows," said Mogget in a patronizing voice. "Even the Queen knows. And I have come up with the only solution to this farce, milady. You must end the relationship and choose some other unfortunate man to be your companion."
Alliel huffed bad-temperedly and tore up a handful of grass, flinging it at the dwarf. He ducked nimbly. "I don't want another man," she sulked, tossing her long black hair. "I love Girveon."
"King Girveon is married," Mogget shot back. "Besides, if you two love each other so much, why have you not acknowledged the affair openly? Hmm?"
For that the Abhorsen did not have an answer. "Why… because…" Alliel stammered. She threw her hands up into the air. "Oh, Girveon cannot really say anything! He's the King, and he's officially not supposed to have a mistress. Could you imagine the uproar that would come of it? And what about his children?"
Mogget smirked. "Over twenty words of sense, milady. Congratulations. Now do you see that the only solution is to end it?"
"No," Alliel protested, stubborn as ever. "We've been keeping it quite discreet. Nothing can be proved against us, you see. We even set up alibis when we have our trysts. It's perfectly safe."
"Safe as a bird nesting in a rotten tree," the dwarf muttered. "Anyway," he said louder, "you and the King are the two least subtle and crafty people that I know. And that really is saying something. One need only listen to those daft plans you two are always coming up with against the Kingdom's enemies."
Alliel scoffed and flopped back down onto the grass. "Prove it," she hissed, closing her eyes once more.
She felt Mogget shift on the grass beside her. "All right," he said. "Where were you on the night of the Clayr's presentation ceremony?"
The woman's eyes flew open, but otherwise she did not move. "I was on the palace battlements, reading."
"Yes." Alliel turned her head to meet Mogget's gaze. "Ask the guards who were on duty. They could tell you I was there."
The dwarf gave a sharp-toothed smile. "I'm sure they could. I hope their testimonies were not too expensive."
"Fine, ask the pageboy who haunts the stairs to the battlements. Or ask the assistant cook who passed me in the hallway. Or the librarians who lent me the book. Or Lady Eavna who saw me in the library. They will all give you facts and exact times of day if you so wish."
"You put a lot of effort into your alibis," Mogget observed, delicately shredding a blade of grass with his knobbly fingers.
Alliel grinned and inclined her head in gracious acknowledgment. "But of course."
The dwarf tossed away the remains of the grass. "You don't think it looks a little… obvious?" he asked.
Alliel opened her mouth to reply, but paused in reflection. She had not thought of it like that before.
Mogget snorted. "Like I said. No sense of subtlety whatsoever."
The scowling young woman began to say some things that would have been neither complimentary nor ladylike – but she was interrupted by the approach of a cowled sending. It was her favourite sending and obeyed her every command; she had made it herself the previous winter.
Upon hearing the message whispered in her ear, she jumped to her feet, nearly twisting her ankle as the embellished heel of her shoe caught on the ground. "A boat is arriving?" she repeated in surprise. The sending nodded.
Alliel lifted her skirts and dashed over the lawn towards the Western Courtyard. Skidding to a halt on the cobblestones, she fumbled under her petticoats and drew the knife she kept sheathed to her leg. It was a pretty thing set with jewels, given to her by her dear Girveon.
A barge soon came into view, a barge rowed by twenty men in the red and gold livery of the palace. Alliel hid the knife behind her back and handed it discreetly to the sending. Recovering her composure, she stepped through the gate onto the wooden landing stage to welcome her visitors, and was immediately deafened by the roar of the waterfall.
A herald in a quartered tunic hopped onto the platform, and she led him through the gates to where they could converse properly. The herald unfurled a scroll and cleared his throat: "Ahem! His Royal Majesty, King Girveon, presents his compliments to the Abhorsen, and sends this gift as a symbol of his continued goodwill."
He stepped aside with an exaggerated bow, and Alliel stared as several men in livery came staggering through the door. Between them they carried a large object covered by a canvas sheet. Panting and wheezing, they set it down in the middle of the courtyard, and the herald seized a corner of the sheet. With another flamboyant bow, he whisked it away.
Alliel gasped and brought her hands up to her mouth. It was a beautiful fountain.
"Oh, that's lovely!" she exclaimed. Then she recalled who was in her presence and, trying not to look too pleased by the gift, gestured imperiously with her hand. "Please take it over to the South Lawn," she said, keeping her manner scrupulously formal. Alliel and Mogget followed the men as they carried the fountain over the grass. When it had been positioned to her satisfaction, she thanked the herald in what she thought was an appropriate manner from Abhorsen to King. After dispensing with some gold coins she sent the men on their way.
Once alone, Alliel happily examined the fountain and discovered the Charter Mark to activate it. She uttered the spell, and soon streams of water were arcing through the air, sparkling in the noonday sun. Alliel looked over at Mogget, who was completely ignoring the pretty sight and had crossed his arms. He raised an eyebrow, giving her a look that all too clearly said, "See what I mean?"
"What?" the young woman asked indignantly. "It's perfectly normal for Kings to give fountains to their Abhorsens."
"Very large ones?"
"Made of the finest marble?"
"What could be wrong with that?"
"Carved with flowers?"
"Flowers are very fashionable."
"With the words of a love-poem etched around the rim?"
Ah. She had not noticed that. "Well…" Lost for words, Alliel felt heat rising to her normally-pallid cheeks. She sat on the bench encircling the fountain and leaned her head against the carved line of script. For a peaceful moment she listened to the sound of the cascading water. She loved Girveon, but they both had their duty to attend to. And this fountain, though perfectly charming, was simply too much.
"I suppose I should end it, then," Alliel whispered. The young woman was angry at the way her eyes were stinging, and turned her face away from the dwarf. She raised a hand to wipe her tears, pretending to scratch her nose.
"You will have to tell him," said Mogget, sounding gentle for the first time that day.
The young woman sniffed and turned back to her servant. "Yes,' she agreed. "I do need to talk to him, alone and face-to-face. I'll write to him and set up a meeting."
The dwarf's eyes took on a cunning look. "Are you going to come up with another alibi for that?"
A laugh broke involuntarily from the Abhorsen. She gave a watery smile. "I suppose I'll have to."
"Yes," Mogget agreed. "Only try to be more subtle this time. The library alibi was much too obvious."
Alliel's face darkened, and without preamble she shoved the dwarf over the side of the fountain. Ignoring the splutters and splashes and angry screeches, the Abhorsen allowed herself a very self-satisfied smile. She got to her feet and smoothed her lilac skirts, reminding herself to thank dear Girveon for such a useful fountain.
A/N: You know, I think I really enjoy tormenting Mogget. I just couldn't resist pushing him into a fountain… Alliel may not be your conventional Abhorsen, so I would really like to hear what you think of her.