by Ruth Davis Hays 2011.
After many stress filled hours, Lauralei finds her family, and her image of a perfect autumn romance, tattered and fluttering in the winds…
Galian was fortunate.
Khiall’s strike missed his major arteries, even though his stepbrother’s strange fingernails had penetrated deep. Solomen was able to stem the bleeding, stitching the cuts with quick precision. All the while, his solid heart was shaking with concern for his son.
Khiall would be less fortunate.
Lauralei waited in the large, front parlor with her mother, old Kora, and Ammarron while Solomen worked on the poor twin. With each minute passing, she paced. The house was oppressive and quiet. After the surgery, it grew worse.
Master Khnyghtsyde called the witnesses to him individually. Chewing on her fingernails, Lauralei hovered outside Solomen’s office door, trying her best to make out what Corian was saying. Finally, the door opened to allow her access, the patriarch demanding she explain what part she had played in the incident. Corian exited with a look of smug satisfaction on his face. A lump hit her stomach.
Inside the densely shelved office, Lauralei saw Ammarron, wringing her pale, slender hands and staring at a small fire in the corner hearth, and her stern, fuming father with his son’s blood dark on his tunic.
Lauralei did her best to tell how Galian was making up stories about ‘Khiall before proceeding to taunt the innocent faerlin. She stressed how ‘Khiall had warned him to stop repeatedly and Galian had kept after him. But, her words bounced around the room without much affect on the biased Solomen Khnyghtsyde.
He sat silent for a long time before glancing at Ammarron as he addressed his only daughter.
“We have hidden many facts in order to protect you, Lauralei,” he said in a low, gravelly monotone. “But, it is time that you knew. ‘Khiall cannot be trusted. I know that you think of him as a brother, but he is dangerous, like any wild animal brought into domestication.” Lauralei noticed Ammarron’s hands clinch, but she did not interrupt Solomen. “He is not a true faerlin, and what Galian told you about the past incidents were true. I don’t want you to interact with him anymore. Do you understand?”
A desolate chill prickled her skin and struck hard in her chest. She hung her head in defeat, her heart screaming in defiance. There was no arguing with Solomen when he was in this mood. As he excused her, he added that this demand was for her own safety. She lied and said that she understood.
The night became nerve-wracking for her. Rooms were buzzing with the events of the afternoon and the fact that no one had seen ‘Khiall arrive yet. His absence sat heavy at dinner, and she could tell that with each tick and bite, her father’s ire was blazing hotter. Perceptible tremors made the tiny flames atop each candelabra dance along with the screeching strike of utensils upon Solomen’s plate. Yet, no one at the table dared speak.
In a fury, Solomen later ordered a house search: from cellar to attic. When no sign of the bastard fae turned up, he demanded that all who could ride should scour the countryside. Lauralei begged that she might be allowed to join the search, but he– of course– forbade it. So, she wandered the house restlessly, worry tugging at her every fiber until, near sunset the next night, she saw the young fae.
Somehow, D’harromarrie’khiall had managed to evade detection, cross the grounds of the estate, and was approaching the outer kitchen door. Lauralei spied him from her vantage point in the third storey library and dashed off to meet him.
The kitchen was empty, chores halted in lieu of the hunt. Darkness crawled up from the flour dusted crevices to welcome the falling night. Stepping hesitantly inside, the changeling was a wary wolf watching the huntress approach, ready to chew his foot from the trap, if necessary.
“Galian’s going to be alright,” Lauralei said hurriedly. The fading sunset cast strange specters all around them, contorting with the cookhouse angles. She walked slowly towards him; he looked as if he might bolt, so she remained cautious and spoke calmly. “I told Father what happened, but so did Corian. I don’t know who he believed more, but it’s best if you talk to him yourself, Dharromar.”
His face hidden in the shadows, she saw his hands flail out towards her, imploring sympathy. “It was an accident. I swear it was.”
“I know it was, my love. We all do.” She wanted to prevent any rash reactions. “But, father is very upset. You need to talk to him.”
“Why? He won’t care!” ‘Khiall spun to leave, only to be stopped by the sight of men on horseback advancing from the courtyard gate. Uttering a harsh curse at his foolishness, he escaped into the living room as the men outside shouted.
She scurried after him, finding that another hunting party had returned from the front gate, cornering the young fae in the main hall. He twisted once more to run and plowed into her.
As they both tumbled to the floor beside their secret closet under the hall stairs, Lauralei saw rough hands peel him away, dragging his thrashing form to the vestibule. Solomen was waiting there. Leaping up, she loudly recited her testimonial in ‘Khiall’s defense.
The patriarch was not inclined to debate. Bellowing for silence, he ordered that ’Khiall be pitched into the root cellar. The servants obeyed without hesitation, the captive speaking no word in protest or pleading.
Her father sent Lauralei off to wash up for dinner, and as she climbed the stairs, tearful and reluctant, she heard further commands given to two, large, stable hands. The remaining men headed towards the cellar.