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* Plot Information for Rihland

A Black Jewel has obliterated the longstanding Eyrien rulership of the Territory. As the Rihlanders begin to reclaim their homeland they do so under the stern gaze of their "savior". Three separate peoples struggle to both claim their own identities and become a unified nation, but old hatreds are difficult to shed.
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Author Topic: All Dreams Were Ours For The Taking  (Read 658 times)

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Offline Svala Elkshaarn

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All Dreams Were Ours For The Taking
« on: Jan 08, 19, 03:25:53 PM »
“We are nearly there,” she assured the ragged trio following behind her. The wind had picked up something fierce but it was not yet snowing so Svala pushed them on in the hopes of cresting the pass and putting the oncoming storm behind them.

Putting Glacia behind them.

Over the last few weeks, there had been a constant stream of requests – pleas, Svala thought they should be called – for the Underground to get a mother or a son or an entire family out of the turbulent climate Glacia could become in the wake of Elisif Brenden’s untimely demise. Some Light Jeweled saw hope that with a new ruler, things would change. Svala did not share their views. Neither did the faction she worked for.

Seven days ago, the funeral of the “blessed” Queen had been held. Svala, of course, had not gone, nor had any of her fellows. None that she knew of, anyway. The Underground had spies everywhere, all operating under codenames so as not to implicate someone with truthful information, so if any of the Underground had attended, that was their risk to take and not trouble for Svala to borrow. Especially not as she was descending the slopes with her latest wards, a young family of three with a child condemned by a Tiger Eye Birthright.

The Dark Religion said that the Light Jeweled were merely errant children to be cherished – educated out of their ignorance but protected from even themselves because, like any child, they simply did not know better. In her thirties, with her experiences on the fringes of society, Svala knew it was a ruse, a veil used to colorfully cover what the Dark Religion really wanted: power over the helpless. Without the protection – the damning collars -- of the Dark Jeweled, how would the Light Jeweled ever experience the redemption of Mother Night?

For an omniscient, omnipotent goddess, Mother Night certainly had…eccentric limitations.

Such jaded thoughts were not usual to Svala but in the last two weeks, she had seen too much desperation in the eyes of those supposedly cherished children. The Dark Jeweled who were supposed to ensure calm and structure were at political odds with themselves, vying for favor in the hopes of being accepted into the new Queen’s Court. Prestige and power. That was all anyone below the depths of Opal cared about. Not the plight of the poor.

The moment they crossed into Rihland, Svala let out a sigh of relief. The trio behind her might not feel the difference in the wind, but she did. And even though the peaks and snows looked the same here as they did half a mile back, they were not Glacian peaks and snows. This was Rihland, ruled by a Black Jewel who allowed the poor Glacians to settle here. Before the death of Queen Brenden, Svala had only been to this land once, with Bully. In the last two weeks, she had been here twice. This was her third trip and most likely her last one for some time. The window of viable escape was closing, as winter swept in.

But desperate people did desperate things. Svala shuddered to think how many corpses would be uncovered when the spring thawed the peaks.

It took another day to reach Avorla but even after that first night, her wards realized that they had made it to safety. Now, they had a chance to build a new life under a Queen that was reputed to hate the Dark Religion. She, like Svala, wore no collar and treated her people, from Dark to Light, fairly, as the Old Ways deigned. Once the time was right, Svala intended to stay, serving under a Queen like that.

After depositing her charges at the safe house, thus ending her duties as smuggler, Svala went to find two things: room and board for herself, and her companion in Avorla, a Black Widow who went by the codename Kiss.

The very Black Widow that had scoured Svala’s mind years ago to induct her into the Underground.

Like her own codename, Svala’s psychic touch was feather soft but firm like a wing feather. **Kiss, it is Fletch. I have returned,** was all she sent. Kiss would know what every word of that meant: a smuggler was done with their run and was checking in with their local contact. In Svala’s case, she was hoping to hear more about Rihland and its promises. In Kiss’s case, Svala would have valuable information to share about the devolving situation in Glacia.

Once Svala had sent her simple message, she settled into her quarters to wait for a reply.

Offline Thyra Danielsen

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Re: All Dreams Were Ours For The Taking
« Reply #1 on: Jan 10, 19, 12:24:38 AM »
The sensation of Svala brushing across her barriers was a little foreign, but also welcome. The witch had brought through another refugee from Glacia and lived to tell the tale. Thyra was in the middle of finishing her reports for Signe regarding the people that she and her new assistants had been able check for traps, compulsions, or webs. Thus far, the only thing that their collective had found were people in need of help after decades of emotional and mental abuse and torture. Thyra helped those she could while wondering how soon the new housing would be available for everyone being brought over at such a rapid rate.

**On my way. Don’t go to sleep.**

She left Valenna in charge, took her paperwork to Khiar for review, and then headed to her house just down the road from the palace. She needed a change of clothes and a stiff drink. She also needed a hot bath to wash away the pain and fear of so many people. Thyra prided herself on being an ice-cold bitch in public, but a Black Widow’s work left scars that others never saw. Thyra arrived home, stripped down, and got into her steaming hot bathtub. The water felt wonderful against her skin, but even when she closed her eyes, the pain didn’t fade away. She let herself sink beneath the water and held herself down there as long as dared, until her lungs burned. Then she gripped the edges of the tub and pulled herself out, gasping in a lungful of cool air as the water streamed down her face.

She stayed in until the water grew cold, then rose and dried off.

She dressed in loose back pants and a white shirt, grabbed a bottle of the best mead she’d found since her arrival in Rihland and then headed out to meet Svala. The person or persons she’d brought from over the mountain would stay at the safehouse tonight and get some much needed (and much deserved) rest after their ordeal. Svala would have information about the situation in Glacia, which Thyra needed to keep Signe appraised of the situation there. Thyra wondered how many others were escaping the Territory through the other routes. She could have ended up in Nharkava or Dhemlan, but neither of those places seemed as hospitable as Avolra. Signe had made Rihland a home for their people and Thyra doubted that anyone else could have accomplished that feat.

She was knocking on the heavy door of Svala’s room a couple of hours after the Smuggler arrived. When she opned the door, Thyra held up the bottle of alcohol.

Beware Black Widows bearing gifts. Isn’t that what they say...everywhere?” she asked, her smile impish. She entered when bidden and took a minute to appreciate Svala’s form. She was still an attractive woman. Thyra wasn’t blind or dead and appreciated a beautiful woman when she saw one.

I’m glad you made it back. I wasn’t sure how long it would take you with...things as they are.” Thyra said. Even now it was hard for her to believe that Elisif Brenden was dead. Not just deposed, but dead. She’d never trouble Glacia again. People could rebuild their lives under the right leader, so long as said leader didn’t wear a Dark Jewel.

You know, you could have stayed at my place. I mean, it’s not here but it’s got things like a bathtub, good food, and more of this.” Thyra said, holding up the bottle as she summoned in two glasses. She poured Svala a finger of the beverage first and then herself.

Can you believe she’s really dead? Still feels like a dream.

Offline Svala Elkshaarn

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Re: All Dreams Were Ours For The Taking
« Reply #2 on: Jan 10, 19, 10:44:25 AM »
Despite Kiss’s statement that she was on her and that Svala should not go to sleep, that’s exactly what happened anyway.

Luckily for Kiss, Svala was a light sleeper. It had been hours since the Black Widow had contacted her and Svala had dozed off, trying to dull the edge of exhaustion a little. The moment Kiss knocked on her door, Svala was awake, her hand curling into a fist to call in a dagger if needed, but a quick psychic scan revealed a familiar tang on the other side of that door. Svala redid her short braid as she opened the door. Kiss held up a bottle of something alcoholic and Svala suppressed a sigh. What was it with people and drinking?

“I thought the warning was to beware Black Widows entirely,” Svala answered to Kiss’s joke. There was an emotionless tone to her voice, probably made worse by her exhaustion, but Svala gave Kiss a weary smile. “It is good to see a familiar face,” she said.

She didn’t miss Kiss looking her over. She stilled for a moment, gauging that look, then looked at the bottle in Kiss’s hand and wondered if this was going to be a business call or something else.

Best not to think about those something elses.

Kiss began the conversation amicably, pouring a glass of the honey wine for them both. Svala inhaled its fruity scent, sighed with resignation and a little appreciation for the scent, and took a small sip. At least mead didn’t burn like other alcohols but its potency wasn’t weak. Svala, being the lightweight and guarded person she was, could get drunk off just a healthy glass of this stuff.

“I did not want to impose upon you,” Svala replied to Kiss’s offer to stay at her place. “Not without…consulting you first. I am not one to drop in unannounced if I can.” Kiss had her own life, her own responsibilities as Court Seer. Svala had no desire to infringe upon that. They were colleagues nearing friends. And that separation was something the both of them had kept, given their connections and risky professions.

When Kiss expressed her disbelief at Elisif Brenden being dead, Svala exhaled long and slow. “It does feel like a dream,” she agreed, “but an awful one.” She looked down at the glass in her hands, at the sunkissed liquid. “The situation is growing more desperate at the days stretch,” she admitted. “They have not yet announced the new Queen but the list is short. It will be either Kenna Anderson or Miina Kalas, from our estimations.” Queens both loyal to the Dark Religion, with one of them having served in Queen Brenden’s circles. If the Underground thought that they had hope in a new ruler being lax, it was not to happen.

Svala let out another sigh and rotated one tired shoulder. “This is news that I can bring to your Queen later. There is other information that she will most likely wish to know. Tell me, how are things here? In Rihland?” For each time Svala crossed those mountains, the stronger the urge came to never go back.

Surely Rihland, with its Black Prince and supposed Prohibitions, could not be any worse than Glacia.

Offline Thyra Danielsen

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Re: All Dreams Were Ours For The Taking
« Reply #3 on: Jan 10, 19, 11:34:08 AM »
Thyra nodded at Svala’s reasoning. Dropping in on a Black Widow without warning was a very good way to either die or get an eyeful of things one couldn’t unsee. Thyra imagined the blush on Svala’s cheeks in the latter instance, but let the thought pass. She could see the exhaustion in the other woman plainly and Thyra was once more glad that she’d never volunteered to do any crossings during her days in Glacia. Filling out paperwork and providing webs and visions was easy, clean, and most of all, safe. She didn’t care if it was considered cowardly.

There were a lot dead brave people still rotting in the mountain snows.

She sipped her drink and listened while Svala spoke. Thrya knew that Elisif’s death would bring the out Glacia’s most rotten Queens to vie for the chance to rest their asses on her throne. Her death was a monumental event in Glacia’s history, but now everyone was ready to get back to politicking and backstabbing each other as usual. No one was safe from it, not even in their homes and families. Thyra rolled her eyes at the idea of Kenna Anderson becoming Queen of Glacia, mouth twisting in disgust.

But Thyra’s expression visibly hardened at the mention of Miina Kalas, the Red Queen.

You’ve got to be shitting me.” Thyra said, setting her glass down on the nearby table a little harder than she’d intended. The Black Widows cool gaze settled on Svala. She was just the messenger but the message was terrible. She was silent, pacing back and forth slowly while she considered the ramifications of that. If Miina became Queen of Glacia, then Lydia would become High Priestess. And then Lydia could recommend whatever boot-lickers she wanted as the Priestess of Ivalo.

Someone like Mother Zealot.

Every option that wears a dark jewel is bad, but somehow they managed to find someone shittier than Elisif Brenden.” Thyra said, sighing. She stilled. She couldn’t sit back down. She couldn’t keep pacing. Her hands itched to weave, to figure out what this new development held for the future. Even worse, she wanted to jam her snaketooth into the throats of Miina Kalas and her Red bitch sister and return them both to the Darkness. Kenna Anderson could get in that coach and ride it to Hell with them for all Thyra cared.

My parents practically handed over my other sister over to Lydia Kalas. She’s been trapped in that house for years now. I don’t even know if she still alive.” she said softly. And if she was, then what? What shape was she in? Did she want to leave? Or had she fallen prey to the brainwashing that told all of the Light Jeweled that they were better off being collared and cared for by those who stood deep in the Abyss?

She was so caught up in her own anger that she missed Svala’s question about Rihland. When she realized that Svala was waiting for her to respond, she shook her head.

Sorry. I...I thought I was done letting that hellhole get to me. Guess I was wrong.” Thrya said.

Rihland’s...well, it’s not bad but it’s not perfect. I love it here but there are people here that don’t exactly like us Glacians. You know how the Black Prince murdered a lot of Eyriens and took over a few years ago? Well, they struck back recently. Went to his house at Ebon Varos and killed a bunch of people.

I used to think we were eager to die, pissing off the Dark Jewels with all the stuff we’ve done. This Eyrien Rebellion is next-level suicidal, though, taunting a Black.
” 

Offline Svala Elkshaarn

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Re: All Dreams Were Ours For The Taking
« Reply #4 on: Jan 14, 19, 03:36:25 PM »
Thyra’s outburst startled Svala slightly. She slammed the glass down on the table and began pacing. Since Svala had never interacted with Miina Kalas, and only knew about her through reputation, she was uncertain as to why it rankled Kiss so. Was Miina Kalas not the one with a Light Jeweled Bonded male in her Court? The one that had had previous, though extremely light ties to the Underground?

Luckily – or unluckily, depending on one saw it – Kiss went on to explain why. Miina Kalas herself wasn’t bad. It was her politically ambitious and domineering Priestess sister Lydia that was. Lydia controlled Miina and the thought of someone so fanatical pulling the strings of the ruler of Glacia had Svala shuddering.

Especially when Kiss admitted that her parents had handed over her sister to that zealot.

“I am…sorry to hear that,” Svala said sadly. How awful, truly, to have one’s parents so eager to give up their children simply because they wore Light Jewels? What sort of corruption had the Blood of Glacia become? Children were supposed to be protected, cherished – not trapped in the homes of others, collared and indentured servants of the elite.

There were far worse fates though. And Svala had seen them too. Remembering the blood and magic ritual she had seen in the cave…

She shuddered and took a big sip of the mead, hoping that the sweet burn of alcohol would help her forget.

“It’s alright,” she said quietly when Kiss apologized for her outburst. Everyone reacted to danger, trauma, pain in a different way. Svala understood that. Having watched how animals behaved when caught in a trap – people were the same way. Just very intelligent animals. Some got angry, some tried to change the course of history. Sometimes both.

Svala let her drink remain cradled in her hands as she listened to Kiss recount how some of the surviving Eyriens had set fire to Ebon Varos, murdering some of the Black Prince’s people. “How did…how did he respond?” she asked, both curious to know and dreading the answer. Like Thyra, her experience with Dark Jewels had always been a dance with death. Pissing them off was a guaranteed way to get into an early grave. But how that death went said a lot about a ruler. Did he torture them? Was he swift but merciful? Had he ignored them? Sent them a stern warning?

Svala highly doubted it was the latter ones. And if they had been in Glacia, it would have been the first item on that list most likely.

Offline Thyra Danielsen

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Re: All Dreams Were Ours For The Taking
« Reply #5 on: Jan 28, 19, 02:17:39 AM »
So far...he hasn’t responded. That’s the scary part.” Thyra said.

She’d looked into her webs after word spread about the attack on Ebon Varos to learn how to protect Avorla, but her visions were inconclusive. The Eyrien Rebellion had been quiet, mostly, up that point but this strike was a major offensive on their parts. Kalvar had destroyed Ebon Rih in his rage and now they’d attacked the seat of his power. They’d known that they couldn’t stand against him in the field so they attacked his people. Thyra understood the strategy, even admired it.

But they’d provoked a Black Jeweled Prince. There would be an answer someday in the future. Thyra prayed that Avorla wasn’t caught up in the madness.

Thyra shook her head and sipped her drink. She hadn’t meant to take this conversation down such a solemn path.

I left Glacia to keep Dark Jeweled people from deciding my life and how I could live it. Seems like I just traded a Gray Messiah for one who wears the Black. Talk about rotten luck, huh?” Terra said.

Other than the drama with the Territory Court, things are good here. Lady Drachlan runs a smooth Court and she works hard to keep our people safe. If you decide you ever want out of the life, I bet that she could use someone with your skills. Or you could learn some new ones.” Thrya said, shrugging as she looked at the Summer Sky Witch.

Or you could settle down and just live quietly. Nothing says you have to join a Court. We’re trying to house and feed everyone here. We’re also making sure that Glacia doesn’t get its hooks into this place and try something. The more people from the Underground that can report that to others looking to get out, the better.” Thyra said.

What else do you want to know about Avorla? Or Rihland?

Offline Svala Elkshaarn

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Re: All Dreams Were Ours For The Taking
« Reply #6 on: Jan 28, 19, 04:33:33 PM »
The fact that the Black Prince had not responded brought a look of mild confusion from Svala. “For someone who razed the Territory Court unexpectedly one day to not respond to an attack on his own home invites further attacks,” she remarked warily, unnerved. “I do hope he knows what he is doing.” And that Avorla, this pretty little haven, was left unmarked.

Kiss told her about the Queen that ruled here, a Lady Drachlan. Svala had heard that name in passing during her previous trips but had yet to meet this Queen that Kiss served. And Kiss’s offer to take up a position here in Avorla was…tempting.

Svala sighed. She had to either find her family or leave them for dead. This limbo could not continue.

“Soon,” she promised Kiss, though she was not entirely certain what she was exactly promising. “The situation in Glacia worsens and I have…I have little desire of returning with each crossing of those mountains. But…”

Svala looked away. Her chest felt warm from the mead but her fingers felt cold. Her throat worked for a moment, holding on to some old memory she wasn’t ready to recount. When she spoke again, her husky voice cracked for just a moment. “I must find what happened to my family before I…before I leave Glacia for good,” she said.

There was a single tear that dropped into the cup of mead as Svala moved her head to look down. It was the only one, overdue and difficult to shed, as Svala was not prone to crying. “It has been a hard road, Kiss,” the huntress admitted softly, weary. “I have only a few days to stay, to rest, and then I must return. I…”

She took a moment to compose herself. When she looked back up at Kiss, her eyes were red-rimmed but clear. “I wish to speak with your Queen. There are things she must know because…” Because she was a good Queen? No. Because Svala wanted someone to believe her? Maybe. Because she wanted to warn this pretty little haven of the dangers amassing beyond those mountains? Yes.

“Can you arrange for an appointment with me tomorrow?” she asked of Kiss. “Please.” 

Offline Thyra Danielsen

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Re: All Dreams Were Ours For The Taking
« Reply #7 on: Jan 28, 19, 04:54:01 PM »
Yeah, me too. I try not to get involved in the affairs of the Dark Jeweled, but Lady Drachlan has worked pretty closely with Prince Elbremov for a long time. I don’t want her or Avorla becoming a casualty of the Black’s actions or inactions.” Thyra said, taking a deep breath. She sipped her drink and tried not to imagine someone flying over Avorla and using the full destructive power of a Dark Jewel on the place. She’d been terrified of that in the months after meeting Prince Odinar. People will Dark Jewels just didn’t have the same cares as the Light Jeweled, in Thyra’s experience.

She wasn’t a stupid woman, but a name like The Red Inferno wasn’t a play on words.

Something shifted in Thyra’s chest when Svala said that she might give up the life soon. The Black Widow found it nice to have someone from back home to talk to. Not because she wanted to hear about Glacia, but because it was good to know that someone saw and understood the place the way that she did. It reminded her that it wasn’t all just some horrible nightmare. It had happened and other people had lived it recently. But Svala spoke of needing to learn the fate of her family and that spoke to Thyra as well. Kiersten was out there somewhere, alive or dead, and Thyra couldn’t see her.

Yvetta could be dead or worse.

Yeah, I get it.” she said softly, looking down into her drink when she saw that tear. She wanted to reach over and wipe it away, but she didn’t want invade her space. Instead, her fingers drummed on the table for lack of anything else to do. The drink was getting to her, a little, and making her think things she shouldn't think. Svala was tougher than most people she knew, like Indaara. But she didn’t have the hardened shell of cynicism that the other Black Widow carried, the one that made her good at her job.

You’re good here as long as you need it, understand?” Thyra asked. “And I’ll speak to Lady Drachlan tonight. She’s wanted me to reach out to someone in Glacia for more information, and you'd be the perfect person to fill her in. How does first thing in the morning sound?” Thyra asked.

Offline Svala Elkshaarn

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Re: All Dreams Were Ours For The Taking
« Reply #8 on: Feb 12, 19, 06:45:49 PM »
Kiss’s offered to have Svala speak with the Queen of Avorla first thing in the morning sounded good. The huntress nodded her head. She wasn’t sure how good her information would be to the Queen but she knew she needed to tell someone in charge about what was happening. A former Glacian Queen seemed like a good start, especially since Kiss vouched for her.

“Is there anything I should know about her?” Svala asked. “I have heard that she runs a fair District but not much more. How long has she ruled here?” And how had she acquired that position from the Rihland rulers? There was a web of politics here that Svala didn’t want to delve too deeply into but she felt she needed to know just a bit more before the meeting tomorrow. “Is she…a good Queen?” The moment those words left her mouth, she felt they were redundant. Kiss might fake a lot of things, grin and bear it sort of deal, but she did not strike Svala as the kind of woman to accept such a ranking position in the Court if she did not at least have some modicum of respect.

But a moment after she asked what she thought was a redundant question, she realized that she was fishing for confirmation. Kiss had said that Svala was good here as long as she needed it. But what if she wanted to stay? What would she do? Svala hardly had the skills befitting a Court and its responsibilities. The best position she could offer this Queen was providing food for her table. It was a lowly offering, which chafed Svala just a little. In all honesty, she had not prepared to be thrust into this new life. Had she been advised…

Was anyone ever ready to be thrust into catalytic change? No. Hence why it was so cataclysmic.

Though Svala was not one to usually loathe her lack of viable skills, the alcohol, plus the weariness of this current career, brought that to the fore of her mind. And thus, she found herself muttering softly, “What use would a Queen like her have of me?” as she rotated the glass slowly in her hands.

Offline Thyra Danielsen

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Re: All Dreams Were Ours For The Taking
« Reply #9 on: Feb 16, 19, 02:58:52 AM »
Before Lady Drachlan, I never thought much about Queens. Wait, scratch that. I never had good thoughts about Queens. All the ones I knew wore Dark Jewels and wanted people like us to suffer.” Thyra said, reaching for the bottle to pour herself another drink. She understood Svala’s hestiance to believe in Rhiland. Thyra held the same reticence when she first came over the mountain.

But Signe is the real deal. She cares for her people, all of them, the way a Queen should. She’s ruled here nearly twenty years and she’s nothing like Elisif Brenden. She’s got a spine of steel, even when it comes to standing before a man with Black Jewel. Her Court respects her and her people love her.” Thyra said, a smile tugging at her lips. Thyra could go on and on about how great Signe was, but some things were better shown than told.

But she knew the look in Svala’s eyes, the tone in her voice. Avorla sounded too good to be true. Thyra believed it when she first arrived. A place where her Jewels didn’t automatically mark her as a waste of a person? A place where she could be respected on her merits and skills rather than her who her parents were? She would have given away her family’s fortune for any corner of Glacia that would give her that.

She was here now, but she almost didn’t make it out. Svala now had to decide if she could believe after a lifetime of fear and disappointments.

Thyra leaned forward so that she could catch her Svala’s gaze. “You’re a natural hunter and tracker. There are places here that some of the locals won’t go. How many times have you crossed out of and into Glacia? There’s a lot you can do here. And if you want to do something new, you can learn how. You can have a fresh start here. I had a lot of the same questions when I arrived. But the people here care about each other. No one’s going to report you to the nearest Dark Jewel if you’re not in a certain place at a certain time.” Thyra said, taking a sip of her drink.

Signe would talk to you and help you find your way. If you wanted to see the rest of Rihland first before you decide, she’d support that as well.” she said,finishing her drink. She knew that she couldn’t talk away the things that bothered Svala because she’d have to see it all for herself. But this helped her decide what she’d tell Kiersten and Yvetta when she finally brought them here.

For now, Svala seemed like she needed time to think about everything laid out before her.

You’ve had a long trip. I’ll get out of your hair so that you can rest, but I’ll be back in the morning to get you.

If Svala didn’t ask her to stay or ask for anything else, Thyra departed, but left the bottle of honey mead for her.

The night was quiet. An hour after sunrise, there was once more a knock on Svala’s door. Thyra waited until the Witch allowed her inside and smiled.

You ready?

Offline Svala Elkshaarn

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Re: All Dreams Were Ours For The Taking
« Reply #10 on: Mar 06, 19, 04:26:12 PM »
You can have a fresh start here.

Even after Kiss left, Svala’s mind circled around those words, that promise. Even though she was exhausted, Svala stayed up late, nursing that bottle of mead alone, thinking. What would it be like to leave everything she knew behind and start again? Kiss said that this place, this was a place where a person’s merits and skills spoke far more than their rank of Jewels.  Kiss did not seem misguided in her belief that Avorla was a haven. And the only person whose instincts that Svala trusted more than Kiss, with her Black Widow Craft, was Bully, who agreed that there was something to Avorla that held promise.

You can have a fresh start here.

Those words wound their way into Svala’s dreaming that night, and would for nights to come. All it took was leaving her family behind to whatever their fate had been. Even if they were all dead, Svala at least wanted to know that they were buried and remembered. She was beginning to believe that outcome more and more, as the days went on and no contact was made.

Her father would want her to have that fresh start, that promise.

But there was still the matter of her traitorous uncle.

Dawn came too soon and Svala was sluggish to stir. She was still dressing when Kiss returned for her. “I am,” was her reply to her colleague’s question as she laced up her worn boots. She had not had time to clean them but the rest of her was presentable for meeting a Queen, with dark breeches, a green tunic, and a dark vest. She did not tie her hair back, which gave her an even blend of feminine and masculine. Her bow she would leave here but her daggers were carried in her psychic stash, ready to defend or avenge, as always.

The ride to the Queen’s estate was mostly quiet. Kiss asked her a few more questions about Glacia, Svala provided what she knew. The huntress’s eyes lingered mostly outside, taking in the buildings and people, wondering what it would be like to call this place home.

“Would you leave your family behind for a place like this?” she asked Kiss after a long silence had stretched between them. It was the only question that kept Svala from abandoning everything in Glacia – was Avorla worth that loss? Could she give up avenging her family to stay here? She didn’t think so, but she still wanted a second opinion before she met this Signe.

Offline Thyra Danielsen

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Re: All Dreams Were Ours For The Taking
« Reply #11 on: Mar 06, 19, 11:47:40 PM »
Thyra didn’t blame Svala for being a little slow to get moving. A good night’s sleep in an actual bed did that to anyone. Thyra still remembered her first few days in Avorla, getting her bearings after coming down the Eyrien Way to get to freedom. She was exhausted, a little ill, and terrified the entire time that someone would see her and drag her back to Glacia. The first night after she arrived here, she’d woken up in a cold sweat, unsure of where she was. Too many fearful nights in her parents’ house made it hard for Thyra relax anywhere. When Signe finally told her that she’d get a house of her own, Thyra had set to work on a levels of wards and traps to keep her home as secure as she wanted it.

When Svala was ready, they headed out for the palace.

Svala’s information about Glacia filed in some blanks, but the Black Widow looked forward to her full report to Signe. It occurred to Thyra, just then, that all three women wore the same jewels. In Glacia, they’d be collared and placed into the care of their nearest relative who wore a Dark Jewel and they’d have little or not freedom of their own. Here, at least, they could decide their lives as they saw fit. The smell of fresh-baked bread and smoked meat made her stomach rumble. She loved meeting in Signe’s office. Her Queen expected that she’d show up hungry and provided food to that effect.

Would you leave your family behind for a place like this?

The question caused Thyra to look over at the witch with a sad smile. She’d been in Svala’s mind, years ago, and saw some of the terrible things she’d endured. The huntress was a selfless woman, devoted to her duty and helping those who needed it. Thyra had seen the conflict within her the night before, the struggle to believe that Avorla was as good as it seemed.

I already did, Fletch.” Thyra said softly. “One of my sisters--well, my cousin, but we were raised like sisters--is still trapped in Glacia in the house of the High Priestess of Ivalo.

Thyra looked over the buildings as they passed, drawing closer to the palace.

My other sister, Kiersten...if she’s not actually dead, then she’s so far away that she’s got her own life now. I wanted to bring them both here, but Signe needs me. And I have other responsibilities.” Thyra said, thinking of the Exchange. She had work to fulfill yet and she’d need to get on top of that soon. Fortunately, her position at Court gave her a flexible schedule.

But yeah, any place is better than Glacia. Any place at all.

Offline Svala Elkshaarn

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Re: All Dreams Were Ours For The Taking
« Reply #12 on: Mar 21, 19, 10:47:40 AM »
The sad smile that Kiss gave Svala before answering her question warned her. Kiss had, indeed, left something dear behind. Cousin or sister, family was family, and loved ones – by blood or whatever other bond – were hard to leave behind. But Kiss had done it. Did she regret it? Maybe, but she said that any place was better than Glacia. Svala found that she was starting to believe that.

Still, she intended to make at least one more, extended trek back into Glacia, once the snows cleared, to discover what had happened to her own family, before settling down for good somewhere like here.

Svala looked out over the building that were reminiscent of Glacian architecture but with a Rihland flair. Avorla had that balanced blend of kin yet other, with its foods, attires, and peoples. And yet, different from Glacia – there was a distinct lack of fear weighing down the air. The psychic and emotional scents of the people they passed as they made their way to Signe’s estate were mostly relieved, some disbelieving, but none of them afraid to look over their shoulder or greet another person in the streets. It was as Glacia should have been, if the Dark Religion had not taken hold.

The cart pulled up to the estate – a group of multi-storied buildings with plenty of gardens brightening the paths into it – and the guards and gardeners greeted Kiss with a familiarity that spoke of both respect and general geniality towards another of the Blood.

With hardly much for conversation passing between the women from that point on, Svala followed Kiss down a hallway she navigated with that same familiarity. Her huntress eyes swept for both exits, ambush points, and took in the artwork, all with the same cool observation that she exhibited most of the time. She followed Kiss into a decent sized office and that was when she had her first look at the Queen of Avorla.

She was petite. No, that wasn’t right because she wasn’t short. She was motherly like Svala’s own mother had been. A full figure that spoke of both age and experience. Svala rescinded her description of petite and replaced it with maternal. Her golden hair was swept back off her shoulders and neck and she wore a business suit that was both feminine and professional. And colorful. Just like the flowers outside but more conservative.

And no collar around her neck. Here was a Queen unfettered, and the way she sat, the way she held that pen deftly in her hand, broadcasted that she was at the top of the Blood hierarchy, no matter her Jewels. When she looked up to greet Kiss and Svala, there was a warmth to her eyes but also a sharpness. She would nurture the land and people around her to new growth but she would sweep like a scythe through the fields if needed.

Svala instantly realized that this Queen would do whatever it took to see her people safe.

And with that realization, the huntress bowed, thinking that maybe she had finally found someone honorable to serve.

Offline Signe Drachlan

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Re: All Dreams Were Ours For The Taking
« Reply #13 on: Mar 21, 19, 01:29:15 PM »
As a Queen, there was always something to do, even as winter closed in on the land. While the fields and flowers began their seasonal sleep and with the autumn harvest protected by preservation spells, Signe readied herself for the spring and its plantings. Her favorite season, obviously, though she appreciated the wheel of the year. If one didn’t take a moment to be thankful for winter, with its chilly winds and burrowing snows, how could one be thankful for summer, with its heat and harvest?

She was finishing up some quick notes to the farmers in the region when she heard footsteps approaching. A quick glance at the clock confirmed that it was her next appointment – well, her first appointment, really, but she had already been working for almost an hour today. It was time to take a break for breakfast but to focus also on another task.

Thyra stepped into Signe’s office and the Queen smiled welcomingly. “I’ve plenty of coffee and fresh pastries for us,” she said by way of greeting. “There might even be something with meat in it, if I heard the cook right. I’m about ready for some myself. I was up at sunrise. There’s a lot to get done today.” It wasn’t a complaint. There was no way it could be a complaint with the jovial smile on Signe’s face. She got up and rounded her desk, motioning for Thyra to seat herself (not that she needed much permission to do so nowadays) but her attention was mostly on the woman Thyra had brought with her. “Is this your friend?” Signe asked, even as she offered her hands to witch.

She was not surprised when the woman, dressed in the colors of the forest, bowed deeply to her, but her hesitation to greet the Queen in the traditional way showed. Signe made note – this was a wary woman, wily. And that made sense, given that she was part of the same Underground that Thyra knew. None of those people could afford laxity in their meetings. “I’m Signe Drachlan. You can call me Lady Drachlan or Signe. I don’t mind,” the Queen informed her conversationally. Formalities were great but if they made people feel even more at unease, Signe saw no reason for them.

“Have a seat,” Signe indicated. She took the one across from them and began pouring coffee. Once refreshments had been distributed, Signe, with her own cup of coffee, leaned back in her seat and said, “What news have you brought me?”

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Re: All Dreams Were Ours For The Taking
« Reply #14 on: Mar 21, 19, 11:33:34 PM »
Thyra entered the office and, out of respect for her Queen, waited before she went after the pastries. She was always hungry and the palace cook was one of Thyra’s favorite people. Signe was waiting for both of them, having been up since sunrise. Thyra sometimes thought that Signe simply said she was up at sunrise to disguise the fact that she never slept at all. The amount of work that Signe had to do (and completed on a regular basis) lead to Thyra’s belief that Signe barely slept for worry of her people. That bothered the Black Widow but this wasn’t the time or place.

Yes, Signe. This Svala Elkshaarn. She’s good people and one of the Underground’s most successful members.” Thrya said, falling silent so that the two women could get acquainted on their own without Thyra’s words. Finally, she turned and grabbed a napkin and a pastry and sat down one of the soft chairs nearby. She had to stifle a small laugh when she realized that all three of them held the same standing in the Abyss, sharing the Tiger Eye and the Summer Sky. We could start a club. Thyra thought idly, before getting comfortable and turning her focus on Signe.

Svala just got in last night and she has information about Glacia that she wants to share with you. Rather than make her tell the story twice, I brought her to you first thing this morning so that you could hear it all. Then we can re-evaluate based on what we know.” Thyra said.

She hoped that she hadn’t overstepped by not grilling Svala beforehand. Had the witch been anyone else from Glacia, Thyra would have done so, and then gone into her mind to be certain. But Svala deserved more leeway than that in her eyes. She would bear Signe’s disapproval, if any, herself.

With that, Thyra started on her pastry and waited for Svala to speak.

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Re: All Dreams Were Ours For The Taking
« Reply #15 on: Apr 02, 19, 02:17:33 PM »
It felt odd hearing Kiss say her true name. She still thought of her as “Kiss” and not Thyra and had imagined the same from the other woman. Belatedly, she realized that perhaps it was a good thing not to hide behind code names here. This was not Glacia, no matter how closely it resembled it. If Svala wanted to foster hopes of living here, she should get used to the idea of living without a mask.

She did not, however, have to learn how to stomach such glowing praise about her skills.

“I do what I must,” she said in her usual low, slightly husky voice. She watched Thyra plop down into one of the chairs with a pastry. Such familiarity, such comfort with being here. It intrigued Svala. But it was a thought she would have to chase down later.

The Queen of Avorla was watching her, expectantly.

The huntress inadvertently drew herself a bit more under that gentle scrutiny. “As you have heard, Elisif Brenden is dead. Officially, the cause is through childbirth. There is…no proof to corroborate this, nor is there any against it, but it does not sit well, either way, with the people.” Rumors were beginning that it was not just simple childbirth but Svala did not give voice to rumors.

“The Queens and Triangle that supported Queen Brenden have chosen Kenna Anderson, a Green Jeweled Queen, to lead the Territory. She was favored by Queen Brenden,” Svala went on to say. “The Ebon Grays that surrounded Queen Brenden now act as Queen Anderson’s Triangle, with a Prince named Ulric Lindgren replacing Prince Aksel Winterton as the Steward. Prince Yrian Winterton has been…aloof, lately. Official word is that he is caring for his newborn child.” Svala had no doubt that other changes would happen to the fledgling Court but knew that all of those changes would center around the darkest Jewels possible to maintain that power.

Some of the tension of reporting left Svala as she continued. “The people are…unsettled. Desperate in some cases, as you have seen crossing the mountains into Avorla. For those wearing Dark Jewels, there is some concern that Queen Anderson will not be strong enough to hold her seat or that she will stray from Queen Brenden’s intentions for Glacia. It is, however, mostly unfounded. Queen Anderson is as devoted to the Dark Religion as her predecessor. It will not be dismantled anytime soon. If anything, it will grow in its control.” Svala felt a fleeting caress of defeat as she said that. The juggernaut continued, unabated.

“And that is why, no doubt, you have seen more people crossing the border into this Territory,” Svala said, her voices nearly a sigh of resignation. “They are…desperate. While nothing outright has changed, they fear the worst. Those that are unwilling to flee, we have…” She paused because this next part had only just been confirmed on the day she left and information had been lacking. “We have heard reports of vandalism. Places that cater to the Dark Jeweled being destroyed. But no one knows by whom. It is not the Underground.” That much was certain so far.

Coming to her conclusion, Svala raised her hands in a helpless mannerism. “This is what we know. With every crossing, there is more danger, not just from the elements but from other sources as well. The Midnight Keepers are not far behind, though…” She paused, thinking. “I do not believe they have yet breached the border to drag back what they feel is theirs.” Would that happen? Most likely. But what would that spell for Rihland and Glacia?

Offline Signe Drachlan

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Re: All Dreams Were Ours For The Taking
« Reply #16 on: Apr 02, 19, 02:37:10 PM »
It was obvious that the woman preferred to stand rather than sit. She seemed more comfortable not conforming to certain little things but it wasn’t an act of defiance, as far as Signe could tell. More of a sort of person that naturally went their own way, even if that way was against the grain.

The report started as expected. The tension in Svala’s shoulders reminded Signe of a soldier reporting to a commander. But this was no soldier. This was a woman who had faced hardships, just like Thyra. Just like me, I suppose, Signe thought belatedly, though she did not dwell on her own battles.

Kenna Anderson was not a name familiar to Signe. When she had left Glacia, Elisif Brenden had just been on the rise in the elite circles. The people she had surrounded herself with had been her own and only some of those names had filtered into Signe’s knowledge over the years. The Wintertons were known to her but Lindgren? She tapped her chin in thought. Hjalmar was a Lindgren. Perhaps…a relation? She made note to ask.

It did not surprise her that Queen Brenden’s unexpected successor would continue on the Dark Religion path. To stray from it at such a critical time was political suicide. The Queens of Glacia were far too sharp-minded to do that.

But the reports of desperation and vandalism bothered Signe. In her mind, those were the sure footfalls of war brewing. And a more aggressive stance of the Midnight Keepers – boogeymen from beyond for so long – also added to that. How long until a contingent of them crossed those mountainous paths and attempted to drag someone back to Glacia?

How would Prince Kalvar Elbremov view that sort of thing?

Signe’s brow furrowed darkly. This was now something she needed to bring up to the Black Prince. Yet another thing, really. The influx of refugees she could handle. But at some point, something had to be done to stop this. Rihland was a Territory in its own right with no official stance on sanctuary or asylum. It had its own problems and did not need to borrow more trouble,

Her mind suddenly took a dark turn: what if this was all in Glacia’s plan to destabilize Rihland in order to annex it like it had Nharkava?

Preposterous but…possible, if the right circumstances applied. The Eyrien Rebellion was still out there and their attack on Ebon Varos clearly showed that they had no fears. If Kalvar was distracted on one front, what would prevent him from seeing an attack from behind?

Signe shook her head, clearing her mind. Speculation at best. She was a Queen, not a military tactician. She would speak with the Province Queen and Prince Elbremov separately to see what they thought.

“I thank you, Svala,” she said at the end of the witch’s words, her voice comforting, “for bringing us this information. I…cannot imagine the dangers you faced to do so and I am grateful for your safety.” The corners of her mouth turned in a motherly smile. “Please, eat something. I can’t imagine that rations on the road beat a freshly baked pastry.”

When the witch finally did so, awkwardly sitting down, Signe took a sip of her drink and looked at Thyra. “Well, what do you think?” Had Thyra’s vision seen it this far?

Offline Thyra Danielsen

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Re: All Dreams Were Ours For The Taking
« Reply #17 on: Apr 02, 19, 11:51:52 PM »
Thyra munched on her pastry and watched Svala while she spoke. The huntswoman was clearly ill-at-ease in the presence of a Queen, but she hoped that the witch would see that Signe was a good Queen and a good leader. She listened while Svala confirmed Elisif Brenden’s death. It took all of Thyra’s self-control not to pump her fist in the air at the knowledge of the Gray Messiah’s death. She could just imagine Mother Zealot wailing and gnashing her teeth, crying into her tea over the loss of the Queen. Father Zealot would be patting her shoulders and trying to reassure her that it wasn’t a sign or some stupid shit like that.

Thyra wished that she could kick in the the front door of her old house right now and make a memory crystal of their misery. Night, that would better than sex..

She noticed her attention drifting and looked back to Svala as she mentioned Kenna Anderson.

Well, at least it’s not Miina Kalas.” Thyra murmured. The Red Queen could keep ruining Ivalo with her shit decisions and keep her shitty sister there with her.

Svala was right about one thing: Glacia’s religion wouldn’t end with Elisif Brenden. Kenna Anderson would probably make it worse just to prove that she was as mean as Elisif. She didn’t have three castes, meaning that she’d have to make up for it by being a zealot of the highest order. Mother and Father Zealot would probably line up to kiss her ass just to prove that they were on the level.

Her pastry lost its taste. She vanished it for later.

But when Svala mentioned vandalism of Dark Jeweled establishments and businesses, Thyra tensed. She tensed further at the mention of the Midnight Keepers. The knife wound in her side was long healed but it twinged a little in sympathy at the idea of people being accosted by the monsters dressed as men.

Signe asked for her thoughts and Thyra sat up. She didn’t miss the name drop of Ulric Lindgren and its similarity to Hjalmar’s surname.

I know that Prince Odinar has personally killed at least one Midnight Keeper who tried to drag someone back. He’s more than willing to do it others. I think it’s time to reach out to the Province Queen and to the Territory Court with this information.” she said.

The idea of Odinar being around here on a regular basis made Thyra’s skin crawl. She disliked the way that the Red Jeweled Warlord Prince looked at Signe. She also disliked Signe’s...arrangement with him, but she did not comment on her Queen’s sex life. No matter how much she wanted to.

Svala’s account makes parts of my vision clearer." The death was clearly Elisif’s, due to childbirth. And the wolf that took the child seemed to be Lord Yrian. But something about the vision was still troubling her and she couldn’t nail it down. The three-eyed raven wanted to kill that baby. Thyra was sure of it. But why would a mother harm her own child?

Because it fell short of the mark. Because it was weak. Because it’s an…

At least two Ebon Grays now serve Kenna Anderson. No one will challenge her. No one wants one Ebon Gray visiting their Court, let alone three.” Thyra said.

I need to consult my webs again, but if more people keep coming over through the pass...Signe, I don’t know that we have the space for all of them.” Thyra said.

Offline Signe Drachlan

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Re: All Dreams Were Ours For The Taking
« Reply #18 on: Apr 08, 19, 02:27:47 PM »
As Thyra voiced her thoughts, Signe’s expression went from one of active listening to slight concern to pensive thinking. As Thyra mentioned that she would have to consult her webs again, Signe, with her arms crossed over her chest, began tapping on her cheek, obviously mulling something other.

And she was. The more the situation unfolded, the more it became worrisome, as though it would not stop unfolding. And what would it become? Thyra was right – no one wanted an Ebon Gray, much less three, to descend upon their Court. The only ace Signe had in that hole was Kalvar’s Black but she could not depend upon that unconditionally.

“I’m not sure where we will put them all either,” she answered absently, still thinking through some things. “But I know that we can’t turn them away. That would be worse.” She tapped her cheek again for a moment. “We have to do something though,” she finally said.

But what?

“You’re right, Thyra,” Signe agreed, “it’s time we let the rest of the Queens and Prince Elbremov know what’s happening. I don’t…I’m a bit worried about what Prince Elbremov’s reaction to this might be, though. If he shuts down the passes…” That would leave how many desperate souls trapped in Glacia? Part of Signe understood that she couldn’t save everyone and, at some point, she would have to draw a line and stop. But she didn’t want to. She couldn’t. These were not only her people, these were people in need of help! What sort of person would she be to turn them away?

“If only there was a way to remove the collars,” she found herself saying. “Surely, without them, the people would rise up and overthrow this awful regime.” She exhaled softly and then looked out the window, resigning herself to the fact that there probably wasn’t a way to help in that regard. With the collars keeping the Light Jeweled afraid, they would continue to try to escape to a place that didn’t try to extort them. Signe would have to take the avenues, the chain of command in place to see this to its resolution.

The Queen was so lost in thought that she didn’t notice the look passed between Svala and Thyra.

Offline Thyra Danielsen

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Re: All Dreams Were Ours For The Taking
« Reply #19 on: Apr 11, 19, 11:59:43 PM »
If only there was a way to remove the collars. Surely, without them, the people would rise up and overthrow this awful regime.

Thyra wanted to hug her Queen for her kind heart. Signe was a wonderful woman and the kind of Queen that Thyra had always dreamed of serving. But she underestimated the viciousness of the Dark Jeweled and the overestimated the bravery of the Light Jeweled. Even if the collars came off tomorrow, there were thousands of the Light Jeweled who wouldn’t dare try to run or fight. Some of them would never fight for themselves or others.

All the same, her gaze turned to Svala, who was looking back at her.

The Vaasa Court brought the collar-maker from across the Dark Gate. He's from Raej, where those nasty collars get a lot of use. They even gave him a place of honor in the Court.” Thyra said, trying to keep the disgust out of her voice. It was one thing for Glacia to use the collars on their pepole. It was something else to enshrine their makers as some kind of honored guests when they were really just monstrous people abusing their gifts to subjugate others.


A...friend and I caught up to him once during some of our work for the Underground, Signe. We might have suggested to him that he build in an alternate way to remove the collars that didn't immediately kill the person wearing them. I don't know how many he did it for and this was a while back.” she said, looking to her Queen.

"But there's potentially a lot of people who can be freed if there's a master ring to shut off collars in a group instead of one at a time." she said.

That master ring would be the key to starting something big. If people are willing to fight, that is."

Offline Signe Drachlan

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Re: All Dreams Were Ours For The Taking
« Reply #20 on: Apr 22, 19, 11:28:39 AM »
When Thyra started talking about how the Court at Vaasa had brought in the collar maker from Raej, Signe’s attention immediately went to her. Raej? They had slave collars in Raej? Now the question begged – who had influenced whom? Where had Elisif gotten the idea to use these inhumane things? Raej?

When Signe realized that she had never even seen a Raejian, nor could she plot a journey path to the Territory, she gave up trying to solve that problem. The fact that Glacia had the collars at all was enough of an issue. Giving the collar maker a place of honor at the Court seemed absolutely in line with what sort of depravity Queen Brenden supported.

But the moment Thyra’s words became about a possibility that there was a way to remove the collars…Signe’s expression turned to mild surprise, then determined hope, then dogged contemplation.

Over the next few quiet moments, as silence descended upon the room in the wake of Thyra’s admission, Signe paced the short width of the room, tapping her cheek in thought. Could this work? There was no doubt in Signe’s mind that Thyra was telling her the truth. Thyra did not lie to the Queen, not even when it was convenient. She was honest and blunt, and even though that sometimes gave Signe reason to wince, it also assured that there were no falsehoods in the foundation of their relationship.

When she stopped her pacing, her gaze, undaunted, turned to Thyra as she asked, “Do you know where to find it? Or him?” When Thyra looked at Svala, there was the expression of dogged resignation that passed over the huntress’s face. Signe wasn’t sure what passed between the two women but she waited for answer.

Eventually, Svala looked back at Thyra and said, “I can locate him, if you direct me to his last known whereabouts.”

Over the next hour, the three women, came to a plan of action and by the time Svala and Thyra left Signe’s office, Signe felt as though they had just started taking the first steps on a very large journey. She spent the next hour jotting down notes and then making appointments.  And then, needing to get out of her head for a moment, Signe went to the garden and began to tend the land.