Helyanwë walked into the Garden of Life and stopped as she looked her hands reflexively going to her pendant.
For she saw before her much of legend. Besides the dragon whom guarded the Tarien d’Hune there was one she could only assume was a legendary beast if not some god as it shimmered as the gemstones it was, the Ruby Dragon.
Her eyes though saw but those two and the Tarien d’Hune yet heard many voices, all women and in tongues she was not familiar with.
The dim morning before the dawn was coming and she stepped past the entry and the voices disappeared and she felt as if she was swooning as if she was falling from a great height. Yet she did not hit the ground as the dragon woman had caught her and her eyes looked full of concern.
She heard the concerned voice of the Tarien as she looked over the beautiful dragon’s shoulder. “Is she alright Elle?”
Elle nodded and stood holding the young woman. “She is fine just disoriented as any would be after feeling the temporal shifts and them closing.”
She felt the Tarien’s hand on her cheek turning her head. “I see. Helyanwë, your name is my feisty acolyte of Corelleon.” She smiled at the young woman. “Though I do not understand why you cast your fate with mine.” The Tarien turned and began the walk back toward the temple complex with Elle carrying the young woman. “I may not last a fortnight, if that.”
Helyanwë’s voice came softly her head still spinning. “Because Tarien d’Hune, you have done what had to be done to keep some grace for your people as has your goddess. You have your friends. Your adopted family. Yet you have none to be loyal, to be your servant and treat you as your rank deserves.”
She watched as the Tarien stopped and looked over her shoulder. She felt Elle’s head shake above her as the Tarien turned her head away and kept walking making mutters under her breath.
She watched as Elle carrying her stopped and let the Tarien continue some distance before she continued to walk. Helyanwë looked up her eyes full of question and she felt a strange tingling in her head as the golden orbs looked down into her eyes.
“You will not convince her little Helyanwë, that she has rank and title that deserves such admiration or honor.” came Elle’s matter of fact statement.
“Yet you Lady Elle, you give her such and guard her with your life and soul. She accepts this why?” came the quite honest response from the young cleric.
“Because she knows it to be true. She may not remember much of her past, yet she remembers the oaths the forebears gave to her as she stood in awe as my people arrived in this world.” Elle shifted a moment and stopped letting the young woman down. “Can you stand?” her hand held the shoulder and arm of the young cleric.
Unsteady at first then feeling well she nodded. “My thanks Lady Elle.” even as her words escaped her lips her eyes had looked around the square. All about she saw people of all stations staring and whispering. Only the children seemed not to mind and some came running over tugging on Elle’s cape and tail gently and asking shyly was she really a dragon and why she was here. And after some soft words and showing her scales to the children they ran away giggling Elle’s arm went to the young cleric’s back. “We must hurry she is quick.” Helyanwë saw the Tarien was almost small amongst the great life trees so far she had walked. “How does she do this?” came her thought as Elle and she hurried after her.
“Now young one, as I was saying. When my people came we gave oaths to her we knew as the Ro Daariv. Afterwords we set to claiming this world. Yet never did we go to the lands of she we had given oath to. For centuries it was said it was magic. Some foul curse that we slew others of your kind yet left her lands be.” Elle all but purred. “Yet we know better then to wake the sleeping one. Even amongst us now after so long she was but legend. And when she came to my home my father and others upon the council knew her. And when she stood before the gates in her true form and my people tried to assail her she woke. Right terrible is her strength and power and even many of my people could not harm her more then to make her skin get warm.”
“My people now fear her for she is awake and knows and has always had one of my people since our race can trace back as her guardian.”
“We do not just get replaced. Somehow we are called to her when the other has passed on. She has had dragons of all types as her sargt. Not all good not all evil, yet all are changed when they are her sargt.”
Helyanwë stopped as they passed the beautifully decorated trees of the temple complex. The look on her face incredulous. “Lady Elle, you would have me believe, the Tarien d’Hune is ageless like the gods?”
Elle smiled, “Look at me young one. Do my type lie? Even moreso I am a paladin of law and good, I can not lie. Ageless she is yet she can be hurt badly. She has been trapped and tortured and some thought slain yet she is still here.”
Helyanwë nodded. “I must attend the Tarien, Lady Elle. It is time to break fast.” Elle nodded. “If you wish to serve her just do so little one. Not because she is the stuff of legend, because you wish to will be enough for her.” Elle waved as the young cleric walked off then turned at the messenger who tugged at her cloak and handed her an ornate scroll, then quickly turned about and left. The celestial’s wings fluttering and shivering as it hurried away.
Elle looked at the ornate scroll case and the seal upon it matching the emblem of her pendant, a silvery dragons head upon an azure field.
Gently breaking the seal she extended the scroll and as she read it the words disappeared as if they never had been and tears rolled from her eyes as she looked toward the temple where now her friend was. She fought with herself for a moment and cursed as she turned and walked off to where she had been bidden. Her tail twitching and hacking the air in her frustration.
Helyanwë quickly went through the maze of the temple to where the Tarien was housed. At her coming the two guards rose and blocked her way. “None may enter the prisoner’s area. Such are the directions of his most pious lord.”
Helyanwë’s face looked shocked. “The Tarien d’Hune is no prisoner! She is a guest of the Great One himself! I am her servant now let me pass.”
The tallest of the guard came forward and pushed her back. “Yonder slut is no Tarien of any family. She is naught but a female loving drow who has finally come to the noose.” he made this gesture across his neck as the other smiled. “If you are her servant then perhaps you have yet to know the pleasure a man can give to you.” He stepped forward as Helyanwë stepped back. “You can not mean such as I think. I am a priestess of the church.”
“Oh I mean it. And you are young and comely yet why do you not just come to that room over there annnnnnnnn…!” The guard’s words were cut off by pain as he was lifted off the ground a hand from behind betwixt his legs and crushing the metal codpiece of his armor. The other guard and Helyanwë were shocked as the Tarien had him and was lifting him from the ground as the sound of the metal popping in her grasp filled the small hall. “Tarien I may not be any longer, nor Dancer or mother or lover to any.”her words hissed angrily in the guards ear, her faced stained with dried tears. “Yet I will not stand while the likes of you dishonor yourselves and this young woman’s honor.”
She crushed the armor cruelly, the popping and screaming of the mithril trying to hold the pressure rose high then the man passed out even as his friend made to move forward and cudgel the Tarien, it was as if he never moved and Helyanwë screamed for even as the other was falling to his knees the Tarien had the other against the wall, her hand on the arm with the weapon and the other about his neck.
She bashed him once against the wall, which was actually the trunk of the temple tree, “Forget you the rules in Arvandor? You may carry a weapon but not use it unless the Gods instruct you to do so?” She bashed him against the wall again. “I see none here in this hallway. Unless you think yourself to be one?” Her blue eyes went cold. “Any of you treat my friend shabbily again. I will forget that rule myself is this understood?”
The red face of the guard, his ears already scarlet, nodded quickly as she let him drop to the floor.
“Come Helyanwë, I am always willing to entertain my friends.” with that the Tarien stepped over the prostrate guard and pushed the other over and walked into her room Helyanwë trailing quietly behind.
As soon as the door was shut Helyanwë saw the Tarien was packing a small backpack. Her eyes flitted about and saw a long silk covered bundle on the bed tied about it were the strings of a leather bag stitched with mithril.
She noticed the Tarien was clothed but in a simple dress, two pieces of cloth held together with straps at either side. Her feet were bare and all her jewelry was gone.
“My Lady d’Hune, what means this and your words outside the door?”she moved next to the woman and made to reach for the clothes she was folding.
A hand came and quickly slapped hers the sound loud as Helyanwë recoiled her hand and rubbed it. “It is unseemly for a priestess to do things for a common woman.” came the words from the mouth that Helyanwë just noticed was surrounded by tears falling.
She shook her head, did Helyanwë. She could not believe what she was seeing nor hearing. “Ar’Cartel why do you grieve?” Her hand went to the sobbing woman’s shoulder. “Why say they you are a prisoner?”
Cartel’s fingers and hands stopped, wringing the item of clothing she was folding in her hands. “Because I am. Because when I bested his Chosen, with no aid, and his father’s weapon ensuring I did not die. Surely, I used some drow magic…” she twisted the clothing in her hands more the tears falling down her face unashamedly.
“And since those watching knew I had won, yet could not heal myself, they brought me here. And out of their kindness rendered me nothing.” She stood as tall as her stature allowed, her hair now no longer drow white its edges red with her victories. It was once again its natural color. A shimmering coppery hue in the light. “In doing their good deed, and I fault them not for it, they rendered my vows to Eilistraee void. And my vows to others were rendered void. And for my trial to come I may have nothing.”
Helyanwë could not believe her ears even as the starkest warrior tales told of was here before her crying.
“An’ar I can not be, my vows rendered void. I can not have title, I can not rule. I can own nothing…” she began to stutter at this point and Helyanwë went to hold her and she stepped back from her. “I…I can have no friends, no f..f..family, no…no.. one to love. Nothing until this is done.” Cartel clasped her hands to her eyes and dropped to her knees.
“They are all gone. I could not tell them why, I could but tell them they may see me soon.” she looked up to Helyanwë and asked her, “How can I comfort myself priestess when I have nothing to love and I am to stand alone before them who tossed my people away? How can we after ten thousand years still seek to hurt each other?”
Helyanwë was awe struck…being asked by a high priestess how to keep faith and be comforted in this dark time.
Helyanwë knelt beside this woman who she knew from talk and legend her entire life. Here in arvandor amongst the priests, priestess’, alcolytes and Knights she was known. Some saw the good most saw the bad. The Bladesingers and knights admired the tales of her skill, bravery and cunning even though many saw her as representing evil. One to be overcome to prove their worth.
She had heard the priests and priestess’ use her devotion to her goddess, her faith and her people as examples of devotion. Not in mixed company but in private in admiration and glowing praise.
Yet here where all the Tel’quessir should be able to come for peace and be restored before again venturing forth, she had naught but pain.
She put put her hands outward on her bowed shoulders and looked at the bowed head the hair all around her body and touching the floor.
“I have no words to inspire comfort for you. Yet to myself and others you are and always will be Tarien Ar’Cartel d’Hune. Dancer of the Silver Lady, Darksong, Bladesinger, Harper, protector and guide of all you have come across.” she breathed heavily before she continued. “You have done and shown the best of what our people can be, you have fallen and you have returned to what you were. If in this time you are finally to fall, you have done such grace and honor to the Tel’Quessir, how can our gods let you pass on with such dishonor?”
Helyanwë pulled her hands away and moved back on her knees and supplicated herself before the bowed Cartel. “Liltaya Tarien Ar’Cartel d’Hune, how may this one serve thy family.”
The words came to her from behind the veil of coppery hair, through the sniffled tears. “You know not what you do Helyanwë, I am but Cartel a common woman.”
Helyanwë felt her anger rise then and her voice reflected it even as her head touched the floor she did not look up yet repeated her question, “Liltaya Tarien Ar’Cartel d’Hune, how may this one serve thy family!”
Cartel looked through her hair at this young woman who prostrated herself before her. And the memory of those so long ago doing such made her anger rise. She was no better then they just a happenstance of birth. She pushed herself up to her feet and snarled. “If you believe me to be what you say then never again act like that now and bow and scrape before me.”
Cartel stepped over Helyanwë her hand on the handle of the door, “If I am what you say, then never again bow to anyone or anything. Never.” with that she was out the door quickly, its shutting silent and outside the door the slithering sound of armor sliding down the bark of the temple tree was heard and Helyanwë smiled.
“What would you have me do? It is not as if I am capable of ensuring that she stands with none to speak for her.” came the voice of the of the High Priest of Corelleon.
“She must be found guilty. You must ensure this or your parts in what has transpired for all these years will be known.” the voice raspy and echoing, almost hissing as steam from the rocks.
“How can I accomplish this? As it is there are none that are standing by her the rolls are empty.” came the priest’s pleading voice.
“We care not how you do it, it is to be done. None are to stand with her.” came a definite baritone voice of a man.
Suddenly a rap upon the door came and the voice of an acolyte. “Honored one your midday meal. May I enter?”
The priest turned and those who were in his chambers were gone. No magic noting left of them. “C..come in my dear.” came his voice.
He was surprised to see the young Helyanwë, who had volunteered to be the caretaker of the preening Tarien of Hune. He was shaken a bit though to see that she had dyed her hair, once a beautiful gold, to the silvery color most often used by drow.
She carried the tray before him and placed it upon his desk and from her the scent of roses flowed. It was a strong heady scent and he inhaled even as she stood back and clasped her hands before her plain vestments. “The cook says the soup was particularly ordered by you eminence so please while it is warm.” her hand reached forward and moved the soup before the plate of wondrous meats and gravy and lifted the lid and stirred it with a spoon from the tray. Finished that task she moved back to the front of the desk and bowed.
A she turned to leave his voice came, “Helyanwë, how goes the Tarien?”
She stood straight for a few moments as if framing an answer. “My Lady Hune is most hurt and lost now that she is a prisoner and on trial eminence. She is truly one of the old ones and carries herself so.”
He smiled as his spoon clinked on the bowl as he thought for a moment as Helyanwë turned about to face him. “Where is she now Helyanwë?” He wanted to know she was in her chamber wracked with sorrow and fear of the unknown.
“My Lady Hune bade me to do as I wish this day. She said she was going to be quite busy today, as she had to find a place to dance.” the smirk on her face was most unseemly for one of her station.
“Helyanwë, my dear such a look on your face almost seems as if you truly are wishing to be one of hers.” he gestured with the spoon in his hand, “And your hair. Child it was beautiful before why have you done such to it? Surely you do not think she will actually live to accept you as a servant?”
Helyanwë smiled and bowed her head slightly as her eyes kept contact with those of the High priest. “Eminence, my lady says that now she is a common woman since she is on trial. She has already readied her effects and sent them to places for safe keeping or disposition. She trusts no one here excepting the dragon woman Lady Paladin Elle Kenders.”
The old priest smiled for he knew that she was no longer in Arvandor, her deity calling her to his presence. And the words slipped from his mouth before he could stop them, as soft as they were Helyanwë heard them. “She is now alone.” and the slight smile on his lips caused the young woman to stiffen.
“Eminence if you are done with me, I have to ensure the Lady Hune has her food and is ready for her audience later.” came Helyanwë’s soft words.
“No dear. Go with the grace of Corelleon.” She bowed and turned silently not returning his blessing though it escaped the old priests notice as he began to eat his mood greatly improved from earlier.
As the young woman hurried from the chambers and through the halls of the temple holding the front of her vestment so as to not trip a smile was on her face and as she turned a corner toward the training halls of the knights and singers she stopped and leaned up against a shadowed pillar. A broad smile on her lips and the words from her lips were assuredly not elvish and not heard ever in these halls before.
“Wh’li uriu dosnin.” and she turned then after a few small laughs and went toward the training grounds and as she did the likeness of Helyanwë disappeared to be replaced with the simply dressed Cartel and she pushed open the doors to the training ground and slammed them behind her.
Walking inward she finally leaned on the rail looking out into the training grounds the sun shining downward through the trees onto the perfectly kept sward. Her eyes wandered over the training singers and paladins of the order.
Her eyes watching and learning. She listened closely filtering out the sounds of Arvandor, nature was gone except for those she watched and listened to. She did not even notice the breeze that would occasionally open the simple garment she wore.
Others however did not miss it. Soon after some complaints as the knights male and female began to be distracted the instructors gathered then after a few words one walked toward Cartel.
His silver eyes looked up at her from his place on the sward. The disdain in his eyes obvious and made clearer with the tone of his voice and the choice of his words.
“We do not allow your kind in here.”, came his words edged with venom. “You and your ilk are nothing but dhaerow and you,” he gestured imperiously, “are in a holy place dressed like a whore.”
Behind him she heard the other instructors and some of the others chuckle. “So if you are one of the holy sisters come to take care of needs, get thee down here and spread your legs.”
The elf fell over backwards as if he was bludgeoned with a maul. Yet none saw the drow woman do anything, as if she stood still. The smile on her face told differently and she turned toward the stair and stretched her arms upward and rocked her head as she began to descend the steps. Her bones and joints cracking as she did so.
Her cold blue eyes alighted on all there as one bare foot nudged the downed instructor. “Tch!” came the disdainful click of her tongue. “One must always always be ready to fight. Otherwise you lose.” She knelt down and tapped his armor her fingers going to his neck. “Oh good you are alive. You will be regretting it on the morrow I am sure.”
“Those of the moon and silver elves, please leave. My business is with the knights and singers of the sun elves.” her arm gestured toward the stair and after a few moments none moved.
She shook her head the silvery tresses reflecting in the sun as her blue eyes alit on the instructors. “You have taught them well of loyalty. I commend you.”
Cartel’s hands went to her hips and she cocked those as she stood before them. “For those who know not, I am Tarien Ar’Cartel d’Hune. Sword Dancer of the Dark Maiden, Bladesinger of the Imperial family of Ilythiir.” She felt and saw the eyes and the look on some faces before her.
“Some of you here I taught your many times grandparents.” she dropped her arms and stepped forward. “Others I slew you parents and grandparents with abandon.”
She pointed stiff armed at them her arm sweeping across them all, three score and 15 she counted, “Even now, with no weapon and no spells or songs I can defeat you all.” She tossed her hair and head back and looked down her nose at them defiant and challenging.
A female sun elf instructor came forward her sword a glittering circle and arc all saw the drow woman flip backwards, then slide forward it seemed upon her chest, then her legs spun around knocking the armored woman into the air. Then the drow woman seemed to spring up into the air with a push of her hands and flipped over, her clenched fist smashed into the instructor’s chest driving her to the ground. The force of the blow making her bounce off the ground to be smashed back down by the drow woman’s knee. The instructors blessed weapon flying from her unconscious hand to fall uselessly to the grass.
The look of shock on the faces of all made her grin widely. “Tin soldiers. Never fought a real warrior.” she spat on the ground. The instructor moaned underneath her knee and Cartel’s fist smacked the side of her head silencing her. She heard the growls of anger and smirked, as her action fed their idea of honor and right.
Beyond the doors of the training hall none heard but what they thought was one of those free for all bouts. And the servants stood outside the doors waiting to go in and tend their noble charges.
Suddenly the noises stopped. And after several minutes the doors were flung open, instead of the usual orders to enter. They stepped back as a drow woman emerged some making the sign of the sun as she passed them, her blue eyes sweeping over them with disdain.
From one she snatched a towel in passing and wiped her face and dropped it to the ground as if it was trash. The smirk on her face quite evident as she turned toward the quarters complex of the temple.
Helyanwë went down the hall toward the room the Tarien was assigned and when she reached the door she was surprised no guards were posted. Then she heard the notes of strange music behind the door and listened.
Drums and flutes she heard as well as shakers and clapping. Her eyes grew wide as she could not fathom how so many could fit into the Tarien’s room. Her hand went to the door handle and as it touched it the music stopped.
The voice of the Tarien came, though there was a somber note to it. “Enter Helyanwë!” She pushed the door open the latch making a wooden clicking sound as she let go.
A stifled gasp came from Helyanwë’s mouth as the surprised scream was more of an Eeep.
Before her was not the Tarien’s room, but a forest glade. Sitting about it were many women and men of the Ilithiir and Moon elves. Many were naked and now idle hands worked in instruments of held horns or mugs of refreshment.
The Tarien herself was nude the slight sheen of perspiration over her entire body. As she walked from the glade she waved and all there waved back as they slowly shimmered away and the Tarien was standing by the door to her balcony.
The smile on her face quite evident as she came and took the tray from the hands of the young priestess who was in shock. “B…Bu…but magics are not aboe to work in the temple except those given to us by Corelleon!” she finally stuttered as Cartel had sat at the table and took a roll from the tray.
Cartel smiled at her. Her coppery hair shining with the sun filtering through the branches of the temple tree. She sat in the chair and crossed her leg making a sound of satisfaction at the taste of the roll as she looked on the young priestess. Helyanwë just began to babble. “It is impossible. How can you do such? Why would you be able to do such here in this place?” On and on she went as Cartel quietly ate letting the young woman get over her shock.
“Those people! Those were…were your people! Before…before…How in Corelleon’s name could you do that Tarien?”
Cartel looked up from the plate a slice of meat still hanging between her lips, the look upon her face a bit surprised. A slender finger came up and pushed the slice of meat into her mouth and the same hand was held up to let Helyanwë know to be quiet.
Cartel chewed the meat savoring the flavor even though it was cold and looked at the young priestess who was trembling. Her hand then motioned her to sit as Cartel reached over and grabbed the mug of..milk! Her eyes looked at Helyanwë over the mug as she drank it. Then put the mug down wiping her lips with her fingers. “It is a simple matter. However I need not discuss it with you my dear.”
Cartel’s blue eyes smiled as she stood and walked past Helyanwë her hand reaching out and patting her shoulder gently.
“I go to the baths now my dear. You may come along or you may wait here.” came Cartel’s words as she grabbed a simple robe and wrapped it about her body.
Helyanwë was stunned. “Tarien you mean the public baths?” At Cartel’s nod her face went white and her lip quivered. “T..Tarien…I have never bathed in public. It is not permitted for a priestess.”
Cartel looked over her shoulder as she threw her hair over her back. “You say I am a priestess and I am going so come along.” Mischief was in her eye as she added. “Besides it will be your first adventure.”