Beyond the Mists - Chapter One
Lady Nessa gazed longingly, resting on her hand at the tall and towering Misty Mountains that surrounded her quiet lands of Leithen. The people below the tower went about their daily business, selling and buying, carting things to and fro, a normal average day. Yet this was the one reason Nessa looked with such yearning at the peaks; a desire for adventure, for excitement - and for danger. All her life, the Lady Nessa, the only child of Lord Othan, had been kept sheltered from the outside world. Her father believed that what went on went on and it was none of their concern. But Nessa couldn't disagree more - being more like her mother, the Lady Ithiel who had died during child-birth, Nessa wished even if it were for only a day to experience life outside her overprotected world.
Nessa sighed and her flaxen hair slumped down her back like the ocean. Not that she would have known that - she had never seen the ocean.
"Lady? My Lady?" a voice called from within the castle.
"I'm up here." she answered and went back to gazing at the mist-enshrouded peaks. Before long, a short, plump, good-natured looking woman entered the room.
"Pardon me Lady," she said, bowing," but the Lord requests you in the hall."
"Very well," sighed Nessa, "do you know what he wants Marigold?"
"No my Lady - but its bound to be important. All the knights are there with him."
"Then I suppose we'd better go and grace them with our presence hadn't we?" so together they descended to the Great Hall.
And great it was - tall and high; its ceiling glittered and twinkled in the lamp light as the precious stones caught their rays. Long and proud banners, bearing a rearing black horse on a mountain top, streamed from the beams and the stained-glass windows cast hundreds of different colours cascading across the marble floor. In the centre was a long wooden table, big enough to seat over a hundred, but for now 20 or so mail clad knights sat at the far end around a grey-eyed, grey-haired man.
"So you see - Nessa!" The King greeted his daughter warmly with open arms.
"Father." she smiled and she embraced him. The other men jumped at one to their feet.
"Captains," she said, dipping her head, "at ease." and the men sat back down. Sitting on the right-hand side of her father, who was at the tables head, she asked ," So what is so important that I need to be called from my chamber?"
Her father's face suddenly dimmed.
"Nessa, you know how I feel about - about out there,"-he jerked his thumb towards the mountains-", and people who stray into our midst from outside."
Nessa nodded, but her grass-green eyes were puzzled - what did that have to do with her? She knew her father hated people from beyond the Misty Mountains and any who journeyed into these lands were seldom met with a friendly welcome.
"Well, the scouts have come back this hour, telling a rather strange story. Heading for Leithen, as we speak, are Nine Companions - two they say are men, tall and noble. Another man they claim there to be, though he is old and seems to lead them. There is a dwarf and an elf also, which is weird enough - an elf and a dwarf together! Ha!" chuckled the King," But strangest of all, they say that traveling with them are four small people, no more than children."
Nessa was now listening intensely, eyes wide, pulse racing. This was it; her chance for adventure had finally come! It must be, she thought, travelers in these lands were rare enough, but to find an elf, a dwarf and four children? That was most unheard of!
"Well?" she questioned eagerly.
"Well what?" replied Othan, confused.
"Well aren't you going to find out more about them?" she asked, more enthusiastically, her emerald eyes practically alight.
"Of course not!" he exclaimed, shocked, "Why would I want to do that?" he added, frowning.
"To find out more about them! There names, where they're from, where they're going-"
"Oh I see. You want me to invite them here, yes?" he said almost as eagerly as his daughter.
Nessa nodded vigorously; maybe her father would - "Never going to happen." he finished flatly, and turned to talk to his captains.
"So why am I here then?" she demanded hotly, now thoroughly annoyed.
"Just a bit of news - that's all." the King shrugged. Nessa was distraught - this was so unfair!
"Men!" she muttered. The best chance in her life for excitement and her father was going to throw it away. Meanwhile, Othan continued to address his knights when one of them, seeing Nessa's disappointment, interrupted.
"What is it Lerron?" asked the King.
"If I may sire, maybe we shouldn't be so harsh to these travelers. I do not mean to say invite them here!" he added quickly as Othan opened his mouth to object, " But still, there is no reason why we could not ride out to meet them at least, help them if we can. Surely it can only improve the way we are thought of as a people?"
The King stared at him, silent. Nessa couldn't believe it - maybe he would actually consider Lerron's option! As the silence continued, broken only by the sound of people and horses outside, Nessa flashed the knight a warm smile of gratitude.
"Well...,"he started slowly ", I suppose...maybe...the captains could...but..." he looked at his golden-headed daughter," I don't see why-"
"Because I'm fed up with being isolated from the rest of the world. Because they have absolutely no intention of harming us, or they would have come in secrecy. And because I want something different to happen for a change - that's why." spoke Nessa and so strong and powerful were her words that the hearts of the Captains were bent to her will.
"Pardon sir, but I see no reason why I and a few others could not do as Lerron suggests. The Lady is right - if they had wanted to attack us, they would be hidden and in greater number."
The King looked around exasperated. This went against everything he believed in, but as he looked at Nessa and the Captains, he knew he was out-numbered.
"Oh - very well," he mumbled," the scouts say they are a day away. So you Lerron, as you seem so keen shall go with Alforn and your men shall go with you. Ride out and meet them, take food water and clothes, take a pack-horse for them too. But you are not under any circumstances to lead them back here - understood?" The men nodded. "Good. Leave as soon as you can." ordered Othan and he turned to stare out the window as the Captains left. Nessa however, remained silently by her father. After a few moments she said
"Don't even go there," warned the King," you are not going with them and that is final. You can here the tale from the men that go. Now I don't want to hear another word on the subject - no more." and the impression was given that the conversation was over. Bowing quietly, she too left the hall and ascended to her chamber, thinking deep thoughts.
By the time she reached the tower, her mind was made up - this was a chance she would not just let slip by, no way, no how. Quickly, she formulated a plan in her head - yes, yes that could work, if she did it properly...