Tadryil sat on a mossy boulder, his bow beside him, watching the white clouds skidder across the light blue sky. The sun slowly made its decent, adding a dark shadowy tinge to everything the fading light touched. Tadryil’s sharp crystalline blue eyes found a dark moving speck in the sky, and he whistled two sharp, piercing notes. The speck seemed to hover in the air for a moment, and Tadryil frowned. Skydancer was a falcon; she could not hover for even a fraction of a second. Puzzled, Tadryil shaded his eyes for a closer look, but at that moment a high-pitched call filled the air and he turned to find Skydancer diving towards him.
Tadryil barely had enough time to brace himself for the impact before falcon hit him with all of her astounding force. Tadryil reeled a bit as Skydancer flapped her wings for balance and squawked angrily at him. When the ground and sky were in their proper places again and the trees had stopped dancing around, Tadryil looked back up at the sky, searching for the speck he had seen earlier. However, the crystalline sky was clear and unblemished. The speck was gone.
Tadryil shook his head, long brown hair shifting in its elaborate clip. He must have seen another bird, or maybe there had been nothing. Yes, that was it. He was just too tired after a long day of training Skydancer; the speck must have been his imagination, that’s all.
Sighing at this, Tadryil clipped Skydancer’s jesses back on her legs and mounted his dapple gray gelding. It was time he got back to Rivendell if he was that tired. The speck had been his imagination… after all, elves couldn’t fly.
But he couldn’t shake the thought that the speck had not been his imagination, and that it had looked curiously like an elf. And in the back of his mind, ever so faintly, Tadryil thought he heard echoes of mocking laughter.
* * *
Milr’rein stared at the bare wall of her chamber, the stark gray-black rock unmoving under her sharp, thoughtful gaze. She had come out of her trance about an hour ago, and had many, many things to think about.
She had always thought that the Shaedowryn Realm was a special place, a hidden place, a sacred haven to her and her kind when they Faded. She was the only living Shaedowryn she knew of that could visit the Shaedowryn, all the others had Faded long ago and had lived there a long time. Lysh’alrii had been the first of their abnormal, tainted race. Half vampire, half elven, and always female, the Shaedowryn were scorned as pathetic mutt weaklings by the vampires and abhorred as abominations by the elves. The Shaedowryn Realm was their haven, a rip in time found by the Lady Lysh’alrii and molded so that her kind had a place to go after Fading.
The Shaedowryn did not die, as did the vampires and elves. Nor were they immortal; they had very long lives, but after about 2,000 to 3,000 years they began to … Fade. They would grow paler, and translucent, insubstantial, till one day they were just gone. The life of a Shaedowryn was as lonely as their death.
The Shaedowryn were never conceived in joy; always some vampire had some cruel, perverted tendency. And always the elven mother died, and the vampire would drink the mother’s blood then force the newborn to follow his example, thus sealing the child’s fate. And there was only ever one Shaedowryn at a time; without friends of a like kind, and no friends from either parental race, the life of a Shaedowryn was lonely indeed.
But two strange things had happened to Milr’rein recently. First, there had been that strange young Rivendell elf, with his dark hair and piercing eyes. He had found her hidden lair, where she sang and danced with the most sorrowful of the Shaedowryn, constructing a story of their race through their singing and dancing. It was a special place, the most guarded place in all of the Shaedowryn Realm; no one not of the Shaedowryn should have been able to come there, much less a male elf. And he had heard her song, been called by it, and had seen her dance, and then she looked up to find him there…the song had ended abruptly…there was the sound of shattering glass…then he met her eyes and was gone…
It was a confusing matter, and she could not get his startled, awed gaze out of her mind. But she must, she did not know how much longer her precious time alone would last, and she had much more pressing matters than him to think about. For during her trance today, she had met Kalavai. They had talked for a very long time, and Milr’rein had learned a lot about the young elf. And what the Kalavai had told her had Milr’rein very, very worried. The incidents with Mordraug, the dragons, and the elf Dayarvon…this all had her father’s mark on it…
And right on clue, Narvglor threw open the thick wooden door, wood splintering as it broke free of the hinges. His golden eyes narrowed, they were tinged red with barely veiled fury. Hastily Milr’rein rose to her feet, meeting his eyes once then lowering her own. This did not bode well.
“What havve you done?!” he hissed, usually immaculate speech adopting the harsh vampire accent. “Ssspeak to me you missss-begotten wench, what havve you done?!”
“I- I don’t know what you mean, father,” Milr’rein stammered. She backed away from Narvglor slowly. “I have done nothing, m’lord…”
“Father,” Narvglor spat. “Do not forget your place and mine, sirrksk.” He paused, licking his fangs with a pale tongue, calming himself down. His eyes lost a bit of their red glare, but they retained all of their potency. This was not good. Usually, when he was in a blind rage, Milr’rein could avoid the worst of his blows and he’d leave fairly quickly. But now Narvglor’s face was blank, cold, and calculating. Milr’rein fought the urge to slip into the trance and escape to the Shaedowryn. If she did, her father could follow her through blood-link. She could not let him taint her peoples’ precious haven.
“Whether you admit matters not. I know you have done something, and it has disrupted my plan. The girl came back to herself, how? I had her deep in the death-sleep; she should not have been able to awaken. Now her pawn is back on the board; this is a great problem. I cannot afford her to be a player in this game. Now,” he fixed Milr’rein with his gaze, cold and penetrating. “You are bound to me through blood-link. Will you tell me what you know?”
Milr’rein trembled. Her blood pulsed like fire through her veins, whispering at her to obey. “I know nothing.”
“Really?” Narvglor stepped forward, cold hand fitting itself around her neck. A long jagged nail split the surface of the skin, a dark red line appeared. “Tell me,” he commanded.
Milr’rein shivered, and the nail dug further. “Tell me,” Narvglor said again.
Milr’rein met his gaze with her own, fighting her fear. He would not control her again, not this time. “I will tell you nothing.”
“So stubborn…” Narvglor hissed, his eyes danced with a veiled fire. “Just like your mother…” His other hand came up to her face, his nail snaked down it, and another dark red line appeared. The hand around her throat tightened. “Tell me what you know, or I shall loose my merciful inclinations!”
“You have not a merciful bone in your body, much less in your twisted soul!” Milr’rein hissed. “I owe you nothing, I shall tell you nothing!”
Narvglor’s eyes grew dark. “Oh, I do believe you owe me something…” His hand came across, lightning fast, whipping across her face, leaving five new red traces. The other hand on her neck flung her across the room. Milr’rein landed hard against the wall. “In fact, you owe me quite a lot…”
Milr’rein huddled in a corner, curled up as tightly as possible, hugging the tattered remains of her dress to her. Her father had left her, leaving behind several new dark stains on the walls, several new scars, and his mocking laughter ringing in her ears, echoing around her head. “You see, Milr’rein? You are mine, I control you. You can resist, but it just makes it harder on you. Why don’t you just give in easily…”
Milr’rein bit back a sob, but she couldn’t stop shivering. She had failed, again, just like every other time he had won. It was always the same, but worse each time. It was all over. She had told him everything. She had betrayed her people, and worse, she had betrayed her first and only friend- Kalavai.
* * *