Rule of writing: Never call it a novel until you are done. I made that mistake. _ It's not turning out the way I wanted it to be...


"Yah. Follow me," the sentry said. "I'm s'posed to show you in."

Show us in? We really did not make very presentable characters. Tired from a day and a half of walking, dusty from the road, some grass stains on my skirt, which I hadn't bothered to change, and a few flower petals, scattered randomly in Arraiya's hair.

The heavy gate slowly creaked open, and I saw the loveliest garden being revealed. There was a majestic fountain in the center, surrounded by so many different flowers.

"Normally there'd be more people around," The guard explained. "The courtiers are all inside the place, mourning."

A stable boy came to take Miore.

After our old workhorse was led away, our guard escorted us to the arched doorway, which led into the palace. More guards stood there. They opened the massive golden doors.

Polished red tiles covered the floor of the hall. Tapestries and artworks from earlier times lined the walls. "At the end of this hall's the Grand Room," the guard told us. "But if y'ask me, I'd call it tha Black Room."

The hall was lengthy, but I was busy examining the spectacular paintings. I especially liked the images of the mythological creatures. "Tha one's a Water Gaür," he pointed to it.

A long blue dragon snaked out from a crystal lake. It had long fins sprouting from either side of its neck and had mystically closed eyes. Every scale was drawn to perfection, and I believe if the artist had opened the Gaür's eyes, it would have flown out of the painting.

We reached the far end, and the guard opened this door himself. "After you milady."
I knew what he meant by "The Black Room" now. All the courtiers were black clad, listening to one woman speaking in the center. But their attention was cut short as they saw the door open.

Heads turned as we walked in. One man near the speaker stood up. The guard bowed low, murmured an "I leave yeh here," and was gone. The man walked towards us. The woman continued her speech, but even she was watching us out the corner of her eye.

He turned out to be Lord Blackforet, a tall, thin man of somewhat darkish complexion and hair. "Welcome, Annaiya and Arraiya Kamvardis. I trust your journey was pleasant?"

"It was indeed." We curtsied to him.

"Please," he bade us stand up. "If you would be so kind as to wait a short moment, this court will adjourn. Lady Golderthe is nearly finished."

Lady Golderthe spoke in a flowery language that I could barely understand. She was very pretty, with a slim waist and fair hair.

Studying the members of the court, I saw that some of them seemed bored. They were whispering amongst themselves. I saw one man with a beaky nose hurriedly scribbling down every word uttered.

All too soon it was over. Everyone stood up and started talking at once. Lady Golderthe approached us. She smiled and her grey eyes twinkled, which I suppose meant she wasn't angry with us for ruining her speech. "I admit it was quite a dull and tedious monologue," she said. And "Kevdar! Are these girls…?"

Kevdar—Lord Blackforet—nodded. He then addressed us, "This is Faerlane, Lady Golderthe."

"No need for courtesies, my dears," she quickly told Arraiya, who was on the verge of curtsying again. "Ah, well, I must be going." Faerlane scanned the crowd and disappeared into it.

Lord Blackforet introduced us to many more people. I confess that I forgot over half of them. Then, along came the person he was waiting for.

"Why, you must be the Kamvardis girls!" she exclaimed. Lady Blackforet ushered us out of the Grand Room. Lord Blackforet came along.

The two of them bore the features of true Blackforets: black hair, very dark eyes, and lightly browned skin. It was very different from the other nobles, but it was a good sort of different.

Lady Blackforet and Arraiya chatted away happily. Lord Blackforet and I trailed behind. He was a silent man, and we didn't say much to each other. Except for when we climbed the steps to the second floor. I described the man from the Emeraude Dragon and asked him if he knew.

Kevdar contemplated this. "There are many men at court who could fit that description. But you say he was there last night?"

I murmured a vague "yes".

"Then I would say he is most likely young Draandon, Lord Bluewatyr."

We were on the fourth floor of the Tantaerra palace. "Your rooms are here." Lady Blackforet gestured to two doors. "Wash off that dust and change into the dress that has been laid out for you. Then meet us in the hall." She and Kevdar headed off. ***
My room was charming, indeed. The walls were painted a sky blue with tiny green florets. There was a large bed and a settee piled with cushions.

An adjoining room contained a tub. I undressed, then submerged myself in the steaming water. It brought relief to my tired legs. I scrubbed and washed my grimy hair.

The dress was set over a chair along with a pair of shoes. I put it on, then examined myself in a long mirror. It was a dark shade of violet, with blue trimmings and ribbons. The sleeves were considerably shorter than I was used to, and the neckline was a tad too low for my liking.

I tottered out of my room and into the hall on the uncomfortable shoes with heels too high. "Arraiya," I knocked on her door.

"Wait for me, Sister." I heard a thump on the other side. Then the door swung open.

Arraiya's garment was the twin of mine, but in a lavender hue. "Shall we go down?" I asked, offering her my arm like a gentleman of the court. She giggled, but took it.

"How can anyone even walk in shoes like these?" I complained after both of us had tripped down the second staircase.

"They don't walk," she replied, "they glide." And she attempted to do so, but stepped on the hem of her skirt and tumbled into Kevdar, Lord Blackforet.

"You will learn in time," Lady Blackforet smiled. She glided a circle around us. "Yes, I do believe those dresses were meant for you." Lady Blackforet took hold of Kevdar again and beckoned us follow them down.

"Cedona is very nice, isn't she?" Arraiya whispered. "Lady Blackforet, I mean."

I agreed to that.
All too soon, our tour of the palace gardens was over when the sun slowly sank beneath crimson clouds.

Cedona and Kevdar accompanied us to the Grand Room. A long table had been set up. Golden plates and goblets had been set before each person. Extravagant dishes filled the table, making my mouth water.

We took a seat nearer to the head. I sat between Arraiya and Lord Blackforet. I noticed that the courtiers had changed out of their mourning attire.

All seats at the table were filled. Except for the head chair and the place at its right. The din in the Grand Room gradually died down a little, as we waited. Waited for what? I pondered this.

And then someone opened the doors and walked in.

Who else could it be, but Draandon, Lord Bluewatyr? He was dressed in black today, and with a rather stern expression on his face, giving off an imposing manner. His hair caught the light and shone like a golden crown.

I watched at the surrounding people. The younger women swooned, as he looked their way. He was greeted with coy smiles from the older women. Some of the men raised their goblets to him.

Maybe Draandon wasn't so daunting after all. No, he took loose, long-legged strides towards the head of the table, not the stiff straight steps that other men of court had. And he sat down the right hand chair.

"Is that the man from the tavern?" Kevdar asked me in a low voice.

I nodded. "Lord Bluewatyr?"

"Yes. He holds high honors and is very popular at court. Especially with the ladies."

"I can tell." I replied dryly.


The food was indeed wonderful. I finished quickly and once again observed the people. I saw Beaky again, chatting away with a very stern-looking woman. The two of them wore shimmery robes, unlike everyone else.

Draandon and Faerlane seemed to be having some sort of heated argument. But I don't believe it was very serious, for those around them were expressed amusement at words exchanged.

I don't think Arraiya's eyes once left Draandon for the whole dinner. She probably wished to be in Faerlane's place now, conversing with Draandon.

"Why did you call Arraiya and I here?" I questioned Kevdar.

He dismissed it with a wave of the hand. "Cedona will explain that to you tonight."
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