King of Sword and Sky

Page 15


Ellysetta hummed under her breath as she dug her spade into rich, dark soil and made a hole to receive the last of the fragrant pink Heartsease Lorelle was waiting to deposit. Beside her, Marissya patted into place the last of Love's Promise, the exquisitely perfumed red rose that had been Mama's favorite.
Ellie sat back on her heels to survey the work. "I think we're ready for the statue," she told Bel as the twins picked up two full watering pots and enthusiastically irrigated the new plantings. "Gently, kitlings," she advised as mud splattered on their dresses. The two looked up innocently, and she bit her lip to keep from laughing at the thick layers of dirt smeared across their small faces. Lillis and Lorelle had yet to discover the gardener's art of brushing back wayward strands of hair with a forearm rather than soil-begrimed hands. "All right, that's water enough. Come away, girls, and let Bel set the statue."
The twins stepped back from the flower bed, and Bel hefted the heavy white marble statue of a winged Lightmaiden and set it down with a grunt and a thunk at the center of the semicircular garden. Though Ellysetta had allowed Kieran to carve the marble statue using Earth weaves, she had insisted that all other preparations for the garden be done entirely by hand, as her mother would have wanted.
"What do you think, girls?" Ellysetta asked as they all stood back to regard their accomplishment. A brilliant semicircle of pink and red roses hugged the slender white trunks of the Shimmering Lady trees, and a colorful selection of fragrant blossoms and herbs filled the ground around the statue. The base of the statue was inscribed with Lauriana's name and her favorite verse from the Book of Light: "May the Light always shine on your path and shelter you from harm."
"It's beautiful, Ellie." Lillis and Lorelle sighed. "Papa will love it."
"I think so, too."
"I think vel Jelani set the statue crooked," a male voice declared. "You should make him redo it."
"Gaelen!" Marissya turned with a happy smile and rushed to fling her arms around her brother. "You're back." When she released him, she turned to the garden with a frown. "Do you really think the statue is crooked?"
He smiled with a tenderness reserved exclusively for his only living sister. "Nei, ajiana. I was teasing. I thought it might be fun to see vel Jelani heave the thing about some more."
Bel gave the former dahl'reisen a baleful cobalt glare while Marissya only laughed, hugged him again, and declared, "Meirvelei, kem'jeto. Welcome back, my brother. I've missed you."
"I'm glad you have returned to us, Gaelen." Ellysetta reached out to take Gaelen's hands in greeting. "How are Selianne's children?" He had left Celieria City with her best friend's orphaned babies in his care, promising to take them someplace where they would be safe from the Mage Mark placed upon them.
"Safe and well and with those who will love them as you requested, kem'falla," he answered with a bow. When he straightened, he frowned. "But I am not pleased to find you still here, outside the protection of the Fading Lands. Your mate is unwise."
"We leave in three bells, as soon as he and Lord Teleos have finished their discussions."
"You should not even be here. If Rain had flown you as swiftly as he could, you would already be five days past the Faering Mists."
"Setah." She held up a hand. "Do not scold." She reached out to pull her twin sisters close and drop kisses on their mink brown curls. "Run fetch Papa, girls. Let's show him Mama's garden." When they were gone, she told Gaelen, "The delay was on my account, because Rain knew I could not bear to be parted from my family so soon after Mama's death."
"The reason doesn't matter. You should be behind the Mists. Safe. And so should Marissya." He ran frustrated hands through sheaves of straight black hair. "I thought vel'En Daris had more sense than to keep you here in Celieria."
"I'm fine, Gaelen," she insisted. "Nothing has—"
The seizure came without warning.
One moment she was about to chide Gaelen for his pessimism; the next she was writhing on the flagstones, shrieking in agony.
The pain was instant and all-encompassing and hideously familiar. Her spine arched, spasming in red-hot pain as her hands clawed at the rock beneath her. The tendons in her body stood out like ropes of steel, and her muscles clenched so tightly they became torturous, burning bricks beneath her skin.
«Rain! Dax! Ti'Feyreisa! Fey! Ti'Feyreisa!» Dimly, she heard Marissya send the frantic cry for help racing across the common Fey path.
Ellysetta saw her reach out, her shei'dalin hands already glowing bright with healing weaves of gold-tinted Earth and Spirit. She heard Gaelen shout a warning, but it was too late.
The moment Marissya laid hands upon Ellysetta, agony enveloped her. It didn't rush out of Ellysetta. It simply expanded to sink its venomous fangs into Marissya, filling the shei'dalin's empathic senses with savage, brutal, shattering pain, as if every bone in her body were splintering, every muscle shredding, and her soul were burning in the fires of the Seven Hells. Marissya screamed and fell back, yanking her hands off Ellysetta's body in instinctive self-preservation.
"Marissya!" Gaelen grabbed her by the arms and all but flung her across the walk into the middle of the adjacent lawn, well out of reach of whatever held Ellysetta in its grip.
"Light save me." Marissya wept, her voice shaking as helplessly as her limbs. She raised horrified eyes to her brother. "Dear gods, Gaelen, I've never felt anything like that. Never." She had served on the bloodiest battlefields of the Mage Wars, Truthspoken the souls of mortals who had perpetrated acts so vile they'd made her ill to touch them, yet never felt the kind of soul-deep agony now racking Ellysetta's slender form.