Fantasy where heroes don't follow the rules
Image by Idella Cutler
Vorlothin Shallowdeir committed the first murder on Mortal Earth. Because so, the Paragons cursed him Undergod and forced him to create a world for that murdered soul better than his own, so Vorlothin created Eternal Earth. Cursed to never achieve this paradisiacal world, the Paragons created for him the Underrealm, sending all other murdering souls into his damnation until mortality turned back into dust.
- On Religion
Mianda’s knightlord escort brought her through the castle to a waiting room, inviting her to sit on one of the high-backed chairs. She slouched so she wouldn’t look so tall, so large.
Having come directly from the ambush, she still wore the hasty head bandage wrapped by the benefactors who responded. The falkon who sought her immediately afterward stressed urgency in his message, though explained no further than, “The torc wants to meet with you.”
Preparing to give the torc a brief of her involvement, she still didn’t see what value she could provide. Those men knocked her unconscious, and upon her waking, Ilthyn informed her Dark Elves took Neleci but didn’t know where to.
Thaen said Mianda fought off two men by herself before they knocked her out, but she denied remembering anything. She was human. Humans were not capable of such strength.
She waited some time before the door into the room opened, admitting Torc Thoraus. Mianda had last seen him before the start of school when he explained he would do everything in his power to match her with a mentor not predisposed to bias. Though every day Mianda despised the Kingdom because they encouraged racial bias her guardians used against her, every day Mianda loved the Kingdom all over again because of kindreds like Torc Thoraus, Ilthyn, Thaen, Evermore, and Neleci.
She knew little about her early life. Faded snatches of memory more like dreams than actual events, told humans found her parentless and brought her to Malandore to live within the disdain of relatives.
Every day she dreamed of running to the dusutri and betraying Kingdom secrets. Every day her unbiased friends brought her back and fought alongside her to defend it. Defend it she would, because that is what humans do.
But now Torc Thoraus who cared for her needed care of his own. An Oath Ghost looked more healthy and anchored to life than he. Pale. Shaking. She feared he’d fall into a seizure any moment.
Thoraus closed the door behind him and sat opposite her in a cushioned chair with tall armrests.
“Thank you for meeting with me.” His voice scratched with restrained emotions. He cleared his throat, eyes swelling a deeper shade of red. “Forgive me, first, for my unseated appearance, but this is a matter I needed addressed with urgency.”
Mianda did not respond. Waiting to see first why he had summoned her.
He drummed all ten fingers on the armrests for a long moment. “I failed today. Lost a fight.” He cleared his throat. “I need to make certain I don’t lose again. I understand you were part of the group attacked by Dark Elves.
“They took my daughter. Hostage. For a year.” His voice cracked. “The Dark Elves did this to gain Kingdom compliance. They assure me so long as the Kingdom does not attack Dark Elves while above ground, they will not harm my daughter. I am allowed the once-a-month visiting pittance to see her health.” A sick pallor bloomed on his burnt-gold face. He dropped his head into both hands. Didn’t speak for several moments.
Mianda shuffled in her seat, looking to make sure no witnesses to this uncomfortable display stood in the corner.
He straightened, heat returning to his cheeks. “I can’t fail again. So I’ve come up with fail-safes to assure the continued safety of the Kingdom. I have a unique tool available to me and, if you are willing, I would like to activate it.”
Mianda settled into Thaen-mode, imagination exploding across the possibilities.
“I need a spy,” he said.
Mianda laughed on instinct because that was such a Thaen idea. “A spy?”
He nodded. Serious. Ignoring her laugh. “You are more useful to this Kingdom than anyone in Malandore.”
His high praise jostled her. “As a spy?”
“Diplomat. Ambassador. I haven’t worked out those repercussions yet, which is why I’m sticking with spy for now because I’m certain, under the circumstances, it would have greater value since the Outside Realms have so far refused negotiations. The decision is yours, Mianda, and I’ll respect whichever you make. My request is for you to defect to the dusutri.”
“I’m sorry. Do what?”
“Leave the Kingdom. Link with your dusutri family who might certainly care for you more than your human guardians. Give some of our secrets to gain their trust. In return, gather intelligence on the dusutri and inform the Kingdom. Pass on rumors you hear, plans you discover. If the Outside Realms plan an attack on the Kingdom, I want to know, and I want someone they trust to divert them, talk them out of it, remind them of the tender mortality of all kindred. In return, you will still claim Kingdom status, and I will publicly award your efforts and grant you whatever favor you want.”
“What makes you think I’d have any influence to sway anyone from attacking?”
A long silence. “Hope. It’s all I have left.”
She watched his face for the laugh punctuating the end of this joke, but it never broke. Hollow, wet eyes stared at her with disturbing intensity, and for a flash, she shared his pain.
But I’m human. Frustrated tears gathered in her throat. She didn’t want a family in Forever Ice. She wanted a family here in the Kingdom, clinging so hard to her human half, and now Thoraus asked her to abandon herself and embrace her dreaded dusutri heritage.
Why? Why? Why did Evermore have to run away to get what he wanted? Why am I asked to abandon what I want for someone else to get theirs? Why must everyone struggle so hard to get the only thing they ever wanted?
I can’t. She’d tell him. I can’t help because I’m human. I can’t because I love the Kingdom and don’t want to leave. I can’t. I can’t. I won’t.
“Information,” he said to her continued silence. “I just need more information so no one else takes someone’s daughter hostage.” Blood rings rimmed both his eyes. “Respond by falkon when you’ve decided.”