23 Nov 2018

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 5

Chapter 5

Dame Nyssa and her squire, Leomund, set off to the Realm Under the Mountain, only to be waylaid before they got too far.
Wildwood, the Sylvan Forest
Kazimier's mood improved as the city of Wildwood appeared and grew closer.  The city sat nestled in the trees at the edge of the forest, allowing the elves who dwelled there room for farming without having to travel too far.  Carrad took one of the patrollers with him to run to the city, no doubt to warn the Council of Matriarchs about Kazimier's prisoner.

With the prisoner in his thoughts, Kazimier spared a glace at her, wanting to see Jyslyn's reaction.  The dark elf's face remained impressive, but she did stare at the city.  Kazimier allowed himself a smile.  He had talked with the dark elf over the three day journey, though Jyslyn revealed very little about herself.  Not once did she try to escape, though.  Kazimier knew when he first saw her in the clearing that the dark elf was a mystery; the mystery kept deepening with every step she took.  Surely, Kazimier wondered, she knew what would happen to her in Wildwood.

It took Kazimier and the rest of the patrol an hour or two to reach the city's entrance.  A wooden staircase lowered, letting the patrol inside.  The gate room had tall, solid wood walls reaching to the leafy canopy overhead.  There were only two ways out, the staircase, now being raised, and the barred gateway.  On the parapets overhead, several archers had bows out and drawn, aiming at Kazimier's prisoner.  Jyslyn didn't pay any attention to them nor to anything else except Kazimier, staying two steps away from whenever he moved.

The gate opened, sliding into the protective wall.  Three older women, flanked by armoured guards with swords drawn, walked into the gate room.  Kazimier dropped to one knee, his head bowed.  His fellow patrollers did the same, leaving only Jyslyn standing.

"Rise," one of the women intoned.  All the men got back to their feet.  "So, Kazimier, you brought back a prisoner."

Kazimier nodded.  "Yes, Matriarch Sundew."

Matriarch Sundew stepped forward to examine the dark elf.  "And you let her live why?"

"When I found her, she was helpless, suffering from severe sunburns."

A second woman stepped forward.  "An excellent time to dispatch her."

"If I were you, Matriarch Moonflower.  And my prisoner can understand what we say."

Matriarch Moonflower glared at Jyslyn.  "My point still stands."

"'Your' prisoner, Kazimier?" the third woman said.  She brushed a dark strand of hair away from her face.  "Not the patrol's?"

Kazimier shrugged.  "Mine, Matrarch Starpetal.  I healed her.  I provided food for her.  I made sure she did not escape, though she did not attempt to do so.  She even helped defend the patrol after an ambush."

"She saved her own life, not yours," Matriarch Moonflower said.

"She could have run away.  Yet, here she is."  Kazimier flashed a sympathetic smaile to Jyslyn.  "After the fight, she offered herself back as prisoner.  It is not the rope that kept her from fleeing."

Matriarch Moonflower glowered at the dark elf.  "She has an ulterior motive for being here, one that will lead to our ruin."

"Lay off him, Arlee," Matriarch Starpetal said.  "We have a prisoner.  Guards, get her cleaned up and dressed in something more than a tunic."

The guards moved in to surround the dark elf.  Kazimier held up a hand to forestall them.  "Matriarch, I did take responsibility for her.  I should be the one to take her to get dressed."

Matriarch Starpetal gave the young priest a weary smile.  "I'm sure you feel that way."  She sighed.  "Take her to your home.  I'll have the Captain of the Watch meet you there."  She looked over the other matriarchs.  "Does that meet with your approval?"

Hearing no objections, Kazimier took Jyslyn by the arm, leading her out of the gate room.  He led her across an arched bridge connecting the gate room to the rest of the city.  His own home, a small apartment on the edge of the city, wasn't far from the gates.  He still quickened his pace, more for Jyslyn's sake than for his.

Kazimier's apartment had a fine layer of dust on every surface.  He ushed Jyslyn inside.  The dark elf had an amused smirk on her face.  "Wonderful welcome," she said.

"You're the first of your kind to enter Wildwood since," Kazimier shrugged, "since forever, I think.  If I were to appear near your home, would I get a warm reception?"

Jyslyn sat down on wooden chair, crossing her legs.  "You wouldn't get close to my home, at least alive."

"There is that, too."  Someone pounded on the door.  Kazimier set down his backpack before walking over to answer it.  "But, you do understand.  The Matriarchs have reason to take every precaution."  He opened the door.  A nervous elf woman wearing silver mail armour stood holding a bundle under her arm.  "Kaleena, hello, I was expecting you."

The Captain of the Watch pushed her way inside.  She stopped on seeing the dark elf.  "This is her?"

"Come in, please," Kazimier said.  He took the bundle from Kaleena.  "Are these the clothes for my guest?"

"Yes."  Kaleena never took her eyes off the dark elf.  "She isn't what I expected."

"What were you expecting?"

Kaleena shook her head.  "From how Matriarch Moonflower went on, I was expecting the prisoner to be taller, bigger, breathing fire and spouting obscenities."

"Matriarch Moonflower does go on, yes."  Kazimier handed the bundle to the dark elf.  "Kaleena, this is Jyslyn.  Jyslyn, Kaleena Sundew is the Captain of the Watch."

"Kazimier, is this necessary?" Kaleena asked.  "And watch what you say about Moonflower.  Her family has influence still."

"I find that it's harder to murder someone if you know them personally.  Except when you know that person too well."

Kaleena tore her attention away from Jyslyn.  "Matriarch Starpetal wishes to see you.  I'm to get your," she sighed, "'guest' made presentable."

"I'm going.  I trust that Jyslyn won't have an accident or die while escaping?"

"Kazi, it's me, Kaleena.  Your guest won't have a problem as long as she behaves.  Now go!  Don't leave a Matriarch waiting."

Kazimier walked to the door.  "Jyslyn, don't start anything.  I shouldn't be long."

Kaleena gave Kazimier a light push towards the door.  "Kazi, go.  She's safe with me, promise."

With reluctance, Kazimier left his apartment.  He hurried through the elevated streets of Wildwood, slipping past small throngs of elves out for strolls or heading to the market.  In the centre of the city in the trees stood the Council Hall.  The guards standing at the entrance stepped aside, recognizing the young priest.

Inside, Kazimier easily found Matriarch Starpetal's office.  He had been there many times in his life, often summoned in his youth by the Matriarch to account for some mischief.  Kazimier felt the same now as he did then, some guilt mixed with satisfaction and resentment.  He pushed away the old feelings; he was no longer that youth.

Matriarch Starpetal's office door was open when Kazimier arrived.  He knocked to announce his presence as he entered.  "Close the door, Kazimier," the matriarch said.  Once he had done so, she continued, "Always making life more complicated, Kazi."

"I couldn't leave her," Kazimier said.

"No, you couldn't.  Please, sit."

Kazimier sat on the edge of the padded chair across the table from the matriarch.  "Thank you, Matriarch."

The matriarch raised a greying eyebrow.  "So formal?  Kazi, we're family.  We can talk openly here.  Tell me, Kazi.  Tell me about the Accursed you brought here."

Kazimier felt himself deflate.  "I found her in a clearing, Aunt Tilly, lying there, in obvious pain.  And Jyslyn doesn't show pain, not when I was treating her."

"Oh, Kazi, she told you her name?"

"We talked, Aunt Tilly.  It was a four day trip back here."  Kazimier sat up straight.  "So, yes, she has a reason for being here, just like you're thinking.  I don't think it's to destroy us."

Matriarch Starpetal folded her hands together, steepling her fingers.  "Then why?"

"She said it herself.  'Atonement.'  She's here to be subject to our justice."

Next Week:
Jyslyn on trial.

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