A Sorcerer at Her Side
By Violet Day
Date: October 28, 2015
Ch. 11

Shayla had many pleasant memories involving the evening meal. She remembered her father, Sir Nian, Lord of the Stonelands drinking a bit too much wine and singing songs from his days as a commander in the Old Wars. She remembered her mother asking the sorcerers to entertain them during the meal and then being shocked when a particularly cheeky young sorcerer straight from the academy turned her plate into a toad.
Shayla was thinking about this particular memory, absent-mindedly looking at the finish of her green-tinted plate, when the worst moment of her life came to pass.
She heard a cry from the hall outside the dining room and. Metal clanged on metal.
Her father stood from the table, his heavy oak chair scraping against the stone floor. “Bartholomew,” he cried to the head of his guard, a thick man with the strength of a mountain troll, who had been at his side since he was given lordship of the Stonelands. “See what that is about.” The man slipped through the doorway, a heavy longsword in hand.
Sir Nian turned to Shayla and her mother. “Go into our chambers, now.” He gestured toward the door that led to their rooms.
Shayla’s mother obeyed, kissing her daughter on the forehead before running, but Shayla stayed behind. “Father, are we under attack?”
His grizzled face darkened. He seemed about to answer, but a loud thud distracted them both. The oak door shuddered with the impact.
“Bartholomew,” Sir Nian said. He drew his sword, a glittering blade from the Southlands that had been a present from the king. Shayla hadn’t seen him draw his sword for any reason except sparring with Bartholomew and the rest of his guard. From what she knew, he hadn’t had reason to since the Old Wars before she was born.
Her heart beat fast.
Just hours before she had been sitting with her mother, discussing her options for marriage. Her mother had been describing the sons of various lords and laughing at Shayla’s facial expressions. Shayla had told her mother that she didn’t think she would ever be happy with a spoiled lord who had never seen wartime. Her mother had smiled and reminded her that she was a young woman, already of age at eighteen years, and that is was her duty to marry a nice lord’s son. “Shayla, darling,” she had said. “You’ll be happy with whoever you marry. You are strong of spirit and intelligent enough to find love where there is none, curious enough to always have something to do. Do not worry about marriage. Think of it as an adventure. If all goes well, you will be somewhere new by the end of the season.”
Somewhere new.
Shayla wanted to be anywhere but where she was at the moment.
“Sorcerers!” her father cried.
The three sorcerers assigned to the castle stepped out from the shadows of the dining room, their cloaking spells melting away to reveal them and their intricately braided hair and long dark robes. The sorcerers were always in the shadows, wherever they deemed most important to guard.
“Yorden,” her father said, inching toward the door. Fighting could still be heard behind the thick oak of the door. “Yorden, find my wife and guard her. Rikkie, stay by my side and help me fend off these attackers.” He paused. “Emonar,” he began.
The youngest of the sorcerers, newly graduated from the academy on Fellun Isle and only with them for three weeks, stepped forward. His dark hair was held at the nape of his neck in tight braids that wound around each other in the shape of a rose. More thick, black hair fell to his mid back, blending in with the dark silky fabric of his robe.
Shayla had noticed Emonar when he first came, replacing an old sorcerer who had served her father for years but was too old to use his powers very often. She hadn’t noticed him because he was new, or because he was a sorcerer, but because when she did catch glimpses of him, his eyes struck her. They were a piercing bright green not found in nature. Those eyes alighted on her now, just for a moment, before returning to her father.
“Emonar, guard my daughter.” The sorcerer moved between her and the door.
Her father pushed the door open. Bartholomew’s crumpled body rolled to the side. What seemed to be the entire castle guard, nearly thirty strong men, were locked in battle with scrappy sell-sword types in new green and white armor.
“Sir Fane’s colors…” Her father swung at an attacker, felling him in one sweep. “Why has Sir Fane sent men to kill my guard and terrify my family?” he roared.
One man approached him, sneering. “Sir Fane is finally taking what is his. The title of Lord of the Stonelands has always belonged to him, and now it does.” He swung his axe at Sir Nian, but Yorden, her father’s most trusted sorcerer, caught him in a freezing spell.
Eyes wide, Sir Nian turned to Shayla and Emonar.
“Leave now,” he said, his voice strained. “Sir Fane from the North has decided to reopen and old wound from the Old Wars… and this wound runs deep. Emonar, flee with my daughter. Take her to the capital and to the king. Remind him of our friendship and ask for his support in this matter. I cannot lose my title and lands. We would be ruined.” He directed these last words to Shayla.
“Father –” She tried to run toward him. Emonar grasped her wrist, holding her back.
“Shayla, I love you. I do not think Sir Fane means to kill me, do not worry. It is likely he means to keep me captive until he can be sure that he will get what he wants. You have always wanted to see the capital, have you not?”
Shayla tried to speak but she couldn’t. Her throat was tight. She saw her father’s eyes were filled with tears and it made her begin to cry as well. She could feel her future as a lady with moderate parentage and a moderately titled husband in a moderately sized castle slipping away. Everything was changing.
“Now,” her father insisted. “Take the back route through the castle, and then through the woods to the port town of Amiya. There is a merchant there who knows me, he will take you to the castle.”
The freezing spell on the nearest attacker wore off. Her father turned to face him.
Emonar tightened his grip on her wrist. “I’m activating a cloaking spell,” he said softly. He began to lead her out of the room and into the hall. They wove through pairs of fighters. It was clear that the intruders were winning. The halls were littered with the scarlet-clad bodies of her father’s men. “Don’t make a sound or else we’ll be found.”
Shayla held in her tears and fear as they made slow progress through the castle, through the kitchens and servants quarters, and into the walled back courtyard.
Chickens cooed in their pens. A thin dog ran by them, oblivious. Straw crunched under their feet.
The sun had just set. The sky was awash in peaceful colors: lavender, pale pink, a dusty. The tops of the trees in the forest that surrounded the castle were just visible above the courtyard walls. Emonar and Shayla came to the metal gate in the courtyard walls.
Shayla took a deep breath. She tried to ignore just how different the mellow surroundings were from the turbulence in her mind.
Everything would be okay.
Emonar was a skilled sorcerer; he had to be or else her father wouldn’t have employed him. He would take her safely to the capital and everything would be sorted out. Maybe this was all just a misunderstanding. They would be at the capital soon. It would be okay.
If only the capital wasn’t an ocean away.

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