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Archives: The Golden Egg

Chapter 12: The Drecloud Manor

    The group was led back out of the city by Talen to his family’s home. The ride was about a mile, leading out into farmland. They came upon a wooded grove and Talen turned down a small road, which brought them to a two-story stone manor. As they stopped in front of the house, Aiden examined the property.

    “Comfortable,” he commented. The house was surrounded by trees and wildflowers were in bloom all around the yard. It was a pleasing place to an elf. Turning to look back at Kima, he gave her a nudge with her elbow. “Time to get down.”

    Kima pouted but got off the back of the horse. She sniffed around the ground a bit and moved slightly closer to the wild flowers and sniffed at them. With her tongue she gently probed the wild flower to see if it had any taste and then ate it clean off of the stem. She chewed the petals and swallowed the flower down finding the taste acceptable if not decent.

    Naclia was eager to see the home Talen had grown up in. Maybe once they finished their journey, he could come and see her home. The ranger stopped her horse behind Aiden’s and dismounted, then helped Eliamn down as well. Kima had hopped off Tiash, and Naclia’s eyes followed the girl cautiously. Once Kima found herself a flower to graze on, Naclia giggled to herself.

    Talen smiled as they came up to his home. “Well here we are,” he said as he dismounted. Taking a look around to make sure everyone was here, he noticed that Kima went ahead, raising a brow as he saw her take the flower to eat and chew on. “Heh, well whatever works as food eh?” he said stepping up aside Naclia.

    While the travelers were dismounting, the door to the manor opened partway and a young woman’s face peeked out. “Master Talen?” she asked. The girl was Artina, one of the servants hired by Talen’s family. Her mother had worked for the Dreclouds, and as she got older and developed arthritis, they hired Artina to do what her mother couldn’t.

    Talen turned, hearing a familiar voice from up towards the manor, he turned to see the woman’s face peeking out the door. “Ah, Artina, its been awhile! We have visitors!” he said, raising his hand to wave at her.

    The maid opened up the door wide, then folded her hands over her apron modestly. She gave a slight bow, then welcomed them into the house. “Come in! I’ll fetch your parents.”

    Naclia saw the pretty girl that opened the door, but she didn’t appear to be Talen’s sister. For a moment, jealousy sparked in Naclia’s mind and she blurted out, “Who is she?” to Talen.

    Talen jumped a little bit at hearing the sudden loud words from Naclia. “Oh her? She is a servant to my family, she has been for some time. Anything the matter?” he asked her curiously.

    “ at all,” Naclia replied, embarrassed at her own reaction. She started walking to the door, blushing as she did. “You have servants? I didn’t think your family was that rich...” she said, changing the subject.

    Kima scrambled about on all fours and dashed into the manor. The young wildling dashed about on all fours inspecting the foyer quickly and scrambled out and wrapped herself around Naclia’s leg.

    Lyassa, who had ridden at the back of the group, dismounted quietly and avoided drawing attention to herself. Glancing around, she thought they were missing someone. Aiden’s brother had disappeared, and she hadn’t noticed until now. Almost grateful for a reason to talk to Aiden, she went over to the elf and stood close to him. “Aiden, Saga isn’t with us. Did he stay in the city?” she asked softly.

    Aiden suddenly became anxious and looked over the group. Sure enough, Saga was gone. {“Damn,”} Aiden cursed in elven. “We’ll look for him on the way back,” he decided. He didn’t want to go back right now, he had to get things settled with Talen’s parents. As Kima dashed into the house, Aiden caught his breath, afraid she would break something, but the girl was back outside momentarily and he heard no crashes. The elf exhaled. He could only hope Talen’s parents could handle her, and that she could stand them.

    Stepping forward, he strode into the house, leaving Naclia to take care of Kima since the girl decided to cling to her. He greeted Artina, but he was in no mood to flirt, even if the servant was pretty. Lyassa followed him on his heels.

    Naclia patted Kima’s head reassuringly, but like Aiden, she was concerned for Kima and the house’s well being. “Talen, do you think your parents will be able to handle Kima if we have to leave her here?”

    “I think they can handle her,” Talen replied to Naclia with a smile. Honestly, he didn’t know if his mother would be able to put up with Kima, but hopefully. The wildling was not the kind of person you brought into court, so she had to wait somewhere. Talen could only hope the girl could attach herself to his mother like she did to Naclia. So far, Kima seemed intimidated by the house.

    Eliamn had to admit to a moment of genuine awe at the Drecloud manse. It was much airier and larger than many of the dwelling she had seen in human cities thus far—barring temples and forts, really. Although there was still the cloistered impression in the large dwelling, it was only a small discomfort: the shamaness felt none of the claustrophobia and had to admit that it was more a matter of being in a new, unknown place with architecture so different than anything they had in the Mirror Forest than anything else.

    The elf maiden’s violet eyes settled on Talen. Her mental image of the charming human soldier moonstruck with Naclia’s looks suddenly shifted into a much more favorable light: Talen wasn’t just a human warrior serving some country—he was a knight from an established organization, a part of the Mossian aristocracy and a minor noble with contacts and ties to the land proper. Her mind whirled as she realized the amount of actual contacts and favors that Talen could possibly call down... he had called himself a knight before, but it was only now that her mind snapped to the realization of the assets the man could bring to solving the undertaking Mycen had trusted to them.

    Eli felt a near imperceptible shiver run down her spine. A mix of elation and excitement. They could do this—they could move on to solve the problem even though they had lost the trail. Their antagonist was a Lord Mur-Cavendrel—the title and the money likely required to pay ‘Raidens’ to the hirelings and the magic he had access to likely meant that he might be from an actual noble family in Moss. Talen was young as humans went and mostly dedicated to being a warrior—perhaps someone more learned in the entourage of his family might know... or might be able to direct them to whom would know.

    Eliamn pragmatically scuffled her footwear near the entry to make sure she wouldn’t be making trails of dust into the manor, smoothed her hands over her robes and comb her fingers through her blonde hair to straighten it out. She noticed that one of Naclia’s braids had been slightly mussed by the ride and the wind and she moved on to deftly unravel it, straighten it out and then redo the braid... she didn’t ask permission but rather trusted that Naclia would know what she was doing. If they were going to meet nobles—real nobles!—they might as well look their best.

    Naclia felt a tugging at her braid and glanced over her shoulder to see Eliamn fixing her mused hair. The ranger waited patiently for Eliamn to finish as she spoke to Talen. “If you say so,” she said apprehensively to the knight. Once Eliamn finished her hair, Naclia glanced back again and thanked her, then wrapped her arm around Kima’s shoulders. “Let’s go in. Nothing is going to hurt you,” she assured the girl and began to lead her toward the door of the manor.

    Eliamn gave a brief acknowledging nod to Naclia and followed along. She personally didn’t feel it was wise in the slightest to bring Kima in and that that could easily lead them to look bad in the eyes of Talen’s parents if they allowed the wildling to bring mishaps to the manse... but that was out of her hands. After all, Kima wouldn’t have made it this far if Naclia and Aiden hadn’t really wanted her to come. Eli had promised Naclia she wouldn’t get in the way and that she’d try to help them in their travels. She meant it.

    Kima cocked her head to the side with a small puzzled look. She wasn’t too worried about people hurting her, but of her going into such a strange looking house. It wasn’t like the house she vaguely remembered from her childhood, nor like the trees and crude domiciles that she had inhabited before meeting Minstral. Being abandoned before, her fear of being abandoned here was creeping up on the young girl, thus the reason why she clung to Naclia. She didn’t want to be left behind any longer. However, mutely, she followed Naclia keeping close to her side in the hopes of alleviating the phobia of her past abandonments resurfacing.

    With Kima close to her, Naclia entered the manor, quite curious to see the surroundings Talen had grown up in. A staircase rose up on both sides of the foyer, and directly ahead of the front door was a hall leading into the first floor. The decor and furnishings so far was modest, yet high quality. Where the stairs met above them, a sword and shield hung on the wall, signs of the Drecloud family business.

    “I will fetch lady Sorilea,” Artina said to the visitors. With a bow, she exited down the hallway, leaving them in the foyer.

    After the maid left, Naclia began to look around the room more openly. She assumed the second floor was all bedrooms, and considering how long the building was, she thought there could be at least six. “By Falis, how many rooms does this place have?” she asked. “We could all probably stay here comfortably tonight! Well...if it’s fine by your parents, of course,” she added to Talen.

    Eliamn slid to Aiden’s side and whispered, {“Out of us three, you seem the most knowledgeable about humans. Do you have any advice to offer in dealing with nobles?”} She wasn’t sure she could count on ‘awe at seeing elves’ to help make a good impression and she was also leery of accidentally offending them; her experience with Minstral—even though she still thought he had overreacted—was still fresh on her mind.

    {“I don’t know that much,”} Aiden replied. {“I only ever deal with villagers, but knights really aren’t that high up in nobility so far as I know.”}

    {“So basically, we let Talen do most of the talking, nod along and look pretty?”} Eliamn raised an eyebrow at her ranger companion.

    {“Basically...”} Aiden admitted with a shrug.

    Talen nearly forgot his manners as far as his companions came in. “This seems to be taking a while,” he muttered half to himself. “Well, everyone, how about the ‘grand tour’, so to speak?” he asked clearly, speaking up from his previous mumbling state.

    Despite thinking it’d be wiser to stay in one spot so they’d be found by the serving maid and Talen’s parents more easily, Eliamn stayed true to the words she had spoken to Aiden and nodded along.

    Naclia turned and smiled to Talen. “Sure!” she replied eagerly. However, before they could leave, Artina and a middle aged woman approached from the hall. Naclia paused in her stride and stood beside Talen. The woman was probably Talen’s mother. Her hair was blonde and going white along her temples. She wasn’t quite plump, but she wasn’t lean either, and her dress was fine linen, but like the rest of the house, simple yet well tailored.

    “Ah! My handsome little boy! It’s so good to see you!” the woman beamed as she made her way to Talen and gave him a gentle hug. “What brings you home, and with such intriguing friends?” she asked, drawing back from Talen to look over the elves. Before he had a chance to reply, she introduced herself; “I am Sorilea Drecloud, Talen’s mother. Please, make yourselves at home. I’ll have the maids prepare tea.” She gave a nod to Artina, and the young maid curtsied and returned back down the hall. “Now come! We can get to know each other in the sitting room,” Sorilea gestured for the company to follow, then headed back down the hallway.

    Naclia gave a glance to Talen, quite surprised at the way his mother rushed things along, but she was the first to follow Sorilea.

    Aiden hadn’t been interested in a tour, so he was thankful that Talen’s mother came to meet them. The woman seemed a little overbearing, but she was probably much more agreeable than his own mother. At least Sorilea had allowed her son to train to be a knight. Aiden almost literally had pry his mother’s arms off him so he could leave on this trip. The elf followed behind Naclia and Sorilea quietly. She didn’t give Talen a chance to answer her question, but hopefully they would get a chance to explain their visit once they reached her sitting room.

    Eliamn smiled slightly as she padded quietly behind Aiden. She found it rather amusing that both maid and housewife had come in as if conjured by her thoughts. It was pretty convenient. She wasn’t worried about missing out on the tour: she was quite sure Talen wouldn’t miss the opportunity to do it to at least Naclia, though she hoped it wouldn’t lead to his own bedchamber—she was concerned that Aiden would get worried similarly to as he had been when Naclia and Talen had first met. Silly me. I am worrying about someone else worrying for another.

    Talen felt a little uneasy that his mother rushed into the introductions and just guided everyone to the parlor. When everyone was seated he took a sideways glance at his mother. “Mother, these are my friends. This is Aiden, Eliamn, Naclia, and the little one is Kima,” he said, motioning to each in order. “As for what brings me home...” Well it’s not really like I wanted to come home. He straightened. “We were sent on an important mission of the utmost urgency by Mycen herself, although our business is more with the lord of the area...” How was he going to phrase the next part? “So...ifyoucanfinditinyourinfinitewisdomandgracetotakecareofthislittle- onewhilewe’regoneiwouldgreatlyappreciateit, alright? Thanks,” he said as quickly as possible.

    Sorilea frowned at Talen. She wasn’t happy that he was trying to rush things along without stopping to sit awhile. “Talen dear, I’m sure your mission can wait a few minutes. Have a seat,” she ordered her son.

    Eliamn blinked from where she sat. Her command of the human tongue was decidedly not good enough to understand what Talen had just quickly mumbled. She quickly understood though that Talen’s desire to be home was about as great as her own—which was not very much. A frown brought her two fine blonde eyebrow closer together before she made a decision and stood up before dropping in a curtsy.

    “It is a privilege to make your acquaintance, Lady Sorilea,” she said smoothly, amazed at herself that she even had the spunk to do so—but she figured someone had to do it. “We were hoping the Drecloud family might have the connections to find out whom a certain Lord Mur-Cavendrel would be. A man going by the name of Roess, whom we suspect might be responsible for stealing the egg of Mycen, apparently works for him.”

    Turning her attention to the elf that spoke, Sorilea took a moment to digest what was said. “Stealing the egg of Mycen?” Sorilea was dumbstruck for a moment. “Mycen has an egg?!” Realization dawned on the woman and she was quite shocked. “Oh Falis, who would do such a thing? So foolish...A Mur-Cavendrel you say? I’m afraid I have never heard the name before. I am familiar with the nobility of Gyenon, but there are no lords by that name. If he is a Mossian lord, then he is probably from another duchy. I do not know a ‘Roess’ either.”

    Artina emerged into the sitting room gracefully balancing a tray with a teapot, seven teacups and saucers, and biscuits. If she heard the conversation, she acted as if she didn’t. The maid set down the tray and prepared the tea for Sorilea and her guests, then passed out the cups.

    “Thank you, Artina,” Sorilea said to the maid, pausing from the conversation to take a sip.

    Naclia gave Artina a nod of thanks as she took the offered tea. “That’s why we want to speak to the duke,” she spoke up boldly, as was her nature. “We ran into some trouble getting into the city. It seems someone spread a rumor that our group means to assassinate the duke. We had to send Lyassa to get a Marfa priestess to confirm her identity!” Naclia jerked her head toward the priestess. “I think we’re lucky that the priestess’s word was enough.”

    Lyassa blushed and bowed her head to Sorilea. Talen had neglected to introduce her, but the priestess said nothing. She just sat in a couch behind the others and let the others do the talking.

    Kima found it odd sitting on a couch and even worse that everything was so pretty and interesting to look at, she wanted to sniff everything of interest. She scratched behind her ear with her foot like a dog and looked cockeyed at the new woman. If she was to understand, what little she could, it would seem that Talen and this new woman were in some sort of relationship, probably parental.

    Eliamn was more than happy to let Naclia spearhead the conversation and settled down comfortably on her seat. Her violet eyes flocked over to Kima, noticing in silent misery that calling Kima ‘interesting’ instead of savage would probably be extremely generous on the part of the noblewoman.

    “Who would spread such a horrible rumor about my son? He’s a native of this city!” Sorilea protested, then took a sip of her tea with a frown. “Your father is in the city today, so if you need any more help, just contact him. Now, about this little one you want me to watch?” Sorilea looked over the group and her eyes settled on Kima, studying the girl rather intently. “I suppose I could watch her. What is her name?” she asked, looking back up at her son.

    Eliamn was about to answer for Talen, but caught herself in the act and decided that she probably ought to keep doing what she had told Aiden she would do (and not really following up on very well): nod along and look pretty.

    Talen brought a hand up, rubbing his chin curiously. “I’m not too sure who might have started a rumor of that sort. It puzzles me as well as the others,” he said in a serious tone. “But aside from all of that, the little one we were speaking of that we needed you to watch, is the little girl we have here. Kima care to introduce yourself?” he asked, even though it may have been a bad idea considering how she acted around others, especially their little group.

    Artina hesitated with the last teacup as she saw the grubby wildling on the couch. The girl didn’t exactly seem like the sort to indulge in tea, but manners were manners. Artina leaned down and offered the cup and saucer to Kima silently.

    “Squirrel’s mating call flying free,” Kima chirped. She looked around to gage whether or not she said the right thing, not quite following the conversation. Finally noticing that the maid was trying to give her some tea she stared blankly at the cup and sniffed it cautiously. She quickly jerked away, making a face as she did. “NO!” she yelled.

    Artina jerked back, nearly dropping the cup and saucer, but she steadied in her and put it aside. “Uh...sorry...” she said to Kima, bewildered.

    Sorilea stared at Kima blankly after her random comment, then gave a start at Kima’s reaction to the offered tea.

    “Err...Kima...isn’t too good at talking,” Naclia stepped up to explain to Sorilea. “She can be a little...umm...feral...but when she’s comfortable she can be quite affectionate. You just have to show her some love.” Now Naclia was worried she may have said too much, and Sorilea would refuse to help. Kima was a handful.

    The lady seemed to be pondering whether or not to take the girl, but finally, she replied. “I’ll help. For the sake of Mycen, I’ll help,” she replied. “I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to keep up with her, but I’ll do what I can.”

    Talen smiled a bit nervously, trying to keep a cool attitude about the whole way Kima acted. “Yeah, she isn’t exactly good at...talking, but after she gets used to things I don’t think you would have anything to worry about.” A sigh of relief could be heard from him at the confirmation of his mother accepting to take care of Kima. “Thank you, I think you would be able to handle it,” he said giving her an assuring smile.

    Eliamn daintily held the cup she had been offered, taking occasional sips from it as she observed the matter of Talen’s mother keeping Kima. The matter of Kima, though, seemed pretty minor to the blonde shamaness in contrast to the attempt to frame them and their search for the egg. She decided to steer back the conversation to the subject that mattered the most. “Milady, by what means could we come into contact with your husband? Would you know of his current whereabouts?”

    “He should be at the duke’s palace,” Sorilea replied, then took a sip of her own tea. “Just ask one of the guards or knights, and they should be able to find him for you. His vote of confidence may help in putting an end to this horrible rumor surrounding you. Now, you had best hurry on to tend to your business. I will see to it to have dinner and beds prepared for when you all return.”

    “Thank you very much!” Naclia said with a smile. Staying here was much better than staying at an inn. They’d save what little money they had, and a country manor would be much more comfortable than a city inn.

    Eliamn was amazed to have Lady Sorilea offer a window of opportunity to depart so quickly. She had expected they would be required to stay longer to appeal to their host’s sense of courtesy... but apparently the gravity of the situation worked their way in this case.

    The shamaness set her teacup back in its saucer. “We are most grateful for your aid and hospitality, Milady.” Eliamn eyed her companions. “Shall we get going, then?”

    After remaining silent and unobtrusive throughout the visit, Aiden stood from his seat and set his emptied tea cup and saucer back onto the tray Artina brought in. “Thank you for the tea,” he said to both maid and lady. The elf turned to Kima and knelt down in front of where she sat on the couch. “Kima, we’re going to the city for a few hours, but we will be back tonight. Can you stay with lady Sorilea while we’re gone?” He still wasn’t sure if Kima understood, but she often surprised him. Even if she often couldn’t communicate back, sometimes she had a comprehension of what he had said.

    Kima pouted. She had a feeling that she was going to be left behind here, and while it didn’t sit well with her, she didn’t want to upset Aiden. The wildling bowed her head gently and cuddled her feather.

    “Thank you very much for helping us,” Naclia replied to Sorilea, beaming with an eager smile. “I hope Kima won’t be too much trouble for you.”

    “Oh, don’t worry about it. I’m not so old that I can’t chase children about! I’m not entirely out of practice, I do have some grandchildren after all,” Sorilea said with a smile as she stood from her seat. “I hope I’ll see some more some day soon as well,” she winked to Talen. She seemed to enjoy teasing her son. The lady stepped over to Aiden’s side and bent down beside the elf. “Hello Kima. Would you like to come out into the yard and see some of our animals? We have cows, and pigs, and horses, and chickens...”

    Naclia stifled a giggle after Sorilea’s comment about Talen having children. It seemed he had siblings that had parented her grandchildren. Some distant part of her mind was entertaining the idea of one day having children with him.

    A look of embarrassment could be seen on Talen’s face as he heard his mother’s comment on him giving her grandkids. “Well, we shall see on that,” he said, bringing his hand up and scratching his head nervously. “It seems like Kima is taken care of here. She will be safe, and I’m sure she will enjoy it here. As for us, let us continue to the city.”

    Eliamn quickly followed Aiden’s example of setting the porcelain back on the tray and then stood up to come next to Naclia and Talen. Unlike Naclia, she was starting to get uncomfortably self-conscious about how much she had interceded despite her earlier mention to Aiden that they probably should keep quiet. Aiden had held to it much better than she had and that made her feel a bit of an hypocrite.

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