Half Blood Part X--Secrets Unveiled

Fiction By Heather // 11/5/2009

Jevran downed a glass of water in one gulp and closed his eyes. The councilmemebers were giving him a headache. They sounded like so many gossiping scullery maids. Comments and reflections on Varians' like were tossed back and forth, with the general consensus being, "Well, if he hadn't been half-Highlander, he would've made something of himself."

Jevran brought his fist down on the table so hard that it stung. The counselors flinched and glowered at him.

"Yes, sir?" Danilos asked.

"I'm tired of hearing my brother slandered just because he was half-Highlander." Jevran's mouth felt cottony, despite the recent drink, as he realized that he was admonishing the counselors for the same crime that he'd often committed.

"Before this mess, you all thought Varian a fine, upstanding young man. I recall that some of you even defended him from me when I'd upbraid him for not acting like what I thought a prince should. Now, through one act that was meant as a kindness and as curiosity about his home country, you condemn him as a traitor. I don't think that Varian had any intention of betrayal—I think he simply decided to help someone he could learn from."

"I would say that your words meant you have a definite conflict of interest," Danilos said. "And also, I would gather that you don't care much about recapturing Varian."

To his own surprise, Jevran heard himself snapping back, "That's correct."

As one, the council leaned away from him, horrified shock on their faces. Danilos' eyes narrowed. Jevran laughed.

"What, you expect me to turn against Varian?"

"You and your brother never seemed to get along well beforehand—" someone ventured.

"Nevertheless, he is my kin, and I'll be hung for a traitor before I him over to vultures like you!"

"That was uncalled for," someone muttered. The voice wasn't loud enough for Jevran to distinguish who spoke.

Jevran rubbed a hand over his face. I hate playing the diplomat. Varian was always better at that than I. With a shock, he realized he'd just, for the first time in his life, admitted his brother bested him at something. He held back a groan.

"Sire, with all due respect, I agree with Danilos. Your attitude shows a definite conflict of interest, and we can't allow a court of this land to be tainted by such. We always, always have striven for a fair trial."

Jevran licked his lips. There's got to be something I can use against Danilos—some old law, some incident that will overthrow his authority on this issue. Beno would know, but I can't call him in here—this is a confidential meeting and the Council would never allow it.

What line of attack to use? There's got be to something…God, help me…Highlanders. Danilos hates the Highlanders. He wants to destroy them, and in condemning Kerrin as a spy and Varian as a traitor, he gives probable cause for war.

Why is Danilos so against the Highlanders? Didn't it have something to do with his son—ah, yes. I hate to bring this up, Danilos, but you give me no choice.

Jevran paused, rolling the thought in his head, as he stared at Danilos. The counselor gestured as he spoke. Slowly, Danilos became aware of Jevran's gaze and stopped, waiting.

Got ya. "Danilos, if some reviewed your past history, they might also find a conflict of interest."

"I don't know what you mean, sire."

"I think you do. I refer you to twenty years ago, when your son was brutally slaughtered by a dragon."

Gasps flickering around the table told Jevran that he'd guessed correctly—everyone had forgotten about the incident. Danilos rarely discussed his son and discouraged discussion about dragons as much as possible. But Jevran knew his vindictiveness against the Highlanders dated from that day.

"The Dragons fell upon and destroyed the one who had killed your son, but it wasn't enough for you, Danilos. You insisted on killing the dragons, trampling their eggs. Your eloquence led my father to order an army into the Highlands, with the sole intent of murdering the Dragons. The Highlanders refused to let the army pass. My father backed down because he didn't want to shed Highlander blood—but to this day, you've never ceased in your efforts."

Danilos glanced up and down the table. The counselors were glaring at him now. Jevran could tell they were all irritated with Danilos' hypocrisy.

Danilos' face was growing redder by the second. A vein stood out on his neck, throbbing. "You're being foolish, all of you. If we don't kill them now, the Highlanders and their devil-spawn will destroy us without mercy!"

"I don't doubt that there's some cause for concern," an older councilmember said. "But do remember that our entire discussion thus far has been taken up with the king's conflict of interest. We were all for barring him from the council for the duration of the case. Now that King Jevran has reminded us of your own conflict of interest, I feel there is nothing we can do other than to bar you also."

"Are you mad?"

"It makes perfect sense to me. Is that the wish of all counselors, that Danilos and I both be barred from the case until a decision is reached?" Jevran asked.

The men nodded their heads, never looking up at Danilos.

Jevran stood. "Then I will leave you to your duties."

He strode out of the room, hearing Danilos' footsteps behind him but never turning to look at the man. In the council's receiving chamber, he met with Beno, who was just coming in the outer door.

Beno nodded. "Sire, a report has just come in from one of the outposts. A Dragon was sighted early this morning, with a man mounted on his back."

"A dragon-rider?" Danilos demanded. "There are no dragon-riders. There haven't been for hundreds of years, simply because there was no need."

Jevran whirled on him. "And why not? How do you know so much about the dragons?"

"Any man who is intelligent enough to perceive why I hate the dragons should also be able to perceive why I take such an interest in them."

"Do not speak to your king in such a way again, Counselor!" Beno growled.

Danilos looked from one to the other. Jevran tensed. What was the man thinking behind those inscrutable eyes? He'd changed so much in the last twenty-four hours that Jevran felt like he hardly knew him. Danilos' reasonable, counseling side seemed to be gone, and in its place a madman barely restraining his hatred.

Then with a swirl of his councilmember's robes, Danilos turned and stalked from the room. 

***

When dawn had cracked the sky with pink and orange, Varian had curled up underneath a bush and fallen asleep. Now, with the sky again dark and a crick in his neck, Varian crept through the hills of the Highlands.

The mist curled clammy tendrils around his legs. A chilly breeze teased his hair and made the long grass rustle, muffling his footsteps. Overhead, the moon and stars silvered the landscape with bright light. The bulk of Mount Arborn loomed over the hill country, dark except for the white, sparse dots of snow.

Varian reached into his rucksack and retrieved a stick of jerky. He didn't want to stop to eat. The sooner he got to the village, the sooner he could warn the Highlanders—and deliver the news of Kerrin's death.

He winced, and not for the first time, wondered how the Highlanders would accept him when he came bearing that kind of news. But surely, if he explained the situation, they wouldn't turn him away. There were stories about the Highlanders' kindnesses to strangers, but they were all historical.

A stronger breeze stirred his hair. Varian's neck prickled. He swung around. A dark, bat-like shape hovered about twenty feet in the air behind him. Varian stepped back, saw moonlight glint off metal.

A dragon and a rider!

Varian's heart skipped a beat even as he spun on one foot and took off running. A strong wind hit his back, and he could hear the swish of the dragon's wings. He took a sharp corner around a hill and dove into the bushes. Twigs clawed at his face. He covered it with his arms and rolled onto his back.

The dragon winged past, its wings blowing dead leaves from the bushes onto Varian. He tightened his fists, praying it wouldn't find him. The rush from the beast's wings faded into the distance.

Varian rose to his knees, searching the night sky. No other black shadows appeared. He cautiously stood, pushed out of the bushes, and searched the hilltops around him. Nothing could be seen except waving tall grasses and flowers, black against the dark navy blue of the sky. He drew his sword. The rasping of metal against metal was loud in the still darkness.

A dark, rustling shape lunged over the hill to his left. Varian jumped to his feet, slashing at it. The thing batted the sword away and knocked him to the ground. Varian realized what it was as it clamped a huge, clawed paw over his chest.

The dragon. Varian squirmed and pushed at a claw. It only tightened more, until he could hardly breathe. His heart pounded in his stomach as the dragon brought its snout close. It'll eat me alive!

"Hold up, Flameclaw."

Varian sagged against the ground at the sound of a human voice. "Get him off me," he croaked.

A man-shaped shadow dropped to the ground. Something scraped together, and a spark ignited a small lantern. The man held it over Varian's face, studying him. Varian squinted past the glow.

The man's face was olive-skinned and thin, much like Varian's own. His hair, reddish-brown in the lanternlight, fell to his shoulders in a matted tangle. When he turned his head to speak to the dragon, Varian saw two jagged scars slicing white across his cheek.

The man said something in a strange tongue to the dragon, who eased up but didn't release Varian. Then he sat down and placed the lantern at his side.

"I'm nae gonna to tell Flameclaw to release ye until ye explain what ye're doin' here."

Varian rubbed his hands over his eyes. This is ridiculous. "I need to find the village at the foot of Mount Arborn. Onna sent me—told me to talk to Jokk."

"Why do ye wish to speak with Jokk?"

"Sure, and it's none o' yer business!" Varian snapped.

The man stiffened. "Ye speak like a Highlander, yet yer clothes are Lowlander. Explain yerself."

Varian felt a sniff from the dragon stir his hair. He slapped at the dragon's nose. The dragon jerked back and snorted gently. Flames flickered from his nostrils, singeing the stubble on Varian's face.

"Call off this beast of yer's!"

"Nae, donnae call Flameclaw a beast. He's as intelligent as ye or I—or maybe more so than ye."

"Look, ye've no right to hold me here like this. Let me up to continue my journey!"

"Nae until ye've explained the purpose to me. If it's any difference, I'm Jokk of the village at the foot of Mount Arborn. Now explain."

Varian rubbed his face again. "Onna sent me. I'm runnin' from the Lowlands cause of the death of one of my friends. Onna told me he was from yer village."

Jokk's face tightened, and he looked up at Flameclaw and spoke again in the sibilant tongue. The dragon shook it's head and lifted its paw from Varian's chest. He sat up, wincing as the center of his chest ached with the movement. He rubbed it.

"Kerrin? Ye speak of Kerrin?"

Varian nodded.

"What news?"

"I'm sorry, but—" Varian swallowed hard. He had to push words past the lump in his throat. "Kerrin was killed while tryin' to escape."

Jokk's eyes dilated in shock. He quickly looked away, his teeth clamping over his lower lip. Varian wrapped his arms around his legs and rested his forehead on his knees. I'm gonna have to account for it. Give me words to say, Lord. I'm gonna need all the wisdom I can get to explain this.

Jokk's voice broke into his thoughts. "And how do ye know of it?"

"Kerrin had been captured by the king's men. I was tryin' to help him escape. They—they captured me and killed Kerrin. I just came from the castle, runnin' for my life."

"Who are ye, that ye was in the king's castle?"

Varian gulped and tensed. "I'm the king's half-brother."

 

 

 

 

Comments

Dragons!!!

I. Love. Dragons! I just read the first "Dragons in our Midst" book and discovered that the scaly creatures are actually really cool! Totally different sort of story, but when I saw dragon i was like, "AWESOME!".

 Great chapter, but I want more dear!!! You really can't keep doing this to me; my mom might catch me checking AP between geometry problems for the newest chapter ;) JK

Ariel | Thu, 11/05/2009

*****************************************
"To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be that have tried it." -- Herman Melville

Heather...

Heather, you're a genius.

I was so not expecting that with Danilos.
I can't wait to read more...

Kyleigh | Fri, 11/06/2009

You had me hooked before...

...Now you've got me double hooked.

James | Fri, 11/06/2009

<><~~~~~~~~~~~~><>
"The idea that we should approach science without a philosophy is itself a philosophy... and a bad one, because it is self-refuting." -- Dr. Jason Lisle

If I could say anything

If I could say anything constructive, I would.

Anna | Fri, 11/06/2009

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

Who-hoo!

LOL--I haven't read this yet--but I'm going to!

LoriAnn | Fri, 11/06/2009

Yessss......

Awesome!!! Dragons, Danilos getting his comeuppance....this is an awesome chapter!

Sarah | Mon, 11/09/2009

"Sometimes even to live is courage."
-Seneca

Blogging away!
busyscribbler.wordpress.com

I'm getting more and more

I'm getting more and more excited with each chapter...please hurry up and continue! I'm especially liking the way Jevran is developing.

p.s. I read about your news on your blog some time ago but didn't comment...congratulations! Best wishes to you both.

Annabel | Mon, 11/09/2009

arg...

That’s IT? You’re going to leave us with Varian clutched in a dragon’s grasp and his brother playing juggler with devious council members? Sooooo not fair. Totally not fair.

BTW though, I loved the line “The mist curled clammy tendrils around his legs.” Not quite sure why, but I just liked it. And you do the Highlander accent well.PLEASE Hurry up with the next chapter!

LoriAnn | Tue, 11/10/2009

Wow--thanks everyone! I was

Wow--thanks everyone! I was so encouraged by all your comments. Don't worry, I will definitely try to hurry and get the next section up so I don't leave y'all hanging over a cliff for too long. :0)

 

Heather | Mon, 11/16/2009

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
And now our hearts will beat in time/You say I am yours and you are mine...
Michelle Tumes, "There Goes My Love"

Hey there!

Hey beautiful!

I am going to work on catching up on reading these! I browsed a few of your latest works and they seem really good!

Ps. I'm talking to you on the phone right now!

Your love forever,

Justin

Anonymous | Wed, 12/02/2009