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Sikevra

Galessel’s Tale Vol. 2

An Ashelon Novella



Carolyn Kay

Ashelon Publishing 2018

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Acknowledgements

About the Author

About the Artist

Sikevra Copyright © 2018 by Carolyn Kay.

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.

All characters, their distinctive likenesses and related elements featured in this publication are trademarked and copyrighted by the author and illustrator.

An Ashelon Publishing Book / published by arrangement with the author and illustrator.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters and incidents either are the product of the author’s and illustrator’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locations is entirely fictional, or are purely coincidental.

Cover art, design, and interior illustrations Copyright © 2018 by Chaz Kemp.

Interior design by Carolyn Kay.

Editor: Aimee Heckel

ISBN Ebook: 978-0-9987071-3-6

1. Fantasy 2. Steampunk

First Edition: 2018

Printed in the United States of America www.worldofashelon.com

This book is available in print at most online retailers.

License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


Chapter 1

Princess Galessel cooed at the elfling in her arms. Her newborn niece had a tuft of dark hair on top of her head and lavender eyes, taking after her mother, Miniel. She had her father’s dark tawny skin. The child grabbed playfully for Galessel’s black braid but thankfully missed. “I will miss you, little one,” she whispered.

The brightly decorated nursery was quiet and peaceful. Galessel soaked in the feeling, letting the high notes of the wind chime hanging above the crib soothe her nerves. She was alone with her niece, but the nursemaid was just outside the door, probably flirting with her guards, Erindor and Lanion, who followed her everywhere.  Little Talindra was the only one in the castle who didn’t avert her eyes when Galessel wore her hair up, exposing her mutilated ear tips. Even though the story of the attack that had rendered them so was common knowledge throughout the palace, people tended to avoid her. An elf without ear tips was sikevra—an outcast. At least until the Fallana Sian could be performed.

The forgiveness ceremony had been postponed indefinitely because of the actions of the Svellvega, a rogue race of elves who had been terrorizing the fae of the Hidden Lands for hundreds of years. Their vicious attack on the Intrepid, the airship bringing Galessel home after a disastrous meeting with Ashelon's Queen Victoria, had left Galessel mutilated. It was an act of war. Her parents had been preparing to move against the Svellvega for several months now, and after a second airship carrying dignitaries to witness the Fallana Sian had been destroyed, they deemed it unsafe to hold the ceremony until the Svellvega could be driven back to their ice-locked isle.

But none of that mattered right now. She and her best friend, Clove, had been making plans to return to Arturia, the capital of Ashelon. Their goals: to help the fae there and figure out exactly what was happening to the aid shipments that were going missing. She and Clove’s initial attempt to return had been foiled by her ever-present guards, but in the intervening months, she and Clove had come up with a plan to get past them. And to get back to Arturia.

“Hello, Granddaughter.”

Startled, Galessel let out a small squeak, causing baby Talindra to giggle. Galessel hadn’t heard anyone come in; she’d been so focused on her own thoughts. She turned and gave her grandmother, Analinde, a short bow, holding the elfling close to her chest. “Grandmother, it’s good to see you.”

Her grandmother tsk’d at her and held out her arms for a hug. Galessel set Talindra back in her white oak crib and obliged happily. The Queen Mother was elderly, but her grey hair was the only sign of her nearly three hundred years. Her amethyst eyes still sparkled with mischief, and work with her own variety of coffee plant kept her fingers deft.

“Planning on going somewhere?” Analinde asked.

So she had been eavesdropping. Galessel couldn’t use her silver tongue to convince her grandmother she’d misheard her—her gift didn’t work on elves, and besides, she shared the gift with her grandmother. They were both immune to its effects. She had to rely on her wits to get out of this.

“No, just back to my rooms.” She tickled the elfling, making Talindra giggle again. “She’s just so cute. It’s like the light dims a little when she’s not in the room.”

Analinde smiled, maybe too knowingly. “I used to think that about you, when you were little.” She moved up beside Galessel to peer down at her great-granddaughter. “She’s going to have the gift, too,” she said, her voice soft.

“How do you know?”

“Her eyes. If you look closely, you can see little flecks of silver in them. Just like in yours. Just like in mine.”

Galessel stared at her grandmother’s eyes. It took her a moment, but she could pick out just a few thin slivers of silver. “Is it the silver that shines when we use our gift? Why has no one mentioned it before?”

Analinde refocused her attention on the elfling, who was cooing and playing with her own toes. “You know how controversial our gift is. It’s been used for ill more often than good. If physical signs of its existence were known, those with it would have been exterminated long ago. You and I would not be here.” She paused for a moment, letting Talindra grab her finger. “We were lucky for a time. Glamour could hide the silver in our eyes. But that is no more. You must be careful, Galessel. Keep your secrets close. Your silver tongue is known, but the markers in our eyes must never be.”

Galessel nodded, sifting through her memories of Lord Davorin. She never got close enough to see his one good eye. It didn’t matter. He probably had the gift too. Why else would Queen Victoria ally herself with the Svellvega? But that was a problem for another day. Soon. Galessel kissed her grandmother on the cheek and tickled Talindra’s toes one last time. “I love you, Grandmother. I should go.”

Her grandmother nodded absentmindedly, her focus on tickling Talindra’s belly. “Mind what I said child. And I love you, too.”

Galessel was halfway through the door when her grandmother said, “Oh, I have something for you. Come by the greenhouse tomorrow.”

“I will,” Galessel lied, closing the nursery door behind her.

Chapter 2

Galessel carefully folded a green silk shirt, placing it in her pack. She was packing light: only a change of clothes, some jewels common enough to be nearly worthless in the Hidden Lands, but which Clove claimed were incredibly valuable in Arturia, and some traveling cakes. They would purchase or borrow anything else they might need from the family townhouse in Arturia.

She slipped a small dagger into her boot. After the Svellvega attack, she vowed she would never be defenseless again. Clove had been showing her how to use it, and although she knew she needed more time to practice, it helped her feel less afraid. She had also set long, thin hat pins into the sides of her corset, and a pocket at the small of her back held a small firearm. Clove had gifted her the corset only a few days ago. It wasn’t as restrictive as the ones she wore on her last visit to Ashelon and was actually quite comfortable. She had no doubt the faun would be wearing something similar when they met up.

Galessel tucked the extra bullets for her gun into the pack and tied it closed. She looked around her room. It might be a long time before she came back. There was a time when she would have checked to make sure all of her earrings were hanging properly before leaving her room, but no longer. There wasn’t much left of her ears to pierce, and they were still too tender. It wouldn’t matter anyway in Arturia. No one there used earrings to denote status. Not like here, where every ring and its placement had its own meaning. Once, strangers would have known her for a princess and ambassador, the third in line for the throne, and more, just by looking at her ears. Now, because of their mutilation, they’d stone her for being sikevra.

She ran her hand over her favorite shawl and thought about tucking it in her pack. Sighing, she left it draped over the back of her reading chair, grabbing instead her wool cloak from its peg by the door. She draped the cloak around her shoulders and dialed down the sunstone lamp in her room. To the guards keeping watch just outside her private garden, it would look like she had just turned in after reading late, yet again. She settled down on her bed to wait. She would slip out during the changing of the guard just after midnight.

##

Galessel snuck down the hall, careful to stay in the shadows. Only a few weeks before, her parents had reluctantly agreed to remove the guards from outside her room. No spy had been uncovered within the palace, and the constant presence of men outside her room had been grating on her nerves. Her parents refused to acknowledge the ones who kept watch outside her private garden, or those that followed her from afar when she left her rooms, but they weren’t often hard to spot. Those didn’t bother her nearly as much and weren’t as critical in stopping her escape plans.

She slipped through a servant’s door and out into the back garden where she met up with Clove, who was waiting for her by the central fountain. “Good evening, Princess,” Clove winked at her, giving her a mocking bow.

Galessel laughed, happy for her friend’s antics. Laughter helped take the edge off. She gave Clove a hug. The faun wore brown trousers tied just above her prosthetic ankles and a leather corset much like her own over a light lemon blouse. Galessel felt almost sad at seeing her normally colorful friend dressed do drably, and to know the reason for it.

They waited in the shadows near the fountain until the first patrol of the new watch passed by. After a count of twenty they checked their surroundings before heading toward a giant oak near the west palace wall. Clove bent down, reaching into the hollow under the crook of a large root and pulled out two canvas bags.

As Galessel loaded her pack with the supplies and extra clothes they’d spent a month secreting away, she felt a little giddy. After months of sitting around doing nothing, the excitement for this new endeavor outweighed the fear of getting caught.

“So, you’re really going to go through with it?”

Galessel jumped up, her pack clutched to her chest. Her heart fluttered like the wings of a pixie. A glance at Clove showed the faun in a defensive crouch, a crossbow pointed at the former queen of the Anisbarii. Galessel’s grandmother must have snuck up on them under the cover of the rumbling airship engines passing overhead. Galessel had to admit that dressed in a dark cloak, with her silver hair tied back, her grandmother blended into the nighttime garden better than they did. She’d probably been following them this whole time.

“Grandmother, I—”

“I’ve been watching you, Granddaughter.” Her grandmother’s violet eyes sparkled.

Galessel’s heart sank. She’d never be able to leave the palace now. Her mother would have a guard with her no matter where she went. She hunched her shoulders and moved to head back to the garden path. A wrinkled hand on her arm stopped her.

“Now where do you think you’re going?” Queen Annalinde led her deeper into the shadows and beckoned Clove to join them. “I know your heart. You always did have a bigger place in it for those with less than did any of your sisters or your mother. It is one of the things that has made you such a potent advocate for the peoples of the Hidden Lands.”

Galessel opened her mouth to plead her case, but her grandmother held up a single bejeweled finger, and her words died on her tongue.

“Let me finish, Galessel.” She giggled. “You always were the most impertinent of my grandchildren, too.” Annalinde paused, meeting Clove’s eyes for a moment before nodding and continuing. “Your mother was right to close our borders after the Great Unveiling. But she was wrong to leave our people without strong lifelines back to the Hidden Lands. Would that I had held onto the crown for a hundred years more. But who was I to know the new god of chaos would hurl a giant ball of snow at the world and change things forever?” She sighed, some of the mirth leaving her eyes. “Your parents are doing the best they can, given the circumstances, so don’t begrudge them that. Your job, your duty now, will be infinitely harder than theirs, I’m afraid.”

Galessel found herself relaxing just a little. Was her grandmother here to send her off? It seemed too good to be true. Her grandmother reached into a pocket of her cloak and withdrew a small, black lily and held it out to her. As it passed through a beam of moonlight, it flashed, and Galessel realized it was made of crystal.

“Take this with you, as a token of my love and protection, and as a reminder of why you do this. All life is precious and worth fighting for.”

Galessel’s throat tightened and her eyes filled with tears. She took the lily from her grandmother and briefly cradled it in her hands, admiring the perfection of its petals. To turn a flower to crystal was a rare gift among elves. She’d never known her grandmother possessed it. Slipping the flower into her pocket, she hugged her grandmother, unable to speak.

“There now child, don’t cry. You will not be gone forever. Those that matter know you are not banished.” Annalinde stepped away from Galessel, keeping a finger underneath her chin. “Use your new status to your advantage, Granddaughter. Much can be gained by being on the same level as those you wish to help.” She let her finger drop from Galessel’s chin and turned to regard Clove once again. “And as for you Clove, I charge you with keeping Galessel safe and teaching her what she’ll need to know.” She reached once again into her cloak, this time withdrawing a small roll of parchment with her personal seal: a rearing unicorn with a sprig of coffee berries in its teeth. “You’re not the only one with secrets, my dear faun. I, too, have connections in Ashelon. Use this if things should get dire.”

Clove took the scroll with as much reverence as Galessel had the flower, tucking it carefully in her pack. “Thank you, Your Highness. I promise to aid Galey in any way I can.”

Annalinde nodded before walking behind the oak and returning with a pack. “Oh, and you might want this, too.”

Galessel shouldered her pack, which was now heavier than she’d planned, thanks to her grandmother’s additions. She hugged her grandmother tightly, trying and failing to hold back more tears. “Thank you,” she whispered.

“May the Goddess guide and protect you, child.” Her grandmother kissed her on the forehead before pulling up her hood and stepping back into the shadows near the hidden palace gate. “Move quickly. I’ve left horses for you by the pixies’ stone circle. They are the best in your father’s stables.” Annalinde hid a giggle behind her hand. “And I’m sure he will be furious.” She shooed them away. “I will delay the guards for as long as I can, but I can’t fool them for long.”

With one last look at the moonlight sparkling off the peaks of the palace roofs, Galessel took Clove’s hand in her own, walked through the gate, and toward her destiny.

Chapter 3

Galessel noticed the sudden silence of the forest a moment before her horse’s ears swiveled to the right and shied to the left, spooking Clove’s mare in the process. Galessel tried to regain control of her gelding, only succeeding in turning him in a circle, when a troupe of fae on horseback burst through the woods. They surrounded Galessel and Clove, their shrill laughter causing the horses to continue to shy.

“Ah, what do we have here? A faun and half-elf out riding in the middle of the night? Why ever for?”

Half-elf? Galessel cursed under her breath as she realized her hood was down, and her ears were exposed. This was not good. She recognized the taunter, a muscular green-skinned fairy mounted on a black unicorn, as the youngest and most rambunctious prince of the Unseelie Court. He was known for his cruelty in general, especially to travelers caught alone at night. She cursed herself for not considering the possibility of this situation. If he discovered who she was, there was no telling what he would do.

If they acted the innocent, simple travelers, the Unseelie would toy with them, throwing them through the air and scaring the horses away, or worse, they’d be killed. If they used their status, then the Unseelie would see it as a challenge and either kidnap them for ransom or kill them.  

“Cait Sith got your tongue ladies?” The Unseelie began to close in, cackling and laughing.

“Elfling?” Clove’s use of her old childhood nickname told Galessel she understood what they faced. “I think you should look at the situation.”

“Oh, there’s no need to look at anything ladies,” the prince said. “I only question why you are out so late, all by yourselves, and on royal horses, no less? Whatever shall we do with you?” He smiled, showing a mouth full of pointed teeth.

Galessel suppressed a shudder and looked the prince in the eye. She prayed to Chaun, the god of luck, that her gift would work on him. She put her will into her words. “Our business is our own, Prince Rhazien. And as for what you will do with us, you will let us go on our way, and trouble no one on this road for the next fortnight.”

There were hisses of disapproval all around her, but Prince Rhazien simply stared at her for a moment before his eyes flashed silver in response to her gift. His face softened. “Ah, I am ever a pushover for a pretty face, though the ears—my dear you will not win over any halflings with those. But seeing as how you asked so nicely, I will indeed let you pass.” As he moved his unicorn out of their way, a puzzled look passed over his face, and his cohorts looked at him as if he’d gone crazy.

“My liege, you aren’t just going to let them go are you?” asked a small troll who clung precariously to a mountain pony. “You know who that is, don’t you?”

Galessel knew they didn’t have much time before her gift wore off. She caught the prince’s eye again. “We are no one of consequence. Prince Rhazien is nothing, if not gallant. Of course he will let us go. There is better sport hunting cave bears than assaulting two pretty travelers.”

The prince shook his head as if to clear it, and his eyes took longer to flash this time, but her gift held.

“Of course. Let us away, to hunt more challenging prey my friends.” He bowed at the waist to Galessel and Clove. “Ladies, my apologies for impeding your travel. Farewell.”

Galessel and Clove spurred their horses forward. As they picked up speed, they heard the troll yell, “But that was Princess Galessel! I know it. And she spelled you, My Lord.”

Galessel spurred her horse harder, urging it to fly. They’d just rounded a bend when a banshee-like shriek split the night. Their horses ran even harder, and they let them. Galessel clung to her horse’s neck as it tore down the forest road. The horses slowed on their own a few miles down the road.

“Well, that went better than expected,” Clove quipped as their winded horses plodded along.

“Well? How do you know Rhazien isn’t now racing after us?” Galessel’s heart was still beating fast. “That wasn’t a shriek of laughter we heard back there.”

“I’m sure they pursued us for a while, but that host wasn’t equipped for a long chase. Rhazien was the only one on a steed that could have caught us. We’re safe for now, but we both know he isn’t going to overlook the fact that you spelled him with your silver tongue. He’ll want revenge. And he now knows you’ve been subjected to the Dien-Vek. He’ll use your ‘banishment’ as a legal reason to hunt you down.”

Clove was right. As an exile, he could kill her, and he’d be celebrated for bringing her head back to his parents, and hers would be unable to do anything about it.

“Well, then I guess it’s good we’re leaving and heading to a city. The Unseelie aren’t much for crowded places. They prefer their prey to be much more isolated.”

Clove cocked her head to the side, thinking. “I suppose you’re right. But let’s remember not to take this road when we come back. Come on, we’d better hurry. We’ve got people to meet and an airship to catch”

Chapter 4

“No matter what happens, keep your hood up, Galey. There are those here who haven’t heard about what happened.”

Galessel nodded and pulled her hood forward before following Clove into the pub. The Rose and Rapier was a well-known gathering place in Rookemare, a prosperous town west of the Anisbarii Elves’ land. Galessel had been there a few times before, but always with a retinue of guards and servants. The pub was neutral territory, mostly due to the fact that it catered to any and all who could pay for a pint. She had conducted a few negotiations there in the past.

It felt different being there now, just her and Clove. She felt exposed without her guards at her side. Goddess, she missed their banter. She missed them. They’d been with her so long, they had become more like older brothers to her, and she mourned them as such. Galessel’s hand strayed to her ear. She pulled it away quickly, annoyed she couldn’t break the affectation. Stroking her ear tips and the rings in them used to bring her comfort. But ever since the Svellvega attack on the Intrepid, the feel of her mutilated ear tips brought only revulsion and anger. She tucked her hand into a pocket in her cloak and followed Clove to a table by the bar.


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