It would have been an unmemorable day if her stupid brother had not gone missing. Akril seemed to always choose the perfect moment to evade Treya’s watch, as if he knew exactly when she lost herself in the joy of creating perfect, delicate stitches in her embroidery. She should never have agreed to let him play alone amongst the tall rocks. The area was not even part of their estate’s property anymore.
One hand clutching her green skirt hem high and the other her embroidery hoop, the fourteen year old stepped cautiously around the sun-warmed boulders, the mustard colored dirt at their feet sullying her purple slippers. Treya peeked around a rounded rock. “Akril!”
Annoyance clenched her throat. If the lad stayed lost long, he would cause her to miss her annual fitting with the dressmaker, a tragedy in the young Lady’s mind. Or, if Akril returned home without her, the housekeeper would tell their parents she left the eight year old unminded, and tedious sermons on her responsibilities as the elder child of their noble house would follow. Not that anyone feared childnapping or robbery; such crimes may occur in the borderlands, but this was Eskalind, protected by The Powers. The least prosperous corner of the Strange Kingdom, to be sure, and theirs, perhaps the most diminished of all the noble houses.
Treya wondered if, when she became Acta Sua, anything would be left to their estate besides the four walls of their house, and the King’s House, where the orphan children resided. If her companions from there were with her now, they would be amiably chatting and giggling, but no, today was the Records Keepers’ inspection, and her parents and all their charges must be present. She glanced at the violet threads stitched on the taut, pea-colored fabric in the embroidery ring wishing she could return to her work, the excess fabric splayed from its edges like flower petals.
“Akril, please heed me.” The girl’s voice begged for a response but the plaintive call was absorbed by the rocks and scrubby plants as though the earth consumed sound.
“Akril!” Treya paused, for the call altered; an echo scooped from a deep hollow between the massive stones. “Akril?” There was a path ahead between the rocks. It lead to a low arch, fronting a cave. Just inside its shadowed entrance lay her brother’s painted wooden short sword, the purple and green of their house muted in the blue gloom. Retrieving the toy by its blunted blade, she called again. Her voice grew in the charcoal depths as though The Powers willed her call elongated the passage.
Treya waited. A voice-like murmuring came from the dim.
She crossed her arms. “Akril, I will not come after you and risk ruining my good slippers. You must come out!”
Again, a strange murmur. Something unsettling in its intonations, but a note of it sounded like her brother in distress.
“Akril, are you hurt?” Tucking her embroidery hoop into her blouse, the Lady shifted her grip to the toy sword’s hilt. Treya picked a way forward into the black. “Just call, I will find you. Akril?” With each step the light grew dimmer, as though someone gradually shielded a candle. “Brother, do not be afraid.” Her words fell into quiet, soft darkness. “Do not be afraid.”
A pale glimmer appeared ahead, like a match lit behind a thin curtain. She raised the play sword. Its tip scratched something hard. Reaching forward, her hand touched a rough, hard wall. Pacing along the craggy wall, Treya rounded its edge to find sunlight angling from an aperture above unto a flat dirt floor. The grooved rock walls ahead appeared scratched by giant claws.
Inhaling cool air, she spied a person adjacent to the beam of light, clear in its glow. Hisback was to her, clad in a tunic of gold and green. The colors of Farlich King. Given the sheen of the silky fabric and the sparkling yellow metal threading the cuffs, a royal personage. No words came to her lips save a squeak from high in her nose. He turned towards her. His brown locks hinted at red in the highlights, the eyes a welcoming light brown, his tanned and handsome countenance not much older than her own and tinged with a look of awe. She was suddenly very glad to be wearing her nicer slippers.
He spoke, almost a whisper. “Are you a Power?”
“No, oh no, I am not.” Such an odd question, it frightened her. “I am, I am looking for my brother—”
“I have visited this cave many times, it only has one entrance.” The finery-clad youth glanced at the toy sword in her hand. “How… did you get past my Guards?”
“Guards? There were no one outside, I simply walked in.” He seemed perplexed by this utterance. Her eyes roved to his belt, noting no locket for a sword’s scabbard, which meant he had not yet earned his sword. He certainly looked too young to be the King. “Please, who are you?”
“I am Farlock, King’s Son.”
“Oh, my Lord!” Dropping the play sword with one hand, she smoothed the other over her flaxen hair. Hastily bowing, the embroidery hoop stuffed in her blouse poked her skin and she stifled a yelp of surprise. The young Lady fluffed her skirt into a curtsey, cringing when she saw a long streak of yellowish dirt across her hem. Raising her eyes, King’s Son was staring at the walls, as though a silent communication passed between them.
“How well do you know our histories?” The question in Farlock’s tone sounded like her father on the cusp of administering an unexpected exam.
Rising and straightening her spine, Treya replied, “I am a Lady of Eskalind. I can recite all the names of our Kings, from father to son, from the first to the hundred and twenty second, your Lord father.”
“Memorizing their names tells nothing about their lives, what manner of men they were, what Gifts The Powers gave them.” Despite the chastisement in his words, Farlock’s tone was warm. “Tell me your name, Lady of Eskalind?”
“Treya, of The House of Aalpip, Narmlich King’s Friend.”
Farlock’s expression did not change, but something in his eyes seemed to absent himself for a moment. “What is the closest borderland?”
“Um, Amkland, my Lord.”
He walked towards her. “Is this cave, the cave you entered, on your estate?”
“Um, it was. My mother sold this part of the property recently.” It was the honest truth, but it pained her to admit her trespassing, and worse to mention the fall in the family fortunes, especially to one descended from the Lord who granted their lands.
King’s Son placed a thumb on his beardless chin, watching her closely. “I walked into this cave near King’s Market.”
“King’s Market?” There was no place she wanted to visit more, the largest market in Eskalind. She imagined it brimming with gorgeous fabrics, exquisite jewelry, and shiny buttons made of shells and pearls. But Mother deemed it too far and too great an expense to travel there, though Treya secretly longed for a visit to celebrate her Sixteenth Naming Day. Hoping to sound calm and knowledgeable, she said, “But my Lord, King’s Market is far to the south, on the other side of the country.”
She chewed her lip, face flushing with heat. Perhaps she could go there now, just a quick visit with a comely lad to accompany her… .
The youth reached for her hand. “The great mystery of my life is solved.”
He said the strangest things. “What?”
“I know who my wife will be.” His touch was welcoming and soft, calming, even.
“What?” It seemed all she could say.
“Treya, it is the will of The Powers that we meet like this. Right before I saw you, I was thinking about Heedlich First King, how he met his wife in a cave. I entered a cave, and here you are.”
She sounded half her age. “I was simply looking for my brother.”
“And you will find him. But first, you found me.” Farlock squeezed her hand, his lips moving to form her name but what she heard was her brother shouting it.
“I hear my brother! Akril!” She released Farlock’s hand, moving towards the sound. “I must find him.”
“I will quill you,” King’s Son’s voice dissipated as she departed in haste. Rounding the cave’s walls, she clearly saw Akril silhouetted at the cave’s mouth, hands cupped to his lips.
“Stay there, I am coming!” Treya picked a passage over small rocks to her sole sibling, silently thanking The Powers he was safe. She handed him his play sword.
“Sister, why did you hide from me in there?” Akril’s brown eye brows lifted. “What is in your blouse?”
“I was not hiding,” Treya yanked her embroidery hoop free, shaking it at her brother. “I thought you were in there and hurt! I would have never gone in there if you had not run off.” A sad, shrinking feeling enveloped her as she realized she had departed Farlock without a proper goodbye. Then again, maybe she had imagined the entire incident.
Akril said, “Woah. Did you make that?”
“What?” Treya followed his eyes to the embroidery ring, turning it towards her gaze. There, where her cotton stitches had been, was the initial “F” in shimmering gold thread over a field of emerald stones. “It did happen.…”
“I met King’s Son.” She stroked the glistening jewels. How cool and distant they felt after Farlock’s warm touch.
“You met him in there?” She nodded, as her brother stepped back, backcraning his head to peek into the bleak. “Did he give that to you?”
“No, I think The Powers did.”
The eight year old looked to his toy sword and whistled. “Mother is going to have a lot of questions for you.”
On her Sixteenth Naming Day, Treya joined Farlock, King’s Son. Thirteen years later they became Queen and King, welcoming their sole son Dalock not long thereafter.
Treya Queen enjoyed many fond visits to King’s Market, and is most remembered in Eskalind as the Queen Who Saw The Powers. But that is another tale.