Fae War Ch. 08byCatBrown©
Welcome to chapter eight. I hope you stuck around through the wait. Somehow chapter six took over-long to post, and seven less-than average time, so they posted the same day. Eight hopefully will post on Thanksgiving, but nine will be delayed because both myself and my editor have obligations over the holiday.
Thank you for reading, and don't forget to vote and comment!
Sounds of greeting and of anger woke Erin a little later. She peered down on the meeting hall to see the strangest mixture of creatures jostling and vying for positions on the benches. Animals spoke with human voices, demanding spots in which puffs of mist had settled, while humanoids switched back and forth to animals, mostly large predators.
No one seemed to notice her in the shadowed ceiling area. She listened in to some of the conversations that wafted up to her.
"What good is another meeting? We haven't made any progress in almost twenty years. I don't even know why it matters any more if there are two separate groups of supernaturals," said a male humanoid to the beaver he sat beside.
"Riahn will never be happy until she is queen over all of the supernaturals," the beaver responded in a disgusted tone, "I thought this war was about independence and self-rule. All we've achieved so far is a different dictator."
Another humanoid sat down next to the beaver.
"Hello Armand," the pretty girl said lightly, "I'm surprised you came."
"Felicity," the beaver answered, "I know better than to ignore the summons of the queen."
Felicity smiled again, but there was pain in the expression.
Erin considered the comments of Armond and his humanoid friend. They didn't seem happy with the way the extended civil war was going, and especially didn't seem happy with Riahn. Could she possibly find support among the disgruntled rebels? For the first time, Erin wondered what caused the split in the first place. Why hadn't she asked Luka or Leighton for more information on the rebels? She had been so shocked by the revelations of the past couple of days, she really hadn't asked anything useful to her current situation. How was she going to learn what she needed to know to garner support?
Miko entered the chamber from a side door and stepped in front of the dais.
"Thank you for coming on such short notice," he smiled wickedly, "Our Queen has something of great value to share with you." He hesitated, then with a wave of this arm toward the door through which he had come, he announced, "Queen Riahn!"
Wearing a form fitting business suit, Riahn entered the room. Everyone stood and remained stock still and perfectly silent as she climbed the dais and stood before the throne, which continued to glow softly, but dimmed as she neared it.
"We are at a turning point!" she yelled out to the assembly, "We now have the ability to bring the council to its knees and wrest from it the power to self-rule!"
The audience remained silent, looking confused. Miko clapped his hands exuberantly and then scowled at the others until they clapped unenthusiastically along with him.
Riahn looked angry at the lukewarm reaction to her announcement, but then pasted on a smile and snapped her fingers, causing Erin's cage descended to head level between the crowd and the dais.
"I present the princess Erina, our prisoner!" Riahn concluded.
A few of the gathered clapped again, others gasped, and many just stared. Riahn appeared surprised, but that quickly changed to enraged as the glorious reception she had expected fell flat.
"Why are you all not ecstatic? Have you all gone soft? This is the last member of the ruling family that kept most of you relegated to second class citizens, if not slaves! Don't you see that with her here, the council will finally realize it has no power, its last hope to maintain the status quo is gone?" Riahn screamed, pacing the dais.
"Are you sure she is Erina?" came a tentative voice from the crowd.
"Of course we're sure. Don't you see the arrogance of our dead dictator in her face?" Miko yelled back, perusing the group, seeking the identity of the speaker.
"What are you going to do with her?" It was another shaky question from amidst the assembly.
"Why, use her as a bargaining chip, of course," answered Miko again. "We will tell the council that we will release her only if they enact equal rights and representation for all supernaturals into the articles."
"And declare me the Queen!" Riahn added quickly, causing a general intake of breath among the assembled.
No one seemed willing to say anything after Riahn's announcement, which seemed to grate on her excessively. She scanned the room, and the eyes of the audience fell to their laps in response. One humanoid in the rear of the room met her eyes, and her fury flared.
"What have you to say, Garrett?" she spat out, motioning slightly with one finger for her guards to move in on the tall, blond man.
"Only that the installment of a new ruler was never part of our goals. We fought for the right to self-govern, through a council or parliament," the striking young man with iceberg-blue eyes responded as he put his arms out for the guards to grab him. He appeared to know exactly what the consequences of his statement would be, yet was willing to say it anyway. Erin liked him immediately.
The room was awash in murmurs.
With another small motion, Riahn ordered Garrett placed in chains.
"Firm leadership is needed to pull the supernatural community back together after this long rift. I will provide that guidance. Once peace and stability are achieved, the elections will proceed to create a council that reports directly to me. We will have our self-government," she responded.
"That is the mirage of self-government! Freedom! Freedom!" Garrett yelled out, as he was clasped into manacles attached to the rear wall of the room.
Before he could make another sound, one of the guards punched him hard in the stomach, then brought a knee up into his face. Garrett slid down the wall and crumpled to the floor.
"Any other comments?" she asked with saccharine sweetness. Riahn smiled at the assembly.
This time the room was silent, and no one met Riahn's eyes.
"I will speak to my advisors. The rest of you can go," she continued.
Most of the assembled rose slowly and silently and proceeded from the room. A handful of creatures remained, and moved nearer the dais.
"I cannot abide this dissent. I need the names of the traitors immediately! I will make an example of Garrett that will keep most of the others in line, but I need the ring-leaders caught! Do you understand?" Riahn spoke heatedly.
Murmurs of, "Yes my queen," tumbled from their mouths.
"Then go!" she ordered, sweeping her arm dramatically, scattering the advisors quickly. Riahn didn't even glance at Miko. She stalked back out the door she had arrived by. Miko rushed to follow her, leaving the unconscious Garrett as the only other occupant of the room.
Erin sensed a gentle call. "Erina? Erina, can you hear me?"
She looked at the rebel shackled to the wall. He hadn't moved. She suddenly wondered what hearing voices in your head would feel like.
"Erina, this is Garrett, the man chained to the wall. You aren't losing your mind. I'm using a telepathic link. You can think back to me."
"Garrett?" she thought.
"Yes! I won't move because they have the room monitored, and as long as I appear unconscious, no one will come back for me. Look as inconspicuous as you can."
Erin curled back into her fetal position, not looking toward Garrett.
"My name is Erin, not Erina," she thought, feeling a little peevish.
"It's nice to meet you, Erin," Garrett replied, with genuine warmth.
Erin considered how weird it was to have a stranger speaking directly into her mind. A part of her felt invaded, but somehow Garrett's 'voice' was soothing and she felt a sense of comfort coming from him. Still, he was a rebel, and she was a prisoner.
"Why are you talking to me? What do you want from me?" she asked.
"We need you, Erin. The rebellion failed because we lost sight of our goals and followed bad leaders. For over twenty years we have lived a half-life, trying to stay out of the Council's way, because we let Riahn assassinate your family. Many of us are ready to return, with minor changes, and we think you can bring those changes."
"Why do you think I would let you return?" Erin thought with as much venom as she could put into a thought.
"Because some of us have known about you for a long time. We know your sympathy for enslaved people around the world, your compassion and sense of justice." Garrett answered with certainty.
"How do you know any of that?" Erin asked. She was baffled.
"Your roommate your freshman year - Dianna - she's one of ours - and Michael at the hospital - he is too. Our people have been your friends since you were in high school."
"That's not possible!" Erin gasped, turning to look at Garrett. She knew exactly who he was referring to. Dianna had been the perfect college roommate. They had talked for hours about everything from how communism missed the mark to the Rwandan genocides. They had joined Amnesty International together and sold Fair Trade items to raise money to help rescue women from slavery. They were still friends.
Michael was a flirt from work. He loved to get her riled up about equal rights types of things. He always espoused macho, male dominance crap, just to get her red-faced and arguing, then he'd laugh at her and go back on his way. She fell for his traps every time.
Erin stared down at Garrett.
"Calm down! Don't look over here!" he hissed into her mind.
"Sorry. But I don't understand. How could you know about me all those years, but never kidnap or kill me?" Erin replied mentally, changing position and laying down again.
"That wasn't our goal. I am a leader in the opposition to the opposition," he laughed at his own little joke, "sorry, I think it's amusing. Riahn has the power because she has the muscle, but the real force of our resistance lies in the intellectuals who work with me. We found you nearly ten years ago and started planting influencers in your life."
Erin felt invaded again. Suddenly she doubted her own feelings. These 'people' had been influencing her since she was a girl. "So you shaped my beliefs, my priorities. For what end?"
"For this end...well not this end exactly. I regret Riahn kidnapped you. It would have been better if you had been successfully placed as queen, then championed our cause, but this way may work as well," Garrett answered, real regret in his voice about the kidnapping, but great hope lacing the words as well.
"So you think you've warped my mind to believe murderers and terrorists should be given equal rights?" Erin stated with scorn.
"Of course not!' Garrett responded with outrage, then continued to explain, "We were the original rebels. Riahn, with her goons, co-opted the rebellion and turned it into her own play for power. We had nothing to do with the murder of your family, and want nothing to do with the violent faction of our movement, but as you saw, people are afraid. Riahn uses torture to keep us in line."
Erin considered that for a moment. She had failed to get any real information about her people's history from Luka, a shameful oversight, she now realized. Was what Garrett said true? Was the original rebellion about instituting necessary reforms? While people chased her and shot at her, it had been easy to think the rebels were simply outlaws who needed to be stopped and punished. But what if there was more to it?
"I know too little about the history and government of your people to just believe you. Tell me why and how you started the rebellion."
"I knew you would come through! You have always been so intelligent and fair," Garrett responded triumphantly. He continued eagerly, "My people - Were's, Spirits, and Elementals - have been subjugated to the Upper Fae for millennia. They used us as servants, slaves even, to do their grunt work, while they received the benefits of being both the upper class among Fae, as well as moving within the human world where they typically achieved upper-class benefits also. We declared ourselves independent to move away from subjugation, and we did it peaceably. Then Riahn and a faction of angry, violent Lesser Fae killed the royal family and several members of the council. They took over the movement through fear and intimidation."
Erin mulled over this information. She had no way to confirm or disprove it from her current location, but she felt a stirring sense in her gut that what Garrett said was true. Even still, she asked, "Why should I believe you?"
"Because I am going to help you escape! We will seat you in that throne that glows because of your proximity to it. I won't ask for anything in return, other than that you learn as much as you can about our history and the rebellion. I know you will make the right decision once you have the right information."
"And how do you expect me to find out this information? I expect the Upper Fae don't have a lot of positive things to say about all of this," Erin queried. She was shocked by Garrett's plan, but wanting to maintain her skepticism.
"You are intelligent enough to cut through the bullshit, and Luka and his father will help. While they don't sympathize with Riahn, they understand the dynamics of the original issue," he replied with the self-assurance that Erin was coming to expect from Garrett,
Erin tensed at the mention of Luka. What did he know about Luka and her?
"Why didn't he tell me already then?" she asked.
"I don't think he had time. No one expected Miko to give away his true leanings like he did," he said. Garrett had a ready answer.
Thinking to herself, but somehow leaving open the strange line of communication, Erin contemplated.
"So you knew Miko was a traitor, but you let him come to the cabin and take me?" She was thinking of both Garrett and Luka as responsible for this situation.
"Like I said, we didn't think Miko would risk exposure. And we believed in the strength of Luka's protection. You must have broken his heart," he thought. Garrett sounded contrite.
Erin remembered the anguish in Luka's face when she broke the mating contract. She choked on a sob that rose in her throat, tears gathered behind her closed lids.
"I'm sorry, Erin. I shouldn't have mentioned that, I guess. I wasn't there, so I don't know why you refused him, and it wasn't fair of me to bring It up," Garrett responded to the emotion flowing through the psychic link.
Erin fought to regain control. She was surprisingly less worried about her own current situation than she was about Luka. He probably believed her refusal. He had told her it was her choice, and the next time she saw him, she had refused him. Erin knew the misery of rejection and felt awful about causing Luka to feel it.
"How do you plan to rescue me?" Erin questioned through the link.
Garrett hesitated. "I'm not quite clear on that yet, but we will. When the time comes, you need to be ready. Don't fight them, and avoid talking. Shield your mind from them as much as you can, so they don't know about this conversation."
"And how do I shield my mind?" Erin asked. She was irritated.
"You were doing it when I 'knocked' to come in," Garrett said, sounding confused, "You mean they didn't teach you that?"
"No. No one taught me. I didn't know I was doing it," Erin returned, surprised, "What was I doing?"
"Don't worry about it. Apparently you have a natural barrier as well as natural talent," Garrett continued, impressed, "You really are powerful."
"I don't know about that," Erin sighed, ruefully, "I can't do much, and I know even less."
The side door opened and three big men entered.
"Get up, you coward! We know you're awake," one of the goons said as he kicked the still form on the floor.
Garrett let out an, "Oomph," in response to the kick, then rolled onto his back to look innocently up at his attacker.
"Get up! Riahn wants to see you," The goon continued, prodding Garrett with his boot.
"Isn't that 'Queen' Riahn?" Garrett asked withed feigned confusion.
"Get up!" the man yelled, kicking Garrett hard in the side.
"Remember to stay alert and look for the opportunity we give you," Garrett's thought. She heard Garrett's voice in Erin's mind.
Garrett rose, holding his side. One man unlocked the manacles as the other two flanked him, gripping his arms firmly. They led him, limping and weak, toward the door. As the front man opened the door, Garrett suddenly disappeared and a large white wolf with iceberg blue eyes bound out the door and into the woods beyond. The three goons stood shocked for the span of a heartbeat, before also morphing into wolves to give chase.
The three pursuers were bigger, heavier, and behind by less than a second, but Erin was fairly sure that beautiful white wolf would be gone before they got to the woods. Garrett was spectacular in his wolf form; long and lean, pure powerful muscle, made to run! With a stab of guilt for thinking of him that way, Erin wished him safety and success before turning back to her own situation.
Since arriving, Erin had lost a lot of blood and had nothing to eat or drink. Judging by the level of the sunlight she'd glimpsed out the door, it was late afternoon. Her bladder was becoming uncomfortable, and her stomach growled irritably. Her mouth was sticky and tasted terrible. She wondered if anyone was going to care for her bodily needs, or did they just plan to leave her caged in her own wastes until she perished?
Deciding to take her chances, Erin sat up as best she could in the cage and shouted for someone. After a couple of shouts, she used her iron bangle to clang against the iron bars of her prison, making quite a racket. She shouted her need for the toilet and for food and water, hoping someone was listening.
"Enough!" screamed Miko, entering by the door Garrett had escaped from. "Get her down and put her in a holding cell in the compound."
Two men entered behind Miko. They lowered the cage by a switch Erin hadn't noticed before, and pulled her roughly out. Maintaining their grips on her arms, they half-dragged and half-walked her out a different door and into a crowded hamlet of low-slung buildings and cottages. This must be the rebel's home-base, shielded from prying eyes by magic charms that carried forth the illusion of open countryside.
Erin was marched a short distance into a long, barracks-like building with a bleak off-white central hallway lined with closed doors. At the third door on the right she was roughly shoved into another short hall lined with barred cells. A human shape lay on the cot in the first cell on the left. Erin was pushed unceremoniously into the second cell on the same side. The cages opposite appeared empty.
While this was by no means a happy place, Erin quickly noted she could at least stand up straight, she had a cot with a blanket, and there was a toilet and sink to satisfy her basic needs. It was a huge improvement over the cage in which she had spent most of the day.
The men never said a word, simply closing the barred door behind her and leaving.
Feeling mildly self-conscious, Erin made use of the facilities, then washed and used her hands to drink from the little sink. There was even a hand towel hanging beside the sink. Maybe the rebels weren't all bad after all. This holding area seemed humane enough. Or would that be fae enough? Erin might need a vocabulary overhaul.
While still hungry, Erin was at least comfortable enough now to be curious about the being in the cell next to hers. It hadn't stirred when her captors brought her in, making her wonder if it was unwell.
"Hello? Are you OK over there?" Erin called, standing at the bars.