Here’s another pov from The Fell Stone (changed the title from The Flame Stone coz The Flame Stone is crap!). This one follows Ariagny Astagale. She’s the daughter of the exiled Stonelander Prince, Addem Astagale. He’s not very nice. If anyone read the Ark pov they might have noticed Addem’s earlier ‘voice’ appearance. Ariagny is 16, most of the povs are around 15/16 years old, and she hides a secret from her parents. This chapter has her arriving in Blacktower, the capital of the isle of Mezzid where most of the Fell, the worshipers of Imilrin, have flocked to.
“Wake up, we’re here.”
She wasn’t really sleeping but she didn’t want her sister to know that. She knew how much Allielle wanted to be the first to see the Scarlet Cliffs.
“You won’t believe it, Ariagny,” said Allielle, “there are hundreds of red birds. They’re so beautiful.”
She opened her eyes. Allielle was sitting on their bed. She was already dressed in the Sanserredian dresses her mother had made for them. The dress Allielle wore was covered in glittering jewels and made of coloured silks. Around her neck she wore an ivory necklace, one of their mother’s own. This one was carved with scenes from Sansarred. In one square of ivory, so tiny it seemed impossible that anyone could carve it, there was a scene of naked men riding sandlions. The men were ebony skinned, the makers overlaying the ivory with finest jet from the Goldtide Bay. The white of the ivory against Allielle’s own perfect ebony skin was beautiful and made Ariagny a little jealous that her ten year old sister had been given such a fine necklace to wear even though she was sure their mother had sent something equally beautifully for her to wear.
“Come on hurry up, get dressed,” shouted Allielle excitedly. She jumped up and down on the bed, unable to contain her joy anymore now that they were finally arriving at Mezzid. It had been so long since they had seen their parents and now they were finally at Mezzid they could see them every day. Their father had been exiled from Boterial for over a year, their mother joining him only a month ago, and sometimes Ariagny thought maybe they would never see their parents again. If their father had even tried to step foot in the Stone Lands their grandfather King Estinian Astagale would have ordered him executed. Alliellle didn’t understand but Ariagny was older, she knew what had been happening, she knew why her father had been sent away. It wasn’t because he was scouring the Coldwater of Gaan pirates. No, it was because he believed in a god, it was because he had stood in the White Hall of Boterial and proclaimed himself a Fell in front of all the lords and princes of the Stone Lands. Ariagny had been there that day, Allielle had not. She had heard her grandfather’s words. Abomination. Traitor. Fool. Defiler. Disinherited. Outcast.
But now they were finally going to see their father again.
“Be careful,” said Ariagny, putting her arms out to stop her sister jumping, “you’ll ruin your dress.”
Allielle didn’t stop jumping.
“Oh, I’m so excited, Ari,” she said, “I want to jump and jump and never stop jumping.”
The little girl was laughing as she jumped. Her joy was infectious. Ariagny felt it too and if she hadn’t been the older of the two she would have jumped herself. But she knew her place and today it was to keep her sister calm and make sure they looked their regal best for their parents. All her father’s new friends would be waiting for them, all the Fell, and mother’s letters had schooled them strictly. They were not to let their father down. They were to repeat the words of the chants whenever they were spoken. They were to bow to Imilrin’s tomb. They were to be good princesses.
“Calm down,” Ariagny said softly, “remember, we are princesses of Enmororn, we have to behave correctly. Do you want to be a princess, Alli?”
Allielle stopped jumping.
“I suppose I do,” she said, “though are we still princesses if grandfather doesn’t love us anymore?”
“Don’t be silly, grandfather does love us,” said Ariagny.
“Mummy said he didn’t love us anymore. She said he wished we would go away forever.”
Ariagny laughed but it was a laugh only to calm her sister. She knew her mother’s words were close to the truth.
“Grandfather will always love us,” said Ariagny and she touched a finger to her sister’s nose, “especially you. You’re his favourite. You’re his little desert star remember.”
Allielle smiled at that. She loved her grandfather’s nickname for her and she loved more that she was his favourite.
“I am aren’t I,” she said and she leapt down from the bed and straightened her dress.
The ship jolted as it came into the harbour so that Ariagny almost rolled from the bed.
“It’s a good job you’re not dressed,” she said.
Ariagny dressed while her sister sat impatiently swinging her legs. They could hear the crew on deck shouting and the captain bellowing orders. The Fellstar was a Sansarredian ship, crewed exclusively by men from their mother’s land of scorched deserts and humid forests. The men were all huge, strong and totally loyal to the Larzaks, their mother’s family. Their mother’s father, Lord Leto was the richest man in Sansarred and owned a fleet of over fifty fine galleys of which the Fellstar was one though it had been renamed to honour both their father and mother; Fell for her father’s beliefs, star for the mark of the Larzaks. Its captain, Hazan, had been a childhood friend of Lord Leto so his loyalty was doubly certain. They needed loyalty in these days, that’s what their mother kept telling Ariagny.
Ariagny’s dress was just as fine as her sister’s though not as colourful. As the older sister she wore a more refined gown of reds; scarlet, crimson, pink and vermillion sashes sewn together. It fitted her tightly unlike her sister’s which was loose and free flowing. Ariagny’s was designed to show off her figure, to tell the world that she was a woman now. And she was, almost. As she looked at herself in the mirror she saw the curve of her hips and the rise of her breasts. Her mother had told her she would find a husband on Mezzid, that their father had decided it was time she was married. That made her nervous, it made her stomach feel funny and her legs weak. She would never have dared to tell mother the truth. She would never tell either her mother or father that. When her mother asked her had she ever been kissed, Ariagny had said yes but she never told her mother by whom. Lady Acera had assumed that it had been a young squire or even a cocksure Harelquin guard who had given her daughter her first kiss. She had never pressed the matter.
As Ariagny looked at herself she remembered that kiss. She remembered the lips. She remembered touching another person’s body for the first time like that. She remembered her hand moving from hips up over the warmth of her kisser’s stomach to the rise of their breasts. She smiled.
She moved to the mahogany dressing table and picked up the necklace that had been laid out for her. This too was ivory but it wasn’t one she had seen before. It had only one pane and the scene it depicted was something she didn’t recognise. It showed a man holding up what looked like a palmstone, the stones of Power warlocks like her father wielded. She always felt strange whenever she saw a palmstone. It made her remember that one day she would have to absorb her own and become a warlock too. She had taken her lessons already. She knew all the manifestations of Power; Light, Life, Lift, Renew, Enhance, Obscure, Fire, See, Control, Swift and the last one, the one she liked least, End. Even after all the hours of lessons with an ancient warlock who smelled of toilets and damp she wasn’t sure if she would be ready when that day came. Yet this stone was not absorbed into the figure’s palm, he was holding it with both hands and the sun, high above him, was pouring its light into it. She had Allielle fasten the necklace for her and then, as the cacophony from above faded and she could hear gulls crying, she told Allielle it was time.
“I’m nervous,” said Allielle.
Ariagny took her sister’s hand. It was such a small hand. Sometimes she forgot how little her sister was, how young she was. Looking at her now she could hardly remember being so young herself but really there were just a few years between them.
One day she’ll be like me, she thought, one day they’ll find her a husband too. She didn’t like that thought. She looked at her sister, always smiling, and all she wanted was for her to stay that way, young and innocent and happy.
Once she had been that way too but the last year had stripped away the remnants of her naivety. She had lived a year of fear. First their father had left them and then their mother. Slowly everyone who had ever protected her had gone away and she and Allielle had been left under virtual imprisonment in their own bedrooms. Allielle hardly knew what was happening but Ariagny couldn’t sleep some nights for fair that the guards at her door, those who were supposedly there to protect her, would one night come in with their blades drawn and their orders in place.
She had read stories like that in the books she loved. There was one story in The Histories of Eastol about three Stonelander princes who were imprisoned in a tower at the edge of the world by their sister. The sister wanted to be queen but to do that she had to get rid of her brothers. In those days males came before females when it came to ruling. For a time she was happy for the little boys to waste their days away in the tower but soon she became fretful, paranoid that they would escape and take her crown, so one night she asked her lover, a Blade, to ease her troubles. When she woke in the morning he was gone. Immediately she regretted what she had asked of him but it was too late. The Blade slit the throats of her brothers and the Queen ruled for fifty years though she never bore a child. Ariagny always thought that strange. The story made out that the Queen’s punishment for her crime was to never have an heir but she ruled for fifty years, she was a Queen and wasn’t that always what she wanted? Ariagny didn’t think it was such a bad thing to trade being fat and pregnant for being a Queen.
“Just remember,” said Ariagny as they climbed the steps onto the deck, “you’re an Astagale and a Larzak, you’re a princess of stone and desert, of the phoenix and the falling star. You have nothing to be nervous about.”
They came up onto the deck. It was a bright and beautiful day. Away to the east of the harbour were the brilliant red cliffs Allielle had been so excited about though Ariagny couldn’t quite see the red birds. The ship was docked in the white walled harbour of Blacktower. Ahead of them was the old town, row after row of white houses leading up to the tower itself, a spike of black stabbing up into the blue sky. The phoenix mark of the Astagale flew from flags and banners around the dock as well as the Fell mark of a triangle within a circle. The crew had been joined by ten Harlequin guards with their rainbow shields, those Harlequins that had remained loyal to Ariagny’s father. Each of them had a musket at their side because no Harlequin was permitted to take a stone, their life was one of servitude to the warlocks of the Stone Lands and so they could never become a warlock themselves. She saw Capatain Hazan smiling at them, his face covered in the golden tattoos, spirals and strange symbols. Some of the crew bore the same tattoos. The only time Ariagny had ever met Lord Leto he too had been marked with the golden ink though only down his right arm and over his hand. Beside the Harlequin guard were the black cloaked and black helmed city guard of Blacktower. They looked grim with their faces covered. Their shields didn’t bear the mark of Blacktower, a black horned narwhal, rather they carried shields bearing the Astagale mark of the red phoenix rising with the Fell mark above. Her father had truly asserted his authority over Mezzid and quickly.
There were lots of representatives from the city there, merchants in their finest suits and plump women wearing ridiculous hats, but there were only two people Ariagny looked for. She could feel Allielle’s hand shaking with exciting.
But her parents were not there. She looked and looked throughout the crowd but they were nowhere.
She was wondering if maybe they hadn’t come down from the tower to meet them when a trumpet blew and the Harlequin guards parted. And there they were. Her mother wore a dress similar to Allielle’s and her curling black hair fell down her body to her waist. It had been a month since the girls had seen their mother and Allielle pulled her hand free of Ariagny’s and ran straight to her. Ariagny wanted so much to do the same but she restrained herself. She remembered what her mother had said in the letter. They were princesses, now was the time for them to truly act like princesses.
“Mummy,” cried Allielle as she ran to their mother. A murmur of happy laughter passed through the crowd but Ariagny hardly noticed anything else but the man who stood beside her mother. The man she had not seen for over a year. Her father, Prince Addem Astagale.
He looked so different. His blonde hair was going white and he was thin, gaunt almost. He was wearing his finest armour but it looked loose on him. Above all he looked tired.
She moved across the deck to him.
Allielle was hugging their mother but Lady Acera managed to free a hand and she took Ariagny’s and held it tight.
“Father,” she said, the words barely escaping her lips. Her throat was suddenly very dry. She was scared she might cry but she swallowed deep and held back her emotions.
“Ariagny,” said Prince Addem and it was like hearing the voice of someone who had died, who you thought you might never see again. He reached out a hand to her face and then he was holding her tightly, hugging her. Ariagny had tried her best to restrain herself but here was her father now hugging her in public and not only that but she could feel his tears on her cheek. Still she didn’t cry. She let him hold her and for the first time in forever she felt her body relax. All her worries seemed to vanish as soon as he held her, all the months of fear and nervousness. Even when their grandfather had let them go she doubted this day would truly come. But now here they were, all of them together again and as he held her she heard birds calling and looking up into the clear sky she saw the red birds, four of them flying towards the cliffs to nest.
“I’m so sorry,” said her father.
“Why are you sorry?” asked Ariagny.
“I’m sorry for leaving the both of you,” he said, his voice shaking, “we will never be apart again, I promise you that.”
Finally Ariagny gave in and let her tears flow. She didn’t care who was watching or that she was a princess and princesses didn’t cry. She was with her family again and she believed her father’s words more than she had ever believed anything else in her life. They would never be apart now.