As the sun begins its descent toward the western horizon, Sterren sees two figures emerge from the forest, making their steady way toward her. That's one more than she was expecting, and she glances at Moth, who shows no sign of worry at the extra attendee to her hastily called meeting. It was Auberon she had wanted to see, but Moth had told her the fae Prince was away somewhere, and that he could not be summoned. Desperate in the days her impending journey to face the Landgraab's trial, Sterren then asked her guardian fairy to bring her the only other person she thought might be willing to lend her aid.
As they approach, she immediately recognizes the man from the distinct white and blue color of his hair. But as he grows closer, she's puzzled by his appearance; the years that had worn lines on her face since their last meeting had not touched him at all, and he seemed as young as when she first laid eyes upon him, on the day he had been captured by Reinier Landgraab. Few people had ever seen the wilder folk close enough to recognize one face from another, and even more rare was the person who'd claimed to see the same wilder more than once. Despite the fears and superstitions many held against the forest dwelling wilders, it has always been assumed that they were human, and mortal. Sterren had had a few occasions to question many of the presumptions held by her kind, both good and bad, but had never yet thought to doubt their basic mortality. Until now.
"Thank you for coming, Morvyn," she says in greeting, glancing at the woman he brought with him, obviously a wilder like him. It occurs to Sterren that no one in the whole history of her people had ever told a story about or claimed to have even caught a glimpse of a wilder woman, though all had assumed they must exist. It somehow does not surprise her that the wilder woman would appear even fiercer than her male counterpart, standing close to him, protective, with a menacing scowl.
"Moth said you needed help. Against the dragon slayer, the one whose prison you once freed me from," Morvyn says, his glance toward his companion as he speaks telling her that the reminder of his debt was meant more for her than for Sterren. Distrust is written clearly on her features, and it is obvious that she was against coming to this meeting with Sterren.
"We are grateful for what you've done for us," the woman says, her reluctance to speak at all plain in her voice, "But I don't know what it is you expect of us. If we knew a way to get to him, the dragon slayer would be long dead by now." Morvyn reaches a gentle but restraining hand to her arm, shaking his head slightly, and the woman bites her lip and takes a step backwards. Sterren is suddenly reminded of the one tale she has heard of a wilder woman, from the report of the witness to the assassination of Diedericx Landgraab, Reinier's brother, and she can't help but wonder if it is that assassin who stands before her now.
"This is my mate--my wife, Kelyn," Morvyn belatedly introduces his companion, his tongue obviously unused to the human word. "I owe you my life, Sterren, I have not forgotten that. But Kelyn is right, what aid we can give you will be severely limited. There's more of that blue metal around the dragon slayer than when he held me prisoner. No magic can be cast within or even near the walls of his city."
Sterren nods, aware of the challenge they all face. Reinier is well defended from all enemies, human or supernatural. "I don't consider you as owing me a debt," she says, wanting to be clear on that, "I ask what help you can give, but I would not have you risk more than you are willing. Landgraab means to put me on trial, as a witch- a priestess of the Lady. And those he finds guilty are burned publicly."
"You shouldnot go," Moth says, speaking up for the first time, "Ifyou donotgo, he cannot burnyou."
"That's a fair point," Kelyn says, "Why would you go to him, knowing what he intends?"
"Because if I don't, he will attack Avendale. And we cannot defend ourselves. The enitre village would be destroyed, and many would lose their lives. I must go," Sterren says, steeling her jaw, trying to keep her voice from wavering, "Even if I must die. But my hope was that Auberon could save me as he saved my friend Fransez, by making rains that put out the fires."
"Even if we could rouse Auberon in time for this, even he cannot use his power in the presence of so much of the metal," Morvyn answers, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "Tell me, is this trial held in public? Does the dragon slayer himself attend? If Kelyn or I could just get close enough, a single arrow could end him..."
Sterren takes a deep breath, reminding herself that Reinier will either kill her or destroy Avendale if he is not stopped, and that if the only way to stop him is through his death, then she must accept it, as much as she would prefer to spare his life if she could.
"He will be wary of potential assassins," she warns, "And either of you would stand out even in a large crowd. Unless...my cousin, the Lord of Avendale, will also be traveling to Odet, to pledge his fealty to Lord Landgraab. If you could get a fairy to make you an amulet enchanted with a glamour, like..." Sterren stops herself, remembering that the amulet she speaks of, the one that protects the daughter of Gaelle Brannon's identity, must never be revealed to her true father..."Like in the tales," she covers for her mistake, her eyes unable to meet Morvyn's as she thinks of the secret she hides from him.
"A glamour?" Morvyn says thoughtfully, "Disguising us as one of your cousin's retinue? We'd be allowed into the city's walls, then."
"We might even be able to get to the dragon slayer before this trial of his. Under the cover of darkness, while he sleeps," Kelyn adds.
The plan is now out of her hands, Sterren realizes. The wilders have long wished to see Reinier dead, and now that Sterren has offered them the opportunity, they will not be dissuaded from the attempt. As long as it spares her from the fire, and more importantly, spares Avendale from destruction, Sterren has no choice but to allow the wilders to do with Reinier as they will.
"We ride in two days time," she tells the couple, "If you can get your enchantments in time, I will find you a place among my cousin's men. If Landgraab is killed, Lord Konan will need to be ready to flee with his men at a moment's notice."
"We can help with that," Morvyn says, his tone suggesting that he'd been coming up with a plan, "We can get your cousin and his men out quickly, through the enchanted forests."
"Morvyn!" Kelyn admonishes her partner, "What are you saying? They are mor...not our kind!"
"They endanger themselves by allowing us into the city in their company," Morvyn says, "We can do no less to secure their passage home."
Kelyn frowns, but nods in agreement. "Aye," she sighs, "But I hope we are not causing more problems than we are solving."