Roselyn awoke before her cousins and got up to look out the window at the sunrise. It’s going to be a beautiful day.
She turned from the window and saw her shadow on the wall. Her tangled hair stood out from her head like a bird’s nest. She picked up Evaughnlynn’s mirror from the small wooden dressing
table and folded it out. Maybe I should start braiding my hair at night like mother. She began pulling the brush through it, forcing the tangles free.
The idea of doing anything like her mother bothered her. She couldn’t remember ever seeing her mother smile, let alone laugh. Mom makes being an adult seem so stern.
Roselyn smiled, remembering how Evaughnlynn had always laughed at her for copying her mother.
For a moment she saw herself, mouth puckered and eyes squinting, dressed in dark clothing and dark headdress, looking disdainfully at Captain Tamir, just as her mother had at the feast. Then
relief filled her. Evaughnlynn had been there for her.
Suddenly, the image of her mother sitting on a chair in bright colors laughing while a small Roselyn romped on the back of a man down on his hands and knees pretending to be a horse. The
stone at her breast felt warm and she realized it had searched her mind for a memory of her mother smiling. My father? She saw him come through the door dressed in armor
without a helmet. His long reddish-blond hair the same color as hers. His hands swooped down to pick her up and he kissed her on the cheek. She laughed because his beard tickled.
Tears began to run down her cheeks. I’d forgotten him. How could I have forgotten him?
Heavy rain fell as they carried his body on a bier out of the great hall. The rain washed her tears from her face as she followed behind with her mother to the cemetery at the base of
castle hill. “Do not blame yourself,” the stone at her breast whispered in her mind. “You were very young and the memory of his death was painful. When you
remembered him as he was, you also remembered his death, so you locked all the memories away in your mind.”
“But I shouldn’t have,” she said aloud.
“Look at your mother, who could not forget his death. Now, it’s all she remembers of him.”
The memory of her mother laughing came back, and she whispered, “She loved him very much.”
“The loss of those you love can test your limits,” the stone replied. “Your mother could not bear it.”
Roselyn turned to see her cousin sitting up in bed. “I just remembered my father. His hair was just like mine.”
Evaughnlynn’s head tilted to the side. “You’d forgotten him?”
“Yes. His death was too painful to remember, and I forgot.” She smiled. “And I also remembered my mother laughing.” She turned back to brush her hair, but the image of her
mother in the chair returned, and she turned back to Evaughnlynn sitting in bed smiling. “We look like her,” came out involuntarily.
“What?” Evaughnlynn threw back her covers and got out of bed.
“We look a lot like her,” Roselyn said. “I didn’t realize it until I saw you sitting in bed. She never smiles and you rarely stop.”
“In that case,” Evaughnlynn replied, “I’ll never frown again.”
Roselyn turned back to the mirror. “I think she holds her mouth so tight because she’s afraid she’ll accidently smile.”
“I’m hungry,” Evaughnlynn said behind her. “We should eat, especially you. You have a hard job scouting this morning.”
“Are you still sure you want me to do it?” Roselyn turned to see her cousin half-dressed already. “Don’t you expect an ambush in this area?”
“I do.” Evaughnlynn continued dressing. “But you can find it just as well as I.”
“I will.” Roselyn glanced quickly at her hair to be sure it was all in place, then went back to her bed and started dressing.
A few minutes later there was a knock on the door and King Ragnon yelled from the hallway, “If you two want to eat, get out here.”
Evaughnlynn opened the door. “Stop yelling, Father. You’ll wake the other guests.” She finished adjusting her headscarf and turned to Roselyn, who picked up her own headscarf and
put it on as she walked to the door.
“Everybody else is already up,” her father said. “Besides, I told the innkeeper to set ceremony aside, so you two could get a look at Freehold life. It’s first come, first served today,
and when the food’s gone, it’s gone.”
As they walked down the stairs, her father added, “As a matter of courtesy, the landlord would have held everybody waiting for our arrival before serving breakfast, or even fed everybody else in a
separate room. That’s not the way of the Freemen. When we cross the border we leave Hawkland nobility behind. To the Freemen I’m simply a rich man. Of course, in the city
most of the people go out of their way to be overly courteous to us because they have no nobility of their own. But in the farm country which we cross today, they treat everybody,
particularly nobility, like strangers.”
Evaughnlynn asked, “Why?”
“They’ve seen enough arrogant nobles, and they don’t like yardland farms. The whole idea of peasants being bound to the land is hateful to them.”
“But our peasants aren’t bound to the land,” Roselyn said. “Everybody knows you freed them when you became king.”
“Aye. And I’d have gone further, but I faced near revolt when I did that.” He shook his head as he walked from the stairs to the dinning room. “Titles are all that separate nobles
from other people. If we lose those, we could lose power over the people, and our nobles would revolt before risking that.”
As Roselyn entered the dining room she saw Cailean the Younger sitting at a table with Nanny, who had lost weight since her ordeal when Padraig the Wizard had entered her mind in his effort to
poison the caravan. They sat with two other servants, all feeling out of place eating with the royal party. The men-at-arms started to rise, but Bullnose made a noise in his throat and
they settled down.
The Freemen glanced at them for a moment, then went back to eating, except for Captain Tamir, who stood by an empty table with the landlord. He walked over to the king and bowed. “All
is ready for our departure, Your Majesty.”
“You know,” her uncle replied as he bowed back. “I suspect you successful Freemen are all envious of our noble titles from the fuss you make over them, while I’m envious of your lack of
them. They’re a silly burden.” He shook his head and followed the captain to his table. The captain, with the aid of the landlord, placed the king in the chair with his back to
the wall and Evaughnlynn on his right with Beowyn beside her. Roselyn was placed on her uncle’s left and Tamir sat next to her.
“I think you might be right.” The captain moved to his chair and sat down. “It’s easy for me, the captain of a ship, none question my authority. But my father complains constantly that
it is impossible to govern Freemen. He says each wants to go his own way, and that he wishes he’d never given up the sea. By the way…,” Tamir leaned forward and looked at the
king. “My father told me that you and he were childhood friends and that you were in Anglia years ago, when he ran our family’s trading station there.”
“I hope that’s all he told you about that time.” Her uncle grinned between bites of his porridge. “We were both young and very foolish back then.”
Tamir nodded. “Well, he did say his time there prepared him to raise his sons, and to worry about his daughters. My mother used to say life taught her how to raise her daughters, but
she would always have to worry about her sons.”
Roselyn looked at her uncle and tried to picture him before he was the king. Did he, like the courtiers at Hawk’s Keep, flirt with the young women at court, or chase the girls who worked
in the taverns of Anglia? Or was he like Tamir?
She turned to the captain and found he was looking at her. The slightest of smiles touched his full lips and his eyes seemed to lock onto hers. He said softly, “I hope you slept well.”
She blushed and looked away. “I did.” She glanced back. He smiled, showing white teeth behind his neatly trimmed beard. What must he think of me, a silly girl blushing
from a look. Suddenly, the air around his body took on a deep, red glow. “I slept well.” What is this? I didn’t try to read his aura. “And you, Captain?”
“Well, Milady.” He smiled again. “I had very pleasant dreams.” His gaze held her captive, like a rabbit frozen in fear by the look of a hound. “And were your dreams
“I don’t remember.” Her face flushed again and she looked away. “Stone, why is the light around him so red?”
“It’s the color of strong emotions that heat the blood of men, and women. In this case, passion.”
“And I can see this, for true?” She stared at the porridge in front of her.
“You can now. The power has awakened in you. Now you must learn to control your mind.”
She immediately looked down the table at Beowyn, who was leaning slightly forward and looking at her. Yellow and blue swirled around to mix with red, quickly blending into a pale
violet. “What does that mean?”
“Yellow is the color of fear and uncertainty,” her stone answered. “Blue the color of truth and love, while red is the color of anger and passion. Did you see the
green? That is the color of what is unattainable, or the color of envy. Emotions need context to be clearly understood.”
Roselyn took a bite of her food. “Why did his aura settle on light purple?”
“Mauve. It is a beautiful color. It appears when one’s emotions are based on the love of others. It is a color highly prized by the elves. Sorcha told me that Lady
Gwerydd named her daughter Mauve.”
Suddenly, Evaughnlynn, on the other side of the king, said, “Captain, have you sent out scouts for this area of the journey?”
Roselyn glanced at her cousin and then quickly turned back to the captain.
“Not yet, Milady. This is the most dangerous part of the journey. I need to lead the scouting party. My sergeant will stay with the guard and Sir Beowyn will remain in charge of
the caravan. I leave right after our meal.”
Every time the captain’s eyes moved to her, Roselyn noted that the red of his aura flared.
“Rose,” Evaughnlynn said, “I think you’ve picked up some color on this trip. Be careful from now on, you could get a burn.”
The smile on her cousin’s face told Roselyn that she was referring to her new power to see the aura around people effortlessly, and not sunlight. She remembered Evaughnlynn saying once that
she only looked at a person’s aura if necessary. “I will be careful, Cousin,” she replied. “I do burn easily.” She returned to eating her porridge and after a minute she heard the
captain’s chair slide back as he stood up.
“With your permission, Milady? Your Majesty.” He bowed. She looked up to see him nod at her uncle and then walk away. One of his men stood at the door and they walked out of
the inn together. When she finished her meal, she looked around the room at the other guests. They seemed a prosperous lot, but she was relieved that their auras were not visible to
“It is a matter of conscious thought,” her stone whispered, and Roselyn felt the color mauve.
“You need a name. I don’t like thinking of you as ‘stone.’ Do you like Mauve?”
“It is a good name.”
“Then, Mauve it is, if you like?”
“I like the name.”
Roselyn felt happiness radiating from the stone. “The name makes you happy?”
“We don’t have human emotions. My emotions are your emotions. Since it makes you happy that the name is acceptable to me, you sense happiness from me. Sorcha said that’s why a
stone of the light must not fall into the hands of a dark wizard. The evil emotions of the wizard will soon turn the stone to dark purposes.”
Roselyn sat back waiting for the others to finish their meal. She knew she had some time. Custom required the others to stop when the king did, so he was obviously eating slowly to be
sure they had finished before him.
But if we rescue a dark wizard’s stone? “Mauve, why did Evon destroy Padraig’s stone after Beowyn killed him?”
“Look at Nanny. She was under Padraig’s spell when she poisoned the caravan. Yet, even though it was not her fault, and Evaughnlynn stopped her before anybody died, she still needs
Evaughnlynn’s potions and spells to keep her from suffering guilt. She may never completely forgive herself. A stone that has done great evil would suffer ten times worse and there is
nothing that could relieve the pain. Then too, the dark way that stone was made twisted it. Would you keep an injured animal alive that was suffering so? That is why she destroyed
Just then her uncle set down his spoon and pushed back from the table. The meal was over. Roselyn couldn’t move. She was flying scout today on the first part, and most dangerous
part, of the journey. She took a slow deep breath and relaxed her muscles. Then she stood up. I hope Evaughnlynn isn’t making a mistake trusting me.
© Copyright 2019 R. M. Keegan. All rights reserved.