A Falcon's Tale
A Falcon's Tale
The Lady Is A Liar
King Edwin Baaldorf sat in his throne room and watched Prince Erik and the young woman he'd rescued exit the throne room. The earnest prince had explained to him that Dirk Blackpool was trying to use her as guarantee of tithes and taxes for the village of Grogan. She'd almost been taken captive except that he had driven off two of Blackpool's troopers who were after her. Edwin sighed and scratched his beard absently. The woman, Perrin, had stood silently as he and Erik spoke about what could be done regarding the situation. She had looked up from beneath her lashes occasionally to peer at him and at Erik and had only spoken to give her name and village. She had bowed properly to the king but appeared nervous about being in his presence. She'd been dressed in a blue riding dress with a split skirt, gloves, boots and a hooded, black cloak - all of which showed signs of wear. There'd been a large bruise on her forehead from her scuffle with the troopers as well. Edwin noted that it looked painful. Her hawk, perched upon her left shoulder during the discussion, had looked about the hall and at Edwin in a manner that bothered him.
In the end, the king had agreed that Perrin could stay at the castle. There was certainly room enough for her. The harvest festival was coming up soon and Dirk would no doubt just take what he needed from Grogan without the girl as pledge. After that she could be safely sent home. Besides, another young woman in the castle might distract his daughter from shopping. He could only hope. He shook his head. He'd seen Ariel and Cassandra returning from the market earlier with a number of servants in tow. All of them had been loaded down with packages; most of them wrapped in sky-blue paper, trademark of one of the most expensive merchants in Aperans. He sighed again.
The air in the throne room shimmered - white and gold light blended, there was a shower of sparks - and Traquil appeared in his chair. He looked around the room briefly and sniffed a few times.
"Smells kinda funny in the hall, Ed. Who's been in here lately?"
"Ah, Traquil. I was hoping you'd come. I wasn't sure if you heard me call."
"Well, my system's being upgraded, but yeah, I got the message." The wizard wrinkled up his nose slightly.
"A strange young woman has just been here with Erik Greystone." the king began.
"Oh - Ariel? That could be it. Some of that perfume she gets from the outlands is pretty bad stuff. Usually expensive, though, I would think."
Edwin rolled his eyes. "It is." He stood and crossed over to the wizard. "But it wasn't Ariel. Erik came upon this woman this morning on his way to Rysland after she'd been attacked by two of Blackpool's men. She says she's from Grogan and her name is Lady Perrin deHaukesworth. Ever heard of that name?"
The wizard tilted his head back, pursed his lips, and drummed his fingers on the arms of his chair. He looked as if he was about to speak words of immense importance.
"Nope," he replied.
King Baaldorf's shoulders dropped. "Neither have I, and I thought I knew of all the families in Aperans who owe tithes to the Kingdom of Karteia. Grogan does owe them, but I've never heard of the family before."
"Ah, now, wait a minute." Traquil pondered again, his face screwed up with concentration. "deHaukes. Haukes. Haw.." A look of delight made his features light up. "Hawtrey! That' s it! Interesting family. They were from the Snow Regions in the east though, not from Grogan. And he and Lady Hawtrey didn't have kids. That I know of, anyway. Agnise disappeared the same day Esmour died in the battle of Greimolt - both the works of Vector and Saris, I bet. But, I could be wrong about the kid - I do forget some things, you know." He smiled pleasantly.
"I know," Edwin agreed. "Well, if they had a daughter and she's managed to keep hidden away from everyone this long, she'd be about the same age as this young woman. She was polite, but there was something odd about her and her hawk that I couldn't place. That's why I wanted to talk to you." He leaned over, raised his eyebrows and whispered dramatically, "She's asked for sanctuary here - from Dirk Blackpool."
"Eh?" The wizard looked at the king. "Didn't hear you."
The king sighed and said, more loudly than was really necessary, "I said, she's asked for sanctuary here from Dirk Blackpool."
"OK, no need to yell. I'm not deaf." The wizard looked at him with infinite patience. "What'd you say about a hawk?" He crossed his legs, showing off a fashionably long shoe.
"Lady Perrin had a hawk with her. Sat on her shoulder and kept looking around like it knew what was going on." The king returned to his throne and sat in it heavily.
"Hmm. If I remember correctly, Agnise had a hawk too. Called it Malin. Moody bugger."
"Well, this is more disturbing than I had thought, Traquil. Esmour Hawtrey was allied with Saris Blackpool for a number of years. Why would Lady Perrin ask for protection from Dirk? More importantly, why would she lie about who she was?"
"I dunno. Maybe you'd better ask her, Ed." The wizard settled back in his chair. "But that smell? Agnise Hawtrey was rumored to dabble in magic. Maybe the kid does too. Not that it' s the same smell as when a wizard or witch lie, but I can still smell something. Sort of like dead leaves mixed with rain." Traquil frowned. "And I'd have Erik keep an eye on her while she's around if I were you."
"I think he's going to do that anyway, Traquil. Unless he's blind, he must have noticed that she's a pretty girl. And he's not married. Yet." The king sighed lightly. "I'll have them come back in and we can get to the bottom of this, I hope."
The wizard nodded his approval. "Good show, Ed. Let me know what you find out. I think I'd better do a little research on the Hawtrey family in the meantime. Might be helpful, don't you think?"
"I agree." Edwin motioned for a guard at the doors. "Guard!" The man strode forward, bowed briefly and stood at attention. "Find Prince Erik Greystone and Lady Perrin. Tell them I command their presence in the throne room. Now!" The guard turned and hurried out.
Traquil waved and disappeared in a shower of white-starred sparks. The king was alone. He turned and looked at the huge map of Aperans behind his throne. His eyes focused on the bumps that represented the Mountains of Madness and the northmost Snow Regions in the east. He frowned and muttered to himself.
"By the gods, we'll find out the truth, Lady Perrin."
The Lady Speaks
Lady Perrin and Prince Erik Greystone stood in front of King Baaldorf's throne. The king was pacing on the upper part of the platform in agitation, thumping his scepter with each step. Perrin stood on the prince's left side. Her hawk was perched this time on her raised, gloved left hand. She had shed her cloak, as had Erik. Both had been in the kitchens having a bite to eat before Erik showed Perrin to her room when they had been summoned by Edwin's guard.
Perrin took a deep breath to disguise the fact that she was tasting the air - the white wizard had been in the hall very recently. She could smell him. Like white-hot metal and light. She almost spat. She noted that Edwin thought her intake of breath was in response to his accusation that she had lied to them. She'd planned it that way. Two tadmons with one breath as it were.
"What do you mean she lied?" Erik said in disbelief. "The troopers were attacking her. You can see the bruise they gave her." The prince pointed to Perrin's forehead. "And they obviously were going to take her to Dirk." He looked at Perrin, then back to the king.
Edwin stopped pacing and looked at them both. "That's not what I meant, Prince Greystone. Her name isn't Perrin deHaukesworth. We think it's Hawtrey." The king stared at the young woman. She looked down at the floor and swallowed nervously. "As in Esmour Hawtrey - former ally of Saris Blackpool."
"I'm sorry, sire," Erik retorted. "I can't believe that. Lady Perrin wouldn' t lie, would you?" He turned to her, noting that she was biting her lower lip and avoiding eye contact with him. "Perrin?"
"If that's her real name," the king retorted. "Is it, lady?"
The young woman looked up, squared her shoulders and spoke in a clear, refined voice. "I am truly called Lady Perrin. And yes, my surname is Hawtrey, sire." She looked at the king, then to the right at Erik. The king's expression was smug; Erik's was disappointed. "I'm sorry, my lord, but I thought if I told you the truth you wouldn't help me. I know the name of Hawtrey is not welcome in the south."
"Of course I would have helped you." Erik folded his arms across his chest. "That's what I do." He looked at her sternly; hoping his countenance would make her feel sufficiently sorry for her misdeed. He couldn't have been more wrong. Inwardly, Perrin laughed.
"And you do it well, my lord." Perrin smiled softly at him, then turned back to the king. "In truth, King Baaldorf, the prince does want me, but not for pledge. He'll kill me to have final control of the lands that were once my father's. I've managed to stay hidden until now, so he's only recently found out about me, but he's wasted no time sending men to fetch me to him." She looked anxious. "He's already cost me my traveling companion." She looked down at the floor, her face troubled.
"He controls the Snow Regions in the north. Both in the west and the east. Why would he want to kill you?" The king looked at the hawk, which was looking directly at him. He blinked. It didn't.
Perrin sighed. "As long as an heir to the Hawtrey family lives, the lands are to go to that heir. I believe it was one of the conditions of my father's alliance with King Blackpool. If the prince had managed to kill me before anyone in the southern kingdoms knew I existed, he wouldn't have to honor the agreement."
"As if Dirk honors anything?" Erik said with contempt. He remembered only too well the many times the northern prince had broken his word. Even as a child in the royal schools.
"You know, Lady Perrin, Erik is right. I doubt Dirk Blackpool would honor an agreement made between a now-dead Duke and his own comatose father."
Perrin flinched, then straightened and spoke with pride. "My father was a great warrior, King Baaldorf. At least in the stories I've heard. It's unfortunate that he chose to ally with Saris Blackpool. But I am not my father nor my mother, whom you may wish to know, is also dead. I am myself only." She composed herself and looked in the king's eyes. "I'm sorry if you feel I can't be trusted, but I do understand why." The hawk on her wrist shifted and flipped its tail about, then settled. "By your leave then, sire, I'll be on my way. I believe Aquilo is in the stables?"
"Hey, hey. No one said you had to leave," Erik put his hand on her shoulder. "You can't go out on your own, Perrin. Not unprotected." He turned to Edwin in askance. "Please, sire, you know Dirk will kill her. He's completely heartless."
Edwin pondered for a moment. Perrin looked to be about Ariel's age. He remembered only too well how he had felt about the prince kidnapping his daughter. "All right, Lady Hawtrey. You're safe here for the time being. But know that I have my reservations about this arrangement. Be on your best behavior. Both you and your hawk." He nodded towards the bird.
The young woman sighed in relief and curtseyed. "I won't be any trouble, sire. Nor will Malin." She rose and smiled tentatively at the king. "My thanks for your offer of refuge here. I'm sorry for the deception, but I was frightened for my life. I hope you understand. And I'll do my best to earn your trust while I'm under your protection." Perrin almost smirked. At least the last bit of that was true.
"Fine, Lady Perrin. I do understand. I only hope you understand why I was concerned. What with Blackpool at Caserne Pass and the harvest festival coming up, I want to be sure there's nothing amiss here. This does put a bit of a twist on things, you know." the king replied. "I assume Dirk wouldn't be fool enough to send someone to get you from the castle, but I try not to underestimate him."
"I've heard it doesn't pay to, sire," noted Perrin. "The prince is known for his cunning."
"Exactly," murmured Edwin. "Prince Greystone?"
"Yes, sire?" Erik stood up to his full height beside Perrin. His gold tunic glittered in the light.
"Take care of Lady Hawtrey and make sure she's settled comfortably here. Then I want you on your way back to Caserne Pass. Got it?"
"Yes, sire!" Erik returned with enthusiasm. "Anything else?"
"That's it. Go on, now, both of you." The king moved to the throne and sat down, scepter in hand. Erik and Perrin each bowed slightly then turned and walked out of the hall together. As they departed, Edwin suddenly realized that even the hawk had bobbed its head. Must've been a trick of some kind, he thought. Or rather, he hoped. Perhaps Marko could help sort this all out when he returned. He was good with animals. Edwin hoped he was good with birds.
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