A Chapter from Abanard (Part Two)

He moved with no purpose, he had no destination in mind but he found himself out of the keep and in the city. The sun was low in the sky, its normal radiance turned a mellow shade of orange. Fishermen passed him by smelling of sweat and reeking of the day’s catch. He wanted to head home but didn’t want to put on his happy husband face. If it was a peach pit in his stomach then surly the rotten fruit was his marriage and the the tree it grew on the weakness of the crown he served. He couldn’t bare to serve a fool and hated to see his wife childless and alone.

His feet stopped when he reached the fountain of Delilah, a life size statue of shaped white marble. It stood as part of the divide between two pools of water. The first over five feet above the larger pool below. Water cascaded from Delilah’s eyes as it flowed from the top pool. The fountain sat in the center of the Eastern plaza most known to be used by the common folk. Cliff found a seat on the edge of the lower pool watching as the crowds moved by. 

“Warden Stoneyard, lovely evening isn’t it?”

“Lady Dunella, what brings you into the city?”

“Same as you.” She said with a smile sitting down next to him. She wore the clothes of the common folk, brown pants and a brown shirt with a head band that covered the pointed tips of her ears.

“It’s strange to see you dressed so modestly.”

“A bold statement from such a well mannered man. I’m sorry to disappoint.”

“My lady, I only meant that you wear the clothes of a street merchant.”

“No harm, Warden. I know my normal dress is nothing more than eye candy for King Troy.” She gave him a small smile. The two sat there for a long time watching people come and go, one woman had gotten a late start on her washing and was just finishing up in the upper pool that fed Delilah’s tears. In the morning both pools would be packed with women furiously working the dirt from their families garbs. Cliff could feel the life flowing around him. Not through him, he dealt in death not life. He was different from those around him. A boy walked by carrying sacks of flour on his shoulder, a future baker no doubt. Another walked with his father, net in tow.

Cliff carried nothing with him that sustained life, the product of his work was left behind him in a trail of red death. He often thought of life as a fishermen, teaching his sons to sail in Dino’s Bath and returning home every night to his wife and daughters, but he was living the life he was supposed to live. There was nothing that Cliff could have been better at and nothing he would have been happier doing.

That didn’t stop the loneliness from slowly killing him.

The crowds dwindled and the sun faded. Cliff enjoyed the quiet companionship, he could sense that Dunella felt as he did. They were both outsiders here, Dunella as incompatible with those around them as Cliff was, her people far away across the sea.

Cliff hadn’t liked fighting with the elves during the rebellion. They were rigid, cold, pale and ruthless but Dunella was warm and soft. Much of the court mistrusted and loather her and her sister and their high favor with the king. Mostly because they had risen to their place through bedsheets rather than birth or politics. 

By all accounts Dunella had stayed away from the lusty loins of the king. Still the rumors swirled and while there was no doubt that Dunella’s sister Kyrtaal had captivated Troy’s body it was whispered that Dunella held sway over his mind. If the whispers were to be believed then Dunella ran Abanard. Cliff chose not to believe it.

Dale was still the King’s personal aid. The man who ruled while Troy had his way with Kyrtaal. Dale of course, was the whisperer secretly throwing slander on Dunella’s name. Cliff looked over at her, young and beautiful, so full of life. Whatever slander had landed on her could not stay there for long. “How did your order come to be?” She asked in her smooth high voice. 

“Do you know the story of Delilah?”

“She is the lady the statue was made for.

“Its a tribute to Dino’s daughter, the most splendid maiden to ever walk the lands of Abanard. And walk it she had. Delilah scorned Dino by refusing to marry until she had seen all of Abanard. Dino reluctantly agreed but declared that she must not sit a horse, ride a wagon or be born by the strength of man or beast.

She and her companions walked for five years until she had seen the lush forrests of the South, the sandy beaches in the west, the plains of the North and the marshes of the east. She had climbed all the mountain ranges and crossed Worker’s Walk with the traders and kissed the lord of the port giving name to Maiden’s Kiss. The water that gushes from her eyes are her tears, for when she returned from her journey Dino had died from an illness. 

The knights that travled with her became the first wardens. That is why wardens wander the lands serving justice as they see fit.”

“Such a sad story, Warden. Perhaps you can tell me a happeir tale next time.”

“Sorry to have kept you, my lady. I must be getting home, my wife will be worrying about me.” He stood up and extended a hand to Dunella. 

She smiled and let him help her to her feet. At first she didn’t let go of his hand, she held it, looking away at the city then she turned to him. Her violet eyes fixed on his, “Thank you for the history lesson.” then she gave him a soft kiss on the cheek and turned heading back toward the keep where she and her sisters kept their quarters. Cliff couldn’t help watch as she walked across the now vacant plaza.