Vassal of El
by Gloria Oliver
Now they would whisk her away. Her days of toil and trouble were over. Homespun clothes would be replaced forever with fine robes. If she continued tripping over everything in sight, there would always be those there to catch her before she hit the floor. Her every need would be attended to. The girl he’d traveled with this while would soon be nothing more than a memory.
All three councilors stood up. “So, tell us, Aen,” Valerian prompted. “How is it you’ve been returned to us?” The eyes in the chiseled, handsome face stared into her own as he towered over her.
“Sir,” she said meekly. “It was my friend’s doing. He knew what the markings on my back meant and knew where I needed to go.”
“Friend?” Valerian stared questioningly at Rux. Then his gaze registered Torren’s presence in the background for the first time. “A grub?”
“What? Where?” The oldest of the councilors stared about in confusion until he followed Valerian’s gaze. The stooped councilor took a shaky step back. “Dom Rux, what is the meaning of this?”
Torren looked out over them, not at all surprised by their reaction.
“Please, gentlemen, calm down,” Rux pleaded. “He’s the one who brought the Vassal to us. Without him she wouldn’t be here. And it was on Aen’s request he was to remain until the council’s acceptance of her identity.” The ambassador’s wings quivered with agitation. “Surely this makes his presence here acceptable.”
The two older councilors slowly conceded the point, though they wouldn’t make direct eye contact with Torren. He wondered if they’d ever even seen a Lander up close before.
“And what exactly would make a Lander give the Chosen such uncharacteristic charity?” Valerian’s question was aimed directly at him. “Could it be you’re expecting monetary compensation, knowing the high worth we place on the Vassal?” His sarcasm was heavy.
“Valerian!” Rux stared from the councilor to his unusual guest and back again.
Torren felt his jaw tighten, his gaze not leaving the councilor’s face.
“Speak up,” Valerian taunted. “Have you nothing to say, Lander? Is the truth too obvious to be said?”
All eyes turned in amazement to stare at Larana as she interposed herself between the two men. “You, you shouldn’t do this. He’s not one of them. He’s one of you!”
Rux turned to meet Torren’s eyes, but Torren lowered his to the floor, his heart pounding. Was she guessing, or did she actually believe? Though he’d not said anything about it to her, he coldly realized the evidence had been there for her to make her own conclusions about the truth. He hadn’t counted on this.
“My dear,” Valerian said, stepping forward to sweep Larana into his arm and pull her away from Torren as if she were a silly child. “It’s true he has our coloring, but he has no wings. Only the Vassal grows no wings amongst the Chosen.” His hard gaze returned to Torren. “At most, he might be a half breed, begat by foul means. And as such, and having been raised amongst them, he is one of them.”
Larana seemed to almost wilt beside the councilor as he held her clutched in his arm, half covered by a wing, as if he were claiming her for his own. With a shiver, she forcibly pulled away, shaking her head. “You don’t understand,” she insisted looking at the others. “He is one of you.” She turned to face her friend. “Torren, tell them. Make them understand.”
He shook his head slowly. Let them think whatever they wanted. It was time for him to leave.
“Torren?” Rux was staring at him with sudden intensity. “As in the son of Lar?”
Question 1 - Larana is being referenced by the councilors by another name - what is it?
Question 2 - What do the councilors assume Torren is?(ANSWER in the COMMENTS at MADTEN!)
Tags: Contest; Gloria Oliver; Vassal of El; Madten
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