A resounding scrape woke Lesara from sleep. Both glaives at the door turned to face it. Adriala moved and stood guard in front of Lesara’s cot. All protocol, rather than a sense of true danger. Few possessed the magic access signature. A very powerful caster could dismantle the protections and force their way in, triggering the alarm spells. Even that would take at least a few hours as trusted priestesses and druids, she and her mother among them, layered the magical protections daily over the years.
Kalshen stood on the other side, flanked by two outriders. Lesara recognized both from the nearest village, Astranaar. She stopped peeking around Adriala’s shoulder and took lead, greeting her brother and his company.
He embraced her in return. “I’m glad you are well, sister.” He kept the rest of his greeting formal. “Outriders from Astranaar have official need to meet with you.”
“Me?” Heat pushed up her neck on the tails of her unprofessional response. “Of course.” She cleared her throat and hoped no one noticed.
“While we respect Ysareline Ethala’Aman’s wish to protect her only daughter, I’m afraid it cannot wait.” The left outrider, Melaris, gave a short bow, then brushed her midnight-blue tangles behind one ear.
“I understand. Kalshen, show them to the reception room, have someone bring in food and drink.”
Her brother nodded and turned around, motioning for the outriders to follow. The second outrider, one Lesara remembered seeing, but never met, paused long enough to bow. Her white braid slid forward over her shoulder. “Thank you, priestess.”
“We shall only be a few moments behind you.” Lesara attempted what she thought was a gracious smile.
The outrider bobbed her head then turned and quickened her step until she caught up with her escort.
As everyone remaining in the chamber began gathering supplies and belongings, Lesara headed for the smaller water chamber and sponged herself off a little, using a bowl of water specifically for this, then checked her reflection in a small hand mirror. Presentable enough. She fussed at a smudge of dirt on her cheek, then went out and joined the others, grabbing her aunt’s book on the way out.
Valyndriel and Adriala took point, followed by Lesara and Shalya, then Narel, helping Ethan walk at a slower pace. The final two glaives brought up the rear of their column. When they reached the open-air landing Lesara breathed in deeply. Whatever reason they called her from safety, she was more thankful for it than they realized.
They kept company farther back in the landing where a few male servants just finished setting the large and round wooden table with cups of clear water and various bowls of fruits and vegetables. The positioning was most pleasant, offering a panoramic view of the field and gardens out front. Only a few trees far afield blocked their view. However, druid architects built and shaped the table far enough back that the landing sheltered it from wind and weather.
The view allowed an easy sight of more figures approaching from about a mile out. “Refugees. Children, some wounded, and a few cooperative prisoners.”
Lesara looked over her shoulder as the white-braided outrider placed a hand on it. “Cooperative prisoners?”
The outrider offered a tight smile. “This is our reason. No demons or green-skins are among the prisoners. They are a few of the pale ones from across the eastern sea. Humans. Some destroy the forests, like the green-skins, but they also fight the green-skins. These prisoners survived a ship-wreck off the Zoram Strand.”
“Theirs or one of ours?” Lesara led the way to the table, taking her mother’s spot, which positioned her back at the wall, setting the book down on the table in front of her. Adriala and Ranera took position behind her shoulders.
“One of ours, ferrying the wounded and survivors from Stonetalon.” She hung back and glanced at all the nearest seats and then at her fellow outrider still standing on the other side of the table speaking with a sentinel.
“Please, sit and rest a little, enjoy the meal.” Lesara indicated the chair beside her.
“Afraid not, sorry.” Valyndriel slid between them and took the chair on Lesara’s left at nearly the same time that Shalya claimed the one immediately on her right. “Enjoy the meal, by all means, but as part of the Lady’s guard, we must insist on these seats.”
Ethan, already settled in next to Valyndriel, patted the seat on his right. “Protocol,” he explained. “You are most welcome here, this seat has better access to the food and drink anyway.” He smiled up at the outrider and she nodded, taking the indicated seat.
Kalshen slid into the seat beside Shalya, inviting the other outrider and sentinel to the chairs following him. Lesara looked around for Narel and found him standing at the foot of the landing, watching the small group marching slowly toward them. The sentinel declined her seat and left, standing and waiting with Narel instead.
“Continue…?” Lesara trailed off, waiting for a name.
“Felarie.” She chased her name with a long drink from her water cup. “As I said, the few prisoners are cooperative pale-skins. Two of the prisoners are adult males and the other one is a child…a boy child, we think. He’s still with fever and a little delirious. We can’t understand them without priestess-linked mind-vision and the priestesses are all very busy. We received permission to relocate our children and infirm to nearest safety. Here.”
“Out of respect for the Ethala’Aman family,” Melaris interrupted, “We won’t ask you to send all able bodies to the fight, including the heir…you. However, we simply lack enough healers and safe locations for all.”
“We are priestesses of the new moon.” Valyndriel popped a grape into her mouth, not looking at anyone. Boredom filled her tone of voice.
“It’s true,” Lesara frowned. “However, we know healing as well. While we can’t promise the results of dedicated healers, we will try our best. It is an honor to contribute in whatever way I can.” And far better than slowly going mad in a stuffy room with seven other people, she added in her thoughts. A relieved smile followed the thought and she turned her attention on the approaching group of refugees as Kalshen rose to help the servants direct them.