The King and Her Queen
Chapter 6: Maidenly Games
The next day, they gathered downstairs to have breakfast. After
breakfast, Merlyn announced that she was leaving on another
Airianne pouted greatly. "Mama will be cross with ye." she
"Aye, aye. She gave her permission already." said
Merlyn. "Boy, ye will accompany me. Pack light. We
journey on horse."
"What? Why me?" protested Shiro.
"Will ye let an old woman travel alone unprotected?" replied
Merlyn with a dramatic air. "And besides, ye did say that ye
wanted to visit Gwent."
Shiro immediately dismissed Merlyn's first reason since she was
obviously a powerful mage. But the second reason tugged at him
like a kite on a string. However, if he went, he would spend less
time with Arturia. The two choices weighed heavily in his
mind. He strengthened his resolve and decided.
"All right. I shall be ready within half an hour."
"Good, good. Meet me in the great hall." said Merlyn.
She left to prepare as well.
When they had returned Arturia to her rooms, Shiro tapped Rin's
arm. "I have to talk to you." said Shiro in Japanese.
Rin followed Shiro into his room. "What is it?" replied Rin
Shiro closed the door behind her. "It's about Arturia... she...
Rin cocked her head slightly. "In what way?"
"She... she doesn't act like Saber."
"You make it sound like they're two different people."
"That's exactly like what it seems to me. What do you think?"
Rin reviewed the past events in her mind. Finally, she voiced her
opinion. "I think that... the Arturia we know now is the Arturia
without the burden of Saber's past. This persona is the essence
of her personality."
Shiro stood deep in thought for a few seconds. "I suppose so...
it still bothers me though."
"Maybe it's too early to tell. She's still recovering."
"Yeah. And about that... will you look after her? You know
how stubborn she can be sometimes."
Rin realized that Shiro was referring to the persona of the headstrong
Saber. "Yeah. I'll look after her and make sure that she
doesn't do anything rash."
"Thanks." said Shiro gratefully. He stared at his pack and
sighed. "I guess I'll have to get packing."
"Okay. See you later." She nodded and left Shiro's room.
In about half an hour, Shiro bid Arturia farewell. Rin
accompanied him to the great hall to see them off. Airianne was
there as well. With teary eyes, Airianne bid her mother good-bye
and waved as the platform descended into the tunnel. When they
could no longer see them, Airianne lowered a lever, and two stone slabs
closed the mouth of the tunnel.
"Why do ye close it?" asked Rin. It seemed unlikely that
intruders would attack from the tunnel.
Airianne replied, "To keep the bats out, of course." Then she
turned to walk onto the carpet. Rin followed her.
While they walked down the hall, Airianne declared, "Methinks, I will
accept yer offer of aid."
Rin recalled Airianne's grin in the kitchen yesterday. She tried
to dismiss her apprehension. "How may I be of assistance?"
"Well, our home is rather large and requires a lot of cleaning.
And then, there's an indoor garden which I attend to."
"I understand. What do ye wish me to do?"
"I have a list. I will do half and ye will do the rest."
She held up a pack of cards. "Winner decides the loser's
chores. And let us fetch Lady Arturia. Twould be more fun
with more players."
Rin groaned inwardly. The loss of last night's game was still
fresh. "All right. Whither will we play?" They
started walking to Arturia's room.
"In the sitting room." replied Airianne.
When they reached Arturia's room, Airianne knocked. They entered
with Arturia's permission. To their surprise, they found Arturia
leaning against one of the dressers and was obviously inspecting its
"Thou can stand?!" exclaimed Rin who rushed to where Arturia
"Yea. It seemst that I can bear weight upon mine right leg.
But I feel some pain when I move mine left."
"That's because thy pelvis and left thigh were fractured. With
thy permission, allow me to examine thee."
Arturia nodded and Rin held out her hand in front of Arturia to
scan. When she was done, she said in an awed voice, "Thy
improvement from yesterday is astonishing. In fact, thou will not
need to be bandaged anymore."
"Oh. Tis well then." Although she was happy about her
recovery, Arturia was a bit disappointed.
"I am glad for thee." said Rin with a warm smile. "Anyway,
we hath come with a proposal."
Airianne explained the plan for the day. Arturia smiled with
amusement. "I understand. Let us go. I am glad for an
opportunity to avenge mine loss."
Airianne and Rin served as Arturia's crutches. Together, they
went to the sitting room. They went to a wooden square table with
four chairs around it. The center of the table was inlaid with a
curious pattern of lines and circles. The chairs did not match at
all. Each one boasted its own unique style.
Airianne pulled out a chair for Arturia and Rin helped her sit on it.
She also pulled out a chair for Rin as well and Rin thanked her for it.
"The pleasure is all mine." replied Airianne with a mischievous
smile. She sat on a chair facing them and dealt the cards.
When she was done, her face broke out into the wide grin again.
"Let us begin." she said with ominous tones.
Many games later, Rin acquired the most heinous chores on the
list. Airianne had won most of the games and assigned her to
clean the privies, to gather eggs from the hen cages and to sweep the
eagles' tower. Arturia managed to win a couple and kindly
assigned Rin to dusting the hall fixtures.
Arturia also got some chores which did not require her to move about.
Rin wrapped a bandanna around her head with the word 'Fight' in
japanese. She would be a good loser and do a good job. With
painstaking patience, she completed each chore in turn and only took a
break for lunch.
It was about mid-afternoon when she was ready to sweep the eagles'
tower. Rin asked Airianne what it was.
"Tis where birds roost. Tis located in the north tower."
Airianne gave her directions to the tower.
Rin followed her directions and came to an old wooden door. The
words 'Twr Eryr' were engraved into the wood. Beside the door was
a pail and a broom. Rin tugged on the door and cringed as cold
air whipped into the hallway. She could hear the wind howl
through the tower. The tower was about fifty feet tall and was
mostly hollow except for crisscrossing beams which served as structural
support for the tower. Its moss crusted stone walls were riddled
with many windows. Each window was about one foot by one
foot. The floor of the tower was a disgusting mess of bird
droppings and pieces of unidentifiable rotting carcasses.
Rin took the pail and the broom and began sweep the crud into the
pail. As she swept, she heard a rustle of wings and a
screech. She looked up and saw a falcon peering at her from one
of the windows. She stared at the falcon and it stared
back. Then the falcon turned and flew away.
Since her hands were getting cold, Rin quickly finished sweeping the
tower and closed the door. She dumped the trash at the nearest
trash chute. After such a disgusting chore, she felt like taking
a bath. The mere thought of the bath conjured up images of
Arturia taking her clothes off. She shook her mind
"What's wrong with me?" she thought. "I'm acting like a
pervert." She shook those images out of her mind and walked away
from the disgusting tower.
She passed by the kitchen on her way to the bath. Arturia was
sitting at a table with sorted piles of beans and pea pods. She
was scooping twigs and leaves into a basket. Her eyes lit up when
she saw her.
"Hast thou finished thy chores, Rhynne?"
"Yea. I am now on mine way to the bath."
Arturia remembered their conversation from yesterday. Now was a
good time to practice cleanliness. "I am finished as well.
Let me join thee in the bath."
Rin took off her apron and offered her arm to Arturia. Arturia
reached out to her and leaned on her as she balanced herself on her
A sickly stale odor permeated from Rhynne. "Whither hast thou
"The eagles tower. A most despicable place. I pray that I
shall ne'er sweep it again." They began to hobble towards the
"I, too, shall pray. This fragrance is ill suited for thee.
I shall help thee restore thy sublime scent."
A drop of sweat trickled down Rin's forehead and she wondered how
Arturia would accomplish that. When they were ready to wash, she
found out how Arturia planned to do it. To her great
bewilderment, Arturia insisted on washing her back and her hair several
times. Unwilling to decline, she let Arturia do as she
pleased. For the next ten minutes, she submitted to Arturia's
Rin closed her eyes as Arturia poured water to rinse her. As she
rubbed the excess water from her eyes, she felt Arturia lean against
her. Her soft breath tickled her ear. Her back detected the
softness of Arturia's breast.
Arturia let her nose check her handiwork. She sniffed next to
Rhynne's ear, on the top of her head and the nape of her neck.
"The foul scent is gone." she declared proudly. She moved
away from Rhynne, picked up some soft soap and began to wash her own
At this point, Rin's fingers were pinching her nose as warm blood
trickled onto her lip. Her heart was beating rapidly. A
part of her wanted to release the tension that she felt
inside. She stood up and ran out of the bath. She went to
the privy, closed the door and screamed into the towel.
Meanwhile, Arturia sat staring at the door of the bath with
confusion. Her eyes wandered to where Rin sat. A small red
spot on the floor caught her attention. She reached over and
touched it. Her eyes grew in alarm when she recognized what it
After her nosebleed ceased, Rin wrapped the towel around her and calmly
walked into the bath.
"Art thou well, Rhynne? Thou left in most haste." asked
Arturia in a concerned voice.
"Yea. I required use of the privy."
"Ah." remarked Arturia and she did not ask further out of
They finished bathing and went to the dining room for dinner.
Only Airianne was at the dinner table. When Rin inquired about
her mother, Airianne replied that she was resting and will have her
dinner later. They ate their meal with light conversation.
Suddenly, a thought occurred to Rin. "There art a lot of chores
to do. Canst ye use magic to aid ye?"
"Nay. Mother forbid me to use magic."
"Didst she saith why?"
Airianne put her fork down. "She saith that I am not ready to use
magic. I must wait until I come of age."
"How old art ye?"
"I hath lived here for thirty-six years e'er since I was born."
Her jaw dropped and Arturia gaped at Airianne. "But... ye look so
young!" stuttered Rin.
"Aye. Tis because the enchantment in the Aerie keeps mine
youth. Without it, mine body will fade in time."
Several ideas began to click in Rin's head. She recalled Merlyn's
arguments over the creation of a magic circuit. A wave of pity
washed over Rin's heart when she realized the source of her
logic. Merlyn had crafted Airianne into being, but at a
price. The Aerie was not only her womb, but her prison as
well. She could only nod her sympathy. "I understand.
Anyway, what art yer plans tonight?"
Airianne's grin returned to her face. "I dinna know yet.
Methinks, I will let fortune decide it."
By her answer, Rin knew exactly what Airianne had in mind. With a
smirk, she said, "We'll have to see who fortune favors, now, won't we?"
Airianne met Rin's challenge evenly. "Aye."
"And tonight's entertainment is... Tales of Adventure!" declared
Airianne. Airianne took her place in her favorite chair.
"Ye will both tell me a tale of yer choosing. Begin when ye art
Meanwhile, Rin was staring at the pair of cards that won the
game. Once again, victory was snatched from her grasp. She
was jolted from her melancholy by Arturia's voice.
"If I may, I shall tell mine tale from here."
Airianne rotated the chair in Arturia's direction. "Please do."
"A wandering minstrel told this tale in mine father's hall when I was
young. I will do mine best to tell it as I hath heard it."
explained Arturia. She took a deep breath and recited her tale
with a rhythmic cadence.
'Of Robin Hood and his merry men,
A tale to be told to thee.
Cast thy cares, and listen
And free thy ears for me.'
Rin sat back in her chair and listened to Arturia's rising and falling
voice. The rhythm of her voice mesmerized her. She had
never heard Robin Hood narrated like this. She listened with rapt
When her tale was done, Rin and Airianne burst into applause.
"Twas well done, Lady Arturia! Ye wert a fine minstrel."
"Yea. Tis the finest telling of Robin Hood that I hath e'er
heard." added Rin.
Arturia bowed. "Mine thanks. Thy praise is too kind.
And now, I yield the stage to Rhynne."
Rin stood up and went to the platform. She may have lost the
game, but she will not be outdone in this arena. "Mine tale is
from the far off Orient. Tis about a lady who defied the bounds
of tradition and fought for the good of all. Hear me now, about
the tale of Mulan."
Rin accompanied her narration with sweeping gestures. With the
aid of her theatrical training, she used her voice to add suspense and
an aura of mystery. She utilized her aikido training to enact the
action scenes. Finally, she reached the end of her story and
Airianne and Arturia clapped with equal fervor. "Amazing, Lady
Rhynne! A fascinating tale!" exclaimed Airianne.
"Agreed. I shall ne'er forget thy performance." said
Rin wiped the sweat from her brow with the back of her hand.
"Come hither, Rhynne." called Arturia.
Rin walked over thinking that Arturia was going to ask her to take her
back to her room. Instead, Arturia pulled a handkerchief from her
pocket and wiped the sweat from her brow and from her neck.
Airianne watched them in silence. Rhynne's eyes never left
Arturia's face as Arturia slowly wiped her sweat away. The scene
reminded her of Mama wiping Mother's face. A pang of loneliness
invaded her heart. She missed her mother terribly.
When she was done, Arturia took Rhynne's hand and pressed the
handkerchief into her hand. "A maiden must keep her appearance
prim at all times." she said with a smile.
"Yea." said Rin softly, but she made no move to take her hand
They remained still for a few moments as if the time were suspended
around them. Airianne cleared her throat. "Tis been a long
day. I will now retire and bid ye good night." she curtsied
and hurriedly left the room. When she was out of sight, she wiped
the tears from her eyes with the back of her finger. She made her
way to Mama's room to seek comfort in her arms.
As Airianne left the room, Rin and Arturia called out, "Good
night!" Then Rin faced Arturia and asked, "Shall we retire as
"Yea. Or... dost thou wish to play with me some more?"
Rin blinked several times as her mind processed several meanings behind
that question. Her sense of propriety selected the most innocent
meaning. But what would they play? Her curiosity urged her
to gather up her courage and find out. "Yea... I would be
delighted to play with thee. Methinks, however, that Old Maid is
poor a choice for a game of two."
"Nine men's morris is engraved upon the table. Dost thou know how
Now that Arturia mentioned it, she recognized the layout. On a
whim, she learned the game at the Academy's medieval fair.
"Tis well. But first, we must find the pieces." Arturia's
hands slipped under the table. "Canst thou find a drawer under
Rin felt under her side of the table. "... yea." She pulled
the drawer open and selected black and white pieces from the various
tokens within. "Will thou have black or white?"
"White. To decide who starts, each of us will draw a card.
The highest card starts first."
They drew cards and compared. Rin started first. She placed
her pieces at the most strategic positions. She thought that she
had the advantage, but when they started moving their pieces, her
pieces were forced to deadlocked locations. One by one, her
pieces were captured. With four pieces left, Rin knew that she
"I forfeit..." she admitted dejectedly.
At Rhynne's crestfallen face, Arturia felt rather sad for
winning. She restored the board to the state before they started
moving pieces. "Thy game was well played... however..."
Rin listened with rising admiration as Arturia replayed their game from
memory and made comments about each move. She began to have a
deeper understanding behind the strategy in the game.
After her explanation, Arturia asked, "Dost thou wish to play some
Rin grinned at her challenge, "Yea. I hath learned from mine
mistakes and wish to redeem myself."
Arturia was glad to see Rhynne's smile on her face. She gave her
pieces back. "Then let us increase the stakes. The one who
hath the most losses shall grant the winner a boon."
They drew their cards and began a new game with Arturia starting
first. They continued playing until the clock tolled midnight at
the middle of their sixth game.
"Ah... tis late." remarked Arturia. "I enjoyed playing with thee
so much that I neglected to asked thee if thou wisheth to
retire." she said apologetically.
"Nay. Be not, for I felt the same as well." She looked at
the board. If only she could position her piece there, she might
be able to win. "Shall we finish this game?"
"Only if it doth not tire thee."
"Nay, I am anxious to win this time."
"So am I." Arturia slid her move.
The game ended with Arturia winning. Rin sighed in defeat.
"Twas well played. Shall we?" She offered her arm and
helped Arturia stand up.
"Ah, before I forget... hmmm... three out of two. Thou must grant
me a boon."
Rin gulped. "What dost thou wish for?"
"Mayhap, I shall ask for it later." Arturia picked up a black
piece. "Until then, I shall hold thy piece hostage."
Rin exhaled with relief. If she was lucky, Arturia might forget
about it. Together, they exited the sitting room and limped back
to their rooms. She helped Arturia to the privy first before
bringing her to her room and wishing her good night.
Then she went into her room and sat on the bed. She pulled the
handkerchief from her pocket and gazed at it before bringing it to her
cheek. She remembered how it felt against her skin. After a
few minutes, she tucked it under her shirt and resolved to keep it
close to her for the rest of the night.
The day's list lay open like a sore wound after a harsh battle.
Rin slumped down onto the table. If gods existed, then she must
have offended one of them. "Why... why... why?" she asked
herself as she thumped her fist on the table's surface.
Arturia watched Rhynne as she cradled her head with her arm on the
table in defeat. She observed her with curiosity as Rhynne began
to pound the table with her fist. Arturia reached towards her but
stopped just before she touched her hair. She pounded the table
once more and her sympathetic heart encouraged her to bridge the
distance. She stroked Rhynne's head gently.
"Tis but a game." consoled Arturia.
"I know..." mumbled Rin.
"Didst she coerce thee to participate in this game?"
Rin sat up and Arturia's hand slid to rest on her shoulder. "Nay.
I hath offered mine aid to her. This game is her way of assigning
the tasks of the day. But... I am sore that I hath not claimed
victory e'en once."
"Tis but a game, and doth not reflect the strength of thy character."
Rin put her hand on Arturia's and squeezed it gently. "I take
comfort in thy words. Mine thanks." said Rin.
She looked over Arturia's list. "What art thy chores?"
Arturia picked up her list and read it. "Sweep hearth. Cut
vegetables. Darn clothes."
"I shall take thee to the kitchen." said Rin. She stood up
and offered Arturia her arm.
Arturia pulled herself up and leaned on Rhynne. As she inhaled
her soft scent, Arturia smiled with satisfaction. Together, they
walked slowly to the kitchen. Rhynne helped her sit near the
hearth and bid her farewell. Arturia grabbed a nearby apron and
put it on. She found the cinder brush and dustpan and began her
Suddenly, she had a feeling that she had done this before. Her
bewilderment passed when she realized that she had acted out this task
as Cinderella. Memories of the play and of Rhynne's acting
flooded her mind and she smiled softly as she remembered Rhynne's
profile. Although she wished her no ill, she secretly hoped that
Rhynne would lose so that she could see her act again.
Meanwhile, Rin followed Airianne's directions to the lowest level of
the Aerie. Laundry and carpet cleaning where on the list.
With a lit lantern before her, she descended down the stairs.
Unlike the bright and warm level of the living area, the lower levels
were dark, damp, cold and smelt of mold. When she reached the
laundry level, she found piles of clothes, bed sheets and
tablecloths. Above each pile was a hole in the ceiling.
Rin took out Airianne's instructions and followed them. After
each load was washed, she opened a nearby door which lead to a deck
outside the Aerie. She hung the clothes on the
clothesline. After she was done, she went back to the main
level. There she found Airianne waving to her.
"Lady Rhynne! Let us rest a bit and enjoy some tea." said
Rin smiled gratefully. "All right. Lead the way."
Airianne led her to another enclosed garden which included a small pond
with lilies floating on its surface. A modest stream gurgled out
of the rock face from south corner of the garden. Arturia sat at
a wooden table by the pond.
Rin and Airianne took their seats while Arturia poured tea into their
cups. Airianne offered Rin a slice of cream pie which she
delightfully accepted. Meanwhile, Arturia helped herself to some
grapes from the fruit bowl.
As they were eating their pie, Airianne pulled the stem off her cherry
and issued a challenge. "If ye put this cherry stem in yer mouth,
can ye tie it into a knot?"
"I shall find out..." Arturia picked a cherry with a long stem
and put the stem in her mouth. Rin did the same.
After a minute or so, Arturia stuck her tongue out to reveal a knotted
Airianne clapped with glee. "Amazing! Ye must be a
The cherry stem fell from Arturia's tongue while Rin almost choked on
hers. She spat it out into her hand.
"Why didst ye saith that, Lady Airianne?" asked Arturia with her
cheeks turning slightly pink with embarrassment.
"There is a saying that if one can tie a knot with a cherry stem in
one's mouth, then one is a good kisser."
"Preposterous! I hath ne'er heard of such a saying.
Besides... e'en if it were true, I doubt I would find a use for such a
talent." She lifted her tea to her lips.
"Mayhap, we should test the saying." She leaned towards Arturia.
With all the control at her disposal, Arturia prevented herself from
spitting out her tea. "Lady Airianne!" she exclaimed with
With a chuckle, Airianne sat back into her chair. "Twas merely a
jest." Then her eyes glinted with mischief. "But... if ye
e'er want to test it, I will aid ye."
"To saith that twas a jest and to make yer offer within the same
breath... ye contradict yerself." replied Arturia sullenly.
Airianne raised her hands in surrender. "Please dinna be cross
with me. I apologize fer mine inappropriate conduct."
Arturia glared at her for a moment and then relented with a
smile. "Apology accepted. Ye startled me, that's all."
They laughed. With that, the cherry stem jest was forgotten, and
they enjoyed the remainder of their brief respite.
"And tonight's entertainment is... Singing!" declared Airianne.
"Ye will both sing me songs until the clock strikes ten. Ye may
use the instruments on yon wall." She glided over to a cabinet
and opened a drawer. "Scores of many songs art stored within this
cabinet. Ye may use these as well." Airianne walked to her
favorite chair and sat down with great anticipation. "Begin when
ye art ready."
Rin groaned as she dragged her feet to the stage. "I'm stuck in a
medieval form of karaoke..." she thought. She searched her
mind for a simple song to sing. With an unsteady voice, she
On top of spaghetti,
All covered with cheese,
I lost my poor meatball
When somebody sneezed.
It rolled off the table
And onto the floor,
And then my poor meatball
Rolled right out the door!
It rolled in a garden
And under a bush
Now my poor meatball
Was nothing but mush
The mush was as tasty
As tasty could be
Early next summer
It grew into a tree
The tree was all covered
With beautiful moss
It grew lovely meatballs
In a tomato sauce
So if you like spaghetti
All covered with cheese
Hold on to your meatballs
And DON'T EVER SNEEZE!
Rin bowed and quickly left the stage. Airianne began to giggle
and finally exploded into a fit of laughter.
Meanwhile, Arturia was laughing into her hand.
When she managed to control herself, she rubbed the tears in her
eyes. "Twas a funny song, Lady Rhynne! I dinna know what
spaghetti is, but I can imagine a meatball growing into a tree."
Airianne turned to Arturia. "Lady Arturia, art ye ready?"
"Yea. Rhynne, canst thou fetch me yonder harp?"
Rin unhooked the harp from the wall and handed it to Arturia who leaned
it against her left shoulder. With lithe fingers, Arturia checked
the harp's tuning. When she was satisfied, she began to strum a
slow and haunting melody. She played for about twenty seconds
before she allowed her voice to mingle with the melody. The notes
of the harp harmonized with her resonant alto voice.
[Author's note: For a reference song, listen to: Fate/stay
Night Animation Original Soundtrack, Kishiou no hokori]
Rin closed her eyes to listen more intently. Although she could
not understand the lyrics of the song, she felt happy just listening to
her singing. As she listened, an image of Arturia standing on a
grassy hilltop in her armor formed in her mind. Excalibur was in
front of her and its tip was plunged into the ground. Her hands
rested on Excalibur's pommel. Her eyes stared beyond the grassy
hilltop. Rin watched her in silence. Then Arturia turned
her head to face her and called her name.
Rin opened her eyes and sat up. Her eyes alighted on Arturia's
"Oh, is it mine turn?" asked Rin.
"Yea... but thou seemeth to fall asleep. Art thou tired?"
"Nay... thy song enthralled mine heart so much that its melody lingered
on within me and I remaineth enraptured."
"Oh." said Arturia with her cheeks turning a slight shade of
pink. "Thy praise is too kind."
Rin smiled a bit as she made her way to the stage. She consoled
herself that having to sing in front of an audience was a small price
to pay to hear Arturia sing.
The farmer in the dell,
The farmer in the dell,
Hi-ho, the derry-o,
The farmer in the dell.
The farmer takes a wife,
The farmer takes a wife,
Hi-ho, the derry-o,
The farmer takes a wife.
The wife takes a child,
The wife takes a child,
Hi-ho, the derry-o,
The wife takes a child.
The child takes a nurse,
The child takes a nurse,
Hi-ho, the derry-o,
The child takes a nurse.
The nurse takes the cow,
The nurse takes the cow,
Hi-ho, the derry-o,
The nurse takes the cow.
The cow takes a dog,
The cow takes a dog,
Hi-ho, the derry-o,
The cow takes a dog.
The dog takes a cat,
The dog takes a cat,
Hi-ho, the derry-o,
The dog takes a cat.
The cat takes a rat,
The cat takes a rat,
Hi-ho, the derry-o,
The cat takes a rat.
The rat takes the cheese,
The rat takes the cheese,
Hi-ho, the derry-o,
The rat takes the cheese.
The cheese stands alone,
The cheese stands alone,
Hi-ho, the derry-o,
The cheese stands alone.
Rin bowed herself off the stage and hurried over to table to sit.
Airianne clapped her hands politely and quickly turned her attention to
Arturia. Arturia smiled, closed her eyes and lifted those nimble
fingers to stroke the harp's strings. A soothing melody issued
forth from the harp. After the intro, Arturia's voice weaved its
way into the melody.
Rin closed her eyes once more to enjoy the song. For the rest of
the evening, she stuck to her strategy of singing simple songs and
sitting back to enjoy Arturia's.
Finally, a deep resonant chime issued forth from the clock in the
sitting room to announce the hour of ten. They bid each other
good night. As Rin and Arturia hobbled their way to their rooms,
Arturia's voice rang in her mind and she absentmindedly hummed one of
Suddenly, Arturia's clear voice sang the matching lyrics near her
ear. Rin stopped humming in surprise.
"Why didst thou stop?"
"Uh... I didst not realize that I hath hummed thy song, so I was not
expecting to hear thee sing it."
When they reached Arturia's room, Rin helped her sit on the bed.
"Wouldst thou like to hear more songs?" asked Arturia.
Rin's face lit up. "Y-- yea! If... if thou art not tired,
Arturia patted the bed with her right hand. "Please sit
After Rin was seated, Arturia closed her eyes and began another
song. Her voice echoed through the chamber and added a pleasant
resonance to the song.
Rin closed her eyes to listen as well. The image of the green
valley below the Academy formed in her mind. As she listened to
the song, the softness of the bed tempted her. Absentmindedly,
Rin leaned sideways to lie on her left side and rested her head on the
crook of her arm.
As she followed the song, she imagined herself climbing down a grassy
slope and walking across a meadow. An apple tree beckoned her
with its cool shade and she walked over to sit against its trunk.
The grass in the meadow bent like waves as a stiff breeze passed
by. The song complemented the serenity that she felt as she gazed
across the meadow. Soon, she lost herself within the song and let
herself drift away.
After Arturia finished the song, she glanced over at Rhynne. She
nudged her gently and then again. Since there was no reaction
from Rhynne, she reclined beside her and crept close enough to
confirm the slow breathing of sleep. Arturia smiled with
amusement. As she watched Rhynne sleep, she tried to decide
whether she should wake her up or not. Suddenly, Rhynne's fingers
on her right hand twitched. Arturia stared at her hand which was
resting between her and Rhynne. She gently lifted the hand and
turned it to look at her palm. She brought her left palm next to
Rhynne's hand. The marks were not there, but she could feel a
slight tingle in her left palm. She interlaced their fingers
together. She wanted to see more of that vision. She wanted
to know Rhynne's connection with that vision. With those thoughts
in mind, she pressed their palms firmly together.
Suddenly, she felt herself swallowed up in darkness and then standing
on her feet to see a dark hallway. Someone was standing next to
her. It was Syrowe but he was younger and not as tall. The
construction of the hall was similar to the room that she had seen, but
the floor was made out of polished wood instead of mats. They
walked to a paneled door which Syrowe slid open. He stepped into
the room and pressed something on the wall. Light from the
ceiling flooded the room and she beheld a most horrifying sight.
Blood splattered like paint on the wall across the room. Rhynne
sat leaning against that wall in a puddle of blood. Blood
trickled down her forehead and painted half her face in gruesome
crimson streams. Even her red shirt could not fail to hide the
blood that seeped into the cloth. Half the silver cross
embroidered on her shirt was also dyed red. As she stared in
horror, Rhynne opened her eyes which lit up when they met her
own. Her lips slowly drew into a smile of relief.
And then, the vision faded to reform into another one of Rhynne
gripping her wrist in a very awkward position which caused her joints
to scream in pain for being stretched beyond their range of
motion. Her eyes focused to meet Rhynne's stern gaze.
When Rin felt Arturia's resistance drop, she released her grip on her
wrist. Arturia's hand plopped down on the bed. Concerned
that she overdid the wristlock, she scanned Arturia's wrist. The
wrist was within normal parameters, and she sighed with relief.
Her gaze returned to Arturia's eyes which stared at her blankly.
"Arturia..." Rin called out.
Arturia blinked her eyes several times. "Rhynne... I...
I..." Her voice was a rasp whisper.
"Dost thou feel pain?"
"Nay..." replied Arturia.
Rin stood up. "I fear that I underestimated how tired I was, and
thus hath been a rude audience. Please allow me retire to
bed. Good night." She quickly left the room and closed the
door behind her. She went to her room and threw herself onto the
bed. And then she lifted her right hand to scrutinize her
palm. She could still feel the mana converging upon the
mark. She closed her hand and hoped that Arturia did not
see anything that would give her secret away.
They greeted each other that morning as if last night's incident did
not happen. Then they met Airianne in the dining hall to have
breakfast. After breakfast was done and the dishes put away, Rin
steeled herself for the next round of games.
However, Airianne declared, "There will be no chores today. Today
is a day of study."
"Study? What will ye study?" asked Rin.
"Magic, history, or whatever Mama tells me to study." replied
Airianne. "Ye art free to do as ye wish. The sitting room
hath games, scrolls and instruments. Use them as ye will.
Or... ye can wander about in town. Just tell me an appointed time
for yer return and I will open the passage."
"Whither dost ye study?" asked Arturia.
"In the library or sometimes in Mama's room since she tires
Rin's eyes lit up at the word library. As a mage, she was curious
to know what Merlyn kept in her library. "I would be interested
to see yer library."
"If ye wish, I shall take ye there." said Airianne.
"Studying won't be so lonely if there art other people about."
Together, they made there way to the library. It was a large
sunlit hall like the great hall. Rin and Arturia gaped in awe at
the sight of many bookcases and cabinets suspended in the air.
Large maps where also suspended in the air as well. Along the
walls were tables and chairs. On each corner of the room was a
small room with a door. Rin went to the nearest table and helped
"Lady Airianne, how dost ye travel to yonder bookcases?" inquired
Rin with a sense of wonder.
Airianne went to a pedestal about halfway to the center of the
room. She placed her hand on a large crystal ball and said,
"Apprentice spells, high level."
Several bookcases weaved their way toward the floor and settled unto
the floor in equidistant rows.
Airianne walked to a bookcase. "Ye touch the crystal and say what
ye wisheth to find." She pulled out a crudely bound book and held
it out for Rin to see. "The books will come to ye."
Rin walked over to read the inscription on the book. The words
'Prentis swyn' were brushed on the cover in large black letters.
"In which tongue art the words writ?"
"I see. Art all the books writ in Welsh?"
"Nay. If ye wisheth to find a book in a certain tongue, ye only
need to ask fer it." Airianne went back to the crystal ball and
said, "Bryton History in common".
A bookshelf landed on the floor. On it, several books glowed
silver. Airianne pulled out a glowing book and showed it
Rhynne. "Canst ye read it?"
Rin took the book, glanced the cover and leafed through its
contents. "Yea." she replied with relief. "Art we allowed
to peruse yer library?"
"Aye, peruse as much as ye desire."
Rin's face broke into a wide smile. "Mine thanks." She went
to the crystal ball and requested, "Curses and charms, in
common." A bookcase landed on the floor and Rin walked toward it
in great anticipation.
Meanwhile, Airianne walked over to Arturia. "Doth ye wish to read
"Mayhap, later. But I wish to speak to ye privately."
Airianne cocked an eyebrow in curiosity. "All right, let us go to
yonder room." They hobbled over to the nearest corner and entered
the room. Airianne helped Arturia sit and then locked the
door. "What is on yer mind?" she asked.
"Methinks, that thy prank hath gone too far." said Arturia
"What prank?" asked Airianne innocently.
"Ye chose that chair and bid Rhynne to sit upon it. She hath sat
upon it e'er since and hath ne'er won a single game." accused
Arturia with a rising tone of anger. She would not let Airianne
Airianne assessed Arturia thoughtfully for a few moments. "She
chose to sit on it." she countered.
"She can't read Welsh. I doubt she wouldst sit upon it if she
read the inscription on the chair."
"Ye dinna warn her."
"I just found out yesterday afternoon."
"Then tell her."
"Nay. I insist that ye apologize."
"Why? Tis but a game."
The images of Rhynne laboring under her assigned chores flashed in
Arturia's mind. The image was followed by the incident where
Rhynne had fainted and bled in the wagon. Then an image of red
spot on the white marble floor came next. Finally, the horrible
vision of Rhynne in that bloodstained room filled her mind.
"Rhynne may look healthy, but she hath been harboring the ill effects
of a grievous wound taken in the past. She hath deceived us with
her cheer and charming smile. E'en though she was weak of heart,
she accepted her chores without question and bravely finished them
though her body plagued her."
At this point, Airianne's eyes brimmed with tears. "I dinna
know! Oh, poor Lady Rhynne! What hath I done? Hath I
worsened her malady?"
Arturia was moved by the sincerity of Airianne's remorse.
"Methinks not." It felt odd to console someone she was
scolding. "But I beseech ye to assign her lighter chores.
And, ye employed foul means to wrest victory in our games. In the
spirit of fair play, I beseech ye again to reveal thy prank and
Airianne wiped her tears with her handkerchief. "Aye... I will do
both. And I will ask Mother to examine Rhynne for her
malady. Mayhap, she can yet be cured."
"Twould be well if Merlyn can lend her aid." said Arturia.
"And one more thing, tis mine belief that she wouldst prefer to display
a front of good health than cause us worry. If she knew that we
knew about her malady, she wouldst further her efforts to hide it."
"Oh, how noble!" wailed Airianne into her handkerchief.
"Yea. Thus we must take steps to insure that she doth not
"Aye. I shall keep yer words in mind." said Airianne as she
dried even more tears. "I must thank ye fer unmasking mine prank
and fer taking me into yer confidence. I shall go now and
apologize to Lady Rhynne."
"Pray, abide a moment and dry yer tears. She might be alarmed to
see yer pretty face wrought with sorrow."
"Aye..." Airianne took a seat next to Arturia.
Meanwhile, Rin was busy pouring over several books of magic. So
far, she had not found any topic that was not covered in a book in some
way or another. She was reading a book on elemental summoning
when Airianne approached her.
Airianne cleared her throat. "Lady Rhynne, I must tell ye
"What is it?"
"Th-- the reason why ye hath not won a game... well... tis because..."
Rin's eyebrows went up a bit. "Because...?"
"...because the chair that ye sit upon is cursed."
Rin's jaw dropped. "Cursed?! How?"
"Tis enchanted with a spell of misfortune. Whoe'er sits in it
will have ill luck."
"So that it explains it..." said Rin. Suddenly, a thought
occurred to her. "Why do ye keep such a chair?"
"The spell is engraved upon its back. There art mages who would
challenge the spell's power and some who overlook the spell only to
fall prey to mine Mother's games. Mother would often invite
visiting mages to sit in it just to observe their reaction."
Airianne's face melted into a mischievous grin. "Do ye care to
guess how many mages dinna bother to look at the chair?"
"Nay. O'er two-thirds."
"Really?" The fact amused Rin and she chuckled. Airianne
giggled with her.
"And... so... I must apologize fer letting ye sit in the chair."
said Airianne as she looked down on the floor.
Arturia's words echoed in her mind. "Tis only a game." said
Rin, accepting the apology.
"And one more thing... I must also apologize fer giving ye the most
Rin stared in confusion as Airianne seemed to be in the verge of tears.
"Tis of no matter. I hath promised ye mine aid, and am glad to
Airianne seemed even more sadder. "But if the chore doth tax yer
strength, ye must stop and rest! Nay, ye must call me and let me
Rin blinked in confusion. "Yea... I shall call upon ye if need
"Yea. I promise."
Airianne bowed deeply. "Mine thanks, Lady Rhynne, fer all yer
aid! Since I cannae use magic, an extra pair of hands is most
welcome! And now, if ye excuse me, I shall resume mine
studies." Airianne curtsied and left.
For a few moments, Rin sat contemplating the conversation that just
took place. It was so baffling to see Airianne so
distressed. Since she could not make any sense out of her
behavior, she put her thoughts aside and resumed her reading.
After devouring a chapter's worth of spells, Rin detected some movement
at the edge of her peripheral vision. She looked over and saw
Arturia limping towards her by using the rows of tables for
support. In one arm, she carried a book.
Rin rushed to her side to help her. "Please call upon me if thou
require assistance. I will be glad to offer mine aid."
Arturia took her arm. "Thou wert so engrossed by thy book.
Twould be a shame to disturb thee."
"Thy health is more important than a book."
A slight shade of pink colored Arturia's cheeks. "I hath come to
thee with a proposal."
"A proposal?" repeated Rin with confusion. In a flash, her
mind associated the word with 'marriage'. She quickly brushed
away that thought. "What kind of proposal?"
"Airianne tells me that this library hath more books in Welsh than in
common. Therefore, I propose to teach thee Welsh so that thou may
read such books."
Rin's face brightened at the prospect of being able to study more
magic. She was even more delighted that Arturia would be her
teacher. "I am so elated by thy offer, that I know not what to
"Yea would be a good answer."
Rin helped her sit on a chair at the table where she was
studying. She slid her chair next to Arturia's and sat.
"Yea. I will be honored to receive thy instruction."
Rhynne's glowing face reflected on her own and she was happy to be able
to help Rhynne with her studies. Arturia set the book down
between her and Rhynne and opened it to first page. "Then let us
begin thy lesson."
Arturia reached over and flicked the arrow with her finger. With
bated breath, they watched the arrow spin. Eventually, it slowed
down to rest on "Tales of Horror".
Rin sat back and cracked her knuckles. Tonight was her kind of
Airianne went to the stage and told a tale about leprechaun who tricked
people into giving him their gold. A young man fell for his trap
and tried to get revenge by stealing the leprechaun's gold pot.
He succeeded, but the leprechaun found out and chased him all over the
countryside. He suffered many wounds as he tried to escape the
leprechaun's wrath. With the help of a soothsayer, he lured the
leprechaun to an enchanted well where the leprechaun fell in and was
trapped. As the young man looked into the well, he heard the
I'll not rest 'til I have me gold.
Curse this well where me soul shall dwell,
'Till I find me magic that breaks the spell.
The young man hurriedly left the country, never to pass near that well
Rin and Arturia clapped as Airianne bowed at the end of her tale.
After Airianne was seated, Rin grinned wickedly as she walked over to
the stage. Before she started her tale, she snapped her fingers
and the lights of the lamps dimmed.
"Tis a tale from mine land." declared Rin with ominous
"One dark night, a young traveler found a young woman, crying and
forlorn by the side of a road. He attempted to console the young
woman and offered his assistance. The young woman stopped crying
and turned to face him. The young man jumped back in horror to
see the blank countenance of a faceless ghost."
For effect, Rin conjured up an image of the young woman's face.
Airianne and Arturia gasped in horror.
Rin continued. "Frightened, the young man ran as fast as he could
until he came across a food stall. The young man peeked in.
Although the cook had his back to him, he welcomed the young man and
asked him what he wanted to eat. The young man was relieved to
meet a real person and sat down for a meal. He told the cook his
tale about the young woman. When he was finished, the cook
announced that his meal was ready. He turned around to deliver
his meal. He, too, had no face."
Airianne shut her eyes and cradled her head while Arturia's hand leapt
up to cover her mouth. Her eyes betrayed her shock.
As the tale went on, Rin described how the young man met people on that
lonely road and how each person showed him a blank face.
"The young man ran and ran until dawn began to break. By then, he
was exhausted. To quench his thirst, he stopped at a nearby
pond. He knelt by the water's edge to scoop some water, but he
stopped as he beheld his own reflection. He, too, had no
Rin paused for effect before she bowed. "The End."
Airianne and Arturia sat still for a few seconds. Then they
clapped politely at her tale.
"Me-- methinks, I will now retire. Good night." said
"Good night." replied Arturia and Rin at the same time.
Rin added with a smug smile, "Pleasant dreams."
Airianne's face blanched at the thought. "And to ye as
well." She curtsied slightly and quickly exited the sitting room
without her usual grace.
Arturia and Rin limped their way to their rooms. From time to
time, Rin noticed that Arturia would glance at her face. She
smiled evilly to herself.
When they reached Arturia's room, Rin helped Arturia sit on her
bed. As she was about to leave, Arturia grabbed her wrist.
Rin turned to face her. "What is it?"
Arturia kept her head bowed. Before she could control herself, a
subconscious impulse compelled her to grab Rin before she left.
After the previous night's incident, she felt awkward talking to
Rhynne. She did not know what to say to explain why she grabbed
Rin looked at Arturia's bowed form. Her eyes followed Arturia's
arm to the hand that grabbed her wrist. A strange thought began
to form in her mind. "No way... the king of knights is afraid of
a faceless ghost story?" she thought incredulously. Rin
waited for Arturia to say something but she remained silent. It
was hard to believe that this young lady holding her wrist would be
afraid of a simple ghost story. But perhaps, for now, that was
all it was. At the moment, Arturia was just a young lady who
grabbed her wrist. Rin almost felt sorry for telling the tale.
Rin sat next to her. "Dost thou wish me to stay till sleep
Arturia looked up, her eyes wide with surprise. "I... that is...
if thou wisheth to stay... thou art welcome to..." she stuttered
"I will go now to change mine clothes. I shall be back
Arturia nodded and Rin went to her own room to change. When she
returned, she saw that Arturia had changed as well and was lying on the
side of the bed furthest from the door.
Rin doused the candles and closed the curtains around the bed.
Then she crawled onto the bed and sat on the unoccupied side. She
looked over at Arturia and met her eyes as she lay on her side.
"Sleep now. I will stay." said Rin.
Arturia smiled at her assurance. She closed her eyes.
Rin leaned on the headboard. To pass the time, she tried to
remember her Welsh lessons. However, Arturia's shocked face kept
popping up from time to time. Her lips tugged to a smile in
After a while, she checked her watch and noted that about thirty
minutes had passed. She looked over at Arturia and was convinced
that she was asleep. Rin carefully made her way to the edge of
the bed and pulled back the heavy velvet curtains to stand.
"Thou promised..." came Arturia's voice behind her.
Rin turned around slowly to find Arturia propped up on her elbow.
Her large eyes seemed to plead silently.
Then Arturia sat up and pulled the covers aside. "The bed... is
large enough for two." said Arturia.
Rin blushed. She laid down on her back and rested her head on the
pillow. "Yea. It is."
Arturia pulled the covers over Rhynne and laid down to face her.
Rin noticed that Arturia was facing her. Once again, she felt
more self-conscious and turned away so that Arturia could not see her
face. However, she could still sense Arturia watching her.
Arturia's face melted into disappointment as Rhynne turned away.
Her behavior caused her to think that Rhynne was still upset over the
previous night's incident. At least, she decided to stay which
was enough for now. Even if the dreams come, she was not alone
tonight. She closed her eyes to sleep.
It hurt. Several parts of her body were screaming in pain.
But she ignored it. In battle, there was no time to deal with
pain. She braced her sword and impaled a soldier. A hastily
raised shield deflected a blow to her head. She put her foot on
the soldier's stomach and pushed him off her blade. The soldier
slid and fell on his back, his blank face declared his demise.
She whirled about and decapitated another soldier. The head
rolled and stopped a few feet away with its blank face turned to the
sky. The onslaught continued and the bodies of men with blank
faces piled up around her.
Someone called her name. She turned to meet her new
challenger. A knight wearing a helm attacked her with a wide
silver blade. She met her charge and they exchanged blows that
would have felled a lesser knight. Finally, she found an opening
and cut down to split the helm in half. The helm fell away to
reveal not a blank face, but a face similar to her own.
Arturia woke up with a start. It was yet another dream about
another battle. Cold sweat trickled down her brow and she wiped
it on her sleeve. She quickly groped the covers on the other side
of the bed. Her hands confirmed Rhynne's sleeping form. She
sighed with relief and slipped back under the covers. Her hands
crept towards Rhynne until she located her arm. She snuggled
closer until she could smell Rhynne's familiar scent on her
nightgown. She closed her eyes again and hoped for dreamless
Airianne paced up and down the dining room. They were late and
breakfast was getting cold. Finally, she decided to check on
them. She went to Arturia's room first and knocked. When
she heard no response, she carefully opened the door and peeped
in. The bed still had its curtains drawn. Airianne grinned
mischievously. She would give her a nice wake up call. She
tiptoed to the bed and pulled the curtain aside to shout her morning
greeting. But the sight on the bed surprised her enough to catch
her voice in her throat.
"So... ye did want to share yer bed." she thought wryly.
She restored the curtains and tiptoed out of the room to let Arturia
sleep in Rhynne's embrace.
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