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COLD SHOULDERS

BY: DANAE CONRAD

The ballroom continued to flow with the activity of the party; obviously no one had seen Eve with the crown except for Adena and Toltec. Adena quickly took Eve's arm and led her out of the crowd, leaving Toltec stranded in the party. They took the stairs to Adena's study, where Adena took the crown from Even and put it on the desk.

"Eve, who gave you this?"

Eve almost cried with her question--the Enchantress didn't suspect her of stealing, but her answer would rip Adena apart. "The same person who gave me this." She pointed to the Belt on her waist. Adena smiled with the sight of the Key. "Iffley," Eve continued. Adena's smile vanished in shock.

"Eve, please now tell me that you are lying."

"I'm not, Adena."

"I was afraid of that. I cannot believe the Wizard capable of such things." She turned her back to Eve for a moment before continuing. "As a Keyholder, you are now my sister in power. You also know the oath to swear."

"Yes." Eve repeated the oath that Iffley had sworn. She knew Adena did this as a matter of policy not out of distrust.

"Now," Adena began, turning back to her friend, "welcome to the Keyholders. You have power now, use it wisely and live your life as you see fit."

"I probably will never see my home again, will I?" Adena shook her head slowly. "That's okay. I like it here a lot and I wouldn't trade your friendship for the world. "

"The same here, Eve." Adena sent Eve downstairs to send Toltec up to the study. Once she left, Adena stood in front of the painting and vanished with the crown. She replaced it in the safe and quickly scanned her room to see if anything else was amiss. Nothing was, so she turned to the study wall again. She faded through just as Toltec entered the room.

"Adena, she didn't take it?"

"No, Iffley did." Adena was beginning to tremble inside. "I am forced by law to send out the troops--he must be brought back to face charges." Toltec nodded in agreement. Quickly, the pair descended to the ballroom.

"I hate to disrupt the festivities this evening, but the Royal Guard must stand assembled here. There has been a suspected theft by a Keyholder." Adena paused as the room began to buzz with confusion and questions. "It will be made public when the details are known. Please allow the Royal Guard to assemble." The soliders filed in and saluted Adena. Eve noticed that Bryant was standing in one of the regiments. "Gentlemen, please bring him back safely; mind his magic." The guards began to file out of the room for the pursuit. Eve smiled as Bryant marched by her; he returned her compliment.

The guests left after the guards, as Adena bade them farewell. When the hall was clear, Eve decided to leave as well. She left Adena and Toltec in the empty room. Adena looked extremely preturbed with the turn of events. Her gown made her seem more aloof and icy than ever; it was a pale baby blue sateen that left both arms and one shoulder bare. She had her hair in a chignon coated in sapphires. Silver slippers completed her appearance of winter.,

"Did I really do that? How could I have?" She spoke softly to the empty air; Toltec knew that she was hurting, but somehow he didn't share her agony.

"It is the law, Enchantress. " She turned to look at him. "You are very beautiful tonight--a vision of blue." Adena turned and walked past Toltec without another word. She hurriedly climbed the stairs and went to her study. She hardly paused as she went through the painting and threw herself on her bed in tears. The dress she wore had through this time. Blue was gone and Iffley had turned against her; Toltec, she didn't even know how to approach him, was just as isolated.

Hearing her name, she went to the wall and looked out through the mirror/picture to her study. Toltec was there, looking for her. Pulling herself together, she grabbed an emerald tunic from the closet and pulled out grey riding pants from the drawer. Quickly changing to her new attire, Adena put the dress and sapphires away and exchanged her silver slipper for deep-bronze leather boots.

Feeling better after her cry, she stepped into the mirror and shimmered through to the other side. Toltec raised a dark eyebrow at her coalescing figure. She did likewise with her entrance and sat at her desk.

"This is the Enchantress. Has he been located yet?"

"Negative, Enchantress. Nothing around in scouted areas," answered the Royal Guard via communications system.

"Continue search for an hour longer, then return, Captain."

"Yes, Enchantress. out."

Toltec leaned over her desk. "Pardon my insensitivity, Adena. I didn't even think until it was said."

"Of course." She even smiled slightly at him. "I guess we've got another busy day ahead."

Toltec moved as if to "kiss and make up", but Adena second guessed him and was already out of her chair, heading out of the door. Toltec drummed his fingers momentarily on the desktop, the followed her out the door.

Toltec stood silently looking at the clock on the mantle as the proscribed hour passed. Adena had taught Eve how to play klitik, and they were now involved in a heated tournament. Adena looked at the clock again; Toltec shook his head silently--no word yet.

Suddenly, the door to the castle foyer flung open to admit an icy blast of air and a coated figure to the palace. Adena stood, slightly annoyed at the intrusion. "Identify yourself." "I think that you know who I am, Adena. " He pulled back his hood to reveal a fiercely grinning visage.

"Maelstrom!!" Adena whitened at the sight of him. Toltec had immediately pulled Eve behind him and was advancing to Adena's side. He had been told of Ralle; he disliked Iffley's double even more than Iffley. "You are in my territory--you will leave at once!!"

"Not without you, little one!" He advanced towards Adena with a saber in hand; Adena produced a similar weapon to challenge him. Toltec grabbed the blade from Adena to ward off the enemy.

"Toltec, no, you don't know his tricks!"

"Really," Maelstrom sneered. "Come novice, challenge me."

"I taught Adena how to fence; meet your match."

The two men were excellent swordsmen. Adena cursed herself for not keeping more guards at the castle. The battle seemed to be going in Toltec's favor when a feminine voice was heard entering the room.

"You only said that you'd be a minute, Iffley," Camille said as she walked in. "Iffley! What's going on?"

"Iffley?!" Adena and Eve said simultaneously. Toltec's guard was down with the startling news. Iffley took advantage of this and, using the Sceptre, slammed him into the corner. He stepped brutally on Toltec's sword arm and removed the weapon, which Adena promptly dissolved.

"What do you think now, Adena, " Camille glared at her.

"Iffley, what have you done?"

"Not a thing, little one," he responded as she approached; then he grabbed her around the throat and lay the blade across it. "Move one more step, and she's dead."

"Just leave her Iffley," Camille whined. "You don't need her."

Toltec had pushed himself to a sitting position, his arm hung painfully at his side. Eve moved to action. "Let her go, Iffley. Don't add murder to your crimes." She activated the Belt to read his mind. "You don't want to hurt her; you love her--still. Camille is just a pawn."

"You filthy liar!" Camille leapt towards Eve, but tripped over Adena's outstretched foot.

Then, in came the guards and everything broke loose. Seeing the Enchantress held, the guards tried to arrest Iffley while they freed her. The distraction startled Iffley, and Adena hooked her foot behind his knee and pushed. He lost his balance and flung his hand away to catch himself. Seeing that he had lost her, Iffley stood up and grabbed Camille. He waved the Sceptre, and they vanished from the palace.

Eve ran sobbing to Adena who told her that it was all over. Adena didn't cry, but Eve sensed her pain. Toltec stood up slowly, still recovering from the magical blow. He barked several orders to the guards who stiffened castle security. Iffley wasn't a threat--at least for now.

"Come on, Eve," Adena guided Eve to her room and told her to get some rest. Eve fell asleep crying into her pillow. Adena came back down to the foyer, where she dealt with formalities, then she sank onto the divan.

She straightened her hair and clothes, trying to calm her own pulse. She couldn't fathom what had gotten into Iffley, but he was now definitely a criminal. The people of Furanose didn't treat attempted assassins lightly.

She heard Toltec enter the room. "Now, tell me what to do about Eve. She used her Belt to save me. In doing so, she broke her oath."

"You know that it won't even be brought up. She saved you, the people won't penalized for that," he answered, coming to sit beside her. He winced slightly as his arm brushed hers.

"Does your arm hurt much?"

"Not when you worry about it."

"You best let me look at it." He extended his arm gingerly; an ugly bruise ran up the side. She ran her hand over the muscle to his shoulder. "I don't like it, Toltec."

"What?!" he asked incredulously. "I thought that you prefered men in good shape."

Adena blushed as she glared at him. "I mean, the wound doesn't look good." She got down the medical supplies and wrapped the injury with bandages; then she put the arm in a sling to keep it still.

She was reaching around his neck to tie the sling and his free arm pulled her to him. "Toltec, let me go. I can't tie this right with you holding me."

He reluctantly let her go; he realized that she was still too shook up over the evening's events. "What now, doc?" he asked when she was finished.

"I am going to bed," she answered. "See you in the morning." Adena turned, cleaned up the supplies and went to the study.

Toltec went to his room and lay down on the bed. He cautioned himself not to move too quickly. Adena loved Archimedes very much and he didn't want to drive her away by his love. He drifted off into a restless sleep for an hour or so. He kept hearing noises from the upper levels, so he got up to investigate. He followed the sounds to Adena's study; the door was shut so he knocked.

"Come in." He pushed the door open and saw Adena working through several stacks of paper. Her hair was back in a ponytail, and her outfit was casual--almost to the to the point of carelessness. She looked like a very young girl, not the leader that she was.

Toltec felt slightly irritated that she was still up. "I thought you were going to get some sleep."

"Changed my mind, " she mumbled, thumbing through a file. "I do have that ability, you know."

"It is the middle of the night, Adena. Most people use this time for an interesting concept--called rest."

"That's nice," she answered without looking up. "What are you doing up?"

"To see why your up."

"Oh. Good night then." She continued working as if she had nothing better to do. He didn't leave, but she shut the door and walked over behind her. She paused slightly until she saw where he stopped. Then she put the paper down and swung her chair around, pushing him out of its way. She leaned back in her chair and raised an eyebrow at him. "What do you want?"

"Me?" he asked innocently.

"Yes, you, Toltec. Very few people have the nerve to keep bothering me while I'm burning the midnight oil. Blue was one of them--he had that privilege; you don't, so explain yourself."

Toltec lowered himself to her eye level. "Because I get worried about you." He cocked an eyebrow in response to her expression.

He couldn't tell whether she was angry or hysterical. Her eyes were trying to keep from crying, he could tell. When she tried to get up, he held her back. She closed her eyes, and a single tear ran from each. Wiping the water away, she looked at him again.

"I had a book that I was reading, but it can wait," he said cryptically. Adena shrugged and went back to her papers...

...Eve woke up the next morning and found a note tacked to her door.

Dearest Eve,

I decided to go out for an early ride this morning. Toltec came with me--he insisted. I have left a guard at your disposal. She you at noon--

Eve got ready to go to breakfast, and then she heard a knock at the door. She opened the door to see Bryant standing there.

"Good morning, Miss Eden, " he cleared his throat slightly. "I was wondering if you would like me to show you Odina and the gardens today."

"Only if you call me Eve," she answered.

"Okay, Eve." He proffered his arm to her; he left the castle with her, talking about the upcoming sights.

In another part of Furanose, Adena was flying carefree across the snow on her beautiful black danae, watched on the sidelines by Toltec who was still resting his arm. The waterfall in the background was frozen in its motions--the churning waters silenced for the season. The sun was climbing through the morning sky, sparkling in the snowy landscape. Through the crisp air, church bells pealed, and Adena reined her horse to a stop until they finished. Then she galloped into flight on her steed--trying to evade the world for just a little while.


 © 1985, 

K. Blaire, L. Charles, D. Conrad, Enad the Great, A. Mann, J. Pierce, B. C. Randolf, and T. G. Taft

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