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TO COURT LOVE AND DANGER

BY: DANAE CONRAD

The news had spread quickly through Furanose: the Enchantress was back at court. The people had not hoped in vain; they knew that she would return. She even brought back additional wealth to their lands--the Ring of Ranet. The newest event though was the court session that would be held.

The Enchantress would be entertaining pleas, ideas and the like from the general populace, after several days of extensive meetings with her council. The day had arrived and the city of Odina was packed with people of all walks of life. Lawyers had quickly finished client's cases to present, interest groups prepared their statements; all was in preparedness.

Eve was amazed by all the fluster of activity that surrounded Adena's station. She had been flattered with a warm reception from Furanose as well as an invitation to sit in Adena's court. She selected an appropriate dress for the occasion. It was rose pink gown that swept to the floor. The bodice was sequenced with silver and rose and filmy sleeves floated from her shoulders.

A knock at her door startled her; opening it, she found a Royal Guard outside of it.

"The Enchantress requests your presence at court, Miss." He bowed slightly to her and indicated the stairs with his sword. Eve smiled and nodded, taking the staircase to the Courtroom. The sight struck her speechless. The floor shone like crystal, except where a plush emerald carpet ran. The ceiling was high and mirrored, permitting a clear view of any aspect of those in attendance. The room was in a pentagon shape--Adena had said it was based on a famous historical structure--and in the four side corners stood polished ebony boxes inlaid in jewels for the Council. The most magnificent structure in the room was at the peak of the pentagon. Slightly raised from floor level, a throne sat regally awaiting the ruler. It was polished emerald with thin stripes of gold piercing it in a network pattern; Eve thought that it looked rather uncomfortable, until she saw the sateen cushions lining it. Its size intimidated her; surely, it swallowed Adena up as well.

The guard had taken his place in the Court ranks, and Eve was slightly puzzled on what to do next. She saw the Council begin filing in--the ministers from all areas of government and Furanosian districts. Many she recognized from previous state affairs; seeing Toltec, she hurried--as ladylike as possible--to his side.

"I am not so sure about what to do next," she whispered.

Toltec smiled at her nervousness. "Well, I do," he whispered back and offered her his arm. "Come this way." Eve took his arm gingerly and allowed him to lead her to one of the boxes closest to the throne. "Up you go, Miss Eden."

"But this is so close to..."

"You are a visiting dignitary. Enjoy yourself." With that, Toltec left her to attend to his duties. Eve settled back, feeling a new pride at being known as a dignitary; she was a leader of people, she thought proudly.

Suddenly, the room grew quiet, not even a thought was heard. Eve followed everyone's gaze to the Court doors. The retinue of guards came into the room and took their places on either side of the throne. Toltec stood unmoving at the door, until it swung back once more, revealing Adena. Eve realized that everyone was standing and she quickly got to her feet.

Toltec was apparently going through the traditions for he had bowed deeply to Adena and gave her greeting. Adena virtually sparkled in her royalty. A golden gown highlighted her eyes and skin tone; her waist-length hair was swept off her neck and to reveal a deeply cut back on her dress. Her tresses were pinned neatly behind the crown of Furanose. The crown in itself was a national treasure. The latticed base was of unicorn horn and it carried larger versions of the gems in the Amulet which was on Adena's neck.

Toltec walked softly behind Adena as she approached her throne. Her dress hardly moved with the motion; Adena turned to Toltec and he took his seat in the ebony box near Eve. Adena took her throne and Eve noticed that she had slipped her feet onto the throne as well.

"The Court is now in session--you may take your seats." Toltec announced to them, "Enchantress."

"Before any entertainments are made, please acknowledge Eve Eden to Furanose, Council." Eve felt herself nudged by her neighbor to stand; she did so, and smiled at Adena, who nodded quietly to her. After Eve had sat down, Adena began, "Advisor Toltec, please bring forward the first statements. "

So the Court began. Adena listened to pleas on everything from farm aid to environmental concerns. She tried a major dispute over land control that had arisen between two families; Eve noticed that Adena had satisfied both parties. Eve thought that she would be able to swim in all of the details that Adena evaluated and acted upon.

Finally, the Court reached an end. The sun was beginning to set and Eve realized that she hadn't eaten since early that morning. However, before Adena could adjourn the Court, one more announcement was made.

"The Wizard of Suralio Frith Iffley enters your presence, m'lady," the herald stated. Adena looked up quickly with the news; Eve saw Toltec tense slightly with the name. A murmur was in the crowd--the Wizard and Enchantress on strained terms had happened before. "Let him enter." Adena silenced to Council with an icy glare. Eve noted that she internalized all expressions as Iffley walked in with--Camille.

"Enchantress," he said, bowing to her. Eve saw his face though; he was watching Adena for the response that he expected--she also noticed that Camille didn't curtsey to Adena as protocol stated.

"Wizard, have you not instructed your guest on Court?"

"I will not be submissive to you, Adena!" Camille had obviously planned to embarrass Adena, however this was Adena's home court. The guards automatically jumped to the defend position. Adena moved to them to attention with one command.

"I do not ask your submission, but I do ask your respect for my lands and its traditions; one of which is bowing to the ruler befroe speaking in Court." Adena's expression hadn't changed as she stared Camille down to a curtsey. Adena immediately turned to Iffley, "What request do you have of me?"

Iffley knew what he really wanted to ask her, but this was not the place or time. he wanted Adena's facade of confidence to crumble in jealousy; then, he would deal with her. "We wish to travel in Furanose."

"Since you are a Keyholder and not a holder of lands... "

"He owns Alarius," Camille interupted sharply. The Council was irritated by this second breech of protocol. Adena seemed hardly to notice.

"He gave Alarius away to someone." Turning to Iffley, she said with a slight undertone of sarcasm, "You really ought to keep her up with these things. " Then, she returned to her statement, "As a Keyholder, you know the oath you must swear."

"I do, Enchantress," Iffley said, wishing deeply in his heart that he was saying this in answer to another question that he wanted her to answer as well. "I will not under any circumstances use the Sceptre for any purpose in your lands on the penalty of death."

"Nor the Tiara, Wizard," she said sternly, but he saw what he thought was a tear in her eye.

"Nor the Tiara, under the same penalties." Iffley looked at Eve, who glared slightly at him. She had told Adena about the Key--the tow women had become better friends than he had anticipated.

"You are granted a traveler's leave."

"Enchantress!" Now, it was Iffley who broke protocol. A traveler's leave would forbid him from the castle and the object of his plans.

"That is my stand, Wizard. I cannot give you anything more," she said, with a touch of ruefulness. Iffley saw the Council nodding in agreement with her decision. He knew he was beat for now. "However, a ball will be thrown at the end of your leave which, as a Keyholder, you are welcome to attend." Iffley tried to read from her expression, if she was giving him another chance. He bowed an Camille reluctantly did similarly.

After they had left the palace, Adena set about closing court. "Are there any further petitions?" She waited for any response. "Council?" No noise issued from her people's representatives. "This Court is ended, personal thanks to all attending." The Council stood with her and remained standing until she left the room. Then the room filled with buzzing of various discussions on the Court and its decisions.

Eve saw Toltec motioning her to join him. Excitedly, she came over, "I hate to seem ungrateful but I am famished."

"No wonder, that session was long overdue. Adena is probably exhausted. Come on, we'll join her for dinner."

Eve excused herself to change for the meal, but Toltec continued to the dining room. Adena sat at the head of the table still in her royal trappings. Her head was bowed in her hands, which firmly clutched the crown of Furanose. Toltec removed his gold sash of office and hung it on his chair.

"What a day," he heard her say hoarsely.

"But you wouldn't trade it for the world."

"True. All too true." She looked up and smiled. "Surprise ending, don't you think?"

Toltec nodded, and said, "You said that the Tiara was up to no good. Bringing her to Court was the last straw."

"He was free to do so by law."

"How about by you?"

"Don't put me in a corner."

"Wouldn't dream of it--unless you gave me the power to hold you there."

They stopped talking as Eve came in the room. She saw Toltec's arm hanging protectively over the Enchantress' chair. Something was definitely amiss between the two Keyholders, she declared. But Adena welcomed her with a smile nonetheless and they ate a wonderful dinner together. The guard that had escorted Eve appeared with a congratulations for Adena from the Council.

"Thank you, Lieutenant." Adena noticed Eve's piqued curiosity. "Lieutenants, please tell your commander that we'll be using the lower levels tonight and to post appropriate guards. "

"Yes, m'lady," he said smugly, snapping to attention. Then he strode from the room.

"Very good lad," Toltec began, picking up on Adena's ploy, "if I remember, his uncle is captain in one of the units."

"Yes, the lieutenant's name is Bryant Carl, I believe."

Eve caught on and blushed. "Thank you, Adena." Eve continued to ask questions about Furanose and its customs. "What are the lower levels, Adena?" she asked at the end of the meal.

"You are about ready to see." Adena got up from the table and told Eve to come with her. Toltec came as well, but stopped at the second floor to go to his chambers. Adena and Eve continued to the third story. "How about a swim?"

"In this weather! Adena, it's freezing outside."

"That's the magic of the lower levels." Adena went to her room and brought out a suit for Eve. It was hot pink on black and Eve was thrilled; she went to her room to try it on.

Adena went to her study and stood before the place where her mirror used to hang, now, there hung a painting by Kokoschka, an ancient Earth artist. It was Adena's favorite and she had adapted it to magic. The painting, The Tempest, seemed to draw her within it and soon she lay within the walls of her room. She drew on a cinnamon brown suit highlighted in golds for the evening's activities.

Pausing in front of the safe within her chambers, she stowed the crown for future use. She looked at the book that she had left unfinished and wondered if she should do do now. Deciding against it, she joined Eve in the hall in front of the stairwell.

Both women wore warm terry robes of black for their trip to the lower levels. Eve followed Adena to the first floor, then they took a back passage, underneath the stairs, down another flight. The whole place was misty and warm; Eve enjoyed the moist warmth on her face. She felt the moisture condensing on her cold skin as she tried to keep stride with Adena. At the end of the corridor, Adena opened the door that was there. Adena and Eve entered a large room that smelt of warmth and something that Eve couldn't identify.

"Adena, what is that aroma? I really like it."

"It's called Foxfire--an ancient Earth Scent."

"One of the few things that she spoils herself with," said a masculine voice behind them. Toltec appeared out of the mists, already soaking wet from the pool.

Eve quickly tied her hair back and walked to the deck. Her ship's company had been allowed to join the festivities and Eve was elated to see them as well as Bryant Carl's silhouette standing guard at the door. She smiled and he nodded back. She dove into the pool and left Adena and Toltec standing on the deck.

Adena quickly turned towards the door. "Good night, make sure she doesn't get hurt. I'll see you later..."

Toltec had taken firm hold on her arm. "Not so fast. You've had a long day and if you leave here, I know you'll go right back to work. You have got to rest sometime, Enchantress." His grey eyes were daring her to say no.

"Didn't you say that you were a lawyer once?" she humored him with her tone.

He let her go and she walked towards a part of the level that seemed to have denser mist than the rest. He waited a few minutes and then followed. By the time he stepped into the room, Adena's robe already hung by the door and she was resting next to the swirling sauna.

"I meant to relax, not sleep, Adena," he said laughing, as he slipped into the warm waters. Her eyes flickered open momentarily, then closed, as she shrugged her shoulders. "Are you going to come in?" She didn't even look at him this time, but shook her head in negation. Her hair which now flowed freely over her back was becoming damp in the moisture laden air. "Adena?"

"Hmm." She was getting sleepy now; he knew that it was time. Grabbing her ankles, he flipped her easily into the pool; she had shrieked in surprise, bringing the Lieutenant to the room.

"M'lady, are you alright?!"

Adena had come up coughing and spluttering, trying to catch her breath. She was trying to get out of the water, but Toltec had her arm tightly held out of the way of the guard's sight. "She slipped into the pool, Lieutenant. She will be all right. Man your station."

"Yes, sir."

"Liar," Adena hissed, when she caught her breath.

"You breathing alright on your own?" She nodded, still coughing slightly. "Adena, for crying out loud, give me some excuse not to kiss you."

"You never listened to anything I said before."

"Excuse enough for me," he said and Adena, who had thought him joking, found herself in his arms with his lips on hers.

"Adena!!" Eve was calling from the next room. "Adena! Come here a minute! "

Adena however wasn't too available for reality. She had totally lost her herself in someone else's grey eyes. She shook her head as if to clear it. "I'd better go see what she needs."

"I'll put a bookmark in this chapter until you get back."

Adena pulled herself out of the water to go to Eve. Toltec leaned back against the pool's wall. He had let himself to what he had left years ago to avoid. He had kissed her once in the past; stealing into her room at midnight, he had kissed her once and then had left to let her run the country. he hadn't forgotten her or the impact that she had on him.

He saw Adena's arm sneak around the door to get her robe. "Adena! Wait a minute!" He jumped out of the water, but she had already started to run up the steps to the main staircase. Her wet feet slicked on the concrete steps and she fell to her knees. Toltec caught up to her then. "Just where do you think you are going?"

"I don't know."

"Well, I do." He kissed her gently, but Eve came to Adena's rescue (?).

"Are you all right, Adena?" "No, I think that it has been a long day. I'm going to go to bed. See you in the morning, we'll go riding."

"Terrific! " Eve trotted back to the pool and Adena trotted to the door.

"Good night, Toltec. Thank you for an interesting evening," she said softly.

"I still haven't finished the book, Adena." She let herself out of the door as he stood on the steps watching.


 © 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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