Shadow of a Flower - Chapter Four

Charlotte strolled through the north garden with the man who could ruin her reputation at the bat of an eyelid.
    "What is it exactly that I can do for you, Mister Delaney?" she queried, trying not to sound too reluctant to his demands, whatever they may be.
    "Why, my kind lady, how thoughtful of you to ask," Delaney began. "I am planning a little - shall we say - expedition that I think may be of interest to you,"
    "I have no interest in leaving Faolin," Charlotte interrupted bluntly. Delaney laughed.
    "Woman, you do not exactly have much choice in the matter," he snickered. The pair made their way to a nearby pond. "Don't get me wrong, we will begin in Faolin. That is why I'm here, you see. I have travelled far from the west to be in this fine kingdom."
    "What do you mean, begin?"
    "Our journey of course! I am a trader, of sorts. I travel across the lands, obtaining treasures and selling them at reasonable prices to those willing to buy. And trust me, lady, my clientele are always willing."
    "And why do you need me? You're well dressed and clean. You are clearly capable of doing whatever it is that you do on your own." Charlotte sat down by the water's edge and removed her pink, lacy slippers. Delaney sat down beside her.
    "I saw you the other night, as you know. It is difficult to find a companion who is both willing to steal and slender enough to do so."
    "So that's how you obtain these treasures? You steal them?"
    "And you need me because I fit into small places."
    "Exactly. Not to mention your cunning strategy: upper-class lady by day, stealthy bandit by night. Who would guess?"
    "Obviously not cunning enough for the likes of you." Charlotte muttered.
    "Come now, don't let that get you down. I've been in the profession for years."
    "As have I." Charlotte eased her feet into the pond, allowing the cool lapping of the water soothe her growing anger. "I'm engaged. To a good man in a good position. If I leave Faolin, what will our families think?"
  "What will they think if they find out what you do for a living?" At that, Charlotte was silent. For once in her life, she was stumped.
    "How long will this journey take?"
    "I wish I could tell you. It all depends on how successful we are, really. In other words, if you try anything that may sabotage the mission, or my safety, it will inevitably take us longer."
    "And what happens when it's done?"
    "I will return you to Faolin. Safe and unharmed. I will be gone and you will be free to run and scream at the top of your lungs that you had been taken against your will." Delaney smiled and looked out over the ebbing water.
    "When do we leave?"
    "Tonight. But first, there is something in the castle that I want. Tie up any loose ends and I'll meet you in your bed chamber at midnight."

Dearest Alexander. My cousin Isabelle has fallen ill. I must leave Faolin and travel to Niamh tonight. I am truly sorry that this is all so sudden, but I must be with her. I request that you do not follow me. I am not sure what illness ails her, but I do not what to put you at risk. As for me, I'll be okay. If I feel I am at danger, I will return immediately. Please share this letter with my parents. I do not know why Isabelle has requested me, but I love her and will do as she wishes. All my love, Charlotte.

At exactly midnight, Charlotte heard a gentle knocking on her chamber door. She opened it a crack and peered outside. To no surprise, Delaney stood outside, looking smug as always.
    "Good evening, madam." Charlotte opened the door fully. Delaney scanned her up and down with those chilling eyes.
    "You look stunning," he whispered, giving another of those low, exaggerated bows.
    "Pfff!" said Charlotte, dressed in her masculine attire.
    "Have you loaded your belongings onto the cart outside the near the latrine chutes?" Delaney asked enthusiastically as he began leading Charlotte to the thrown room.
    "How could I forget?" she replied enthusiastically. Delaney picked up the pace a little. He was getting excited. "What is it exactly that we're obtaining tonight?" Charlotte questioned the trembling Delaney.
    "The Shea Rings of Faolin." he replied with a grin. Charlotte gasped and stopped dead in her tracks. The Shea Rings were a tradition that had been enforced in every kingdom across the land. The king and queen were each responsible for one. This involved keeping them safe and permanently under strict guard. The owner of a Shea Ring was forbidden to wear it unless the kingdom was under severe attack, from war or otherwise. They are rumoured to have been created by the Shaylee, a fairy people who were said to have gone extinct centuries ago. The rings are supposed to possess great power. 
    Charlotte remembered a children's tale she had heard long ago, of how Queen Saoirse had used her ring to rid her kingdom of a plague most vile. However, little did she know that once a ring had been used, it would no longer bear its magic for the owner, and she stood powerless as her people were massacred by an army from Tyrnan. Of course, if Saoirse had married, the other ring could have been used by her husband, but without the other half of a true leader, it sat dormant in its protective case.
    "We can't steal the Shea Rings!" Charlotte protested. "For one thing, we will never be able to get past the guards. For another, the kingdom will be powerless against invaders!" Delaney ran a hand through his thick hair.
    "Charlotte, how often in history have the rings actually been used? Most rulers savour them for a real tragedy, which in most people's lifetimes, never happens. They will just have to fight their battles the old fashioned way."
    "But they will be at an enormous disadvantage if the other four kingdoms have their rings and Faolin doesn't!"
    "Ah, but see, that's where you are most mistaken. First we will travel to Ronat in the south, then to Niamh in the west. We'll then make our way north to Lakyle and finish our journey in the central Tyrnan, that is, before I return you to Faolin."
    "Are you suggesting we're going to steal the Shea Rings from every kingdom?!"
    "Yes. Then nobody will be at disadvantage! And we'll be rich! Everybody wins!" Delaney patted Charlotte on the shoulder and resumed running to the throne room. Before she could protest further, Charlotte recalled that she had no say in the matter, and would have to do whatever this madman wanted.
    Two guards stood like statues outside the entrance, eyeing the pair cautiously.
    "You never actually responded to my first statement." Charlotte whispered. Delaney grinned.
    "That's because it was never going to be a problem." He drew his sword.

Dorian_Gray   Dorian_Gray wrote
on 9/21/2011 3:20:13 PM
Definitely getting good. Keep going.

Novel / Novella
writing Rinskinski
"Painters paint their pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence." - Leopold Stokowski

"Do you know that our soul is composed of harmony?" - Leonardo da Vinci
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What has she gotten herself into?