A tickling on her arm slowly lifted Allyna from her dreams. She had dreamed of her job at the bakery, helping Mama Brynn with the bread. One of the delivery boys had run through the kitchen and stolen a small pastry. Brynn cursed him up and down, but Allyna smiled. If the boy had just asked, she would have let him have one or even two. Mama Brynn had become a bit of a mother hen to all of the orphans in the baking district.
Allyna continued kneading the bread, but as she flipped it over, blood began to seep out. Allyna couldn't make herself stop kneading, she kept trying to squeeze all the blood out, but more kept coming. soon it was a slippery river, coating her arms and pooling on the floor at her feet. Allyna turned and held the bread out to Brynn, hoping she could fix it, but she wasn't there.
Actually, Allyna wasn't in the kitchen. She was in a vast forest, trees and more for as far as the eye could see. Allyna looked to see if the dough was okay, but she found her hands empty. This was when she felt the tickling on her arm. Allyna swiped at her arm, and found herself rolling over into the river.
Allyna quickly stood up. The water barely came halfway to her knee. It was a mighty small river, more like a trickle. It flowed lazily through the forest, twisting around a tree and disappearing from her sight. Allyna tried to shake off the dream and remember how she came to be here. She remembered being in the bakery, turning to see a man at the door and then painful blackness. Allyna touched her cheek, and discovered no pain.
She gasped, and patted along her ribs and yanked up her shirt to see no bruises from where the King's men had kicked her after they threw her on the forest floor. She yanked her skirt up and found that her ankle, which she was sure had been broken, was also healed. How long had she been sleeping? The moon was high in the sky above her, stars twinkling at it's side.
A small tugging in her chest reminded Allyna how she got there. She remembered starving and being so thirsty. Allyna could feel the distant pangs of hunger, but only as if she had went to bed without dinner, not gone days or weeks without. The tugging insistently pulled her up river, taunting her to it's source.
Allyna walked in the river for about an hour or two. She slipped on the river rocks often, but with the moonlight reflecting off the water, it was easier to follow than the crowded forest. She felt the land slope upward, and the water sprayed over her as it splashed down the hillside.
As she finally reached the top, the moonlight lit upon a small stone structure. It was a round pagoda of sorts, with a dim figure standing at it's center. It had five supporting columns, carved smooth and straight. It had no steps, the forest floor simply turned to stone as Allyna walked towards it.
The figure seemed to be standing upon a pedestal, making it much taller than Allyna. The moonlight shifted as she stood in front of the statue, suddenly remembering her dream while she was dying on the forest floor. The Goddess Danu, with her arms wide and welcoming. Allyna bowed her head and dropped to her knees, tears streaming down her face.
"You didn't leave us," she whispered with a sob. "You were always here, waiting for us to come back to you. We left you". Allyna placed her head on her knees, begging for her forgiveness. The usurper king had destroyed all the statues and texts he could find long ago, near 18 years. Forced us to turn away from Her. It had happened before Allyna was born. She was only 17.
Allyna, my child. I know what happened. I have helped in small ways, but my power is limited on you plane. When Lomash took my statues, he broke my link to you all. My only remaining link was to my distant daughter. The heir. You, my daughter. I kept you as safe as I could once your mother passed. I am sorry I couldn't save her and your young sister. I tried, but it was meant to be. Fate had other plans for you.
Allyna looked up and Danu and shook her head. "No, the only heirs you had left were Queen Oraella and her sister Te'Sara. They died. He even killed the daughter he had with the Queen, baby Raessa. I'm sorry, we have failed you, Goddess," Allyna gazed up at the Goddess in wonder. This time, there was no hood covering her long, flowing hair, whose color was indefinable in the dim moonlight. Her face was ageless, neither young nor old. Her eyes were pale as moonlight, and sparkled like stars. She smiled the smile of a knowing mother, about to tell a great knowledge to her child.
She never got to tell you. Your mother passed before she could, and instead you were left ignorant of your heritage. She lived with the false name of Jaena, but she was indeed the Queen's sister, Te'Sara.
"The Princess was.. My mom.. No she.. No we were poor and she worked. She couldn't have been. King Lomash killed Princess Te'Sara. She was-"
Pregnant. Yes, with you. A pregnant handmaiden of Oraella's, and a fair double of Te'Sara, took Te'Sara's place that day. Do you think she did not see what Lomash had planned for her family? I gave her every warning I could. She chose to save you. Jaena, the handmaiden, had lost her husband, and her unborn child would not survive birth. She knew. She had a choice to protect her future Queen with her death. And here you are.
"Me? A queen? I'm sorry, Goddess, but all I know how to do is bake bread and sweet pastries! I can't be a Queen!" Allyna shouted at Danu, who only smiled. Allyna kept shaking her head. She didn't know how to lead a team in the bakery, let alone rule over thousands of people.
The Goddess laughed, a beautiful sound, as graceful and mesmerizing as a bubbling creek. Oh Allyna, you have been trying! You have been talking to many others about me and Oraella. You have been bringing me back. I have been a bug in your ear, helping you find the words to say when you are lost. Guiding others to you, giving them hope. You are their hope. Even now, though many days have passed, they still speak your name in whispers. They repeat your words, and new books are being written. It may only be a few people now, but word is spreading. Why do you think Lomash found you so quickly! He has people listening for rebellion, and you, my last daughter, have started one.
Thoughts raced through Allyna's head. Memories of the whispered conversations she had in people's houses. She hadn't meant to start anything. She was just talking to her people. It had started after the yearly parade. The celebration Lomash forced on them, of his murder of Queen Orealla.
That day, one of the delivery boys for the bakery had broken his ankle. Allyna had to go instead. She was in the merchant district when the parade came through. Everyone was forced to come outside and pay homage to the mad king. This district had fared better than others. Lomash and his people loved the "local wares".
Allyna watched the King go by, with his son, only 15 years young, next to him. Prince Alric looked like the picture of youth, next to the aging king of some 60 years. They didn't look much alike, Allyna noted. Alric had honey blond hair next to Lomash's black-turned-grey. She glimpsed their eyes, and there, she could tell he was his father's son. Near identical shades of grey, with the same superior look in them.
When it was over and Allyna went back to her cart to finish her deliveries, all she heard people talking about was the King and his heir. Allyna decided they needed something else to talk about. Every shop and family she delivered to, she spoke of Oraella, and of Danu if they were willing to listen. She talked about the stories her mother left her with, and some others she had heard from Mama Brynn. People listened.
For two weeks she covered for the delivery boy. And she talked of the Queen and Danu at nearly every stop. The only time she stayed quiet were deliveries to Lomash's people. After a while, the people started to share stories with her as well, other tales they recalled about the Goddess or Oraella.
When the boy had recovered, and Allyna had to stay at the bakery, people started coming to her. The delivery boys gathered stories from her and told them on their routes. About 2 months after the parade is when the King's men came.
"I don't want any of them to be hurt!" Allyna feared that she wasn't the only one the King had disposed of. What of Brynn, and all the orphan boys she employed? Allyna couldn't bring herself to put them in danger.
Hush those thoughts, Allyna. Remember the maid's sacrifice? All of our people will understand. And they are allowed their own choice. Will you choose to lead you people? Will you give them back their pride? Their hope? What will you choose?
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Note From Ash
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