Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne

In the world of Empire of the Covenant

Visit Empire of the Covenant

Completed 2440 Words

Deathly Flowers part 2

3575 4 1

"He will not be able to help," Lyrienne declared one hour later with a grim expression as they were both watching the best healer available examine the ambassador. Unfortunately, the most talented ones were gone with both of their parents.

Éldorine clenched her fingers. "Cirane?"

"Cirane indeed. Only the islanders know how to deal with that."

And there would be no time to get one of their own healers here. Location pentagrams did not work above water, which was the whole reason the Islanders needed to trade through ships.

Éldorine forced her fists to relax. "Was the poison meant for you or did someone know of what you intended?"

Lyrienne grimaced and turned fully towards her. "There is only an abundance of choice regarding the culprits. I had to use intermediaries to establish contact with the Islands. My little project has hardly been a secret from everyone in the Estate. Whether the poison originates with the Northern coalition or the Islanders themselves is of little importance. If the ambassador dies, the whole of the Southern coalition will suffer."

"And whose brilliant idea has this been?"

He lifted a hand and stroked her cheek in a half mocking gesture. "Do not be so grim. Once we solve this contretemps, the ambassador will be indebted to us and will have no choice but to offer us very favourable terms."

Éldorine hissed and stepped away from him. "I could almost believe you are the one who plotted this whole little contretemps. Do tell, what is your new brilliant idea?"

"You flatter me, my dear. I assure you I am not that devious. As for our miracle solution, why of course we need to use miracle apples."

She froze. "You cannot be serious."

He laughed softly. "Let us go get your location pentagram. While the situation is not quite desperate, we are rather press for time."

Since that argument was unassailable, Éldorine did not bother to argue. The idea was crazy, but so was the whole situation.


Apples from the Lyrienne apple trees, by AmélieIS with images from Unsplash (first apple, second apple, table, and wall).



The Islander delegation was not too happy about seeing them go, clearly understanding what little chance the Southern healer had to save their ambassador. Unfortunately for them, nobody could threaten a Lyrienne in his own home. As they were not stupid, he only had to activate the wards of the manor for them to back away. The reputation of House Lyrienne was more than enough.

That minor problem solved, Lyrienne led Éldorine to his entrance hall in a deceptively unhurried pace before transporting them back to the Alyssenne manor himself. Once they arrived there, Éldorine immediately went to the podium that was standing on one side of the hall. The jewellery box resting on top of it was filled with hundreds of location pentagrams, all unlabelled of course. 

She had to put her hand on the runic diagrams into which the metal had been twisted so as to get a feel for the magic inside. It took her long minutes to find the right one. The Alyssennes had been avoiding the region of their Estate that had become the Black Forest since that unfortunate ritual. And for good reasons.

Once she finally found the pentagram and took it out of the box, Lyrienne was already by her side, placing a hand around her waist.

She threw him a startled look. "Surely, you cannot mean to go right now? Without guards? In such clothing?" She gave a meaningful look at their fineries.

"We hardly have time to bother with that, beyond the fact that it is highly likely that we do have a spy inside one of our households and it would be unwise to proclaim our intentions to anyone."

She opened her mouth to protest, but he did not let her time to do so.

"It is not as if anyone would be safer in the Black Forest than an Alyssenne and a Lyrienne. What would guards do but get in our way? Let us not needlessly reduce the protection around our manors while we stand in such dangerous times."

She closed her mouth and pinched her lips. Another terrible decision, and yet he was once again managing to make it sound perfectly logical. Unavoidable, even.

He gave her a pointed look and she resigned herself to the inevitable.

She pushed her power inside the pentagram and let the piece of metal guide her magic into the appropriate form. Once done, she carefully maintained it while enveloping the both of them with another part of her power. And then they were gone.

A second only later found them standing inside Wéltane, the last city before the Black Forest started. 

The marketplace where they had landed was mildly busy, and it did not take more than a few seconds for people to start noticing them—the high quality of their clothes and their family crests on their breasts were not exactly discreet. Anyone nearby bowed in their direction and both Éldorine and her companion answered with a nod, before they started walking at a leisured pace towards the outside of the city. People naturally parted before them in a bowing wave. Éldorine kept her eyesight on the horizon, deliberately avoiding meeting the eyes of any of her people.

Despite their lack of escort, no one was rude enough to interrupt them. Nevertheless, the attention followed them for the long minutes it took them to leave the cobbled streets behind them. As soon as they got out of sight however, they both increased their pace to a very brisk walk. Éldorine wanted to run towards the forest, even though she knew they had to preserve their strength.

"Are you armed at least?" she asked.

He huffed. "A bit late to enquire about that, is it not? Yes," he added at her look, "I am in fact armed, just as I always am. Just as you always are. I need not remind you that we are at war. There is little more I can do without hours of preparation to make woad tattoos."

Éldorine released an annoyed sigh. "Fine. Behaved as if I am being irrational. This is the Black Forest!"

As she was saying those words, the dirt road on which they were ended abruptly to let place to a narrow animal track. It was spreading a few hundred meters among tall grasses before the first trees rose in front of them. 

Éldorine took the lead as those were her lands. She attempted to hide her tension from Lyrienne's eyes in her back, but he could undoubtedly see the way her magic was ready to sprang at any notice, exactly as she could see that beyond his cool façade he was just as ready as she was.

Not even a minute on that track and her foot went deep into the mud. She hissed a curse. Lyrienne snorted behind her before putting a hand on her elbow to help her regain her balance and free herself. She ignored his expression and resumed walking.

Of course, since they were not wearing proper clothes, her leg was covered with mud now...  At least the Lyrienne silk of her dress was saturated in protective magic and it would easily survive something as trivial as mud. However, the forest would have far worst in reserve for them.

She tensed at a stirring in the grasses before her, but she did not let that slow her pace. What animals had even made the track on which they were walking? Wolves lived in the forest, but they were far from its most dangerous inhabitants.

The magic on Éldorine clothes protected her from feeling the heat of the sun too harshly, but the mud on her legs was bothering her so much that she did not hold more than a minute before snapping and using an impulse of raw magic to clean it away. She pretended not to hear Lyrienne's soft laugh.

They finally arrived at the first tree, still unmolested by anything. As soon as they walked below its branches, Éldorine's breath was cut away.


The Black Forest, by AmélieIS with Artbreeder.



The magic around them completely changed, increasing to a level she had very rarely experience before, and at that only in the middle of powerful rituals!—which made sense given the origin of the forest. The air was moist and filled with the thunderous smell of powerful magic, threatening to make her sneeze. Power buzzed against her skin. Not threatening per se, but oh so distracting. The whole place was lit in an unnatural glow.

Everything around them was brimming with magic. The area had obviously not yet recovered from the ritual that had messed up it up, even after several millennia. All the lifeforms here had had to adapt to survive the toxic level of magical particles, and most had done so by storing them in aggregates in their leaves or furs. That made everything light up like the sun to Éldorine's eyes, and she had no way of stopping using her line-gift. The whole sight was very unsettling and made it difficult to know where to walk.

Lyrienne's hand at her waist grounded her. She glanced back to meet his eyes. His expression was serious but unbothered. His magical sensitivity was not up to her level.

Éldorine pinched her lips, unhappy with her moment of weakness. She straightened her back and stepped away from him, pretending nothing had happened.

She started walking again and Lyrienne immediately followed. This time they went at a much slower pace, and she was a lot more careful about where she was putting her feet. More than once a snake attempted to bite at her ankle only to be stopped by the basic wards she had permanently activated around her. Thankfully, no one of those reptiles had enough magic to be able to pierce them. Where were the one who could?

They headed towards where Éldorine knew the river was. The Lyrienne apple trees preferred to grow on its bank.

Thanks to their wards, Éldorine and Lyrienne were able to muffle the noise of their steps. This let silence reign over forest, only occasionally broken by the eerie cries of birds. But predators would not be announcing their presence.

Unable to stand the uncertainty for any longer, Éldorine attempted to connect to the magic of the Land on which they were walking. Her very blood was connected to the Land of the Alyssenne Estate, and the Black Forest was standing right on it—it was even born from the blood of her ancestors. It should answer to her call.

And, in a way, it did. After all they had yet to be purposefully targeted by any of the forest predators. If she paid attention to the vegetation, she could even see the plants turn towards her as she walked past them. All the forest seemed to be holding its breath, curious as to her purpose in coming here. She could only hope its scrutiny did not turn malevolent while they were in its embrace.

But the Land refused to actually tell her anything useful.

They reached the riverbank and started to walk alongside it. Still no attack.

The absence of danger was becoming as stressful as the danger itself. Éldorine had heard so many stories about the Black Forest during her childhood that she refused to believe the situation would be as easy as it appeared. Surely, just being an Alyssenne would not be enough to pass through unbothered? She could not believe so. Refused to believe so. Lyrienne would be so smug if they came out of it without even a scratch! And she would be more than a little miffed to have been terrified by those stories for years all for nothing.

They continue their walk without seeing any of the most famed lifeforms of the forest. 

Magic enveloped her from behind and she stopped in her track. She swirled on her feet to face Lyrienne. "What are you doing?" she hissed.

He had the gall to smile innocently. "A simple anti-eavesdropping ward, as I am sure you can tell. There is no reason for us to stay silent if there is no risk of attracting the attention of any predator."

"No risk? Are you out of your mind? Those are no mundane predators! Of course, they can feel magic just as we do—"

"Which is why we are always wearing magic-dampening wards, may I remind you."

She hissed wordlessly in frustration. "We have not developed those for such dangerous things, no one among the Northerners have that level of magical sensitivity."

"Ah Alyssenne. As anxious as always."

Faced with the almost overwhelming need to hit him, she had to turn away and to resume walking in long frustrated footsteps.

He followed. "Surely, you cannot expect me to stay silent and miss such a wonderful occasion?"

"Wonderful indeed."

"Why, you and me, alone on such a romantic walk." She snorted. "In any case, I better take advantage while I still can," he added flippantly before falling silent.

She held up for a full minute before breaking and asking, "Why? What could possibly repress your untameable need to make yourself insufferable?"

"I am sure that you have noticed the current direction of the war. This is the third peace brokering of the decade. Despite all the posturing, such a thing would not be possible without a lot of bilateral good will. Of course, both of the previous attempts were failures, which is why they are undoubtedly going to try something radical this time. Such as a marriage bond. And look, there is just Lady Arianie's son that happens to be single."

Éldorine could not prevent a grimace, but at least it was hidden from Lyrienne. Lady Arianie's son was an imbecile. Her daughter, however, was more than tolerable. But as her mother's favourite, she would not be sacrificed to the Southerners.

"And," Lyrienne continued, "it looks like the Southern Kingdoms could also do with some peace treaty, and if bondings are going to be trendy, why not go all in? It would not be fair for you to suffer alone, after all. And by some incredible coincidence, King Jarnène does also happen to have an unmarried son."

"It does indeed look like bondings are going to be trendy this season," Éldorine drawled in a falsely unconcerned tone.

She felt Lyrienne's magic swirled with annoyance at her lack of reaction before he took control of it again. Just as he was getting ready for another assault on her nerves, something ahead of them caught Éldorine's attention. She froze and he immediately follow suit. 

They both raised their magic around them in visible opalescent clouds.

A loud laugh answered their action.

Check out my world, the Empire of the Covenant, and the article that inspired this story The murderous Alyssenne flowers.
Please Login in order to comment!
Sage PanAndPaper
AS Lindsey (Pan)
23 Aug, 2021 13:41

Lyrinne is getting a bit annoyingly smug and condescending now, and it's starting to feel like Éldorine is just doing whatever he tells her to. At least he's consistent, though! Also, why are the teleportation pentagrams all unlabeled? If they're in a safe place and there are hundreds of them, this seems incredibly inefficient.   That said, I love the scene-setting in the forest. You've described it very well, and there's a real sense of growing dread regarding why it's so quiet when there are potentially magic-filled somethings lurking about.

Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
23 Aug, 2021 16:11

For the pentagrams, yes it's very inefficient. The Alyssenne are just very smug that they're able to quickly identify them by the feel of their magic and want to show off :p Thanks for the comment :D

To see what I am up to: SC list of articles and goals.