"M..my PROTECTOR?" Falina herself winced at the shout that came from her lips.
Both royals looked at each other but did not take her to task for her manners. Brandyn who was standing between the two gave her a hard glare and Bahl seemed to find the whole situation somewhat amusing.
"Perhaps we should start from the beginning," Elyan said to the King who nodded and indicated a chair near her.
"Please, Lady Falina, sit down."
Falina flopped into the chair feeling as if her legs had given out from under her, not even commenting on the misused title as her mind whirled with the thought that this..this..demon was to be near her for...for how long?
She looked at the King, questions clearly in her eyes and he drew a deep breath, preparing for a moment for what he was about to say.
"I am afraid that you might find all of this a bit overwhelming," He began and held up a hand when she opened her mouth to speak. "Please, Lady Falina, hear me out before you speak. I will answer what questions are left when I am done."
King Goldenbane began to pace as he spoke, his brow furrowed in concentration.
"As Bahl has stated, his family has been serving ours for ages. Thanks to their loyalty, Devensheer has escaped many wars and much devestation. I go so far as to say that, without them, Devensheer would not exist today."
His Majesty stopped and looked hard at Falina. "And neither would your farm or the life you lead with your family. Although we cannot openly announce the historic value of their services, all of Devensheer, each man, woman and child, owe much to Bahl and his ancestors."
Bahl, in acknowledgement of the King's praise bowed low from his hips but did not interrupt.
"And, as I have already told you, his mother was a knight, a great knight in fact and one that was very close to the royal family. Not only she but her closest friend and ally, Genevive D'veln, were loyal knights of the highest order amid the royal family."
Falina's head snapped up at the mention of her mother's name, her mouth hanging open and eyes wide and unblinking. The King nodded at the question in her eyes.
"Yes, your mother, Falina, once served the throne and earned her title of Lady. A title which is now passed down to you and your brother and sisters. As well as land and possessions which have been in holding for all of the years she has been missing."
Falina's mouth snapped shut and she looked down at her rough-worn hands with unseeing eyes. They were a product of hard work, work she was proud of. They came without title or lands or a hint of nobility. All of her life she had been a simple farmer's daughter. The news that there was more to her existance than that was too overwhelming for her to comprehend.
King Goldenbane, sensing her confusion, waited before beginning again.
"As I was saying, both yours and Bahl's mother served us well. Besides Bradyn, I do not believe there were more trusted knights in my kingdom."
Bradyn nodded solomely at this but kept his silence.
"Your mother stood up for Kathelyn, Bahl's mother, at her wedding never questioning her friend's love of someone...not human."
"I will not bore you with the complete details of that story, however, I simply bring it up to show the loyalty that your mother had to her friends. It plays a large part in what I am about to impart to you."
Falina blinked and looked up again, meeting the King's gaze but saying nothing.
"It was some short months after Bahl's birth that both Kathelyn and Genevive were sent on a routine mission. At least it was supposed to be routine. What went on we will never know for Bahl's mother died and yours disappeared."
Falina shook her head. "No...no, she died...five years ago. A...an accident...a carriage accident. The healers were too late to save her. My..my father found her...went looking for her when she did not return home...."
Elayn sat down on the chair next to Falina and took her hand in his. It was ice cold and he glanced up at his father with a question in his eyes. The older Goldenbane shook his head and nodded to Falina.
"She is Genevive's daughter. This is a shock but she will be able to meet the challenge. I am sure of it."
The thought that she was glad HE was sure she could handle this because she was having doubts herself crossed her mind but she did not speak those thoughts to anyone else in the room.
"Your mother disappeared before you were born," Gerald Goldenbane continued as if he had never been interrupted. "On that night and we could not find her though we searched the countryside and towns. We finally came to the conclusion that she, too, perished but her body had been lost."
"We were mistaken, of course. Somehow she survived and hid. Why, we do not know, but we are sure of one thing...if Genevive D'veln forsake her knighthood, it was because she knew she could not return without bringing harm to the royal family or else her memory was altered to keep her from remembering her post here at the Palace."
At this point Bahl spoke up. "Believe me, my father spent every effort he could to find her. He was determined to learn the truth about my mother's death. It was to no avail. Something powerful was blocking his every effort." His eyes seemed to bore into her as if he could take the answers his family had never recieved and rip them from her mind just because she was her mother's daughter. Flinching she turned from his gaze and looked elsewhere around the room.
"Years passed, twenty to be exact," King Goldenbane continued. "The incident was put aside as new crisis arose around the kingdom and we all, Bahl's father included, were called to keep the kingdom safe."
"In that time, your mother wed your father and produced a family of which you are a part. We have no reason to believe that your father knew of your mother's past. In fact, since we have become aware of your existance, we have been made fairly certain that that is the case."
Unbidden, her eyes flicked to Bahl who gave her a rueful smile and a half-bow.
"What we do know is that you play an important part in this."
Falina tore her gaze from Bahl's and stared open mouthed at the King.
"But...but..you just said I wasn't born until AFTER this had all happened!" She stuttered, confusion in her eyes.
"Yes," It was Bahl that spoke,"But the fact remains that your role in this is central."
Falina had had enough of this and turned on Bahl, her temper flaring, her fear of him all but forgotten.
"And why, Demon, do you think this?"
His eyes never waivered from hers but seemed to burn in intensity.
"Because, a few days ago I was following a new rumor that seemed connected to my mother's death. It led me to a source that asked that I do a certain job."
There was a pregnant pause as both participants stood, gazes locked, a battle of wills flaming between the two of them. Bahl won the battle with his next clipped words.
"The job was to assassinate you."