"A brother?" Falina yawned and wiped sleep from her eyes. She had taken a bath, staying in the water until it was chilled before relinquishing it and had seemed only to sleep for a moment before Bahl came baning on her door telling her the evening meal was ready.
Before she had time to gather herself and go downstairs, the Tiefling had bluntly demanded to know if she was aware of a brother. But not any brother, a twin he had quite plainly stated.
"Oh!" She blinked, her mind coming fully out of the fog of sleep. "You are talking about Magnus."
Bahl had been staring at her more intently than she felt the situation had warrented and now a flicker of surprise flashed behind his eyes only to be quickly suppressed, so quickly that she wondered if she had really seen it.
"Yes." He said, waiting for her to go on.
Falina frowned and shrugged, a look of sadness crossing her face. "I don't know why you would ask but, yes, I had a brother named Magnus. He was my twin. He died in childbirth. I am told he was birthed the wrong way and was not breathing when he arrived in the world." She sighed a bit and sat down on the plush chair behind her.
"I tried to help Father with running the farm as a son would but I knew I fell short. A few times Magnus' name would come up and he would get so sad. You could see the loss in his eyes." She sighed again and shook her head. "But that is the past. Why do you ask?"
Bahl stood by the doorway watching her as she stared at him with an unwaivering gaze and Falina could almost see his mind working at coming up with what he would tell her. A growing gnawing of doubt crept into her belly and she narrowed her eyes.
"Bahl?" She said, standing up and placing her hands on her hips. "Why are you asking about my brother? And how did you even hear about him?"
The rogue's eyes shuttered and he turned to the door. "It is of no consequence. I had heard that there might be another Heir of El'Cairn and I wished to confirm it, that is all."
"What? But wait!" She hurried after him as he opened the door. "That's another thing! You never have told me exactly what all this 'Heir' buisiness is about. Don't you think it's time to let me know..."
She stopped in her tracks as the door was shut directly in her face. Blinking in surprise she stared at the door for a moment and then frowned fiercely, kicking it hard and then gasping and hopping on one foot as pain shot up her leg.
"Stupid Demon!" She hissed sitting on the floor and rubbing her foot grumpily. "Never tells me anything. Just expects me to follow along all bowing and scraping and saying 'Yes, Sir' and 'No, Sir' to him while he treats me like a dog!"
Tears of frustration came to her eyes and she angrily swiped them away.
"One day! One day I'll show him I'm not such a child!"
Getting back to her feet, she stomped off to get ready for the evening meal.
Kanan rose to his feet and tapped a fork upon the crystal goblet in his hand, bringing the room to silence. At the signal, the serving crew who had been running in and out of the great hall moved to the large wooden doors and closed them, leaving the diners to turn to the Blue Knight.
Kanan cleared his throat and looked out at the assembly. Fifteen men and women and gathered here. Some were in robes, some in armor, one or two expensively attired and notibly of the upper crust. All fell silent and awaited what Kanan Al'Barren would say.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," He began, his ice blue eyes constantly filting from one person to the next, catching their attention and holding it before moving on to the next. "I thank you for your attendance at this gathering tonight. As you know we have a pressing business to attend to. It is a matter of utmost importance and could mean dark times for Astelbania if our given task fails."
A rough clearing of the throat was heard along the 'U' shaped table and all heads turned to see a portly man dressed in rich robes, a dour look upon his face.
"And you would know about dark times, wouldn't you, Kanan Al'Barren?" He said, poison in his tone, "You who allowed...no...assisted Sakkar in becoming a God?"
The silence of the group at that moment was tense, everyone of them stilled almost to the point of being a painting. Not a breath stirred, not a voice spoke as Kanan and the man locked gazes.
Finally, Kanan's deep timber broke the silence. "Your objections to my leading the movement to find Sakkar's Citedel are well documented Lord Umbridge. Your influence in the Towers are the main reason that Bahl has been placed at the head of this mission instead of I."
Lord Umbridge snorted. "A Tiefling! Hardly a better choice! You may as well call the demons of the Abyss to lead us all straight to the nine hells!"
A takard thumped on the head table so hard that it echoed in the room.
"Sit down, ye loud mouthed trouble-maker," Axym growled, already far in his cups. "Ye've already made ears burn from here to Westbridge with your damnable grumblings and whining. Tha decision is made and more of your mouth will only help tha enemy!"
Umbridge's face grew red and sputtered as he hauled is enormous bulk out of his chair.
"Now look here, Dwarf!"
"I'm lookin'! All I see is a windbag makin' trouble!"
All eyes snapped around to where Falina had come to her feet and, actually, had jumped on the table, her hands fisted into her hips, her face full of fury, her blazing eyes locked onto both the dwarf and the heavyset Lord.
"That is enough," She repeated in a icy cold voice. "I am tired of the lot of you deciding what's good for me. And all of this...." She swept her hand around the room, "Is about me."
She took a deep breath and prayed no one realized how unsteady it was. Her fury and frustration was all that was keeping her on her feet. WIth every eye on her, expectantly, it was all she could feel her nerves grating on edge. One on one haggling at the market was one thing. A whole room full of people hanging on your every word because you were the 'Heir of El'Cairn' was something totally different.
"I will tell you now, I am not happy being in the middle of this storm. I didn't want it, I don't like it and it makes me furious that I lost my family and the life I knew without anyone consulting me as to my wants or wishes."
"So, here I am, trying to listen to the reasons behind my life being turned upside down and you," She pointed at the fat man. "Dare to pretend to have a say in who my protector is or who is doing what in my life? I don't care if the whole of Astelbania is hanging in the balance. This stops now! From now on people are going to start explaining things to my satisfaction and asking my opinion instead of just pushing me around."
Her eyes landed on Bahl with narrowed furiousity, her chin jutting out in, what she hoped, was a a noble determination.
"So far the Teifling has done an...adequate job..." She said loftily gaining some satisfaction with Bahl's look of amused surprise. "He may stay as my protector."
Bahl, for his part gave a mock bow to her which she ignored.
"As for Kanan Al'Barron being in charge of this meeting as well as in othe capcities he has been chosen for, I have heard his reputation and feel very safe in his hands."
She turned once again to the pompus Lord Umbridge. "I think that ends the list of your complaints, Sir. So, if we can proceed so that I can learn enough to carry off whatever it is that is expected of me, I would very much appreciate it."
Lord Umbridge, outrage on his face, glared at her and then looked around the assembled men and women, none who seemed willing to aid him. With a last glower in Kanan's direction, he sat down and, grabbing his goblet, took a large gulp of his wine.
"I see what you mean," Kanan said as an aside to Bahl who was to his right as Falina stepped down from the table and retook her seat.
"I did warn you," The Tiefling muttered, reaching for his own goblet, feeling that it was going to be a long meeting indeed.