Jenrik guided the two into the building, leaving Kaelyth in a small room occupied by a few solemn Elven men who were to keep a watchful eye over her. She watched Ardrion disappear into the council chamber.
The guards at either side of her scarcely shifted their weight as the time ticked by.
Kaelyth waited nervously until a flustered Jenrik returned to retrieve her. Once she was in the middle of the rounded room, he took his seat to her right. She was left standing before the semicircle of the council and feeling the eyes of the townspeople who had taken residence in seats placed behind her. She lifted her chin but kept her eyes fixed on the floor in front of her. The room quieted quickly as Jenrik continued the proceeding.
“Bring forth the weapon.” he announced emotionless. Kaelyth glanced in his direction, but made no eye contact. Ardrion produced the knife Kaelyth had dropped earlier in the morning and she took a deep breath.
“You may have a seat.” The elder returned Ardrion's quick nod. As he passed Kaelyth, his eyes remained fixed upon her. She kept her gaze on the floor.
“Kaelyth,” the elder exhaled, “I understand there was an...encounter this morning. An attack?” he glanced at Ardrion.
“Yes.” she said succinctly. The elder waited patiently for elaboration. Hesitating, she met his eyes, which were fixed on her, noting her every action. She tried to form words, but she knew none would make sense, and her breath was caught in her throat.
“It has come to my attention that a young Kazmehr'i girl was captured by the Kolrav'an; that they occupy Ellrez, and that you, my dear, have escaped from the very king's castle. Tell me, what on earth would compel the Kolrav'an to be loyal to the King? What would he want with a single Kazmehr'i such as yourself?”
Kaelyth felt the the council's gaze intensify as they leaned forward waiting.
“We are told that you were not yourself this morning.” Another council member spoke up.
“You have something they want.” Jenrik tried to nudge the answer from her.
In her mind, the walls were collapsing at her feet. “Jhoror,” the air rushed out of her lungs.
The councilmen leaped to their feet. “Guards!”
She was immediately seized and pinned her to the floor, as though she had put up a struggle. They were sure to secure every part of her with numerous weapons and large framed limbs. The elders hovered in the space above her. Her frozen line of sight rested on the council elder as he calmly met her gaze.
Ardrion burst from his seat in the chamber. “Stop! Please. Don't hurt her!” From the floor she shifted her gaze to meet Ardrion's.
The council's eyes cautiously left Kaelyth on the floor and the elder spoke. “She is dangerous, Ardrion,” he breathed, “you of all people know this.”
“I know what she is capable of,” he began slowly, “but I do not believe that that is the only thing she is capable of.” She studied the confused look upon his face.
The elder shook his head. “You do not understand—”
Jenrik took a brisk step. “I will take her out of Antorrha. She’ll be better hidden on the move.”
“You are making a mistake, Jenrik. Valren's army will not stop until they find her. If the entire city of Antorrha cannot stop them, you cannot do it alone.” Another council member spoke.
“We’ll be out of the village by sundown.” Jenrik replied coolly.
The elder turned to Ardrion. “And you?”
In the face of Jenrik's eagerness, Ardrion clearly felt he was left with little choice. He turned to the mass of guards surrounding Kaelyth. He grasped her arm, still bound behind her, and pulled her through the nervous crowd.
Jenrik gestured that he would join them outside in time.
Kaelyth rubbed her wrists after Ardrion cut the cord around them.
“What am I doing? What is it about you?” He threw his hands into the air, pacing in front of her. “And what the hell was that?!” He jutted an unstable finger back toward the council chamber. His wild eyes met hers briefly before he left her standing helplessly at the doorway while he took up residence on the nearby hillside. She took a moment before meandering toward the hillside while avoiding Ardrion's burning glare. They sat in perfect silence, scanning the village and avoiding each others’ intrusive thoughts.
There were a number of children who had been left to their own devices for the duration of the council meeting playing around the entrance of the building. As time wore on, they ventured further and further up the hillside expanding their invisible playground. Eventually, they cornered Kaelyth on the hill and uprooted her from the still dewed grass. She watched as they plunged into some imaginary world around her that only they knew. At first, she only watched them while spouting off the kind of smile that only fooled children. They continued to lead her around until she danced a placating dance for them. But as they pulled her in their slow circle, weaving in and around her flowing arms, her portrayal of happiness became more believable. Flower petals and bright leaves rained over their parade under the mottled shade of the trees. The snowing flora spiraled and floated in and around the circle, enchanting the wide-eyed children.
Kaelyth smiled to herself as she watched their faces. But the bubble soon popped. Frantic mothers called their children back into shut-up homes. She took a step back as a small woman marched up to the circle to take her child by the arm. She didn't have to say a word before Kaelyth conceded her regret, eying the last floating petal as it graced the pile and completed the mess. One of the children, looking back, waved goodbye but Kaelyth remained motionless until they were out of sight. She could only weather the parents' accusing glares until Jenrik reappeared in the doorway.