There were two doors on either side of the hall. All of the group were heading towards the door on the right. They looked relaxed, smiling and chatting to each other. They were home.
Katherien looked at Caila again.
"You OK?" she asked.
Caila only nodded and headed off with the rest of the group. Katherien sighed and went after her.
Behind the door was separate rooms with a sunken bath in each. They were made out of a beautiful kind of marble that glittered with golden streaks. A pipe poured hot water into them that was much welcomed after the cool outdoors. The floors were tiled here in cool white stone. When Caila got out from her bath she found a change of clothes and a big warm towel. It must have been behind the door because no one had entered. She thought it was very elaborate, having only ever washed in a metal tub before. There was a gown, made of the same silvery material as the young woman had been wearing. And there were shoes lying next to them.
Caila met Katherien and Hallie outside in the hall. A small feast had been served there. Caila was completely overwhelmed by the amount of food on the table. Whoever Katherien is, thought Caila, she must be rich. There was fresh white bread and fruit and steaming dishes of hot food.
The group had all sat down to eat, dressed in the same sort of clothing that she now wore herself. Tom and the other men wore tunic type clothes with loose leggings. Caila sat down beside Hallie and Tom, with Katherien on the other side of the table. Everyone grabbed as much as they could, enjoying being in shelter once more. Caila had no idea what most of the food was but she accepted it anyway. She did notice, however, that there was not any meat. Like she had noted that Katherien didn’t hunt for food when they were journeying to Kren.
Once most of the food had been eaten and everyone was starting to look a little sleepy, the ones who had drank more wine already with their heads on their plates. Hallie was leaning back in her chair, snoring gently, although that was more from tiredness and the fact that she’d been keeping watch most nights. Caila sat up straight and turned to Katherien.
"Are you going to tell me what's going on now?" she said.
Her words had a profound effect on the rest of them. They all leaned in cautiously and Hallie suddenly looked more awake.
Katherien sighed. "Alright. I will tell you."
She turned to Hallie. "I suppose we had better start from the beginning."
Hallie nodded and began.
"There was a war, a very long time ago, fought to try to rid the world of darkness. Before this point, robbers and those who would wish arm upon others ruled without opposition. Then, people decided that was enough. The war was very long and tedious but no one wished for it to end. This was a chance to make the world a better place. Many heroes and heroines turned up at this point. Felligan, he slew a black whisperer, a whisperer who does not burn when touched by fire. Calligo, a young warrior who saved a whole village by devising a clever strategy that allowed them to escape to the mountains. So many came to help. But the enemy also had many strengths. For in the Forest was more dangerous than anyone supposed. In this Forest, a dark force lay in secret. The whispers of the Forest changed many. No one could be sure who was on whose side."
"Were you there?" Caila asked.
Katherien turned to her, her eyes betraying nothing. "No. It was long before I was born. My people fought though. Our enemies were these... creatures I guess you could say. But no creature ever had less mercy in its heart or more evil. They wore long brown cloaks to hide themselves from the world for they were ugly creatures that had been cast out from society. You can only see their eyes, flickering like fire, but their distorted features remained hidden. They were the most fearsome of all beings. They were called the whisperers. You have already seen them."
A dark figure among flames floated into Caila's mind, it's eyes like nothing she had seen before.
"The whisperers were the servants of the Forest. They were the ones who we saw and thought. The war came to be known as the War of the Whispers. However terrified we were, we desired a free land more. But it came at a cost."
"It took five long years. Five years of carnage, lamentka, humans and elves all dead. Five years before a human stuck them down. A mere human. He could not possibly have done this alone.”
“ No one knew exactly what it was,” Hallie picked up the story, “that enabled him to end the war. Some called it a power, others a weapon. It was referred to as the Star of the Vedt. "
"I've heard of that," Caila exclaimed. "It's in about every children's fairy tale I've ever been told."
"Yes, and probably a few more besides but under a different name,” Katherien said. “Its story has passed into many legends and folklore. An instrument that can perform the greatest evil but also the greatest good. This human used it at a great battle, the battle at Renin, where the King of Everlin has his throne now. The last battle, for using the Star of the Vedt, the human destroyed all of the enemy. He banished them to a place no one knows. Or so we thought."
"After that, we turned to repairing what had been broken. Everyone had lost much and the land was in ruins. The humans took over and this one human used his power to become King. This was not to last. One day, the human lost the Star. The humans tried to seek revenge but could not find anyone to take revenge on. The Star had disappeared into thin air. The humans started to take it out on others, anyone but themselves. They went mad for a time. It was during this time that we disappeared. The elves had already declined into solitude, the faeries had gone, most likely across the sea. It was now our turn."
"And what are you," Caila pressed. This time Hallie answered.
"We are a race that has been lost in the stories of your folk. We are called, in our own tongue, the Lamentka. We are human in features only. Some believe we have the same ancestors. But we have something you do not have. Magic. This magic calls to us all the time, begs to be used."
“This magic,” Katherien took up the tale, “is derived from nature. We draw our energy from our surroundings. For that reason, we are obsessed with the sky and the trees, everything in the world outside. You see we have tried to recreate it here.” She spread her arms wide. "It does not do much justice to the real thing though."
Caila looked around. Katherien was right by saying that. Pictures cannot come close to the sensation of wind blowing through your hair, the soft grass beneath your feet and the night’s cool air washing your face. No. The outside world beat this by far.
"Do not worry," said Hallie, seeing Caila’s sadness. "We are happy here and our race lives in peace."
Caila didn’t believe her. She saw the pain behind Hallie’s eyes, the yearning to go out and be free. They hated being cooped up in here. She now understood why Katherien was so well travelled. She wanted to escape.
"We must hide," said Katherien. "Now more than ever. There are rumours that the Star is on these shores once again. But this time, I fear it is not in the hands of those who will use it wisely."