Prodigy put her head in her hands. “Silence!” she shouted, head pounding from the prolonged argument. “Let us take a break. I daresay a bit of fresh air will do us good. Come, Raven, Antiquity. Walk with me. We can take a stroll down to the market.”
They rose and followed her from the room. Prodigy let out a sigh as they stepped onto the marble steps leading down from the building.
“Who would have thought that we could bicker for hours about such trivial things?” she said with some irritation.
“And half of it was about fish,” Antiquity complained.
“When ravens are so obviously superior,” Raven muttered.
Prodigy strained to hear. “Pardon?”
“I said, ‘When there are matters more superior’,” Raven corrected, louder, reddening a bit. She added, “More important to discuss, that is.”
Prodigy nodded. “Indeed. We have a difficult time ahead of us, while Queen Eva and her handmaids are gone. The power falls upon us, the Court.”
“And you in particular,” Antiquity pointed out, “as our leader.”
Prodigy scoffed. “More like spokesperson. We are all more or less equals. Even so, do not remind me.”
“I am not afraid to admit that I am worried,” Raven said.
They walked in silence for a while until they reached the cobblestone road that stretched into the market area. The townsfolk waved and the children pointed as the three ladies made their way through town. Unfortunately, before they could reach the stalls, a rider came thundering up to them on a beautiful stallion.
“Hail, my ladies!” the rider called, swinging down off the horse, her long braid trailing behind her. She gathered her reins in her hand and turned to face the trio.
“Sparrow!” Raven called delightedly to her fellow bird-named friend. “It has been too long.”
They embraced and exchanged brief smiles. After greeting the others, Sparrow’s grin soon faded into a grim line.
“I am afraid I do not bear good news,” she said. “A missive for you, m’lady.”
Prodigy took the letter with professional calm. She broke the blue wax seal and read the fancy writing within. When she had finished, she looked up at her comrades. “This is not good. Come, we must share this with the council.”
“What does it say?” Raven asked curiously.
“Not here, Raven,” Prodigy said with a grim sort of command.
“Let us go, then. Gather the others once more,” Antiquity agreed.
This time, as they journeyed back to the castle, the silence was not comfortable, but rather tense. There was an air of bad news in the air, and though Raven and Antiquity were as of yet unsure exactly what it was, it was clear enough that it had added additional stress to Prodigy. She waited on the balcony off of the meeting room, staring out over the landscape, until the others were gathered.
Prodigy turned to them. “We have received a letter.” She paused. “I suppose it would be best if I read it to you all.” She hesitated again.
“By all means, get on with it,” Paul said, crossing his arms.
Prodigy shot him a look, but began.
To Queen Eva de Movelle and whomever else it may concern,
We have a report of some grim news. A band of pirates has recently attacked our outermost sub-category village of Paranormal, leaving it looted and in ruins. The people are deeply saddened, but recovering. I have gathered reports from them personally, and I fear to tell you what they say. It seems that the pirates have let their next destination be known. They are headed straight for your realm, the Romance District. We are sending all possible help to reinforce your borders. I myself will accompany them, if I must. I would see these pirates defeated for the pain they have caused my people.
Unfortunately, that is not all. There was one other piece of information gleaned from the encounter with the pirates:
The head pirate is none other than the greatly feared, widely renowned, infamous Ahlaam Nightshade. If I understand correctly, you have had dealings with her in the past and, well, I trust you are fully aware of who you are up against.
A Child of the Madness
"I-it can't be!" Chloe stammered. "Ahlaam Nightshade..."
"I am afraid it is, Chloe. And we best be ready when they arrive."