It was a darkly overcast day. A nearly featureless roof of lead colored
clouds hung low, promising rain that never came. Far to the southeast could
be seen streams of sunlight breaking though and making shimmering sparkles
upon the bay. The strong, gusty wind from the bay suggested that the clearer
skies would eventually be over Britain and Castle Britannia. From a window
along the southern wall a young lady sat and watched the clouds; her long,
coppery hair whipping about her face.
Below, in the large dining hall, people were gathered. Lord British, the
Companions, and a couple dozen others. All were well dressed - better than
casual, every-day fare, but not the livery that would be seen at highly
formal occasions. Decorations were festooned around the walls, long streamers
of colored paper. At the head of the table was a large cake. On top of
the cake was seventeen thin candles, unlit.
Raven, in a deep blue dress trimmed in white and gold entered. She walked over to the circle formed by British and the Companions. As they all turned to face her, she said in a hushed voice, "I couldn't find her anywhere in the gardens. Most of her favorite hidy-holes look like no one's been there for years."
Iolo took a step forward. "My dear, it's been some time since hide-and-seek was her annoyingly favorite game. She's not a child anymore, I doubt she could even fit in most of her old hiding spots anymore," He said with a slight grin as he thought of the troubles a little girl can cause. Then paused for just a second and the grin faded. "Besides, we found her."
"Technically, it was Shamino and I who found her," said Dupré, a large tankard of ale in one hand. "She was at the docks trying to charter a ship."
Raven knitted her brows in thought. "There are regular ships going all around the lands, or she could have used the moonstone. Where could she have been trying to go that she needed to charter one?"
"Obviously," said Shamino, "somewhere not regularly traveled to. She hasn't said where to us, and no one at the docks knew either. I presume we found her before she got to talking about locations to the ship captains."
"Still... why didn't she just ask me? I could have at least arranged transport if not taken her myself."
"Perhaps, that is part of the problem," Said Lord British. Raven gave him a quizzical look. Some of the color had returned to his hair and his step was more lively, though no one would ever call him young again. He placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. "Go and talk to her. I have a feeling there are some things long overdue. She went up to his room"
There was no question whose room he meant. Raven took a moment to look at those around her. She could see the compassion and concern in their eyes. She nodded to them, then slowly turned around and walked to the door. As she reached it, Julia called to her. "She has her father’s fire. It could burn her or temper her." Raven gave Julia a half smile over her shoulder then continued towards the stairs.
Raven stood at the open doorway for a minute just looking at the copper
haired young lady sitting on the windowsill. Unlike the people below, the
young lady's manner of dress was better suited to traveling than a party.
She reminds me more of him every day, she thought. She knocked lightly
on the open door to announce her presence. "Mind if I come in?" When the
only response she got was a shrug of the shoulders she stepped toward the
window. As she got close, she noticed a small bottle. In the young lady's
hands was a pocket watch half wrapped in a small cloth. The smell of metal
polish was in the air. "You had all of us worried"
"Yes, mother... I suppose I did," said the young lady in a flat tone.
"Ariana..." Raven began, unsure what to say. She stepped up to the window. The wind caught her hair and it began to flutter like her daughter's. "Uncle Dupré said he found-"
"He's not my uncle"
"What?" asked Raven in surprise.
"I said, he's not my uncle. Neither is Iolo, or Shamino, Geoffrey, or British. Just like Julia, Jaana, Mariah, Gwenno and Katrina are not my aunts. It was cute to call them such when I was kid. But now..." Ariana trailed off.
"No, you're right. They're not your aunts and uncles." By blood, anyway, she almost added, but thought it better not to push things. She gave a quick sigh then continued. "And you're not a kid anymore. Anyway... apparently you were trying to charter a ship. So, where were you planning to go that couldn't wait for regular passage?" After a moment of Ariana just staring out the window, towards the southeast, Raven started taking educated guesses. "Terfin? Serpent's Hold? Isle of the-"
"Yes, there," Ariana interrupted, with in infliction of something in her voice that Raven couldn't quite identify.
"But there's really nothing there," Raven thought for a moment, "except... the Codex." She saw a twitch in Ariana's head which told her she had guessed correctly. "Why did you want to view the Codex?"
"Because..." Ariana began. She looked down at the pocket watch she had been polishing. "I thought it might be able to tell me something about him."
"Your father?" Ariana nodded. "But we... I've told you all about him. None of us has ever held anything back." Raven watched Ariana just sit there for several moments, then placed a hand on her arm. "I know… I miss him too."
Ariana shrugged her arm away. "How can I miss someone I’ve never even met?" she said in a distant voice. Raven was about to say something when Ariana’s face turned towards her, with red rimmed eyes. "You’ve all met him," she started off quietly and slowly built in volume and emotion, "He’s always been there for you. Whenever Britannia was threatened he was always there. When Britannia needed someone to become an avatar he was there. When the Earth Serpent needed a champion he was there. When Meribeth needed to be saved from goblins he was there. When you were trapped in Wrong he was there! When has he ever been there for me!?"
By the time Ariana had finished the tears were streaming down her cheeks. Raven reached out and pulled her daughter close, and let Ariana cry upon her shoulder. "Oh, honey… I wish there was something I could say to make it all better. I’ve done the best I can."
Ariana pulled back a little and wiped her face. "I know you have. But you don’t know what it’s like to be the daughter of a legend. Not just any legend, but the Avatar himself. And… not just his daughter, but his only child." She pulled back a little more, and Raven let her hands slide down Ariana’s arms till her hands were resting on her daughter’s. "You have no idea how much I envy that you didn’t know who your father was. You didn’t have any standards to live up to. You weren’t constantly being compared to him."
Raven could feel a tightening in her gut as Ariana’s words stirred emotions in her. It still pained her that she didn’t know Samhayne was her father till he was dead. Yet, she could also begin to see Ariana’s point. Raven opened her mouth to say something but Aria stopped her. "No, let me finish, please. When I was little I was always treated special, like a princess. Hell, I was probably treated better than an actual princess if British had one. I was a pretty spoiled brat at times, weren’t I?"
Raven gave a short, sort of half chuckle. "Yes… yes you were at times."
"I suppose running off like that today means I still have that spoiled brat in me. But I would never have gotten such special treatment if I wasn’t the Avatar’s kid. Everywhere I went, across the land…" she trailed off and shrugged. "And, of course, the comparisons. They all say I have his eyes." And it’s true, thought Raven. "And I’ve heard them say things like ‘she has the same fire as her father,’ or ‘I bet she’ll grow up to be just like her father,’ or any of a thousand other things I could quote… even ‘I can’t believe she’s his daughter’ a couple times."
Raven looked into her daughter’s eyes. "I guess none of us ever thought of things like that… including me. You know I’ve never tried to push you into a direction you didn’t want to go."
Ariana nodded. "And you’ve been very good at letting me choose my own path… but when your father is the savoir of the land several times over, people can’t help but think of him when they see me. I’m seventeen today. In a year I’ll be the same age he was when he fist walked these lands and defeated Mondain. I can only imagine what people will start saying then. Sometimes I just want to run away somewhere that never heard of the Avatar… or…"
"Or… talk to him myself." Ariana set down the pocket watch and squeezed her mother’s hands. "That’s why I wanted to go to the Codex. Maybe he doesn’t even know he has a daughter. I figure if there is a way I could see him… talk to him… just once in my life, I could find it there. I would give almost anything just to know that he actually existed, for myself, and not rely on the accounts of others."
Raven lifted one hand and wiped away the fresh tears that rolled down Ariana’s face. "Tell you what. Let’s get you fixed up and go down to that party. Then at first light tomorrow we’ll take the Silver Hart to see if the Codex has any wisdom or magic to impart to you." She tilted her head and gave a lopsided grin, "call it my birthday present."
Ariana nodded, "Alright. I think I can live with that." She stood up from the windowsill and picked up the pocket watch. She’s almost as tall as her father, thought Raven as her head tilted slightly upward to watch her daughter stand.
Ariana walked over to the dresser to place the watch back where it was resting. Raven clasped her hand over Ariana’s and the watch. "Keep it. I think he would want you to have it."
"What about the rest of this junk?" Ariana asked as she looked around the room her father had occupied during his many adventures in Britannia. "It’s practically a museum in here."
Raven wrapped an arm around Ariana’s shoulder. "You have a point. Maybe it’s time for a little spring cleaning in here. No sense letting all this stuff gather more dust when it could be used."
"Hmm… maybe." Ariana looked at Raven. "Mother, your hair is a mess."
Raven glared back, "You’re a fine one to be talking. Let’s go find a brush."
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