Disclaimer: I own nothing but Alaea and the concept of the Xadari. Everything that is recognisable belongs to the genii that were David and Leigh Eddings.
This is a story I wrote the vast majority of three years or so ago but recently had a spark of inspiration and finished it. I'm pretty sure it isn't what I originally planned to do with it, its a lot shorter for a start but now I have finished writing it I am posting.
A New Light Rises
Geran ducked his head under the branches, following his mother and holding onto his youngest sister, a girl of about 5 years of age. Ce'nedra had somewhat pointedly left their escort behind near the edge of the woods and only took her children with her. Thankfully Beldaran and Xadara were old enough to ride on their own but Xgara still needed to be kept hold of – not only did she tend to get distracted but even for her age she was tiny, like all the females of the family, she showed her dryad heritage.
It was not long before they were met by the resident dryads, Xera leading the party and looking singularly drawn. Ce'nedra flung herself off her horse and wrapped her arms round her cousin's neck before pulling back.
"How is she?" the half dryad asked worriedly. Xera sighed. Queen Xantha of the Dryad had been dying for some time now but recently she had taken a turn for the worse. After a pause, the crown princess looked up into her cousin's eyes.
"The Xadari are looking after her right now." The tiny queen's eyes widened as she looked at her cousin, skin paling.
"The Xadari are here?" She almost whispered. Not good news. The Xadari were only ever seen when a queen of the dryads was about to die. The few times in history they had been seen, they had turned up, nursed the queen through the last of her illness, crowned the new queen and disappeared again. It hadn't happened in either Xera or Ce'nedra's lifetime, though obviously it had in Xantha's, and neither had any idea where the strange ethereal race came from, simply that they were a race related to the dryads in some way. Their presence meant that Xantha had a very short time to live.
"Yes, they are expecting you; the one that seems to be their leader asked after you and told us to expect you here. No, I have no idea how she knew." The younger looked slightly alarmed before blinking at her cousin.
"Their leader is female?" Xera nodded.
"Well, I think she is their leader, it is hard to tell and I can barely remember their language at all, let alone enough to work out that for certain but they all seem to defer to her." At Ce'nedra's look of surprise, the elder dryad explained. "Their language has diverged from ours over the years of separation so it is only vaguely alike. Anyway, I believe we have a bunch of mysterious Xadari and a dying dryad to meet now." Ce'nedra nodded and her cousin led on. Geran followed on, wondering about the strange conversation. He had never heard of these Xadari and was more than curious about the strange conversation.
When they reached the clearing where they had always met Xantha when they had previously come to the woods of the dryads, Geran saw one thing noticeably out of place from what he remembered. There was a tall young lady who he was pretty sure wasn't human wondering around doing something or other.
When they arrived the lady turned to face the group and Geran became even more certain she wasn't human. Though she was human shaped, she looked like a good sneeze would blow her away and not only did her hair literally glow but it was not actually any colour but simply 'pale'. It shimmered between shades of gold, brown and reds changing as she moved, never staying any particular colour for very long. The waist length locks seemed both thick and so light they floated through the air and settle down almost like a feather. All her other features were pale and very delicate and she seemed almost like a wood spirit rather than a solid person.
Xera bowed her head to the lady before showing them to where they could camp. The ethereal lady smiled slightly and watched them with the slightest hint of curiosity in her gaze. Once they were a slight way away from her, Ce'nedra looked to her cousin and whispered to her.
"Who is she? I'm guessing that she is one of the Xadari." Xera looked at her with a raised eyebrow.
"Yes she is, she seems to be their lady but I have no idea as to her name, she hasn't offered it. I don't know any of their names. They just flitter round like solid wind caring for Xantha. There are only five or six of them and they all glow like that. They definitely are actually solid though. That one slapped one of the males quiet solidly in a little argument that they thought no one saw. I get this impression that not quiet everything is all harmony there." Ce'nedra raised an eyebrow at her and they exchanged one of those significant female looks that Geran didn't get.
Much later, once Geran had finished putting the tents up for his mother and sisters, the strawberry blond prince was leaning against one of trees, watching the female only populace flitter around. To his surprise the Xadari lady floated over to him with a friendly smile. She tilted her head to the side slightly.
"Walk with me, prince?" She asked. Her voice was surprisingly substantial considering how much she looked like a spirit. He smiled back at her and offered her his arm. As Xera had said, she was far more solid than she looked as the grip she had on his arm was very definitely there.
The two of them were silent for some time as they walked and Geran simply observed the ethereal lady on his arm in interest. Eventually he got the guts up to ask her a question.
"What is your name lady? Mine is Geran." Iridescent blue eyes flickered up to his before she looked down again with a small smile.
"I know, child of the God slayer. I am Alaea. It is a pleasure to meet you." She paused. "You are the first male not of my kind I have met. I am curious as to a dryad bearing a son. We were unaware it was possible." Geran looked at her in some surprise. Her speech was musical in cadence, and she was quiet softly spoken. Lovely as her voice was though, it was what been said that interested the prince of Riva.
"The Borune dryads have been bearing sons for centuries lady. How do you know who my father is?" She let out a delicate laugh as she looked at him.
"My people have seers as well, Prince Geran, though they find the new prophesy somewhat... interesting." He grinned at her and laughed. "What are these 'Borune' dryads?" She asked carefully.
"A dryad married the son of a grand duke of the Borune family in return for a contract that the woods of the dryads would be totally inviolate and the son became the first Borune emperor of Tolnedra, since then the dryad strain has bred true in the females of the family. My mother is the produce of the last Borune imperial dynasty." Alaea nodded and they walked in silence for a little while. "Xera said that your people spoke some sort of dialect of the dryad tongue and since you aren't known to the world in general so how do you speak my tongue so well?"
Alaea smiled slightly at him and bit her lip, looking down for a moment before answering him.
"You could say I am a bit more adventurous than many of the Xadari, I have gone out into your world a little, well sneaked anyway." Geran decided not to comment on the last statement. As he looked at her, wondering whether to ask how on earth she would be able to pass among humans when she was so obviously none human, she smiled at him and laughed slightly. "I do not always look so otherworldly you know. If it is necessary I can appear as solid as you, and have a single colouring. It takes effort so we don't unless necessary but it is possible."
They had nearly made it back to camp by this point and the conversation dropped off as they returned to the main clearing of the camp. Now there was another of Xadari in the clearing, this one clearly male though no less ghostly in appearance, though he was obvious not in a good mood. Alaea sighed deeply and rolled her eyes.
"My keeper obviously missed me." She muttered sourly, sounding remarkably human. Geran smiled slightly.
"If you want to argue again, go a little further away if you don't want to be watched." He muttered back. She gave him a startled look before letting go of his arm to go to the Xadari. Once again Geran decided to fade out of sight in this community where he was essentially useless and watch the goings on.
Conveniently, where he was he could hear the discussion and though he couldn't understand the words of the light, musical tongue, the tones were the same as with humans. Round the citadel Geran had made a habit of watching people and had long mastered how to understand without knowing what the words meant. It had started with Zandramas but had been a skill he kept on and today, it seemed particularly useful to have.
At a guess, he would have put the male down as jilted lover or someone Alaea had turned down at some point. It was also clear that he thought he had some authority over her which she contended. He was also willing to bet that he was the one that had argued with her before, they were icily polite to each other but it was not hard to spot the simmering anger beneath both voices.
Even when their conversation was over, the other didn't stop watching Alaea, as if making sure she didn't misbehave. Later on in the evening, a few others appeared from somewhere, got food and disappeared again. In all that time Alaea and the male were stiffly polite to each other, and only spoke when necessary.
Eventually, Geran went to bed determined to have another little walk with the lady and find out a little more. He nearly laughed as it occurred to him that apparently species made no more difference than race when it came to behaviour. Well, at least this trip had got a little less depressing he supposed.