"This is the day that wouldn't end. Yes it goes on and on my friend. Some people started scheming it, not knowing what it was. And they just kept on scheming it forever just because...they found it amusing to toy with me," Devon sang softly, revising the words to that annoying Lamb Chop Sing-along song to fit what she was thinking. She just finished with Herald Teren, and she was most certainly not pleased. She had asked him for a room on the ground floor, so if she wanted to go see Arden, she didn't have to worry about going down a whole flight of stairs and getting lost in some unknown corridor. Not to mention if she ever wanted to get out of her room late at night, unnoticed, it would make things a great deal easier. Not that she wanted to tell him that.
But apparently, it hadn't mattered much anyway. Teren had insisted that there were no rooms whatsoever open on the ground floor. Devon knew for a fact he was lying through his teeth. When he had been asking her question to see what mathematics and such she knew, she had inched forward ever so slightly every time his eyes shifted and seen the sheet he had been looking at. There were three rooms open on the ground floor, and only two on the second floor where she was placed. And now, here she was, currently in residence on the second floor, with people spewing lies at her from every known direction and expecting her to eat them up like cake.
Well, Devon thought bitterly, it's too bad I don't like cake.
:Chosen, why not come out to see me now, before the dinner bell?: Arden inquired softly. She could feel the underlying sense that he wanted to take her mind off Teren's actions, but also that he wanted to be close to her.
:I'll meet you by the gate.: Devon said with a mental sigh. She could only hop he wasn't going to wipe her memory of the file she'd seen for the rooms. Then again, our bond isn't so strong yet as he can see my thoughts all the time. Maybe he doesn't know I saw the sheet; he probably just got the gist of my emotions through our bond. As she was thinking, she was walking down the hall, trying to find something resembling a staircase.
:Chosen, do you need help navigating?: Arden asked gently, not wanting to pry.
Devon had come out in the middle of a long hallway. Below her, she could see the gardens, now vacant because of the cold weather. She looked down one end of the hall, then the other, seeing nothing but more doorways. She might as well hop out the window right here. She was on the ground floor, so she really didn't have that much of a drop; seven feet at the most. She could land that in her sleep. :Thank you, no, Arden. I'll be just fine. Meet you at the gate to the Field.:
Devon pushed open the window, which complied with a shriek and a blast of cold air. Oh well, too late to turn back for a cloak now. I don't even know if they gave me one yet. She'd gone to housekeeper and gotten measured, but they had simply sent her off with the knowledge that her uniforms and such would be delivered to her room. Her boots would be ready in about a week. Until then, she was wearing her slippers, or some rough lace-up boots they'd supplied her with. She'd found the slippers to be far more comfortable.
Devon shook her head to clear it, then hopped lightly onto the windowsill. She looked down, making a face at how the ground looked further off than she knew it really was. Deciding it was too late to turn back now, she turned herself around and lightly dropped down to dangle from the sill by her hands—but not before she saw the startled faces of two guards in the unmistakable blue uniforms. She hung there for a moment, hearing one of the men yelling, "Trainee Devon!" too late. She knew he thought she had simply jumped out the window. She heard the other one grunt a sharp order to alert the other guards, but made it sound like they had been looking for her to begin with.
Sucking in a breath of the frigid, snow-scented air, Devon loosened her fingers and dropped to the ground, landing feet first then rolling to absorb the impact. She looked up to see two startled Bardic Trainees sitting on a bench in the otherwise deserted garden. They looked to be about her age, give or take a year or two. One, the girl, had auburn hair and deep, brown eyes. The boy had dark hair and dark blue eyes. She must have interrupted their tryst, but they couldn't have been there very long, seeing how she had looked out the window before jumping. With an inward sigh, she smiled brightly at them as she stood up, pulling a leaf from her hair.
"Hello! I'm sorry to drop in like this and run, but I really must be going now." Devon saw, out of the corner of her eye, a few guards coming out into the garden. When they caught sight of her, they started purposefully in her direction at what appeared to be a cross between a quick walk and a jog. They were trying to make it seem like they weren't in too much of a rush. With another smile and a nod to the two Trainees, and a militarily precise salute to the pursuing guards, Devon turned on her heel and was off like a shot, vaulting bushes and benches like a track star. A muffled curse behind her and a lot of heavy breathing followed by crashes and more cursing signaled the presence of the Guard in hot pursuit.
:Arden!: Devon mind screamed at her Companion, fighting down the urge to scream aloud. :Why are they after me this time!?: She felt what seemed very much like a mental wince, though she was hard put to see if it was from her shout or another reason.
:Just let them take you to the Queen. It seems they found the photographs you carelessly left in the pocket of your dress and have some questions to ask you—not the least of which is why Kris appears in the pictures with you on his arm.:
:That isn't Kris! It's Greg! Tell them!: Devon yelled at him. For all her playing sports, she could not run like this forever, at top speed. She was already wearing down, bit by bit, though by the strangled gasps resonating from behind her, she was faring better than the Guard.
:They are not listening, Chosen. Simply let them take you to the Queen so you may tell her yourself.: Arden's mind voice sounded strained, as if he wished he could help more, but was at a loss as to think of how. She knew she was really shaking things up around here, and the Companions could only interfere so much on her behalf.
:I will not be dragged to see the queen with a guard on each arm and more surrounding me as if I were some common criminal! Actually, I think that most criminals would be better treated than I have been so far! I'm sick and tired of this! This is where it ends. Right here, right now.: Cold with fury, as well as being blasted by the wind, Devon skidded to a stop on the hard ground, the gate to Companion's Field just in sight. She was out of breath, but not gasping and red faced like the guards that staggered t a stop and eyed her warily. Her side had just begun to hurt and she stood tall, her eyes narrowed as she faced the guards.
"It seems we have two choices here," Devon began, already well into getting her breath back. "I can either continue running until you all drop—and I assure you, I will run you until you drop. I've already proven my stamina is much better than yours—or I can go to the Queen of my own volition, without an armed escort. You may stay here and catch your breath if you wish." She would have gone on, but before she could say so much as another word, an image flashed through her head. A man about a head taller than herself was sneaking up behind her. He was swathed in blue, so he must be another Guard, but he was ready to jump her from behind. She felt her eyes widen, and she didn't know how, but she enlarged the scene she was watching to see the three guards who had given chase still in the positions they were in now. Which meant that if she didn't move, she was in trouble.
Devon sank back into karate class, waiting until she could sense the man coming right up behind her and actually hear the wind as he spread his arms to grab her. That was when Devon took a small step forward, so when his arms came around her, she had leverage. One arm was around her neck and the other around her waist, just as she had thought he would do. He looked, from her vision anyway, young. He must be a new recruit. And he hadn't moved agley, so he couldn't have been Kero's Skybolts. That also meant he couldn't have any hand to hand training.
Devon quickly put her hands up to grab his arm, jabbing her elbow back into his side in the process, then she slammed her heel down on his instep. That didn't have as much of an effect as she would have liked, seeing hw she was in her slippers and not the hated boots, but he still jumped to stand up straight with a shout of pain. The arm around her waist loosened, giving Devon the room to raise her arm and knock him squarely in the nose with her fisted knuckles. That made him stagger back, but he made the mistake of still holding onto her neck. She plated her foot on the hard ground and pulled him back into her, using his startled momentum to tumble him over her head to land on his back with a loud "WOOF!" that knocked the breath out of him.
:Chosen, was that really necessary?: Arden asked as he slowly walked over to her, avoiding the poor man on the ground who's nose was turning into a swollen, bloody mess.
:It was something I had to do. Now they know that I'm not to be toyed with, and next time to simply request my presence.: Devon paused for a moment, looking around in distaste. :Arden, could you please give me a ride back to the palace? My legs are going to start shaking in a moment.: Arden immediately complied, striding over to her and standing rock still as she gracefully pulled herself onto his bare back.
There were no more guards waiting for her as she reached the palace entrance. She slipped off Arden's back and he sent her a wave of love and understanding as she stumbled on the promised shaky legs. She smiled weakly at him before drawing herself up and walking into the palace. She knew where the queen was by the handful of guards outside the door, who all turned to look impassively at her as she approached, with only one raised eyebrow as their eyes darted about, looking for the guards that were nowhere to be seen.
She looked directly up at the one who had raised his eyebrow and shrugged, tossing her hair over her shoulder and pulling out a twig and another leaf. "My present to you." She murmured to the guard, taking his hand and placing the leaf and twig in it before moving smoothly past him and opening the door to look in on a bunch of once-again startled faces.
"May I ask what I have done this time to deserve an armed guard to come for me?" Devon asked, her voice sugary sweet and a dazzling smile plastered on her face. The queen was seated directly across from the door, Lyra and Kris seated on one side of her and Talia on the other. Firesong, Darian, Kiesha, Elspeth, Darkwind and Karal—with Altra, again in his guise of housecat—were all wearing grave expressions, not moving an inch as she stepped further into the room, kicking the door gracefully shut behind her.
"Speaking of the guards, I've just been informed that three of them are out of breath and picking up their fourth counterpart from the ground to take him to the Healers. It seems he has somehow acquired a rather prominent broken nose. I wonder how that happened." Selenay said quietly. No one else so much as blinked.
"I believe that I am the cause for that, Majesty. He made the mistake of trying to take me from behind. Arden saw the whole thing and did not interfere one way or the other, so I assume it's not totally wrong of me." She held the Queen's eyes angrily. She did not deserve to be treated as such, and she wasn't going to stand for it much longer. "Again I ask what I did that I deserve an armed escort, Majesty." Devon said quietly, letting some steel creep into her voice.
"It seems we found something in the pocket of your dress that you neglected to remove upon sending it to be cleaned," Selenay replied smoothly, and suddenly Devon knew. All the color drained from her face as she stared at the queen, thinking they wanted her to explain the photographs. The damned photographs that her father had taken of herself, Greg, Rob, and Dina. The photographs that Devon had forgotten to take from her pocket. The photographs that the Queen had obviously gotten hold of. She now took them from her lap and laid them on the table, while Devon just stood there, despair oozing from her every pore, not knowing how she was going to get out of explaining everything now. But the Queen was going on. "I want very much to know exactly how you managed to get my son into this tiny piece of paper. And the names of the other two people you are with."
Realization flashed through Devon like lightning. They thought she had spell bound Kris into the photograph! The idea of these people actually thinking that she could do such a thing because of a mere photograph was overwhelming. Gone was the shock she had felt before, though the despair remained. Devon sank to the floor slowly, tears pouring down her cheeks as she became hysterical. Whether she was laughing or crying remained to be seen, but she knew one thing for sure; the time had come to tell her tale. And pray to whatever God you held holy that they did not deem her mad and cloister her off.