Chapter 48

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They were kept waiting a long time. When Eleri became too uncomfortable on the floor, she decided to try and sleep on the bed. There was no point in turning her nose up at the opportunity because she disagreed with the terms of hospitality here.

Defnyn remained where he was, knees drawn up, leaning his arms across his thighs. He looked so thoroughly dejected and Eleri really felt for him. Even in the Borderlands, fighting with his own people, he never looked so despondent.

The bed was very comfortable. It was no straw-filled pallet that topped the wooden bed frame, but something soft and luxurious. Whatever it was, it was completely unknown to Eleri. The blanket too was unusually supple to the touch, not like the rough, woollen fabric she was used to. And as for the cushion, as soon as her head fell upon it, she drifted off into a peaceful, dreamless sleep.

When she woke, the first thing she saw was Defnyn standing over her. She sat up surprised, not expecting him to be there.

With a raised hand, gripping the blanket, he explained. 'I wasn't going to hurt you. It fell off. I was trying to replace it.'

'I know you weren't going to hurt me, Defnyn. I'm sorry if I looked alarmed. I had not thought you would be the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes, that's all. Thank you,' she said, taking the blanket from him. 'Have I been asleep long?'

'Yes.'

'How long?'

He shrugged his shoulders. 'I don't know. A long while.'

'Have you rested at all?'

'Someone needs to stay alert.'

Eleri sighed. 'Well, I'm awake now and feel refreshed. Why don't you try and get some sleep? We don't know when we will next get the chance.'

'I'm fine.'

The priestess shook her head. 'As you wish.'

She went back to looking out of the window, gazing longingly at the food and drink as she passed. She wanted to give in so much and eat and drink it, but deep down she feared to. The fae-test with Pren, and the caled berries and what passed for water in the Borderlands, had made her very cautious. She didn't know if there might be any repercussions for consuming either.

This time on studying what could be found beyond their confinement, she spotted the first green and growing things she had seen since leaving the forest. Climbers and small trees and bushes had managed to find purchase amongst the the cracks and crags of the rock face, along with some pretty blue, pink and white flowers. She immediately called Defnyn over.

'Look!' she said, pointing further along the gorge wall.

The joy on the hunter's face at seeing something so vibrant and alive brought tears to Eleri's eyes. How long had it been since he had seen something that was healthy and thriving?

While they were admiring the vegetation, Arwain returned to check on his guests, as he called them. He was perturbed to see the food and drink had remained untouched.

Eleri turned to speak to him while Defnyn remained by the window.

'Why do you not eat and drink? Surely you must be hungry? Thirsty?'

At that moment, Eleri's stomach growled in agreement. 'Would there be any lasting consequences if we did?'

Arwain's brow furrowed with incomprehension, until he suddenly realised what the priestess meant. 'You're wondering if they are safe from poison?' he asked, his voice laced with incredulity.

'That's one thing I'm wondering about. Well?'

'We do not poison our guests.'

'No, but you do lock them away.'

The guide sighed. 'I understand. From your perspective it seems unfair, but it's not as if you are being kept in a dark, damp dungeon. We must ensure that you pose no risk, no danger. Not only that, we can't having living mortals wandering around the Summerlands at will. You don't belong here.'

'I apologise,' Eleri said, eyes cast down, chastised. What Arwain said made sense. 'If we were to eat the food, or drink whatever that pitcher holds, will we be forced to remain here?'

Arwain burst out laughing. 'You think we serve fae-food here? No, lady. Eat and drink to your heart's content. It will do you no harm, I promise.'

With that cleared up, Eleri briskly crossed the room and sat at the table. It wasn't long before she was eating an apple, some bread and a slice of hard cheese, and washing it down with the freshest, sweetest, crispest water she had ever tasted.

'Has no decision been made on whether I can meet one of your oracles?'

'Not yet.'

'Oh. In that case, will I be able to meet with someone who has recently crossed over? It's because of him...because of what happened to him...that I'm here.'

A look of pity crossed Arwain's face. 'I'm afraid not. The living are not permitted to see the dead without Lord Arawn's approval, and you will not be granted that until you have met with him.'

Eleri's face fell. 'Oh.'

There was a knock at the door. Arwain let in a woman carrying a large basket.

'Your arm is hurt. Saeth, here, is a healer.'

Saeth worked quickly and quietly. There was a focused efficiency about her that meant she refused to be distracted by conversation. Eleri's elbow was quickly assessed, washed, and bandaged. The dressing itself was lined with a mix of herbs that the priestess didn't know. She asked about them, only to be told she need not know them for they only grew here in the Summerlands.

'Do you have any idea yet when we might see King Arawn?' Eleri asked as Saeth went to stand by the door.

'As a matter of fact, yes I do. Now that you've eaten and had that elbow tended, it is time to prepare yourself to meet the Lord of Anwnn. Fresh water and clean clothes will be brought here for you companion. Saeth will take you, my lady, to your own room where you may clean-up in private.'

'I will be brought straight back to Defnyn?' Eleri asked. She did not want to become separated from the hunter for it was clear that they looked at him with suspicion. They were safer together. Defnyn had protected her from the Helwyr. It was now her turn to protect him.

'Yes, of course.'

Eleri turned to offer a nod at Defnyn, who returned the gesture. Then she followed Saeth out of the room.

They did not go far, only a few doors up from the room she had been locked in. Saeth chose to maintain her earlier stance on conversation and stayed quiet.

Once inside the room, Saeth showed Eleri where she was to wash behind a screen while the healer rifled through a large chest of long robes. Although Eleri didn't like the idea of being away from Defnyn, she thoroughly enjoyed being able to remove the grime and dust she had become covered in as a result of her travels.

When she was cleaned, Saeth helped her into a long, flowing purple robe that was tied at the waist with a silver belt. The healer then combed Eleri's long hair and left if to fall loosely over her shoulders except for the strands which bordered her faced. These were quickly plaited.

Seath stood back and nodded. 'Now you look fit to see the king,' she smiled.

*

Thanks for taking the time to read this chapter. I hope you enjoyed it. If you did, please consider voting for it.

Arwain is taking no chances with these guests of his. How must Eleri and Defnyn have appeared to his eyes before they'd been given the chance to wash and change for their audience with Lord Arawn? What do you think to Eleri's robe? How do you think she is feeling as she awaits meeting the Lord of the Land of the Dead? Nervous? Confident? Soon she will have the answer to her quest, one way or another...

As always, all comments and votes are greatly appreciated. Chapters for "Oathbreaker" will be posted every weekday, so please add the story to your library / reading list so you don't miss the next one, or like my page on Facebook for updates: https://www.facebook.com/Sammi-Cox-1697023080547692/

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