The Euphoric Chronicles: The Tale of Tonii the Mermaid (contd.)

                                                                            Elsewhere and Meanwhile

   Of course there were other things happening in the ‘shire while Tonii was away at school because although it was an idyllic place to live it was not without its problems. The main issue as it related to the islands and the loch was a brewing power struggle between the brothers Keeve. It seemed inevitable to those who had watched the brothers grow up over the years that there would be a conflict sooner or later between these two opposites. Gregee had been traveling more and more, often going out for years at a time to distant lands and when he would come back he would spout off about all that he had seen and done and the wonders of these places. He would talk of the money, the riches that these distant lands of wonderment were taking from the travelers who trekked from afar to visit them. He wanted to do the same thing in Lollashire and the loch. He saw the islands as a means for him to become wealthy and he already knew that with wealth came power and it was power that he craved more than anything else in this world.     

   Wealth and power would make people see beyond his twisted body and warped mind. They would respect him, love him, and most importantly, fear him. He knew in order for this to happen he would have to remove the one person standing in his way, his brother Seejay. So, he thought to himself, I will have to have him killed. Anything short of that and he could always come back and wrest control of the ‘shire from him. He would have to dispose of him in such a way as to not make him a martyr. The last thing he needed were statues being sculpted in his likeness or shrines being erected in his name. No, no. That wouldn't do at all. So it couldn't be a visible death so a poisoning, robbery or anything like that were definitely out of the question. He needed to disappear. Yes! That’s it disappear. He would just simply be gone.  One day everyone in the ‘shire would wake up and Seejay would be gone. But to where? Better that it not be a where and just be a nothing. In an instant it came to Gregee how he would dispose of his brother. He summoned his most loyal friend Bildoe and put his plan in motion.

    Tonii had enjoyed a two week stay with her father but now it was time to head back to the academy. Her father wanted to walk her back to the school but she knew how busy he was, how much of the seemingly never-ending work was left to be done so she told him that he need not worry as she had many friends and places to stop at along the well traveled Rue Tonnerre, the main road from the fishing village to the heart of Lollashire. She kissed her father goodbye and with a wave of her hand she started on her way back to school. She had no way of knowing that it was the last time she would see him alive.

   Gregee had left it up to Bildoe and his cronies as to when they would take care of Seejay. He furnished them with an overview of Seejay’s schedule for the next week and he made it clear to Bildoe that he he didn’t care when or how as long as Seejay was gone before the end of the week. Nothing, not even his brother, would stand in his way of achieving the power he so desperately craved. Deals had already been made and a timetable set.

    Seejay had set off the very afternoon that Tonii was making her way back to Lollashire and in fact they passed each other on the well traveled Rue Tonnerre. Seejay was atop his trusted stead, Avaya, a beautiful chestnut brown mare he had since he was in his teen years. He was out on one of the many rides he took during the week. He didn't call them patrols even though that was in essence what he was doing. He would stop and talk with the shop owners, innkeepers, tradesmen, and travelers that he met while on his rides. It was one of the things that had endeared him to the residents of the ‘shire and it was a trait that he had passed to the protectors or sheriffs that reported to him. He had them placed throughout the islands and they not only kept the peace but made sure that the beauty of the ‘shire and the loch was protected.

   Seejay was deep in thought, thinking over the growing rift with his brother. He had always been a little strange but he loved him even so. He was troubled that Gregee had changed somehow; he seemed darker since he came back from his last trip beyond the ‘shires. He was pressing, almost ranting, about opening up the waters of the loch to people from the outside and to Seejay that meant outside interests. There was no way that the loch would ever be opened up to outsiders to plunder its resources. The very fact that the Keeves had kept it protected these many ages was the reason why it was so coveted and was heralded as one of the Three Majestics. It must be protected at all costs. He would make Gregee understand that or he would have to exile him to the mainland.

   These were his thoughts and he had his head down when he saw a solitary figure walking towards him. As the figure grew closer he could see that it was a young woman and she looked familiar somehow. He stopped his mount as she drew near him and he let out a pleasant greeting. She walked up beside Avaya and looked up at Seejay and replied in kind to his greeting. As soon as she looked up at him Seejay was speechless. He knew her by those eyes, that iridescent blue. He had never come across anyone else with that color except for Tonii, the daughter of the fisherman. The last time he had seen her up close was when he was at the market buying some of her father’s catch. That was at least eight years ago. Could that much time really have passed? It didn't seem possible. He then remembered that she had been up at the Academie Valan vo’ Du so he hadn't seen her since.

   He suddenly felt very old although he was but seven years older than she. She knew him and his name and asked about his journey, his patrol. He was still speechless. Her eyes held his very being within them and would not let go. She put her hand upon Avaya’s mane and brushed the long hairs with her fingers. Avaya whinnied approvingly and that was enough to bring him out of this apparent stupor. He felt the need to be on the ground standing next to her and not sitting up so high. He dismounted but the heel of his boot got caught in the stirrup and he landed awkwardly on his knees in front of her, a small cloud of dust floating around him. It was said that he had been riding horses before he could walk and was regarded highly for his riding skills but at this moment he felt like a foolish boy. He stood up and stood just about half a head taller than Tonii but he still felt small in front of her. She didn't laugh at him or his mishap. In fact she asked after him, if he was all right. He replied that he was. He then asked her about her father and then her studies at the academy. She filled him in, answering all that he has asked. She then again asked about his patrol and in general how he was. He stammered a bit but managed to answer her after he collected himself. She told him that she must be on her way as she wanted to be at the school well before nightfall. It was ridiculous but he did not want to see her go. He wanted to walk with her and continue to talk about anything, he really didn't care what. He asked if he could escort her back to the academy and she told him that she appreciated his gesture but she knew he had his duties and she quite enjoyed the time alone, walking.

   He looked crestfallen, almost hurt and she saw that look come across his face although he tried to hide it well. She quickly made amends and mentioned that perhaps the next time she was on her way to or from her father’s house he could join her as she would very much appreciate a Keeve escorting her. He smiled at her and assured her that he would make himself available at her convenience. She bade him farewell and continued on her journey. He watched her walk away and he was afraid to move for fear of doing something stupid again like falling from his horse. He walked Avaya for a bit, turning his head frequently to watch her progress as she became just a distant speck on the Rue. He chuckled to himself, reliving the moment he fell to his knees in front of her. What a fool he must have made of himself, a glorious fool at that but he took comfort in knowing that he would see her again. He could not have been more wrong in his thinking.

 To be continued…………………..