Even before they reached the gates of the stronghold Alanna could hear the clamor within, news of her arrival being spread quickly. Men in leather and chain armor and dark hooded cloaks came out to greet them, bowing reverently to Alanna. Rafel urged her to keep moving, lest the crowd deter her from reaching her father. The way the clanfolk seemed to exalt her when none of them had ever met her was confusing, and a little intoxicating, and so it was good that Alen and Dureil kept the folk from coming close, and that Rafel took her arm and kept her moving until they reached the keep.
Her father’s home, as she assumed that’s what it must be, was a large stone building. Iron gates swung open and a heavy wooden door slid to one side to admit the four of them within, closing swiftly to keep the rest of the clan from following. Two young women approached then, speaking to Duriel in a language Alanna didn’t understand. The exchange was brief, and Dureil looked at Rafel. “Go and let him know we have arrived.” She turned back to the clanlord’s daughter and smiled. “Let’s get you a bath, and some clothes, and something to eat. Your father’s health has improved.”
Alanna was surprised at that news, even more so at her feeling of relief. She followed Dureil, the two young women following behind the two. The older woman led Alanna up a flight of stairs and down a corridor a bit before pausing at a large arched door. “This was your mother’s room.” she explained before opening it and ushering Alanna inside. The two young clanfolk followed and immediately started filling a tub with heated water.
“My mother’s?” Alanna was confused. “Didn’t she sleep with my father?”
Dureil chuckled. “I mean before she was bound to him. Yes, after that she shared his bedchamber, but while they courted this was hers,” explained the older woman as she pulled open heavy draperies. “We will leave you to bathe and dress.” she said as she checked the progress of the tub. “Rafel or I will come and fetch you when you are ready. Just ring this bell,” she continued, indicating a braided rope that disappeared into the ceiling.
When Alanna nodded her understanding Dureil smiled, and hugged her lightly. “Welcome home doma.” Then she clapped her hands and led the two young women out of the room.
Finally alone, and for the first time in two days, Alanna flopped down on the bed, groaning as she sank into the soft mattress. She tried to process everything she’d experienced since the three clanfolk had found her and whisked her away from the village she’d called home, but it was too much for her to make sense of yet. She sat up then, removing the clothes she’d been in for two days and stepping behind the screen that hid a large hammered-copper tub with wolves’ paws for feet. The water in the tub steamed slightly, and she detected a floral scent. She sank into the tub with a groan and closed her eye, just enjoying how the heat soothed her weary body.
When she was done washing up she wrung out her hair and wrapped the robe that she found left hanging on a chair by a mirrored vanity around herself. Looking in the mirror she caught sight of a painting hung on the opposite end of the room, and she gasped. Turning to look at it properly, she found herself looking at a woman who looked very much like herself.
She found herself unable to look away for some time, awed by the image before her. It was the first bit of proof she had that the story Dureil and Rafel had given her pieces of was true. It was, in fact, undeniable proof.
There was a knocking on the door then, and Alanna gasped. “Who’s there?”
Dureil’s voice followed. “It’s just me, doma. Would you like some help getting dressed? Your father is eager to see you.”
“Oh. I, well, yes I suppose,” Alanna stammered.
The older clanswoman entered then, closing the door behind her. She had changed as well. Her hair was done up with thin braids arranged over her dark hair, and she wore a russet and amber robe with embroidery around the cuffs and hem. “There has not been time to fashion clothing for you, but we imagined your mothers things may fit you well enough.” She opened a wardrobe then and began examining the gowns within. Finally choosing one she drew it out into the light. “This should suit you.”
She helped Alanna dress once she slipped on a light chemise to protect her modesty. The gown she had chosen was cobalt blue, with ornate embroidery around the neckline and along the arms, then down the front where it split to show off an underskirt of pale grey. Alanna looked at herself in the mirror as Duriel brushed and pinned her hair away from her face, leaving the loose waves to accent her features.
“You are lovely, doma.” The older clanswoman smiled and kissed her cheek softly. “Your father will be delighted.”
Alanna stared at herself a bit longer, blushing. “I’ve never worn anything so lovely.”
“You will have more like this doma. You are your father’s only daughter.” Dureil smiled then, and gestured to the door. “Let us go present you to your father, doma.” She led Alanna back through the keep then, down the stairs and along another corridor until reaching the dining hall.