Way down below on the ground in the of Mistek Forest, a girl crouched down over a footprint. She picked up some soil and smelled.
“Passing through. Harmless.”
She stood up tossing her cascade of jet black hair behind her. She held her hand to her forehead narrowing her ever changing green eyes. She slowly turned the full three hundred and sixty degrees. She put her hand on her hip, closing her eyes to soak up the warmth on her silky, golden, Nocaw skin.
“I got nothing either,” said a well tanned young man. Her surveyed the girl with deep brown eyes. As he tilted his head shaggy brown hair moved with him. His slender nose traced his nose to the smiled that always danced on his lips. He wore a brown tunic and black leggings with black boots. He’d gracefully fallen from the sky.
“And if you got nothing, there’s nothing.”
“Have you seen Night? He’s been gone from some time.” Her voice fit her eighteen year-old image; slightly melodious.
“Maybe he’s flying overhead,” the boy said uninterested. He knew she worried about Night too much and that he could take care of himself.
“You could at least pretend to care. Did you see him while you were up there?”
“Then I guess he’s not flying over.”
She shaded her eyes and looked around again.
“Would you check again?”
He knew it was more a command than a question. He took off soaring over the trees. She stood waiting in a red tunic, crisp black shirt, black leggings and soft black leather boots.
Soon Night came crashing through the trees. The black winged horse, or Estrinto as they were called, fell to his knees as he’d been shot multiple times with arrows.
“Night! I’ll never forgive myself if anything’s happened to you.”
She carefully broke the arrows and removed them from his wings. She had to pull the arrows in his side right out. He automatically healed and hopped up. Night and the girl had an uncommon connection for estrinto and fleshling. They loved each other deeply and the fact that neither were mortal only deepened their bond. She was one of few who could talk to them and those who could didn’t trust to tell others. And the way those lucky enough spoke to them was through the mind.
There’s a girl.
Night led her a couple yards to a brush.
“Can you please put you wings away?”
His wings faded into his sides giving his the look of a regular horse.
In the brush.
She moved the brush aside, looked at the girl then released them.
“Why’d you leave her here?”
I couldn’t just spring her on you. You know how you get when things are sprung on you.
“How’s that?” she wondered with a raised brow.
That’s not the point. I saved her.
“Why’d you bring her to me?”
Because you’re a good person and she’s in need of serious help. People are trying to kill her.
“First, I’m not as good a person as you claim. Second, now they’ll be trying to kill us!”
If anyone can handle an attack from the royals, it’s you.
“Royals?” she spat with indignation.
Did I leave that out?
“Conveniently. Who is this girl?”
Calm down. She has a story to tell. You will hear it then make a decision.
“You take advantage of me.”
The fact that I’m one of few people you listen to? I will admit; it comes in handy.
The girl was a noticeable mixture of nocaw and dawsin (white skinned). Her naturally arched brows hung over bright green hazel eyes. Her soft nose led down to lips, lower fuller than top. She was attractive enough. Her expression told that she was bewildered.
The other girl scowled at her.
Taya, Night prodded. Behave.
Taya looked at her friend then cleared her throat.
“Garrett!” she shouted then whistled.
He landed in front of her.
“Yes, my lady.”
She looked at him blankly, “Don’t.”
“Ah, you’ve found or Night has found you. Which ever it may be, he’s returned and all is as it should be.”
“No, it’s not.”
Garrett turned to see where Taya looked.
“Who, may I ask are you?” He kissed her hand.
“She’s not welcomed. She’s invading our space; disturbing the balance.”
Night nudged her roughly.
“That can’t be good,” Garrett commented. “I’m guessing he brought her.”
“Along with unwanted, unnecessary trouble.”
Taya walked away.
I’ve said my piece. Your turn.
He followed after her. He found her nestled against a tree.
“What’s really the problem?” he inquired leaning over her onto the tree.
“All I know is he said something about the royals and it involved the girl. I’ve finally put Iquim behind me. I never wanted to go back there, let alone deal with the royals. After what they did to my father I could face them without vengeance in my heart.”
“I understand. They put you through a lot.”
“That is such an understatement.”
“Okay. But think about it like this, she could be going through something very similar. Or what if we don’t help her and leave her on her own? She could be killed and the royals would be happy. I know you don’t want that.”
“I really don’t.”
“I also know you’d jump at the chance to strike them a fatal blow.”
“I would,” she said smiling evilly.
“Well, here’s your opportunity . That’s two things you’ll get to take away from them.”
“So technically, helping her would be helping myself.”
He grabbed her hand and pulled her to her feet. She threw her arms around his neck.
“You aren’t slick. You’re just infatuated with the girl.”
He lowered his head shyly and they made their way back to Night.
When they got back they saw that Night had made a pile of wood for a fire.
“Fine. I’m in. What’s your name kid?”
Taya stood over the pile of wood palm down emitting fire from her hand. Night, Taya and Garrett settled down. Mya stood, staring at Taya.
“Oh, yeah. She’s full of all kinds of surprises,” Garrett volunteered.
Mya sat down warily.
“Lets hear the story.”
Just when a white wolf ran into the camp.
I’ll let you have that one, girl, the wolf said sarcastically.
“Is she talking to the wolf?” Mya asked.
“Full of surprises.”
We have to get a move on. The forest is crawling with soldiers and they’ll meet us any moment now.
She quickly took the bow from her side opting Garrett to unsheathed his sword. She immediately let off three arrows.
Garrett deflected an arrow flying at her.
At a side glance she saw an archer aiming for Mya. She ran and dove in front of it just as it was released. The arrow dug into her side.
“Go, now!” Get her out of here!”
Mya climbed on Night’s back and they took off through the air. Taya snatched the arrow from her side and turned to see Rye slashing a man’s throat. she rejoined the fight. The soldiers began to fall until one was left. He ran at a distance.
“She’ll get him.”
Taya was aiming an arrow. She let go and it tore through the air and into the man’s shoulder. They took their time getting to him. Garrett knelt down.
“We can do this the hard way or the harder way. Who ‘s after the girl?”
“I’ll not betray my master.”
“Who sent you?” Garrett grabbed the arrow.
“I will not,” the soldier said anxiously.
Garrett twisted the arrow and the man screamed.
“Do you remember now or do you need further persuasion?”
“No! The king and queen were poisoned and it’s not looking good. The next in line is Keen but he hit a brick wall when he found information saying there was an heir to the throne. A girl.”
“And our girl is that girl?”
“Yes. She is the queen’s daughter. One of the few foolish countries where can inherit the throne.”
Taya kicked him. “Stay focused.”
“The girl is either of their only children.”
“Not the king’s daughter?”
“No. The queen had an affair sixteen years ago.”
“What of the father?” Taya asked aggressively.
“He was beheaded some time later.”
“What?” Taya stood stunned with wide pale green eyes.
“What was his name?”
“Sir Knight Tabios Falon.”
Taya’s normally forest green eyes were an eerie faded color, shadow of green.
“Are you not the daughter? Taya Falon?”
“Shut up!” Garrett broke the arrow.
The man’s blood curdling scream rang throughout the forest.
“We’ll let the forest do with you what it will.”
It was a lot to take in. We have to tell Night but be sure not to tell the girl.
Before they knew it she was gone.
We must go.
Taya flew higher and higher into the night’s sky. She suddenly stopped on a cloud and laid down.
“Amber. To what do I owe the visit?”
“You were assigned to me; to watch over me until.”
She looked into the face of a winged man. He was her exact color, black feathered wings and coil black hair and shining black eyes. He looked to be in his mid-twenties and very fit.
He looked into her eyes with his carefree nature. His love for her told him all he needed to know but he wanted her to tell him.
“Yes. The courage and ambition you showed on your own were admirable. But mortal or not, you were but a girl. I discovered you and took it to our queen. After much discussion, she granted my wish. It really is out of the ordinary considering no other fleshling has an algen-
“Then why did you neglect to tell me about my father? Why’d you let me go on believing in a man without morals?”
“Because his good memory was all you had.”
“I had Garrett.”
“He was a child.”
He watched her still green shadowed eyes swell with tears. The sight tore at his heart because he knew she did not cry easily or often and the fact that he contributed to the oncoming tears hurt him almost as much.
“I was not to interfere. It was something you either found out or not. There’s a war coming, Taya. She is a very big factor in the outcome. I hold your life in my hands. You are my responsibility. Your existence is essential to mine. We’re connected.”
“Who hold’s Mya’s life? Will you fight for your sister or leave her to die? She needs protection. There is none more powerful than blood…except algen, of course.”
That drew a smile, putting color back into her eyes.
“Amber, girl with the fire inside, you will make the right decision. I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you.”
“It’s not your fault. Thank you, Pitch.”
“Anything for my little sister. I and mine will accompany you during this war.:
They hugged with his wings around her and he sent her on her way.
The soldier who’d been formally interrogated by Garrett held his ground as he was scolded by a rather burly man who looked to be in his mid-thirties. The man was a danger to the eyes at about six feet. He obviously enjoyed the art of working out with broad shoulders, strong arms and eyes that looked to kill by sight; he looked the part of a usurper all too well.
“She got away,” he said slowly.
“Master Keen, there is more.”
“How many ways can you disappoint me in a day, soldier?”
“I’m afraid she’s made contact with the sister.”
The man fell back into a throne like chair and groaned in frustration.
“Have him flogged.”
The soldier was dragged from the room. Keen was left alone with a smaller, younger man. He was slightly shorter at five foot ten. His smaller muscles made one appreciate his fighting capabilities. He was donned in a blue tunic, black tights and black breeches. He wore a fresh black shirt under his tunic and a long sword at his right side. On his tunic and the hilt of his sword was an eagle, silver in its glory at flight. His eyes were a very aware, very charming powder blue and they complimented his long black hair.
“I need you, little brother.”
“What do you need?” His voice was solidly-attractive.
“Now that the girl has met up with Taya, there is officially a war on our hands. She’s a dangerous girl in herself but our army is too much for her and Garrett.”
He stopped to think rubbing his temples.
“No doubt she has become quite skilled with nothing better to do than train. We’ll have to approach this situation very carefully. Who knows what type of allies she’s made.”
“She is a hostile girl who wants nothing more than to bring down his kingdom.”
“Luke left shortly after her banishment. He’s a well respected man and powerful knight. His loyalty is undying. The things he’d do for her. If she doesn’t have allies he does for her.”
“She’s a loner. She’ll command no army.”
“It does not matter. At the slightest hint that things are out of her hands, something drastic will happen to tip the scale in her favor. I have a sickening feeling that something will be Luke.”
“He’ll only interfere if she’s helpless.”
“I disagree. What do you suppose?”
“We need to bring her in. as long as she’s alive and well, the war will stay muffled. We can also bring the others as incentive, just in case.”
“And her power?”
“We have potions and arrows for that.”
“Well done. Bring them to me. If you can only bring Taya, that’s fine.”
“As you wish.”
“You talk a hard game.”
“What?” Scien asked squinting his eyes in distaste.
“Will your feeling for her handicap you?”
“There are no feelings, so no.” He eyed his brother with contempt.
“Good. But remember, she ran off with Garrett.”
“She did not!” He drew his sword on Keen.
“Do not return without them.”
Scien put his sword away and set out.
Taya had posted herself in a tree watching her friends.
“Look at them,“ she whispered to herself, “Fraternizing with her like she’s on of us. Probably telling her all our secrets. It’s enough to make me throw up my lunch.”
She’s back, Rye stated matter-of-factly.
“She is?” Garrett looked around erratically.
She’s using her abilities to hide herself.
“Who are you talking to?” Mya gawked at him awkwardly.
“You really are common, egg collecting girl, aren’t you?”
“What makes you say that?”
Garrett rolled his eyes startling a laugh out of Rye and Night.
“You’ve never heard of creatures that communicate through the mind? I mean, you really didn’t think that all Night did was fly, did you? What good is a fly horse if it cannot speak?”
That is true, Night agreed.
“And Rye doesn’t just sit around looking fluffy and pet able. She’s a very important member of this team and family. She works her, uh, tail off.”
Glad to know I’m appreciated.
“Maybe they’ll talk to you one day. Until then, get used to being out of the loop. Besides, you think I’m weird because I talk to these two. Taya-
“Is full of surprised, I know.”
That stifled another laugh from Rye and Night. She got up and walked away only to have Taya land in front of her.
“Where are you going?”
“He’s very rude.”
“He may be silly, but he has very low tolerance for stupid people; no matter how infectious how her looks.”
Garrett dropped his face in his hands, the look of utter embarrassment on his face.
Mya stared at her challengingly.
“Do you really want to try me?” She fingered the black dagger at her right hip.
The girl sat down reluctantly.
No. We said nothing, Rye interrupted.
“We told Night only.”
“I would’ve liked it if you hadn’t.”
May I ask why not?
“Because now you’re going to be on my case about being nice to her and I don’t have the time or patience.”
Yeah. I don’t see that happening. Rye was shaking her head.
“Me either.” Garrett joined.
I’ll only hope.
“Um, hello. I’m a little lost on the conversation at hand,” Mya pointed out.
“As you should be. Now, you story. Lets hear it.”
“This morning, I was helping my oldest brother plow the fields. It was a normal day. Then we heard this scream and the roof of our house caught fire. Gavin told me to stay out in the fields. I watched him run downhill and he was shot with an arrow. I ran to help him and met my other brother Lyle. He was helping Gavin stand when he was hit with an arrow.” Her eyes teared up. “He’d barely escaped from the house. His shirt was singed. He quickly told me that soldiers had come asking questions and demanding to see me. When they refused, things became violent. Two soldiers grabbed them. They told me to run but they were my brothers. That’s when he swooped in. they told him to take me far away so he took my collar in his teeth and flew away. I am grateful but at the same time, not so much. My family.”
We need more information, Rye commented.
“Why are they after me?”
“Your mother and father,” Taya said. “Well, more your mother.”
“You mean my real parents. Who are they?”
“Your father is dead. Beheaded.”
“And your mother is dying.”
“But who are they?”
“Lord Tabios Falon. A fearless and important knight. The king’s most loyal,” Taya said sadly.
“And your mother,” Garrett too over, “is the queen.”
“Your father was beheaded for sleeping with the king’s wife.”
“Queen Sora is my mother and Lord Falon my father. My brothers dreamed of being just like him. They admire him. Didn’t he have a daughter? They always talked about her, too. How she had the exotic look of an algen. How if they ever met her they’d fall head over hills then make her choose between them. Her hypnotizing green eyes. Much like yours.”
“Yeah, it’s a curse. Coincidental course.”
“She had so much promise. I wonder what happened to her.”
“She was exiled! Thrown to the wolves for food; left on her own to fend for herself in a world she didn’t know!” Taya shouted.
“You feel very strongly about it. Did you know her?”
“I did. But she’s dead.”
A stunned silence went around the camp.
“Crushed to find out that she’d been exiled only to find that her father, who she just knew would never betray his kind, had done just that by bedding his wife. All that trouble she caused for nothing.”
“I killed her?”
“Death by broken heart.”
“Wow. May I ask your story?”
“I was exiled for committing certain treasonous acts to prove my father’s sentencing was unjust. I began to hate my country. I began to hate the king and queen who were like parents to me. I vowed never to return.”
“What happened to him?”
“I was forced to kill him,” she said cutting off Garrett.
“He’d rather die by his daughter’s hand then that of the crown who betray him. A soldier stood in front of him, sword coming down in an overhand cut. My arrow beat the sword.”
“They still banished you?”
“They could attempt to kill me but they knew that’d be pointless. They didn’t want to imprison me.”
“Is where I’ll get my immortality.”
“Who is she?”
“That’s none of your business. Your Highness.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to pry.”
“Sure you didn’t.”
“So you were shown mercy.”
“They spared my life because they loved me. Exiled me with everything I needed.”
“That was nice.”
“But I was consumed by rage. Night, who’d been with me since before I could remember, managed to calm my rage. Rye came pretty much as soon as I was banished and taught me everything about the forest and surviving. She took me in.”
“I was kicked out a year later. I guess you can say I malfunctioned. She’s my best friend.”
“I had to leave Scien. His brother forced him to stay; to let me go. He told him he shouldn’t abandon his duty for a girl.”
She stood and walked away into the darkness.
No one hates the story of their life more than her, Night said.
“Everything was great before all this,” Garrett added.
Scien was still riding his horse full speed, covering what ground he could. He suddenly stopped and jumped off. He looked around.
“You got something? You remember Taya, don’t you?”
He bent down and rubbed the soil between his hands. He patted his horse’s neck and decided to walk.
“I want to be queen.”
“And so you will be.”
“Then why’d you send your brother after his one true love?”
“Because I believe he will come through for me.”
“He does not share your vision for the future.”
“As long as he does his job, he need not share it.”
“He is loyal to Mathis!”
“Do you think me a fool? My brother is still in love with her which is why I sent one of my very best behind him. As soon as he sees her, his heart will melt and it’ll be love at first sight all over again. That is unaffordable. It’ll be the mistake that ruins our entire plan.”
I’m getting worried. It’s too late for her to be wondering.
Calm down, Rye. You taught her well.
Rye stood to go after Taya.
“If you find her you know she’s going to get a serious attitude. And you know she’s going to take it out on Her Highness.”
Rye sat down. Good point.
“Could you not call me any sort of highness?”
“Sure thing, Princess.”
Taya was making her way back to camp when an arrow whizzed by her, barely missing her neck. She looked around then habitually gave in to her instincts. She stood solidly on the heels of her feet. She closed her eyes and listened for her attacker. She had her right hand on one of her swords she kept on her back.
“Come on. Just a little closer,” she whispered. “I’m not supposed to be the target. What’s going on?”
She opened her eyes and drew her sword. It clashed with another. The owner was taller and stronger. His faced was masked. Their blades caught and he used his body weight as an advantage. She rolled out of the way causing him to falter. She took the opportunity and slashed him across the back.
she heard a loud familiar frustrated groan. He rushed at her again in an angry attempt to even the score. She moved, and grabbed him around the neck. He struggled to free himself only to have a black dagger penetrate his chest. He stopped. She pulled the mask off. After a moment of confusion and anger she pulled him to camp.
Scien, Rye said.
Scien grabbed his chest but didn’t wake.
Taya blinked slowly.
Something’s wrong. Night moved to stand behind Taya.
She fainted and Night caught her on his wing.
“What’d you do?”
He sat up suddenly and Rye sat up and growled.
“Call your animal off and I’ll tell you.”
For now. Rye sat back down.
“Now talk,” Garrett commanded.
“She was already injured when we sparred.”
You did it! Rye growled.
“She’s a bit hostile. Listen, I couldn’t have done it. That wound is old.”
“She jumped in from of that arrow for me.”
“I remember now. I guess with all the excitement. But it had to hurt.”
“Well, that’s great, Garrett.”
“She isn’t your responsibility anymore. You tried to kill her.”
“She certainly isn’t yours. Going with her wounds untreated.”
“She doesn’t love you anymore, Scien. What more do you want?”
Scien punched Garrett in the face and they began to fight. Night jumped in between them.
“She’s moved on with her life. She doesn’t need to be protected anymore!” Garrett proclaimed.
“I’m sure. Because if she had you to rely on she’d have dead long ago.”
“How were we ever friends?”
“I guess we weren’t.”
“Are you done?” Mya questioned.
“Then so am I. I’m only concerned about her and how much blood she’s lost.”
“After the fight, after trying to kill her, you’re concerned.”
“Is this how guys show they like young woman?”
Pitch. Night said.
“It’s really disappointing.”
His wings melted into his back as he lightly landed for them.
Scien gawked at the algen.
“An algen. How?”
“I’m Taya’s protector.”
“Then why didn’t you protect her from that arrow or what ever it was.”
Pitch’s body began to glow and cackle with dark, electric static.
“You are out of line, fleshing.”
Scien calmed down. Pitch’s easy going nature returned.
“Can I have some room?”
They all backed up. He examined her wound, then looked up at Garrett and Scien.
“Can you boys make yourself scarce?”
They walked away in different directions. He lifted her red tunic and black shirt revealing her undergarments. He leaned her on a nearby log and took out one of his wings.
I’ve always wanted to see this, Rye said enthusiastically.
“Looks like you’re going to get your wish.”
He plucked a handful of feathers from his wings and placed them over the open scar. He murmured a few words and blew on them. They slowly liquidated and wrapped around her torso. He inspected his work and pulled her clothes down.
“It should fall off by tomorrow night. If it doesn’t, it hasn’t finished healing; but it should.”
What do you think of Scien? Rye inquired.
“He feel he has a duty to follow orders. That’s the only reason he attacked her.”
Whose orders? Night wondered.
“He’s going to come to his senses. Really soon. He’s loyal. He just needs to figure out who to be loyal to. He’s never had negative feelings toward her. She was expelled and he was a knight. He couldn’t leave if he wanted to and she wouldn’t have let him. Scien has grown up, not without his issues but nevertheless. He’s just confused.”
Wow. Try telling that to Garrett and now Taya, Night remarked.
“Our mother will take care of that tonight. The thing is, he has not and I doubt ever will turn his back on her. They among few were traced in the stars. The queen wrote that herself during the celebration of Taya’s birth. They matched so well. Everything that came afterward: the expulsion, for instance, were just rode blocks.”
On they seem to have gotten around, Night noted.
“But just because they were written doesn’t mean there won’t be something so great they cannot overcome.”
“Will Garrett turn his back on her?” Mya wanted to know.
“That is a good question. One I cannot answer, I’m afraid. I must be going.”
He kissed Taya on the forehead, spread his wings, and flew away.
Taya sat up rubbing her forehead.
“You just missed him,” Mya replied.
“My side. Traitor! Where is he?” she asked getting up frantically.
“Can we come back now?” Garrett asked impatiently.
“Yes,” Taya voiced.
Scien exposed himself of a tree behind them. Taya turned to face him.
“Scien,” she breathed angrily.
She slowly walked toward reaching for one of her swords but Garrett grabbed her.
“You tried to kill me!”
“You have my sincerest apologies.”
“I’ll tell you. Just, please, come take a walk with me.”
She looked at Night and Rye. They nodded their heads giving her the okay. Taya hesitantly walked away with him.
No, Garrett, Night said. Let her go.
“You’ve grown up; a woman now.”
“And you have facial hair. It’s becoming.”
“Thank you. So how-
“Why’d you attack me?”
He watched her face as it drooped with sadness, hurt and questions of his previous behavior.
“Is that the first thing you wanted to do when you saw me again?”
“Oh, god. No! Never.”
She saw in his face that he did not lie. She could see the regret in the eyes that she missed looking into. She wanted to forgive him but not yet.
“I still can’t believe you’re here.”
“How are you? How have you been?”
“I’ve learned to survive. My horse-
“And a very loyal, protective wolf, somehow.”
“Yeah. She’s--she’s something else. She’s my friend.”
“An algen guards your life. There has never in the history of man been an actual algen-man partnership.”
“It’s a bit more than that.”
“You are the first to be protected your very own algen. They are a neutral group.”
“Still neutral. It’s only because Pitch is my friend. He is my brother.”
“He is my mother’s first born.”
“I don’t get my wings until they think I’ve mastered flight without them. They insist on my being guarded from the ‘fleshing’.”
“I never knew these things about you.”
“You are one of three who knows, I’m trusting you to tell no one else.”
“You have my word. He’s your brother. Is your mother also a black one?”
“She is. Black have black.”
“Is she as angry as your brother?”
“He’s not angry. He’s just very protective. A lot of the individuals that know me, are of me.”
“I can see why. You’re very special. More so than I’d thought. “
She nodded her head.
“So you’ll have black wings, too.”
“Yeah.” She was astonished herself when she really thought about it. “I love them. They’re my family, you?”
“I do. You’re setting history. You are an algen. The first to live here with us. But how is it that you won’t be only half?”
“I am. It’s just that my mother’s genes are very dominant. I’m glad they overpower my father’s genes.”
He smiled at her.
“I feel closer to you than I have in a long time.”
“It feels good.”
He combed his fingers through her dark hair and covered her mouth with his own.
“How do you feel about me? Do you still love me?”
His powerful blue eyes gazed at her expectantly.
“You know I do. I never stopped.”
“Nor I you.”
“But I don’t want to disappoint Garrett.”
“We’re meant to be, so I won’t pressure you.”
“I have something to tell you.”
“To help explain your onslaught?”
“I didn’t know who to choose. My brother’s trying to steal the throne.”
“Why am I not surprised?” she bit her thumb in consideration.
“I can’t believe it. I never thought I’d betray my brother.”
“Who you least expect.”
“He wanted me to bring you and the girl back. I was going to oblige but then I thought I should warn you instead. You have to take her and go. He’ll never sit on the throne as long as she’s alive.”
“Keen has to be stopped. All things regarded, I owe Mathis and Sora.”
“I will not let this happen. If they die then rule. She will be queen if it’s the last thing I do.”
“Do do this, Taya. You never liked Keen.”
“I had no particular feelings toward him but now he’s committing treasonous acts. He must be brought to justice.”
“If you disappear, even if they died, he’ll not have the kingdom. It’s a win-win.”
She saw his desperation. The thought of his brother and the only young woman who could bring him true happiness was a dreadful, bloody one. Keen was not one to quit easily and Taya had become a fierce competitor herself. The days ahead would be long and hard. It was time for him to pick a side.
“I can’t let your brother create chaos and madness among a clueless country and under the noses of clueless royals.”
“Thank you for the warning. We won’t need your help. We can handle this ourselves. You have a nice scar and excuse to show your brother,” she said warning away. “Tell him that’s our warning.”
They walked back to the camp.
Night laid close to the doused fire. Rye slept opposite him near the base of a tree. Mya and Garrett slept on rollaway pallets at Night’s nose. Taya watched Scien settle himself by his brown mare and lie down.
Taya turned to face her mother. Like she, her brother and many other algen, their mother chose to wear loose black pants that the Juhai wore. They said the pants gave them more room to move while also feeling comfortable.
They embraced each other in a warm genuine hug.
“You’ve had a rough day,” she said kissing her daughter on the cheek.
“You talk to Pitch.”
“Of course. Don’t look at me like that. He and I aren’t at liberty to tell you such things. I do what I can, though. I’ll tell you this because I love you. even though I know it’s going to hurt deeply, I do not want you to be blindsided.”
“What is it?” Taya asked worried.
“Someone close to you is going to die. I cannot tell you who,” she hurriedly said stopping Taya’s oncoming barrage of questions.
“Don’t let this information distract you and don’t try to stop it. Concentrate on this war.”
“Mommy, what do you think of her?”
“You’re not going to like what I have to say.”
“You’re my mother. I’m not supposed to.”
She laughed lightly. “Okay. I think you should declare your loyalty to her. She needs your protection. I know you, daughter.” She took Taya’s face in her hands. “You will not give her your all unless you serve her. She is a nice girl. She truly deserves it. Remember who her parents are.”
“Oh, yeah. Two immortal fleshling. They both lied to people they love.”
“But he was a good father, a good man; honorable in every way. A well-disposed woman and a good friend. She was there for you when I couldn’t be.”
“She’s only sixteen. She may not know the big secret yet but when she finds out, she’s going to know you acted the part of a big sister. She’ll know she’ll always have you.”
“What should I do?”
“Proclaim your loyalty to her. It’ll be odd to her at first but she’ll come to understand. Do you understand?”
“I understand, Ma.”
“Then you know what you have to do.”
She watched Taya nod her head.
“You’ll also be getting your wings soon.”
“Great. I’m tired of Pitch beating me then bragging about it.”
“I’ll be watching, Amber.”
Her eyes closed before her mother left her.