It’s been a year since Hern proposed to Suri and still she faces a lot of hatred for being a human girl. She’s won a majority of the creatures over but there were still so many stuck in their ways and judgmental thoughts. They just got married last week and were planning to set out on their honeymoon. Hern was going to take her to a beautiful mountain which has the most beautiful valley he had ever seen. His Aunt had a small cottage there she was going to let them use for a few days.
The Gnarls were set in their determination to kill Suri off. They were close with the Trombas which were lions with poison claws. Tomorrow they knew Hern was going to leave Suri alone in the castle while he did some last minute things before their trip. This would be their first strike against her. She went outside frequently and when they saw her they would send one to attack her. The poison in their claws would send her into seizures and kill her off. There was only one person in their land that could cure their poison but they doubted she could figure that out and survive.
Suri kissed Hern bye, lingering as she always did. The King had asked him to do one last round to insure that security was tight at the cave entrance. This was a ritual of theirs due to the fact there had been times in the past when creatures of darkness had tried to force their way into the human world. Neither the King nor Hern were willing to allow innocent people to be killed. She waved one last time before he disappeared from sight. Since the King was busy on her behalf, making sure she would be accepted as Queen when he passed, she had no one to talk to. She decided to go to Kronhjort Skov and swim in the hot springs. She had something important to tell Hern, but wanted to wait until they were alone. She was nervous and nice swim would help clear her mind.
Suri put a bikini on under shorts and a tshirt and brought a backpack of useful things in case anything happened or she wanted to go somewhere else. The gnarls were hiding outside petting a large Tromba. She walked out of the castle and headed on her way thinking about how excited she was for their honeymoon. She was so happy with her new life. There wasn’t a day she regretted staying with Hern. He made her so happy even though sometimes their tempers would get them going.
That also wound up making her happy because they’d have some pretty fantastic make up sex afterwards. The castle was shrinking in the distance as she walked and the Gnarls with their Trombas we’re following her. One of the servants from the castle noticed she left her ring sitting on the night stand. He didn’t want something to happen to it and Hern blame him so he decided to chase after Suri. He took off running to catch up to the lady of the castle. Herns anger, especially when it came to his wife was something to be feared.
The Gnarls whispered to the poison lion to attack and it obeyed. It ran, tackling her to the ground and swiped her shoulder with its large claws. It took off frantically once it’s job was done, leaving Suri laying on the ground, screaming in pain. In mere moments she was dizzy, absolutely unable to think straight. The servant saw her laying down, heard her cries of pain “My lady! What happend!” He asked worriedly, seeing the claw marks “Oh me , oh no I must get Fallon”
It looked like wounds from a Tromba which terrified him. He didn’t know how long a human could resist the poison. He grabbed her hand saying “We must go now. You need help straight away”
Hern walked along the river, nearing the cave entrance. He wanted to hurry and get this done so he could take care of a few other things then get back to Suri. He was excited for their trip. She had seemed somewhat nervous lately but He had attributed it to the fact some creatures in the kingdom still didn’t seem to accept her. He smiled at the thought of her as he studied the cave mouth. A line of blue flowers marked the field of energy that safeguarded the entrance. He reached out, receiving a shock. It was still working. If one pressed against it for too long it gave a more severe and fatal pulse of energy. The sound of running feet caught his attention. He turned to see Craygen racing toward him, face pale.
“What happened?” He asked.
“Suri…Lady Redheart…she’s been attacked by a Tromba” He said between breathes. Hern’s heart nearly stopped and he ran, Craygen on his heels. The servant with Suri almost had her to Fallons house. He had to practically drag her because she was so confused and didn’t seem to understand him. He banged on the door yelling “Fallon! Fallon please hurry!” Fallon opened the door and saw the claw marks on Suri. Terror on Fallons face “bring her inside right now! Then go in my garden and pick the yellow flowers with pink ends!”
He quickly brought them to her. She began crushing them with some sort of liquid. She laid a rag inside it “Help me lay her down. She’s going to fight me because it will hurt and she won’t be able to understand me. Her mind will be jumbled from the poison and will only know I’m hurting her.” The servant was nervous about holding Herns wife down but quickly obeyed the frantic Fallon. Fallon sat on top of her and laid the rag on her shoulder.
She screamed in agony starting to hit her hand and push the rag away “Grab her arms you idiot! This has to be done quickly!” She did this twice, Suris screams getting louder. The two of them couldn’t really keep her down and Fallon needed to apply the soaked rag one more time. Fallon pleaded even though she knew Suri couldn’t understand her “Please just one more time sweet child and it’ll be over I promise”
Just then Hern came in and saw his wife screaming and hitting Fallon and the servant. He knew what Fallon was doing and it pained him but was glad she was getting help. Hern picked his wife up and held her from behind and kept her still “Go ahead Fallon” She laid the rag on Suri and she cried and screamed louder than she had the other times because this was the most painful part.
Suri felt like she was hyperventilating. Hern stroked her hair and whispered encouraging words in her ear. She cried, tears streaming down her face to fall from her chin. Fallon removed the rag and Hern spun her around so she could cling to him. She cried into his shoulder, her heart beating frantically in her chest.
“It’s alright now baby.” He whispered softly. “What happened?” He snapped at the servant, all sweetness from talking to his wife out of Herns voice. “I was bringing her her ring when I found her.” The young man said, looking at his feet.
“It’s not his fault. I wanted to go for a swim. I was attacked by a large cat. It just ran off after it scratched me.” She said, pulling back to look him in the eye.
“Trombas never just run away.”
“My guess, young prince, is that it was trained.” Fallon said, hands clasped behind her back.
Hern never thought she would be attacked so close to the castle. Whoever had done this had been very bold. He felt rage boiling just below the surface. “We’re calling off the honeymoon.” He declared.
“No, we’re not. If we do that then whoever did this to me wins. They will see it as a sign of weakness. We’ll tell the King and ask for guards to accompany us.” Suri was not willing to back down, it was in her eyes and in her nature in general. She knew her husband was scared, so was she, especially for the baby inside of her. She wanted desperately to tell him what she had been holding back, but once again now was not a good time. It would only stress him out more.
“Okay, we’ll go.”
He swept Suri off her feet to carry her home. Her eyes still filled with tears she clung to her husband with her head on his shoulder. When they got home he laid her in their bed to cuddle and comfort her. He held her tightly, it had been so hard to listen to her wails of pain and her crying. “I love you so much Suri. I’m very sorry”
“it isn’t your fault.” She kissed him and hugged him as tightly as she could. Her shoulder made it difficult since it wasw still throbbing a little bit. “Rest, okay. I’m going to talk to my father.” He kissed her then tucked her hair behind her ears. “Just hurry please.” She didn’t want to be alone. She was still afraid from her attack and in pain from the treatment for the poison that had threatened her life.
“I will, just go to sleep baby. You need rest”
He left the room and walked in a rage to the throne room. He wanted to tear something apart, preferably the bastard who had dared hurt his wife. He pushed through the wooden door, not waiting to be invited in. His father looked up from his discussion with the leader of one of the clans. He saw his son’s worried and angry face and asked for a few minutes alone.
“What happened boy?” His father asked, standing and walking over to his son.
“Suri was attacked by a damn Tromba right outside the castle. She could have died.” He said angrily, pacing back and forth. “Someone trained the thing to attack her father. I told her we should stay here.”
“What did she say?”
“She said no, that it would make us look weak. I hate that she’s right.”
“Then I will send four of our best men with you. They will protect both of you.” Hern actually hugged his father. They were moving past the years of distance but it was still a rare sight for them to be embracing like this. Hern needed it in this moment though. It was all he could do to keep from breaking down or punching the wall. His Suri, all he could think about was the fact he could have lost her.
Hern let go and said “thank you” walking out of the room without another word between them. The servant who he snapped at was in the hall cleaning, looking nervous. Hern put a hand on his shoulder “Thank you for helping my wife. I’m so sorry I snapped at you.” He noticed scratches all over him. “Did Suri do that?” He stuttered “Yes sir, she put up quite a fight as Fallon was trying to drive out the poison”
“Please rest for the day. I’m very grateful to you and I know my wife is too.” The nervousness was immediately gone. “Oh thank you sir. I’m glad you’re pleased with me and tell Suri I’m sorry if I hurt her. I was only trying to do as Fallon said” He pulled the ring out of his pocket “I never could give it to her sir” Hern grabbed it “I’ll take it to her now. Go on to your room and rest”
Suri was asleep when he entered their room. She looked so beautiful, so serene. He lifted her hand and slipped her wedding band on her finger. She shifted in her sleep, mumbling something under her breath he didn’t quite catch. He pulled back the covers and crawled slowly in next to her, wrapping his arm around her waist to hold her close and keep her safe.
She woke to warm sunlight touching her cheek. Her shoulder was a little stiff, but it didn’t hurt anymore. Whatever Fallon had given her had effectively deadened the pain. Hern wasn’t with her, but he had laid out a cute white sundress for her. She got to her feet, dressing slowly so she wouldn’t reopen her wounds. She grabbed her favorite pair of flats and pulled them on. She found Hern outside the castle with his father, four other men, and a black and gold carriage. She kissed her father in law on the cheek before letting Hern help her inside. He said goodbye and climbed in next to her. Two of the men climbed up front while the other two jumped on the back.
“The bodyguards you asked for.” He said at her arched eyebrow. He knocked on the cart wall and it pulled away. Following them through the woods were a group of Gnarls with their pet Trombas. They were not happy that their plan had failed. Next time the human woman was not going to escape the clutches of death. They had underestimated her last time, next time they would know better.
As they went on their way Hern was nervous. The honeymoon he had been so excited for now had him in knots with worry that something might happen to Suri. At this point he would’ve much rather stayed home. The only thing he knew is that he wouldn’t let her out of his sight no matter how she protested. He glanced over at her shoulder, she hadn’t complained about it this morning but he felt it probably still hurt.
Seeing it, her marred skin made him so sad. He just wanted it to hurry up and heal so he wouldn’t have to think about it any more. Suri noticed him gazing at her wound “It isn’t polite to stare Hern.” she said in a teasing tone. She was trying to get him to smile but it seemed to only break his heart more. “Come on, this is supposed to be exciting and fun Hern. Don’t let anybody ruin it. I love you and I’ll be fine so quit acting silly.” she got closer to him and laid her head on his shoulder.
“I should not have left you. Father would have found someone else if I asked.” He laced his fingers with hers. “Like who, little Craygen? He would have been shocked to death. He sent you because you know the safeguard inside and out. Now stop worrying. It doesn’t hurt.” She said softly.
Suri battled his stubbornness every day. She was just as bad. It was why they worked, why when they butted heads like goats they could never stay angry at each other. They stayed true to their convictions, unwavering. She wouldn’t let the human haters ruin their life together. She would look them in the eye defiantly and tell them no matter what they threw at her, at her husband, she was staying. She felt suddenly very exhausted, the movement of the buggy, her husbands comfort and warm day making her eyes drift closed.
When they arrived Hern gently woke Suri up. She couldn’t believe how beautiful everything looked as she got out of their cart. Her eyes were as wide as a kid in a chocolate factory. So many colors in such a vast place. “Oh I’m so glad we still came!” She grabbed her husbands hand and ran towards the flowers. Some of which were huge towering over them.
If you would’ve walked through those patches of flowers you wouldn’t be able to see anything. Hern didn’t like her near those because anything could be hiding in there. When she went near them he pulled her away. “Hern, I’m sure it’ll be fine. You are right here so I know I’m safe” She shot him a smile, her saying that pulling a smile from her husband aswell. He stood really close to her until she moved away to look at some butterfly’s near the smaller flowers
“Why don’t you and those well armed men unpack everything, I want to go around back.” She said and he grabbed her wrist. “Not alone.” She could hear how worried he was so shew relented, approaching one of the men. “Excuse, but may I ask your name?”
“Rain, ma’am” He tried to remain serious, but her light hearted manner was making it hard.
“What a beautiful name. Would you mind coming and watching over me while my husband delegates the unpacking?”
She turned on her heels, tiptoeing up to kiss Hern on the cheek before heading around the back of the cottage with Rain following closely. Hern couldn’t believe how easily she commanded these men. He knew she was beautiful, but it was so much more than that. She was engaging and kindhearted, intelligent and hot headed. They respected her instantly, something that he himself had had to earn with a show of physical prowess. He smiled, loving her even more. “Come on boys, Suri will expect everything to be unpacked and the horses taken care of.” He ordered, allowing her positive attitude to make him feel just a little bit better about being here and not hiding her safely behind the castle walls. “Yes sir.” They answered as one.
It was just as beautiful in the back except over here she saw a lake a little ways away. She ran again scaring the guard. He ran after to make sure he didn’t lose her. She looked up at him “sorry, I’m not used to having a babysitter and Hern is so fast. I will try to be more mindful” Rain smiled, almost chuckling. Suri was such a nice, thoughtful person and he thought it was pure stupidity and cruelness anybody would try to end her life. He thought she would make an amazing queen when it was Herns turn to sit on the throne.
She gazed at the water looking at all the creatures inside. All this time later and the world still amazed her. She was always seeing new things. She didn’t stay for long before speaking again “Ok lets go back! Hern might have a heart attack if he can’t see us when he’s done” They walked back up to where she figured Hern would be able to see her well. She saw a small creature coming towards her. It reminded her of a kitten back where she was from.
“Is it okay to touch it?” she asked the guard. “Yes it wont hurt you” she sat down and it ran up to her. “Oh you’re so cute!” she pet it and admired how adorable it was. “Oh I want you little one but you’re probably happier free out here than you would be in a castle huh?” The guard almost laughed watching her speak to a cat like it understood.
Hern just watched her playing with the small cat. She touched noses with the small creature, her eyes scrunched closed and making the cutest face. He let out a small chuckle at Rain’s expense. The man looked at his Princess the way a brother might a sister, with love and devotion and respect. He had seen him running after her, his eyes wide with fear. He didn’t know if the man was more scared of her being attacked or of what his Prince might do should she come to harm. Suri looked up and waved at him before rising to her feet and running to him with the small fuzzy cat in her arms.
Suri ran right into his arms and he lifted her, spinning her in a circle. They laughed as he swung her back to her feet and kissed her. She felt the earth move, her heart racing. She loved this man more than life. He pulled back and she lifted the kitten to his face and he kissed it on the nose. “Isn’t it just the cutest thing you’ve ever seen?” She asked, scratching the little ball of fuzz behind its tufted ear.
“Well second cutest, but yes it is adorable.” He answered and scratched it under its chin. “Come on, everything’s ready inside.”
“Bye sweet thing.” She sat the kitten on the ground and it bounded off into the forest.
Yellow eyes glared at the happy couple from the tall flowers. The Prince had kept the human from entering. He was very intuitive for a betrayer. The creature set in the flowers growing more and more disgusted. Wanting to attack Suri right there but he knew he couldn’t kill her with all them around. He decided he may try to befriend the small kitten she seemed to love so much. He started scheming a horrible plan to attack her once more. He was going to be sure this time she didn’t come out alive.
She only survived the first attack because she was lucky. Forgetting her ring was unfortunate for the Gnarls. He left to talk to the other Gnarls about possible plans to kill her using the kitten as bait. Unfortunately for Suri the Gnarls were very good at befriending animals. They had a certain charm with them.
The interior of the cottage was beautiful. A huge bay window looked out over the lake. A crystal chandelier hung over the small oak dining room table. The other windows were stained glass and cast the room in shades of orange and red. A vase of white roses sat in the center of the table, filling the room with their sweet scent. There were pictures etched into the walls of packs of wolves and deer. There was a fireplace already crackling. She wrapped her arms around Hern’s waist.
“Thank you for bringing me here.” She said with a smile.
“I knew you’d love it.” He kissed her forehead happily.
They just stood there for a few moments, savoring the warmth. “We need to talk.” She said and she heard his hear rate increase.
She pulled back and smiled, grabbing his hand and placing it over her belly. He arched an eyebrow, confused at first then his eyes widened in understanding. “Nothing’s wrong, everything is perfect.” She said softly
Hern was overjoyed. He kissed his wife passionately, holding her in the kiss for awhile. She was already happy about it but was so glad her husband was just as happy. When he pulled back she said “well I’m glad you’re so happy. I’ve been nervous about telling you”
“Why would you be nervous that’s wonderful news!”
“You worry about me enough already, now you’ll be absolutely impossible”
Hern laughed, I just love you Suri and want to keep you safe. The guards all said congratulations to them. They were happy for the prince and princess but that put the guards a little more on edge. Now they also knew Hern would worry more over her and would probably be harsher if she got hurt in any way. They needed to stay very alert. Especially with an attack on her just the other day.
Hern cooked for her which was surprising because she’d never seen him in the kitchen. “I have my talents.” He winked at her, stirring the stew boiling in the cooking pot. He filled a bowl for her and sat it on the table. “It’s rabbit stew, good for a growing baby.”
“Oh my,” she grinned, “you are going to drive me up the wall.” She scooped up a spoon full and blew on it before taking a bite, It tasted delicious. She ate as much as she could, her stomach over full when she stopped. Hern took their bowls and sat them on the counter. He quickly scooped her up, carrying her into the only bedroom and laid her gently on the bed. “I could tell you wanted to toss me on here. We can still have fun, I’m not even showing yet.”
“I’m taking no chances. I’m going to be going out of my mind with worry now. You should have seen how tense the men looked when we came back in.” She rolled her eyes and said, “Great a worried husband and a bunch of overprotective older brothers.” She tried for annoyed, but wound up laughing.
Hern didn’t think he could be any happier in that moment. He had a gorgeous wife and a baby on the way. All there was to do now was make sure they were both safe. She sensually rubbed her hands on Hern “You could make love to me gently Hern. Or is it that you don’t want me? I’m just your hormonal pregnant wife” She said in a teasing tone.
“It’s impossible not to want you” He took her dress off then gently started kissing up her stomach rubbing his hands along her sides. He continued across her chest and up her neck then he took her bra off while making out with her. When they really got going the guards could hear them. They were embarrassed but didn’t think they should all leave. They decided to take the night in shifts of 3 hours so nobody got too sleepy.
The sound of high pitched meowing woke her. She sat up, rubbing her eyes. She walked out to the kitchen looking out the bay window. The little kitten was outside alone in the dark. She didn’t see the guards and thought that at least Rain would comfort the little thing. She walked quietly into the room, picking up her dress and pulling it over her head. She kissed Hern on the cheek and left. The night air was cool and clean. It smelled sweet, the large flowers giving off a wonderful scent. She still didn’t see the guards and briefly wondered where they were. She raced around the back of the house and over to the kitten. The minute she scooped down to pick it up, it ran away. She followed it, calling it sweetly. It turned to look at her once more before disappearing into the thick flower forest.
“Come on kitty.” She coaxed, following it into the darkness.
She kept chasing not realizing how far she was getting from the safety of her husband and guards. When suddenly a bunch of Gnarls were around her. “Stupid human girl! We knew you’d fall for it!” Back at the house Rain woke up feeling a chill and noticed the door was open. He got panicked and looked around the house and then banged on the door to the room she knew her and Hern should be in. Hern woke up and noticed Suri wasn’t beside him.
He opened the door “what is it where is Suri!?” He was afraid to speak. Hern could see on his face he didn’t know and noticed the door open too. Panic struck him as he yelled at the guards to find her.
Suri stood in the middle of them afraid placing her hand on her stomach in a natural reaction. “We heard you were pregnant Suri. We will not let you stay here nor let such an abomination be born!” She had learned many ways of fighting being there so long. Hern wanted her to have some self defense. She fought for herself and cleared a small way between the bunch. She ran as fast as she could towards the water hoping the creatures couldn’t swim.
Anything was worth a shot so she ran to the river and dove in. They stopped at the water. They couldn’t follow her because Gnarls can’t swim. They followed her by the riverside “You can’t stay in there forever!”
“Cowards.” She splashed water at them and they backed up. She shivered and mentally reprimanded herself for leaving the safety of the cottage. She stayed as far from shore as she could, not wanting one of the ugly beasts to grab her. Hern was in a panic as he spun in circles, raking his fingers through his hair. “Suri, where are you?!” He screamed, his heart racing. He felt like throwing up. Something rubbed against his leg and he looked down. It was the kitten. It meowed at him and he knew this is why she had come outside.
Suri was getting colder, her shivering making her teeth chatter. She wanted to get out of the water, but the Gnarls were still following her. She continued down stream and the river suddenly spilled out into the lake. She screamed as loud as she could, calling Hern’s name. She kept screaming, tears spilling down her cheeks.
Each guard had run a different direction. Rain heard something faintly and he soon realized it was Suri so he ran back to find Hern. Hern heard his guard yelling. Rain pointed him in the direction he heard Suri as soon as Hern could see him. Rain didn’t go himself because Hern was that much faster, he knew he’d only slow him down. Instead he thought it would be more helpful to round up the guards to go that way too. Hern ran at his top speed listening until he heard Suris screams.
The gnarls were on the bank laughing at her. “Nobody’s going to save you. You’re making our job easier by drowning yourself!” She just cried, harder than ever before. Why had she been so dumb? She didn’t know how much longer she could swim. She apologized to her baby. “I am so sorry to have failed you like this” The gnarls yelled through their laughter “Shut up and drown!” Little did they know there was Hern coming down the hill and he heard them. Their words only making him want to rip their throats out more.
Suri saw a flash of antlers and pale skin before she slipped beneath the surface of the water, too exhausted to swim any longer. Water filled her lungs and she hoped with all her heart that Hern would forgive her. She wrapped her arms around herself, holding tightly to the small life growing inside her.
The blade of Herns knife slammed through the skull of the first Gnarl. He ripped it free, ducking as another swung at him. He sliced across its abdomen, the wound so deep the monsters entrails spilled out onto the grass. Hern grabbed another by the throat and shoved it hard toward its friends who moved out of the way. Hern saw Suri slip beneath the water and not resurface. He had to get to her. Rain and the others crested the hill, racing to their Prince’s aid. Hern left them to dispatch of the remaining Gnarl and dove into the depths of the water, his arms wrapping around Suri’s waist.
He pulled her up and got her to land. She was blue from the cold and didn’t seem to be breathing. Hern did CPR on her. His heart racing and fighting back tears. He was afraid he had lost the two most important people in his life. She started coughing up water but at least now she was breathing. Hern was so relieved but not done worrying.
Her whole body was blue and she was shivering, still soaking wet. The guards had the gnarls under control and had almost killed them all. He decided to get Suri back to the cottage. He had to get her and the baby warm. It didn’t take him long to reach the little cottage. He sat with her by the fire rubbing her arms and legs. She was still shivering pretty badly but it was slowing by the fire. He set her down to grab a blanket for her. Returning as fast as he could before pulling her onto his lap. He wrapped the blanket around her then resumed rubbing her arms and legs.
“I love you Hern”
Still fighting back tears he answered “I love you two honey. Any better?”
She laid back against him “Yes, thank you”
He began hugging her “I’m sorry it took me so long”
“It was my fault for leaving. I didn’t realize the kitten was leading me away”
“It lead you? Like it was trained to do so?”
“Come to think of it yes it was”
Hern then knew it was the Gnarls who had done this all. Tomorrow they’d go back to the castle and tell his father it was the Gnarl people who were threatening Suris life. Between the two of them they’d decide how to handle it. They rode home in silence, the small kitten resting in Suri’s lap. She had convinced Hern as well as the guards that it had not been the kittens fault. Since she was not going to let them kill it, Hern decided it would be brought back to the castle to be evaluated. When they arrived Hern helped her from the carriage and ordered Rain to take the kitten to Fallon.
“If it has been tainted by any form of darkness, Fallon will drive it out. I have to speak to my father, you should rest.” He said softly. “No, I don’t like being kept in the dark. They attacked me and our baby, they tried to kill us in the hopes of the grief killing you. I have every right to be there.” She said with finality.
“Okay, if that is what you want.” They walked hand in hand to the throne room, pushing through the door. The King was on his feet in an instant, practically running to them. He wrapped his arms around them, sighing with relief. The king held Suris face “Oh Suri look at you. You’ve been through hell my darling daughter”
Hern was angry and not wanting to have any small talk “We know that dad we need to figure out what should be done about the Gnarls. I think it’s the whole race of Gnarls and I just think we should kill them off. No questions asked”
HIs father shook his head “Hern, my boy, I know how much you love Suri but you can’t let that hot head lead you to rash choices. We can’t just kill off a whole race. We need to speak reason with the head of the Gnarls. You and I along with many guards can travel to their land and speak to him. I could invite him here but I’m sure you wont have that.”
“Damn right I wont. That would just give them a chance to learn the layout of the castle to hurt her again! Nothing else will happen to Suri I will be making sure of that!”
Even the king had never seen his son so filled with fury and rage. Suri wrapped her arms around him. “Please calm down Hern” I’m sure you two can work it out with the leader of the Gnarls.”
“Work it out, are you insane?” He snapped, his eyes burning furiously into hers. It hurt to have him speak to her that way, but she wasn’t going to back down. “You listen to me right now. Either you find a peaceful solution or I will. I will go there myself without you or your guards and speak to their king. They don’t want me here and I don’t plan on leaving. You act like I’m not angry, well I am, but I am not going to kill an entire people just to ease my anxiety. I’m no Hitler.” She had her arms crossed and she glared up at him.
“Who is Hitler?”
“He was a tyrant, a monster. Way worse than those Gnarls. One more thing, don’t you ever, EVER talk to me like I’m off my rocker. That’s a good way to get slapped.” He realized he had hurt her feelings. Guilt sliced through him. He pulled her into his arms. “I’m sorry, it’s just for the first time in my life I am at a loss. I feel so helpless and I hate it.” He said quietly.
“Then just say that, there’s no shame in it.”
“What would you have us do, my child?” The King asked, resting a hand on her shoulder.
“I want to speak to them, to their King and find out what I can do to stop this. Hern can come with me. It would be best if we both went.”
“You will be a wise queen when I’m gone. You remember to keep my son in line.” Suri noticed the king had been mentioning his passing a lot lately. She wondered if something was wrong that he wasn’t sharing with them. This was not the time to bring it up. The king spoke up “It will show great braveness for Suri to go. I’ll stay home. You two will be ruling the land soon enough and this is a good start. I trust you two.”
Suri hugged him whispering “you and I need to have a talk when we get back. I’m worried about you” The king looked at Suri in confusion. He then added “The gnarls live a good bit away. Suris been through a great deal and I think the two of you should rest until tomorrow. Before you snap Hern think of what’s best for your child. It can hurt the baby to over stress its mother”
Hern felt his face grow hot. “Yes sir.” He left the throne room, his arm around Suri’s waist. It had been a long time since his father had made him feel childish.
“I need a bath.” Suri said when they entered their room. “I still smell like lake.”
“I had not noticed.” He brushed her hair away from her face.
“Of course you didn’t, you like me no matter what.”
Their room had been built over a hot spring. A hole had been left in the floor, the rim carved out of marble. Hern helped her out of her clothes. She had bruises and cuts on her right side from jumping in the water. She had had no time to look before escaping the Gnarl. He inwardly winced, blaming himself. He tugged his boots and pants off, jumping in the hot water then helping her in. She hissed in pain as the water rushed over sore spots.
“I’m so sorry I wasn’t fast enough.” He whispered sadly.
“You saved my life, that’s all that matters. I knew you’d get there, I could feel it in my heart. You love me too much to let anything happen to me.” She smiled up at him.
“I have to tell you something about the Gnarls. They are big on tests. They may ask you to do something dangerous to prove yourself. The Gnarl King will ask you and you will to be able to refuse.”
“Don’t worry, I’m ready.”
The king went up to his room. When he got there he started coughing and fell onto his bed. A servant who stayed in his room at all times to tend to him quickly asked “What do you need? Water?” The king couldn’t speak so he brought him somthing to drink and told the king to lay down. “Have you told Hern or Suri about your health failing and Fallon no longer being able to help you”
“Hern never even knew I was seeing Fallon for help”
“We don’t know how long you have sire. Fallon thinks it will be a matter of weeks before your body gives out” The king sighed “I pray nothing happens to Suri. Hern will need her to rule this kingdom. I picked a good wife for him. I hate she’s been through so much but she’s good for Hern and for this place. Regardless of what some of my subjects may think. She’s a smart girl too. I think she’s figured out I’m ill”
He started wheezing. “Rest my lord, you mustn’t talk any longer” The king settled in to bed to hopefully get some sleep, his poor health made it hard to even do something as simple as shut down for the night. It would be harder tonight because tomorrow his son and daughter in law would be in harms way again and he truly felt Hern needed Suri. He could onyl pass peacefully if he had her at his side to rule.
Suri hugged her father in law before they left the next day and whispered in his ear, “Promise me you’ll see me home, promise me you’ll be here when we return.” She kissed him on the cheek and climbed quickly into the carriage. She waited for Hern to tell his father goodbye and prayed it would not be his last. Hern stepped in after her and the carriage took off. She stared out the window, watching the world pass by. She gripped Hern’s hand tightly, terrified of what might happen. He made her change into the clothes of his world, a pair of breeches with a white peasant top and knee high doe skin boots. He said it was less likely to get hung on anything if she had to run. Her hair had been pulled up in a bun. She hoped she had made the right choice.
Hern could tell she was afraid and he wanted desperately to comfort her, but he wasn’t sure what to say. Nothing seemed right. They could both die or one of them could die and they would be forever separated. All he could do was cling to her hand, his thumb brushing against her skin in a reassuring manner. The Gnarl castle rose up before them a little after noon. It was an odd looking structure made of obsidian. Red spires reached toward the sky, looking like sharp daggers. The carriage rolled to a stop and the hopped out, approaching the front door where they were stopped by Gnarl guards.
“Prince and Princess Redheart require and audience with your king.” Hern said, voice calm and cool.
The door swung open and a young, gangly Gnarl beckoned them inside. They followed him down a dimly lit hall. It was so cold inside, the exact opposite of their home. The young Gnarl led them through another large door and into a circular room. A top a flight of steps was an obsidian throne and sitting there, the King Gnarl.
“Why have you come?” He growled.
Suri said “Gnarls keep attacking me and sending beasts after me. We wanted to know what could we do to make you accept me. I’m ready for anything so please just tell me” The King Gnarl said “You’re a brave young woman. You could’ve merely sent Hern here but you came yourself to speak to me and have offered to do what I want so my people will respect you. That alone has earned some of my respect.” He paused a brief moment then continued. “I need to think of this Suri. I can’t simply command my people to accept you so I will think of something that will really show them you will be a fine ruler by Herns side. My people are just nervous with your king being ill since that means the throne will soon be Herns” A shocked look flew over Herns face but Suri had already realized this. The king Gnarl told them to wait there while he contemplated with his wisest men. Hern seemed overwhelmed so Suri grabbed his hand and smiled at him to ease him, if only just a little. She hated the pain he must be in now.
“My father can’t be sick, he’s been acting normal. He’s strong, far too strong.” Hern said, looking lost.
“I am so sorry my love.” She hugged him close and he buried his face in her neck. She could feel his tears and it broke her heart. She forced herself to stay strong, to be his rock. She knew how hard this was. He and the king had just began to see eye to eye, to really bond again. The Gnarl King re-entered the throne room and Hern stood up straight, quickly wiping his face.
“You must run the maze. At the center of the maze is your test. Hern must stay with me.” The King said.
“I accept.” She turned to Hern who was shaking his head. “Everything will be alright. You know I have to do this or we’ll never be truly happy and neither will our child.”
She kissed him, wanting him to know that even if she never saw him again that she loved him. The young Gnarl led her out of the throne room and outside behind the black castle. Her eyes widened at the sight before her. It was a huge stone maze, the center barely visible from the hill they stood upon. Once at the entrance the young Gnarl handed her a dagger, opened the door, and stepped aside. She entered the dimly lit walkway, closing her eyes to try and remember some of what she saw.
She studied everything about where she was as she walked to make sure she wasn’t passing things multiple times. She kept turning and going straight then turning again. She was afraid what might be at the end. She was going to be queen though. She had to be willing to face anything. She wanted to earn the respect of the Gnarls so they’d respect her baby.
She hoped Hern was okay. He didn’t cry often so him getting emotional like that bothered her. He was always tough but no matter how tough you are losing your own dad is hard especially since there was all those years where they barely spoke. She prayed Hern wouldn’t have to mourn the death of his father, wife and child all at once. If she would’ve known all this would happen she would’ve waited to tell Hern. That way if she died he wouldn’t have to know he lost his baby too.
Slowly but surely she found the path she had to take, springing two traps before she started to pay better attention. She was scared, her hand fluttered to her belly for reassurance. She suddenly found herself in a clearing. Spot lighted in the middle was a young female Gnarl about eighteen years old. She was tied to a post and blind folded. She approached slowly, hoping this wasn’t a trap. “Kill her.” A voiced boomed, making her jump.
“What?” Suri asked, turning in circles.
“You must killer her. Slit her throat, gut her, do it or your Prince dies.”
She faced the young woman, the creature was shaking. “I can’t, she’s unarmed and restrained.”
“Then we murder your husband and we ransack your castle.”
She stepped up to the woman, her heart thundering in her chest. She pulled the blind fold off the Gnarl’s face and dark, fear filled eyes stared back at her. “Forgive me.” She whispered and cut the woman free.
“I will not kill an unarmed person who isn’t attacking me. I don’t have it in me. If you’ll punish me and my family for that so be it!” The voice boomed again “You have passed the test.” Suri was confused, she had disobeyed what she was told. How could she have passed? A door opened instantly and she was magically right back in the Gnarls castle.
The Gnarl running to tell the other gnarls the news. The king gnarl looked at her “You have the makings of an amazing ruler Suri. You’d rather let yourself get hurt than hurt someone who is defenseless. I will make sure all Gnarls know this.” Hern hugged his wife. She could tell by his heart beat how afraid he was.
They bowed and exited the kingdom getting back in the carriage to head home. As soon as they were moving Hern snatched her up and held her in his lap holding her as tightly as he could without hurting her. He wouldn’t let go even a little. “Hern everything ok now and it will be ok” she smiled but all he did was lock her in a kiss.
When they arrived home Craygen let them know the King needed them in his room. They practically ran, bursting through the doors to see Fallon standing next to the bed. They rushed to his side, Hern falling to his knees and gripping his father’s hand. Suri stood behind him, her hands on his shoulders.
“I am so glad you made it home alive.” The King said softly, his voice hoarse from coughing so much.
“I’m so glad you kept your promise.” Suri replied and the King chuckled.
“There’s that fire that caught my eye in the first place.”
“Father, please don’t go.” Hern begged, his heart aching.
“You are ready son. You can do anything, you are strong enough.”
Hern shook his head, tears streaming down his face. This man couldn’t be dying, not his father. He wanted this to be some horrible nightmare. “I love you so much, I’m sorry I never said it enough.”
“I knew, I always knew. I am so proud.” He whispered. “Suri, come here.”
She moved around Hern to sit next to this wonderful old man. She had so much she wanted to say, but there wasn’t enough time so she just said, “Thank you for everything you’ve done for me.”
“You are going to be a wonderful Queen.” He grabbed her hand between his and brought it to his lips. “I need to tell you something, come close.” She leaned in and he whispered one word in her ear. Her eyes widened then filled with joyful tears. She felt his grip on her loosen and he was gone.
They mourned the loss of a wonderful King. The funeral was beautiful and they were crowned the same day as the King had ordered. They stood holding each other at his grave, tears streaming down their faces. Hern pulled back to look at her and asked, “What did he tell you before he passed?”
She smiled up at him, grabbed his hand and held it against her belly. “Twins.” She said.
~ The End ~