One day Suri, a 24 year old woman, was walking in the woods outside her home. She loved to go on long strolls in the evening, especially after arguments with her mother whome she rarely saw eye to eye with. Today she decided she was going to go deeper in than ever before, needing to blow off more steam than normal after their most recent fight. Not that heated arguments were anywhere near new, they were just getting more and more common and harder to deal with. Her mother never approved of her, not a single choice she made. Especially because she had never settled down.
Suri simply didn’t feel she needed a man and she wasn’t sure why it disgruntled her mother quite so much. She had gone pretty deep into the woods when she noticed a cave. She was curious and decided to walk through. It seemed never ending but she kept on going even when things became pitch dark, fear had never been able to really grip her. Suddenly it opened up into a new land. It was beautiful and filled with strange creatures. She walked right on in, her curiosity getting the better of her.
The grass was a stunning azure color. Beautiful flowers of deep crimson contrasted with the grass, making it look purple. She moved slowly, taking in the odd scenery. It was like something out of a fairy tale. Tall trees reached for the starry sky, their bark and leaves a ghostly white. Purple flowers bloomed, larger than her hand. A river ran to her left, a soft soothing sound, rather than a monstrous roar. The sound of harp music caught her attention. It came from over a hill. She climbed, beautiful yellow butterflies distracting her for a moment. One landed on her shoulder and the fluttered off. At the bottom of the hill, sitting on a tree stump surrounded by toadstools was a man. Between his knees was a large ebony harp, his fingers moving gracefully over the strings.
She approached cautiously. Suri wasn’t one to fear the unknown but she wasn’t an idiot. She was in a new land and this man definitely wasn’t human. As she drew closer she noticed he wore only a pair of animal skin breeches and fur boots. She arched an eyebrow as she thought to herself “no one wore breeches anymore.” Long platinum hair hung past his shoulders and out of his head grew a pair of dear antlers, each with four prongs. In her enchanted, curious state she stepped on a twig, the snapping sounding causing him to freeze. She very nearly panicked when he turned, pinning her there with his steely blue gaze.
“Um, hello there, uh…deer man.” She choked out.
“My name is Hern and this is my domain. What are you doing here?” His voice was surprisingly deep.
“Um…um” she had trouble getting any words out, his stare was just so intense. “I was walking in the woods when I found this cave and it lead me here.” He grinned saying “it is your destiny to be here then. The cave only appears for those who it wants.” She didn’t understand, she stood there looking at the man with puzzlement on her face. “It wants? It’s a cave! It can’t want!” He snorted semi angrily. “Hush now! You know nothing and act like you know all. You need to see our wise king. He will know why you’re here.”
“He can’t be very wise if he has an arrogant deer man and a dysfunctional cave.”
He was on his feet and mere inches away from her in an instant his fingers wrapped threateningly around her throat, his eyes had gone a deep blue. She felt her heart skip a beat, but she stood her ground and glared at him. He was a lovely man with dark lashes, a strong jaw line, and and an aristocratic look about him. He seemed very prince like, someone not used to insults and who demanded loyalty.
“You would do well to watch you mouth.” He growled.
“Or what, you strangle me, toss me in the river, and go back to playing music? Go ahead and try it.” She spat.
The audacity of this woman, this human, to walk into his cave and insult his king, his father. She was terrified, but full of fire. Her hands were placed defiantly on her hips, her stance wide for balance. She was ready to fight. Their staring match seemed to go on for ages, her beautiful face tense and angry. He growled, exasperated.
“Follow me now.” He commanded.
“I didn’t hear a please.”
He glared at her. “Now, please.”
She felt a bit triumphant as she walked along with him. They hadn’t gone far when an incredibly tall man came out. He could have easily been 8ft tall with blood red eyes. “That horrible smell! It must be a human! Why are you walking with that disgusting beast!?” She looked at him angry saying “you’re not good looking yourself you creep!” The man looked shocked “what a mouth you have there missy.” Hern now spoke again “The cave brought her here so there must be good reason” The tall red eyed man was even more shocked “The kings cave lead that filth here!?” She then yelled “Don’t talk about me like that!”
“What are you going to do about it?” The tall man replied, a smug look on his face.
“Come at me big boy. I’ve had enough crap today to last me a lifetime so bring it on.”
He leaned in close, Hern watching in amused shock. The tall man’s face was mere inches from hers, his warm breath hit her face, the smell horrible. She lifted her hand and with lightening quickness, jabbing him in the eye. He lunged back, clutching his face. She kicked out, catching him in the top of his knee cap so he collapsed.
“If you ever call me garbage again, I will hold your head under the river until you stop breathing.” She said calmly then pat him on the shoulder. “Shall we, Hern the Helpful.” She motioned for him to lead on.
A smile tugged at his lips, he was starting to soften a bit to having this human woman here in his land. Hern turned his back and continued on the grassy path, barely managing to suppress his laughter. Every few minutes she stopped to examine plants and animals. Her eyes were wide with wonder and she noticed wasn’t in the least bit worried, even after facing such aggression from the giant. He slowed his pace to walk next to her, finding her child like joy a nice change.
“May I ask your name?” He tried for friendly.
“It’s Suri.” She gave him a quick smile as she stopped to pick up a shiny purple stone.
“You don’t seem worried about being here, Suri.” She liked the way he said her name, his deep, smooth voice making butterflies brush her insides. “I am worried. Either I have finally lost my mind or this is real and my entire world view has been seriously rocked.”
“It would be the second one believe it or not. My father will explain much better than I ever could”
They reached a rainbow river and the animals inside were unlike any sea creatures she had ever seen! ‘What in the world!?” she gasped questioningly. Hern looked at her saying “You’re truly surprised, after meeting me that we have different animals here?”
“so you’ve been to my world before?” He smirked and said “I have and have no desire of returning. The human race is deplorable”
She retorted “you can’t lump us all together like that!” He snorted “I can do what I want, I’m the kings son!” This reminded her why she wasn’t married. She thought to herself how glad she was she had never settled down. Hern said “You really are a big ball of rage huh?” She realized she had been a bit of a jerk but he wasn’t easy to get along with and she didn’t want to seem vulnerable in this new land.
“And you’re an arrogant, self centered prince with his head up his ass. Obviously neither of us is perfect.” She snapped. Something broke the surface of the water, making her jump back into Hern with a yelp. “What was that?” He gripped her shoulders to keep her from falling and watched the water. Bluish green scales flashed above the surface and the disappeared again. “No worries,” he said crouching down on he river bank and dipping his hand in the water, “it’s just a water dragon.”
Suri watched as he lifted a serpent out of the water that was at least three feet long. He turned to her, cradling the creature in his hands. It lifted its oval shaped head, two blue fans behind its black eyes flaring out. She reached out slowly and the dragon pushed its head into her palm. It made a high pitched purring sound as it delighted at her touch. She had never seen something so amazing. She smiled at Hern and thanked him for sharing before he allowed the creature to slip back into the depths of the river.
Hern led her through a grove of willow trees and onto a paved walkway. She asked so many questions his head was buzzing, but he found her curiosity intriguing. She was a regular chatterbox, her eyes lighting up when she found something more interesting than the last thing. He found himself smiling and unable to stop.
“Can I ask you a question?”
“Sure.” She smiled up at him, in a much more friendly mood than she had been earlier. “Why are you so angry, you’re so beautiful when you smile, why don’t you always smile?”
She frowned, her eyes moving away from his, searching for a way out and finding none. She sighed, her eyes jumping back to his face. “I have a mother who is always disappointed in me. She drove my father away and now expects me to get married and have babies after witnessing her own marriage go down the drain.”
“I’m sorry, I can only imagine.” He felt sad for her.
“No, I’m sorry for acting like a psycho. You have to admit though, you and that giant had it coming.”They laughed together and she playfully shoved him. She looked ahead, her eyes widening as a large alabaster castle loomed up ahead of them. She had never seen such a sight. Her heart hammered out an excited rhythm and she found herself grabbing Hern’s arm.
Hern was shocked but felt something else he didn’t recognize. He tried but he couldn’t quite place this amazing feeling her touching him caused. He shook his head and thought “feelings I don’t understand are not important”. Now she was dragging him along trying to hurry to the castle. She wanted to see it up close and on the inside. Finally they made it, the guards not asking any questions since the prince was with her.
Suri couldn’t believe her eyes. It was so big and beautiful. Hern looked at her and asked “do your rulers not have beautiful castles any longer?” She laughed and said “no they live in a dumb white house”. He walked ahead of her to lead her to his father. They walked down long halls with beautiful paintings. They reached a big handcrafted wooden door. Hern knocked and a butler answered the door. “Yes prince Hern?” Hern said “I would like to see my father”
The butler said “Your father isn’t seeing guests right now my lord. He is busy and told me to not let anybody disturb him for any reason atall. Hern sighed and said “I’ll show you to a guest room for the evening.” Suri said “Why don’t you insist?” He laughed really loud “Your world really is different huh? Come now Suri, he will see you in the morning.”
“A father should always listen to his son. Even if he says the most absurd things.” Suri said as she tried to catch a glimpse of the king as the butler closed the door. She had a mind to force her way in, dragging Hern in, and telling the King that nothing was more important than his son.
Hern had never heard such wisdom from a human. In fact he couldn’t remember the last human that had made sense to him. He shook his head, humans were barbaric creatures that destroyed everything they touched. They weren’t supposed to be sympathetic and soft hearted.
“Please, follow me.” He said.
Suri marveled at the architecture as they walked through the castle. Each pillar they passed was adorned with nature scenes. The person who had taken the time to engrave every detail was a true artist. They crossed through a courtyard. Circular lattices were covered in lavender climbing roses. She ran over, burying her nose in their soft petals and inhaling their sweet scent. She turned to face him. He stood there, hands behind him, back straight. He looked like a soldier. He was well built, broad shouldered and muscular. There was a large scar running from his chest to his abdomen. It looked like earning it had been painful.
Hern tried not to notice the way she looked at him, the way her eyes studied him and especially the stunning way she smiled Her hair hung in dark curls to her waist. Brown eyes so dark they looked black twinkled with excitement. She was beautiful, gorgeous even. There was an unfamiliar wrenching in the vicinity of his heart. He mentally shook himself, telling himself to get a grip.
“Come on, we should get you to your room until father is finished.” He commanded softly.
He opened the doors to her room and she gasped. It was the most beautiful room she had ever seen. There was a crystal fountain with beautifully handcrafted fairies and dragons. The curtains were dark purple with black lace. The pillars in here also had art. As much as he fought it he couldn’t keep from smiling. She was just too adorable with how she was so enamored with everything in the castle.
“Quit laughing at me! I was brought up very simply! Not everyone is a royal” He held down a laugh and said Sorry, a butler will come to you in the morning to bring you to breakfast Suri. Sweet dreams, ring for the butler if you need anything.” He pointed to a long golden rope attached to a bell before he turned to walk out the doors. When he was gone she sat on the bed just taking in the room she had been given. She started thinking “This place is so nice! My mother also can’t reach me here. Do I even want to leave this place? Would I ever be welcome to stay when these beings seem so opposed to humans?”
Hern headed out of the castle, needing to clear his head. Never had he been so drawn to another being. He walked quickly back down the paved walkway and back down to the river. He lay next to the water, listening to the comforting ebb and flow. He closed his eyes and she was there waiting for him. He cursed himself, his weakness. He rolled onto his hands and knees, scooping up some cool water and splashing it over his face. He hoped his father had some answers.
Suri suddenly felt very alone so she opened the bedroom door, peeking out into the long hallway. When she didn’t see or hear anyone she slipped out, moving quickly, but quietly down the hall, making sure to stay alert. She wanted to go back outside, hoping it wouldn’t feel quiet so lonely out there. She heard a noise behind her and looked back. She didn’t see anything but when she faced forward again she slammed hard into someone, falling on her butt. She glared angrily up at the person, thinking for a moment it was her antlered acquaintance. It could have been Hern, the man standing before her looked just like him but older and with a goatee. He had those same ice blue eyes, that same stoic, arrogant look. Now she knew where it came from.
“You must be the one my son brought here to speak to me.” He said, his voice deep yet a lot softer than she had anticipated. It was a voice that made you listen. He extended a hand to her and she took it, allowing him to pull her to her feet.
“You’re the King? I was expecting someone…bigger and more intimidating.” She said and he laughed. It was deep, a bearish sound. “Such fire and honesty. Come my dear, to the throne room. I will send someone to fetch my son, but until he arrives let us talk.”
She walked nervously, thinking about what the king would tell her. She was shocked because she was also feeling a bit happy to know the kings son was coming. She thought it must be because he’s the only one she really knows in this strange land where the creatures seem to hate humans. Understandable though, there were very few humans she even liked.
She noticed how gorgeous the throne room was as well as he instructed her to follow him up to his throne. “You now have an audience with the king my dear”. She unlike herself answered meekly “Why am I here? Your son said you’d know” He answered as if instructing a small child ” You’re here because I wanted you here. You are an amazing woman. I have had an eye in your world looking for somone just like you. You have a special purpose here young lady” She tilted her head confused “What’s my purpose here? How am I perfect for it” He had a glint in his eye and smiled “that’s not for you to know yet Suri. Spend a few days here in my castle as my guest. Get to know my son. It will become apparent what you’re perfect for.”
She arched an eyebrow at him incredulously, sighing in irritation. She hated puzzles. She wanted to take this opportunity to say something to the King about his son. “Why don’t you listen to your son?” She asked, staring unflinching into his eyes.
“My son and I haven’t seen eye to eye in years. He would rather spend time out there in the wilderness than learn how to be a king.” He replied, his eyes almost sad.
She placed a hand on the old man’s shoulder and said, “Perhaps you have lost touch with nature and his stubbornness is a way of telling you that. Perhaps you both have a lesson to learn here.”
The King opened his mouth to speak when the large wooden door swung open. Hern entered, his eyes staring up at the throne in surprise. “Suri, what are you doing up there?” He asked.
“I asked her up here son.” His cool, calm demeanor was back.
Hern couldn’t believe what his father was saying. For a moment he wondered if he had fallen and hit his head. Suri stood close to his father, one hand still resting on his shoulder. He looked between the two, wanting to know what they had been talking about.
“Why is she here father?”
“Because I wish her to be. She will be staying here for a time and you are charged with taking care of her. If she wants to learn how to play your harp you will teach her, if she wishes to dance nude with fairies you will take her to the grove and be polite enough to turn your back.”
Suri felt a blush creep up her neck and couldn’t help but laugh at the seriousness in which he said that. She saw Hern glaring and clamped a hand over her mouth, trying as hard as she could to muffle her laughter. “I’m sorry, but you guys are so funny.” She kissed the king on the cheek and squeezed his shoulder. “Sir, I am very exhausted. I will leave so you can talk to your son.” She walked happily down to the main floor, smiling sweetly at Hern as she passed him. Things here suddenly didn’t feel quite so lonely.
She got out of the doors and realized she had no idea how to get back to her room. She just stood there until Hern came out. “Done with your father so soon?” He snarled at her question “Yes, he refuses to go into detail about why he has you here!”
“Oh..um will you take me back to my room? This castle is so vast.” As angry with his father as he was he smiled “You are like a child here” she indignantly asked ” whats that supposed to mean you jerk!”
He laughed “Your temper can match my own” He began walking her back to her room to bid her goodnight. She thought about what the king said. “what possible purpose could I have here? Am I a mere entertainer for his son? Does he have some future goal for me?” She decided not to worry about it. After all she gets to stay in a lavish castle for a while. Far away from her simple home and far away from her retched mother.
They walked in silence, taking a leisurely pace. Suri glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. He still looked angry. She grinned and said, “Don’t worry I won’t ask to dance naked out in some grove.”
He couldn’t help, but crack a smile and before he knew it he was laughing again. He draped an arm over her shoulders, pulling her close. She made him feel playful and alive. “You and my father, I don’t know if I can survive a few days between you two.”
“Oh come on, he’s not that bad. Give him a chance.”
“Have you given your mother a chance?”
“I tried on more than one occasion, forgave her, did everything I could to impress her and it was never enough. I love my mother, but we’ll never have a real relationship.”
They arrived at her room before the conversation became awkward. Hern opened the door for her and stepped aside to let her in. “Tomorrow some of us are going hunting. I would like it very much if you would accompany me.” He was actually nervous. “I don’t exactly have clothes for the occasion.” She tugged at her t-shirt.
“I will make sure you have proper attire.”
“Then I shall see you in the morning.” Before he left she stood on tip toes and kissed his cheek. She smiled and closed the bedroom door. She had no idea what was wrong with her, but she never wanted to leave him.
In the morning when she woke up she saw some clothes waiting for her by her bedside. A pair of pants and a tee shirt. They were just her taste! The shirt had her favorite band on it A7X. She was so excited. The butler started knocking on the door. “Did you find your clothes my lady?” she exclaimed “yes I did! Who sent these?” The butler replied “The king, he knows everything about you fair lady” She was confused. she thought they would be from the prince but then again why would he give her such a cool tshirt to hunt in.
The butler asked if she was ready to be walked to breakfast. She said yes, she was so hungry. They arrived at this huge table. She thought it was a bit ridiculous to eat at such a big table every meal if they weren’t going to have company. Hern was already there and she was asked to sit beside him. She quickly noticed the father wasn’t there which prompted the questin “where’s the king?”
“He told me he’d rather us eat alone. I guess he is mad I questioned him so much last night” He looked sad.
Suri asked “You do care what your dad thinks huh?” He snapped back “No I do not!”
“Jesus…SORRY” Her feelings of dislike for him had come right back. He noticed her get upset and apologized “I’m sorry, I’m not mad at you. By the way where did you get those clothes?” He asked to change the subject. She once again thought how weird it was “your father sent them to my room. Somehow he knew I liked this band” Hern looked puzzled “Band?”
She giggled “do you not know music?”
“Yes music that comes from birds and harps” She shook her head. “I’ll have to introduce you to some good music then.” She said with such a captivating smile it had his heart skipping off beat. They both ate quickly, feeling awkward and wanting to get out of the castle.
Suri stood on the edge of the forest and watched Hern talk to a group of men. Two of them had antlers that were a lot smaller than his. She guessed that the size and amount of prongs represented age. Another man had what looked like goat legs. He was shorter than she was. The last of the group was the giant she had so sweetly jabbed in the eye. He cast a dark look at her and she stuck her tongue out at him. She knew it was childish, but so was his attitude.
“Do you seriously think that human can keep up with us?” One of the antlered young men asked.
“Hey, if you have a question you can ask me.” Suri said sweetly. “I mean I may be only a lowly human, but I do have a brain.” The young man blushed and mumbled something under his breath.
“She looks fit enough.” The little goat man said and winked at her. She liked him.
“I agree.” Hern said with a smile, not sure how he felt about his friends flirtation. “Now you boys head in. You get a head start, Suri and I will follow.”
“Yes sir.” The goat man saluted and entered the white wood, followed by the young deer boys and the sulking giant.
Hern turned to her, looking her over. She looked so odd in her attire. He had hoped his father would give her something more maneuverable. “Stay close to me at all times. There are dangerous animals in there among other things.”
The interior of the forest was absolutely gorgeous. Red moss climbed up the sides of the trees. It was extremely soft to the touch, reminding her of down feathers. Hern carried a dagger made of bone in his boot. He had said to hunt an animal as a true predator was the only way to do it. When she explained that in her world animals were killed with guns and sometimes arrows he had seemed appalled. She followed close behind, not making a sound. Something dark darted to her left and she came to a halt. Her eyes peered through the trees and she saw it again, a sort of shadowy thing. “Suri.” It whispered. She found herself moving away from Hern, following the shadow deeper into the woods.
Hern suddenly had a feeling of foreboding. There was something wrong. He looked behind him to tell Suri to stay close, his heart giving a stutter when he realized she was gone.
“Come Suri” the voice said. She felt powerless like she had to follow. It started playing a flute and then she lost all thoughts in her head. Her eyes were empty as she followed it deeper. It was luring her to the cliffs.This was a malicious creature who did not approve of the king letting a filthy human into their world. He would simply kill her off with no evidence it was he who lead her off the cliff. Humans were stupid after all.
As they neared the Cliff she gained a little bit of thought. She felt afraid because she was not in control. She always kept control in all things. She started fighting with all her might to break free. “stop that little brat” the creature said. It could feel her fighting. He was impressed a human female could fight the magic at all but still didn’t lose his disgust with her.
Hern raced through the forest, slowly beginning to panic. He back tracked, his eyes moving over the ground. He spotted her footprints veering of toward the south. His heart nearly stopped when he realized she was heading for the cliffs. He couldn’t even begin to fathom why she would wander off. He raced through the woods, jumping fallen trees and ducking under low branches.
“Suri!” he yelled her name over and over, his voice pleading and fearful. It was surrpising to him just how worried he was about this human woman. The creature swirled then took on a familiar face. Her mother stood before her, arms outstretched. Her eyes were heart wrnechingly sad. She shook her head. How had her mother found her way here. “Suri, come to mommy.” It couldn’t be her. She felt pressure in her head, a mental assault that was draining her will. She stepped forward and tried to tell herself to stop. She took another step, the edge of the cliff right in front of her. The shadow gave an evil laugh that sent a shiver up her spine. She lifted her foot, it hovered over the edge. She felt tears running down her cheeks.
Hern burst through the trees to the cliff, almost falling in his haste despite how graceful he normally was out in nature. He saw Suri standing on the edge, a black shadow hovering in front of her. He ran as fast as he could. She took a step, her foot hanging over open space. She pitched forward, falling over the edge. He dove forward, going over with her. One hand gripped her wrist, while the other clutched the tip of the cliff. He looked down, their eyes meeting. Relief filled those dark pools. He pulled her up and she gripped his shoulders, freeing his hand so he could climb back up. They lay in the dirt, both of their hearts racing, both trying to catch their breath.
“Never, ever do that again. Stay away from those things.” He pushed himself to his feet and pulled her up. She grabbed his face and kissed him. She had never felt so happy and thankful in her life. She pulled back, almost laughing at his shocked expression, then wrapped her arms around his waist. She hugged him like that, her forehead resting against his chest. She felt shaky and knew if she didn’t hold onto him she would either cry or collapse. His arms wrapped around her, strong yet incredibly gentle. She swallowed the lump in her throat. It had been so close, if he was any later getting to her she would have died today.
“Come on Suri, we’ll find the others and go back to the castle.” Hern said softly, surprised at teh gentleness her holding him caused in his voice. He kissed the top of her head and tucked her safely beneath his arm as they walked back through the woods. He wanted her close, both to keep her safe and to continue feeling this happy. A dark shadow watched them, disgusted and full of rage at prince Herns behavior.
They made it back to the castle in time for dinner. They sat down to eat together acting like this kiss never happened. The king came in and sat across from them “I heard you had a little scare today Suri. Hern, why weren’t you watching her more carefully? She knows nothing about the dangerous creatures here. To top it off she’s human. There’s so much hatred for the humans.” He looked a little disappointed in his son but Suri defended him “He’s not my babysitter and I’m old enough to take care of myself!”
The king cracked a smile “I love how much fire you have in you. You are so brave to speak to me like that. I respect you for it. That’s a quality I like in my son as well. You two are more alike than you know.” They finished dinner without further conversation then Hern asked Suri if she’d like to see the gardens. She said yes and they walked out of the palace into the gardens in front. It was dark out but lanterns lit the courtyard. The flowers were so beautiful. She didn’t recognize any of them from her world except the white roses.
White roses were her favorite and she said as much to Hern. Hern looked deep in thought when she said that. Suri asked “What’re you thinking about?” He said “My father planted those a few months back. Maybe he’s been planning your arrival for a while.” Suri laughed “I doubt he planted these for me to enjoy. You’d have to assume he planted all these for one person or another” Hern got lost in thought again as Suri explored the garden.
Hern suddenly lost track of his thoughts, the sight of Suri walking around completely entrancing him. He started to remember her kiss, It was so soft and sweet. He was beginning to realize he was falling for her. He hoped that whatever she was supposed to do here wasn’t dangerous and that it took awhile. He didn’t want her to leave, could barely stand the thought. Suri came up to him and said “I’m really tired, can you take me to my room?”
“Of course ” he said with a smile, his body a tornado of different emotions.
“woah a smile, you’re normally so grumpy”
It made him laugh a little. He took her to her room, opening the doors for her. “Goodnight Suri, I’ll see you in the morning” She jokingly added “So no goodnight kiss?” Hern blushed and she laughed “I was joking you idiot! I’m sorry I just planted one on you earlier. I was just so happy and relived I was safe. Thank you so much for coming to my rescue.” She hugged him, Hern locking his arms around her tightly, appreciating this bit of contact with her.
She went to bed and Hern returned to his bedroom. Hours passed and he couldn’t fall asleep. He was actually worried about her now in this world. He decided he wouldn’t be able to rest unless he checked on her so he left his room, quietly going down the hall and gently pushed her doors open. She had the covers half off of her while she was sound asleep. Hern put them on her again feeling better since he knew she was safe in her room. The kiss entered his mind again as he looked down at her peaceful face. He wanted another so badly but didn’t want to wake her. He doubted she felt the same way, it was just a kiss because she was grateful nothing more he thought.
He started to turn away when she grabbed his hand, holding tightly. “Please don’t leave,” she mumbled, “I don’t want to be alone.” She was still asleep, a pained look on her face. “You promised you’d stay.” Tears rolled down into her hair. He brushed them away, his fingers moving feather light over her skin. He leaned close, his face mere inches from hers and in that moment he couldn’t resist kissing her softly, a brush of his lips against hers so he wouldn’t wake her.
“Everything is alright, I promise.” He whispered as he crawled in bed with her. Carefully he pulled her into his arms and she shifted with a little sigh, her leg draped over thigh and her hand resting over his heart. “I love you.” She said it so quietly he almost didn’t catch it. “What did you say?” He was shocked and amazed all at once. She didn’t answer, fast asleep. He swallowed lump in his throat and kissed her hair. He watched her sleep until his eyes refused to stay open and he drifted off.
She awoke in the morning shocked to see him in bed with her. She was still wrapped in his arms. She had a bad dream last night and wondered if maybe she slept walked and asked him to come in there. She had a habit of doing things in her sleep. She was so embarrassed thinking about what could’ve happened last night. She then just started thinking about how incredibly handsome he was and how badly she wanted to stay here with him.
Maybe the king wouldn’t mind letting her stay so she could make humans not be so hated and maybe could have something with Hern. She tried to be gentle about getting out of his arms but Hern had sharp senses and woke up. Instantly she blushed “I’m so sorry, I must’ve dragged you in here last night and now I wake you up! So so sorry” He wasn’t used to seeing the tough, outspoken Suri act like this.
“No need to apologize. I came in here to check on you after yesterday’s little ordeal and you were talking in your sleep. You sounded very upset.” He sat up, raking his fingers through his hair.
“It was about my father. He left after twelve years of being married to my mother. It tore me apart.” She pulled her legs up, wrapping her arms around them and resting her chin on her knees.
“You loved your father very much.”
“I still do even though I haven’t seen him in forever. That’s why it kills me that you and your father don’t get along. I would give anything to get mine back.”
Hern became uncomfortable. His father had always been a sore subject. All the old man cared about was politics and having an heir. “We were never that close. My mother died when I was a child, it was devastating. He started to push me and push me until I left. He doesn’t understand why I do the things I do.”
“You are so stubborn.” She grabbed his antler, tugging it playfully. “Have an actual conversation with the man instead of butting heads. Now, I’m starving and want to do something less dangerous today like hiking or beating up your giant friend.”
As they walked to breakfast she looked up at Hern and said “That was really sweet of you to stay with me like that. I guess you aren’t the big meanie head grump I thought you were”
“Meanie head grump?” He repeated, laughing in amusement.
“Anyway thanks, I’m glad I ended up here. This is the first time I’ve been happy in a long time.”
Her saying that made him fill with joy. Maybe there was hope she cared for him like he had grown to care for her. Maybe she’d stay with him in the castle. His father obviously liked her. He took the time to get to know everything about her. He decided that tonight he would talk to his father after Suri went to bed about why he brought her here. If it was for anything dangerous he’d have to change his fathers mind.
They sat down to breakfast and quickly ate. Suri asked “Could we go on a hike somewhere beautiful?”
“Of course, I love nature and am frequently out. In fact before you arrived I was never in the castle.” She got up and proclaimed excitedly “Well lets go!” He got up and they left the castle together. Suri grabbed his hand once they were out “I don’t want to get lost again” Hern grinned “Good, make sure to stay close to me”
After walking about thirty minutes he asked “How long would you like this to be? I can take you for a short trip up MT Sarn or I could take you on a days journey up Mt Dreken. That way there’s a beautiful waterfall.”
“Mt Dreken please!” He was happy she chose that way. He was looking forward to a nice journey with her, especially since that meant he would get the opportunity to sleep at her side again. She’d have to stay close to be safe out here so he knew she’d cuddle up to him. He wore a happy smile and didn’t worry or much care about the fact he had wanted to talk to his father tonight. He could always do that tomorrow night, he wouldn’t get chances like this just any night unless she fell in love with him too.
Suri couldn’t believe how beautiful the waterfall was. It dropped down to a deep pool of crystal clear water. The smell of nature filled her nose, fresh and clean. It made Suri want to swim. She made her way carefully to the edge of the water, Hern following close behind. She pulled her shoes off, placing them on a rock. She dipped a toe in, marveling at how warm it was.
“I’m getting in.” She said and quickly tugged her shirt and pants off so she stood there in her bra and panties. “Are you coming?”
Hern coughed, his throat suddenly dry. He felt himself blushing and he tried very hard to look anywhere but at Suri. He heard her laugh and he shot her a glare. “What’s so funny?” He snapped.
“They’re boobs, I’m sure you’ve seen them before.” She waded into the water, pushing off when she was waist deep. He was just standing there watching her swim. She thought she’d have a bit of fun when he still wouldn’t join her. She let out the most bone chilling scream before allowing herself to sink into the depths of the water, flailing her arms for effect. She felt arms around her waist and she was taken up. When they broke the surface of the water she laughed, clinging to his shoulders. His eyes went from terrified and confused to angry in a millisecond.
“What is wrong with you?” He asked and tried to push away from her. She wouldn’t let him.
“I’m sorry, but it was the only way to get you in the water.” She gave him her most sincere smile. “Swim with me, have some fun grouchy pants.”
He was so nervous with her practically naked. This human woman was incredibly gorgeous in every way. She was just swimming in circles around him calling him “Mr no fun deer man”. Eventually he couldn’t help but crack a smile. She sounded so silly. He relaxed and she splashed him then ducked under the water. He laughed and went under after her. Lifting her up saying “You can’t just splash me and then hide under there” He carried her out of the water and threw her back in.
She was laughing hysterically when she came to the surface. “There’s the fun Hern!” They played around a few hours and then Suri climbed out exhausted, taking in a deep breath of air. “I’ll make a fire for you” Hern said. He got a small one going and they sat next to it to dry. Harping on what happend before he said “You shouldn’t scare me like you did earlier Suri” She shook her head “Oh lighten up”
“I’m serious Suri there’s a lot of dangers out here” she said “Oh fine I’m sorry, I just wanted to lighten you up since my shirt and pants being off seemed to terrify you so much. Didn’t know I was that ugly.” She teased, laughing even as she said it. It caused Hern to go bright red again and look away.
“I never said you were ugly.”
“Oh, so you think I’m sexy then. I can live with that.” His skin managed to become even more red and she laughed. “You run around without a shirt on every day, I’m sure you’ve had women just fall all over themselves.”
Hern thought about it. Had they? He had not noticed. Even before leaving the castle he had been in his own world. He shook his head.
“Really, none of this?” Suri stood, the back of her hand placed dramatically at her forehead. “Oh Hern,” she said in a breathy, begging tone, “you are so handsome and strong. Please don’t let me fall down.” She fell back and he leaned forward to catch her. She just lay there like a rag doll, her eyes closed with hand still at her forehead.
“No, none of that.” He chuckled and plopped her in the grass.
“Really? Damn those romantic movies and their lies.” She crossed her arms over her chest, feigning anger. “How could they?”
“Movies?” He lay down on his side and propped his head up on his hand.
“It’s like a play but on a screen. Come over to my world some time and I’ll make you watch some. I peg you for a Robin Hood lover.”
He arched an eyebrow. This was all so confusing. He now wished more than anything he had spent some time with his father learning about all of this. The old man seemed to know everything about the human world and easily accepted its good while rejecting its evil. Is that why Suri was here? Was she a sign that the human race still had a heart beating under all the filth?
“I never want to leave this place.” She said softly, staring at the darkening sky.
“You could stay, I’m sure my father wouldn’t mind.” The truth was, more than anything he wanted her here. If she left after her purpose was fulfilled it would break his heart. He couldn’t see himself living without her. It was strange and shocking and terrifying all at once. He didn’t understand how one human woman had come to mean so much to him in such a short period of time and truthfully he didn’t want to. Love knew not time or distance. It moved with a fierce quickness, taking ones breath away.
“I hope so. I love it here. Your father is great, your friends need some competition, and you’re here.”
“I’m nothing special, just your every day friendly deer man.”
She punch his chest. He was more than special and he knew it. She moved closer, feeling a chill from being in nothing but her underwear. He lay back so she could pillow her head on his chest, his arms wrapping protectively around her.
She decided to pick on him again. She thought some movement might warm her so she started to tickle him. Hern was apparently very ticklish because he started laughing hard while trying to get her to stop. He was very strong so it was hard to struggle without hurting her. He decided the only way to make the tickle attack stop was to pin her down. He flipped her over hard but easy enough to where he wouldn’t hurt her.
She was just laughing, that beautiful musical laugh. He got lost in how pretty she was and without thinking kissed her. Almost as soon as he did he realized what he was doing and was worried she might reject his kiss. After all the only real one he had gotten was when he saved her. To his surprise Suri kissed him back. He didn’t want her to feel trapped so he flipped her back over so that she was laying on him. She put one of her hands in his hair and he had both of his on her back.
It felt so amazing and he was over joyed she was kissing him. She stopped and stared at him. Neither of them knew really what to say to eachother. Suri eventually spoke nervously “Um, I better get my clothes on”
“Shy Suri? How unexpected.” She narrowed her eyes at him and he couldn’t help but laugh. “Alright, alright don’t kill me. I’ll get your clothes, you stay warm.” He rolled on his hands and knees so she fell back in the grass, kissed her playfully on the nose and went to find her clothes.
“Suri.” A voice whispered. It caused her to bolt up right. She looked around her, seeing no one. “Suri.” She stood, her heart hammering out a fearful rhythm. She felt something brush her shoulder and she spun aroun, coming face to face with the shadow.
“What do you want?” She snapped, sounding braver than she felt.
“Just to warn you. If you stay in this world, Suri you will die.” It whispered maliciously.
“I’m not leaving.”
It growled, the sound sending a chill up her spine. “If you think that prince and his father can protect you, you are sorely mistaken. If you don’t leave I will take the thing you care about the most. I will make you watch him die.” The shadow slipped away, back into the darkness of the forest.
“I’m not leaving.” She whispered. “I won’t let you have him.”
“Is everything alright?” She turned to Hern with a smile and he handed her her clothes.
“Yes, just tired. The swim really took it out of me.”
Hern laid down and Suri quickly got dressed then laid down beside him. Her mind was busy with that evil shadow. The very same one who tried to lead her off the cliffs. What was it planning? How could it hate her so much without even knowing her? She decided she wasn’t leaving. She wouldn’t let it scare her! She was sure it was a bluff anyway. Would it really defy the king? She was sure it would be a serious crime if it hurt Hern but then she really didn’t know if there was much of a justice system there.
Hern looked over at Suri while she stared into space with her heart racing. He asked “Are you ready to sleep Suri?”
“yes” He laid on his side pulling her close to him. His head resting right beside hers as he held her tightly. He had never known so much happiness. She just had to be his and stay there with him. He drifted off with his happy thoughts. Left awake Suri decided just to enjoy the moment. She thought she’d never care about a man “well i guess I just couldn’t fall for a human man.” She sighed and soon fell asleep.
The next morning they walked hand in hand, arriving back at the castle as the sun began to fall. Their happiness was soon cut short when a young man came running toward them, a panicked look on his face. He tried talking, but he was far too winded, bending at the waist with one hand holding his stomach. Suri grabbed his shoulders forcing him upright. “Lungs open dear, in your nose and out your mouth.” The boy caught his breath.
“What is is Craygen?” Hern asked demandingly, the hair standing up on the back of his neck.
“Your father…gone and the throne room,” he coughed, “it’s been destroyed.”
Hern sprinted off, running with the same fear he carried the other day when Suri vanished from his side. Suri followed close behind, her tennis shoes slapping loudly on the stone walkway. They burst through the throne room door and froze. He couldn’t believe the immensity of the destruction. The throne had been toppled over, stone pillars were destroyed, tapestries were singed. Rubble covered the floor. His father’s sword, a long silver claymore, lay among the chunks of stone. He fell to his knees, punching the floor in a rage. Who had dared to attack his home and his father.
Suri stood there in shock, one hand covering her mouth. This was her fault. The shadow had warned her. The sound of thumping brought her back to reality. Hern was slamming his fist repeatedly into the floor, tearing the skin off his knuckles. She grabbed him, falling to her knees in front of him and hugging him close. She felt tears burning behind her eyes as guilt overwhelmed her.
“This is my fault.” She said, her heart breaking.
“What do you mean?” He pulled back to look into her eyes.
“The shadow came to me yesterday. It warned me, said if I didn’t leave he was going to hurt you. I thought he was bluffing.”
Hern was caught between anger and fear. He pulled her close, her sobs tearing him to pieces. He couldn’t be angry with her. She didn’t know how volatile some creatures could be, how many of the beasts here were not used to change. It wasn’t her fault. “I’m not mad at you.” He kissed the top of her head and stroked her hair.
“I should have said something.” She choked out.
“You didn’t know, my love.”
She felt a twisting in her chest. How could he love her after what she had done? She clung to him like a lifeboat in a storm. She would make this right, she would stop this darkness. She wiped her face. “Craygen.” She yelled and the boy rushed through the doorway.
“Yes ma’am?” He looked terrified.
“Was there anything left for us, a message?”
“Uh…wait yes.” He reached into his shirt, pulling out a piece of paper and handing it to her.
Hern watched nervously as she opened it. Her eyes widened and he snatched it out of her hand, his eyes moving over the paper. “Bring the human to me and you can have your pathetic king back, don’t bring her and he dies.” He read aloud. There was a poorly drawn map with a cave circled in black. He crumpled the piece of paper and turned to the boy. “Where were the damn guards while my father was fighting for his life?”
“They tried sir, I’m so sorry.”
Suri grabbed Hern’s arm, her touch calming him. “It’s okay Craygen. Hern, we will get him back. I promise.”
“He’ll probably have the king at the cave wont he? We have to go back there!” Hern was frustrated. He worried about taking her there but worried about his father too. He still loved his father even though they didn’t get along. “We have to go Hern, your father has been good to me and I wont let you lose your dad like I lost mine” She choked out, tears welling up.
Hern finally agreed to them going but he had to run to the kings study first. Those creatures were just entities of creatures they once were. Creatures that didn’t accept their death when they passed. His father kept orbs in his study that force them to pass on. He had to throw it at them but they were very fast and he could only throw once because they brake when they hit the ground. Suri waited down stairs, feeling nervous and upset.
Her mind was filling with thoughts about leaving so no further harm could come to Herns family. She loved him too much to put him in harms way. Hern came back to the throne telling Suri to get on his back. They needed to be quick and he could run much faster just carrying her than worrying about running too fast with her running on her own.
The world seemed to zoom by at a dizzying pace. It occurred to her that he had been holding back in order for her to keep up. She clung to his shoulders tightly, her forehead pressed against his spine. If she kept looking they were both going to be covered in puke. He suddenly came to a grinding halt, causing her to lurch forward and she just about lost whatever was left in her stomach from lunch.
“We’re here.” He lowered her slowly to the ground.
“We are never doing that again.” She said and clamped a hand over her mouth. She took a deep breath. “Okay, I’m good.” Her eyes moved to the cave, sheer terror obliterating her nausea. “We need a plan.”
“I’m going in, you’re staying here.” He said, his eyes serious.
“No it will be expecting both of us. It wants me.” She snapped.
“I don’t care, I love you too much to let you go in there and risk your life.”
Her eyes widened in surprise. That was it, his admission and it hit her like a ton of bricks. She swallowed, a lump forming in her throat. “I love you too, I really do and I love your father and this place. I am not letting you go in alone.” She whispered.
“It’s not your choice.” He faced the cave, his back to her. Suri searched for an answer, her eyes moving around wanting one to appear out of thin air. Someone must have been listening because her eyes rested on a thick piece of wood. She picked it up, gripping it tightly. “I’m sorry.” She said, hoping he’d forgive her.
“It’s okay just…” She slammed it against the back of his head. It knocked him over and before he knew it he was lying on the ground. He tried to fight to stay awake, but darkness took him away. Suri grabbed the orb then kissed him on the cheek, uttering yet another apology for hurting him. She held tightly to the small orb in her hand and rushed into the dark cave. This was her battle and the shadow would pay for everything it had done.
She was deep in the cave when she could feel it near her. The cave was dim but she could make out the shadow and the king laying there unconscious. “Please just reason with me! I’m not here to do any harm! How can you hate me when you don’t even know me!” It answered in disgust “You’re human I don’t have to know you to know you’re filth. The king will be taken back home as long as you continue walking through here and go home!” Tears forming in her eyes again she swallowed them back.
He continued “You’ll just hurt Hern & the king. He’s been a wise ruler but I wont let him take us down a path of such folly! To think a human girl would be the perfect mate for his son is ridiculous.” She was taken back she said “What…?” The creature laughed “So you didn’t know? The king thought Hern was unhappy and too into just his nature. He thought if he had someone to love it would make his son happy again and possibly mend their bond. He searched many worlds and finally found who he knew his son would fall deeply for in your world. He didn’t tell his son because he knew he’d reject you right off if it was his father who thought you two were perfect for each other”
Suddenly that conversation her and the king had made sense “spend time with my son and you’ll soon realize what you’re perfect for” She then yelled “well what have I done wrong here!? Can’t you just give me a chance. Your king is a wise ruler has he ever steered you wrong before?” The creature was silent then said “no but” she interrupted him. “No but anything! I’m not leaving Hern because I do love him!”
Hern awoke with a massive headache. He pushed himself slowly to his feet, almost falling back down. He touched the back of his head and winced. What had happened? His eyes rested on the piece of wood and it dawned on him. He looked to the cave, knowing Suri had gone in alone. He ran, dizzy, but managing to stay on his feet. What was she thinking?
Suri slowly approached the shadow and the king. She dropped down next to the old man, feeling for a pulse. He was alive. She stood, enraged. “I am not leaving.” She screamed. The shadow gripped her throat, lifting her off the ground. She kicked, making contact with only air. It swung her over the edge of a dark hole. She had not seen it upon entering.
“Then you will die.” The shadow hissed.
“I might die,” she choked and readied herself to throw the orb, “but you’re going with me.” She lifted the orb up where he could see it. The shadow screamed in denial. The orb glowed bright, feeling hot in her grip. It stung, but she would not let it go. White tendrils shot from the orb, wrapping themselves around the shadow. It’s grip loosened as the tendrils pulled it in. Suri closed her eyes as she dropped into the hole. She jerked to a stop, her eyes snapped open. Gripping her shirt, his upper body hanging over the edge, was Hern. The shadow was gone and the orb was no longer glowing. He pulled her up and into his arms.
“Never again.” He said, his voice cracking. “If I had lost you, I would have died.”
A groaning sound caught their attention. The King sat up, rubbing his head. They rushed to his side, both of them wrapping him in a hug. “It is good to see both of you as well. Don’t worry this old tiger still has a little fight in him. Shall we go home?”
“Of course dad and I love you very much.” The old man’s eyes filled with tears at his sons words. He cleared his throat and squeezed his son’s shoulder lovingly. “I love you too you stubborn boy.”
As they were walking home the king said “So I saw you two in there, I’m guessing I was correct” a big grin across his face. Hern looked confused but Suri said “yes you were, you could’ve at least told me you know. I wouldn’t have told Hern.” Hern looked even more confused but then his father explained everything to him. When he was done explaining how he came to find Suri they reached the castle. Hern hugged his father unlike he had since before his mother passed.
Suri laughed and said “So mushy”. The creatures of the kingdom that were okay with her because they trusted their king came to help straighten the castle. It took all day but in the evening they were able to eat a simple dinner. Afterwards Hern asked Suri to come with him to his room so they could discuss things. She of course agreed and he scooped her up and carried her there. She teasingly said “and who said you could just pick me up when you wanted? Sheesh you act like you’re my boyfriend!”
When they got to his room he sat her down on his bed. His room was even more amazing than the one she had been given. He went over to a box he had on a counter and pulled out something she couldn’t see. As he walked over he said “My mother gave me this when she passed away and told me to one day give it to the girl I love. I love you Suri and I want you to stay here with me forever.” It was a beautiful wedding ring. She accepted happily, eager to marry him and start her life there.
~ The End