Written for Melinda Collins
I’m excited, exhilarated even as I run to see my father, the king that will soon step down as I am wed in a few days. I’m ready to run into his arms and tell him all about how wonderful my day was when I’m stopped in my tracks, a gasp caught in my throat so my mouth is just gaping open at the horror before me. He lays dead, his guards all around him. I run, in absolute disbelief he is truly laying lifeless on the floor. I shake him “father! father please talk to me” He’s cold, his skin no longer warm and pink but pale. There’s so much blood on the floor and within me I know he has passed on. This was the day my world fell apart. There was no time for weddings or any type of happiness. Whomever had done this had declared war and my mother, bless her misguided soul was fast to blame a kingdom we had been having some disputes with. They denied her claim but she wouldn’t believe them so now, even years later we are stuck in a war that may or may not even be against the right people.
I’m not sure but I never married and when my dads life ended it left my mother to rule. She may have made a good queen under different circumstances but she is barely recognizable as my mother these days. She’s hateful, even cruel even at times. I often wonder if she is still my mother at all. I’m tired of all this blood, all this hate. I long for the world of my fathers rule but there may never be any going back.
My once fiance isn’t around any longer, my mother saw to that. She wants me to do nothing more with my life than to fight and scheme with her and she leaves me with no other choice but to do so. I feel as if my only escape will be my death one day but I have too much hope left that one day things can be normal again to commit suicide. I will fight and I will plan and I will do what it takes to survive all this so that one day I might find happiness again.
I haven’t yet told you what I am besides a daughter of a king and queen so I suppose I should tell you more about myself. I’m a fairy with soft blue eyes and long, flowing magenta hair. I’m not incredibly tall but most fairies aren’t. There was a time I’d tell you I often read and spent time with wildlife but you already know what my life has become. I, Zinlya, princess of a kingdom now known for its despotism invite you to learn my story.
I stand on the battlefield as smoke plumes around me, the smell of blood and burning wood permeate the air, soaking into my hair and skin. I grip the handle of the sword in my hand until my knuckles turn white and I swallow down the pain as I stare out over the scene of death. I hate it has come to this, I hate killing. I watch as my mother’s soldiers pick their way through the dead, looking for survivors from both sides. None of them want this either. I let out a shuddering sigh as I sheath my weapon and join the search. These people, both friend and and enemy deserve so much more than death. I check for people still breathing, check for heart beats, the sorrow only growing as with each passing moment I find no one.
I stop at another, dropping down and letting my ear hover near his lips. I am surprised when I feel and hear his breath. I turn to yell for help and find myself being dragged back by my hair, slammed into the mud and blood, looking up at his face. The look in his eyes is wild and furious as he presses a dagger to my throat. “Move and I will kill you.” His free hand clutches his side and I can see the blood soaking through his armor. “Just…don’t…move.”
I could find no anger in my soul for what was happening, especially if he realized who I was. He just wanted to live, just like I did and for whatever reason I felt he wouldn’t kill me. Maybe I was too dangerously close to wanting to die that I was being stupid but I felt in the pit of my stomach this man simply didn’t want the soldiers of my mothers employ coming after him. The soldiers marched on, not often worrying for my safety since I was a skilled fighter and normally wasn’t one to be caught like this. Once they were far enough away he groaned, letting me go and getting up. My gut had been right about him “don’t make me regret not taking my chance Zinlya” his words were filled with obvious pain from his wounds “let me help you. You could have taken my life and chose not to, I owe you that much”
He smiled at me and it left me confused. How could one smile in such a dismal world, especially when he should be in excruciating pain. “fine, I need it anyway” We found somewhere to huddle and he undressed enough for me to tend his wounds “so you knew who I was and didn’t kill me?”
“In my circles I hear you don’t want this, that you believe our side. If you were like your mother I would have killed you but I couldn’t having any doubt you weren’t willingly complicit in all this…besides…I may not be a person a princess would remember but I knew you before all this so I had a good feeling before hand you wouldn’t want this for our world” I blushed, I really didn’t remember him. I felt like such an asshole. “princess or not I’m sorry that I don’t remember you like you do me”
“I’ve grown a lot and am really dirty right now so” he groaned loudly but I was almost done and his wounds were worse than I had anticipated so I had been surprised he could talk and seemed to move so easily. I wanted to talk to him more, to learn how we knew each other. I wanted some normalcy in my life but I wasn’t sure how long I should be absent like this. They knew I needed no babysitter but they were bound to question my absence sooner or later when I was supposed to be with them.
“Thank you, princess.” He started to get to his feet and fell back down with a groan.
“Let me help you up.”
He waved me off with a breathy laugh. “Go, wouldn’t want all your hard work to go to waste should your men find me here. Go, I’m sure we’ll meet again. Another day, another battlefield.”
“You don’t have to worry about them hurting you. They’ll listen to me.” I stood then bent down and helped him stand. “Follow the river out of here.”
“I know, thank you.”
“And get rid of your colors, just in case.”
“Go, I’m a big boy, no reason to worry your sweet little head.” He reached up and tussled my hair, wincing in pain. “Sorry, go on.”
I nod and head away from him, looking over my shoulder only once. He waves, smiling and I wonder again how he manages it. I wanted to go back and make him tell me how he knew me, I wanted to meet him again somewhere other than a blood soaked battlefield.
I rejoin the soldiers without skipping a beat, they seem as if they hadn’t worried at all which I was relieved for. Another day it pays off to have never been a defenseless princess. I had always trained, my father had wanted me to take his place one day since I was twelve. I’m not sure what I did then but that was the year he had decided he wanted to train me to take his place when he felt like retiring from his post. He had told me he wanted me to marry first but that did nothing to hurt my feelings. My father had always been a romantic. He was the kind of person who thought people couldn’t live their best life until they found their partner so even if I had been a boy I’m sure he would have felt the same. I’m sure it was mostly to make sure I found the time for marriage.
Ruling, even in a peaceful world was time consuming so most likely it was the romantic in him not wanting me to ever be alone. I suppose I’m reminiscing again, I’ll try not to do that too much. It can be hard at times not to lose myself to the past, especially when memories of my father were stirred up. I wouldn’t be as strong, capable and smart in battle nor trusted as much by these soldiers if it weren’t for him so thank you dad, thank you for giving me one normal moment with that man I apparently once knew in peaceful times. Thanks for giving me that by not making these men think I need to be babysat.
None survived but that resilient man whom I know kicked myself for not asking his name. Maybe I did pick up a slight case of being self absorbed as most princess’s do. I suppose I may not be like most but nobody is perfect. We took flight, making our journey home. Soon I’d be back with my mother and who knows what crazy things she’d be talking about next. I hoped she might just let me go to my room. I didn’t want to be with her and I certainly didn’t want to go look at more dead bodies any time soon.
I am exhausted by the time I make it home, so much so that I remember nearly falling right there on the front steps, wanting nothing more than to sleep, but one of the men helps steady me and I thank him. “Princess?” I sigh as I meet the eyes of my mother’s maid. She was a nice girl, sweet and kind, a bit nervous, but gentle all the same.
My mother, of course. I hold up my hand and she trails off. “I understand, but I need to get clean so tell her I will come to her later.”
There was a time when I adored my mother, when I sat on her lap, when I laughed with her. To me she was the most beautiful woman in the world, but the loving light in her eyes had faded, had been replaced by hate and coldness. Her face had become ragged with it and though I regret not trying harder for her, for not forcing her to see what she had become sooner, at the time I avoided her as much as possible.
I took my time cleaning myself since rest came so rarely anymore. My mind almost drifted to the man again but I knew if I allowed my mind to wander to him again I might lose too much time in this bathroom. When my bath water felt more like melted ice than the comforting heat it had once been I dried, throwing on something loose and comfortable before going to my mothers room. I see her maid again, waiting in front of the door with an awkward smile. She bows to me then opens the door so I may step through “Zinlya” my mothers voice was far from warm but there was a difference in how she spoke to me than how she spoke to anybody else so I knew, technically, there was warmth there.
“None, I got a bit dirty though”
“I guess even the best trip sometimes”
“maybe I’ve been sending you out too much…you’re just the only one here I can fully trust to give truthful reports”
“I know, I’m fine”
“Hm, well, I have something to speak to you about then”
“I think it’s high time we weakened them”
“The river Gaila flows into the water supply they use for their main city. If we poison that, we’re sure to”
“Mother” The reprimand in my voice was clear and I didn’t care that she heard it. Poisoning people, children possible, I wasn’t going to do that, not even for my mother”
“like those pigs deserve anything more Zinlya? They took your father from us”
“Mom, children will drink that. You have to realize we’d hurt children”
“No, no mother” I stood my ground, feeling proud of myself, like the queen my father had seen in me. “Zinlya you wont even listen to me”
“Mom, please listen to me. I seldom stand my ground with you but I cannot do this. I just cant, we aren’t those type of people” I wanted to ask her what father would think of her if he heard her now but even in my anger and repulsion I just couldn’t. There was a long silence between us before she finally said “fine Zinlya, have some tea with me and I’ll think of something else”
“thank you mom” she didn’t respond and I left the subject alone. I hope she hadn’t given in too easy, that she wasn’t just planning to do it behind my back.
Sitting and drinking with my mother is awkward. When I was a child, she was always so happy as we chatted. She spoke of my father, how proud of me she was, and how excited she was for me to marry. I miss those simple, sweet moments with her, I miss just being her little girl. Talk of war fills the silence, questions of our enemy, about how they moved, about how many men we lost. She speaks to me like I am a soldier, rather than the child she so loving brought into this world. I worry, about her changing her mind and poisoning innocent people, about being thrown back out onto the blood soaked battle field, about having to kill more people who hate this war as much as I, and lastly about him, about the man who says he knows me. I don’t want to fight him, I don’t want to hurt him, I want to know everything.
“Zinlya, you’re distracted.”
“Hmm? Sorry, just tired mother.” I truly am, but I want to be alone to think.
“then I will see you at breakfast tomorrow” My mother kissed my head but I still felt no love. I knew she must still care for me but it is awkward and unpleasant all the same. She has taken so much from me and this kingdom and I wish I had it in me to take more drastic measures with her. She needs to be stopped, I know that but she is my mother and not only that she is not a helpless damsel either. My father wasn’t into helpless women that needed to be protected. If I challenged my mother and she was enraged enough to kill me there would be nobody to talk her down from crazy plans like poisoning an entire water supply. Maybe I’m a coward making excuses but at the same time, what if my concerns when it comes to taking drastic measures are warranted. When I’m finally alone in my room I open my window, needing some air. I’m tired but my mind is so busy I’m not sure I’ll sleep tonight.
Torgan’s Point of View
My mind is still in daydreams about my time with her when an ally finds me “fuck man, you’re alive. I knew it.” it was a joyous whisper “I am”
“you seem dazed, hurry this way. We just made something to eat and Borba can check those wounds.” I follow, excited for a meal. I sit, wanting to eat first but Borba seems to be having none of that. She begins removing clothes and I sigh “I really want to eat first”
“I’m putting ointment on it, last thing we need is you getting an infection”
“alright mom” I tried to say it teasingly, we did often call her mom since she fussed over everyone constantly but she heard my irritation “that hungry or did something happen?” I never lied, especially not to them and they knew just like me, Zinlya wasn’t like her mother “I talked to Zinlya”
“you spoke to her? How?”
“she was checking the dead and I pinned her, scared she’d call out to the men with her that I was living”
“woah…you didn’t have to…”
“no, I didn’t have to hurt her” Borba looked sympathetic now “how is she…is she like she was…”
“yeah, she actually did this original bandaging” Borba’s smile was gentle “I’m glad…” Borba’s long pause gave way to Ikkath saying “yeah, man, I know you two could have never been together but we both know how much you used to like her”
“she didn’t remember me”
“she’s been through a lot of hell…and its been years…and well…”
“I’m fine, lets just eat” Borba wrapped his wound again and they dropped the subject of Zinlya.
We made camp there that night, putting the fire out even though the night might become chilly, just in case someone spots it. I can’t sleep, so I lay there staring up at the night sky. I want to see her again, to look into her eyes, to see her smile. I frown at the look on her face when I had her pinned beneath me. So much sadness. I hate this, that she is so close, yet so far away. I want to see her and I could if I really wanted to, I could sneak away and go to her, but I don’t want to worry the others and I get caught, her mother could have me executed then we would never meet again.
“Zinlya.” I whisper her name. “Stay alive, I’ll find you again, I swear it.”
I wake feeling sore and groggy, groaning as I push my covers away. I hadn’t slept until the early morning hours, my mind too focused on what my mother might do and on the man I had met. I tried to remember who he might be, where I had met him. I wished I could ask my mother, but she would tell me worrying about me right now was idiotic. I sigh as I get up, knowing if I don’t get ready now then my mother will send someone up to get me out of bed.
I’m barely down the hall when I hear commotion, it sounds like West and he doesn’t lose his cool over just anything. My heart starts racing as I rush towards his loud voice “what’s going on?”
“there was a surprise attack, a fire somehow broke loose during battle and it’s absolutely out of control. It might take down the entirety of Swaying Forest. ” Swaying Forest, my dad had taken me there many times when I was little. It was gorgeous and a neutral place before all this. We shared it with the very kingdom we were warring with now. I’d hate to see it go “mother we must stop this”
“why? Let it be there problem. They are the ones who sprung an attack there”
“Mom, dad loved it there…for him” She seemed annoyed I’d use him against her but she relented and I could see relief even on Wests face. That place meant a lot to many people for so many different reasons. My mother gave in and I rushed to help. How could she even for a second consider letting such a beautiful place burn. Then again, when it comes to my mother now, why should I be surprised.
The fire is truly out of control when I rush there with all the help the castle could spare. We try our damnedest to put it out but our efforts seem to somehow be making things worse. Just as I was thinking this might be fed by magic I feel something pierce my stomach. I look down in disbelief as I see a magical sword protruding through my stomach, covered in my blood. Suddenly electricity goes through my body and it’s then I understand. Somehow they knew I’d come and what better way to hurt the queen than to manage to take her daughter.
As the pain stops and I begin to fade I’m not fearful. I am no damsel in distress. I am a queen and I’ll for once gladly kick someones ass once I’m awake again. I wake in darkness, my wrists and ankles obviously chained. I summon my magical energy and easily break them. It’s almost insulting they didn’t use something better to contain me. Even wounded they should know that not much can truly hold me prisoner. They would have been smarter to kill me while they had the chance but thats not what they wanted. I could tell even as the sword was in my stomach they had missed vital things within me on purpose.
I get up slowly, wincing at the pain in my stomach and I lift my shirt to see it’s been bandaged. I hold out my hand, calling on my magic again, lighting up the darkness with an orb of light. I can see I’m in a small room and I stand silently for a moment, holding my breath and listening. It’s surprising quiet so I move toward the only door and peek out the small barred window. “Hello?” I say, but I don’t see or hear anyone. They must have left me here, maybe they were discussing my fate, or hadn’t expected me to wake so soon.
It feels good to be clean and pull on fresh clothing. I stretch, the pain in my side reminding me I am still wounded as I do. The others and I had left for the larger encampment the moment we woke and our commanding officer had ordered us to rest after what had happened. I could see the strain on his face, the worry, and even regret. I knew the orders he had to give weighed on him, sending our companions off to war, only to have them slaughtered. I step outside, letting my eyes take in the men and women milling about, large tents, and even the broken keep we had found to call our temporary home. It was old, abandoned and long forgotten.
My commander seems to come out of nowhere, obviously wanting to talk to me more “How’s your side? You might should let someone look at it again. You’ve really grown to be one of the men I depend on most. Hell or high water you come back from anything”
“I’ll ask Borba again a little later. The ointment she put on me still stings a bit so I know it’s still doing what it needs to do”
“Battle blades are the worst, often filthy, especially with this constant fighting. We talked awhile and I indulged him. Not only was he my commander but I could tell he was genuinely worried about me.
Zinlya: I don’t make much effort to get out. The anger I felt when I was fading was completely changed into curiosity as to why they simply wanted to capture me. My mind had gone to hostage but if I were to be used as leverage against my mother, certainly I’d have guards. They truly couldn’t think me this weak after all these years of war. Suddenly there was light and it hurt my eyes since they had been working so hard in the dark “wow, you really are up. Things they say about you are true…” there was a long meaningful pause before he added “I hope that includes the fact you doubt we are to blame for your father”
There it was, why they had done this. They had wanted to talk to me “there are nicer ways you could have gotten me alone”
“perhaps, we also don’t know if a lot is true about you so…forgive us”
:I only see you”
“I’ll go get my commander”
“who are you?”
“his second in command”
“did your kind ask for my capture or are you two being rogues?” The fairy shrugged but I didn’t press further. Soon an incredibly tall man, at least when it came to their kind walked in. His face much more serious than the younger seeming fairy beside him “I don’t plan to torture you or any sort of nonsense. I just wanted that clear and on the table. Forcefulness and pain haven’t done a damn thing to help anybody. I’d just like to talk. He says you seem open”
“I know my mother is bat shit. We weren’t on good terms but…I just dont see your king ordering my father assassinated”
“I’m sorry for your loss…and not just out of selfishness. Your father was a good man and it seems he raised a wise daughter.”
“Please tell me you have proof someone else did it”
“I have suspicions I wanted to speak to you about”
“I’d like to ask you something first and I’d like you to answer truthfully”
“how did you know I’d come to put out that fire?”
“because you and your father spent so much time there”
“How would you know that we did”
“You used to frustrate Kite, a noble boy of our kingdom. You didn’t like him but you liked his friend of less stature. Drove him mad, every time his family was at the castle we heard about it. Not that it would be your fault but their friendship did not survive you. Kite’s a little shit to be honest so it was good Torgan didn’t stick around him. Besides, with all that newfound free time he started following around the guard and he’s made quite a man of himself”
“Torgan” I can almost hear myself as a child say the name and my heart skips a beat as I remember those eyes, the way he had looked at me. That couldn’t be, no. I could remember now, playing with those two boys. More so Torgan than Kite. There was no way Torgan had grown into the man she had seen. How was it so easy to forget things from childhood like that. Those two boys hadn’t crossed her mind in such a long time.
“I see those are memories you had forgotten”
“I suppose I did…I guess my life became about getting ready to be queen and then my arranged marriage and…well…my fathers death…I just” My words stopped there and after awhile he said “your wound should heal soon. I’m sorry if it was cruel to use memories of your father but this war needs to stop. There has been too much loss on both sides” I nodded “yeah…” I couldn’t stop thinking about that man again, comparing his face to the little boy but I did my best to snap out of it. This could possibly be one of the most important conversations of my life.
I follow the commander, who I learn is named Uailean. He leads me out of the musty darkness and upstairs to a rundown keep. “I’ve never seen this place.” I say as I look around curiously.
“It’s quite old, but we are thankful for it.”
“I’m surprised I never came across it.”
“We stumbled upon it during a scouting expedition.” He leads me to what used to be the dining room and I my eyes are drawn to the maps and books covering the large table. “Please, make yourself comfortable princess, I’ll have someone get you something to eat and drink.” He gestures toward a chair. “We don’t have much I’m afraid.”
“It’s fine really.”
“before we begin talking would you like someone to look at your wound again?”
“I’m not worried about it. I could tell how careful you were not to do any fatal damage” He opens a book, flipping pages until he obviously finds what he was looking for “Did your father ever tell you anything about the years he spent away from the castle when he was a teenager?”
“Yes, he was sent to Coalfell by his parents when he was fourteen to be taught there. He met a man named Creighton who traveled the world doing various things wherever he went. The man and the lifestyle intrigued my father so he followed him a few years”
“up until he realized Creighton was bad”
“Yes, my father, especially when he was young struggled to see bad in beings. With him you were always innocent until a flashing sign said otherwise but he told me about everything. I heard every story and I honestly think, in that situation it might have taken anybody until what happened at Kilead to see what Creighton truly was. He seemed to at least try to keep his act together around the then prince”
“true, but your father remained in his company for four years. Four years very long ago but there are fairies who let things simmer within them and decide to lash out a ridiculous amount of time later so I began looking into any wrong doing Creighton did while your father was following him around, including the Kilead incident”
“you’re worried about guilt by association”
“I’m willing to look down every single avenue to clear my kingdoms name with yours so this ends. I’ve spent at least a year of this war studying your fathers life…Zinlya…I didn’t want to lead with saying this but there is more than one reason I brought you here the way I did. I want you to help me nab the real culprit. With the way I took you your mother would believe you were kidnapped if she ever caught up to us. Ive already prepared my story for her in such an event…please princess Zinlya…come with me to truly investigate my suspicions” My heart slows a bit but without skipping a beat I answer “of course I will help you but I wont allow you to take the fall in the event my mother catches up to us. My father…” sometimes I still struggled to talk about him to others “My father saw a queen in me and a queen would never allow someone else to take the fall…a good one wouldn’t anyway…I hope if I ever sit on the throne we can call our bad blood over”
Uailean stood and I soon realized he had done it just to bow “you already have my respect princess Zinlya.” I had almost forgotten anybody else was here until I noticed them bow with him. I don’t know how to feel in this moment. I do love my mother, even still but I can’t sit idly by when I have a real chance at ending this war she started. I’ve already lost her, who she was died with my father. If I lose her completely in the name of justice and bringing peace I can live with that, I know I can”
I strolled around the base, checking on the others, helping where I could. I went to Borba to have my wound checked, not wanting to worry anyone. “It’s seems to be healing fast.” She said. “You’ll have a scar, but as you know women love them.”
“I wonder if it will impress Zinlya.” I wanted her to know I was alive, to get the chance to give her some sort of peace of mind in these dark times.
I go over the evidence with Uailean, using a pen to mark things I found interesting or suspicious. I was astounded just how much he had truly gathered on my father and it felt like I was seeing the man who had helped raise me through fresh eyes. “Should we start in Coalfell?” I asked.
“We can if you wish, perhaps there is someone still there who remembers your father and Creighton, but I would also like to visit Kilead. I feel with you with me, perhaps we will get more information.”
I nod. “I agree. When will we be leaving?”
“As soon as you are up to traveling princess. Your wound…”
I hold up my hand. “I’m fine, there’s no need to delay. We should head out as soon as possible before my mother does something horrible.” I sigh. “She threatened to poison the river.”
“You should send someone to warn your King, tell him to keep people away from the main water source.”
“I will, thank you. I’ll do it right now then we can prepare.”
“May I ask something of you first?”
“I want Torgan with us. Is that a possibility?”
I see a grin which tells me the question amuses him “Yes, I’m sure that can be arranged. He’s a bit of a trip away though. In keeping to being honest with each other he’s probably going to be pissed at me when he finds out I hurt you to bring you here but I did what I felt needed to be done to end this”
“I’ll make sure to tell him I’m happy you did. I want my old kingdom back. I want to see everyone happy again”
“well, let me make sure my king knows about the water. You just try to relax before we head out.” Uailean leaves me and I feel relieved my mother brought that up before his plan to bring me here was set in motion so I could warn them. What’s happening is bad enough. Was there truly a need to ruin an entire water supply? Her telling me that the innocent children and wildlife that would be harmed by that truly meant nothing to her was also the little nudge I needed to fully be ready to completely lose my relationship with her to end this. She had to be brought back to her senses and Uailean was my best chance.
It is a couple of days after returning to the base camp that a messenger from our main camp comes running up to me. He hands me a letter and I give it a questioning look when I see Uailean’s crest pressed into the bit of wax holding the envelope closed. I pop it open, wondering for a moment if I am being reprimanded. I’m surprised to find that it is orders for me to prepare myself for travel and to meet him and another at the halfway point. I read it again: he and another? It is oddly cryptic.
“Everything alright?” Ikkath’s voice pulls me out of my examination of the letter and I turn handing it to him.
“Apparently I am to head out and meet Uailean.”
“What does one other mean?”
I shrug. “I have no idea, but I should prepare, I would hate to be late.”
“You’re heading out alone? Shouldn’t I or Borba go with you?”
“Borba is needed here and it’s best you take my place while I’m gone.”
“Just dont go getting yourself killed. I expect to see you come back with all your limbs. Uailean doesn’t seem to have any sort of reasonable amount of fear in himself to keep him from anything. He’s impressive but…you know you’re like a brother to me”
“all fingers and legs and all that will be accounted for when we see eachother again. Don’t let Borba work herself too hard and you be mindful yourself” I hug my long time friend tightly. The days of brief hugs long since being over since you never knew any more when a parting would be your last with someone. I then hurry off to get ready, actually excited he has called me even though it’s confusing. At the risk of sounding immodest I am an asset to a team but I by no means see myself as high enough up there for something Uailean would handle. He’s one of the kings most trusted commanders. He goes on all the most dangerous things and nearly all he does is secretive. It’s intriguing so I quickly pack the bare essentials, pull my best boots on then find Borba to say goodbye so she isn’t angry at me.
We hug as well and exchange similar words to what I shared with Ikkath before I leave the safety of my camp to find Uailean and this mysterious person he has with him. The journey is anything but peaceful since I have to be careful not to be spotted. Even when things seemed like I could relax I didn’t, knowing it was foolish in the times we lived in. One second of allowing my mind to be in the clouds could be the one second I’m spotted by an enemy.
“I hope you don’t mind walking princess.” Uailean says as we trek through the forest, taking an old deer trail.
“Not at all, it’s safer.” I respond, doing my best to ease his worry.
I wave my hand and with it push away his concern. “I barely even notice it. If I start having trouble, I won’t hesitate to say so. We should both be well rested and ready for anything.”
“Of course, thank you.”
“For not telling me I’m being an idiot and for being so forgiving. I expected at least a punch, though…” he rubs his jaw, “I may receive one regardless.”
“You act as though we’ve remained good friends all this time. I even forgot about our time together…I hardly deserve to be fussed over by him”
“You’re a princess, one who was training to be queen, lost her father then has had to live in the hellish place your kingdom has become. I think you can be given a break for forgetting a childhood friend. I’m sure most of your childhood hardly crosses your mind unless it’s directly related to the late king. Times like these does that to people, especially when you have to deal with it every single day. You meant a lot to Torgan and we all know you’re the being you’ve always been. If things hadn’t gotten so bad I have no doubts Torgan would have reentered your life at his earliest opportunity.”
“I’m happy I’ll be seeing him again…I’m happy both of you have survived all this”
“Hopefully with us working together this will all end soon…that fiance you had…that wont still be a thing will it?”
“No, he may have only left because of my mother but it really didn’t take much. We barely knew one another. My dad just thought we’d make a good match and I didn’t mind an arranged marriage. Especially not when my father had chosen him. All my dad ever wanted for me was happiness. Why do you ask though?” Even I felt like that was a stupid question. The clues were all over Uailean that he felt Torgan was in love with me. He may be wrong but it was clear Uailean felt we were a love connection missed. Uailean shrugged and I didn’t push for an answer I already knew.
I’m still struggling with the idea that boy was the same man I recently encountered when we arrive where we are meant to meet up with him. It was true some people changed quite a bit from child to adult but he had gone from small and rather gangly to, well, incredibly attractive, rugged and covered in muscle. Uailean checks my wound after we eat. It seems to be mostly healed so I still don’t worry. I’m not even sure Torgan will realize Uailean hurt me to get me somewhere to talk unless Uailean readily gives the information. He may be incredibly attractive but I don’t plan to just strip naked in front of him. I blush at the thought and Uailean chuckles “what’re you thinking about”
“my wound…we don’t have to tell him you know”
“I’d rather get my jaw punch out of the way. Besides, he’s going to ask how I pulled this off. There isn’t any way he isn’t. I am going to make sure I very quickly tell him though that it was in part to give you an out with your mother should she catch us”
“Still, you shouldn’t be hurt on my account.”
“It’s alright, Torgan’s nice enough not to kill his commander.”
I sigh. “Men, such a handful.”
Uailean actually laughs. “Yes we are, but you have to admit, women compliment us with their mischievousness.”
“Perhaps.” I smile, thinking back to my childhood, back to Torgan and Kite. I did have to admit, that I may have been a little mischievous when I was with them.
I pick up the pace as I come to the last leg of my journey, wanting to meet Uailean and his companion there as soon as possible. I wonder who it could possibly be, who was so important he couldn’t write it down. I knew sometimes information was omitted or made more cryptic just in case opposing forces managed to get their hands on correspondences between camps, but we didn’t have anyone but royalty who would be that important and the military tried to keep our king and his oldest son out of it as much as possible. It hadn’t made the prince happy, he didn’t want to sit by and watch his people be slaughtered, but the king had assured him that he felt the same, but it was important they stay safe, just in case. I hear soft chatter as I get closer and as I step into our meeting place, both Uailean and the woman with him stand. My eyes are drawn to her as if by a magnet and I feel my heart stutter when I realize it’s Zinlya.
I look to Uailean who smiles and speaks “I’ll catch you up to speed on the situation. It wasn’t safe to explain in a letter and I have to admit I wanted this to be a surprise.”
“Hey Torgan” Hearing her say my name and with such familiarity I hardly feel like a hardened fighter in a war. “do you remember me?” I had to ask. When she nodded my heart stuttered again. I wanted to hug her but it had been so many years. She’s kind and warm but I still don’t know what all is welcome. I’m eager to know how and why this is happening so I prompt Uailean to fill me in. How happy I was feeling melted away the second he told me how he got to her though I tried to understand when he explained his reasons. I wanted to scold him, to ask him what he would have done if he messed up. I knew how expertly he handled swords but still, there were so many variables. He could have killed her and not only made this worse but he could have taken the only woman from me I had ever been in love with. Zinlya owned my heart, she had from the very first time she smiled at me and at this point, I don’t think I could ever fall for another.
Zinlya: So here we are, the start of my journeys, hardships and battles with two of the most amazing living men I know. My story will be filled with pain but with Uailean and Torgan I know we can reach a happy ending if you’re willing to stick this through to the end and hear my entire tale.
~ The End ~