Authors: Lola Kidd
Lena slept fitfully. Were the Council really done with them? That punishment seemed small compared to the crime. She was missing something. Why would the Council send them to this Manna place? She sat up in her bed with a start.
“Ellia wakeup!” She got out of her bed and shook her friend. “Wakeup!”
“Just another minute. I’m so sore Lenny.” Ellia brushed off her hand.
Lena flipped the mattress and sent Ellia crashing to the floor. “Get up! Something is wrong!”
The anger on Ellia’s face melted into worry. “I can’t do magic still! What’s wrong?”
“Nothing like that.” Lena went to the window where she could still see the purple moon was still in the sky. “What was our punishment?”
“Huh?” Ellia said stupidly. She rubbed her back and arms. “I’m so sore. This is awful.”
“The Council was going to punish Sophia and her people. How did they do it?”
“No. Ellia think. If your mother wanted to punish you, she had the nanny spank you. How did the Council spank us so to speak?”
Ellia screwed up her mouth. “They took away our magic.”
Lena shook her head. “No, Sophia can still use her magic. She almost killed us with it. We’re both still glamoured so we have to have some magic.”
“You’re right.” Ellia touched her face. “What was the punishment then?”
“I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking you.”
“Alright, we’ll talk it out together. Two heads are better than one and all.”
Lena nodded. She sat on her bed. “We aren’t in England anymore. The people are speaking a strange language.”
“Unless there’s some small island I’ve never heard of I agree. I don’t think we’re in the new world either. There are no castles.”
“I don’t think the Dark Continent. The people are the wrong color.”
“The language is wrong too. All the languages there are easy to understand for me. I have no idea what this is.”
“You haven’t heard it in the rest of Europe either?”
Ellia shook her head slowly. “I’ve never heard anything like it. I’m surprised we even understand them really.”
“Maybe they’re some kind of lost tribe of supernaturals? They say they aren’t warlocks but they have to be some kind of magical super.”
“I haven’t heard of anyone conjuring a dragon before.” Ellia lay on her stomach facing Lena. “Maybe they sent us back in time?”
Lena’s brows rose. “You sound very calm about that possibility.”
“We can get back. If Sophia has her magic and we’re with warlocks or fae now, we’ll be able to figure out a way back very soon.”
“Would they do that? Make it so easy? Sophia and all the others will be very mad when they got back. She would burn the whole world down.”
“The Council doesn’t always make good decisions. They did punish us all for Sophia’s mistake.”
“Not all of us,” Lena said glumly. “Prescott is just fine and dandy I’m sure.”
Ellia sat up on her elbows. “What?!”
“Sophia says the he and the two others are traitors. They helped the Council do whatever this punishment is. They sold us all out.”
“That rat! That scoundrel! How could he do that to us?! He was supposed to be our king!”
“I don’t think he’s interested in being King anymore.”
“Wonderful.” Ellia turned onto her back. “Why do they claim they are not warlocks? Do you think they’re out killing our people?”
“I don’t think so. Troy seems trustworthy. I don’t think he has any idea what we are.”
“A warlock who’s never heard of a fae? Impossible. I think they’re hiding something. They are a clan after all. Humans haven’t done the clan thing in decades.”
There was a knock at the door and a woman popped her head in. “You’re awake.”
She came into the room holding an arm of dresses. Ellia took one and held it up. It was long and the material was light. It was nicer than Troy’s pants and shirt from last night. “It’s a little old fashioned but it’ll do in a pinch. Thank you.”
“Will you be back to wake up for first meal?” Lena asked the woman.
She looked confused. “I’m here to bring you to the dining hall? Did you not sleep last night?”
“It’s still pitch black out there. We usually eat when the sun comes out for the day.”
Lena was afraid the girl didn’t understand her. She should have listened to her mother and practiced her communication more. She relied on Ellia too much. Thank the stars she had her now.
The woman looked out the window. “The sun won’t be out until tomorrow. Do you fast for all three days of night?”
“Three days of night?” Ellia repeated.
The woman nodded and back out of the room. “I’ll wait out here until you’re ready to go down.”
“I think we’ve frightened the poor girl.” Lena looked at the door. “Three days of night?”
“That only happens a few places in the world. We have to be very close to the edge of the world.”
“Haven’t you been to many of those places?”
Ellia nodded and bit her lip. “I have. None of them speak this language and none have a purple moon.”
They put on the dresses and Lena opened the door. “We’re ready now.”
“This way.” The woman led them down stairs and corridors. “I’m Alexia by the way.”
“I’m Lena and this is Ellia.” Lena didn’t want to say more and frighten the poor maid. She would save her words for Troy and Remus.
The dining hall wasn’t as grand as it sounded. Lena was expecting closer to the main Northland’s Fae manor. At the very least, she had expected something like the country manor dining room. They had all called it a hall and it was just that. Much more like something the Vikings would have eaten in. There were rows of tables and many people sitting at them. Troy was sitting at the head table with a man who looked exactly like him.
“Twins!” Ellia said excited. “I can’t even tell them apart. How exciting!”
There weren’t any twins in their tribe. Lena had ever only seen two sets of twins in real life. One pair was human and the other the children of a werewolf and a human. Now she could say she had seen a pair of warlock twins…if they were warlocks.
“Thank you Alexia.” Lena sat down across from Troy and Ellia sat next to her. “So you are twins.”
Troy nodded. “This is my brother Travis. You met him last night.”
Tavis stood up and bowed deeply. “Wonderful to meet you ladies in the flesh.”
“We didn’t meet him last night.” Ellia smiled at Tavis. “I would have remembered meeting such a handsome man.”
“I wasn’t a man last night.” Tavis said. “You met my dragon.”
“So you conjured the dragon!” Lena said. “How did you do it? I’ve always thought it was a rumor.”
Tavis laughed. “I just shifted. It really wasn’t that spectacular.”
“Shifted?” Lena asked. “You mean you’re a werecreature? How did you conjure the dragon then?”
“I think he’s say he
the dragon.” Ellia put her hand on Lena’s leg under the table. “They’re were-dragons.”
“Impossible!” Lena looked from one brother to the other. “You two are very funny. I understand you don’t want to share the spell with me. Where’s Remus?”
“He’ll be here in moment. You can serve yourself if you’re hungry.”
Lena looked at the food on the table but none appealed to her. She took a small amount of fruit and some orange juice. She took a sip and nearly spit it out. It tasted funny. She swallowed it down with a grimace and quickly smiled. She didn’t want to offend her guests.
“Not a fan of sermu juice.” Tavis made a face. “I hate the stuff but Troy loves it.”
“It’s an acquired taste.” Troy said. “I have news of your people.”
Lena let the sermu juice pass. “What is it? Have you found more?”
Tavis nodded. “I found about a handful of them last night when I went back out with my men. Remus is looking at them now and that’s why he’s delayed.”
“How are they?” Ellia asked. “Are you sure they’re loyal to Lena?”
Tavis tilted his head. “They seemed fine. Most of the ones we saw went with the hag. She was fine by the time we came across her not an hour later. I’ve never seen a wraith heal that fast from my fire.”
“We aren’t wraiths. We’re fae.” Lena reminded him. “Sophia is a very powerful fae at that.”
Tavis leaned forward. “Fae you say? What is that exactly?”
Lena was at a loss for words. What was a fae? Was he serious? She looked at Ellia for assistance.
“We’re a supernatural race. Much like yourself.” She smiled unsure. “You know, we can cast spells like a witch but our magic comes from the elements around us.”
Troy crossed his arms. “Magic? Interesting.”
“You do magic!” Lena said. “You conjured the dragon.”
the dragon.” Tavis said softly. “I believe you called me a were-creature. Like the beast woman who came from your realm a few years back.”
Ellia squeezed Lena’s leg hard. Lena licked her lips. “I’ve never met a were-dragon before. I’ve never even heard of it before.”
“I imagine not.” Remus sat down between Lena and Troy. “I’ve just looked at the rest of your people. Very interesting. So how did your sister put up that wall my dear?”
Lena shook her head. “I don’t know what you’re talking about?”
Remus looked at Tavis. “Have you not told her yet?”
“We wanted to see what they would say this morning,” Troy said. “It appears they really are clueless or they are excellent liars.”
“What would we be lying about?” Ellia asked serenely.
“If you mean to do us harm or not,” Tavis said. “You could have been sent by Queen Hera to punish my brother for defying her wishes.”
“We have nothing to do with this Queen Hera,” Lena said earnestly. “We served under Queen Maria and now we have no Queen. I am the only royal my people have now and I was never crowned the new Queen.”
“Oh we believe you.” Remus patted her hand. “I’ve spoken to all of your people separately and they all say the same thing. All the ones we have are loyal to you too Lena.”
Ellia sighed. “Thank god. We don’t want one of Sophia’s people here.”
“Sophia.” Troy repeated. “That’s your sister Lena correct? Is she a princess too?”
Lena shook her head. “We’re only half-sisters. She’s not a royal.”
Tavis took a drink of purple liquid. “Well that sister of yours has somehow walled us off from part of our land.”
Her magic must have returned completely for her to be able to do something that major. Lena was jealous. She still couldn’t do anything. She was as useless as a human or a non-shifting were-creature. Hopefully, some of her people would have some magic. She didn’t want to be stuck depending on the kindness of these were-dragons or whatever they were. She didn’t trust them quite yet.
“Sophia has walled herself away?” Ellia laughed. “Wonderful! She can’t do any damage if she keeps to her side of the wall. Let her and the rest of them rot there. I hope they starve.”
“Unlikely.” Troy’s voice was hard. “There are very fertile forest grounds on that part of the land. I don’t know how she did it but I want it reversed.”
“Why don’t you go and ask her to take down her wall then?” Lena said flatly. “We can’t do anything about her. I’ve never been able to control my sister.”
“Use whatever she did to pull up the wall to take it down,” Tavis said.
“It’s not that simple,” Lena said. “I’d like to see my people now.”
“Are you refusing to take down the wall?” Troy asked annoyed.
“I can’t take down the wall.” Lena glared at him. “I have no magic.”
“How can your sister have magic and you don’t?”
“I have no idea. When we got here, my magic didn’t work.”
“She’s telling the truth.” Ellia chimed in. “I can’t use any magic either.”
“I think we should go talk to the rest of their people.” Remus stood up from the table.
“I agree,” Lena said. “Lead the way please.”
The women were acting strange. They hadn’t even had breakfast and were already up and going. Remus led them to where their people were housed. Tavis and Troy hung back while they reunited.
“Sister will be back soon.” Tavis reminded Troy.
“I know.” Troy sighed. “Any chance she would reconsider her stance on the Eternal Sun knight?”
“Not a small one in hell.” Tavis confirmed. “Pity he isn’t into men. I would snap him up in a moment. Any chance you would reconsider your opinion on the queen Hera?”
“Not a chance in hell.” Troy savaged. There were tears among the fourteen greeting the supposed princess and her maiden. He wasn’t sure what the relationship between the two girls were yet. They were obviously more than subject and royalty. Lena depended on Ellia to do most of the translation already. The two seemed more friends than anything else.
“What say you of the fair princess now?” Tavis wondered.
“I’m not sure still,” Troy admitted. “I would like to trust them. They all seem so helpless. It would be a pity to have to execute them now.”
“They aren’t traitors. They were wandering in the woods in pairs and trios. They aren’t anywhere near organized enough to be spies.”
“Well, if they aren’t spies where did they come from?”
“That is the interesting part. Would you like to hear my theory?”
“I don’t think they’re from Manna.”
Troy laughed. “Very funny brother. I needed a laugh today. I fear there will be no joy once Catherine returns.”
“You shouldn’t have sent her away in the first place.” Tavis shook his head at his brother’s folly. “She will be hard on you for that but it doesn’t change anything. However, I was no joking about my theory. Remus agrees with me.”
“That’s impossible. You’re missing something about them.”
“There are only two options. If they aren’t from here and they aren’t from there, where are they from?”
Troy considered the riddle. He wasn’t convinced they were from…elsewhere. Sure, there were rumors of other worlds and all kinds of fantastical things but that didn’t make it true. He wished it were. Maybe he could escape to some other world and get away from all his burdens in Castle Blackfire.
“I’m not ready to say that they aren’t from Manna yet.” Troy said. “There must be an easier explanation. We’ll question them again when the sun is out.”
“We’ve questioned them already. I don’t think they’re stories are going to change. Look at them brother. Have you seen anything like those clothes before? I have. On the beast-woman.”
Troy nodded. “That is true but that does not mean they don’t all suffer from the same malady. Maybe the wraith is controlling them. She is a powerful creature. Or they could be some kind of new wraith themselves.”
Tavis sighed. “Question them again then. When you come around to my thinking, talk to me then.”
“Where are you going?” Troy asked Tavis’s retreating frame.
“I’m bored of this body. I’ll be in the sky for a while.”
“You’re just running from our sister!”
Tavis looked over his shoulder with a smile. “Do you blame me?”
He was always running off when things got dicey. Just a few minutes difference and it would be Troy running off when things became difficult. This time he didn’t begrudge his brother too much. Tavis had gone after the wraith and had captured the remaining people Lena was seeking. At least that was taken care of for the rest of the night. Troy would deal with the wraith when she showed her face again or the next harvest. Whichever came first and he desperately hoped he could wait for the harvest. Maybe Hera would take care of it for him.
Lena and a tall bearded man approached him. “Troy this is Allen he is captain of my guard and one of my most trusted advisors.”
Allen put out his giant hand. “I’m not sure I can call myself captain of the guard when I no longer have any soldiers.”
Troy shook his hand. “All your men deserted you?”
“Sorry to say yes they did. I don’t blame them one bit. The Council is going to have a mess on their hands when Sophia regains her strength.”
“The governing body of the supernatural peoples,” Lena explained. “Allen, Ellia, and I would like to speak to you privately.”
“There’s a small room just down the hall.” Troy motioned for Ellia to come over and follow him too. He led them a few feet down the hall to a room that was used to store fabric for his sister’s gowns.
“Look at all these!” Ellia pulled a bolt of rich green silk down.
“Not now Ellia.” Lena scolded. “We would like to talk to you about housing our people at Castle Blackfire.”
“Of course,” Troy said. “I expected as much. You claim not to be from these parts and have no other place to stay. I would have insisted as much had you not asked.”
“You’re a good man,” Allen said. “Are you king of this place?”
Troy tilted his head from side to side. “Not exactly. My father was the king before me so if I marry I too will be king. As it stands now, I have no wife and so no crown.”
“No kingdom without a wife!” Allen looked horrified. “No offense ladies but what kind of man needs a woman to rule?!”
“The kind that rules Castle Blackfire. It’s to ensure that all peoples are looked after equally. If a man has a wife, he will not be able to ignore the plight of his female subjects.”
“How forward thinking!” Ellia said. “That would help a lot of problems back home. Women are the fairer sex after all.”
“I think you’re interpreting that sentence incorrectly,” Allen said. “It makes no matter to me, you are the leader here Troy and we will follow your rules and wishes while under your roof.”
Lena nodded. “We would like to do anything we can to help alleviate the burden of our being here.”
Troy laughed. “You are less than twenty total. We see more births than that in a month. It won’t be any burden to take you in.”
A guard came to the door and motioned for Troy to come out. Catherine must have arrived.
Troy bowed slightly to Lena, Ellia, and Allen. “If you’ll excuse me, I have a matter to attend to. Please explore the castle all you want. Remus will help you get settled in.”
The trio bowed and curtseyed to Troy before he left with the guard. Remus wouldn’t be able to get them settled in well but he would find someone who could. Troy wanted to get his first meeting with Catherine over with. She was going to be in a foul mood until she had said her piece. Troy knew there was no way she would marry any Eternal Sun clan member but he had to at least send Catherine. He could send word of her refusal now and Hera would have to accept.
“Well look who it is.” Catherine threw a hat at Troy.
He grabbed the hat before it could hit him. “Wonderful to see you again too sister.”
Cate pulled her long brown hair up in a jeweled clip. “I can’t believe you forced me to spend a month with those savages.”
“They are no more or less savage then we are.”
She threw her hair brush at Troy. “Are you insane?! Do you have any idea how difficult they made it for me?”
“I do not.”
“Everyday I had to go to a grand dinner with Sir Rustion. Everyday the Queen announced me as his soon-to-be wife. Peasants were lining up to stare at the Blackfire princess and knights fiancé. It was humiliating.”
“They fed you and gave you a spot of honor. They admired your beauty and poise on a daily basis. It sounds awful Cate. I’m sorry I put you through all that.” He put the brush down on her desk and put his arm around her shoulder. “It had to be done. I truly am sorry.”
“I won’t forgive you that easy Troy. At least you can no longer use me in your attempts to keep the queen at bay.”
“I know. I thank you for buying me even this small reprieve from her scandalous ways.”
“I hear she’s sending a nude portrait with Rustion.”
Troy frowned. “It wouldn’t surprise me. She seems to think she can sway me with her beauty.”
“It is a little suspect that you aren’t even a little attracted to her.” Cate gave him a twisted smile.
Troy was aware of the rumors in Eternal Sun. The wildest rumor was that he and Tavis were in an incestuous relationship. The mildest was that he was like Tavis and no woman would be able to sway him. Turning down the only eligible royal bride in the world wasn’t that strange. When she looked like Hera, it gave people pause. The queen was one of the most beautiful women Troy had ever seen. Both in human and dragon form she was beguiling.
“There’s something wrong with her Cate. As attractive as I might find her, I have to do what’s best for my country. Marrying Hera would be terrible for Blackfire.”
Cate sighed. “I know. If you had told me ahead of time, I may have been less angry with you.”
“I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do it.” Troy kissed her forehead. “It pained me to send you away with those knights.”
“That’s sweet Troy. You don’t have to worry. My honor remains intact. They may have humiliated me but they didn’t harm me one bit. The queen did pump me for information about you at every chance though.”
“Let’s not talk anymore about these Eternal Sun dragons. Have you heard we have visitors?”
“Is Rustion already here?” Cate’s brow furrowed. “Impossible! He left a full day after us and is carrying a secret gift from the queen.”
“Not Rustion…or any Eternal Sun clansmen.”
“Another beast-woman?!” Cat clapped her hands. “I didn’t get a good look at the last one. Please say it’s a beast-woman!”
“Not a beast-woman but people who claim to be from the same place she was from.”
“What?! More than one of them? Are they alive still?”
Troy nodded. “Very much so. They’re going to be our guests for a while. One even claims she’s a princess.”
Cate pulled up the hem of her long formal dress. “Take me now! Why didn’t you say so right away? I would have forgiven you already.”
Troy laughed. “I’m glad you have such a curious mind. Tavis has gone off to fly for the day. I would love to hear you’re opinion on these Northlands Fae.”
“What is a Northlands Fae?”
“I have no idea. They look just like we do.” Troy led his sister back to the room he had left the gathering of fae. Some had already left but Lena was still there.
“Troy.” Lena greeted him with a big smile. “Your men have already started finding houses for my people! That was much faster than I expected.”
Ellia eyed Cate’s dress. “This is beautiful! You must be Troy’s wife.”
Cate giggled. “I’m his younger sister. Troy has no wife. Which one of you is the princess?”
Lena raised her hand and curtsied slightly. “I’m Princess Lena of the Northlands Fae. Nice to meet you.”
Cate curtsied very slightly. “I’m Princess Catherine of clan Eternal Sun.”
Ellia curtsied deeply. “I’m Ellia and I’m Lena’s handmaiden.”
Cate smiled. “So, where are you from again?”
Lena told her story to Cate while more of her people left. By the time she had finished answering all of Cate’s questions, only Ellia and Lena were left of the in the room with Troy and Cate.
“A wall? That doesn’t sound very welcoming,” Cate said. “I would like to see this wall.”
“I would too.” Lena looked at Troy. “Could you take us there? If it’s not too dangerous of course.”
Troy was caught off guard. His sister didn’t usually ask to see things outside of the castle. “I could if you wish. Zane would have to come with us.”
Cate nodded. “Wonderful! I’ll go change out of my riding clothes.”