Updated: Oct 11
Drystan took a deep breath as he sat at the edge of the forest on this unknown land. He had come to uncharted territory before in attempts to finish the map his father started years ago. While the mountain range on this land resembled those on his father’s map, he was no longer sure. The notes in his father’s journal said this land was crawling with magickal creatures of all kinds. That did not seem to be the case here. He had been wandering this place for days and it seemed to go in circles. When he saw the land from afar, it looked like it was huge, especially with the mountains in the view. Once he got here, though, it wasn’t as majestic as it seemed all those leagues ago.
He shook his head and took a swig from his waterskin. When he finished the last drop, he corked it back and fastened it to his pack. He calculated how far the stream was from his current location and headed in the direction of it to get a refill before heading back to Brein. It was pointless coming here and he had wasted valuable time trying to find the hidden places his father begged him to find. Father is a drunkard. He knows not what he talks of. His brothers tried everything in their power to convince him that their father was nothing less than a beggar on the streets with a mind that was as wild as the tameless animals that ran in the mountains of Brein. But Drystan knew better: even tameless beasts could be tamed; he had proven it time and time again with the horses in his stables, the wild dogs who now lounged around the kingdom’s inner walls, and fledglings liv--
The cold feel of metal against his hot skin sent his heart into overdrive. He had been here for days and not a single creature, save for wild animals, had been present. He slowly raised his hands in the air and as he did so, several human-like creatures stepped out from behind trees. He was surrounded with little chance of a fight.
“We have been watching you,” a woman’s voice said from behind him. He realized she wielded the sword. Keeping her weapon against his neck, she used her free hand to unsheathe his sword so he couldn’t use it. Trained warriors. Of course. Leave it to dad to find a territory of female warriors.
She stepped in front of him and the other women drew back their bows. He smirked. Of course they were prepared for him to retaliate, something he wouldn’t do on uncharted, unknown territory. He was here just for research, not to usurp their land. He would be as peaceful as possible.
“Who are you?” the woman demanded. Her skin was grey-ish with white hair braided in two from the top of her head down to her hips. Her eyes were violet and distinct markings covered her face.
“I am King Drystan of Bréīn. And you?”
“You are a king?” She raised an eyebrow.
“Aye. I am from Dramolux, land of the seven kingdoms.”
The woman bursted into laughter and the other women lowered their bows to laugh with her. “Kings on Dramolux do not dress like merchants.” The woman placed her hands on her hips.
“Pardon me, my lady, but this king does. My kingdom is enduring famine and disease. I am trying to save my people. I have taken up mercantilism to get food for my people.”
The woman immediately sobered and held up her hand to silence the murmur of the others. “Bréīn is struck by famine? What is the cause?” Her eyes were wide with fright and darkened by concern.
Drystan nodded and crossed his arms, interested in what she knew about his country. “What do you know of Bréīn?”
“Enough to know it is a rich country. So if you are truly its king and are selling goods just to feed your people, it must be in a bad way. What happened?”
A lump formed in Drystan’s throat as he wondered just how much he could trust this woman. Though, he supposed, it didn’t matter too much. War would be at his doorstep in a matter of months if he didn’t get what he was promised from Treoles. And then there would be nothing to stop it.
He took a deep breath and raked his fingers through his hair. “My brothers squandered the money and laundered it on pleasure.”
The woman’s jaw dropped. “What of your father?”
Tears clouded Drystan’s eyes as he remembered his late father. The wound was fresh in his heart and in his mind. Less than a year ago, his father drank himself to death after their mother died a terrible death. His sister had gone her own way, joining the League of Assassins wanting nothing to do with the inheritance of the kingdom. He told the woman as much as then said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”
The woman smiled and held up two fingers. “Lady Breya of the Fae. I would be honored to help Bréīn in any way I can.” She dropped her hand. “Your father was a great friend of mine and would deliver goods to us. Me and my family,” she raised her hand to tell them to drop their weapons. “Have been hiding here since the Great War between Leaniya and Yura.”
Drystan’s eyes widened in disbelief. The Great War happened more than a century ago. How were they all still alive?
“I know what you are thinking. Creatures like us, who are human in looks, are genetically different. We also age differently. I am the last of the Fae. And these people you see here with me are the last of their kind as well.” One by one she introduced him to the women who surrounded her and explained to him each of their species: elves, dwarves, mages, sirens… He couldn’t get over how similar they all looked and yet how different each of their species truly were. “And there is one more person I would like you to meet. Follow me.”
She turned on her heel and he walked after her, through the woods. He was sure he had come this way before but didn’t understand how he never came across the people working and milling about. He never passed the huts nor the shops.
“We shield our land with magick,” Lady Breya informed. “You cannot see what we do not allow you to.” She stopped suddenly in front of a hut that appeared larger than most they passed. “Give me a moment.”
She knocked on the door and allowed herself in and he heard the muffled sounds of an argument from beyond the door. Just as he turned around to leave, not wanting to intrude on their personal matter, a small voice called out to him. “Drystan?”
Drystan’s heart caught in his chest and he immediately turned around to see his little sister, hair braided, lips painted red, with a huge smile on her face. He scooped her into a hug and let his emotions flow out of him. He hadn’t seen her since their father’s death and thought he wouldn’t see her for years beyond that. “I have missed you so much, Jorlyn!”
She nodded against him. “I am sorry I le—”
Drystan slowly pulled away from his sister. “You have nothing to apologize for! I heard that you are head assassin?”
She wiped her tears and smiled. “I am. I came here to bring these wonderful women back to our kingdom. They will serve well as assassins, guards, and calvary. Father had them trained.”
Drystan nodded. “Lady Breya mentioned that she knew father. I figured there might be more. So, do I hear wedding bells in the future?”
His sister blushed. “It is much too soon to tell,” she whispered. “But possibly…I am so glad you are here!”
“If your girlfriend didn’t ambush me, I might not have left and never knew you were here.” He turned to Lady Breya. “I cannot thank you enough for bringing me to my sister. Are you willing to come to Bréīn as she has stated?”
Lady Breya inclined her head. “If I can bring all of this with me.”
“You are welcome to bring anything and anyone. We could use a change in the kingdom after everything that has happened.”
Lady Breya nodded her understanding. “We would like you to stay with us a few days and we will help bring some riches back to Bréīn.”
Drystan could not contain his thankfulness and as far as ambushes went, at least this one happened for the better.