The Ice Ring Chronicles- Part 1- Midnight Flowers
By Janeen Bell
Translated by Amina L. Forest
Kaytlynn Shayno'ir ran. She ran with every fibre of her being, as fast as she could. It felt as if her whole life had been leading up to this. She was born to run. She ran as fast as she could, then faster still. She was running. Running out of time. Running away from her sheltered childhood. Running into the open mouth of the dangers of Lachelleida. She wasn't a child anymore. She would deliver the message. I'll make you proud.
The moonlight shone through the thick canopy of leaves, lighting patches of the forest floor here and there, lighting Kaytlynn's way. The full moon was high in the sky, reminding Kaytlynn that she couldn't do magic. Reminding her of horrors the full moon brought.
Her eyes were wide, her nostrils flared, her ears perked, hoping to catch every sound that didn't belong to her. Keep safe, keep running, keep safe, keep running… she was going faster then she'd ever thought possible, trying to outrun the Hathin's Night Creatures.
Not many dared to venture into the Hathin at night. The forest, while dangerous during the day, was crawling with Weres, Buink, brownies, boggarts, Dirknat, devil-pixies, and many more creatures at night. But on a night like tonight, when the moon was full, and the Ungarii were powerless, the Hathin Gate opened up, allowing travel between Lachelleida and the fourth world. The Underworld. The Dead. For this night, the dead merged with the living, stricking fear into innocent souls, getting long-awaited revenge…
The night had started normally, at least as normal as a night can be on the full moon. But tonight, for an unknown reason, the Dead had destroyed the small village of Baltaim. A village that had been at peace with the Rie for as long as the villagers could remember. Yet there was no doubt in anyone's mind: The Rie had organized the attack. Neither was there any doubt as to why. It's all my fault.
She was brought back down to Earth by a mournful howl. Not for the first time, a wave of doubt and guilt washed over her. There was no way she could make it. All'abirrim, the nearest city, capital of this part of Lachelleida, was an hour's horse ride away. And she had absolutely no doubt that if she stoped running, the ghouls of Lachelleida's full moon would catch up to her. But there was no denying it, she had to stop running, she couldn't keep going. Her legs were on fire, her lungs were ready to explode, her chest hurt painfully, the roof of her mouth felt withered and dry. She was shivering uncontrollably now, the sweat on her forehead cooling her off. She had to stop.
No. I can't stop. If I stop... she shook her head. I will not think about that! she screamed at herself, panic-stricken, but it did no good. Horrible images flooded in, erasing her reality. Memories of her past merged with horrible nightmares of the future. Her legs, unaware of her mind's agony, didn't stop, and Kaytlynn Shayno'ir ran.
The arrow skimmed the air, going at a terrifying speed. If he kept his control, his mind guiding the arrow… it was going to make it… almost there…
"Jhorederan?" his servant broke through his concentration. The arrow clattered to the ground, useless. Damn! He thought. He had almost hit the bird.
"Jhorederan?" the servant asked again when he didn't get a reply.
"What is it?" Jhorederanasked patiently. He had been so close. Just another few seconds and he would've won! He doubted Geind would consent to a rematch.
"Sir, the king had requested your company."
"Very well," he told the servant politly. "Tell my father that I am on my way." The servant bowed and disappeared.
Jhorederan turned to his companion, a young squire who had had the good fortune of catching him here, and had challenged him.
"Sorry," Jhorederan apologized for not finishing the match, "But," he put on an overly cheerful face, "duty calls,"
"I have some chores to do anyway," the other mumbled. Jhorederan smiled, nodded and left, wondering what his father could possibly want him for. He and the king generally avoided each other since Shauna had disappeared a year ago. His father was a purebred warrior, who had been born during the Rie Revelution, and he seemed to think war was the only way to get the Fae out. Jhorederan, however, knew that the Rie would have to swallow their pride and make peace with the Fae, if they ever wanted to survive this.
Here he was, standing in front of the double oak door of the throne room. Jhorederan raised his fist and knocked. It eachoed strangely across the corridor. No other sound could be heard. "Father?" Jhorederan called tentatively. "Father?" for a moment there was silence, until the doors opened, and Jhorederan walked in.
"You wish to see me, father?" Jhorederan asked, looking his father up and down. He was wearing the Kinkijio cloak that was the symbol for power among the Rie. It was glowog brilliantly, as it always will upon the shoulder of the true ruler. Each time he saw his father, Jhorederan hoped desperately that it would be faded. Each time he saw it, doubt flooded his mind. What if his father was right in wanting war? After all, he was the true ruler. Nevertheless, Jhorederan stubbornly stuck to his opinions. But today, it wasn't the cloak Jhorederan was studying. It was his face.
The king had dark circles under his eyes, and his face had a greenish tinge to it. He had three too many wrinkles on his cheeks. But his eyes. His eyes were devoid and lifeless, dark, sinister, clear, white and bland all at once. Jhorederan looked away.
"Jhorederan!" the king said merrily, with a false cheerfulness not unlike the one Jhorederan had just used on his challenger.
"Yes father, what is it?" Jhorederan remained cool and quiet.
"Jhorederan…" his father said, then stoped, and started again. "I need you to go to All'abirrim. There is important information…"
Jhorederan shook his head. "You know I will have nothing to do with spying. You know I wish to make peace with the Fae, not create a war." He told his father matter-of-factly. Of course, the chances of avoiding the oncoming war was about 1 on 100. Even if his father suddenly changed his mind about starting a war.
"It may help us avoid war altogether. It may lead to the retreat of the Fae." His father told him. Retreat of the Fae? The chances of that were even slimmer. Jhorederan searched his father's features for any of his telltale signs of lying. There were none. Did his father really believe the Fae would retreat without war? He must be crazier then Jhorederan thought. The Fae had started the invasion of the mountains 20 years ago, and he didn't think they were about to let the them go. However, he knew it useless to argue with his father.
"You have your own spies, don't you, father?" Jhorederan asked. Who in their right mind would send their son on a spy mission. Especially if that son would soon inherit the Kinkijio. Unless the king wanted to get rid of Jhorederan. Which wouldn't be a bad idea, considering the next in line. Guinon, the youngest of three. Their mother had died giving birth to him, and wether it was starting his life with death or not, Guinon was the most bloodthirsty Rae Jhorederan had ever met. He'd defiantly support his father's plans, create a war. Which was exactly, in the end, what the king wanted. He's not that desperate. Jhorederan looked up, at his father's face. Dark and weary.
"…You must find the location of the Vire-tooth-" his father was saying, but Jhoreederan interrupted.
"The Vire-tooth? It's real?"
"Yes," said the king. "It is. And there is one who knows of the location. Sadly, she will be destroyed in the… raid."
Jhorederan said nothing. He greatly disapproved of his father's plan to get rid of the village, but could do nothing to stop it.
"Go to All'abirrim. My guess is that one will flee the village. Find the one, get the information. Kill anyone who is involved."
"Father!" Jhorederan protested. "Father! You know I can't!"
"You can and you will!" the King cried out. "Do not forget your place!"
"Yes, father," Jhorederan sighed weakly. The king was prone to temper tantrums, and there was no telling what he'd do if Jhorederan let him continue. It was like he forgot who he was, and destroyed everything in his path.
"Good," the king said, a smile back on his face. "You are dismissed."
Jhorederan left, glad to be out of the King's company.
A werewolf howled somewhere in the distance, and Kaytlynn gritted her teeth, trying to hold back her scream. She couldn't give up, not now... If she didn't deliver her message... she didn't dare think of the consequences. Her nerves were frayed, her bare feet slapping the ground. She was hardly aware of their pain anymore, but at first the pain had been to horrible to imagine. Her skin had turned raw and they had started bleeding long ago, leaving a trail of blood for the Nautz. Almost there, she told herself desperately, willing herself to believe it. Was it just her imagination, or was the sky lighting up? Half of her wanted to cheer. With the sun, she would be able to sit down, to rest. But if her message wasn't delivered in time... I'm going to make it, she told herself firmly. She ran on. Past the swinging branches, over the roots, on and on she went.
And then she saw it. A brilliant beam of light, just up ahead, nearly blinding her, shedding light onto the very overgrown path. She hadn't been worried about straying from it, she had her father's sense of direction for that... no. She wouldn't think about that. Now is not the time! She practically screamed at herself.
The light in front of her blinked. Is it going out? she wondered. It can't be, she told herself sternly. If only she could reach out, touch it... She ran as if her life depended on it and reached out... but the glowing orb only hopped further away, swinging wildly. Is it real? But she knew it wasn't.
Suddenly, her pain caught up to her. Her feet, her legs, her lungs, her chest, everything screamed out at once, begging for her to stop. The pain was unbearable, and for the first time in three hours, Kaytlynn Shayno'ir stopped sprinting, engulfed in the black that the moon and her hallucination couldn't keep out.
A flash of cyan illuminated the Guard Watch Headquarters briefly, and Jhorederan was left standing in it's place. Those around him didn't notice, but shivered for a second. Jhorederan checked his disguise, making sure he didn't look like his people, but rather, like a Fae. He smiled, and called the guard closest to him. Puzzled, the Fae walked over to where Jhorederan was standing.
Not too far away, a Nautz raised its head of the trail of blood it was following and sniffed the air. Its prey had stopped... Following the trail of blood, the Nautz bounded through the forest. The prospect of an easy meal made it happy. For days now, it had gone without food. Hunting was bad this season. Fae blood… not as good as the Rie kind, but it would do. Especially if she had a spot of Rae in it, anyways. Suddenly it stopped, sniffed the air again. She wasn't the only two-legged close by. He wondered if this was a trap. Should he go on, anyways? The food made hime desperate. Yes. Yes he should.
Oh, how my people would laugh if the saw Jhorederan, Prince of the Rie now. Jhorederan thought bitterly. I'd die of humiliation. Of course, that'd suit my father just fine!
He had joined the guard watch of All'Abirrim, and was now on guard duty, dying of boredom, not caring about the five or six crows perched on his head and shoulders. He could shoo them off, but they'd simply come back. He could also tell them who he was, but he didn't quite dare take that chance. If another guard saw him speaking to crows, someone would connect the dots for sure. He'd already almost let it slip twice, and the news of the missing Rie prince had already reached Fae ears. All in all, he wasn't happy with his situation.
Then he saw her. Bruised, scraped, barely in one piece, yet there she was, lying down just outside the forest which he was guarding against, a young Fae woman, barely any younger then himself, lying there, looking as if all life had drained out of her.
Who are you? he wondered.
Why are you here?
Of course, she didn't answer, and for once, Jhorederan was at a loss at what to do. He couldn't leave her like that, lying in the grass. What would a normal Fae guard do?
Cautiously, he walked towards her, one careful step at a time. He would Heal her a bit, then call for backup. Yes. That was what he should do.
He spotted a Nautz in the distance, watching his every mood his bright eyes. "Go away," he whispered. "You're not wanted here." It didn't move. "Astri sharhem farkan. Narak direka shiol krits noorik." He told it, quieter then before. I am the Prince of the Rie. You will find food due west. It left.
Turning his attention back to the girl, he leaned over, to catch a better glimpse at her face. Maybe she was someone he knew?
A deep chill swept over him as he recognized her caramel hair, half covering her ice-blue eyes. Her lips, often a ruby red, were now as lifeless as a rose quartz. She wore a basilisk coat, which was a faded green. Lucky for her that she was; all the more chance she as alive. Around her neck she wore a kraken tooth; the one he had given her for her tenth birthday. He was surprised she was still wearing it. For a moment, he remembered her as she had been then; always smiling yet fond of solitude. But she had changed with the weight of responsibility. He cursed at his luck, and checked her pulse. She was alive.
"Hey, Miowen," he called to the other guard on duty. "Help me carry this lady inside!"