“Are you saying that this boy is the King?” Garrett clarified.
I nodded. “The previous King and Queen must have left him here for some reason, and my Queen decided to try to find him.”
“You both know it is rude to talk about someone when they are standing right here.” He looked to me, my Queen’s eyes staring at me through his own. “Tell me what is going on. What do you know?”
“I do not know much, only what was taught to me as an apprentice.” I took a deep breath and started from the beginning, “The previous King and Queen were killed by the King of this country, who has his strings pulled by a man known as the Merchant.”
“Why ‘the Merchant?’ What kind of a person calls themselves that?” He joked until he saw the serious look on my face.
“The Merchant is a monster who buys and sells everything. Weapons, people, exotic creatures, etc. I had no proof how deep his corruption goes until his hired guards tried to kill us.”
“You mean when you threw us off a cliff into a raging river below.” Garrett mumbled
The boy looked to me then Garrett, then back to me, “Continue.”
“So, the King killed your parents after they left you here. I am guessing they did it to protect you because out kingdoms have been edging towards war. They were killed, which started a war between our two Kingdoms, which my Queen put a stop to by signing an alliance that stated that her people would only enter this kingdom for the slave traders, the Dragons. But something changed…” I tried to remember what happened before we went to the Dragon’s to grab the Guide. “It was her birthday before we came this time. She turned thirty-five.” A memory flitted just below the surface of my consciousness.
“What did she normally do on her birthdays?” Garrett prodded.
“She has a meal with her servants and family in the morning, goes for a ride on her favorite horse in the afternoon, then retires to her study in the evening. No one is allowed in there with her. But this year, something was different. This year, she called the scryer into the study. Then he left, then she called me into the room. There was a paper on her desk, but I do not know what it was. She told me to plan to go to the Dragon’s the next day.” I looked to Garrett, “That is when she told me that she wanted to find a Guide, and the scryer showed her an image of your eyes in their crystal ball. She needed you because they scryer could not locate who she was really looking for, which is you.” I looked pointedly at the boy.
“You are thinking that paper is what changed everything. Do you think it was a trap set up to capture or kill her?” Garrett said what I did not want to think.
“It could have been.” I heard a noise from behind me. I whipped around, grabbing my daggers. “Someone is coming.”
“Everyone who knew about this place died with it when the King’s men burned it to the ground. I was not here that day, because it was my Coming of Age, and I had to go on a spirit journey.” He grabbed his staff, listening in to for what I heard.
“Garrett, get the Prince out of here.” I growled loudly as the fire lights got to the top of the ridge.
“You cannot take them all on.” The both said at the same time.
I looked to the two of them, “I was the Queen’s Guard, you, Prince, are blood of her, therefore I am your Guard as well. The Queen is dead because she needed to find you. We need you to get back to Astria and to protect the kingdom from this King and the Merchant.” My eyes met Garrett’s green ones, “I am sorry that I am changing our deal, but he is more important than I am. Keep him safe.”
“Come with us!” The Prince reached for me, but I stepped away from them.
“Someone needs to stay to hold them.”
“They killed my friends here! If you are staying, then so am I!”
I nodded to Garrett who knocked him out. He hoisted the Prince over his shoulder. “When I say run, get out of the valley. I have an idea that will stop them. Meet us at the cave.”
“Aye.” I turned to face my opponents, as they came screaming down into the valley. Garrett took the Prince and ran towards the other end of the valley. I ran towards the enemy, waiting for Garrett’s shout. I removed my capelet, letting the cold air hit my arms, making me feel energized,
I met the riders with the force of my pain, rage, and hatred. I slashed the riders, pulling them off their horses. I used other riders’ bodies as shields as their companions slashed out at me with their own swords. One rider knocked my dagger away, forcing me to use a fallen sword. It was a fine sword, but different than what I was used to.
The rider that knocked my daggers away disembarked from his horse. “I know you found the boy, and I know about your Queen.” He said through his armor’s helmet.
“Then you know that I did not kill her.” We circled each other, he waiting for his running companions, me waiting for Garrett’s command.
“Of course you did not kill her.” He removed his helm, revealing himself as the crown Prince of this kingdom. “We cannot play with her if she is dead. Instead, she will fight in the Games, alongside her little beauty… Well, she was a beauty until the Merchant played with her.” I lashed out at him, anger fueling my moves. He blocked it with his sword easily. He was toying with me, but all I cared about was ripping him apart. “Is this all I should expect from the famous Queen’s Guard? If I knew you would be this easy to beat, I would have started this plan earlier.”
He was the mastermind behind it all, “And what does your father think of this?” I was trying to calm myself down.
“That old fool? He was fully complacent in this. He has wanted Astria for years, but I am the one who told him how to get it. Our kingdom will conquer yours, but do not worry, you will see your family and friends again when you are killing them at the Games.” He jabbed at me, but I was calm in my cold rage. I dodged it without blocking.
“You really think the people of Astria would allow our beautiful kingdom to fall into your greedy little fingers?” I laughed.
“They will when they see their Queen fighting in the Games.” He lunged at me again, and I easily dodged again.
“Underestimating our people is what got you here in the first place.” I threw the dagger at him. He knocked it to the ground, but the greenery held his sword as I lunged at him. He dropped the sword and moved out of the way. I slammed the blade into the ground right as he moved away from it. The greenery did not attach itself to my sword, but I saw his running companions getting closer.
I heard a whistle coming from behind me. I could not see Garrett but I instinctively knew this was his signal to run. I then felt the ground shift, and my stomach dropped. I looked to the crown Prince of my enemy kingdom, then smiled. “Too bad you will never see my kingdom fall.” I slammed the sword into his foot, then deep into the ground, holding him. The greenery pulled the blade into itself, pulling the blade to the hilt. He screamed in pain and tried to pull it from the ground.
I ran past him, grabbed my two daggers, before whistling. A horse came running up to me, and I grinned as the crown Prince watched me steal his horse. He finally ripped the sword from the ground and his foot, as I kicked the horse into motion. The horse flew, the greenery allowing it to pass.
I heard screams and shouts from the other side of the valley. I looked back to see the snow engulfing the running companions. Behind me, the crown Prince grabbed another warhorse and chased after me. I kicked the horse to go faster, “We need to get out of this valley!” I yelled to the horse, hoping it would understand. I heard the screaming snuff out as the snow raged towards the crown Prince and I.
Murderous rage glared at me from the crown Prince. He was gaining on me, but we both were loins the race against the avalanche. I thought to myself, “If I die because of Garrett’s avalanche, I am going to haunt him for the rest of his life.”
I saw Garrett waving his arms over his head to the left of me. I turned the horse parallel to the avalanche. The crown Prince followed my movements as he caught up to me. “I have you now, you witch!”
I heard the twang of a bow string before the arrow hit him in his chest plate. I looked ahead to see Garrett notching another arrow. He let fly another arrow, this time hitting in front of the horse the crown Prince was riding. The horse came to a sudden stop, flinging the crown Prince off its back in confusion.
My horse and I reached the lip of the valley just as the avalanche overtook the crown Prince. We hopped over the peak as the avalanche passed us by, continuing its journey to the other side of the valley. I hopped off the horse and swung my fist at Garrett, “You could have killed me!”
He caught my fist easily, “You were ready to die anyways, so it is a good thing I had a better plan.” He used my fist to pull me closer to him. I could not stop shaking as the adrenaline started to subside. “It is alright. You are alive, we are alive, you found the lost Prince. I am sorry for not telling you my plan ahead of time.” He held onto me, and I started to realize that he counted on me as much as I counted on him. I would even surmise that he needed me as much as I needed him.
“Thank you…” I mumbled into his chest. “For saving me.”
“I am glad that you are alive as well, but the valley is gone.” I heard the Prince to the side of us. Garrett and I pulled away quickly. We turned to assess the damage Garrett caused. The avalanche almost filled the valley completely. The small red building was buried, along with the army the crown Prince brought.
We then watched at the crown Prince’s hand popped out of the snow. I grabbed the horse and practically threw the Prince onto it. “Get to the capital city in Astria! The scryer can use his ability to show that you are royal blood. Go and keep our people safe.”
“What about you!?” He demanded.
I looked to Garrett, “We have a mission to destroy the Merchant for kidnapping your sister.”
“Kidnapping? I thought she was dead.” Garrett looked at me confused.
“I thought so too, but the other King has her. The Merchant has Silvia and they are planning on putting the Queen in the Games.” I looked into the Prince’s eyes, “We all have a part to play, and this is ours. Yours is to protect our people and prepare for war, if necessary. Can you be the Prince we need right now?”
He nodded, “Until we meet again.” He saluted to us, before kicking the horse towards the bottom of the mountain.
The enemy crown Prince pulled himself from the snow, his foot still bleeding. I walked over to him, “I guess you are output prisoner now.” I looked to Garrett, “How much do you think the Dragon’s will give for him?”
“You would not.” The crown Prince growled.
“The Dragon’s are neutral, so if they are willing to sell our Queen, they should not have issues selling you to the highest bidder.” Garrett bent forward to tell him, “Since the Merchant seems to be the wealthiest man in your country, I am sure that he is willing to purchase a scrawny Prince like yourself.”
I grabbed his chin in my hand, “You are pretty for a Prince, and we all know what he does with pretty things.” The look of fear was enough to make me almost feel bad for him. I let his chin fall, “If you were willing to negotiate, we could be sure that does not happen.”
His face was red with rage, “I do not negotiate with animals like you.”
“I guess we could just kill him.” Garrett mused, his thumb rubbing against the bow.
“If you kill me, it will be war between our kingdoms!” The crown Prince yelled.
I stomped my foot into his back, “You said that it would be war no matter what. Casualties happen in wars, especially in ones that start against a peaceful peoples.” He yelled in pain as I dug my heel into the middle of his back. “We will give you the courtesy to choice. Death or slavery.” I watched the wheels turn in his head, as he tried to figure his options. “If you choose slavery, do not think that you will be able to escape.” I looked up at Garrett, “You see, my friend here is very good with a bow. You would be killed before you had the chance to take a couple steps.”
The crown Prince put his head in the snow, giving up, “Slavery.”
“Good choice.” Garrett said as he bound the crown Prince’s hands and arms together with the rope he used on our Prince. “If it makes you feel better, you are just a bargaining chip for our Queen.”
I watched the crown Prince’s eyes light up, “I know where they have her. Take me to my father, and he will gladly give you your precious Queen in exchange for my life.”
I smile sweetly, “You better hope so, or the Merchant will enjoy his time with you.” The color drained from his face, but there was still hope that his father would care more about blood than wealth.