NaNoWriMo 2011, Day 12.

Fairies : Mystica and Merlin

Chapter 12 : What Stephan Found

In the days after Mystica had left, and Ivy had passed beyond the veil, the kingdom was disturbed. Eyela had refused to speak to anyone. Stephan had done the best he could. He’d had the bodies of the dead counted. 32. 32 people in the kingdom.Dead. Because of a single mistake. He’d visited each of the families that had lost someone. Some of those families had lost more than one. He had the wounded counted. 71. 71 people wounded. Some of them would never heal. It’s hard to regrow severed limbs.

There had been 32 funeral pyres. 32 consecutive nights when a body was returned to the world that had given it birth. 32 nights when the kingdom had cried for someone that had passed beyond the veil. 32 reasons for Stephan to find the former captain. 32 lives he had to extract from that captain.

Eyela never said a word. She’s simply watched him as he’d asked her permission to put together a search. To find the captain. To determine what he was doing. What his plans were. Eyela simply listened. She was too hurt to speak. All she could do was wait, until Stephan was finished speaking. Then, she stood, and walked over to the window of the throne room. She stood there for a while. Looking outside at the sky. She knew the sky was blue. But to her, it looked dead, and grey. Empty of color. Empty of life.

She had turned, and looked at Stephan. And simply nodded her head yes.

Stephan had selected the four most talented members of the castle guard. They would join him as he left the castle. Left the kingdom. To search for the captain, and his men. To find out what they were doing. The type of threat they posed to the kingdom. And if they could, to kill him.

They’d left one morning. With the coming of the dawn. They flew toward the grey hills, where the captain and his followers were rumored to be hiding. Building an army. They moved through the hills. Looking for villages. Looking for settlements. The first villages they came to, hidden in the hills, was a village of normal people. Not fairies. Not elves. Just people. The captain and his men visited the village, spending the night in an inn. They spoke with people living there. About the captain. The innkeeper remembered the captain. An angry man. A foul man. That had treated him badly. That had slapped him more than once. That had beaten on of the housekeepers.

They were three days journey from the castle when the found that village. They journeyed three more days. Searching through the grey hills, until they came upon another village. But this village was not very welcoming. One of the females that served drinks to them in the village tavern had whispered, “The captain warned them you would be coming.”

From that day on, the captain and his men move very carefully. They avoided the villages. Instead, they remained hidden. Watching what happened in each village they came to. They noticed something in the villages. They noticed that there were fresh grave sites. That these villages each had lost people recently. They noticed that the women in the villages became more and more afraid. That some of the women were very visibly injured. Very visibly hurt. That they’s been beaten. And very likely even worse.

The captain and his men kept exploring the grey hills. Learning that the closer they came to the mountains, the more violent the villages seemed to get. The more abused the women seemed to get. The more sense there was that something violent, and evil, ruled there. That the villages were becoming more and more subservient to a violent power.

It took them six weeks total, to reach the mountains. But they knew their search would soon be over. For the trail of the captain had become more and more obvious to them. They were following the bodies. Following the trail of death that the captain and his minions left behind.The more broken the women in the villages were.

It was only a matter of time until they found the captain and his band.

They followed the trail the captain had left for 6 days. Deep into the mountains. Until they came to a valley, between two peaks. In that valley they saw a village. They watched. Studying the village for days. They saw the captain himself, in that village. Stephan had taken his bow, and his arrows, and moved as close to he village as he dared. His other men had moved apart, positioning themselves at four points around the village. They waited. Each with bows and arrows.

On the third dawn of their wait, everything went wrong. Before dawn that day, while the lights were all out, and the village was as dark as it could get, several men had slipped out of the village. Several fairies too. They’d moved through the forest in the valley, that surrounded the village. They’d used the trees, and the shadows, to hide. And when the colors of the day had returned to life, they’d attacked Stephan and his men.

Stephan and his men had never seen that coming. There was a flurry of arrows in the air. The captain’s men using their cross bows. The first of Stephan’s men had never had a chance. He was struck through the heart, and through the throat, and through his left eye, by crossbow bolts. He never made a sound as he passed beyond the veil.

The second of Stephan’s men had managed to fight back. He’d been struck in the side with a bolt. But he’d managed to get his bow aimed, and return fire. His aim was true, and he struck the leg of one the captain’s men, before they could reload, and attack him again. But once they’d reloaded their crossbows, they’d killed him too. Three bolts striking him in the chest. He’d fallen from the tree he’d been hiding in.

The third and fourth of Stephan’s men had taken to the air, using their bows and arrows as they flew. It made them much more difficult to kill. And they were able to strike back at their attackers. Arrows piercing the necks of five of the captain’s men. But they were badly outnumbered. And the captain’s men fired their crossbows, time and time again. Until both of Stephan’s remaining men became so injured they could no longer fly, falling to the ground, where they were cut to pieces by swords.

Stephan had realized what was happening too late to do anything about it. He fled. He had to find a way to escape. To return to the castle. So that he could inform Eyela of everything that had been learned about the captain, and his followers, and their plans.

There would be war. Between the captain and his followers, and the kingdom. It was inevitable. Stephan knew that. Just as he knew that the captain had become a very violent, very dangerous man. One that took what he wanted. Did what he wanted. One who had practically enslaved a dozen villages in the grey hills. And who knew how many in the mountains.

Stephan felt the crossbow bolt as it struck his left calf. He felt the second one as it struck his left thigh. He had no option but to fly. He spread his wings, and took to the sky. This quickly put him out of range of the crossbows. He didn’t look back. He didn’t dare. He knew there were fairies that followed the captain. He couldn’t take the chance that they would follow him. Capture him. Kill him. He had to fly, as quickly as he could. As far as he could.

He flew through the day, and then through the night. And then the whole of the next day. His left leg was on fire. He was growing week from the loss of blood. He had to stop. And bandage his wounds. He had to rest. To eat. To sleep. There was no way he could make it back to the kingdom right then. In one single flight. He had to break the flight up. Into pieces. He would fly at night, and stay hidden during the day.

It took him five more days to return to the kingdom. He landed outside the gate. And then collapsed. The castle guard has taken him into the castle. Where Eyela’s healers had worked their best to keep him alive. To heal him.

It had taken him a week before he could talk at all. And when he could, he spoke with Eyela. Told her what he’d found. What he’d learned. About the captain, and his followers. About the surprise attack that had resulted in the death of his four men, and very nearly his own death.

Eyela had listened. Hearing every word. Before she took action. Ordering the inspection process of the merchants entering the kingdom to be made more thorough. Ordering the training of new guards that would form a force of bowmen positioned on the kingdom’s walls. Ordering the forging of new swords for the kingdoms warriors to fight with.

Slowly, she started the process of building a military power that would soon have the strength to push the captain out of the grey hills, and then through the mountains.

When she slept that night, after having listened to the story Stephan had spoken, and having taken the appropriate actions to defend the kingdom, and remove a clear threat to the kingdom, she decided to have a chair positioned in Stephan’s room. And there, she sat. Watching over Stephan while he healed from the wounds he’d suffered in his effort to find the captain, and learn the type of risk the captain posed to the kingdom.

And each night, as Stephan slept. Eyela held his hand, and watched over him.

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