The Warriors Of Time
“Princess Merryn! Princess Merryn! Are you out here?” called a voice at the stable door.
I groaned inwardly for a variety of reasons - the main one being I hated being called Princess Merryn. Just Merryn suits me fine. I never like being a princess and all its trappings, but what could I do to change it? I’d been born a Princess and there was nothing I could do to run away from being one.
To avoid being rude - I hated rudeness in others as much as I tried to avoid it in myself - I called back - “Yes, plain old Merryn’s here! I’m with Da’Dexal!”
“Oh, good, I’m glad I found you - you’re needed, Princess!” came the voice again, as the owner of that voice came into view again.
It was Impala, my closest friend in the Seelie court. She’d used her low-level magic to disguise her voice to deliberately wind me up. She knew how much I hated to be called Princess Merryn I threw my soapy sponge at her with a tiny scream of affected rage. This made Impala laugh, even as she ducked to avoid getting a face full of sponge and bubbles.
“You deliberately did that, you wicked faerie of the west!” I said, even as Da’Dexal above me stirred and grumbled at having his wash disturbed.
Da’Dexal was a large dragon, the biggest of his kind belonging to theSeelie court, bar one. The other, Ra’Higginsa, belonged to Prince Lincoln, who was my fiance and lifelong soulmate. Liek me, he hated being a member of the faerie royalty of the Seelie court, which is, in our magical fey society, the court of all the faeries that are good and light and bright. In fact, us faeries are just like you humans, except we have magic. We still have the same problems, like war and disease, but we have magic. It’s almost like a joke to us - everything that goes wrong - we say - “Ahh, but we have magic!”
“What’s happened now?” I asked, with the first faint stirrings of discontent. “The minute something goes wrong, every faerie in the court descends on Linc and my heads to try and sort it out. Seems like that’s the only time around here we’re needed - to clear up everyone else’s messes.”
“Oh, don’t be such a whiner, Merryn - you love it or you wouldn’t have taken the job!” I Impala said, looking uncharacteristically discontented herself.
That discontent was directed at me though, mixed in with some pretty understandable frustration. Unlike me, Impala wasn’t a member of the Faerie Royal family and never would be. She was half-human and mortal and so, was destined to die. As I was immortal, I was destined to live forever and am pretty much hard to kill. Impala was in the eyes of some, just a lowly handmaiden to Princess Merryn, Lady of the Dark Dragon. That's my full title by the way.
Anyway, to me, Impala was so much more than that - damn near indispensable in fact. Goodness knows what I’d do when she did die. I think that experience alone would damn near kill me. It was the only thing that would.
She was forever repeating that I didn’t know how lucky I was and that always put me to shame, because I knew she was right. Compared to her, no matter hard it got for me, I was lucky.
Plus I had Da’Dexal, my ever faithful dragon.
Not many female faeries, especially female faerie princesses ever got the honour of becoming a dragon-rider and fighting members of the Unseelie court or the court of all the faeries that were dark and evil. The Unseelie court held all the monstrosities that wished everyone and everything harm and evil. They had scars upon scars - scarred hides covering scarred souls.
“Merryn,” Impala said, sharply, jerking me out of my reverie and I realized with a start that she’d been talking to me for at least a few minutes and I hadn’t even realized.
Da’Dexal laid his giant head lightly on my shoulder and rumbled at me.
“Worried,” Da’Dexal said to me, through the telepathic link that only he and I shared - the link that never would be broken.
Like me, Da’Dexal would live forever and I doted on him, as much as I doted on my fiance Lincoln.
Impala gazed up at Da’Dexal, with renewed awe and admiration, before saying - “I always forget how beautiful he is, Merryn. You are so lucky. I wish I had a dragon of my own.”
Da’Dexal sniffed Impala, then sneezed, before he turned large orange eyes onto me and saying to me - “Impala can share me!”
He gave me a dragon smile then, as I laughed up at him and kissed his nose.
I thought up at him - “I love you!” - even as Impala asked me what he’d said.
I repeated the comment for her benefit and it looked as though the comment almost made her cry.
Feeling uncomfortable, I asked - “What did you want me for again?”
“It’s Kornia. She’s been attacked by one of the Unseelie Court - some kind of flying demon attacked her," Impala told me, grimly, eyes turning from brimming brown ones to hard edged hate filled ones.
Impala had a reason to hate the Unseelie Court more than most. One of their numbers had murdered her human mother and tortured both her father and Impala herself. It took Lincoln and I almost six months of parleying and another two months of all out war with the unseelie before they released Impala. To this day, no one has ever seen her father again, despite Lincoln and mine’s best efforts to try and continue the search. It was a search that was looking more hopeless by the week and by the day. My usually limitless optimism was at last beginning to fade, but I wouldn’t give up. Neither would Lincoln, I knew.
“Where is she?” I asked, noticing the familiar steel edge of a true dragon rider and defender of the Seelie court hardening my voice and turning it cold. Lincoln had that same tone of voice too and it scared Impala. She said that she never knew what we were going to do when we started talking like that.
Impala told me and I looked up at Da’Dexal.
“Can you take us there, Dex? Do you know it?” I asked, even though I knew Da’Dexal did.
It was a dragon-rider’s politeness that made me ask and Da’Dexal snorted a dragon’s “yes!”
Even Impala got that one and she didn’t have a telepathic link with my dragon. The look of relief even made Da’Dexal himself smile.
“As if a dragon rider would refuse a call for help,” I murmured, as I swung myself up onto Da’Dexal’s broad and comforting back.
I leant down and helped Impala up with some difficulty. Impala had not the agility nor the practice of getting up onto a dragon’s back, but she set to, eagerly. She always loved riding Da’Dexal - a treat she rarely ever got to see. She stroked Da’Dexal’s scaly hide, lovingly, almost reverently. This action made Da’Dexal whuffle out a dragon laugh, even as he stepped out of his stable into the clean fresh air. Dragons were notoriously ticklish, with Da’Dexal being one of the worst. It’s hard to believe in such a big and powerful, even fearsome looking being, that he would be so ticklish.
Da’Dexal flexed his still wet and gleaming wings experimentally and I warned Impala to hold on tight, which she did immediately. Da’Dexal flapped his wings once, twice, three times, before kicking up into the air with a roar of joy. Da’Dexal loved to fly. He jetted off a huge gout of flame that was only marginally brighter than his burnt orange scales and banked to the left in a dizzying turn, turning his nose in the right direction.
I whooped loudly as the thrill of the flight coursed through me, but Impala remained typically silent. I knew she would have her eyes tightly shut, even without turning to check. Although she loved the idea of flying a huge dragon, when faced with the reality of it, it became a different matter for her. She was scared of the heights that Da’Dexal could achieve. She always wondered at my lack of fear at having to do this several times in one day, but I guess that’s why I do it. It’s not suited to everyone, my lifestyle and I guess I’m one of the few.
There’s no fear for me up here, just me and my dragon fighting the good fight, for truth, justice and the faerie way.
A little appreciation for it wouldn’t go amiss sometimes.
Da’Dexal bugled again, to warn anyone upon the ground of our imminent arrival and his subsequent landing, before he did, indeed, land. I think he made an extra effort to land softly for Impala’s benefit, because he knew she was scared of heights and I thanked him silently for that. I’m not saying he lands sloppily for me, but he was just taking extra special care for Impala.
I got down easily, before reaching up to help Impala down. Despite her excitement of flying Da’Dexal, there was no mistaking her relief over being on firm ground again. I reached up to stroke Da’Dexal’s nose and kissed his cheek, making De’Dexal’s distinctive bassy whuffle of a laugh appear again.
“What the hell do y you think you’re doing? You can’t land that dragon here! Oh, hello, Princess Merryn, I didn’t realize it was you,” Princess Celina said, her face going brick red in her obvious embarrassment.
“Yes,” I said, slowly, before walking past her, without a second glance.
I’ll be truthful when I say there’s never been any love lost between Princess Celina and myself for a variety of reasons, but mostly jealousy or so I’ve been told. She’s of a lesser fey family than me, so she’s further down the chain of command and succession to the throne than me, as Impala is so fond in reminding me, as if I didn’t want to forget.
“You should act more like the princess who’s second in command to the throne than you do,” I Impala would say, disapprovingly.
I would only yawn.
Plus Celina was jealous of my relationship with Lincoln and of the ownership of Da’Dexal. She’s also considered a bit of an ugly duckling in the Seelie court, with her carrot red hair and reckless, buck teeth and myopic stare and you rarely ever saw her without a slice of cake or sweetmeat clutched in her chubby little mitt. She’s selfish and greedy and generally disliked by all and sundry, even by Impala and she gets on with everyone.
Celina is spiteful and evil enough to be a member of the Unseelie Court and I think she knows she’s destined for that court one day, and that makes her even more bitter and twisted than she already is.
Behind me, I heard Impala say - “How dare you talk to the Lady of the Dark Dragon like that, after all she’s done for everyone in the past with Prince Lincoln? Did you not recognize her dragon? Da’Dexal is the only dragon like that in the whole of the Seelie Court!”
I was too far away by the time that Celina answered. I could still sadly hear her voice, if not her actual words. I was betting she wasn’t saying anything nice. She rarely did about anyone, but particularly me.
Ahhh, Royal Faerie Politics.
Impala was just as well to be right out of it. She wasn’t missing much at all, not by a long shot. That was the reason I hated being Princess - the privileges might seem attractive to an outsider, but once you’re inside the backstabbing so-called family, you felt like you’d run mad in half a day.
Ahhh, but at least we had magic. **
“Ahh, good, you’re here, my Darkness and in super quick time, too! I swear you and Da’Dexal are getting quicker by the day! You’ve beaten Lincoln here once again!” came the voice of my father, King Fernando.
“Morning, Father, and thank you!” I said, bowing to him like all the faerie courtiers had to do, even though, as eldest daughter of King Fernando, I didn’t really need to do.
But I did anyway, as befitted my station in life as the head dragon rider and main Unseelie hunter of the Seelie Court.
“Get up, my darkness, you don’t need to debase yourself before me. Stop acting like a dragon rider!” my father said, but he looked more amused than annoyed.
“Of course!” I said, a little stiffly in my discomfort.
I never knew how I was supposed to act around my father, seeing as he was King of the Seelie. I wondered if they fey would feel the same way about me when I became Queen, as no doubt I would one day. All my life I had been prepared for that eventuality, but I still didn’t know how other faeries would react around Queen Merryn.
I’m not saying my Father is mean - quite the opposite - but he’s still the king.
“What happened here?” I asked, my dragon rider and Unseelie hunter sensibilities taking over my initial discomfort.
“Did Impala not tell you?” my father asked, with some obvious surprise.
“Not completely,” I said. “Maybe to save time. Where's Kornia?”
“She’s tied up over there,” my father said, grimly, with a point in the right direction. “But I warn you now, my darkness, if you do go over there, go with caution. It’s not a pretty sight.”
I gave him a curious look, but I did as he’d asked, even as Celina caught up with us. I ignored her, even as she flitted around us like a maniac, trying to attract our attentions by simpering first to me, then to my father.
My father finally showed her his irritation by saying _ “ Celina, enough! Merryn’s trying to work! Go and make yourself useful somewhere else if you’re not going to be of use here!”
“Yes, King Fernando! Of course, King Fernando! Please keep me informed, Princess Merry, Lady of the Darkest Dragon!” Celina simpered with many an affected bow and scrape.
I merely sneered at her until she left and I distinctly heard my father murmur to himself - “Go off and do your damn hair or something! That’s all you're good for anyway!”
I snorted out a laugh at that, making my father smile, as flapping wings announced the arrival of Lincoln, my fiancé and lifelong soul mate.
I looked up and waved, receiving a wave and a grin back from Lincoln.
“Here’s Linc!” I said, unnecessarily to my father, who no doubt had already seen him.
“Yeah,” was all my father said in return, as he smiled benevolently at Lincoln.
My father was fond of Lincoln and had said he’d be proud to call Lincoln his son, which was good, as Lincoln would be his son in a few days time. The wedding wasn’t so far off and I couldn’t wait.
Unlike humans, faeries stay married all their immortal lives which, when you’re immortal, is a very long time indeed to be with the same person. You really have to be sure you really are soul mates. Luckily for Lincoln and I, we were perfectly matched in all ways. I’d never had that with anyone else, and I knew Lincoln hadn’t either.
Another thing in our favour was that my Da’Dexal was rather fond of Lincoln’s RaHigginsa, a beautiful red female dragon, who was rather sweet tempered for a dragon, as was Da’Dexal.
I waited for Ra’Higginsa to land and for Lincoln to spill from her back, all short dark hair and big blue eyes and stocky build. Like me, he had the pointy ears of a true Faerie Royal, which Celina lacked being a lesser fey: as did Impala too, being mortal and half-human.
I waited until Lincoln caught up with us before moving in to view Kornia. As my father had said, Kornia had been chained up and now I could see why. Caught in a state halfway between life and death, she strained against her bonds, reaching for us with questing, limp hands. Her eyes were blank and lifeless and yellow in colour instead of her normal brown; her mouth was slack and drooling and she growled at us.
“My God, the smell!” Lincoln choked out, pinching his nose between long fingers and breathing heavily through his mouth.
His dark blue eyes were bigger than usual and slightly dazed looking. Then he blinked and the disgust and faintness were gone, his dragon rider sensibilities now taking over.
“What is this Merryn? What caused this?” my father asked quietly, looking over at me gravely, before his eyes darted back to Kornia, as though he couldn’t help but stare at her.
I looked to Lincoln for corroboration, as I said - “The Sluagh have got her!”
The Sluagh were the worst monsters the Unseelie court could throw at us. Also known as the Host, they were known to steal humans and change them into their own un-holy image. They are the unsanctified dead, the faeries who fell from grace from the Seelie court.
Kornia lurched forward again, trying to grab a hold of Lincoln, staring unflinchingly at him with her yellow eyes.
Lincoln stepped back with a sound of disgust, before saying - ~”She’s been bitten. She’s dying and will soon become one of .... them, the Sluagh. She’s of no use to anyone now.”
“So what do you suggest? That we kill her?” my father asked, in obvious horror.
I looked to Lincoln again, as I said - “We may have no other choice, Father. She is of no use to either Faerie or dragon any more. She’s part of the Unseelie court now, under the influence of the Sluagh. There is no hope for her now, other than what she receives in true death.”
“Merryn’s right, Father,” Lincoln agreed , softly. “We have no other option but to kill her. She’ll only spread disease and discontent to the Seelie Court and also unrest if we don’t kill her. Plus, she may also want to create more in her own image.”
“It’s not murder, Father. She’s not one of us any more. That’s our job,” I said, but I couldn’t hide the regret anymore in my voice - the emotion ran too deeply for it not to show.
After all, Kornia was someone we knew and were close to. I played with her when we were both faerie offspring many, many years ago.
My father nodded reluctantly.
“I guess you have no other choice but to kill her, my darkness, Linc,” he agreed, his own reluctance as clear in his voice as in his manner.
“I’ll do it of you wish, Little Pretty,” Lincoln said to me, giving me a look which spoke volumes.
Although he had been close to Kornia as the rest of us, he didn’t have the same ties as I did. He had never played at dragon riding with her as I had. He’d been more interested in play fighting monsters with all his male faerie boyhood friends.
“Thank you, Linc!” I said, with a grateful and affectionate smile at my soul mate.
I was suddenly glad that Celina was no longer there. She would have seen my stepping back from this assignment as a sign of weakness on my part and I could just imagine the amount of gloating that would bring about. I wouldn’t even have put it past Celina to try and have me removed from my dragon rider post. I doubted she’d succeed. I don’t think anyone would listen to her whether she was trying to get me removed or even someone else removed. I knew she’d tried it with someone else of her own rank and no one had listened to her then. Everyone knew she was a silly faerie tart who loved hearing herself speak and voicing her opinion on anything and everything. Really she was nothing more than hot air and no brains, hardly admirable traits in a faerie.
I watched as Lincoln used his magic to freeze Kornia in position long enough to fun her through with his sword. Because she was now a member of the undead Sluagh’s minions, he had to chop her head off with his sword.
“Sorry, Kornia,” I murmured, under my breath, so softly, neither Lincoln nor my father heard.
Either that or they were politely leaving me to my pain. I wouldn’t have put it past either of them to be polite.
Lincoln took Kornia’s head with him as he turned to leave, and as he passed me, he murmured - “I’m sorry, too, Merryn.”
So he had heard.
I gave him a pained smile in return. Lincoln just gave me a long and level searching look, his big eyes more soulful than usual, then he nodded.
“I’ll be right back,” he said. “Wait for me!”
“Always,” I said, with a nod.
A small smile flittered across Lincoln’s handsome face, before he turned to leave. He walked away, turning only once to look back at me, a sad and concerned look upon his face.
It was always hard killing someone you knew, especially when they were close to you, Like Kornia was to me. Luckily for us, we didn't have to do it too often. I myself had only had to do it twice in all my long life so far and I’d been alive nearly two thousand years. Lincoln had had to do it three times - no, four times now - and he had been alive slightly longer than I had, by about two years.
I was still watching him when he got up onto Ra’Higginsa's back, still toting Kornia’s dismembered head.
In order to totally destroy a Sluagh, you have to separate the head from the body, preferably by a distance of several miles, just to destroy all chances of the two parts meeting up again and creating all kinds of undead havoc. Being a member of the undead, and an undead faerie to boot, was a sure way to never truly die, especially if you were immortal to begin with.
Ra’Higginsa was soon lost to sight in the bright blue skies. She graced me with a rare message telling me that she would bring Linc back as soon as she could. It was a rare message, because dragons rarely choose to speak actively to anyone other than the faeries who rode them.
“Are you coming back to court, my darkness?” my father asked me, softy, breaking into my proud reverie over Ra’Higginsa’s message.
“No, Father, I am going to wait here for Linc. I promised,” I said, never one to go back on my promises once I’d given them.
My father leant forward and kissed me on the cheek, before he, too, left. He had his trusty horse - a popular form of transport for faeries who don’t have dragons.
The few days preceding the wedding day of Linc and I saw more attacks executed by members of the Unseelie court on the Seelie. More Sluagh had been made, more Sluagh had been killed, by both Lincoln and myself and by the faeries who worked both with and for us.
Among one of the last casualties had been Celina herself. I’d taken great pleasure in chopping off her head myself and throwing it into the sea.
On the day of the wedding itself, we were halfway through our vows when an unearthly scream split the air, just as I heard Da’Dexal’s and Ra’Higginsa’s voices in my head, warning me of an incoming Sluagh attack. I held my head, because the double attack from two dragon minds at once was almost too much. I saw Lincoln do the same. I gathered that both his dragons and mine were speaking to him as well.
“Okay, thank you, Da’Dexal, thank you, Ra’Higginsa!” I said, both aloud and mentally.
After all, it was only polite to thank them, despite the severity of our situation.
Lincoln did the same, even as he drew his sword, mere seconds before I drew mine. The Sluagh swooped overhead, giving vent to it’s unholy scream as it passed. Thank the Earth that it was only one, even though that was enough trouble on it’s own. I didn’t want even that - not today of all days. We were supposed to be getting married.
A roar as unearthly as the Sluagh’s scream had been split the air, as Da’Dexal himself took to the air, chasing after the Sluagh, wings beating hard and flames gushing brightly from his open mouth.
Ra’Higginsa soon followed suit with a deathly roar of her own.
Against two angry dragons, the lone Sluagh didn’t stand a chance. Everyone stood and watched, mouths gaping as the two beautiful and brave dragons worked together to bring the Sluagh down, out of the air. They managed to send it crashing to the found and everyone cheered, even the Faerie priest. The Sluagh still flapped feebly on the ground, trying but failing to get airborne once again.
I exchanged a look with Lincoln before we both marched over to the Sluagh. Killing it only took an instant. Being half dead thanks to our dragon’s help, plus our combined magic to still his half hearted thrashes and struggles and a couple of plunges from our swords and the Sluagh was finally, truly dead.
I didn’t even get any blood on my wedding dress. No doubt the blood would have burnt straight though the material to my skin had I got it on me - the blood of the Sluagh is notoriously acidic.
Lincoln turned to the wedding gathering before he said - “Would you give us time to get rid of this body and then we can finally be married!”
No one seemed to raise any objections as Lincoln looked over at me fondly.
I smiled back, before Lincoln whistled and held his fist up-raised in the air. It was the standard dragon-rider signal to call their dragons once said dragons were in the air.
I also raised my fist and whistled to Da’Dexal who wheeled in mid-air, his burnt orange scales catching the sunlight, mingling nicely with Ra’Higginsa’s red ones.
They were just as perfectly matched as Lincoln and I.
I stepped back as Da’Dexal and Ra’Higginsa landed nearby, before I helped Lincoln to load the body of the Sluagh into Ra’Higginsa’s broad and all-forgiving back. Lincoln could always stand the smell of the Sluagh better than I could, but I don’t think that Ra’Higginsa herself was too keen. Trust me when I say the Sluagh do not smell like the proverbial bed of roses.
A few seconds after we had mounted our dragons, we were off, to dump the body of the Sluagh in the ocean, and its head far, far away.
Once our job was done, we turned our dragon’s noses back to where our wedding festivities waited. We then finished our vows with no further interruptions, before we moved on to the party afterwards.
Our lives returned to normal from then on, once we’d both adjusted to now being a married couple.
Well, I say normal ...
Until the next Unseelie attack, that is.
There’s always something, there really is ....
Ahhhh, but at least we have magic!!!
- Current Mood: hungry
- Current Music:What I've Done - Linkin Park