Song of Winter(3)

By: May Sage


Many fell, for the enemies in red and gold were stronger than anyone Jiya had ever seen or heard of, but the three dozen remaining queen’s guards kept a circle around Shea and defended her with everything they had. Jiya was frozen in place, watching in horror. Every other minute, another guard was slain. There were only four enemy soldiers, but the highly trained fae of Shea’s guard struggled to keep them away from their queen. The enemies’ movements were so fast Jiya only saw a blur, and they were powerful enough to bend metal with one stroke.

“What is she doing?” a boy whispered, and Jiya turned to find that some civilians had followed her deeper into the woods.

After a moment of silence, an old common fae with thick, curved antlers replied, “Quite a lot, young'un. Did a voice tell you you’d be safe if you came here? That was our queen reaching those whose minds are strong enough to listen. And if you pay attention to the earth beneath your feet and the whispers of the wind, you’ll feel many steps marching from the west and many wings flying from the north. These are the queen’s lands, and she is calling on all those who would defend it.”

A horn blasted in the distance, and the queen opened her eyes. She rose to her feet just as a large bird of prey descended to hover above her, something shiny flashing in its talons. The bird dropped it, and the queen snatched it in midair.

A sword, too long and too thick for the dainty female, it seemed.

Appearances were deceiving.

Moving with the same preternatural speed as the four males in red and gold but with more agility, she thrust the heavy weapon through the metal breastplate of the first enemy, plunging the blade into his heart. She pulled the sword out, leaped onto the second soldier’s shoulders, and shoved her blade through the nape of his neck. The two other males closed in, coming from the front and back. The queen effortlessly lifted the heavy blade, facing one soldier and paying no mind to the other. Her guards rushed to her aid, but Jiya saw the soldier behind Shea draw a throwing star. She jumped out of the woods and ran as fast as her legs could carry her.

Unnecessary.

After beheading the third soldier, the queen lifted her hand toward the last one and tightened her fists. The ground beneath his feet shook, and thick vines rushed out of the earth, winding serpentine around his legs and arms and keeping him firmly in place.

The soldier struggled to break free and winced.

“I wouldn’t do that in your place,” said Shea conversationally. “The more you move, the faster they’ll tighten. They’ll break your bones first, and then I suspect they’ll detach your left arm from your body. The head usually comes last. You can thank your armor for prolonging your suffering.”

The queen turned on her heels to face Jiya.

“It takes great courage to see what scions are capable of yet choose to place yourself in harm’s way, Jiya. You will ride with me.”

And so here she was, three days after the fall of Asra, with her queen and still alive, unlike so many in the city.

Jiya had never admired Shea more than on the day of the attack. They all heard stories of her great deeds during the War of the Realms, so many centuries ago, but it was one thing to know that the queen was powerful, and yet another to witness it.

Jiya entered the queen’s tent to find Shea in her dressing gown, her platinum hair undone. Her hair was usually braided down her back, out of the way; seeing her like this felt strange. The queen looked younger, almost vulnerable.

“Excuse me, Your Grace.”

“Do you have news?” Shea prompted, taking a comb and untangling the imaginary knots from her perfect mane.

“We do. An hour ago, we found a male following us. Loralei Night almost killed him, but I recognized him. It’s Devin Farel. He’s under guard until you decide what to do with him.”

The queen nodded, unsurprised. Was she ever surprised?

“Very good. I’m glad you kept the seelie king alive. Lora can be a delight, but she’s quick to draw her sword. You’ve done well.”

Jiya blushed at the praise.

“Your orders, Your Grace?”

“Release the poor boy and feed him, too. I’d wager he’s ravenous.”

Jiya blinked. They’d been attacked right after the seelie’s arrival at court.