Once a Prince

From Want2BaGirl: I started this story almost a year ago and got writer’s block in several places. I feel I’ve grown in my storytelling over the past year, so as I read this story, I notice the flow is not as good as I would like it to be. That said, I think this story has a message of forgiveness and unity that we sadly need more of these days. The story contains violence, abuse, and rape, but also redemption, love, and sacrifice. I hope you enjoy it.

Once a Prince

Year 13,282

The cavern was dark with the exception of the orange glow from the forge fires. Smoke and steam with a slightly acrid odor filled the air. Yrchs, strange bent-over humanoid creatures, lurked in the shadows periodically showing their contorted faces within the fire’s light. A man standing in the center of the cavern with a dark hooded robe held a sword with a gloved hand and chanted unintelligible words over it. The sword that glowed red hot from the forge was a work of deadly art. The man’s voice rose in volume. “Blood of anger from the Mortal King!” He reached for a gold goblet and poured small amounts of blood onto the blade. The blade sizzled and the drops of blood danced along the blade before being absorbed into the metal. “Blood of hatred from the Fae King!” Next the man took a silver goblet and poured a similar amount of blood onto the blade which also was rapidly absorbed. His incantations continued as he placed the blade back into the fire, then plunged it into water with a rush of steam.

Turning towards the Yrchs, he yelled. “It’s done! I hold in my hand the sword Destruction and when it’s plunged into the heart of the world it will cause a war bringing decimation and death to our enemies!” The creatures barred their yellowing fangs and screamed triumphantly.

The man travelled many days with his new sword until he came to a mountain central to all the kingdoms around him. There he entered a cave and at its center he stood and unsheathed the sword. Several minutes went by as the man mumbled and spoke, then with a shocking amount of magically imbued strength and force, plunged the sword into the cavern floor, the sword buried itself to its hilt in the solid rock. A wave of blood red wind emanated from the cave and rolled across the lands.

***

Year 13,391

I stood on the ridge and surveyed the valley below. A light breeze favored our arrows today. My army was stretched out behind me and I could feel their energy as it built before the battle.

“We’re ready, my Prince.”

I looked down at General Matais. Not only had I been blessed with royal blood, but I was a good head taller than the man. We’d served together for many years and we knew each other well. “And our scouts?”

“All returned safely. The Fae army is consolidated at the far end of the valley. I assume you’ll lead as usual, my Prince?”

“I haven’t spent my life training and fighting to take a back seat now in the most decisive battle of our time. Those Fae deserve to die and I’ll make sure my sword tastes their blood.” Scowling, I looked down upon the large meadow in the valley floor to see flickers of movement in the forest beyond. “Mount up!”

***

Tying my horse at the edge of the forest I strode forward knowing the thousand men behind me were in lockstep. The horses would be a liability against the Fae. There was no ceremony about these battles. They were always swift and bloody with no parlay at the beginning or end. The Fae had sealed their fate over one hundred years ago when they attacked the Mortal realm. My grandfather died in that attack and I felt the honor of destroying the Fae course through my veins.

I broke into a run as I saw the first of the Fae enter the meadow. The sun was slightly to our backs but the heat was already high with the summer in full swing. Arrows flew overhead and I watched the first of the Fae fall. The Fae were almost superhuman in their strength, speed, and endurance, but I’d trained since I was four years old and strong enough to hold a stick to fight them. Now at the age of thirty-six, I’d led more battles and killed more Fae than any human in the history of the world. Being larger than most humans, my strength had grown to match that of the Fae and my techniques honed to a fine skill. I could defeat the best of their fighters.

I slammed into the first line of Fae, fully invested in taking as many of them out of the fight as possible; surging ahead and not looking behind me. I tuned out the screams and blood and focused on my sworn enemy, swinging my sword, parrying, and cutting my way through their ranks. After nearly forty-five minutes of fighting I found a moment to glance back over my shoulder long enough to realize my army had been attacked from the both sides and were now in full retreat. It was a terrible mistake that our scouts should have been able to warn us about. I was now fully surrounded by Fae. Reaching my army was no longer an option as hundreds of Fae, each equivalent to two of my men blocked my path in all directions. I roared my disgust and ran forward to meet my death.

I took out two Fae quickly and injured several more before being overwhelmed. A sword pierced my side and an arrow plunged into my left shoulder. I continued to fight until I collapsed from pain and more than one blow to my head.

***

I woke with a kick to my stomach that caused intense pain. I was lying on a cold marble floor with my hands tied securely. My eyes slowly focused and I looked down at myself and the blood I was leaving everywhere across the floor. I’d been stripped naked and could see the festering wound in my side.

“Kneel!” A guard yelled.

Another kick to my stomach caused me to retch with pain. I slowly positioned myself so that I could try to stand and when I did so, I was hit in the lower back with a heavy stick causing me to fall down to my knees. Glaring up into the face of the Fae King, I spat in his direction.

“You’re quite the specimen, Ellis Sandhaven, Prince of the Mortal realm. You’ve caused us much grief through the years. We were surprised to hear your scouts failed you, but I’m never surprised at the greed of humans and how a few shiny pieces of gold can turn the tide of a battle.”

I struggled to my feet. “I’ll kill you with my teeth if I have to!” Another hit to my back but I stayed standing this time, my wounds opening up further. I seethed and shook with hatred.

“Ah, yes… about that. I think not. Do you know what started this war?”

“When you filthy Fae attacked my realm killing our king, Angus Sandhaven, brutally and without mercy.”

“I forget you humans live such short lives and have a tendency to selectively ignore the facts. Angus Sandhaven kidnapped my eldest daughter and raped her over and over before she finally died of a broken heart, knowing she’d been soiled for life and another Fae would never touch her again.”

“That’s a lie! Angus Sandhaven was a good and just man.”

“As I’m sure you’ve been taught, but such was not the case.”

“Why am I still alive? What do you want from me?”

The Fae King waved his hand. Three Fae males and a Fae female came into the room. When their eyes fell upon me they betrayed their disgust. “Behold my three sons. Anton, Caiaphas, and Sebastian.” If I could only get free, I could end the lives of the entire royal Fae family. I struggled but a sword was put to my throat. “My daughter Arrowyn.” I glanced at Arrowyn and I was shocked how my breath caught in my throat. She was extremely beautiful and radiated an innocence and inner strength I’d never seen before.

Shaking my head carefully as to not move my neck against the blade I refocused on the King. “Such a pretty family, even your sons look feminine.” I don’t know what drove me to insult them but my hatred was immense. The sons were actually handsome and fit.

Sebastian stepped forward and slugged me. By the gods he could hit hard. “Why father? Why bring this filth into our home?”

“My son. Always thinking with your fist first. We have an opportunity to seek revenge for a wrong done to your sister and I will not squander that chance. Send in Ecobar.”

An older man was led into the room. His hair was graying and his ears weren’t quite Fae but also not human. He carried a wooden staff with a ruby red jewel embedded into the top. “My King.” He nodded towards the Fae King.

“For your crimes against the Fae kingdom and for the crimes of your ancestors against my family, you, Ellis Sandhaven, are sentenced to a lifetime of servitude. Proceed Ecobar.”

Ecobar raised his staff and began chanting. A light grew within the red jewel as he chanted. He slammed the staff to the ground and then pointed the tip towards me. Streams of red light wrapped around my body. At first it felt pleasant as I saw my shoulder and side knit together and heal, but once that was complete, pain ripped through my body. Collapsing on the ground I screamed as every part of my body convulsed and twisted abnormally. I lapsed in and out of consciousness. I wasn’t sure how long I lay there but at some point the pain began slowly ebbing away like an outgoing ocean tide. I opened my eyes when I felt something touching my neck and I heard a click. A click that sounded horribly ominous in my own ears.

My eyes focused on my wrists, the ropes that had held them were no longer tight. Something was wrong with me. I moved my arm and the wrist I was looking at moved as well, but it wasn’t my wrist. Gone was the thick, dark haired, suntanned, and scarred wrist. What moved when I moved my arm was a slender, delicate, lighter skinned woman’s wrist. I mentally touched each part of my body and I felt strong and healthy, but the wrist… Pushing myself up I could feel a weight on my chest shift. Looking down I could see two large and perfectly formed breasts and long blonde hair fall before my eyes.

My hands slipped out of the ropes easily. “What did you do to me?” Immediately a painful shock passed through my body and I screamed out in pain. My voice was so foreign, sensual, and feminine. When the pain subsided I removed the ropes and stood. I stared down at myself in unbelief. I’d been transformed into a woman. My humiliation caused my anger to spike. I lunged for the King only to be brought to my knees in agonizing pain once again.

Slowly I stood and looked around the room. The men in the room were staring at me with unabashed lust. Only Arrowyn had a slightly disinterested look, but there was something in her eyes that spoke of apologetic fear. I waited, standing naked and afraid for the first time in my life.

“She’ll learn quickly. Girl, look at me!” I refused to look the King in his eyes when my body exploded with pain once again and I collapsed on the ground screaming. When the pain subsided the King continued. “Your new name, girl, is Eretraya, and you’re now our slave. You have a collar that is magically sealed around your neck. If you’re disobedient, try to hurt us or yourself, or run away, you’ll experience terrible pain. You’ll address Fae males as master and Fae females as mistress.”

“Why not just kill me? Why do this to me?” Pain shot through my body again.

“The correct way to address me, girl, is by using the word, master. Your question should be phrased, ‘Why do this to me, Master?’ I’ll tell you why, even though you’re disobedient. You’ve been made into a human female that will elicit sexual responses in men by your pure beauty. You’re far more beautiful than any human ever born for the single purpose of causing you pain. As a submissive slave, you’ll have no ability to reject advances of others. I’ll start by giving you to my three sons for their pleasure.”

I looked over at the King’s sons and watched their lustful sneers grow. “No!” I screamed only to collapse in pain once again. When the pain subsided I looked up from the floor to the King. “Please…” I gritted my teeth. “…Master. Release me from this humiliation.”

The King leered at me and smiled. “You’re a little slow to learn, but you’re learning. We also made you immortal, so you should be thanking me for that. Of course, immortality as a female slave will be only as pleasant as you choose it to be. Disobedience will not be tolerated. You’ll heal faster, but only for the purpose of having more pain inflicted. You also have your strength and skills you had before, merely to remind you that for all you possess you can do nothing about it. In case you haven’t put it all together… you’ll suffer a lifetime of humiliation and pain because of the pain and agony my daughter suffered at your ancestor’s hands.”

I stood to my feet and put my shoulders back and lifted my chin. Tears betrayed me as they fell from my face. I knew the pain I was about to feel and I mentally steeled myself. “One day, you’ll suffer at my hands as I wring your filthy neck!” I screamed and collapsed to the floor again, this time the pain lingered longer, my toes curling as my muscles continued to spasm.

The King merely laughed and spoke to one of his retainers. “Take her out of here and get her cleaned up. Send her to Sebastian first.”

I was dragged out of the room and down hallways to a large room where female slaves were told to clean me up, feed me, and clothe me. An older woman lifted my chin so I would look her in the eyes. “I’m Gwendolyn and I’m the matron here. You call no one in this room mistress, not even me. Master and mistress titles are only for those Fae that aren’t collared. Do you understand me?”

“Yes.”

She slapped my face. “Yes, Matron, is how you respond to me.”

Since I didn’t receive the pain from the collar I reached out with my hand and closed it around her throat and began squeezing. I realized I really did have my strength still. “Don’t ever touch me again, Matron!” I let her go and she slumped a little and looked at me warily.

She actually smiled. “I’m so used to shy and meek girls. It’s clear you’ve not been broken yet.” She looked me up and down. “By the gods, I’ve never seen anything so beautiful. You’re in for a world of hurt young lady. A beautiful slave is a highly used slave. What’s your name?”

I tried to say Ellis, but it wouldn’t form on my lips. I blushed with embarrassment. “Eretraya.”

“Ladies… make Eretraya comfortable, and clean her up, she looks a fright with that blood and dirt on her.”

Several ladies took my hands and led me to the baths. Most of the women I’d seen were humans, others reminded me a little of Ecobar with half Fae ears. Humans and half breeds seem to have a lower position in the Fae kingdom.

“Eretraya. That’s a pretty name. I’m Shannon. Where did they capture you?”

Shannon was the girl to my right. She was a pretty brunette in her late teens. “I’m not a woman and I’m not a slave!”

Shannon giggled. “We all go through our time of denial. You might even come to accept your role here.”

I glared at her. “I’m…” Again, I couldn’t say my name for some reason. “I was a prince until I was captured on the battlefield earlier today, or maybe it was yesterday. The Fae King and Ecobar turned me into this.”

“Oh, Eretraya! You’ll be so fun to have around. You’re such a clever story teller.”

I stopped and turned to her. “No. This is true. An hour ago I was a man. A prince. Now… I’m nothing.”

Shannon looked at me and paused. “I believe you believe this to be true and I know magic exists. Ecobar isn’t a nice man and I pray you’re never sent to him. But, by the gods, Eretraya. You’re not nothing! I’ve never seen anyone so beautiful and…” Shannon lowered her voice to a whisper and leaned close to me. “…I’ve never seen anyone handle the Matron like you did. That was amazing.”

“Is there a mirror here? I’ve never seen myself.”

She smiled again. “Why don’t you wait until we get you cleaned up first?”

I was led into a large bath and Shannon and the other woman stripped out of their clothing and pulled me into the bath with them. I was incredibly self-conscious and nervous, but they didn’t seem to think anything of it. I was admiring their bodies and even with the overbearing weight of my situation I couldn’t help but feel warmth spread throughout my body as they touched and washed me.

“Relax, Eretraya. No one here will hurt you. Think of these rooms and these women as your new family, your refuge. We look after each other and, in some cases, even sleep together. We don’t receive love from our Masters and Mistresses. Some can be caring towards us, but don’t expect warmth. If you’re well behaved, some can even come to be protective of you.”

They dunked me under the water and began washing my hair. After all the pain I closed my eyes and let the hot soapy water and the touch of the women relax me.

“I love your collar, Eretraya. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

I reached to my neck and felt the delicate fine metal necklace with my fingers. I grabbed it with both my hands and pulled with all my strength only to feel a shock of intense pain wash through my body.

“Eretraya!” Shannon pulled me up so my head was again above the water. I should have known I couldn’t remove the collar.

“I’m all right. Thank you. The collar punishes me if I break any number of rules. Trying to remove the collar seems to be one of those rules.”

“That’s horrible! Why would they do that to you?”

“They’re punishing me for what they believe my grandfather did to the Fae King’s oldest daughter.”

“You mean Sayan. I’ve heard the stories here how they tell of her rape and death by our past King. Oh no! If what you’re saying is really true, and you were Ellis Sandhaven, our prince…” She started crying and hugged me. “I fear for you, Eretraya!”

Gwendolyn walked into the bath area. “She needs to be ready for Sebastian tonight. Eretraya, I can only give you a fair warning. He isn’t a pleasant man.” She turned and left.

“No!” Shannon was shaking as she led me out of the bath and helped dry me and styled my hair as the other woman carefully selected jewelry and small pieces of cloth they called clothing. “You must be perfect, otherwise Sebastian will come down here and beat us all. He’s very picky as to what he wants. I’m sorry, Eretraya. No one deserves this.”

I already had visions of what might happen tonight and I was both excited and fearful. Excited by the thought that if I could get my hand on a blade I could kill him before the pain overwhelmed me. Shannon had finished with my hair and was working on my makeup. I squirmed a little not liking the idea of being made so feminine. The other woman helped dress me and put jewelry on me before they led me to a mirror.

At first glimpse of myself I looked around the mirror to make sure I wasn’t staring at another woman through a window. I moved back and simply stared at myself. I looked to be young, possibly eighteen or nineteen years of age. My hand went to my face and skin, which were both absolutely flawless. Full red lips, high cheekbones, large brilliant blue eyes, highlighted by the makeup Shannon had applied. My blonde slightly curly hair fell down to small of my back. I was a little taller than the other women, possibly five foot ten, but the Fae were naturally tall and I’d be slightly shorter than them. I’d been six feet four and I realized how slight I looked compared to what I was before. I felt my soft and sensitive skin with my fingers. Long manicured nails sent goosebumps down my arms as I traced the line of my chest.

My breasts were large, as were my hips, but I was in no way heavy. I looked lean and my stomach perfectly flat. I had an hourglass figure that enhanced my feminine looks. My legs were long and smooth. I focused my eyes between my legs and imagined what my new life will be like. I shuddered. The woman in the mirror was breathtaking. As a man I knew the beauty I saw before me was so incredible I’d not be able to control myself. This frightened me even more. I exuded pure beauty and sensuality.

My clothing was barely covering anything of me. Mere wisps of gossamer see-through lavender silk were layered lightly over my body. Across my hips, a chain of delicate silver upon which small bells dangled. Earrings hung from my ears and bracelets on my arms, wrists, and one ankle also had small bells on them. I stepped closer and examined the collar. A small red jewel glowed dimly in the center. Ornate threads or polished silver wove together to make the collar come together around my neck. It looked so delicate, yet I couldn’t break it.

“Eretraya? You should eat something. If you get sick later, it’s better to have something in your stomach.”

I tore my eyes away from myself in the mirror. Shannon and the other woman had dressed and I hadn’t even noticed. I nodded silently and followed Shannon to where there was food. The bells gave slight small rings as I walked. I noticed my hips swaying back and forth more than I ever did before, but I felt graceful.

“Why the bells?”

“The sound is intentional to draw attention to you. Not that your beauty wouldn’t do that anyways, but it enhances the allure.”

“Is there nothing I can wear that covers me up more?”

Shannon looked at me sadly. “We wear clothes like this for several reasons. First, we’re slaves and wear what’s pleasing to our Master’s and Mistress’s eyes. Second, when, and I mean when you’re taken, care is not the first thing on the minds of our Masters. Having dresses cut or torn from your body will be painful. These clothes will be easily removed without damaging your body in the process.”

“I’ve lost my appetite.”

“You must eat at least some bread. It’ll help settle your stomach.”

I barely managed to eat a few small bites.

“Let me show you our sleeping quarters.” She led me to additional rooms that were small but comfortable. “Only the Matron has her own private room. We all share these sleeping areas. If you get a chance and your Master is sleeping soundly, you can come back here to sleep. I usually sleep in this room. The half breeds tend to stick with their own kind. You’re welcome to sleep with me wherever I am.”

I didn’t sense she was speaking in a sexual manner. This was pure logistics. I looked to the end of the hallway to a large window. I was drawn to it and ignored my jingling bells as I hurried to look outside. The sun was close to setting as it reflected over a large lake hundreds of feet below me. I thought about jumping and my collar tingled in a threatening way. Looking south towards home a tear slipped down my cheek. Shannon stood close by, biting her lower lip as she looked at me.

“Have you ever tried to escape, Shannon?”

“Never. I’ve seen what they do to those that try. None have ever escaped. We’re on an island in the middle of a vast lake. It’s over a mile to the closest shore and the waters are icy cold. With your collar, and without a Fae to escort you, you’d never step foot outside the palace and city that surrounds it.”

“Do you ever get to go outside?”

“On rare occasions we’re allowed to go into the city. Personally, I don’t care to go as the Fae in the city don’t treat us very well.”

“So this is a prison then. No escape. No going outside.”

Shannon reached out and touched my arm as Gwendolyn appeared. “They’re ready for you, Eretraya. Come along.”

I was escorted through hallways and into a different wing of the palace. The guard knocked lightly on a set of large double doors, opened one of them and shoved me inside. Standing there I took a moment to look around the room. There was a very large bed that dominated the space and I cringed. A table with succulent meats and foods sat to the side. Another doorway that looked like it opened to a balcony. A walk-in closet area with clothing and another room that appeared to be a bath. It was very quiet as I made my way around the room hesitantly, looking for any kind of weapon.

I could find nothing I could use, not even a knife at the table of food. A hand touched my right arm from behind. I hadn’t even heard him come in. I turned quickly ready to lash out but Sebastian smiled evilly as he grabbed my other shoulder and held me fast. “You’ll not find any weapons in here, girl. But, let’s get this over with.” He pulled his dagger from his hip sheath and handed it to me. “Go ahead. Strike me with it.”

I looked down at the knife in my hand and back up into his eyes. I lashed out with everything I had but my arm stopped before the blade touched him. Searing pain shot through my arm and body. I dropped the knife as I collapsed on the ground, writhing in agony. This was by far the worst pain I’d suffered yet. As I lay there panting and collecting my breath, I watched as Sebastian picked up the dagger and cut my shoulder with it. I yelled out again and grabbed for my shoulder, only to slowly watch it start to heal itself. He reached out and pulled my hand away from my shoulder and jammed his finger into the slowly healing cut. His hand was covered in blood now and he grabbed my face and pulled me up off the ground.

“Now that you realize where you stand, bitch, pleasure me!”

I hadn’t hesitated long when pain shot through my body again. When the pain subsided, Sebastian backhanded me across my face. I stumbled and fell back to the floor again. I watched as he took his shirt off and then his pants. His member standing thick and long. He was getting excited by beating me. He derived sexual pleasure from abusing women. Slowly I stood to my feet. My collar tingling as my thoughts ran rampant with anger and fear. Shuddering at the thought of the pain the collar would caus me I dove at Sebastian, driving my knee into his crotch and knocking him backwards as wave after wave of pain convulsed through my body. I screamed in agony over and over. This time the collar simply didn’t want to let up. The intensity grew stronger and my teeth ground together. The pain seemed to be directly proportional to the pain I inflicted on Sebastian. I looked up into his face as I lay on the ground. He’d bit his tongue when his head hit the marble floor. I smiled slightly as I watched him wipe a little blood from his mouth.

That’s when he kicked me with enough force to send me sliding along the floor and crashing into the wall. He stalked up to me and grabbed me by my throat, dragged across the floor, and threw me on the bed. “Call me Master, slut!”

“Never!” I screamed in pain knowing I couldn’t keep this up much longer.

Sebastian grabbed his dagger and plunged it into my thigh. He leaned on it and twisted it slightly. The pain was so intense I wished to faint, but whatever they’d done to me, I just kept feeling the pain. Unconsciousness eluded me. “Please… Master.” I whimpered.

He threw the dagger to the side of the room and I watched in morbid fascination as it clattered and splattered my blood across the floor. Sebastian reached down and tore my clothes from my body. I was exhausted by the pain and mentally I’d about given up. Whatever I did I lost. I couldn’t fight back. It was at this moment that I thought about Sayan and what she must have gone through. What any woman must go through, with one exception. They weren’t as hopeless as I was now. They could at least fight back. I yielded to my fears and failure and cried as Sebastian placed his hands around my neck and penetrated me. I whimpered and cried at the pain and the indignity of it all; how soiled I felt.

It wasn’t long before I felt him tense within me and inject me with his retched seed. He threw me to the floor and I collapsed in a heap, gasping for air. He was done with me. I shook on the floor from the cold, the pain, and the humiliation. I looked around the room and my clothes were shredded. I found a towel and wrapped it around myself the best I could and I limped out of his room. I made it partway down the hall when my leg gave out and I collapsed on the floor once again. I was healing, but it was slow and painful. I was bleeding from between my legs, my thigh, my lip, and my shoulder wound had reopened.

Struggling to my feet, I was surprised no one was around. I fell again but when I tried to get to get up I saw a pair of feet in front of me. I recoiled and pulled away from them.

“Gods, what did he do to you?” I felt a light touch against my cheek and I retreated further away causing the towel to pull away and reveal the deep cut in my thigh. I looked up into Arrowyn’s eyes as she gasped. I felt her magic and a touch of my strength returned and my bleeding slowed. “I didn’t do this for you. Do you understand?”

I looked down. “Yes, Mistress.”

“Get to your rooms before anyone else sees you.” She turned and ran off.

I struggled back to my feet and limped using the walls for support until I reached the slave quarters. Slipping inside I collapsed on the ground, the door closing behind me. It was dark inside as I crawled my way to the sleeping area. I found a blanket and wrapped myself up with it and drifted into a fitful sleep in the middle of the floor.

***

A muffled scream woke me. The room was noticeably brighter. I ached all over. “Eretraya!” Shannon was pulling my matted hair away from my swollen eye. “Ladies! Help me!” Soon many hands were removing me from the blanket and towel that had crusted to my skin. They pulled me into the bathing area and into the water. I certainly felt better than when I came in and couldn’t imagine what I’d be like if I didn’t heal faster than normal. I felt their hands and winced in places as they washed the blood from me. I looked down at the water and saw it was now red. Shannon helped me out and into a robe. She led me to a sitting area and someone brought something warm for me to drink.

As soon as the liquid touched my lips the nausea started. I rushed and limped to the bathroom and threw up several times. I wasn’t sick and prayed I wasn’t pregnant. The images of Sebastian violating me replayed in my mind over and over again. I was dizzy and retched again. When my stomach finally settled I made it back to the sitting area.

Shannon kept close to me and Gwendolyn came in, looked at me, shook her head and left. Suddenly a whistle sounded and Gwendolyn shouted for everyone to leave but me. The ladies hustled out of the room. When everything was quiet I looked up to see Arrowyn standing there. I struggled to my feet.

“Sit!”

“Yes, Mistress.” I hated having to say that. My anger was almost out of control but I was broken. I started to cry again, suddenly overwhelmed. “I’m… I’m so sorry for what was done to your sister. I’m not that person. I don’t understand why this is being done to me. Kill me. Please, Mistress. The pain, the humiliation. It’s unbearable.” I watched her eyes soften slightly.

“You wish me to grant you mercy? You’ve personally killed hundreds of my brethren.” She raised her hand as if to hit me and stopped herself. “I’ve convinced my father that you’re mine tonight to let you fully recover for the rest of my brothers. You’ll be dressed in the finest clothes the ladies can find you and you’ll behave. I won’t tolerate a moment of displeasure from you. Understand?”

“Yes, Mistress.”

She turned and left. A few minutes later the ladies returned. Shannon sat with me. “What was that all about?”

“She convinced the King to let her have me tonight to allow me to recover another day. I’m not sure if I should be glad or not.”

“It would behoove you to be good to her. She’s everyone’s favorite here. There’s kindness in her. I’ve been told she favors the women slaves, but I’m not certain. You look a mess, but you seem to be healing fast. I don’t even want to imagine what you went through last night. Get some food. I know it’s going to be hard to eat, but you need it to heal.”

***

It was late afternoon and I was feeling much better. I’d been able to rest and nap a little through the day and I ate more and more. My shoulder had healed and my eye was almost back to normal. My thigh was still red and ached, but the skin had closed. I wouldn’t even have a scar. On one hand I was happy to see how well I healed, but frightened that this just gave the Fae more opportunities to inflict pain.

Shannon helped me dress and get ready. My outfit tonight was sexy but subdued. I was escorted to Arrowyn’s chambers. I noted that the guard waited for the door to open before I was presented.

“Come in, Eretraya.”

“Yes, Mistress.” I’d determined I’d try my hardest not to offend or be disobedient. I wanted to avoid the pain at all costs.

She closed the door behind me and looked me over, walking around me to examine me thoroughly. “You look beautiful tonight.”

I blushed. “Thank you, Mistress.”

“Come with me.” I followed Arrowyn to a balcony that overlooked the city and the lake. “What do you see?”

“A prison, Mistress.” I watched her frown at my response. “I’m sorry, Mistress. Perhaps I’m not seeing what you intend for me to see.”

She sighed. “No, Eretraya. You’re correct. This is a prison. We fear the likes of you. We fear leaving this place because of Mortal men and our mutual hatred for each other. My father keeps me locked away here for fear of me being raped and killed like my sister.” Wincing, I shuddered at the image that brought to my mind. “Why do you hate us so much?”

“Aside from what was done to me, Mistress?” She nodded. I had to think about it. “We’ve fought each other for more than a hundred years. Every day of my life was designed and crafted around my hatred for the Fae.” She slapped me hard.

“Do you want to kill me?”

My hand went to my face, my cheek burned and stung. I looked into her eyes and fell to my knees in front of her. “I don’t wish to hurt you, Mistress. Even if I could. I’ve lost something. Perhaps one night with your brother has totally broken me.”

She looked at me. I could see her mixed emotions. “Get up. Indulge me in a conversation. It’s not like you have a choice and the alternative use for you tonight is something I’m sure you’d not wish to partake in. Unless you enjoyed your experience last night?”

“No, Mistress.” My voice was barely a whisper. Had I really been so broken last night? Was that all it took for me to grovel and weaken my hatred? She had me sit on a cushion while she lounged in a chair. I realized this was my place now. I looked down at my body, focusing on it for the first time in a while. Pain had a way of distracting me from the immediate circumstances. Now that my pain had greatly diminished, I was once again feeling the weight of my breasts and how my hair fell down my back. I looked up at Arrowyn and found her beautiful. Her long brunette hair and striking blue eyes were riveting. She moved with such grace and her lithe body would normally have screamed to me as a man, and oddly enough still did now. I felt warm all over and blushed, trying to recall my hatred. I had to think of Sebastian and what he’d done to me to help me rebuild my wall.

“What are you looking at, Eretraya?” Her eyes bored into mine.

I looked down, embarrassed. “I find you beautiful, Mistress.”

“Look at me.” I looked back up into her eyes. There was a mixture of coldness and warmth there. Her mouth had curled upward slightly at the edges. “I’m trying to understand what’s happened to you.”

“Mistress?”

“Two days ago you were slaughtering Fae. Even wounded you tried to hurt us. You were defiant. Your hatred consumed you. And now, look at yourself. You’re sitting demurely, you’re polite, and you have told your sworn enemy that I’m beautiful and you wouldn’t wish to hurt me. Bring me a glass of wine.”

“Yes, Mistress.” I got up and felt her eyes on me as I went to a table and poured her a glass of wine. This was so humiliating, but the alternative was something so horrid. I paused at the table and began to shake, the glass of wine breaking in my hand. I collapsed onto the floor weeping. The brutal violence and rape finally registered with me causing my complete breakdown.

I felt her touch on my shoulder and I screamed and shrank away. “Eretraya! Get up!” Struggling to my feet I wrapped my arms around my body as I shook. “Is this about last night?” I nodded, unable to speak. “The memories are so strong…” She whispered to herself. “Pull yourself together and follow me.”

It was a challenge to keep up with her as we left her apartment and raced through the palace. We went down and down until we were below ground level. I watched as Arrowyn pushed open several large doorways and we stepped out into a beautiful courtyard that opened to the night sky. Lake water poured over the wall at one end creating a waterfall. Trees filled with blossoms and flowers lined the walkway. I realized what this was. It was a mausoleum. Arrowyn turned to me with venom in her eyes. “Don’t touch anything! This is sacred ground and the likes of you have never seen this place.”

“Yes, Mistress.”

She opened another door at the far end of the courtyard. Moonlight flooded in through a glass ceiling creating a spotlight on a very well preserved body of a young woman lying on an elevated marble slab. This had to be Sayan. I watched Arrowyn lovingly stroke the face of her sister. Tears flowed freely from her eyes. I was crying too, unable to fathom what she’d gone through.

Arrowyn mumbled some unintelligible words. I watched in fascination as light appeared on the mausoleum wall. It was fuzzy at the edges, but clearer in the center. They were moving images, almost like watching what happened from someone’s eyes. Then it dawned on me. Arrowyn was recalling Sayan’s memories using a form of scrying magic. I watched in fascination. There were horrible images that made me shrink back and hold myself. Then there was nothing.

Arrowyn swore under her breath. “This isn’t right…” She was whispering to herself. She turned to me. Anger in her eyes having just witnessed some of the last days of her sister’s life. I could tell she wanted to kill me right then and there. Her eyes flicked to my exposed thigh that was still red from the dagger wound and she softened slightly. I didn’t want her angry with me. I might never get this chance again, to be here next to the Sayan, the catalyst of a war lasting more than one hundred years. I’d never been motivated by my heart before, but something had shifted in me in the past few days and my heart was driving me towards something I had no idea where I would wind up.

Tears were still falling from my eyes as I looked at Arrowyn. “Mistress, may I please do something to pay my respect? I promise to honor your sister.” Her eyes flashed angrily then softened. I could tell she was very conflicted. Her sister was very loved by her. Finally she nodded.

I stepped out of the mausoleum and found a perfect red rose which I picked. I walked slowly and carefully up to Sayan, fearful to even look into Arrowyn’s eyes. I gently laid the rose on Sayan’s chest and I knelt down beside her. I reached out and held her cold hand and I heard Arrowyn gasp. I knew she was angry. I bowed my head and wept. My body convulsing with understanding and the pain of a hundred years of war. The death and destruction that I and everyone had caused. I slowly and hesitantly spoke. “On behalf of the human race I seek your forgiveness. Forgiveness for what was done to you by my ancestors. Forgiveness for the death and pain my people have caused the Fae, and forgiveness for my own part that I played in hurting and killing the Fae. You didn’t deserve what happened to you. I’d give my life so you could have yours back.” I let go of Sayan’s hand and I realized something had broken within me. My hatred for the Fae was gone leaving nothing but sadness and regret. It didn’t mean I didn’t hate and fear the Fae for what they did to me, or forgive Sebastian, but I feel even if I was restored to who I was before and released, I’d never fight the Fae again. I’d fight to protect myself, but that was all.

Remaining on my knees I looked up into Arrowyn’s eyes half expecting to be hit or stabbed. She was crying and I couldn’t read her emotions. She pulled me up and told me to follow her. Somberly we left the mausoleum and worked our way back to her rooms. “Please sit, Eretraya.” I’d never heard the word ‘please’ spoken to me from any Fae before. I moved to the cushion on the floor. “No, here.” She pointed to a spot next to her on a couch. I looked down past my breasts to my knees that were almost touching hers. “Look at me, Eretraya.” Her voice was soft and still seemed a little choked with emotion. “Thank you.”

“I meant what I said, Mistress. Something has changed within me. I no longer hate the Fae. I feel only pain and regret.”

“Your actions and words resonate within me, but don’t think for a moment that I forgive humans or you for your actions over the years.”

“I wouldn’t expect you to, Mistress. If I live long enough, perhaps I’ll be able to make it up to you in some small way.”

“Leave me now. I’ve much thinking to do. Don’t go near any of my brothers rooms. Take the long way around to avoid their hallways. Go quickly to the slave quarters.”

“Yes, Mistress.” I stood quietly and quickly left her rooms, knowing she was watching me the entire time. I hurried through the halls and slipped into the slave quarters without incident. Breathing a sigh of relief I removed my clothing and found a nightgown to put on. I was much more aware of my body tonight and what I’d become. Somehow the dichotomy of being feminine, smaller, and more vulnerable and being driven by my heart was challenging my discomfort. As much as I despised my current condition, it had already opened my eyes to who I was and who I’d been.

I found Shannon sleeping peacefully and snuggled in next to her to stay warm as the open window was blowing cold air in off the lake below. Shannon stirred and wrapped her arms around me.

***

I woke the next morning to the feeling of cold air blowing down my back. I rolled over to see Shannon getting up. “Thanks for keeping me warm last night. How’d your evening go with Arrowyn? I’m glad to see you’re not bleeding all over the place and you looking better.”

“It was a vastly different evening than the previous one. I’m frightened my reprieve won’t last long however.”

“Did she make love to you?”

I giggled and thought that was a little girlish of me. “No. We spoke and we visited Sayan.”

“You what?” Her eyes grew wide. “That’s as close to Holy ground as you’ll ever be. No one is allowed in there, and I mean no one!”

“Please don’t mention this to anyone. I don’t want to cause trouble for Arrowyn.”

“You’re protecting her?”

“Let’s put it this way. She treated me like I was a real person. Perhaps even some kindness.”

“I won’t say a word. I’ve never known kindness from any of the Fae. Tolerance at times, but not kindness.” She frowned. “I wonder what’s going on with her.”

Gwendolyn stormed in. “Eretraya! Get dressed. You’re going to see the King immediately.”

I groaned, suddenly fearful.

***

When the guard escorted me into the throne room I overheard Arrowyn arguing with her father. “…I’m getting useful information from her. She’s a valuable asset. We can learn much from her, but I can’t do that if she’s mutilated every night.”

“You can have her on her ‘recovery’ days and nights. I’ll remind you what our purpose was in keeping her. It’s about revenge against our enemy. I’ll not debate this any longer!” He turned towards me and I could see the smirk on his face as he looked me up and down. “Kneel, girl!”

I hesitated but didn’t want the pain. I looked down, knelt, and whispered, “Yes, Master.” I hated myself for doing this. Arrowyn scowled at her father briefly.

“Sebastian. It appears you’ve done a wonderful job at breaking her. A few more nights with you and she’ll be compliant enough even for your brothers.” Sebastian smiled and the other two brothers looked towards the king angrily.

Caiaphas stepped forward. “I want her. It’s my turn. Sebastian will just ruin her. He doesn’t know how to treat women.”

The King turned angrily. “Are you challenging my decision, Caiaphas?”

“No, your Majesty.” He bowed his head and stepped back.

“I didn’t think so.” The King turned back towards me. “You cleaned up nicely, girl. How do you enjoy being a slut?”

I wasn’t sure how to answer that question. “I don’t have much choice in the matter, Master, so I’ll try to make the best of it.”

The King seemed frustrated by my response. “I don’t think she’s suffering enough! Turn away from me, girl!” I did as was told and I felt rough hands tearing my clothes and exposing my back.

“Father, no!” Arrowyn’s voice was frantic.

“One more word, Arrowyn, and you’ll receive her punishment!” The King moving behind me and I heard the crack of the whip the same moment its tip sliced through my back. I yelled out in pain over and over again. I didn’t count the number of lashes I’d received, but it was a lot. I was collapsed on the floor, my breathing labored. My vision had blurred from the pain but what I could see was my blood splattered across the floor. “Get that worthless piece of trash out of my sight and tell the matron she’s still expected at Sebastian’s room tonight!” I screamed in pain as I was dragged from the throne room.

I was tossed onto the slave quarters floor and Gwendolyn looked visibly upset with me. The guards told her to prepare me for tonight. Shannon ran to my side and with help tried to do the best she could with my mutilated back. “Eretraya! How can they do this to you? You need to get out of here. You heal quickly, but how can anyone endure so much pain day after day?”

“Don’t bother helping her! She’s obviously disobedient and deserves what she gets!” Gwendolyn was angry. “Look at the mess she created!”

“And you, yourself will clean it, matron!” I groaned but turned my head enough to see Arrowyn standing there. Gwendolyn blanched. “Do you know what Eretraya did wrong?”

“No, Mistress.”

“She did nothing wrong! By the gods, no one deserves this!”

I felt her hands on me and her magic flowed bringing additional strength and healing. “None of you will mention I was here or I’ll have you all receive ten times what Eretraya just received!” She looked at me and I saw a tear form in her eye. “I healed you enough to help, but Sebastian is expecting you tonight and will be suspicious if you’re healed any further.” Then she leaned in close so only I could hear. “I forgive you. Hang in there as long as you can. I’m working on a plan but my father is very upset with me right now and watching me closely. A week, maybe in a week…” She turned back to the shaking Gwendolyn. “See to it she’s well taken care of.” With that Arrowyn left.

“You heard the Mistress! Get moving all of you!” Suddenly I was moved to a bed and my wounds washed and healing salve was applied.

Shannon stayed close by overseeing my care since Gwendolyn conveniently disappeared. I was a little suspicious of Gwendolyn but it wasn’t something I could concentrate on at the moment. “I think she likes you.”

“Hmmm?”

“Arrowyn. I’m sure she likes you. I’ve never seen her take an interest in any one of us before. What did she whisper to you?”

I lied to Shannon. “It was directions for me seeing her tomorrow.” I still wasn’t sure I comprehended or interpreted what Arrowyn had said.

***

That evening I was led to Sebastian’s rooms. I’d considered running away, but I was in no condition earlier in the day. My clothing clung to my back, which was healing, but was still bleeding. Arrowyn’s healing helped a great deal towards reducing the pain. I bit my lip in anxious fear of what I was walking into. My stomach hurt and I realized I was acting more and more like a submissive female slave. I wasn’t broken yet, but I couldn’t keep this up much longer.

The guard knocked and opened the door, shoving me inside. I winced at the pain that erupted from my back. I stood there for a moment and considered diving out the window and ending my own life. My collar tingled in anticipatory warning.

“On your knees, slut!” Sebastian came from his bathing area and scowled at me with a mixture of lust and evil determination.

I dropped to my knees and whispered. “Yes, Master.”

“So compliant now I see. Did we break you that quickly?”

“Yes, Master.”

“Put your wrists together and hold them up.” Now I was getting far more worried. Sebastian roughly bound my wrists together. “I can’t have you thrashing about.” He pulled a bottle of some liquid and poured it over my back. It must have been some kind of alcohol or perhaps lamp fluid, regardless, the pain was excruciating as I yelled out and writhed on the floor. This time I almost passed out from the pain. I wished I had as I was roughly pulled back to a kneeling position.

I bowed my head and barely whispered. “Don’t hurt me anymore, Master. I’ll do anything you want.”

“What’s the fun in having a compliant slut?” He backhanded me across the face and drew his dagger placing it under my chin. “Kneel and pleasure me, girl!”

I almost whimpered as he stood in front of me and dropped his robe to the floor exposing his erect member. This was the ultimate humiliation. I closed my eyes and reached for him with my bound wrists. I cringed when I touched him, when I touched it. His hand roughly grabbed a handful of my hair and thrust my face forward. His other still held onto his dagger. I caught the gleam of light off of its blade.

I opened my mouth and with a feeling of disgust took his member into it. He slammed my head forward causing me to gag. I reacted by biting down with everything I had. I could feel my teeth cutting into his swollen member and the coppery taste of blood as it filled my mouth.

Sebastian screamed in pain as did I with the collar reacting instantly. Waves of pain swept through my body as I collapsed on the ground. Sebastian’s fury was frightening as he managed to stab me in my side before limping quickly towards the bathing area. I couldn’t even reach my side as the pain from the collar continued. Slowly it subsided and I spat out the blood in my mouth. There was no sign of Sebastian. I grabbed my side and struggled to reach the door. I opened it and fell through into the hallway beyond and crawled away as fast as I could.

It was then that Arrowyn found me. “Eretraya! I need to get you to my room.” She supported me as we rushed away from Sebastian’s room. Once inside her room she knelt beside me and this time poured her healing magic into me. I felt my side heal and my back knit together. Strength filled me again but she and I were both exhausted by it. She grabbed a dagger and cut my wrists loose and brought a cloth to wipe the blood from my face.

“I’m sorry, Eretraya. I wish I was stronger. What happened? I heard the screams.”

I told her and she offered a fearful smile. “Let’s hope you did enough damage he’ll think twice about raping someone else. Strip out of those clothes as they’re covered in blood.”

“Yes, my Mistress.”

Arrowyn had turned towards her closet, but when I had said what I did she turned back with wide eyes. “What did you say?” Her voice was soft.

“I said, yes, my Mistress.”

I stood there naked as she walked back towards me and placed a hand on my cheek. “I assume you’re unaware of our customs. By using the term ‘my’ you’ve said you belong to me. That you willingly give your life into my hands. Are you certain that’s what you’re implying? You’d be willing to serve me for the rest of your life?” Her eyes stared into mine.

I thought about that for a moment. If I was to be a female slave for the rest of my life, then there’s no one else I’d do that for. She’d shown compassion towards me and healed me. “Yes, my Mistress.”

She smiled as if knowing some secret. I felt as if a shift happened within me and the collar sent a small, almost pleasurable shock. “Come with me.” She led me into her closet and held up a nightgown in front of me. “Put this on.”

“Yes, my Mistress.” I slipped the short, sheer nightgown on and I watched her drop her clothing to the floor. I stood transfixed by her beauty. She put on another nightgown which caused me to sigh as I saw her beauty covered up.

“It’s late. Into bed with you.”

“Yes, my Mistress.” I headed towards the door to her room when she motioned towards her bed.

“Don’t get any ideas, Eretraya. You still need to heal more and I exhausted myself of my magic. We both need sleep.”

I climbed into her bed and she slipped in next to me and pulled the sheet up over us both.

***

We were both wakened when my ankle was grabbed and I was roughly dragged from the bed. By the time I realized what was happening, Sebastian had grabbed me by my throat and hit me hard with the hilt of a sword. I was stunned but otherwise alright. “Stay right there, slut!”

“Stop it! She’s mine now! You can’t touch her!” Arrowyn grabbed her dagger from her nightstand and rushed to my side protectively.

“That’s where you’re wrong, sis! Father knows all about you healing her. The matron told him of your visits. He’s livid and even considering throwing you into the dungeon for going against his orders. She’s…” he pointed the tip of his sword towards me. “She’s… going to die tonight.”

“Over my dead body!” Arrowyn brandished her dagger towards him.

“Have it your way, sis. Father will reward me. But, before I kill you, I always wondered what you taste like.”

I shifted a little from my spot and there was no warning from the collar. “Don’t touch my Mistress!” I dove at him but as soon as I touched him the pain flooded through my body and he just laughed at me while I rolled on the floor.

I watched in horror as he all but ignored me and struck with his sword. The added length of his blade giving him a significant advantage. His blade sliced her forearm and her blade clattered away towards me. Arrowyn clutched her forearm and looked desperate. My hand closed around the dagger’s hilt and I slowly got to my feet as I had an epiphany. “Order me to protect you, my Mistress.”

The light dawned on Arrowyn. “Protect me, Eretraya! Fight him! Kill him, if necessary!” I felt the tingle in my collar as it recognized a change in ownership and orders.

“What you just did, sis, is treason. You’ve released a prisoner, a known enemy, and commanded her to attack a Fae. You’ll die for that, sis.” He raised his sword to skewer Arrowyn just as I tackled him. I was smaller and lighter, but they’d made a mistake letting me keep my strength and skills. They wished me additional pain by knowing I could fight them, but not being able to. Now the tide had turned.

I slugged him hard and tried to slide the dagger into his heart, but he threw me off of him. I was back on my feet in a flash. I looked at Sebastian, there was blood on his pants and I smiled. I must have done a lot of damage. I feinted to the right as he swung a vicious blow that took chunks of wood from the bed post. I used the opening to kick up into his groin. The pain must have been great because he almost passed out and staggered back to the wall.

“You think pain stops me?” He was seething. Spittle was coming from his mouth. He took his fist and slammed it into his own groin multiple times. Through gritted teeth he yelled. “It only makes me stronger!”

He rushed forward and slashed back and forth driving me backwards. I’d fought so many Fae like this before. I’d forgotten what I was capable of and frightened of being a smaller female. I took a deep breath to center myself and watched Sebastian carefully and noted his weaknesses. With his next attack I made my move. I dove and rolled to the side as his blade passed harmlessly over me. I slashed upwards catching his sword arm across his bicep. I then made a series of rapid cuts and thrusts. I punctured his lung, cut his hamstring, and plunged the blade into his chest. He fell against the wall and dropped his sword. Blood escaped his mouth as he gasped for breath.

I looked at Arrowyn requesting permission but she shook her head. She grabbed his sword and knelt down beside him. “You were always a cruel and sadistic person. The Fae are better people than that. I’ve even begun to question if we as a race deserve to live at all. For your actions against me, and mine, I send you to a better place.” I watched in awe of Arrowyn’s strength and courage as she pushed his sword through his heart. She dropped the sword and began to cry.

“I’m sorry, my Mistress.”

“We’re both fugitives now. The Fae will hunt me and hunt us. Quickly, find us some travel clothing. We’re leaving immediately.”

In a flurry of activity we cleaned up as much as we could, changed into travel clothing that Arrowyn had in her closet, took some weapons, money, and food. I weighed Sebastian down and tossed him out of the window into the lake below. We knew it wouldn’t buy us much time.

In less than thirty minutes we were working our way down through the palace and into the city below. I carried what I could and walked quickly a pace or two behind Arrowyn. The city was quiet at this time of night. We stuck to the darker alleyways as we headed towards the dock. We were getting close when a guard making his rounds spotted us.

“Halt! State your purpose!”

Arrowyn pulled back her hood and the guard gasped and bowed. “My purpose is of no business of yours.”

I held a dagger hidden behind my back knowing I couldn’t attack unless it was to defend Arrowyn. She’d given it to me knowing I also couldn’t hurt her.

The guard bowed again and stepped aside. We continued working our way towards the dock. When we got there, everything was quiet and we had to rouse a boat owner who wasn’t pleased to be dragged from his bed. One look at the gold piece Arrowyn showed him and he was quick to get us on board and started for the northern shore.

An hour later we stood alone in the Fae’s northern forest as we watched the boat head back towards the island city and palace. “Where are we heading, my Mistress?”

I watched as her moist eyes focused on the palace. With a look of grim determination she turned to me. “West. We can move west passing beyond Mount Midyan to the Fae’s western palace. It was abandoned many years ago due to the war. We’re just stretched too thin these days to defend on two fronts.”

We hurried into the forest, careful to not leave any trace of our presence for the first few miles. We didn’t speak much until we rested for the first time late in the morning.

“May I ask you a question, my Mistress?”

“You may.”

“Why did you put yourself at risk for me?’

“Not all Fae are like my brother and my father, Eretraya. There was a time when humans and Fae were at peace with one another. You represented everything that we hated, but what we did to you…” She shivered. “It was wrong. We’re a better race than that. I have a theory about how all this started.”

“How the war started, my Mistress?”

“Yes. Remember when we went to Sayan?” I nodded suddenly feeling very remorseful. “I used scrying magic to peer into her memories. It was all very odd. We saw some things, but not others. Her mind had been erased, the memories lost.”

“But why? How?”

“When you were transformed, I asked you what you felt towards me. I even slapped you to make you hate me. Yet, your hatred had diminished. Did you feel something when you asked for forgiveness?”

“I did, my Mistress. I attributed that to my situation, or the female hormones that I now have.”

“Then why did I feel something too when I forgave you?” She didn’t wait for my response. “I believed the war was started because of a curse. A curse predominantly on men. A curse so powerful that humans and Fae hated each other so badly that war was the only natural recourse. When you were transformed into a woman, that hatred diminished. You still hated us for what we had done to you and the ravages of war, but you no longer wanted to hurt me.”

“I led many battles, my Mistress. I’m saddened about what I did and I’m repentant now. As for a reason, strategically if you could decimate two armies, a third army could come in and take over easily.”

“It’s a useful discussion, but it’s still just a theory. Come on, let’s get going.”

***

That night we found an out of the way opening in the forest and huddled together for warmth. We didn’t dare start a fire for fear of it attracting the Fae who, by now, would be looking for us. I wrapped a cloak around Arrowyn and pulled her against me. I was acutely aware of how I was feeling towards her but I knew she’d given up her life for me. She protected me. I was determined to protect her and care for her.

We didn’t speak as we shivered against each other. Her arms were wrapped around me and her head was on my shoulder. I felt the moisture from her eyes through my clothing. I leaned my head against hers and gently stroked her hair until she drifted off to sleep.

***

I barely slept that night as I tried to stay alert. I was stiff and sore from holding Arrowyn all night and I was thinking how if it wasn’t for the whole slave thing, I could enjoy this. In a way, being a slave was teaching me a great deal about focusing on another’s comfort, something I never really thought about. I stroked Arrowyn’s hair absentmindedly as she stirred with the first morning rays of light.

She looked up into my eyes. “By the gods, Eretraya, how can you look so beautiful after sleeping out here all night long? I’m jealous. You did sleep?”

I shook my head. “Not much, my Mistress. Too many years of watching over my shoulder has taught me to never take things for granted. Besides, it’s my job to protect you.”

“While I appreciate your devotion, we’re in this together. Tonight, we take turns keeping watch.”

“Yes, my Mistress.” I helped us both to our feet. “What are your commands for me, my Mistress? If we’re attacked by Fae, human, or wild beast?”

“We’ll stand and fight together. Whenever possible, we leave them alive. And Eretraya?”

“Yes, my Mistress?”

“You’ll not put your own life at risk for mine.”

“I’ve willingly put myself in your hands, my Mistress. Please don’t command me to this. I’m nothing but a slave and the only honor I can have is putting your life before my own.”

I saw her considering this. “I hate and love that damn collar around your neck.” I was confused by her saying that. “Fine.” She said it with a touch of frustration. “You can risk your life for mine. However, I reserve the right to do the same. Now that’s settled, let’s get something to eat.”

***

We travelled through the day continuing our westward direction. Several times we were forced further into the forest as roaming bands of Fae were visible. That evening I went through our belongings and raised a concern. “Our food supply is very low, my Mistress.”

“We had so little time to leave the palace. We don’t even have a bow to hunt game with. Tomorrow, I think we should head south towards the human kingdom. We can find an inn there.”

I was torn. I knew I couldn’t go into a Fae inn and get food for us and neither could Arrowyn as she’d be spotted right away. Neither could she go into a human inn. “If we do that, my Mistress, you’ll need to stay back as I go into the inn alone to buy food.”

“No! I won’t let you go in alone!” It was clear she wasn’t thinking this through.

“My Mistress, humans won’t serve you. I could go in and get food for us.”

She was obviously conflicted. “Have you seen yourself? By the gods, Eretraya, you’re the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen. You’ll be in danger the moment you step foot near a man. And you’re wearing a slave collar. That will raise suspicions.”

“If I can fight and defeat a Fae, my Mistress, I can also defend myself against a handful of humans. We need the food.”

“If you get hurt or raped, I’ll kill you myself.”

“Sit back, my Mistress.” She did, surprisingly. I slowly untied her boots and pulled them off. I knelt down and using a wet cloth gently washed her feet and then slowly massaged them. Arrowyn’s entire countenance softened as she relaxed. I could tell her feet were tender from all the walking. I had a hard time not staring at her body. “If I didn’t know any better, my Mistress, I’d almost think that you cared for me.” I said it with a smile and a lilt to my voice.

“Why you, ungrateful… disobedient… presumptuous…” She started laughing. “… beautiful… oh gods… I do care.”

“I don’t like this, my Mistress. You’re hunted by both the Fae and humans. I only want to see you happy and safe.”

“Who’s to say I’m not already happy? Admittedly I miss aspects of the palace and the city, but it was just as much my prison as it was yours. Out here, I’m free. I’m free from the hatred, the fighting, and being told what my place is. As for being safe. I’ve got the most skilled fighter in all the world by my side.”

“Then I pray to the gods that I can make you happy and keep you safe, my Mistress. You deserve that.”

“And what about you? Are you happy, Eretraya?”

“I’m content, my Mistress.”

“That’s not what I asked. Are you happy?”

I struggled to find the right words. “I’ve never been happy, my Mistress. I had expectations put upon me and from a very young age I was given the weight of our armies to manage. I’ve never known love. In some small way, this…” I looked down at myself and touched my collar. “…has given me a new perspective and removed much of the burden from my life. Being a slave, my options are limited, and somewhat comforting.”

“What would you do if you were free?”

“I know I’d not go back to war, my Mistress. I’m not sure what I’d do. I doubt my royal family would ever believe I was once who I was. Being with a man is such a foreign consideration and, at this point, frightening, that I doubt I would have a family. I guess if you forced me away from you, I’d find a place far away from everyone and live out my immortality.”

“That sounds so sad.”

“It is what it is, my Mistress. May I ask what your desires are for yourself? What outcome you envision for yourself?”

“I’d love to see our races united in peace once again. To be able to freely walk this world and not fear Fae or Human, or even my own family and father would be such a blessing. I doubt I could do like you and live isolated the rest of my life. I want to find love and to know I’ve got someone to care for and to care for me. Perhaps I could live fairly happily with you rubbing my feet every night.”

With that we snuggled together for warmth and I was strangely comforted by the fact that Arrowyn held me all night instead of the other way around.

***

I was surprised when I woke to find it morning already and Arrowyn still holding me. I was a little shocked she hadn’t awakened me for my time to watch. “You didn’t wake me, my Mistress.”

“I didn’t have the heart to and I felt you needed the sleep. Besides, I had a lot of thinking to do and you’ll need your strength today in case we get into any trouble.”

My lips were almost against her neck and I was so tempted to kiss her. I pulled away and helped us both to our feet.

It was almost dark when we finally spotted an inn. I wrapped a cloth around my neck to cover my collar and made sure the dagger I had was quickly accessible. Arrowyn hugged me, which scared me a little. “At the first sign of trouble, run.”

“I’ll be fine, my Mistress.”

I turned and walked to the front entrance of the inn and was surprised that I did feel a little trepidation. My experience with Sebastian was something I never wanted to repeat. When I opened the door my senses were assaulted by smells of strong ale, smoke, and food. My stomach growled, but I stood in place letting my eyes adjust to the low light. About a dozen men stared open-mouthed towards me. The looks they gave me were downright frightening.

I squeezed my way towards the owner who was standing behind a wooden bar and wiping clean some mugs. I had a bold idea and asked the owner for a room, bath, hot food for a night and food for a week.

“That’ll be one silver miss. I’m sure I can arrange a free stay and food if you care to indulge me or one of the patrons.”

I handed him the silver. “I like to keep to myself. Can you show me to my room and bring the food to me in a little while?”

“It’ll be a few minutes for the bath to be drawn and the room made up. Sit here for now and I’ll let you know when it’s ready.”

I sighed and looked around the room. There were few spaces I could sit and everyone had been watching me in earnest. They must have overheard the owner as they pushed and shoved to make space for me. I squeezed through the aisles and found a spot next to a wall but also next to a very large brute of a man.

“What’s your name, girl? You here to keep us warm tonight?”

“My name’s Shannon. It looks like you have plenty of your friends to keep you warm tonight.” I was pleased I wasn’t compelled to say Master.

He leered at me and reached to grab my backside. My dagger was at his throat before his next heartbeat. “You’ll keep your hands to yourself lest you lose them.”

He laughed. “You’re nothing but a slave girl. I see your collar poking through that cloth. You can act tough all you want, but you know you’re no match for me.” He went to reach for my breast.

“My Master would kill you if you touched me and I’m trained to defend myself.”

He hesitated. “And who might your master be that I should be so afraid.”

“Our Prince.”

“Ellis Sandhaven?” He laughed. “He was lost in the last battle. That means you’re free to be claimed.”

“I’m a very recent acquisition of his and I know that he’s alive and well. He told me how he was trapped by the Fae when several of his scouts sold out for gold. He fought his way out but found himself in Fae lands where he stumbled across me and freed me. He’s very near, even now, but chooses to stay away from the public until he can be sure to return to the palace and find those that have sold out to the Fae. If they knew he was alive, they would leave before he could deliver justice.”

“That’s an interesting story, girl. But why send you in here for a room?”

“As you can see, I’m dirty from our travels.” I blushed brightly. “He prefers me to be clean when he beds me.”

Luckily for me the owner came by and led me to my room. I was pleased it was on the first floor and had a window. I thanked the owner and locked the door, turned to the window, opened it, and climbed out and ran to Arrowyn.

“By the gods, Eretraya, I was so worried for you. Did you get the food?”

“Better than that, my Mistress. How would you like a hot meal, a bath, and a soft bed for the night?” She looked at me with bewildered eyes. I grabbed her hand and led her back to the window and helped her inside. I watched her look at the hot bath, the bed, and the hot food and I could see her eyes were moist.

She pulled me to her and kissed my cheek. “Thank you! I’m not sure where to start first.”

“Why don’t you start in the bath, My Mistress? I can bring you food while you’re in there.”

“You could join me in the bath, Eretraya.” She blushed slightly.

It wasn’t an order so I could say no even though I wanted to join her. “As tempting as that is, my Mistress, my getting a room and food was not without incident. It’s imperative I stay watching and be prepared for any situation that might occur.”

She scowled. “Did someone touch you? I’ll kill them!”

Warmth rose within me at her protective feelings. “A man saw my collar and demanded I sleep with him. I’m sorry, my Mistress, but I lied to him saying I was owned by our Prince and made up a story as to why he didn’t want to be seen right now. I’m not sure he believed my story and the way he looked at me with such lust I fear I must remain on guard. In a way, my Mistress, I feel I’ve dishonored you by saying I belonged to someone else.”

“Take my sword and keep it near. You didn’t dishonor me, Eretraya. You did this for me. How could I feel other than proud of you? The hot water calls to me.” With that she began stripping and she knew my eyes were upon her. I could see her smile at my response. Once in the bath, I placed her sword close at hand and thought about how slaves served their masters. I wanted Arrowyn to be treated well and as I was her slave forever, I also wanted to learn to serve her the best I could.

I turned towards her and knelt beside the bath. I bent my head down demurely. “May I please serve you some wine, my Mistress?”

I felt her fingers under my chin gently lifting until my eyes met hers. “What’s come over you, Eretraya?”

“Knowing I’m yours, my Mistress, and that I’m yours forever, I should at least try to learn how to serve you properly.” I could tell she was confused.

“If I wanted a perfect servant girl, I would have brought with me one that had never been free before. You don’t need to perform a special way to please me. I’d love some wine.”

Knowing she was watching me, I did my best to present myself in such a way that elicited a warm response from her. I leaned over the table of food, exposing the backs of my thighs and calves to her. I reached for the wine and carefully poured a glass. I wiped the rim carefully and tasted it before moving back to the bath, kneeling down, and holding the glass for her. I heard Arrowyn sigh and take the glass.

I looked at Arrowyn and realized she looked stiff and sore and her neck muscles were hurting her. “Let me help you, my Mistress.” She cocked an eyebrow at me but said nothing as I knelt behind her and began massaging her neck and shoulders. Her skin was so soft and she let out a slight moan of pleasure. She tipped her head back towards mine.

“Kiss me.”

“Of course, my Mistress.” She turned her head back away from mine.

“No. Not as a directed order of a slave. As a lover would.”

I moved around to be at her side. I reached out gently and caressed her cheek with my fingers. Her head leaned into my hand. I stared at her full lips but I also knew my position. I sought her eyes and found them imploring me. Hesitantly I leaned forward and brushed my lips against hers, my fingers involuntarily running through her long hair. I pulled away, my lips on fire and my body flush with warmth. She reached for me and pressed her lips against mine.

When we pulled away, she smiled. “Well, this changes things. I’m frightened.”

“Of what, my Mistress?”

“That if I release you, you’ll leave me.”

I sought her eyes. Had I fallen for Arrowyn? What would I do if I was suddenly released from slavery? I could rejoin the human race, but to what end. No one would ever believe I’d once been Prince Ellis. My looks would draw men like flies and with no heritage, no money, no life, I’d not have a life. Of all the craziness in the world, could I possibly fall in love with a Fae?

“I’ll not leave you, my Mistress. I’m not sure what stirs in my heart yet, but by the gods I struggle with your nearness.” I lowered my head in guilty admission. “I’d rather be your slave for all eternity than to risk not seeing you every day. To not smell your hair when I wake. To not protect you.”

She reached up and placed her hands on the collar around my neck. I could feel her magic flow and the collar fell from my neck. “You’re free, Eretraya.”

I looked in stunned silence at the collar on the ground. Tears fell from my eyes at the gift she had just given me. “That’s more than anyone has ever done for me, Arrowyn. I owe you a life debt.” I picked up the collar and held it up between us. “I’m willing to wear this if I can stay near you.”

“I want you to stay with me, but not as a slave. You must be willing on your own accord. Gods, I love how my name sounds on your tongue. I never like being called Mistress.”

I tossed the collar to the side and wrapped my arms around Arrowyn and wept. I was still stuck as a young woman, but I was no longer a slave. I was also not the same person I once was. “Thank you. I pray you’ll never regret what you’ve done for me.”

“My only regret, Eretraya, is that I didn’t do it sooner.”

I fed Arrowyn some food and helped her wash her hair before she climbed out of bath and into a waiting towel I held for her. “You don’t have to serve me anymore, you’re not a slave.”

“At first, I served you because I had to. Now, I serve you because I want to.”

She dropped the towel to the ground and walked towards me. “Do I do nothing for you?”

I was incredibly aroused, but knowing a hulking beast of a man was in the room next door, fearful of being touched that way after what Sebastian had done to me, and realizing I hadn’t bathed in a week kept me from reaching out to her. “Arrowyn, I…”

“There’s no need, Eretraya. I can see it in your eyes. A mixture of longing and fear. I’ll not give up on you. Why don’t you have a bath while the water is still warm? I’ll watch out for us.”

“I don’t want you to ever think I don’t want to be with you, it’s just…”

Arrowyn quieted me with a light kiss. “When you’re ready, I’ll be here, whenever that might be.”

I stripped knowing that she was watching my every movement. Climbing into the bath I smiled at the luxurious warmth. I washed quickly not wanting to leave Arrowyn unprotected long. I felt her hands on my shoulders and back. Her touch was so soft and gentle. She helped me wash my hair then held out a towel for me. I was touched by her kindness.

I had just changed back into my clothes when the door burst open. The man from the table rapidly shut the door behind him. “As I suspected, you lied to me!” He pointed at Arrowyn. “She’s Fae! I’ll kill her then you’ll be mine.” He drew his sword and I had Arrowyn’s sword in mine and leapt between them.

“If you know what’s good for you, you’ll leave now. She’s mine and you’ll not touch her.”

He gave a deep throated laugh and lunged for me. I parried his attack. “Lucky hit, girl.”

He swung viciously at my midsection but he was stunned when my sword blocked his solidly and flashed back slicing across his chest. He roared and tried to tackle me but I lithely dodged him, throwing a fist into his face. He went down hard.

I quickly removed his belt and bound his hands behind his back. Arrowyn helped me remove his boots and we made a makeshift gag from his sock and shirt and tied it securely around his head.

“We need to collect our things and food. It looks like our comfortable stay is being cut short. I have an idea though.”

Arrowyn placed both hands on my face and kissed me. “I like being yours. You’re an incredible fighter.” I helped her collect our things and sneak out the window.

“I’ll meet you soon.”

I left the sword with Arrowyn and strapped her dagger to my side. Grabbing the man by the scruff of his shirt I dragged him back into the main hall in front of the owner. “Is this the protection and comfort you offer those who stay here? You give him a key to my room to have his way with me?” I was shouting for all to hear. “Where are his belongings? By right, they are forfeit!”

“You did this to him?”

The man at my feet began to stir and I slugged him again knocking him out once again. “When our rulers hear about this inn and how you allowed one of its own citizens to be attacked while under your protection, I’ll be pleased when this place is burned to the ground.”

The owner put up his hands. “He has a horse in the stable. I’ll have my boy collect his things and ready the horse. I urge you not to share what has transpired here.”

Fifteen minutes later I rode to Arrowyn’s side and helped her up behind me onto the back of the horse. We now had a pocketful of money, extra supplies, another sword, and a bow. “Let’s get moving. Once he comes to and tells them a Fae was in the inn, they’ll all come out to find us.”

“You’re a wonder, Eretraya.” She wrapped her arms around me and we galloped off into the night.

***

Many miles away a man in a robe and with a wooden staff screamed angrily. His curse had had been steadily weakening. The only reason he could think this was happening was because a Fae and a Human willingly chose to rise above the curse and forgive each other. If his plans were to succeed he’d need to strengthen the curse or, perhaps it was time…

***

We avoided the inns and moved northwards again to travel the border between Fae and Human lands. This was marginally safer for us and with the horse we made good time towards Mount Midyan. It had been three days since we stopped at the inn and now the largest mountain in the region stood before us. Passes led around the mountain far to the north and south. A storm was rolling in towards us.

“Which way should we go?”

I looked up at the steep slopes of the mountain and spotted what looked like a cave. “I’m afraid up is the only protection we may find from the storm.” I turned the horse and we started up the mountain.

It wasn’t long before we were being lashed by the storm. Rain mixed with snow was pelting us and the path upwards became too steep for the horse to maneuver with us on its back. From here on out we were on foot leading the horse. It took another hour to reach the outcropping I spied from below and we quickly led the horse under the shelter of the rock to get out of the wind. The outcropping gave way to a tunnel that led deep into the mountain.

Torches were strewn at the entrance and Arrowyn used her magic to light one on fire. The tunnel was large, tall, and wide, easily capable of walking several horses side by side, but our horse wanted nothing of the dark forbidding tunnel. “We have to leave her here.”

Arrowyn stroked the horse’s side. “Maybe we should stay with her until the storm subsides?”

“She’ll stay where it’s protected. I say we leave her here untethered and we can explore the cave. It’s clear people have been here before. There may be something we can use inside. If anything happens to us, she’ll forage for food on her own.”

Arrowyn grabbed another torch and we took most of our belongings in a pack. She took my hand and we walked deeper into the cave. “How long do you think it will take to reach the far side of the mountain?”

“A week. Assuming the storm dies down soon, we could get an early start tomorrow but the passes are long and arduous.”

She squeezed my hand. “I’m looking forward to a comfortable bed.”

I looked ahead into the darkness of the cave and our torches reflected back and dull metallic glint. “What is that?” The tunnel had given way to a larger circular cavern and in its center something was sticking up from the cavern floor.

“It looks like the hilt of a sword.”

We carefully moved to the sword hilt and noticed the blade had been embedded into the rock. I reached out and touched the hilt and pulled but it wouldn’t budge. I felt Arrowyn’s hand on mine as I tried again and I felt a magical spark as the long blade slipped free of the stone. I held the blade upright and looked at the carefully crafted black metal. “I’ve never seen a blade like this before.”

“We should turn back. I’m sensing something not right about this place.”

We were near the entrance to the tunnel when I felt Arrowyn begin to relax. I felt the warmth of her hand in mine and started to consider what my life would be without her. I’d been so focused on getting away from the inn and keeping guard that I’d not stopped to consider what Arrowyn had truly done for me or what she had become to me. I paused and carefully placed our torches down. I knelt at Arrowyn’s feet and took both her hands in mine. “This is a crazy world we find ourselves in and I’ve never been so grateful to anyone or for anyone as much as I have you. You set me free and yet I feel more bound to you than ever before. I pledge to you my immortal heart, my Arrowyn.” I emphasized the word ‘my’. I wasn’t sure if it carried the same connotation as it did before.

Arrowyn’s breath caught. “My Eretraya.” She pulled me to my feet and kissed me passionately.

“Oh how touching! So it’s the two of you that have weakened my curse.”

Arrowyn stepped towards the man. “Ecobar! What are you doing here? I’m not going back.”

“That’s for certain, Princess. At least not alive. Oh, I see you freed your little slave girl. Who would have thought that punishing this one by turning him into a girl would cause such commotion? You realize that the entire Fae community is hunting you for murdering Sebastian? What did the King tell me? Oh yes, that he’d start by cutting off her fingers and toes, then ears, and finally burning out her eyes one at a time. He’d then have me fully restore her so he can do it all over again. All while you watch. Then, he’ll collar you both and give you to his sons.”

I raised the dark sword and pointed it at Ecobar.

“Nicely done you two. I haven’t seen that blade for more than a hundred years. It could only be removed from the stone by Fae and human hands working together. You see, I forged that sword with the blood of Fae and human kings. It empowered the curse. Then all I needed to do was to fan the flames of hatred. Sayan proved to be a perfect tool for this purpose. I kidnapped her, raped her myself, and let her be discovered in the human castle.”

“So it was you that changed her memories. Ellis’ grandfather never kidnapped her or raped her?”

Ecobar shrugged.

I brandished the sword towards him but he stayed firmly in place, unconcerned. “You started a war and tens of thousands of humans and Fae have died. You did this to me.” I moved a hand down my body. “You turned me into a female slave and I was raped because of what you have done.”

“I’ve done more than that. Yrchs have been building an army for the past hundred years. They are now poised to attack the Fae then will complete their task by eliminating the remainder of the human race. A half breed will rule them all and the world will see a new era.”

“You filthy animal!” I launched myself at him but his magic whipped out at me burning my side and tossing me out of the way. I crashed into the tunnel wall and lay stunned, unable to move for a moment. I watched horrified as Ecobar launched a fireball at Arrowyn. A blue shield appeared before her but it was clear it wouldn’t hold long.

“Run Eretraya! I can hold him for a short time only.”

I got to my feet and staggered further into the cave. I’d lost the sword into the darkness and I needed to find something. I wouldn’t leave her there to be captured or killed. A rock, stick, anything. I heard their fighting echo through the darkness and I cursed myself. The darkness quickly grew so thick I couldn’t see anything. I was about to run back when my eye caught a glint of something to my right. I reached out and felt the hilt of the sword. I heard Arrowyn scream and Ecobar’s laughter. No. Gods no. I couldn’t let him have her. I had to save her.

I ran back just as Arrowyn’s shield faltered and a blast of red fire hit her. “No!” I lunged and drove the point of the sword through Ecobar’s back. He dropped his staff and collapsed to the ground as I rushed to Arrowyn’s side. I held her in my arms and stroked her face. She was alive, but barely.

“Don’t leave me, my Arrowyn. Stay with me.”

She spoke in a raspy ragged voice. “I need Fae healing…”

It was all she said before she lapsed into unconsciousness. I knew what I needed to do. I’d be put to death, or worse, but at least Arrowyn would have a chance at survival. I carefully lifted her and put her up onto our horse, securing her and wrapping a blanket around her. I then ran back into the cave and took Ecobar’s staff, the dark sword, and his signet ring. I lashed those to the horse and led it with Arrowyn riding on top to the bottom of the mountain. There I climbed up behind Arrowyn and held her tight as we rode quickly northeast into Fae lands.

We’d ridden through the day and night and just as the morning light was forming around us we came across a band of Fae guards. I shouted to them and I dismounted and gently lifted Arrowyn to the ground. “Your princess needs your healing magic.” Two guards pushed me back up against a tree and held me there with their swords to my throat. Four others looked after Arrowyn and used their magic to stabilize her. I was praying to the gods she’d be all right and hadn’t noticed the tears that had formed on my cheeks.

“You have a nerve coming back here. You and that traitorous sister of mine.” I looked up into Caiaphas’ face.

“Listen to me please, Lord. I’m sorry about Sebastian, but he was going to kill Arrowyn, but more than that, Ecobar is dead. He did this to Arrowyn. He has raised an Yrch army that is coming to attack the Fae. The war between the humans and Fae was set in place by a curse he made. He was the one that kidnapped and raped Sayan.”

Caiaphas backhanded me across the face. “Lying whore! We turn back to the palace.”

***

It took two days of hard riding to return to the palace. Arrowyn was weak but slowly recovering. Once again I found myself kneeling in front of the Fae King. Arrowyn had been taken elsewhere in the palace and I feared for her life.

The King glowered at me before he spoke. “Caiaphas has told me your insane story, girl. It’s a shame Ecobar is not here to properly collar you again. The reason you’re not dead or being tortured right now is that we need you strong enough to survive the scrying.” He waved and Arrowyn was led in. A guard was on either side of her. When her eyes locked onto mine I was shaken by the love that spoke through them.

The King stood and glared at Arrowyn then placed his hand on my head. The pain was intense and I screamed as my memories were torn from me to be put on display for all to see. They started with Sebastian’s rape of me, his death, our escape, my pledge to Arrowyn, and Ecobar’s betrayal. When the searing pain subsided I collapsed on the cold marble floor. Arrowyn tore herself from the guards grasp and fell on top of me weeping.

I was vaguely aware of the King pacing back and forth contemplatively. “Send scouts to our northern border. I need to confirm the threat of this Yrch army! Arrowyn! Get up!”

“I will not leave Eretraya’s side, father. Enslave us both, kill us both, but I’ll fight to stay with her as she has done for me. She willingly risked her life to save mine. Does that not mean anything to you?”

“Bring me the dark sword!” Caiaphas bowed his head and handed the King the sword we’d found in the cave. I was slowly recovering and could look up to watch what was happening. “Stand, both of you.” Arrowyn, still weak helped me stagger to my feet. She held onto me as the King held out the sword and looked at it. He handed it to me hilt first. “Take it.”

I didn’t know what game he was playing but I was in no place to argue. He gripped the blade with his hand and raised the tip to his heart. Caiaphas stepped forward. “Father! No!” The King put up his hand.

“Go ahead, Eretraya. You once said you wanted to kill me. Now’s your chance.”

I turned the sword around and extended it hilt first back to the King. “I’ve no wish to be a further pawn in a war that should have never happened, Lord. I only have two desires. That Arrowyn be free and that the Yrch hordes are stopped from wiping out the Fae and humans alike. I’m deserving of death for the part I’ve played in harming the Fae. Do with me as you see fit.”

The King held the sword horizontally and with a scowl of anger broke the blade over his knee. “Until we receive verification of the Yrch army, you’re both to remain under house arrest.”

Caiaphas struggled to contain his anger. “You can’t be serious, father.”

“It appears we’ve all been pawns. Did Ellis Sandhaven deserve his punishment? Perhaps, but no more than the rest of us. He paid the price for Ecobar’s doing and yet he was unwilling to raise a sword against me. Arrowyn is my only daughter and you yourself saw what Sebastian was about to do. He violated our laws. Arrowyn and Eretraya have pledged themselves to each other and as such, according to Fae laws, they are now one. Whatever punishment I give to one I must also give the other. Guards escort them to Arrowyn’s rooms and send some slaves to attend them. You’re not to let them out but you are to treat them as Fae royalty until I decree otherwise.”

When we got back to Arrowyn’s rooms she threw her arms around me and kissed me. “You save my life by putting yourself at risk. I can never repay you.”

I stroked Arrowyn’s hair and kissed her back. “It’s hard for me to fathom that for all the pain and suffering I’ve been through in the last days and weeks, that I’ve never been happier. Is what your father said true? Are we now one according to Fae laws? Will you now suffer for my crimes against the Fae people?”

“We’re one and I’ll happily accept any fate as long as I’m with you.”

A knock came at the door and Shannon with two other slave women were let inside. Shannon glanced at me and smiled. “What would my Mistresses have of us?”

Arrowyn surprised me a little by her response. “Please, while in the privacy of my rooms, you don’t need to call either of us mistress. We need a bath drawn and some food.”

“Yes, Lady.” Shannon tipped her head and turned to organize the requests when I stopped her.

“Shannon?”

“Yes, Lady?”

“As far as I know, I’m still one of you. You took care of me and were so kind. Thank you.”

Shannon smiled. “We’ll be ready to help you both in the bath in a few minutes.”

Arrowyn laughed. “No one touches my Eretraya but me. Once the bath is ready, please return to your quarters.”

Shannon winked at me. “As you wish, Lady.”

When Shannon and the other two ladies left Arrowyn led me into the bathing area. “I think Shannon likes you, Eretraya, but I’m not planning on sharing you.”

I smiled, not knowing what our fate might be still weighed heavily on me. “You must be feeling better if you’re jealous.”

“Who knows how long we have access to these luxuries? A hot bath, good food, a warm soft bed… You realize we haven’t consummated our joining yet?”

I opened my mouth to say something but it was shut by Arrowyn’s lips and tongue. She gently pushed me up against the wall and began kissing my face and neck. Her hands touched me in places that she knew would elicit powerful responses. I would have begged for her to continue had she stopped, but the gods smiled in favor on me and she didn’t. Layer by layer my clothing was deftly removed and Arrowyn’s lips found new places to kiss. When Arrowyn dropped her gown I held my breath against her incredible beauty as she led me into the bath.

Her hands and lips never stopped caressing me and soon I was writhing in her embrace. Her thigh slipped between my legs and she rocked me back and forth against her. My entire body was on fire with desire. I had no idea a woman’s body could feel this way. As a man I’d have a surge of passion followed by an explosive need to unleash myself, but as a woman every kiss and touch increased the passion within my entire body. Layer by layer passion was added. This was the ultimate in love making, to feel one’s entire body yearning and craving the other. I gripped Arrowyn tightly as I screamed out in heavenly bliss. It took several minutes for my body to stop shaking and yet, unlike a man, my body was building again and craving more.

Arrowyn smiled into our kiss as she continued to make love to me. Feeling a need to return the caresses, I spun Arrowyn around and held her from behind. One hand caressed her breasts while the other wrapped around her body and my fingers slid easily between her legs. My lips began kissing her exposed neck and shoulders. Her hand gently caressed mine and guided my fingers inside her. Her body began rocking back up against mine in rhythm to the movements of my hand between her legs. My other hand’s fingers found her erect nipples and gently squeezed. She tipped her head and for a moment our lips and tongues met. Her hand squeezed mine and held it there as she shuddered and moaned against me.

“Mmmm. I’m not finished with you yet.” She whispered into my ear as she nibbled on my earlobe. Taking my hand she led me out of the bath and proceeded to dry us both with towels. Once dry, she took me to the bed and lay me down. She stretched out on top of me, her lips and tongue seeking mine hungrily. For a brief moment I wondered if all Fae had so much sexual desire. Once again Arrowyn began kissing my neck and body. Her lips gently found each nipple one by one and lightly pulled and sucked on them. I was moaning and felt I could orgasm just by the intense feelings of her sucking my nipples alone. “I want to taste you, my love.”

Her lips moved lower and down across my stomach. I’d never felt so emotionally bound by every touch and kiss. When her lips found my vagina and her tongue slipped between my wet folds, I believed nothing in the afterlife could ever compare. I arched my back and my hips moved in rhythm of their own volition against Arrowyn’s tongue. My hands clasped my breasts and squeezed my nipples as I closed my eyes at the gloriousness of the moment. Her tongue pushed deep inside me then twirled lightly around my most sensitive spot overloading my passions and causing yet another wave of powerful orgasm that swept throughout my body for several minutes.

This moment solidified in me that I no longer missed being a man and that I would be forever happy in this incredible female body. Arrowyn climbed back up my body and kissed me letting me taste the sweetness of my own juices, inflaming my desire to taste her.

It was at least an hour later that we fell into a hungry but well satisfied embrace. “Arrowyn, I have no desire to be anywhere but near you. I love you.”

“It’s a good thing that I love you too because it would be a very long immortal life being with someone that didn’t love me. As long as we are in Fae realms, our fates are tied together. My father cannot break the Fae laws that bind us. Punishing you means punishing me the same way. We’ll be banished, enslaved, tortured, or killed together. I killed my brother when I could have spared his life and I protected a sworn enemy of the Fae. For either of these crimes we can be found guilty. My father must be struggling with a decision. Sebastian was not well loved within our family because of his cruelty, but family is still family. Let’s eat and then I think we may want some needed sleep.”

***

It had been two days we had been locked up in Arrowyn’s rooms, but that suited us both fine. The bath and bed were both well used and every time I was amazed at how our love making brought me to new heights of pleasure. Arrowyn was insatiable, a trait I found perfectly in alignment with my desires.

We heard nothing from the King until we were summoned the afternoon of the second day. We arrived at the throne room flanked by two guards. A scout had just arrived and was bowing towards the King that asked for his report.

“We travelled north as quickly as we could and reached Craven’s Ridge overlooking the northern plains. In the far distance we spotted them. Thousands upon thousands of Yrchs. They’re moving slowly but definitely heading our way. I suspect they will reach the eastern lake meadows in just over a week’s time.”

“We’re down to a thousand fighting men. The war has decimated our armies.”

“If I may speak, Lord.” I took a chance we were there to confirm the truth of the threat and no immediate punishment awaited us. He nodded towards me. “Both our races are in danger due to a curse and our own lust for war. Riding fast I can reach the human castle and garrisons in two days. I might find it difficult to explain who I am or prove that the threat exists, but I believe with the curse broken there is a chance. I had five thousand troops at my beck and call. Together we can defeat the Yrchs. If you agree, then after the battle and I’m still alive, I’ll willingly submit myself back into your hands for whatever punishment awaits me.”

“Awaits us.” Arrowyn added.

“How do I know you’re not using this as a chance to run and escape?”

Arrowyn and I had much opportunity to talk over the past few days and while we had travelled together. I was aware of a blood oath the Fae would make. “I’m willing to make a blood oath to you, Lord.”

Arrowyn looked a little shocked but took my arm in hers and raised her chin towards her father. “We will both make a blood oath to you, father.”

“You’re both willing to be put to death for violating your oath?”

I looked at Arrowyn. Her eyes sparkled and confirmed what we needed to do. “We will. Our oath that we will do everything in our power to bring Mortal humans in aid of the Fae kingdom against a common enemy and that after the battle is won we will submit ourselves into your hands for your judgement on our crimes.”

The King pulled out his dagger and handed it to me. The symbolism was that I drew my own blood using the King’s possession; in other words, I was saying my life blood is owed to the King. In the Fae world there were few higher oaths. I cut my hand and handed the dagger to Arrowyn who did likewise. After speaking a few words ratifying the oath, we were now bound to our word.

“You’ll take four guards with you and this…” The King handed me his sword. “You’ll require something of mine as a show of faith. I’m not sure how you’ll convince your people who you are.” His eyes moistened as he looked at Arrowyn. He did have a heart, at least for his daughter. “Protect her.”

“With my life.”

By the time we reached Arrowyn’s apartment Shannon and other ladies were there preparing food and clothing for our journey. It was only a matter of changing and finding our way to the docks where a boat was waiting to take us to the southern shore. There we mounted horses and Arrowyn and our guards raced south into the Mortal realm.

We rode on into the night trying our best to make up time, but we kept running into more and more humans that delayed our journey. I directed our group to head towards an inn where some of my men liked to stay. When we reigned in our horses the stable boy all but fainted at the sight of Fae this far south into the human realm. “It’s all right.” I tried to calm the boy. “We’re here on a peaceful but urgent mission.”

I asked Arrowyn and the others to stay out of the inn for the moment. As before, when I stepped into the inn the place became silent. I was an imposing figure before but I could never silence a room like I could now. The reasons were a little different, but the effect was still startling to me. I scanned the room and of the six fighters, four were direct reports of mine. “General Matais.” I stated it boldly so everyone could hear. “I’d like a private word with you.”

Some of the other men laughed. “How much did you pay this one, General?”

The General stood and I looked up into his eyes realizing the last time we spoke it was the opposite with me being taller. “What is it you want, Miss? I’m busy here.”

“It has to do with Ellis Sandhaven. He’s alive.” The room suddenly stood. “Please, I need to speak with you alone first.”

“What you speak to me you can speak to all of these men as well.”

“My information is valuable to the entire Mortal realm.”

The General sneered. “So you want money. I should have figured.”

“No money. Just your oath to stand down and hear me out.”

“Stand down from what?”

“From my people outside. We’re here in peace and I’ll not stand for any bloodshed tonight.”

The General laughed at me. “Who do you think you are to order me around like that, little lady?”

I leaned out the door and whispered to Arrowyn. She put the King’s sword in my hand. Still blocking the door I raised the sword before the General. “I’m Ellis Sandhaven and I request passage to my father, Harold Sandhaven. This sword belongs to the Fae King, given to me for this errand of critical importance to our two races.”

He just laughed in my face. “A thief maybe. A whore that’s looking for money, probably. But Ellis Sandhaven?”

I sighed grabbed him by his shirt collar and lifted him off the ground before setting him gently down. The other men reached for their weapons. I put up my hand. “Ask me any question only you and Ellis would know. Humor me.”

“On the day we lost Ellis in battle, I asked Ellis a question. What was it?”

“You asked if I would lead the army as normal. I replied telling you that I trained my whole life to fight the Fae and I wasn’t going to stop now in one of the most decisive battles of our time.” That caused him to pause. “Please, bear with me. Sheath your weapons. You want proof, I’ll give it to you.” I leaned out the door and called for Arrowyn. When she stepped inside the entire inn started to shout. The General started to draw his sword but I held it firm with my hand. “She means you no harm. This is Arrowyn, Princess of the Fae.”

“I come in peace in a very dark time. This person beside me is Ellis Sandhaven. If you give me a chance, I can prove it to you.”

“We’re listening.”

I looked at Arrowyn and nodded. “Arrowyn will use scrying magic to show you my memories. It’s rather painful and what you’ll see is not pretty. Don’t judge, just watch.” Arrowyn placed her hand on my head and in moments the pain lashed through my body. The memory she selected was of me being judged by the King and sentenced. Ecobar was visible and the red light, then my smaller hands. It was all Arrowyn felt I could stand and she stopped the scrying. The room once again was in stunned silence. I staggered to my feet. “Please, hear out my story.”

It was two hours later and after many questions that we were invited to finally sit and the Fae guards were allowed in. General Matais looked me over carefully as we quickly rested and ate. “There’s no going back? You can’t be changed into Ellis again?”

I shook my head. “The one person that could change me back is now dead. I’ve come to accept my fate and my new life with Arrowyn.”

“You and Arrowyn?”

“We’re recognized by Fae laws as one. However, that also means we’re to be punished as one. The Fae King has yet to decree our punishment for killing his son.”

“You realize as a woman you’ll never inherit your rightful place as our King?”

“My time as a slave and a woman has taught me much, old friend. I’ve no desire for the responsibilities of a kingdom. I’ll be happy to live my life somewhere secluded, assuming our punishment allows for that.”

“You’ve warned us of the threat. You could go anywhere.”

“We’ve given a blood oath to return and meet our fate.”

“What would you have us do?”

“It will take too long for me to prove who I am to my father. Tell him I’m alive and that I’m helping the Fae against the Yrchs. The Yrchs can only be stopped if we combine forces. Convince him to send out troops and lead them to the meadows on the eastern shores of Lake Mead. Split the forces in half, one half attacking from the east. Circle the other half around behind the Yrchs to attack them from the north.”

“It would take four days, maybe five. According to what you’ve told me, the Fae would need to hold for a day or longer until we arrived.”

“You handle getting the Mortal forces in place and I’ll return to fight alongside the Fae.”

General Matais rose and extended his hand. I stood and clasped his hand in my now much smaller one. “We’ll ride now to meet your father.”

“And we’ll head back to the Fae realm.”

I watched as he turned to his men. “Mount up.” He turned back towards me. “You know, Ellis, or Eretraya, you look much better as a woman than you ever did as a man.” He then turned to Arrowyn. “Ellis was the best of us. Look after him.”

“I will.”

The inn quickly emptied as General Matais and his men raced towards my father and we turned back north.

***

It was late two nights later that we arrived back at the palace. The place was buzzing with activity and servants were scurrying from place to place getting the soldiers ready. Most were already staged in the meadows. We headed straight to the King.

“We believe our journey was a success. My men listened and believed and were heading back to recruit the Mortal army to come to our aid.”

“Why didn’t you go with them?”

“My story is difficult to believe. They will tell the King that Ellis Sandhaven is still alive and about the new threat. Had I gone it may have been hard for the King to believe or that he may feel no desire to come to your aid in retaliation for what was done to me. This way I can fight with the Fae and they’ll come. I know they’ll come.”

“How long until they arrive?”

“Two or three days.”

“The Yrchs will be here tomorrow. Arrowyn, you will stay here in the palace for the battle.”

“No, father. My place is with Eretraya. I’m the best archer in the Fae realm and I’m a good healer. You need everyone.”

He frowned. “No heroics, Arrowyn. If the situation gets bad you retreat. I’ll not lose you. There is a ship heading to the meadows in three hours. Get cleaned up and ready. I’ll send battle armor and weapons to your rooms.”

Arrowyn took my arm in hers and we moved straight to her rooms. “Did you hear my father, Eretraya? He doesn’t want to lose me. He’s made his decision. If we were to be put to death, then having me fight would be of no consequence.”

“Are you sure you want to fight? Maybe it’s best you stayed here. I don’t want to lose you either.”

“We’re one and we’ll be together always. You’ve never seen me shoot a bow other than for hunting. I’m very good.”

“You’re good at everything.” I kissed her moist lips and fell into bed together. We didn’t even hear Shannon enter.

“I’m so sorry, my Ladies.”

Arrowyn looked up from underneath me and smiled at Shannon. “No need to apologize, Shannon. We’re not indecent yet. Please have the girls put the armor on the couch and draw a bath for us. If you can find some food, we’re famished. Shannon?”

“Yes, my Lady?”

“If we survive, I’d like to ask if you’d be our personal servant.”

“That would be an honor, my Lady.”

“If you’re our personal servant we have the right to set you free.”

Shannon looked like she would burst into tears. “My Lady, I’ve nowhere to go. If that were the case, could I continue to serve you?”

“Only as a cherished member of our retinue, assuming we have a retinue. You’d no longer be a slave.”

“I’d like that very much. I’ll start the bath and leave you two be. Thank you!”

“No, Shannon. Thank you!”

After Shannon left Arrowyn pulled me to her. “Seeing you enslaved changed me. I don’t want slaves anymore.”

“You never cease to amaze me.”

“We’ve got two hours I can amaze you even more.” She smiled as she pulled at my clothing.

***

The morning brought a light cool mist as it rolled from the lake and over the meadow. The King selected twenty Fae fighters for me to lead, although I believed they were there more to protect Arrowyn. I was fine with that either way. I could feel the raw tension in the air as across the meadow and behind the wall of mist, Yrchs could be heard grunting and clashing metal together. The King was close to the center of the Fae army while Arrowyn and our band of fighters stood closer to the lake. Once again, the positioning was suspect. In case we were overwhelmed Arrowyn could be evacuated back to the palace.

“You looked splendid, my love. The shinning golden Fae armor of a princess favors your looks.”

“You should stay well behind me once the fighting starts, my Arrowyn. I don’t want to see anything happen to you.”

“I may not have been in any battles, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t trained just as hard as any fighter. I’ll be by your side.”

Leaning over I kissed Arrowyn just as the horns sounded and the mists separated with hordes of Yrchs rushing forward. The subtle twang of Arrowyn’s bow already sounded in my ear as I watched the lead Yrchs fall with arrows in their chests. Running forward I drew my sword and dagger and soon the Yrchs were upon us. Using both weapons and the strength and skills of my old body, I plunged ahead leaving a bloody wake of dead and dying. Arrowyn was breathtaking to watch seeing her plunge arrow after arrow into the Yrchs and using her bow as a club when needed.

The clash of weapons was deafening all around us, but our line of defense, our twenty fighters, took full control of the lakeside. The Yrchs continued to stream through the mists but seeing their brethren lying in piles around us they veered towards the center of the meadow. Like a giant stone in a river, the Yrchs flowed around us like water.

Bringing our band together I devised a new tactic. “We have Fae behind us holding the line but the Yrchs are avoiding us and are moving inland towards your King. Let’s cut through the Yrchs from the side and move to support your center line.”

I was a leader in the Mortal armies and never questioned. Out of habit I didn’t wait for discussion but set of towards the east at a quick pace. The mist lifted as we came upon a slight rise and looked down upon main battle. The King was surrounded and the back Fae lines of defense were too frightened to use their bows to attack the Yrchs near the King.

“Listen up! Your King is in danger. You ten, cut through the Yrchs to the south of the King. The rest of us will attack the Yrchs on the west side of the King.”

Running forward our small band crashed into the Yrchs. Arrowyn shot, killed, and then pulled her arrows from slain Yrchs only to fire again. Leading our small group like the tip of a sword I sliced and hacked my way through the Yrchs. Fully a dozen Fae fighters lay on the ground behind the King. He was bloodied but still fighting strong as his remaining band slowly fell one by one. I reached the King’s side just in time as a large Yrch swung his blade from behind the King. My sword clanged loudly as it blocked the great sword of the Yrch, my dagger thrust up into the chest of the creature.

The King turned to see the fallen Yrch and his eyes widened at sight of Arrowyn and me. “The back line needs to regroup, my King. We need to fall back and rejoin them so your archers can do their job. They’re afraid to shoot with you in front of them.”

He merely nodded as we fought side by side to rejoin the archers. Once there the Yrchs fell back under an onslaught of arrows. Scouts arrived reporting the Yrchs were pulling away back to the north to regroup but another sizeable number of Yrchs had just arrived. The King ordered everyone back to the camp.

His hand reached out and stroked Arrowyn’s dirt streaked face and then he turned to me. “You saved my life today and have proven to be a woman of your word. It was not lost to me that you said ‘my King’ on the battlefield.”

“If Arrowyn and I are one under the laws of the Fae, then I am as much Fae as she is and thus, you are my King. The Yrchs merely tested us today. You saw how moved in waves probing areas of your defenses. I believe tomorrow they will come full force and straight down the middle of the meadows.”

“You have a plan?”

“Give me fifty archers and fifty fighters. Tonight, I’ll take them around the Yrch army and attack them from the north once they are fully engaged in the meadow.”

“But this will weaken our line.”

“Were still outnumbered at least three to one. A well planned attack from behind could significantly impact those numbers and demoralize the Yrchs at the same time.”

“Done.”

***

That night we took our one hundred Fae with us, boarded ships, and hiked north then east to get around and behind the Yrchs. We sat at the edge of a forest looking down upon the fires of their camps. Arrowyn was holding me in her arms as we leaned back against a large tree.

“You’re quiet, my love.”

“I’ve never been happier than being with you and yet we’ve never truly had a chance to be together. The odds are against us and even if by some miracle we survive, we must still face our fate. I only wish we had more time together without running from people or fighting in a war. It seems my whole life I’ve been fighting and with your arms around me now it grieves me that I’ve missed living.”

“We’ve all missed living but I’m no longer afraid to die. The brief moments my lips have found yours will send me to my death with a smile on my face. I found love in a palace that kept me as a prisoner. I found love with a slave girl that used to be my most hated enemy. To know that such powerful feelings still exist in this world makes me eager to fight for our freedom. Tomorrow, against all odds, I fight knowing that I’ll always have you.”

“Always, my Arrowyn.”

***

Our night was short-lived and the morning came all too soon. Gray clouds had slid in from the north leaving the air cool and damp. It was fitting in a way for the battle that was about to begin. The Yrch army marched forward as a sea of dark leather, glinting steel, and snarling voices. Their camp was taken down, a sure sign that they had no plans on retreating. From this vantage point we could see the thin line of Fae that blocked their path.

“Form up into a wedge. Fighters in the front and middle with archers along the sides. As we move forward the Yrchs will try to circle back around behind us. It’s the archers’ jobs to keep that from happening.”

I smiled as Arrowyn stood next to me. “I hope that order doesn’t mean me too.”

“Not today, my love. Move out!”

We started slowly to conserve our energy knowing that the Yrchs would be moving much slower as they entered into battle. The front was already well engaged when we made first contact with the rear of the Yrch army on their northwest side. We would make a pass along the back of their army, turn west and head again back towards the lake rather than plowing straight into them. The goal was to strike fear in the Yrchs the entire length of their battle line.

The fighting was fierce but our plan was working. We made it through our first pass from west to east. We’d lost twenty of our band but the Yrchs had lost hundreds. Turning, we headed back towards the lake but this time they knew we were there. Splitting their forces they let us pass through quickly. When we arrived at the lake we turned once again to find five hundred Yrchs had circled back on us. Now it was a fight for our survival and a quick glimpse of the Fae front line told me they were beginning to falter.

We could only do one thing and that was to dig in and hold our ground. We formed a half circle mixing our archers with our fighters as the Yrchs pressed us. We fought for hours, isolated from the rest of the Fae. The Yrch army swung backwards and now our small band was heavily pressed. They surged towards us but something was happening. They were no longer attacking, but running; running to get away from us and something behind them.

Suddenly the Yrchs began dropping their weapons and parting before us. My father, the Fae King, and General Matais strode forward. It was strange looking at my father knowing he didn’t know who I was and now wasn’t the time to bring it up. Arrowyn’s father hugged her and extended his hand towards me. “The battle is won. Never did I think I’d see the day when Mortal and Fae armies fought side by side. The Yrchs have surrendered and will be returning north to their homelands. Reparations will be made in the future. Arrowyn, we’ll meet you back at the palace.”

I slowly backed away not feeling comfortable under the scrutiny of my father. Arrowyn found me at the lake’s edge. “We did it, my love!” She hugged me tightly. “Why are you shaking?”

“I’ve never felt more ashamed and afraid than to see my father staring at me. I feel ashamed of being captured, ashamed of being a woman, and ashamed to admit my fear of men. A war began over the rape and death of your sister. My father is capable of rekindling a war over what was done to me.”

“Are you ashamed to be with me?”

“Never!”

“Then you must tell your father the truth. Revenge should belong to the one that was harmed and that person is you. If you choose to forgive then your father must as well.”

“Let’s hope that’s true.”

“Then let’s get you home, my love.”

***

“You look beautiful Eretraya.”

I was dressed in a silver flowing gown indicating my status as Arrowyn’s betrothed. Looking in the mirror I had to agree that I looked beautiful. “You’re coming with me?”

“I’m never leaving your side.”

We walked arm-in-arm to a room overlooking the lake. A large table with high-backed wooden chairs dominated the room. My father, General Matais, and The Fae King were all there. All eyes turned to us when we entered. The Fae King’s eyes softened as he looked upon his daughter and surprisingly even more so as he looked upon me.

“Harold Sandhaven, I’d like to introduce to you my only remaining daughter, Arrowyn and her mate, Eretraya.”

“It’s nice to meet you both, but I’m here to find out about my son, Ellis.”

The General looked sheepish and I didn’t blame him.

Stepping forward towards my father I held out my hand to him. “I’m Ellis Sandhaven, father.”

“This is preposterous!”

“Please, take a seat. This will take a while to explain.”

With much discussion and some painful scrying of my memories my father slowly recognized the truth.

“Father, what I’m about to say is very important. I forgive the Fae for what they did to me. We were all pawns and our war between the Fae and Mortals was designed to decimate our armies. Atrocities were done in the name of that war on both sides. It is my wish that Ellis Sandhaven be declared dead and that the Fae and Mortals seek peace with one another.”

I watched my father stand and move to be in front of me. “You were never very happy before.”

“Were any of us happy?”

“You wish to marry Arrowyn?”

“Yes. I love her very much. However, my wish and my fate may be two different things. We await the Fae King’s decision as we have both broken Fae laws.”

“Then leave us now. The Fae King and I have much to discuss.”

***

An entire day had passed before Arrowyn and I were called to the throne room. We’d heard that General Matais had departed the previous day. My father and the Fae King stood as we entered. The Fae King smiled slightly before speaking.

“The Fae kingdom is built upon laws that have created a stable culture that has endured for many generations. Ignoring our laws is not an option as that undermines our very framework for existence. Arrowyn, you killed your brother and must suffer the consequences. While it was in self-defense he was beaten and at your mercy.”

He turned to me. “Eretraya, you’re not at fault for my son’s death. You were a spoil of war to be used as we saw fit. You honored your word and saved me on the battlefield. You are however betrothed to Arrowyn and thus your fates are tied. Arrowyn’s fate for murdering her brother is death, yet, you saved my life and according to Fae laws, I cannot put you to death. So we are at a standstill.”

My father then spoke. “While we have proof that you’re indeed Ellis Sandhaven, no female can ever take the throne of the Mortal realms. You look young enough to be Ellis’ daughter and I believe what is best is to declare you Eretraya Sandhaven, princess of the Mortal realms. As a princess, you are hereby Mortal realm property to do with as I see fit.”

I took Arrowyn’s hand in mine not necessarily liking the direction the conversation had been going.

My father continued. “We need to provide a show of faith that the Mortal realms and Fae realms are united. As princess of the Mortal realms you are to be wed to a Fae to secure lasting peace.”

The Fae King then completed his sentence of us both. “Arrowyn and Eretraya. You will both be wed as a symbol of peace between Fae and Mortal realms and then you will be banished from the Fae palace for five years as punishment for the death of my son. The western palace, however, needs to be re-established. That will be your home. The wedding will take place one week from today.”

Arrowyn stepped forward and hugged her father. “Thank you father.”

My father stepped forward and looked a little awkward but hugged me. “I hope you find happiness.”

***

A month later Arrowyn and I stood overlooking the beautiful vistas from our bedroom balcony in the western Fae palace. “What do you see, my Eretraya?”

“I see a beautiful sunset. I see my beautiful wife. I feel peace and happiness for the first time ever.”

I looked down from the balcony to see Shannon relaxing down below. I was happy we could free her and that she wanted to stay close to us. My hand felt the warmth of Arrowyn’s as she pulled me towards the bed.

***

Note from Want2BaGirl: I write for many reasons. One reason is that it is therapy for me. As I write I allow my mind to imagine what it might be like to be what it believe I truly am. For brief moments the continual and relentless dichotomy of brain vs body eases. Another reason I write is to provide a mechanism for you, the reader, to become lost in a place and time that is outside of reality. I love watching good movies and reading stories where I can do this myself.

I truly appreciate it when readers of my stories write reviews or comments. It lets me know that my efforts are worth it. Please consider writing something, even if it is just a few words of encouragement to keep me writing and publishing my stories. Thank you.



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