With war looming at the border of the Seelie Court, Lumi and Jax opt to stay close to home. Rayu has been spending a lot of time with one of Evander’s most trusted soldiers and Alara has locked herself away in her room, working with the nymph Malich commissioned to shield her and her unborn son.
Surprisingly, Ihsan has warmed up to Alara. Arya thought she’d never see the day they’d be civil with one another. At one point he hated Alara as much as he hates Malich.
“Who’s his father?” Ihsan asks, curling Yael in his arms.
Alara stiffens. Her lips remain sealed and Ihsan and Arya exchange questioning glances. Ihsan turns his attention back to the baby boy curled in his arms, and he grows a sphere of dark power in his palm. With a tiny hand, Yael reaches up and pulls the darkness to his hand. His eyes light up and he giggles.
Alara rushes over to Ihsan and quickly takes Yael from his arms. She gives them the excuse he needs to be changed but she never resurfaces.
“What was that all about?” Arya asks.
“Whatever she’s hiding, we’re not going to like it when it catches up to her,” Ihsan sighs.
“I figured as much.” Arya shrugs.
“Come. Let us take a walk,” Ihsan extends his hand to her.
Arya takes his hand and together they take a walk around the palace garden. Both Drakor and Amunet haven’t been seen in moons, but when Arya sent a question down the bond asking if he was okay she received a warm response back.
They both look to where the Summer and Seelie Court meet. There are more soldiers present and camped out just across the border than there was previously.
“Your majesties, both the Fall and Autumn Courts have arrived and are waiting in your council chamber.” Evander notifies them.
Arya and Ihsan follow him back to Arya’s council chamber where King Volc, Queen Aoki, and Queen Boleyn are waiting with their lieutenants. The moment they enter Queen Aoki undresses Arya with her eyes.
“I’m glad you all could make it,” Arya greets each of them.
Queen Boleyn is dressed for war, but Queen Aoki is dressed in a white skintight silk dress that accentuates her curves and compliments her bronze complexion. It also brings out the gray in her eyes. She looks as if she’s expecting a banquet in her honor, not war.
“The pleasure is ours I’m sure,” Queen Aoki grins mischievously.
“Place your soldiers on your borders,” Arya instructs. “A camp has been setup between our Courts to act as our headquarters. We begin at dawn. Tonight however, we dine as friends and toast to further relations with one another.”
“I’ll drink to that.” Queen Aoki’s sinister smile deepens.
Ignoring her, Arya loops her arm through Ihsan’s and they head to the great hall where a feast has been prepared. Arya isn’t big on spirits and neither is Ihsan, but Queen Aoki and King Volc have had more than their fill this moon.
King Volc’s speech is slurred and Queen Aoki is unable to stand on her own. For the moment Lumi has managed to steal her attention away from Arya, giving Arya and Ihsan time to slip away.
They walk the perimeter of the border making sure to remain unseen, but for the most part nothing seems out of place. The night sky is almost black and stars pepper the sky. The air is both calm and warm with a light breeze coming from the east. The Volc’s soldiers are in place, as are the soldiers from the Autumn Court. From first glance nothing appears to be amiss, but they know better than to disregard Malich’s warning. They’ll have to keep their eyes and ears open tomorrow.
Arya tries to enlist Alara to help but her requests for audience go unanswered. Whatever Alara is dealing with has taken her attention completely away from the war brewing around the palace.
Rubbing Arya’s arms as they take in the vast army’s Ihsan asks, “Are you ready?”
“Those are all Red Dragons out there. We’ll be killing our own kind.”
“We don’t have a choice.” Ihsan wraps his arms around her waist, pulling her close.
Arya’s thoughts drift to Malich who held her in a similar fashion not too long ago. He’s somewhere out there beyond the border readying his soldiers to fight. She thought helping him get his mother back would be the end of this war, but once again Kahlem is steps ahead of them.
Malich left explicit instructions for his parents in the event the Seelie Court should fall and Arya’s been bending over backwards to make sure his wishes are carried out. She has her own instructions delivered to Lumi and Jax, who she asks to remain within the palace walls no matter what happens.
She asks the same of Rayu but he refuses. Both she and his lover Dom will be fighting in this war and he says his place is at their side, not holed up inside the palace.
Arya tries reaching out to Drakor as she and Ihsan return back to the palace but she gets no response. Either he’s out of range or perhaps he fights alongside the Red Legion with the other Red Dragons.
Needing her strength to fight, Arya retires to her bedchamber where she promptly falls asleep while Lumi keeps watch for any movement. She doesn’t awaken until dawn when the sun peeks through the heavy white curtains inside her bedroom. Drawing them open, she dresses in the white leather assassins ensemble she had commissioned, complete with a white leather jacket that cinches at the waist then billows out into a pleated tail. The crest of the Royal House of Litri is embroidered on the back of her jacket and on her facemask in rich silver thread.
As Arya fastens her weapons to her person the weight of the war she faces hits her. Malich wants her to take his life if she has to, but that isn’t an option for her. A lot of blood will be shed today but she will protect those she loves as much as she can.
Ihsan lightly taps the doorframe to her bedchamber to get her attention and she offers him a small smile. Today they go to war with the infamous house of Jarrah, the Red Legion, and its many allies. This won’t be an easy battle and if Malich’s warning is any indication, it will be full of surprises. Still, Kahlem’s reign of terror needs to end. He’s an oppressive King and his favorite target is the man she loves. Kahlem won’t be satisfied until Malich is either dead or under his complete control.
Arya and Ihsan are both on high alert as they reach the large white tent bearing the Seelie Court crest ready to discuss strategy with their allies. They are the first to arrive followed by King and Queen Volc, and lastly, Queen Boleyn. Penki accompanies the young Queen and sits to her right. They’ve barely started discussing strategy when Evander comes rushing into the tent.
“Their archers are ready to fire my Queen. We are out of time,” he informs her.
“Ready the soldiers,” Arya rises. Ihsan is quickly on her heels as she exits the tent.
She makes her way to the front lines and studies the soldiers readying just across the border. Ihsan calls for his Telks and Arya does the same. They are placed at the front lines as the first line of defense against the archers.
“I have Intel that these arrows will be coated with darkbane.” Evander addresses the Telks. “Do not let them breach our barrier.”
The Seelie soldiers clasp their right hands; formed into fists, over their hearts and shout, “Long live the Queen!”
Both Evander and Arya nod to the soldiers. She turns to search for Ihsan, realizing he is no longer beside her and she finds him addressing his own soldiers. He inclines his head to her and she returns the gesture.
Arya searches the vast sea of green grass and white flowers for the Volc’s and Queen Boleyn but they are too far away. While she awaits the horns that signify the battles commencement, she sends another plea down the bond she shares with Drakor. Where is her moody friend?She could really use his help in this battle.
“If things make a turn for the worse, I want you to retreat.” Evander pleads with her.
“What sort of Queen abandons her people?”
“One that enjoys living.”
“I will not abandon my people. If we shall fall, we will do so together.”
Evander sighs. “If you die, your people will be enslaved and murdered. At least if you run, you may live to fight another day your Majesty.”
“No one dies. Not on my watch.”
Shouting interrupts their conversation followed by war horns. Together Arya and Evander walk back to their horses and mount them. Evander readies the Telks as arrows litter the sky. He gives the command for the Telks to launch their counter attacks. They’re able to halt most of the arrows mid air and return them back to sender, but several arrows break through. Three Telks fall and they don’t get back up. Arya moves to go to them when Evander stops her.
Placing his arm in front of her he says, “They cannot be helped. They were willing and ready to die for their Queen. Honor their memory by living through this and keeping your head.”
Swallowing hard, Arya nods. She’s used to doing the fighting, not having others fight forher. Sitting back and doing nothing is the hardest thing she’s ever done. When Evander raises his sword and calls on his soldiers to charge, she can’t wait to charge into battle with them.
Unsheathing one of her long swords, Arya kicks at her horse’s sides and they race into battle. Looking around she finds Ihsan racing into battle not too far away. About one hundred yards beyond him Queen Boleyn and Penki are riding into battle. Her eyes trail to the Volc’s who also seem to be riding into battle. So far no one has defected. Perhaps Malich’s warning was his way of telling them Kahlem is capable of any sort of treachery and to keep their eyes open.
Swords clang a few feet ahead and Arya leans into her horse, locking eyes on her first target. With a swing of her sword, she moves to injure one of her fellow assassins, not kill. She won’t kill for Kahlem. If he wants Malich’s army dead he’ll have to do it himself. Her soldiers have the same instructions. They can injure, subdue and maim Malich’s soldiers, but they are not to kill them. ns126.96.36.199da2