Fie Eoin Friday: Meet Finn!

Happy Friday, Aledan Merfolk! I know I said yesterday that I’m in the middle of changing from present tense to past tense in StO, but you’re getting the present tense version today because I haven’t had a chance to re-read and make sure the past tense version is solid. I know I haven’t told you much about StO other than it’s a mermaid novel, but I think you’ll get the gist of it real quick. So it’s time to meet Finn:

Not an exact replica of Finn
Not an exact replica of Finn

Chapter 1: Finn

I tap bubbles out of the pink euthanasia fluid, cap the syringe, and set it on the bench next to me before changing into my wet suit. Corporate tells the public the mermaids aren’t dangerous, but that’s bullshit. They killed another trainer last night, and now it’s my job to euthanize the offending mermaid—or in this case, merman.

Sergio de la Cruz zips up his wetsuit and claps me on the shoulder. “Ready, Finn?”

I snort. “You looking for a last will and testament? ‘Cause I didn’t leave you anything.”

Serge laughs. He knows he gets all my stuff—we’ve been best friends since preschool.

Hooking the syringe to a loop on my wetsuit, I take a deep breath, then shake the tension from my shoulders.

“You’re looking a little nervous there, bro.”

“Bismuth’s a big boy.” Science geeks to the core, we name the Mer after periodic table elements. “And he’s got the twins in the tank with him. Plenty could go wrong.”

“Nah.” Serge bumps my locker door closed and we make our way through the gray concrete halls of Oceanica to the practice tank that contains the three Mer. “They’ve been chilled. You’ll be fine.”

Reflected shadows quiver along the walls and condensation runs down the sides of the tank as we enter the practice room. Filters hidden in the walls hum and water gurgles where it enters the tank. Madison and Natalie wait for us at the bottom of the stairs, wetsuits on, eyes red-rimmed from another sleepless night mourning a friend.

The four of us ascend the metal stairs to the platform around the tank. The practice tank isn’t the largest at Oceanica, but it’s big. Nearly a million gallons—one fifth the size of the tanks they used for the orcas. Bismuth floats near the bottom, dark green scales against the bleary gray surroundings. His indigo eyes are wider than normal, sharp and intelligent, not the dead-eyed expression I’m used to. He was in the tank the last time we euthanized a Mer for attacking a trainer. Watching deters some of the Mer, but others get pissed and want to kill us. Like Bismuth.

Hopefully watching Bismuth foam will discourage the twins. Fluorine and Chlorine are impossible to tell apart with their ice-blue hair that’s mirrored in their eyes and the tips of their fins. They have the second most popular show at Oceanica, and after I finish with Bismuth, we’re going to have to go hunting for a new male to perform with them.

Euthanizing a Mer isn’t as easy as say, a dog. For one, they’re huge. With his tail, Bismuth’s got a good two feet on me. They’re also the perfect predator. Sharp teeth, sharper claws, more agile than a shark. And then there’s all the ridiculous regulations. The Animal Plant Health Inspection Service has a strict set of rules regarding Mer husbandry, including euthanization. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has even stricter rules regarding trainer safety.

A net hangs over the side of the tank, a metal shepherd’s hook nearby. I cringe as nausea creeps through my stomach. That’s how they retrieved Craig’s body. Serge got the call from Oceanica while we were at the bar. Craig was supposed to join us after his training session with Bismuth and the twins.

Madison’s staring at the hook like she’s imagining what happened, and I squeeze her arm as I pass to grab the net. “Let’s get this over with.”

“Yeah,” she says, voice hollow.

Sergio grabs a long pole with an aluminum loop on one end from the wall. The electroshocker will send a current into the water, stunning the Mer. Natalie and Madison help me get the portable crane ready for the net. It’s almost too heavy for me to cast, which is why the electroshocker comes in handy. There’s no way I’d be able to catch a Mer while they’re swimming.

“Hit ‘em,” I say when I’m ready.

Sergio presses the button and all three of the Mer freeze, muscles contracting as lactic acid floods their systems, and float to the surface. It’s kind of cool, actually. With an expert flick of my wrist, the net soars over the water and the weights drop around Bismuth. I yank on the line to close the bottom, then unwind it from my arm and hook it to the crane.

“Cut it.”

Serge removes the shocker from the water. Natalie starts the crane and Bismuth thrashes, trying to get out. The twins swim in agitated circles like sharks as he’s lifted from the water, and the crane brings him to the side where Madison and I stand. I wipe my sweaty hands on my pants and grab a climbing hook attached to a rope. Bismuth’s webbed fingers reach through the netting, trying to sink his sharp claws into us. With a deep breath I dart in, clip the hook to the net, and duck away before he can grab me.

“Maddy!” I snap when she doesn’t move with the hook. “Pay attention or you’ll end up like Craig.”

“Sorry,” she mumbles and hooks the net.

I tie my line around a dock cleat and check that Maddy’s doing the same before lifting the syringe from the strap on my waist, pulling the cap off with my teeth, and stabbing it in Bismuth’s neck below his gills. Ten cc’s of pink juice flood his system.

The reaction starts in his gills, turning the tissue to foam. In a matter of seconds, his head is boiling away and foam moves down his chest, even as his tail twitches with muscle spasms. It’s disturbing to watch the first couple times, but the four of us are used to it now.

When Mer die, nothing remains. No scales, no hair, no skeleton. It all turns to seafoam. It’s one reason it took so long to find them—they don’t leave bodies behind. The only thing to prove Bismuth existed will be the video footage of his performances.

The hiss of a line unraveling grabs my attention from the show in the net. Maddy jumps to grab the rope. “Shit!”

Bismuth’s tail spasms and the net spins towards me. I try to jump out of the way, slip on the puddle of foam he’s created, and slam my knee on the metal platform. Pain roars through my leg. My hands fly into the air before I realize there’s nothing to grab and fall headfirst into the tank.

Saltwater shoots up my nose. Bubbles burst from my mouth. When they clear, there’s a pair of ice-blue, Area-51 eyes surrounded by bright green scales staring at me. I try to kick for the surface, but one twin’s claws sink into my leg, holding me under. Adrenaline rushes through my veins, hot in my stomach, and the other twin pierces my shoulders with her claws. I’m going to die. I grab the gills in her neck, the rakers cutting into my fingertips, and rip them. She screams in pain—the sound oddly clear in the water—and releases me as blood blooms around us. The twin with the claws in my leg yanks me further down. I gasp. Cold, coppery water rushes into my throat and lungs.

A thousand volts slam into my face and the world goes dark.

Fie Eoin Friday: The Winged Warrior, Part 6

Happy Friday, Aledan Merfolk! This is the final week of Ocean’s Story, but don’t worry – you’ll see her in a book someday. I liked her too much to just give her a short story 😉 If you missed all the fighting and flinging-princesses-off-cliffs of the earlier parts of the story, you can find them all here.

The Winged Warrior

The “something deeper” Yule mentioned was Ocean’s wing. It had broken at the base.

“Can you fix it?” Ocean squeezed the priestess’ hand hard when she asked. If she lost the use of her wings it’d be like losing a limb. She’d be done as a warrior.

Yule wouldn’t look at her. “I can try.”

Her face was pale as she helped Ocean into a sitting position, wrapped her hand around the wing as close to the base as she could, and took a deep breath. Warmth rushed from Yule’s hand into the base of the wing, and when she yanked it back into place the searing pain darkened Ocean’s vision until she nearly passed out. Yule held her, hands warm with energy, until Ocean’s breathing returned to normal, then immobilized the wing with a bandage.

Yule’s hands shook as she poured a cup of willow bark tea and handed it to Ocean with a brave smile. “It’ll take a couple moons to know if it healed correctly. You are not to move it until then.”

Ocean gave a breathy laugh. “I don’t think I’ll be moving much regardless.”

The smile fell from Yule’s face. “No.”

There was a knock on the doorpost and Hem’s face appeared around the flap. “Can she have visitors?”

Yule placed herself between the king and Ocean. “What do you want?”

He stepped inside. He wore traveling clothes and his hair looked as flat and dull as tarnished gold. Nothing about him spoke King or power. He looked almost as empty as Barracuda. “To apologize.”

Ocean squeezed Yule’s fingers weakly and nodded. She stepped aside.

“Ocean,” Hem knelt next to her and folded his hands before him. “I owe you my deepest debt of gratitude. Without you, Kindra would be…”

Ocean winced at the mental image of what would have happened if she’d failed. “You charged me with her protection. Whatever the cost,” she said, her voice a breathy whisper.

“I…” He swallowed and glanced at the bandages that held her together. “I never meant for…”

“How’s Bar?” She interrupted.

“We were close enough it was no strain.”

She doubted that, but said nothing. If she hadn’t provoked Hemlock he wouldn’t have felt the need to draw on his twin-bond in the first place. Yule was right to call her stupid.

“I’m still leaving Kindra here for the summer, if you’ll have her. Even with you on bed rest it’s safer for her in Fie Eoin.”

Ocean sucked in a surprised breath, then winced at the pain in her ribs. “You still want me to guard her?”

“Of course,” he said. “You proved the lengths you’d go to for her.”

“Hem,” Ocean whispered. “I’m sorry.”

“Hush.” He patted her hand briefly before standing. He looked to the door, then back to her. “Do you remember Chief Gar, your grandfather?”

“A little.” He’d died when she was nine, but she remembered his easy smile and kind eyes. His rule had been one of peace and prosperity, before the Known World.

Hem swallowed. “He told me once that they didn’t deify his wife for the times she defeated her enemies in battle—many warriors have done that—or even for being the first woman warrior. Fie Eoin made her a goddess for the times she took on the hatred of the tribe to save them. For the times the tribe thought she’d abandoned then, when she never had.”

Ocean smiled. “We’re not deifying you, Hem.”

The corners of his mouth turned up as well. “I don’t expect you to. Just know I’m trying to keep you safe the only way I can.”

He turned to go, but Ocean spoke, as loud as her broken body would allow. “Hem?” When he stopped she glanced at the priestess. “Can Yule come with me this autumn?”

“Of course.” He nodded to them both and left.

Yule sat on the corner of the cot and grabbed Ocean’s hand. She’d barely stopped touching the warrior since the fall, using energy to speed along the healing process. She stared at Ocean’s fingers for a long moment, then smiled and looked in her eyes. “What makes you think I want to follow you to the Known World?”

Ocean smiled back. “I know how much you like tying me up in bandages.”

The priestess snorted, then put her hand on Ocean’s ankle—one of the few places that didn’t hurt—as her smile fell from her face. “I don’t know how you managed to pull energy like you did, but I will forever thank the Mother.”

“I think you should thank the Warrior Goddess instead.” The way the energy rushed up after Ocean called out, just enough to save them—it was the only explanation she could come up with. Kindra had saved her granddaughters.

Fie Eoin Friday: The Winged Warrior, Part 5

Happy Friday, Aledans! You may recall that last week, after a battle between cousins, I threw a princess off a cliff (you have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to throw someone off that cliff!). She hasn’t quite gone SPLAT yet – it’s a long fall 😉

Catch up with the story here.

The Winged Warrior

“Kindra!” Hem yelled as he spun.

Ocean took a running start and dove off the cliff after her. The princess flailed, but Ocean tucked her arms and wings in, as true as a spear hitting its mark. She grabbed the girl around the waist and spread her wings, jerking them both up. The princess was heavier than the armor, though, and all Ocean accomplished was pushing them into an angled fall. “Kindra!” She cried out, to the princess or the goddess she didn’t know, and strained her wings to lift them.

The ground rushed at them fast—too fast. Ocean squeezed her eyes closed and wrapped herself around the princess. She felt the energy of the ground as they neared and wished desperately that she’d been born with the power to control it.

A sudden warm rush of energy hit her wings and pushed her up slightly. She opened her eyes in surprise. They sped along, inches from the dirt. She tucked her shoulder just before they hit solid ground. Pain exploded through her right side as Ocean wrapped tighter around the princess. They rolled to a stop, Ocean on her back and the girl atop her.

Sharp, dizzying pain throbbed through her body. “Princess,” she gasped. “Are you ok?”

Curls lay very still for a moment before whispering, “I think so.”

“Then…get off me,” Ocean managed to grind out.

The princess scrambled to the side and Ocean groaned as it sent pain shooting through her chest and arm. Yule landed and knelt, put her warm fingers on either side of Ocean’s face, and looked in her eyes. “Ocean,” her voice wavered, “Look at me.”

“I’m trying,” Ocean groaned. “When I…figure out…which one to…look at.”

“Concussion,” Yule whispered, tears shimmering in her eyes. She wiped them away, switching from lover to priestess, and flattened her hands to hold them just over Ocean’s head, then neck, then shoulders. “Wiggle your right fingers.”

Ocean squeezed her eyes together, then gasped. “Can’t.”

Yule nodded and put one hand on the top of Ocean’s shoulder and gripped the top of her arm with the other. “This is going to hurt, love. A lot.”

She didn’t give Ocean’s addled brain time to comprehend that before she shoved the joint back in place. Ocean would have screamed if she could have taken a full breath. Instead she gasped, then moaned.

“Can you wiggle your fingers now?”

Her hand shook, but the fingers moved.

“Good.” Yule brushed her warm fingers over Ocean’s shoulder, drawing healing energy into it. “Your arm’s broken, but the shoulder is back in place. Can you take a full breath?”

“No,” Ocean whispered.

Yule ran her hands just above Ocean’s chest, eyes closed, all her attention focused on the energy. “Broken ribs—at least three. Something deeper…” She didn’t elaborate as her hands moved lower, then down each leg.

She opened her eyes and put her hands on either side of Ocean’s face as the stoic priestess disappeared and the tears returned. When she spoke her voice was rough. “Don’t you ever do anything that stupid again.”

“Couldn’t let…the princess…die.”

“That’s not the part I was talking about,” Yule said and kissed her. Warmth spread through Ocean at the touch.

Fie Eoin Friday: The Winged Warrior, Part 4

Happy Friday, Aledans! And happy May! It’s Trina’s Day in Fie Eoin, so don’t forget to celebrate the Feast of Lovers tonight 😉 Speaking of lovers, it’s time to get back to Ocean and Yule, who had a very satisfying night last night. If you missed the beginning of Ocean’s story, you can find the first three parts here.

The Winged Warrior

The next morning Ocean trudged up the path to the cliff, Yule next to her, the princess following behind. Curls’ hands kept smoothing over the sides of her legs as if she expected the silk of her skirt rather than the wool pants and shirt that hung loose on her slim frame.

“I can’t believe you talked me into this,” Ocean mumbled.

Yule bumped her hip. “I don’t recall talking much, although I did my best with my lips and tongue.”

“And hands.” Ocean flushed at the memory of Yule’s fingertips tracing the contours of her wings. The warm energy they left behind that calmed and intoxicated Ocean. The way Yule’s fingers trailed lower, until Ocean was gasping a promise to teach the princess self-defense.

Besides, it would drive Hemlock mad to know his precious daughter was handling weapons.

The cliff was a wide, grassy area with trees on one side and a sheer drop-off on the other. Ocean preferred practicing here because no one ever came up except the priestesses. The princess, however, looked uncomfortable. “Why can’t we practice below?”

“We can,” Ocean said, “If you want the trainees to watch.”

Curls ran to catch up. Already she was winded from the steep climb, but she wiped the sweat from her brow. “No. This is good.”

Ocean smiled—she hadn’t wanted to practice in front of the trainees at first, either. She’d made Bar and Hem teach her on the cliff until she felt confident enough to keep her wings out of the way of an attack. Even the granddaughter of a warrior goddess wasn’t immune to teasing or injury.

“Alright,” Ocean drew the dagger from her belt and held it out for the princess. “A blade this size is easy to hide and wield, even for a girl like you. Unless you prove truly adept—and you might, with the goddess’ blood—you’ll never touch anything larger.”

Curls grabbed the hilt and lifted it from Ocean’s hand with a frown. “It’s not very big.”

“Skin isn’t thick. Thrust this into someone’s gut and they won’t run after you very fast.” She grabbed the princess’ chin and locked eyes with her. “I’m not teaching you to kill a man, just to distract him with pain long enough to get away.”

“Can’t I do that on my own?” Curls asked.

“Did you last time?”

“Ocean,” Yule hissed. “Don’t be cruel.”

“Sorry,” Ocean said to the girl. “I’ve been part of your father’s army too long. I don’t always know when to keep my mouth shut.”

To her credit, Curls looked her in the eye. “What do I need to do next time?”

Ocean smiled, maybe this princess would prove tougher than she looked. “First we need to work on your stance.”

“I have perfect posture.”

“To be shoved over.” Ocean bent down and hit the girl’s ankles until they were shoulder-length apart. “There. You’re not at court; you don’t need to be modest here.”

“It feels weird.”

Yule poked Curls’ shoulder with two fingers. She swayed a bit, but didn’t lose her footing. Yule smiled. “Ocean made me do this once too.”

For good reason. I’m already losing Barracuda; I’m not going to lose you, too.

Ocean stood in front of the princess and grabbed the hand that was holding the dagger. “You don’t want to hit the ribs, so stab low and point the blade up, like this.” She moved Curls’ hand to demonstrate, then released her. “Try it on your own.”

The girl’s face paled. “What if I stab you?”

“You won’t.”

“Ok…” Timidly, Curls moved the dagger forward towards Ocean’s chest.

“Too high,” Ocean said. “Try again. Do it with some force this time.”

The princess tried again, stabbing over and over as Ocean frowned at the messy execution. “You’re going to have to do it harder than that if you want to hurt someone.”

“Kindra!” Hemlock barked as he appeared at the path head. “What are you doing?”

The princess dropped the dagger. “Father,” she said in Known, “I….”

Ocean put a hand on her shoulder and stared her cousin down. “I’m teaching her how to stab a man. Just in case.”

Hem glanced at her, then the dagger at their feet. “Your job is to guard her, not let her guard herself.”

Ocean bent down leisurely to grab the weapon. “Guards die. She needs to know how to defend herself if it happens again.”

“What’s wrong Ocean?” Hem’s eyes slit into a glare. “Afraid you might break a wing defending her?”

Ocean snorted. “Maybe that’s why you want me to be her guard. Maybe you’re trying to kill me off, like Bar. With us gone you’d eventually become king of Fie Eoin.”

Hem’s face blanched. “I would never…I’m not trying to kill Bar or rule Fie Eoin.”

“You’re certainly not trying to help him survive.”

“Ocean,” Yule touched her arm. Ocean shook her off. She’d been waiting thirteen summers to confront Hem.

His hands closed into fists at his side. “This isn’t about Bar or Fie Eoin. You cannot teach Kindra to wield a blade—she’s a princess.”

Ocean spread her wings so suddenly both Yule and Curls jumped back. “You taught me, and I’m Faye. Or have you forgotten all of Fie Eoin’s rules?”

“Cousin,” Hem said, a warning in his tone.

“No. You have no right to call me that anymore. You may call me ‘servant’ or ‘guard’ or ‘soldier,’ but not ‘cousin.’”

“Ocean,” he breathed. “You’re being unreasonable.”

She flipped the dagger in the air. “You’ll know when I’ve become unreasonable.”

“Are you threatening me?” His hand fell automatically to the sword at his side. A Known sword.

Yule squeezed Ocean’s arm hard. “Don’t. He’s King and you can’t win.”

“Fie Eoin has no king.” Ocean stared pointedly at Hemlock. Although he didn’t spend much time at the front he hadn’t gone soft. His gaze travelled over her, sizing her up, resting on her wings as they twitched. There was a good reason his men feared her.

She stepped forward and his knuckles went white around the hilt. “You have forgotten everything you once were,” she said. His jaw tightened. “All you can see now is what is Known, and Fie Eoin isn’t Known.”

“Because of me—“

“Because of your mother!”

He drew his sword. “Stop, Ocean. Now. You don’t know what happened—“

“Bar told me.” She took another step forward. “Bar told me her sacrifice. And his—“

“I have sacrificed, too!”

“I imagine running away to play king while you can feel your twin-bond dying is quite the sacrifice.”

“Stop,” he said as she took another step forward.

She had only her dagger and wings against his sword and twin-bond, but the look in Bar’s eyes at the temple made the anger rise in her, sharp and hot. She stopped before Hemlock. “And then you had the audacity to name your half-breed child ‘Kindra.’”

The moment the energy beneath her feet began to drain away Ocean’s fingers tightened around the small blade in her hand. He was using his twin-bond with Barracuda against her.

“If that’s how it’s going to be…” She jumped into the air.

Hemlock swung.

“Ocean!” Yule yelled.

“Father!” The princess screamed.

The power behind his swing was more than Ocean had ever encountered, and she had only a dagger to deflect. The force of it pushed her over the edge of the cliff and left her arm radiating with pain. Stunned, she barely remembered to snap her wings open before she fell.

He ran towards her and she dove, his shield of energy pushing against her. This time their weapons didn’t even touch—the force of the twin-bond slammed into Ocean so hard it sent her to the ground on the cliff’s edge, gasping for air.

“Are you done?” Hemlock growled.

Ocean pushed herself up and stood on shaking legs. “Why? Have you finally drained Bar?”

Hem’s face turned bright red. “You’re the one doing this.”

“You’re the one using your twin-bond against me! What’s wrong, King? Afraid to lose to a Faye girl?”

“Ocean!” Yule yelled. “Stop! He’s pulling too much energy!”

“Because he’s draining Barracuda!” Ocean screamed and took to the air. She darted from one side to the other, her feet only touching the ground when she needed the leverage, and attacked the energy shield around Hemlock.

“Bar was the only one I had after you abandoned us!” She screamed as she slashed. “You brought the Known World—” She slashed again, cutting deeper into the shield. “You killed your mother.” Slash. “And Shrike.” Slash. “Cougar.” Slash.

He drew the energy closer with each swipe of her dagger. “Tide,” she whispered, choking back a sob. “And now Bar.”

Ocean was ready when the energy exploded from him, and spread her wings as she was thrown back. Yule barely stumbled. But the princess, who had run behind her father, begging him to stop, screamed as the force knocked her over the cliff.

Fie Eoin Friday: The Winged Warrior, Part 3

Happy Friday, Aledans! I didn’t get an update post up yesterday, but that’s because I’ve done almost nothing writing-wise this past week (although I did edit the first scene of StO to make the sentences pretty), so you aren’t missing out on much of an update 😉 We’re continuing with Ocean’s story today – you can read Part 1 or Part 2 if you missed them.

The Winged Warrior

Ocean’s tent was twenty feet deep and ten feet wide, with a banked cookfire in the center and a cot on either side. She had moved her armor and weapons to the right side, leaving the left empty. Supplies for food storage and preparation lined the back wall.

Curls sat on her cot and stared at the wall as Yule helped Ocean prepare for the feast. “You have a lot of weapons.”

Ocean winced as the sharp edge of the iron cuirass scraped the base of her wing. “I’ve killed a lot of people.”

The princess studied her face for a moment. “I thought the Faye didn’t fight?”

The Faye that had come from across the mountains, like Yule, wouldn’t touch weapons. They were healers and priestesses, not warriors. “They don’t, but I’m a daughter of Fie Eoin. I come from a long line of warriors.”

“But how’d you get your name? I thought they had to whip you for that.”

For the Mother she had a lot of questions. “I cut my wings off for the ceremony, then grew them back.”

The princess’ eyes grew wide. “You cut off your own wings?”

Yule tugged hard on a buckle and Ocean winced again as the plate dug into the scars on her back. “Actually, Barracuda did it, with Yule’s help. She told him where to cut, and it took all of winter to grow them back, but it was worth it. I’m faster than any other warrior and I can attack my enemies from above.”

The princess’ gaze slid back to the weapons on the wall. “Will you teach me?”

“No.”

“I come from a long line of warriors too.” The girl touched the scar on her chin. “If you teach me to fight then I’ll be able to protect myself. I won’t need a guard.”

Yule ducked under Ocean’s arm to fix the buckles in the front. A teasing smile brightened her face. “The princess has a point.”

“See?” Curls said. “Even a Faye priestess agrees.”

The smile on Yule’s face grew. She would pay for that as soon as Ocean could sneak away from the feast.

Ocean shook her head as she forced the image of Yule’s smooth, flushed skin from her mind and focused on her conversation with the princess. “You will always need a guard. Even your father has a guard. Even the Warrior Goddess had a guard while she was mortal.”

“But all my guards have failed.”

Ocean grabbed her dagger from her cot and tucked it into her belt. “Why do you say that?”

Curls touched her scar, her gaze landing on the wall of weapons again. When she spoke it was at a whisper. “Because they’re all dead.”

Ocean crossed the tent and squeezed the princess’ shoulder. “But you’re still alive, which means they didn’t fail at all.”

Fie Eoin Friday: The Winged Warrior, Part Two

Happy Friday, Aledans! We’re continuing with Ocean’s story today, but if you missed part one you can find it here.

The Winged Warrior

Ocean shoved off the cliff and spread her wings, taking a much quicker route. The king’s guard grabbed their weapons as she dropped out of the sky into their midst. “Hello boys,” she chuckled as they fidgeted in embarrassment. “Miss me?”

“Cousin,” Hemlock said, only mildly surprised even as his wife and daughter jumped back in alarm. “Quite the entrance.”

He looked tired, his golden hair mottled with silver, his eyes shadowed with dark circles. What could send a king running from a palace bristling with guards to a small village in the northern mountains? The messenger had said only that Hem was bringing his daughter for the summer, and Ocean was to be her personal guard.

“King Hemlock,” She bowed, wings straight up in salute. “Queen Alyssa. Princess.”

He grabbed her arms and stood her up. “Please don’t bow to me here. I’m not the King of Fie Eoin.”

“Indeed.” She glanced at the small group. “Huh. I don’t see your twin here to welcome you.”

Hemlock’s shoulders tightened. “He must be busy.”

“He didn’t mention having anything to do today.”

Hemlock looked to the sky as if asking Aleda for patience, then turned to his daughter. “Kindra,” every Aledan within earshot winced at the sacrilegious name, “you remember your cousin, Ocean.”

The princess curtsied, the silk of her skirt shining in the sunlight. “You’re to be my new guard,” she said as she stood. A faint white scar broke the dark skin on her chin—she’d been born in battle, which is why her father named her after the Warrior Goddess.

“I am,” Ocean nodded. “You’ll be living with me for the summer.”

Hemlock squeezed his daughter’s shoulder. “Ocean is one of the best warriors I’ve ever met. You’ll be safe with her. I promise.”

The princess’ gaze slid to the village. Dark curls highlighted with gold framed her hazel eyes. Aledan eyes. Wary eyes. “Where’s the palace?”

She hadn’t been to Fie Eoin since she was born and Ocean knew the hide tents must be a disappointment compared to the stone buildings in the capital city. A few stone structures dotted Fie Eoin now—the temple, the chief’s house—but the majority of the Aledans still lived in tents. She preferred the warm softness of the hides to the cold, hard stone.

“There is no palace—Fie Eoin has no king.” Ocean cut her gaze to Hemlock, but his face remained emotionless at the jab. “Come on, Curls,” she used the nickname she’d given the princess last summer. “I’ll show you where you’ll sleep.”

She turned her back on the royal family. Ocean had fought for Hemlock, but only because if his enemies won they would come after Fie Eoin next.

“Ocean,” Curls said as she followed behind. “Can we go to the temple first?”

“Why?”

“Because she was my great-grandmother.”

Ocean stopped and looked at the princess. She’d grown since last summer—they were almost of a height. The girl’s dark skin and wild hair may be Known, but she was undeniably Aledan as well. “As you wish, Princess.” Ocean turned on her heel and led the way to the temple in the center of the village.

The stone structure stood on the old fire circle, nine feet by nine, with a hide doorflap that faced the High Priestess’ tent. Inside, candles burned day and night, illuminating the carved rock altar and the blue sword that sat upon it. They also illuminated her cousin, Bar, who stared at the blade with his arms crossed.

“Barracuda,” Ocean nodded and stepped aside so the princess could enter.

“Ocean,” he nodded in return, “Princess.” His hair had gone completely silver with the strain of his twin-bond. The twins in their family could use their bond to manipulate the earth’s energy much like the priestesses, but the farther apart they were, the bigger the strain. “I suppose that means Hem is here.”

“Just arrived.”

He squared his shoulders. “I’ll leave you the temple then. See you at the feast.”

When he was gone Curls turned to Ocean. “He doesn’t like me much.”

“Bar doesn’t like himself much, either. Not anymore.” Ocean turned to the blue blade, the amethyst jewels in the hilt shining in the candlelight. It belonged to her father now, but he hadn’t touched it since he took it from his twin sister’s dead hand and gave it to the High Priestess. He wouldn’t use it, not even as Chief of Fie Eoin.

The sword that had saved the tribe from their enemies sat on a carved rock, in a building of carved rock, useless until the day it would become Ocean’s.

“Can I touch it?” The princess whispered, her voice filled with awe.

Ocean nodded. Curls ran her fingers over the hilt, carved and jeweled to resemble wisteria. “It’s beautiful.”

“And deadly.” Ocean had watched from the cliffs as this sword cut down numerous Known soldiers. Felt the energy of the land drained by the twins in her family. Was thrown back as the energy exploded out of them, doing more damage than a blade alone ever could.

Her hands folded into fists as she remembered the destruction. Yule was right—even if she learned to fly in armor she could never win against that raw power.

Fie Eoin Friday: The Winged Warrior, Part One

Happy Friday, Aledans! Yesterday I told you that my submission for the Women in Practical Armor anthology was rejected, and since I have nothing else to do with it I figured I might as well use it for Fie Eoin Friday. So for the next six weeks we’ll be following Ocean, the winged warrior. For those of you who’ve read the rest of the Fie Eoin Friday’s, this is set about 50 years after the first book, so you may not recognize anyone 😉 Enjoy!

The Winged Warrior

Her parents named her Kaye after the High Priestess, but the Warrior Goddess named her Ocean. It was a powerful name—close to the Goddess’ own.

She hauled herself onto a low, thick branch where the forest and field met at the top of the cliff, and spread her wings. The branch groaned under her weight.

“The armor is too heavy to fly in,” Yule warned from the ground. Her long blonde hair lifted in the wind before settling over her own wings. “You’re going to break something.”

“Won’t be the first time,” Ocean said. She could fight in the air with sword or spear, and she’d even managed to get airborne with greaves and manica, but the segmented cuirass was too heavy and uncomfortable, even when altered to accommodate her wings.

“You’ve never broken a wing before. I can’t heal them if they break too close to the base.”

Yule’s face pulled into a worried frown, but Ocean smiled at her. “I have faith in you. Besides, I’ve been strengthening them. It’ll work this time.”

Without waiting for an argument, she spread her wings and jumped. The cicada-like appendages caught the wind and kept her airborne for a moment before the weight of the armor pulled her down. She threw her arms up in front of her face and let the manica take the brunt of the fall.

Yule ran to her. The annoyance in her voice had drained away to worry. “Are you ok? Let me see your arms.”

“I’m fine.” Ocean pushed herself up with a groan. She’d left two deep gouges in the dirt, but other than some chafing she wasn’t hurt.

Yule unclasped the manica and checked her arms, then began the long process of unbuckling the cuirass. Each thin, curved piece of metal wrapped around Ocean’s side to buckle in the front and back. They were held together with thick leather cords that tied up like a corset.

“That was a stupid idea,” Yule finally said. “I told you it wouldn’t work.”

Ocean lifted her arms to make the unbuckling easier. “You think all my ideas are stupid.”

“Because they are.” Yule stuck her tongue out. Ocean kissed it.

“Eww! You’re disgusting. I don’t know why the Mother let a creature like you on this earth.”

Ocean grinned. “She has an excellent sense of humor.”

Yule shook her head, smiling, as she finished with the buckles. “I still don’t see why you need to learn to fly with all this weight. They let you fight without it, and you aren’t going to the front lines regardless.”

No, Ocean was babysitting a princess this summer. “I don’t like the idea of being land-bound if I’m in it.”

“When will you be in it?”

“Whenever I’m in the presence of the king.” Ocean’s shoulders tightened as Yule pulled the cuirass off, careful not to nick her wings. Ocean immediately felt better without the metal. As a winged Faye, she was able to sense the energy of the earth, although she didn’t have the natural magic that a priestess like Yule did.

Ocean sat on the edge of the cliff, legs dangling over the side, and watched the standard-bearers descend from the southern pass. Sunlight flashed off the armor of the soldiers who had accompanied the royal family from the Known World to Fie Eoin.

Yule twisted a golden strand of Ocean’s hair between her fingers. “You should probably get down there to greet him.”

“He’s already walking into a wall of disdain. I won’t add mine yet.”

“Ocean,” Yule tsked. “You can’t blame him for leaving. He had a wife whose country was falling apart and a newborn daughter. Of course he couldn’t stay.”

“He also had a tribe in turmoil and a twin-bond he’s stretched so thin Bar never smiles anymore.”

Yule tucked the strand of hair back into Ocean’s braid. “Bar has plenty of other reasons to not smile.”

“Which is why Hemlock should have stayed.” She could never forgive her cousin for leaving Fie Eoin, for betraying his twin-bond. Soon Barracuda would be a husk, as empty as her father.

Yule ran the tips of her fingers lightly over Ocean’s wings, leaving a trail of warmth. “Nuh-uh,” Ocean said. “No using your magic on me.”

“I’m just trying to calm you down, love. You can’t start a fight with the king of the Known World. You’d never win.”

Ocean sighed—someone needed to put Hem in his place.

Yule stood, dusted herself off, and planted a kiss on the top of Ocean’s head. “Whatever sent Hemlock all the way to Fie Eoin must have been significant. He’s family—he trusts you.” She gathered the armor and began the long walk down the path, speaking over her shoulder. “I’ll see you before the feast to help you get this madness back on.”

Fie Eoin Friday: Ocean the Faye Warrior

Happy Friday, Aledan Merfolk! If you’re new to Fie Eoin Fridays (it’s been a while since we’ve had one), it’s the day I post a deleted scene or backstory from whatever project I’m currently working on. Originally that project was Fie Eoin (now The Nameless Warrior), hence the name. I’m back in Fie Eoin’s world for this short story, so I thought an FEF would be especially appropriate this week. This short story takes place after the third book in Fie Eoin’s series, so if you have no idea what’s happening just know that Ocean is Kindra’s granddaughter. Hemlock is her cousin, and has become King of a Roman-like empire called the Known World. Ocean’s not too happy about that, especially when he chooses her to “babysit” his daughter. The rest you can probably work out from the scene.

Enjoy!

It took half a moon to reach the edge of the Known World, and half a moon more to reach the capital city where the royal family lived. The palace rose almost as high as the cliff back home, all dazzling white stone bristling with soldiers in their light armor. Ocean hated wearing it—Aledans fought without armor. Before the Known World found them the Aledans had been the only tribe with iron weapons.

“Cousin,” King Hemlock waited at the door to greet her. His wife, a cold woman Ocean had never been fond of, stood next to him with one dark hand on their daughter’s shoulder.

“King Hemlock,” Ocean bowed. “Queen Alyssa. Princess.”

Hem grabbed her up. “No need to bow, cousin. You’re not a servant.”

Wasn’t she? She was here at his request to serve as his daughter’s bodyguard.

He led her through the hall. “I’m so glad you’re here. There have been attempts on my daughter’s life and I can’t trust anyone, except family. And you certainly made a name for yourself on the front lines. My men call you the ‘winged wave’.”

Ocean’s wings twitched under her cloak. She knew what they called her on the field. Warrior names were sacred and they were making fun of her. Hem should know better.

“You’re very quiet today,” he said as they ascended the stairs.

“I’m Faye. We’re always quiet.” With others. Together the winged ones were boisterous. Ocean remembered many nights in Fie Bradach with the other Faye. Late nights, bonfires, music, and Yule. Ocean was never quiet with Yule. The Faye priestess hated that Ocean was a warrior, because Faye outside of Fie Eoin were taught to shun weapons, but that didn’t stop them from enjoying each other’s company.

Hemlock opened a wooden door to a room the size of a tent in Fie Eoin. There was a pallet on one side, tapestries covering the stone walls, and a door in the sidewall. A carpet that reminded her of the rugs in Fie Obsid covered the stone floor.

“The second door leads to Kindra’s chambers,” Hemlock said, ignoring Ocean’s wince at the sacrilegious name. “If you need anything her servants have been told to supply it.”

What Ocean really needed was a tent under the stars. Fighting on the front lines had always been better than the cities of stone. She dropped her sack on the pallet and turned to face her cousin. “You have my word—nothing will befall your daughter while I’m here.”

“I know,” he said and studied her. His hair hadn’t gone to silver like his twin brother’s, but it looked tarnished all the same. “I know what I’ve done, Ocean, but I did it to save Fie Eoin.”

“We’re grateful,” she said automatically.

He sighed and looked away. “Take the night to become acclimated. I’ll see you first thing in the morning.”

“Do you still do warm-ups?” She asked out of curiosity. He hadn’t gone soft around the middle, but she’d been in his army twice before and noticed his men didn’t have the same morning routine as the Aledans.

“Of course.” He stopped at the door on his way out and stared at his hand on the stone. “I know that you think I’ve abandoned Fie Eoin, but I was never born to rule. I’m doing my best. My brother would have been better-suited to this life.”

She didn’t reply, although she agreed. Bar was made to rule, but Fie Eoin didn’t need a war chief right now—it needed someone to bring them together after the destruction the Known World caused. Aledan, Obsidian, Faye, Tarrin, and Gaerlom…Ocean’s father could bring them all to one. Barracuda would have broken them apart.

Hem left and Ocean began to unpack. After a short while the princess opened the second door. She was almost as dark-skinned as her mother, but her hair was highlighted with gold and her eyes were hazel. Aledan.

“You’re to be my new guard?” She said.

Ocean stopped and looked at her. The scar on the girl’s chin—which was how she got her name—the wild, half-golden curls. The eyes. Ocean bowed her head. “I am.”

“Father calls you Cousin.”

“You can call me Ocean.”

The girl tilted her head. “Do you speak Known? Or should I speak to you in Aledan?”

Ocean switched to Known. “You can call me whatever you like—I hear princesses are special.”

The princess snorted. “I don’t know why,” she said in Aledan. “I haven’t done anything to be special about, except being alive.”

That made Ocean smile. “And by being alive you’ll someday be queen.” There was no word for queen in Aledan, so she switched to Known. “And then you’ll do great things. Rule the Known World. You’ll be the most powerful person alive.”

“Except the gods.” The little princess grabbed an amethyst from Ocean’s desk and turned it over in her fingertips. “Father says I was named after a goddess.”

“You were named after you great-grandmother,” Ocean said. It was easier for her to think of it that way.

The young hazel eyes met hers. “Did you know her?”

In that moment the princess—Kindra—was just a girl. Ocean swallowed. “No. She died when your grandparents were only fifteen summers.”

The girl nodded and rubbed her fingers over the smooth gem. “I wish I could have met her.”

“I do too,” Ocean whispered. Kindra was the first woman to become a warrior in Fie Eoin, and it hadn’t been easy for her. It hadn’t been easy for Ocean either, rebelling against the non-violent Faye to earn her warrior name. Outshining her father, the chief. Having no twin-bond whose energy she could draw on.

She glanced at the princess—the first Aledan/Known child with the name of a goddess—and thought it must not be easy for her either. Ocean decided she would protect this girl with her life and spirit.

Princess Kindra placed the stone back on the table carefully. “Do you know what threats you’re protecting me from?”

“All of them.”

“How many people could possibly hate me?”

Ocean stepped next to the girl, ran her hand over the strange hair. “They don’t hate you, but they hate your father. Some people will use children to get to their real enemies.”

Kindra wrenched away. “I’m not a child. I’m thirteen.”

“To your father you are. To his enemies you are. Even when you grow up to be queen you’ll be a weakness.”

“You’re the daughter of a king,” the girl said. “Why aren’t you a weakness?”

“I’m the daughter of a chief. The youngest daughter. And now our only enemies are yours, which makes you far more valuable than me.”

The princess was silent for a moment, and when she spoke it was in Aledan. “I think if my father’s enemies are smart they’ll know Fie Eoin is the most valuable thing.”