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?”
“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.
“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.