Chapter One: Arrows

Aroe could hear Javell’s ragged breaths mere steps behind her.

His eyes were cutting into her again and she was glad he had caught up.  The trip to Paradise was his idea, she couldn’t do this without him.

The Blue was on the two lovers, it’s pale light guiding their run.  The time just before sunrise when only Cirel the systems smaller star sat in the sky.  It cast a light blue over the land before Gon, the large red sun cast it’s own color.  The two mixed into bright violet daylight.

Gon rose, Cirel’s Devil’s tongue reached for the larger star, the end glowed bright purple.  Aroe could see the color mixing, another night on the road behind them.

The evergreens they were cutting through were growing thinner as the steps passed.  Their eyes never glanced back.

“Not far now,” she said and let her legs go. Her body fell forward, her wings kicking in to keep her from eating forest floor.  She shrank a bit, hardly conscious of it, but it was far easier to keep a smaller body aloft.  They were a light gossamer red, Javell claimed to be in love with as much as her, on several occasions.  He compared them to a butterfly when love drunk, as men his age often are.  She never corrected him, seeing it for the compliment he meant.   Strong for such airy things, her wings carried her most of the journey.

She abstained from flying though when he broke off to stop a few soldiers on their tail.  Running so he could have a chance to catch up.   Before that she had ridden his shoulder most the day.

“Carry me again?” she asked slowing.

Javell stopped a few steps behind her, his eyes looking past her to the forest ahead.  Leaning against a tree, he held a hand to his side.  Soft blond hair was pulled into a long ponytail.  His gray eyes flexed open and closed.  Patchy hints of what would be a full beard in later years spotted his face.

“No,” he said, an unusual roughness to his kind tone.

“What crawled up your backside?” she wondered aloud.  He shifted the hand pressed to his side.  Blood spilled from a hole in his black tunic.

With a bare thought she grew to human size.  Aroe was still a foot shorter than Javell, fairy’s were strong though.  Strong as their elements.

“My love?” she asked moving his hand further to see the wound.  Two fingers wide, blood poured steadily from the wound.   “Shall I?”  She called the warmth to her hand, it flared into a small fire between her fingers.  Her soft pink skin shined in the light.

Javell nodded, his blond curls loose in his eyes.  Sweat held the normal bounce of his hair to a minimum, his normally boisterous, and frankly scandalous, look lost in a sea of pain.  She leaned forward, slamming her lips into his.  His mouth opened and she touched the wound, one hand held his shoulder.  He shuddered, pulling back and crying out against her mouth but a human couldn’t break her grasp.

She let him go, wiping the crisp blood and burnt skin that stained her palm onto her petal skirt.  He collapsed against a tree, tears streaking his regal face.

“Sorry,” she said.  Tales of his princely fortitude were much more impressive than actually see it firsthand.

“It’s fine,” he said.  “I love you.”  Green eyes bored into her and she felt the usual rush of heat.

“I love you too,” she said without a thought.  She pressed herself against him, pushing his hand to her chest.  “We have time to prove it, my lord?” she almost sang the words, as her hand dropped to his belt.

“Shhh,” he said, putting his filthy fingers to Aroe’s mouth.  “My father’s men still live. We must hurry, my fire.”

The fairy rolled her eyes, but left him against the tree.  Her wings were still tired from the rest of the journey, so slowing for him wasn’t a problem.  Every time he was almost out of sight, she would stop, landing in a tree to wait.   They continued on like that for another hour, the blue faded to the bright day, before finally the goal was in sight.

Higher in the tree, she could see the crossed rocks ahead of them.  A natural rock formation of two boulders, one quartz, the other granite.  A natural doorway set upon the earth. Barely two-hundred steps by man, and they would be in paradise.  He was still far off, but she flew forward anyway.

The portal was a natural one, and easy to operate.  The spells went by quick, a blue, and silver light blinking into existence in between the ten foot tall stones.   She ran her hand over the quartz, feeling it humming with power.

She glanced back, seeing Javell running full speed finally.  Raising her hands, she did a victory dance, praising the sky with shakes of her body, and jumps.  No response, he just ran on, ignoring her cute pirouette.

Her eyes were made to spot things close up, her kind weren’t made to hunt, and her wings were more to hover between flowers than for speed.  Fairies were not natural predators.  Her long distance vision was poor at best, and it took her a long time to recognize the pursuers behind him for anything other than trees, still dark woods of the night.

“RUN!” she shouted, jumping up, and hovering.  He was moving fast, but the Stydran knights rode hard, four legged drakes serving as scaly mounts for the soldiers.

It was a whistling to her, that was all until the pain started.  A cold spike just above her knee, the force of it pushing her back. Her feet collapsed under her, as her wings failed.   Heat left through the wound, burning the Stydran arrow to ash, and eliminating the poison it likely carried.  Javell’s family was known for its use of tainted blades and coward’s tactics.

He was near her as they prepared the second volley.  Among the half-dozen men were only three archers, even she could see them well enough to count now.  Her view of death, was blocked by a soft tunic, black, and with a white knife on it.  A model of the same glass knife he carried on his hip.

Another whistle and the arrow poked through Javell’s chest, just the tip slicing into her cheek.   A second one blossomed from his shoulder.  Falling forward, he landed in her waiting arms, blood pouring over her.

His body was heavy, but not as heavy as the burden of the lives she burned in the field.

The magic was Aroe’s home as much as any earthly construct, and as she held his limp body in her arms she was at peace.  For that moment watching the eyes burn out of the men, he had commanded just a week previous, everything was alright again.  She could feel it as dark magic, even as she called it, but the pleading screams of the soldiers, and the righteous stench of their burn made it easy to forget where her heart tread.

There was some fighting, a mage in the back resisted, her body barely sixteen as Aroe burnt the soul out of her.  Plumes of smoke and glowing embers followed the drakes, their dead riders still attached.   They would likely return to their home, but she did not have strength for a chase.  She had never called upon her nature to take a life, the taint of it left vomit riding high in her throat as she stood.

He was cold and heavy in her arms, his lingering warmth drawn into the fires she had commanded.  She returned a little of the heat she had taken, careful not to set him alight, as she carried her prince though the portal.   Her legs ached, but there was no way she could fly with a man in her arms.

One step was hard packed earth, and the next smooth worn stone.  Worn so smooth it shone, as she collapsed onto it.  His green eyes were still open, still boring into her.  His lips still soft as hers touched them.

“Fuckin’ hell,” a voice said.   She didn’t look up, her tears turning to steam as she called her nature into her.  “We’ve got a live one, and a dead—.”  He stopped his eyes stopping on the sheathed blade, and the sigil he wore.  “Stydran prince. A dead Stydran prince.”  She heard something clatter, as if he had fallen.

“I am Aroe,” she said. “This is Javell, Stydran Prince, we booked a trip to paradise?”  She looked up, keeping on hand firmly on his chest, the other slipping to his weapon.  They were in a room of some type.

Artificial suns brightened the space, filled with large hunks of metal and two steel carriages.  Tools, or implements of some type lined one wall, and boxes of more sat open near them.  Even in the fortresses she had never been in a room this size.  Surely this was a castle?  Despite the stench.  Through the huge doors, she could see outside the massive oil stinking room, she could see the sun, yellow like Cirel, just setting.

The man was short, red hair sticking out from under a black hat.  He wore green clothes that were a single piece, a name stitched onto the chest.  Freckles covered his face and he put a cigar in his mouth, as he spoke.

“Well Aroe, welcome to Portland. We probably need to get you the hell out of here.”

***

NEXT CHAPTER

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