Summary: A wee story about wee folk and their comparatively giant friends. Fairies and elves have always gotten along, but humans, that's another matter. A change is in order, and a journey through the ancient forest just might bring the changes everyone needs.
Disclaimers: This story depicts loving relationships between women, if this is offensive to you, or it's illegal where you live, or you are under 18 and your mom's going to flip that you are reading this, perhaps you should find another story. There is some violence.
The characters are all mine, although you may find some resemblance to certain other characters, only because the inspiration for them comes from the xenavirse. All comments are welcome, you may send them to email@example.com.
November 8, 2009
Talon was working the south field; at least that's what she was supposed to be doing. She sat on a log in the warm sunshine flicking seeds nearly the size of her head into the wind and letting them float where they may. The hawk overhead watched her with longing wishing Talon would once again join her in play. But Talon never looked up, not even when a tiny pair of brightly clad legs came into her view. She knew the dark eyes were giving her a disapproving look.
“What are you doing”, Belly asked exasperated by Talons lack of interest in her work.
Flicking another seed into the light breeze Talon watched it flutter away, “Seed spreading”.
Belly took a seat on the log beside her friend, “Nice technique, I'm not sure Golly would approve.” Talon stopped flicking seeds and started to peel away at one. “Now that's just cruel.” Belly took the seed from Talon and gently rubbed the skin back in place. “This has got to stop, it's been over five months, you can't keep doing this to yourself. It's time to move on.”
The sweet smell of new grass floated on the breeze and for a moment Talon felt happy. The morose feeling was getting harder and harder to hang on to and she knew she was ready for a change, but was feeling stuck. She closed her eyes and turned her face to the golden warmth of the sun, making her hair look like flames erupting around her head. Then just as quickly the moment was gone. “I can't help it, it's so boring, there is nothing to do here and before I know it all I can think about is Kal and that, that nymph!”
Moving a little closer to her best friend Belly put a sympathetic hand on the defeated arm, it hurt her to see this normally energetic and vivacious person so down. “I know it sucks, you were dumped, but you have got to get over it. You can't keep dwelling on it or hiding out seed spreading. Just let it go.”
“I miss her.”
That was it, Belly's patience had come to an end, and it was time to get her friend back. “She's not worth it.” Talon shot her a surprised look. “And in the end she proved just that.” Talon went back to staring at her hands. “Besides, I was looking for you for a reason. How about leaving these seeds behind for a while, there's something going on in Cunning Wood, a group of us are going over to help. Come with us.”
Talon's attention was finally caught, she looked at the small woman with dark spiked hair and a spirited spark in her dark eyes, her best friend who had for so long tried to drag her out of her self pitying mood and knew she was right. It was over and had been for a long time, Kal was just a bad memory. She could feel the old Talon creeping back in, “Cunning Wood? What's going on?”
“Not sure, but Minton sent word, they need our help.”
“Why would the elves need our help?”
Belly knew she had finally captured her old friends attention, she shrugged, the answer unknown. A mischievous grin crept into the corner of her mouth and gave a nod of her head that sent her dark spike hair bouncing. Whatever was going on it was big and going to be an adventure. Talon's face slowly broke into the impish grin that meant she was game for whatever was to come. It was a look Belly had not seen in a while. With a twinkle in her eye Talon stood taking Belly's hand and they both took to the air leaving the flower strewn glade far beneath them. Fairy wings glinted in the sunlight as the two old friends once again flew into another adventure together.
A new lightness had filled Talon and she knew that Belly had once again given her the kick she had needed to get going again. She soared high and then with alarming speed dove down to circle around her companion who was laughing and enjoying seeing Talon snapping out of her funk. They swept over the tall grass and into the woods headed for their small village.
Landing in the center of the village, people seemed to notice the new jaunt in Talon's step as she confidently strode to the meetinghouse where others were gathering. Inside they joined three men and two other women who were discussing all the possibilities of the call for help from Cunning Wood. Everyone turned and fell silent when Talon and Belly walked in.
Belly grinned at the questioning look on everyone's faces, “Talon has decided to join us.”
The leader of the group was oldest among them by at least a hundred years, but a great flier who had more experience than all of them combined. Zie walked over to Talon placing a hand on her shoulder, “Welcome Talon.” As he turned to rest of the group he gave Belly a look of thanks for bringing his best flier out of her stupor. “Minton has asked for a group from Faun Wood to join his travel company in Cunning Wood along with a group from Thatch Wood and Breex Wood.” He paused looking at his young fliers as they excitedly whispered to each other. “He did not give any details, except that we would help escort someone from Fairwild to the Rock Lakes . I can only imagine this is someone of importance and their security is of the highest concern. It is a long journey and there will be dangers, so if anyone wishes to decline the offer now is the time to do so.” He knew no one would decline the job as he looked around. He had trained every one of them himself and knew their hearts were where the adventure lies. As he met their eyes each fairy stood a little taller and nodded their consent. “Very good, now you should all go home and get some rest. We leave at first light.” He gave them a proud smile and quickly left the building.
Belly and Talon followed Zie out and watched him fly off to an elders gathering. Belly was practically dancing around Talon, “Why do you suppose Minton is calling on so many escorts?”
“Who knows, but at least it will be more exciting than seeding a field. Thanks Belly, I owe you one.” Talon's golden green eyes lit up as she gave her friend a light kiss on the cheek and took flight, already deep in thought about what was to come.
Talon had taken flight so quickly Belly almost did not have time to respond, “See you in the morning. And you're welcome!” There were so many things to do before morning that she hurried off in the direction of her own home waving a cheery hello to everyone she saw.
The first rays of the sun were breaking through the leaves of the forest as the birds sang the world awake. Talon sat on the highest branch of the tallest tree watching the sky turning from purple to crimson to pink to deep blue, taking a deep breath of the sweet air she finally felt like her old self again and she was ready to get back to the life she loved. She could hear the others gathering below and quickly darted down to join the Faun Wood squad for the trip to Cunning Woods. Zie put her and Belly on point in their old positions and the world felt right again for Talon.
It was not a difficult trip to the elf village, one they had done many times before. A squad of Thatch fairies was already there when they arrived. Most of the Faun fairies landed near the Thatch group to greet old friends. Belly and Talon landed in a tree at the edge of the clearing to get a better look at the gathering and to assess who of interest might be there. Minton was talking with a couple of elves and quietly taking notice of the fairies arrival. He had always struck Talon as a majestic and imposing figure and not just because of his height. His silver hair reached down to the middle of his back, but his face did not have a single wrinkle. She had never seen him lose his calm composure, even in a crisis. Talon could tell he was waiting for everyone to arrive before acknowledging anyone.
Belly had scoped out the entire party, “This is going to be big.”
“Everyone is here. I recognize most of Thatch.”
As another squad broke through the trees Belly watched them circle, “Here comes Breex.” They watched as six fairies flew in, most landing near the others. One however flew very near them; she had honey blonde hair that shone in the sunlight and a look of confidence as she looked back at the two of them before landing.
Talon's curiosity was peaked, she watched the young woman land and walk over to her fellow travelers. Her eyes never left the lovely sight, “Who was that?”
“I don't know, I've never seen her before. We better get down there.”
The air was buzzing with excitement as old friends greeted each other. Belly and Talon landed near Jib, their fellow Faun fairy. Everyone began to settle down as Minton walked over with three other elves. He took a seat on a log not far from the gathered fairies, not wanting to tower over his tiny friends. The other elves stood as a friendly welcoming party behind him. Minton looked around and allowed a slight smile to cross his face. He took a deep breath and held his hands out in greeting.
“Welcome my friends, we are very grateful to you for coming. We have been given the most important task of escorting Lady Ferron across the forest to the great castle above Rock Lakes .” A whisper of ‘a human' could be heard from the demure group. Minton did not think this would be an issue since the elves and fairies had no direct feud with the humans. He continued on solemnly, “We have never escorted such an important human before but we are doing this as a favor to King Haver. The King is dying and has asked for his only child to be brought to him. Speed is of the essence, for he may not have much time. Lady Ferron will become the new Queen and it is up to us to ensure her safe and swift journey. There are those in the forest who would kill any human they see, it is they whom we must protect her from. Elves will surround her at all times and we need you fairies to make a circle both near and far around us to scout and warn of danger. I have sent Haillen and Tulver to meet Lady Ferron at the edge of the forest here in Cunning Wood, she will arrive tonight and we will set out at first light. Let us take this time to prepare; it is a week's travel to the Rock Lakes . May we travel with the speed of the wind.” Minton stood and walked into a lodging at the edge of the clearing, Zie and one member from Thatch and Breex followed him.
With this new information the fairies discussed the seriousness of their mission. Everyone had thoughts on exactly what dangers were going to come their way. Belly was just about to seek out some refreshment when a young man approached them from Breex. The woman who had captured Talon's attention was not far behind.
“Hi Belly! How are your star shines?” The young man said with a bit of sarcasm.
Belly knew he was just trying to get a rise out of her. “Hawker, what are you doing here? I thought Mant wouldn't let you out of her sight?”
He stood a little taller, “I can do what I please, besides, I go when the call is this urgent.” He turned his attention on Talon with a smug expression, “Haven't seen you for a while Talon? Finally decide to get back to some real work instead of seeding?”
Talon lifted an eyebrow menacingly, she knew Hawker was a good guy, but he could be annoying at times. “Watch it Hawker or I'll tell Mant you've got a new girlfriend.” She looked intently into the violet eyes that looked back at her. “Who's your friend?”
Hawker glanced over his shoulder, “Oh, this is Surry, you remember Pog's sister? She's been living up at Rock Lakes and just returned home a few months ago.” He looked at Talon with a teasing glint in his eyes, “I don't know Talon, she might even be better than you at tactical maneuvers.”
Surry stepped forward never taking her eyes off the fiery red head. “Hawker, fly away.”
Hawker made a small bow, “Fine, see you ladies in the air.” And with that he took off.
Belly had been watching the exchange between Talon and Surry. She could feel the intense attraction radiating off the two. Finally, just what Talon needed to fully bring her back to the land of the living.
A look of pleasure and deep interest was in the smile on the petite blonde's face. “Hi, I'm Surry. I hear your pretty stealth.” She directed at Talon.
Talon was interested, but still intent on keeping her guard up. “I'm Talon, this is Belly.”
For the first time Surry seemed to notice the pert little fairy with the mischievous gleam in her eye and she liked her instantly.
“Hi” Belly bubbled in. She could see the spark come back in Talon's eyes, something that had been missing for quite a while and she wanted to give it a chance to grow. “I'm going to go see what the others are up to. I'll just…” While trying to back away to give the two some privacy she backed into Zie who had come to gather them for the meeting.
Steadying Belly, Zie informed them they had a plan and lead them over to the group. Everyone was eager to get his or her assignments. Escorting the future Queen of the humans was a great responsibility and a great honor. Zie took his place by Minton's side, the tall elf having once again seated himself on a log to make conversation easier on the large group of fairies.
Minton laid out the basic plan of a security escort detail and then handed the assignments over to Zie. “Talon, Belly, Chalice and Surry are going to fly right lead squadron. I'll be on forward lead with Ripper and Bock, report to me if you see anything.” Surry and Talon had been stealing looks at each other without the other knowing, losing the thread of what was being said until Zie quickly took off calling out to Hawker. As their eyes met a blush quickly ran up each of their faces and they quickly looked away. Belly was enjoying this more than she probably should and let out a short laugh as Chalice made his way to them.
The next morning found an eager and excited group preparing to leave. Lady Ferron had arrived in the early afternoon. She was a beautiful and graceful lady with long auburn hair pulled back into a braid that ran down her back. She walked with the confidence of someone of great stature. There was a strength about her, but she spoke with kindness and caring, she seemed to genuinely care about the state of relations between humans and forest creatures and made a point of meeting and thanking everyone in the travel party. Her own escorts had been turned back at the forests edge. The more humans in the party the greater the danger would be, so they would take the long way around and meet her at the castle in a fortnight's time. Possibly the greatest sign of determination to forge a friendship between humans and the forest was giving herself over entirely to the elves and fairies.
As the group prepared to leave everyone fell into formation. The fairies took to the skies forming two perimeters around the elves that formed two perimeters around Lady Ferron. Minton took the lead followed by Lady Ferron with Haillen by her side. Minton's daughter was the best archer in the village and would serve as Lady Ferron's personal guard. Haillen's twin brother Tulver, who was the second best archer, and his wife Spree , an accomplished swordswoman, would bring up the rear. Five other elves would form a larger circle around the group.
Haillen paid careful attention to the Lady to make sure the journey would not be too difficult for her. She had little idea what life in the human world consisted of and before meeting her had imagined the Lady passing her time with needlework or books. She noted with pleasure that the Lady had no trouble keeping up. “I hope the pace is not too much for you Lady Ferron.”
“I enjoy a quick pace. I run the grounds every morning before bow practice.” Lady Ferron could not help a smug smile at the amused look Haillen gave her. “I can strike my target, although I would never claim to compare to an elf.”
“I hear you also play the pipes.” Haillen could not help but be amused by this small woman.
“Yes, my father insisted, he loves the sound of them. I only hope I can play them for him once more.”
Sensing the strain in the Lady's voice Haillen briefly placed a gentle hand on the arm next to her. “You will.”
A warm sensation ran up Ferron's arm from where Haillen had touched her and quickly moved through her entire body. “I am grateful to all of your people for their help.”
“We will get you there safely.” Haillen assured her.
Ferron looked up at the taller woman, her beauty was striking. She had been startled upon first meeting the twins; Haillen tall with long black hair and striking cheek bones and her brother Tulver a bookend to her only with white hair. She became lost for a moment in blue eyes the color of the sea gently looking back at her. “Will you stay by my side?”
Haillen wanted nothing more than to make this woman feel safe. “I am here.”
Ferron resisted the urge to reach up and brush aside a tendril of long dark hair that had blown across the cream colored face before her. Instead she gave it a shy smile, “I feel safe with you.”
“I will not leave you.” Haillen watched the Lady out of the corner of her eye trying to take in full breath of this intriguing woman. She could see the definition of muscle that lay just beneath her fine tunic. And her rich auburn hair seemed to heighten the intensity that shown through emerald green eyes. What she lacked in height she made up for in presence. She seemed to have a good and kind heart and was apparently quite athletic. Haillen would have to watch herself for this woman could take her breath away.
The first day passed with nothing eventful transpiring. However it would not take long before word got around the forest that a human was being escorted through by elves and fairies. It would only be a matter of time and they would have to be very vigilant. Talon and Belly were flying low while Surry and Chalice flew high above them. Talon was hardly aware she was casting glances at the small blonde high above her, but Belly was very aware of it and sported a large grin. “She's cute.”
“Who?” Talon pretended to be unaware.
“Oh please, don't even.”
Talon looked around, “This isn't the place.”
“Where is?” Belly asked exasperated.
Talon looked once again at the enticing vision above her. “I don't remember Pog's sister looking like that.”
Belly had to laugh, “What were we, like four the last time we saw her. Even you looked like a hayseed back then.”
Talon was about to remind her of just how bug eyed Belly had been as a child when she spotted something on the ground. “Over there.” She pointed and darted down. Belly followed right behind her. As they got closer it was clear, “Tracks, they're ahead of us. Let's fly, get Chalice and Surry.”
As Belly shot straight up Talon took off darting in and out of bushes and around trees. Belly was about to catch up with the others and motion them to follow in Talons direction when Surry noticed her approach. Looking down she saw Talon darting around. Surry took off in Talon's direction. She was so fast Belly paused for a moment to admire the skill of her movements; she had never seen anyone fly that way, except for Talon. Oh what a fine pair they would make. She caught Chalice's eye and gave a mischievous grin. With a flick of her head they were off after their two much faster companions.
Surry caught up with Talon and followed close behind, the two only a blur of movement. Suddenly Talon pulled up short and dropped to the ground. Surry was quick to match her movements. “I'd say only two.” Talon said as she searched around the ground for more evidence. She had noticed when Surry had pulled along side her and was quite impressed with her skill. She quickly pushed it from her mind as her eye caught something under a bush. It was a piece of thistle twine so small it was almost invisible. She walked over and picked it up, turning it over in her hand a disgusted look came over her face. “Wood nymphs.”
Stepping closer to Talon for a better look Surry could smell the light fragrance that came from Talon's wings fluttering with anger. She quickly forced the distraction from her mind. “Think it's a coincidence?”
Talon tucked the piece of twine in her pouch and began pacing. Nymphs, of all things it had to be nymphs. “Why would the nymphs be after the future queen of the humans, they never associate with humans.” She paced around a bit more then looked up at Surry who was coming to the same conclusion. “Unless…”
“They're working with someone else.”
Talon shook her head, nymphs were mischievous troublemakers, but they lacked initiative to go after a human. “For someone else; who would like to see a human dead, but could not get anywhere near them with us around.”
The obvious hit Surry, “Brownies.” She made an awful face, “There smell could wake the dead.”
“No, just a fairy.”
Belly and Chalice dropped down and Talon held out the piece of twine. “It's wood nymphs, and we think maybe brownies.”
Chalice took a deep breath, “I don't smell any trace of brownies.”
“You wouldn't if the nymphs were scouting for them.” Surry explained. She noticed Belly and Talon exchange a meaningful look and could feel the anger radiating off Talon.
“We need to tell Zie.” Chalice took the piece of twine from Talon and examined it closely. There was no doubt it was nymph made.
Belly told him to go and that they would fan out and see what else they could find. “It will be dark within an hour, we'll meet you back at camp.” Surry had begun looking around fanning out a bit trying to cover every inch. Even in the midst of a crisis Belly could not stop her match making urges. She nudged Talon in the back and pushed her in Surry's direction. She got a cold glare for her efforts but pressed on anyway. “I'm going to check over there, you guys see what else you can find around here.”
Knowing that nothing can stop the force that is Belly once she gets started Talon gave her friend a sinister glare and moved off to join Surry. After searching around for a while and knowing they would not likely find any other evidence their efforts were becoming less intense. Talon decided to break the ice, “You're pretty fast up there.”
Surry smiled at the compliment, “I was just trying to keep up.”
“Where did you learn maneuvers?”
“At Upper Rock Lake .” Her efforts were becoming less intent on tracks and more on the fairy by her side.
Talon remembered what Hawker had said about Surry having lived at Rock Lake . “So have you ever met the King, this man who is dying?”
Feelings of love came over Surry as she remembered her friend. He was a respectful man, a happy man, a strong man who loved his people and the land they lived on. He wanted peace among all creatures, but as the numbers of his people grew and many began to infringe on the forest, he searched for a way they could all live in peace. She smiled at Talon hoping she could make her understand. “Yes, and he is a good man, I hope his daughter will be half as good a ruler as he is.” ‘Was' she thought as the implications of their journey reminded her. She was becoming sad and did not want that to happen so she quickly changed the subject. “What about you; where did you learn to fly like that?”
They had slowed to a casual pace and all attempts of a search had gone. Belly watched them for a moment from a distance knowing that if there were any more evidence out there Talon would spot it no matter how distracted she was. “Oh, I use to be a courier.”
“A courier?” Surry asked skeptically, she gave Talon a quizzical look, which was met by a blank stare that said ‘that is all I will tell you'. This only made Surry more interested because of course she had heard rumors. “What happened?”
“Is that all?” She would not give up easily. When Talon finally gave her a questioning look she casually said, “It's just that Hawker said something about how you were one of the best tacticals until..”
Talon cut her off with a warning before she could finish her sentence. “I wouldn't listen to anything that came out of Hawkers mouth.”
Surry realized she might have gone a little too far; what ever had happened Talon was still sensitive to it, and she did not want to blow this before it even began. “I'm sorry, I shouldn't… I don't even know you, but…”
“But what.” Talon was getting defensive.
“I'd like to.”
This was not the response Talon was expecting. She looked into sparkling violet eyes and gave a sly grin. She could feel her heart rate accelerating. “You would?” Her grin turned wicked. “Well, you have to catch me first.” Letting out a little laugh she shot straight up. Surry's face lit up as she took off after the devilish redhead. They were quickly engaged in a high-speed game of tag. Each time Surry would get within grabbing distance Talon would out maneuver her.
Belly wandered back into the area she had left them, “I can't find anything”, she confessed to no one. “Hey, where is everyone?” She looked around to find she was all alone, then the light sound of laughter caused her to look up. There she saw Surry trying to catch Talon, unsuccessfully she might add. Just then she saw Surry catch Talon in midair. The girl had such a look of success on her face that Belly almost felt sorry for her as Talon flashed that wicked grin of hers that said ‘you only think you did that'. And before anyone knew what happened Talon dropped out of Surry's grasp and took off so fast neither of them could see where she had gone. A look of astonishment came across Surry's face as she realized Talon had let her catch her. Like fuel to a fire Surry did a back flip and took off in the direction of camp. Belly watched her go with smug satisfaction. “Do I have instincts or what?” She took off for camp at a bit more of a leisurely pace.
Back at camp the place is a buzz with the news Chalice brought. Minton, Zie, Taug, and Bantu sat off to the side in deep discussion. Tulver and Spree were keeping a watchful eye out as they and the other elves kept guard in a larger perimeter around the small camp. Haillen and Lady Ferron were sitting next to each other in front of the fire as small groups of fairies came and went making camp in the trees.
Lady Ferron was trying to make sense of the news. “Why would brownies want to hurt me?”
She had sounded like a little girl at that moment and Haillen could not help smiling at her, the firelight highlighting her beauty even more. “Don't take it personally Lady Ferron. Brownies hate humans; it goes back to a conflict so long ago that none of us can remember. And with the humans encroaching on the forest more and more, well.” She
saw a look of pain cross the beautiful face. “But don't worry, we can deal with them.”
Lady Ferron looked at Haillen with absolute belief, “I don't doubt that you couldn't handle anything, but would you do me a favor?”
Haillen was caught in those emerald spheres again. “Anything.”
“Please stop calling me Lady Ferron; it's just Ferron, okay.” The Lady said looking deeply into the ocean of Haillen 's eyes and smiling.
Embarrassed at getting caught staring Haillen stammered, “Yes, I mean right, I mean okay …. Ferron.”
Belly had been hovering near by and witnessed the entire exchange. She could see her skills were needed once again. Flying over to Haillen's ear she whispered, “Sit closer”.
Haillen knew immediately who that annoying little sound was in her ear. “Belly.”
Ferron on the other hand had no idea what she was talking about, “What?”
Belly innocently flew around Haillen and landed in front of both of them so she could get a better assessment of two. Haillen had known this little dark haired imp her whole life and couldn't resist smiling at the look of self-purpose that emanated from her entire little body. Belly was always trying to make everyone's life better. She had a natural way of knowing exactly what someone needed and Haillen loved her for it. But the temptation to tease her whenever she had the chance was just too great. “What are you doing here? Why aren't you back with Talon?”
Belly just smiled and took a few steps away from the heat of the fire. “Trying to make myself scarce.”
Haillen had a feeling Belly was working her magic on the one person who need it the most. “Is something up?”
With a twinkle in her eye Belly shrugged her shoulder and gave them a mischievous grin. “We can only hope.”
It sounded as if Talon might finally be coming out of her stupor. Haillen, like everyone else had not been prepared for the state Talon had fallen in after Kal left her. The best tactical maneuver flyer out of all the fairies, a covert specialist, fearless; love could really mess you up. Haillen thought she would never let anyone affect her like that, then looking over into those pools of green beside her she knew how wrong she was. She snapped out of her own thoughts, “I'm sorry, Lady Ferron,”. Ferron cleared her throat and gave Haillen a pointed look. “Sorry, right, Ferron, this is Belly from Faun wood, it was her group that found the tracks. Belly, Lady Ferron,… um Ferron.” She corrected quickly before she got another look.
Belly looked at her as if she had lost her mind, she was sounding like a stuttering idiot, not the way to impress the girl. “I know who she is, we met at the beginning of the trip remember.” She raised her eyebrows at Ferron and gave a confiding look. “Big head, not a lot in it though.” Then she grinned at Haillen's icy glare. “Lady Ferron um Ferron, it was Talon really and Surry that found the tracks.”
Ferron tried not to laugh at the ribbing this little creature was giving her tall protector. “I have heard some amazing things about Talon and my Father has spoken many times of Surry. I feel very lucky to be in such company.” She sent a meaningful glance Haillen's way. “And what about you Belly, what sort of amazing talent do you posses?”
Haillen piped in for her little friend, “Belly is one of the best spies in the forest, she knows everything.”
A moment of piety slipped through the cheery veneer. “For all the good it does me.”
Now it was Haillen's turn for a little ribbing. “What's the matter, feeling lonely, tired of trying to put other peoples lives back together. Don't worry, I love you Belly.”
Belly had had enough of this, because deep down she really was feeling a little lonely. “Oh great, and what would I do with a giant like you? Stick to your own kind please or at least your own size.” She cast a quick glance in Ferron's direction, which went unnoticed. Ferron could not hold back anymore and let out a small laugh as Haillen looked at her in mock disbelief. Belly took off only to turn around and fly a kick into the side of Haillen's head knocking her into Ferron's. She darted to Haillen's ear and whispered “She's into you Haillen, don't be so dense.” And with that she flew off to find a nice tree to settle down in for the night.
Lost in each other's eyes they did not even notice that Belly had left. Haillen had not been sure until now, but Belly was right the look on the face before her was not one of a person just wanting to be protected, that was a look of something much deeper. She hesitantly lifted a hand to brush a strand of loose auburn hair back into place and as she did Ferron brushed her cheek against it. Haillen smiled as a warmth ran up her hand and spread through her body, she wrap a blanket tight around the two of them. Ferron moved closer into the crook of Haillen's arm and placed her head on the strong shoulder. Nothing else mattered at that moment, she was happy and content. Listening to the sound heart beat beneath her ear Ferron closed her eyes and fell asleep. Haillen could not believe that this beautiful woman was actually in her arms. It was the most amazing feeling she had ever known.
In a tree that was perfectly positioned for tactical surveillance, Talon and Surry had set up camp. Talon would sweep the area with her eyes every so often while Surry sat back nibbling on a wild strawberry they had found on their flight back to camp. They had fallen into a peaceful ease with one another, and for the first time they were having a real conversation without all the grandstanding or showing off.
Talon took a bite of the berry Surry had offered up to her. She looked at this person before her and wonder just who she was. “So why were you living up at Rock Lakes ?”
“Looking for something different.” Surry took another bite of berry and wiped at the juice running down her chin.
“Did you find it?”
She dipped into the leaf of water Talon had brought up and tried to clean all the juice off. “In part. Same life, different place.”
“Why did you leave?”
Surry looked up at her and gave her a half grin. “Still looking for the other half of different.” She settled down near by and looked out at the night. It was hard to see the stars through the leaves, unlike at the lakes. How Surry missed the sight of those twinkling lights.
Talon felt she could strongly relate, she had been searching her whole life for something different. “Will you go back to the Lake or stay in Breex?”
“I like to think those aren't my only choices.” She smiled at the woman across from her then went back to looking out at the night. “I lived at the castle; I could come and go as I pleased. It's a small community of fairies there, but we were like family. Sometimes family just isn't enough. With the King ill, I don't know what's going to happen now.”
“What of his daughter, Lady Ferron?
Her attention was brought back to the intriguing red head. “This is the first time I've met her as an adult, I only remember her as a child, and I am sure she is very good, the King spoke of her often with great love and affection and pride.” She felt a twinge of loss pull at her. “It would be hard being there without him.”
Talon sat up and looked at her with kindness. “You loved this human a great deal.”
A tear rolled down her cheek as Surry smiled weakly, “He is a very dear friend.”
Reaching over and brushing the tear away Talon reassured her, “You will see him again.”
Another tear fell, “But only to say good-bye again.”
“Life is a cycle, we must all move on.”
Unable to stop the flow Surry let the tears fall. “I know, but I will still miss him.” She let Talon hold her and gently sooth her until she fell asleep.
The next morning the fairies were on high alert. They would smell the brownies long before seeing them, but the nymphs were another story. Since their team had found the only evidence so far, Talon, Surry, Belly and Chalice were on advanced point. They were sweeping the forest looking for anything that would mean trouble. They entered a tight thicket of trees and Talon spotted the first nymph, she motioned to the others as Belly spotted the second one. On Talon's cue the quartet swiftly and quietly swooped down on their targets. Before they could reach the ground however the nymphs had seen them and began throwing their lassos. Nymphs have an uncanny talent with rope and can be down right lethal with it, especially if a wing were to be caught and ripped. The fairies flew a defensive position darting and zig-zaging around the two trying to close in on them. Talon began circling them so fast the nymphs were finally thrown off balance and before they could get up again the others were on top of them restraining them with their own lassos.
After the prisoners had been secured Belly slowly circled around them a few times giving them a look of pathetic assessment. “You guys are getting sloppy. You didn't even put up much of a fight.” She stopped in front of them and folded her arms over her chest and she eyed them with a smirk. “So which one of you would like to tell me what your doing out here?”
The younger of the two was puffing and glaring at her, meeting her eye to eye and struggling against her bonds. “We didn't do anything, why did you attack us?”
Belly looked as though she might consider this for a fraction of a second, “No, don't believe you, next.”
The older nymph sat watching Belly and assessing their situation. “Shut up Keel.”
Belly knew she recognized the older one, her name was Spur and she would work for any one as long as the price was right, her conscience had been replaced with a cold and calculating mind. She could think of only one thing that would get this one to talk, “Chalice, would you get Minton and tell him we caught the assassins.”
No nymph wanted to deal with elves, especially for such a strong charge. “Wait, you can't do that. We're not assassins. We haven't killed anyone.” Spur calmly replied.
Belly turned to them again, “But you were planning to.” The two just sat in a cold stony silence. “And Chalice you might tell Tulver to come along.” The mention of this name produced the results Belly had been hoping for as Keel started fidgeting nervously and a pale pallor crossed Spur's face.
Keel looked to her companion for what to do but only saw the uncertainty and fear there. “Wait, you don't have to bring Tulver do you? He hates nymphs.”
Belly was much better at getting information than Talon, but she couldn't hold back any longer. Nymphs had become a very sore spot with her. “Then you better start talking because I don't have any affection for you myself. Now who sent you?” Belly placed a restraining hand on Talon's arm.
“Calm down Talon, you can tare them apart later.”
Knowing the trouble she was in Spur seized on the one thing she thought could buy her some time. “Talon? You're Talon? Kal's Talon? Oh this is great.”
Anger swelled up and spilled out of Talon, “Are you telling me Kal is involved in this?”
Bullseye, Spur got the response she was aiming for. After all she was a nymph and if she couldn't talk her way out of this situation then she would be happy to cause as much trouble as she could. “No.” she answered off handedly. “It's just interesting to see what Kal left behind. She has definitely stepped up.” She gave a wicked short laugh as Talon moved away from Belly to lunge at the two nymphs. Surry had been watching Talon closely and saw the movement as it began; she rushed in and scooped Talon up in her arms and flew away with her. Spur watched them go with a pleased look on her face.
Chalice watched as Belly put on her game face and turned on the two troublemakers. He always enjoyed watching the playful and cheery Belly get put away and be replaced by a serious and slightly scary Belly. “You know I have just lost my patience with you, so talk or I will personally deliver you to Tulver myself.” Yes Chalice thought it was always a pleasure working with Belly.
Instinct had prompted Surry to fly them away so quickly that Talon did not have a chance to struggle. Tree limbs flew past them as they climbed higher into the treetops and away from the bound nymphs. Surry found a spot out of the sun with lots of limb space to deposit a seething Talon. She lightly set them down, but did not loosen her grip on Talon whose face was now as red as her hair. “Would you like to tell me what that was all about?”
“Let go.” Talon growled.
“No.” Surry reaffirmed her grip. “Now, you want to tell me who Kal is?”
Talon took a deep breath and stared into eyes that were not the reason for her anger and slowly she could feel it receding. “We were together for six and a half years then she left me without a warning or a word, for a wood nymph.”
“One of them?”
“No, her name is Rashie. They're in Belin now.”
There had been rumors about Talon, but Surry never paid attention to such things. She did know that something had grounded the best flier in the woods. “I see. Are you still in love with her?”
“No, just angry. And hurt.” Talon looked around watching the leaves flutter. “I had been moping around about it for a while. Then I joined this expedition…. and I met you.” She gave her captor a shy smile. “So are you going to let me go now?”
Holding a little tighter Surry gave Talon an assessing look. “No, I kind of like this.” Talon grinned at her and moved quickly to give her a passionate kiss. Surry was reluctant to let it end. “We should probably get back down there.”
As Talon wrapped her arms around Surry's waist she pressed herself even closer. The heat from their bodies making her sweat. “Belly can handle it?”
“Are you sure?”
Gently Talon backed them into a crook in the tree. “You'd be amazed at what Belly can handle.” She was tired of talking and could only think of one thing, those amazing lips. She had to be kissing those lips. The kiss gave way to desire and both clothes and inhabitations were quickly lost. Talon was grateful Surry had flown them so high and far away form everyone because she did not think she could stop herself even if she had wanted to.
There was a calm mood throughout the camp as the travel party took a break while Minton and Spree went to interrogate the nymphs. Nymphs were a nuisance and could turn a persons life upside down if given the chance, they were much more danger to fairies. Brownies on the other hand could be quite deadly under the right circumstances, but the elves could deal with them. The danger had been real, but thanks to the effectiveness of the fairy scouts, it was a danger avoided.
A gentle breeze blew through the treetops and carried down to the resting party all the scents of the forest. Ferron, Haillen and Tulver sat together enjoying the peace and quiet. Tulver had been watching his sister since the beginning of the trip, he had noticed the spark in her eye the moment she met Ferron. He knew his sister well and would have enjoyed teasing her about her love struck heart if he did not think it were serious. But each day he watched the bond between the two grow and he could not help but feel happiness for his twin. Once they were safely through the forest his time for brotherly fun would come.
Haillen was keeping a watch out for the return of her father while Ferron sat back to back with her. She rested her head on Haillen's shoulder as she watched the light play on the leaves above them. She breathed in deeply the smells of the forest and concentrated on the rise and fall at her back, warmed by the heat of Haillen. She tried to identify each and every smell including the fragrant scent of the woman who had captured her heart the moment they met. She was about to lose herself in head spinning thoughts of Haillen when she felt the back beneath her tense and then relax a moment before she heard footsteps approaching. Minton and Spree had returned and he did not look happy.
He took the flask Haillen offered upon his arrival and swallowed a long draft from it. “We have what we need. Tulver go with Spree and quell those brownies once and for all. Their disgruntled nature has become wearisome. We will continue on.”
Alarmed at the prospect of anyone getting hurt on her account Ferron protested. “You won't hurt them.”
Lady Ferron's kindness was well known to Minton, but he would not tolerate an unwarranted threat upon anyone's life. “Merely persuade them that their course of action is very ill advised.”
“And the nymphs, you won't hurt them either will you?”
He smiled at the woman who would soon rule the human lands and noticed how genuinely concerned she was for those creatures of the forest who held nothing but contempt for her. “Lady Ferron you have a kind heart, but keep in mind they would have liked to see you dead. But don't worry; Belly is handling those two pests.” He gave her a reassuring touch on the shoulder and turned to gather the rest of the travel party and get them underway.
Tulver prepared to leave giving Lady Ferron a slight bow of his head, “Lady Ferron, I leave you in my sisters capable hands.” As he moved to join Spree he gave Haillen a wink and a smile. “I'm going to enjoy this.”
The two had never been able to hide anything from each other and Haillen knew she was in for a good teasing by her brother, just as she had done to him when he met Spree . “Just don't enjoy yourself too much.” Tulver's wife gave them both a questioning look and they were off.
The group was on the move again as the winds begun to pick up and sway the treetops above them. Haillen and Ferron followed several steps behind Minton as the Fairies swooped around them, a constant movement near and far. Ferron had been thinking about what Minton had said and could not help but wonder if forest justice was the same as human justice. She spoke softly so only Haillen could hear her, “What will Belly do to them?”
Haillen gave her a reassuring smile; she did not want this beautiful woman to worry about anything unnecessarily. “They have their own way of dealing with trouble makers, and if I know Belly she will have a little fun at their expense.” Ferron gave her a worried look so she went on to explain, “Nymphs are very prideful of their looks.” Ferron got a shocked look on her face and was about to protest when Haillen put a reassuring arm around her shoulder. “She wouldn't do anything permanent, just the equivalent of a bad hair day, or month, or year.” Haillen could not help laughing to herself at the thought of Belly's delight in tormenting the nymphs. And thought how lucky they were that they were not in the hands of Talon. She gave the shoulder under her arm another squeeze. “They'll be fine.” And without thinking about it they continued on through the forest wrapped around one another.
Belly and Chalice had found a small area where the sunlight filtered thru the leaves making sparkles in a little puddle that remained from a brief rain they had a few nights ago. Next to the puddle were two mud covered weeping nymphs. The ground was littered with wisps of hair. Chalice was untying the small hands as Belly stood over them, a tuft of hair in one hand and her blade in the other. She had hacked off nearly all their hair. On the nymph's heads were bald spots and uneven patches and varying lengths of hair dotted about. Each time one nymph would look at the other the crying would start all over again.
Throwing the hair aside Belly watched the two try and get to their feet. “It's too bad you never learned what true beauty was all about.” And with this, another bout of wailing and crying began. “Get out of here and don't ever let me catch another nymph near Lady Ferron again.” Keel was all too happy to comply with the command, anything to get away from the butcher happy Belly. But Spur cast a hateful stare at her tormenter all the while slowly backing away. “Oh and Spur, tell Kal no one misses her at all.” Belly gave them an evil smile then turned and walked away. This was to show them she was not afraid of them now or ever. Finally defeated the two disappeared into the forest. They would not be messing with fairies for a long time.
Never looking back the two fairies walked for a while. Finally Chalice had to laugh, “You have a certain style to you Belly.” She cast him a warning glance. “But I don't think I'll be calling on you for a haircut anytime soon.”
The sight of those two troublemakers would stay with Belly for a long time. She gave her companion a punch in the arm and let loose a peel of giggles that sounded like bells on the wind. Laughing together the two took off to catch up with their travel party.
Everyone was on high alert for the rest of the day. Talking was kept to a minimum as they moved at a faster pace through the forest. The elves were tuned in to every sound, but there was nothing more raucous than a couple of blue jays arguing over the best perch in a tiny patch of sun.
No one had seemed to notice the brief disappearance of Talon and Surry. But when Belly caught up with her fellow scouts she noticed something decidedly different about the look of Talon. One look from Talon told her that while she had been having fun humiliating those errant nymphs, Talon and Surry had been having a very different kind of fun.
As night approached darkness descended quickly in the forest and the party was forced to set up camp for the night. Haillen kept a close and careful eye on Ferron, never letting her get more than an arms length away. Normally this would have the Lady in an irritated state, but as her protector was the beautiful and graceful Haillen, she was rather enjoying the close attention. All thoughts of danger were pushed aside as she lay side by side with the woman who was quickly becoming her every thought.
As the patrol roster was being put together Belly made sure she was with Talon all night, hoping to glean juicy details of how Talon had spent the morning. But Talon would not disclose one little morsel; she was clearly focused on the job at hand. And she knew how much it was driving her friend crazy not to have all the news.
The night passed quietly with the fairies taking shifts flying security watch. The light of day brought with it a renewed excitement, as they were less than two days from the castle. Camp was quickly broke and they were on the move again. The wind was picking up which could mean a storm was about to blow in. They were soon to find out the storm would have nothing to do with the weather.
Around midmorning Biz came flying in from the rear at top speed, he quickly informed Minton that a wolf pack was coming in from the southeast and they were moving very fast. He figured they had two, maybe three minutes. “It's Daygon and his pack of rebels.”
Letting out an eerie otherworld whistle Minton called in all the fairies. He knew Daygon was out for human blood since one had killed his mate Pallor only two months prior. The fairies responded quickly and everyone gathered around. “Daygon and his pack will be here in a moment. Haillen get Lady Ferron up in the trees.”
Haillen knew the strength and ferociousness of Daygon. “That won't stop Daygon.”
“Well we don't want to make this easy for him.” Minton suggested picking up on the unease in his daughter's voice.
Lady Ferron stepped forward unafraid, “Give me a bow, I will stand my ground.”
Everyone could not help but admire the Lady's courage. Minton handed her his bow and arrows. “Then stand it from up there. Haillen get her out of here now!” He cast his daughter a stern look as he unsheathed his sword and turned to concentrated on the sound of the wolf pack closing in on them.
The elves moved into a defensive circle as the pack, some thirty strong closed in. Haillen effortlessly jumped up onto the branches of a large tree, giving Ferron a hand up behind her. They readied their bows just as the wolves descend on the travelers. The fairies moved with a speed unseen before, luring wolves into the path of catapulting tree branches as other fairies were throwing quills at the eyes of their attackers. Elves are a deadly combination of speed and accuracy with their swords, and they took on one and two wolves at a time. Haillen took down two wolves that lunged for the bottom of their tree as Ferron took out one that was attacking Tulver from behind.
Pulling together to form a stronger force Talon, Surry and Belly flew into lunging wolves to throw them off their mark. Suddenly Talon spotted Daygon circling the perimeter focused on Lady Ferron. She took off straight for the pack leader and flew into his nose as he made is first lunge for the bottom branch of Ferron's tree. She struck with enough force to make him miss his target and fall to the ground. Rolling and coming up on his feet Daygon looked around to see who caused him to miss his target. He spotted Talon as she flew at him throwing quills at his eyes and nose. He snapped at her and almost caught her leg, but was quickly averted by Surry who had flown in and was clipping at his ears with her dagger.
Ferron tried to get a shot, but was stopped by Haillen who knew the action was too fast to get a good shot. “Be careful of Talon and Surry.”
“I can't get a clear shot.” Admitted the Lady as she watched the two small fairies fighting the largest wolf she had ever seen.
Daygon snapped and whirled around as the two attacked from either side. Seeing a chance he snapped his head back and knocked Talon to the ground. Surry rushed to her side abandoning the fight at seeing an unconscious and bloody Talon crumpled on the ground. Daygon took advantage of the distraction to slip around the tree where Haillen and Ferron lost sight of him, only seeing Talon cradled in Surry's arms. Suddenly Daygon was airborne and heading straight for Ferron's neck, his lips pulled back in a snarl, sharp white teeth gleaming. Just as fast Haillen shot as the Lady dropped down and the wolf leader fell to the forest floor with an arrow through the back of his head. Immediately a howl went up as the pack felt the loss of their leader. They stopped their attack and retreated.
Haillen grabbed Ferron up taking her in her arms checking to make sure she was okay. She was rewarded with a grateful kiss and reassuring hug by her Lady. They both looked down at the dead wolf and felt only pity for him.
Surry was trying to revive Talon who took quite a blow. Her nose was bleeding as was a bad cut over one eye and her lip was split down to her chin. As she opened her eyes and the world came back into focus Talon found herself looking into the most beautiful shade of violet eyes she had ever known. She smiled at the worried face and then quickly remembered how she had gotten in the predicament.
As Talons eyes opened the sense of fear began to let go of Surry. “Talon, are you all right?” she gently asked as she brushed the hair from the bruised forehead.
The smile that was beginning to form on Talon's lips was quickly replaced with a cold look as she tried to get up. “That bloody dog, where is he, I'll kill him!”
Surry put a restraining hand on her and looked over her shoulder. “Haillen beat you to it.”
Looking to the fallen beast the anger quickly left Talon and was replaced with a stunned sorrow. “Oh…… Why are some creatures so full of rage? Look what it got him.”
Surry gave her mighty warrior a small sad smile. She knew Talon could be fierce and just as quickly she could be compassionate. “I don't know. Come on lets get you up.” As she helped Talon up the relieved fairy grabbed Talon's shoulder and watched her winced in pain. Lifting blood soaked material revealed a purple shoulder with a bad cut on it that would need sewing up. “Here let me look at that.”
Trying to shrug her off Talon stood tall, “I'm fine.”
Haillen jumped to the ground just as Minton walked over to the fallen pack leader. “Is everyone alright?” He held out a hand to Ferron as she jumped down from the last branch. “Lady Ferron?”
“I'm fine thanks to Haillen and Talon.” She looked around remembering she had seen the fairy fall. “Where is she?”
Belly, Zie, Taug and Chalice flew in as Surry and Talon joined the group. Talon held her shoulder trying to ignore the obvious pain. “I'm here.”
The Lady knelt down, “You're hurt.”
“It's just a bruise.” Talon reassured her.
Belly, who was covered in scratches on her arms and neck had to suppress a laugh knowing her friend rarely felt pain and hated being fussed over. “Everyone's okay, Hawker broke his arm and there are cuts and bruises all around, but nothing serious.” She looked over at her bloodied friend and gave a wink.
Relieved at the news, Minton wanted to get them moving as soon as possible. “Zie, take a party and get Hawker to the castle as fast as you can, let them know we will be there tonight.”
Talon stepped away from Surry who having torn a piece of fabric from her shirt was now trying to tie it around the cut on Talon's shoulder. “I'll go ahead, Hawker is going to slow you down. I can make it much quicker on my own.”
“She is the fastest one here.” Zie said as he felt a small amount of pride at seeing Talon back to her old self.
“Your not going alone, I'm going with you.” Surry said as she stepped up and gave Talon a defying look.
The Lady Ferron saw the blood seeping through the bandage on Talon's shoulder, she looked at the bruised and bloody face. “Are you sure you're okay to fly?”
Talon gave her a feral grin, “It's going to take more than a stupid wolf to ground me.”
The Lady would not dare question the determined fairy, instead she looked to Surry. “Please, would you tell my Father I'm on my way.” Surry nodded and gave her a comforting smile.
Talon looked at Surry and gave the Lady a nod. “Let's fly.” And in a blur they were gone.
The sun was slipping over the mountains when Talon and Surry flew in. Because Surry knew everyone in the King's household they had no problem making their way directly to his bedchamber. Surry caught her breath at the first sight of the frail man, so unlike the joyful and energetic King she knew. Immediately she went to his side and gently kissed his hand. He stirred for a moment, a slight smile forming on his lips, and was again wandering the realm of dreams. Surry settled herself by his side glancing only briefly at her companion who had come up behind her and laid a consoling hand on her head. Sensing the closeness the two shared Talon moved to the bottom of the bed and sat herself upon the footboard, not wanting to intrude but not wanting to be too far away should Surry need her. She watched as the man dozed and then struggled to resurface from the unconscious realm. Surry gently placed her tiny hands upon the Kings larger one and stroked a gentle reassurance.
“Surry, are you there?” The King finally stirred.
“I'm here.” She spoke as she moved just slightly so the King could see her better.
The King smiled at her with great love and affection. “You've come home.”
Smiling lovingly at this man she had grown to love, she continued to stroke his hand. “Of course I've come home King Haver, where else would I be.”
The King smiled at her as a shadow of sadness and fear crossed over his face. “Where is my Ferron? Is she here yet?”
“Soon your highness, she will be here soon, this very night in fact.”
The King looked at Surry with all the love he could, “My dear little Surry, always my comfort.” And just as quickly he slipped into unconsciousness again.
A tear rolled down Surry's cheek and instantly Talon was by her side wiping it away and holding her close. She could not believe how much she hurt to see the pain and sadness on Surry's face and not be able to do something about it. Darkness consumed the room and they sat for hours listening to the man's shallow breathing. The King slept, occasionally stirring to ask for his daughter while the two fairies sat by his side.
At last the door opened and Lady Ferron came in looking flushed having ran for the better part of a day to get to the castle and up to her father's room. She rushed to her father's side and looked at the man who had taught her everything about life and would now teach her about death. She bent over and brushed a lock of hair from his forehead, almost afraid to wake him. She looked at the two little fairies still holding her father's hand. “Thank you Surry for staying with him. How is he?”
“He's been asking for you.” Surry replied as she looked upon the peaceful face once again.
She wanted to hug them both, but couldn't imagine how to do such a thing. “Thank you, both of you.”
King Haver roused at the sound of his daughters voice and opened his eyes to the most precious sight of his life. “There's my girl.”
Unable to hold back anymore the tears welled up in Ferron's eyes and she buried her head on her father's chest. “Father.”
Knowing their time had come; Talon took Surry's hand. Surry placed a final kiss on the King's hand and she allowed Talon to fly her from the room. They paused for a moment on a table in the hallway listening to Ferron's sobs and the soothing voice of the King. Surry wiped away her own tears as they took off in search of Haillen.
It was not long before they found her on a balcony over looking the lakes below. The water was gently lapping onto the shore as the moonlight danced on the ripples riding each little crest to land. They landed on the railing beside Haillen and for a few moments they all three simply watched the water.
Haillen was the first to break the silence. “How is he?”
Surry could not take her eyes off the glittering water below. “He's very weak, he would only ask for her.”
“How's your shoulder Talon?” Haillen asked still looking at the full moon.
Seeming to be the only place to find comfort Talon watched the water dissolving on shore. “It's fine.”
Haillen looked down at her little friend and saw the blood soaked bandage and a trickle of blood running down her arm. She could only smile knowing that Talon probably didn't feel much pain. She may be the smallest person Haillen knew, but she had the greatest tolerance for pain than anyone Haillen had ever met, herself included. She was about to suggest they tend to that arm when the most beautiful sound of pipe music could be heard drifting down the halls and out across the Lake . She was enchanted by the beautiful sound and closed her eyes to fully take it in. Talon and Surry were also caught up in the sweet sound as they looked across the Lake to the tree line delicately outlined by the moonlight. After a few moments they looked at each other, the air had changed. The lovely sound continued on but an emptiness was filling them.
Pulling Haillen from her own thoughts Surry broke the silence. “She needs you now Haillen, he's gone.”
Haillen had felt the shift as well, perhaps it was being in such close proximity to the fairies, perhaps it was her bond with Ferron. She took a deep breath and nodded her thanks to them. Taking one last look at the Lakes she quickly moved down the hall towards the King's chambers. When Haillen had gone Surry buried her face in Talon's good shoulder and wept for the loss of her dear friend.
High in the castle was a secluded nook that had been Surry's home for many years. Candles littered every ledge with the promise of giving the room a warm glow when lit. A table and bench were on one side of the room while dozens of pillows and blankets were scattered about the other side. Surry quickly lit the candles and sat Talon at the table. In the flickering candle light Talon tried to take in the place where Surry had spent so much of her life. She watched the graceful movements of her companion as she retrieved a box from a nearby shelf. Soon the table was covered with bandages, ointments, needle and thread, and a bowl of water. Talon did not protest as Surry gently removed her blood soaked and filthy top. Surry grimaced at the bad bruise and deep gash on the tiny shoulder then quickly looked into Talon's golden green eyes and smiled. They needed no words to know what had to be done. There would be no arguments or pleading, only the gentle administering of care and attention.
After cleaning the cut it was easier to see that the bleeding had stopped. Surry disinfected the area with a salve and began sewing the skin back together. Talon was mesmerized by the swift action and delicate touch of the beautiful nimble fingers tending to her. Surry concentrated on the task at hand but would often look into the beautiful green gold eyes and give a reassuring smile.
Once she had the wound dressed she began to clean and tend to the other cuts and scratches on Talons face. As she worked her way down Talon's body cleaning off all the dirt from the earlier fight she removed the remainder of Talon's clothes. As she continued the sponge bath Talon slowly began removing Surry's clothes, picking up a cloth, dipping it into the bowl and returning the favor.
With the cleaning of a particular area Talon would place a gentle kiss on the soft skin indicating that patch complete. Approving of this new method, Surry placed her own stamp of approval on the creamy skin before her. Soon the bathing process was abandoned all together as fingers and lips were engaged in a dance of exploration all their own. Moments passed before they sought the comfort of cushions and sank to the floor, as weakened knees could no longer hold them.
Talon gently pulled Surry into her body savoring the feel of soft skin upon soft skin. She kissed the pulsing neck as her own heartbeat pounded in her ears and pulled her head back to look into the glowing eyes of her new lover. “You capture me.”
Surry smiled and knew she had found that something different she had been looking for. She kissed her deeply which turned into a hunger for more. A hunger Talon was not willing, but needing to satiate. The future and past, sorrow and joy, passion and discovery all melted together as the two spent the rest of the night bringing each other to new heights of exquisite passionate expression.
The next day was spent in mourning, as the castle grieved and prepared the funeral pyre that would release their King to his next life. Ferron and Haillen spent the entire day at the King's side in the grand hall as all those who loved him filled through to say goodbye.
Surry spent the day with Talon sharing her most private places in and around the castle. The Lakes were beautiful and Talon could see why Surry had chosen to live here for so long. Her experience with humans had been very limited and mostly unpleasant, but here at the castle she found kind and caring people who had a respect for all life. Even in their own grief they always managed a smile and a pleasant word for her.
At dusk a party consisting of humans, elves and fairies gathered in the grand hall to carry the King down to the Lake and his final stop in this world. Lead by Lady Ferron the procession made it's way down to where the pyre had been built. They gently placed the King atop. A few words were spoken by Sir Turrick after which there was a moment of silence. Then Lady Ferron shot a flaming arrow into the pyre and said her final goodbye to her father. The party remained on the beach through the night watching until the last flame died away. At dawn Ferron lead everyone back into the castle for a meal and some most needed rest.
The following day all of the castle residence and guests gathered in the great hall for the sober ceremony to crown the new Queen. The elves and fairies were honored guests; elves were positioned near the front of the assembly while the fairies chose perches above the crowd. As Ferron swore an oath to her people Haillen looked on with pride and love. She could not believe this beautiful woman had just the night before declared her love for the stoic elf. And she herself had vowed to love her until the end of time.
A great party followed the coronation that honored the new Queen and the fallen King. Everyone was excited to meet all the elves and fairies, and they were treated with great honor and respect for having brought their Queen home safely. The three groups were taking the first steps to building ties that would last many lifetimes. The revelry continued on into the wee hours of the morning. And no one seemed to notice when the Queen and her champion slipped away to their chambers early in the evening. Not long after, Talon and Surry took their quiet leave and made their way up to the secluded chamber at the top of the castle with the intention of celebrating their successful mission in a much more private manner.
Queen Ferron insisted the travel party take a few more days to rest and enjoy the hospitality of the Lakes region. But all too soon the time came for their departure. Minton joined Queen Ferron and Haillen on the balcony overlooking the Lakes. He felt a great peace as he looked out over the land.
Queen Ferron moved to stand by his side and look out over the silver waters. She finally understood what her father felt as he had stood in that same spot. She felt proud and honored to be the caretaker of these lands and her people. And as she looked into the crystal blue eyes of the leader of the elves she felt a love for him. “I want to build a friendship and trust between humans and the beings of the forest. I don't want your land; I just want us to live side by side in peace as neighbors should.”
Minton had developed a great deal of respect for this small woman and he knew she would make a great leader of her people. “I welcome that, but it will not be easy to convince some of the other dwellers of the forest, but we will work with you and perhaps one day we can welcome you in the forest without fear.” He smiled warmly at her then turned to face his daughter. “Come Haillen, we must leave.”
As he started to step away Haillen spoke up. “No Father, I'm not going.”
He turned to face her as she took one step closer to Ferron. “What is this, what do you mean? You can not stay here.”
Her face radiated pure love as she looked at Ferron. “I can not leave.”
Minton looked from one to the other and finally realized what he had not been paying attention to before. “Oh. Why did I not see it before.”
“I'm sorry Father, it just happened.” Haillen said with a look of surrender.
Smiling he looked at his daughter with as much love as he had. “That's the way love works, it just happens.” He leaned over and kissed her forehead then turned his eyes upon Ferron. “And you? How do you feel?”
The Queen looked at the woman she could not stand to be parted from. “I love her with all my heart.”
“She has a wonderful heart.” Minton told her in a protective way.
Ferron understood and promised him, “I will cherish it always.”
“Haillen?” He inquired already knowing the answer.
“I love her Father.”
Taking Haillen's right hand in his he looked deep into her eyes. “Then there is no other place for you but by her side.” And he placed her hand on Ferron's. “I will miss you my child.”
Clasping tight to the hand she was just given she kissed her father on the cheek. “We will see each other often, the forest is still my home.”
Minton looked at the two of them and could feel the love coming off of them in waves. He leaned over and kissed each on the cheek then turned and walked away. Ferron was shocked at such a quick departure but she quickly forgot about it as Haillen took her up in her arms and kissed her deeply and longingly. They held their embrace until each was forced to come up for air. Wrapped securely in her champion's arms Queen Ferron looked out at the Lake and knew she was the luckiest woman alive.
The day was bright as a warm sun shinned down on the glade of newly emerged wildflowers. The sound of songbirds in the trees competed with a tinkling bell sound of laughter coming from a log far below. Surry and Talon sat with legs wrapped around each other waging a tickle war. They were so engrossed in each other that they never saw or heard Belly walk behind them.
Watching the two for a moment she turned her head in exaggerated discuss. “I can't stand it, you guys are so sugary sweet, I think I almost liked you better when you were moping around.”
Talon wrapped an arm around Surry's waist and gave her best friend her most pitying look. “What's the matter Belly? Feeling left out?” She gave her a wicked grin and held out a hand to her. “Come on, there's always room for one more.”
Slapping the hand away Belly gave her an offended look. “Ewe, you perv.”
Surry and Talon could not help laughing at their disgruntled little friend. But just as Belly was about to stalk away a sexy little brunette landed and joined the group calling out a cheery “Hi”. Belly was taken completely by surprise, her eyes lit up and her mood immediately picked up. “Hello” she called back.
Surry waved over the new arrival. “Belly, this is my cousin Saf, she's going to be staying with us for a while. She wanted to see what Faun Wood was like.”
“Really? Well I'd be happy to show you around. You don't want to spend all your time with these two, they're just plain boring.”
Talon sat up enjoying giving her friend a hard time. “Hey! Is that any way to talk about those who bring you wonderful things?”
Saf laughed at the friendly ribbing Belly was receiving. She was looking Belly up and down and liking what she saw. “Surry said you were funny.”
This happily surprised Belly as she focused her attention on Saf. “Really? What else did Surry say?” Ready for more ribbing at her expense.
Saf's eyes sparkled as she suggested, “Well, how about I tell you over dinner.” She gave Belly an alluring smile, which Belly returned tenfold. For once Belly had nothing to say, she could only smile and stare into sparkling blue eyes.
Surry elbowed Talon in the ribs and gave her a raised eyebrow. They both tried to hold back from laughing at Belly's speechless state. Talon watched as Belly blushed at the constant attention from this beautiful fairy. “Saf, I think you are going to be a good thing around Faun Wood.” Surry laughed into Talon's neck and they began kissing again.
Belly whipped her head around to say something then thought better of it. Instead she turned back to Saf. “How about I show you the pond and we give these two some privacy.” Saf gave her an encouraging grin and they took off hand in hand.
Talon watched them leave and gave her love a squeeze. “You're not just beautiful, you are genius.”
Returning the hug she grinned, “I think Saf is perfect for Belly; I think they are going to make a great couple.”
Talon pulled her closer, “And what about us?”
They looked into each other's eyes and Surry raised one eyebrow. “Oh, I think we make the perfect couple.” She kissed Talon then pulled her over into the tall grass where they could not be seen. Only the light sound of tinkling bells could be heard as it floated up on the wind making its way around the glade.
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