The Princess Chronicles-Book One
The Jade Fairy
By Tom Foster
Lahlia Island, Jade Kingdom
Rain fell upon the broad, vibrant green and yellow leaves of the towering kuomo trees that surrounded her, pattering upon their velvety surfaces with the tap, tap, tapping noise she so loved. The bark of the trees was rough, sweet-smelling, and quite intoxicating. Her people used the bark for everything from the parchment they made to a wonderful, blended tea that could dull pain and briefly enhance ones tactile sensations. To her it smelled like home, a pleasant, calming scent that always brought back the days of her childhood.
So much had happened since then, so much that she had never counted upon, and so much that been both wonderful and frightening all at once. There had been hardships to be sure, every life within the Jade Kingdom, her kingdom, and beyond was fraught with such daily challenges. But those who lived on day by day learned to forego the chance to cry and claim that such obstacles were unfair. They learned quickly that they could make their own fate if only they would stand up to those things that vexed them. She had done this, and had faith that anyone could.
She might have flown to the top of the nearest kuomo tree to enjoy the gray, leaden sky that loomed above, exulting in the feel of the rain against her unprotected skin, but alas, her wings were already far too wet. To dry them would require far more drier climes than this, and she had no intention of returning inside anytime soon. Stepping around the thick bole of yet another tree she looked up, catching the barest hint of a dark, star-filled sky within a gap that had aligned within the cloud and the blanket of branches and leaves above. Smiling, she looked upon the distant heavens, recalling a night that, long ago, had become one of the defining moments in her long, illustrious life. It had been so like this night…
* * *
Thirteen years ago…
“Mother, what are those called?”
Her small, slightly pudgy hand reached to the sky, as though she might poke at the speckled darkness between the leaves and branches. It was slightly damp beneath the thick canopy of leaves, but her mother had kept them mostly dry as they’d made their slow, ponderous way along.
They often did this, mother and daughter, taking long walks amidst the forested regions beyond their home, leaving their father, the King of the Jade Kingdom, to his own matters of state for a night or more. Jayden often missed her father during such times, but he more than made up for it when they returned, spending as much time with her and her mother after the kingdom was seen to.
“Those are stars my dear,” her mother, the Queen of the Jade Kingdom, replied, “They are very far, far up in the sky, but we can still see them through the night. Do you know why?”
Jayden shook her head, her reddish-blonde curls bouncing around her shoulders as they tickled her wings, which had already began to outgrow her body.
“The stars shine for us because they are happy Jayden,” her mother said with a smile, “And they are happy because they are the spirits of our ancestors, long since gone, looking down on us from above.”
“Like great-grandfather, and great-grandmother?” Jayden asked, her vibrant green eyes wide as she looked up at her mother. The queen was smiling, her eyes shimmering with unshed tears as she nodded. Jayden had never known her mother’s grandparents that well, but she had heard that even for fairies they’d been old, well into their two thousandth year of life when they had been accepted into the clearing. She still didn’t know what that meant, but as she saw her mother look down at her, eyes still shining wetly, Jayden hugged her close.
“Yes Jayden, just like them. They look down upon us and smile, all those who have come before us. They smile because they are happy for us, happy that we can continue their line, and have remembered their names.”
“I will always remember,” Jayden said with childish enthusiasm. The queen laughed, a gentle, tinkling sound that always made Jayden feel special. Her mother then picked her up, careful of her wings as they rustled behind her.
Her wings, not fully matured yet, were still a gentle blue color along the outer edges, with a silver lining along the vanes. The inner parts of her wings ranged from a slightly mottled green and reddish color to a faint lavender. Her mother’s wings were truly wondrous, with the full array of colors that a mature fairy was known to have, along with the sparkles of light that adorned their uppermost edges. The same sparkles adorned the tops of the queen’s delicately tapered ears, and the tops of her cheekbones as well. Her golden eyes were quite beautiful to behold, and more than a little mesmerizing. Jayden simply thought her mother was the most wondrous person she’d ever met.
By contrast her father, the king, was a bit darker in color as far as his wings and bodily sparkles went. He didn’t shine so much as glimmer, like a stark shadow thrown upon a solid wall. Yet he was not lacking in color when it came to his wings, as his were a riotous blend of dark blues, greens, with silver and gold interspersed throughout the veins. If her mother was a beauteous creature to behold, her father was both strong and wise, solid in a way that was, at times, far unlike any fairy.
“Mother, will you and father one day be in the sky?”
The queen’s smile faded just a bit, but her eyes did not lose that twinkle that Jayden had come to love. As she nodded, Jayden felt her heart quicken just a bit, but as the queen reached up to touch her slim finger to the princess’s little button of a nose Jayden giggled, grasping her mother’s finger as she did.
“Yes Jayden. One day, your father and I will look down upon you from the heavens, and we will smile. And you will know that we will love you, always.”
“I love you mother,” Jayden said, melting into the queen’s arms as she readily accepted her daughter.
“And I you daughter.”
It was a touching moment, but as always occurred in such times, it was not to last.
The familiar roar of Tono, the loyal majordomo and fiercest warrior amongst her father’s kingdom, threw both queen and princess off guard as the long, sinuous form of the emerald-hued dragon came crashing through the foliage above, keying in on where they stood immediately. It was said throughout the kingdom that no one could ever hide from Tono, not even the royal family. Jayden had certainly tried more than once however.
“What is it Tono?” the queen asked, her heartbeat accelerating quickly, “What is wrong?”
“The kingdom, my queen! The kingdom is besieged! Trolls, bull-men, even the traitorous darks of my own race are at the gates! The king has sent me here to fetch you!”
There was nothing else to say as the queen nodded, her wings fluttering madly as she lifted herself and Jayden from the ground, seeking to return home swiftly as possible. But as Tono’s massive claw reached out to close protectively around her, Queen Herath frowned, her wings still humming swiftly but only to keep her aloft.
“Tono!” she barked out, “What are you doing?”
“What I swore to my king I would do my queen: keeping you and young Jayden safe. Forgive me for this.”
Before she could cry out a negative, or even hint at what she was thinking, Tono’s long, serpent-like body began to curl up and around itself, his hind legs tucking in so that he became more compact, his entire form spinning and spinning as Queen Herath and Princess Jayden felt themselves already being drawn in to the translocation vortex that was Tono’s main avenue of escape in a hopeless situation. Even as they were torn from the world for a brief moment however, nothing could still the queen’s cry of utter sorrow.
* * *
It was hopeless.
There were enemies at every possible entrance, even the subterranean tunnels that were supposedly hidden and not known to every last creature and sentient being in the kingdom. Someone had betrayed them all, and he meant to know who before the end came.
His blade felled another foul creature, a hideous troll with long, gangly arms that had sought to take advantage of its much greater reach. Wings were a great equalizer in that he could increase or decrease his elevation at will, giving him a decided advantage over a purely ground-based adversary. Plus, being king, and one of the fiercest warriors in the entirety of Lahlia did help quite a bit.
“Majesty, rally to us, to us!”
He grinned as his first sergeant, the elf lord Mikkel Luminare, gestured to him to rejoin the tightly knit group that was nearly all that was left of his forces. The king could see pockets of resistance here and there within the throne room, but despite their courage and skill, his people were surely doomed. Giving up was not in his nature, but with their magical gateways blocked, the skies above the castle being guarded closely, and all manner of egress landward taken from them, the royal guard was soon to be obliterated.
King Tomis, the eighteenth king of a royal line spanning eons into the past, carved aside another hideous beast, this one a bull-man whose horns bore many notches from past kills and conquests, his blade ending those particular boasts without hesitation as the beast lowed in his death throes. That opened up at least a semi-clear path to the remnants of the royal guard, but as he stepped forward he was blocked yet again, this time by something he had not expected to see, especially not in the company of living creatures.
“Kiiiilllll,” rasped the thing in front of him, its plate armor housing little more than shadow and malice as the wraith moved forward, its spectral blade glowing with a malevolent, almost sickeningly gray energy. It had been a great deal of time since Tomis had seen such a creature, but he knew the sight of a revenant well. He’d not faced such a horrid animation of spirit since the Ash Wars, but he knew very well how to take care of such an abomination.
“Wellas!” he cried out, seeking the aid of his chief cleric and the head priestess of their primary church, that of Aumun, the goddess of the moon. Had the other priest, Dumes, been available, or for that matter still alive, he would have called upon him too. But Tomis had seen the sun priest torn apart by a wraith wyrm, a foul, beastly dragon that had little true intelligence and power great enough to fell an elder priest. Their enemies had certainly chosen their allies well.
“Here my king!” cried out Wellas, her dark mane of hair flying as she bashed aside a lumbering troll with her two-handed Morningstar. The priestess was within view, though he could not reach her, not yet, and she could not possibly reach him or the revenant, unless…
“Call to Aumun!”
“Yes my king!”
There was no need to question what he wanted, this tactic had served them quite well during the Ash Wars, and with more than just his own enchanted blade. As he watched the horrid, undead thing come closer, its own weapon twirling as it prepared to strike, Tomis heard the high, fluting chant of the priestess, and he felt the power of her prayer almost instantaneously.
Moonlight, pure and unfettered, struck the revenant as it stalked towards him, emerging from thin air to send a lance of its brilliance cascading down upon the dread spirit. Caught in the sudden illumination, the wraith warrior howled in absolute agony, a painful wail that only increased as Tomis struck with his own blade, gathering the moonlight even further as his weapon absorbed it, drank it in, made it a part of itself, even if only temporarily.
“Back to the grave foul one,” he spat, raising his greatsword for a hard, chopping blow that the wraith could not avoid. Empty armor fell with a harsh clank to the throne room floor, hitting the flagstones as it shattered into pieces before drifting away into flakes of corrupted iron, no more real than the thing it had had housed. King Tomis raised his blade in salute to the elder priestess, his darkly colored wings fluttering slightly as he began to make his way forward.
It was just then that he saw the peril the other fairy was in.
The blow that bashed her to the ground was not particularly hard, but the magic behind it was enough to thrust Wellas to the ground, where a solid kick from a troll that took advantage of her impaired situation sent her flying fully ten feet away, her ribcage no doubt seriously compromised as Tomis lost sight of her. Even as he was looking after the priestess he saw the tide of battle open up, allowing for a single figure to step forth as he grinned evilly at the king, his stark white smile a hideous thing to look upon as Tomis growled under his breath, cursing the decision that had inevitably led to this.
“Hello my old friend,” spoke the dark, wasted form of the dreaded sorcerer, the one being in all the realms that Tomis would have done anything for, until the bastard had attempted to replace him. There was no word in elvish, fairy, human, or even dwarvish to adequately describe the betrayal that this figure had perpetrated, nor would Tomis care to know it if there were.
“Maligus,” Tomis almost hissed, his grip tightening upon the grip of his blade.
The former advisor and most trusted among his retinue, Maligus Lacwall, now known only as “Oathbreaker”, a term of great shame within the Jade Kingdom, had once been Tomis’s greatest friend and most valued asset. Now he was simply what he had become, a traitor, a brigand, and worse, a necromancer. It made sense now, the revenants, the trolls, the dread feeling that had seemed to hang over the entire invasion. Maligus had been behind all of it.
“Is that any way to greet an old friend?” Maligus sneered, approaching the king without fear, slowly, with measured steps as he held out both hands, seeming not to worry that he might be injured by one of his own troops. It was just as well, as Tomis could see that the battle had already moved away from them both, as though those around them were wary of being too close to this figure. The king could not blame them, enemy or ally alike.
“Come forward and I’ll greet you properly, traitor.” The king all but snarled the words, keeping his sword in front of him and pointed at Maligus as the necromancer chuckled.
Maligus “tsk-ed” as he waggled one finger at the king, as though scolding a child, which made Tomis all the more angry as he took one step forward. Maligus smiled, as though he’d been anticipating this.
“Manners my old friend, manners.”
Tomis saw Maligus’ eyes shift to something just beyond his shoulder, but even as he turned in that direction he was too late as he felt clawed hands grip at the base of his darkly-colored wings, wrenching them this way and that as he felt the membranes stretch and then tear. The king howled in pain as he tried to whip around, his blade leading as it glanced off of the thick hide of the bull-man that had attacked him so heinously, the strength leaving his arms as he was then spun back around to face Maligus, who was no longer smiling.
He saw much in that one hundred and eighty degree turn, not the least of which was the utter ruination of the grand throne room where he and his faithful subjects had made their stand, the floors awash with blood and the fallen, their eyes glassy and far-seeing in death as he looked upon them. Missing were those who had stood with him to the end, those who had carried the most clout and the most power within his kingdom, and those he had known for centuries or more. Where had they gone to?
“Do not worry o’ king,” Maligus spat, as though reading his mind, “You will see them soon enough.”
As the necromancer placed his hand fully upon Tomis’s pained face, he tried to rally back, to do something to stop whatever horrific fate the other fair had in mind, but he was too weak, too drained of energy already, and thus could do nothing. As Maligus’ hand closed over his eyes he knew only darkness, and for a time following, he knew nothing at all.