Happy Friday, Aledan Merfolk! If you’re new to Fie Eoin Fridays (it’s been a while since we’ve had one), it’s the day I post a deleted scene or backstory from whatever project I’m currently working on. Originally that project was Fie Eoin (now The Nameless Warrior), hence the name. I’m back in Fie Eoin’s world for this short story, so I thought an FEF would be especially appropriate this week. This short story takes place after the third book in Fie Eoin’s series, so if you have no idea what’s happening just know that Ocean is Kindra’s granddaughter. Hemlock is her cousin, and has become King of a Roman-like empire called the Known World. Ocean’s not too happy about that, especially when he chooses her to “babysit” his daughter. The rest you can probably work out from the scene.
It took half a moon to reach the edge of the Known World, and half a moon more to reach the capital city where the royal family lived. The palace rose almost as high as the cliff back home, all dazzling white stone bristling with soldiers in their light armor. Ocean hated wearing it—Aledans fought without armor. Before the Known World found them the Aledans had been the only tribe with iron weapons.
“Cousin,” King Hemlock waited at the door to greet her. His wife, a cold woman Ocean had never been fond of, stood next to him with one dark hand on their daughter’s shoulder.
“King Hemlock,” Ocean bowed. “Queen Alyssa. Princess.”
Hem grabbed her up. “No need to bow, cousin. You’re not a servant.”
Wasn’t she? She was here at his request to serve as his daughter’s bodyguard.
He led her through the hall. “I’m so glad you’re here. There have been attempts on my daughter’s life and I can’t trust anyone, except family. And you certainly made a name for yourself on the front lines. My men call you the ‘winged wave’.”
Ocean’s wings twitched under her cloak. She knew what they called her on the field. Warrior names were sacred and they were making fun of her. Hem should know better.
“You’re very quiet today,” he said as they ascended the stairs.
“I’m Faye. We’re always quiet.” With others. Together the winged ones were boisterous. Ocean remembered many nights in Fie Bradach with the other Faye. Late nights, bonfires, music, and Yule. Ocean was never quiet with Yule. The Faye priestess hated that Ocean was a warrior, because Faye outside of Fie Eoin were taught to shun weapons, but that didn’t stop them from enjoying each other’s company.
Hemlock opened a wooden door to a room the size of a tent in Fie Eoin. There was a pallet on one side, tapestries covering the stone walls, and a door in the sidewall. A carpet that reminded her of the rugs in Fie Obsid covered the stone floor.
“The second door leads to Kindra’s chambers,” Hemlock said, ignoring Ocean’s wince at the sacrilegious name. “If you need anything her servants have been told to supply it.”
What Ocean really needed was a tent under the stars. Fighting on the front lines had always been better than the cities of stone. She dropped her sack on the pallet and turned to face her cousin. “You have my word—nothing will befall your daughter while I’m here.”
“I know,” he said and studied her. His hair hadn’t gone to silver like his twin brother’s, but it looked tarnished all the same. “I know what I’ve done, Ocean, but I did it to save Fie Eoin.”
“We’re grateful,” she said automatically.
He sighed and looked away. “Take the night to become acclimated. I’ll see you first thing in the morning.”
“Do you still do warm-ups?” She asked out of curiosity. He hadn’t gone soft around the middle, but she’d been in his army twice before and noticed his men didn’t have the same morning routine as the Aledans.
“Of course.” He stopped at the door on his way out and stared at his hand on the stone. “I know that you think I’ve abandoned Fie Eoin, but I was never born to rule. I’m doing my best. My brother would have been better-suited to this life.”
She didn’t reply, although she agreed. Bar was made to rule, but Fie Eoin didn’t need a war chief right now—it needed someone to bring them together after the destruction the Known World caused. Aledan, Obsidian, Faye, Tarrin, and Gaerlom…Ocean’s father could bring them all to one. Barracuda would have broken them apart.
Hem left and Ocean began to unpack. After a short while the princess opened the second door. She was almost as dark-skinned as her mother, but her hair was highlighted with gold and her eyes were hazel. Aledan.
“You’re to be my new guard?” She said.
Ocean stopped and looked at her. The scar on the girl’s chin—which was how she got her name—the wild, half-golden curls. The eyes. Ocean bowed her head. “I am.”
“Father calls you Cousin.”
“You can call me Ocean.”
The girl tilted her head. “Do you speak Known? Or should I speak to you in Aledan?”
Ocean switched to Known. “You can call me whatever you like—I hear princesses are special.”
The princess snorted. “I don’t know why,” she said in Aledan. “I haven’t done anything to be special about, except being alive.”
That made Ocean smile. “And by being alive you’ll someday be queen.” There was no word for queen in Aledan, so she switched to Known. “And then you’ll do great things. Rule the Known World. You’ll be the most powerful person alive.”
“Except the gods.” The little princess grabbed an amethyst from Ocean’s desk and turned it over in her fingertips. “Father says I was named after a goddess.”
“You were named after you great-grandmother,” Ocean said. It was easier for her to think of it that way.
The young hazel eyes met hers. “Did you know her?”
In that moment the princess—Kindra—was just a girl. Ocean swallowed. “No. She died when your grandparents were only fifteen summers.”
The girl nodded and rubbed her fingers over the smooth gem. “I wish I could have met her.”
“I do too,” Ocean whispered. Kindra was the first woman to become a warrior in Fie Eoin, and it hadn’t been easy for her. It hadn’t been easy for Ocean either, rebelling against the non-violent Faye to earn her warrior name. Outshining her father, the chief. Having no twin-bond whose energy she could draw on.
She glanced at the princess—the first Aledan/Known child with the name of a goddess—and thought it must not be easy for her either. Ocean decided she would protect this girl with her life and spirit.
Princess Kindra placed the stone back on the table carefully. “Do you know what threats you’re protecting me from?”
“All of them.”
“How many people could possibly hate me?”
Ocean stepped next to the girl, ran her hand over the strange hair. “They don’t hate you, but they hate your father. Some people will use children to get to their real enemies.”
Kindra wrenched away. “I’m not a child. I’m thirteen.”
“To your father you are. To his enemies you are. Even when you grow up to be queen you’ll be a weakness.”
“You’re the daughter of a king,” the girl said. “Why aren’t you a weakness?”
“I’m the daughter of a chief. The youngest daughter. And now our only enemies are yours, which makes you far more valuable than me.”
The princess was silent for a moment, and when she spoke it was in Aledan. “I think if my father’s enemies are smart they’ll know Fie Eoin is the most valuable thing.”