By: Jackie Lavache
In a heavily forested island, past the knowledge of the civilized Amtar worlds, a young woman with 19 winters behind her, parried the blow of a stone spear with her own spear. The opponent was Cai, a rather handsome young man, not much older than the woman whose name was Lei.
Cai was a well-trained fighter in the Fyrlight tribe, one of the most honoured warriors, which was rare for a man at his young age. It was natural that Govan, the tribe's chief, would ask Cai to train his only child and heir.
As Cai and Lei were sparring, their minds focused completely on the fight at hand. Lei successfully deflected that blow, but Cai was quick, swinging around he brought another blow upon Lei that she was unable to deflect. The contact caused her to fall over.
Cai laughed. "You need to remember to cover yourself completely."
Lei looked up at him indignantly. "I do cover myself. You always find the tiniest of openings."
Cai ceased his laughing and gave her a hand to help lift her up. "That is why I'm the teacher, and you are the student."
Not accepting that as an answer, she looked to her spear. "It's because of this weapon, it's useless." With that, she snapped the spear into two almost perfectly equivalent pieces on her leg. The action caused her some slight pain, but her faced revealed nothing. She looked up to Cai, "That's much better!"
Cai blinked, at first words escaped him, till he finally said, "You just ruined it!"
Lei grinned. "No, I improved it." Lei swung the two pieces in her arms rather skillfully. "Now this is a good weapon!"
Cai's surprised expression changed into a smile. "You never cease to amaze me, Princess. If you wish to fight with two pieces instead of one, by all means do. It will not change anything."
With that, Lei charged Cai swinging with her newly formed weapon, bringing a blow with her right, then left, both of which he managed to successfully block. Cai then took the offensive, but Lei blocked that with one weapon, while landing a blow with the other. Stunned by the blow, he tried to recover, but Lei managed another, and Cai was knocked down.
Satisfied, Lei helped Cai to his feet. "Yes, I think it makes all the difference."
Cai laughed, "I think this concludes today's lessons. Let's return to the tribe."
Lei nodded and began to walk back to the village. Though she thoroughly enjoyed her lessons with Cai, she had been training almost all day, she was tired and lacked food.
"How are the discussions with father going?" Lei asked. It was not proper for a woman to inquire about marriage negotiations, but Lei was different. She did not follow the ways set in place for woman, especially since she was being trained to fight and would, as heir, lead the tribe upon her father's death.
Knowing this, Cai did not hesitate to answer her. "Good, as was to be expected. We've already discussed payment, and now we're planning the date for the occasion. It will most likely take place in a couple of weeks," Cai replied with a smile.
Overjoyed at this, Lei excitedly wrapped her arms around him and gave him a kiss. "Wonderful!"
Cai smiled and returned the kiss. "I cannot wait for the day," he said smiling.
"Me two. Will you finish the talks tonight? I can't wait to make this engagement official!"
"I don't doubt we will. I've promised to visit his hut after the evening meal. The announcement will probably be made either tonight or tomorrow."
"Great!" Lei exclaimed as she continued walking back to the small village with Cai at her side. Eventually the settlement came into sight and Lei saw Eira and Aeronwy waiting for her by the forest's edge.
Aeronwy soon noticed the approaching couple and leaped up, dashing over to Lei, her twin sister Eira following. Eira and Aeronwy had been Lei's two closest friends since childhood. She was not surprised to see them waiting for her, but the urgency in Aeronwy's expression, Eira's as well, startled her.
"What is it?" Lei asked immediately.
By the gods, Lei! You've been gone all day! Word reached the tribe earlier that the rumours of Anfri attempting to ally with Ryn are true! You're father is leaving tonight to speak diplomatically with Anfri!"
Lei's face went pale--the rumours of an upcoming war were true! It had been rumoured that Anfri of the Tannatt tribe was trying to conquer all of Meniaka. Meniaka was one of the many islands in Outer Amtar. On this island there where three tribes, Fyrlight, Tannatt, and Yorath. For centuries the tribes managed to live in a peace with each other on the heavily forested island. But recently Anfri came into power of the Tannatt tribe. But for some reason, that wasn't enough. For years now it has been no secret that Anfri was building large and strong forces of men. An army, but in the island of Meniaka, which was mostly ruled by peace, had never amassed large forces of men worthy of being called an army, (until now) so no such word exists in their vocabulary. This has made tensions between the three tribes increase. However, Anfri's "army" was still not enough. The two tribes, Yorath and Fyrlight, could easily squash him united. So Anfri proceeded to further himself by making an alliance with Ryn, leader of the Yorath tribe. Ryn was a very weak minded leader, the tribe was moreover run by Mael, Ryn's advisor, who was in league with Anfri. This fact was never proven, however. Govan did his best to try and keep such an alliance from happening, but it failed, because today Ryn declared that the Tannatt and Yorath would attack Fyrlight for certain wrongdoings. These wrongdoings where nothing by lies that Mael and Anfri fed to Ryn, who eventually came to believe them as fact. Anfri now saw his goal in sight, with the two tribes allied against the Fyrlight tribe, he could easily defeat them, and claim Meniaka as his own.
Despite the fact that Fyrlight was the strongest tribe, everyone knew they could not last against Yorath and Tannatt together. Govan knew this best of all. Upon hearing the official news of Ryn's alliance, he decided he would travel to Yorath to discuss this diplomatically. The last thing Govan wanted was a war, and he was going to do everything in his power to avoid bloodshed.
After the shock of hearing this news, Lei hurried into her father's hut, leaving Cai, Eira, and Aeronwy behind. Understanding that this was a discussion not theirs to hear, they went there separate ways.
- - - - - -
"Father!" Lei exclaimed as she entered. There she saw her father, mother, and Amhar; Govan's most trusted advisor discussing the events of the day. "Is what I have heard true?"
"If what you heard was that Ryn has allied with Anfri, then yes, it is," Govan replied to his daughter.
"By the gods!" Lei exclaimed, "He truly means to bring conflict and bloodshed to this peaceful island!"
Adara, Lei's mother, nodded, "Yes, so it seems. Your father has decided to travel to Yorath. I've insisted that you go with him."
Lei blinked, never having expected such a thing, she looked to Govan, "Is this true?"
"Yes," Govan replied. "You will come with me to Yorath. You're mother insists that you watch and experience these situations in order to learn."
Lei paused, and then a thought came to her, "Who else is going?"
"It will be a small party, Amhar will be my guardian, Cai yours," Govan replied. "We leave tonight. Be quick and pack all you need, daughter."
"Yes, father," Lei said and left the hut to ready herself for the trip.
- - - - - -
The trip to Yorath did not take long, merely a half-day's walk on the small island. The tribes where close to together, separated by only several miles.
Lei was happy that Cai was coming, and the both of them stayed in the back of the small group while Govan and Amhar lead the way. During the trip Lei listened to them as they discussed Govan's decision to go to Yorath with only Amhar and Cai as guards.
"I wish, Chief, that you had brought more people to guard yourself and you're daughter. Don't you realize how dangerous it is?"
"Ryn is not dangerous. He's stupid, but not dangerous. He won't dare attack me, especially when I come peacefully. He's a spineless coward. I have nothing to fear from him."
Amhar discussed the matter a little more, but Govan did not change his mind.
- - - - - -
The moon was high when they finally reached Yorath. Govan's arrival was quite a surprise but the guards did not deny him entrance.
The small group was led to a hut where Ryn usually spoke with people on diplomatic matter such as this. The inside was not greatly decorated. There were animal skins on the floor serving as a rug, and few bone carvings here and there. Lei recognized their meaning, which was to promote peace. She almost laughed at their irony.
When Ryn walked in, he looked tired and perturbed at being disturbed at such a late hour. When he looked to see Govan, there was a sign of shock on his face, which he quickly masked. His features were now friendly. This disturbed Lei, as this was the same man who had just declared he was going to attack her tribe.
As Ryn was beginning to voice his greeting, Govan cut him off. "Let's dismiss all the pleasantries. The night is almost half done, and we need not waste the time."
Ryn was taken aback by this, seemingly at loss for words. Eventually he did speak. "I'm surprised that you came at such a time. Could this discussion not have waited until the sun was present?"
"Not when you've decided to attack my people. I take such threats seriously. I'm sure Eoir castes his shame on you," Govan replied.
"You dare to assume what our great God of Peace thinks? I'm sure he castes his shame upon you for the grievances you have done to my tribe."
"Bah! What grievances? They're all lies! Most likely concocted by your new ally, Anfri!"
Ryn studied Govan for a moment, and then said, "Are you certain you want to have this discussion in front of your daughter? Hmm?" Ryn motioned Lei.
"You try and change the subject, Ryn. It proves my words correct. And as for Lei, she is my heir. She must learn how to deal with such issues as it is wrong for me to leave her in charge without the knowledge of how to run the tribe." As Govan said this, Lei heard the unspoken words, "So she won't be a spineless coward like you."
Apparently Ryn heard those unspoken words as well, for anger flashed across his face. "I'm glad you take such an active role in educating your daughter. Hopefully there will be a tribe for her to lead when you die."
The implied threat did not escape Govan for a second, and he was somewhat surprised that Ryn had the guts to make such a bold statement in his presence. Anger overcame Govan. "The Fyrlight tribe will not succumb to your feeble offensive. You have made a grave mistake, Ryn, allying with that rat Anfri, letting him whisper lies into your ears. Your so-called 'grievances' with us are unfounded and false. You know as well as I that Fyrlight is peaceful and we have not cheated Yorath by trading damaged goods. We heave not been stealing your livestock. You know as well as I that your missing livestock is Anfri's doing. And we have not been planning an attack on Yorath. You shall call off this ridiculous attack and stop allowing yourself to be a dog, whose master is that bastard Anfri!"
Lei noticed that Govan spoke with an air of authority and power that made her proud. For an instant, Lei believed Ryn would do as her father asked, but then a voice came from the shadows.
"I'm a bastard? Well, such an insult shall not go unpunished." The shrouded figure of Anfri stepped into the hut, and it was too late when Lei saw the bone dagger, as it was tossed with great accuracy into Govan's chest.
"Father!" Lei screamed as she rushed to his side. Govan was already on the ground.
Amhar was filled with shame as he had failed his duty as protector to his leader and friend. With anger as his fuel, he attacked Anfri full force. Anfri seemed unaffected by this, as he spoke one word and two burly guards also came into the tent, and cut off Amhar's attack. With in a few seconds, Amhar fell to the ground dead.
Cai also acted immediately upon Govan's assassination attempt by going over to Lei and Govan's side. He was prepared to defend the two of them to the death. Anfri spoke another word, and the two guards headed for Cai. Cai put up a fight, causing one of the guards a broken nose, but was soon subdued. Blood trickled down the side of his head from a blow he received during the scuffle.
Lei, unaware of the happenings around her, knelt by her father. She had pulled out the bone dagger, and was now applying pressure to the wound. Blood was everywhere. It covered her hands as she desperately tried to stop the bleeding. She could feel her father twitch in pain, and he gasped for air. His lips were flecked with blood. The dagger had punctured Govan's lung.
"Father," Lei cried, tears overflowing her eyes.
"Daughter," Govan said in reply. The word seemed to be difficult for him to say, and yet he continued. "Lead your people." And then Govan breathed no more.
As Lei screamed in frustration and pain, the shadow belonging to the murderous Anfri came over her. Lei looked up. She saw an evil smirk upon his face that would haunt Lei for the rest of her life.
"My condolences, Princess, for your loss."
Anger and rage filled her that she shook uncontrollably. "You killed him."
"Yes, that I did. It was unavoidable really, seeing as you would not rule the Fyrlight tribe until your father died."
Lei's anger was now somewhat replaced by confusion, as she watched Anfri uncomprehendingly.
"Still having trouble figuring it out, my dear? Well let me explain it to you carefully. I'm going to marry you, and therefor control the Fyrlight tribe.
"No!" Cai screamed from across the hut, where he still remained subdued by the two guards. "Leave her alone!"
Anfri turned his attention on Cai, and Lei realized she still had the bone dagger and there was an opening! Lei was upon Anfri quickly. Anfri was taken by surprise, barely able to defend himself as Lei managed to bury the dagger deep into his shoulder. Lei cursed as she had missed a vital area. She yanked the dagger out, but soon she was met by one of the guards who had managed to take her from behind, locking her arms in his as she was about to make her second attack.
Cai, left with only one guard, attacked as well. The two men proceeded to have a hand to hand combat. After exchanging blows, Cai gained the upper hand. With a jab of his elbow, the man fell to the ground. Cai proceeded to break his neck.
Lei was now struggling with her opponent, trying in vain to gain her freedom. Cai wasted no time to protect his princess. He jumped the second guard from behind, snapping his neck. A warning yell from Anfri did nothing to save the last guard.
Lei, now free and not knowing how, spun around to stab her attacker. She felt her dagger sink into flesh and glance off a rib bone. She looked up to see the face of her victim. She saw Cai.
Lei screamed in shock and denial, and without thinking she jerked the bone dagger out. Cai slumped to the floor. "Run," he cried out. Lei just looked at Cai in shock of what she had done; she saw no hatred or anger. There was just love and forgiveness for the terrible mistake she had made.
Somewhere in the background she heard Anfri's cynical laughter and his order to Ryn to get more guards.
Despite the tears she felt falling down her cheek, she knew she had to fulfill Cai's dying request. She knelt down next to her love, kissing him gently. "I love you." She then saw the beautiful light in Cai's eyes vanish.
Lei stood up, seemingly to give up. Anfri walked over to her. "You see, my dear, fighting..." He never got to finish his statement, as Lei spun around with a kick to his most sensitive area, and then she quickly disappeared out of the hut.
The guards Ryn had been sent for were now running towards the hut and Lei. Lei was too fast for them though, and she darted off towards the direction of the woods. She was met by another guard, and a fight followed. Lei was fueled by adrenaline now, which gave her an advantage over the guard. The guard managed a glancing blow to Lei's forehead, and despite the blood she felt coming from it, she returned with a vicious kick. The guard soon lost balance, and without finishing the fight she ran off again.
Lei soon entered the woods, her pace growing with the increase of a feeling of urgency. She must get back to her people. She must tell them of what happened, and she must prepare them for what is going to happen next.
Lei no longer heard guards behind her after a while. And despite the physical and emotional pain she felt, she continued running all the way home.
- - - - - -
Back in the hut Anfri was having his shoulder wound bandage. Angered by the unexpected turn of events, he went over his options in his mind.
Ryn soon re-entered the hut. Fear was evident on his face as he declared the unwelcome news. "The princess has escaped."
Anfri's face hardened, his features betraying no emotion. "Burn the bodies, then prepare your men for an attack on Fyrlight.
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