I pulled my hood over my snowy hair and made sure to put my dagger down my knee-high boots. I left my nurse a note to cover for me before I ran down the stairs that led to the palace courtyard.
Gypsy was already waiting for me, her golden feathers glistening in the sunrise. Without saying a word, I climbed gently onto her high back and she leapt into the air, her elegant wings taking us towering above the city.
Every morning, for the past seven years, I had ridden my Griffin to Luniba’s Waterfall. Father had beaten me at first when he found out, but then I stopped eating and stared blankly out my window and he allowed me to go again, as long as only he, my nurse and I knew about it; he worried that the strange foreigners would take me if they knew.
The foreigners were still camped outside our gates, not as many as before, but still more than our city could muster in an emergency. Even though we had been at siege by them for so long, I still caught my breath every time I saw how much silver they owned, and how little gold. Solabic woke the sun each morning with his golden arrows, and Luniba brought the moon out with the silver souls of our ancestors every evening.
Mother once told me that Luniba sent the silver to this world when she wept for her children, Air, Earth, Water, Spirit and Fire, after her brother, Murtimsion, stole them and brought them here. She said that the tears were those of a mother, and Solabic sent fire out of Solabic’s Mountain. Spirit, the youngest of their children, managed to escape and return home, but her brothers and sisters still have yet to return.
Gypsy dove towards the ground gracefully, my white dress billowing out behind us. As always, she timed it just right, and went horizontal just before we crashed through the ground, into Murtimsion’s underworld. I slid off and headed towards the serene pool of water, certain that Gypsy would be looking for a tree to rest in until I needed to return home.
Kneeling down in front of the small statue of Luniba, I lay a basket of freshly picked Black Bryony at her marble feet. “Dearest Goddess, I know that you are still mourning, but please help me to be a better person; the type of person that will end this ridiculous war.” Slowly, I stood and walked into the sacred Pool of Tears until I was waist deep. “Oh, Powerful Goddess of the Night and Stars, Graceful Mother of All and Mighty Keeper of Peace and Mystery, I beg that you accept my offering and relieve me of all my sins!”
I could feel her sons, Air and Fire, wrapping themselves around me, her daughters, Water and Earth, calming my soul. The water started swirling around me, rising higher and higher above me, until I was completely enveloped by it. Luniba and her children relaxed and quietly dispersed, leaving my soul feeling like something was missing.
I walked to the small boulder in the centre of the pool and sat cross-legged, thinking; I had never felt like a part of me was missing, and I had completed this ritual for seven years, after Gypsy had learnt to fly at four years old. I thanked Luniba everyday for the gifts that she granted me and the position I had been born with. I had never felt lonely or unloved; I had even considered abdicating my throne for the life of a priestess at one stage, which would have meant giving up the chance of having a family. And I knew that I was loved, because Father told me everyday when I arrived back, always later then he wanted.
A twig snapped behind me and I turned, thinking that Father had sent some guards out to bring me home for a Council Gathering. I froze. A young boy, a couple of years older than me at the most, was standing there, palms upwards in a peace gesture. I looked straight to his left eye, for a tattoo; there was none. He was a foreigner; a dangerous soldier who wanted to kill my people.
I stood and got ready to whistle for Gypsy. “Wait! Please, I just want to talk. Please, no one else knows I’m here.” No one was there with him, and I kind of wanted to talk to one of the strangers anyway, because I had so many questions for them; where are they from? Where are their tattoos? Why are they at war with us? What do they want?
“What do you want to talk to me about, stranger?” I used the innocent, regal voice that I had been practising with for when I was queen. The water rippled at my feet, giving me strength. He was wading in the pool, ever getting closer to me. I felt for the dagger hidden in my boot, and the cold blade felt reassuring.
“I don’t really know; everything. I’ve never spoken to a Tartanian before. Tell me everything.” To be honest, I thought that he was one of those soldiers that they sent to charm us; actors, all of them. But then I realised that he was being completely truthful. Mad man, was all I could think.
“Well, I’m afraid that I’ve never spoken to a Mangorrian before, and to be honest I don’t intend to. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a meeting to attend to.”
He stepped towards me again, holding his arms out in a peace gesture. “Please. I just want to talk. Just tell me something.” I stepped away from him, wary of the closeness of this stranger.
“Anything? Well, let’s see; I was tutored by Fungus Ostore in magic and His Majesty Himself taught me about defense and war; both men are the most knowledgeable in their fields.” He was looking at me expectantly, not understanding. “Did the Gods give you no sense? We are at war, I was taught by the best warrior and the best magician, we have different loyalties; do you not understand?” I sprung from my tight crouch and pressed my dagger gently on his soft throat. His head had landed on a rock, giving him the chance to keep his face above the icy water. “I could kill you with a flick of my wrist, no pressure needed, and you didn’t even put up any fight.”
Red blood trickled steadily from a little cut under his bushy hair, his eyes were finding it hard to focus and I could feel his heart slowing underneath me. Even though I could still feel him slowly falling unconscious, even though I was sitting on top of his diaphragm, he still managed to whisper, “Wow; I never knew that a fairy could be so beautiful. The tattoos usually spoil the face; but yours looks like it’s been carved by God Himself when he wanted to gift the world with the most beautiful of His angels. You must be His favorite of His best creations; it is a miracle, and a blessing that I am alive to met His beloved cherub.”
I raised my right arm high in the air and sure enough Gypsy was there in a few seconds. Her talons gently wrapped around my forearm and when we had gone a couple of feet up into the air I swung onto her back. I admit it completely; I was showing off. I cold have climbed onto her back. I could have stayed dangling from her talons. But I showed off.
Gypsy circled above the boy for a while, wanting to dive down, pick him up and drop him off the edge of a cliff. But I’ve never been that cruel. Griffins and Dragons, they’re both dangerous creatures but by some miracle, one of our ancestors managed to tame them. I am eternally grateful to whoever that may have been.
I noticed a couple of other Mangorrians heading towards the boy’s body through the trees. My heart suddenly started to worry about what condition he was in; was he dead? Did I kill him? Did he know who I was? Would he turn me in? Fear suddenly surged through my body. Sensing it, Gypsy turned sharply back towards the city, not caring how close she got to squishing the men below. Even when fleeing, she found time to strike fear into those foreigners’ hearts.