Bright sunlight danced off the fields of flowers basking in warm rays of sun as I dismounted the pearl-white dragon. I bowed low to the magnificent animal, who bowed his head slightly back to me.
“I do not know how long I will be.” I told him kindly. “I think you would be more comfortable at home.”
“I will wait for the night here. If you need me not or have not returned upon the dawn, I will leave.” His lips didn’t move as he spoke, and I knew he was speaking telepathically to me.
The dragon walked in a circle. Then he settled there, curled up to face the palace. Smiling gratefully at my fried, I nodded my thanks before heading toward the glistening white-stoned palace.
Standing on the cliffs that plummeted down to a vast and mighty ocean, the glistening palace sat on fields of flowers and long, billowing grass. To every direction for miles, however, were rolling mountains covered in numerous trees. Each tree had a dryad spirit, and wolves howled from every direction. There were hidden caves, rock slides and animals the wolves feared in those forests.
Few visited without being invited, and those uninvited were met with a force of nature like no other. It meant this was a place for royalty, nobility and other high-ranking magical beings with their human pets. Its isolation was only topped by the winter palace in the Unseelie Court.
So why was I, a Daesyn, invited?
Guards walked the perimeter, stood along the high fortress walls and before every entrance. I had to wonder if this was normal, a display of strength or had something to do my summoning. As I came to the gates, the guard took one look at me and ordered the gates to be opened.
Nodding in appreciation for the swift entrance, I straightened my flight suite as the gates opened. A bridge formed via magic to allow me to cross. It fell the moment I touched foot to the other side, making me whip around. The gates were close again.
Great. So the only way out is if they want me to leave.
Noting the archers, I let out a sigh of frustration and turned to continue on my way. Vann was perfectly capable of protecting himself out there, so it was best to continue forward. He wasn’t safe trying to enter the large, well-protected courtyard over a mere discomfort like being trapped.
This is serious, if they’re trying to keep me in or others out while I’m here.
Keeping my hand on my hilt where I could feel the runes under my palm, I made my way to the palace’s double doors. They, too, were made of the gray, cold stone from the area. Once again, I was allowed in with only a glance.
Inside the air was thick, heavy and warm, smelling of fresh, hot food and many people. In the immaculate foyer with stone benches and walls carved with religious scenes, I began to lightly sweat. A man in black bowed low, offering his arm.
“May I take your coat and walk you to the vestige, milady?” He offered professionally.
I undid my overcoat and gave it to him. “Thank you.” Though my words were quiet, they echoed a little among the massive, practically empty room.
The vestige was, shockingly, packed. Every race had an ambassador here, in human form – even the human races. There were nobles of the Seelie Fae as well, and many, many guards. Hounds walked the halls in uniforms informing people they, too, were working.
Is that normal at a party? Then I scoffed at my question. Is it normal to invite the strongest Daesyn to a party?
The crowd parted to allow me through. The dogs paused to stare at me with nervously wagging tails, unsure quite what to make of me. Slight aggravation rippled through me to see the guards watching me with awe. Were they here to gawk, or actually protect people?
A tall blonde woman approached me in a beautiful blue gown. She had her hair done in a high, tight bun. An emblem on her arm told me she was the queen’s advisor. My carefully blank face regarded hers.
“Ser Tyrr, welcome.” The woman bowed low. “The court is waiting.”
“Lead the way, Lady.” I replied with a half bow.
She led me up stairs, through a gloriously lavish room and nodded to the guards as they opened huge doors engraved with the depiction of the Winter Queen in the center. The courtroom was a glorious thing, decorated with sculptures and fountains surrounding a wondrous dance floor. The floor was surrounded by high walls and accessed through staircases white as ice covered in blood red carpet.
Sitting at the highest point in the very back was the throne. Right in front of windows decorated with the history of the Winter Court Fae. How she survived even with the large number of guards in a room so open was a testament to her isolation. Since every guest wore a mask made me wonder how even that kept her safe.
Magic, most likely. These guards seem to be a show of strength rather than a real military force.
The train of thought ended entirely when I approached the throne with a man announcing me. “Now presenting Ink Ves Tyff of the Daesyn, head of the Tyff household, ambassador of the Daesyn, veteran of the War Between Realms, slayer of the Chimera, of-“
“She gets the point.” I told the caller.
The woman on the throne actually cracked a small smile. “Daesyn aren’t well known for their politics.”
“Nor for our patience.” I replied pointedly. “I wasn’t informed you were so young, your majesty.”
Her eyes went from slight amusement to sudden despair. That was the problem with the Fae – they went from one extreme to the other so quickly most didn’t think the emotions were real; especially the Seelie Court. They were fickle creatures.
I didn’t think I’d meet anything as fickle as humans until I met my first Seelie Fae.
“Do you remember the advisor you met upon taking your place as the head of the Tyff family?”
“Yes. She was old and powerful, and neither human nor Fae.”
“Do you recall what she was, Ser Tyff?”
I shook my head. “I recall I’d never felt or seen anything like her, but knew she was not evil.”
“Perhaps not innately, but she killed my mother. She is not as benign as she led them to believe. I have summoned you because there is no other I trust to avenge my mother’s death than the woman who killed the Chimera. Hunt down the traitor. She is a nine-tailed fox, Ser Tyff. While I try to collect the pieces she left behind and set our world back on track.”
I blinked in utter shock. “Lady Wynn killed the queen she protected and advised half a century?”
She gave a tight frown that made her lips press in a tight line. “She was caught red handed, Ser Tyff.”
My impartial face slid to disbelief. “I am Daesyn, protector of mankind…not of the Fae.”
“But you bring malevolent Fae, monsters and spirits to justice, do you not?”
“The Nine-tailed Fox is very well known as a demon in many human mythologies. They are malevolent to humanity. What if it decides to leave the Summerland and begin its evil ways again?”
I ground my jaw. “Very well. Where did the fox go?”
Evil cannot hide from a Daesyn.
So what inspired Jasmine Wynn to kill the one she served so willingly and happily?
“North, toward the forests. I suppose she wants to hide in a place that holds many shadows.”
The possibility of forest fires would be high.
“I’d like to see where it happened. And the body.”
She blinked at me. “The body has already been burned, as is our custom. You’re standing where it happened.”
Of course they’d clean it and proceed to burn the body before examining the scene or allowing me to.
“So who saw her kill the queen? I’d like to speak to them.”
“I saw her…” Her eyes glistened with barely restrained tears. “She became a giant fox white as snow with nine tails. Her eyes gleamed, and then she leapt, ripping my mother to shreds.”
I contemplated her words before bowing, saying “May your days as queen be long and joyous, and may you never need to call upon the Daesyn for Fae matters again.”
Then I turned and began to walk out. “I will begin now, and bring her, dead or alive, for trial.”
“I was hoping you’d stay for my coronation. You are technically Fae.”
“If your mother’s killer is fleeing, I’ve no time for politics. Do not fear; I serve you no less than I would serve any other Fae queen.” On my way out, I was relieved nobody stopped me. I had no time for gossip if I was going to track a powerful creature through dense forests steeped with old magic.