It didn’t occur to me that the journey home might not be safe in my condition until I hit the floor. Hard stone paving slabs rushed up to meet me, but a thick layer of moss cushioned my fall. As did the great Fae beast at my side. Touching my stomach gently, my heart in my throat, I prayed that I hadn’t made a terrible mistake.
The bear-sized hound nuzzled me, letting me hold onto him to get back to my feet. The hound was as big as I was. Bigger, even, in my malnourished condition. I still didn’t know why he was helping me, but I could question it later. I’d always had an affinity with the beasts when I’d been caged with them. For now, I had to focus on figuring out where I had ended up, and how to get home. If only the world would stop spinning so I could get my bearings.
There was a bite to the air I hadn’t felt in five years, and it took me several moments to remember what that meant. It finally came to me as I watched another breath form as mist in front of me. Winter? Though I had replaced my rags with stolen clothes from the Lord, they were not built for the cold. My arms and feet were completely bare and were starting to sting.
Rejoicing somewhat in the discomfort brought on by the chill, I took in my surroundings. Looking around, I saw a stone henge and a large slab altar which was cracked in two. Nature was everywhere, untamed, and I swallowed a lump in my throat as panic began to take me again. My hand tightened its grip on my sword automatically. The portal should have taken me away. Only the chill in the air reassured me that this wasn’t still part of the Court.
My hound nudged me again, and I slumped weakly by his side for warmth. He lay down, curling himself around me, and I wrapped my arms around my stomach. “You’re safe now.” I heard my voice shake, and tried to pretend I was only speaking to the spark of life I could almost feel inside of me. But sitting there on the cold, damp ground, I felt the tears that had been stifled for so long finally spill over. After being empty for so long…I wept with relief, and regret. “I will never let anyone hurt you. Just give me a chance. Please don’t give up on me.” I croaked, as the tears flowed freely down my cheeks.
Eventually, the sky began to grow darker and I leapt to my feet at the sight. With wide eyes and my heart in my throat, I watched in awe as the sun began to set and the sky danced with colour. The harsh day melted into evening and, quickly, fell into night. My first sunset in as long as I could remember. I had forgotten. But watching the cruel sun melt away, all of my fears faded with it. I had heard once that there was only one realm that had both day and night, and everything in between. I was home.
I tentatively stepped out of the henge and searched my surroundings for a sign of which way to go. The moon sang to me, full and shining and bright, and a million stars winked at me. Tears sprung to my eyes again as I finally gazed up at the moon, and the sword I had won clattered to the ground. Something else I had forgotten, but had no idea how I had lived so long without. I left the sword where it fell and gazed upwards until another glimmer of silver light caught my attention, showing me what I was searching for. Civilisation.
Far off in the night, too far to make out its size or distance, there was a spire. In the low light, it looked like it was solid black obsidian and for a moment I felt my heart constrict. But the moonlight danced across it and it glowed like a beacon. My captors had never built upwards, only outwards.
I couldn’t remember seeing anything like the spire before I was taken, but most of my memories had abandoned me a long time ago. Even the moon had seemed like a dream or a fantasy I had made myself. If I had any chance of finding my parents, as I was certain I must have had them, and getting somewhere I could call home…that spire was my only chance.
The beast sidled alongside me, and I hesitantly ran my hands through its coarse, thick fur. “Are you coming with me, boy?” Glowing blue eyes blinked up at me. “Stupid question, huh?”
I retrieved the sword with my heart in my throat and held it cautiously out in front of me. That blade had cut down so many of the Lord’s captives. But it had betrayed him in the end. Now his life essence was inside, with the others’.
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