Queen of Thorns
Meanwhile, Gerda and Kai’s wedding plans are about to be shattered by some heartbreaking news. The suspected return of the Snow Queen also puts their future in jeopardy.
Eleanor decides to move forward her political and personal alliance with King Wilbur. A decision she may yet regret.
Queen of Thorns, book 2 of A Dark Faerie Tale, is a blended retelling of Snow White, the Snow Queen and other fairy tales, with action/adventure and a magical touch of romance.
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When the sun rose to greet the sky, a small party assembled outside the house in the forest. Avira rose early and came to bid Khione, Gerda and Kai farewell. Aya and Gifford paid Khione a visit and promised they would fly over to see her as soon as they could. Garion saddled Arien and Ahern and brought them to the waiting party, he filled the saddlebags and the travellers said their goodbyes. One by one, Khione bid the elves goodbye. She could not recollect any affection she had once felt for them. After thanking them for their extreme kindness, in sheltering her from her evil mother Queen Eleanor. She shook them each by the hand.
“There will always be a welcome for you here,” said Alwin to Gerda and Kai. Addressing Khione, “This is still your home if at any time you wish to return.”
She nodded her head. “Thank you Alwin.”
Avira embraced her and wished her well. “It is a pity you will not be here for our wedding. I truly hope all will go well for you from now on.”
Cameron shook Kai’s hand and patted him on the back. “Good luck, I wish you both happiness and peace. Khione I will miss your presence here, but do whatever you feel is best for you.”
Erlan was next to speak. “I too will be leaving at the week’s end. I am returning to the village. You are welcome to visit Lenna and me anytime you wish. Farewell, I wish you all happiness and contentment.”
Virion attempted to smile. He presented Khione with a new recurve bow he made especially for her. “I kept it to give you as a birthday gift, but you may as well have it now.” Khione could not recall how to use it, but accepted it graciously. She gave a small wave to the farewell party, and turned to Garion. “I am ready to leave now.”
Garion mounted Ahern and assisted Khione. “Stand upon my foot in the stirrups and hold on to my hands,” he instructed. She did as she was asked. Once seated she hooked her leg around the saddle pommel. Placing herself in a side-saddle position, she then rearranged her gown. Garion placed his arms around her and took hold of the reins.
“Is this safe?” asked Khione.
Ahern nodded his head. “You are quiet safe.”
She patted his head, “Thank you Ahern.”
“Lean against me if you wish,” suggested Garion.
As she leaned against him, the aroma of sandalwood on his clothing brought about feelings of fondness and familiarity. For a short time she allowed herself to indulge in those feelings. When they passed she found herself frustrated, as she so wished to recollect why she felt so drawn to him. Why she felt pleasure at his touch. She gave out a long sigh.
“Is there something wrong?” asked Garion
“No I feel well, but tell me are we close?”
He hesitated before answering, “Yes— you could say that we are close friends.”
Khione sighed again.“I see, it is so vexing not knowing.”
“Perhaps it is for the best. When you return to your world consorting with elves will be frowned upon.”
“I wish to consort with whom I please, besides your father was human, was he not?”
“That is different, he was not of royal birth. Virion and I are only half breed, neither elf nor human.”
“That should not account for anything, “ said Khione, an indignant tone in her voice. “I care not from where my friends come. Gerda and I are like sisters and it shall always remain so.”
“All do not think like you Khione. One day the fate of Turia will rest upon your shoulders and things will be much different than they are now.”
Khione racked her brain for something poignant and drew a blank. “I have much to think of,” said whispered, more to herself than anyone in particular.
She turned her attention toward Gerda, who wore the trousers, shirt and the broadcloth coat given to her by her benevolent faerie friend Lucy. Gerda concluded that male apparel would afford her more comfortable for riding. She watched as Kai helped her onto Arien. Khione remembered Gerda’s dislike of horses after one threw her as a child. So it was no surprise, once seated behind Kai, she gripped onto him out of fear. Kai waved goodbye to the farewell party and then they departed.
Khione remained in silent contemplation for much of the day’s journey. Garion occasionally drew Khione into light conversation. They travelled through the forest and along long, dusty roads unquenched with rain that autumn. Russet leaves fell from the trees and littered the ground. As dusk approached the weary travellers made their camp for the night, in a small, secluded wood. They sat and talked around the campfire.
Khione pulled her coat further around her and warmed her hands by the fire. “I think I should like to visit Agnes before I go to Tormain Palace. Would I be welcome Gerda? I should so much like to see your mother.”
“I am sure she will be ecstatic at seeing you again. Goodness knows how she will react when she sees Kai,” replied Gerda.
“Not to mention my mother,” interjected Kai. “She will forbid me from leaving the garret for a month, I am sure.”
Khione sighed. “I wish I had a mother who loved me as much as yours do.”
“You are loved by many Khione, never forget that,” said Garion.
“I agree,” added Gerda, as she gave a big yawn. She rubbed her back. “ Oh dear, I do not know where I ache more.”
“Time for sleep I think,” said Kai. He rose, approached the tethered horses, and removed the bedrolls and blankets tied to the saddles.
Garion agreed to stay awake and keep first watch. He sat leaning against a tree a short distance from the campfire. Kai slept beside Gerda and placed a protective arm around her. Garion watched Khione as she slept. She looked just as she did when she had been in the death-like sleep. The memory of this disturbed him. He knelt down beside her, brushed back her raven black hair, and kissed her forehead. She shifted and muttered some incoherent words. At first Garion thought she had woken, but no, she still slept peacefully. He smiled then chastised himself for giving in to temptation. He attempted to direct his thoughts elsewhere, but found it hard to resist gazing upon Khione’s face. After tomorrow, he would see her no more.
When the time came for Kai to keep watch, Garion was grateful to sleep and rest his tortured mind from thinking about Khione. He unsheathed his longsword from its scabbard and gave it to Kai. “Do you know how to use this?”
Kai shook his head, he had handled swords during his time as blacksmith’s apprentice, but never used one in combat. “I am sorry to say I have not a clue how to use a sword.” Upon the ground lay Garion’s bow and a quiver of arrows. “Nor how to use a bow and arrow.”
“I doubt you will have to use the sword. But it is always better to be prepared, in case of bandits or robbers. If all else fails hit them over the head with it.”
Kai chuckled. “I can do that.”
Garion lay down on his bedroll. “If anything happens I am sure the noise will waken me, my hearing is more sensitive than that of humans. He then closed his eyes and attempted to sleep.
As the light cast from the dying embers of the campfire faded, Kai looked out into the darkness of the woods. Silence surrounded them. Garion suddenly lifted his head, sat up, and retrieved his bow and arrows from the ground. He motioned for Kai to be silent by placing a finger on his lips. Kai could hear nothing, he gave Garion a puzzled look. Garion sat down beside Kai and withdrew an arrow from the quiver. He whispered, “I can hear something approaching. It is not an animal, I can tell the difference. Stay alert.”
Kai gripped the sword in both hands and swallowed a lump in his throat. Soon enough a dark figure could be seen making its way through the trees towards the remaining light of the fire. Kai could not see very well, but this was not the case for Garion with his keen night vision. “A goblin,” he said. It emerged from behind a tree and could be heard muttering to itself, with a gravelly voice. “Gold, gold, there is gold here somewhere. I can smell it.”
Garion stood up and spoke aloud, “I can smell you too goblin. We have no gold here, be gone.”
The startled goblin swung his head around in Garion and Kai’s direction. A grin appeared on his grotesque and weathered face. He pointed a gnarled finger in the direction of the still sleeping party. “You lie elf, there is gold here, my nose does not lie.”
“What of it?” asked Kai. “Why is it any of your concern?”
The goblin smiled showing his crooked yellowed teeth. “It is my concern, give me your gold and I shall not harm you.” He then spied the horses tied to a tree. “Horses, nice, they will fetch a good price.”
Before he could speak again Garion fired an arrow at his feet. He stepped back and cursed.
“They are not your horses, they are not for sale,” hissed Garion.
The noise woke the girls. “Not trolls again,” muttered Gerda. Khione sat upright and rubbed her eyes.
The goblin fixed his gazed upon Gerda. “You carry gold, give it to me.”
“I shall not give you anything,” retorted Gerda. She stood upright, grabbed Khione by the arm and moved behind Garion and Kai.
“Do not move,” shouted Garion, “I will not be hitting the ground with my next arrow.” He nocked another arrow and aimed his bow at the goblin.
Kai clutched Garion’s sword and waved it about. “I will use this sword.”
Gerda whispered to Khione, “I have gold coins in my purse, tucked inside my boot. I used some of them to distract trolls when we went to find Kai.”
“Can we do the same with him?” whispered Khione. Gerda nodded her head, and slid her hand inside her boot.
The goblin’s hand twitched towards the dagger hanging from his belt. “You do not scare me, come on then,” he teased. His head turned as an object flew into the air. “Gold!” he yelled, turning his back on his audience. As he bent down to pick up the coin, Kai rushed towards him and swung the blunt part of the sword down upon the goblin’s head. The stunned goblin staggered backwards. He reached for his dagger and threw it. Garion ducked as it whistled passed his head and embedded itself into a nearby tree. Khione screamed in horror, she ran towards the goblin. He sneered and raised his hand. An invisible force of energy hit her, causing her to fly backwards and fall to the ground. She pushed herself up, groaning with pain.
The goblin yowled in pain as an arrow struck him in the chest. Blood poured from the wound; he fell to the ground, dead. Garion wore a grim look upon his face; he hated conflict, particularly if it ended in someone’s death.
“He deserved that,” said Kai as he retrieved Gerda’s gold coin from a small pile of leaves.
Khione rubbed her bruised arm and leg. “I am sorry, I thought I could help.”
“Me too,” said Gerda. She felt a little dizzy from being awakened so abruptly.
Garion stepped over to where the goblin lay, to ascertain if he was indeed deceased. “We all did what we thought best. Gerda your distraction tactic did not work so well this time. But, well done for trying. Come, we must leave here and find another spot to rest.” He covered the body with fallen leaves.
“Do not all the Fae of Turia live in the Forbidden Forest?” asked Khione.
“Most do,” replied Garion. “Although there are some that have broken the terms of the agreement, and choose to live outside the forest. Goblins are greedy creatures, obsessed by possession of gold. He could perhaps have followed us here, but I doubt it.” He glanced at Khione who was still rubbing her arm. “Are you alright?”
“I have felt better, but there is no real harm done,” she replied.
Kai returned the sword to Garion; he placed it once more into its scabbard.
After finding another place to set up camp and rest, Kai continued to keep watch. Gerda accompanied him. As Khione and Garion lay down to sleep, Khione whispered to Garion, “Thank you for keeping us safe.”
He winked at her. “That is why I am here.” He then closed his eyes for some well-earned rest.
The travellers set off again at first light. By late afternoon they approached the border between Turia and Agraunia. This would be where they would part ways with Garion; it would be another half-day’s walk to Bracan. All insisted that Garion did not need to make that part of the journey with them. Khione could not help but feel sad that she was parting with him. They dismounted the horses and she said farewell to her equine friends.
“Farewell Princess, we are sad to see you leave,” said Arien.
“All will be sad, particularly him,” Ahern nudged his head toward Garion.
Tears formed in Khione’s eyes, “I am sorry my friends, but my leaving will secure safety for all.”
Garion bid farewell to Gerda and Kai and wished them well. After tethering Ahern to Arien, he turned back to Khione. He took her hand, and placed a silver chain in her palm. Khione admired the pendant attached to the chain.
“What does the pendant symbolise?”
“It is an eternity knot. My father gave the necklace to my mother.”
“Is this for me to keep?”
“Yes, it is for you. My mother gave it to Virion and I. She hoped one of us would pass it on to our wife. As neither of us will marry, consider it a parting gift. Promise me you will wear it.”
Khione loosened the clasp and placed it around her neck. “I shall always wear it. Garion, I wish to thank you for all your kindness to me, I shall not forget it. Maybe one day we shall meet again. ”
He gazed wistfully at Khione then gave the briefest of smiles. “I shall never forget you Khione.” He kissed her cheek and whispered two words Khione did not understand. Her heart beat faster; his kiss left a warm glow on her face. He turned from her, mounted Ahern, waved to the small party parted from them and parted from them. He intended on making the journey home at a swifter pace, and would be travelling through the night.
With a heavy heart, Khione waved back and then chastised herself for not asking him the meaning of the words he whispered to her. They were not of a language she understood. She thought that perhaps he was bidding her farewell in a foreign tongue.