The men have vanquished Eleion. Now, they seek the women. Using tears as energy, the women are able to send a beacon to the men, guiding them to their tower.
With a gasp, Astrid sat up, nearly dumping her friend on the floor. “Revanth!” She reached out for him, but the dream faded. She had seen him as the man he’d been; black haired, handsome, well muscled. Her heart fluttered as she settled back, leaning on the wall.
“Sister, is something wrong?” Velda sat up.
“No. I think—I hope—I believe that Revanth has been restored. I don’t know how, but somehow he and Alton have broken the curse upon him. We need to try…. Do you have any magic left?”
“Very little. But I think we need to tap into your own. You are a magical creature, Astrid. If I’m not mistaken, there is a wood sprite or a dryad in your family. Not so far gone…. A grandmother, perhaps? It is from the female side.”
Astrid wasn’t sure if she believed her friend or not, but there was something other worldly about her mother’s mother. Together, they devised a plan, whispering softly so that they would be less likely to be overheard. Though they had no reason to believe they were being spied upon, they had less reason to believe they were not.
“Do you think it will work?” Astrid breathed.
“It has to.”
Alton felt drive to reach the women as quickly as possible. The urgency to find them was almost more than he could bear. Unfortunately, he had no idea how far away they were, or what he and Revanth would face in terms of opposition. His worry and desire warred with common sense and he had to force himself to rest and eat. Interestingly, it was the impatient Revanth, who preached caution and a more leisurely pace. Though he felt the same urgency, his soldier’s training was hard to set aside.
Once again, the woodland creatures helped them, providing food, shelter and guidance. After three days of hard travel, they came to the end of the woods. Ahead lay a white water river. Beyond were green fields and rolling hills. Having never been this way before, both men were understandably wary of a path that looked so innocent. Although their journey on foot would be easier, Alton would have preferred not to walk. There was a small city on the other side, perhaps large enough to have horses for sale or hire. Revanth wasn’t wild about the idea, but he had to admit the logic of obtaining them.
They spent the night at a small, cozy inn by the river’s edge. The ferry didn’t run after dusk. Given the waters they traversed, Alton understood why. The way would be dangerous even in daylight. It wasn’t rock and stone that made the way so rough. He spied naiads among the roiling waves. After supper, he wandered down to the riverside and lowered his hand into the water, calling softly, “Sisters!”
There was a splash and he was drenched in a chilly wave of fresh river water. A young naiad swam to the bank. She was not more than ten summers old, hardly more than a child.
“Who are you to claim kinship, wood sprite?”
“Sir Alton of Lyndon Meade, mate to Velda of Flowing River. She was taken by a puka, and I am searching for her, to bring her safely home.”
The girl frowned, “Let me get my sisters. I don’t know anything about pukas.”
She dove with another splash. She had to be doing it on purpose, because no naiads were that clumsy. Moments later, three women joined the young one. They swam over, their faces impassive.
“You are Alton? Our mother is a kinswoman of Velda’s. How may we aid you?
Alton repeated his story. The eldest frowned.
“This is very bad, brother.”
“Yes, even now, my friend and I seek our lady loves. We could use your assistance.”
“On one condition.”
It was Alton’s turn to frown. “I never heard of naiads striking deals with family.”
“And you are not our family. You are the man who lured our mother’s sister from her home. Because of you, she will not birth daughters to add to our numbers. So you will give us something for our help.”
“If it is mine to give….”
“Your friend is human?”
“We demand his seed.”
“The three of us are in season. We want children, but our sisters have mated with the men near here, and have gotten only sons. We need daughters. If your friend will mate with us, we will help you. Otherwise….”
Completely flummoxed, Alton sat back hard on his rear.
“It is a fair deal,” the eldest said. “His seed for our help.”
“A request of such magnitude…. It is for Revanth to decide.”
“What is for Revanth to decide?”
Alton jumped, not having heard his friend approach. Turning, he smiled sheepishly.
“The ladies have a proposal.”
“How does it concern me?”
“We need your seed,” the eldest replied.
“My—um—oh!” Embarrassed and surprised, he stepped away, scratching the back of his head.
“My sisters and I want children, but the men here sire sons. We have enough sons. We need new blood.”
© 2019 Dellani Oakes
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