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Thorns: Prologue

There once was magic that coursed through the lands and breathed life into many of the mystical creatures that roamed it. One kingdom, the source of the magic, was rich with it and many of the creatures gathered there. For many years, the sacred ground has been drenched red with blood from many feuds and wars to control that power as the strongest creature of the world. Eventually finding peace as the grandest of all monsters rose up and took power, the dragon. During his reign, the kingdom prospered. It became known as, the Black Rose Kingdom, for all the beauty that covered its dark past.
To insure the delicate balance between those who lived in the kingdom, the dragon summoned the six leaders of the smaller kingdoms located within the Black Rose kingdom. Only four responded, sent tributes from their clans and the strongest female of royal blood as a wife. They were the mermaids of the sea, elven folk for the forests, angels that reside in the sky, and Fire Fairies to represent all the fairy folk. They relied heavily on the magic to live, or their clans would perish.

The other two clans however, did not. They were selfish, and refused to share the power with anyone but themselves. They were the humans and the giants. They went west and crossed the great mountain range. The giants liked the high altitudes and remained in the mountains. They now acted as guardians and promised to warn the other kingdom if the other four were to invade.

The humans found a barren land without magic and faced the harsh elements of the new land. No one thought the humans would prevail, but they were resilient and thrived, learning how to live without the touch of magic. They may have survived, but the yearning for the power and magic only deepened with time and the hunger of greed soon became too great for them to handle.

*************

"Mother, history lessons are so boring," I complained, as my mother explained to me the origin of our clan, the great warriors of the seas, the merfolk. We sat by a large circular water fountain, located in the center of a gorgeous garden. The fountain flowed into four streams that faced each cardinal direction, with willow trees that grew alongside each stream. There were two other girls at the southern end of the garden playing with some pixies. I glared at them, slightly jealous.

My mother was tall and had a willowy figure. Her hair was lavender blond like mine, except she had a silver shell crown pinned in it with teal beaded strings hanging down the sides. Her ice blue eyes gazed thoughtfully into mine, and a small smile graced her lips. Gracefully, she rose and beckoned me to follow. I sullenly rose and walked beside her.

We walked away from the two girls. I saw a cluster of pixies spreading from flower to flower like bees. My cold glare befuddled some of the pixies who noticed. One whispered to another and they buzzed around my head, causing me to lose my composure and swat at them.

"Brook, a princess never loses her composure, no matter what the circumstance." My mother said as she gracefully lifted a finger and let a pixie land on it. "Pixies are very delicate, yet troublesome creatures, hardly anything to lose your head over." The pixie went stiff and fell to the ground frozen. I picked it up and carefully warmed it back up. It shook its little head and bit my finger.

"Ouch!" It buzzed off laughing and stuck its tongue at me. Irritated, I shot a glare at it and it fell down stiff again. Several others flew to their comrade's aid.

"Brook! That was so cruel of you!" A short little girl shouted at me and rushed to the pixies. I sighed and caught sight of Maple's flaming curly red hair as it bounced over to me. I dreaded the fact that she was my half sister. She was a fire fairy of all things, who overly stressed the merfolk. She was constantly full of boundless energy and played the role of the 'pesky younger sister' quite well. She was a spoiled little brat, fairies had no hold on her.

It was not just her though. The other two sisters were just as troubling, if not worse. Skye was the typical girly girl princess with all the pink ribbons and braids to match. She was even so bold to tell me to start acting like a princess. Her version of a princess and mine were two different things. I tended to hang around Aspen the most, her down to earth personality was refreshing with the other two around. After all, elves were almost cousins to merfolk.

"Come along, Brook," my mother sternly commanded. I silently obeyed, and left the others in the garden. We headed to the armory that much I knew. All along the way, I gazed at paintings of the royal ancestors of each of the four remaining clans. I remembered having to stand for hours on my birthday as the court artist painted my portrait. My tenth birthday was a week ago.

We passed the grand hall, where the family portraits hung. Several woodland fairies lifted up my latest portrait. As much as I hated standing there bored, the artist did a pretty good job. I stared at the little girl in the frame with her pale blue eyes soft and welcoming, the lavender blond hair in tight ringlets cascading down from two buns. He added a small, sincere smile that I remembered not wearing. As a species, mermaid's extent of a joyful expression is a small smirk... that was it.

Also in the painting, I held a large ceremonial spear and wore matching ceremonial armor. It was normal for us to be in that attire for every formal event. In addition, seeing Skye's spluttering face as she saw me in armor instead of a dress was quite worth it. When will she get it through her thick skull, mermaids were the strictest in keeping their traditions, was beyond me.

What was most likely the only positive side, beside the fact it was my birthday, I spent the day with my Father, the Dragon king. We rarely saw him, so each moment spent together was a treat. For my birthday, after the portrait was completed, we flew to the Mountains of the Cloud walkers. Cloud walkers were mermaid slang for giants, because under the water looking up at one, they looked to be able to touch the sky. The amazing thing was being able to fly upon the back of my father. I guess it could be considered a piggyback ride.

I heard his thoughts inside my head when he was in his dragon form, a perk of being related by blood. He showed me detailed images of a small dirt trail leading to the mountains all the way from the castle. During these moments, he told me that I was different, special. I had a greater control and power over water than any of my kind. He called me his true Hydra princess.

My mother and I passed across a bridge to the armory. I traced my fingers over the polished stone, every groove familiar under my touch. Hanging ivy and flowers cascaded over the edges of the bridge and dipped into the calm waters below. I peered down and saw my glossy reflection gazing back at me. My mother then called for me to hurry up.

I rushed to her side and entered a small building surrounded by a hedge garden. The building was the armory, which held all the castle's weapons. It was also the best place to train. I spent most of my days here with my mother. She tended to think that everyone should know how to fight just in case.

I asked her once, why was she so worried. She went on a rampage, ranted about these no good humans, who thought they could just take anything they wanted.

“They felt entitled to control the rest of us with an iron fist. If it wasn’t for the Dragon King, the sea would be vacant of all fish, the trees would be chopped down and there would be nowhere to hide.” I never asked again, but I could not help my curiosity of these humans. Where were they now? Would they return?

Inside the small building, there was a wide range of assorted weapons across the outer walls. There was a ring of thin paper-like walls, which moved for more or less training space.

My mother tossed me a spear, one similar to the one I held in the painting. Merfolk preferred spears, because they lengthened the reach of their attacks and they were best for quick thrusting to catch fish. The other species had their choices in weaponry, which they preferred. All that I knew was that Skye used a bow and arrow. "The most graceful of weapons," as she always put it, she made the most snobbish people seem wonderful.

I dodged as my mother thrust her spear at me. Hers was similar to mine, but instead had two spearheads. Learning from my mother was a blessing and a curse, where as I would know every precise cut that could kill a man, she was not afraid to cut me as well. She did not even have me start out with the training gear, the first day, she handed me a spear and told me I had to defend myself from her attacks.

I could not help myself, but my mind thought back to my birthday trip to the mountains. When my father landed, he converted to his human form. His jet-black hair hung over his shoulder in a loose ponytail held by a leather string. His armor, a shining black metal, glistened in the sun. He tousled my hair softly, and knelt down to my level. His wings neatly folded on his back, he never felt comfortable concealing them in his human form.

“My little Hydra, I must apologize to you. It is rightfully your birthday, but there is a pressing matter, which I must consult with the Frost giants. Will you forgive me for using you to deal with unwanted politics?”
I was confused, ‘why would father talk with the cloud walkers?’ They were not the friendliest creatures in the world, and they had this elusive way of doing business.

I felt the chill of the wind as we traveled up the neglected path to the peak of the mountain. Father, however, did not look cold at all, as if he could not feel the change in temperature. I spent the next five minutes trying to figure out how.

“There isn’t a technique to defend against the cold, dear Hydra. You will find that there is no colder place than the castle of frozen fire at the top of the mountain. You’ll never feel cold once you leave either,” father told me with a small smile.

I dryly swallowed and kept pace with him until we reached the top.

There was a castle on the peak of the mountain, it looked to have been made of ice completely and as we grew closer, I saw the sun reflecting off the snow and ice, making the whole castle look to be on fire.

It was the first time I saw a frost giant up close. They were five times the size of father in his human form. Their skin as some merfolk held a blue tint to it. Their eyes were a piercing white, including their irises and their hair white as snow. They stood still like stone statues, their imposing glares made me feel uncomfortable.

My father continued forward without paying them any mind. I awkwardly stared at them expressionless.

He stopped me outside the castle entrance. "Wait here, little Hydra. This won't take long." He disappeared into the castle without me. I turned around and saw some small giants peeking around the corner at me. They must have been the children, but even they were the size of a full adult.

Three males surrounded me after conjuring up their bravery to approach.

"You're so tiny! Are you a human? Are you a dwarf giant?" They asked pestering, with cold uncaring voices.

"No, of course I am not!" I spluttered insulted, "I am Princess Brook, I am a mermaid." I steeled my glare at them and watched as two of the three backed off a little.

"So you're a fish," one mocked. I stared at him intently and raised my hand up slowly, watching as a big pile of snow rose with it. The giant boys laughed, "What? It is true! Are you angry? Are you going to attack us?" They obviously never saw the monstrous snow pile building up behind them.

Silently, I pulled my hand close to me and the snow wrapped around the loud mouth giant and brought him down to my level. He struggled to get up and I pressed the snow down on him harder. He screamed and demanded I let him up, he must have been the heir to the frost giant bloodline. I tilted my head to examine him further.

"Royalty always keeps their composure in dire situations and royalty always knows when to keep their mouths shut," I imparted my mother's teachings to him. I waved my hand over his head and the snow swept off him. He stumbled to his feet and backed away from me. "Don't mess with a mermaid, we have foul tempers," I casually threatened, then shot them with my best death glare. They ran from my sight.

"Making friends are we?" My father asked.

I felt my heart go still, "if that's what you want to call it, father." I turned around stunned at his sudden reappearance. His eyes gave me a sharp, heavy look, causing my heart to sink in my chest.

"You should make friends, and be nice to them. You will be healthier, than being so dour," he smirked and bumped me playfully, "like your mother. Don't tell her I said that." I looked up at him with wide doe eyes, and rubbed my arms, even though I could not feel the coldness anymore. He picked me up and flew us home our little trip at its end.

I had wanted to ask what he wanted to talk about with the giants, but I did not feel like it was the right time to ask. I would not be able to until my next birthday, or a rare occasion that would require him to drop everything to see me, but those times were highly inappropriate to ask meaningless questions.

It did seem pointless, until an arrow drove itself between my mother and me through the window. Screams of terror erupted from outside, my heart fled to my throat as my fear sunk to my stomach.

An elven guard grabbed the hilt of his sword and carefully opened the door. Several arrows lodged themselves into the elf and he collapsed to the ground. Blood pooled around him in a thick, dark red puddle. A soft ring sounded in my ears as I stared at a throng of arrows, which rained down from the sky.

People ran in panic to find shelter, most did not make it and just laid there on the floor with large arrows sticking out of their backs. Those were mainly woodland elves, as they could not fly like the fairies and angels. However, some of the winged creatures lay among the dead as well. Fairies turned into ash when they died and swept away by the wind, leaving no remains behind.

The arrows suddenly stopped, leaving the kingdom in an eerie silence. I attempted to go outside to see who attacked, but mother forcefully dragged me away from the door. In another moment a second wave of arrows came down from the sky, a well-placed trap to take out the curious people like me, instead this time the tips were on fire.
The plants outside the buildings immediately caught fire and spread across the gardens, turning the area into a fiery inferno.

Fear had found its way into my heart, and a shriek erupted from my lips. My mother scooped me up in one arm, and held both spears with her other as she ran from the armory. A few others joined us as we raced to the bridge. The hanging plants and flowers now engulfed in flames blocked the only way to the main castle.

Mother set me down, I tightly held onto my spear, holding back tears of panic and confusion. She raised her hands up and waves formed on both sides of the burning bridge. She smashed her hands together and the waves doused the flames.

We resumed running, as the water receded down into the river below. Unfortunately, the sudden large amount of water greatly weakened the stone structure. It crumbled beneath our feet as we ran. I saw several citizens fall through the floor while toppling stone slabs crushed them.

On the other side, there were members of our army fighting off an unknown army that wore gold armor and flew red flags with different symbols, the most dominant a big black paw. Those soldiers had black capes and silver and gold armor.

They had archers shooting down the angels and fairies. Their foot soldiers fought against the elven warriors and the knights on horses picked off the stragglers.

An arrow whirled past my head, I traced it back to a man with a crossbow, I threw my spear at him while he fumbled with another arrow, he collapsed with it lodged in his chest, I ran and pried it out of the corpse. I knocked several other enemies off balance and let some others come in to finish them off.

One of the mounted soldiers spotted me and charged with his lance aimed right at me. I turned to run, but my mother dashed by and jumped onto the lance, her feet balanced gracefully on the weapon, as she kicked the knight off his horse. She landed on top of him and used her spear to knock his helmet off.

She could not disguise the disgust on her face as she sneered, “humans.” She slammed the point of the spear into the man’s throat and twisted. She jerked the spear out and went to the next target.

I ran to a wall at the edge of the area, and looked to the main gate. It burned down to the ground and more of the human army flooded in, gaining more and more ground against the unsuspecting kingdom. I watched as soldiers barged into homes in the village below, dragged out the citizens and executed them on the spot.

Another arrow passed close by me, and I turned to see a man with a sword falling to the ground. Skye landed beside me and unleashed arrow after arrow at the opposing archers. Her girly beauty seemed unaffected by her fierce look, and deadly intent.

“Get your head back on, Brook! We need you to find Maple and Aspen!” I stared at her shocked. Finally, she was not telling me pointless girly things, such a shame it was soured by the situation. It did not feel right to point it out to her.

I ran to find them, hoping they were all right. The fire reached inside the castle and made it unbearable and dangerous to a mermaid like me. Most mermaids must have escaped back into the sea by now, but panicked and distressed their queen and princess had not made their escape yet.

I ran through the hall, using what little water left in the air to shield me from the flames. I passed by the main hall, watching as the portraits shriveled up into thin black sheets of ash. All those hours wasted on preserving our history through those pictures, I made a quick detour and knocked down the only family portrait and the one of father, I did my best to snuff out the flames before they caused any more damage. I ripped out the pictures and rolled them up for safekeeping. The only safe place for them would be the vault, which held all the precious heirlooms.

It was also the place of choice to hide from raids and attacking armies, so I raced down the halls once again.
I came across the garden, it appeared unharmed, and eerily silent. The pixies flew off when the attack began. The fountain broke but there was still enough water in the streams for me to wield against the flames. I heard something approaching fast from the southern end of the garden, and quickly turned down the east exit.

I ran faster down the halls, hoping that whatever it was did not follow. I glided down a flight of spiral stairs and made my way to a large metal door in the basement floors.

I hesitantly touched the lock on the door. It was cool under my fingers. I recalled the combination and used all my strength to move the lock into the correct positions.

The door clicked open and swung out. I slipped through the door and saw my other two sisters huddled in the room between a pile of crystals and gold. They ran up and hugged me dearly. I took out the paintings and placed them on a pedestal carefully.

"What's going on? Who are those guys?" Maple asked frightened.

"Humans, as my mother called them," I told her with a slight bitter taste in my mouth. Aspen squeezed my arm gently, soothing the tension in the air.

"We must go, but first…" The elven princess ran into the center of the room and picked up a golden staff. On the top was a blood red ruby with black gold wings raised above it. It was father’s staff, which signified the right to rule the magical kingdom.

“We must not let anyone have this,” Aspen finished and we ran out of the vault, into the scorching flames I forgot were there.

“Maple, help us!” I cried.

“I’m on it,” she replied and concentrated on forcing the flames back to clear a safe path for us. Silently, I took back all the bad things I said and thought about my little sister, we needed a fire fairy now and I was glad it was she.
We raced down the hallways to the front courtyard, where the main gate was. Our hearts nearly burst from the adrenaline rush of escaping. We were nearly out of the castle when five mounted knights charged through the main entrance.

These were different, they had hand weapons used for capturing people, and rope nets to capture more than one person at a time. They rounded up the rest of the castle survivors, which only consisted of my sisters and me.
I skidded to a stop and turned to shout at the others to run away. One swung around a bola, charging his horse at me. He threw them at my feet as I scurried away. It wrapped around my ankles causing me to trip, and I in turn, bent the last bit of water remaining into a water whip and cut the rope. I continued to run after my sisters.

Maple closed the path of fire behind us as we ran hoping that would slow down our pursuers, to our displeasure, their horses plowed through the fire without concern.

Finally, Maple jumped and twisted around, energy from the fire gathered in her hand, and unleashed a rapid fire of fireballs at the five knights. Their horses reared and gave us enough time to lose them.

We came to a balcony, which overlooked the destruction of our beautiful home. The whole kingdom was ablaze and corpses covered the ground. Maple and Aspen clung to me, as if I could protect and comfort them. I was just as scared as they were.

Suddenly, we felt a change in the wind, as something landed behind us. Skye ran up and hugged Aspen and Maple tightly. We had previously established if she hugged me, I would use water to sweep her far out to sea.

“We need to get out of here! The castle is lost, I don’t want to be added to the collateral damage list,” Skye told us and picked up Aspen. “I will fly you down,” and she jumped off the balcony with our elven sister. She came back up for Maple, and finally me.

We landed in an area clear of the fighting, but we were far from being safe. We still had to pass through several areas where the fighting was the worst, just to make it out of the castle. I will not go into what would happen outside the castle where we could be easily spotted.

A dark shadow passed over us as father, in his dragon form, began to fight back. He circled the outer edge of the kingdom breathing fire down upon the enemy outside the gates. He flew up to the castle and began to extinguish the fire by flapping his large wings.

Aspen gripped the staff tighter and ran towards father. She threw it high into the air and Skye dashed up to catch it, flying it to father.

“Father you will need this,” she flung it out to the dragon king, who in turn caught it and dove for the ground where the fighting was heaviest. He landed in his human form and raised the staff high above him. The ruby shone brightly as magic flowed to it. He swung it down like a large hammer and several of the enemy soldiers surrounding him flew back.

He smiled up at us, “go run along girls.” he turned fending off more attackers.

“Let us go,” I said to Aspen and Maple, we started to run away to the main gate. I stopped to call for Skye, she flew up to us but a net suddenly came above her and dragged her down.

“Skye!” Aspen ran to free her. I ran to her aid also, but skidded to a halt as the five knights from before appeared and captured the angel before we could reach her. Three of the knights broke off and charged us, one scooped up Aspen before she could retreat. I grabbed Maple and jumped down onto a lower plane in the midst of fighting. I speared down several of the closer enemies, and dragged my young sister behind me.

I suddenly saw a flash of fire and a water whip, my mother was over there, as was Maple’s mother. I quickly adjusted and ran to them.

“Mother!” I cried out.

Maple saw her mother and screamed, “Mama!” Moments later Maple’s mother hugged her tightly, as mine dragged me to the side to give me brief and precise instructions.

“Brook, I need you to be strong, for your sister okay. Now I know she’s not the best of creatures to be stuck with but bear with me.” She took out a capsule that held a small fairy like creature, only she had fins as well as two feather wings, she was pale blue and had silver hair.

“This is Tear, she is a river spirit, she will lead you and Maple to a safe place, far away from here. I cannot join you, for my place is here to fight by your father’s side. Do not weep for me, we are mermaids, we can handle this.” She hugged me tightly, the one and only time I received a form of affection from her. She released me and pointed to the far wall opposite where we stood, “there is a secret pathway over there, take that route out of the city and head for the mountains, you will be safer under the cloud walker's domain.”

She ran back into the crowd and vanished from sight, “mother... What do you mean?” I cried after her, blinking back tears. The word abandonment rang in my head as I realized my mother would not be coming with us, as her words caught up in my mind. I whipped away one single tear, and leveled my emotions, I had to be strong now, stronger than what I was for my only sister who was left.

Her scream erupted in my ears. I whipped around to protect Maple. I saw a burst of light, like fireworks, within Maple's arms. It quickly faded to an ash pile with an arrow on the top. I looked to where the arrow came from, and saw one of those knights from before. This time I let my temper control me and I lifted my hand. Blood contained a certain amount of water, which allowed me the ability to control it.

I froze the blood around the legs of the horse to keep them for chasing us, and dragged Maple past, to the secret door. She was a mess, wailing loudly, so I ended up carrying her over my shoulder. I ran my fingers along the wall until it hit a small groove. I dug my nails in and forced open a door to a dark tunnel out of the castle.

I turned around to the blazing castle. Father fought a knight in dull black armor. Mother ran up and aided father in the fight, a pack of humans, lead by the black knight chased my parents into the castle. I whisked around and disappeared down the tunnel.

It seemed like hours before we reached the other side. The blinding darkness was unnerving, and between Maple's sudden burst of wailing tears, I feared to hear footsteps behind us, chasing us down, and take us prisoner like our other two sisters. I gave them a moment of silence and pressed forward hoping the future would be brighter for all of us.

The night sky was a welcoming sight, with the stars and bright moon lighting our path. I took out the spirit and tossed it into a nearby stream. It erupted into a light blue light and a girl formed before us.

"My lady," she whispered and knelt before me. I nodded my head and she zipped up and flew over the stream, leaving behind a trail of blue glittering light. I grabbed Maple's hand and followed the trail until morning.

The trip to the mountains was longer than when I went with father merely a week earlier. The whole way I hardened myself with my thoughts, recited all my mother's instructions and teachings because they were all I had left of her. I committed them to heart. What seemed to be the most trifle and cruel of my upbringing became the basis of our survival.

We rested for a few hours at a time. I always stood watch. Sometimes we stumbled upon a town and the inn's keeper hid us for a night. They warned that the enemy looked for us, for some odd reason. They vacated the town and raided others of all magic.

I learned to despise humans. They were at fault for everything. I swore revenge and swore to return with retribution. Each day and each night passed and my hate for them grew. I wanted them to feel this pain, I wanted them to rue that day and most of all I wanted them to fear my name.

At the base of the mountain, Maple finally managed to rein in her emotions. Raw as they still were, she could not let the past weigh her down. I was glad, and relieved, she would not randomly burst into tears anymore. Unfortunately, now was the toughest part of the journey, a long upward climb over the mountains, and at the top the coldest place imaginable. I fretted that because Maple was a fire fairy, she would not last long.

It was lucky that Maple made fast friends with anyone and a small family of dwarf giants allowed us to travel with them for most of the trip. They took pity on us, for their youngest son was lost on the mountain one day and never seen again. However, they would not take us directly to the frost giants because they do not look kindly on the other kinds of giants throughout the mountain.

It took us two days with the giants help to get up the mountain, the trip was cut in half completely. I was thankful but did not like the fact they told terrifying stories to Maple about the frost giants and the other side from where the humans came. A bleak and barren land with no magic, the reason the humans invaded. They forged an alliance with the frost giants, for they were the first to know of the invasion. Therefore, the giants kept silent about the impending doom and broke their oath to warn the other side as they agreed.

When we reached to edge of the frost giant’s domain, we bid adieu to the dwarf giants and continued by ourselves. I no longer felt the chill from the first time I ventured up to the castle of frozen fire. My little sister constantly faltered from the cold, and shortly created small flickers of fire to warm her hands.

Once again, I found myself staring at the gates of the icy fortress, but instead there was a frost giant outside the gate waiting for us.

He had a deep ageless voice, which almost seemed somewhat bored, “King Tokaji has been expecting you, however only the mermaid is allowed within the castle.” He sneered down at my sister, “you must await her return here, it won’t be long.” I put a protective arm around her and raised my spear defensively. The giant merely looked at me and gave a low chuckle because I was no threat to him.

He turned around and lead me inside, pushing the ice gates open by shear strength, only giants and those they allow can enter, unless some mortal had super strength. The gates slammed shut behind me, and I caught Maple’s distressed face in a glimpse beforehand.

The halls of the castle were open and airy, and most of the rooms I noticed had no ceilings, allowing snow and ice to fall in during a storm. The frost giants were few and seldom conversed with each other. I do not think there were any female frost giants here within this castle.

Soon I was lead into the throne room, a deep cavern with a giant chair carved in the face of the rock. Ice mirrors reflected the sunlight into the cavern for its only source of light.

One lone shiver ran up my spine as I gazed up at King Tokaji, the leader of all the giants. His face was sharp and angular, or maybe that was because his beard came to a sharp point. His eyes were completely white, and his hair actually black instead of the normal silver. His crown looked to be iron swords mended together into a circlet upon his head, from those who thought they could slay a giant I bet.

“Why have you come here?” His voice was ageless, but more snub and oily. I did not trust him. “If you are looking to stay, as you can see we don’t believe in hospitality, so we have no place for you.”

I remained silent as my mother instructed me to do with all other royalty when they spoke.

“Instead, we can give you and your sister safe passage to the other side of the mountain, there you can guarantee that you will be safe from those humans searching for you.”

I looked at the giant hard in the face, “you know they are searching for me and my sister, how?”

My question took aback the king for a moment but he quickly recovered, “they posted a bounty on your heads, they want you two alive and I can turn a blind eye that you were here.”

“Like you did when the humans invaded in the first place?” I did not flinch under his glare. I did not fear him, as I would have before. I continued quickly, “what sense does it make to hide among humans when they are searching for us?”

The giant leaned forward, “humans are sly creatures, they do not even fully inform their whole race, what their plans are, much less the other creatures in the world. Hiding among humans is like puffins hiding among penguins, they won’t tell the difference as long as you don’t reveal yourselves.” He leaned back into the chair and laughed, “But such is a skill not easily known, dear princess. In order for you to hide in plain sight will take more than being a wolf in sheep's clothing. No, you must create a new persona and forget your old life, you and your sister both.”

I interrupted again, “and how are we supposed to do that? What good will those serve? I don’t want to blend in with the human society, I want to bring them pain and suffering for destroying my home, and murdering my people!”

“You are but a ten year old mermaid, barely skilled enough to use a spear correctly and hardly has a handle on her powers, you would stand no chance against the human army now. In a few years, maybe, but it will take a long time before you are ready. So I had these.” He held out two pearls both black and identical, “swallow these and your memories and experiences will be suppressed, it is a loose veil that will shatter with time and the right stimulation, and eventually you will remember. Things will seep through, like your personality and you will always subconsciously know something is wrong, but you won’t be able to identify with it.”

“What about our powers?”

“You will still be able to use them, so it is up to you to keep them a secret.”

I reached out to take them, but the giant pulled away, “not so fast, I can’t just simply hand these over.” I wanted to scream but held my composure, I must not lose my head.

“What is it that you want in return for them?”

“You.”

I stared at him confused, “excuse me?”

“I want you to return here in the future, I saw you before talking to my son, and you impressed me. So you are to become his wife in return for these pearls.”

I did not want to, but there was no other choice for me to choose.

“Agreed, but what if I never recover my memories,” I snapped at the giant.

“Then we find you.” The king laughed and tossed the pearls to me.

“What about that safe passage?”

“We didn’t agree to that. Goodbye, Hydra princess.”

They showed me out and Maple ran up to hug me.

“DON’T YOU EVER LEAVE ME OUT HERE, AGAIN!” Her temper flared as she squeezed me tighter.

“Okay Maple, I promise!” She let go and waited for me to lead the way.

We crossed over the peak of the mountain. The whole way I filled her in on the deal I just made.

“Mother said that frost giants do not have females, so they take other species of females as brides, they had vast powers and I heard they can shrink down to human size.” That made sense since I did not see any females within the castle. I worried for the future, because that meant I would be stuck with a bunch of mean spirited giants, and far away from Maple.

Halfway down the mountain, I took out the pearls and handed one to Maple. I did not explain fully what they did, because she would insist it would be better to remember our past. I waited for her to swallow hers completely before I swallowed mine.

For a moment, we sat there and waited for something to happen, when nothing did, I wanted to run back up the mountain and yell at King Tokaji for lying to me. Maple stopped me and we continued down the mountain. On the third night we took refuge in a cave, Maple started burning up. I stood by her and tried to take care of her as best I could, but nothing I did helped.

We had to stay put until the fever broke, which could be days. I went out hunting so we would not starve. I stood at the edge of a stream waiting for a fish to zip by. I was a master at fishing and caught a few large fish.

I began to head back, when Maple’s scream echoed off the mountain. I ran to her aid to see what was going on, either giants or raiders or the knights sent out to capture us. I hesitated on the last thought, I could not recall anyone trying to capture us. I kept running, not thinking it was of any importance if someone was not chasing us.

I reached the cave, and there was Maple staring horrified into the eyes of a large snow bear. Its rumbling growl made the ground shake beneath our feet. I did not think, only reacted as the bear swung at my sister. I forced my spear through the bear and watched as it slumped and fell.

“Brook, you killed it!” Maple cried.

“What else was I supposed to do, let it eat you? You’re all I have Maple, if something bad happened to you how could I live with myself?” I almost started to cry as I hugged her tight, I felt odd and took a step back.
“Brook, are you okay?” She asked confused.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” I lied, I felt dizzy but soon it passed. I stared at the bear and told Maple, “We may as well salvage what we can from it. I would feel wrong if we wasted anything.” She nodded and we had bear and fish stew for dinner.

That night I took the claws from the bear and made myself a choker, I do not know why I did it, but I felt it would serve as a reminder of something important.

A dim light broke my concentration and I stood up to see it better. I heard voices creeping up to us. It was people, humans. I paused again, ‘what was it about humans, am I human?’

The voices got closer as did the light, I pressed myself against the cave wall, trying my best to hide, I did not take into account Maple was awake.

She heard the voices and mistakenly shouted out, “Mama? Is that you? Did you find us?” I ran to hush her but was too late. The voices heard us and ran to the cave. The first one was a boy, slightly older than I was, two others, his parents I believed, followed him and a fourth person, who was larger than the two parents were, but too small to be a giant.

Then my mind became fuzzy and I could not remember the rest.

The soft breeze blew around me. I heard the ripping of the wheat that surrounded me. I also felt heaviness in my sore limbs, the stress over the last few days had taken effect the moment I relaxed. Exhaustion overcame me from protecting Maple, and I hit my limit.

My eyelids were heavy as well, but I managed to crack them open. There was a roof over my head, not something I had expected. I was in a bed with a thick hand stitched quilt. Pale morning sunlight shone through an open window, dust danced through the air as the light reflected off the fine pieces of lint. On the other side of the room was another bed and there laid Maple, she was always a heavy sleeper.

I attempted to get up, but managed to roll out of the bed and straight onto the floor. For the moment, a quilt cocoon trapped me, but I crawled out across the room to my sister. I checked to make sure she was okay, and she looked better than she had the past few days.

A door on the far wall suddenly burst open and a woman carrying a large tray walked in.

"Oh, you're awake!" She sounded slightly shocked, and set the tray down on a dresser. She came over to me and knelt down to my level. "I am Mrs. Myrlyn. We found you and your friend in the mountains a few days ago."
I, almost immediately did not like this woman, she was sweet, too sweet. "My name is Brook, and this is my sister Maple."

"Well Brook, come with me, I'll introduce you to the rest of the family."

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