When she woke this time, it wasn’t sunny. Her chest burned horribly and her mouth tasted like pond water, but she was alive. She was rolled in blankets and sat at the edge of a fire. She saw another person cloaked in a green hood across from her. He seemed to be looking out somewhere...to the sea? Lake? River? She heard water in the distance.
She threw off her blankets and sat up. It was only then that he turned and came over to her. She looked at his heavy brow and green eyes. “I know you. You are the river wraith from the boat. You look different underwater.” she blurted out.
The man smiled. “Drink,” it said offering her a cup. She took it and smelled it. Smelled fine enough. “Broth,” he said. She nodded her thanks and then took a sip. It wasn’t like any broth that she’d ever tasted but it was good. She drank more readily now as he continued to watch.
“This tastes wonderful.” she said giving him back the bowl.
“River reed and lake lobster. It will make you feel better.”
“You saved my life, thank you.” he nodded. “I must get back to the palace now. Could you direct me.” she said getting up.
“If you were any other human princess, you would have drowned but the magic in your blood preserved you longer than most. If you return to the palace now, not even the magic in your blood could save your life.” he said stopping her immediately.
“You know what happened?” she surprised.
“I do, and I also know what will happen if you return.”
“You aren’t just keeping me here just to make me your mate of some sort?” she said.
The creature laughed. “No princess. I have already found my mate. She awaits my return upriver. When we first met it was a possibility as you were a maiden then. However, the prince has placed an indelible stamp on you, marking you off limits for any of my kind.” he continued to chuckle.
Indelible stamp. Damn, Milos wasn’t joking about the sex. Her face reddened slightly. “I came here to warn you and also to give you further guidance.” That was the other thing he’d said about the river wraiths, they saw glimpses of the future and shared it only with those deemed worthy.
“You must go north to collect three things: salt from the Dry Harbour, living mist from the southern ridge and the soulless gem the bottom of the Landing.”
“But the war is in the south.”
“It is but if you don’t get those things you cannot save your prince. Moriah will win and the continent will suffer. You will need this.” he said giving her a staff.
On closer inspection she saw that it was her mother’s double-bladed spear. “How did you get this?”
“I have my ways.” It smiled.
“What about the palace?”
“Whatever happens in the palace is meant to happen and there is no changing it. The most important thing is for you to complete your task. It is best you rest now, princess and begin your journey at sunrise. Whenever you can, stick to the rivers as you have friends among the wraiths.”
“But why would you help me?” she said.
“The history is long, but this is our way of claiming revenge. Mudlands wasn’t always as it is now.”
“I remember vaguely reading that it was called Lakelands.”
“It was, the most beautiful place in Arnay until the mud witch came and claimed it for herself. She destroyed the purity of the place, infecting it with her evil. My brethren fought against her, but she destroyed them all. Those remaining had to flee to the rivers. We haven’t forgotten our home and all river wraiths, as you call us, have since then sworn to avenge those lost to us. Anyone who is an enemy of Moriah is a friend to all water wraiths.” he said and Aliana could hear the hate mixed in with loss, sadness and longing in his voice. “Sleep princess. Your journey will be long and filled with peril. Sleep while you can.”
She obeyed, pulling the covers around her. When she woke at dawn, she was alone. In the distance she could see Turion sitting like proud crown on top of the lake. She however veered north, following the course of the river.