It had been ten days since the party from Beacon had left its walls. It only takes five days for a carriage to travel to the Animas Kingdom. A messenger—even on a slow horse—needs only three days to make the same passage. There should have been word from the party by now. A man around his late 40s paced the expanse of the throne room. His hands were clasped behind his back and his eyes were trained on the floor. He was muttering to himself.
“I knew I should have gone instead,” he grumbled.
“Sire,” came the reply of another man in the room, “I am sure that nothing has happened. I think it would be best if you sat down,”
“I can’t sit still for even a moment knowing that my son is out there and that I haven’t heard anything from his party for days. So go ahead, Darren, tell me to sit down one more time,” the elder man hissed, moving so that he stood towering over Darren.
Darren lowered his head and took a half step back away from the other man, “Forgive me, your majesty, I meant no harm,”
The king was still for a moment before letting out a large sigh and turning to move toward the throne. He sat down heavily in the gilded chair and placed his head in his hands, “No harm was done. You are the Royal Advisor to the crown; it’s your duty to advise me. It’s just,” the king paused, “He had begged me so wholeheartedly—how could I say no?”
“If you would like sire,” Darren began, “We could send a search party?”
“No,” the king mumbled, raising his hand in a stopping gesture, “If nothing has happened and I send out an entire party—my son would never forgive me,” the king looked up, his eyes piercing the gaze of his advisor, “Summon Sir Argent,”
Darren bowed slightly, “As you desire, my king,”
Stiles sighed and let out a huge breath. He was so bored he thought he would go crazy. Derek had gone out a few hours ago—saying that he needed to go to town. Stiles’ body had removed all of the paralysis drug and was able to move freely. His leg had healed enough that he was able to walk for small amounts at a time. It would still ache when he finished his moving, but nothing that wasn’t so unbearable. By now, Stiles had met the rest of those in Derek’s troupe. There were four of them—including Derek. In the troupe there were Derek, Isaac, Boyd, and Erica. They each had interesting names that were obviously not of Beacon. That is except for Erica. Erica Reyes—which Stiles found ironic because “reyes” was the plural form of “king” in the Centralian language—said she actually came from the Beacon Kingdom. It was nice for Stiles to have someone to talk to about home. Erica spoke fondly of the place but never once called it “home.”
Boyd was much larger than Stiles, larger than Derek even. Boyd’s skin was a dark colour, much like those from the oversea kingdom of Morrojo. Stiles had never interacted with a Morrojon before. He’d only glimpsed them when some convoys came to speak with his father. While Boyd was not of many words, he did seem to have a sense of humor that Stiles could agree with. For as quiet as Boyd was and as loud as Stiles was, they got along fairly well.
Isaac, on the other hand, never warmed up to Stiles. He was always casting Stiles suspicious glares like he expected Stiles to suddenly bring out a sword and chop them all in half. Which Stiles honestly thought was crazy—at what point in this whole thing had Stiles even once come off as threatening? As far as Stiles could tell, every one of them saw Stiles as a little lost lamb wondering about in the woods. If anything, it was Stiles who was in a den of wolves. There were all these people around him that he really had no idea of who they were or where they came from. He had no idea what their intentions might be or for what reason they were still letting him stay there. But it wasn’t as if he had any real value to them—they only knew him as a merchant’s son.
It was the eleventh afternoon when things started to shift. They had all gathered for the afternoon meal and where there was normally lighthearted bantering, a tense atmosphere had replaced it. Stiles was able to walk for extended periods of time which meant that he was helping out a lot. He helped to forage in the nearby woods and even set traps for small game. He even helped with the cooking and cleaning. Although at first he wasn’t very good at it, he slowly warmed up to the tasks. After the meal, Stiles was cleaning up and washing the dishes in a basin that was in the kitchen area. It had running water in the form of an indoor pump that went to a nearby well. As he put the dishes on a rack, Stiles heard the sound of combat coming from the back yard.
“Faster! More aggressive!” Derek yelled. This was countered by a snarl that made Stiles blink where he was. He moved through the house towards the sounds and found himself outside. Derek was standing in just his trouser pants. Boyd, Isaac, and even Erica, wore loose, unbelted tunics and loose trouser pants. He was used to Erica not wearing the dresses and togas that were uniform to the woman of the kingdom. But to actually see her dressed in a tunic and practicing combat was an interesting sight to see in the least. Stiles stood at the edge and watched as Boyd, Isaac, and Erica all threw themselves at Derek with different styles and approaches. Derek easily tossed each one off in turn. Isaac hit the ground with a satisfying thud and a rush of breath leaving his body which made Stiles have to hide his grin.
“Come on,” Derek encouraged, “Can’t someone try something new for once?”
Erica replied with a growl and lunged from her position on the ground. She jumped in the air and landed on Derek’s chest. Derek—not falling over—caught her weight and found himself being kissed by Erica. Stiles blinked and felt his stomach clench uncomfortably. Derek and Erica stayed lip-locked for what seemed like ages before Erica was raising a hand. She made a motion to swipe down against Derek’s neck—either slit his throat or sever his spinal cord—when he pushed her away from him and threw her right next to where Isaac still laid.
“You won’t be doing that again,” Derek growled at her, his lip raising in a snarl.
Erica scoffed, “Why not?”
“Because I have someone else in mind,” Derek replied tersely. Erica replied by raising her eyebrows at him. Derek’s glare only darkened, “For you—someone else for you,” he corrected quickly.
Erica sighed and sat up. She flicked her long blonde hair over her shoulder and fixed Derek with a look, “Why not just give it up Derek? That person from your memory is probably long gone by now. You even said it yourself that you two probably would have never met if you hadn’t—“
“That’s enough!” Derek yelled. Erica looked taken aback and her mouth was left hanging on the unspoken words. She looked around uncomfortably and closed her mouth after she didn’t find any back up in either Boyd or Isaac.
Derek let out an irritated breath and pinched his glabella, “Now are we going to continue to make useless chatter or are we actually going to try some training?”
“We’re not making any progress,” Isaac mumbled as he stood up. He winced slightly as he straightened his back and rubbed at his backside. There was dirt smudged on his trousers and his tunic—which seemed to be fairly uniform among the trio. Only Derek remained mostly clean as if he was unbeatable.
“Well then, let’s try our luck with the blade, shall we?” Derek suggested with feigned excitement in his voice. The three instantly groaned and their previously nimble movements turned sluggish and forced.
“Blade?” Stiles finally said.
Isaac turned his gaze on Stiles, “Yeah. You know, swordplay?”
“Really? You guys practice with actual swords?”
“Actually,” A wicked gleam came in to Isaac’s eyes, “Why don’t you try it out some Stiles?”
Stiles shrugged, “I don’t see why not,”
“Have you ever even held a sword?” Derek interrupted.
“I’m more than just a pretty face,” Stiles joked, looking at Derek and meeting his gaze head on.
Derek held Stiles’ gaze for a moment before rolling his shoulders, “Boyd—get the blades,” Boyd nodded and disappeared for a moment. Stiles also began to limber his muscles. He hoped that it would just be a nice little work out. He couldn’t imagine Derek really being too much of a problem. Stiles had been trained in sword fighting since he was old enough to hold a blade. Even though Derek had about fifty pounds of muscle on Stiles, that would make the elder man have to use more energy to maneuver his sword.
Boyd returned and tossed one of the swords at Derek. The male easily caught it by the hilt and released the momentum by allowing the blade to circle as he rolled his wrist. Stiles took his blade—with a notably smaller amount of grace—and held it in his hands. He measured the weight and felt a pit in his stomach. Stiles missed his sword from home; no doubt the bandits had found it and it had already been sold for scrap and nowhere near its actual worth. He sighed and adjusted his grip on the handle of the sword he was now holding. It was a little heavier than what he was used to, but nothing he couldn’t account for in his movements. After a quick glance at the weapon, Stiles realized that it really wasn’t much of a weapon at all. The blade had no point and it was about 2 millimeters wide with no sharp edges. If anything, there would just be some serious bruises left on whoever was unlucky enough to make contact with the blade.
“Now Stiles,” Derek called from his spot in the yard, “If this gets to be too much for you, just say so. You’re still injured,”
Stiles smirked slightly at Derek, “I think I should be fine,” With that, Stiles spread his feet to be about shoulder width apart. His weight was distributed evenly between his feet. He raised the sword till the bottom of the hilt was about at his floating rib. Now he just had to wait for Derek’s move. Stiles looked at Derek and saw something flash in his eyes—recognition perhaps—before the elder man moved forward.
At first it was just forward attacks—mostly on Derek’s part—to gauge where Stiles’ abilities were. When Derek discerned that Stiles had in fact had some training with a blade, he decided to move on to more advanced techniques. Derek began to start using side stepping motions to go for the striking areas of the shoulder and upper arms. However, because of Derek’s lack of a tunic, Stiles was easily able to watch the man’s muscles and discern how he would strike next. Stiles stayed on the defensive, parrying like an expert. Derek would strike forward, going for Stiles’ torso, and Stiles would combat the strike by catching it at the base of his blade before twisting to break Derek’s grip.
The two broke apart, both of their breathing heavier than when they started. They circled each other—every time Derek would cross step behind him Stiles would counter with his own cross step in the opposite direction.
“Not too bad,” Derek said after a moment.
“You’ve got a few techniques yourself,” Stiles mumbled. Their eyes never left the other. The corner of Derek’s mouth quirked up ever so slightly. This was the first time in a long time that he had ever been in a stalemate with a sparring partner. It was—exhilarating. He swiped his tongue over his teeth as he tried to push back the tingling sensation he was feeling in his gums. If he got too excited with the full moon only three days away—Derek would never let that happen. Derek stopped circling Stiles and pushed his left foot back. He put about 70% of his weight on his back foot. He brought his blade in front of him, with the tip pointing directly at Stiles’ eyes.
Stiles furrowed his brow and changed his own stance. He spread his legs slightly but kept his weight even. He had mirrored Derek in putting his left foot behind. He lifted the sword so that the end was pointed downward. It was a defensive stance and a strong one at that. Derek charged forward, his upward sword meeting Stiles’ downward sword. Their blades scraped together as each man attempted to overpower the other. Unfortunately, the stances counteracted each other and made up for the lack of muscle on Stiles’ part. They broke apart only for a moment before their blades were once again clanging together. They seemed to be even in sword handling, but Stiles had something Derek didn’t and it was catching up with him fast—an injury. He hadn’t noticed it at first with the adrenaline pumping through his veins but now that they were at a standstill, pain started to flare up Stiles’ leg.
They broke apart once more and Stiles took a step back. He winced and removed the weight from his leg. Derek saw his chance and knocked Stiles’ sword from his hands while he was unguarded. The blade went flying and clattered to the ground. In the same motion, Derek swept Stiles’ feet out from under him and caused the boy to fall on to his back. All of Stiles’ breath left him in a huff and his head hit against the ground with a hard thud. Stiles saw stars and gaped as he lay on the ground. Before he knew it, the sound of a sword cutting through the air caught his attention. He looked up just in time to see Derek point his sword right at Stile’s neck. The sun was behind Derek, as Stiles was looking up at the male. Stiles squinted as his eyes adjusted. For a moment, he thought Derek’s eyes were red.
They were both panting fairly heavily but Stiles was the only one feeling any pain. Neither had been able to land a hit. Stiles cursed his luck. He hadn’t had such a good joust for a fairly long time. The only one who he could go toe to toe anymore was his instructor. All the others would even go easy on him because of his position. It got fairly annoying fairly quickly. But Derek didn’t care—didn’t know—about any of that. He had come at Stiles with everything he had and Stiles had never felt so gladdened by the fact. The idea of a sparring partner that would actually go after Stiles was intoxicating.
Derek removed his sword from its position at Stiles throat. He held out his hand and Stiles took it in a firm grasp. Derek helped Stiles to his feet. Stiles wobbled a bit, hissing as his leg throbbed in a complaint. He leaned only slightly in to Derek—not that he would ever admit that fact to anyone if they ever asked.
“Kukishinden Ryu,” Derek grumbled.
Stiles looked up, “What?”
“Hasso no Kamae, Chudan no Kamae, and even blocking my Seigan no Kamae with Gedan no Kamae—Stiles where did you learn Kukishinden Ryu?” Derek hissed.
Stiles blinked for a second before his brain clicked back in to place, “From my instructor,”
“What is his name?” Derek asked, his voice sounding like a growl.
“I doubt you would know him I mean—“
“Stiles,” Derek snarled, “His name,”
“Sir Argent,” Stiles said quickly. His heart was racing—as if he was a rabbit cornered by a wolf. Derek’s eyes widened only a fraction before his face smoothed back in to his mask of indifference. He quickly let go of Stiles’ hand and Stiles tottered dangerously from the sudden lack of support. Derek strode away from him and that’s when Stiles could see Isaac, Erica, and Boyd all looking at him with wide eyes.
“Did he just say,” Erica swallowed, “Argent?” Boyd moved silently to stand slightly in front of Erica—between Erica and Stiles. Stiles frowned, his brow furrowing in confusion.
Isaac’s face turned in to a vicious snarl, “Sir Argent? As in the head of the entire Royal Guard, Sir Argent? As in the Sir Argent who also heads all the hunts?”
“I know, Isaac,” Derek said through taut lips.
“This kid has sword training from Sir Argent?” Isaac continued to press, his voice slowly rising in to a yell, “What would a merchant’s kid need lessons from Sir Argent for? Derek—“
“I said I know Isaac!” Derek roared as he turned to look at Isaac. Isaac visibly shrunk back from the force of Derek’s voice.
Derek turned his gaze on Stiles, “You aren’t really a merchant’s son, are you?”
Stiles swallowed hard and shook his head, “No, I’m not.”
Derek stared at Stiles for a long time and Stiles squirmed under the scrutinizing gaze. A moment later, Derek’s lips opened in speech, “Isaac, Boyd, Erica—go home,”
“But Derek—“ Erica began. Derek merely turned his head towards them. All three of them lowered their heads and scurried away. Stiles thought the image very similar to dogs retreating with their tails between their legs. When Derek was satisfied with the distance of the trio, he slowly looked back at Stiles.
“Who are you really?” He asked, his voice low and calculated.
Stiles looked down and kicked at a pebble by his foot, “You wouldn’t believe me even if I told you,”
“Stiles,” Derek growled.
“I’m,” Stiles swallowed and looked up at Derek. The man’s green eyes were hardened and Stiles had never felt so cold in his life. He took a deep breath.
“My name isn’t actually Stiles. My real name is Genim. Genim Stilinski. My full title is—“
“Crown Prince Genim Stilinski,” Derek said, his voice sounding akin to a breathy whisper, “You’re the prince of Beacon Kingdom?”
Stiles flinched at the disbelief in Derek’s voice, “Yeah,”
The silence that then filled the air made Stiles’ stomach twist in to one large knot.
“The full moon,” Derek muttered after what seemed like forever.
Stiles looked up, “What?”
Derek’s gaze was unreadable. He didn’t seem angry—maybe a little hurt, “You’ll go back on the full moon. That’s in three days’ time. Until then,” Derek paused, “Just don’t make any trouble,” Derek turned and started to go back inside.
“Why then? Why wait? I betrayed your trust—why not send me back now?” Stiles called after Derek.
Derek stopped, but didn’t turn to face Stiles, “It’s not safe now. Turow and his men are still scattered about the forest. I’m sure they’re looking for you whether they know your true worth or not. It will be safest during the full moon,”
“Why is that?” Stiles asked.
Derek turned his gaze to Stiles. This time there was no denying the red of the man’s eyes, “No one will be in these woods during the full moon—if they know what’s good for them,” Derek said with a snarl. With that, he ended the conversation and walked back to the cottage. Stiles stood there, and for once in his life, was speechless.