The Last Fae King
Alasdair pumped his wings hard, his daughter clutched tightly to him, “Da, where are we going?” she asked in her small voice, clutching tightly to him, her wings unable to support her with his speed. “Somewhere safe my flower, somewhere safe.”
They reached mountains, tall imposing giants of nature before he dove straight to the ground in a valley between two of the beautifully monstrous peaks. He felt his daughter’s hands clutch him tighter, a small squeak leaving her but he couldn’t worry, she was safe in his arms. He hoped it wasn’t the last time he could hold her but knew there was a possibility, they were going to war after all.
Alasdair landed smoothly on deep luscious green moss. He set his daughter on the ground before he started tucking his wings away, “Eilidh, remember what I say, child,” he chided not seeing her moving. She jumped and began tugging her wings around her clumsily; she hadn’t fully mastered the art like her parents. He tugged on a heavy linen shirt to keep his wings in place before helping Eilidh, pulling a smaller jacket from his pack.
He pulled on her hand gently, leading her from the valley, she stumbled slightly with his long strides but was desperate to keep up, trying to show she wasn’t a little girl. “Daidí?”
“Hush now, we’re nearly there.” He dipped and lifted her from the ground, balancing her on his hip, selfishly wanting to feel his beloved child hug him, he continued, spotting their destination.
He knocked on the small wooden hut, holding Eilidh close, looking around for any prying eyes. The worn wooden door opened to reveal a human healer, her brown hair tied in a bun. “Alasdair, is it time?”
“It is Frances, it is. Is our deal still good?”
“Daidí?” Eilidh piped up.
“Everythings going to be OK sweetie,” Frances cood, opening her arms for the child older than her. Alasdair held onto her tighter, not wanting to release her. “She’ll be safe with me, I’ll protect her until your return,” Frances reassured.
Alasdair pursed his lips and looked to Eilidh, “You’re going to stay here for a little while, a week, maybe two, you’re going to be a good girl just like you are for me.” She frowned with white eyebrows, her face screwing up in concentration. “What do you mean? Where’s mamaí?”
“She’s doing important work, as will you one day. I’ll be back soon,” he promised, squeezing her tightly before uncoiling her limbs. “Don’t go!” She wriggled, desperately trying to hold onto him but Frances gripped around Eilidh’s waist, pulling her small form into her chest.
Eilidh fought against Frances, reaching small hands towards Alasdair. He couldn’t stay, if he stayed he would never leave. So while his daughter screamed and wailed for him he turned and strode from the small hut, retracing his steps with tears filling his sunset orange eyes.
He swore he could still hear his daughter’s cries as he made it to their home, his kingdom. He flew straight into the naturally formed castle, trees and vines creating intricate walls and floors. He landed on soft moss, his human shoes instantly being removed so he could feel one of nature’s great wonders. His bare feet sank deep into the moss carpet as he made his way to his true love. “Iseabail,” he didn’t even notice what she was doing as he wrapped her in his arms tightly.
“Yes, she’ll be well looked after until the elves have been wiped from this plain.”
Iseabail nuzzled tightly into him. “How was she?”
“She was fine, happy to stay. I left her by a warm fire with Frances’ best onion stew.”
“Oh wonderful, the warriors are nearly ready, the elves have set up camp a few miles south, I’ve ordered a few scouts to ensure they come no closer.”
“Very good, my Queen,” he whispered, kissing her ear before releasing his grip.
Alasdair turned, needing to ready himself for the oncoming battle. “Oh, Alis?”
“Yes, my dear?” He turned to face her.
“We’re going to win and get our daughter back,” she reassured.
“I know, my flower. She’ll be back home by the next full moon.” He smiled warmly before striding down into the belly of the central tree trunk, delving towards the sounds of metal clanging and crashing.
“My King!” Echoed around the bark as he entered the armoury.
“We’re all soldiers today,” he rumbled confidently to the many faces in the cavernous looking room. Wings of many different gold and silver hues fluttered and quivered while they went back to work, sharpening spears and arrows, pummelling at armour. Alasdair approached a slightly younger Fae who was struggling with leather clasps. “Here, child,” Alasdair stated warmly, brushing the male’s hands away so he could buckle them for him. “Th-Thank you, my king,” he breathed in awe.
“It’s nothing Athieus. We’re all equal in war. Here.” Alasdair helped the late adolescent male, ensuring all his pieces of silver armour were firmly in place. Athieus was a strong warrior for his age, he showed great promise in the training fields against much older and more experienced soldiers, he was proud to call him part of his personal guard.
Alasdair finished the final clasp, tugging on the bracelet before moving to help another of his young warriors. Seònaid was a little younger than Atheius by around seventy years, the youngest to remain in the kingdom. In his opinion, she was too young for war but it had been decided all would fight if their bodies were strong and able to wield sword or bow - they needed all the strength they had.
He tied the top of his shoulder-length ash hair to keep it out of his face before donning his gambeson, his crest of ivy entwined around a waterfall stitched lovingly by his mother in silver thread before she passed to be reunited with nature. As his fingers worked on the wooden toggles smaller hands than his own began working them effortlessly. He smiled at Iseabail. “You don’t have to help.”
“Of course I do.” She kissed his hands before resuming her task.
He stopped her putting on his gloves, setting them down to glint in the candlelight he palmed her cheek tenderly. “Turn around, my Queen,” he whispered, his request instantly being followed. He ran his fingers through her shimmering oak strands, the silky soft hair gliding like water. He gathered her long flowing hair from her face, plaiting the top sections before working the two plaits into one long plait down her back.
He helped her into her own armour, ensuring as he had with the others it was secure and as safe as could be, before inspecting her weapons. “I can do that,” she insisted. He ignored her, running his thumb on the edge of a golden tipped arrow. The sting of the sharpened edge making him proud of her weapon care and their blacksmiths. He next inspected her short sword, admiring the steelwork edged with thin gold, creating a halo around the silver, using the elves weakness against them.
The sun hadn’t yet risen when Alasdair stepped out of the palace, the sounds of hundreds of feet marching around him, his hand clasped tightly around Iseabail’s, keeping her close. Her shoulder grazed his metal-covered arm as they walked into the trees, the woodland of bottle green firs and silvery birch instantly cocooned the marching faeries in calming, energising magic. The tiny amount of light piercing the horizon glittered and glimmered in the magic that kept them so strong.
“Formation!” Alasdair announced, his voice carrying through the trees as he glimpsed the edge of the tree line ahead. All the soldiers were brought to halt as one before they scattered to form into their rows. Archers to the back, spear holders to the front, his handpicked guard formed a square around him and their Queen. “Go back with the archers, my love,” Alasdair murmured warmly, staring intently into her emerald green eyes. “No,” she stated with finality. “I am staying with you.” He pursed his lips, desperate to argue but knew the notion would be futile with the stubborn look she gave him.
“First row! Fly!” he bellowed. Row by row they rose as one, keeping to the speed set by the front. They flew as a well-formed entity, their movements as one, their wings beat in perfect harmony creating a gust of wind that would be felt for miles. Alasdair allowed himself a small smile, proud of his people, proud of their race for their bravery in the face of the enemy trying to wipe them from existence.
Their goal soon came upon the horizon, glittering elven glass entwined with silver strands glinted in the dawn sun. “To ground!” he announced, and the swarm pitched forward until they all softly and graciously landed. Their formation and places unwelded despite their flight. Alasdair craned to see, upon that failing, he rose a foot from the ground, watching the battalion of elves five-hundred paces ahead. Their numbers were similar, having the same difficulties heralding young as the fae. Their two races had been outnumbered by humans quickly, both watching the new race rise while they retreated to the shadows, away from the growing race
Despite their similarities, their goals were anything but. The elves wished to conquer land, take from the humans and rule them, while fae wished to live quietly, feeding on the magic that surrounded them. But in order to live peacefully, first the faeries must spill the blood of their enemy to protect the humans and protect themselves.
Alasdair dropped back to the floor as a blue-hued arrow just missed the tip of his wing. A mutter erupted around him. “They just tried to kill our king!”
“Keep it together!” Alasdair demanded. “Their arrows cannot harm us like ours!” he rallied “Archers!” At his command the archers broke formation, taking steps back to be on higher ground. After another command from the battalion general, the twang of strings echoed and reverberated around the field. Alasdair listened intently for the thud of metal against metal, metal against bone which soon came. Groans filled his ears.
Volleys of arrows whistled through the air, but this time it was not their own. “Shields!” he cried, as one they took their collapsible shields, spinning the metal in a fan to create their strong round shields. To Alasdair’s despair, not all were quick enough as his people fell. An arrow bounced off his own shield. “Reform!” he called with a small level of nausea. After the battle, they would collect the brave who died that day.
“Forward!” With their shields in place, the thudding of metal on soft grass echoed as they stepped together, no gaps evident for their enemies arrows. Their own arrows sailed above them, “They will die today, my love,” Iseabail’s voice reached him.
“They will, then all will be at peace.” He pulled her closer as they marched, her back against his chest. She couldn’t help the small giggle escape her. “It’s like our ceremony of pairing,” she chuckled.
“My flower, we were not in a war on our ceremony.”
“No, but you held me how you are now.”
“And I will hold you like this at sunset when we are victorious.” He squeezed her one-handed. “And we will let the kingdom hear our love,” he muttered unabashed.
“My King, you are a naughty boy.” He growled at her in response but a tap on his armour reminded him where they were and the job they had to succeed in.
Their march continued, he had to rely on his leaders to announce spears, which they soon did. His heart thudded quickly in his chest, a small simmer of apprehension he could show no one. His hand on the pommel of his sword he felt the ricochet as they crashed into the wall of elves. He didn’t need to hear it, he felt it.
He knew spears were being jabbed, forcing their way through. “Steady,” he bellowed, knowing his soldiers wanted to break ranks and fight, he could feel the zap of energy tingling in waves around them as they itched to spill the blood of those who had caused them so much hurt. “Push!” he cried, feeling their movements slowing. “Push!” he demanded again.
All that surrounded him were the bodies of his soldiers, pushing against the elves. The smell of death reached him, having to step over bodies showed their success. Unfortunately, it wasn’t all watery blue of the elven armour, silver littered the ground also. He almost tripped over Seònaid, her inky flowing hair spread behind her. A lurch of sorrow and regret punched his gut, but he could not break focus now.
A little too soon for Alasdiar’s liking his soldiers broke ranks, but he couldn’t blame them. The anticipation and wish to dive in had been strong with him too. “For life, for nature, for us!” a voice came from next to him, in the haze of battle he almost did not recognise his Queen’s voice. The chant began around, a ferocity and demanding loyalty buzzed through all. Losing was not an option.
The King’s guard slashed and stabbed with might, at first it was controlled and formed. However as the battle drew on Alasdair still had not glimpsed their leader, his eyes trained for the glimpse of midnight blue. Then the formation grew slack, a sword came out of nowhere and Alasdair just got his sword from its sheath in time for the metals the clang, although the sound was lost amongst the hundreds of others surrounding them. He dodged and weaved before his sword found home, spearing the elf that had attacked him.
Soon he had killed another, blood and sweat streamed into his eyes. He passed a gloved hand over his face to clear his vision but a searing pain caught breath in his throat. He turned and swung his sword when the pain had blossomed, striking true to cleave an elven head clean from its neck. He shook his arm, trying to rid the pain on his elbow.
He took a quick look around to assess the battle. His heart stopped, a spear drove straight into Iseabail. “NO!” he screamed, a haze of fury and pain threw a red mist over him. He cut a path, killing any who stood in his way before he reached her. “My love!” he pitched over onto his knees, not noticing the swords clashing above him. All sound wooshed from his ears. “Eilidh,” she croaked, coughing blood.
“She’ll be safe,” he reassured. He grasped the hand she had put out to him. “You’re going to be fine my Queen, you’ll come back to me,” he begged, he wished, he pleaded.
In the heat of battle he stared longingly into her firn green eyes, the beautiful shade he loved to drink in, reminding him of the woods, the forests, their power. With a gloved hand he stroked a golden strand marred with blood from her forehead. Her high perfect cheekbones relaxed, her soft angular jaw slacked, he watched her glowing green eyes fade. His love, his life, he everything.
He screamed the cry of grief and loss, a sound so pitifully painful the battle silenced. A quiet stilled the land. His torment felt by fae and elf alike. A hand gripped his upper arm and he was pulled from her, “My King!” a hurried voice pierced the silence before it melted to the sounds of war. Alasdair stumbled and shook himself, he could grieve later. With a mighty battle cry he threw himself into the onslaught.
He slashed, he cut, he stabbed, he decapitated. A specific grunt made him look around to see Athieus struggling. He ran to him and helped him cut down the four that had ganged up on him. “Thank you, my King!” he panted before turning to kill more. He was a remarkable young one, Alasdair mused. His musings, however, had to cease as he saw the flash of colour he had been searching for. Midnight blue appeared a mere ten paces from him, locked in a furious battle with one of his.
He flapped his wings and zoomed towards them just as the elven king’s glittering blue mace lodged into his target. Alasdair gritted his teeth and landed, ripping the weapon from the elf’s hand. “Well, well, I didn’t expect to see your cowardly face,” Alasdair sneered, his thin lips coiling up in disdain.
“We all know who the coward is here Alisdair,” the elven king drew a long sword from his hip, like all their weapons made from their own reinforced glass that was tougher than steel.
Alasdair lunged, wanting this finished, wanting the elves to be wiped from existence. Their weapons clanged and clashed and they swiped, trying to land their blows but all failing. Alasdair wouldn’t admit it but they were evenly matched, and now they had both lost the ones they loved so dearly.
Elves and Faeries fell alike, dropping where they stood all the while the two kings of their races battled in a furious spar that would end with one side being victorious. Whoever won got their wish. Alasdair’s arms ached, his muscles screamed but he ignored the fatigue and his injuries. He had to finish this. In a powerful thrust where his body complained he plunged his sword, passed armour into pale white flesh.
At the same moment his sword hit true, a searing hot pain he was certain he had inflicted upon the elf was felt by him. His heart pounded in his ears, as the King of Elves pitched backwards, falling as did Alasdair. A time slowed, a distorted mirror showed Alasdair what was happening to him as his back crashed into the body strewn ground.
He groaned in pain, looking down to see a silver pommeled sword, a pale blue blade sunk deep into his abdomen. All around him he saw bodies fall. Sound no longer registered although he was sure there was still sound. A peace washed over him, an acceptance of what was to come. He clutched the blade of the sword and pulled it from his body, not wishing to go back to where they came from with any hint of the elves attached to him.
King Alasdair sank into darkness, his last wish, his last thought that his Eilidh would be safe and happy. His heart gave a final pump, his life ebbed from him and he dearly hoped that she forgave him for never coming back for her.