Mixed Blood

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Chapter 10- Whispering minds

Yenive’s words lingered in the cold air but the growl given by the wolves was all that Kara could concentrate on. Fear surged through her at the mistrust she saw in the eyes of the three growling wolves. She took a step back from the threat.

Marko seemed to sense her every reaction as he assessed her with his pale eyes. He turned his head to the wolves around him and gave them a harsh growl. The wolves immediately fell quiet making sure to lower their heads and tail.

“Let’s not jump to conclusions,” Kendra said as she came to stand beside Kara. “It could as well been an Elemental.”

“No, my lady” said the Rez with his bored eyes. “The air smelled sweet, the trade mark of Fae magic, not salty like yours,” the man said looking at Kendra.

Sweet? Kara thought perplexed. Does my magic smell sweet? I have never thought it possible. She looked at the people around her, they all looked either mad, concerned or pensive. Marko simply looked at her.

“They deliberately trespassed into neutral territory with malice intentions,” Tark said with indignation.

“We do not know that for sure, it could have been an accident, it can happen to anyone,” Yenive said trying to calm the waters. She sighed. “But this will certainly set us back a day or so.” She went to her horse and retrieved a scroll from her saddlebag. She opened the scroll and set it on a crate so everyone could see. “We are here,” she said pointing at the South road where it met with the Rose village, their place of departure. “We were taking the three sisters road here.” She dragged her finger down to an intersection were the road lead to the west. The trail jumped over the three rivers, were it later met the Yuan road, which traveled vertically parallel to the river of that same name. The Yuan road, if followed south would arrive to the Kingdom of Leiporia. “Now we must continue on this road south, in about a week we will have to go around the Glass caves Mountain. But doing so is no better than going through the caves because of the cliff.”

“I hate heights,” said Alua said from where she sat on Roan’s lap.

“Yeah well you are certainly going to hate this cliff. Although the sight is beautiful, you can see The Three Sisters drop in to the lake at the distance,” Yenive continued.

“I think we should be more worried about having been cut off by the Fae. Accident or not, we have no choice but to head down this road... It could be a trap,” Roan proposed.

Yenive cocked her head towards Marko for a moment “Good idea” she said after a while. She turned toward the Rez and said, “Go to the men at the tail, they should have stopped for food, by the way have some bread and such, and tell one of them to warn the rest of the camp. We will meet two hours passed the three sisters road, to make camp, tell them nothing of the fae magic. We need not get them agitated.”

The man nodded before stealing a chilling glance at Kara. He took some bread, cheese and ham, got on his horse and set off north to the men at the tail.

Why did he give me that look? Kara thought as the scout rode away. Or is that how they have all been looking at me? She remembered how they had bowed their head at her she. She walked pass some of the soldiers. Others would simply stare at her, but she never paid mind to that because she knew better than to stare back a predator in the eyes.

“Are you okay?” Kendra asked beside her.

“I am fine.” The small lie caused Marko to growl at her. She snapped her eyes to look straight at his. So much for not looking into a predators eyes. “I’m merely confused about this anger towards the Fae. So do not growl at me.”

“It’s not important -” Kendra started to say but Kara cut her off.

“Please do not lie,” she didn’t know how she could tell Kendra was lying, she simply did. “I can see it in all of your eyes,” she looked around and then at Marko. “What are you hiding?”

The determination in his eyes made her feel like she was his prey. But his intensity only made her want to stand her ground. Slowly he stalked towards her, his eyes only on her.

He was halfway to her when Yenive said “Not this again,” he gave her a warning growl. “You know this is going to bring problems, speculations... We cannot protect her from gossip.”

“Gossip about what?” Kara said to Yenive, her eyes never leaving Marko’s pale blues. “Are people worried about what I am? Just tell them that I am as perplexed as they are.” Marko was now in front of her, his sheer size seemed to take away the air from her lungs. He was at eye level with her, so about five feet tall. “Who would have thought half Fae, half v-” Before she could get the word Vampire out a sharp pain invaded her head. She swayed back but Kendra’s hand was there to steady her. She pushed her forward so that she could cling to Marko. Kara’s arms went around his neck using it for support. She closed her eyes tightly as another wave of pain seized her. “What are- you d-doing?” she yelled and tried to push away from him but one of his massive paws came around to hold her to him. “Let go of me,” she demanded with a hiss.

Never. Came Marko’s voice through her mind instead of her ears. The felling was disorienting, having a voice inside your head that did not belong to you was uncomfortable, like having a heavy book on top of your head for a long time.

“What in the name of all that’s good did you do to me?” Kara growled at him.

Trying to protect you from yourself, he said. The strange feeling of carrying that heavy book was still persistent.

“Did you have to break my head to do that?” She said massaging her temple.

You left me no choice, you cannot go around saying you are half this half that. My men know you are part fae, and even if they are wary of it they will give you the respect you deserve. But the fae and werewolves have never had pleasant relations, until these last centuries. The fae have lived inside the Arch of Verus, west of the Yuan River for a long time now, never giving any problems. But this flood is evidence of sabotage, if not a threat to stay away from their Yuan borders. Kara noticed that the more he talked the less she felt the heavy book

“Why do you not like fees?” Kara asked looking around.

“Because they lie with the truth,” Yenive said with a displeased tone in her voice. “The fae cannot lie, but they can sure twist the truth. We were once allies but they betrayed our kingdom by hiding the murderer of my father’s sister. They killed our aunt when she was a child”

Kara’s hands reflexively tightened making her clutch Marko’s soft fur in a death grip.

“The kingdom never again trusted the fae, but this was not made public to outsiders, there was no need for it. The Fae retreated inside their arch and relative peace reigned the realm.” Kendra said.

We tried to hide this from you because you would have felt afraid or threatened and your magic could go out of control. But I think you know that we do not resent you. Marko said solemnly with a soft whine out loud.

“No, you do not resent me” She told him relaxing her grip. “But you certainly cannot trust me.” s\She ran her hand over his soft looking pelt and found it to be thicker and rougher than she expected. It was still a wonderful sensation to touch such a marvelous pelage.

“It is not lack of trust, my lady” said Tark with a cautious voice. “It is an overabundance of wariness.” Marko turned his head towards the Mountain lord. The man looked nervous for a moment but then he took a deep breath and nodded, as if agreeing to something. “I have seen you in action, seen you kill and I have to admit I was afraid. Still am, I suppose.” Kara flinched at his words. “But it is the reason behind your actions that matter the most. Had it been me in your position with such power, I would have done the same or worse. Your rampage only lasted as long as the threat did. You acted to protect yourself and my kind.” he gave a look to Yenive and Roan. The silver haired man fell to one knee, his right fist over his heart. “We do trust you, we trust you to protect, we trust you to fight, we trust you to bring the light of justice, and to save our kind from our own violence.”

Suddenly everyone that could talk, except Alua, fell to one knee and joined Tark “We trust in your wisdom, we trust in your anger, we trust that your heart and soul will guide us to triumph. ”

Then they all fell quiet for a moment when Tark’s said “I pledge my life and sword.”

“Wha-?”

He is pledging his loyalty to you. Marko said turning his head back to her. He is stating that he trusts you with his life. He recognizes you as a leader. He drew back to look her in the eyes. After all one day you will become queen, Fae or not, you are my mate. That is something that goes above all animosity between or kind. You most accept his pledge. She looked at Marko with doubt. Tark is a good solider and even better man. He is also mated, so his actions will not be guided by lust or impulses. He is doing this because he believes every word he says.

Kara looked at the Mountain lord, who was looking to the ground in front of her.

This man was placing all his trust in a person he did not know, pledging his life to her as if it was expendable.

“What if I fail you?” She said vocalizing her fear. “I am no saint, I am impulsive, and at times reckless. More importantly I attract danger in the form of rogues.” she paused letting that sink in. “Are you actually willing to accept that? Forfeit your life for a stranger that will always be in trouble?” the man look pensive “Look at me Tark, look me in the eye and speak your answer. ” she said.

Tark slowly rose his gaze to hers, the conviction in them shocked her. “I accept ” he stood up “If you fail then I shall be there to help correct your error.” He smiled “But with this many people to help, I doubt you will.”

She sighed loudly and said “fine, I accept your pledge... but I warn you are a fool, more so than Marko for wanting me as a mate.”

Sweetheart, I was pledge to you from the moment I met you.Marko said resting his head on her shoulder. His Cedar wood smell cloaked around her mind like a sweet breeze.

“Never mind, he is the bigger fool.” she said rolling her eyes before turning back to Tark and stepping away from Marko. “One more thing, I know you said you would lay your life for me, but I cannot accept that.” the man opened his mouth to protest. “If you die you will leave your mate behind.” Tark’s tanned skin visibly palled. “And who will be left to protect me from her angry rampage?” she gave him a small smile. “You must live, leave the dying to whatever enemy you encounter. No one dies for me”

Tark nodded slowly as if not sure if he should agree. There was a moment of silence until Yenive cleared her throat, “Well this stop has been very eventful, but we need to get going.”

With that they packed the food, map anything that needed lacking. Kara was about to get in the back of the wagon when Marko’s voice brushed her mind.

Come with me. She looked back to see him at the edge of the road and the trees that lined it.

“What?” she said

Well riding in the hard floor of a wagon cannot possibly be as entertaining as riding me.

I bet not. Kara thought and immediately her face reddened.

Come on. I know that you still have many questions. He said coming towards her at a seemingly lazy pace.

“Can you read my mind?” she said as he reached her.

Only what you want me to hear, everything else that I might get is purely accidental. The wagon suddenly rolled away at a fast pace. Like that, accidental. He said with a grin.

“Sure, it was” she said running a hand over the side of his neck admiring the different hews of grey. “Okay, but promise to go slow.”

He lowered himself to the ground so that she could get on. Like a turtle carrying a pot of boiling eggs. Marko said rising to stand straight. But you should still hang on.

Kara only had a split second to grip his fur and lock her legs around him before he took off in a sprint to catch up with the wagon. She could feel the heavy fall of his paws upon the cold dirt. The sound of disturbed leaves and passing wind quickly became the only thing she could hear. She wanted to close her eyes against the merciless wind, but at this speed the world seem different. It was a blur of colors like she had never dreamed, the autumn leaves that had now fallen were lightly covered in patches of snow but it all looked like one giant palate of color.

She could no longer keep her eyes open so she leaned forward pressing her face to the back of his neck. The sensation of having such a powerful creature carrying her on his back was incredible. She felt like nothing could harm her, nothing could keep her away from this creature, because she belonged to it as much as it belonged to her. And there was no way she was letting go of him.

This is amazing!Kara thought.

I know, I am glad you enjoyed that. Marko said responding to her thought. He slowed down his pace as they caught up with the wagon.

“How did you?” she asked completely confused and a bit out of breathe.

The sound of his laughter rang through her. You are adorable, you know that. Your mind was completely open... you were thinking of me, right?

She scuffed “No, I-” her voice betrayed her and she knew it “You know not every thought is about you.” Although I do like to think about those pretty eyes of yours.

You like my eyes?He asked. What else do you like? I personally like my ass, it is round yet strong. I have to wonder what your is like-.

His words stopped when she brutally flicked his ear making him whine out loud.

“I thought I was the one asking questions here.” she whispered in his ear.

She could feel a soft growl coming from him which only made her smile knowing she won this dominance battle. Perhaps not the war, but a battle was a battle.

She leaned back using her arms against his back to support her weight. She leaned her head back to look up at the cloudless sky.

So tell me. Kara said concentrating on the strange mind link they shared. Why would the fae attack now after such a long time of peace? Well assuming they actually attacked. A few minutes passed and he didn’t answer.

“Did you hear me?” she asked looking down at him.

Yes I did, I was thinking. He said

“Oh.”

It is hard to say, the fae have always been a wild card. unpredictable even when they have a set pattern. What seems suspicious is that they targeted the three Sisters Rivers. They cut us off from our trajectory. Roan is right in thinking that it could all be a trap. But why now is the best question.

Kara pondered for a moment. What were you and your men doing in neutral territory. The Kingdom of Leiporia is way far south for you to be simply strolling by.

We were getting weapons from the Vorgon kingdom, the Vampires I mean. They make the most excellent weapons and I personally like to go and assess what weapons we get. And it is of good manner and trust to go to their lands and stay in their care. It gives them... a sort of confidence to think we are at their mercy while in their lands. I have to admit it unsettles me to stay for too long. I like my bed or the sound of the wind hitting my tent. Marko said in her mind.

And everything went well I presume, seeing that you and your men are alive?Kara asked tossing her head back again.

Yes, everything went without a hitch. the only problem we encountered was the attack on your village by the rogue vampires.

So what happens if this is a trap?

War will be inevitable.A chill ran through her at the thought of war. the images of her horrible dream came to her mind. She truer to shake her head trying to get rid of them. The Vorgon kingdom will have to decide what ally to stand by.

The Vampires like the fae?Kara asked confused.

Yes, they are allied with the Fae and us, on the other hand they hate the Cliff Elves, but they are our allies. this world is strangely balanced on conflicting allies. For example we werewolves have two allies other than the human mountain Lords, which would be the vampires and the Cliff Elves but they in turn hate each other with a passion. It is our job to keep them from going to war. they in turn make sure the same peace is kept between my kind and the fae. If war is declared by the fae, we will probably have the support of vampires. The Cliff Elves... I never know what to expect from them but I believe they will see reason and come to our aid if we needed it. He gave out a puff of air.

This is rather confusing. Kara said rubbing her head as she tried to understand it all.

She closed her eyes savoring the light that fell from the sky.

Tell me something about your childhood. She said leaning forest to sit straight.

What do you want to know?

Everything... your happy memories and your sad ones.

Okay... then I guess I have to start with my father. my father, Weiger, has been king since was thirty-one years old. He came into power after the last Great War, in which he lost an eye and my grandfather his life. He was in the throne for a thousand years before finding my mother. No one should be alone for so long especially such social creatures like us. It turns us bitter and cold. When he found her it was a time of tension between the witches and the northerners living in Merulia city. They were trying to burn her and almost twenty witches, age did not matter. In the end he saved her, then they were kept separated in fear that his wolf would snap and force himself on her. He scuffed. Even as a bitter man my father knew that he would never be able to forgive himself if he harmed her. what’s worse, she would never love him. A day came when they allow each other to mate completely. And then I was born.

He stopped stalking when the wagon slowed down at the three sisters road intersection. At the distance in the road they could see the trail turn into a mud path. That was definitely not crossable, not with a wagon. The group continued on at their normal fast pace.

Is your father still... bitter?

My mother says he has softened. I personally think he is bitter. But that he is like that does not mean he cannot love. I remember when I was ten years old, my father was leaving to visit the Cliff Elves in the east canyon. I wanted to go with him, I wanted to see the city of faces, the enormous carvings of ancient Elven kings and queens that decorate their cliffs. I had read about them in books, but I wanted to paint them.

You paint?

Oh yes, my mother always said that a little paint is always necessary. It can brighten any dark scene. My sister also paints although she likes to sketch more.

So you followed your father?

He laughed deeply. Yes Like a young fool I followed him all the way to the hills of the lost. And got lost.

You went into the maze?she said in disbelief.

The Hills of the lost were in fact a series of hills covered in a magical maze. You cannot burn it nor cut it down, if you try to climb it the guard will shoot you down with an arrow to the head. Many have died wandering the passages of the hills.

That is exactly what my mother asked. I had lost my fathers trail, which is stupid because the man travels with almost twenty men. I wondered the hills for three days until I could not decide which way to turn. I found a statue of a beautiful sleeping dragon in the middle of a clearing so I decided to lie beside it and sleep. Next thing I know I am being held tightly in my father’s arms. He was angry with me, but his relief was greater. it was the first time I had seen him cry...His voice drifted off for a moment. We were in the city of faces and there were cliff Elves everywhere. They tended to my father and me. Father tells me that going uninvited into the hills is what got me lost, but the cliff elves believe that only worthy people can find the sleeping dragon. And so they got me out and gave me to my father without asking for anything in return. The transaction helped solidify the alliance even further.

What happened after that?

Well he let me stay with him after giving me a stern lecture about following him and all. It was my mother’s reaction that truly frightened me.He laughed nervously. She threatened me, saying that if I ever ran off again she would give me a spanking in the city plaza. On top of that she would take away my paints!

The indignation in his voice made Kara laughed out loud. “I wish I had seen you as a child. The look on your face in that moment would have been priceless.”

Very funny. He said in an onamused voice.

They kept walking for almost a half hour more until Yenive ordered the wagon be stopped. They decided to go a ways into the forest to set camp away from the road. The wagon had little trouble going into the open forest because of the wide gaps between the trees and the flatness of the land.

Marko lowered himself so that Kara could get down. She had been riding for to long, which made her legs feel weak when they had to once again support her weight. Lets just say it was not a very graceful moment for her.

Kara, Yenive, Kendra and Alua gathered wood and made a campfire, with the help of Kendra’s fiery elemental magic. The wolves left to change back to human form. Roan left with them carrying their clothes.

Kara was giving Froy a comforting pat on the neck wishing she had some of those sugar cubes Marko had given her the first day she met the dapple-grey horse.

She jumped in surprise when a heavy hand settled over her shoulder, but calmed when she hear Marko’s familiar voice say. “I come bearing gifts.” he was standing right behind her but her attention was on the animal in front of her not on the one behind. His other hand came around her and extended to Froy.

The horse’s dark eyes widened as he saw the cluster of sugar cubes in Marko’s hand. Eagerly he tried to snatch them away but Marko got his hand away just in time. “Ah ah, behave.”

“Oh just give him his reward. he followed the wagon without any guidance, he deserves it, right Froy?” Kara said defending the horse. Vouching at her words Froy nodded in agreement. Kara smiled at his responsiveness and snatched a cube from Marko’s hand.

“Hey” he protested as she gave Froy his sugary reward “you will spoil him.”

“And he better get used to it! ” she said patting the horse again. It pleased her that in the madness that was now her life she could at least smile and give this beast a pat on the back. The simple gesture seemed to bring the intimidating horse a look of happiness that told that these beasts were not as bad as they wanted people to believe. No, just like this horse most werewolves seemed to be mean, outright bad, but now she knew better. She knew that not all were set on taking advantage of the weak or drinking your blood without permission. No, some like Marko simply wanted to protect you and make you smile.

“You are beautiful when you smile” she heard Marko say. She turned to face him her face a bit flushed, maybe he would believe it was the cold that brought the color to her face. He on the other hand looked like a tomato “N-n-not that you are not always beautiful. You are, gods you have no idea.” This was the first time he had sounded so nervous and insecure of himself in front of her.

She turned around to face him completely with a mischievous look in her eyes. “Is the almighty prince nervous?”

He chuckled and took a step towards her. “Before a woman like you a man would be a fool not to.”

“Too much flattery brother, be more subtle.” Yenive’s voice interrupted from where she sat by the campfire.

Kara laughed and walked past a very confused Marko as he whispered to himself “Too much? How was that too much? Since when is the truth too much?”

About an hour later Rez, who had gone to notify the rest of the soldiers about the change of plans, arrived with said warriors. They quick settled around the wagon making campfires of their own as the night started to settle.

As the camp calmed down after having dinner Kara noticed the curious and sometimes intense glances from some of the soldiers. She felt like they watched her every move as if she were going to snap into a magical rampage at any moment. It was uncomfortable to say the least. Feeling so observed she climbed into the wagon and cleared a space to lie on the wooden floor.

She was arranging her belongings so that they sat by her head after taking a roll of clothes to use as her pillow, when Yenive’s head popped by.

“Are you sleeping in here?” Yenive asked sitting on the lowered door of the wagon.

“Yes I am, there are too many eyes out there.” Kara said looking around camp with nervous eyes.

“They will not hurt you, Kara. I think even if they wanted to, you would kick their asses and if they survived that they would still have to deal with me, my brother, Kendra, Roan and Tark. Besides if you sleep here you will get cold, you are far from the fire’s warmth.”

Kara smiled down at her friend “The coat you gave me is warm enough to get me through the night.”

“But -”

“I cannot sleep well, I never do. I toss and turn all night. being near the fire could prove disastrous. I could roll into it or something... so please do not fret about this.” Kara said trying to convince Yenive. to change the subject she asked “Have you seen Marko?”

“yes he was talking with Tark and some of the other soldiers about security details concerning the rest of the trip.”

“How long is it going to take to get there?”

“Leiporia is about a two weeks travel” Yenive said taking in a deep breath and getting down from the wagon. “But you will have to get used to it, being looked at I mean. Here you only have soldiers looking at you, wait till you meet the female werewolves in the kingdom. My brother has many female admirers.” she paused assessing Kara’s unintentional frown. “Since I see that I cannot convince you, I will go and bully some misbehaving wolves.” By the sound of her voice Kara could tell this princess was not kidding. With that said Yenive took her leave.

Kara sat on the wagon looking at the fire dancing vividly, it was not as far as Yenive had said. She could feel its warmth like a light brush of a feather. Feeling tired and lulled by the flames she lied down, her head towards the tail of the wagon, her roll of clothes under her cheek. She turned to look up at the celling of the cart. The beige canvas fabric flowed in the gentle breeze.

Just like I thought he has women falling at his feet. She thought and a sudden realization shook her mind. My thoughts are not my own now. Even if he can only hear what I want him to it still feels kind of invasive. She turned her head around to look at the camp trying to find Marko in the dim light provided by the fires.

She found him sitting a few fires away, he was concentrated on the map he held in his hands. A frown marked his face making him seem older, but it was the firelight that shone in his grey eyes that sang of his young spirit. He scratched his light stubble beard set the map down and raked a hand through his black hair in frustration, hanging his head in the process.

As if sensing her gaze he lifted his head and looked directly at her. The heat of the nearby fire seemed to have found its way into his gaze. He gave her a small smile that made her face heat up. He was about to get up and go to her when Roan and Alua came and started talking to him. Marko stole a look at Kara and whispered into her mind.

Good night. This time I will not allow anyone to drag you out of sleep.

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