Glaesfaet Sceawere is the name gifted to the mother river that flows through the center of Blossom Forest, bringing life and sustenance to all of the lands. It breaks off in many places, giving birth to smaller streams and estuaries, but the main body flows from the lake high in the north in Dierne Hrof all the way south down through Uyaraut to empty into the ocean. It is a fresh water river, but down through Uyaraut, the salt water does taint it. In places, parts of the river are underground and run through caverns unseen from aboveground.

Water buffalo grace these shores - with plenty of meat, though at a dangerous cost. Many river trout leap upstream daily.


behind darkness, beneath candles

❝thє shσrtєst dístαncє вєtwєєn twσ pσínts . . .❞

Already silently planning their next move—the invisible slides around a chessboard designed to keep them safe—Losa watched her midnight titan struggle to drag himself into the river’s gentler shallow current. They had tortured him so ruthlessly . . . it caught her breath to see him wince with each labored movement, jaws clamped firmly around any sounds of agony, brutally battered body as rickety as a once grand ship about to splinter to pieces. Aindreas is an alpha—he should have access to healers. To sanctuary. Did the rainbow princess’s Ofer feel her distress at this very moment? Did Aindreas sense the way her heart clenched tight enough to snap its strings? Perhaps the quiet Tempest knew the way Losa’s own dawn-painted canvas burned with sympathetic pain to mirror the physical damage shredded into her chosen’s flesh, how she found herself shuddering and choking back a cry when a heavy lurching step parted a laceration on Hurricane’s shoulder and wept blood. Please let Aindreas have a doctor. Please let Hurricane make it that far. Just as the thought crossed her mind, her mismatched heavens locked with Hurricane’s twin suns. A naked expression of torment crossed the obsidian gladiator’s face before he could hide it from her. That split second, that mere heartbeat wherein Torneach revealed how very gravely he’d been hurt, speared Losa with the jagged edges of guilt and grief. Why had no one allowed her to study the medical arts? Why could she do nothing but tremble in the presence of her favorite guard, plots racing through her mind, able to scheme potential futures yet fail to truly aid him?

“A queen’s purpose is to lead.” How many times had that sentence been used like a whip to cut her into submission? A leader . . . a political figurehead . . . speech-maker and peace-broker, utterly useless to actually assist a subject that meant more to her than her own life. What was she supposed to do—give Hurricane a pep talk until he felt better? Suggest an alliance with those who tore gashes into his hide? Oh yes—QUITE useful.

At last Hurricane managed to slip into the river’s deeper belly, its snowfed current parting around his colossal structure as if he were an island. “Don’t forget to drink,” Losa warned from the banks. Water caressed her forepaws, but they’d already gone numb. She tried to channel her focus into that almost aching lack of stimulation so that the hideous wounds splitting Hurricane’s back wouldn’t distress her so. “I’m not letting you back up here until you hydrate—I mean that, Torneach. You’re not setting foot back on dry land unless you dip that giant head and—EEE!”

The gargantuan IMBECILE had the gall—the nerve—the audacity—to shift his weight around and pounce against the water like a bear lunging at fish, spattering Losa with freezing droplets as he flung his limbs out and soaking her to the bone with the wave he created upon crashing back into the current. The Arcus Irae’s coat was just as intelligently designed as a nonmagical grey wolf’s; the pastel waves of her fur could protect her from most moisture and she could stay reasonably warm during a harsh winter. But this veritable tidal wave that slapped her across the face like a huge wet fish? Losa limb’s instantly locked up with the gasping shock of cold, her pools going round as her frame seized in a comical vision of enraged astonishment. “I’m prepared to call you something worse,” the princess ground out darkly. Outwardly, her ears flattened in righteous irritation. Inwardly . . . she could not crush the flickering flame of hopeful happiness that ignited in her chest. If Hurricane felt well enough to tease her back, then all was not lost. She’d pull him inch by inch to Aindreas’s pack if she had to. She snatch his ear in her teeth and yank him along like an insolent pup. Though her eyes had narrowed dangerously, Losa allowed a small grin to curve her lips. “Although . . . ‘bull moose’ suits you so well. Perhaps we should change your title from Torneach Mhutair to Lon Ceann—Moose Head.”

It felt amazing to have the privilege to joke with him. Losa had honestly worried she might never see Hurricane again once she raced through that portal. She’d probably despise herself for leaving him until the day she died. But still . . . if Hurricane were dead and lost, Losa would not have the opportunity to beg his forgiveness. She would suffer his temper and his gruff retorts and his anger if it meant he were actually here to punish her with them. Quietly the Arcus Irae began deliberately grooming the water from her sopping pelt, glancing from the corners of her sharp eyes to ensure her guard was drinking. When he laboriously plodded back toward the bank, Losa made sure to shoot him a withering glare in response to the droplets flying off his shining ebony coat and into her unamused face. She lifted her chin haughtily, tail snapping side to side as she prepared to deliver a scathing string of lyrics . . .

But they never left her mouth. Hurricane was gazing at her, breathing hard from the effort of merely carrying his mass evenly on all four columns, his lightning-colored windows capturing her celestial oceans. Losa swallowed hard, heat smoldering past the wet chill clinging to her skin. A small noise escaped her vocals the moment Hurricane rested his chin upon her brow, as light and gentle as a bird’s wing. This was the same dragon who beat foes to a pulp without breaking a sweat. Whose looming presence intimidated even other royal guards when he swept into a room. And yet he touched Losa with the deft softness of someone brushing a sugar sculpture. His touch glided down between her ears and the nape of her neck, and suddenly that heat turned white hot and unbearable. His murmur of “I missed you” resonated in her bones like music. “I missed you too.” Those lyrics poured from her lips without hesitation. Hurricane pressed closer, smoothing the butter-marbled line of her spine, and Losa eagerly cuddled closer as one huge black paw pulled her to him. As a child, she had draped herself over the statuesque gladiator without a second thought; he’d been her teddy bear and jungle gym from the second her eyes opened. Slowly, under the judging eyes of the court, Losa had been forced to grow out of that closeness . . . yet she reveled in it now, arching her neck to embrace Hurricane and purring happily. “Same goes for you, Torneach. But honestly—how could I lose sight of such a big head?” Mockery spoken with the softest tones of adoration, a love poem hidden under their biting banter. She nosed the side of his noble face, kissing the cuts and scrapes sewn under his luminous eye. “They should have killed us when they had the chance. Now they have a pissed-off princess and a wrathful dragon to fear. I know I was raised to maintain peace and balance, but if I ever run into the ones that did this to you . . .” Losa pulled back slightly, a smile that could only be described as angelic illuminating her delicate features. “I shall make them suffer.”

A final sloppy smooch planted directly on his muzzle—and Losa squirmed free before he could retaliate, sweeping her tail saucily over her back. She’d hide her concerns with false bravado, and goad Hurricane to safety with as much sarcasm and tough love as need be. “Let’s go, Thunder-Killer. There’s a lot of ground to cover. If you’re a good boy, maybe I’ll kill you a snack.” And with that the princess marched to her knight’s side, nudging him carefully but impatiently to follow.

❝ís thє línє frσm mє tσ чσu!❞

⦊⦊ the undercover princess | sister to Zawyne | heartbroken | without a nest | xathira ⦉⦉

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