“Now that the others are gone, there are a few things I need to ask of you.” Allein said as she sat across from the Chief of the Foxkin.
The Chief was not a fool and he knew that this was no mere coincidence for the Dragonkin to suddenly appear with an interest in a Human from another world. His daughter had told him about the Human called Peter, and how she had come across him in the forest after experiencing a strange magic. She had also told him of his mysterious power, not out of any maliciousness, but in hopes that he would know some way to help Peter return to his world.
He knew of no way of course, such magic was beyond his comprehension. His knowledge of the lore of the Demihumans was vast, having once been a Khan of the Foxkin, but even in the old stories there was nothing. The stories were old, ancient even, and it was difficult to discern the truth of them.
Reia’s father let out a friendly chuckle while stroking his beard, and asked, “what would you ask of me princess?”
She was not pleased with his attitude but she ignored it, “Fayde is of great importance to me, do you understand? He must be convinced to go to the old Imperial Capital on the Plains of Sorrow. His destiny lies there, and you will help me accomplish this.”
“What is it that you are planning? Why is this Human so important?” Reia’s father was honorbound to help her in anyway possible, but her words piqued his curiosity.
“I will only say this, Fayde has the power to unite our people. You must believe me when I say that everything I do, is for that very purpose, just as my father did before me. Fayde will bring truth to this world of lies, and shatter it.”
He knew she could only mean one person when she spoke of her father, but how she had survived for so long and remained unnoticed by the world was something that perplexed him. Her words were cryptic, but the Chief trusted her words to be true despite the uncertainty surrounding her.
“And you can say no more?”
“I’m sorry, please, trust me. These past few weeks have been difficult for my brother and I. My heart has yet to calm itself. I will just say this, my last few memories of my father were of him saying goodbye, and then I woke to this nightmare. You can not possibly understand my pain, but know that my motives are pure. I only wish to do what is best for us all.”
Allein’s eyes were distant, as if she were somewhere else. The sadness and grief were very much prevalent. She had hidden it well from the others, but the Chief knew better. He could see her heart was in turmoil and it pained him.
“I will do all in my power to aid you, but I’m worried about my daughter. She may not fully realize it yet herself, but she has grown quite attached to Fayde….”
Allein thought for a moment while holding her chin with her index finger.
Reia’s father had a sudden idea, “you should know that the Demihumans on the Plains of Sorrow will never let a Human enter the old Imperial Capital. By tradition, the only ones allowed entry are the Khans that compete and win during the Grand Council.”
“Then what do you suggest?” Allein asked inquisitively.
“Fayde will need to become the Khan of all Khans, and for that, you’ll need my daughter.”
The Chief didn’t like having to manipulate his daughter, but given the circumstances, it might be necessary. He never wanted to include her in any of the traditions that chained the Demihumans. He wished for his daughter to live freely and to do whatever it was her heart wished, but events had become complicated with the appearance of the Dragonkin siblings. He could no longer remain unattached to the world as he had been and he knew great changes would be coming for all Demihumans.
“Explain.” Allein’s response was curt, she didn’t particularly like the idea of involving Reia. She was already unhappy with her appearing by pure chance at Fayde’s side when he first appeared in the world. Dragonkin were known for being possessive.
“Even though Demihumans are honorbound to support you by the ancient pact, it has been a very long time since the pact was made and many think the Dragonkin are gone. Even if you showed yourselves now, it would be difficult with just the two of you to unite all of the clans. There are many ambitious Khans among the clans and they may attempt to manipulate you for their own selfish desires. With just you and your brother, you would not be able to compete in the Grand Council games either. You will need the power of an entire clan behind you, and the only way to do that would be for Reia to challenge the current Khan of the Foxkin, my brother. As you already know, by tradtion only men may become a Khan.”
Reia’s father paused for a moment to let everything he said to Allein sink in. He could see she understood exactly where this was going and she did not look pleased.
“You are saying that Reia and Fayde will have to become engaged…..”
The Chief nodded, “that’s right, but there is no reason to be so dissatisfied with it, you should know very well that Khans are expected to have many wives.”
“Tch….. I know, I just hate being second.”
“Hahahahaha…” The Chief laughed knowingly at her words.
“Fine. I suppose there is no other way. Are you certain that they can be brought together?” Allein asked after calming herself.
“I think she’ll come around…….”
It took me a minute to open my eyes and fully realize where I was. Someone had roughly shook me awake and once I was fully conscious, I saw that it was Reia. Most likely she was having difficulty waking me. I had been exhausted last night and needed the sleep. Thankfully I had slept peacefully and my dreams hadn’t been invaded by a certain princess.
“Fayde, wake up. The scouts have returned earlier than expected and my father wants to discuss it with us.”
I grunted and sat up, looking straight at Reia who was crouched near me, “Ah.. good morning.”
Reia stood up once she saw I was awake and said, “Did you sleep well?”
My eyes were still a bit blurry so I rubbed them and replied, “Still getting used to sleeping on a hard surface. At least the furs did a good job of keeping me warm.”
Reia gave me a knowing smile, “Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it in time. When you’re ready come over to the fire pit, we are eating breakfast and my father is waiting there.”
I nodded my understanding and Reia left me alone to get myself sorted. Not wishing to waste time, I slapped my face to fully wake up and stood. I was still in the same clothing but had removed my armor. There was no need to put it on right now and I quickly made my way over to the fire where a nice warm bowl of soup was waiting for me.
They seemed to eat a lot of soup, and a lot of meat. Both were easy to cook and could be made in large quantities. The soup stock was made from animal bones but I wasn’t sure what kind of animal. In the soup, there were some forest roots and vegetables along with chunks of meat. The soup stock made from bones gave it a distinct flavor but it was still too bland without enough salt thrown in. I wasn’t about to complain though, and dug right in.
Nes, Allein, Reia and her father were all sitting around the fire pit eating. Other members of Reia’s family began waking up as well, while some moved about the tent cleaning and doing other chores. For the Foxkin, the day started even earlier than for the people of Enrain. I was surprised I hadn’t woken up from the activity in the hut.
Reia’s father waited until we were all done before sharing the news.
“Our scouts located the main body of the monster’s army and it does seem that they are moving through the forest heading in the direction of Enrain. If they continue on their current course, they will pass our village to the east and then head straight towards the Human town. It’s most likely that the Kobolds that have been attacking travelers and merchants over the past few weeks were scouting ahead for this invasion force. I’m almost certain they don’t know the location of our village, but some of their raiding parties have broken off from the larger group and may be heading in this direction. That could be troublesome.”
“If that’s the case, then we need to take care of them quickly, do we have an idea of how many monsters there are?” I wanted to rush to the town to warn them but making sure Reia’s village wasn’t in any danger came first.
“Ho, ho, a Human wishing to help out Demihumans? I am happy to see that what my daughter told me about you is true.” Reia’s father seemed very pleased by my words and Reia smiled towards me and whispered a thank you.
“My brother and I will help you as well.” Allein interjected while sipping a cup of warm tea.
Nes just grunted his acknowledgement, he didn’t seem too enthusiastic about helping.
“Excellent! The enemy army is large so it would be impossible for us to engage them directly. We don’t have exact numbers. There could be anywhere from a thousand to two thousand. Most of the army consists of Kobolds, and they are being led by lizardmen. The two smaller groups which have split off from the main body are what we are concerned about.”
“Do you know how many monsters are in the two smaller groups?” I asked.
“Between the two groups, maybe a hundred.”
I thought for a moment and then asked, “How many warriors does your tribe have?”
“We have fifty warriors, we are a small tribe unfortunately.” Reia’s father seemed apologetic, but I had seen the Foxkin fight and didn’t think the numbers would be an issue.
“I saw the Foxkin fight last night and they moved through the trees skillfully. That should give us the element of surprise. I’m thinking if we pull something off just like we did last night, it should work well. Some of us could act as bait while the rest ambush the monsters from the treetops. Enough of your warriors are skilled at magic for it to work.”
The Foxkin warriors had impressed me with their display of magic. Their ability to maneuver along the treetops made it hard for enemies to target them and they could deliver devastating barrages of magic from above.
“It sounds like a good plan, but who will be the bait?” asked Reia.
“It’s going to have to be me.” I was the only one who couldn’t jump through the treetops so it had to be me.
Reai wasn’t pleased with my words and disapproval was etched on her face, “It’s too dangerous Fayde, I will go with you.”
Despite Reia’s disapproval, I was the best choice to act as bait. She needed to be with the ambushers, her fireball spell would be very useful in this battle.
“No Reia, you go with the Foxkin warriors. It will be fine, I only need to have them chase me a bit and then once the fighting starts, they will be too busy looking for the attackers in the trees to notice me.”
Allein stood with one hand on her waist and bravely declared, “My brother and I will protect Fayde, don’t worry. Don’t even try to talk us out of it Fayde, you will need our help.”
I was going to say something but Allein stopped me before I could.
Seeing their determination, I gave in. “Alright, fine. The three of us will act as bait.”
“Reia, wait. I want to speak with you alone for a minute before you go.” Fayde and the others had already left the hut and my father stopped me just as I was about to join them.
I turned to face him and noticed the look of concern on his face, “Yes, father?”
“Please be careful, you are my eldest daughter and my heir. If anything should happen to you…” I wasn’t expecting my father to be worried about my welfare. I had been a warrior now for many years and death was always a possibility, he knew that.
“Don’t worry father, these monsters will hardly pose a threat to our warriors.”
He shook his head and put one hand on my shoulder, “Lately, you seem distracted and I’m worried that you will do something foolish.”
I looked at my father with questioning eyes, “What do you mean? I’m fine.”
Then my father asked me something strange, “What does Fayde mean to you?”
Now I was really confused. I found it strange that he would suddenly ask me a question like this.
“Fayde is…” What exactly is Fayde to me? My friend? Companion? Fayde likes to tease me and sometimes he says things which could be misunderstood for something more. I don’t know when he’s being serious. We aren’t even the same species, I’m a Demihuman and he’s a Human.
“Is this really something we need to talk about right now?” I didn’t know what to say so I evaded the question.
“You know, ever since you were little, I’ve never see you spend so much time with another male, other than me.” My father laughed gently as he reminisced.
“Father, I don’t have time for this…” I turned to leave but my father stopped me.
“Just be honest with yourself, I don’t want to see you get hurt because you aren’t thinking clearly.”
I still wasn’t certain where he was going with this, “Father, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
My father put his arm on my shoulder and said in a sincere voice, “I’m talking about your feelings for Fayde.”
I grew flustered by his words and replied, “Father, I don’t know what you’re talking about.. Fayde and I are companions, that’s all… We aren’t even the same species…”
My words lacked force and there was no way my father didn’t see through it.
“It’s true that because of the discrimination that exists between our two species, that it may seem unthinkable that a Human and a Demihuman might love each other. However, Humans and Demihumans are not as different as you may think…. I think that if it’s Fayde, it is possible. He is someone from another world and doesn’t hold the same ideas as the Humans of this one.”
My father’s words rang true and I considered them sincerely, but they were difficult to accept in my heart. I knew my feelings for Fayde were complicated and I wasn’t entirely sure what I felt, but also deep down I worried that he would reject me, as the world had rejected my people.
I tried to pull myself away from my father and leave, but he wouldn’t let me go, “I see the way you look at him and also how he looks at you. It reminds me of how I once looked at your mother along time ago, when were young and she hadn’t yet been taken from us.”
This time I was successful at escaping his grasp and swiftly pulled away, “I have to go.” I had been feeling very anxious towards Fayde lately and I even lost my temper a few times, which was very much unlike me. I don’t have time to think about this right now.
Outside Fayde was waiting for me, “Everything okay?” My father’s words repeated in my mind, and as I looked at Fayde, I was filled with uncertainty.
I nodded and said, “Yes, let’s go.”