“Good Goddess!” Akiya Paion exclaimed when Ev’er arrived.
Akiya, Ev’er, and a few other escapees from her uncle’s kingdom had made a small base camp in the far north of the Ethovaak Mountains. Two light brown tents that fit up to five people and one green tent that held eight dotted the mountainous area. A few green bushes and trees surrounded the green tent. From the air, the tents would blend in.
Akiya tucked a stray locke of cotton candy colored hair behind one long pointed ear. She then stood there in her silvery cotton dress that swirled around her ankles and wrung her caramel hands. “I told you this was a bad idea, Princess.” The laugh lines around her diamond like eyes turned into worry creases as she chewed her full lower lip.
Akiya was still the only one Ev’er allowed to call her Princess. To the rest she was simply Evie.
“I know.” Ev’er’s voice waivered as she dismounted.
Although Akiya had just a few years on Ev’er, her voice came from an ancient world. “Come here and let me see you better.” She opened her arms and took a step forward in her taupe leather boots.
Ev’er shuffled toward Akiya with her head lowered. I hate disappointing her.
The healer wrinkled her nose at the rankness, but didn’t comment on it as she took Ev’er’s left arm in her deft hands and looked at the wound. She sucked air through her pearlescent teeth a few times and Ev’er knew the damage was great. Akiya usually kept comments to herself.
“That bad, huh?”
“Some of the worst you’ve had, Princess.”
Akiya squinted at Ev’er for a second before returning her attention to the wound.
Ev’er shut up.
“I need you to wash up to really assess the damage.” She poked at the gaping toward Ev’er’s wrist, eliciting a strangled cry from her. Blood welled up again. “Off you go, Princess.”
Ev’er covered her left forearm with her free hand and meandered along the path behind Akiya to the very large Kiaax Lake on the other side of an enormous granite boulder.
She passed Phelan with his wild buttercup yellow curls and one stormy gray eye (the other he lost in a fight he refused to discuss and covered with a simple black patch) as he sharpened some wooden arrows. His black tunic’s seams threatened to burst when he moved from all his muscle. Dark black trousers covered most of his even darker “ass-kicking” boots (as he liked to call them). He didn’t glance up from his work, but grunted an acknowledgment.
Across from him – working on some kind of aromatic stew—the portly Quinlin sat in a blue tunic with black trousers and gray all-terrain boots. Upon seeing Ev’er, he rubbed his bald head, crinkled his jolly blue-green eyes into a smile, and waived. “Taalik stew when you’re clean, Evie.” His voice rumbled and made his belly shake.
Ev’er waived back.
As Ev’er walked away, Akiya watched her for a moment and shook her pink head. Then she tied up Thaak next to her own blue Ombre colored horse named Taacnos and ducked into the green tent.
Ev’er tried to keep from leaving droplets as she reached the lake.
Sunlight fell freely over the bright green lake with no clouds in the mint sky to block the way. Medaaf trees –full, wide, and deep fatigue green with millions of extra tiny leaves– lined the shore. Their tall stature made long uneven shadows across the rippling water. The Ethovaak Mountains could be seen across the lake and were so tall they almost blocked the sun hanging high in the sky.
An orchestra of bird calls from Kipple birds, the fiery red and black Kaaza birds and the emerald and aquamarine Gemik birds blended into a beautiful white noise. The air smelled scrubbed fresh and clean as it came across the lake on a cool breeze.
Ev’er kneeled down at the edge of the water and gingerly put her arm in. The cool water felt surprisingly refreshing. She grinned to herself and then noticed her face in the water. Black streaks and splatters crossed most of her pale face and ran down her arms. The cut across her pale cheek from the Kaai demon tail was raw and inflamed. Her eyes looked back at her in a haunting stare. “No wonder Akiya looked worried.”
Phelan was a guard to her late father and Quinlin was one of the chefs. When her uncle took over 44 years ago–after her parents died when she was ten– he started ruling with fear and bloodshed. Her appearance obviously left the men non-plussed.
She washed her face and then put her arm back in the water. Once the bleeding slowed, she stripped out of her sticky dress and unzipped her boots.
A fresh olive green tunic had been laid out for her on a small part of the rock along with a bandage and fresh black boots. Akiya, like most healers, could sense impending doom.
Ev’er gingerly wrapped her arm. She set aside her weapons and glanced around. Coast clear.
Ev’er slipped into the cool water that went to her waist and started washing up. Her body, though long and lean with ample breasts and small hips, was littered with battle scars. They crisscrossed her back, her stomach, her shoulders and her chest. In the 18 months since she’d been on the run from the royal guard and her ex-betrothed Teivel the Depraved’s people, Ev’er’s blemish free skin became the story of her journey. A particularly nasty scar had been left right at the start from the forcible removal of the RFID chip in her upper arm. It had been placed there, just like it was placed in every sentient beings’ arm in this world of Ethovaa, at her birth and contained not only info about her but a way to locate her. The rest of the camp had similar scars.
She undid her braid and untangled her wavy white lockes with her fingers–which was difficult without a brush–after washing them.
Ev’er took a moment to revel in the warmth of the sun and just to be alive.
A snapping noise startled Ev’er and she turned to the shore.
She heard a muttered curse from a male voice and ducked into the water with just her head out. “Who’s there?” Ev’er braved calling out. My weapons are on shore, dammit.
Winmund stepped out from behind the boulder with his dark cheeks somehow enflamed and his hands held up. “Uh, just me, Princess…I mean Ev’er.” Winmund stood at 6’4 with hip length deep black hair he kept in a tight braid and tilted brown eyes that he lined with kohl like his Egyptian ancestors use to. His background was human and faerie mixed. A black tunic cinched at his small waist and green leather pants contrasted against his brown Taalik skin boots. “Uh, sorry.” He covered his eyes. Winmund was great with a broad sword or a plasma gun, a bow and arrow or an energy spell, great to keep your back in a fight, but not so great with the female species.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing, Win?”
“N-nothing.” He winced. “I mean-um.” Winmund paused.
He cleared his throat and tried again. “Akiya was worried you were taking too long, so she sent me.”
“Tell her I’ll be out in a moment,” Ev’er yelled. “As soon as I get dressed.”
Winmund fell all over himself trying to back up and leave. “Yes, Princess… I mean Ev’er!”
Ev’er chuckled to herself and made her way to shore.