He fashioned her a coat using the skin of the Mountain Goat he killed yesterday. Since he didn’t have to sleep it was done by morning. He sat like a board as she tried it on, the warmth alone kept her from complaining. The tundra was devastating.
“Its not that bad.” His voice was raspy and sent ice down her spine.
“Yes, thanks. I guess.”
“No. I mean about your family. It’s not that bad.”
“What are we, three hundred miles from Juilt, almost a thousand from the crown. It doesn’t matter how many times you say it. It is that bad Rediro!” She turned from him and strode out of the abandoned hut they found last night. “For all I know they’ve been assassinated. I’ve been trapesing through the snow for Luera-Knows-What with a myth for so long that I’ve lost count of the days.”
He appeared in front of her tattered bandages flapping in the wind. He bowed. “You know my queen, you disrespect me. If I weren’t bound to your family I’d slaughter you in your sleep.”
“Stop materializing from thin air already! You’re going to give me a heart attack.”
“Would you prefer that I walk through the snow and make breathing noises to make you comfortable? Perhaps I could share your bed to stay warm when we sleep tonight would that please the Queen?”
“ Do you think I chose to be the Minstrel for your family. They say it’s an honor but I’ll have you know its nothing but.” He got his bearings by looking up at the early morning stars and started walking towards the east.
“You’re a great warrior, blah blah blah. Come on Rediro, that was centuries ago.”
“Time does not heal all wounds.”
Realizing she hit a tender spot she followed in silence.
That night they stopped in the shadow of cliff and Rediro procured fire from nowhere for her to stay warm. He sat out on the edge of her camp watching. She traced her fingers in the warm dirt surrounding the fire. Drawing her family and the palace they lived in. Why didn’t the people realize that they were the good guys, her father was the good guy. The Hurens were nothing but traitors to the crown and yet everyone believed them. Images of the aforementioned palace burning to the ground stopped her introspection in its tracks. She didn’t let herself cry.
They marched on for another week. Rediro the Minstrel of House Leavien provided for its only known heir, protecting the family as he had for six centuries. But Rediro grew tired of the games of mortals, and he would have his way sooner rather than later.”
“Why are you just quiet all the time? You know minstrels are supposed to sing or play music or tell stories, something entertaining.”
“Why do you complain all the time? We are but a short journey to the stones.”
“And tell me again, these stones will allow me to scry for my families well-being?”
“No. A powerful woman dwells within them. She will help us both.”
The child Queen of Juilt was no fool. She had her suspicions. Rediro had always been reluctant to help. Stepping in only when his pact would be violated until now.
“You think I’m stupid Minstrel, why have you suddenly become so caring?
“I live to serve and protect House Leavien.” He repeated the age old oath.
“The last heir of Leavien demands that you tell her more about the woman in the stones.”
“As you wish.” He slowed his pace to match hers. The world faded as his cold hand encompassed hers. “As you know, Minstrels are slain by their masters on the battlefields of reality. After which a meditative sojourn into the void binds them to the family that took their life. Your I-don’t-even-know-how-many-greats grandfather sliced me open on the hills in front of what used to be the crown. I watched my lifeforce bleed out on the sands before being sucked into the voids embrace where I met my ancestors and the great warriors of the past.”
The peaked a tall hill and he pointed at valley ahead. “There. That’s where she lives, the void stone goddess, the walker of all realms.”
“But how are you here then?”
“After cutting me down in front of my men he wanted revenge. The shamans prepared the sojourn tea and sent him on his way to consult the goddess and bargain for my soul as his Minstrel. She granted him his wish and here I stand.”
“Yeah, but I mean, something else had to have happened. It can’t be that simple.”
“Oh, nothing ever is my Queen. Come let us summon she walks all realms.”
She cowered in the background and held her hand out to his blade when prompted. Her blood filled the grooves on the stone plinth and the sun set instantly.
“W-w-w-wait. I don’t think we should be here.”
Rediro held his arms out and stared into the sky above her, he had to yell over the wind whipping snow and debris around them. A swirling dark maw opened in the sky and the figure that came out of it was pure nightmare. It was feminine, but it hurt the young queens eyes to look at it, limbs unnaturally long with claw like appendages. It was at the same time her mother and a demon. It was her sister and best friend it was the Huren’s who burned down her palace and murdered her family. The goddess of the stones was everything.
Rediro laughed. “I’m back and I brought the Leavien spawn.”
“Killian Rediro the Hunter, you’ve been away from the void for many years.”
“I was bound. But I brought her as my tribute, let me come home. She willingly offered blood after coming here on her own accord.”
“Is this true darling?” Her claws caressed the Queens face leaving razor thin lines of blood down her cheek.
“He-he-he He Lied! He told me you would help!”
“The world is lies my love. Don’t worry deaths embrace is sweet. This not your fault but that of your grandfathers grandfathers. Time does not heal all wounds. Come to me my son.” She motioned to Rediro and he approached.
Every step brought life back into his body, he bandages fell away revealing muscles growing back the next step brought skin and then hair followed by black steel armor plates with spiked pauldrons and a grisly longbow. The goddess embraced him and he vanished.
“Now. I do hate this part. But we need to address you.”
“I don’t want to die..”
The goddess’s peal of laughter left the Queens ears ringing. “Oh you won’t be dying anytime soon.”
With a sweep of her clawed hand the queen was no more. Her essence fell through the realm into the void where her family waited. All of them they were happy to see her. They rejoiced, cried and apologized. Before she could speak the nirvana of the afterlife was torn away and she found herself standing outside the wreckage of her families palace staring at their heads on pikes. She looked down at her hands, they were bandaged. Peeling a bandage back she saw only bone and fell to her knees crying.
“Come along my Minstrel.” Potilius Huren motioned and she found herself standing. “I think you’ll find that time heals all wounds.”
“I live to protect and serve House Huren.” The words flowed from her mouth before she could close her lips.
“Well I wouldn’t call it living. We’ve work do to Minstrel please go ahead and burn this city.”
With tears in her eyes she willed the flames out of the void and watched as they licked up the walls and gates of her childhood. She followed in Potilius’s wake, head bowed and hands clasped. She vowed to kill the goddess of the stones one day.