Few human years passed by but I don’t give up. I moved near the woods where I knew my Sunshine was last, and settled in our old family’s castle. We are doing great job rebuilding it and gaining alliance. And I still search for HER. She just disappeared from these grounds. As long as we check all around she is nowhere to be seen. We gambled and tortured, we made fake friends, we bought information and were in impossible alliances no one of us expected. No one even heard about her existence. She just wiped herself out of this dark world. Without much success but at least I know she is somewhere there. I just feel her. She addresses me in my dreams when I fall asleep exhausted and drained from search. She wakes up with me when I open my eyes in evening. I will never surrender. I am after her. I never stop looking for her.. 

  • Hi! Do you want to play? 

Little girl, smaller than half me, appears at my feet from nowhere. Sneaky, I didn’t hear her. I hurriedly check around. She is alone. 

  • What games do you like? 
  • I want to play with water. I’m not allowed alone. Will you come with me?
  • We could play frog.

Silence lingers a while between us till I respond. She tilts her eyebrow. Clearly she never heard about such a game. 

  • Have you ever played it? 

She shakes her hairy head. Her little curls swing in the air and this view brings memories of my sunshine heading to the woods. It stops my breath at that moment. 

  • Where will we find a frog?

Laugh escapes my lips so naturally, I didn’t have time to hold it. Oh, dear!..

  • I want to play with water.

Half angry she pouts her lips trying to persuade me. It’s so adorable.

  • I don’t want to play with frogs!

Her face frowns and her little fingers curls into fists. Everything about her shows, she is determined to get what she wants. It warms up my heart to her even more.

  • Look

I pick up one little stone which was laying at my feet and throw it along the lake’s surface. It bounces several times before drowning.

  • Woah!

Emotion on her face is priceless. Big round bright eyes narrows into a wide smile.

  • Let’s find a few flat small stones. 

We gather a whole palm of them and reach back to the lake nearby. 

  • We throw one, just.. like this.. along the water’s surface. 

I show her and she claps her little palms from excitement, feet jump up leaving ground underneath for a few seconds. It brings my smile. 

  • Do you want to try? 

She nods in agreement, enthusiastically takes one stone and tosses it directly into the lake. She narrows her eyes still fixed on the spot where stone went down. She is clearly pissed off. I hold a laugh. She is a ball of emotion. One more flash back from my past with my sunshine crosses my mind. This little girl awakens me and my stony heart.

  • I already see, you will master it! 

I have no idea, why I’ve just said those words, but her mood lifts a bit up after my encouragement. She picks next stone carefully.

  • What’s your name? 
  • Estrid.
  • Beautiful. Suits you well. Do you want to try once more? 

She smiles and nods. I stand next to her in a place where she can easily to observe me.

  • You look at fingers, but all the magic happens because of my wrist. 

We practice the wrist’s movement. Her eyes stalk my hand’s. I am surprised how much patience despite her young age she already has. 

  • My frog! Frog! Yahoo!
  • It jumps! 

Her fists go to the air in a pure excitement.

Her bright joy goldens my heart. Her soft little hands curl my neck and she gives my cheek a peck. Last time I was so happy when.. My mind wanders back to my losted sunshine. Sadness creeps into my heart. 

  • Why are you sad? 
  • I..

I look for the right answer. She catches shadows of my past, takes my palm in hers and squeezes it. It is surprisingly warm. My eyes meet hers. They are mirroring my sadness.

  • I.. lost someone.
  • We have to wait till they come back. 

She said wise words without probably knowing that. I replay her with a smile and little nod.

  • Let’s find more stones.
  • I can’t refuse, m’lady.

Estrid giggles.

  • What’s your name? 
  • Eirik. 
  • It means true king. Are you a king? 
  • You are smart, m’lady. I will be one day. 
  • And I will be a princess. 

I laugh at her playful tone amazed by her big dreams. She laughs as well holding her imaginary crown and swirling around.

  • Sure, you will be. Beautiful, kind heart and smart.
  • They say the same about my mammy.
  • I am sure, they tell the truth. Where is she?

Her face fells down and I know I just played a string I shouldn’t. My fingers cover her little fist.

  • I wait for her arrival. It should be happening soon.
  • Estrid!

I step aside from her as the man is yelling her name. He is a vampire. Just like her and me. He steps in front of her shielding Estrid with his whole body. 

  • Sweetheart, go home.

She peeks her nose at the side of his leg and gives me a genuine smile.

  • Thank you, Eirik.

She turns on her heel and heads direktion the men came here from.

  • Your daughter is a wonderful child.
  • I am blessed. It’s time for you to leave. It’s not your land.

He clearly doesn’t know who he just met.

  • Not yours as well.

I lace my fingers behind me squaring my bright shoulders and clearly opening chest. He has no authority over me. As royals we feel each other, I can tell he is not one of us.. With some exceptions.. Hurt crosses his eyes.

  • This land will never belong to you.

He squares his shoulders matching mine. He is a warrior under those bizarre clothes and not just a simple one.

  • To whom it belongs?
  • Mother of the child.
  • As she is not here, I could claim it.

I state boldly despite I have never met a decision to do that thought my father would be proud.

He launches a long whip at me at lightning speed. It wraps tight around my ankle and a mysterious man tugs it. My body weight shifts and I almost fall down on the meadow. I tug the whip with a full force so my opponent loses his balance. We catch each other in grip. His feet land and go quickly again in a roll jump making my body turn in mid air. I do the same as my feet touch the ground and swing him in the air. My other hand uses his whip and I twirl and secure it around his wrists. His feet land onto my chest, sending me backwards several inches. I catch the second end of the long whip and tighten it’s loop around the man’s neck.

  • Make sure she will meet me in a few days.

We both are breathless. I had an opponent as good as him only once in my life.

  • She is not taking orders.
  • I already like her. Bring her my message.

His laugh is bright and crosses sharply the night’s air. His cat-look eyes darken. I know this lover’s possessive look.

  • Stay put tight in a queue, at the end of the long tail.

I let him out from restraints cutting them with my sharp dagger. Physical competition is over.

  • You have only a few days. Tik-Tok.

He laughs and shakes his head getting back on his feet and tidying up his lace cuffs.

  • It doesn’t work this way with this woman.

His voice is full of true adoration. Oh, those lovers… 

  • It’s a big disappointment, I have to explain this.. You bring my message, otherwise I will be back with the army and not just here at the border. We will bring hell to the heart of your kingdom.

I have no such attempt, but curiosity takes upper hand. He chuckles polishing lace at the edge of the shirt. 

  • It never scared her.
  • If she is not new in our world, how is so, I never heard of her?

He hesitates before answering.

  • She doesn’t want to.
  • What secrets she hides?

He winces at my words but tries to show his calmness. Everybody has secrets but this family and their ruler in particular. I would be lying by saying it doesn’t raise my curiosity. My mind already draws a future plan of expanding my land and gaining more power. I feel a gap of weakness here and my genes pushes me to the edge. She is not a queen and rulers can be taken down without big tumors. As much as this man in front of me won my sympathy by showing ability to love and stay loyal, almost unbreakable. Almost. What would he choose: his own daughter or beloved ruler?

  • Bring her my message and meet me here.

Continue reading chapter 18