(IP) A Long Journey and a Restless Heart
The warrior rested in the lush, green grass of the hillside, watching the peach tinted clouds above her. The pennant she held was torn and battered, the horse’s face upon it nearly unrecognizable.
The ache in her bones was familiar, and normally, she enjoyed it: it was proof of her hard work. She was one of the Queen’s guard, and one of her best warriors. From the time that she was twelve years old, all she’d ever wanted was to be one of the Queen’s knights. But on this solitary hillside in the country, Selene could not help but wonder if it was time to tell the Queen that she wanted a different life.
Her horse stood behind her, his long, dark mane fluttering in the breeze. His familiar weight was a comfort, the scent of hay and apples making her think of home. Home also made her think of someone else, but she didn’t dare follow that train of thought. It wasn’t forbidden, exactly, but a knight wasn’t to enter an official relationship, not unless they asked the Queen’s permission to hang up her sword.
Her heart ached; to distract herself from her conflicted thoughts, she reached for the satchel that rested against Achilles’s flank, filled with dried meat, cheese, and fruit. It was a lonely, solitary meal, but it worked. Giving Achilles an apple and a carrot, she gnawed on her portion of the food, knowing that soon she would return to the palace, to that familiar feeling of isolation and loneliness and her.
Try as she might, Kaia could not stifle the memories that pounced whenever she was not fighting or exploring, and she could not ignore the rush of heat and love that lived on inside of her heart, despite the distance between them.
She stared at the palace in the distance, gilded gold and pink in the coming dusk. A mad, crazy, impossible idea began to form inside of her mind, too reckless to bring to fruition. Or was it? The scene unfolded in her mind like a dream.
She rode Achilles to the palace gates, waiting for the door to lower and grant her passage. Rose was standing in the great hall, clothed in a gown the rich color of sapphire, the hair she’d been named for piled in a chignon at the nape of her long neck. She was deep in conversation with a male courtier, and as Kaia walked up to her, she felt a reckless rush of jealousy, and had to resist scowling.
“Rose, Rosie, I’m home,” Kaia said, walking over to her, clasping her beloved’s hands. “I’ve come to take you away from here.”
Rose blinked, her brow wrinkled, and she stared up at Kaia as if in a dream.
“Truly, Kaia? You mean it?” She whispered, in a high, flutelike voice. “Don’t toy with my affections. And The Queen—”
“I’ll give up my knighthood if it means being with you, Rosie.”
“I couldn’t take your career from you.”
“Of course, I love my profession, Rosie. But I love you more.”