The Thorn King has had enough. Banished to a wasteland, forced to wear a crown of jagged thorns and condemned to rule over thieves, murderers and the miscreants of Thornacre is not a life that the rightful King of Darkwell had planned. The only way to save him from his torturous fate is to pass on his thorned crown to a male heir, to do so he must find a suitor for the eldest of his three daughters, Aynia the Moon Goddess, who wishes to be free and not tied down to a man whom she does not love. When Aynia goes missing, the King must use whatever strength and motivation he has left to get her back and be free from his curse…
Chapter Chapter 2
Once Prince Aulom was gone, the Thorn King dismissed the few of his subjects who had sat through the whole meeting and watched them all hurry through the doors. His youngest daughters, Fenne and Grianne watched him from where they were stood in front of the nearest pew to the throne. They preferred to sit among the people of Thornacre rather than look down on them from the platform upon which their father sat. Grianne, the Ice and Moon goddess, approached the throne and regarded the King coldly
Would you like us to seek out our sister, Father? She asked him, her voice had always sent shivers down his spine and filled the air with its chill. The King looked up at her.
She will return soon, she always does He replied, regarding Fenne with a glance in her direction before returning his gaze to Grianne who gave him a slight nod of her head
Perhaps if you did not insist on marrying her to men of his sort, she would stay at home, She commented, interrupting him before he could object She is not a jewel to be sold, Father, you cannot keep doing this to your daughters The Thorn King kept his temper in check as he leaned back in the hard wooden throne and looked up at his daughter. Sometimes he forgot that Grianne was the youngest, she acted so much older than her two siblings. She would make a good Queen. Alas, although he felt pained that he had been reduced to giving his daughters hands away in marriage but he could not trust himself to tell them why it had to be this way. However, perhaps if they did know, they would be more co-operative but he did not trust them enough to let them find that out.
“Aynia keeps turning them down. You, on the other hand, agreed to marry Lord Finn He told her. His daughters cool façade faltered for a moment and she glanced away from him
That is the point, Father, I no longer wish_ She was interrupted by the heavy doors of the court opening, letting in a gust of cold wind as a figure cloaked in green velvet walked in, their bare feet treading wet footprints on the cold stone floor.
The Thorn King did not call for his guards; instead he rose from his throne and stalked towards the figure and pushed the sodden hood down. He did not need to look at their face to know who it was, he knew from the moment she walked through the door. She looked up at him with her dark eyes, so much like her mothers, with the same spark and questionable emotions within them. The King found it hard to look at them; it brought back memories of his betrayal. He remembered how heartbroken she had looked and he could always see the same heartbreak in Aynias eyes.
Sister! Fenne and Grianne chorused from behind him, rushing towards their eldest sibling. The King turned to look at them behind his shoulder and they stopped their advances towards them and fled out of the room without him having to tell them to do so. He turned back to Aynia, his eyes darting up and down her face looking for any trace of what happened between her and Aulom and found nothing. Aynia could hide her emotions just as well as he could which both made him proud and infuriated.
Where have you been? The King enquired
The lake, Aynia replied simply, raising the corner of her mouth into a slight smirk Did Prince Aulom not reach your expectations? The Thorn Kings face contorted in anger, causing beads of blood to spill from his hairline and roll down his face, the red startling against the pale white of his skin.
Do not take that tone of voice with me, young lady. You embarrassed me in front of the whole Kingdom He said through gritted teeth. Aynia stopped smirking and raised her arm up to dab the dribbles of blood from her fathers face with the cuff of her dress sleeve
Then maybe you should stop trying to marry me to fiends like him or anyone at all, She lowered her hand, looking up at him pleadingly Why are you doing this to us? The King took her wrist and observed the dark stain on her dress, black against the green velvet, before releasing her suddenly feeling very tired
We will find you another suitor and you will not bite his ear off this time. Now retire to your chambers, you must look presentable for your sisters pre-wedding feast tomorrow He told her. Her pleading look turned into a glare as she took a step away from her father
Mother would never have let you do this She hissed at him, her eyes blazing with anger
Your mother is not here The King replied quietly. The fact that he did not shout it made Aynia even angrier and she snarled at him in a way that reminded him that she was not at all human. She had her fathers temper and her mothers magic that could be used to do something about her anger if she wished.
Their mother had been the Goddess, Danu. When she had become pregnant, they did not expect their daughters to be full goddesses such as she was. Children between gods and mortals were extremely rare, but when they did happen the children were usually half-mortal and half- Faerie. But Danu was no ordinary goddess. She was by far the most powerful the Thorn King had ever seen and it was not a surprise that her powers made his daughters full goddesses like her. This made them all the more detached from him. The King often thought that if his girls were had the characteristics of a mortal, they would be able to understand each other better and not have such ghastly conflicts. He did not love their mother, their marriage had been an agreement that he did not wish to reflect on, but part of him wished that she was here to help him look after his unmanageable daughters.
I wish she was here, Aynia told him I despise you The Thorn King took a deep breath in and out, shutting his eyes and listening to her retreating footsteps as she left him stood in the court room alone with the rain pouring down on him through the holes of the ceiling.
Prince Aulom sat at a damp, moulding table, cradling a tankard of what the barmaid had told him was ale. However, he was starting to think it may have been dirty water from the sink. Nevertheless, it was alcoholic and the more he drank, the less he cared about the taste.
Hed not had high expectations when he approached the run-down shack that was The Green Man Inn, but what little expectations hed had could not compare to how much worse the tavern was in reality. The amount of filth on the floors had dirtied his expensive boots the moment he stepped into the building. The noise was deafening. Crowds of townspeople were dotted around the tiny tavern; some frolicking with young wenches of low morals, some sat drinking and laughing in groups of four or five, a few were sat alone brooding over their troubles as Aulom was and a drunken elf of a man was sat leaning against a table and strumming annoyingly on an out-of-tune lute.
Aulom had hoped to retire to his home in Spinosa to lounge in his comfy chair with a glass of brandy, doze off as he usually did and try to forget the events of the morning. However, when he had returned home, his father the King had scorned him for his missing ear, stripped him of his title and cast him out of his Kingdom to avoid further humiliation. Prince Aulom was himself humiliated by having his title passed on to his infant brother who was a small, snotty thing with a tendency for temper-tantrums. It was fair to say that he was not in for a good night.
He finished his ale and summoned over a wench with a click of his fingers to order his fourth drink of the evening. The girl who came over to him had dark hair and blue eyes, a combination that Aulom had always approved of. Had he been in another situation, he would have perchance sought to woo her into the room he was staying in tonight. However, he was in no mood to do so now. The wench approached him and leaned forwards, exposing to him her heaving bosom, intentionally, Aulom thought, as she gave the table a cursory wipe with a wet cloth. She looked directly into his eyes and smirked a little at him
Another ale, handsome? She asked. Aulom grunted a ‘yes’ and pushed his empty tankard towards her, the movement causing the lapel of his jacket to flop down from where it was hiding his mangled ear. The blood was now drying and the wound had started to give off a vile smell. The woman could not hide her shock at the sight of it, her eyes went wide and she brought her hands to her face My, what happened to your ear?
I dont pay you to ask questions. I pay you to get me drunk. Now be gone, wench Aulom snapped. The woman grabbed his pitcher and hurried away while Aulom readjusted his lapel and watched the woodlice scurry over the surface of his table.
While the alcohol had numbed the pain of his ear, it had only increased his anger about what had happened between him and Aynia and her wretched father. If the stupid girl had done as he had told her, he could have been King of all Thornacre by now. Sure, he was once the Crown Prince of Spinosa but only when his father died which could be decades away, he knew how much the King of Thorns wished for his life to end and knew he would have been crowned immediately. He could have been consummating his marriage by now had Aynia not bitten his ear off. However, she would not have bitten his ear off if he had not forced himself upon her. Which would not have happened if she had just accepted his proposal and gave herself to him willingly. Aulom felt another surge of anger and brought his fist down on a woodlouse, crushing it.
A tankard full of ale slammed down in front of him and broke him away from his thoughts, froth spraying up at him as the liquid sloshed around the cup. Aulom glared up at the wench and seized the jug, pulling it towards him and cradling it in his hands like a lion protecting his kill from the rest of the pride. The girl smirked, tilting her head to look at the dried blood on the side of his face.
Mustve been a nasty brawl, Ill give you that. So go on then, tell me what happened She grinned down at him. Auloms glare only grew harder as he took a swig of ale and slammed the cup down with more force than hed intended, creating a puddle on the table.
That is none of your concern. Be gone, you vile creature and refrain from asking me further questions! Aulom snapped. The woman hurried away and Aulom breathed out a sigh of relief. He had no time for women who used their mouths to speak rather than anything more beneficial to him.
Thats hardly a way to treat a lady, earless Said a voice from behind him. Aulom spun around in his chair, ready to punch whatever sorry face had spoken to him in such a manner but paused when he saw the monster that stood before him.
A man, or what vaguely resembled a man, loomed over him. He was almost a giant, not that Aulom believed such beings existed, but he was by far the biggest man the prince had ever encountered. He was huge not just in height but in width as well. His head was absent of hair and the greasy skin of his face glistened in what little light that shone from the dying candles which hung from the walls of the tavern. He had tiny beady eyes that were almost covered from the many bulging warts that surrounded his eyelids. His large, pig-like nose was crusting with mucus. His lips were chapped and colourless, but it was the inside of his mouth which caused Aulom to squirm in his seat. What few teeth he had left were disturbingly yellowed and brown, the wide gaps in between the moulding fangs were gaping and Aulom could have sworn he saw maggots festering in his gums. He wore a greasy shirt which clung to his obese frame, the sweat patches under his arms looked days old, on his legs he wore the rags of what could have been trousers when hed first purchased them. The stench of him made Aulom regret the amount of alcohol in his system and his stomach lurched.
What happened to your ear? Little tiff with the Missus? The man jeered, saliva spitting out of the gaps of his teeth. He raised a large hand and took a swig of whatever revolting drink was in the tankard he clutched. Swallowing back bile, Aulom raised his glare to the man, raising the corner of his mouth into a drunken sneer.
What happened to your face? He retaliated. Without warning, the man grabbed hold of the front of Auloms jacket with a sweaty hand, hauled him off of his chair and threw him with immense force to the other side of the room and into a group of people. Aulom grabbed hold of a young man to steady himself. The man looked down at him in distain
Get off me! he bellowed, shoving the prince away from him. Aulom, steadied himself, squared his shoulders and tried to blink back the overwhelming dizziness. As he turned back to the man who had thrown him, the young man pointed at him and grinned in childlike glee Wait, I know you! You was at the Thorn Court this morning! Heads turned at this remark and many jeered at him
Nice face, earless! One man said
Serves you right for hurting the Princess! Said another.
Aulom was bubbling with rage now as he gathered whatever dignity he had left and stalked out of the stuffy tavern and into the chill of the evening. Throwing his empty tankard into a puddle, he stormed his way up the lane towards the Thorn Court; a place of which hed once imagined calling home, and approached the guards quietly and carefully. As soon as the guards saw him, their hands were on the hilt of their swords but Prince Aulom was faster. He unsheathed two swords from his back scabbard and plunged the blades into their abdomens in one swift motion. He did not have time to watch the light fade from their eyes as he pulled the blades out again. Sheathing the sword that was in his left hand and keeping the other gripped firmly in his right, he broke his way into the main hall of the court, grinning as the dying guards yelled pitifully after him before running headlong towards the Thorn Kings chambers.