Page 11 of Pretty Little Thief

Font Size:  

So I left. Making the four-day journey, finding the healer, and getting what we needed.

On my return to my family, I rode until the sounds of clashing swords hit my ears. I hopped off my horse, tied it to a tree, then creeped through the shadows of the forest to get a better view.

Men were falling on both sides, but the opposition was circling the brigade. I narrowed my eyes, searching for a sign of who was fighting who. The muddy garments, bloodied shields, and the night sky made it hard to see. But then a silvery light reflecting off the moon caught my attention.

The man stood tall, sword in hand, preparing himself. The crown on his head made something stir inside me. A need to protect him.

The circle around him was closing in. I gripped my sword tightly and made my way to them.

No one anticipated an attack from behind, and by the time they figured it out, fifteen of their men were slaughtered by my hand. The king’s men started gaining traction, but I didn’t stop my assault until I was standing in front of the man I had come to protect.

I was covered in blood—but not my own.

When I finally reached the king, most of the opposition were either dead or retreating. I bowed my head out of respect. His raspy voice filled the air around us.

“You—you saved me. You saved us!” he shouted with pride. His men sang my praises, but that wasn’t why I did it.

The king looked at me with a gleam in his eyes, one that matched my father’s.

I wasn’t sure I could even explain the pull I felt inside me, tugging at my heart.

“I’m just glad you are safe, Your Highness,” I said, turning my back to leave. I didn’t know his name or the kingdom he ruled over, but when the universe speaks, you listen.

My feet carried me away from the king and his men. The journey ahead of me was still a long one, and my family was waiting.

“Wait! Where are you going? Come back!” he yelled, and when I turned to answer him, he was already heading straight for me.

“You can’t just swoop in and save the day, then leave without so much as a name, son.”

I don’t know why, but my heart warmed at his term of endearment. I wasn’t looking to replace my father, but the sense of familiarity made me stand a little taller.

“Tristan, Your Highness.” I offered my hand, and he grabbed it instantly, pulling me into a hug.

It should have felt weird, but it didn’t.

He pulled back to get a good look at me. “Well, Sir Tristan—”

“No sir. Just Tristan,” I quickly corrected. He cocked a brow and eyed me skeptically.

“Not a knight? How’d you learn skills like that without proper training?”

“My father, Your Highness. He was a knight in Vanora and taught me everything he knows, which is a lot,” I said with a chuckle.

“I’d say so,” his brows drew in as he leaned closer where only I could hear his next question. “You don’t know who I am, do you, Tristan?”

My eyes went wide. I didn’t want to admit that to the king, but it would have been wrong to deceive him. I closed my eyes, pushed past the shame inside me, and shook my head. He erupted into laughter.

He slapped me on the shoulder, still laughing. I was thankful for the night sky because my face was burning hot.

He held out a hand in front of him, and I took it. “Rian, King of IronHaven,” he says with pride. “Nice to meet you, Sir—Just Tristan.” We laughed.

“You may not be a knight, but you have the courage of thirty men, son. You’d do well in my guard.” It’s not a question, it’s a statement—from the King of IronHaven.

I nodded graciously, unsure of how to respond.

“Well, it’s settled then. You’ll return to IronHaven with my brigade and take your place in my guard.”

My chest seized with panic. A place in his guard? I wasn’t sure if wanted that. I’d never had a place to call home, and each of the five kingdoms had always held a special place in my heart. People like me belonged to the entire realm. Storm’s Vale had been a place for wanderers and dreamers, like me—like my family.