Sir Hector Pienta was tired. It wasn’t something he wanted to admit to, but he was getting old and the peace talks he’d been going through with the Amazons had taken a lot out of him.
“You know, Grandpa, when I grow up I’m gonna be a strong knight just like you.”
He looked over at his young grand daughter. She had short cut dark blue hair and bright brown eyes.
“I’m sure you can do it,” he stated. “But what happened to being a baker?”
“I can still cook for myself,” Miranda said. “But if I’m a knight I can make the countryside safe from bandits and other bad guys.”
Hector hesitated. He remembered reaching the carriage that had been bringing her parents home on that fateful day. If Miranda hadn’t been staying with him… “That’s a difficult task to take on,” he said, finally. “But you may just be able to do it.”
The carriage carried them all the way to Preklam, the kingdom of the Amazons.
Hector left first, straightening his suit.
“The Queen is expecting you,” one of the guards said. “She’s in the palace garden.” She wasn’t one Hector had really met and he couldn’t recall her name.
“Thank you,” Hector stated. He allowed himself to be escorted. He held Miranda’s little hand as they walked. She stayed quiet like he’d instructed her.
The garden was beautiful with all kinds of flowering plants. The queen was fully armoured with a long sword hanging in her belt. She had light green hair and dark blue eyes.
“Your Majesty,” Hector bowed.
“Please, just call me Cassandra,” She stated. She knelt down to look at Miranda. “And who do we have here, Hector?”
“My grand daughter,” Hector answered. “My apologies for bringing her. I had no one to look after her.”
“I see,” Cassandra said. “Then she can play with my daughter. Courtney!”
There was a rustling in one of the trees. Hector saw the girl right away. She was about Miranda’s age with hair that was almost the same as her mother’s, maybe a shade darker. She had a mischievous grin and bright blue eyes. She dropped from the tree, landing steadily on her feet.
She ran over, studied Miranda for a moment. “Wanna see my secret spot in the forest?” she asked.
Miranda looked up to her grandfather. He smiled and nodded. The children ran off to play while he discussed the treaty’s terms with Cassandra.
Courtney led Miranda through some bushes and into a small clearing in the shade of a massive tree with bushes grown all around.
“This is my spot,” she said. “These bushes all grow berries too. So, you may be able to find some good ones. Oh, and a small village of pixies lives way up in the tree. They may come down and talk with us, but we mustn’t climb up or do anything rude to them.”
“I’ve never met a pixie before,” Miranda said. She looked around. “It seems like a good base. I bet no adults can get over here.”
“Not easily,” Courtney said. She spread out on the grass and looked up. “So, why are you here with your grandpa?”
“Cause grandpa looks after me,” Miranda said. “I… I don’t have parents any more.”
Courtney studied her for a moment. “Well, we’re kind of alike,” she said. “It’s just me and my mum. I don’t have grand parents or anything.”
“Yeah, but you’re a princess,” Miranda said. “That gives you all kinds of attendants and stuff, right?”
“Amazons don’t have princesses,” Courtney said. “My mum is the queen cause she’s the strongest. When she’s beaten or chooses to step down, whoever the strongest warrior is will take her place.”
“I didn’t know it worked like that,” Miranda muttered. “It’s kind of cool. You going to try to become queen?”
Courtney shrugged. “I’d rather be a normal hunter, I think. What about you?”
“I’m going to be a knight,” Miranda answered. “I’m going to become strong and keep Torla safe.”
“Well, once my mum and your grandpa work things out, our kingdoms will have each other in times of need,” Courtney said. “And we can play together all the time!”
“Why are you so sure they will?” Miranda asked.
“Cause they both really want to,” Courtney said. “And my mum is good at getting what she wants.”
“Still can’t know for sure,” Miranda said.
“Yes I can,” Courtney said.
“Can’t,” Miranda argued.
“Can,” Courtney insisted. “I’ll just ask old lady Elm.”
“Who?” Miranda asked.
“Old Lady Elm,” Courtney repeated. “She’s a dryad with Apollo’s gift. You wanna meet her?”
“I’ve never met a dryad either,” Miranda said. “Where is she?”
“This way!” Courtney called. The girls ran through the forest. They eventually reached a tree that was old and bent, but still going strong. “That’s her tree,” Courtney explained. “We have to be very polite.” She moved carefully forward, followed by Miranda.
“Well, if it isn’t the Klais child.” The old woman who spoke had bark like skin, a bent back, brown eyes with flecks of green in them and dishevelled, twig looking hair. “What brings you and your little friend here?”
“Miss Elm, we wanna know if the treaty between Preklam & Torla is gonna be signed,” Courtney said.
“Treaty?” Elm asked. “Oh yes, I’ve heard whispers of it. Let me look.” She straightened out, her eyes turned black as she chanted slowly. “I see it!” she declared. “The quills will meet the parchment. The treaty will be signed and the next decade will be peaceful.”
“My grandpa is going to make all that happen?” Miranda asked.
“Him, and my mum,” Courtney said. “What about us? Will we be good friends?”
The old woman turned her attention to them. Her eyes remained darkened. “I see the thread that connects you,” she said. “It is a powerful thread indeed. You will spend much time together. But there’s a shadow over your future. Yes, it will show itself fifteen years hence. It threatens to sever your thread. If you would preserve it, you must both be strong and fight for your bond when the time comes.”
“That doesn’t sound good,” Miranda said.
“Don’t be such a worry wart,” Courtney said, throwing her arms around Miranda. “She said it’ll be fifteen years from now. We can worry about it then. Come on, let’s pick some delicious berries.”
The old dryad watched them go. Her eyes caught one last glance of the red thread connecting them as they vanished. She sighed. The shadow she’d seen worried her. Not just because of what it could mean for them, but because of what it could mean for the entire region.