Three Kingdoms by Iain Bard

EXTRACT FOR
Three Kingdoms

(Iain Bard)


Three Kingdoms

Part One: Sacrifice

 

Chapter One: Garath

 

Garath was in hot pursuit. He urged his stallion onward by pressing the heels of both of his boots firmly into the horse's powerful flanks. Ferehar knew this command, and his sprint accelerated. The gap between horse and rider and the vigorous stag sprinting frantically one hundred yards ahead of them started to close rapidly. Garath leaned forward, to minimize the resistance of his muscular frame against the rush of wind caused by Ferehar's inspired chase. He stroked his horse's neck and whispered encouragement into his ear, as they moved as one entity, propelled like a missile by Ferehar's eager charge towards their escaping quarry.

The buck veered to the left, heading toward the safety of the dense forest. He leaped with surprising agility over the rocks and shallow gullies of the heath at the border of the woodlands, expertly maneuvering his massive antlers as counterbalance for his bulky hindquarters as he jumped. Garath gazed with admiration as the beast somehow managed to leave the obstacle course behind him and disappear into the dark embrace of the hardwood sanctuary.

The rugged terrain at the forest boundary slowed Ferehar's progress, but he would not be denied his prize. Although the horse slowed his gallop in order to navigate the uneven ground, he soon reached the forest edge with his rider still firmly in the saddle. He hesitated, waiting impatiently for his Master's signal: permission to proceed into the woods in order to continue their hunt.

Without a second thought, Garath pointed his horse towards the buck's entry point, answering his steed's request with the firm reply of both spurs. Ferehar eagerly bolted into the forest with renewed purpose. Garath laughed to himself. Although most would consider his bold penetration into the mysterious faerie domain to be a foolhardy act of youthful arrogance, others would undeniably consider his incursion to be a brave and daring undertaking, most befitting to his royal status as the kingdom's ruler.

The mystical territory of the dryads, he thought to himself. Tales about the forest inhabitants were plentiful and, in Garath's opinion, greatly exaggerated. Although he did not doubt the magical attributes of the dryads, he was skeptical about the specifics that were detailed in the various stories. Supposedly, there were first-hand reports of shape transfiguration, ethereal body concealment, thought transference, spell casting, levitation and flight, inordinate strength, and hypnotic entrancement. These wild stories of sightings and encounters, however, were all based on very brief interactions between mortal and faerie, and Garath suspected that much of the content was confabulated. Any fleeting exchange between mortal and dryad invariably engendered feelings of panic in the human eyewitness, which usually led to an adrenaline-fueled truncation of the impromptu conference. After a successful flight to safety, these cowards were miraculously transformed into heroes with more than ample opportunity to recount their embellished faerie tales, the validity of which were rarely if ever questioned, except of course by others who may have had similar experiences.

Gareth had ventured into the forest alone, on many previous occasions, and he had never encountered any dryads, enchanters, or mystical beings. He did not doubt their existence, despite the lack of personal confirmation, but he held a firm belief that the forest beings were not dangerous or malevolent. If given the opportunity, Garath resolved that he would stand his ground and face his unpredictable magical opponent, rather than flee. After all, no less would be expected of him as King of the human dominion of Aedalon, but beyond this expectation was the true reason for his brave determination. Garath held a secret hope that he might someday forge an alliance between his kingdom and theirs, and in so doing unite mortals and immortals in a single shared, peaceful domain.

He was unescorted, and this was his preference. Not only did he thoroughly enjoy the solitude of his frequent solo excursions, but it also pleased him to exert his kingly prerogative by ignoring the pleas of his counselors that he be attended by men at arms when he hunted or wandered. He would never agree to submit to these limitations on his freedom, and he forcefully resisted all well-intentioned efforts to shield him from the dangers that surrounded him as the ruler of a large kingdom. His advisors had long since learned to refrain from initiating futile efforts to protect him.

Naturally, they were concerned for his welfare, since Garath as yet had no successor. His mother had died while giving him life, and his father had been killed in battle when Garath was merely a boy. Their only child, Garath became the precocious Ruler of Aedalon at the tender age of fourteen. Now twenty-five, he had refused thus far to take a wife, which was yet another source of frustration and consternation for his advisors.

He had innumerable suitors, and had taken even more lovers. His tall and muscular build, dark brown hair, piercing hazel eyes, and bright flashing smile would have made him irresistible to women, even if he had been a lowly peasant rather than the King. One glance from him could bring on the moisture of female desire. With closer exposure to the promise of Garath's compelling masculinity, the pull was literally irresistible. Women from far and wide were drawn to him, somehow, the way iron is drawn to a magnetized pole. The eventual physical contact that invariably resulted was both inevitable and unavoidable, even for the most virtuous of maidens.

Unfailingly, he would slide his cock into the wet pussy of a panting beauty, in the privacy of his royal quarters. His power to charm with a look or a simple gesture seemed almost supernatural. Although he may have actually been in possession of some paranormal attributes in the romance arena, the true nature of his unearthly talent was the size of his royal endowment. After being fucked by his eleven-inch cock, all of his female conquests became desperate for a repeat performance. None could resist the advances of Garath the Enchanter, and the list of available damsels requesting his hand in marriage took up countless rolls of royal parchment.

He valued the freedom of his sexual encounters as much as he valued his time alone with his equine companion, Ferehar. He did not share the concern of his advisors, who thought that he should have a wife to bear him children in order to avoid the possibility of an illegitimate heir's resulting from his sexual escapades. If one of my female companions should bear me a son, so be it, he often thought to himself. He had little concern or respect for the ridiculous, arbitrary technicalities of royal lineage. His child would have royal blood coursing through his veins, regardless of whether the issue was from his wife, his lover, or a mistress. In fact, he planned on continuing his reign as bachelor King for as many additional years as possible.

His thoughts turned back to the matter at hand. He caught sight of a blurred flash of brown, as his eyes adjusted from bright sunlight in the field to dark shadows in the forest. The buck slowed his pace, and turned to face his pursuers, so as to assess the threat they posed. Ferehar snorted with defiance, and the buck had his answer. Alarmed, he turned and fled deeper into the wooded darkness. The horse and his royal passenger responded in kind, taking up the chase again with renewed energy.

Garath reached for his crossbow, which was strapped securely to the right side of his saddle. He trusted Ferehar with the details of navigating through the dense brush, low-hanging branches, and random maze of tree trunks, while he locked an arrow into the trigger slot of the bow. His weapon was now ready, but he was too far from the stag to attempt a shot. Also, the tree trunks prevented a clean sighting at the moment. He would simply have to wait until they reached a clearing before he released the sleek, sharp missile through the heavy forest air on its whistling journey towards its mark.

He would have his opportunity within moments, it seemed. The darkness owing to the dense canopy of leaves and branches was now broken with intermittent shafts of bright sunlight, as the ceiling of interlocking deciduous fingers lost some of its integrity. The trees were now spaced more widely apart, and Ferehar was able to pick up his pace and shorten the distance between stallion and tiring stag.

They followed the buck into an enormous open clearing, whose lateral boundaries consisted of a jagged semi-circular border of trees. The half circle's edge was immediately in front of them, a mere 150 feet away. Garath realized with alarm that the clearing's fast-approaching border was a deep gorge, with a span of twenty or twenty-five feet from the near side of the forest meadow to the far side, and the buck was sprinting at full speed, heading directly for the chasm as if he harbored a death wish.

With disbelief, Garath saw the stag reach the edge of the cliff while dashing at breakneck speed. Leaving a cloud of dust behind him, he vaulted from the brink of the ravine, unhesitatingly hurtling his body over the sheer drop. Having been airborne for a few brief seconds, the stag landed on the far side of the chasm, within a mere inch of the edge. Amazingly, he kept running without losing his stride, and disappeared into the forest.

Momentarily distracted by the unbelievable escape of his noble quarry, Garath suddenly recognized that he and his steed would soon plummet to their death if he did not act immediately. They were fast approaching the perilous brink, and Ferehar would never be able to leap across it successfully. There was precious little time left in which to avert a life-ending disaster.

Garath had no choice. He pulled back sharply on the reins, and Ferehar responded appropriately by stopping short. The steed slid stiff-legged towards the margin of the ledge, with his rider clinging to his horse's headstall and halters. Ferehar pawed at the earth ineffectually, in an attempt to avoid an upturned tree root directly in their path. Unable to alter his course, the equine crashed into the natural obstruction, and Garath was thrown forward through the air towards the gaping chasm. The tree root acted as a speed bump of sorts, and due to this providential interruption in the horse's momentum, Ferehar slid safely to a stop only a few feet from the lip of the gorge. But Garath was not so lucky.

The King landed on the dusty ground, but his momentum carried him over the lip of the gorge. Fortunately, however, he started to slide feet first over the edge of the cliff, which meant that his hands were free to grab frantically at a partially exposed root from the upturned tree. His effort was successful, and his grip was firm, but the root started to rip from the ground as the force and weight of Garath's sliding frame was transmitted to the deciduous savior. Wriggling, the root emerged snake-like out of the ground, but its hissing threat of impending disaster was silenced by a large rock that fortuitously blocked any further progress towards the canyon ledge.

And so Garath hung feet first over the edge of the abyss, clinging for dear life to a root that was barely an inch in diameter. He heard the roar of a mighty river, which flowed far beneath him at the bottom of the forest canyon. If he fell, he knew that he would suffer instantaneous death.


Chapter Two: Ellewyn

 

"I have been having dreams, Merwyn," Ellewyn announced abruptly to her best friend.

She sat nervously under an ancient oak tree in the heart of the deep forest. The tree was an old familiar friend whom she had nurtured from the time it was a tiny sapling, over three hundred fifty years ago. The two main root shafts of the massive tree emerged from the mossy earth to join with the trunk in a huge inverted V, much like two limbs and a crotch that blended smoothly into the torso of the sedentary wooden giant. Ellewyn rested comfortably, with her head cradled in the recess of the converging limbs. She leaned against the tree trunk as if she were lounging on a divan in a sitting room. She knew that she looked ill at ease, and she could tell that her apprehensive appearance had startled her friend almost as much, if not more, than the troubling comment that she had just made to him.

Merwyn lay sprawled on the mossy carpet beneath the tree, facing her, just a few feet away. He had been resting his head in the cup of one hand, which in turn was supported by a bent elbow that was wedged into the soft earth of the forest floor. He looked at her in surprise, lifting himself from his supine position to sit cross-legged, with his knees touching her extended bare feet.

"Dreams?" he inquired, with concern evident in his voice.

She nodded, rubbing his right knee affectionately with the ball of her delicate left foot, in an attempt at reassurance.

A look of dread passed over his face, and he furrowed his brow. "For how long, Ellewyn?" he asked, apparently fearful as to what she might reveal.

"For a few months now," she replied, not daring to meet his eye.

"A few months?" He was clearly upset that she had not chosen to share this information with him until now. He paused. She appeared to reflect on the implications of the ominous news that she had just revealed to him. When he spoke again, his voice was calm, but she knew from his tone that he was truly frightened.

"It has been many hundreds of years since any of us have dreamed," he observed musingly. "This is very troubling news, Ellewyn."

She was painfully aware of the nature of a dryad dream, which was a very rare occurrence indeed. In contrast to those of mortals, a faerie dream was always a vision of reality yet to come, rather than simple imaginings blended into a fantasy. There had never been an exception to this rule in all of dryad history.

Her friend drew in a deep breath. "The last time a vision in sleep came to a dryad was seven hundred years ago, Ellewyn." Ellewyn was quite mindful of this truth, but she let Merwyn continue without interruption. "It was Keira's dream that predicted our fifty-year long conflict with the sylphs, Ellewyn," he said. "We had to make many sacrifices in order to protect and defend our precious forest kingdom, and our race was nearly destroyed in the process."

She recalled the conflict, which occurred when she and Merwyn were merely adolescents, so many long years ago. The sylphs' incursion into the forest had been unanticipated and insidious, and if not for Keira's vision the dryad race would have been annihilated by the unwelcome intruders. The battle was long and difficult, in large part because sylph imposters had infiltrated into their forest population, and were nearly impossible to discriminate from genuine dryads. The sylphs had been persistent in their efforts to blend into dryad society, and the task of exposure and expulsion was often problematic and never straightforward, taking fifty long years finally to rest completed.

The sylphs possessed powers that equaled those of their dryad cousins. In fact, it was generally believed that the two faerie tribes were descended from a common ancestral race of enchanters. None could recall the ancient argument that had eventually resulted in the division of the two kingdoms. Regardless of the basis for the age-old schism, however, each group had subsequently lived in peaceful independence for many thousands of years, with the dryads in the north and the sylphs in the south. Neither had generated a single complaint against the other, until the sylphs began their quest for expansion into the dryad forest in the north. The sylph insinuation into dryad territory, which had been occurring for many years, had gone undetected, until Keira's dreams gave warning. The resulting conflict resulted in many losses on both sides. Sylphs murdered many hundreds of dryads, and the dryads retaliated in kind. In the end, the sylphs retreated to their forest kingdom in the south, and all had thankfully been quiet these past seven hundred years.

Ellewyn gazed fondly at her friend, studying the expression on his handsome face in order to determine if her decision to reveal her vision to him now was prudent. He had been her constant companion since birth - ever since the moment their Dryad fathers had removed them both ever so quietly from their human cribs more than seven hundred years ago, rightfully to unite them with their faerie kindred for the remainder of their immortal lives. Merwyn had been her loyal and devoted confidante, friend, and partner since childhood, and there was nothing that she had not shared or could not share with him. She knew very well that the time had now come for her to engage Merwyn in her fateful future. Not only was time running short, but Merwyn must also be informed of his own role in her vision of the future.

She reflected with some nostalgia on their common bond of heritage. In a mischievous mood that day so long ago, their dryad fathers had executed a mutual dare and seduced two beautiful human maidens one warm summer day. The maidens, who had wandered into the forest in search of a certain medicinal flower that they hoped might cure an ailing friend, were spotted by the dryad men. Succumbing to a spell of seduction and subsequent amnesia, the maidens were impregnated by their faerie consorts, but had no recollection of the magical contact.

Of course, Ellewyn and Merwyn could never live their charmed lives among humans. Although the natural dryad form was virtually identical to the human physique, the children's true lineage would eventually be revealed when their magical abilities came to light. Thus, in keeping with tradition for such mixed breeds as they, their fathers had exercised their ancient paternal custodial rights. Usurping the human mothers' right to their babies, the two cousins had silently spirited the babies away on the eve of the autumn equinox, leaving their human families with two empty cribs, as well as a perplexing mystery that none in the mortal realm would ever be able to solve.

And so, Ellewyn and Merwyn had come to live with their faerie fathers, and were raised together. Although there were a handful of other half-breeds like them, they were a sparse minority in the dryad community. Young dryad males with a mischievous sense of humor conceived them all on a whim and a lark, and the resulting children were thus, in many ways, the product of a faerie's practical joke. The faerie and human progeny were always welcomed warmly into the dryad community, however, without prejudice or ridicule. There was really no reason to ostracize them, after all, since they blended in perfectly with their faerie kindred. There had never been a case where the mixed-breed's faerie powers were diluted by their mother's human blood. In fact, if anything, the mixture of the two races seemed to enhance the potency of their inherited dryad talents. The human and faerie combination also improved certain dryad physical characteristics. All of the mixed breed dryads were vigorous, lusty and visually appealing. In short, they all possessed an enticing beauty that far surpassed the usual dryad norm.

Ellewyn felt deep, pure love for Merwyn. They had been platonic companions for their many centuries together, spending every moment with each other as best friends and inseparable allies. Dryads did not marry, and sexual relations had for the most part ceased to exist due to the extremely infrequent need to reproduce. So, Ellewyn and Merwyn had formed a spiritual bond rather than a physical one.

Despite the unspoken understanding that the relationship between them should remain asexual, Ellewyn often felt an unsettling attraction to her virile once-removed relation. Dryads had no reason to cover their bodies with clothing, and so both male and female assets were always plainly visible to all. Naturally, she had often noticed his penis as they sat or slept together, and her secret inspection of his sexual organ always elicited a strange dampness in her virginal pussy, and a powerful tingle of uncontrollable desire in her loins and nipples. She glanced briefly at his gorgeous manhood now, which she could have easily fondled by leaning forward. She fantasized briefly about actually doing so, and felt the immediate physical response to this sexual thought moisten the delicate feminine folds between her legs.

Dryad penises as a rule were small, measuring an inch and a half at the most when erect. This was a simple result of biology. Over the ages, the dryad phallus had become a virtually vestigial organ, since it was rarely used for reproduction. Although coitus between male and female dryads occurred periodically to produce young, there was very little need for copulation, since there was no aging and thus no natural death in their faerie race. If any of their kind suffered a traumatic death, a coupling would then be necessary in order to replenish their population. This was a rare occurrence, and dryad coupling had not been required since the devastating conflict with the sylphs so many years ago.

But Merwyn was a half-breed, and he had inherited the genitalia of his human ancestors. She recalled with a tingle in her loins the many opportunities she had had to admire his cock, which would often erect to its full, beautiful eight-inch length while he slept. She would lay awake for hours, watching him sleep and imagining how his long, slender penis would feel if she grasped it in her hand, stuffed it in her mouth, or sank it into her wet, eager pussy. She always kept these sexual thoughts about Merwyn closely guarded, however, in an earnest attempt to comply with the dryad policy of repressing all physical urges and desires.

However, she often suspected that Merwyn might be fighting the same battle. She had frequently noticed the lust in his eyes as his gaze wandered over her large, round breasts or the curves of her smooth thighs. His organ would always give undeniable testimony to his sexual arousal when she would nonchalantly open her legs to give him a brief but full view of her enticing femininity. She dared not discuss these desires with him, however, and as such her physical passion for him remained unrequited.

Lost in this sensual daydream, Ellewyn was startled back to reality when she heard Merwyn's voice. He was asking her the next obvious question. "Well? What is the nature of your dreaming? Please tell me your vision."