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An interesting girl is born in a strange land, not knowning what she is, who she is and whether or not she has a life in the village which has shunned her all her life.

One day she makes a terrible mistake...

Then she's taken... and meets the lands king who is very interested in her.

But time is running out, and someone is out to get her.

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2. Chapter Two

Chapter Two

 

 

When Forteé woke, the sun was setting and an early owl was hooting. Forteé stretch and yawn, taking the opportunity to release her pent up muscles, a mug clattered in the main body of the house and she heard hushed voices, she crawled sleepily over to the opening of the attic and looked down, Azariel and Ismira talking, Forteé snarled softly and crawled back to her bed, but as she was snuggling down Azariel’s booming laughter blazed in her head. Forteé yowled and moved faster than a flying arrow down the ladder, half crouching on the last step. Eye’s silted. Both adult’s stared at her wide eyed then smiled

 

“You’re up, good” said Azariel

 

Forteé rose up like she was pulled by strings and walked gracefully toward them swinging her hips

 

“Well you woke me” she replied groggily and then looked at Ismira, Both adults saw her facial features fight its way into smile and she hugged Ismira awkwardly, Ismira tensed and hugged back, patting her shoulder

 

“I don’t mean to be rude, but why are you here?” Forteé said pulling away, Ismira’s eyes brightened and she whipped out a green ankle-length dress and plastered it to Forteé’s body

 

“No, No I am not wearing that dress, whatever you both have planned I am not going” protested Forteé taking a step back, Ismira’s smile faulted and she looked at Azariel. He looked at Forteé, grabbed her arm and turned her around

 

“Ismira and her family have invited us to dinner”- Forteé scowled-“and you are going” said Azariel sternly, he  then lowed his voice to barely a whisper “They’re trying to get to know you, I thought this was what you wanted” Forteé pulled her arm out from his grasp, her ears were flat against her skull and pupils large covering most of the colour Azariel couldn’t tell whether she was angry or sad he looked down at her tail for sign’s but there was nothing, he looked back up her face was blank,

“Talk to me” he said softly rubbing her arm Forteé didn’t answer she just stare into his eyes

 

“Come on Forteé don’t close off on me, talk”

 

“There will be tension in the air and awkward silence Father…” there was a stunned silence in which Forteé stammered hastily “I-I mean Azariel… they all hate me. You can see it in their eyes” she left the sentence hanging  

 

Ismira spoke “But my brothers are fascinated, they want to know about your oddness…your foreign features” Azariel’s face drained of colour and Forteé walked back up the ladder to her bed. Azariel excuse himself and followed

 

“You are going Forteé end of discussion” he snapped

 

“You can’t force me” she retorted

 

“Yes I bloody can” There was scuffling 

“Ow! That hurts”

“Then stop struggling”

Ismira crawled up the ladder to see what was happening; Azariel had Forteé by the arm and had lifted her half-up from the bed whilst Forteé was pretending to be a dead weight, both look breathless and stubborn, Azariel tugged her again but she planted her claws into the wood and put her full weight backward, Azariel looked just about to slap her

“A-Azariel” stammered Ismira “if she does what to come, she does want to come” they both blinked and looked at her, they both suddenly spoke at once

Azariel said “But you were ecstatic about us both being there” and Forteé said “why are you helping me?” Ismira looked blankly at them sliding back down the ladder.

 

Two hours later Forteé watched from her landing as Azariel and Ismira left the house, her adopted father stopped and looked up at from the open door a shimmer of hope in his eyes but when Forteé blinked down at him with silted pupils, he sighed and closed the door. The sound of their retreating footsteps faded to a dull patter then nothing as Forteé rolled onto her back and stared at the ceiling, she could hear the mice in the thatched roof and the soft purr of moving grass in the wind. After a while she sighed and thought she’d die of boredom so she scrambled down the ladder and was ready to reheat the porridge when she spotted the green dress neatly folded and placed tauntingly in the middle of the table with a semi-precious stone shaped like a roaring cougar placed on the top. Forteé glared at it, Ismira had obviously place it there for her to see, she knew Azariel hadn’t done it because he was rubbish at folding, marching toward it she picked it up holding the chain of the necklace against the fabric.

The dress was soft to the touch; it was obviously woven with fine wool Forteé sudden and viciously stripped off her sleeping clothes, washed and slipped the pretty dress over her body put on the necklace, brushed her hair  and stared into the mirror, the girl looking back at her wasn’t her. Her mid-tanned skin seemed to glow and her golden caramel brown coloured hair hung loose and lustrous around her waist, and green silver-speckled eyes blazed with delight warmth.

The dress felt like a second skin and fitted snuggle around her body complementing her slender frame and small breasts, she turned round and spotted a slit in the dress were her tail had automatically found as if it had a life own and slipped through, Forteé moved it about and giggled then put the guard on the hearth, blew out the candles, snatched her hooded-cloak, locked the door and headed toward the village. When she walked down the hill she set off at a run lifting the dress a little so she wouldn’t trip and flew over the landscape becoming a blur of movement.

A journey that would have taking half an hour running for a human only took her eighteen minutes, she stopped just out of sight from the first house and taking a back alley climbed onto its neighbours house, jumping from roof to roof with ease, once a tile came loss and she nearly dropped off the rooftop but clung on with her nails and claws as a group of three slightly drunken men passed under her then pulling herself up again continued on to her destination. Taking pause on the last roof she scanned the dark her eyes reflecting the light of the moon then dropped landing on her feet and walked stealthily up to the house set apart from the rest of the village. She straightened when she reached the door and cast her eyes about again, she could hear laughter, footsteps and the clunking of plates, cutlery and cups, Forteé almost turned back around when she saw movement from a nearby window and the door swag open and a bulky man with dark hair and a beard stood smiling down at her

“Forteé!” he boom and enveloped her in a bear hug, Forteé never being hugged by any other person other than Azariel stiffened and gazed wide eyed when he release her

“Come in, come in” he boomed again slamming the door shut and ushering her inside the dining room when she entered Azariel’s grin made her wriggle with delight, she didn’t show this outside though and regarded him with loving contempt his grin just grew wider knocking ten years off his age, she gazed around the room and saw two other men sitting at the table opposite her adopted father were staring at her, she felt like hissing but held back the thought and waved instead, their eyes widened and one cried “you’re missing a finger!” she repressed a snarl and turned on her heel but she was turned right back again by the bulky man and plonked on a seat next to Azariel she leaned toward him and asked

“Who is that bearded man?”

“Hmm…Oh his name is Ulhart, I thought you would remember him?”

“Well I don’t and…” Forteé stopped as she spotted the two men gazing at her Azariel followed her gaze

“These are Asar and Cesh, Asar and Cesh this is Forteé” introduced Azariel, one of the men held out his hand

“Asar” he said his voice was cultured and Forteé took his hand. Wiry, ropy muscles adorn his arms, which each had one long, pale, and thin scar cutting from elbow to wrist. His hands are thick and calloused. A set of large, seeking eyes the colour of slate grey bore into hers and his boldly shaped nose jutted out with stature. Whilst his whole face had the tanned nature of one who spends much time in the sun. Cesh nodded at her his dark hair was long and combed into a semblance of neatness, bound back from his face. Curling at the ends, the sorrel locks formed a loose tail that just covered the back of his neck. His skin is a pale olive hue, with the undertones common to many that pervade the land. His figure is lithe and slender, and had veered away from a powerful musculature and developed into the graces that would gift the body of a dancer. His face is angular and dark-browed, his dark grey eyes shaded by the shadows there. His nose is long and thin with a slightly curved tip that ends just above the soft flesh of his slim lips. Forteé scrutinised the two men, they looked nothing like each other apart from they’re grey eyes.

“Where did you get you scars from Asar, if I may ask?” Forteé said, Asar smiled grey eyes twinkling and made himself comfortable on his seat

“You may ask away Forteé, I am just as interested of you as you’re interested in me”- he took a deep breath and let it out-“ they were made by you, you were just an infant of course… I picked you up by the tail see and you didn’t like it one bit near tore my throat out Father… that’s Ulhart to you had to break your leg before you let go… you alright” Forteé had gone pale her ears were drooped and her eyes were watery

“Suppose you think I am a beast or whatever” Forteé moaned Asar cocked his head to the side and chuckled

“You ain’t no beast darling, I was in the wrong for pick you up by the tail and you did give me fair warning” he sniffed then added “besides I like a girl who’s feisty” all three of them looked shockingly at Asar. None was more shocked than Forteé.

Just as the silence was beginning to stretch to awkwardness the door to the kitchen opened, a fiery haired woman stood gazing at them carrying a small basket of bread for a second Forteé thought it was Ismira but this woman had one blue and grey eye and was fat or looked it, her belly was too round. The woman walked forward and placed the basket on the table then turned to look at Forteé

“My, my look how you’ve grown” she said her voice was surprisingly deep “I am so glad you came, stand up, stand up” Forteé obeyed she was a head taller than the woman and she secretly prided over the fact

“The dress fits lovely” the woman said again then she scolded “Boys!” Forteé reeled back clutching her sensitive ears “I cannot believe you didn’t take her cloak… where are you manners” after a fair set of excuses Cesh left his seat and took Forteé’s cloak “I am sorry about your ears dear, I forgot that they were sensitive here let me kiss them better” Fortee leaned back

“You don’t need to kiss them there fine” she said hastily gently batting away the woman’s hands, Forteé was finding the new mothering strange Azariel had always just told her to get up or deal with the pain with little things like this. But the woman was persistent and forced Forteé’s head down kissed her ears and even tried to clean her face with a handkerchief which she spat on Forteé was saved when Ulhart came through the kitchen door and pulled the woman gently away from her booming

“Come Uma, Forteé’s not going to become a lady anytime soon. So stop mothering the poor girl besides that’s a task for Ismira” Uma resentfully left her be and sat down with the help of Ulhart who then went back into the kitchen, Forteé notice that Uma’s scent was different from Ismira’s it was maternal and at the same time producing a multihued of pheromones Fortee could not help smelling and tasting the air and as her brain processed the information she could feel eyes on her

“Uma are you going to have babies?” Fortee asked Uma nodded

“I am going to have a baby Fortee not babies” she corrected but Fortee shook her head

“No, if I knew you were having one I would have said… you are having two but there might be a third it’s hard to tell from the pheromones in the air. I would need to lick your skin to be sure there is a third or touch your belly”

“You can tell all that from just sniffing the air” Asar said looking wistful Fortee nodded and he whistled. Cesh was looking at his mother’s belly

“I don’t want three siblings at once” he moaned “they’ll rise the roof with their crying” then he looked at Azariel who seem to have been forgotten “Has she said something like these before” Azariel nodded

“And she was right” he stated there was a crash in the kitchen and Cesh shivered “that’s damn freaky” he whispered Ulhart came back in carrying food and behind trotted Ismira an icy quiet fall in the room and Forteé wanted to disappear she could feel an air current from an open window in the kitchen, if she made a dash for it Azariel couldn’t stop her but he knew her too well and grabbed her upper arm in a tight grip

‘I said too much’ she thought then she said aloud “I should go”

“Nonsense you just gave us something to think about, Honey triplets do run in my family” Uma said looking at her husband who looked horror stricken but he shook his head dislodging the image that was floating in his mind “I hope their boys if what Fortee said is true” he replied Uma glared

“They’ll be what they’ll be” she replied stiffly. The dinner was a noisy affair for Forteé, many times did she have to rub her ears when booming laughter filled the room and soon she had a pounding headache, so she drew deep into herself until the chatter became nothing but background noise.  Forteé listen to the outside world, owls hooted, foxes foraged and rats scampered, Forteé looked up at the roof and tilled her head to the side focusing her ears to the sound, yes a family of rats were nesting in the ceiling she flicked her tongue out tasting the air. She could tell the family hadn’t been there long and they wouldn’t stay there! She knew it was only animal nature

“What you listening to?” Forteé focused on the table again and found that everyone was staring at her

“Nothing” she said quickly and sipped her water taking care not to look at anyone, Ulhart scoffed and boomed “it must have been something very interesting, come on tell us… it will give you something to talk about, you like to hunt and you seem better than your father anyway” and he looked at Azariel with twinkling eyes, Azariel looked back too

“Yes my daughter does have a better shot than I do” he replied and scratched behind Forteé’s right ear making her purr loudly and he scratched harder Forteé closed her eyes and pushed her head toward him more her tail wagged then she pulled away and her purring stopped and then started again when Azariel stroked her hair

“Stop it” she moaned quietly and rested her head on his chest “you’ll make me fall”-she yawned-“asleep and then who will help you see in… the… dark” and her eyes closed.

It had been three days since the hunting trip plus dinner and Forteé had spent most of the first day oiling her bow and quivers to her satisfaction while her father took additional visits to the village

Obviously running his hands all over Ismira’ she had thought grumpily as she gutted a chicken. And she spent the other two days getting the house ready for winter, making sure they had enough food, furs to keep warm and wood to keep the fire going because she didn’t want a repeat of last year. She’d scrubbed floors, polished windows, covered holes, put more thatching on the roof, washed clothes, fixed clothes and Azariel’s shoes, sharpened tools and polished till they gleamed.

Forteé looked upon her handy work and smiled the house smelt clean making her squeal in delight, she liked good hygiene but also to save her nose, ever since she could talk she had drilled Azariel to take at least two to three baths a week and wash his mouth with soap every morning with no exceptions. She was just fixing herself a mid-day meal when there was a knock on the door; she frowned and opened it a crack Asar stood on the threshold gazing at her with a grin on his face

“Forteé so glad you’re in, may I come in” he said sounding very much like his father Forteé closed the door and undid the lock stepping back to let him in. he entered and she closed the door leaning against it non- existent eyebrow raised, Asar coughed and twiddled his thumbs Forteé could smell the tension and sweat on him

“Take a seat Asar, would you like something to eat” she asked gently

“Huh… oh no I am not hungry” he said and his voice seemed distance they both sat down at the table and Fortee finished making her mid-day meal but didn’t eat it

“You seem troubled what’s the matter” she asked voice still gentle, he looked at her and took a breath

“Would you like to go foraging with me!” he blurted smacking his hands on the table and peering at her with beseeching eyes Fortee nodded slowly eyes wide

“YES!” Asar exclaimed and scooted round to sit next to her “so what day do you want to do it”

“Well before the snow sets in, which is about a week from now” she replied and they put their head together discussing the best day to go, Asar became very animated talking about the best route to his favourite foraging spots and how the winter berries tasted with toast or made into jam they talked so long that went Fortee looked up it was already nightfall

“It’s nightfall, and I haven’t started dinner” Fortee wailed jumping from her seat, Asar watched as she run around the kitchen

“Forteé, Forteé” he called but she wasn’t listening “For…” he grabbed her arm as she passed and she banged into him from her momentum and he fell off the chair pulling her with him. They stared at each other from the floor and a blush crept up Asar’s face

“Am I interrupting something?”

Forteé sprang up so fast Asar was left blinking on the floor she stalked to the stove lit it and was chopping a cabbage so fast the blade was a blur. Asar stood and met the pale green eyes of Azariel

“I’ll be going” he said and walked past Azariel to the door

“No stay for dinner, your mother wouldn’t like it if you left here unfed” replied Azariel drawing him back by his collar “sit” Asar sat and watched Fortee work, Azariel took off his coat and disappeared into the bathroom. Forteé took out the meat from the night before and dropped it into the pot as the cabbage boiled, she chopped an onion, dropped it into the stew and took out various spices and sprinkled it into the stew whist stirring it

“Why are you looking like that” said Forteé turning her head to look at Asar, her pupils were dilated

“Like what?” replied Asar

“Like I am something… Err something pretty” she said fumbling with the words

“That because you are” Azariel said as he return from the bathroom clean and fresh, he walked over to her and chucked her under the chin “that smells good what is it?”

“Stew”

“Oh… So what were you two talked about” he asked taking a sit and lacing his fingers on his belly when Forteé didn’t say anything Asar spoke “we were discuss when we would go foraging, I needed someone with a good eye, so that we picked the best of the winter berries”

“And my daughter was the best you could come up with” Azariel asked his voice becoming gruff

“Yes” replied Asar “knowing how the forest works probably comes second nature to her, she’s the best of the best even you know that”

“I feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven, I am here you know” interrupted Forteé, both men looked at her, she rolled her eyes “stew’s done anyway”

Azariel got up and placed bowls and spoons on the table Forteé ladled the stew and they ate in awkward silent for a while then Asar broke the silent by asking when Azariel and Ismira were to be married, Forteé groaned inwardly and hastily spoon down her stew she excused herself causing both of them to look at her quizzically and rushed into the bathroom. She filled the wooden tub with warm water and scrubbed herself clean she took extra time with her hair which was her pride and joy. When she was done she cleaned the bathroom and exited Asar was gone and so was her father she saw a note on the table and picked it up

‘Forteé as its late make sure to lock the door, I won’t be home tonight Asar has invited me to stay with him for the night. I’ll be home by mid-day. Thanks for dinner

P.s he really likes you.’

She frowned at the note then tossed it into the fire placing the guard over it, and blowing out the candles then snuggled down into her bed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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