This insisted on being R. *sigh*
“Kal? I need you to move the barrels in the hay loft today.”
Kal paused in the midst of buttoning his blue and gold coat to look at his master. Nyla sat on the edge of the bed, running a comb through her long brown hair.
She was so pretty, he thought, as he always did. So frail, so delicate. He loved being with her, but his duty was clear.
“I can’t today. I’m on guard duty for the Queen.”
She put the comb down and looked up at him, a line forming in the middle of her brow. “Again? You’ve been guarding her all month.”
“It’s my turn,” Kal told her, fastening the last button at his throat as he bent down and kissed her on the forehead. “I have to go.”
“But I need you here,” she protested. “There’s so much to do to get ready for winter.”
“Winter’s weeks away,” he promised. “The Queen needs me. I’ll be back tonight.” He gave her a quick hug and went out the door. Nyla felt disgruntled but ultimately accepting, just as she always was, and he did have to go. The Queen was the Queen, after all. Battle sylphs were supposed to protect her. No one would ever want to hurt Nyla.
Outside, Kal shifted to his natural form, lightning flashing through his cloud body, and he took to the air, headed for the palace.
Kal stood with Blue at the back of Solie’s office, both of them conversing in silence while they guarded her. She didn’t pay much attention to them, busy writing with a quill on a piece of parchment. Some sort of missive to the leader of Eferem, he gathered. She’d been inside all day, but Kal didn’t mind the lack of action. He was a battler. He could stand there all day.
Are you going to the reading class tonight? Blue asked.
I suppose I should, Kal said. The Queen wanted them to all be educated, after all. Some sylphs took lessons with the human children during the day. Those who couldn’t join in took classes at night instead. They were more haphazard, being taught by sylphs instead of humans, but still worthwhile. I should spend some time with Nyla, though. She doesn’t like that I’m guarding the Queen so much right now.
Neither dos Casi, Blue agreed. I try to make up for it by bringing her flowers.
Does that work?
It did at first. Now she expects it. I need to figure out what I’m going to do when all the flowers are gone for winter.
Kal smirked, standing with his hands clasped behind his back. Solie’s quill scratched on the parchment. Maybe he should get some flowers for Nyla, just as an apology for leaving her alone so much lately.
In his mind, he was always aware of his master, their link constant, even with the distance between them. She felt busy to him in much the same way that Solie was busy, but with an overtone of physical effort. What was she doing, he wondered? Whatever it was, she felt at the limit of her strength. Was she trying to move those barrels in the hay loft by herself?
Kal shifted in place, his gaze on the back of Solie’s head. Blue looked at him sideways, his eyebrow quirked. What is it?
Nyla’s moving some barrels. They’re too heavy for her.
Huh. She should have waited for you.
Yeah. A tinge of guilt hit him. She shouldn’t do that, it’s what she had him for.
Solie sensed his emotions and looked curiously over her shoulder at him. “What is it?” she asked.
Kal opened his mouth to say it was nothing when everything changed. Nyla’s frustrated exertion changed abruptly to terror and then to pain and nothingness so fast that Kal only had time to go rigid with shock. The link between them, that precious bond between battle sylph and master, snapped.
He barely realized he was screaming, that he was shifting to his natural form and deserting his duty to shoot out the door, taking it off its hinges as he did. He saw without caring as Blue threw himself over the Queen, protecting her from Kal’s mad rush.
He crashed his way out of the palace, howling, as battlers rose up all over the Valley, bellowing as they responded to his screams. He ignored them, didn’t even see them, rushing instead for home. Home, where he should have been.
Kal reached the barn behind the cottage and shifted to human in the doorway, running to kneel next to the slight form sprawled on the floor with a low, agonized moan.
Nyla had fallen from the loft, right off the edge where they would toss hay down for the horses, and had broken her neck. She’d died instantly. How? How did this happen? Kal began to shake, pulling her up into his arms to cradle against him. He started to rock her, keening.
Something buzzed by his face and he looked up. A wasp buzzed past. There were more, dozens of them up in the air around the loft and suddenly he understood. Nyla had gone up there alone while he was off guarding the Queen, and while she was moving the barrels, she’d uncovered a wasp’s nest she hadn’t known was there. He hadn’t known. They’d swarmed her and she’d stumbled...
Kal howled and thrust a hand out and up. Energy boiled in his palm and exploded outwards. He took the entire roof of the barn and the loft off, vaporizing them and leaving a storm of splinters and cinders to rain around him where he knelt and rocked his master. Nyla, Nyla, Nyla...
A footstep sounded behind him and he heard Mace’s voice, rough with compassion. “The Queen is asking what’s happened,” he said.
The Queen. The miserable, now hated Queen he’d been protecting when he should have been with his master, with the woman who loved him. Pain and anger flooded through him and he felt ruined inside, as broken as the woman he held.
“Fuck the Queen,” he whispered and bowed his head over his lover.