- IV. -

A few days into their journey, war broke out between the kingdoms of Dree and Usquebagh over the unicorn situation and territorial disputes. Of course, Kearney was enlisted to fight. Brietta and Anyon were heartbroken that both of their sons had left, perhaps never to be seen again. When the reality of Camlin’s familial abandonment had sunk in, Brietta became distraught and enraged beyond belief.

“Surely the Sidhe has cursed him!” she shouted, her limbs trembling.

“Or perhaps they’ve enlightened him,” Anyon muttered, more to himself than his wife. In his seat at the table, he held his head in his hands and prayed for it all to end.

The war made Camlin and Enid increasingly wary in their travels. He frequently shape-shifted into a stronger-looking man to ward off anyone who sought to harm her. Though they rarely encountered highwaymen, they had almost been spotted by Usquebaghian warriors on a few occasions. Fortunately, those rubes had been too immersed in their own antics to notice the pair.

However, the Duke of Usquebagh’s nephew, Harvey the Fearless, understood the threat that Enid posed. For nearly a decade, people such as Brietta the Soothsayer had prophesized about her. Harvey, being the fool he was, resolved to thwart destiny, for his sister hoped to lure the unicorn. He planned to defile Enid and make her his concubine. It would be a comprehensive victory indeed—not only would his family’s status be elevated, but he would have an ethereal little minx to do as he pleased with.

As Camlin and Enid walked through a charming patch of woods, he drew his arm around her, almost instinctually.

“I’m afraid we won’t be safe for much longer,” he whispered, as if the enemies might hear him. Sure enough, a battle had broken out not far from where they trod. When they listened closely, they could hear echoes of men shouting, swords clinking, and horses galloping.

As the sounds became louder, Camlin told her, “Climb up one of these trees, m’dear! And be quick about it!”

With a nod, Enid obliged, and she made her way to the top with the grace of a dancer. Though she could not fly as a half-blood, she retained the fluid movements that characterize fairies, such as the heightened ability to leap. For a moment, Camlin marveled at her graceful agility. He was willing to fight to the death to protect this creature, but would she need it?

The sounds of retreating warriors redirected his attention. Camlin considered shape-shifting again, but he decided against it. He wanted them to see him in his true form.

As the warriors of Usquebagh came into his field of vision, he knew that it was too late to change his mind. Camlin was greeted with catcalls of exasperation and confusion. Why was this apparent stripling loitering about alone during a battle? Camlin was rather surprised that they had paid him any heed at all.

“And what do ya think yer doin’?” one of them barked. His face was covered in unkempt reddish whiskers.

“I’m merely passing through,” Camlin replied calmly.

“Well, who are ya, anyhow?” another grumbled.

The young hero grinned broadly. “I am Camlin of Dree, second son of Anyon the Sorcerer-Smith and Brietta the Soothsayer.”

His statement earned a series of puzzled expressions and agitated murmurs. A few of the more foolish men snickered and mocked the proud young man. After a few moments, silence fell upon them, and they parted to enable their leader to pass. Harvey the Fearless came forward on his mighty steed. He looked as though he were overseeing the entire universe. The warrior-chief was several years older than Kearney, and he looked twice as strong. Camlin observed the contours of his large muscles, which were visible beneath his light chainmail. Harvey’s tanned skin glistened with sweat, causing his dark locks to cling to his forehead in a picturesque fashion. As is true of all warriors, his eyes blazed with an insatiable fire. In that moment, Camlin wanted nothing more than to feed it.

“It’s been said that you know the whereabouts of Enid the Half-blood. Perhaps you’ve even been traveling by her side! I shall not have my victory usurped by the son of a tradesman!” Harvey the Fearless declared.

Camlin suppressed his fear with a smirk. His anger was mixed with a peculiar amusement, akin to the thrill he got from waving around lighted sticks as a child.

“Sorry to disappoint, but I’m traveling alone. In fact, I’ve scarcely ever heard of her. And I’ll have you know that my father is the greatest blacksmith in all of my kingdom and yours; I dare say in all of the British Isles!” Camlin retorted.

The warriors of Usquebagh gasped at his bold words. Harvey raised a hand to silence them. “Silly boy! Do you not value your own pathetic life? I could kill you by hardly lifting a finger. But I am feeling merciful, so I shall spare you for now. When I find Enid, I will make her mine, and there’s nary a thing you can do about it. Now, be a good boy and go back to your workshop!” he jeered.

With a swift command, Harvey the Fearless led his men away. A few minutes after they had left, Enid deemed it safe to descend from the treetop. She and Camlin continued in the opposite direction.

“I swear to protect you at all costs,” he said.

“How I long to believe you,” she whispered.

The End

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