"Lucinda," a soft voice called out.

I tore my gaze from Merlin who's smile dropped the moment the voice called out to me.

Reyna entered the room, nodding once to Merlin before looking over at me eyeing me closely.

"You look...tired, m'lady," she observed.

"Is that your way of saying I look hideous?" I asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Not at all. You're the most beautiful woman in all the Five Kingdoms." Her reply was instantaneous, smooth. "However, you'll want to change. You're wanted in the main hall and your soldiers cannot see their queen looking so...drenched."

I touched my face and realized a sheen of sweat was coating it. I guess I sweated more than I thought while trying to create shapes with my magic.

"Wait, soldiers?"

Reyna nodded once, a strand of white hair falling from the updo she had her hair in.

"A few of them would like to go with you on your journey and they're asking to see you to request permission."

"They do realize we're going to the Isle of the Lost? A place that just, in name alone, is just creepy?"

"It is the jobs of these men and women to die for their queen. They want to prove their loyalty to you, m'lady. Besides, you're the Chosen One. I think they'd feel safer with you, anyway."

So, a dress change later, Aengus was escorting me to the main hall. He was mostly excited about going to the Isle of the Lost. One thing I noticed about Aengus was that he seemed to love adventure. He wasn't the kind of man to just sit within castle walls. He liked to venture out into the unknown. Go to places most people were afraid of.

I wished I could be more like that.

In the main hall, there were ten soldiers waiting already. They were dressed in their armor, probably just in case of an attack. Nine of them were men, their swords sheathed and their stances strong, but one was a female. An Elven female to be exact. She had long purple hair and amethyst colored eyes. She didn't have a sword, instead she had a quiver secured to her back and a bow in her hand. She had fierce eyes—eyes that seemed to have seen more than her fair share of suffering, but eyes that seemed to say she had made peace with that suffering and turned it into her weapon.

Once I came into view, the ten of them all knelt on one knee, their hands fisted over their hearts.

"You wanted to see me," I finally spoke up when Reyna nodded at me to do so.

The man in the middle—he was built like Aengus, but not quite as big with blonde hair and blue eyes—seemed to be the leader of the ten of them.

Speaking for them all he said, "We wish to travel to the Isle of the Lost with you, m'lady."

I just studied their faces for a moment, testing their sincerity. I was never the best judge of character. To be honest, I saw too much good where there was bad sometimes. But, I was always good at telling the people who were sincere from the people who were faking. Looking into all of their faces, I could see they genuinely wanted to come with me.

"It'll be a dangerous quest," I finally spoke up. "We might not come back."

I felt like I should at least warn them before I said they could come. They had lived in this world longer than I had, so I'm sure they'd heard more stories of the Isle of the Lost than I had, but just the name struck a chord in me. I knew I had to succeed for my mother, but I was also wary. It wasn't every day you traveled to a strange land and then, the next day, decided you were going to another, much scarier place to retrieve Excalibur.

"We're ready to die if that's what the Fates have planned for us," the leader said. "The ten of us are the best warriors in this castle, m'lady. I know how much your mother means to you, if you truly wish to get her back, we want to help. We want to be a part of saving this land."

How could I say no to that?

"Okay." I nodded. "You can come. We leave at first light tomorrow morning. If I were you I'd get as much rest as I could tonight."

☪ ☪ ☪ ☪ ☪ ☪ ☪ ☪

The next morning crept up on me. Calem and Lhun woke me up early in the morning. Luckily, I had gone to sleep kind of early, so I wasn't too tired. After my rose scented bath, they dressed me in a pretty turquoise dress. It was light and long sleeved, perfect for venturing out into the cold.

They threw a matching cloak over my shoulders for good measure. They also showed me two bags, one was filled with a change of clothes and the other was filled with food and a water tin.

Aengus was waiting outside the door when I came out of the room. He was dressed in his armor, his big arms folded across his broad chest. Taking the bags from Calem and Lhun, he insisted he'd carry it. I thanked them for their work and we headed off to the front of the castle.

Arthur and his knights were there, saddling up their horses. Thom was there, too, dressed in impeccable armor that suited him. When he spotted me, he grinned, stopping what he was doing to come to me.

"This is going to be the strangest mission I think I've ever been on, kid," he told me, patting his horse.

"What? You mean the part about us travelling to a place where few have entered and lived to tell about it? I don't understand why you'd find that strange."

Thom laughed at my sarcasm while I looked around. The soldiers from yesterday were all here, too, saddling up their horses. Even Merlin was here, his face blank as Nimue stood behind him, her face covered with tears.

The troll from the first time I came here—Zulabar—rounded the corner with Aurea. Her beautiful golden coat shined in the rising sun. Everyone stopped to admire her. Who could help it? She was a beautiful creature.

She seemed as excited to see me as I was to see her, bumping her muzzle against my face affectionately when Zulabar placed her in front of me.

I laughed. "I missed you, too, my friend." Looking at the purple skinned troll, I smiled. "Thank you."

He nodded once. "It was my pleasure to look after such a beautiful steed, m'lady. I also took the liberty of saddling her up for you."

Now that he mentioned it, there was a saddle on her back. A beautiful, intricately decorated saddle that somehow didn't clash with her golden coat, but instead made her even more beautiful.

Aengus checked to make sure everything was on properly, before helping me onto Aurea. He attached my bags to Aurea's saddle.

Once I was settled in, everyone else did the same, climbing onto their horses, ready to go. From the corner of my eye, I saw Merlin kiss Nimue's cheek quickly before hopping onto his own horse.

It reminded me a lot about what he said in that hotel room. How he cared for Nimue, but didn't love her. That kiss on the cheek had been...impassionate. Nimue seemed nice. I felt awful that the man she clearly loved, didn't love her back.

"Alright, you lot," Arthur called out, looking regal on his horse. "Once we leave Avalon, everywhere we go will belong to Morgana. She'll eventually find out we're out there and she will hunt us. This is going to be the longest days of our lives. Let's go."

And with that, Arthur led the way out of the safety of Avalon. 

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