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Story and Eirnin stared at each other across the few feet that separated their selkies. They were both hunkered down in their saddles and pressed tightly to the backs of Pinni and Ped to help streamline themselves in the water. Almera hadn’t been lying; the selkies were fast. Very fast. Story felt like a torpedo barreling through the ocean, and looking forward was not an option—not if she wanted her eyes intact when they arrived in Faerie Land. Fortunately for her, the view to her side was quite pleasant; Eirnin was still only wearing cut-off leggings.

She shifted in her saddle and felt the scabbard of Eánna’s dagger dig into her thigh. Adair had given it to her just before they left, saying that she knew it was a poor replacement for her father’s knife, but that Story should have something to defend herself with should the need arise. Eirnin had frowned at that last bit but agreed that it was better to be safe than sorry.

They’d departed, again without fanfare, from Vevila well-stocked with sushi to snack on and a couple of sealed shells filled with plenty of ad’har to last them for over a week, though the trip would only take two days at the most. Story was confused at first as to how to direct the selkies, but despite their silly dog-like dispositions, they were quite intelligent and could understand very basic instructions.

Almera directed them to follow the coastline west until they reached the main river into Faerie Land and then to follow it to its source, the large lake in the mountains there. At that point, it would be up to Story to direct them with her compass to the entrance of the garden.

What could possibly go wrong?

Oddly enough, so far, nothing had. Their first day had passed without incident, with Story and Eirnin taking turns sleeping on the backs of the selkies who never seemed to tire. In fact, aside from Pinni darting toward the occasional school of fish (with Ped always hot on her fins), and a giant squid that they easily out swam, Story was pretty bored.

The sea was beautiful, and at one point she thought she’d seen a mermaid or two, but the selkies were going too fast for her to be sure of what she’d seen or to see anything else of interest. Being with Eirnin was nice, except he couldn’t talk. One-sided conversations and being relegated to asking him yes or no questions got old pretty fast, so they ended up just looking at each other more often than not. There were worse ways to spend her time, Story supposed, and it did give her plenty of time to think about, well, everything.           

She’d spent her entire life thinking of her mother as a villain: a terrible person who’d abandoned her and her father right after she was born because she didn’t want the responsibility or burden of a child. Now it turned out she was a fairly responsible person—as responsible as you could expect a dryad to be.

Her dad wasn’t completely innocent in the matter either—he’d chosen not to accompany her back to Vevila. Not that Story could blame him, but still… Eilath had also made a similar decision nearly a century ago when he left his love in Ailes to wander the world instead.

If Story was honest with herself, she couldn’t be angry with them over the consequences of their choices. If those choices hadn’t been made, the twins would never have been adopted, and Adair certainly wouldn’t have been born. Story couldn’t imagine not having Will, Katie, or Adair in her life; it was simply too painful to fathom. They all brought so much color and vibrancy to everything. Despite the twins’ relatively short lives, they’d lived life to the fullest, enjoying every day completely. If Story didn’t know better, she would have sworn they were the ones who were part dryad, not her.

So in the end, she wasn’t upset with her parents or Eilath—who had become like a surrogate father to her by this point. If anything, she felt sorry for them: sorry that their choices had led them to the relatively lonely lives they had. Sure, her dad and Eilath lived for their children, but who could they share that joy with? And her mother had all the pressure and responsibility of an entire race, with no one to help her ease the burden. No listening ear or comforting shoulder. In many ways, Almera reminded her of Eánna.

War of the Seasons, book one: The HumanWhere stories live. Discover now