A widow emotionally scarred. A warrior’s new wife. Will love conquer all?

Ordered to marry the newly widowed wife of his enemy, Zyon accepts his call of duty. After admiring Irae from afar, it almost seems too good to be true.

His brother King Iver has upheld his vow to make her his, at last. Now Zyon must earn the trust of a people who have been trained to fear him and woo the broken soul of a woman who has only known cruelty from a lover’s touch.

A curse from the past, reminds the people of Insula they are far from alone in the world. A daring winter journey leads the people of the Willow Kye to Bear Claw, to unite against a common enemy; but will bravery lead the Princes of Insula and the women who love them to their deaths?

How can love bloom, under such turbulent occurrences? Especially, when neither Zyon nor Irae, have ever experienced what loving another so completely, means.

Duty, danger and discipline combine to deliver the emotional ride of the King’s Enforcer brother Zyon’s delicate ascent to heroism in the eyes of the Willow Kye and the wife he never believed would become his, Irae.

This is book two of the Princes of Insula series. It can be enjoyed independently but reading book one first may enhance the experience.

Publisher’s Note: This sci-fi romance contains elements of danger, suspense, action, adventure, power exchange, and sensual scenes. If any of these offend you, please do not purchase.

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Sample Chapter

Years Earlier

The Princes of Insula, Iver, Zyon and Quinn were all gathered around the great fire, surrounded by their elders in the middle of Bear Claw Village. Their father, King Tybrin was laughing as he mingled with his people on this jovial summer’s eve.

The border guards had just changed their shift, and they were celebrating Iver’s return from his first mission at The Wall. The Wood Lords were the ruling sons and daughters of Insula, enemies of the far less populated weaker people, the Willow Kye. Both tribes were in a generational war that had begun long before those living now had declared themselves as enemies to the other. It was just passed down orally from elders to young in both tribes that neither group could trust the other. The stories cast Insula and her people in a constant state of chaos.


Folklore said the island was cursed, by a God named Mikos, ruler of the land, sea, and air. He had coupled with Mylala, one of the first human daughters of creation and together they christened the island of Insula as their own.

Upon the birth of their identical demigod twin boys, Malthisious and Myzah, Insula was alive with celebrations. Mikos was so happy he made the entire island bloom into a bountiful utopia where the villagers wanted for nothing and peace was enjoyed.

To give his sons their own sense of identity, Mikos gave Malthisious the magical power to control the creatures below him. He could transform or possess the body of any living thing, except his equally powerful brother.

To Myzah, Mikos gave him power over the weather but cautioned his sons that with greatness comes a greater responsibility. They could not use their powers for evil against one another or the people of Insula. If they did, they would forfeit their magic to the next generation and be deemed unworthy, by their selfish behaviour. While still the son or descendant of a God, they would be as powerless as a mortal human, and forced to watch their own child who was worthy in mind and heart, reap the benefits of their genealogy instead.

The mark of the true descendant would be their eyes, the windows to the soul. The true descendant who was beholding of the power would be able to enact their magic through a look. When using their magic, their eyes would crystalize, giving proof they were the chosen one.

If his sons and their descendants lived peacefully, without being corrupted by the powers they inherited, they would live with the powers until their natural death. Then, and only then, the magical gifts would be passed to their worthiest living child, so the rulers of Insula would always have one demigod amongst them. A stark reminder to their people, of their connection to a God and not just being mere mortal. That, Mikos prayed would ensure the islands success, until the end of time.

Unfortunately, as the boys grew it was clear that Malthisious was a kinder soul than his twin. Myzah grew more jealous with each passing year, and eventually tried to poison Malthisious to become the sole ruler of Insula.

Malthisious found out about his brother’s plan and had him arrested. However, using magic he escaped, plummeting both men into war. Myzah’s people and Malthisious’ people were locked in the feud, where they had to choose a side to pledge their loyalty. It was then that Mikos stepped in, furious they had failed to live honourably. Since it was Myzah who had started the trouble, Mikos exiled his ruthless son and his people to an island on the other side of the great sea. He called it Oecam, or ‘other world’. It was not as great as Insula, but there he and his descendants could prosper if they worked hard to cultivate the land and work for their success. He punished Malthisious as well, removing the utopia and cursing the people of Insula to not know peace, until the five-hundred-years had passed, and harmony finally came to the tribes of Insula.

When the punishment was over, the true descendants of the twins would meet. A flock of strangers entering their waters would be the first sign to the tribes of Insula that the people of Oecam were coming, and the final show down would be had. The spirits of the brothers would arise in the bodies of those in possession of their gifts once the spell of resurrection was cast from Myzah’s descendant’s lips.

If Myzah had failed to develop kindness and character, and sought revenge upon the soul and body of Malthisious and his descendant, he would have to try and kill Malthisious once and for all in an equal one on one battle. If he succeeded Insula would sink to the bottom of the sea with all her people and Myzah’s descendant would inherit the powers of Malthisious. Oecam would become the new powerful island and rule until the end of time.

However, if Malthisious accepted the challenge from his brother and his descendant won the battle the curse on Insula would be broken, and the people would resume their utopic existence. Malthisious would inherit Myzah’s powers, and Oecam would become an island inhabited only by mortals and unprotected by Mikos.


The village was alive with drummers, singing, and story telling. Draco wine was flowing freely, lightening the mood for some who had spent too long patrolling the border camps to ensure the Willow Kye’s compliance.

Zyon was playing a game of chase with Quinn, when Tybrin called them over. Both boys immediately obeyed their father and went to sit by him and Iver. Lutta had returned Iver to Bear Claw and was sitting quietly carving a pipe to smoke the weed he had in his satchel.

Zyon and Quinn loved when Lutta was in the village. He told the greatest stories, and you could swear he had witnessed them himself. Many were just nonsense he created for entertainment, but the one about the curse, he swore, was different and all three of the Princes begged him to repeat it over and over whenever nights like this had them all around, under the stars. Iver, now considered a young man, had stopped asking for the tale. The magic it had seemed in his boyhood was replaced by doubt that the tale held any truth at all.

Lutta knew it was important for the boys to learn the story, so he happily obliged after making it seem like he did not wish to retell the story about Mikos’ Curse. However, Lutta was confident this generation would be the one when all would learn that there is a little truth in the stories passed down from your elders, and as he loved to tell them, nothing is ever as it seems.

Sure enough, little Quinn was the one to bring it up. “Lutta tell us the story of the curse,” he begged, his two front teeth missing. Lutta pretended not to hear the boy, so Zyon added his voice to the choir in the hope the seer would delight them with his flamboyant acting skills and talented way with words. “Yeah, Lutta. You haven’t told us in ages, please retell us about Mikos, Malthisious and Myzah,” he begged.

Lutta locked eyes with Tybrin and Iver who both nodded and smiled.

Teasing them, Lutta said, “Nah, you don’t want to hear that old tale again. Why don’t I explain the cluster of stars over there, it is much more interesting?”

“No,” Zy and Quinn whined in unison. “We want to hear about the curse!” And then began to chant, “Curse, curse, curse…” Tybrin was becoming agitated by their incessant use of the word, and said, “Lutta, for the love of the Gods, man, just tell it to quiet these little hoodlums, or I’ll leave them to curse you while you are home from The Wall.”

Various renditions of the story had been passed down over the years. Their oral culture had lost some of the details carved in The Wall, but not many descendants of Malthisious took them as more than a fairy tale. Odd things had happened on Insula, but most Kings dispelled the idea of the curse. Witchcraft was not something their people were familiar with, so they preferred to use logic or fate to explain bad situations.

Lutta however, embellished the tale, so with Tybrin’s threat, he withdrew some powder that when blown into a fire made it ignite further into the air like magic. It was his signature trick for gaining the attention of people, who came crowding to hear the story from his lips. Zy and Quinn squealed with delight and Iver listened but didn’t believe in the magic like his younger siblings, anymore. To him it seemed like hogwash some elders high on smoke, carved to make the Wood Lord people fear strangers to their coast. He was the son of a King, and he didn’t inherit any unworldly powers. If he had, he’d certainly not be mucking his own horse stalls.

As Lutta held the others captivated with his descriptive adjectives and occasional actions, Iver just half-listened, not really believing it would ever truly be something he’d need to know. There was no way the Wood Lords and Willow Kye would ever settle their feud and live in peace. Not after the kidnapping and murder of Princess Gemma so many generations ago. He was fully confident that he would be King, and his son after, and so on and so forth. Life would carry on much as it had on Insula until the Gods decided time should end.

Tybrin often warned Iver, that although he was also doubtful about the truth of the curse as well, he wanted to warn his sons in case any truth came to light. If the legend were true, Tybrin estimated that it would be Iver or Iver’s son in power when the five-hundred-year anniversary occurred. It was why they executed many strange explorers who dared to come ashore.

The curse warned that the children of Insula would accept some of Myzah’s people into their fold, false friends who would make one of their own betray them. The war would come on the five-hundredth anniversary once peace had been fastened by blood between the Willow Kye and the Wood Lords. Harmony would exist and the tribe of Oecam would make the pilgrimage to attempt to break the curse cast on them as well.

A permanent darkness would set in, bringing heavy snow and dangerous storms. The sign that the long-held feud was building to its climax. The true descendants would need to summon the souls of the demigod twins, punished by Mikos, and then allow the final battle to occur. Power was a very vicious beast, and the greed of it was a stain upon the souls of men. Mikos hoped over time the children of his sons would develop a character stronger than their forefathers, and use their power for the betterment of all. A lot of the story took on different versions of just how the curse could be broken, but Iver and Insula were told that the True Descendant of Malthisious would need to kill Myzah’s True Descendant in order to rise victorious.

Chapter One


The Willow Kye Village, Night of the Parlay


“My brothers, we have been on opposite sides of this battle for too long. Many may harbour resentment or grievances from days past. I understand your plight. You have now been ordered by our King, my brother, to follow me. A man many of you have feared, and do not know as a man of honour. In the coming weeks, as we prepare for the winter, I hope to reconcile those thoughts and opinions harboured of me and my kin, to allow new sentiments to flourish. Your successes are now linked to mine, and we will forge this new era together with unity, patience and peace for the betterment of our children and the generations to come.”

Those were the words the new Chief Zyon spoke to the tribe that was now under his governance. There were no rules for how he should proceed following the executions of Chief Kovo and his son Kavon for the crimes against their people, the tribe of the Willow Kye and the crown. No historic event that paved the way as an example he could draw on for inspiration or advice. However, Zyon knew enough about men to address his new kinsmen and speak of hope, since many would be worrying about the uncertainty that change of this magnitude brought to a society. One thing dark days needed was a ray of light, and Zyon was well versed in raising people’s spirits in times of hardship.

Zyon’s situation was unique. He was not a Willow Kye by birth, but a Prince born to a King who had oppressed the village he now assumed responsibility for. He was the brother of the King, who had inherited the mess of a generational feud that had caused civil war between the two tribes of Insula long before their birth; and the villagers of the Willow Kye were all too aware of what Zyon represented. He was the man who came and collected, oppressed, and enforced the law of the land.

The Wood Lord people of Bear Claw and the Willow Kye had all been raised to hate one another, and now they were being told to forget all they had been taught and unify, despite the misgivings they had toward their new leader.


For many, everything happened so fast, they barely had time to reconcile how different their lives had altered in a night. One minute, they all lined their side of the beach at the parlay near The Wall border on the western front, to face the new King Iver, after marrying one of their own, Chief Kovo’s eldest daughter Princess Illayda.

The Princess, in many of their eyes, had abandoned her people who had depended on a marriage bond between them and the Maceo tribe’s heir Prince Vicory. As she faced her people from the banks, she called the King, her own husband, a coward, before he had her shuffled away as he met with their Chief Kovo.

It placed doubt in many of their minds that Illayda was at fault for the betrayal and their sympathies changed. However, Kovo and Kavon were not convinced of her loyalty and condemned her immediately when they all returned to the village.

The despair in the Willow Kyes’ hearts grew exponentially, when Kovo spoke of the dowry Iver had commanded. Its price too high for their people to pay. Once more, it was Illayda who was depicted as the she-devil inflicting more suffering on a people she once lived amongst.

No one expected to ever see Illayda again, but not long after the parlay completed, as Kovo and Kavon addressed the village she sprung from the forest brandishing her faithful bow wounding her brother when he attempted to fire a lethal arrow in her direction.

Zyon and the King stormed into the village on horseback, defending the defiant Queen, who addressed her love for her people and hatred of the men who ruled them so poorly. Kavon, so enraged with animosity toward his sister, made the attempt on her life after the King warned a death sentence would be enforced to anyone daring to harm Illayda. Blinded by rage, Kavon charged at his sister with a dagger and was shot with a wounding arrow by Zyon.

Iver had Kovo arrested alongside his son and heir stripping their control of the village and leaving Zyon as the new chief. Kovo and Kavon were swiftly executed for treason and crimes against their own people.

To appease the Willow Kye villagers and Zyon, within the hour Iver officiated the marriage of his brother to the heir’s widow assuming responsibility for not only the woman and her two infant children, but a people who were trying to process so much change in so short of a time.

It was a lot for them and Zyon to process.

Even a great man like Zyon.

When he opened his eyes, the morning of the parlay, Zyon never imagined by the time he closed them again he would be a husband, father and sworn Chief of a people who only knew to fear him.

Standing before the villagers now dependent on him by order of the King, he dutifully conducted himself as the leader they needed. His new bride, Irae was holding her sleeping children, waiting for permission to retire to her tipi. The baby, Lucca, was swaddled comfortably to her back, and toddler Lily in her arms.

Irae was duty bound to stand by her new husband, to show a solidarity in these changing times. Raised to be the next Chieftainess, her mother-in-law Willow Pellor had educated her one-day successor on the duties that were required of the wife of the Chief. Especially, if a situation arose where Chief Kovo and Kavon were killed together, and Lucca was still too young to lead.

Irae had pictured Kavon’s death in her mind a thousand times, but it was nothing like she was now facing. She hadn’t dreamed to be Chieftainess of her people alongside the large border guard she now called husband, but Willow Pellor had told her life could change in a moment and being prepared in the smallest way, was better than not being prepared at all.

Despite her whiny protests at the time, she remembered her mentor’s words as she stood gazing out over the crowd. Solidarity, loyalty, and faith. Those were the three things that Willow Pellor had stressed. Solidarity to your husband and leader. Loyalty to your people and faith that the Gods were on your side even if they seemed to be abandoning you. It had seemed impossible that her mother-in-law’s teachings would ever be needed, but now she was grateful she had at least minimal preparation.

Biting the inside of her lip, she searched the familiar faces around the fire trying not to cry. The King had left and with him Illayda and Willow Pellor. The very two women she had depended on so much, since marrying into their family. Syza would be gone soon too with her new husband, and she would be alone. Alone with the scariest human being she had ever seen.


“These are my men. You will respect them. They speak for me when my attention may be placed elsewhere. Jai, Odin, Rulha and Ardjan are highly trained Wood Lord warriors. They will be working with all of you to help us prepare our tribe for the winter. Jai and Ardjan will lead a hunting party at dawn, Rulha will take another group fishing and Odin will stay to help us prepare for the move to the Border Camp, just North of The Wall. As of this night, the nomadic life of your ancestors is reinstated. Our winters will be spent in the shelter of the trees, because our King is a kind and merciful man who wants what is best for all his people. Our Queen is a Willow Kye by birth, and in her honour every full moon before the first kiss of snow we will gather and celebrate our last night at our summer village, as a tribe. There will be music and feasting, as we say goodbye to our lowland until the melting of the snow allows for us to return. It shall be called Illayda’s Moon, signalling the change of living in our lowlands home to our move to the highland shelter that will safeguard our people through the harsh winter.”

All eyes were glued to Zyon as he addressed the village, standing in the middle by the fire with everyone circled around him.

Vicory, the Maceo Prince stayed to listen, sending his new wife Syza to the tipi she used to share with her sister Queen Illayda, to wait for him. Tonight, was Syza’s wedding night as well and Vicory would be sharing the quarters with her. Lutta had married the couple, quickly before departing the village with Willow Pellor. The King retreated to the border, leaving Zyon in control.

Vicory was not thrilled he had lost the eldest daughter of Chief Kovo to King Iver. Illayda was rumoured to be gifted, and her legend reached farther than Insula’s borders.

Vicory would be departing back to his island on the overmorrow tide with Syza, to update his people on the events that had transpired on Insula. When he had left, Vicory had been promising to return with another. The response from his people was likely to be as disappointed as he was.

There would be many interested in the change of leadership within the Willow Kye.

Zyon was not a man who could be underestimated.

Kovo would have been a better choice, for what Vicory and his people had in mind. However, Insula was now under the rule of the Bear Claw Princes, and there was naught to be done about it.

Gazing toward the tipi holding his new wife, Vicory wondered if Syza was a worthy consolation prize. According to ancient legend, Insula was created by the Gods to be home to the hybrid half human, half Gods, twins Malthisious and Myzah. Both gifted upon creation with their own exclusive powers.

Like many brothers they were often at odds trying to outdo the other and vying to be the supreme leader. The human need for power, fueled their greed causing jealousy that could not be monitored. Myzah went so crazy, he concocted a plan to take his brother’s life.

Malthisious caught wind of the plan and exposed his brother’s evilness to the people. As punishment, Myzah and all who were loyal to him were banished from Insula.

The legend went further. Myzah was said to have put a curse on Insula for casting him and his people away. It said in five hundred years the true descendants of Insula would conjure the souls of the brothers and they would return to Insula to face off in a final battle. Vicory knew that the five hundred years was approaching. He also knew with the death of Kovo and Kavon, if Kovo had been the true descendant of Malthisious, then Illayda and Syza would inherit their father’s power.

It was a lot of speculation, but word of Illayda’s gifts were what drew Vicory to Insula in the first place. His own interest in the ancient tale, meant capturing Illayda’s trust to use when necessary. A lot of time and planning had gone into make everything go smoothly, until Iver and Zyon screwed up his plans. In order to save face, he had to marry Syza and pray for the best. If the legend was true, she still might be of use to him.

A low murmur went through the crowd, as Zyon paused. “Tonight, we will not celebrate. It is getting late, and it has been an evening that has overwhelmed the strongest of us. Tonight, we will all retire to our mats with hopeful hearts that the Gods will bless the changes we are embarking on and be merciful as we navigate this uncharted territory. Rest well knowing while tonight marked the end of one era, the children of Insula are now at peace. With the dawn, a new age will be upon us, and we will forge our destiny together as brothers and sisters of this great land.”

A cheer erupted, as the mood turned from sombre to dubiously optimistic.

Vicory clapped appearing as hopeful as the rest of the little minions, not wanting to look out of place with doubt, that Insula would be a land now existing in peace. Keeping to the shadows, Vicory waited for his chance to speak with Zyon alone. He needed to consult with him about leaving or it would raise suspicion.

Zyon was good at lifting the spirits of men, after being a leader all his adult life. Although, he didn’t fault the scepticism on his new kinsmen’s faces that his words were spoken truthfully. Just because one tyrant was overthrown, did not mean his successor was better. It would take time to prove himself worthy, but Zy was up for the challenge.

For many, it was the first night they were going to their bed without worry. For others, they had lived in fear so long, a thousand sermons would do nil to dispel the habitual apprehension. One thing all the Willow Kye villagers knew was they had more confidence with Zyon as their Chief then they did when they thought of Kavon acquiring the job.

As the gathered crowd began to disperse, Zyon turned and caught the sight of Irae. Her long black hair braided down the front with a vibrant shine, caught the firelight glow making it look aflame. Her high cheekbones and olive colour complexion stole his breath. Illayda had similar traits, as did many other Willow Kye females but Irae’s features were more pronounced. She was a good five inches above most of the girls as well, but her hips were slimmer.

Zyon couldn’t help but admire her. The woman he desired from afar for so long was even more enthralling up close. His big brown eyes swept over her, not missing an inch of her dainty, irresistible frame. The weight of the child, sleeping in her arms, barely showed on her stone face. The fact this enchanting creature was now his wife, almost sent his head into a spin. Iver had promised she would be his, and like a dream from which Zyon prayed he would never wake, she was.

Walking closer, her doe like eyes shot to his. The faint hint of dread twinkling behind the brimming wetness made his heart flip over, aching to take every fret in her mind away.

“I’ll be busy with my men, tonight. Once we are all settled, we will speak, wife,” Zyon said softly, trying not to intimidate her more than she already was. He was more than a head above her, and outweighed her by at least another full-grown man. “Get the children to bed, try and sleep. Tomorrow will be busy.”

“So, I will not expect you to join us tonight?” Irae found the courage to ask. Her voice was like a melody to his ears. Soft, sweet, exquisite like her. Her eyes locked on his face for an answer, she would sleep easier knowing Zyon’s intentions. If she awoke and he was beside her, her heart might stop in her chest.

Zyon smiled, trying to appear less menacing than his stature commanded.

“No, although I would like nothing more than for us to talk privately. A lot has happened tonight, and I must sort out my own thoughts about what needs to be done for the good of our people. Once I have things under control, I will come to you, but I assure you there will be ample time for you to know when that will be. Until then, if you need anything do not hesitate to seek me out. My role as Chief will not come before my duty to you and the children.”

He stared down into her huge eyes, so full of emotion and wished he could convey how much he already cared about her. Zyon had desired her from his post in the mountain for years, never entering the village without a flicker of anticipation that he might catch a glimpse of her up close. It made him loath Kavon more, to know he owned the one woman, Zyon wanted for himself.

Once or twice her peeping eyes met his, from her hiding spot in the tipi. The curious nymph would disappear when he would wink her way, when no one could catch him, then reappear when she thought he was busy with business. Zyon could sense her watching, happy that she seemed so interested in him. If it were safe, he’d dart another glance to prove he knew she was still there, and off she’d go again.

The bruise on her eye and busted lip instinctively made him reach out as if a touch from him would heal it. She kept her chin high, refusing to flinch. He smiled respectfully. Zyon admired courage when it did not prelude stupidity. He didn’t need proof of Kavon being a worthless cunt, but hurting this extraordinary creature made him regret not making the bastard scream longer.

“Rest well, Irae. Tomorrow will be a better day for everyone. I promise.” He dismissed her.

With a low obedient nod, she turned and disappeared as he directed.

Zyon stood staring and wondered if she’d look for him, like she used to beneath the hem of the tipi and the thought made him smile.

Disappearing into the darkness, the chill got cooler the farther Irae moved from the fire, but she barely noticed, her head was spinning. Zyon was a man she had been raised to hate, but he had always seemed so kind to her. His thoughtful reassurance of being there for her, and the children of a man he just helped execute, had her struggling to decipher what sort of a man he really was.

Irae had lived in fear for so long, her first reaction was to stifle any sense of hope for a life better than the one as Kavon’s betrothed or wife. It was her instinctual survival mechanism. Yet, as she walked away from the man promising to protect her, it swelled up unencumbered by the suffering she had endured for so long. She was now Zyon’s wife. Sister, under the law of the Gods to the King, and free of the slave-like existence she had been forced into. Proudly, Irae raised her head for the first time as not only a woman, but a survivor.

Stealing a shy glance back before she’d lose sight of where he had been standing, Irae met his watchful eyes still glued on her retreat and quickened her step.

Zyon’s lip twitched in delight, as he watched until she entered the flap.

“Zy, some men are lingering around to talk with you,” Odin said, breaking his leader’s trance. With a nod of acknowledgment, Zy ripped his attention from where his wife was now sheltered and resumed his role as the new Chief.


Merlo, Kavon’s former confidant and friend stood in the shadows carefully watching his rival turned Chief, as others left satisfied with their questions answered. Zyon had patiently spoken to all those expressing their concerns, despite the late hour and his growing exhaustion. Everyone began to scatter to their shelters for the night. It was cold enough to see your breath beyond the warmth of the fire. The arctic wind was fast approaching, and Merlo knew his people were not prepared.

Zyon was oblivious at first to the young warrior.

He was a few years younger than Zyon, although still considered a man by the tribes’ standards. As the crowd cleared, it was clear the familiar looking young man had something pressing to say, so Zyon addressed him.

“You look very lost in your thoughts, is it me you have stayed to talk to?”

Merlo approached slowly, mostly looking down at nothing as he spoke. Zyon recognised him, but his name was lost somewhere in the confines of his memory.

“You speak as if you have this situation under control, are we to truly believe your words after such a long feud?”

It was a fair question, respectfully spoken with no ill-tempered tone tinting its sincerity. For that reason, Zyon smiled and addressed the boy. Zyon had an appreciation for people with guts and it took a lot to question a victor’s motives.

“I am a warrior. Like you,” he said, devoting his full attention to Merlo. “I have no ill-wishes against the Willow Kye, never have. My job was and is to follow orders given by our King. With Kovo and Kavon gone, I do not see much point in dwelling on the mistakes of the past. I’d much rather us put aside our differences for the overall good of the people.”

“That is easy to say from a man who has never gone to his rest worrying if his people will starve because others have raided your coffers,” Merlo said honestly, “You might be able to garb a coyote in a sheep’s fur, but he will always be a predator hunting his prey.”

Zyon folded his arms across his chest, narrowing his eyes to appraise the situation.

The young man’s words were correct, although Zy didn’t appreciate the comparison.

“I’m not here to infiltrate the Willow Kye and bring about their destruction, young buck. I’ve been assigned my role by my brother the King, and am honour bound to fulfill it. There are no hidden tricks, masquerading as truth. I am married to Kavon’s widow and will honour my sacred vow to look after her, the babes and their people.”

Merlo smirked. “I may have entered the world at night, Chief, but it wasn’t last night. My people have suffered greatly at the hands of your people. Many at your hands specifically; and one speech, no matter how well-delivered, will do little to erase the memories from our minds.”

Zyon respected men who called it like they saw it, Merlo’s misgivings were honourable. Zyon could even see himself being audacious enough to call out a leader he had misgivings about.

“What is your name?” Zyon asked studiously. “I recognise your face. You often hunted with Kavon.”

“Merlo,” the younger man responded quietly.

“Merlo, hmm,” Zyon said, tasting the word on his lips, as he sized up the motives the boy might have. “I’m not interested in erasing the memories of the Willow Kye, I’m interested in making the ones to come more harmonious. Whether I am a friend or foe in your eyes, I hope we will use our coming weeks to benefit each other.”

Merlo didn’t say anything.

“As a show of good faith, I’ll allow you to choose the group you wish to be in tomorrow. I’d like to see you help with Jai and Ardjan, but truthfully a strong man like you is useful wherever he is.” Zyon was flattering on purpose, he remembered a saying his father and Lutta always lived by, keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. He didn’t know which side the arrow fell with Merlo, but he was damn sure going to find out.

“I’d be happy joining Jai and Ardjan on the hunt,” Merlo answered. “The events of tonight have soured my pleasure for being here in the village. Will we be allowed to stalk beyond The Wall, free to choose our ground?”

“Wherever Jai and Ardjan lead you, you may go. I believe their intention will be north of The Wall, for the better game. I plan on discussing the issues with them shortly,” Zyon replied. “I’m happy you have chosen the post. We need to fill the meat hut, so any decent hunter is appreciated.”

Vicory stepped forward, out from where he’d been listening. He thought it an appropriate time to approach Zyon, since he was also a good hunter. “I, too, will assist in the hunt, but Syza and I will be leaving for our home once it is done. I offer my assistance in the name of brotherhood, Zyon. My people would expect nothing less. With your blessing, my wife and I will depart the day after tomorrow. The North Atlantica waters can be fickle beasts this time of year.”

Zyon welcomed his assistance. “That is very kind, Vicory. When you get home, please tell your people we are indebted to them. Both for your aid and understanding with wedding the younger sister. I look forward to our tribes’ mutual success. I know Iver does as well.”

The three men, all from separate tribes sized each other up. Suspicion ran through them like a giant river feeding into a waterfall. On the outside they appeared calm and trustworthy, while on the inside their thoughts were alive with the anticipatory chance of the unknown. The only guess was who could survive the leap of faith unscathed and who would be the first to place their trust in the other?

Vicory smiled, trying to seem placated over losing Illayda. Syza was a wild card, he had taken a risk on. If she wasn’t a true descendant of Malthisious she would be of little use to him in the future. The King was no friend of Vicory, but a temporary alliance with Zyon could be enough to gain him access to Insula in the future.

Merlo cleared his throat bringing Zyon’s eyes back in his direction. “I will retire for the night, if you do not require anything else, Chief.”

“Yes, tomorrow will be busy. Go with my blessings, both of you. We are all wasting the dark when we should be resting,” Zyon declared, and strode off to see his men, before attempting sleep.


The next two nights Zyon took shifts sleeping with his men, in the Willow Kye village. Jai and Ardjan were still hunting, but Odin and Rulha were home by nightfall. They were men he knew would help him quash any attempt at an uprising. He trusted them with his life, and they trusted him.

Vicory and Syza had left as agreed on, and his help with the hunt was a success. Three boars and a dozen rabbits were his contribution. Zyon gifted him a fat sow as thanks.

Much to Zyon’s pleasant surprise, the Willow Kye seemed pleased with the change of Chief. Zyon was left as acting Chief until Kavon and Irae’s son Lucca, was old enough to assume the position. The appointment was a lot for an outsider to take on, but the men were eager to learn and followed the man they had feared for so long, with little hesitation.

The initial fear the warriors had had of Zyon, dissipated, as he showed them how a real leader behaved. He praised when the moment warranted and placed his people’s welfare above his own ego. Two things that Kavon had sorely lacked.

Some warriors were gathered the first day to be given directives on what Zyon and King Iver would expect, along with instructions of moving the village. Zyon proudly declared they’d call their new winter village, Unity, since the Wood Lords and Willow Kye would be living as one people. A few of the warriors who had called The Wall home, had declined relocation with Quinn’s Warriors, preferring the familiar border camp to others. Zyon agreed with his blessing, as long as they assisted in the move of the Willow Kye village, which many were happy to do.

Day two and three they salted fish, storing them in the meat hut with the little game they had so far, for winter. While the women salted the meat, Zyon began to order the dismantling of the tipis explaining they would leave the huts standing for their return in the summer. Restoring their nomadic lifestyle was important since their village was vulnerable to the harsh long winters this close to the sea. Weather related deaths and injuries were high in the winter months, and Zyon hoped the move would lower the risk to his more vulnerable villagers.


Irae assisted in the salting. Her long delicate fingers were accustomed to hard work, and Zyon was pleased when she didn’t shy away from getting her hands dirty. Her aura pulled him like a magnet to her. He was simply enchanted by the way she mingled within a group. Her soft, perky smile, and humorous disposition was clearly enjoyed by those in her presence. Zy couldn’t help but wonder, if she would ever get comfortable enough around him to be as authentic as he noticed from afar.

From time to time, while going about his tasks, he found himself purposely walking to check on her. An older woman and a young female, also with a babe, were usually laughing and talking with her. The bond between them was clearly strong. They were important to her, and he made a point to try and win their approval of him once things became settled.

Irae was playful with her daughter, who obviously trusted the older lady, because in a moment of playfulness, the child darted toward her when Irae gave chase. It was refreshing to hear the pure delight. As all their laughter filled the air, Irae’s was higher pitched. It reminded him more of a melody and Zyon caught himself trying to record the sound of her laughter to his memory. The infectious harmony, sailed through his body like a potent glass of Draco Apple wine, warming him the second the sound streamed into his ears.

Day four, the Willow Kye followed Zyon to The Wall, awaiting the hunting parties return. Everyone had prayed they would be blessed with an abundance of animals. The beasts who had moved inland were more plentiful but hunting them was not as easy as it seemed.

Jai and Ardjan led the group to the border camp as instructed, prepared for some resistance. The prejudices the Wood Lords harboured toward their nemeses the Willow Kye ran deep. Mistrust was rampant between both tribes.

Quinn had left instructions for the Wood Lord warriors that men who remained, had to be cordial to the Willow Kye. If they ran into issues, Zyon was to be consulted. He would be the neutral party, to diffuse the situations that inevitably would pop up.

It felt awkward for many Willow Kye to adjust initially. They were living in a place that had once been strictly forbidden. It had made the atmosphere tense. The Wood Lords were adjusting as well. Instinct told them they were better than their new neighbours, while the new law dictated they were now equal. Some easily made the adjustment, others still harboured the cynicism discreetly. Overall, the two groups did well to interact amicably with one another, at least in public.

The border had always been a great divide, and for the elders crossing it was bittersweet. Many had lost friends and family members because of the border. For them it was harder than just an uprooting of their homes, it was as if all they had sacrificed was for nothing.

Zyon tried to have patience, but it was not one of his best qualities.

When a squabble broke out on either side, he intervened to subdue the arguing parties.

The younger villagers were the hot heads. Stubbornly whipping out their dicks for any chance at a pissing contest. The younger border guards ate up the drama, using any excuse to provoke them for the entertainment it provided.

As they climbed the mountainous terrain, some sobbed for the opportunity to live as their ancestors had existed, itinerant around Insula. They were all too aware of the generations, now gone, who had never gotten to see the peaceful reconciliation. In honour of their memory, many sang prayers softly as they helped reassemble tipis on ground that their spirit guides would be proud to witness. They were the children of those who had only dreamed peace would someday come.

Zyon felt their emotions. There was an odd pride that came with witnessing something as progressive as Wood Lord and Willow Kye working side by side. They were limited in their time to prepare for the winter, but that was now priority number one in Unity, their new village, where birth had little to do with worth. Wood Lord, Willow Kye whatever a person was considered before the parlay was irrelevant. They all existed now as one. To ensure its success a few young from each tribe were betrothed to each other, with marriages set for the following moon.


Tipi after tipi was erected without issue, as the village began to expand outward into the depths of the forest. Zyon began instructing men to cut down more trees to accommodate the growing size and adding to the protective fence he insisted encase them. Highland bears were vicious creatures, and while they did hibernate when they awoke their attacks were often deadly to unsuspecting villagers. The fence would also protect the villagers from other predatory creatures and give all inside a better sense of security.

As he issued his orders, midday he came across Irae sitting with a group of women feeding baby Lucca as Lily sat and played with rocks by her feet. Everyone fell silent when he approached.

“Irae, forgive me for not checking sooner. Are you and the babes well?” Zyon asked with a small smile. He knelt to look at Lily who instantly went to him, waving arms extended, expecting him to pick her up. Zyon teased the child a little before elevating her to his side. She was fascinated with his braided hair.

“Do you like that?” he cooed. “Mine is not as pretty as your mother’s.”

The child looked to her mother for the cue that Zyon was safe. Irae smiled nonverbally communicating she approved of the interaction, surprised Lily took to Zy so instantly.

“She likes you,” Irae said happily. “She rarely likes men.”

Zyon focused on the eyes of his new daughter, and asked, “Is that true, Lily?” He watched her shake her head no, making everyone chuckle. “Well, I was going to say you had good taste, but not if you’re going to be hot and cold with your affections.”

Lily wasn’t speaking yet, except little words like Momma, or Aunty. The small circle of women enjoyed his wit, but Owna clapped her hands at the child offering her arms instead, and Lily could never say no to her Aunt’s warm hugs. They usually were followed by some maple sugar treat, and like all children, sugar was an instant motivator.

Free of the child, Zyon returned his attentions to his wife.

Examining her face made the lighthearted moment evaporate.

The bruise was fading, but the anger Zyon felt toward the man who had done it, hadn’t. One last gift from her previous husband. It made Zyon careful to remember she was probably easily frightened by men, and he would have to be patient with her.

“Very well, thank you,” she replied softly to his inquiry. “Don’t trouble yourself with worry about us. You are terribly busy.”

The women around her all pretended to go about their work silently, as if they weren’t eavesdropping.

Zyon knew better.

A woman who had a chance to listen in on conversations to spread gossip, could hear a hay bale lose a straw at fifty paces, and know if it fell on the right or left side.

“Yes, it has been very busy,” he agreed. “But tonight it would be my honour to have you join me in the tipi we will share. It is time we talk. Don’t you agree?”

Irae showed an emotional response for the first time, clearly, being caught off guard by his sudden attention. With a nervous look at the older women near her, she stuttered, “Of course, husband. If that is your wish.”

Zyon grinned at her quiet courage, happy she wasn’t going to fight him like some women tended to do. “When you are ready, I will be sitting by the fire at dusk. We will retire together.”

Irae blushed, as Zyon turned and walked away excited that the interaction had gone well. The ladies buzzed behind him, obviously talking with Irae about Zyon. He didn’t mind. It was good for her to have people to talk to. He’d give anything to have Iver, Lutta or Quinn still there to go to for advice. Marriage was somewhat of an uncharted territory to Zyon. He knew truly little about women, except they were often impulsive and emotionally driven creatures. For a man used to leading men, he realized he had a lot to learn in this area and the first step was communicating.


A few times throughout the day, Zyon purposely drifted back to the spots where he knew Irae would be. Excitement bubbled in his veins at the thought of finally being free to talk and touch her.

Irae was a beautiful woman.

The long black hair around her face was pulled back in small braids drawn tight to the back of her head while most of her hair remained down. Her elongated yet delicate limbs were slender, as she cupped the babe’s head to her breast, and spoke with the women around her. They were busy tanning hides for materials to help with the cold or salting meat, allowing the Chieftainess to tend to her children.

For a moment, Zyon stood and stared appreciatively. Half kicking himself that in his duties, he had found no time before now for his young bride, Zy felt determined to rectify the situation as soon as possible.

They had much to speak about.

The death of Kavon, being one of the hardest conversations he ever had to broach. He was nervous she would harbour hate for him making her a widow, despite the bruise on her cheek.

Zyon had limited experience with women, which terrified him. While his cock seemed sure he could handle whatever involved the beautiful woman, his brain kept reminding him of the fact he knew nothing of women.

He had grown up the middle child of three boys.

Being the second son, he had been put into training school with Lutta when he was still a child. Queen Praya, his mother, had died when he was on one of his first missions as a border guard but his memorable time with her was incredibly short. Despite the odd girl boldly flirting with him, and initiating a physical relationship, he was clueless. He only knew how to lead men.

Irae had always seemed like a dream.

Unattainable, not real.

A ghost who lingered in his mind and haunted his dreams. She had avoided him since their marriage, although it was only because he was avoiding her as well. A few stolen glances, a few friendly comments, were the only interaction the newlyweds had engaged in.

She had the children and chores to attend to, and he had a village to save.

Excuse after excuse, Zyon thought miserably, enough was enough.

Staring at her sitting there, he pushed all thoughts of tasks still needing to be completed to the back of his mind. Nothing was going to disrupt his first night alone with Irae. Not even his own insecurities about being her husband.

Zyon had no idea what the night had in store. He harboured no plans for them to get physical immediately, since he really wanted to give her time to grieve; but talking and getting to know each other was necessary. He tried to have faith that one day they would look back on this part of their life and think about how foolish they both were to overthink so much. When he pictured their future, it was happy. They were more than lovers; they were friends too.

Just after dusk, as many began to retire to their tipis exhausted, Zyon sat at the communal fire deep in thought waiting for his bride to appear. A few villagers were still mucking about finishing up last minute things before the daylight entirely disappeared. For one of the first times in his highly regimented life, Zyon was completely baffled about how to approach the situation with Irae. He sat carving a small piece of wood, to keep his nerves at bay.

It was their first night in camp, and he wanted it to be in his tipi.

As the sun’s descent continued, and the moon’s full orb grew brighter he wondered if Irae would appear or if he would be forced to seek her out?

No sooner had the thought crossed his mind than a throat clearing behind him, broke the silence.

Turning, startled, Zyon stared into the face of the older lady with small stature and twinkling eyes, who had taken Lily from him earlier. Her skin was brown from the years of sun exposure, but she still showed some of her beauty from her youth.

“Sorry to disturb you from your thoughts, Chief Zyon. My name is Owna. I am the sister of Irae’s late mother,” she said confidently.

Zyon was surprised. He had failed to think that Irae had family of her own, not blood to Chief Kovo. Although at the presentation of the fact, he felt foolish. It made sense that Irae would have all her family around her. She was a Willow Kye.

“Pleasure to meet you, Owna. Has my wife sent you?” he asked, curious if Irae would try and put off their meeting tonight.

“No, Irae is waiting in your tipi. I thought it best if I helped her prepare for you and meet you here instead. I have come to tell you I will have the children with me and my daughter Taya for the night. My daughter has a babe as well, and acts as a wet nurse for Irae when needed. I thought tonight it would give you both a chance to talk,” Owna replied.

Zyon was pleased. He had suspected Irae might put up a fight, but her being in his tipi already meant she was consenting to their relationship.

Consent was not necessary, but preferred.

She was his wife. Chieftainess of the Willow Kye like her destiny planned, although under slightly different circumstances.

“I appreciate your thoughtfulness,” Zyon said honestly, rising to convey the depth of the sentiment. “It is exceedingly kind of you to think of her.”

“She is like my own child. Her mother died many moons past. Irae was raised with my children.” Owna smiled, as if the memories played fresh again in her mind. “I have a request of you, if I may, Chief?”

Zyon had no idea where this was going, but he saw no harm in the old woman asking for something. She was a woman he sensed didn’t ask much for herself, and he was a good reader of people. “Of course. We are kin now, Owna. How may I help?” he replied agreeably.

“Irae has suffered greatly in her short years. No one will mourn the beast that left her widowed with two small babes. She is a softer soul, although don’t be fooled, she has a stubborn streak.” The old woman laughed, winking at Zyon. “But I suspect you will find that out for yourself in time. Irae needs a man who will be patient and kind, but not afraid to put her in her place when she is wrong. Not with the evil force her former husband showed, more with the desire to teach and protect her. You have been a leader for a long time, so I imagine you know what I am trying to say.” Owna’s words were spoken like any loving mother, with tears brimming her eyes. For a tough warrior unaccustomed to women’s outright display of emotions, Zyon felt a bit out of his comfort zone, but also a flicker of affection for the older woman. He didn’t know his own mother well, except from other people’s stories, but he could picture her having the courage this lady was showing.

With open ears and a closed mouth, Zy thought he knew what she was trying to say, but wanted to let her finish, in case he was wrong.

Taking his hand as she stared into his eyes with a desperation he couldn’t explain, she continued to plead her case, “I ask that you make it your goal to not only be her husband, but to love her. Love her until she smiles once more with her eyes. She always had such a glorious smile, as a child. She lost it when Kavon, well… crushed it. I may just be a foolish old goat for even asking this, and I’m sure you’re thinking the same, but Irae has gotten a lot in life she’s been told she deserves, and the one thing she really does she doesn’t even believe possible. It’s the love of a good man.”

Zyon swallowed hard, unsure about how to answer.

How do you promise to make someone feel loved when you’ve never been in love?

The only woman he even could picture using the term with, was Irae, but was love even possible when you just cared for them from afar? Zyon had no idea.

Iver and he had both grown affection for women they ended up marrying, from their time guarding The Wall. Zyon had thought Iver crazy, for risking a war for Illayda, but Iver made no apologises for the actions that made her his. Iver called it love, but he was more of a dreamer than Zyon.

Irae was another man’s wife and a woman from a tribe that Zyon helped oppress. The odds were all against them ever ending up together, yet fate had found a way. Racking his brain, he wondered if love would also find a way? Nothing, but the dark memory of her life with Kavon now stood in their way of happiness and honestly, they had overcome worse.

Zyon’s mind spun, as he tried to consider a lot of thoughts at once.

He wasn’t a man like Kavon.

He’d never leave bruises on her face or fear in her stomach, at the mention of his name, but love?

How the fuck do you love?

The questions kept forming.

Finally, he silenced them all, and spoke as frankly as he could.

“I have been a border guard all my life. I do not know a lot about women and love, Owna. However, I can respectfully say you are a wonderful woman to my wife, to approach me with this.” He watched her face staring up at him, hanging on every word. “I made a lot of promises to the people in our village and I plan on honouring them. I am not Kovo or Kavon, my oaths are sacred to me. I cannot promise she will never shed a tear over my words or actions, but I will make a pledge to you now before the Gods, I will try to be a good husband. Love, I suspect, like friendship grows with time. Time, effort, and trust. I want that with Irae. I care for her greatly, already.”

Owna’s face lit up at his words, and she wiped a tear that escaped down her nose when she smiled.

“I have your sacred vow, then?” she asked, clarifying.

“On my honour and my life, my intentions are noble toward Irae and the children.” Zyon smiled. “And I’m twice as stubborn as she could ever be, so if our wills clash, like they undoubtedly will, I will treat her fairly and not gloat too much when she is reconciled to me being right.”

Owna bowed happily. “I will leave her in your capable hands then, Chief. Thank you for humouring an old woman.”

Zyon dipped his head in dismissal, as the woman acquiescently turned to head in the direction of her tipi. With a swift intake of breath, he strode toward his own. Now was as good as time as any to start upholding his vow, and may the Gods help with learning how to love.

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