Kegan sat in the library, thumbing quickly through a book. His mind was tumultuous with his discovery. Before him was a crumpled, faded page, showing the same beast he’d seen on Thyra’s armor.
It was tall, with four legs and hooved feet. It had a long face, with a tail like a cat’s and a tuft of hair on the end. The horn was protruding from the top of its forehead, thick hair falling across its face and down its long neck.
He’d had to send for his former teacher, who told him it was a monokero. It was a beast that had been alive in the time of the Priorae, but was now extinct, having fled through the Limen when the portal was formed. Apparently it was something that was lost to legend now, but in the time of the forefathers, these creatures had been more than just pack animals. The Priorae could form bonds with these beasts, so much so that the rider and animal formed a psychic link, knowing the others thoughts. According to his teacher, it was the reason the monokeros left Gexalatia; with the Priorae gone they could no longer connect with anyone else.
At first it hadn’t made any sense. What was an ancient beast doing on this girl’s family crest? But the more Kegan looked, the more things began to unfold before him. And the more he learned, the more unsettled he became. Was it possible that Thyra was the last of her descendants?
Kegan had to know.
It had been several days since the feast and ball in her honor, and it was customary to offer guests lodging for quite some time. But Thyra seemed eager to leave the palace, and Dirvo. She often expressed her desire to cross the seas, and Kegan’s father had promised her a boat. As it was, she was land-bound for a little while longer while the boat was built, just for her.
And that was perfect for Kegan. It gave him plenty of opportunity to study her. But now he needed to speak with her. He needed to know the truth, and he needed to know about her mission.
He was halfway down the hallway to her chambers when the door before him opened. His footsteps slowed as she stepped into the hallway, her lavender eyes surprised when she looked up at him.
“Your Highness,” she said quickly, bowing to him. “I was not expecting you.”
Kegan frowned at her as he came closer. “We need to talk.” He watched as she frowned lightly, gathering a handful of her skirt into her hand.
“What is it that we need to talk about?” she asked evenly.
Kegan felt his jaw clench. “I know your secret.”
Thyra’s eyes narrowed. She turned back to her door, opening it. “Please, let’s speak in private.”
Kegan stepped inside, feeling victorious as he turned to face her. “Your father was Airell Estrella,” he blurted. “You are the last of the Estrella line.”
Thyra’s face was void of emotion as she held his gaze. She didn’t say anything as she watched him, waiting for what else he had discovered about her.
“You’re a noblewoman,” Kegan continued. His face scrunched in confusion. “Why do you wish to leave the kingdoms?”
Thyra looked away, sighing. “I can’t expect you to understand,” she said softly. “I have to go.”
Kegan shook his head. “That’s not a good enough answer,” he said shortly. “You’ve been hiding everything about yourself for too long.” He turned and walked deeper into the room. “My father is building you a fine clipper. You owe us the truth.”
“I don’t owe anyone anything,” Thyra snapped. She stepped toward him when he turned to face her. “I know you don’t like me, but I don’t have to give you answers.” She wasn’t sure she had any answers, anyway. She didn’t have a reason to cross the waters, she just knew she needed to go. Something inside her, down to the fibers of her being, was telling her that she had to get on a boat. She wasn’t even really sure where the boat needed to go.
Kegan scowled. “I could tell my father to keep you here, you know,” he said. His eyes darkened. “He will believe anything I tell him about you.”
Thyra crossed her arms tightly, bristling at his threat. “Fine,” she snapped. “I’ll tell you whatever you want to know.” She stepped toward him. “But you have to swear to me that you won’t stand in my way.”
Kegan straightened slightly. “I swear it.” He searched her face. “But only so long as what you say aren’t lies.”
Thyra nodded. “Very well.” She moved toward the sitting area, drawing a slow breath as she eased onto the edge of a chair.
Kegan followed her lead, sitting across from her.
“Ask your questions,” Thyra said softly.
“Why do you need a boat?” Kegan asked. “Where are you going?”
Thyra shook her head. “I don’t know where I’m going,” she said. “I just know that I have to cross the water.”
Kegan scowled. “That doesn’t make sense.”
Thyra looked down at her hands, which she folded across her lap. “I know. It’s just this feeling I have.” She looked up at him. “For many years, there has been a small voice in my head saying that’s what I have to do.”
Kegan leaned back in his chair. He could tell from her face that she wasn’t lying. “Where did you learn to fight?” he asked, his ire easing some.
“I had a teacher,” Thyra said evenly. “A man with no name. He took me in when I ran away from the convent my father banished me to. He taught me how to survive and how to protect myself.”
Kegan frowned lightly. “You ran away from a convent?”
Thyra nodded. “I told you that long before he died, my father was dead to me,” she said softly. “Before he sent me to live there, he’d become cold and cruel.” There was no trace of sadness on her face as she spoke. “I think he always loathed me because I was not a son, and I couldn’t replace my brother after his death.”
Kegan drew a slow breath, suddenly feeling taken back. “I didn’t realize.”
Thyra offered a grim smile. “I don’t like to tell anyone about my life.”
Kegan produced a folded paper from his pocket, offering it to her. “I’ve been reading about your family and the origins of the crest,” he said.
Thyra unfolded the paper, recognizing the monokero. “And what have you discovered?”
“This beast, the monokero, why did your ancestors choose this as their sigil?”
Thyra shrugged, her eyes on the image. “My mother used to tell us stories as children of how our ancestors tamed the monokero,” she said. “She used to say that we were blessed with a link to these creatures, even though they are gone from Gexalatia.”
“Have you ever seen one?” Kegan asked softly.
Thyra looked up at him, mild surprise making her laugh gently. “The monokero hasn’t walked Gexalatia in millennia,” she said. “I’m not even sure they ever existed.”
Kegan nodded mutely. “What else do you know about your ancestors?”
Thyra shrugged. “I suppose they were like most of the families that lived near the plains,” she said. “They were warriors and survivors.”
“But they tamed the monokero?” Kegan asked again.
Thyra narrowed her eyes at him. “Why are you so interested in this?” she asked, a sneaking suspicion coming over her. He knew something he wasn’t saying.
Kegan looked as if he wouldn’t divulge anything more, but then he drew a slow breath, looking down at the floor. “I found a journal,” he said slowly. “It’s written in the Old Language, but the author is someone you may be familiar with.”
Thyra frowned at him. “Who is it?” she asked.