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When we continued on the trip the next morning, I notice a chill in the air.
“We are closer to the Snow Kingdom.”
“But we only started last night. We can’t possibly be that close to the Snow Kingdom.”
“Have you ever been north from Moondancer’s home?”
“No. Only south.” I handed Ixol a piece of bread and ham.
“The Northern Plains shift.” He said, taking a huge bite of the ham.
“Shift? They move?”
“So while we slept, we moved further north than we were?”
‘’Yes. You see, in the days of the Ancients, the Moon Holders put a curse on the Northern countries that destroyed every village and most of the people. Then they cursed the land. Nothing has been able to grow and no one can settle on it because of the Shifts.”
“No wonder people are scared of us. The Ancient Moon Holders were evil.”
“The Ancient Moon Holders are evil. They still live.”
“They still live?”
“Yes. Must you repeat everything I say?”
“How is it possible that the Ice Prince can live here?”
“He is a Moon Holder.”
“That is why all the women are scared of him.”
The ground shook. Ixol pushed me into the back of the wagon.
Ixol climbed after me. “A Shift.”
“Why didn’t we feel it last night?”
“They are more powerful here. We are closer to the one who laid down the curse.”
“The Ice Prince is one of the Ancients?”
“No. His grandfather.”
We stopped talking. The horses could sense our fear, namely mine and it only added to theirs. Ixol put his hand on my forehead. “Sleep.”
I felt my eyelids droop. “But the horses.” My voice was slurred.
“They’ll be fine.”
I let my eyes close. The world went completely black and I felt nothing.
I don’t know how long I slept or when the Shift ended. When I woke up, I was on one of the horses, Ixol on the other, leading mine. I untied the lead rope and galloped ahead of Ixol. He caught up with me and I urged my horse faster. Soon we were galloping across the plain. I looked back and saw a huge rift opening up. I screamed at Ixol to hurry and he urged his own mount faster. The black mouth was closer and I could feel the cold air whipping my hair back. Ixol was beside me and the horse sensed our fear. They galloped faster than I could have thought they would have gone. Ixol slowed his mount and looked back. I looked back and pulled mine to a stop. The gap was huge. But it had stopped growing. We dismounted and let our horses rest while we ate.
“What happened to the wagon?”
“It fell apart after the Shift.”
“You had saddles in the wagon?”
I looked north and saw a tall, blue spire rising out of the ground. Or it looked like that. There was a hill between me and it.
“The Snow Kingdom.” Ixol followed my gaze. “Maybe hour before we get there, if we push the horses. Two if we go fast and three if we walk.”
“We can take two hours. I’m in no hurry to meet this Prince and I want to finish the trip. So two hours are perfect.”
“We can rest for an hour.”
I hovered and found the air colder than I would have liked. I lowered myself to the ground and got my coat out of one of the saddlebags. I floated higher and closed my eyes against the wind. I could hear better with my eyes closed, anyway. The clinking of armor made me open my eyes. I looked over the hill. Five men in armor were coming south. Towards us. Heavily armed.
“Ixol, we need to go.” I said as I dropped down.
Ixol sprang up and saddled the horses. I swung up and grabbed the bow Ixol had made for me. A quiver of arrows was attached to the saddle. I was glad that I was wearing a short tunic and leggings rather than a longer tunic and overdress. Ixol readied his own bow as I galloped to the crest of the hill. One of the soldiers loosed and arrow at me. I let mine fly and cut the arrow in two and continued its path to the soldier’s forehead. The other soldiers aimed for Ixol, who ducked and I shot four arrows at once, willing them to each hit a separate target. Surprisingly they did. It seemed one of my powers was enchanting weapons. I galloped down to the men and dismounted. I checked each of them. Three were dead, one close to death, and another only wounded. My arrow protruded from either side of his left shoulder. I pulled the arrows out of the three dead men, and pulled my dagger from my belt to put the writhing one out of his misery. Since the arrow was in his throat, I had to cause him more pain to put him out of his pain. It seemed cruel to do this, but I knew no other way, and Ixol was taking too long to get up the hill. After dispatching the soldier, I moved to the wounded one. There was a strange light shining on his face. I heard a noise behind me. Ixol had finally made it up the hill. He was holding both his quiver and bow.
“My horse is dead.”
He gasped and fell to his knees. “Your eyes.”
“I never thought I would see this in my lifetime.”
“See what?” I felt stupid saying this, but I had no idea what he was talking about.
“Do you not know the prophecy?”
“The prophecy of the Ancients. There was only one good Ancient left. There had been a massacre just two days before she lay dying in her bed.” Ixol waved his hand over the ground and a picture appeared.
She coughed. She knew she was dying. The enchanted arrow wound was too much, even for her own magic. She called her scribe to her. She looked out the window to the bloody ground. Burning bodies filled the air with black smoke and a foul smell. The scribe came.
“They next Moon Holders must know this:
Golden eyes will glow.
Magic will show.
In the time of need,
This one you must heed.
A Holder of the Moon,
Her time will not be soon.
Death will be much.
The world must be as such.
To save her people,
From a great evil.
Make them learn. Make them heed this. Make them fear the peasant who is a princess.”
She shuddered and closed her eyes. She was dead.
The image faded. I found myself wiping tears from my eyes. I looked up at Ixol, confused. “What did she mean, ‘peasant who is a princess?’”
It means that the Moon Holder with golden eyes is royalty. It is you, my princess.”
“No. My eyes are grey.”
Ixol waved his hand again and I saw my own reflection. My eyes were golden. At first I didn’t believe that it was really me. I lifted my hand to my face. The reflection did the same. The background in the reflection was different, but somehow the same. It was a southern land, but people were dead. I was wearing a chain mail tunic over the same green tunic and brown leggings I was wearing now. The ground around me was bloody. I looked up at Ixol, who was still on his knees.
“Is this some kind of trick?”
“No, my lady.”
“Don’t call me that.”
“Yes, my princess.”
“I forbid you to call me anything but Moonbeam.”
“Help me get this arrow out of this man shoulder.”
We moved over the soldier. His face was pale. He was probably in a great amount of pain. Ixol forced the man to sleep and took my dagger. He cut the man’s shoulder just enough to get the arrow out whole.
“Press here, my lady.”
“Moonbeam.” I pressed and a wave of silver and gold sparks rushed out of my fingertips. The wound knit itself together. The man slowly regained consciousness.
“How did I do that?”
Ixol wiped by dagger and handed it back to me. “Only the most powerful Moon Holders have the power to heal.”
“I don’t understand.”
“It means that you can cure any…”
“I know that. I don’t understand how I can be a princess, or how I can be so powerful as to heal a wound, or why I was chosen.”
“Many things happen in life that we do not understand, Moonbeam.”
“But the prophecy said I must save my people from a great evil. I don’t have a people. I don’t have anyone.”
“You have me. You have Moondancer.”
“Moondancer doesn’t care. In fact, he hates me.”
Ixol smiled and shook his head. The soldier who we had pulled the arrow from groaned and sat up. He opened his eyes. He looked up at me and jerked back.
“Yes. They are gold colored.”
“No. they g-glow.”
Ixol looked at me and fell to his knees again.
“Stand up.” I snapped.
“Yes. This man has just told me this.”
“Only the eyes of a royal Moon Holder glow. And only when danger is near.”
“But there’s no…” I began. I heard the faint twang of a bowstring. I dived at Ixol’s, knocking the soldier over on the way. The arrow bored into the ground just inches from where I had been standing. I closed my eyes and put my head to the ground. The faint sound of footsteps, even more faint than the bowstring, was growing louder, coming toward us. I stood and readied my bow. Whatever came over the hill wasn’t going to catch me by surprise.