Ava wiped her tears as she stood in the doorway of her childhood bedroom. This was the last she’d see it as her own. She snapped her fingers and her dove, Anona, flew to her shoulder.
She turned to the servant and said, “Place her perch in the wagon with my things.”
She hugged the King and the Queen then stroked the face of her adopted brother, beaming when he smiled at her touch.
“I love you both and thank you for providing me with such a grand childhood!” she said.
“We’ll see you in a few days, little dove. We’ll be there for the wedding!” the King told her.
“I love you, dove child, and one day I’ll call you Queen!” the Queen told her.
Ava took her place inside the carriage and looked straight ahead. She couldn’t shed another tear. All of that crying made her head hurt and the bouncing of the carriage would surely be headache enough.
She was escorted by a small party. Colm drove her carriage while four soldiers walked along side. The wagon that carried the girls belongings was driven by her childhood friend and first love, Pallomin. The boy had insisted that he be allowed to see her safely to her destination. His heart still beat wildly for her but he knew that she would never be his. He wasn’t bred from royal blood.
They were deep in the forest and Ava had fallen asleep. She woke when the carriage halted so quickly that she was bucked right out of her seat. As her head cleared, she heard voices coming from the road. An argument was ensuing. She slid to the door and opened it just a crack so that she could hear more clearly.
“We are in route to the Kingdom of Coyote by order of the King of Doves. You have no right to detain us!” Colm said.
Ava was leaning against the door when she lost her hold and it flew open sending her out to the ground with a thud. She was too embarrassed to feel fear as the arguing stopped and all eyes were upon her.
“Damn, girl!” Colm scolded.
“What is this? A gift for the Coyote King?” A man dressed in green exclaimed. He walked toward Ava but the two guards on her side of the carriage closed ranks in front of her. The man in green stuck out his tongue and tasted the air. “Smells like royalty,” he croaked.
Ava got to her feet and dusted herself off, “I am Ava, Princess of Doves! And who are you, green man?”
“Kanuna, young dove. I am the King of Frogs. I could hear your party’s approach from miles away. I was just telling your driver that this path isn’t safe,” the portly man in green replied.
“It’s my pleasure to meet you, King Kanuna, and I appreciate your concern but there is no other path to the realm of Coyote and we need to get there with haste,” Ava replied.
“Such a pretty dove,’ Kanuna told her, ‘It would be a shame to lose you to the Crow Horde but that’s exactly what will happen if you don’t turn back.”
“I have no enemies in the Faction of Crow and we have no desire to turn around so, if you please, kind King, let us pass,” Ava smiled at the little fat man.
“At your peril, young dove. At your peril,” the Frog King croaked as he stepped out of the road.
“Ava, the men are tired. Perhaps we should listen to the Frog King and bed down here for the night. We can start fresh in the morning. It might not be best to travel up the mountain at night,” Colm told her.
“Alright, we can stop. We just can’t turn back,” the girl replied.
The thought of marrying Yutu frightened her. She did find the boy attractive and he seemed pleasant but she knew nothing of the Coyote people. Her greatest fear wasn’t of living among the coyote. Her greatest fear was of her wedding night. Like all good little doves, she hadn’t been touched by a man save for some hand holding and a few stolen kisses from Pallomin.
As her wedding grew closer, her mother sat her down to discuss the activities that would be expected of her on her wedding night. Before that, she hadn’t even considered the idea. Her mother explained that she would be frightened and that it might be painful at first but that if she could relax, she would grow to enjoy her husbands’ touch. She told her that one day, she would crave the feeling of him inside her. The girl blushed at the very idea. She’d never seen a naked man and wished that she had. She wanted to know if Yutu looked different from Dove men. Her mother scolded her for having such wild thoughts and cautioned her that no man would allow her to gaze at his body without expecting her to give him pleasure. Of course, she wasn’t planning to solicit a man to show her his goods but with her impetuous nature, her mother couldn’t take any chances.
She laid back down on the carriage bench and slowly drifted back to sleep. She cradled her dove on her chest and tried to dream about soaring above the countryside. The dream didn’t come. Only darkness.
This time it was the rocking of the carriage that woke her. It was still dark but they were moving again! The road was more rocky than it was before and the carriage wheels cracked and moaned as the ascended the rough terrain. She wanted to know why they were moving but with the carriage in motion, she couldn’t open the door to ask to the guards so she settled back in her seat and closed her eyes. She didn’t want her prince to see her weary and sleep deprived.
She woke again when the carriage came to a halt. “It’s too soon for us to be there,’ she thought, ‘The sun hasn’t risen.”
She heard movement outside and reached for the door but it flew open before her hand graced the handle. She gasped at the sight of the intruder. He was a tall, thin man all dressed in black.
“Come, dove!” he demanded, clutching her arm and pulling her out of the carriage.
Her feet landed hard on the rocky soil and she opened her mouth to scold him but the words wouldn’t form. She was too busy staring at Colm, Pallomin, and the four guards who were kneeling in the road with their hands bound and their mouths gagged. The Frog King had been right. The Crow Horde had ambushed the party while the guards slept.
“What is the meaning of this?” she scolded the crow who still had hold of her.
“Quiet dove! You can tell your story to the King!” he snarled. He wrapped his arms around her waist and lifted her up over his shoulder. She kicked her feet and punched at his back.
“Drop me you scavenger! My father will have your head!” she cried.
He merely grunted and yelled, “Take the party to the prison. I’ll deliver the dove.”
“Deliver me where?” Ava cried, still pounding on the tall mans’ back but he paid her no mind and continued up the mountain. He carried her through a thrush of trees and then to a clearing where fires were burning. She lifted her head and saw a village comprised of grass covered huts. “Crows nests,” she mumbled.
He carried her though the village and in to a hole in the cave wall. The inside walls were lined with torches that lit his way. He stopped twenty feet inside the cavern and pounded on a thick door. She heard the loud groan of its hinges as it swung open and a rush of warm air hit her exposed legs.
She could see the things behind him as he proceeded on his quest. First, the doors. They were tall and round creating a barrier inside the cave. They were painted red and adorned with gold leaf. The floor was polished rock that reflected the flames from the torches on the walls. It was a cave, for certain, but it was decorated like a palace complete with grand furnishings and silken rugs. She took it all in as the man carried her to another door. He knocked and said, “My Lord.”
“Come!” a deep voice cried from the other side.
The man held her legs with one hand and opened the door with the other. He stepped over the threshold and waited for his command.
“Set her down, gently, and leave us. Be sure to secure the door. I don’t want this little dove to try and fly away,” the voice demanded.
The man slid Ava down from his shoulder and propped her up on her feet. He took two steps back and closed the door between them. She could hear the lock fall in to place and stared at the closed door too afraid to turn and face her captor.
She heard moans coming from her left side and turned her head slightly. She face grew red. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing! A silk covered lounge sat directly beneath a torch on the wall causing the light to cast the silhouettes of two naked women. They were writhing and wiggling as they pleasured each other sexually. Ava wanted to turn away but her eyes were fixed on the women. They had dark complexions and raven hair. She’d never seen anyone like them before.
“Don’t mind them. They’re keeping themselves ready for me,” the voice from behind her said, “We weren’t expecting company.”
The girl who was on top of the other turned her head and looked at Ava. She smiled, then blew her a kiss.
“What is this? Some sort of sex cave?” Ava asked, and the raven haired girls laughed at her.
She could feel the person behind her moving toward her. Her body tensed as she felt his breath on her neck, then his hands on her arms. He turned her to face him and when they were eye to eye he said, “This is my chamber. I’m Lonan; the King of Crows.”