The Snow Maiden

Boyd Nguyen pulled a small prescription bottle out of his pocket. He took out a one milligram pill of clonazepam and put it in his mouth. He began to chew the hard pill, grinding it into powder as he began to swallow it. Rightly or wrongly he thought it took affect faster that way as opposed to swallowing it whole. He felt the sickly sweet taste of the anti anxiety medication travel down his throat. Then he sat down and started to chain smoke for the next half hour. Slowly his hands stopped shaking and his nerves started to calm. Ten minutes later he went to class. Class was uneventful as usual, Billy was in his third year of engineering at the University of Washington and the required courses were pretty dull.

School was the last place he had left since he'd left the service. He'd been in the army infantry for seven years. Four of those had been spent in combat zones. Years of bullets flying by him and bombs exploding around him had taken their toll on his psyche. He'd started to get nervous in crowds during his fourth year in. By the end of the fifth he'd started to get the shakes just from meeting new people. Eventually, they'd thank him for his service in this Man's Army and given him a medical discharge with 90 percent disability. It was enough that he could live off without working. He'd bummed around after his discharge for awhile until he figured he might as well use his G.I. Bill and enrolled at the local college here in Seattle. Two milligrams of Paxil and two of clonazepam kept his nerves calm enough that he could maintain. That and the .44 magnum he kept on his person at all times.

Boyd started to walk to his truck. He refused to pay for parking so it was a twenty-minute walk off campus to where he parked. He saw a girl running away from two men. She recognized the girl. Her name was Genevieve Backstrom. They had shared a chemistry course together. They had rarely spoken but Billy had often admired her from afar. She was a pale skinned girl. Tall, slim girl, very good-looking with long blonde hair and piercing pale blue eyes; and when she'd answered questions in class he remembered she had a voice as pleasant to the ear as the voice of a song-bird. It really wasn't any of his business so he kept walking to his car. Then he remembered once he had trouble in lab and she had walked over unasked and assisted him. He supposed he owed her. She was running into an alley and then he lost sigh of her. He popped a couple bills and he ran after them. He meant to pull out his cell phone and call the police. The men were both in suit and ties. One carried a rifle in his hands while the other had carried a tasers. The man with the rifle took aim and fired. There was something strange about the rifle but Boyd couldn't quite figure out. He couldn't tell if Genevieve was hit. Memories began to surface. He felt a strange euphoria as old instincts surged forth. He remember a old Hemmingway quote "There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter." And god did he miss it. He hated the weak man he'd become. To damaged to even walk into a crowd without getting dizzy and shedding tears with taking chemicals. He pulled out his .44 magnum revolver and took aim. He clipped one of the men with tasers in the shoulder. He fired again and hit the larger of the men in the chest. Then he emptied the last three rounds into the man with the rifle as he began to take aim. Then the queerest thing happened. Both men got up, ignored him and kept running into the alley. Losing sight of them Boyd decided to take a short cut and broke down a door of an adjacent building. He reloaded as he ran. Then he took out his phone and made a quick text as he ran.

He made it to the front of the alley. Genevieve had collapsed. Boyd saw several tranquilizer darts sticking from her body. That's why the rifle sounded different than he expect he though. It was a tranquilizer gun. He looked at the three men walking towards him. The man with the rifle was clearly the leader. A tall man, he was a handsome man that would make the most frigid woman swoon. However there was hardness about him that Boyd recognized. It was the hardness he'd seen in Sergeant Majors and Master Gunnery Sergeants who had spent their lives soldiering. He said "mortal this is your last chance. Leave this place and I'll let you keep your life. This is none of your concern" Boyd simply shot him between the eyes. His .44 magnum made a large hole in his head as he fell down.

The large man grinned and began to transform. He began grow and expand. He broke out of his suit and his skin began to turn a craggy hard grey.

Boyd fired three shots which bounced off the iron skinned monster. He only had two rounds left. The large creature rushed him quickly. It grabbed him by the face and slammed him into an adjacent wall. Barely conscious Boyd used his last strength to raise his pistol. Pointing it right into the beast's eye he fired. The bullet penetrated the creature's eye and bounced off the back of the inside of the creature's skull rattling around. It dropped Boyd and the monster feel over dead. Boyd sat there for a moment tired but triumphant. He has no idea what was going on and for a moment he didn't care. He pulled out a cigarette and lit it then put a bit of dip and placed it inside his mouth. His ride would be here in a moment.

Then the handsome man stood up. He had changed as well. He was taller, thinner his eyes pupils looked like a cat, his ear were pointed and if anything he was even more handsome. He said "Mortal you just killed a troll. Something beyond most mortals .You're an impressive man and on another day I might sit down with you. However today is today and I will need to kill you. I'll give you the honor of knowing my name before you die. My name is Castiel Voltaire the Votak Battle Master". A sword appeared in his hands. Boyd knew it wasn't going to work when he fired his last round. It struck Castiel in the chest and knocked him down. However that was it. The bullet wound began to heal almost instantly and his body expelled the bullets. As he was getting up Boyd picked up a lead pipe he saw in the alley. He swung it at Castiel and Castiel deftly cut the top of the pipe with inhuman grace. Boyd barely sidestepped a thrust and barreled into Castiel with the remains of the pipe. Castiel parried and they were barreling into each other with pipe and sword for a moment. Boyd spit a bit of dip into Castiel's eye. Xavier faltered for a moment and Boyd smashed the pipe into Castiel's face. It barely fazed him. Boyd new he was over match but if he tried to run he'd get stabbed in the back. Castiel held his sword high and prepared to give the killing blow.

Just then an Aston Martin pulled up into the alley. The driver got out holding an AK-47 and yelled "Sprawl!" Body dropped to the deck as the driver fired a dozen rounds into Xavier. Xavier fell to the ground riddled with bullet wounds.

It was Boyd's friend whom he had texted earlier. Jin Yoshida.

Body hoisted Genevieve over his shoulder and ran towards Jin's car. They entered the car and waited for Jin. Then Castiel started to stand up. His wounds had quickly healed up.

Jin's eyes grew wide as Castiel got back up; he unloaded another magazine into Castiel even as Boyd got into the car with Genevieve as Castiel got up again. Jin shot him yet again and ran to the car. They sped off quickly. By the time Castiel got up they were gone. Castiel cursed his luck muttered "why couldn't she have gone to study in Europe? It's as if every one of these Americans has a gun.

They drove to Boyd's home. Boyd owned an abandoned warehouse that he had modified into a small compound. From the outside it looked like any other warehouse in the district. However, when one got inside it was a furnished home with anything one might need to survive the Apocalypse. Boxes of MREs lined the walls alongside ammo and barrels of water and gasoline.

Boyd carried Genevieve up to the second floor where he lived. Jin followed and quickly found himself the liquor cabinet and poured himself a drink. Jin Yoshida and Boyd had been friends for three years and he was probably Boyd's only real friend. Jin was a M.B.A. student and was in his late 20s like Boyd They'd met at the University's submission grappling club and had quickly hit it off. Jin was a tall half Japanese half Chinese man covered in tattoos. Jin was also the largest distributor of narcotics at the University. He was a Red Pole in the Chinese Triads which meant he was an enforcer. His father was Japanese and had been Yakuza. He had fled Japan for China after his group had been slaughtered. He joined the Triads and had married his boss's daughter who bore him several sons including Jin. Jin had grown up in Hong Kong and had been raised speaking English as well as Cantonese and Japanese. His father had sent him to America after Jin had gotten into some sort of trouble. He'd found a niche in Seattle peddling heroin, marijuana, meth and ecstasy. He had formed an organization of low level dealers underneath him and had made a great deal of money of the Triad. It was his father's ambition that he would eventually become a Vanguard which was an operations manager in the Triad. This father had requested he get his M.B.A. This ultimately had helped his business as well because it gave him an excuse to be around the university. Boyd had no opinion of Jin's work other than it let Jin buy all the drinks when they went out. Boyd laid Genevieve onto a bed and poured himself a drink as well. He sat down next to Jin. His head and ribs hurt from the fight.

Jin asked Boyd "First what the fuck was that guy? Second, why the hell did you put your neck out for a round eye anyway? This isn't our problem." Boyd replied "I have no idea what they are and as for the second, it just felt right. Anyway it's at the very least my problem now. I killed one of those things. It was different than the one you shot. My bullets bounced off of him but when I shot him in the eye he stayed down unlike the other one. Jin began drinking himself to sleep. He had an idea of what they had just faced but he hoped he was wrong. Meanwhile, Boyd went to check on Genevieve.

Unconscious her hair had turned blue along with her lips. Her ears were pointed. Her skin turned paler than anyone's that Boyd had ever seen. Moreover, every time she exhaled her breath was like white smoke even though the room was at room temperature. However her pulse was strong and she was breathing fine. What the Hell was she Boyd thought to himself and more to the point what and why where those things chasing her. After the night they'd had he figure he would just let her sleep and just let the tranquilizers work through her body. Boyd grabbed a blanket and slept on a spare bed. When he woke the next morning Jin was busy making breakfast while Genevieve was still asleep. Boyd asked Jin "So what's the plan?" Jin said I need to get something from home and I'm going to grab some guys. Whatever happened last night, we may have just bought ourselves a war. I think we ran into yokai last night Boyd.

Boyd said "What's that?" It's what they call a spirit in Japan. Come on every culture has them. From the fair folk in England to the yokai in Japan every culture has stories about supernatural beings. Boyd said "You lost your mind Jin?" Whatever that guy was last night he wasn't human. He looked close to it but little things were off and that troll certainly wasn't human. More to the point nothing human gets up from being shot a dozen times. Mores to say, I don't think your lady friend is human. You have noticed she has pointed ears and pale blue lips right? I'll be back Boyd. You keep a gun on you at all times. You don't know if that girl is dangerous or not." Jin left and Boyd started to prepare his things. He grabbed rifles and started to place them at every window. He grabbed his bullet proof vest at but it close along with his gas mask. He wasn't one to be taken unaware.

Later Genevieve woke and Boyd put his hand on her shoulder. She grabbed his arm startled and suddenly the moisture in the air coalesced around his body encasing it in ice. Boyd thought seriously this is how I die. I should have listened to Jin.

Genevieve recognized him and said "Boyd?" She focused for a second and the ice melted away. Boyd gasped for air and started shivering. She asked "what am I doing here?" Boyd told her of the events of the previous evening. She asked "How did you manage that. What are you? He laughed and said "What am I? You first" What were those guys, why were they chasing you and, for that matter what are you? Genevieve said "That man was Castiel he is a mercenary. A famous one from where I'm from. I suspect he was sent to bring me back home. As for what we are. You wouldn't believe me." Boyd replied last night a man turned into a monster, I shot another in the face and he laughed, today my buddy Jin is talking about yokai and, you encased me in ice apparently with your mind. Trust me I'm open to pretty much anything right now."

Genevieve replied "Well your friend Jin is right. Yokai is what they call us in Japan. There is another world connected to this one. It is one of many. There reside all the creatures and being that humanity considers myths now. Where I grew up dragons and unicorns roam the forest. I'm a snow fairy. I grew up in a world where magic is common place. My Aunt, Maggie traveled to the human world during the 60s and she told me stories about this world when I was a child. I always dreamed of going here. When I was 17 my father arranged a marriage with a man named Prince Xavier. He is a wicked and cruel man. However, it would create an alliance among our families. I couldn't bear the thought of marrying him so I ran away to my Aunt Maggie's castle. She knew she could not hide me forever so she sent me here to the human world. I've been here for 4 years. I always thought I'd be safe here. I never thought they'd spend the money it takes to hire a man like Castiel. He's a thousand years old and they say he will go any place and do anything if you pay him enough. He's stolen Father Time's hour glass and single handedly slain a dragon. He's famous for defeating the Chieftain of a tribe of trolls in single combat and becoming their leader. That's why he has an army of them at his beck and call. His body is filled with old magic that protects him from harm. He's old and deadly." I've answered your question now answer mine. What are you that you managed to survive facing Castiel?" Boyd said When I was eighteen I was bụi đời. That means the dust of life literally but it really meant I was just a troublemaker. I grew up in Westminster California. When I was eighteen I was part of a youth gang called Tình Bằng and I was stealing cars, selling drugs and fighting anybody that looked at me the wrong way. A cop had enough evidence to charge me but he gave me the choice of enlisting in the infantry instead. It was better than jail so I went and I liked it. I spent seven good years there until my mind went. Too many bombs and bullets do that to a man. I was good at it for as long as they let me be good at it though. I'm just an old soldier past his expiration date but I don't lie down for anyone. Not even some bounty hunter from another world. Look in for a penny in for a pound. So I'm going to help you. You can stay here or I can take you someplace when Jin gets back. It's up to you." Genevieve said "Why are you helping me? Boyd replied "This is the first time in a long time I've felt useful. She said "Where ever I go he'll find me. I need to go home and talk to Aunt Maggie. She'll know what to do. To get there I need to get out of Seattle. There are places where the wall between our worlds is weak. The closest one is east of Seattle.

Boyd began to make her breakfast. Genevieve looked at Boyd and wonder what compelled had compelled the man to fight a troll and Castiel. For a moment, she had a moment of fancy and imagined him as her knight in shining armor like in the ballads. Then she looked around at the numerous guns, military equipment and MREs laying around his home. He'd been nice enough in school but he clearly was some sort of militia type. It was funny she'd always thought he was cute albeit a little a little bookish in school. Now it turned out he was anything but bookish. She remembered laughing after seeing his hands shake in chemistry lab every time they had do to a experiment that caused even a little loud noise. She's helped him out of kindness thinking he was just clumsy. Now she realized it probably was PTSD that had caused his hands to shake and felt ashamed at having laughed. She sat down with him. He'd already eaten so he just drank coffee while she ate and they made small talk. They talked about professors they had, how classes where and, what was new around school. They both deliberately avoided discussing how he was a burnt out soldier with PTSD and she was a fae from another world. It was easier now because she'd returned to human form so Boyd could pretend.

After breakfast, Boyd sat her down in front of the TV and started to get ready. He had no illusions. He'd looked Castiel in the eyes and had judged his mettle. A man like that would find him and he'd be ready. He pulled a crate he'd been saving for a rainy day. He pulled out an AT-4. It was an antitank weapon good for a single shot. . He'd been saving these things for when the government fell but being hunted by supernatural bounty hunters was close enough. He remembers all the stories his parents had told him from the old country. Ma ca rung and a hundred other stories about ghosts and demons he'd dismissed as folklore seemed all too likely to be real now.

He grabbed ammo, a rifle and other supplies. They'd be leaving soon. Genevieve watched him. What sort of person owns a rocket launcher?

Jin showed up and rang the door bell. Boyd saw through his security cameras that he was with a couple of his men. Boyd opened the door electronically and greeted them. Jin was had a Japanese katana strapped to his waist. Boyd knew that Jin was an avid kendo practitioner having been trained by his father since he was a child but he didn't quite see why Jin had bothered to bring a sword.

"Seriously Jin, why did you bring a sword? Chided Boyd. Jin replied 'This sword has been in my family for over 850 years. It was forged by Buddhist monks for my many times removed grandfather who is said to have been a yokai hunter. It was blessed by the monks to slay yokai. Legend says he killed hundred with this blade. I can say for a fact that this blade has killed thousands of people in its lifetime in duels and in wars. From the Kamakura period to World War II this sword has killed people on the battlefield. In the hands of Yakuza it had helped end dozens of feuds. My father used this very sword to kill the 15 men sent to take his life prior to fleeing to Hong Kong. And I've killed three men with it myself. I've never thought much about it but now we've got pretty solid evidence yokai exist; maybe this sword really is blessed to kill yokai. It's never required sharpening and is usually strong. I can tell you that at least.

Boyd replied "well fair enough"

Boyd told him about where they needed to go.

Instead of his Ashton Martin, Jin had come in a SUV. They drove an hour out of Seattle towards the location Genevieve had given them.

A pack of trolls were waiting for them as they approached the meadow. Boyd took out his At-4 and fired. The impact destroyed one of the trolls and knocked several down giving Jin's SUV enough room to get through. The other trolls galloped after them. They were ridiculously fast. They were matching the speed of the SUV on the dirt road. Jin knew they were dead if the pack got them so he decided to take a leap of faith. If trolls were real, why not trees that could transport you to another world? He gunned it and sped towards the tree.

They drove into the tree taking her on blind faith and it was if the night jumped out to swallow them. Boyd had a brief glimpse of things looking at him and then there was only falling and falling in the endless dark, surrounded by voices thundering in no human language. Then a flash of light and they hit something hard and unyielding. They landed in a snowy wooded area and assessed their situation.

The SUV was ruined its engine block had cracked during their arrival. "Jin said they took as much food and ammo as they could along with a rifle a piece.

Their frozen breath rising in the brutally frigid air Jin and Boyd struggled to keep up with her. Every step their feet dug deep into the snow. They were breathing heavy labored breaths with each she

The dire wolves circle them. They looked like normal wolves but they were all ten feet or more long and stood as high as a man. Jin and Boyd readied their rifles and took aim. Boyd shot the first one through the head and the pack began to charge. The two turned the AK-47s fully automatic and unleashed a barrage of bullets. Eight dire wolves dropped to the ground dead but the rest of the pack kept charging and there was nothing they could do.

Genevieve focused and as the pack charged she formed a wall of ice that blocked most of the pack. The wolves ran around the wall which gave Jin and Boyd time to reload and pick them off one by one as they ran towards them. Then Jin ran out of ammo. He pulled out his katana. As the first wolf approached he lopped off its head with a slash of his blade. Three more took its place. He cut the first one down but the others bit him in the legs. He preformed a downward thrust piercing the next wolf's skull, killing it. As he was about to attack the next, two more jumped on him. Attempting to attack him by the throat.

Ice began to coalesce around Genevieve's hands extending on to long shards. She focused and several fired off in Jin's direction hitting the wolves on top of him. She fired several more shards off killing yet another wolf.

Meanwhile Boyd ran out of rounds next as a wolf pounced on him. He pulled out his pistol and as the wolf mauled his arm. He emptied his clip into the wolf's head. Another two wolves approached as he reloaded his pistol. He shot one just as it bit him in the leg. The other was coming for his throat and there was nothing he could do. Jin leaped into the air just as the wolf did and lopped off his head from the side. Meanwhile, Genevieve finished off the rest of the pack with shards of ice.

Genevieve saw the two bleeding and realized they would be dead within hours if they didn't receive medical attention. She said "I'm going to have to go on my own and hopefully my aunt can send help." She was capable of turning into mist for short durations but it was dangerous for her to stay in that form as she could easily get blown apart. However, there was no choice. She turned into white mist and fly towards her Maggie's keep. After a few minutes she felt herself starting to disperse but she needed to get to the castle.

Boyd and Jin see a sleigh drawn by of all things a couple griffins fly through the air and land. Barely conscious the two were taken into custody by two individuals that appeared to be of the same troll species that Boyd had shot.

They arrived shortly there after at the Castle. It was an impossible construct composed of what appeared to be silver and ice. Fantastically tall spires, window with crocketted pediment with ice finial, on the gable foliated decoration. Bridges of ice connected towers thousand of feet high. While beings fly around the constructs.

They took Boyd and Jin inside. The interior of the magnifecient edifice exhibited the finest display of pointed architecture Boyd had ever seen. The nave comprises eleven point arches and the pillars are composed of eight slender cylindrical shafts. The room is rich in carving and ornamental work as well as monument variegated marble floor and a magnificent stain glass east window.

They were taken into a rather Spartan room and laid down on two beds. A person that would have passed for a young Japanese women but for a fox tail protruding from her back, slightly large canines and her ears being on the top of her head and furry reminiscent of a fox entered the room. She started mutter eldritch words and began drawing runes on their bodies. Quickly the wounds healed.

Megumi said to Boyd, You are going to be a lot of work. The body is easy to heal but your mind. That's going to take some doing. I won't be able to fix all of it but I'll do my best. She put her hands on his head and a warm energy began to flow into Boyd. His head began to clear for the first time in a long time. Megumi said "That's the best I could do there is just so much damage there. I'm not familiar with treating human minds and there is just so much damage. They were weak but healed. That night a will o' wisp summoned them to the dining hall. Genevieve greeted them. Boyd asked "what about all the legend about humans eating fairy food and getting in trouble?" "You and Jin are the guest of honor you have nothing to worry about". Boyd thought to himself so she just admitted there some truth to them, great.

They sat down at a huge table molded from one still living tree. They sat at the front of the table while dozens of creatures from legend took seats. Boogies, nymphs, brownies and other being sat down. Even a couple centaurs arrived and sat down on special couches.

They met Aunt Maggie. She was a stunning woman who looked about 30. She wore a hemp dress and had beads in her hair. Other than that she looked a lot like Genevieve. Boyd said to Genevieve "I thought she was a hippie during the 60s? She doesn't look any older than me. She replied "We age a lot different than you Boyd".

Ethereal servant brought out roasted boar, quail and fish.

Maggie said "I want to thank both of you. Managing to get pass a man like Castiel is impressive. They chatted for awhile and both Boyd and Jin noticed a wise and old intellect. Maggie was three hundred years old despite her youthful appearance. She was a Duchess and the older sister of Genevieve's father. After awhile Maggie said "Now to serious business how long have you been seeing my favorite niece Boyd?" Boyd and Genevieve both immediately blushed. Boyd sputtered "It's not like that ma'am". Genevieve said "I just know him from school Aunt Maggie". Maggie laughed and said "What a brave young human. I'll admit you probably would not have fit in at Woodstock but brave and handsome none the less. Rescuing a maiden and I see you're still one Gen"

Gen exclaimed in embarrassment "Aunt Maggie! Maggie said "You two are going to stay here for awhile. I insist. Boyd said "I appreciate the hospitality but we have serious business to discuss. If Genevieve had been safe here you wouldn't have had to send her to our world to begin with. What's the game plan? Maggie had planned on rewarding the two humans and sending on their way with bags of gold. Maggie thought to herself. He is broken. I can see that just from looking at him. But he was noble and brave. He'd be a good match for Genevieve after they healed what was broken and this enchanted land had a way of healing the broken.

Genevieve just has to hide out for another few months. By that time, her sister will be of age to marry and the difference is she wants to marry a man like Xavier. I'll pay my brother to drop the arrangement with Genevieve and arrange a marriage between her and Xavier. For the time being you two are going to stay on as her bodyguards. Maggie spoke to one of her servants and he returned with two large pallets of gold. Both were worth millions back home. This will be your payment. I have a phone that can reach the human world you can tidy up your affairs.

Jin and Boyd cleared up their affairs. Jin told his lieutenant to take care of his operation for the time being and both of them asked for hold on their classes.

In the morning he would meet with Jin and they would practice kendo. Apparently sword fighting was big here so Boyd figured he should learn the basics. Genevieve and Boyd spent much time together. She was not allowed outside the castle out of fear Castiel or another bounty hunter came for her. So Boyd was primary companion. He served ostensibly as her bodyguard but really he served as her companion. Boyd had returned to the crashed SUV and grabbed the weapons they left behind. With his trusty pistol by his side he spent everyday with Genevieve either playing games or learning about this the fae world as Boyd had come to call it.

Megumi and Jin became an item after awhile. They'd spend most nights together.

Megumi was a kitsune, a Japanese fox spirit. She was from the part of this world that corresponded with Japan. She'd studied human medicine in Tokyo and was Doctor of both human and fae medicine.


Finally Genevieve's sister came of age and Maggie began to make the arrangements to stop the betrothal. Her brother agreed and contacted Xavier. Xavier would not be made a fool of. He said his honor had been slighted. He denied the request and said he would claim his prize. He paid Genevieve's father to tell Maggie that the arrangement was satisfactory and he would wed Genevieve's younger sister.

It did not take much for Castiel to figure out where Genevieve was. One day outside of the Castle. Jin, Megumi, Boyd, Genevieve were picnicking a mile from the Castle along with a dozen guards. They were celebrating what they thought to be Genevieve's freedom. Castiel arrived with a pack of trolls carrying a rifle in his hand. He fired at tranquilizer dart at Genevieve. Boyd immediately fired his pistol. Knowing he could not hurt Castiel he took careful aim and shot the rifle. It shattered into several pieces. The guards ran towards Jin yelled Boyd get the girls out of her. I'll take care of the yokai. As the trolls descended on them Jin cut a line in the earth and cried out. "You will not pass!"

Most of the trolls flanked him to chase after the others. Megumi transformed into a giant fox. Boyd and Megumi jumped on her back and she started to run. The trolls moved as fast as horses chasing after them. One came close enough to grab Megumi's tail. Boyd took careful aim and shot the troll through the eye.

Megumi looked back and saw that only some of the trolls were chasing them. She yelled "We have to go back for Jin. Boyd said "Most of the trolls are chasing after us. They are after Genevieve and our role is to get her to safety. She replied "At least ten trolls stayed even if Castiel follows us, one against ten, it doesn't seem possible he can win".

Boyd replied "He will succeed. He is Jin, the Kenjutsu Master." They made it to the Castle with dozens of trolls in chase. The trolls knew they had lost their quarry and departed. Megumi let them to off and ran back towards Jin.

Jin struck down the first of the trolls with a cut of his katana. He moved like heat lightening matching each of the trolls cutting them down. Meanwhile, several of the guards attacked Castiel. They cast magic bolts which Castiel dodged. Others made the earth itself open up and try to swallow him. He dodged and attacked. He cut down the guards with sublime ease. Then Castiel stepped in front of Jin. Knowing he was about to face a real foe Jin introduced himself "My name is Jin Yoshida of the Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū School of Fighting. Prepare yourself." Castiel was impressed. The man had defeated ten trolls with ease. Then he realized it was the fellow that shot him in the alley and he also saw the sword was made from human magic and would be deadly to him. He relished the prospect of real danger. And so they fought. Thrusts, parries, slashes and feints went back and forth. Castiel smiled it had been decades since he had fought against anyone with this level of skill. Their blades clashed again and again.

They fought back and forth and minutes went by. Jin scored a couple light hits and the wounds his sword caused did not heal. Jin was beginning to tire and Castiel wasn't. Jin realized if he didn't finish it with one attack quickly he would lose. He summoned up all his strength and made a mighty downward slash. Moving impossibly fast Castiel blocked with his sword. However Jin's katana was made of hardier stuff. Castiel's blade shattered. Jin's blade kept coming down in a downward arc. Castiel stepped back but he still was caught. The blade cut a shallow wound from his face diagonally down to his torsi. Using the pommel of his broken blade he struck Jin in the face with the metal pommel. Jin fell to the ground unconscious. Castiel pulled out a dagger and proceeded towards him.

\Megumi arrives and summons a great ball of foxfire and throws it at Castiel. It tosses him back ten feet but he somersaults and he lands on his feet.

Megumi turns into a giant fox and snatches Jin with her mouth and runs away.

She ran back to the castle with Jin.

Castiel appeared waving a flag of negotiate. He explained that the marriage was still set to occur.

He said "you can't stay in that castle forever and when you leave I'll be here. If you don't leave Xavier will be here in due time with an army."

Maggie says aren't your doing this for money? You aren't one of his retainers. You have no loyalty to Xavier.

She said I'll pay you ten times what he gave you just to leave

He said Milady please don't insult my honor. I was paid. Once I accept a job I complete it. You could offer me your castle and all your riches and I will still come for her.

Boyd yelled out "I'm probably going to have to kill you Castiel but I'll tell you what I respect you brother. Man's got to take pride in what he does."

Castiel gave Boyd a wry smile and quipped "I can't believe it takes a human to get me. I'll be outside your walls. If she doesn't try to run, Xavier will come for her himself tomorrow. That simply is the way it is. Before I leave let me speak to the human I was dueling. Jin was being tended to by Megumi. He got up and faced Castiel. It was then that he realized he'd left his katana where he'd fought Castiel. Castiel was holding it his hand. He tossed Jin his katana and said "you're a brilliant fighter sir. I hope to fight you again." Then Castiel departed.

That night the castle had a somber mood. Boyd had retired to his room. Genevieve had been crying. She made a decision and headed to Boyd's chambers/.

Genevieve looked at Boyd really looked at him for perhaps the first time. She looked at the Asian man's scarred body. He'd lived a hard life. Knife wounds from when he was young. Shrapnel scars adorned his torso. Then there was a bullet wound in his abdomen that had nearly taken his life in Africa. She used her fae powers and looked at his aura. It was stained black and red by angst and sorrow. However, underneath it was an essentially brave and noble man. She knew that she had the power to take that pain away. Boyd saw her and she blushed. She started to walk away and forced herself to stand her ground. She said "Tomorrow Xavier comes for me. I've never been with a man Boyd and I don't want my first time to be with some one I don't feel anything for." She grabbed his hand and kissed him.

Genevieve held Boyd as she led him to his bed. She pressed her lips to his and as they made love drew out his pain. She traced her lips and hands over each of Boyd's scars. She began to draw all the old hurts and pains out of him as he entered her. Her fae magic began to enter into him as well healing old scars. It was like before he had to take the pills. His mind was clear. She'd healed him somehow. He thought he loved this woman and while he might not be able to keep her the idea of her being taken by a man she didn't love pained him. She fell asleep and Boyd crept out of bed.

He knocked on Jin's door. When no one responded he opened the door. Boyd said we have to talk. The Megumi asked "do I have to go?" Jin slapped Megumi on the bottom and said "Man talk, you stay right here and keep my bed warm I'll be right back." Jin picked up a book and followed him

They walked to one of the balcony's and Jin said "Your about to ask to help you kill Xavier right?" Boyd replied "How the hell did you know that?" Jin said "This shoe was bound to drop. You're in love with her. I saw this coming. There is no way to assassinate him. I've looked at all the angles he's going to be guarded by both magic and sentries. If we tried shooting him his magic would protect him. He's to going to be to well guarded to creep up on. Our only option is to challenge him to a duel. In a duel he is forced to drop his magical protections and he has to fight with just a sword. If I challenge him he has to accept or give up his claim to Genevieve. I probably can take him. This is a book on the rules. I've been studying it. The challenger gets to pick the terrain from a list of thousands of scenarios based off old battles. I just have to figure out a field of battle that I can take him. Boyd said "No I'll do it." Jin replied You are just a good ole boy from the backwoods of South Vietnam you don't know a damn thing about sword fighting other than what I taught you in the past few weeks." Boyd said "just give me the book and I'll figure out the rest". I've killed people on 4 continents. Have a little faith. Jin said "Alright Brother". Boyd gave him a manly hug and left to read.

The next day Xavier came to claim Genevieve. He arrived with an army of thousands. Drogue, dwarves, jotun, yokai and countless other being followed him. Easily enough to storm Maggie's keep. He came flying a dragon.

Xavier was a tall fae of a subspecies called a Sidhe. He was tall, gaunt and handsome Sidhe that carried an arrogant sneer about him at all times. He was considered one of the greatest duelists in the Kingdom and he'd never given quarter.

Boyd came out to meet him with Jin's katana by his side. He held a gauntlet in one hand as Xavier approached. Boyd quite literally threw down the gauntlet and said "You have ruffled me and intend to strip me of my beloved. I challenge you to a duel for the hand of your betrothed as is allowed by the Code Duello"

Xavier laughed and said are you looking to die human. I give you a duel if you want. Boyd replied it's my right to select the field of battle as listed in the Code. I chose the Burning Tower of Puck.

Xavier replied "the human has been doing some reading hasn't he. So be it human. In three days time meet me at my father's castle. I'll have your funeral pyre prepared".

So Boyd, Jin, Maggie and a host of her retainers traveled to the King's castle. A wedding was being prepared. Boyd had the right to challenge Xavier but no one actually thought he stood a chance. In a fair duel, Xavier was among the best. He had been taught by the finest sword scholars in the Kingdom and was ranked as a free scholar by the Masters of Defense. It was a foregone conclusion that he would win so after he dispatched Boyd the wedding would commence as planned. Even Maggie had asked him to retract the challenge. Jin was the only one that knew what he planned. The only way he could think of to save Genevieve.

By the time they arrive at the castle a platform had been constructed made out of wood. It was raised 10 feet into the air. A mesh cage made of pure iron surrounded it on all sides and the top. Underneath the platform were a dozen wood poles to support it and stacks of wood. When the duel began the stacks of wood would be set ablaze. Boyd's understanding was the fire would collapse the platform in roughly 10 minutes.

A crowd had formed in the giant courtyard. Tends of thousands were already there to watch the duel and then the wedding. Gargoyles and other winged creatures perched on the towers above. Surrounding the uplifted cage all manner of creature could be seen waiting. Boyd saw what had to be a basilisk trying to take wagers. It appeared no one was betting on him though no matter what the odds. Raised above the crowd on raised platforms were the Side nobility. Genevieve sat beside her father alongside her brothers and sisters. Castiel and a handful of his trolls stood nearby. Close by him was the King. Strong and regal he had a look of power about him. He'd had a wife once it was said. He'd loved her so much that he'd never remarried after she died. Xavier was his only son and his heir.

All this meant little to Boyd. He was focused on the duel ahead. Jin handed him his sacred katana and said "Die well Boyd.

The entered the cage. Castiel gave him a quick salute. "I respect you Boyd" he said. A torch on to the wood underneath the Boyd saluted back and then he looked his opponent in the eye. The cage door closed. Boyd could already smell the smoke. He took Jin's katana out of its sheath and said "any last words before we start". Xavier said "You thought that I'd not accept the terms of your duel didn't you? I'll cut you down long before the wood burns us.

Boyd felt a strange calm. He'd always wanted to be the hero that saved the damsel in distress instead he'd spent his youth in the Vietnamese gangs and his adulthood killing people who's only crime was to defy the United States government. This was a good way to die.

Xavier approached him with his sword in hand. He thrusts his blade at Boyd. Boyd stepped back. Again Xavier thrusts and Boyd ran to the side. Xavier thinking Boyd had lost his nerve snarled "Coward!"

Boyd parried the next attack with Jin's katana and bolted past Xavier. Xavier started chasing after him every time he got close Boyd would bolt in the other direction and then he realized Boyd's plan. Boyd wasn't looking to beat him he was looking to die with him. Boyd had planned this from the start. He hadn't been looking to scare him, Boyd had known the only way he could beat him was to stall until the fire killed them both. Xavier felt a jolt of fear and Boyd could smell it. Boyd said "You think you're something real special don't you? You know what you are to me? You're just another round eye that can't do math. Let's die together Xavier.

A murmur was going through the crowd as one by one. Prince Xavier, the finest duelist in the kingdom might actually die. The human was just buying time it as he scurried from one end of the enclosed platform to another.

Genevieve was frantically screaming at her father "I agree to the marriage just stop this". Her father replied "I wish there was something I could do. I really wish that there was. That's a brave human right there. However I can't stop a duel. No one can. Look at the King he is getting worried he will lose the heir to his throne yet he can not intervene. One of them most yield or die. That is the law. Your human appears more than happy to die for you and Xavier's pride won't let him even consider such a course of action

Many minutes had passed now and the floor was growing hot. Xavier was growing desperate his thin rapier was scoring hits from time to time. Already Boyd was bleeding from several thrusts but he was still running. He charged at Boyd and thrust his blade right through Boyd's chest piercing his lung. Boyd took the blow and smiled. As Xavier started to pull the blade out to finish, Boyd lunged at him and let the blade go even deeper into him and out through the back. Boyd got with in arms reach of Xavier, He knew he was too weak to score a takedown so he grabbed underneath Xavier's arms and jumped up with his legs. He wrapped both his legs around Xavier's waist and pulled guard. They both dropped to the floor with Boyd on the bottom. Boyd held him tight. Xavier tried to get free desperately. Boyd was bleeding out quickly but the floor was giving way as well. A minute passed and part of the floor collapsed. Xavier struggled to break free but he realized he was about to die with this human. Xavier could feel the floor beneath them start to give way and he swallowed hi pride. He screamed "I Yield". Just then the floor gave way and the two fell towards the fire. The King lifted his hand and both of them flew out of the fire and towards the ground. The King snapped his fingers and Boyd's wounds healed immediately.

"You are the most valiant human I have ever met" said the King. Boyd wasn't really sure what to say so he simply gave the King a crisp salute and replied Thank You Sir! Then the King looked at Xavier and said "I'd rather much have lost you than to discover I have a coward for a son. To lose to a human, you should have gladly died before dishonoring generations of your family.

Xavier burned with humiliation. He summoned his fae powers fired a blast of balefire at Boyd. Castiel leaped in between them and dispersed the blast with a Word of Power. He hit Castiel across the face knocking him down. "Coward" said Castiel. Xavier replied "How dare you? You serve me!" Castiel replied "I was your mercenary and I did what I was paid to do. I have no further loyalty towards you. Would you like a duel if you feel ruffled?" Xavier knew Castiel was one of the few that would beat him in a fair fight and said "guards Seize him!"

. His top trolls had come with him. As the guards approached the trolls threw them around like rag dolls.

Castiel took out his sword. It was brand new and he hadn't had a chance to test it yet. He said "leave a couple for me lads". That was when the King had enough. He stood up ablaze with eldritch energy. He radiated an awesome almost holy power and bellowed "everyone stop! Xavier you have embarrassed me enough for one day. If you were not my heir I'd let Castiel cut you down. You are banished to the human world for 10 years Xavier. Hopefully, you'll return with a backbone. The King focused his powers and Xavier was sent to the mortal world.

The King summoned Genevieve and asked "Do you love this human"? Genevieve said "I do You Majesty".

"Then kneel, you too Boyd." They knelt before the King Will you marry this woman? Boyd said "I will" The King had them hold each others hands as they recited oaths and he said "As King of the Land. I make you husband and wife. Who am I to get in the way of true love? Now rise as husband and wife.

Boyd said are you still going to love me when I'm 89 and you're still young. She says I'm not the first fae to take a mortal lover. As long as you live here you won't age. Neither will Jin.

A year later Jin and Megumi wed. They brought Jin's father to live in the world of the fae with them. And they all lived happily ever after.