Chapter One

       Yves slowly emerged from the lake with her arms outstretched. Her lungs expanded with fresh air as she whipped her golden hair free of the water. She walked onto the edge of the lake; her naked, lightly toned skin kissed by the soft breeze. After stealing a glance around, to ensure she’s alone, she ambled to a thick, leafy tree. A single, low hanging branch held a fleece robe. She took the robe and wrapped it around her, it was soft and warm to her body. Yves enjoyed bathing on the outskirts of her simple village, daring to be kidnapped or some other sort of trouble.
  Unlike the other maidens of her village, who worked their charm to get the men to wait on their beck and call, she was drastically different. Yves’s great-grandfather was a leading inventor before the Order of the Knights of The Last Days took over. He was lucky to escape to the island and hide in its lush wilderness; he later came across the village that Yves called home. Coming from that kind of bloodline, she was more adventurous and curious than the others.
  After the fleece robe was firmly tied against her body she grabbed what else was at the base of the tree: her hand strung short bow and sharp, wooden arrows.

  The village had learned the art of metal craft for arrowheads thanks to her grandfather, but no craftsman dared to sell Yves one. She never knew why, maybe they thought a woman with ammunition would be dangerous. She didn’t mind it; there was no real reason to have metal-tip arrows. She always told herself that the Order had no reason to visit the island, and surely not her innocent village of Huldefolk. She and her village were safe, just like her great-grandfather wanted.

  Yves began to walk back to her village when she heard a rustle in the bushes. She shrugged at the noise, thinking to herself it might just be some woodland creature. She kept a slow and steady pace, breathing in the swift and crisp air. A smile came to her face as the clouds parted to allow the sun to break free and shine down on her, the lush grass and to sparkle on the clear lake. 
  To Yves the air was cleaner outside the village, for there weren’t any nightly fire pits that caused clouds of smoke to fill the air. No one else thought of the air was more smoke filled; more reasons for her to think she was different. 
  Just as she went to take a step, she tripped over something she didn’t see. A rope tied at both ends by two small and smooth rocks sprung from the bushes, ran around her ankles and caught her up in a trap. Yves winced as she hit the ground hard. She was stunned for a moment after the fall; when she realized what happened, her eyes shot open.

  Her eyes went to scan the direction the rope came from and stopped right above her, her vision was fuzzy for the moment but she made out two humanesque figures, “And you were such a good hunter.”

  The familiar voice rang into her ears in a teasing manner. Yves forced herself to focus and she slowly made out the smirking faces of her two best friends, the twins Trystan and Syam! She narrowed her eyes while the two squat up and down in front of her, trying to give her motion sickness.

  “Are you going to help me up?” she hissed.

  Trystan or maybe it was Syam, shrugged. She couldn’t tell the two apart while she was on the ground. Or even if she was standing up as the twins were so identical to the point even their mannerisms were the same.

  “Help her up, Syam,” nudged Trystan.

  “After you, my brother.”

  “Oh no, you’re the knight in shiny armor to all the maidens in distress.”

  “But Trystan, you are the distress,” laughed Syam.

  “So Trystan threw the damned thing?” Yves snapped as she began to untie the rope.

  “Yeah, he wanted to see the fairest treasure in all the land,” giggled Syam.

  “Bite it, brother. You did too.”

  “Good thinking, tripping her,” both the twins beamed.

  Yves shook her head and stood up, closely looking at the rope. “You boys did a fine job making this. I’m impressed.”

  “We have no idea how we made it.” Trystan stated.

  “Just like getting dressed?” Yves smirked.

  “Just about,” nodded Syam.

  Yves’ face darkened, “You weren’t watching me, were you?”

  The twins looked at each other, with shocked faces. “We should have done that!” they exclaimed in unison.

  Yves had to chuckle to herself. They were too innocent for their own good. After picking up her bow and quiver of arrows, she smoothed out her robe and motioned the two to follow her back to the village. The trio began to walk the beaten pathway to the village side entrance.
  Yves turned to Trystan, “So you just wanted to hide in the bushes to wait and trip me? And here I thought the brightest minds of our village were solving the complex problems of the realm.”

  He shook his head, his face held no playful joy he did just a few moments ago, “No, your father sent us for you. He wanted you back in the village as soon as possible. A band of bandits were spotted on the outskirts.”

  “You’d think they would stay in hiding from the Order,” Syam croaked.

  Yves sighed, “The Island is a perfect way to hide. It’s disconnected from the main lands with leagues of ocean water with who knows what swimming underneath the surface.”

  Trystan’s eyes widen, “How do we know the Order aren’t the Bandits?” he gulped. “They have weapons and tactics that could rival them. Maybe the Bandits are just the Order of the Knights of the Last Days stationed on the island!”

  “Keep your voice down, brother. If they are the Order, or just simply blood crazed thieves, I surely don’t want to meet them in… a…” Syam trailed off. He looked up at the thick trees, “Anyone else feel uneasy?”

  “Shut up, Syam,” ordered Yves.
  A shiver ran down her spine as her breathing became sporadic. Uneasiness washed over her as she raised her hand to grab an arrow from her quiver. The twins stumbled over uprooted tree roots and their own feet while scanning their surroundings. After a few moments of near silence, with the only sound being the trio’s heavy breathing and faint footsteps filling the air, they slowly relaxed. Yves lowered her hand.

  “I think the village should expand to the lake,” Syam said with a renewed voice of courage.

  “Why? Hudlefolk is fine the way it is,” retorted Yves.

  “It’s a good village,” agreed Syam, “But you love bathing in it and with the waterfall it’s great for drinking, cooking, anything really. That way when the Order decide to let trade come back, we’d be in direct route with all the good traders.”

  “You surely are optimistic,” Yves smiled and then frowned. “But the Order will never let trade come back.”

   Without warning, a swish snapped through the air.