Dragon Day

A princess that's not a lady. A king that's not a gentleman. And a wedding that does not go according to plan.

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18. Back Together

Back Together

 

                Aravi had disappeared as soon as she revealed to them what her weapons truly were. They stared at the air where she had been seconds before, unable to digest what she had told them. Melaina was the first to recover, looking back towards Gia who was playing in the grass.

                “Dragons,” she whispered out loud. Until a month before, she had never seen a dragon. Suddenly, they were the one constant thing in her life. A dragon had saved her from a wedding. And now, it seemed like dragons were key to saving their world. Gia tripped as she raced after a butterfly.

                “Gia,” she called out. The dragon’s head shot up, realizing that it was her new name. She unsteadily walked over to Melaina and stood in front of her expectantly. Melaina rubbed the top of her mind absentmindedly and sat down. Alex looked at the young russet dragon, reveling in the attention like a puppy.

                He could not believe that he had compared a baby dragon to a puppy. David slowly slumped down on the ground.

                “Aravi is seriously mad,” he proclaimed. “She is mad. Dragons aren’t weapons! They’re natural disasters, death wishes, flying furnaces of doom!”

                “Shut up, Davie,” Melaina said.

                “Yeah, I should do that,” he agreed, settling into deep thought. Alex looked at her as she stroked the dragon’s head. He wondered how she thought of such strange things, entertained such possibilities. She had wanted a pet dragon, and now she had one. He could imagine people’s thoughts when they would hear.

                “Well, we got the weapon,” he said. “What do you suggest we do now, princess?”

                Something surprised her. She couldn’t put her finger on it for a second. He hadn’t called her Mel or Melaina, going back to the formal ‘princess’ and ‘your highness’ of when they first met. It annoyed her that he was so formal, it felt wrong for him to speak to her in such a distant way, but she wouldn’t let it show.

                “Well, let’s meet up with the others, at Marsh. It shouldn’t be far from here,” she said. “Judging by the weather around here, the wind, they’re probably already at Marsh.”

                “They’ve probably already found Dain,” Alex thought out loud.

                “Yes, that as well,” Melaina agreed. It was something she tried not to think about, but something that he kept reminding her of. She enjoyed her freedom, even in the most dangerous, frightening times she had loved her freedom. She had never regretted her decision. But when Alex spoke of Dain, her heart sank at the thought of her future.

                They walked in silence after that. Gia was the only one that smiled. She didn’t eat anything for the rest of the day, but played with a half-hearted Melaina. David slowly warmed up to the dragonling and joined in the games as they walked along. They walked through the forest slowly and silently. Melaina dragged her feet along, and they took rest as often as possible. She wanted to prolong her period of freedom.

                Finally the trees started to thin. The dark canopy of the forest disappeared. The tropical trees and the vines gave away to the straighter trunks of temperate plants and light grass. She knew they were at the outskirts of the forest. The sun was starting to set. Alex set up camp, and they slept.

                She walked off alone, climbed up a tree and watched the surroundings. In the distance she saw Little Marsh, a clutter of dirt buildings and lights. She thought she saw the dim contour of The Beast near the port, and closer to her, there was a hut. It was on the edge of the village, not exactly part of the village, but not exactly alone.

                A large figure cut wood outside the hut. Before she could look closer at the blonde hair, the sun dipped below the horizon and it was impossible for her to see. The man went back into the hut at a woman’s call. She wondered how it was for them, to live a simple life, and so free. In that small hut on the outskirts of Marsh, those peasants had the freedom she yearned for.

*             *             *

                “Wake up, your highness! It’s time for us to go!”

                There it was again. That annoying greeting. She had a name, she knew he had no problems using it. But he was going back to his stone-faced personality when she had done nothing wrong, nothing to anger him. Without opening her eyes and without thinking she swatted her hand in front of her.

                “Ow!” he yelled, as a slap sounded through the air. She opened her eyes, noting she had swatted harder than she had meant to.

                “Sorry, Alex,” she said, getting up and seeing his red cheek. “I’m so sorry.”

                He straightened himself up and brushed off his shirt, “No, it’s no matter your highness. I should’ve woken you up more quietly.”

                It was awkward the way he was behaving. Unnatural and unsettling. They fought like dogs. Although she hated to admit it, she enjoyed seeing him annoyed, his eyebrows bunched up, his hands balled up. He paced when he was angry, fumed and cursed under his breath. He was at his most entertaining, his best, when he was angry. And now he was acting positively sedated. She didn’t like it.

                As he walked past her, she put her foot out and tripped him.    

                “I’m sorry,” she said, trying to sound genuinely apologetic. He got up, dusted off his clothing and continued to walk. Her jaw dropped at his reaction. Something was wrong.

                Davie came up to her side, and Gia was on the other side. He poked her on the shoulder and said, “It’s like he’s one of the undead, isn’t it?”

                Looking at him as he mechanically picked up his weapons with a blank expression on his face, Melaina couldn’t help but agree with Davie. They walked to the town without words. Whenever Davie started a conversation Alex would end it. As they came nearer to the town she saw the standard garb of the soldiers mingled with the bodies of the village people moving about in their daily works.

                “They’re here,” she announced. She quickened her pace. Suddenly she had to get away from Alex. She didn’t know why she got the feeling that she had to. Being around him was making her uneasy. He was battling something, and she didn’t know what. She knew that she was part of the cause. Her eyes searched the town courtyard for the Captain. People gave her a wide berth, shooting fearful glances at the dragon that shadowed her every step.

                She caught one of the soldiers by the collar, “Where’s Wilhelm?”

                She needed to see the Captain. Seeing another familiar face, perhaps that would bring her out of her state of anxiety. The captain always was rigid. He wasn’t emotional, and he calmed her down with his words alone. The soldier pointed towards the little hut on the outskirts and she set off in a run.

                As she came closer she heard the voices inside the hut and came to a halt. There was the calm, collected voice of the Captain, with his rough sailor accent and the rough words he used. There was a woman’s voice, sweet yet rustic, unpolished but even. And then there was the voice that she dreaded. He sounded different from before, his voice was more normal. It had none of the arrogance, the narcissism that she associated with him.

                But she couldn’t live with voices alone. She had to see the people with those voices. She started running again, bursting through the door of the hut into the small room. The three people sat at the table, and looked at her as she entered. She could imagine what she looked like as the woman at the table stared at her.

                She hadn’t had a bath in a few days, her hair was everywhere, her clothes and her skin dusted with a layer of dirt, and with a young dragon at her feet. She didn’t paint a pretty picture.

*             *             *

                Darya stared at the beautiful young girl in front of her, and her heart stopped. She was the princess that Dain was supposed to marry. She wasn’t more than sixteen, dressed like a boy, worn with travel, but still beautiful. Her olive skin was full of life, and her black waves, although in disarray, framed her face beautifully.               

                Then she saw the dragonling at her feet and she was in awe of the girl. Dain hadn’t said anything about her the night before, telling her of his childhood and Felucca. She had listened fascinated, engrossed by the history of the place that she had never even imagined. But she would only be there temporarily, and only as a guest. After she got her revenge she would return back to her cottage, to Collyria, and live as a hermit.

                But the girl in front of her, she could see the girl as a strong queen, a soldier leading an army into war. She wanted to dislike the girl, or to at least see some fault in her. But the expression on her face stopped her. There wasn’t much joy, just confusion and what she thought was dismay. The captain got up and embraced her.

                “We found him, Pint,” he said warmly. She only dumbly nodded as two more figures entered through the door.

                “Hello Melaina,” Dain said slowly. He saw her face, the hopelessness in it. She still had no wish to marry him. The thought made him feel happy. He looked at his brother, standing behind the princess.

                “Alex,” he called out, walking towards his brother for an embrace. Alex hugged him lightly. His brother was alive. But Alex was equal parts in joy and misery.

                “It has been too long, brother,” he said in a choked voice. “Too long.”

                “Of course, but we are together again,” Dain said to him. And this time he would no longer use his brother, he would no longer cheat him out of what he deserved. Alex would get everything that he had the birthright to, and more for the times he had saved his life. Dain only wished that he would give him forgiveness.

                Alex wondered at the sudden affection that his brother was showing him. He had never been so kind before. He decided it was a result of the trauma. He slowly stepped out of his brother’s embrace and stood at a soldier’s ‘at ease’ position, off to the side of the room.

                Melaina stood in the middle of the room, unsure as to what to do. Dain was definitely different. He was kinder, more normal. She didn’t feel anything towards him, but she couldn’t hate the humble man that was in front of her.

                Darya looked at the girl out of the corner of her eyes. The girl had searched for Dain, risked her life for him. She had found him even after he had been carried off by a dragon.

                She must love him very much, she thought. That saddened her. Dain would obviously love her in return. The girl was beautiful, strong, a princess. It was everything that she couldn’t measure up to. It was everything that she couldn’t measure up to. She headed out the door to her little garden, taking her thoughts with her.

                Dain continued to pace. He wanted to fix everything. But he had made so mistakes since ascending the throne that he didn’t know where to start. His people had been mistreated, his family had been used. He would’ve showed Melaina hell if the marriage had happened. He decided to fix what was in front of him then and there.

                “Melaina,” he said softly. “I will speak to your father. I promise you, the wedding will not happen.”

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