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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13. Divided, David and Dain Again

Divided, David and Dain Again

 

                Melaina returned from the forest to strange looks from everyone that saw her. As much as Aravi had been kind to her, it seemed that the forest had a very bloody past with the villagers. She held onto Alex’s hand. She had questions to ask him, but they were for another time. She felt better to have him by her side. He wasn’t the hostile soldier from before but someone that worried about her continuously.

                Davie was waiting for her at the main door of the manor. He looked at their joined hands in suspicion. Melaina didn’t want to let go of Alex’s hand. She knew the assumptions, the rumors, but they would made anyway. She tightened her grip onto Alex’s hand.

                “There’s been a slight change of plans Davie,” she announced. “The soldiers are going to sail around to Little Marsh. We’ve received news that Dain has been found there. Alex and I are going to go through the forest.”

                “I’m coming with you,” Davie insisted.

                “No,” Alex said.

                “I don’t follow your orders,” David growled.

                “You follow mine, and I say no,” Melaina said calmly.

                “Mel, I can’t believe you,” David said. “I don’t understand why you’re doing this.”

                “Doing what?”

                “Going around with this Feluccan, do you even know what people are saying? And now you’re saying Dain is alive? That’s impossible, and you know it.”

                “Davie, you’ll understand everything later. For now, please just follow orders.”

                Davie turned around and stormed into the manor. Melaina knew that she couldn’t tell others the truth. The soldiers didn’t need to know about the spirit in the forest, they would only laugh at it until Aravi protected Vrinda and tried to make them kill one another in the process. She rushed up the stairs to her room, packing. She’d been forced to keep Manny in a wicker basket for the past couple of days, and took him out. There were plenty of rats in Collyria and the cook had been kind enough to catch one for her.

                After feeding Manny she let him rest on the bed as she packed her bags. Her new sword was the first to go in, her bow and arrows were next, and then went her daggers and her darts. She kept the bottle of Manny’s poison in her bag. After she was done packing she left to wander the manor one last time. No matter how much she searched she couldn’t find the corridor from before.

                The people in the manor slowly fell asleep until there was complete silence. Mel listened closely and heard the birdcalls, the roars from the forest. Aravi was waiting for her. She didn’t sleep well, and woke up at dawn. She went to wake Alex up to find that he had already gotten ready.

                “The soldiers will leave later today,” he told her. “We’re starting off now.”

                She picked up her bag from her room and they exited the manor after saying their goodbyes to Neema. The villagers who saw them on their way gave them looks of apprehension. Melaina ignored the looks and took Manny out of her bag, letting him rest on her shoulders.

                Her first step into the forest was uneventful. She held onto Alex’s hand as they slowly walked forward. As they walked forward the forest got darker, until it was just a land of brown and green. She couldn’t see the sun or the sky any longer. She walked forward anyway. She reminded herself that it was the adventure she had always dreamed of. Some of her fears vanished at the thought. She reminded herself that an adventure in a forest full of dangers was still bound to be more fun than a life of marriage to Dain. With that thought the rest of fears went away.

                She walked forward faster, letting go of Alex’s hand. As her fears disappeared the forest seemed friendlier. The forest was slowly getting lighter, and with the sunlight her mood improved. Melaina took a look at the magical land that Aravi had protected through the years.

                Everywhere she looked she saw life. From the giant flowers to the colorful birds there were new things everywhere. Vrinda was a place filled with life and magic. She didn’t hear Aravi’s voice. Alex was silent the entire way. She assumed it was the product of discipline. She had thought herself to be fearless for most of her life, but had been frightened easily by the enormity of the adventure she was on. He didn’t appear the slightest bit fazed.

                Alex was terrified. He wouldn’t admit it, but he missed feeling Melaina’s hand in his. She was exploring the forest and heading deeper in as she was exploring her own garden. She had been frightened at first, but have overcome it easily. Now she seemed to look for nothing but the adventure she was heading towards.

                “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” she asked, pointing towards a bright red flower the size of a chariot.

                “Please don’t ask me to pick it,” he said. The sound of her laugh carried far into the forest. It wasn’t the lilting high-pitched artificial giggle belonging to the women of high society, but a genuine deep resonating laugh.

                “Child,” Aravi’s voice called out, coming from all sides. Alex jumped at the strange voice. “Your friend, the boy from Lor has tried to follow you. He has lost his way, and is nearby. I cannot protect him any longer, not when he is so far from you. This is your chance to save him.”

                “Davie, idiot,” Melaina grumbled to herself. She should’ve seen it coming. Davie was just as good at following order as she was. They were both hopeless causes. She heard his yells and dropped her bags.

                Picking up her bow and arrow, she said, “Stay here, Alex. I’ll back in a few minutes.”

                He wasn’t very good at following orders either. He was a step behind her as she burst into the clearing where Davie was on the ground surrounded by a group of giant fanged creatures that looked like spotted tigers.

                Davie already had a deep gash on his right forearm and he held his sword weakly with his left hand. As the first tiger lunged towards him Melaina drew her bow and let loose the poison-tipped arrow. The tiger let out a yowl of pain as the arrow drew blood, and writhed on the ground as the poison slowly started its action.

                At the sounds of the other animals’ pain the other tigers ran off into the forest in fright. Melaina leaned down to look at Davie, who only grimaced at her.

                “You’re an idiot, Davie,” she said. “I hope you know that.”

                Alex helped him stand up and handed him his sword. Melaina ran back to where she dropped her bag and dusted it off. Manny didn’t like when she ran, and she dropped him into the top of the bag. She hefted it onto her shoulders as Alex came into view.

                “What should we do about him?” she asked. She was furious at him. Seeing Aravi’s thoughts, knowing her life and her mind, she knew that the spirit would have let Davie die a slow and painful death, but only let him live because he was Melaina’s friend. Nothing mattered more to Aravi than the sanctity of Vrinda. Davie would’ve died, and Melaina would never have forgiven herself.

                “Let’s let him come along, it’s too late to head back.”

                “I’m not talking to him,” Melaina stated.

                “I sort of understood that,” David commented.

                “Alex, let’s continue,” she said, ignoring her friend. She walked ahead leaving them both behind. Alex waited until he was sure she couldn’t hear them.

                “Is she always like this?”

                “Like what?” Davie asked.

                “A few minutes ago she was frightened, then she was fearless, and now she’s furious. There’s no balance there.”

                “Of course there isn’t. She’s always been like that. She feels every emotion to the maximum limit, whether it be happiness, anger, or even jealousy. More than anything, she’s stubborn. She’s already proclaimed herself the godmother of our unborn children.”

                “She’s childish,” Alex thought out loud.

                “You would think that, but she’s mature at the oddest times. You basically never know what to expect from her.”

                She’s an adventure, Alex thought, watching her as she hacked through underbrush releasing her anger. He didn’t even have to feel guilty anymore about liking her. Dain was alive. That thought stopped him in his tracks. Dain was alive, which meant that sooner or later the marriage would take place. Melaina was his brother’s fiancée.

                “Why did you stop?” Davie asked

                “It’s nothing,” he replied. He walked ahead next to her. Seeing her happiness, it was apparent that the thought hadn’t crossed her mind yet.

                “Dain’s alive,” he said. He said blankly, with no emotion, trying to keep the misery from sneaking into his voice.

                “Yes, you should be happy,” she answered.

                “I should be, but I’m not really. And you shouldn’t be,” he hinted.

                Melaina finally understood. He was alive. She knew that if she thought about it for too long she would start to lose hope again, just as she did before the wedding. And this time there would be no dragon to save her.

                “I’ll find a way out of it,” she said.

                “How?”

                “Stop talking, please,” she asked. She needed time to think. Dain would be a problem, but she didn’t want to think about him. The problem for her was finding the weapons. She focused her mind on only that one task. It would help her stay calm. It was mid-morning, but the climate changed suddenly and drastically. Gone was the darkness, the gloom. It was replaced by something foreign. The birdcalls were louder, stranger. Everything around them was green. The trunks of the gnarled trees with hanging branches were covered in a strange silky ivy, coconut trees grew in the small gaps between the banyans, and Melaina heard the hissing of giant snakes very close to her.

                They all felt the change. One step had transported them from the familiar forests of Collyria to somewhere even more exotic, someplace dangerous enough to guarantee no escape. The air was filled with the smell of dew, ripe coconut and sweet flowers. Through the thick canopy she saw the heights of the mountain range. Manny wrapped himself closer around her arm as she moved faster, jumping over the thick dark vines strewn across the forest floor. She ignored it when the vines started to move.

                “Come on,” she yelled to her companions, not hearing their footsteps behind her.         

                Finally she reached the base of the mountain and it loomed over her, a stony giant with steep cliffs and a million gaping holes she knew to be the entrances to a labyrinth of caves.

                “Aravi said a cave,” Alex said. He sighed, “It’ll take us a life time to find the right one.”

                “Then we don’t look for a cave,” she suggested. “We look for a dragon.”

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