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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19. Lost Hopes

Lost Hopes

 

            Melaina looked up at the man in shock. The king was earnest. He looked like he finally understood her. She nodded and smiled. All the people in the room were looking at them. She had feared so many things, faced so many things. Now her biggest problem no longer existed.

            “Except I’d like your help in something,” he confided. “Of course, you don’t have to,” he added.

            “Trust me, I think I owe you a favor,” she said tentatively. She did.

            “Just don’t tell Darya about this, for now.”

            She smiled impishly. Looking out the window, she saw the melancholy look of the pretty tan-skinned girl, lost in her thoughts. She had barely seen Darya speak since she had found Dain. She usually sat by Dain silently, adding suggestions here and there.

            “Alright,” she said.

            “And if you could, find out what she thinks of me?”

            The Captain was drinking his tea, which came spluttering out of his nose. He considered himself immune to surprises. The king of Felucca, breaking off his marriage, he hadn’t been surprised. The king, surviving a dragon attack, he somehow managed to maintain calm. But the princess that he knew, helping in someone else’s romance. The girl he knew would gut anyone that asked her to encourage love, mushy feelings, and hearts and roses.

            The princess that sat before him just smiled knowingly. The captain realized just how grateful she was. Alex saw Dain relax as Mel agreed and wondered if he had a chance. He thought of taking her out the door and asking her, imagining the surprise in her pretty gray eyes.

            There would be surprise, he knew that. But there would probably be nothing else. He tried to think of one reason that she would say yes to him, think of one reason that she would even like him. He adored her, and she knew nothing about him. All she’d seen of him was a soldier, a brother, a silent man that stood behind her, and sometimes against her.

            He wondered if he had ever done anything nice for her. He had called her a murderer, tried to kill her snake, ordered her around, and… He was the exact opposite of nice to her. Alex stepped back against the wall. It was definitely not the time to tell Melaina how he felt.

            They packed their bags and stepped into the shanty that would take them to The Beast. Darya ignored the supercilious looks of the villagers as they saw her leave. She had locked her house, and entrusted the key to the blacksmith. It didn’t matter, they would strip her house bare. All her valuables, her faded copy of the Rimlin was in a bag by her side. Dain was on her other.

            Her dark brown hair flew into her face as the shanty picked up speed and neared their ship. She saw her home slowly become nothing more than a dot and finally disappear. The sun was already high in the sky by the time she stepped out on the deck of The Beast, after placing her belongings in a room on the ship.

            The princess was already on the deck, climbing up a rope to the crow’s nest. Seeing Darya, she stopped climbing and jumped down, landing gracefully on her feet. The princess had gone to the inn after meeting Dain. Her skin was clear without dirt, her gray eyes curious and sparkling. She was happy, blissfully happy, and Darya knew it was because of Dain.

            “Good afternoon, your highness,” she said with a curtsy. Her curtsy was unpracticed, clumsy and she blushed knowing how unrefined she really appeared.

            “No need to call me that, just Melaina will do,” she answered, patting her on the arm. “I can’t thank you enough for taking care of Dain.”

            “It was nothing, your highness.”

            “I hardly think it was nothing,” Melaina retorted. The girl was being too modest. She didn’t believe in pride, but she hated overdone modesty. It was almost as bad as Dain before his memory loss. “I was at the inn, if you don’t remember. I met some other people from your village. The Captain says that about all of them are the same. If Dain had showed up at anyone else’s door we would found him as a pile of decaying flesh, and the village would have been richer by a sizable amount of gold and suit of chain mail.”

            “That’s horrible,” Darya said, just imagining the possibility. She couldn’t think of her Dain dead. She stopped her thoughts. She couldn’t think of Dain dead, he was not hers, she reminded herself. But the princess in front of her just belted out such horrible words as if they were nothing. “Please don’t say such things.”

            “Fine, fine, but you know it’s the truth.”

            It was. The majority of the people of Little Marsh were vile. Darya shuddered as she thought of what Dain would’ve endured if he hadn’t come to her house and gone to some other. He would’ve died, quickly. She stepped near the railing and looked at the dot that was Collyria. It was everything that she knew, and it was gone. She didn’t know if she would ever see her poor little cottage again, her home for over twenty-five years.

            Revenge has a price, she thought. The young dragon from before bounded onto the stairs, a rope tied loosely around her neck. One of the soldiers that had arrived with the prince was holding the other end of the make-shift collar, desperately trying to curb the movements of the curious dragon.

            “Alex, what are you doing?”

            “Let’s just say that cook no longer wants to utilize her for starting a fire,” Alex said vaguely. “In fact, he’s banned her from the kitchen and the dining room.”

            “What did she do?”

            “I won’t get into the specifics, but a lot of things turned black, like pots, pans, a few turkeys, and our cook’s behind,” he informed her, trying to hide his smile. It didn’t take long for him to become fond of Gia. She was energetic, adorable, and as far as he saw, fairy harmless. As if she could read his thoughts, Gia stopped straining against the rope and nuzzled his hand.

            Melaina laughed. His undead phase was gone, and he was back to his usual self, restricted and controlled, but with a drop of joviality hidden somewhere beneath the surface. She enjoyed his company when he was himself, not moody or strange. Even in silence, he was comforting sometimes.

            “Mel, you want to take her for a while?” he asked, offering her the rope. So he was back to calling her Mel. She took it as another good sign. She took the rope and untied Gia, ordering her to stay still. It was remarkable how intelligent the dragonling was.

            Alex wandered off to the head of the ship. His seasickness wasn’t acting up so much. And without the constant vomiting and the headache, he enjoyed the peacefulness of the sea. Dain was sleeping in his suite that was conveniently next to Darya’s. Alex wondered if he would sleep so soundly if he knew that his little brother was in love with the girl he was supposed to have married. Alex knew he probably wouldn’t. Despite his brother’s sudden change of heart, he had known Dain for twenty years, and he wasn’t a man that took those kind of things lightly.

            He had thought often that he had a chance with her. It was time that he accepted that he didn’t. It didn’t matter if Dain married her or not. In the end she was a princess, born royal, with a rich country and people that loved her. He was an outcast that lived in the castle because of his brother’s pity. Everything that he had, including his life, was because of Dain’s mercy.

            And he had spent the last ten years trying to pay him back. He had trained tirelessly until he was the one in charge of Dain’s life. Even then he’d managed to fail. It was lucky that his brother had survived, otherwise he would have never forgiven himself. He might’ve joined his brother, he thought wryly.

            “Alex?” Mel’s voice called out from behind him. She could see that his happy mood was gone. His hunched shoulders, the way he stood frozen at the railing, staring at nothing and everything all at once, she knew he’d be different once more.

            “Yes, your highness?” he asked, looking at her but never into her eyes. It was duty that he stay away from her. He had no right to desire her. His voice was distant. She didn’t enjoy the formality. His voice was sad. She couldn’t understand why.

            “It’s Mel,” she suggested.

            “I can’t call you that, your highness,” he admitted. He had called her that before, forgetting himself and his stature. Calling her by her name made her seem closer, more attainable. He forgot that she was not for people like him, and it was painful every time he was reminded of it. It was better that he never forgot.

            “You called me Mel a couple of days ago, a few seconds ago,” she argued.

            He looked up at her, at the firm line that was her mouth, her strong straight nose, and finally her eyes. “I made a mistake. I promise it will not be repeated, your highness.”

            His voice held steady as he spoke, but his eyes shook as he looked at her, the way that her eyes widened and her tiny step back. She looked hurt. He convinced himself that he just imagined it. The formality of a soldier, a servant, should mean nothing to her.

            Alex walked past her, going to his room. Suddenly he felt very sick.

            Melaina didn’t look back. She saw the look in his eyes, the look of a complete stranger. The look paralyzed her, made her want to shake him by shoulders and convince him he was wrong. He should call her by her name, joke with her, talk to her, and argue with her like he always found an excuse to.

            She wondered if he had only tolerated her during their entire trip, been nice to her because it was easier that way and not because he had actually grown fond of her, like she had grown fond of him. He didn’t speak much, but when he did his words usually meant something. Silence with him was friendly. His presence was enough for her. But he wouldn’t be present much longer. They would go to Lor, and then Dain would leave to Felucca, taking his brother along with him.

            He was distancing himself from her, preparing himself for what was to come. She thought of mornings without his sarcastic replies, his wit, and the way that he challenged her and doubted her. A life without that, she thought of the nothingness in such a life. It didn’t matter what adventures she went on, nothing could replace the silent joy of just having him by her side.

            She raced off the deck, leaving Gia’s collar in Darcy’s hand. She took the stairs down two at a time, and finally reached Dain’s quarters. Ignoring the soldier who told her he was sleeping, she knocked loudly. Dain came to the door, his blonde hair in all directions, his light blue eyes still drowsy. She slipped into the room and shut the door.

            Darya saw the door close as she came down the stairs to see what had made Melaina rush so quickly off the deck. It was normal, she told herself, that they were in love, and that she suddenly missed him. But Darya missed him too. He hadn’t spoken to her like before, not since he had recovered his memory.

            After you told him he’s just your way to revenge, a voice in her mind told her. She spirits sank further. You should’ve never told him.

            She knew it didn’t matter that she told him. He was engaged to a beautiful girl, a princess, someone that a village girl with a vengeful heart could never compete with. She let herself lose her last hopes of ever being with Dain. She walked into her room slowly, holding in the tears until no one could hear them.

            

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