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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17. Marsh

Marsh

 

                Captain Wilhelm hated Little Marsh. The town was filled with cruel, greedy people. A few good ones existed as well, but with great difficulty. After he had foiled their plans of extracting all of their money from them he set on exploring through the town. The rundown houses, the people that looked at his polished shoes, his tailored clothes, with a sick kind of envy. He didn’t enjoy his walk, and was glad to get back to his inn.

                He knew that Melaina thought that Dain would be found here. He highly doubted it. If he knew the people of Marsh, and he did, they had probably robbed Dain of all his valuables and then buried him alive right behind their church.

                In the evening he went down to the tavern. Middle-aged men, definitely married, were flirting with the young barmaids. There were things going on that normally went on behind closed doors. He ignored all of it and walked over to the bar. The innkeeper eyed the Captain’s coat with beady eyes and smiled an avaricious smile.

                “I need some information about a man,” the Captain said.

                “I don’t know, sir, my memory’s not what it used to be,” the man replied. The Captain placed a gold coin on the bar.

                “But of course I’d definitely try my best to help you,” the man continued.

                “A man came into this village, a couple of weeks ago,” the captain said. “He was a big man, blonde hair. He would’ve been hurt, wearing chain mail.”

                “I don’t know all that, but someone did come into our town a few weeks ago, details escape me.”

                Another gold coin.

                “A man of course.”

                Another.

                “And definitely big.”

                Another.

                “He was gigantic really. And he was hurt, I saw a bandage across his forehead. But where he is…”

                No matter where he went he would have to pay them for the information. The Captain placed another coin on the table.

                “At that orphan Darya’s house. He’s probably there right now,” the man finished, slipping the coins into his pocket and going back to his barrels of ale.

                The Captain looked out the window at the little cottage in the distance. It was far away yet near. No one could really say whether it was a part of Marsh or not. He opened the door and exited the tavern, walking over to Darya’s cottage.

*              *              *

                Darya had to admit that he was not as much of a lost cause as she had thought. In weeks he had shed a great deal of weight. He was still a big man, but no longer as round as he had been when he had first knocked on her door. He helped her in the woods, collecting firewood while she collected herbs.

                Slowly she was teaching him to fight as well. The attempts were going slowly, but he was eager to learn. His head continued to bother him. The pain gave him flashes of his previous life. All that he could remember was luxury, exorbitant luxury. She tried not to think about it. All that mattered was that she found her father’s killer.

                “Jon!” she called out. It was the name he had picked for himself. No matter how much he tried, he couldn’t remember his name.

                “Yes Darya,” he called out, stepping through the threshold. Her father’s clothes now fit him. He stood at the door and waited for her instructions. As much as Dain wanted to know his past, to fill the emptiness of his mind with the memories from before, he enjoyed his life with Darya. It was a simple, uncomplicated life. He didn’t like the people from the village that he met on occasion, but he didn’t have to. They rarely went to Marsh.

                Darya couldn’t wait for the moment when his memory would return. It would be her first step in the right direction, her first clue as to her father’s killer. She urged him every day, questioned him about every aspect of his past. Slowly, he started to answer with more than a blank face. It was coming back to him and she knew it.

                “Jon, how much do you know?” she asked. He was rich, she knew that he could have gone to one of the universities of the richer countries. He knew more about the world than she did. His movements had the refinement of the upper class.

                “I don’t know,” he answered. She placed her worn copy of the Rimlin on the table and pushed it towards him. He flicked through the yellowed pages, choosing one of her favorite passages. It was the passage on virtue, heralding the wonder of bravery and generosity, of peace and kindness, and most importantly of honesty. The words had profound meaning. The Rimlin was supposed to be the guide to the perfect world, if all people followed it. Darcy doubted that anyone did.

                The words flowed quickly out of his mouth, as if he had read the book before. At the end of the passage he snapped the book shut and looked at her.

                “I can read, then,” he answered. “I’ve read this book before, a different copy. But I’ve read it.”

                “Can you remember where?” she asked softly.

                “A giant library,” he saw the library in flashes. A giant room, with endless rows of books and a plus armchair that he squeezed into. He remembered the ticking of a clock, the occasional bells from outside. People walked by him, bowing in respect but not disturbing his peace.

                “I think I was someone important,” he added.

                She rubbed her forehead in annoyance. It was an established fact that he was someone important. The jewels that she hid in the kitchen were more than enough proof of that. She needed more.  She urged him to continue. He remembered that it was warm, almost as warm as Marsh. There was a smell in the air that he remembered, of dusty books. An old man was sitting near to him, the librarian. Dain remembered that the man’s name was Tren.

                “My name’s Dain,” he thought out loud. It was the name that Tren had so fondly called him during his childhood. When he had ascended power the informality, the love had disappeared. From then on Tren had called him Your Highness.

                “Your highness,” he whispered.

                “What?”

                “Your highness!” the Captain called out. He stood at the door, looking at the rustic scene. The king was different, healthier. The way he sat at the table, normally without an air of his previous pride, the Captain wondered if he was mistaken.

                “You’re the Captain from Murdock,” he said. The captain had met him briefly at the port. He was surprised that Dain even acknowledged him, instead of berating him for not finding him sooner.

                “Yes, your highness,” the Captain replied. “Captain Wilhelm, at your service.”

                “How did you find me?” he asked. The gaps in his memory were slowly filling. The dragon carrying him off, his engagement to Melaina, the land of Lor, and of his own land Felucca. He realized how idiotic he had been. He found himself hating the person that he was.

                “Darya,” he called out. She stood there frozen. In the course of a second he had changed. His posture was stiff and tall, his language smoother. He no longer hesitated as he spoke, and he had a new confidence that she had never seen in him. It took her a moment to realize that he had called her. She walked over to him slowly, measuring her steps and searching his face for familiarity.

                It was almost gone. In a second he had become a stranger. She stepped farther away. Dain saw the difference that was between them. She had gone from being the only person he had to being a peasant in front of a king. He stepped towards her.

                “Darya,” he said again. “Let me introduce myself. I am Dain, king of Felucca.”

                King. The word rang out inside of her head. She had expected him to be important, but the younger son of a Lord, or a knight, perhaps a rich merchant. She couldn’t order a king to lead to her father’s killer. She didn’t have that courage. For a moment she forgot about her revenge. He would leave to his kingdom. She would be alone again. She didn’t know what bothered her more, the thought of leaving her quest, or the thought of him leaving.

                “Where is Melaina?” he asked quietly, looking at the Captain. He knew that the girl was his betrothed. But he realized that he had never really liked her. She was too wild, too young, and he knew that she felt nothing for him, except perhaps disgust.

                “She took a small team and is searching for you through the forest, sire,” the Captain answered.

                “That forest,” he asked, pointing to the mountain.

                “Yes, your highness.”

                Dain took his head in his hands. He had first almost robbed the young girl of her freedom, and now she might have lost her life in her search for him. He cursed himself for being an idiot, for being the horrible man that he had been before.

                Darya saw his sadness and a twinge struck her heart. In her eyes he was grieving for the girl that he loved. She had been nothing but his caretaker. Whatever feelings he had felt towards her during his amnesia were gone, replaced by memories of some princess who had come for him.

                “Sire, why did you not try to contact anyone?” the Captain asked. He wondered if Dain had decided to settle down in Little Marsh. His demeanor had changed, it looked like he was well attuned to the rhythm of the country life. He was certainly affectionate towards the peasant girl that he was living with.

                “I lost my memory, seeing you must have triggered something in my mind,” the king informed him. “But how could you let Melaina go into that forest? It’s a death wish, going into that forest. I’m lucky to be standing before you today.”

                “She doesn’t really follow other peoples’ orders, your highness,” the Captain told him. “She does what she wants.”

                “I was such a brute to her, trying to marry her when she didn’t want to. And she’s searching for me… with Alex, I presume?”

                The Captain nodded, and Dain’s spirits sunk even further down. Whatever injustice he had done Melaina, it was nothing compared to what he had done to Alex. The sad thing was that the boy worshipped the ground he walked on. He had lied, betrayed, all for power. Alex had suffered because of him, and he was clueless about it, thinking Dain to be savior.

                “We have to go after them at once,” he ordered. “We have to save them.”

                The Captain nodded. “I’ll assemble my men. We’ll start off into the forest in the morning. Sire, if you would like to accompany me to the inn.”

                “No, I’ll stay here for the night. I don’t care much for the people in the village,” he said quickly.

                The Captain closed the door behind him. It had all happened so quickly. The king should not have been alive, he knew that. But he was, and he was so changed, in a matter of weeks. He pondered over how fate worked in mysterious ways as he walked back to the inn.

*              *              *

                Dain paced the length of the room. He wondered how dangerous the forest was at night. He had barely escaped it alive. Even during the moments when the rest of his life was forgotten by him, he remembered the harrowing trek out of the forest and to Darya’s door.

                “I have something to ask of you,” Darya said quietly. She couldn’t expect a king to follow her wishes, her whims. She would tell him the truth, tell him who she was searching for.

                “Anything, Darya,” he said with a kind smile. She was sitting at her table, her elbows on the table and looking into space with a blank look. He realized that she was in disbelief.

                She didn’t want to tell him the truth, that even though she helped him, in the end it had been for her own benefit, for her own search. She wanted to stop herself, but the words that he had read out loud just a few minutes before, about honesty came back to her. Whatever happened, she would know she had done the right thing.

                “I didn’t help you just because it was the right thing to do,” Darya admitted. “There was another reason.”

                She wondered if he would think she was crazy. Most likely he would. But the truth was important. She took a deep breath and continued.

                “I want to find the man that killed my father. You are supposed to lead me to him,” she said.

                “What are you saying?”

                He didn’t like hearing what she was saying. He had always thought that she had taken him in, not only because she was kind, but because she saw something in him that other people had not. In the two weeks he had become close to her. She saw his vulnerability, his weakness and wasn’t deterred by it. He had hoped that life would continue that way, simple and free, with just the two of them.

                All good things come to an end, he thought to himself. She had been after something else.

                “Aravi, she’s the spirit that guards this forest,” Darya explained. “She showed me my father’s murderer, and told me that helping you was the first step to getting my revenge.”

                “Your father?”

                She had never told him about her family. It was a topic she preferred not to talk about to anyone. She didn’t want anyone’s pity. She shrugged off the tone in his voice and continued.

                “My father died ten years ago at sea,” she said. “We were told it was a storm that killed him. Aravi showed me the truth. My father’s death, it ended everything for me. Jon, please, try to understand.”

                “It’s Dain,” he corrected her. He saw the glistening of tears in her eyes. She had used him, but he could understand her. She slumped down on the chair, thinking that he would refuse her request.

                “I just need to come with you,” she said quietly. “I just need to find him.”

                “Fine.”

                It was revenge that she wanted. Dain knew that she hadn’t taken him in just for her revenge. She had been too kind, too close to him. He knew that if it had been any other way, he would’ve left her there, or he would’ve wanted revenge like her. But it wasn’t any other way. He didn’t want revenge, he wanted love.

                

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