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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5. Miscalculations and Mayhem

Miscalculations and Mayhem

 

            Melaina wandered out of the room for the first time in two weeks… and came face to face with a strange place. The palace was lit up with candles and every inch of the walls were covered with rich tapestries. People moved about hurriedly. The lack of peace made her disconcerted, and she stepped back towards her room.

            The second she moved back, she was noticed. All eyes were on her, and a maid with a sour face that she vaguely recognized took her by the arm and started leading her through the hall. Melaina would have protested, or pulled her arm back and punched the maid in the face. But the truth was she was famished and exhausted.

            She knew it was the day, the day that she and that insufferable royal idiot would be bound together for life. But the despair and the sadness had passed. All she felt was a numbness. It didn’t feel like she was capable of emotion anymore. Her eyes were open but she wasn’t looking at anything, far more involved in her own thoughts. Before she knew it, she was in the parlor of her parents’ suite of rooms.

            She hopefully looked around for her father, but he was nowhere to be found. Although her mother stood right in front of her, she couldn’t bring herself to look at the woman’s face. Her dress was one of blue silk, with a long billowing skirt. It seemed that she hadn’t let go of her vanity even on the day of her daughters’ weddings.

            “It’s good to see you,” her mother stated matter-of-factly. Melaina knew what the sentence meant. It meant, “It’s good you’ve stayed put and haven’t run away.”

            “Wish I could say the same,” she muttered. On either side of her mother there were two mannequins, one of which was wearing the most beautiful gown she had ever seen. The other one was definitely more elaborate, with extensive gold embroidery on the shimmering white silk. But it was too extravagant for her eyes.

            The one that she knew was her wedding dress was simpler, more unconventional. It had a bodice of an off-white color, and an empire waist. The red silk was covered with another layer of red lace. Her mother didn’t like it at all, and Melaina knew it from the way she stood closer to Lucille’s dress.

            She silently walked over to the mannequin and took the dress into her hands, ignoring the servants that tried to help her. It was light and soft, not one of the usual giant bundles of taffeta that her mother tried to shove onto her.

            Seeing her reflection in the mirror wearing her dress, it repulsed her. Lucille would look beautiful, and she looked like a wretch. Her face was unrecognizable from a few days before. Her dark hair hung limp, her face was gaunt. The dress hung on her loosely, and she frowned at the mirror.

            Her father snuck up behind and placed silver bangles onto her hands. He took a coiled silver chain out of his pocket, and slowly straightened out the silver chain onto his palm. At the end of the short chain there was a diamond pendant hanging at the end.

            She took the old piece of jewelry and placed onto her head, in the middle part of her hair.It was Lor’s version of a coronet, something that her mother had abhorred and abandoned in favor of a modern tiara. The silver pendant wasn’t as finely made as her mother’s jewelry, and pretty simplicity made up for the lack of intricacy. Her father smiled as she adjusted the diamond pendant, and picked up the elaborate matching silver earrings that he had in his other palm.

            A maid came over carrying a platter with powder and rouge. She gently pushed the platter away and turned towards her father.

            “I love you, Pa,” she whispered, embracing him tightly.

            “Love you Pint,” he whispered back before lifting her up off the ground. “It’ll be empty without you here.”

            “It’ll still be better than Felucca,” she retorted.

            Eleanor interrupted their hug, gently placing her hand on Henry’s shoulder.

            “If you’re done with your self-pity, you’re supposed to be getting married today,” her mother advised.

            Melaina turned away from her mother and walked out the door. She found the nearest bench and took a seat. It was a miracle she was still standing. Hunger was gnawing away at her, and all she wanted to do was sneak off to the kitchen to eat everything or else to her room to sleep till the end of time.

            She had unconsciously walked into her father’s study, and leaned back into her father’s armchair. It hurt her spine to stand, it hurt her head to talk. But she had no other choice. Her father walked in.

            “The re-enactment is first, and then the wedding,” he said. “The two grooms will be the ones vanquishing the dragons. Let’s head to the arena now.”

            “Well, that’s something to look forward to.”

            “The wedding?” her father asked.

            “Dain in chain mail,” she answered. “I’ll finally be able to laugh.”

            “It’s nothing to laugh at,” Henry told her. “It was a nightmare finding him a suit that would fit.”

            Melaina smiled at her father. She looked around the study with despair. It would be the last time she saw the hardcover editions her father prized, the last time she smelled the incense he lit without fail every day. She leaned on her father as they walked out the door. It didn’t feel like she would make it through to the end of the day. Maybe it would be better for her if she died of exhaustion or starvation. It would be better to have a grave in Lor than to live in the tomb that would be Felucca.

***

            Oliver walked down to the giant tents where they were keeping the dragons. His hands shook and he gripped his apothecary bag filled with the vials. He still wasn’t sure if his mixtures would be enough, or if they would end up killing the creatures. All he could do was hope.

            It was feeding time, and they were tossing meat into the monsters’ mouths. Both the beasts were being doused with water constantly so they couldn’t breathe fire. One of the burlier guards tossed a lamb shank over Oliver’s head and the scarlet dragon snapped her jaws closed around it. The sound made him jump, but he continued on.

            He started to get out the necessary vials and the giant syringes as the guards once again put the iron muzzles. The scarlet female reared her head and thrashed her tail, sweeping two guards off the floor. Oliver set up the vials in order. He knew the preparation was most potent when prepared fresh.

            He went to the blue male first, standing beside the subdued animal and taking the sedative into his syringe.

            “Fifteen ounces,” he muttered to himself as the syringe absorbed the thick liquid. Without hesitation he smoothly slid the needle into the leathery skin of the animal. The dragon didn’t notice and soon his task was complete. It would take action in an hour, and the dragon would be drugged for the entire day. His confidence was restored as he saw the male’s golden eyes slowly drooping.

            The scarlet female saw what happened to the other victim and she restlessly struggled against her bindings as Oliver approached. Oliver’s attention was on the vials, and he set them up once more.

            “Thirty ounces,” he muttered to himself, reaching for the second vial.

            One of the thick ropes came apart and the dragon’s arm came free. She lashed out at everyone that was within her grasp, and the vial slipped out of his hand. He was knocked off his feet, and the contents of his bag were flung across the floor.

            The guards quickly grabbed onto the edge of the rope and brought her back into control. But Oliver had been effectively shaken out of his confidence. He salvaged the few vials of sedatives that were unbroken and picked up a fresh syringe.

            The syringe in one hand, vial in another, he glanced around for a second. He couldn’t remember the measurement. He wracked his head, but the number wouldn’t come to him. A nearby guard noticed his predicament.

            “You were saying thirteen to yourself,” the guard informed him.

            Thirteen? Oliver nodded his head. He filled up the syringe with thirteen ounces of the liquid and injected it into the dragon. As soon as the deed was done the dragon’s eyes closed, and Oliver satisfied himself that he had done nothing wrong.

***

            Melaina woke up leaning on her father. She was in the old coliseum. The crumbling structure had been restored to all its former glory. The metal gates at either ends of the arena were closed, but she could already sense the slowly building anticipation of the crowds. They screamed the princes’ names, and there were a few odd shouts demanding for blood.

            Lucille was on her other side, clutching at the armrest of her plush chaise and scanning the ground below. Melaina closed her eyes again hoping to slip into her dreams again, the one place where she had managed to remain free. But the trumpeting and the fanfare jolted her awake again.

            The rusted iron gates were slowly raised and the two giant creatures lumbered out into the arena. Their wings were loosely tied to their sides and they moved only because of the poking and prodding of the guards’ spears. Melaina couldn’t help but feel that she and the dragons were not so different in terms of their fate.

            “I wish they wouldn’t be so harsh,” she thought out loud.

            “Don’t worry Pint, I’m sure Oliver’s drugged them so heavy they don’t even feel the pain,” her father assured her.

            He was wrong. The scarlet female felt everything. Her leathery hide stung from the pain but she endured it. The drug was still acting on her mind and her muscles. Everything was foggy and it took all of her effort to walk.

            They were both oblivious to the crowds around them. Bells sounded and people yelled as the other gate was opened. The two princes emerged from the darkness into the brightly lit arena. Gavin fumbled with the sword that was too heavy for his hands, but Dain exuded nothing confidence. His face had an unhealthy purplish tinge. The chain mail, although the biggest in the armory, was still a few sizes too small for him, and it was hard for him to breathe.

            He smiled nonetheless, determined to be the star of the show. Gavin timidly walked towards the blue dragon who was soundly asleep by the time he reached him. After prodding the dragon with his sword once he started at the thunderous applause of the crowd. Gripping the sword tighter, he quickly climbed up the stairs to their compartment in the coliseum and took a seat next to Lucille.

            Melaina smiled at him kindly. Although she could never be friends with Gavin, she liked the fact that he showed her sister respect. And she couldn’t say that about the podgy man that she was about to be married off to. She looked back towards the arena where Dain was putting up a show for the audience. He unsheathed his sword theatrically and lunged it at an invisible opponent. Sauntering forward, he dug his sword deeply in to the dragon’s side.

            The scarlet female felt all the pain. Despite his effort, the sword has just pierced the skin, not enough to draw blood. She wanted to lash out at her attacker, but the sedative was still acting on her muscles. But she felt its control weakening. The feeling returned into her talons first, and she decided to be patient. She dug his claws into the ground as Dain stabbed her again and again.

            He put on a show, acting dramatic and heroic. He occasionally winked at the audience before attacking the defenseless dragon one more time. The crowd’s cheering gradually became quieter as they tired of his antics. The dragon waited for her moment of freedom, which she could sense was soon.

            Finally the movement came back into her legs, and she slowly stood up. Dain backed up as she roared loudly. The coliseum started to empty as the frenzied crowds ran to escape the furious beast. Dain didn’t have that chance. He tried to run to the nearest pair of stairs, but the dragon leaped over him.

             She would’ve left then and there, but she couldn’t forget the sparks of pain that still put her entire side on fire. She would get her revenge. With her tail she blocked the base of the stairs and hissed at the terrified Dain.

            The dragon contemplated leaving the arena, flying off back to her nest and leaving her captors behind without her revenge. But her capture had been one insult, the pokes and prods of the fat man in front of her were another. She wouldn’t leave without her revenge.

            Normally she didn’t like the taste of human. The skin was too thin, the flesh too rubbery. But she was ravenous, not having eaten in a while. To her he was a large-sized meal, neatly packed in chain mail. The dragon stepped forward slowly and imposingly. A growl that sounded like a laugh erupted from her mouth as Dain tripped and fell.

            Hooking her talons into the chain mail firmly, she stretched out her wings. The coliseum was full of mayhem. Lucille, Gavin and Eleanor had fled the place long before, but Melaina couldn’t move from her seat. Henry had summoned the archers who were shooting arrows at the dragon’s wings. They all missed her by miles as she slowly flapped her wings.

            Taking up off the ground, she soared past the walls of the coliseum. Dain screamed as she hurtled away from the city at thundering speeds. The archers’ arrows touched nothing but air as the scarlet female escaped.

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