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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20. Realization

Realization

 

            “I want to ask a favor of you,” she said as she entered the room.      

            “What?” he asked groggily, still half-asleep.

            “I want Alex,” she said without thinking. Then realizing how it sounded, she added, “I mean I want Alex to stay in Lor. He would make a wonderful addition to our army.”

            He didn’t understand at first. Then he saw her eyes and the hope in them. Unfortunately for him to right his wrongs, he couldn’t do she wanted. He would help her get what she wanted, realize what it was she wanted. He was amused by her innocence, by her unwillingness to accept what it was she was feeling.

            “I’m sorry, I can’t, Melaina,” he said softly.

            “What do you mean?” she asked. “What do you mean you can’t? You’re the king of Felucca, damn it! You can get another bodyguard, another soldier!”

            He answered, “But you can’t get another Alex.”

            “No, I can’t,” she admitted sadly. He pretended to look confused.

            “I meant I can’t get another Alex,” he said slowly. “He is my brother after all.”

            “But you made him your bodyguard! That’s not how brothers treat each other, not as far as I know,” she argued.

            “I was a brute before, Melaina. You of all people should know that. I want to make things right with Alex. I’m not going to leave him behind in a strange land with no one that he knows.”

            “I know him. My father, David, Oliver, our soldiers, a lot of people know him.”

            “Alright, a lot of people of know him then,” he agreed. “How many love him?”

            “I love-”

            The words were out of her mouth before she could stop them. Dain smiled. It had been far easier than he thought. He remembered the wild girl that he had met a few weeks before, carrying a snake on her arm, wearing trousers. He had never thought that the wild girl would fall in love with anyone, just tolerate whoever life threw her way. And she was in love with his brother.

            “You love him?” he asked mockingly. “So I’m guessing this was never about offering him a position in your army?”

            “I-”

            “You don’t know,” Dain completed for her. “I think you do. I think that you’ve known for a while now, just managed to not think about it. I think you’ve managed to convince yourself that he would make a great friend and just that. Think again, Melaina.”

            “Dain,” she started. She didn’t want to think. She couldn’t fall in love, not yet. Falling in love meant the loss of her freedom. She had just gained back her freedom. But she couldn’t know what would make her happier, her freedom or Alex.

            “I’m sorry, I need to think,” she mumbled out. She pushed through the door, surprising the soldier on the other side and ran to her room. In her room she tried to think clearly about what Dain had said to her. She couldn’t be in love. Love took time, she knew Alex for a few weeks, and hated him for the first couple of those weeks.

            She didn’t know much about him beyond his name and that he was Dain’s brother. She knew that he knew how to hide his smiles when he was amused, that he spoke less, but what he said meant more. She knew that he didn’t reveal his emotions. She knew that he believed in loyalty and in duty. He only gazed into space in his saddest times. His eyes were always searching, always analyzing and trying to find secrets. He didn’t allow himself the freedom to be completely happy, always keeping himself in check somehow.

            Stopping, she realized how much she knew about him without him telling her. She had always looked at him from the corners of her eyes as she walked. She’d written it off as curiosity a long time before. She accepted that it wasn’t as simple as curiosity.

***

            Dain changed out of his nightclothes and into a comfortable pair of pants. They were a bit tight on him, but he would have to adjust. He walked out of the room and towards’ Alex’s room. He had thought a lot about how he would tell Alex the truth. There was no easy way. How could tell his little brother, the one that worshipped him, that he had singlehandedly ruined his life and taken everything that belonged to him?

            Alex was sitting in his room, staring out the window. Dain knew that he was upset. Alex never looked at anything without observing it. He didn’t understand why people stared at something without looking at it. He only did it when he was miserable.

            “Alex,” Dain said, standing at the door.

            “Dain,” the reply came back, in a bland tone. “Come in.”

            Alex didn’t have the energy to deal with his brother. He wanted to run down the corridor yelling Melaina’s name until she heard him and forgave him. But he couldn’t, he reminded himself. It would only lead to bad things.

            “What are you thinking?” Dain asked, taking a seat on the bed and looking at his brother.

            “Nothing,” he lied. “I’m just wondering when we’re going to get back home. I hate the ocean.”

            He thought of Melaina, standing at the crow’s nest with a smile on her face. He had imagined that grey eyes reflected the blue-green of the sea when she was up there. He loved the ocean.

            “Not soon, I hope,” Dain answered truthfully. “I have some important business to speak to King Henry about.”

            “What about?”

            “Cancelling the wedding of course. I’m just worried that he will take it as an insult if I refuse.”

            “I don’t think he would.”

            “Well, we can’t take chances. I’m going to offer that one of our Lords will marry Melaina instead. She’ll be happy, don’t you think? That way, she would stay in Lor, with one of our own by her side.”

            He wondered if she would be happy with someone else. Someone else would probably have the right to call her by her name, have the stature to stand next to her without shame. He had neither. He was just a soldier. He didn’t have the courage to ask his brother to consider him.

            “I wanted to ask you for your advice,” Dain continued. “I was thinking about Lord Donague.”

            “He’s a drunkard,” Alex stated blankly. “He’ll come home drunk, she’ll beat the hell out of him.”

            “Lord Pervan?”

            “Pervert.”

            “Oaklear?”

            “Old. Far too old.”

            “Lord Tiermont then?”

            “He’s five years old!” Alex cried.

            “Well, from what I hear, Melaina’s not in a rush to get married,” Dain said. He couldn’t hide his smile as his little brother got more and more frustrated.

            “Ingrain?”

            “Idiot.”

            “What?”

            “Not you, Ingrain’s an idiot. I caught him trying to ride a horse backwards two years ago,” Alex told him.

            “Mornshire?”

            “Just stop,” Alex said, putting his hand up. “Mornshire couldn’t hold a sword if his hand was glued to it. None of them are good enough for Mel.”

            “Mel?”

            “I meant the princess,” Alex said with frustration. He didn’t want to anger Dain.

            “So, who do you suggest?”

            “I suggest that we leave her alone. She’ll find someone,” Alex said. The thought saddened him. She would find someone wonderful. He knew that she was too amazing for someone else to not notice her. And the next time, someone worthy of her would find her.

            “I think she already did,” Dain said.

            “What?” Alex asked. So he never had a chance after all. It didn’t matter at all whether he was worthy or not, whether he deserved someone like her or not. In the end, there was someone else.

            “Who?” he asked.

            “Don’t know, she just appeared… very smitten. Quite unlike herself,” Dain answered. He gauged his brother’s reaction to the half-lie. His face fell, but there was a dark, sad acceptance there that made Dain want to tell him the truth immediately. He almost did. “Well, I’m off. I promised to have tea with her.”

            She was sitting in her room, with an empty tea pot and Manny in front of her. Dain entered the room without knocking and sat down in front of her. He poured himself a cup of tea and sat drinking it, observing her shell-shocked face. It was tiring that both of them hadn’t snapped out of it yet.

            “So, have you thought?” he asked quietly after he sipped at his tea.

            “What?”

            “You said you needed time to think, have you thought?”

            “An afternoon isn’t enough time,” she said breathlessly. It wasn’t. She didn’t know whether she was in love, or if it was just the disease of infatuation that ever teenage girl she knew was smitten with. She didn’t want it to be the latter.

            “Well, you have two days,” Dain said. “Before we reach Lor. I suggest you make up your mind before then.”

            “Why?”          

            “This is the only place you’ll have peace. Do you think you’ll have the peace to think about this after you get home? Your mother will badger you, I know that much. There will be far too many distractions for you to think about Alex and Alex alone.”

            Her mind suddenly thought of the other problems she faced. It wasn’t just Alex. She couldn’t let the problems of her suddenly-feeble heart to override the importance of Aravi’s request.

            “Dain, is there someone in Felucca that wants to take your throne?”

            “Not that I know of, no,” he answered.

            “We didn’t find you on our own, Dain. A spirit helped us.”

            “Aravi?” he asked. It seemed that the spirit indirectly was helping him as well.

            “Yes, how did you know?”

            “It’s irrelevant, just tell me what happened.”

            “She said that there was a man in Felucca that wanted to take over the world, to destroy it.”

            “There are men like that everywhere, Melaina. I see them every day.”

            “She said he would succeed if we didn’t stop him,” she said forcefully.

            “Fine, I’ll look into it once I get back,” he promised her. He put the tea cup down and left the room silently. He understood what she was doing, taking her mind off her own problems. It was easier for her to solve every other thing first, and then face Alex.

            She would try to find things before he got to Felucca. The sword that Aravi carried was hung on a hook in her room and she looked at it, wondering if she could ask Aravi to appear before her. She took the sword into her hand and felt its weight. It was beautifully crafted, and she thought of how much bloodshed the blade must have seen over the years. Whether it was Aravi killing off her enemies, or her descendants protecting their secrecy, the sword had never been rested.

            “Aravi,” she whispered, putting her palms on the cold metal.

            “Yes, child,” the unearthly voice responded. She couldn’t see the spirit, but could feel her, the smell of the forest, and the warm humidity of Collyria.

            “I have to know more,” she pleaded. “Please tell me more about that man, the one like Nashar.”

            “There is a reason I tell you less,” Aravi said. “I tell you less so that you do not prevent what is meant to happen.”

            “What do you mean, Aravi?”

            “If I had told you that dragons were my weapon, that I discovered that they could be tamed. Your friend, Alex, would not have believed me. And trust me, my descendants will come to follow you in time. Margil has finally shown some spine.”

            “I don’t understand.”

            “I am saying that I can only prevent the future to an extent. If I tell you too much, in the end it will lead to far more chaos and destruction than the destruction I mean to prevent.”

            “But can you tell me anything?” Melaina asked.

            “I can tell you to be patient,” Aravi said.

            “Something that helps me.”

            “I can tell you that just because my love betrayed me, that because my love failed on an epic scale, does not mean the same for you. I can tell you that love will not lose you your freedom.”

            She appeared in front of her for only a second, touching her cheek gently with a knowing smile, before disappearing. Melaina cursed herself. Even Aravi was helping her with the problem that she was hell-bent on avoiding.

           

           

            

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