An owl hooted in the distance, shattering the silence. It was around midnight, and Pelith was leaning against Culia, who had crouched down and laid on her knees so that Pelith could sit against her back. Pelith was wrapped in a blanket, curled up against Culia’s side. For hours they had been hiding there, searching for solitude in the forest.
“He was right, you know,” Pelith spoke softly with little energy left. “Marawyn. I remember now what he said. What he’d called me...and he’d been right. I hadn’t been sure I had heard him...I’d lied to myself, I’d know what was coming. He knew and he said that and I thought I hadn’t heard him and I wouldn’t hear him and now-” Pelith gasped a sob and began to return to the state she was in before she had calmed down earlier.
“Shhhh, now Pelith,” Culia cooed into her friend’s ear. Pelith giggled quietly, because the whiskers on Culia’s muzzle tickled her. Culia pulled back with a half sad smile. “What did that horned creature say to you?”
“Just before we left. It was hardly audible so at first I told myself I didn’t hear anything more than the wind, or my imagination. But now…” Pelith shivered, half from the thought in her mind that she was about to voice, though the cold of the night definitely contributed. She pressed herself further into Culia’s side. “Now I know what he said, what he had called me. Before he left, he said he’d stop. But the way he ended it...he called me...he called me ‘Princess’. And it was in such mockery. Not that I blame him for his tone. Considering how much my parents have done to create and form Moredian compared to me- lazy old me who will occasionally bringing in a rabbit or deer-one would say we’re not even of the same blood! With Father as the King now, I don’t think I can hardly even hunt anymore without it being secretly, hidden from all but a few I can trust. Furthermore, I will have to wear dresses and fancy gowns and speak elegantly and be kind and helpful to anyone and everyone I meet. Little girls that twirl around in a room telling their parents they want to be a princess when they grow up have no idea what they’re saying. I’m not princess material, and I really don’t want to be!”
Pelith sobbed harshly into Culia’s mane, falling into the swishing whirlpool of the troubles of life for the first time. She had always had security and happiness and joy and love in her life, but she had never felt anything like this. The pain of losing Aror had been worse, but it had be a different pain, pulling at her heart and threatening to rip it in half. This time, though, the pain yanked at her entire body from every direction, sending promises to slowly tear her flesh from her, gnaw on her bones, shred her every part to powder, throw her into blazing fire, and send her ashes into the deepest, coldest part of the sea. How was Aroar's death worse? That pain was targeted at the most vulnerable part of her body, rather that any other part of her.
Eventually, though, the tears lessened and exhaustion overcame her and she fell asleep to the sound of Culia’s soft heartbeats, still wrapped in the blanket. She felt secure, as if the blanket itself was a shield protecting her.
A crack; a shout; a snort. It was these noises that woke Pelith from her much-needed slumber. Someone nearby had stepped on a stick, causing it to snap loudly, startling Pelith awake. That someone shouted, causing Pelith to get up, despite her still-groggy state. The snort came from Culia, who was still asleep but would soon wake if there were many more noises. Without thinking, Pelith stood, held the blanket to herself like a robe to prevent the cold from attacking her warm body, and waked, only half awake towards where she had heard the sound. It was dark. The only light she had was that from the moon, which poked through the gaps in the forest roof overhead where leaves had already begun to fall. She fought the sleep that lingered in the back of her mind, slowly moving forward.
A few meters from where she had fallen asleep and where Culia still dreamed silently, a solid body crashed into her own, and they both fell to the ground.. She tried to scream, but a rough hand clamped down on her mouth. She tried to bite the person, but held two fingers under her chin and forced her head back and onto his shoulder so that she couldn't open her mouth. His other arm was wrapped around her arms and waist to prevent her from moving. Pelith was strong, and her attacker was weakening. Soon, she might be able to break free, but what about Culia? For a moment, her thoughts were racing, but she completely froze, mind and all, when his mouth went to her ears.
“Shh, it’s me, Pelith! Stop struggling and I’ll let you go. But keep it down, will ya’,” a voice Pelith thought she knew spoke to her. In shock, she hardly noticed the arms around her slack so that they no longer forced her to stay, but rested on her side lightly.
“Jeridus? Is that you?” Her voice became harsh as the shock faded and transformed into anger. “What did you think you were doing?! I can’t believe you would do something like that!” She began to shake, both from rage and cold, as the blanket had fallen away when they had hit the ground. Jeridus noticed and rubbed her arms to return the warmth the night air had stolen from her, but that did little to subdue Pelith’s anger.
“I’m sorry. You're right-I shouldn't have attacked you. Please, I’ve been worried all night. We all have. I guess that seeing you again and knowing you were alright after all I just went through made me overreact. I’m sorry,” Jeridus wrapped Pelith in a giant hug, warming and calming her. Pelith pressed up against his chest, absorbing any and all heat his body would send out.
“I’m sorry. I just-I can’t take all of this. What you all expect from me is-” Pelith started, but Jeridus cut her off.
“Nobody expects anything of you, Pelith. As for your father, though, he is expecting everything. That is why he was made King. Not even your mother was crowned, officially, Queen. She is Queen, as you are now Princess, but neither of you were crowned, or pronounced. As of now, you are expected to support your King, and Moredian. You can still hunt, you know,” He smiled down at her.
Pelith’s face went sour as she frowned. “You know Mama won’t let me out of this. I’ll have to be a little lady and curtsey and have a tea every afternoon so that the public knows that they have an orderly family running Moredian. I hate tea!” Pelith was so frustrated. So much-to much for her to deal with. She hadn’t expected this all so soon, though Jeridus just chuckled.
“Well, tea can’t be that bad, now can it?” He bent down and gently kissed her forehead. “C’mon, now. we ought to get you home. We've all been so worried about you. Many people are searching for you and have been all night.” He bent down and picked up the blanket to wrap around her. “And how about you be the one to wake Culia? I’m not so sure she’ll appreciate being woken by me. Best you take care of her.”