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.

81I mi piace

2. Princes and Pet Kraits

Princes and Pet Kraits


            Melaina picked up the quiver full of arrows in one hand and the bowl of toxic liquid in the other. It hadn’t been easy finding a nest of spotted rock kraits near to the Lor castle. It definitely hadn’t been easy capturing one.

            It was worth it, she thought, looking over the animal lying in its new glass box. Extracting the poison was difficult, and she’d almost gotten bit three times. But the poison was the strongest in the world. And now her arrows would be tipped with it. Certain death was guaranteed for anything or anyone she shot.

            She looked into the bowl at the few drops of poison she had gotten out of the krait. She poured in the water, and a few drops of indigo dye. After dipping the arrows, she laid them out to dry. Then she did the darts, and even the edge of her favourite daggers.

            “Melaina!” a rough voice called out. She almost dropped the bowl in shock, but steadied herself and placed it on the table. Her father wasn’t due back for another week. Unless he rode ahead of the army. Which of course, he would do.

            “Pa!” she screamed out, as he entered through the door. He caught her as she jumped up into his arms. She was just thirteen, but already quite tall. He was surprised by the strength of the wiry arms that coiled around his neck.

            The changes in his daughter were visible even though he had only been gone for a month. Her black hair, which her mother had finally convinced her to grow out, had reached her shoulders. She seemed an inch taller too, and she was tall already.

            “Pint!” he screamed out equally gleefully. It was his nickname for her, one that no longer fit her, he realized. He put her back on the ground and looked around what had once been a princess’s room. Now, he didn’t think anyone had yet made a word for what it was.

            Books lined the shelves on one side, some new and some that were falling apart, the bookshelves bending underneath their weight. Another wall was covered in maps, and sketches. A small wardrobe contained a few sets of her clothes. A much larger chest was overflowing with weapons of all kinds. And he finally spotted her study table, and the glass box with the snake.

            “You got your hands on the krait,” he said proudly.

            “Yes,” she answered. “And I’ve named him Manyar, or Manny.”

            “No, Pint!” he yelled. “You’re supposed to kill the snake after you get the poison!”

            He imagined all the things that could happen. The snake could break through the glass enclosure and get out, loose in the castle. It could bite anyone, but it would most likely bite his daughter. He started towards the cage, but she stood in the way.

            “He’s absolutely harmless, Pa,” she said. She put his hand on the chest, and reached her other hand out towards the cage. The snake was wound around a dead branch that she’d left in the cage, bobbing its head up and down. She slipped the wooden plank off of the cage and slipped her hand in.

            “No-!” her father started to scream, but she clapped her hand over his mouth. The snake slowly wound itself around Melaina’s arm, as her father flinched. The snake’s sandy body moved quickly and steadily along her tan skin. She was used to the feeling, and didn’t shiver at the feeling of its scales.

            The snake’s tongue occasionally slipped out, and the hissing put Henry on edge. He reached out to grab it, but it backed up immediately, and his daughter stopped him.

            “Manny won’t hurt me,” she said firmly.

            Henry knew better than to question her. And the snake did seem to be attached to her. He raised his arms in defeat and stepped back. The snake coiled further up Melaina’s arm and hung loosely around her neck.

            “And this way, I have access to poison whenever I need it,” she said. “Of course, I sedate him when I’m taking the poison.”

            “And feeding?” Henry asked.

            “I’ve designed a mouse trap,” she explained. “The castle no longer has a mouse problem. You’re very welcome.”

            “But it might have a snake problem.”

            “Manny’s not a problem.”

            He chuckled. “Not for you, Pint. But if your mother found out...”

            “I already introduced her to Manny,” Melaina said with a smirk.

            He raised his eyebrow. “What did she say?”

            “Nothing,” she lied. Her mother hadn’t said anything, just screamed. A lot. And then she fled the room. And Manny had done absolutely nothing wrong.

            Manny lifted his head up and flicked his tongue out, as if agreeing to her lie. Henry looked at the snake quizzically. Eleanor had probably had a fit. But there was no stopping his daughter. She wanted a snake, she would have a snake.

            “Alright then,” he said. “So, sparring?”

            “Tea, actually,” a voice said from the door. Eleanor stood at the threshold, disgust and fear written all over her face. Melaina slowly removed Manny from around her neck and placed him back in his cage.

            Eleanor walked off, leaving Henry and Melaina to meekly follow behind her. They entered a small parlour where Lucille sat with her hands folded on her lap. Her long blonde was braided intricately. She wore a silk peach dress, and she sat straight as a result of her torturously tight corset. She gave them a strained smile on seeing them.

            Melaina took a seat on an armchair, sitting sideways with her legs dangling over the armrest. It annoyed her mother, but she loved when her mother got angry. It was entertaining, to say the least. Her pale face turned red, her fists balled up and she threw whatever was within reach.

            “I have some good news,” Eleanor said. “Very good news.”

            The smile on her face scared Melaina. Things that made her mother happy usually meant bad news for her. She looked towards her father, who wore an expression of horror. Her mother withdrew a small green cylinder from a cleverly hidden pocket in her dress.

            “You girls turned fourteen two days,” she said. “Marriage age. Requests to meet with you are pouring in.”

            Melaina highly doubted that. She didn’t think any prince with half of a brain would ask for her hand. That would be a death wish.

            “No,” her father stated.

            “Why?” Eleanor asked.

            “They’re too young for this,” he said.

            “I was only two years older when I met you,” she argued.

            “Yes, so let us wait two years,” he said.

            “It’s not marriage, Henry, they’re just coming to meet the girls,” she said. “Besides, my mother had me meeting suitors when I was thirteen.”

            “Your mother’s a kook, and everyone knows it!” Henry said.

            “I’ve made my decision, Henry,” Eleanor said. “I have already accepted their request to meet with our daughters. There’s nothing you can do.”

            “You took this decision without asking me?”

            She balked at him. “I thought you would be pleased about this.”

            “About what? Our daughters being married away? They’re still children!”

            “Oh, so you’d rather have them stay here until they wither and becomes twin old crones?”

            Henry didn’t like the sound of that. He knew he’d lost the argument, for the time being at least. He huffed and left the room. Lucille looked like a frightened deer. She hated arguments. Melaina sat next to her, comforting her as she shivered.

            Lucille was her polar opposite. She was meek, demure, shy and silent, traits that Eleanor had unconsciously pounded into her over the years. She did not know the meaning of rebellion, and from Melaina’s experience, was incapable of learning. She loved her sister, and her sister loved her, but they would never understand each other.

            “It’s okay, Lucy,” she whispered.

            “No, I’m fine,” Lucille lied, wiping away the tears and sniffling.

            “Lucy, do you want to get married?” Melaina asked.

            “We have to get married Melaina, it is our duty.”

            Melaina noticed that her question had gone unanswered. So Lucille didn’t agree with their mother, but her sister would never rebel. If anything was to be done, she would have to do it. She had poison-tipped weapons and Manny on her side, so it would go well.

            She quickly ran back to her room, ignoring the sounds of her father pacing in his study and her mother barking orders to the maids to get the guest rooms ready. Her plan was slowly taking shape in her mind, growing more and more devious by the second.

            Manny looked at her expectantly as she entered her room.

            “Yes, dear Manyar,” she cooed to him as she took him in her hands. “We are going to have some fun soon.”


            Two weeks later the princes arrived. Melaina climbed up to the watchtower without her mother noticing and saw them through the telescope, riding to the castle on their horses. Her first thought was that they were old. The younger one had come for her sister, and he was agreeable enough she supposed. He was in his early twenties. The other one, her so-called suitor, was in his early thirties, with a pot belly and greying hair. She screamed at her mother in her mind for accepting such a proposal.

            Before they could reach the moat, she was there. Her father had replaced the crocodiles with younger ones. They were vicious, and every time they snapped their jaws anyone within hearing distance jumped in fright.

            She dragged the large bucket of fresh meat over the moat and dangled the meat over the edge. The crocodiles jumped out of the water, their speed unnatural for their large size. The large slab of meat dropped into the nearest one’s open mouth. One disadvantage of getting the crocodiles that her father did not know was that the monsters could get out of the moat. She had discovered it the first time she’d tried to swim with them. They usually had no reason to because their food was thrown into the water.

            But now they have a reason, she thought evilly as she dumped the rest of the meat near the edge of the moat. They smelled the blood and were starting to crawl out. Before she was in danger, she ran back into the castle to watch the comedy unfold.

            Safely back in the watchtower, she took a seat at the window with a tart in her hand. The two princes were riding at a gallop, racing each other to the castle. The crocodiles finally made it out of the moat, and were almost done with the meat she’d put out.

            She heard the loud frightened whinnying of the horses all the way to the watchtower. One of them reared, and her suitor was thrown off. He landed unceremoniously on his rear, after which he paled seeing the approaching the crocodiles. The other one was long gone, just a speck in the horizon.

            Melaina resisted the powerful urge to cackle, and headed down the stairs as the chaos started within the castle. Her mother was screaming at everyone within eyesight, her father was smothering his laughter, and her sister looked as happy as one could when they were hiding a smile.

            Her father walked over to her discreetly while her mother continued her rants.

            “I suppose this is your doing,” Henry said.

            “No, Lucille did it,” she said dryly. With a smile she whispered, “And innocent until proven guilty, Pa.”

            “Knowing you, there is no proof,” he muttered.

            “Those beasts drove them away!” Eleanor wailed. “After all my efforts, after all the bloody diplomacy!”

            “It seems it wasn’t meant to be,” Henry suggested.

            “Wasn’t meant to be?!” she yelled. “It’s like you planned this! Lor is an island nation Henry! The ocean is our moat! We didn’t need another one, just like we didn’t need new crocodiles!”

            “Don’t be ridiculous, Eleanor. Every castle has a moat. Besides, those boys already left. There is nothing we can do now.”

            “No,” she replied. “I’m sending a messenger pigeon to the dock, politely asking for their return. Everything can still be salvaged.”

            The happiness was gone from their minds. Melaina hoped that the suitors had had enough of Lor, and that they would decline her mother’s request. If they didn’t, she would bring out her heavy artillery.

            They had agreed. The idiots had agreed. At the dinner table her mother gleefully announced that the princes had accepted her request and were on their way back. She cursed her luck, and thought out the finer details of her plan. She had a lot of dreams, lot of plans for her life, becoming a child bride was not one of them.

            By the next morning the princes were both in their rooms, recuperating from the trauma. The crocodiles were back in the moat, and her mother was back in control. Melaina wore one of the dresses her mother had gotten for her, a green dress with large billowing sleeves. The sleeves were perfect for hiding things, like daggers, poisoned darts, and even a pet rock krait.

            She stopped by Lucille’s room, where a maid was helping her sister put on an extravagant off-white gown with gold embroidery. Lucille was putting on the finishing touches to her make-up as Melaina entered. She startled as Melaina entered the room.

            “Don’t come to tea,” Melaina said.

            “But mother said,” Lucille started to explain.

            “It doesn’t matter what she said,” Melaina said in a commanding tone. She hated using the tone on Lucille, but it was the only way her sister would stay away. “It matters now what I say. Don’t come to tea, unless you want to get married off. I have a plan.”

            As planned, she went to the parlour leaving a stunned Lucille behind. The princes were both there, drinking tea and talking about the crocodiles. She took her seat as the soldier at the door announced her arrival.

            “It’s such a pleasure to meet the two of you,” she said with a false smile. “I’m sorry that Lucille is late. She’ll be joining us shortly.”

            The fat one was looking at her in a strange, disturbing and slightly disgusting way. He was quite an unbecoming fellow. There wasn’t anything wrong with his face, he had strong features, a straight nose, blue eyes, that she would’ve liked in any other person. But the poorly hidden condescension in his face distorted whatever was good about his appearance. Melaina didn’t like him.

            “Meanwhile,” she said. “You gentlemen have just me and Manny for company.”

            “Prince Reginald, milady” the fat one said, introducing himself. “And this is Prince Aubrey. Is Manny that soldier at the door?”

            “No, no,” she said with a girlish giggle. The giggle was an act. The longer they were convinced she was just another idiotic twit of a girl, the more they would be shocked. “Manny’s my pet.”

            They looked around the room, on the floor, probably searching for a dog, or a kitten. She gently pulled back the sleeves of her gown, revealing a very irate Manny who immediately slithered off her arm and onto the tea table.

            “This is Manny,” she said, pointing to the now coiled up Manny who was leering at the kettle. When she looked up the she saw both of their faces had gone pale. It was exactly the effect she was going for.

            “Don’t worry,” she said. “He wouldn’t hurt a fly, even though he happens to be the most poisonous kind of snake in the world. Well, he eats live mice and smaller snakes and all, but harmless to people, I assure you.”

            “Oh,” Reginald said lightly, obviously not believing her. Gradually they went back to normal, still wary of the snake.

            As she talked, their attention slowly slipped away from Manny, just as she wanted. She spoke of the beauty of Lor, the natural riches and the rich farmlands. It made her happy speak of her country, and she went on for longer than she intended to. Reginald brought a cup of tea to his lips, taking a slight sip, and she stopped mid-sentence, an expression of mock horror on her face.

            “Oh no, Prince Reginald!” she cried out dramatically. “You’ve taken a drink from Manny’s cup!”

            The prince grew purple, and he threw the cup across the room where it shattered with a small tinkling crash. He clutched at his throat, running to the window and trying to throw up the tea.

            She looked down at the table, and yelled out, “Oh never mind! Manny’s cup is right here!”

            The prince stopped his sounds of retching immediately, anger written all over his face. He was about to get hostile, she realized. Manny climbed back onto her arm as she put her arm on the tea table. She walked over to the approaching prince.

            “Whatever you are about to say or do, I would suggest you reconsider,” she warned. “After all, this is my castle, and I’m the one with a poisonous snake. On the other hand, you are unarmed and alone.”

            He opened and closed his mouth several times, much like a drowning fish. Finally he calmed himself down and announced, “I do not think that this marriage will happen, Princess.”

            “I’m glad,” she answered. He did not respond and walked out of the right quickly, taking care to keep a distance from Manny. The other prince, Aubrey was sitting at the table with a teacup in his hand, feeling out of place and trying to ignore the snake in front of him.

            “So, is your sister coming down?” he asked Melaina as she sat back down.

            “Of course, she’ll be right down,” she said. “You’ll love her.”

            “Really?” he asked, his face brightening. “What is she like?”

            “Oh, my sister is very beautiful,” Melaina said. “She’s got the most wonderful hazel eyes and blonde hair. And she’s so passionate about her pets.”

            “Pets?” the boy squeaked. “They’re not like… not like your pets, are they?”

            “No, no,” she said. “Nothing like Manny. But, you’ve already seen them.”

            “Oh, were they the little puppies that I saw this morning?” he asked.

            “The crocodiles you saw yesterday,” she said bluntly. 

            And Aubrey was never seen again.

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