Jackrabbit

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 20 (v.1) - Chapter 20

Submitted: February 05, 2018

Reads: 94

Comments: 1

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Submitted: February 05, 2018

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We heard it before we felt it. A distant crash rang out, soon followed by shouts from the guards. As the commotion continued, the floor began to shake. Whatever was making the noise, it was obvious it was massive. As the rumbling grew to an almost dangerous level, it stopped.

 

But that was merely the quiet before the storm. With a mighty crash! the wall caved in, stone falling to the ground as a massive dragon stretched its wings. The creature was magnificent, with dark black scales. Its wings, however, had the pattern of the night sky stretched across. The scales were elaborate in color, painting a portrait of a sea of stars. Its entire underside was also colored like the galaxy. On each of its two horns, a bell hung, chiming softly with every movement.

 

“Yoo-hoo!” Rachel shouted from the top of the lizard. Renault leaped past the fallen rubble, broadsword in his hands. Soldiers followed after him, heavy armor covering every inch of their bodies. Unlike the rest of them, the princess was clothed in her simple blouse-dress and riding boots. Despite myself, I smiled. Did she not get the memo that we were fighting?

 

“Guards!” the prince screamed, backing away towards his throne. Countless armed men rushed out; they must’ve been waiting nearby.

 

While the battle clashed on, I took care to duck between them. “Rachel!” I shouted at the top of my lungs, feeling my throat tighten painfully in protest. The dragon saw me miles away, but it made no move to attack. It merely watched me with its mismatched gaze. Sliding off its back, Rachel came close and brought her arms around me.

 

“Lennard!”

 

I almost told her to call me Jackrabbit. Almost. But my lips caught it just in time, and shoved it back inside.

 

“Er, I’m sorry,” she said, turning her head away. “Your name is Jackrabbit.”

 

“No, my name is Lennard,” I told her, offering a tired smile. Our gazes met, and I wondered what she saw. Did she see the dirt, the cuts, the bruises? Did she see the washed-out exhaustion in my eyes? I hoped that she wouldn’t scorn me for it. Reject me because I wasn’t some prince with a perfect smile and hair.

 

But instead, her hand met mine, squeezing it soothingly. Against her pristine, creamy skin, mine looked disgusting -- fingernails chipped with grime and dried blood. But even so, she held it lovingly, like she never wanted to let it go. “I’m sorry for being late,” she whispered, her face close to mine.

 

My mind buzzed from her intoxicating scent of honeysuckle and lavender, but somehow I managed to squeeze out a reply. “Since when do you apologize?” I joked, feeling my eyes sting. But it was a pleasant pain, and I relished it. There was just Rachel, and only Rachel. No magic. No death. No loss. No Henry. No anything. All that mattered was the girl in front of me.

 

She leaned closer, her eyes taking up most of my vision. First it was a tingle, then a burn, pulling our lips together like magnets. The moment our lips touched, an explosion of ecstasy shot through my body. She was soft, warm with adrenaline. The princess’ kiss was innocent, seeking nothing more than simple contact. Somewhere in the pit of my stomach, a foreign flame burned. Something I had long forgotten about. Pulling her closer, I deepened it, aware of Rachel’s faint swell of surprise at my lead.

 

Unsure of what to do, her mouth remained obliviously still. Once when I was asleep, I dreamt I was with a beautiful woman. When I woke up, I found myself kissing a stray dog. Her kiss reminded me of that: Past the initial excitement, it was unresponsive and kind of gross. For a first kiss, it certainly wasn’t what I had expected.

 

Pulling away, I fixed her with a devilish grin. “You kiss like a dead fish.”

 

She slapped my arm, but the usual strength behind the blow was missing. “Oh, be quiet, Lennard!” A heavy flush spread across her cheeks. “I expect you to take responsibility for your actions.”

 

For what actions exactly, I wasn’t sure. But our moment was quickly interrupted as Layla appeared around the scaly hide of the dragon. “Hey, it’s you!” she greeted, dimples highlighting her cheeks.

 

“Layla? What are you doing here?” I asked, my head spinning with all the information.

 

“In case if you two lovebirds haven’t noticed, this is a battlefield,” the dragon girl said, causing both Rachel and me to blush. Ignoring us, she caressed the scales of the dragon. “I’m here to keep an eye on Erinys. Besides, you guys are my friends. I can’t leave my friends in need.”

 

“Erinys?” At the sound of the priestess’ name, the dragon’s head turned towards me, mismatched eyes gleaming. There was an intelligence in them that no animal could possess. “Erinys,” I breathed in wonder, running my hand across the thick, plated scales of her head.

 

A low rumbling escaped her, something akin to a purr. Her tail whipped back and forth, tripping up several guards. After blinking to acknowledge my attention, she turned around and roared before charging towards a large swath of guards. In response, Layla turned to the two of us. “You two ought to join the fight. We gotta find Henry; I don’t see him here.”

 

Scanning the room, it was apparent that the prince was missing. Cursing quickly, I jerked my head back to look at the crumbling corridor. “He probably managed to sneak out somehow. We have to find him.”

 

“I’ll keep these guys busy while you do that,” Layla replied, pulling out a small, leather whip.

 

“Thanks, Layla, we’ll see you again,” I promised, turning away with Rachel at my side. The princess’ hand was clasped in mine, the skin warm and comforting against my cold palms.

 

The dragon girl muttered something before we ran out. I could’ve sworn she said something like, “I guess you chose her, huh. Then again, it wasn’t even really a competition, was it?” But I pushed it away, focusing on the task at hand. The remnants of fallen stone threaten to trip us as we made our way through the remains of the castle. If Rachel felt anything at seeing her home in ruins, she didn’t show it.

 

Adrenaline managed to take away the pain and exhaustion, but I could still feel it hovering in the back of my mind, waiting until the right moment to consume me. Henry would need to be taken care of quick, or else time would run out. Even so, I felt alive running through the castle. I wasn’t alone; I had Rachel by my side. After all that time in the dungeon, there was finally someone there for me.

 

Thinking of the dungeon, I suddenly remembered Verna, and slowed my steps without meaning to. “What’s wrong?” Rachel asked, eyes knit with concern.

 

“There’s someone here that I’m worried about,” I replied, unsure of the course of action. Do I try to warn Verna, or keep with the original plan and find Henry?

 

“Henry takes precedent right now,” Rachel insisted. “We’ll never be truly safe as long as he’s alive.”

 

I felt a sudden flash of guilt pass through me at not having taken the chance to kill him earlier, but pushed it away. Something about it just didn’t feel right. Henry didn’t deserve to die. As much as I absolutely loathed him, the Prince of Lechasis did not deserve an ending like that. “I don’t want to kill Henry,” I finally said.

 

“Lennard, he can’t be allowed to live….” Tears stained her cheeks as she struggled to find her words. Her morals were constricting around her and choking her, telling Rachel that evildoers deserved death. Henry was, by definition, an evildoer. A sinner. But even so, she didn’t want to kill him. Not really.

 

Rubbing my thumb against her hand soothingly, I brought her close. “It’s all right,” I told her quietly, my voice little more than a hushed whisper. “Not everything is black and white, Rachel. Henry’s as grey as it can get. We’ll figure out what to do when we find him, all right?”

 

She nodded, and we continued on at our brisk pace. The other side of the castle was mostly quiet, though the distant shrieks of the battle could still be heard. After dislodging a heavy chunk of marble, I swore loudly, not particularly caring if the princess heard me. She swatted my arm, though it was obvious she didn’t really care.

 

“...Leonard? Is that you?”

 

The voice was achingly familiar, sending a chill up my spine. “Elizabeth!” I called, almost tripping in my rush to get to the source of the voice. Past a partially crumbled door, my sister sat at Luther’s side. The mage was lying prone against a cot, his face coated in a thin veneer of sweat. Elizabeth’s hair covered part of his arm as she leaned her head close.

 

“Leonard,” she said softly, dipping her head. “What’s happening right now? There’s a lot of noise.”

 

“Er, it’s a long story,” I replied, unsure of what to say further. Where do I start? My friend’s a dragon? I could’ve killed a prince, but decided not to? Kissed a girl and told her that her lips felt like a dead fish? Instead, I sighed. “How’s Luther? He’s still alive, I see. I thought…I thought he was dead….”

 

She shook her head slowly. “No, thank the gods. But he’s in rough shape. He used too much mana, not to mention that guard injured him severely.” Her lip quivered slightly. “If he doesn’t get some help soon….”

 

“I can help,” Rachel offered, trying her hardest to force a smile. “I can’t promise anything, but I am a healer.” Before she could walk over, I rested a hand on her sleeve, the words heavy on my tongue.

 

“Elizabeth, you can….” Just leave. The words refused to leave my mouth, but everyone could tell what lingered on my lips. She could take her bid at freedom, and leave him to die. It was an ugly choice, but an option nonetheless. Luther had caged her away, claimed her as his. She no longer belonged to him.

 

Smiling softly, Elizabeth got up from the bedside. She grasped my hand, squeezing comfortingly for several moments. “I know. I can, but I won’t. Luther…kept me at his side because he knew I’d go wandering back to Tom.”

“And? He couldn’t bear letting another have you --”

 

“Tom was abusive.” Long lashes curled slightly as she looked away. “The whole town knew it, Leonard. I know you’re not daft. He couldn’t bear to leave me at Tom’s mercy, so he made me marry him. It wasn’t the right solution, but I understand his love for me.” Walking back to the bedside, her hand tightened around his. “That’s why I want to give him a chance. If I still can’t bring myself to love him, then I will be honest. But maybe…my heart won’t be blinded by another who only made it his duty to hurt me.”

 

“But…that doesn’t make sense. How could you…?” I croaked, feeling my eyes water. Elizabeth was the strongest woman I knew. How could she ever have been underneath the spell of a man that struck her and screamed at her until she cried? “I don’t understand….”

 

The princess rested her hand on my arm, her gaze directed at my sister. “It happens to the strongest of us. I have nothing but respect for you, Lady Elizabeth.” Lady Elizabeth. Not Lady Sachien. Not Lady Collins. Elizabeth was a woman in her own right who belonged to no one, and she never would. I didn’t understand how that could’ve happened to someone as strong as her, but then again, I never would. I wasn’t a woman. There were things I’d never understand about them, and things they’d never understand about me. 

 

Stepping forward, Rachel grew ominously quiet as she leaned down by Luther. Hidden in her riding boots, she withdrew Lævateinn and pressed the head of the staff against him. The ruby jewel on the head glowed for a moment, and the mage exhaled softly. Luther did not wake, but he did seem more at ease. Rachel withdrew right after, wiping her forehead. She looked paler than normal.

 

“We’d better go,” I told Elizabeth, stepping up and supporting Rachel against my shoulder.

 

The brunette smiled at me. “You know, that’s not how you hold your sweetheart, Leonard. You’re supposed to hold her in your arms, not lean her against your shoulder like she’s a wounded comrade.” She giggled as my face lit up. “You are so hopeless, Brother.”

 

“W-Whatever,” I muttered, letting Rachel lean against my arms as I supported her. “We can’t do this for very long though; we’re kinda short on time. Leaning on my shoulder is more time-efficient.”

 

“I guess. You’ll have plenty of time to yourselves later,” Elizabeth called as we made our way to the hallway. Rachel allowed herself a small chuckle and buried her nose against my chest, causing me to sweat anxiously.


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