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

Chapter 21 (v.1) - Chapter 21

Submitted: February 12, 2018

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Submitted: February 12, 2018



“Who are the soldiers?” I asked Rachel as we continued down the halls.


“They’re dragonkin,” she answered quickly, keeping her main focus on sidestepping the rubble. “Erinys and Layla convinced them to aid us.”


“I thought the dragonkin hated us…?”


Her hair almost bounced with each step, the curly ringlets soft and shiny. Rachel had only improved with time, whereas I had rotted away in a cell. “They’re tired, Lennard,” the princess sighed. “The dragonkin have been in Celstine for as long as they can remember. They want to go out and see the world. So Layla and Erinys convinced them to fight for us.”


I grasped her hand, aware of how warm it was in contrast to mine. “Never mind that, where have you been the past three months?”


“Renault and I have been staying with Lady Iselle. Most of the soldiers are hers, actually.” Sensing my confusion, she continued in a rush, “Lady Iselle is the daughter of Duke Einzer. After we came back to the caravan, she understood our plight, and took us in. I don’t know all the details, but she apparently ran away from home last year or so.”


Honestly, I pushed the info away. I didn’t want to think about Iselle or anyone else. My head spun with all the new information, and it was a struggle to keep walking. All we needed to do was find Henry and figure out a way to solve the conflict. Probably by killing him. My throat felt tight as I walked. What’s wrong? You wanted this, didn’t you? You knew you’d have to kill him sooner or later. Kill or be killed, Leonard. But deep down, I knew the truth. Henry didn’t deserve death, and I wasn’t sure I had the heart to give it to him.


A sudden blast of lightning sent Rachel and me reeling, dust flying up in a huge cloud. “What’s going on?” Rachel wheezed in the middle of coughing. The air was thick, both with dust and the charge of ozone. My lungs burned, and I had to lean my arm against the wall as I struggled to draw breath. A lone shadow came into view, and it gradually shaped into a figure. I sucked in a sharp breath, partially relieved and partially despairing. Of all the people….


“I’m afraid I’ll have to stop you right here,” Verna said coldly, her eyes hard with malice. In her hand, glowing sparks danced, crackling against the dry air.


“Please, don’t!” I called out, stepping forward tentatively. “We don’t need to fight like this, Verna. I don’t want to make an enemy of you.”


“It’s too late for that,” she replied, sending a stray bolt of lightning to my right. It crashed to a nearby wall, sending it crumbling. The window shattered, raining glass down on the both of us. I swore softly as a small shard cut a crimson path down my cheek. Blood welled up quickly despite the shallow wound, feeling sickly warm against my skin. “First you ruin this perfectly fine palace. Then you make an attempt on my liege’s life.” She stood tall, blissfully unaware of the truth. Or maybe she did know it, and just chose to turn her eyes away. “I thought we could’ve someday been friends, Leonard. But it’s too late for that.”


“Just what do you think you’re doing?!” I spat, dodging another bolt. She was toying with me, sending me scurrying around like a cornered mouse.


“I’m taking up the power to follow my own path, like you told me to,” she replied simply. Verna’s eyes were glassy, clearly growing bored of our little game. Soon she’d crank up the power a little, and I would be toast. Would she go after Rachel then? Maybe she’d capture the princess before taking her to Henry. No part of that was pleasant to think about.


“I thought you were different,” I protested. It was a cliché argument, but still. “Don’t you see that Henry doesn’t have anyone’s best interests at heart but his?” For a moment, she stopped, and I thought she had given up. But then, she jerked her head up at me, eyes screwed up with cold anger.


“So what? Doesn’t everybody?” She fired a blast of lightning. On instinct, I raised my arm, trying to block it. Of course, it was a dumb move. As the energy collided with my skin, I let out a guttural scream. It felt like a thousand nails were stabbing into my arm, turning it numb, but in a burning sort of way. The humming tingle moved throughout my entire body until I could even feel my skull vibrating from the shock. Strands of my hair stood on end, and the pungent smell of burnt flesh hung low in the air. The stinging crack of the ground meeting my skull rang in my ears, but there was no pain. My eyes twitched in my head, as if they couldn’t settle down. Every nerve felt alive, brimming with too much energy to hold. But instead of making me feel rejuvenated, I felt like my blood was burning.


“Lennard!” Rachel screamed somewhere in the back of my mind. The ceiling was blurry as I shut my eyes. Talk to you later; it’s naptime.


In a moment, I woke again, my head suddenly cleared. Rachel knelt over me, her staff surrounded by a gentle ray of light. She smiled when she saw me before letting out a sigh of relief. “Thank the gods you’re okay.”


“What’s going on?” I asked, sitting up quickly. A couple yards away, the familiar white and gold cloak of Renault shone in the brisk light. The manservant was locked in combat with Verna, the two of them not giving an inch. Training and fighting skill vs. magic. An interesting sight to behold.


“Renault came right after you were struck,” Rachel whispered, gripping my arm like she couldn’t believe I was sitting up. “I…I thought you were dead.”


“I thought I was too,” I replied with a grimace, looking down at my left arm. The skin looked completely fine, as if nothing had ever happened. The flesh still smelled faintly charred, though. My body looked mostly untouched.


I wanted to take a moment to feel grateful that I was alive, but there was no time for that. Renault was doing his best to fend Verna off, and the two were keeping a careful balance between offense and defense. The blows were a lot slower now, coming every once in a while. Mostly, they watched each other, circling around like two apex predators. A game of chicken, but the loser would be greeted with death. Catching my eye, Renault offered a grim smile. “You two need to go. I’ll do what I can for my lady.”


Snatching Rachel’s hand, I dragged the protesting princess past the fight. “Renault!” she shouted, yanking against my grip. “This is too dangerous! I don’t want to lose you!”


“I will do everything within my power to assure my lady’s happiness,” he said simply, not taking his eyes off Verna. “Even if that means it results in my dead body, I won’t hesitate. I never will.”


Something about his words echoed within me, and I found myself sad as we ran. Renault and I were constantly at each other’s throats, but there was a deep similarity between us. Now that I thought about it, I knew nothing about his past. No reason for him to risk his life the way he did. That particular realization dug deep into my stomach like a cold shard of glass. The manservant always had our backs, even when we did nothing for him.


Rachel huffed quietly as we jogged, still unused to vigorous exercise. However, it was noticeably quieter. She was still a frail princess, but she must’ve improved decently in my time locked up. Her movements were more fluid, and her legs carried her over the debris with ease. “He should be somewhere around here,” the princess wheezed.


No matter where I looked, it was silent in all directions. Cursing, I grit my teeth together in frustration. Was he already lost to us? All the sacrifices we’d made, and he’d just escape with not a scratch on him.


A small flash of crimson caught my attention, snatching my gaze towards the stairs at the end of the hall. Small droplets of blood smeared against the marble floor, leading downstairs. Feeling my heart leap into my throat, I tapped Rachel’s shoulder.


“What, Len….” She trailed off, noticing the crimson stains. Wordlessly, she pressed behind me as we made our way down the stairwell. The drops extended from the bottom all the way down the hallway. The sounds of the battle upstairs were distant; most likely it was slowing down. Hopefully the dragonkin were winning, but it was impossible to be sure.


I suddenly stopped, feeling a hot flush of shame flood through me. “I…just realized I don’t have a weapon,” I admitted, my ears turning red.


“Well are you planning on killing him?”


“I’m not sure.” At the very least, a weapon would’ve proved useful. It would be dangerous and stupid to rush in without anything to arm myself with.


Ducking down, the princess drew a long hunting dagger from the inside of her boot before handing it to me. “In all honesty, I had forgotten I even had a weapon,” Rachel chuckled. A strange mood for the situation at hand, but I couldn’t blame her. The princess may have been a cleric, but the spirit of a war goddess still dwelled within her.


Sucking in a quick breath, I brought her close to me. “Are you ready?” I whispered, looking deep into her eyes. If things didn’t go well, this might be the last time I’d ever see them. It wasn’t fair that our time reunited had been so short.


She spun away, not looking anxious in the slightest. “Ready as I’ll ever be, Lennard. Now come; we have a prince to deal with.” Her eyes glowed bright, surveying me over with an almost predatory interest. Like she was a mountain lion and I was a mouse to amuse her.


The corners of my lips quirked up into the slightest of smiles. “As you wish.”


We stepped out into the void of frigid air and into the palace gardens. The game was nearing its end, and resolution was certain. Whether it would be in our favor or his, however, I couldn’t say. We just needed to keep pursuing the finish line until even our feet refuse to move.


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