Okay dear readers, here's another late chapter. I am on holiday and had no internet access until now. As usual ignore the mistakes and enjoy…
Chapter 7: She was Mine
'Oh no you don't'
I saw her try to protect her infected leg from me, a ferocious expression on her face. I nearly laughed; did she honestly think she could protect herself from me? How could this creature defend herself against anything? That thought quickly sobered me up.
'I promised Mistress Kylar. And if I don't keep that promise chances are you might lose that foot. So brace up, I'll be as quick as I can.'
She continued to glare at me,
'Give me the stuff, I'll do it myself. I know how to, I've patched up all our wounded.'
How interesting, a lady that could stand the sight of blood. Then I shook the notion from my head. Meliara was the farthest thing from a courtier I had ever seen. But I was not going to let her do her leg herself. She did not look well enough. She was probably bluffing.
'Here's a knife. Let's see how far you get in taking the old bandage off.'
I threw my knife at her side. She muttered something but I was too busy staring at her in astonishment. She was starting to unroll the bandages. Did this woman suffer from brain damage? Couldn't she feel she was not well enough? I cursed as she dropped the knife and fell into a faint. I quickly approached and looked at the wrinkled Keem leaves around her foot. I reached for the left over boiled water all the while digesting the piece I had learnt of Meliara. She was a fool hardy idiot. That was the only possible explanation. She had plunged into the task of removing her bandages with not a thought about reality. I was starting to see that was how she did everything. Hopefully she would stay unconscious until her foot had been re-bandaged. As soon as I thought that she groaned awake, showing, even in her unconsciousness she would do every possible thing to defy me. I sighed as I told her briskly:
'Hang on; I'll be as fast as I can.'
I gave her a fallen piece of wood as I poured the water over her scarred foot. I hoped she wouldn't start crying, I could not stand it, but as usual I had misjudged her, she stayed deathly silent, her hands clenched over the wood so tight her knuckles turned white. As soon as I re-bandaged her foot though, she started cursing like a seasoned mercenary. If I had not been busy at my task I would have stared at her agape. She cursed. My god, the court would have a fit if they ever talked to her. I could not believe the words coming out of this seemingly ethereal beauty. Ethereal beauty? What was wrong with me? Lack of sleep, perhaps. That must be it. I quickly buried the mess and turned to her.
'Well, that's that. Now it's time to go if we want to reach Lumm by green change.'
I whistled and my horse slowly lumbered towards me. I patted him softly as I observed the curious oddity before me. She was trying to find a stick to support her. I didn't offer my hand, she would only refuse it. Finally she satisfied herself with a stick nearly longer than her and hobbled over. Finally she reached me and looked up her small height with a contemplative silence. She was gripping the stick so tightly I soon realized what she was itching to do. I nearly started laughing maniacally. I had made her prisoner, set down Debegri and was planning to overcome Galdran and the chit before me was thinking about whacking the stick on my head.
I managed to ask, but my laughter must have betrayed me and she looked at me suspiciously, she lifted the stick fractionally, my body automatically readied for a block I would have to make. She suddenly seemed to give up the idea as she threw the stick away. I placed a hand on her slim waist and boosted her up, again noticing how she weighed nothing, sliding into the saddle behind her. Again we travelled in silence, her muffled whimpers of pain as the horse galloped the only sound. I finally reminded her she would be more comfortable once we reached the carriage. She muttered:
'You might have thought of that before we left, since no one asked my opinion on the matter.'
I looked at her and suddenly I was sick of being the bad guy, the enemy to her.
'It was purely an impulse of disinterested benevolence that precipitated our departure.'
I let her chew on that a while, and of course she asked:
'What do you mean by that.'
Was the fact that I did something nice such a shock?
'I mean that it seemed very likely your brother and his adherents were going to mount another rescue attempt. And this time there was no chance of us being taken by surprise. Since the king requires a report on our progress, and it seemed expedient to remove you, I decided to combine the two. It seemed to have work, at least for the time. '
I closed my mouth quickly, I had already said too much. If somehow word of this got to Galdran he would immediately be suspicious of the motives behind my words. But I was not sure of them myself. I did not try to talk again.
Suddenly I felt something hot and wet on the hand that was securely around her waist. I stared at her back in consternation. I had made her cry. Was it the mention of her brother? My sarcasm kicked in; or maybe it's because you took her prisoner and now you're taking her to the worst tyrant of all times. I felt guilt gnaw at me, as tears continued to drop silently. She was making an effort to cry silently, she did not want my comfort. Of course she wouldn't, I raged at myself. Oh why oh why had she been caught? Why did she interest me so much? Why did it hurt me so bad to see her cry? But as usual, my brilliant mind just gave me the questions, not the answers.
It was a relief to reach the village of Lumm, a carriage waiting at the inn as commanded.
'Hitch them up.'
I ordered a waiting stable boy. Carefully I lowered the now dry-eyed countess and carried her onto the cushions in the carriage. She did not say anything; she seemed to be in shock. I briefly considered sending for a healer, but decided against the loss of time. I silently mounted my horse and we continued the journey. When we finally reached the next stop, we were a day from the palace. I opened the carriage door wondering if she had managed to sleep. I saw her bleary eyes and offered my arm to support her. She looked at the arm like I had offered a snake but she lightly took hold of it. I smiled slightly and guided her inside.
I stared at her while I was asking and she looked up bewildered, her eyes not filled with the usual hate and distrust. She seemed to be lost in her won thought, her blue eyes wide as she asked in a small voice:
'A drinkable blend, from the aroma. A miraculous drink. One of the benefits of our world-hopping mages,'
She repeated blankly. I tried to help her marshal her thoughts,
'Coffee. Horses. Chocolate. Kinthus. Laimun. Several luxuries that are now native to our world, brought here form others.'
She looked at me, no fight in her eyes as I handed her a mug. She took it in her nearly transparent hands; I could see the blue veins just under her skin as she quietly sipped the coffee from the mug, eyes closed. I didn't speak, just observed her silently, trying to understand why she fascinated – no she interested me; that was all. That had to be all. The smell of food made her open her eyes, and the first sign of life reappeared in her eyes as she eyed the portion of simple potatoes and soup in front of her.
'You had probably better not eat much more than that. We have a long ride ahead and we wouldn't want you to regret your first good meal in days.'
Gingerly she picked up the spoon, I expected her to eat more than normal, just to spite me, but instead her hand trembled and she asked, devoid of emotion:
'How long until the capital?'
I thought of not telling her, but then she wouldn't have time to prepare herself,
'We will arrive some time tomorrow morning.'
She grimaced at her soup then asked in a clear voice:
'What's Galdran like? Besides being a tyrant, a coward and a Covenant breaker. '
I was loath to tell her about him so I tried to deflect her question.
'This is the third time you brought that up. How do you know he intends to break the Covenant?'
'We have proof.' She snapped waspishly, 'And don't waste your breath threatening me about getting it, because you won't. You really think I'd tell you what and where is it, just to have it destroyed? We may not be doing so well, but it seems my brother and I and our little untrained army are the only hope the Hill Folk have.'
I narrowed my eyes at two things, the confidence about her proof. Did they have a spy at court? I'd have to look at that. And the second was the softening of her voice which she did not even seem to notice, when she spoke about her brother. I had wondered about their closeness since the count had attacked our camp and the look in her eyes confirmed that they were each other's most loved person. My heart gave a wistful tug but coldly dropped as I realized she had put me in the same basket as Galdran. We were one and the same. And that, more than anything made me pause. She thought I was a monster. Why did it hurt so much? A spiteful streak came up; wanting to hurt her like she was unknowingly hurting me. I drawled:
'To your question, What is Galdran like? By that I take it you mean, what kind of treatment can you escape from the king? If you take the time you consider the circumstances outside of your mountain life, you might be able to answer that for yourself. The King has been in the midst of trade negotiations with Denlieff for over a year. You have cost him time and money that were better applied elsewhere. And a civil war never enhances the credit of the government in the eyes of visiting diplomats from the Queen Yustnesveas of Sartor, who does not look for causes so much as signs of slack control.'
My stinging voice came to a stop. I looked at her face, immediately remorseful, why did I try to crush her spirits? Now that she would it need most. But then I saw Meliara's face. If possible, it held even more contempt than before. And that angered me beyond reason,
'So if he cracks down harder on the people, it's our fault, is that it?'
My anger was blown away, as easily as a puff of smoke by the wind. She considered herself as one of the common people. How could such honesty, such faith in a cause still exist in a noble? I softened my voice:
'You might contemplate during your measures of leisure, what the purpose of a permanent court serves, besides to squander the gold earned by the sweat of our peasant's brows. And consider this: The only reason you and your brother have not been in Athanarel all along is because the King considered you too harmless to bother keeping an eye on, are you finished?'
I waved at the food, she nodded distractedly, probably trying to find the warning my last comment held. I carried her to the carriage without encountering any resistance from her and soon we were riding on the night. It was an uneventful ride, leaving me to my rising guilt and unexplainable feelings. At one point I saw the carriage door opening slightly, a small red head peeking out, I reluctantly neared the door, so she would know escape was impossible, and she withdrew inside. Soon we were in the capital, I knew here the gossip was high, and many a curious faces observed me as I made my way before the carriage. By the time we reached the palace gates, a crowd had gathered.
'Lead her though the grand entrance, '
I ordered the carriage rider, a nameless equerry. He nodded respectfully as I galloped past. Jumping of my horse; I took a shortcut to my rooms. I met no one, a piece of luck as I did not look like the character which I had been playing. Kervac, my man servant seemed to have been expecting me as he quickly helped me change my clothes to something more of the dandy Meliara had called me. Meliara…I needed to hurry, the credit of her capture had to come to me, that was the point of the whole painful experience, I was striding out, wearing the required coroneted helm when I accosted by a large hug.
'Danric, finally, I was starting to worry,'
A laughing voice called. 'Russav, I'm very glad to see you, but now is not the time, I have- aah-some business to attend to.'
'If you mean the small ruffian of a countess you have then yes you'd better hurry,' he said as he strode down the empty halls with me.
'My god, I saw her enter, a little slip of a girl, but the glare she gave the poor servant when he opened the door.'
I hurried even more and finally saw the red hair I now used to perceive the countess. She was being escorted into the hall; she seemed even more worn and shabby between the jewels and feathers of the court. I walked past her, making sure I had my court mask on as I approached my King. I bowed low as he eyes me beadily. Greedy Galdran indeed. Hopefully that would be his downfall. I waited for him to gloat and was not disappointed.
'So you won your wager, Shevraeth, eh?'
'As well Your Majesty, the dirt, the stretches of boredom…really, had it taken two more days, I could not have supported it, much as I'd regret reneging on a bet.'
But Galdran was already looking past me, his attention the girl behind me. He waved a hand to see her. And suddenly I had to forcibly keep my body still as it tried to stand between the evil before me and the innocence I had found behind me. I looked around careful to keep my bored expression the same, but Russav frowned, and I could see he had noticed my clenched hands and reaction. Finally I looked at Meliara, and I nearly smiled. Her head high, she was glaring at Galdran as ferociously as he was smiling at her viciously.
'Are you certain someone has not been making game of you? That looks like a scullery wench.'
'I answered automatically:
'I assure you, Your Majesty, this is Lady Meliara Astiar, Countess of Tlanth.'
He spoke out, but thankfully it was not a question as my mind was too busy revolting. My Meliara looked nothing like a scullery wench. Her royal features which she had inherited from her Calahanras mother were visible, no trace of fear in her face as she glared at Galdran with as much contempt as she had looked at me all these days. I could feel something at the edge of my mind; I waited for it to show itself, what was I missing? Then with a wave of his hand Galdran motioned the guards to take her. The guards jerked her off, and she could not help a whimper of pain. I frowned and unconsciously my hand rose, reaching out to her. Russav chose that moment to give me a hug.
'Cousin, how glad we are your back.' Then he added, whispering: 'Get a grip of yourself. What's happening to you?'
I looked at him blankly, smiling, but my head was reeling in shock with the discovery I had made, a discovery I wished I hadn't. I remembered her eyes when she talked of her brother, her bravery facing me, her vulnerability, her passions and naivety about her cause, her wit…she was beautiful, inside and out.
And I had just realized:
I didn't want anyone else to harm her.
Anyone else to touch her.
She was mine.
So? So? What do you think? Did I portray Danric alright? I added a bit of Savonna just for fun. About the whole 'mine' thing, well I was going to end it with Danric realizing he loved her but at the last moment I remembered him saying he fell in love with her while she argued so passionately when he comes to visit Tlanth with Nee and Bran. S I changed it to mine, hopefully it's ok.
I'm writing a note now, because I don't want to post a note as another chapter, or my dear readers will get false hope, and I know, I hate the feeling too. Anyway, this is to say, Im travelling for a month, and I won't have computer access, and I'm not bringing my laptop either. You can blame my mom, she says I need to spend , and I quote, 'family time'. Anyway, going off topic. So I have no idea if or when I will update this fanfic. Actually I was thinking of stopping it here, and next time I write, I start from the beginning of court duel. So Ill change this as complete...at least for the moment. Oh and I hope all heiress by blood readers also read this because I don't have time to post a note in that story.