A/N: So this is part one of three chapters regarding Miakis and her old friends the Dragon Cavalry. Please leave a review to let me know what you think! ^-^ Also, sorry if the format is a little inconsistent, decided to stop automatically double spacing things, which is NOT HELPFUL. So let m know if this is okay to read like this :)
Chapter One: Isolation
It was a calm day on Ceras Lake, but the ancient castle in its centre was humming with activity. As word of the Prince's cause spread, more and more people were flocking to his aid. The army's ranks were growing constantly, and the castle was becoming more of a small town than a fortress. In amongst the busy midday rush of the castle, Miakis felt as still as the lake. Without her duties to Princess Lymsleia, the former Queen's Knight was having trouble keeping herself occupied.
She watched the castle's residents bustle about, she felt uncharacteristically hollow. Apart from accompanying the Prince on his missions, Miakis hadn't been assigned anything to do. She trained, she ate, she drank – but overall she was essentially just waiting. Waiting for a chance to help things go back to normal. She didn't exactly know what normal would be though; the king and queen were dead. She figured that as long as the Princess and the country were free from the Godwins, that was a start towards setting things right.
She didn't feel right. Even Kyle had told her to 'cheer up' during training. It had been years since anyone had needed to tell her that. It showed how out of place she felt. She was in the wrong castle.
Some bodyguard, she thought as she let out a sigh.
What did I do before I was a bodyguard to the princess?
It was hard to remember. Running around after Lymsleia was a full-time job, and it had become a big part of who she was. But her recent trip to Sauronix Castle had reminded her of what she left behind when she joined the Queen's Knights. It was true that the home of the Dragon Cavalry didn't provide much opportunity for her, as they did not recruit women.
No matter how many times you beat the boys into the dust, her internal voice added.
The memory managed to bring the tiniest of smiles to her lips. She had missed the boys from her hometown, especially when she first left for Sun Palace.
Men, she reminded herself, they're men now. Not that you can't still beat them!
Rahal and Roog were living in the same castle, but Miakis had only seen them a few times. She decided that today was a good day to see what they were up to with their time off, and whether they were as bored as she was.
Retso's restaurant was packed as Miakis navigated her way between the tables. Cornelio was attempting to organise a lunchtime performance on the stage, but no one was paying him much attention. Everyone was focusing on their food, and Miakis didn't blame them. She doubted whether there was anyone left in the castle who hadn't been accused of being a 'mediocrity' who didn't appreciate culture.
She crossed the room as quickly as she could, offering a smile and a wave to Nikea as she passed. She received what appeared to be a grin in reply, although it was through a mouthful of rice, so she couldn't quite tell. She skipped up the steps and started down the long, thin corridor. In contrast to the loud, open area at the base of the tower, the corridor was quiet and empty. The restaurant's lunchtime clamour faded as the paced down the passage, until the only sound was the clank of her boots echoing down the hall. She ran her fingertips along the impossibly smooth wall as she walked. This had been the base level of the tower, submerged in the lake for a countless number of years. She was a child of the Feitas, of Falena, and the idea of water did not frighten her. At least that's what she told herself, shuddering at the thought about the lake water rising and rushing back through the halls, reclaiming the castle they called home. She reminded herself that water was their ally, and they weren't scared of it.
It's the sun you want to hide from, her mind chimed in.
She pushed the thought from her head and focused on how she was looking forward to seeing her old friends again. She really did miss them, and it was an odd feeling suddenly living in the same place. She began to feel her usual cheerful mood returning as she trotted down the stairs, thoughts of her life at Sauronix taking over from her previous emptiness.
"Flail, sound the alarm," Rahal said to his dragon horse when he saw Miakis coming down the stairs.
"HEY! What's that supposed to mean?!" she retorted as she jumped down the last few steps.
"I mean…look who it is," he said with a sly smile, "how have you been, Miakis?"
"Bored, mostly. There's nothing to do in this big ol' castle!"
Rahal cast his eyes around the alcove that served as shelter for the dragon horses. It was empty except for him and Flail, taking refuge from the midday sun.
"Not much going on here either," he replied, "but you can visit us whenever you like, right Flail?"
"Griiiink!" agreed the dragon horse, tilting her head upward, exposing her neck.
Miakis laughed as she took the invitation to pet the reptile.
"Awww, I missed you too! Have you been a good dwaggie horsie? Have you?" she cooed as Flail closed her eyes.
Rahal rolled his eyes at them. He was forever telling Miakis not to spoil the dragon horses, but she never listened.
"Uh oh, here's trouble."
Miakis turned to see Roog walking towards them.
"You too?" she pouted, placing her hands on her hips, "don't pretend you didn't miss me!"
"Who's pretending?" Roog smirked back at her.
Flail let out a short whine, and Miakis resumed petting her, giving her neck another rub.
"See, at least Flail misses me," she said, "don't you, you good dwaggie horsie? Yes you do!"
"Well that's bribery! She gets neck rubs every time she sees you," Roog said, folding his arms across his broad chest.
"Aww, do you want one too?" she teased, reaching her hand up towards him.
He stepped back in surprise, bringing his arms up to defend himself.
"What, hey! That's not what I meant!" he exclaimed.
That threw him, she thought as she sent him an evil grin. He narrowed his eyes at her before grinning back. She really had missed him.
The voice came from the stairs behind her. She whirled around to see Lun, the Raftfleet girl, approaching them, her arms wrapped around a large basket.
"Finally!" Roog said, "we've been waiting for you!"
Rahal stepped forward and took the basket from her and she pulled out three small bundles. Roog left to go outside, through one of the big entrances.
"The rest is for the dragon horses," Lun said cheerfully, before calling after Roog "I reeled in some extra big ones for Lance!"
Miakis inhaled and the smell of fish washed over her. She made a face, earning a quiet laugh from Rahal.
"Lun, you've met Miakis, right?" he said over his shoulder as he carried the basket over to Flail.
"Yeah!" the girl replied, but her face fell soon after.
"I err, only brought enough for three," she said, "I didn't know you were gonna be here, Miakis."
"Oh, no it's okay! I kinda just swung by," the Queen's Knight replied.
"You could probably give yours to her, Lun," Roog said as he re-entered, leading Lance inside, "don't you Raftfleeters eat it raw anyway?"
"Heeeey!" Lun hollered back at him "Whaddya mean? We aren't savages ya know!"
The red dragon rider just laughed and folded his arms, as he had done with Miakis a few moments ago. His dragon horse, Lance, made his way quickly past her towards the basket of fresh fish. Miakis almost felt hurt, but remembered how much of a picky eater the red dragon horse was. She wouldn't want to get in between him and his favourite food.
"Good to see you're so concerned with me getting fed properly, Roog, but I ate already!" she said with a grin.
It was a lie. She just didn't want to make things awkward.
"Great!" Lun chirped, tossing a packet to each of the men.
Roog tore his open to reveal a piece of cooked fish. Rahal opened his a little more delicately, so he could fold it back up if he needed to.
"So when are ya gonna teach me to ride a dragon horse, huh?" Lun asked them, her eyes darting back and forth between Roog to Rahal.
"Well you ain't riding Lance, no way" Roog replied.
"Aw what? Come ooon, he likes me, doesn't he?" the girl pleaded.
Nope, Miakis thought, Lance doesn't like anyone.
"He likes you well enough," Roog said, "I mean, you are the bringer of tasty fish."
"She brings you fish too, Roog," added Rahal.
Miakis resisted the urge to roll her eyes as she leant her back against one of the stone pillars. This conversation was sounding a little too familiar. She composed her face into a grin instead.
"How can I get to be member of the Dragon Cavalry if I don't learn to ride a dragon horse?" Lun cried.
You can't, Miakis answered in her head, they don't accept women.
"Well first, you gotta train real hard, " Roog answered, "then you've gotta find your own mount. I wrestled with
Lance for a full day before he let me ride him."
Hmm, not the answer I got when I wanted to join.
"Oh is that all?" Lun laughed, "Well I'll just hafta to do that then!"
"You use a fishing spear as a weapon, correct?" Rahal asked her, and she nodded, "that would be quite an effective mounted weapon too. Good reach."
Miakis just stared at them.
Why are you two encouraging her? You know the Dragon Cavalry DO NOT accept women.
She watched as the three talked of weapons, dragon horses, fishing, and anything else that came to mind. She stayed quiet, not contributing, or even really listening. She merely observed as her childhood friends laughed and joked around with a girl she hardly knew. It seemed so familiar and so alien at the same time. The scene usually played out with her in a starring role, not melted into the background as she was now. She couldn't help but see the similarity in the way the men acted towards them both – a way Miakis had always thought was a special bond between the three of them. She began to realise that she was jealous of the Raftleet girl. She didn't want to be, but she was.
Roog retrieved his weapons from the other side of the room and demonstrated to Lun how he used the two blades. Rahal leaned against the pillar next to Miakis, holding out his packet of fish to her. She tore off a piece and sampled it. It was so incredibly tasty; she quickly nabbed a second piece from her friend. He let her help herself, and together they watched Roog and Lun practice their sword arts. Miakis' felt a sense of uneasiness in her stomach. She blamed it on the fish. Roog gave the two swords to Lun, and with a giggle, the Raftfleet girl struck a pose. With one sword down and the other high, above her head, the similarity was too much.
"Remind you of anyone?" Miakis muttered to Rahal.
"Vaguely," he said softly, "though I've repressed memories of your battle stance. It never seemed to end well for me."
She glanced up to see his blue eyes crinkling slightly at the edges, a sign of his understated brand of humour. She couldn't help but grin back at him. Once she turned her attention back to Lun's attempt at swordplay, Miakis didn't know how she felt.
"Rahal, gimme a go with yours!" Lun beckoned the blue robed soldier over.
He obeyed, asking her to be careful. Roog sheathed his blades and took Rahal's place against the wall, next to Miakis.
"You're quiet," he observed, looking down at her.
"Am I?" she asked without meeting his eyes, knowing it was true.
"Well you're not talkin', so yeah," he said as her folded his arms again.
She nodded dumbly. She didn't know what to say. This had never been an issue before.
"Must be hard for you, being away from the Princess like this."
She paused her breath halfway through inhaling. Turning her head towards him, it was the first time they had made proper eye contact. Her amethyst eyes softened as they met the sincerity of his brown ones.
You perceptive idiot, her brain told him, you've hit the nail on the head for once. Just…the wrong nail.
It was true, not having the Princess around was like losing a sister, and it was the reason she had sought the two men out in the first place. But what she was feeling in that moment wasn't the emptiness she had felt before, instead it was frustration and sadness.
Roog continued to look at her curiously. She felt a turn in her stomach.
"It's weird," she said finally, reassembling her grin, "but I know that the best thing I can do for the Princess is to help the Prince, so that's what I'm gonna do! It's simple really!"
That isn't how I'm feeling at all.
"Yeah you're right," he replied, watching Rahal show Lun some basic sword swings, "but it doesn't feelthat simple, does it?"
He was right, nothing felt simple. Not her feelings toward her separation from Lymsleia, or her feelings on the war. This feeling of envy was just one more thing to add to the pile.
Miakis examined the side of his face, but couldn't find any indication of emotion. When had Roog ever said anything so… emotionally accurate? When had he ever tried?
Her gaze traced his furrowed brow, the focus in his eyes, and down to the hard line of his mouth. It seemed he was harbouring some complex emotions too. Miakis was slowly coming to the realisation that the boisterous kid she had fought with as a child had grown up. It had happened a while ago, but she had never taken the time to notice.
"No," she said softly, as her eyes continued to search his face, "it's anything but simple."
"Hey you two!" Lun called out to them, "no slacking off! We've got a situation on our hands!"
Oh don't mind us, she thought, we're only having a real conversation.
But she didn't say that. Instead she pushed herself off the wall and addressed the younger girl.
"What's up?" she chirped.
"Roog, we've been challenged to a fishing competition," Rahal explained to his companion.
"Yeah! It's both of you guys against me!" Lun grinned.
"Both of us against little old you?" Roog teased, "you're goin' down!"
"Nuh uhhh!" the Raftfleet girl replied, "I'm better than the both of ya! Prepare to lose!"
Miakis felt her stomach tighten again. Suddenly being with her old friends didn't seem like such a good idea. She felt a swelling in her throat as she thought of her place in the trio being filled by Lun.
"About time I checked up on the Prince anyway!" she told them, keeping her voice level.
"Are you sure?" Rahal asked her.
His tone was casual, but his eyes were serious. He knew something wasn't right.
"Yep!" she replied cheerfully, "some of us have responsibilities ya know!"
"Important royal bodyguard business does kinda outrank fishing," Roog said with a shrug, "but we'll see you soon, right?"
"Of course!" she answered.
After saying their farewells, the three of them turned towards the outside exit. Miakis walked over to Flail and ran a hand over her neck, earning a happy 'griiink' out of the dragon horse.
"There's a good girl," she whispered, her eyes following her childhood friends' retreating backs.