[Story] PRINCESS DRIANNA Chapter 10
Ifeoma Isabella Okeke
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Ever so slowly, my Powers became more and more my own. Shane and I would ride for half a day and then spend the rest of it training. He was still much more Powerful than I. But I wasn’t discouraged because now I had hope. I could see a day in the future when I would be as- if not more- Powerful than he and it was the yearning for that day which pressed me on.
I grew a single-minded determinedness through the course of our journey. My thoughts concentrated on my Power and my return to Danubae and looking back, I realize that I rather neglected noticing anything else- including Shane.
Riding during the morning, our talk was concerned with the Power and matters in Danubae. Training in the afternoon was silent and focused and then at night around the campfire, the both of us were so tired, no significant conversation could be held. Then we’d retire and I would drift off to a world of sleep and dream of Gadel.
One night, I had a particularly vivid dream of him. I could smell him, feel his warm skin at my fingertips, taste him on my tongue. But I could not see him. He seemed to surround me; everywhere I turned I felt him. His hands traced over my skin and I arched at his touch but then it would disappear. I’d whimper and writhe but only when I stilled did his touch return. It was too much. It was painful. I cried out his name and bolted upright on my pallet.
It took me a moment to recognize my surroundings- the pieces of moon glowing through the dense treetops, the crickets chirping softly behind me. I was shaking and my skin was flaming and coated in sweat. Desperately I tried to control my labored breathing and my eyes drifted across the camp, finding Shane’s.
He too sat upright in his blankets. His green eyes watched me stoically before he rose to his feet and wordlessly left the camp. At dawn he returned and began to pack the horses. We never spoke of that night or my dream, though there were many more like it.
We arrived in Elphame three months after leaving Colias Manor. The Haven of the Elves was a land, hidden to those without the Power, which lay just beyond the southern borders of Danubae and Groithia. The source of the Gensai River was there in the heart of the land amongst the silver trunked trees and leafy blue vegetation.
We arrived to a grand celebration. We had been expected and all the elves rejoiced at our coming. For three days and nights there was feasting and dancing and I was very much engulfed in the festivities. I drank the treasured golden ale the elves were so famed for and did not sleep the duration of the revelries. In all this time, I did not catch a glimpse of Shane. I’d sought him out for a dance more than once but never found him.
It was the morning after the feasting ended that he came to me. I’d been given chambers in a treetop chateau that could be accessed- like all the residences in Elphame- by a rope bridge suspended between trees. I relaxed in my bed- a hammock of thickly woven spider web- and rested my aching feet.
Shane entered, his poise stoic and cool as it had been since the night of my dream. Concern flickered in his eyes as he took in my wearied appearance.
“You are not unwell, I hope.”
I shook my head. “Merely recovering from the feasts.”
He nodded. “Did you have fun?” he asked, though his voice did not convey that he had any interest in my answer.
“Much. Where did you disappear to?”
“I’m not much for festivities,” he dismissed my question and addressed me importantly. “We’re going to see the Oracle.”
“The Oracle? Now?”
Reluctantly, I pulled myself out of bed. My feet screamed in protest when I sat them on the wooden floor but I ignored them as I followed Shane out of the chateau. Silently we made our way through the maze of rope bridges until we reached a stair leading down to the forest floor.
“Shane?” I called uncertainly as we descended and stepped onto the dark grass. It was a different realm on the floor. This was where the dark elves abided and it was obvious in the deep greens and blues of the shrubs around us. Above, everything was golden and white and pure. It was safe. This was not.
Shane turned to look at me. He sensed my uneasiness and smiled- his face suddenly that of the ten year old boy I’d left him as. “Stay behind me,” he ordered, taking my hand and leading me through the vegetation.
“Why is the Oracle down here?” I asked as we wove in and out of the silver tree trunks.
“She’s not.” He halted and pulled me to his side. “She’s in there.” I looked to where he pointed and saw a high waterfall, its silver waters falling silently into a blue pool below.
“Behind the waters. Go. Quickly. She’s expecting you.”
I stared at him. “Y-You’re not going with me?”
“I took you this far. You must face her alone. Now go.”
My heart beat wildly in my chest as I picked my way over the moss-covered stones to the waterfall. As a girl my mother had told me of the Oracle of Elphame. She was revered by all those blessed with the Power, as she was one of the oldest living possessors of the gift.
I reached the sheet of silver water and saw that behind it glowed a golden light. There was a tunnel I could see and as I took steps on shaky feet towards it, the light grew brighter. Eventually I could see nothing but white before my eyes and my ears rang with the hum of an unseen force. The Power in its purest form pulsated around me and it was too much for my weak body to bear. Every part of my it felt as if it were being wrenched from the rest and a silent scream escaped my mouth as I fell to my knees.
“Stand, girl,” a firm voice ordered.
I opened my eyes and realized that the light had faded. The intensity of the Power had diminished and all was silent and still. On shaky legs I stood and came face to face with Talius. The beautiful black stallion stood regally, swishing its tail lazily and eyeing me with what I immediately recognized as another’s eyes. The deep eyes that looked on me scrupulously were ancient and wise- not the innocently ignorant eyes of a horse.
“Are you the Oracle?”
“I am,” the voice came from Talius.
“Why do you look like that?”
“That is for you to tell me. I’ve appeared as you’ve wanted. Perhaps…you feel comfortable with this appearance?” I nodded and the horse surveyed me silently. “You are Powerful.”
“Yet I have no control.”
“Something is holding you back. A man.” The Oracle spit out the word as a bitter tasting fruit. “Why does he have this power over you?”
“I love him.”
“Love is not for the responsible. Duty is for you.”
I hung my head. “I know.”
“You will.” The ice in her voice startled me. “You must. Black is the path he travels now. Gone is your lover.”
“What? I don’t understand. He is dead?”
“As he was, is he no longer.”
Rage swelled within me. “What does that mean? Do not play riddles with me! Tell me- does he live?”
“He lives in body.”
“And in mind?”
“It is not for you to know, but for you to find. But now, you must forget him. Your paths shall cross again. Now you must rule- your kingdom and your Power. Time runs short.”
The light began to return. Talius was engulfed by its brightness and I shielded my eyes from it and was outside the silver waterfall. Shane was immediately at my side.
“Was she helpful?”
I frowned. “Not at all.”
That night, sleep did not come easily to me. I tossed restlessly for hours, battling with my tortured thoughts. I did not want to heed the Oracle’s words and forget my love. I held his memory close to my heart and was reluctant to release it. Frustrated, I climbed out of my hammock and stepped out onto the small porch of my chateau.
The green canopy of the forest hid the stars but I could catch glimpses of them through the leaves. A crisp breeze blew through my hair and I shivered.
“Are you cold?”
I jumped at Shane’s voice, looking in time to see him emerge from the shadows and drape his cape over my shoulders. I gave him a grateful smile and clutched the blue velvet to my chest.
“You should be sleeping.”
“I tried. I couldn’t.”
“Something bothering you?” I had only to glance at him and he knew the cause of my wakefulness. I saw the realization dawn on him and he looked away, leaning against his hands on the porch railing. “Will you ever learn?” he wondered.
“To forget him. You are dedicated to your training in day but in night it’s he who holds your focus. You cannot exist this way.”
“Because no one can move into the future if they’re still in the past! Don’t you see?” Shane’s voice was low but harsh.
Anger rose in my breast and I glared icily at him. “I love him! I will not simply forget him! I can’t!” I sighed and checked my anger, then flippantly dismissed him by saying, “You wouldn’t understand.”
“And why wouldn’t I understand?”
“Because you’ve never felt this kind of love!”
My words were quick and sharp and he felt them as such. In an instant he was towering over me, his face inches from my own. When he spoke, I felt his hot breath on my cheek but his words were icy. “You are very mistaken, your highness. It is you who knows not of the love possible between a man and woman. Your girlish infatuation would not be a candle flame next to the intense fire of what I’ve felt- what I feel. Never speak to me of knowing love.”
Then, just as quickly as he’d moved to me, he stepped away. As he began to disappear once more into the shadows, he paused and said, “Decide now, Drianna. Decide to free yourself from him. Decide to rule. Or go back to your Groithian master.”
After he was gone, I was left with the stinging memory of his words. I had to decide. Looking to the sky, I breathed a labored sigh and made my decision.
To Be Continued…
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