[Story] PRINCESS DRIANNA Chapter 16
Ifeoma Isabella Okeke
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I returned to consciousness and immediately became aware of the searing pain in my side. I groaned; it was so intense that I felt my stomach churn as wave after wave of pain rolled through me. Vaguely I registered the bouncing and rocking of the makeshift cot I lay on as two soldiers rushed me towards headquarters.
“Good God!” I heard my mother exclaim as we arrived at my tent. “What happened?” The fear was plain in her voice as she frantically barked orders at the soldiers. “Take her inside at once! Fetch a healer! What are you just standing there for? Go! Quickly! We’ve got to get that arrow out! Is it poisoned? Has anyone checked? Drianna? Can you hear me? Blast! Where is that damned healer? Drianna?”
My voice would not come to me. I closed my eyes, begging for sleep to release me from the pain. But mother’s hand urgently slapped my cheek. “Don’t sleep! Stay awake as long as you can!”
I forced open my eyes and they fell on my wound. It was an indistinguishable mass of blood with the arrow still standing tall in it. The sight sent a wave of nausea through me and quickly I looked away. Around me my tent was in chaos. Healers’ assistants rushed about, preparing tools, wiping my brow, and attempting to keep the blood from flowing so freely.
“Your highness,” greeted a stern man as he knelt at my side. He was cold and immediately I didn’t like him. “We must take the arrow out. You’ll feel some pain. We’ve nothing to give you to numb it, I’m afraid.”
I looked away as he inspected the arrow and saw the silhouette of my mother through the tent. As I watched, another joined her- a man. My hazy mind recognized her making wild and frantic gestures as she spoke to him. The man went stiff and clutched her by the shoulders, shouting. She pointed to my tent and the man’s silhouette ran to the open flap and he appeared.
It was Shane. He face was ashen with grief as he stared at my prone and bloody form. I had no time to react to his arrival before the healer clutched the arrow’s shaft roughly, preparing to rip it from my body. I screamed as hot pain surged through the angry wound.
“What are you doing, man? Are you a healer or a butcher? Get out of here at once!” Shane pushed the protesting man from the tent, then rushed to my side.
His face was the picture of anguish as he leaned over me, his strong hands pushing the hair from my face. My cheeks were wet with tears and he gently caressed the skin, wiping it dry.
“What’ve you gotten yourself into?” he asked softly. I whimpered helplessly. My voice still would not come to me. “Shh. It’s all right. I’m going to take the arrow out.” Frantically I shook my head but he shushed me. “I’ve got to. It will hurt. But I’ll make it quick and you’ll feel much better after it’s done.”
Ever so gently, he took the arrow’s shaft in his hands. I winced at the pressure and whimpered in the back of my throat. “On the count of three…one…two…three…” He wrenched the arrow from the wound and a strangled cry escaped my mouth.
I heard the clatter of the arrow as it hit the ground and I lay panting on the cot. I let out a string of curses and glared up at Shane. “That hurt.”
“It would’ve hurt a lot more if I’d let that butcher do it. Are you OK?” I nodded. “You were lucky. The arrow’s not poisoned. But you’ve lost a lot of blood. I think the flow’s decreased but you’re still losing… We’ve got to wrap this. I’ll send in the healer.”
As he rose to his feet I uttered a cry of protest. “C-Can’t…can’t you do it?”
His muscles visibly tensed and for a long moment the air was thick and silent between us. I watched his eyes roam over my blood-soaked clothing and up to my face. “It would be best,” he said in a hoarse whisper. “If the healer handled such matters.”
And without another word, he left and a few moments later, the healer entered. I ignored him as he cut away my ruined clothes and cleaned my wound. He seemed more gentle this time; perhaps Shane’s rough treatment of him had made him more thoughtful of his was handling.
He dressed my wound and left without a word. For some time I lay there, thinking. Shane was back. And I was elated despite my pain. I realized that somehow, somewhere I’d decided that I cared for him. Whether I truly loved him, I did not yet know. But I was more than willing to find out.
I felt that I could love him. I did already but I could love him differently- not the way I loved Gadel. With Gadel, I wanted to marry him, to bear his children, to be mistress of Colias Manor. I wanted to be his faithful wife, dutifully waiting for him at home when he was away on business. It was a simple life that I’d felt I would have been content with.
But I realized that perhaps I wouldn’t have been content with that. I was built for more than being a manor’s mistress. I was built to rule a kingdom. But I could not see Gadel in that kingdom, ruling beside me. I saw Shane.
I saw him by my side in court, in battle. Then I saw him holding me, comforting me…loving me. And without question, I knew it was right and it was what I wanted. It’d taken me some time to realize it, but that was what I wanted. I wanted Shane to love me and I to love him. I wanted to live with him, rule with him, die with him.
At this sudden insight, I felt that I had to go see him. I carefully sat up, gasping at the pain the action brought, and came to my feet. I stumbled across my tent and slipped on a thin robe before making my way outside. The fighting had stopped for the day and it’d grown dark but the soldiers’ many campfires provided ample light to see by. Clutching my angry side, I made my way through the maze of camps.
“You, sir! Tell me, where is General Raphen’s camp?” I demanded of a knight as he sauntered by. He looked me over hesitantly before pointing me down the path. I thanked him and followed his directions.
Shane’s camp was nothing more than a tiny, pitched tent the size of any petty soldier’s. There was a small but bright fire just outside its flap and before it sat Shane, who was staring thoughtfully into its flames. When he saw me, he scowled.
“What are you doing? You shouldn’t be wandering around out here in your condition! You’re determined to get yourself killed aren’t you?”
I ignored his reprimands and let him lead me to a soft pallet on the ground where I sat down carefully. “Your camp’s not very big.”
“I don’t need a big camp. This suffices. Now, would you care to explain to me what so possessed you to risk your health by wandering out here?”
“You,” I answered simply.
For a moment, there was silence between us. Shane’s green eyes, sparkling with the reflection of the flames, were wide as he stared uncertainly at me. “Pardon?”
“I wanted to see you,” I dismissed the earnestness of the reason with a shrug. Suddenly I was very nervous. “I…I wanted to…to thank you for today. I’m sure that it would’ve been much more painful if the healer had done it.”
Shane shrugged. “I was the least I could do.” Then a sudden frown appeared on his face. “I shouldn’t have had to do anything. You shouldn’t have been out there in the first place. I knew I shouldn’t have let you come.”
“I was fine until today! And really, it could’ve happened to anyone.”
“I know. But it shouldn’t have been you.”
“Why not? Because I’m royalty?” I demanded with venom in my voice. “Why is my life held above the lives of other noble, hard working people? Why is royal blood so precious that countries would go to war over its spillage? Why is my life so important?”
Shane stared at me. “It’s important to me.” His simple statement bellied my ranting. My jaw snapped shut and I watched him gently poke the logs on the fire with a stick. “All the while during battle, all I did was worry about you. I was terrified that you’d be hurt or…or killed and it’d be my fault for letting you come. Then I made it through battle and I come here to find that my fears were realized.” He looked at me evenly. “I’ve never been as scared in my life as I was when your mother told me you’d been shot. I felt sure I’d lost you again.”
I scooted closer to him. “But you haven’t,” I whispered, reaching out to gently brush his face. “I’m still here.”
“I know. But-”
“I’m not going anywhere.”
He sighed and cupped my cheek in his palm. I melted into his touch. “You’ve grown up, so- even more since I found you. You’re so strong.”
“I had a strong teacher.” He chuckled and let his hand drop. With the loss of contact I was saddened. I wanted more; I wanted to feel his touch again. “Shane…”
There was pleading in my voice and he whipped his head around to look at me. His eyes were bewildered as they studied me. I reached out and threaded my hand in his and marveled at how it fit perfectly in his large grip.
There was a hopeful question in his eyes and once again he was laid exposed before me. All his hopes and dreams were in his eyes as he gazed at me. And I realized that I loved him. Right then, I knew. How could I say it, though? How could I tell him? For a moment I wrestled with the words.
But I found his eyes and realized that words were unnecessary. His face drew closer and closer to mine and my breath grew heavy. I wanted this. I wanted this more than anything. He took my lips gently with his and I gasped at the contact and immediately returned it.
His lips were soft and undemanding. I felt in his kiss that there was no where he’d rather be, nothing he’d rather be doing. He was content to enjoy the feeling of my lips on his, as if he were tasting heaven itself and he was happy with the small morsel.
I was wrapped in his arms, pressed against his chest. I could feel the ripple of every muscle as he ran his hands over my back. Eagerly I opened my mouth, inviting him closer and audibly gasped as a surge of Power sizzled between us. It tickled my lips and sent shivers up my spine.
When we pulled apart at last, we both were breathless but smiling. “This feels…”
“Right,” Shane finished for me. I nodded.
“Wait…what…” I frowned as my fingers fumbled for the bandages around my side. Gingerly they pressed, but there was no pain. “It’s…it’s healed. How…?” Shane merely grinned. “It was you!”
“No, it was us.”
To Be Continued…
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