[Story] PRINCESS DRIANNA Chapter 18
Ifeoma Isabella Okeke
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My breath caught in my throat and sudden panic swept over me. Inexplicably I heard myself laugh. “Someone’s eager to be king,” I said hastily. I felt like kicking myself at the immediate pain in his eyes at my words. Why had I said that?
“Is that what you think?” he asked coldly, removing his arms from around my waist.
“No! No…I was only joking.”
“It wasn’t funny, Drianna.”
“I know…I’m sorry. It’s just…so abrupt. I was unprepared. Forgive me.”
“I’ll forgive you if you answer me. Marry me, Drianna.”
The panic came again. My breath hastened and I clutched the windowsill for support. “I…I…”
“I see. There’s no need for hasty excuses. I understand.” He began to turn away.
“No! You don’t understand!” My hand shot out, trying to catch him but he eluded my grasp. “Shane!” He only continued for the door and I quickly waved my hand, slamming the door closed.
At this he whirled on me, eyes narrowed. “How dare-”
“Listen to me! I love you!” It struck me- and him- that this was the first time these words had escaped my mouth. I’d professed my affection for him before but those three words had never actually been uttered. Shane stared at me in awe and I felt the need to repeat the words.
“I love you,” I said, softer this time. Their resonance felt easy on my tongue. “And I want to marry you- someday. You’ll be an excellent king and a better husband, I know. But everything’s in chaos right now…ask me again when this is over- when we are safe behind the walls of Iae Wiltur.” He nodded reluctantly, obviously disappointed and I quickly slipped into his arms for comfort. “Are you mad?” I asked, resting my cheek against his chest.
There was a pause before he said, “No. I’m not. I’ve waited this long…a little more time won’t hurt.”
I smiled, snuggling into his embrace. “Thank you.”
The council finally decided that we would take Iae Wiltur from the south, using the trees as cover. We set out; the palace was situated in the heart of the land and it took but four days to reach. On the afternoon of the fourth day, the soaring turrets could be seen on the horizon and I reigned in my horse to gaze at the sight.
“Home,” mother’s voice came from beside me.
I choked on my tears and could not respond but she merely looked at me understandingly and returned her attention to the vague outline in the distance. We watched for a few moments until Lord Knowlu’s irritating voice drew us from reverie.
“Oh! It must be a heavenly sight for you!” he exclaimed, riding up beside me. “The opulent Iae Wiltur…such a beautiful, beautiful place- fitting that it should have such a beautiful heiress.” I looked away so he could not see the roll of my eyes. “How long has it been, sweet princess, since you last saw your home?”
“Quite near all of nine years.”
“Nine years! It is a shame that your presence has not graced its courtly walls in so long a time.”
“Indeed. I am eager to return.”
“And return you shall! ‘Twil be a grand occasion when her highness can once again abide in her precious home.”
I merely nodded, wishing away his presence. Luckily, mother seemed to sense it and called Knowlu away. As they rode off, I remained, gazing at the palace silhouette. When would I see it? When would I once again step foot inside its halls?
With a sigh I turned my horse and rode after my mother.
Our surprise attack on the palace was not such a surprise to its occupants. They’d expected us and lay waiting for our unsuspecting troops. The first day of the battle was a slaughter. There were many dead on both sides but our morale was significantly lower than the enemy’s, having lost the advantage we’d hoped to have.
I was deep in the fighting, commanding from a barricade behind a group of high shrubs. I’d lost Shane sometime during the second hour and could only wonder about his location and well being. Worry crept in as the light grew dimmer with the sinking sun. The Power was hissing and crackling madly and I could feel the black deepening. Something was not right with the air.
“I’ll be back,” I said quickly to the two other commanders in my barricade and crept out from behind it. It was pitch dark and the fighting was dwindling down to a few stray arrows and the occasional clank of swords. Sticking low to the ground, I slinked through the trees, unsure of my destination.
I passed mangled bodies of my men but could only turn a blind eye to the gore. Something was amiss and I had to find out what. I was soon to discover, however, that it was I that was amiss- that caused the heaviness in the Power.
Suddenly a cold hand clamped itself over my mouth, pulling me roughly backward into a thicket. I let out a muffled scream behind the clammy hand and was violently hushed with a swift knee in my back.
“Quiet now, princess. Wouldn’t want to alarm your general, eh?” an icy voice crooned in my ear. A hand pulled back part of the thicket and my heart leapt with relief. There was Shane, a few yards away, walking upright and unharmed. “And I wouldn’t try that magic trick you’re planning either.” My eyes widened. “Yes…that’s right…I know your mind. I know your every thought, princess.
“Do you see there?” A clawed finger pointed at a nearby tree where I saw the feral glint of a pair of yellow eyes. “Some of my friends are watching the general, you see. You wouldn’t want anything to happen to him? Would you? I know you wouldn’t.”
My heart sank as quickly as it had risen as I recognized my predicament. “You’ll be quiet? You won’t try anything?” I nodded reluctantly. “Good girl.” The hand over my mouth disappeared and I gasped for much-needed air. The thicket fell back and I was being turned in my captor’s arms.
It was an elf and not just any elf- a dark elf. His skin was unnaturally pale and gleamed wanly in the moonlight. Long straight black hair cascaded over his shoulders, interrupted only by two, sharp tipped ears.
“What do you want with me?” I asked, surprised at the steadiness in my voice.
“Me? Nothing. But the captain will certainly be pleased that we’ve captured her highness, the crown princess of Danubae. Maybe now this damned war can end. Come on now, let’s show him what I’ve found.”
I was back inside the walls of Iae Wiltur. But it was not as I’d imagined it. I’d envisioned returning victorious to its halls in a chaos of joyous cries and exclamations. I’d not pictured being dragged painfully along the marble floors by an elf.
“Captain will be most surprised and- I dare say- elated to see you, your highness.” The title sounded sour on his tongue and carried behind it none of the respect it usually did. We arrived at a set of familiar doors. “Yes,” he laughed. “your parents’ precious throne room. We use it as a war room. Think of all the decisions made here that have cost the lives of so many of your people.” There was a perverse grin on his face as if he was extremely satisfied with himself for pointing out this fact.
I remained unfazed. I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of seeing the pain on my face. But he still knew. He heard my thoughts scream at his statement and rejoiced in it.
“Now…there’s just one little thing we have to do before you see the captain.” I couldn’t hide my fear at his cryptic words. What did he have planned? I watched as he took my hands in his. With false gentility, he turned them over, facing the palms upward. Then he squeezed them tightly and I cried out as hot pain raced through my fingers, up my arms and throat, down my chest and legs, and through my toes.
He released me and I stood shaking violently. “W-What did you do?” I demanded. But then it dawned on me. The Power I could usually feel was mysteriously absent. “No…”
“Yes,” he said simply. Then, with much bravado, he gave the doors a hard shove and they swung open with a loud screech. He placed a clawed hand on my back, giving me an equally hard shove into the room. I gasped still reeling from having my Power stripped and fell to my knees on the matted violet carpet.
I heard the elf above me declaring loudly, “Captain! May I present, her highness, Princess Luna Drianna Creote!”
I peered up at the captain from my place on the floor, trying to hide my fright. He was leaned over a table engrossed in the scrolls and maps it was littered with. At he elf’s declaration, he slowly pulled himself away from his planning and looked at me. I gasped and his face was equally surprised.
Wide blue eyes stared down at me before he sputtered out, “Havara?”
To Be Continued….
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