[Story] PRINCESS DRIANNA Chapter 22
Ifeoma Isabella Okeke
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At base camp, I was greeted with resounding cheers of relief. But I could not share in their joy. My thoughts remained on Shane and his definition of ‘justice’. There was an uneasy feeling in my stomach that I couldn’t shake.
“Tis nothing, Drianna. You’re weary from your ordeal, is all,” mother dismissed when I shared my anxiety. “General Raphen shall return before nightfall and all will be well. You’ll see.”
“No…it’s not that. I am scared for Shane but…I believe I’m more afraid of what he’ll do.”
Mother looked at me sharply. “What is this? What do you mean?”
I only shook my head. “I must go after him,” I resolved, coming to my feet.
“Don’t be foolish, Drianna. You cannot go back in as you are.”
“No. But I can if my Power is restored.” My eyes pleaded with her. “You must know how?”
She nodded. “I do.”
“It is simple,” she said, taking my hands. “The Power flows through all who possess it. You have not lost it, child. You can never lose it. It is merely hiding within you.” Suddenly, her long fingers gripped my hands with bone-crushing strength. I cried out, my knees buckling at the pain. But I began to feel heat, rising from my toes, up my legs and waist, through my chest, arms, and neck to my head. Mother released my hands and I collapsed, clutching the throbbing fists to my chest.
I gasped. “I can feel it.” Indeed, the barely noticable sizzle between my fingertips had returned. “Thank you.”
She only nodded and watched silently as I ran back the way I came.
I had more bearing this time in the dark tunnels. With another glowing sphere floating before me, I retraced my path to the stone wall Shane had created to deter me and made quick work of it with a wave of my hand. The rest of the tunnel was but a blur in my vision as I raced to the palace.
Once inside, I was cautious in my movements. I’d no notion of where to begin my search for Shane and Groithian soldiers were combing the halls for me, no doubt. I kept to back passages, creeping around corners and looking constantly over my shoulder.
For the most, I’d not encountered any soldiers- nor anyone at all, for that matter. The halls were deserted. I grew comfortable with my movements and so almost ran directly into two armed guards. At the last moment, I ducked into the room closest to me and searched frantically for a hiding place.
It was the kitchen that I’d walked into and, from many childhood games held in that very room, I knew all the good hiding places. Easily, I slipped behind one of the giant cupboards and held my breath as the kitchen door creaked open. Two sets of heavy footsteps echoed against the stone floor, moving with agonizing slowness.
“She’s not in ‘ere,” one guard stated. His voice was irrtatingly nasal. “Why would she be in ‘ere?”
“Because she knows we wouldn’t expect to find a princess in a kitchen, you fool.”
“Or maybe, she thought that we’d think that an’ so, she’s hiding in the most obvious place while we’re lookin’ all about everywhere else.”
“And where is this obvious place?”
“‘er chambers, a’course.”
“We’ve already searched her chambers, Emmen.” The guard’s voice was strained with breathy exasperation.
“Exactly. So maybe she went back, eh? Oh, she’s a clever one, that one. Ah can’t wait to get my hands on ‘er. Lots o’ pain…”
“Do be quiet.” The guard sighed. “I can’t take much more of this.”
“Much more o’ what?”
“This wandering about aimlessly listening to your inane dribble. Come on, let’s go. She’s not in here.” But before they could leave, another ran into the room. “What’s this then, Rowe? Why’re you dashing about here?”
Breathless, Rowe explained, “T-the Danubaens…they’re…inside…the battle’s…lost…we’re retreating.”
“Retreating?” Emmen exclaimed.
“Yes…immediately.” Rowe stopped to breathe a bit before the three dashed out of the room. When they were gone, I fell out of my hiding place, gasping for the breath I’d been holding.
We’d won. We’d won. A huge smile spread across my face and I rolled onto my back, laughing. We’d won. It’d taken nine years and countless lives but we’d finally won. I wondered if Shane knew.
The thought of him sobered me and I remembered why I was there. In a second I was on my feet and running out the door and down the hall. Rounding I corner, I found myself amidst the chaos and confusion of the retreating Groithians.
Amongst their panicked flight, I went unnoticed and easily was lost in the crowd. But the crushing bodies began to smother me and I forced my way through them, dashing through the first door I came to.
It was the throne room and it was empty and silent except for two men and the fierce clanging of their swords. Neither noticed my presence as they savagely thrust and parried, each man’s brow beaded with sweat and his face flushed.
For a long moment I watched helplessly as my two loves- my past and present- fought each other. The war was won, but I knew that there would be one more casualty.
Idly, I looked on, until the sickening slice of blade into flesh woke me to consciousness. Shane’s shoulder was red now and he stumbled backward, dazed from the blow. Before I could act, Gadel moved in on him, his sword raised above his head.
But Shane was fast. He’d always been exceptionally agile with the sword and in a flash, he’d butted the hilt of the blade into Gadel’s chest and my former love fell to his knees. He coughed and wheezed at the impact and did not move as Shane lifted his sword into the air, preparing to lay his blade through his neck.
“Stop!” The voice did not sound like my own but it was. Shane looked up at me, seeing me for the first time. “Please…Shane…put down the sword.” He did not move nor respond. “Please!” His green eyes watched me evenly, his chest heaving with exertion. But he made no move to put down his sword. “Don’t do this…” I approached him slowly, cautiously. “Put down the sword.”
“No. He deserves this.”
“Perhaps he does,” I said honestly. I was beside him now and with a quick move, I snatched the sword from Shane’s hand. “But we are not the ones to do it.”
Shane watched me with hurt and perhaps a bit of guilt in his eyes. I felt his nervousness and sought to ease it with a gentle kiss before kneeling by Gadel’s trembling form.
“You are not the man I fell in love with. There’s evil in you now. For what you put me through and for all the horrors you’ve no doubt conducted during this war, you should suffer. I think you know this.
“But you showed me a kindness earlier today. By sparing my life when you could have taken it so easily, you showed me that part of the man I loved has remained untouched by this blackness in your soul. Because of this…you are free to go. You may leave with your retreating army. But I never want to see you here again.”
I stood and took my place beside Shane, my hand entwined with his. We watched as Gadel stumbled to his feet and walked, shoulders back and chin high, out of the throne room, out of the palace, to places known only to him.
The last of the Groithian army fled our lands and my people began the slow rebuilding of our once great country. Mother and I reclaimed our rightful places in Iae Wiltur and we commenced with the issuing of peace treaties with Groithia to ensure no war of this magnitude would again take place.
Things settled and I felt that finally, I could really begin my life. I could put behind me all the pain and the grief. I could lay to rest the ghosts that haunted my memory and have peace in my life once again.
I turned eighteen and on the day, in the newly sprouting gardens of Iae Wiltur, Shane came to me.
“Do you remember,” he asked as I slipped into his arms. “that night in the tower in the north?” I nodded. “I asked you to marry me and you said no.”
“I didn’t say no.”
“You said to wait until we were safely behind the walls of Iae Wiltur.” He grinned down at me. “Are we safe enough now, you think?” I beamed and hugged him tightly. “Marry me,” he whispered and I could only nod furiously against his chest.
We wed a year later. It was a grand occasion; the whole of the kingdom shared in our joy with celebrations lasting for seven days and nights. Citizens from every corner of the land came to Iae Wiltur to commend the union of the princess and their favorite general. I couldn’t have been happier.
Two years later, I bore the first of nine children- a boy, named for his father. It was barely a week afterwards that mother fell ill and passed away and I was crowned Queen and Shane, King. I bore Shane four more sons and four daughters- all of whom were blessed with the Power. I am happy now, settled into my old age. I’ve watched my children grow and marry and have children of their own.
Now Shane and I watch them play in the fields around the palace, balls of energy flying between them and their laughter echoing over the grounds. I am at peace. I only wish that the others who have passed through my life have found the same sort of contentment.
But, there was a tale told amongst my children and now my grandchildren of a mysterious man who lives a secluded, solitary existence in the forests near the palace. Many have claimed to have glimpsed him, his face hidden under a heavy hood, wandering about the riverbank, talking to sprites. Some say he’s mad or cursed and that if you look into his deep blue eyes, you’ll melt at his feet.
I think him lonely rather than mad. His broken heart is his curse. I wish him peace.
To Be Continued…
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