[Story] PRINCESS DRIANNA Chapter 9
Ifeoma Isabella Okeke
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The first few hours of our ride were silent except for the steady clip clopping of horses’ hooves and the sounds of nature around us. The countryside we rode through was beautiful but I didn’t take the time to notice it. I was lost in my thoughts and Shane seemed to know and respect that.
Occasionally I’d feel his eyes on me. I could sense he wanted to say something- something that’d make me feel better about my choice. But both of us knew that nothing he could say would make me feel any better about leaving my home.
So we rode in silence until the sky began turning dark oranges and pinks. The sun was disappearing behind the horizon and as we reached the crest of a hill the full beauty of the sunset was laid before us. We reined in our horses to pause and take in the magnificence. I gasped at the splendor of it, my eyes frozen to the sight.
“Extremely beautiful,” Shane murmured.
I could see out of the corner of my eye that he was not looking at the sunset.
We set up camp just after dusk in a small clearing in a wood. We hitched the horses to trees and I set up camp as Shane went in search of firewood. I was nervous without his strong presence nearby. My mind buzzed with memories of my last night in a forest. I shuddered and pulled my cloak tighter around me.
“Cold?” Shane asked, entering the clearing, his arms loaded with branches and logs. I nodded. “Well, I’ll have a fire started up in no time.” He dropped the limbs into the center of the clearing and with a flick of his wrist, they burst into flames. “See? No time at all.” He grinned and I returned the smile but I could feel that it didn’t reach my eyes. He looked ungratified and turned away from me. I sighed.
“I’m sorry. I know I’m not very good company right now. We have a long trip and I’m not making it any shorter. I’m sorry.”
“You need time. I understand. Are you hungry?” he asked quickly.
I shrugged. “Not really.”
“You should eat,” he said with a frown. “You’ll need your strength for tomorrow.”
“We start your training tomorrow.”
“What?” I cried.
“You thought you would rule Danubae without the Power?”
“No. I just…I thought we’d wait until we got to Danubae before I started crafting it again.”
He chuckled and shook his head. “It will be a long while before we return to Danubae. I’m to train you first- everything you need to know.”
I was shocked. “We’re supposed to camp out in the wilderness every night for God knows how long before I finally get to go home?”
“Of course not. We’re going to Elphame.”
“The Haven of the Elves? Why? Why can’t we just go straight to Danubae?”
He looked at me evenly. “Do you really want to see your mother for the first time in eight years in the state you’re in? Powerless? Weak? Docile?”
I felt anger rise within me at his words. But I was not angry that he said them. I was angry at the truth in them. Shane seemed satisfied with my silence.
“Rest,” he said. “We’ve got a busy day ahead.”
Indeed it was a busy day. Shane awoke with the dawn. I heard him crawl out of his blankets and shuffle around the clearing. It was with the first aromas of breakfast that I finally rose. I sat up on my pallet and pulled my blanket around my shoulders, peering curiously at the pot and skillet Shane had over the fire.
“That smells delicious. When’d you learn to cook?”
“I didn’t. As a matter of fact, you might very well decide that the food’s smell is more appetizing than its taste.”
He handed me a pewter plate of biscuits and gruel and I dug in hungrily. It was hardly a banquet feast, but its taste was not displeasing. My plate was completely empty when I handed it back to Shane.
Once the horses were packed and readied, we set off on our journey again. But this time as we rode, it was anything but silent. Shane spoke to me of my Power and how it had naturally developed with my age but to have full use of it, I had to harness it. He spoke of the great responsibility that comes with the Power and what happens to those who abuse the gift.
I listened with interest, eager to learn so that I might return home. But occasionally my mind wandered to thoughts of Colias Manor and Gadel. I wondered what my beloved was doing- if he was still sitting drunk before the fire or if he’d headed my final admonition and put down the bottle. I didn’t want to think of what my leaving might have done to him.
In fact, I tried to think of him only in happy times. I tried to remember him on our walks in the hedgerows, in the apple orchard after returning from the war, kissing me by the pond, and in the soft comforts of his bed.
“Drianna! Pay attention, Dri!” Shane’s voice ran me to earth and I blinked at him, coming back from my daydream.
“You’ve got to listen to me or we’ll never make it home,” he reproved.
“I know. I know. My mind just…wandered. I’m sorry.”
He sighed to himself. “You are thinking of Gadel?” I didn’t like the way Gadel’s name rolled off his tongue. I frowned at him but nodded. “Would you like to…that is- would it help you to talk about it?”
His question made me thoughtful. I stared over my horse’s head and pondered it. Would it make me feel better to talk of my times with Gadel? Would that lift some of the burden of guilt from my shoulders? I glanced at Shane. How could I share such things with him?
“No. Maybe…maybe someday. Not now.”
He nodded and was silent until we stopped riding for the day. The sun was still high as we settled in a beautiful meadow and began my active training. Shane stood yards away from me with his arms crossed over his chest. He appeared suddenly very large and intimidating.
“Come at me,” he said, arching an eyebrow.
“Give me all you’ve got.”
I sighed but decided to obey. Reaching deep within me, I mustered the mightiest energy ball I could. Its blue, sizzling light hovered inches above my hand and I pulled back, throwing it at Shane with all my might. It hit him and he flinched but nothing more as it absorbed into his skin.
“Again?” I exclaimed. Already I was sweating.
I mustered yet another energy ball and it hit him with much the same effect as the first. He commanded me to repeat it, over and over but none of the balls phased him.
“You’ve got a long way to go,” he said finally, when I was panting and soaked with sweat. “You have the Power, Dri. I know it. I feel it on you. But you’re not using it.”
“I’m trying,” I growled, sinking to the ground.
“Not hard enough. Your Powers have matured with you but your command of them has not. You still possess the control of an eight-year-old. If you cannot master meager energy balls, how are you to master the winds or the rains or the earth? How are you to shape-shift?”
“What am I supposed to say to that? I don’t have the control. I don’t know if I’ll ever have it.”
I rose to my feet and walked back to the campsite, where I crawled into my blankets and lay awake. Shane soon joined me in the camp. I listened to him making dinner and it smelled delicious but I didn’t respond when he asked me if I wanted any. No words would come to me.
I lay there a long time after Shane retired. I listened silently as he settled into his blankets and his breathing became even. He was asleep. But I rest would not come to me.
The black night sky was cloudy and completely dark. Not one star shone down on me from the heavens. For a long time, I lay staring up into the blackness and pondering my future. I could not control my Power. It eluded me, always just beyond my reach and I was frustrated. Without it, I could never rule as I was meant to.
Why I could not gain control, I didn’t know. I didn’t expect it to be easy but I hadn’t expected it to be impossible. But that’s what it felt like. It seemed I’d been reduced to parlor tricks and weak magic and that’s all I ever would be.
“You really need to sleep, Dri.”
Shane’s voice startled me. I looked past the fire to where he was sitting up on his pallet.
“I can’t,” I muttered. He came to sit beside me on the hard ground.
“My Power. My lack of control of it. I don’t think I’ll ever have it.”
“You will. We’ve only just begun your training. You can’t get discouraged after one bad day.”
“But I feel it…there’s something…something’s blocking me. I don’t know what.”
Shane was silent. I thought that it looked as if he was debating himself. Finally he said, “I believe that it’s you who’s blocking yourself.”
“You say you want to rule your kingdom? To save it? But there’s part of you that really doesn’t believe it will happen. There’s a part that thinks this is temporary. There’s a part of you that’s still holding on to your past. Isn’t there?”
I didn’t respond. The truth of his words had cut me and he knew it. He merely stood and returned to his blankets.
The next day, I made progress.
To Be Continued…
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