True Love's Kiss - Part 3
It wasn’t very long before I heard the door scraping open again. I stood up and whirled around, planning to force whoever it was to let me go. Much to my surprise, the person who walked through the door was Mils, not some stupid overgrown hulk of a castle guard. Even more surprising was the look on her face. She looked excited.
“By the four Heavens, Be, I can’t believe you broke the curse! This is so exciting. Never in a million years did I think one of us would break it. I didn’t even think you would try. And here you are, the one who broke it.”
She was talking so fast I couldn’t get a word in. She didn’t even really breathe between sentences. My anger momentarily bled out of me as I just stared at her in bewilderment. She finally stopped to take a breath and launched herself at me. Mils wrapped her arms around me in a bear hug as strong as an eighteen year girl could manage while bouncing up and down in excitement.
Eventually, I got her to let go of me and gave her a hard stare. “Look here, Mils, I didn’t ask for this. I only kissed him because they weren’t going to let me out without trying. Have you met him? He is so arrogant and awful. We’re not staying. As soon as they let me out we’re going home.” I said this with as much conviction as I could muster, knowing she was not going to be pleased.
I was right. She looked horrified. “But, Be, we can’t leave. You promised to let me explore the capital. If things don't work out with you and the King, I may never get to come here again. And, the royal secretary who led me here said that he could introduce me to the royal healer. Do you know how much I could learn, in even just a few weeks?” She turned wheedling at this point and pulled out her sad puppy eyes. “Please. Just a couple of weeks, maybe a month. Perhaps Kalristian is nicer once you get to know him. And if not, we’ll leave, no arguments.”
I just looked at her for a moment. I thought through all the possible ways I could convince her to leave now and realized none of them would work. Finally, with a heavy dose of resignation, I sighed, “Fine. We can stay til Midsummer Night. Not a day longer.” That was four and half weeks.
“Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” she cried as she wrapped herself around me in a hug again. I groaned to myself, wondering how I was going to deal with the arrogant bastard of King for over a month.
Mils let go of me when we heard the door opening once more. Another blue and silver liveried functionary of some kind stepped in. This one did not look as disapprovingly at us as the first one had and I felt a slight pang of relief.
It fled when I registered what he was saying. He had unfolded a piece of paper and was reading from it. “His majesty, the most esteemed King Kalristian, invites his honored guests, Bierni and Milara Nalorna of Sasharin to share dinner with him and his most excellent members of the court this evening at the seventh down bell.”
I was ready to politely refuse on our behalf when Mils’ excited agreement rang out through the room. I sighed again. I had a feeling I would be doing a lot of sighing over the next few weeks.
A few hours later we were escorted to the royal dining hall in new clothes that had been provided for us. The rich colors of my tunic set off my pale skin and dark hair well and I was glad that I no longer looked quite so common, as the King had put. When we entered the hall, I was surprised to find that we were eating at a smallish table with less than a dozen seats at it. Apparently not many in the court qualified as most excellent.
The newly crowned King sat at the head of the table, his face in the same mask of haughty arrogance. He said almost nothing for the entire meal. Luckily, I was seated between Mils and the ex-High Regent Silurianus. We spent the evening talking of all the places I had to be sure to take Mils in the capital. Granted he assumed we would be staying so the list was much longer than anything we would be able to finish but it kept Mils’ eyes sparkling and smile on her face so I smiled too, a bit of happiness seeping back into me for the first time since that morning.
By the end of the meal, we were laughing and talking like we had known each other for years. In some small way, he reminded me of our grandfather who had passed just a few years before. I occasionally felt the weight of eyes on me while we ate. When I would look up the King would appear to be looking forward, no change in his face, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that he was watching me.
When the meal finally ended and everyone began leaving in order to return to their rooms, Silurianus offered to take Mils and me up to the tower to see the lights of the city. One glance at Mils and I knew I couldn’t refuse. We continued our friendly conversation as we walked the fair distance to the tallest tower. And I couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was following us in the dark.
We reached the top of the tower and turned our gaze upon the capital city. It was over a thousand years old, built by the first King of the Unified Realms. When the great wars ended, the new capital was built by architects and artisans from each of the four realms. It was aptly named Novus and no city built since has ever matched it’s granduer and beauty.
Directly in front of us, Silurianus pointed out the Fairy Gardens. They were not gardens made of plants and trees but rather of sculptures and lights. At night, when the fires were all lit behind the variously colored glasses of the sculptures, they shone in a riot of brilliant hues that made it seem almost magical. And I guess it probably was, to keep the fires burning like that with no giant piles of fuel. Watching the city light up as most of inhabitants surrendered themselves to sleep was oddly peaceful. The stress of the day that had started to leak off me during dinner finally dissipated. I stared out at the Gardens and let the alluring repose of the night sink into me.
One moment we were quietly watching the flickering fires in the Fairy Gardens, and the next moment all the hells broke loose. The feeling of being watched intensified and became stronger than it had been all night. Then, a crisp thwack echoed through the night. It felt like I had been shoved back from the wall. I looked around in confusion until I noticed the notched end of an arrow sticking out from my shoulder. And that is when the pain hit, fierce agony flaming white hot down my arm, up my neck and spreading throughout the rest of my body.
I managed to get out one brief cry of pain before I felt my vision blackening and my head swimming. The last thing I remembered was a pair of strong arms grabbing me from behind and easing me to the ground before the darkness took me.
To Be Continued…
Next Chapter - Part 4
Next Chapter - Part 4