Milos touched his lips again, wiping away the remaining drops of blood. He had kissed the princess again and when he gave what he thought was helpful feedback she punched him in the mouth this time. A small price to pay considering the looks of shock and dejection that crossed her face every time he criticized her. It wasn’t that she was a bad kisser, she was very good in fact, but he took pleasure in making her regret every moment of dragging him back towards Turion and a past he had wished to forget.
The cabin smelled like lamp oil and though the lighting was poor he was still able to make a drawing on a piece of paper he found above deck. It had been some time since he did anything like this and was rusty. What had started out as being a few tongues of fire, suddenly developed into the striking face of Aliana the way she’d looked that night she transformed.
He heard an unusual amount of shuffling coming from above and felt the boat become silent. They still had half a day’s journey ahead so stopping at this point was unusual unless something was wrong. He placed the drawing on the table and went above deck to investigate.
He let out a soft curse and ducked behind a crate of apples as manning the deck were soldiers carrying dark blue standards. They lined each passenger up along the deck. He searched for Aliana among them but didn’t see her. It was not unusual for Turion soldiers carry out spot checks on incoming ships. What was unusual was that these were palace guards not river wardens.
Word of her disappearance must have gotten out. No doubt Doranand has something to do with that as she probably told him where she was headed. He knew coming here was a mistake and like a fool, he’d let her blackmail him into bringing her here.
There was a new scuffle coming from the other side. Two soldiers appeared dragging a raging Aliana between them.
“Found this one down in the steam room. Had this weapon with her. Looks like Arnayan make.” said one of the soldiers handing the captain the two bladed spear. I couldn’t see the face of the captain well, but he took the blade and looked at Aliana.
“What is your name lady?” he asked. Just answer the question straight Milos prayed. The Garion army had no qualms against using torture to get information and women were not excluded.
“I don’t see how any of this is your concern.” Milos cringed. He should have known better.
“It is, considering that you are an armed Arnayan who wishes to enter Turion. It is a matter of safety that you give your name.”
“It is a matter of my safety that I don’t.” she fired back. He slapped her across the face and she fell heavily to the floor. He could sense the sudden charge in the air and saw a spark of red flickering within her eyes. She was going to transform right there, and any chance of her hiding would be thrown out the window.
The soldier scraped her up by the neck and pushed her towards the rails. “I will throw you into the river right now if you don’t answer.” he threatened.
“It is a good thing I can swim.” she choked out.
Milos had to do something now or the princess was very well going to end up being fish food. He stepped out from behind the crates and walked over to the guards.
“That won’t be necessary as I can tell you who she is.” The captain turned with all the men looking at him.
“And she is?”
“The woman whose neck you are currently squeezing is Aliana Aristagona, Crown princess of Arnay. I would suggest that you not kill her for I am sure that both the king of Arnay and Garion would have your neck for it.” he looked at Aliana and released her neck.
She sank to the floor coughing. “You, you told...” she looked at Milos’s eyes full of loathing. He knew what she was thinking, that she had betrayed her and was probably comparing her to that oaf Doranand.
“How do you know that she is the princess?” asked the captain haughtily.
“Because of the spear she carries only those of the Aristagona line are allowed to use the double-bladed staff. Every babe in Arnay knows that.” he said folding his arms casually.
“And who are you stranger to know so much about Arnayan blades.”
“A simple magistrate who has some interest in Arnayan culture.”
“He lies, he’s a traitor and a criminal.” said Aliana getting up.
“Yes I suppose, I have been known to go across the border every now and again, but my reasons were purely academic I assure you.” he sent a warning glare towards Aliana but she didn’t see it as she was too busy taking something from her pocket.
“He is the one that is drawn on this poster for which they offer an earldom as a reward.” she took out the folded piece of paper and gave it to the captain.
Those posters kept on popping up. He cursed internally. Milos’s eyes narrowed and shot her a dirty look but she continued. “I found the criminal and I came to claim my earldom.”
The captain and two of his guards looked at the crushed piece of paper then at Milos comparing the likeness. Milos sighed heavily as he knew that his days of hiding were done as a look of recognition bloomed on the captain’s face.
“It seems that you are right. For this man you do indeed deserve an earldom.” said the captain as he took of his helm. “All hail Milos Thakoptris, Crown prince of Garion.” said the captain falling down on one knee. The soldiers and every passenger on deck followed suit. The only two persons left standing were Aliana and Milos.
“I told you that we should have gone into the Ashlands.” said Milos.