Chapter 22 - Troubling News
Both Lillian and Draxus sat arm in arm out on their chamber balcony watching as the sun began to set and signal the end of yet another eventful day. Closing her eyes for a moment to truly enjoy the wonderful sensation she was feeling wrapped in her husband’s lovingly warm embrace, Lillian let out a small sigh of delight as she relaxed her entire body into his.
“Mmmm… this is nice.”
Draxus smiled as he rested his chin down on top of her head gently.
“I sure could get used to this.” he added, kissing the top of her head softly. “This certainly beats those boring council meetings and political discussions I am forced to attend as King.”
“Those boring meetings and discussions are what help keep the Kingdom thriving and safe from our enemies, my love.” she reminded him, “Draxus you are more than a leader; you are a symbol of hope and survival for your people. You are the promise of an even greater future, for all.”
“The way you speak, you’d think you were born into politics or something.” he taunted her.
“Something like that.”
She smiled, opening her eyes again and blinking slowly at the visual canvas spread out before them painted with tantalising smears of pink, orange and yellow. The large glowing orb of light set behind the distant mountains and straight away the air began to shift, becoming incredibly cooler.
“While you were resting I had the doctors take a look at how the pregnancy was progressing. It appears that you’re in excellent health, even with everything that’s happened to you of late.” Draxus began to explain, lifting his right hand around her to lovingly rest palm down on her now visibly round belly, “And I see that our little one is growing bigger with each day that passes.”
She gave a small chuckle, her belly jiggling as she did.
“I can already feel the baby moving around inside of me. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. I’ve never felt so… complete.”
“Well pregnant or not, you’re still one of the most beautiful woman I’ve ever laid eyes upon.” he complimented her with another kiss on top of her head.
“Wait, only one of?” she asked, sitting up and turning around to look at him with a rather disapproving expression.
Draxus gave a deep rumbling laugh at her predictable reaction, taking her by either side of her head and pulling her head in closer to meet him face to face.
“Top five, at least.” he teased playfully.
“Hmm…” she narrowed her emerald eyes at him.
As his large palms held at either side of her head Lillian felt something intoxicating taking over her, an emotion she had felt many times before towards Draxus, but never fully understood.
Was it love?
As Draxus was her first companion in a romantic sense, she had never been given the chance to learn exactly what love was, or how it should feel. Truth be told, she could not live without this man in her life; she needed him like she needed to breathe the air into her lungs every second of every day. He was the only one who could cause her such pain and pleasure at the same time. The only one who made her feel safe and wanted. But was this love?
“Do you love me?” her voice was softer than before now, surprising Draxus as he furrowed his brows in response, tilting his head slightly.
“You know I do.”
Lillian suddenly pulled his hands away from either side of her head and looked down as she began to explain all of the things running about freely inside of her head in that moment.
“It’s just… I’ve never understood exactly what love is. I mean I’ve heard tales of those who had fallen deeply in love in stories read to me as a child, but…” she paused and Draxus could see where this was going right away.
“You’re not sure if you know what love is?” his brows rose together as he spoke with a small smile.
Lillian’s eyes widened as he looked up at him nodding her head.
“Yes. I mean I think I know what it is, but… well how do you know when you’re in love?”
Draxus pursed his lips together tightly as he ran his right hand through his long dark locks anxiously. How would he explain such a thing as love to her? He would definitely give it a go!
“It’s different for everyone, or so I’m told.” he began, “Some say you feel complete when you are with someone you love; that you can’t stand to be apart from them for longer periods of time. Others say it is something that happens immediately, a spark if you will-”
“-A spark?” she interrupted, seeming intrigued at the concept. “What do you mean by that?”
Draxus let out a long sigh as a sense of guilt began to eat away at him from the inside. He decided then and there that it was time to come clean with her about the circumstances of their meeting.
“Alright, you want an example… How about the first time I laid eyes on you.”
“At our wedding?” she asked.
“Uh, no.” he replied bluntly, biting his bottom lip unintentionally. “If I’m being completely honest, I’d seen you twice before that evening...”
Lillian seemed confused and her expression showed it. “How is that possible?”
“Well, there was the time I saw you sitting in the garden, pruning roses as I recall. Your hair caught the sunlight and made it look like it was on fire. In that moment, you were more beautiful than anything I had ever gazed eyes upon. I knew I had to have you; that you would be mine.”
Lillian smiled at his last sentence.
“And the first?”
Draxus felt a nervous lump settling in his throat as his guilt began to take over all sense of rational thoughts. He had two options here. He could either make up a lie about some sweet imaginary scene that never happened and woe her with his creativity, or he could do something he had never done with a woman before; tell the truth and risk losing her trust.
“The first?” he asked, narrowing his eyes as he tried desperately to buy himself some time to make his decision.
“The first time you saw me… you said you’d seen me twice before our wedding. Once in the garden at Rykiss, and the other…” she gestured with her hands for him to continue on.
“Oh, of course… how silly of me...” he replied with a forced smile as his heart began to pace faster and faster with building nerves.
This was it. The moment he would tell her the truth about why their paths had crossed in the first place. He would tell her about his pact with Rayvinn and the plot to track her down and marry her, everything. But a part of him was desperately worried about losing her. How would she take the news? Would she ever forgive him for lying to her for so long?
His hands began to tremble as he took hers and held them tightly.
“Draxus, you’re trembling. What is it?” she asked with concern.
“Lillian, you mean the world to me. You and our child are the most important things in my entire life and I would gladly give my life for either of you…”
“Draxus, you’re scaring me…” she warned, but he continued.
“No matter what you choose to think of me, know that I will never stop loving you…” he paused and searched her eyes before building up enough courage to finally continue, “I need to tell you something imp-“
A sudden voice from behind them cut in unintentionally.
“-Oh King Draxus, Thank the gods! I’ve been searching the entire castle trying to find you. I have urgent news…”
Rolling his amber eyes, the Dragon King turned around to look at his General, about to give him a verbal thrashing when he noticed the pale expression on his normally darker face.
Something was wrong.
“What is it?” Draxus enquired immediately after.
Shasharan glanced across at the Queen sitting with her King and suddenly seemed hesitant to share the information he so desperately needed to.
“General, what’s happened?” Draxus barked, snapping him out of his hesitation.
“Um, this information should really be shared with you, and you alone, my lord.” Shasharan attempted to hint towards Draxus, but had obviously not made himself clear enough as the King narrowed his eyes.
“I keep no secrets from my Queen, General.” he replied rather ironically in this moment of all others. “Report!”
With a large sigh, Shasharan forced the words to roll off of his tongue one by one as he obeyed his King’s command.
“There have been reports of a massive attack, my lord…” he paused, turning to glance at Lillian for a second time with sorrow.
Draxus gave him the push he so desperately needed to continue.
“What attack? Where?”
Shasharan turned his gaze back to his King as he replied, showing his serious concern now more than he had before.
“It’s… It’s Woodsend, sire.” as he spoke his voice showed evidence of his solemn emotions regarding the recent attack.
Lillian went straight into panic mode, her eyes glistening with the threat of tears forming as she suddenly stood and looked at him with wide open eyes.
Draxus stood alongside her, holding her in his arms as they followed along after the General while they continued on with their urgent conversation along the way.
“Are you certain it’s Woodsend?” Draxus continued to query as they moved quickly through the royal chambers and out the double doorway.
“Yes my King. Reports came back of a large army baring black and silver banners advancing upon the people of Rykiss. They stormed the castle early this morning, killing hundreds.” Shasharan explained as they marched together down the hallway, escorted by the King’s Guard.
“Black and silver banners…” Draxus thought aloud to himself.
“What about my parents?” Lillian asked with urgency, “What happened to them? Are they alright?”
“Forgive me my Queen, but I was not told whether the King or Queen survived the attack.” he replied sadly. “My King, I have already prepared the army for departure. If we leave in-“
Draxus cut him off abruptly.
“-There’s no need to ready the men… I’m going alone.” he spoke matter-of-factly.
“My lord?” Shasharan stopped walking.
Lillian sucked in a sharp breath upon hearing this.
“Like hell you are!” she snapped, grabbing him by the shoulder to stop him and forcing him to turn around to face her.
“Lillian, don’t do this. Not now.” he warned her with a stern expression.
“You can’t tell me how important I am to you and then leave me here all alone to sit and wait until you get back… IF you get back that is!” she was close to hysterical now. “I… I just can’t… I…”
Draxus held her close, pulling her in against his large firm chest as she sobbed uncontrollably. Fear had completely taken over every one of her thoughts; fear that both of her parents may be dead.
“Shhh… It’s alright. I’m here…” he soothed her, placing his chin down on the top of her head to hold her in place, wrapped up in his love and warmth. “I have to do this. It’s my duty as King.”
She spoke into his chest, still wrapped in his warm embrace.
“But what if something happens to you. Or what if my parents are truly…” she hesitated finishing the sentence as tears trailed down both of her cheeks.
“Hey, neither of those things are going to happen, you hear me?” he spoke down to her in a comforting manner. “If your parents are still alive, I’ll find them and bring them here where it’s safe. I’ll be back before sunrise, I promise.”
Closing her eyes, Lillian didn’t want to agree with him. She didn’t want to say yes, but she had little choice other than to do so. She needed to know if her parents were alive or not. The sense of not knowing was eating away at her.
“Promise?” she spoke softly into his chest.
Pulling himself apart from her so that he could look her in the eyes, he spoke with certainty this time as he smiled warmly in an effort to comfort her in this troubling time.
“You have my word...” he announced, “…and my heart.”