War and Despair

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Chapter 26

Princess Marisindin dashed down the hallway. A stream of fire shot past the window. She heard screams ringing out in the courtyard.

“Where is the prince?” She shouted to the nearest guard.

“I don’t know, princess!” He yelled.

“Find at least ten more guards and come with me!” Marisindin ordered dashing down the corridor. Leo liked to play in the gardens near the kitchens, but he would have had the sense to get inside. She ran for the kitchens.

They were deserted. No sign of any servants, or Leo. Panicked, Marisindin threw open the door to the kitchen gardens. Most of the bushes had been reduced to ashes, but the trellis still stood, the vines hanging in a thick mass. Thick enough to hide a boy Leo’s size.

Marisindin looked around for dragons but saw none. She ran to the trellis and parted the vines. Leo wasn’t there.

She heard a growl and looked behind her. A large purple dragon crouched there, a dark-haired man with a face like a cow’s backside perched between it’s wings. Marisindin screamed. The man looked her over and his hideous face broke into a crooked grin.

“Found me a princess, haven’t I?” The Dragonfriend wheezed. “Now should I be killing her or capturing her?”

Marisindin’s hand went to the slit in her skirt where she’d stashed a dagger earlier. The Dragonfriend hopped off the dragon and walked towards her. She used her leg to rotate the dagger to where it was behind her. She eased it out of the slit and lunged.

Her lunge took the man by surprise and she bowled him over. He struggled as she slit his throat. The dragon bellowed angrily.

She stared hopelessly at the dragon. At least I’ll go down fighting, she thought. The dragon swung it’s wing at her.

The wing hit her in the chest, ripping her dress and knocking the wind out of her. She held her dagger tight and stabbed at the dragon’s foot. Her dagger pounced off. The dragon swung its front claws at her, slicing a deep scratch down one cheek. Marisindin shoved the pain back and stabbed it above the eye. Blood dripped into its eyes, blinding it.

Marisindin felt a hand on her shoulder. She whirled around, prepared to stab. But it was only one of the cooks.

“This way, princess.” The man said, leading her back into the castle and to a small servant’s room. He shoved aside a chest to reveal a trapdoor. He opened it and hurried her in. She rushed down a small staircase that led down into a small room crowded with people. There were tiny tunnels leading off the room in all directions. Marisindin guessed that they led to other rooms like this.

Best of all was the boy playing with a little girl in the corner. Leo. Tears welled in Marisindin’s eyes and she ran over to her little brother and hugged him tightly.

“The lad was playing in the garden when the attack started.” The servant explained. “So, of course I grabbed the little prince and brought him down here.”

“Thank you!” Marisindin exclaimed. “If we all make it through this, I’ll try to get you knighted.”

“My name is John.” The servant said. “This is my wife, Senna, and my daughter, Jane. Those two young men over there are my nephews, Daren and Sam.”

The two boys waved at her and Jane smiled shyly. She set Leo down and he ran back to Jane and they returned to their game. Marisindin wiped her bloody hands on her skirt and sat down, exhausted.

It wasn’t until she felt something warm run down her chin and saw a red splatter stain her bodice that she remembered the scratch under her eye. She pulled her handkerchief out of her dress and pressed it to her eye. Before long, Leo came over and nestled into her side. Jane came to her other side. She put her arms around them and held them tight and listened to the screams echoing above them.

She stayed there, on the verge of sleep. It never came, the screams and bellows keeping her awake.

Hours later, a boy came crawling through one of the tiny tunnels. “Its over!” He gasped. “Another army came and chased the dragons away!”

The whole room gave a collective sigh if relief. John led them all up the tiny staircase and threw the door back. The group escorted Marisindin and Leo to the entrance hall. She spotted Peterrin across the room. He saw her and ran over.

“Are you alright? You look like you got attacked by a dragon!” He worried.

“That’s because I did.” Marisindin said tiredly. “John here saved me.”

“Are you hurt?” Peterrin asked.

“No, just tired.” Marisindin sighed.

“There’s someone I want you and Leo to meet, then.” Peterrin said, leading her by the hand over to a couple across the room.

“Mother, Father, this is Princess Marisindin. My betrothed. And this is the crown prince, Leonard.” Peterrin introduced. “Marisindin, Leo, these are my parents, Lady Elsanna and Lord Terrence.”

For a woman who was nearing the age of fifty, Lady Elsanna was very good looking. She was tall and had light brown hair drawn back into a thick braid, smiling gray eyes, and laugh lines. Peterrin got his blonde hair from his father, who’s hair was going gray along the edges. He also shared his bright green eyes with Peterrin.

Marisindin gathered her face into a smile and greeted her soon to be parents. Elsanna drew her into a tight embrace.

“Hello darling, its nice to meet you.” She said warmly. Elsanna let her go, and Terrence took her hand.

“Never thought Peterrin would find a girl like you.” He said. “Pretty, nice from what I’ve heard, smart, too. What more could you ask for in a daughter in law?”

“Terrence dear, where did you let the children get off to?” Elsanna asked her husband.

“Oh, I think Nanina went over to the hearth to terrorize a cat. Aileron is over there flirting with a servant girl, Dacia… Hm. I don’t know where Dacia went.” Terrence said.

“You lost Dacia? Terrence!” Elsanna exclaimed.

“She’s sixteen, Elsanna. I think she can take care of herself.” Terrence said calmly.

“Do you want to be beheaded, dear? Because if Dacia plays one of her pranks involving frogs in wineglasses, the king will want to!” Elsanna jabbered.

“Oh, I’m sure our new daughter will put in a good word for us.” Terrence said, not worried at all.

A scream rang out. Marisindin looked towards the noise and saw a dragon sticking its head in the window. Marisindin screamed.

A girl with light brown ringlets jumped up and yanked at its horns. The large tan head toppled in the window. Everyone in the hall backed away.

“And…That’s Dacia.” Peterrin winced. Elsanna sighed, marched over and dragged her daughter back to them.

“How dare you act so poorly in front of the princess?” Elsanna scolded. “Terrence, go get Nanina and Aileron.”

Terrence returned with a blonde girl of about six and a brown-haired boy of about thirteen. The blonde girl smiled happily at her.

“Are you the princess?” The little girl asked. Marisindin smiled and nodded. “You’re going to marry my big brother.”

“I’m Dacia.” Dacia said, her large green eyes sparkling with mischief. “And you look very tired.”

“Dacia dear, don’t be rude.” Elsanna said.

“It’s fine. I know I do. I got clawed by a dragon before I managed to get to somewhere safe.” Marisindin said. “I should probably find a healer.”

“We can watch the prince for you while you’re gone.” Terrence offered. “Peterrin, go with her.”

Peterrin walked her to the wing of the castle that had recently been set aside for the team of healers that had moved in. He waited while an old woman cleaned out the wound and stitched it closed.

“I’m afraid it’ll leave a scar, your majesty.” The old woman said regretfully. “There isn’t anything I can do about that.”

“That’s fine.” Marisindin assured her. The woman relaxed.

“I wish you well with your marriage, princess.” The old woman said, squeezing her hand. Marisindin vaguely remembered the woman as one of the healers that had prepped Drennan for burial.

“Thank you. Did the healers receive invitations?” Marisindin asked. The woman shook her head. “I’ll have to fix that. As soon as all the injured at the castle are treated, I’d like all of you to go treat the injured in the city.”

“We will, your grace.” The woman said, smiling.

“Thank you…” Marisindin trailed off, remembering that she didn’t know the old woman’s name.

“Renna.” The old woman said.

“Thank you Renna.” Marisindin said, walking to Peterrin. “Goodbye.”

“The king and queen wish to see the two of you in their parlor.” A servant whispered to them as soon as they’d left the healers’ wing.

“On our way.” Marisindin whispered back. The two of them walked as quickly as possible towards the queen’s parlor. They found her parents sitting in their parlor with a servant that Marisindin didn’t recognize

“Marisindin, Peterrin, this is Harry.” Marisindin’s mother said. “Harry, tell them what you told us.”

Harry looked her in the eye. “I heard you order one of the guards to assemble some men and help you get the prince to safety. I thought he might need some help, so I ran after him. Instead of getting help, I saw him meet with Councilman Braster in the hallway. Braster payed him, and he went to hide somewhere safe, your majesties.” Harry said nervously.

“Thank you, Harry.” The king said. He turned to his wife and daughter. “Unfortunately, we don’t have enough witnesses to convict and execute Braster. But this was obviously a plot to kill Marisindin and Leo.”

“Harry, can you be trusted?” Peterrin asked. Harry nodded. “Your majesty, perhaps you should make Harry one of your guards. He can possibly find out which of them are traitors. He could ask around with the servants and see if they’ve seen anything.”

“Harry, you are dismissed for now.” The king said. Harry bowed and left the room.

“What about our children?” The queen exclaimed after Harry had left. “Braster’s already threatened Marisindin, now he’s trying to kill her and Leo!”

“My family arrived tonight, as you already know.” Peterrin said. “My sister Dacia is three years younger than Marisindin. We could have Dacia pose as a lady in waiting and stay with your daughter at all times. Listen to every conversation. If Braster says anything, Dacia will hear, and we can use it against Braster.”

“And what about Leo?” The king asked.

“My youngest sister Nanina is close to Leo’s age. We could have them spend time together. My parents are very protective of Nanina, Leo would always have either my mother or my father and plenty of our men watching him at all times.”

“Only if your family is sure that they’re loyal.” The queen corrected.

“Actually father, there is a family of servants that protected Leo and I, even risked their lives to save me, during the dragon attack. The man of the family’s name is John. He is a cook, but also a large man. We could promote him, give him a little training, and make him Leo’s bodyguard or something. It wouldn’t look unusual, since he also has a daughter about Leo’s age, and two nephews several years older.”

“This John fellow, he saved your life?” her father asked.

“Yes. He took me somewhere safe while the dragon was distracted. He and his wife had already taken Leo there.” Marisindin confirmed.

“We’ll see about that.” Her father said.

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