Chapter 2: The Path I Have Chosen
Helio pulls out the two thickest leaves from the bottom of the pile. The long, sharp leaves are a deep blue with a curl at the end and full of clear gelatinous gel. Amsyn has gone through nearly her entire supply in a couple weeks. She sent him to buy more Jaionta leaves.
Helio pulls a couple iron coins from his pocket and drops them into the Nymph’s dirt covered hands. The Nymph thanks him and bids him a good day. Helio responds with a friendly smile. Helio tucks the wrapped leaves into his bag. Amsyn will never let him hear the end of it if the leaves are damaged in any way.
“Thief! Thief!” A woman’s shrill cry carries through the marketplace crowd. Helio whirls around just in time to see a boy bolt past him, shoving nearby creatures out of the way. Helio sighs, it appears he will be enduring Amsyn’s wrath.
He takes off after the thief, weaving and dodging his way through the crowd. He throws apologies over his shoulder at the creatures he runs into. Helio catches a glimpse of the thief’s blue tunic as he ducks into an alley. Helio follows after the thief.
Helio snags the back of his ragged tunic and slams him into the stone wall. His orange eyes blaze with fury. Now face to face with the thief, he realizes he is a Banshee. Banshees have no obvious, identifying marks that set them apart from other creatures. Only an aura that surrounds them. Their energy stirs dread in the stomachs of those around them and brings goosebumps to the surface of flesh.
Helio covers the thief’s mouth with his hand, preventing him from uttering a sound. There are many rumors about what a Banshee’s scream can do. Helio has no intention of finding out if any of them are true. Helio allows his claws to extend and his teeth to sharpen. Patches of red scales appear along his exposed flesh. The boy’s eyes widen and a tremble racks his body. Helio smirks.
“Listen carefully: you will return what you have stolen. If I ever catch you stealing again you will face my wrath, and you know what creatures say: there is no wrath that can compare to that of a Dragon’s. Do you understand?” The boy nods furiously, still unable to speak. “Good.” Helio removes his hand from the thief’s mouth and steps back. The Banshee glances at him one final time before bolting in the same direction he came from.
Helio lets his teeth and claws retract. The scales dispel into skin. He pulls back the flap of his bag and groans. Amsyn is going to kill him. The turbulence of the run caused the gel to seep out. There’s nothing he can do about it now.
Amsyn dabs the last of the Jaionta gel into the woman’s stitched wound. Helio had better hurry back.
The woman sits in front of her proudly baring her scars for Amsyn to see. She is a Water Nymph who managed to escape Gupkain on a boat with several of her kin. Neither Amsyn nor the Nymph speak the same language, but the Nymph knows enough of Elvic and Amsyn of Nyard to communicate. She regaled the story to Amsyn as her wound was treated. While escaping a soldier managed to nick her arm with his blade. Fulor is the only place they believed they would be welcome. Only half made it alive. They either perished from sickness, inflamed wounds, or starvation.
The Nymph in scarcely more than skin and bone. Amsyn’s chest tightens. They need to be stopped. If only someone had the power to stop them. Someone does though. He’ll never agree. He left for a reason.
Amsyn ties off the bandage. “Keep the wound clean and bandaged and it should heal nicely.” Amsyn tells her with a smile. Thanks pour from the Nymph’s mouth. Amsyn dips her head in an effort to conceal her flushed cheeks.
The Nymph opens the cottage door to reveal Helio’s imposing figure. He smiles warmly and steps aside to allow her to pass. Helio enters, shutting the door behind him. “Before I give this to you remember how much you love me.” Amsyn’s smile drops and she folds her arms over her chest.
“What did you do?” Instead of replying he hands her the bag. She peers inside and glares up at him. “It spilled.” She accuses.
“I was chasing a thief.” Helio defends. Amsyn rolls her eyes, smiling. She can’t be mad at him for that.
He hasn’t changed much from the boy she met a few years ago. His hair, the shade of spilled blood, or an angry sunrise, once cut in a fashion befitting of his status. Now the right side is shaved to form the head of a Dragon and the left side brushes his shoulder. His orange eyes are luminescent and only a few shades darker than her hair. He is a picture of handsomeness with strong, well-fashioned features and a powerful form. Though he takes great pains to hide his learned posture, it slips through often. He is perfect enough to be an artist’s fantasy. The sleeves of his blue tunic are short enough to give a generous view of the corded muscles of his arms, the result of years of training and fighting.
Over the years, Amsyn has watched as numerous women have tried to capture his attention. Helio has never returned their affections. She has never even heard of him bedding one. At first she thought it was because he ran away and was to noble to burden another with that weight. Over time she saw he simply had no interest in them. Amsyn does not mind either way. She only wishes for him to find happiness. He deserves it.
After all he did save her life. She runs her flesh hand over her wooden arm. Her skin glides over the smoothed wood. She was fifteen at the time and living in her lifelong home in Udor. They came without warning. Quvanian soldiers swept through the small country like a flood conquering and destroying everything in sight. They stormed her village one evening. Amsyn and her mother were trying to flee when they got caught in an explosion. The explosion claimed her mother’s life immediately.
She was sure she would die there beside her mother’s charred and mangled body, but Helio pulled her from the fire and brought her to Quvanian healer he took captive. She lost her right arm and leg that day, but still had her life. She used her magic to grow an arm and leg.
They look like the trunk of a tree, but with all the curves and contours of a flesh and blood arm including five perfectly grown and shaped fingers and toes. The appearance may be...off-putting, but they allow her to work.
What more could she need?
Helio stayed with her throughout her recovery. The two became close forming a bond akin to brother and sister. He helped her adapt to her new limbs and overcome her fears. Eventually, he trusted her enough to tell her his true identity: Crown Prince Helioon Shalquim of the Quvanian Empire. Unable to stand his family any longer, he ran away.
Now three years later they live together in a small cottage in Fulor. The only country in Glitai not under Quvania’s tyranny.
Helio goes over to the window and rests his shoulder against it. The only view he has is of the dirt street, but it’s enough. Three years here has made him happier than sixteen years in Quvania. The cottage is minuscule compared to the palace, but it’s the perfect size for them. Helio and Amsyn each have their own rooms and Amsyn has enough space to do her work as an herbalist and healer. The trade provides well for them.
“The Nymph was from Gupkain. Quvania has taken it.” She tells him in Dragese. They always speak in his native language when alone. She never knows how he’ll react to news about Quvania. Sometimes he’ll nod and go about his day, quieter than usual, other times he’ll storm out and return hours later like nothing has happened. “Fulor is the only place Quvania hasn’t taken.” Amsyn adds. Her voice trembles. Helio hears it.
He turns to look at her. “I will not let anything happen to you. Never.” Helio promises softly. His concealed accent encodes the words.
“Quvania will come and Fulor won’t stand a chance.” Her voice rises with her growing fear. She doesn’t think she would be able to survive another day like the one in Udor.
Helio approaches her. He kneels down in front of her and takes both of her hands in his. “Listen to me, little sister.” The term never fails to capture her attention or soften her rage. “I will not allow anyone to hurt you, ever. If...If Quvania comes we will run. Somewhere they cannot get to us.” Amsyn regards him with confusion.
Where in the world would that be?
“We would abandon everyone here to their fates.” Helio’s grip on her hands tightens as his jaw clenches.
It is moments like this when he wonders if he should return. If he could stop his parent’s tyranny. It’s a fool’s dream that lasts only a moment before reality washes over him and the hopelessness comes back. The hopelessness is why he left. Instead of remaining behind though, it has followed him as faithfully as his own shadow.
“Would you want to stay and fight?” He questions. Amsyn doesn’t respond. She honestly doesn’t know. A part of her wants to stay and fight, defend her creatures, and avenge the dead, but she knows she wouldn’t survive. “I promise you I will stand by your side whether we fight or run.” Finally, Amsyn smiles and her vulpine features brighten.
Amsyn is a Lightning Elf, discernible by her severely pointed ears currently concealed by her flaming orange curls. A section of her curls are pulled back and tied into a small ponytail while the rest tumbles freely down her mid-back. Her skin is pale as if untouched by the suns and her features are as slim and sharp as a blade’s edge, rendering her an inhuman beauty.
A sound, somewhere between a yawn and a growl, comes from Amsyn’s bedroom. Moments later, the sound of flapping wings is followed by a creature landing beside Amsyn on the cushioned bench. She smiles, her magenta eyes lighting up and pulls her flesh hand from Helio’s to stroke the Wyvern’s head.
Sinnion, the three year old Wyvern covered in blue scales obstructed by silver ones that form a swirl-like pattern across his body. Tan spikes as sharp as a needle’s point protrude from his spine. Sinnion’s spiked tail swipes from side to side as he crawls into Amsyn’s lap. She strokes his head, the scales like ripples beneath her fingers.
Staring down at the delicate, yet fierce creature in her lap she understands what she must do. She raises her head to look at the Dragon Prince kneeling before her. “If Quvania comes we will fight them. You can’t run away. You’re the only one that can stop them.”
Helio drops her wooden hand and stands up. Amsyn’s words-he knows are true, but he ran away for a reason. He cannot-will not become what his parents are, what his brother is becoming.
He is no longer Prince Helioson.
He is Helio.